Part 2 out of 5
assumed a threatening attitude, which was instantly quelled by a
few words shouted by my escort. A buzz of wonder succeeded the
war-cries and yells of the moment before, and the whole dense mass
proceeded down the broad central street of the town, having my
escort and myself in the centre.
My statement hitherto may seem so strange as to excite doubt in the
minds of those who do not know me, but it was the fact which I am
now about to relate which caused my own brother-in-law to insult me
by disbelief. I can but relate the occurrence in the simplest
words, and trust to chance and time to prove their truth. In the
centre of this main street there was a large building, formed in
the same primitive way as the others, but towering high above them;
a stockade of beautifully polished ebony rails was planted all
round it, the framework of the door was formed by two magnificent
elephant's tusks sunk in the ground on each side and meeting at the
top, and the aperture was closed by a screen of native cloth
richly embroidered with gold. We made our way to this imposing-
looking structure, but, on reaching the opening in the stockade,
the multitude stopped and squatted down upon their hams, while I
was led through into the enclosure by a few of the chiefs and
elders of the tribe, Goring accompanying us, and in fact directing
the proceedings. On reaching the screen which closed the temple--
for such it evidently was--my hat and my shoes were removed, and I
was then led in, a venerable old negro leading the way carrying in
his hand my stone, which had been taken from my pocket. The
building was only lit up by a few long slits in the roof, through
which the tropical sun poured, throwing broad golden bars upon the
clay floor, alternating with intervals of darkness.
The interior was even larger than one would have imagined from the
outside appearance. The walls were hung with native mats, shells,
and other ornaments, but the remainder of the great space was quite
empty, with the exception of a single object in the centre. This
was the figure of a colossal negro, which I at first thought to be
some real king or high priest of titanic size, but as I approached
it I saw by the way in which the light was reflected from it that
it was a statue admirably cut in jet-black stone. I was led up to
this idol, for such it seemed to be, and looking at it closer I saw
that though it was perfect in every other respect, one of its ears
had been broken short off. The grey-haired negro who held my relic
mounted upon a small stool, and stretching up his arm fitted
Martha's black stone on to the jagged surface on the side of the
statue's head. There could not be a doubt that the one had been
broken off from the other. The parts dovetailed together so
accurately that when the old man removed his hand the ear stuck in
its place for a few seconds before dropping into his open palm.
The group round me prostrated themselves upon the ground at the
sight with a cry of reverence, while the crowd outside, to whom the
result was communicated, set up a wild whooping and cheering.
In a moment I found myself converted from a prisoner into a demi-
god. I was escorted back through the town in triumph, the people
pressing forward to touch my clothing and to gather up the dust on
which my foot had trod. One of the largest huts was put at my
disposal, and a banquet of every native delicacy was served me. I
still felt, however, that I was not a free man, as several spearmen
were placed as a guard at the entrance of my hut. All day my mind
was occupied with plans of escape, but none seemed in any way
feasible. On the one side was the great arid desert stretching
away to Timbuctoo, on the other was a sea untraversed by vessels.
The more I pondered over the problem the more hopeless did it seem.
I little dreamed how near I was to its solution.
Night had fallen, and the clamour of the negroes had died gradually
away. I was stretched on the couch of skins which had been
provided for me, and was still meditating over my future, when
Goring walked stealthily into the hut. My first idea was that
he had come to complete his murderous holocaust by making away with
me, the last survivor, and I sprang up upon my feet, determined to
defend myself to the last. He smiled when he saw the action, and
motioned me down again while he seated himself upon the other end
of the couch.
"What do you think of me?" was the astonishing question with which
he commenced our conversation.
"Think of you!" I almost yelled. "I think you the vilest, most
unnatural renegade that ever polluted the earth. If we were away
from these black devils of yours I would strangle you with my
"Don't speak so loud," he said, without the slightest appearance of
irritation. "I don't want our chat to be cut short. So you would
strangle me, would you!" he went on, with an amused smile. "I
suppose I am returning good for evil, for I have come to help you
"You!" I gasped incredulously.
"Yes, I," he continued.
"Oh, there is no credit to me in the matter. I am quite
consistent. There is no reason why I should not be perfectly
candid with you. I wish to be king over these fellows--not a very
high ambition, certainly, but you know what Caesar said about being
first in a village in Gaul. Well, this unlucky stone of yours has
not only saved your life, but has turned all their heads so that
they think you are come down from heaven, and my influence will be
gone until you are out of the way. That is why I am going to help
you to escape, since I cannot kill you"--this in the most
natural and dulcet voice, as if the desire to do so were a matter
"You would give the world to ask me a few questions," he went on,
after a pause; "but you are too proud to do it. Never mind, I'll
tell you one or two things, because I want your fellow white men to
know them when you go back--if you are lucky enough to get back.
About that cursed stone of yours, for instance. These negroes, or
at least so the legend goes, were Mahometans originally. While
Mahomet himself was still alive, there was a schism among his
followers, and the smaller party moved away from Arabia, and
eventually crossed Africa. They took away with them, in their
exile, a valuable relic of their old faith in the shape of a large
piece of the black stone of Mecca. The stone was a meteoric one,
as you may have heard, and in its fall upon the earth it broke into
two pieces. One of these pieces is still at Mecca. The larger
piece was carried away to Barbary, where a skilful worker modelled
it into the fashion which you saw to-day. These men are the
descendants of the original seceders from Mahomet, and they have
brought their relic safely through all their wanderings until they
settled in this strange place, where the desert protects them from
"And the ear?" I asked, almost involuntarily.
"Oh, that was the same story over again. Some of the tribe
wandered away to the south a few hundred years ago, and one of
them, wishing to have good luck for the enterprise, got into the
temple at night and carried off one of the ears. There has
been a tradition among the negroes ever since that the ear would
come back some day. The fellow who carried it was caught by some
slaver, no doubt, and that was how it got into America, and so into
your hands--and you have had the honour of fulfilling the
He paused for a few minutes, resting his head upon his hands,
waiting apparently for me to speak. When he looked up again, the
whole expression of his face had changed. His features were firm
and set, and he changed the air of half levity with which he had
spoken before for one of sternness and almost ferocity.
"I wish you to carry a message back," he said, "to the white race,
the great dominating race whom I hate and defy. Tell them that I
have battened on their blood for twenty years, that I have slain
them until even I became tired of what had once been a joy, that I
did this unnoticed and unsuspected in the face of every precaution
which their civilisation could suggest. There is no satisfaction
in revenge when your enemy does not know who has struck him. I am
not sorry, therefore, to have you as a messenger. There is no need
why I should tell you how this great hate became born in me. See
this," and he held up his mutilated hand; "that was done by a white
man's knife. My father was white, my mother was a slave. When he
died she was sold again, and I, a child then, saw her lashed to
death to break her of some of the little airs and graces which her
late master had encouraged in her. My young wife, too, oh, my
young wife!" a shudder ran through his whole frame. "No
matter! I swore my oath, and I kept it. From Maine to Florida,
and from Boston to San Francisco, you could track my steps by
sudden deaths which baffled the police. I warred against the whole
white race as they for centuries had warred against the black one.
At last, as I tell you, I sickened of blood. Still, the sight of
a white face was abhorrent to me, and I determined to find some
bold free black people and to throw in my lot with them, to
cultivate their latent powers, and to form a nucleus for a great
coloured nation. This idea possessed me, and I travelled over the
world for two years seeking for what I desired. At last I almost
despaired of finding it. There was no hope of regeneration in the
slave-dealing Soudanese, the debased Fantee, or the Americanised
negroes of Liberia. I was returning from my quest when chance
brought me in contact with this magnificent tribe of dwellers in
the desert, and I threw in my lot with them. Before doing so,
however, my old instinct of revenge prompted me to make one last
visit to the United States, and I returned from it in the Marie
"As to the voyage itself, your intelligence will have told you by
this time that, thanks to my manipulation, both compasses and
chronometers were entirely untrustworthy. I alone worked out the
course with correct instruments of my own, while the steering was
done by my black friends under my guidance. I pushed Tibbs's wife
overboard. What! You look surprised and shrink away. Surely you
had guessed that by this time. I would have shot you that day
through the partition, but unfortunately you were not there. I
tried again afterwards, but you were awake. I shot Tibbs. I think
the idea of suicide was carried out rather neatly. Of course when
once we got on the coast the rest was simple. I had bargained that
all on board should die; but that stone of yours upset my plans.
I also bargained that there should be no plunder. No one can say
we are pirates. We have acted from principle, not from any sordid
I listened in amazement to the summary of his crimes which this
strange man gave me, all in the quietest and most composed of
voices, as though detailing incidents of every-day occurrence. I
still seem to see him sitting like a hideous nightmare at the end
of my couch, with the single rude lamp flickering over his
"And now," he continued, "there is no difficulty about your escape.
These stupid adopted children of mine will say that you have gone
back to heaven from whence you came. The wind blows off the land.
I have a boat all ready for you, well stored with provisions and
water. I am anxious to be rid of you, so you may rely that nothing
is neglected. Rise up and follow me."
I did what he commanded, and he led me through the door of the hut.
The guards had either been withdrawn, or Goring had arranged
matters with them. We passed unchallenged through the town and
across the sandy plain. Once more I heard the roar of the sea,
and saw the long white line of the surge. Two figures were
standing upon the shore arranging the gear of a small boat. They
were the two sailors who had been with us on the voyage.
"See him safely through the surf," said Goring. The two men sprang
in and pushed off, pulling me in after them. With mainsail and jib
we ran out from the land and passed safely over the bar. Then my
two companions without a word of farewell sprang overboard, and I
saw their heads like black dots on the white foam as they made
their way back to the shore, while I scudded away into the
blackness of the night. Looking back I caught my last glimpse of
Goring. He was standing upon the summit of a sand-hill, and the
rising moon behind him threw his gaunt angular figure into hard
relief. He was waving his arms frantically to and fro; it may have
been to encourage me on my way, but the gestures seemed to me at
the time to be threatening ones, and I have often thought that it
was more likely that his old savage instinct had returned when he
realised that I was out of his power. Be that as it may, it was
the last that I ever saw or ever shall see of Septimius Goring.
There is no need for me to dwell upon my solitary voyage. I
steered as well as I could for the Canaries, but was picked up upon
the fifth day by the British and African Steam Navigation Company's
boat Monrovia. Let me take this opportunity of tendering my
sincerest thanks to Captain Stornoway and his officers for the
great kindness which they showed me from that time till they
landed me in Liverpool, where I was enabled to take one of the
Guion boats to New York.
From the day on which I found myself once more in the bosom of my
family I have said little of what I have undergone. The subject is
still an intensely painful one to me, and the little which I have
dropped has been discredited. I now put the facts before the
public as they occurred, careless how far they may be believed, and
simply writing them down because my lung is growing weaker, and I
feel the responsibility of holding my peace longer. I make no
vague statement. Turn to your map of Africa. There above Cape
Blanco, where the land trends away north and south from the
westernmost point of the continent, there it is that Septimius
Goring still reigns over his dark subjects, unless retribution has
overtaken him; and there, where the long green ridges run swiftly
in to roar and hiss upon the hot yellow sand, it is there that
Harton lies with Hyson and the other poor fellows who were done to
death in the Marie Celeste.
