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From MOSSES FROM AN OLD MANSE
Young Goodman Brown
The Celestial Railroad
The Procession of Life
Feathertop: A Moralized Legend
Egotism; or, The Bosom Serpent
Drowne's Wooden Image
Roger Malvin's Burial
The Artist of the Beautiful
FROM MOSSES FROM AN OLD MANSE
In the latter part of the last century there lived a man of
science, an eminent proficient in every branch of natural
philosophy, who not long before our story opens had made
experience of a spiritual affinity more attractive than any
chemical one. He had left his laboratory to the care of an
assistant, cleared his fine countenance from the furnace smoke,
washed the stain of acids from his fingers, and persuaded a
beautiful woman to become his wife. In those days when the
comparatively recent discovery of electricity and other kindred
mysteries of Nature seemed to open paths into the region of
miracle, it was not unusual for the love of science to rival the
love of woman in its depth and absorbing energy. The higher
intellect, the imagination, the spirit, and even the heart might
all find their congenial aliment in pursuits which, as some of
their ardent votaries believed, would ascend from one step of
powerful intelligence to another, until the philosopher should
lay his hand on the secret of creative force and perhaps make new
worlds for himself. We know not whether Aylmer possessed this
degree of faith in man's ultimate control over Nature. He had
devoted himself, however, too unreservedly to scientific studies
ever to be weaned from them by any second passion. His love for
his young wife might prove the stronger of the two; but it could
only be by intertwining itself with his love of science, and
uniting the strength of the latter to his own.
Such a union accordingly took place, and was attended with truly
remarkable consequences and a deeply impressive moral. One day,
very soon after their marriage, Aylmer sat gazing at his wife
with a trouble in his countenance that grew stronger until he
"Georgiana," said he, "has it never occurred to you that the mark
upon your cheek might be removed?"
"No, indeed," said she, smiling; but perceiving the seriousness
of his manner, she blushed deeply. "To tell you the truth it has
been so often called a charm that I was simple enough to imagine
it might be so."
"Ah, upon another face perhaps it might," replied her husband;
"but never on yours. No, dearest Georgiana, you came so nearly
perfect from the hand of Nature that this slightest possible
defect, which we hesitate whether to term a defect or a beauty,
shocks me, as being the visible mark of earthly imperfection."
"Shocks you, my husband!" cried Georgiana, deeply hurt; at first
reddening with momentary anger, but then bursting into tears.
"Then why did you take me from my mother's side? You cannot love
what shocks you!"
To explain this conversation it must be mentioned that in the
centre of Georgiana's left cheek there was a singular mark,
deeply interwoven, as it were, with the texture and substance of
her face. In the usual state of her complexion--a healthy though
delicate bloom--the mark wore a tint of deeper crimson, which
imperfectly defined its shape amid the surrounding rosiness. When
she blushed it gradually became more indistinct, and finally
vanished amid the triumphant rush of blood that bathed the whole
cheek with its brilliant glow. But if any shifting motion caused
her to turn pale there was the mark again, a crimson stain upon
the snow, in what Aylmer sometimes deemed an almost fearful
distinctness. Its shape bore not a little similarity to the human
hand, though of the smallest pygmy size. Georgiana's lovers were
wont to say that some fairy at her birth hour had laid her tiny
hand upon the infant's cheek, and left this impress there in
token of the magic endowments that were to give her such sway
over all hearts. Many a desperate swain would have risked life
for the privilege of pressing his lips to the mysterious hand. It
must not be concealed, however, that the impression wrought by
this fairy sign manual varied exceedingly, according to the
difference of temperament in the beholders. Some fastidious
persons--but they were exclusively of her own sex--affirmed that
the bloody hand, as they chose to call it, quite destroyed the
effect of Georgiana's beauty, and rendered her countenance even
hideous. But it would be as reasonable to say that one of those
small blue stains which sometimes occur in the purest statuary
marble would convert the Eve of Powers to a monster. Masculine
observers, if the birthmark did not heighten their admiration,
contented themselves with wishing it away, that the world might
possess one living specimen of ideal loveliness without the
semblance of a flaw. After his marriage,--for he thought little
or nothing of the matter before,--Aylmer discovered that this was
the case with himself.
Had she been less beautiful,--if Envy's self could have found
aught else to sneer at,--he might have felt his affection
heightened by the prettiness of this mimic hand, now vaguely
portrayed, now lost, now stealing forth again and glimmering to
and fro with every pulse of emotion that throbbed within her
heart; but seeing her otherwise so perfect, he found this one
defect grow more and more intolerable with every moment of their
united lives. It was the fatal flaw of humanity which Nature, in
one shape or another, stamps ineffaceably on all her productions,
either to imply that they are temporary and finite, or that their
perfection must be wrought by toil and pain. The crimson hand
expressed the ineludible gripe in which mortality clutches the
highest and purest of earthly mould, degrading them into kindred
with the lowest, and even with the very brutes, like whom their
visible frames return to dust. In this manner, selecting it as
the symbol of his wife's liability to sin, sorrow, decay, and
death, Aylmer's sombre imagination was not long in rendering the
birthmark a frightful object, causing him more trouble and horror
than ever Georgiana's beauty, whether of soul or sense, had given
At all the seasons which should have been their happiest, he
invariably and without intending it, nay, in spite of a purpose
to the contrary, reverted to this one disastrous topic. Trifling
as it at first appeared, it so connected itself with innumerable
trains of thought and modes of feeling that it became the central
point of all. With the morning twilight Aylmer opened his eyes
upon his wife's face and recognized the symbol of imperfection;
and when they sat together at the evening hearth his eyes
wandered stealthily to her cheek, and beheld, flickering with the
blaze of the wood fire, the spectral hand that wrote mortality
where he would fain have worshipped. Georgiana soon learned to
shudder at his gaze. It needed but a glance with the peculiar
expression that his face often wore to change the roses of her
cheek into a deathlike paleness, amid which the crimson hand was
brought strongly out, like a bass-relief of ruby on the whitest
Late one night when the lights were growing dim, so as hardly to
betray the stain on the poor wife's cheek, she herself, for the
first time, voluntarily took up the subject.
"Do you remember, my dear Aylmer," said she, with a feeble
attempt at a smile, "have you any recollection of a dream last
night about this odious hand?"
"None! none whatever!" replied Aylmer, starting; but then he
added, in a dry, cold tone, affected for the sake of concealing
the real depth of his emotion, "I might well dream of it; for
before I fell asleep it had taken a pretty firm hold of my
"And you did dream of it?" continued Georgiana, hastily; for she
dreaded lest a gush of tears should interrupt what she had to
say. "A terrible dream! I wonder that you can forget it. Is it
possible to forget this one expression?--'It is in her heart now;
we must have it out!' Reflect, my husband; for by all means I
would have you recall that dream."
The mind is in a sad state when Sleep, the all-involving, cannot
confine her spectres within the dim region of her sway, but
suffers them to break forth, affrighting this actual life with
secrets that perchance belong to a deeper one. Aylmer now
remembered his dream. He had fancied himself with his servant
Aminadab, attempting an operation for the removal of the
birthmark; but the deeper went the knife, the deeper sank the
hand, until at length its tiny grasp appeared to have caught hold
of Georgiana's heart; whence, however, her husband was inexorably
resolved to cut or wrench it away.
When the dream had shaped itself perfectly in his memory, Aylmer
sat in his wife's presence with a guilty feeling. Truth often
finds its way to the mind close muffled in robes of sleep, and
then speaks with uncompromising directness of matters in regard
to which we practise an unconscious self-deception during our
waking moments. Until now he had not been aware of the
tyrannizing influence acquired by one idea over his mind, and of
the lengths which he might find in his heart to go for the sake
of giving himself peace.
"Aylmer," resumed Georgiana, solemnly, "I know not what may be
the cost to both of us to rid me of this fatal birthmark. Perhaps
its removal may cause cureless deformity; or it may be the stain
goes as deep as life itself. Again: do we know that there is a
possibility, on any terms, of unclasping the firm gripe of this
little hand which was laid upon me before I came into the world?"
"Dearest Georgiana, I have spent much thought upon the subject,"
hastily interrupted Aylmer. "I am convinced of the perfect
practicability of its removal."
"If there be the remotest possibility of it," continued
Georgiana, "let the attempt be made at whatever risk. Danger is
nothing to me; for life, while this hateful mark makes me the
object of your horror and disgust,--life is a burden which I
would fling down with joy. Either remove this dreadful hand, or
take my wretched life! You have deep science. All the world bears
witness of it. You have achieved great wonders. Cannot you remove
this little, little mark, which I cover with the tips of two
small fingers? Is this beyond your power, for the sake of your
own peace, and to save your poor wife from madness?"
"Noblest, dearest, tenderest wife," cried Aylmer, rapturously,
"doubt not my power. I have already given this matter the deepest
thought--thought which might almost have enlightened me to create
a being less perfect than yourself. Georgiana, you have led me
deeper than ever into the heart of science. I feel myself fully
competent to render this dear cheek as faultless as its fellow;
and then, most beloved, what will be my triumph when I shall have
corrected what Nature left imperfect in her fairest work! Even
Pygmalion, when his sculptured woman assumed life, felt not
greater ecstasy than mine will be."
"It is resolved, then," said Georgiana, faintly smiling. "And,
Aylmer, spare me not, though you should find the birthmark take
refuge in my heart at last."
Her husband tenderly kissed her cheek--her right cheek--not that
which bore the impress of the crimson hand.
The next day Aylmer apprised his wife of a plan that he had
formed whereby he might have opportunity for the intense thought
and constant watchfulness which the proposed operation would
require; while Georgiana, likewise, would enjoy the perfect
repose essential to its success. They were to seclude themselves
in the extensive apartments occupied by Aylmer as a laboratory,
and where, during his toilsome youth, he had made discoveries in
the elemental powers of Nature that had roused the admiration of
all the learned societies in Europe. Seated calmly in this
laboratory, the pale philosopher had investigated the secrets of
the highest cloud region and of the profoundest mines; he had
satisfied himself of the causes that kindled and kept alive the
fires of the volcano; and had explained the mystery of fountains,
and how it is that they gush forth, some so bright and pure, and
others with such rich medicinal virtues, from the dark bosom of
the earth. Here, too, at an earlier period, he had studied the
wonders of the human frame, and attempted to fathom the very
process by which Nature assimilates all her precious influences
from earth and air, and from the spiritual world, to create and
foster man, her masterpiece. The latter pursuit, however, Aylmer
had long laid aside in unwilling recognition of the
truth--against which all seekers sooner or later stumble--that
our great creative Mother, while she amuses us with apparently
working in the broadest sunshine, is yet severely careful to keep
her own secrets, and, in spite of her pretended openness, shows
us nothing but results. She permits us, indeed, to mar, but
seldom to mend, and, like a jealous patentee, on no account to
make. Now, however, Aylmer resumed these half-forgotten
investigations; not, of course, with such hopes or wishes as
first suggested them; but because they involved much
physiological truth and lay in the path of his proposed scheme
for the treatment of Georgiana.
