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Merry Men by Robert Louis Stevenson

Part 3 out of 5

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At the hinder end, he got a clearness in his mind, sat up in his
sark on the bed-side, and fell thinkin' ance mair o' the black man
an' Janet. He couldnae weel tell how - maybe it was the cauld to
his feet - but it cam' in upon him wi' a spate that there was some
connection between thir twa, an' that either or baith o' them were
bogles. And just at that moment, in Janet's room, which was neist
to his, there cam' a stramp o' feet as if men were wars'lin', an'
then a loud bang; an' then a wund gaed reishling round the fower
quarters of the house; an' then a' was aince mair as seelent as the

Mr. Soulis was feared for neither man nor deevil. He got his
tinder-box, an' lit a can'le, an' made three steps o't ower to
Janet's door. It was on the hasp, an' he pushed it open, an'
keeked bauldly in. It was a big room, as big as the minister's
ain, an' plenished wi' grand, auld, solid gear, for he had naething
else. There was a fower-posted bed wi' auld tapestry; and a braw
cabinet of aik, that was fu' o' the minister's divinity books, an'
put there to be out o' the gate; an' a wheen duds o' Janet's lying
here and there about the floor. But nae Janet could Mr. Soulis
see; nor ony sign of a contention. In he gaed (an' there's few
that wad ha'e followed him) an' lookit a' round, an' listened. But
there was naethin' to be heard, neither inside the manse nor in a'
Ba'weary parish, an' naethin' to be seen but the muckle shadows
turnin' round the can'le. An' then a' at aince, the minister's
heart played dunt an' stood stock-still; an' a cauld wund blew
amang the hairs o' his heid. Whaten a weary sicht was that for the
puir man's een! For there was Janat hangin' frae a nail beside the
auld aik cabinet: her heid aye lay on her shoother, her een were
steeked, the tongue projekit frae her mouth, and her heels were twa
feet clear abune the floor.

'God forgive us all!' thocht Mr. Soulis; 'poor Janet's dead.'

He cam' a step nearer to the corp; an' then his heart fair whammled
in his inside. For by what cantrip it wad ill-beseem a man to
judge, she was hingin' frae a single nail an' by a single wursted
thread for darnin' hose.

It's an awfu' thing to be your lane at nicht wi' siccan prodigies
o' darkness; but Mr. Soulis was strong in the Lord. He turned an'
gaed his ways oot o' that room, and lockit the door ahint him; and
step by step, doon the stairs, as heavy as leed; and set doon the
can'le on the table at the stairfoot. He couldnae pray, he
couldnae think, he was dreepin' wi' caul' swat, an' naething could
he hear but the dunt-dunt-duntin' o' his ain heart. He micht maybe
have stood there an hour, or maybe twa, he minded sae little; when
a' o' a sudden, he heard a laigh, uncanny steer upstairs; a foot
gaed to an' fro in the cha'mer whaur the corp was hingin'; syne the
door was opened, though he minded weel that he had lockit it; an'
syne there was a step upon the landin', an' it seemed to him as if
the corp was lookin' ower the rail and doun upon him whaur he

He took up the can'le again (for he couldnae want the licht), and
as saftly as ever he could, gaed straucht out o' the manse an' to
the far end o' the causeway. It was aye pit-mirk; the flame o' the
can'le, when he set it on the grund, brunt steedy and clear as in a
room; naething moved, but the Dule water seepin' and sabbin' doon
the glen, an' yon unhaly footstep that cam' ploddin doun the stairs
inside the manse. He kenned the foot over weel, for it was
Janet's; and at ilka step that cam' a wee thing nearer, the cauld
got deeper in his vitals. He commanded his soul to Him that made
an' keepit him; 'and O Lord,' said he, 'give me strength this night
to war against the powers of evil.'

By this time the foot was comin' through the passage for the door;
he could hear a hand skirt alang the wa', as if the fearsome thing
was feelin' for its way. The saughs tossed an' maned thegether, a
lang sigh cam' ower the hills, the flame o' the can'le was blawn
aboot; an' there stood the corp of Thrawn Janet, wi' her grogram
goun an' her black mutch, wi' the heid aye upon the shouther, an'
the girn still upon the face o't - leevin', ye wad hae said - deid,
as Mr. Soulis weel kenned - upon the threshold o' the manse.

It's a strange thing that the saul of man should be that thirled
into his perishable body; but the minister saw that, an' his heart
didnae break.

She didnae stand there lang; she began to move again an' cam'
slowly towards Mr. Soulis whaur he stood under the saughs. A' the
life o' his body, a' the strength o' his speerit, were glowerin'
frae his een. It seemed she was gaun to speak, but wanted words,
an' made a sign wi' the left hand. There cam' a clap o' wund, like
a cat's fuff; oot gaed the can'le, the saughs skrieghed like folk;
an' Mr. Soulis kenned that, live or die, this was the end o't.

'Witch, beldame, devil!' he cried, 'I charge you, by the power of
God, begone - if you be dead, to the grave - if you be damned, to

An' at that moment the Lord's ain hand out o' the Heevens struck
the Horror whaur it stood; the auld, deid, desecrated corp o' the
witch-wife, sae lang keepit frae the grave and hirsled round by
deils, lowed up like a brunstane spunk and fell in ashes to the
grund; the thunder followed, peal on dirling peal, the rairing rain
upon the back o' that; and Mr. Soulis lowped through the garden
hedge, and ran, wi' skelloch upon skelloch, for the clachan.

That same mornin', John Christie saw the Black Man pass the Muckle
Cairn as it was chappin' six; before eicht, he gaed by the change-
house at Knockdow; an' no lang after, Sandy M'Lellan saw him gaun
linkin' doun the braes frae Kilmackerlie. There's little doubt but
it was him that dwalled sae lang in Janet's body; but he was awa'
at last; and sinsyne the deil has never fashed us in Ba'weary.

But it was a sair dispensation for the minister; lang, lang he lay
ravin' in his bed; and frae that hour to this, he was the man ye
ken the day.


'Now,' said the doctor, 'my part is done, and, I may say, with some
vanity, well done. It remains only to get you out of this cold and
poisonous city, and to give you two months of a pure air and an
easy conscience. The last is your affair. To the first I think I
can help you. It fells indeed rather oddly; it was but the other
day the Padre came in from the country; and as he and I are old
friends, although of contrary professions, he applied to me in a
matter of distress among some of his parishioners. This was a
family - but you are ignorant of Spain, and even the names of our
grandees are hardly known to you; suffice it, then, that they were
once great people, and are now fallen to the brink of destitution.
Nothing now belongs to them but the residencia, and certain leagues
of desert mountain, in the greater part of which not even a goat
could support life. But the house is a fine old place, and stands
at a great height among the hills, and most salubriously; and I had
no sooner heard my friend's tale, than I remembered you. I told
him I had a wounded officer, wounded in the good cause, who was now
able to make a change; and I proposed that his friends should take
you for a lodger. Instantly the Padre's face grew dark, as I had
maliciously foreseen it would. It was out of the question, he
said. Then let them starve, said I, for I have no sympathy with
tatterdemalion pride. There-upon we separated, not very content
with one another; but yesterday, to my wonder, the Padre returned
and made a submission: the difficulty, he said, he had found upon
enquiry to be less than he had feared; or, in other words, these
proud people had put their pride in their pocket. I closed with
the offer; and, subject to your approval, I have taken rooms for
you in the residencia. The air of these mountains will renew your
blood; and the quiet in which you will there live is worth all the
medicines in the world.'

'Doctor,' said I, 'you have been throughout my good angel, and your
advice is a command. But tell me, if you please, something of the
family with which I am to reside.'

'I am coming to that,' replied my friend; 'and, indeed, there is a
difficulty in the way. These beggars are, as I have said, of very
high descent and swollen with the most baseless vanity; they have
lived for some generations in a growing isolation, drawing away, on
either hand, from the rich who had now become too high for them,
and from the poor, whom they still regarded as too low; and even
to-day, when poverty forces them to unfasten their door to a guest,
they cannot do so without a most ungracious stipulation. You are
to remain, they say, a stranger; they will give you attendance, but
they refuse from the first the idea of the smallest intimacy.'

I will not deny that I was piqued, and perhaps the feeling
strengthened my desire to go, for I was confident that I could
break down that barrier if I desired. 'There is nothing offensive
in such a stipulation,' said I; 'and I even sympathise with the
feeling that inspired it.'

'It is true they have never seen you,' returned the doctor
politely; 'and if they knew you were the handsomest and the most
pleasant man that ever came from England (where I am told that
handsome men are common, but pleasant ones not so much so), they
would doubtless make you welcome with a better grace. But since
you take the thing so well, it matters not. To me, indeed, it
seems discourteous. But you will find yourself the gainer. The
family will not much tempt you. A mother, a son, and a daughter;
an old woman said to be halfwitted, a country lout, and a country
girl, who stands very high with her confessor, and is, therefore,'
chuckled the physician, 'most likely plain; there is not much in
that to attract the fancy of a dashing officer.'

'And yet you say they are high-born,' I objected.

'Well, as to that, I should distinguish,' returned the doctor.
'The mother is; not so the children. The mother was the last
representative of a princely stock, degenerate both in parts and
fortune. Her father was not only poor, he was mad: and the girl
ran wild about the residencia till his death. Then, much of the
fortune having died with him, and the family being quite extinct,
the girl ran wilder than ever, until at last she married, Heaven
knows whom, a muleteer some say, others a smuggler; while there are
some who uphold there was no marriage at all, and that Felipe and
Olalla are bastards. The union, such as it was, was tragically
dissolved some years ago; but they live in such seclusion, and the
country at that time was in so much disorder, that the precise
manner of the man's end is known only to the priest - if even to

'I begin to think I shall have strange experiences,' said I.

'I would not romance, if I were you,' replied the doctor; 'you will
find, I fear, a very grovelling and commonplace reality. Felipe,
for instance, I have seen. And what am I to say? He is very
rustic, very cunning, very loutish, and, I should say, an innocent;
the others are probably to match. No, no, senor commandante, you
must seek congenial society among the great sights of our
mountains; and in these at least, if you are at all a lover of the
works of nature, I promise you will not be disappointed.'

The next day Felipe came for me in a rough country cart, drawn by a
mule; and a little before the stroke of noon, after I had said
farewell to the doctor, the innkeeper, and different good souls who
had befriended me during my sickness, we set forth out of the city
by the Eastern gate, and began to ascend into the Sierra. I had
been so long a prisoner, since I was left behind for dying after
the loss of the convoy, that the mere smell of the earth set me
smiling. The country through which we went was wild and rocky,
partially covered with rough woods, now of the cork-tree, and now
of the great Spanish chestnut, and frequently intersected by the
beds of mountain torrents. The sun shone, the wind rustled
joyously; and we had advanced some miles, and the city had already
shrunk into an inconsiderable knoll upon the plain behind us,
before my attention began to be diverted to the companion of my
drive. To the eye, he seemed but a diminutive, loutish, well-made
country lad, such as the doctor had described, mighty quick and
active, but devoid of any culture; and this first impression was
with most observers final. What began to strike me was his
familiar, chattering talk; so strangely inconsistent with the terms
on which I was to be received; and partly from his imperfect
enunciation, partly from the sprightly incoherence of the matter,
so very difficult to follow clearly without an effort of the mind.
It is true I had before talked with persons of a similar mental
constitution; persons who seemed to live (as he did) by the senses,
taken and possessed by the visual object of the moment and unable
to discharge their minds of that impression. His seemed to me (as
I sat, distantly giving ear) a kind of conversation proper to
drivers, who pass much of their time in a great vacancy of the
intellect and threading the sights of a familiar country. But this
was not the case of Felipe; by his own account, he was a home-
keeper; 'I wish I was there now,' he said; and then, spying a tree
by the wayside, he broke off to tell me that he had once seen a
crow among its branches.

