The Project Gutenberg eBook of Stories by American Authors, Volume 2

This ebook is for the use of anyone anywhere in the United States and most other parts of the world at no cost and with almost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License included with this ebook or online at If you are not located in the United States, you will have to check the laws of the country where you are located before using this eBook.

Title: Stories by American Authors, Volume 2

Author: Various

Release date: January 24, 2010 [eBook #31064]
Most recently updated: January 6, 2021

Language: English

Credits: Produced by D Alexander, Juliet Sutherland and the Online
Distributed Proofreading Team at


Stories by

American Authors








Copyright, 1884, by

*** The Stories in this Volume are protected by copyright, and are printed here by authority of the authors or their representatives.

Frank R. Stockton

[Pg 5]


By Frank R. Stockton.

Century Magazine, May, 1882.

The country residence of Mr. John Hinckman was a delightful place to me, for many reasons. It was the abode of a genial, though somewhat impulsive, hospitality. It had broad, smooth-shaven lawns and towering oaks and elms; there were bosky shades at several points, and not far from the house there was a little rill spanned by a rustic bridge with the bark on; there were fruits and flowers, pleasant people, chess, billiards, rides, walks, and fishing. These were great attractions, but none of them, nor all of them together, would have been sufficient to hold me to the place very long. I had been invited for the trout season, but should, probably, have finished my visit early in the summer had it not been that upon fair days, when the grass was dry, and the sun not too hot, and there was but little wind, there strolled [Pg 6]beneath the lofty elms, or passed lightly through the bosky shades, the form of my Madeline.

This lady was not, in very truth, my Madeline. She had never given herself to me, nor had I, in any way, acquired possession of her. But as I considered her possession the only sufficient reason for the continuance of my existence, I called her, in my reveries, mine. It may have been that I would not have been obliged to confine the use of this possessive pronoun to my reveries had I confessed the state of my feelings to the lady.

But this was an unusually difficult thing to do. Not only did I dread, as almost all lovers dread, taking the step which would in an instant put an end to that delightful season which may be termed the ante-interrogatory period of love, and which might at the same time terminate all intercourse or connection with the object of my passion; but I was, also, dreadfully afraid of John Hinckman. This gentleman was a good friend of mine, but it would have required a bolder man than I was at that time to ask him for the gift of his niece, who was the head of his household, and, according to his own frequent statement, the main prop of his declining years. Had Madeline acquiesced in my general views on the subject, I might have felt encouraged to open the matter to Mr. Hinckman, but, as I said before, I had never asked her whether or not she would be mine. I thought of these things at all hours of the day and night, particularly the latter.

[Pg 7]

I was lying awake one night, in the great bed in my spacious chamber, when, by the dim light of the new moon, which partially filled the room, I saw John Hinckman standing by a large chair near the door. I was very much surprised at this for two reasons. In the first place, my host had never before come into my room, and, in the second place, he had gone from home that morning, and had not expected to return for several days. It was for this reason that I had been able that evening to sit much later than usual with Madeline on the moonlit porch. The figure was certainly that of John Hinckman in his ordinary dress, but there was a vagueness and indistinctness about it which presently assured me that it was a ghost. Had the good old man been murdered? and had his spirit come to tell me of the deed, and to confide to me the protection of his dear——? My heart fluttered at what I was about to think, but at this instant the figure spoke.

“Do you know,” he said, with a countenance that indicated anxiety, “if Mr. Hinckman will return to-night?”

I thought it well to maintain a calm exterior, and I answered:

“We do not expect him.”

“I am glad of that,” said he, sinking into the chair by which he stood. “During the two years and a half that I have inhabited this house, that man has never before been away for a single night. You can’t imagine the relief it gives me.”

[Pg 8]

And as he spoke he stretched out his legs and leaned back in the chair. His form became less vague, and the colors of his garments more distinct and evident, while an expression of gratified relief succeeded to the anxiety of his countenance.

“Two years and a half!” I exclaimed. “I don’t understand you.”

“It is fully that length of time,” said the ghost, “since I first came here. Mine is not an ordinary case. But before I say anything more about it, let me ask you again if you are sure Mr. Hinckman will not return to-night?”

“I am as sure of it as I can be of anything,” I answered. “He left to-day for Bristol, two hundred miles away.”

“Then I will go on,” said the ghost, “for I am glad to have the opportunity of talking to some one who will listen to me; but if John Hinckman should come in and catch me here, I should be frightened out of my wits.”

“This is all very strange,” I said, greatly puzzled by what I had heard. “Are you the ghost of Mr. Hinckman?”

This was a bold question, but my mind was so full of other emotions that there seemed to be no room for that of fear.

“Yes, I am his ghost,” my companion replied, ”and yet I have no right to be. And this is what makes me so uneasy, and so much afraid of him. It is a strange story, and, I truly believe, without precedent. Two years and a half ago, John [Pg 9]Hinckman was dangerously ill in this very room. At one time he was so far gone that he was really believed to be dead. It was in consequence of too precipitate a report in regard to this matter that I was, at that time, appointed to be his ghost. Imagine my surprise and horror, sir, when, after I had accepted the position and assumed its responsibilities, that old man revived, became convalescent, and eventually regained his usual health. My situation was now one of extreme delicacy and embarrassment. I had no power to return to my original unembodiment, and I had no right to be the ghost of a man who was not dead. I was advised by my friends to quietly maintain my position, and was assured that, as John Hinckman was an elderly man, it could not be long before I could rightfully assume the position for which I had been selected. But I tell you, sir,” he continued, with animation, “the old fellow seems as vigorous as ever, and I have no idea how much longer this annoying state of things will continue. I spend my time trying to get out of that old man’s way. I must not leave this house, and he seems to follow me everywhere. I tell you, sir, he haunts me.”

“That is truly a queer state of things,” I remarked. “But why are you afraid of him? He couldn’t hurt you.”

“Of course he couldn’t,” said the ghost. “But his very presence is a shock and terror to me. Imagine, sir, how you would feel if my case were yours.”

[Pg 10]

I could not imagine such a thing at all. I simply shuddered.

“And if one must be a wrongful ghost at all,” the apparition continued, “it would be much pleasanter to be the ghost of some man other than John Hinckman. There is in him an irascibility of temper, accompanied by a facility of invective, which is seldom met with. And what would happen if he were to see me, and find out, as I am sure he would, how long and why I had inhabited his house, I can scarcely conceive. I have seen him in his bursts of passion, and, although he did not hurt the people he stormed at any more than he would hurt me, they seemed to shrink before him.”

All this I knew to be very true. Had it not been for this peculiarity of Mr. Hinckman, I might have been more willing to talk to him about his niece.

“I feel sorry for you,” I said, for I really began to have a sympathetic feeling toward this unfortunate apparition. “Your case is indeed a hard one. It reminds me of those persons who have had doubles, and I suppose a man would often be very angry indeed when he found that there was another being who was personating himself.”

“Oh, the cases are not similar at all,” said the ghost. “A double or doppelganger lives on the earth with a man, and, being exactly like him, he makes all sorts of trouble, of course. It is very different with me. I am not here to live with Mr. [Pg 11]Hinckman. I am here to take his place. Now, it would make John Hinckman very angry if he knew that. Don’t you know it would?”

I assented promptly.

“Now that he is away I can be easy for a little while,” continued the ghost, “and I am so glad to have an opportunity of talking to you. I have frequently come into your room, and watched you while you slept, but did not dare to speak to you for fear that if you talked with me Mr. Hinckman would hear you, and come into the room to know why you were talking to yourself.”

“But would he not hear you?” I asked.

“Oh, no,” said the other, “there are times when any one may see me, but no one hears me except the person to whom I address myself.”

“But why did you wish to speak to me?” I asked.

“Because,” replied the ghost, “I like occasionally to talk to people, and especially to some one like yourself, whose mind is so troubled and perturbed that you are not likely to be frightened by a visit from one of us. But I particularly wanted to ask you to do me a favor. There is every probability, so far as I can see, that John Hinckman will live a long time, and my situation is becoming insupportable. My great object at present is to get myself transferred, and I think that you may, perhaps, be of use to me.”

“Transferred!” I exclaimed. “What do you mean by that?”

[Pg 12]

“What I mean,” said the other, “is this: Now that I have started on my career I have got to be the ghost of somebody; and I want to be the ghost of a man who is really dead.”

“I should think that would be easy enough,” I said. “Opportunities must continually occur.”

“Not at all! not at all!” said my companion, quickly. “You have no idea what a rush and pressure there is for situations of this kind. Whenever a vacancy occurs, if I may express myself in that way, there are crowds of applications for the ghostship.”

“I had no idea that such a state of things existed,” I said, becoming quite interested in the matter. “There ought to be some regular system, or order of precedence, by which you could all take your turns like customers in a barber’s shop.”

“Oh dear, that would never do at all!” said the other. “Some of us would have to wait forever. There is always a great rush whenever a good ghostship offers itself—while, as you know, there are some positions that no one would care for. And it was in consequence of my being in too great a hurry on an occasion of the kind that I got myself into my present disagreeable predicament, and I have thought that it might be possible that you would help me out of it. You might know of a case where an opportunity for a ghostship was not generally expected, but which might present itself at any moment. If you would give [Pg 13]me a short notice, I know I could arrange for a transfer.”

“What do you mean?” I exclaimed. “Do you want me to commit suicide? Or to undertake a murder for your benefit?”

“Oh, no, no, no!” said the other, with a vapory smile. “I mean nothing of that kind. To be sure, there are lovers who are watched with considerable interest, such persons having been known, in moments of depression, to offer very desirable ghostships, but I did not think of anything of that kind in connection with you. You were the only person I cared to speak to, and I hoped that you might give me some information that would be of use; and, in return, I shall be very glad to help you in your love affair.”

“You seem to know that I have such an affair,” I said.

“Oh, yes,” replied the other, with a little yawn. “I could not be here so much as I have been without knowing all about that.”

There was something horrible in the idea of Madeline and myself having been watched by a ghost, even, perhaps, when we wandered together in the most delightful and bosky places. But, then, this was quite an exceptional ghost, and I could not have the objections to him which would ordinarily arise in regard to beings of his class.

“I must go now,” said the ghost, rising, “but I will see you somewhere to-morrow night. And remember—you help me, and I’ll help you.”

[Pg 14]

I had doubts the next morning as to the propriety of telling Madeline anything about this interview, and soon convinced myself that I must keep silent on the subject. If she knew there was a ghost about the house she would probably leave the place instantly. I did not mention the matter, and so regulated my demeanor that I am quite sure Madeline never suspected what had taken place. For some time I had wished that Mr. Hinckman would absent himself, for a day at least, from the premises. In such case I thought I might more easily nerve myself up to the point of speaking to Madeline on the subject of our future collateral existence, and, now that the opportunity for such speech had really occurred, I did not feel ready to avail myself of it. What would become of me if she refused me?

I had an idea, however, that the lady thought that, if I were going to speak at all, this was the time. She must have known that certain sentiments were afloat within me, and she was not unreasonable in her wish to see the matter settled one way or the other. But I did not feel like taking a bold step in the dark. If she wished me to ask her to give herself to me, she ought to offer me some reason to suppose that she would make the gift. If I saw no probability of such generosity, I would prefer that things should remain as they were.

That evening I was sitting with Madeline in the [Pg 15]moonlit porch. It was nearly ten o’clock, and ever since supper-time I had been working myself up to the point of making an avowal of my sentiments. I had not positively determined to do this, but wished gradually to reach the proper point when, if the prospect looked bright, I might speak. My companion appeared to understand the situation—at least, I imagined that the nearer I came to a proposal the more she seemed to expect it. It was certainly a very critical and important epoch in my life. If I spoke, I should make myself happy or miserable forever, and if I did not speak I had every reason to believe that the lady would not give me another chance to do so.

Sitting thus with Madeline, talking a little, and thinking very hard over these momentous matters, I looked up and saw the ghost, not a dozen feet away from us. He was sitting on the railing of the porch, one leg thrown up before him, the other dangling down as he leaned against a post. He was behind Madeline, but almost in front of me, as I sat facing the lady. It was fortunate that Madeline was looking out over the landscape, for I must have appeared very much startled. The ghost had told told me that he would see me some time this night, but I did not think he would make his appearance when I was in the company of Madeline. If she should see the spirit of her uncle, I could not answer for the consequences. I made no exclamation, but the ghost evidently saw that I was troubled.

[Pg 16]

“Don’t be afraid,” he said—“I shall not let her see me; and she cannot hear me speak unless I address myself to her, which I do not intend to do.”

I suppose I looked grateful.

“So you need not trouble yourself about that,” the ghost continued; “but it seems to me that you are not getting along very well with your affair. If I were you, I should speak out without waiting any longer. You will never have a better chance. You are not likely to be interrupted; and, so far as I can judge, the lady seems disposed to listen to you favorably; that is, if she ever intends to do so. There is no knowing when John Hinckman will go away again; certainly not this summer. If I were in your place, I should never dare to make love to Hinckman’s niece if he were anywhere about the place. If he should catch any one offering himself to Miss Madeline, he would then be a terrible man to encounter.”

I agreed perfectly to all this.

“I cannot bear to think of him!” I ejaculated aloud.

“Think of whom?” asked Madeline, turning quickly toward me.

Here was an awkward situation. The long speech of the ghost, to which Madeline paid no attention, but which I heard with perfect distinctness, had made me forget myself.

It was necessary to explain quickly. Of course, it would not do to admit that it was of her dear [Pg 17]uncle that I was speaking; and so I mentioned hastily the first name I thought of.

“Mr. Vilars,” I said.

This statement was entirely correct, for I never could bear to think of Mr. Vilars, who was a gentleman who had, at various times, paid much attention to Madeline.

“It is wrong for you to speak in that way of Mr. Vilars,” she said. “He is a remarkably well-educated and sensible young man, and has very pleasant manners. He expects to be elected to the legislature this fall, and I should not be surprised if he made his mark. He will do well in a legislative body, for whenever Mr. Vilars has anything to say he knows just how and when to say it.”

This was spoken very quietly, and without any show of resentment, which was all very natural, for if Madeline thought at all favorably of me she could not feel displeased that I should have disagreeable emotions in regard to a possible rival. The concluding words contained a hint which I was not slow to understand. I felt very sure that if Mr. Vilars were in my present position he would speak quickly enough.

“I know it is wrong to have such ideas about a person,” I said, “but I cannot help it.”

The lady did not chide me, and after this she seemed even in a softer mood. As for me, I felt considerably annoyed, for I had not wished to admit that any thought of Mr. Vilars had ever occupied my mind.

[Pg 18]

“You should not speak aloud that way,” said the ghost, “or you may get yourself into trouble. I want to see everything go well with you, because then you may be disposed to help me, especially if I should chance to be of any assistance to you, which I hope I shall be.”

I longed to tell him that there was no way in which he could help me so much as by taking his instant departure. To make love to a young lady with a ghost sitting on the railing near by, and that ghost the apparition of a much-dreaded uncle, the very idea of whom in such a position and at such a time made me tremble, was a difficult, if not an impossible, thing to do; but I forbore to speak, although I may have looked my mind.

“I suppose,” continued the ghost, “that you have not heard anything that might be of advantage to me. Of course, I am very anxious to hear, but if you have anything to tell me, I can wait until you are alone. I will come to you to-night in your room, or I will stay here until the lady goes away.”

“You need not wait here,” I said; “I have nothing at all to say to you.”

Madeline sprang to her feet, her face flushed and her eyes ablaze.

“Wait here!” she cried. “What do you suppose I am waiting for? Nothing to say to me indeed!—I should think so! What should you have to say to me?”

[Pg 19]

“Madeline,” I exclaimed, stepping toward her, “let me explain.”

But she had gone.

Here was the end of the world for me! I turned fiercely to the ghost.

“Wretched existence!” I cried. “You have ruined everything. You have blackened my whole life. Had it not been for you——”

But here my voice faltered. I could say no more.

“You wrong me,” said the ghost. “I have not injured you. I have tried only to encourage and assist you, and it is your own folly that has done this mischief. But do not despair. Such mistakes as these can be explained. Keep up a brave heart. Good-by.”

And he vanished from the railing like a bursting soap-bubble.

I went gloomily to bed, but I saw no apparitions that night except those of despair and misery which my wretched thoughts called up. The words I had uttered had sounded to Madeline like the basest insult. Of course, there was only one interpretation she could put upon them.

As to explaining my ejaculations, that was impossible. I thought the matter over and over again as I lay awake that night, and I determined that I would never tell Madeline the facts of the case. It would be better for me to suffer all my life than for her to know that the ghost of her uncle haunted the house. Mr. Hinckman was away, and [Pg 20]if she knew of his ghost she could not be made to believe that he was not dead. She might not survive the shock! No, my heart could bleed, but I would never tell her.

The next day was fine, neither too cool nor too warm; the breezes were gentle, and nature smiled. But there were no walks or rides with Madeline. She seemed to be much engaged during the day, and I saw but little of her. When we met at meals she was polite, but very quiet and reserved. She had evidently determined on a course of conduct, and had resolved to assume that, although I had been very rude to her, she did not understand the import of my words. It would be quite proper, of course, for her not to know what I meant by my expressions of the night before.

I was downcast and wretched, and said but little, and the only bright streak across the black horizon of my woe was the fact that she did not appear to be happy, although she affected an air of unconcern. The moonlit porch was deserted that evening, but wandering about the house I found Madeline in the library alone. She was reading, but I went in and sat down near her. I felt that, although I could not do so fully, I must in a measure explain my conduct of the night before. She listened quietly to a somewhat labored apology I made for the words I had used.

“I have not the slightest idea what you meant,” she said, “but you were very rude.”

I earnestly disclaimed any intention of rudeness, [Pg 21]and assured her, with a warmth of speech that must have made some impression upon her, that rudeness to her would be an action impossible to me. I said a great deal upon the subject, and implored her to believe that if it were not for a certain obstacle I could speak to her so plainly that she would understand everything.

She was silent for a time, and then she said, rather more kindly, I thought, than she had spoken before:

“Is that obstacle in any way connected with my uncle?”

“Yes,” I answered, after a little hesitation, “it is, in a measure, connected with him.”

She made no answer to this, and sat looking at her book, but not reading. From the expression of her face, I thought she was somewhat softened toward me. She knew her uncle as well as I did, and she may have been thinking that, if he were the obstacle that prevented my speaking (and there were many ways in which he might be that obstacle), my position would be such a hard one that it would excuse some wildness of speech and eccentricity of manner. I saw, too, that the warmth of my partial explanations had had some effect on her, and I began to believe that it might be a good thing for me to speak my mind without delay. No matter how she should receive my proposition, my relations with her could not be worse than they had been the previous night and day, and there was something in her face which [Pg 22]encouraged me to hope that she might forget my foolish exclamations of the evening before if I began to tell her my tale of love.

I drew my chair a little nearer to her, and as I did so the ghost burst into the room from the doorway behind her. I say burst, although no door flew open and he made no noise. He was wildly excited, and waved his arms above his head. The moment I saw him, my heart fell within me. With the entrance of that impertinent apparition, every hope fled from me. I could not speak while he was in the room.

I must have turned pale, and I gazed steadfastly at the ghost, almost without seeing Madeline, who sat between us.

“Do you know,” he cried, “that John Hinckman is coming up the hill? He will be here in fifteen minutes, and if you are doing anything in the way of love-making, you had better hurry it up. But this is not what I came to tell you. I have glorious news! At last I am transferred! Not forty minutes ago a Russian nobleman was murdered by the Nihilists. Nobody ever thought of him in connection with an immediate ghostship. My friends instantly applied for the situation for me, and obtained my transfer. I am off before that horrid Hinckman comes up the hill. The moment I reach my new position, I shall put off this hated semblance. Good-by. You can’t imagine how glad I am to be, at last, the real ghost of somebody.”

[Pg 23]

“Oh!” I cried, rising to my feet and stretching out my arms in utter wretchedness, “I would to heaven you were mine!”

“I am yours,” said Madeline, raising to me her tearful eyes.

[Pg 24]


By Mary Putnam Jacobi, M.D.

Putnam’s Magazine, August, 1869.

My brief residence at Rome sufficed to destroy my illusions.

A Frenchman, a student of medicine, I had, nevertheless, remained an ardent disciple of Catholicism,—the faith in which I had been brought up by a devout mother. She was an Italian, and from her I had inherited an intense, passionate nature, and capacity for belief, which my father’s nationality failed to neutralize. From him, on the other hand, I had received my education, my profession, and a certain large habit of thought, which, disdaining all lesser interests, personal or national, occupied itself exclusively with themes of universal humanity. This habit, extremely characteristic of French intellect, concurred,—perhaps as much as anything else,—in making me an ultra-montanist. As an Italian, I believed in the Church with ardor,—because [Pg 25]I believed; as a Frenchman, I demanded a church universal, as alone worthy of attaching my belief. The cause of the Pope was for me identified with the spiritual cause of the world, and the lukewarmness of so-called Liberal Catholics enraged me. I could understand the opposition of materialists, of atheists, or even Protestants. These all occupied a radically different base, and their eyes were turned toward a different horizon. But that a man could face Truth, and voluntarily scrimp his vision to a miserable corner of her robe,—could embrace a principle coldly, with the mere touch of a distant finger,—could pause to balance motives, and haggle over the price of devotion,—this was as incomprehensible to me as repugnant. My own sentiments were equally incomprehensible to the society by which I was surrounded, and the opposition which I constantly encountered served not a little to rivet my convictions, and fan my enthusiasm to passion.

My father died almost immediately after launching me on my medical career,—and my darling mother, two years later. In my unutterable loneliness, I lost all heart for my studies, and breaking away from école and hospitals, wandered in Italy, seeking to quench a quenchless grief. There I married an Italian girl, whose hair and eyes reminded me of my mother, but who expended on the dream of Italian unity such enthusiasm as my mother had lavished for the temporal power of the Pope. I think I was unconsciously attracted by [Pg 26]this very difference. Valeria’s opposition to the Pope was so serious and whole-souled, that it seemed to invest his cause with new dignity, and in argument with her I acquired increased respect for my own theories and for myself as capable of sustaining them. Moreover, at the very moment that our intellects were most at variance, we were each conscious of a subtle sympathy of nature; we were animated by the same feeling, though working in different directions. Her antagonism, therefore, never irritated me, but,—when the more profound union had once been established,—fascinated me by a peculiar charm, and led me, by a healthful transition, back to the ruder antagonisms of practical life. For, deprived of the support of my mother’s lofty confidence, and in the weakness following excessive sorrow, I had begun to secretly despair of an ideal, which seemed buried in her all-devouring grave. At the same time I clung to it the more intensely, precisely because it seemed unattainable,—from a sort of morbid craving for whatever had become as unattainable as my mother’s presence. I loathed action, even for the realization of my dreams, and over-concentrated thought threatened to degenerate into a sickly reverie that should presently exhaust the forces of my life, like an unnaturally prolonged sleep. New influence added in this direction might have driven me insane, while the diversion afforded by Valeria’s counter-enthusiasm and the necessity of making an active defence of my own, roused me, and [Pg 27]brought back the blood to the surface of my life. It was, therefore, partly an instinct of self-preservation which led me to Valeria,—and she saved me—my noble wife saved me for other destinies.

We returned to Paris, where I resumed and completed my medical studies, and I had just graduated when the war broke out in Italy.

Four happy, healthful years had completely restored my mental equilibrium. I was no longer an extravagant fanatic, prepared for a cloister or a crusade, but still a tolerably ardent ultra-montanist, pivoted upon the theory of the temporal power of the Pope. Valeria’s influence, in modifying the superficial exuberance of my enthusiasm, had only rendered its energy more practical, more eager for an opportunity to incarnate its ideal in vigorous facts. Now the opportunity had arrived, and the enthusiasm blazed forth afresh; all interests, all consciousness of other ties were absorbed in devotion to the Church of which I felt myself a not unimportant member. My fortune, my time, my life, were all too little to place at its disposal, and I hastened to enrol myself on the medical staff of a regiment of Papal Zouaves. Valeria, who had always reasoned against my theories, was too consistent herself to oppose me in putting them into practice, but she insisted on accompanying me to Italy. We parted at Civita Vecchia, I to go to Rome, she, with our two children, to Naples, where her family had formerly resided. She wrote to me every day, but after [Pg 28]several weeks came a blank of three days without a letter. At the same moment arrived the news that the cholera was raging at Naples—news which rendered most ominous this sudden interruption of the correspondence. I obtained leave of absence and hurried south, to learn that my wife and babies were dead—fallen among the very first victims of the pestilence.

Stunned and heart-sick, I returned to Rome, anxious to devote myself to the cause with the more desperate earnestness that it was the only living interest left to me in the world. I arrived just before the battle of Montana, and regretted that fortune had not assigned me a rôle among the soldiers of the cross, among those who might embrace a welcome death, in exchange for the glory of serving the Church. Resolved to approach this honor as nearly as possible, I contrived to obtain an appointment in the ambulance corps, and accompanied the troops to the field. I have no distinct recollection of that day,—the third after Valeria’s funeral,—and which, as my first experience of a battle, assumed to me the magnificent proportions of an Austerlitz or Waterloo. I only know that, intoxicated by the novel excitement of the scene, perhaps by the mere smell of the gun-powder, I forgot the duties to which I was assigned, snatched a musket from a Zouave who had just expired at my feet, and rushed into the heart of the conflict. I received a slight wound in the forehead, staggered, fell, and fainted away. I suppose [Pg 29]I must, at the same time, have received the shock from a larger ball than that which grazed my temple, and experienced some concussion of the brain, for I did not fully recover consciousness until I had been transported to the military hospital.

Here I stayed a week, and came, for the first time, into near contact with my fellow-defenders of the faith. The contact, instead of warming, chilled me inexplicably. Instead of belief, I discovered scepticism; instead of enthusiasm, persiflage and eternal quizzing, intolerable in professed martyrs to a sacred cause.

“Que voulez-vous?” they said, shrugging their shoulders at my indignant remonstrances. “The ass who carries all his panniers on the same side stumbles on his own nose. To each man his business; those who believe, don’t fight; and we who fight cannot be expected to believe.”

