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Doctor Grimshawe's Secret by Nathaniel Hawthorne

Part 2 out of 5

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purpose of breathing air that was neither infected with spiders nor

After his departure, Doctor Grimshawe seemed even more disturbed than
during his presence: again he strode about the study; then sat down
with his hands on his knees, looking straight into the fire, as if it
imaged the seething element of his inner man, where burned hot
projects, smoke, heat, blackness, ashes, a smouldering of old thoughts,
a blazing up of new; casting in the gold of his mind, as Aaron did that
of the Israelites, and waiting to see what sort of a thing would come
out of the furnace. The children coming in from their play, he spoke
harshly to them, and eyed little Ned with a sort of savageness, as if
he meant to eat him up, or do some other dreadful deed: and when little
Elsie came with her usual frankness to his knee, he repelled her in
such a way that she shook her little hand at him, saying, "Naughty
Doctor Grim, what has come to you?"

Through all that day, by some subtle means or other, the whole
household knew that something was amiss; and nobody in it was
comfortable. It was like a spell of weather; like the east wind; like
an epidemic in the air, that would not let anything be comfortable or
contented,--this pervading temper of the Doctor. Crusty Hannah knew it
in the kitchen: even those who passed the house must have known it
somehow or other, and have felt a chill, an irritation, an influence on
the nerves, as they passed. The spiders knew it, and acted as they were
wont to do in stormy weather. The schoolmaster, when he returned from
his walk, seemed likewise to know it, and made himself secure and
secret, keeping in his own room, except at dinner, when he ate his rice
in silence, without looking towards the Doctor, and appeared before him
no more till evening, when the grim Doctor summoned him into the study,
after sending the two children to bed.

"Sir," began the Doctor, "you have spoken of some old documents in your
possession relating to the English descent of your ancestors. I have a
curiosity to see these documents. Where are they?" [Endnote: 4.]

"I have them about my person," said the schoolmaster; and he produced
from his pocket a bundle of old yellow papers done up in a parchment
cover, tied with a piece of white cord, and presented them to Doctor
Grimshawe, who looked over them with interest. They seemed to consist
of letters, genealogical lists, certified copies of entries in
registers, things which must have been made out by somebody who knew
more of business than this ethereal person in whose possession they now
were. The Doctor looked at them with considerable attention, and at
last did them hastily up in the bundle again, and returned them to the

"Have you any idea what is now the condition of the family to whom
these papers refer?" asked he.

"None whatever,--none for almost a hundred years," said the
schoolmaster. "About that time ago, I have heard a vague story that one
of my ancestors went to the old country and saw the place. But, you
see, the change of name has effectually covered us from view; and I
feel that our true name is that which my ancestor assumed when he was
driven forth from the home of his fathers, and that I have nothing to
do with any other. I have no views on the estate,--none whatever. I am
not so foolish and dreamy."

"Very right," said the Doctor. "Nothing is more foolish than to follow
up such a pursuit as this, against all the vested interests of two
hundred years, which of themselves have built up an impenetrably strong
allegation against you. They harden into stone, in England, these
years, and become indestructible, instead of melting away as they do in
this happy country."

"It is not a matter of interest with me," replied the schoolmaster.

"Very right,--very right!" repeated the grim Doctor.

But something was evidently amiss with him this evening. It was
impossible to feel easy and comfortable in contact with him: if you
looked in his face, there was the red, lurid glare of his eyes; meeting
you fiercely and craftily as ever: sometimes he bit his lip and frowned
in an awful manner. Once, he burst out into an awful fit of swearing,
for no good reason, or any reason whatever that he explained, or that
anybody could tell. Again, for no more suitable reason, he uplifted his
stalwart arm, and smote a heavy blow with his fist upon the oak table,
making the tumbler and black bottle leap up, and damaging, one would
think, his own knuckles. Then he rose up, and resumed his strides about
the room. He paused before the portrait before mentioned; then resumed
his heavy, quick, irregular tread, swearing under his breath; and you
would imagine, from what you heard, that all his thoughts and the
movement of his mind were a blasphemy. Then again--but this was only
once--he heaved a deep, ponderous sigh, that seemed to come up in spite
of him, out of his depths, an exhalation of deep suffering, as if some
convulsion had given it a passage to upper air, instead of its being
hidden, as it generally was, by accumulated rubbish of later time
heaped above it.

This latter sound appealed to something within the simple schoolmaster,
who had been witnessing the demeanor of the Doctor, like a being
looking from another sphere into the trouble of the mortal one; a being
incapable of passion, observing the mute, hard struggle of one in its

"Friend," said he at length, "thou hast something on thy mind."

"Aye," said the grim Doctor, coming to a stand before his chair. "You
see that? Can you see as well what it is?"

"Some stir and writhe of something in the past that troubles you, as if
you had kept a snake for many years in your bosom, and stupefied it
with brandy, and now it awakes again, and troubles you with bites and

"What sort of a man do you think me?" asked the Doctor.

"I cannot tell," said the schoolmaster. "The sympathies of my nature
are not those that should give me knowledge of such men."

"Am I, think you," continued the grim Doctor, "a man capable of great

"A great one, if any," said Colcord; "a great good, likewise, it might

"What would I be likely to do," asked Doctor Grim, "supposing I had a
darling purpose, to the accomplishment of which I had given my soul,--
yes, my soul,--my success in life, my days and nights of thought, my
years of time, dwelling upon it, pledging myself to it, until at last I
had grown to love the burden of it, and not to regret my own
degradation? I, a man of strongest will. What would I do, if this were
to be resisted?"

"I do not conceive of the force of will shaping out my ways," said the
schoolmaster. "I walk gently along and take the path that opens before

"Ha! ha! ha!" shouted the grim Doctor, with one of his portentous
laughs. "So do we all, in spite of ourselves; and sometimes the path
comes to a sudden ending!" And he resumed his drinking.

The schoolmaster looked at him with wonder, and a kind of shuddering,
at something so unlike himself; but probably he very imperfectly
estimated the forces that were at work within this strange being, and
how dangerous they made him. He imputed it, a great deal, to the
brandy, which he had kept drinking in such inordinate quantities;
whereas it is probable that this had a soothing, emollient effect, as
far as it went, on the Doctor's emotions; a sort of like to like, that
he instinctively felt to be a remedy, But in truth it was difficult to
see these two human creatures together, without feeling their
incompatibility; without having a sense that one must be hostile to the
other. The schoolmaster, through his fine instincts, doubtless had a
sense of this, and sat gazing at the lurid, wrathful figure of the
Doctor, in a sort of trance and fascination: not able to stir;
bewildered by the sight of the great spider and other surroundings; and
this strange, uncouth fiend, who had always been abhorrent to him,--he
had a kind of curiosity in it, waited to see what would come of it, but
felt it to be an unnatural state to him. And again the grim Doctor came
and stood before him, prepared to make another of those strange
utterances with which he had already so perplexed him.

That night--that midnight--it was rumored through the town that one of
the inhabitants, going home late along the street that led by the
graveyard, saw the grim Doctor standing by the open window of the study
behind the elm tree, in his old dressing-gown, chill as was the night,
and flinging his arms abroad wildly into the darkness, and muttering
like the growling of a tempest, with occasional vociferations that grew
even shrill with passion. The listener, though affrighted, could not
resist an impulse to pause, and attempt overhearing something that
might let him into the secret counsels of this strange wild man, whom
the town held in such awe and antipathy; to learn, perhaps, what was
the great spider, and whether he were summoning the dead out of their
graves. However, he could make nothing out of what he overheard, except
it were fragmentary curses, of a dreadful character, which the Doctor
brought up with might and main out of the depths of his soul, and flung
them forth, burning hot, aimed at what, and why, and to what practical
end, it was impossible to say; but as necessarily as a volcano, in a
state of eruption, sends forth boiling lava, sparkling and
scintillating stones, and a sulphurous atmosphere, indicative of its
inward state. [Endnote: 5.]

Dreading lest some one of these ponderous anathemas should alight,
reason or none, on his own head, the man crept away, and whispered the
thing to his cronies, from whom it was communicated to the townspeople
at large, and so became one of many stories circulating with reference
to our grim hero, which, if not true to the fact, had undoubtedly a
degree of appositeness to his character, of which they were the
legitimate flowers and symbols. If the anathemas took no other effect,
they seemed to have produced a very remarkable one on the unfortunate
elm tree, through the naked branches of which the Doctor discharged
this fiendish shot. For, the next spring, when April came, no tender
leaves budded forth, no life awakened there; and never again, on that
old elm, widely as its roots were imbedded among the dead of many
years, was there rustling bough in the summer time, or the elm's early
golden boughs in September; and after waiting till another spring to
give it a fair chance of reviving, it was cut down and made into
coffins, and burnt on the sexton's hearth. The general opinion was that
the grim Doctor's awful profanity had blasted that tree, fostered, as
it had been, on grave-mould of Puritans. In Lancashire they tell of a
similar anathema. It had a very frightful effect, it must be owned,
this idea of a man cherishing emotions in his breast of so horrible a
nature that he could neither tell them to any human being, nor keep
them in their plenitude and intensity within the breast where they had
their germ, and so was forced to fling them forth upon the night, to
pollute and put fear into the atmosphere, and that people should
breathe-in somewhat of horror from an unknown source, and be affected
with nightmare, and dreams in which they were startled at their own


At the breakfast-table the next morning, however, appeared Doctor
Grimshawe, wearing very much the same aspect of an uncombed, unshorn,
unbrushed, odd sort of a pagan as at other times, and making no
difference in his breakfast, except that he poured a pretty large dose
of brandy into his cup of tea; a thing, however, by no means unexampled
or very unusual in his history. There were also the two children,
fresher than the morning itself, rosy creatures, with newly scrubbed
cheeks, made over again for the new day, though the old one had left no
dust upon them;[Endnote: 1] laughing with one another, flinging their
little jokes about the table, and expecting that the Doctor might, as
was often his wont, set some ponderous old English joke trundling round
among the breakfast cups; eating the corn-cakes which crusty Hannah,
with the aboriginal part of her, had a knack of making in a peculiar
and exquisite fashion. But there was an empty chair at table; one cup,
one little jug of milk, and another of pure water, with no guest to
partake of them.

"Where is the schoolmaster?" said Ned, pausing as he was going to take
his seat.

"Yes, Doctor Grim?" said little Elsie.

"He has overslept himself for once," quoth Doctor Grim gruffly; "a
strange thing, too, for a man whose victuals and drink are so light as
the schoolmaster's. The fiend take me if I thought he had mortal mould
enough in him ever to go to sleep at all; though he is but a kind of
dream-stuff in his widest-awake state. Hannah, you bronze jade, call
the schoolmaster to come to breakfast."

Hannah departed on her errand, and was heard knocking at the door of
the schoolmaster's chamber several times, till the Doctor shouted to
her wrathfully to cease her clatter and open the door at once, which
she appeared to do, and speedily came back.

"He no there, massa. Schoolmaster melted away!"

"Vanished like a bubble!" quoth the Doctor.

"The great spider caught him like a fly," quoth crusty Hannah,
chuckling with a sense of mischief that seemed very pleasant to her
strange combination.

"He has taken a morning walk," said little Ned; "don't you think so,
Doctor Grim?"

"Yes," said the grim Doctor. "Go on with your breakfast, little monkey;
the walk may be a long one, or he is so slight a weight that the wind
may blow him overboard."

A very long walk it proved; or it might be that some wind, whether evil
or good, had blown him, as the Doctor suggested, into parts unknown;
for, from that time forth, the Yankee schoolmaster returned no more. It
was a singular disappearance.

