CHAPTER I. MY UNCLE PETER. CONTINUED.
CHAPTER II. THE GIANT'S HEART.
CHAPTER III. A CHILD'S HOLIDAY.
CHAPTER IV. INTERRUPTION.
CHAPTER V. PERCY.
CHAPTER VI. THE CRUEL PAINTER.
CHAPTER VII. THE CASTLE.
CHAPTER VIII. WHAT NEXT?
CHAPTER IX. GENERALSHIP.
CHAPTER X. AN UNFORESEEN FORESIGHT.
"IT was resolved that on the same evening, Chrissy should tell my
uncle her story. We went out for a walk together; and though she was
not afraid to go, the least thing startled her. A voice behind her
would make her turn pale and look hurriedly round. Then she would smile
again, even before the colour had had time to come back to her cheeks,
and say`What a goose I am! But it is no wonder.' I could see too that
she looked down at her nice clothes now and then with satisfaction. She
does not like me to say so, but she does not deny it either, for
Chrissy can't tell a story even about her own feelings. My uncle had
given us five pounds each to spend, and that was jolly. We bought each
other such a lot of things, besides some for other people. And then we
came home and had dinner tete-a-tete in my uncle's dining-room; after
which we went up to my uncle's room, and sat over the fire in the
twilight till his afternoon-nap was over, and he was ready for his tea.
This was ready for him by the time he awoke. Chrissy got up on the bed
beside him; I got up at the foot of the bed, facing her, and we had the
tea-tray and plenty of etceteras between us.
"`Oh! I am happy!' said Chrissy, and began to cry.
"`So am I, my darling!' rejoined Uncle Peter, and followed her
"`So am I,' said I, `but I don't mean to cry about it.' And then I
"We all had one cup of tea, and some bread and butter in silence
after this. But when Chrissy had poured out the second cup for Uncle
Peter, she began of her own accord to tell us her story.
"`It was very foggy when we came out of school that afternoon, as
you may remember, dear uncle.'
"`Indeed I do,' answered Uncle Peter with a sigh.
"`I was coming along the way home with Bessieyou know Bessie,
uncleand we stopped to look in at a bookseller's window where the gas
was lighted. It was full of Christmas things already. One of them I
thought very pretty, and I was standing staring at it, when all at once
I saw that a big drabby woman had poked herself in between Bessie and
me. She was staring in at the window too. She was so nasty that I moved
away a little from her, but I wanted to have one more look at the
picture. The woman came close to me. I moved again. Again she pushed up
to me. I looked in her face, for I was rather cross by this time. A
horrid feeling, I cannot tell you what it was like, came over me as
soon as I saw her. I know how it was now, but I did not know then why I
was frightened. I think she saw I was frightened; for she instantly
walked against me, and shoved and hustled me round the cornerit was a
corner-shopand before I knew, I was in another street. It was dark and
narrow. Just at the moment a man came from the opposite side and joined
the woman. Then they caught hold of my hands, and before my fright
would let me speak, I was deep into the narrow lane, for they ran with
me as fast as they could. Then I began to scream, but they said such
horrid words that I was forced to hold my tongue; and in a minute more
they had me inside a dreadful house, where the plaster was dropping
away from the walls, and the skeleton-ribs of the house were looking
through. I was nearly dead with terror and disgust. I don't think it
was a bit less dreadful to me from having dim recollections of having
known such places well enough at one time of my life. I think that only
made me the more frightened, because so the place seemed to have a
claim upon me. What if I ought to be there after all, and these
dreadful creatures were my father and mother!
"`I thought they were going to beat me at once, when the woman,
whom I suspected to be my aunt, began to take off my frock. I was
dreadfully frightened, but I could not cry. However it was only my
clothes that they wanted. But I cannot tell you how frightful it was.
They took almost everything I had on, and it was only when I began to
scream in despairsit still, Charlie, it's all over nowthat they
stopped, with a nod to each other, as much as to say`we can get the
rest afterwards.' Then they put a filthy frock on me; brought me some
dry bread to eat; locked the door, and left me. It was nearly dark now.
There was no fire. And all my warm clothes were gone.Do sit still,
Charlie.I was dreadfully cold. There was a wretched-looking bed in one
corner, but I think I would have died of cold rather than get into it.
And the air in the place was frightful. How long I sat there in the
dark, I don't know.'
"`What did you do all the time?' said I.
"`There was only one thing to be done, Charlie. I think that is a
foolish question to ask.'
"`Well, what did you do, Chrissy?'
"`Said my prayers, Charlie.'
"`Said them again.'
"`And nothing else?'
"`Yes; I tried to get out of the window, but that was of no use;
for I could not open it. And it was one story high at least.'
"`And what did you do next?'
"`Said over all my hymns.'
"`And thenwhat did you do next?'
"`Why do you ask me so many times?'
"`Because I want to know.'
"`Well, I will tell you.I left my prayers alone; and I began at the
beginning, and I told God the whole story, as if He had known nothing
about it, from the very beginning when Uncle Peter found me on the
crossing, down to the minute when I was talking there to Him in the
"`Ah! my dear,' said my uncle, with faltering voice, `you felt
better after that, I daresay. And here was I in despair about you, and
thought He did not care for any of us. I was very naughty, indeed.'
"`And what next?' I said.
"`By and by I heard a noise of quarrelling in the street, which
came nearer and nearer. The door was burst open by some one falling
against it. Blundering steps came up the stairs. The two who had robbed
me, evidently tipsy, were trying to unlock the door. At length they
succeeded, and tumbled into the room.'
"`Where is the unnatural wretch,' said the woman, `who ran away and
left her own mother in poverty and sickness?'
"`Oh! uncle, can it be that she is my mother?' said Chrissy,
"`I don't think she is,' answered Uncle Peter. `She only wanted to
vex you, my lamb. But it doesn't matter whether she is or not.'
"`Doesn't it, uncle?I am ashamed of her.'
"`But you are God's child. And He can't be ashamed of you. For He
gave you the mother you had, whoever she was, and never asked you which
you would have. So you need not mind. We ought always to like best to
be just what God has made us.'
"`I am sure of that, uncle.Well, she began groping about to find
me, for it was very dark. I sat quite still, except for trembling all
over, till I felt her hands on me, when I jumped up, and she fell on
the floor. She began swearing dreadfully, but did not try to get up. I
crept away to another corner. I heard the man snoring, and the woman
breathing loud. Then I felt my way to the door, but, to my horror,
found the man lying across it on the floor, so that I could not open
it. Then I believe I cried for the first time. I was nearly frozen to
death, and there was all the long night to bear yet. How I got through
it, I cannot tell. It did go away. Perhaps God destroyed some of it for
me. But when the light began to come through the window, and show me
all the filth of the place, the man and the woman lying on the floor,
the woman with her head cut and covered with blood, I began to feel
that the darkness had been my friend. I felt this yet more when I saw
the state of my own dress, which I had forgotten in the dark. I felt as
if I had done some shameful thing, and wanted to follow the darkness,
and hide in the skirts of it. It was an old gown of some woollen stuff,
but it was impossible to tell what, it was so dirty and worn. I was
ashamed that even those drunken creatures should wake and see me in it.
But the light would come, and it came and came, until at last it waked
them up, and the first words were so dreadful! They quarrelled and
swore at each other and at me, until I almost thought there couldn't be
a God who would let that go on so, and never stop it. But I suppose He
wants them to stop, and doesn't care to stop it Himself, for He could
easily do that of course, if He liked.'
"`Just right, my darling!' said Uncle Peter with emotion.
"Chrissy saw that my uncle was too much excited by her story
although he tried not to show it, and with a wisdom which I have since
learned to appreciate, cut it short.
"`They did not treat me cruelly, though, the worst was, that they
gave me next to nothing to eat. Perhaps they wanted to make me thin and
wretched looking, and I believe they succeeded.Charlie, you'll turn
over the cream, if you don't sit still.Three days passed this way. I
have thought all over it, and I think they were a little puzzled how to
get rid of me. They had no doubt watched me for a long time, and now
they had got my clothes, they were afraid.At last one night they took
me out. My aunt, if aunt she is, was respectably dressedthat is,
comparatively, and the man had a great-coat on, which covered his dirty
clothes. They helped me into a cart which stood at the door, and drove
off. I resolved to watch the way we went. But we took so many turnings
through narrow streets before we came out in a main road, that I soon
found it was all one mass of confusion in my head; and it was too dark
to read any of the names of the streets, for the man kept as much in
the middle of the road as possible. We drove some miles, I should
think, before we stopped at the gate of a small house with a big porch,
which stood alone. My aunt got out and went up to the house, and was
admitted. After a few minutes, she returned, and making me get out, she
led me up to the house, where an elderly lady stood, holding the door
half open. When we reached it, my aunt gave me a sort of shove in,
saying to the lady, `There she is.' Then she said to me: `Come now be a
good girl and don't tell lies,' and turning hastily, ran down the
steps, and got into the cart at the gate, which drove off at once the
way we had come. The lady looked at me from head to foot sternly but
kindly too, I thought, and so glad was I to find myself clear of those
dreadful creatures, that I burst out crying. She instantly began to
read me a lecture on the privilege of being placed with Christian
people, who would instruct me how my soul might be saved, and teach me
to lead an honest and virtuous life. I tried to say that I had led an
honest life. But as often as I opened my mouth to tell anything about
myself or my uncle, or, indeed, to say anything at all, I was stopped
by her saying`Now don't tell lies. Whatever you do, don't tell lies.'
This shut me up quite. I could not speak when I knew she would not
believe me. But I did not cry, I only felt my face get very hot, and
somehow my back-bone grew longer, though I felt my eyes fixed on the
"`But,' she went on, `you must change you dress. I will show you
the way to your room, and you will find a print gown there, which I
hope you will keep clean. And above all things don't tell lies.'
"Here Chrissy burst out laughing, as if it was such fun to be
accused of lying; but presently her eyes filled, and she made haste to
"`You may be sure I made haste to put on the nice clean frock, and,
to my delight, found other clean things for me as well. I declare I
felt like a princess for a whole day after, notwithstanding the
occupation. For I soon found that I had been made over to Mrs. Sprinx,
as a servant of all work. I think she must have paid these people for
the chance of reclaiming one whom they had represented as at least a
great liar. Whether my wages were to be paid to them, or even what they
were to be, I never heard. I made up my mind at once that the best
thing would be to do the work without grumbling, and do it as well as I
could, for that would be doing no harm to anyone, but the contrary,
while it would give me the better chance of making my escape. But
though I was determined to get away the first opportunity, and was
miserable when I thought how anxious you would all be about me, yet I
confess it was such a relief to be clean and in respectable company,
that I caught myself singing once or twice the very first day. But the
old lady soon stopped that. She was about in the kitchen the greater
part of the day till almost dinner-time, and taught me how to cook and
save my soul both at once.'
"`Indeed,' interrupted Uncle Peter, `I have read receipts for the
salvation of the soul that sounded very much as if they came out of a
cookery-book.' And the wrinkles of his laugh went up into his
night-cap. Neither Chrissy nor I understood this at the time, but I
have often thought of it since.
"Chrissy went on:
"`I had finished washing up my dinner-things, and sat down for a
few minutes, for I was tired. I was staring into the fire, and thinking
and thinking how I should get away, and what I should do when I got out
of the house, and feeling as if the man and the woman were always
prowling about it, and watching me through the window, when suddenly I
saw a little boy in a corner of the kitchen, staring at me with great
brown eyes. He was a little boy, perhaps about six years old, with a
pale face, and very earnest look. I did not speak to him, but waited to
see what he would do. A few minutes passed, and I forgot him. But as I
was wiping my eyes, which would get wet sometimes, notwithstanding my
good-fortune, he came up to me, and said in a timid whisper,
"`Are you a princess?'
"`What makes you think that?' I said.
"`You have got such white hands,' he answered.
"`No, I am not a princess,' I said.
"`Aren't you Cinderella?'
"`No, my darling,' I replied; `but something like her; for they
have stolen me away from home and brought me here. I wish I could get
"`And here I confess I burst into a down right fit of crying.
"`Don't cry,' said the little fellow, stroking my cheek. `I will
let you out some time. Shall you be able to find your way home all by
"`Yes I think so,' I answered; but at the same time, I felt very
doubtful about it, because I always fancied those people watching me.
But before either of us spoke again, in came Mrs. Sprinx.
"`You naughty boy! What business have you to make the servant
neglect her work?'
"`For I was still sitting by the fire, and my arm was round the
dear little fellow, and his head was leaning on my shoulder.
"`She's not a servant, auntie!' cried he, indignantly. `She's a
real princess, though of course she won't own to it.'
"`What lies you have been telling the boy! You ought to be ashamed
of yourself. Come along directly. Get the tea at once, Jane.'
"`My little friend went with his aunt, and I rose and got the tea.
But I felt much lighter-hearted since I had the sympathy of the little
boy to comfort me. Only I was afraid they would make him hate me. But,
although I saw very little of him the rest of the time, I knew they had
not succeeded in doing so; for as often as he could, he would come
sliding up to me, saying `How do you do, princess?' and then run away,
afraid of being seen and scolded.
"`I was getting very desperate about making my escape, for there
was a high wall about the place, and the gate was always locked at
night. When Christmas-Eve came, I was nearly crazy with thinking that
to-morrow was uncle's birthday; and that I should not be with him. But
that very night, after I had gone to my room, the door opened, and in
came little Eddie in his night-gown, his eyes looking very bright and
black over it.
"`There, princess!' said he, `there is the key of the gate. Run.'
"`I took him in my arms and kissed him, unable to speak. He
struggled to get free, and ran to the door. There he turned and said:
"`You will come back and see me some daywill you not?'
"`That I will,' I answered.
"`That you shall,' said Uncle Peter.
"`I hid the key, and went to bed, where I lay trembling. As soon as
I was sure they must be asleep, I rose and dressed. I had no bonnet or
shawl but those I had come in; and though they disgusted me, I thought
it better to put them on. But I dared not unlock the street-door for
fear of making a noise. So I crept out of the kitchen-window, and then
I got out at the gate all safe. No one was in sight. So I locked it
again, and threw the key over. But what a time of fear and wandering
about I had in the darkness, before I dared to ask any one the way. It
was a bright, clear night; and I walked very quietly till I came upon a
great wide common. The sky, and the stars, and the wideness frightened
me, and made me gasp at first. I felt as if I should fall away from
everything into nothing. And it was so lonely! But then I thought of
God, and in a moment I knew that what I had thought loneliness was
really the presence of God. And then I grew brave again, and walked on.
When the morning dawned, I met a bricklayer going to his work; and
found that I had been wandering away from London all the time; but I
did not mind that. Now I turned my face towards it, though not the way
I had come. But I soon got dreadfully tired and faint, and once I think
I fainted quite. I went up to a house, and asked for a piece of bread,
and they gave it to me, and I felt much better after eating it. But I
had to rest so often, and got so tired, and my feet got so sore,
thatyou know how late it was before I got home to my darling uncle.'
"`And me too!' I expostulated.
"`And you, too, Charlie,' she answered; and we all cried over
"`This shan't happen any more!' said my uncle.
"After tea was over, he asked for writing things, and wrote a note,
which he sent off.
"The next morning, about eleven, as I was looking out of the
window, I saw a carriage drive up and stop at our door.
"`What a pretty little brougham!' I cried. `And such a jolly horse!
Look here, Chrissy!'
"Presently Uncle Peter's bell rang, and Miss Chrissy was sent for.
She came down again radiant with pleasure.
"`What do you think, Charlie! That carriage is mineall my own. And
I am to go to school in it always. Do come and have a ride in it.'
"You may be sure I was delighted to do so.
"`Where shall we go?' I said.
"`Let us ask uncle if we may go and see the little darling who set
"His consent was soon obtained, and away we went. It was a long
drive, but we enjoyed it beyond everything. When we reached the house,
we were shown into the drawing-room.
There was Mrs. Sprinx and little Eddie. The lady stared; but the
child knew Cinderella at once, and flew into her arms.
"`I knew you were a princess!' he cried. `There, auntie!'
"But Mrs. Sprinx had put on an injured look, and her hands shook
"`Really, Miss Belper, if that is your name, you have behaved in a
most unaccountable way. Why did you not tell me, instead of stealing
the key of the gate, and breaking the kitchen window? A most improper
way for a young lady to behaveto run out of the house at midnight!'
"`You forget, madam,' replied Chrissy, with more dignity than I had
ever seen her assume, `that as soon as ever I attempted to open my
mouth, you told me not to tell lies. You believed the wicked people who
brought me here rather than myself. However, as you will not be
friendly, I think we had better go. Come, Charlie?'
"`Don't go, princess,' pleaded little Eddie.
"`But I must, for your auntie does not like me,' said Chrissy.
"`I am sure I always meant to do my duty by you. And I will do so
still.Beware, my dear young woman, of the deceitfulness of riches. Your
carriage won't save your soul!'
"Chrissy was on the point of saying something rude, as she
confessed when we got out; but she did not. She made her bow, turned
and walked away. I followed, and poor Eddie would have done so too, but
was laid hold of by his aunt. I confess this was not quite proper
behaviour on Chrissy's part; but I never discovered that till she made
me see it. She was very sorry afterwards, and my uncle feared the
brougham had begun to hurt her already, as she told me. For she had
narrated the whole story to him, and his look first let her see that
she had been wrong. My uncle went with her afterwards to see Mrs.
Sprinx, and thank her for having done her best; and to take Eddie such
presents as my uncle only knew how to buy for children. When he went to
school, I know he sent him a gold watch. From that time till now that
she is my wife, Chrissy has had no more such adventures; and if Uncle
Peter did not die on Christmas-day, it did not matter much, for
Christmas-day makes all the days of the year as sacred as itself."
WHEN Harry had finished reading, the colonel gallantly declared
that the story was the best they had had. Mrs. Armstrong received this
as a joke, and begged him not to be so unsparing.
"Ah! Mrs. Armstrong," returned he laughing, "you are not old enough
yet, to know the truth from a joke. Don't you agree with me about the
story, Mrs. Cathcart?"
"I think it is very pretty and romantic. Such men as Uncle Peter
are not very common in the world. The story is not too true to Nature."
This she said in a tone intended to indicate superior acquaintance
with the world and its nature. I fear Mrs. Cathcart and some others
whom I could name, mean by Nature something very bad indeed, which yet
an artist is bound to be loyal to. The colonel however seemed to be of
a different opinion.
"If there never was such a man as Uncle Peter," said he, "there
ought to have been; and it is all the more reason for putting him into
a story that he is not to be found in the world."
"Bravo!" cried I. "You have answered a great question in a few
"I don't know," rejoined our host. "Have I? It seems to me as plain
as the catechism."
I thought he might have found a more apt simile, but I held my
Next morning, I walked out in the snow. Since the storm of that
terrible night, it had fallen again quietly and plentifully; and now in
the sunlight, the worldhouses and trees, ponds and riverswas like a
creation, more than blocked out, but far from finishedin marble.
"And this," I said to myself, as I regarded the wondrous loveliness
with which the snow had at once clothed and disfigured the bare
branches of the trees, "this is what has come of the chaos of falling
flakes! To this repose of beauty has that storm settled and sunk! Will
it not be so with our mental storms as well?"
But here the figure displeased me; for those were not the true
right shapes of the things; and the truth does not stick to things, but
shows itself out of them.
"This lovely show," I said, "is the result of a busy fancy. This
white world is the creation of a poet such as Shelley, in whom the
fancy was too much for the intellect. Fancy settles upon anything; half
destroys its form, half beautifies it with something that is not its
own. But the true creative imagination, the form-seer, and the
form-bestower, falls like the rain in the spring night, vanishing amid
the roots of the trees; not settling upon them in clouds of wintry
white, but breaking forth from them in clouds of summer green."
And then my thoughts very naturally went from Nature to my niece;
and I asked myself whether within the last few days I had not seen upon
her countenance the expression of a mental spring-time. For the mind
has its seasons four, with many changes, as well as the world, only
that the cycles are generally longer: they can hardly be more mingled
than as here in our climate.
Let me confess, now that the subject of the confession no longer
exists, that there had been something about Adela that, pet-child of
mine as she was, had troubled me. In all her behaviour, so far as I had
had any opportunity of judging, she had been as good as my desires at
least. But there was a want in her face, a certain flatness of
expression which I did not like. I love the common with all my heart,
but I hate the common-place; and, foolish old bachelor that I am, the
common-place in a woman troubles me, annoys me, makes me miserable.
Well, it was something of the common-place in Adela's expression that
had troubled me. Her eyes were clear, with lovely long dark lashes, but
somehow the light in them had been always the same; and occasionally
when I talked to her of the things I most wished her to care about,
there was such an immobile condition of the features, associated with
such a ready assent in words, that I felt her notion of what I meant
must be something very different indeed from what I did mean. Her face
looked as if it were made of something too thick for the inward light
to shine throughwax, and not living muscle and skin. The fact was, the
light within had not been kindled, else that face of hers would have
been ready enough to let it shine out. Hitherto she had not seemed to
me to belong at all to that company that praises God with sweet looks,
as Thomas Hood describes Ruth as doing. What was wanting I had found it
difficult to define. Her soul was asleep. She was dreaming a child's
dreams, instead of seeing a woman's realitiesrealities that awake the
swift play of feature, as the wind of God arouses the expression of a
still landscape. So there seemed after all a gulf between her and me.
She did not see what I saw, feel what I felt, seek what I sought.
Occasionally even, the delicate young girl, pure and bright as the snow
that hung on the boughs around me, would shock the wizened old bachelor
with her worldlinessa worldliness that lay only in the use of current
worldly phrases of selfish contentment, or selfish care. Ah! how little
do young beauties understand of the pitiful emotions which they
sometimes rouse in the breasts of men whom they suppose to be absorbed
in admiration of them! But for faith that these girls are God's work
and only half made yet, one would turn from them with sadness, almost
painful dislike, and take refuge with some noble-faced grandmother, or
withered old maid, whose features tell of sorrow and patience. And the
beauty would think with herself that such a middle-aged gentleman did
not admire pretty girls, and was severe and unkind and puritanical;
whereas it was the lack of beauty that made him turn away; the
disappointment of a facedull, that ought to be radiant; or the presence
of only that sort of beauty, which in middle age, except the deeper
nature should meantime come into play, would be worse than
common-placewould be mingled with the trail of more or less guilty
sensuality. Many a woman at forty is repulsive, whom common men found
at twenty irresistibly attractive; and many a woman at seventy is
lovely to the eyes of the man who would have been compelled to allow
that she was decidedly plain at seventeen.