'A crow?' I repeated, struck by the ineptitude of the remark, and
thinking I had heard imperfectly.

But by this time he was already filled with a new idea; hearkening
with a rapt intentness, his head on one side, his face puckered;
and he struck me rudely, to make me hold my peace. Then he smiled
and shook his head.

'What did you hear?' I asked.

'O, it is all right,' he said; and began encouraging his mule with
cries that echoed unhumanly up the mountain walls.

I looked at him more closely. He was superlatively well-built,
light, and lithe and strong; he was well-featured; his yellow eyes
were very large, though, perhaps, not very expressive; take him
altogether, he was a pleasant-looking lad, and I had no fault to
find with him, beyond that he was of a dusky hue, and inclined to
hairyness; two characteristics that I disliked. It was his mind
that puzzled, and yet attracted me. The doctor's phrase - an
innocent - came back to me; and I was wondering if that were, after
all, the true description, when the road began to go down into the
narrow and naked chasm of a torrent. The waters thundered
tumultuously in the bottom; and the ravine was filled full of the
sound, the thin spray, and the claps of wind, that accompanied
their descent. The scene was certainly impressive; but the road
was in that part very securely walled in; the mule went steadily
forward; and I was astonished to perceive the paleness of terror in
the face of my companion. The voice of that wild river was
inconstant, now sinking lower as if in weariness, now doubling its
hoarse tones; momentary freshets seemed to swell its volume,
sweeping down the gorge, raving and booming against the barrier
walls; and I observed it was at each of these accessions to the
clamour, that my driver more particularly winced and blanched.
Some thoughts of Scottish superstition and the river Kelpie, passed
across my mind; I wondered if perchance the like were prevalent in
that part of Spain; and turning to Felipe, sought to draw him out.

'What is the matter?' I asked.

'O, I am afraid,' he replied.

'Of what are you afraid?' I returned. 'This seems one of the
safest places on this very dangerous road.'

'It makes a noise,' he said, with a simplicity of awe that set my
doubts at rest.

The lad was but a child in intellect; his mind was like his body,
active and swift, but stunted in development; and I began from that
time forth to regard him with a measure of pity, and to listen at
first with indulgence, and at last even with pleasure, to his
disjointed babble.

By about four in the afternoon we had crossed the summit of the
mountain line, said farewell to the western sunshine, and began to
go down upon the other side, skirting the edge of many ravines and
moving through the shadow of dusky woods. There rose upon all
sides the voice of falling water, not condensed and formidable as
in the gorge of the river, but scattered and sounding gaily and
musically from glen to glen. Here, too, the spirits of my driver
mended, and he began to sing aloud in a falsetto voice, and with a
singular bluntness of musical perception, never true either to
melody or key, but wandering at will, and yet somehow with an
effect that was natural and pleasing, like that of the of birds.
As the dusk increased, I fell more and more under the spell of this
artless warbling, listening and waiting for some articulate air,
and still disappointed; and when at last I asked him what it was he
sang - 'O,' cried he, 'I am just singing!' Above all, I was taken
with a trick he had of unweariedly repeating the same note at
little intervals; it was not so monotonous as you would think, or,
at least, not disagreeable; and it seemed to breathe a wonderful
contentment with what is, such as we love to fancy in the attitude
of trees, or the quiescence of a pool.

Night had fallen dark before we came out upon a plateau, and drew
up a little after, before a certain lump of superior blackness
which I could only conjecture to be the residencia. Here, my
guide, getting down from the cart, hooted and whistled for a long
time in vain; until at last an old peasant man came towards us from
somewhere in the surrounding dark, carrying a candle in his hand.
By the light of this I was able to perceive a great arched doorway
of a Moorish character: it was closed by iron-studded gates, in one
of the leaves of which Felipe opened a wicket. The peasant carried
off the cart to some out-building; but my guide and I passed
through the wicket, which was closed again behind us; and by the
glimmer of the candle, passed through a court, up a stone stair,
along a section of an open gallery, and up more stairs again, until
we came at last to the door of a great and somewhat bare apartment.
This room, which I understood was to be mine, was pierced by three
windows, lined with some lustrous wood disposed in panels, and
carpeted with the skins of many savage animals. A bright fire
burned in the chimney, and shed abroad a changeful flicker; close
up to the blaze there was drawn a table, laid for supper; and in
the far end a bed stood ready. I was pleased by these
preparations, and said so to Felipe; and he, with the same
simplicity of disposition that I held already remarked in him,
warmly re-echoed my praises. 'A fine room,' he said; 'a very fine
room. And fire, too; fire is good; it melts out the pleasure in
your bones. And the bed,' he continued, carrying over the candle
in that direction - 'see what fine sheets - how soft, how smooth,
smooth;' and he passed his hand again and again over their texture,
and then laid down his head and rubbed his cheeks among them with a
grossness of content that somehow offended me. I took the candle
from his hand (for I feared he would set the bed on fire) and
walked back to the supper-table, where, perceiving a measure of
wine, I poured out a cup and called to him to come and drink of it.
He started to his feet at once and ran to me with a strong
expression of hope; but when he saw the wine, he visibly shuddered.

'Oh, no,' he said, 'not that; that is for you. I hate it.'

'Very well, Senor,' said I; 'then I will drink to your good health,
and to the prosperity of your house and family. Speaking of
which,' I added, after I had drunk, 'shall I not have the pleasure
of laying my salutations in person at the feet of the Senora, your

But at these words all the childishness passed out of his face, and
was succeeded by a look of indescribable cunning and secrecy. He
backed away from me at the same time, as though I were an animal
about to leap or some dangerous fellow with a weapon, and when he
had got near the door, glowered at me sullenly with contracted
pupils. 'No,' he said at last, and the next moment was gone
noiselessly out of the room; and I heard his footing die away
downstairs as light as rainfall, and silence closed over the house.

After I had supped I drew up the table nearer to the bed and began
to prepare for rest; but in the new position of the light, I was
struck by a picture on the wall. It represented a woman, still
young. To judge by her costume and the mellow unity which reigned
over the canvas, she had long been dead; to judge by the vivacity
of the attitude, the eyes and the features, I might have been
beholding in a mirror the image of life. Her figure was very slim
and strong, and of a just proportion; red tresses lay like a crown
over her brow; her eyes, of a very golden brown, held mine with a
look; and her face, which was perfectly shaped, was yet marred by a
cruel, sullen, and sensual expression. Something in both face and
figure, something exquisitely intangible, like the echo of an echo,
suggested the features and bearing of my guide; and I stood awhile,
unpleasantly attracted and wondering at the oddity of the
resemblance. The common, carnal stock of that race, which had been
originally designed for such high dames as the one now looking on
me from the canvas, had fallen to baser uses, wearing country
clothes, sitting on the shaft and holding the reins of a mule cart,
to bring home a lodger. Perhaps an actual link subsisted; perhaps
some scruple of the delicate flesh that was once clothed upon with
the satin and brocade of the dead lady, now winced at the rude
contact of Felipe's frieze.

The first light of the morning shone full upon the portrait, and,
as I lay awake, my eyes continued to dwell upon it with growing
complacency; its beauty crept about my heart insidiously, silencing
my scruples one after another; and while I knew that to love such a
woman were to sign and seal one's own sentence of degeneration, I
still knew that, if she were alive, I should love her. Day after
day the double knowledge of her wickedness and of my weakness grew
clearer. She came to be the heroine of many day-dreams, in which
her eyes led on to, and sufficiently rewarded, crimes. She cast a
dark shadow on my fancy; and when I was out in the free air of
heaven, taking vigorous exercise and healthily renewing the current
of my blood, it was often a glad thought to me that my enchantress
was safe in the grave, her wand of beauty broken, her lips closed
in silence, her philtre spilt. And yet I had a half-lingering
terror that she might not be dead after all, but re-arisen in the
body of some descendant.

Felipe served my meals in my own apartment; and his resemblance to
the portrait haunted me. At times it was not; at times, upon some
change of attitude or flash of expression, it would leap out upon
me like a ghost. It was above all in his ill tempers that the
likeness triumphed. He certainly liked me; he was proud of my
notice, which he sought to engage by many simple and childlike
devices; he loved to sit close before my fire, talking his broken
talk or singing his odd, endless, wordless songs, and sometimes
drawing his hand over my clothes with an affectionate manner of
caressing that never failed to cause in me an embarrassment of
which I was ashamed. But for all that, he was capable of flashes
of causeless anger and fits of sturdy sullenness. At a word of
reproof, I have seen him upset the dish of which I was about to
eat, and this not surreptitiously, but with defiance; and similarly
at a hint of inquisition. I was not unnaturally curious, being in
a strange place and surrounded by string people; but at the shadow
of a question, he shrank back, lowering and dangerous. Then it was
that, for a fraction of a second, this rough lad might have been
the brother of the lady in the frame. But these humours were swift
to pass; and the resemblance died along with them.

In these first days I saw nothing of any one but Felipe, unless the
portrait is to be counted; and since the lad was plainly of weak
mind, and had moments of passion, it may be wondered that I bore
his dangerous neighbourhood with equanimity. As a matter of fact,
it was for some time irksome; but it happened before long that I
obtained over him so complete a mastery as set my disquietude at

It fell in this way. He was by nature slothful, and much of a
vagabond, and yet he kept by the house, and not only waited upon my
wants, but laboured every day in the garden or small farm to the
south of the residencia. Here he would be joined by the peasant
whom I had seen on the night of my arrival, and who dwelt at the
far end of the enclosure, about half a mile away, in a rude out-
house; but it was plain to me that, of these two, it was Felipe who
did most; and though I would sometimes see him throw down his spade
and go to sleep among the very plants he had been digging, his
constancy and energy were admirable in themselves, and still more
so since I was well assured they were foreign to his disposition
and the fruit of an ungrateful effort. But while I admired, I
wondered what had called forth in a lad so shuttle-witted this
enduring sense of duty. How was it sustained? I asked myself, and
to what length did it prevail over his instincts? The priest was
possibly his inspirer; but the priest came one day to the
residencia. I saw him both come and go after an interval of close
upon an hour, from a knoll where I was sketching, and all that time
Felipe continued to labour undisturbed in the garden.