THE GREAT KEINPLATZ EXPERIMENT.
Of all the sciences which have puzzled the sons of men, none had
such an attraction for the learned Professor von Baumgarten as
those which relate to psychology and the ill-defined relations
between mind and matter. A celebrated anatomist, a profound
chemist, and one of the first physiologists in Europe, it was a
relief for him to turn from these subjects and to bring his varied
knowledge to bear upon the study of the soul and the mysterious
relationship of spirits. At first, when as a young man he began to
dip into the secrets of mesmerism, his mind seemed to be wandering
in a strange land where all was chaos and darkness, save that here
and there some great unexplainable and disconnected fact loomed out
in front of him. As the years passed, however, and as the worthy
Professor's stock of knowledge increased, for knowledge begets
knowledge as money bears interest, much which had seemed strange
and unaccountable began to take another shape in his eyes. New
trains of reasoning became familiar to him, and he perceived
connecting links where all had been incomprehensible and startling.
By experiments which extended over twenty years, he obtained a
basis of facts upon which it was his ambition to build up a new
exact science which should embrace mesmerism, spiritualism,
and all cognate subjects. In this he was much helped by his
intimate knowledge of the more intricate parts of animal physiology
which treat of nerve currents and the working of the brain; for
Alexis von Baumgarten was Regius Professor of Physiology at the
University of Keinplatz, and had all the resources of the
laboratory to aid him in his profound researches.
Professor von Baumgarten was tall and thin, with a hatchet face and
steel-grey eyes, which were singularly bright and penetrating.
Much thought had furrowed his forehead and contracted his heavy
eyebrows, so that he appeared to wear a perpetual frown, which
often misled people as to his character, for though austere he was
tender-hearted. He was popular among the students, who would
gather round him after his lectures and listen eagerly to his
strange theories. Often he would call for volunteers from amongst
them in order to conduct some experiment, so that eventually there
was hardly a lad in the class who had not, at one time or another,
been thrown into a mesmeric trance by his Professor.
Of all these young devotees of science there was none who equalled
in enthusiasm Fritz von Hartmann. It had often seemed strange to
his fellow-students that wild, reckless Fritz, as dashing a young
fellow as ever hailed from the Rhinelands, should devote the time
and trouble which he did in reading up abstruse works and in
assisting the Professor in his strange experiments. The fact was,
however, that Fritz was a knowing and long-headed fellow.
Months before he had lost his heart to young Elise, the blue-eyed,
yellow-haired daughter of the lecturer. Although he had succeeded
in learning from her lips that she was not indifferent to his suit,
he had never dared to announce himself to her family as a formal
suitor. Hence he would have found it a difficult matter to see his
young lady had he not adopted the expedient of making himself
useful to the Professor. By this means he frequently was asked to
the old man's house, where he willingly submitted to be
experimented upon in any way as long as there was a chance of his
receiving one bright glance from the eyes of Elise or one touch of
her little hand.
Young Fritz von Hartmann was a handsome lad enough. There were
broad acres, too, which would descend to him when his father died.
To many he would have seemed an eligible suitor; but Madame frowned
upon his presence in the house, and lectured the Professor at times
on his allowing such a wolf to prowl around their lamb. To tell
the truth, Fritz had an evil name in Keinplatz. Never was there a
riot or a duel, or any other mischief afoot, but the young
Rhinelander figured as a ringleader in it. No one used more free
and violent language, no one drank more, no one played cards more
habitually, no one was more idle, save in the one solitary subject.
No wonder, then, that the good Frau Professorin gathered her
Fraulein under her wing, and resented the attentions of such a
mauvais sujet. As to the worthy lecturer, he was too much
engrossed by his strange studies to form an opinion upon the
subject one way or the other.
For many years there was one question which had continually
obtruded itself upon his thoughts. All his experiments and his
theories turned upon a single point. A hundred times a day the
Professor asked himself whether it was possible for the human
spirit to exist apart from the body for a time and then to return
to it once again. When the possibility first suggested itself to
him his scientific mind had revolted from it. It clashed too
violently with preconceived ideas and the prejudices of his early
training. Gradually, however, as he proceeded farther and farther
along the pathway of original research, his mind shook off its old
fetters and became ready to face any conclusion which could
reconcile the facts. There were many things which made him believe
that it was possible for mind to exist apart from matter. At last
it occurred to him that by a daring and original experiment the
question might be definitely decided.
"It is evident," he remarked in his celebrated article upon
invisible entities, which appeared in the Keinplatz wochenliche
Medicalschrift about this time, and which surprised the whole
scientific world--"it is evident that under certain conditions the
soul or mind does separate itself from the body. In the case of a
mesmerised person, the body lies in a cataleptic condition, but the
spirit has left it. Perhaps you reply that the soul is there, but
in a dormant condition. I answer that this is not so,
otherwise how can one account for the condition of clairvoyance,
which has fallen into disrepute through the knavery of certain
scoundrels, but which can easily be shown to be an undoubted fact.
I have been able myself, with a sensitive subject, to obtain an
accurate description of what was going on in another room or
another house. How can such knowledge be accounted for on any
hypothesis save that the soul of the subject has left the body and
is wandering through space? For a moment it is recalled by the
voice of the operator and says what it has seen, and then wings its
way once more through the air. Since the spirit is by its very
nature invisible, we cannot see these comings and goings, but we
see their effect in the body of the subject, now rigid and inert,
now struggling to narrate impressions which could never have come
to it by natural means. There is only one way which I can see by
which the fact can be demonstrated. Although we in the flesh are
unable to see these spirits, yet our own spirits, could we separate
them from the body, would be conscious of the presence of others.
It is my intention, therefore, shortly to mesmerise one of my
pupils. I shall then mesmerise myself in a manner which has become
easy to me. After that, if my theory holds good, my spirit will
have no difficulty in meeting and communing with the spirit of my
pupil, both being separated from the body. I hope to be able to
communicate the result of this interesting experiment in an early
number of the Keinplatz wochenliche Medicalschrilt."
When the good Professor finally fulfilled his promise, and
published an account of what occurred, the narrative was so
extraordinary that it was received with general incredulity. The
tone of some of the papers was so offensive in their comments upon
the matter that the angry savant declared that he would never open
his mouth again or refer to the subject in any way--a promise which
he has faithfully kept. This narrative has been compiled, however,
from the most authentic sources, and the events cited in it may be
relied upon as substantially correct.
It happened, then, that shortly after the time when Professor von
Baumgarten conceived the idea of the above-mentioned experiment, he
was walking thoughtfully homewards after a long day in the
laboratory, when he met a crowd of roystering students who had just
streamed out from a beer-house. At the head of them, half-
intoxicated and very noisy, was young Fritz von Hartmann. The
Professor would have passed them, but his pupil ran across and
"Heh! my worthy master," he said, taking the old man by the sleeve,
and leading him down the road with him. "There is something that
I have to say to you, and it is easier for me to say it now, when
the good beer is humming in my head, than at another time."
"What is it, then, Fritz?" the physiologist asked, looking at him
in mild surprise.
"I hear, mein herr, that you are about to do some wondrous
experiment in which you hope to take a man's soul out of his
body, and then to put it back again. Is it not so?"
"It is true, Fritz."
"And have you considered, my dear sir, that you may have some
difficulty in finding some one on whom to try this? Potztausend!
Suppose that the soul went out and would not come back. That would
be a bad business. Who is to take the risk?"
"But, Fritz," the Professor cried, very much startled by this view
of the matter, "I had relied upon your assistance in the attempt.
Surely you will not desert me. Consider the honour and glory."
"Consider the fiddlesticks!" the student cried angrily. "Am I to
be paid always thus? Did I not stand two hours upon a glass
insulator while you poured electricity into my body? Have you not
stimulated my phrenic nerves, besides ruining my digestion with a
galvanic current round my stomach? Four-and-thirty times you have
mesmerised me, and what have I got from all this? Nothing. And
now you wish to take my soul out, as you would take the works from
a watch. It is more than flesh and blood can stand."
"Dear, dear!" the Professor cried in great distress. "That is very
true, Fritz. I never thought of it before. If you can but suggest
how I can compensate you, you will find me ready and willing."
"Then listen," said Fritz solemnly. "If you will pledge your word
that after this experiment I may have the hand of your daughter,
then I am willing to assist you; but if not, I shall have
nothing to do with it. These are my only terms."
"And what would my daughter say to this?" the Professor exclaimed,
after a pause of astonishment.
"Elise would welcome it," the young man replied. "We have loved
each other long."
"Then she shall be yours," the physiologist said with decision,
"for you are a good-hearted young man, and one of the best neurotic
subjects that I have ever known--that is when you are not under the
influence of alcohol. My experiment is to be performed upon the
fourth of next month. You will attend at the physiological
laboratory at twelve o'clock. It will be a great occasion, Fritz.
Von Gruben is coming from Jena, and Hinterstein from Basle. The
chief men of science of all South Germany will be there.
"I shall be punctual," the student said briefly; and so the two
parted. The Professor plodded homeward, thinking of the great
coming event, while the young man staggered along after his noisy
companions, with his mind full of the blue-eyed Elise, and of the
bargain which he had concluded with her father.
The Professor did not exaggerate when he spoke of the widespread
interest excited by his novel psychophysiological experiment. Long
before the hour had arrived the room was filled by a galaxy of
talent. Besides the celebrities whom he had mentioned, there had
come from London the great Professor Lurcher, who had just
established his reputation by a remarkable treatise upon cerebral
centres. Several great lights of the Spiritualistic body had
also come a long distance to be present, as had a Swedenborgian
minister, who considered that the proceedings might throw some
light upon the doctrines of the Rosy Cross.
There was considerable applause from this eminent assembly upon the
appearance of Professor von Baumgarten and his subject upon the
platform. The lecturer, in a few well-chosen words, explained what
his views were, and how he proposed to test them. "I hold," he
said, "that when a person is under the influence of mesmerism, his
spirit is for the time released from his body, and I challenge any
one to put forward any other hypothesis which will account for the
fact of clairvoyance. I therefore hope that upon mesmerising my
young friend here, and then putting myself into a trance, our
spirits may be able to commune together, though our bodies lie
still and inert. After a time nature will resume her sway, our
spirits will return into our respective bodies, and all will be as
before. With your kind permission, we shall now proceed to attempt
The applause was renewed at this speech, and the audience settled
down in expectant silence. With a few rapid passes the Professor
mesmerised the young man, who sank back in his chair, pale and
rigid. He then took a bright globe of glass from his pocket, and
by concentrating his gaze upon it and making a strong mental
effort, he succeeded in throwing himself into the same condition.