As he led her over the threshold of the laboratory, Georgiana was
cold and tremulous. Aylmer looked cheerfully into her face, with
intent to reassure her, but was so startled with the intense glow
of the birthmark upon the whiteness of her cheek that he could
not restrain a strong convulsive shudder. His wife fainted.
"Aminadab! Aminadab!" shouted Aylmer, stamping violently on the
Forthwith there issued from an inner apartment a man of low
stature, but bulky frame, with shaggy hair hanging about his
visage, which was grimed with the vapors of the furnace. This
personage had been Aylmer's underworker during his whole
scientific career, and was admirably fitted for that office by
his great mechanical readiness, and the skill with which, while
incapable of comprehending a single principle, he executed all
the details of his master's experiments. With his vast strength,
his shaggy hair, his smoky aspect, and the indescribable
earthiness that incrusted him, he seemed to represent man's
physical nature; while Aylmer's slender figure, and pale,
intellectual face, were no less apt a type of the spiritual
"Throw open the door of the boudoir, Aminadab," said Aylmer, "and
burn a pastil."
"Yes, master," answered Aminadab, looking intently at the
lifeless form of Georgiana; and then he muttered to himself, "If
she were my wife, I'd never part with that birthmark."
When Georgiana recovered consciousness she found herself
breathing an atmosphere of penetrating fragrance, the gentle
potency of which had recalled her from her deathlike faintness.
The scene around her looked like enchantment. Aylmer had
converted those smoky, dingy, sombre rooms, where he had spent
his brightest years in recondite pursuits, into a series of
beautiful apartments not unfit to be the secluded abode of a
lovely woman. The walls were hung with gorgeous curtains, which
imparted the combination of grandeur and grace that no other
species of adornment can achieve; and as they fell from the
ceiling to the floor, their rich and ponderous folds, concealing
all angles and straight lines, appeared to shut in the scene from
infinite space. For aught Georgiana knew, it might be a pavilion
among the clouds. And Aylmer, excluding the sunshine, which would
have interfered with his chemical processes, had supplied its
place with perfumed lamps, emitting flames of various hue, but
all uniting in a soft, impurpled radiance. He now knelt by his
wife's side, watching her earnestly, but without alarm; for he
was confident in his science, and felt that he could draw a magic
circle round her within which no evil might intrude.
"Where am I? Ah, I remember," said Georgiana, faintly; and she
placed her hand over her cheek to hide the terrible mark from her
"Fear not, dearest!" exclaimed he. "Do not shrink from me!
Believe me, Georgiana, I even rejoice in this single
imperfection, since it will be such a rapture to remove it."
"Oh, spare me!" sadly replied his wife. "Pray do not look at it
again. I never can forget that convulsive shudder."
In order to soothe Georgiana, and, as it were, to release her
mind from the burden of actual things, Aylmer now put in practice
some of the light and playful secrets which science had taught
him among its profounder lore. Airy figures, absolutely bodiless
ideas, and forms of unsubstantial beauty came and danced before
her, imprinting their momentary footsteps on beams of light.
Though she had some indistinct idea of the method of these
optical phenomena, still the illusion was almost perfect enough
to warrant the belief that her husband possessed sway over the
spiritual world. Then again, when she felt a wish to look forth
from her seclusion, immediately, as if her thoughts were
answered, the procession of external existence flitted across a
screen. The scenery and the figures of actual life were perfectly
represented, but with that bewitching, yet indescribable
difference which always makes a picture, an image, or a shadow so
much more attractive than the original. When wearied of this,
Aylmer bade her cast her eyes upon a vessel containing a quantity
of earth. She did so, with little interest at first; but was soon
startled to perceive the germ of a plant shooting upward from the
soil. Then came the slender stalk; the leaves gradually unfolded
themselves; and amid them was a perfect and lovely flower.
"It is magical!" cried Georgiana. "I dare not touch it."
"Nay, pluck it," answered Aylmer,--"pluck it, and inhale its
brief perfume while you may. The flower will wither in a few
moments and leave nothing save its brown seed vessels; but thence
may be perpetuated a race as ephemeral as itself."
But Georgiana had no sooner touched the flower than the whole
plant suffered a blight, its leaves turning coal-black as if by
the agency of fire.
"There was too powerful a stimulus," said Aylmer, thoughtfully.
To make up for this abortive experiment, he proposed to take her
portrait by a scientific process of his own invention. It was to
be effected by rays of light striking upon a polished plate of
metal. Georgiana assented; but, on looking at the result, was
affrighted to find the features of the portrait blurred and
indefinable; while the minute figure of a hand appeared where the
cheek should have been. Aylmer snatched the metallic plate and
threw it into a jar of corrosive acid.
Soon, however, he forgot these mortifying failures. In the
intervals of study and chemical experiment he came to her flushed
and exhausted, but seemed invigorated by her presence, and spoke
in glowing language of the resources of his art. He gave a
history of the long dynasty of the alchemists, who spent so many
ages in quest of the universal solvent by which the golden
principle might be elicited from all things vile and base. Aylmer
appeared to believe that, by the plainest scientific logic, it
was altogether within the limits of possibility to discover this
long-sought medium; "but," he added, "a philosopher who should go
deep enough to acquire the power would attain too lofty a wisdom
to stoop to the exercise of it." Not less singular were his
opinions in regard to the elixir vitae. He more than intimated
that it was at his option to concoct a liquid that should prolong
life for years, perhaps interminably; but that it would produce a
discord in Nature which all the world, and chiefly the quaffer of
the immortal nostrum, would find cause to curse.
"Aylmer, are you in earnest?" asked Georgiana, looking at him
with amazement and fear. "It is terrible to possess such power,
or even to dream of possessing it."
"Oh, do not tremble, my love," said her husband. "I would not
wrong either you or myself by working such inharmonious effects
upon our lives; but I would have you consider how trifling, in
comparison, is the skill requisite to remove this little hand."
At the mention of the birthmark, Georgiana, as usual, shrank as
if a redhot iron had touched her cheek.
Again Aylmer applied himself to his labors. She could hear his
voice in the distant furnace room giving directions to Aminadab,
whose harsh, uncouth, misshapen tones were audible in response,
more like the grunt or growl of a brute than human speech. After
hours of absence, Aylmer reappeared and proposed that she should
now examine his cabinet of chemical products and natural
treasures of the earth. Among the former he showed her a small
vial, in which, he remarked, was contained a gentle yet most
powerful fragrance, capable of impregnating all the breezes that
blow across a kingdom. They were of inestimable value, the
contents of that little vial; and, as he said so, he threw some
of the perfume into the air and filled the room with piercing and
"And what is this?" asked Georgiana, pointing to a small crystal
globe containing a gold-colored liquid. "It is so beautiful to
the eye that I could imagine it the elixir of life."
"In one sense it is," replied Aylmer; "or, rather, the elixir of
immortality. It is the most precious poison that ever was
concocted in this world. By its aid I could apportion the
lifetime of any mortal at whom you might point your finger. The
strength of the dose would determine whether he were to linger
out years, or drop dead in the midst of a breath. No king on his
guarded throne could keep his life if I, in my private station,
should deem that the welfare of millions justified me in
depriving him of it."
"Why do you keep such a terrific drug?" inquired Georgiana in
"Do not mistrust me, dearest," said her husband, smiling; "its
virtuous potency is yet greater than its harmful one. But see!
here is a powerful cosmetic. With a few drops of this in a vase
of water, freckles may be washed away as easily as the hands are
cleansed. A stronger infusion would take the blood out of the
cheek, and leave the rosiest beauty a pale ghost."
"Is it with this lotion that you intend to bathe my cheek?" asked
"Oh, no," hastily replied her husband; "this is merely
superficial. Your case demands a remedy that shall go deeper."
In his interviews with Georgiana, Aylmer generally made minute
inquiries as to her sensations and whether the confinement of the
rooms and the temperature of the atmosphere agreed with her.
These questions had such a particular drift that Georgiana began
to conjecture that she was already subjected to certain physical
influences, either breathed in with the fragrant air or taken
with her food. She fancied likewise, but it might be altogether
fancy, that there was a stirring up of her system--a strange,
indefinite sensation creeping through her veins, and tingling,
half painfully, half pleasurably, at her heart. Still, whenever
she dared to look into the mirror, there she beheld herself pale
as a white rose and with the crimson birthmark stamped upon her
cheek. Not even Aylmer now hated it so much as she.
To dispel the tedium of the hours which her husband found it
necessary to devote to the processes of combination and analysis,
Georgiana turned over the volumes of his scientific library. In
many dark old tomes she met with chapters full of romance and
poetry. They were the works of philosophers of the middle ages,
such as Albertus Magnus, Cornelius Agrippa, Paracelsus, and the
famous friar who created the prophetic Brazen Head. All these
antique naturalists stood in advance of their centuries, yet were
imbued with some of their credulity, and therefore were believed,
and perhaps imagined themselves to have acquired from the
investigation of Nature a power above Nature, and from physics a
sway over the spiritual world. Hardly less curious and
imaginative were the early volumes of the Transactions of the
Royal Society, in which the members, knowing little of the limits
of natural possibility, were continually recording wonders or
proposing methods whereby wonders might be wrought.
But to Georgiana the most engrossing volume was a large folio
from her husband's own hand, in which he had recorded every
experiment of his scientific career, its original aim, the
methods adopted for its development, and its final success or
failure, with the circumstances to which either event was
attributable. The book, in truth, was both the history and emblem
of his ardent, ambitious, imaginative, yet practical and
laborious life. He handled physical details as if there were
nothing beyond them; yet spiritualized them all, and redeemed
himself from materialism by his strong and eager aspiration
towards the infinite. In his grasp the veriest clod of earth
assumed a soul. Georgiana, as she read, reverenced Aylmer and
loved him more profoundly than ever, but with a less entire
dependence on his judgment than heretofore. Much as he had
accomplished, she could not but observe that his most splendid
successes were almost invariably failures, if compared with the
ideal at which he aimed. His brightest diamonds were the merest
pebbles, and felt to be so by himself, in comparison with the
inestimable gems which lay hidden beyond his reach. The volume,
rich with achievements that had won renown for its author, was
yet as melancholy a record as ever mortal hand had penned. It was
the sad confession and continual exemplification of the
shortcomings of the composite man, the spirit burdened with clay
and working in matter, and of the despair that assails the higher
nature at finding itself so miserably thwarted by the earthly
part. Perhaps every man of genius in whatever sphere might
recognize the image of his own experience in Aylmer's journal.
So deeply did these reflections affect Georgiana that she laid
her face upon the open volume and burst into tears. In this
situation she was found by her husband.
"It is dangerous to read in a sorcerer's books," said he with a
smile, though his countenance was uneasy and displeased.
