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Author: MacDonald, George, 1824-1905
Title: Other Stories
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Title: The Portent & Other Stories

Author: George MacDonald

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Produced by Jonathan Ingram, Sandra Brown and the DP Team




THE PORTENT AND OTHER STORIES


By George MacDonald




THE PORTENT


A STORY OF THE INNER VISION OF THE HIGHLANDERS,
COMMONLY CALLED
_THE SECOND SIGHT_




DEDICATION.


MY DEAR SIR, KENSINGTON, _May, 1864._

Allow me, with the honour due to my father's friend, to inscribe this
little volume with your name. The name of one friend is better than
those of all the Muses.

And permit me to say a few words about the story.--It is a Romance. I am
well aware that, with many readers, this epithet will be enough to
ensure condemnation. But there ought to be a place for any story, which,
although founded in the marvellous, is true to human nature and to
itself. Truth to Humanity, and harmony within itself, are almost the
sole unvarying essentials of a work of art. Even _The Rime of the
Ancient Mariner_--than which what more marvellous?--is true in these
respects. And Shakespere himself will allow any amount of the
marvellous, provided this truth is observed. I hope my story is thus
true; and therefore, while it claims some place, undeserving of being
classed with what are commonly called _sensational novels._

I am well aware that such tales are not of much account, at present; and
greatly would I regret that they should ever become the fashion; of
which, however, there is no danger. But, seeing so much of our life must
be spent in dreaming, may there not be a still nook, shadowy, but not
miasmatic, in some lowly region of literature, where, in the pauses of
labour, a man may sit down, and dream such a day-dream as I now offer to
your acceptance, and that of those who will judge the work, in part at
least, by its purely literary claims? If I confined my pen to such
results, you, at least, would have a right to blame me. But you, for
one, will, I am sure, justify an author in dreaming _sometimes_.

In offering you a story, however, founded on _The Second Sight_, the
belief in which was common to our ancestors, I owe you, at the same
time, an apology. For the tone and colour of the story are so different
from those naturally belonging to a Celtic tale, that you might well be
inclined to refuse my request, simply on the ground that your pure
Highland blood revolted from the degenerate embodiment given to the
ancient belief. I can only say that my early education was not Celtic
enough to enable me to do better in this respect. I beg that you will
accept the offering with forgiveness, if you cannot with approbation.

Yours affectionately,

GEORGE MACDONALD.


_To_ DUNCAN MCCOLL, Esq., R.N., _Huntly._




CONTENTS


THE PORTENT

THE CRUEL PAINTER

THE CASTLE

THE WOW O' RIVVEN

THE BROKEN SWORDS

THE GRAY WOLF

UNCLE CORNELIUS HIS STORY




Chapter I


_My Boyhood._

My father belonged to the widespread family of the Campbells, and
possessed a small landed property in the north of Argyll. But although
of long descent and high connection, he was no richer than many a farmer
of a few hundred acres. For, with the exception of a narrow belt of
arable land at its foot, a bare hill formed almost the whole of his
possessions. The sheep ate over it, and no doubt found it good; I
bounded and climbed all over it, and thought it a kingdom. From my very
childhood, I had rejoiced in being alone. The sense of room about me had
been one of my greatest delights. Hence, when my thoughts go back to
those old years, it is not the house, nor the family room, nor that in
which I slept, that first of all rises before my inward vision, but that
desolate hill, the top of which was only a wide expanse of moorland,
rugged with height and hollow, and dangerous with deep, dark pools, but
in many portions purple with large-belled heather, and crowded with
cranberry and blaeberry plants. Most of all, I loved it in the still
autumn morning, outstretched in stillness, high uplifted towards the
heaven. On every stalk hung the dew in tiny drops, which, while the
rising sun was low, sparkled and burned with the hues of all the gems.
Here and there a bird gave a cry; no other sound awoke the silence. I
never see the statue of the Roman youth, praying with outstretched arms,
and open, empty, level palms, as waiting to receive and hold the
blessing of the gods, but that outstretched barren heath rises before
me, as if it meant the same thing as the statue--or were, at least, the
fit room in the middle space of which to set the praying and expectant
youth.

There was one spot upon the hill, half-way between the valley and the
moorland, which was my favourite haunt. This part of the hill was
covered with great blocks of stone, of all shapes and sizes--here
crowded together, like the slain where the battle had been fiercest;
there parting asunder from spaces of delicate green--of softest grass.
In the centre of one of these green spots, on a steep part of the hill,
were three huge rocks--two projecting out of the hill, rather than
standing up from it, and one, likewise projecting from the hill, but
lying across the tops of the two, so as to form a little cave, the back
of which was the side of the hill. This was my refuge, my home within a
home, my study--and, in the hot noons, often my sleeping chamber, and my
house of dreams. If the wind blew cold on the hillside, a hollow of
lulling warmth was there, scooped as it were out of the body of the
blast, which, sweeping around, whistled keen and thin through the cracks
and crannies of the rocky chaos that lay all about; in which confusion
of rocks the wind plunged, and flowed, and eddied, and withdrew, as the
sea-waves on the cliffy shores or the unknown rugged bottoms. Here I
would often lie, as the sun went down, and watch the silent growth of
another sea, which the stormy ocean of the wind could not disturb--the
sea of the darkness. First it would begin to gather in the bottom of
hollow places. Deep valleys, and all little pits on the hill-sides, were
well-springs where it gathered, and whence it seemed to overflow, till
it had buried the earth beneath its mass, and, rising high into the
heavens, swept over the faces of the stars, washed the blinding day from
them, and let them shine, down through the waters of the dark, to the
eyes of men below. I would lie till nothing but the stars and the dim
outlines of hills against the sky was to be seen, and then rise and go
home, as sure of my path as if I had been descending a dark staircase in
my father's house.

On the opposite side the valley, another hill lay parallel to mine; and
behind it, at some miles' distance, a great mountain. As often as, in my
hermit's cave, I lifted my eyes from the volume I was reading, I saw
this mountain before me. Very different was its character from that of
the hill on which I was seated. It was a mighty thing, a chieftain of
the race, seamed and scarred, featured with chasms and precipices and
over-leaning rocks, themselves huge as hills; here blackened with shade,
there overspread with glory; interlaced with the silvery lines of
falling streams, which, hurrying from heaven to earth, cared not how
they went, so it were downwards. Fearful stories were told of the gulfs,
sullen waters, and dizzy heights upon that terror-haunted mountain. In
storms the wind roared like thunder in its caverns and along the jagged
sides of its cliffs, but at other times that uplifted land-uplifted, yet
secret and full of dismay--lay silent as a cloud on the horizon.

I had a certain peculiarity of constitution, which I have some reason to
believe I inherit. It seems to have its root in an unusual delicacy of
hearing, which often conveys to me sounds inaudible to those about me.
This I have had many opportunities of proving. It has likewise, however,
brought me sounds which I could never trace back to their origin; though
they may have arisen from some natural operation which I had not
perseverance or mental acuteness sufficient to discover. From this, or,
it may be, from some deeper cause with which this is connected, arose a
certain kind of fearfulness associated with the sense of hearing, of
which I have never heard a corresponding instance. Full as my mind was
of the wild and sometimes fearful tales of a Highland nursery, fear
never entered my mind by the eyes, nor, when I brooded over tales of
terror, and fancied new and yet more frightful embodiments of horror,
did I shudder at any imaginable spectacle, or tremble lest the fancy
should become fact, and from behind the whin-bush or the elder-hedge
should glide forth the tall swaying form of the Boneless. When alone in
bed, I used to lie awake, and look out into the room, peopling it with
the forms of all the persons who had died within the scope of my memory
and acquaintance. These fancied forms were vividly present to my
imagination. I pictured them pale, with dark circles around their hollow
eyes, visible by a light which glimmered within them; not the light of
life, but a pale, greenish phosphorescence, generated by the decay of
the brain inside. Their garments were white and trailing, but torn and
soiled, as by trying often in vain to get up out of the buried coffin.
But so far from being terrified by these imaginings, I used to delight
in them; and in the long winter evenings, when I did not happen to have
any book that interested me sufficiently, I used even to look forward
with expectation to the hour when, laying myself straight upon my back,
as if my bed were my coffin, I could call up from underground all who
had passed away, and see how they fared, yea, what progress they had
made towards final dissolution of form--but all the time, with my
fingers pushed hard into my ears, lest the faintest sound should invade
the silent citadel of my soul. If inadvertently I removed one of my
fingers, the agony of terror I instantly experienced is indescribable. I
can compare it to nothing but the rushing in upon my brain of a whole
churchyard of spectres. The very possibility of hearing a sound, in such
a mood, and at such a time, was almost enough to paralyse me. So I could
scare myself in broad daylight, on the open hillside, by imagining
unintelligible sounds; and my imagination was both original and fertile
in the invention of such. But my mind was too active to be often
subjected to such influences. Indeed life would have been hardly
endurable had these moods been of more than occasional occurrence. As I
grew older, I almost outgrew them. Yet sometimes one awful dread would
seize me--that, perhaps, the prophetic power manifest in the gift of
second sight, which, according to the testimony of my old nurse, had
belonged to several of my ancestors, had been in my case transformed in
kind without losing its nature, transferring its abode from the sight to
the hearing, whence resulted its keenness, and my fear and suffering.




Chapter II


_The Second Hearing_.

One summer evening, I had lingered longer than usual in my rocky
retreat: I had lain half dreaming in the mouth of my cave, till the
shadows of evening had fallen, and the gloaming had deepened half-way
towards the night. But the night had no more terrors for me than the
day. Indeed, in such regions there is a solitariness for which there
seems a peculiar sense, and upon which the shadows of night sink with a
strange relief, hiding from the eye the wide space which yet they throw
more open to the imagination. When I lifted my head, only a star here
and there caught my eye; but, looking intently into the depths of
blue-grey, I saw that they were crowded with twinkles. The mountain rose
before me, a huge mass of gloom; but its several peaks stood out against
the sky with a clear, pure, sharp outline, and looked nearer to me than
the bulk from which they rose heaven-wards. One star trembled and
throbbed upon the very tip of the loftiest, the central peak, which
seemed the spire of a mighty temple where the light was
worshipped--crowned, therefore, in the darkness, with the emblem of the
day. I was lying, as I have said, with this fancy still in my thought,
when suddenly I heard, clear, though faint and far away, the sound as of
the iron-shod hoofs of a horse, in furious gallop along an uneven rocky
surface. It was more like a distant echo than an original sound. It
seemed to come from the face of the mountain, where no horse, I knew,
could go at that speed, even if its rider courted certain destruction.
There was a peculiarity, too, in the sound--a certain tinkle, or clank,
which I fancied myself able, by auricular analysis, to distinguish from
the body of the sound. Supposing the sound to be caused by the feet of a
horse, the peculiarity was just such as would result from one of the
shoes being loose. A terror--strange even to my experience--seized me,
and I hastened home. The sounds gradually died away as I descended the
hill. Could they have been an echo from some precipice of the mountain?
I knew of no road lying so that, if a horse were galloping upon it, the
sounds would be reflected from the mountain to me.

The next day, in one of my rambles, I found myself near the cottage of
my old foster-mother, who was distantly related to us, and was a trusted
servant in the family at the time I was born. On the death of my mother,
which took place almost immediately after my birth, she had taken the
entire charge of me, and had brought me up, though with difficulty; for
she used to tell me, I should never be either _folk_ or _fairy_. For
some years she had lived alone in a cottage, at the bottom of a deep
green circular hollow, upon which, in walking over a healthy table-land,
one came with a sudden surprise. I was her frequent visitor. She was a
tall, thin, aged woman, with eager eyes, and well-defined clear-cut
features. Her voice was harsh, but with an undertone of great
tenderness. She was scrupulously careful in her attire, which was rather
above her station. Altogether, she had much the bearing of a
gentle-woman. Her devotion to me was quite motherly. Never having had
any family of her own, although she had been the wife of one of my
father's shepherds, she expended the whole maternity of her nature upon
me. She was always my first resource in any perplexity, for I was sure
of all the help she could give me. And as she had much influence with my
father, who was rather severe in his notions, I had had occasion to beg
her interference. No necessity of this sort, however, had led to my
visit on the present occasion.

I ran down the side of the basin, and entered the little cottage. Nurse
was seated on a chair by the wall, with her usual knitting, a stocking,
in one hand; but her hands were motionless, and her eyes wide open and
fixed. I knew that the neighbours stood rather in awe of her, on the
ground that she had the second sight; but, although she often told us
frightful enough stories, she had never alluded to such a gift as being
in her possession. Now I concluded at once that she was _seeing_. I was
confirmed in this conclusion when, seeming to come to herself suddenly,
she covered her head with her plaid, and sobbed audibly, in spite of her
efforts to command herself. But I did not dare to ask her any questions,
nor did she attempt any excuse for her behaviour. After a few moments,
she unveiled herself, rose, and welcomed me with her usual kindness;
then got me some refreshment, and began to question me about matters at
home. After a pause, she said suddenly: "When are you going to get your
commission, Duncan, do you know?" I replied that I had heard nothing of
it; that I did not think my father had influence or money enough to
procure me one, and that I feared I should have no such good chance of
distinguishing myself. She did not answer, but nodded her head three
times, slowly and with compressed lips--apparently as much as to say, "I
know better."

Just as I was leaving her, it occurred to me to mention that I had heard
an odd sound the night before. She turned towards me, and looked at me
fixedly. "What was it like, Duncan, my dear?"

"Like a horse galloping with a loose shoe," I replied.

"Duncan, Duncan, my darling!" she said, in a low, trembling voice, but
with passionate earnestness, "you did not hear it? Tell me that you did
not hear it! You only want to frighten poor old nurse: some one has been
telling you the story!"

It was my turn to be frightened now; for the matter became at once
associated with my fears as to the possible nature of my auricular
peculiarities. I assured her that nothing was farther from my intention
than to frighten her; that, on the contrary, she had rather alarmed me;
and I begged her to explain. But she sat down white and trembling, and
did not speak. Presently, however, she rose again, and saying, "I have
known it happen sometimes without anything very bad following," began to
put away the basin and plate I had been using, as if she would compel
herself to be calm before me. I renewed my entreaties for an
explanation, but without avail. She begged me to be content for a few
days, as she was quite unable to tell the story at present. She
promised, however, of her own accord, that before I left home she would
tell me all she knew.

The next day a letter arrived announcing the death of a distant
relation, through whose influence my father had had a lingering hope of
obtaining an appointment for me. There was nothing left but to look out
for a situation as tutor.




CHAPTER III


_My Old Nurses Story_.

I was now almost nineteen. I had completed the usual curriculum of study
at one of the Scotch universities; and, possessed of a fair knowledge of
mathematics and physics, and what I considered rather more than a good
foundation for classical and metaphysical acquirement, I resolved to
apply for the first suitable situation that offered. But I was spared
the trouble. A certain Lord Hilton, an English nobleman, residing in one
of the midland counties, having heard that one of my father's sons was
desirous of such a situation, wrote to him, offering me the post of
tutor to his two boys, of the ages of ten and twelve. He had been partly
educated at a Scotch university; and this, it may be, had prejudiced him
in favour of a Scotch tutor; while an ancient alliance of the families
by marriage was supposed by my nurse to be the reason of his offering me
the situation. Of this connection, however, my father said nothing to
me, and it went for nothing in my anticipations. I was to receive a
hundred pounds a year, and to hold in the family the position of a
gentleman, which might mean anything or nothing, according to the
disposition of the heads of the family. Preparations for my departure
were immediately commenced. I set out one evening for the cottage of my
old nurse, to bid her good-bye for many months, probably years. I was to
leave the next day for Edinburgh, on my way to London, whence I had to
repair by coach to my new abode--almost to me like the land beyond the
grave, so little did I know about it, and so wide was the separation
between it and my home. The evening was sultry when I began my walk, and
before I arrived at its end, the clouds rising from all quarters of the
horizon, and especially gathering around the peaks of the mountain,
betokened the near approach of a thunderstorm. This was a great delight
to me. Gladly would I take leave of my home with the memory of a last
night of tumultuous magnificence; followed, probably, by a day of
weeping rain, well suited to the mood of my own heart in bidding
farewell to the best of parents and the dearest of homes. Besides, in
common with most Scotchmen who are young and hardy enough to be unable
to realise the existence of coughs and rheumatic fevers, it was a
positive pleasure to me to be out in rain, hail, or snow.

"I am come to bid you good-bye, Margaret; and to hear the story which
you promised to tell me before I left home: I go to-morrow."

"Do you go so soon, my darling? Well, it will be an awful night to tell
it in; but, as I promised, I suppose I must."

At the moment, two or three great drops of rain, the first of the storm,
fell down the wide chimney, exploding in the clear turf-fire.

"Yes, indeed you must," I replied.

After a short pause, she commenced. Of course she spoke in Gaelic; and I
translate from my recollection of the Gaelic; but rather from the
impression left upon my mind, than from any recollection of the words.
She drew her chair near the fire, which we had reason to fear would soon
be put out by the falling rain, and began.

"How old the story is, I do not know. It has come down through many
generations. My grandmother told it to me as I tell it to you; and her
mother and my mother sat beside, never interrupting, but nodding their
heads at every turn. Almost it ought to begin like the fairy tales,
_Once upon a time,_--it took place so long ago; but it is too dreadful
and too true to tell like a fairy tale.--There were two brothers, sons
of the chief of our clan, but as different in appearance and disposition
as two men could be. The elder was fair-haired and strong, much given to
hunting and fishing; fighting too, upon occasion, I dare say, when they
made a foray upon the Saxon, to get back a mouthful of their own. But he
was gentleness itself to every one about him, and the very soul of
honour in all his doings. The younger was very dark in complexion, and
tall and slender compared to his brother. He was very fond of
book-learning, which, they say, was an uncommon taste in those times. He
did not care for any sports or bodily exercises but one; and that, too,
was unusual in these parts. It was horsemanship. He was a fierce rider,
and as much at home in the saddle as in his study-chair. You may think
that, so long ago, there was not much fit room for riding hereabouts;
but, fit or not fit, he rode. From his reading and riding, the
neighbours looked doubtfully upon him, and whispered about the black
art. He usually bestrode a great powerful black horse, without a white
hair on him; and people said it was either the devil himself, or a
demon-horse from the devil's own stud. What favoured this notion was,
that, in or out of the stable, the brute would let no other than his
master go near him. Indeed, no one would venture, after he had killed
two men, and grievously maimed a third, tearing him with his teeth and
hoofs like a wild beast. But to his master he was obedient as a hound,
and would even tremble in his presence sometimes.

"The youth's temper corresponded to his habits. He was both gloomy and
passionate. Prone to anger, he had never been known to forgive. Debarred
from anything on which he had set his heart, he would have gone mad with
longing if he had not gone mad with rage. His soul was like the night
around us now, dark, and sultry, and silent, but lighted up by the red
levin of wrath and torn by the bellowings of thunder-passion. He must
have his will: hell might have his soul. Imagine, then, the rage and
malice in his heart, when he suddenly became aware that an orphan girl,
distantly related to them, who had lived with them for nearly two years,
and whom he had loved for almost all that period, was loved by his elder
brother, and loved him in return. He flung his right hand above his
head, swore a terrible oath that if he might not, his brother should
not, rushed out of the house, and galloped off among the hills.

"The orphan was a beautiful girl, tall, pale, and slender, with
plentiful dark hair, which, when released from the snood, rippled down
below her knees. Her appearance formed a strong contrast with that of
her favoured lover, while there was some resemblance between her and the
younger brother. This fact seemed, to his fierce selfishness, ground for
a prior claim.

"It may appear strange that a man like him should not have had instant
recourse to his superior and hidden knowledge, by means of which he
might have got rid of his rival with far more of certainty and less of
risk; but I presume that, for the moment, his passion overwhelmed his
consciousness of skill. Yet I do not suppose that he foresaw the mode in
which his hatred was about to operate. At the moment when he learned
their mutual attachment, probably through a domestic, the lady was on
her way to meet her lover as he returned from the day's sport. The
appointed place was on the edge of a deep, rocky ravine, down in whose
dark bosom brawled and foamed a little mountain torrent. You know the
place, Duncan, my dear, I dare say."

(Here she gave me a minute description of the spot, with directions how
to find it.)

"Whether any one saw what I am about to relate, or whether it was put
together afterwards, I cannot tell. The story is like an old tree--so
old that it has lost the marks of its growth. But this is how my
grandmother told it to me.--An evil chance led him in the right
direction. The lovers, startled by the sound of the approaching horse,
parted in opposite directions along a narrow mountain-path on the edge
of the ravine. Into this path he struck at a point near where the lovers
had met, but to opposite sides of which they had now receded; so that he
was between them on the path. Turning his horse up the course of the
stream, he soon came in sight of his brother on the ledge before him.
With a suppressed scream of rage, he rode head-long at him, and ere he
had time to make the least defence, hurled him over the precipice. The
helplessness of the strong man was uttered in one single despairing cry
as he shot into the abyss. Then all was still. The sound of his fall
could not reach the edge of the gulf. Divining in a moment that the
lady, whose name was Elsie, must have fled in the opposite direction, he
reined his steed on his haunches. He could touch the precipice with his
bridle-hand half outstretched; his sword-hand half outstretched would
have dropped a stone to the bottom of the ravine. There was no room to
wheel. One desperate practicability alone remained. Turning his horse's
head towards the edge, he compelled him, by means of the powerful bit,
to rear till he stood almost erect; and so, his body swaying over the
gulf, with quivering and straining muscles, to turn on his hind-legs.
Having completed the half-circle, he let him drop, and urged him
furiously in the opposite direction. It must have been by the devil's
own care that he was able to continue his gallop along that ledge of
rock.

"He soon caught sight of the maiden. She was leaning, half fainting,
against the precipice. She had heard her lover's last cry, and although
it had conveyed no suggestion of his voice to her ear, she trembled from
head to foot, and her limbs would bear her no farther. He checked his
speed, rode gently up to her, lifted her unresisting, laid her across
the shoulders of his horse, and, riding carefully till he reached a more
open path, dashed again wildly along the mountain-side. The lady's long
hair was shaken loose, and dropped trailing on the ground. The horse
trampled upon it, and stumbled, half dragging her from the saddle-bow.
He caught her, lifted her up, and looked at her face. She was dead. I
suppose he went mad. He laid her again across the saddle before him, and
rode on, reckless whither. Horse, and man, and maiden were found the
next day, lying at the foot of a cliff, dashed to pieces. It was
observed that a hind-shoe of the horse was loose and broken. Whether
this had been the cause of his fall, could not be told; but ever when he
races, as race he will, till the day of doom, along that mountain-side,
his gallop is mingled with the clank of the loose and broken shoe. For,
like the sin, the punishment is awful: he shall carry about for ages the
phantom-body of the girl, knowing that her soul is away, sitting with
the soul of his brother, down in the deep ravine, or scaling with him
the topmost crags of the towering mountain-peaks. There are some who,
from time to time, see the doomed man careering along the face of the
mountain, with the lady hanging across the steed; and they say it always
betokens a storm, such as this which is now raving around us."

I had not noticed till now, so absorbed had I been in her tale, that the
storm had risen to a very ecstasy of fury.

"They say, likewise, that the lady's hair is still growing; for, every
time they see her, it is longer than before; and that now such is its
length and the head-long speed of the horse, that it floats and streams
out behind, like one of those curved clouds, like a comet's tail, far up
in the sky; only the cloud is white, and the hair dark as night. And
they say it will go on growing till the Last Day, when the horse will
falter and her hair will gather in; and the horse will fall, and the
hair will twist, and twine, and wreathe itself like a mist of threads
about him, and blind him to everything but her. Then the body will rise
up within it, face to face with him, animated by a fiend, who, twining
her arms around him, will drag him down to the bottomless pit."

I may mention something which now occurred, and which had a strange
effect on my old nurse. It illustrates the assertion that we see around
us only what is within us: marvellous things enough will show themselves
to the marvellous mood.--During a short lull in the storm, just as she
had finished her story, we heard the sound of iron-shod hoofs
approaching the cottage. There was no bridle-way into the glen. A knock
came to the door, and, on opening it, we saw an old man seated on a
horse, with a long slenderly-filled sack lying across the saddle before
him. He said he had lost the path in the storm, and, seeing the light,
had scrambled down to inquire his way. I perceived at once, from the
scared and mysterious look of the old woman's eyes, that she was
persuaded that this appearance had more than a little to do with the
awful rider, the terrific storm, and myself who had heard the sound of
the phantom-hoofs. As he ascended the hill, she looked after him, with
wide and pale but unshrinking eyes; then turning in, shut and locked the
door behind her, as by a natural instinct. After two or three of her
significant nods, accompanied by the compression of her lips, she
said:--

"He need not think to take me in, wizard as he is, with his disguises. I
can see him through them all. Duncan, my dear, when you suspect
anything, do not be too incredulous. This human demon is of course a
wizard still, and knows how to make himself, as well as anything he
touches, take a quite different appearance from the real one; only every
appearance must bear some resemblance, however distant, to the natural
form. That man you saw at the door was the phantom of which I have been
telling you. What he is after now, of course, I cannot tell; but you
must keep a bold heart, and a firm and wary foot, as you go home
to-night."

I showed some surprise, I do not doubt; and, perhaps, some fear as well;
but I only said, "How do you know him, Margaret?"

"I can hardly tell you," she replied; "but I do know him. I think he
hates me. Often, of a wild night, when there is moonlight enough by
fits, I see him tearing around this little valley, just on the top
edge--all round; the lady's hair and the horses mane and tail driving
far behind, and mingling, vaporous, with the stormy clouds. About he
goes, in wild careering gallop; now lost as the moon goes in, then
visible far round when she looks out again--an airy, pale-grey spectre,
which few eyes but mine could see; for, as far as I am aware, no one of
the family but myself has ever possessed the double gift of seeing and
hearing both. In this case I hear no sound, except now and then a clank
from the broken shoe. But I did not mean to tell you that I had ever
seen him. I am not a bit afraid of him. He cannot do more than he may.
His power is limited; else ill enough would he work, the miscreant."

"But," said I, "what has all this, terrible as it is, to do with the
fright you took at my telling you that I had heard the sound of the
broken shoe? Surely you are not afraid of only a storm?"

"No, my boy; I fear no storm. But the fact is, that that sound is seldom
heard, and never, as far as I know, by any of the blood of that wicked
man, without betokening some ill to one of the family, and most probably
to the one who hears it--but I am not quite sure about that. Only some
evil it does portend, although a long time may elapse before it shows
itself; and I have a hope it may mean some one else than you."

"Do not wish that," I replied. "I know no one better able to bear it
than I am; and I hope, whatever it may be, that I only shall have to
meet it. It must surely be something serious to be so foretold--it can
hardly be connected with my disappointment in being compelled to be a
pedagogue instead of a soldier."

"Do not trouble yourself about that, Duncan," replied she. "A soldier
you must be. The same day you told me of the clank of the broken
horseshoe, I saw you return wounded from battle, and fall fainting from
your horse in the street of a great city--only fainting, thank God. But
I have particular reasons for being uneasy at your hearing that boding
sound. Can you tell me the day and hour of your birth?"

"No," I replied. "It seems very odd when I think of it, but I really do
not know even the day."

"Nor any one else; which is stranger still," she answered.

"How does that happen, nurse?"

"We were in terrible anxiety about your mother at the time. So ill was
she, after you were just born, in a strange, unaccountable way, that you
lay almost neglected for more than an hour. In the very act of giving
birth to you, she seemed to the rest around her to be out of her mind,
so wildly did she talk; but I knew better. I knew that she was fighting
some evil power; and what power it was, I knew full well; for twice,
during her pains, I heard the click of the horseshoe. But no one could
help her. After her delivery, she lay as if in a trance, neither dead,
nor at rest, but as if frozen to ice, and conscious of it all the while.
Once more I heard the terrible sound of iron; and, at the moment, your
mother started from her trance, screaming, 'My child! my child!' We
suddenly became aware that no one had attended to the child, and rushed
to the place where he lay wrapped in a blanket. Uncovering him, we found
him black in the face, and spotted with dark spots upon the throat. I
thought he was dead; but, with great and almost hopeless pains, we
succeeded in making him breathe, and he gradually recovered. But his
mother continued dreadfully exhausted. It seemed as if she had spent her
life for her child's defence and birth. That was you, Duncan, my dear.

"I was in constant attendance upon her. About a week after your birth,
as near as I can guess, just in the gloaming, I heard yet again the
awful clank--only once. Nothing followed till about midnight. Your
mother slept, and you lay asleep beside her. I sat by the bedside. A
horror fell upon me suddenly, though I neither saw nor heard anything.
Your mother started from her sleep with a cry, which sounded as if it
came from far away, out of a dream, and did not belong to this world. My
blood curdled with fear. She sat up in bed, with wide staring eyes and
half-open rigid lips, and, feeble as she was, thrust her arms straight
out before her with great force, her hands open and lifted up, with the
palms outwards. The whole action was of one violently repelling another.
She began to talk wildly as she had done before you were born, but,
though I seemed to hear and understand it all at the time, I could not
recall a word of it afterwards. It was as if I had listened to it when
half asleep. I attempted to soothe her, putting my arms round her, but
she seemed quite unconscious of my presence, and my arms seemed
powerless upon the fixed muscles of hers. Not that I tried to constrain
her, for I knew that a battle was going on of some kind or other, and my
interference might do awful mischief. I only tried to comfort and
encourage her. All the time, I was in a state of indescribable cold and
suffering, whether more bodily or mental I could not tell. But at length
I heard yet again the clank of the shoe A sudden peace seemed to fall
upon my mind--or was it a warm, odorous wind that filled the room? Your
mother dropped her arms, and turned feebly towards her baby. She saw
that he slept a blessed sleep. She smiled like a glorified spirit, and
fell back exhausted on the pillow. I went to the other side of the room
to get a cordial. When I returned to the bedside, I saw at once that she
was dead. Her face smiled still, with an expression of the uttermost
bliss."

Nurse ceased, trembling as overcome by the recollection; and I was too
much moved and awed to speak. At length, resuming the conversation, she
said: "You see it is no wonder, Duncan, my dear, if, after all this, I
should find, when I wanted to fix the date of your birth, that I could
not determine the day or the hour when it took place. All was confusion
in my poor brain. But it was strange that no one else could, any more
than I. One thing only I can tell you about it. As I carried you across
the room to lay you down, for I assisted at your birth, I happened to
look up to the window. Then I saw what I did not forget, although I did
not think of it again till many days after,--a bright star was shining
on the very tip of the thin crescent moon."

"Oh, then," said I, "it is possible to determine the day and the very
hour when my birth took place."

"See the good of book-learning!" replied she. "When you work it out,
just let me know, my dear, that I may remember it."

"That I will."

A silence of some moments followed. Margaret resumed:--

"I am afraid you will laugh at my foolish fancies, Duncan; but in
thinking over all these things, as you may suppose I often do, lying
awake in my lonely bed, the notion sometimes comes to me: What if my
Duncan be the youth whom his wicked brother hurled into the ravine, come
again in a new body, to live out his life on the earth, cut short by his
brother's hatred? If so, his persecution of you, and of your mother for
your sake, is easy to understand. And if so, you will never be able to
rest till you find your fere, wherever she may have been born on the
face of the earth. For born she must be, long ere now, for you to find.
I misdoubt me much, however, if you will find her without great conflict
and suffering between, for the Powers of Darkness will be against you;
though I have good hope that you will overcome at last. You must forgive
the fancies of a foolish old woman, my dear."

I will not try to describe the strange feelings, almost sensations, that
arose in me while listening to these extraordinary utterances, lest it
should be supposed I was ready to believe all that Margaret narrated or
concluded. I could not help doubting her sanity; but no more could I
help feeling very peculiarly moved by her narrative.

Few more words were spoken on either side, but after receiving renewed
exhortations to carefulness on my way home, I said good-bye to dear old
nurse, considerably comforted, I must confess, that I was not doomed to
be a tutor all my days; for I never questioned the truth of that vision
and its consequent prophecy.

I went out into the midst of the storm, into the alternating throbs of
blackness and radiance; now the possessor of no more room than what my
body filled, and now isolated in world-wide space. And the thunder
seemed to follow me, bellowing after me as I went.

Absorbed in the story I had heard, I took my way, as I thought,
homewards. The whole country was well known to me. I should have said,
before that night, that I could have gone home blindfold. Whether the
lightning bewildered me and made me take a false turn, I cannot tell;
for the hardest thing to understand, in intellectual as well as moral
mistakes, is--how we came to go wrong. But after wandering for some
time, plunged in meditation, and with no warning whatever of the
presence of inimical powers, a brilliant lightning-flash showed me that
at least I was not near home. The light was prolonged for a second or
two by a slight electric pulsation; and by that I distinguished a wide
space of blackness on the ground in front of me. Once more wrapped in
the folds of a thick darkness, I dared not move. Suddenly it occurred to
me what the blackness was, and whither I had wandered. It was a huge
quarry, of great depth, long disused, and half filled with water. I knew
the place perfectly. A few more steps would have carried me over the
brink. I stood still, waiting for the next flash, that I might be quite
sure of the way I was about to take before I ventured to move. While I
stood, I fancied I heard a single hollow plunge in the black water far
below. When the lightning came, I turned, and took my path in another
direction.

After walking for some time across the heath, I fell. The fall became a
roll, and down a steep declivity I went, over and over, arriving at the
bottom uninjured.

Another flash soon showed me where I was-in the hollow valley, within a
couple of hundred yards from nurse's cottage. I made my way towards it.
There was no light in it, except the feeblest glow from the embers of
her peat fire. "She is in bed," I said to myself, "and I will not
disturb her." Yet something drew me towards the little window. I looked
in. At first I could see nothing. At length, as I kept gazing, I saw
something, indistinct in the darkness, like an outstretched human form.

By this time the storm had lulled. The moon had been up for some time,
but had been quite concealed by tempestuous clouds. Now, however, these
had begun to break up; and, while I stood looking into the cottage, they
scattered away from the face of the moon, and a faint vapoury gleam of
her light, entering the cottage through a window opposite that at which
I stood, fell directly on the face of my old nurse, as she lay on her
back, outstretched upon chairs, pale as death, and with her eyes closed.
The light fell nowhere but on her face. A stranger to her habits would
have thought she was dead; but she had so much of the appearance she had
had on a former occasion, that I concluded at once she was in one of her
trances. But having often heard that persons in such a condition ought
not to be disturbed, and feeling quite sure she knew best how to manage
herself, I turned, though reluctantly, and left the lone cottage behind
me in the night, with the death-like woman lying motionless in the midst
of it.

I found my way home without any further difficulty, and went to bed,
where I soon fell asleep, thoroughly wearied, more by the mental
excitement I had been experiencing than by the amount of bodily exercise
I had gone through.

My sleep was tormented with awful dreams; yet, strange to say, I awoke
in the morning refreshed and fearless. The sun was shining through the
chinks in my shutters, which had been closed because of the storm, and
was making streaks and bands of golden brilliancy upon the wall. I had
dressed and completed my preparations long before I heard the steps of
the servant who came to call me.

What a wonderful thing waking is! The time of the ghostly moonshine
passes by, and the great positive sunlight comes. A man who dreams, and
knows that he is dreaming, thinks he knows what waking is; but knows it
so little, that he mistakes, one after another, many a vague and dim
change in his dream for an awaking. When the true waking comes at last,
he is filled and overflowed with the power of its reality. So, likewise,
one who, in the darkness, lies waiting for the light about to be struck,
and trying to conceive, with all the force of his imagination, what the
light will be like, is yet, when the reality flames up before him,
seized as by a new and unexpected thing, different from and beyond all
his imagining. He feels as if the darkness were cast to an infinite
distance behind him. So shall it be with us when we wake from this dream
of life into the truer life beyond, and find all our present notions of
being, thrown back as into a dim, vapoury region of dreamland, where yet
we thought we knew, and whence we looked forward into the present. This
must be what Novalis means when he says: "Our life is not a dream; but
it may become a dream, and perhaps ought to become one."

And so I looked back upon the strange history of my past; sometimes
asking myself,--"Can it be that all this realty happened to the same
_me_, who am now thinking about it in doubt and wonder?"




CHAPTER IV


_Hilton Hall_.

As my father accompanied me to the door, where the gig, which was to
carry me over the first stage of my journey, was in waiting, a large
target of hide, well studded with brass nails, which had hung in the
hall for time unknown--to me, at least--fell on the floor with a dull
bang. My father started, but said nothing; and, as it seemed to me,
rather pressed my departure than otherwise. I would have replaced the
old piece of armour before I went, but he would not allow me to touch
it, saying, with a grim smile,--

"Take that for an omen, my boy, that your armour must be worn over the
conscience, and not over the body. Be a man, Duncan, my boy. Fear
nothing, and do your duty."

A grasp of the hand was all the good-bye I could make; and I was soon
rattling away to meet the coach _for Edinburgh and London. Seated on the
top, I_ was soon buried in a reverie, from which I was suddenly startled
by the sound of tinkling iron. Could it be that my adversary was riding
unseen alongside of the coach? Was that the clank of the ominous shoe?
But I soon discovered the cause of the sound, and laughed at my own
apprehensiveness. For I observed that the sound was repeated every time
that we passed any trees by the wayside, and that it was the peculiar
echo they gave of the loose chain and steel work about the harness. The
sound was quite different from that thrown back by the houses on the
road. I became perfectly familiar with it before the day was over.

I reached London in safety, and slept at the house of an old friend of
my father, who treated me with great kindness, and seemed altogether to
take a liking to me. Before I left he held out a hope of being able,
some day or other, to procure for me what I so much desired--a
commission in the army.

After spending a day or two with him, and seeing something of London, I
climbed once more on the roof of a coach; and, late in the afternoon,
was set down at the great gate of Hilton Hall. I walked up the broad
avenue, through the final arch of which, as through a huge Gothic
window, I saw the hall in the distance. Everything about me looked
strange, rich, and lovely. Accustomed to the scanty flowers and
diminutive wood of my own country, what I now saw gave me a feeling of
majestic plenty, which I can recall at will, but which I have never
experienced again. Behind the trees which formed the avenue, I saw a
shrubbery, composed entirely of flowering plants, almost all unknown to
me. Issuing from the avenue, I found myself amid open, wide, lawny
spaces, in which the flower-beds lay like islands of colour. A statue on
a pedestal, the only white thing in the surrounding green, caught my
eye. I had seen scarcely any sculpture; and this, attracting my
attention by a favourite contrast of colour, retained it by its own
beauty. It was a Dryad, or some nymph of the woods, who had just glided
from the solitude of the trees behind, and had sprung upon the pedestal
to look wonderingly around her. A few large brown leaves lay at her
feet, borne thither by some eddying wind from the trees behind. As I
gazed, filled with a new pleasure, a drop of rain upon my face made me
look up. From a grey, fleecy cloud, with sun-whitened border, a light,
gracious, plentiful rain was falling. A rainbow sprang across the sky,
and the statue stood within the rainbow. At the same moment, from the
base of the pedestal rose a figure in white, graceful as the Dryad
above, and neither running, nor appearing to walk quickly, yet fleet as
a ghost, glided past me at a few paces, distance, and, keeping in a
straight line for the main entrance of the hall, entered by it and
vanished.

I followed in the direction of the mansion, which was large, and of
several styles and ages. One wing appeared especially ancient. It was
neglected and out of repair, and had in consequence a desolate, almost
sepulchral look, an expression heightened by the number of large
cypresses which grew along its line. I went up to the central door and
knocked. It was opened by a grave, elderly butler. I passed under its
flat arch, as if into the midst of the waiting events of my story. For,
as I glanced around the hall, my consciousness was suddenly saturated,
if I may be allowed the expression, with the strange feeling--known to
everyone, and yet so strange--that I had seen it before; that, in fact,
I knew it perfectly. But what was yet more strange, and far more
uncommon, was, that, although the feeling with regard to the hall faded
and vanished instantly, and although I could not in the least surmise
the appearance of any of the regions into which I was about to be
ushered, I yet followed the butler with a kind of indefinable
expectation of seeing something which I had seen before; and every room
or passage in that mansion affected me, on entering it for the first
time, with the same sensation of previous acquaintance which I had
experienced with regard to the hall. This sensation, in every case, died
away at once, leaving that portion such as it might be expected to look
to one who had never before entered the place.

I was received by the housekeeper, a little, prim, benevolent old lady,
with colourless face and antique head-dress, who led me to the room
prepared for me. To my surprise, I found a large wood-fire burning on
the hearth; but the feeling of the place revealed at once the necessity
for it; and I scarcely needed to be informed that the room, which was
upon the ground floor, and looked out upon a little solitary grass-grown
and ivy-mantled court, had not been used for years, and therefore
required to be thus prepared for an inmate. My bedroom was a few paces
down a passage to the right.

Left alone, I proceeded to make a more critical survey of my room. Its
look of ancient mystery was to me incomparably more attractive than any
show of elegance or comfort could have been. It was large and low,
panelled throughout in oak, black with age, and worm-eaten in many
parts--otherwise entire. Both the windows looked into the little court
or yard before mentioned. All the heavier furniture of the room was
likewise of black oak, but the chairs and couches were covered with
faded tapestry and tarnished gilding, apparently the superannuated
members of the general household of seats. I could give an individual
description of each, for every atom in that room, large enough for
discernable shape or colour, seems branded into my brain. If I happen to
have the least feverishness on me, the moment I fall asleep, I am in
that room.




CHAPTER V


_Lady Alice_.

When the bell rang for dinner, I managed to find my way to the
drawing-room, where were assembled Lady Hilton, her only daughter, a
girl of about thirteen, and the two boys, my pupils. Lady Hilton would
have been pleasant, could she have been as natural as she wished to
appear. She received me with some degree of kindness; but the
half-cordiality of her manner towards me was evidently founded on the
impassableness of the gulf between us. I knew at once that we should
never be friends; that she would never come down from the lofty
table-land upon which she walked; and that if, after being years in the
house, I should happen to be dying, she would send the housekeeper to
me. All right, no doubt; I only say that it was so. She introduced to me
my pupils; fine, open-eyed, manly English boys, with something a little
overbearing in their manner, which speedily disappeared in relation to
me. Lord Hilton was not at home. Lady Hilton led the way to the
dining-room; the elder boy gave his arm to his sister, and I was about
to follow with the younger, when from one of the deep bay windows glided
out, still in white, the same figure which had passed me upon the lawn.
I started, and drew back. With a slight bow, she preceded me, and
followed the others down the great staircase. Seated at table, I had
leisure to make my observations upon them all; but most of my glances
found their way to the lady who, twice that day, had affected me like an
apparition. What is time, but the airy ocean in which ghosts come and
go!

She was about twenty years of age; rather above the middle height, and
rather slight in form; her complexion white rather than pale, her face
being only less white than the deep marbly whiteness of her arms. Her
eyes were large, and full of liquid night--a night throbbing with the
light of invisible stars. Her hair seemed raven-black, and in quantity
profuse. The expression of her face, however, generally partook more of
vagueness than any other characteristic. Lady Hilton called her Lady
Alice; and she never addressed Lady Hilton but in the same ceremonious
style.

I afterwards learned from the old house-keeper, that Lady Alice's
position in the family was a very peculiar one. Distantly connected with
Lord Hilton's family on the mother's side, she was the daughter of the
late Lord Glendarroch, and step-daughter to Lady Hilton, who had become
Lady Hilton within a year after Lord Glendarroch's death. Lady Alice,
then quite a child, had accompanied her stepmother, to whom she was
moderately attached, and who had been allowed to retain undisputed
possession of her. She had no near relatives, else the fortune I
afterwards found to be at her disposal would have aroused contending
claims to the right of guardianship.

Although she was in many respects kindly treated by her stepmother,
certain peculiarities tended to her isolation from the family pursuits
and pleasures. Lady Alice had no accomplishments. She could neither
spell her own language, nor even read it aloud. Yet she delighted in
reading to herself, though, for the most part, books which Mrs. Wilson
characterised as very odd. Her voice, when she spoke, had a quite
indescribable music in it; yet she neither sang nor played. Her habitual
motion was more like a rhythmical gliding than an ordinary walk, yet she
could not dance. Mrs. Wilson hinted at other and more serious
peculiarities, which she either could not, or would not describe; always
shaking her head gravely and sadly, and becoming quite silent, when I
pressed for further explanation; so that, at last, I gave up all
attempts to arrive at an understanding of the mystery by her means. Not
the less, however, I speculated on the subject.

One thing soon became evident to me: that she was considered not merely
deficient as to the power of intellectual acquirement, but in a quite
abnormal intellectual condition. Of this, however, I could myself see no
sign. The peculiarity, almost oddity, of some of her remarks, was
evidently not only misunderstood, but, with relation to her mental
state, misinterpreted. Such remarks Lady Hilton generally answered only
by an elongation of the lips intended to represent a smile. To me, they
appeared to indicate a nature closely allied to genius, if not identical
with it-a power of regarding things from an original point of view,
which perhaps was the more unfettered in its operation from the fact
that she was incapable of looking at them in the ordinary common-place
way. It seemed to me, sometimes, as if her point of observation was
outside of the sphere within which the thing observed took place; and as
if what she said, had a relation, occasionally, to things and thoughts
and mental conditions familiar to her, but at which not even a definite
guess could be made by me. I am compelled to acknowledge, however, that
with such utterances as these mingled now and then others, silly enough
for any drawing-room young lady; which seemed again to be accepted by
the family as proofs that she was not _altogether_ out of her right
mind. She was gentle and kind to the children, as they were still
called; and they seemed reasonably fond of her.

There was something to me exceedingly touching in the solitariness of
this girl; for no one spoke to her as if she were like other people, or
as if any heartiness were possible between them. Perhaps no one could
have felt quite at home with her but a mother, whose heart had been one
with hers from a season long anterior to the development of any
repulsive oddity. But her position was one of peculiar isolation, for no
one really approached her individual being; and that she should be
unaware of this loneliness, seemed to me saddest of all. I soon found,
however, that the most distant attempt on my part to show her attention,
was either received with absolute indifference, or coldly repelled
without the slightest acknowledgment.

But I return to the first night of my sojourn at Hilton Hall.




CHAPTER VI


_My Quarters._

After making arrangements for commencing work in the morning, I took my
leave, and retired to my own room, intent upon carrying out with more
minuteness the survey I had already commenced: several cupboards in the
wall, and one or two doors, apparently of closets, had especially
attracted my attention. Strange was its look as I entered--as of a room
hollowed out of the past, for a memorial of dead times. The fire had
sunk low, and lay smouldering beneath the white ashes, like the life of
the world beneath the snow, or the heart of a man beneath cold and grey
thoughts. I lighted the candles which stood upon the table, but the
room, instead of being brightened looked blacker than before, for the
light revealed its essential blackness.