"Maidens' bairns are aye weel guided," says the Scotch proverb; and
the same may be said of bachelors' wives. So I will cease the strain,
and return to Adela, the change in whom first roused it.
Of late, I had seen a glimmer of something in her countenance which
I had never seen beforea something which, the first time I perceived
it, made me say to her, in my own hearing only: "Ah, my dear, we shall
understand each other by and by!" And now and then the light in her eye
would be dimmed as by the foreshadowing of a tear, when there was no
immediate and visible cause to account for it; andwhich was very
strangeI could not help fancying she began to be a little shy of her
old uncle.Could it be that she was afraid of his insight reaching to
her heart, and reading there more than she was yet willing to confess
to herself?But whatever the cause of the change might be, there was
certainly a responsiveness in her, a readiness to meet every utterance,
and take it home, by which the vanity of the old bachelor would have
been flattered to the full, had not his heart come first, and
forestalled the delight.
So absorbed was I in considering these things, that the time passed
like one of my thoughts; and before I knew I found myself on the verge
of the perilous moor over which Harry had ridden in the teeth and heart
of the storm. How smooth yet cruel it looked in its thick covering of
snow! There was heather beneath, within which lay millions of purple
bells, ready to rush out at the call of summer, and ring peals of merry
gladness, making the desolate place not only blossom but rejoice as the
rose. And there were cold wells of brown water beneath that snow, of
depth unknown, which nourished nothing but the green grass that hid the
cold glare of their presence from the eyes of the else warefully
affrighted traveller. And I thought of Adela when I thought of the
heather; and of some other woman whom I had known, when I thought of
When I came home, I told Adela where I had been, and what a
desolate place it was. And the flush that rose on her pale cheek was
just like the light of the sunset which I had left shining over the
whiteness of that snowy region. And I said to myself: "It is so. And I
trust it may be well."
As I walked home, I had bethought myself of a story which I had
brought down with me in the hope of a chance of reading it, but which
Adela's illness had put out of my mind; for it was only a child's
story; and although I hoped older people might find something in it, it
would have been absurd to read it without the presence of little
children. So I said to Adela:
"Don't you know any little children in Purleybridge, Adela?"
"Oh! yes; plenty."
"Couldn't you ask some of them one night, and I would tell them a
story. I think at this season they should have a share in what is
going, and I have got one I think they would like."
"I shall be delighted. I will speak to papa about it at once. But
next time "
"Yes, I know. Next time Harry Armstrong was going to read; but to
tell you the truth, Adela, I doubt if he will be ready. I know he is
dreadfully busy just now, and I believe he will be thankful to have a
reprieve for a day or two, and his story, which I expect will be a good
one, will be all the better for it."
"Then I will speak to papa about it the moment he comes in; and you
will tell Mr. Henry. And mind, uncle, you take the change upon your own
"Trust me, my dear," I said, as I left the room.
As I had anticipated, Harry was grateful. Everything was arranged.
So the next evening but one, we had a merry pretty company of boys
and girls, none older, or at least looking older, than twelve. It did
my heart good to see how Adela made herself at home with them, and
talked to them as if she were one of themselves. By the time tea was
over, I had made friends with them all, which was a stroke in its way
nearly equal to Chaucer's, who made friends with all the nine and
twenty Canterbury pilgrims before the sun was down. And the way I did
was this. I began with the one next me, asking her the question:
"Do you like fairy-stories?"
"Yes, I do," answered she, heartily.
"Did you ever hear of the princess with the blue foot?"
"No. Will you tell me, please?"
Then I turned to the one on my other side, and asked her:
"Did you ever hear of the giant that was all skinnot skin and bone,
you know, but all skin?"
"No-o" she answered, and her round blue eyes got rounder and bluer.
The next was a boy. I asked him:
"Did you ever hear of Don Worm of Wakemup?"
"No. Do please tell us about it."
And so I asked them, round the room. And by that time all eyes were
fixed upon me. Then I said:
"You see I cannot tell you all these stories to-night. But would
you all like one of some sort?"
A chorus of I should filled the room.
"What shall it be about, then?"
"A wicked fairy."
"No; that's stupid. I'm tired of wicked fairies," said a scornful
"A good giant, then," said a priggish imp, with a face as round as
the late plum-pudding.
"I am afraid I could not tell you a story about a good giant; for
unfortunately all the good giants I ever heard of were very stupid; so
stupid that a story would not make itself about them; so stupid,
indeed, that they were always made game of by creatures not half so big
or half so good; and I don't like such stories. Shall I tell you about
the wicked giant that grew little children in his garden instead of
radishes, and then carried them about in his waistcoat pocket, and ate
one as often as he remembered he had got some?"
"Yes, yes; please do."
"He used to catch little children and plant them in his garden,
where you might see them in rows, with their heads only above ground,
rolling their eyes about, and growing awfully fast. He liked greedy
boys bestboys that ate plum-pudding till they felt as if their belts
were too tight."
Here the fat-faced boy stuck both his hands inside his belt.
"Because he was so fond of radishes," I went on, "he lived just on
the borders of Giantland, where it touched on the country of common
people. Now, everything in Giantland was so big, that the common people
saw only a mass of awful mountains and clouds; and no living man had
ever come from it, as far as anybody knew, to tell what he had seen in
"Somewhere near these borders, on the other side, by the edge of a
great forest, lived a labourer with his wife and a great many children.
One day Tricksey-Wee, as they called her, teased her brother Buffy-Bob,
till he could not bear it any longer, and gave her a box on the ear.
Tricksey-Wee cried; and Buffy-Bob was so sorry and ashamed of himself,
that he cried too, and ran off into the wood. He was so long gone, that
Tricksey-Wee began to be frightened, for she was very fond of her
brother; and she was so sorry that she had first teased him, and then
cried, that at last she ran into the wood to look for him, though there
was more chance of losing herself than of finding him. And, indeed, so
it seemed likely to turn out; for, running on without looking, she at
length found herself in a valley she knew nothing about. And no wonder;
for what she thought was a valley with round, rocky sides, was no other
than the space between two of the roots of a great tree that grew on
the borders of Giantland. She climbed over the side of it, and right up
to what she took for a black, round-topped mountain, far away; but she
soon discovered that it was close to her, and was a hollow place so
great that she could not tell what it was hollowed out of. Staring at
it, she found that it was a doorway; and, going nearer and staring
harder, she saw the door, far in, with a knocker of iron upon it, a
great many yards above her head, and as large as the anchor of a big
ship. Now, nobody had ever been unkind to Tricksey-Wee, and therefore
she was not afraid of anybody. For Buffy-Bob's box on the ear she did
not think worth considering. So, spying a little hole at the bottom of
the door, which had been nibbled by some giant mouse, she crept through
it, and found herself in an enormous hall, as big as if the late Mr.
Martin, R. A., had been the architect. She could not have seen the
other end of it at all, except for the great fire that was burning
there, diminished to a spark in the distance. Towards this fire she ran
as fast as she could, and was not far from it when something fell
before her with a great clatter, over which she tumbled, and went
rolling on the floor. She was not much hurt, however, and got up in a
moment. Then she saw that she had fallen over something not unlike a
great iron bucket. When she examined it more closely, she discovered
that it was a thimble; and looking up to see who had dropped it, beheld
a huge face, with spectacles as big as the round windows in a church,
bending over her, and looking everywhere for the thimble. Tricksey-Wee
immediately laid hold of it in both her arms, and lifted it about an
inch nearer to the nose of the peering giantess. This movement made the
old lady see where it was, and, her finger popping into it, it vanished
from the eyes of Tricksey-Wee, buried in the folds of a white stocking,
like a cloud in the sky, which Mrs. Giant was busy darning. For it was
Saturday night, and her husband would wear nothing but white stockings
"But how could he be so particular about white stockings on Sunday,
and eat little children?" asked one of the group.
"Why, to be sure," I answered, "he did eat little children, but
only very little ones; and if ever it crossed his mind that it was
wrong to do so, he always said to himself that he wore whiter stockings
on Sunday than any other giant in all Giantland.
"At that instant, Tricksey-Wee heard a sound like the wind in a
tree full of leaves, and could not think what it could be; till,
looking up, she found that it was the giantess whispering to her; and
when she tried very hard, she could hear what she said well enough.
"`Run away, dear little girl,' she said, `as fast as you can; for
my husband will be home in a few minutes.'
"`But I've never been naughty to your husband,' said Tricksey-Wee,
looking up in the giantess's face.
"`That doesn't matter. You had better go. He is fond of little
children, particularly little girls!'
"`Oh! Then he won't hurt me.'
"`I am not sure of that. He is so fond of them that he eats them
up; and I am afraid he couldn't help hurting you a little. He's a very
good man though.'
"`Oh! then' began Tricksey-Wee, feeling rather frightened; but
before she could finish her sentence, she heard the sound of footsteps
very far apart and very heavy. The next moment, who should come running
towards her, full speed, and as pale as death, but Buffy-Bob! She held
out her arms, and he ran into them. But when she tried to kiss him, she
only kissed the back of his head; for his white face and round eyes
were turned to the door.
"`Run, children; run and hide,' said the giantess.
"`Come, Buffy,' said Tricksey; `yonder's a great brake; we'll hide
"The brake was a big broom; and they had just got into the bristles
of it, when they heard the door open with a sound of thunder; and in
stalked the giant. You would have thought you saw the whole earth
through the door when he opened it, so wide was it; and, when he closed
it, it was like nightfall.
"`Where is that little boy?' he cried, with a voice like the
bellowing of cannon. `He looked a very nice boy, indeed. I am almost
sure he crept through the mouse hole at the bottom of the door. Where
is he, my dear?'
"`I don't know,' answered the giantess.
"`But you know it is wicked to tell lies; don't you, dear?'
retorted the giant.
"`Now, you ridiculous old Thunderthump!' said his wife, with a
smile as broad as the sea in the sun; `how can I mend your white
stockings, and look after little boys? You have got plenty to last you
over Sunday, I am sure. Just look what good little boys they are!'
"Tricksey-Wee and Buffy-Bob peered through the bristles, and
discovered a row of little boys, about a dozen, with very fat faces and
goggle eyes, sitting before the fire, and looking stupidly into it.
Thunderthump intended the most of these for seed, and was feeding them
well before planting them. Now and then, however, he could not keep his
teeth off them, and would eat one by the bye, without salt."
"Now, you know that's all nonsense; for little children don't grow
in gardens, I know. You may believe in the radish beds: I don't," said
one pert little puss.
"I never said I did," replied I. "If the giant did, that's enough
for my story. I told you the good giants are very stupid; so you may
think what the bad ones are. Indeed, the giant never really tried the
plan. No doubt he did plant the children, but he always pulled them up
and ate them before they had a chance of increasing.
"He strode up to the wretched children. Now, what made them very
wretched indeed was, that they knew if they could only keep from
eating, and grow thin, the giant would dislike them, and turn them out
to find their way home; but notwithstanding this, so greedy were they,
that they ate as much as ever they could hold. The giantess, who fed
them, comforted herself with thinking that they were not real boys and
girls, but only little pigs pretending to be boys and girls.
"`Now tell me the truth,' cried the giant, bending his face down
over them. They shook with terror, and every one hoped it was somebody
else the giant liked best. `Where is the little boy that ran into the
hall just now? Whoever tells me a lie shall be instantly boiled.'
"`He's in the broom,' cried one dough-faced boy. `He's in there,
and a little girl with him.'
"`The naughty children,' cried the giant, `to hide from me!' And he
made a stride towards the broom.
"`Catch hold of the bristles, Bobby. Get right into a tuft, and
hold on,' cried Tricksey-Wee, just in time.
"The giant caught up the broom, and seeing nothing under it, set it
down again with a bang that threw them both on the floor. He then made
two strides to the boys, caught the dough-faced one by the neck, took
the lid off a great pot that was boiling on the fire, popped him in as
if he had been a trussed chicken, put the lid on again, and saying,
`There boys! See what comes of lying!' asked no more questions; for, as
he always kept his word, he was afraid he might have to do the same to
them all; and he did not like boiled boys. He like to eat them crisp,
as radishes, whether forked or not, ought to be eaten. He then sat
down, and asked his wife if his supper was ready. She looked into the
pot, and, throwing the boy out with the ladle, as if he had been a
black-beetle that had tumbled in and had had the worst of it, answered
that she thought it was. Whereupon he rose to help her; and, taking the
pot from the fire, poured the whole contents, bubbling and splashing
into a dish like a vat. Then they say down to supper. The children in
the broom could not see what they had; but it seemed to agree with
them; for the giant talked like thunder, and the giantess answered like
the sea, and they grew chattier and chattier. At length the giant said:
"`I don't feel quite comfortable about that heart of mine.' And as
he spoke, instead of laying his hand on his bosom, he waved it away
towards the corner where the children were peeping from the
broom-bristles, like frightened little mice.
"`Well, you know, my darling Thunderthump,' answered his wife, `I
always thought it ought to be nearer home. But you know best, of
"`Ha! ha! You don't know where it is, wife. I moved it a month
"`What a man you are, Thunderthump! You trust any creature alive
rather than your wife.'
"Here the giantess gave a sob which sounded exactly like a wave
going flop into the mouth of a cave up to the roof.
"`Where have you got it now?' she resumed, checking her emotion.
"`Well, Doodlem, I don't mind telling you,' said the giant,
soothingly. `The great she-eagle has got it for a nest-egg. She sits on
it night and day, and thinks she will bring the greatest eagle out of
it that ever sharpened his beak on the rocks of Mount Skycrack. I can
warrant no one else will touch it while she has got it. But she is
rather capricious, and I confess I am not easy about it; for the least
scratch of one of her claws would do for me at once. And she has
"What funny things you do make up!" said a boy. "How could the
giant's heart be in an eagle's nest, and the giant himself alive and
well without it?"
"Whatever you may think of it, Master Fred, I assure you I did not
make it up. If it ever was made up, no one can tell who did it; for it
was written in the chronicles of Giantland long before one of us was
born. It was quite common," said I, in an injured tone, "for a giant to
put his heart out to nurse, because he did not like the trouble and
responsibility of doing it himself. It was, I confess, a dangerous sort
of thing to do.But do you want any more of my story or not?"
"Oh! yes, please," cried Frederick, very heartily.
"Then don't you find any more fault with it, or I will stop."
Master Fred was straightway silent, and I went on.
"All this time Buffy-Bob and Tricksey-Wee were listening with long
ears. They did not dispute about the giant's heart, and impossibility,
and all that; for they were better educated than Master Fred, and knew
all about it. `Oh!' thought Tricksey-Wee, `if I could but find the
giant's cruel heart, wouldn't I give it a squeeze!'
"The giant and giantess went on talking for a long time. The
giantess kept advising the giant to hide his heart somewhere in the
house; but he seemed afraid of the advantage it would give her over
"`You could hide it at the bottom of the flour-barrel,' said she.
"`That would make me feel chokey,' answered he.
"`Well, in the coal-cellar, or in the dust-hole. That's the place!
No one would think of looking for your heart in the dust-hole.'
"`Worse and worse!' cried the giant.
"`Well, the water-butt?' said she.
"`No, no; it would grow spongy there,' said he.
"`Well, what will you do with it?'
"`I will leave it a month longer where it is, and then I will give
it to the Queen of the Kangaroos, and she will carry it in her pouch
for me. It is best to change, you know, and then my enemies can't find
it. But, dear Doodlem, it's a fretting care to have a heart of one's
own to look after. The responsibility is too much for me. If it were
not for a bite of a radish now and then, I never could bear it.'
"Here the giant looked lovingly towards the row of little boys by
the fire, all of whom were nodding, or asleep on the floor.
"`Why don't you trust it to me, dear Thunderthump?' said his wife.
`I would take the best possible care of it.'
"`I don't doubt it, my love. But the responsibility would be too
much for you. You would no longer be my darling, light-hearted, airy,
laughing Doodlem. It would transform you into a heavy, oppressed woman,
weary of lifeas I am.'
"The giant closed his eyes and pretended to go to sleep. His wife
got his stockings, and went on with her darning. Soon, the giant's
pretence became reality, and the giantess began to nod over her work.
"`Now, Buffy,' whispered Tricksey-Wee, `now's our time. I think
it's moonlight, and we had better be off. There's a door with a hole
for the cat just behind us.'
"`All right!' said Bob; `I'm ready.'
"So they got out of the broom-brake, and crept to the door. But, to
their great disappointment, when they got through it, they found
themselves in a sort of shed. It was full of tubs and things, and,
though it was built of wood only, they could not find a crack.
"`Let us try this hole,' said Tricksey; for the giant and giantess
were sleeping behind them, and they dared not go back.
"`All right,' said Bob. He seldom said anything else than All
"Now this hole was in a mound that came in through the wall of the
shed and went along the floor for some distance. They crawled into it,
and found it very dark. But groping their way along, they soon came to
a small crack, through which they saw grass, pale in the moonshine. As
they crept on, they found the hole began to get wider and lead upwards.
"`What is that noise of rushing?' said Buffy-Bob.
"`I can't tell,' replied Tricksey; `for, you see, I don't know what
we are in.'
"The fact was, they were creeping along a channel in the heart of a
giant tree; and the noise they heard was the noise of the sap rushing
along in its wooden pipes. When they laid their ears to the wall, they
heard it gurgling along with a pleasant noise.
"`It sounds kind and good,' said Tricksey. `It is water running.
Now it must be running from somewhere to somewhere. I think we had
better go on, and we shall come somewhere.'
"It was now rather difficult to go on, for they had to climb as if
they were climbing a hill; and now the passage was wide. Nearly worn
out, they saw light overhead at last, and creeping through a crack into
the open air, found themselves on the fork of a huge tree. A great,
broad, uneven space lay around them, out of which spread boughs in
every direction, the smallest of them as big as the biggest tree in the
country of common people. Overhead were leaves enough to supply all the
trees they had ever seen. Not much moonlight could come through, but
the leaves would glimmer white in the wind at times. The tree was full
of giant birds. Every now and then, one would sweep through, with a
great noise. But, except an occasional chirp, sounding like a shrill
pipe in a great organ, they made no noise. All at once an owl began to
hoot. He thought he was singing. As soon as he began, other birds
replied, making rare game of him. To their astonishment, the children
found they could understand every word they sang. And what they said
was something like this:
"`I will sing a song. I'm the owl.' `Sing a song, you sing-song
Ugly fowl! What will you sing about, Now the light is out?'
"`Sing about the night; I'm the owl.' `You could not see for the
light, Stupid fowl.' `Oh! the moon! and the dew! And the
"The owl spread out his silent, soft, sly wings, and lighting
between Tricksey-Wee and Buffy-Bob, nearly smothered them, closing up
one under each wing. It was like being buried in a down bed. But the
owl did not like anything between his sides and his wings, so he opened
his wings again, and the children made haste to get out. Tricksey-Wee
immediately went in front of the bird, and looking up into his huge
face, which was as round as the eyes of the giantess's spectacles, and
much bigger, dropped a pretty courtesy, and said:
"`Please, Mr. Owl, I want to whisper to you.'
"`Very well, small child,' answered the owl, looking important, and
stooping his ear towards her. `What is it?'
"`Please tell me where the eagle lives that sits on the giant's
"`Oh, you naughty child! That's a secret. For shame!'
"And with a great hiss that terrified them, the owl flew into the
tree. All birds are fond of secrets; but not many of them can keep them
so well as the owl.
"So the children went on because they did not know what else to do.
They found the way very rough and difficult, the tree was so full of
humps and hollows. Now and then they plashed into a pool of rain; now
and then they came upon twigs growing out of the trunk where they had
no business, and they were as large as full-grown poplars. Sometimes
they came upon great cushions of soft moss, and on one of them they lay
down and rested. But they had not lain long before they spied a large
nightingale sitting on a branch, with its bright eyes looking up at the
moon. In a moment more he began to sing, and the birds about him began
to reply, but in a very different tone from that in which they had
replied to the owl. Oh, the birds did call the nightingale such pretty
names! The nightingale sang, and the birds replied like this:
"`I will sing a song.
I'm the nightingale.'
`Sing a song, long, long,
What will you sing about,
Light in or light out?'
`Sing about the light
Down, away, and out of sight
Poor lost day!
Mourning for the day dead,
O'er his dim bed.'
"The nightingale sang so sweetly, that the children would have
fallen asleep but for fear of losing any of the song. When the
nightingale stopped they got up and wandered on. They did not know
where they were going, but they thought it best to keep going on,
because then they might come upon something or other. They were very
sorry they forgot to ask the nightingale about the eagle's nest, but
his music had put everything else out of their heads. They resolved,
however, not to forget the next time they had a chance. They went on
and on, till they were both tired, and Tricksey-Wee said at last,
trying to laugh,
"`I declare my legs feel just like a Dutch doll's.'
"`Then here's the place to go to bed in,' said Buffy-Bob.
"They stood at the edge of a last year's nest, and looked down with
delight into the round, mossy cave. Then they crept gently in, and,
lying down in each other's arms, found it so deep, and warm, and
comfortable, and soft, that they were soon fast asleep.
"Now close beside them, in a hollow, was another nest, in which lay
a lark and his wife; and the children were awakened very early in the
morning, by a dispute between Mr. and Mrs. Lark.
"`Let me up,' said the lark.
"`It is not time,' said the lark's wife.
"`It is,' said the lark, rather rudely. `The darkness is quite
thin. I can almost see my own beak.'
"`Nonsense!' said the lark's wife. `You know you came home
yesterday morning quite worn outyou had to fly so very high before you
saw him. I am sure he would not mind if you took it a little easier. Do
be quiet and go to sleep again.'
"`That's not it at all,' said the lark. `He doesn't want me. I want
him. Let me up, I say.'
"He began to sing; and Tricksey-Wee and Buffy-Bob, having now
learned the way, answered him:
"`I will sing a song,
I'm the Lark.'
`Sing, sing, Throat-strong,
What will you sing about,
Now the night is out?'
"`I can only call;
I can't think.
Let me upthat's all.
Let me drink!
Thirsting all the long night
For a drink of light.'
"By this time the lark was standing on the edge of his nest and
looking at the children.
"`Poor little things! You can't fly,' said the lark.
"`No; but we can look up,' said Tricksey.
"`Ah! you don't know what it is to see the very first of the sun.'
"`But we know what it is to wait till he comes. He's no worse for
your seeing him first, is he?'
