Part 2 out of 4
that was delightful indeed. But greater yet was the delight when the
foot-bridge was carried away; for then they had to cross the stream in a
boat. He longed for water where it could not be; would fain have seen it
running through the grass in front of his father's house; and had a waking
vision of a stream with wooden shores that babbled through his bedroom. So
it may be fancied with what delight he overheard the parental decision
that they should spend some weeks by the shores of the great world--water,
the father and the grave of rivers.
"After many vain outlooks, and fruitless inquiries of their driver, a
sudden turn in the road brought them in sight of the sea between the
hills; itself resembling a low blue hill, covered with white stones.
Indeed, the little girl only doubted whether those were white stones or
sheep scattered all over it. They lost sight of it; saw it again; and
hailed it with greater rapture than at first.
"The sun was more than halfway down when they arrived. They had secured a
little cottage, almost on the brow of the high shore, which in most places
went down perpendicularly to the beach or sands, and in some right into
deep water; but opposite the cottage, declined with a sloping, grassy
descent. A winding track led down to the village, which nestled in a
hollow, with steep footpaths radiating from it. In front of it, lower
still, lay the narrow beach, narrow even at low water, for the steep,
rocky shore went steep and rocky down into the abyss. A thousand
fantastic rocks stood between land and water; amidst which, at half-tide,
were many little rocky arbours, with floors of sunny sand, and three or
four feet of water. Here you might bathe, or sit on the ledges with your
feet in the water, medicated with the restless glitter and bewilderment of
a half-dissolved sunbeam.
"A promontory, curving out into the sea, on the right, formed a bay and
natural harbour, from which, towards the setting sun, many fishing-boats
were diverging into the wide sea, as the children, stiff and weary, were
getting out of the cart. Herbert's fatigue was soon forgotten in watching
their brown-dyed sails, glowing almost red in the sunset, as they went out
far into the dark, hunters of the deep, to spend the night on the waters.
"From the windows, the children could not see the shore, with all its
burst of beauties struck out from the meeting of things unlike; for it lay
far down, and the brow of the hill rose between it and them; only they
knew that below the waves were breaking on the rocks, and they heard the
gush and roar filling all the air. The room in which Herbert slept was a
little attic, with a window towards the sea. After gazing with unutterable
delight on the boundless water, which lay like a condensed sky in the grey
light of the sleeping day (for there is no night at this season in the
North), till he saw it even when his eyelids closed from weariness, he lay
down, and the monotonous lullaby of the sea mingled with his dreams.
"Next morning he was wakened by the challenging and replying of the
sentinel-cocks, whose crowing sounded to him more clear and musical than
that of any of the cocks at home. He jumped out of bed. It was a sunny
morning, and his soul felt like a flake of sunshine, as he looked out of
his window on the radiant sea, green and flashing, its clear surface here
and there torn by the wind into spots of opaque white. So happy did he
feel, that he might have been one who had slept through death and the
judgment, and had awaked, a child, still in the kingdom of God, under the
new heavens and upon the new earth.
"After breakfast, they all went down with their mother to the sea-shore.
As they went, the last of the boats which had gone out the night before,
were returning laden, like bees. The sea had been bountiful. Everything
shone with gladness. But as Herbert drew nearer, he felt a kind of dread
at the recklessness of the waves. On they hurried, assailed the rocks,
devoured the sands, cast themselves in wild abandonment on whatever
opposed them. He feared at first to go near, for they were unsympathizing,
caring not for his love or his joy, and would sweep him away like one of
those floating sea-weeds. 'If they are such in their play,' thought he,
'what must they be in their anger!' But ere long he was playing with the
sea as with a tame tiger, chasing the retreating waters till they rallied
and he, in his turn, had to flee from their pursuit. Wearied at length, he
left his brother and sister building castles of wet sand, and wandered
along the shore.
"Everywhere about lay shallow lakes of salt water, so shallow that they
were invisible, except when a puff of wind blew a thousand ripples into
the sun; whereupon they flashed as if a precipitous rain of stormy light
had rushed down upon them. Lifting his eyes from one of these films of
water, Herbert saw on the opposite side, stooping to pick up some treasure
of the sea, a little girl, apparently about nine years of age. When she
raised herself and saw Herbert, she moved slowly away with a quiet grace,
that strangely contrasted with her tattered garments. She was ragged like
the sea-shore, or the bunch of dripping sea-weed that she carried in her
hand; she was bare from foot to knee, and passed over the wet sand with a
gleam; the wind had been at more trouble with her hair than any loving
hand; it was black, lusterless, and tangled. The sight of rags was always
enough to move Herbert's sympathies, and he wished to speak to the little
girl, and give her something. But when he had followed her a short
distance, all at once, and without having looked round, she began to glide
away from him with a wave-like motion, dancing and leaping; till a clear
pool in the hollow of a tabular rock imbedded in the sand, arrested her
progress. Here she stood like a statue, gazing into its depth; then, with
a dart like a kingfisher, plunged half into it, caught something at which
her head and curved neck showed that she looked with satisfaction--and
again, before Herbert could come near her, was skimming along the uneven
shore. He followed, as a boy follows a lapwing; but she, like the lapwing,
gradually increased the distance between them, till he gave up the pursuit
with some disappointment, and returned to his brother and sister. More
ambitious than they, he proceeded to construct--chiefly for the sake of
the moat he intended to draw around it--a sand-castle of considerable
pretensions; but the advancing tide drove him from his stronghold before
he had begun to dig the projected fosse.
"As they returned home, they passed a group of fishermen in their long
boots and flapped sou'-westers, looking somewhat anxiously seaward. Much
to Herbert's delight, they predicted a stiff gale, and probably a storm. A
low bank of cloud had gathered along the horizon, and the wind had already
freshened; the white spots were thicker on the waves, and the sound of
their trampling on the shore grew louder.
"After dinner, they sat at the window of their little parlour, looking out
over the sea, which grew darker and more sullen, ever as the afternoon
declined. The cloudy bank had risen and walled out the sun; but a narrow
space of blue on the horizon looked like the rent whence the wind rushed
forth on the sea, and with the feet of its stormy horses tore up the blue
surface, and scattered the ocean-dust in clouds. As evening drew on,
Herbert could keep in the house no longer. He wandered away on the
heights, keeping from the brow of the cliffs; now and then stooping and
struggling with a stormier eddy; till, descending into a little hollow, he
sunk below the plane of the tempest, and stood in the glow of a sudden
calm, hearing the tumult all round him, but himself in peace. Looking up,
he could see nothing but the sides of the hollow with the sky resting on
them, till, turning towards the sea, he saw, at some distance, a point of
the cliff rising abruptly into the air. At the same moment, the sun looked
out from a crack in the clouds, on the very horizon; and as Herbert could
not see the sunset, the peculiar radiance illuminated the more strangely
the dark vault of earth and cloudy sky. Suddenly, to his astonishment, it
was concentrated on the form of the little ragged girl. She stood on the
summit of the peak before him. The light was a crown, not to her head
only, but to her whole person; as if she herself were the crown set on the
brows of the majestic shore. Disappearing as suddenly, it left her
standing on the peak, dark and stormy; every tress, if tresses they could
be called, of her windy hair, every tatter of her scanty garments, seeming
individually to protest, 'The wind is my playmate; let me go!' If
Aphrodite was born of the sunny sea, this child was the offspring of the
windy shore; as if the mind of the place had developed for itself a
consciousness, and this was its embodiment. She bore a strange affinity to
the rocks, and the sea-weed, and the pools, and the wide, wild ocean; and
Herbert would scarcely have been shocked to see her cast herself from the
cliff into the waves, which now dashed half-way up its height. By the time
he had got out of the hollow, she had vanished, and where she had gone he
could not conjecture. He half feared she had fallen over the precipice;
and several times that night, as the vapour of dreams gathered around him,
he started from his half-sleep in terror at seeing the little genius of
the storm fall from her rock-pedestal into the thundering waves as its
"Next day the wind continuing off the sea, with vapour and rain, the
children were compelled to remain within doors, and betake themselves to
books and playthings. But Herbert's chief resource lay in watching the sea
and the low grey sky, between which was no distinguishable horizon. The
wind still increased, and before the afternoon it blew a thorough storm,
wind and waves raging together on the rocky shore. The fishermen had
secured their boats, drawing them up high on the land; but what vessels
might be labouring under the low misty pall no one could tell. Many
anxious fears were expressed for some known to be at sea; and many tales
of shipwreck were told that night in the storm-shaken cottages.
"The day was closing in, darkened the sooner by the mist, when Herbert,
standing at the window, now rather weary, saw the little girl dart past
like a petrel. He snatched up his cap and rushed from the house, buttoning
his jacket to defend him from the weather. The little fellow, though so
quiet among other boys, was a lover of the storm as much as the girl was,
and would have preferred its buffeting, so long as his strength lasted, to
the warmest nook by the fireside; and now he could not resist the
temptation to follow her. As soon as he was clear of the garden, he saw
her stopping to gaze down on the sea--starting again along the heights--
blown out of her course--and regaining it by struggling up in the teeth of
the storm. He at once hastened in pursuit, trying as much as possible to
keep out of her sight, and was gradually lessening the distance between
them, when, on crossing the hollow already mentioned, he saw her on the
edge of the cliff, close to the pinnacle on which she had stood the night
before; where after standing for a moment, she sank downwards and
vanished, but whether into earth or air, he could not tell. He approached
the place. A blast of more than ordinary violence fought against him, as
if determined to preserve the secret of its favourite's refuge. But he
persisted, and gained the spot.
"He then found that the real edge of the precipice was several yards
farther off, the ground sloping away from where he stood. At his feet, in
the slope, was an almost perpendicular opening. He hesitated a little;
but, sure that the child was a real human child and no phantom, he did not
hesitate long. He entered and found it lead spirally downwards. Descending
with some difficulty, for the passage was narrow, he arrived at a small
chamber, into one corner of which the stone shaft, containing the stair,
projected half its round. The chamber looked as if it had been hollowed
out of the rock. A narrow window, little more than a loop-hole through the
thick wall, admitted the roar of the waves and a dim grey light. This
light was just sufficient to show him the child in the farthest corner of
the chamber, bending forward with her hands between her knees, in a
posture that indicated fear. The little playfellow of the winds was not
sure of him. At the first word he spoke, a sea-bird, which had made its
home in the apartment, startled by the sound of his voice, dashed through
the window, with a sudden clang of wings, into the great misty void
without; and Herbert looking out after it, almost forgot the presence of
the little girl in the awe and delight of the spectacle before him. It was
now much darker, and the fog had settled down more closely on the face of
the deep; but just below him he could see the surface of the ocean, whose
mad waves appeared to rush bellowing out of the unseen on to the shore of
the visible. When, after some effort, he succeeded in leaning out of the
window, he could see the shore beneath him; for he was on its extreme
verge, and the spray now and then dashed through the loop-hole into the
chamber. He was still gazing and absorbed, when a sweet timid voice, that
yet partook undefinably of the wildness of a sea-breeze, startled him out
of his contemplation.
"'Did my mother send you to me?' said the voice.
"He looked down. Close beside him stood the child, gazing earnestly up
into his face through the twilight from the window.
"'Where does your mother live?' asked Herbert.
"'All out there,' the child answered, pointing to the window.
"While he was thinking what she could mean, she continued:
"'Mother is angry to-night; but when the sun comes out, and those nasty
clouds are driven away, she will laugh again. Mother does not like black
clouds and fogs; they spoil her house.'