It was a strange and impressive sight to see the old man and the
young sitting together in the same cataleptic condition.
Whither, then, had their souls fled? That was the question which
presented itself to each and every one of the spectators.
Five minutes passed, and then ten, and then fifteen, and then
fifteen more, while the Professor and his pupil sat stiff and stark
upon the platform. During that time not a sound was heard from the
assembled savants, but every eye was bent upon the two pale faces,
in search of the first signs of returning consciousness. Nearly an
hour had elapsed before the patient watchers were rewarded. A
faint flush came back to the cheeks of Professor von Baumgarten.
The soul was coming back once more to its earthly tenement.
Suddenly he stretched out his long thin arms, as one awaking from
sleep, and rubbing his eyes, stood up from his chair and gazed
about him as though he hardly realised where he was. "Tausend
Teufel!" he exclaimed, rapping out a tremendous South German oath,
to the great astonishment of his audience and to the disgust of the
Swedenborgian. "Where the Henker am I then, and what in thunder
has occurred? Oh yes, I remember now. One of these nonsensical
mesmeric experiments. There is no result this time, for I remember
nothing at all since I became unconscious; so you have had all your
long journeys for nothing, my learned friends, and a very good joke
too; "at which the Regius Professor of Physiology burst into a roar
of laughter and slapped his thigh in a highly indecorous fashion.
The audience were so enraged at this unseemly behaviour on the part
of their host, that there might have been a considerable
disturbance, had it not been for the judicious interference of
young Fritz von Hartmann, who had now recovered from his lethargy.
Stepping to the front of the platform, the young man apologised for
the conduct of his companion. "I am sorry to say," he said, "that
he is a harum-scarum sort of fellow, although he appeared so grave
at the commencement of this experiment. He is still suffering from
mesmeric reaction, and is hardly accountable for his words. As to
the experiment itself, I do not consider it to be a failure. It is
very possible that our spirits may have been communing in space
during this hour; but, unfortunately, our gross bodily memory is
distinct from our spirit, and we cannot recall what has occurred.
My energies shall now be devoted to devising some means by which
spirits may be able to recollect what occurs to them in their free
state, and I trust that when I have worked this out, I may have the
pleasure of meeting you all once again in this hall, and
demonstrating to you the result." This address, coming from so
young a student, caused considerable astonishment among the
audience, and some were inclined to be offended, thinking that he
assumed rather too much importance. The majority, however, looked
upon him as a young man of great promise, and many comparisons were
made as they left the hall between his dignified conduct and the
levity of his professor, who during the above remarks was laughing
heartily in a corner, by no means abashed at the failure of the
Now although all these learned men were filing out of the
lecture-room under the impression that they had seen nothing of
note, as a matter of fact one of the most wonderful things in the
whole history of the world had just occurred before their very eyes
Professor von Baumgarten had been so far correct in his theory that
both his spirit and that of his pupil had been for a time absent
from his body. But here a strange and unforeseen complication had
occurred. In their return the spirit of Fritz von Hartmann had
entered into the body of Alexis von Baumgarten, and that of Alexis
von Baumgarten had taken up its abode in the frame of Fritz von
Hartmann. Hence the slang and scurrility which issued from the
lips of the serious Professor, and hence also the weighty words and
grave statements which fell from the careless student. It was an
unprecedented event, yet no one knew of it, least of all those whom
The body of the Professor, feeling conscious suddenly of a great
dryness about the back of the throat, sallied out into the street,
still chuckling to himself over the result of the experiment, for
the soul of Fritz within was reckless at the thought of the bride
whom he had won so easily. His first impulse was to go up to the
house and see her, but on second thoughts he came to the conclusion
that it would be best to stay away until Madame Baumgarten should
be informed by her husband of the agreement which had been made.
He therefore made his way down to the Graner Mann, which was one of
the favourite trysting-places of the wilder students, and ran,
boisterously waving his cane in the air, into the little
parlour, where sat Spiegler and Muller and half a dozen other boon
"Ha, ha! my boys," he shouted. "I knew I should find you here.
Drink up, every one of you, and call for what you like, for I'm
going to stand treat to-day."
Had the green man who is depicted upon the signpost of that well-
known inn suddenly marched into the room and called for a bottle of
wine, the students could not have been more amazed than they were
by this unexpected entry of their revered professor. They were so
astonished that for a minute or two they glared at him in utter
bewilderment without being able to make any reply to his hearty
"Donner und Blitzen!" shouted the Professor angrily. "What the
deuce is the matter with you, then? You sit there like a set of
stuck pigs staring at me. What is it, then?"
"It is the unexpected honour," stammered Spiegel, who was in the
"Honour--rubbish!" said the Professor testily. "Do you think that
just because I happen to have been exhibiting mesmerism to a parcel
of old fossils, I am therefore too proud to associate with dear old
friends like you? Come out of that chair, Spiegel my boy, for I
shall preside now. Beer, or wine, or shnapps, my lads--call for
what you like, and put it all down to me."
Never was there such an afternoon in the Gruner Mann. The foaming
flagons of lager and the green-necked bottles of Rhenish circulated
merrily. By degrees the students lost their shyness in the
presence of their Professor. As for him, he shouted, he sang, he
roared, he balanced a long tobacco-pipe upon his nose, and offered
to run a hundred yards against any member of the company. The
Kellner and the barmaid whispered to each other outside the door
their astonishment at such proceedings on the part of a Regius
Professor of the ancient university of Kleinplatz. They had still
more to whisper about afterwards, for the learned man cracked the
Kellner's crown, and kissed the barmaid behind the kitchen door.
"Gentlemen," said the Professor, standing up, albeit somewhat
totteringly, at the end of the table, and balancing his high old-
fashioned wine glass in his bony hand, "I must now explain to you
what is the cause of this festivity."
"Hear! hear! " roared the students, hammering their beer glasses
against the table; "a speech, a speech!--silence for a speech!"
"The fact is, my friends," said the Professor, beaming through his
spectacles, "I hope very soon to be married."
"Married!" cried a student, bolder than the others "Is Madame dead,
"Why, Madame von Baumgarten, of course."
"Ha, ha!" laughed the Professor; "I can see, then, that you know
all about my former difficulties. No, she is not dead, but I have
reason to believe that she will not oppose my marriage."
"That is very accommodating of her," remarked one of the company.
"In fact," said the Professor, "I hope that she will now be induced
to aid me in getting a wife. She and I never took to each other
very much; but now I hope all that may be ended, and when I marry
she will come and stay with me."
"What a happy family!" exclaimed some wag.
"Yes, indeed; and I hope you will come to my wedding, all of you.
I won't mention names, but here is to my little bride!" and the
Professor waved his glass in the air.
"Here's to his little bride!" roared the roysterers, with shouts of
laughter. "Here's her health. Sie soll leben--Hoch!" And so the
fun waxed still more fast and furious, while each young fellow
followed the Professor's example, and drank a toast to the girl of
While all this festivity had been going on at the Graner Mann, a
very different scene had been enacted elsewhere. Young Fritz von
Hartmann, with a solemn face and a reserved manner, had, after the
experiment, consulted and adjusted some mathematical instruments;
after which, with a few peremptory words to the janitors, he had
walked out into the street and wended his way slowly in the
direction of the house of the Professor. As he walked he saw Von
Althaus, the professor of anatomy, in front of him, and quickening
his pace he overtook him.
"I say, Von Althaus," he exclaimed, tapping him on the sleeve, "you
were asking me for some information the other day concerning
the middle coat of the cerebral arteries. Now I find----"
"Donnerwetter!" shouted Von Althaus, who was a peppery old fellow.
"What the deuce do you mean by your impertinence! I'll have you up
before the Academical Senate for this, sir; "with which threat he
turned on his heel and hurried away. Von Hartmann was much
surprised at this reception. "It's on account of this failure of
my experiment," he said to himself, and continued moodily on his
Fresh surprises were in store for him, however. He was hurrying
along when he was overtaken by two students. These youths, instead
of raising their caps or showing any other sign of respect, gave a
wild whoop of deligilt the instant that they saw him, and rushing
at him, seized him by each arm and commenced dragging him along
"Gott in himmel!" roared Von Hartmann. "What is the meaning of
this unparalleled insult? Where are you taking me?"
"To crack a bottle of wine with us," said the two students. "Come
along! That is an invitation which you have never refused."
"I never heard of such insolence in my life!" cried Von Hartmann.
"Let go my arms! I shall certainly have you rusticated for this.
Let me go, I say!" and he kicked furiously at his captors.
"Oh, if you choose to turn ill-tempered, you may go where you
like," the students said, releasing him. "We can do very well
"I know you. I'll pay you out," said Von Hartmann furiously, and
continued in the direction which he imagined to be his own home,
much incensed at the two episodes which had occurred to him on the
Now, Madame von Baumgarten, who was looking out of the window and
wondering why her husband was late for dinner, was considerably
astonished to see the young student come stalking down the road.
As already remarked, she had a great antipathy to him, and if ever
he ventured into the house it was on sufferance, and under the
protection of the Professor. Still more astonished was she,
therefore, when she beheld him undo the wicket-gate and stride up
the garden path with the air of one who is master of the situation.
She could hardly believe her eyes, and hastened to the door with
all her maternal instincts up in arms. From the upper windows the
fair Elise had also observed this daring move upon the part of her
lover, and her heart beat quick with mingled pride and
"Good day, sir," Madame Baumgarten remarked to the intruder, as she
stood in gloomy majesty in the open doorway.
"A very fine day indeed, Martha," returned the other. "Now, don't
stand there like a statue of Juno, but bustle about and get the
dinner ready, for I am well-nigh starved."
"Martha! Dinner!" ejaculated the lady, falling back in
"Yes, dinner, Martha, dinner!" howled Von Hartmann, who was
becoming irritable. "Is there anything wonderful in that request
when a man has been out all day? I'll wait in the dining-room.
Anything will do. Schinken, and sausage, and prunes--any little
thing that happens to be about. There you are, standing staring
again. Woman, will you or will you not stir your legs?"
This last address, delivered with a perfect shriek of rage, had the
effect of sending good Madame Baumgarten flying along the passage
and through the kitchen, where she locked herself up in the
scullery and went into violent hysterics. In the meantime Von
Hartmann strode into the room and threw himself down upon the sofa
in the worst of tempers.
"Elise!" he shouted. "Confound the girl! Elise!"
Thus roughly summoned, the young lady came timidly downstairs and
into the presence of her lover. "Dearest!" she cried, throwing her
arms round him, "I know this is all done for my sake! It is a
RUSE in order to see me."
Von Hartmann's indignation at this fresh attack upon him was so
great that he became speechless for a minute from rage, and could
only glare and shake his fists, while he struggled in her embrace.
When he at last regained his utterance, he indulged in such a
bellow of passion that the young lady dropped back, petrified with
fear, into an armchair.