"`Oh! no, certainly not,' answered the lark, with condescension;
and then, bursting into his jubilate, he sprung aloft, clapping his
wings like a clock running down.
"`Tell us where' began Buffy-Bob.
"But the lark was out of sight. His song was all that was left of
him. That was everywhere, and he was nowhere.
"`Selfish bird!' said Buffy. `It's all very well for larks to go
hunting the sun, but they have no business to despise their neighbours,
for all that.'
"`Can I be of any use to you?' said a sweet bird-voice out of the
nest. This was the lark's wife, who staid at home with the young larks
while her husband went to church.
"`Oh! thank you. If you please,' answered Tricksey-Wee.
"And up popped a pretty brown head; and then up came a brown
feathery body; and last of all came the slender legs on to the edge of
the nest. There she turned, and, looking down into the nest, from which
came a whole litany of chirpings for breakfast, said, `Lie still,
little ones.' Then she turned to the children. `My husband is King of
the Larks,' she said.
"Buffy-Bob took off his cap, and Tricksey-Wee courtesied very low.
"`Oh, it's not me,' said the bird, looking very shy. `I am only his
wife. It's my husband.' And she looked up after him into the sky,
whence his song was still falling like a shower of musical hailstones.
Perhaps she could see him.
"`He's a splendid bird,' said Buffy-Bob; `only you know he will get
up a little too early.'
"`Oh, no! he doesn't. It's only his way, you know. But tell me what
I can do for you.'
"`Tell us, please, Lady Lark, where the she-eagle lives that sits
on Giant Thunderthump's heart.'
"`Oh! that is a secret.'
"`Did you promise not to tell?'
"`No; but larks ought to be discreet. They see more than other
"`But you don't fly up high like your husband, do you?'
"`Not often. But it's no matter. I come to know things for all
"`Do tell me, and I will sing you a song,' said Tricksey-Wee.
"`Can you sing too?'
"`Yes. And I will sing you a song I learned the other day about a
lark and his wife.'
"`Please do,' said the lark's wife. `Be quiet, children, and
"Tricksey-Wee was very glad she happened to know a song which would
please the lark's wife, at least, whatever the lark himself might have
thought of it, if he had heard it. So she sang:
"`Good morrow, my lord!' in the sky alone,
Sang the lark, as the sun ascended his throne.
`Shine on me, my lord; I only am come,
Of all your servants, to welcome you home.
I have flown for an hour, right up, I swear,
To catch the first shine of your golden hair!'
`Must I thank you, then,' said the king, `Sir Lark,
For flying so high, and hating the dark?
You ask a full cup for half a thirst:
Half is love of me, and half love to be first.
There's many a bird that makes no haste,
But waits till I come. That's as much to my taste.'
And the king hid his head in a turban of cloud;
And the lark stopped singing, quite vexed and cowed.
But he flew up higher, and thought, `Anon,
The wrath of the king will be over and gone;
And his crown, shining out of the cloudy fold,
Will change my brown feathers to a glory of gold.'
So he flew, with the strength of a lark he flew.
But, as he rose, the cloud rose too;
And not a gleam of the golden hair
Came through the depth of the misty air;
Till, weary with flying, with sighing sore,
The strong sun-seeker could do no more.
His wings had had no chrism of gold;
And his feathers felt withered and worn and old;
And he sank, and quivered, and dropped like a stone.
And there on his nest, where he left her, alone,
Sat his little wife on her little eggs,
Keeping them warm with wings and legs.
Did I say alone? Ah, no such thing!
Full in her face was shining the king.
`Welcome, Sir Lark! You look tired,' said he.
`Up is not always the best way to me.
While you have been singing so high and away,
I've been shining to your little wife all day.'
He had set his crown all about the nest,
And out of the midst shone her little brown breast;
And so glorious was she in russet gold,
That for wonder and awe Sir Lark grew cold.
He popped his head under her wing, and lay
As still as a stone, till the king was away.
"As soon as Tricksey-Wee had finished her song, the lark's wife
began a low, sweet, modest little song of her own; and after she had
piped away for two or three minutes, she said:
"`You dear children, what can I do for you?'
"`Tell us where the she-eagle lives, please,' said Tricksey-Wee.
"`Well, I don't think there can be much harm in telling such wise,
good children,' said Lady Lark; `I am sure you don't want to do any
"`Oh, no; quite the contrary,' said Buffy-Bob.
"`Then I'll tell you. She lives on the very topmost peak of Mount
Skycrack; and the only way to get up is, to climb on the spiders' webs
that cover it from top to bottom.'
"`That's rather serious,' said Tricksey-Wee.
"`But you don't want to go up, you foolish little thing. You can't
go. And what do you want to go up for?'
"`That is a secret,' said Tricksey-Wee.
"`Well, it's no business of mine,' rejoined Lady Lark, a little
offended, and quite vexed that she had told them. So she flew away to
find some breakfast for her little ones, who by this time were chirping
very impatiently. The children looked at each other, joined hands, and
"In a minute more the sun was up, and they soon reached the outside
of the tree. The bark was so knobby and rough, and full of twigs, that
they managed to get down, though not without great difficulty. Then,
far away to the north, they saw a huge peak, like the spire of a
church, going right up into the sky. They thought this must be Mount
Skycrack, and turned their faces towards it. As they went on, they saw
a giant or two, now and then, striding about the fields or through the
woods, but they kept out of their way. Nor were they in much danger;
for it was only one or two of the border giants that were so very fond
of children. At last they came to the foot of Mount Skycrack. It stood
in a plain alone, and shot right up, I don't know how many thousand
feet, into the air, a long, narrow, spearlike mountain. The whole face
of it, from top to bottom, was covered with a network of spiders' webs,
with threads of various sizes, from that of silk to that of whipcord.
The webs shook, and quivered, and waved in the sun, glittering like
silver. All about ran huge, greedy spiders, catching huge, silly flies,
and devouring them.
"Here they sat down to consider what could be done. The spiders did
not heed them, but ate away at the flies. At the foot of the mountain,
and all round it, was a ring of water, not very broad, but very deep.
Now, as they sat watching, one of the spiders, whose web was woven
across this water, somehow or other lost his hold, and fell on his
back. Tricksey-Wee and Buffy-Bob ran to his assistance, and laying hold
each of one of his legs, succeeded, with the help of the other legs,
which struggled spiderfully, in getting him out upon dry land. As soon
as he had shaken himself, and dried himself a little, the spider turned
to the children, saying,
"`And now, what can I do for you?'
"`Tell us, please,' said they, `how we can get up the mountain to
the she-eagle's nest.'
"`Nothing is easier,' answered the spider. `Just run up there, and
tell them all I sent you, and nobody will mind you.'
"`But we haven't got claws like you, Mr. Spider,' said Buffy.
"`Ah! no more you have, poor unprovided creatures! Still, I think
we can manage it. Come home with me.'
"`You won't eat us, will you?' said Buffy.
"`My dear child,' answered the spider, in a tone of injured
dignity, `I eat nothing but what is mischievous or useless. You have
helped me, and now I will help you.'
"The children rose at once, and, climbing as well as they could,
reached the spider's nest in the centre of the web. They did not find
it very difficult; for whenever too great a gap came, the spider
spinning a strong cord stretched it just where they would have chosen
to put their feet next. He left them in his nest, after bringing them
two enormous honey-bags, taken from bees that he had caught. Presently
about six of the wisest of the spiders came back with him. It was
rather horrible to look up and see them all round the mouth of the
nest, looking down on them in contemplation, as if wondering whether
they would be nice eating. At length one of them said:
"`Tell us truly what you want with the eagle, and we will try to
"Then Tricksey-Wee told them that there was a giant on the borders
who treated little children no better than radishes, and that they had
narrowly escaped being eaten by him; that they had found out that the
great she-eagle of Mount Skycrack was at present sitting on his heart;
and that, if they could only get hold of the heart, they would soon
teach the giant better behaviour.
"`But,' said their host, `if you get at the heart of the giant, you
will find it as large as one of your elephants. What can you do with
"`The least scratch will kill it,' answered Buffy-Bob.
"`Ah! but you might do better than that,' said the spider.`Now we
have resolved to help you. Here is a little bag of spider-juice. The
giants cannot bear spiders, and this juice is dreadful poison to them.
We are all ready to go up with you, and drive the eagle away. Then you
must put the heart into this other bag, and bring it down with you; for
then the giant will be in your power.'
"`But how can we do that?' said Buffy. `The bag is not much bigger
than a pudding-bag.'
"`But it is as large as you will find convenient to carry.'
"`Yes; but what are we to do with the heart?'
"`Put it into the bag, to be sure. Only, first, you must squeeze a
drop out of the other bag upon it. You will see what will happen.'
"`Very well; we will,' said Tricksey-Wee. `And now, if you please,
how shall we go?'
"`Oh, that's our business,' said the first spider. `You come with
me, and my grandfather will take your brother. Get up.'
"So Tricksey-Wee mounted on the narrow part of the spider's back,
and held fast. And Buffy-Bob got on the grandfather's back. And up they
scrambled, over one web after another, up and up. And every spider
followed; so that, when Tricksey-Wee looked back, she saw a whole army
of spiders scrambling after them.
"`What can we want with so many?' she thought; but she said
"The moon was now up, and it was a splendid sight below and around
them. All Giantland was spread out under them, with its great hills,
lakes, trees, and animals. And all above them was the clear heaven, and
Mount Skycrack rising into it, with its endless ladders of spiderwebs,
glittering like cords made of moonbeams. And up the moonbeams went,
crawling, and scrambling, and racing, a huge army of huge spiders.
"At length they reached all but the very summit, where they
stopped. Tricksey-Wee and Buffy-Bob could see above them a great globe
of feathers, that finished off the mountain like an ornamental knob.
"`How shall we drive her off?' said Buffy.
"`We'll soon manage that,' said the grandfather spider. `Come on,
you, down there.'
"Up rushed the whole army, past the children, over the edge of the
nest, on to the she-eagle, and buried themselves in her feathers. In a
moment she became very restless, and went picking about with her beak.
All at once she spread out her wings, with a sound like a whirlwind,
and flew off to bathe in the sea; and then the spiders began to drop
from her in all directions on their gossamer wings. The children had to
hold fast to keep the wind of the eagle's flight from blowing them off.
As soon as it was over, they looked into the nest, and there lay the
giant's heartan awful and ugly thing.
"`Make haste, child!' said Tricksey's spider. So Tricksey took her
bag, and squeezed a drop out of it upon the heart. She thought she
heard the giant give a far-off roar of pain, and she nearly fell from
her seat with terror. The heart instantly began to shrink. It shrunk
and shrivelled till it was nearly gone; and Buffy-Bob caught it up and
put it into the bag. Then the two spiders turned and went down again as
fast as they could. Before they got to the bottom, they heard the
shrieks of the she-eagle over the loss of her egg; but the spiders told
them not to be alarmed, for her eyes were too big to see them. By the
time they reached the foot of the mountain, all the spiders had got
home, and were busy again catching flies, as if nothing had happened.
So the children, after renewed thanks to their friends, set off,
carrying the giant's heart with them.
"`If you should find it at all troublesome, just give it a little
more spider-juice directly,' said the grandfather, as they took their
"Now, the giant had given an awful roar of pain, the moment they
anointed his heart, and had fallen down in a fit, in which he lay so
long that all the boys might have escaped if they had not been so fat.
One didand got home in safety. For days the giant was unable to speak.
The first words he uttered were,
"`Oh, my heart! my heart!'
"`Your heart is safe enough, dear Thunderthump,' said his wife.
`Really a man of your size ought not to be so nervous and apprehensive.
I am ashamed of you.'
"`You have no heart, Doodlem,' answered he. `I assure you that this
moment mine is in the greatest danger. It has fallen into the hands of
foes, though who they are I cannot tell.'
"Here he fainted again; for Tricksey-Wee, finding the heart begin
to swell a little, had given it the least touch of spider-juice.
"Again he recovered, and said:
"`Dear Doodlem, my heart is coming back to me. It is coming nearer
"After lying silent for a few hours, he exclaimed:
"`It is in the house, I know!' And he jumped up and walked about,
looking in every corner.
"Just then, Tricksey-Wee and Buffy-Bob came out of the hole in the
tree-root, and through the cat-hole in the door, and walked boldly
towards the giant. Both kept their eyes busy watching him. Led by the
love of his own heart, the giant soon spied them, and staggered
furiously towards them.
"`I will eat you, you vermin!' he cried. `Give me my heart.'
"Tricksey gave the heart a sharp pinch; when down fell the giant on
his knees, blubbering, and crying, and begging for his heart.
"`You shall have it, if you behave yourself properly,' said
"`What do you want me to do?' asked he, whimpering.
"`To take all those boys and girls, and carry them home at once.'
"`I'm not able; I'm too ill.'
"`Take them up directly.'
"`I can't, till you give me my heart.'
"`Very well!' said Tricksey; and she gave the heart another pinch.
"The giant jumped to his feet, and catching up all the children,
thrust some into his waistcoat pockets, some into his breast-pocket,
put two or three into his hat, and took a bundle of them under each
arm. Then he staggered to the door. All this time poor Doodlem was
sitting in her armchair, crying, and mending a white stocking.
"The giant led the way to the borders. He could not go fast, so
that Buffy and Tricksey managed to keep up with him. When they reached
the borders, they thought it would be safer to let the children find
their own way home. So they told him to set them down. He obeyed.
"`Have you put them all down, Mr. Thunderthump?' asked
"`Yes,' said the giant.
"`That's a lie!' squeaked a little voice; and out came a head from
"Tricksey-Wee pinched the heart till the giant roared with pain.
"`You're not a gentleman. You tell stories,' she said.
"`He was the thinnest of the lot,' said Thunderthump, crying.
"`Are you all there now, children?' asked Tricksey.
"`Yes, ma'am,' said they, after counting themselves very carefully,
and with some difficulty; for they were all stupid children.
"`Now,' said Tricksey-Wee to the giant, `will you promise to carry
off no more children, and never to eat a child again all you life?'
"`Yes, yes! I promise,' answered Thunderthump, sobbing.
"`And you will never cross the borders of Giantland?'
"`And you shall never again wear white stockings on a Sunday, all
your life long.Do you promise?'
"The giant hesitated at this, and began to expostulate; but
Tricksey-Wee, believing it would be good for his morals, insisted; and
the giant promised.
"Then she required of him, that, when she gave him back his heart,
he should give it to his wife to take care of for him for ever after.
The poor giant feel on his knees and began again to beg. But
Tricksey-Wee giving the heart a slight pinch, he bawled out:
"`Yes, yes! Doodlem shall have it, I swear. Only she must not put
it in the flour-barrel, or in the dust-hole.'
"`Certainly not. Make your own bargain with her.And you promise not
to interfere with my brother and me, or to take any revenge for what we
"`Yes, yes, my dear children; I promise everything. Do, pray, make
haste and give me back my poor heart.'
"`Wait there, then, till I bring it to you.'
"`Yes, yes. Only make haste, for I feel very faint.'
"Tricksey-Wee began to undo the mouth of the bag. But Buffy-Bob,
who had got very knowing on his travels, took out his knife with the
pretence of cutting the string; but, in reality, to be prepared for any
"No sooner was the heart out of the bag, than it expanded to the
size of a bullock; and the giant, with a yell of rage and vengeance,
rushed on the two children, who had stepped sideways from the terrible
heart. But Buffy-Bob was too quick for Thunderthump. He sprang to the
heart, and buried his knife in it, up to the hilt. A fountain of blood
spouted from it; and with a dreadful groan, the giant fell dead at the
feet of little Tricksey-Wee, who could not help being sorry for him
"Silly thing!" said a little wisehead.
"What a horrid story!" said one small girl with great eyes, who sat
staring into the fire.
"I don't think it at all a nice story for supper, with those horrid
spiders, too," said an older girl.
"Well, let us have a game and forget it," I said.
"No; that we shan't, I am sure," said one.
"I will tell our Amy. Won't it be fun?"
"She'll scream," said another.
"I'll tell her all the more."
"No, no; you mustn't be unkind," said I; "else you will never help
little children against wicked giants. The giants will eat you too,
"Oh! I know what you mean. You can't frighten me."
This was said by one of the elder girls, who promised fair to reach
before long the summit of uncompromising womanhood. She made me feel
very small with my moralizing; so I dropt it. On the whole I was rather
disappointed with the effect of my story. Perhaps the disappointment
was no more than I deserved; but I did not like to think I had failed
Nor did I think so any longer after a darling little blue-eyed
girl, who had sat next me at tea, came to me to say good night, and,
reaching up, put her arms round my neck and kissed me, and then
whispered very gently:
"Thank you, dear Mr. Smith. I will be good. It was a very nice
story. If I was a man, I would kill all the wicked people in the world.
But I am only a little girl, you know; so I can only be good."
The darling did not know how much more one good woman can do to
kill evil than all the swords of the world in the hands of righteous
WHEN the next evening of our assembly came, I could see on Adela's
face a look of subdued expectation, and I knew now to what to attribute
it: Harry was going to read. There was a restlessness in her
eyelidsthey were always rising, and falling as suddenly. But when the
time drew near, they grew more still; only her colour went and came a
little. By the time we were all seated, she was as quiet as death.
Harry pulled out a manuscript.
"Have you any objection to a ballad-story?" he asked of the company
"Certainly not," was the common reply; though Ralph stared a
little, and his wife looked at him. I believe the reason was, that they
had never known Harry write poetry before. But as soon as he had
uttered the title"The Two Gordons"
"You young rascal!" cried his brother. "Am I to keep you in
material for ever? Are you going to pluck my wings till they are as
bare as an egg? Really, ladies and gentlemen," he continued, in
pretended anger, while Harry was keeping down a laugh of keen
enjoyment, "it is too bad of that scapegrace brother of mine! Of course
you are all welcome to anything I have got; but he has no right to
escape from his responsibilities on that account. It is rude to us all.
I know he can write if he likes."
"Why, Ralph, you would be glad of such a brother to steal your
sermons from, if you had been up all night as I was. Of course I did
not mean to claim any more credit than that of unearthing some of your
shy verses.May I read them or not?"
"Oh! of course. But it is lucky I came prepared for some escapade
of the sort, and brought a manuscript of proper weight and length in my
Suddenly Harry's face changed from a laughing to a grave one. I saw
how it was. He had glanced at Adela, and her look of unmistakeable
disappointment was reflected in his face. But there was a glimmer of
pleasure in his eyes, notwithstanding; and I fancied I could see that
the pleasure would have been more marked, had he not feared that he had
placed himself at a disadvantage with her, namely, that she would
suppose him incapable of producing a story. However, it was only for a
moment that this change of feeling stopped him. With a gesture of some
haste he re-opened the manuscript, which he had rolled up as if to
protect it from the indignation of his brother, and read the following
"The Two Gordons.
"There was John Gordon, and Archibold,
And an earl's twin sons were they.
When they were one and twenty years old,
They fell out on their birth-day.
"`Turn,' said Archibold, `brother sly!
Turn now, false and fell;
Or down thou goest, as black as a lie,
To the father of lies in hell.'
"`Why this to me, brother Archie, I pray?
What ill have I done to thee?'
`Smooth-faced hound, thou shalt rue the day
Thou gettest an answer of me.
"`For mine will be louder than Lady Janet's,
And spoken in broad daylight
And the wall to scale is my iron mail,
Not her castle wall at night.'
"`I clomb the wall of her castle tall,
In the moon and the roaring wind;
It was dark and still in her bower until
The morning looked in behind.'
"`Turn therefore, John Gordon, false brother;
For either thou or I,
On a hard wet bedwet, cold, and red,
For evermore shall lie.'
"`Oh, Archibold, Janet is my true love;
Would I had told it thee!'
`I hate thee the worse. Turn, or I'll curse
The night that got thee and me.'
"Their swords they drew, and the sparks they flew,
As if hammers did anvils beat;
And the red blood ran, till the ground began
To plash beneath their feet.
"`Oh, Archie! thou hast given me a cold supper,
A supper of steel, I trow;
But reach me one grasp of a brother's hand,
And turn me, before you go.'
"But he turned himself on his gold-spurred heel,
And away, with a speechless frown;
And up in the oak, with a greedy croak,
The carrion-crow claimed his own.
"The sun looked over a cloud of gold;
Lady Margaret looked over the wall.
Over the bridge rode Archibold;
Behind him his merry men all.
"He leads his band to the holy land.
They follow with merry din.
A white Christ's cross is on his back;
In his breast a darksome sin.
"And the white cross burned him like the fire,
That he could nor eat nor rest;
It burned in and in, to get at the sin,
That lay cowering in his breast.
"A mile from the shore of the Dead Sea,
The army lay one night.
Lord Archibold rose; and out he goes,
Walking in the moonlight.
"He came to the shore of the old salt sea
Yellow sands with frost-like tinge;
The bones of the dead on the edge of its bed,
Lay lapped in its oozy fringe.
"He sat him down on a half-sunk stone,
And he sighed so dreary and deep:
`The devil may take my soul when I wake,
If he'd only let me sleep!'
"Out from the bones and the slime and the stones,
Came a voice like a raven's croak:
`Was it thou, Lord Archibold Gordon?' it said,
`Was it thou those words that spoke?'
"`I'll say them again,' quoth Archibold,
`Be thou ghost or fiend of the deep.'
`Lord Archibold heed how thou may'st speed,
If thou sell me thy soul for sleep.'
"Lord Archibold laughed with a loud ha! ha!
The Dead Sea curdled to hear:
`Thou would'st have the worst of the bargain curst
It has every fault but fear.'
"`Done, Lord Archibold?' `Lord Belzebub, done!'
His laugh came back in a moan.
The salt glittered on, and the white moon shone,
And Lord Archibold was alone.
"And back he went to his glimmering tent;
And down in his cloak he lay;
And sound he slept; and a pale-faced man
Watched by his bed till day.
"And if ever he turned or moaned in his sleep,
Or his brow began to lower,
Oh! gentle and clear, in the sleeper's ear,
He would whisper words of power;
"Till his lips would quiver, and sighs of bliss
From sorrow's bosom would break;
And the tear, soft and slow, would gather and flow;
And yet he would not wake.
"Every night the pale-faced man
Sat by his bed, I say;
And in mail rust-brown, with his visor down,
Rode beside him in battle-fray.
"But well I wot that it was not
The devil that took his part;
But his twin-brother John, he thought dead and gone,
Who followed to ease his heart.
"Home came Lord Archibold, weary wight,
Home to his own countree;
And he cried, when his castle came in sight,
`Now Christ me save and see!'