"Still perplexed as to the child's meaning, Herbert asked,
"'Does your mother love you?'
"'Yes, except when she is angry. She does not love me to-night; but
to-morrow, perhaps, she will be all over laughs to me; and that makes me
run to her; and she will smile to me all day, till night comes and she
goes to sleep, and leaves me alone; for I hear her sleeping, but I cannot
go to sleep with her.'"
Here the curate interrupted his reading to remark, that he feared he had
spoiled the pathos of the child's words, by translating them into English;
but that they must gain more, for the occasion, by being made intelligible
to his audience, than they could lose by the change from their original
"Herbert's sympathies had by this time made him suspect that the child
must be talking of the sea, which somehow she had come to regard as her
mother. He asked,
"'Where does your father live, then?'
"'I have not any father,' she answered. 'I had one, but mother took him.'
"Several other questions Herbert put; but still the child's notions ran in
the same channel. They were wild notions, but uttered with confidence as
if they were the most ordinary facts. It seemed that whatever her
imagination suggested, bore to her the impress of self-evident truth; and
that she knew no higher reality.
"By this time it was almost dark.
"'I must go home,' said Herbert.
"'I will go with you,' responded the girl.
"She ran along beside him, but in the discursive manner natural to her;
till, coming to one of the paths descending towards the shore, she darted
down, without saying good-night even.
"Next day, the storm having abated, and the sun shining out, they were
standing on the beach, near a fisherman, who like them was gazing
seawards, when the child went skimming past along the shore. Mrs. Netherby
asked the fisherman about her, and learned the secret of the sea's
motherhood. She had been washed ashore from the wreck of a vessel; and was
found on the beach, tied to a spar. All besides had perished. From the
fragment they judged it to have been a Dutch vessel. Some one had said in
her hearing--'Poor child! the sea is her mother;' and her imagination had
cherished the idea. A fisherman, who had no family, had taken her to his
house and loved her dearly. But he lost his wife shortly after; and a year
or two ago, the sea had taken him, the only father she knew. All, however,
were kind to her. She was welcome wherever she chose to go and share with
the family. But no one knew today where she would be to-morrow, where she
would have her next meal, or where she would sleep. She was wild,
impulsive, affectionate. The simple people of the village believed her to
be of foreign birth and high descent, while reverence for her lonely
conditions made them treat her with affection as well as deference; so
that the forsaken child, regarded as subject to no law, was as happy in
her freedom and confidence as any wild winged thing of the land or sea.
The summer loved her; the winter strengthened her. Her first baptism in
the salt waters had made her a free creature of the earth and skies; had
fortified her, Achilles-like, against all hardship, cold, and nakedness
to come; had delivered her from the bonds of habit and custom, and shown
in her what earth and air of themselves can do, to make the lowest, most
undeveloped life, a divine gift.
"The following morning, the sea was smooth and clear. So was the sky.
Looking down from their cottage, the sea appeared to Herbert to slope
steeply up to the horizon, so that the shore lay like a deep narrow valley
between him and it. Far down, at the low pier, he saw a little boat
belonging to a retired ship-captain. The oars were on board; and the owner
and some one with him were walking towards the boat. Now the captain had
promised to take him with him some day.
"He was half-way down the road a moment after the words of permission had
left his mother's lips, and was waiting at the boat when the two men came
up. They readily agreed to let him go with them. They were going to row to
a village on the opposite side of the bay, and return in the evening.
Herbert was speechless with delight. They got in, the boat heaving beneath
them, unmoored and pushed off. This suspension between sea and sky was a
new sensation to Herbert; for when he looked down, his eye did not repose
on the surface, but penetrated far into a clear green abyss, where the
power of vision seemed rather to vanish than be arrested. When he looked
up, the shore was behind them; and he knew, for the first time, what it
was to look at the land as he had looked at the sea; to regard the land,
in its turn, as a _phenomenon_--observing it apart from himself.
"Running along the shore like a little bird, he saw the child of the sea;
and, further to the right, the peak on which she had stood in the sunset,
and into whose mysterious chamber she had led him. The captain here put a
pocket-telescope into his hand; and with this annihilator of space he made
new discoveries. He saw a little window in the cliff, doubtless the same
from which he had looked out on the dim sea; and then perceived that the
front of the cliff, in that part, was no rock, but a wall, regularly and
strongly built. It was evidently the remains of an old fortress. The front
foundation had been laid in the rocks of the shore; the cliff had then
been faced up with masonry; and behind chambers had been cut in the rock;
into one of which Herbert had descended a ruined spiral stair. The castle
itself, which had stood on the top, had mouldered away, leaving only a
rugged and broken surface.
"By this time they were near the opposite shore, and Herbert looked up
with dread at the great cliffs that rose perpendicularly out of the water,
which heaved slowly and heavily, with an appearance of immense depth,
against them. Their black jagged sides had huge holes, into which the sea
rushed--far into the dark--with a muffled roar; and large protuberances of
rock, bare and threatening. Numberless shadows lay on their faces; and
here and there from their tops trickled little steams, plashing into the
waves at their feet. Passing through a natural arch in a rock, lofty and
narrow, called the Devil's Bridge, and turning a little promontory, they
were soon aground on the beach.
"When the captain had finished his business, they had some dinner at the
inn; and while the two men drank their grog, Herbert was a delighted
listener to many a sea story, old and new. How the boy longed to be a
sailor, and live always on the great waters! The blocks and cordage of the
fast-rooted flagstaff before the inn, assumed an almost magic interest to
him, as the two sailors went on with their tales of winds and rocks, and
narrow escapes and shipwrecks. And how proud he was of the friendship of
these old seafarers!
"At length it was time to return home. As they rowed slowly along, the sun
was going down in the west, and their shadows were flung far on the waves,
which gleamed and glistened in the rich calm light. Land and sea were
bathed in the blessing of heaven; its glory was on the rocks, and on the
shore, and in the depth of the heaving sea. Under the boat, wherever it
went, shone a paler green. The only sounds were of the oars in the
row-locks, of the drip from their blades as they rose and made curves in
the air, and the low plash with which they dipped again into the sea;
while the water in the wake of the boat hastened to compose itself again
to that sleep from which it had been unwillingly roused by the passing
keel. The boy's heart was full. Often in after years he longed for the
wings of a dove that he might fly to that boat (still floating in the calm
sea of his memory), and there lie until his spirit had had rest enough.
"The next time that Herbert approached the little girl, she waited his
coming; and while they talked, Mrs. Netherby joined them with her Effie.
Presently the gaze of the sea-child was fixed upon little Effie, to the
all but total neglect of the others. The result of this contemplation was
visible the next day. Mrs. Netherby having invited her to come and see
them, the following morning, as they were seated at breakfast, the door of
the room opened, without any prefatory tap, and in peeped with wild
confidence the smiling face of the untamed Undine. It was at once evident
that civilization had laid a finger upon her, and that a new womanly
impulse had been awakened. For there she stood, gazing at Effie, and with
both hands smoothing down her own hair, which she had managed, after a
fashion, to part in the middle, and had plentifully wetted with sea-water.
In her run up the height, it had begun to dry, and little spangles of salt
were visible all over it. She could not alter her dress, whose many
slashes showed little lining except her skin; but she had done all she
could to approximate her appearance to that of Effie, whom she seemed to
regard as a little divinity.
"Mrs. Netherby's heart was drawn towards the motherless child, and she
clothed her from head to foot; though how far this was a benefit as
regarded cold and heat, is a question. Herbert began to teach her to read;
in which her progress was just like her bodily movements over the earth's
surface; now a dead pause, and now the flight of a bird. Now and then she
would suddenly start up, heedless where her book might happen to fall, and
rush out along the heights; returning next day, or the same afternoon,
and, without any apology, resuming her studies.
"This holiday was to Herbert one of those seasons which tinge the whole of
the future life. It was a storehouse of sights and sounds and images of
thought; a tiring-room, wherein to clothe the ideas that came forth to act
their parts upon the stage of reason. Often at night, just ere the sleep
that wipes out the day from the overfilled and blotted tablets of the
brain, enwrapped him in its cool, grave-like garments, a vision of the
darkened sea, spotted and spangled with pools of unutterable light, would
rise before him unbidden, in that infinite space for creation which lies
dark and waiting under the closed eyelids. The darkened sea might be but
the out-thrown image of his own overshadowed soul; and the spots of light
the visual form of his hopes. So clearly would these be present to him
sometimes, that when he opened his eyes and gazed into the darkness of his
room, he would see the bright spaces shining before him still. Then he
would fall asleep and dream on about the sea--watching a little cutter
perhaps, as 'she leaned to the lee, and girdled the wave,' flinging the
frolic-some waters from her bows, and parting a path for herself between.
Or he would be seated with the helm in his hand, and all the force and the
joy wherewith she dashed headlong on the rising waves, and half pierced
them and half drove them under her triumphant keel, would be issuing from
his will and his triumph.
"Surely even for the sad despairing waves there is some hope, out in that
boundless room which borders on the sky, and upon which, even in the
gloomiest hour of tempest, falls sometimes from heaven a glory intense.
"So when the time came that the lover of waters must return, he went back
enriched with new visions of them in their great home and motherland, he
had seen them still and silent as a soul in holy trance; he had seen them
raving in a fury of livid green, swarming with 'white-mouthed waves;' he
had seen them lying in one narrow ridge of unbroken blue, where the eye,
finding no marks to measure the distance withal, saw miles as furlongs;
and he had seen sweeps and shadows innumerable stretched along its calm
expanse, so dividing it into regions, and graduating the distance, that
the eye seemed to wander on and on from sea to sea, and the ships to float
in oceans beyond oceans of infinite reach. O lonely space! awful indeed
wert thou, did no one love us! But he had yet to receive one more vision
of the waters, and that was to be in a dream. With this dream I will close
the story of his holiday; for it went with him ever after, breaking forth
from the dream-home, and encompassing his waking thoughts with an
atmosphere of courage and hope, when his heart was ready to sink in a
world which was not the world the boy had thought to enter, when he ran to
welcome his fate.
"On their last Sunday, Herbert went with his mother to the evening service
in a little chapel in the midst of the fishermen's cottages. It was a
curious little place, with galleries round, that nearly met in the middle,
and a high pulpit with a great sounding-board over it, from which came the
voice of an earnest little Methodist, magnified by his position into a
mighty prophet. The good man was preaching on the parable of _the sheep
and the goats;_ and, in his earnestness for his own theology and the souls
of his hearers, was not content that the Lord should say these things in
his own way, but he must say them in his too. And a terrible utterance it
was! Looking about, unconsciously seeking some relief from the
accumulation of horrors with which the preacher was threatening the goats
of his congregation, Herbert spied, in the very front of one of the side
galleries, his little pupil, white with terror, and staring with round
unwinking eyes full in the face of the prophet of fear. Never after could
he read the parable without seeing the blanched face of the child, and
feeling a renewal of that evening's sadness over the fate of the poor
goats which afterwards grew into the question--'Doth God care for oxen,
and not for goats?' He never saw the child again; for they left the next
day, and she did not come to bid them good-by.
"As he went home from the chapel, her face of terror haunted him.
"That night he fell asleep, as usual, with the sound of the waves in his
soul. And as he slept he dreamed.--He stood, as he thought, upon the
cliff, within which lay the remnants of the old castle. The sun was slowly
sinking down the western sky, and a great glory lay upon the sea. Close to
the shore beneath, by the side of some low rocks, floated a little boat.
