George MacDonald: The Complete Novels
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George MacDonald: The Complete Novels


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6671 pages

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This ebook compiles George MacDonald's complete novels.
This edition has been professionally formatted and contains several tables of contents. The first table of contents (at the very beginning of the ebook) lists the titles of all novels included in this volume. By clicking on one of those titles you will be redirected to the beginning of that work, where you'll find a new TOC that lists all the chapters and sub-chapters of that specific work.



Publié par
Date de parution 06 décembre 2019
Nombre de lectures 14
EAN13 9789897784897
Langue English
Poids de l'ouvrage 2 Mo

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George MacDonald
Table of Contents
David Elginbrod
The Portent
Alec Forbes of Howglen
Annals of a Quiet Neighbourhood
Robert Falconer
The Seaboard Parish
At the Back of the North Wind
Ranald Bannerman's Boyhood
The Princess and the Goblin
The Vicar’s Daughter
Wilfred Cumbermede
Gutta Percha Willie
The Lost Princess
Thomas Wingfold, Curate
St. George and St. Michael
The Marquis of Lossie
Sir Gibbie
Paul Faber, Surgeon
Mary Marston
Castle Warlock
Weighed and Wanting
Donal Grant
The Princess and Curdie
What’s Mine’s Mine
Home Again
The Elect Lady
A Rough Shaking
There and Back
The Flight of the Shadow
Salted with Fire
First published : 1858
Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5
Chapter 6
Chapter 7
Chapter 8
Chapter 9
Chapter 10
Chapter 11
Chapter 12
Chapter 13
Chapter 14
Chapter 15
Chapter 16
Chapter 17
Chapter 18
Chapter 19
Chapter 20
Chapter 21
Chapter 22
Chapter 23
Chapter 24
Chapter 25
Chapter 1
A spirit…