"Never have I passed such a day in my life," Von Hartmann cried,
stamping upon the floor. "My experiment has failed. Von Althaus
has insulted me. Two students have dragged me along the
public road. My wife nearly faints when I ask her for dinner, and
my daughter flies at me and hugs me like a grizzly bear."
"You are ill, dear," the young lady cried. "Your mind is
wandering. You have not even kissed me once."
"No, and I don't intend to either," Von Hartmann said with
decision. "You ought to be ashamed of yourself. Why don't you go
and fetch my slippers, and help your mother to dish the dinner?"
"And is it for this," Elise cried, burying her face in her
handkerchief--"is it for this that I have loved you passionately
for upwards of ten months? Is it for this that I have braved my
mother's wrath? Oh, you have broken my heart; I am sure you have!"
and she sobbed hysterically.
"I can't stand much more of this," roared Von Hartmann furiously.
"What the deuce does the girl mean? What did I do ten months ago
which inspired you with such a particular affection for me? If you
are really so very fond, you would do better to run away down and
find the schinken and some bread, instead of talking all this
"Oh, my darling!" cried the unhappy maiden, throwing herself into
the arms of what she imagined to be her lover, "you do but joke in
order to frighten your little Elise."
Now it chanced that at the moment of this unexpected embrace Von
Hartmann was still leaning back against the end of the sofa, which,
like much German furniture, was in a somewhat rickety
condition. It also chanced that beneath this end of the sofa there
stood a tank full of water in which the physiologist was conducting
certain experiments upon the ova of fish, and which he kept in his
drawing-room in order to insure an equable temperature. The
additional weight of the maiden, combined with the impetus with
which she hurled herself upon him, caused the precarious piece of
furniture to give way, and the body of the unfortunate student was
hurled backwards into the tank, in which his head and shoulders
were firmly wedged, while his lower extremities flapped helplessly
about in the air. This was the last straw. Extricating himself
with some difficulty from his unpleasant position, Von Hartmann
gave an inarticulate yell of fury, and dashing out of the room, in
spite of the entreaties of Elise, he seized his hat and rushed off
into the town, all dripping and dishevelled, with the intention of
seeking in some inn the food and comfort which he could not find at
As the spirit of Von Baumgarten encased in the body of Von Hartmann
strode down the winding pathway which led down to the little town,
brooding angrily over his many wrongs, he became aware that an
elderly man was approaching him who appeared to be in an advanced
state of intoxication. Von Hartmann waited by the side of the road
and watched this individual, who came stumbling along, reeling from
one side of the road to the other, and singing a student song in a
very husky and drunken voice. At first his interest was
merely excited by the fact of seeing a man of so venerable an
appearance in such a disgraceful condition, but as he approached
nearer, he became convinced that he knew the other well, though he
could not recall when or where he had met him. This impression
became so strong with him, that when the stranger came abreast of
him he stepped in front of him and took a good look at his
"Well, sonny," said the drunken man, surveying Von Hartmann and
swaying about in front of him, "where the Henker have I seen you
before? I know you as well as I know myself. Who the deuce are
"I am Professor von Baumgarten," said the student. "May I ask who
you are? I am strangely familiar with your features."
"You should never tell lies, young man," said the other. "You're
certainly not the Professor, for he is an ugly snuffy old chap, and
you are a big broad-shouldered young fellow. As to myself, I am
Fritz von Hartmann at your service."
"That you certainly are not," exclaimed the body of Von Hartmann.
"You might very well be his father. But hullo, sir, are you aware
that you are wearing my studs and my watch-chain?"
"Donnerwetter!" hiccoughed the other. " If those are not the
trousers for which my tailor is about to sue me, may I never taste
Now as Von Hartmann, overwhelmed by the many strange things which
had occurred to him that day, passed his hand over his
forehead and cast his eyes downwards, he chanced to catch the
reflection of his own face in a pool which the rain had left upon
the road. To his utter astonishment he perceived that his face was
that of a youth, that his dress was that of a fashionable young
student, and that in every way he was the antithesis of the grave
and scholarly figure in which his mind was wont to dwell. In an
instant his active brain ran over the series of events which had
occurred and sprang to the conclusion. He fairly reeled under the
"Himmel!" he cried, "I see it all. Our souls are in the wrong
bodies. I am you and you are I. My theory is proved--but at what
an expense! Is the most scholarly mind in Europe to go about with
this frivolous exterior? Oh the labours of a lifetime are ruined!"
and he smote his breast in his despair.
"I say," remarked the real Von Hartmann from the body of the
Professor, "I quite see the force of your remarks, but don't go
knocking my body about like that. You received it in excellent
condition, but I perceive that you have wet it and bruised it, and
spilled snuff over my ruffled shirt-front."
"It matters little," the other said moodily. "Such as we are so
must we stay. My theory is triumphantly proved, but the cost is
"If I thought so," said the spirit of the student, "it would be
hard indeed. What could I do with these stiff old limbs, and how
could I woo Elise and persuade her that I was not her father? No,
thank Heaven, in spite of the beer which has upset me more
than ever it could upset my real self, I can see a way out of it."
"How?" gasped the Professor.
"Why, by repeating the experiment. Liberate our souls once more,
and the chances are that they will find their way back into their
No drowning man could clutch more eagerly at a straw than did Von
Baumgarten's spirit at this suggestion. In feverish haste he
dragged his own frame to the side of the road and threw it into a
mesmeric trance; he then extracted the crystal ball from the
pocket, and managed to bring himself into the same condition.
Some students and peasants who chanced to pass during the next hour
were much astonished to see the worthy Professor of Physiology and
his favourite student both sitting upon a very muddy bank and both
completely insensible. Before the hour was up quite a crowd had
assembled, and they were discussing the advisability of sending for
an ambulance to convey the pair to hospital, when the learned
savant opened his eyes and gazed vacantly around him. For an
instant he seemed to forget how he had come there, but next moment
he astonished his audience by waving his skinny arms above his head
and crying out in a voice of rapture, "Gott sei gedanket! I am
myself again. I feel I am!" Nor was the amazement lessened when
the student, springing to his feet, burst into the same cry, and
the two performed a sort of pas de joie in the middle of the
For some time after that people had some suspicion of the sanity of
both the actors in this strange episode. When the Professor
published his experiences in the Medicalschrift as he had promised,
he was met by an intimation, even from his colleagues, that he
would do well to have his mind cared for, and that another such
publication would certainly consign him to a madhouse. The student
also found by experience that it was wisest to be silent about the
When the worthy lecturer returned home that night he did not
receive the cordial welcome which he might have looked for after
his strange adventures. On the contrary, he was roundly upbraided
by both his female relatives for smelling of drink and tobacco, and
also for being absent while a young scapegrace invaded the house
and insulted its occupants. It was long before the domestic
atmosphere of the lecturer's house resumed its normal quiet, and
longer still before the genial face of Von Hartmann was seen
beneath its roof. Perseverance, however, conquers every obstacle,
and the student eventually succeeded in pacifying the enraged
ladies and in establishing himself upon the old footing. He has
now no longer any cause to fear the enmity of Madame, for he is
Hauptmann von Hartmann of the Emperor's own Uhlans, and his loving
wife Elise has already presented him with two little Uhlans as a
visible sign and token of her affection.
THE MAN FROM ARCHANGEL.
On the fourth day of March, in the year 1867, being at that time in
my five-and-twentieth year, I wrote down the following words in my
note-book--the result of much mental perturbation and conflict:--
"The solar system, amidst a countless number of other systems as
large as itself, rolls ever silently through space in the direction
of the constellation of Hercules. The great spheres of which it is
composed spin and spin through the eternal void ceaselessly and
noiselessly. Of these one of the smallest and most insignificant
is that conglomeration of solid and of liquid particles which we
have named the earth. It whirls onwards now as it has done before
my birth, and will do after my death--a revolving mystery, coming
none know whence, and going none know whither. Upon the outer
crust of this moving mass crawl many mites, of whom I, John
M`Vittie, am one, helpless, impotent, being dragged aimlessly
through space. Yet such is the state of things amongst us that the
little energy and glimmering of reason which I possess is entirely
taken up with the labours which are necessary in order to procure
certain metallic disks, wherewith I may purchase the
chemical elements necessary to build up my ever-wasting tissues,
and keep a roof over me to shelter me from the inclemency of the
weather. I thus have no thought to expend upon the vital questions
which surround me on every side. Yet, miserable entity as I am, I
can still at times feel some degree of happiness, and am even--save
the mark!--puffed up occasionally with a sense of my own
These words, as I have said, I wrote down in my note-book, and they
reflected accurately the thoughts which I found rooted far down in
my soul, ever present and unaffected by the passing emotions of the
hour. At last, however, came a time when my uncle, M`Vittie of
Glencairn, died--the same who was at one time chairman of
committees of the House of Commons. He divided his great wealth
among his many nephews, and I found myself with sufficient to
provide amply for my wants during the remainder of my life, and
became at the same time owner of a bleak tract of land upon the
coast of Caithness, which I think the old man must have bestowed
upon me in derision, for it was sandy and valueless, and he had
ever a grim sense of humour. Up to this time I had been an
attorney in a midland town in England. Now I saw that I could put
my thoughts into effect, and, leaving all petty and sordid aims,
could elevate my mind by the study of the secrets of nature. My
departure from my English home was somewhat accelerated by the fact
that I had nearly slain a man in a quarrel, for my temper was
fiery, and I was apt to forget my own strength when enraged.
There was no legal action taken in the matter, but the papers
yelped at me, and folk looked askance when I met them. It ended by
my cursing them and their vile, smoke-polluted town, and hurrying
to my northern possession, where I might at last find peace and an
opportunity for solitary study and contemplation. I borrowed from
my capital before I went, and so was able to take with me a choice
collection of the most modern philosophical instruments and books,
together with chemicals and such other things as I might need in my
The land which I had inherited was a narrow strip, consisting
mostly of sand, and extending for rather over two miles round the
coast of Mansie Bay, in Caithness. Upon this strip there had been
a rambling, grey-stone building--when erected or wherefore none
could tell me--and this I had repaired, so that it made a dwelling
quite good enough for one of my simple tastes. One room was my
laboratory, another my sitting-room, and in a third, just under the
sloping roof, I slung the hammock in which I always slept. There
were three other rooms, but I left them vacant, except one which
was given over to the old crone who kept house for me. Save the
Youngs and the M`Leods, who were fisher-folk living round at the
other side of Fergus Ness, there were no other people for many
miles in each direction. In front of the house was the great bay,
behind it were two long barren hills, capped by other loftier ones
beyond. There was a glen between the hills, and when the wind
was from the land it used to sweep down this with a melancholy
sough and whisper among the branches of the fir-trees beneath my
I dislike my fellow-mortals. Justice compels me to add that they
appear for the most part to dislike me. I hate their little
crawling ways, their conventionalities, their deceits, their narrow
rights and wrongs. They take offence at my brusque outspokenness,
my disregard for their social laws, my impatience of all
constraint. Among my books and my drugs in my lonely den at Mansie
I could let the great drove of the human race pass onwards with
their politics and inventions and tittle-tattle, and I remained
behind stagnant and happy. Not stagnant either, for I was working
in my own little groove, and making progress. I have reason to
believe that Dalton's atomic theory is founded upon error, and I
know that mercury is not an element.