He thought how delightful it would be to lie in the boat in the sunlight,
and let it die away upon his bosom. He scrambled down the rocks, stepped
on board, and laid himself in the boat, with his face turned towards the
sinking sun. Lower and lower the sun sank, seeming to draw the heavens
after him, like a net. At length he plunged beneath the waves; but as his
last rays disappeared on the horizon, lo! a new splendour burst upon the
astonished boy. The whole waters were illuminated from beneath, with the
permeating glories of the buried radiance. In rainbow circles, and
intermingling, fluctuating sweeps of colours, the sea lay like an intense
opal, molten with the fire of its own hues. The sky gave back the
effulgence with a less deep but more heavenly loveliness.
"But betwixt the sea and the sky, just over the grave of the down-gone
sun, a dark spot appeared, parting the earth and the heaven where they had
mingled in embraces of light. And the dark spot grew and spread, and a
cold breath came softly over the face of the shining waters; and the
colours paled away; and as the blossom-sea withered and grew grey below,
the clouds withered and darkened above. The sea began to swell and moan
and look up, like the soul of a man whose joy is going down in darkness;
and a horror came over the heart of the sleeper, and in his dream he
lifted up his head, meaning to rise and hasten to his home. But, behold,
the shore was far away, and the great castle-cliff had sunk to a low
ridge! With a cry, he sank back on the bosom of the careless sea.
"The boat began to rise and fall on the waking waves. Then a great blast
of wind laid hold of it, and whirled it about. Once more he looked up, and
saw that the tops of the waves were torn away, and that 'the white water
was coming out of the black.' Higher and higher rose the billows; louder
and louder roared the wind across their jagged furrows, tearing awful
descants from their bursting chords, and tossing the little boat like a
leaf in the lone desert of storms; now holding it perched on the very
crest of a wave, in the mad eye of the tempest, while the chaotic waters
danced, raving about, in hopeless confusion; now letting it sink in the
hollow of the waves, and lifting above it cold glittering walls of water,
that becalmed it as in a sheltered vale, while the hurricane roaring
above, flung arches of writhing waters across from billow to billow
overhead, and threatened to close, as in a transparent tomb, boat and boy.
At length, when the boat rose once more, unwilling, to the awful ridge,
jagged and white, a yet fiercer blast tore it from the top of the wave.
The dreamer found himself choking in the waters, and soon lost all
consciousness of the buffeting waves or the shrieking winds.
"When the dreamer again awoke, he felt that he was carried along through
the storm above the waves; for they reached him only in bursts of spray,
though the wind raged around him more fiercely than ever. He opened his
eyes and looked downwards. Beneath him seethed and boiled the tumultuous
billows, their wreathy tops torn from them, and shot, in long vanishing
sheets of spray, over the distracted wilderness. Such was the turmoil
beneath, that he had to close his eyes again to feel that he was moving
"The next time he opened them, it was to look up. And lo! a shadowy face
bent over him, whence love unutterable was falling in floods, from eyes
deep, and dark, and still, as the heavens that are above the clouds, Great
waves of hair streamed back from a noble head, and floated on the tides of
the tempest. The face was like his mother's and like his father's, and
like a face that he had seen somewhere in a picture, but far more
beautiful and strong and loving than all. With a sudden glory of gladness,
in which the spouting pinnacles of the fathomless pyramids of wandering
waters dwindled into the confusion of a few troubled water-drops, he knew,
he knew that the Lord was carrying his lamb in his bosom. Around him were
the everlasting arms, and above him the lamps that light heaven and earth,
the eyes that watch and are not weary. And now he felt the arms in which
he lay, and he nestled close to that true, wise bosom, which has room in
it for all, and where none will strive.
"Over the waters went the Master, now crossing the calm hollows, now
climbing the rising wave, now shrouded in the upper ocean of drifting
spray, that wrapped him around with whirling force, and anon calmly
descending the gliding slope into the glassy trough below. Sometimes, when
he looked up, the dreamer could see nothing but the clouds driving across
the heavens, whence now and then a star, in a little well of blue, looked
down upon him; but anon he knew that the driving clouds were his drifting
hair, and that the stars in the blue wells of heaven were his love-lighted
eyes. Over the sea he strode, and the floods lifted up their heads in
vain. The billows would gather and burst around and over them; but a
moment more, and the billows were beneath his feet, and on they were
going, safe and sure.
"Long time the journey endured; and the dream faded and again revived. It
was as if he had slept, and again awaked; for he lay in soft grass on a
mountain-side, and the form of a mighty man lay outstretched beside him,
who was weary with a great weariness.
"Below, the sea howled and beat against the base of the mountain; but it
was far below. Again the Lord arose, and lifted him up, and bore him
onwards. Up to the mountain-top they went, through the keen, cold air, and
over the fields of snow and ice. On the peak the Master paused and looked
"In a vast amphitheatre below, was gathered a multitude that no man could
number. They crowded on all sides beyond the reach of the sight, rising up
the slopes of the surrounding mountains, till they could no longer be
distinguished; grouped and massed upon height above height; filling the
hollows, and plains, and platforms all about. But every eye looked towards
the lowest centre of the mountain-amphitheatre, where a little vacant spot
awaited the presence of some form, which should be the heart of all the
throng. Down towards this centre the Lord bore him. Entering the holy
circle, he set him gently down, and then looked all around, as if
searching earnestly for some one he could not see.
"And not finding whom he sought, he walked across the open space. A path
was instantly divided for him through the dense multitude surrounding it.
Along this lane of men and women and children, he went; and Herbert ran,
following close at his feet; for now all the universe seemed empty save
where he was. And he was not rebuked, but suffered to follow. And although
the Lord walked fast and far, the feet following him were not weary, but
grew in speed and in power. Through the great crowd and beyond it, never
looking back, up and over the brow of the mountain they went, and leaving
behind them the gathered universe of men, descended into a pale night.
Hither and hither went the Master, searching up and down the gloomy
valley; now looking behind a great rock, and now through a thicket of
brushwood; now entering a dark cave, and now ascending a height and gazing
all around; till at last, on a bare plain, seated on a grey stone, with
her hands in her lap, they found the little orphan child who had called
the sea her mother.
"As he drew near to her, the Lord called out, 'My poor little lamb, I have
found you at last!' But she did not seem to hear or understand what he
said; for she fell on her knees, and held up her clasped hands, and cried,
'Do not be angry with me. I am a goat; and I ran away because I was
afraid. Do not burn me.' But all the answer the Lord made was to stoop,
and lift her, and hold her to his breast. And she was an orphan no more.
"So he turned and went back over hill and over dale, and Herbert followed,
rejoicing that the lost lamb was found.
"As he followed, he spied in a crevice of a rock, close by his path, a
lovely primrose. He stooped to pluck it. And ere he began again to follow,
a cock crew shrill and loud; and he knew it was the cock that rebuked
Peter; and he trembled and stood up. The Master had vanished. He, too,
fell a-weeping bitterly. And again the cock crew; and he opened his eyes,
and knew that he had dreamed. His mother stood by his bedside, comforting
the weeper with kisses. And he cried to her--
"'O mother! surely he would not come over the sea to find me in the storm,
and then leave me because I stopped to pluck a flower!'"
* * * * *
"Too long, I am afraid," said the curate, the moment he had finished his
paper, looking at his watch.
"We have not thought so, I am sure," said Adela, courteously. The ladies
rose to go.
"Who is to read next?" said the schoolmaster.
"Why, of course," said the curate, indignantly, "it ought to be my
brother, but there is no depending on him."
"If this frost lasts, I will positively read next time," said the doctor.
"But, you know, Ralph, it will be better for you to bring something else
with you, lest I should fail again."
"Cool!" said the curate. "I think it is time we dropped it."
"No, please don't," said Harry, with a little anxiety in his tone. "I
really want to read my story."
"It looks like it, doesn't it?"
"Now, Ralph, a clergyman should never be sarcastic. Be as indignant as you
please--but--sarcastic--never. It is very easy for you, who know just what
you have to do, and have besides whole volumes in that rickety old desk of
yours, to keep such an appointment as this. Mine is produced for the
occasion, _bona fide_; and I cannot tell what may be required of me from
one hour to another."
He went up to Adela.
"I am very sorry to have failed again," he said.
"But you won't next time, will you?"
"I will not, if I can help it."
But it was Adela herself who failed next time. I had seen her during the
reading draw her shawl about her as if she were cold. She seemed quite
well when the friends left, but she had caught a chill; and before the
morning she was quite feverish, and unable to leave her bed.
"You see, Colonel," said Mrs. Cathcart at breakfast, "that this doctor of
yours is doing the child harm instead of good. He has been suppressing
instead of curing the complaint; and now she is worse than ever."
"When the devil--" I began to remark in reply.
"Mr. Smith!" exclaimed Mrs. Cathcart.
"Allow me, madam, to finish my sentence before you make up your mind to be
shocked.--When the devil goes out of a man, or a woman either, he gives a
terrible wrench by way of farewell. Now, as the prophet Job teaches us,
all disease is from the devil; and--"
"The prophet Job!--Mr. Smith?"
"Well, the old Arab Scheik, if you like that epithet better."
"Really, Mr. Smith!"
"Well, I don't mind what you call him. I only mean to say that a disease
sometimes goes out with a kind of flare, like a candle--or like the poor
life itself. I believe, if this is an intermittent fever--as, from your
description, I expect it will prove to be--it will be the best thing for
"Well, we shall see what Dr. Wade will say."
"Dr. Wade?" I exclaimed.
"Of course, my brother will not think of trusting such a serious case to
an inexperienced young man like Mr. Armstrong."
"It seems to me," I replied, "that for some time the case has ceased to be
a serious one. You must allow that Adela is better."
"Seemed to be better, Mr. Smith. But it was all excitement, and here is
the consequence. I, as far as I have any influence, decidedly object to
Mr. Armstrong having anything more to do with the case."
"Perhaps you are right, Jane," said the colonel. "I fear you are. But how
can I ask Dr. Wade to resume his attendance?"
Always nervous about Adela, his sister-in-law had at length succeeded in
"Leave that to me," she said; "I will manage him."
"Pooh!" said I, rudely. "He will jump at it. It will be a grand triumph
for him. I only want you to mind what you are about. You know Adela does
not like Dr. Wade."
"And she does like _Doctor_ Armstrong?" said Mrs. Cathcart, stuffing each
word with significance.
"Yes," I answered, boldly. "Who would not prefer the one to the other?"
But her arrow had struck. The colonel rose, and saying only, "Well, Jane,
I leave the affair in your hands," walked out of the room. I was coward
enough to follow him. Had it been of any use, coward as I was, I would
But Mrs. Cathcart, if she had not reckoned without her host, had, at
least, reckoned without her hostess. She wrote instantly to Dr. Wade, in
terms of which it is enough to say that they were successful, for they
brought the doctor at once. I saw him pass through the hall, looking
awfully stiff, important, and condescending. Beeves, who had opened
the door to him, gave me a very queer look as he showed him into the
drawing-room, ringing, at the same time, for Adela's maid.
Now Mrs. Cathcart had not expected that the doctor would arrive so soon,
and had, as yet, been unable to make up her mind how to communicate to the
patient the news of the change in the physical ministry. So when the maid
brought the message, all that her cunning could provide her with at the
moment was the pretence, that he had called so opportunely by chance.
"Ask him to walk up," she said, after just one moment's hesitation.