"And the man in rust-brown, with his visor down,
Had gone, he knew not where.
And he lighted down, and into the hall,
And his mother met him there.
"But dull was her eye, though her mien was high;
And she spoke like Eve to Cain:
`Lord Archibold Gordon, answer me true,
Or I'll never speak again.
"`Where is thy brother, Lord Archibold?
He was flesh and blood of thine.
Has thy brother's keeper laid him cold,
Where the warm sun cannot shine?'
"Lord Archibold could not speak a word,
For his heart was almost broke.
He turned to go. The carrion-crow
At the window gave a croak.
"`Now where art thou going, Lord Archie?' she said,
`With thy lips so white and thin?'
`Mother, good-bye; I am going to lie
In the earth with my brother-twin.'
"Lady Margaret sank on her couch. `Alas!
I shall lose them both to-day.'
Lord Archibold strode along the road,
To the field of the Brothers' Fray.
"He came to the spot where they had fought.
`My God!' he cried in fright,
`They have left him there, till his bones are bare;
Through the plates they glimmer white.'
"For his brother's armour lay there, dank,
And worn with frost and dew.
Had the long, long grass that grew so rank,
Grown the very armour through?
"`O brother, brother!' cried the Earl,
With a loud, heart-broken wail,
`I would put my soul into thy bones,
To see thee alive and hale.'
"`Ha! ha!' said a voice from out the helm
'Twas the voice of the Dead Sea shore
And the joints did close, and the armour rose,
And clattered and grass uptore
"`Thou canst put no soul into his bones,
Thy brother alive to set;
For the sleep was thine, and thy soul is mine,
And, Lord Archibold, well-met!'
"`Two words to that!' said the fearless Earl;
`The sleep was none of thine;
For I dreamed of my brother all the night
His soul brought the sleep to mine.
"`But I care not a crack for a soul so black,
And thou may'st have it yet:
I would let it burn to eternity,
My brother alive to set.'
"The demon lifted his beaver up,
Crusted with blood and mould;
And, lo! John Gordon looked out of the helm,
And smiled upon Archibold.
"`Thy soul is mine, brother Archie,' he said,
`And I yield it thee none the worse;
No devil came near thee, Archie, lad,
But a brother to be thy nurse.'
"Lord Archibold fell upon his knee,
On the blood-fed, bright green sod:
`The soul that my brother gives back to me,
Is thine for ever, O God!'"
"Now for a piece of good, honest prose!" said the curate, the
moment Harry had finished, without allowing room for any remarks. "That
is, if the ladies and gentlemen will allow me to read once more."
Of course, all assented heartily.
"It is nothing of a story, but I think it is something of a
picture, drawn principally from experiences of my own childhood, which
I told you was spent chiefly in the north of Scotland. The one great
joy of the year, although some years went without it altogether, was
the summer visit paid to the shores of the Moray Firth. My story is
merely a record of some of the impressions left on myself by such a
visit, although the boy is certainly not a portrait of myself; and if
it has no result, no end, reaching beyond childhood into what is
commonly called life, I presume it is not of a peculiar or solitary
character in that respect; for surely many that we count finished
storieslife-historiesmust look very different to the angels; and if
they haven't to be written over again, at least they have to be carried
on a few æons further.
"A CHILD'S HOLIDAY.
"Before the door of a substantial farm-house in the north of
Scotland, stands a vehicle of somewhat singular construction. When
analysed, however, its composition proves to be simple enough. It is a
common agricultural cart, over which, by means of a few iron rods bent
across, a semi-cylindrical covering of white canvas has been stretched.
It is thus transformed from a hay or harvest cart into a family
carriage, of comfortable dimensions, though somewhat slow of progress.
The lack of springs is supplied by thick layers of straw, while sacks
stuffed with the same material are placed around for seats. Various
articles are being stowed away under the bags, and in the corners among
the straw, by children with bright expectant faces; the said articles
having been in process of collection and arrangement for a month or six
weeks previous, in anticipation of the journey which now lies, in all
its length and brightness, the length and brightness of a long northern
summer's day, before them.
"At last, all their private mysteries of provisions, playthings,
and books, having found places of safety more or less accessible on
demand, every motion of the horse, every shake and rattle of the
covered cart, makes them only more impatient to proceed; which desire
is at length gratified by their moving on at a funeral pace through the
open gate. They are followed by another cart loaded with the luggage
necessary for a six-week's sojourn at one of the fishing villages on
the coast, about twenty miles distant from their home. Their father and
mother are to follow in the gig, at a later hour in the day, expecting
to overtake them about half-way on the road.Through the neighbouring
village they pass, out upon the lonely highway.
"Some seeds are borne to the place of their destiny by their own
wings and the wings of the wind, some by the wings of birds, some by
simple gravitation. The seed of my story, namely, the covered cart,
sent forth to find the soil for its coming growth, is dragged by a
stout horse to the sea-shore; and as it oscillates from side to side
like a balloon trying to walk, I shall say something of its internal
constitution, and principally of its germ; for, regarded as the seed of
my story, a pale boy of thirteen is the germ of the cart. First, though
he will be of little use to us afterwards, comes a great strong boy of
sixteen, who considerably despises this mode of locomotion, believing
himself quite capable of driving his mother in the gig, whereas he is
only destined to occupy her place in the evening, and return with his
father. Then comes the said germ, a boy whom repeated attacks of
illness have blanched, and who looks as if the thinness of its earthly
garment made his soul tremble with the proximity of the ungenial world.
Then follows a pretty blonde, with smooth hair, and smooth cheeks, and
bright blue eyes, the embodiment of home pleasures and love; whose
chief enjoyment, and earthly destiny indeed, so far as yet revealed,
consist in administering to the cupidities of her younger brother, a
very ogre of gingerbread men, and Silenus of bottled milk. This milk,
by the way, is expected, from former experience, to afford considerable
pleasure at the close of the journey, in the shape of one or two
pellets of butter in each bottle; the novelty of the phenomenon, and
not any scarcity of the article, constituting the ground of interest. A
baby on the lap of a rosy country-girl, and the servant in his blue
Sunday coat, who sits outside the cover on the edge of the cart, but
looks in occasionally to show some attention to the young woman,
complete the contents of the vehicle.
"Herbert Netherby, though, as I have said, only thirteen years of
age, had already attained a degree of mental development sufficient for
characterization. Disease had favoured the almost unhealthy
predominance of the mental over the bodily powers of the child; so
that, although the constitution which at one time was supposed to have
entirely given way, had for the last few years been gradually gaining
strength, he was still to be seen far oftener walking about with his
hands in his pockets, and his gaze bent on the ground, or turned up to
the clouds, than joining in any of the boyish sports of those of his
own age. A nervous dread of ridicule would deter him from taking his
part, even when for a moment the fountain of youthfulness gushed forth,
and impelled him to find rest in activity. So the impulse would pass
away, and he would relapse into his former quiescence. But this partial
isolation ministered to the growth of a love of Nature which, although
its roots were coeval with his being, might not have so soon appeared
above ground, but for this lack of human companionship. Thus the boy
became one of Nature's favourites, and enjoyed more than a common share
of her teaching.
"But he loved her most in her stranger moods. The gathering of a
blue cloud, on a sultry summer afternoon, he watched with intense hope,
in expectation of a thunder-storm; and a windy night, after harvest,
when the trees moaned and tossed their arms about, and the wind ran
hither and hither over the desolate fields of stubble, made the child's
heart dance within him, and sent him out careering through the
deepening darkness. To meet him then, you would not have known him for
the sedate, actionless boy, whom you had seen in the morning looking
listlessly on while his schoolfellows played. But of all his loves for
the shows of Nature, none was so strong as his love for watercommon to
childhood, with its mills of rushes, its dams, its bridges, its
aqueducts; only in Herbert, it was more a quiet, delighted
contemplation. Weakness prevented his joining his companions in the
river; but the sight of their motions in the mystery of the water, as
they floated half-idealized in the clear depth, or glided along by
graceful propulsion, gave him as much real enjoyment as they received
themselves. For it was water itself that delighted him, whether in rest
or motion; whether rippling over many stones, like the first
half-articulate sounds of a child's speech, mingled with a strange
musical tremble and cadence which the heart only, and not the ear,
could detect; or lying in deep still pools, from the bottom of which
gleamed up bright green stones, or yet brighter water-plants, cool in
their little grotto, with water for an atmosphere and a firmament,
through which the sun-rays came, washed of their burning heat, but
undimmed of their splendour. He would lie for an hour by the side of a
hill-streamlet; he would stand gazing into a muddy pool, left on the
road by last night's rain. Once, in such a brown-yellow pool, he beheld
a glorythe sun, encircled with a halo vast and wide, varied like the
ring of opal colours seen about the moon when she floats through white
clouds, only larger and brighter than that. Looking up, he could see
nothing but a chaos of black clouds, brilliant towards the sun: the
colours he could not see, except in the muddy water.
"In autumn the rains would come down for days, and the river grow
stormy, forget its clearness, and spread out like a lake over the
meadows; and that was delightful indeed. But greater yet was the
delight when the foot-bridge was carried away; for then they had to
cross the stream in a boat. He longed for water where it could not be;
would fain have seen it running through the grass in front of his
father's house; and had a waking vision of a stream with wooden shores
that babbled through his bedroom. So it may be fancied with what
delight he overheard the parental decision that they should spend some
weeks by the shores of the great worldwater, the father and the grave
"After many vain outlooks, and fruitless inquiries of their driver,
a sudden turn in the road brought them in sight of the sea between the
hills; itself resembling a low blue hill, covered with white stones.
Indeed, the little girl only doubted whether those were white stones or
sheep scattered all over it. They lost sight of it; saw it again; and
hailed it with greater rapture than at first.
"The sun was more than halfway down when they arrived. They had
secured a little cottage, almost on the brow of the high shore, which
in most places went down perpendicularly to the beach or sands, and in
some right into deep water; but opposite the cottage, declined with a
sloping, grassy descent. A winding track led down to the village, which
nestled in a hollow, with steep footpaths radiating from it. In front
of it, lower still, lay the narrow beach, narrow even at low water, for
the steep, rocky shore went steep and rocky down into the abyss. A
thousand fantastic rocks stood between land and water; amidst which, at
half-tide, were many little rocky arbours, with floors of sunny sand,
and three or four feet of water. Here you might bathe, or sit on the
ledges with your feet in the water, medicated with the restless glitter
and bewilderment of a half-dissolved sunbeam.
"A promontory, curving out into the sea, on the right, formed a bay
and natural harbour, from which, towards the setting sun, many
fishing-boats were diverging into the wide sea, as the children, stiff
and weary, were getting out of the cart. Herbert's fatigue was soon
forgotten in watching their brown-dyed sails, glowing almost red in the
sunset, as they went out far into the dark, hunters of the deep, to
spend the night on the waters.
"From the windows, the children could not see the shore, with all
its burst of beauties struck out from the meeting of things unlike; for
it lay far down, and the brow of the hill rose between it and them;
only they knew that below the waves were breaking on the rocks, and
they heard the gush and roar filling all the air. The room in which
Herbert slept was a little attic, with a window towards the sea. After
gazing with unutterable delight on the boundless water, which lay like
a condensed sky in the grey light of the sleeping day (for there is no
night at this season in the North), till he saw it even when his
eyelids closed from weariness, he lay down, and the monotonous lullaby
of the sea mingled with his dreams.
"Next morning he was wakened by the challenging and replying of the
sentinel-cocks, whose crowing sounded to him more clear and musical
than that of any of the cocks at home. He jumped out of bed. It was a
sunny morning, and his soul felt like a flake of sunshine, as he looked
out of his window on the radiant sea, green and flashing, its clear
surface here and there torn by the wind into spots of opaque white. So
happy did he feel, that he might have been one who had slept through
death and the judgment, and had awaked, a child, still in the kingdom
of God, under the new heavens and upon the new earth.
"After breakfast, they all went down with their mother to the
sea-shore. As they went, the last of the boats which had gone out the
night before, were returning laden, like bees. The sea had been
bountiful. Everything shone with gladness. But as Herbert drew nearer,
he felt a kind of dread at the recklessness of the waves. On they
hurried, assailed the rocks, devoured the sands, cast themselves in
wild abandonment on whatever opposed them. He feared at first to go
near, for they were unsympathizing, caring not for his love or his joy,
and would sweep him away like one of those floating sea-weeds. `If they
are such in their play,' thought he, `what must they be in their
anger!' But ere long he was playing with the sea as with a tame tiger,
chasing the retreating waters till they rallied and he, in his turn,
had to flee from their pursuit. Wearied at length, he left his brother
and sister building castles of wet sand, and wandered along the shore.
"Everywhere about lay shallow lakes of salt water, so shallow that
they were invisible, except when a puff of wind blew a thousand ripples
into the sun; whereupon they flashed as if a precipitous rain of stormy
light had rushed down upon them. Lifting his eyes from one of these
films of water, Herbert saw on the opposite side, stooping to pick up
some treasure of the sea, a little girl, apparently about nine years of
age. When she raised herself and saw Herbert, she moved slowly away
with a quiet grace, that strangely contrasted with her tattered
garments. She was ragged like the sea-shore, or the bunch of dripping
sea-weed that she carried in her hand; she was bare from foot to knee,
and passed over the wet sand with a gleam; the wind had been at more
trouble with her hair than any loving hand; it was black, lusterless,
and tangled. The sight of rags was always enough to move Herbert's
sympathies, and he wished to speak to the little girl, and give her
something. But when he had followed her a short distance, all at once,
and without having looked round, she began to glide away from him with
a wave-like motion, dancing and leaping; till a clear pool in the
hollow of a tabular rock imbedded in the sand, arrested her progress.
Here she stood like a statue, gazing into its depth; then, with a dart
like a kingfisher, plunged half into it, caught something at which her
head and curved neck showed that she looked with satisfactionand again,
before Herbert could come near her, was skimming along the uneven
shore. He followed, as a boy follows a lapwing; but she, like the
lapwing, gradually increased the distance between them, till he gave up
the pursuit with some disappointment, and returned to his brother and
sister. More ambitious than they, he proceeded to constructchiefly for
the sake of the moat he intended to draw around ita sand-castle of
considerable pretensions; but the advancing tide drove him from his
stronghold before he had begun to dig the projected fosse.
"As they returned home, they passed a group of fishermen in their
long boots and flapped sou'-westers, looking somewhat anxiously
seaward. Much to Herbert's delight, they predicted a stiff gale, and
probably a storm. A low bank of cloud had gathered along the horizon,
and the wind had already freshened; the white spots were thicker on the
waves, and the sound of their trampling on the shore grew louder.
"After dinner, they sat at the window of their little parlour,
looking out over the sea, which grew darker and more sullen, ever as
the afternoon declined. The cloudy bank had risen and walled out the
sun; but a narrow space of blue on the horizon looked like the rent
whence the wind rushed forth on the sea, and with the feet of its
stormy horses tore up the blue surface, and scattered the ocean-dust in
clouds. As evening drew on, Herbert could keep in the house no longer.
He wandered away on the heights, keeping from the brow of the cliffs;
now and then stooping and struggling with a stormier eddy; till,
descending into a little hollow, he sunk below the plane of the
tempest, and stood in the glow of a sudden calm, hearing the tumult all
round him, but himself in peace. Looking up, he could see nothing but
the sides of the hollow with the sky resting on them, till, turning
towards the sea, he saw, at some distance, a point of the cliff rising
abruptly into the air. At the same moment, the sun looked out from a
crack in the clouds, on the very horizon; and as Herbert could not see
the sunset, the peculiar radiance illuminated the more strangely the
dark vault of earth and cloudy sky. Suddenly, to his astonishment, it
was concentrated on the form of the little ragged girl. She stood on
the summit of the peak before him. The light was a crown, not to her
head only, but to her whole person; as if she herself were the crown
set on the brows of the majestic shore. Disappearing as suddenly, it
left her standing on the peak, dark and stormy; every tress, if tresses
they could be called, of her windy hair, every tatter of her scanty
garments, seeming individually to protest, `The wind is my playmate;
let me go!' If Aphrodite was born of the sunny sea, this child was the
offspring of the windy shore; as if the mind of the place had developed
for itself a consciousness, and this was its embodiment. She bore a
strange affinity to the rocks, and the sea-weed, and the pools, and the
wide, wild ocean; and Herbert would scarcely have been shocked to see
her cast herself from the cliff into the waves, which now dashed
half-way up its height. By the time he had got out of the hollow, she
had vanished, and where she had gone he could not conjecture. He half
feared she had fallen over the precipice; and several times that night,
as the vapour of dreams gathered around him, he started from his
half-sleep in terror at seeing the little genius of the storm fall from
her rock-pedestal into the thundering waves as its foot.
"Next day the wind continuing off the sea, with vapour and rain,
the children were compelled to remain within doors, and betake
themselves to books and playthings. But Herbert's chief resource lay in
watching the sea and the low grey sky, between which was no
distinguishable horizon. The wind still increased, and before the
afternoon it blew a thorough storm, wind and waves raging together on
the rocky shore. The fishermen had secured their boats, drawing them up
high on the land; but what vessels might be labouring under the low
misty pall no one could tell. Many anxious fears were expressed for
some known to be at sea; and many tales of shipwreck were told that
night in the storm-shaken cottages.
"The day was closing in, darkened the sooner by the mist, when
Herbert, standing at the window, now rather weary, saw the little girl
dart past like a petrel. He snatched up his cap and rushed from the
house, buttoning his jacket to defend him from the weather. The little
fellow, though so quiet among other boys, was a lover of the storm as
much as the girl was, and would have preferred its buffeting, so long
as his strength lasted, to the warmest nook by the fireside; and now he
could not resist the temptation to follow her. As soon as he was clear
of the garden, he saw her stopping to gaze down on the seastarting
again along the heightsblown out of her courseand regaining it by
struggling up in the teeth of the storm. He at once hastened in
pursuit, trying as much as possible to keep out of her sight, and was
gradually lessening the distance between them, when, on crossing the
hollow already mentioned, he saw her on the edge of the cliff, close to
the pinnacle on which she had stood the night before; where after
standing for a moment, she sank downwards and vanished, but whether
into earth or air, he could not tell. He approached the place. A blast
of more than ordinary violence fought against him, as if determined to
preserve the secret of its favourite's refuge. But he persisted, and
gained the spot.
"He then found that the real edge of the precipice was several
yards farther off, the ground sloping away from where he stood. At his
feet, in the slope, was an almost perpendicular opening. He hesitated a
little; but, sure that the child was a real human child and no phantom,
he did not hesitate long. He entered and found it lead spirally
downwards. Descending with some difficulty, for the passage was narrow,
he arrived at a small chamber, into one corner of which the stone
shaft, containing the stair, projected half its round. The chamber
looked as if it had been hollowed out of the rock. A narrow window,
little more than a loop-hole through the thick wall, admitted the roar
of the waves and a dim grey light. This light was just sufficient to
show him the child in the farthest corner of the chamber, bending
forward with her hands between her knees, in a posture that indicated
fear. The little playfellow of the winds was not sure of him. At the
first word he spoke, a sea-bird, which had made its home in the
apartment, startled by the sound of his voice, dashed through the
window, with a sudden clang of wings, into the great misty void
without; and Herbert looking out after it, almost forgot the presence
of the little girl in the awe and delight of the spectacle before him.
It was now much darker, and the fog had settled down more closely on
the face of the deep; but just below him he could see the surface of
the ocean, whose mad waves appeared to rush bellowing out of the unseen
on to the shore of the visible. When, after some effort, he succeeded
in leaning out of the window, he could see the shore beneath him; for
he was on its extreme verge, and the spray now and then dashed through
the loop-hole into the chamber. He was still gazing and absorbed, when
a sweet timid voice, that yet partook undefinably of the wildness of a
sea-breeze, startled him out of his contemplation.
"`Did my mother send you to me?' said the voice.
"He looked down. Close beside him stood the child, gazing earnestly
up into his face through the twilight from the window.
"`Where does your mother live?' asked Herbert.
"`All out there,' the child answered, pointing to the window.
"While he was thinking what she could mean, she continued:
"`Mother is angry to-night; but when the sun comes out, and those
nasty clouds are driven away, she will laugh again. Mother does not
like black clouds and fogs; they spoil her house.'
"Still perplexed as to the child's meaning, Herbert asked,
"`Does your mother love you?'
"`Yes, except when she is angry. She does not love me to-night; but
to-morrow, perhaps, she will be all over laughs to me; and that makes
me run to her; and she will smile to me all day, till night comes and
she goes to sleep, and leaves me alone; for I hear her sleeping, but I
cannot go to sleep with her.'"
Here the curate interrupted his reading to remark, that he feared
he had spoiled the pathos of the child's words, by translating them
into English; but that they must gain more, for the occasion, by being
made intelligible to his audience, than they could lose by the change
from their original form.
"Herbert's sympathies had by this time made him suspect that the
child must be talking of the sea, which somehow she had come to regard
as her mother. He asked,
"`Where does your father live, then?'
"`I have not any father,' she answered. `I had one, but mother took
"Several other questions Herbert put; but still the child's notions
ran in the same channel. They were wild notions, but uttered with
confidence as if they were the most ordinary facts. It seemed that
whatever her imagination suggested, bore to her the impress of
self-evident truth; and that she knew no higher reality.
"By this time it was almost dark.
"`I must go home,' said Herbert.
"`I will go with you,' responded the girl.
"She ran along beside him, but in the discursive manner natural to
her; till, coming to one of the paths descending towards the shore, she
darted down, without saying good-night even.
"Next day, the storm having abated, and the sun shining out, they
were standing on the beach, near a fisherman, who like them was gazing
seawards, when the child went skimming past along the shore. Mrs.
Netherby asked the fisherman about her, and learned the secret of the
sea's motherhood. She had been washed ashore from the wreck of a
vessel; and was found on the beach, tied to a spar. All besides had
perished. From the fragment they judged it to have been a Dutch vessel.
Some one had said in her hearing`Poor child! the sea is her mother;'
and her imagination had cherished the idea. A fisherman, who had no
family, had taken her to his house and loved her dearly. But he lost
his wife shortly after; and a year or two ago, the sea had taken him,
the only father she knew. All, however, were kind to her. She was
welcome wherever she chose to go and share with the family. But no one
knew today where she would be to-morrow, where she would have her next
meal, or where she would sleep. She was wild, impulsive, affectionate.