As I cast my eyes around me, standing with my back to the hearth (on
which, for mere companionship's sake, I had just heaped fresh wood), a
thrill ran suddenly throughout my frame. I felt as if, did it last a
moment longer, I should become aware of another presence in the room;
but, happily for me, it ceased before it had reached that point; and I,
recovering my courage, remained ignorant of the cause of my fear, if
there were any, other than the nature of the room itself. With a candle
in my hand, I proceeded to open the various cupboards and closets. At
first I found nothing remarkable about any of them. The latter were
quite empty, except the last I came to, which had a piece of very old
elaborate tapestry hanging at the back of it. Lifting this up, I saw
what seemed at first to be panels, corresponding to those which formed
the room; but on looking more closely, I discovered that this back of
the closet was, or had been, a door. There was nothing unusual in this,
especially in such an old house; but the discovery roused in me a strong
desire to know what lay behind the old door. I found that it was secured
only by an ordinary bolt, from which the handle had been removed.
Soothing my conscience with the reflection that I had a right to know
what sort of place had communication with my room, I succeeded, by the
help of my deer-knife, in forcing back the rusty bolt; and though, from
the stiffness of the hinges, I dreaded a crack, they yielded at last
with only a creak.

The opening door revealed a large hall, empty utterly, save of dust and
cobwebs, which festooned it in all quarters, and gave it an appearance
of unutterable desolation. The now familiar feeling, that I had seen the
place before, filled my mind the first moment, and passed away the next.
A broad, right-angled staircase, with massive banisters, rose from the
middle of the hall. This staircase could not have originally belonged to
the ancient wing which I had observed on my first approach, being much
more modern; but I was convinced, from the observations I had made as to
the situation of my room, that I was bordering upon, if not within, the
oldest portion of the pile. In sudden horror, lest I should hear a light
footfall upon the awful stair, I withdrew hurriedly, and having secured
both the doors, betook myself to my bedroom; in whose dingy four-post
bed, with its carving and plumes reminding me of a hearse, I was soon
ensconced amidst the snowiest linen, with the sweet and clean odour of
lavender. In spite of novelty, antiquity, speculation, and dread, I was
soon fast asleep; becoming thereby a fitter inhabitant of such regions,
than when I moved about with restless and disturbing curiosity, through
their ancient and death-like repose.

I made no use of my discovered door, although I always intended doing
so; especially after, in talking about the building with Lady Hilton, I
found that I was at perfect liberty to make what excursions I pleased
into the deserted portions.

My pupils turned out to be teachable, and therefore my occupation was
pleasant. Their sister frequently came to me for help, as there happened
to be just then an interregnum of governesses: soon she settled into a
regular pupil.

After a few weeks Lord Hilton returned. Though my room was so far from
the great hall, I heard the clank of his spurs on its pavement. I
trembled; for it sounded like the broken shoe. But I shook off the
influence in a moment, heartily ashamed of its power over me. Soon I
became familiar enough both with the sound and its cause; for his
lordship rarely went anywhere except on horseback, and was booted and
spurred from morning till night.

He received me with some appearance of interest, which immediately
stiffened and froze. Beginning to shake hands with me as if he meant it,
he instantly dropped my hand, as if it had stung him.

His nobility was of that sort which stands in constant need of repair.
Like a weakly constitution, it required keeping up, and his lordship
could not be said to neglect it; for he seemed to find his principal
employment in administering continuous doses of obsequiousness to his
own pride. His rank, like a coat made for some large ancestor, hung
loose upon him: he was always trying to persuade himself that it was an
excellent fit, but ever with an unacknowledged misgiving. This misgiving
might have done him good, had he not met it with renewed efforts at
looking that which he feared he was not. Yet this man was capable of the
utmost persistency in carrying out any scheme he had once devised.
Enough of him for the present: I seldom came into contact with him.

I scarcely ever saw Lady Alice, except at dinner, or by accidental
meeting in the grounds and passages of the house; and then she took no
notice of me whatever.




CHAPTER VII


_The Library_.

One day, a week after his arrival, Lord Hilton gave a dinner-party to
some of his neighbours and tenants. I entered the drawing-room rather
late, and saw that, though there were many guests, not one was talking
to Lady Alice. She appeared, however, altogether unconscious of neglect.
Presently dinner was announced, and the company marshalled themselves,
and took their way to the dining-room. Lady Alice was left unattended,
the guests taking their cue from the behaviour of their entertainers. I
ventured to go up to her, and offer her my arm. She made me a haughty
bow, and passed on before me unaccompanied. I could not help feeling
hurt at this, and I think she saw it; but it made no difference to her
behaviour, except that she avoided everything that might occasion me the
chance of offering my services.

Nor did I get any further with Lady Hilton. Her manner and smile
remained precisely the same as on our first interview. She did not even
show any interest in the fact that her daughter, Lady Lucy, had joined
her brothers in the schoolroom. I had an uncomfortable feeling that the
latter was like her mother, and was not to be trusted. Self-love is the
foulest of all foul feeders, and will defile that it may devour. But I
must not anticipate.

The neglected library was open to me at all hours; and in it I often
took refuge from the dreariness of unsympathetic society. I was never
admitted within the magic circle of the family interests and enjoyments.
If there was such a circle, Lady Alice and I certainly stood outside of
it; but whether even then it had any real inside to it, I doubted much.
Nevertheless, as I have said, our common exclusion had not the effect of
bringing us together as sharers of the same misfortune. In the library I
found companions more to my need. But, even there, they were not easy to
find; for the books were in great confusion. I could discover no
catalogue, nor could I hear of the existence of such a useless luxury.
One morning at breakfast, therefore, I asked Lord Hilton if I might
arrange and catalogue the books during my leisure hours. He replied:--

"Do anything you like with them, Mr. Campbell, except destroy them."

Now I was in my element. I never had been by any means a book-worm; but
the very outside of a book had a charm to me. It was a kind of
sacrament--an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace;
as, indeed, what on God's earth is not? So I set to work amongst the
books, and soon became familiar with many titles at least, which had
been perfectly unknown to me before. I found a perfect set of our
poets-perfect according to the notion of the editor and the issue of the
publisher, although it omitted both Chaucer and George Herbert. I began
to nibble at that portion of the collection which belonged to the
sixteenth century; but with little success. I found nothing, to my idea,
but love poems without any love in them, and so I soon became weary. But
I found in the library what I liked far better--many romances of a very
marvellous sort, and plentiful interruption they gave to the formation
of the catalogue. I likewise came upon a whole nest of the German
classics which seemed to have kept their places undisturbed, in virtue
of their unintelligibility. There must have been some well-read scholar
in the family, and that not long before, to judge by the near approach
of the line of this literature; happening to be a tolerable reader of
German, I found in these volumes a mine of wealth inexhaustible. I
learned from Mrs. Wilson that this scholar was a younger brother of Lord
Hilton, who had died about twenty years before. He had led a retired,
rather lonely life, was of a melancholy and brooding disposition, and
was reported to have had an unfortunate love-story. This was one of many
histories which she gave me. For the library being dusty as a catacomb,
the private room of Old Time himself, I had often to betake myself to
her for assistance. The good lady had far more regard than the owners of
it for the library, and was delighted with the pains I was taking to
re-arrange and clean it. She would allow no one to help me but herself;
and to many a long-winded story, most of which I forgot as soon as I
heard them, did I listen, or seem to listen, while she dusted the
shelves and I the books.

One day I had sent a servant to ask Mrs. Wilson to come to me. I had
taken down all the books from a hitherto undisturbed corner, and had
seated myself on a heap of them, no doubt a very impersonation of the
genius of the place; for while I waited for the housekeeper, I was
consuming a morsel of an ancient metrical romance. After waiting for
some time, I glanced towards the door, for I had begun to get impatient
for the entrance of my helper. To my surprise, there stood Lady Alice,
her eyes fixed upon me with an expression I could not comprehend. Her
face instantly altered to its usual look of indifference, dashed with
the least possible degree of scorn, as she turned and walked slowly
away. I rose involuntarily. An old cavalry sword, which I had just taken
down from the wall, and had placed leaning against the books from which
I now rose, fell with a clash to the floor. I started; for it was a
sound that always startled me; and stooping I lifted the weapon. But
what was my surprise when I raised my head, to see once more the face of
Lady Alice staring in at the door! yet not the same face, for it had
changed in the moment that had passed. It was pale with fear--not
fright; and her great black eyes were staring beyond me as if she saw
something through the wall of the room. Once more her face altered to
the former scornful indifference, and she vanished. Keen of hearing as I
was, I had never yet heard the footstep of Lady Alice.




CHAPTER VIII


_The Somnambulist._

One night I was sitting in my room, devouring an old romance which I had
brought from the library. It was late. The fire blazed bright; but the
candles were nearly burnt out, and I grew sleepy over the volume,
romance as it was.

Suddenly I found myself on my feet, listening with an agony of
intention. Whether I had heard anything I could not tell; but I felt as
if I had. Yes; I was sure of it. Far away, somewhere in the labyrinthine
pile, I heard a faint cry. Driven by some secret impulse, I flew,
without a moment's reflection, to the closet door, lifted the tapestry
within, unfastened the second door, and stood in the great waste echoing
hall, amid the touches, light and ghostly, of the cobwebs set afloat in
the eddies occasioned by my sudden entrance.

A faded moonbeam fell on the floor, and filled the place with an ancient
dream-light, which wrought strangely on my brain, and filled it, as if
it, too, were but a deserted, sleepy house, haunted by old dreams and
memories. Recollecting myself, I went back for a light; but the candles
were both flickering in the sockets, and I was compelled to trust to the
moon. I ascended the staircase. Old as it was, not a board creaked, not
a banister shook--the whole felt solid as rock. Finding, at length, no
more stair to ascend, I groped my way on; for here there was no direct
light from the moon--only the light of the moonlit air. I was in some
trepidation, I confess; for how should I find my way back? But the worst
result likely to ensue was, that I should have to spend the night
without knowing where; for with the first glimmer of morning, I should
be able to return to my room. At length, after wandering into several
rooms and out again, my hand fell on a latched door. I opened it, and
entered a long corridor, with many windows on one side. Broad strips of
moonlight lay slantingly across the narrow floor, divided by regular
intervals of shade.

I started, and my heart swelled; for I saw a movement somewhere--I could
neither tell where, nor of what: I was only aware of motion. I stood in
the first shadow, and gazed, but saw nothing. I sped across the light to
the next shadow, and stood again, looking with fearful fixedness of gaze
towards the far end of the corridor. Suddenly a white form glimmered and
vanished. I crossed to the next shadow. Again a glimmer and vanishing,
but nearer. Nerving myself to the utmost, I ceased the stealthiness of
my movements, and went forward, slowly and steadily. A tall form,
apparently of a woman, dressed in a long white robe, appeared in one of
the streams of light, threw its arms over its head, gave a wild
cry--which, notwithstanding its wildness and force, had a muffled sound,
as if many folds, either of matter or of space, intervened--and fell at
full length along the moonlight. Amidst the thrill of agony which shook
me at the cry, I rushed forward, and, kneeling beside the prostrate
figure, discovered that, unearthly as was the scream which had preceded
her fall, it was the Lady Alice. I saw the fact in a moment: the Lady
Alice was a somnambulist. Startled by the noise of my advance, she had
awaked; and the usual terror and fainting had followed. She was cold and
motionless as death. What was to be done? If I called, the probability
was that no one would hear me; or if any one should hear--but I need not
follow the course of my thought, as I tried in vain to recover the poor
girl. Suffice it to say, that both for her sake and my own, I could not
face the chance of being found, in the dead of night, by common-minded
domestics, in such a situation.

I was kneeling by her side, not knowing what to do, when a horror, as
from the presence of death suddenly recognized, fell upon me. I thought
she must be dead. But at the same moment, I hear, or seemed to hear,
(how should I know which?) the rapid gallop of a horse, and the clank of
a loose shoe.

In an agony of fear, I caught her up in my arms, and, carrying her on my
arms, as one carries a sleeping child, hurried back through the
corridor. Her hair, which was loose, trailed on the ground; and, as I
fled, I trampled on it and stumbled. She moaned; and that instant the
gallop ceased. I lifted her up across my shoulder, and carried her more
easily. How I found my way to the stair I cannot tell: I know that I
groped about for some time, like one in a dream with a ghost in his
arms. At last I reached it, and descending, crossed the hall, and
entered my room. There I placed Lady Alice upon an old couch, secured
the doors, and began to breathe--and think. The first thing was to get
her warm, for she was cold as the dead. I covered her with my plaid and
my dressing-gown, pulled the couch before the fire, and considered what
to do next.




CHAPTER IX


_The First Waking_.

While I hesitated, Nature had her own way, and, with a deep-drawn sigh,
Lady Alice opened her eyes. Never shall I forget the look of mingled
bewilderment, alarm, and shame, with which her great eyes met mine. But,
in a moment, this expression changed to that of anger. Her dark eyes
flashed with light; and a cloud of roseate wrath grew in her face, till
it glowed with the opaque red of a camellia. She had almost started from
the couch, when, apparently discovering the unsuitableness of her dress,
she checked her impetuosity, and remained leaning on her elbow. Overcome
by her anger, her beauty, and my own confusion, I knelt before her,
unable to speak, or to withdraw my eyes from hers. After a moment's
pause, she began to question me like a queen, and I to reply like a
culprit.

"How did I come here?"

"I carried you."

"Where did you find me, pray?"

Her lip curled with ten times the usual scorn.

"In the old house, in a long corridor."

"What right had you to be there?"

"I heard a cry, and could not help going."

"Tis impossible.--I see. Some wretch told you, and you watched for me."

"I did not, Lady Alice."

She burst into tears, and fell back on the couch, with her face turned
away. Then, anger reviving, she went on through her sobs:--

"Why did you not leave me where I fell? You had done enough to hurt me
without bringing me here."

And again she fell a-weeping.

Now I found words.

"Lady Alice," I said, "how could I leave you lying in the moonlight?
Before the sun rose, the terrible moon might have distorted your
beautiful face."

"Be silent, sir. What have you to do with my face?"

"And the wind, Lady Alice, was blowing through the corridor windows,
keen and cold as the moonlight. How could I leave you?"

"You could have called for help."

"Forgive me, Lady Alice, if I erred in thinking you would rather command
the silence of a gentleman to whom an accident had revealed your secret,
than be exposed to the domestics who would have gathered round us."

Again she half raised herself, and again her eyes flashed.

"A secret with _you_, sir!"

"But, besides, Lady Alice," I cried, springing to my feet, in distress
at her hardness, "I heard the horse with the clanking shoe, and, in
terror, I caught you up, and fled with you, almost before I knew what I
did. And I hear it now--I hear it now!" I cried, as once more the
ominous sound rang through my brain.

The angry glow faded from her face, and its paleness grew almost ghastly
with dismay.

"Do _you_ hear it?" she said, throwing back her covering, and rising
from the couch. "I do not."

She stood listening with distended eyes, as if _they_ were the gates by
which such sounds entered.

"I do not hear it," she said again, after a pause. "It must be gone
now." Then, turning to me, she laid her hand on my arm, and looked at
me. Her black hair, disordered and entangled, wandered all over her
white dress to her knees. Her face was paler than ever; and her eyes
were so wide open that I could see the white all round the large dark
iris.

"Did you hear it?" she said. "No one ever heard it before but me. I must
forgive you--you could not help it. I will trust you, too. Take me to my
room."

Without a word of reply, I wrapped my plaid about her. Then bethinking
me of my chamber-candle, I lighted it, and opening the two doors, led
her out of the room.

"How is this?" she asked. "Why do you take me this way? I do not know
the place."

"This is the way I brought you in, Lady Alice," I answered. "I know no
other way to the spot where I found you. And I can guide you no farther
than there--hardly even so far, for I groped my way there for the first
time this night or morning--whichever it may be."

"It is past midnight, but not morning yet," she replied, "I always know.
But there must be another way from your room?"

"Yes, of course; but we should have to pass the housekeeper's door--she
is always late."

"Are we near her room? I should know my way from there. I fear it would
not surprise any of the household to see me. They would say--'It is only
Lady Alice.' Yet I cannot tell you how I shrink from being seen. No--I
will try the way you brought me--if you do not mind going back with me."

This conversation passed in low tone and hurried words. It was scarcely
over before we found ourselves at the foot of the staircase. Lady Alice
shivered, and drew the plaid close round her.

We ascended, and soon found the corridor; but when we got through it,
she was rather bewildered. At length, after looking into several of the
rooms, empty all, except for stray articles of ancient furniture, she
exclaimed, as she entered one, and, taking the candle from my hand, held
it above her head--

"Ah, yes! I am right at last. This is the haunted room. I know my way
now."

I caught a darkling glimpse of a large room, apparently quite furnished;
but how, except from the general feeling of antiquity and mustiness, I
could not tell. Little did I think then what memories--old, now, like
the ghosts that with them haunt the place--would ere long find their
being and take their abode in that ancient room, to forsake it never
more. In strange, half-waking moods, I seem to see the ghosts and the
memories flitting together through the spectral moonlight, and weaving
mystic dances in and out of the storied windows and the tapestried
walls.

At the door of this room she said, "I must leave you here. I will put
down the light a little further on, and you can come for it. I owe you
many thanks. You will not be afraid of being left so near the haunted
room?"

I assured her that at present I felt strong enough to meet all the
ghosts in or out of Hades. Turning, she smiled a sad, sweet smile, then
went on a few paces, and disappeared. The light, however, remained; and
I found the candle, with my plaid, deposited at the foot of a short
flight of steps, at right angles to the passage she left me in. I made
my way back to my room, threw myself on the couch on which she had so
lately lain, and neither went to bed nor slept that night. Before the
morning, I had fully entered that phase of individual development
commonly called _love_, of which the real nature is as great a mystery
to me now, as it was at any period previous to its evolution in myself.




CHAPTER X


_Love and Power_.

When the morning came, I began to doubt whether my wakefulness had not
been part of my dream, and I had not dreamed the whole of my supposed
adventures. There was no sign of a lady's presence left in the
room.--How could there have been?--But throwing the plaid which covered
me aside, my hand was caught by a single thread of something so fine
that I could not see it till the light grew strong. I wound it round and
round my finger, and doubted no longer.

At breakfast there was no Lady Alice--nor at dinner. I grew uneasy, but
what could I do? I soon learned that she was ill; and a weary fortnight
passed before I saw her again. Mrs. Wilson told me that she had caught
cold, and was confined to her room. So I was ill at ease, not from love
alone, but from anxiety as well. Every night I crept up through the
deserted house to the stair where she had vanished, and there sat in the
darkness or groped and peered about for some sign. But I saw no light
even, and did not know where her room was. It might be far beyond this
extremity of my knowledge; for I discovered no indication of the
proximity of the inhabited portion of the house. Mrs. Wilson said there
was nothing serious the matter; but this did not satisfy me, for I
imagined something mysterious in the way in which she spoke.

As the days went on, and she did not appear, my soul began to droop
within me; my intellect seemed about to desert me altogether. In vain I
tried to read. Nothing could fix my attention. I read and re-read the
same page; but although I understood every word as I read, I found when
I came to a pause, that there lingered in my mind no palest notion of
the idea. It was just what one experiences in attempting to read when
half-asleep.

I tried Euclid, and fared a little better with that. But having now to
initiate my boys into the mysteries of equations, I soon found that
although I could manage a very simple one, yet when I attempted one more
complex--one in which something bordering upon imagination was necessary
to find out the object for which to appoint the symbol to handle it
by--the necessary power of concentration was itself a missing factor.

But although my thoughts were thus beyond my control, my duties were not
altogether irksome to me. I remembered that they kept me near her; and
although I could not learn, I found that I could teach a little.

Perhaps it is foolish to dwell upon an individual variety of an almost
universal stage in the fever of life; but one exception to these
indications of mental paralysis I think worth mentioning.

I continued my work in the library, although it did not advance with the
same steadiness as before. One day, in listless mood, I took up a
volume, without knowing what it was, or what I sought. It opened at the
_Amoretti_ of Edmund Spenser. I was on the point of closing it again,
when a line caught my eye. I read the sonnet; read another; found I
could understand them perfectly; and that hour the poetry of the
sixteenth century, hitherto a sealed fountain, became an open well of
refreshment, and the strength that comes from sympathy. What if its
second-rate writers were full of conceits and vagaries, the feelings are
very indifferent to the mere intellectual forms around which the same
feelings in others have gathered, if only by their means they hint at,
and sometimes express themselves. Now I understood this old fantastic
verse, and knew that the foam-bells on the torrent of passionate feeling
are iris-hued. And what was more--it proved an intellectual nexus
between my love and my studies, or at least a bridge by which I could
pass from the one to the other.

That same day, I remember well, Mrs. Wilson told me that Lady Alice was
much better. But as days passed, and still she did not make her
appearance, my anxiety only changed its object, and I feared that it was
from aversion to me that she did not join the family. But her name was
never mentioned in my hearing by any of the other members of it; and her
absence appeared to be to them a matter of no moment or interest.

One night, as I sat in my room, I found, as usual, that it was
impossible to read; and throwing the book aside, relapsed into that
sphere of thought which now filled my soul, and had for its centre the
Lady Alice. I recalled her form as she lay on the couch, and brooded
over the remembrance till a longing to see her, almost unbearable, arose
within me.

"Would to heaven," I said to myself, "that will were power!"

In this concurrence of idleness, distraction, and vehement desire, I
found all at once, without any foregone resolution, that I was
concentrating and intensifying within me, until it rose almost to a
command, the operative volition that Lady Alice should come to me. In a
moment more I trembled at the sense of a new power which sprang into
conscious being within me. I had had no prevision of its existence, when
I gave way to such extravagant and apparently helpless wishes. I now
actually awaited the fulfilment of my desire; but in a condition
ill-fitted to receive it, for the effort had already exhausted me to
such a degree, that every nerve was in a conscious tremor. Nor had I
long to wait.

I heard no sound of approach: the closet-door folded back, and in
glided, open-eyed, but sightless pale as death, and clad in white,
ghostly-pure and saint-like, the Lady Alice. I shuddered from head to
foot at what I had done. She was more terrible to me in that moment than
any pale-eyed ghost could have been. For had I not exercised a kind of
necromantic art, and roused without awaking the slumbering dead? She
passed me, walking round the table at which I was seated, went to the
couch, laid herself down with a maidenly care, turned a little on one
side, with her face towards me, and gradually closed her eyes. In
something deeper than sleep she lay, and yet not in death. I rose, and
once more knelt beside her, but dared not touch her. In what far realms
of life might the lovely soul be straying! What mysterious modes of
being might now be the homely surroundings of her second life! Thoughts
unutterable rose in me, culminated, and sank, like the stars of heaven,
as I gazed on the present symbol of an absent life--a life that I loved
by means of the symbol; a symbol that I loved because of the life. How
long she lay thus, how long I gazed upon her thus, I do not know.
Gradually, but without my being able to distinguish the gradations, her
countenance altered to that of one who sleeps. But the change did not
end there. A colour, faint as the blush in the centre of a white rose,
tinged her lips, and deepened; then her cheek began to share in the hue,
then her brow and her neck. The colour was that of the cloud which, the
farthest from the sunset, yet acknowledges the rosy atmosphere. I
watched, as it were, the dawn of a soul on the horizon of the visible.
The first approaches of its far-off flight were manifest; and as I
watched, I saw it come nearer and nearer, till its great, silent,
speeding pinions were folded, and it looked forth, a calm, beautiful,
infinite woman, from the face and form sleeping before me.

I knew that she was awake, some moments before she opened her eyes. When
at last those depths of darkness disclosed themselves, slowly uplifting
their white cloudy portals, the same consternation she had formerly
manifested, accompanied by yet greater anger, followed.

"Yet again! Am I your slave, because I am weak?" She rose in the majesty
of wrath, and moved towards the door.

"Lady Alice, I have not touched you. I am to blame, but not as you
think. Could I help longing to see you? And if the longing passed, ere I
was aware, into a will that you should come, and you obeyed it, forgive
me."

I hid my face in my hands, overcome by conflicting emotions. A kind of
stupor came over me. When I lifted my head, she was standing by the
closet-door.

"I have waited," she said, "to make a request of you."

"Do not utter it, Lady Alice. I know what it is. I give you my word--my
solemn promise, if you like--that I will never do it again." She thanked
me, with a smile, and vanished.

Much to my surprise, she appeared at dinner next day. No notice was
taken of her, except by the younger of my pupils, who called out,--

"Hallo, Alice! Are you down?"

She smiled and nodded, but did not speak. Everything went on as usual.
There was no change in her behaviour, except in one point. I ventured
the experiment of paying her some ordinary enough attention. She thanked
me, without a trace of the scornful expression I all but expected to see
upon her beautiful face. But when I addressed her about the weather, or
something equally interesting, she made no reply; and Lady Hilton gave
me a stare, as much as to say, "Don't you know it's of no use to talk to
her?" Alice saw the look, and colouring to the eyes, rose, and left the
room. When she had gone, Lady Hilton said to me,--

"Don't speak to her, Mr. Campbell--it distresses her. She is very
peculiar, you know."

She could not hide the scorn and dislike with which she spoke; and I
could not help saying to myself, "What a different thing scorn looks on
_your_ face, Lady Hilton!" for it made her positively and hatefully ugly
for the moment--to my eyes, at least.

After this, Alice sat down with us at all our meals, and seemed
tolerably well. But, in some indescribable way, she was quite a
different person from the Lady Alice who had twice awaked in my
presence. To use a phrase common in describing one of weak
intellect--she never seemed to be all there. There was something
automatical in her movements; and a sort of frozen indifference was the
prevailing expression of her countenance. When she smiled, a sweet light
shone in her eyes, and she looked for the moment like the Lady Alice of
my nightly dreams. But, altogether, the Lady Alice of the night, and the
Lady Alice of the day, were two distinct persons. I believed that the
former was the real one.

What nights I had now, watching and striving lest unawares I should fall
into the exercise of my new power! I allowed myself to think of her as
much as I pleased in the daytime, or at least as much as I dared; for
when occupied with my pupils, I dreaded lest any abstraction should even
hint that I had a thought to conceal. I knew that I could not hurt her
then; for that only in the night did she enter that state of existence
in which my will could exercise authority over her. But at night--at
night--when I knew she lay there, and might be lying here; when but a
thought would bring her, and that thought was fluttering its wings,
ready to spring awake out of the dreams of my heart--then the struggle
was fearful. And what added force to the temptation was, that to call
her to me in the night, seemed like calling the real immortal Alice
forth from the tomb in which she wandered about all day. It was as
painful to me to see her such in the day, as it was entracing to
remember her such as I had seen her in the night. What matter if her
true self came forth in anger against me? What was I? It was enough for
my life, I said, to look on her, such as she really was. "Bring her yet
once, and tell her all--tell her how madly, hopelessly you love her. She
will forgive you at least," said a voice within me. But I heard it as
the voice of the tempter, and kept down the thought which might have
grown to the will.




CHAPTER XI


_A New Pupil_.

One day, exactly three weeks after her last visit to my room, as I was
sitting with my three pupils in the schoolroom, Lady Alice entered, and
began to look on the bookshelves as if she wanted some volume. After a
few moments, she turned, and, approaching the table, said to me, in an
abrupt, yet hesitating way.

"Mr. Campbell, I cannot spell. How am I to learn?"

I thought for a moment, and replied: "Copy a passage every day, Lady
Alice, from some favourite book. Then, if you allow me, I shall be most
happy to point out any mistakes you may have made."

"Thank you, Mr. Campbell, I will; but I am afraid you will despise me,
when you find how badly I spell."

"There is no fear of that," I rejoined. "It is a mere peculiarity. So
long as one can _think_ well, spelling is altogether secondary."

"Thank you; I will try," she said, and left the room. Next day, she
brought me an old ballad, written tolerably, but in a school-girl's
hand. She had copied the antique spelling, letter for letter.

"This is quite correct," I said; "but to copy such as this will not
teach you properly; for it is very old, and consequently old-fashioned."

"Is it old? Don't we spell like that now? You see I do not know anything
about it. You must set me a task, then."

This I undertook with more pleasure than I dared to show. Every day she
brought me the appointed exercise, written with a steadily improving
hand. To my surprise, I never found a single error in the spelling. Of
course, when, advancing a step in the process, I made her write from my
dictation, she did make blunders, but not so many as I had expected; and
she seldom repeated one after correction.

This new association gave me many opportunities of doing more for her
than merely teaching her to spell. We talked about what she copied; and
I had to explain. I also told her about the writers. Soon she expressed
a desire to know something of figures. We commenced arithmetic. I
proposed geometry along with it, and found the latter especially fitted
to her powers. One by one we included several other necessary branches;
and ere long I had four around the schoolroom table--equally my pupils.
Whether the attempts previously made to instruct her had been
insufficient or misdirected, or whether her intellectual powers had
commenced a fresh growth, I could not tell; but I leaned to the latter
conclusion, especially after I began to observe that her peculiar
remarks had become modified in form, though without losing any of their
originality. The unearthliness of her beauty likewise disappeared, a
slight colour displacing the almost marbly whiteness of her cheek.

Long before Lady Alice had made this progress, my nightly struggles
began to diminish in violence. They had now entirely ceased. The
temptation had left me. I felt certain that for weeks she had never
walked in her sleep. She was beyond my power, and I was glad of it.

I was, of course, most careful of my behaviour during all this period. I
strove to pay Lady Alice no more attention than I paid to the rest of my
pupils; and I cannot help thinking that I succeeded. But now and then,
in the midst of some instruction I was giving Lady Alice, I caught the
eye of Lady Lucy, a sharp, common-minded girl, fixed upon one or the
other of us, with an inquisitive vulgar expression, which I did not
like. This made me more careful still. I watched my tones, to keep them
even, and free from any expression of the feeling of which my heart was
full. Sometimes, however, I could not help revealing the gratification I
felt when she made some marvellous remark--marvellous, I mean, in
relation to her other attainments; such a remark as a child will
sometimes make, showing that he has already mastered, through his
earnest simplicity, some question that has for ages perplexed the wise
and the prudent. On one of these occasions, I found the cat eyes of Lady
Lucy glittering on me. I turned away; not, I fear, without showing some
displeasure.

Whether it was from Lady Lucy's evil report, or that the change in Lady
Alice's habits and appearance had attracted the attention of Lady
Hilton, I cannot tell; but one morning she appeared at the door of the
study, and called her. Lady Alice rose and went, with a slight gesture
of impatience. In a few minutes she returned, looking angry and
determined, and resumed her seat. But whatever it was that had passed
between them, it had destroyed that quiet flow of the feelings which was
necessary to the working of her thoughts. In vain she tried: she could
do nothing correctly. At last she burst into tears and left the room. I
was almost beside myself with distress and apprehension. She did not
return that day.

Next morning she entered at the usual hour, looking composed, but paler
than of late, and showing signs of recent weeping. When we were all
seated, and had just commenced our work, I happened to look up, and
caught her eyes intently fixed on me. They dropped instantly, but
without any appearance of confusion. She went on with her arithmetic,
and succeeded tolerably. But this respite was to be of short duration.
Lady Hilton again entered, and called her. She rose angrily, and my
quick ear caught the half-uttered words, "That woman will make an idiot
of me again!" She did not return; and never from that hour resumed her
place in the schoolroom.

The time passed heavily. At dinner she looked proud and constrained; and
spoke only in monosyllables.

For two days I scarcely saw her. But the third day, as I was busy in the
library alone, she entered.

"Can I help you, Mr. Campbell?" she said.

I glanced involuntarily towards the door.

"Lady Hilton is not at home," she replied to my look, while a curl of
indignation contended with a sweet tremor of shame for the possession of
her lip.--"Let me help you."

"You will help me best if you sing that ballad I heard you singing just
before you came in. I never heard you sing before."

"Didn't you? I don't think I ever did sing before."

"Sing it again, will you, please?"

"It is only two verses. My old Scotch nurse used to sing it when I was a
little girl-oh, so long ago! I didn't know I could sing it."

She began without more ado, standing in the middle of the room, with her
back towards the door.

  Annie was dowie, an' Willie was wae:
  What can be the matter wi' siccan a twae?
  For Annie was bonnie's the first o' the day,
  And Willie was strang an' honest an' gay.

  Oh! the tane had a daddy was poor an' was proud;
  An' the tither a minnie that cared for the gowd.
  They lo'ed are anither, an' said their say--
  But the daddy an' minnie hae pairtit the twae.

Just as she finished the song, I saw the sharp eyes of Lady Lucy peeping
in at the door.

"Lady Lucy is watching at the door, Lady Alice," I said.

"I don't care," she answered; but turned with a flush on her face, and
stepped noiselessly to the door.

"There is no one there," she said, returning.

"There was, though," I answered.

"They want to drive me mad," she cried, and hurried from the room.

The next day but one, she came again with the same request. But she had
not been a minute in the library before Lady Hilton came to the door and
called her in angry tones.

"Presently," replied Alice, and remained where she was.

"Do go, Lady Alice," I said. "They will send me away if you refuse."

She blushed scarlet, and went without another word.

She came no more to the library.




CHAPTER XII


_Confession_.

Day followed day, the one the child of the other. Alice's old paleness
and unearthly look began to reappear; and, strange to tell, my midnight
temptation revived. After a time she ceased to dine with us again, and
for days I never saw her. It was the old story of suffering with me,
only more intense than before. The day was dreary, and the night stormy.
"Call her," said my heart; but my conscience resisted.

I was lying on the floor of my room one midnight, with my face to the
ground, when suddenly I heard a low, sweet, strange voice singing
somewhere. The moment I became aware that I heard it I felt as if I had
been listening to it unconsciously for some minutes past. I lay still,
either charmed to stillness, or fearful of breaking the spell. As I lay,
I was lapt in the folds of a waking dream.

I was in bed in a castle, on the seashore; the wind came from the sea in
chill _eerie soughs_, and the waves fell with a threatful tone upon the
beach, muttering many maledictions as they rushed up, and whispering
cruel portents as they drew back, hissing and gurgling, through the
million narrow ways of the pebbly ramparts; and I knew that a maiden in
white was standing in the cold wind, by the angry sea, singing. I had a
kind of dreamy belief in my dream; but, overpowered by the spell of the
music, I still lay and listened. Keener and stronger, under the impulses
of my will, grew the power of my hearing. At last I could distinguish
the words. The ballad was _Annie of Lochroyan;_ and Lady Alice was
singing it. The words I heard were these:--

  Oh, gin I had a bonnie ship,
  And men to sail wi' me,
  It's I wad gang to my true love,
  Sin' he winna come to me.

  Lang stood she at her true love's door,
  And lang tirled at the pin;
  At length up gat his fause mother,
  Says, "Wha's that wad be in?"

         *       *       *       *       *

  Love Gregory started frae his sleep,
  And to his mother did say:
  "I dreamed a dream this night, mither,
  That maks my heart right wae.

  "I dreamed that Annie of Lochroyan,
  The flower of a' her kin,
  Was standing mournin' at my door,
  But nane wad let her in."

I sprang to my feet, and opened the hidden door. There she stood, white,
asleep, with closed eyes, singing like a bird, only with a heartful of
sad meaning in every tone. I stepped aside, without speaking, and she
passed me into the room. I closed the door, and followed her. She lay
already upon the couch, still and restful--already covered with my
plaid. I sat down beside her, waiting; and gazed upon her in wonderment.
That she was possessed of very superior intellectual powers, whatever
might be the cause of their having lain dormant so long, I had already
fully convinced myself; but I was not prepared to find art as well as
intellect. I had already heard her sing the little song of two verses,
which she had learned from her nurse. But here was a song, of her own
making as to the music, so true and so potent, that, before I knew
anything of the words, it had surrounded me with a dream of the place in
which the scene of the ballad was laid. It did not then occur to me
that, perhaps, our idiosyncrasies were such as not to require even the
music of the ballad for the production of _rapport_ between our minds,
the brain of the one generating in the brain of the other the vision
present to itself.

I sat and thought:--Some obstruction in the gateways, outward, prevented
her, in her waking hours, from uttering herself at all. This
obstruction, damming back upon their sources the out-goings of life,
threw her into this abnormal sleep. In it the impulse to utterance,
still unsatisfied, so wrought within her unable, yet compliant form,
that she could not rest, but rose and walked. And now, a fresh surge
from the sea of her unknown being, unrepressed by the _hitherto_ of the
objects of sense, had burst the gates and bars, swept the obstructions
from its channel, and poured from her in melodious song.

The first green lobes, at least, of these thoughts, appeared above the
soil of my mind, while I sat and gazed on the sleeping girl. And now I
had once more the delight of watching a spirit-dawn, a soul-rise, in
that lovely form. The light flushing of its pallid sky was, as before,
the first sign. I dreaded the flash of lovely flame, and the outburst of
regnant anger, ere I should have time to say that I was not to blame.
But when, at length, the full dawn, the slow sunrise came, it was with
all the gentleness of a cloudy summer morn. Never did a more celestial
rosy red hang about the skirts of the level sun, than deepened and
glowed upon her face, when, opening her eyes, she saw me beside her. She
covered her face with her hands; and instead of the words of indignant
reproach which I dreaded to hear, she murmured behind the snowy screen:
"I am glad you have broken your promise."

My heart gave a bound and was still. I grew faint with delight. "No," I
said; "I have not broken my promise, Lady Alice; I have struggled nearly
to madness to keep it--and I have kept it."

"I have come then of myself. Worse and worse! But it is their fault."

Tears now found their way through the repressing fingers. I could not
endure to see her weep. I knelt beside her, and, while she still covered
her face with her hands, I said--I do not know what I said. They were
wild, and, doubtless, foolish words in themselves, but they must have
been wise and true in their meaning. When I ceased, I knew that I had
ceased only by the great silence around me. I was still looking at her
hands. Slowly she withdrew them. It was as when the sun breaks forth on
a cloudy day. The winter was over and gone; the time of the singing of
birds had come. She smiled on me through her tears, and heart met heart
in the light of that smile.

She rose to go at once, and I begged for no delay. I only stood with
clasped hands, gazing at her. She turned at the door, and said;

"I daresay I shall come again; I am afraid I cannot help it; only mind
you do not wake me."

Before I could reply, I was alone; and I felt that I must not follow
her.




CHAPTER XIII


_Questioning_.

I laid myself on the couch she had left, but not to sleep. A new pulse
of life, stronger than I could bear, was throbbing within me. I dreaded
a fever, lest I should talk in it, and drop the clue to my secret
treasure. But the light of the morning stilled me, and a bath in
ice-cold water made me strong again. Yet I felt all that day as if I
were dying a delicious death, and going to a yet more exquisite life. As
far as I might, however, I repressed all indications of my delight; and
endeavoured, for the sake both of duty and of prudence, to be as
attentive to my pupils and their studies as it was possible for man to
be. This helped to keep me in my right mind. But, more than all my
efforts at composure, the pain which, as far as my experience goes,
invariably accompanies, and sometimes even usurps, the place of the
pleasure which gave it birth, was efficacious in keeping me sane.

Night came, but brought no Lady Alice. It was a week before I saw her
again. Her heart had been stilled, and she was able to sleep aright.

But seven nights after, she did come. I waited her awaking, possessed
with one painful thought, which I longed to impart to her. She awoke
with a smile, covered her face for a moment, but only for a moment, and
then sat up. I stood before her; and the first words I spoke were:

"Lady Alice, ought I not to go?"

"No," she replied at once. "I can claim some compensation from them for
the wrong they have been doing me. Do you know in what relation I stand
to Lord and Lady Hilton? They are but my stepmother and her husband."

"I know that."

"Well, I have a fortune of my own, about which I never thought or
cared--till--till--within the last few weeks. Lord Hilton is my
guardian. Whether they made me the stupid creature I _was,_ I do not
know; but I believe they have represented me as far worse than I was, to
keep people from making my acquaintance. They prevented my going on with
my lessons, because they saw I was getting to understand things, and
grow like other people; and that would not suit their purposes. It would
be false delicacy in you to leave me to them, when you can make up to me
for their injustice. Their behaviour to me takes away any right they had
over me, and frees you from any obligation, because I am yours.--Am I
not?"

Once more she covered her face with her hands. I could answer only by
withdrawing one of them, which I _was_ now emboldened to keep in my own.

I was very willingly persuaded to what was so much my own desire. But
whether the reasoning was quite just or not, I am not yet sure. Perhaps
it might be so for her, and yet not for me: I do not know; I am a poor
casuist.

She resumed, laying her other hand upon mine:--

"It would be to tell the soul which you have called forth, to go back
into its dark moaning cavern, and never more come out to the light of
day."

How could I resist this?

A long pause ensued.

"It is strange," she said, at length, "to feel, when I lie down at
night, that I may awake in your presence, without knowing how. It is
strange, too, that, although I should be utterly ashamed to come
wittingly, I feel no confusion when I find myself here. When I feel
myself coming awake, I lie for a little while with my eyes closed,
wondering and hoping, and afraid to open them, lest I should find myself
only in my own chamber; shrinking a little, too--just a little--from the
first glance into your face."

"But when you awake, do you know nothing of what has taken place in your
sleep?"

"Nothing whatever."

"Have you no vague sensations, no haunting shadows, no dim ghostly
moods, seeming to belong to that condition, left?"

"None whatever."

She rose, said "Good-night," and left me.




Chapter XIV


_Jealousy._

Again seven days passed before she revisited me. Indeed, her visits had
always an interval of seven days, or a multiple of seven, between.

Since the last, a maddening jealousy had seized me. For, returning from
those unknown regions into which her soul had wandered away, and where
she had stayed for hours, did she not sometimes awake with a smile? How
could I be sure that she did not lead two distinct existences?--that she
had not some loving spirit, or man, who, like her, had for a time left
the body behind--who was all in all to her in that region, and whom she
forgot when she forsook it, as she forgot me when she entered it? It was
a thought I could not brook. But I put aside its persistency as well as
I could, till she should come again. For this I waited. I could not now
endure the thought of compelling the attendance of her unconscious form;
of making her body, like a living cage, transport to my presence the
unresisting soul. I shrank from it as a true man would shrink from
kissing the lips of a sleeping woman whom he loved, not knowing that she
loved him in return.

It may well be said that to follow such a doubt was to inquire too
curiously; but once the thought had begun, and grown, and been born, how
was I to slay the monster, and be free of its hated presence? Was its
truth not a possibility?--Yet how could even she help me, for she knew
nothing of the matter? How could she vouch for the unknown? What news
can the serene face of the moon, ever the same to us, give of the hidden
half of herself turned ever towards what seems to us but the blind
abysmal darkness, which yet has its own light and its own life? All I
could hope for was to see her, to tell her, to be comforted at least by
her smile.

My saving angel glided blind into my room, lay down upon her bier, and
awaited the resurrection. I sat and awaited mine, panting to untwine
from my heart the cold death-worm that twisted around it, yet picturing
to myself the glow of love on the averted face of the beautiful
spirit--averted from me, and bending on a radiant companion all the
light withdrawn from the lovely form beside me. That light began to
return. "She is coming, she is coming," I said within me. "Back from its
glowing south travels the sun of my spring, the glory of my summer."
Floating slowly up from the infinite depths of her being, came the
conscious woman; up--up from the realms of stillness lying deeper than
the plummet of self-knowledge can sound; up from the formless, up into
the known, up into the material, up to the windows that look forth on
the embodied mysteries around. Her eyelids rose. One look of love all
but slew my fear. When I told her my grief, she answered with a smile of
pity, yet half of disdain at the thought.

"If ever I find it so, I will kill myself there, that I may go to my
Hades with you. But if I am dreaming of another, how is it that I always
rise in my vision and come to you? You will go crazy if you fancy such
foolish things," she added, with a smile of reproof.

The spectral thought vanished, and I was free.

"Shall I tell you," she resumed, covering her face with her hands, "why
I behaved so proudly to you, from the very first day you entered the
house? It was because, when I passed you on the lawn, before ever you
entered the house, I felt a strange, undefinable attraction towards you,
which continued, although I could not account for it and would not yield
to it. I was heartily annoyed at it. But you see it was of no use--here
I am. That was what made me so fierce, too, when I first found myself in
your room."

It was indeed long before she came to my room again.




CHAPTER XV


_The Chamber of Ghosts_.

But now she returned once more into the usual routine of the family. I
fear I was unable to repress all signs of agitation when, next day, she
entered the dining-room, after we were seated, and took her customary
place at the table. Her behaviour was much the same as before; but her
face was very different. There was light in it now, and signs of mental
movement. The smooth forehead would be occasionally wrinkled, and she
would fall into moods which were evidently not of inanity, but of
abstracted thought. She took especial care that our eyes should not
meet. If by chance they did, instead of sinking hers, she kept them
steady, and opened them wider, as if she was fixing them on nothing at
all, or she raised them still higher, as if she was looking at something
above me, before she allowed them to fall. But the change in her
altogether was such that it must have attracted the notice and roused
the speculation of Lady Hilton at least. For me, so well did she act her
part, that I was thrown into perplexity by it. And when day after day
passed, and the longing to speak to her grew, and remained unsatisfied,
new doubts arose. Perhaps she was tired of me. Perhaps her new studies
filled her mind with the clear, gladsome morning light of the pure
intellect, which always throws doubt and distrust and a kind of negation
upon the moonlight of passion, mysterious, and mingled ever with faint
shadows of pain. I walked as in an unresting sleep. Utterly as I loved
her, I was yet alarmed and distressed to find how entirely my being had
grown dependent upon her love; how little of individual, self-existing,
self-upholding life, I seemed to have left; how little I cared for
anything, save as I could associate it with her.

I was sitting late one night in my room. I had all but given up hope of
her coming. I had, perhaps, deprived her of the somnambulic power. I was
brooding over this possibility, when all at once I felt as if I were
looking into the haunted room. It seemed to be lighted by the moon,
shining through the stained windows. The feeling came and went suddenly,
as such visions of places generally do; but this had an indescribable
something about it more clear and real than such resurrections of the
past, whether willed or unwilled, commonly possess; and a great longing
seized me to look into the room once more. I rose with a sense of
yielding to the irresistible, left the room, groped my way through the
hall and up the oak staircase--I had never thought of taking a light
with me--and entered the corridor. No sooner had I entered it, than the
thought sprang up in my mind--"What if she should be there!" My heart
stood still for a moment, like a wounded deer, and then bounded on, with
a pang in every bound. The corridor was night itself, with a dim,
bluish-grey light from the windows, sufficing to mark their own spaces.
I stole through it, and, without erring once, went straight to the
haunted chamber. The door stood half open. I entered, and was bewildered
by the dim, mysterious, dreamy loveliness upon which I gazed. The moon
shone full upon the windows, and a thousand coloured lights and shadows
crossed and intertwined upon the walls and floor, all so soft, and
mingling, and undefined, that the brain was filled as with a flickering
dance of ghostly rainbows. But I had little time to think of these; for
out of the only dark corner in the room came a white figure, flitting
across the chaos of lights, bedewed, besprinkled, bespattered, as she
passed, with their multitudinous colours. I was speechless, motionless,
with something far beyond joy. With a low moan of delight, Lady Alice
sank into my arms. Then, looking up, with a light laugh--"The scales are
turned, dear," she said. "You are in my power now; I brought you here. I
thought I could, and I tried, for I wanted so much to see you--and you
are come." She led me across the room to the place where she had been
seated, and we sat side by side.

"I thought you had forgotten me," I said, "or had grown tired of me."

"Did you? That was unkind. You have made my heart so still, that, body
and soul, I sleep at night."

"Then shall I never see you more?"

"We can meet here. This is the best place. No one dares come near the
haunted room at night. We might even venture in the evening. Look, now,
from where we are sitting, across the air, between the windows and the
shadows on the floor. Do you see nothing moving?"