"Georgiana, there are pages in that volume which I can scarcely
glance over and keep my senses. Take heed lest it prove as
detrimental to you."
"It has made me worship you more than ever," said she.
"Ah, wait for this one success," rejoined he, "then worship me if
you will. I shall deem myself hardly unworthy of it. But come, I
have sought you for the luxury of your voice. Sing to me,
So she poured out the liquid music of her voice to quench the
thirst of his spirit. He then took his leave with a boyish
exuberance of gayety, assuring her that her seclusion would
endure but a little longer, and that the result was already
certain. Scarcely had he departed when Georgiana felt
irresistibly impelled to follow him. She had forgotten to inform
Aylmer of a symptom which for two or three hours past had begun
to excite her attention. It was a sensation in the fatal
birthmark, not painful, but which induced a restlessness
throughout her system. Hastening after her husband, she intruded
for the first time into the laboratory.
The first thing that struck her eye was the furnace, that hot and
feverish worker, with the intense glow of its fire, which by the
quantities of soot clustered above it seemed to have been burning
for ages. There was a distilling apparatus in full operation.
Around the room were retorts, tubes, cylinders, crucibles, and
other apparatus of chemical research. An electrical machine stood
ready for immediate use. The atmosphere felt oppressively close,
and was tainted with gaseous odors which had been tormented forth
by the processes of science. The severe and homely simplicity of
the apartment, with its naked walls and brick pavement, looked
strange, accustomed as Georgiana had become to the fantastic
elegance of her boudoir. But what chiefly, indeed almost solely,
drew her attention, was the aspect of Aylmer himself.
He was pale as death, anxious and absorbed, and hung over the
furnace as if it depended upon his utmost watchfulness whether
the liquid which it was distilling should be the draught of
immortal happiness or misery. How different from the sanguine and
joyous mien that he had assumed for Georgiana's encouragement!
"Carefully now, Aminadab; carefully, thou human machine;
carefully, thou man of clay!" muttered Aylmer, more to himself
than his assistant. "Now, if there be a thought too much or too
little, it is all over."
"Ho! ho!" mumbled Aminadab. "Look, master! look!"
Aylmer raised his eyes hastily, and at first reddened, then grew
paler than ever, on beholding Georgiana. He rushed towards her
and seized her arm with a gripe that left the print of his
fingers upon it.
"Why do you come hither? Have you no trust in your husband?"
cried he, impetuously. "Would you throw the blight of that fatal
birthmark over my labors? It is not well done. Go, prying woman,
"Nay, Aylmer," said Georgiana with the firmness of which she
possessed no stinted endowment, "it is not you that have a right
to complain. You mistrust your wife; you have concealed the
anxiety with which you watch the development of this experiment.
Think not so unworthily of me, my husband. Tell me all the risk
we run, and fear not that I shall shrink; for my share in it is
far less than your own."
"No, no, Georgiana!" said Aylmer, impatiently; "it must not be."
"I submit," replied she calmly. "And, Aylmer, I shall quaff
whatever draught you bring me; but it will be on the same
principle that would induce me to take a dose of poison if
offered by your hand."
"My noble wife," said Aylmer, deeply moved, "I knew not the
height and depth of your nature until now. Nothing shall be
concealed. Know, then, that this crimson hand, superficial as it
seems, has clutched its grasp into your being with a strength of
which I had no previous conception. I have already administered
agents powerful enough to do aught except to change your entire
physical system. Only one thing remains to be tried. If that fail
us we are ruined."
"Why did you hesitate to tell me this?" asked she.
"Because, Georgiana," said Aylmer, in a low voice, "there is
"Danger? There is but one danger--that this horrible stigma shall
be left upon my cheek!" cried Georgiana. "Remove it, remove it,
whatever be the cost, or we shall both go mad!"
"Heaven knows your words are too true," said Aylmer, sadly. "And
now, dearest, return to your boudoir. In a little while all will
He conducted her back and took leave of her with a solemn
tenderness which spoke far more than his words how much was now
at stake. After his departure Georgiana became rapt in musings.
She considered the character of Aylmer, and did it completer
justice than at any previous moment. Her heart exulted, while it
trembled, at his honorable love--so pure and lofty that it would
accept nothing less than perfection nor miserably make itself
contented with an earthlier nature than he had dreamed of. She
felt how much more precious was such a sentiment than that meaner
kind which would have borne with the imperfection for her sake,
and have been guilty of treason to holy love by degrading its
perfect idea to the level of the actual; and with her whole
spirit she prayed that, for a single moment, she might satisfy
his highest and deepest conception. Longer than one moment she
well knew it could not be; for his spirit was ever on the march,
ever ascending, and each instant required something that was
beyond the scope of the instant before.
The sound of her husband's footsteps aroused her. He bore a
crystal goblet containing a liquor colorless as water, but bright
enough to be the draught of immortality. Aylmer was pale; but it
seemed rather the consequence of a highly-wrought state of mind
and tension of spirit than of fear or doubt.
"The concoction of the draught has been perfect," said he, in
answer to Georgiana's look. "Unless all my science have deceived
me, it cannot fail."
"Save on your account, my dearest Aylmer," observed his wife, "I
might wish to put off this birthmark of mortality by
relinquishing mortality itself in preference to any other mode.
Life is but a sad possession to those who have attained precisely
the degree of moral advancement at which I stand. Were I weaker
and blinder it might be happiness. Were I stronger, it might be
endured hopefully. But, being what I find myself, methinks I am
of all mortals the most fit to die."
"You are fit for heaven without tasting death!" replied her
husband "But why do we speak of dying? The draught cannot fail.
Behold its effect upon this plant."
On the window seat there stood a geranium diseased with yellow
blotches, which had overspread all its leaves. Aylmer poured a
small quantity of the liquid upon the soil in which it grew. In a
little time, when the roots of the plant had taken up the
moisture, the unsightly blotches began to be extinguished in a
"There needed no proof," said Georgiana, quietly. "Give me the
goblet I joyfully stake all upon your word."
"Drink, then, thou lofty creature!" exclaimed Aylmer, with fervid
admiration. "There is no taint of imperfection on thy spirit. Thy
sensible frame, too, shall soon be all perfect."
She quaffed the liquid and returned the goblet to his hand.
"It is grateful," said she with a placid smile. "Methinks it is
like water from a heavenly fountain; for it contains I know not
what of unobtrusive fragrance and deliciousness. It allays a
feverish thirst that had parched me for many days. Now, dearest,
let me sleep. My earthly senses are closing over my spirit like
the leaves around the heart of a rose at sunset."
She spoke the last words with a gentle reluctance, as if it
required almost more energy than she could command to pronounce
the faint and lingering syllables. Scarcely had they loitered
through her lips ere she was lost in slumber. Aylmer sat by her
side, watching her aspect with the emotions proper to a man the
whole value of whose existence was involved in the process now to
be tested. Mingled with this mood, however, was the philosophic
investigation characteristic of the man of science. Not the
minutest symptom escaped him. A heightened flush of the cheek, a
slight irregularity of breath, a quiver of the eyelid, a hardly
perceptible tremor through the frame,--such were the details
which, as the moments passed, he wrote down in his folio volume.
Intense thought had set its stamp upon every previous page of
that volume, but the thoughts of years were all concentrated upon
While thus employed, he failed not to gaze often at the fatal
hand, and not without a shudder. Yet once, by a strange and
unaccountable impulse he pressed it with his lips. His spirit
recoiled, however, in the very act, and Georgiana, out of the
midst of her deep sleep, moved uneasily and murmured as if in
remonstrance. Again Aylmer resumed his watch. Nor was it without
avail. The crimson hand, which at first had been strongly visible
upon the marble paleness of Georgiana's cheek, now grew more
faintly outlined. She remained not less pale than ever; but the
birthmark with every breath that came and went, lost somewhat of
its former distinctness. Its presence had been awful; its
departure was more awful still. Watch the stain of the rainbow
fading out the sky, and you will know how that mysterious symbol
"By Heaven! it is well-nigh gone!" said Aylmer to himself, in
almost irrepressible ecstasy. "I can scarcely trace it now.
Success! success! And now it is like the faintest rose color. The
lightest flush of blood across her cheek would overcome it. But
she is so pale!"
He drew aside the window curtain and suffered the light of
natural day to fall into the room and rest upon her cheek. At the
same time he heard a gross, hoarse chuckle, which he had long
known as his servant Aminadab's expression of delight.
"Ah, clod! ah, earthly mass!" cried Aylmer, laughing in a sort of
frenzy, "you have served me well! Matter and spirit--earth and
heaven --have both done their part in this! Laugh, thing of the
senses! You have earned the right to laugh."
These exclamations broke Georgiana's sleep. She slowly unclosed
her eyes and gazed into the mirror which her husband had arranged
for that purpose. A faint smile flitted over her lips when she
recognized how barely perceptible was now that crimson hand which
had once blazed forth with such disastrous brilliancy as to scare
away all their happiness. But then her eyes sought Aylmer's face
with a trouble and anxiety that he could by no means account for.
"My poor Aylmer!" murmured she.
"Poor? Nay, richest, happiest, most favored!" exclaimed he. "My
peerless bride, it is successful! You are perfect!"
"My poor Aylmer," she repeated, with a more than human
tenderness, "you have aimed loftily; you have done nobly. Do not
repent that with so high and pure a feeling, you have rejected
the best the earth could offer. Aylmer, dearest Aylmer, I am
Alas! it was too true! The fatal hand had grappled with the
mystery of life, and was the bond by which an angelic spirit kept
itself in union with a mortal frame. As the last crimson tint of
the birthmark--that sole token of human imperfection--faded from
her cheek, the parting breath of the now perfect woman passed
into the atmosphere, and her soul, lingering a moment near her
husband, took its heavenward flight. Then a hoarse, chuckling
laugh was heard again! Thus ever does the gross fatality of earth
exult in its invariable triumph over the immortal essence which,
in this dim sphere of half development, demands the completeness
of a higher state. Yet, had Alymer reached a profounder wisdom,
he need not thus have flung away the happiness which would have
woven his mortal life of the selfsame texture with the celestial.
The momentary circumstance was too strong for him; he failed to
look beyond the shadowy scope of time, and, living once for all
in eternity, to find the perfect future in the present.
YOUNG GOODMAN BROWN
Young Goodman Brown came forth at sunset into the street at Salem
village; but put his head back, after crossing the threshold, to
exchange a parting kiss with his young wife. And Faith, as the
wife was aptly named, thrust her own pretty head into the street,
letting the wind play with the pink ribbons of her cap while she
called to Goodman Brown.
"Dearest heart," whispered she, softly and rather sadly, when her
lips were close to his ear, "prithee put off your journey until
sunrise and sleep in your own bed to-night. A lone woman is
troubled with such dreams and such thoughts that she's afeard of
herself sometimes. Pray tarry with me this night, dear husband,
of all nights in the year."