The simple people of the village believed her to be of foreign birth
and high descent, while reverence for her lonely conditions made them
treat her with affection as well as deference; so that the forsaken
child, regarded as subject to no law, was as happy in her freedom and
confidence as any wild winged thing of the land or sea. The summer
loved her; the winter strengthened her. Her first baptism in the salt
waters had made her a free creature of the earth and skies; had
fortified her, Archilles-like, against all hardship, cold, and
nakedness to come; had delivered her from the bonds of habit and
custom, and shown in her what earth and air of themselves can do, to
make the lowest, most undeveloped life, a divine gift.
"The following morning, the sea was smooth and clear. So was the
sky. Looking down from their cottage, the sea appeared to Herbert to
slope steeply up to the horizon, so that the shore lay like a deep
narrow valley between him and it. Far down, at the low pier, he saw a
little boat belonging to a retired ship-captain. The oars were on
board; and the owner and some one with him were walking towards the
boat. Now the captain had promised to take him with him some day.
He was half-way down the road a moment after the words of
permission had left his mother's lips, and was waiting at the boat when
the two men came up. They readily agreed to let him go with them. They
were going to row to a village on the opposite side of the bay, and
return in the evening. Herbert was speechless with delight. They got
in, the boat heaving beneath them, unmoored and pushed off. This
suspension between sea and sky was a new sensation to Herbert; for when
he looked down, his eye did not repose on the surface, but penetrated
far into a clear green abyss, where the power of vision seemed rather
to vanish than be arrested. When he looked up, the shore was behind
them; and he knew, for the first time, what it was to look at the land
as he had looked at the sea; to regard the land, in its turn, as a
phenomenonobserving it apart from himself.
"Running along the shore like a little bird, he saw the child of
the sea; and, further to the right, the peak on which she had stood in
the sunset, and into whose mysterious chamber she had led him. The
captain here put a pocket-telescope into his hand; and with this
annihilator of space he made new discoveries. He saw a little window in
the cliff, doubtless the same from which he had looked out on the dim
sea; and then perceived that the front of the cliff, in that part, was
no rock, but a wall, regularly and strongly built. It was evidently the
remains of an old fortress. The front foundation had been laid in the
rocks of the shore; the cliff had then been faced up with masonry; and
behind chambers had been cut in the rock; into one of which Herbert had
descended a ruined spiral stair. The castle itself, which had stood on
the top, had mouldered away, leaving only a rugged and broken surface.
"By this time they were near the opposite shore, and Herbert looked
up with dread at the great cliffs that rose perpendicularly out of the
water, which heaved slowly and heavily, with an appearance of immense
depth, against them. Their black jagged sides had huge holes, into
which the sea rushedfar into the darkwith a muffled roar; and large
protuberances of rock, bare and threatening. Numberless shadows lay on
their faces; and here and there from their tops trickled little steams,
plashing into the waves at their feet. Passing through a natural arch
in a rock, lofty and narrow, called the Devil's Bridge, and turning a
little promontory, they were soon aground on the beach.
"When the captain had finished his business, they had some dinner
at the inn; and while the two men drank their grog, Herbert was a
delighted listener to many a sea story, old and new. How the boy longed
to be a sailor, and live always on the great waters! The blocks and
cordage of the fast-rooted flagstaff before the inn, assumed an almost
magic interest to him, as the two sailors went on with their tales of
winds and rocks, and narrow escapes and shipwrecks. And how proud he
was of the friendship of these old seafarers!
"At length it was time to return home. As they rowed slowly along,
the sun was going down in the west, and their shadows were flung far on
the waves, which gleamed and glistened in the rich calm light. Land and
sea were bathed in the blessing of heaven; its glory was on the rocks,
and on the shore, and in the depth of the heaving sea. Under the boat,
wherever it went, shone a paler green. The only sounds were of the oars
in the row-locks, of the drip from their blades as they rose and made
curves in the air, and the low plash with which they dipped again into
the sea; while the water in the wake of the boat hastened to compose
itself again to that sleep from which it had been unwillingly roused by
the passing keel. The boy's heart was full. Often in after years he
longed for the wings of a dove that he might fly to that boat (still
floating in the calm sea of his memory), and there lie until his spirit
had had rest enough.
"The next time that Herbert approached the little girl, she waited
his coming; and while they talked, Mrs. Netherby joined them with her
Effie. Presently the gaze of the sea-child was fixed upon little Effie,
to the all but total neglect of the others. The result of this
contemplation was visible the next day. Mrs. Netherby having invited
her to come and see them, the following morning, as they were seated at
breakfast, the door of the room opened, without any prefatory tap, and
in peeped with wild confidence the smiling face of the untamed Undine.
It was at once evident that civilization had laid a finger upon her,
and that a new womanly impulse had been awakened. For there she stood,
gazing at Effie, and with both hands smoothing down her own hair, which
she had managed, after a fashion, to part in the middle, and had
plentifully wetted with sea-water. In her run up the height, it had
begun to dry, and little spangles of salt were visible all over it. She
could not alter her dress, whose many slashes showed little lining
except her skin; but she had done all she could to approximate her
appearance to that of Effie, whom she seemed to regard as a little
"Mrs. Netherby's heart was drawn towards the motherless child, and
she clothed her from head to foot; though how far this was a benefit as
regarded cold and heat, is a question. Herbert began to teach her to
read; in which her progress was just like her bodily movements over the
earth's surface; now a dead pause, and now the flight of a bird. Now
and then she would suddenly start up, heedless where her book might
happen to fall, and rush out along the heights; returning next day, or
the same afternoon, and, without any apology, resuming her studies.
"This holiday was to Herbert one of those seasons which tinge the
whole of the future life. It was a storehouse of sights and sounds and
images of thought; a tiring-room, wherein to clothe the ideas that came
forth to act their parts upon the stage of reason. Often at night, just
ere the sleep that wipes out the day from the overfilled and blotted
tablets of the brain, enwrapped him in its cool, grave-like garments, a
vision of the darkened sea, spotted and spangled with pools of
unutterable light, would rise before him unbidden, in that infinite
space for creation which lies dark and waiting under the closed
eyelids. The darkened sea might be but the out-thrown image of his own
overshadowed soul; and the spots of light the visual form of his hopes.
So clearly would these be present to him sometimes, that when he opened
his eyes and gazed into the darkness of his room, he would see the
bright spaces shining before him still. Then he would fall asleep and
dream on about the seawatching a little cutter perhaps, as `she leaned
to the lee, and girdled the wave,' flinging the frolic-some waters from
her bows, and parting a path for herself between. Or he would be seated
with the helm in his hand, and all the force and the joy wherewith she
dashed headlong on the rising waves, and half pierced them and half
drove them under her triumphant keel, would be issuing from his will
and his triumph.
"Surely even for the sad despairing waves there is some hope, out
in that boundless room which borders on the sky, and upon which, even
in the gloomiest hour of tempest, falls sometimes from heaven a glory
"So when the time came that the lover of waters must return, he
went back enriched with new visions of them in their great home and
motherland. he had seen them still and silent as a soul in holy trance;
he had seen them raving in a fury of livid green, swarming with
`white-mouthed waves;' he had seen them lying in one narrow ridge of
unbroken blue, where the eye, finding no marks to measure the distance
withal, saw miles as furlongs; and he had seen sweeps and shadows
innumerable stretched along its calm expanse, so dividing it into
regions, and graduating the distance, that the eye seemed to wander on
and on from sea to sea, and the ships to float in oceans beyond oceans
of infinite reach. O lonely space! awful indeed wert thou, did no one
love us! But he had yet to receive one more vision of the waters, and
that was to be in a dream. With this dream I will close the story of
his holiday; for it went with him ever after, breaking forth from the
dream-home, and encompassing his waking thoughts with an atmosphere of
courage and hope, when his heart was ready to sink in a world which was
not the world the boy had thought to enter, when he ran to welcome his
"On their last Sunday, Herbert went with his mother to the evening
service in a little chapel in the midst of the fishermen's cottages. It
was a curious little place, with galleries round, that nearly met in
the middle, and a high pulpit with a great sounding-board over it, from
which came the voice of an earnest little Methodist, magnified by his
position into a mighty prophet. The good man was preaching on the
parable of the sheep and the goats; and, in his earnestness for his own
theology and the souls of his hearers, was not content that the Lord
should say these things in his own way, but he must say them in his
too. And a terrible utterance it was! Looking about, unconsciously
seeking some relief from the accumulation of horrors with which the
preacher was threatening the goats of his congregation, Herbert spied,
in the very front of one of the side galleries, his little pupil, white
with terror, and staring with round unwinking eyes full in the face of
the prophet of fear. Never after could he read the parable without
seeing the blanched face of the child, and feeling a renewal of that
evening's sadness over the fate of the poor goats which afterwards grew
into the question`Doth God care for oxen, and not for goats?' He never
saw the child again; for they left the next day, and she did not come
to bid them good-by.
"As he went home from the chapel, her face of terror haunted him.
"That night he fell asleep, as usual, with the sound of the waves
in his soul. And as he slept he dreamed.He stood, as he thought, upon
the cliff, within which lay the remnants of the old castle. The sun was
slowly sinking down the western sky, and a great glory lay upon the
sea. Close to the shore beneath, by the side of some low rocks, floated
a little boat. He thought how delightful it would be to lie in the boat
in the sunlight, and let it die away upon his bosom. He scrambled down
the rocks, stepped on board, and laid himself in the boat, with his
face turned towards the sinking sun. Lower and lower the sun sank,
seeming to draw the heavens after him, like a net. At length he plunged
beneath the waves; but as his last rays disappeared on the horizon, lo!
a new splendour burst upon the astonished boy. The whole waters were
illuminated from beneath, with the permeating glories of the buried
radiance. In rainbow circles, and intermingling, fluctuating sweeps of
colours, the sea lay like an intense opal, molten with the fire of its
own hues. The sky gave back the effulgence with a less deep but more
"But betwixt the sea and the sky, just over the grave of the
down-gone sun, a dark spot appeared, parting the earth and the heaven
where they had mingled in embraces of light. And the dark spot grew and
spread, and a cold breath came softly over the face of the shining
waters; and the colours paled away; and as the blossom-sea withered and
grew grey below, the clouds withered and darkened above. The sea began
to swell and moan and look up, like the soul of a man whose joy is
going down in darkness; and a horror came over the heart of the
sleeper, and in his dream he lifted up his head, meaning to rise and
hasten to his home. But, behold, the shore was far away, and the great
castle-cliff had sunk to a low ridge! With a cry, he sank back on the
bosom of the careless sea.
"The boat began to rise and fall on the waking waves. Then a great
blast of wind laid hold of it, and whirled it about. Once more he
looked up, and saw that the tops of the waves were torn away, and that
`the white water was coming out of the black.' Higher and higher rose
the billows; louder and louder roared the wind across their jagged
furrows, tearing awful descants from their bursting chords, and tossing
the little boat like a leaf in the lone desert of storms; now holding
it perched on the very crest of a wave, in the mad eye of the tempest,
while the chaotic waters danced, raving about, in hopeless confusion;
now letting it sink in the hollow of the waves, and lifting above it
cold glittering walls of water, that becalmed it as in a sheltered
vale, while the hurricane roaring above, flung arches of writhing
waters across from billow to billow overhead, and threatened to close,
as in a transparent tomb, boat and boy. At length, when the boat rose
once more, unwilling, to the awful ridge, jagged and white, a yet
fiercer blast tore it from the top of the wave. The dreamer found
himself choking in the waters, and soon lost all consciousness of the
buffeting waves or the shrieking winds.
"When the dreamer again awoke, he felt that he was carried along
through the storm above the waves; for they reached him only in bursts
of spray, though the wind raged around him more fiercely than ever. He
opened his eyes and looked downwards. Beneath him seethed and boiled
the tumultuous billows, their wreathy tops torn from them, and shot, in
long vanishing sheets of spray, over the distracted wilderness. Such
was the turmoil beneath, that he had to close his eyes again to feel
that he was moving onwards.
The next time he opened them, it was to look up. And lo! a shadowy
face bent over him, whence love unutterable was falling in floods, from
eyes deep, and dark, and still, as the heavens that are above the
clouds, Great waves of hair streamed back from a noble head, and
floated on the tides of the tempest. The face was like his mother's and
like his father's, and like a face that he had seen somewhere in a
picture, but far more beautiful and strong and loving than all. With a
sudden glory of gladness, in which the spouting pinnacles of the
fathomless pyramids of wandering waters dwindled into the confusion of
a few troubled water-drops, he knew, he knew that the Lord was carrying
his lamb in his bosom. Around him were the everlasting arms, and above
him the lamps that light heaven and earth, the eyes that watch and are
not weary. And now he felt the arms in which he lay, and he nestled
close to that true, wise bosom, which has room in it for all, and where
none will strive.
"Over the waters went the Master, now crossing the calm hollows,
now climbing the rising wave, now shrouded in the upper ocean of
drifting spray, that wrapped him around with whirling force, and anon
calmly descending the gliding slope into the glassy trough below.
Sometimes, when he looked up, the dreamer could see nothing but the
clouds driving across the heavens, whence now and then a star, in a
little well of blue, looked down upon him; but anon he knew that the
driving clouds were his drifting hair, and that the stars in the blue
wells of heaven were his love-lighted eyes. Over the sea he strode, and
the floods lifted up their heads in vain. The billows would gather and
burst around and over them; but a moment more, and the billows were
beneath his feet, and on they were going, safe and sure.
"Long time the journey endured; and the dream faded and again
revived. It was as if he had slept, and again awaked; for he lay in
soft grass on a mountain-side, and the form of a mighty man lay
outstretched beside him, who was weary with a great weariness.
Below, the sea howled and beat against the base of the mountain;
but it was far below. Again the Lord arose, and lifted him up, and bore
him onwards. Up to the mountain-top they went, through the keen, cold
air, and over the fields of snow and ice. On the peak the Master paused
and looked down.
"In a vast amphitheatre below, was gathered a multitude that no man
could number. They crowded on all sides beyond the reach of the sight,
rising up the slopes of the surrounding mountains, till they could no
longer be distinguished; grouped and massed upon height above height;
filling the hollows, and plains, and platforms all about. But every eye
looked towards the lowest centre of the mountain-amphitheatre, where a
little vacant spot awaited the presence of some form, which should be
the heart of all the throng. Down towards this centre the Lord bore
him. Entering the holy circle, he set him gently down, and then looked
all around, as if searching earnestly for some one he could not see.
"And not finding whom he sought, he walked across the open space. A
path was instantly divided for him through the dense multitude
surrounding it. Along this lane of men and women and children, he went;
and Herbert ran, following close at his feet; for now all the universe
seemed empty save where he was. And he was not rebuked, but suffered to
follow. And although the Lord walked fast and far, the feet following
him were not weary, but grew in speed and in power. Through the great
crowd and beyond it, never looking back, up and over the brow of the
mountain they went, and leaving behind them the gathered universe of
men, descended into a pale night. Hither and hither went the Master,
searching up and down the gloomy valley; now looking behind a great
rock, and now through a thicket of brushwood; now entering a dark cave,
and now ascending a height and gazing all around; till at last, on a
bare plain, seated on a grey stone, with her hands in her lap, they
found the little orphan child who had called the sea her mother.
"As he drew near to her, the Lord called out, `My poor little lamb,
I have found you at last!' But she did not seem to hear or understand
what he said; for she fell on her knees, and held up her clasped hands,
and cried, `Do not be angry with me. I am a goat; and I ran away
because I was afraid. Do not burn me.' But all the answer the Lord made
was to stoop, and lift her, and hold her to his breast. And she was an
orphan no more.
"So he turned and went back over hill and over dale, and Herbert
followed, rejoicing that the lost lamb was found.
"As he followed, he spied in a crevice of a rock, close by his
path, a lovely primrose. He stooped to pluck it. And ere he began again
to follow, a cock crew shrill and loud; and he knew it was the cock
that rebuked Peter; and he trembled and stood up. The Master had
vanished. He, too, fell a-weeping bitterly. And again the cock crew;
and he opened his eyes, and knew that he had dreamed. His mother stood
by his bedside, comforting the weeper with kisses. And he cried to her
"`O mother! surely he would not come over the sea to find me in the
storm, and then leave me because I stopped to pluck a flower!'"
"Too long, I am afraid," said the curate, the moment he had
finished his paper, looking at his watch.
"We have not thought so, I am sure," said Adela, courteously.
The ladies rose to go.
"Who is to read next?" said the schoolmaster.
"Why, of course," said the curate, indignantly, "it ought to be my
brother, but there is no depending on him."
"If this frost lasts, I will positively read next time," said the
doctor. "But, you know, Ralph, it will be better for you to bring
something else with you, lest I should fail again."
"Cool!" said the curate. "I think it is time we dropped it."
"No, please don't," said Harry, with a little anxiety in his tone.
"I really want to read my story."
"It looks like it, doesn't it?"
"Now, Ralph, a clergyman should never be sarcastic. Be as indignant
as you pleasebutsarcasticnever. It is very easy for you, who know just
what you have to do, and have besides whole volumes in that rickety old
desk of yours, to keep such an appointment as this. Mine is produced
for the occasion, bona fide; and I cannot tell what may be required of
me from one hour to another."
He went up to Adela.
"I am very sorry to have failed again," he said.
"But you won't next time, will you?"
"I will not, if I can help it."
BUT it was Adela herself who failed next time. I had seen her
during the reading draw her shawl about her as if she were cold. She
seemed quite well when the friends left, but she had caught a chill;
and before the morning she was quite feverish, and unable to leave her
"You see, Colonel," said Mrs. Cathcart at breakfast, "that this
doctor of yours is doing the child harm instead of good. He has been
suppressing instead of curing the complaint; and now she is worse than
"When the devil" I began to remark in reply.
"Mr. Smith!" exclaimed Mrs. Cathcart.
"Allow me, madam, to finish my sentence before you make up your
mind to be shocked.When the devil goes out of a man, or a woman either,
he gives a terrible wrench by way of farewell. Now, as the prophet Job
teaches us, all disease is from the devil; and"
"The prophet Job!Mr. Smith?"
"Well, the old Arab Scheik, if you like that epithet better."
"Really, Mr. Smith!"
"Well, I don't mind what you call him. I only mean to say that a
disease sometimes goes out with a kind of flare, like a candleor like
the poor life itself. I believe, if this is an intermittent feveras,
from your description, I expect it will prove to beit will be the best
thing for her."
"Well, we shall see what Dr. Wade will say."
"Dr. Wade?" I exclaimed.
"Of course, my brother will not think of trusting such a serious
case to an inexperienced young man like Mr. Armstrong."
"It seems to me," I replied, "that for some time the case has
ceased to be a serious one. You must allow that Adela is better."
"Seemed to be better, Mr. Smith. But it was all excitement, and
here is the consequence. I, as far as I have any influence, decidedly
object to Mr. Armstrong having anything more to do with the case."
"Perhaps you are right, Jane," said the colonel. "I fear you are.
But how can I ask Dr. Wade to resume his attendance?"
Always nervous about Adela, his sister-in-law had at length
succeeded in frightening him.
"Leave that to me," she said; "I will manage him."
"Pooh!" said I, rudely. "He will jump at it. It will be a grand
triumph for him. I only want you to mind what you are about. You know
Adela does not like Dr. Wade."
"And she does like Doctor Armstrong?" said Mrs. Cathcart, stuffing
each word with significance.
"Yes," I answered, boldly. "Who would not prefer the one to the
But her arrow had struck. The colonel rose, and saying only, "Well,
Jane, I leave the affair in your hands," walked out of the room. I was
coward enough to follow him. Had it been of any use, coward as I was, I
would have remained.
But Mrs. Cathcart, if she had not reckoned without her host, had,
at least, reckoned without her hostess. She wrote instantly to Dr.
Wade, in terms of which it is enough to say that they were successful,
for they brought the doctor at once. I saw him pass through the hall,
looking awfully stiff, important, and condescending. Beeves, who had
opened the door to him, gave me a very queer look as he showed him into
the drawing-room, ringing, at the same time, for Adela's maid.
Now Mrs. Cathcart had not expected that the doctor would arrive so
soon, and had, as yet, been unable to make up her mind how to
communicate to the patient the news of the change in the physical
ministry. So when the maid brought the message, all that her cunning
could provide her with at the moment was the pretence, that he had
called so opportunely by chance.
"Ask him to walk up," she said, after just one moment's hesitation.
Adela heard the direction her aunt gave, through the cold shiver
which was then obliterating rather than engrossing her attention, and
concluded that they had sent for Mr. Armstrong. But Mrs. Cathcart,
turning towards her, said
"Adela, my love, Dr. Wade had just called; and I have asked him to
step up stairs."
The patient started up.
"Aunt, what do you mean? If that old wife comes into this room, I
will make him glad to go out of it!"
You see she was feverish, poor child, else I am sure she could not
have been so rude to her aunt. But before Mrs. Cathcart could reply, in
came Dr. Wade. He walked right up to the bed, after a stately obeisance
to the lady attendant.
"I am sorry to find you so ill, Miss Cathcart."
"I am perfectly well, Dr. Wade. I am sorry you have had the trouble
of walking up stairs."
As she said this, she rang the bell at the head of her bed. Her
maid, who had been listening at the door, entered at once.I had all
this from Adela herself afterwards.
"Emma, bring me my desk. Dr. Wade, there must be some mistake. It
was my aunt, Mrs. Cathcart, who sent for you. Had she given me the
opportunity, I would have begged that the interview might take place in
her room instead of mine."
Dr. Wade retreated towards the fireplace, where Mrs. Cathcart
stood, quite aware that she had got herself into a mess of no ordinary
complication. Yet she persisted in her cunning. She lifted her finger
to her forehead.
"Ah?" said Dr. Wade.
"Yes," said Mrs. Cathcart.
After some more whispering, the doctor sat down to write a
prescription. But meantime, Adela was busy writing another. What she
wrote was precisely to this effect
"Dear Mr. Armstrong,
"I have caught a bad cold, and my aunt has let loose Dr. Wade upon
me. Please come directly, if you will save me from ever so much nasty
medicine, at the least. My aunt is not my mother, thank heaven! though
she would gladly usurp that relationship.
"Yours most truly,
She folded and sealed the notesealed it carefullyand gave it to
Emma, who vanished with it, followed instantly by Mrs. Cathcart. As to
what took place outside the doorshall I confess it?Beeves is my
"Where are you going, Emma? Emma, come her directly," said Mrs.
"I am going a message for mis'ess."
"Who is that note for?"