At last, in a very unworthy spirit, I determined to debauch the lad
from his good resolutions, and, way-laying him at the gate, easily
pursuaded him to join me in a ramble. It was a fine day, and the
woods to which I led him were green and pleasant and sweet-smelling
and alive with the hum of insects. Here he discovered himself in a
fresh character, mounting up to heights of gaiety that abashed me,
and displaying an energy and grace of movement that delighted the
eye. He leaped, he ran round me in mere glee; he would stop, and
look and listen, and seem to drink in the world like a cordial; and
then he would suddenly spring into a tree with one bound, and hang
and gambol there like one at home. Little as he said to me, and
that of not much import, I have rarely enjoyed more stirring
company; the sight of his delight was a continual feast; the speed
and accuracy of his movements pleased me to the heart; and I might
have been so thoughtlessly unkind as to make a habit of these
wants, had not chance prepared a very rude conclusion to my
pleasure. By some swiftness or dexterity the lad captured a
squirrel in a tree top. He was then some way ahead of me, but I
saw him drop to the ground and crouch there, crying aloud for
pleasure like a child. The sound stirred my sympathies, it was so
fresh and innocent; but as I bettered my pace to draw near, the cry
of the squirrel knocked upon my heart. I have heard and seen much
of the cruelty of lads, and above all of peasants; but what I now
beheld struck me into a passion of anger. I thrust the fellow
aside, plucked the poor brute out of his hands, and with swift
mercy killed it. Then I turned upon the torturer, spoke to him
long out of the heat of my indignation, calling him names at which
he seemed to wither; and at length, pointing toward the residencia,
bade him begone and leave me, for I chose to walk with men, not
with vermin. He fell upon his knees, and, the words coming to him
with more cleanness than usual, poured out a stream of the most
touching supplications, begging me in mercy to forgive him, to
forget what he had done, to look to the future. 'O, I try so
hard,' he said. 'O, commandante, bear with Felipe this once; he
will never be a brute again!' Thereupon, much more affected than I
cared to show, I suffered myself to be persuaded, and at last shook
hands with him and made it up. But the squirrel, by way of
penance, I made him bury; speaking of the poor thing's beauty,
telling him what pains it had suffered, and how base a thing was
the abuse of strength. 'See, Felipe,' said I, 'you are strong
indeed; but in my hands you are as helpless as that poor thing of
the trees. Give me your hand in mine. You cannot remove it. Now
suppose that I were cruel like you, and took a pleasure in pain. I
only tighten my hold, and see how you suffer.' He screamed aloud,
his face stricken ashy and dotted with needle points of sweat; and
when I set him free, he fell to the earth and nursed his hand and
moaned over it like a baby. But he took the lesson in good part;
and whether from that, or from what I had said to him, or the
higher notion he now had of my bodily strength, his original
affection was changed into a dog-like, adoring fidelity.

Meanwhile I gained rapidly in health. The residencia stood on the
crown of a stony plateau; on every side the mountains hemmed it
about; only from the roof, where was a bartizan, there might be
seen between two peaks, a small segment of plain, blue with extreme
distance. The air in these altitudes moved freely and largely;
great clouds congregated there, and were broken up by the wind and
left in tatters on the hilltops; a hoarse, and yet faint rumbling
of torrents rose from all round; and one could there study all the
ruder and more ancient characters of nature in something of their
pristine force. I delighted from the first in the vigorous scenery
and changeful weather; nor less in the antique and dilapidated
mansion where I dwelt. This was a large oblong, flanked at two
opposite corners by bastion-like projections, one of which
commanded the door, while both were loopholed for musketry. The
lower storey was, besides, naked of windows, so that the building,
if garrisoned, could not be carried without artillery. It enclosed
an open court planted with pomegranate trees. From this a broad
flight of marble stairs ascended to an open gallery, running all
round and resting, towards the court, on slender pillars. Thence
again, several enclosed stairs led to the upper storeys of the
house, which were thus broken up into distinct divisions. The
windows, both within and without, were closely shuttered; some of
the stone-work in the upper parts had fallen; the roof, in one
place, had been wrecked in one of the flurries of wind which were
common in these mountains; and the whole house, in the strong,
beating sunlight, and standing out above a grove of stunted cork-
trees, thickly laden and discoloured with dust, looked like the
sleeping palace of the legend. The court, in particular, seemed
the very home of slumber. A hoarse cooing of doves haunted about
the eaves; the winds were excluded, but when they blew outside, the
mountain dust fell here as thick as rain, and veiled the red bloom
of the pomegranates; shuttered windows and the closed doors of
numerous cellars, and the vacant, arches of the gallery, enclosed
it; and all day long the sun made broken profiles on the four
sides, and paraded the shadow of the pillars on the gallery floor.
At the ground level there was, however, a certain pillared recess,
which bore the marks of human habitation. Though it was open in
front upon the court, it was yet provided with a chimney, where a
wood fire would he always prettily blazing; and the tile floor was
littered with the skins of animals.

It was in this place that I first saw my hostess. She had drawn
one of the skins forward and sat in the sun, leaning against a
pillar. It was her dress that struck me first of all, for it was
rich and brightly coloured, and shone out in that dusty courtyard
with something of the same relief as the flowers of the
pomegranates. At a second look it was her beauty of person that
took hold of me. As she sat back - watching me, I thought, though
with invisible eyes - and wearing at the same time an expression of
almost imbecile good-humour and contentment, she showed a
perfectness of feature and a quiet nobility of attitude that were
beyond a statue's. I took off my hat to her in passing, and her
face puckered with suspicion as swiftly and lightly as a pool
ruffles in the breeze; but she paid no heed to my courtesy. I went
forth on my customary walk a trifle daunted, her idol-like
impassivity haunting me; and when I returned, although she was
still in much the same posture, I was half surprised to see that
she had moved as far as the next pillar, following the sunshine.
This time, however, she addressed me with some trivial salutation,
civilly enough conceived, and uttered in the same deep-chested, and
yet indistinct and lisping tones, that had already baffled the
utmost niceness of my hearing from her son. I answered rather at a
venture; for not only did I fail to take her meaning with
precision, but the sudden disclosure of her eyes disturbed me.
They were unusually large, the iris golden like Felipe's, but the
pupil at that moment so distended that they seemed almost black;
and what affected me was not so much their size as (what was
perhaps its consequence) the singular insignificance of their
regard. A look more blankly stupid I have never met. My eyes
dropped before it even as I spoke, and I went on my way upstairs to
my own room, at once baffled and embarrassed. Yet, when I came
there and saw the face of the portrait, I was again reminded of the
miracle of family descent. My hostess was, indeed, both older and
fuller in person; her eyes were of a different colour; her face,
besides, was not only free from the ill-significance that offended
and attracted me in the painting; it was devoid of either good or
bad - a moral blank expressing literally naught. And yet there was
a likeness, not so much speaking as immanent, not so much in any
particular feature as upon the whole. It should seem, I thought,
as if when the master set his signature to that grave canvas, he
had not only caught the image of one smiling and false-eyed woman,
but stamped the essential quality of a race.

From that day forth, whether I came or went, I was sure to find the
Senora seated in the sun against a pillar, or stretched on a rug
before the fire; only at times she would shift her station to the
top round of the stone staircase, where she lay with the same
nonchalance right across my path. In all these days, I never knew
her to display the least spark of energy beyond what she expended
in brushing and re-brushing her copious copper-coloured hair, or in
lisping out, in the rich and broken hoarseness of her voice, her
customary idle salutations to myself. These, I think, were her two
chief pleasures, beyond that of mere quiescence. She seemed always
proud of her remarks, as though they had been witticisms: and,
indeed, though they were empty enough, like the conversation of
many respectable persons, and turned on a very narrow range of
subjects, they were never meaningless or incoherent; nay, they had
a certain beauty of their own, breathing, as they did, of her
entire contentment. Now she would speak of the warmth, in which
(like her son) she greatly delighted; now of the flowers of the
pomegranate trees, and now of the white doves and long-winged
swallows that fanned the air of the court. The birds excited her.
As they raked the eaves in their swift flight, or skimmed sidelong
past her with a rush of wind, she would sometimes stir, and sit a
little up, and seem to awaken from her doze of satisfaction. But
for the rest of her days she lay luxuriously folded on herself and
sunk in sloth and pleasure. Her invincible content at first
annoyed me, but I came gradually to find repose in the spectacle,
until at last it grew to be my habit to sit down beside her four
times in the day, both coming and going, and to talk with her
sleepily, I scarce knew of what. I had come to like her dull,
almost animal neighbourhood; her beauty and her stupidity soothed
and amused me. I began to find a kind of transcendental good sense
in her remarks, and her unfathomable good nature moved me to
admiration and envy. The liking was returned; she enjoyed my
presence half-unconsciously, as a man in deep meditation may enjoy
the babbling of a brook. I can scarce say she brightened when I
came, for satisfaction was written on her face eternally, as on
some foolish statue's; but I was made conscious of her pleasure by
some more intimate communication than the sight. And one day, as I
set within reach of her on the marble step, she suddenly shot forth
one of her hands and patted mine. The thing was done, and she was
back in her accustomed attitude, before my mind had received
intelligence of the caress; and when I turned to look her in the
face I could perceive no answerable sentiment. It was plain she
attached no moment to the act, and I blamed myself for my own more
uneasy consciousness.

The sight and (if I may so call it) the acquaintance of the mother
confirmed the view I had already taken of the son. The family
blood had been impoverished, perhaps by long inbreeding, which I
knew to be a common error among the proud and the exclusive. No
decline, indeed, was to be traced in the body, which had been
handed down unimpaired in shapeliness and strength; and the faces
of to-day were struck as sharply from the mint, as the face of two
centuries ago that smiled upon me from the portrait. But the
intelligence (that more precious heirloom) was degenerate; the
treasure of ancestral memory ran low; and it had required the
potent, plebeian crossing of a muleteer or mountain contrabandista
to raise, what approached hebetude in the mother, into the active
oddity of the son. Yet of the two, it was the mother I preferred.
Of Felipe, vengeful and placable, full of starts and shyings,
inconstant as a hare, I could even conceive as a creature possibly
noxious. Of the mother I had no thoughts but those of kindness.
And indeed, as spectators are apt ignorantly to take sides, I grew
something of a partisan in the enmity which I perceived to smoulder
between them. True, it seemed mostly on the mother's part. She
would sometimes draw in her breath as he came near, and the pupils
of her vacant eyes would contract as if with horror or fear. Her
emotions, such as they were, were much upon the surface and readily
shared; and this latent repulsion occupied my mind, and kept me
wondering on what grounds it rested, and whether the son was
certainly in fault.

I had been about ten days in the residencia, when there sprang up a
high and harsh wind, carrying clouds of dust. It came out of
malarious lowlands, and over several snowy sierras. The nerves of
those on whom it blew were strung and jangled; their eyes smarted
with the dust; their legs ached under the burthen of their body;
and the touch of one hand upon another grew to be odious. The
wind, besides, came down the gullies of the hills and stormed about
the house with a great, hollow buzzing and whistling that was
wearisome to the ear and dismally depressing to the mind. It did
not so much blow in gusts as with the steady sweep of a waterfall,
so that there was no remission of discomfort while it blew. But
higher upon the mountain, it was probably of a more variable
strength, with accesses of fury; for there came down at times a
far-off wailing, infinitely grievous to hear; and at times, on one
of the high shelves or terraces, there would start up, and then
disperse, a tower of dust, like the smoke of in explosion.

I no sooner awoke in bed than I was conscious of the nervous
tension and depression of the weather, and the effect grew stronger
as the day proceeded. It was in vain that I resisted; in vain that
I set forth upon my customary morning's walk; the irrational,
unchanging fury of the storm had soon beat down my strength and
wrecked my temper; and I returned to the residencia, glowing with
dry heat, and foul and gritty with dust. The court had a forlorn
appearance; now and then a glimmer of sun fled over it; now and
then the wind swooped down upon the pomegranates, and scattered the
blossoms, and set the window shutters clapping on the wall. In the
recess the Senora was pacing to and fro with a flushed countenance
and bright eyes; I thought, too, she was speaking to herself, like
one in anger. But when I addressed her with my customary
salutation, she only replied by a sharp gesture and continued her
walk. The weather had distempered even this impassive creature;
and as I went on upstairs I was the less ashamed of my own

All day the wind continued; and I sat in my room and made a feint
of reading, or walked up and down, and listened to the riot
overhead. Night fell, and I had not so much as a candle. I began
to long for some society, and stole down to the court. It was now
plunged in the blue of the first darkness; but the recess was redly
lighted by the fire. The wood had been piled high, and was crowned
by a shock of flames, which the draught of the chimney brandished
to and fro. In this strong and shaken brightness the Senora
continued pacing from wall to wall with disconnected gestures,
clasping her hands, stretching forth her arms, throwing back her
head as in appeal to heaven. In these disordered movements the
beauty and grace of the woman showed more clearly; but there was a
light in her eye that struck on me unpleasantly; and when I had
looked on awhile in silence, and seemingly unobserved, I turned
tail as I had come, and groped my way back again to my own chamber.