The bed did not appear to have been slept in; there was a bundle, in a
clean handkerchief, containing two shirts, two pocket handkerchiefs,
two pairs of cotton socks, a Testament, and that was all. Had he
intended to go away, why did he not take this little luggage in his
hand, being all he had, and of a kind not easily dispensed with? The
Doctor made small question about it, however; he had seemed surprised,
at first, yet gave certainly no energetic token of it; and when Ned,
who began to have notions of things, proposed to advertise him in the
newspapers, or send the town crier round, the Doctor ridiculed the idea

"Lost, a lank Yankee schoolmaster," quoth he, uplifting his voice after
the manner of the town crier; "supposed to have been blown out of
Doctor Grim's window, or perhaps have ridden off astride of a humble-

"It is not pretty to laugh in that way, Doctor Grim," said little
Elsie, looking into his face, with a grave shake of her head.

"And why not, you saucy little witch?" said the Doctor.

"It is not the way to laugh, Doctor Grim," persisted the child, but
either could not or would not assign any reason for her disapprobation,
although what she said appeared to produce a noticeable effect on
Doctor Grimshawe, who lapsed into a rough, harsh manner, that seemed to
satisfy Elsie better. Crusty Hannah, meanwhile, seemed to dance about
the house with a certain singular alacrity, a wonderful friskiness,
indeed, as if the diabolical result of the mixture in her nature was
particularly pleased with something; so she went, with queer
gesticulations, crossings, contortions, friskings, evidently in a very
mirthful state; until, being asked by her master what was the matter,
she replied, "Massa, me know what became of the schoolmaster. Great
spider catch in his web and eat him!"

Whether that was the mode of his disappearance, or some other,
certainly the schoolmaster was gone; and the children were left in
great bewilderment at the sudden vacancy in his place. They had not
contracted a very yearning affection for him, and yet his impression
had been individual and real, and they felt that something was gone out
of their lives, now that he was no longer there. Something strange in
their circumstances made itself felt by them; they were more sensible
of the grim Doctor's uncouthness, his strange, reprehensible habits,
his dark, mysterious life,--in looking at these things, and the
spiders, and the graveyard, and their insulation from the world,
through the crystal medium of this stranger's character. In remembering
him in connection with these things, a certain seemly beauty in him
showed strikingly the unfitness, the sombre and tarnished color, the
outréness, of the rest of their lot. Little Elsie perhaps felt the loss
of him more than her playmate, although both had been interested by
him. But now things returned pretty much to their old fashion;
although, as is inevitably the case, whenever persons or things have
been taken suddenly or unaccountably out of our sphere, without telling
us whither and why they have disappeared, the children could not, for a
long while, bring themselves to feel that he had really gone. Perhaps,
in imitation of the custom in that old English house, of which the
Doctor had told them, little Elsie insisted that his place should still
be kept at the table; and so, whenever crusty Hannah neglected to do
so, she herself would fetch a plate, and a little pitcher of water, and
set it beside a vacant chair; and sometimes, so like a shadow had he
been, this pale, slender creature, it almost might have been thought
that he was sitting with them. But crusty Hannah shook her head, and
grinned. "The spider know where he is. We never see him more!"

His abode in the house had been of only two or three weeks; and in the
natural course of things, had he come and gone in an ordinary way, his
recollection would have grown dim and faded out in two or three weeks
more; but the speculations, the expectations, the watchings for his
reappearance, served to cut and grave the recollection of him into the
children's hearts, so that it remained a life-long thing with them,--a
sense that he was something that had been lost out of their life too
soon, and that was bound, sooner or later, to reappear, and finish what
business he had with them. Sometimes they prattled around the Doctor's
chair about him, and they could perceive sometimes that he appeared to
be listening, and would chime in with some remark; but he never
expressed either wonder or regret; only telling Ned, once, that he had
no reason to be sorry for his disappearance.

"Why, Doctor Grim?" asked the boy.

The Doctor mused, and smoked his pipe, as if he himself were thinking
why, and at last he answered, "He was a dangerous fellow, my old boy."

"Why?" said Ned again.

"He would have taken the beef out of you," said the Doctor.

I know not how long it was before any other visitor (except such as
brought their shattered constitutions there in hopes that the Doctor
would make the worn-out machinery as good as new) came to the lonely
little household on the corner of the graveyard. The intercourse
between themselves and the rest of the town remained as scanty as ever.
Still, the grim, shaggy Doctor was seen setting doggedly forth, in all
seasons and all weathers, at a certain hour of the day, with the two
children, going for long walks on the sea-shore, or into the country,
miles away, and coming back, hours afterwards, with plants and herbs
that had perhaps virtue in them, or flowers that had certainly beauty;
even, in their season, the fragrant magnolias, leaving a trail of
fragrance after them, that grow only in spots, the seeds having been
apparently dropped by some happy accident when those proper to the
climate were distributed. Shells there were, also, in the baskets that
they carried, minerals, rare things, that a magic touch seemed to have
created out of the rude and common things that others find in a homely
and ordinary region. The boy was growing tall, and had got out of the
merely infantile age; agile he was, bright, but still with a remarkable
thoughtfulness, or gravity, or I know not what to call it; but it was a
shadow, no doubt, falling upon him from something sombre in his warp of
life, which the impressibility of his age and nature so far
acknowledged as to be a little pale and grave, without positive
unhappiness; and when a playful moment came, as they often did to these
two healthy children, it seemed all a mistake that you had ever thought
either of them too grave for their age. But little Elsie was still the
merrier. They were still children, although they quarrelled seldomer
than of yore, and kissed seldomer, and had ceased altogether to
complain of one another to the Doctor; perhaps the time when Nature saw
these bickerings to be necessary to the growth of some of their
faculties was nearly gone. When they did have a quarrel, the boy stood
upon his dignity, and visited Elsie with a whole day, sometimes, of
silent and stately displeasure, which she was accustomed to bear,
sometimes with an assumption of cold indifference, sometimes with
liveliness, mirth in double quantity, laughter almost as good as real,
--little arts which showed themselves in her as naturally as the gift of
tears and smiles. In fact, having no advantage of female intercourse,
she could not well have learnt them unless from crusty Hannah, who was
such an anomaly of a creature, with all her mixtures of race, that she
struck you as having lost all sex as one result of it. Yet this little
girl was truly feminine, and had all the manners and pre-eminently
uncriticisable tenets proper to women at her early age.

She had made respectable advancement in study; that is, she had taught
herself to write, with even greater mechanical facility than Ned; and
other knowledge had fallen upon her, as it were, by a reflected light
from him; or, to use another simile, had been spattered upon her by the
full stream which the Doctor poured into the vessel of the boy's
intellect. So that she had even some knowledge of the rudiments of
Latin, and geometry, and algebra; inaccurate enough, but yet with such
a briskness that she was sometimes able to assist Ned in studies in
which he was far more deeply grounded than herself. All this, however,
was more by sympathy than by any natural taste for such things; being
kindly, and sympathetic, and impressible, she took the color of what
was nearest to her, and especially when it came from a beloved object,
so that it was difficult to discover that it was not really one of her
native tastes. The only thing, perhaps, altogether suited to her
idiosyncrasy (because it was truly feminine, calculated for dainty
fingers, and a nice little subtlety) was that kind of embroidery,
twisting, needle-work, on textile fabric, which, as we have before
said, she learnt from crusty Hannah, and which was emblematic perhaps
of that creature's strange mixture of races.

Elsie seemed not only to have caught this art in its original spirit,
but to have improved upon it, creating strange, fanciful, and graceful
devices, which grew beneath her finger as naturally as the variegated
hues grow in a flower as it opens; so that the homeliest material
assumed a grace and strangeness as she wove it, whether it were grass,
twigs, shells, or what not. Never was anything seen, that so combined a
wild, barbarian freedom with cultivated grace; and the grim Doctor
himself, little open to the impressions of the beautiful, used to hold
some of her productions in his hand, gazing at them with deep
intentness, and at last, perhaps, breaking out into one of his deep
roars of laughter; for it seemed to suggest thoughts to him that the
children could not penetrate. This one feature of strangeness and wild
faculty in the otherwise sweet and natural and homely character of
Elsie had a singular effect; it was like a wreath of wild-flowers in
her hair, like something that set her a little way apart from the rest
of the world, and had an even more striking effect than if she were
altogether strange.

Thus were the little family going on; the Doctor, I regret to say,
growing more morose, self-involved, and unattainable since the
disappearance of the schoolmaster than before; more given up to his one
plaything, the great spider; less frequently even than before coming
out of the grim seclusion of his moodiness, to play with the children,
though they would often be sensible of his fierce eyes fixed upon them,
and start and feel incommoded by the intensity of his regard;--thus
things were going on, when one day there was really again a visitor,
and not a dilapidated patient, to the grim Doctor's study. Crusty
Hannah brought up his name as Mr. Hammond, and the Doctor--filling his
everlasting pipe, meanwhile, and ordering Hannah to give him a coal
(perhaps this was the circumstance that made people say he had imps to
bring him coals from Tophet)--ordered him to be shown up. [Endnote: 2.]

A fresh-colored, rather young man [Endnote: 3] entered the study, a
person of rather cold and ungraceful manners, yet genial-looking
enough; at least, not repulsive. He was dressed in rather a rough,
serviceable travelling-dress, and except for a nicely brushed hat, and
unmistakably white linen, was rather careless in attire. You would have
thought twice, perhaps, before deciding him to be a gentleman, but
finally would have decided that he was; one great token being, that the
singular aspect of the room into which he was ushered, the spider
festoonery, and other strange accompaniments, the grim aspect of the
Doctor himself, and the beauty and intelligence of his two companions,
and even that horrific weaver, the great dangling spider,--neither one
nor all of these called any expression of surprise to the stranger's

"Your name is Hammond?" begins the Doctor, with his usual sparseness of
ornamental courtesy. [Endnote: 4.]

The stranger bowed.

"An Englishman, I perceive," continued the Doctor, but nowise
intimating that the fact of being a countryman was any recommendation
in his eyes.

"Yes, an Englishman," replied Hammond; "a briefless barrister,
[Endnote: 5] in fact, of Lincoln's Inn, who, having little or nothing
to detain him at home, has come to spend a few idle months in seeing
the new republic which has been made out of English substance."

"And what," continued Doctor Grim, not a whit relaxing the
repulsiveness of his manner, and scowling askance at the stranger,--
"what may have drawn on me the good fortune of being compelled to make
my time idle, because yours is so?"

The stranger's cheek flushed a little; but he smiled to himself, as if
saying that here was a grim, rude kind of humorist, who had lost the
sense of his own peculiarity, and had no idea that he was rude at all.
"I came to America, as I told you," said he, "chiefly because I was
idle, and wanted to turn my enforced idleness to what profit I could,
in the way of seeing men, manners, governments, and problems, which I
hope to have no time to study by and by. But I also had an errand
intrusted to me, and of a singular nature; and making inquiry in this
little town (where my mission must be performed, if at all), I have
been directed to you, by your townspeople, as to a person not unlikely
to be able to assist me in it."

"My townspeople, since you choose to call them so," answered the grim
Doctor, "ought to know, by this time, that I am not the sort of man
likely to assist any person, in any way."

"Yet this is so singular an affair," said the stranger, still with mild
courtesy, "that at least it may excite your curiosity. I have come here
to find a grave."

"To find a grave!" said Doctor Grim, giving way to a grim sense of
humor, and relaxing just enough to let out a joke, the tameness of
which was a little redeemed, to his taste, by its grimness. "I might
help you there, to be sure, since it is all in the way of business.
Like others of my profession, I have helped many people to find their
graves, no doubt, and shall be happy to do the same for you. You have
hit upon the one thing in which my services are ready."