Adela heard the direction her aunt gave, through the cold shiver which was
then obliterating rather than engrossing her attention, and concluded that
they had sent for Mr. Armstrong. But Mrs. Cathcart, turning towards her,
"Adela, my love, Dr. Wade had just called; and I have asked him to step up
The patient started up.
"Aunt, what do you mean? If that old wife comes into this room, I will
make him glad to go out of it!"
You see she was feverish, poor child, else I am sure she could not have
been so rude to her aunt. But before Mrs. Cathcart could reply, in came
Dr. Wade. He walked right up to the bed, after a stately obeisance to the
"I am sorry to find you so ill, Miss Cathcart."
"I am perfectly well, Dr. Wade. I am sorry you have had the trouble of
walking up stairs."
As she said this, she rang the bell at the head of her bed. Her maid, who
had been listening at the door, entered at once.--I had all this from
Adela herself afterwards.
"Emma, bring me my desk. Dr. Wade, there must be some mistake. It was my
aunt, Mrs. Cathcart, who sent for you. Had she given me the opportunity, I
would have begged that the interview might take place in her room instead
Dr. Wade retreated towards the fireplace, where Mrs. Cathcart stood, quite
aware that she had got herself into a mess of no ordinary complication.
Yet she persisted in her cunning. She lifted her finger to her forehead.
"Ah?" said Dr. Wade.
"Yes," said Mrs. Cathcart.
After some more whispering, the doctor sat down to write a prescription.
But meantime, Adela was busy writing another. What she wrote was precisely
to this effect--
"Dear Mr. Armstrong,
"I have caught a bad cold, and my aunt has let loose Dr. Wade upon me.
Please come directly, if you will save me from ever so much nasty
medicine, at the least. My aunt is not my mother, thank heaven! though she
would gladly usurp that relationship.
"Yours most truly,
She folded and sealed the note--sealed it carefully--and gave it to Emma,
who vanished with it, followed instantly by Mrs. Cathcart. As to what took
place outside the door--shall I confess it?--Beeves is my informant.
"Where are you going, Emma? Emma, come here directly," said Mrs. Cathcart.
"I am going a message for mis'ess."
"Who is that note for?"
"I didn't ask. John can read well enough."
"Show it me."
Emma, I presume, closed both lips and hand very tight. "I command you."
"Miss Cathcart pays me my wages, ma'am," said Emma, and turning, sped
down-stairs like a carrier-pigeon.
In the hall she met Beeves, and told him the story.
"There she comes!" cried he. "Give me the letter. I'll take it myself."
"You're not going without your hat, surely, Mr. Beeves," said Emma.
"Bless me! It's down-stairs. There's master's old one! He'll never want it
again. And if he does, it'll be none the worse."
And he was out of the door in a moment. Beeves's alarm, however, as to
Mrs. Cathcart's approach, was a false one. She returned into the sick
chamber, with a face fiery red, and found Dr. Wade just finishing an
"There!" said he, rising. "Send for that at once, and let it be taken
directly. Good morning."
He left the room instantly, making signs that he was afraid of exciting
his patient, as she did not appear to approve of his presence.
"What is the prescription?" said Adela, quite quietly, as Mrs. Cathcart
approached the bed, apparently trying to decipher it.
"I am glad to see you so much calmer, my dear. You must not excite
yourself. The prescription?--I cannot make it out. Doctors do write so
badly. I suppose they consider it professional."
"They consider a good many things professional which are only stupid. Let
me see it."
Mrs. Cathcart, thrown off her guard, gave it to her. Adela tore it in
fragments, and threw it in a little storm on the floor.
"Adela!" screamed Mrs. Cathcart. "What is to be done?"
"Pay Dr. Wade his fee, and tell him I shall never be too ill to refuse his
medicines. Now, aunt! You find I am determined.--I declare you make me
behave so ill that I am ashamed of myself."
Here the poor impertinent child crept under the clothes, and fell
a-weeping bitterly. Mrs. Cathcart had sense enough to see that nothing
could be done, and retired to her room. Getting weary of her own society
after a few moments of solitude, she proceeded to go down-stairs. But
half-way down, she was met full in the face by Harry Armstrong ascending
two steps at a time. He had already met Dr. Wade, as he came out of the
dining-room, where he had been having an interview with the colonel. Harry
had turned, and held out his hand with a "How do you do, Dr. Wade?" But
that gentleman had bowed with the utmost stiffness, and kept his hand at
"So it is to be open war and mutual slander, is it, Dr. Wade?" said Harry.
"In that case, I want to know how you come to interfere with my patient. I
have had no dismissal, which punctilio I took care to know was observed in
"Sir, I was sent for," said Dr. Wade, haughtily.
"I have in my pocket a note from the lady of this house, requesting my
immediate attendance. If you have received a request to the same purport
from a visitor, you obey it at your own risk. Good morning."
Then Harry walked quietly up the first half of the stair, while Beeves
hastened to open the door to the crest-fallen Dr. Wade; but by the time he
met Mrs. Cathcart, his rate of ascent had considerably increased. As soon
as she saw him, however, without paying any attention to the usual
formality of a greeting, she turned and re-entered her niece's room. Her
eyes were flashing, and her face spotted red and white with helpless rage.
But she would not abandon the field. Harry bowed to her, and passed on to
the bed, where he was greeted with a smile.
"There's not much the matter, I hope?" he said, returning the smile.
"It may suit you to make light of my niece's illness, Mr. Armstrong; but I
beg to inform you that her father thought it serious enough to send for
Dr. Wade. He has been here already, and your attendance is quite
"No doubt; no doubt. But as I am here, I may as well prescribe."
"Dr. Wade has already prescribed."
"And I have taken his prescription, have I not, aunt?--and destroyed it,
Mr. Armstrong, instead of my own chance."
"Of what?" said Mrs. Cathcart, with vulgar significance.
"Of getting rid of two officious old women at once," said Adela--in a
rage, I fear I must confess, as the only excuse for impertinence.
"Come, come," said Harry, "this won't do. I cannot have my patient excited
in this way. Miss Cathcart, may I ring for your maid?"
For answer, Adela rang the bell herself. Her aunt was pretending to look
out of the window.
"Will you go and ask your master," said Harry, when Emma made her
appearance, "to be so kind as come here for a moment?"
The poor colonel--an excellent soldier, a severe master, with the highest
notions of authority and obedience, found himself degraded by his own
conduct, as other autocrats have proved before, into a temporizing
incapable. It was the more humiliating that he was quite aware in his own
honest heart that it was jealousy of Harry that had brought him into this
painful position. But he obeyed the summons at once; for wherever there
was anything unpleasant to be done, there, with him, duty assumed the
sterner command. As soon as he entered the room, Harry, without giving
time for anyone else to determine the course of the conference, said:
"There has been some mistake, Colonel Cathcart, between Dr. Wade and
myself, which has already done Miss Cathcart no good. As I find her very
feverish, though not by any means alarmingly ill, I must, as her medical
attendant, insist that _no_ one come into her room but yourself or her
Every one present perfectly understood this; and however, in other
circumstances, the colonel might have resented the tone of authority with
which Harry spoke, he was compelled, for his daughter's sake, to yield;
and he afterwards justified Harry entirely. Mrs. Cathcart walked out of
the room with her neck invisible from behind. The colonel sat down by the
fire. Harry wrote his prescription on the half sheet from which Dr. Wade
had torn his; and then saying that he would call in the evening, took his
leave of the colonel, and bowed to his patient, receiving a glance of
acknowledgment which could not fail to generate the feeling that there was
a secret understanding between them, and that he had done just what she
wanted. He mounted his roan horse, called Rhubarb, with a certain elation
of being, which he tried to hide from everyone but himself.
When doctors forget that their patients are more like musical instruments
than machines, they will soon need to be reminded that they are men and
women, and not dogs or horses. Yet, alas for the poor dogs and horses that
fall into the hands of a man without a human sympathy even with them! I,
John Smith, bless you, my doctor-friends, that ye are not doctors merely,
but good and loving men; and, in virtue thereof, so much the more--so
exceedingly the more _Therapeutae_.
I need not follow the course of the fever. Each day the arrival of the
cold fit was longer delayed, and the violence of both diminished, until
they disappeared altogether. But a day or two before this happy result was
completed, Adela had been allowed to go down to the drawing-room, and had
delighted her father with her cheerfulness and hopefulness. It really
seemed as if the ague had carried off the last remnants of the illness
under which she had been so long labouring. But then, you can never put
anything to the _experimentum crucis_; and there were other causes at work
for Adela's cure, which were perhaps more powerful than even the ague.
However this may have been, she got almost quite well in a very short
space of time; and with her father's consent, issued invitations to
another meeting of the story-club. They were at once satisfactorily
By this time Percy had returned to London. His mother remained; but the
terms understood between her niece and herself were those of icy
politeness and reserve. I learned afterwards that something of an
understanding had also been arrived at between Percy and Harry; ever since
learning the particulars of which, I have liked the young rascal a great
deal better. So I will trouble my reader to take an interest in my report
of the affair.
Percy met Harry at the gate, after one of his professional visits, and
accosted him thus:
"Mr. Armstrong, my mother says you have been rude to her."
"I am not in the least aware of it, Mr. Percy."
"Oh! I don't care much. She is provoking. Besides, she can take care of
herself. That's not it."
"What is it, then?"
"What do you mean about Adela?"
"I have said nothing more than that she has had a sharp attack of
intermittent fever, which is going off."
"Come, come--you know what I mean."
"I may suspect, but I don't choose to answer hints, the meaning of which I
_only_ suspect. I might make a fool of myself."
"Well, I'll be plain. Are you in love with her?"
"Suppose I were, you are not the first to whom I should think it necessary
"Well, are you paying your addresses to her?"
"I am sorry I cannot consent to make my answers as frank as your
questions. You have the advantage of me in straightforwardness, I confess.
Only you have got sun and wind of me both."
"Come, come--I hate dodging."
"I daresay you do. But just let me shift round a bit, and see what you
will do then.--Are _you in love with Miss Cathcart?"
"Upon my word, I shouldn't have thought it. Here have we been all
positively conspiring to do her good, and you have been paying ten times
the attention to the dogs and horses that you have paid to her."
"By Jove! it's quite true. But I couldn't somehow."
"Then she hasn't encouraged you?"
"By Jupiter! you are frank enough now.--No, damn it--not a bit.--But she
used to like me, and she would again, if you would let her alone."
"Now, Mr. Percy, I'll tell you what.--I don't believe you are a bit in
love with her."
"She's devilish pretty."
"And I declare I think she got prettier and prettier every day till this
cursed ague took her.--Your fault too, my mother says."
"We'll leave your mother out of the question now, if you please. Do you
know what made her look prettier and prettier--for you are quite right
"No. I suppose you were giving her arsenic."
"No. I was giving her the true _elixir vitae_, unknown even to the
"I will explain myself. Her friend, Mr. Smith--"
"Old bachelor--yes.--Mr. Smith and I agreed that she was dying of ennui;
and so we got up this story-club, and got my brother and the rest to bear
a hand in it. It did her all the good the most sanguine of us could have
"I thought it horrid slow."
"I am surprised at that, for you were generally asleep."
"I was forced, in self-defence. I couldn't smoke."
"It gave her something to think about."
"So it seems."
"Now, Mr. Percy, how could you think you had the smallest chance with her,
when here was the first one and then another turning each the flash of his
own mental prism upon her weary eyes, and healing them with light; while
you would not take the smallest trouble to gratify her, or even to show
yourself to anything like advantage?--My dear fellow, what a fool you
"Come, come--you began with frankness, and I've only gone on with it. You
are a good-hearted fellow, and ought to be made something of."