I was surprised to find that my own loyalty became affected by this indifference, much more than by any influence to which I had hitherto been submitted. Others had sneered because they did not know; but these men precisely because they knew too well. The cause which depended so exclusively upon their bravado was belittled in their own eyes, and presently in mine also. I felt somewhat ashamed of the drops of blood I had lavished so heroically at Montana, and when the gazettes began to flourish the fame of the victory, repeat the dying speeches of fallen braves, and enrol [Pg 30]rascally Zouaves on saintly calendars, I could have blushed in the dark—everywhere a little martyrdom, a little battle, and innumerable little apotheoses. I began to doubt the greatness of the cause made up of such infinitesimals. It is easy to serve ideas in which we have ceased to heartily believe, but it is impossible to fight for those that have become to us the least in the world ridiculous. Perhaps Valeria’s death had unconsciously disheartened me for an enterprise which had been, however remotely, its occasion. Perhaps many of her words, whose force I had successfully resisted during her lifetime, now re echoed from her grave with more profound significance. But it is certain that, for the first time, I wavered in affection for my life-long ideal. Alarmed at myself, and determined, if possible, to reinvigorate my failing faith, I went back to Rome, trusting that the Holy City would inspire me afresh. Appointed to a civil office of considerable importance, I was soon introduced into the midst of the Papal Court, and behind the scenes of the magnificent theatrical display that had so long dazzled my imagination. I was initiated into the shameful mysteries of cabal and intrigue, and taught the precious secrets of Pope and Cardinals. On every side I saw falsehood, treachery, and duplicity welcomed as the ablest servitors of truth, the grandest professions assumed as an excuse for the most vulgar villainy, ambition glozed over by degrading humility, and sensuality all the more disgusting from the saintly [Pg 31]robes in which it was paraded and but half concealed. My faith, already enfeebled, died of rapid decline, stifled by these monstrous fooleries. Disenchanted, revolted, disgusted, I resigned my position, and abandoned the Pope and his cause forever.

I did not, therefore, enlist under Garibaldi. A tenacious loyalty to the memory of ideas I had once served would always prevent me from more actively attacking them, or from desecrating their graves. Moreover, the revulsion of feeling consequent upon my disillusion was so tremendous, that I was swept entirely out of the region of the questions at issue, and both sides became indifferent to me, both camps dim and shadowy in the distance.

I returned, therefore, to France, and settled down in a remote corner of the provinces, to exercise my profession as a country physician. After the accumulated anguish of the last few months, the quiet dulness of the place was infinitely grateful to me. I was like a bruised swimmer, tossed upon a monotonous sandbank, who only asks to be left there in peace, until long repose has rested the aching limbs, and blunted the harrowing recollections of the shipwreck. The incessant excitement of Paris was intolerable to me, and scarcely less so the idea of revisiting its troops of sympathetic friends. They would proffer venal consolation for the loss of my wife and children; they would congratulate me maliciously on my conversion from ultra-montanism. I shrank from their curious eyes [Pg 32]and voluble tongues, as a wounded man from the glittering apparatus of the surgeon, and like him turned over my face to the wall, to sleep.

Two years thus passed away—two years of mornings and evenings, following one another in calm succession, like a row of stolid peasant gleaners going to the fields. I became inexpressibly soothed by their calm, and by the nice tact and exquisite courtesy of Nature, with whom I had done well to take refuge. She is never astonished, she asks no impertinent questions, but welcomes her guests with even suavity, like a liberal host, throwing open to them drawing-room or garret, as may best please their fancy. The growing trees had no time to turn round to look at me; the contended hills embraced me in their arms, and let me pass without a word; the grain ripened in the mellow autumn days, unheeding the little shadow that I threw across its sunshine. This preoccupied indifference of all living things, which would initiate a mere vexation, clamorous for sympathy, is like blessed balm to the sufferer from a profound grief or mortification. Counsel is good, friendliness precious, while anything remains to be done to avert an impending calamity. But pitying words over an accomplished and irremediable misfortune, serve only to revive useless pain, and blunder, like a man who should try to force open the eyelids of a corpse. Nature, wiser than officious human tenderness, takes the sorrow coolly, as a matter of course, and in silence buries [Pg 33]it out of sight among a million others, already thickly strewn with withered leaves. And, in presence of her imperturbable serenity during the blackest days of frost and winter, the sufferer becomes insensibly inspired with her unspoken confidence in the final return of spring. The people of the village and the farms, rooted as their own beeches, reflected back upon Nature the same immovable calm. They did not disturb themselves about me, because my rôle in society was so evident, respectable, and satisfactory, that I offered no foothold for either curiosity or scandal. I had been sent by Providence and the Faculty of Medicine to cure their not too frequent rheumatisms and catarrhs; I acquitted myself not ill of my business,—they asked no more,—and neither offered nor expected personal interest or friendship.

As the months rolled on, I became more interested than formerly in medical reading. Absorbed entirely in my books, I even fancied that the healing apathy which sheltered my life was growing more profound. This was a mistake; the thickening of the vapors that shut out the external world, really denoted that they were about to condense and precipitate themselves into a new creation. New interests were preparing, that should presently claim from my nature all the energy, enthusiasm, and passion which had once been devoted to the old. Of this I became aware in the following manner. One day, among a [Pg 34]package of books sent to me from Paris, arrived a pamphlet just written in defence of a new theory concerning the movements of the human heart. My curiosity was excited by the idea of a new theory on such a famous subject, and my interest was by no means abated after perusal of the pamphlet. Exposition of this theory would demand a crowd of technical details, unintelligible to the general reader, and therefore inappropriate in this place. But let such an one take the trouble to listen for a moment to the ticking of a heart, seemingly so monotonous, simple, and easy to understand, and then reflect that the slight elements discoverable in this little sound, have been forced by human intellect into at least twenty different combinations, and afforded ground for as many theories, each defended with impassioned earnestness by a different observer. He may then realize something of the interest which attaches to the explanation of this phenomenon—may even experience a sort of mental vertigo, as if he had witnessed the evolution of a world out of nothing. Owing to the paucity of the facts to be observed, the finesse requisite for the observation, and the intellectual dexterity needed to retain such minute circumstances before the mind long enough to think about them, the problem is one of the most delicate and intricate offered by physiological science. Once engaged in its discussion, the mind becomes hopelessly fascinated, and continues to pirouette about an invisible point, that is neither a [Pg 35]thought nor a material phenomenon, but, as it were, a refined essence of both.

As in all series of vital actions, each item of the phenomenon in question is so interlinked with the rest, that an explanation of a part can never be considered final, so long as any problem remains unresolved. The latest experimentator, brooding over hitherto neglected details, may always hope to light upon some clue that shall unravel the entire entanglement in a different manner, and reform upon a new basis ideas now grouped in pretended fixity. The excitement caused by this possibility is amply sufficient to stimulate research. And there is no need to discover an immediate practical application for the theory in order to bait the interest of vulgar minds. These would always be incapable of such difficult investigations, while really competent students were supremely indifferent to all lesser advantages attached to the discovery of truth. As for me, I had been so long removed from active life and its necessities (for my professional career had as yet been too facile and commonplace to arouse me to them), that the impractical character of the subject constituted for me an additional charm. I recognized that it belonged, for the present at least, to the region of pure thought, pure science, accessible only to intelligences refined by nature, and enriched by superior culture. In addition, therefore, to the intrinsic interest of the problem, and the solid satisfaction arising from acute intellectual activity, [Pg 36]I could, in pursuit of this theme, experience all the subtle pleasure derived from a consciousness of personal superiority—pleasure as attainable in solitude as elsewhere since the superiority was too real and unquestionable to require the confirmatory suffrage of the crowd.

I abandoned all other studies, and threw myself impetuously into the current of these newly-received ideas. I ransacked my library, from Herophilus to Haller, from Galen to Helmholtz. England, Germany, Italy, France yielded up their tribute to my excited curiosity. And the theme, shifted, refracted from intellect to intellect, multiplied itself to bewildering complexity.

Not content with reading, I performed experiments, repeating those of my predecessors, and inventing new to control their conclusions. “With my own hands I stirred the soil, fetid and palpitating with life,” and in this inmost intimacy with Nature felt myself grow strong, as Antæus by contact with the mother earth. Thus roused from my long torpor into the most intense activity,—for all activity is slack in comparison with that of thought,—I became dissatisfied with the facility of my present surroundings. I was anxious to pit myself against the world of Paris. I wanted opposition, contradiction, in order to vanquish them, and absorb their force into the glory of my triumph. Moreover, my studies had now reached a point where they required the assistance that could only be obtained in a great city: in a word, I resolved [Pg 37]to return to the capital, for a longer or shorter time, as the sequel should prove desirable. My means rendered me independent of my clientèle, and I left my patients without regret to the care of an easily procured substitute. It is so rare to alight upon an interesting case in the country! Nothing but rheumatism and measles, measles and rheumatism, and never an autopsy,—it is as monotonous as the treatment of fever and ague. I longed for the vast metropolitan hospitals, containing specimens of every shade of disease, and affording unlimited opportunities for auscultation. Of these I stood especially in need, for the train of thought suggested by physiological experiment must be completed by pathological researches, which could only be carried on at Paris.

To Paris, therefore, I came, as to a new world, so completely had I been separated from it during the two last years. It was as if one of the spirits in the metempsychosis imagined by Fourier, had returned to the brilliant sphere from which death had driven him in temporary exile. I was at first enchanted, intoxicated. The mental activity which had seemed so intense in the sluggish province, needed to be quickened fourfold to keep abreast of the intellects with which I entered into relation, and the consciousness of the quickening affected me as with new wine. But, as I grew accustomed to my new medium, I became again subtly dissatisfied. It was not enough to be abreast of the world, I wanted to be a little ahead. [Pg 38]In my solitude it was easy to cherish illusions concerning the value of my own work, to picture myself as a mighty and triumphant wrestler with Nature, capable, by his single strength, of forcing her reluctant secrets, to reveal them afterwards to an admiring world. But at Paris, with its enormous condensation of intellectual force, I could not flatter myself on the solitary greatness of my achievements, nor ignore the collective action of society. Whatever my attainment, I should be forced to share its fame with a hundred other workers, who had lent me, unasked, their aid. The distance between the person who uttered the last word, and him who said the next to the last, was infinitesimal, and this close proximity annoyed me. I longed for some brilliant occasion to surpass all my contemporaries in one great bound; an opportunity to bestow on science and humanity some unique benefit that could never be compared with those accumulated by lesser men. One day, revolving many things in my mind, I entered the Bibliothèque Impériale. Strolling idly past the grated bookcases, my attention was attracted by the title of a thin folio, wedged in between Lavater and Geoffroy St. Hilaire. An inexplicable impulse led me to demand this book, the “History of Vesalius and his Times.” I had no particular reason, that I knew of, to be interested in Vesalius; I merely followed an idle whim, suggested rather by the peculiar shape and position of the folio, than by any solid reason; and this whim [Pg 39]did not hurry me out of my lounging mood. I settled myself in one of the windows, and leisurely turned over the leaves of my book, reading a line here and a phrase there, until I alighted and settled upon the following passage: “So the rumor spread abroad that Vesalius had opened the chest of a living man to see his heart beat. And upon that the people were in a fury and the court hissed with rage, and Vesalius was obliged to flee from Spain before the power of the Inquisition; and some say that he then made a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. But on his return he was shipwrecked on a desolate island and perished miserably. Hubert, in his Vindiciæ contra tyrannus reports this history to the eternal shame of the Jesuits.”

The world often describes with minuteness the material framework of such noisy events as have impressed its coarse sensibilities. But it commonly neglects, because ignoring, the scenes wherein have taken place the crises of thought, or occurred the birth of new, indomitable ideas. To the thinker, however, such outer scenes remain inextricably associated with the thought that has sprung to life in their midst. To this day I preserve a vivid recollection of every item of the place where I read the story of Vesalius; the lofty reading-room, with its confused lining of many-colored books, the tables crowded by eager students, the broad, deep windows through which the sun streamed, and from which I, sitting with open folio on my lap, watched the shifting fountain and [Pg 40]the swaying trees and the long, untrimmed grass in the courtyard below. For the story seemed to have laid hold of my inmost soul, and touched the spring of a long-hidden desire. Why I was so moved, I could not tell. What issue would open to this whirlpool of vague excitement in which I had fallen, I had no idea. But I was profoundly conscious both of the excitement and the emotion, and, with that refined epicureanism of which intellectual people alone are capable, I abandoned myself, for a time, to the subtle luxury of their enjoyment.

My reverie was interrupted by the clanging of the great clock and the scarcely less harsh voice of the gardien as he announced the hour for closing the library. Still wrapped in fantastic meditation, I descended the stairs to the street, and followed the rue Richelieu to the boulevard, there to mingle with the human stream that endlessly encircled the city like a new army of Gideon. Drifting in the current, I reached the Bastile, crossed the Pont d’Austerlitz, gained the Boulevard de l’Hôpital and continued walking to the Invalides, to the Avenues Jena and Wagram, and from the Place des Ternes, all along the exterior rampart. And as I walked, my entangled thoughts gradually disengaged themselves into clearness and precision.

The biographer of Vesalius, who evidently shared the prejudices of the people, had exerted himself strenuously to disprove the calumny attached to the name of the great anatomist. He, like the rest, was blinded by that vulgar egotism which [Pg 41]clamorously prefers the interests of individuals to those of society,—egotism no less short-sighted than vulgar, for the large and abstract interests cared for by science are precisely those which shall ultimately affect the greatest number of individuals; and no less inconsequent than short-sighted, since no one hesitates to ruin entire hosts of individuals upon the faintest chance of promoting the material interests of society. A stock company may immolate hundreds during the construction of a Panama railroad—a sovereign sacrifice thousands in the contest for a Crimean peninsula; the hue and cry only begins when the savant modestly begs permission to utilize a single life for the advancement of science. He is execrated as a monster, and burned alive in expiation of his crime. Absurd inconsistency, trivial superstition! from which it is time that at least the scientific world were emancipated. Long enough has the ignorant rabble exercised brute tyranny over intellects towering above its comprehension. The time for concession is past, the moment has arrived for the savant to assume the sway that rightfully devolves upon him and declare the confiscation of all claims to the supreme interest of the search after truth.

For my part, therefore, so far from blaming Vesalius because he had dissected a living man, I should have accorded him most profound reverence for this proof of elevation above ordinary prejudice. And the more I thought over the matter, the more I became convinced that the accusation [Pg 42]was well founded, that the deed had really been performed, which moral cowardice alone induced the glorious criminal to disavow.

My brooding fancy, satiated with the image of the great anatomist, began to occupy itself with his so-called victim. Who was he? what motive had induced him to surrender his body to the scalpel of the master, his life to the realization of the master’s idea? A slave, a debtor, from whom the ingenious savant had thus exacted a pound of flesh? A trembling poltroon, forced to the sacrifice more reluctantly than Isaac to the altar? I preferred rather to believe that it was a favorite pupil, burning with enthusiasm for the master, joyful to participate in his mighty labors at the cheap expense of his own lesser life. Had Vesalius been a general, and he an aide-de-camp before a rampart, all the world would have applauded him, rushing upon death at the word of command. I myself had known, by a brief experience, the thrilling impulse to fight, to die, in behalf of a cause. Rivers of blood had been shed for honor, for loyalty, for patriotism. Was the desire for truth less ardent than these worn-out passions! Could it not rather supply their place in the new world about to be created by science? What could produce a greater impression upon the entire world, and more forcibly announce the inauguration of a new era, than the voice of a man who should declare, “I refuse to draw my sword for the hideous folly of war; to surrender my life at the absurd [Pg 43]caprice of princes; but I offer myself cheerfully, unreservedly, as the instrument of Science, in her majestic schemes for the discovery of truth!”

My recent studies on the problem of the heart’s movements brought me into peculiar sympathy with the object of Vesalius’ researches. The tantalizing results as often obtained by experiments on lower animals, the uncertainty of the inferences that could be deduced from them to form a theory of the human organism, had often excited in me a lively desire for a direct experiment upon man. This desire had hitherto been smothered beneath the mass of conventional ideas, which so frequently overwhelm our timidity and enslave our feebleness in endless routine. But the daring word of genius had now struck the chains from my intellect, and emancipated me from the slavery of that hesitation. I—I would follow in the path already traced by that bolder mind; I would redeem that calumniated memory from disgrace, and enrich its glory by the surpassing realization of the original conception. I would inaugurate the new era; I would set the example of supreme heroism in science; and all the world, and all future ages, should preserve my name with reverent homage, and enwreath it with laurels of undying fame. For, that the purity of my motives might be above suspicion, I would perform the experiment, not as Vesalius in the capacity of anatomist, but as the victim, voluntarily devoting himself to the transcendent interests of an ideal cause.

[Pg 44]

And as my mind leaped up into this grand thought, I felt cheek and brow flush with violent emotion. Carried along by the first impetus of the idea, I walked as rapidly as in a dream, unseeing, unhearing every thing that surrounded me. Before I knew whither I had come, I felt a cool wind blow over me, as if after a feverish journey on a heated road, I had suddenly stepped into a cool, dark cavern. And, looking out from the brilliant visions in which I was plunged, I found myself already entered within the gates of Père la Chaise—the city of the dead, of the vast majority to which I was to go over in fulfilment of my great idea. I wandered among the graves, and read the epitaphs, the reiterated dreary expressions of disappointment and despair, that the deceased had been passively torn from a world to which every fibre of their hearts was clinging. Not so would read my epitaph, and I began to compose it, less as a witty amusement than as a device for resisting an insidious chill that had begun to creep over me like a damp exhalation from the graves. For my imagination suddenly pictured to itself the heavy tombstone pressing down, down forever, on the cruel coffin-lid beneath which I should be lying. I shuddered at the picture, I shuddered at death, and, leaning on an iron rail which girt in a tomb, hid my face in my arms to shut out the signs of decay and the more ghastly emblems of immortality with which the populous cimetière was crowded.

Raising my head after a brief struggle, I perceived [Pg 45]that I was standing in front of the famous tomb of Abelard and Heloise. The sculptured forms of the unhappy lovers reposed side by side on the lid of the stone mausoleum, as they had lain for six centuries, and immortalized the mingling of their mortal dust below. Tears sprang to my eyes as I looked at their still, peaceful faces, for I remembered my dead wife, and then, my lost children. Death, that contained them in its hollow caverns, could not be frightful to me. It was rather the treasure-house of all I possessed most precious, and which I should now hasten to reclaim. All the loneliness and longing which had been dulled by habit, and lately covered over by mental activity, awoke, and cried out passionately within me, repelling the slight pleasures of this world, as a child crying for its mother dashes aside an offered toy. What was left to me in life that I should cling to it? What ties bound me to this perfidious, slippery earth? To whom owed I any duties? Whose pillow would moisten with tears because I had passed out of sight? Destitute of personal interests, I could only devote myself to those of humanity, and that by some method that should concentrate in a single moment both the achievement and its reward. For small were the enjoyment to survive for fame, with whose report I could return laden to no fireside, for whose sake I could watch no eyes brighten in sweet pride of sympathy. I should sicken of it in half an hour, and my hard-earned laurels would become as dusty and lifeless [Pg 46]as those ghastly wreaths of immortelles hanging around Heloise’s tomb. So desolated love joined itself to restless ambition and ideal enthusiasm, to concentrate my life for the purpose from which, since then, it has never swerved.

Thus resolved upon self-devotion, I set about the task of finding a colleague to share the risks and glory of my enterprise. I did not conceal from myself that upon him would devolve a rôle far more difficult and complicated than my own. From me, the subject of the proposed experiment, was only required sublime heroism for the sacrifice. But the man who should perform the operation must possess moral courage to face public criticism, perhaps opprobrium; a trained intellect, already habituated to discussion of the problem in question, and impassioned for its solution; great practical skill and finesse, able to appreciate and profit by every detail of the phenomena that would unroll themselves before his observation; iron nerve, that should remain unmoved by any startling peculiarities of the case in hand.

The necessity for uniting so many characteristics, compelled me to abandon my first hope of forming a committee for the experiment; for as soon as I began to sound physiologists on the subject, I landed knee-deep in a mass of invincible prejudices and prepossessions. The scheme was too new, too daring for the capacity of the mediocrities which constitute the bulk of even the scientific world. I must discover some exceptional solitary [Pg 47]enthusiast like myself, able to appreciate and embrace with joy the grand opportunity I offered him. To the search for this enthusiast, therefore, I bent all my energies, and knocked at many doors, wherever, through the windows, I believed to have detected on the hearth the upleaping of an inner flame.

It was astonishing how often I knocked in vain! How often my insinuations, my suggestions, my direct propositions were repulsed! I appealed to a professor who had concentrated the best years of his life to the problem I proposed to solve,—he pooh-poohed my scheme. In vain I tried to explain my methods for overcoming its practical difficulties; he decried them all, I am convinced, from pure jealousy.

“And you ought to know by this time,” he added with a scarcely disguised sneer, “that a single experiment on a human subject would be of little value until its results were controlled by a dozen others. And I doubt that your enthusiasm would prove sufficiently contagious to furnish the supply for the dissecting table.” And he obstinately shut his ears to any further argument.

I disclosed my plan to a struggling physician, ready for any adventure that should thrust him into notoriety, bring his name before the public, and thus open the way to a prosperous clientèle. Yet he recoiled from a project fraught with promise so sure and magnificent as mine. A hospital interne, flushed with enthusiasm for his first practical [Pg 48]studies, started with horror when I divulged my ideas. Many, true Parisian railleurs, regarded my proposition as an excellent joke.

“Allons donc, c’est une vieille blague que tu nous fais là.”

And all my protestations served only to increase their amusement, and their determination not to be taken in.

A few eyed me suspiciously, as if they imagined I were insane, and one old bourgeois doctor had the impertinence to administer to me a moral lecture.

“Young man,” he said, “you are possessed by the same preposterous vanity which induced Empedocles to throw himself into Vesuvius, and Erostratus to fire the temple of Diana. I recommend a course of dry cupping to the nape of the neck, to relieve your congested and over-excited brain, and, in the mean time, a decent seclusion from society, that you insult with your absurdities.”

I flushed red with anger, but this last rebuff warned me that I must change my tactics. Like all reformers, I found the world too stiff and rigid for my purposes, and only harmed myself with kicking against the bristling pricks. I must turn to a new generation, to early youth, and find some mind still unformed and flexible, that I could myself submit to a far-sighted training, and cast into the mould of my own ideas. The opportunities of which my contemporaries were unworthy, I would reserve as a gracious boon for a well-initiated pupil.

[Pg 49]

Two years had elapsed since my arrival at Paris, and the untiring energy with which I pursued physiological researches had begun to bring my name into notice. When, therefore, I proposed to open a course of lectures upon experimental physiology, my friends all encouraged me with flattering assurances.

“A la bonne heure,” exclaimed the student to whom had I once addressed my secret plans, “something sensible at last. I trust such rational occupation will purge your head of its maggots, and satisfy your aspirations for fame—”

I smiled stealthily to myself. It is thus that the light world always measures the austerity of our resolutions by its own lightness!

I obtained the requisite official permission, and opened the course at the École Pratique under the best auspices. The lectures were thronged from the beginning, and the interest by no means abated as the weeks rolled on. Enthusiastic myself, I possessed in no small degree the gift of communicating (on all ordinary subjects) my enthusiasm to others. I aimed less at imparting solid instruction to my pupils than at impressing their imagination by a series of skilfully arranged effects. My experiments, therefore, were governed by dramatic unity, rarely sought in the confused and arid expositions of official professors. Now I led my auditors into the inmost laboratories of Nature, and revealed, in plant and animal, the fine affinities that regulated her processes of nutrition. Now I [Pg 50]traced some delicate nervous filament from the spinal column of the amphioxus to the cerebral hemisphere of the mammifer. Now I disclosed the ramifying canals in the vast system of circulation, mounting from the spongy network of the mollusk and the sluggish lymphatic of the reptile to the brilliant, bounding arteries of the double-hearted vertebrates. And always, beyond the last disclosure, after the most complete revelation, I hinted at something yet to come, some higher, unveiled mystery, to which all this grand series was but the prelude. As a priest who volubly initiates the neophytes into the service of the temple, but points in silence to the inner court containing the Deity for whom the service is performed, so I, after the most magnificent display of animal life, silently indicated a concealed hereafter, a culmination in the human body, hitherto withheld from our curious gaze. I thus strove to suggest an ideal, left for a time incomplete; to foster an impetuous impatience, that, stimulated by the great acquisitions of the past, should reach forward irresistibly for the greater prize of the future. I trusted that among all my auditors would be found one that should divine the cipher, and quicken over its subtle secret—one intellect, that, carried unconsciously along the current of my thought, should finally arrive at my unrevealed goal.

Among the most constant attendants on the lectures, I had long noticed one young man of about twenty-two years old, who always occupied the same [Pg 51]seat close to my operating-table. He was thin, shabbily dressed, with full, intense forehead, ravenous face, and brilliant eyes. His poverty was indicated not only by his toilette, and that special form of unfed expression peculiar to the studious hungry, but also by his absence from all the private classes, and redoubled assiduity at the public lectures. His intelligence was evident from the absorbed attention with which he followed the experiments, and from his manner of taking notes,—not at random, like most of the students, but at well-chosen points perceptible only to a person already in possession of a commanding view of the whole subject. By a little stratagem, I contrived one day to get hold of his note-book, and was surprised at the accurate observations, the acute suggestions, and range of information indicated by the marginal queries. Those who have ever experienced the delight of discovering an intellect—discovery more precious than that of a gold mine—can appreciate the eagerness with which I devoured these pages, finding everywhere the stamp of the mind I sought. And my satisfaction was redoubled by reflecting how greatly the youth and poverty of the writer might increase my facilities for obtaining complete possession of him. I was not long in devising a scheme for forcing the intimacy of the young man, who, like most poor students, was evidently as shy and proud as he was poor.

One day, at the close of the lecture, I touched my student on the arm.

[Pg 52]

“Be kind enough to wait a moment,” I said, “I have something to say to you.”

The boy flushed and drew back a little with all the haughtiness of a sensitive person ill at ease with the world, and expecting from it nothing but rebuffs and insolence. I fancied that an anxious suspicion crossed his mind that I was about to lay claim to some payment for lessons, of which he had hitherto ignored the necessity. I waited till the greater part of the crowd had squeezed through the narrow door of the amphitheatre, dismissed the loiterers, and then turned to my companion with a frank air of relief, as to an equal with whom I could refresh myself after the fatigue of teaching lesser minds. I saw that I had already won his heart, before I began to speak.

“I find that I require another assistant,” I said. “The man that I have at present, is, as you know, a mere machine. I need some one interested, enthusiastic, capable of seconding me intelligently. I want, in short, a pupil. Will you fill the place?”

Surprised, overwhelmed with an honor which he could so keenly appreciate, the young man flushed again, hesitated, stammered, and finally only succeeded in answering me with his beautiful eyes, for his tongue refused to speak. I already loved the boy; alas! how he has repaid my love!

“It will be a mutual exchange of service,” I continued. “You will be of great use to me in my preparations, and, in return, I may be able to initiate you into the mysteries of our art, somewhat [Pg 53]more thoroughly than can be done in a public lecture.”

“I thank you, sir,” said Guy. He tried to speak coldly, but he looked as if he longed to throw himself at my feet and cover my hand with kisses. To relieve his emotion, in which I secretly exulted, I patted him friendlily on the shoulder, and began immediately to discuss the programme for the following lecture.