I looked, but could see nothing. She resumed:--

"I almost fancy, sometimes, that what old stories say about this room
may be true. I could fancy now that I see dim transparent forms in
ancient armour, and in strange antique dresses, men and women, moving
about, meeting, speaking, embracing, parting, coming and going. But I
was never afraid of such beings. I am sure these would not, could not
hurt us."

If the room was not really what it was well fitted to be--a rendezvous
for the ghosts of the past--then either my imagination, becoming more
active as she spoke, began to operate upon my brain, or her fancies were
mysteriously communicated to me; for I was persuaded that I saw such dim
undefined forms as she described, of a substance only denser than the
moonlight, flitting, and floating about, between the windows and the
illuminated floor. Could they have been coloured shadows thrown from the
stained glass upon the fine dust with which the slightest motion in such
an old and neglected room must fill its atmosphere? I did not think of
that then, however.

"I could persuade myself that I, too, see them," I replied. "I cannot
say that I am afraid of such beings any more than you--if only they will
not speak."

"Ah!" she replied, with a lengthened, meaning utterance, expressing
sympathy with what I said; "I know what you mean. I, too, am afraid of
hearing things. And that reminds me, I have never yet asked you about
the galloping horse. I too hear sometimes the sound of a loose
horse-shoe. It always betokens some evil to me; but I do not know what
it means. Do you?"

"Do you know," I rejoined, "that there is a connection between your
family and mine, somewhere far back in their histories?"

"No! Is there? How glad I am! Then perhaps you and I are related, and
that is how we are so much alike, and have power over each other, and
hear the same things."

"Yes. I suppose that is how."

"But can you account for that sound which we both hear?"

"I will tell you what my old foster-mother told me," I replied. And I
began by narrating when and where I had first heard the sound; and then
gave her, as nearly as I could, the legend which nurse had recounted to
me. I did not tell her its association with the events of my birth, for
I feared exciting her imagination too much. She listened to it very
quietly, however, and when I came to a close, only said:

"Of course, we cannot tell how much of it is true, but there may be
something in it. I have never heard anything of the sort, and I, too,
have an old nurse. She is with me still. You shall see her some day."

She rose to go.

"Will you meet me here again soon?" I said.

"As soon as you wish," she answered.

"Then to-morrow, at midnight?"

"Yes."

And we parted at the door of the haunted chamber. I watched the
flickering with which her whiteness just set the darkness in motion, and
nothing more, seeming to see it long after I knew she must have turned
aside and descended the steps leading towards her own room. Then I
turned and groped my way back to mine.

We often met after this in the haunted room. Indeed my spirit haunted it
all day and all night long. And when we met amid the shadows, we were
wrapped in the mantle of love, and from its folds looked out fearless on
the ghostly world about us. Ghosts or none, they never annoyed us. Our
love was a talisman, yea, an elixir of life, which made us equal to the
twice-born,--the disembodied dead. And they were as a wall of fear about
us, to keep far off the unfriendly foot and the prying eye.

In the griefs that followed, I often thought with myself that I would
gladly die for a thousand years, might I then awake for one night in the
haunted chamber, a ghost, among the ghosts who crowded its stained
moonbeams, and see my dead Alice smiling across the glimmering rays, and
beckoning me to the old nook, she, too, having come awake out of the
sleep of death, in the dream of the haunted chamber. "Might we but sit
there," I said, "through the night, as of old, and love and comfort each
other, till the moon go down, and the pale dawn, which is the night of
the ghosts, begin to arise, then gladly would I go to sleep for another
thousand years, in the hope that when I next became conscious of life,
it might be in another such ghostly night, in the chamber of the
ghosts."




Chapter XVI


_The Clanking Shoe_.

Time passed. We began to feel very secure in that room, watched as it
was by the sleepless sentry, Fear. One night I ventured to take a light
with me.

"How nice to have a candle!" she said as I entered. "I hope they are all
in bed, though. It will drive some of them into fits if they see the
light."

"I wanted to show you something I found in the library to-day."

"What is it?"

I opened a book, and showed her a paper inside it, with some verses
written on it.

"Whose writing is that?" I asked.

"Yours, of course. As if I did not know your writing!"

"Will you look at the date?"

"_Seventeen hundred and ninety-three.'_ You are making game of me,
Duncan. But the paper does look yellow and old."

"I found it as you see it, in that book. It belonged to Lord Hilton's
brother. The verses are a translation of part of the poem beside which
they lie--one by Von Salis, who died shortly before that date at the
bottom. I will read them to you, and then show you something else that
is strange about them. The poem is called _Psyche's Sorrow._ Psyche
means the soul, Alice."

"I remember. You told me about her before, you know."

  "Psyche's sighing all her prison darkens;
  She is moaning for the far-off stars;
  Fearing, hoping, every sound she hearkens--
  Fate may now be breaking at her bars.

  Bound, fast bound, are Psyche's airy pinions:
  High her heart, her mourning soft and low--
  Knowing that in sultry pain's dominions
  Grow the palms that crown the victor's brow;

  That the empty hand the wreath encloses;
  Earth's cold winds but make the spirit brave;
  Knowing that the briars bear the roses,
  Golden flowers the waste deserted grave.

  In the cypress-shade her myrtle groweth;
  Much she loves, because she much hath borne;
  Love-led, through the darksome way she goeth--
  On to meet him in the breaking morn.

  She can bear--"

"Here the translation ceases, you see; and then follows the date, with
the words in German underneath it--'How weary I am!' Now what is
strange, Alice, is, that this date is the very month and year in which I
was born."

She did not reply to this with anything beyond a mere assent. Her mind
was fixed on the poem itself. She began to talk about it, and I was
surprised to find how thoroughly she entered into it and understood it.
She seemed to have crowded the growth of a lifetime into the last few
months. At length I told her how unhappy I had felt for some time, at
remaining in Lord Hilton's house, as matters now were.

"Then you must go," she said, quite quietly.

This troubled me.

"You do not mind it?"

"No. I shall be very glad."

"Will you go with me?" I asked, perplexed.

"Of course I will."

I did not know what to say to this, for I had no money, and of course I
should have none of my salary. She divined at once the cause of my
hesitation.

"I have a diamond bracelet in my room," she said, with a smile, "and a
few guineas besides."

"How shall we get away?"

"Nothing is easier. My old nurse, whom I mentioned to you before, lives
at the lodge gate."

"Oh! I know her very well," I interrupted. "But she's not Scotch?"

"Indeed she is. But she has been with our family almost all her life. I
often go to see her, and sometimes stay all night with her. You can get
a carriage ready in the village, and neither of us will be missed before
morning."

I looked at her in renewed surprise at the decision of her invention.
She covered her face, as she seldom did now, but went on:

"We can go to London, where you will easily find something to do. Men
always can there. And when I come of age--"

"Alice, how old are you?" I interrupted.

"Nineteen", she answered. "By the way," she resumed, "when I think of
it--how odd!--that"--pointing to the date on the paper--"is the very
month in which I too was born."

I was too much surprised to interrupt her, and she continued:

"I never think of my age without recalling one thing about my birth,
which nurse often refers to. She was going up the stair to my mother's
room, when she happened to notice a bright star, not far from the new
moon. As she crossed the room with me in her arms, just after I was
born, she saw the same star almost on the tip of the opposite horn. My
mother died a week after. Who knows how different I might have been if
she had lived!"

It was long before I spoke. The awful and mysterious thoughts roused in
my mind by the revelations of the day held me silent. At length I said,
half thinking aloud:

"Then you and I, Alice, were born the same hour, and our mothers died
together."

Receiving no answer, I looked at her. She was fast asleep, and breathing
gentle, full breaths. She had been sitting for some time with her head
lying on my shoulder and my arm around her. I could not bear to wake
her.

We had been in this position perhaps for half an hour, when suddenly a
cold shiver ran through me, and all at once I became aware of the
far-off gallop of a horse. It drew nearer. On and on it came--nearer and
nearer. Then came the clank of the broken shoe!

At the same moment, Alice started from her sleep and, springing to her
feet, stood an instant listening. Then crying out, in an agonised
whisper,--"The horse with the clanking shoe!" she flung her arms around
me. Her face was white as the spectral moon which, the moment I put the
candle out, looked in through a clear pane beside us; and she gazed
fearfully, yet wildly-defiant, towards the door. We clung to each other.
We heard the sound come nearer and nearer, till it thundered right up to
the very door of the room, terribly loud. It ceased. But the door was
flung open, and Lord Hilton entered, followed by servants with lights.

I have but a very confused remembrance of what followed. I heard a vile
word from the lips of Lord Hilton; I felt my fingers on his throat; I
received a blow on the head; and I seem to remember a cry of agony from
Alice as I fell. What happened next I do not know.

When I came to myself, I was lying on a wide moor, with the night wind
blowing about me. I presume that I had wandered thither in a state of
unconsciousness, after being turned out of the Hall, and that I had at
last fainted from loss of blood. I was unable to move for a long time.
At length the morning broke, and I found myself not far from the Hall. I
crept back, a mile or two, to the gates, and having succeeded in rousing
Alice's old nurse, was taken in with many lamentations, and put to bed
in the lodge. I had a violent fever; and it was all the poor woman could
do to keep my presence a secret from the family at the Hall.

When I began to mend, my first question was about Alice. I learned,
though with some difficulty--for my kind attendant was evidently
unwilling to tell me all the truth--that Alice, too, had been very ill;
and that, a week before, they had removed her. But she either would not
or could not tell me where they had taken her. I believe she could not.
Nor do I know for certain to this day.

Mrs. Blakesley offered me the loan of some of her savings to get me to
London. I received it with gratitude, and as soon as I was fit to
travel, made my way thither. Afraid for my reason, if I had no
employment to keep my thoughts from brooding on my helplessness, and so
increasing my despair, and determined likewise that my failure should
not make me burdensome to any one else, I enlisted in the Scotch Greys,
before letting any of my friends know where I was. Through the help of
one already mentioned in my story, I soon obtained a commission. From
the field of Waterloo, I rode into Brussels with a broken arm and a
sabre-cut in the head.

As we passed along one of the streets, through all the clang of
iron-shod hoofs on the stones around me, I heard the ominous clank. At
the same moment, I heard a cry. It was the voice of my Alice. I looked
up. At a barred window I saw her face; but it was terribly changed. I
dropped from my horse. As soon as I was able to move from the hospital,
I went to the place, and found it was a lunatic asylum. I was permitted
to see the inmates, but discovered no one resembling her. I do not now
believe that she was ever there. But I may be wrong. Nor will I trouble
my reader with the theories on which I sought to account for the vision.
They will occur to himself readily enough.

For years and years I know not whether she was alive or dead. I sought
her far and near. I wandered over England, France, and Germany,
hopelessly searching; listening at _tables-d'hote_; lurking about
mad-houses; haunting theatres and churches; often, in wild regions,
begging my way from house to house; I did not find her.

Once I visited Hilton Hall. I found it all but deserted. I learned that
Mrs. Wilson was dead, and that there were only two or three servants in
the place. I managed to get into the house unseen, and made my way to
the haunted chamber. My feelings were not so keen as I had anticipated,
for they had been dulled by long suffering. But again I saw the moon
shine through those windows of stained glass. Again her beams were
crowded with ghosts. She was not amongst them. "My lost love!" I cried;
and then, rebuking myself, "No; she is not lost. They say that Time and
Space exist not, save in our thoughts. If so, then that which has been,
is, and the Past can never cease. She is mine, and I shall find
her--what matters it where, or when, or how? Till then, my soul is but a
moon-lighted chamber of ghosts; and I sit within, the dreariest of them
all. When she enters, it will be a home of love. And I wait--I wait."

I sat and brooded over the Past, till I fell asleep in the
phantom-peopled night. And all the night long they were about me--the
men and women of the long past. And I was one of them. I wandered in my
dreams over the whole house, habited in a long old-fashioned gown,
searching for one who was Alice, and yet would be some one else. From
room to room I wandered till weary, and could not find her. At last, I
gave up the search, and, retreating to the library, shut myself in.
There, taking down from the shelf the volume of Von Salis, I tried hard
to go on with the translation of _Pysche's Sorrow_, from the point where
the student had left it, thinking it, all the time, my own unfinished
work.

When I woke in the morning, the chamber of ghosts, in which I had fallen
asleep, had vanished. The sun shone in through the windows of the
library; and on its dusty table lay Von Salis, open at _Pysche's
Trauer_. The sheet of paper with the translation on it, was not there. I
hastened to leave the house, and effected my escape before the servants
were astir.

Sometimes I condensed my whole being into a single intensity of
will--that she should come to me; and sustained it, until I fainted with
the effort. She did not come. I desisted altogether at last, for I
bethought me that, whether dead or alive, it must cause her torture not
to be able to obey it.

Sometimes I questioned my own sanity. But the thought of the loss of my
reason did not in itself trouble me much. What tortured me almost to the
madness it supposed was the possible fact, which a return to my right
mind might reveal--that there never had been a Lady Alice. What if I
died, and awoke from my madness, and found a clear blue air of life, a
joyous world of sunshine, a divine wealth of delight around and in
me--but no Lady Alice--she having vanished with all the other phantoms
of a sick brain! "Rather let me be mad still," I said, "if mad I am; and
so dream on that I have been blessed. Were I to wake to such a heaven, I
would pray God to let me go and live the life I had but dreamed, with
all its sorrows, and all its despair, and all its madness, that when I
died again, I might know that such things had been, and could never be
awaked from, and left behind with the dream." But I was not mad, any
more than Hamlet; though, like him, despair sometimes led me far along
the way at the end of which madness lies.




CHAPTER XVII


_The Physician._

I was now Captain Campbell, of the Scotch Greys, contriving to live on
my half pay, and thinking far more about the past than the present or
the future. My father was dead. My only brother was also gone, and the
property had passed into other hands. I had no fixed place of abode, but
went from one spot to another, as the whim seized me--sometimes
remaining months, sometimes removing next day, but generally choosing
retired villages about which I knew nothing.

I had spent a week in a small town on the borders of Wales, and intended
remaining a fortnight longer, when I was suddenly seized with a violent
illness, in which I lay insensible for three weeks. When I recovered
consciousness, I found that my head had been shaved, and that the
cicatrice of my old wound was occasionally very painful. Of late I have
suspected that I had some operation performed upon my skull during my
illness; but Dr. Ruthwell never dropped a hint to that effect. This was
the friend whom, when first I opened my seeing eyes, I beheld sitting by
my bedside, watching the effect of his last prescription. He was one of
the few in the profession, whose love of science and love of their
fellows combined, would be enough to chain them to the art of healing,
irrespective of its emoluments. He was one of the few, also, who see the
marvellous in all science, and, therefore, reject nothing merely because
the marvellous may seem to predominate in it. Yet neither would he
accept anything of the sort as fact, without the strictest use of every
experiment within his power, even then remaining often in doubt. This
man conferred honour by his friendship; and I am happy to think that
before many days of recovery had passed, we were friends indeed. But I
lay for months under his care before I was able to leave my bed.

He attributed my illness to the consequences of the sabre-cut, and my
recovery to the potency of the drugs he had exhibited. I attributed my
illness in great measure to the constant contemplation of my early
history, no longer checked by any regular employment; and my recovery in
equal measure to the power of his kindness and sympathy, helping from
within what could never have been reached from without.

He told me that he had often been greatly perplexed with my symptoms,
which would suddenly change in the most unaccountable manner, exhibiting
phases which did not, as far as his knowledge went, belong to any
variety of the suffering which gave the prevailing character to my
ailment; and after I had so far recovered as to render it safe to turn
my regard more particularly upon my own case, he said to me one day,

"You would laugh at me, Campbell, were I to confess some of the bother
this illness of yours has occasioned me; enough, indeed, to overthrow
any conceit I ever had in my own diagnosis."

"Go on," I answered; "I promise not to laugh."

He little knew how far I should be from laughing. "In your case," he
continued, "the _pathognomonic,_ if you will excuse medical slang, was
every now and then broken by the intrusion of altogether foreign
symptoms."

I listened with breathless attention.

"Indeed, on several occasions, when, after meditating on your case till
I was worn out, I had fallen half asleep by your bedside, I came to
myself with the strangest conviction that I was watching by the bedside
of a woman."

"Thank Heaven!" I exclaimed, starting up, "She lives still."

I need not describe the doctor's look of amazement, almost
consternation; for he thought a fresh access of fever was upon me, and I
had already begun to rave. For his reassurance, however, I promised to
account fully for my apparently senseless excitement; and that evening I
commenced the narrative which forms the preceeding part of this story.
Long before I reached its close, my exultation had vanished, and, as I
wrote it for him, it ended with the expressed conviction that she must
be dead. Ere long, however, the hope once more revived. While, however,
the narrative was in progress, I gave him a summary, which amounted to
this:--

I had loved a lady--loved her still. I did not know where she was, and
had reason to fear that her mind had given way under the suffering of
our separation. Between us there existed, as well, the bond of a distant
blood relationship; so distant, that but for its probable share in the
production of another relationship of a very marvellous nature, it would
scarcely have been worth alluding to. This was a kind of psychological
attraction, which, when justified and strengthened by the spiritual
energies of love, rendered the immediate communication of certain
feelings, both mental and bodily, so rapid, that almost the
consciousness of the one existed for the time in the mental
circumstances of the other. Nay, so complete at times was the
communication, that I even doubted her testimony as to some strange
correspondence in our past history on this very ground, suspecting that,
my memory being open to her retrospection, she saw my story, and took it
for her own. It was, therefore, easy for me to account for Dr.
Ruthwell's scientific bewilderment at the symptoms I manifested.

As my health revived, my hope and longing increased. But although I
loved Lady Alice with more entireness than even during the latest period
of our intercourse, a certain calm endurance had supervened, which
rendered the relief of fierce action no longer necessary to the
continuance of a sane existence. It was as if the concentrated orb of
love had diffused itself in a genial warmth through the whole orb of
life, imparting fresh vitality to many roots which had remained leafless
in my being. For years the field of battle was the only field that had
borne the flower of delight; now nature began to live again for me.

One day, the first on which I ventured to walk into the fields alone, I
was delighted with the multitude of the daisies peeping from the grass
everywhere--the first attempts of the earth, become conscious of
blindness, to open eyes, and see what was about and above her.
Everything is wonderful after the resurrection from illness. It is a
resurrection of all nature. But somehow or other I was not satisfied
with the daisies. They did not seem to me so lovely as the daisies I
used to see when I was a child. I thought with myself, "This is the
cloud that gathers with life, the dimness that passion and suffering
cast over the eyes of the mind." That moment my gaze fell upon a single,
solitary, red-tipped daisy. My reasoning vanished, and my melancholy
with it, slain by the red tips of the lonely beauty. This was the kind
of daisy I had loved as a child; and with the sight of it, a whole field
of them rushed back into my mind; a field of my father's where,
throughout the multitude, you could not have found a white one. My
father was dead; the fields had passed into other hands; but perhaps the
red-tipped _gowans_ were left. I must go and see. At all events, the
hill that overlooked the field would still be there, and no change would
have passed upon _it._ It would receive me with the same familiar look
as of old, still fronting the great mountain from whose sides I had
first heard the sound of that clanking horseshoe, which, whatever might
be said to account for it, had certainly had a fearful connection with
my joys and sorrows both. Did the ghostly rider still haunt the place?
or, if he did, should I hear again that sound of coming woe? Whether or
not, I defied him. I would not be turned from my desire to see the old
place by any fear of a ghostly marauder, whom I should be only too glad
to encounter, if there were the smallest chance of coming off with the
victory.

As soon as my friend would permit me, I set out for Scotland.




CHAPTER XVIII


_Old Friends._

I made the journey by easy stages, chiefly on the back of a favourite
black horse, which had carried me well in several fights, and had come
out of them scarred, like his master, but sound in wind and limb. It was
night when I reached the village lying nearest to my birth place.

When I woke in the morning, I found the whole region filled with a white
mist, hiding the mountains around. Now and then a peak looked through,
and again retired into the cloudy folds. In the wide, straggling street,
below the window at which I had made them place my breakfast-table, a
periodical fair was being held; and I sat looking down on the gathering
crowd, trying to discover some face known to my childhood, and still to
be recognized through the veil which years must have woven across the
features. When I had finished my breakfast, I went down and wandered
about among the people. Groups of elderly men were talking earnestly;
and young men and maidens who had come to be _fee'd_, were joking and
laughing. They stared at the Sassenach gentleman, and, little thinking
that he understood every word they uttered, made their remarks upon him
in no very subdued tones. I approached a stall where a brown old woman
was selling gingerbread and apples. She was talking to a man with long,
white locks. Near them was a group of young people. One of them must
have said something about me; for the old woman, who had been taking
stolen glances at me, turned rather sharply towards them, and rebuked
them for rudeness.

"The gentleman is no Sassenach," she said. "He understands everything
you are saying."

This was spoken in Gaelic, of course. I turned and looked at her with
more observance. She made me a courtesy, and said, in the same language:

"Your honour will be a Campbell, I'm thinking."

"I am a Campbell," I answered, and waited.

"Your honour's Christian name wouldn't be Duncan, sir?"

"It is Duncan," I answered; "but there are many Duncan Campbells."

"Only one to me, your honour; and that's yourself. But you will not
remember me?"

I did not remember her. Before long, however, urged by her anxiety to
associate her Present with my Past, she enabled me to recall in her
time-worn features those of a servant in my father's house when I was a
child.

"But how could you recollect me?" I said.

"I have often seen you since I left your father's, sir. But it was
really, I believe, that I hear more about you than anything else, every
day of my life."

"I do not understand you."

"From old Margaret, I mean."

"Dear old Margaret! Is she alive?"

"Alive and hearty, though quite bedridden. Why, sir, she must be within
near sight of a hundred."

"Where does she live?"

"In the old cottage, sir. Nothing will make her leave it. The new laird
wanted to turn her out; but Margaret muttered something at which he grew
as white as his shirt, and he has never ventured across her threshold
again."

"How do you see so much of her, though?"

"I never leave her, sir. She can't wait on herself, poor old lady. And
she's like a mother to me. Bless her! But your honour will come and see
her?"

"Of course I will. Tell her so when you go home."

"Will you honour me by sleeping at my house, sir?" said the old man to
whom she had been talking. "My farm is just over the brow of the hill,
you know."

I had by this time recognised him, and I accepted his offer at once.

"When may we look for you, sir?" he asked.

"When shall you be home?" I rejoined.

"This afternoon, sir. I have done my business already."

"Then I shall be with you in the evening, for I have nothing to keep me
here."

"Will you take a seat in my gig?"

"No, thank you. I have my own horse with me. You can take him in too, I
dare say?"

"With pleasure, sir."

We parted for the meantime. I rambled about the neighbourhood till it
was time for an early dinner.




Chapter XIX


_Old Constancy._

The fog cleared off; and, as the hills began to throw long, lazy
shadows, their only embraces across the wide valleys, I mounted and set
out on the ride of a few miles which should bring me to my old
acquaintance's dwelling.

I lingered on the way. All the old places demanded my notice. They
seemed to say, "Here we are--waiting for you." Many a tuft of harebells
drew me towards the roadside, to look at them and their children, the
blue butterflies, hovering over them; and I stopped to gaze at many a
wild rosebush, with a sunset of its own roses. The sun had set to me,
before I had completed half the distance. But there was a long twilight,
and I knew the road well.

My horse was an excellent walker, and I let him walk on, with the reins
on his neck; while I, lost in a dream of the past, was singing a song of
my own making, with which I often comforted my longing by giving it
voice.

  The autumn winds are sighing
  Over land and sea;
  The autumn woods are dying
  Over hill and lea;
  And my heart is sighing, dying,
  Maiden, for thee.

  The autumn clouds are flying
  Homeless over me;
  The homeless birds are crying
  In the naked tree;
  And my heart is flying, crying,
  Maiden, to thee.

  My cries may turn to gladness,
  And my flying flee;
  My sighs may lose the sadness,
  Yet sigh on in me;
  All my sadness, all my gladness,
  Maiden, lost in thee.

I was roused by a heavy drop of rain upon my face. I looked up. A cool
wave of wind flowed against me. Clouds had gathered; and over the peak
of a hill to the left, the sky was very black. Old Constancy threw his
head up, as if he wanted me to take the reins, and let him step out. I
remembered that there used to be an awkward piece of road somewhere not
far in front, where the path, with a bank on the left side, sloped to a
deep descent on the right. If the road was as bad there as it used to
be, it would be better to pass it before it grew quite dark. So I took
the reins, and away went old Constancy. We had just reached the spot,
when a keen flash of lightning broke from the cloud overhead, and my
horse instantly stood stock-still, as if paralysed, with his nostrils
turned up towards the peak of the mountain. I sat as still as he, to
give him time to recover himself. But all at once, his whole frame was
convulsed, as if by an agony of terror. He gave a great plunge, and then
I felt his muscles swelling and knotting under me, as he rose on his
hind legs, and went backwards, with the scaur behind him. I leaned
forward on his neck to bring him down, but he reared higher and higher,
till he stood bolt upright, and it was time to slip off, lest he should
fall upon me. I did so; but my foot alighted upon no support. He had
backed to the edge of the shelving ground, and I fell, and went to the
bottom. The last thing I was aware of, was the thundering fall of my
horse beside me.

When I came to myself, it was dark. I felt stupid and aching all over;
but I soon satisfied myself that no bones were broken. A mass of
something lay near me. It was poor Constancy. I crawled to him, laid my
hand on his neck, and called him by his name. But he made no answer in
that gentle, joyful speech--for it was speech in old Constancy--with
which he always greeted me, if only after an hour's absence. I felt for
his heart. There was just a flutter there. He tried to lift his head,
and gave a little kick with one of his hind legs. In doing so, he struck
a bit of rock, and the clank of the iron made my flesh creep. I got hold
of his leg in the dark, and felt the shoe. _It was loose_. I felt his
heart again. The motion had ceased. I needed all my manhood to keep from
crying like a child; for my charger was my friend. How long I lay beside
him, I do not know; but, at length, I heard the sound of wheels coming
along the road. I tried to shout, and, in some measure, succeeded; for a
voice, which I recognised as that of my farmer-friend, answered
cheerily. He was shocked to discover that his expected guest was in such
evil plight. It was still dark, for the rain was falling heavily; but,
with his directions, I was soon able to take my seat beside him in the
gig. He had been unexpectedly detained, and was now hastening home with
the hope of being yet in time to welcome me.

Next morning, after the luxurious rest of a heather-bed, I found myself
not much the worse for my adventure, but heart-sore for the loss of my
horse.




CHAPTER XX


_Margaret_.

Early in the forenoon, I came in sight of the cottage of Margaret. It
lay unchanged, a grey, stone-fashioned hut, in the hollow of the
mountain-basin. I scrambled down the soft green brae, and soon stood
within the door of the cottage. There I was met and welcomed by
Margaret's attendant. She led me to the bed where my old nurse lay. Her
eyes were yet undimmed by years, and little change had passed upon her
countenance since I parted with her on that memorable night. The moment
she saw me, she broke out into a passionate lamentation such as a mother
might utter over the maimed strength and disfigured beauty of her child.

"What ill has he done--my bairn--to be all night the sport of the powers
of the air and the wicked of the earth? But the day will dawn for my
Duncan yet, and a lovely day it will be!"

Then looking at me anxiously, she said,

"You're not much the worse for last night, my bairn. But woe's me! His
grand horse, that carried him so, that I blessed the beast in my
prayers!"

I knew that no one could have yet brought her the news of my accident.

"You saw me fall, then, nurse?" I said.

"That I did," she answered. "I see you oftener than you think. But there
was a time when I could hardly see you at all, and I thought you were
dead, my Duncan."

I stooped to kiss her. She laid the one hand that had still the power of
motion upon my head, and dividing the hair, which had begun to be mixed
with grey, said: "Eh! The bonny grey hairs! My Duncan's a man in spite
of them!"

She searched until she found the scar of the sabre-cut.

"Just where I thought to find it!" she said. "That was a terrible day;
worse for me than for you, Duncan."

"You saw me _then!_" I exclaimed.

"Little do folks know," she answered, "who think I'm lying here like a
live corpse in its coffin, what liberty my soul--and that's just
me--enjoys. Little do they know what I see and hear. And there's no
witchcraft or evil-doing in it, my boy; but just what the Almighty made
me. Janet, here, declares she heard the cry that I made, when this same
cut, that's no so well healed yet, broke out in your bonny head. I saw
no sword, only the bursting of the blood from the wound. But sit down,
my bairn, and have something to eat after your walk. We'll have time
enough for speech."

Janet had laid out the table with fare of the old homely sort, and I was
a boy once more as I ate the well-known food. Every now and then I
glanced towards the old face. Soon I saw that she was asleep. From her
lips broke murmured sounds, so partially connected that I found it
impossible to remember them; but the impression they left on my mind was
something like this,

"Over the water. Yes; it is a rough sea--green and white. But over the
water. There is a path for the pathless. The grass on the hill is long
and cool. Never horse came there. If they once sleep in that grass, no
harm can hurt them more. Over the water. Up the hill." And then she
murmured the words of the psalm: "He that dwelleth in the secret place."

For an hour I sat beside her. It was evidently a sweet, natural sleep,
the most wonderful sleep of all, mingled with many a broken
dream-rainbow. I rose at last, and, telling Janet that I would return in
the evening, went back to my quarters; for my absence from the mid-day
meal would have been a disappointment to the household.

When I returned to the cottage, I found Margaret only just awaked, and
greatly refreshed. I sat down beside her in the twilight, and the
following conversation began:

"You said, nurse, that, some time ago, you could not see me. Did you
know nothing about me all that time?" "I took it to mean that you were
ill, my dear. Shortly after you left us, the same thing happened first;
but I do not think you were ill then."

"I should like to tell you all my story, dear Margaret," I said,
conceiving a sudden hope of assistance from one who hovered so near the
unseen that she often flitted across the borders. "But would it tire
you?"

"Tire me, my child!" she said, with sudden energy. "Did I not carry you
in my bosom, till I loved you more than the darling I had lost? Do I not
think about you and your fortunes, till, sitting there, you are no
nearer to me than when a thousand miles away? You do not know my love to
you, Duncan. I have lived upon it when, I daresay, you did not care
whether I was alive or dead. But that was all one to my love. When you
leave me now, I shall not care much. My thoughts will only return to
their old ways. I think the sight of the eyes is sometimes an intrusion
between the heart and its love."

Here was philosophy, or something better, from the lips of an old
Highland seeress! For me, I felt it so true, that the joy of hearing her
say so turned, by a sudden metamorphosis, into freak. I pretended to
rise, and said:

"Then I had better go, nurse. Good-bye."

She put out her one hand, with a smile that revealed her enjoyment of
the poor humour, and said, while she held me fast:

"Nay, nay, my Duncan. A little of the scarce is sometimes dearer to us
than much of the better. I shall have plenty of time to think about you
when I can't see you, my boy." And her philosophy melted away into
tears, that filled her two blue eyes.

"I was only joking," I said.

"Do you need to tell me that?" she rejoined, smiling. "I am not so old
as to be stupid yet. But I want to hear your story. I am hungering to
hear it."

"But," I whispered, "I cannot speak about it before anyone else."

"I will send Janet away. Janet, I want to talk to Mr. Campbell alone."

"Very well, Margaret," answered Janet, and left the room.

"Will she listen?" I asked.

"She dares not," answered Margaret, with a smile; "she has a terrible
idea of my powers."

The twilight grew deeper; the glow of the peat-fire became redder; the
old woman lay still as death. And I told all the story of Lady Alice. My
voice sounded to myself as I spoke, not like my own, but like its echo
from the vault of some listening cave, or like the voices one hears
beside as sleep is slowly creeping over the sense. Margaret did not once
interrupt me. When I had finished she remained still silent, and I began
to fear I had talked her asleep.

"Can you help me?" I said.

"I think I can," she answered. "Will you call Janet?" I called her.

"Make me a cup of tea, Janet. Will you have some tea with me, Duncan?"

Janet lighted a little lamp, and the tea was soon set out, with
"flour-scons" and butter. But Margaret ate nothing; she only drank her
tea, lifting her cup with her one trembling hand. When the remains of
our repast had been removed, she said:--

"Now, Janet, you can leave us; and on no account come into the room till
Mr. Campbell calls you. Take the lamp with you."

Janet obeyed without a word of reply, and we were left once more alone,
lighted only by the dull glow of the fire.

The night had gathered cloudy and dark without, reminding me of that
night when she told me the story of the two brothers. But this time no
storm disturbed the silence of the night. As soon as Janet was gone,
Margaret said:--

"Will you take the pillow from under my head, Duncan, my dear?"

I did so, and she lay in an almost horizontal position. With the living
hand she lifted the powerless arm, and drew it across her chest, outside
the bed-clothes. Then she laid the other arm over it, and, looking up at
me, said:--

"Kiss me, my bairn; I need strength for what I am going to do for your
sake."

I kissed her.

"There now!" she said, "I am ready. Good-bye. Whatever happens, do not
speak to me; and let no one come near me but yourself. It will be
wearisome for you, but it is for your sake, my Duncan. And don't let the
fire out. Don't leave me."

I assured her I would attend to all she said. She closed her eyes, and
lay still. I went to the fire, and sat down in a high-backed arm-chair,
to wait the event.--There was plenty of fuel in the corner. I made up
the fire, and then, leaning back, with my eyes fixed on it, let my
thoughts roam at will. Where was my old nurse now? What was she seeing
or encountering? Would she meet our adversary? Would she be strong
enough to foil him? Was she dead for the time, although some bond
rendered her return from the regions of the dead inevitable?--But she
might never come back, and then I should have no tidings of the kind
which I knew she had gone to see, and which I longed to hear!

I sat thus for a long time. I had again replenished the fire--that is
all I know about the lapse of the time--when, suddenly, a kind of
physical repugnance and terror seized me, and I sat upright in my chair,
with every fibre of my flesh protesting against some--shall I call it
presence?--in its neighbourhood. But my real self repelled the invading
cold, and took courage for any contest that might be at hand. Like
Macbeth, I only inhabited trembling; _I_ did not tremble. I had
withdrawn my gaze from the fire, and fixed it upon the little window,
about two feet square, at which the dark night looked in. Why or when I
had done so I knew not.

What I next relate, I relate only as what seemed to happen. I do not
altogether trust myself in the matter, and think I was subjected to a
delusion of some sort or other. My feelings of horror grew as I looked
through or rather at the window, till, notwithstanding all my resolution
and the continued assurance that nothing could make me turn my back on
the cause of the terror, I was yet so far _possessed_ by a feeling I
could neither account for nor control, that I felt my hair rise upon my
head, as if instinct with individual fear of its own--the only instance
of the sort in my experience.--In such a condition, the sensuous nerves
are so easily operated upon, either from within or from without, that
all certainty ceases.

I saw two fiery eyes looking in at the window, huge, and wide apart.
Next, I saw the outline of a horse's head, in which the eyes were set;
and behind, the dimmer outline of a man's form seated on the horse. The
apparition faded and reappeared, just as if it retreated, and again rode
up close to the window. Curiously enough, I did not even fancy that I
heard any sound. Instinctively I felt for my sword, but there was no
sword there. And what would it have availed me? Probably I was in more
need of a soothing draught. But the moment I put my hand to the imagined
sword-hilt, a dim figure swept between me and the horseman, on my side
of the window--a tall, stately female form. She stood facing the window,
in an attitude that seemed to dare the further approach of a foe. How
long she remained thus, or he confronted her, I have no idea; for when
_self_-consciousness returned, I found myself still gazing at the window
from which both apparitions had vanished. Whether I had slept, or, from
the relaxation of mental tension, had only forgotten, I could not tell;
but all fear had vanished, and I proceeded at once to make up the sunken
fire. Throughout the time I am certain I never heard the clanking shoe,
for that I should have remembered.

The rest of the night passed without any disturbance; and when the first
rays of the early morning came into the room, they awoke me from a
comforting sleep in the arm-chair. I rose and approached the bed softly.

Margaret lay as still as death. But having been accustomed to similar
conditions in my Alice, I believed I saw signs of returning animation,
and withdrew to my seat. Nor was I mistaken; for, in a few minutes more,
she murmured my name. I hastened to her.

"Call Janet," she said.

I opened the door, and called her. She came in a moment, looking at once
frightened and relieved.

"Get me some tea," said Margaret once more.

After she had drunk the tea, she looked at me, and said,

"Go home now, Duncan, and come back about noon. Mind you go to bed."

She closed her eyes once more. I waited till I saw her fast in an
altogether different sleep from the former, if sleep that could in any
sense be called.

As I went, I looked back on the vision of the night as on one of those
illusions to which the mind, busy with its own suggestions, is always
liable. The night season, simply because it excludes the external, is
prolific in such. The more of the marvellous any one may have
experienced in the course of his history, the more sceptical ought he to
become, for he is the more exposed to delusion. None have made more
blunders in the course of their revelations than genuine seers. Was it
any wonder that, as I sat at midnight beside the woman of a hundred
years, who had voluntarily died for a time that she might discover what
most of all things it concerned me to know, the ancient tale, on which,
to her mind, my whole history turned, and which she had herself told me
in this very cottage, should take visible shape to my excited brain and
watching eyes?

I have one thing more to tell, which strengthens still further this view
of the matter. As I walked home, before I had gone many hundred yards
from the cottage, I suddenly came upon my own old Constancy. He was
limping about, picking the best grass he could find from among the roots
of the heather and cranberry bushes. He gave a start when I came upon
him, and then a jubilant neigh.

But he could not be so glad as I was. When I had taken sufficient pains
to let him know this fact, I walked on, and he followed me like a dog,
with his head at my heel; but as he limped much, I turned to examine
him; and found one cause of his lameness to be, that the loose shoe,
which was a hind one, was broken at the toe; and that one half, held
only at the toe, had turned round and was sticking right out, striking
his forefoot every time he moved. I soon remedied this, and he walked
much better.

But the phenomena of the night, and the share my old horse might have
borne in them, were not the subjects, as may well be supposed, that
occupied my mind most, on my walk to the farm. Was it possible that
Margaret might have found out something about _her?_ That was the one
question.

After removing the anxiety of my hostess, and partaking of their
Highland breakfast, a ceremony not to be completed without a glass of
peaty whisky, I wandered to my ancient haunt on the hill. Thence I could
look down on my old home, where it lay unchanged, though not one human
form, which had made it home to me, moved about its precincts. I went no
nearer. I no more felt that that was home, than one feels that the form
in the coffin is the departed dead. I sat down in my old study-chamber
among the rocks, and thought that if I could but find Alice she would be
my home--of the past as well as of the future;--for in her mind my
necromantic words would recall the departed, and we should love them
together.

Towards noon I was again at the cottage.

Margaret was sitting up in bed, waiting for me. She looked weary, but
cheerful; and a clean white _mutch_ gave her a certain _company_-air.
Janet left the room directly, and Margaret motioned me to a chair by her
side. I sat down. She took my hand, and said,

"Duncan, my boy, I fear I can give you but little help; but I will tell
you all I know. If I were to try to put into words the things I had to
encounter before I could come near her, you would not understand what I
meant. Nor do I understand the things myself. They seem quite plain to
me at the time, but very cloudy when I come back. But I did succeed in
getting one glimpse of her. She was fast asleep. She seemed to have
suffered much, for her face was very thin, and as patient as it was
pale."

"But where was she?"

"I must leave you to find out that, if you can, from my description.
But, alas! it is only the places immediately about the persons that I
can see. Where they are, or how far I have gone to get there, I cannot
tell."

She then gave me a rather minute description of the chamber in which the
lady was lying. Though most of the particulars were unknown to me, the
conviction, or hope at least, gradually dawned upon me, that I knew the
room. Once or twice I had peeped into the sanctuary of Lady Alice's
chamber, when I knew she was not there; and some points in the
description Margaret gave set my heart in a tremor with the bare
suggestion that she might now be at Hilton Hall.

"Tell me, Margaret," I said, almost panting for utterance, "was there a
mirror over the fireplace, with a broad gilt frame, carved into huge
representations of crabs and lobsters, and all crawling sea-creatures
with shells on them--very ugly, and very strange?"

She would have interrupted me before, but I would not be stopped.

"I must tell you, my dear Duncan," she answered, "that in none of these
trances, or whatever you please to call them, did I ever see a mirror.
It has struck me before as a curious thing, that a mirror is then an
absolute blank to me--I see nothing on which I could put a name. It does
not even seem a vacant space to me. A mirror must have nothing in common
with the state I am then in, for I feel a kind of repulsion from it; and
indeed it would be rather an awful thing to look at, for of course I
should see no reflection of myself in it."

(Here I beg once more to remind the reader, that Margaret spoke in
Gaelic, and that my translation into ordinary English does not in the
least represent the extreme simplicity of the forms of her speculations,
any more than of the language which conveyed them.)

"But," she continued, "I have a vague recollection of seeing some broad,
big, gilded thing with figures on it. It might be something else,
though, altogether."

"I will go in hope," I answered, rising at once.

"Not already, Duncan?"

"Why should I stay longer?"

"Stay over to-night."

"What is the use? I cannot."

"For my sake, Duncan!"

"Yes, dear Margaret; for your sake. Yes, surely."

"Thank you," she answered. "I will not keep you longer now. But if I
send Janet to you, come at once. And, Duncan, wear this for my sake."

She put into my hand an ancient gold cross, much worn. To my amazement I
recognised the counterpart of one Lady Alice had always worn. I pressed
it to my heart.

"I am a Catholic; you are a Protestant, Duncan; but never mind: that's
the same sign to both of us. You won't part with it. It has been in our
family for many long years."

"Not while I live," I answered, and went out, half wild with hope, into
the keen mountain air. How deliciously it breathed upon me!

I passed the afternoon in attempting to form some plan of action at
Hilton Hall, whither I intended to proceed as soon as Margaret set me at
liberty. That liberty came sooner than I expected; and yet I did not go
at once. Janet came for me towards sundown. I thought she looked
troubled. I rose at once and followed her, but asked no questions. As I
entered the cottage, the sun was casting the shadow of the edge of the
hollow in which the cottage stood just at my feet; that is, the sun was
more than half set to one who stood at the cottage door. I entered.

Margaret sat, propped with pillows. I saw some change had passed upon
her. She held out her hand to me. I took it. She smiled feebly, closed
her eyes, and went with the sun, down the hill of night. But down the
hill of night is up the hill of morning in other lands, and no doubt
Margaret soon found that she was more at home there than here.

I sat holding the dead hand, as if therein lay some communion still with
the departed. Perhaps she who saw more than others while yet alive,
could see when dead that I held her cold hand in my warm grasp. Had I
not good cause to love her? She had exhausted the last remnants of her
life in that effort to find for me my lost Alice. Whether she had
succeeded I had yet to discover. Perhaps she knew now.

I hastened the funeral a little, that I might follow my quest. I had her
grave dug amidst her own people and mine; for they lay side by side. The
whole neighbourhood for twenty miles round followed Margaret to the
grave. Such was her character and reputation, that the belief in her
supernatural powers had only heightened the notion of her venerableness.

When I had seen the last sod placed on her grave, I turned and went,
with a desolate but hopeful heart. I had a kind of feeling that her
death had sealed the truth of her last vision. I mounted old Constancy
at the churchyard gate, and set out for Hilton Hall.




CHAPTER XXI


_Hilton._

It was a dark, drizzling night when I arrived at the little village of
Hilton, within a mile of the Hall. I knew a respectable second-rate inn
on the side next the Hall, to which the gardener and other servants had
been in the habit of repairing of an evening; and I thought I might
there stumble upon some information, especially as the old-fashioned
place had a large kitchen in which all sorts of guests met. When I
reflected on the utter change which time, weather, and a great scar must
have made upon me, I feared no recognition. But what was my surprise
when, by one of those coincidences which have so often happened to me, I
found in the ostler one of my own troop at Waterloo! His countenance and
salute convinced me that he recognised me. I said to him:

"I know you perfectly, Wood; but you must not know me. I will go with
you to the stable."

He led the way instantly.

"Wood," I said, when we had reached the shelter of the stable, "I don't
want to be known here, for reasons which I will explain to you another
time."

"Very well, sir. You may depend on me, sir."

"I know I may, and I shall. Do you know anybody about the Hall?"

"Yes, sir. The gardener comes here sometimes, sir. I believe he's in the
house now. Shall I ask him to step this way, sir?"

"No. All I want is to learn who is at the Hall now. Will you get him
talking? I shall be by, having something to drink."

"Yes, sir. As soon as I have rubbed down the old horse, sir--bless him!"

"You'll find me there."

I went in, and, with my condition for an excuse, ordered something hot
by the kitchen-fire. Several country people were sitting about it. They
made room for me, and I took my place at a table on one side. I soon
discovered the gardener, although time had done what he could to
disguise him. Wood came in presently, and, loitering about, began to
talk to him.

"What's the last news at the Hall, William?" he said.

"News!" answered the old man, somewhat querulously. "There's never
nothing but news up there, and very new-fangled news, too. What do you
think, now, John? They do talk of turning all them greenhouses into
hothouses; for, to be sure, there's nothing the new missus cares about
but just the finest grapes in the country; and the flowers, purty
creatures, may go to the devil for her. There's a lady for ye!"

"But you'll be glad to have her home, and see what she's like, won't
you? It's rather dull up there now, isn't it?"

"I don't know what you call dull," replied the old man, as if half
offended at the suggestion. "I don't believe a soul missed his lordship
when he died; and there's always Mrs. Blakesley and me, as is the best
friends in the world, besides the three maids and the stableman, who
helps me in the garden, now there's no horses. And then there's Jacob
and--"

"But you don't mean," said Wood, interrupting him, "that there's _none_
o' the family at home now?"

"No. Who should there be? Least ways, only the poor lady. And she hardly
counts now--bless her sweet face!"

"Do you ever see her?" interposed one of the by-sitters.

"Sometimes."

"Is she quite crazy?"

"Al-to-gether; but that quiet _and_ gentle, you would think she was an
angel instead of a mad woman. But not a notion has she in _her_ head, no
more than the babe unborn."

It was a dreadful shock to me. Was this to be the end of all? Were it
not better she had died? For me, life was worthless now. And there were
no wars, with the chance of losing it honestly.

I rose, and went to my own room. As I sat in dull misery by the fire, it
struck me that it might not have been Lady Alice after all that the old
man spoke about. That moment a tap came to my door, and Wood entered.
After a few words, I asked him who was the lady the gardener had said
was crazy.

"Lady Alice," he answered, and added: "A love story, that came to a bad
end up at the Hall years ago. A tutor was in it, they say. But I don't
know the rights of it."