"At all events, you make something of yourself, to talk of your own
productions as the elixir _vitae_."
"You forget that I am in disgrace as well as yourself on that score; for I
have not read a word of my own since the club began."
"Then how the devil should I be worse off than you?"
"I didn't say you were. I only said you did your best to place yourself at
a disadvantage. I at least took a part in the affair, although a very
humble one. But depend upon it, a girl like Miss Cathcart thinks more of
mental gifts, than of any outward advantages which a man may possess; and
in the company of those who _think_, a fellow's good looks don't go for
much. She could not help measuring you by those other men--and women too.
But you may console yourself with the reflection that there are plenty of
girls, and pretty ones too, of a very different way of judging; and for my
part you are welcome to the pick of them."
"You mean to say that I sha'n't have Addie?"
"Not in the least. But, come now--do you think yourself worthy of a girl
"No. Do you?"
"No. But I should not feel such a hypocrite if she thought me worthy, as
to give her up on that ground."
"Then what _do_ you mean?"
"To win her, if I can."
"But if you are a gentleman, you will let me say so myself, and not betray
"Damned if I do! Good luck to you! There's my hand. I believe you're a
good fellow after all. I wish I had seen you ride to hounds. They tell me
it's a sight."
"Thank you heartily. But what are you going to do?"
"Go back to the sweet-flowing Thames, and the dreams of the desk."
"Well--be a man as well as a gentleman. Don't be a fool."
"Hang it all! I believe it was her money, after all, I was in love with.
But the poor fellow looked grave enough as he went away. And I trust that,
before long, he, too, began to reap some of the good corn that grows on
the wintry fields of disappointment.--I have my eye upon him; but it is
little an _old fogie_ like me can do with a fellow like Percy.
THE CRUEL PAINTER.
Now to return to the Story-Club.
On the night appointed, we met. And to the delight of all the rest of us,
Harry arrived with a look that satisfied us that he was to be no defaulter
this time. The look was one of almost nervous uneasiness. Of course this
sprung from anxiety to please Adela--at least, so I interpreted it. She
occupied her old place on the couch; we all arranged ourselves nearly as
before; and the fire was burning very bright. Before he began, however,
Harry, turning to our host, said:
"May I arrange the scene as I please, for the right effect of my story?"
"Certainly," answered the colonel.
Harry rose, and extinguished the lamp.
"But, my dear sir," said the colonel, "how can you read now?"
"Perfectly, by the firelight," answered Harry.
He then went to the windows, and drawing aside the curtains, drew up the
It was full high moon, and the light so clear that, notwithstanding the
brightness of the fire, each window seemed to lie in ghostly shimmer on
the floor. Not a breath of wind was abroad. The whole country being
covered with snow, the air was filled with a snowy light. On one side rose
the high roof of another part of the house, on which the snow was lying
thick and smooth, undisturbed save by the footprints, visible in the moon,
of a large black cat, which had now paused in the middle of it, and was
looking round suspiciously towards the source of the light which had
surprised him in his midnight walk.
"Now," said Harry, returning to his seat, and putting on an air of
confidence to conceal the lack of it, "let any one who has nerves retire
at once, both for his own sake and that of the company! This is just such
a night as I wanted to read my story in--snow--stillness--moonlight
outside, and nothing but firelight inside. Mind, Ralph, you keep up the
fire, for the room will be more ready to get cold now the coverings are
off the windows.--You will say at once if you feel it cold, Miss
Adela promised; and Harry, who had his manuscript gummed together in a
continuous roll, so that he might not have to turn over any leaves, began
"THE CRUEL PAINTER.
"Among the young men assembled at the University of Prague, in the year
159--, was one called Karl von Wolkenlicht. A somewhat careless student,
he yet held a fair position in the estimation of both professors and men,
because he could hardly look at a proposition without understanding it.
Where such proposition, however, had to do with anything relating to the
deeper insights of the nature, he was quite content that, for him, it
should remain a proposition; which, however, he laid up in one of his
mental cabinets, and was ready to reproduce at a moment's notice. This
mental agility was more than matched by the corresponding corporeal
excellence, and both aided in producing results in which his remarkable
strength was equally apparent. In all games depending upon the combination
of muscle and skill, he had scarce rivalry enough to keep him in practice.
His strength, however, was embodied in such a softness of muscular
outline, such a rare Greek-like style of beauty, and associated with such
a gentleness of manner and behaviour, that, partly from the truth of the
resemblance, partly from the absurdity of the contrast, he was known
throughout the university by the diminutive of the feminine form of his
name, and was always called Lottchen.
"'I say, Lottchen,' said one of his fellow-students, called Richter,
across the table in a wine-cellar they were in the habit of frequenting,
'do you know, Heinrich Hoellenrachen here says that he saw this morning,
with mortal eyes, whom do you think?--Lilith.'
"'Adam's first wife?' asked Lottchen, with an attempt at carelessness,
while his face flushed like a maiden's.
"'None of your chaff!'said Richter. 'Your face is honester than your
tongue, and confesses what you cannot deny, that you would give your
chance of salvation--a small one to be sure, but all you've got--for one
peep at Lilith. Wouldn't you now, Lottchen?'
"'Go to the devil!' was all Lottchen's answer to his tormentor; but he
turned to Heinrich, to whom the students had given the surname above
mentioned, because of the enormous width of his jaws, and said with
eagerness and envy, disguising them as well as he could, under the
appearance of curiosity:
"'You don't mean it, Heinrich? You've been taking the beggar in! Confess
"'Not I. I saw her with my two eyes.'
"'Notwithstanding the different planes of their orbits,' suggested
"'Yes, notwithstanding the fact that I can get a parallax to any of the
fixed stars in a moment, with only the breadth of my nose for the base,'
answered Heinrich, responding at once to the fun, and careless of the
personal defect insinuated. 'She was near enough for even me to see her
"'When? Where? How?' asked Lottchen.
"'Two hours ago. In the churchyard of St. Stephen's. By a lucky chance.
Any more little questions, my child?' answered Hoellenrachen.
"'What could have taken her there, who is seen nowhere?' said Richter.
"She was seated on a grave. After she left, I went to the place; but it
was a new-made grave. There was no stone up. I asked the sexton about her.
He said he supposed she was the daughter of the woman buried there last
Thursday week. I knew it was Lilith.'
"'Her mother dead!' said Lottchen, musingly. Then he thought with
himself--'She will be going there again, then!' But he took care that this
ghost-thought should wander unembodied. 'But how did you know her,
Heinrich? You never saw her before.'
"'How do you come to be over head and ears in love with her, Lottchen, and
you haven't seen her at all?' interposed Richter.
"'Will you or will you not go to the devil?' rejoined Lottchen, with a
comic crescendo; to which the other replied with a laugh.
"'No one could miss knowing her,' said Heinrich.
"'Is she so very like, then?'
"'It is always herself, her very self.'
"A fresh flask of wine, turning out to be not up to the mark, brought the
current of conversation against itself; not much to the dissatisfaction of
Lottchen, who had already resolved to be in the churchyard of St.
Stephen's at sun-down the following day, in the hope that he too might be
favoured with a vision of Lilith.
"This resolution he carried out. Seated in a porch of the church, not
knowing in what direction to look for the apparition he hoped to see, and
desirous as well of not seeming to be on the watch for one, he was gazing
at the fallen rose-leaves of the sunset, withering away upon the sky;
when, glancing aside by an involuntary movement, he saw a woman seated
upon a new-made grave, not many yards from where he sat, with her face
buried in her hands, and apparently weeping bitterly. Karl was in the
shadow of the porch, and could see her perfectly, without much danger of
being discovered by her; so he sat and watched her. She raised her head
for a moment, and the rose-flush of the west fell over it, shining on the
tears with which it was wet, and giving the whole a bloom which did not
belong to it, for it was always pale, and now pale as death. It was indeed
the face of Lilith, the most celebrated beauty of Prague.
"Again she buried her face in her hands; and Karl sat with a strange
feeling of helplessness, which grew as he sat; and the longing to help her
whom he could not help, drew his heart towards her with a trembling
reverence which was quite new to him. She wept on. The western roses
withered slowly away, and the clouds blended with the sky, and the stars
gathered like drops of glory sinking through the vault of night, and the
trees about the churchyard grew black, and Lilith almost vanished in the
wide darkness. At length she lifted her head, and seeing the night around
her, gave a little broken cry of dismay. The minutes had swept over her
head, not through her mind, and she did not know that the dark had come.
"Hearing her cry, Karl rose and approached her. She heard his footsteps,
and started to her feet. Karl spoke--
"'Do not be frightened,' he said. 'Let me see you home. I will walk behind
"'Who are you?' she rejoined.
"'I have heard of you. Thank you. I can go home alone.'
"Yet, as if in a half-dreamy, half-unconscious mood, she accepted his
offered hand to lead her through the graves, and allowed him to walk
beside her, till, reaching the corner of a narrow street, she suddenly
bade him good-night and vanished. He thought it better not to follow her,
so he returned her good-night and went home.
"How to see her again was his first thought the next day; as, in fact, how
to see her at all had been his first thought for many days. She went
nowhere that ever he heard of; she knew nobody that he knew; she was never
seen at church, or at market; never seen in the street. Her home had a
dreary, desolate aspect. It looked as if no one ever went out or in. It
was like a place on which decay had fallen because there was no indwelling
spirit. The mud of years was baked upon its door, and no faces looked out
of its dusty windows.
"How then could she be the most celebrated beauty of Prague? How then was
it that Heinrich Hoellenrachen knew her the moment he saw her? Above all,
how was it that Karl Wolkenlicht had, in fact, fallen in love with her
before ever he saw her? It was thus--
"Her father was a painter. Belonging thus to the public, it had taken the
liberty of re-naming him. Every one called him Teufelsbuerst, or
Devilsbrush. It was a name with which, to judge from the nature of his
representations, he could hardly fail to be pleased. For, not as a
nightmare dream, which may alternate with the loveliest visions, but as
his ordinary everyday work, he delighted to represent human suffering.
"Not an aspect of human woe or torture, as expressed in countenance or
limb, came before his willing imagination, but he bore it straightway to
his easel. In the moments that precede sleep, when the black space
before the eyes of the poet teems with lovely faces, or dawns into a
spirit-landscape, face after face of suffering, in all varieties of
expression, would crowd, as if compelled by the accompanying fiends, to
present themselves, in awful levee, before the inner eye of the expectant
master. Then he would rise, light his lamp, and, with rapid hand, make
notes of his visions; recording, with swift successive sweeps of his
pencil, every individual face which had rejoiced his evil fancy. Then he
would return to his couch, and, well satisfied, fall asleep to dream yet
further embodiments of human ill.
"What wrong could man or mankind have done him, to be thus fearfully
pursued by the vengeance of the artist's hate?
"Another characteristic of the faces and form which he drew was, that they
were all beautiful in the original idea. The lines of each face, however
distorted by pain, would have been, in rest, absolutely beautiful; and the
whole of the execution bore witness to the fact that upon this original
beauty the painter had directed the artillery of anguish to bring down the
sky-soaring heights of its divinity to the level of a hated existence. To
do this, he worked in perfect accordance with artistic law, falsifying no
line of the original forms. It was the suffering, rather than his pencil,
that wrought the change. The latter was the willing instrument to record
what the imagination conceived with a cruelty composed enough to be
"To enhance the beauty he had thus distorted, and so to enhance yet
further the suffering that produced the distortion, he would often
represent attendant demons, whom he made as ugly as his imagination could
compass; avoiding, however, all grotesqueness beyond what was sufficient
to indicate that they were demons, and not men. Their ugliness rose from
hate, envy, and all evil passions; amongst which he especially delighted
to represent a gloating exultation over human distress. And often in the
midst of his clouds of demon faces, would some one who knew him recognise
the painter's own likeness, such as the mirror might have presented it to
him when he was busiest over the incarnation of some exquisite torture.