"I thank you, my dear sir," said the young stranger, having tact enough
to laugh at Dr. Grim's joke, and thereby mollifying him a little; "but
as far as I am personally concerned, I prefer to wait a while before
making the discovery of that little spot in Mother Earth which I am
destined to occupy. It is a grave which has been occupied as such for
at least a century and a half which I am in quest of; and it is as an
antiquarian, a genealogist, a person who has had dealings with the dead
of long ago, not as a professional man engaged in adding to their
number, that I ask your aid."

"Ah, ahah!" said the Doctor, laying down his pipe, and looking
earnestly at the stranger; not kindly nor genially, but rather with a
lurid glance of suspicion out of those red eyes of his, but no longer
with a desire to escape an intruder; rather as one who meant to clutch
him. "Explain your meaning, sir, at once."

"Then here it is," said Mr. Hammond. "There is an old English family,
one of the members of which, very long ago, emigrated to this part of
America, then a wilderness, and long afterwards a British colony. He
was on ill terms with his family. There is reason to believe that
documents, deeds, titular proofs, or some other thing valuable to the
family, were buried in the grave of this emigrant; and there have been
various attempts, within a century, to find this grave, and if possible
some living descendant of the man, or both, under the idea that either
of these cases might influence the disputed descent of the property,
and enable the family to prove its claims to an ancient title. Now,
rather as a matter of curiosity, than with any real hope of success,--
and being slightly connected with the family,--I have taken what seems
to myself a wild-goose chase; making it merely incidental, you well
understand, not by any means the main purpose of my voyage to America."

"What is the name of this family?" asked the Doctor, abruptly.

"The man whose grave I seek," said the stranger, "lived and died, in
this country, under the assumed name of Colcord."

"How do you expect to succeed in this ridiculous quest?" asked the
Doctor, "and what marks, signs, directions, have you to guide your
search? And moreover, how have you come to any knowledge whatever about
the matter, even that the emigrant ever assumed this name of Colcord,
and that he was buried anywhere, and that his place of burial, after
more than a century, is of the slightest importance?"

"All this was ascertained by a messenger on a similar errand with my
own, only undertaken nearly a century ago, and more in earnest than I
can pretend to be," replied the Englishman. "At that period, however,
there was probably a desire to find nothing that might take the
hereditary possessions of the family out of the branch which still held
them; and there is strong reason to suspect that the information
acquired was purposely kept secret by the person in England into whose
hands it came. The thing is differently situated now; the possessor of
the estate is recently dead; and the discovery of an American heir
would not be unacceptable to many. At all events, any knowledge gained
here would throw light on a somewhat doubtful matter."

"Where, as nearly as you can judge," said the Doctor, after a turn or
two through the study, "was this man buried?"

"He spent the last years of his life, certainly, in this town," said
Hammond, "and may be found, if at all, among the dead of that period."

"And they--their miserable dust, at least, which is all that still
exists of them--were buried in the graveyard under these windows," said
the Doctor. "What marks, I say,--for you might as well seek a vanished
wave of the sea, as a grave that surged upward so long ago."

"On the gravestone," said Hammond, "a slate one, there was rudely
sculptured the impress of a foot. What it signifies I cannot
conjecture, except it had some reference to a certain legend of a
bloody footstep, which is currently told, and some token of which yet
remains on one of the thresholds of the ancient mansion-house."

Ned and Elsie had withdrawn themselves from the immediate vicinity of
the fireside, and were playing at fox and geese in a corner near the
window. But little Elsie, having very quick ears, and a faculty of
attending to more affairs than one, now called out, "Doctor Grim, Ned
and I know where that gravestone is."

"Hush, Elsie," whispered Ned, earnestly.

"Come forward here, both of you," said Doctor Grimshawe.


The two children approached, and stood before the Doctor and his guest,
the latter of whom had not hitherto taken particular notice of them. He
now looked from one to the other, with the pleasant, genial expression
of a person gifted with a natural liking for children, and the
freemasonry requisite to bring him acquainted with them; and it lighted
up his face with a pleasant surprise to see two such beautiful
specimens of boyhood and girlhood in this dismal, spider-haunted house,
and under the guardianship of such a savage lout as the grim Doctor. He
seemed particularly struck by the intelligence and sensibility of Ned's
face, and met his eyes with a glance that Ned long afterwards
remembered; but yet he seemed quite as much interested by Elsie, and
gazed at her face with a perplexed, inquiring glance.

"These are fine children," said he. "May I ask if they are your own?--
Pardon me if I ask amiss," added he, seeing a frown on the Doctor's

"Ask nothing about the brats," replied he grimly. "Thank Heaven, they
are not my children; so your question is answered."

"I again ask pardon," said Mr. Hammond. "I am fond of children; and the
boy has a singularly fine countenance; not in the least English. The
true American face, no doubt. As to this sweet little girl, she
impresses me with a vague resemblance to some person I have seen. Hers
I should deem an English face."

"These children are not our topic," said the grim Doctor, with gruff
impatience. "If they are to be so, our conversation is ended. Ned, what
do you know of this gravestone with the bloody foot on it?"

"It is not a bloody foot, Doctor Grim," said Ned, "and I am not sure
that it is a foot at all; only Elsie and I chose to fancy so, because
of a story that we used to play at. But we were children then. The
gravestone lies on the ground, within a little bit of a walk of our
door; but this snow has covered it all over; else we might go out and
see it."

"We will go out at any rate," said the Doctor, "and if the Englishman
chooses to come to America, he must take our snows as he finds them.
Take your shovel, Ned, and if necessary we will uncover the

They accordingly muffled themselves in their warmest, and plunged forth
through a back door into Ned and Elsie's playground, as the grim Doctor
was wont to call it. The snow, except in one spot close at hand, lay
deep, like cold oblivion, over the surging graves, and piled itself in
drifted heaps against every stone that raised itself above the level;
it filled enviously the letters of the inscriptions, enveloping all the
dead in one great winding-sheet, whiter and colder than those which
they had individually worn. The dreary space was pathless; not a
footstep had tracked through the heavy snow; for it must be warm
affection indeed that could so melt this wintry impression as to
penetrate through the snow and frozen earth, and establish any warm
thrills with the dead beneath: daisies, grass, genial earth, these
allow of the magnetism of such sentiments; but winter sends them
shivering back to the baffled heart.

"Well, Ned," said the Doctor, impatiently.

Ned looked about him somewhat bewildered, and then pointed to a spot
within not more than ten paces of the threshold which they had just
crossed; and there appeared, not a gravestone, but a new grave (if any
grave could be called new in that often-dug soil, made up of old
mortality), an open hole, with the freshly-dug earth piled up beside
it. A little snow (for there had been a gust or two since morning)
appeared, as they peeped over the edge, to have fallen into it; but not
enough to prevent a coffin from finding fit room and accommodation in
it. But it was evident that the grave had been dug that very day.

"The headstone, with the foot on it, was just here," said Ned, in much
perplexity, "and, as far as I can judge, the old sunken grave exactly
marked out the space of this new one." [Endnote: 1.]

"It is a shame," said Elsie, much shocked at the indecorum, "that the
new person should be thrust in here; for the old one was a friend of

"But what has become of the headstone!" exclaimed the young English

During their perplexity, a person had approached the group, wading
through the snow from the gateway giving entrance from the street; a
gaunt figure, with stooping shoulders, over one of which was a spade
and some other tool fit for delving in the earth; and in his face there
was the sort of keen, humorous twinkle that grave-diggers somehow seem
to get, as if the dolorous character of their business necessitated
something unlike itself by an inevitable reaction.

"Well, Doctor," said he, with a shrewd wink in his face, "are you
looking for one of your patients? The man who is to be put to bed here
was never caught in your spider's web."

"No," said Doctor Grimshawe; "when my patients have done with me, I
leave them to you and the old Nick, and never trouble myself about them
more. What I want to know is, why you have taken upon you to steal a
man's grave, after he has had immemorial possession of it. By what
right have you dug up this bed, undoing the work of a predecessor of
yours, who has long since slept in one of his own furrows?"

"Why, Doctor," said the grave-digger, looking quietly into the
cavernous pit which he had hollowed, "it is against common sense that a
dead man should think to keep a grave to himself longer than till you
can take up his substance in a shovel. It would be a strange thing
enough, if, when living families are turned out of their homes twice or
thrice in a generation, (as they are likely to be in our new
government,) a dead man should think he must sleep in one spot till the
day of judgment. No; turn about, I say, to these old fellows. As long
as they can decently be called dead men, I let them lie; when they are
nothing but dust, I just take leave to stir them on occasion. This is
the way we do things under the republic, whatever your customs be in
the old country."

"Matters are very much the same in any old English churchyard," said
the English stranger. "But, my good friend, I have come three thousand
miles, partly to find this grave, and am a little disappointed to find
my labor lost."

"Ah! and you are the man my father was looking for," said the grave-
digger, nodding his head at Mr. Hammond. "My father, who was a grave-
digger afore me, died four and thirty years ago, when we were under the
King; and says he, 'Ebenezer, do not you turn up a sod in this spot,
till you have turned up every other in the ground.' And I have always
obeyed him."

"And what was the reason of such a singular prohibition?" asked

"My father knew," said the grave-digger, "and he told me the reason
too; but since we are under the republic, we have given up remembering
those old-world legends, as we used to. The newspapers keep us from
talking in the chimney-corner; and so things go out of our minds. An
old man, with his stories of what he has seen, and what his great-
grandfather saw before him, is of little account since newspapers came
up. Stop--I remember--no, I forget,--it was something about the grave
holding a witness, who had been sought before and might be again."

"And that is all you know about it?" said Hammond.

"All,--every mite," said the old grave-digger. "But my father knew, and
would have been glad to tell you the whole story. There was a great
deal of wisdom and knowledge, about graves especially, buried out
yonder where my old father was put away, before the Stamp Act was
thought of. But it is no great matter, I suppose. People don't care
about old graves in these times. They just live, and put the dead out
of sight and out of mind."

"Well; but what have you done with the headstone?" said the Doctor.
"You can't have eaten it up."

"No, no, Doctor," said the grave-digger, laughing; "it would crack
better teeth than mine, old and crumbly as it is. And yet I meant to do
something with it that is akin to eating; for my oven needs a new
floor, and I thought to take this stone, which would stand the fire
well. But here," continued he, scraping away the snow with his shovel,
a task in which little Ned gave his assistance,--"here is the
headstone, just as I have always seen it, and as my father saw it
before me."

The ancient memorial, being cleared of snow, proved to be a slab of
freestone, with some rude traces of carving in bas-relief around the
border, now much effaced, and an impression, which seemed to be as much
like a human foot as anything else, sunk into the slab; but this device
was wrought in a much more clumsy way than the ornamented border, and
evidently by an unskilful hand. Beneath was an inscription, over which
the hard, flat lichens had grown, and done their best to obliterate it,
although the following words might be written [Endnote: 2] or guessed:--

"Here lyeth the mortal part of Thomas Colcord, an upright man, of
tender and devout soul, who departed this troublous life September ye
nineteenth, 1667, aged 57 years and nine months. Happier in his death
than in his lifetime. Let his bones be."

The name, Colcord, was somewhat defaced; it was impossible, in the
general disintegration of the stone, to tell whether wantonly, or with
a purpose of altering and correcting some error in the spelling, or, as
occurred to Hammond, to change the name entirely.

"This is very unsatisfactory," said Hammond, "but very curious, too.
But this certainly is the impress of what was meant for a human foot,
and coincides strangely with the legend of the Bloody Footstep,--the
mark of the foot that trod in the blessed King Charles's blood."

"For that matter," said the grave-digger, "it comes into my mind that
my father used to call it the stamp of Satan's foot, because he claimed
the dead man for his own. It is plain to see that there was a deep deft
between two of the toes."