"My love and my Faith," replied young Goodman Brown, "of all
nights in the year, this one night must I tarry away from thee.
My journey, as thou callest it, forth and back again, must needs
be done 'twixt now and sunrise. What, my sweet, pretty wife, dost
thou doubt me already, and we but three months married?"
"Then God bless youe!" said Faith, with the pink ribbons; "and
you find all well whn you come back."
"Amen!" cried Goodman Brown. "Say thy prayers, dear Faith, and go
to bed at dusk, and no harm will come to thee."
So they parted; and the young man pursued his way until, being
about to turn the corner by the meeting-house, he looked back and
saw the head of Faith still peeping after him with a melancholy
air, in spite of her pink ribbons.
"Poor little Faith!" thought he, for his heart smote him. "What a
wretch am I to leave her on such an errand! She talks of dreams,
too. Methought as she spoke there was trouble in her face, as if
a dream had warned her what work is to be done tonight. But no,
no; 't would kill her to think it. Well, she's a blessed angel on
earth; and after this one night I'll cling to her skirts and
follow her to heaven."
With this excellent resolve for the future, Goodman Brown felt
himself justified in making more haste on his present evil
purpose. He had taken a dreary road, darkened by all the
gloomiest trees of the forest, which barely stood aside to let
the narrow path creep through, and closed immediately behind. It
was all as lonely as could be; and there is this peculiarity in
such a solitude, that the traveller knows not who may be
concealed by the innumerable trunks and the thick boughs
overhead; so that with lonely footsteps he may yet be passing
through an unseen multitude.
"There may be a devilish Indian behind every tree," said Goodman
Brown to himself; and he glanced fearfully behind him as he
added, "What if the devil himself should be at my very elbow!"
His head being turned back, he passed a crook of the road, and,
looking forward again, beheld the figure of a man, in grave and
decent attire, seated at the foot of an old tree. He arose at
Goodman Brown's approach and walked onward side by side with him.
"You are late, Goodman Brown," said he. "The clock of the Old
South was striking as I came through Boston, and that is full
fifteen minutes agone."
"Faith kept me back a while," replied the young man, with a
tremor in his voice, caused by the sudden appearance of his
companion, though not wholly unexpected.
It was now deep dusk in the forest, and deepest in that part of
it where these two were journeying. As nearly as could be
discerned, the second traveller was about fifty years old,
apparently in the same rank of life as Goodman Brown, and bearing
a considerable resemblance to him, though perhaps more in
expression than features. Still they might have been taken for
father and son. And yet, though the elder person was as simply
clad as the younger, and as simple in manner too, he had an
indescribable air of one who knew the world, and who would not
have felt abashed at the governor's dinner table or in King
William's court, were it possible that his affairs should call
him thither. But the only thing about him that could be fixed
upon as remarkable was his staff, which bore the likeness of a
great black snake, so curiously wrought that it might almost be
seen to twist and wriggle itself like a living serpent. This, of
course, must have been an ocular deception, assisted by the
"Come, Goodman Brown," cried his fellow-traveller, "this is a
dull pace for the beginning of a journey. Take my staff, if you
are so soon weary."
"Friend," said the other, exchanging his slow pace for a full
stop, "having kept covenant by meeting thee here, it is my
purpose now to return whence I came. I have scruples touching the
matter thou wot'st of."
"Sayest thou so?" replied he of the serpent, smiling apart. "Let
us walk on, nevertheless, reasoning as we go; and if I convince
thee not thou shalt turn back. We are but a little way in the
"Too far! too far!" exclaimed the goodman, unconsciously resuming
his walk. "My father never went into the woods on such an errand,
nor his father before him. We have been a race of honest men and
good Christians since the days of the martyrs; and shall I be the
first of the name of Brown that ever took this path and
"Such company, thou wouldst say," observed the elder person,
interpreting his pause. "Well said, Goodman Brown! I have been as
well acquainted with your family as with ever a one among the
Puritans; and that's no trifle to say. I helped your grandfather,
the constable, when he lashed the Quaker woman so smartly through
the streets of Salem; and it was I that brought your father a
pitch-pine knot, kindled at my own hearth, to set fire to an
Indian village, in King Philip's war. They were my good friends,
both; and many a pleasant walk have we had along this path, and
returned merrily after midnight. I would fain be friends with you
for their sake."
"If it be as thou sayest," replied Goodman Brown, "I marvel they
never spoke of these matters; or, verily, I marvel not, seeing
that the least rumor of the sort would have driven them from New
England. We are a people of prayer, and good works to boot, and
abide no such wickedness."
"Wickedness or not," said the traveller with the twisted staff,
"I have a very general acquaintance here in New England. The
deacons of many a church have drunk the communion wine with me;
the selectmen of divers towns make me their chairman; and a
majority of the Great and General Court are firm supporters of my
interest. The governor and I, too--But these are state secrets."
"Can this be so?" cried Goodman Brown, with a stare of amazement
at his undisturbed companion. "Howbeit, I have nothing to do with
the governor and council; they have their own ways, and are no
rule for a simple husbandman like me. But, were I to go on with
thee, how should I meet the eye of that good old man, our
minister, at Salem village? Oh, his voice would make me tremble
both Sabbath day and lecture day."
Thus far the elder traveller had listened with due gravity; but
now burst into a fit of irrepressible mirth, shaking himself so
violently that his snake-like staff actually seemed to wriggle in
"Ha! ha! ha!" shouted he again and again; then composing himself,
"Well, go on, Goodman Brown, go on; but, prithee, don't kill me
"Well, then, to end the matter at once," said Goodman Brown,
considerably nettled, "there is my wife, Faith. It would break
her dear little heart; and I'd rather break my own."
"Nay, if that be the case," answered the other, "e'en go thy
ways, Goodman Brown. I would not for twenty old women like the
one hobbling before us that Faith should come to any harm."
As he spoke he pointed his staff at a female figure on the path,
in whom Goodman Brown recognized a very pious and exemplary dame,
who had taught him his catechism in youth, and was still his
moral and spiritual adviser, jointly with the minister and Deacon
"A marvel, truly, that Goody Cloyse should be so far in the
wilderness at nightfall," said he. "But with your leave, friend,
I shall take a cut through the woods until we have left this
Christian woman behind. Being a stranger to you, she might ask
whom I was consorting with and whither I was going."
"Be it so," said his fellow-traveller. "Betake you to the woods,
and let me keep the path."
Accordingly the young man turned aside, but took care to watch
his companion, who advanced softly along the road until he had
come within a staff's length of the old dame. She, meanwhile, was
making the best of her way, with singular speed for so aged a
woman, and mumbling some indistinct words--a prayer,
doubtless--as she went. The traveller put forth his staff and
touched her withered neck with what seemed the serpent's tail.
"The devil!" screamed the pious old lady.
"Then Goody Cloyse knows her old friend?" observed the traveller,
confronting her and leaning on his writhing stick.
"Ah, forsooth, and is it your worship indeed?" cried the good
dame. "Yea, truly is it, and in the very image of my old gossip,
Goodman Brown, the grandfather of the silly fellow that now is.
But--would your worship believe it?--my broomstick hath strangely
disappeared, stolen, as I suspect, by that unhanged witch, Goody
Cory, and that, too, when I was all anointed with the juice of
smallage, and cinquefoil, and wolf's bane"
"Mingled with fine wheat and the fat of a new-born babe," said
the shape of old Goodman Brown.
"Ah, your worship knows the recipe," cried the old lady, cackling
aloud. "So, as I was saying, being all ready for the meeting, and
no horse to ride on, I made up my mind to foot it; for they tell
me there is a nice young man to be taken into communion to-night.
But now your good worship will lend me your arm, and we shall be
there in a twinkling."
"That can hardly be," answered her friend. "I may not spare you
my arm, Goody Cloyse; but here is my staff, if you will."
So saying, he threw it down at her feet, where, perhaps, it
assumed life, being one of the rods which its owner had formerly
lent to the Egyptian magi. Of this fact, however, Goodman Brown
could not take cognizance. He had cast up his eyes in
astonishment, and, looking down again, beheld neither Goody
Cloyse nor the serpentine staff, but his fellow-traveller alone,
who waited for him as calmly as if nothing had happened.
"That old woman taught me my catechism," said the young man; and
there was a world of meaning in this simple comment.
They continued to walk onward, while the elder traveller exhorted
his companion to make good speed and persevere in the path,
discoursing so aptly that his arguments seemed rather to spring
up in the bosom of his auditor than to be suggested by himself.
As they went, he plucked a branch of maple to serve for a walking
stick, and began to strip it of the twigs and little boughs,
which were wet with evening dew. The moment his fingers touched
them they became strangely withered and dried up as with a week's
sunshine. Thus the pair proceeded, at a good free pace, until
suddenly, in a gloomy hollow of the road, Goodman Brown sat
himself down on the stump of a tree and refused to go any
"Friend," said he, stubbornly, "my mind is made up. Not another
step will I budge on this errand. What if a wretched old woman do
choose to go to the devil when I thought she was going to heaven:
is that any reason why I should quit my dear Faith and go after
"You will think better of this by and by," said his acquaintance,
composedly. "Sit here and rest yourself a while; and when you
feel like moving again, there is my staff to help you along."
Without more words, he threw his companion the maple stick, and
was as speedily out of sight as if he had vanished into the
deepening gloom. The young man sat a few moments by the roadside,
applauding himself greatly, and thinking with how clear a
conscience he should meet the minister in his morning walk, nor
shrink from the eye of good old Deacon Gookin. And what calm
sleep would be his that very night, which was to have been spent
so wickedly, but so purely and sweetly now, in the arms of Faith!
Amidst these pleasant and praiseworthy meditations, Goodman Brown
heard the tramp of horses along the road, and deemed it advisable
to conceal himself within the verge of the forest, conscious of
the guilty purpose that had brought him thither, though now so
happily turned from it.
On came the hoof tramps and the voices of the riders, two grave
old voices, conversing soberly as they drew near. These mingled
sounds appeared to pass along the road, within a few yards of the
young man's hiding-place; but, owing doubtless to the depth of
the gloom at that particular spot, neither the travellers nor
their steeds were visible. Though their figures brushed the small
boughs by the wayside, it could not be seen that they
intercepted, even for a moment, the faint gleam from the strip of
bright sky athwart which they must have passed. Goodman Brown
alternately crouched and stood on tiptoe, pulling aside the
branches and thrusting forth his head as far as he durst without
discerning so much as a shadow. It vexed him the more, because he
could have sworn, were such a thing possible, that he recognized
the voices of the minister and Deacon Gookin, jogging along
quietly, as they were wont to do, when bound to some ordination
or ecclesiastical council. While yet within hearing, one of the
riders stopped to pluck a switch.
"Of the two, reverend sir," said the voice like the deacon's, "I
had rather miss an ordination dinner than to-night's meeting.