I had every reason to congratulate myself on my new assistant. His zeal and ingenuity not only seconded my researches, but often supplemented them when over-fatigue persuaded me to repose. And Guy’s personal character proved as winning as his intellect keen and reliable. Before long I contrived that he should come and live with me, and I invented for him some light literary employment, by which he could pay me for his board and lodging, with an insignificant sacrifice of his time. He acceded to this arrangement upon its apparent terms, but none the less did he pierce its transparent motive, and tacitly devote to me his whole soul in acknowledgment of what he considered my delicate generosity. These unfledged souls are apt to throw themselves thus away in exchange for the most trifling pecuniary service, and torment themselves, moreover, that the compensation is so mean. I smiled at Guy’s naïveté, but none the less turned it to account. From the foothold thus gained, I rapidly extended my influence over his entire nature. My larger experience [Pg 54]enabled me to complete his unfinished thoughts, to sympathize with his scarcely conscious feelings, to subtly impress his principles and co-ordinate them to my own scheme. Having begun by forestalling his material necessities, I continued to supply the finer wants of heart and intellect so completely, that he became habituated to turn to me for everything, and to receive everything that came from me with implicit faith. I fed him, taught him, loved him, and all with such artfulness, that he felt my presence in his life only as a plant feels the sunshine in its calyx, conscious of no intrusion to be resented, or tyranny to be repelled. It is so easy to make the conquest of a young, ingenuous nature! so easy to fix its impetuous, unsuspecting enthusiasm! I marvel that these exquisite relations between master and pupil are so generally left uncultivated, or their charm wasted. I almost marvel that I did not rest completely satisfied with my life at that time; with its arduous study, and its growing fame, and Guy, with the delicious task of educating his supple intellect to my ideas, and penetrating his nature with my personality. Only the loftiness of my ideal saved it from making womanish shipwreck on this episode in its austere voyage towards the realization.

As Guy became more and more competent, I delegated more and more into his hands the preparation for the lectures. The first excitement of getting them into train was past, the first keen interest dulled by habit; and when the second winter [Pg 55]began, with repetition of all that had gone before, I went through the business almost mechanically. Often I left everything to my assistant, and shut myself up alone to dream over the project that secretly absorbed my soul. Guy fancied I was ill, and, as my exertions slackened, redoubled his own, consuming heart and brain in the resolve to maintain the course at the level of its original popularity. I was inwardly amused at his devotion to such secondary considerations, but did not interfere, for it helped to serve my purpose.

Finally, I believed my pupil to be fully prepared, and decided that the moment had come for the complete revelation of myself.

One evening,—I selected the evening advisedly, since at that time the imagination is more susceptible of impressions, and further removed from the vulgar influences of every-day life,—I entered our study. Guy was seated at a table, and working in his usual intense fashion, and I threw myself on a sofa beside him.

“Guy,” I exclaimed, “it tires me to look at you. For eight hours you have not stirred from those books. You will kill yourself.”

“Great loss,” he answered, “so that it were in your service, and during the pursuit of knowledge.”

“You love me then, Guy?”

“Love you!” He rose from the table, and coming to the sofa, kneeled and kissed my forehead, [Pg 56]without shame, as in France men can kiss each other.

“My master, my friend!” he said; and I felt that he was mine, bound to me by a love passing the love of women. I drew him before me, and ran my fingers through his clustering hair. His affection was pleasant to me, independent of the use I meant to make of it; and I almost experienced a feminine desire to trifle with it for a moment, as one shifts a diamond from one hand to the other to watch its changing flame.

“How much do you love me? as the children say. What would you do for me?”

“I would die for you!” he answered vehemently.

That is the first thing youth ever thinks of. From very fulness of life, it can afford to be on familiar terms with death.

“Tut; that is unnecessary. But would you do anything I asked of you as a personal favor?”

“Only try me. I would go to the ends of the earth for you.”

Tenez! suppose I was dying King Arthur and you my squire. Would you hesitate to fling away Excalibur at my command?”

“The paltry bauble! What thought could I have to waste upon it while you were dying?”

“But suppose this obedience did not suffice to release me. Suppose that, in my agony, I prayed you to drive your own sword into my heart to set me free. Would you do it?”

He hesitated a moment. “That would be a [Pg 57]terrible prayer; yet if you were suffering, and I knew that you must die, I would do even that for you.”

“You have said it,” I cried, and leaped to my feet in uncontrollable excitement. “I have a request to make you, I have a prayer that you only can fulfil. Swear that you will grant it—swear by all your love for me, by all the gratitude which you profess, and for which I shall never claim other return—swear that you will do what I am about to bid you!”

I saw that Guy was disquieted by my words and manner. Instead of replying with the bold confidence I had a right to expect, he recoiled from the revelation that pressed urgently on my lips.

“Take care,” he said, “your eyes are glittering as if you had a fever. Let us stop talking about this till to-morrow.”

The upstart boy, thus to dare to patronize me with his foresight and protection—me, who had taught him all he knew, and who was about to offer him a place on my giddy pinnacle of immortal fame! I was intensely angry, but succeeded in controlling myself, for I felt that an untimely explosion of violence might ruin all. I passed my hand over my eyes, as if to blur the glitter that had alarmed Guy’s scrupulous feebleness, and sat down quietly again.

“The fact is, my dear Guy,” I said, “I have been waiting so long for an opportunity to execute a certain scheme of mine, that I cannot help being [Pg 58]a little excited when this opportunity seems at last within my reach.”

“What kind of a scheme?” asked Guy.

“A scheme for the advancement of the science in which we are both so interested.”

“Oh,” said Guy, with an air of relief, “you know how you can rely upon me for any undertaking in that direction.”

“I should think so, especially when it concerns the problem upon which we have both been so long engaged—the movements of the heart.”

“What!” he exclaimed with delight. “You have discovered something new for that! Shall I ever cease to admire your masterly ingenuity. What is to be done? You want to send me to Africa to capture a live rhinoceros? I will set out to-morrow.”

“What would be the use! All the information that can be gained by experiment on the higher mammifers is already ours. Since the problem derives the greatest part of its interest from its application to man, it is on man that the new experiment should be performed.”

“Ah, yes,” sighed Guy; “we are always tripping up against this impossibility.”

“Nothing is impossible,” I answered. “I am resolved that the experiment shall be performed on man.”

Guy started, then laughed. “Oh! you are joking,” he said.

“Not the least in the world. I have even selected the subject.”

[Pg 59]

“Eh! well, since you are so determined, you may dissect me when you choose. Only I warn you of difficulties with the tribunals afterwards.”

“I leave you to settle with them. It is not you, but myself, who is to be the subject; and you must perform the experiment.”

I was surprised at the calmness with which I made this momentous revelation of my purpose. But we are always on the level of the circumstances to which we have attained, and they do not seem as awful as when viewed from the distance.

Guy did not at all believe that I was in earnest, and half an hour’s impetuous talking was needed to convince him of the reality and fixedness of my resolve. Then he tried to reason with me.

“Your experiment will be utterly useless,” he said; “because death will ensue almost immediately after the chest is opened. And during the few seconds that might intervene for observation, the heart would beat too rapidly to render observation possible.”

“I have devised means for palliating all these difficulties,” I answered eagerly. “In the first place, the last act of the experiment must be preceded by the administration of woorara, to slacken the rapidity of the heart’s action. In the second place, I do not propose to open the chest with the bistoury. The operation, even though aided by chloroform, would cause too violent a shock to the nervous system. But I intend to burn through gradually, by successive applications of caustic, as [Pg 60]in the procedure for opening hepatic cysts. Deep-seated adhesions would form and shut out the lungs securely, and thus probably obviate the necessity for artificial respiration. The pericardium would be reached with comparatively little disturbance, and once exposed, the operator would be able to make a first and important series of observations, before proceeding farther. Finally, he would rend the pericardium, and arrive directly at the heart itself.”

“And kill you!” cried Guy.

“I should die,” I answered composedly, “as men have died after inoculating themselves with the plague; only my death would be more glorious, because incurred for pure science, and in face of a certainty. It is precisely on this account that the act will insure to our names the honor and reverence of all future generations.”

“Nonsense. You will be pitied as a suicide and madman, and I shall be hung at the next assizes.”

“Coward! traitor!” I burst forth in ungovernable passion. “This is the extent of your devotion, then! These your narrow calculations and sordid reckonings! You, the one soul in whom I trusted, the one friend I had in the world capable of appreciating me! Oh, shame on such ingratitude! Oh, miserable me, doomed to such disappointment!”

He was deeply hurt. I saw that I had made some impression upon the hard skepticism with which the world had incased a naturally generous [Pg 61]nature, and pressed my advantage. I poured out a torrent of eloquence, reasoning, prayers, entreaty. I wrestled with him as for the salvation of a soul; the night waned on our hot conversation, and finally, toward three o’clock, when the gray dawn began to point weirdly in the East, I gained the victory. Guy promised to fulfil my wish, at whatever risks to himself, and with the certainty of sacrificing my life in the experiment. On the spot, I drew up a paper testifying that the operation should have been performed at my express command, and stated the reasons in full. To this document, I trusted to obtain in the country the signature of two witnesses sufficiently incurious to sign without reading.

For it was decided that, for the sake of greater secrecy and convenience, we should withdraw to the country, and I selected a locality about four hours’ distance from Paris, where we were both unknown. These details settled, we separated for sleep.

But I think neither of us closed our eyes that night; and Guy was so pale and haggard the next morning that I hardly knew him. During the week that we remained at Paris, making preparations for our departure, he hardly ate, or slept, or spoke, but seemed to waste and droop like a man in the clutch of a fiend. I became anxious. I was afraid he would fall ill, and thus be incapacitated for the performance of his duty.

However, we managed to leave the city without [Pg 62]accident, and installed ourselves in the lonely dwelling I had rented. We hired an old woman from the village to take charge of our housekeeping, and then devoted ourselves to our work. We engaged in a preliminary series of experiments, through which, as through a suite of lesser apartments leading to the throne-room, we were to approach the act that should crown them all.

For the first time since he had been my pupil, I found Guy nervous, maladroit. He turned pale at the sight of blood. The struggling of a pigeon, or the yelp of a dog, seemed to make him sick, and a hundred times he laid down his scalpel as if unable to proceed. He was like a neophyte, and a prey to the sentimental horrors of which, up to this time, his absorbed intellect had been quite unconscious. I trembled. If his nerve should fail him when it became my turn, and the whole costly experiment be thrown away through some awkwardness on his part! I was furious at the very idea, and told him so.

“I will haunt you forever if you fail,” I said, savagely.

“You will in any case,” answered Guy, sighing heavily.

But at my instances, he tried to rouse himself from this inexplicable languor, and to drill hand and eye to exquisite precision. I watched him severely. I refused to pardon the least blunder. I trained him for this last trial, as men train horses for the winning race. Guy was really an [Pg 63]able physiologist, and his skill only needed finishing touches to be as effective as was possible in the actual condition of science. After two or three weeks I was satisfied, and bade him prepare the next day to begin the last experiment.

I shall never forget that day, the supreme moment of my life. I sat at the windows of an inner room, waiting for Guy, and looked out over the valley that basked in the afternoon sunshine. It was the beginning of September—one of those perfect days at the prime of the year, when life has reached its culmination, and pauses in the fulness of its own content. The air, ripe and balmy, purged of the rawness of Spring and the violent heat of Summer, was as yet untouched by the faintest frost, and restored to such perfection as mortals might breathe after the regeneration of the earth. The grain had been gathered in, but the unfallen fruit still weighed down the orchards, and absorbed the sunlight for its mellowing juices. The first press of the harvest season was over, the second had not yet begun; for one precious moment man and nature paused together, and surveyed the long ascent by which the year had climbed to these high table-lands of peace—not innocent peace, ignorant of action, but the peace of victory after conflict, of repose after strife, of maturity entering upon its rewards. In the perfection of these sunful days, all possibility of change seemed to have been outgrown, left far behind in an old, wearisome existence of long ago. The world had entered upon [Pg 64]an eternal blessedness, and the jasper walls of heaven shut it out from harm forever, like coral reefs encircling a lagoon in the Pacific seas. Only by remembering the years that had been before, and the years that should follow after, could the reluctant mind convince itself that this seeming eternity was frail; that whoso lingered too long among the splendors of September would be surely overtaken by treacherous frost, and biting winter winds; that there was but one way to escape the revolting decline from this pinnacle of life—to die. That was my secret. I alone, of all who shivered at approaching winter, had learned how to escape. For me, not only the year, but life itself, should cease at its pinnacle, refusing to go down to a lower place, as a dethroned being prefers death to miserable exile. And with these thoughts, I felt myself possessed by an unutterable calm, such as comes to fever patients when they are dying.

The first day of the experiment little was to be done. I called Guy, who lingered in the laboratory, and bade him apply the first layer of caustic to my breast, over the heart. The little operation required small skill, and this was fortunate, for Guy’s hand trembled so violently, that a delicate manipulation would have been ruined. A drop of the paste fell on my coat-sleeve, and in a few minutes had burned a hole entirely through.

“Look, Guy,” I exclaimed, “through such a window shall you soon gaze at the central mystery of life. I almost envy you the opportunity.”

[Pg 65]

“Oh!” he cried, “if you would but take it! If you would but use me for your experiment, and spare me this dreadful trial!”

He had urged this exchange from the beginning, but of course I would not consent. What! give up my great chance for immortality, surrender my unique place in the history of science and the world? No, indeed; I was already generous in sharing my achievement, in trusting the preservation of my fame to even my most loyal friend. Beyond that it were folly, madness, to go.

“Nonsense,” I replied therefore to this senseless entreaty. “That question has already been sufficiently discussed. Bah! that caustic burns.”

It was necessary to wait three or four days before renewing the caustic to deepen the eschar made by the first application. This delay gradually became intolerable to me,—the more, that Guy prolonged it on a multitude of trivial pretexts. I was finally obliged to resume the direction of affairs, and order him to proceed.

He began to prepare some Vienna paste, but in a slow, dawdling manner that irritated my nerves to the last degree. I snatched the cup from his hand and stirred the caustic myself.

“How many centuries have admired Socrates,” I remarked, “for his theatrical pretence of drinking the hemlock voluntarily. In future ages men will remember with greater admiration how I, with my own hand, prepared the instrument of my death. Do not forget to mention this circumstance in your notes, and add that my hand did not tremble.”

[Pg 66]

I gave the caustic to Guy; but at the same moment the door opened behind us, and he sprang forward with a sudden cry, dashing the cup in pieces on the floor. I turned in angry surprise at the interruption, and saw two men standing in the room. They were perfect strangers to me, but came forward immediately and saluted me with the friendly courtesy of old acquaintance. I even fancied that I detected an intolerable softness in their manner, such as physicians sometimes assume in speaking to sick people. One of the intruders took my passive hand in his, and shook it with unnecessary cordiality, contriving, I think, at the same time to slip his fingers on my wrist, just over the pulse.

My instinct was decidedly in favor of kicking these impertinent fellows down stairs. But so strong is the influence of civilized habit, that I restrained myself to a freezing politeness, inquiring to what I might be indebted for the honor, etc.

“These gentlemen are friends of mine,” interposed Guy, who had stooped on the floor to pick up the broken fragments of the cup, and who did not look at me as he spoke. “They are amateurs in our science, and would be much interested in examining the laboratory that we have installed here. But since they have taken a long journey, and must be hungry, I think we had better first order the déjeuner.”

“The devil!” I muttered inwardly. But at the same moment I reflected that these visitors with [Pg 67]their congenial tastes might serve opportunity as witnesses to the experiment—even be useful in correcting any possible awkwardness in Guy’s manipulation. I therefore addressed them in a tone of cordial hospitality.

“We are at this moment engaged in some researches,” I said, “that cannot fail to interest you, and where, perhaps, you may be of signal service, if you will consent to stay with us awhile and put up with our modest accommodations.”

“You honor our poor abilities,” returned the first stranger, with a bland smile. “We shall be most happy to accept your amiable invitation.”

So we four sat down to the déjeuner, in the most cheerful possible humor. The black stain that burned on my breast stimulated me to a secret exultation; I felt a secret pride in anticipating the wonder of these men, when they should hereafter recall the gayety of my demeanor on this occasion. They, on the other hand, seconded me bravely in the conversation. Not for years had I met with companions so brilliant, witty, and sympathetic. They listened to me with the closest attention, and seemed to find a peculiar charm in the freaks of my fancy, to which, for the moment, I gave the rein.

“These men are capable of appreciating me,” I said to myself, and congratulated my good fortune which had sent them thither.

Then I rose. “Gentlemen,” I said, “I cannot express to you the pleasure that I have derived [Pg 68]from your society. Before we adjourn to the laboratory, allow me, in English fashion, to propose a toast.”

“Wait a moment,” said Guy, breaking the sullen silence he had hitherto maintained. “I ordered some Burgundy from Paris the other day, and it arrived this morning.”

He left the room, and presently returned with an uncorked bottle in his hand, which he set before me. I fancied, as he did so, that he looked rather significantly at the two strangers, but politeness forbade me to express my suspicion. I poured out the wine, and pushed the glasses to my companions.

“Drink,” I cried, “to the experiment that shall open a new era in science, and to the man that shall inaugurate a new revolution in the world.” And I drained my glass.

Whether or no the others followed my example, I cannot tell; for almost immediately I felt a subtle fire course through my veins, followed by a delicious languor that crept inwards to my heart, and seemed to arrest its pulsation by an irresistible persuasiveness to repose. Probably I swooned, for I lost all consciousness, and all recollection of time or place for many hours.

When I came to myself, I was a prisoner in this cursed asylum at Charenton.

—Guy had betrayed me,—the false friend,—the poltroon,—and I, who trusted him too much, had [Pg 69]fallen a victim to his stratagems. Whether he had been true to me at the beginning, and then had faltered at the last, or whether he had deceived me all along with affected complaisance, I never knew. For when he came to see me one day, my just resentment excited me to such a paroxysm of fury that the people here recommended him not to return, and I have never seen him since. So here I sit, in forced idleness, waiting for the arrival of some one who shall appreciate my great idea, and release me for its accomplishment. The people by whom I am surrounded are kind enough, but ignorant; they admire me, but are unable to understand me. So they bind me in silken chains, and clasp them with honeyed words, and I remain a prisoner. It is thus that the world rewards its greatest benefactors!

[Pg 70]


By J. S. of Dale, Author of “Guerndale.”

Century Magazine, November, 1883.

The great Pasterzen glacier rises in Western Austria, and flows into Carinthia, and is fourteen or seventeen miles long, as you measure it from its birth in the snow-field, or from where it begins to move from the higher snows and its active course is marked by the first wrinkle. It flows in a straight, steady sweep, a grand avenue, guarded by giant mountains, steep and wide; a prototype, huge and undesigned, of the giants’ stairway in the Venice palace. No known force can block its path; it would need a cataclysm to reverse its progress. What falls upon it moves with it, what lies beneath it moves with it—down to the polished surface of the earth’s frame, laid bare; no blade of grass grows so slowly as it moves, no meteor of the air is so irresistible. Its substant ice curls freely, moulds, and breaks itself like water,—breaks [Pg 71]in waves, plastic like honey, crested lightly with a frozen spray; it winds tenderly about the rocky shore, and the granite, disintegrated into crumbs, flows on with it. All this so quietly that busy, officious little Man lived a score of thousand years before he noticed even that the glacier moved.

Now, however, men have learned to congregate upon its shores, and admire. Scientists stick staves in the ground (not too near, lest the earth should move with it), and appraise the majesty of its motion; ladies, politely mystified, give little screams of pleased surprise; young men, secretly exultant, pace the yard or two between the sticks, a distance that takes the frozen stream a year to compass, and look out upon it half contemptuously. Then they cross it—carefully, they have enough respect left for that—with their cunningly nailed shoes and a rope; an hour or two they dally with it, till at last, being hungry and cold, they walk to the inn for supper. At supper they tell stories of their prowess, pay money to the guides who have protected them, and fall asleep after tea with weariness. Meantime, the darkness falls outside; but the white presence of the glacier breaks the night, and strange shapes unseen of men dance in its ashen hollows. It is so old that the realms of death and life conflict; change is on the surface, but immortality broods in the deeper places. The moon rises and sinks; the glacier moves silently, like a timepiece marking the centuries, grooving the record of [Pg 72]its being on the world itself,—a feature to be read and studied by far-off generations of some other world. The glacier has a light of its own, and gleams to stars above, and the great Glockner mountain flings his shadow of the planets in its face.

Mrs. Knollys was a young English bride, sunny-haired, hopeful-eyed, with lips that parted to make you love them,—parted before they smiled, and all the soft regions of her face broke into attendant dimples. And then, lest you should think it meant for you, she looked quickly up to “Charles,” as she would then call him even to strangers, and Charles looked down to her. Charles was a short foot taller, with much the same hair and eyes, thick flossy whiskers, broad shoulders, and a bass voice. This was in the days before political economy cut Hymen’s wings. Charles, like Mary, had little money, but great hopes; and he was clerk in a government office, with a friendly impression of everybody and much trust in himself. And old Harry Colquhoun, his chief, had given them six weeks to go to Switzerland and be happy in, all in celebration of Charles Knollys’s majority and marriage to his young wife. So they had both forgotten heaven for the nonce, having a passable substitute; but the powers divine overlooked them pleasantly and forgave it. And even the phlegmatic driver of their Einspänner looked back from the corner of his eye at the schöne Engländerin, and compared her mentally with the far-famed beauty of the Königssee. [Pg 73]So they rattled on in their curious conveyance, with the pole in the middle and the one horse out on one side, and still found more beauty in each other’s eyes than in the world about them. Although Charles was only one and twenty, Mary Knollys was barely eighteen, and to her he seemed godlike in his age, as in all other things. Her life had been as simple as it had been short. She remembered being a little girl, and then the next thing that occurred was Charles Knollys, and positively the next thing she remembered of importance was being Mrs. Charles Knollys; so that old Mrs. Knollys, her guardian aunt and his, had first called her a love of a baby, and then but a baby in love. All this, of course, was five and forty years ago, for you know how old she was when she went again to Switzerland last summer—three and sixty.

They first saw the great mountains from the summit of the Schafberg. This is a little height, three-cornered, between three lakes; a natural Belvedere for Central Europe. Mr. and Mrs. Knollys were seated on a couch of Alpine roses behind a rhododendron bush watching the sunset; but as Charles was desirous of kissing Mrs. Knollys, and the rhododendron bush was not thick enough, they were waiting for the sun to go down. He was very slow in doing this, and by way of consolation Knollys was keeping his wife’s hand hidden in the folds of her dress. Undoubtedly a modern lady would have been talking of the scenery, giving word-color pictures of the view; but I am afraid Mrs. Knollys [Pg 74]had been looking at her husband, and talking with him of the cottage they had bought in a Surrey village, not far from Box Hill, and thinking how the little carvings and embroideries would look there which they had bought abroad. And, indeed, Mrs. Charles secretly thought Box Hill an eminence far preferable to the Venediger, and Charles’s face an infinitely more interesting sight than any lake, however expressive. But the sun, looking askance at them through the lower mist, was not jealous; all the same he spread his glory lavishly for them, and the bright little mirror of a lake twinkled cannily upward from below. Finally it grew dark; then there was less talking. It was full night when they went in, she leaning on his arm and looking up; and the moonbeam on the snowy shoulder of the Glockner, twenty leagues away, came over, straight-way, from the mountain to her face. Three days later, Charles Knollys, crossing with her the lower portion of the Pasterzen glacier, slipped into a crevasse, and vanished utterly from the earth.


All this you know. And I was also told more of the young girl, bride and widow at eighteen; how she sought to throw herself into the clear blue gulf; how she refused to leave Heiligenblut; how she would sit, tearless, by the rim of the crevasse, [Pg 75]day after day, and gaze into its profundity. A guide or man was always with her at these times, for it was still feared she would follow her young husband to the depths of that still sea. Her aunt went over from England to her; the summer waxed; autumn storms set in; but no power could win her from the place whence Charles had gone.

If there was a time worse for her than that first moment, it was when they told her that his body never could be found. They did not dare to tell her this for many days, but busied themselves with idle cranes and ladders, and made futile pretences with ropes. Some of the big, simple-hearted guides even descended into the chasm, absenting themselves for an hour or so, to give her an idea that something was being done. Poor Mrs. Knollys would have followed them had she been allowed, to wander through the purple galleries, calling Charles. It was well she could not; for all Kaspar could do was to lower himself a hundred yards or so, chisel out a niche, and stand in it, smoking his honest pipe to pass the time, and trying to fancy he could hear the murmur of the waters down below. Meantime Mrs. Knollys strained her eyes, peering downward from above, leaning on the rope about her waist, looking over the clear brink of the bergschrund.

It was the Herr Doctor Zimmermann who first told her the truth. Not that the good Doctor meant to do so. The Herr Doctor had had his attention turned to glaciers by some rounded stones [Pg 76]in his garden by the Traunsee, and more particularly by the Herr Privatdocent Splüthner. Splüthner, like Uncle Toby, had his hobby-horse, his pet conjuring words, his gods ex machinâ, which he brought upon the field in scientific emergencies; and these gods, as with Thales, were Fire and Water. Craters and flood were his accustomed scapegoats, upon whose heads were charged all things unaccountable; and the Herr Doctor, who had only one element left to choose from, and that a passive one, but knew, on general principles, that Splüthner must be wrong, got as far off as he could and took Ice. And Splüthner having pooh-poohed this, Zimmermann rode his hypothesis with redoubled zeal. He became convinced that ice was the embodiment of orthodoxy. Fixing his professional spectacles on his substantial nose, he went into Carinthia and ascended the great Venice mountains, much as he would have performed any other scientific experiment. Then he encamped on the shores of the Pasterzen glacier, and proceeded to make a study of it.

So it happened that the Doctor, taking a morning stroll over the subject of his experiment, in search of small things which might verify his theory, met Mrs. Knollys sitting in her accustomed place. The Doctor had been much puzzled, that morning, on finding in a rock at the foot of the glacier the impression, or sign-manual as it were, of a certain fish, whose acquaintance the Doctor had previously made only in tropical seas. This fact seeming, superficially, [Pg 77]to chime in with Splüthnerian mistakes in a most heterodox way, the Doctor’s mind had for a moment been diverted from the ice; and he was wondering what the fish had been going to do in that particular gallery, and secretly doubting whether it had known its own mind, and gone thither with the full knowledge and permission of its maternal relative. Indeed, the good Doctor would probably have ascribed its presence to the malicious and personal causation of the devil, but that the one point on which he and Splüthner were agreed was the ignoring of unscientific hypotheses. The Doctor’s objections to the devil were none the less strenuous for being purely scientific.

Thus ruminating, the Doctor came to the crevasse where Mrs. Knollys was sitting, and to which a little path had now been worn from the inn. There was nothing of scientific interest about the fair young English girl, and the Doctor did not notice her; but he took from his waistcoat-pocket a leaden bullet, moulded by himself, and marked “Johannes Carpentarius, Juvavianus, A. U. C. 2590,” and dropped it, with much satisfaction, into the crevasse. Mrs. Knollys gave a little cry; the bullet was heard for some seconds tinkling against the sides of the chasm; the tinkles grew quickly fainter, but they waited in vain for the noise of the final fall. “May the Splüthner live that he may learn by it,” muttered the Doctor; “I can never recover it.”