During the day I was busy with my distillations and analyses.
Often I forgot my meals, and when old Madge summoned me to my tea
I found my dinner lying untouched upon the table. At night I read
Bacon, Descartes, Spinoza, Kant--all those who have pried into what
is unknowable. They are all fruitless and empty, barren of result,
but prodigal of polysyllables, reminding me of men who, while
digging for gold, have turned up many worms, and then exhibit them
exultantly as being what they sought. At times a restless spirit
would come upon me, and I would walk thirty and forty miles without
rest or breaking fast. On these occasions, when I used to
stalk through the country villages, gaunt, unshaven, and
dishevelled, the mothers would rush into the road and drag their
children indoors, and the rustics would swarm out of their pot-
houses to gaze at me. I believe that I was known far and wide as
the "mad laird o' Mansie." It was rarely, however, that I made
these raids into the country, for I usually took my exercise upon
my own beach, where I soothed my spirit with strong black tobacco,
and made the ocean my friend and my confidant.
What companion is there like the great restless, throbbing sea?
What human mood is there which it does not match and sympathise
with? There are none so gay but that they may feel gayer when they
listen to its merry turmoil, and see the long green surges racing
in, with the glint of the sunbeams in their sparkling crests. But
when the grey waves toss their heads in anger, and the wind screams
above them, goading them on to madder and more tumultuous efforts,
then the darkest-minded of men feels that there is a melancholy
principle in Nature which is as gloomy as his own thoughts. When
it was calm in the Bay of Mansie the surface would be as clear and
bright as a sheet of silver, broken only at one spot some little
way from the shore, where a long black line projected out of the
water looking like the jagged back of some sleeping monster. This
was the top of the dangerous ridge of rocks known to the fishermen
as the "ragged reef o' Mansie." When the wind blew from the east
the waves would break upon it like thunder, and the spray
would be tossed far over my house and up to the hills behind. The
bay itself was a bold and noble one, but too much exposed to the
northern and eastern gales, and too much dreaded for its reef, to
be much used by mariners. There was something of romance about
this lonely spot. I have lain in my boat upon a calm day, and
peering over the edge I have seen far down the flickering, ghostly
forms of great fish--fish, as it seemed to me, such as naturalist
never knew, and which my imagination transformed into the genii of
that desolate bay. Once, as I stood by the brink of the waters
upon a quiet night, a great cry, as of a woman in hopeless grief,
rose from the bosom of the deep, and swelled out upon the still
air, now sinking and now rising, for a space of thirty seconds.
This I heard with my own ears.
In this strange spot, with the eternal hills behind me and the
eternal sea in front, I worked and brooded for more than two years
unpestered by my fellow men. By degrees I had trained my old
servant into habits of silence, so that she now rarely opened her
lips, though I doubt not that when twice a year she visited her
relations in Wick, her tongue during those few days made up for its
enforced rest. I had come almost to forget that I was a member of
the human family, and to live entirely with the dead whose books I
pored over, when a sudden incident occurred which threw all my
thoughts into a new channel.
Three rough days in June had been succeeded by one calm and
peaceful one. There was not a breath of air that evening. The sun
sank down in the west behind a line of purple clouds, and the
smooth surface of the bay was gashed with scarlet streaks. Along
the beach the pools left by the tide showed up like gouts of blood
against the yellow sand, as if some wounded giant had toilfully
passed that way, and had left these red traces of his grievous hurt
behind him. As the darkness closed in, certain ragged clouds which
had lain low on the eastern horizon coalesced and formed a great
irregular cumulus. The glass was still low, and I knew that there
was mischief brewing. About nine o'clock a dull moaning sound came
up from the sea, as from a creature who, much harassed, learns that
the hour of suffering has come round again. At ten a sharp breeze
sprang up from the eastward. At eleven it had increased to a gale,
and by midnight the most furious storm was raging which I ever
remember upon that weather-beaten coast.
As I went to bed the shingle and seaweed were pattering up against
my attic window, and the wind was screaming as though every gust
were a lost soul. By that time the sounds of the tempest had
become a lullaby to me. I knew that the grey walls of the old
house would buffet it out, and for what occurred in the world
outside I had small concern. Old Madge was usually as callous to
such things as I was myself. It was a surprise to me when, about
three in the morning, I was awoke by the sound of a great knocking
at my door and excited cries in the wheezy voice of my house-
keeper. I sprang out of my hammock, and roughly demanded of
her what was the matter.
"Eh, maister, maister!" she screamed in her hateful dialect. "Come
doun, mun; come doun! There's a muckle ship gaun ashore on the
reef, and the puir folks are a' yammerin' and ca'in' for help--and
I doobt they'll a' be drooned. Oh, Maister M`Vittie, come doun!"
"Hold your tongue, you hag!" I shouted back in a passion. "What is
it to you whether they are drowned or not? Get back to your bed
and leave me alone." I turned in again and drew the blankets over
me. "Those men out there," I said to myself, "have already gone
through half the horrors of death. If they be saved they will but
have to go through the same once more in the space of a few brief
years. It is best therefore that they should pass away now, since
they have suffered that anticipation which is more than the pain of
dissolution." With this thought in my mind I endeavoured to
compose myself to sleep once more, for that philosophy which had
taught me to consider death as a small and trivial incident in
man's eternal and everchanging career, had also broken me of much
curiosity concerning worldly matters. On this occasion I found,
however, that the old leaven still fermented strongly in my soul.
I tossed from side to side for some minutes endeavouring to beat
down the impulses of the moment by the rules of conduct which I had
framed during months of thought. Then I heard a dull roar amid the
wild shriek of the gale, and I knew that it was the sound of
a signal-gun. Driven by an uncontrollable impulse, I rose,
dressed, and having lit my pipe, walked out on to the beach.
It was pitch dark when I came outside, and the wind blew with such
violence that I had to put my shoulder against it and push my way
along the shingle. My face pringled and smarted with the sting of
the gravel which was blown against it, and the red ashes of my pipe
streamed away behind me, dancing fantastically through the
darkness. I went down to where the great waves were thundering in,
and shading my eyes with my hands to keep off the salt spray, I
peered out to sea. I could distinguish nothing, and yet it seemed
to me that shouts and great inarticulate cries were borne to me by
the blasts. Suddenly as I gazed I made out the glint of a light,
and then the whole bay and the beach were lit up in a moment by a
vivid blue glare. They were burning a coloured signal-light on
board of the vessel. There she lay on her beam ends right in the
centre of the jagged reef, hurled over to such an angle that I
could see all the planking of her deck. She was a large two-masted
schooner, of foreign rig, and lay perhaps a hundred and eighty or
two hundred yards from the shore. Every spar and rope and writhing
piece of cordage showed up hard and clear under the livid light
which sputtered and flickered from the highest portion of the
forecastle. Beyond the doomed ship out of the great darkness came
the long rolling lines of black waves, never ending, never tiring,
with a petulant tuft of foam here and there upon their crests.
Each as it reached the broad circle of unnatural light appeared to
gather strength and volume, and to hurry on more impetuously until,
with a roar and a jarring crash, it sprang upon its victim.
Clinging to the weather shrouds I could distinctly see some ten or
twelve frightened seamen, who, when their light revealed my
presence, turned their white faces towards me and waved their hands
imploringly. I felt my gorge rise against these poor cowering
worms. Why should they presume to shirk the narrow pathway along
which all that is great and noble among mankind has travelled?
There was one there who interested me more than they. He was a
tall man, who stood apart from the others, balancing himself upon
the swaying wreck as though he disdained to cling to rope or
bulwark. His hands were clasped behind his back and his head was
sunk upon his breast, but even in that despondent attitude there
was a litheness and decision in his pose and in every motion which
marked him as a man little likely to yield to despair. Indeed, I
could see by his occasional rapid glances up and down and all
around him that he was weighing every chance of safety, but though
he often gazed across the raging surf to where he could see my dark
figure upon the beach, his self-respect or some other reason
forbade him from imploring my help in any way. He stood, dark,
silent, and inscrutable, looking down on the black sea, and waiting
for whatever fortune Fate might send him.
It seemed to me that that problem would very soon be settled. As
I looked, an enormous billow, topping all the others, and
coming after them, like a driver following a flock, swept over the
vessel. Her foremast snapped short off, and the men who clung to
the shrouds were brushed away like a swarm of flies. With a
rending, riving sound the ship began to split in two, where the
sharp back of the Mansie reef was sawing into her keel. The
solitary man upon the forecastle ran rapidly across the deck and
seized hold of a white bundle which I had already observed but
failed to make out. As he lifted it up the light fell upon it, and
I saw that the object was a woman, with a spar lashed across her
body and under her arms in such a way that her head should always
rise above water. He bore her tenderly to the side and seemed to
speak for a minute or so to her, as though explaining the
impossibility of remaining upon the ship. Her answer was a
singular one. I saw her deliberately raise her hand and strike him
across the face with it. He appeared to be silenced for a moment
or so by this, but he addressed her again, directing her, as far as
I could gather from his motions, how she should behave when in the
water. She shrank away from him, but he caught her in his arms.
He stooped over her for a moment and seemed to press his lips
against her forehead. Then a great wave came welling up against
the side of the breaking vessel, and leaning over he placed her
upon the summit of it as gently as a child might be committed to
its cradle. I saw her white dress flickering among the foam on the
crest of the dark billow, and then the light sank gradually lower,
and the riven ship and its lonely occupant were hidden from my
As I watched those things my manhood overcame my philosophy, and I
felt a frantic impulse to be up and doing. I threw my cynicism to
one side as a garment which I might don again at leisure, and I
rushed wildly to my boat and my sculls. She was a leaky tub, but
what then? Was I, who had cast many a wistful, doubtful glance at
my opium bottle, to begin now to weigh chances and to cavil at
danger. I dragged her down to the sea with the strength of a
maniac and sprang in. For a moment or two it was a question
whether she could live among the boiling surge, but a dozen frantic
strokes took me through it, half full of water but still afloat.
I was out on the unbroken waves now, at one time climbing, climbing
up the broad black breast of one, then sinking down, down on the
other side, until looking up I could see the gleam of the foam all
around me against the dark heavens. Far behind me I could hear the
wild wailings of old Madge, who, seeing me start, thought no doubt
that my madness had come to a climax. As I rowed I peered over my
shoulder, until at last on the belly of a great wave which was
sweeping towards me I distinguished the vague white outline of the
woman. Stooping over, I seized her as she swept by me, and with an
effort lifted her, all sodden with water, into the boat. There was
no need to row back, for the next billow carried us in and threw us
upon the beach. I dragged the boat out of danger, and then lifting
up the woman I carried her to the house, followed by my
housekeeper, loud with congratulation and praise.