By the time Felipe brought my supper and lights, my nerve was
utterly gone; and, had the lad been such as I was used to seeing
him, I should have kept him (even by force had that been necessary)
to take off the edge from my distasteful solitude. But on Felipe,
also, the wind had exercised its influence. He had been feverish
all day; now that the night had come he was fallen into a low and
tremulous humour that reacted on my own. The sight of his scared
face, his starts and pallors and sudden harkenings, unstrung me;
and when he dropped and broke a dish, I fairly leaped out of my

'I think we are all mad to-day,' said I, affecting to laugh.

'It is the black wind,' he replied dolefully. 'You feel as if you
must do something, and you don't know what it is.'

I noted the aptness of the description; but, indeed, Felipe had
sometimes a strange felicity in rendering into words the sensations
of the body. 'And your mother, too,' said I; 'she seems to feel
this weather much. Do you not fear she may be unwell?'

He stared at me a little, and then said, 'No,' almost defiantly;
and the next moment, carrying his hand to his brow, cried out
lamentably on the wind and the noise that made his head go round
like a millwheel. 'Who can be well?' he cried; and, indeed, I
could only echo his question, for I was disturbed enough myself.

I went to bed early, wearied with day-long restlessness, but the
poisonous nature of the wind, and its ungodly and unintermittent
uproar, would not suffer me to sleep. I lay there and tossed, my
nerves and senses on the stretch. At times I would doze, dream
horribly, and wake again; and these snatches of oblivion confused
me as to time. But it must have been late on in the night, when I
was suddenly startled by an outbreak of pitiable and hateful cries.
I leaped from my bed, supposing I had dreamed; but the cries still
continued to fill the house, cries of pain, I thought, but
certainly of rage also, and so savage and discordant that they
shocked the heart. It was no illusion; some living thing, some
lunatic or some wild animal, was being foully tortured. The
thought of Felipe and the squirrel flashed into my mind, and I ran
to the door, but it had been locked from the outside; and I might
shake it as I pleased, I was a fast prisoner. Still the cries
continued. Now they would dwindle down into a moaning that seemed
to be articulate, and at these times I made sure they must be
human; and again they would break forth and fill the house with
ravings worthy of hell. I stood at the door and gave ear to them,
till at, last they died away. Long after that, I still lingered
and still continued to hear them mingle in fancy with the storming
of the wind; and when at last I crept to my bed, it was with a
deadly sickness and a blackness of horror on my heart.

It was little wonder if I slept no more. Why had I been locked in?
What had passed? Who was the author of these indescribable and
shocking cries? A human being? It was inconceivable. A beast?
The cries were scarce quite bestial; and what animal, short of a
lion or a tiger, could thus shake the solid walls of the
residencia? And while I was thus turning over the elements of the
mystery, it came into my mind that I had not yet set eyes upon the
daughter of the house. What was more probable than that the
daughter of the Senora, and the sister of Felipe, should be herself
insane? Or, what more likely than that these ignorant and half-
witted people should seek to manage an afflicted kinswoman by
violence? Here was a solution; and yet when I called to mind the
cries (which I never did without a shuddering chill) it seemed
altogether insufficient: not even cruelty could wring such cries
from madness. But of one thing I was sure: I could not live in a
house where such a thing was half conceivable, and not probe the
matter home and, if necessary, interfere.

The next day came, the wind had blown itself out, and there was
nothing to remind me of the business of the night. Felipe came to
my bedside with obvious cheerfulness; as I passed through the
court, the Senora was sunning herself with her accustomed
immobility; and when I issued from the gateway, I found the whole
face of nature austerely smiling, the heavens of a cold blue, and
sown with great cloud islands, and the mountain-sides mapped forth
into provinces of light and shadow. A short walk restored me to
myself, and renewed within me the resolve to plumb this mystery;
and when, from the vantage of my knoll, I had seen Felipe pass
forth to his labours in the garden, I returned at once to the
residencia to put my design in practice. The Senora appeared
plunged in slumber; I stood awhile and marked her, but she did not
stir; even if my design were indiscreet, I had little to fear from
such a guardian; and turning away, I mounted to the gallery and
began my exploration of the house.

All morning I went from one door to another, and entered spacious
and faded chambers, some rudely shuttered, some receiving their
full charge of daylight, all empty and unhomely. It was a rich
house, on which Time had breathed his tarnish and dust had
scattered disillusion. The spider swung there; the bloated
tarantula scampered on the cornices; ants had their crowded
highways on the floor of halls of audience; the big and foul fly,
that lives on carrion and is often the messenger of death, had set
up his nest in the rotten woodwork, and buzzed heavily about the
rooms. Here and there a stool or two, a couch, a bed, or a great
carved chair remained behind, like islets on the bare floors, to
testify of man's bygone habitation; and everywhere the walls were
set with the portraits of the dead. I could judge, by these
decaying effigies, in the house of what a great and what a handsome
race I was then wandering. Many of the men wore orders on their
breasts and had the port of noble offices; the women were all
richly attired; the canvases most of them by famous hands. But it
was not so much these evidences of greatness that took hold upon my
mind, even contrasted, as they were, with the present depopulation
and decay of that great house. It was rather the parable of family
life that I read in this succession of fair faces and shapely
bodies. Never before had I so realised the miracle of the
continued race, the creation and recreation, the weaving and
changing and handing down of fleshly elements. That a child should
be born of its mother, that it should grow and clothe itself (we
know not how) with humanity, and put on inherited looks, and turn
its head with the manner of one ascendant, and offer its hand with
the gesture of another, are wonders dulled for us by repetition.
But in the singular unity of look, in the common features and
common bearing, of all these painted generations on the walls of
the residencia, the miracle started out and looked me in the face.
And an ancient mirror falling opportunely in my way, I stood and
read my own features a long while, tracing out on either hand the
filaments of descent and the bonds that knit me with my family.

At last, in the course of these investigations, I opened the door
of a chamber that bore the marks of habitation. It was of large
proportions and faced to the north, where the mountains were most
wildly figured. The embers of a fire smouldered and smoked upon
the hearth, to which a chair had been drawn close. And yet the
aspect of the chamber was ascetic to the degree of sternness; the
chair was uncushioned; the floor and walls were naked; and beyond
the books which lay here and there in some confusion, there was no
instrument of either work or pleasure. The sight of books in the
house of such a family exceedingly amazed me; and I began with a
great hurry, and in momentary fear of interruption, to go from one
to another and hastily inspect their character. They were of all
sorts, devotional, historical, and scientific, but mostly of a
great age and in the Latin tongue. Some I could see to bear the
marks of constant study; others had been torn across and tossed
aside as if in petulance or disapproval. Lastly, as I cruised
about that empty chamber, I espied some papers written upon with
pencil on a table near the window. An unthinking curiosity led me
to take one up. It bore a copy of verses, very roughly metred in
the original Spanish, and which I may render somewhat thus -

Pleasure approached with pain and shame,
Grief with a wreath of lilies came.
Pleasure showed the lovely sun;
Jesu dear, how sweet it shone!
Grief with her worn hand pointed on,
Jesu dear, to thee!

Shame and confusion at once fell on me; and, laying down the paper,
I beat an immediate retreat from the apartment. Neither Felipe nor
his mother could have read the books nor written these rough but
feeling verses. It was plain I had stumbled with sacrilegious feet
into the room of the daughter of the house. God knows, my own
heart most sharply punished me for my indiscretion. The thought
that I had thus secretly pushed my way into the confidence of a
girl so strangely situated, and the fear that she might somehow
come to hear of it, oppressed me like guilt. I blamed myself
besides for my suspicions of the night before; wondered that I
should ever have attributed those shocking cries to one of whom I
now conceived as of a saint, spectral of mien, wasted with
maceration, bound up in the practices of a mechanical devotion, and
dwelling in a great isolation of soul with her incongruous
relatives; and as I leaned on the balustrade of the gallery and
looked down into the bright close of pomegranates and at the gaily
dressed and somnolent woman, who just then stretched herself and
delicately licked her lips as in the very sensuality of sloth, my
mind swiftly compared the scene with the cold chamber looking
northward on the mountains, where the daughter dwelt.

That same afternoon, as I sat upon my knoll, I saw the Padre enter
the gates of the residencia. The revelation of the daughter's
character had struck home to my fancy, and almost blotted out the
horrors of the night before; but at sight of this worthy man the
memory revived. I descended, then, from the knoll, and making a
circuit among the woods, posted myself by the wayside to await his
passage. As soon as he appeared I stepped forth and introduced
myself as the lodger of the residencia. He had a very strong,
honest countenance, on which it was easy to read the mingled
emotions with which he regarded me, as a foreigner, a heretic, and
yet one who had been wounded for the good cause. Of the family at
the residencia he spoke with reserve, and yet with respect. I
mentioned that I had not yet seen the daughter, whereupon he
remarked that that was as it should be, and looked at me a little
askance. Lastly, I plucked up courage to refer to the cries that
had disturbed me in the night. He heard me out in silence, and
then stopped and partly turned about, as though to mark beyond
doubt that he was dismissing me.

'Do you take tobacco powder?' said he, offering his snuff-box; and
then, when I had refused, 'I am an old man,' he added, 'and I may
be allowed to remind you that you are a guest.'

'I have, then, your authority,' I returned, firmly enough, although
I flushed at the implied reproof, 'to let things take their course,
and not to interfere?'

He said 'yes,' and with a somewhat uneasy salute turned and left me
where I was. But he had done two things: he had set my conscience
at rest, and he had awakened my delicacy. I made a great effort,
once more dismissed the recollections of the night, and fell once
more to brooding on my saintly poetess. At the same time, I could
not quite forget that I had been locked in, and that night when
Felipe brought me my supper I attacked him warily on both points of

'I never see your sister,' said I casually.

'Oh, no,' said he; 'she is a good, good girl,' and his mind
instantly veered to something else.

'Your sister is pious, I suppose?' I asked in the next pause.

'Oh!' he cried, joining his hands with extreme fervour, 'a saint;
it is she that keeps me up.'

'You are very fortunate,' said I, 'for the most of us, I am afraid,
and myself among the number, are better at going down.'

'Senor,' said Felipe earnestly, 'I would not say that. You should
not tempt your angel. If one goes down, where is he to stop?'

'Why, Felipe,' said I, 'I had no guess you were a preacher, and I
may say a good one; but I suppose that is your sister's doing?'

He nodded at me with round eyes.

'Well, then,' I continued, 'she has doubtless reproved you for your
sin of cruelty?'

'Twelve times!' he cried; for this was the phrase by which the odd
creature expressed the sense of frequency. 'And I told her you had
done so - I remembered that,' he added proudly - 'and she was

'Then, Felipe,' said I, 'what were those cries that I heard last
night? for surely they were cries of some creature in suffering.'

'The wind,' returned Felipe, looking in the fire.

I took his hand in mine, at which, thinking it to be a caress, he
smiled with a brightness of pleasure that came near disarming my
resolve. But I trod the weakness down. 'The wind,' I repeated;
'and yet I think it was this hand,' holding it up, 'that had first
locked me in.' The lad shook visibly, but answered never a word.
'Well,' said I, 'I am a stranger and a guest. It is not my part
either to meddle or to judge in your affairs; in these you shall
take your sister's counsel, which I cannot doubt to be excellent.
But in so far as concerns my own I will be no man's prisoner, and I
demand that key.' Half an hour later my door was suddenly thrown
open, and the key tossed ringing on the floor.