"I didn't ask. John can read well enough."
"Show it me."
Emma, I presume, closed both lips and hand very tight.
"I command you."
"Miss Cathcart pays me my wages, ma'am," said Emma, and turning,
sped down-stairs like a carrier-pigeon.
In the hall she met Beeves, and told him the story.
"There she comes!" cried he. "Give me the letter. I'll take it
"You're not going without your hat, surely, Mr. Beeves," said Emma.
"Bless me! It's down-stairs. There's master's old one! He'll never
want it again. And if he does, it'll be none the worse."
And he was out of the door in a moment. Beeves's alarm, however, as
to Mrs. Cathcart's approach, was a false one. She returned into the
sick chamber, with a face fiery red, and found Dr. Wade just finishing
an elaborate prescription.
"There!" said he, rising. "Send for that at once, and let it be
taken directly. Good morning."
He left the room instantly, making signs that he was afraid of
exciting his patient, as she did not appear to approve of his presence.
"What is the prescription?" said Adela, quite quietly, as Mrs.
Cathcart approached the bed, apparently trying to decipher it.
"I am glad to see you so much calmer, my dear. You must not excite
yourself. The prescription?I cannot make it out. Doctors do write so
badly. I suppose they consider it professional."
"They consider a good many things professional which are only
stupid. Let me see it."
Mrs. Cathcart, thrown off her guard, gave it to her. Adela tore it
in fragments, and threw it in a little storm on the floor.
"Adela!" screamed Mrs. Cathcart. "What is to be done?"
"Pay Dr. Wade his fee, and tell him I shall never be too ill to
refuse his medicines. Now, aunt! You find I am determined.I declare you
make me behave so ill that I am ashamed of myself."
Here the poor impertinent child crept under the clothes, and fell
a-weeping bitterly. Mrs. Cathcart had sense enough to see that nothing
could be done, and retired to her room. Getting weary of her own
society after a few moments of solitude, she proceeded to go
down-stairs. But half-way down, she was met full in the face by Harry
Armstrong ascending two steps at a time. He had already met Dr. Wade,
as he came out of the dining-room, where he had been having an
interview with the colonel. Harry had turned, and held out his hand
with a "How do you do, Dr. Wade?" But that gentleman had bowed with the
utmost stiffness, and kept his hand at home.
"So it is to be open war and mutual slander, is it, Dr. Wade?" said
Harry. "In that case, I want to know how you come to interfere with my
patient. I have had no dismissal, which punctilio I took care to know
was observed in your case."
"Sir, I was sent for," said Dr. Wade, haughtily.
"I have in my pocket a note from the lady of this house, requesting
my immediate attendance. If you have received a request to the same
purport from a visitor, you obey it at your own risk. Good morning."
Then Harry walked quietly up the first half of the stair, while
Beeves hastened to open the door to the crest-fallen Dr. Wade; but by
the time he met Mrs. Cathcart, his rate of ascent had considerably
increased. As soon as she saw him, however, without paying any
attention to the usual formality of a greeting, she turned and
re-entered her niece's room. Her eyes were flashing, and her face
spotted red and white with helpless rage. But she would not abandon the
field. Harry bowed to her, and passed on to the bed, where he was
greeted with a smile.
"There's not much the matter, I hope?" he said, returning the
"It may suit you to make light of my niece's illness, Mr.
Armstrong; but I beg to inform you that her father thought it serious
enough to send for Dr. Wade. He has been here already, and your
attendance is quite superfluous."
"No doubt; no doubt. But as I am here, I may as well prescribe."
"Dr. Wade has already prescribed."
"And I have taken his prescription, have I not, aunt?and destroyed
it, Mr. Armstrong, instead of my own chance."
"Of what?" said Mrs. Cathcart, with vulgar significance.
"Of getting rid of two officious old women at once," said Adelain a
rage, I fear I must confess, as the only excuse for impertinence.
"Come, come," said Harry, "this won't do. I cannot have my patient
excited in this way. Miss Cathcart, may I ring for your maid?"
For answer, Adela rang the bell herself. Her aunt was pretending to
look out of the window.
"Will you go and ask your master," said Harry, when Emma made her
appearance, "to be so kind as come here for a moment?"
The poor colonelan excellent soldier, a severe master, with the
highest notions of authority and obedience, found himself degraded by
his own conduct, as other autocrats have proved before, into a
temporizing incapable. It was the more humiliating that he was quite
aware in his own honest heart that it was jealousy of Harry that had
brought him into this painful position. But he obeyed the summons at
once; for wherever there was anything unpleasant to be done, there,
with him, duty assumed the sterner command. As soon as he entered the
room, Harry, without giving time for anyone else to determine the
course of the conference, said:
"There has been some mistake, Colonel Cathcart, between Dr. Wade
and myself, which has already done Miss Cathcart no good. As I find her
very feverish, though not by any means alarmingly ill, I must, as her
medical attendant, insist that no one come into her room but yourself
or her maid."
Every one present perfectly understood this; and however, in other
circumstances, the colonel might have resented the tone of authority
with which Harry spoke, he was compelled, for his daughter's sake, to
yield; and he afterwards justified Harry entirely. Mrs. Cathcart walked
out of the room with her neck invisible from behind. The colonel sat
down by the fire. Harry wrote his prescription on the half sheet from
which Dr. Wade had torn his; and then saying that he would call in the
evening, took his leave of the colonel, and bowed to his patient,
receiving a glance of acknowledgment which could not fail to generate
the feeling that there was a secret understanding between them, and
that he had done just what she wanted. He mounted his roan horse,
called Rhubarb, with a certain elation of being, which he tried to hide
from everyone but himself.
When doctors forget that their patients are more like musical
instruments than machines, they will soon need to be reminded that they
are men and women, and not dogs or horses. Yet, alas for the poor dogs
and horses that fall into the hands of a man without a human sympathy
even with them! I, John Smith, bless you, my doctor-friends, that ye
are not doctors merely, but good and loving men; and, in virtue
thereof, so much the moreso exceedingly the more Therapeutae.
I need not follow the course of the fever. Each day the arrival of
the cold fit was longer delayed, and the violence of both diminished,
until they disappeared altogether. But a day or two before this happy
result was completed, Adela had been allowed to go down to the
drawing-room, and had delighted her father with her cheerfulness and
hopefulness. It really seemed as if the ague had carried off the last
remnants of the illness under which she had been so long labouring. But
then, you can never put anything to the experimentum crucis; and there
were other causes at work for Adela's cure, which were perhaps more
powerful than even the ague. However this may have been, she got almost
quite well in a very short space of time; and with her father's
consent, issued invitations to another meeting of the story-club. They
were at once satisfactorily responded to.
BY this time Percy had returned to London. His mother remained; but
the terms understood between her niece and herself were those of icy
politeness and reserve. I learned afterwards that something of an
understanding had also been arrived at between Percy and Harry; ever
since learning the particulars of which, I have liked the young rascal
a great deal better. So I will trouble my reader to take an interest in
my report of the affair.
Percy met Harry at the gate, after one of his professional visits,
and accosted him thus:
"Mr. Armstrong, my mother says you have been rude to her."
"I am not in the least aware of it, Mr. Percy."
"Oh! I don't care much. She is provoking. Besides, she can take
care of herself. That's not it."
"What is it, then?"
"What do you mean about Adela?"
"I have said nothing more than that she has had a sharp attack of
intermittent fever, which is going off."
"Come, comeyou know what I mean."
"I may suspect, but I don't choose to answer hints, the meaning of
which I only suspect. I might make a fool of myself."
"Well, I'll be plain. Are you in love with her?"
"Suppose I were, you are not the first to whom I should think it
necessary to confess."
"Well, are you paying your addresses to her?"
"I am sorry I cannot consent to make my answers as frank as your
questions. You have the advantage of me in straightforwardness, I
confess. Only you have got sun and wind of me both."
"Come, comeI hate dodging."
"I daresay you do. But just let me shift round a bit, and see what
you will do then.Are you in love with Miss Cathcart?"
"Upon my word, I shouldn't have thought it. Here have we been all
positively conspiring to do her good, and you have been paying ten
times the attention to the dogs and horses that you have paid to her."
"By Jove! it's quite true. But I couldn't somehow."
"Then she hasn't encouraged you?"
"By Jupiter! you are frank enough now.No, damn itnot a bit.But she
used to like me, and she would again, if you would let her alone."
"Now, Mr. Percy, I'll tell you what.I don't believe you are a bit
in love with her."
"She's devilish pretty."
"And I declare I think she got prettier and prettier every day till
this cursed ague took her.Your fault too, my mother says."
"We'll leave your mother out of the question now, if you please. Do
you know what made her look prettier and prettierfor you are quite
right about that?"
"No. I suppose you were giving her arsenic."
"No. I was giving her the true elixir vitæ, unknown even to the
"I will explain myself. Her friend, Mr. Smith"
"Old bacheloryes.Mr. Smith and I agreed that she was dying of
ennui; and so we got up this story-club, and got my brother and the
rest to bear a hand in it. It did her all the good the most sanguine of
us could have hoped for."
"I thought it horrid slow."
"I am surprised at that, for you were generally asleep."
"I was forced, in self-defence. I couldn't smoke."
"It gave her something to think about."
"So it seems."
"Now, Mr. Percy, how could you think you had the smallest chance
with her, when here was the first one and then another turning each the
flash of his own mental prism upon her weary eyes, and healing them
with light; while you would not take the smallest trouble to gratify
her, or even to show yourself to anything like advantage?My dear
fellow, what a fool you are!"
"Come, comeyou began with frankness, and I've only gone on with it.
You are a good-hearted fellow, and ought to be made something of."
"At all events, you make something of yourself, to talk of your own
productions as the elixir vitæ."
"You forget that I am in disgrace as well as yourself on that
score; for I have not read a word of my own since the club began."
"Then how the devil should I be worse off than you?"
"I didn't say you were. I only said you did your best to place
yourself at a disadvantage. I at least took a part in the affair,
although a very humble one. But depend upon it, a girl like Miss
Cathcart thinks more of mental gifts, than of any outward advantages
which a man may possess; and in the company of those who think, a
fellow's good looks don't go for much. She could not help measuring you
by those other menand women too. But you may console yourself with the
reflection that there are plenty of girls, and pretty ones too, of a
very different way of judging; and for my part you are welcome to the
pick of them."
"You mean to say that I sha'n't have Addie?"
"Not in the least. But, come nowdo you think yourself worthy of a
girl like that?"
"No. Do you?"
"No. But I should not feel such a hypocrite if she thought me
worthy, as to give her up on that ground."
"Then what do you mean?"
"To win her, if I can."
"But if you are a gentleman, you will let me say so myself, and not
betray my secret."
"Damned if I do! Good luck to you! There's my hand. I believe
you're a good fellow after all. I wish I had seen you ride to hounds.
They tell me it's a sight."
"Thank you heartily. But what are you going to do?"
"Go back to the sweet-flowing Thames, and the dreams of the desk."
"Wellbe a man as well as a gentleman. Don't be a fool."
"Hang it all! I believe it was her money, after all, I was in love
But the poor fellow looked grave enough as he went away. And I
trust that, before long, he, too, began to reap some of the good corn
that grows on the wintry fields of disappointment.I have my eye upon
him; but it is little an old fogie like me can do with a fellow like
NOW to return to the Story-Club.
On the night appointed, we met. And to the delight of all the rest
of us, Harry arrived with a look that satisfied us that he was to be no
defaulter this time. The look was one of almost nervous uneasiness. Of
course this sprung from anxiety to please Adelaat least, so I
interpreted it. She occupied her old place on the couch; we all
arranged ourselves nearly as before; and the fire was burning very
bright. Before he began, however, Harry, turning to our host, said:
"May I arrange the scene as I please, for the right effect of my
"Certainly," answered the colonel.
Harry rose, and extinguished the lamp.
"But, my dear sir," said the colonel, "how can you read now?"
"Perfectly, by the firelight," answered Harry.
He then went to the windows, and drawing aside the curtains, drew
up the blinds.
It was full high moon, and the light so clear that, notwithstanding
the brightness of the fire, each window seemed to lie in ghostly
shimmer on the floor. Not a breath of wind was abroad. The whole
country being covered with snow, the air was filled with a snowy light.
On one side rose the high roof of another part of the house, on which
the snow was lying thick and smooth, undisturbed save by the
footprints, visible in the moon, of a large black cat, which had now
paused in the middle of it, and was looking round suspiciously towards
the source of the light which had surprised him in his midnight walk.
"Now," said Harry, returning to his seat, and putting on an air of
confidence to conceal the lack of it, "let any one who has nerves
retire at once, both for his own sake and that of the company! This is
just such a night as I wanted to read my story insnowstillnessmoonlight
outside, and nothing but firelight inside. Mind, Ralph, you keep up the
fire, for the room will be more ready to get cold now the coverings are
off the windows.You will say at once if you feel it cold, Miss
Adela promised; and Harry, who had his manuscript gummed together
in a continuous roll, so that he might not have to turn over any
leaves, began at once:
"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 Höllenrachen 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 salvationa small one to be sure, but all you've gotfor
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!
"`Not I. I saw her with my two eyes.'
"`Notwithstanding the different planes of their orbits,' suggested
"`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 Höllenrachen.
"`What could have taken her there, who is seen nowhere?' said
"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
"`Who are you?' she rejoined.
"`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 Höllenrachen 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 Teufelsbürst,
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 levée, 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 carethat 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,
immortalized 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. Teufelsbürst would receive him as a
humble apprentice. He would grind his colours, and Teufelsbürst 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
menhe 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
Teufelsbürst 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 Teufelsbürst 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 Teufelsbürst 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 watchespecially 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
onceand 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 realizing 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 Teufelsbürst
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 Teufelsbürst'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 Teufelsbürst 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
Teufelsbürst 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 Teufelsbürst 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 Teufelsbürst 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 unrealized 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 anythingbear 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. Teufelsbürst,
without philosophizing 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.
"Teufelsbürst 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 Teufelsbürst'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 Teufelsbürst, though its
signs were not of the sort he chiefly desired. But Karl endured all
"Meantime, for various reasons, he scarcely ever left the house.
"I must now interrupt the course of my story to introduce another
"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 re-burying 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, Teufelsbürst, 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 Teufelsbürst 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 Teufelsbürst, 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 Teufelsbürst 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 persistentliving 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 Wolkenlichtwork 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 Teufelsbürst 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
Wolkenlichtone 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 Teufelsbürst, 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
Teufelsbürst, 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,
loveless 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 followedfor 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 Teufelsbürst 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 Teufelsbürst.He was busy preparing to take a cast of the
body of his dead pupil, that it might aid to the perfection of his
"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 Teufelsbürst'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
eternitya 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 Teufelsbürst 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
Teufelsbürst, 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, Teufelsbürst 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 dreamingand 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 Teufelsbürst, 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 trancenamely,
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
Teufelsbürst. 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 hima strong animalall 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 Teufelsbürst, 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 hernamely, 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 Teufelsbürst'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
Höllenrachen 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.
"`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 Teufelsbürst 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 assistancethe
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 cellar-stairs. 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
darkperhaps 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 Teufelsbürst 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 quietat 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 Teufelsbürst 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. Teufelsbürst 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 Teufelsbürst.
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
"`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 Höllenrachen 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
"`Hillo!' said Heinrich, `we'll make something of this find.'
"So he carried them with him to the studio. There he got hold of
"`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 Teufelsbürst saw it, he turned and fled with a cry that
brought his daughter to his help. He rushed past her, able only to
"`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 garmentsall
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
"`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 saidbut 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
"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
Teufelsbürst 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 Teufelsbürst 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 tranquilizing effect on Teufelsbürst. 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
"He sat down at once, taking no notice of his master's behaviour,
and went on with his drawing. Teufelsbürst 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 beprobably 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
"`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 Karla 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 Teufelsbürst 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!'"
No one had interrupted Harry. His brother had put a shovelful of
coals on the fire, to keep up the flame; but not a word had been
spoken. The cold moon had shone in at the windows all the time, her
light made yet colder by the snowy sheen from the face of the earth;
and any horror that the story could generate had had full freedom to
operate on the minds of the listeners.
"Well, I'm glad its over, for my part," said Mrs. Bloomfield. "It
made my flesh creep."
"I do not see any good in founding a story upon a superstition. One
knows it is false, all the time," said Mrs. Cathcart.
"But," said Harry, "all that I have related might have taken place;
for the story is not founded on the superstition itself, but on the
belief of the people of the time in the superstition. I have merely
used this belief to give the general tone to the story, and sometimes
the particular occasion for events in it, the vampire being a terrible
fact to those times."
"You write," said the curate, "as if you quoted occasionally from
"The story of John Kuntz, as well as that of the shoemaker, is told
by Henry More in his Antidote against Atheism. He believed the whole
affair. His authority is Martin Weinrich, a Silesian doctor. I have
only taken the liberty of shifting the scene of the post-mortem
exploits of Kuntz from a town of Silesia to Prague."
"Well, Harry," said his sister-in-law, "if your object was to
frighten us, I confess that I for one was tolerably uncomfortable. But
I don't know that that is a very high aim in story-telling."
"If that were allcertainly not," replied Harry, glancing towards
Adela, who had not spoken. Nor did she speak yet. But her expression
showed plainly enough that it was not the horror of the story that had
taken chief hold of her mind. Her face was full of suppressed light,
and she was evidently satisfiedor shall I call it gratified?as well as
delighted with the tale. Something or other in it had touched her not
only deeply, but nearly.
Nothing was said about another meetingperhaps because, from Adela's
illness, the order had been interrupted, and the present had required a
The ladies had gone up stairs to put on their bonnets. I had
crossed into the library, which was on the same floor with the
drawing-room, to find out if I was right in supposing I had seen some
volumes of Henry More's works on the shelvescertainly the colonel could
never have bought them. Our host, the curate and the schoolmaster had
followed me. Harry had remained behind in the drawing-room. Thinking of
something I wanted to say to him before he went, I left the gentlemen
looking over the book-shelves, and went to cross again to the
drawing-room. But when I reached the door, there stood at the top of
the stair, Adela and Harry. She had evidently just said something warm
about the story. I could almost read what she had said still lingering
on her face, which was turned up a good deal to look into his, so near
each other were they standing. Hers had a rosy flush as of sunset over
it, while his glowed like the sun rising in a mist. Evidently the
pleasures of giving and receiving were in this case nearly equal. But
they were not of long duration; for the moment I appeared, they bade
each other a hurried good night, and parted. I, thinking it better to
pretermit my speech to Harry, retreated into the library, and was glad
to think that no one had seen that conference but myself. Such a
conjunction of planets prefigured, however, not merely warm spring
weather, but sultry gloom, and thunderous clouds to follow; and
although I was delighted with my astronomical observation, I could not
help growing anxious about the omen.
THE next day, as I passed the school-house on my way to call on the
curate, I heard such an uproar that I stopped involuntarily to listen.
I soon satisfied myself that it was only the usual waterspout
occasioned on the ocean of boyhood by the vacuum of the master. As soon
as I entered the curate's study, there stood the missing master, hat in
hand. He had not sat down, and would not, hearing all the time, no
doubt, in his soul, the far confusion of his forsaken realm. He had but
that moment entered.
"You come just in the right time, Smith," said the curate.We had
already dropped unnecessary prefixes."Here is Mr. Bloomfield come to
ask us to spend a final evening with him and Mrs. Bloomfield. And in
the name of the whole company, I have taken upon me to assure him that
it will give us pleasure. Am I not right?"
"Undoubtedly," I replied. "What evening have you fixed upon, Mr.
"This day week," he answered. "Shall I tell you why I put it off so
"If you please."
"I heard your brother, Mr. Armstrong, say that you were very fond
of parables. Now I have always had a leaning that way myself; and for
years I have had one in particular glimmering before my mental sight.
The ambition seized me, to write it out for one of our meetings, and so
submit it to your judgment; for, Mr. Armstrong, I am so delighted with
your sermons and opinions generally, that I long to let you know that I
am not only friendly, but capable of sympathizing with you. But it is
only in the rough yet, and I want to have plenty of time to act the
dutiful bear to my offspring, and lick it into thorough shape. So if
you will come this day week, Mrs. Bloomfield and I will be delighted to
entertain you in our humble fashion. But, bless me! the boys will be
all in a heap of confusion worse confounded before I get back to them.
I have no business to be away from them at this hour. Good morning,
And off ran the worthy Neptune, to quell, by the vision of his
returning head, the rebellious waves of boyish impulse.
"That man will be a great comfort to you, Armstrong," I said.
"I know he will. He is a far-seeing, and what is better, a
"There is true wealth in him, it seems to me, although it may be of
narrow reach in expression," said I.
"I think so, quite. He seems to me to be one of those who have
never grown robust because they have laboured in-doors instead of going
out to work in the open air. There is a shrinking delicacy about him
when with those whom he doesn't feel to be of his own kind, which makes
him show to a disadvantage. But you should see him amongst his boys to
do him justice."
We were interrupted by the entrance of Mrs. Armstrong, who came,
after their simple fashion, to tell her husband that dinner was ready.
I took my leave.
In the evening, Mrs. Bloomfield called to invite Adela and the
colonel; and the affair was settled for that day week.
"You're much better, my dear, are you not?" said the worthy woman
to my niece.
"Indeed I am, Mrs. Bloomfield. I could not have believed it
possible that I should be so much better in so short a timeand at this
season of the year too."
"Mr. Armstrong is a very clever young man, I think; though I can't
say I quite relished that extraordinary story of his."
"I suppose he is clever," replied Adela, something demurely as I
thought. "I must say I liked the story."
"Ah, well! Young people, you know, Mr. SmithBut, bless me! I'm sure
I beg your pardon. I had forgotten you weren't a married man. Of course
you're one of the young people too, Mr. Smith."
"I don't think there's much of youth to choose between you and me,
Mrs. Bloomfield," said I, "if I may venture to say so. But I fear I do
belong to the young people, if a liking for extravagant stories, so
long as they mean well, you knowis to be the test of the
classification. I fear I have a depraved taste, that way. I don't mean
in this particular instance, though , Adela."
"I hope not," answered Adela, with a blushing smile, which I, at
least, could read, having had not merely the key to it, but the open
door and window as well, ever since I had seen the two standing
together at the top of the stair.