The undulating and silent well,
And rippling rivulet, and evening gloom,
Now deepening the dark shades, for speech assuming,
Held commune with him; as if he and it
Were all that was.
—Shelley’s Alastor .
I awoke one morning with the usual perplexity of mind which accompanies the return of consciousness. As I lay and looked through the eastern window of my room, a faint streak of peach-colour, dividing a cloud that just rose above the low swell of the horizon, announced the approach of the sun. As my thoughts, which a deep and apparently dreamless sleep had dissolved, began again to assume crystalline forms, the strange events of the foregoing night presented themselves anew to my wondering consciousness. The day before had been my one-and-twentieth birthday. Among other ceremonies investing me with my legal rights, the keys of an old secretary, in which my father had kept his private papers, had been delivered up to me. As soon as I was left alone, I ordered lights in the chamber where the secretary stood, the first lights that had been there for many a year; for, since my father’s death, the room had been left undisturbed. But, as if the darkness had been too long an inmate to be easily expelled, and had dyed with blackness the walls to which, bat-like, it had clung, these tapers served but ill to light up the gloomy hangings, and seemed to throw yet darker shadows into the hollows of the deep-wrought cornice. All the further portions of the room lay shrouded in a mystery whose deepest folds were gathered around the dark oak cabinet which I now approached with a strange mingling of reverence and curiosity. Perhaps, like a geologist, I was about to turn up to the light some of the buried strata of the human world, with its fossil remains charred by passion and petrified by tears. Perhaps I was to learn how my father, whose personal history was unknown to me, had woven his web of story; how he had found the world, and how the world had left him. Perhaps I was to find only the records of lands and moneys, how gotten and how secured; coming down from strange men, and through troublous times, to me, who knew little or nothing of them all. To solve my speculations, and to dispel the awe which was fast gathering around me as if the dead were drawing near, I approached the secretary; and having found the key that fitted the upper portion, I opened it with some difficulty, drew near it a heavy high-backed chair, and sat down before a multitude of little drawers and slides and pigeon-holes. But the door of a little cupboard in the centre especially attracted my interest, as if there lay the secret of this long-hidden world. Its key I found.
One of the rusty hinges cracked and broke as I opened the door: it revealed a number of small pigeon-holes. These, however, being but shallow compared with the depth of those around the little cupboard, the outer ones reaching to the back of the desk, I concluded that there must be some accessible space behind; and found, indeed, that they were formed in a separate framework, which admitted of the whole being pulled out in one piece. Behind, I found a sort of flexible portcullis of small bars of wood laid close together horizontally. After long search, and trying many ways to move it, I discovered at last a scarcely projecting point of steel on one side. I pressed this repeatedly and hard with the point of an old tool that was lying near, till at length it yielded inwards; and the little slide, flying up suddenly, disclosed a chamber — empty, except that in one corner lay a little heap of withered rose-leaves, whose long-lived scent had long since departed; and, in another, a small packet of papers, tied with a bit of ribbon, whose colour had gone with the rose-scent. Almost fearing to touch them, they witnessed so mutely to the law of oblivion, I leaned back in my chair, and regarded them for a moment; when suddenly there stood on the threshold of the little chamber, as though she had just emerged from its depth, a tiny woman-form, as perfect in shape as if she had been a small Greek statuette roused to life and motion. Her dress was of a kind that could never grow old-fashioned, because it was simply natural: a robe plaited in a band around the neck, and confined by a belt about the waist, descended to her feet. It was only afterwards, however, that I took notice of her dress, although my surprise was by no means of so overpowering a degree as such an apparition might naturally be expected to excite. Seeing, however, as I suppose, some astonishment in my countenance, she came forward within a yard of me, and said, in a voice that strangely recalled a sensation of twilight, and reedy river banks, and a low wind, even in this deathly room: —
“Anodos, you never saw such a little creature before, did you?”
“No,” said I; “and indeed I hardly believe I do now.”
“Ah! that is always the way with you men; you believe nothing the first time; and it is foolish enough to let mere repetition convince you of what you consider in itself unbelievable. I am not going to argue with you, however, but to grant you a wish.”
Here I could not help interrupting her with the foolish speech, of which, however, I had no cause to repent —
“How can such a very little creature as you grant or refuse anything?”
“Is that all the philosophy you have gained in one-and-twenty years?” said she. “Form is much, but size is nothing. It is a mere matter of relation. I suppose your six-foot lordship does not feel altogether insignificant, though to others you do look small beside your old Uncle Ralph, who rises above you a great half-foot at least. But size is of so little consequence with old me, that I may as well accommodate myself to your foolish prejudices.”
So saying, she leapt from the desk upon the floor, where she stood a tall, gracious lady, with pale face and large blue eyes. Her dark hair flowed behind, wavy but uncurled, down to her waist, and against it her form stood clear in its robe of white.
“Now,” said she, “you will believe me.”
Overcome with the presence of a beauty which I could now perceive, and drawn towards her by an attraction irresistible as incomprehensible, I suppose I stretched out my arms towards her, for she drew back a step or two, and said —
“Foolish boy, if you could touch me, I should hurt you. Besides, I was two hundred and thirty-seven years old, last Midsummer eve; and a man must not fall in love with his grandmother, you know.”
“But you are not my grandmother,” said I.
“How do you know that?” she retorted. “I dare say you know something of your great-grandfathers a good deal further back than that; but you know very little about your great-grandmothers on either side. Now, to the point. Your little sister was reading a fairy-tale to you last night.”
“She was.”
“When she had finished, she said, as she closed the book, ‘Is there a fairy-country, brother?’ You replied with a sigh, ‘I suppose there is, if one could find the way into it.’”
“I did; but I meant something quite different from what you seem to think.”
“Never mind what I seem to think. You shall find the way into Fairy Land to-morrow. Now look in my eyes.”
Eagerly I did so. They filled me with an unknown longing. I remembered somehow that my mother died when I was a baby. I looked deeper and deeper, till they spread around me like seas, and I sank in their waters. I forgot all the rest, till I found myself at the window, whose gloomy curtains were withdrawn, and where I stood gazing on a whole heaven of stars, small and sparkling in the moonlight. Below lay a sea, still as death and hoary in the moon, sweeping into bays and around capes and islands, away, away, I knew not whither. Alas! it was no sea, but a low bog burnished by the moon. “Surely there is such a sea somewhere!” said I to myself. A low sweet voice beside me replied —
“In Fairy Land, Anodos.”
I turned, but saw no one. I closed the secretary, and went to my own room, and to bed.
All this I recalled as I lay with half-closed eyes. I was soon to find the truth of the lady’s promise, that this day I should discover the road into Fairy Land.
Chapter 2
‘Where is the stream?’ cried he, with tears. ‘Seest thou
its not in blue waves above us?’ He looked up, and lo! the
blue stream was flowing gently over their heads.
—Novalis, Heinrich von Ofterdingen .
While these strange events were passing through my mind, I suddenly, as one awakes to the consciousness that the sea has been moaning by him for hours, or that the storm has been howling about his window all night, became aware of the sound of running water near me; and, looking out of bed, I saw that a large green marble basin, in which I was wont to wash, and which stood on a low pedestal of the same material in a corner of my room, was overflowing like a spring; and that a stream of clear water was running over the carpet, all the length of the room, finding its outlet I knew not where. And, stranger still, where this carpet, which I had myself designed to imitate a field of grass and daisies, bordered the course of the little stream, the grass-blades and daisies seemed to wave in a tiny breeze that followed the water’s flow; while under the rivulet they bent and swayed with every motion of the changeful current, as if they were about to dissolve with it, and, forsaking their fixed form, become fluent as the waters.
My dressing-table was an old-fashioned piece of furniture of black oak, with drawers all down the front. These were elaborately carved in foliage, of which ivy formed the chief part. The nearer end of this table remained just as it had been, but on the further end a singular change had commenced. I happened to fix my eye on a little cluster of ivy-leaves. The first of these was evidently the work of the carver; the next looked curious; the third was unmistakable ivy; and just beyond it a tendril of clematis had twined itself about the gilt handle of one of the drawers. Hearing next a slight motion above me, I looked up, and saw that the branches and leaves designed upon the curtains of my bed were slightly in motion. Not knowing what change might follow next, I thought it high time to get up; and, springing from the bed, my bare feet alighted upon a cool green sward; and although I dressed in all haste, I found myself completing my toilet under the boughs of a great tree, whose top waved in the golden stream of the sunrise with many interchanging lights, and with shadows of leaf and branch gliding over leaf and branch, as the cool morning wind swung it to and fro, like a sinking sea-wave.
After washing as well as I could in the clear stream, I rose and looked around me. The tree under which I seemed to have lain all night was one of the advanced guard of a dense forest, towards which the rivulet ran. Faint traces of a footpath, much overgrown with grass and moss, and with here and there a pimpernel even, were discernible along the right bank. “This,” thought I, “must surely be the path into Fairy Land, which the lady of last night promised I should so soon find.” I crossed the rivulet, and accompanied it, keeping the footpath on its right bank, until it led me, as I expected, into the wood. Here I left it, without any good reason: and with a vague feeling that I ought to have followed its course, I took a more southerly direction.
Chapter 3
Man doth usurp all space,
Stares thee, in rock, bush, river, in the face.
Never thine eyes behold a tree;
‘Tis no sea thou seest in the sea,
‘Tis but a disguised humanity.
To avoid thy fellow, vain thy plan;
All that interests a man, is man.
—Henry Sutton.
The trees, which were far apart where I entered, giving free passage to the level rays of the sun, closed rapidly as I advanced, so that ere long their crowded stems barred the sunlight out, forming as it were a thick grating between me and the East. I seemed to be advancing towards a second midnight. In the midst of the intervening twilight, however, before I entered what appeared to be the darkest portion of the forest, I saw a country maiden coming towards me from its very depths. She did not seem to observe me, for she was apparently intent upon a bunch of wild flowers which she carried in her hand. I could hardly see her face; for, though she came direct towards me, she never looked up. But when we met, instead of passing, she turned and walked alongside of me for a few yards, still keeping her face downwards, and busied with her flowers. She spoke rapidly, however, all the time, in a low tone, as if talking to herself, but evidently addressing the purport of her words to me.
She seemed afraid of being observed by some lurking foe. “Trust the Oak,” said she; “trust the Oak, and the Elm, and the great Beech. Take care of the Birch, for though she is honest, she is too young not to be changeable. But shun the Ash and the Alder; for the Ash is an ogre, — you will know him by his thick fingers; and the Alder will smother you with her web of hair, if you let her near you at night.” All this was uttered without pause or alteration of tone. Then she turned suddenly and left me, walking still with the same unchanging gait. I could not conjecture what she meant, but satisfied myself with thinking that it would be time enough to find out her meaning when there was need to make use of her warning, and that the occasion would reveal the admonition. I concluded from the flowers that she carried, that the forest could not be everywhere so dense as it appeared from where I was now walking; and I was right in this conclusion. For soon I came to a more open part, and by-and-by crossed a wide grassy glade, on which were several circles of brighter green. But even here I was struck with the utter stillness. No bird sang. No insect hummed. Not a living creature crossed my way. Yet somehow the whole environment seemed only asleep, and to wear even in sleep an air of expectation. The trees seemed all to have an expression of conscious mystery, as if they said to themselves, “we could, an’ if we would.” They had all a meaning look about them. Then I remembered that night is the fairies’ day, and the moon their sun; and I thought — Everything sleeps and dreams now: when the night comes, it will be different. At the same time I, being a man and a child of the day, felt some anxiety as to how I should fare among the elves and other children of the night who wake when mortals dream, and find their common life in those wondrous hours that flow noiselessly over the moveless death-like forms of men and women and children, lying strewn and parted beneath the weight of the heavy waves of night, which flow on and beat them down, and hold them drowned and senseless, until the ebbtide comes, and the waves sink away, back into the ocean of the dark. But I took courage and went on. Soon, however, I became again anxious, though from another cause. I had eaten nothing that day, and for an hour past had been feeling the want of food. So I grew afraid lest I should find nothing to meet my human necessities in this strange place; but once more I comforted myself with hope and went on.
Before noon, I fancied I saw a thin blue smoke rising amongst the stems of larger trees in front of me; and soon I came to an open spot of ground in which stood a little cottage, so built that the stems of four great trees formed its corners, while their branches met and intertwined over its roof, heaping a great cloud of leaves over it, up towards the heavens. I wondered at finding a human dwelling in this neighbourhood; and yet it did not look altogether human, though sufficiently so to encourage me to expect to find some sort of food. Seeing no door, I went round to the other side, and there I found one, wide open. A woman sat beside it, preparing some vegetables for dinner. This was homely and comforting. As I came near, she looked up, and seeing me, showed no surprise, but bent her head again over her work, and said in a low tone:
“Did you see my daughter?”
“I believe I did,” said I. “Can you give me something to eat, for I am very hungry?” “With pleasure,” she replied, in the same tone; “but do not say anything more, till you come into the house, for the Ash is watching us.”
Having said this, she rose and led the way into the cottage; which, I now saw, was built of the stems of small trees set closely together, and was furnished with rough chairs and tables, from which even the bark had not been removed. As soon as she had shut the door and set a chair —
“You have fairy blood in you,” said she, looking hard at me.
“How do you know that?”
“You could not have got so far into this wood if it were not so; and I am trying to find out some trace of it in your countenance. I think I see it.”
“What do you see?”
“Oh, never mind: I may be mistaken in that.”
“But how then do you come to live here?”
“Because I too have fairy blood in me.”
Here I, in my turn, looked hard at her, and thought I could perceive, notwithstanding the coarseness of her features, and especially the heaviness of her eyebrows, a something unusual — I could hardly call it grace, and yet it was an expression that strangely contrasted with the form of her features. I noticed too that her hands were delicately formed, though brown with work and exposure.
“I should be ill,” she continued, “if I did not live on the borders of the fairies’ country, and now and then eat of their food. And I see by your eyes that you are not quite free of the same need; though, from your education and the activity of your mind, you have felt it less than I. You may be further removed too from the fairy race.”
I remembered what the lady had said about my grandmothers.
Here she placed some bread and some milk before me, with a kindly apology for the homeliness of the fare, with which, however, I was in no humour to quarrel. I now thought it time to try to get some explanation of the strange words both of her daughter and herself.
“What did you mean by speaking so about the Ash?”
She rose and looked out of the little window. My eyes followed her; but as the window was too small to allow anything to be seen from where I was sitting, I rose and looked over her shoulder. I had just time to see, across the open space, on the edge of the denser forest, a single large ash-tree, whose foliage showed bluish, amidst the truer green of the other trees around it; when she pushed me back with an expression of impatience and terror, and then almost shut out the light from the window by setting up a large old book in it.
“In general,” said she, recovering her composure, “there is no danger in the daytime, for then he is sound asleep; but there is something unusual going on in the woods; there must be some solemnity among the fairies to-night, for all the trees are restless, and although they cannot come awake, they see and hear in their sleep.”
“But what danger is to be dreaded from him?”
Instead of answering the question, she went again to the window and looked out, saying she feared the fairies would be interrupted by foul weather, for a storm was brewing in the west.
“And the sooner it grows dark, the sooner the Ash will be awake,” added she.
I asked her how she knew that there was any unusual excitement in the woods. She replied —
“Besides the look of the trees, the dog there is unhappy; and the eyes and ears of the white rabbit are redder than usual, and he frisks about as if he expected some fun. If the cat were at home, she would have her back up; for the young fairies pull the sparks out of her tail with bramble thorns, and she knows when they are coming. So do I, in another way.”
At this instant, a grey cat rushed in like a demon, and disappeared in a hole in the wall.
“There, I told you!” said the woman.
“But what of the ash-tree?” said I, returning once more to the subject. Here, however, the young woman, whom I had met in the morning, entered. A smile passed between the mother and daughter; and then the latter began to help her mother in little household duties.
“I should like to stay here till the evening,” I said; “and then go on my journey, if you will allow me.”
“You are welcome to do as you please; only it might be better to stay all night, than risk the dangers of the wood then. Where are you going?”
“Nay, that I do not know,” I replied, “but I wish to see all that is to be seen, and therefore I should like to start just at sundown.” “You are a bold youth, if you have any idea of what you are daring; but a rash one, if you know nothing about it; and, excuse me, you do not seem very well informed about the country and its manners. However, no one comes here but for some reason, either known to himself or to those who have charge of him; so you shall do just as you wish.”
Accordingly I sat down, and feeling rather tired, and disinclined for further talk, I asked leave to look at the old book which still screened the window. The woman brought it to me directly, but not before taking another look towards the forest, and then drawing a white blind over the window. I sat down opposite to it by the table, on which I laid the great old volume, and read. It contained many wondrous tales of Fairy Land, and olden times, and the Knights of King Arthur’s table. I read on and on, till the shades of the afternoon began to deepen; for in the midst of the forest it gloomed earlier than in the open country. At length I came to this passage —
“Here it chanced, that upon their quest, Sir Galahad and Sir Percivale rencountered in the depths of a great forest. Now, Sir Galahad was dight all in harness of silver, clear and shining; the which is a delight to look upon, but full hasty to tarnish, and withouten the labour of a ready squire, uneath to be kept fair and clean. And yet withouten squire or page, Sir Galahad’s armour shone like the moon. And he rode a great white mare, whose bases and other housings were black, but all besprent with fair lilys of silver sheen. Whereas Sir Percivale bestrode a red horse, with a tawny mane and tail; whose trappings were all to-smirched with mud and mire; and his armour was wondrous rosty to behold, ne could he by any art furbish it again; so that as the sun in his going down shone twixt the bare trunks of the trees, full upon the knights twain, the one did seem all shining with light, and the other all to glow with ruddy fire. Now it came about in this wise. For Sir Percivale, after his escape from the demon lady, whenas the cross on the handle of his sword smote him to the heart, and he rove himself through the thigh, and escaped away, he came to a great wood; and, in nowise cured of his fault, yet bemoaning the same, the damosel of the alder tree encountered him, right fair to see; and with her fair words and false countenance she comforted him and beguiled him, until he followed her where she led him to a —”
Here a low hurried cry from my hostess caused me to look up from the book, and I read no more.
“Look there!” she said; “look at his fingers!”
Just as I had been reading in the book, the setting sun was shining through a cleft in the clouds piled up in the west; and a shadow as of a large distorted hand, with thick knobs and humps on the fingers, so that it was much wider across the fingers than across the undivided part of the hand, passed slowly over the little blind, and then as slowly returned in the opposite direction.
“He is almost awake, mother; and greedier than usual to-night.”
“Hush, child; you need not make him more angry with us than he is; for you do not know how soon something may happen to oblige us to be in the forest after nightfall.”
“But you are in the forest,” said I; “how is it that you are safe here?”
“He dares not come nearer than he is now,” she replied; “for any of those four oaks, at the corners of our cottage, would tear him to pieces; they are our friends. But he stands there and makes awful faces at us sometimes, and stretches out his long arms and fingers, and tries to kill us with fright; for, indeed, that is his favourite way of doing. Pray, keep out of his way to-night.”
“Shall I be able to see these things?” said I.
“That I cannot tell yet, not knowing how much of the fairy nature there is in you. But we shall soon see whether you can discern the fairies in my little garden, and that will be some guide to us.”
“Are the trees fairies too, as well as the flowers?” I asked.
“They are of the same race,” she replied; “though those you call fairies in your country are chiefly the young children of the flower fairies. They are very fond of having fun with the thick people, as they call you; for, like most children, they like fun better than anything else.”
“Why do you have flowers so near you then? Do they not annoy you?”
“Oh, no, they are very amusing, with their mimicries of grown people, and mock solemnities. Sometimes they will act a whole play through before my eyes, with perfect composure and assurance, for they are not afraid of me. Only, as soon as they have done, they burst into peals of tiny laughter, as if it was such a joke to have been serious over anything. These I speak of, however, are the fairies of the garden. They are more staid and educated than those of the fields and woods. Of course they have near relations amongst the wild flowers, but they patronise them, and treat them as country cousins, who know nothing of life, and very little of manners. Now and then, however, they are compelled to envy the grace and simplicity of the natural flowers.”
“Do they live in the flowers?” I said.
“I cannot tell,” she replied. “There is something in it I do not understand. Sometimes they disappear altogether, even from me, though I know they are near. They seem to die always with the flowers they resemble, and by whose names they are called; but whether they return to life with the fresh flowers, or, whether it be new flowers, new fairies, I cannot tell. They have as many sorts of dispositions as men and women, while their moods are yet more variable; twenty different expressions will cross their little faces in half a minute. I often amuse myself with watching them, but I have never been able to make personal acquaintance with any of them. If I speak to one, he or she looks up in my face, as if I were not worth heeding, gives a little laugh, and runs away.” Here the woman started, as if suddenly recollecting herself, and said in a low voice to her daughter, “Make haste — go and watch him, and see in what direction he goes.”
I may as well mention here, that the conclusion I arrived at from the observations I was afterwards able to make, was, that the flowers die because the fairies go away; not that the fairies disappear because the flowers die. The flowers seem a sort of houses for them, or outer bodies, which they can put on or off when they please. Just as you could form some idea of the nature of a man from the kind of house he built, if he followed his own taste, so you could, without seeing the fairies, tell what any one of them is like, by looking at the flower till you feel that you understand it. For just what the flower says to you, would the face and form of the fairy say; only so much more plainly as a face and human figure can express more than a flower. For the house or the clothes, though like the inhabitant or the wearer, cannot be wrought into an equal power of utterance. Yet you would see a strange resemblance, almost oneness, between the flower and the fairy, which you could not describe, but which described itself to you. Whether all the flowers have fairies, I cannot determine, any more than I can be sure whether all men and women have souls.
The woman and I continued the conversation for a few minutes longer. I was much interested by the information she gave me, and astonished at the language in which she was able to convey it. It seemed that intercourse with the fairies was no bad education in itself. But now the daughter returned with the news, that the Ash had just gone away in a south-westerly direction; and, as my course seemed to lie eastward, she hoped I should be in no danger of meeting him if I departed at once. I looked out of the little window, and there stood the ash-tree, to my eyes the same as before; but I believed that they knew better than I did, and prepared to go. I pulled out my purse, but to my dismay there was nothing in it. The woman with a smile begged me not to trouble myself, for money was not of the slightest use there; and as I might meet with people in my journeys whom I could not recognise to be fairies, it was well I had no money to offer, for nothing offended them so much.
“They would think,” she added, “that you were making game of them; and that is their peculiar privilege with regard to us.” So we went together into the little garden which sloped down towards a lower part of the wood.
Here, to my great pleasure, all was life and bustle. There was still light enough from the day to see a little; and the pale half-moon, halfway to the zenith, was reviving every moment. The whole garden was like a carnival, with tiny, gaily decorated forms, in groups, assemblies, processions, pairs or trios, moving stately on, running about wildly, or sauntering hither or thither. From the cups or bells of tall flowers, as from balconies, some looked down on the masses below, now bursting with laughter, now grave as owls; but even in their deepest solemnity, seeming only to be waiting for the arrival of the next laugh. Some were launched on a little marshy stream at the bottom, in boats chosen from the heaps of last year’s leaves that lay about, curled and withered. These soon sank with them; whereupon they swam ashore and got others. Those who took fresh rose-leaves for their boats floated the longest; but for these they had to fight; for the fairy of the rose-tree complained bitterly that they were stealing her clothes, and defended her property bravely.
“You can’t wear half you’ve got,” said some.
“Never you mind; I don’t choose you to have them: they are my property.”
“All for the good of the community!” said one, and ran off with a great hollow leaf. But the rose-fairy sprang after him (what a beauty she was! only too like a drawing-room young lady), knocked him heels-over-head as he ran, and recovered her great red leaf. But in the meantime twenty had hurried off in different directions with others just as good; and the little creature sat down and cried, and then, in a pet, sent a perfect pink snowstorm of petals from her tree, leaping from branch to branch, and stamping and shaking and pulling. At last, after another good cry, she chose the biggest she could find, and ran away laughing, to launch her boat amongst the rest.
But my attention was first and chiefly attracted by a group of fairies near the cottage, who were talking together around what seemed a last dying primrose. They talked singing, and their talk made a song, something like this:
“Sister Snowdrop died
Before we were born.”
“She came like a bride
In a snowy morn.”
“What’s a bride?”
“What is snow?
“Never tried.”
“Do not know.”
“Who told you about her?”
“Little Primrose there
Cannot do without her.”
“Oh, so sweetly fair!”
“Never fear,
She will come,
Primrose dear.”
“Is she dumb?”

“She’ll come by-and-by.”
“You will never see her.”
“She went home to dies,
“Till the new year.”
“Snowdrop!” “‘Tis no good
To invite her.”
“Primrose is very rude,
“I will bite her.”

“Oh, you naughty Pocket!
“Look, she drops her head.”
“She deserved it, Rocket,
“And she was nearly dead.”
“To your hammock — off with you!”
“And swing alone.”
“No one will laugh with you.”
“No, not one.”

“Now let us moan.”
“And cover her o’er.”
“Primrose is gone.”
“All but the flower.”
“Here is a leaf.”
“Lay her upon it.”
“Follow in grief.”
“Pocket has done it.”
“Deeper, poor creature!
Winter may come.”
“He cannot reach her —
That is a hum.”
“She is buried, the beauty!”
“Now she is done.”
“That was the duty.”
“Now for the fun.”