A day or two after I came in from a walk a little before the point
of noon. The Senora was lying lapped in slumber on the threshold
of the recess; the pigeons dozed below the eaves like snowdrifts;
the house was under a deep spell of noontide quiet; and only a
wandering and gentle wind from the mountain stole round the
galleries, rustled among the pomegranates, and pleasantly stirred
the shadows. Something in the stillness moved me to imitation, and
I went very lightly across the court and up the marble staircase.
My foot was on the topmost round, when a door opened, and I found
myself face to face with Olalla. Surprise transfixed me; her
loveliness struck to my heart; she glowed in the deep shadow of the
gallery, a gem of colour; her eyes took hold upon mine and clung
there, and bound us together like the joining of hands; and the
moments we thus stood face to face, drinking each other in, were
sacramental and the wedding of souls. I know not how long it was
before I awoke out of a deep trance, and, hastily bowing, passed on
into the upper stair. She did not move, but followed me with her
great, thirsting eyes; and as I passed out of sight it seemed to me
as if she paled and faded.

In my own room, I opened the window and looked out, and could not
think what change had come upon that austere field of mountains
that it should thus sing and shine under the lofty heaven. I had
seen her - Olalla! And the stone crags answered, Olalla! and the
dumb, unfathomable azure answered, Olalla! The pale saint of my
dreams had vanished for ever; and in her place I beheld this maiden
on whom God had lavished the richest colours and the most exuberant
energies of life, whom he had made active as a deer, slender as a
reed, and in whose great eyes he had lighted the torches of the
soul. The thrill of her young life, strung like a wild animal's,
had entered into me; the force of soul that had looked out from her
eyes and conquered mine, mantled about my heart and sprang to my
lips in singing. She passed through my veins: she was one with me.

I will not say that this enthusiasm declined; rather my soul held
out in its ecstasy as in a strong castle, and was there besieged by
cold and sorrowful considerations. I could not doubt but that I
loved her at first sight, and already with a quivering ardour that
was strange to my experience. What then was to follow? She was
the child of an afflicted house, the Senora's daughter, the sister
of Felipe; she bore it even in her beauty. She had the lightness
and swiftness of the one, swift as an arrow, light as dew; like the
other, she shone on the pale background of the world with the
brilliancy of flowers. I could not call by the name of brother
that half-witted lad, nor by the name of mother that immovable and
lovely thing of flesh, whose silly eyes and perpetual simper now
recurred to my mind like something hateful. And if I could not
marry, what then? She was helplessly unprotected; her eyes, in
that single and long glance which had been all our intercourse, had
confessed a weakness equal to my own; but in my heart I knew her
for the student of the cold northern chamber, and the writer of the
sorrowful lines; and this was a knowledge to disarm a brute. To
flee was more than I could find courage for; but I registered a vow
of unsleeping circumspection.

As I turned from the window, my eyes alighted on the portrait. It
had fallen dead, like a candle after sunrise; it followed me with
eyes of paint. I knew it to be like, and marvelled at the tenacity
of type in that declining race; but the likeness was swallowed up
in difference. I remembered how it had seemed to me a thing
unapproachable in the life, a creature rather of the painter's
craft than of the modesty of nature, and I marvelled at the
thought, and exulted in the image of Olalla. Beauty I had seen
before, and not been charmed, and I had been often drawn to women,
who were not beautiful except to me; but in Olalla all that I
desired and had not dared to imagine was united.

I did not see her the next day, and my heart ached and my eyes
longed for her, as men long for morning. But the day after, when I
returned, about my usual hour, she was once more on the gallery,
and our looks once more met and embraced. I would have spoken, I
would have drawn near to her; but strongly as she plucked at my
heart, drawing me like a magnet, something yet more imperious
withheld me; and I could only bow and pass by; and she, leaving my
salutation unanswered, only followed me with her noble eyes.

I had now her image by rote, and as I conned the traits in memory
it seemed as if I read her very heart. She was dressed with
something of her mother's coquetry, and love of positive colour.
Her robe, which I know she must have made with her own hands, clung
about her with a cunning grace. After the fashion of that country,
besides, her bodice stood open in the middle, in a long slit, and
here, in spite of the poverty of the house, a gold coin, hanging by
a ribbon, lay on her brown bosom. These were proofs, had any been
needed, of her inborn delight in life and her own loveliness. On
the other hand, in her eyes that hung upon mine, I could read depth
beyond depth of passion and sadness, lights of poetry and hope,
blacknesses of despair, and thoughts that were above the earth. It
was a lovely body, but the inmate, the soul, was more than worthy
of that lodging. Should I leave this incomparable flower to wither
unseen on these rough mountains? Should I despise the great gift
offered me in the eloquent silence of her eyes? Here was a soul
immured; should I not burst its prison? All side considerations
fell off from me; were she the child of Herod I swore I should make
her mine; and that very evening I set myself, with a mingled sense
of treachery and disgrace, to captivate the brother. Perhaps I
read him with more favourable eyes, perhaps the thought of his
sister always summoned up the better qualities of that imperfect
soul; but he had never seemed to me so amiable, and his very
likeness to Olalla, while it annoyed, yet softened me.

A third day passed in vain - an empty desert of hours. I would not
lose a chance, and loitered all afternoon in the court where (to
give myself a countenance) I spoke more than usual with the Senora.
God knows it was with a most tender and sincere interest that I now
studied her; and even as for Felipe, so now for the mother, I was
conscious of a growing warmth of toleration. And yet I wondered.
Even while I spoke with her, she would doze off into a little
sleep, and presently awake again without embarrassment; and this
composure staggered me. And again, as I marked her make
infinitesimal changes in her posture, savouring and lingering on
the bodily pleasure of the movement, I was driven to wonder at this
depth of passive sensuality. She lived in her body; and her
consciousness was all sunk into and disseminated through her
members, where it luxuriously dwelt. Lastly, I could not grow
accustomed to her eyes. Each time she turned on me these great
beautiful and meaningless orbs, wide open to the day, but closed
against human inquiry - each time I had occasion to observe the
lively changes of her pupils which expanded and contracted in a
breath - I know not what it was came over me, I can find no name
for the mingled feeling of disappointment, annoyance, and distaste
that jarred along my nerves. I tried her on a variety of subjects,
equally in vain; and at last led the talk to her daughter. But
even there she proved indifferent; said she was pretty, which (as
with children) was her highest word of commendation, but was
plainly incapable of any higher thought; and when I remarked that
Olalla seemed silent, merely yawned in my face and replied that
speech was of no great use when you had nothing to say. 'People
speak much, very much,' she added, looking at me with expanded
pupils; and then again yawned and again showed me a mouth that was
as dainty as a toy. This time I took the hint, and, leaving her to
her repose, went up into my own chamber to sit by the open window,
looking on the hills and not beholding them, sunk in lustrous and
deep dreams, and hearkening in fancy to the note of a voice that I
had never heard.

I awoke on the fifth morning with a brightness of anticipation that
seemed to challenge fate. I was sure of myself, light of heart and
foot, and resolved to put my love incontinently to the touch of
knowledge. It should lie no longer under the bonds of silence, a
dumb thing, living by the eye only, like the love of beasts; but
should now put on the spirit, and enter upon the joys of the
complete human intimacy. I thought of it with wild hopes, like a
voyager to El Dorado; into that unknown and lovely country of her
soul, I no longer trembled to adventure. Yet when I did indeed
encounter her, the same force of passion descended on me and at
once submerged my mind; speech seemed to drop away from me like a
childish habit; and I but drew near to her as the giddy man draws
near to the margin of a gulf. She drew back from me a little as I
came; but her eyes did not waver from mine, and these lured me
forward. At last, when I was already within reach of her, I
stopped. Words were denied me; if I advanced I could but clasp her
to my heart in silence; and all that was sane in me, all that was
still unconquered, revolted against the thought of such an accost.
So we stood for a second, all our life in our eyes, exchanging
salvos of attraction and yet each resisting; and then, with a great
effort of the will, and conscious at the same time of a sudden
bitterness of disappointment, I turned and went away in the same

What power lay upon me that I could not speak? And she, why was
she also silent? Why did she draw away before me dumbly, with
fascinated eyes? Was this love? or was it a mere brute attraction,
mindless and inevitable, like that of the magnet for the steel? We
had never spoken, we were wholly strangers: and yet an influence,
strong as the grasp of a giant, swept us silently together. On my
side, it filled me with impatience; and yet I was sure that she was
worthy; I had seen her books, read her verses, and thus, in a
sense, divined the soul of my mistress. But on her side, it struck
me almost cold. Of me, she knew nothing but my bodily favour; she
was drawn to me as stones fall to the earth; the laws that rule the
earth conducted her, unconsenting, to my arms; and I drew back at
the thought of such a bridal, and began to be jealous for myself.
It was not thus that I desired to be loved. And then I began to
fall into a great pity for the girl herself. I thought how sharp
must be her mortification, that she, the student, the recluse,
Felipe's saintly monitress, should have thus confessed an
overweening weakness for a man with whom she had never exchanged a
word. And at the coming of pity, all other thoughts were swallowed
up; and I longed only to find and console and reassure her; to tell
her how wholly her love was returned on my side, and how her
choice, even if blindly made, was not unworthy.

The next day it was glorious weather; depth upon depth of blue
over-canopied the mountains; the sun shone wide; and the wind in
the trees and the many falling torrents in the mountains filled the
air with delicate and haunting music. Yet I was prostrated with
sadness. My heart wept for the sight of Olalla, as a child weeps
for its mother. I sat down on a boulder on the verge of the low
cliffs that bound the plateau to the north. Thence I looked down
into the wooded valley of a stream, where no foot came. In the
mood I was in, it was even touching to behold the place untenanted;
it lacked Olalla; and I thought of the delight and glory of a life
passed wholly with her in that strong air, and among these rugged
and lovely surroundings, at first with a whimpering sentiment, and
then again with such a fiery joy that I seemed to grow in strength
and stature, like a Samson.

And then suddenly I was aware of Olalla drawing near. She appeared
out of a grove of cork-trees, and came straight towards me; and I
stood up and waited. She seemed in her walking a creature of such
life and fire and lightness as amazed me; yet she came quietly and
slowly. Her energy was in the slowness; but for inimitable
strength, I felt she would have run, she would have flown to me.
Still, as she approached, she kept her eyes lowered to the ground;
and when she had drawn quite near, it was without one glance that
she addressed me. At the first note of her voice I started. It
was for this I had been waiting; this was the last test of my love.
And lo, her enunciation was precise and clear, not lisping and
incomplete like that of her family; and the voice, though deeper
than usual with women, was still both youthful and womanly. She
spoke in a rich chord; golden contralto strains mingled with
hoarseness, as the red threads were mingled with the brown among
her tresses. It was not only a voice that spoke to my heart
directly; but it spoke to me of her. And yet her words immediately
plunged me back upon despair.

'You will go away,' she said, 'to-day.'

Her example broke the bonds of my speech; I felt as lightened of a
weight, or as if a spell had been dissolved. I know not in what
words I answered; but, standing before her on the cliffs, I poured
out the whole ardour of my love, telling her that I lived upon the
thought of her, slept only to dream of her loveliness, and would
gladly forswear my country, my language, and my friends, to live
for ever by her side. And then, strongly commanding myself, I
changed the note; I reassured, I comforted her; I told her I had
divined in her a pious and heroic spirit, with which I was worthy
to sympathise, and which I longed to share and lighten. 'Nature,'
I told her, 'was the voice of God, which men disobey at peril; and
if we were thus humbly drawn together, ay, even as by a miracle of
love, it must imply a divine fitness in our souls; we must be
made,' I said - 'made for one another. We should be mad rebels,' I
cried out - 'mad rebels against God, not to obey this instinct.'