"But apparently with the wish to avoid being supposed to choose such
representations for their own sakes, he always found a story, often in the
histories of the church, whose name he gave to the painting, and which he
pretended to have inspired the pictorial conception. No one, however, who
looked upon his suffering martyrs, could suppose for a moment that he
honoured their martyrdom. They were but the vehicles for his hate of
humanity. He was the torturer, and not Diocletian or Nero.
"But, stranger yet to tell, there was no picture, whatever its subject,
into which he did not introduce one form of placid and harmonious
loveliness. In this, however, his fierceness was only more fully
displayed. For in no case did this form manifest any relation either to
the actors or the endurers in the picture. Hence its very loveliness
became almost hateful to those who beheld it. Not a shade crossed the
still sky of that brow, not a ripple disturbed the still sea of that
cheek. She did not hate, she did not love the sufferers: the painter would
not have her hate, for that would be to the injury of her loveliness:
would not have her love, for he hated. Sometimes she floated above, as a
still, unobservant angel, her gaze turned upward, dreaming along, careless
as a white summer cloud, across the blue. If she looked down on the scene
below, it was only that the beholder might see that she saw and did not
care--that not a feather of her outspread pinions would quiver at the
sight. Sometimes she would stand in the crowd, as if she had been copied
there from another picture, and had nothing to do with this one, nor any
right to be in it at all. Or when the red blood was trickling drop by drop
from the crushed limb, she might be seen standing nearest, smiling over a
primrose or the bloom on a peach. Some had said that she was the painter's
wife; that she had been false to him; that he had killed her; and, finding
that that was no sufficing revenge, thus half in love, and half in deepest
hate, immortalized his vengeance. But it was now universally understood
that it was his daughter, of whose loveliness extravagant reports went
abroad; though all said, doubtless reading this from her father's
pictures, that she was a beauty without a heart. Strange theories of
something else supplying its place were rife among the anatomical
students. With the girl in the pictures, the wild imagination of Lottchen,
probably in part from her apparently absolute unattainableness and her
undisputed heartlessness, had fallen in love, as far as the mere
imagination can fall in love.
"But again, how was he to see her? He haunted the house night after night.
Those blue eyes never met his. No step responsive to his came from that
door. It seemed to have been so long unopened that it had grown as fixed
and hard as the stones that held its bolts in their passive clasp. He
dared not watch in the daytime, and with all his watching at night, he
never saw father or daughter or domestic cross the threshold. Little he
thought that, from a shot-window near the door, a pair of blue eyes, like
Lilith's, but paler and colder, were watching him just as a spider watches
the fly that is likely ere long to fall into his toils. And into those
toils Karl soon fell. For her form darkened the page; her form stood on
the threshold of sleep; and when, overcome with watching, he did enter its
precincts, her form entered with him, and walked by his side. He must find
her; or the world might go to the bottomless pit for him. But how?
"Yes. He would be a painter. Teufelsbuerst would receive him as a humble
apprentice. He would grind his colours, and Teufelsbuerst would teach him
the mysteries of the science which is the handmaiden of art. Then he might
see _her_, and that was all his ambition.
"In the clear morning light of a day in autumn, when the leaves were
beginning to fall seared from the hand of that Death which has his dance
in the chapels of nature as well as in the cathedral aisles of men--he
walked up and knocked at the dingy door. The spider painter opened it
himself. He was a little man, meagre and pallid, with those faded blue
eyes, a low nose in three distinct divisions, and thin, curveless, cruel
lips. He wore no hair on his face; but long grey locks, long as a woman's,
were scattered over his shoulders, and hung down on his breast. When
Wolkenlicht had explained his errand, he smiled a smile in which hypocrisy
could not hide the cunning, and, after many difficulties, consented to
receive him as a pupil, on condition that he would become an inmate of his
house. Wolkenlicht's heart bounded with delight, which he tried to hide:
the second smile of Teufelsbuerst might have shown him that he had ill
succeeded. The fact that he was not a native of Prague, but coming from a
distant part of the country, was entirely his own master in the city,
rendered this condition perfectly easy to fulfil; and that very afternoon
he entered the studio of Teufelsbuerst as his scholar and servant.
"It was a great room, filled with the appliances and results of art. Many
pictures, festooned with cobwebs, were hung carelessly on the dirty walls.
Others, half finished, leaned against them, on the floor. Several, in
different stages of progress, stood upon easels. But all spoke the cruel
bent of the artist's genius. In one corner a lay figure was extended on a
couch, covered with a pall of black velvet. Through its folds, the form
beneath was easily discernible; and one hand and forearm protruded from
beneath it, at right angles to the rest of the frame. Lottchen could not
help shuddering when he saw it. Although he overcame the feeling in a
moment, he felt a great repugnance to seating himself with his back
towards it, as the arrangement of an easel, at which Teufelsbuerst wished
him to draw, rendered necessary. He contrived to edge himself round, so
that when he lifted his eyes he should see the figure, and be sure that it
could not rise without his being aware of it. But his master saw and
understood his altered position; and under some pretence about the light,
compelled him to resume the position in which he had placed him at first;
after which he sat watching, over the top of his picture, the expression
of his countenance as he tried to draw; reading in it the horrid fancy
that the figure under the pall had risen, and was stealthily approaching
to look over his shoulder. But Lottchen resisted the feeling, and, being
already no contemptible draughtsman, was soon interested enough to forget
it. And then, any moment _she_ might enter.
"Now began a system of slow torture, for the chance of which the painter
had been long on the watch--especially since he had first seen Karl
lingering about the house. His opportunities of seeing physical suffering
were nearly enough even for the diseased necessities of his art; but now
he had one in his power, on whom, his own will fettering him, he could try
any experiments he pleased for the production of a kind of suffering, in
the observation of which he did not consider that he had yet sufficient
experience. He would hold the very heart of the youth in his hand, and
wring it and torture it to his own content. And lest Karl should be strong
enough to prevent those expressions of pain for which he lay on the watch,
he would make use of further means, known to himself, and known to few
"All that day Karl saw nothing of Lilith; but he heard her voice once--and
that was enough for one day. The next, she was sitting to her father the
greater part of the day, and he could see her as often as he dared glance
up from his drawing. She had looked at him when she entered, but had shown
no sign of recognition; and all day long she took no further notice of
him. He hoped, at first, that this came of the intelligence of love; but
he soon began to doubt it. For he saw that, with the holy shadow of
sorrow, all that distinguished the expression of her countenance from that
which the painter so constantly reproduced, had vanished likewise. It was
the very face of the unheeding angel whom, as often as he lifted his eyes
higher than hers, he saw on the wall above her, playing on a psaltery in
the smoke of the torment ascending for ever from burning Babylon.--The
power of the painter had not merely wrought for the representation of the
woman of his imagination; it had had scope as well in realizing her.
"Karl soon began to see that communication, other than of the eyes, was
all but hopeless; and to any attempt in that way she seemed altogether
indisposed to respond. Nor if she had wished it, would it have been safe;
for as often as he glanced towards her, instead of hers, he met the blue
eyes of the painter gleaming upon him like winter lightning. His tones,
his gestures, his words, seemed kind: his glance and his smile refused to
"The first day he dined alone in the studio, waited upon by an old woman;
the next he was admitted to the family table, with Teufelsbuerst and
Lilith. The room offered a strange contrast to the study. As far as
handicraft, directed by a sumptuous taste, could construct a house-
paradise, this was one. But it seemed rather a paradise of demons; for the
walls were covered with Teufelsbuerst's paintings. During the dinner,
Lilith's gaze scarcely met that of Wolkenlicht; and once or twice, when
their eyes did meet, her glance was so perfectly unconcerned, that Karl
wished he might look at her for ever without the fear of her looking at
him again. She seemed like one whose love had rushed out glowing with
seraphic fire, to be frozen to death in a more than wintry cold: she now
walked lonely without her love. In the evenings, he was expected to
continue his drawing by lamplight; and at night he was conducted by
Teufelsbuerst to his chamber. Not once did he allow him to proceed thither
alone, and not once did he leave him there without locking and bolting the
door on the outside. But he felt nothing except the coldness of Lilith.
"Day after day she sat to her father, in every variety of costume that
could best show the variety of her beauty. How much greater that beauty
might be, if it ever blossomed into a beauty of soul, Wolkenlicht never
imagined; for he soon loved her enough to attribute to her all the
possibilities of her face as actual possessions of her being. To account
for everything that seemed to contradict this perfection, his brain was
prolific in inventions; till he was compelled at last to see that she was
in the condition of a rose-bud, which, on the point of blossoming, had
been chilled into a changeless bud by the cold of an untimely frost. For
one day, after the father and daughter had become a little more accustomed
to his silent presence, a conversation began between them, which went on
until he saw that Teufelsbuerst believed in nothing except his art. How
much of his feeling for that could be dignified by the name of belief,
seeing its objects were such as they were, might have been questioned. It
seemed to Wolkenlicht to amount only to this: that, amidst a thousand
distastes, it was a pleasant thing to reproduce on the canvas the forms he
beheld around him, modifying them to express the prevailing feelings of
his own mind.
"A more desolate communication between souls than that which then passed
between father and daughter could hardly be imagined. The father spoke of
humanity and all its experiences in a tone of the bitterest scorn. He
despised men, and himself amongst them; and rejoiced to think that the
generations rose and vanished, brood after brood, as the crops of corn
grew and disappeared. Lilith, who listened to it all unmoved, taking only
an intellectual interest in the question, remarked that even the corn had
more life than that; for, after its death, it rose again in the new crop.
Whether she meant that the corn was therefore superior to man, forgetting
that the superior can produce being without losing its own, or only
advanced an objection to her father's argument, Wolkenlicht could not
tell. But Teufelsbuerst laughed like the sound of a saw, and said: 'Follow
out the analogy, my Lilith, and you will see that man is like the corn
that springs again after it is buried; but unfortunately the only result
we know of is a vampire.'
"Wolkenlicht looked up, and saw a shudder pass through the frame, and over
the pale thin face of the painter. This he could not account for. But
Teufelsbuerst could have explained it, for there were strange whispers
abroad, and they had reached his ear; and his philosophy was not quite
enough for them. But the laugh with which Lilith met this frightful
attempt at wit, grated dreadfully on Wolkenlicht's feeling. With her, too,
however, a reaction seemed to follow. For, turning round a moment after,
and looking at the picture on which her father was working, the tears rose
in her eyes, and she said: 'Oh! father, how like my mother you have made
me this time!' 'Child!' retorted the painter with a cold fierceness, 'you
have no mother. That which is gone out is gone out. Put no name in my
hearing on that which is not. Where no substance is, how can there be a
"Lilith rose and left the room. Wolkenlicht now understood that Lilith was
a frozen bud, and could not blossom into a rose. But pure love lives by
faith. It loves the vaguely beheld and unrealized ideal. It dares believe
that the loved is not all that she ever seemed. It is in virtue of this
that love loves on. And it was in virtue of this, that Wolkenlicht loved
Lilith yet more after he discovered what a grave of misery her unbelief
was digging for her within her own soul. For her sake he would bear
anything--bear even with calmness the torments of his own love; he would
stay on, hoping and hoping.--The text, that we know not what a day may
bring forth, is just as true of good things as of evil things; and out of
Time's womb the facts must come.