"There are two ways of telling that legend," remarked the Doctor. "But
did you find nothing in the grave, Hewen?"

"O, yes,--a bone or two,--as much as could be expected after above a
hundred years," said the grave-digger. "I tossed them aside; and if you
are curious about them, you will find them when the snow melts. That
was all; and it would have been unreasonable in old Colcord--especially
in these republican times--to have wanted to keep his grave any longer,
when there was so little of him left."

"I must drop the matter here, then," said Hammond, with a sigh. "Here,
my friend, is a trifle for your trouble."

"No trouble," said the grave-digger, "and in these republican times we
can't take anything for nothing, because it won't do for a poor man to
take off his hat and say thank you."

Nevertheless, he did take the silver, and winked a sort of

The Doctor, with unwonted hospitality, invited the English stranger to
dine in his house; and though there was no pretence of cordiality in
the invitation, Mr. Hammond accepted it, being probably influenced by
curiosity to make out some definite idea of the strange household in
which he found himself. Doctor Grimshawe having taken it upon him to be
host,--for, up to this time, the stranger stood upon his own
responsibility, and, having voluntarily presented himself to the
Doctor, had only himself to thank for any scant courtesy he might
meet,--but now the grim Doctor became genial after his own fashion. At
dinner he produced a bottle of port, which made the young Englishman
almost fancy himself on the other side of the water; and he entered
into a conversation, which I fancy was the chief object which the grim
Doctor had in view in showing himself in so amiable a light, [Endnote:
3] for in the course of it the stranger was insensibly led to disclose
many things, as it were of his own accord, relating to the part of
England whence he came, and especially to the estate and family which
have been before mentioned,--the present state of that family, together
with other things that he seemed to himself to pour out naturally,--
for, at last, he drew himself up, and attempted an excuse.

"Your good wine," said he, "or the unexpected accident of meeting a
countryman, has made me unusually talkative, and on subjects, I fear,
which have not a particular interest for you."

"I have not quite succeeded in shaking off my country, as you see,"
said Doctor Grimshawe, "though I neither expect nor wish ever to see it

There was something rather ungracious in the grim Doctor's response,
and as they now adjourned to his study, and the Doctor betook himself
to his pipe and tumbler, the young Englishman sought to increase his
acquaintance with the two children, both of whom showed themselves
graciously inclined towards him; more warmly so than they had been to
the schoolmaster, as he was the only other guest whom they had ever

"Would you like to see England, my little fellow?" he inquired of Ned.

"Oh, very much! more than anything else in the world," replied the boy,
his eyes gleaming and his cheeks flushing with the earnestness of his
response; for, indeed, the question stirred up all the dreams and
reveries which the child had cherished, far back into the dim regions
of his memory. After what the Doctor had told him of his origin, he had
never felt any home feeling here; it seemed to him that he was
wandering Ned, whom the wind had blown from afar. Somehow or other,
from many circumstances which he put together and seethed in his own
childish imagination, it seemed to him that he was to go back to that
far old country, and there wander among the green, ivy-grown, venerable
scenes; the older he grew, the more his mind took depth, the stronger
was this fancy in him; though even to Elsie he had scarcely breathed

"So strong a desire," said the stranger, smiling at his earnestness,
"will be sure to work out its own accomplishment. I shall meet you in
England, my young friend, one day or another. And you, my little girl,
are you as anxious to see England as your brother?"

"Ned is not my brother," said little Elsie.

The Doctor here interposed some remark on a different subject; for it
was observable that he never liked to have the conversation turn on
these children, their parentage, or relations to each other or himself.

The children were sent to bed; and the young Englishman, finding the
conversation lag, and his host becoming gruffer and less communicative
than he thought quite courteous, retired. But before he went, however,
he could not refrain from making a remark on the gigantic spider, which
was swinging like a pendulum above the Doctor's head.

"What a singular pet!" said he; for the nervous part of him had
latterly been getting uppermost, so that it disturbed him; in fact, the
spider above and the grim man below equally disturbed him. "Are you a
naturalist? Have you noted his habits?"

"Yes," said the Doctor, "I have learned from his web how to weave a
plot, and how to catch my victim and devour him!"

"Thank God," said the Englishman, as he issued forth into the cold gray
night, "I have escaped the grim fellow's web, at all events. How
strange a group,--those two sweet children, that grim old man!"

As regards this matter of the ancient grave, it remains to be recorded,
that, when the snow melted, little Ned and Elsie went to look at the
spot, where, by this time, there was a little hillock with the brown
sods laid duly upon it, which the coming spring would make green. By
the side of it they saw, with more curiosity than repugnance, a few
fragments of crumbly bones, which they plausibly conjectured to have
appertained to some part of the framework of the ancient Colcord,
wherewith he had walked through the troublous life of which his
gravestone spoke. And little Elsie, whose eyes were very sharp, and her
observant qualities of the quickest, found something which Ned at first
pronounced to be only a bit of old iron, incrusted with earth; but
Elsie persisted to knock off some of the earth that seemed to have
incrusted it, and discovered a key. The children ran with their prize
to the grim Doctor, who took it between his thumb and finger, turned it
over and over, and then proceeded to rub it with a chemical substance
which soon made it bright. It proved to be a silver key, of antique and
curious workmanship.

"Perhaps this is what Mr. Hammond was in search of," said Ned. "What a
pity he is gone! Perhaps we can send it after him."

"Nonsense," said the gruff Doctor.

And attaching the key to a chain, which he took from a drawer, and
which seemed to be gold, he hung it round Ned's neck.

"When you find a lock for this key," said he, "open it, and consider
yourself heir of whatever treasure is revealed there!"

Ned continued that sad, fatal habit of growing out of childhood, as
boys will, until he was now about ten years old, and little Elsie as
much as six or seven. He looked healthy, but pale; something there was
in the character and influences of his life that made him look as if he
were growing up in a shadow, with less sunshine than he needed for a
robust and exuberant development, though enough to make his
intellectual growth tend towards a little luxuriance, in some
directions. He was likely to turn out a fanciful, perhaps a poetic
youth; young as he was, there had been already discoveries, on the grim
Doctor's part, of certain blotted and clumsily scrawled scraps of
paper, the chirography on which was arrayed in marshalled lines of
unequal length, and each commanded by a capital letter and marching on
from six to ten lame feet. Doctor Grim inspected these things
curiously, and to say the truth most scornfully, before he took them to
light his pipe withal; but they told him little as regarded this boy's
internal state, being mere echoes, and very lugubrious ones, of poetic
strains that were floating about in the atmosphere of that day, long
before any now remembered bard had begun to sing. But there were the
rudiments of a poetic and imaginative mind within the boy, if its
subsequent culture should be such as the growth of that delicate flower
requires; a brooding habit taking outward things into itself and
imbuing them with its own essence until, after they had lain there
awhile, they assumed a relation both to truth and to himself, and
became mediums to affect other minds with the magnetism of his own. He
lived far too much an inward life for healthfulness, at his age; the
peculiarity of his situation, a child of mystery, with certain reaches
and vistas that seemed to promise a bright solution of his mystery,
keeping his imagination always awake and strong. That castle in the
air,--so much more vivid than other castles, because it had perhaps a
real substance of ancient, ivy-grown, hewn stone somewhere,--that
visionary hall in England, with its surrounding woods and fine lawns,
and the beckoning shadows at the ancient windows, and that fearful
threshold, with the blood still glistening on it,--he dwelt and
wandered so much there, that he had no real life in the sombre house on
the corner of the graveyard; except that the loneliness of the latter,
and the grim Doctor with his grotesque surroundings, and then the great
ugly spider, and that odd, inhuman mixture of crusty Hannah, all served
to remove him out of the influences of common life. Little Elsie was
all that he had to keep life real, and substantial; and she, a child so
much younger than he, was influenced by the same circumstances, and
still more by himself, so that, as far as he could impart himself to
her, he led her hand in hand through the same dream-scenery amid which
he strayed himself. They knew not another child in town; the grim
Doctor was their only friend. As for Ned, this seclusion had its
customary and normal effect upon him; it had made him think
ridiculously high of his own gifts, powers, attainments, and at the
same time doubt whether they would pass with those of others; it made
him despise all flesh, as if he were of a superior race, and yet have
an idle and weak fear of coming in contact with them, from a dread of
his incompetency to cope with them; so he at once depreciated and
exalted, to an absurd degree, both himself and others.

"Ned," said the Doctor to him one day, in his gruffest tone, "you are
not turning out to be the boy I looked for and meant to make. I have
given you sturdy English instruction, and solidly grounded you in
matters that the poor superficial people and time merely skim over; I
looked to see the rudiments of a man in you, by this time; and you
begin to mope and pule as if your babyhood were coming back on you. You
seem to think more than a boy of your years should; and yet it is not
manly thought, nor ever will be so. What do you mean, boy, by making
all my care of you come to nothing, in this way?"

"I do my best, Doctor Grim," said Ned, with sullen dignity. "What you
teach me, I learn. What more can I do?"

"I'll tell you what, my fine fellow," quoth Doctor Grim, getting rude,
as was his habit. "You disappoint me, and I'll not bear it. I want you
to be a man; and I'll have you a man or nothing. If I had foreboded
such a fellow as you turn out to be, I never would have taken you from
the place where, as I once told you, I found you,--the almshouse!"

"O, Doctor Grim, Doctor Grim!" cried little Elsie, in a tone of grief
and bitter reproach.

Ned had risen slowly, as the Doctor uttered those last words, turning
as white as a sheet, and stood gazing at him, with large eyes, in which
there was a calm upbraiding; a strange dignity was in his childish
aspect, which was no longer childish, but seemed to have grown older
all in a moment.

"Sir," added the Doctor, incensed at the boy's aspect, "there is
nonsense that ought to be whipt out of you."

"You have said enough, sir," said the boy. "Would to God you had left
me where you found me![Endnote: 4] It was not my fault that you took me
from the alms-house. But it will be my fault if I ever eat another bit
of your bread, or stay under your roof an hour longer."

He was moving towards the door, but little Elsie sprung upon him and
caught him round the neck, although he repelled her with severe
dignity; and Doctor Grimshawe, after a look at the group in which a
bitter sort of mirth and mischief struggled with a better and kindlier
sentiment, at last flung his pipe into the chimney, hastily quaffed the
remnant of a tumbler, and shuffled after Ned, kicking off his old
slippers in his hurry. He caught the boy just by the door.

"Ned, Ned, my boy, I'm sorry for what I said," cried he. "I am a
guzzling old blockhead, and don't know how to treat a gentleman when he
honors me with his company. It is not in my blood nor breeding to have
such knowledge. Ned, you will make a man, and I lied if I said
otherwise. Come, I'm sorry, I'm sorry."

The boy was easily touched, at these years, as a boy ought to be; and
though he had not yet forgiven the grim Doctor, the tears, to his
especial shame, gushed out of his eyes in a torrent, and his whole
frame shook with sobs. The Doctor caught him in his arms, and hugged
him to his old tobacco-fragrant dressing-gown, hugged him like a bear,
as he was; so that poor Ned hardly knew whether he was embracing him
with his love, or squeezing him to death in his wrath.

"Ned," said he, "I'm not going to live a great while longer; I seem an
eternal nuisance to you, I know; but it's not so, I'm mortal and I feel
myself breaking up. Let us be friends while I live; for believe me,
Ned, I've done as well by you as I knew, and care for nothing, love
nothing, so much as you. Little Elsie here, yes. I love her too. But
that's different. You are a boy, and will be a man; and a man whom I
destine to do for me what it has been the object of my life to achieve.
Let us be friends. We will--we must be friends; and when old Doctor
Grim, worthless wretch that he is, sleeps in his grave, you shall not
have the pang of having parted from him in unkindness. Forgive me, Ned;
and not only that, but love me better than ever; for though I am a
hasty old wretch, I am not altogether evil as regards you."