When he left me, I sat in a cold stupor, in which the thoughts--if
thoughts they could be called--came and went of themselves. Overcome by
the appearances of things--as what man the strongest may not sometimes
be?--I felt as if I had lost her utterly, as if there was no Lady Alice
anywhere, and as if, to add to the vacant horror of the world without
her, a shadow of her, a goblin _simulacrum_, soul-less, unreal, yet
awfully like her, went wandering about the place which had once been
glorified by her presence--as to the eyes of seers the phantoms of
events which have happened years before are still visible, clinging to
the room in which they have indeed _taken place_. But, in a little
while, something warm began to throb and flow in my being; and I thought
that if she were dead, I should love her still; that now she was not
worse than dead; it was only that her soul was out of sight. Who could
tell but it might be wandering in worlds of too noble shapes and too
high a speech, to permit of representation in the language of the world
in which her bodily presentation remained, and therefore her speech and
behaviour seemed to men to be mad? Nay, was it not in some sense better
for me that it should be so? To see once the pictured likeness of her of
whom I had no such memorial, would I not give years of my
poverty-stricken life? And here was such a statue of her, as that of his
wife which the widowed king was bending before, when he said:--

  "What fine chisel
  Could ever yet cut breath?"

This statue I might see, "looking like an angel," as the gardener had
said. And, while the bond of visibility remained, must not the soul be,
somehow, nearer to the earth, than if the form lay decaying beneath it?
Was there not some possibility that the love for whose sake the reason
had departed, might be able to recall that reason once more to the
windows of sense,--make it look forth at those eyes, and lie listening
in the recesses of those ears? In her somnambulic sleeps, the present
body was the sign that the soul was within reach: so it might be still.

Mrs. Blakesley was still at the lodge, then: I would call upon her
to-morrow. I went to bed, and dreamed all night that Alice was sitting
somewhere in a land "full of dark mountains," and that I was wandering
about in the darkness, alternately calling and listening; sometimes
fancying I heard a faint reply, which might be her voice or an echo of
my own; but never finding her. I woke in an outburst of despairing
tears, and my despair was not comforted by my waking.




CHAPTER XXII


_The Sleeper._

It was a lovely morning in autumn. I walked to the Hall. I entered at
the same gate by which I had entered first, so many years before. But it
was not Mrs. Blakesley that opened it. I inquired after her, and the
woman told me that she lived at the Hall now, and took care of Lady
Alice. So far, this was hopeful news.

I went up the same avenue, through the same wide grassy places, saw the
same statue from whose base had arisen the lovely form which soon became
a part of my existence. Then everything looked rich, because I had come
from a poor, grand country. In all my wanderings I had seen nothing so
rich; yet now it seemed poverty-stricken. That it was autumn could not
account for this; for I had always found that the sadness of autumn
vivified the poetic sense; and that the colours of decay had a pathetic
glory more beautiful than the glory of the most gorgeous summer with all
its flowers. It was winter within me--that was the reason; and I could
feel no autumn around me, because I saw no spring beyond me. It had
fared with my mind as with the garden in the _Sensitive Plant,_ when the
lady was dead. I was amazed and troubled at the stolidity with which I
walked up to the door, and, having rung the bell, waited. No sweet
memories of the past arose in my mind; not one of the well-known objects
around looked at me as claiming a recognition. Yet, when the door was
opened, my heart beat so violently at the thought that I might see her,
that I could hardly stammer out my inquiry after Mrs. Blakesley.

I was shown to a room. None of the sensations I had had on first
crossing the threshold were revived. I remembered them all; I felt none
of them. Mrs. Blakesley came. She did not recognise me. I told her who I
was. She stared at me for a moment, seemed to see the same face she had
known still glimmering through all the changes that had crowded upon it,
held out both her hands, and burst into tears.

"Mr. Campbell," she said, "you _are_ changed! But not like her. She's
the same to look at; but, oh dear!"

We were both silent for some time. At length she resumed:--

"Come to my room; I have been mistress here for some time now."

I followed her to the room Mrs. Wilson used to occupy. She put wine on
the table. I told her my story. My labours, and my wounds, and my
illness, slightly touched as I trust they were in the course of the
tale, yet moved all her womanly sympathies.

"What can I do for you, Mr. Campbell?" she said.

"Let me see her," I replied.

She hesitated for a moment.

"I dare not, sir. I don't know what it might do to her. It might send
her raving; and she is so quiet."

"Has she ever raved?"

"Not often since the first week or two. Now and then occasionally, for
an hour or so, she would be wild, wanting to get out. But she gave that
over altogether; and she has had her liberty now for a long time. But,
Heaven bless her! at the worst she was always a lady."

"And am I to go away without even seeing her?"

"I am very sorry for you, Mr. Campbell."

I felt hurt--foolishly, I confess--and rose. She put her hand on my arm.

"I'll tell you what I'll do, sir. She always falls asleep in the
afternoon; you may see her asleep, if you like."

"Thank you; thank you," I answered. "That will be much better. When
shall I come?"

"About three o'clock."

I went wandering about the woods, and at three I was again in the
housekeeper's room. She came to me presently, looking rather troubled.

"It is very odd," she began, the moment she entered, "but for the first
time, I think, for years, she's not for her afternoon sleep."

"Does she sleep at night?" I asked.

"Like a bairn. But she sleeps a great deal; and the doctor says that's
what keeps her so quiet. She would go raving again, he says, if the
sleep did not soothe her poor brain."

"Could you not let me see her when she is asleep to-night?"

Again she hesitated, but presently replied:--

"I will, sir; but I trust to you never to mention it."

"Of course I will not."

"Come at ten o'clock, then. You will find the outer door on this side
open. Go straight to my room."

With renewed thanks I left her and, once again betaking myself to the
woods, wandered about till night, notwithstanding signs of an
approaching storm. I thus kept within the boundaries of the demesne, and
had no occasion to request re-admittance at any of the gates.

As ten struck on the tower-clock, I entered Mrs. Blakesley's room. She
was not there. I sat down. In a few minutes she came.

"She is fast asleep," she said. "Come this way."

I followed, trembling. She led me to the same room Lady Alice used to
occupy. The door was a little open. She pushed it gently, and I followed
her in. The curtains towards the door were drawn. Mrs. Blakesley took me
round to the other side.--There lay the lovely head, so phantom-like for
years, coming only in my dreams; filling now, with a real presence, the
eyes that had longed for it, as if in them dwelt an appetite of sight.
It calmed my heart at once, which had been almost choking me with the
violence of its palpitation. "That is not the face of insanity," I said
to myself. "It is clear as the morning light." As I stood gazing, I made
no comparisons between the past and the present, although I was aware of
some difference--of some measure of the unknown fronting me; I was
filled with the delight of beholding the face I loved--full, as it
seemed to me, of mind and womanhood; sleeping--nothing more. I murmured
a fervent "Thank God!" and was turning away with a feeling of
satisfaction for all the future, and a strange great hope beginning to
throb in my heart, when, after a little restless motion of her head on
the pillow, her patient lips began to tremble. My soul rushed into my
ears.

"Mr. Campbell," she murmured, "I cannot spell; what am I to do to
learn?"

The unexpected voice, naming my name, sounded in my ears like a voice
from the far-off regions where sighing is over. Then a smile gleamed up
from the depths unseen, and broke and melted away all over her face. But
her nurse had heard her speak, and now approached in alarm. She laid
hold of my arm, and drew me towards the door. I yielded at once, but
heard a moan from the bed as I went. I looked back--the curtains hid her
from my view. Outside the door, Mrs. Blakesley stood listening for a
moment, and then led the way downstairs.

"You made her restless. You see, sir, she never was like other people,
poor dear!"

"Her face is not like one insane," I rejoined.

"I often think she looks more like herself when she's asleep," answered
she. "And then I have often seen her smile. She never smiles when she's
awake. But, gracious me, Mr. Campbell! what _shall_ I do?"

This exclamation was caused by my suddenly falling back in my chair and
closing my eyes. I had almost fainted. I had eaten nothing since
breakfast; and had been wandering about in a state of excitement all
day. I greedily swallowed the glass of wine she brought me, and then
first became aware that the storm which I had seen gathering while I was
in the woods had now broken loose. "What a night in the old hall!"
thought I. The wind was dashing itself like a thousand eagles against
the house, and the rain was trampling the roofs and the court like
troops of galloping steeds. I rose to go.

But Mrs. Blakesley interfered.

"You don't leave this house to-night, Mr. Campbell," she said. "I won't
have your death laid at my door."

I laughed.

"Dear Mrs. Blakesley,--" I said, seeing her determined.

"I won't hear a word," she interrupted. "I wouldn't let a horse out in
such a tempest. No, no; you shall just sleep in your old quarters,
across the passage there."

I did not care for any storm. It hardly even interested me. That
beautiful face filled my whole being. But I yielded to Mrs. Blakesley,
and not unwillingly.




CHAPTER XXIII


_My Old Room._

Once more I was left alone in that room of dark oak, looking out on the
little ivy-mantled court, of which I was now reminded by the howling of
the storm within its high walls. Mrs. Blakesley had extemporised a bed
for me on the old sofa; and the fire was already blazing away
splendidly. I sat down beside it, and the sombre-hued Past rolled back
upon me.

After I had floated, as it were, upon the waves of memory for some time,
I suddenly glanced behind me and around the room, and a new and strange
experience dawned upon me. Time became to my consciousness what some
metaphysicians say it is in itself--only a _form_ of human thought. For
the Past had returned and had become the Present. I could not be sure
that the Past had passed, that I had not been dreaming through the whole
series of years and adventures, upon which I was able to look back. For
here was the room, all as before; and here was I, the same man, with the
same love glowing in my heart. I went on thinking. The storm went on
howling. The logs went on cheerily burning. I rose and walked about the
room, looking at everything as I had looked at it on the night of my
first arrival. I said to myself, "How strange that I should feel as if
all this had happened to me before!" And then I said, "Perhaps it _has_
happened to me before." Again I said, "And when it did happen before, I
felt as if it had happened before that; and perhaps it has been
happening to me at intervals for ages." I opened the door of the closet,
and looked at the door behind it, which led into the hall of the old
house. It was bolted. But the bolt slipped back at my touch; twelve
years were nothing in the history of its rust; or was it only yesterday
I had forced the iron free from the adhesion of the rust-welded
surfaces? I stood for a moment hesitating whether to open the door, and
have one peep into the wide hall, full of intent echoes, listening
breathless for one air of sound, that they might catch it up jubilant
and dash it into the ears of--Silence--their ancient enemy--their Death.
But I drew back, leaving the door unopened; and, sitting down again by
my fire, sank into a kind of unconscious weariness. Perhaps I slept--I
do not know; but as I became once more aware of myself, I awoke, as it
were, in the midst of an old long-buried night. I was sitting in my own
room, waiting for Lady Alice. And, as I sat waiting, and wishing she
would come, by slow degrees my wishes intensified themselves, till I
found myself, with all my gathered might, willing that she should come.
The minutes passed, but the will remained.

How shall I tell what followed? The door of the closet opened--slowly,
gently--and in walked Lady Alice, pale as death, her eyes closed, her
whole person asleep. With a gliding motion as in a dream, where the
volition that produces motion is unfelt, she seemed to me to dream
herself across the floor to my couch, on which she laid herself down as
gracefully, as simply, as in the old beautiful time. Her appearance did
not startle me, for my whole condition was in harmony with the
phenomenon. I rose noiselessly, covered her lightly from head to foot,
and sat down, as of old to watch. How beautiful she was! I thought she
had grown taller; but, perhaps, it was only that she had gained in form
without losing anything in grace. Her face was, as it had always been,
colourless; but neither it nor her figure showed any signs of suffering.
The holy sleep had fed her physical as well as shielded her mental
nature. But what would the waking be? Not all the power of the revived
past could shut out the anticipation of the dreadful difference to be
disclosed, the moment she should open those sleeping eyes. To what a
frightfully farther distance was that soul now removed, whose return I
had been wont to watch, as from the depths of the unknown world! That
was strange; this was terrible. Instead of the dawn of rosy intelligence
I had now to look for the fading of the loveliness as she woke, till her
face withered into the bewildered and indigent expression of the insane.

She was waking. My love with the unknown face was at hand. The reviving
flush came, grew, deepened. She opened her eyes. God be praised! They
were lovelier than ever. And the smile that broke over her face was the
very sunlight of the soul.

"Come again, you see!" she said gently, as she stretched her beautiful
arms towards me.

I could not speak. I could only submit to her embrace, and hold myself
with all my might, lest I should burst into helpless weeping. But a sob
or two broke their prison, and she felt the emotion she had not seen.
Relaxing her hold, she pushed me gently from her, and looked at me with
concern that grew as she looked.

"You are dreadfully changed, my Duncan! What is the matter? Has Lord
Hilton been rude to you? You look so much older, somehow. What can it
be?"

I understood at once how it was. The whole of those dreary twelve years
was gone. The thread of her consciousness had been cut, those years
dropped out, and the ends reunited. She thought this was one of her old
visits to me, when, as now, she had walked in her sleep. I answered,

"I will tell you all another time. I don't want to waste the moments
with you, my Alice, in speaking about it. Lord Hilton _has_ behaved very
badly to me; but never mind."

She half rose in anger; and her eyes looked insane for the first time.

"How dares he?" she said, and then checked herself with a sigh at her
own helplessness.

"But it will all come right, Alice," I went on in terror lest I should
disturb her present conception of her circumstances. I felt as if the
very face I wore, with the changes of those twelve forgotten years,
which had passed over her like the breath of a spring wind, were a mask
of which I had to be ashamed before her. Her consciousness was my
involuntary standard of fact. Hope of my life as she was, there was thus
mingled with my delight in her presence a restless fear that made me
wish fervently that she would go. I wanted time to quiet my thoughts and
resolve how I should behave to her.

"Alice," I said, "it is nearly morning. You were late to-night. Don't
you think you had better go--for fear, you know?"

"Ah!" she said, with a smile, in which there was no doubt of fear, "you
are tired of me already! But I will go at once to dream about you."

She rose.

"Go, my darling," I said; "and mind you get some right sleep. Shall I go
with you?"

Much to my relief, she answered,

"No, no; please not. I can go alone as usual. When a ghost meets me, I
just walk through him, and then he's nowhere; and I laugh."

One kiss, one backward lingering look, and the door closed behind her. I
heard the echo of the great hall. I was alone. But what a loneliness--a
loneliness crowded with presence! I paced up and down the room, threw
myself on the couch she had left, started up, and paced again. It was
long before I could think. But the conviction grew upon me that she
would be mine yet. Mine yet? Mine she _was_, beyond all the power of
madness or demons; and mine I trusted she would be beyond the dispute of
the world. About me, at least, she was not insane. But what should I do?
The only chance of her recovery lay in seeing me still; but I could
resolve on nothing till I knew whether Mrs. Blakesley had discovered her
absence from her room; because, if I drew her, and she were watched and
prevented from coming, it would kill her, or worse. I must take
to-morrow to think.

Yet at the moment, by a sudden impulse, I opened the window gently,
stepped into the little grassy court, where the last of the storm was
still moaning, and withdrew the bolts of a door which led into an alley
of trees running along one side of the kitchen-garden. I felt like a
housebreaker; but I said, "It is _her_ right." I pushed the bolts
forward again, so as just to touch the sockets and look as if they went
in, and then retreated into my own room, where I paced about till the
household was astir.




CHAPTER XXIV


_Prison-Breaking._

It was with considerable anxiety that I repaired to Mrs. Blakesley's
room. There I found the old lady at the breakfast-table, so thoroughly
composed, that I was at once reassured as to her ignorance of what had
occurred while she slept. But she seemed uneasy till I should take my
departure, which I attributed to the fear that I might happen to meet
Lady Alice.

Arrived at my inn, I kept my room, my dim-seen plans rendering it
desirable that I should attract as little attention in the neighbourhood
as might be. I had now to concentrate these plans, and make them
definite to myself. It was clear that there was no chance of spending
another night at Hilton Hall by invitation: would it be honourable to go
there without one, as I, knowing all the _outs and ins_ of the place,
could, if I pleased? I went over the whole question of Alice's position
in that house, and of the crime committed against her. I saw that, if I
could win my wife by restoring to her the exercise of reason, that very
success would justify the right I already possessed in her. And could
she not demand of me to climb over any walls, or break open whatsoever
doors, to free her from her prison--from the darkness of a clouded
brain? Let them say what they would of the meanness and wickedness of
gaining such access to, and using such power over, the insane--she was
mine, and as safe with me as with her mother. There is a love that tears
and destroys; and there is a love that enfolds and saves. I hated
mesmerism and its vulgar impertinences; but here was a power I
possessed, as far as I knew, only over one, and that one allied to me by
a reciprocal influence, as well as long-tried affection.--Did not love
give me the right to employ this power?

My cognitions concluded in the resolve to use the means in my hands for
the rescue of Lady Alice. Midnight found me in the alley of the
kitchen-garden. The door of the little court opened easily. Nor had I
withdrawn its bolts without knowing that I could manage to open the
window of my old room from the outside. I stood in the dark, a stranger
and housebreaker, where so often I had sat waiting the visits of my
angel. I secured the door of the room, struck a light, lighted a remnant
of taper which I found on the table, threw myself on the couch, and said
to my Alice--"Come."

And she came. I rose. She laid herself down. I pulled off my coat--it
was all I could find--and laid it over her. The night was chilly. She
revived with the same sweet smile, but, giving a little shiver, said:

"Why have you no fire, Duncan? I must give orders about it. That's some
trick of old Clankshoe."

"Dear Alice, do not breath a word about me to any one. I have quarrelled
with Lord Hilton. He has turned me away, and I have no business to be in
the house."

"Oh!" she replied, with a kind of faint recollecting hesitation. "That
must be why you never come to the haunted chamber now. I go there every
night, as soon as the sun is down."

"Yes, that is it, Alice."

"Ah! that must be what makes the day so strange to me too."

She looked very bewildered for a moment, and then resumed:

"Do you know, Duncan, I feel very strange all day--as if I was walking
about in a dull dream that would never come to an end? But it is very
different at night--is it not, dear?"

She had not yet discovered any distinction between my presence to her
dreams and my presence to her waking sight. I hardly knew what reply to
make; but she went on:

"They won't let me come to you now, I suppose. I shall forget my Euclid
and everything. I feel as if I had forgotten it all already. But you
won't be vexed with your poor Alice, will you? She's only a beggar-girl,
you know."

I could answer only by a caress.

"I had a strange dream the other night. I thought I was sitting on a
stone in the dark. And I heard your voice calling me. And it went all
round about me, and came nearer, and went farther off, but I could not
move to go to you. I tried to answer you, but I could only make a queer
sound, not like my own voice at all."

"I dreamed it too, Alice."

"The same dream?"

"Yes, the very same."

"I am so glad. But I didn't like the dream. Duncan, my head feels so
strange sometimes. And I am so sleepy. Duncan, dearest--am _I_ dreaming
now? Oh! tell me that I am awake and that I hold you; for to-morrow,
when I wake, I shall fancy that I have lost you. They've spoiled my poor
brain, somehow. I am all right, I know, but I cannot get at it. The red
is withered, somehow."

"You are wide awake, my Alice. I know all about it. I will help you to
understand it all, only you must do exactly as I tell you."

"Yes, yes."

"Then go to bed now, and sleep as much as you can; else I will not let
you come to me at night."

"That would be too cruel, when it is all I have."

"Then go, dearest, and sleep."

"I will."

She rose and went. I, too, went, making all close behind me. The moon
was going down. Her light looked to me strange, and almost malignant. I
feared that when she came to the full she would hurt my darling's brain,
and I longed to climb the sky, and cut her in pieces. Was I too going
mad? I needed rest, that was all.

Next morning, I called again upon Mrs. Blakesley, to inquire after Lady
Alice, anxious to know how yesterday had passed.

"Just the same," answered the old lady. "You need not look for any
change. Yesterday I did see her smile once, though."

And was that nothing?

In her case there was a reversal of the usual facts of nature--(_I say
facts_, not _laws_): the dreams of most people are more or less insane;
those of Lady Alice were sound; thus, with her, restoring the balance of
sane life. That smile was the sign of the dream-life beginning to leaven
the waking and false life.

"Have you heard of young Lord Hilton's marriage?" asked Mrs. Blakesley.

"I have only heard some rumours about it," I answered. "Who is the new
countess?"

"The daughter of a rich merchant somewhere. They say she isn't the best
of tempers. They're coming here in about a month. I am just terrified to
think how it may fare with my lamb now. They won't let her go wandering
about wherever she pleases, I doubt. And if they shut her up, she will
die."

I vowed inwardly that she should be free, if I carried her off, madness
and all.




CHAPTER XXV


_New Entrenchments._

But this way of breaking into the house every night did not afford me
the facility I wished. For I wanted to see Lady Alice during the day, or
at least in the evening before she went to sleep; as otherwise I could
not thoroughly judge of her condition. So I got Wood to pack up a small
stock of provisions for me in his haversack, which I took with me; and
when I entered the house that night, I bolted the door of the court
behind me, and made all fast.

I waited till the usual time for her appearance had passed; and, always
apprehensive now, as was very natural, I had begun to grow uneasy, when
I heard her voice, as I had heard it once before, singing. Fearful of
disturbing her, I listened for a moment. Whether the song was her own or
not, I cannot be certain. When I questioned her afterwards, she knew
nothing about it. It was this,--

      Days of old,
  Ye are not dead, though gone from me;
        Ye are not cold,
  But like the summer-birds gone o'er the sea.
  The sun brings back the swallows fast,
        O'er the sea:
  When thou comest at the last,
  The days of old come back to me.

She ceased singing. Still she did not enter. I went into the closet, and
found that the door was bolted. When I opened it, she entered, as usual;
and, when she came to herself, seemed still better than before.

"Duncan," she said, "I don't know how it is, but I believe I must have
forgotten everything I ever knew. I feel as if I had. I don't think I
can even read. Will you teach me my letters?"

She had a book in her hand. I hailed this as another sign that her
waking and sleeping thoughts bordered on each other; for she must have
taken the book during her somnambulic condition. I did as she desired.
She seemed to know nothing till I told her. But the moment I told her
anything, she knew it perfectly. Before she left me that night she was
reading tolerably, with many pauses of laughter that she should ever
have forgotten how. The moment she shared the light of my mind, all was
plain; where that had not shone, all was dark. The fact was, she was
living still in the shadow of that shock which her nervous constitution
had received from our discovery and my ejection.

As she was leaving me, I said,

"Shall you be in the haunted room at sunset tomorrow, Alice?"

"Of course I shall," she answered.

"You will find me there then," I rejoined--"that is, if you think there
is no danger of being seen."

"Not the least," she answered. "No one follows me there; not even Mrs.
Blakesley, good soul! They are all afraid, as usual."

"And you won't be frightened to see me there?"

"Frightened? No. Why? Oh! you think me queer too, do you?"

She looked vexed, but tried to smile.

"I? I would trust you with my life," I said. "That's not much,
though--with my soul, whatever that means, Alice."

"Then don't talk nonsense," she rejoined coaxingly, "about my being
frightened to see you."

When she had gone, I followed into the old hall, taking my sack with me;
for, after having found the door in the closet bolted, I was determined
not to spend one night more in my old quarters, and never to allow Lady
Alice to go there again, if I could prevent her. And I had good hopes
that, if we met in the day, the same consequences would follow as had
followed long ago--namely, that she would sleep at night.

It was just such a night as that on which I had first peeped into the
hall. The moon shone through one of the high windows, scarcely more dim
than before, and showed all the dreariness of the place. I went up the
great old staircase, hoping I trod in the very footsteps of Lady Alice,
and reached the old gallery in which I had found her on that night when
our strangely-knit intimacy began. My object was to choose one of the
deserted rooms in which I might establish myself without chance of
discovery. I had not turned many corners, or gone through many passages,
before I found one exactly to my mind. I will not trouble my reader with
a description of its odd position and shape. All I wanted was
concealment, and that it provided plentifully. I lay down on the floor,
and was soon fast asleep.

Next morning, having breakfasted from the contents of my bag, I
proceeded to make myself thoroughly acquainted with the bearings, etc.,
of this portion of the house. Before evening, I knew it all thoroughly.

But I found it very difficult to wait for the evening. By the windows of
one of the rooms looking westward, I sat watching the down-going of the
sun. When he set, my moon would rise. As he touched the horizon, I went
the old, well-known way to the haunted chamber. What a night had passed
for me since I left Alice in that charmed room! I had a vague feeling,
however, notwithstanding the misfortune that had befallen us there, that
the old phantoms that haunted it were friendly to Alice and me. But I
waited her arrival in fear. Would she come? Would she be as in the
night? Or should I find her but half awake to life, and perhaps asleep
to me?

One moment longer, and a light hand was laid on the door. It opened
gently, and Alice, entering, flitted across the room straight to my
arms. How beautiful she was! her old-fashioned dress bringing her into
harmony with the room and its old consecrated twilight! For this room
looked eastward, and there was only twilight here. She brought me some
water, at my request; and then we read, and laughed over our reading.
Every moment she not only knew something fresh, but knew that she had
known it before. The dust of the years had to be swept away; but it was
only dust, and flew at a breath. The light soon failed us in that dusky
chamber; and we sat and whispered, till only when we kissed could we see
each other's eyes. At length Lady Alice said:

"They are looking for me; I had better go. Shall I come at night?"

"No," I answered. "Sleep, and do not move."

"Very well, I will."

She went, and I returned to my den. There I lay and thought. Had she
ever been insane at all? I doubted it. A kind of mental sleep or stupor
had come upon her--nothing more. True it might be allied to madness; but
is there a strong emotion that man or woman experiences that is not
_allied_ to madness? Still her mind was not clear enough to reflect the
past. But if she never recalled that entirely, not the less were her
love and tenderness--all womanliness--entire in her.

Next evening we met again, and the next, and many evenings. Every time I
was more convinced than before that she was thoroughly sane in every
practical sense, and that she would recall everything as soon as I
reminded her. But this I forbore to do, fearing a reaction.

Meantime, after a marvellous fashion, I was living over again the old
lovely time that had gone by twelve years ago; living it over again,
partly in virtue of the oblivion that had invaded the companion and
source of the blessedness of the time. She had never ceased to live it;
but had renewed it in dreams, unknown as such, from which she awoke to
forgetfulness and quiet, while I awoke from my troubled fancies to tears
and battles.

It was strange, indeed, to live the past over again thus.




CHAPTER XXVI


Escape.

It was time, however, to lay some plan, and make some preparations, for
our departure. The first thing to be secured was a convenient exit from
the house. I searched in all directions, but could discover none better
than that by which I had entered. Leaving the house one evening, as soon
as Lady Alice had retired, I communicated my situation to Wood, who
entered with all his heart into my projects. Most fortunately, through
all her so-called madness, Lady Alice had retained and cherished the
feeling that there was something sacred about the diamond-ring and the
little money which had been intended for our flight before; and she had
kept them carefully concealed, where she could find them in a moment. I
had sent the ring to a friend in London, to sell it for me; and it
produced more than I expected. I had then commissioned Wood to go to the
county town and buy a light gig for me; and in this he had been very
fortunate. My dear old Constancy had the accomplishment, not at all
common to chargers, of going admirably in harness; and I had from the
first enjoined upon Wood to get him into as good condition as possible.
I now fixed a certain hour at which Wood was to be at a certain spot on
one of the roads skirting the park, where I had found a crazy door in
the plank-fence--with Constancy in the dogcart, and plenty of wraps for
Alice.

"And for Heaven's sake, Wood," I concluded, "look to his shoes."

It may seem strange that I should have been able to go and come thus
without detection; but it must be remembered that I had made myself more
familiar with the place than any of its inhabitants, and that there were
only a very few domestics in the establishment. The gardener and
stableman slept in the house, for its protection; but I knew their
windows perfectly, and most of their movements. I could watch them all
day long, if I liked, from some loophole or other of my quarter; where,
indeed, I sometimes found that the only occupation I could think of.

The next evening I said, "Alice, I must leave the house: will you go
with me?"

"Of course I will, Duncan. When?"

"The night after to-morrow, as soon as every one is in bed and the house
quiet. If you have anything you value very much, take it; but the
lighter we go the better."

"I have nothing, Duncan. I will take a little bag--that will do for me."

"But dress as warmly as you can. It will be cold."

"Oh, yes; I won't forget that. Good night."

She took it as quietly as going to church.

I had not seen Mrs. Blakesley since she had told me that the young earl
and countess were expected in about a month; else I might have learned
one fact which it was very important I should have known, namely, that
their arrival had been hastened by eight or ten days. The very morning
of our intended departure, I was looking into the court through a little
round hole I had cleared for observation in the dust of one of the
windows, believing I had observed signs of unusual preparation on the
part of the household, when a carriage drove up, followed by two others,
and Lord and Lady Hilton descended and entered, with an attendance of
some eight or ten.

There was a great bustle in the house all day. Of course I felt uneasy,
for if anything should interfere with our flight, the presence of so
many would increase whatever difficulty might occur. I was also uneasy
about the treatment my Alice might receive from the new-comers. Indeed,
it might be put out of her power to meet me at all. It had been arranged
between us that she should not come to the haunted chamber at the usual
hour, but towards midnight.

I was there waiting for her. The hour arrived; the house seemed quiet;
but she did not come. I began to grow very uneasy. I waited half an hour
more, and then, unable to endure it longer, crept to her door. I tried
to open it, but found it fast. At the same moment I heard a light sob
inside. I put my lips to the keyhole, and called "_Alice_." She answered
in a moment:--

"They have locked me in."

The key was gone. There was no time to be lost. Who could tell what they
might do to-morrow, if already they were taking precautions against her
madness? I would try the key of a neighbouring door, and if that would
not fit, I would burst the door open, and take the chance. As it was,
the key fitted the lock, and the door opened. We locked it again on the
outside, restored the key, and in another moment were in the haunted
chamber. Alice was dressed, ready for flight. To me, it was very
pathetic to see her in the shapes of years gone by. She looked faded and
ancient, notwithstanding that this was the dress in which I had seen her
so often of old. Her stream had been standing still, while mine had
flowed on. She was a portrait of my own young Alice, a picture of her
own former self.

One or two lights glancing about below detained us for a little while.
We were standing near the window, feeling now very anxious to be clear
of the house; Alice was holding me and leaning on me with the essence of
trust; when, all at once, she dropped my arm, covered her face with her
hands, and called out: "The horse with the clanking shoe!" At the same
moment, the heavy door which communicated with this part of the house
flew open with a crash, and footsteps came hurrying along the passage. A
light gleamed into the room, and by it I saw that Lady Alice, who was
standing close to me still, was gazing, with flashing eyes, at the door.
She whispered hurriedly:

"I remember it all now, Duncan. My brain is all right. It is come again.
But they shall not part us this time. You follow me for once."

As she spoke, I saw something glitter in her hand. She had caught up an
old Malay creese that lay in a corner, and was now making for the door,
at which half a dozen domestics were by this time gathered. They, too,
saw the glitter, and made way. I followed close, ready to fell the first
who offered to lay hands on her. But she walked through them unmenaced,
and, once clear, sped like a bird into the recesses of the old house.
One fellow started to follow. I tripped him up. I was collared by
another. The same instant he lay by his companion, and I followed Alice.
She knew the route well enough, and I overtook her in the great hall. We
heard pursuing feet rattling down the echoing stair. To enter my room
and bolt the door behind us was a moment's work; and a few moments more
took us into the alley of the kitchen-garden. With speedy, noiseless
steps, we made our way to the park, and across it to the door in the
fence, where Wood was waiting for us, old Constancy pawing the ground
with impatience for a good run.

He had had enough of it before twelve hours were over.

Was I not well recompensed for my long years of despair? The cold stars
were sparkling overhead; a wind blew keen against us--the wind of our
own flight; Constancy stepped out with a will; and I urged him on, for
he bore my beloved and me into the future life. Close beside me she sat,
wrapped warm from the cold, rejoicing in her deliverance, and now and
then looking up with tear-bright eyes into my face. Once and again I
felt her sob, but I knew it was a sob of joy, and not of grief. The
spell was broken at last, and she was mine. I felt that not all the
spectres of the universe could tear her from me, though now and then a
slight shudder would creep through me, when the clank of Constancy's bit
would echo sharply back from the trees we swept past.

We rested no more than was absolutely necessary; and in as short a space
as ever horse could perform the journey, we reached the Scotch border,
and before many more hours had gone over us, Alice was my wife.




CHAPTER XXVII


_Freedom_.

Honest Wood joined us in the course of a week or two, and has continued
in my service ever since. Nor was it long before Mrs. Blakesley was
likewise added to our household, for she had been instantly dismissed
from the countess's service on the charge of complicity in Lady Alice's
abduction.

We lived for some months in a cottage on a hill-side, overlooking one of
the loveliest of the Scotch lakes. Here I was once more tutor to my
Alice. And a quick scholar she was, as ever. Nor, I trust, was I slow in
my part. Her character became yet clearer to me, every day. I understood
her better and better.

She could endure marvellously; but without love and its joy she could
not _live_, in any real sense. In uncongenial society, her whole mental
faculty had frozen; when love came, her mental world, like a garden in
the spring sunshine, blossomed and budded. When she lost me, the Present
vanished, or went by her like an ocean that has no milestones; she
caring only for the Past, living only in the Past, and that reflection
of it in the dim glass of her hope, which prefigured the Future.

We have never again heard the clanking shoe. Indeed, after we had passed
a few months in the absorption of each other's society, we began to find
that we doubted a great deal of what seemed to have happened to us. It
was as if the gates of the unseen world were closing against us, because
we had shut ourselves up in the world of the present. But we let it go
gladly. We felt that love was the gate to an unseen world infinitely
beyond that region of the psychological in which we had hitherto moved;
for this love was teaching us to love all men, and live for all men. In
fact, we are now, I am glad to say, very much like other people; and
wonder, sometimes, how much of the story of our lives might be accounted
for on the supposition that unusual coincidences had fallen in with
psychological peculiarities. Dr. Ruthwell, who is sometimes our most
welcome guest, has occasionally hinted at the sabre-cut as the key to
all the mysteries of the story, seeing nothing of it was at least
recorded before I came under his charge. But I have only to remind him
of one or two circumstances, to elicit from his honesty and immediate
confession of bewilderment, followed by silence; although he evidently
still clings to the notion that in that sabre-cut lies the solution of
much of the marvel. At all events, he considers me sane enough now, else
he would hardly honour me with so much of his confidence as he does.
Having examined into Lady Alice's affairs, I claimed the fortune which
she had inherited. Lord Hilton, my former pupil, at once acknowledged
the justice of the claim, and was considerably astonished to find how
much more might have been demanded of him, which had been spent over the
allowance made from her income for her maintenance. But we had enough
without claiming that.

My wife purchased for me the possession of my forefathers, and there we
live in peace and hope. To her I owe the delight which I feel every day
of my life in looking upon the haunts of my childhood as still mine.
They help me to keep young. And so does my Alice's hair; for although
much grey now mingles with mine, hers is as dark as ever. For her heart,
I know that cannot grow old; and while the heart is young, man may laugh
old Time in the face, and dare him to do his worst.




THE CRUEL PAINTER




Among the young men assembled at the University of Prague, in the year
159--, was one called Karl von Wolkenlicht. A somewhat careless student,
he yet held a fair position in the estimation of both professors and
men, because he could hardly look at a proposition without understanding
it. Where such proposition, however, had to do with anything relating to
the deeper insights of the nature, he was quite content that, for him,
it should remain a proposition; which, however, he laid up in one of his
mental cabinets, and was ready to reproduce at a moment's notice. This
mental agility was more than matched by the corresponding corporeal
excellence, and both aided in producing results in which his remarkable
strength was equally apparent. In all games depending upon the
combination of muscle and skill, he had scarce rivalry enough to keep
him in practice. His strength, however, was embodied in such a softness
of muscular outline, such a rare Greek-like style of beauty, and
associated with such a gentleness of manner and behaviour, that, partly
from the truth of the resemblance, partly from the absurdity of the
contrast, he was known throughout the university by the diminutive of
the feminine form of his name, and was always called Lottchen.

"I say, Lottchen," said one of his fellow-students, called Richter,
across the table in a wine-cellar they were in the habit of frequenting,
"do you know, Heinrich Hoellenrachen here says that he saw this morning,
with mortal eyes, whom do you think?--Lilith."

"Adam's first wife?" asked Lottchen, with an attempt at carelessness,
while his face flushed like a maiden's.

"None of your chaff!" said Richter. "Your face is honester than your
tongue, and confesses what you cannot deny, that you would give your
chance of salvation--a small one to be sure, but all you've got--for one
peep at Lilith. Wouldn't you now, Lottchen?"

"Go to the devil!" was all Lottchen's answer to his tormentor; but he
turned to Heinrich, to whom the students had given the surname above
mentioned, because of the enormous width of his jaws, and said with
eagerness and envy, disguising them as well as he could, under the
appearance of curiosity--

"You don't mean it, Heinrich? You've been taking the beggar in! Confess
now."

"Not I. I saw her with my two eyes."

"Notwithstanding the different planes of their orbits," suggested
Richter.

"Yes, notwithstanding the fact that I can get a parallax to any of the
fixed stars in a moment, with only the breadth of my nose for the base,"
answered Heinrich, responding at once to the fun, and careless of the
personal defect insinuated. "She was near enough for even me to see her
perfectly."

"When? Where? How?" asked Lottchen.

"Two hours ago. In the churchyard of St. Stephen's. By a lucky chance.
Any more little questions, my child?" answered Hoellenrachen.

"What could have taken her there, who is seen nowhere?" said Richter.

"She was seated on a grave. After she left, I went to the place; but it
was a new-made grave. There was no stone up. I asked the sexton about
her. He said he supposed she was the daughter of the woman buried there
last Thursday week. I knew it was Lilith."

"Her mother dead!" said Lottchen, musingly. Then he thought with
himself--"She will be going there again, then!" But he took care that
this ghost-thought should wander unembodied. "But how did you know her,
Heinrich? You never saw her before."

"How do you come to be over head and ears in love with her, Lottchen,
and you haven't seen her at all?" interposed Richter.

"Will you or will you not go to the devil?" rejoined Lottchen, with a
comic crescendo; to which the other replied with a laugh.

"No one could miss knowing her," said Heinrich.

"Is she so very like, then?"

"It is always herself, her very self."

A fresh flask of wine, turning out to be not up to the mark, brought the
current of conversation against itself; not much to the dissatisfaction
of Lottchen, who had already resolved to be in the churchyard of St.
Stephen's at sun-down the following day, in the hope that he too might
be favoured with a vision of Lilith.

This resolution he carried out. Seated in a porch of the church, not
knowing in what direction to look for the apparition he hoped to see,
and desirous as well of not seeming to be on the watch for one, he was
gazing at the fallen rose-leaves of the sunset, withering away upon the
sky; when, glancing aside by an involuntary movement, he saw a woman
seated upon a new-made grave, not many yards from where he sat, with her
face buried in her hands, and apparently weeping bitterly. Karl was in
the shadow of the porch, and could see her perfectly, without much
danger of being discovered by her; so he sat and watched her. She raised
her head for a moment, and the rose-flush of the west fell over it,
shining on the tears with which it was wet, and giving the whole a bloom
which did not belong to it, for it was always pale, and now pale as
death. It was indeed the face of Lilith, the most celebrated beauty of
Prague.

Again she buried her face in her hands; and Karl sat with a strange
feeling of helplessness, which grew as he sat; and the longing to help
her whom he could not help, drew his heart towards her with a trembling
reverence which was quite new to him. She wept on. The western roses
withered slowly away, and the clouds blended with the sky, and the stars
gathered like drops of glory sinking through the vault of night, and the
trees about the churchyard grew black, and Lilith almost vanished in the
wide darkness. At length she lifted her head, and seeing the night
around her, gave a little broken cry of dismay. The minutes had swept
over her head, not through her mind, and she did not know that the dark
had come.

Hearing her cry, Karl rose and approached her. She heard his footsteps,
and started to her feet. Karl spoke--

"Do not be frightened," he said. "Let me see you home. I will walk behind
you."

"Who are you?" she rejoined.

"Karl Wolkenlicht."

"I have heard of you. Thank you. I can go home alone."

Yet, as if in a half-dreamy, half-unconscious mood, she accepted his
offered hand to lead her through the graves, and allowed him to walk
beside her, till, reaching the corner of a narrow street, she suddenly
bade him good-night and vanished. He thought it better not to follow
her, so he returned her good-night and went home.

How to see her again was his first thought the next day; as, in fact,
how to see her at all had been his first thought for many days. She went
nowhere that ever he heard of; she knew nobody that he knew; she was
never seen at church, or at market; never seen in the street. Her home
had a dreary, desolate aspect. It looked as if no one ever went out or
in. It was like a place on which decay had fallen because there was no
indwelling spirit. The mud of years was baked upon its door, and no
faces looked out of its dusty windows.

How then could she be the most celebrated beauty of Prague? How then was
it that Heinrich Hoellenrachen knew her the moment he saw her? Above all,
how was it that Karl Wolkenlicht had, in fact, fallen in love with her
before ever he saw her? It was thus--

Her father was a painter. Belonging thus to the public, it had taken the
liberty of re-naming him. Every one called him Teufelsbuerst, or
Devilsbrush. It was a name with which, to judge from the nature of his
representations, he could hardly fail to be pleased. For, not as a
nightmare dream, which may alternate with the loveliest visions, but as
his ordinary everyday work, he delighted to represent human suffering.

Not an aspect of human woe or torture, as expressed in countenance or
limb, came before his willing imagination, but he bore it straightway to
his easel. In the moments that precede sleep, when the black space
before the eyes of the poet teems with lovely faces, or dawns into a
spirit-landscape, face after face of suffering, in all varieties of
expression, would crowd, as if compelled by the accompanying fiends, to
present themselves, in awful levee, before the inner eye of the
expectant master. Then he would rise, light his lamp, and, with rapid
hand, make notes of his visions; recording, with swift successive sweeps
of his pencil, every individual face which had rejoiced his evil fancy.
Then he would return to his couch, and, well satisfied, fall asleep to
dream yet further embodiments of human ill.

What wrong could man or mankind have done him, to be thus fearfully
pursued by the vengeance of the artist's hate?

Another characteristic of the faces and form which he drew was, that
they were all beautiful in the original idea. The lines of each face,
however distorted by pain, would have been, in rest, absolutely
beautiful; and the whole of the execution bore witness to the fact that
upon this original beauty the painter had directed the artillery of
anguish to bring down the sky-soaring heights of its divinity to the
level of a hated existence. To do this, he worked in perfect accordance
with artistic law, falsifying no line of the original forms. It was the
suffering, rather than his pencil, that wrought the change. The latter
was the willing instrument to record what the imagination conceived with
a cruelty composed enough to be correct.

To enhance the beauty he had thus distorted, and so to enhance yet
further the suffering that produced the distortion, he would often
represent attendant demons, whom he made as ugly as his imagination
could compass; avoiding, however, all grotesqueness beyond what was
sufficient to indicate that they were demons, and not men. Their
ugliness rose from hate, envy, and all evil passions; amongst which he
especially delighted to represent a gloating exultation over human
distress. And often in the midst of his clouds of demon faces, would
some one who knew him recognise the painter's own likeness, such as the
mirror might have presented it to him when he was busiest over the
incarnation of some exquisite torture.

But apparently with the wish to avoid being supposed to choose such
representations for their own sakes, he always found a story, often in
the histories of the church, whose name he gave to the painting, and
which he pretended to have inspired the pictorial conception. No one,
however, who looked upon his suffering martyrs, could suppose for a
moment that he honoured their martyrdom. They were but the vehicles for
his hate of humanity. He was the torturer, and not Diocletian or Nero.

But, stranger yet to tell, there was no picture, whatever its subject,
into which he did not introduce one form of placid and harmonious
loveliness. In this, however, his fierceness was only more fully
displayed. For in no case did this form manifest any relation either to
the actors or the endurers in the picture. Hence its very loveliness
became almost hateful to those who beheld it. Not a shade crossed the
still sky of that brow, not a ripple disturbed the still sea of that
cheek. She did not hate, she did not love the sufferers: the painter
would not have her hate, for that would be to the injury of her
loveliness: would not have her love, for he hated. Sometimes she floated
above, as a still, unobservant angel, her gaze turned upward, dreaming
along, careless as a white summer cloud, across the blue. If she looked
down on the scene below, it was only that the beholder might see that
she saw and did not care--that not a feather of her outspread pinions
would quiver at the sight. Sometimes she would stand in the crowd, as if
she had been copied there from another picture, and had nothing to do
with this one, nor any right to be in it at all. Or when the red blood
was trickling drop by drop from the crushed limb, she might be seen
standing nearest, smiling over a primrose or the bloom on a peach. Some
had said that she was the painter's wife; that she had been false to
him; that he had killed her; and, finding that that was no sufficing
revenge, thus half in love, and half in deepest hate, immortalised his
vengeance. But it was now universally understood that it was his
daughter, of whose loveliness extravagant reports went abroad; though
all said, doubtless reading this from her father's pictures, that she
was a beauty without a heart. Strange theories of something else
supplying its place were rife among the anatomical students. With the
girl in the pictures, the wild imagination of Lottchen, probably in part
from her apparently absolute unattainableness and her undisputed
heartlessness, had fallen in love, as far as the mere imagination can
fall in love.

But again, how was he to see her? He haunted the house night after
night. Those blue eyes never met his. No step responsive to his came
from that door. It seemed to have been so long unopened that it had
grown as fixed and hard as the stones that held its bolts in their
passive clasp. He dared not watch in the daytime, and with all his
watching at night, he never saw father or daughter or domestic cross the
threshold. Little he thought that, from a shot-window near the door, a
pair of blue eyes, like Lilith's, but paler and colder, were watching
him just as a spider watches the fly that is likely ere long to fall
into his toils. And into those toils Karl soon fell. For her form
darkened the page; her form stood on the threshold of sleep; and when,
overcome with watching, he did enter its precincts, her form entered
with him, and walked by his side. He must find her; or the world might
go to the bottomless pit for him. But how?

Yes. He would be a painter. Teufelsbuerst would receive him as a humble
apprentice. He would grind his colours, and Teufelsbuerst would teach him
the mysteries of the science which is the handmaiden of art. Then he
might see her, and that was all his ambition.

In the clear morning light of a day in autumn, when the leaves were
beginning to fall seared from the hand of that Death which has his dance
in the chapels of nature as well as in the cathedral aisles of men--he
walked up and knocked at the dingy door. The spider painter opened it
himself. He was a little man, meagre and pallid, with those faded blue
eyes, a low nose in three distinct divisions, and thin, curveless, cruel
lips. He wore no hair on his face; but long grey locks, long as a
woman's, were scattered over his shoulders, and hung down on his breast.
When Wolkenlicht had explained his errand, he smiled a smile in which
hypocrisy could not hide the cunning, and, after many difficulties,
consented to receive him as a pupil, on condition that he would become
an inmate of his house. Wolkenlicht's heart bounded with delight, which
he tried to hide: the second smile of Teufelsbuerst might have shown him
that he had ill succeeded. The fact that he was not a native of Prague,
but coming from a distant part of the country, was entirely his own
master in the city, rendered this condition perfectly easy to fulfil;
and that very afternoon he entered the studio of Teufelsbuerst as his
scholar and servant.