"But with the birth of this resolution to endure, his suffering abated;
his face grew more calm; his love, no less earnest, was less imperious;
and he did not look up so often from his work when Lilith was present. The
master could see that his pupil was more at ease, and that he was making
rapid progress in his art. This did not suit his designs, and he would
betake himself to his further schemes.
"For this purpose he proceeded first to simulate a friendship for
Wolkenlicht, the manifestations of which he gradually increased, until,
after a day or two, he asked him to drink wine with him in the evening.
Karl readily agreed. The painter produced some of his best; but took care
not to allow Lilith to taste it; for he had cunningly prepared and mingled
with it a decoction of certain herbs and other ingredients, exercising
specific actions upon the brain, and tending to the inordinate excitement
of those portions of it which are principally under the rule of the
imagination. By the reaction of the brain during the operation of these
stimulants, the imagination is filled with suggestions and images. The
nature of these is determined by the prevailing mood of the time. They are
such as the imagination would produce of itself, but increased in number
and intensity. Teufelsbuerst, without philosophizing about it, called his
preparation simply a love-philtre, a concoction well known by name, but
the composition of which was the secret of only a few. Wolkenlicht had, of
course, not the least suspicion of the treatment to which he was
"Teufelsbuerst was, however, doomed to fresh disappointment. Not that his
potion failed in the anticipated effect, for now Karl's real sufferings
began; but that such was the strength of Karl's will, and his fear of
doing anything that might give a pretext for banishing him from the
presence of Lilith, that he was able to conceal his feelings far too
successfully for the satisfaction of Teufelsbuerst's art. Yet he had to
fetter himself with all the restraints that self-exhortation could load
him with, to refrain from falling at the feet of Lilith and kissing the
hem of her garment. For that, as the lowliest part of all that surrounded
her, itself kissing the earth, seemed to come nearest within the reach of
his ambition, and therefore to draw him the most.
"No doubt the painter had experience and penetration enough to perceive
that he was suffering intensely; but he wanted to see the suffering
embodied in outward signs, bringing it within the region over which his
pencil held sway. He kept on, therefore, trying one thing after another,
and rousing the poor youth to agony; till to his other sufferings were
added, at length, those of failing health; a fact which notified itself
evidently enough even for Teufelsbuerst, though its signs were not of the
sort he chiefly desired. But Karl endured all bravely.
"Meantime, for various reasons, he scarcely ever left the house.
"I must now interrupt the course of my story to introduce another element.
"A few years before the period of my tale, a certain shoemaker of the city
had died under circumstances more than suggestive of suicide. He was
buried, however, with such precautions, that six weeks elapsed before the
rumour of the facts broke out; upon which rumour, not before, the most
fearful reports began to be circulated, supported by what seemed to the
people of Prague incontestable evidence.--A _spectrum_ of the deceased
appeared to multitudes of persons, playing horrible pranks, and
occasioning indescribable consternation throughout the whole town. This
went on till at last, about eight months after his burial, the magistrates
caused his body to be dug up; when it was found in just the condition of
the bodies of those who in the eastern countries of Europe are called
_vampires_. They buried the corpse under the gallows; but neither the
digging up nor the re-burying were of avail to banish the spectre. Again
the spade and pick-axe were set to work, and the dead man being found
considerably improved in _condition_ since his last interment, was, with
various horrible indignities, burnt to ashes, 'after which the _spectrum_
was never seen more.'
"And a second epidemic of the same nature had broken out a little before
the period to which I have brought my story.
"About midnight, after a calm frosty day, for it was now winter, a
terrible storm of wind and snow came on. The tempest howled frightfully
about the house of the painter, and Wolkenlicht found some solace in
listening to the uproar, for his troubled thoughts would not allow him to
sleep. It raged on all the next three days, till about noon on the fourth
day, when it suddenly fell, and all was calm. The following night,
Wolkenlicht, lying awake, heard unaccountable noises in the next house, as
of things thrown about, of kicking and fighting horses, and of opening and
shutting gates. Flinging wide his lattice and looking out, the noise of
howling dogs came to him from every quarter of the town. The moon was
bright and the air was still. In a little while he heard the sounds of a
horse going at full gallop round the house, so that it shook as if it
would fall; and flashes of light shone into his room. How much of this may
have been owing to the effect of the drugs on poor Lottchen's brain, I
leave my readers to determine. But when the family met at breakfast in the
morning, Teufelsbuerst, who had been already out of doors, reported that he
had found the marks of strange feet in the snow, all about the house and
through the garden at the back; stating, as his belief, that the tracks
must be continued over the roofs, for there was no passage otherwise.
There was a wicked gleam in his eye as he spoke; and Lilith believed that
he was only trying an experiment on Karl's nerves. He persisted that he
had never seen any footprints of the sort before. Karl informed him of his
experiences during the night; upon which Teufelsbuerst looked a little
graver still, and proceeded to tell them that the storm, whose snow was
still covering the ground, had arisen the very moment that their next door
neighbour died, and had ceased as suddenly the moment he was buried,
though it had raved furiously all the time of the funeral, so that 'it
made men's bodies quake and their teeth chatter in their heads.' Karl had
heard that the man, whose name was John Kuntz, was dead and buried. He
knew that he had been a very wealthy, and therefore most respectable,
alderman of the town; that he had been very fond of horses; and that he
had died in consequence of a kick received from one of his own, as he was
looking at his hoof. But he had not heard that, just before he died, a
black cat 'opened the casement with her nails, ran to his bed, and
violently scratched his face and the bolster, as if she endeavoured by
force to remove him out of the place where he lay. But the cat afterwards
was suddenly gone, and she was no sooner gone, but he breathed his last.'
"So said Teufelsbuerst, as the reporter of the town talk. Lilith looked
very pale and terrified; and it was perhaps owing to this that the painter
brought no more tales home with him. There were plenty to bring, but he
heard them all and said nothing. The fact was that the philosopher himself
could not resist the infection of the fear that was literally raging in
the city; and perhaps the reports that he himself had sold himself to the
devil had sufficient response from his own evil conscience to add to the
influence of the epidemic upon him. The whole place was infested with the
presence of the dead Kuntz, till scarce a man or woman would dare to be
alone. He strangled old men; insulted women; squeezed children to death;
knocked out the brains of dogs against the ground; pulled up posts; turned
milk into blood; nearly killed a worthy clergyman by breathing upon him
the intolerable airs of the grave, cold and malignant and noisome; and, in
short, filled the city with a perfect madness of fear, so that every
report was believed without the smallest doubt or investigation.
"Though Teufelsbuerst brought home no more of the town talk, the old
servant was a faithful purveyor, and frequented the news-mart assiduously.
Indeed she had some nightmare experiences of her own that she was proud to
add to the stock of horrors which the city enjoyed with such a hearty
community of goods. For those regions were not far removed from the
birthplace and home of the vampire. The belief in vampires is the
quintessential concentration and embodiment of all the passion of fear in
Hungary and the adjacent regions. Nor, of all the other inventions of the
human imagination, has there ever been one so perfect in crawling terror
as this. Lilith and Karl were quite familiar with the popular ideas on the
subject. It did not require to be explained to them, that a vampire was a
body retaining a kind of animal life after the soul had departed. If any
relation existed between it and the vanished ghost, it was only sufficient
to make it restless in its grave. Possessed of vitality enough to keep it
uncorrupted and pliant, its only instinct was a blind hunger for the sole
food which could keep its awful life persistent--living human blood. Hence
it, or, if not it, a sort of semi-material exhalation or essence of it,
retaining its form and material relations, crept from its tomb, and went
roaming about till it found some one asleep, towards whom it had an
attraction, founded on old affection. It sucked the blood of this unhappy
being, transferring so much of its life to itself as a vampire could
assimilate. Death was the certain consequence. If suspicion conjectured
aright, and they opened the proper grave, the body of the vampire would be
found perfectly fresh and plump, sometimes indeed of rather florid
complexion;--with grown hair, eyes half open, and the stains of recent
blood about its greedy, leech-like lips. Nothing remained but to consume
the corpse to ashes, upon which the vampire would show itself no more. But
what added infinitely to the horror was the certainty that whoever died
from the mouth of the vampire, wrinkled grandsire or delicate maiden, must
in turn rise from the grave, and go forth a vampire, to suck the blood of
the dearest left behind. This was the generation of the vampire brood.
Lilith trembled at the very name of the creature. Karl was too much in
love to be afraid of anything. Yet the evident fear of the unbelieving
painter took a hold of his imagination; and, under the influence of the
potions of which he still partook unwittingly, when he was not thinking
about Lilith, he was thinking about the vampire.
"Meantime, the condition of things in the painter's household continued
much the same for Wolkenlicht--work all day; no communication between the
young people; the dinner and the wine; silent reading when work was done,
with stolen glances many over the top of the book, glances that were never
returned; the cold good-night; the locking of the door; the wakeful night
and the drowsy morning. But at length a change came, and sooner than any
of the party had expected. For, whether it was that the impatience of
Teufelsbuerst had urged him to yet more dangerous experiments, or that the
continuance of those he had been so long employing had overcome at length
the vitality of Wolkenlicht--one afternoon, as he was sitting at his work,
he suddenly dropped from his chair, and his master hurrying to him in some
alarm, found him rigid and apparently lifeless. Lilith was not in the
study when this took place. In justice to Teufelsbuerst, it must be
confessed that he employed all the skill he was master of, which for
beneficent purposes was not very great, to restore the youth; but without
avail. At last, hearing the footsteps of Lilith, he desisted in some
consternation; and that she might escape being shocked by the sight of a
dead body where she had been accustomed to see a living one, he removed
the lay figure from the couch, and laid Karl in its place, covering him
with a black velvet pall. He was just in time. She started at seeing no
one in Karl's place and said:
"'Where is your pupil, father?'
"'Gone home,' he answered, with a kind of convulsive grin.
"She glanced round the room, caught sight of the lay figure where it had
not been before, looked at the couch, and saw the pall yet heaved up from
beneath, opened her eyes till the entire white sweep around the iris
suggested a new expression of consternation to Teufelsbuerst, though from a
quarter whence he did not desire or look for it; and then, without a word,
sat down to a drawing she had been busy upon the day before. But her
father, glancing at her now, as Wolkenlicht had used to do, could not help
seeing that she was frightfully pale. She showed no other sign of
uneasiness. As soon as he released her, she withdrew, with one more
glance, as she passed, at the couch and the figure blocked out in black
upon it. She hastened to her chamber, shut and locked the door, sat down
on the side of the couch, and fell, not a-weeping, but a-thinking. Was he
dead? What did it matter? They would all be dead soon. Her mother was dead
already. It was only that the earth could not bear more children, except
she devoured those to whom she had already given birth. But what if they
had to come back in another form, and live another sad, hopeless, loveless
life over again?--And so she went on questioning, and receiving no
replies; while through all her thoughts passed and repassed the eyes of
Wolkenlicht, which she had often felt to be upon her when she did not see
them, wild with repressed longing, the light of their love shining through
the veil of diffused tears, ever gathering and never overflowing. Then
came the pale face, so worshipping, so distant in its self-withdrawn
devotion, slowly dawning out of the vapours of her reverie. When it
vanished, she tried to see it again. It would not come when she called it;
but when her thoughts left knocking at the door of the lost, and wandered
away, out came the pale, troubled, silent face again, gathering itself up
from some unknown nook in her world of phantasy, and once more, when she
tried to steady it by the fixedness of her own regard, fading back into
the mist. So the phantasm of the dead drew near and wooed, as the living
had never dared.--What if there were any good in loving? What if men and
women did not die all out, but some dim shade of each, like that pale,
mind-ghost of Wolkenlicht, floated through the eternal vapours of chaos?