I know not whether the Doctor would have said all this, if the day had
not been pretty well advanced, and if his potations had not been many;
but, at any rate, he spoke no more than he felt, and his emotions
thrilled through the sensitive system of the boy, and quite melted him
down. He forgave Doctor Grim, and, as he asked, loved him better than
ever; and so did Elsie. Then it was so sweet, so good, to have had this
one outgush of affection,--he, poor child, who had no memory of
mother's kisses, or of being cared for out of tenderness, and whose
heart had been hungry, all his life, for some such thing; and probably
Doctor Grim, in his way, had the same kind of enjoyment of this
passionate crisis; so that though, the next day, they all three looked
at one another a little ashamed, yet it had some remote analogy to that
delicious embarrassment of two lovers, at their first meeting after
they know all.


It is very remarkable that Ned had so much good in him as we find
there; in the first place, born as he seemed to be of a wild, vagrant
stock, a seedling sown by the breezes, and falling among the rocks and
sands; the growing up without a mother to cultivate his tenderness with
kisses and the inestimable, inevitable love of love breaking out on all
little occasions, without reference to merit or demerit, unfailing
whether or no; mother's faith in excellences, the buds which were yet
invisible to all other eyes, but to which her warm faith was the genial
sunshine necessary to their growth; mother's generous interpretation of
all that was doubtful in him, and which might turn out good or bad,
according as should be believed of it; mother's pride in whatever the
boy accomplished, and unfailing excuses, explanations, apologies, so
satisfactory, for all his failures; mother's deep intuitive insight,
which should see the permanent good beneath all the appearance of
temporary evil, being wiser through her love than the wisest sage could
be,--the dullest, homeliest mother than the wisest sage. The Creator,
apparently, has set a little of his own infinite wisdom and love (which
are one) in a mother's heart, so that no child, in the common course of
things, should grow up without some heavenly instruction. Instead of
all this, and the vast deal more that mothers do for children, there
had been only the gruff, passionate Doctor, without sense of religion,
with only a fitful tenderness, with years' length between the fits, so
fiercely critical, so wholly unradiant of hope, misanthropic, savagely
morbid. Yes; there was little Elsie too; it must have been that she was
the boy's preserver, being childhood, sisterhood, womanhood, all that
there had been for him of human life, and enough--he being naturally of
such good stuff--to keep him good. He had lost much, but not all: he
was not nearly what he might have been under better auspices; flaws and
imperfections there were, in abundance, great uncultivated wastes and
wildernesses in his moral nature, tangled wilds where there might have
been stately, venerable religious groves; but there was no rank growth
of evil. That unknown mother, that had no opportunity to nurse her boy,
must have had gentle and noblest qualities to endow him with; a noble
father, too, a long, unstained descent, one would have thought. Was
this an almshouse child?

Doctor Grim knew, very probably, that there was all this on the womanly
side that was wanting to Ned's occasion; and very probably, too, being
a man not without insight, he was aware that tender treatment, as a
mother bestows it, tends likewise to foster strength, and manliness of
character, as well as softer developments; but all this he could not
have supplied, and now as little as ever. But there was something else
which Ned ought to have, and might have; and this was intercourse with
his kind, free circulation, free air, instead of the stived-up house,
with the breeze from the graveyard blowing over it,--to be drawn out of
himself, and made to share the life of many, to be introduced, at one
remove, to the world with which he was to contend. To this end, shortly
after the scene of passion and reconciliation above described, the
Doctor took the resolution of sending Ned to an academy, famous in that
day, and still extant. Accordingly they all three--the grim Doctor,
Ned, and Elsie--set forth, one day of spring, leaving the house to
crusty Hannah and the great spider, in a carryall, being the only
excursion involving a night's absence that either of the two children
remembered from the house by the graveyard, as at nightfall they saw
the modest pine-built edifice, with its cupola and bell, where Ned was
to be initiated into the schoolboy. The Doctor, remembering perhaps
days spent in some gray, stately, legendary great school of England,
instinct with the boyhood of men afterwards great, puffed forth a
depreciating curse upon it; but nevertheless made all arrangements for
Ned's behoof, and next morning prepared to leave him there.

"Ned, my son, good by," cried he, shaking the little fellow's hand as
he stood tearful and wistful beside the chaise shivering at the
loneliness which he felt settling around him,--a new loneliness to
him,--the loneliness of a crowd. "Do not be cast down, my boy. Face the
world; grasp the thistle strongly, and it will sting you the less. Have
faith in your own fist! Fear no man! Have no secret plot! Never do what
you think wrong! If hereafter you learn to know that Doctor Grim was a
bad man, forgive him, and be a better one yourself. Good by, and if my
blessing be good for anything, in God's name, I invoke it upon you

Little Elsie was sobbing, and flung her arms about Ned's neck, and he
his about hers; so that they parted without a word. As they drove away,
a singular sort of presentiment came over the boy, as he stood looking
after them.

"It is all over,--all over," said he to himself: "Doctor Grim and
little Elsie are gone out of my life. They leave me and will never come
back,--not they to me, not I to them. O, how cold the world is! Would
we three--the Doctor, and Elsie, and I--could have lain down in a row,
in the old graveyard, close under the eaves of the house, and let the
grass grow over us. The world is cold; and I am an alms-house child."

The house by the graveyard seemed dismal now, no doubt, to little
Elsie, who, being of a cheerful nature herself, (common natures often
having this delusion about a home,) had grown up with the idea that it
was the most delightful spot in the world; the place fullest of
pleasant play, and of household love (because her own love welled over
out of her heart, like a spring in a barrel); the place where everybody
was kind and good, the world beyond its threshold appearing perhaps
strange and sombre; the spot where it was pleasantest to be, for its
own mere sake; the dim old, homely place, so warm and cosey in winter,
so cool in summer. Who else was fortunate enough to have such a home,--
with that nice, kind, beautiful Ned, and that dear, kind, gentle, old
Doctor Grim, with his sweet ways, so wise, so upright, so good, beyond
all other men? O, happy girl that she was, to have grown up in such a
home! Was there ever any other house with such cosey nooks in it? Such
probably were the feelings of good little Elsie about this place, which
has seemed to us so dismal; for the home feeling in the child's heart,
her warm, cheerful, affectionate nature, was a magic, so far as she
herself was concerned, and made all the house and its inmates over
after her own fashion. But now that little Ned was gone, there came a
change. She moped about the house, and, for the first time, suspected
it was dismal.

As for the grim Doctor, there did not appear to be much alteration in
that hard old character; perhaps he drank a little more, though that
was doubtful, because it is difficult to see where he could find niches
to stick in more frequent drinks. Nor did he more frequently breathe
through the pipe. He fell into desuetude, however, of his daily walk,
[Endnote: 1] and sent Elsie to play by herself in the graveyard (a
dreary business enough for the poor child) instead of taking her to
country or seaside himself. He was more savage and blasphemous,
sometimes, than he had been heretofore known to be; but, on the other
hand, he was sometimes softer, with a kind of weary consenting to
circumstances, intervals of helpless resignation, when he no longer
fought and struggled in his heart. He did not seem to be alive all the
time; but, on the other hand, he was sometimes a good deal too much
alive, and could not bear his potations as well as he used to do, and
was overheard blaspheming at himself for being so weakly, and having a
brain that could not bear a thimbleful, and growing to be a milksop
like Colcord, as he said. This person, of whom the Doctor and his young
people had had such a brief experience, appeared nevertheless to hang
upon his remembrance in a singular way,--the more singular as there was
little resemblance between them, or apparent possibility of sympathy.
Little Elsie was startled to hear Doctor Grim sometimes call out,
"Colcord! Colcord!" as if he were summoning a spirit from some secret
place. He muttered, sitting by himself, long, indistinct masses of
talk, in which this name was discernible, and other names. Going on
mumbling, by the hour together, great masses of vague trouble, in
which, if it only could have been unravelled and put in order, no doubt
all the secrets of his life,--secrets of wrath, guilt, vengeance, love,
hatred, all beaten up together, and the best quite spoiled by the
worst, might have been found. His mind evidently wandered. Sometimes,
he seemed to be holding conversation with unseen interlocutors, and
almost invariably, so far as could be gathered, he was bitter, and then
sat, immitigable, pouring out wrath and terror, denunciating,
tyrannical, speaking as to something that lay at his feet, but which he
would not spare. [Endnote: 2] Then suddenly, he would start, look round
the dark old study, upward to the dangling spider overhead, and then at
the quiet little girl, who, try as she might, could not keep her
affrighted looks from his face, and always met his eyes with a loyal
frankness and unyielded faith in him.

"Oh, you little jade, what have you been overhearing?"

"Nothing, Doctor Grim,--nothing that I could make out."

"Make out as much as you can," he said. "I am not afraid of you."

"Afraid of little Elsie, dear Doctor Grim!"

"Neither of you, nor of the Devil," murmured the Doctor,--"of nobody
but little Ned and that milksop Colcord. If I have wronged anybody it
is them. As for the rest, let the day of judgment come. Doctor Grim is
ready to fling down his burden at the judgment seat and have it sorted

Then he would lie back in his chair and look up at the great spider,
who (or else it was Elsie's fancy) seemed to be making great haste in
those days, filling out his web as if he had less time than was
desirable for such a piece of work.

One morning the Doctor arose as usual, and after breakfast (at which he
ate nothing, and even after filling his coffee-cup half with brandy,
half with coffee, left it untouched, save sipping a little out of a
teaspoon) he went to the study (with a rather unsteady gait, chiefly
remarkable because it was so early in the day), and there established
himself with his pipe, as usual, and his medical books and machines,
and his manuscript. But he seemed troubled, irresolute, weak, and at
last he blew out a volley of oaths, with no apparent appropriateness,
and then seemed to be communing with himself.

"It is of no use to carry this on any further," said he, fiercely, in a
decided tone, as if he had taken a resolution. "Elsie, my girl, come
and kiss me."

So Elsie kissed him, amid all the tobacco-smoke which was curling out
of his mouth, as if there were a half-extinguished furnace in his

"Elsie, my little girl, I mean to die to-day," said the old man.

"To die, dear Doctor Grim? O, no! O, no!"

"O, yes! Elsie," said the Doctor, in a very positive tone. "I have kept
myself alive by main force these three weeks, and I find it hardly
worth the trouble. It requires so much exercise of will;--and I am
weary, weary. The pipe does not taste good, the brandy bewilders me.
Ned is gone, too;--I have nothing else to do. I have wrought this many
a year for an object, and now, taking all things into consideration, I
don't know whether to execute it or no. Ned is gone; there is nobody
but my little Elsie,--a good child, but not quite enough to live for. I
will let myself die, therefore, before sunset."

"O, no! Doctor Grim. Let us send for Ned, and you will think it worth
the trouble of living."

"No, Elsie, I want no one near my death-bed; when I have finished a
little business, you must go out of the room, and I will turn my face
to the wall, and say good-night. But first send crusty Hannah for Mr.