It was a great room, filled with the appliances and results of art. Many
pictures, festooned with cobwebs, were hung carelessly on the dirty
walls. Others, half finished, leaned against them, on the floor.
Several, in different stages of progress, stood upon easels. But all
spoke the cruel bent of the artist's genius. In one corner a lay figure
was extended on a couch, covered with a pall of black velvet. Through
its folds, the form beneath was easily discernible; and one hand and
forearm protruded from beneath it, at right angles to the rest of the
frame. Lottchen could not help shuddering when he saw it. Although he
overcame the feeling in a moment, he felt a great repugnance to seating
himself with his back towards it, as the arrangement of an easel, at
which Teufelsbuerst wished him to draw, rendered necessary. He contrived
to edge himself round, so that when he lifted his eyes he should see the
figure, and be sure that it could not rise without his being aware of
it. But his master saw and understood his altered position; and under
some pretence about the light, compelled him to resume the position in
which he had placed him at first; after which he sat watching, over the
top of his picture, the expression of his countenance as he tried to
draw; reading in it the horrid fancy that the figure under the pall had
risen, and was stealthily approaching to look over his shoulder. But
Lottchen resisted the feeling, and, being already no contemptible
draughtsman, was soon interested enough to forget it. And then, any
moment _she_ might enter.

Now began a system of slow torture, for the chance of which the painter
had been long on the watch--especially since he had first seen Karl
lingering about the house. His opportunities of seeing physical
suffering were nearly enough even for the diseased necessities of his
art; but now he had one in his power, on whom, his own will fettering
him, he could try any experiments he pleased for the production of a
kind of suffering, in the observation of which he did not consider that
he had yet sufficient experience. He would hold the very heart of the
youth in his hand, and wring it and torture it to his own content. And
lest Karl should be strong enough to prevent those expressions of pain
for which he lay on the watch, he would make use of further means, known
to himself, and known to few besides.

All that day Karl saw nothing of Lilith; but he heard her voice
once--and that was enough for one day. The next, she was sitting to her
father the greater part of the day, and he could see her as often as he
dared glance up from his drawing. She had looked at him when she
entered, but had shown no sign of recognition; and all day long she took
no further notice of him. He hoped, at first, that this came of the
intelligence of love; but he soon began to doubt it. For he saw that,
with the holy shadow of sorrow, all that distinguished the expression of
her countenance from that which the painter so constantly reproduced,
had vanished likewise. It was the very face of the unheeding angel whom,
as often as he lifted his eyes higher than hers, he saw on the wall
above her, playing on a psaltery in the smoke of the torment ascending
for ever from burning Babylon.--The power of the painter had not merely
wrought for the representation of the woman of his imagination; it had
had scope as well in realising her.

Karl soon began to see that communication, other than of the eyes, was
all but hopeless; and to any attempt in that way she seemed altogether
indisposed to respond. Nor if she had wished it, would it have been
safe; for as often as he glanced towards her, instead of hers, he met
the blue eyes of the painter gleaming upon him like winter lightning.
His tones, his gestures, his words, seemed kind: his glance and his
smile refused to be disguised.

The first day he dined alone in the studio, waited upon by an old woman;
the next he was admitted to the family table, with Teufelsbuerst and
Lilith. The room offered a strange contrast to the study. As far as
handicraft, directed by a sumptuous taste, could construct a
house-paradise, this was one. But it seemed rather a paradise of demons;
for the walls were covered with Teufelsbuerst's paintings. During the
dinner, Lilith's gaze scarcely met that of Wolkenlicht; and once or
twice, when their eyes did meet, her glance was so perfectly
unconcerned, that Karl wished he might look at her for ever without the
fear of her looking at him again. She seemed like one whose love had
rushed out glowing with seraphic fire, to be frozen to death in a more
than wintry cold: she now walked lonely without her love. In the
evenings, he was expected to continue his drawing by lamplight; and at
night he was conducted by Teufelsbuerst to his chamber. Not once did he
allow him to proceed thither alone, and not once did he leave him there
without locking and bolting the door on the outside. But he felt nothing
except the coldness of Lilith.

Day after day she sat to her father, in every variety of costume that
could best show the variety of her beauty. How much greater that beauty
might be, if it ever blossomed into a beauty of soul, Wolkenlicht never
imagined; for he soon loved her enough to attribute to her all the
possibilities of her face as actual possessions of her being. To account
for everything that seemed to contradict this perfection, his brain was
prolific in inventions; till he was compelled at last to see that she
was in the condition of a rose-bud, which, on the point of blossoming,
had been chilled into a changeless bud by the cold of an untimely frost.
For one day, after the father and daughter had become a little more
accustomed to his silent presence, a conversation began between them,
which went on until he saw that Teufelsbuerst believed in nothing except
his art. How much of his feeling for that could be dignified by the name
of belief, seeing its objects were such as they were, might have been
questioned. It seemed to Wolkenlicht to amount only to this: that,
amidst a thousand distastes, it was a pleasant thing to reproduce on the
canvas the forms he beheld around him, modifying them to express the
prevailing feelings of his own mind.

A more desolate communication between souls than that which then passed
between father and daughter could hardly be imagined. The father spoke
of humanity and all its experiences in a tone of the bitterest scorn. He
despised men, and himself amongst them; and rejoiced to think that the
generations rose and vanished, brood after brood, as the crops of corn
grew and disappeared. Lilith, who listened to it all unmoved, taking
only an intellectual interest in the question, remarked that even the
corn had more life than that; for, after its death, it rose again in the
new crop. Whether she meant that the corn was therefore superior to man,
forgetting that the superior can produce being without losing its own,
or only advanced an objection to her father's argument, Wolkenlicht
could not tell. But Teufelsbuerst laughed like the sound of a saw, and
said: "Follow out the analogy, my Lilith, and you will see that man is
like the corn that springs again after it is buried; but unfortunately
the only result we know of is a vampire."

Wolkenlicht looked up, and saw a shudder pass through the frame, and
over the pale thin face of the painter. This he could not account for.
But Teufelsbuerst could have explained it, for there were strange
whispers abroad, and they had reached his ear; and his philosophy was
not quite enough for them. But the laugh with which Lilith met this
frightful attempt at wit, grated dreadfully on Wolkenlicht's feeling.
With her, too, however, a reaction seemed to follow. For, turning round
a moment after, and looking at the picture on which her father was
working, the tears rose in her eyes, and she said: "Oh! father, how like
my mother you have made me this time!" "Child!" retorted the painter
with a cold fierceness, "you have no mother. That which is gone out is
gone out. Put no name in my hearing on that which is not. Where no
substance is, how can there be a name?"

Lilith rose and left the room. Wolkenlicht now understood that Lilith
was a frozen bud, and could not blossom into a rose. But pure love lives
by faith. It loves the vaguely beheld and unrealised ideal. It dares
believe that the loved is not all that she ever seemed. It is in virtue
of this that love loves on. And it was in virtue of this, that
Wolkenlicht loved Lilith yet more after he discovered what a grave of
misery her unbelief was digging for her within her own soul. For her
sake he would bear anything--bear even with calmness the torments of his
own love; he would stay on, hoping and hoping.--The text, that we know
not what a day may bring forth, is just as true of good things as of
evil things; and out of Time's womb the facts must come.

But with the birth of this resolution to endure, his suffering abated;
his face grew more calm; his love, no less earnest, was less imperious;
and he did not look up so often from his work when Lilith was present.
The master could see that his pupil was more at ease, and that he was
making rapid progress in his art. This did not suit his designs, and he
would betake himself to his further schemes.

For this purpose he proceeded first to simulate a friendship for
Wolkenlicht, the manifestations of which he gradually increased, until,
after a day or two, he asked him to drink wine with him in the evening.
Karl readily agreed. The painter produced some of his best; but took
care not to allow Lilith to taste it; for he had cunningly prepared and
mingled with it a decoction of certain herbs and other ingredients,
exercising specific actions upon the brain, and tending to the
inordinate excitement of those portions of it which are principally
under the rule of the imagination. By the reaction of the brain during
the operation of these stimulants, the imagination is filled with
suggestions and images. The nature of these is determined by the
prevailing mood of the time. They are such as the imagination would
produce of itself, but increased in number and intensity. Teufelsbuerst,
without philosophising about it, called his preparation simply a
love-philtre, a concoction well known by name, but the composition of
which was the secret of only a few. Wolkenlicht had, of course, not the
least suspicion of the treatment to which he was subjected.

Teufelsbuerst was, however, doomed to fresh disappointment. Not that his
potion failed in the anticipated effect, for now Karl's real sufferings
began; but that such was the strength of Karl's will, and his fear of
doing anything that might give a pretext for banishing him from the
presence of Lilith, that he was able to conceal his feelings far too
successfully for the satisfaction of Teufelsbuerst's art. Yet he had to
fetter himself with all the restraints that self-exhortation could load
him with, to refrain from falling at the feet of Lilith and kissing the
hem of her garment. For that, as the lowliest part of all that
surrounded her, itself kissing the earth, seemed to come nearest within
the reach of his ambition, and therefore to draw him the most.

No doubt the painter had experience and penetration enough to perceive
that he was suffering intensely; but he wanted to see the suffering
embodied in outward signs, bringing it within the region over which his
pencil held sway. He kept on, therefore, trying one thing after another,
and rousing the poor youth to agony; till to his other sufferings were
added, at length, those of failing health; a fact which notified itself
evidently enough even for Teufelsbuerst, though its signs were not of the
sort he chiefly desired. But Karl endured all bravely.

Meantime, for various reasons, he scarcely ever left the house.

I must now interrupt the course of my story to introduce another
element.

A few years before the period of my tale, a certain shoemaker of the
city had died under circumstances more than suggestive of suicide. He
was buried, however, with such precautions, that six weeks elapsed
before the rumour of the facts broke out; upon which rumour, not before,
the most fearful reports began to be circulated, supported by what
seemed to the people of Prague incontestable evidence.--A _spectrum_ of
the deceased appeared to multitudes of persons, playing horrible pranks,
and occasioning indescribable consternation throughout the whole town.
This went on till at last, about eight months after his burial, the
magistrates caused his body to be dug up; when it was found in just the
condition of the bodies of those who in the eastern countries of Europe
are called _vampires_. They buried the corpse under the gallows; but
neither the digging up nor the reburying were of avail to banish the
spectre. Again the spade and pick-axe were set to work, and the dead man
being found considerably improved in _condition_ since his last
interment, was, with various horrible indignities, burnt to ashes,
"after which the _spectrum_ was never seen more."

And a second epidemic of the same nature had broken out a little before
the period to which I have brought my story.

About midnight, after a calm frosty day, for it was now winter, a
terrible storm of wind and snow came on. The tempest howled frightfully
about the house of the painter, and Wolkenlicht found some solace in
listening to the uproar, for his troubled thoughts would not allow him
to sleep. It raged on all the next three days, till about noon on the
fourth day, when it suddenly fell, and all was calm. The following
night, Wolkenlicht, lying awake, heard unaccountable noises in the next
house, as of things thrown about, of kicking and fighting horses, and of
opening and shutting gates. Flinging wide his lattice and looking out,
the noise of howling dogs came to him from every quarter of the town.
The moon was bright and the air was still. In a little while he heard
the sounds of a horse going at full gallop round the house, so that it
shook as if it would fall; and flashes of light shone into his room. How
much of this may have been owing to the effect of the drugs on poor
Lottchen's brain, I leave my readers to determine. But when the family
met at breakfast in the morning, Teufelsbuerst, who had been already out
of doors, reported that he had found the marks of strange feet in the
snow, all about the house and through the garden at the back; stating,
as his belief, that the tracks must be continued over the roofs, for
there was no passage otherwise. There was a wicked gleam in his eye as
he spoke; and Lilith believed that he was only trying an experiment on
Karl's nerves. He persisted that he had never seen any footprints of the
sort before. Karl informed him of his experiences during the night; upon
which Teufelsbuerst looked a little graver still, and proceeded to tell
them that the storm, whose snow was still covering the ground, had
arisen the very moment that their next door neighbour died, and had
ceased as suddenly the moment he was buried, though it had raved
furiously all the time of the funeral, so that "it made men's bodies
quake and their teeth chatter in their heads." Karl had heard that the
man, whose name was John Kuntz, was dead and buried. He knew that he had
been a very wealthy, and therefore most respectable, alderman of the
town; that he had been very fond of horses; and that he had died in
consequence of a kick received from one of his own, as he was looking at
his hoof. But he had not heard that, just before he died, a black cat
"opened the casement with her nails, ran to his bed, and violently
scratched his face and the bolster, as if she endeavoured by force to
remove him out of the place where he lay. But the cat afterwards was
suddenly gone, and she was no sooner gone, but he breathed his last."

So said Teufelsbuerst, as the reporter of the town talk. Lilith looked
very pale and terrified; and it was perhaps owing to this that the
painter brought no more tales home with him. There were plenty to bring,
but he heard them all and said nothing. The fact was that the
philosopher himself could not resist the infection of the fear that was
literally raging in the city; and perhaps the reports that he himself
had sold himself to the devil had sufficient response from his own evil
conscience to add to the influence of the epidemic upon him. The whole
place was infested with the presence of the dead Kuntz, till scarce a
man or woman would dare to be alone. He strangled old men; insulted
women; squeezed children to death; knocked out the brains of dogs
against the ground; pulled up posts; turned milk into blood; nearly
killed a worthy clergyman by breathing upon him the intolerable airs of
the grave, cold and malignant and noisome; and, in short, filled the
city with a perfect madness of fear, so that every report was believed
without the smallest doubt or investigation.

Though Teufelsbuerst brought home no more of the town talk, the old
servant was a faithful purveyor, and frequented the news-mart
assiduously. Indeed she had some nightmare experiences of her own that
she was proud to add to the stock of horrors which the city enjoyed with
such a hearty community of goods. For those regions were not far removed
from the birthplace and home of the vampire. The belief in vampires is
the quintessential concentration and embodiment of all the passion of
fear in Hungary and the adjacent regions. Nor, of all the other
inventions of the human imagination, has there ever been one so perfect
in crawling terror as this. Lilith and Karl were quite familiar with the
popular ideas on the subject. It did not require to be explained to
them, that a vampire was a body retaining a kind of animal life after
the soul had departed. If any relation existed between it and the
vanished ghost, it was only sufficient to make it restless in its grave.
Possessed of vitality enough to keep it uncorrupted and pliant, its only
instinct was a blind hunger for the sole food which could keep its awful
life persistent--living human blood. Hence it, or, if not it, a sort of
semi-material exhalation or essence of it, retaining its form and
material relations, crept from its tomb, and went roaming about till it
found some one asleep, towards whom it had an attraction, founded on old
affection. It sucked the blood of this unhappy being, transferring so
much of its life to itself as a vampire could assimilate. Death was the
certain consequence. If suspicion conjectured aright, and they opened
the proper grave, the body of the vampire would be found perfectly fresh
and plump, sometimes indeed of rather florid complexion;--with grown
hair, eyes half open, and the stains of recent blood about its greedy,
leech-like lips. Nothing remained but to consume the corpse to ashes,
upon which the vampire would show itself no more. But what added
infinitely to the horror was the certainty that whoever died from the
mouth of the vampire, wrinkled grandsire or delicate maiden, must in
turn rise from the grave, and go forth a vampire, to suck the blood of
the dearest left behind. This was the generation of the vampire brood.
Lilith trembled at the very name of the creature. Karl was too much in
love to be afraid of anything. Yet the evident fear of the unbelieving
painter took a hold of his imagination; and, under the influence of the
potions of which he still partook unwittingly, when he was not thinking
about Lilith, he was thinking about the vampire.

Meantime, the condition of things in the painter's household continued
much the same for Wolkenlicht--work all day; no communication between
the young people; the dinner and the wine; silent reading when work was
done, with stolen glances many over the top of the book, glances that
were never returned; the cold good-night; the locking of the door; the
wakeful night and the drowsy morning. But at length a change came, and
sooner than any of the party had expected. For, whether it was that the
impatience of Teufelsbuerst had urged him to yet more dangerous
experiments, or that the continuance of those he had been so long
employing had overcome at length the vitality of Wolkenlicht--one
afternoon, as he was sitting at his work, he suddenly dropped from his
chair, and his master hurrying to him in some alarm, found him rigid and
apparently lifeless. Lilith was not in the study when this took place.
In justice to Teufelsbuerst, it must be confessed that he employed all
the skill he was master of, which for beneficent purposes was not very
great, to restore the youth; but without avail. At last, hearing the
footsteps of Lilith, he desisted in some consternation; and that she
might escape being shocked by the sight of a dead body where she had
been accustomed to see a living one, he removed the lay figure from the
couch, and laid Karl in its place, covering him with a black velvet
pall. He was just in time. She started at seeing no one in Karl's place
and said--

"Where is your pupil, father?"

"Gone home," he answered, with a kind of convulsive grin.

She glanced round the room, caught sight of the lay figure where it had
not been before, looked at the couch, and saw the pall yet heaved up
from beneath, opened her eyes till the entire white sweep around the
iris suggested a new expression of consternation to Teufelsbuerst, though
from a quarter whence he did not desire or look for it; and then,
without a word, sat down to a drawing she had been busy upon the day
before. But her father, glancing at her now, as Wolkenlicht had used to
do, could not help seeing that she was frightfully pale. She showed no
other sign of uneasiness. As soon as he released her, she withdrew, with
one more glance, as she passed, at the couch and the figure blocked out
in black upon it. She hastened to her chamber, shut and locked the door,
sat down on the side of the couch, and fell, not a-weeping, but
a-thinking. Was he dead? What did it matter? They would all be dead
soon. Her mother was dead already. It was only that the earth could not
bear more children, except she devoured those to whom she had already
given birth. But what if they had to come back in another form, and live
another sad, hopeless, love-less life over again?--And so she went on
questioning, and receiving no replies; while through all her thoughts
passed and repassed the eyes of Wolkenlicht, which she had often felt to
be upon her when she did not see them, wild with repressed longing, the
light of their love shining through the veil of diffused tears, ever
gathering and never overflowing. Then came the pale face, so
worshipping, so distant in its self-withdrawn devotion, slowly dawning
out of the vapours of her reverie. When it vanished, she tried to see it
again. It would not come when she called it; but when her thoughts left
knocking at the door of the lost, and wandered away, out came the pale,
troubled, silent face again, gathering itself up from some unknown nook
in her world of phantasy, and once more, when she tried to steady it by
the fixedness of her own regard, fading back into the mist. So the
phantasm of the dead drew near and wooed, as the living had never
dared.--What if there were any good in loving? What if men and women did
not die all out, but some dim shade of each, like that pale, mind-ghost
of Wolkenlicht, floated through the eternal vapours of chaos? And what
if they might sometimes cross each other's path, meet, know that they
met, love on? Would not that revive the withered memory, fix the
fleeting ghost, give a new habitation, a body even, to the poor,
unhoused wanderers, frozen by the eternal frosts, no longer thinking
beings, but thoughts wandering through the brain of the "Melancholy
Mass?" Back with the thought came the face of the dead Karl, and the
maiden threw herself on her bed in a flood of bitter tears. She could
have loved him if he had only lived: she did love him, for he was dead.
But even in the midst of the remorse that followed--for had she not
killed him?--life seemed a less hard and hopeless thing than before. For
it is love itself and not its responses or results that is the soul of
life and its pleasures.

Two hours passed ere she could again show herself to her father, from
whom she seemed in some new way divided by the new feeling in which he
did not, and could not share. But at last, lest he should seek her, and
finding her, should suspect her thoughts, she descended and sought
him.--For there is a maidenliness in sorrow, that wraps her garments
close around her.--But he was not to be seen; the door of the study was
locked. A shudder passed through her as she thought of what her father,
who lost no opportunity of furthering his all but perfect acquaintance
with the human form and structure, might be about with the figure which
she knew lay dead beneath that velvet pall, but which had arisen to
haunt the hollow caves and cells of her living brain. She rushed away,
and up once more to her silent room, through the darkness which had now
settled down in the house; threw herself again on her bed, and lay
almost paralysed with horror and distress.

But Teufelsbuerst was not about anything so frightful as she supposed,
though something frightful enough. I have already implied that
Wolkenlicht was, in form, as fine an embodiment of youthful manhood as
any old Greek republic could have provided one of its sculptors with as
model for an Apollo. It is true, that to the eye of a Greek artist he
would not have been more acceptable in consequence of the regimen he had
been going through for the last few weeks; but the emaciation of
Wolkenlicht's frame, and the consequent prominence of the muscles,
indicating the pain he had gone through, were peculiarly attractive to
Teufelsbuerst.--He was busy preparing to take a cast of the body of his
dead pupil, that it might aid to the perfection of his future labours.

He was deep in the artistic enjoyment of a form, at the same time so
beautiful and strong, yet with the lines of suffering in every limb and
feature, when his daughter's hand was laid on the latch. He started,
flung the velvet drapery over the body, and went to the door. But Lilith
had vanished. He returned to his labours. The operation took a long
time, for he performed it very carefully. Towards midnight, he had
finished encasing the body in a close-clinging shell of plaster, which,
when broken off, and fitted together, would be the matrix to the form of
the dead Wolkenlicht. Before leaving it to harden till the morning, he
was just proceeding to strengthen it with an additional layer all over,
when a flash of lightning, reflected in all its dazzle from the snow
without, almost blinded him. A peal of long-drawn thunder followed; the
wind rose; and just such a storm came on as had risen some time before
at the death of Kuntz, whose spectre was still tormenting the city. The
gnomes of terror, deep hidden in the caverns of Teufelsbuerst's nature,
broke out jubilant. With trembling hands he tried to cast the pall over
the awful white chrysalis,--failed, and fled to his chamber. And there
lay the studio naked to the eyes of the lightning, with its tortured
forms throbbing out of the dark, and quivering, as with life, in the
almost continuous palpitations of the light; while on the couch lay the
motionless mass of whiteness, gleaming blue in the lightning, almost
more terrible in its crude indications of the human form, than that
which it enclosed. It lay there as if dropped from some tree of chaos,
haggard with the snows of eternity--a huge mis-shapen nut, with a corpse
for its kernel.

But the lightning would soon have revealed a more terrible sight still,
had there been any eyes to behold it. At midnight, while a peal of
thunder was just dying away in the distance, the crust of death flew
asunder, rending in all directions; and, pale as his investiture,
staring with ghastly eyes, the form of Karl started up sitting on the
couch. Had he not been far beyond ordinary men in strength, he could not
thus have rent his sepulchre. Indeed, had Teufelsbuerst been able to
finish his task by the additional layer of gypsum which he contemplated,
he must have died the moment life revived; although, so long as the
trance lasted, neither the exclusion from the air, nor the practical
solidification of the walls of his chest, could do him any injury. He
had lain unconscious throughout the operations of Teufelsbuerst, but now
the catalepsy had passed away, possibly under the influence of the
electric condition of the atmosphere. Very likely the strength he now
put forth was intensified by a convulsive reaction of all the powers of
life, as is not infrequently the case in sudden awakenings from similar
interruptions of vital activity. The coming to himself and the bursting
of his case were simultaneous. He sat staring about him, with, of all
his mental faculties, only his imagination awake, from which the
thoughts that occupied it when he fell senseless had not yet faded.
These thoughts had been compounded of feelings about Lilith, and
speculations about the vampire that haunted the neighbourhood; and the
fumes of the last drug of which he had partaken, still hovering in his
brain, combined with these thoughts and fancies to generate the delusion
that he had just broken from the embrace of his coffin, and risen, the
last-born of the vampire race. The sense of unavoidable obligation to
fulfil his doom, was yet mingled with a faint flutter of joy, for he
knew that he must go to Lilith. With a deep sigh, he rose, gathered up
the pall of black velvet, flung it around him, stepped from the couch,
and left the study to find her.

Meantime, Teufelsbuerst had sufficiently recovered to remember that he
had left the door of the studio unfastened, and that any one entering
would discover in what he had been engaged, which, in the case of his
getting into any difficulty about the death of Karl, would tell
powerfully against him. He was at the farther end of a long passage,
leading from the house to the studio, on his way to make all secure,
when Karl appeared at the door, and advanced towards him. The painter,
seized with invincible terror, turned and fled. He reached his room, and
fell senseless on the floor. The phantom held on its way, heedless.

Lilith, on gaining her room the second time, had thrown herself on her
bed as before, and had wept herself into a troubled slumber. She lay
dreaming--and dreadful dreams. Suddenly she awoke in one of those peals
of thunder which tormented the high regions of the air, as a storm
billows the surface of the ocean. She lay awake and listened. As it died
away, she thought she heard, mingling with its last muffled murmurs, the
sound of moaning. She turned her face towards the room in keen terror.
But she saw nothing. Another light, long-drawn sigh reached her ear, and
at the same moment a flash of lightning illumined the room. In the
corner farthest from her bed, she spied a white face, nothing more. She
was dumb and motionless with fear. Utter darkness followed, a darkness
that seemed to enter into her very brain. Yet she felt that the face was
slowly crossing the black gulf of the room, and drawing near to where
she lay. The next flash revealed, as it bended over her, the ghastly
face of Karl, down which flowed fresh tears. The rest of his form was
lost in blackness. Lilith did not faint, but it was the very force of
her fear that seemed to keep her alive. It became for the moment the
atmosphere of her life. She lay trembling and staring at the spot in the
darkness where she supposed the face of Karl still to be. But the next
flash showed her the face far off, looking at her through the panes of
her lattice-window.

For Lottchen, as soon as he saw Lilith, seemed to himself to go through
a second stage of awaking. Her face made him doubt whether he could be a
vampire after all; for instead of wanting to bite her arm and suck the
blood, he all but fell down at her feet in a passion of speechless love.
The next moment he became aware that his presence must be at least very
undesirable to her; and in an instant he had reached her window, which
he knew looked upon a lower roof that extended between two different
parts of the house, and before the next flash came, he had stepped
through the lattice and closed it behind him.

Believing his own room to be attainable from this quarter, he proceeded
along the roof in the direction he judged best. The cold winter air by
degrees restored him entirely to his right mind, and he soon
comprehended the whole of the circumstances in which he found himself.
Peeping through a window he was passing, to see whether it belonged to
his room, he spied Teufelsbuerst, who, at the very moment, was lifting
his head from the faint into which he had fallen at the first sight of
Lottchen. The moon was shining clear, and in its light the painter saw,
to his horror, the pale face staring in at his window. He thought it had
been there ever since he had fainted, and dropped again in a deeper
swoon than before. Karl saw him fall, and the truth flashed upon him
that the wicked artist took him for what he had believed himself to be
when first he recovered from his trance--namely, the vampire of the
former Karl Wolkenlicht. The moment he comprehended it, he resolved to
keep up the delusion if possible. Meantime he was innocently preparing a
new ingredient for the popular dish of horrors to be served at the
ordinary of the city the next day. For the old servant's were not the
only eyes that had seen him besides those of Teufelsbuerst. What could be
more like a vampire, dragging his pall after him, than this apparition
of poor, half-frozen Lottchen, crawling across the roof? Karl remembered
afterwards that he had heard the dogs howling awfully in every
direction, as he crept along; but this was hardly necessary to make
those who saw him conclude that it was the same phantasm of John Kuntz,
which had been infesting the whole city, and especially the house next
door to the painter's, which had been the dwelling of the respectable
alderman who had degenerated into this most disreputable of moneyless
vagabonds. What added to the consternation of all who heard of it, was
the sickening conviction that the extreme measures which they had
resorted to in order to free the city from the ghoul, beyond which
nothing could be done, had been utterly unavailing, successful as they
had proved in every other known case of the kind. For, urged as well by
various horrid signs about his grave, which not even its close proximity
to the altar could render a place of repose, they had opened it, had
found in the body every peculiarity belonging to a vampire, had pulled
it out with the greatest difficulty on account of a quite supernatural
ponderosity; which rendered the horse which had killed him--a strong
animal--all but unable to drag it along, and had at last, after cutting
it in pieces, and expending on the fire two hundred and sixteen great
billets, succeeded in conquering its incombustibleness, and reducing it
to ashes. Such, at least, was the story which had reached the painter's
household, and was believed by many; and if all this did not compel the
perturbed corpse to rest, what more could be done?

When Karl had reached his room, and was dressing himself, the thought
struck him that something might be made of the report of the extreme
weight of the body of old Kuntz, to favour the continuance of the
delusion of Teufelsbuerst, although he hardly knew yet to what use he
could turn this delusion. He was convinced that he would have made no
progress however long he might have remained in his house; and that he
would have more chance of favour with Lilith if he were to meet her in
any other circumstances whatever than those in which he invariably saw
her--namely, surrounded by her father's influences, and watched by her
father's cold blue eyes.

As soon as he was dressed, he crept down to the studio, which was now
quiet enough, the storm being over, and the moon filling it with her
steady shine. In the corner lay in all directions the fragments of the
mould which his own body had formed and filled. The bag of plaster and
the bucket of water which the painter had been using stood beside.
Lottchen gathered all the pieces together, and then making his way to an
outhouse where he had seen various odds and ends of rubbish lying, chose
from the heap as many pieces of old iron and other metal as he could
find. To these he added a few large stones from the garden. When he had
got all into the studio, he locked the door, and proceeded to fit
together the parts of the mould, filling up the hollow as he went on
with the heaviest things he could get into it, and solidifying the whole
by pouring in plaster; till, having at length completed it, and
obliterated, as much as possible, the marks of joining, he left it to
harden, with the conviction that now it would make a considerable
impression on Teufelsbuerst's imagination, as well as on his muscular
sense. He then left everything else as nearly undisturbed as he could;
and, knowing all the ways of the house, was soon in the street, without
leaving any signs of his exit.

Karl soon found himself before the house in which his friend
Hoellenrachen resided. Knowing his studious habits, he had hoped to see
his light still burning, nor was he disappointed. He contrived to bring
him to his window, and a moment after, the door was cautiously opened.

"Why, Lottchen, where do you come from?"

"From the grave, Heinrich, or next door to it."

"Come in, and tell me all about it. We thought the old painter had made
a model of you, and tortured you to death."

"Perhaps you were not far wrong. But get me a horn of ale, for even a
vampire is thirsty, you know."

"A vampire!" exclaimed Heinrich, retreating a pace, and involuntarily
putting himself upon his guard.

Karl laughed.

"My hand was warm, was it not, old fellow?" he said. "Vampires are cold,
all but the blood."

"What a fool I am!" rejoined Heinrich. "But you know we have been
hearing such horrors lately that a fellow may be excused for shuddering
a little when a pale-faced apparition tells him at two o'clock in the
morning that he is a vampire, and thirsty, too."

Karl told him the whole story; and the mental process of regarding it
for the sake of telling it, revealed to him pretty clearly some of the
treatment of which he had been unconscious at the time. Heinrich was
quite sure that his suspicions were correct. And now the question was,
what was to be done next?

"At all events," said Heinrich, "we must keep you out of the way for
some time. I will represent to my landlady that you are in hiding from
enemies, and her heart will rule her tongue. She can let you have a
garret-room, I know; and I will do as well as I can to bear you company.
We shall have time then to invent some plan of operation."

To this proposal Karl agreed with hearty thanks, and soon all was
arranged. The only conclusion they could yet arrive at was, that somehow
or other the old demon-painter must be tamed.

Meantime, how fared it with Lilith? She too had no doubt that she had
seen the body-ghost of poor Karl, and that the vampire had, according to
rule, paid her the first visit because he loved her best. This was
horrible enough if the vampire were not really the person he
represented; but if in any sense it were Karl himself, at least it gave
some expectation of a more prolonged existence than her father had
taught her to look for; and if love anything like her mother's still
lasted, even along with the habits of a vampire, there was something to
hope for in the future. And then, though he had visited her, he had not,
as far as she was aware, deprived her of a drop of blood. She could not
be certain that he had not bitten her, for she had been in such a
strange condition of mind that she might not have felt it, but she
believed that he had restrained the impulses of his vampire nature, and
had left her, lest he should yet yield to them. She fell fast asleep;
and, when morning came, there was not, as far as she could judge, one of
those triangular leech-like perforations to be found upon her whole
body. Will it be believed that the moment she was satisfied of this, she
was seized by a terrible jealousy, lest Karl should have gone and bitten
some one else? Most people will wonder that she should not have gone out
of her senses at once; but there was all the difference between a visit
from a real vampire and a visit from a man she had begun to love, even
although she took him for a vampire. All the difference does _not_ lie
in a name. They were very different causes, and the effects must be very
different.

When Teufelsbuerst came down in the morning, he crept into the studio
like a murderer. There lay the awful white block, seeming to his eyes
just the same as he had left it. What was to be done with it? He dared
not open it. Mould and model must go together. But whither? If inquiry
should be made after Wolkenlicht, and this were discovered anywhere on
his premises, would it not be enough to bring him at once to the
gallows? Therefore it would be dangerous to bury it in the garden, or in
the cellar.

"Besides," thought he, with a shudder, "that would be to fix the vampire
as a guest for ever."--And the horrors of the past night rushed back
upon his imagination with renewed intensity. What would it be to have
the dead Karl crawling about his house for ever, now inside, now out,
now sitting on the stairs, now staring in at the windows?

He would have dragged it to the bottom of his garden, past which the
Moldau flowed, and plunged it into the stream; but then, should the
spectre continue to prove troublesome, it would be almost impossible to
reach the body so as to destroy it by fire; besides which, he could not
do it without assistance, and the probability of discovery. If, however,
the apparition should turn out to be no vampire, but only a respectable
ghost, they might manage to endure its presence, till it should be weary
of haunting them.

He resolved at last to convey the body for the meantime into a concealed
cellar in the house, seeing something must be done before his daughter
came down. Proceeding to remove it, his consternation as greatly
increased when he discovered how the body had grown in weight since he
had thus disposed of it, leaving on his mind scarcely a hope that it
could turn out not to be a vampire after all. He could scarcely stir it,
and there was but one whom he could call to his assistance--the old
woman who acted as his housekeeper and servant.

He went to her room, roused her, and told her the whole story. Devoted
to her master for many years, and not quite so sensitive to fearful
influences as when less experienced in horrors, she showed immediate
readiness to render him assistance. Utterly unable, however, to lift the
mass between them, they could only drag and push it along; and such a
slow toil was it that there was no time to remove the traces of its
track, before Lilith came down and saw a broad white line leading from
the door of the studio down the cellarstairs. She knew in a moment what
it meant; but not a word was uttered about the matter, and the name of
Karl Wolkenlicht seemed to be entirely forgotten.

But how could the affairs of a house go on all the same when every one
of the household knew that a dead body lay in the cellar?--nay more,
that, although it lay still and dead enough all day, it would come half
alive at nightfall, and, turning the whole house into a sepulchre by its
presence, go creeping about like a cat all over it in the dark--perhaps
with phosphorescent eyes? So it was not surprising that the painter
abandoned his studio early, and that the three found themselves together
in the gorgeous room formerly described, as soon as twilight began to
fall.

Already Teufelsbuerst had begun to experience a kind of shrinking from
the horrid faces in his own pictures, and to feel disgusted at the
abortions of his own mind. But all that he and the old woman now felt
was an increasing fear as the night drew on, a kind of sickening and
paralysing terror. The thing down there would not lie quiet--at least
its phantom in the cellars of their imagination would not. As much as
possible, however, they avoided alarming Lilith, who, knowing all they
knew, was as silent as they. But her mind was in a strange state of
excitement, partly from the presence of a new sense of love, the
pleasure of which all the atmosphere of grief into which it grew could
not totally quench. It comforted her somehow, as a child may comfort
when his father is away.

Bedtime came, and no one made a move to go. Without a word spoken on the
subject, the three remained together all night; the elders nodding and
slumbering occasionally, and Lilith getting some share of repose on a
couch. All night the shape of death might be somewhere about the house;
but it did not disturb them. They heard no sound, saw no sight; and when
the morning dawned, they separated, chilled and stupid, and for the time
beyond fear, to seek repose in their private chambers. There they
remained equally undisturbed.

But when the painter approached his easel a few hours after, looking
more pale and haggard still than he was wont, from the fears of the
night, a new bewilderment took possession of him. He had been busy with
a fresh embodiment of his favourite subject, into which he had sketched
the form of the student as the sufferer. He had represented poor
Wolkenlicht as just beginning to recover from a trance, while a group of
surgeons, unaware of the signs of returning life, were absorbed in a
minute dissection of one of the limbs. At an open door he had painted
Lilith passing, with her face buried in a bunch of sweet peas. But when
he came to the picture, he found, to his astonishment and terror, that
the face of one of the group was now turned towards that of the victim,
regarding his revival with demoniac satisfaction, and taking pains to
prevent the others from discovering it. The face of this prince of
torturers was that of Teufelsbuerst himself. Lilith had altogether
vanished, and in her place stood the dim vampire reiteration of the body
that lay extended on the table, staring greedily at the assembled
company. With trembling hands the painter removed the picture from the
easel, and turned its face to the wall.

Of course this was the work of Lottchen. When he left the house, he took
with him the key of a small private door, which was so seldom used that,
while it remained closed, the key would not be missed, perhaps for many
months. Watching the windows, he had chosen a safe time to enter, and
had been hard at work all night on these alterations. Teufelsbuerst
attributed them to the vampire, and left the picture as he found it, not
daring to put brush to it again.

The next night was passed much after the same fashion. But the fear had
begun to die away a little in the hearts of the women, who did not know
what had taken place in the studio on the previous night. It burrowed,
however, with gathered force in the vitals of Teufelsbuerst. But this
night likewise passed in peace; and before it was over, the old woman
had taken to speculating in her own mind as to the best way of disposing
of the body, seeing it was not at all likely to be troublesome. But when
the painter entered his studio in trepidation the next morning, he found
that the form of the lovely Lilith was painted out of every picture in
the room. This could not be concealed; and Lilith and the servant became
aware that the studio was the portion of the house in haunting which the
vampire left the rest in peace.

Karl recounted all the tricks he had played to his friend Heinrich, who
begged to be allowed to bear him company the following night. To this
Karl consented, thinking it would be considerably more agreeable to have
a companion. So they took a couple of bottles of wine and some
provisions with them, and before midnight found themselves snug in the
studio. They sat very quiet for some time, for they knew that if they
were seen, two vampires would not be so terrible as one, and might
occasion discovery. But at length Heinrich could bear it no longer.

"I say, Lottchen, let's go and look; for your dead body. What has the
old beggar done with it?"

"I think I know. Stop; let me peep out. All right! Come along."

With a lamp in his hand, he led the way to the cellars, and after
searching about a little they discovered it.

"It looks horrid enough," said Heinrich, "but think a drop or two of
wine would brighten it up a little."

So he took a bottle from his pocket, and after they had had a glass
apiece, he dropped a third in blots all over the plaster. Being red
wine, it had the effect Hoellenrachen desired.

"When they visit it next, they will know that the vampire can find the
food he prefers," said he.

In a corner close by the plaster, they found the clothes Karl had worn.

"Hillo!" said Heinrich, "we'll make something of this find."

So he carried them with him to the studio. There he got hold of the
lay-figure.

"What are you about, Heinrich?"

"Going to make a scarecrow to keep the ravens off old Teufel's
pictures," answered Heinrich, as he went on dressing the lay-figure in
Karl's clothes. He next seated the creature at an easel with its back to
the door, so that it should be the first thing the painter should see
when he entered. Karl meant to remove this before he went, for it was
too comical to fall in with the rest of his proceedings. But the two sat
down to their supper, and by the time they had finished the wine, they
thought they should like to go to bed. So they got up and went home, and
Karl forgot the lay-figure, leaving it in busy motionlessness all night
before the easel. When Teufelsbuerst saw it, he turned and fled with a
cry that brought his daughter to his help. He rushed past her, able only
to articulate:

"The vampire! The vampire! Painting!"

Far more courageous than he, because her conscience was more peaceful,
Lilith passed on to the studio. She too recoiled a step or two when she
saw the figure; but with the sight of the back of Karl, as she supposed
it to be, came the longing to see the face that was on the other side.
So she crept round and round by the wall, as far off as she could. The
figure remained motionless. It was a strange kind of shock that she
experienced when she saw the face, disgusting from its inanity. The
absurdity next struck her; and with the absurdity flashed into her mind
the conviction that this was not the doing of a vampire; for of all
creatures under the moon, he could not be expected to be a humorist. A
wild hope sprang up in her mind that Karl was not dead. Of this she soon
resolved to make herself sure.

She closed the door of the studio; in the strength of her new hope
undressed the figure, put it in its place, concealed the garments--all
the work of a few minutes; and then, finding her father just recovering
from the worst of his fear, told him there was nothing in the studio but
what ought to be there, and persuaded him to go and see. He not only saw
no one, but found that no further liberties had been taken with his
pictures. Reassured, he soon persuaded himself that the spectre in this
case had been the offspring of his own terror-haunted brain. But he had
no spirit for painting now. He wandered about the house, himself
haunting it like a restless ghost.

When night came, Lilith retired to her own room. The waters of fear had
begun to subside in the house; but the painter and his old attendant did
not yet follow her example.

As soon, however, as the house was quite still, Lilith glided
noiselessly down the stairs, went into the studio, where as yet there
assuredly was no vampire, and concealed herself in a corner.

As it would not do for an earnest student like Heinrich to be away from
his work very often, he had not asked to accompany Lottchen this time.
And indeed Karl himself, a little anxious about the result of the
scarecrow, greatly preferred going alone.

While she was waiting for what might happen, the conviction grew upon
Lilith, as she reviewed all the past of the story, that these phenomena
were the work of the real Karl, and of no vampire. In a few moments she
was still more sure of this. Behind the screen where she had taken
refuge, hung one of the pictures out of which her portrait had been
painted the night before last. She had taken a lamp with her into the
studio, with the intention of extinguishing it the moment she heard any
sign of approach; but as the vampire lingered, she began to occupy
herself with examining the picture beside her. She had not looked at it
long, before she wetted the tip of her forefinger, and began to rub away
at the obliteration. Her suspicions were instantly confirmed: the
substance employed was only a gummy wash over the paint. The delight she
experienced at the discovery threw her into a mischievous humour.

"I will see," she said to herself, "whether I cannot match Karl
Wolkenlicht at this game."

In a closet in the room hung a number of costumes, which Lilith had at
different times worn for her father. Among them was a large white
drapery, which she easily disposed as a shroud. With the help of some
chalk, she soon made herself ghastly enough, and then placing her lamp
on the floor behind the screen, and setting a chair over it, so that it
should throw no light in any direction, she waited once more for the
vampire. Nor had she much longer to wait. She soon heard a door move,
the sound of which she hardly knew, and then the studio door opened. Her
heart beat dreadfully, not with fear lest it should be a vampire after
all, but with hope that it was Karl. To see him once more was too great
joy. Would she not make up to him for all her coldness! But would he
care for her now? Perhaps he had been quite cured of his longing for a
hard heart like hers. She peeped. It was he sure enough, looking as
handsome as ever. He was holding his light to look at her last work, and
the expression of his face, even in regarding her handiwork, was enough
to let her know that he loved her still. If she had not seen this, she
dared not have shown herself from her hiding-place. Taking the lamp in
her hand, she got upon the chair, and looked over the screen, letting
the light shine from below upon her face. She then made a slight noise
to attract Karl's attention. He looked up, evidently rather startled,
and saw the face of Lilith in the air: He gave a stifled cry threw
himself on his knees with his arms stretched towards her, and moaned--

"I have killed her! I have killed her!"

Lilith descended, and approached him noiselessly. He did not move. She
came close to him and said--

"Are you Karl Wolkenlicht?"

His lips moved, but no sound came.

"If you are a vampire, and I am a ghost," she said--but a low happy
laugh alone concluded the sentence.

Karl sprang to his feet. Lilith's laugh changed into a burst of sobbing
and weeping, and in another moment the ghost was in the arms of the
vampire.

Lilith had no idea how far her father had wronged Karl, and though, from
thinking over the past, he had no doubt that the painter had drugged
him, he did not wish to pain her by imparting this conviction. But
Lilith was afraid of a reaction of rage and hatred in her father after
the terror was removed; and Karl saw that he might thus be deprived of
all further intercourse with Lilith, and all chance of softening the old
man's heart towards him; while Lilith would not hear of forsaking him
who had banished all the human race but herself. They managed at length
to agree upon a plan of operation.

The first thing they did was to go to the cellar where the plaster mass
lay, Karl carrying with him a great axe used for cleaving wood. Lilith
shuddered when she saw it, stained as it was with the wine Heinrich had
spilt over it, and almost believed herself the midnight companion of a
vampire after all, visiting with him the terrible corpse in which he
lived all day. But Karl soon reassured her; and a few good blows of the
axe revealed a very different core to that which Teufelsbuerst supposed
to be in it. Karl broke it into pieces, and with Lilith's help, who
insisted on carrying her share, the whole was soon at the bottom of the
Moldau and every trace of its ever having existed removed. Before
morning, too, the form of Lilith had dawned anew in every picture. There
was no time to restore to its former condition the one Karl had first
altered; for in it the changes were all that they seemed; nor indeed was
he capable of restoring it in the master's style; but they put it quite
out of the way, and hoped that sufficient time might elapse before the
painter thought of it again.

When they had done, and Lilith, for all his entreaties, would remain
with him no longer, Karl took his former clothes with him, and having
spent the rest of the night in his old room, dressed in them in the
morning. When Teufelsbuerst entered his studio next day, there sat Karl,
as if nothing had happened, finishing the drawing on which he had been
at work when the fit of insensibility came upon him. The painter
started, stared, rubbed his eyes, thought it was another spectral
illusion, and was on the point of yielding to his terror, when Karl
rose, and approached him with a smile. The healthy, sunshiny countenance
of Karl, let him be ghost or goblin, could not fail to produce somewhat
of a tranquillising effect on Teufelsbuerst. He took his offered hand
mechanically, his countenance utterly vacant with idiotic bewilderment.
Karl said--

"I was not well, and thought it better to pay a visit to a friend for a
few days; but I shall soon make up for lost time, for I am all right
now."

He sat down at once, taking no notice of his master's behaviour, and
went on with his drawing. Teufelsbuerst stood staring at him for some
minutes without moving, then suddenly turned and left the room. Karl
heard him hurrying down the cellar stairs. In a few moments he came up
again. Karl stole a glance at him. There he stood in the same spot, no
doubt more full of bewilderment than ever, but it was not possible that
his face should express more. At last he went to his easel, and sat down
with a long-drawn sigh as if of relief. But though he sat at his easel,
he painted none that day; and as often as Karl ventured a glance, he saw
him still staring at him. The discovery that his pictures were restored
to their former condition aided, no doubt, in leading him to the same
conclusion as the other facts, whatever that conclusion might
be--probably that he had been the sport of some evil power, and had been
for the greater part of a week utterly bewitched. Lilith had taken care
to instruct the old woman, with whom she was all-powerful; and as
neither of them showed the smallest traces of the astonishment which
seemed to be slowly vitrifying his own brain, he was at last perfectly
satisfied that things had been going on all right everywhere but in his
inner man; and in this conclusion he certainly was not far wrong, in
more senses than one. But when all was restored again to the old
routine, it became evident that the peculiar direction of his art in
which he had hitherto indulged had ceased to interest him. The shock had
acted chiefly upon that part of his mental being which had been so
absorbed. He would sit for hours without doing anything, apparently
plunged in meditation.--Several weeks elapsed without any change, and
both Lilith and Karl were getting dreadfully anxious about him. Karl
paid him every attention; and the old man, for he now looked much older
than before, submitted to receive his services as well as those of
Lilith. At length, one morning, he said in a slow thoughtful tone--

"Karl Wolkenlicht, I should like to paint you."