Then he remembered that the experiment had [Pg 78]been attended with a sound unaccounted for by the conformity of the bullet to the laws of gravitation; and looking up he saw Mrs. Knollys in front of him, no longer crying, but very pale. Zimmermann started, and in his confusion dropped his best brass registering thermometer, which also rattled down the abyss.

“You say,” whispered Mrs. Knollys, “that it can never be recovered!”

“Madam,” spoke the Doctor, doffing his hat, “how would you recofer from a blace when the smallest approximation which I haf yet been able to make puts the depth from the surface to the bed of the gletscher at vrom sixteen hundred to sixteen hundred and sixty mètres in distance?” Doctor Zimmermann spoke very good English; and he pushed his hat upon the back of his head, and assumed his professional attitude.

“But they all were trying——” Mrs. Knollys spoke faintly. “They said that they hoped he could be recovered.” The stranger was the oldest gentleman she had seen, and Mrs. Knollys felt almost like confiding in him. “Oh, I must have the—the body.” She closed in a sob; but the Herr Doctor caught at the last word, and this suggested to him only the language of scientific experiment.

“Recofer it? If, madam,” Zimmermann went on with all the satisfaction attendant on the enunciation of a scientific truth, “we take a body and drop it in the schrund of this gletscher; and the ice-stream moves so slower at its base than on the upper [Pg 79]part, and the ice will cover it; efen if we could reach the base, which is a mile in depth. Then, see you, it is all caused by the motion of the ice——”

But at this Mrs. Knollys had given a faint cry, and her guide rushed up angrily to the old professor, who stared helplessly forward. “God will help me, sir,” said she to the Doctor, and she gave the guide her arm and walked wearily away.

The professor still stared in amazement at her enthusiasm for scientific experiment and the passion with which she greeted his discoveries. Here was a person who utterly refused to be referred to the agency of ice, or even, like Splüthner, of Fire and Water; and went out of the range of allowable hypotheses to call upon a Noumenon. Now both Splüthner and Zimmermann had studied all natural agencies and made allowance for them, but for the Divine they had always hitherto proved an alibi. The Doctor could make nothing of it.

At the inn that evening he saw Mrs. Knollys with swollen eyes; and remembering the scene of the afternoon, he made inquiries about her of the innkeeper. The latter had heard the guide’s account of the meeting; and as soon as Zimmermann had made plain what he had told her of the falling body, “Triple blockhead!” said he. “Es war ihr Mann.” The Herr Professor staggered back into his seat; and the kindly innkeeper ran upstairs to see what had happened to his poor young guest.

Mrs. Knollys had recovered from the first shock by this time, but the truth could no longer be withheld. [Pg 80]The innkeeper could but nod his head sadly, when she told him that to recover her Charles was hopeless. All the guides said the same thing. The poor girl’s husband had vanished from the world as utterly as if his body had been burned to ashes and scattered in the pathway of the winds. Charles Knollys was gone, utterly gone; no more to be met with by his girl-wife, save as spirit to spirit, soul to soul, in ultramundane place. The fair-haired young Englishman lived but in her memory, as his soul, if still existent, lived in places indeterminate, unknowable to Doctor Zimmermann and his compeers. Slowly Mrs. Knollys acquired the belief that she was never to see her Charles again. Then, at last, she resolved to go—to go home. Her strength now gave way; and when her aunt left she had with her but the ghost of Mrs. Knollys—a broken figure, drooping in the carriage, veiled in black. The innkeeper and all the guides stood bare-headed, silent, about the door, as the carriage drove off, bearing the bereaved widow back to England.


When the Herr Doctor had heard the innkeeper’s answer, he sat for some time with his hands planted on his knees, looking through his spectacles at the opposite wall. Then he lifted one hand and struck [Pg 81]his brow impatiently. It was his way, when a chemical reaction had come out wrong.

“Triple blockhead!” said he; “triple blockhead, thou art so bad as Splüthner.” No self-condemnation could have been worse to him than this. Thinking again of Mrs. Knollys, he gave one deep, gruff sob. Then he took his hat, and going out, wandered by the shore of the glacier in the night, repeating to himself the Englishwoman’s words: “They said that they hoped he could be recovered.” Zimmermann came to the tent where he kept his instruments, and stood there, looking at the sea of ice. He went to his measuring pegs, two rods of iron: one sunk deep and frozen in the glacier, the other drilled into a rock on the shore. “Triple blockhead!” said he again, “thou art worse than Splüthner. The Splüthner said the glacier did not move; thou, thou knowest that it does.” He sighted from his rods to the mountain opposite. There was a slight and all but imperceptible change of direction from the day before.

He could not bear to see the English girl again, and all the next day was absent from the inn. For a month he stopped at Heiligenblut, and busied himself with his instruments. The guides of the place greeted him coldly every day, as they started on their glacier excursions or their chamois hunting. But none the less did Zimmermann return the following summer, and work upon his great essay in refutation of the Splüthner.

Mrs. Knollys went back to the little cottage in [Pg 82]Surrey, and lived there. The chests and cases she brought back lay unopened in the store-room; the little rooms of the cottage that was to be their home remained bare and unadorned, as Charles had seen them last. She could not bring herself to alter them now. What she had looked forward to do with him she had no strength to do alone. She rarely went out. There was no place where she could go to think of him. He was gone; gone from England, gone from the very surface of the earth. If he had only been buried in some quiet English churchyard, she thought,—some green place lying open to the sun, where she could go and scatter flowers on his grave, where she could sit and look forward amid her tears to the time when she should lie side by side with him,—they would then be separated for her short life alone. Now it seemed to her that they were far apart forever.

But late the next summer she had a letter from the place. It was from Dr. Zimmermann. There is no need here to trace the quaint German phrases, the formalism, the cold terms of science in which he made his meaning plain. It spoke of erosion; of the movement of the summer; of the action of the under-waters on the ice. And it told her, with tender sympathy oddly blended with the pride of scientific success, that he had given a year’s most careful study to the place; with all his instruments of measurement he had tested the relentless glacier’s flow; and it closed by assuring her that her husband might yet be found—in five and forty [Pg 83]years. In five and forty years—the poor professor staked his scientific reputation on the fact—in five and forty years she might return, and the glacier would give up its dead.

This letter made Mrs. Knollys happier. It made her willing to live; it made her almost long to live until old age—that her Charles’s body might be given back. She took heart to beautify her little home. The trifling articles she had bought with Charles were now brought out,—the little curiosities and pictures he had given her on their wedding journey. She would ask how such and such a thing looked, turning her pretty head to some kind visitor, as she ranged them on the walls; and now and then she would have to lay the picture down and cry a little, silently, as she remembered where Charles had told her it would look best. Still, she sought to furnish the rooms as they had planned them in their mind; she made her surroundings, as nearly as she could, as they had pictured them together. One room she never went into; it was the room Charles had meant to have for the nursery. She had no child.

But she changed, as we all change, with the passing of the years. I first remember her as a woman middle-aged, sweet-faced, hardly like a widow, nor yet like an old maid. She was rather like a young girl in love, with her lover absent on a long journey. She lived more with the memory of her husband, she clung to him more, than if she had had a child. She never married; you would have guessed [Pg 84]that; but, after the Professor’s letter, she never quite seemed to realize that her husband was dead. Was he not coming back to her?

Never in all my knowledge of dear English women have I known a woman so much loved. In how many houses was she always the most welcome guest! How often we boys would go to her for sympathy! I know she was the confidante of all our love affairs. I cannot speak for girls; but I fancy she was much the same with them. Many of us owed our life’s happiness to her. She would chide us gently in our pettiness and folly, and teach us, by her very presence and example, what thing it was that alone could keep life sweet. How well we all remember the little Surrey cottage, the little home fireside where the husband had never been! I think she grew to imagine his presence, even the presence of children: boys, curly-headed, like Charles, and sweet, blue-eyed daughters; and the fact that it was all imagining seemed but to make the place more holy. Charles still lived to her as she had believed him in the month that they were married; he lived through life with her as her young love had fancied he would be. She never thought of evil that might have occurred; of failing affection, of cares. Her happiness was in her mind alone; so all the earthly part was absent.

There were but two events in her life—that which was past and that which was to come. She had lived through his loss; now she lived on for his recovery. But, as I have said, she changed, as all [Pg 85]things mortal change; all but the earth and the ice-stream and the stars above it. She read much, and her mind grew deep and broad, none the less gentle with it all; she was wiser in the world; she knew the depths of human hope and sorrow. You remember her only as an old lady whom we loved. Only her heart did not change—I forgot that; her heart, and the memory of that last loving smile upon his face, as he bent down to look into her eyes, before he slipped and fell. She lived on, and waited for his body, as possibly his other self—who knows?—waited for hers. As she grew older she grew taller; her eyes were quieter, her hair a little straighter, darker than of yore; her face changed, only the expression remained the same. Mary Knollys!

Human lives rarely look more than a year, or five, ahead; Mary Knollys looked five and forty. Many of us wait, and grow weary in waiting, for those few years alone, and for some living friend. Mary Knollys waited five and forty years—for the dead. Still, after that first year, she never wore all black; only silvery grays, and white with a black ribbon or two. I have said that she almost seemed to think her husband living. She would fancy his doing this and that with her; how he would joy in this good fortune, or share her sorrows—which were few, mercifully. His memory seemed to be a living thing to her, to go through life with her, hand in hand; it changed as she grew old; it altered itself to suit her changing thought; until the very [Pg 86]memory of her memory seemed to make it sure that he had really been alive with her, really shared her happiness or sorrow, in the far-off days of her earliest widowhood. It hardly seemed that he had been gone already then—she remembered him so well. She could not think that he had never been with her in their little cottage. And now, at sixty, I know she thought of him as an old person too; sitting by their fireside, late in life, mature, deep-souled, wise with the wisdom of years, going back with her, fondly, to recall the old, old happiness of their bridal journey, when they set off for the happy honeymoon abroad, and the long life now past stretched brightly out before them both. She never spoke of this, and you children never knew it; but it was always in her mind.

There was a plain stone in the little Surrey churchyard, now gray and moss-grown with the rains of forty years, on which you remember reading: “Charles Knollys—lost in Carinthia”——This was all she would have inscribed; he was but lost; no one knew that he was dead. Was he not yet to be found? There was no grassy mound beside it; the earth was smooth. Not even the date was there. But Mrs. Knollys never went to read it. She waited until he should come; until that last journey, repeating the travels of their wedding-days, when she should go to Germany to bring him home.

So the woman’s life went on in England, and the glacier in the Alps moved on slowly; and the woman waited for it to be gone.

[Pg 87]


In the summer of 1882, the little Carinthian village of Heiligenblut was haunted by two persons. One was a young German scientist, with long hair and spectacles; the other was a tall English lady, slightly bent, with a face wherein the finger of time had deeply written tender things. Her hair was white as silver, and she wore a long black veil. Their habits were strangely similar. Every morning, when the eastern light shone deepest into the ice-cavern at the base of the great Pasterzen glacier, these two would walk thither; then both would sit for an hour or two and peer into its depths. Neither knew why the other was there. The woman would go back for an hour in the late afternoon; the man, never. He knew that the morning light was necessary for his search.

The man was the famous young Zimmermann, son of his father, the old Doctor, long since dead. But the Herr Doctor had written a famous tract, when late in life, refuting all Splüthners, past, present, and to come; and had charged his son, in his dying moments, as a most sacred trust, that he should repair to the base of the Pasterzen glacier in the year 1882, where he would find a leaden bullet, graven with his father’s name, and the date A. U. C. 2590. All this would be vindication of his father’s science. Splüthner, too, was a very old [Pg 88]man, and Zimmermann the younger (for even he was no longer young) was fearful lest Splüthner should not live to witness his own refutation. The woman and the man never spoke to each other.

Alas, no one could have known Mrs. Knollys for the fair English girl who had been there in the young days of the century; not even the innkeeper, had he been there. But he, too, was long since dead. Mrs. Knollys was now bent and white-haired; she had forgotten, herself, how she had looked in those old days. Her life had been lived. She was now like a woman of another world; it seemed another world in which her fair hair had twined about her husband’s fingers, and she and Charles had stood upon the evening mountain, and looked in one another’s eyes. That was the world of her wedding-days, but it seemed more like a world she had left when born on earth. And now he was coming back to her in this. Meantime the great Pasterzen glacier had moved on, marking only the centuries; the men upon its borders had seen no change; the same great waves lifted their snowy heads upon its surface; the same crevasse still was where he had fallen. At night, the moonbeams, falling, still shivered off its glassy face; its pale presence filled the night, and immortality lay brooding in its hollows.

Friends were with Mrs. Knollys, but she left them at the inn. One old guide remembered her, and asked to bear her company. He went with her in the morning, and sat a few yards from her, [Pg 89]waiting. In the afternoon she went alone. He would not have credited you, had you told him that the glacier moved. He thought it but an Englishwoman’s fancy, but he waited with her. Himself had never forgotten that old day. And Mrs. Knollys sat there silently, searching the clear depths of the ice, that she might find her husband.

One night she saw a ghost. The latest beam of the sun, falling on a mountain opposite, had shone back into the ice-cavern; and seemingly deep within, in the grave azure light, she fancied she saw a face turned toward her. She even thought she saw Charles’s yellow hair, and the self-same smile his lips had worn when he bent down to her before he fell. It could be but a fancy. She went home, and was silent with her friends about what had happened. In the moonlight she went back, and again the next morning before dawn. She told no one of her going; but the old guide met her at the door, and walked silently behind her. She had slept, the glacier ever present in her dreams.

The sun had not yet risen when she came; and she sat a long time in the cavern, listening to the murmur of the river, flowing under the glacier at her feet. Slowly the dawn began, and again she seemed to see the shimmer of a face—such a face as one sees in the coals of a dying fire. Then the full sun came over the eastern mountain, and the guide heard a woman’s cry. There before her was Charles Knollys! The face seemed hardly pale; and there was the same faint smile—a smile like her [Pg 90]memory of it, five and forty years gone by. Safe in the clear ice, still, unharmed, there lay—O God! not her Charles; not the Charles of her own thought, who had lived through life with her and shared her sixty years; not the old man she had borne thither in her mind—but a boy, a boy of one and twenty lying asleep, a ghost from another world coming to confront her from the distant past, immortal in the immortality of the glacier. There was his quaint coat, of the fashion of half a century before; his blue eyes open; his young, clear brow; all the form of the past she had forgotten; and she his bride stood there to welcome him, with her wrinkles, her bent figure, and thin white hairs. She was living, he was dead; and she was two and forty years older than he.

Then at last the long-kept tears came to her, and she bent her white head in the snow. The old man came up with his pick, silently, and began working in the ice. The woman lay weeping, and the boy with his still, faint smile, lay looking at them, through the clear ice-veil, from his open eyes.

I believe that the Professor found his bullet; I know not. I believe that the scientific world rang with his name and the thesis that he published on the glacier’s motion, and the changeless temperature his father’s lost thermometer had shown. All this you may read. I know no more.

But I know that in the English churchyard there are now two graves, and a single stone, to Charles Knollys and Mary, his wife; and the boy of one [Pg 91]and twenty sleeps there with his bride of sixty-three: his young frame with her old one, his yellow hair beside her white. And I do not know that there is not some place, not here, where they are still together, and he is twenty-one and she is still eighteen. I do not know this; but I know that all the pamphlets of the German doctor cannot tell me it is false.

Meantime the great Pasterzen glacier moves on, and the rocks with it; and the mountain flings his shadow of the planets in its face.

[Pg 92]



By John Eddy.

“The work of feeding, you must understand,
Was but a fraction of the work in hand.”

Atlantic Monthly, November, 1872.

In the year of grace 1855 there resided at the fashionable end of one of the largest of our Eastern cities, a person who will be called for the purpose of this article Bernon Burchard. He is not a myth, but a veritable person. For fifteen years he had been a practising lawyer, and had risen to eminence in his profession. His personal appearance was fine and prepossessing. His mind was clear, vigorous, and well-stored with varied learning. His sense of honor was pure and discriminating, and like the president of the Jewish Sanhedrim in the days of Caius Cæsar, he “was [Pg 93]had in reputation of all the people.” He was blessed with a capacious soul, and seemed naturally inclined to acts of benevolence and generosity. In society he held the foremost rank, and was fitted by birthright, education, and taste for the highest social position. His noble nature, his wit and learning and generous flow of spirits, united to complete a most pleasing and model gentleman.

At this time, upon the old estate in Lancashire, England, from which the first of the Burchards in this country emigrated in 1630, there resided Winfield Burchard, who dispensed generous hospitality to all the American kindred who made pilgrimage to fatherland. Mr. Bernon Burchard in particular, of all the name, had special occasion for holding the said Winfield in lasting remembrance and esteem for the many and great favors bestowed upon him and his immediate family during a series of years,—favors which were rendered doubly pleasing because it was nearly certain from the age and infirmities of the host that the branch of the family on this side of the Atlantic would never have the opportunity of reciprocating the favors in kind.

At a certain period in the year first mentioned, when Bernon Burchard’s enthusiasm was all aglow for his English namesake, there called upon him the Rev. Mr. Malcolm of Oxford, with a letter of introduction from Winfield, wherein he commended his nephew to the attention of Mr. Bernon for his many virtues and acquirements.

[Pg 94]

He was cordially received, and Mr. Bernon Burchard at once determined to show his new cousin every mark of consideration and attention, as some slight token of the regard in which he held the writer of the letter.

In personal appearance the Rev. Mr. Malcolm was of average height, of a lymphatic temperament, and of modest and retiring manners. His brown hair shaded bright hazel eyes, which under embarrassment or surprise flew about with remarkable rapidity, and occasionally gave his countenance a wildness of expression. He showed at least a smattering of a variety of knowledge; he had evidently enjoyed the acquaintance of many of the conspicuous men in Europe, and had the air of a man who had seen much of the world.

Among other efforts for the entertainment of the Rev. Mr. Malcolm, and the only one pertinent to the object of this article, was a grand dinner-party, which surpassed all others that had ever been given in the city, both for the elegance and sumptuousness of the feast and the wit and learning displayed by the distinguished guests, as well as in another particular which it is our purpose to unfold.

There were present, besides the Rev. Mr. Malcolm, a learned Doctor of Divinity, famous for his proficiency in the Hebrew language and in Rabbinical lore, and who was at times greatly embarrassed because of his inability to hold what he deemed a proper restraint over his risibles. There [Pg 95]was also a professor of Greek literature, who delighted in the tragedies, especially of Euripides and Sophocles, but who had, nevertheless, a keen relish for the humorous. He was accustomed among scholars to quote certain old Latin and Greek authors who were seldom read, and it was a frequent remark among the learned, with a sly wink of the eye, that our professor had access to some books which other less favored literati had never seen. There was present a brace of literary gentlemen of ready memories and wits, who contributed largely to the enjoyment of the occasion, besides several lawyers of distinction, who as a class are always to be relied upon when festivity offers them a retainer; a Senator, who was grave and dignified; a Right Reverend, who was quite the contrary; a physiognomist and expert in handwriting, who was the gravest of all, and naturally so as he was intent on taking rather than making observations; and several others, who, to say the least, were good listeners.

In Vespasian’s time entertainments were first given præcise, and Mr. Burchard’s guests arrived at almost the same moment. As the physiognomist paid his respects to the host the Rev. Mr. Malcolm stood upon his right, and at the same moment the man who had the ordering of the feast, formerly called the butler, stood upon his left offering him a rolled-up napkin, which was the mode of announcing the readiness of the repast in the days of the Cæsars. This man with a napkin under his [Pg 96]arm led the way to the dining-room, and Mr. Burchard brought up the rear, also an invariable rule for an “amphitrion” in the times of the gourmands.

While the convives were passing through the hall, Mr. Sidney, the physiognomist and expert, seemed disinclined to proceed. Mr. Burchard, supposing him to feel somewhat overawed in the presence of so wise a conclave, hurried him along, while Mr. Sidney whispered in his ear, “With all respect, sir, you are more blind than Bartimeus.”

Mr. Sidney has been heretofore described in the pages of the Atlantic Monthly in these words, “His counterpart in personal appearance you may find in the thoroughfares at any hour of the day. There is nothing about him to attract attention. He is nearly forty-five years of age, and weighs perhaps two hundred pounds. His face is florid and his hair sandy. His eyes are small, piercing, and gray. His motions are slow, and none are made without a purpose. The wrinkles in his lips are at right angles with his mouth, and a close observer might detect in his countenance self-reliance, and tenacity of will and purpose.”

One of the most important personages present, and one who contributed largely to the success or non-success of the feast, was Mr. Burchard’s major-domo Maguire, the same who handed the napkin to Mr. Burchard when Mr. Sidney entered the drawing-room. For eight years he had resided in the family, and had endeared himself to the [Pg 97]whole household by the kindness of his heart, his devotion to the interests of his employer, and by his perfection of knowledge in every art which relates to an entertainment and the customs which prevail in refined society. He was small in stature, of dark complexion, smooth face, subdued expression of countenance, very quiet in his manners, and aged about forty-five.

The Rev. Mr. Malcolm, most tastefully attired, was seated on the right of the host, and said grace in the most approved English formula and with distinct enunciation. The Doctor of Divinity sat on the left. Beside his plate was a bill of fare beautifully executed in Hebrew (much to the surprise of the host and to the credit of Maguire). The doctor’s attempt at translating the same into English afforded not a little amusement, he being not particularly successful in the effort. Indeed, he was so perplexed thereby when pressed by the Professor of Greek, that he could not conceal his annoyance, and the whole company were equally excited lest the professor should press the Rabbin so far as to mar the harmony of the occasion. It was beginning to be painfully embarrassing, when the doctor discovered beside the professor’s plate a similar bill of fare equally well executed in Greek, and the doctor begged leave to inquire of him, “What is the difference between artos (bread) and azumos (biscuit), and in what respect do the tyrontes and dolyres and typhes and placites and melitutes differ?”

[Pg 98]

The professor became at once so confused as to put the whole company and the Rabbin in particular in the best of humor and indeed in almost uncontrollable laughter.

“And what, if you please,” further inquired the great Hebrew, “were those highly flavored arto laganos and the escarites which the Epicureans are said to have relished so highly that they could devour them even after the operation had become distressing?”

The professor’s pale face had changed to the color of a lobster’s back, and those who had been so painfully perplexed by the discomfiture of the doctor were now carried to the other extreme by beholding him tear the weapon from his own flesh and hurl it with such effect against the attacking party. Again the excitement was becoming too exquisite for enjoyment. Nothing could have been more graceful than the turn that was given to the conversation by the Rev. Mr. Malcolm in sliding it off into a description of the Athenian matrons and maidens vying with each other in the markets in the sale of their seventy-two different kinds of bread and the conventional phrases which they were accustomed to use. As Mr. Malcolm repeated the calls with graceful and descriptive action, and the professor, who had recovered his equanimity, interpreted readily, the whole company could see in their mind’s eye the girls and the matrons in the market of Athens who more than seventeen hundred years ago had called aloud [Pg 99]their “melitutes sweetened with the delicious honey of Mount Hymettus, and tyrontes made of flour baked with cheese.” If there was any lack of dignity in the reverend gentleman in his vivacious description, or in the change of his voice to distinguish the girl from the woman, it was credited to his sagacity and readiness to turn a bold corner in order to efface the fear and apprehension that had preceded. It also gave our professor an opportunity to translate what a few moments before he had been too much confused to do.

Then came a glowing description of the venders of bread in ancient Rome and of the manners of the Ædiles in their daily round among the bakers and bread-stands. Here again Mr. Malcolm was exceedingly happy in his imitations both of the manners of the Ædiles and their remarks as they passed along, giving a tableau vivant that was quite unique and very descriptive and enjoyable.

The Right Reverend who was present made a historical reference to King Numa, and in the same connection declared that bread-making was as old as the human race. Malcolm smiled, and looked about so queerly that one of our literary friends offered him a penny. He was evidently confused, and seemed in doubt when another offered to make it twopence.

“I have always supposed,” said Malcolm very modestly, “that the Romans for five centuries were pultiphagists, and that Megalarte and Megalomanze were the first bread-makers,” and then, [Pg 100]not a little to the gratification of the professor, he quoted from an author whom the professor had before then enjoyed alone, and whom some of the company had thought to have been fictitious. He added that in Numa’s time no bread had been made, and he quoted again from some unheard-of philosopher who declared that “invalids would become numerous in Rome should they cease to be pultiphagists and become eaters of bread.”

The countenance of the Right Reverend fell somewhat, and Malcolm and the professor drew closer together, and for a while took the lead of the conversation and in the entertainment of the company. The professor seemed enraptured at finding so proficient a Latin and Greek scholar, and one so familiar with the characters he had hitherto monopolized. Archilus, Acestius, Stephanus and Phisistion were superb. Mithaceus on Hotch-potch, Agis on Pickled Broom-buds, Hegesippus on Black-pudding, Crito on Soused Mackerel, were joyously hit off in turn, after which Malcolm began a description of the luxury of living in Trajan’s reign.

The greatest of all cooks, Apicius, was introduced as the author of several of the dishes which had so graced the pending feast. Then followed the brilliant kitcheners of Rome when foreign luxury was introduced into the empire from Asia, and as the procession passed along in grand review, some of the bon mots of each were repeated, followed by the hearty laugh of the guests. Of these [Pg 101]Pantaleon, Epiricus, Epenetus, Zophon, Chius, and Tyndaricus, whom Pliny styled “the gulf of all youth,” received the most attention.

Paulus Æmilius, whose three days’ triumph in Rome was graced by the captive monarch of Macedonia, came in for his share of honor for his declaration that “there is equal skill in bringing an army into the field and the setting forth of a feast, inasmuch as one is to annoy your enemy and the other to please your friend.”

Many instances of the great men of antiquity being engaged in cooking were recited: the cook of Charlemagne was the leader of his armies,—Patrocles, the geographer and governor of Syria under Seleucus and Antiochus, peeled onions,—the heroic Ulysses roasted a sirloin of beef,—the godlike Achilles washed cabbages,—Cincinnatus boiled the turnips upon which he dined,—the great Condé fried pancakes,—Curius Dentatus, who twice enjoyed the honors of a triumph, was found cooking peas in an earthen pot.

Then followed a description of the luxury brought to Rome after the conquest of Asia, with talk of the edicts of Archian, Faunian, Didian, and others for its suppression,—the expense of a single meal being limited by imperial mandate to centenos asses,—of the resistance offered to these decrees by Durenius and others, and of bills of fare (first introduced by Vitellius). Most of the company had heard enough of this kind of conversation, and had turned their attention to the professor, who seemed [Pg 102]transported with delight, especially when Malcolm quoted from Diocles on sweet-breads, Hicesius on potted pigeons, and Dionysius on sugar sops.

From that day to the present time the professor has not ceased to inquire with profound admiration for that accomplished gentleman and ripe scholar and antiquarian, confidently expecting that he is yet to honor some of the great universities of the Old World, or that he is to be raised to some exalted position in the Church of England.

It would be very agreeable to the writer to be allowed to communicate some of the hits and repartees which were tossed about the table, and which are omitted because unnecessary to the question in hand. There was, however, one other subject discussed which awakened a lively interest and is appropriate to the sequence.