And with a wild laugh they sprang away, most of them towards the cottage. During the latter part of the song-talk, they had formed themselves into a funeral procession, two of them bearing poor Primrose, whose death Pocket had hastened by biting her stalk, upon one of her own great leaves. They bore her solemnly along some distance, and then buried her under a tree. Although I say her I saw nothing but the withered primrose-flower on its long stalk. Pocket, who had been expelled from the company by common consent, went sulkily away towards her hammock, for she was the fairy of the calceolaria, and looked rather wicked. When she reached its stem, she stopped and looked round. I could not help speaking to her, for I stood near her. I said, “Pocket, how could you be so naughty?”
“I am never naughty,” she said, half-crossly, half-defiantly; “only if you come near my hammock, I will bite you, and then you will go away.”
“Why did you bite poor Primrose?”
“Because she said we should never see Snowdrop; as if we were not good enough to look at her, and she was, the proud thing! — served her right!”
“Oh, Pocket, Pocket,” said I; but by this time the party which had gone towards the house, rushed out again, shouting and screaming with laughter. Half of them were on the cat’s back, and half held on by her fur and tail, or ran beside her; till, more coming to their help, the furious cat was held fast; and they proceeded to pick the sparks out of her with thorns and pins, which they handled like harpoons. Indeed, there were more instruments at work about her than there could have been sparks in her. One little fellow who held on hard by the tip of the tail, with his feet planted on the ground at an angle of forty-five degrees, helping to keep her fast, administered a continuous flow of admonitions to Pussy.
“Now, Pussy, be patient. You know quite well it is all for your good. You cannot be comfortable with all those sparks in you; and, indeed, I am charitably disposed to believe” (here he became very pompous) “that they are the cause of all your bad temper; so we must have them all out, every one; else we shall be reduced to the painful necessity of cutting your claws, and pulling out your eye-teeth. Quiet! Pussy, quiet!”
But with a perfect hurricane of feline curses, the poor animal broke loose, and dashed across the garden and through the hedge, faster than even the fairies could follow. “Never mind, never mind, we shall find her again; and by that time she will have laid in a fresh stock of sparks. Hooray!” And off they set, after some new mischief.
But I will not linger to enlarge on the amusing display of these frolicsome creatures. Their manners and habits are now so well known to the world, having been so often described by eyewitnesses, that it would be only indulging self-conceit, to add my account in full to the rest. I cannot help wishing, however, that my readers could see them for themselves. Especially do I desire that they should see the fairy of the daisy; a little, chubby, round-eyed child, with such innocent trust in his look! Even the most mischievous of the fairies would not tease him, although he did not belong to their set at all, but was quite a little country bumpkin. He wandered about alone, and looked at everything, with his hands in his little pockets, and a white night-cap on, the darling! He was not so beautiful as many other wild flowers I saw afterwards, but so dear and loving in his looks and little confident ways.
Chapter 4
When bale is att hyest, boote is nyest.
— Ballad of Sir Aldingar .
By this time, my hostess was quite anxious that I should be gone. So, with warm thanks for their hospitality, I took my leave, and went my way through the little garden towards the forest. Some of the garden flowers had wandered into the wood, and were growing here and there along the path, but the trees soon became too thick and shadowy for them. I particularly noticed some tall lilies, which grew on both sides of the way, with large dazzlingly white flowers, set off by the universal green. It was now dark enough for me to see that every flower was shining with a light of its own. Indeed it was by this light that I saw them, an internal, peculiar light, proceeding from each, and not reflected from a common source of light as in the daytime. This light sufficed only for the plant itself, and was not strong enough to cast any but the faintest shadows around it, or to illuminate any of the neighbouring objects with other than the faintest tinge of its own individual hue. From the lilies above mentioned, from the campanulas, from the foxgloves, and every bell-shaped flower, curious little figures shot up their heads, peeped at me, and drew back. They seemed to inhabit them, as snails their shells but I was sure some of them were intruders, and belonged to the gnomes or goblin-fairies, who inhabit the ground and earthy creeping plants. From the cups of Arum lilies, creatures with great heads and grotesque faces shot up like Jack-in-the-box, and made grimaces at me; or rose slowly and slily over the edge of the cup, and spouted water at me, slipping suddenly back, like those little soldier-crabs that inhabit the shells of sea-snails. Passing a row of tall thistles, I saw them crowded with little faces, which peeped every one from behind its flower, and drew back as quickly; and I heard them saying to each other, evidently intending me to hear, but the speaker always hiding behind his tuft, when I looked in his direction, “Look at him! Look at him! He has begun a story without a beginning, and it will never have any end. He! he! he! Look at him!”
But as I went further into the wood, these sights and sounds became fewer, giving way to others of a different character. A little forest of wild hyacinths was alive with exquisite creatures, who stood nearly motionless, with drooping necks, holding each by the stem of her flower, and swaying gently with it, whenever a low breath of wind swung the crowded floral belfry. In like manner, though differing of course in form and meaning, stood a group of harebells, like little angels waiting, ready, till they were wanted to go on some yet unknown message. In darker nooks, by the mossy roots of the trees, or in little tufts of grass, each dwelling in a globe of its own green light, weaving a network of grass and its shadows, glowed the glowworms.
They were just like the glowworms of our own land, for they are fairies everywhere; worms in the day, and glowworms at night, when their own can appear, and they can be themselves to others as well as themselves. But they had their enemies here. For I saw great strong-armed beetles, hurrying about with most unwieldy haste, awkward as elephant-calves, looking apparently for glowworms; for the moment a beetle espied one, through what to it was a forest of grass, or an underwood of moss, it pounced upon it, and bore it away, in spite of its feeble resistance. Wondering what their object could be, I watched one of the beetles, and then I discovered a thing I could not account for. But it is no use trying to account for things in Fairy Land; and one who travels there soon learns to forget the very idea of doing so, and takes everything as it comes; like a child, who, being in a chronic condition of wonder, is surprised at nothing. What I saw was this. Everywhere, here and there over the ground, lay little, dark-looking lumps of something more like earth than anything else, and about the size of a chestnut. The beetles hunted in couples for these; and having found one, one of them stayed to watch it, while the other hurried to find a glowworm. By signals, I presume, between them, the latter soon found his companion again: they then took the glowworm and held its luminous tail to the dark earthly pellet; when lo, it shot up into the air like a sky-rocket, seldom, however, reaching the height of the highest tree. Just like a rocket too, it burst in the air, and fell in a shower of the most gorgeously coloured sparks of every variety of hue; golden and red, and purple and green, and blue and rosy fires crossed and inter-crossed each other, beneath the shadowy heads, and between the columnar stems of the forest trees. They never used the same glowworm twice, I observed; but let him go, apparently uninjured by the use they had made of him.
In other parts, the whole of the immediately surrounding foliage was illuminated by the interwoven dances in the air of splendidly coloured fire-flies, which sped hither and thither, turned, twisted, crossed, and recrossed, entwining every complexity of intervolved motion. Here and there, whole mighty trees glowed with an emitted phosphorescent light. You could trace the very course of the great roots in the earth by the faint light that came through; and every twig, and every vein on every leaf was a streak of pale fire.
All this time, as I went through the wood, I was haunted with the feeling that other shapes, more like my own size and mien, were moving about at a little distance on all sides of me. But as yet I could discern none of them, although the moon was high enough to send a great many of her rays down between the trees, and these rays were unusually bright, and sight-giving, notwithstanding she was only a half-moon. I constantly imagined, however, that forms were visible in all directions except that to which my gaze was turned; and that they only became invisible, or resolved themselves into other woodland shapes, the moment my looks were directed towards them. However this may have been, except for this feeling of presence, the woods seemed utterly bare of anything like human companionship, although my glance often fell on some object which I fancied to be a human form; for I soon found that I was quite deceived; as, the moment I fixed my regard on it, it showed plainly that it was a bush, or a tree, or a rock.
Soon a vague sense of discomfort possessed me. With variations of relief, this gradually increased; as if some evil thing were wandering about in my neighbourhood, sometimes nearer and sometimes further off, but still approaching. The feeling continued and deepened, until all my pleasure in the shows of various kinds that everywhere betokened the presence of the merry fairies vanished by degrees, and left me full of anxiety and fear, which I was unable to associate with any definite object whatever. At length the thought crossed my mind with horror: “Can it be possible that the Ash is looking for me? or that, in his nightly wanderings, his path is gradually verging towards mine?” I comforted myself, however, by remembering that he had started quite in another direction; one that would lead him, if he kept it, far apart from me; especially as, for the last two or three hours, I had been diligently journeying eastward. I kept on my way, therefore, striving by direct effort of the will against the encroaching fear; and to this end occupying my mind, as much as I could, with other thoughts. I was so far successful that, although I was conscious, if I yielded for a moment, I should be almost overwhelmed with horror, I was yet able to walk right on for an hour or more. What I feared I could not tell. Indeed, I was left in a state of the vaguest uncertainty as regarded the nature of my enemy, and knew not the mode or object of his attacks; for, somehow or other, none of my questions had succeeded in drawing a definite answer from the dame in the cottage. How then to defend myself I knew not; nor even by what sign I might with certainty recognise the presence of my foe; for as yet this vague though powerful fear was all the indication of danger I had. To add to my distress, the clouds in the west had risen nearly to the top of the skies, and they and the moon were travelling slowly towards each other. Indeed, some of their advanced guard had already met her, and she had begun to wade through a filmy vapour that gradually deepened.
At length she was for a moment almost entirely obscured. When she shone out again, with a brilliancy increased by the contrast, I saw plainly on the path before me — from around which at this spot the trees receded, leaving a small space of green sward — the shadow of a large hand, with knotty joints and protuberances here and there. Especially I remarked, even in the midst of my fear, the bulbous points of the fingers. I looked hurriedly all around, but could see nothing from which such a shadow should fall. Now, however, that I had a direction, however undetermined, in which to project my apprehension, the very sense of danger and need of action overcame that stifling which is the worst property of fear. I reflected in a moment, that if this were indeed a shadow, it was useless to look for the object that cast it in any other direction than between the shadow and the moon. I looked, and peered, and intensified my vision, all to no purpose. I could see nothing of that kind, not even an ash-tree in the neighbourhood. Still the shadow remained; not steady, but moving to and fro, and once I saw the fingers close, and grind themselves close, like the claws of a wild animal, as if in uncontrollable longing for some anticipated prey. There seemed but one mode left of discovering the substance of this shadow. I went forward boldly, though with an inward shudder which I would not heed, to the spot where the shadow lay, threw myself on the ground, laid my head within the form of the hand, and turned my eyes towards the moon Good heavens! what did I see? I wonder that ever I arose, and that the very shadow of the hand did not hold me where I lay until fear had frozen my brain. I saw the strangest figure; vague, shadowy, almost transparent, in the central parts, and gradually deepening in substance towards the outside, until it ended in extremities capable of casting such a shadow as fell from the hand, through the awful fingers of which I now saw the moon. The hand was uplifted in the attitude of a paw about to strike its prey. But the face, which throbbed with fluctuating and pulsatory visibility — not from changes in the light it reflected, but from changes in its own conditions of reflecting power, the alterations being from within, not from without — it was horrible. I do not know how to describe it. It caused a new sensation. Just as one cannot translate a horrible odour, or a ghastly pain, or a fearful sound, into words, so I cannot describe this new form of awful hideousness. I can only try to describe something that is not it, but seems somewhat parallel to it; or at least is suggested by it. It reminded me of what I had heard of vampires; for the face resembled that of a corpse more than anything else I can think of; especially when I can conceive such a face in motion, but not suggesting any life as the source of the motion. The features were rather handsome than otherwise, except the mouth, which had scarcely a curve in it. The lips were of equal thickness; but the thickness was not at all remarkable, even although they looked slightly swollen. They seemed fixedly open, but were not wide apart. Of course I did not remark these lineaments at the time: I was too horrified for that. I noted them afterwards, when the form returned on my inward sight with a vividness too intense to admit of my doubting the accuracy of the reflex. But the most awful of the features were the eyes. These were alive, yet not with life.
They seemed lighted up with an infinite greed. A gnawing voracity, which devoured the devourer, seemed to be the indwelling and propelling power of the whole ghostly apparition. I lay for a few moments simply imbruted with terror; when another cloud, obscuring the moon, delivered me from the immediately paralysing effects of the presence to the vision of the object of horror, while it added the force of imagination to the power of fear within me; inasmuch as, knowing far worse cause for apprehension than before, I remained equally ignorant from what I had to defend myself, or how to take any precautions: he might be upon me in the darkness any moment. I sprang to my feet, and sped I knew not whither, only away from the spectre. I thought no longer of the path, and often narrowly escaped dashing myself against a tree, in my headlong flight of fear.
Great drops of rain began to patter on the leaves. Thunder began to mutter, then growl in the distance. I ran on. The rain fell heavier. At length the thick leaves could hold it up no longer; and, like a second firmament, they poured their torrents on the earth. I was soon drenched, but that was nothing. I came to a small swollen stream that rushed through the woods. I had a vague hope that if I crossed this stream, I should be in safety from my pursuer; but I soon found that my hope was as false as it was vague. I dashed across the stream, ascended a rising ground, and reached a more open space, where stood only great trees. Through them I directed my way, holding eastward as nearly as I could guess, but not at all certain that I was not moving in an opposite direction. My mind was just reviving a little from its extreme terror, when, suddenly, a flash of lightning, or rather a cataract of successive flashes, behind me, seemed to throw on the ground in front of me, but far more faintly than before, from the extent of the source of the light, the shadow of the same horrible hand. I sprang forward, stung to yet wilder speed; but had not run many steps before my foot slipped, and, vainly attempting to recover myself, I fell at the foot of one of the large trees. Half-stunned, I yet raised myself, and almost involuntarily looked back. All I saw was the hand within three feet of my face. But, at the same moment, I felt two large soft arms thrown round me from behind; and a voice like a woman’s said: “Do not fear the goblin; he dares not hurt you now.” With that, the hand was suddenly withdrawn as from a fire, and disappeared in the darkness and the rain. Overcome with the mingling of terror and joy, I lay for some time almost insensible. The first thing I remember is the sound of a voice above me, full and low, and strangely reminding me of the sound of a gentle wind amidst the leaves of a great tree. It murmured over and over again: “I may love him, I may love him; for he is a man, and I am only a beech-tree.” I found I was seated on the ground, leaning against a human form, and supported still by the arms around me, which I knew to be those of a woman who must be rather above the human size, and largely proportioned. I turned my head, but without moving otherwise, for I feared lest the arms should untwine themselves; and clear, somewhat mournful eyes met mine. At least that is how they impressed me; but I could see very little of colour or outline as we sat in the dark and rainy shadow of the tree. The face seemed very lovely, and solemn from its stillness; with the aspect of one who is quite content, but waiting for something. I saw my conjecture from her arms was correct: she was above the human scale throughout, but not greatly.
“Why do you call yourself a beech-tree?” I said.
“Because I am one,” she replied, in the same low, musical, murmuring voice.
“You are a woman,” I returned.
“Do you think so? Am I very like a woman then?”
“You are a very beautiful woman. Is it possible you should not know it?”
“I am very glad you think so. I fancy I feel like a woman sometimes. I do so to-night — and always when the rain drips from my hair. For there is an old prophecy in our woods that one day we shall all be men and women like you. Do you know anything about it in your region? Shall I be very happy when I am a woman? I fear not, for it is always in nights like these that I feel like one. But I long to be a woman for all that.”
I had let her talk on, for her voice was like a solution of all musical sounds. I now told her that I could hardly say whether women were happy or not. I knew one who had not been happy; and for my part, I had often longed for Fairy Land, as she now longed for the world of men. But then neither of us had lived long, and perhaps people grew happier as they grew older. Only I doubted it.
I could not help sighing. She felt the sigh, for her arms were still round me. She asked me how old I was.
“Twenty-one,” said I.
“Why, you baby!” said she, and kissed me with the sweetest kiss of winds and odours. There was a cool faithfulness in the kiss that revived my heart wonderfully. I felt that I feared the dreadful Ash no more.
“What did the horrible Ash want with me?” I said.
“I am not quite sure, but I think he wants to bury you at the foot of his tree. But he shall not touch you, my child.”
“Are all the ash-trees as dreadful as he?”
“Oh, no. They are all disagreeable selfish creatures — (what horrid men they will make, if it be true!) — but this one has a hole in his heart that nobody knows of but one or two; and he is always trying to fill it up, but he cannot. That must be what he wanted you for. I wonder if he will ever be a man. If he is, I hope they will kill him.”
“How kind of you to save me from him!”
“I will take care that he shall not come near you again. But there are some in the wood more like me, from whom, alas! I cannot protect you. Only if you see any of them very beautiful, try to walk round them.”
“What then?”
“I cannot tell you more. But now I must tie some of my hair about you, and then the Ash will not touch you. Here, cut some off. You men have strange cutting things about you.”
She shook her long hair loose over me, never moving her arms.
“I cannot cut your beautiful hair. It would be a shame.”
“Not cut my hair! It will have grown long enough before any is wanted again in this wild forest. Perhaps it may never be of any use again — not till I am a woman.” And she sighed.
As gently as I could, I cut with a knife a long tress of flowing, dark hair, she hanging her beautiful head over me. When I had finished, she shuddered and breathed deep, as one does when an acute pain, steadfastly endured without sign of suffering, is at length relaxed. She then took the hair and tied it round me, singing a strange, sweet song, which I could not understand, but which left in me a feeling like this —
I saw thee ne’er before;
I see thee never more;
But love, and help, and pain, beautiful one,
Have made thee mine, till all my years are done.