"Certainly, sir," answered Karl, jumping up, "where would you like me to
sit?"

So the ice of silence and inactivity was broken, and the painter drew
and painted; and the spring of his art flowed once more; and he made a
beautiful portrait of Karl--a portrait without evil or suffering. And as
soon as he had finished Karl, he began once more to paint Lilith; and
when he had painted her, he composed a picture for the very purpose of
introducing them together; and in this picture there was neither
ugliness nor torture, but human feeling and human hope instead. Then
Karl knew that he might speak to him of Lilith; and he spoke, and was
heard with a smile. But he did not dare to tell him the truth of the
vampire story till one day that Teufelsbuerst was lying on the floor of a
room in Karl's ancestral castle, half smothered in grandchildren; when
the only answer it drew from the old man was a kind of shuddering laugh
and the words "Don't speak of it, Karl, my boy!"




THE CASTLE




On the top of a high cliff, forming part of the base of a great
mountain, stood a lofty castle. When or how it was built, no man knew;
nor could any one pretend to understand its architecture. Every one who
looked upon it felt that it was lordly and noble; and where one part
seemed not to agree with another, the wise and modest dared not to call
them incongruous, but presumed that the whole might be constructed on
some higher principle of architecture than they yet understood. What
helped them to this conclusion was, that no one had ever seen the whole
of the edifice; that, even of the portion best known, some part or other
was always wrapped in thick folds of mist from the mountain; and that,
when the sun shone upon this mist, the parts of the building that
appeared through the vaporous veil were strangely glorified in their
indistinctness, so that they seemed to belong to some aerial abode in
the land of the sunset; and the beholders could hardly tell whether they
had ever seen them before, or whether they were now for the first time
partially revealed.

Nor, although it was inhabited, could certain information be procured as
to its internal construction. Those who dwelt in it often discovered
rooms they had never entered before--yea, once or twice,--whole suites
of apartments, of which only dim legends had been handed down from
former times. Some of them expected to find, one day, secret places,
filled with treasures of wondrous jewels; amongst which they hoped to
light upon Solomon's ring, which had for ages disappeared from the
earth, but which had controlled the spirits, and the possession of which
made a man simply what a man should be, the king of the world. Now and
then, a narrow, winding stair, hitherto untrodden, would bring them
forth on a new turret, whence new prospects of the circumjacent country
were spread out before them. How many more of these there might be, or
how much loftier, no one could tell. Nor could the foundations of the
castle in the rock on which it was built be determined with the smallest
approach to precision. Those of the family who had given themselves to
exploring in that direction, found such a labyrinth of vaults and
passages, and endless successions of down-going stairs, out of one
underground space into a yet lower, that they came to the conclusion
that at least the whole mountain was perforated and honeycombed in this
fashion. They had a dim consciousness, too, of the presence, in those
awful regions, of beings whom they could not comprehend. Once they came
upon the brink of a great black gulf, in which the eye could see nothing
but darkness: they recoiled with horror; for the conviction flashed upon
them that that gulf went down into the very central spaces of the earth,
of which they had hitherto been wandering only in the upper crust; nay,
that the seething blackness before them had relations mysterious, and
beyond human comprehension, with the far-off voids of space, into which
the stars dare not enter.

At the foot of the cliff whereon the castle stood, lay a deep lake,
inaccessible save by a few avenues, being surrounded on all sides with
precipices which made the water look very black, although it was pure as
the nightsky. From a door in the castle, which was not to be otherwise
entered, a broad flight of steps, cut in the rock, went down to the
lake, and disappeared below its surface. Some thought the steps went to
the very bottom of the water.

Now in this castle there dwelt a large family of brothers and sisters.
They had never seen their father or mother. The younger had been
educated by the elder, and these by an unseen care and ministration,
about the sources of which they had, somehow or other, troubled
themselves very little--for what people are accustomed to, they regard
as coming from nobody; as if help and progress and joy and love were the
natural crops of Chaos or old Night. But Tradition said that one day--it
was utterly uncertain _when_--their father would come, and leave them no
more; for he was still alive, though where he lived nobody knew. In the
meantime all the rest had to obey their eldest brother, and listen to
his counsels.

But almost all the family was very fond of liberty, as they called it;
and liked to run up and down, hither and thither, roving about, with
neither law nor order, just as they pleased. So they could not endure
their brother's tyranny, as they called it. At one time they said that
he was only one of themselves, and therefore they would not obey him; at
another, that he was not like them, and could not understand them, and
_therefore_ they would not obey him. Yet, sometimes, when he came and
looked them full in the face, they were terrified, and dared not
disobey, for he was stately and stern and strong. Not one of them loved
him heartily, except the eldest sister, who was very beautiful and
silent, and whose eyes shone as if light lay somewhere deep behind them.
Even she, although she loved him, thought him very hard sometimes; for
when he had once said a thing plainly, he could not be persuaded to
think it over again. So even she forgot him sometimes, and went her own
ways, and enjoyed herself without him. Most of them regarded him as a
sort of watchman, whose business it was to keep them in order; and so
they were indignant and disliked him. Yet they all had a secret feeling
that they ought to be subject to him; and after any particular act of
disregard, none of them could think, with any peace, of the old story
about the return of their father to his house. But indeed they never
thought much about it, or about their father at all; for how could those
who cared so little for their brother, whom they saw every day, care for
their father whom they had never seen?--One chief cause of complaint
against him was that he interfered with their favourite studies and
pursuits; whereas he only sought to make them give up trifling with
earnest things, and seek for truth, and not for amusement, from the many
wonders around them. He did not want them to turn to other studies, or
to eschew pleasures; but, in those studies, to seek the highest things
most, and other things in proportion to their true worth and nobleness.
This could not fail to be distasteful to those who did not care for what
was higher than they. And so matters went on for a time. They thought
they could do better without their brother; and their brother knew they
could not do at all without him, and tried to fulfil the charge
committed into his hands.

At length, one day, for the thought seemed to strike them
simultaneously, they conferred together about giving a great
entertainment in their grandest rooms to any of their neighbours who
chose to come, or indeed to any inhabitants of the earth or air who
would visit them. They were too proud to reflect that some company might
defile even the dwellers in what was undoubtedly the finest palace on
the face of the earth. But what made the thing worse, was, that the old
tradition said that these rooms were to be kept entirely for the use of
the owner of the castle. And, indeed, whenever they entered them, such
was the effect of their loftiness and grandeur upon their minds, that
they always thought of the old story, and could not help believing it.
Nor would the brother permit them to forget it now; but, appearing
suddenly amongst them, when they had no expectation of being interrupted
by him, he rebuked them, both for the indiscriminate nature of their
invitation, and for the intention of introducing any one, not to speak
of some who would doubtless make their appearance on the evening in
question, into the rooms kept sacred for the use of the unknown father.
But by this time their talk with each other had so excited their
expectations of enjoyment, which had previously been strong enough, that
anger sprung up within them at the thought of being deprived of their
hopes, and they looked each other in the eyes; and the look said: "We
are many and he is one--let us get rid of him, for he is always finding
fault, and thwarting us in the most innocent pleasures;--as if we would
wish to do anything wrong!" So without a word spoken, they rushed upon
him; and although he was stronger than any of them, and struggled hard
at first, yet they overcame him at last. Indeed some of them thought he
yielded to their violence long before they had the mastery of him; and
this very submission terrified the more tender-hearted amongst them.
However, they bound him; carried him down many stairs, and, having
remembered an iron staple in the wall of a certain vault, with a thick
rusty chain attached to it, they bore him thither, and made the chain
fast around him. There they left him, shutting the great gnarring brazen
door of the vault, as they departed for the upper regions of the castle.

Now all was in a tumult of preparation. Every one was talking of the
coming festivity; but no one spoke of the deed they had done. A sudden
paleness overspread the face, now of one, and now of another; but it
passed away, and no one took any notice of it; they only plied the task
of the moment the more energetically. Messengers were sent far and near,
not to individuals or families, but publishing in all places of
concourse a general invitation to any who chose to come on a certain
day, and partake for certain succeeding days of the hospitality of the
dwellers in the castle. Many were the preparations immediately begun for
complying with the invitation. But the noblest of their neighbours
refused to appear; not from pride, but because of the unsuitableness and
carelessness of such a mode. With some of them it was an old condition
in the tenure of their estates, that they should go to no one's dwelling
except visited in person, and expressly solicited. Others, knowing what
sort of persons would be there, and that, from a certain physical
antipathy, they could scarcely breathe in their company, made up their
minds at once not to go. Yet multitudes, many of them beautiful and
innocent as well as gay, resolved to appear.

Meanwhile the great rooms of the castle were got in readiness--that is,
they proceeded to deface them with decorations; for there was a
solemnity and stateliness about them in their ordinary condition, which
was at once felt to be unsuitable for the light-hearted company so soon
to move about in them with the self-same carelessness with which men
walk abroad within the great heavens and hills and clouds. One day,
while the workmen were busy, the eldest sister, of whom I have already
spoken, happened to enter, she knew not why. Suddenly the great idea of
the mighty halls dawned upon her, and filled her soul. The so-called
decorations vanished from her view, and she felt as if she stood in her
father's presence. She was at one elevated and humbled. As suddenly the
idea faded and fled, and she beheld but the gaudy festoons and draperies
and paintings which disfigured the grandeur. She wept and sped away. Now
it was too late to interfere, and things must take their course. She
would have been but a Cassandra-prophetess to those who saw but the
pleasure before them. She had not been present when her brother was
imprisoned; and indeed for some days had been so wrapt in her own
business, that she had taken but little heed of anything that was going
on. But they all expected her to show herself when the company was
gathered; and they had applied to her for advice at various times during
their operations.

At length the expected hour arrived, and the company began to assemble.
It was a warm summer evening. The dark lake reflected the rose-coloured
clouds in the west, and through the flush rowed many gaily painted
boats, with various coloured flags, towards the massy rock on which the
castle stood. The trees and flowers seemed already asleep, and breathing
forth their sweet dream-breath. Laughter and low voices rose from the
breast of the lake to the ears of the youths and maidens looking forth
expectant from the lofty windows. They went down to the broad platform
at the top of the stairs in front of the door to receive their visitors.
By degrees the festivities of the evening commenced. The same smiles
flew forth both at eyes and lips, darting like beams through the
gathering crowd. Music, from unseen sources, now rolled in billows, now
crept in ripples through the sea of air that filled the lofty rooms. And
in the dancing halls, when hand took hand, and form and motion were
moulded and swayed by the indwelling music, it governed not these alone,
but, as the ruling spirit of the place, every new burst of music for a
new dance swept before it a new and accordant odour, and dyed the flames
that glowed in the lofty lamps with a new and accordant stain. The
floors bent beneath the feet of the time-keeping dancers. But twice in
the evening some of the inmates started, and the pallor occasionally
common to the household overspread their faces, for they felt underneath
them a counter-motion to the dance, as if the floor rose slightly to
answer their feet. And all the time their brother lay below in the
dungeon, like John the Baptist in the castle of Herod, when the lords
and captains sat around, and the daughter of Herodias danced before
them. Outside, all around the castle, brooded the dark night unheeded;
for the clouds had come up from all sides, and were crowding together
overhead. In the unfrequent pauses of the music, they might have heard,
now and then, the gusty rush of a lonely wind, coming and going no one
could know whence or whither, born and dying unexpected and unregarded.

But when the festivities were at their height, when the external and
passing confidence which is produced between superficial natures by a
common pleasure was at the full, a sudden crash of thunder quelled the
music, as the thunder quells the noise of the uplifted sea. The windows
were driven in, and torrents of rain, carried in the folds of a rushing
wind, poured into the halls. The lights were swept away; and the great
rooms, now dark within, were darkened yet more by the dazzling shoots of
flame from the vault of blackness overhead. Those that ventured to look
out of the windows saw, in the blue brilliancy of the quick-following
jets of lightning, the lake at the foot of the rock, ordinarily so still
and so dark, lighted up, not on the surface only, but down to half its
depth; so that, as it tossed in the wind, like a tortured sea of
writhing flames, or incandescent half-molten serpents of brass, they
could not tell whether a strong phosphorescence did not issue from the
transparent body of the waters, as if earth and sky lightened together,
one consenting source of flaming utterance.

Sad was the condition of the late plastic mass of living form that had
flowed into shape at the will and law of the music. Broken into
individuals, the common transfusing spirit withdrawn, they stood
drenched, cold, and benumbed, with clinging garments; light, order,
harmony, purpose departed, and chaos restored; the issuings of life
turned back on their sources, chilly and dead. And in every heart
reigned the falsest of despairing convictions, that this was the only
reality, and that was but a dream. The eldest sister stood with clasped
hands and down-bent head, shivering and speechless, as if waiting for
something to follow. Nor did she wait long. A terrible flash and
thunder-peal made the castle rock; and in the pausing silence that
followed, her quick sense heard the rattling of a chain far off, deep
down; and soon the sound of heavy footsteps, accompanied with the
clanking of iron, reached her ear. She felt that her brother was at
hand. Even in the darkness, and amidst the bellowing of another
deep-bosomed cloud-monster, she knew that he had entered the room. A
moment after, a continuous pulsation of angry blue light began, which,
lasting for some moments, revealed him standing amidst them, gaunt,
haggard, and motionless; his hair and beard untrimmed, his face ghastly,
his eyes large and hollow. The light seemed to gather around him as a
centre. Indeed some believed that it throbbed and radiated from his
person, and not from the stormy heavens above them. The lightning had
rent the wall of his prison, and released the iron staple of his chain,
which he had wound about him like a girdle. In his hand he carried an
iron fetter-bar, which he had found on the floor of the vault. More
terrified at his aspect than at all the violence of the storm, the
visitors, with many a shriek and cry, rushed out into the tempestuous
night. By degrees, the storm died away. Its last flash revealed the
forms of the brothers and sisters lying prostrate, with their faces on
the floor, and that fearful shape standing motionless amidst them still.

Morning dawned, and there they lay, and there he stood. But at a word
from him, they arose and went about their various duties, though
listlessly enough. The eldest sister was the last to rise; and when she
did, it was only by a terrible effort that she was able to reach her
room, where she fell again on the floor. There she remained lying for
days. The brother caused the doors of the great suite of rooms to be
closed, leaving them just as they were, with all the childish adornment
scattered about, and the rain still falling in through the shattered
windows. "Thus let them lie," said he, "till the rain and frost have
cleansed them of paint and drapery: no storm can hurt the pillars and
arches of these halls."

The hours of this day went heavily. The storm was gone, but the rain was
left; the passion had departed, but the tears remained behind. Dull and
dark the low misty clouds brooded over the castle and the lake, and shut
out all the neighbourhood. Even if they had climbed to the loftiest
known turret, they would have found it swathed in a garment of clinging
vapour, affording no refreshment to the eye, and no hope to the heart.
There was one lofty tower that rose sheer a hundred feet above the rest,
and from which the fog could have been seen lying in a grey mass
beneath; but that tower they had not yet discovered, nor another close
beside it, the top of which was never seen, nor could be, for the
highest clouds of heaven clustered continually around it. The rain fell
continuously, though not heavily, without; and within, too, there were
clouds from which dropped the tears which are the rain of the spirit.
All the good of life seemed for the time departed, and their souls lived
but as leafless trees that had forgotten the joy of the summer, and whom
no wind prophetic of spring had yet visited. They moved about
mechanically, and had not strength enough left to wish to die.

The next day the clouds were higher, and a little wind blew through such
loopholes in the turrets as the false improvements of the inmates had
not yet filled with glass, shutting out, as the storm, so the serene
visitings of the heavens. Throughout the day, the brother took various
opportunities of addressing a gentle command, now to one and now to
another of his family. It was obeyed in silence. The wind blew fresher
through the loopholes and the shattered windows of the great rooms, and
found its way, by unknown passages, to faces and eyes hot with weeping.
It cooled and blessed them.--When the sun arose the next day, it was in
a clear sky.

By degrees, everything fell into the regularity of subordination. With
the subordination came increase of freedom. The steps of the more
youthful of the family were heard on the stairs and in the corridors
more light and quick than ever before. Their brother had lost the
terrors of aspect produced by his confinement, and his commands were
issued more gently, and oftener with a smile, than in all their previous
history. By degrees his presence was universally felt through the house.
It was no surprise to any one at his studies, to see him by his side
when he lifted up his eyes, though he had not before known that he was
in the room. And although some dread still remained, it was rapidly
vanishing before the advances of a firm friendship. Without immediately
ordering their labours, he always influenced them, and often altered
their direction and objects. The change soon evident in the household
was remarkable. A simpler, nobler expression was visible on all the
countenances. The voices of the men were deeper, and yet seemed by their
very depth more feminine than before; while the voices of the women were
softer and sweeter, and at the same time more full and decided. Now the
eyes had often an expression as if their sight was absorbed in the gaze
of the inward eyes; and when the eyes of two met, there passed between
those eyes the utterance of a conviction that both meant the same thing.
But the change was, of course, to be seen more clearly, though not more
evidently, in individuals.

One of the brothers, for instance, was very fond of astronomy. He had
his observatory on a lofty tower, which stood pretty clear of the
others, towards the north and east. But hitherto, his astronomy, as he
had called it, had been more of the character of astrology. Often, too,
he might have been seen directing a heaven-searching telescope to catch
the rapid transit of a fiery shooting-star, belonging altogether to the
earthly atmosphere, and not to the serene heavens. He had to learn that
the signs of the air are not the signs of the skies. Nay, once, his
brother surprised him in the act of examining through his longest tube a
patch of burning heath upon a distant hill. But now he was diligent from
morning till night in the study of the laws of the truth that has to do
with stars; and when the curtain of the sunlight was about to rise from
before the heavenly worlds which it had hidden all day long, he might be
seen preparing his instruments with that solemn countenance with which
it becometh one to look into the mysterious harmonies of Nature. Now he
learned what law and order and truth are, what consent and harmony mean;
how the individual may find his own end in a higher end, where law and
freedom mean the same thing, and the purest certainty exists without the
slightest constraint. Thus he stood on the earth, and looked to the
heavens.

Another, who had been much given to searching out the hollow places and
recesses in the foundations of the castle, and who was often to be found
with compass and ruler working away at a chart of the same which he had
been in process of constructing, now came to the conclusion, that only
by ascending the upper regions of his abode could he become capable of
understanding what lay beneath; and that, in all probability, one clear
prospect, from the top of the highest attainable turret, over the castle
as it lay below, would reveal more of the idea of its internal
construction, than a year spent in wandering through its subterranean
vaults. But the fact was, that the desire to ascend wakening within him
had made him forget what was beneath; and having laid aside his chart
for a time at least, he was now to be met in every quarter of the upper
parts, searching and striving upward, now in one direction, now in
another; and seeking, as he went, the best outlooks into the clear air
of outer realities.

And they began to discover that they were all meditating different
aspects of the same thing; and they brought together their various
discoveries, and recognised the likeness between them; and the one thing
often explained the other, and combining with it helped to a third. They
grew in consequence more and more friendly and loving; so that every now
and then one turned to another and said, as in surprise, "Why, you are
my brother!"--"Why, you are my sister!" And yet they had always known
it.

The change reached to all. One, who lived on the air of sweet sounds,
and who was almost always to be found seated by her harp or some other
instrument, had, till the late storm, been generally merry and playful,
though sometimes sad. But for a long time after that, she was often
found weeping, and playing little simple airs which she had heard in
childhood--backward longings, followed by fresh tears. Before long,
however, a new element manifested itself in her music. It became yet
more wild, and sometimes retained all its sadness, but it was mingled
with anticipation and hope. The past and the future merged in one; and
while memory yet brought the rain-cloud, expectation threw the rainbow
across its bosom--and all was uttered in her music, which rose and
swelled, now to defiance, now to victory; then died in a torrent of
weeping.

As to the eldest sister, it was many days before she recovered from the
shock. At length, one day, her brother came to her, took her by the
hand, led her to an open window, and told her to seat herself by it, and
look out. She did so; but at first saw nothing more than an
unsympathising blaze of sunlight. But as she looked, the horizon widened
out, and the dome of the sky ascended, till the grandeur seized upon her
soul, and she fell on her knees and wept. Now the heavens seemed to bend
lovingly over her, and to stretch out wide cloud-arms to embrace her;
the earth lay like the bosom of an infinite love beneath her, and the
wind kissed her cheek with an odour of roses. She sprang to her feet,
and turned, in an agony of hope, expecting to behold the face of the
father, but there stood only her brother, looking calmly though lovingly
on her emotion. She turned again to the window. On the hilltops rested
the sky: Heaven and Earth were one; and the prophecy awoke in her soul,
that from betwixt them would the steps of the father approach.

Hitherto she had seen but Beauty; now she beheld Truth. Often had she
looked on such clouds as these, and loved the strange ethereal curves
into which the winds moulded them; and had smiled as her little pet
sister told her what curious animals she saw in them, and tried to point
them out to her. Now they were as troops of angels, jubilant over her
new birth, for they sang, in her soul, of beauty, and truth, and love.
She looked down, and her little sister knelt beside her.

She was a curious child, with black, glittering eyes, and dark hair; at
the mercy of every wandering wind; a frolicsome, daring girl, who
laughed more than she smiled. She was generally in attendance on her
sister, and was always finding and bringing her strange things. She
never pulled a primrose, but she knew the haunts of all the orchis
tribe, and brought from them bees and butterflies innumerable, as
offerings to her sister. Curious moths and glow-worms were her greatest
delight; and she loved the stars, because they were like the glow-worms.
But the change had affected her too; for her sister saw that her eyes
had lost their glittering look, and had become more liquid and
transparent. And from that time she often observed that her gaiety was
more gentle, her smile more frequent, her laugh less bell-like; and
although she was as wild as ever, there was more elegance in her
motions, and more music in her voice. And she clung to her sister with
far greater fondness than before.

The land reposed in the embrace of the warm summer days. The clouds of
heaven nestled around the towers of the castle; and the hearts of its
inmates became conscious of a warm atmosphere--of a presence of love.
They began to feel like the children of a household, when the mother is
at home. Their faces and forms grew daily more and more beautiful, till
they wondered as they gazed on each other. As they walked in the gardens
of the castle, or in the country around, they were often visited,
especially the eldest sister, by sounds that no one heard but
themselves, issuing from woods and waters; and by forms of love that
lightened out of flowers, and grass, and great rocks. Now and then the
young children would come in with a slow, stately step, and, with great
eyes that looked as if they would devour all the creation, say that they
had met the father amongst the trees, and that he had kissed them;
"And," added one of them once, "I grew so big!" But when the others went
out to look, they could see no one. And some said it must have been the
brother, who grew more and more beautiful, and loving, and reverend, and
who had lost all traces of hardness, so that they wondered they could
ever have thought him stern and harsh. But the eldest sister held her
peace, and looked up, and her eyes filled with tears. "Who can tell,"
thought she, "but the little children know more about it than we?"

Often, at sunrise, might be heard their hymn of praise to their unseen
father, whom they felt to be near, though they saw him not. Some words
thereof once reached my ear through the folds of the music in which they
floated, as in an upward snowstorm of sweet sounds. And these are some
of the words I heard--but there was much I seemed to hear which I could
not understand, and some things which I understood but cannot utter
again.

"We thank thee that we have a father, and not a maker; that thou hast
begotten us, and not moulded us as images of clay; that we have come
forth of thy heart, and have not been fashioned by thy hands. It _must_
be so. Only the heart of a father is able to create. We rejoice in it,
and bless thee that we know it. We thank thee for thyself. Be what thou
art--our root and life, our beginning and end, our all in all. Come home
to us. Thou livest; therefore we live. In thy light we see. Thou
art--that is all our song."

Thus they worship, and love, and wait. Their hope and expectation grow
ever stronger and brighter, that one day, ere long, the Father will show
Himself amongst them, and thenceforth dwell in His own house for
evermore. What was once but an old legend has become the one desire of
their hearts.

And the loftiest hope is the surest of being fulfilled.




THE WOW O'RIVEN




Elsie Scott had let her work fall on her knees, and her hands on her
work, and was looking out of the wide, low window of her room, which was
on one of the ground floors of the village street. Through a gap in the
household shrubbery of fuchsias and myrtles filling the window-sill, one
passing on the foot pavement might get a momentary glimpse of her pale
face, lighted up with two blue eyes, over which some inward trouble had
spread a faint, gauze-like haziness. But almost before her thoughts had
had time to wander back to this trouble, a shout of children's voices,
at the other end of the street, reached her ear. She listened a moment.
A shadow of displeasure and pain crossed her countenance; and rising
hastily, she betook herself to an inner apartment, and closed the door
behind her.

Meantime the sounds drew nearer; and by and by an old man, whose strange
appearance and dress showed that he had little capacity either for good
or evil, passed the window. His clothes were comfortable enough in
quality and condition, for they were the annual gift of a benevolent
lady in the neighbourhood; but, being made to accommodate his taste,
both known and traditional, they were somewhat peculiar in cut and
adornment. Both coat and trousers were of a dark grey cloth; but the
former, which, in its shape, partook of the military, had a straight
collar of yellow, and narrow cuffs of the same; while upon both sleeves,
about the place where a corporal wears his stripes, was expressed, in
the same yellow cloth, a somewhat singular device. It was as close an
imitation of a bell, with its tongue hanging out of its mouth, as the
tailor's skill could produce from a single piece of cloth. The origin of
the military cut of his coat was well known. His preference for it arose
in the time of the wars of the first Napoleon, when the threatened
invasion of the country caused the organisation of many volunteer
regiments. The martial show and exercises captivated the poor man's
fancy; and from that time forward nothing pleased his vanity, and
consequently conciliated his goodwill more, than to style him by his
favourite title--the _Colonel_. But the badge on his arm had a deeper
origin, which will be partially manifest in the course of the story--if
story it can be called. It was, indeed, the baptism of the fool, the
outward and visible sign of his relation to the infinite and unseen. His
countenance, however, although the features were not of any peculiarly
low or animal type, showed no corresponding sign of the consciousness of
such a relation, being as vacant as human countenance could well be.

The cause of Elsie's annoyance was that the fool was annoyed; he was
followed by a troop of boys, who turned his rank into scorn, and
assailed him with epithets hateful to him. Although the most harmless of
creatures when left alone, he was dangerous when roused; and now he
stooped repeatedly to pick up stones and hurl them at his tormentors,
who took care, while abusing him, to keep at a considerable distance,
lest he should get hold of them. Amidst the sounds of derision that
followed him, might be heard the words frequently repeated--"_Come hame,
come hame_." But in a few minutes the noise ceased, either from the
interference of some friendly inhabitant, or that the boys grew weary,
and departed in search of other amusement. By and by, Elsie might be
seen again at her work in the window; but the cloud over her eyes was
deeper, and her whole face more sad.

Indeed, so much did the persecution of this poor man affect her, that an
onlooker would have been compelled to seek the cause in some yet deeper
sympathy than that commonly felt for the oppressed, even by women. And
such a sympathy existed, strange as it may seem, between the beautiful
girl (for many called her _a bonnie lassie_) and this "tatter of
humanity". Nothing would have been farther from the thoughts of those
that knew them, than the supposition of any correspondence or connection
between them; yet this sympathy sprang in part from a real similarity in
their history and present condition.

All the facts that were known about _Feel Jock's_ origin were these:
that seventy years ago, a man who had gone with his horse and cart some
miles from the village, to fetch home a load of peat from a desolate
_moss_, had heard, while toiling along as rough a road on as lonely a
hillside as any in Scotland, the cry of a child; and, searching about,
had found the infant, hardly wrapt in rags, and untended, as if the
earth herself had just given birth--that desert moor, wide and dismal,
broken and watery, the only bosom for him to lie upon, and the cold,
clear night-heaven his only covering. The man had brought him home, and
the parish had taken parish-care of him. He had grown up, and proved
what he now was--almost an idiot. Many of the townspeople were kind to
him, and employed him in fetching water for them from the river or wells
in the neighbourhood, paying him for his trouble in victuals, or whisky,
of which he was very fond. He seldom spoke; and the sentences he could
utter were few; yet the tone, and even the words of his limited
vocabulary, were sufficient to express gratitude and some measure of
love towards those who were kind to him, and hatred of those who teased
and insulted him. He lived a life without aim, and apparently to no
purpose; in this resembling most of his more gifted fellow-men, who,
with all the tools and materials necessary for building a noble mansion,
are yet content with a clay hut.

Elsie, on the contrary, had been born in a comfortable farmhouse, amidst
homeliness and abundance. But at a very early age she had lost both
father and mother; not so early, however, but that she had faint
memories of warm soft times on her mother's bosom, and of refuge in her
mother's arms from the attacks of geese, and the pursuit of pigs.
Therefore, in after-times, when she looked forward to heaven, it was as
much a reverting to the old heavenly times of childhood and mother's
love, as an anticipation of something yet to be revealed. Indeed,
without some such memory, how should we ever picture to ourselves a
perfect rest? But sometimes it would seem as if the more a heart was
made capable of loving, the less it had to love; and poor Elsie, in
passing from a mother's to a brother's guardianship, felt a change of
spiritual temperature too keen. He was not a bad man, or incapable of
benevolence when touched by the sight of want in anything of which he
would himself have felt the privation; but he was so coarsely made that
only the purest animal necessities affected him, and a hard word, or
unfeeling speech, could never have reached the quick of his nature
through the hide that enclosed it. Elsie, on the contrary, was
excessively and painfully sensitive, as if her nature constantly
portended an invisible multitude of half-spiritual, half-nervous
antenna, which shrank and trembled in every current of air at all below
their own temperature. The effect of this upon her behaviour was such
that she was called odd; and the poor girl felt she was not like other
people, yet could not help it. Her brother, too, laughed at her without
the slightest idea of the pain he occasioned, or the remotest feeling of
curiosity as to what the inward and consistent causes of the outward
abnormal condition might be. Tenderness was the divine comforting she
needed; and it was altogether absent from her brother's character and
behaviour.

Her neighbours looked on her with some interest, but they rather shunned
than courted her acquaintance; especially after the return of certain
nervous attacks, to which she had been subject in childhood, and which
were again brought on by the events I must relate. It is curious how
certain diseases repel, by a kind of awe, the sympathies of the
neighbours: as if, by the fact of being subject to them, the patient
were removed into another realm of existence, from which, like the dead
with the living, she can hold communion with those around her only
partially, and with a mixture of dread pervading the intercourse. Thus
some of the deepest, purest wells of spiritual life, are, like those in
old castles, choked up by the decay of the outer walls. But what tended
more than anything, perhaps, to keep up the painful unrest of her soul
(for the beauty of her character was evident in the fact that the
irritation seldom reached her _mind_), was a circumstance at which, in
its present connection, some of my readers will smile, and others feel a
shudder corresponding in kind to that of Elsie.

Her brother was very fond of a rather small, but ferocious-looking
bull-dog, which followed close at his heels, wherever he went, with
hanging head and slouching gait, never leaping or racing about like
other dogs. When in the house, he always lay under his master's chair.
He seemed to dislike Elsie, and she felt an unspeakable repugnance to
him. Though she never mentioned her aversion, her brother easily saw it
by the way in which she avoided the animal; and attributing it entirely
to fear--which indeed had a great share in the matter--he would cruelly
aggravate it, by telling her stories of the fierce hardihood and
relentless persistency of this kind of animal. He dared not yet further
increase her terror by offering to set the creature upon her, because it
was doubtful whether he might be able to restrain him; but the mental
suffering which he occasioned by this heartless conduct, and for which
he had no sympathy, was as severe as many bodily sufferings to which he
would have been sorry to subject her. Whenever the poor girl happened
inadvertently to pass near the dog, which was seldom, a low growl made
her aware of his proximity, and drove her to a quick retreat. He was, in
fact, the animal impersonation of the animal opposition which she had
continually to endure. Like chooses like; and the bulldog _in_ her
brother made choice of the bull-dog _out of_ him for his companion. So
her day was one of shrinking fear and multiform discomfort.

But a nature capable of so much distress, must of necessity be _capable_
of a corresponding amount of pleasure; and in her case this was manifest
in the fact that sleep and the quiet of her own room restored her
wonderfully. If she were only let alone, a calm mood, filled with images
of pleasure, soon took possession of her mind.

Her acquaintance with the fool had commenced some ten years previous to
the time I write of, when she was quite a little girl, and had come from
the country with her brother, who, having taken a small farm close to
the town, preferred residing in the town to occupying the farmhouse,
which was not comfortable. She looked at first with some terror on his
uncouth appearance, and with much wonderment on his strange dress. This
wonder was heightened by a conversation she overheard one day in the
street, between the fool and a little pale-faced boy, who, approaching
him respectfully, said, "Weel, cornel!" "Weel, laddie!" was the reply.
"Fat dis the wow say, cornel?" "Come hame, come hame!" answered the
_colonel_, with both accent and quantity heaped on the word _hame_. What
the wow could be, she had no idea; only, as the years passed on, the
strange word became in her mind indescribably associated with the
strange shape in yellow cloth on his sleeves. Had she been a native of
the town, she could not have failed to know its import, so familiar was
every one with it, although it did not belong to the local vocabulary;
but, as it was, years passed away before she discovered its meaning. And
when, again and again, the fool, attempting to convey his gratitude for
some kindness she had shown him mumbled over the words--"_The wow o'
Rivven--the wow o' Rivven,_" the wonder would return as to what could be
the idea associated with them in his mind, but she made no advance
towards their explanation.

That, however, which most attracted her to the old man, was his
persecution by the children. They were to him what the bull-dog was to
her--the constant source of irritation and annoyance. They could hardly
hurt him, nor did he appear to dread other injury from them than insult,
to which, fool though he was, he was keenly alive. Human gadflies that
they were! they sometimes stung him beyond endurance, and he would curse
them in the impotence of his anger. Once or twice Elsie had been so far
carried beyond her constitutional timidity, by sympathy for the distress
of her friend, that she had gone out and talked to the boys--even
scolded them, so that they slunk away ashamed, and began to stand as
much in dread of her as of the clutches of their prey. So she, gentle
and timid to excess, acquired among them the reputation of a termagant.
Popular opinion among children, as among men, is of ten just, but as
often very unjust; for the same manifestations may proceed from opposite
principles; and, therefore, as indices to character, may mislead as
often as enlighten.

Next door to the house in which Elsie resided, dwelt a tradesman and his
wife, who kept an indefinite sort of shop, in which various kinds of
goods were exposed for sale. Their youngest son was about the same age
as Elsie; and while they were rather more than children, and less than
young people, he spent many of his evenings with her, somewhat to the
loss of position in his classes at the parish school. They were, indeed,
much attached to each other; and, peculiarly constituted as Elsie was,
one may imagine what kind of heavenly messenger a companion stronger
than herself must have been to her. In fact, if she could have framed
the undefinable need of her childlike nature into an articulate prayer,
it would have been--"Give me some one to love me stronger than I." Any
love was helpful, yes, in its degree, saving to her poor troubled soul;
but the hope, as they grew older together, that the powerful, yet
tender-hearted youth, really loved her, and would one day make her his
wife, was like the opening of heavenly eyes of life and love in the
hitherto blank and deathlike face of her existence. But nothing had been
said of love, although they met and parted like lovers.

Doubtless, if the circles of their thought and feeling had continued as
now to intersect each other, there would have been no interruption to
their affection; but the time at length arrived when the old couple,
seeing the rest of their family comfortably settled in life, resolved to
make a gentleman of the youngest; and so sent him from school to
college. The facilities existing in Scotland for providing a
professional training enabled them to educate him as a surgeon. He
parted from Elsie with some regret; but, far less dependent on her than
she was on him, and full of the prospects of the future, he felt none of
that sinking at the heart which seemed to lay her whole nature open to a
fresh inroad of all the terrors and sorrows of her peculiar existence.
No correspondence took place between them. New pursuits and relations,
and the development of his tastes and judgments, entirely altered the
position of poor Elsie in his memory. Having been, during their
intercourse, far less of a man than she of a woman, he had no definite
idea of the place he had occupied in her regard; and in his mind she
receded into the background of the past, without his having any idea
that she would suffer thereby, or that he was unjust towards her; while,
in her thoughts, his image stood in the highest and clearest relief. It
was the centre-point from which and towards which all lines radiated and
converged; and although she could not but be doubtful about the future,
yet there was much hope mingled with her doubts.

But when, at the close of two years, he visited his native village, and
she saw before her, instead of the homely youth who had left her that
winter evening, one who, to her inexperienced eyes, appeared a finished
gentleman, her heart sank within her, as if she had found Nature herself
false in her ripening processes, destroying the beautiful promise of a
former year by changing instead of developing her creations. He spoke
kindly to her, but not cordially. To her ear the voice seemed to come
from a great distance out of the past; and while she looked upon him,
that optical change passed over her vision, which all have experienced
after gazing abstractedly on any object for a time: his form grew very
small, and receded to an immeasurable distance; till, her imagination
mingling with the twilight haze of her senses, she seemed to see him
standing far off on a hill, with the bright horizon of sunset for a
background to his clearly defined figure.

She knew no more till she found herself in bed in the dark; and the
first message that reached her from the outer world was the infernal
growl of the bull-dog from the room below. Next day she saw her lover
walking with two ladies, who would have thought it some degree of
condescension to speak to her; and he passed the house without once
looking towards it.

One who is sufficiently possessed by the demon of nervousness to be glad
of the magnetic influences of a friend's company in a public promenade,
or of a horse beneath him in passing through a churchyard, will have
some faint idea of how utterly exposed and defenceless poor Elsie now
felt on the crowded thoroughfare of life. And so the insensibility which
had overtaken her, was not the ordinary swoon with which Nature relieves
the overstrained nerves, but the return of the epileptic fits of her
early childhood; and if the condition of the poor girl had been pitiable
before, it was tenfold more so now. Yet she did not complain, but bore
all in silence, though it was evident that her health was giving way.
But now, help came to her from a strange quarter; though many might not
be willing to accord the name of help to that which rather hastened than
retarded the progress of her decline.

She had gone to spend a few of the summer days with a relative in the
country, some miles from her home, if home it could be called. One
evening, towards sunset, she went out for a solitary walk. Passing from
the little garden gate, she went along a bare country road for some
distance, and then, turning aside by a footpath through a thicket of low
trees, she came out in a lonely little churchyard on the hillside.
Hardly knowing whether or not she had intended to go there, she seated
herself on a mound covered with long grass, one of many. Before her
stood the ruins of an old church which was taking centuries to crumble.
Little remained but the gable wall, immensely thick, and covered with
ancient ivy. The rays of the setting sun fell on a mound at its foot,
not green like the rest, but of a rich red-brown in the rosy sunset, and
evidently but newly heaped up. Her eyes, too, rested upon it. Slowly the
sun sank below the near horizon.

As the last brilliant point disappeared, the ivy darkened, and a wind
arose and shook all its leaves, making them look cold and troubled; and
to Elsie's ear came a low faint sound, as from a far-off bell. But close
beside her--and she started and shivered at the sound--rose a deep,
monotonous, almost sepulchral voice, "_Come hame, come hame! The wow,
the wow_!"

At once she understood the whole. She sat in the churchyard of the
ancient parish church of Ruthven; and when she lifted up her eyes, there
she saw, in the half-ruined belfry, the old bell, all but hidden with
ivy, which the passing wind had roused to utter one sleepy tone; and
there beside her, stood the fool with the bell on his arm; and to him
and to her the _wow o' Rivven_ said, "_Come hame, come hame_!" Ah, what
did she want in the whole universe of God but a home? And though the
ground beneath was hard, and the sky overhead far and boundless, and the
hillside lonely and companionless, yet somewhere within the visible and
beyond these the outer surface of creation, there might be a home for
her; as round the wintry house the snows lie heaped up cold and white
and dreary all the long _forenight_, while within, beyond the closed
shutters, and giving no glimmer through the thick stone wall, the fires
are blazing joyously, and the voice and laughter of young unfrozen
children are heard, and nothing belongs to winter but the grey hairs on
the heads of the parents, within whose warm hearts childlike voices are
heard, and childlike thoughts move to and fro. The kernel of winter
itself is spring, or a sleeping summer.

It was no wonder that the fool, cast out of the earth on a far more
desolate spot than this, should seek to return within her bosom at this
place of open doors, and should call it _home_. For surely the surface
of the earth had no home for him. The mound at the foot of the gable
contained the body of one who had shown him kindness. He had followed
the funeral that afternoon from the town, and had remained behind with
the bell. Indeed it was his custom, though Elsie had not known it, to
follow every funeral going to this, his favourite churchyard of Ruthven;
and, possibly in imitation of its booming, for it was still tolled at
the funerals, he had given the old bell the name of _the wow_, and had
translated its monotonous clangour into the articulate sounds--_come
hame, come hame_. What precise meaning he attached to the words, it is
impossible to say; but it was evident that the place possessed a strange
attraction for him, drawing him towards it by the cords of some
spiritual magnetism. It is possible that in the mind of the idiot there
may have been some feeling about this churchyard and bell, which, in the
mind of another, would have become a grand poetic thought; a feeling as
if the ghostly old bell hung at the church door of the invisible world,
and ever and anon rung out joyous notes (though they sounded sad in the
ears of the living), calling to the children of the unseen to _come
home, come home_. She sat for some time in silence; for the bell did not
ring again, and the fool spoke no more; till the dews began to fall,
when she rose and went home, followed by her companion, who passed the
night in the barn. From that hour Elsie was furnished with a visual
image of the rest she sought; an image which, mingling with deeper and
holier thoughts, became, like the bow set in the cloud, the earthly
pledge and sign of the fulfilment of heavenly hopes. Often when the
wintry fog of cold discomfort and homelessness filled her soul, all at
once the picture of the little churchyard--with the old gable and
belfry, and the slanting sunlight steeping down to the very roots of the
long grass on the graves--arose in the darkened chamber (_camera
obscura,_) of her soul; and again she heard the faint Aeolian sound of
the bell, and the voice of the prophet-fool who interpreted the oracle;
and the inward weariness was soothed by the promise of a long sleep. Who
can tell how many have been counted fools simply because they were
prophets; or how much of the madness in the world may be the utterance
of thoughts true and just, but belonging to a region differing from ours
in its nature and scenery!

But to Elsie looking out of her window came the mocking tones of the
idle boys who had chosen as the vehicle of their scorn the very words
which showed the relation of the fool to the eternal, and revealed in
him an element higher far than any yet developed in them. They turned
his glory into shame, like the enemies of David when they mocked the
would-be king. And the best in a man is often that which is most
condemned by those who have not attained to his goodness. The words,
however, even as repeated by the boys, had not solely awakened
indignation at the persecution of the old man: they had likewise
comforted her with the thought of the refuge that awaited both him and
her.

But the same evening a worse trial was in store for her. Again she sat
near the window, oppressed by the consciousness that her brother had
come in. He had gone upstairs, and his dog had remained at the door,
exchanging surly compliments with some of his own kind, when the fool
came strolling past, and, I do not know from what cause, the dog flew at
him. Elsie heard his cry and looked up. Her fear of the brute vanished
in a moment before her sympathy for her friend. She darted from the
house, and rushed towards the dog to drag him off the defenceless idiot,
calling him by his name in a tone of anger and dislike. He left the
fool, and, springing at Elsie, seized her by the arm above the elbow
with such a grip that, in the midst of her agony, she fancied she heard
the bone crack. But she uttered no cry, for the most apprehensive are
sometimes the most courageous. Just then, however, her former lover was
coming along the street, and, catching a glimpse of what had happened,
was on the spot in an instant, took the dog by the throat with a gripe
not inferior to his own, and having thus compelled him to relax his
hold, dashed him on the ground with a force that almost stunned him, and
then with a superadded kick sent him away limping and howling; whereupon
the fool, attacking him furiously with a stick, would certainly have
finished him, had not his master descried his plight and come to his
rescue.

Meantime the young surgeon had carried Elsie into the house; for, as
soon as she was rescued from the dog, she had fallen down in one of her
fits, which were becoming more and more frequent of themselves, and
little needed such a shock as this to increase their violence. He was
dressing her arm when she began to recover; and when she opened her
eyes, in a state of half-consciousness, he first object she beheld was
his face bending over her. Recalling nothing of what had occurred, it
seemed to her, in the dreamy condition in which the fit had left her,
the same face, unchanged, which had once shone in upon her tardy
springtime, and promised to ripen it into summer. She forgot it had
departed and left her in the wintry cold. And so she uttered wild words
of love and trust; and the youth, while stung with remorse at his own
neglect, was astonished to perceive the poetic forms of beauty in which
the soul of the uneducated maiden burst into flower. But as her senses
recovered themselves, the face gradually changed to her, as if the slow
alteration of two years had been phantasmagorically compressed into a
few moments; and the glow departed from the maiden's thoughts and words,
and her soul found itself at the narrow window of the present, from
which she could behold but a dreary country.--From the street came the
iambic cry of the fool, _"Come hame, come hame."_

Tycho Brahe, I think, is said to have kept a fool, who frequently sat at
his feet in his study, and to whose mutterings he used to listen in the
pauses of his own thought. The shining soul of the astronomer drew forth
the rainbow of harmony from the misty spray of words ascending ever from
the dark gulf into which the thoughts of the idiot were ever falling. He
beheld curious concurrences of words therein; and could read strange
meanings from them--sometimes even received wondrous hints for the
direction of celestial inquiry, from what, to any other, and it may be
to the fool himself, was but a ceaseless and aimless babble. Such power
lieth in words. It is not then to be wondered at, that the sounds I have
mentioned should fall on the ears of Elsie, at such a moment, as a
message from God Himself. This then--all this dreariness--was but a
passing show like the rest, and there lay somewhere for her a reality--a
home. The tears burst up from her oppressed heart. She received the
message, and prepared to go home. From that time her strength gradually
sank, but her spirits as steadily rose.

The strength of the fool, too, began to fail, for he was old. He bore
all the signs of age, even to the grey hairs, which betokened no wisdom.
But one cannot say what wisdom might be in him, or how far he had fought
his own battle, and been victorious. Whether any notion of a continuance
of life and thought dwelt in his brain, it is impossible to tell; but he
seemed to have the idea that this was not his home; and those who saw
him gradually approaching his end, might well anticipate for him a
higher life in the world to come. He had passed through this world
without ever awaking to such a consciousness of being as is common to
mankind. He had spent his years like a weary dream through a long
night--a strange, dismal, unkindly dream; and now the morning was at
hand. Often in his dream had he listened with sleepy senses to the
ringing of the bell, but that bell would awake him at last. He was like
a seed buried too deep in the soil, to which the light has never
penetrated, and which, therefore, has never forced its way upwards to
the open air, ever experienced the resurrection of the dead. But seeds
will grow ages after they have fallen into the earth; and, indeed, with
many kinds, and within some limits, the older the seed before it
germinates, the more plentiful the fruit. And may it not be believed of
many human beings, that, the Great Husbandman having sown them like
seeds in the soil of human affairs, there they lie buried a life long;
and only after the upturning of the soil by death reach a position in
which the awakening of their aspiration and the consequent growth become
possible. Surely He has made nothing in vain.