He was a lawyer of the town, a man of classical and antiquarian tastes,
as well as legal acquirement, and some of whose pursuits had brought
him and Doctor Grim occasionally together. Besides calling this
gentleman, crusty Hannah (of her own motion, but whether out of good
will to the poor Doctor Grim, or from a tendency to mischief inherent
in such unnatural mixtures as hers) summoned, likewise, in all haste, a
medical man,--and, as it happened, the one who had taken a most
decidedly hostile part to our Doctor,--and a clergyman, who had often
devoted our poor friend to the infernal regions, almost by name, in his
sermons; a kindness, to say the truth, which the Doctor had fully
reciprocated in many anathemas against the clergyman. These two
worthies, arriving simultaneously, and in great haste, were forthwith
ushered to where the Doctor lay half reclining in his study; and upon
showing their heads, the Doctor flew into an awful rage, threatening,
in his customary improper way, when angry, to make them smell the
infernal regions, and proceeding to put his threats into execution by
flinging his odorous tobacco-pipe in the face of the medical man, and
rebaptizing the clergyman with a half-emptied tumbler of brandy and
water, and sending a terrible vociferation of oaths after them both, as
they clattered hastily down the stairs. Really, that crusty Hannah must
have been the Devil, for she stood grinning and chuckling at the foot
of the stairs, curtseying grotesquely.

"He terrible man, our old Doctor Grim," quoth crusty Hannah. "He drive
us all to the wicked place before him."

This, however, was the final outbreak of poor Doctor Grim. Indeed, he
almost went off at once in the exhaustion that succeeded. The lawyer
arrived shortly after, and was shut up with him for a considerable
space; after which crusty Hannah was summoned, and desired to call two
indifferent persons from the street, as witnesses to a will; and this
document was duly executed, and given into the possession of the
lawyer. This done, and the lawyer having taken his leave, the grim
Doctor desired, and indeed commanded imperatively, that crusty Hannah
should quit the room, having first--we are sorry to say--placed the
brandy-bottle within reach of his hand, and leaving him propped up in
his arm-chair, in which he leaned back, gazing up at the great spider,
who was, dangling overhead. As the door closed behind crusty Hannah's
grinning and yet strangely interested face, the Doctor caught a glimpse
of little Elsie in the passage, bathed in tears, and lingering and
looking earnestly into the chamber. [Endnote: 3.]

Seeing the poor little girl, the Doctor cried out to her, half
wrathfully, half tenderly, "Don't cry, you little wretch! Come and kiss
me once more." So Elsie, restraining her grief with a great effort, ran
to him and gave him a last kiss.

"Tell Ned," said the Doctor solemnly, "to think no more of the old
English hall, or of the bloody footstep, or of the silver key, or any
of all that nonsense. Good by, my dear!" Then he said, with his
thunderous and imperative tone, "Let no one come near me till to-morrow

So that parting was over; but still the poor little desolate child
hovered by the study door all day long, afraid to enter, afraid to
disobey, but unable to go. Sometimes she heard the Doctor muttering, as
was his wont; once she fancied he was praying, and dropping on her
knees, she also prayed fervently, and perhaps acceptably; then, all at
once, the Doctor called out, in a loud voice, "No, Ned, no. Drop it,
drop it!"

And then there was an utter silence, unbroken forevermore by the lips
that had uttered so many objectionable things.

And finally, after an interval which had been prescribed by the grim
Doctor, a messenger was sent by the lawyer to our friend Ned, to inform
him of this sad event, and to bring him back temporarily to town, for
the purpose of hearing what were his prospects, and what disposition
was now to be made of him. We shall not attempt to describe the grief,
astonishment, and almost incredulity of Ned, on discovering that a
person so mixed up with and built into his whole life as the stalwart
Doctor Grimshawe had vanished out of it thus unexpectedly, like
something thin as a vapor,--like a red flame, that one [instant] is
very bright in its lurid ray, and then is nothing at all, amid the
darkness. To the poor boy's still further grief and astonishment, he
found, on reaching the spot that he called home, that little Elsie (as
the lawyer gave him to understand, by the express orders of the Doctor,
and for reasons of great weight) had been conveyed away by a person
under whose guardianship she was placed, and that Ned could not be
informed of the place. Even crusty Hannah had been provided for and
disposed of, and was no longer to be found. Mr. Pickering explained to
Ned the dispositions in his favor which had been made by his deceased
friend, who, out of a moderate property, had left him the means of
obtaining as complete an education as the country would afford, and of
supporting himself until his own exertions would be likely to give him
the success which his abilities were calculated to win. The remainder
of his property (a less sum than that thus disposed of) was given to
little Elsie, with the exception of a small provision to crusty Hannah,
with the recommendation from the Doctor that she should retire and
spend the remainder of her life among her own people. There was
likewise a certain sum left for the purpose of editing and printing
(with a dedication to the Medical Society of the State) an account of
the process of distilling balm from cobwebs; the bequest being worded
in so singular a way that it was just as impossible as it had ever been
to discover whether the grim Doctor was in earnest or no.

What disappointed the boy, in a greater degree than we shall try to
express, was the lack of anything in reference to those dreams and
castles of the air,--any explanation of his birth; so that he was left
with no trace of it, except just so far as the alms-house whence the
Doctor had taken him. There all traces of his name and descent
vanished, just as if he had been made up of the air, as an aerolite
seems to be before it tumbles on the earth with its mysterious iron.

The poor boy, in his bewilderment, had not yet come to feel what his
grief was; it was not to be conceived, in a few days, that he was
deprived of every person, thing, or thought that had hitherto kept his
heart warm. He tried to make himself feel it, yearning for this grief
as for his sole friend. Being, for the present, domiciled with the
lawyer, he obtained the key of his former home, and went through the
desolate house that he knew so well, and which now had such a silent,
cold, familiar strangeness, with none in it, though the ghosts of the
grim Doctor, of laughing little Elsie, of crusty Hannah,--dead and
alive alike,--were all there, and his own ghost among them; for he
himself was dead, that is, his former self, which he recognized as
himself, had passed away, as they were. In the study everything looked
as formerly, yet with a sort of unreality, as if it would dissolve and
vanish on being touched; and, indeed, it partly proved so; for over the
Doctor's chair seemed still to hang the great spider, but on looking
closer at it, and finally touching it with the end of the Doctor's
stick, Ned discovered that it was merely the skin, shell, apparition,
of the real spider,[Endnote: 4] the reality of whom, it is to be
supposed, had followed the grim Doctor, whithersoever he had gone.

A thought struck Ned while he was here; he remembered the secret niche
in the wall, where he had once seen the Doctor deposit some papers. He
looked, and there they were. Who was the heir of those papers, if not
he? If there were anything wrong in appropriating them, it was not
perceptible to him in the desolation, anxiety, bewilderment, and
despair of that moment. He grasped the papers, and hurried from the
room and down the stairs, afraid to look round, and half expecting to
hear the gruff voice of Doctor Grim thundering after him to bring them

Then Ned went out of the back door, and found his way to the Doctor's
new grave, which, as it happened, was dug close beside that one which
occupied the place of the one which the stranger had come to seek; and,
as if to spite the Doctor's professional antipathies, it lay beside a
grave of an old physician and surgeon, one Doctor Summerton, who used
to help diseases and kill patients above a hundred years ago. But
Doctor Grim was undisturbed by these neighbors, and apparently not more
by the grief of poor little Ned, who hid his face in the crumbly earth
of the grave, and the sods that had not begun to grow, and wept as if
his heart would break.

But the heart never breaks on the first grave; and, after many graves,
it gets so obtuse that nothing can break it.

And now let the mists settle down over the trail of our story, hiding
it utterly on its onward course, for a long way to come, until, after
many years, they may disperse and discover something which, were it
worth while to follow it through all that obscurity, would prove to be
the very same track which that boy was treading when we last saw him,--
though it may have lain over land and sea since then; but the footsteps
that trod there are treading here.


There is--or there was, now many years ago, and a few years also it was
still extant--a chamber, which when I think of, it seems to me like
entering a deep recess of my own consciousness, a deep cave of my
nature; so much have I thought of it and its inmate, through a
considerable period of my life. After I had seen it long in fancy, then
I saw it in reality, with my waking eyes; and questioned with myself
whether I was really awake.

Not that it was a picturesque or stately chamber; not in the least. It
was dim, dim as a melancholy mood; so dim, to come to particulars,
that, till you were accustomed to that twilight medium, the print of a
book looked all blurred; a pin was an indistinguishable object; the
face of your familiar friend, or your dearest beloved one, would be
unrecognizable across it, and the figures, so warm and radiant with
life and heart, would seem like the faint gray shadows of our thoughts,
brooding in age over youthful images of joy and love. Nevertheless, the
chamber, though so difficult to see across, was small. You detected
that it was within very narrow boundaries, though you could not
precisely see them; only you felt yourself shut in, compressed,
impeded, in the deep centre of something; and you longed for a breath
of fresh air. Some articles of furniture there seemed to be; but in
this dim medium, to which we are unaccustomed, it is not well to try to
make out what they were, or anything else--now at least--about the
chamber. Only one thing; small as the light was, it was rather
wonderful how there came to be any; for no windows were apparent; no
communication with the outward day. [Endnote: 1.]

Looking into this chamber, in fancy it is some time before we who come
out of the broad sunny daylight of the world discover that it has an
inmate. Yes, there is some one within, but where? We know it; but do
not precisely see him, only a presence is impressed upon us. It is in
that corner; no, not there; only a heap of darkness and an old antique
coffer, that, as we look closely at it, seems to be made of carved
wood. Ah! he is in that other dim corner; and now that we steal close
to him, we see him; a young man, pale, flung upon a sort of mattress-
couch. He seems in alarm at something or other. He trembles, he
listens, as if for voices. It must be a great peril, indeed, that can
haunt him thus and make him feel afraid in such a seclusion as you feel
this to be; but there he is, tremulous, and so pale that really his
face is almost visible in the gloomy twilight. How came he here? Who is
he? What does he tremble at? In this duskiness we cannot tell. Only
that he is a young man, in a state of nervous excitement and alarm,
looking about him, starting to his feet, sometimes standing and staring
about him.

Has he been living here? Apparently not; for see, he has a pair of long
riding-boots on, coming up to the knees; they are splashed with mud, as
if he had ridden hastily through foul ways; the spurs are on the heel.
A riding-dress upon him. Ha! is that blood upon the hand which he
clasps to his forehead.

What more do you perceive? Nothing, the light is so dim; but only we
wonder where is the door, and whence the light comes. There is a
strange abundance of spiders, too, we perceive; spinning their webs
here, as if they would entrammel something in them. A mouse has run
across the floor, apparently, but it is too dim to detect him, or to
detect anything beyond the limits of a very doubtful vagueness. We do
not even know whether what we seem to have seen is really so; whether
the man is young, or old, or what his surroundings are; and there is
something so disagreeable in this seclusion, this stifled atmosphere,
that we should be loath to remain here long enough to make ourselves
certain of what was a mystery. Let us forth into the broad, genial
daylight, for there is magic, there is a devilish, subtile influence,
in this chamber; which, I have reason to believe, makes it dangerous to
remain here. There is a spell on the threshold. Heaven keep us safe
from it!

Hark! has a door unclosed? Is there another human being in the room? We
have now become so accustomed to the dim medium that we distinguish a
man of mean exterior, with a look of habitual subservience that seems
like that of an English serving-man, or a person in some menial
situation; decent, quiet, neat, softly-behaved, but yet with a certain
hard and questionable presence, which we would not well like to have
near us in the room.

"Am I safe?" asks the inmate of the prison-chamber.

"Sir, there has been a search."

"Leave the pistols," said the voice.