I cannot put more of it into words. She closed her arms about me again, and went on singing. The rain in the leaves, and a light wind that had arisen, kept her song company. I was wrapt in a trance of still delight. It told me the secret of the woods, and the flowers, and the birds. At one time I felt as if I was wandering in childhood through sunny spring forests, over carpets of primroses, anemones, and little white starry things — I had almost said creatures, and finding new wonderful flowers at every turn. At another, I lay half dreaming in the hot summer noon, with a book of old tales beside me, beneath a great beech; or, in autumn, grew sad because I trod on the leaves that had sheltered me, and received their last blessing in the sweet odours of decay; or, in a winter evening, frozen still, looked up, as I went home to a warm fireside, through the netted boughs and twigs to the cold, snowy moon, with her opal zone around her. At last I had fallen asleep; for I know nothing more that passed till I found myself lying under a superb beech-tree, in the clear light of the morning, just before sunrise. Around me was a girdle of fresh beech-leaves. Alas! I brought nothing with me out of Fairy Land, but memories — memories. The great boughs of the beech hung drooping around me. At my head rose its smooth stem, with its great sweeps of curving surface that swelled like undeveloped limbs. The leaves and branches above kept on the song which had sung me asleep; only now, to my mind, it sounded like a farewell and a speedwell. I sat a long time, unwilling to go; but my unfinished story urged me on. I must act and wander. With the sun well risen, I rose, and put my arms as far as they would reach around the beech-tree, and kissed it, and said good-bye. A trembling went through the leaves; a few of the last drops of the night’s rain fell from off them at my feet; and as I walked slowly away, I seemed to hear in a whisper once more the words: “I may love him, I may love him; for he is a man, and I am only a beech-tree.”
Chapter 5
And she was smooth and full, as if one gush
Of life had washed her, or as if a sleep
Lay on her eyelid, easier to sweep
Than bee from daisy.
—Beddois’ Pygmalion .
Sche was as whyt as lylye yn May,
Or snow that sneweth yn wynterys day.
—Romance of Sir Launfal .
I walked on, in the fresh morning air, as if new-born. The only thing that damped my pleasure was a cloud of something between sorrow and delight that crossed my mind with the frequently returning thought of my last night’s hostess. “But then,” thought I, “if she is sorry, I could not help it; and she has all the pleasures she ever had. Such a day as this is surely a joy to her, as much at least as to me. And her life will perhaps be the richer, for holding now within it the memory of what came, but could not stay. And if ever she is a woman, who knows but we may meet somewhere? there is plenty of room for meeting in the universe.” Comforting myself thus, yet with a vague compunction, as if I ought not to have left her, I went on. There was little to distinguish the woods to-day from those of my own land; except that all the wild things, rabbits, birds, squirrels, mice, and the numberless other inhabitants, were very tame; that is, they did not run away from me, but gazed at me as I passed, frequently coming nearer, as if to examine me more closely. Whether this came from utter ignorance, or from familiarity with the human appearance of beings who never hurt them, I could not tell. As I stood once, looking up to the splendid flower of a parasite, which hung from the branch of a tree over my head, a large white rabbit cantered slowly up, put one of its little feet on one of mine, and looked up at me with its red eyes, just as I had been looking up at the flower above me. I stooped and stroked it; but when I attempted to lift it, it banged the ground with its hind feet and scampered off at a great rate, turning, however, to look at me several times before I lost sight of it. Now and then, too, a dim human figure would appear and disappear, at some distance, amongst the trees, moving like a sleep-walker. But no one ever came near me.
This day I found plenty of food in the forest — strange nuts and fruits I had never seen before. I hesitated to eat them; but argued that, if I could live on the air of Fairy Land, I could live on its food also. I found my reasoning correct, and the result was better than I had hoped; for it not only satisfied my hunger, but operated in such a way upon my senses that I was brought into far more complete relationship with the things around me. The human forms appeared much more dense and defined; more tangibly visible, if I may say so. I seemed to know better which direction to choose when any doubt arose. I began to feel in some degree what the birds meant in their songs, though I could not express it in words, any more than you can some landscapes. At times, to my surprise, I found myself listening attentively, and as if it were no unusual thing with me, to a conversation between two squirrels or monkeys. The subjects were not very interesting, except as associated with the individual life and necessities of the little creatures: where the best nuts were to be found in the neighbourhood, and who could crack them best, or who had most laid up for the winter, and such like; only they never said where the store was. There was no great difference in kind between their talk and our ordinary human conversation. Some of the creatures I never heard speak at all, and believe they never do so, except under the impulse of some great excitement. The mice talked; but the hedgehogs seemed very phlegmatic; and though I met a couple of moles above ground several times, they never said a word to each other in my hearing. There were no wild beasts in the forest; at least, I did not see one larger than a wild cat. There were plenty of snakes, however, and I do not think they were all harmless; but none ever bit me.
Soon after mid-day I arrived at a bare rocky hill, of no great size, but very steep; and having no trees — scarcely even a bush — upon it, entirely exposed to the heat of the sun. Over this my way seemed to lie, and I immediately began the ascent. On reaching the top, hot and weary, I looked around me, and saw that the forest still stretched as far as the sight could reach on every side of me. I observed that the trees, in the direction in which I was about to descend, did not come so near the foot of the hill as on the other side, and was especially regretting the unexpected postponement of shelter, because this side of the hill seemed more difficult to descend than the other had been to climb, when my eye caught the appearance of a natural path, winding down through broken rocks and along the course of a tiny stream, which I hoped would lead me more easily to the foot. I tried it, and found the descent not at all laborious; nevertheless, when I reached the bottom, I was very tired and exhausted with the heat. But just where the path seemed to end, rose a great rock, quite overgrown with shrubs and creeping plants, some of them in full and splendid blossom: these almost concealed an opening in the rock, into which the path appeared to lead. I entered, thirsting for the shade which it promised. What was my delight to find a rocky cell, all the angles rounded away with rich moss, and every ledge and projection crowded with lovely ferns, the variety of whose forms, and groupings, and shades wrought in me like a poem; for such a harmony could not exist, except they all consented to some one end! A little well of the clearest water filled a mossy hollow in one corner. I drank, and felt as if I knew what the elixir of life must be; then threw myself on a mossy mound that lay like a couch along the inner end. Here I lay in a delicious reverie for some time; during which all lovely forms, and colours, and sounds seemed to use my brain as a common hall, where they could come and go, unbidden and unexcused. I had never imagined that such capacity for simple happiness lay in me, as was now awakened by this assembly of forms and spiritual sensations, which yet were far too vague to admit of being translated into any shape common to my own and another mind. I had lain for an hour, I should suppose, though it may have been far longer, when, the harmonious tumult in my mind having somewhat relaxed, I became aware that my eyes were fixed on a strange, time-worn bas-relief on the rock opposite to me. This, after some pondering, I concluded to represent Pygmalion, as he awaited the quickening of his statue. The sculptor sat more rigid than the figure to which his eyes were turned. That seemed about to step from its pedestal and embrace the man, who waited rather than expected.
“A lovely story,” I said to myself. “This cave, now, with the bushes cut away from the entrance to let the light in, might be such a place as he would choose, withdrawn from the notice of men, to set up his block of marble, and mould into a visible body the thought already clothed with form in the unseen hall of the sculptor’s brain. And, indeed, if I mistake not,” I said, starting up, as a sudden ray of light arrived at that moment through a crevice in the roof, and lighted up a small portion of the rock, bare of vegetation, “this very rock is marble, white enough and delicate enough for any statue, even if destined to become an ideal woman in the arms of the sculptor.”
I took my knife and removed the moss from a part of the block on which I had been lying; when, to my surprise, I found it more like alabaster than ordinary marble, and soft to the edge of the knife. In fact, it was alabaster. By an inexplicable, though by no means unusual kind of impulse, I went on removing the moss from the surface of the stone; and soon saw that it was polished, or at least smooth, throughout. I continued my labour; and after clearing a space of about a couple of square feet, I observed what caused me to prosecute the work with more interest and care than before. For the ray of sunlight had now reached the spot I had cleared, and under its lustre the alabaster revealed its usual slight transparency when polished, except where my knife had scratched the surface; and I observed that the transparency seemed to have a definite limit, and to end upon an opaque body like the more solid, white marble. I was careful to scratch no more. And first, a vague anticipation gave way to a startling sense of possibility; then, as I proceeded, one revelation after another produced the entrancing conviction, that under the crust of alabaster lay a dimly visible form in marble, but whether of man or woman I could not yet tell. I worked on as rapidly as the necessary care would permit; and when I had uncovered the whole mass, and rising from my knees, had retreated a little way, so that the effect of the whole might fall on me, I saw before me with sufficient plainness — though at the same time with considerable indistinctness, arising from the limited amount of light the place admitted, as well as from the nature of the object itself — a block of pure alabaster enclosing the form, apparently in marble, of a reposing woman. She lay on one side, with her hand under her cheek, and her face towards me; but her hair had fallen partly over her face, so that I could not see the expression of the whole. What I did see appeared to me perfectly lovely; more near the face that had been born with me in my soul, than anything I had seen before in nature or art. The actual outlines of the rest of the form were so indistinct, that the more than semi-opacity of the alabaster seemed insufficient to account for the fact; and I conjectured that a light robe added its obscurity. Numberless histories passed through my mind of change of substance from enchantment and other causes, and of imprisonments such as this before me. I thought of the Prince of the Enchanted City, half marble and half a man; of Ariel; of Niobe; of the Sleeping Beauty in the Wood; of the bleeding trees; and many other histories. Even my adventure of the preceding evening with the lady of the beech-tree contributed to arouse the wild hope, that by some means life might be given to this form also, and that, breaking from her alabaster tomb, she might glorify my eyes with her presence. “For,” I argued, “who can tell but this cave may be the home of Marble, and this, essential Marble — that spirit of marble which, present throughout, makes it capable of being moulded into any form? Then if she should awake! But how to awake her? A kiss awoke the Sleeping Beauty! a kiss cannot reach her through the incrusting alabaster.” I kneeled, however, and kissed the pale coffin; but she slept on. I bethought me of Orpheus, and the following stones — that trees should follow his music seemed nothing surprising now. Might not a song awake this form, that the glory of motion might for a time displace the loveliness of rest? Sweet sounds can go where kisses may not enter. I sat and thought. Now, although always delighting in music, I had never been gifted with the power of song, until I entered the fairy forest. I had a voice, and I had a true sense of sound; but when I tried to sing, the one would not content the other, and so I remained silent. This morning, however, I had found myself, ere I was aware, rejoicing in a song; but whether it was before or after I had eaten of the fruits of the forest, I could not satisfy myself. I concluded it was after, however; and that the increased impulse to sing I now felt, was in part owing to having drunk of the little well, which shone like a brilliant eye in a corner of the cave. I sat down on the ground by the “antenatal tomb,” leaned upon it with my face towards the head of the figure within, and sang — the words and tones coming together, and inseparably connected, as if word and tone formed one thing; or, as if each word could be uttered only in that tone, and was incapable of distinction from it, except in idea, by an acute analysis. I sang something like this: but the words are only a dull representation of a state whose very elevation precluded the possibility of remembrance; and in which I presume the words really employed were as far above these, as that state transcended this wherein I recall it:

Marble woman, vainly sleeping
In the very death of dreams!
Wilt thou — slumber from thee sweeping,
All but what with vision teems —
Hear my voice come through the golden
Mist of memory and hope;
And with shadowy smile embolden
Me with primal Death to cope?
Thee the sculptors all pursuing,
Have embodied but their own;
Round their visions, form enduring,
Marble vestments thou hast thrown;
But thyself, in silence winding,
Thou hast kept eternally;
Thee they found not, many finding —
I have found thee: wake for me.