That night the weather broke. A slow thaw set in; and before many
days were over, islands of green began to appear amid the "wan water"
of the snowto use a phrase common in Scotch ballads, though with a
different application. The graves in the churchyard lifted up their
green altars of earth, as the first whereon to return thanks for the
prophecy of spring; which, surely, if it has force and truth anywhere,
speaks loudest to us in the churchyard. And on Sunday the sun broke out
and shone on the green hillocks, just as good old Mr. Venables was
reading the words, "I will not leave you comfortlessI will come to
And the ice vanished from the river, and the dark stream flowed,
somewhat sullen, but yet glad at heart, on through the low meadows
bordered with pollards, which, poor things, maltreated and mutilated,
yet did the best they could, and went on growing wildly in all insane
shapespitifully mingling formality and grotesqueness.
And the next day the hounds met at Castle Irksham. And that day
Colonel Cathcart would ride with them.
For the good man had gathered spirit just as the light grew upon
his daughter's face. And he was merry like a boy now that the first
breath of springfor so it seemed, although no doubt plenty of
wintriness remained and would yet show itselfhad loosened the hard hold
of the frost, which is the death of Nature. The frost is hard upon old
people; and the spring is so much the more genial and blessed in its
sweet influences on them. Do we grow old that, in our weakness and loss
of physical self-assertion, we may learn the benignities of the
universeonly to be learned first through the feeling of their want?I do
not envy the man who laughs the east wind to scorn. He can never know
the balmy power of its sister of the west, which is the breath of the
Lord, the symbol of the one genial strength at the root of all life,
resurrection, and growthcommonly called the Spirit of God.Who has not
seen, as the infirmities of age grow upon old men, the haughty,
self-reliant spirit that had neglected, if not despised the gentle
ministrations of love, grow as it were a little scared, and begin to
look about for some kindness; begin to return the warm pressure of the
hand, and to submit to be waited upon by the anxiety of love? Not in
weakness alone comes the second childhood upon men, but often in
childlikeness; for in old age as in nature, to quote the song of the
old Autumn's fingers
Paint in hues of Spring.
The necessities of the old man prefigure and forerun the dawn of
the immortal childhood. For is not our necessity towards God our
highest blessednessthe fair cloud that hangs over the summit of
existence? Thank God, he has made his children so noble and high that
they cannot do without Him! I believe we are sent into this world just
to find this out.
But to leave my reflections and return to my storysuch as it is.
The colonel mounted me on an old horse of his, "whom," to quote from
Sir Philip Sidney's Arcadia, "though he was near twenty years old, he
preferred for a piece of sure service, before a great number of
younger." Now the piece of sure service, in the present instance, was
to take care of old John Smith, who was only a middling horseman,
though his friend, the colonel, would say that he rode pretty well for
a lad. The old horse, in fact, knew not only what he could do, but what
I could do, for our powers were about equal. He looked well about for
the gaps and the narrow places. From weakness in his forelegs, he had
become a capital buck-jumper, as I think Cathcart called him, always
alighting over a hedge on his hind legs, instead of his fore ones,
which was as much easier for John Smith as for Hop o' my Thumbthat was
the name of the old horse, he being sixteen hands, at least. But I beg
my reader's pardon for troubling him with all this about my horse, for,
assuredly, neither he nor I will perform any deed of prowess in his
presence. But I have the weakness of garrulity in regard to a
predilection from the indulgence of which circumstances have debarred
At nine o'clock my friend and I started upon hacks for the meet.
Now, I am not going to describe the "harrow and weal away!" with which
the soul of poor Reynard is hunted out of the worldif, indeed, such a
clever wretch can have a soul. I daresayI hope, at least, that the
argument of the fox-hunter is analogically just, who, being
expostulated with on the cruelty of fox-hunting, replied"Well, you
know, the hounds like it; and the horses like it; and there's no doubt
the men like itand who knows whether the fox doesn't like it too?" But
I would not have introduced the subject except for the sake of what my
reader will find in the course of a page or two, and which assuredly is
We soon found. But just before, a sudden heavy noise, coming
apparently from a considerable distance, made one or two of the company
say, with passing curiosity: "What is that?" It was instantly
forgotten, however, as soon as the fox broke cover. He pointed towards
Purley-bridge. We had followed for some distance, circumstances
permitting Hop o' my Thumb to keep in the wake of his master, when the
colonel, drawing rein, allowed meI ought to say us, for the old horse
had quite as much voice in the matter as I hadto come up with him.
"The cunning old dog!" said he. "He has run straight for the
deepest cutting in the railway. They'll all be pounded presently! They
don't know this part so well as I do. I know every field and gate in
it. I used to go larking over it all when I was only a cub myself.
Confound it! I'm not up to much to-day. I suppose I'm getting old, you
know; or I'd strike off here at right angles to the left, and make for
the bridge at Crumple's Corner. I should lose the hounds though, I
fear. I wonder what his lordship will do."
All the time my old friend was talking, we were following the rest
of the field, whom, sure enough, as soon as we got into the next
inclosure, we saw drawing up one after another on the top of the
railway cutting, which ran like the river of death between them and the
fox-hunter's paradise. But at the moment we entered this field, whom
should we see approaching us at right angles, from the direction of
Purleybridge, but Harry Armstrong, mounted on the mare! I rode towards
"Trapped, you see," said I. "Are you after the foxor some nobler
"I was going my rounds," answered Harry, "when I caught sight of
the hounds. I have no very pressing case to day, so I turned a few
yards out of the road to see a bit of the sport. Confound these
At the momentand all this passed, as the story-teller is so often
compelled to remind his reader, in far less time than it takes to
tellover the hedge on the opposite side from where Harry had entered
the field, blundered a country fellow, on a great, heavy, but spirited
horse, and ploughed his way up the soft furrow to where we stood.
"Doctor!" he cried, half-breathless with haste and
"Well?" answered Henry, alert.
"There's a awful accident at Grubblebon Quarry, sir. Powder blowed
up. Legs and arms! Good God! sir, make haste."
"Well," said Harry, whose compressed lips alone gave sign of his
being ready for action, "ride to the town, and tell my housekeeper to
give you bandages and wadding and oil, and splints, and whatever she
knows to be needful. Are there many hurt?"
"Half a dozen alive, sir."
"Then you'd better let the other doctors know as well. And just
tell my man to saddle Jilter and take him to by brother, the curate. He
had better come out at once. Ride now."
"I will, sir," said the man, and was over the hedge in another
But not before Harry was over the railway. For he rode gently
towards it, as if nothing particular was to be done, and chose as the
best spot one close to where several of the gentlemen stood, disputing
for a moment as to which was the best way to get across. Now on the top
of the cutting there was a rail, and between the rail and the edge of
the cutting a space of about four feet. Harry trotted his mare gently
up to the rail, and went over. Nor was the mutual confidence of mare
and master misplaced from either side. She lighted and stood stock
still within a foot of the slope, so powerful was she to stop herself.
An uproar of cries arose among the men. I heard the old soldier's voice
above them all.
"Damn you, Armstrong, you fool!" he cried; "you'll break your neck,
and serve you right too!"
I don't know a stronger proof that the classical hell has little
hold on the faith of the Saxons, than that good-hearted and true men
will not unfrequently damn their friends when they are most anxious to
save them. But before the words were half out of the colonel's mouth,
Harry was half-way down the cutting. He had gone straight at it like a
cat, and it was of course the only way. I had galloped to the edge
after him, and now saw him, or rather her, descending by a succession
of reboundsnot boundsa succession, in fact, of short falls upon the
fore-legs, while Harry's head was nearly touching her rump. Arrived at
the bottom, she gave two bounds across the rails, and the same moment
was straining right up the opposite bank in a fierce agony of effort,
Harry hanging upon her neck. Now the mighty play of her magnificent
hind quarters came into operation. I could see, plainly enough across
the gulf, the alternate knotting and loosening of the thick muscles as,
step by step, she tore her way up the grassy slope. It was a terrible
trial of muscle and wind, and very few horses could have stood it. As
she neared the top, her pace grew slower and slower, and the exertion
more and more severe. If she had given in, she would have rolled to the
bottom, but nothing was less in her thoughts. Her master never spurred
or urged her, except it may have been by whispering in her ear, to
which his mouth was near enough: he knew she needed no excitement to
that effort. At length the final heave of her rump, as it came up to a
level with her withers, told the breathless spectators that the attempt
was a success, when a loud "Hurrah for the doctor and his mare!" burst
from their lips. The doctor, however, only waved his hand in
acknowledgment, for he had all to do yet. Fortunately there was space
enough between the edge and the fence on that side to allow of his
giving his mare a quarter of a circle of a gallop before bringing her
up to the rail, else in her fatigue she might have failed to top it.
Over she went and away, with her tail streaming out behind her, as if
she had done nothing worth thinking about, once it was done. One more
cheer for the doctorbut no one dared to follow him. They scattered in
different directions to find a less perilous crossing. I stuck by my
"By Jove! Cathcart," said Lord Irksham, as they parted, "that
doctor of yours is a hero. He ought to have been bred a soldier."
"He's better employed, my lord," bawled the old colonel; for they
were now a good many yards asunder, making for different points in the
hedge. From this answer, I hoped well for the doctor. At all events,
the colonel admired his manliness more than ever, and that was a great
thing. For me, I could hardly keep down the expression of an excitement
which I did not wish to show. It was a great relief to me when the
hurrah! arose, and I could let myself off in that way. I told you, kind
reader, I was only an old boy. But, as the Arabs always give God thanks
when they see a beautiful woman, and quite right too! so, in my heart,
I praised God who had made a mare with such muscles, and a man with
such a heart. And I said to myself, "A fine muscle is a fine thing; but
the finest muscle of all, keeping the others going too, is the heart
itself. That is the true Christian muscle. And the real muscular
Christianity is that which pours in a life-giving torrent from the
devotion of the heart, receiving only that it may give.
But I fancy I hear my reader saying,
"Mr. Smith, you've forgotten the fox. What a sportsman you make!"
Well, I had forgotten the fox. But then we didn't kill him or find
another that day. So you won't care for the rest of the run.
I was tired enough by the time we got back to Purleybridge. I went
early to bed.
The next morning, the colonel, the moment we met at the breakfast
table, said to me,
"You did not hear, Smith, what that young rascal of a doctor said
to Lord Irksham last night?"
"No, what was it?"
"It seems they met again towards evening, and his lordship said to
him: `You hare-brained young devil!'you know his lordship's rough way,"
interposed the colonel, forgetting how roundly he had sworn at Harry
himself, "`by the time you're my age, you'll be more careful of the few
brains you'll have left.' To which expostulated Master Harry replied:
`If your lordship had been my age, and would have done it yourself to
kill a fox: when I am your lordship's age, I hope I shall have the
grace left to do as much to save a man.' Whereupon his lordship
rejoined, holding out his hand, `By Jove! sir, you are an honour to
your profession. Come and dine with me on Monday.' And what do you
think the idiot did?Backed out of it, and wouldn't go, because he
thought his lordship condescending, and he didn't want his patronage.
But his lordship's not a bit like that, you know."
"Then if he isn't, he'll like Harry all the better for declining,
and will probably send him a proper invitation."
And sure enough, I was right; and Harry did dine at Castle Irksham
Adela's eyes showed clearly enough that her ears were devouring
every word we had said; and the glow on her face could not be mistaken
by me at least, though to another it might well appear only the sign of
such an enthusiasm as one would like every girl to feel in the presence
of noble conduct of any kind. She had heard the whole story last night
you may be sure; and I do not doubt that the unrestrained admiration
shown by her father for the doctor's conduct, was a light in her heart
which sleep itself could not extinguish, and which went shining on in
her dreams. Admiration of the beloved is dear to a woman. You see I
like to show that although I am an old bachelor, I know something about
I met Harry that morning; that is, I contrived to meet him.
"Well, how are you to-day, Harry?" I said.
"All right, thank you."
"Were there many hurt at the quarry?"
"Oh! it wasn't so very bad, I'm happy to say."
"You did splendidly yesterday."
"Oh, nonsense! It was my mare. It wasn't me. I had nothing to do
"Well! well! you have my full permission to say so, and to think
"Well! well! say no more about it."
"So it was long before the subject was again alluded to by me. But
it will be long, too, before it is forgotten in that county.
And so the evening came when we were to meetfor the last time as
the Story-telling clubat the schoolmaster's house. It was now past the
time I had set myself for returning to London, and although my plans
were never of a very unalterable complexion, seeing I had the faculty
of being able to write wherever I was, and never admitted chairs and
tables, and certain rows of bookshelves, to form part of my mental
organism, without which the rest of the mechanism would be thrown out
of gear, I had yet reasons for wishing to be in London; and I intended
to take my departure on the day but one after the final meeting.I may
just remark, that before this time one or two families had returned to
Purleybridge, and others were free from their Christmas engagements,
who would have been much pleased to join our club; but, considering its
ephemeral nature, and seeing it had been formed only for what we hoped
was a passing necessity, we felt that the introduction of new blood,
although essential for the long life of anything constituted for long
life, would only hasten the decay of its butterfly constitution. So we
had kept our meetings entirely to ourselves.
We all arrived about the same time, and found our host and hostess
full of quiet cordiality, to which their homeliness lent an additional
charm. The relation of host and guest is weakened by every addition to
a company, and in a large assembly all but disappears. Indeed, the
tendency of the present age is to blot from the story of every-day life
all reminders of the ordinary human relations, as commonplace and
insignificant, and to mingle all society in one concourse of atoms, in
which the only distinctions shall be those of rank; whereas the sole
power to keep social intercourse from growing stale is the recognition
of the immortal and true in all the simple human relations. Then we
look upon all men with reverence, and find ourselves safe and at home
in the midst of divine intents, which may be violated and striven with,
but can never be escaped, because the will of God is the very life and
well-being of his creatures.
Mrs. Bloomfield looked very nice in her black silk dress, and
collar and cuffs of old lace, as she presided at the tea-table, and
made us all feel that it was a pleasure to her to serve us.
After repeated apologies, and confessions of failure, our host then
read the following parable, as he called it, though I daresay it would
be more correct to call it an allegory. But as that word has so many
wearisome associations, I, too, intend, whether right or wrong, to call
it a parable. So, then, it shall be
"THE CASTLE: A PARABLE.
"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 beforeyea, 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 night-sky. 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 littlefor 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 dayit 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 onelet 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 readinessthat
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
"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 heavensearching 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 recognized 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 childhoodbackward 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 bosomand all was uttered in her music, which rose
and swelled, now to defiance, now to victory; then died in a torrent of
"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
unsympathizing 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
"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 atmosphereof 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 heardbut 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 artour 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
artthat 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."
"Thank you, heartily," said the curate. "I will choose another time
to tell you how much I have enjoyed your parable, which is altogether
to my mind, and far beyond anything I could do."
Mr. Bloomfield returned no answer, but his countenance showed that
he was far from hearing this praise unmoved. The faces of the rest
showed that they too had listened with pleasure; and Adela's face shone
as if she had received more than delighthope, namely, and onward
impulse. The colonel aloneI forgot to say that Mrs. Cathcart had a
headache, and did not comeseemed to have been left behind.
"I am a stupid old fellow, I believe," said he; "but to tell the
truth, I did not know what to make of it. It seemed all the time to be
telling me in one breath something I knew and something I didn't and
couldn't know. I wish I could express what I mean, but it puzzled me
too much for that; although every now and then it sounded very
"I will try and tell you what it said to me, sometime, papa," said
"Thank you, my child; I should much like to understand it. I
believe I have done my duty by my king and country, but a man has to
learn a good deal after all that is over and done with; and I suppose
it is never too late to begin, Mr. Armstrong?"
"On the contrary, I not merely believe that no future time can be
so good as the present, but I am inclined to assert that no past time
could have been so good as the present. This seems to be a paradox, but
I think I could explain it very easily. I find, however, that the
ladies are looking as if they wanted to go home, and I am quite ready,
Mrs. Armstrong. But while the ladies put their bonnets on, just let
Smith see your schoolroom, Mr. Bloomfield. As an inhabitant of
Purleybridge, I already begin to be proud of it."
The ladies did go to put on their bonnets. I followed Mr.
Bloomfield and the colonel into the schoolroom, and the curate followed
me. But after we had looked about us and remarked on the things about
for five minutes, finding I had left my handkerchief in the
drawing-room, I went back to fetch it. The door was open, and I saw
Adelano bonnet on her head yetstanding face to face with Harry. They
were alone. I hesitated for a moment what I should do, and while I
hesitated, I could not help seeing the arm of the doctor curved and
half-outstretched, as if it would gladly have folded about her, and his
face droop and droop, till it could not have been more than half a foot
from hers. Now, as far as my seeing this was concerned, there was no
harm done. But behind me came the curate and the schoolmaster, and they
had eyes in their heads, at least equal to mine. Well, no great harm
yet. And just far enough down the stair to see into the drawing-room,
appeared their wives, who could not fail to see the unconscious pair,
at least as well as we men below. Still there was no great harm done,
for Mrs. Cathcart was at home, as I have said. But, horresco referens!
excuse the recondite quotationat the same moment the form of the
colonel appeared, looking over the heads of all before him right in at
the drawing-room door, and full at the young sinners, who had heard no
sound along the matted passage.
"Here's a go!" said I to myselfnot aloud, observe, for it was
For just think of a man like Harry caught thus in a perfect trap of
As if from a sudden feeling of hostile presence, he glanced
roundand stood erect. The poor fellow's face at once flushed as red as
shame could make it, but he neither lost his self-possession, nor
sought to escape under cover of a useless pretence. He turned to the
"Colonel Cathcart," he said, "I will choose a more suitable time to
make my apology. I wish you good night."
He bowed to us all, not choosing to risk a refusal of his hand by
the colonel, and went quickly out of the house.
The colonel stood for some moments, which felt to me like minutes,
as if he had just mounted guard at the drawing-room door. His face was
perfectly expressionless. We men felt very much like stale oysters, and
would rather have skipped that same portion of our inevitable
existence. What the ladies felt, I do not pretend, being an old
bachelor, to divine.
Adela, pale as death, fled up the stair. The only thing left for
the rest of us was, to act as much as possible as if nothing were the
matter, and get out of the way before the poor girl came down again. As
soon as I got home, I went to my own room, and thus avoided the
tete-à-tete with my host which generally closed our evenings.
The colonel went up to his daughter's room, and remained there for
nearly an hour. Adela was not at the breakfast-table the next morning.
Her father looked very gloomy, and Mrs. Cathcart grimly satisfied, with
I told you so written on her face as plainly as I have now written it
on the paper. How she came to know anything about it, I can only
HARRY called early, and was informed that the colonel was not at
"Something's the matter, Mr. Armstrong," said Beeves. "Master's not
at home to you to-day, he says, nor any other day till he countermands
the orderthat was the word, sir. I'm sure I am very sorry, sir."
"So am I," said Harry. "How's your mistress?"
"Haven't seen her to-day, sir. Emma says she's poorly. But she is
down. Emma looks as if she knew something and wouldn't tell it. I'll
get it out of her though, sir. We'll be having that old Wade coming
about the house again, I'm afeard, sir. He's no good."
"At all events you will let your master know that I have called,"
said Harry, as he turned disconsolately, to take his departure.
"That I will, sir. And I'll be sure he hears me. He's rather deaf,
sometimes, you know, sir."
"Thank you, Beeves. Good morning."
Now what could have been Harry's intention in calling upon the
colonel? Why, as he had said himself, to make an apology. But what kind
of apology could he make? Clearly there was only one that would satisfy
all partiesand that must be in the form of a request to be allowed to
pay his addresses(that used to be the phrase in my timeI don't know the
young ladies' slang for it now-a-days)to Adela. Did I saysatisfy all
parties? This was just the one form affairs might take, which would
least of all satisfy the colonel. I believe, with all his rigid
proprieties, he would have preferred the confession that the doctor had
so far forgotten himself as to attempt to snatch a kissa theft of which
I cannot imagine a gentleman guilty, least of all a doctor from his
patient; which relation no doubt the colonel persisted in regarding as
the sole possible and everlastingly permanent one between Adela and
Harry. The former was, however, the only apology Harry could make; and
evidently the colonel expected it when he refused to see him.
But why should he refuse to see him?The doctor was not on an
equality with the colonel. Well, to borrow a form from the Shorter
Catechism: wherein consisted the difference between the colonel and the
doctor?The difference between the colonel and the doctor consisted
chiefly in this, that whereas the colonel lived by the wits of his
ancestors, Harry lived by his own, and therefore was not so respectable
as the colonel. Or in other words: the colonel inherited a good estate,
with the ordinary quantity of brains; while Harry inherited a good
education and an extraordinary quantity of brains. So of course it was
very presumptuous in Harry to aspire to the hand of Miss Cathcart.
In the forenoon the curate called upon me, and was shown into the
library where I was.
"What's that scapegrace brother of mine been doing, Smith?" he
asked, the moment he entered.
"Wanting to marry Adela," I replied.
"What has he done?"
"Called this morning."
"And seen Colonel Cathcart?"
"Not at home?"
"In a social sense, not at home; in a moral sense, very far from at
home; in a natural sense, seated in his own arm-chair, with his own
work on the Peninsular War open on the table before him."
"Wouldn't see him?"
"What's he to do then?"
"I think we had better leave that to him. Harry is not the man I
take him for if he doesn't know his own way better than you or I can
"You're right, Smith. How's Miss Cathcart?"
"I have never seen her so well. Certainly she did not come down to
breakfast, but I believe that was merely from shyness. She appeared in
the dining-room directly after, and although it was evident she had
been crying, her step was as light and her colour as fresh as her lover
even could wish to see them."
"Then she is not without hope in the matter?"
"If she loves him, and I think she does, she is not without hope.
But I do not think the fact of her looking well would be sufficient to
prove that. For some mental troubles will favour the return of bodily
health. They will at least give one an interest in life."
"Then you think her father has given in a little about it?"
"I don't believe it.If her illness and she were both of an ordinary
kind, she would gain her point now by taking to her bed. But from what
I know of Adela she would scorn and resist that."
"Well, we must let matters take their course. Harry is worthy of
the best wife in Christendom."
"I believe it. And more, if Adela will make that best wife, I think
he will have the best wife. But we must have patience."
Next morning, a letter arrived from Harry to the colonel. I have
seen it, and it was to this effect:
"My dear Sir,As you will not see me, I am forced to write to you.