A violent cold and cough brought him at last near to his end, and
hearing that he was ill, Elsie ventured one bright spring day to go to
see him. When she entered the miserable room where he lay, he held out
his hand to her with something like a smile, and muttered feebly and
painfully, "I'm gaein' to the wow, nae to come back again." Elsie could
not restrain her tears; while the old man, looking fixedly at her,
though with meaningless eyes, muttered, for the last time, "_Come hame!
come hame!_" and sank into a lethargy, from which nothing could rouse
him, till, next morning, he was waked by friendly death from the long
sleep of this world's night. They bore him to his favourite churchyard,
and buried him within the site of the old church, below his loved bell,
which had ever been to him as the cuckoo-note of a coming spring. Thus
he at length obeyed its summons, and went home.

Elsie lingered till the first summer days lay warm on the land. Several
kind hearts in the village, hearing of her illness, visited her and
ministered to her. Wondering at her sweetness and patience, they
regretted they had not known her before. How much consolation might not
their kindness have imparted, and how much might not their sympathy have
strengthened her on her painful road! But they could not long have
delayed her going home. Nor, mentally constituted as she was, would this
have been at all to be desired. Indeed it was chiefly the expectation of
departure that quieted and soothed her tremulous nature. It is true that
a deep spring of hope and faith kept singing on in her heart, but this
alone, without the anticipation of speedy release, could only have kept
her mind at peace. It could not have reached, at least for a long time,
the border land between body and mind, in which her disease lay.

One still night of summer, the nurse who watched by her bedside heard
her murmur through her sleep, "I hear it: _come hame--come hame_. I'm
comin', I'm comin'--I'm gaein' hame to the wow, nae to come back." She
awoke at the sound of her own words, and begged the nurse to convey to
her brother her last request, that she might be buried by the side of
the fool, within the old church of Ruthven. Then she turned her face to
the wall, and in the morning was found quiet and cold. She must have
died within a few minutes after her last words. She was buried according
to her request; and thus she too went home.

Side by side rest the aged fool and the young maiden; for the bell
called them, and they obeyed; and surely they found the fire burning
bright, and heard friendly voices, and felt sweet lips on theirs, in the
home to which they went. Surely both intellect and love were waiting
them there.

Still the old bell hangs in the old gable; and whenever another is borne
to the old churchyard, it keeps calling to those who are left behind,
with the same sad, but friendly and unchanging voice--_"Come hame! come
hame! come hame!"_

"Thy sun shall no more go down; neither shall thy moon withdraw itself:
for the Lord shall be thine everlasting light, and the days of thy
mourning shall be ended."--ISA. LX 20.




THE BROKEN SWORDS




The eyes of three, two sisters and a brother, gazed for the last time on
a great pale-golden star, that followed the sun down the steep west. It
went down to arise again; and the brother about to depart might return,
but more than the usual doubt hung upon his future. For between the
white dresses of the sisters, shone his scarlet coat and golden
sword-knot, which he had put on for the first time, more to gratify
their pride than his own vanity. The brightening moon, as if prophetic
of a future memory, had already begun to dim the scarlet and the gold,
and to give them a pale, ghostly hue. In her thoughtful light the whole
group seemed more like a meeting in the land of shadows, than a parting
in the substantial earth. But which should be called the land of
realities?--the region where appearance, and space, and time drive
between, and stop the flowing currents of the soul's speech? or that
region where heart meets heart, and appearance has become the slave to
utterance, and space and time are forgotten?

Through the quiet air came the far-off rush of water, and the near cry
of the land-rail. Now and then a chilly wind blew unheeded through the
startled and jostling leaves that shaded the ivy-seat. Else, there was
calm everywhere, rendered yet deeper and more intense by the dusky
sorrow that filled their hearts. For, far away, hundreds of miles beyond
the hearing of their ears, roared the great war-guns; next week their
brother must sail with his regiment to join the army; and tomorrow he
must leave his home.

The sisters looked on him tenderly, with vague fears about his fate. Yet
little they divined it. That the face they loved might lie pale and
bloody, in a heap of slain, was the worst image of it that arose before
them; but this, had they seen the future, they would, in ignorance of
the further future, have infinitely preferred to that which awaited him.
And even while they looked on him, a dim feeling of the unsuitableness
of his lot filled their minds. For, indeed, to all judgments it must
have seemed unsuitable that the home-boy, the loved of his mother, the
pet of his sisters, who was happy womanlike (as Coleridge says), if he
possessed the signs of love, having never yet sought for its
proofs--that he should be sent amongst soldiers, to command and be
commanded; to kill, or perhaps to be himself crushed out of the fair
earth in the uproar that brings back for the moment the reign of Night
and Chaos. No wonder that to his sisters it seemed strange and sad. Yet
such was their own position in the battle of life, in which their father
had died with doubtful conquest, that when their old military uncle sent
the boy an ensign's commission, they did not dream of refusing the only
path open, as they thought, to an honourable profession, even though it
might lead to the trench-grave. They heard it as the voice of destiny,
wept, and yielded.

If they had possessed a deeper insight into his character, they would
have discovered yet further reason to doubt the fitness of the
profession chosen for him; and if they had ever seen him at school, it
is possible the doubt of fitness might have strengthened into a
certainty of incongruity. His comparative inactivity amongst his
schoolfellows, though occasioned by no dulness of intellect, might have
suggested the necessity of a quiet life, if inclination and liking had
been the arbiters in the choice. Nor was this inactivity the result of
defective animal spirits either, for sometimes his mirth and boyish
frolic were unbounded; but it seemed to proceed from an over-activity of
the inward life, absorbing, and in some measure checking, the outward
manifestation. He had so much to do in his own hidden kingdom, that he
had not time to take his place in the polity and strife of the
commonwealth around him. Hence, while other boys were acting, he was
thinking. In this point of difference, he felt keenly the superiority of
many of his companions; for another boy would have the obstacle
overcome, or the adversary subdued, while he was meditating on the
propriety, or on the means, of effecting the desired end. He envied
their promptitude, while they never saw reason to envy his wisdom; for
his conscience, tender and not strong, frequently transformed slowness
of determination into irresolution: while a delicacy of the sympathetic
nerves tended to distract him from any predetermined course, by the
diversity of their vibrations, responsive to influences from all
quarters, and destructive to unity of purpose.

Of such a one, the _a priori_ judgment would be, that he ought to be
left to meditate and grow for some time, before being called upon to
produce the fruits of action. But add to these mental conditions a vivid
imagination, and a high sense of honour, nourished in childhood by the
reading of the old knightly romances, and then put the youth in a
position in which action is imperative, and you have elements of strife
sufficient to reduce that fair kingdom of his to utter anarchy and
madness. Yet so little, do we know ourselves, and so different are the
symbols with which the imagination works its algebra, from the realities
which those symbols represent, that as yet the youth felt no uneasiness,
but contemplated his new calling with a glad enthusiasm and some vanity;
for all his prospect lay in the glow of the scarlet and the gold. Nor
did this excitement receive any check till the day before his departure,
on which day I have introduced him to my readers, when, accidently
taking up a newspaper of a week old, his eye fell on these
words--"_Already crying women are to be met in the streets_." With this
cloud afar on his horizon, which, though no bigger than a man's hand,
yet cast a perceptible shadow over his mind, he departed next morning.
The coach carried him beyond the consecrated circle of home laws and
impulses, out into the great tumult, above which rises ever and anon the
cry of Cain, "Am I my brother's keeper?"

Every tragedy of higher order, constructed in Christian times, will
correspond more or less to the grand drama of the Bible; wherein the
first act opens with a brilliant sunset vision of Paradise, in which
childish sense and need are served with all the profusion of the
indulgent nurse. But the glory fades off into grey and black, and night
settles down upon the heart which, rightly uncontent with the childish,
and not having yet learned the childlike, seeks knowledge and manhood as
a thing denied by the Maker, and yet to be gained by the creature; so
sets forth alone to climb the heavens, and instead of climbing, falls
into the abyss. Then follows the long dismal night of feverish efforts
and delirious visions, or, it may be, helpless despair; till at length a
deeper stratum of the soul is heaved to the surface; and amid the first
dawn of morning, the youth says within him, "I have sinned against my
_Maker_--I will arise and go to my _Father_." More or less, I say, will
Christian tragedy correspond to this--a fall and a rising again; not a
rising only, but a victory; not a victory merely, but a triumph. Such,
in its way and degree, is my story. I have shown, in one passing scene,
the home paradise; now I have to show a scene of a far differing nature.

The young ensign was lying in his tent, weary, but wakeful. All day long
the cannon had been bellowing against the walls of the city, which now
lay with wide, gaping breach, ready for the morrow's storm, but covered
yet with the friendly darkness. His regiment was ordered to be ready
with the earliest dawn to march up to the breach. That day, for the
first time, there had been blood on his sword--there the sword lay, a
spot on the chased hilt still. He had cut down one of the enemy in a
skirmish with a sally party of the besieged and the look of the man as
he fell, haunted him. He felt, for the time, that he dared not pray to
the Father, for the blood of a brother had rushed forth at the stroke of
his arm, and there was one fewer of living souls on the earth because he
lived thereon. And to-morrow he must lead a troop of men up to that poor
disabled town, and turn them loose upon it, not knowing what might
follow in the triumph of enraged and victorious foes, who for weeks had
been subjected, by the constancy of the place, to the greatest
privations. It was true the general had issued his commands against all
disorder and pillage; but if the soldiers once yielded to temptation,
what might not be done before the officers could reclaim them! All the
wretched tales he had read of the sack of cities rushed back on his
memory. He shuddered as he lay. Then his conscience began to speak, and
to ask what right he had to be there.--Was the war a just one?--He could
not tell; for this was a bad time for settling nice questions. But there
he was, right or wrong, fighting and shedding blood on God's earth,
beneath God's heaven.

Over and over he turned the question in his mind; again and again the
spouting blood of his foe, and the death-look in his eye, rose before
him; and the youth who at school could never fight with a companion
because he was not sure that he was in the right, was alone in the midst
of undoubting men of war, amongst whom he was driven helplessly along,
upon the waves of a terrible necessity. What wonder that in the midst of
these perplexities his courage should fail him! What wonder that the
consciousness of fainting should increase the faintness! or that the
dread of fear and its consequences should hasten and invigorate its
attacks! To crown all, when he dropped into a troubled slumber at
length, he found himself hurried, as on a storm of fire, through the
streets of the captured town, from all the windows of which looked forth
familiar faces, old and young, but distorted from the memory of his
boyhood by fear and wild despair. On one spot lay the body of his
father, with his face to the earth; and he woke at the cry of horror and
rage that burst from his own lips, as he saw the rough, bloody hand of a
soldier twisted in the loose hair of his elder sister, and the younger
fainting in the arms of a scoundrel belonging to his own regiment. He
slept no more. As the grey morning broke, the troops appointed for the
attack assembled without sound of trumpet or drum, and were silently
formed in fitting order. The young ensign was in his place, weary and
wretched after his miserable night. Before him he saw a great,
broad-shouldered lieutenant, whose brawny hand seemed almost too large
for his sword-hilt, and in any one of whose limbs played more animal
life than in the whole body of the pale youth. The firm-set lips of this
officer, and the fire of his eye, showed a concentrated resolution,
which, by the contrast, increased the misery of the ensign, and seemed,
as if the stronger absorbed the weaker, to draw out from him the last
fibres of self-possession: the sight of unattainable determination,
while it increased the feeling of the arduousness of that which required
such determination, threw him into the great gulf which lay between him
and it. In this disorder of his nervous and mental condition, with a
doubting conscience and a shrinking heart, is it any wonder that the
terrors which lay before him at the gap in those bristling walls, should
draw near, and, making sudden inroad upon his soul, overwhelm the
government of a will worn out by the tortures of an unassured spirit?
What share fear contributed to unman him, it was impossible for him, in
the dark, confused conflict of differing emotions, to determine; but
doubtless a natural shrinking from danger, there being no excitement to
deaden its influence, and no hope of victory to encourage to the
struggle, seeing victory was dreadful to him as defeat, had its part in
the sad result. Many men who have courage, are dependent on ignorance
and a low state of the moral feeling for that courage; and a further
progress towards the development of the higher nature would, for a time
at least, entirely overthrow it. Nor could such loss of courage be
rightly designated by the name of cowardice. But, alas! the colonel
happened to fix his eyes upon him as he passed along the file; and this
completed his confusion. He betrayed such evident symptoms of
perturbation, that that officer ordered him under arrest; and the result
was, that, chiefly for the sake of example to the army, he was, upon
trial by court-martial, expelled from the service, and had his sword
broken over his head. Alas for the delicate minded youth! Alas for the
home-darling!

Long after, he found at the bottom of his chest the pieces of the broken
sword, and remembered that, at the time, he had lifted them from the
ground and carried them away. But he could not recall under what impulse
he had done so. Perhaps the agony he suffered, passing the bounds of
mortal endurance, had opened for him a vista into the eternal, and had
shown him, if not the injustice of the sentence passed upon him, yet his
freedom from blame, or, endowing him with dim prophetic vision, had
given him the assurance that some day the stain would be wiped from his
soul, and leave him standing clear before the tribunal of his own
honour. Some feeling like this, I say, may have caused him, with a
passing gleam of indignant protest, to lift the fragments from the
earth, and carry them away; even as the friends of a so-called traitor
may bear away his mutilated body from the wheel. But if such was the
case, the vision was soon overwhelmed and forgotten in the succeeding
anguish. He could not see that, in mercy to his doubting spirit, the
question which had agitated his mind almost to madness, and which no
results of the impending conflict could have settled for him, was thus
quietly set aside for the time; nor that, painful as was the dark,
dreadful existence that he was now to pass in self-torment and moaning,
it would go by, and leave his spirit clearer far, than if, in his
apprehension, it had been stained with further blood-guiltiness, instead
of the loss of honour. Years after, when he accidentally learned that on
that very morning the whole of his company, with parts of several more,
had, or ever they began to mount the breach, been blown to pieces by the
explosion of a mine, he cried aloud in bitterness, "Would God that my
fear had not been discovered before I reached that spot!" But surely it
is better to pass into the next region of life having reaped some
assurance, some firmness of character, determination of effort, and
consciousness of the worth of life, in the present world; so approaching
the future steadily and faithfully, and if in much darkness and
ignorance, yet not in the oscillations of moral uncertainty.

Close upon the catastrophe followed a torpor, which lasted he did not
know how long, and which wrapped in a thick fog all the succeeding
events. For some time he can hardly be said to have had any conscious
history. He awoke to life and torture when half-way across the sea
towards his native country, where was no home any longer for him. To
this point, and no farther, could his thoughts return in after years.
But the misery which he then endured is hardly to be understood, save by
those of like delicate temperament with himself. All day long he sat
silent in his cabin; nor could any effort of the captain, or others on
board, induce him to go on deck till night came on, when, under the
starlight, he ventured into the open air. The sky soothed him then, he
knew not how. For the face of nature is the face of God, and must bear
expressions that can influence, though unconsciously to them, the most
ignorant and hopeless of His children. Often did he watch the clouds in
hope of a storm, his spirit rising and falling as the sky darkened or
cleared; he longed, in the necessary selfishness of such suffering, for
a tumult of waters to swallow the vessel; and only the recollection of
how many lives were involved in its safety besides his own, prevented
him from praying to God for lightning and tempest, borne on which he
might dash into the haven of the other world. One night, following a
sultry calm day, he thought that Mercy had heard his unuttered prayer.
The air and sea were intense darkness, till a light as intense for one
moment annihilated it, and the succeeding darkness seemed shattered with
the sharp reports of the thunder that cracked without reverberation. He
who had shrunk from battle with his fellow-men, rushed to the mainmast,
threw himself on his knees, and stretched forth his arms in speechless
energy of supplication; but the storm passed away overhead, and left him
kneeling still by the uninjured mast. At length the vessel reached her
port. He hurried on shore to bury himself in the most secret place he
could find. _Out of sight_ was his first, his only thought. Return to
his mother he would not, he could not; and, indeed, his friends never
learned his fate, until it had carried him far beyond their reach.

For several weeks he lurked about like a malefactor, in low
lodging-houses in narrow streets of the seaport to which the vessel had
borne him, heeding no one, and but little shocked at the strange society
and conversation with which, though only in bodily presence, he had to
mingle. These formed the subjects of reflection in after times; and he
came to the conclusion that, though much evil and much misery exist,
sufficient to move prayers and tears in those who love their kind, yet
there is less of both than those looking down from a more elevated
social position upon the weltering heap of humanity, are ready to
imagine; especially if they regard it likewise from the pedestal of
self-congratulation on which a meagre type of religion has elevated
them. But at length his little stock of money was nearly expended, and
there was nothing that he could do, or learn to do, in this seaport. He
felt impelled to seek manual labour, partly because he thought it more
likely he could obtain that sort of employment, without a request for
reference as to his character, which would lead to inquiry about his
previous history; and partly, perhaps, from an instinctive feeling that
hard bodily labour would tend to lessen his inward suffering.

He left the town, therefore, at nightfall of a July day, carrying a
little bundle of linen, and the remains of his money, somewhat augmented
by the sale of various articles of clothing and convenience, which his
change of life rendered superfluous and unsuitable. He directed his
course northwards, travelling principally by night--so painfully did he
shrink from the gaze even of foot-farers like himself; and sleeping
during the day in some hidden nook of wood or thicket, or under the
shadow of a great tree in a solitary field. So fine was the season, that
for three successive weeks he was able to travel thus without
inconvenience, lying down when the sun grew hot in the forenoon, and
generally waking when the first faint stars were hesitating in the great
darkening heavens that covered and shielded him. For above every cloud,
above every storm, rise up, calm, clear, divine, the deep infinite
skies; they embrace the tempest even as the sunshine; by their
permission it exists within their boundless peace: therefore it cannot
hurt, and must pass away, while there they stand as ever, domed up
eternally, lasting, strong, and pure.

Several times he attempted to get agricultural employment; but the
whiteness of his hands and the tone of his voice not merely suggested
unfitness for labour, but generated suspicion as to the character of one
who had evidently dropped from a rank so much higher, and was seeking
admittance within the natural masonic boundaries and secrets and
privileges of another. Disheartened somewhat, but hopeful, he journeyed
on. I say hopeful; for the blessed power of life in the universe in
fresh air and sunshine absorbed by active exercise, in winds, yea in
rain, though it fell but seldom, had begun to work its natural healing,
soothing effect, upon his perturbed spirit. And there was room for hope
in his new endeavour. As his bodily strength increased, and his health,
considerably impaired by inward suffering, improved, the trouble of his
soul became more endurable--and in some measure to endure is to conquer
and destroy. In proportion as the mind grows in the strength of
patience, the disturber of its peace sickens and fades away. At length,
one day, a widow lady in a village through which his road led him, gave
him a day's work in her garden. He laboured hard and well,
notwithstanding his soon-blistered hands, received his wages thankfully,
and found a resting-place for the night on the low part of a haystack
from which the upper portion had been cut away. Here he ate his supper
of bread and cheese, pleased to have found such comfortable quarters,
and soon fell fast asleep.

When he awoke, the whole heavens and earth seemed to give a full denial
to sin and sorrow. The sun was just mounting over the horizon, looking
up the clear cloud-mottled sky. From millions of water-drops hanging on
the bending stalks of grass, sparkled his rays in varied refraction,
transformed here to a gorgeous burning ruby, there to an emerald, green
as the grass, and yonder to a flashing, sunny topaz. The chanting
priest-lark had gone up from the low earth, as soon as the heavenly
light had begun to enwrap and illumine the folds of its tabernacle; and
had entered the high heavens with his offering, whence, unseen, he now
dropped on the earth the sprinkled sounds of his overflowing
blessedness. The poor youth rose but to kneel, and cry, from a bursting
heart, "Hast Thou not, O Father, some care for me? Canst Thou not
restore my lost honour? Can anything befall Thy children for which Thou
hast no help? Surely, if the face of Thy world lie not, joy and not
grief is at the heart of the universe. Is there none for me?"

The highest poetic feeling of which we are now conscious, springs not
from the beholding of perfected beauty, but from the mute sympathy which
the creation with all its children manifests with us in the groaning and
travailing which look for the sonship. Because of our need and
aspiration, the snowdrop gives birth in our hearts to a loftier
spiritual and poetic feeling, than the rose most complete in form,
colour, and odour. The rose is of Paradise--the snowdrop is of the
striving, hoping, longing Earth. Perhaps our highest poetry is the
expression of our aspirations in the sympathetic forms of visible
nature. Nor is this merely a longing for a restored Paradise; for even
in the ordinary history of men, no man or woman that has fallen, can be
restored to the position formerly held. Such must rise to a yet higher
place, whence they can behold their former standing far beneath their
feet. They must be restored by the attainment of something better than
they ever possessed before, or not at all. If the law be a weariness, we
must escape it by taking refuge with the spirit, for not otherwise can
we fulfil the law than by being above the law. To escape the overhanging
rocks of Sinai, we must climb to its secret top.

  "Is thy strait horizon dreary?
  Is thy foolish fancy chill?
  Change the feet that have grown weary
  For the wings that never will."

Thus, like one of the wandering knights searching the wide earth for the
Sangreal, did he wander on, searching for his lost honour, or rather
(for that he counted gone for ever) seeking unconsciously for the peace
of mind which had departed from him, and taken with it, not the joy
merely, but almost the possibility, of existence.

At last, when his little store was all but exhausted, he was employed by
a market gardener, in the neighbourhood of a large country town, to work
in his garden, and sometimes take his vegetables to market. With him he
continued for a few weeks, and wished for no change; until, one day
driving his cart through the town, he saw approaching him an elderly
gentleman, whom he knew at once, by his gait and carriage, to be a
military man. Now he had never seen his uncle the retired officer, but
it struck him that this might be he; and under the tyranny of his
passion for concealment, he fancied that, if it were he, he might
recognise him by some family likeness--not considering the improbability
of his looking at him. This fancy, with the painful effect which the
sight of an officer, even in plain clothes, had upon him, recalling the
torture of that frightful day, so overcame him, that he found himself at
the other end of an alley before he recollected that he had the horse
and cart in charge. This increased his difficulty; for now he dared not
return, lest his inquiries after the vehicle, if the horse had strayed
from the direct line, should attract attention, and cause interrogations
which he would be unable to answer. The fatal want of self-possession
seemed again to ruin him. He forsook the town by the nearest way, struck
across the country to another line of road, and before he was missed,
was miles away, still in a northerly direction.

But although he thus shunned the face of man, especially of any one who
reminded him of the past, the loss of his reputation in their eyes was
not the cause of his inward grief. That would have been comparatively
powerless to disturb him, had he not lost his own respect. He quailed
before his own thoughts; he was dishonoured in his own eyes. His
perplexity had not yet sufficiently cleared away to allow him to see the
extenuating circumstances of the case; not to say the fact that the
peculiar mental condition in which he was at the time, removed the case
quite out of the class of ordinary instances of cowardice. He condemned
himself more severely than any of his judges would have dared;
remembering that portion of his mental sensations which had savoured of
fear, and forgetting the causes which had produced it. He judged himself
a man stained with the foulest blot that could cleave to a soldier's
name, a blot which nothing but death, not even death, could efface. But,
inwardly condemned and outwardly degraded, his dread of recognition was
intense; and feeling that he was in more danger of being discovered
where the population was sparser, he resolved to hide himself once more
in the midst of poverty; and, with this view, found his way to one of
the largest of the manufacturing towns.

He reached it during the strike of a great part of the workmen; so that,
though he found some difficulty in procuring employment, as might be
expected from his ignorance of machine-labour, he yet was sooner
successful than he would otherwise have been. Possessed of a natural
aptitude for mechanical operations, he soon became a tolerable workman;
and he found that his previous education assisted to the fitting
execution of those operations even which were most purely mechanical.

He found also, at first, that the unrelaxing attention requisite for the
mastering of the many niceties of his work, of necessity drew his mind
somewhat from its brooding over his misfortune, hitherto almost
ceaseless. Every now and then, however, a pang would shoot suddenly to
his heart, and turn his face pale, even before his consciousness had
time to inquire what was the matter. So by degrees, as attention became
less necessary, and the nervo-mechanical action of his system increased
with use, his thoughts again returned to their old misery. He would wake
at night in his poor room, with the feeling that a ghostly nightmare sat
on his soul; that a want--a loss--miserable, fearful--was present; that
something of his heart was gone from him; and through the darkness he
would hear the snap of the breaking sword, and lie for a moment
overwhelmed beneath the assurance of the incredible fact. Could it be
true that _he_ was a coward? that _his_ honour was gone, and in its
place a stain? that _he_ was a thing for men--and worse, for women--to
point the finger at, laughing bitter laughter? Never lover or husband
could have mourned with the same desolation over the departure of the
loved; the girl alone, weeping scorching tears over _her_ degradation,
could resemble him in his agony, as he lay on his bed, and wept and
moaned.

His sufferings had returned with the greater weight, that he was no
longer upheld by the "divine air" and the open heavens, whose sunlight
now only reached him late in an afternoon, as he stood at his loom,
through windows so coated with dust that they looked like frosted glass;
showing, as it passed through the air to fall on the dirty floor, how
the breath of life was thick with dust of iron and wood, and films of
cotton; amidst which his senses were now too much dulled by custom to
detect the exhalations from greasy wheels and overtasked human-kind. Nor
could he find comfort in the society of his fellow-labourers. True, it
was a kind of comfort to have those near him who could not know of his
grief; but there was so little in common between them, that any
interchange of thought was impossible. At least, so it seemed to him.
Yet sometimes his longing for human companionship would drive him out
of his dreary room at night, and send him wandering through the lower
part of the town, where he would gaze wistfully on the miserable faces
that passed him, as if looking for some one--some angel, even there--to
speak goodwill to his hungry heart.

Once he entered one of those gin-palaces, which, like the golden gates
of hell, entice the miserable to worse misery, and seated himself close
to a half-tipsy, good-natured wretch, who made room for him on a bench
by the wall. He was comforted even by this proximity to one who would
not repel him. But soon the paintings of warlike action--of knights, and
horses, and mighty deeds done with battle-axe, and broad-sword, which
adorned the--panels all round, drove him forth even from this heaven of
the damned; yet not before the impious thought had arisen in his heart,
that the brilliantly painted and sculptural roof, with the gilded
vine-leaves and bunches of grapes trained up the windows, all lighted
with the great shining chandeliers, was only a microcosmic repetition of
the bright heavens and the glowing earth, that overhung and surrounded
the misery of man. But the memory of how kindly they had comforted and
elevated him, at one period of his painful history, not only banished
the wicked thought, but brought him more quiet, in the resurrection of a
past blessing, than he had known for some time. The period, however, was
now at hand when a new grief, followed by a new and more elevated
activity, was to do its part towards the closing up of the fountain of
bitterness.

Amongst his fellow-labourers, he had for a short time taken some
interest in observing a young woman, who had lately joined them. There
was nothing remarkable about her, except what at first sight seemed a
remarkable plainness. A slight scar over one of her rather prominent
eyebrows, increased this impression of plainness. But the first day had
not passed, before he began to see that there was something not
altogether common in those deep eyes; and the plain look vanished before
a closer observation, which also discovered, in the forehead and the
lines of the mouth, traces of sorrow or other suffering. There was an
expression, too, in the whole face, of fixedness of purpose, without any
hardness of determination. Her countenance altogether seemed the index
to an interesting mental history. Signs of mental trouble were always an
attraction to him; in this case so great, that he overcame his shyness,
and spoke to her one evening as they left the works. He often walked
home with her after that; as, indeed, was natural, seeing that she
occupied an attic in the same poor lodging-house in which he lived
himself. The street did not bear the best character; nor, indeed, would
the occupations of all the inmates of the house have stood
investigation; but so retiring and quiet was this girl, and so seldom
did she go abroad after work hours, that he had not discovered till then
that she lived in the same street, not to say the same house with
himself.

He soon learned her history--a very common one as outward events, but
not surely insignificant because common. Her father and mother were both
dead, and hence she had to find her livelihood alone, and amidst
associations which were always disagreeable, and sometimes painful. Her
quick womanly instinct must have discovered that he too had a history;
for though, his mental prostration favouring the operation of outward
influences, he had greatly approximated in appearance to those amongst
whom he laboured, there were yet signs, besides the educated accent of
his speech, which would have distinguished him to an observer; but she
put no questions to him, nor made any approach towards seeking a return
of the confidence she reposed in him. It was a sensible alleviation to
his sufferings to hear her kind voice, and look in her gentle face, as
they walked home together; and at length the expectation of this
pleasure began to present itself, in the midst of the busy, dreary
work-hours, as the shadow of a heaven to close up the dismal,
uninteresting day.

But one morning he missed her from her place, and a keener pain passed
through him than he had felt of late; for he knew that the Plague was
abroad, feeding in the low stagnant places of human abode; and he had
but too much reason to dread that she might be now struggling in its
grasp. He seized the first opportunity of slipping out and hurrying
home. He sprang upstairs to her room. He found the door locked, but
heard a faint moaning within. To avoid disturbing her, while determined
to gain an entrance, he went down for the key of his own door, with
which he succeeded in unlocking hers, and so crossed her threshold for
the first time. There she lay on her bed, tossing in pain, and beginning
to be delirious. Careless of his own life, and feeling that he could not
die better than in helping the only friend he had; certain, likewise, of
the difficulty of finding a nurse for one in this disease and of her
station in life; and sure, likewise, that there could be no question of
propriety, either in the circumstances with which they were surrounded,
nor in this case of terrible fever almost as hopeless for her as
dangerous to him, he instantly began the duties of a nurse, and returned
no more to his employment. He had a little money in his possession, for
he could not, in the way in which he lived, spend all his wages; so he
proceeded to make her as comfortable as he could, with all the pent-up
tenderness of a loving heart finding an outlet at length. When a boy at
home, he had often taken the place of nurse, and he felt quite capable
of performing its duties. Nor was his boyhood far behind yet, although
the trials he had come through made it appear an age since he had lost
his light heart. So he never left her bedside, except to procure what
was necessary for her. She was too ill to oppose any of his measures, or
to seek to prohibit his presence. Indeed, by the time he had returned
with the first medicine, she was insensible; and she continued so
through the whole of the following week, during which time he was
constantly with her.

That action produces feeling is as often true as its converse; and it is
not surprising that, while he smoothed the pillow for her head, he
should have made a nest in his heart for the helpless girl. Slowly and
unconsciously he learned to love her. The chasm between his early
associations and the circumstances in which he found her, vanished as he
drew near to the simple, essential womanhood. His heart saw hers and
loved it; and he knew that, the centre once gained, he could, as from
the fountain of life, as from the innermost secret of the holy place,
the hidden germ of power and possibility, transform the outer intellect
and outermost manners as he pleased. With what a thrill of joy, a
feeling for a long time unknown to him, and till now never known in this
form or with this intensity, the thought arose in his heart that here
lay one who some day would love him; that he should have a place of
refuge and rest; one to lie in his bosom and not despise him! "For,"
said he to himself, "I will call forth her soul from where it sleeps,
like an unawakened echo, in an unknown cave; and like a child, of whom I
once dreamed, that was mine, and to my delight turned in fear from all
besides, and clung to me, this soul of hers will run with bewildered,
half-sleeping eyes, and tottering steps, but with a cry of joy on its
lips, to me as the life-giver. She will cling to me and worship me. Then
will I tell her, for she must know all, that I am low and contemptible;
that I am an outcast from the world, and that if she receive me, she
will be to me as God. And I will fall down at her feet and pray her for
comfort, for life, for restoration to myself; and she will throw herself
beside me, and weep and love me, I know. And we will go through life
together, working hard, but for each other; and when we die, she shall
lead me into paradise as the prize her angel-hand found cast on a desert
shore, from the storm of winds and waves which I was too weak to
resist--and raised, and tended, and saved." Often did such thoughts as
these pass through his mind while watching by her bed; alternated,
checked, and sometimes destroyed, by the fears which attended her
precarious condition, but returning with every apparent betterment or
hopeful symptom.

I will not stop to decide the nice question, how far the intention was
right, of causing her to love him before she knew his story. If in the
whole matter there was too much thought of self, my only apology is the
sequel. One day, the ninth from the commencement of her illness, a
letter arrived, addressed to her; which he, thinking he might prevent
some inconvenience thereby, opened and read, in the confidence of that
love which already made her and all belonging to her appear his own. It
was from a soldier--_her lover_. It was plain that they had been
betrothed before he left for the continent a year ago; but this was the
first letter which he had written to her. It breathed changeless love,
and hope, and confidence in her. He was so fascinated that he read it
through without pause.

Laying it down, he sat pale, motionless, almost inanimate. From the
hard-won sunny heights, he was once more cast down into the shadow of
death. The second storm of his life began, howling and raging, with yet
more awful lulls between. "Is she not _mine_?" he said, in agony. "Do I
not feel that she is mine? Who will watch over her as I? Who will kiss
her soul to life as I? Shall she be torn away from me, when my soul
seems to have dwelt with hers for ever in an eternal house? But have I
not a right to her? Have I not given my life for hers? Is he not a
soldier, and are there not many chances that he may never return? And it
may be that, although they were engaged in word, soul has never touched
soul with them; their love has never reached that point where it passes
from the mortal to the immortal, the indissoluble: and so, in a sense,
she may be yet free. Will he do for her what I will do? Shall this
precious heart of hers, in which I see the buds of so many beauties, be
left to wither and die?"

But here the voice within him cried out, "Art thou the disposer of
destinies? Wilt thou, in a universe where the visible God hath died for
the Truth's sake, do evil that a good, which He might neglect or
overlook, may be gained? Leave thou her to Him, and do thou right." And
he said within himself, "Now is the real trial for my life! Shall I
conquer or no?" And his heart awoke and cried, "I will. God forgive me
for wronging the poor soldier! A brave man, brave at least, is better
for her than I."

A great strength arose within him, and lifted him up to depart. "Surely
I may kiss her once," he said. For the crisis was over, and she slept.
He stooped towards her face, but before he had reached her lips he saw
her eyelids tremble; and he who had longed for the opening of those
eyes, as of the gates of heaven, that she might love him, stricken now
with fear lest she should love him, fled from her, before the eyelids
that hid such strife and such victory from the unconscious maiden had
time to unclose. But it was agony--quietly to pack up his bundle of
linen in the room below, when he knew she was lying awake above, with
her dear, pale face, and living eyes! What remained of his money, except
a few shillings, he put up in a scrap of paper, and went out with his
bundle in his hand, first to seek a nurse for his friend, and then to go
he knew not whither. He met the factory people with whom he had worked,
going to dinner, and amongst them a girl who had herself but lately
recovered from the fever, and was yet hardly able for work. She was the
only friend the sick girl had seemed to have amongst the women at the
factory, and she was easily persuaded to go and take charge of her. He
put the money in her hand, begging her to use it for the invalid, and
promising to send the equivalent of her wages for the time he thought
she would have to wait on her. This he easily did by the sale of a ring,
which, besides his mother's watch, was the only article of value he had
retained. He begged her likewise not to mention his name in the matter;
and was foolish enough to expect that she would entirely keep the
promise she had made him.

Wandering along the street, purposeless now and bereft, he spied a
recruiting party at the door of a public-house; and on coming nearer,
found, by one of those strange coincidences which do occur in life, and
which have possibly their root in a hidden and wondrous law, that it was
a party, perhaps a remnant, of the very regiment in which he had himself
served, and in which his misfortune had befallen him. Almost
simultaneously with the shock which the sight of the well-known number
on the soldiers' knapsacks gave him, arose in his mind the romantic,
ideal thought, of enlisting in the ranks of this same regiment, and
recovering, as a private soldier and unknown, that honour which as
officer he had lost. To this determination, the new necessity in which
he now stood for action and change of life, doubtless contributed,
though unconsciously. He offered himself to the sergeant; and,
notwithstanding that his dress indicated a mode of life unsuitable as
the antecedent to a soldier's, his appearance, and the necessity for
recruits combined, led to his easy acceptance.

The English armies were employed in expelling the enemy from an invaded
and helpless country. Whatever might be the political motives which had
induced the Government to this measure, the young man was now able to
feel that he could go and fight, individually and for his part, in the
cause of liberty. He was free to possess his own motives for joining in
the execution of the schemes of those who commanded his commanders.

With a heavy heart, but with more of inward hope and strength than he
had ever known before, he marched with his comrades to the seaport and
embarked. It seemed to him that because he had done right in his last
trial, here was a new glorious chance held out to his hand. True, it was
a terrible change to pass from a woman in whom he had hoped to find
healing, into the society of rough men, to march with them,
"_mitgleichem Tritt und Schritt_," up to the bristling bayonets or the
horrid vacancy of the cannon mouth. But it was the only cure for the
evil that consumed his life.

He reached the army in safety, and gave himself, with religious
assiduity, to the smallest duties of his new position. No one had a
brighter polish on his arms, or whiter belts than he. In the necessary
movements, he soon became precise to a degree that attracted the
attention of his officers; while his character was remarkable for all
the virtues belonging to a perfect soldier.

One day, as he stood sentry, he saw the eyes of his colonel intently
fixed on him. He felt his lip quiver, but he compressed and stilled it,
and tried to look as unconscious as he could; which effort was assisted
by the formal bearing required by his position. Now the colonel, such
had been the losses of the regiment, had been promoted from a
lieutenancy in the same, and had belonged to it at the time of the
ensign's degradation. Indeed, had not the changes in the regiment been
so great, he could hardly have escaped so long without discovery. But
the poor fellow would have felt that his name was already free of
reproach, if he had seen what followed on the close inspection which had
awakened his apprehensions, and which, in fact, had convinced the
colonel of his identity with the disgraced ensign. With a hasty and less
soldierly step than usual the colonel entered his tent, threw himself on
his bed and wept like a child. When he rose he was overheard to say
these words--and these only escaped his lips: "He is nobler than I."

But this officer showed himself worthy of commanding such men as this
private; for right nobly did he understand and meet his feelings. He
uttered no word of the discovery he had made, till years afterwards; but
it soon began to be remarked that whenever anything arduous, or in any
manner distinguished, had to be done, this man was sure to be of the
party appointed. In short, as often as he could, the colonel "set him in
the forefront of the battle." Passing through all with wonderful escape,
he was soon as much noticed for his reckless bravery, as hitherto for
his precision in the discharge of duties bringing only commendation and
not honour. But his final lustration was at hand.

A great part of the army was hastening, by forced marches, to raise the
siege of a town which was already on the point of falling into the hands
of the enemy. Forming one of a reconnoitring party, which preceded the
main body at some considerable distance, he and his companions came
suddenly upon one of the enemy's outposts, occupying a high, and on one
side precipitous rock, a short way from the town, which it commanded.
Retreat was impossible, for they were already discovered, and the
bullets were falling amongst them like the first of a hail-storm. The
only possibility of escape remaining for them was a nearly hopeless
improbability. It lay in forcing the post on this steep rock; which if
they could do before assistance came to the enemy, they might, perhaps,
be able to hold out, by means of its defences, till the arrival of the
army. Their position was at once understood by all; and, by a sudden,
simultaneous impulse, they found themselves halfway up the steep ascent,
and in the struggle of a close conflict, without being aware of any
order to that effect from their officer. But their courage was of no
avail; the advantages of the place were too great; and in a few minutes
the whole party was cut to pieces, or stretched helpless on the rock.
Our youth had fallen amongst the foremost; for a musket ball had grazed
his skull, and laid him insensible.

But consciousness slowly returned, and he succeeded at last in raising
himself and looking around him. The place was deserted. A few of his
friends, alive, but grievously wounded, lay near him. The rest were
dead. It appeared that, learning the proximity of the English forces
from this rencontre with part of their advanced guard, and dreading lest
the town, which was on the point of surrendering, should after all be
snatched from their grasp, the commander of the enemy's forces had
ordered an immediate and general assault; and had for this purpose
recalled from their outposts the whole of his troops thus stationed,
that he might make the attempt with the utmost strength he could
accumulate.

As the youth's power of vision returned, he perceived, from the height
where he lay, that the town was already in the hands of the enemy.
But looking down into the level space immediately below him, he started
to his feet at once; for a girl, bare-headed, was fleeing towards the
rock, pursued by several soldiers. "Aha!" said he, divining her
purpose--the soldiers behind and the rock before her--"I will help you
to die!" And he stooped and wrenched from the dead fingers of a sergeant
the sword which they clenched by the bloody hilt. A new throb of life
pulsed through him to his very finger-tips; and on the brink of the
unseen world he stood, with the blood rushing through his veins in a
wild dance of excitement. One who lay near him wounded, but recovered
afterwards, said that he looked like one inspired. With a keen eye he
watched the chase. The girl drew nigh; and rushed up the path near which
he was standing. Close on her footsteps came the soldiers, the distance
gradually lessening between them.

Not many paces higher up, was a narrower part of the ascent, where the
path was confined by great stones, or pieces of rock. Here had been the
chief defence in the preceding assault, and in it lay many bodies of his
friends. Thither he went and took his stand.

On the girl came, over the dead, with rigid hands and flying feet, the
bloodless skin drawn tight on her features, and her eyes awfully large
and wild. She did not see him though she bounded past so near that her
hair flew in his eyes. "Never mind!" said he, "we shall meet soon." And
he stepped into the narrow path just in time to face her
pursuers--between her and them. Like the red lightning the bloody sword
fell, and a man beneath it. Cling! clang! went the echoes in the
rocks--and another man was down; for, in his excitement, he was a
destroying angel to the breathless pursuers. His stature rose, his chest
dilated; and as the third foe fell dead, the girl was safe; for her body
lay a broken, empty, but undesecrated temple, at the foot of the rock.
That moment his sword flew in shivers from his grasp. The next instant
he fell, pierced to the heart; and his spirit rose triumphant, free,
strong, and calm, above the stormy world, which at length lay vanquished
beneath him.




THE GRAY WOLF




One evening-twilight in spring, a young English student, who had
wandered northwards as far as the outlying fragments of Scotland called
the Orkney and Shetland Islands, found himself on a small island of the
latter group, caught in a storm of wind and hail, which had come on
suddenly. It was in vain to look about for any shelter; for not only did
the storm entirely obscure the landscape, but there was nothing around
him save a desert moss.

At length, however, as he walked on for mere walking's sake, he found
himself on the verge of a cliff, and saw, over the brow of it, a few
feet below him, a ledge of rock, where he might find some shelter from
the blast, which blew from behind. Letting himself down by his hands, he
alighted upon something that crunched beneath his tread, and found the
bones of many small animals scattered about in front of a little cave in
the rock, offering the refuge he sought. He went in, and sat upon a
stone. The storm increased in violence, and as the darkness grew he
became uneasy, for he did not relish the thought of spending the night
in the cave. He had parted from his companions on the opposite side of
the island, and it added to his uneasiness that they must be full of
apprehension about him. At last there came a lull in the storm, and the
same instant he heard a footfall, stealthy and light as that of a wild
beast, upon the bones at the mouth of the cave. He started up in some
fear, though the least thought might have satisfied him that there could
be no very dangerous animals upon the island. Before he had time to
think, however, the face of a woman appeared in the opening. Eagerly the
wanderer spoke. She started at the sound of his voice. He could not see
her well, because she was turned towards the darkness of the cave.

"Will you tell me how to find my way across the moor to Shielness?" he
asked.

"You cannot find it to-night," she answered, in a sweet tone, and with a
smile that bewitched him, revealing the whitest of teeth.

"What am I to do, then?"

"My mother will give you shelter, but that is all she has to offer."

"And that is far more than I expected a minute ago," he replied. "I
shall be most grateful."

She turned in silence and left the cave. The youth followed.

She was barefooted, and her pretty brown feet went catlike over the
sharp stones, as she led the way down a rocky path to the shore. Her
garments were scanty and torn, and her hair blew tangled in the wind.
She seemed about five and twenty, lithe and small. Her long fingers kept
clutching and pulling nervously at her skirts as she went. Her face was
very gray in complexion, and very worn, but delicately formed, and
smooth-skinned. Her thin nostrils were tremulous as eyelids, and her
lips, whose curves were faultless, had no colour to give sign of
indwelling blood. What her eyes were like he could not see, for she had
never lifted the delicate films of her eyelids.

At the foot of the cliff, they came upon a little hut leaning against
it, and having for its inner apartment a natural hollow within. Smoke
was spreading over the face of the rock, and the grateful odour of food
gave hope to the hungry student. His guide opened the door of the
cottage; he followed her in, and saw a woman bending over a fire in the
middle of the floor. On the fire lay a large fish broiling. The daughter
spoke a few words, and the mother turned and welcomed the stranger. She
had an old and very wrinkled, but honest face, and looked troubled. She
dusted the only chair in the cottage, and placed it for him by the side
of the fire, opposite the one window, whence he saw a little patch of
yellow sand over which the spent waves spread themselves out listlessly.
Under this window there was a bench, upon which the daughter threw
herself in an unusual posture, resting her chin upon her hand. A moment
after, the youth caught the first glimpse of her blue eyes. They were
fixed upon him with a strange look of greed, amounting to craving, but,
as if aware that they belied or betrayed her, she dropped them
instantly. The moment she veiled them, her face, notwithstanding its
colourless complexion, was almost beautiful.

When the fish was ready, the old woman wiped the deal table, steadied it
upon the uneven floor, and covered it with a piece of fine table-linen.
She then laid the fish on a wooden platter, and invited the guest to
help himself. Seeing no other provision, he pulled from his pocket a
hunting knife, and divided a portion from the fish, offering it to the
mother first.

"Come, my lamb," said the old woman; and the daughter approached the
table. But her nostrils and mouth quivered with disgust.

The next moment she turned and hurried from the hut.

"She doesn't like fish," said the old woman, "and I haven't anything
else to give her."

"She does not seem in good health," he rejoined.

The woman answered only with a sigh, and they ate their fish with the
help of a little rye bread. As they finished their supper, the youth
heard the sound as of the pattering of a dog's feet upon the sand close
to the door; but ere he had time to look out of the window, the door
opened, and the young woman entered. She looked better, perhaps from
having just washed her face. She drew a stool to the corner of the fire
opposite him. But as she sat down, to his bewilderment, and even horror,
the student spied a single drop of blood on her white skin within her
torn dress. The woman brought out a jar of whisky, put a rusty old
kettle on the fire, and took her place in front of it. As soon as the
water boiled, she proceeded to make some toddy in a wooden bowl.

Meantime the youth could not take his eyes off the young woman, so that
at length he found himself fascinated, or rather bewitched. She kept her
eyes for the most part veiled with the loveliest eyelids fringed with
darkest lashes, and he gazed entranced; for the red glow of the little
oil-lamp covered all the strangeness of her complexion. But as soon as
he met a stolen glance out of those eyes unveiled, his soul shuddered
within him. Lovely face and craving eyes alternated fascination and
repulsion.

The mother placed the bowl in his hands. He drank sparingly, and passed
it to the girl. She lifted it to her lips, and as she tasted--only
tasted it--looked at him. He thought the drink must have been drugged
and have affected his brain. Her hair smoothed itself back, and drew her
forehead backwards with it; while the lower part of her face projected
towards the bowl, revealing, ere she sipped, her dazzling teeth in
strange prominence. But the same moment the vision vanished; she
returned the vessel to her mother, and rising, hurried out of the
cottage.