As I sang, I looked earnestly at the face so vaguely revealed before me. I fancied, yet believed it to be but fancy, that through the dim veil of the alabaster, I saw a motion of the head as if caused by a sinking sigh. I gazed more earnestly, and concluded that it was but fancy. Neverthless I could not help singing again —
Rest is now filled full of beauty,
And can give thee up, I ween;
Come thou forth, for other duty
Motion pineth for her queen.
Or, if needing years to wake thee
From thy slumbrous solitudes,
Come, sleep-walking, and betake thee
To the friendly, sleeping woods.
Sweeter dreams are in the forest,
Round thee storms would never rave;
And when need of rest is sorest,
Glide thou then into thy cave.
Or, if still thou choosest rather
Marble, be its spell on me;
Let thy slumber round me gather,
Let another dream with thee!

Again I paused, and gazed through the stony shroud, as if, by very force of penetrative sight, I would clear every lineament of the lovely face. And now I thought the hand that had lain under the cheek, had slipped a little downward. But then I could not be sure that I had at first observed its position accurately. So I sang again; for the longing had grown into a passionate need of seeing her alive —

Or art thou Death, O woman? for since I
Have set me singing by thy side,
Life hath forsook the upper sky,
And all the outer world hath died.
Yea, I am dead; for thou hast drawn
My life all downward unto thee.
Dead moon of love! let twilight dawn:
Awake! and let the darkness flee.
Cold lady of the lovely stone!
Awake! or I shall perish here;
And thou be never more alone,
My form and I for ages near.
But words are vain; reject them all —
They utter but a feeble part:
Hear thou the depths from which they call,
The voiceless longing of my heart.

There arose a slightly crashing sound. Like a sudden apparition that comes and is gone, a white form, veiled in a light robe of whiteness, burst upwards from the stone, stood, glided forth, and gleamed away towards the woods. For I followed to the mouth of the cave, as soon as the amazement and concentration of delight permitted the nerves of motion again to act; and saw the white form amidst the trees, as it crossed a little glade on the edge of the forest where the sunlight fell full, seeming to gather with intenser radiance on the one object that floated rather than flitted through its lake of beams. I gazed after her in a kind of despair; found, freed, lost! It seemed useless to follow, yet follow I must. I marked the direction she took; and without once looking round to the forsaken cave, I hastened towards the forest.
Chapter 6
Ah, let a man beware, when his wishes, fulfilled, rain down
upon him, and his happiness is unbounded.
—Fouqué, Der Zauberring .
Thy red lips, like worms,
Travel over my cheek.
But as I crossed the space between the foot of the hill and the forest, a vision of another kind delayed my steps. Through an opening to the westward flowed, like a stream, the rays of the setting sun, and overflowed with a ruddy splendour the open space where I was. And riding as it were down this stream towards me, came a horseman in what appeared red armour. From frontlet to tail, the horse likewise shone red in the sunset. I felt as if I must have seen the knight before; but as he drew near, I could recall no feature of his countenance. Ere he came up to me, however, I remembered the legend of Sir Percival in the rusty armour, which I had left unfinished in the old book in the cottage: it was of Sir Percival that he reminded me. And no wonder; for when he came close up to me, I saw that, from crest to heel, the whole surface of his armour was covered with a light rust. The golden spurs shone, but the iron greaves glowed in the sunlight. The morning star , which hung from his wrist, glittered and glowed with its silver and bronze. His whole appearance was terrible; but his face did not answer to this appearance. It was sad, even to gloominess; and something of shame seemed to cover it. Yet it was noble and high, though thus beclouded; and the form looked lofty, although the head drooped, and the whole frame was bowed as with an inward grief. The horse seemed to share in his master’s dejection, and walked spiritless and slow. I noticed, too, that the white plume on his helmet was discoloured and drooping. “He has fallen in a joust with spears,” I said to myself; “yet it becomes not a noble knight to be conquered in spirit because his body hath fallen.” He appeared not to observe me, for he was riding past without looking up, and started into a warlike attitude the moment the first sound of my voice reached him. Then a flush, as of shame, covered all of his face that the lifted beaver disclosed. He returned my greeting with distant courtesy, and passed on. But suddenly, he reined up, sat a moment still, and then turning his horse, rode back to where I stood looking after him.
“I am ashamed,” he said, “to appear a knight, and in such a guise; but it behoves me to tell you to take warning from me, lest the same evil, in his kind, overtake the singer that has befallen the knight. Hast thou ever read the story of Sir Percival and the” — (here he shuddered, that his armour rang) — “Maiden of the Alder-tree?”
“In part, I have,” said I; “for yesterday, at the entrance of this forest, I found in a cottage the volume wherein it is recorded.” “Then take heed,” he rejoined; “for, see my armour — I put it off; and as it befell to him, so has it befallen to me. I that was proud am humble now. Yet is she terribly beautiful — beware. Never,” he added, raising his head, “shall this armour be furbished, but by the blows of knightly encounter, until the last speck has disappeared from every spot where the battle-axe and sword of evil-doers, or noble foes, might fall; when I shall again lift my head, and say to my squire, ‘Do thy duty once more, and make this armour shine.’”
Before I could inquire further, he had struck spurs into his horse and galloped away, shrouded from my voice in the noise of his armour. For I called after him, anxious to know more about this fearful enchantress; but in vain — he heard me not. “Yet,” I said to myself, “I have now been often warned; surely I shall be well on my guard; and I am fully resolved I shall not be ensnared by any beauty, however beautiful. Doubtless, some one man may escape, and I shall be he.” So I went on into the wood, still hoping to find, in some one of its mysterious recesses, my lost lady of the marble. The sunny afternoon died into the loveliest twilight. Great bats began to flit about with their own noiseless flight, seemingly purposeless, because its objects are unseen. The monotonous music of the owl issued from all unexpected quarters in the half-darkness around me. The glow-worm was alight here and there, burning out into the great universe. The night-hawk heightened all the harmony and stillness with his oft-recurring, discordant jar. Numberless unknown sounds came out of the unknown dusk; but all were of twilight-kind, oppressing the heart as with a condensed atmosphere of dreamy undefined love and longing. The odours of night arose, and bathed me in that luxurious mournfulness peculiar to them, as if the plants whence they floated had been watered with bygone tears. Earth drew me towards her bosom; I felt as if I could fall down and kiss her. I forgot I was in Fairy Land, and seemed to be walking in a perfect night of our own old nursing earth. Great stems rose about me, uplifting a thick multitudinous roof above me of branches, and twigs, and leaves — the bird and insect world uplifted over mine, with its own landscapes, its own thickets, and paths, and glades, and dwellings; its own bird-ways and insect-delights. Great boughs crossed my path; great roots based the tree-columns, and mightily clasped the earth, strong to lift and strong to uphold. It seemed an old, old forest, perfect in forest ways and pleasures. And when, in the midst of this ecstacy, I remembered that under some close canopy of leaves, by some giant stem, or in some mossy cave, or beside some leafy well, sat the lady of the marble, whom my songs had called forth into the outer world, waiting (might it not be?) to meet and thank her deliverer in a twilight which would veil her confusion, the whole night became one dream-realm of joy, the central form of which was everywhere present, although unbeheld. Then, remembering how my songs seemed to have called her from the marble, piercing through the pearly shroud of alabaster — “Why,” thought I, “should not my voice reach her now, through the ebon night that inwraps her.” My voice burst into song so spontaneously that it seemed involuntarily.
Not a sound
But, echoing in me,
Vibrates all around
With a blind delight,
Till it breaks on Thee,
Queen of Night!
Every tree,
O’ershadowing with gloom,
Seems to cover thee
Secret, dark, love-still’d,
In a holy room
Let no moon
Creep up the heaven to-night;
I in darksome noon
Walking hopefully,
Seek my shrouded light —
Grope for thee!
Darker grow
The borders of the dark!
Through the branches glow,
From the roof above,
Star and diamond-sparks
Light for love.