They tell me that some of our community are to be here from
Falmouth and beyond, and others from Connecticut and Rhode
Island, besides several of the Indian powwows, who, after their
fashion, know almost as much deviltry as the best of us.
Moreover, there is a goodly young woman to be taken into
"Mighty well, Deacon Gookin!" replied the solemn old tones of the
minister. "Spur up, or we shall be late. Nothing can be done, you
know, until I get on the ground."
The hoofs clattered again; and the voices, talking so strangely
in the empty air, passed on through the forest, where no church
had ever been gathered or solitary Christian prayed. Whither,
then, could these holy men be journeying so deep into the heathen
wilderness? Young Goodman Brown caught hold of a tree for
support, being ready to sink down on the ground, faint and
overburdened with the heavy sickness of his heart. He looked up
to the sky, doubting whether there really was a heaven above him.
Yet there was the blue arch, and the stars brightening in it.
"With heaven above and Faith below, I will yet stand firm against
the devil!" cried Goodman Brown.
While he still gazed upward into the deep arch of the firmament
and had lifted his hands to pray, a cloud, though no wind was
stirring, hurried across the zenith and hid the brightening
stars. The blue sky was still visible, except directly overhead,
where this black mass of cloud was sweeping swiftly northward.
Aloft in the air, as if from the depths of the cloud, came a
confused and doubtful sound of voices. Once the listener fancied
that he could distinguish the accents of towns-people of his own,
men and women, both pious and ungodly, many of whom he had met at
the communion table, and had seen others rioting at the tavern.
The next moment, so indistinct were the sounds, he doubted
whether he had heard aught but the murmur of the old forest,
whispering without a wind. Then came a stronger swell of those
familiar tones, heard daily in the sunshine at Salem village, but
never until now from a cloud of night There was one voice of a
young woman, uttering lamentations, yet with an uncertain sorrow,
and entreating for some favor, which, perhaps, it would grieve
her to obtain; and all the unseen multitude, both saints and
sinners, seemed to encourage her onward.
"Faith!" shouted Goodman Brown, in a voice of agony and
desperation; and the echoes of the forest mocked him, crying,
"Faith! Faith!" as if bewildered wretches were seeking her all
through the wilderness.
The cry of grief, rage, and terror was yet piercing the night,
when the unhappy husband held his breath for a response. There
was a scream, drowned immediately in a louder murmur of voices,
fading into far-off laughter, as the dark cloud swept away,
leaving the clear and silent sky above Goodman Brown. But
something fluttered lightly down through the air and caught on
the branch of a tree. The young man seized it, and beheld a pink
"My Faith is gone!" cried he, after one stupefied moment. "There
is no good on earth; and sin is but a name. Come, devil; for to
thee is this world given."
And, maddened with despair, so that he laughed loud and long, did
Goodman Brown grasp his staff and set forth again, at such a rate
that he seemed to fly along the forest path rather than to walk
or run. The road grew wilder and drearier and more faintly
traced, and vanished at length, leaving him in the heart of the
dark wilderness, still rushing onward with the instinct that
guides mortal man to evil. The whole forest was peopled with
frightful sounds--the creaking of the trees, the howling of wild
beasts, and the yell of Indians; while sometimes the wind tolled
like a distant church bell, and sometimes gave a broad roar
around the traveller, as if all Nature were laughing him to
scorn. But he was himself the chief horror of the scene, and
shrank not from its other horrors.
"Ha! ha! ha!" roared Goodman Brown when the wind laughed at him.
"Let us hear which will laugh loudest. Think not to frighten me
with your deviltry. Come witch, come wizard, come Indian powwow,
come devil himself, and here comes Goodman Brown. You may as well
fear him as he fear you."
In truth, all through the haunted forest there could be nothing
more frightful than the figure of Goodman Brown. On he flew among
the black pines, brandishing his staff with frenzied gestures,
now giving vent to an inspiration of horrid blasphemy, and now
shouting forth such laughter as set all the echoes of the forest
laughing like demons around him. The fiend in his own shape is
less hideous than when he rages in the breast of man. Thus sped
the demoniac on his course, until, quivering among the trees, he
saw a red light before him, as when the felled trunks and
branches of a clearing have been set on fire, and throw up their
lurid blaze against the sky, at the hour of midnight. He paused,
in a lull of the tempest that had driven him onward, and heard
the swell of what seemed a hymn, rolling solemnly from a distance
with the weight of many voices. He knew the tune; it was a
familiar one in the choir of the village meeting-house. The verse
died heavily away, and was lengthened by a chorus, not of human
voices, but of all the sounds of the benighted wilderness pealing
in awful harmony together. Goodman Brown cried out, and his cry
was lost to his own ear by its unison with the cry of the desert.
In the interval of silence he stole forward until the light
glared full upon his eyes. At one extremity of an open space,
hemmed in by the dark wall of the forest, arose a rock, bearing
some rude, natural resemblance either to an alter or a pulpit,
and surrounded by four blazing pines, their tops aflame, their
stems untouched, like candles at an evening meeting. The mass of
foliage that had overgrown the summit of the rock was all on
fire, blazing high into the night and fitfully illuminating the
whole field. Each pendent twig and leafy festoon was in a blaze.
As the red light arose and fell, a numerous congregation
alternately shone forth, then disappeared in shadow, and again
grew, as it were, out of the darkness, peopling the heart of the
solitary woods at once.
"A grave and dark-clad company," quoth Goodman Brown.
In truth they were such. Among them, quivering to and fro between
gloom and splendor, appeared faces that would be seen next day at
the council board of the province, and others which, Sabbath
after Sabbath, looked devoutly heavenward, and benignantly over
the crowded pews, from the holiest pulpits in the land. Some
affirm that the lady of the governor was there. At least there
were high dames well known to her, and wives of honored husbands,
and widows, a great multitude, and ancient maidens, all of
excellent repute, and fair young girls, who trembled lest their
mothers should espy them. Either the sudden gleams of light
flashing over the obscure field bedazzled Goodman Brown, or he
recognized a score of the church members of Salem village famous
for their especial sanctity. Good old Deacon Gookin had arrived,
and waited at the skirts of that venerable saint, his revered
pastor. But, irreverently consorting with these grave, reputable,
and pious people, these elders of the church, these chaste dames
and dewy virgins, there were men of dissolute lives and women of
spotted fame, wretches given over to all mean and filthy vice,
and suspected even of horrid crimes. It was strange to see that
the good shrank not from the wicked, nor were the sinners abashed
by the saints. Scattered also among their pale-faced enemies were
the Indian priests, or powwows, who had often scared their native
forest with more hideous incantations than any known to English
"But where is Faith?" thought Goodman Brown; and, as hope came
into his heart, he trembled.
Another verse of the hymn arose, a slow and mournful strain, such
as the pious love, but joined to words which expressed all that
our nature can conceive of sin, and darkly hinted at far more.
Unfathomable to mere mortals is the lore of fiends. Verse after
verse was sung; and still the chorus of the desert swelled
between like the deepest tone of a mighty organ; and with the
final peal of that dreadful anthem there came a sound, as if the
roaring wind, the rushing streams, the howling beasts, and every
other voice of the unconcerted wilderness were mingling and
according with the voice of guilty man in homage to the prince of
all. The four blazing pines threw up a loftier flame, and
obscurely discovered shapes and visages of horror on the smoke
wreaths above the impious assembly. At the same moment the fire
on the rock shot redly forth and formed a glowing arch above its
base, where now appeared a figure. With reverence be it spoken,
the figure bore no slight similitude, both in garb and manner, to
some grave divine of the New England churches.
"Bring forth the converts!" cried a voice that echoed through the
field and rolled into the forest.
At the word, Goodman Brown stepped forth from the shadow of the
trees and approached the congregation, with whom he felt a
loathful brotherhood by the sympathy of all that was wicked in
his heart. He could have well-nigh sworn that the shape of his
own dead father beckoned him to advance, looking downward from a
smoke wreath, while a woman, with dim features of despair, threw
out her hand to warn him back. Was it his mother? But he had no
power to retreat one step, nor to resist, even in thought, when
the minister and good old Deacon Gookin seized his arms and led
him to the blazing rock. Thither came also the slender form of a
veiled female, led between Goody Cloyse, that pious teacher of
the catechism, and Martha Carrier, who had received the devil's
promise to be queen of hell. A rampant hag was she. And there
stood the proselytes beneath the canopy of fire.
"Welcome, my children," said the dark figure, "to the communion
of your race. Ye have found thus young your nature and your
destiny. My children, look behind you!"
They turned; and flashing forth, as it were, in a sheet of flame,
the fiend worshippers were seen; the smile of welcome gleamed
darkly on every visage.
"There," resumed the sable form, "are all whom ye have reverenced
from youth. Ye deemed them holier than yourselves, and shrank
from your own sin, contrasting it with their lives of
righteousness and prayerful aspirations heavenward. Yet here are
they all in my worshipping assembly. This night it shall be
granted you to know their secret deeds: how hoary-bearded elders
of the church have whispered wanton words to the young maids of
their households; how many a woman, eager for widows' weeds, has
given her husband a drink at bedtime and let him sleep his last
sleep in her bosom; how beardless youths have made haste to
inherit their fathers' wealth; and how fair damsels--blush not,
sweet ones--have dug little graves in the garden, and bidden me,
the sole guest to an infant's funeral. By the sympathy of your
human hearts for sin ye shall scent out all the places--whether
in church, bedchamber, street, field, or forest--where crime has
been committed, and shall exult to behold the whole earth one
stain of guilt, one mighty blood spot. Far more than this. It
shall be yours to penetrate, in every bosom, the deep mystery of
sin, the fountain of all wicked arts, and which inexhaustibly
supplies more evil impulses than human power--than my power at
its utmost--can make manifest in deeds. And now, my children,
look upon each other."
They did so; and, by the blaze of the hell-kindled torches, the
wretched man beheld his Faith, and the wife her husband,
trembling before that unhallowed altar.
"Lo, there ye stand, my children," said the figure, in a deep and
solemn tone, almost sad with its despairing awfulness, as if his
once angelic nature could yet mourn for our miserable race.
"Depending upon one another's hearts, ye had still hoped that
virtue were not all a dream. Now are ye undeceived. Evil is the
nature of mankind. Evil must be your only happiness. Welcome
again, my children, to the communion of your race."
"Welcome," repeated the fiend worshippers, in one cry of despair
And there they stood, the only pair, as it seemed, who were yet
hesitating on the verge of wickedness in this dark world. A basin
was hollowed, naturally, in the rock. Did it contain water,
reddened by the lurid light? or was it blood? or, perchance, a
liquid flame? Herein did the shape of evil dip his hand and
prepare to lay the mark of baptism upon their foreheads, that
they might be partakers of the mystery of sin, more conscious of
the secret guilt of others, both in deed and thought, than they
could now be of their own. The husband cast one look at his pale
wife, and Faith at him. What polluted wretches would the next
glance show them to each other, shuddering alike at what they
disclosed and what they saw!