Now that I had done this thing a reaction set in upon me. I felt
that my burden lived, for I heard the faint beat of her heart as I
pressed my ear against her side in carrying her. Knowing this, I
threw her down beside the fire which Madge had lit, with as little
sympathy as though she had been a bundle of fagots. I never
glanced at her to see if she were fair or no. For many years I had
cared little for the face of a woman. As I lay in my hammock
upstairs, however, I heard the old woman as she chafed the warmth
back into her, crooning a chorus of, "Eh, the puir lassie! Eh, the
bonnie lassie!" from which I gathered that this piece of jetsam was
both young and comely.
The morning after the gale was peaceful and sunny. As I walked
along the long sweep of sand I could hear the panting of the sea.
It was heaving and swirling about the reef, but along the shore it
rippled in gently enough. There was no sign of the schooner, nor
was there any wreckage upon the beach, which did not surprise me,
as I knew there was a great undertow in those waters. A couple of
broad-winged gulls were hovering and skimming over the scene of the
shipwreck, as though many strange things were visible to them
beneath the waves. At times I could hear their raucous voices as
they spoke to one another of what they saw.
When I came back from my walk the woman was waiting at the
door for me. I began to wish when I saw her that I had never saved
her, for here was an end of my privacy. She was very young--at the
most nineteen, with a pale somewhat refined face, yellow hair,
merry blue eyes, and shining teeth. Her beauty was of an ethereal
type. She looked so white and light and fragile that she might
have been the spirit of that storm-foam from out of which I plucked
her. She had wreathed some of Madge's garments round her in a way
which was quaint and not unbecoming. As I strode heavily up the
pathway, she put out her hands with a pretty child-like gesture,
and ran down towards me, meaning, as I surmise, to thank me for
having saved her, but I put her aside with a wave of my hand and
passed her. At this she seemed somewhat hurt, and the tears sprang
into her eyes, but she followed me into the sitting-room and
watched me wistfully. "What country do you come from?" I asked her
She smiled when I spoke, but shook her head.
"Francais?" I asked. "Deutsch?" "Espagnol?"--each time she shook
her head, and then she rippled off into a long statement in some
tongue of which I could not understand one word.
After breakfast was over, however, I got a clue to her nationality.
Passing along the beach once more, I saw that in a cleft of the
ridge a piece of wood had been jammed. I rowed out to it in my
boat, and brought it ashore. It was part of the sternpost of a
boat, and on it, or rather on the piece of wood attached to
it, was the word "Archangel," painted in strange, quaint lettering.
"So," I thought, as I paddled slowly back, "this pale damsel is a
Russian. A fit subject for the White Czar and a proper dweller on
the shores of the White Sea!" It seemed to me strange that one of
her apparent refinement should perform so long a journey in so
frail a craft. When I came back into the house, I pronounced the
word "Archangel" several times in different intonations, but she
did not appear to recognise it.
I shut myself up in the laboratory all the morning, continuing a
research which I was making upon the nature of the allotropic forms
of carbon and of sulphur. When I came out at mid-day for some food
she was sitting by the table with a needle and thread, mending some
rents in her clothes, which were now dry. I resented her continued
presence, but I could not turn her out on the beach to shift for
herself. Presently she presented a new phase of her character.
Pointing to herself and then to the scene of the shipwreck, she
held up one finger, by which I understood her to be asking whether
she was the only one saved. I nodded my head to indicate that she
was. On this she sprang out of the chair with a cry of great joy,
and holding the garment which she was mending over her head, and
swaying it from side to side with the motion of her body, she
danced as lightly as a feather all round the room, and then out
through the open door into the sunshine. As she whirled round she
sang in a plaintive shrill voice some uncouth barbarous chant,
expressive of exultation. I called out to her, "Come in, you
young fiend, come in and be silent!" but she went on with her
dance. Then she suddenly ran towards me, and catching my hand
before I could pluck it away, she kissed it. While we were at
dinner she spied one of my pencils, and taking it up she wrote the
two words "Sophie Ramusine" upon a piece of paper, and then pointed
to herself as a sign that that was her name. She handed the pencil
to me, evidently expecting that I would be equally communicative,
but I put it in my pocket as a sign that I wished to hold no
intercourse with her.
Every moment of my life now I regretted the unguarded precipitancy
with which I had saved this woman. What was it to me whether she
had lived or died? I was no young, hot-headed youth to do such
things. It was bad enough to be compelled to have Madge in the
house, but she was old and ugly, and could be ignored. This one
was young and lively, and so fashioned as to divert attention from
graver things. Where could I send her, and what could I do with
her? If I sent information to Wick it would mean that officials
and others would come to me and pry, and peep, and chatter--a
hateful thought. It was better to endure her presence than that.
I soon found that there were fresh troubles in store for me. There
is no place safe from the swarming, restless race of which I am a
member. In the evening, when the sun was dipping down behind the
hills, casting them into dark shadow, but gilding the sands and
casting a great glory over the sea, I went, as is my custom,
for a stroll along the beach. Sometimes on these occasions I took
my book with me. I did so on this night, and stretching myself
upon a sand-dune I composed myself to read. As I lay there I
suddenly became aware of a shadow which interposed itself between
the sun and myself. Looking round, I saw to my great surprise a
very tall, powerful man, who was standing a few yards off, and who,
instead of looking at me, was ignoring my existence completely, and
was gazing over my head with a stern set face at the bay and the
black line of the Mansie reef. His complexion was dark, with black
hair, and short, curling beard, a hawk-like nose, and golden
earrings in his ears--the general effect being wild and somewhat
noble. He wore a faded velveteen jacket, a red-flannel shirt, and
high sea boots, coming half-way up his thighs. I recognised him at
a glance as being the same man who had been left on the wreck the
"Hullo!" I said, in an aggrieved voice. "You got ashore all right,
"Yes," he answered, in good English. "It was no doing of mine.
The waves threw me up. I wish to God I had been allowed to drown!"
There was a slight foreign lisp in his accent which was rather
pleasing. "Two good fishermen, who live round yonder point, pulled
me out and cared for me; yet I could not honestly thank them for
"Ho! ho!" thought I, "here is a man of my own kidney. Why do you
wish to be drowned?" I asked.
"Because," he cried, throwing out his long arms with a passionate,
despairing gesture, "there--there in that blue smiling bay, lies my
soul, my treasure--everything that I loved and lived for."
"Well, well," I said. "People are ruined every day, but there's no
use making a fuss about it. Let me inform you that this ground on
which you walk is my ground, and that the sooner you take yourself
off it the better pleased I shall be. One of you is quite trouble
"One of us?" he gasped.
"Yes--if you could take her off with you I should be still more
He gazed at me for a moment as if hardly able to realise what I
said, and then with a wild cry he ran away from me with prodigious
speed and raced along the sands towards my house. Never before or
since have I seen a human being run so fast. I followed as rapidly
as I could, furious at this threatened invasion, but long before I
reached the house he had disappeared through the open door. I
heard a great scream from the inside, and as I came nearer the
sound of a man's bass voice speaking rapidly and loudly. When I
looked in the girl, Sophie Ramusine, was crouching in a corner,
cowering away, with fear and loathing expressed on her averted face
and in every line of her shrinking form. The other, with his dark
eyes flashing, and his outstretched hands quivering with emotion,
was pouring forth a torrent of passionate pleading words. He made
a step forward to her as I entered, but she writhed still
further away, and uttered a sharp cry like that of a rabbit when
the weasel has him by the throat.
"Here!" I said, pulling him back from her. "This is a pretty to-
do! What do you mean? Do you think this is a wayside inn or place
of public accommodation?"
"Oh, sir," he said, "excuse me. This woman is my wife, and I
feared that she was drowned. You have brought me back to life."
"Who are you?" I asked roughly.
"I am a man from Archangel," he said simply; "a Russian man."
"What is your name?"
"Ourganeff!--and hers is Sophie Ramusine. She is no wife of yours.
She has no ring."
"We are man and wife in the sight of Heaven," he said solemnly,
looking upwards. "We are bound by higher laws than those of
earth." As he spoke the girl slipped behind me and caught me by
the other hand, pressing it as though beseeching my protection.
"Give me up my wife, sir," he went on. "Let me take her away from
"Look here, you--whatever your name is," I said sternly; "I don't
want this wench here. I wish I had never seen her. If she died it
would be no grief to me. But as to handing her over to you, when
it is clear she fears and hates you, I won't do it. So now just
clear your great body out of this, and leave me to my books.
I hope I may never look upon your face again."
"You won't give her up to me?" he said hoarsely.
"I'll see you damned first!" I answered.
"Suppose I take her," he cried, his dark face growing darker.
All my tigerish blood flushed up in a moment. I picked up a billet
of wood from beside the fireplace. "Go," I said, in a low voice;
"go quick, or I may do you an injury." He looked at me
irresolutely for a moment, and then he left the house. He came
back again in a moment, however, and stood in the doorway looking
in at us.
"Have a heed what you do," he said. "The woman is mine, and I
shall have her. When it comes to blows, a Russian is as good a man
as a Scotchman."
"We shall see that," I cried, springing forward, but he was already
gone, and I could see his tall form moving away through the
For a month or more after this things went smoothly with us. I
never spoke to the Russian girl, nor did she ever address me.
Sometimes when I was at work in my laboratory she would slip inside
the door and sit silently there watching me with her great eyes.
At first this intrusion annoyed me, but by degrees, finding that
she made no attempt to distract my attention, I suffered her to
remain. Encouraged by this concession, she gradually came to move
the stool on which she sat nearer and nearer to my table, until
after gaining a little every day during some weeks, she at last
worked her way right up to me, and used to perch herself
beside me whenever I worked. In this position she used, still
without ever obtruding her presence in any way, to make herself
very useful by holding my pens, test-tubes, or bottles, and handing
me whatever I wanted, with never-failing sagacity. By ignoring the
fact of her being a human being, and looking upon her as a useful
automatic machine, I accustomed myself to her presence so far as to
miss her on the few occasions when she was not at her post. I have
a habit of talking aloud to myself at times when I work, so as to
fix my results better in my mind. The girl must have had a
surprising memory for sounds, for she could always repeat the words
which I let fall in this way, without, of course, understanding in
the least what they meant. I have often been amused at hearing her
discharge a volley of chemical equations and algebraic symbols at
old Madge, and then burst into a ringing laugh when the crone would
shake her head, under the impression, no doubt, that she was being
addressed in Russian.