Again, [Endnote: 2] after this time, a long time extending to years,
let us look back into that dim chamber, wherever in the world it was,
into which we had a glimpse, and where we saw apparently a fugitive.
How looks it now? Still dim,--perhaps as dim as ever,--but our eyes, or
our imagination, have gained an acquaintance, a customariness, with the
medium; so that we can discern things now a little more distinctly than
of old. Possibly, there may have been something cleared away that
obstructed the light; at any rate, we see now the whereabouts--better
than we did. It is an oblong room, lofty but narrow, and some ten paces
in length; its floor is heavily carpeted, so that the tread makes no
sound; it is hung with old tapestry, or carpet, wrought with the hand
long ago, and still retaining much of the ancient colors, where there
was no sunshine to fade them; worked on them is some tapestried story,
done by Catholic hands, of saints or devils, looking each equally grave
and solemnly. The light, whence comes it? There is no window; but it
seems to come through a stone, or something like it,--a dull gray
medium, that makes noonday look like evening twilight. Though sometimes
there is an effect as if something were striving to melt itself through
this dull medium, and--never making a shadow--yet to produce the effect
of a cloud gathering thickly over the sun. There is a chimney; yes, a
little grate in which burns a coal fire, a dim smouldering fire, it
might be an illumination, if that were desirable.

What is the furniture? An antique chair,--one chair, no more. A table,
many-footed, of dark wood; it holds writing-materials, a book, too, on
its face, with the dust gathered on its back. There is, moreover, a
sort of antique box, or coffer, of some dark wood, that seems to have
been wrought or carved with skill, wondrous skill, of some period when
the art of carving wainscot with arms and devices was much practised;
so that on this coffer--some six feet long it is, and two or three
broad--most richly wrought, you see faces in relief of knight and dame,
lords, heraldic animals; some story, very likely, told, almost
revelling in Gothic sculpture of wood, like what we have seen on the
marble sarcophagus of the old Greeks. It has, too, a lock, elaborately
ornamented and inlaid with silver.

What else; only the spider's webs spinning strangely over everything;
over that light which comes into the room through the stone; over
everything. And now we see, in a corner, a strange great spider
curiously variegated. The ugly, terrible, seemingly poisonous thing
makes us shudder. [Endnote: 3.]

What, else? There are pistols; they lie on the coffer! There is a
curiously shaped Italian dagger, of the kind which in a groove has
poison that makes its wound mortal. On the old mantel-piece, over the
fireplace, there is a vial in which are kept certain poisons. It would
seem as if some one had meditated suicide; or else that the foul fiend
had put all sorts of implements of self-destruction in his way; so
that, in some frenzied moment, he might kill himself.

But the inmate! There he is; but the frenzied alarm in which we last
saw him seems to have changed its character. No throb, now; no passion;
no frenzy of fear or despair. He sits dull and motionless. See; his
cheek is very pale; his hair long and dishevelled. His beard has grown,
and curls round his face. He has on a sleeping-gown, a long robe as of
one who abides within doors, and has nothing to do with outward
elements; a pair of slippers. A dull, dreamy reverie seems to have
possessed him. Hark! there is again a stealthy step on the floor, and
the serving-man is here again. There is a peering, anxious curiosity in
his face, as he struts towards him, a sort of enjoyment, one would say,
in the way in which he looks at the strange case.

"I am here, you know," he says, at length, after feasting his eyes for
some time on the spectacle.

"I hear you!" says the young man, in a dull, indifferent tone.

"Will not your honor walk out to-day?" says the man. "It is long now
since your honor has taken the air."

"Very long," says the master, "but I will not go out to-day. What
weather is it?"

"Sunny, bright, a summer day," says the man. "But you would never know
it in these damp walls. The last winter's chill is here yet. Had not
your honor better go forth?"

It might seem that there was a sort of sneer, deeply hidden under
respect and obeisance, in the man's words and craftily respectful tone;
deeply hidden, but conveying a more subtile power on that account. At
all events, the master seemed aroused from his state of dull
indifference, and writhed as with poignant anguish--an infused poison
in his veins--as the man spoke.

"Have you procured me that new drug I spoke of?" asked the master.

"Here it is," said the man, putting a small package on the table.

"Is it effectual?"

"So said the apothecary," answered the man; "and I tried it on a dog.
He sat quietly a quarter of an hour; then had a spasm or two, and was
dead. But, your honor, the dead carcass swelled horribly."

"Hush, villain! Have there--have there been inquiries for me,--mention
of me?"

"O, none, sir,--none, sir. Affairs go on bravely,--the new live. The
world fills up. The gap is not vacant. There is no mention of you.
Marry, at the alehouse I heard some idle topers talking of a murder
that took place some few years since, and saying that Heaven's
vengeance would come for it yet."

"Silence, villain, there is no such thing," said the young man; and,
with a laugh that seemed like scorn, he relapsed into his state of
sullen indifference; during which the servant stole away, after looking
at him some time, as if to take all possible note of his aspect. The
man did not seem so much to enjoy it himself, as he did to do these
things in a kind of formal and matter-of-course way, as if he were
performing a set duty; as if he were a subordinate fiend, and were
doing the duty of a superior one, without any individual malice of his
own, though a general satisfaction in doing what would accrue to the
agglomeration of deadly mischief. He stole away, and the master was
left to himself.

By and by, by what impulse or cause it is impossible to say, he started
upon his feet in a sudden frenzy of rage and despair. It seemed as if a
consciousness of some strange, wild miserable fate that had befallen
him had come upon him all at once; how that he was a prisoner to a
devilish influence, to some wizard might, that bound him hand and foot
with spider's web. So he stamped; so he half shrieked, yet stopped
himself in the midst, so that his cry was stifled and smothered. Then
he snatched up the poisoned dagger and looked at it; the noose, and put
it about his neck,--evil instrument of death,--but laid it down again.
And then was a voice at the door: "Quietly, quietly you know, or they
will hear you." And at that voice he sank into sullen indifference


A traveller with a knapsack on his shoulders comes out of the duskiness
of vague, unchronicled times, throwing his shadow before him in the
morning sunshine along a well-trodden, though solitary path.

It was early summer, or perhaps latter spring, and the most genial
weather that either spring or summer ever brought, possessing a
character, indeed, as if both seasons had done their utmost to create
an atmosphere and temperature most suitable for the enjoyment and
exercise of life. To one accustomed to a climate where there is seldom
a medium between heat too fierce and cold too deadly, it was a new
development in the nature of weather. So genial it was, so full of all
comfortable influences, and yet, somehow or other, void of the torrid
characteristic that inevitably burns in our full sun-bursts. The
traveller thought, in fact, that the sun was at less than his brightest
glow; for though it was bright,--though the day seemed cloudless,--
though it appeared to be the clear, transparent morning that precedes
an unshadowed noon,--still there was a mild and softened character, not
so perceptible when he directly sought to see it, but as if some veil
were interposed between the earth and sun, absorbing all the passionate
qualities out of the latter, and leaving only the kindly ones. Warmth
was in abundance, and, yet, all through it, and strangely akin to it,
there was a half-suspected coolness that gave the atmosphere its most
thrilling and delicious charm. It was good for human life, as the
traveller, felt throughout all his being; good, likewise, for vegetable
life, as was seen in the depth and richness of verdure over the gently
undulating landscape, and the luxuriance of foliage, wherever there was
tree or shrub to put forth leaves.

The path along which the traveller was passing deserved at least a word
or two of description: it was a well-trodden footpath, running just
here along the edge of a field of grass, and bordered on one side by a
hedge which contained materials within itself for varied and minute
researches in natural history; so richly luxuriant was it with its
diverse vegetable life, such a green intricacy did it form, so
impenetrable and so beautiful, and such a Paradise it was for the birds
that built their nests there in a labyrinth of little boughs and twigs,
unseen and inaccessible, while close beside the human race to which
they attach themselves, that they must have felt themselves as safe as
when they sung to Eve. Homely flowers likewise grew in it, and many
creeping and twining plants, that were an original part of the hedge,
had come of their own accord and dwelt here, beautifying and enriching
the verdant fence by way of repayment for the shelter and support which
it afforded them. At intervals, trees of vast trunk and mighty spread
of foliage, whether elms or oaks, grew in the line of the hedge, and
the bark of those gigantic, age-long patriarchs was not gray and naked,
like the trees which the traveller had been accustomed to see, but
verdant with moss, or in many cases richly enwreathed with a network of
creeping plants, and oftenest the ivy of old growth, clambering upward,
and making its own twisted stem almost of one substance with the
supporting tree. On one venerable oak there was a plant of mystic leaf,
which the traveller knew by instinct, and plucked a bough of it with a
certain reverence for the sake of the Druids and Christmas kisses and
of the pasty in which it was rooted from of old.

The path in which he walked, rustic as it was and made merely by the
feet that pressed it down, was one of the ancientest of ways; older
than the oak that bore the mistletoe, older than the villages between
which it passed, older perhaps than the common road which the traveller
had crossed that morning; old as the times when people first debarred
themselves from wandering freely and widely wherever a vagrant impulse
led them. The footpath, therefore, still retains some of the
characteristics of a woodland walk, taken at random, by a lover of
nature not pressed for time nor restrained by artificial barriers; it
sweeps and lingers along, and finds pretty little dells and nooks of
delightful scenery, and picturesque glimpses of halls or cottages, in
the same neighborhood where a highroad would disclose only a tiresome
blank. They run into one another for miles and miles together, and
traverse rigidly guarded parks and domains, not as a matter of favor,
but as a right; so that the poorest man thus retains a kind of property
and privilege in the oldest inheritance of the richest. The highroad
sees only the outside; the footpath leads down into the heart of the

A pleasant feature of the footpath was the stile, between two fields;
no frail and temporary structure, but betokening the permanence of this
rustic way; the ancient solidity of the stone steps, worn into cavities
by the hobnailed shoes that had pressed upon them: here not only the
climbing foot had passed for ages, but here had sat the maiden with her
milk-pail, the rustic on his way afield or homeward; here had been
lover meetings, cheerful chance chats, song as natural as bird note, a
thousand pretty scenes of rustic manners.

It was curious to see the traveller pause, to contemplate so simple a
thing as this old stile of a few stone steps; antique as an old castle;
simple and rustic as the gap in a rail fence; and while he sat on one
of the steps, making himself pleasantly sensible of his whereabout,
like one who should handle a dream and find it tangible and real, he
heard a sound that bewitched him with still another dreamy delight. A
bird rose out of the grassy field, and, still soaring aloft, made a
cheery melody that was like a spire of audible flame,--rapturous music,
as if the whole soul and substance of the winged creature had been
distilled into this melody, as it vanished skyward.

"The lark! the lark!" exclaimed the traveller, recognizing the note
(though never heard before) as if his childhood had known it.

A moment afterwards another bird was heard in the shadow of a
neighboring wood, or some other inscrutable hiding-place, singing
softly in a flute-like note, as if blown through an instrument of
wood,--"Cuckoo! Cuckoo!"--only twice, and then a stillness.

"How familiar these rustic sounds!" he exclaimed. "Surely I was born

The person who thus enjoyed these sounds, as if they were at once
familiar and strange, was a young man, tall and rather slenderly built,
and though we have called him young, there were the traces of thought,
struggle, and even of experience in his marked brow and somewhat pale
face; but the spirit within him was evidently still that of a youth,
lithe and active, gazing out of his dark eyes and taking note of things
about him, with an eager, centring interest, that seemed to be
unusually awake at the present moment.

It could be but a few years since he first called himself a man; but
they must have been thickly studded with events, turbulent with action,
spent amidst circumstances that called for resources of energy not
often so early developed; and thus his youth might have been kept in
abeyance until now, when in this simple rural scene he grew almost a
boy again. As for his station in life, his coarse gray suit and the
knapsack on his shoulders did not indicate a very high one; yet it was
such as a gentleman might wear of a morning, or on a pedestrian ramble,
and was worn in a way that made it seem of a better fashion than it
really was, as it enabled him to find a rare enjoyment, as we have
seen, in by-path, hedge-row, rustic stile, lark, and cuckoo, and even
the familiar grass and clover blossom. It was as if he had long been
shut in a sick-chamber or a prison; or, at least, within the iron cage
of busy life, that had given him but few glimpses of natural things
through its bars; or else this was another kind of nature than he had
heretofore known.