She shook her head. 'You will go to-day,' she repeated, and then
with a gesture, and in a sudden, sharp note - 'no, not to-day,' she
cried, 'to-morrow!'

But at this sign of relenting, power came in upon me in a tide. I
stretched out my arms and called upon her name; and she leaped to
me and clung to me. The hills rocked about us, the earth quailed;
a shock as of a blow went through me and left me blind and dizzy.
And the next moment she had thrust me back, broken rudely from my
arms, and fled with the speed of a deer among the cork-trees.

I stood and shouted to the mountains; I turned and went back
towards the residencia, waltzing upon air. She sent me away, and
yet I had but to call upon her name and she came to me. These were
but the weaknesses of girls, from which even she, the strangest of
her sex, was not exempted. Go? Not I, Olalla - O, not I, Olalla,
my Olalla! A bird sang near by; and in that season, birds were
rare. It bade me be of good cheer. And once more the whole
countenance of nature, from the ponderous and stable mountains down
to the lightest leaf and the smallest darting fly in the shadow of
the groves, began to stir before me and to put on the lineaments of
life and wear a face of awful joy. The sunshine struck upon the
hills, strong as a hammer on the anvil, and the hills shook; the
earth, under that vigorous insulation, yielded up heady scents; the
woods smouldered in the blaze. I felt the thrill of travail and
delight run through the earth. Something elemental, something
rude, violent, and savage, in the love that sang in my heart, was
like a key to nature's secrets; and the very stones that rattled
under my feet appeared alive and friendly. Olalla! Her touch had
quickened, and renewed, and strung me up to the old pitch of
concert with the rugged earth, to a swelling of the soul that men
learn to forget in their polite assemblies. Love burned in me like
rage; tenderness waxed fierce; I hated, I adored, I pitied, I
revered her with ecstasy. She seemed the link that bound me in
with dead things on the one hand, and with our pure and pitying God
upon the other: a thing brutal and divine, and akin at once to the
innocence and to the unbridled forces of the earth.

My head thus reeling, I came into the courtyard of the residencia,
and the sight of the mother struck me like a revelation. She sat
there, all sloth and contentment, blinking under the strong
sunshine, branded with a passive enjoyment, a creature set quite
apart, before whom my ardour fell away like a thing ashamed. I
stopped a moment, and, commanding such shaken tones as I was able,
said a word or two. She looked at me with her unfathomable
kindness; her voice in reply sounded vaguely out of the realm of
peace in which she slumbered, and there fell on my mind, for the
first time, a sense of respect for one so uniformly innocent and
happy, and I passed on in a kind of wonder at myself, that I should
be so much disquieted.

On my table there lay a piece of the same yellow paper I had seen
in the north room; it was written on with pencil in the same hand,
Olalla's hand, and I picked it up with a sudden sinking of alarm,
and read, 'If you have any kindness for Olalla, if you have any
chivalry for a creature sorely wrought, go from here to-day; in
pity, in honour, for the sake of Him who died, I supplicate that
you shall go.' I looked at this awhile in mere stupidity, then I
began to awaken to a weariness and horror of life; the sunshine
darkened outside on the bare hills, and I began to shake like a man
in terror. The vacancy thus suddenly opened in my life unmanned me
like a physical void. It was not my heart, it was not my
happiness, it was life itself that was involved. I could not lose
her. I said so, and stood repeating it. And then, like one in a
dream, I moved to the window, put forth my hand to open the
casement, and thrust it through the pane. The blood spurted from
my wrist; and with an instantaneous quietude and command of myself,
I pressed my thumb on the little leaping fountain, and reflected
what to do. In that empty room there was nothing to my purpose; I
felt, besides, that I required assistance. There shot into my mind
a hope that Olalla herself might be my helper, and I turned and
went down stairs, still keeping my thumb upon the wound.

There was no sign of either Olalla or Felipe, and I addressed
myself to the recess, whither the Senora had now drawn quite back
and sat dozing close before the fire, for no degree of heat
appeared too much for her.

'Pardon me,' said I, 'if I disturb you, but I must apply to you for

She looked up sleepily and asked me what it was, and with the very
words I thought she drew in her breath with a widening of the
nostrils and seemed to come suddenly and fully alive.

'I have cut myself,' I said, 'and rather badly. See!' And I held
out my two hands from which the blood was oozing and dripping.

Her great eyes opened wide, the pupils shrank into points; a veil
seemed to fall from her face, and leave it sharply expressive and
yet inscrutable. And as I still stood, marvelling a little at her
disturbance, she came swiftly up to me, and stooped and caught me
by the hand; and the next moment my hand was at her mouth, and she
had bitten me to the bone. The pang of the bite, the sudden
spurting of blood, and the monstrous horror of the act, flashed
through me all in one, and I beat her back; and she sprang at me
again and again, with bestial cries, cries that I recognised, such
cries as had awakened me on the night of the high wind. Her
strength was like that of madness; mine was rapidly ebbing with the
loss of blood; my mind besides was whirling with the abhorrent
strangeness of the onslaught, and I was already forced against the
wall, when Olalla ran betwixt us, and Felipe, following at a bound,
pinned down his mother on the floor.

A trance-like weakness fell upon me; I saw, heard, and felt, but I
was incapable of movement. I heard the struggle roll to and fro
upon the floor, the yells of that catamount ringing up to Heaven as
she strove to reach me. I felt Olalla clasp me in her arms, her
hair falling on my face, and, with the strength of a man, raise and
half drag, half carry me upstairs into my own room, where she cast
me down upon the bed. Then I saw her hasten to the door and lock
it, and stand an instant listening to the savage cries that shook
the residencia. And then, swift and light as a thought, she was
again beside me, binding up my hand, laying it in her bosom,
moaning and mourning over it with dove-like sounds. They were not
words that came to her, they were sounds more beautiful than
speech, infinitely touching, infinitely tender; and yet as I lay
there, a thought stung to my heart, a thought wounded me like a
sword, a thought, like a worm in a flower, profaned the holiness of
my love. Yes, they were beautiful sounds, and they were inspired
by human tenderness; but was their beauty human?

All day I lay there. For a long time the cries of that nameless
female thing, as she struggled with her half-witted whelp,
resounded through the house, and pierced me with despairing sorrow
and disgust. They were the death-cry of my love; my love was
murdered; was not only dead, but an offence to me; and yet, think
as I pleased, feel as I must, it still swelled within me like a
storm of sweetness, and my heart melted at her looks and touch.
This horror that had sprung out, this doubt upon Olalla, this
savage and bestial strain that ran not only through the whole
behaviour of her family, but found a place in the very foundations
and story of our love - though it appalled, though it shocked and
sickened me, was yet not of power to break the knot of my

When the cries had ceased, there came a scraping at the door, by
which I knew Felipe was without; and Olalla went and spoke to him -
I know not what. With that exception, she stayed close beside me,
now kneeling by my bed and fervently praying, now sitting with her
eyes upon mine. So then, for these six hours I drank in her
beauty, and silently perused the story in her face. I saw the
golden coin hover on her breaths; I saw her eyes darken and
brighter, and still speak no language but that of an unfathomable
kindness; I saw the faultless face, and, through the robe, the
lines of the faultless body. Night came at last, and in the
growing darkness of the chamber, the sight of her slowly melted;
but even then the touch of her smooth hand lingered in mine and
talked with me. To lie thus in deadly weakness and drink in the
traits of the beloved, is to reawake to love from whatever shock of
disillusion. I reasoned with myself; and I shut my eyes on
horrors, and again I was very bold to accept the worst. What
mattered it, if that imperious sentiment survived; if her eyes
still beckoned and attached me; if now, even as before, every fibre
of my dull body yearned and turned to her? Late on in the night
some strength revived in me, and I spoke:-

'Olalla,' I said, 'nothing matters; I ask nothing; I am content; I
love you.'

She knelt down awhile and prayed, and I devoutly respected her
devotions. The moon had begun to shine in upon one side of each of
the three windows, and make a misty clearness in the room, by which
I saw her indistinctly. When she rearose she made the sign of the

'It is for me to speak,' she said, 'and for you to listen. I know;
you can but guess. I prayed, how I prayed for you to leave this
place. I begged it of you, and I know you would have granted me
even this; or if not, O let me think so!'

'I love you,' I said.

'And yet you have lived in the world,' she said; after a pause,
'you are a man and wise; and I am but a child. Forgive me, if I
seem to teach, who am as ignorant as the trees of the mountain; but
those who learn much do but skim the face of knowledge; they seize
the laws, they conceive the dignity of the design - the horror of
the living fact fades from their memory. It is we who sit at home
with evil who remember, I think, and are warned and pity. Go,
rather, go now, and keep me in mind. So I shall have a life in the
cherished places of your memory: a life as much my own, as that
which I lead in this body.'

'I love you,' I said once more; and reaching out my weak hand, took
hers, and carried it to my lips, and kissed it. Nor did she
resist, but winced a little; and I could see her look upon me with
a frown that was not unkindly, only sad and baffled. And then it
seemed she made a call upon her resolution; plucked my hand towards
her, herself at the same time leaning somewhat forward, and laid it
on the beating of her heart. 'There,' she cried, 'you feel the
very footfall of my life. It only moves for you; it is yours. But
is it even mine? It is mine indeed to offer you, as I might take
the coin from my neck, as I might break a live branch from a tree,
and give it you. And yet not mine! I dwell, or I think I dwell
(if I exist at all), somewhere apart, an impotent prisoner, and
carried about and deafened by a mob that I disown. This capsule,
such as throbs against the sides of animals, knows you at a touch
for its master; ay, it loves you! But my soul, does my soul? I
think not; I know not, fearing to ask. Yet when you spoke to me
your words were of the soul; it is of the soul that you ask - it is
only from the soul that you would take me.'

'Olalla,' I said, 'the soul and the body are one, and mostly so in
love. What the body chooses, the soul loves; where the body
clings, the soul cleaves; body for body, soul to soul, they come
together at God's signal; and the lower part (if we can call aught
low) is only the footstool and foundation of the highest.'

'Have you,' she said, 'seen the portraits in the house of my
fathers? Have you looked at my mother or at Felipe? Have your
eyes never rested on that picture that hangs by your bed? She who
sat for it died ages ago; and she did evil in her life. But, look-
again: there is my hand to the least line, there are my eyes and my
hair. What is mine, then, and what am I? If not a curve in this
poor body of mine (which you love, and for the sake of which you
dotingly dream that you love me) not a gesture that I can frame,
not a tone of my voice, not any look from my eyes, no, not even now
when I speak to him I love, but has belonged to others? Others,
ages dead, have wooed other men with my eyes; other men have heard
the pleading of the same voice that now sounds in your ears. The
hands of the dead are in my bosom; they move me, they pluck me,
they guide me; I am a puppet at their command; and I but reinform
features and attributes that have long been laid aside from evil in
the quiet of the grave. Is it me you love, friend? or the race
that made me? The girl who does not know and cannot answer for the
least portion of herself? or the stream of which she is a
transitory eddy, the tree of which she is the passing fruit? The
race exists; it is old, it is ever young, it carries its eternal
destiny in its bosom; upon it, like waves upon the sea, individual
succeeds to individual, mocked with a semblance of self-control,
but they are nothing. We speak of the soul, but the soul is in the

'You fret against the common law,' I said. 'You rebel against the
voice of God, which he has made so winning to convince, so
imperious to command. Hear it, and how it speaks between us! Your
hand clings to mine, your heart leaps at my touch, the unknown
elements of which we are compounded awake and run together at a
look; the clay of the earth remembers its independent life and
yearns to join us; we are drawn together as the stars are turned
about in space, or as the tides ebb and flow, by things older and
greater than we ourselves.'