She never went more than a few yards from the house, and indeed
never put her foot over the threshold without looking carefully out
of each window in order to be sure that there was nobody about. By
this I knew that she suspected that her fellow-countryman was still
in the neighbourhood, and feared that he might attempt to carry her
off. She did something else which was significant. I had an old
revolver with some cartridges, which had been thrown away
among the rubbish. She found this one day, and at once
proceeded to clean it and oil it. She hung it up near the door,
with the cartridges in a little bag beside it, and whenever I went
for a walk, she would take it down and insist upon my carrying it
with me. In my absence she would always bolt the door. Apart from
her apprehensions she seemed fairly happy, busying herself in
helping Madge when she was not attending upon me. She was
wonderfully nimble-fingered and natty in all domestic duties.
It was not long before I discovered that her suspicions were well
founded, and that this man from Archangel was still lurking in the
vicinity. Being restless one night I rose and peered out of the
window. The weather was somewhat cloudy, and I could barely make
out the line of the sea, and the loom of my boat upon the beach.
As I gazed, however, and my eyes became accustomed to the
obscurity, I became aware that there was some other dark blur upon
the sands, and that in front of my very door, where certainly there
had been nothing of the sort the preceding night. As I stood at my
diamond-paned lattice still peering and peeping to make out what
this might be, a great bank of clouds rolled slowly away from the
face of the moon, and a flood of cold, clear light was poured down
upon the silent bay and the long sweep of its desolate shores.
Then I saw what this was which haunted my doorstep. It was he, the
Russian. He squatted there like a gigantic toad, with his legs
doubled under him in strange Mongolian fashion, and his eyes fixed
apparently upon the window of the room in which the young girl
and the housekeeper slept. The light fell upon his upturned face,
and I saw once more the hawk-like grace of his countenance, with
the single deeply-indented line of care upon his brow, and the
protruding beard which marks the passionate nature. My first
impulse was to shoot him as a trespasser, but, as I gazed, my
resentment changed into pity and contempt. "Poor fool," I said to
myself, "is it then possible that you, whom I have seen looking
open-eyed at present death, should have your whole thoughts and
ambition centred upon this wretched slip of a girl--a girl, too,
who flies from you and hates you. Most women would love you--were
it but for that dark face and great handsome body of yours--and yet
you must needs hanker after the one in a thousand who will have no
traffic with you." As I returned to my bed I chuckled much to
myself over this thought. I knew that my bars were strong and my
bolts thick. It mattered little to me whether this strange man
spent his night at my door or a hundred leagues off, so long as he
was gone by the morning. As I expected, when I rose and went out
there was no sign of him, nor had he left any trace of his midnight
It was not long, however, before I saw him again. I had been out
for a row one morning, for my head was aching, partly from
prolonged stooping, and partly from the effects of a noxious drug
which I had inhaled the night before. I pulled along the coast
some miles, and then, feeling thirsty, I landed at a place where I
knew that a fresh water stream trickled down into the sea.
This rivulet passed through my land, but the mouth of it, where I
found myself that day, was beyond my boundary line. I felt
somewhat taken aback when rising from the stream at which I had
slaked my thirst I found myself face to face with the Russian. I
was as much a trespasser now as he was, and I could see at a glance
that he knew it.
"I wish to speak a few words to you," he said gravely.
"Hurry up, then!" I answered, glancing at my watch. "I have no
time to listen to chatter."
"Chatter!" he repeated angrily. "Ah, but there. You Scotch people
are strange men. Your face is hard and your words rough, but so
are those of the good fishermen with whom I stay, yet I find that
beneath it all there lie kind honest natures. No doubt you are
kind and good, too, in spite of your roughness."
"In the name of the devil," I said, "say your say, and go your way.
I am weary of the sight of you."
"Can I not soften you in any way?" he cried. " Ah, see--see
here"--he produced a small Grecian cross from inside his velvet
jacket. "Look at this. Our religions may differ in form, but at
least we have some common thoughts and feelings when we see this
"I am not so sure of that," I answered.
He looked at me thoughtfully.
"You are a very strange man," he said at last. "I cannot
understand you. You still stand between me and Sophie. It is
a dangerous position to take, sir. Oh, believe me, before it is
too late. If you did but know what I have done to gain that
woman--how I have risked my body, how I have lost my soul! You are
a small obstacle to some which I have surmounted--you, whom a rip
with a knife, or a blow from a stone, would put out of my way for
ever. But God preserve me from that," he cried wildly. "I am
deep--too deep--already. Anything rather than that."
"You would do better to go back to your country," I said, "than to
skulk about these sand-hills and disturb my leisure. When I have
proof that you have gone away I shall hand this woman over to the
protection of the Russian Consul at Edinburgh. Until then, I shall
guard her myself, and not you, nor any Muscovite that ever
breathed, shall take her from me."
"And what is your object in keeping me from Sophie?" he asked. "Do
you imagine that I would injure her? Why, man, I would give my
life freely to save her from the slightest harm. Why do you do
"I do it because it is my good pleasure to act so," I answered. "I
give no man reasons for my conduct."
"Look here!" he cried, suddenly blazing into fury, and advancing
towards me with his shaggy mane bristling and his brown hands
clenched. "If I thought you had one dishonest thought towards this
girl--if for a moment I had reason to believe that you had any base
motive for detaining her--as sure as there is a God in Heaven I
should drag the heart out of your bosom with my hands." The
very idea seemed to have put the man in a frenzy, for his face was
all distorted and his hands opened and shut convulsively. I
thought that he was about to spring at my throat.
"Stand off," I said, putting my hand on my pistol. "If you lay a
finger on me I shall kill you."
He put his hand into his pocket, and for a moment I thought he was
about to produce a weapon too, but instead of that he whipped out
a cigarette and lit it, breathing the smoke rapidly into his lungs.
No doubt he had found by experience that this was the most
effectual way of curbing his passions.
"I told you," he said in a quieter voice, "that my name is
Ourganeff--Alexis Ourganeff. I am a Finn by birth, but I have
spent my life in every part of the world. I was one who could
never be still, nor settle down to a quiet existence. After I came
to own my own ship there is hardly a port from Archangel to
Australia which I have not entered. I was rough and wild and free,
but there was one at home, sir, who was prim and white-handed and
soft-tongued, skilful in little fancies and conceits which women
love. This youth by his wiles and tricks stole from me the love of
the girl whom I had ever marked as my own, and who up to that time
had seemed in some sort inclined to return my passion. I had been
on a voyage to Hammerfest for ivory, and coming back unexpectedly
I learned that my pride and treasure was to be married to this
soft-skinned boy, and that the party had actually gone to the
church. In such moments, sir, something gives way in my head,
and I hardly know what I do. I landed with a boat's crew--all men
who had sailed with me for years, and who were as true as steel.
We went up to the church. They were standing, she and he, before
the priest, but the thing had not been done. I dashed between them
and caught her round the waist. My men beat back the frightened
bridegroom and the lookers on. We bore her down to the boat and
aboard our vessel, and then getting up anchor we sailed away across
the White Sea until the spires of Archangel sank down behind the
horizon. She had my cabin, my room, every comfort. I slept among
the men in the forecastle. I hoped that in time her aversion to me
would wear away, and that she would consent to marry me in England
or in France. For days and days we sailed. We saw the North Cape
die away behind us, and we skirted the grey Norwegian coast, but
still, in spite of every attention, she would not forgive me for
tearing her from that pale-faced lover of hers. Then came this
cursed storm which shattered both my ship and my hopes, and has
deprived me even of the sight of the woman for whom I have risked
so much. Perhaps she may learn to love me yet. You, sir," he said
wistfully, "look like one who has seen much of the world. Do you
not think that she may come to forget this man and to love me?"
"I am tired of your story," I said, turning away. "For my part, I
think you are a great fool. If you imagine that this love of yours
will pass away you had best amuse yourself as best you can until it
does. If, on the other hand, it is a fixed thing, you cannot
do better than cut your throat, for that is the shortest way out of
it. I have no more time to waste on the matter." With this I
hurried away and walked down to the boat. I never looked round,
but I heard the dull sound of his feet upon the sands as he
"I have told you the beginning of my story," he said, "and you
shall know the end some day. You would do well to let the girl
I never answered him, but pushed the boat off. When I had rowed
some distance out I looked back and saw his tall figure upon the
yellow sand as he stood gazing thoughtfully after me. When I
looked again some minutes later he had disappeared.
For a long time after this my life was as regular and as monotonous
as it had been before the shipwreck. At times I hoped that the man
from Archangel had gone away altogether, but certain footsteps
which I saw upon the sand, and more particularly a little pile of
cigarette ash which I found one day behind a hillock from which a
view of the house might be obtained, warned me that, though
invisible, he was still in the vicinity. My relations with the
Russian girl remained the same as before. Old Madge had been
somewhat jealous of her presence at first, and seemed to fear that
what little authority she had would be taken away from her. By
degrees, however, as she came to realise my utter indifference, she
became reconciled to the situation, and, as I have said before,
profited by it, as our visitor performed much of the domestic work.
And now I am coming near the end of this narrative of mine, which
I have written a great deal more for my own amusement than for that
of any one else. The termination of the strange episode in which
these two Russians had played a part was as wild and as sudden as
the commencement. The events of one single night freed me from all
my troubles, and left me once more alone with my books and my
studies, as I had been before their intrusion. Let me endeavour to
describe how this came about.
I had had a long day of heavy and wearying work, so that in the
evening I determined upon taking a long walk. When I emerged from
the house my attention was attracted by the appearance of the sea.
It lay like a sheet of glass, so that never a ripple disturbed its
surface. Yet the air was filled with that indescribable moaning
sound which I have alluded to before--a sound as though the spirits
of all those who lay beneath those treacherous waters were sending
a sad warning of coming troubles to their brethren in the flesh.
The fishermen's wives along that coast know the eerie sound, and
look anxiously across the waters for the brown sails making for the
land. When I heard it I stepped back into the house and looked at
the glass. It was down below 29 degrees. Then I knew that a wild
night was coming upon us.
Underneath the hills where I walked that evening it was dull and
chill, but their summits were rosy-red, and the sea was brightened
by the sinking sun. There were no clouds of importance in the sky,
yet the dull groaning of the sea grew louder and stronger. I
saw, far to the eastward, a brig beating up for Wick, with a reef
in her topsails. It was evident that her captain had read the
signs of nature as I had done. Behind her a long, lurid haze lay
low upon the water, concealing the horizon. "I had better push
on," I thought to myself, "or the wind may rise before I can get
I suppose I must have been at least half a mile from the house when
I suddenly stopped and listened breathlessly. My ears were so
accustomed to the noises of nature, the sighing of the breeze and
the sob of the waves, that any other sound made itself heard at a
great distance. I waited, listening with all my ears. Yes, there
it was again--a long-drawn, shrill cry of despair, ringing over the
sands and echoed back from the hills behind me--a piteous appeal
for aid. It came from the direction of my house. I turned and ran
back homewards at the top of my speed, ploughing through the sand,
racing over the shingle. In my mind there was a great dim
perception of what had occurred.