Let my earnest entreaty to be allowed to address your daughter, cover,
if it cannot make up for, my inadvertence of the other evening. I am
very sorry I have offended you. If you will receive me, I trust you
will not find it hard to forget. Yours,
To this the colonel replied:
"Sir,It is at least useless, if not worse, to apply for an ex post
facto permission. What I might have answered, had the courtesies of
society been observed, it may be easy for me to determine, but it is
useless now to repeat. Allow me to say that I consider such behaviour
of a medical practitioner towards a young lady, his patient, altogether
unworthy of a gentleman, as every member of a learned profession is
supposed to be. I have the honour,
I returned the curate's call, and while we were sitting in his
study, in walked Harry with a rather rueful countenance.
"What do you say to that, Ralph?" said he, handing his brother the
"Cool," replied Ralph. "But Harry, my boy, you have given him quite
the upper hand of you. How could you be so foolish as kiss the girl
there and then?"
"I didn't," said Harry.
"But you did just as bad. You were going to do it."
"I don't think I was. But somehow those great eyes of hers kept
pulling and pulling my head, so that I don't know what I was going to
do. I remember nothing but her eyes. Suddenly a scared look in them
startled me, and I saw it all. Mr. Smith, was it so very dishonourable
"You are the best judge of that yourself, Harry," I answered. "Just
let me look at the note."
I read it, folded it up carefully, and returning it, said:
"He's given you a good hold of him there. It is really too bad of
Cathcart, being a downright good fellow, to forget that he ran away
with Miss Selby, old Sir George, the baronet's daughter. Neither of
them ever repented it; though he was only Captain Cathcart then, in a
regiment of foot, too, and was not even next heir to the property he
"Hurrah!" cried Harry.
"Stop, stop. That doesn't make it a bit better," said his brother.
"I suppose you mean to argue with him on that ground, do you?"
"No, I don't. I'm not such a fool. But if I should be forced to run
away with her, he can't complain, you know."
"No, no, Harry, my boy," said I. "That won't do. It would break the
old man's heart. You must have patience for a while."
"Yes, yes. I know what I mean to do."
"When I've made up my mind, I never ask advice. It only bewilders a
"Quite right, Hal," said his brother. "Only don't do anything
"I won't do anything she doesn't like."
"No, nor anything you won't like yourself afterwards," I ventured
"I hope not," returned he, gravely, as he walked out, too much
absorbed to bid either of us good morning.
It was now more than time that I should return to town; but I could
not leave affairs in this unsatisfactory state. I therefore lingered on
to see what would come next.
THE next day Harry called again.
"Master 'aint countermanded the order, Doctor. He 'aint at homenot
a bit of it. He 'aint been out of the house since that night."
"Well, is Miss Cathcart at home?"
"She's said nothing to the contrairy, sir. I believe she is at
home. I know she's out in the gardingon the terridge."
And old Beeves held the door wide open, as if to say"Don't stop to
ask any questions, but step into the garden." Which Harry did.
There was a high gravel terrace along one end of it, always dry and
sunny when there was any sun going; and there she was, over-looked by
the windows of her papa's room.
Now I do not know anything that passed upon that terrace. How
should I know? Neither of them was likely to tell old Smith. And I
wonder at the clumsiness of novelists in pretending to reveal all that
he said, and all that she answered. But if I were such a clumsy
novelist, I should like to invent it all, and see if I couldn't make
you believe every word of it.
This is what I would invent.
The moment Adela caught sight of Harry, she cast one frightened
glance up to her father's windows, and stood waiting. He lifted his
hat; and held out his hand. She took it. Neither spoke. They turned
together and walked along the terrace.
"I am very sorry," said Harry at last.
"Are you? What for?"
"Because I got you into a scrape."
"Oh! I don't care."
"No; not a bit."
"I didn't mean it."
"What didn't you mean?"
"It did look like it, I know."
"Look like what?"
"Adela, you'll drive me crazy. It was all your fault."
"So I told papa, and he was angrier than ever."
"You angel! It wasn't your fault. It was your eyes. I couldn't help
it. Adela, I love you dreadfully."
"I'm so glad."
She gave a sigh as of relief.
"Because I wished you would. But I don't deserve it. A great clever
man like you love a useless girl like me! I am so glad!"
"But your papa?"
"I'm so happy, I can't think about him steadily just yet."
"Adela, I love youso dearly! Only I am too old for you."
"Old! how old are you?"
"And I'm only one-and-twenty. You're worth one and a half of meyes
twenty of me."
And so their lips played with the ripples of love, while their
hearts were heaving with the ground swell of its tempest.
Now what I do know about is this:
The colonel came down-stairs in his dressing-gown and slippers, and
found Beeves flattening his nose against the glass of the garden-door.
"Beeves!" said the colonel.
"Sir!" said Beeves, darting around and confronting his master with
a face purple and pale from the sense of utter unpreparedness.
"Beeves, where is your mistress?"
"My mistress, sir? I beg your pardon, sir, I'm sure, sir! How
should I know, sir? I 'aint let her out. Shall I run up-stairs and see
if she is in her room?"
"Open the door."
Beeves laid violent hold upon the handle of the door, and pulled
and twisted, but always took care to pull before he twisted.
"I declare if that stupid Ann 'aint been and locked it. It aint
nice in the garden to-day, sirleastways without goloshes," added he,
looking down at his master's slippers.
Now the colonel understood Beeves, and Beeves knew that he
understood him. But Beeves knew likewise that the colonel would not
give in to the possibility of his servant's taking such liberties with
"Never mind," said the colonel; "I will go the other way."
The moment he was out of sight, Beeves opened the garden-door, and
began gesticulating like a madman, fully persuaded that the doctor
would make his escape. But so far from being prepared to run away,
Harry had come there with the express intention of forcing a
conference. So that when the colonel made his appearance on the
terrace, the culprits walked slowly towards him. He went to meet them
with long military strides, and was the first to speak.
"Mr. Armstrong, to what am I to attribute this intrusion?"
"Chiefly to the desire of seeing you, Colonel Cathcart."
"And I find you with my daughter!Adela, go in-doors."
Adela withdrew at once.
"You denied yourself, and I inquired for Miss Cathcart."
"You will oblige me by not calling again."
"Surely I have committed no fault beyond forgiveness."
"You have taken advantage of your admission into my family to
entrap the affections of my daughter."
"Colonel Cathcart, as far as my conscience tells me, I have not
"Sir, is it not unworthy of a gentleman to use such professional
advantages to gain the favour of one whoyou will excuse me for
reminding you of what you will not allow me to forgetis as much above
him in social position, as inferior to him in years and experience."
"Is it always unworthy in a gentleman to aspire to a lady above him
in social position, Colonel Cathcart?"
The honesty of the colonel checked all reply to this home-thrust.
"At least I am able to maintain my wife in what may be considered
"Your wife!" exclaimed the colonel, his anger blazing out at the
word. "If you use that expression with any prospective reference to
Miss Cathcart, I am master enough in my own family to insure you full
possession of the presumption. I wish you good morning."
The angry man of war turned on his slippered heel, and was striding
"One word, I beg," said Harry.
The colonel had too much courtesy in his nature not to stop and
turn half towards the speaker.
"I beg to assure you," said Harry, "that I shall continue to
cherish the hope that after-thoughts will present my conduct, as well
as myself, in a more favourable light to Colonel Cathcart."
And he lifted his hat, and walked away by the gate.
"By Jove!" said the colonel, to himself, notwithstanding the rage
he was in, "the fellow can express himself like a gentleman, anyhow."
And so he went back to his room, where I heard him pacing about for
hours. I believe he found that his better self was not to be so easily
put down as he had supposed; and that that better self sided with Adela
WHAT else is a Providence?
Harry went about his work as usual, only with a graver face.
Adela looked very sad, but without any of her old helpless and
hopeless air. Her health was quite established; and she now returned
all the attention her father had paid to her.Fortunately Mrs. Cathcart
had gone home.
"Cunning puss!" some of my readers may say; "she was trying to coax
the old man out of his resolution." But such a notion would be quite
unjust to my niece. She was more in danger of going to the other
extreme, to avoid hypocrisy. But she had the divine gift of knowing
what any one she loved was feeling and thinking; and she knew that her
father was suffering, and all about it. The old man's pace grew
heavier; the lines about his mouth grew deeper; he sat at table without
speaking; he ate very little, and drank more wine. Adela's eyes
followed his every action. I could see that sometimes she was ready to
rise and throw her arms about him. Often I saw in her lovely eyes that
peculiar clearness of the atmosphere which indicates the nearness of
rain. And once or twice she rose and left the room, as if to save her
from an otherwise unavoidable exposure of her feelings.
The gloom fell upon the servants too. Beeves waited in a
leaden-handed way, that showed he was determined to do his duty,
although it should bring small pleasure with it. He took every
opportunity of unburdening his bosom to me.
"It's just like when mis'ess died," said he. "The very cocks walk
about the yard as if they had hearse-plumes in their tails. Everybody
looks ready to hang hisself, except you, Mr. Smith. And that's a
The fact was, that I had very little doubt as to how it would all
end. But I would not interfere; for I saw that it would be much better
for the colonel's heart and conscience to right themselves, than that
he should be persuaded to anything, it was very hard for him. He had
led his regiment to victory and glory; he had charged and captured many
a gun; he had driven the enemy out of many a boldly defended
entrenchment; and was it not hard that he could not drive the eidolon
of a country surgeon out of the bosom of his little girl? (It was hard
that he could not; but it would have been a deal harder if he could).
He had nursed and loved, and petted and spoiled her. And she would care
for a man whom he disliked!
But here the old man was mistaken. He did not dislike Harry
Armstrong. He admired and honoured him. He almost loved him for his
gallant devotion to his duty. He would have been proud of him for a
sonbut not for a son-in-law. He would not have minded adopting him, or
doing anything but giving him Adela. There was a great deal of pride
left in the old soldier, and that must be taken out of him. We shall
all have to thank God for the whip of scorpions which, if needful, will
do its part to drive us into the kingdom of heaven.
"How happy the dear old man will be," I said to myself, "when he
just yields this last castle of selfishness, and walks unhoused into
the new childhood, of which God takes care!"
And this end came sooner than I had looked for it.
I had made up my mind that it would be better for me to go.
When I told Adela that I must go, she gave me a look in which lay
the whole story in light and in tears. I answered with a pressure of
her hand and an old uncle's kiss. But no word was spoken on the
I had a final cigar with the curate, and another with the
schoolmaster; bade them and their wives good-bye; told them all would
come right if we only had patience, and then went to Harry. But he was
in the country, and I thought I should not see him again.
With the assistance of good Beeves, I got my portmanteau packed
that night. I was going to start about ten o'clock next morning. It was
long before I got to sleep, and I heard the step of the colonel, whose
room was below mine on the drawing-room floor, going up and down, up
and down, all the time, till slumber came at last, and muffled me up.We
met at breakfast, a party lugubrious enough. Beeves waited like a mute;
the colonel ate his breakfast like an offended parent; Adela trifled
with hers like one who had other things to think about; and I ate mine
like a parting guest who was being anything but sped. When the post-bag
was brought in, the colonel unlocked it mechanically; distributed the
letters; opened one with indifference, read a few lines, and with a
groan fell back in his chair. We started up, and laid him on the sofa.
With the privilege of an old friend, I glanced at the letter, and found
that a certain speculation in which the colonel had ventured largely,
had utterly failed. I told Adela enough to satisfy her as to the nature
of the misfortune. We feared apoplexy, but before we could send for any
medical man, he opened his eyes, and called Adela. He clasped her to
his bosom, and then tried to rise; but fell back helpless.
"Shall we send for Dr. Wade?" said Adela, trembling and pale as
"Dr. Wade!" faltered the old man, with a perceptible accent of
"Which shall we send for?" I said.
"How can you ask?" he answered, feebly. "Harry Armstrong, of
The blood rushed into Adela's white face, and Beeves rushed out of
the room. In a quarter of an hour, Harry was with us. Adela had
retired. He made a few inquiries, administered some medicine he had
brought with him, and, giving orders that he should not be disturbed
for a couple of hours, left him with the injunction to keep perfectly
"Take my traps up to my room again, Beeves: and tell the coachman
he won't be wanted this morning."
"Thank you, sir," said Beeves. "I don't know what we should do
without you, sir."
When Harry returned, we carried the colonel up to his own room, and
Beeves got him to bed. I said something about a nurse, but Harry said
there was no one so fit to nurse him as Adela. The poor man had never
been ill before; and I daresay he would have been very rebellious, had
he not had a great trouble at his heart to quiet him. He was as
submissive as could be desired.
I felt sure he would be better as soon as he had told Adela. I gave
Harry a hint of the matter, and he looked very much as if he would
shout "Oh, jolly!" but he did not.
Towards the evening, the colonel called his daughter to his
bedside, and said,
"Addie, darling, I have hurt you dreadfully."
"Oh, no! dear papa; you have not. And it is so easy to put it all
right, you know," she added, turning her head away a little.
"No, my child," he said in a tone full of self-reproach, "nobody
can put it right. I have made us both beggars, Addie, my love."
"Well, dearest papa, you can bear a little poverty surely?"
"It's not of myself I am thinking, my darling. Don't do me that
injustice, or I shall behave like a fool. It's only you I am thinking
"Oh, is that all, papa? Do you know that, if it were not for your
sake, I could sing a song about it!"
"Ah! you don't know what you make so light of. Poverty is not so
easy to endure."
"Papa," said Adela, solemnly, "if you knew how awful things looked
to me a little while agobut it's all gone now!the whole earth black and
frozen to the heart, with no God in it, and nothing worth living foryou
would not wonder that I take the prospect of poverty with absolute
indifferenceyes, if you will believe me, with something of a strange
excitement. There will be something to battle with and beat."
And she stretched out a strong, beautiful white armfrom which the
loose open sleeve fell back, as if with that weapon of might she would
strike poverty to the earth; but it was only to adjust the pillow,
which had slipped sideways from the loved head.
"But Mr. Armstrong will not want to marry you now, Addie."
"Oh, won't he?" thought "Adela; or at least I think she thought so.
But she said, rather demurely, and very shyly:
"But that won't be any worse than it was before; for you know you
would never have let me marry him anyhow."
"Oh! yes, I would, in time, Adela. I am not such a brute as you
take me for."
"Oh! you dear darling papa!" cried the poor child, and burst into
tears, with her head on her father's bosom. And he began comforting her
so sweetly, that you would have thought she had lost everything, and he
was going to give her all back again.
"Papa! papa!" she cried, "I will work for you; I will be your
servant; I will love you and love you to all eternity. I won't leave
you. I won't indeed. What does it matter for the money!"
At this moment the doctor entered.
"Ah!" he said, "this won't do at all. I thought you would have made
a better nurse, Miss Adela. There you are, both crying together!"
"Indeed, Mr. Henry," said Adela, rather comically, "it's not my
fault. He would cry."
And as she spoke she wiped away her own tears.
"But he's looking much better, after all," said Harry. "Allow me to
feel your pulse."
The patient was pronounced much better; fresh orders were given;
and Harry took his leave.
But Adela felt vexed. She did not consider that he knew nothing of
what had passed between her father and her. To the warm fire-side of
her knowledge, he came in wintry and cold. Of course it would never do
for the doctor to aggravate his patient's symptoms by making love to
his daughter; but ought he not to have seen that it was all right
between them now?How often we feel and act as if our mood were the
atmosphere of the world! It may be a cold frost within us, when our
friend is in the glow of a summer sunset: and we call him unsympathetic
and unfeeling. If we let him know the state of our world, we should see
the rose-hues fade from his, and our friend put off his singing robes,
and sit down with us in sackcloth and ashes, to share our temptation
"You see I cannot offer you to him now, Adela," said her father.
But I knew that all had come right, although I saw from Adela's
manner that she was not happy about it.
So things went on for a week, during which the colonel was slowly
mending. I used to read him to sleep. Adela would sit by the fire, or
by the bedside, and go and come while I was reading.
One afternoon, in the twilight, Harry entered. We greeted; and
then, turning to the bed, I discovered that my friend was asleep. We
drew towards the fire, and sat down. Adela had gone out of the room a
few minutes before.
"He is such a manageable patient!" I said.
"Noble old fellow!" returned the doctor. "I wish he would like me,
and then all would be well."
"He doesn't dislike you personally," I said.
"I hope not. I can understand his displeasure perfectly, and
repugnance too. But I assure you, Mr. Smith, I did not lay myself out
to gain her affections. I was caught myself before I knew. And I
believe she liked me too before she knew."
"I fear their means will be very limited after this."
"For his sake I am very sorry to hear it; but for my own, I cannot
help thinking it the luckiest thing that could have happened."
"I am not so sure of that. It might increase the difficulty."
At this moment I thought I heard the handle of the door move, but
there was a screen between us and it. I went on.
"That is, if you still want to marry her, you know."
"Marry her!" he said. "If she were a beggar-maid, I would be proud
as King Cophetua to marry her to-morrow."
There was a rustle in the twilight, and a motion of its gloom. With
a quick gliding, Adela drew near, knelt beside Harry, and hid her eyes
on his knee. I thought it better to go.
Was this unmaidenly of her?
I say "No, for she knew that he loved her."
As I left the room, I heard the colonel call
And when I returned, I found them both standing by the bedside, and
the old man holding a hand of each.
"Now, John Smith," I said to myself, "you may go when you please."
Before we, that is, I and my reader, part, however, my reader may
be inclined to address me thus:
"Pray, Mr. Smith, do you think it was your wonderful prescription
of story-telling, that wrought Miss Cathcart's cure?"
"How can I tell?" I answer. "Probably it had its share. But there
were other things to take into the account. If you went on to ask me
whether it was not Harry's prescriptions; or whether it was not the
curate's sermons; or whether it was not her falling in love with the
doctor; or whether even her father's illness and the loss of their
property had not something to do with it; or whether it was not the
doctor's falling in love with her; or that the cold weather suited her;
I should reply in the same way to every one of the interrogatories."
But I retort another question:
"Did you ever know anything whatever resulting from the operation
of one separable cause?"
In regard to any good attempt I have ever made in my life, I am
content to know that the end has been gained. Whether I have succeeded
or not is of no consequence, if I have tried well.In the present case,
Adela recovered; and my own conviction is, that the cure was effected
mainly from within. Except in physics, we can put nothing to the
experimentum crucis, and must be content with conjecture and
The night before I left, I had a strange dream. I stood in a lonely
cemetery in a pine-forest. Dark trees that never shed their foliage
rose all aroundstrange trees that mourn for ever, because they never
die. The dream light that has no visible source, because it is in the
soul that dreams, showed all in a dim blue-grey dawn, that never grew
clearer. The night wind was the only power abroad save myself. It went
with slow intermitting, sigh-like gusts, through the tops of the
dreaming trees; for the trees seemed, in the midst of my dream, to have
dreams of their own.
Now this burial-place was mine. I had tended it for years. In it
lay all the men and women whom I had honoured and loved.
And I was a great sculptor. And over every grave I had placed a
marble altar, and upon every altar the marble bust of the man or woman
who lay beneath; each in the supreme beauty which all the defects of
birth and of time and of incompleteness, could not hide from the eye of
the prophetic sculptor. Each was like a half-risen glorified form of
the being who had there descended into the realms of Hades. And through
these glimmering rows of the dead I walked in the dream-light; and from
one to another I went in the glory of having known and loved them; now
weeping sad tears over the loss of the beautiful; now rejoicing in the
strength of the mighty; now exulting in the love and truth which would
yet dawn upon me when I too should go down beneath the visible, and
emerge in the realms of the actual and the unseen? All the time I was
sensible of a wondrous elevation of being, a glory of life and feeling
hitherto unknown to me.
I had entered the secret places of my own hidden world by the gate
of sleep, and walked about them in my dream.
Gradually I became aware that a foreign sound was mingling with the
sighing of the tree-tops overhead. It grew and grew, till I recognized
the sound of wheelsnot of heavenly chariots, but of earthly motion and
business. I heard them stop at the lofty gates of my holy place, and by
twoes and threes, or in solitary singleness, came people into my garden
of the dead. And who should they be but the buried ones?all those whose
marble busts stood in ghostly silence, within the shadows of the
everlasting pines? And they talked and laughed and jested. And my city
of the dead melted away. And lo! we stood in the midst of a great
market-place; and I knew it to be the market-place in which the
children had sat who said to the other children:
"We have piped unto you, and ye have not danced; we have mourned
unto you, and ye have not lamented."
And to my misery, I saw that the faces of my fathers and brothers,
my mothers and sisters, had not grown nobler in the country of the
dead, in which I had thought them safe and shining. Cares, as of this
world, had so settled upon them, that I could hardly recognize the old
likeness; and the dim forms of the ideal glory which I had reproduced
in my marble busts, had vanished altogether. Ah me! my world of the
dead! my city of treasures, hid away under the locks and bars of the
unchangeable! Was there then no world of realities?only a Vanity Fair
after all? The glorious women went sweeping about, smiling and talking,
and buying and adorning, but they were glorious no longer; for they had
common thoughts, and common beauties, and common language and aims and
hopes; and everything was common about them. And ever and anon, with a
kind of shiver, as if to keep alive my misery by the sight of my own
dreams, the marble busts would glimmer out, faintly visible amidst the
fair, as if about to re-appear, and, dispossessing the vacuity of
folly, assert the noble and the true, and give me back my dead to love
and worship once more, in the loneliness of the pine-forest. Side by
side with a greedy human face, would shimmer out for a moment the
ghostly marble face; and the contrast all but drove me mad with
perplexity and misery.
"Alas!" I cried, "where is my future? Where is my beautiful death?"
All at once I saw the face of a man who went round and round the
skirts of the market, and looked earnestly in amongst the busy idlers.
He was head and shoulders taller than any there; and his face was a
pale face, with an infinite future in it, visible in all its grief. I
made my way through the crowd, which regarded me with a look which I
could not understand, and came to the stranger. I threw myself at his
feet and sobbed: "I have lost them all. I will follow thee." He took me
by the hand, and led me back. We walked up and down the fair together.
And as we walked, the tumult lessened, and lessened. They made a path
for us to go, and all eyes were turned upon my guide. The tumult sank,
and all was still. Men and women stood in silent rows. My guide looked
upon them all, on the right and on the left. And they all looked on him
till their eyes filled with tears. And the old faces of my friends grew
slowly out of the worldly faces, until at length they were such as I
had known of yore.
Suddenly they all fell upon their knees, and their faces changed
into the likeness of my marble faces. Then my guide waved his handand
lo! we were in the midst of my garden of the dead; and the wind was
like the sound of a going in the tops of the pine trees; and my white
marbles glimmered glorified on the altars of the tombs. And the dream
vanished, and I came awake.
And I will not say here whose face the face of my guide was like.