As he walked along (through a kind of dream, though he seemed so
sensibly observant of trifling things around him,) he failed to notice
that the path grew somewhat less distinctly marked, more infringed upon
by grass, more shut in by shrubbery; he had deviated into a side track,
and, in fact, a certain printed board nailed against a tree had escaped
his notice, warning off intruders with inhospitable threats of
prosecution. He began to suspect that he must have gone astray when the
path led over plashy ground with a still fainter trail of preceding
footsteps, and plunged into shrubbery, and seemed on the point of
deserting him altogether, after having beguiled him thus far. The spot
was an entanglement of boughs, and yet did not give one the impression
of wildness; for it was the stranger's idea that everything in this
long cultivated region had been touched and influenced by man's care,
every oak, every bush, every sod,--that man knew them all, and that
they knew him, and by that mutual knowledge had become far other than
they were in the first freedom of growth, such as may be found in an
American forest. Nay, the wildest denizens of this sylvan neighborhood
were removed in the same degree from their primeval character; for
hares sat on their hind legs to gaze at the approaching traveller, and
hardly thought it worth their while to leap away among some ferns, as
he drew near; two pheasants looked at him from a bough, a little inward
among the shrubbery; and, to complete the wonder, he became aware of
the antlers and brown muzzle of a deer protruding among the boughs, and
though immediately there ensued a great rush and rustling of the herd,
it seemed evidently to come from a certain lingering shyness, an
instinct that had lost its purpose and object, and only mimicked a
dread of man, whose neighborhood and familiarity had tamed the wild
deer almost into a domestic creature. Remembering his experience of
true woodland life, the traveller fancied that it might be possible to
want freer air, less often used for human breath, than was to be found
anywhere among these woods.

But then the sweet, calm sense of safety that was here: the certainty
that with the wild element that centuries ago had passed out of this
scene had gone all the perils of wild men and savage beasts, dwarfs,
witches, leaving nature, not effete, but only disarmed of those
rougher, deadlier characteristics, that cruel rawness, which make
primeval Nature the deadly enemy even of her own children. Here was
consolation, doubtless; so we sit down on the stone step of the last
stile that he had crossed, and listen to the footsteps of the
traveller, and the distant rustle among the shrubbery, as he goes
deeper and deeper into the seclusion, having by this time lost the
deceitful track. No matter if he go astray; even were it after
nightfall instead of noontime, a will-o'-the-wisp, or Puck himself,
would not lead him into worse harm than to delude him into some mossy
pool, the depths of which the truant schoolboys had known for ages.
Nevertheless, some little time after his disappearance, there was the
report of a shot that echoed sharp and loud, startling the pheasants
from their boughs, and sending the hares and deer a-scampering in good

We next find our friend, from whom we parted on the footpath, in a
situation of which he then was but very imperfectly aware; for, indeed,
he had been in a state of unconsciousness, lasting until it was now
late towards the sunset of that same day. He was endeavoring to make
out where he was, and how he came thither, or what had happened; or
whether, indeed, anything had happened, unless to have fallen asleep,
and to be still enveloped in the fragments of some vivid and almost
tangible dream, the more confused because so vivid. His wits did not
come so readily about him as usual; there may have been a slight
delusion, which mingled itself with his sober perceptions, and by its
leaven of extravagance made the whole substance of the scene untrue.
Thus it happened that, as it were at the same instant, he fancied
himself years back in life, thousands of miles away, in a gloomy
cobwebbed room, looking out upon a graveyard, while yet, neither more
nor less distinctly, he was conscious of being in a small chamber,
panelled with oak, and furnished in an antique style. He was doubtful,
too, whether or no there was a grim feudal figure, in a shabby
dressing-gown and an old velvet cap, sitting in the dusk of the room,
smoking a pipe that diffused a scent of tobacco,--quaffing a deep-hued
liquor out of a tumbler,--looking upwards at a spider that hung above.
"Was there, too, a child sitting in a little chair at his footstool?" In
his earnestness to see this apparition more distinctly, he opened his
eyes wider and stirred, and ceased to see it at all.

But though that other dusty, squalid, cobwebbed scene quite vanished,
and along with it the two figures, old and young, grim and childish, of
whose portraits it had been the framework, still there were features in
the old, oaken-panelled chamber that seemed to belong rather to his
dream. The panels were ornamented, here and there, with antique
carving, representing over and over again an identical device, being a
bare arm, holding the torn-off head of some savage beast, which the
stranger could not know by species, any more than Agassiz himself could
have assigned its type or kindred; because it was that kind of natural
history of which heraldry alone keeps the menagerie. But it was just as
familiar to his recollection as that of the cat which he had fondled in
his childhood.

There was likewise a mantelpiece, heavily wrought of oak, quite black
with smoke and age, in the centre of which, more prominent than
elsewhere, was that same leopard's head that seemed to thrust itself
everywhere into sight, as if typifying some great mystery which human
nature would never be at rest till it had solved; and below, in a
cavernous hollow, there was a smouldering fire of coals; for the genial
day had suddenly grown chill, and a shower of rain spattered against
the small window-panes, almost at the same time with the struggling
sunshine. And over the mantelpiece, where the light of the declining
day came strongest from the window, there was a larger and more highly
relieved carving of this same device, and underneath it a legend, in
Old English letters, which, though his eyes could not precisely trace
it at that distance, he knew to be this:--

"Hold hard the Head."

Otherwise the aspect of the room bewildered him by not being known,
since these details were so familiar; a narrow precinct it was, with
one window full of old-fashioned, diamond-shaped panes of glass, a
small desk table, standing on clawed feet; two or three high-backed
chairs, on the top of each of which was carved that same crest of the
fabulous brute's head, which the carver's fancy seemed to have clutched
so strongly that he could not let it go; in another part of the room a
very old engraving, rude and strong, representing some ruffled
personage, which the stranger only tried to make out with a sort of
idle curiosity, because it was strange he should dream so distinctly.

Very soon it became intolerably irritating that these two dreams, both
purposeless, should have mingled and entangled themselves in his mind.
He made a nervous and petulant motion, intending to rouse himself
fully; and immediately a sharp pang of physical pain took him by
surprise, and made him groan aloud.

Immediately there was an almost noiseless step on the floor; and a
figure emerged from a deep niche, that looked as if it might once have
been an oratory, in ancient times; and the figure, too, might have been
supposed to possess the devout and sanctified character of such as
knelt in the oratories of ancient times. It was an elderly man, tall,
thin, and pale, and wearing a long, dark tunic, and in a peculiar
fashion, which--like almost everything else about him--the stranger
seemed to have a confused remembrance of; this venerable person had a
benign and pitiful aspect, and approached the bedside with such good
will and evident desire to do the sufferer good, that the latter felt
soothed, at least, by his very presence. He lay, a moment, gazing up at
the old man's face, without being able to exert himself to say a word,
but sensible, as it were, of a mild, soft influence from him, cooling
the fever which seemed to burn in his veins.

"Do you suffer much pain?" asked the old man, gently.

"None at all," said the stranger; but again a slight motion caused him
to feel a burning twinge in his shoulder. "Yes; there was a throb of
strange anguish. Why should I feel pain? Where am I?"

"In safety, and with those who desire to be your friends," said the old
man. "You have met with an accident; but do not inquire about it now.
Quiet is what you need."

Still the traveller gazed at him; and the old man's figure seemed to
enter into his dream, or delirium, whichever it might be, as if his
peaceful presence were but a shadow, so quaint was his address, so
unlike real life, in that dark robe, with a velvet skullcap on his
head, beneath which his hair made a silvery border; and looking more
closely, the stranger saw embroidered on the breast of the tunic that
same device, the arm and the leopard's head, which was visible in the
carving of the room. Yes; this must still be a dream, which, under the
unknown laws which govern such psychical states, had brought out thus
vividly figures, devices, words, forgotten since his boyish days.
Though of an imaginative tendency, the stranger was nevertheless
strongly tenacious of the actual, and had a natural horror at the idea
of being seriously at odds, in beliefs, perceptions, conclusions, with
the real world about him; so that a tremor ran through him, as if he
felt the substance of the world shimmering before his eyes like a mere
vaporous consistency.

"Are you real?" said he to the antique presence; "or a spirit? or a

The old man laid his thin, cool palm on the stranger's burning
forehead, and smiled benignantly, keeping it there an instant.

"If flesh and blood are real, I am so," said he; "a spirit, too, I may
claim to be, made thin by fantasy. Again, do not perplex yourself with
such things. To-morrow you may find denser substance in me. Drink this
composing draught, and close your eyes to those things that disturb

"Your features, too, and your voice," said the stranger, in a resigned
tone, as if he were giving up a riddle, the solution of which he could
not find, "have an image and echo somewhere in my memory. It is all an
entanglement. I will drink, and shut my eyes."

He drank from a little old-fashioned silver cup, which his venerable
guardian presented to his lips; but in so doing he was still perplexed
and tremulously disturbed with seeing that same weary old device, the
leopard's head, engraved on the side; and shut his eyes to escape it,
for it irritated a certain portion of his brain with vague, fanciful,
elusive ideas. So he sighed and spoke no more. The medicine, whatever
it might be, had the merit, rare in doctor's stuff, of being pleasant
to take, assuasive of thirst, and imbued with a hardly perceptible
fragrance, that was so ethereal that it also seemed to enter into his
dream and modify it. He kept his eyes closed, and fell into a misty
state, in which he wondered whether this could be the panacea or
medicament which old Doctor Grimshawe used to distil from cobwebs, and
of which the fragrance seemed to breathe through all the waste of years
since then. He wondered, too, who was this benign, saint-like old man,
and where, in what former state of being, he could have known him; to
have him thus, as no strange thing, and yet so strange, be attending at
his bedside, with all this ancient garniture. But it was best to
dismiss all things, he being so weak; to resign himself; all this had
happened before, and had passed away, prosperously or unprosperously;
it would pass away in this case, likewise; and in the morning whatever
might be delusive would have disappeared.


The patient [Endnote: 1] had a favorable night, and awoke with a much
clearer head, though still considerably feverish and in a state of
great exhaustion from loss of blood, which kept down the fever. The
events of the preceding day shimmered as it were and shifted illusively
in his recollection; nor could he yet account for the situation in
which he found himself, the antique chamber, the old man of mediĉval
garb, nor even for the wound which seemed to have been the occasion of
bringing him thither. One moment, so far as he remembered, he had been
straying along a solitary footpath, through rich shrubbery, with the
antlered deer peeping at him, listening to the lark and the cuckoo; the
next, he lay helpless in this oak-panelled chamber, surrounded with
objects that appealed to some fantastic shadow of recollection, which
could have had no reality. [Endnote: 2.]

To say the truth, the traveller perhaps wilfully kept hold of this
strange illusiveness, and kept his thoughts from too harshly analyzing
his situation, and solving the riddle in which he found himself
involved. In his present weakness, his mind sympathizing with the
sinking down of his physical powers, it was delightful to let all go;
to relinquish all control, and let himself drift vaguely into whatever
region of improbabilities there exists apart from the dull, common
plane of life. Weak, stricken down, given over to influences which had
taken possession of him during an interval of insensibility, he was no
longer responsible; let these delusions, if they were such, linger as
long as they would, and depart of their own accord at last. He,
meanwhile, would willingly accept the idea that some spell had
transported him out of an epoch in which he had led a brief, troubled
existence of battle, mental strife, success, failure, all equally
feverish and unsatisfactory, into some past century, where the business
was to rest,--to drag on dreamy days, looking at things through half-

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