"Faith! Faith!" cried the husband, "look up to heaven, and resist
the wicked one."
Whether Faith obeyed he knew not. Hardly had he spoken when he
found himself amid calm night and solitude, listening to a roar
of the wind which died heavily away through the forest. He
staggered against the rock, and felt it chill and damp; while a
hanging twig, that had been all on fire, besprinkled his cheek
with the coldest dew.
The next morning young Goodman Brown came slowly into the street
of Salem village, staring around him like a bewildered man. The
good old minister was taking a walk along the graveyard to get an
appetite for breakfast and meditate his sermon, and bestowed a
blessing, as he passed, on Goodman Brown. He shrank from the
venerable saint as if to avoid an anathema. Old Deacon Gookin was
at domestic worship, and the holy words of his prayer were heard
through the open window. "What God doth the wizard pray to?"
quoth Goodman Brown. Goody Cloyse, that excellent old Christian,
stood in the early sunshine at her own lattice, catechizing a
little girl who had brought her a pint of morning's milk. Goodman
Brown snatched away the child as from the grasp of the fiend
himself. Turning the corner by the meeting-house, he spied the
head of Faith, with the pink ribbons, gazing anxiously forth, and
bursting into such joy at sight of him that she skipped along the
street and almost kissed her husband before the whole village.
But Goodman Brown looked sternly and sadly into her face, and
passed on without a greeting.
Had Goodman Brown fallen asleep in the forest and only dreamed a
wild dream of a witch-meeting?
Be it so if you will; but, alas! it was a dream of evil omen for
young Goodman Brown. A stern, a sad, a darkly meditative, a
distrustful, if not a desperate man did he become from the night
of that fearful dream. On the Sabbath day, when the congregation
were singing a holy psalm, he could not listen because an anthem
of sin rushed loudly upon his ear and drowned all the blessed
strain. When the minister spoke from the pulpit with power and
fervid eloquence, and, with his hand on the open Bible, of the
sacred truths of our religion, and of saint-like lives and
triumphant deaths, and of future bliss or misery unutterable,
then did Goodman Brown turn pale, dreading lest the roof should
thunder down upon the gray blasphemer and his hearers. Often,
waking suddenly at midnight, he shrank from the bosom of Faith;
and at morning or eventide, when the family knelt down at prayer,
he scowled and muttered to himself, and gazed sternly at his
wife, and turned away. And when he had lived long, and was borne
to his grave a hoary corpse, followed by Faith, an aged woman,
and children and grandchildren, a goodly procession, besides
neighbors not a few, they carved no hopeful verse upon his
tombstone, for his dying hour was gloom.
RAPPACCINI'S DAUGHTER [From the Writings of Aubepine.]
We do not remember to have seen any translated specimens of the
productions of M. de l'Aubepine--a fact the less to be wondered
at, as his very name is unknown to many of his own countrymen as
well as to the student of foreign literature. As a writer, he
seems to occupy an unfortunate position between the
Transcendentalists (who, under one name or another, have their
share in all the current literature of the world) and the great
body of pen-and-ink men who address the intellect and sympathies
of the multitude. If not too refined, at all events too remote,
too shadowy, and unsubstantial in his modes of development to
suit the taste of the latter class, and yet too popular to
satisfy the spiritual or metaphysical requisitions of the former,
he must necessarily find himself without an audience, except here
and there an individual or possibly an isolated clique. His
writings, to do them justice, are not altogether destitute of
fancy and originality; they might have won him greater reputation
but for an inveterate love of allegory, which is apt to invest
his plots and characters with the aspect of scenery and people in
the clouds, and to steal away the human warmth out of his
conceptions. His fictions are sometimes historical, sometimes of
the present day, and sometimes, so far as can be discovered, have
little or no reference either to time or space. In any case, he
generally contents himself with a very slight embroidery of
outward manners,--the faintest possible counterfeit of real
life,--and endeavors to create an interest by some less obvious
peculiarity of the subject. Occasionally a breath of Nature, a
raindrop of pathos and tenderness, or a gleam of humor, will find
its way into the midst of his fantastic imagery, and make us feel
as if, after all, we were yet within the limits of our native
earth. We will only add to this very cursory notice that M. de
l'Aubepine's productions, if the reader chance to take them in
precisely the proper point of view, may amuse a leisure hour as
well as those of a brighter man; if otherwise, they can hardly
fail to look excessively like nonsense.
Our author is voluminous; he continues to write and publish with
as much praiseworthy and indefatigable prolixity as if his
efforts were crowned with the brilliant success that so justly
attends those of Eugene Sue. His first appearance was by a
collection of stories in a long series of volumes entitled
"Contes deux fois racontees." The titles of some of his more
recent works (we quote from memory) are as follows: "Le Voyage
Celeste a Chemin de Fer," 3 tom., 1838; "Le nouveau Pere Adam et
la nouvelle Mere Eve," 2 tom., 1839; "Roderic; ou le Serpent a
l'estomac," 2 tom., 1840; "Le Culte du Feu," a folio volume of
ponderous research into the religion and ritual of the old
Persian Ghebers, published in 1841; "La Soiree du Chateau en
Espagne," 1 tom., 8vo, 1842; and "L'Artiste du Beau; ou le
Papillon Mecanique," 5 tom., 4to, 1843. Our somewhat wearisome
perusal of this startling catalogue of volumes has left behind it
a certain personal affection and sympathy, though by no means
admiration, for M. de l'Aubepine; and we would fain do the little
in our power towards introducing him favorably to the American
public. The ensuing tale is a translation of his "Beatrice; ou la
Belle Empoisonneuse," recently published in "La Revue
Anti-Aristocratique." This journal, edited by the Comte de
Bearhaven, has for some years past led the defence of liberal
principles and popular rights with a faithfulness and ability
worthy of all praise.
A young man, named Giovanni Guasconti, came, very long ago, from
the more southern region of Italy, to pursue his studies at the
University of Padua. Giovanni, who had but a scanty supply of
gold ducats in his pocket, took lodgings in a high and gloomy
chamber of an old edifice which looked not unworthy to have been
the palace of a Paduan noble, and which, in fact, exhibited over
its entrance the armorial bearings of a family long since
extinct. The young stranger, who was not unstudied in the great
poem of his country, recollected that one of the ancestors of
this family, and perhaps an occupant of this very mansion, had
been pictured by Dante as a partaker of the immortal agonies of
his Inferno. These reminiscences and associations, together with
the tendency to heartbreak natural to a young man for the first
time out of his native sphere, caused Giovanni to sigh heavily as
he looked around the desolate and ill-furnished apartment.
"Holy Virgin, signor!" cried old Dame Lisabetta, who, won by the
youth's remarkable beauty of person, was kindly endeavoring to
give the chamber a habitable air, "what a sigh was that to come
out of a young man's heart! Do you find this old mansion gloomy?
For the love of Heaven, then, put your head out of the window,
and you will see as bright sunshine as you have left in Naples."
Guasconti mechanically did as the old woman advised, but could
not quite agree with her that the Paduan sunshine was as cheerful
as that of southern Italy. Such as it was, however, it fell upon
a garden beneath the window and expended its fostering influences
on a variety of plants, which seemed to have been cultivated with
"Does this garden belong to the house?" asked Giovanni.
"Heaven forbid, signor, unless it were fruitful of better pot
herbs than any that grow there now," answered old Lisabetta. "No;
that garden is cultivated by the own hands of Signor Giacomo
Rappaccini, the famous doctor, who, I warrant him, has been heard
of as far as Naples. It is said that he distils these plants into
medicines that are as potent as a charm. Oftentimes you may see
the signor doctor at work, and perchance the signora, his
daughter, too, gathering the strange flowers that grow in the
The old woman had now done what she could for the aspect of the
chamber; and, commending the young man to the protection of the
saints, took her departure
Giovanni still found no better occupation than to look down into
the garden beneath his window. From its appearance, he judged it
to be one of those botanic gardens which were of earlier date in
Padua than elsewhere in Italy or in the world. Or, not
improbably, it might once have been the pleasure-place of an
opulent family; for there was the ruin of a marble fountain in
the centre, sculptured with rare art, but so wofully shattered
that it was impossible to trace the original design from the
chaos of remaining fragments. The water, however, continued to
gush and sparkle into the sunbeams as cheerfully as ever. A
little gurgling sound ascended to the young man's window, and
made him feel as if the fountain were an immortal spirit that
sung its song unceasingly and without heeding the vicissitudes
around it, while one century imbodied it in marble and another
scattered the perishable garniture on the soil. All about the
pool into which the water subsided grew various plants, that
seemed to require a plentiful supply of moisture for the
nourishment of gigantic leaves, and in some instances, flowers
gorgeously magnificent. There was one shrub in particular, set in
a marble vase in the midst of the pool, that bore a profusion of
purple blossoms, each of which had the lustre and richness of a
gem; and the whole together made a show so resplendent that it
seemed enough to illuminate the garden, even had there been no
sunshine. Every portion of the soil was peopled with plants and
herbs, which, if less beautiful, still bore tokens of assiduous
care, as if all had their individual virtues, known to the
scientific mind that fostered them. Some were placed in urns,
rich with old carving, and others in common garden pots; some
crept serpent-like along the ground or climbed on high, using
whatever means of ascent was offered them. One plant had wreathed
itself round a statue of Vertumnus, which was thus quite veiled
and shrouded in a drapery of hanging foliage, so happily arranged
that it might have served a sculptor for a study.
While Giovanni stood at the window he heard a rustling behind a
screen of leaves, and became aware that a person was at work in
the garden. His figure soon emerged into view, and showed itself
to be that of no common laborer, but a tall, emaciated, sallow,
and sickly-looking man, dressed in a scholar's garb of black. He
was beyond the middle term of life, with gray hair, a thin, gray
beard, and a face singularly marked with intellect and
cultivation, but which could never, even in his more youthful
days, have expressed much warmth of heart.
Nothing could exceed the intentness with which this scientific
gardener examined every shrub which grew in his path: it seemed
as if he was looking into their inmost nature, making
observations in regard to their creative essence, and discovering
why one leaf grew in this shape and another in that, and
wherefore such and such flowers differed among themselves in hue
and perfume. Nevertheless, in spite of this deep intelligence on
his part, there was no approach to intimacy between himself and
these vegetable existences. On the contrary, he avoided their
actual touch or the direct inhaling of their odors with a caution
that impressed Giovanni most disagreeably; for the man's demeanor
was that of one walking among malignant influences, such as
savage beasts, or deadly snakes, or evil spirits, which, should
he allow them one moment of license, would wreak upon him some
terrible fatality. It was strangely frightful to the young man's
imagination to see this air of insecurity in a person cultivating
a garden, that most simple and innocent of human toils, and which
had been alike the joy and labor of the unfallen parents of the
race. Was this garden, then, the Eden of the present world? And
this man, with such a perception of harm in what his own hands
caused to grow,--was he the Adam?