Scarcely had the last sounds floated away from the hearing of my own ears, when I heard instead a low delicious laugh near me. It was not the laugh of one who would not be heard, but the laugh of one who has just received something long and patiently desired — a laugh that ends in a low musical moan. I started, and, turning sideways, saw a dim white figure seated beside an intertwining thicket of smaller trees and underwood.
“It is my white lady!” I said, and flung myself on the ground beside her; striving, through the gathering darkness, to get a glimpse of the form which had broken its marble prison at my call.
“It is your white lady!” said the sweetest voice, in reply, sending a thrill of speechless delight through a heart which all the love-charms of the preceding day and evening had been tempering for this culminating hour. Yet, if I would have confessed it, there was something either in the sound of the voice, although it seemed sweetness itself, or else in this yielding which awaited no gradation of gentle approaches, that did not vibrate harmoniously with the beat of my inward music. And likewise, when, taking her hand in mine, I drew closer to her, looking for the beauty of her face, which, indeed, I found too plenteously, a cold shiver ran through me; but “it is the marble,” I said to myself, and heeded it not.
She withdrew her hand from mine, and after that would scarce allow me to touch her. It seemed strange, after the fulness of her first greeting, that she could not trust me to come close to her. Though her words were those of a lover, she kept herself withdrawn as if a mile of space interposed between us.
“Why did you run away from me when you woke in the cave?” I said.
“Did I?” she returned. “That was very unkind of me; but I did not know better.”
“I wish I could see you. The night is very dark.”
“So it is. Come to my grotto. There is light there.”
“Have you another cave, then?”
“Come and see.”
But she did not move until I rose first, and then she was on her feet before I could offer my hand to help her. She came close to my side, and conducted me through the wood. But once or twice, when, involuntarily almost, I was about to put my arm around her as we walked on through the warm gloom, she sprang away several paces, always keeping her face full towards me, and then stood looking at me, slightly stooping, in the attitude of one who fears some half-seen enemy. It was too dark to discern the expression of her face. Then she would return and walk close beside me again, as if nothing had happened. I thought this strange; but, besides that I had almost, as I said before, given up the attempt to account for appearances in Fairy Land, I judged that it would be very unfair to expect from one who had slept so long and had been so suddenly awakened, a behaviour correspondent to what I might unreflectingly look for. I knew not what she might have been dreaming about. Besides, it was possible that, while her words were free, her sense of touch might be exquisitely delicate.
At length, after walking a long way in the woods, we arrived at another thicket, through the intertexture of which was glimmering a pale rosy light.
“Push aside the branches,” she said, “and make room for us to enter.”
I did as she told me.
“Go in,” she said; “I will follow you.”
I did as she desired, and found myself in a little cave, not very unlike the marble cave. It was festooned and draperied with all kinds of green that cling to shady rocks. In the furthest corner, half-hidden in leaves, through which it glowed, mingling lovely shadows between them, burned a bright rosy flame on a little earthen lamp. The lady glided round by the wall from behind me, still keeping her face towards me, and seated herself in the furthest corner, with her back to the lamp, which she hid completely from my view. I then saw indeed a form of perfect loveliness before me. Almost it seemed as if the light of the rose-lamp shone through her (for it could not be reflected from her); such a delicate shade of pink seemed to shadow what in itself must be a marbly whiteness of hue. I discovered afterwards, however, that there was one thing in it I did not like; which was, that the white part of the eye was tinged with the same slight roseate hue as the rest of the form. It is strange that I cannot recall her features; but they, as well as her somewhat girlish figure, left on me simply and only the impression of intense loveliness. I lay down at her feet, and gazed up into her face as I lay. She began, and told me a strange tale, which, likewise, I cannot recollect; but which, at every turn and every pause, somehow or other fixed my eyes and thoughts upon her extreme beauty; seeming always to culminate in something that had a relation, revealed or hidden, but always operative, with her own loveliness. I lay entranced. It was a tale which brings back a feeling as of snows and tempests; torrents and water-sprites; lovers parted for long, and meeting at last; with a gorgeous summer night to close up the whole. I listened till she and I were blended with the tale; till she and I were the whole history. And we had met at last in this same cave of greenery, while the summer night hung round us heavy with love, and the odours that crept through the silence from the sleeping woods were the only signs of an outer world that invaded our solitude. What followed I cannot clearly remember. The succeeding horror almost obliterated it. I woke as a grey dawn stole into the cave. The damsel had disappeared; but in the shrubbery, at the mouth of the cave, stood a strange horrible object. It looked like an open coffin set up on one end; only that the part for the head and neck was defined from the shoulder-part. In fact, it was a rough representation of the human frame, only hollow, as if made of decaying bark torn from a tree.
It had arms, which were only slightly seamed, down from the shoulder-blade by the elbow, as if the bark had healed again from the cut of a knife. But the arms moved, and the hand and the fingers were tearing asunder a long silky tress of hair. The thing turned round — it had for a face and front those of my enchantress, but now of a pale greenish hue in the light of the morning, and with dead lustreless eyes. In the horror of the moment, another fear invaded me. I put my hand to my waist, and found indeed that my girdle of beech-leaves was gone. Hair again in her hands, she was tearing it fiercely. Once more, as she turned, she laughed a low laugh, but now full of scorn and derision; and then she said, as if to a companion with whom she had been talking while I slept, “There he is; you can take him now.” I lay still, petrified with dismay and fear; for I now saw another figure beside her, which, although vague and indistinct, I yet recognised but too well. It was the Ash-tree. My beauty was the Maid of the Alder! and she was giving me, spoiled of my only availing defence, into the hands of my awful foe. The Ash bent his Gorgon-head, and entered the cave. I could not stir. He drew near me. His ghoul-eyes and his ghastly face fascinated me. He came stooping, with the hideous hand outstretched, like a beast of prey. I had given myself up to a death of unfathomable horror, when, suddenly, and just as he was on the point of seizing me, the dull, heavy blow of an axe echoed through the wood, followed by others in quick repetition. The Ash shuddered and groaned, withdrew the outstretched hand, retreated backwards to the mouth of the cave, then turned and disappeared amongst the trees. The other walking Death looked at me once, with a careless dislike on her beautifully moulded features; then, heedless any more to conceal her hollow deformity, turned her frightful back and likewise vanished amid the green obscurity without. I lay and wept. The Maid of the Alder-tree had befooled me — nearly slain me — in spite of all the warnings I had received from those who knew my danger.
Chapter 7
Fight on, my men, Sir Andrew sayes,
A little I am hurt, but yett not slaine;
I’le but lye downe and bleede awhile,
And then I’le rise and fight againe.
—Ballad of Sir Andrew Barton .
But I could not remain where I was any longer, though the daylight was hateful to me, and the thought of the great, innocent, bold sunrise unendurable. Here there was no well to cool my face, smarting with the bitterness of my own tears. Nor would I have washed in the well of that grotto, had it flowed clear as the rivers of Paradise. I rose, and feebly left the sepulchral cave. I took my way I knew not whither, but still towards the sunrise. The birds were singing; but not for me. All the creatures spoke a language of their own, with which I had nothing to do, and to which I cared not to find the key any more.
I walked listlessly along. What distressed me most — more even than my own folly — was the perplexing question, How can beauty and ugliness dwell so near? Even with her altered complexion and her face of dislike; disenchanted of the belief that clung around her; known for a living, walking sepulchre, faithless, deluding, traitorous; I felt notwithstanding all this, that she was beautiful. Upon this I pondered with undiminished perplexity, though not without some gain. Then I began to make surmises as to the mode of my deliverance; and concluded that some hero, wandering in search of adventure, had heard how the forest was infested; and, knowing it was useless to attack the evil thing in person, had assailed with his battle-axe the body in which he dwelt, and on which he was dependent for his power of mischief in the wood. “Very likely,” I thought, “the repentant-knight, who warned me of the evil which has befallen me, was busy retrieving his lost honour, while I was sinking into the same sorrow with himself; and, hearing of the dangerous and mysterious being, arrived at his tree in time to save me from being dragged to its roots, and buried like carrion, to nourish him for yet deeper insatiableness.” I found afterwards that my conjecture was correct. I wondered how he had fared when his blows recalled the Ash himself, and that too I learned afterwards.
I walked on the whole day, with intervals of rest, but without food; for I could not have eaten, had any been offered me; till, in the afternoon, I seemed to approach the outskirts of the forest, and at length arrived at a farm-house. An unspeakable joy arose in my heart at beholding an abode of human beings once more, and I hastened up to the door, and knocked. A kind-looking, matronly woman, still handsome, made her appearance; who, as soon as she saw me, said kindly, “Ah, my poor boy, you have come from the wood! Were you in it last night?”
I should have ill endured, the day before, to be called boy ; but now the motherly kindness of the word went to my heart; and, like a boy indeed, I burst into tears. She soothed me right gently; and, leading me into a room, made me lie down on a settle, while she went to find me some refreshment. She soon returned with food, but I could not eat. She almost compelled me to swallow some wine, when I revived sufficiently to be able to answer some of her questions. I told her the whole story.
“It is just as I feared,” she said; “but you are now for the night beyond the reach of any of these dreadful creatures. It is no wonder they could delude a child like you. But I must beg you, when my husband comes in, not to say a word about these things; for he thinks me even half crazy for believing anything of the sort. But I must believe my senses, as he cannot believe beyond his, which give him no intimations of this kind. I think he could spend the whole of Midsummer-eve in the wood and come back with the report that he saw nothing worse than himself. Indeed, good man, he would hardly find anything better than himself, if he had seven more senses given him.”
“But tell me how it is that she could be so beautiful without any heart at all — without any place even for a heart to live in.”
“I cannot quite tell,” she said; “but I am sure she would not look so beautiful if she did not take means to make herself look more beautiful than she is. And then, you know, you began by being in love with her before you saw her beauty, mistaking her for the lady of the marble — another kind altogether, I should think. But the chief thing that makes her beautiful is this: that, although she loves no man, she loves the love of any man; and when she finds one in her power, her desire to bewitch him and gain his love (not for the sake of his love either, but that she may be conscious anew of her own beauty, through the admiration he manifests), makes her very lovely — with a self-destructive beauty, though; for it is that which is constantly wearing her away within, till, at last, the decay will reach her face, and her whole front, when all the lovely mask of nothing will fall to pieces, and she be vanished for ever. So a wise man, whom she met in the wood some years ago, and who, I think, for all his wisdom, fared no better than you, told me, when, like you, he spent the next night here, and recounted to me his adventures.”
I thanked her very warmly for her solution, though it was but partial; wondering much that in her, as in woman I met on my first entering the forest, there should be such superiority to her apparent condition. Here she left me to take some rest; though, indeed, I was too much agitated to rest in any other way than by simply ceasing to move.
In half an hour, I heard a heavy step approach and enter the house. A jolly voice, whose slight huskiness appeared to proceed from overmuch laughter, called out “Betsy, the pigs’ trough is quite empty, and that is a pity. Let them swill, lass! They’re of no use but to get fat. Ha! ha! ha! Gluttony is not forbidden in their commandments. Ha! ha! ha!” The very voice, kind and jovial, seemed to disrobe the room of the strange look which all new places wear — to disenchant it out of the realm of the ideal into that of the actual. It began to look as if I had known every corner of it for twenty years; and when, soon after, the dame came and fetched me to partake of their early supper, the grasp of his great hand, and the harvest-moon of his benevolent face, which was needed to light up the rotundity of the globe beneath it, produced such a reaction in me, that, for a moment, I could hardly believe that there was a Fairy Land; and that all I had passed through since I left home, had not been the wandering dream of a diseased imagination, operating on a too mobile frame, not merely causing me indeed to travel, but peopling for me with vague phantoms the regions through which my actual steps had led me. But the next moment my eye fell upon a little girl who was sitting in the chimney-corner, with a little book open on her knee, from which she had apparently just looked up to fix great inquiring eyes upon me. I believed in Fairy Land again. She went on with her reading, as soon as she saw that I observed her looking at me. I went near, and peeping over her shoulder, saw that she was reading The History of Graciosa and Percinet .
“Very improving book, sir,” remarked the old farmer, with a good-humoured laugh. “We are in the very hottest corner of Fairy Land here. Ha! ha! Stormy night, last night, sir.”
“Was it, indeed?” I rejoined. “It was not so with me. A lovelier night I never saw.” “Indeed! Where were you last night?”
“I spent it in the forest. I had lost my way.”
“Ah! then, perhaps, you will be able to convince my good woman, that there is nothing very remarkable about the forest; for, to tell the truth, it bears but a bad name in these parts. I dare say you saw nothing worse than yourself there?”
“I hope I did,” was my inward reply; but, for an audible one, I contented myself with saying, “Why, I certainly did see some appearances I could hardly account for; but that is nothing to be wondered at in an unknown wild forest, and with the uncertain light of the moon alone to go by.”
“Very true! you speak like a sensible man, sir. We have but few sensible folks round about us. Now, you would hardly credit it, but my wife believes every fairy-tale that ever was written. I cannot account for it. She is a most sensible woman in everything else.”
“But should not that make you treat her belief with something of respect, though you cannot share in it yourself?”
“Yes, that is all very well in theory; but when you come to live every day in the midst of absurdity, it is far less easy to behave respectfully to it. Why, my wife actually believes the story of the ‘White Cat.’ You know it, I dare say.”
“I read all these tales when a child, and know that one especially well.”
“But, father,” interposed the little girl in the chimney-corner, “you know quite well that mother is descended from that very princess who was changed by the wicked fairy into a white cat. Mother has told me so a many times, and you ought to believe everything she says.”
“I can easily believe that,” rejoined the farmer, with another fit of laughter; “for, the other night, a mouse came gnawing and scratching beneath the floor, and would not let us go to sleep. Your mother sprang out of bed, and going as near it as she could, mewed so infernally like a great cat, that the noise ceased instantly. I believe the poor mouse died of the fright, for we have never heard it again. Ha! ha! ha!”
The son, an ill-looking youth, who had entered during the conversation, joined in his father’s laugh; but his laugh was very different from the old man’s: it was polluted with a sneer. I watched him, and saw that, as soon as it was over, he looked scared, as if he dreaded some evil consequences to follow his presumption. The woman stood near, waiting till we should seat ourselves at the table, and listening to it all with an amused air, which had something in it of the look with which one listens to the sententious remarks of a pompous child. We sat down to supper, and I ate heartily. My bygone distresses began already to look far off.
“In what direction are you going?” asked the old man.
“Eastward,” I replied; nor could I have given a more definite answer. “Does the forest extend much further in that direction?”
“Oh! for miles and miles; I do not know how far. For although I have lived on the borders of it all my life, I have been too busy to make journeys of discovery into it. Nor do I see what I could discover. It is only trees and trees, till one is sick of them. By the way, if you follow the eastward track from here, you will pass close to what the children say is the very house of the ogre that Hop-o’-my-Thumb visited, and ate his little daughters with the crowns of gold.”
“Oh, father! ate his little daughters! No; he only changed their gold crowns for nightcaps; and the great long-toothed ogre killed them in mistake; but I do not think even he ate them, for you know they were his own little ogresses.”
“Well, well, child; you know all about it a great deal better than I do. However, the house has, of course, in such a foolish neighbourhood as this, a bad enough name; and I must confess there is a woman living in it, with teeth long enough, and white enough too, for the lineal descendant of the greatest ogre that ever was made. I think you had better not go near her.”
In such talk as this the night wore on. When supper was finished, which lasted some time, my hostess conducted me to my chamber.
“If you had not had enough of it already,” she said, “I would have put you in another room, which looks towards the forest; and where you would most likely have seen something more of its inhabitants. For they frequently pass the window, and even enter the room sometimes. Strange creatures spend whole nights in it, at certain seasons of the year. I am used to it, and do not mind it. No more does my little girl, who sleeps in it always. But this room looks southward towards the open country, and they never show themselves here; at least I never saw any.”
I was somewhat sorry not to gather any experience that I might have, of the inhabitants of Fairy Land; but the effect of the farmer’s company, and of my own later adventures, was such, that I chose rather an undisturbed night in my more human quarters; which, with their clean white curtains and white linen, were very inviting to my weariness.
In the morning I awoke refreshed, after a profound and dreamless sleep. The sun was high, when I looked out of the window, shining over a wide, undulating, cultivated country. Various garden-vegetables were growing beneath my window. Everything was radiant with clear sunlight. The dew-drops were sparkling their busiest; the cows in a near-by field were eating as if they had not been at it all day yesterday; the maids were singing at their work as they passed to and fro between the out-houses: I did not believe in Fairy Land. I went down, and found the family already at breakfast. But before I entered the room where they sat, the little girl came to me, and looked up in my face, as though she wanted to say something to me. I stooped towards her; she put her arms round my neck, and her mouth to my ear, and whispered —
“A white lady has been flitting about the house all night.”
“No whispering behind doors!” cried the farmer; and we entered together. “Well, how have you slept? No bogies, eh?”
“Not one, thank you; I slept uncommonly well.”
“I am glad to hear it. Come and breakfast.”
After breakfast, the farmer and his son went out; and I was left alone with the mother and daughter.
“When I looked out of the window this morning,” I said, “I felt almost certain that Fairy Land was all a delusion of my brain; but whenever I come near you or your little daughter, I feel differently. Yet I could persuade myself, after my last adventures, to go back, and have nothing more to do with such strange beings.”
“How will you go back?” said the woman.
“Nay, that I do not know.”
“Because I have heard, that, for those who enter Fairy Land, there is no way of going back. They must go on, and go through it. How, I do not in the least know.”
“That is quite the impression on my own mind. Something compels me to go on, as if my only path was onward, but I feel less inclined this morning to continue my adventures.”
“Will you come and see my little child’s room? She sleeps in the one I told you of, looking towards the forest.”
“Willingly,” I said.
So we went together, the little girl running before to open the door for us. It was a large room, full of old-fashioned furniture, that seemed to have once belonged to some great house.
The window was built with a low arch, and filled with lozenge-shaped panes. The wall was very thick, and built of solid stone. I could see that part of the house had been erected against the remains of some old castle or abbey, or other great building; the fallen stones of which had probably served to complete it. But as soon as I looked out of the window, a gush of wonderment and longing flowed over my soul like the tide of a great sea. Fairy Land lay before me, and drew me towards it with an irresistible attraction. The trees bathed their great heads in the waves of the morning, while their roots were planted deep in gloom; save where on the borders the sunshine broke against their stems, or swept in long streams through their avenues, washing with brighter hue all the leaves over which it flowed; revealing the rich brown of the decayed leaves and fallen pine-cones, and the delicate greens of the long grasses and tiny forests of moss that covered the channel over which it passed in motionless rivers of light. I turned hurriedly to bid my hostess farewell without further delay. She smiled at my haste, but with an anxious look.
“You had better not go near the house of the ogre, I think. My son will show you into another path, which will join the first beyond it.”
Not wishing to be headstrong or too confident any more, I agreed; and having taken leave of my kind entertainers, went into the wood, accompanied by the youth. He scarcely spoke as we went along; but he led me through the trees till we struck upon a path. He told me to follow it, and, with a muttered “good morning” left me.
Chapter 8
I am a part of the part, which at first was the whole.
—Goethe, Mephistopheles in Faust .
My spirits rose as I went deeper; into the forest; but I could not regain my former elasticity of mind. I found cheerfulness to be like life itself — not to be created by any argument. Afterwards I learned, that the best way to manage some kinds of pain filled thoughts, is to dare them to do their worst; to let them lie and gnaw at your heart till they are tired; and you find you still have a residue of life they cannot kill. So, better and worse, I went on, till I came to a little clearing in the forest. In the middle of this clearing stood a long, low hut, built with one end against a single tall cypress, which rose like a spire to the building. A vague misgiving crossed my mind when I saw it; but I must needs go closer, and look through a little half-open door, near the opposite end from the cypress. Window I saw none. On peeping in, and looking towards the further end, I saw a lamp burning, with a dim, reddish flame, and the head of a woman, bent downwards, as if reading by its light. I could see nothing more for a few moments. At length, as my eyes got used to the dimness of the place, I saw that the part of the rude building near me was used for household purposes; for several rough utensils lay here and there, and a bed stood in the corner.
An irresistible attraction caused me to enter. The woman never raised her face, the upper part of which alone I could see distinctly; but, as soon as I stepped within the threshold, she began to read aloud, in a low and not altogether unpleasing voice, from an ancient little volume which she held open with one hand on the table upon which stood the lamp. What she read was something like this:
“So, then, as darkness had no beginning, neither will it ever have an end. So, then, is it eternal. The negation of aught else, is its affirmation. Where the light cannot come, there abideth the darkness. The light doth but hollow a mine out of the infinite extension of the darkness. And ever upon the steps of the light treadeth the darkness; yea, springeth in fountains and wells amidst it, from the secret channels of its mighty sea. Truly, man is but a passing flame, moving unquietly amid the surrounding rest of night; without which he yet could not be, and whereof he is in part compounded.”
As I drew nearer, and she read on, she moved a little to turn a leaf of the dark old volume, and I saw that her face was sallow and slightly forbidding. Her forehead was high, and her black eyes repressedly quiet. But she took no notice of me. This end of the cottage, if cottage it could be called, was destitute of furniture, except the table with the lamp, and the chair on which the woman sat. In one corner was a door, apparently of a cupboard in the wall, but which might lead to a room beyond. Still the irresistible desire which had made me enter the building urged me: I must open that door, and see what was beyond it. I approached, and laid my hand on the rude latch. Then the woman spoke, but without lifting her head or looking at me: “You had better not open that door.” This was uttered quite quietly; and she went on with her reading, partly in silence, partly aloud; but both modes seemed equally intended for herself alone. The prohibition, however, only increased my desire to see; and as she took no further notice, I gently opened the door to its full width, and looked in. At first, I saw nothing worthy of attention. It seemed a common closet, with shelves on each hand, on which stood various little necessaries for the humble uses of a cottage. In one corner stood one or two brooms, in another a hatchet and other common tools; showing that it was in use every hour of the day for household purposes. But, as I looked, I saw that there were no shelves at the back, and that an empty space went in further; its termination appearing to be a faintly glimmering wall or curtain, somewhat less, however, than the width and height of the doorway where I stood. But, as I continued looking, for a few seconds, towards this faintly luminous limit, my eyes came into true relation with their object. All at once, with such a shiver as when one is suddenly conscious of the presence of another in a room where he has, for hours, considered himself alone, I saw that the seemingly luminous extremity was a sky, as of night, beheld through the long perspective of a narrow, dark passage, through what, or built of what, I could not tell. As I gazed, I clearly discerned two or three stars glimmering faintly in the distant blue. But, suddenly, and as if it had been running fast from a far distance for this very point, and had turned the corner without abating its swiftness, a dark figure sped into and along the passage from the blue opening at the remote end. I started back and shuddered, but kept looking, for I could not help it. On and on it came, with a speedy approach but delayed arrival; till, at last, through the many gradations of approach, it seemed to come within the sphere of myself, rushed up to me, and passed me into the cottage. All I could tell of its appearance was, that it seemed to be a dark human figure. Its motion was entirely noiseless, and might be called a gliding, were it not that it appeared that of a runner, but with ghostly feet. I had moved back yet a little to let him pass me, and looked round after him instantly. I could not see him.
“Where is he?” I said, in some alarm, to the woman, who still sat reading.
“There, on the floor, behind you,” she said, pointing with her arm half-outstretched, but not lifting her eyes. I turned and looked, but saw nothing. Then with a feeling that there was yet something behind me, I looked round over my shoulder; and there, on the ground, lay a black shadow, the size of a man. It was so dark, that I could see it in the dim light of the lamp, which shone full upon it, apparently without thinning at all the intensity of its hue.
“I told you,” said the woman, “you had better not look into that closet.”
“What is it?” I said, with a growing sense of horror.
“It is only your shadow that has found you,” she replied. “Everybody’s shadow is ranging up and down looking for him. I believe you call it by a different name in your world: yours has found you, as every person’s is almost certain to do who looks into that closet, especially after meeting one in the forest, whom I dare say you have met.”
Here, for the first time, she lifted her head, and looked full at me: her mouth was full of long, white, shining teeth; and I knew that I was in the house of the ogre. I could not speak, but turned and left the house, with the shadow at my heels. “A nice sort of valet to have,” I said to myself bitterly, as I stepped into the sunshine, and, looking over my shoulder, saw that it lay yet blacker in the full blaze of the sunlight. Indeed, only when I stood between it and the sun, was the blackness at all diminished. I was so bewildered — stunned — both by the event itself and its suddenness, that I could not at all realise to myself what it would be to have such a constant and strange attendance; but with a dim conviction that my present dislike would soon grow to loathing, I took my dreary way through the wood.
Chapter 9
O lady! we receive but what we give,
And in our life alone does nature live:
Ours is her wedding garments ours her shrorwd!