Mr. Malcolm started the inquiry whether it was consistent with the highest virtue and religion for a lawyer to accept a retainer and to act as counsel for a man accused of crime, when he knew or had reasonable cause to believe his client guilty of the offence charged. The lawyers, one and all, responded in the affirmative. Mr. Malcolm, as if in doubt, contented himself with inquiries. The Right Reverend and the Rabbin were decidedly opposed to the opinion of the bar. The subject was well discussed, and the lawyers carried all before them. All had given up the contest except the doctor, when Mr. Burchard inquired of him if he believed [Pg 103]in capital punishment, and, receiving an affirmative nod, he proceeded: “You are aware that our laws require of every practitioner before he becomes a member of the legal profession that he shall take an oath that he will be faithful to his client?”


“And that our statutes provide that the court shall assign counsel to a criminal when he has not made that provision for himself?”


“And that the state at its own expense compels the attendance of the witnesses for the accused; and you approve these laws?”


“And once more, would you prefer that the court should hang a man accused of murder under a plea of guilty, or that the extreme penalty of the law should be enforced after a full hearing, and proof to the satisfaction of the jury beyond a reasonable doubt?”

After a moment’s reflection the doctor replied that he should prefer that the death penalty should be carried into effect only after a verdict of guilty and upon the fullest investigation, for, said he, “it may be that the accused has a very imperfect knowledge as to what constitutes the offence charged; or he may be mistaken as to his duties and obligations; or, indeed, he may be laboring under a morbid condition of mind, so as to desire that his life may be legally taken, and I think I have known at least one such.”

[Pg 104]

“Then,” said Mr. Burchard, “have you not admitted so much as to make untenable your position, namely, that you approve the law which requires an attorney to be faithful to his client, the law which assigns counsel to the accused, the law which compels the attendance of the witnesses for the criminal at the expense of the state, and provides that the accused shall be executed only after the fullest investigation? What is the object of these enactments? Undoubtedly the interest of the state and not primarily of the criminal. The state in its wisdom requires for its own safety, and lest it should commit the crime and the blunder of hanging an innocent man, that the whole truth should be known. How greatly would the government and jurisprudence suffer if a guiltless man should be executed? When, therefore, a lawyer assumes the defence of a known murderer he is complying with the commands of the statutes and is serving the best interests of the government when he compels the prosecuting officer to the proof of the offence; and not only so, he is serving justice itself and not the criminal only. Even the judges have no authority to punish, except these provisions of law are complied with and the offence be proved. Who has not heard of the indictment of the two Bournes in Vermont, and of their having pleaded guilty to the crime of murder, for which they were on the eve of being executed, when the supposed murdered man put in his appearance? How much better would justice have [Pg 105]appeared had the defence been conducted by a tenacious, faithful, and conscientious lawyer instead of being conducted in such a bungling manner that the bones of a horse did duty for the bones of the supposed murdered man! That case has done better duty as a bugbear for a century than any other legal decision.”

Mr. Burchard became quite warm, and made the assertion that he would never take a retainer, and afterwards, no matter what knowledge he should subsequently acquire, desert a client; and he doubted if a conscientious lawyer had a moral right to refuse to defend a brother mortal accused of crime. “For the refusal,” said he, “proceeds upon the ground taken by the doctor, which substantially is that no defence ought to be made, but that sentence should be passed upon a real criminal whether the crime can be proved or not. And I am at a loss to discover how my friend the doctor can approve of the requirements of the statutes which have been referred to, and yet assert that honest, conscientious lawyers alone cannot comply with them.”

Mr. Burchard, feeling that he had been somewhat more enthusiastic than the occasion demanded, changed the subject in this wise:

“You all remember that a certain firm in Philadelphia made a special deposit of eighteen thousand dollars in gold in the Trust Company, and some expert thieves by means of a forged check obtained possession of the money. The manner of [Pg 106]accomplishing the feat was peculiar and was most adroitly carried out. The thief drove so sharp a bargain for funds current in New Orleans that the cashier’s mind was diverted from the genuineness of the check to the percentage of exchange to be realized by the operation. Many propositions were made on both sides which were not mutually satisfactory. At last the rogue told the cashier that rather than submit to imposition he would take the gold, and the eighteen thousand dollars were handed over to him in twenty-dollar gold-pieces. The forgery was not discovered till thirteen days after, when the depositor called for his special deposit. Immediately detectives were employed. One of them you have all seen. He is a personal friend of mine, and his ability in this department surpasses Vidocq’s as much as Vidocq’s was superior to that of an ordinary country constable. He judged, by an intuition that none of us can comprehend, that these rogues had carried their plunder to Baltimore, and thither he proceeded. For three months he prowled about that city by night and by day, his mind intent upon the one object of ascertaining some clew that should direct him to the discovery of the robber. At the end of twelve weeks he had made no progress, and returned to Philadelphia. There he continued some ten days, and became discontented and vexed at being baffled. Asserting that he felt certain that the thieves made Baltimore their head-quarters, he proceeded thither again. After ten days’ further [Pg 107]search, one evening as he was walking slowly past a newspaper-stand on the corner of a street, he observed a boy who wore no hat purchase a New York Herald and give in exchange a twenty-dollar gold-piece. He followed the lad into a drinking-saloon in the rear of which was a gambling-room. He soon ascertained the proprietor’s name, and learned that his family occupied the upper part of the house. He became acquainted with the proprietor’s wife, and found that she was sister to the wife of C. B., who was that year the president of the association of rogues, he having been elected to that position at M. in the State of Indiana in the month of August. He also learned that her father resided about fifty miles from Baltimore. The detective was aware that this close corporation of rascals had nine directors, and, knowing the position of C. B. in the association and his connection with the proprietor of the saloon, and understanding also the method of distribution, he concluded that two thousand dollars fell in the division to C. B., and a like amount to the proprietor of the saloon. He left the saloon at midnight, and drove immediately to the residence of the father of the proprietor’s wife, and arrived there between nine and ten o’clock on the following morning, meeting the old gentleman in his wagon between his house and the main road, from which it was distant about half a mile. The detective was also aware of a rule among these robbers, that any considerable sum of money stolen, [Pg 108]less ten per cent, should be buried for two years; and, having ascertained only what has been above related, he felt sure of the fact that the old gentleman was the keeper of one ninth, at least, of the money stolen. He also felt confident that he had gathered enough of the truth to make a powerful impression upon the man he had gone so far to see, and that if he was not altogether given over to the service of this band of bad men, he could state facts enough, which the old gentleman knew were profound secrets, to stagger his mind and arouse his conscience. After an interview of less than an hour this detective, by an art of which we cannot conceive, and by a magnetism and eloquence that no other man of my acquaintance ever possessed a tithe of, actually induced the father of these two women to dig up out of his garden two thousand dollars in twenty-dollar gold-pieces and hand them over to—my friend Mr. Sidney, who sits at the other end of the table. And not only so, but he prevailed upon the old gentleman to go with him to Baltimore in order to get possession of the other two thousand dollars held by the proprietor of the aforesaid saloon, which he also actually accomplished at a little inn about six miles from Baltimore, where the saloon-keeper and his wife met her father and my friend.

“Yesterday in the Supreme Court I had occasion to avail myself of Mr. Sidney’s marvellous ability as an expert in handwriting. The case turned entirely upon his testimony, although some twenty [Pg 109]witnesses testified on each side that they had seen the defendant write, and that, in their opinion, the signature was or was not genuine. Mr. Sidney did not arrive till the moment the case was about to be given to the jury, and I had no opportunity of conversing with him, except to ascertain that in his judgment the signature was not a forgery.

“After he took the witness-stand and had qualified himself as an expert in handwriting, the note in suit was handed him, and he was requested to state whether or not in his opinion the signature was genuine. It was some minutes before he responded. During the latter portion of the time of his silence his mind seemed intent upon something else. The presiding judge inquired of him if he intended to answer, when he replied:

“‘I was considering the matter, not whether the signature was genuine, but how I could convince the jury of the truth of what I have to say. This signature is genuine. The man who wrote it is a moral and religious man, and has therefore forgotten that he executed it. He is aged forty-seven, stands five feet ten, is broad-shouldered, full-favored, with muscular hands, thick, hard, and small; he is a merchant and a bachelor, and finds it hard to give up when he has been mistaken. I judge that the man who sits at the other end of the table wrote his name to this note, and I think I can convince him of it, for his honest face corresponds to the morality of the signature. The jury will observe that the first letter of the name is written while [Pg 110]the quill pen was full of ink, which was almost exhausted on the second letter and replenished on the third, and the operation is repeated five times. I think, also, that the writer was in poor health, and his muscles relaxed when he wrote his name. I am of the opinion, therefore, that the signature was made while the writer was on his back and the nib of the pen was higher than the tip.’

“At this point of the testimony the face of the defendant against whose interest the witness was testifying became luminous, and he at once rose and declared that the statement of the expert was the truth, and that it had altogether passed from his mind till that moment.

“I hope now I shall have the pleasure of giving you such an entertainment that you will remember it for your lifetime; and I know whereof I affirm when I state that my friend here present will, one hundred times in succession and without a mistake, from a single specimen of the handwriting of an individual, give his age within two years, his height within an inch, his weight within ten pounds, his profession, whether married or single, his temperament and peculiarities, his moral character, whether—”

Mr. Sidney was here observed to shake his head in a most determined manner.

“Or if my friend,” proceeded Mr. Burchard, “will give us the characteristics of some of our neighbors who may be passing, this company will be equally delighted and astonished, for I assert [Pg 111]that he will invariably hit off the peculiarity of a man from a single glance better than any of us after ten years of intercourse and acquaintance.”

Again Mr. Sidney shook his head, and the subject was not again referred to.

At a late hour the company separated, each asserting that he had never passed a more enjoyable evening.

The reader will understand that only fragments of the conversation are here given, and only such and so much as bear upon the question at the head of the article. The sparkle of the remainder might be somewhat dimmed by a repetition, but so agreeable was the flow of soul, so entertaining the wit, so electric the repartees, and so graceful the turns in the conversation when the joke began to be too practical, that the whole company, without reference to the compliment of the host, declared to each other, as they met for months and years after, that in their lifetime they had never realized such elegant luxury and such unmitigated pleasure in an entertainment.

Mr. Sidney again and again endeavored to speak a word confidentially to Mr. Burchard, but circumstances, and especially his devotion to Malcolm, prevented.

Both Malcolm and Sidney were to take the night train for New York, and the time of its departure was near at hand. At last Mr. Sidney bade the host good-night, saying he should see him again before many days, but hoped he would soon recover [Pg 112]from the infirmity in his eyes. Mr. Malcolm was the last to leave.

Early on the following morning, while Mr. Burchard was at breakfast, he received the following note:

Bernon Burchard, Esq.:—

My dear Sir,—After leaving your hospitable mansion last night, and while I was hastening to the station to take the night train for New York, I was accosted by two watchmen who arrested me, as they say, for burglary, and have detained me at the police station till now. In order that I may keep my appointment in New York, I have waived a preliminary examination before the magistrate, and desire you will become my bail, that I may be immediately released to the important duties devolving upon me elsewhere. Before many days the occasion of my haste will be ascertained, and that it had no reference to the watchmen; and the prosecution will be voluntarily nol prosed.

Your friend and servant,

Mr. Burchard dropped his cup, and without communicating with his wife, hastened to the assistance of his relative, gave the required bail, and released his friend to proceed on his journey, all the while delighted with the thought that Winfield Burchard would sooner or later be informed that [Pg 113]his letter of introduction was of some real value to his nephew.

Before his departure, Malcolm handed to Mr. Burchard a draft for one thousand dollars, not to secure him as his bail, as he said, but as a retainer for his defence should such a necessity ever arise, and Mr. Malcolm added with a forced smile, “It is most singular that I, who doubted the propriety, should so soon claim the benefit of your declaration of your duty made last evening, to which I have so suddenly become a convert, but I most devoutly trust that I may rely upon your assistance at a time of so great humiliation and perplexity.”

To which Mr. Burchard replied that he should most gladly, to the utmost of his ability, labor incessantly for his guest and relative, but must insist that he should be left to do so of his own free will, without reference to any pecuniary compensation, and out of the high regard in which he held his friend and benefactor Winfield Burchard.

To which Malcolm responded, “It would be an accommodation to me if you would take charge of the draft and collect the same and pass it to my credit, for I prefer not to carry about my person so large an amount of money.”

The result was that Mr. Burchard retained the draft. He then proceeded to the offices of several daily newspapers and suppressed the report of the arrest, “for,” said he to the editors, “by allowing it to appear you will greatly injure the reputation [Pg 114]of one of the most pious and accomplished clergymen in the English Church, and I am fully aware of the reason of his haste when overtaken by the watchmen, for he had left my house but a few minutes before and was hastening to the train when the real rogues ran past him.”

There was one scurrilous little journal among the newspapers at whose office Mr. Burchard neglected to call. In their next issue the following appeared:

Another Robbery. About two o’clock last night the dwelling of W—— H. B—— on B—— Street was burglariously entered, and a considerable amount of silver plate, jewelry, and other valuables taken and carried away. The loss is estimated at two thousand five hundred dollars. The daughter of Mrs. B—— heard the noise of the robbers as they left the house and gave the alarm. Two watchmen, who were in the immediate vicinity, gave chase, and one of the robbers, who gave his name as George Lathrop, not so swift of foot as the others, was overtaken and carried to the police station, where he waived an examination, gave the required bail of twelve thousand dollars, and is now at large. There were two other participators in the crime who outran the watchmen. Lathrop was observed to throw away something in his flight. A subsequent search discovered it to be a finely wrought mat of curious construction, the handiwork of Miss B——, which sufficiently identifies this one of the thieves with the transaction. The [Pg 115]other two were subsequently arrested and held to bail in like amounts, but no part of the booty has yet been recovered. From the promptness with which bail was given, and the standing of the sureties, it would seem that these burglars are not only men of property, but are protected by men in high social position.”

On reading the foregoing Mr. Burchard’s indignation knew no bounds. He blamed himself for not having recollected the existence of that scurrilous journal, which now seemed more mean and contemptible than ever. Those persons who understood how great a control Mr. Burchard had over his passions could nevertheless see that an earthquake was pent up in his bosom. He was almost beside himself with rage. When his indignation had somewhat subsided his pride and high sense of honor became equally disturbed. He feared that his guests of the previous evening might hear of the matter, and identify Malcolm with George Lathrop. Vexed almost beyond endurance, dejected and tormented almost beyond the rallying-point, he went to his house bewildered, and threw himself upon a lounge, and overcome by exhaustion fell asleep. When he awoke it was evening. He rose from his couch, seated himself before a bright wood fire, and looked intently into the coals. Snow was falling softly upon the pavements till the tramp of passing travellers became muffled and hushed. Maguire came into the library, and entered into conversation with Mr. Burchard [Pg 116]concerning the entertainment of the previous evening, and finding that it was considered by him eminently successful, begged Mr. Burchard to give him a certificate which would secure him a similar place should anything ever occur by reason of which he should relinquish his present position. Whereupon Mr. Burchard turned to his writing-table and wrote as follows:

December, 1855.

This is to certify that M. Maguire has resided in my family for eight years last past, and during all that period has conducted himself with the most perfect propriety, and has shown consummate skill as a kitchener, and in all matters pertaining to the order and etiquette of a feast has no superior, and I do cordially recommend him, in case he shall ever leave my employment, as an honest, upright, and faithful man, and worthy of my regard.

Bernon Burchard.

This he handed to Maguire with the remark that if it was not sufficiently comprehensive he might dictate such an one as he desired and he would sign it. Maguire, perceiving that his employer was not in a talkative mood, quietly left the room. As he left, Mrs. Burchard came into the library and sat down to talk over the dinner-party. Both agreed that it was a great success, and that Maguire was a jewel. Mrs. Burchard began to laugh, and then asked, “Did you observe that pickle, my dear?”

[Pg 117]

“What about the pickle?”

“Why, the pickle which Mr. Malcolm took happened to have a cut nail extending the full length of it. Now, my dear, do you suppose that nail could have grown in the cucumber? Ha, ha! What an entertaining man he is, and what a fund of anecdote, and how well he tells a story; and yet I don’t fancy him. Those bills of fare in Hebrew, Greek, and Latin, how did—”

The door-bell rang and Mr. Sidney was announced. “Thank God!” exclaimed Mr. Burchard. So rejoiced was he that his whole frame trembled with emotion and tears trickled down his face. Grasping his hand with both his own, he asked, “You received my telegram, then?”


“Then what brought you here so soon?”

Mrs. Burchard perceiving the conversation was not free in her presence, quietly left the room, when Mr. Sidney assumed a grave demeanor and said: “Mr. Burchard, I have always believed you eminently an honorable and honest man, and do so still. Do you grant this of me?”

“Yes, but if you did not receive my telegram, what brought you here to-night, for I am aware of the necessity you are under to be elsewhere?”

“I told you I should soon return,” said Mr. Sidney, “for I feared that you might compromise yourself to an unpardonable degree with the scamps by whom you have been surrounded, and the thought of it so weighed upon my mind that [Pg 118]when I met the train at New Haven bound eastward I determined to come again to you and inform you of your peril.”

“I am not aware that I am in any peril.”

“If you were aware of it you would be safe, and your lack of knowledge is the reason of my return.”

“Have you any information of what has transpired since last evening?” inquired Mr. Burchard.

“None, whatever.”

“Then unburden yourself with the least possible delay, for I have been so harassed and tormented during this day as almost to be overwhelmed; and as you are aware that I hold your judgment in these matters akin to prophecy, I beg you will proceed, for I have pondered over and over again your meaning when you compared me, both at the beginning and ending of the company, to Bartimeus.”

“First,” said Mr. Sidney, “I wish you to understand that I have never before last night seen or heard of the two or three persons concerning whom I propose to speak, and I feel that I ought first to have your permission to say all that is in my mind, for it comes nearer home to you than you suppose.”

“You have it; go on.”

“If it be true that the heart of a man changeth his countenance, then it is absolutely certain to my mind that your clergyman is the most unmitigated scamp, and it may, with propriety, be said that he has no conscience at all, so perverted [Pg 119]has it become. He is a gambler by profession, and a passer of counterfeit money, but his business is burglary. He has followed it for years, and had his mind not been on it for years, he could not have become so perfect in his craft. The one great quality demanded by his business is patience, and he has attained it. The most remarkable thing about him is his assurance. I never knew an instance of so bad a man having the audacity to appear in the company of gentlemen of refinement, and to say grace with a voice that had no heart in it. It is usually the last place that those of his craft seek, and I cannot yet comprehend how he wheedled you.”

Mr. Burchard explained, as has been previously stated.

“And that Maguire of yours is as bad a woman as walks the earth.”

“Woman!” exclaimed Mr. Burchard; “for eight years he has been one of the most faithful servants and upright men I ever knew.”

Now, Mr. Burchard!” said Mr. Sidney, looking him straight in the eye, “do you mean to tell me that you don’t know Maguire is a woman?”

“I surely do not so suspect even.”

“Then the blindness of Bartimeus was nothing to yours. Has she any beard? Has she a man’s voice? Has she the figure of a man? Does she make any motions of body or limb like a man? Surely not. She is a woman, and has consummate art, more than any woman I ever saw save one. [Pg 120]She consorts continually with thieves and robbers, and if you do not suspect it you ought to know it, and that is what has brought me here. Your house is on fire of hell, and you do not seem to apprehend it. Did you not notice at the table that she spilled some wine on the Reverend (?) Mr. Malcolm’s head and white cravat, and do you suppose it was accidental? No, sir, they are better acquainted than you and I, for he did not start when it was done, but was conscious who did it. When I entered your drawing-room and saw you standing between these two graceless villains, I looked around me in order to ascertain how many of that stripe were present, and finding but one other, I concluded you had been imposed upon and that I would improve the opportunity to study human nature. I should like to be informed how it came to pass that that reverend state’s-prison bird obtained an invitation from you.”

Mr. Burchard explained the method of the introduction by a letter from his kinsman in England, as before stated.

“Have you the letter?”

The letter being produced, after a moment’s examination he said: “Very well done. Very well done. He is better at that than I supposed, yet many of the letters show more than one stroke of the pen. He is an Englishman, but learned to write in Germany. He was once a cook. He does not write Malcolm as if used to it, and that is an assumed name. Great nerve, assurance, self-reliance, [Pg 121]and patience. Is fond of children. Has more conceit than his manners indicate, kind-hearted man and even generous in his way, but has no notion of truth or morals. Should say he had spent much of his time in Baden Baden and other like places. Is good at gambling, but burglary is his forte. Ah! yes, this specimen of his handwriting, if it is disguised, tells the whole story of his life. That was a pretty crowd, was it not? for me to show off, too, that I could read their characters in their faces.”

“Is it possible?” soliloquized Mr. Burchard, “and my admirable Maguire his accomplice!”

Mr. Sidney asked for the last letters which he had received from Winfield Burchard, in order to compare the two, but examining his portfolio, all were gone.

Mr. Burchard then stated to Mr. Sidney what had transpired during the day,—Malcolm’s arrest, the giving of bail, the suppression of the report in the newspapers, and the report which appeared in one of the journals, his acceptance of the draft of one thousand dollars, and some other particulars, when Mr. Sidney said,—

“Why were your eyes not opened by the fact that Malcolm did not give the same name to the watchmen as to you? That is an offence against the statute, and you know it, and an honest man, whether clergyman or boot-black, never descends to that. Besides, the robbery was committed, according to this account, more than an hour after [Pg 122]the night train had gone to which your supposed relative was hastening. That mat also should have convinced you; and what an adept he was to have known enough of the forms of law to have waived a preliminary examination and to have secured you as bail before you had recovered from your dream! He managed well to get your opinion last night of the duty of lawyers to defend rogues. Mr. Burchard, you are harnessed. You must now defend that rascal. Your mouth is closed, you have pocketed a retainer. A thousand dollars’ fee does not indicate light work, but seems to imply a strain upon your conscience. I once heard the ex-secretary of President Harrison’s Cabinet decline a like amount because it implied too much for his honor.”

Mr. Sidney touched a sensitive place. If Mr. Burchard had any reputation or quality as a lawyer, it was for his unsullied integrity and keen sense of honor. The ability of Mr. Sidney in his department had not brought that comfort which Mr. Burchard had hoped for. His distress of mind was so great that Mr. Sidney judged he had gone beyond the limit of safety, and he quoted, “‘Faithful are the wounds of a friend.’ As your friend I open to your view the peril from which it is your duty to escape. If you are involved, extricate yourself with honor if you can, and if you cannot, then do no more than honor requires.”

A long pause ensued. At length Mr. Burchard broke the silence by inquiring what evidence there was that Maguire was criminal.

[Pg 123]

“Because she gets the information for Malcolm, and draws plans of the houses which he intends to rob, and locates every piece of furniture in them so that he can enter the house and go through darkness to his objective point. He passes half his nights in her room. There the schemes are matured, and if you think her less criminal than Malcolm, you are welcome to your opinion.”

“But what information can you give me upon which I can act?”

“She has deceived you in passing herself off as a man. She is in fellowship with Malcolm, while it is for her interest to be faithful to you, for by reason of being your man she has access to those houses which may be presumed to be profitable in the plundering. I cannot tell you any particular thing she has done, but I can send a message to the back door by reason of which she will fly from your house and never again show you her face.”

“What message will you send?”

“I will write on a card these words, ‘All is known, detectives are approaching.’”

“Do it,” said Mr. Burchard, “and if he is honest he will show it to me and ask advice, and we will see if he will fly.”

The card was delivered, no commotion followed. She was not seen to escape, though watch was set for the purpose. Search was made for her in vain. From the appearance of her room it was evident she had fled. It was months before she was heard from, and then the inquiry came from [Pg 124]the chief of police in a Western city, “Did Mary Maguire, alias Sonsie Jane, alias Wily Mary, ever reside with Bernon Burchard? Is his certificate genuine?”

In the mean time Mr. Burchard was intensely excited by conflicting emotions and the discussion within himself concerning his duty. Could he retain the money and give information to the police? No. Did the fraud of Malcolm vitiate his obligation to him? In some particulars, but not in all. Did his oath to be faithful to his client prevent him from withdrawing from the case till at least he had returned what he had received? Yes; but how could he return it, since it was doubtful if Malcolm would ever again appear?

Before Mr. Sidney left town it was arranged that he should ascertain the whereabouts of Malcolm if possible, and, as the attorney of Mr. Burchard as bail, bring him hither at all hazards, and confine him in jail to await his trial or till he should procure other securities. Mr. Sidney stipulated that Mr. Burchard should not on any account telegraph to him or any other person upon the subject, because that the telegram would certainly reach Malcolm, if he was a chief member of a gang of villians, before it did him or the person to whom it should be addressed. This injunction, however, escaped the mind of Mr. Burchard. As the time for Malcolm’s trial drew near, he, Mr. Burchard, became nervous and care-worn. Learning through a New York detective that Malcolm was in that city, he at once [Pg 125]telegraphed to his attorney there to seek out the detective and have Malcolm arrested.

The writer of this article, who was then aware that some great trouble shrouded the mind of Mr. Burchard, without knowing what it was, happened to be conversing with him on the street near his office door when the answer to the telegram arrived, and had the opportunity of reading it all except the signature. Before the message had been delivered to the attorney in New York, the answer came from Malcolm at New Orleans, printed upon a long strip of paper as follows:

New Orleans, March —, 1856.

“I never disappoint my bail. My thoughts on awful subjects roll, damnation and the dead, what horrors seize the guilty soul upon a dying bed. Lingering about these mortal shores she makes a long delay, till like a flood with rapid force, death sweeps the wretch away. Good for Doctor Watts. I have three weeks yet to spare.”

How it was signed I am not aware. The envelope was marked “paid $32.75.”

On the afternoon previous to the sitting of the court at which Malcolm was under bail to appear, he unexpectedly presented himself at Mr. Burchard’s office. The conflicting emotions in Mr. Burchard’s breast upon beholding him can well be imagined. Indignation for the imposition and forgery was most apparent. Vengeance was secondary, [Pg 126]tempered by the fact that he had made his appearance, although not yet safe in jail. His soul burst forth in a holy horror of a man apparently incapable of entertaining a moral sentiment, and so brazen as not to appreciate his guilt. His presence so exasperated Mr. Burchard that he rushed toward the door without any definite intention but to be rid of his visitor. Malcolm calmly placed his back against the closed door and said very coolly: “All this indignation is well enough before a jury, Mr. Burchard, and I read in your countenance what is passing in your mind, but it is wise to take men as they are and the world as it is, and not as it should be. I meet you to-day on equal terms. You claim something of me, and I of you. If you are a man of honor, fulfil your contract. If you are a sneak, do as I should have done had I forfeited my bail. I have shown the estimate I put upon my duty by appearing to discharge you as my bail in the face of the indignity I have put upon you, and knowing full well what I was to encounter. Show half my pluck and it will serve you well. I am not yet your prisoner, and by the Eternal! I will not be till to-morrow, when I shall be content with that position. On your peril answer me. Will you fulfil your agreement? Will you be a man or a knave?”