The distrustful gardener, while plucking away the dead leaves or
pruning the too luxuriant growth of the shrubs, defended his
hands with a pair of thick gloves. Nor were these his only armor.
When, in his walk through the garden, he came to the magnificent
plant that hung its purple gems beside the marble fountain, he
placed a kind of mask over his mouth and nostrils, as if all this
beauty did but conceal a deadlier malice; but, finding his task
still too dangerous, he drew back, removed the mask, and called
loudly, but in the infirm voice of a person affected with inward
disease, "Beatrice! Beatrice!"
"Here am I, my father. What would you?" cried a rich and youthful
voice from the window of the opposite house--a voice as rich as a
tropical sunset, and which made Giovanni, though he knew not why,
think of deep hues of purple or crimson and of perfumes heavily
delectable. "Are you in the garden?"
"Yes, Beatrice," answered the gardener, "and I need your help."
Soon there emerged from under a sculptured portal the figure of a
young girl, arrayed with as much richness of taste as the most
splendid of the flowers, beautiful as the day, and with a bloom
so deep and vivid that one shade more would have been too much.
She looked redundant with life, health, and energy; all of which
attributes were bound down and compressed, as it were and girdled
tensely, in their luxuriance, by her virgin zone. Yet Giovanni's
fancy must have grown morbid while he looked down into the
garden; for the impression which the fair stranger made upon him
was as if here were another flower, the human sister of those
vegetable ones, as beautiful as they, more beautiful than the
richest of them, but still to be touched only with a glove, nor
to be approached without a mask. As Beatrice came down the garden
path, it was observable that she handled and inhaled the odor of
several of the plants which her father had most sedulously
"Here, Beatrice," said the latter, "see how many needful offices
require to be done to our chief treasure. Yet, shattered as I am,
my life might pay the penalty of approaching it so closely as
circumstances demand. Henceforth, I fear, this plant must be
consigned to your sole charge."
"And gladly will I undertake it," cried again the rich tones of
the young lady, as she bent towards the magnificent plant and
opened her arms as if to embrace it. "Yes, my sister, my
splendour, it shall be Beatrice's task to nurse and serve thee;
and thou shalt reward her with thy kisses and perfumed breath,
which to her is as the breath of life."
Then, with all the tenderness in her manner that was so
strikingly expressed in her words, she busied herself with such
attentions as the plant seemed to require; and Giovanni, at his
lofty window, rubbed his eyes and almost doubted whether it were
a girl tending her favorite flower, or one sister performing the
duties of affection to another. The scene soon terminated.
Whether Dr. Rappaccini had finished his labors in the garden, or
that his watchful eye had caught the stranger's face, he now took
his daughter's arm and retired. Night was already closing in;
oppressive exhalations seemed to proceed from the plants and
steal upward past the open window; and Giovanni, closing the
lattice, went to his couch and dreamed of a rich flower and
beautiful girl. Flower and maiden were different, and yet the
same, and fraught with some strange peril in either shape.
But there is an influence in the light of morning that tends to
rectify whatever errors of fancy, or even of judgment, we may
have incurred during the sun's decline, or among the shadows of
the night, or in the less wholesome glow of moonshine. Giovanni's
first movement, on starting from sleep, was to throw open the
window and gaze down into the garden which his dreams had made so
fertile of mysteries. He was surprised and a little ashamed to
find how real and matter-of-fact an affair it proved to be, in
the first rays of the sun which gilded the dew-drops that hung
upon leaf and blossom, and, while giving a brighter beauty to
each rare flower, brought everything within the limits of
ordinary experience. The young man rejoiced that, in the heart of
the barren city, he had the privilege of overlooking this spot of
lovely and luxuriant vegetation. It would serve, he said to
himself, as a symbolic language to keep him in communion with
Nature. Neither the sickly and thoughtworn Dr. Giacomo
Rappaccini, it is true, nor his brilliant daughter, were now
visible; so that Giovanni could not determine how much of the
singularity which he attributed to both was due to their own
qualities and how much to his wonder-working fancy; but he was
inclined to take a most rational view of the whole matter.
In the course of the day he paid his respects to Signor Pietro
Baglioni, professor of medicine in the university, a physician of
eminent repute to whom Giovanni had brought a letter of
introduction. The professor was an elderly personage, apparently
of genial nature, and habits that might almost be called jovial.
He kept the young man to dinner, and made himself very agreeable
by the freedom and liveliness of his conversation, especially
when warmed by a flask or two of Tuscan wine. Giovanni,
conceiving that men of science, inhabitants of the same city,
must needs be on familiar terms with one another, took an
opportunity to mention the name of Dr. Rappaccini. But the
professor did not respond with so much cordiality as he had
"Ill would it become a teacher of the divine art of medicine,"
said Professor Pietro Baglioni, in answer to a question of
Giovanni, "to withhold due and well-considered praise of a
physician so eminently skilled as Rappaccini; but, on the other
hand, I should answer it but scantily to my conscience were I to
permit a worthy youth like yourself, Signor Giovanni, the son of
an ancient friend, to imbibe erroneous ideas respecting a man who
might hereafter chance to hold your life and death in his hands.
The truth is, our worshipful Dr. Rappaccini has as much science
as any member of the faculty--with perhaps one single
exception--in Padua, or all Italy; but there are certain grave
objections to his professional character."
"And what are they?" asked the young man.
"Has my friend Giovanni any disease of body or heart, that he is
so inquisitive about physicians?" said the professor, with a
smile. "But as for Rappaccini, it is said of him--and I, who know
the man well, can answer for its truth--that he cares infinitely
more for science than for mankind. His patients are interesting
to him only as subjects for some new experiment. He would
sacrifice human life, his own among the rest, or whatever else
was dearest to him, for the sake of adding so much as a grain of
mustard seed to the great heap of his accumulated knowledge."
"Methinks he is an awful man indeed," remarked Guasconti,
mentally recalling the cold and purely intellectual aspect of
Rappaccini. "And yet, worshipful professor, is it not a noble
spirit? Are there many men capable of so spiritual a love of
"God forbid," answered the professor, somewhat testily; "at
least, unless they take sounder views of the healing art than
those adopted by Rappaccini. It is his theory that all medicinal
virtues are comprised within those substances which we term
vegetable poisons. These he cultivates with his own hands, and is
said even to have produced new varieties of poison, more horribly
deleterious than Nature, without the assistance of this learned
person, would ever have plagued the world withal. That the signor
doctor does less mischief than might be expected with such
dangerous substances is undeniable. Now and then, it must be
owned, he has effected, or seemed to effect, a marvellous cure;
but, to tell you my private mind, Signor Giovanni, he should
receive little credit for such instances of success,--they being
probably the work of chance, --but should be held strictly
accountable for his failures, which may justly be considered his
The youth might have taken Baglioni's opinions with many grains
of allowance had he known that there was a professional warfare
of long continuance between him and Dr. Rappaccini, in which the
latter was generally thought to have gained the advantage. If the
reader be inclined to judge for himself, we refer him to certain
black-letter tracts on both sides, preserved in the medical
department of the University of Padua.
"I know not, most learned professor," returned Giovanni, after
musing on what had been said of Rappaccini's exclusive zeal for
science,--"I know not how dearly this physician may love his art;
but surely there is one object more dear to him. He has a
"Aha!" cried the professor, with a laugh. "So now our friend
Giovanni's secret is out. You have heard of this daughter, whom
all the young men in Padua are wild about, though not half a
dozen have ever had the good hap to see her face. I know little
of the Signora Beatrice save that Rappaccini is said to have
instructed her deeply in his science, and that, young and
beautiful as fame reports her, she is already qualified to fill a
professor's chair. Perchance her father destines her for mine!
Other absurd rumors there be, not worth talking about or
listening to. So now, Signor Giovanni, drink off your glass of
Guasconti returned to his lodgings somewhat heated with the wine
he had quaffed, and which caused his brain to swim with strange
fantasies in reference to Dr. Rappaccini and the beautiful
Beatrice. On his way, happening to pass by a florist's, he bought
a fresh bouquet of flowers.
Ascending to his chamber, he seated himself near the window, but
within the shadow thrown by the depth of the wall, so that he
could look down into the garden with little risk of being
discovered. All beneath his eye was a solitude. The strange
plants were basking in the sunshine, and now and then nodding
gently to one another, as if in acknowledgment of sympathy and
kindred. In the midst, by the shattered fountain, grew the
magnificent shrub, with its purple gems clustering all over it;
they glowed in the air, and gleamed back again out of the depths
of the pool, which thus seemed to overflow with colored radiance
from the rich reflection that was steeped in it. At first, as we
have said, the garden was a solitude. Soon, however,--as Giovanni
had half hoped, half feared, would be the case,--a figure
appeared beneath the antique sculptured portal, and came down
between the rows of plants, inhaling their various perfumes as if
she were one of those beings of old classic fable that lived upon
sweet odors. On again beholding Beatrice, the young man was even
startled to perceive how much her beauty exceeded his
recollection of it; so brilliant, so vivid, was its character,
that she glowed amid the sunlight, and, as Giovanni whispered to
himself, positively illuminated the more shadowy intervals of the
garden path. Her face being now more revealed than on the former
occasion, he was struck by its expression of simplicity and
sweetness,--qualities that had not entered into his idea of her
character, and which made him ask anew what manner of mortal she
might be. Nor did he fail again to observe, or imagine, an
analogy between the beautiful girl and the gorgeous shrub that
hung its gemlike flowers over the fountain,--a resemblance which
Beatrice seemed to have indulged a fantastic humor in
heightening, both by the arrangement of her dress and the
selection of its hues.
Approaching the shrub, she threw open her arms, as with a
passionate ardor, and drew its branches into an intimate
embrace--so intimate that her features were hidden in its leafy
bosom and her glistening ringlets all intermingled with the
"Give me thy breath, my sister," exclaimed Beatrice; "for I am
faint with common air. And give me this flower of thine, which I
separate with gentlest fingers from the stem and place it close
beside my heart."
With these words the beautiful daughter of Rappaccini plucked one
of the richest blossoms of the shrub, and was about to fasten it
in her bosom. But now, unless Giovanni's draughts of wine had
bewildered his senses, a singular incident occurred. A small
orange-colored reptile, of the lizard or chameleon species,
chanced to be creeping along the path, just at the feet of
Beatrice. It appeared to Giovanni,--but, at the distance from
which he gazed, he could scarcely have seen anything so
minute,--it appeared to him, however, that a drop or two of
moisture from the broken stem of the flower descended upon the
lizard's head. For an instant the reptile contorted itself
violently, and then lay motionless in the sunshine. Beatrice
observed this remarkable phenomenon and crossed herself, sadly,
but without surprise; nor did she therefore hesitate to arrange
the fatal flower in her bosom. There it blushed, and almost
glimmered with the dazzling effect of a precious stone, adding to
her dress and aspect the one appropriate charm which nothing else
in the world could have supplied. But Giovanni, out of the shadow
of his window, bent forward and shrank back, and murmured and
"Am I awake? Have I my senses?" said he to himself. "What is this
being? Beautiful shall I call her, or inexpressibly terrible?"