Ah! from the soul itself must issue forth,
A light, a glory, a fair luminous cloud,
Enveloping the Earth —
And from the soul itself must there be sent
A sweet and potent voice of its own birth,
Of all sweet sounds the life and element!
From this time, until I arrived at the palace of Fairy Land, I can attempt no consecutive account of my wanderings and adventures. Everything, henceforward, existed for me in its relation to my attendant. What influence he exercised upon everything into contact with which I was brought, may be understood from a few detached instances. To begin with this very day on which he first joined me: after I had walked heartlessly along for two or three hours, I was very weary, and lay down to rest in a most delightful part of the forest, carpeted with wild flowers. I lay for half an hour in a dull repose, and then got up to pursue my way. The flowers on the spot where I had lain were crushed to the earth: but I saw that they would soon lift their heads and rejoice again in the sun and air. Not so those on which my shadow had lain. The very outline of it could be traced in the withered lifeless grass, and the scorched and shrivelled flowers which stood there, dead, and hopeless of any resurrection. I shuddered, and hastened away with sad forebodings.
In a few days, I had reason to dread an extension of its baleful influences from the fact, that it was no longer confined to one position in regard to myself. Hitherto, when seized with an irresistible desire to look on my evil demon (which longing would unaccountably seize me at any moment, returning at longer or shorter intervals, sometimes every minute), I had to turn my head backwards, and look over my shoulder; in which position, as long as I could retain it, I was fascinated. But one day, having come out on a clear grassy hill, which commanded a glorious prospect, though of what I cannot now tell, my shadow moved round, and came in front of me. And, presently, a new manifestation increased my distress. For it began to coruscate, and shoot out on all sides a radiation of dim shadow. These rays of gloom issued from the central shadow as from a black sun, lengthening and shortening with continual change. But wherever a ray struck, that part of earth, or sea, or sky, became void, and desert, and sad to my heart. On this, the first development of its new power, one ray shot out beyond the rest, seeming to lengthen infinitely, until it smote the great sun on the face, which withered and darkened beneath the blow. I turned away and went on. The shadow retreated to its former position; and when I looked again, it had drawn in all its spears of darkness, and followed like a dog at my heels.
Once, as I passed by a cottage, there came out a lovely fairy child, with two wondrous toys, one in each hand. The one was the tube through which the fairy-gifted poet looks when he beholds the same thing everywhere; the other that through which he looks when he combines into new forms of loveliness those images of beauty which his own choice has gathered from all regions wherein he has travelled. Round the child’s head was an aureole of emanating rays. As I looked at him in wonder and delight, round crept from behind me the something dark, and the child stood in my shadow. Straightway he was a commonplace boy, with a rough broad-brimmed straw hat, through which brim the sun shone from behind. The toys he carried were a multiplying-glass and a kaleidoscope. I sighed and departed.
One evening, as a great silent flood of western gold flowed through an avenue in the woods, down the stream, just as when I saw him first, came the sad knight, riding on his chestnut steed.
But his armour did not shine half so red as when I saw him first.
Many a blow of mighty sword and axe, turned aside by the strength of his mail, and glancing adown the surface, had swept from its path the fretted rust, and the glorious steel had answered the kindly blow with the thanks of returning light. These streaks and spots made his armour look like the floor of a forest in the sunlight. His forehead was higher than before, for the contracting wrinkles were nearly gone; and the sadness that remained on his face was the sadness of a dewy summer twilight, not that of a frosty autumn morn. He, too, had met the Alder-maiden as I, but he had plunged into the torrent of mighty deeds, and the stain was nearly washed away. No shadow followed him. He had not entered the dark house; he had not had time to open the closet door. “Will he ever look in?” I said to myself. “ Must his shadow find him some day?” But I could not answer my own questions.
We travelled together for two days, and I began to love him. It was plain that he suspected my story in some degree; and I saw him once or twice looking curiously and anxiously at my attendant gloom, which all this time had remained very obsequiously behind me; but I offered no explanation, and he asked none. Shame at my neglect of his warning, and a horror which shrunk from even alluding to its cause, kept me silent; till, on the evening of the second day, some noble words from my companion roused all my heart; and I was at the point of falling on his neck, and telling him the whole story; seeking, if not for helpful advice, for of that I was hopeless, yet for the comfort of sympathy — when round slid the shadow and inwrapt my friend; and I could not trust him.
The glory of his brow vanished; the light of his eye grew cold; and I held my peace. The next morning we parted.
But the most dreadful thing of all was, that I now began to feel something like satisfaction in the presence of the shadow. I began to be rather vain of my attendant, saying to myself, “In a land like this, with so many illusions everywhere, I need his aid to disenchant the things around me. He does away with all appearances, and shows me things in their true colour and form. And I am not one to be fooled with the vanities of the common crowd. I will not see beauty where there is none. I will dare to behold things as they are. And if I live in a waste instead of a paradise, I will live knowing where I live.” But of this a certain exercise of his power which soon followed quite cured me, turning my feelings towards him once more into loathing and distrust. It was thus:
One bright noon, a little maiden joined me, coming through the wood in a direction at right angles to my path. She came along singing and dancing, happy as a child, though she seemed almost a woman. In her hands — now in one, now in another — she carried a small globe, bright and clear as the purest crystal. This seemed at once her plaything and her greatest treasure. At one moment, you would have thought her utterly careless of it, and at another, overwhelmed with anxiety for its safety. But I believe she was taking care of it all the time, perhaps not least when least occupied about it. She stopped by me with a smile, and bade me good day with the sweetest voice. I felt a wonderful liking to the child — for she produced on me more the impression of a child, though my understanding told me differently. We talked a little, and then walked on together in the direction I had been pursuing. I asked her about the globe she carried, but getting no definite answer, I held out my hand to take it. She drew back, and said, but smiling almost invitingly the while, “You must not touch it;” — then, after a moment’s pause — “Or if you do, it must be very gently.” I touched it with a finger. A slight vibratory motion arose in it, accompanied, or perhaps manifested, by a faint sweet sound. I touched it again, and the sound increased. I touched it the third time: a tiny torrent of harmony rolled out of the little globe. She would not let me touch it any more.
We travelled on together all that day. She left me when twilight came on; but next day, at noon, she met me as before, and again we travelled till evening. The third day she came once more at noon, and we walked on together. Now, though we had talked about a great many things connected with Fairy Land, and the life she had led hitherto, I had never been able to learn anything about the globe. This day, however, as we went on, the shadow glided round and inwrapt the maiden. It could not change her. But my desire to know about the globe, which in his gloom began to waver as with an inward light, and to shoot out flashes of many-coloured flame, grew irresistible. I put out both my hands and laid hold of it. It began to sound as before. The sound rapidly increased, till it grew a low tempest of harmony, and the globe trembled, and quivered, and throbbed between my hands. I had not the heart to pull it away from the maiden, though I held it in spite of her attempts to take it from me; yes, I shame to say, in spite of her prayers, and, at last, her tears. The music went on growing in, intensity and complication of tones, and the globe vibrated and heaved; till at last it burst in our hands, and a black vapour broke upwards from out of it; then turned, as if blown sideways, and enveloped the maiden, hiding even the shadow in its blackness. She held fast the fragments, which I abandoned, and fled from me into the forest in the direction whence she had come, wailing like a child, and crying, “You have broken my globe; my globe is broken — my globe is broken!” I followed her, in the hope of comforting her; but had not pursued her far, before a sudden cold gust of wind bowed the tree-tops above us, and swept through their stems around us; a great cloud overspread the day, and a fierce tempest came on, in which I lost sight of her. It lies heavy on my heart to this hour. At night, ere I fall asleep, often, whatever I may be thinking about, I suddenly hear her voice, crying out, “You have broken my globe; my globe is broken; ah, my globe!”
Here I will mention one more strange thing; but whether this peculiarity was owing to my shadow at all, I am not able to assure myself. I came to a village, the inhabitants of which could not at first sight be distinguished from the dwellers in our land. They rather avoided than sought my company, though they were very pleasant when I addressed them. But at last I observed, that whenever I came within a certain distance of any one of them, which distance, however, varied with different individuals, the whole appearance of the person began to change; and this change increased in degree as I approached. When I receded to the former distance, the former appearance was restored. The nature of the change was grotesque, following no fixed rule. The nearest resemblance to it that I know, is the distortion produced in your countenance when you look at it as reflected in a concave or convex surface — say, either side of a bright spoon. Of this phenomenon I first became aware in rather a ludicrous way. My host’s daughter was a very pleasant pretty girl, who made herself more agreeable to me than most of those about me. For some days my companion-shadow had been less obtrusive than usual; and such was the reaction of spirits occasioned by the simple mitigation of torment, that, although I had cause enough besides to be gloomy, I felt light and comparatively happy. My impression is, that she was quite aware of the law of appearances that existed between the people of the place and myself, and had resolved to amuse herself at my expense; for one evening, after some jesting and raillery, she, somehow or other, provoked me to attempt to kiss her. But she was well defended from any assault of the kind. Her countenance became, of a sudden, absurdly hideous; the pretty mouth was elongated and otherwise amplified sufficiently to have allowed of six simultaneous kisses. I started back in bewildered dismay; she burst into the merriest fit of laughter, and ran from the room. I soon found that the same undefinable law of change operated between me and all the other villagers; and that, to feel I was in pleasant company, it was absolutely necessary for me to discover and observe the right focal distance between myself and each one with whom I had to do. This done, all went pleasantly enough. Whether, when I happened to neglect this precaution, I presented to them an equally ridiculous appearance, I did not ascertain; but I presume that the alteration was common to the approximating parties. I was likewise unable to determine whether I was a necessary party to the production of this strange transformation, or whether it took place as well, under the given circumstances, between the inhabitants themselves.
Chapter 10
From Eden’s bowers the full-fed rivers flow,
To guide the outcasts to the land of woe:
Our Earth one little toiling streamlet yields.
To guide the wanderers to the happy fields.