Then the old woman pointed to a bed of heather in one corner with a
murmured apology; and the student, wearied both with the fatigues of the
day and the strangeness of the night, threw himself upon it, wrapped in
his cloak. The moment he lay down, the storm began afresh, and the wind
blew so keenly through the crannies of the hut, that it was only by
drawing his cloak over his head that he could protect himself from its
currents. Unable to sleep, he lay listening to the uproar which grew in
violence, till the spray was dashing against the window. At length the
door opened, and the young woman came in, made up the fire, drew the
bench before it, and lay down in the same strange posture, with her chin
propped on her hand and elbow, and her face turned towards the youth. He
moved a little; she dropped her head, and lay on her face, with her arms
crossed beneath her forehead. The mother had disappeared.

Drowsiness crept over him. A movement of the bench roused him, and he
fancied he saw some four-footed creature as tall as a large dog trot
quietly out of the door. He was sure he felt a rush of cold wind. Gazing
fixedly through the darkness, he thought he saw the eyes of the damsel
encountering his, but a glow from the falling together of the remnants
of the fire revealed clearly enough that the bench was vacant. Wondering
what could have made her go out in such a storm, he fell fast asleep.

In the middle of the night he felt a pain in his shoulder, came broad
awake, and saw the gleaming eyes and grinning teeth of some animal close
to his face. Its claws were in his shoulder, and its mouth in the act of
seeking his throat. Before it had fixed its fangs, however, he had its
throat in one hand, and sought his knife with the other. A terrible
struggle followed; but regardless of the tearing claws, he found and
opened his knife. He had made one futile stab, and was drawing it for a
surer, when, with a spring of the whole body, and one wildly contorted
effort, the creature twisted its neck from his hold, and with something
betwixt a scream and a howl, darted from him. Again he heard the door
open; again the wind blew in upon him, and it continued blowing; a sheet
of spray dashed across the floor, and over his face. He sprung from his
couch and bounded to the door.

It was a wild night--dark, but for the flash of whiteness from the waves
as they broke within a few yards of the cottage; the wind was raving,
and the rain pouring down the air. A gruesome sound as of mingled
weeping and howling came from somewhere in the dark. He turned again
into the hut and closed the door, but could find no way of securing it.

The lamp was nearly out, and he could not be certain whether the form of
the young woman was upon the bench or not. Overcoming a strong
repugnance, he approached it, and put out his hands--there was nothing
there. He sat down and waited for the daylight: he dared not sleep any
more.

When the day dawned at length, he went out yet again, and looked around.
The morning was dim and gusty and gray. The wind had fallen, but the
waves were tossing wildly. He wandered up and down the little strand,
longing for more light.

At length he heard a movement in the cottage. By and by the voice of the
old woman called to him from the door.

"You're up early, sir. I doubt you didn't sleep well."

"Not very well," he answered. "But where is your daughter?"

"She's not awake yet," said the mother. "I'm afraid I have but a poor
breakfast for you. But you'll take a dram and a bit of fish. It's all
I've got."

Unwilling to hurt her, though hardly in good appetite, he sat down at
the table. While they were eating, the daughter came in, but turned her
face away and went to the farther end of the hut. When she came forward
after a minute or two, the youth saw that her hair was drenched, and her
face whiter than before. She looked ill and faint, and when she raised
her eyes, all their fierceness had vanished, and sadness had taken its
place. Her neck was now covered with a cotton handkerchief. She was
modestly attentive to him, and no longer shunned his gaze. He was
gradually yielding to the temptation of braving another night in the
hut, and seeing what would follow, when the old woman spoke.

"The weather will be broken all day, sir," she said. "You had better be
going, or your friends will leave without you."

Ere he could answer, he saw such a beseeching glance on the face of the
girl, that he hesitated, confused. Glancing at the mother, he saw the
flash of wrath in her face. She rose and approached her daughter, with
her hand lifted to strike her. The young woman stooped her head with a
cry. He darted round the table to interpose between them. But the mother
had caught hold of her; the handkerchief had fallen from her neck; and
the youth saw five blue bruises on her lovely throat--the marks of the
four fingers and the thumb of a left hand. With a cry of horror he
darted from the house, but as he reached the door he turned. His hostess
was lying motionless on the floor, and a huge gray wolf came bounding
after him.

There was no weapon at hand; and if there had been, his inborn chivalry
would never have allowed him to harm a woman even under the guise of a
wolf. Instinctively, he set himself firm, leaning a little forward, with
half outstretched arms, and hands curved ready to clutch again at the
throat upon which he had left those pitiful marks. But the creature as
she sprung eluded his grasp, and just as he expected to feel her fangs,
he found a woman weeping on his bosom, with her arms around his neck.
The next instant, the gray wolf broke from him, and bounded howling up
the cliff. Recovering himself as he best might, the youth followed, for
it was the only way to the moor above, across which he must now make his
way to find his companions.

All at once he heard the sound of a crunching of bones--not as if a
creature was eating them, but as if they were ground by the teeth of
rage and disappointment; looking up, he saw close above him the mouth of
the little cavern in which he had taken refuge the day before. Summoning
all his resolution, he passed it slowly and softly. From within came the
sounds of a mingled moaning and growling.

Having reached the top, he ran at full speed for some distance across
the moor before venturing to look behind him. When at length he did so,
he saw, against the sky, the girl standing on the edge of the cliff,
wringing her hands. One solitary wail crossed the space between. She
made no attempt to follow him, and he reached the opposite shore in
safety.




UNCLE CORNELIUS HIS STORY





It was a dull evening in November. A drizzling mist had been falling all
day about the old farm. Harry Heywood and his two sisters sat in the
house-place, expecting a visit from their uncle, Cornelius Heywood. This
uncle lived alone, occupying the first floor above a chemist's shop in
the town, and had just enough of money over to buy books that nobody
seemed ever to have heard of but himself; for he was a student in all
those regions of speculation in which anything to be called knowledge is
impossible.

"What a dreary night!" said Kate. "I wish uncle would come and tell us a
story."

"A cheerful wish," said Harry. "Uncle Cornie is a lively
companion--isn't he? He cant even blunder through a Joe Miller without
tacking a moral to it, and then trying to persuade you that the joke of
it depends on the moral."

"Here he comes!" said Kate, as three distinct blows with the knob of his
walking-stick announced the arrival of Uncle Cornelius. She ran to the
door to open it.

The air had been very still all day, but as he entered he seemed to have
brought the wind with him, for the first moan of it pressed against
rather than shook the casement of the low-ceiled room.

Uncle Cornelius was very tall, and very thin, and very pale, with large
gray eyes that looked greatly larger because he wore spectacles of the
most delicate hair-steel, with the largest pebble-eyes that ever were
seen. He gave them a kindly greeting, but too much in earnest even in
shaking hands to smile over it. He sat down in the arm-chair by the
chimney corner.

I have been particular in my description of him, in order that my reader
may give due weight to his words. I am such a believer in words, that I
believe everything depends on who says them. Uncle Cornelius Heywood's
story told word for word by Uncle Timothy Warren, would not have been
the same story at all. Not one of the listeners would have believed a
syllable of it from the lips of round-bodied, red-faced, small-eyed,
little Uncle Tim; whereas from Uncle Cornie--disbelieve one of his
stories if you could!

One word more concerning him. His interest in everything conjectured or
believed relative to the awful borderland of this world and the next,
was only equalled by his disgust at the vulgar, unimaginative forms
which curiosity about such subjects has assumed in the present day. With
a yearning after the unseen like that of a child for the lifting of the
curtain of a theatre, he declared that, rather than accept such a
spirit-world as the would-be seers of the nineteenth century thought or
pretended to reveal,--the prophets of a pauperised, workhouse
immortality, invented by a poverty-stricken soul, and a sense so greedy
that it would gorge on carrion,--he would rejoice to believe that a man
had just as much of a soul as the cabbage of Iamblichus, namely, an
aerial double of his body.

"I'm so glad you're come, uncle!" said Kate. "Why wouldn't you come to
dinner? We have been so gloomy!"

"Well, Katey, you know I don't admire eating. I never could bear to see
a cow tearing up the grass with her long tongue." As he spoke he looked
very much like a cow. He had a way of opening his jaws while he kept his
lips closely pressed together, that made his cheeks fall in, and his
face look awfully long and dismal. "I consider eating," he went on,
"such an animal exercise that it ought always to be performed in
private. You never saw me dine, Kate."

"Never, uncle; but I have seen you drink;--nothing but water, I must
confess."

"Yes that is another affair. According to one eyewitness that is no more
than the disembodied can do. I must confess, however, that, although
well attested, the story is to me scarcely credible. Fancy a glass of
Bavarian beer lifted into the air without a visible hand, turned upside
down, and set empty on the table!--and no splash on the floor or
anywhere else!"

A solitary gleam of humour shone through the great eyes of the
spectacles as he spoke.

"Oh, uncle! how can you believe such nonsense!" said Janet.

"I did not say I believed it--did I? But why not? The story has at least
a touch of imagination in it."

"That is a strange reason for believing a thing, uncle," said Harry.

"You might have a worse, Harry. I grant it is not sufficient; but it is
better than that commonplace aspect which is the ground of most faith. I
believe I did say that the story puzzled me."

"But how can you give it any quarter at all, uncle?"

"It does me no harm. There it is--between the boards of an old German
book. There let it remain."

"Well, you will never persuade me to believe such things," said Janet.

"Wait till I ask you, Janet," returned her uncle, gravely. "I have not
the slightest desire to convince you. How did we get into this
unprofitable current of talk? We will change it at once. How are
consols, Harry?"

"Oh, uncle!" said Kate, "we were longing for a story, and just as I
thought you were coming to one, off you go to consols!"

"I thought a ghost story at least was coming," said Janet.

"You did your best to stop it, Janet," said Harry.

Janet began an angry retort, but Cornelius interrupted her. "You never
heard me tell a ghost story, Janet."

"You have just told one about a drinking ghost, uncle," said Janet--in
such a tone that Cornelius replied--

"Well, take that for your story, and let us talk of something else."

Janet apparently saw that she had been rude, and said as sweetly as she
might--"Ah! but you didn't make that one, uncle. You got it out of a
German book."

"Make it!--Make a ghost story!" repeated Cornelius. "No; that I never
did."

"Such things are not to be trifled with, are they?" said Janet.

"I at least have no inclination to trifle with them."

"But, really and truly, uncle," persisted Janet, "you don't believe in
such things?"

"Why should I either believe or disbelieve in them? They are not
essential to salvation, I presume."

"You must do the one or the other, I suppose."

"I beg your pardon. You suppose wrong. It would take twice the proof I
have ever had to make me believe in them; and exactly your prejudice,
and allow me to say ignorance, to make me disbelieve in them. Neither is
within my reach. I postpone judgment. But you, young people, of course,
are wiser, and know all about the question."

"Oh, uncle! I'm so sorry!" said Kate. "I'm sure I did not mean to vex
you."

"Not at all, not at all, my dear.--It wasn't you."

"Do you know," Kate went on, anxious to prevent anything unpleasant, for
there was something very black perched on Janet's forehead, "I have
taken to reading about that kind of thing."

"I beg you will give it up at once. You will bewilder your brains till
you are ready to believe anything, if only it be absurd enough. Nay, you
may come to find the element of vulgarity essential to belief. I should
be sorry to the heart to believe concerning a horse or dog what they
tell you nowadays about Shakespeare and Burns. What have you been
reading, my girl?"

"Don't be alarmed, uncle. Only some Highland legends, which are too
absurd either for my belief or for your theories."

"I don't know that, Kate."

"Why, what could you do with such shapeless creatures as haunt their
fords and pools for instance? They are as featureless as the faces of
the mountains."

"And so much the more terrible."

"But that does not make it easier to believe in them," said Harry.

"I only said," returned his uncle, "that their shapelessness adds to
their horror."

"But you allowed--almost, at least, uncle," said Kate, "that you could
find a place in your theories even for those shapeless creatures."

Cornelius sat silent for a moment; then, having first doubled the length
of his face, and restored it to its natural condition, said
thoughtfully, "I suspect, Katey, if you were to come upon an
ichthyosaurus or a pterodactyl asleep in the shubbery, you would hardly
expect your report of it to be believed all at once either by Harry or
Janet."

"I suppose not, uncle. But I can't see what--"

"Of course such a thing could not happen here and now. But there was a
time when and a place where such a thing may have happened. Indeed, in
my time, a traveller or two have got pretty soundly disbelieved for
reporting what they saw,--the last of an expiring race, which had
strayed over the natural verge of its history, coming to life in some
neglected swamp, itself a remnant of the slime of Chaos."

"I never heard you talk like that before, uncle," said Harry. "If you go
on like that, you'll land me in a swamp, I'm afraid."

"I wasn't talking to you at all, Harry. Kate challenged me to find a
place for kelpies, and such like, in the theories she does me the honour
of supposing I cultivate."

"Then you think, uncle, that all these stories are only legends which,
if you could follow them up, would lead you back to some one of the
awful monsters that have since quite disappeared from the earth."

"It is possible those stories may be such legends; but that was not what
I intended to lead you to. I gave you that only as something like what I
am going to say now. What if,--mind, I only suggest it,--what if the
direful creatures, whose report lingers in these tales, should have an
origin far older still? What if they were the remnants of a vanishing
period of the earth's history long antecedent to the birth of mastodon
and iguanodon; a stage, namely, when the world, as we call it, had not
yet become quite visible, was not yet so far finished as to part from
the invisible world that was its mother, and which, on its part, had not
then become quite invisible--was only almost such; and when, as a
credible consequence, strange shapes of those now invisible regions,
Gorgons and Chimaeras dire, might be expected to gloom out occasionally
from the awful Fauna of an ever-generating world upon that one which was
being born of it. Hence, the life-periods of a world being long and
slow, some of these huge, unformed bulks of half-created matter might,
somehow, like the megatherium of later times,--a baby creation to
them,--roll at age-long intervals, clothed in a mighty terror of
shapelessness into the half-recognition of human beings, whose
consternation at the uncertain vision were barrier enough to prevent all
further knowledge of its substance."

"I begin to have some notion of your meaning, uncle," said Kate.

"But then," said Janet, "all that must be over by this time. That world
has been invisible now for many years."

"Ever since you were born, I suppose, Janet. The changes of a world are
not to be measured by the changes of its generations."

"Oh, but, uncle, there can't be any such things. You know that as well
as I do."

"Yes, just as well, and no better."

"There can't be any ghosts now. Nobody believes such things."

"Oh, as to ghosts, that is quite another thing. I did not know you were
talking with reference to them. It is no wonder if one can get nothing
sensible out of you, Janet, when your discrimination is no greater than
to lump everything marvellous, kelpies, ghosts, vampires, doubles,
witches, fairies, nightmares, and I don't know what all, under the one
head of ghosts; and we haven't been saying a word about them. If one
were to disprove to you the existence of the afreets of Eastern tales,
you would consider the whole argument concerning the reappearance of the
departed upset. I congratulate you on your powers of analysis and
induction, Miss Janet. But it matters very little whether we believe in
ghosts, as you say, or not, provided we believe that we are ghosts--that
within this body, which so many people are ready to consider their own
very selves, their lies a ghostly embryo, at least, which has an inner
side to it God only can see, which says I concerning itself, and which
will soon have to know whether or not it can appear to those whom it has
left behind, and thus solve the question of ghosts for itself, at
least."

"Then you do believe in ghosts, uncle?" said Janet, in a tone that
certainly was not respectful.

"Surely I said nothing of the sort, Janet. The man most convinced that
he had himself had such an interview as you hint at, would find--ought
to find it impossible to convince any one else of it."

"You are quite out of my depth, uncle," said Harry. "Surely any honest
man ought to be believed?"

"Honesty is not all, by any means, that is necessary to being believed.
It is impossible to convey a conviction of anything. All you can do is
to convey a conviction that you are convinced. Of course, what satisfied
you might satisfy another; but, till you can present him with the
sources of your conviction, you cannot present him with the
conviction--and perhaps not even then."

"You can tell him all about, it, can't you?"

"Is telling a man about a ghost, affording him the source of your
conviction? Is it the same as a ghost appearing to him? Really,
Harry!--You cannot even convey the impression a dream has made upon
you."

"But isn't that just because it is only a dream?"

"Not at all. The impression may be deeper and clearer on your mind than
any fact of the next morning will make. You will forget the next day
altogether, but the impression of the dream will remain through all the
following whirl and storm of what you call facts. Now a conviction may
be likened to a deep impression on the judgment or the reason, or both.
No one can feel it but the person who is convinced. It cannot be
conveyed."

"I fancy that is just what those who believe in spirit-rapping would
say."

"There are the true and false of convictions, as of everything else. I
mean that a man may take that for a conviction in his own mind which is
not a conviction, but only resembles one. But those to whom you refer
profess to appeal to facts. It is on the ground of those facts, and with
the more earnestness the more reason they can give for receiving them as
facts, that I refuse all their deductions with abhorrence. I mean that,
if what they say is true, the thinker must reject with contempt the
claim to anything like revelation therein."

"Then you do not believe in ghosts, after all?" said Kate, in a tone of
surprise.

"I did not say so, my dear. Will you be reasonable, or will you not?"

"Dear uncle, do tell us what you really think."

"I have been telling you what I think ever since I came, Katey; and you
won't take in a word I say."

"I have been taking in every word, uncle, and trying hard to understand
it as well.--Did you ever see a ghost, uncle?"

Cornelius Heywood was silent. He shut his lips and opened his jaws till
his cheeks almost met in the vacuum. A strange expression crossed the
strange countenance, and the great eyes of his spectacles looked as if,
at the very moment, they were seeing something no other spectacles could
see. Then his jaws closed with a snap, his countenance brightened, a
flash of humour came through the goggle eyes of pebble, and, at length,
he actually smiled as he said--"Really, Katey, you must take me for a
simpleton!"

"How, uncle?"

"To think, if I had ever seen a ghost, I would confess the fact before a
set of creatures like you--all spinning your webs like so many spiders
to catch and devour old Daddy Longlegs."

By this time Harry had grown quite grave. "Indeed, I am very sorry,
uncle," he said, "if I have deserved such a rebuke."

"No, no, my boy," said Cornelius; "I did not mean it more than half. If
I had meant it, I would not have said it. If you really would like--"
Here he paused.

"Indeed we should, uncle," said Kate, earnestly. "You should have heard
what we were saying just before you came in."

"All you were saying, Katey?"

"Yes," answered Kate, thoughtfully. "The worst we said was that you
could not tell a story without--well, we did say tacking a moral to it."

"Well, well! I mustn't push it. A man has no right to know what people
say about him. It unfits him for occupying his real position amongst
them. He, least of all, has anything to do with it. If his friends won't
defend him, he can't defend himself. Besides, what people say is so
often untrue!--I don't mean to others, but to themselves. Their hearts
are more honest than their mouths. But Janet doesn't want a strange
story, I am sure."

Janet certainly was not one to have chosen for a listener to such a
tale. Her eyes were so small that no satisfaction could possibly come of
it. "Oh! I don't mind, uncle," she said, with half-affected
indifference, as she searched in her box for silk to mend her gloves.

"You are not very encouraging, I must say," returned her uncle, making
another cow-face."

"I will go away, if you like," said Janet, pretending to rise.

"No, never mind," said her uncle hastily. "If you don't want me to tell
it, I want you to hear it; and, before I have done, that may have come
to the same thing perhaps."

"Then you really are going to tell us a ghost story!" said Kate, drawing
her chair nearer to her uncle's; and then, finding this did not satisfy
her sense of propinquity to the source of the expected pleasure, drawing
a stool from the corner, and seating herself almost on the hearth-rug at
his knee.

"I did not say so," returned Cornelius, once more. "I said I would tell
you a strange story. You may call it a ghost story if you like; I do not
pretend to determine what it is. I confess it will look like one,
though."

After so many delays, Uncle Cornelius now plunged almost hurriedly into
his narration.

"In the year 1820," he said, "in the month of August, I fell in love."
Here the girls glanced at each other. The idea of Uncle Cornie in love,
and in the very same century in which they were now listening to the
confession, was too astonishing to pass without ocular remark; but, if
he observed it, he took no notice of it; he did not even pause. "In the
month of September, I was refused. Consequently, in the month of
October, I was ready to fall in love again. Take particular care of
yourself, Harry, for a whole month, at least, after your first
disappointment; for you will never be more likely to do a foolish thing.
Please yourself after the second. If you are silly then, you may take
what you get, for you will deserve it--except it be good fortune."

"Did you do a foolish thing then, uncle?" asked Harry, demurely.

"I did, as you will see; for I fell in love again."

"I don't see anything so very foolish in that."

"I have repented it since, though. Don't interrupt me again, please. In
the middle of October, then, in the year 1820, in the evening, I was
walking across Russell Square, on my way home from the British Museum,
where I had been reading all day. You see I have a full intention of
being precise, Janet."

"I'm sure I don't know why you make the remark to me, uncle," said
Janet, with an involuntary toss of her head. Her uncle only went on with
his narrative.

"I begin at the very beginning of my story," he said; "for I want to be
particular as to everything that can appear to have had anything to do
with what came afterwards. I had been reading, I say, all the morning in
the British Museum; and, as I walked, I took off my spectacles to ease
my eyes. I need not tell you that I am short-sighted now, for that you
know well enough. But I must tell you that I was short-sighted then, and
helpless enough without my spectacles, although I was not quite so much
so as I am now;--for I find it all nonsense about short-sighted eyes
improving with age. Well, I was walking along the south side of Russell
Square, with my spectacles in my hand, and feeling a little bewildered
in consequence--for it was quite the dusk of the evening, and
short-sighted people require more light than others. I was feeling, in
fact, almost blind. I had got more than half-way to the other side,
when, from the crossing that cuts off the corner in the direction of
Montagu Place, just as I was about to turn towards it, an old lady
stepped upon the kerbstone of the pavement, looked at me for a moment,
and passed--an occurrence not very remarkable, certainly. But the lady
was remarkable, and so was her dress. I am not good at observing, and I
am still worse at describing dress, therefore I can only say that hers
reminded me of an old picture--that is, I had never seen anything like
it, except in old pictures. She had no bonnet, and looked as if she had
walked straight out of an ancient drawing-room in her evening attire. Of
her face I shall say nothing now. The next instant I met a man on the
crossing, who stopped and addressed me. So short-sighted was I that,
although I recognised his voice as one I ought to know, I could not
identify him until I had put on my spectacles, which I did instinctively
in the act of returning his greeting. At the same moment I glanced over
my shoulder after the old lady. She was nowhere to be seen.

"'What are you looking at?' asked James Hetheridge.

"'I was looking after that old lady,' I answered, 'but I can't see her.'

"'What old lady?' said Hetheridge, with just a touch of impatience.

"'You must have seen her,' I returned. 'You were not more than three
yards behind her.'

"'Where is she then?'

"'She must have gone down one of the areas, I think. But she looked a
lady, though an old-fashioned one.'

"'Have you been dining?' asked James, in a tone of doubtful inquiry.

"'No,' I replied, not suspecting the insinuation; 'I have only just come
from the Museum.'

"'Then I advise you to call on your medical man before you go home.'

"'Medical man!' I returned; 'I have no medical man. What do you mean? I
never was better in my life.'

"'I mean that there was no old lady. It was an illusion, and that
indicates something wrong. Besides, you did not know me when I spoke to
you.'

"'That is nothing," I returned. 'I had just taken off my spectacles, and
without them I shouldn't know my own father.'

"'How was it you saw the old lady, then?'

"The affair was growing serious under my friend's cross-questioning. I
did not at all like the idea of his supposing me subject to
hallucinations. So I answered, with a laugh, 'Ah! to be sure, that
explains it. I am so blind without my spectacles, that I shouldn't know
an old lady from a big dog.'

"'There was no big dog,' said Hetheridge, shaking his head, as the fact
for the first time dawned upon me that, although I had seen the old lady
clearly enough to make a sketch of her, even to the features of her
care-worn, eager old face, I had not been able to recognise the
well-known countenance of James Hetheridge.

"'That's what comes of reading till the optic nerve is weakened," he
went on. 'You will cause yourself serious injury if you do not pull up
in time. I'll tell you what; I'm going home next week--will you go with
me?'

"'You are very kind,' I answered, not altogether rejecting the proposal,
for I felt that a little change to the country would be pleasant, and I
was quite my own master. For I had unfortunately means equal to my
wants, and had no occasion to follow any profession--not a very
desirable thing for a young man, I can tell you, Master Harry. I need
not keep you over the commonplaces of pressing and yielding. It is
enough to say that he pressed and that I yielded. The day was fixed for
our departure together; but something or other, I forget what, occurred,
to make him advance the date, and it was resolved that I should follow
later in the month.

"It was a drizzly afternoon in the beginning of the last week of October
when I left the town of Bradford in a post-chaise to drive to Lewton
Grange, the property of my friend's father. I had hardly left the town,
and the twilight had only begun to deepen, when, glancing from one of
the windows of the chaise, I fancied I saw, between me and the hedge,
the dim figure of a horse keeping pace with us. I thought, in the first
interval of unreason, that it was a shadow from my own horse, but
reminded myself the next moment that there could be no shadow where
there was no light. When I looked again, I was at the first glance
convinced that my eyes had deceived me. At the second, I believed once
more that a shadowy something, with the movements of a horse in harness,
was keeping pace with us. I turned away again with some discomfort, and
not till we had reached an open moorland road, whence a little watery
light was visible on the horizon, could I summon up courage enough to
look out once more. Certainly then there was nothing to be seen, and I
persuaded myself that it had been all a fancy, and lighted a cigar. With
my feet on the cushions before me, I had soon lifted myself on the
clouds of tobacco far above all the terrors of the night, and believed
them banished for ever. But, my cigar coming to an end just as we turned
into the avenue that led up to the Grange, I found myself once more
glancing nervously out of the window. The moment the trees were about
me, there was, if not a shadowy horse out there by the side of the
chaise, yet certainly more than half that conviction in here in my
consciousness. When I saw my friend, however, standing on the doorstep,
dark against the glow of the hall fire, I forgot all about it; and I
need not add that I did not make it a subject of conversation when I
entered, for I was well aware that it was essential to a man's
reputation that his senses should be accurate, though his heart might
without prejudice swarm with shadows, and his judgment be a very stable
of hobbies.

"I was kindly received. Mrs. Hetheridge had been dead for some years,
and Laetitia, the eldest of the family, was at the head of the
household. She had two sisters, little more than girls. The father was a
burly, yet gentlemanlike Yorkshire squire, who ate well, drank well,
looked radiant, and hunted twice a week. In this pastime his son joined
him when in the humour, which happened scarcely so often. I, who had
never crossed a horse in my life, took his apology for not being able to
mount me very coolly, assuring him that I would rather loiter about with
a book than be in at the death of the best-hunted fox in Yorkshire.

"I very soon found myself at home with the Hetheridges; and very soon
again I began to find myself not so much at home; for Miss
Hetheridge--Laetitia as I soon ventured to call her--was fascinating. I
have told you, Katey, that there was an empty place in my heart. Look to
the door then, Katey. That was what made me so ready to fall in love
with Laetitia. Her figure was graceful, and I think, even now, her face
would have been beautiful but for a certain contraction of the skin over
the nostrils, suggesting an invisible thumb and forefinger pinching
them, which repelled me, although I did not then know what it indicated.
I had not been with her one evening before the impression it made on me
had vanished, and that so entirely that I could hardly recall the
perception of the peculiarity which had occasioned it. Her observation
was remarkably keen, and her judgment generally correct. She had great
confidence in it herself; nor was she devoid of sympathy with some of
the forms of human imagination, only they never seemed to possess for
her any relation to practical life. That was to be ordered by the
judgment alone. I do not mean she ever said so. I am only giving the
conclusions I came to afterwards. It is not necessary that you should
have any more thorough acquaintance with her mental character. One point
in her moral nature, of special consequence to my narrative, will show
itself by and by.

"I did all I could to make myself agreeable to her, and the more I
succeeded the more delightful she became in my eyes. We walked in the
garden and grounds together; we read, or rather I read and she
listened;--read poetry, Katey--sometimes till we could not read any more
for certain haziness and huskiness which look now, I am afraid,
considerably more absurd than they really were, or even ought to look.
In short, I considered myself thoroughly in love with her."

"And wasn't she in love with you, uncle?"

"Don't interrupt me, child. I don't know. I hoped so then. I hope the
contrary now. She liked me I am sure. That is not much to say. Liking is
very pleasant and very cheap. Love is as rare as a star."

"I thought the stars were anything but rare, uncle."

"That's because you never went out to find one for yourself, Katey. They
would prove a few miles apart then."

"But it would be big enough when I did find it."

"Right, my dear. That is the way with love.--Laetitia was a good
housekeeper. Everything was punctual as clockwork. I use the word
advisedly. If her father, who was punctual to one date,--the
dinner-hour,--made any remark to the contrary as he took up the
carving-knife, Laetitia would instantly send one of her sisters to
question the old clock in the hall, and report the time to half a
minute. It was sure to be found that, if there was a mistake, the
mistake was in the clock. But although it was certainly a virtue to have
her household in such perfect order, it was not a virtue to be impatient
with every infringement of its rules on the part of others. She was very
severe, for instance, upon her two younger sisters if, the moment after
the second bell had rung, they were not seated at the dinner-table,
washed and aproned. Order was a very idol with her. Hence the house was
too tidy for any sense of comfort. If you left an open book on the
table, you would, on returning to the room a moment after, find it put
aside. What the furniture of the drawing-room was like, I never saw; for
not even on Christmas Day, which was the last day I spent there, was it
uncovered. Everything in it was kept in bibs and pinafores. Even the
carpet was covered with a cold and slippery sheet of brown holland. Mr.
Hetheridge never entered that room, and therein was wise. James
remonstrated once. She answered him quite kindly, even playfully, but no
change followed. What was worse, she made very wretched tea. Her father
never took tea; neither did James. I was rather fond of it, but I soon
gave it up. Everything her father partook of was first-rate. Everything
else was somewhat poverty-stricken. My pleasure in Laetitia's society
prevented me from making practical deductions from such trifles."

"I shouldn't have thought you knew anything about eating, uncle," said
Janet.

"The less a man eats, the more he likes to have it good, Janet. In
short,--there can be no harm in saying it now,--Laetitia was so far from
being like the name of her baptism,--and most names are so good that
they are worth thinking about; no children are named after bad
ideas,--Laetitia was so far unlike hers as to be stingy--an abominable
fault. But, I repeat, the notion of such a fact was far from me then.
And now for my story.

"The first of November was a very lovely day, quite one of the 'halcyon
days' of 'St. Martin's summer.' I was sitting in a little arbour I had
just discovered, with a book in my hand,--not reading, however, but
day-dreaming,--when, lifting my eyes from the ground, I was startled to
see, through a thin shrub in front of the arbour, what seemed the form
of an old lady seated, apparently reading from a book on her knee. The
sight instantly recalled the old lady of Russell Square. I started to my
feet, and then, clear of the intervening bush, saw only a great stone
such as abounded on the moors in the neighbourhood, with a lump of
quartz set on the top of it. Some childish taste had put it there for an
ornament. Smiling at my own folly, I sat down again, and reopened my
book. After reading for a while, I glanced up again, and once more
started to my feet, overcome by the fancy that there verily sat the old
lady reading. You will say it indicated an excited condition of the
brain. Possibly; but I was, as far as I can recall, quite collected and
reasonable. I was almost vexed this second time, and sat down once more
to my book. Still, every time I looked up, I was startled afresh. I
doubt, however, if the trifle is worth mentioning, or has any
significance even in relation to what followed.

"After dinner I strolled out by myself, leaving father and son over
their claret. I did not drink wine; and from the lawn I could see the
windows of the library, whither Laetitia commonly retired from the
dinner-table. It was a very lovely soft night. There was no moon, but
the stars looked wider awake than usual. Dew was falling, but the grass
was not yet wet, and I wandered about on it for half an hour. The
stillness was somehow strange. It had a wonderful feeling in it as if
something were expected--as if the quietness were the mould in which
some event or other was about to be cast.

"Even then I was a reader of certain sorts of recondite lore. Suddenly I
remembered that this was the eve of All Souls. This was the night on
which the dead came out of their graves to visit their old homes. 'Poor
dead!' I thought with myself; 'have you any place to call a home now? If
you have, surely you will not wander back here, where all that you
called home has either vanished or given itself to others, to be their
home now and yours no more! What an awful doom the old fancy has
allotted you! To dwell in your graves all the year, and creep out, this
one night, to enter at the midnight door, left open for welcome! A poor
welcome truly!--just an open door, a clean-swept floor, and a fire to
warm your rain-sodden limbs! The household asleep, and the house-place
swarming with the ghosts of ancient times,--the miser, the spendthrift,
the profligate, the coquette,--for the good ghosts sleep, and are
troubled with no waking like yours! Not one man, sleepless like
yourselves, to question you, and be answered after the fashion of the
old nursery rhyme--

  "'What makes your eyes so holed?'
  'I've lain so long among the mould.'
  'What makes your feet so broad?'
  'I've walked more than ever I rode!'

"'Yet who can tell?' I went on to myself. 'It may be your hell to return
thus. It may be that only on this one night of all the year you can show
yourselves to him who can see you, but that the place where you were
wicked is the Hades to which you are doomed for ages.' I thought and
thought till I began to feel the air alive about me, and was enveloped
in the vapours that dim the eyes of those who strain them for one peep
through the dull mica windows that will not open on the world of ghosts.
At length I cast my fancies away, and fled from them to the library,
where the bodily presence of Laetitia made the world of ghosts appear
shadowy indeed.

"'What a reality there is about a bodily presence!' I said to myself, as
I took my chamber-candle in my hand. 'But what is there more real in a
body?' I said again, as I crossed the hall. 'Surely nothing,' I went on,
as I ascended the broad staircase to my room. 'The body must vanish. If
there be a spirit, that will remain. A body can but vanish. A ghost can
appear.'

"I woke in the morning with a sense of such discomfort as made me spring
out of bed at once. My foot lighted upon my spectacles. How they came to
be on the floor I could not tell, for I never took them off when I went
to bed. When I lifted them I found they were in two pieces; the bridge
was broken. This was awkward. I was so utterly helpless without them!
Indeed, before I could lay my hand on my hair-brush I had to peer
through one eye of the parted pair. When I looked at my watch after I
was dressed, I found I had risen an hour earlier than usual. I groped my
way downstairs to spend the hour before breakfast in the library.

"No sooner was I seated with a book than I heard the voice of Laetitia
scolding the butler, in no very gentle tones, for leaving the garden
door open all night. The moment I heard this, the strange occurrences I
am about to relate began to dawn upon my memory. The door had been open
the night long between All Saints and All Souls. In the middle of that
night I awoke suddenly. I knew it was not the morning by the sensations
I had, for the night feels altogether different from the morning. It was
quite dark. My heart was beating violently, and I either hardly could or
hardly dared breathe. A nameless terror was upon me, and my sense of
hearing was, apparently by the force of its expectation, unnaturally
roused and keen. There it was--a slight noise in the room!--slight, but
clear, and with an unknown significance about it! It was awful to think
it would come again. I do believe it was only one of those creaks in the
timbers which announce the torpid, age-long, sinking flow of every house
back to the dust--a motion to which the flow of the glacier is as a
torrent, but which is no less inevitable and sure. Day and night it
ceases not; but only in the night, when house and heart are still, do we
hear it. No wonder it should sound fearful! for are we not the immortal
dwellers in ever-crumbling clay? The clay is so near us, and yet not of
us, that its every movement starts a fresh dismay. For what will its
final ruin disclose? When it falls from about us, where shall we find
that we have existed all the time?

"My skin tingled with the bursting of the moisture from its pores.
Something was in the room beside me. A confused, indescribable sense of
utter loneliness, and yet awful presence, was upon me, mingled with a
dreary, hopeless desolation, as of burnt-out love and aimless life. All
at once I found myself sitting up. The terror that a cold hand might be
laid upon me, or a cold breath blow on me, or a corpse-like face bend
down through the darkness over me, had broken my bonds!--I would meet
half-way whatever might be approaching. The moment that my will burst
into action the terror began to ebb.

"The room in which I slept was a large one, perfectly dreary with
tidiness. I did not know till afterwards that it was Laetitia's room,
which she had given up to me rather than prepare another. The furniture,
all but one article, was modern and commonplace. I could not help
remarking to myself afterwards how utterly void the room was of the
nameless charm of feminine occupancy. I had seen nothing to wake a
suspicion of its being a lady's room. The article I have excepted was an
ancient bureau, elaborate and ornate, which stood on one side of the
large bow window. The very morning before, I had seen a bunch of keys
hanging from the upper part of it, and had peeped in. Finding however,
that the pigeon-holes were full of papers, I closed it at once. I should
have been glad to use it, but clearly it was not for me. At that bureau
the figure of a woman was now seated in the posture of one writing. A
strange dim light was around her, but whence it proceeded I never
thought of inquiring. As if I, too, had stepped over the bourne, and was
a ghost myself, all fear was now gone. I got out of bed, and softly
crossed the room to where she was seated. 'If she should be beautiful!'
I thought--for I had often dreamed of a beautiful ghost that made love
to me. The figure did not move. She was looking at a faded brown paper.
'Some old love-letter,' I thought, and stepped nearer. So cool was I
now, that I actually peeped over her shoulder. With mingled surprise and
dismay I found that the dim page over which she bent was that of an old
account-book. Ancient household records, in rusty ink, held up to the
glimpses of the waning moon, which shone through the parting in the
curtains, their entries of shillings and pence!--Of pounds there was not
one. No doubt pounds and farthings are much the same in the world of
thought--the true spirit-world; but in the ghost-world this eagerness
over shillings and pence must mean something awful! I To think that
coins which had since been worn smooth in other pockets and purses,
which had gone back to the Mint, and been melted down, to come out again
and yet again with the heads of new kings and queens,--that dinners,
eaten by men and women and children whose bodies had since been eaten by
the worms,--that polish for the floors, inches of whose thickness had
since been worn away,--that the hundred nameless trifles of a life
utterly vanished, should be perplexing, annoying, and worst of all,
interesting the soul of a ghost who had been in Hades for centuries! The
writing was very old-fashioned, and the words were contracted. I could
read nothing but the moneys and one single entry--'Corinths, Vs.'

"Currants for a Christmas pudding, most likely!--Ah, poor lady! the
pudding and not the Christmas was her care; not the delight of the
children over it, but the beggarly pence which it cost. And she cannot
get it out of her head, although her brain was 'powdered all as thin as
flour' ages ago in the mortar of Death. 'Alas, poor ghost!' It needs no
treasured hoard left behind, no floor stained with the blood of the
murdered child, no wickedly hidden parchment of landed rights! An old
account-book is enough for the hell of the housekeeping gentlewoman!

"She never lifted her face, or seemed to know that I stood behind her. I
left her, and went into the bow window, where I could see her face. I
was right. It was the same old lady I had met in Russell Square, walking
in front of James Hetheridge. Her withered lips went moving as if they
would have uttered words had the breath been commissioned thither; her
brow was contracted over her thin nose; and once and again her shining
forefinger went up to her temple as if she were pondering some deep
problem of humanity. How long I stood gazing at her I do not know, but
at last I withdrew to my bed, and left her struggling to solve that
which she could never solve thus. It was the symbolic problem of her own
life, and she had failed to read it. I remember nothing more. She may be
sitting there still, solving at the insolvable.

"I should have felt no inclination, with the broad sun of the squire's
face, the keen eyes of James, and the beauty of Laetitia before me at
the breakfast table, to say a word about what I had seen, even if I had
not been afraid of the doubt concerning my sanity which the story would
certainly awaken. What with the memories of the night and the want of my
spectacles, I passed a very dreary day, dreading the return of the
night, for, cool as I had been in her presence, I could not regard the
possible reappearance of the ghost with equanimity. But when the night
did come, I slept soundly till the morning.

"The next day, not being able to read with comfort, I went wandering
about the place, and at length began to fit the outside and inside of
the house together. It was a large and rambling edifice, parts of it
very old, parts comparatively modern. I first found my own window, which
looked out of the back. Below this window, on one side, there was a
door. I wondered whither it led, but found it locked. At the moment
James approached from the stables. 'Where does this door lead?' I asked
him. 'I will get the key,' he answered. 'It is rather a queer old place.
We used to like it when we were children.' 'There's a stair, you see,'
he said, as he threw the door open. 'It leads up over the kitchen.' I
followed him up the stair. 'There's a door into your room,' he said,
'but it's always locked now.--And here's Grannie's room, as they call
it, though why, I have not the least idea,' he added, as he pushed open
the door of an old-fashioned parlour, smelling very musty. A few old
books lay on a side table. A china bowl stood beside them, with some
shrivelled, scentless rose-leaves in the bottom of it. The cloth that
covered the table was riddled by moths, and the spider-legged chairs
were covered with dust.

"A conviction seized me that the old bureau must have belonged to this
room, and I soon found the place where I judged it must have stood. But
the same moment I caught sight of a portrait on the wall above the spot
I had fixed upon. 'By Jove!' I cried, involuntarily, 'that's the very
old lady I met in Russell Square!'

"'Nonsense!' said James. 'Old-fashioned ladies are like babies--they all
look the same. That's a very old portrait.'

"'So I see,' I answered. 'It is like a Zucchero.'

"'I don't know whose it is," he answered hurriedly, and I thought he
looked a little queer.

"'Is she one of the family?' I asked.

"'They say so; but who or what she was, I don't know. You must ask
Letty," he answered.

"'The more I look at it,' I said, 'the more I am convinced it is the
same old lady.'

"'Well,' he returned with a laugh, 'my old nurse used to say she was
rather restless. But it's all nonsense.'

"'That bureau in my room looks about the same date as this furniture,' I
remarked.

"'It used to stand just there,' he answered, pointing to the space under
the picture. 'Well I remember with what awe we used to regard it; for
they said the old lady kept her accounts at it still. We never dared
touch the bundles of yellow papers in the pigeon-holes. I remember
thinking Letty a very heroine once when she touched one of them with the
tip of her forefinger. She had got yet more courageous by the time she
had it moved into her own room.'

"'Then that is your sister's room I am occupying?' I said.

"'Yes.'

"'I am ashamed of keeping her out of it.'

"'Oh! she'll do well enough.'

"'If I were she though,' I added, 'I would send that bureau back to its
own place.'

"'What do you mean, Heywood? Do you believe every old wife's tale that
ever was told?'

"'She may get a fright some day--that's all!' I replied.

"He smiled with such an evident mixture of pity and contempt that for
the moment I almost disliked him; and feeling certain that Laetitia
would receive any such hint in a somewhat similar manner, I did not feel
inclined to offer her any advice with regard to the bureau.

"Little occurred during the rest of my visit worthy of remark. Somehow
or other I did not make much progress with Laetitia. I believe I had
begun to see into her character a little, and therefore did not get
deeper in love as the days went on. I know I became less absorbed in her
society, although I was still anxious to make myself agreeable to
her--or perhaps, more properly, to give her a favourable impression of
me. I do not know whether she perceived any difference in my behaviour,
but I remember that I began again to remark the pinched look of her
nose, and to be a little annoyed with her for always putting aside my
book. At the same time, I daresay I was provoking, for I never was given
to tidiness myself.

"At length Christmas Day arrived. After breakfast, the squire, James,
and the two girls arranged to walk to church. Laetitia was not in the
room at the moment. I excused myself on the ground of a headache, for I
had had a bad night. When they left, I went up to my room, threw myself
on the bed, and was soon fast asleep.

"How long I slept I do not know, but I woke again with that
indescribable yet well-known sense of not being alone. The feeling was
scarcely less terrible in the daylight than it had been in the darkness.
With the same sudden effort as before, I sat up in the bed. There was
the figure at the open bureau, in precisely the same position as on the
former occasion. But I could not see it so distinctly. I rose as gently
as I could, and approached it, after the first physical terror. I am not
a coward. Just as I got near enough to see the account book open on the
folding cover of the bureau, she started up, and, turning, revealed the
face of Laetitia. She blushed crimson.

"'I beg your pardon, Mr. Heywood,' she said in great confusion; 'I
thought you had gone to church with the rest.'

"'I had lain down with a headache, and gone to sleep,' I replied.
'But,--forgive me, Miss Hetheridge,' I added, for my mind was full of
the dreadful coincidence,--'don't you think you would have been better
at church than balancing your accounts on Christmas Day?'

"'The better day the better deed,' she said, with a somewhat offended
air, and turned to walk from the room.

"'Excuse me, Laetitia,' I resumed, very seriously, 'but I want to tell
you something.'

"She looked conscious. It never crossed me, that perhaps she fancied I
was going to make a confession. Far other things were then in my mind.
For I thought how awful it was, if she too, like the ancestral ghost,
should have to do an age-long penance of haunting that bureau and those
horrid figures, and I had suddenly resolved to tell her the whole story.
She listened with varying complexion and face half turned aside. When I
had ended, which I fear I did with something of a personal appeal, she
lifted her head and looked me in the face, with just a slight curl on
her thin lip, and answered me. 'If I had wanted a sermon, Mr. Heywood, I
should have gone to church for it. As for the ghost, I am sorry for
you.' So saying she walked out of the room.

"The rest of the day I did not find very merry. I pleaded my headache as
an excuse for going to bed early. How I hated the room now! Next
morning, immediately after breakfast, I took my leave of Lewton Grange."

"And lost a good wife, perhaps, for the sake of a ghost, uncle!" said
Janet.

"If I lost a wife at all, it was a stingy one. I should have been
ashamed of her all my life long."

"Better than a spendthrift," said Janet.

"How do you know that?" returned her uncle. "All the difference I see
is, that the extravagant ruins the rich, and the stingy robs the poor."

"But perhaps she repented, uncle," said Kate.

"I don't think she did, Katey. Look here."

Uncle Cornelius drew from the breast pocket of his coat a black-edged
letter.

"I have kept up my friendship with her brother," he said. "All he knows
about the matter is, that either we had a quarrel, or she refused
me;--he is not sure which. I must say for Laetitia, that she was no
tattler. Well, here's a letter I had from James this very morning. I
will read it to you.

"'MY DEAR MR. HEYWOOD,--We have had a terrible \shock this morning.
Letty did not come down to breakfast, and Lizzie went to see if she was
ill. We heard her scream, and, rushing up, there was poor Letty, sitting
at the old bureau, quite dead. She had fallen forward on the desk, and
her housekeeping-book was crumpled up under her. She had been so all
night long, we suppose, for she was not undressed, and was quite cold.
The doctors say it was disease of the heart.'

"There!" said Uncle Cornie, folding up the letter.

"Do you think the ghost had anything to do with it, uncle?" asked Kate,
almost under her breath.

"How should I know, my dear? Possibly."

"It's very sad," said Janet; "but I don't see the good of it all. If the
ghost had come to tell that she had hidden away money in some secret
place in the old bureau, one would see why she had been permitted to
come back. But what was the good of those accounts after they were over
and done with? I don't believe in the ghost."

"Ah, Janet, Janet! but those wretched accounts were not over and done
with, you see. That is the misery of it."

Uncle Cornelius rose without another word, bade them good-night, and
walked out into the wind.





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