Mr. Burchard answered not, but saw the desperate nature of the man with whom he had to deal, and that he was provided with weapons with which to enforce his argument. Malcolm proceeded, [Pg 127]“I never was and never will be a sneak. I am bound by honor as well as you. You are a lawyer, and a good one. I am a burglar, sir, and am not ashamed of my jobs. You exalt your profession, and so do I mine. Business is business, and mine is as honorable as yours. Think you I am less public-spirited than you? Think you I love my wife and children less than you? Come, come, Mr. Burchard; down from your perch! You are a man of principle. I am no sardine. You have taken my money, and you cannot return it if you would, for the bankers upon whom it was drawn have failed, and the draft has not been presented and is your loss. I know what you would like to say. It is true I used dissimulation and procured an invitation to your dinner-party, and here is Winfield Burchard’s letter to you (presenting it), whose handwriting I imitated; but it was all in my line. I laid a bet I could do it, and that draft was just the sum I won. Bristol Bill pays up like gentle folks, but then he didn’t know my opportunities. What possessed you to dismiss Maguire? but no matter; that is all gone by. During the last eight years I have passed at least six hundred nights in your house, and have been very frequently in your sleeping-room, and have heard your confidential talk with your wife. Doubt it, do you? Yes, your door was always bolted on the inside, and no other one opened into your chamber, but I can tell you conversations you had with your wife, which will convince you. Do you remember one [Pg 128]night when your wife became nervous and fell to crying lest the pain she felt in her breast should prove to be a cancer, and you told her that you would go to Boston with her and consult Dr. Jackson and ask Dr. P. to go with you? Do, eh? And do you remember one night when your niece slept upon the sofa in your room? I had no idea she was there, and needlessly waked her. She screamed, and while you was attending to her fright I slipped out and didn’t leave your door bolted. I heard you tell her she was dreaming.

“And do you remember one night telling your wife that you could not imagine how three cigars got out of a new box you had opened the night before? Those cigars were the only things that either Maguire or I ever took from your house.

“I will make you this proposition, and if you will accept it you will do well. By the night train my two accomplices in that job will arrive. I don’t intend to be shut up till they come. I will pay for six men to sit up with me here to-night in this office, and you shall select them, and in the morning I will pay their fees and go to jail.”

The proposition was accepted, and the chief of police furnished the keepers.

During that night Mr. Burchard’s office was the scene of strange revelations. Malcolm furnished money to one of the officers, who brought in a basket of champagne, and ordered a supper at one o’clock in the morning, to be the most complete that money could buy and the city furnish. [Pg 129]The officers were at liberty to invite in their friends who were reliable. Malcolm distributed to each of his keepers five times the sum of money agreed upon for their wages, and demanded of them a faithful performance of their duty. Some thirty had entered the office, and the door was closed and not to be opened on any account till supper was announced. Malcolm had sent to a neighboring bookstore, and obtained one pack of every edition of playing cards there kept for sale. Some forty packs with different backs were piled up at one end of the table. Malcolm invited some one to take a hand of euchre with him. The captain, who was considered the most expert player, took a chair at the corner of the table, and the rest were to observe the game, but say nothing which they should discover till the game was over. Malcolm took one of the packs from the envelope and said, “This edition was gotten up by Count —— at ——, and with it he played twenty-one nights and won —— thousand dollars before the markings were discovered. Cut the cards if you please, and mind, if you can, that the ten of spades is not turned.” The cards were dealt and the ten of spades was turned. The two bowers and two aces were given to the captain, who ordered up the ten.

“Now, captain, I have given you the bowers and two aces, and yet you are euchred.” And so it was. Malcolm inquired if any one perceived how it was done, and, receiving a negative reply, [Pg 130]said, “Very well, he shall do precisely the same thing, and see then if you detect the method. I will cut for a ten to be turned and order it up, and you will observe.”

Almost the same cards were put into Malcolm’s hand, as had been put into the captain’s.

“Now,” said Malcolm, “I order it up, and will make one,” and so it was.

“Did any of you see how that was done?”

None could detect. The cards were again shuffled by a looker-on. It was Malcolm’s deal.

“I must not make too often. This time you shall march. You see I have given you three trumps and a king and an ace of another suit.” And so it was.

The cards were shuffled again. “You must make one this time.” And so it was.

“Now,” said Malcolm, “please say whether I shall make one, or lose one, or go out.”

It was the captain’s deal, and the company requested Malcolm to go out if he could.

“Very well then, I cut a bower; the left is next above it as they fell into the last hand, and so will not be out.”

Malcolm ordered up a queen, took it out with a king, and made three low clubs and won the game.

“Let’s take another pack while these gimlet-eyed fellows hunt up the markings. This edition was gotten up by Sunderland for a high-low-jack pack, and was read the first night. The profession [Pg 131]never use it, the marks are so apparent. Try it once at all-fours.”

The cards were dealt by the captain, and Malcolm said, “I will stand, although I have but one trump, for you have none.” And Malcolm made three points.

“Had you detected the manipulation, I should have lost and you would have made three.

“Try another pack. This had a run of three months before it was detected. It is well executed, and only the most sagacious and quick-sighted are never mistaken in the cards. There is not an edition of cards that I cannot read as well by seeing one side as the other. No pack was ever edited in fairness to both parties. A man is a fool who will get out such an edition. I carried two new ones to the B—— house in London, and won thirteen nights with them.”

One of the company who had been out and returned, produced a pack with plain backs, and asked triumphantly if Mr. Malcolm would please to read them by the backs.

“This edition,” said Malcolm, “was gotten up in Edinburgh by an Irishman named Mulligan, and was popular for a while, but when he won every night with it suspicions were aroused, and finally a boy twelve years old deciphered it. I can tell each card across the room.” And he did.

And so the entertainment went on, Malcolm winning every game till supper was served; not one of the company detecting how it was done.

[Pg 132]

“Now, boys,” said Malcolm “this is my treat, and please enjoy yourselves, for I shall expect you all to be in court when my case is tried, to laugh on my side. Lawyers don’t understand the value of a chuckle in swaying a jury in a doubtful case. Lay to. ‘The art of cookery,’ says Henry Cornelius Agrippa, ‘is very useful if not dishonest.’ My appetite is good, and I trust you are all likewise minded, for Beaumont and Fletcher say, ‘What an excellent thing God did bestow upon man when he gave him a good appetite. Mine is almost equal to that of Erisichthon described by Ovid,—

‘Thus Erisichthon’s profane chops devour
All sorts of food: in him food is the cause
Of hunger: and he will employ his jaws
To whet his appetite.’

“’Tis said that Maximus, the Emperor who succeeded Alexander Memneaus, consumed forty pounds of flesh in one day, and drank an amphora of wine containing forty-eight quarts.

“Waiter, pass your wines. No blue ruin or heavy wet. In the days of the great Cæsar all feasts began with eggs and ended with fruits, cream and apples; hence the proverb, ab avo usque ad mala, and the man who did not crush his eggshell or put his folded napkin on his left knee, was considered a fool. As we have not eggs we will do our best with the napkins. No melancholy subjects at this table. So here’s luck.” And all drank a bumper.

[Pg 133]

“Did you ever hear how Pope Julius III. became enraged against his cook for not having saved him a cold peacock for supper, and how he began to blaspheme? Whereupon one of his cardinals said to him, ‘Let not your Holiness be so moved with a matter of so little weight.’ ‘What!’ said the pope, ‘if God was so angry for one apple that he cast our first parents out of Paradise, why may not I, his vicar, be angry for a peacock, sithers a peacock is greater than an apple?’

“The oysters from Tarentum, so prized by one of the Cæsars, I forget which, were not to be compared to these. Captain, take a hand at them. Let me give you a song.”

And with a sweet melodious voice and a Scotch accent, he sang Burns’s Ode on the Haggis.

“‘Fair, fa’ your honest, sonsie face,
Great chieftain o’ the pudding race:
Aboon them a’ ye tak your place,
Paunch, tripe, or thairm;
Weel are ye worthy o’ a grace
As lang’s my arm.’

“This bird is excellent; whoever cooked it,

‘His name should be enrolled
In Estcourt’s book, whose gridiron’s framed of gold.’

“Help yourselves, gentlemen, digestion is the business of the stomach, and indigestion that of the physicians. It is better to dine late, for one can then concentrate all his thoughts upon his plate, forget business, and only think of eating and [Pg 134]drinking and going to bed. Ha, ha! I should have omitted the bed in quoting from the gourmands, for they would rather fast than be obliged to eat a good dinner in a hurry. Five hours is little enough, provided Mr. Burchard shall not in the mean time appear and drive us away.

“This venison is delicious; none was ever better served. The Roman Senators debated the question how a turbot should be cooked, and the author of this dish deserves a place among such.

“Montmaur is reported to have said that Easter and Christmas were the two best days in the year. Easter because it was farthest from Lent, and Christmas because then you breakfasted at midnight. Who says this is not equal to Montmaur’s Christmas breakfast?”

This sort of banter, interspersed with songs and stories, was kept up till a late hour, when all of a sudden the keepers awoke to the fact that Malcolm had flown. The visitors laughed heartily. The company dispersed, not standing upon the order of their going. The table was cleared, and the office put in order. Only one of the keepers remained, who resembled in appearance a cat that had played with her mouse and lost it; the others were out looking for Malcolm. At an early hour in the morning he returned, and seating himself at Mr. Burchard’s desk, wrote him this note:

Mr. Burchard,—

I trust I did not disturb your repose. I found, this morning, in your safe in [Pg 135]your house this pretty little casket sent you from your English namesake. I have seen it often before, but wanted another squint at it, and I have brought it to your office lest some burglar might steal it from your house. I noticed your wife’s watch lying around loose in your sleeping-room, which is of no great value—to me,—and I contented myself with the charms, which I will put into your steel chest, here in the office, for safe keeping against the time of my need. The putting a yoke on the keys of your door, so I could not turn them with the nippers, was all useless. The chair poised against your sleeping-room door gave me a deal of trouble, and I could not put it back as I found it. Please excuse me. The thread on the stairs attached to an alarm-bell might as well have been omitted. The old-fashioned fork against the bolt I put back as I found it, and came out by the dining-room window. Your portfolio you will find between the beds on which you were sleeping. It took me half an hour to make you turn over so I could do it. George Waters is my counsel, to whom I have committed my case. He will arrange the evidence. Unless you eat your own words, you will sit beside him and ask the jury if they believe the case is made out beyond a reasonable doubt, for I know better than you the weight of your character. I shall be in jail by breakfast-time.


At the bottom of the note was a well-drawn [Pg 136]hand with spread fingers at the end of a man’s nose.

When all the officers had returned, dropping in one by one, towards morning, they were somewhat surprised and relieved upon beholding Malcolm. He informed them that it would be all right if they would all appear at his trial and laugh for him.

At the trial, Mr. Burchard, care-worn and nervous, made his appearance. Mr. Waters conducted the testimony for the defence. Mr. Burchard inquired of him what testimony Malcolm relied upon, and was answered that no testimony whatever was to be introduced, but he would rely altogether upon the lack of testimony on the part of the government. A cold shiver ran down Burchard’s backbone. The question of guilty or not guilty turned upon the identity of the mat previously spoken of, which, it was asserted, Malcolm threw away as he ran. The watchman testified positively to the fact, but it was in the night, and he might have been mistaken. Mr. W. H. B. testified generally as to the robbery, and recognized the mat as probably the one made by his daughter, although he could not positively make oath to the fact. As the case turned upon the testimony of Miss B., I give the whole of the cross-examination.

Question by Mr. Waters. You have said that you know this mat to have been the work of your own hands, and that you made it for a particular purpose. If you please, what was that purpose?

Answer. I had presented me on Christmas a fine [Pg 137]statuette of Samuel, which I admired so much that I worked this mat with great care upon which to place it.

Q. And did you work it from a pattern?

A. Yes, sir.

Q. And have you ever seen others like it?

A. Yes, sir, three, but not in this city.

Q. And where did you get the pattern?

A. From a friend in Philadelphia.

Q. Now, if you have seen other mats like this, how do you know, of your own knowledge, that this is not some other lady’s work?

A. I know it is my work because the centre portion of the mat was left plain, which centre is exactly the size of the base of my statuette.

Q. Is there any other reason which you can give?

A. I know it looks like my mat.

Q. Certainly, but would it not look like your mat if it had been wrought by another lady?

A. Perhaps so.

Q. You say perhaps so; would it not certainly so look?

A. I think it would.

Q. Have you the statuette now?

A. Yes, sir, it is at our house.

At this point of the trial the statuette was sent for and brought into court by the father of the witness. Mr. Waters took it into his possession. Considerable discussion arose when the prosecuting attorney insisted upon being allowed to examine it. Mr. Waters became almost violent, and declared [Pg 138]he would smash the image rather than be so imposed upon. He was cross-examining the witness with no testimony for the accused, and he insisted upon his rights without interruption. The court ruled in Mr. Waters’s favor. He, holding the statuette by the base, walked up to Miss B., and inquired of her if she recognized it as her own.

A. I certainly do.

Q. And how do you know it is certainly your own?

A. It is just like mine.

Q. But are there not other copies so like it as that you cannot tell the difference, nor one from the others?

A. Yes.

Q. How then can you say for a certainty that this is yours?

A. Because my father has just brought it from our house, and I saw him go for it and return with it. I can give no better reason.

Q. Can you say of your own knowledge, from an examination of the image, that it is yours?

A. No, sir.

Q. Have you any more reliable knowledge concerning the mat being yours?

A. Yes, for the space in the middle was made expressly to fit the base of the statuette.

Q. And are you willing to risk your testimony upon that fact alone?

A. I am.

The mat and the statuette were then shown the [Pg 139]witness and the jury, and the base of the statuette overlapped the plain surface in the centre of the mat half an inch. The witness became faint, and was carried into the lobby. The jury, without leaving their seats, rendered a verdict of NOT GUILTY.

The captain feasted Malcolm that night, and obtained from him the secret of his defence. Maguire, as a woman, had procured the situation of cook in the house of Mr. W. H. B., and had substituted for the original Samuel another, altogether similar, except that its base was half an inch larger.

The captain further inquired what had been Malcolm’s occupation in early life, and how he had acquired so much knowledge of the gourmands and feasts.

“I was cook at Baden Baden,” said Malcolm, “at the B—— House. There I met Count S., who took a fancy to me. I served also at the tables, after that as waiter in the house, and keeping an eye open I was a great help to the Count. He knew everything about the table, kitchen, and the larder, and I remembered what he used to repeat night after night, when a year or two ago I found Dick Humelbergius’s book upon the art of never breakfasting at home and always dining abroad. I found everything recorded there, and that is pretty much the only book I ever read. I can quote Latin, and know where to put it in, but what the —— the meaning of it is, I have no notion.”

[Pg 140]

“Allow me further to inquire by what process or contrivance you can slide a bolt on the opposite side of the door?”

“I paid $3500 for that information, and don’t propose to part with it.”

“Then advise me what is best for me to do when I find a burglar in my sleeping-room in the night time?”

“Do nothing, sir, unless you are hunting up a graveyard. We never desire to maim or kill, but we can. I should be poorly provided or skilled if I was not ready for such emergencies. As soon as the burglar leaves your room, rise and light the gas, and he will trouble you no more.”

“One other question. Did you rob and then burn the Jenks house?”

“That is not a question to be answered, but I will say that I have a drawing of the house and the location of every piece of furniture in it, which is perfect.”

To this day, only two of the persons who were present at the dinner-party are aware of the history of the two worthies, the Reverend Mr. Malcolm of Oxford and Maguire the butler of Mr. Bernon Burchard.

[Pg 141]


By Harriet Prescott Spofford.

Harper’s Magazine, June, 1883.

Never did anything seem fresher and sweeter than the plateau on which we emerged in the early sunset, after defiling all day through the dark deep mountain-sides in the rain.

We had promised Rhoda to assault her winter fastness whenever she should summon us; and now, in obedience to her message, a gay party of us had left the railway, and had driven, sometimes in slushy snow and sometimes on bare ground, up the old mountain-road, laughing and singing and jangling our bells, till at length the great bare woods, lifting their line forever before us and above us, gave place to bald black mountain-sides, whose oppressive gloom and silence stifled everything but a longing to escape from between them, and from the possible dangers in crossing bridges, and fording streams swollen by the fortnight’s thaws and [Pg 142]rains. Now and then the stillness resolved itself into the murmuring of bare sprays, the rustling of rain, the dancing of innumerable unfettered brooks glittering with motion, but without light, from the dusky depths; now and then a ghastly lustre shot from the ice still hanging like a glacier upon some upper steep, or a strange gleam from the sodden snow on their floors lightened the roofs of the leafless forests that overlapped the chasms, and trailed their twisted roots like shapes of living horror. What was there, I wondered, so darkly familiar in it all? in what nightmare had I dreamed it all before? Long ere the journey’s end our spirits became dead as last night’s wine; we shared the depression of all nature, and felt as if we had come out of chaos and the end of all things when the huge mountain gates closed behind us, and we dashed out on the plateau where the grass, from which the wintry wrapping had been washed, had not lost all its greenness, and in the sudden lifting of the rain-cloud a red sparkle of sunset lighted the windows, as if a hundred flambeaux had been kindled to greet us.

A huge fire burned in the fireplace of the drawing-room when we had mounted the stairs and crossed the great hall, where other fires were blazing and sending ruddy flames to skim among the cedar rafters; and all that part of the house sacred to Colonel Vorse, and opened now the first time in many winters, was thoroughly warm and cheerful with lights and flowers and rugs and easy-chairs [Pg 143]and books. We might easily have fancied ourselves, that night, in those spacious rooms, when, toilets made and dinner over, we re-assembled around the solid glow of the chimney logs, a modern party in some old mediæval chamber, all the more for the spirit of the scene outside, where the storm was telling its rede again, rain changing to snow, and a cruel blast keening round the many gables and screaming down the chimneys. After all, Rhoda’s and Merivale’s plan of having us in the hills before late-lingering winter should be quite gone, and doing a little Sintram business with skates and wolves and hill visions, should have been carried out earlier. To them it was all but little less novel than it was to me, and Rhoda, who, although a year or two my junior, had been my intimate, so far as I ever had an intimate, would not rest till she had devised this party, without which she knew she could not have me, even persuading our good old Dr. Devens to leave his pulpit and people, and stamp the proceeding with his immaculate respectability. As it was, however, it looked as though we were simply to be shut in by a week of storm following the thaw. Well, there are compensations in all things: perhaps two people in whom I had some interest would know each other a trifle better before the week ended then.

The place was really the home of Rhoda and Merivale, or was now to become so. Colonel Vorse, their father, who had married so young that he felt but little older than they, and was quite [Pg 144]their companion, was still the owner of the vast summer hostelry, although no longer its manager. After accumulating his fortune he had taken his children about the world, educating them and himself at the same time, with now an object lesson in Germany and now another in Peru, and finally returning to this place, which, so far as we could see, was absolute desolation, without a neighbor, but which to him was bristling with memories and associations and old friends across the intervale and over the mountain and round the spur. There was something weird to me, as I looked out at the flying whiteness of the moonlit storm, in those acquaintances of his among the hollows of these pallid hills; it seemed as though they must partake of the coldness and whiteness, and as if they were only dead people, when all was said. Perhaps Dr. Devens, who half the way up had been quoting,

“Pavilioned high, he sits
In darkness from excessive splendor born,”

had another phase of the same feeling. I heard him saying, as I passed him five minutes before, where he sat astride a chair in front of the long oriel casement: “There is a path which no fowl knoweth, and which the vulture’s eye hath not seen: the lion’s whelps have not trodden it, nor the fierce lion passed by it. He putteth forth his hand upon the rock; he overturneth the mountains by the roots. He cutteth out rivers among the rocks; and his eye seeth every precious thing. He bindeth [Pg 145]the floods from overflowing; and the thing that is hid bringeth he forth to light.” He is expecting a convulsion of nature, I remember thinking, as I went by and paused at another window myself. A convulsion of nature! I fancy that he found it.

“There is something eerie here,” I said, as I still gazed at the scene; for the dim gigantic shapes of the hills rose round us like sheeted ghosts, while the flying scud of the storm, filled with the white diffusion of unseen light, every now and then opened to let the glimpses out. “And see the witch-fires,” as the rosy reflections of our burning logs and lights danced on the whirling snow without. “Is there anything wanting to make us feel as if we had been caught here by some spell, and were to be held by some charm?”

“I wish I knew the charm,” said Colonel Vorse, by my side, and half under his breath. And then I felt a little angrier with myself for coming than I had felt before.

“I often hear you talking of your belief in certain telluric forces that must have most power among the mountains where they first had play, and where earth is not only beneath, but is above you and around you. Well, we are here in the stronghold of these telluric forces. I am their old friend and ally: let me see what they will do for me.”

It was true. And I half shivered with an indefinite fear that I might be compelled, in spite of all wish and prejudice, and birthright—I, the child of proud old colonial grandees of the South; he, the [Pg 146]son of a mountain farmer, who had married a mate of his own degree, and had kept a mountain inn till fortune found him and death took her. My father at least was the child of those proud old colonials, and I had lived with his people and been reared on their traditions. Who my mother was I never knew; for my father had married her in some romantic fashion—a runaway match—and she had died at my birth, and he had shortly followed her. I had nothing that belonged to her but the half of a broken miniature my father had once painted of her, as I understood. I always wore it, with I know not what secret sentiment, but I showed it to nobody. I had sometimes wondered about the other half, but my life had not left me much time for sentiment or wonder—full of gayety till my grandfather’s death left me homeless; full of gayety since his friend Mrs. Montresor had adopted me for child and companion, subject to her kind whims and tyrannies. But if she took me here and took me there, and clad me like a princess, I was none the less aware of the fact that I was without a penny—morbidly aware of it without doubt. But it disposed me to look with favor on no rich man’s suit, and the lover as penniless as I and as fine as my ideal lover had not yet appeared. It made me almost hate the face and form, the color, the hair, that they dared to call Titianesque, speak of as if it were the free booty of pigment and canvas, and wish to drag captive in the golden chains of their wealth. When I had met Colonel Vorse, a year [Pg 147]ago, twice my age though he was, he was the first one I had wished as poor as I—he the plebeian newly rich. Yet not so newly rich was he that he had not had time to become used to his riches, to see the kingdoms of the earth and weigh them in his balance, to serve his country on the battle-field, and his State in the council-chamber; and, for the rest, contact with the world is sadly educating.

“I often look at Colonel Vorse among the men born in the purple,” said Mrs. Montresor once—she thought people born in the purple were simply those who had never earned their living—“and he is the superior of them all. What a country it is where a man keeping a common tavern in the first half of his life may make himself the equal of sovereigns in the other half! I don’t understand it; he is the finest gentleman of them all. And he looks it. Don’t you think so, Helena?”

But I never told Mrs. Montresor what I thought. It is all very well to generalize and to be glad that certain institutions produce certain effects; but of course you are superior to the institutions, or you wouldn’t be generalizing so, and all the more, of course, superior to the effects, and so I don’t see how it signifies to you personally.

“You ought to have your head carried on a pike,” said Mrs. Montresor, again. “You will, if we ever have any bonnets rouges in America. You are the aristocrat pure and simple. The Princess Lamballe was nothing to you. You think humanity exists so that nous autres, by standing on it, may get [Pg 148]the light and air. You are sure that you are made of different clay—the canaille of street mud, for instance, and you of the fine white stuff from which they mould Dresden china. You are quite a study to me, my love. I expect to see you marry a pavior yet, either one who lays down or one who tears up paving-stones.” But I had only laughed again. She plumed herself on being cosmopolitan even to her principles.

“You give me credit for too much thinking on the subject,” I said, “if it is credit. Indeed, I don’t concern myself about such people; and as for marrying one of them, I could as soon marry into a different race, African or Mongolian. They are a different race.”

And I remembered all this as Colonel Vorse stood leaning his hand above me on the jamb of the window-frame—for although I was tall, he was a son of Anak—with that air which, never vaunting strength, always made you aware of its repression. I could fancy hearing Mrs. Montresor say, “That air of his! it always fetches women!” for she loved a little slang, by some antipodal attraction of her refinement, and I instinctively stiffened myself, determined it should never fetch me. And here he was calling his allies, the spirits and powers of the dark and terrible mountain heights and depths, and openly giving battle. I don’t know why it depressed me; I felt as if the very fact that it did was a half surrender; I looked up at him a moment; I forgot who he was; I wished he was as poor as I. [Pg 149]But to become the mother of Rhoda, my friend, and of Merivale, that laughing young giant—what absurdity, if all the rest were equal! And that other, the dead woman, the first wife—should one not always be jealous of that sweet early love? Could one endure it? Here among these hills with all their ghostliness she would haunt me. And then I turned and swept away to the fireside, holding out my hands to the flame, and glad to sink into the chair that some one had left empty there.

I hardly knew what world I was living in when, perhaps a half-hour later, I heard Colonel Vorse’s voice. “The trouble is that men are not born free and equal,” he was saying. “Free? They are hampered by inheritance and circumstance from the moment of birth. Equal? It is a self-evident lie. And the world has rhapsodized for a hundred years over so clumsy a statement. All men are born with equal rights. That is the precise statement. My rights—rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness—are equal to the rights of all the princelings of the earth; their rights equal only to mine. So far as they interfere with my rights they are public enemies, and are to be dealt with; and so far as I interfere with their rights, I am a trespasser to be punished. Otherwise, prince or peasant, each is a man, whether he wears a blouse or a star and garter; and if man was made in the image of God, let us do no indignity to that image in one or in another.”

Did I understand him? Was Colonel Vorse proclaiming [Pg 150]himself the equal of Prince San Sorcererino who had entertained us in his palaces last year? Well. And was he not? All at once something seemed to sift away from before my eyes—a veil that had hidden my kind from me. Was there no longer even that natural aristocracy in which Shakspeare or Homer or Dante was king? Was the world a brotherhood, and they the public enemy, the enemy of the great perfect race to come, who helped one brother take advantage of another? Were those ribbons in the buttonhole, the gifts of kings, of no more worth than the ribbons of cigars?

Mrs. Montresor was toying with her fan beside me, and talking in an undertone behind it. “What prince of all that you have seen or read of,” said she, “if born on a meagre mountain farm, would have made his fortune and have educated himself, as this man has done? I think the kings who founded races of kings were like him. And what prince of them all alive looks so much the prince as he? This one as fat as Falstaff and as low, that one with a hump on his back, the other without brains, the next with brains awry, and none of them made as becomes a man. Tell me, Helena?”

“I think you are in love yourself,” I said.

She laughed. “As tall as Saul, as dark, as lordly in all proportions, as gentle as Jonathan, and with a soul like David’s—why shouldn’t I be?” she said. “And he not the equal of the granddaughter of a South Carolina planter! Tell me again, [Pg 151]Helena, what has she ever done to prove herself his equal?”