'Alas!' she said, 'what can I say to you? My fathers, eight
hundred years ago, ruled all this province: they were wise, great,
cunning, and cruel; they were a picked race of the Spanish; their
flags led in war; the king called them his cousin; the people, when
the rope was slung for them or when they returned and found their
hovels smoking, blasphemed their name. Presently a change began.
Man has risen; if he has sprung from the brutes, he can descend
again to the same level. The breath of weariness blew on their
humanity and the cords relaxed; they began to go down; their minds
fell on sleep, their passions awoke in gusts, heady and senseless
like the wind in the gutters of the mountains; beauty was still
handed down, but no longer the guiding wit nor the human heart; the
seed passed on, it was wrapped in flesh, the flesh covered the
bones, but they were the bones and the flesh of brutes, and their
mind was as the mind of flies. I speak to you as I dare; but you
have seen for yourself how the wheel has gone backward with my
doomed race. I stand, as it were, upon a little rising ground in
this desperate descent, and see both before and behind, both what
we have lost and to what we are condemned to go farther downward.
And shall I - I that dwell apart in the house of the dead, my body,
loathing its ways - shall I repeat the spell? Shall I bind another
spirit, reluctant as my own, into this bewitched and tempest-broken
tenement that I now suffer in? Shall I hand down this cursed
vessel of humanity, charge it with fresh life as with fresh poison,
and dash it, like a fire, in the faces of posterity? But my vow
has been given; the race shall cease from off the earth. At this
hour my brother is making ready; his foot will soon be on the
stair; and you will go with him and pass out of my sight for ever.
Think of me sometimes as one to whom the lesson of life was very
harshly told, but who heard it with courage; as one who loved you
indeed, but who hated herself so deeply that her love was hateful
to her; as one who sent you away and yet would have longed to keep
you for ever; who had no dearer hope than to forget you, and no
greater fear than to be forgotten.'

She had drawn towards the door as she spoke, her rich voice
sounding softer and farther away; and with the last word she was
gone, and I lay alone in the moonlit chamber. What I might have
done had not I lain bound by my extreme weakness, I know not; but
as it was there fell upon me a great and blank despair. It was not
long before there shone in at the door the ruddy glimmer of a
lantern, and Felipe coming, charged me without a word upon his
shoulders, and carried me down to the great gate, where the cart
was waiting. In the moonlight the hills stood out sharply, as if
they were of cardboard; on the glimmering surface of the plateau,
and from among the low trees which swung together and sparkled in
the wind, the great black cube of the residencia stood out bulkily,
its mass only broken by three dimly lighted windows in the northern
front above the gate. They were Olalla's windows, and as the cart
jolted onwards I kept my eyes fixed upon them till, where the road
dipped into a valley, they were lost to my view forever. Felipe
walked in silence beside the shafts, but from time to time he would
cheek the mule and seem to look back upon me; and at length drew
quite near and laid his hand upon my head. There was such kindness
in the touch, and such a simplicity, as of the brutes, that tears
broke from me like the bursting of an artery.

'Felipe,' I said, 'take me where they will ask no questions.'

He said never a word, but he turned his mule about, end for end,
retraced some part of the way we had gone, and, striking into
another path, led me to the mountain village, which was, as we say
in Scotland, the kirkton of that thinly peopled district. Some
broken memories dwell in my mind of the day breaking over the
plain, of the cart stopping, of arms that helped me down, of a bare
room into which I was carried, and of a swoon that fell upon me
like sleep.

The next day and the days following the old priest was often at my
side with his snuff-box and prayer book, and after a while, when I
began to pick up strength, he told me that I was now on a fair way
to recovery, and must as soon as possible hurry my departure;
whereupon, without naming any reason, he took snuff and looked at
me sideways. I did not affect ignorance; I knew he must have seen
Olalla. 'Sir,' said I, 'you know that I do not ask in wantonness.
What of that family?'

He said they were very unfortunate; that it seemed a declining
race, and that they were very poor and had been much neglected.

'But she has not,' I said. 'Thanks, doubtless, to yourself, she is
instructed and wise beyond the use of women.'

'Yes,' he said; 'the Senorita is well-informed. But the family has
been neglected.'

'The mother?' I queried.

'Yes, the mother too,' said the Padre, taking snuff. 'But Felipe
is a well-intentioned lad.'

'The mother is odd?' I asked.

'Very odd,' replied the priest.

'I think, sir, we beat about the bush,' said I. 'You must know
more of my affairs than you allow. You must know my curiosity to
be justified on many grounds. Will you not be frank with me?'

'My son,' said the old gentleman, 'I will be very frank with you on
matters within my competence; on those of which I know nothing it
does not require much discretion to be silent. I will not fence
with you, I take your meaning perfectly; and what can I say, but
that we are all in God's hands, and that His ways are not as our
ways? I have even advised with my superiors in the church, but
they, too, were dumb. It is a great mystery.'

'Is she mad?' I asked.

'I will answer you according to my belief. She is not,' returned
the Padre, 'or she was not. When she was young - God help me, I
fear I neglected that wild lamb - she was surely sane; and yet,
although it did not run to such heights, the same strain was
already notable; it had been so before her in her father, ay, and
before him, and this inclined me, perhaps, to think too lightly of
it. But these things go on growing, not only in the individual but
in the race.'

'When she was young,' I began, and my voice failed me for a moment,
and it was only with a great effort that I was able to add, 'was
she like Olalla?'

'Now God forbid!' exclaimed the Padre. 'God forbid that any man
should think so slightingly of my favourite penitent. No, no; the
Senorita (but for her beauty, which I wish most honestly she had
less of) has not a hair's resemblance to what her mother was at the
same age. I could not bear to have you think so; though, Heaven
knows, it were, perhaps, better that you should.'

At this, I raised myself in bed, and opened my heart to the old
man; telling him of our love and of her decision, owning my own
horrors, my own passing fancies, but telling him that these were at
an end; and with something more than a purely formal submission,
appealing to his judgment.

He heard me very patiently and without surprise; and when I had
done, he sat for some time silent. Then he began: 'The church,'
and instantly broke off again to apologise. 'I had forgotten, my
child, that you were not a Christian,' said he. 'And indeed, upon
a point so highly unusual, even the church can scarce be said to
have decided. But would you have my opinion? The Senorita is, in
a matter of this kind, the best judge; I would accept her

On the back of that he went away, nor was he thenceforward so
assiduous in his visits; indeed, even when I began to get about
again, he plainly feared and deprecated my society, not as in
distaste but much as a man might be disposed to flee from the
riddling sphynx. The villagers, too, avoided me; they were
unwilling to be my guides upon the mountain. I thought they looked
at me askance, and I made sure that the more superstitious crossed
themselves on my approach. At first I set this down to my
heretical opinions; but it began at length to dawn upon me that if
I was thus redoubted it was because I had stayed at the residencia.
All men despise the savage notions of such peasantry; and yet I was
conscious of a chill shadow that seemed to fall and dwell upon my
love. It did not conquer, but I may not deify that it restrained
my ardour.

Some miles westward of the village there was a gap in the sierra,
from which the eye plunged direct upon the residencia; and thither
it became my daily habit to repair. A wood crowned the summit; and
just where the pathway issued from its fringes, it was overhung by
a considerable shelf of rock, and that, in its turn, was surmounted
by a crucifix of the size of life and more than usually painful in
design. This was my perch; thence, day after day, I looked down
upon the plateau, and the great old house, and could see Felipe, no
bigger than a fly, going to and fro about the garden. Sometimes
mists would draw across the view, and be broken up again by
mountain winds; sometimes the plain slumbered below me in unbroken
sunshine; it would sometimes be all blotted out by rain. This
distant post, these interrupted sights of the place where my life
had been so strangely changed, suited the indecision of my humour.
I passed whole days there, debating with myself the various
elements of our position; now leaning to the suggestions of love,
now giving an ear to prudence, and in the end halting irresolute
between the two.

One day, as I was sitting on my rock, there came by that way a
somewhat gaunt peasant wrapped in a mantle. He was a stranger, and
plainly did not know me even by repute; for, instead of keeping the
other side, he drew near and sat down beside me, and we had soon
fallen in talk. Among other things he told me he had been a
muleteer, and in former years had much frequented these mountains;
later on, he had followed the army with his mules, had realised a
competence, and was now living retired with his family.

'Do you know that house?' I inquired, at last, pointing to the
residencia, for I readily wearied of any talk that kept me from the
thought of Olalla.

He looked at me darkly and crossed himself.

'Too well,' he said, 'it was there that one of my comrades sold
himself to Satan; the Virgin shield us from temptations! He has
paid the price; he is now burning in the reddest place in Hell!'

A fear came upon me; I could answer nothing; and presently the man
resumed, as if to himself: 'Yes,' he said, 'O yes, I know it. I
have passed its doors. There was snow upon the pass, the wind was
driving it; sure enough there was death that night upon the
mountains, but there was worse beside the hearth. I took him by
the arm, Senor, and dragged him to the gate; I conjured him, by all
he loved and respected, to go forth with me; I went on my knees
before him in the snow; and I could see he was moved by my
entreaty. And just then she came out on the gallery, and called
him by his name; and he turned, and there was she standing with a
lamp in her hand and smiling on him to come back. I cried out
aloud to God, and threw my arms about him, but he put me by, and
left me alone. He had made his choice; God help us. I would pray
for him, but to what end? there are sins that not even the Pope can

'And your friend,' I asked, 'what became of him?'

'Nay, God knows,' said the muleteer. 'If all be true that we hear,
his end was like his sin, a thing to raise the hair.'

'Do you mean that he was killed?' I asked.

'Sure enough, he was killed,' returned the man. 'But how? Ay,
how? But these are things that it is sin to speak of.'

'The people of that house . . . ' I began.

But he interrupted me with a savage outburst. 'The people?' he
cried. 'What people? There are neither men nor women in that
house of Satan's! What? have you lived here so long, and never
heard?' And here he put his mouth to my ear and whispered, as if
even the fowls of the mountain might have over-heard and been
stricken with horror.

What he told me was not true, nor was it even original; being,
indeed, but a new edition, vamped up again by village ignorance and
superstition, of stories nearly as ancient as the race of man. It
was rather the application that appalled me. In the old days, he
said, the church would have burned out that nest of basilisks; but
the arm of the church was now shortened; his friend Miguel had been
unpunished by the hands of men, and left to the more awful judgment
of an offended God. This was wrong; but it should be so no more.
The Padre was sunk in age; he was even bewitched himself; but the
eyes of his flock were now awake to their own danger; and some day
- ay, and before long - the smoke of that house should go up to

He left me filled with horror and fear. Which way to turn I knew
not; whether first to warn the Padre, or to carry my ill-news
direct to the threatened inhabitants of the residencia. Fate was
to decide for me; for, while I was still hesitating, I beheld the
veiled figure of a woman drawing near to me up the pathway. No
veil could deceive my penetration; by every line and every movement
I recognised Olalla; and keeping hidden behind a corner of the
rock, I suffered her to gain the summit. Then I came forward. She
knew me and paused, but did not speak; I, too, remained silent; and
we continued for some time to gaze upon each other with a
passionate sadness.

'I thought you had gone,' she said at length. 'It is all that you
can do for me - to go. It is all I ever asked of you. And you
still stay. But do you know, that every day heaps up the peril of
death, not only on your head, but on ours? A report has gone about
the mountain; it is thought you love me, and the people will not
suffer it.'

I saw she was already informed of her danger, and I rejoiced at it.
'Olalla,' I said, 'I am ready to go this day, this very hour, but
not alone.'