Beatrice now strayed carelessly through the garden, approaching
closer beneath Giovanni's window, so that he was compelled to
thrust his head quite out of its concealment in order to gratify
the intense and painful curiosity which she excited. At this
moment there came a beautiful insect over the garden wall; it
had, perhaps, wandered through the city, and found no flowers or
verdure among those antique haunts of men until the heavy
perfumes of Dr. Rappaccini's shrubs had lured it from afar.
Without alighting on the flowers, this winged brightness seemed
to be attracted by Beatrice, and lingered in the air and
fluttered about her head. Now, here it could not be but that
Giovanni Guasconti's eyes deceived him. Be that as it might, he
fancied that, while Beatrice was gazing at the insect with
childish delight, it grew faint and fell at her feet; its bright
wings shivered; it was dead--from no cause that he could discern,
unless it were the atmosphere of her breath. Again Beatrice
crossed herself and sighed heavily as she bent over the dead
An impulsive movement of Giovanni drew her eyes to the window.
There she beheld the beautiful head of the young man--rather a
Grecian than an Italian head, with fair, regular features, and a
glistening of gold among his ringlets--gazing down upon her like
a being that hovered in mid air. Scarcely knowing what he did,
Giovanni threw down the bouquet which he had hitherto held in his
"Signora," said he, "there are pure and healthful flowers. Wear
them for the sake of Giovanni Guasconti."
"Thanks, signor," replied Beatrice, with her rich voice, that
came forth as it were like a gush of music, and with a mirthful
expression half childish and half woman-like. "I accept your
gift, and would fain recompense it with this precious purple
flower; but if I toss it into the air it will not reach you. So
Signor Guasconti must even content himself with my thanks."
She lifted the bouquet from the ground, and then, as if inwardly
ashamed at having stepped aside from her maidenly reserve to
respond to a stranger's greeting, passed swiftly homeward through
the garden. But few as the moments were, it seemed to Giovanni,
when she was on the point of vanishing beneath the sculptured
portal, that his beautiful bouquet was already beginning to
wither in her grasp. It was an idle thought; there could be no
possibility of distinguishing a faded flower from a fresh one at
so great a distance.
For many days after this incident the young man avoided the
window that looked into Dr. Rappaccini's garden, as if something
ugly and monstrous would have blasted his eyesight had he been
betrayed into a glance. He felt conscious of having put himself,
to a certain extent, within the influence of an unintelligible
power by the communication which he had opened with Beatrice. The
wisest course would have been, if his heart were in any real
danger, to quit his lodgings and Padua itself at once; the next
wiser, to have accustomed himself, as far as possible, to the
familiar and daylight view of Beatrice--thus bringing her rigidly
and systematically within the limits of ordinary experience.
Least of all, while avoiding her sight, ought Giovanni to have
remained so near this extraordinary being that the proximity and
possibility even of intercourse should give a kind of substance
and reality to the wild vagaries which his imagination ran riot
continually in producing. Guasconti had not a deep heart--or, at
all events, its depths were not sounded now; but he had a quick
fancy, and an ardent southern temperament, which rose every
instant to a higher fever pitch. Whether or no Beatrice possessed
those terrible attributes, that fatal breath, the affinity with
those so beautiful and deadly flowers which were indicated by
what Giovanni had witnessed, she had at least instilled a fierce
and subtle poison into his system. It was not love, although her
rich beauty was a madness to him; nor horror, even while he
fancied her spirit to be imbued with the same baneful essence
that seemed to pervade her physical frame; but a wild offspring
of both love and horror that had each parent in it, and burned
like one and shivered like the other. Giovanni knew not what to
dread; still less did he know what to hope; yet hope and dread
kept a continual warfare in his breast, alternately vanquishing
one another and starting up afresh to renew the contest. Blessed
are all simple emotions, be they dark or bright! It is the lurid
intermixture of the two that produces the illuminating blaze of
the infernal regions.
Sometimes he endeavored to assuage the fever of his spirit by a
rapid walk through the streets of Padua or beyond its gates: his
footsteps kept time with the throbbings of his brain, so that the
walk was apt to accelerate itself to a race. One day he found
himself arrested; his arm was seized by a portly personage, who
had turned back on recognizing the young man and expended much
breath in overtaking him.
"Signor Giovanni! Stay, my young friend!" cried he. "Have you
forgotten me? That might well be the case if I were as much
altered as yourself."
It was Baglioni, whom Giovanni had avoided ever since their first
meeting, from a doubt that the professor's sagacity would look
too deeply into his secrets. Endeavoring to recover himself, he
stared forth wildly from his inner world into the outer one and
spoke like a man in a dream.
"Yes; I am Giovanni Guasconti. You are Professor Pietro Baglioni.
Now let me pass!"
"Not yet, not yet, Signor Giovanni Guasconti," said the
professor, smiling, but at the same time scrutinizing the youth
with an earnest glance. "What! did I grow up side by side with
your father? and shall his son pass me like a stranger in these
old streets of Padua? Stand still, Signor Giovanni; for we must
have a word or two before we part."
"Speedily, then, most worshipful professor, speedily," said
Giovanni, with feverish impatience. "Does not your worship see
that I am in haste?"
Now, while he was speaking there came a man in black along the
street, stooping and moving feebly like a person in inferior
health. His face was all overspread with a most sickly and sallow
hue, but yet so pervaded with an expression of piercing and
active intellect that an observer might easily have overlooked
the merely physical attributes and have seen only this wonderful
energy. As he passed, this person exchanged a cold and distant
salutation with Baglioni, but fixed his eyes upon Giovanni with
an intentness that seemed to bring out whatever was within him
worthy of notice. Nevertheless, there was a peculiar quietness in
the look, as if taking merely a speculative, not a human
interest, in the young man.
"It is Dr. Rappaccini!" whispered the professor when the stranger
had passed. "Has he ever seen your face before?"
"Not that I know," answered Giovanni, starting at the name.
"He HAS seen you! he must have seen you!" said Baglioni, hastily.
"For some purpose or other, this man of science is making a study
of you. I know that look of his! It is the same that coldly
illuminates his face as he bends over a bird, a mouse, or a
butterfly, which, in pursuance of some experiment, he has killed
by the perfume of a flower; a look as deep as Nature itself, but
without Nature's warmth of love. Signor Giovanni, I will stake my
life upon it, you are the subject of one of Rappaccini's
"Will you make a fool of me?" cried Giovanni, passionately.
"THAT, signor professor, were an untoward experiment."
"Patience! patience!" replied the imperturbable professor. "I
tell thee, my poor Giovanni, that Rappaccini has a scientific
interest in thee. Thou hast fallen into fearful hands! And the
Signora Beatrice,--what part does she act in this mystery?"
But Guasconti, finding Baglioni's pertinacity intolerable, here
broke away, and was gone before the professor could again seize
his arm. He looked after the young man intently and shook his
"This must not be," said Baglioni to himself. "The youth is the
son of my old friend, and shall not come to any harm from which
the arcana of medical science can preserve him. Besides, it is
too insufferable an impertinence in Rappaccini, thus to snatch
the lad out of my own hands, as I may say, and make use of him
for his infernal experiments. This daughter of his! It shall be
looked to. Perchance, most learned Rappaccini, I may foil you
where you little dream of it!"
Meanwhile Giovanni had pursued a circuitous route, and at length
found himself at the door of his lodgings. As he crossed the
threshold he was met by old Lisabetta, who smirked and smiled,
and was evidently desirous to attract his attention; vainly,
however, as the ebullition of his feelings had momentarily
subsided into a cold and dull vacuity. He turned his eyes full
upon the withered face that was puckering itself into a smile,
but seemed to behold it not. The old dame, therefore, laid her
grasp upon his cloak.
"Signor! signor!" whispered she, still with a smile over the
whole breadth of her visage, so that it looked not unlike a
grotesque carving in wood, darkened by centuries. "Listen,
signor! There is a private entrance into the garden!"
"What do you say?" exclaimed Giovanni, turning quickly about, as
if an inanimate thing should start into feverish life. "A private
entrance into Dr. Rappaccini's garden?"
"Hush! hush! not so loud!" whispered Lisabetta, putting her hand
over his mouth. "Yes; into the worshipful doctor's garden, where
you may see all his fine shrubbery. Many a young man in Padua
would give gold to be admitted among those flowers."
Giovanni put a piece of gold into her hand.
"Show me the way," said he.
A surmise, probably excited by his conversation with Baglioni,
crossed his mind, that this interposition of old Lisabetta might
perchance be connected with the intrigue, whatever were its
nature, in which the professor seemed to suppose that Dr.
Rappaccini was involving him. But such a suspicion, though it
disturbed Giovanni, was inadequate to restrain him. The instant
that he was aware of the possibility of approaching Beatrice, it
seemed an absolute necessity of his existence to do so. It
mattered not whether she were angel or demon; he was irrevocably
within her sphere, and must obey the law that whirled him onward,
in ever-lessening circles, towards a result which he did not
attempt to foreshadow; and yet, strange to say, there came across
him a sudden doubt whether this intense interest on his part were
not delusory; whether it were really of so deep and positive a
nature as to justify him in now thrusting himself into an
incalculable position; whether it were not merely the fantasy of
a young man's brain, only slightly or not at all connected with
He paused, hesitated, turned half about, but again went on. His
withered guide led him along several obscure passages, and
finally undid a door, through which, as it was opened, there came
the sight and sound of rustling leaves, with the broken sunshine
glimmering among them. Giovanni stepped forth, and, forcing
himself through the entanglement of a shrub that wreathed its
tendrils over the hidden entrance, stood beneath his own window
in the open area of Dr. Rappaccini's garden.
How often is it the case that, when impossibilities have come to
pass and dreams have condensed their misty substance into
tangible realities, we find ourselves calm, and even coldly
self-possessed, amid circumstances which it would have been a
delirium of joy or agony to anticipate! Fate delights to thwart
us thus. Passion will choose his own time to rush upon the scene,
and lingers sluggishly behind when an appropriate adjustment of
events would seem to summon his appearance. So was it now with
Giovanni. Day after day his pulses had throbbed with feverish
blood at the improbable idea of an interview with Beatrice, and
of standing with her, face to face, in this very garden, basking
in the Oriental sunshine of her beauty, and snatching from her
full gaze the mystery which he deemed the riddle of his own
existence. But now there was a singular and untimely equanimity
within his breast. He threw a glance around the garden to
discover if Beatrice or her father were present, and, perceiving