She had had a fancy—Heaven knows why—that her young mother, who had run away with her father, was the daughter of a noble foreign family; or else why should the match have been clandestine? She had had a fancy that she was therefore noble, as her mother was—the mother even whose name her child did not know other than as the slaves had told her the young bridegroom called her Pansy because of a pair of purple-dark eyes. That was about all. That was all the answer I could have made, had I spoken, to her gentle raillery, half mockery, in which she did not quite believe herself. But even were it so, and the daughter noble as the mother, could blood that had filtered through generations of oppressors lounging in laps of luxury be pure as this blood that had informed none but simple and innocent lives, and seemed just now as if it had come fresh from the hands of the Maker? I surveyed him from behind the hand-screen that failed to keep the ruddy flames from my face, and if I felt him in that glance to be one of the sons of God, and I but one of the daughters of men, again I did not tell Mrs. Montresor.

But the witch could always read my thoughts. “Still,” she said, “he has kept a tavern. There is no getting round that fact by all the poetry in the world. Then why try to get round it? He has furnished food and shelter to the tired and roofless—as noble a way to make money, surely, as working [Pg 152]the bones and muscles of slaves, and accepting the gold they earn.”

“That is the last I have of such gold,” I cried, in a stifled way; and I unclasped the old bracelet on my wrist and tossed it behind the back-log—people were too gayly engaged to observe us at the moment. “I think,” I said then, turning upon her, “that you are employed as an advocate, unless—you are really weary of me.”

“Weary of you!” she exclaimed, half under her breath though it was—“weary of you, when you are such unceasing variety to me that if you married ten thousand tavern-keepers I should always have a room in the inn!”

“Thank Heaven,” I answered her, gayly, “it is an impossibility that I should ever marry one.” And then there was a lull in the laughter and the snatches of song and conversation on the other side of the room; and while I was still gazing after my bracelet and into the chimney-place, where the flames wallowed about unhewn forest logs that took two men to cast to them, Colonel Vorse came over to us.

“You will turn into salamanders,” he said.

“It is bad enough to be in hot water,” said Mrs. Montresor, lightly. “I will leave the fire to you and Helena.”

“Where you sit,” said Colonel Vorse then to me, “if you turn your head slightly to the left, and shade your eyes, you can see the side of the darkest and sternest of our mountains. You know we do [Pg 153]not call our hills by the names they have in maps and government surveys; the old settlers who first came here called this one, for unknown reasons of their own, the Mount of Sorrow. It has always been the Mount of Sorrow.”

“An ominous name for so near a neighbor,” I said.

“Ah! you think this region is oppressive, or perhaps dull and tame, without life or stir—desolate, in fact. What if I should tell you that it bubbles, like a caldron over the bottomless pit, with griefs and sins!—that in lives condemned to perpetual imprisonment on these bare rocks, feeding on themselves, traits intensifying, the loneliness, the labor, the negation, slowly extract the juices of humanity, and make crime a matter to be whispered of among them? If they feel they are forgotten by God, what matters the murder or the suicide more or less that gives release? It is hell here or hell there: they are sure of this—they have it; the other may not come to pass.”

“What do you mean?” I said, with white lips; for as he spoke it seemed as if I had come into a land of lepers. “Here in this white solitude, among lives fed from the primitive sources of nature and the dew of the morning—”

“I mean,” he said, “that I refuse to accept the factitious aid your thoughts have lately been bringing to me. You see I have preternatural senses. Because I was born in the snows of the mountains I am no whit whiter than those born in the purlieus [Pg 154]of the police stations of the cities. We are simply of the same human nature. When I win regard, it must be for no idle fancy, but for my own identity.”

“Well,” I said, “I do not believe you.”

“Ah!” he replied, “have I gained a point, and found an advocate in an ideal of me? That would be as romantic as any of the romance of the hills. And there is romance here, whether it is born of crime, or of joy, or of sorrow. There is romance enough on that old Mount of Sorrow that you see when the storm opens and strips it in that sudden white glory. Keep your eye, if you please, on a spot half-way up the sky, and when the apparition comes again you will find the dark outline of a dwelling there. It was a dwelling once; now it is only a ruin, hut and barn and byre. Why do you shudder? Do you see it? It is only a shadow. But a shadow with outlines black enough to defy the whitest blast that ever blew. Sometimes it seems to me as though that old ruin were itself a ghostly thing, a spectre of tragedies that will not down; for the avalanches divide and leave it, and the storms whistle over and beat against it, and it is always there when the sun rises. I don’t know what it has to do with my fortunes; I don’t know why it is a blotch upon the face of nature to me; but if ever I grow sad or sick at heart I feel as though I should be made whole again could that evil thing be removed.”

“Why not remove it?”

[Pg 155]

“It does not belong to me. I can do nothing with it. I am not sure that it belongs to any one—which adds to the spectral, you see—although I suppose there is somewhere a nameless heir. How restless you are!” he said, gently. “Will you come out in the long hall where the great window gives an unobstructed view of the thing, and walk off this nervousness? The storm is lifting, I think; the moon is going to overcome. One may see by the way the fire burns that the temperature is mounting. Perhaps we shall have a snow-slide as we walk.”

Rhoda and Merivale were singing some of the songs they had learned since they came into the hill country, Mrs. Montresor was nodding behind her fan an accompaniment to Dr. Devens’s remarks, Adèle was deep in her novel, and a flirtation and some portfolios of prints occupied the rest. To refuse was only to attract attention; besides, I should like to walk. I rose and went out with him into the hall that shut off the wing from the great empty caravansary.

“‘And the long carpets rose along the gusty floor,’”

I quoted as we walked; and despite the fire burning on either side, he had brought me a fur for my shoulders.

“Yes,” he said, “there comes the moon at last. Now you shall see the black and white of it.”

“Oh!” I cried, clasping my hands, as all the silvery lights and immense shadows burst out in a [Pg 156]terrible sort of radiance. “The world began to be made here! Poets should be born here!”

“Instead of tavern-keepers,” said he, “which brings me to my story. I am forty-three years old. Of course I was younger twenty-three years ago. That must have been not long before you came into the world yourself. Do you insist upon thinking twenty years’ difference in age makes any disparity, except in the case of him who has lost just that twenty years’ sweetness out of his life?”

“I hardly see what that has to do with the story of the Mount of Sorrow,” I said, as we turned from the window to measure the length of the hall again.

“I hope,” said he, “that the suffrage reform, which is to admit women to the ballot, will never let them sit on the judicial bench, for mercy is foreign to the heart of a woman.”

“Is it not a strange way of telling a story?” I exclaimed.

“Patience!” he laughed. “The story is so short it needs a little preface. As I was saying then, when I was twenty years old or so, the name of old Raynier, of the Mount of Sorrow, was a by-word of terror through the region round, as the name of his father was, and his father before him. He had no other property than the sterile farm half-way up the mountain, and almost inaccessible—in winter entirely inaccessible—where he raised not half a support on the slips of earth among the ledges; his few starved sheep and goats did what they could for him, and his rifle did the rest. The first Raynier of [Pg 157]them all was possibly an escaped convict, who fortified his retreat by these mountain-sides. He had no money; the women spun and wove all that was worn. He had no education; no Raynier had ever had; no Raynier had ever had occasion to sign his mark, let alone his name. There had been one son in each generation; neither church nor school ever saw him; his existence was scarcely known till he was ready to marry, and then he came down, and by no one knows what other magic than a savage force of nature took the prettiest girl of the valley to his eyrie—sometimes his wife, sometimes not. When she died, and she always died, the Raynier of the day replaced her. He did not always wait for her to die before replacing her. But sudden deaths were no uncommon thing in that house; there was a burial-ground scooped in the hill-side. And who was there to interfere? Perhaps no one knew there had been a death till the year was out. What if a woman went mad? That happened anywhere. People below might prate of murder, or suicide, or slow poison; there was nobody to whom it was vital enough to open the question seriously; and then they feared the Raynier with an uncanny fear, as people fear a catamount in the woods, or the goblin of old wives’ tales after dark. There were horrible stories of bouts and brawls, of tortures, gags, whips, and—oh, no matter! Nor was all the crime on the shoulders of the Raynier men. It was understood that more than one woman of the name found life too intolerable to endure its conditions [Pg 158]when the fumes of a charcoal fire after a drunken feast, or a quick thrust over the edge of a precipice, or a bit of weed in the broth, made life easier, till remorse brought madness. And finally, if any Raynier died what may be called a natural death, it was either from starvation or from delirium tremens. You see they were a precious lot.”

“A precious lot!” I said, trembling. “Ah, what is heaven made of? Poor wretches, they could not help it. From generation to generation the children of such people must needs be criminal.”

“I don’t know. If removed from such influence. To my mind environment is strong as heredity, quite as strong. It destroys the old and creates the new. However, environment and heredity worked together up there. In my day—to continue—the Raynier family was larger than usual. The last wife still lived, a miserable cowed creature, white as ashes, face and hair and bleached scared eyes, eyes that looked as if they saw phantoms rather than people. Her mind was partially gone. I was a famous mountaineer then, and climbing wherever foot of man had been before, I once in a while came upon some or other of that family, and sometimes paused at the door, where I had first to teach the bloodhounds a lesson. I never entered the filthy place but once. There were two sons and a daughter. Oh, how immortally beautiful that girl was! Such velvet darkness in the eye, such statuesque lines, such rose-leaf color, such hair—‘hair like the thistle-down tinted with gold,’ as John Mills, the [Pg 159]Scotch poet-player, sang. The old man Raynier worshipped her, perhaps as a wild beast loves its whelp. But he had all sorts of fanciful names for her, Heart’s-ease and Heart’s Delight, and Violet and Rose and Lily. He grew almost gentle when he spoke to her; and he never knew that she was feeble-minded. She just missed being an imbecile. Perhaps you would not have known that all at once; you might not have found it out at all only meeting her casually. The old man Raynier sent her down to school—the first that had ever been there: she could never learn to read. She could not always tell her name. Still, her mind was innocent—perhaps because it was a blank. I have sometimes thought that blank mind of hers may have been a dead-wall through which the vices of her forebears could not pass, and so her children, if she had them, may have escaped the inheritance, and found a chance for good again, as if crime should at last estop itself. That may be.”

“Oh, I think this is terrible!” I said, as we turned again in our walk. “Make haste, please, and be through.”

“Yes, it is. But I would show you that life can be anything but commonplace in this wilderness. Well, blank or not, she had a lover, who had found her out in his sketching rambles, a young painter from some distant parts, and the first boarder I ever had, by the way. And all the Rayniers swore they would have his life sooner than he should have her. One day I had been hunting on old Mount [Pg 160]Sorrow, as it happened; there had been a sudden frost following rain that had frozen the water in the cracks of the cliffs, and made the way not only slippery, but dangerous; for in the heat of the noon sun the ice was melting, and every now and then its expansion was rending some fragment of rock so that your footing might vanish from beneath, or some shower of stones come rattling down from above; and I was tired when I reached the Raynier place, led by a blaze of maple boughs that started out like torches to show the way, and stopped to rest. I looked up at an enormous shelf of rock, half clad with reddened vines that fluttered like pestilence flags—a shelf that, although some hundred feet or so away from it, yet overhung the place and cast a perpetual shadow there. I wondered then why Nature had no secret springs of feeling to thrill her and cause her to rend the rocks and cover such a den of iniquity as we all held the spot to be. But Nature was just as fair that ambrosial September day as if there was not a dissonance. Perhaps she knew the right of the Rayniers to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. A delicious scent of the balsam from the pines filled the air, the sunshine swept over the hills below in waves of light, and the hills themselves were like waves of a golden green and purple sea where now and then a rainbow swam and broke. Peace and perfectness, I said, peace and perfectness. These people live and are happy. On the other side one looked into the dreary defile of the [Pg 161]mountain gate, with its black depths hung with cloud, and remembered that if there was not a hell, there ought to be. I was thinking this as I sat there, when I heard a wild cry, an agonized shriek, blood-curdling, repeated and repeated from within. It was the girl’s voice. I was on my feet, and, in spite of the bloodhounds, making for the spot and among the crew. The old woman cowered in the corner, the two brothers held the girl, the old man towered over her, his great eyes blazing in his ashen face. I can’t tell you what they were doing. Sometimes I have thought old Raynier was burning her with a hot iron he held—”

“Oh, horrible! horrible!”

“Burning her with a hot iron to make her give up her lover! Sometimes I have thought he was only demolishing the little likenesses of him and of herself, which that lover had painted, and which she cherished, perhaps as his work, perhaps for the unwonted gewgaw of the slender golden frame, for the one picture was already in fragments, and although she clutched half of the other, the broken half had fallen and rolled away. I have it somewhere. I will show it to you. I had no time, indeed, to see what it was they were doing, for behind me bounded that lover like a whirlwind, thrust one brother and the other aside, seized the girl, darted over the door-sill with her, and down the crags of the mountain path. He should have what help I could give. I was after him, stooping to catch up the fragment of painting as I turned, down the [Pg 162]cliff’s edge, they following. And all at once I stopped as if paralyzed to the marrow by a clap of thunder, and turned my head to see the old man with his white hair streaming, and his arms uplifted in his cursing, as he came leaping on, and the next moment the shelf of overhanging rock had fallen, had cleft the house in twain, and mother and father and sons and hounds were dust with the dust flying over the precipices. I saw it.”

“Oh!” I cried, with my hands over my eyes. “Why did it not strike you blind?”

“And here,” said Colonel Vorse, leading my steps to an old cabinet in an alcove, “ought to be the half of that little likeness I picked up as I ran. I wonder what became of the other half—what became of the girl—if the lover married her—if she knew enough to know he didn’t marry her—if she lived long enough for him to find out she was a fool—if she was the last of the Rayniers?” As he ceased, he put the half of the little miniature into my hands.

It was a broken bit of ivory, and on it the upper part of a face, sketchily done, with pansy-dark eyes and blush rose skin—without a frame. I had the frame.

A heart beat, a fluttering breath, a reeling sense of the world staggering away from me, and then my bewildered senses were at work again, and an agony like death was cutting me to the heart as we resumed our walking.

Should I tell him? Should I go on with my secret, my inheritance, my curse, and let no man [Pg 163]know? If it ate out my heart, the sooner to end; my heart was broken now. Never, never now could fireside shine for me, could lover’s lips be mine, could little faces sun themselves in my smile.

We paused before the great window, with those vague white shapes before us, for my feet would not obey me, and the light behind us shone on the bit of ivory. If I told him, it would be easier for him to bear; he would see the impossibility, he would desire my love no longer. My fearful inheritance would yawn like a gulf between us with its impassable darkness.

“And the ruin on the hill-side is an eye-sore,” I said. “But it is easy to remove it. I suppose it belongs to me. For—look here—it is I who must be the last of the Rayniers.” And I drew from my breast the broken thing, the halved miniature, that in my mock sentiment I had worn so long.

“You!” cried he. “You!” And his feet tottered, and he leaned against the casement for support—he who an hour or so ago had seemed so full of repressed strength that he could have pulled his house down about his ears. Well, had he not done so?

I moved to his side, and held the thing that he might see where the pieces matched, the line of the cheek flowing into the lovely curve of the chin, the flickering sweetness of the lovely mouth, the lambent glance of the lovely eye. “It is my mother, you see,” I said. “And it needs no words to say it.”

“It needs no words to say it,” he repeated, [Pg 164]hoarsely. “It is your image. Oh, my God! What have I done! what have I done! My darling, my darling, you must let me repair it by a lifetime of devotion.” And he had his arms about me, and was drawing me to his heaving breast, his throbbing heart.

“No! no! no!” I sobbed. “It is impossible. I am wrecked; I am ruined; I can be no man’s wife. You see yourself—I will never—” But his lips were silencing mine, and I lay there with those arms about me a moment; I lay there like one in heaven suspended over hell.

“What do I care,” he whispered, “for all the Rayniers in Christendom or out of it, but you? I have learned in this moment that you love me! I will never give you up.”

“You must,” I groaned.

“I tell you I never will,” he said, his voice husky and low and trembling, but his eye and his grasp firm. “I have assured you that environment, education, art, can supplement nature and heredity. They have done so with you. You are your father’s child. You received from your mother only the vital spark, only this beauty, this fatal beauty. If you inherited all that the Rayniers ever had, then I love, I love, I love all that the Rayniers ever were, for I love you. I have your love, Helena, and I will never let you go.” While speaking he had touched the bell at his hand, and now he sent the answering servant for Dr. Devens, who came at [Pg 165]once, supposing some sight of the snow was in store.

“Bid them all out here, Doctor,” cried Colonel Vorse. “Ah, here they come! In this part of the country we need no license for marriage. Here are a bride and groom awaiting your blessing. Perform your office, sir.” And before I could summon heart or voice, making no response, bewildered and faint, I was the wife of Colonel Vorse, and my husband’s arms were supporting me as the words of the prayer and benediction rolled over us.

“There is no time like the present,” he cried, gayly, his tones no longer broken, “as I have always found.” And suddenly, before he ceased, and while they all thronged round me, there came a sharp strange sigh singing through the air, that grew into the wild discordant music of multitudinous echoes, and we all turned and sprang intuitively to see, rent in the moonlight and sheathed in the glorious spray of a thousand ice-falls, the Mount of Sorrow bow its head and come down, and, while the whole earth shook and smoked back in hoar vapors, the great snow-slide in its swift sheeting splendor flash and wipe out before our eyes the last timber of the hut and barn and byre of the Rayniers.

[Pg 166]


By Mary Agnes Tincker.

Lippincott’s Magazine, December, 1878.

Monte Compatri is one of the eastern outlying peaks of the Alban Mountains, and, like so many Italian mountains, has its road climbing to and fro in long loops to a gray little city at the top. This city of Monte Compatri is a full and busy hive, with solid blocks of houses, and the narrowest of streets that break now and then into stairs. For those old builders respected the features of a landscape as though they had been the features of a face, and no more thought of levelling inequalities of land than of shaving down or raising up noses. When a man had a house-lot in a hollow, he built his house there, and made steps to go down to it: his neighbor, who owned a rocky knoll, built his house at the top, and made stairs to go up to it. Moreover, if the land was a bit in the city, the house was made in the shape of [Pg 167]it, and was as likely to have corners in obtuse or acute as in right angles.

The inhabitants of Monte Compatri have two streets of which they are immensely proud—the Lungara, which wriggles through the middle of the town, and the Giro, which makes the entire circuit of the town, leaving outside only the rim of houses that rise from the edge of the mountain, some of them founded on the natural rock, others stretching roots of masonry far down into the earth.

One of these houses on the Giro had for generations been in the possession of the Guai family. One after another had held it at an easy rent from Prince Borghese, the owner of the town. The vineyard and orchard below in the Campagna they owned, and from those their wealth was derived. For it was wealth for such people to have a house full of furniture, linen and porcelain—where, perhaps, a connoisseur might have found some rare bits of old china—besides having a thousand scudi in bank.

In this position was the head of the family when he died, leaving a grown-up son and daughter, and his wife about to become a mother for the third time.

“Pepina shall have her portion in money, since she is to marry soon,” the father said. “Give her three hundred scudi in gold and a hundred in pearls. The rest of the money shall be for my wife to do as she likes with. For the little one, when it shall come, Matteo shall put in the bank [Pg 168]every year thirty scudi, and when it shall be of age, be it girl or boy, he shall divide the land equally with it.”

So said Giovanni Guai, and died, and his wife let him talk uncontradicted, since it was for the last time. They had lived a stormy life, his heavy fist opposed to her indefatigable tongue, and she contemplated with silent triumph the prospect of being left in possession of the field. Besides, would he not see afterward what she did—see and be helpless to oppose? So she let him die fancying that he had disposed of his property.

“The child is sure to be a girl,” she said afterward, “and I mean her to be a nun. The land shall not be cut up. Matteo shall be a rich man and pile up a fortune. He shall be the richest man in Monte Compatri, and a girl shall not stand in his way.”

Nature verified the mother’s prophecy and sent a little girl. Silvia they called her, and, since she was surely to be a nun, she grew to be called Sister Silvia by everybody, even before she was old enough to recognize her own name.

The house of the Guai, on its inner wall, opened on the comparatively quiet Giro. From the windows and door could be heard the buzz and hum of the Lungara, where everybody—men, women, children, cats and dogs—were out with every species of work and play when the sun began to decline. This was the part of the house most frequented and liked by the family. They could see their neighbors [Pg 169]even when they were at work in their houses, and could exchange gossip and stir the polenta at the same time. The other side of the house they avoided. It was lonely and it was sunny. For Italians would have the sun, like the Lord, to be for ever knocking at the door and for ever shut out. It must shine upon their outer walls, but not by any means enter their windows.

As years passed, however, there grew to be one exception in this regard. Sister Silvia loved not the town with its busy streets, nor the front windows with their gossiping heads thrust out or in. She had her own chamber on the Campagna side, and there she sat the livelong day with knitting or sewing, never going out, except at early morning to hear mass. There her mother accompanied her—a large, self-satisfied woman beside a pallid little maiden who never raised her eyes. Or, if her mother could not go, Matteo stalked along by her side, and with his black looks made everybody afraid to glance her way. Nobody liked to encounter the two black eyes of Matteo Guai. It was understood that the knife in his belt was sharp, and that no scruple of conscience would stand between him and any vengeance he might choose to take for any affront he might choose to imagine.

After mass, then, and the little work her mother permitted the girl to do for health’s sake, Silvia sat alone by her window and looked out on the splendor which her eyes alone could appreciate. There lay the Campagna rolling and waving for miles [Pg 170]and miles around, till the Sabines, all rose and amethyst, hemmed it in with their exquisite wall, and the sea curved a gleaming sickle to cut off its flowery passage, or the nearer mountains stood guard, almost covered by the green spray it threw up their rocky sides. She sat and stared at Rome while her busy fingers knit—at the wonderful city where she was one day to go and be a nun, where the pope lived and kings came to worship him. In the morning light the Holy City lay in the midst of the Campagna like her mother’s wedding-pearls when dropped in a heap on their green cushion; and Silvia knelt with her face that way and prayed for a soul as white, for she was to be the spouse of Christ, and her purity was all that she could bring Him as a dowry. But when evening came, and that other airy sea of fine golden mist flowed in from the west, and made a gorgeous blur of all things, then the city seemed to float upward from the earth and rise toward heaven all stirring with the wings of its guardian angels, and Silvia would beg that the New Jerusalem might not be assumed till she should have the happiness of being in it.

But there was a lovely view nearer than this visionary one, though the little nun seldom looked at it. If she should lean from her window she would see the mountain-side dropping from the gray walls of her home, with clinging flowery vines and trees growing downward, while the olives and grapevines of the Campagna came to meet them, setting here and there a precarious little garden [Pg 171]half-way up the steep. Just under her window an almost perpendicular path came up, crept round the walls and entered the town. But no one ever used this road now, for a far wider and better one had been constructed at the other side of the mountain, and all the people came up that way when the day’s work was over in the Campagna.

One summer afternoon Silvia’s reveries were broken by her mother’s voice calling her: “Silvia, come and prepare the salad for Matteo.”

It was an extraordinary request, but the girl went at once without question. She seized upon every opportunity to practise obedience in preparation for that time when her life would be made up of obedience and prayer.

Her mother was sitting by one of the windows talking with Matteo, who had just come up from the Campagna. He had an unsocial habit of eating alone, and, as he ate nothing when down in the vineyard, always wanted his supper as soon as he came up. The table was set for him with snow-white cloth and napkin, silver knife, fork and spoon, a loaf of bread and a decanter of golden-sparkling wine icy cold from the grotto hewn in the rock beneath the house; and he was just eating his minestra of vegetables when his sister came in. At the other end of the long table was a head of crisp white lettuce, lying on a clean linen towel, and two bottles—one of white vinegar, the other of oil as sweet as cream and as bright as sunshine. Monte Compatri had no need to send to Lucca for [Pg 172]oil of olives while its own orchards dropped such streams of pure richness.

The room was large and dingy. The brick floor had never known other cleansing than sprinkling and sweeping, the yellow-washed walls had become with time a pale, mottled brown, the paint had disappeared under a fixed dinginess which the dusting-brush alone could not remove, and the glass of the windows had never been washed except by the rain. Yet, for all that, the place had an air of cleanliness. For though these people do not clean their houses more than they clean their yards, yet their clothing and tables and beds are clean. Plentiful white linen, stockings like snow, and bright dishes and metals give a look of freshness and show well on the dim background. Heavy walnut presses, carved and black with age, stood against the walls, drinking-glasses and candlesticks sparkled on a dark bureau-top, there was a bright picture or two, and the sunlighted tinware of a house at the other side of the street threw a cluster of tiny rays like a bouquet of light in at the window. Silvia received these sun-blossoms on her head when she placed herself at the lower end of the table. She pushed the sleeves of her white sack back from her slim white arms, and began washing the lettuce-leaves in a bowl of fresh water and breaking them in the towel. The leaves broke with a fine snap and dropped in pieces as stiff as paper into a large dark-blue plate of old Japanese ware. A connoisseur in porcelain would have set [Pg 173]such a plate on his drawing-room wall as a picture.

“How does Claudio work?” the mother asked of her son.

“He works well,” Matteo replied. “He is worth two of our common fellows, if he is educated.”

“Nevertheless, I should not have employed him,” the mother said. “He has disobeyed and disappointed his parents, and he should be punished. They meant him to be a priest, and raked and scraped every soldo to educate him. Now, just when he is at the point of being able to repay them, he makes up his mind that he has no vocation for the priesthood, and breaks their hearts by his ingratitude. It is nonsense to set one’s will up so and have such scruples. Obedience is vocation enough for anything. There should be a prison where parents could put the children who disobey them.”

The Sora Guai spoke sternly, and looked as if she would not have hesitated to put a refractory child in the deepest of dungeons.

“He was a fool, but he earns his money,” Matteo responded, and, drawing a plate of deliciously fried frogs toward him, began to gnaw them and throw the bones on the floor.

Silvia gave him the salad, and poured wine and water into the tumbler for him, while his mother went to the kitchen for a dish of fricasseed pigeons.

“There’s no onion in the salad,” Matteo grumbled when she came back.

[Pg 174]

Silvia uttered an exclamation of dismay, ran for a silvery-white little onion and sliced it thinly into the salad.

“Forgive me, Matteo,” she said. “I was distracted by the thought of Claudio. It seems such a terrible thing.”

“It would be a much more terrible thing if it were a girl who disobeyed,” Matteo growled. He did not like that girls should criticise men.

“So it would,” the girl responded, with meek readiness.

“I don’t know why I feel so tired to-day,” the mother said, sinking into a chair again. “My bones ache as if I had been working in the vineyard all day.”

“You are not ill, mamma?” exclaimed Silvia, blushing with alarm.

The answer was a hesitating one: “I don’t see what can ail me. It wouldn’t be anything, only that I am so tired without having done much.”

“Perhaps it’s the weather, mamma,” Silvia suggested.

Gentle as she was, she had adopted the ruthless and ungrateful Italian custom of ascribing every ache and pain of the body to some almost imperceptible change in their too beautiful weather. The smallest cloud goes laden with more accusations than it holds drops of rain, and the ill winds that blow nobody any good blow through those shining skies from morning till night and from night till morning again.