About a quarter of a mile from the house there is a high sand-hill,
from which the whole country round is visible. When I reached the
top of this I paused for a moment. There was the old grey
building--there the boat. Everything seemed to be as I had left
it. Even as I gazed, however, the shrill scream was repeated,
louder than before, and the next moment a tall figure emerged from
my door, the figure of the Russian sailor. Over his shoulder
was the white form of the young girl, and even in his haste he
seemed to bear her tenderly and with gentle reverence. I could
hear her wild cries and see her desperate struggles to break away
from him. Behind the couple came my old housekeeper, staunch and
true, as the aged dog, who can no longer bite, still snarls with
toothless gums at the intruder. She staggered feebly along at the
heels of the ravisher, waving her long, thin arms, and hurling, no
doubt, volleys of Scotch curses and imprecations at his head. I
saw at a glance that he was making for the boat. A sudden hope
sprang up in my soul that I might be in time to intercept him. I
ran for the beach at the top of my speed. As I ran I slipped a
cartridge into my revolver. This I determined should be the last
of these invasions.
I was too late. By the time I reached the water's edge he was a
hundred yards away, making the boat spring with every stroke of his
powerful arms. I uttered a wild cry of impotent anger, and stamped
up and down the sands like a maniac. He turned and saw me. Rising
from his seat he made me a graceful bow, and waved his hand to me.
It was not a triumphant or a derisive gesture. Even my furious and
distempered mind recognised it as being a solemn and courteous
leave-taking. Then he settled down to his oars once more, and the
little skiff shot away out over the bay. The sun had gone down
now, leaving a single dull, red streak upon the water, which
stretched away until it blended with the purple haze on the
horizon. Gradually the skiff grew smaller and smaller as it
sped across this lurid band, until the shades of night gathered
round it and it became a mere blur upon the lonely sea. Then this
vague loom died away also and darkness settled over it--a darkness
which should never more be raised.
And why did I pace the solitary shore, hot and wrathful as a wolf
whose whelp has been torn from it? Was it that I loved this
Muscovite girl? No--a thousand times no. I am not one who, for
the sake of a white skin or a blue eye, would belie my own life,
and change the whole tenor of my thoughts and existence. My heart
was untouched. But my pride--ah, there I had been cruelly wounded.
To think that I had been unable to afford protection to the
helpless one who craved it of me, and who relied on me! It was
that which made my heart sick and sent the blood buzzing through my
That night a great wind rose up from the sea, and the wild waves
shrieked upon the shore as though they would tear it back with them
into the ocean. The turmoil and the uproar were congenial to my
vexed spirit. All night I wandered up and down, wet with spray and
rain, watching the gleam of the white breakers and listening to the
outcry of the storm. My heart was bitter against the Russian. I
joined my feeble pipe to the screaming of the gale. "If he would
but come back again!" I cried with clenched hands; "if he would but
He came back. When the grey light of morning spread over the
eastern sky, and lit up the great waste of yellow, tossing waters,
with the brown clouds drifting swiftly over them, then I saw him
once again. A few hundred yards off along the sand there lay a
long dark object, cast up by the fury of the waves. It was my
boat, much shattered and splintered. A little further on, a vague,
shapeless something was washing to and fro in the shallow water,
all mixed with shingle and with seaweed. I saw at a glance that it
was the Russian, face downwards and dead. I rushed into the water
and dragged him up on to the beach. It was only when I turned him
over that I discovered that she was beneath him, his dead arms
encircling her, his mangled body still intervening between her and
the fury of the storm. It seemed that the fierce German Sea might
beat the life from him, but with all its strength it was unable to
tear this one-idea'd man from the woman whom he loved. There were
signs which led me to believe that during that awful night the
woman's fickle mind had come at last to learn the worth of the true
heart and strong arm which struggled for her and guarded her so
tenderly. Why else should her little head be nestling so lovingly
on his broad breast, while her yellow hair entwined itself with his
flowing beard? Why too should there be that bright smile of
ineffable happiness and triumph, which death itself had not had
power to banish from his dusky face? I fancy that death had been
brighter to him than life had ever been.
Madge and I buried them there on the shores of the desolate
northern sea. They lie in one grave deep down beneath the yellow
sand. Strange things may happen in the world around them. Empires
may rise and may fall, dynasties may perish, great wars may come
and go, but, heedless of it all, those two shall embrace each other
for ever and aye, in their lonely shrine by the side of the
sounding ocean. I sometimes have thought that their spirits flit
like shadowy sea-mews over the wild waters of the bay. No cross or
symbol marks their resting-place, but old Madge puts wild flowers
upon it at times, and when I pass on my daily walk and see the
fresh blossoms scattered over the sand, I think of the strange
couple who came from afar, and broke for a little space the dull
tenor of my sombre life.
THAT LITTLE SQUARE BOX.
All aboard?" said the captain.
"All aboard, sir!" said the mate.
"Then stand by to let her go."
It was nine o'clock on a Wednesday morning. The good ship
Spartan was lying off Boston Quay with her cargo under hatches,
her passengers shipped, and everything prepared for a start. The
warning whistle had been sounded twice; the final bell had been
rung. Her bowsprit was turned towards England, and the hiss of
escaping steam showed that all was ready for her run of three
thousand miles. She strained at the warps that held her like a
greyhound at its leash,
I have the misfortune to be a very nervous man. A sedentary
literary life has helped to increase the morbid love of solitude
which, even in my boyhood, was one of my distinguishing
characteristics. As I stood upon the quarter-deck of the
Transatlantic steamer, I bitterly cursed the necessity which drove
me back to the land of my forefathers. The shouts of the sailors,
the rattle of the cordage, the farewells of my fellow-passengers,
and the cheers of the mob, each and all jarred upon my sensitive
nature. I felt sad too. An indescribable feeling, as of some
impending calamity, seemed to haunt me. The sea was
calm, and the breeze light. There was nothing to disturb the
equanimity of the most confirmed of landsmen, yet I felt as if I
stood upon the verge of a great though indefinable danger. I have
noticed that such presentiments occur often in men of my peculiar
temperament, and that they are not uncommonly fulfilled. There is
a theory that it arises from a species of second-sight, a subtle
spiritual communication with the future. I well remember that Herr
Raumer, the eminent spiritualist, remarked on one occasion that I
was the most sensitive subject as regards supernatural phenomena
that he had ever encountered in the whole of his wide experience.
Be that as it may, I certainly felt far from happy as I threaded my
way among the weeping, cheering groups which dotted the white decks
of the good ship Spartan. Had I known the experience which
awaited me in the course of the next twelve hours I should even
then at the last moment have sprung upon the shore, and made my
escape from the accursed vessel.
"Time's up!" said the captain, closing his chronometer with a snap,
and replacing it in his pocket. "Time's up!" said the mate. There
was a last wail from the whistle, a rush of friends and relatives
upon the land. One warp was loosened, the gangway was being pushed
away, when there was a shout from the bridge, and two men appeared,
running rapidly down the quay. They were waving their hands and
making frantic gestures, apparently with the intention of stopping
the ship. "Look sharp!" shouted the crowd.
"Hold hard!" cried the captain. "Ease her! stop her! Up with the
gangway!" and the two men sprang aboard just as the second warp
parted, and a convulsive throb of the engine shot us clear of the
shore. There was a cheer from the deck, another from the quay, a
mighty fluttering of handkerchiefs, and the great vessel ploughed
its way out of the harbour, and steamed grandly away across the
We were fairly started upon our fortnight's voyage. There was a
general dive among the passengers in quest of berths and luggage,
while a popping of corks in the saloon proved that more than one
bereaved traveller was adopting artificial means for drowning the
pangs of separation. I glanced round the deck and took a running
inventory of my compagnons de voyage. They presented the usual
types met with upon these occasions. There was no striking face
among them. I speak as a connoisseur, for faces are a specialty of
mine. I pounce upon a characteristic feature as a botanist does on
a flower, and bear it away with me to analyse at my leisure, and
classify and label it in my little anthropological museum. There
was nothing worthy of me here. Twenty types of young America going
to "Yurrup," a few respectable middle-aged couples as an antidote,
a sprinkling of clergymen and professional men, young ladies,
bagmen, British exclusives, and all the olla podrida of an ocean-
going steamer. I turned away from them and gazed back at the
receding shores of America, and, as a cloud of remembrances rose
before me, my heart warmed towards the land of my adoption.
A pile of portmanteaus and luggage chanced to be lying on one side
of the deck, awaiting their turn to be taken below. With my usual
love for solitude I walked behind these, and sitting on a coil of
rope between them and the vessel's side, I indulged in a melancholy
I was aroused from this by a whisper behind me. "Here's a quiet
place," said the voice. "Sit down, and we can talk it over in
Glancing through a chink between two colossal chests, I saw that
the passengers who had joined us at the last moment were standing
at the other side of the pile. They had evidently failed to see me
as I crouched in the shadow of the boxes. The one who had spoken
was a tall and very thin man with a blue-black beard and a
colourless face. His manner was nervous and excited. His
companion was a short plethoric little fellow, with a brisk and
resolute air. He had a cigar in his mouth, and a large ulster
slung over his left arm. They both glanced round uneasily, as if
to ascertain whether they were alone. "This is just the place," I
heard the other say. They sat down on a bale of goods with their
backs turned towards me, and I found myself, much against my will,
playing the unpleasant part of eavesdropper to their conversation.
"Well, Muller," said the taller of the two, "we've got it aboard
"Yes," assented the man whom he had addressed as Muller, "it's safe
"It was rather a near go."
"It was that, Flannigan."
"It wouldn't have done to have missed the ship."
"No, it would have put our plans out."
"Ruined them entirely," said the little man, and puffed furiously
at his cigar for some minutes.
"I've got it here," he said at last.
"Let me see it."
"Is no one looking?"
"No, they are nearly all below."
"We can't be too careful where so much is at stake," said Muller,
as he uncoiled the ulster which hung over his arm, and disclosed a
dark object which he laid upon the deck. One glance at it was
enough to cause me to spring to my feet with an exclamation of
horror. Luckily they were so engrossed in the matter on hand that
neither of them observed me. Had they turned their heads they
would infallibly have seen my pale face glaring at them over the
pile of boxes.
From the first moment of their conversation a horrible misgiving
had come over me. It seemed more than confirmed as I gazed at what
lay before me. It was a little square box made of some dark wood,
and ribbed with brass. I suppose it was about the size of a cubic
foot. It reminded me of a pistol-case, only it was decidedly
higher. There was an appendage to it, however, on which my eyes
were riveted, and which suggested the pistol itself rather than its
receptacle. This was a trigger-like arrangement upon the lid, to
which a coil of string was attached. Beside this trigger there was
a small square aperture through the wood. The tall man,
Flannigan, as his companion called him, applied his eye to this,
and peered in for several minutes with an expression of intense
anxiety upon his face.
"It seems right enough," he said at last.
"I tried not to shake it," said his companion.
"Such delicate things need delicate treatment. Put in some of the