And what if they might sometimes cross each other's path, meet, know that
they met, love on? Would not that revive the withered memory, fix the
fleeting ghost, give a new habitation, a body even, to the poor, unhoused
wanderers, frozen by the eternal frosts, no longer thinking beings, but
thoughts wandering through the brain of the 'Melancholy Mass?' Back with
the thought came the face of the dead Karl, and the maiden threw herself
on her bed in a flood of bitter tears. She could have loved him if he had
only lived: she did love him, for he was dead. But even in the midst of
the remorse that followed--for had she not killed him?--life seemed a less
hard and hopeless thing than before. For it is love itself and not its
responses or results that is the soul of life and its pleasures.
"Two hours passed ere she could again show herself to her father, from
whom she seemed in some new way divided by the new feeling in which he did
not, and could not share. But at last, lest he should seek her, and
finding her, should suspect her thoughts, she descended and sought him.--
For there is a maidenliness in sorrow, that wraps her garments close
around her.--But he was not to be seen; the door of the study was locked.
A shudder passed through her as she thought of what her father, who lost
no opportunity of furthering his all but perfect acquaintance with the
human form and structure, might be about with the figure which she knew
lay dead beneath that velvet pall, but which had arisen to haunt the
hollow caves and cells of her living brain. She rushed away, and up once
more to her silent room, through the darkness which had now settled down
in the house; threw herself again on her bed, and lay almost paralysed
with horror and distress.
"But Teufelsbuerst was not about anything so frightful as she supposed,
though something frightful enough. I have already implied that Wolkenlicht
was, in form, as fine an embodiment of youthful manhood as any old Greek
republic could have provided one of its sculptors with as model for an
Apollo. It is true, that to the eye of a Greek artist he would not have
been more acceptable in consequence of the regimen he had been going
through for the last few weeks; but the emaciation of Wolkenlicht's frame,
and the consequent prominence of the muscles, indicating the pain he had
gone through, were peculiarly attractive to Teufelsbuerst.--He was busy
preparing to take a cast of the body of his dead pupil, that it might aid
to the perfection of his future labours.
"He was deep in the artistic enjoyment of a form, at the same time so
beautiful and strong, yet with the lines of suffering in every limb and
feature, when his daughter's hand was laid on the latch. He started, flung
the velvet drapery over the body, and went to the door. But Lilith had
vanished. He returned to his labours. The operation took a long time, for
he performed it very carefully. Towards midnight, he had finished encasing
the body in a close-clinging shell of plaster, which, when broken off, and
fitted together, would be the matrix to the form of the dead Wolkenlicht.
Before leaving it to harden till the morning, he was just proceeding to
strengthen it with an additional layer all over, when a flash of
lightning, reflected in all its dazzle from the snow without, almost
blinded him. A peal of long-drawn thunder followed; the wind rose; and
just such a storm came on as had risen some time before at the death of
Kuntz, whose spectre was still tormenting the city. The gnomes of terror,
deep hidden in the caverns of Teufelsbuerst's nature, broke out jubilant.
With trembling hands he tried to cast the pall over the awful white
chrysalis,--failed, and fled to his chamber. And there lay the studio
naked to the eyes of the lightning, with its tortured forms throbbing out
of the dark, and quivering, as with life, in the almost continuous
palpitations of the light; while on the couch lay the motionless mass of
whiteness, gleaming blue in the lightning, almost more terrible in its
crude indications of the human form, than that which it enclosed. It lay
there as if dropped from some tree of chaos, haggard with the snows of
eternity--a huge misshapen nut, with a corpse for its kernel.
"But the lightning would soon have revealed a more terrible sight still,
had there been any eyes to behold it. At midnight, while a peal of thunder
was just dying away in the distance, the crust of death flew asunder,
rending in all directions; and, pale as his investiture, staring with
ghastly eyes, the form of Karl started up sitting on the couch. Had he not
been far beyond ordinary men in strength, he could not thus have rent his
sepulchre. Indeed, had Teufelsbuerst been able to finish his task by the
additional layer of gypsum which he contemplated, he must have died the
moment life revived; although, so long as the trance lasted, neither the
exclusion from the air, nor the practical solidification of the walls of
his chest, could do him any injury. He had lain unconscious throughout the
operations of Teufelsbuerst, but now the catalepsy had passed away,
possibly under the influence of the electric condition of the atmosphere.
Very likely the strength he now put forth was intensified by a convulsive
reaction of all the powers of life, as is not infrequently the case in
sudden awakenings from similar interruptions of vital activity. The coming
to himself and the bursting of his case were simultaneous. He sat staring
about him, with, of all his mental faculties, only his imagination awake,
from which the thoughts that occupied it when he fell senseless had not
yet faded. These thoughts had been compounded of feelings about Lilith,
and speculations about the vampire that haunted the neighbourhood; and the
fumes of the last drug of which he had partaken, still hovering in his
brain, combined with these thoughts and fancies to generate the delusion
that he had just broken from the embrace of his coffin, and risen, the
last-born of the vampire race. The sense of unavoidable obligation to
fulfil his doom, was yet mingled with a faint flutter of joy, for he knew
that he must go to Lilith. With a deep sigh, he rose, gathered up the pall
of black velvet, flung it around him, stepped from the couch, and left the
study to find her.
"Meantime, Teufelsbuerst had sufficiently recovered to remember that he had
left the door of the studio unfastened, and that any one entering would
discover in what he had been engaged, which, in the case of his getting
into any difficulty about the death of Karl, would tell powerfully against
him. He was at the farther end of a long passage, leading from the house
to the studio, on his way to make all secure, when Karl appeared at the
door, and advanced towards him. The painter, seized with invincible
terror, turned and fled. He reached his room, and fell senseless on the
floor. The phantom held on its way, heedless.
"Lilith, on gaining her room the second time, had thrown herself on her
bed as before, and had wept herself into a troubled slumber. She lay
dreaming--and dreadful dreams. Suddenly she awoke in one of those peals of
thunder which tormented the high regions of the air, as a storm billows
the surface of the ocean. She lay awake and listened. As it died away, she
thought she heard, mingling with its last muffled murmurs, the sound of
moaning. She turned her face towards the room in keen terror. But she saw
nothing. Another light, long-drawn sigh reached her ear, and at the same
moment a flash of lightning illumined the room. In the corner farthest
from her bed, she spied a white face, nothing more. She was dumb and
motionless with fear. Utter darkness followed, a darkness that seemed to
enter into her very brain. Yet she felt that the face was slowly crossing
the black gulf of the room, and drawing near to where she lay. The next
flash revealed, as it bended over her, the ghastly face of Karl, down
which flowed fresh tears. The rest of his form was lost in blackness.
Lilith did not faint, but it was the very force of her fear that seemed to
keep her alive. It became for the moment the atmosphere of her life. She
lay trembling and staring at the spot in the darkness where she supposed
the face of Karl still to be. But the next flash showed her the face far
off, looking at her through the panes of her lattice-window.
"For Lottchen, as soon as he saw Lilith, seemed to himself to go through a
second stage of awaking. Her face made him doubt whether he could be a
vampire after all; for instead of wanting to bite her arm and suck the
blood, he all but fell down at her feet in a passion of speechless love.
The next moment he became aware that his presence must be at least very
undesirable to her; and in an instant he had reached her window, which he
knew looked upon a lower roof that extended between two different parts of
the house, and before the next flash came, he had stepped through the
lattice and closed it behind him.
"Believing his own room to be attainable from this quarter, he proceeded
along the roof in the direction he judged best. The cold winter air by
degrees restored him entirely to his right mind, and he soon comprehended
the whole of the circumstances in which he found himself. Peeping through
a window he was passing, to see whether it belonged to his room, he spied
Teufelsbuerst, who, at the very moment, was lifting his head from the faint
into which he had fallen at the first sight of Lottchen. The moon was
shining clear, and in its light the painter saw, to his horror, the pale
face staring in at his window. He thought it had been there ever since he
had fainted, and dropped again in a deeper swoon than before. Karl saw him
fall, and the truth flashed upon him that the wicked artist took him for
what he had believed himself to be when first he recovered from his
trance--namely, the vampire of the former Karl Wolkenlicht. The moment he
comprehended it, he resolved to keep up the delusion if possible. Meantime
he was innocently preparing a new ingredient for the popular dish of
horrors to be served at the ordinary of the city the next day. For the old
servant's were not the only eyes that had seen him besides those of
Teufelsbuerst. What could be more like a vampire, dragging his pall after
him, than this apparition of poor, half-frozen Lottchen, crawling across
the roof? Karl remembered afterwards that he had heard the dogs howling
awfully in every direction, as he crept along; but this was hardly
necessary to make those who saw him conclude that it was the same phantasm
of John Kuntz, which had been infesting the whole city, and especially the
house next door to the painter's, which had been the dwelling of the
respectable alderman who had degenerated into this most disreputable of
moneyless vagabonds. What added to the consternation of all who heard of
it, was the sickening conviction that the extreme measures which they had
resorted to in order to free the city from the ghoul, beyond which nothing
could be done, had been utterly unavailing, successful as they had proved
in every other known case of the kind. For, urged as well by various
horrid signs about his grave, which not even its close proximity to the
altar could render a place of repose, they had opened it, had found in the
body every peculiarity belonging to a vampire, had pulled it out with the
greatest difficulty on account of a quite supernatural ponderosity; which
rendered the horse which had killed him--a strong animal--all but unable
to drag it along, and had at last, after cutting it in pieces, and
expending on the fire two hundred and sixteen great billets, succeeded in
conquering its incombustibleness, and reducing it to ashes. Such, at
least, was the story which had reached the painter's household, and was
believed by many; and if all this did not compel the perturbed corpse to
rest, what more could be done?
"When Karl had reached his room, and was dressing himself, the thought
struck him that something might be made of the report of the extreme
weight of the body of old Kuntz, to favour the continuance of the delusion
of Teufelsbuerst, although he hardly knew yet to what use he could turn
this delusion. He was convinced that he would have made no progress
however long he might have remained in his house; and that he would have
more chance of favour with Lilith if he were to meet her in any other
circumstances whatever than those in which he invariably saw her--namely,
surrounded by her father's influences, and watched by her father's cold
"As soon as he was dressed, he crept down to the studio, which was now
quiet enough, the storm being over, and the moon filling it with her
steady shine. In the corner lay in all directions the fragments of the
mould which his own body had formed and filled. The bag of plaster and the
bucket of water which the painter had been using stood beside. Lottchen
gathered all the pieces together, and then making his way to an outhouse
where he had seen various odds and ends of rubbish lying, chose from the
heap as many pieces of old iron and other metal as he could find. To these
he added a few large stones from the garden. When he had got all into the
studio, he locked the door, and proceeded to fit together the parts of the
mould, filling up the hollow as he went on with the heaviest things he
could get into it, and solidifying the whole by pouring in plaster; till,
having at length completed it, and obliterated, as much as possible, the
marks of joining, he left it to harden, with the conviction that now it