[Pg 175]

The Sora Guai was sicker than she dreamed. It was not the summer sun that scorched her so, nor the scirocco that made her head so heavy. What malaria she had found to breathe on the mountain-top it would be hard to say; but the dreaded perniciosa had caught her in its grasp, and she was doomed. The fever burned fiercely for a few days, and when it was quenched there was nothing left but ashes.

And thus died the only earthly thing to which Sister Silvia’s heart clung. The mother had been stern, but the daughter was too submissive to need correction. She had never had any will of her own, except to love and obey. Collision between them was therefore impossible, and the daughter felt as a frail plant growing under a shadowing tree might feel if the tree were cut down. She was bare to every wind that blew. She had no companions of her own age—she had no companion of any age, in fact—and she had not been accustomed to think for herself in the smallest thing.

She had got bent into a certain shape, however, and her brother and sister felt quite safe on her account. Everybody knew that she was to be a nun of the Perpetual Adoration; that she was soon to go to the convent of Santa Maria Maddalena on the Quirinal in Rome; and that, once entered there, she would never again see a person from outside. The town’s-people were accustomed to the wall of silence and seclusion which had already grown up about her, and they did not even seek to [Pg 176]salute her when they met her going to and from church in the morning. To these simple citizens, ignorant but reverential, Sister Silvia’s lowered eyelids were as inviolate as the pearl gates of the New Jerusalem. Besides, to help their reverence, there were the fierce black eyes and strange reputation of Matteo. So when, a day or two after her mother’s death, his sister begged him to accompany her to church in the early morning, and leave her in the care of some decent woman there, Matteo replied that she might go by herself.

She set out for the first time alone on what had ever been to her a via sacra, and was now become a via dolorosa, where her tears dropped as she walked. And going so once, she went again. Pepina, the elder sister, a widow now, had come home to keep house for Matteo, but she was too much taken up with work, the care of her two children and looking out for a second husband to have time to watch Silvia, and after a few weeks the young girl went as unheeded as a matron in her daily walk.

At home her life was nearly the same. She mended the clothes from the washing and knit stockings, and sat at her window and looked off over the Campagna toward Rome.

One evening she sat there before going to bed and watched the moonlight turn all the earth to black and silver under the purple sky—a black like velvet, so deep and soft was it, and a silver like white fire, clear and splendid, yet beautifully soft. [Pg 177]She was feeling desolate, and her tears dropped down, now and then breaking into sobs. It had been pleasant to sit there alone when she knew that her mother was below stairs, strong, healthy and gay. All that life had been as the oil over which her little flame burned. Lacking it, she grew dim, just as the floating wick in her little blue vase before the Madonna grew dim when the oil was gone.

As she wept and heard unconsciously the nightingales, she grew conscious of another song that mingled with theirs. It was a human voice, clear and sweet as an angel’s, and it sang a melody she knew in little snatches that seemed to begin and end in a sigh. The voice came nearer and paused beneath a fig tree, and the words grew distinct.

“Pietà, signore, di me dolente,” it sang.

Silvia leaned out of the window and looked down at the singer. His face was lifted to the white moonlight, and seemed in its pallid beauty a concentration of the moonlight. Only his face was visible, for the shadow of the tree hid all his figure. One might almost have expected to catch a glimmer of two motionless wings bearing up that face, so fair it was.

To Silvia it was as if another self, who grieved also, but who could speak, were uttering all her pain, and lightening it so. She recognized Claudio’s voice. He was the chief singer in the cathedral, and sang like an angel. She was afraid that Claudio had done very wrong in not being a priest, but, for all that, she had often found her devotion [Pg 178]increased by his singing. The Christmas night would not have been half so joyful lacking his Adeste Fideles; the Stabat Mater sung by him in Holy Week made her tears of religious sorrow burst forth afresh; and when on Easter morning he sang the Gloria it had seemed to her that the heavens were opening.

For all that, however, he had been to her not a person, but a voice. That he should come here and express her sorrow made him seem different. For the first time she looked at his face. By daylight it was thin and finely featured, and of a clear darkness like shaded water, through which the faintest tinge of color is visible. In this transfigurating moonlight it became of a luminous whiteness.

The song ended, the singer turned his head slightly and looked up at Silvia’s window. She did not draw back. There was no recognition of any human sympathy with him, and no slightest consciousness of that airy and silent friendship which had long been weaving itself over the tops of the mountains that separated them. How could she know that Claudio had sung for her, and that it had been the measure of his success to see her head droop or lift as he sang of sorrow and pain or of joy and triumph? The choir had their post over the door; and, besides, she never glanced up even in going out. Therefore she gazed down into his uplifted face with a sweet and sorrowful tranquillity, her soul pure and candid to its uttermost depths.

[Pg 179]

For Claudio, who had sung to express his sympathy for her, but had not dreamed of seeing her, it was as if the dark-blue sky above had opened and an angel had looked out when he saw her face. He could only stretch his clasped hands toward her.

The gesture made her weep anew, for it was like human kindness. She hid her face in her handkerchief, and he saw her wipe the tears away again and again.

Claudio remembered a note he carried. It had been written the night before—not with any hope of her ever seeing it, but, as he had written her hundreds of notes before, pouring out his heart into them because it was too full to bear without that relief. He took the note out, but how should he give it to her? The window was too far above for him to toss so light a thing unless it should be weighted with a stone; and he could not throw a stone at Silvia’s window. He held it up, and, that she might see it more clearly, tore up a handful of red poppies and laid it white on the blossoms that were a deep red by night.

Silvia understood, and after a moment’s study dropped him down the ball of her knitting; and soon the note came swaying up through the still air resting on its cushion of poppies, for Claudio had wound the thread about both flowers and letter.

He smiled with an almost incredulous delight as he saw the package arrive safely at its destination, and caught afterward the faint red light of the [Pg 180]lamp that Silvia had taken down from before her Madonna to read the note by. Since she was a little thing only five or six years old his heart had turned toward her, and her small white face had been to him the one star in a dim life. He still kept two or three tiny flowers she had given him years before when his family and hers were coming together down from Monte San Silvestro at the other side of Monte Compatri. The two children, with others, had stopped to stick fresh flowers through the wire screen before the great crucifix half-way up the mountain, and Silvia had given Claudio these blossoms. He had laid them away with his treasures and relics—the bit of muslin from the veil of Our Lady of Loretto, the almost invisible speck from the cord of St. Francis of Assisi and the little paper of the ashes of Blessed Joseph Labré. In those days he was the little priest and she the little nun, and their companions stood respectfully back for them. Now he was no more the priest, and she was up there in her window against the sky reading the note he had written her.

This is what the note said:

“My heart is breaking for your sorrow. Why should such eyes as yours be permitted to weep? Who is there to wipe those tears away? Oh that I might catch them as they fall! Drop me down a handkerchief that has been wet with them, that I may keep it as a relic. Tell me of some way in which I can console you and spend my life to serve you.”

[Pg 181]

She read with a mingling of consolation and astonishment. Why, this was more than her mother cared for her! But perhaps men were really more strongly loving than women. It would seem so, since God, who knows all, when He wanted to express His love to mankind, took the form of a man, not of a woman. Then she considered whether, and how, she should answer this note, and the result of her considering was this, written hastily on a bit of paper in which some Agnus Dei had been wrapped:

“I do not know what I ought to write to you, but I thank you for your kindness. It comforts me, and I have need of comfort. I think, though, that it may be wrong for you to speak of my handkerchief as if it were a relic. Relics are things which have belonged to the saints, and I am not a saint at all, though I hope to become one. I frequently do wrong. Spend your life in serving God, and pray for me. You pray in singing, and your singing is very sweet.


It seemed to her a simple and merely polite note. To him it was as the spark to a magazine of powder. All the possibilities of his life, only half hoped or half dreamed of, burst at once into a flame of certainty. She had need of comfort, and he comforted her! His voice was sweet to her, and his singing was a prayer!

Silvia should not be a nun. She should break [Pg 182]the bond imposed by her mother, as he had broken that imposed by his parents. She should be his wife, and they would live in Rome. He knew that his voice would find bread for them.

All this flashed through his mind as he read, and pressed to his lips the handkerchief which she had dropped down to him, though it was not a relic. He lifted his arms upward toward her window with a rapturous joy, as if to embrace her, but she did not look out again. A little scruple for having deprived the Madonna for a moment of her lamp had made her resolve to say at once a decade of the rosary in expiation. He waited till the sound of closing doors and wandering voices told that the inhabitants gathered for the evening in the Lungara were separating to their homes, then went reluctantly away. Matteo would be at home, and Matteo’s face might look down at him from that other window beside Silvia’s. So he also went home, with the moonlight between his feet and the ground and stars sparkling in his brain. He felt as if his head were the sky.

This was an August night. One day in October, Matteo told his sister that she was to go to Rome with him the next morning to pass a month with a family they knew there, and afterward begin her novitiate in the convent of the Sacramentarians at Monte Cavallo. He had received a letter from the Signora Fantini, who would receive her and do everything for her. He and Pepina had no time, [Pg 183]now that the vintage had begun, to attend to such affairs, even if they knew how.

Silvia grew pale. She had not expected to go before the spring, and now all was arranged without a word being said to her, and she was to go without saying good-bye to any one.

Matteo’s sharp eyes were watching her. “You will be ready to start at seven o’clock,” he said; “I must be back to-morrow night.”

“Yes, Matteo,” she faltered, hesitated a moment, then ventured to add, “I did not expect to go to soon.”

“And what of that?” he demanded roughly. “You were to go at the proper time, and the proper time is to-morrow.”

She trembled, but ventured another word: “I should like to see my confessor first.”

“He will come here this evening to see you,” her brother replied: “I have already talked with him. You have nothing else to do. Pepina will pack your trunk while you are talking with the priest.”

Silvia had no more to say. She was bound hand and foot. Besides, she was willing to go, she assured herself. It was her duty to obey her parents, or the ones who stood in their place and had authority over her. Matteo said she must go; therefore it was her duty to go, and she was willing.

But the willing girl looked very pale and walked about with a very feeble step, and it was hard work to keep the tears that were every moment rising to [Pg 184]her eyes from falling over her cheeks. It was such a pitiful face, indeed, that Father Teodoli, when he came just before Ave Maria, asked if Silvia were ill.

“She has had a toothache,” Matteo said quickly, and gave his sister a glance.

“And what have you done for it, my child?” the priest asked kindly.

“Nothing,” Silvia faltered out.

“I will leave you to give Silvia all the advice she needs,” Matteo said after the compliments of welcome were over. “I have to go down the Lungara for men to work in the vineyard to-morrow. Silvia, come and shut the door after me: there is too much draught here.”

Silvia followed her brother to the door, trembling for what he might say or do. Well she knew that his command was given only that he might have a chance to speak with her alone.

“Mind what you say to your confessor,” he whispered, grasping her arm and speaking in her ear. “You are to be a nun: you wish to be, and you are willing to set out to-morrow. Tell him no nonsense—do you hear?—or it will be worse for you. I shall know every word you say. If he asks if you had a toothache, say Yes. Do you hear?”

“Yes, Matteo.”

She went back half fainting, and did as she had been commanded. If there had been any little lurking impulse to beg for another week or month, it died of fear. If she had any confession to make [Pg 185]of other wishes than those chosen for her, she postponed it. Matteo might be behind the door listening, or in the next room or at the window. It seemed to her that he could make himself invisible in order to keep guard over her.

So the priest talked a little, learned nothing, gave some advice, recommended himself to her prayers, gave her his benediction, and went. Then Pepina called her to see the trunk all packed with linen that had been laid by for her for years, and Matteo, who had really been lurking about the house, told her to go to bed, and himself really went off this time to the Lungara. Pepina’s lover came for her to sit out on the doorstep with him, and Silvia was left alone. Nobody cared for her. All had other interests, and they forgot her the moment she was out of their sight. Worse, even: they wanted her to be for ever out of their sight, that they might never have to think of her.

But no: there was one who did not forget her—who would perhaps now have heard that she was going away, and be waiting in the mountain-path for her. She hastened to her room, locked the door and went to the window. He made a gesture of haste, and she dropped the ball down to him. This was not the second time that their conversation had been held by means of a thread. Indeed, they had come to talk so every night. At first it had been a few words only, and Silvia’s unconsciousness and her sincerity in her intention to follow her mother’s will had imposed silence on the [Pg 186]young man. But little by little he had ventured, and she had understood; and within the last week there had been no concealments between them, though Silvia still resisted all his prayers to change her resolution and brave her brother.

His first note was in her hands in a moment:

“Is it possible that what I hear is true? I will not believe it: I will not let you go.”

“Yes, and I must go,” she wrote back. “I have to start at seven in the morning. Dear Claudio, be resigned: there is no help for it.”

“Silvia, why will you persist in ruining your life and mine? It is a sin. Say that you are too sick to go to-morrow. Stay in bed all day, and by night I will have a rope-ladder for you to come down to me. We can run away and hide somewhere.”

“I cannot. We could never hide from Matteo: he would find us out and kill us both.”

“I will go to the Holy Father and tell him all. We could be in Rome early in the morning if we should walk all night.”

“Matteo would hear us: he hears everything. We should never reach Rome. He would find us wherever we might be hidden. If we were dead and buried he would pull us out of the ground to stab us. I must go. I have sinned in having so much intercourse with you. Be resigned, Claudio. Be a good man, and we shall meet in heaven. The earth is a terrible place: I am afraid of it. I want to shut myself up in the convent and be at [Pg 187]peace. I fear so much that I tremble all the time. Say addio.”

“I cannot. Will you stay in bed to-morrow, and let me try if I cannot go to Rome?”

“Say addio, Claudio. I dare not stay here any longer: I hear some one outside my door. I say addio to you now. I shall not drop the ball again.”

She did not even draw it up again, for the thread caught on a nail in the wall and broke. And at the same time there was a knock at her door.

“Silvia, why do you not go to bed?” Matteo called out: “I hear you up.”

“I am going now,” she made haste to answer, and in her terror threw herself on the bed without undressing. She wondered if Matteo could hear her heart beat through the wall or see how she was shaking.

The next morning at seven o’clock Silvia and her brother took their seats in the clumsy coach that goes from Monte Compatri to Rome whenever there are passengers enough to fill it, and after confused leavetakings from all but the one she wished most to see they set out. Claudio was invisible. In fact, he had lain on the ground all night beneath her window, and now, hidden in a tree, was watching the winding road for an occasional glimpse of the carriage as it bore his love away.

The peasants of Italy, when they see the Milky Way stretching its wavering, cloudy path across the sky, shining as if made up of the footprints of [Pg 188]innumerable saints, say that it is the road to Jerusalem. The road to the New Jerusalem has no such pallid and spiritual glory: its colors are those of life. No death but that of martyrdom, with its rosy blood, waving palm-branch and golden crown, is figured there. Life, and the joy of life, beauty so profuse that it can afford to have a few blemishes like a slatternly Venus, and the dolce far niente of poverty that neither works nor starves,—they lie all along the road.

Silvia was young, and had all her life looked forward to this journey. She could not be quite indifferent. She looked and listened, though all the time her heart was heavy for Claudio. They reached the gate of St. John Lateran just as all the bells began to ring for the noon Angelus, and in fifteen minutes were at the Signora Fantini’s door and Silvia in the kind lady’s arms. It seemed to the girl that she had found her mother again. That this lady was more gracious, graceful, kind and beautiful than her mother had ever been she would not think. She was simply another mother. And when Matteo had gone away home again, not too soon, and when, after a few days’ sightseeing, the signora, suspecting that the continued sadness of her young guest had some other cause than separation from her brother and sister, sought persistently and artfully to win her secret, Silvia told her all with many tears. She was going to be a nun because her mother had said that she must—and she was willing to be a nun—certainly she was [Pg 189]willing. But, for all that, if it could have been so, she would have been so happy with Claudio, and she never should be quite happy without him.

“Then you must not be a nun,” the signora said decidedly. “The thing is all wrong. You have no vocation. You should have said all this before.”

For already the signora had taken Silvia to see the Superior at Monte Cavallo, who had promised to receive the young novice in three weeks, and had told her what work she could perform in the convent. “You are not strong, I think,” she had said, “but you can knit the stockings. All have to work.”

And Monsignor Catinari, whose business it was to examine all candidates for the conventual life, had held a long conversation with her and gone away perfectly satisfied.

But when the signora proposed to undo all this, Silvia was wild with terror. No, no, she would be a nun. Her mother had said so, she wished it, and Matteo would kill her if she should refuse.

“Leave it all to me,” the signora said, and laid her motherly hand on the trembling little ones held out to her in entreaty. “We will look out for that. Matteo shall not hurt you or Claudio. I am going to send for Monsignor Catinari again, and you must tell him the truth this time. And then we will see what can be done in the case. Don’t look so terrified, child. Do you think that Matteo rules the world?”

[Pg 190]

Poor little Silvia could not be reassured, for to her other terrors was now added Monsignor Catinari’s possible wrath. To her, men were objects of terror. The doctrine of masculine supremacy, so pitilessly upheld in Italy, was exaggerated to her mind by her brother’s character; and though she believed that help was sometimes possible, she also believed that it often came too late, as in the case of poor Beatrice Cenci. They might stand between her and Matteo, but if he had first killed her, what good would it do? She had a fixed idea that he would kill her.

Monsignor Catinari was indeed much provoked when the signora told him the true story of the little novice.

“Just see what creatures girls are!” he exclaimed. “How are we to know if they have a vocation or not? That girl professed herself both willing and desirous to be a nun.”

He did not scold Silvia, however. When he saw her pretty frightened face his heart relented. “You have told me a good many lies, my child,” he said, “but I forgive you, since they were not intended in malice. We will say no more about it. I learn from the signora that this Claudio is a good young man, so the sooner you are married the better. Cheer up: we will have you a bride by the first week of November; and if Claudio has such a wonderful voice, he can make his way in Rome.” The reassurances of a man were more effectual than those of a woman.

[Pg 191]

“At last I believe! at last I fear no more!” Silvia cried, throwing herself into the arms of the Signora Fantini when the Monsignor was gone. “Oh how beautiful the earth is! how beautiful life is!”

“We will then begin immediately to enjoy life,” the signora replied. “Collation is ready, and Nanna has bought us some of the most delicious grapes. See how large and rich they are! One could almost slice them. There! these black figs are like honey. Try one now, before your soup. The macaroni that will be brought in presently was made in the house—none of your Naples stuff, made nobody knows how or by whom. What else Nanna has for us I cannot say. She was very secret this morning, and I suspect that means rice-balls seasoned with mushrooms and hashed giblets of turkey. She always becomes mysterious when those are in preparation. Eat well, child, and get a little flesh and color before Claudio comes.”

They made a merry breakfast, with the noon sun sending its golden arrows through every tiniest chink of the closed shutters and an almost summer heat reigning without. Then there was an hour of sleep, then a drive to the Pincio to see all the notable people who came up there to look at or speak to each other while the sun sank behind St. Peter’s. And in the evening after dinner they went to the housetop to see the fireworks which were being displayed for some festa or other; and later there was music, and then to bed.

[Pg 192]

Life became an enchantment to the little bride-elect, as life in Italy will become to any one who has not too heavy a cross to bear. For peace in this beautiful land means delight, not merely the absence of pain. How the sun shone! and how the fountains danced! What roses bloomed everywhere! what fruits of Eden were everywhere piled! How soft the speech was! and how sweet the smiles! And when it was discovered that Silvia had a beautiful voice, so that she and Claudio would be like a pair of birds together, then it seemed to her that a nest of twigs on a tree-branch would be all that she could desire.

They took her to see the pope on one of those days. It was as if they had taken her to heaven. To her he was the soul of Rome, the reason why Rome was; and when she saw his white figure against the scarlet background of cardinals she remembered how Rome looked against the rosy Campagna at sunset from her far-away window in Monte Compatri.

“A little sposa, is she?” the pope said when Monsignor Catinari presented her.—“I bless you, my child: wear this in memory of me.” He gave her a little gold medal from a tiny pocket at his side, laid his hand on her head, and passed on. It was too much: she had to weep for joy.

Then, when the audience was over, they took her through the museum and library, and some one gave her a bunch of roses out of the pope’s private garden, and she was put into a carriage and driven [Pg 193]home, her heart beating somewhere in her head, her feet winged and her eyes dazzled.

There was a rapturous letter from Claudio awaiting her, and by that she knew that it was not all a dream. She rattled the paper in her hands as she sat with her eyes shut, half dreaming, to make sure and keep sure that she was not to wake up presently to bitterness. Claudio would come to Rome in a week, and perhaps they would be married before he should go back. There was no letter from Matteo. So much the better.

One golden day succeeded another, and Silvia changed from a lily to a rose with marvellous rapidity. She was not a ruddy, full-leaved rose, though, but like one of those delicate ones with clouds of red on them and petals that only touch the calyx, as if they were wings and must be free to move. She was slim and frail, and her color wavered, and her head had a little droop, and her voice was low. She had always been the stillest creature alive; and now, full of happiness as she was, her feelings showed themselves in an uneasy stirring, like that of a flower in which a bee has hidden itself. After the first outburst she did not so much say that she was happy as breathe and look it.

One noonday, when life seemed too beautiful to last, and they all sat together after breakfast, the signora, her daughter and Silvia, too contented to say a word, the door opened, and Matteo Guai came in with a black, smileless face, and not the [Pg 194]slightest salutation for his sister. He had come to take Silvia home, he replied briefly to the signora’s compliments. She must be ready in an hour. The vintage was suffering by his absence, and it was necessary that he should return at once.

Signora Fantini poured out the most voluble exclamations, prayers and protests. She had forty engagements for Silvia. They had had only a few days’ visit from her, and she was to have stayed a month. They would themselves accompany her to Monte Compatri later if it was necessary that she should go. But, in fine, Monsignor Catinari did not expect her to return.

“I am the head of the family, and my sister has to obey me till she is married,” Matteo replied doggedly. “I suppose that Monsignor Catinari will not deny that. The Church always supports the authority of the master of the family.”

“Why, of course,” the signora replied, rather confused by this irresistible argument, “you have the right, and no one will resist you. But as a favor now—” and the signora assumed her most coaxing smile, and even advanced a plump white hand to touch Matteo’s sleeve.

She might as well have tried to bewitch and persuade the bronze Augustus on the Capitoline Hill.

“Things have changed since it was promised that Silvia should stay a month with you,” Matteo replied. “There is work at home for her to do. Since she is not to be a nun, she must work. Let her be ready to start in an hour: my carriage is [Pg 195]waiting at the door. I am going out into the piazza for a little while. I will send a man up for her trunk when I am ready to start.”

Silvia uttered not a word. At sight of her brother she had sunk back in her chair white and speechless. On hearing his voice she had closed her eyes.

He half turned to her before going out, looking at her out of the corners of his evil eyes, a cold, strange smile wreathing his lips. “So you are not going to be a nun?” he said.

She did not respond. Only the quiver of her lowered eyelids and a slight shiver told that she knew he was addressing her.

Matteo went out, and the signora, at her wits’ end, undertook to encourage Silvia. There was no time to see Monsignor Catinari or to appeal to any authority; and if there were, it would have availed nothing perhaps. Almost any one would have said that the girl’s terrors were fanciful, and that it was quite natural her brother, who would lose five hundred scudi by her change of purpose, should require her to work as other girls of her condition worked.

“Cheer up and go with him, figlia mia,” she said, “and leave all to me. I will see Monsignor Catinari this very evening, and post a letter to you before I go to bed. If Matteo is unkind to you, we will have you taken away from him at once. And, in any case, you shall be married in a few weeks at the most, as Monsignor promised. Don’t cry so: [Pg 196]don’t say that you cannot go. I am sorry and vexed, my dear, but I see no way but for you to go. Depend upon me. No harm shall come to you. I will myself come to Monte Compatri within the week, and arrange all for you. Besides, recollect that you will see Claudio: he is there waiting for you. Perhaps you may see him this very evening.”

The Signora Fantini’s efforts to cheer and reassure the sister were as ineffectual as her efforts to persuade the brother had been. Silvia submitted because she had no strength to resist.

“O Madonna mia!” she kept murmuring, “he will kill me! he will kill me! O Madonna mia! pray for me.”

When an Italian says that he will come back in an hour, you may look for him after two hours. Matteo was no exception to the rule. It was already mid-afternoon when the porter came up and said that Silvia’s brother was waiting for her below.

The signora gave her a tumbler half full of vin santo, which she kept for special occasions—a strong, delicious wine with the perfume of a whole garden in it. “Drink every drop,” she commanded: “it will give you courage. You had better be a little tipsy than fainting away. And put this bottle into your pocket to drink when you have need on the way.”

More dead than alive, Silvia was placed in the little old-fashioned carriage that Matteo had hired [Pg 197]to come to Rome in, and her brother took his seat beside her. The Signora Fantini and her daughter leaned from the window, kissing their hands to her and shaking their handkerchiefs as long as she was in sight. And as long as she was in sight they saw her pale face turned backward, looking at them. Then the tawny stone of a church-corner hid her from their eyes for ever.

Who knows or can guess what that drive was? The two passed through Frascati, and Matteo stopped to speak to an acquaintance there. They drove around Monte Porzio, and Matteo stopped again, to buy a glass of wine and some figs. He offered some to his sister, but she shook her head.

“She is sleepy,” her brother said to the man of whom he had bought. “Give me another tumbler of wine: it isn’t bad.”

“It is the last barrel I have of the vintage of two years ago,” the man replied. “It was a good vintage. If the signorina would take a drop she would sleep the better. Besides, the night is coming on and there is a chill in the air.”

Silvia opened her eyes and made the little horizontal motion with her forefinger which in Italy means no.

“She will sleep well enough,” Matteo said, and drove on.

Night was coming on, and they had no more towns to pass—only a bit more of lonely level road and the lonely road that wound to and fro up the mountain-side. At the best, they could not reach [Pg 198]home before ten o’clock. The road went to and fro—sometimes open, to give a view of the Campagna and the Sabine Mountains, and Soracte swimming in a lustrous dimness on the horizon; sometimes shut in closely by trees, that made it almost black in spite of the moon. For the moon was low and gave but little light, being but a crescent as yet. There was a shooting star now and then, breaking out like a rocket with a trail of sparks or slipping small and pallid across the sky.

One of these latter might have been poor Silvia’s soul slipping away from the earth. It went out there somewhere on the mountain-side. Matteo said the carriage tilted, and she, being asleep, fell out before he could prevent. Her temple struck a sharp rock, and Claudio missed his bride.

He had to keep quiet about it, though. What could he prove? what could any one prove? Where knives are sharp and people mind their own business, or express their opinions only by a shrug of the shoulders and a grimace, how is a poor boy, how is even a rich man or a rich woman, to come at the truth in such a case? Besides, the truth would not have brought her back, poor little Silvia!

Transcriber’s Note:

Minor changes have been made to correct typesetters’ errors; otherwise every effort has been made to remain true to the author’s words and intent.