She stepped aside and knelt down before the crucifix to pray, and I
stood by and looked now at her and now at the object of her
adoration, now at the living figure of the penitent, and now at the
ghastly, daubed countenance, the painted wounds, and the projected
ribs of the image. The silence was only broken by the wailing of
some large birds that circled sidelong, as if in surprise or alarm,
about the summit of the hills. Presently Olalla rose again, turned
towards me, raised her veil, and, still leaning with one hand on
the shaft of the crucifix, looked upon me with a pale and sorrowful

'I have laid my hand upon the cross,' she said. 'The Padre says
you are no Christian; but look up for a moment with my eyes, and
behold the face of the Man of Sorrows. We are all such as He was -
the inheritors of sin; we must all bear and expiate a past which
was not ours; there is in all of us - ay, even in me - a sparkle of
the divine. Like Him, we must endure for a little while, until
morning returns bringing peace. Suffer me to pass on upon my way
alone; it is thus that I shall be least lonely, counting for my
friend Him who is the friend of all the distressed; it is thus that
I shall be the most happy, having taken my farewell of earthly
happiness, and willingly accepted sorrow for my portion.'

I looked at the face of the crucifix, and, though I was no friend
to images, and despised that imitative and grimacing art of which
it was a rude example, some sense of what the thing implied was
carried home to my intelligence. The face looked down upon me with
a painful and deadly contraction; but the rays of a glory encircled
it, and reminded me that the sacrifice was voluntary. It stood
there, crowning the rock, as it still stands on so many highway
sides, vainly preaching to passers-by, an emblem of sad and noble
truths; that pleasure is not an end, but an accident; that pain is
the choice of the magnanimous; that it is best to suffer all things
and do well. I turned and went down the mountain in silence; and
when I looked back for the last time before the wood closed about
my path, I saw Olalla still leaning on the crucifix.



They had sent for the doctor from Bourron before six. About eight
some villagers came round for the performance, and were told how
matters stood. It seemed a liberty for a mountebank to fall ill
like real people, and they made off again in dudgeon. By ten
Madame Tentaillon was gravely alarmed, and had sent down the street
for Doctor Desprez.

The Doctor was at work over his manuscripts in one corner of the
little dining-room, and his wife was asleep over the fire in
another, when the messenger arrived.

'Sapristi!' said the Doctor, 'you should have sent for me before.
It was a case for hurry.' And he followed the messenger as he was,
in his slippers and skull-cap.

The inn was not thirty yards away, but the messenger did not stop
there; he went in at one door and out by another into the court,
and then led the way by a flight of steps beside the stable, to the
loft where the mountebank lay sick. If Doctor Desprez were to live
a thousand years, he would never forget his arrival in that room;
for not only was the scene picturesque, but the moment made a date
in his existence. We reckon our lives, I hardly know why, from the
date of our first sorry appearance in society, as if from a first
humiliation; for no actor can come upon the stage with a worse
grace. Not to go further back, which would be judged too curious,
there are subsequently many moving and decisive accidents in the
lives of all, which would make as logical a period as this of
birth. And here, for instance, Doctor Desprez, a man past forty,
who had made what is called a failure in life, and was moreover
married, found himself at a new point of departure when he opened
the door of the loft above Tentaillon's stable,

It was a large place, lighted only by a single candle set upon the
floor. The mountebank lay on his back upon a pallet; a large man,
with a Quixotic nose inflamed with drinking. Madame Tentaillon
stooped over him, applying a hot water and mustard embrocation to
his feet; and on a chair close by sat a little fellow of eleven or
twelve, with his feet dangling. These three were the only
occupants, except the shadows. But the shadows were a company in
themselves; the extent of the room exaggerated them to a gigantic
size, and from the low position of the candle the light struck
upwards and produced deformed foreshortenings. The mountebank's
profile was enlarged upon the wall in caricature, and it was
strange to see his nose shorten and lengthen as the flame was blown
about by draughts. As for Madame Tentaillon, her shadow was no
more than a gross hump of shoulders, with now and again a
hemisphere of head. The chair legs were spindled out as long as
stilts, and the boy set perched atop of them, like a cloud, in the
corner of the roof.

It was the boy who took the Doctor's fancy. He had a great arched
skull, the forehead and the hands of a musician, and a pair of
haunting eyes. It was not merely that these eyes were large, or
steady, or the softest ruddy brown. There was a look in them,
besides, which thrilled the Doctor, and made him half uneasy. He
was sure he had seen such a look before, and yet he could not
remember how or where. It was as if this boy, who was quite a
stranger to him, had the eyes of an old friend or an old enemy.
And the boy would give him no peace; he seemed profoundly
indifferent to what was going on, or rather abstracted from it in a
superior contemplation, beating gently with his feet against the
bars of the chair, and holding his hands folded on his lap. But,
for all that, his eyes kept following the Doctor about the room
with a thoughtful fixity of gaze. Desprez could not tell whether
he was fascinating the boy, or the boy was fascinating him. He
busied himself over the sick man: he put questions, he felt the
pulse, he jested, he grew a little hot and swore: and still,
whenever he looked round, there were the brown eyes waiting for his
with the same inquiring, melancholy gaze.

At last the Doctor hit on the solution at a leap. He remembered
the look now. The little fellow, although he was as straight as a
dart, had the eyes that go usually with a crooked back; he was not
at all deformed, and yet a deformed person seemed to be looking at
you from below his brows. The Doctor drew a long breath, he was so
much relieved to find a theory (for he loved theories) and to
explain away his interest.

For all that, he despatched the invalid with unusual haste, and,
still kneeling with one knee on the floor, turned a little round
and looked the boy over at his leisure. The boy was not in the
least put out, but looked placidly back at the Doctor.

'Is this your father?' asked Desprez.

'Oh, no,' returned the boy; 'my master.'

'Are you fond of him?' continued the Doctor.

'No, sir,' said the boy.

Madame Tentaillon and Desprez exchanged expressive glances.

'That is bad, my man,' resumed the latter, with a shade of
sternness. 'Every one should be fond of the dying, or conceal
their sentiments; and your master here is dying. If I have watched
a bird a little while stealing my cherries, I have a thought of
disappointment when he flies away over my garden wall, and I see
him steer for the forest and vanish. How much more a creature such
as this, so strong, so astute, so richly endowed with faculties!
When I think that, in a few hours, the speech will be silenced, the
breath extinct, and even the shadow vanished from the wall, I who
never saw him, this lady who knew him only as a guest, are touched
with some affection.'

The boy was silent for a little, and appeared to be reflecting.

'You did not know him,' he replied at last, 'he was a bad man.'

'He is a little pagan,' said the landlady. 'For that matter, they
are all the same, these mountebanks, tumblers, artists, and what
not. They have no interior.'

But the Doctor was still scrutinising the little pagan, his
eyebrows knotted and uplifted.

'What is your name?' he asked.

'Jean-Marie,' said the lad.

Desprez leaped upon him with one of his sudden flashes of
excitement, and felt his head all over from an ethnological point
of view.

'Celtic, Celtic!' he said.

'Celtic!' cried Madame Tentaillon, who had perhaps confounded the
word with hydrocephalous. 'Poor lad! is it dangerous?'

'That depends,' returned the Doctor grimly. And then once more
addressing the boy: 'And what do you do for your living, Jean-
Marie?' he inquired.

'I tumble,' was the answer.

'So! Tumble?' repeated Desprez. 'Probably healthful. I hazard
the guess, Madame Tentaillon, that tumbling is a healthful way of
life. And have you never done anything else but tumble?'

'Before I learned that, I used to steal,' answered Jean-Marie

'Upon my word!' cried the doctor. 'You are a nice little man for
your age. Madame, when my CONFRERE comes from Bourron, you will
communicate my unfavourable opinion. I leave the case in his
hands; but of course, on any alarming symptom, above all if there
should be a sign of rally, do not hesitate to knock me up. I am a
doctor no longer, I thank God; but I have been one. Good night,
madame. Good sleep to you, Jean-Marie.'


DOCTOR DESPREZ always rose early. Before the smoke arose, before
the first cart rattled over the bridge to the day's labour in the
fields, he was to be found wandering in his garden. Now he would
pick a bunch of grapes; now he would eat a big pear under the
trellice; now he would draw all sorts of fancies on the path with
the end of his cane; now he would go down and watch the river
running endlessly past the timber landing-place at which he moored
his boat. There was no time, he used to say, for making theories
like the early morning. 'I rise earlier than any one else in the
village,' he once boasted. 'It is a fair consequence that I know
more and wish to do less with my knowledge.'

The Doctor was a connoisseur of sunrises, and loved a good
theatrical effect to usher in the day. He had a theory of dew, by
which he could predict the weather. Indeed, most things served him
to that end: the sound of the bells from all the neighbouring
villages, the smell of the forest, the visits and the behaviour of
both birds and fishes, the look of the plants in his garden, the
disposition of cloud, the colour of the light, and last, although
not least, the arsenal of meteorological instruments in a louvre-
boarded hutch upon the lawn. Ever since he had settled at Gretz,
he had been growing more and more into the local meteorologist, the
unpaid champion of the local climate. He thought at first there
was no place so healthful in the arrondissement. By the end of the
second year, he protested there was none so wholesome in the whole
department. And for some time before he met Jean-Marie he had been
prepared to challenge all France and the better part of Europe for
a rival to his chosen spot.

'Doctor,' he would say - 'doctor is a foul word. It should not be
used to ladies. It implies disease. I remark it, as a flaw in our
civilisation, that we have not the proper horror of disease. Now
I, for my part, have washed my hands of it; I have renounced my
laureation; I am no doctor; I am only a worshipper of the true
goddess Hygieia. Ah, believe me, it is she who has the cestus!
And here, in this exiguous hamlet, has she placed her shrine: here
she dwells and lavishes her gifts; here I walk with her in the
early morning, and she shows me how strong she has made the
peasants, how fruitful she has made the fields, how the trees grow
up tall and comely under her eyes, and the fishes in the river
become clean and agile at her presence. - Rheumatism!' he would
cry, on some malapert interruption, 'O, yes, I believe we do have a
little rheumatism. That could hardly be avoided, you know, on a
river. And of course the place stands a little low; and the
meadows are marshy, there's no doubt. But, my dear sir, look at
Bourron! Bourron stands high. Bourron is close to the forest;
plenty of ozone there, you would say. Well, compared with Gretz,
Bourron is a perfect shambles.'

The morning after he had been summoned to the dying mountebank, the
Doctor visited the wharf at the tail of his garden, and had a long
look at the running water. This he called prayer; but whether his
adorations were addressed to the goddess Hygieia or some more
orthodox deity, never plainly appeared. For he had uttered
doubtful oracles, sometimes declaring that a river was the type of
bodily health, sometimes extolling it as the great moral preacher,
continually preaching peace, continuity, and diligence to man's
tormented spirits. After he had watched a mile or so of the clear
water running by before his eyes, seen a fish or two come to the
surface with a gleam of silver, and sufficiently admired the long
shadows of the trees falling half across the river from the
opposite bank, with patches of moving sunlight in between, he
strolled once more up the garden and through his house into the
street, feeling cool and renovated.

The sound of his feet upon the causeway began the business of the
day; for the village was still sound asleep. The church tower
looked very airy in the sunlight; a few birds that turned about it,
seemed to swim in an atmosphere of more than usual rarity; and the
Doctor, walking in long transparent shadows, filled his lungs
amply, and proclaimed himself well contented with the morning.

On one of the posts before Tentaillon's carriage entry he espied a
little dark figure perched in a meditative attitude, and
immediately recognised Jean-Marie.

'Aha!' he said, stopping before him humorously, with a hand on
either knee. 'So we rise early in the morning, do we? It appears
to me that we have all the vices of a philosopher.'

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