After leaving this village, where I had rested for nearly a week, I travelled through a desert region of dry sand and glittering rocks, peopled principally by goblin-fairies. When I first entered their domains, and, indeed, whenever I fell in with another tribe of them, they began mocking me with offered handfuls of gold and jewels, making hideous grimaces at me, and performing the most antic homage, as if they thought I expected reverence, and meant to humour me like a maniac. But ever, as soon as one cast his eyes on the shadow behind me, he made a wry face, partly of pity, partly of contempt, and looked ashamed, as if he had been caught doing something inhuman; then, throwing down his handful of gold, and ceasing all his grimaces, he stood aside to let me pass in peace, and made signs to his companions to do the like. I had no inclination to observe them much, for the shadow was in my heart as well as at my heels. I walked listlessly and almost hopelessly along, till I arrived one day at a small spring; which, bursting cool from the heart of a sun-heated rock, flowed somewhat southwards from the direction I had been taking. I drank of this spring, and found myself wonderfully refreshed. A kind of love to the cheerful little stream arose in my heart. It was born in a desert; but it seemed to say to itself, “I will flow, and sing, and lave my banks, till I make my desert a paradise.” I thought I could not do better than follow it, and see what it made of it. So down with the stream I went, over rocky lands, burning with sunbeams. But the rivulet flowed not far, before a few blades of grass appeared on its banks, and then, here and there, a stunted bush. Sometimes it disappeared altogether under ground; and after I had wandered some distance, as near as I could guess, in the direction it seemed to take, I would suddenly hear it again, singing, sometimes far away to my right or left, amongst new rocks, over which it made new cataracts of watery melodies. The verdure on its banks increased as it flowed; other streams joined it; and at last, after many days’ travel, I found myself, one gorgeous summer evening, resting by the side of a broad river, with a glorious horse-chestnut tree towering above me, and dropping its blossoms, milk-white and rosy-red, all about me. As I sat, a gush of joy sprang forth in my heart, and over flowed at my eyes.
Through my tears, the whole landscape glimmered in such bewildering loveliness, that I felt as if I were entering Fairy Land for the first time, and some loving hand were waiting to cool my head, and a loving word to warm my heart. Roses, wild roses, everywhere! So plentiful were they, they not only perfumed the air, they seemed to dye it a faint rose-hue. The colour floated abroad with the scent, and clomb, and spread, until the whole west blushed and glowed with the gathered incense of roses. And my heart fainted with longing in my bosom.
Could I but see the Spirit of the Earth, as I saw once the in dwelling woman of the beech-tree, and my beauty of the pale marble, I should be content. Content! — Oh, how gladly would I die of the light of her eyes! Yea, I would cease to be, if that would bring me one word of love from the one mouth. The twilight sank around, and infolded me with sleep. I slept as I had not slept for months. I did not awake till late in the morning; when, refreshed in body and mind, I rose as from the death that wipes out the sadness of life, and then dies itself in the new morrow. Again I followed the stream; now climbing a steep rocky bank that hemmed it in; now wading through long grasses and wild flowers in its path; now through meadows; and anon through woods that crowded down to the very lip of the water.
At length, in a nook of the river, gloomy with the weight of overhanging foliage, and still and deep as a soul in which the torrent eddies of pain have hollowed a great gulf, and then, subsiding in violence, have left it full of a motionless, fathomless sorrow — I saw a little boat lying. So still was the water here, that the boat needed no fastening. It lay as if some one had just stepped ashore, and would in a moment return. But as there were no signs of presence, and no track through the thick bushes; and, moreover, as I was in Fairy Land where one does very much as he pleases, I forced my way to the brink, stepped into the boat, pushed it, with the help of the tree-branches, out into the stream, lay down in the bottom, and let my boat and me float whither the stream would carry us. I seemed to lose myself in the great flow of sky above me unbroken in its infinitude, except when now and then, coming nearer the shore at a bend in the river, a tree would sweep its mighty head silently above mine, and glide away back into the past, never more to fling its shadow over me. I fell asleep in this cradle, in which mother Nature was rocking her weary child; and while I slept, the sun slept not, but went round his arched way. When I awoke, he slept in the waters, and I went on my silent path beneath a round silvery moon. And a pale moon looked up from the floor of the great blue cave that lay in the abysmal silence beneath.
Why are all reflections lovelier than what we call the reality? — not so grand or so strong, it may be, but always lovelier? Fair as is the gliding sloop on the shining sea, the wavering, trembling, unresting sail below is fairer still. Yea, the reflecting ocean itself, reflected in the mirror, has a wondrousness about its waters that somewhat vanishes when I turn towards itself. All mirrors are magic mirrors. The commonest room is a room in a poem when I turn to the glass. (And this reminds me, while I write, of a strange story which I read in the fairy palace, and of which I will try to make a feeble memorial in its place.) In whatever way it may be accounted for, of one thing we may be sure, that this feeling is no cheat; for there is no cheating in nature and the simple unsought feelings of the soul. There must be a truth involved in it, though we may but in part lay hold of the meaning. Even the memories of past pain are beautiful; and past delights, though beheld only through clefts in the grey clouds of sorrow, are lovely as Fairy Land. But how have I wandered into the deeper fairyland of the soul, while as yet I only float towards the fairy palace of Fairy Land! The moon, which is the lovelier memory or reflex of the down-gone sun, the joyous day seen in the faint mirror of the brooding night, had rapt me away.
I sat up in the boat. Gigantic forest trees were about me; through which, like a silver snake, twisted and twined the great river. The little waves, when I moved in the boat, heaved and fell with a plash as of molten silver, breaking the image of the moon into a thousand morsels, fusing again into one, as the ripples of laughter die into the still face of joy. The sleeping woods, in undefined massiveness; the water that flowed in its sleep; and, above all, the enchantress moon, which had cast them all, with her pale eye, into the charmed slumber, sank into my soul, and I felt as if I had died in a dream, and should never more awake.
From this I was partly aroused by a glimmering of white, that, through the trees on the left, vaguely crossed my vision, as I gazed upwards. But the trees again hid the object; and at the moment, some strange melodious bird took up its song, and sang, not an ordinary bird-song, with constant repetitions of the same melody, but what sounded like a continuous strain, in which one thought was expressed, deepening in intensity as evolved in progress. It sounded like a welcome already overshadowed with the coming farewell. As in all sweetest music, a tinge of sadness was in every note. Nor do we know how much of the pleasures even of life we owe to the intermingled sorrows. Joy cannot unfold the deepest truths, although deepest truth must be deepest joy. Cometh white-robed Sorrow, stooping and wan, and flingeth wide the doors she may not enter. Almost we linger with Sorrow for very love.
As the song concluded the stream bore my little boat with a gentle sweep round a bend of the river; and lo! on a broad lawn, which rose from the water’s edge with a long green slope to a clear elevation from which the trees receded on all sides, stood a stately palace glimmering ghostly in the moonshine: it seemed to be built throughout of the whitest marble. There was no reflection of moonlight from windows — there seemed to be none; so there was no cold glitter; only, as I said, a ghostly shimmer. Numberless shadows tempered the shine, from column and balcony and tower. For everywhere galleries ran along the face of the buildings; wings were extended in many directions; and numberless openings, through which the moonbeams vanished into the interior, and which served both for doors and windows, had their separate balconies in front, communicating with a common gallery that rose on its own pillars. Of course, I did not discover all this from the river, and in the moonlight. But, though I was there for many days, I did not succeed in mastering the inner topography of the building, so extensive and complicated was it.
Here I wished to land, but the boat had no oars on board. However, I found that a plank, serving for a seat, was unfastened, and with that I brought the boat to the bank and scrambled on shore. Deep soft turf sank beneath my feet, as I went up the ascent towards the palace.
When I reached it, I saw that it stood on a great platform of marble, with an ascent, by broad stairs of the same, all round it. Arrived on the platform, I found there was an extensive outlook over the forest, which, however, was rather veiled than revealed by the moonlight.
Entering by a wide gateway, but without gates, into an inner court, surrounded on all sides by great marble pillars supporting galleries above, I saw a large fountain of porphyry in the middle, throwing up a lofty column of water, which fell, with a noise as of the fusion of all sweet sounds, into a basin beneath; overflowing which, it ran into a single channel towards the interior of the building. Although the moon was by this time so low in the west, that not a ray of her light fell into the court, over the height of the surrounding buildings; yet was the court lighted by a second reflex from the sun of other lands. For the top of the column of water, just as it spread to fall, caught the moonbeams, and like a great pale lamp, hung high in the night air, threw a dim memory of light (as it were) over the court below. This court was paved in diamonds of white and red marble. According to my custom since I entered Fairy Land, of taking for a guide whatever I first found moving in any direction, I followed the stream from the basin of the fountain. It led me to a great open door, beneath the ascending steps of which it ran through a low arch and disappeared. Entering here, I found myself in a great hall, surrounded with white pillars, and paved with black and white. This I could see by the moonlight, which, from the other side, streamed through open windows into the hall.
Its height I could not distinctly see. As soon as I entered, I had the feeling so common to me in the woods, that there were others there besides myself, though I could see no one, and heard no sound to indicate a presence. Since my visit to the Church of Darkness, my power of seeing the fairies of the higher orders had gradually diminished, until it had almost ceased. But I could frequently believe in their presence while unable to see them. Still, although I had company, and doubtless of a safe kind, it seemed rather dreary to spend the night in an empty marble hall, however beautiful, especially as the moon was near the going down, and it would soon be dark. So I began at the place where I entered, and walked round the hall, looking for some door or passage that might lead me to a more hospitable chamber. As I walked, I was deliciously haunted with the feeling that behind some one of the seemingly innumerable pillars, one who loved me was waiting for me. Then I thought she was following me from pillar to pillar as I went along; but no arms came out of the faint moonlight, and no sigh assured me of her presence.
At length I came to an open corridor, into which I turned; notwithstanding that, in doing so, I left the light behind. Along this I walked with outstretched hands, groping my way, till, arriving at another corridor, which seemed to strike off at right angles to that in which I was, I saw at the end a faintly glimmering light, too pale even for moonshine, resembling rather a stray phosphorescence. However, where everything was white, a little light went a great way. So I walked on to the end, and a long corridor it was. When I came up to the light, I found that it proceeded from what looked like silver letters upon a door of ebony; and, to my surprise even in the home of wonder itself, the letters formed the words, The Chamber of Sir Anodos . Although I had as yet no right to the honours of a knight, I ventured to conclude that the chamber was indeed intended for me; and, opening the door without hesitation, I entered. Any doubt as to whether I was right in so doing, was soon dispelled. What to my dark eyes seemed a blaze of light, burst upon me. A fire of large pieces of some sweet-scented wood, supported by dogs of silver, was burning on the hearth, and a bright lamp stood on a table, in the midst of a plentiful meal, apparently awaiting my arrival. But what surprised me more than all, was, that the room was in every respect a copy of my own room, the room whence the little stream from my basin had led me into Fairy Land. There was the very carpet of grass and moss and daisies, which I had myself designed; the curtains of pale blue silk, that fell like a cataract over the windows; the old-fashioned bed, with the chintz furniture, on which I had slept from boyhood. “Now I shall sleep,” I said to myself. “My shadow dares not come here.”
I sat down to the table, and began to help myself to the good things before me with confidence. And now I found, as in many instances before, how true the fairy tales are; for I was waited on, all the time of my meal, by invisible hands. I had scarcely to do more than look towards anything I wanted, when it was brought me, just as if it had come to me of itself. My glass was kept filled with the wine I had chosen, until I looked towards another bottle or decanter; when a fresh glass was substituted, and the other wine supplied. When I had eaten and drank more heartily and joyfully than ever since I entered Fairy Land, the whole was removed by several attendants, of whom some were male and some female, as I thought I could distinguish from the way the dishes were lifted from the table, and the motion with which they were carried out of the room. As soon as they were all taken away, I heard a sound as of the shutting of a door, and knew that I was left alone. I sat long by the fire, meditating, and wondering how it would all end; and when at length, wearied with thinking, I betook myself to my own bed, it was half with a hope that, when I awoke in the morning, I should awake not only in my own room, but in my own castle also; and that I should walk, out upon my own native soil, and find that Fairy Land was, after all, only a vision of the night. The sound of the falling waters of the fountain floated me into oblivion.
Chapter 11
A wilderness of building, sinking far
And self-withdrawn into a wondrous depth,
Far sinking into splendour — without end:
Fabric it seemed of diamond and of gold,
With alabaster domes, and silver spires,
And blazing terrace upon terrace, high
But when, after a sleep, which, although dreamless, yet left behind it a sense of past blessedness, I awoke in the full morning, I found, indeed, that the room was still my own; but that it looked abroad upon an unknown landscape of forest and hill and dale on the one side — and on the other, upon the marble court, with the great fountain, the crest of which now flashed glorious in the sun, and cast on the pavement beneath a shower of faint shadows from the waters that fell from it into the marble basin below.
Agreeably to all authentic accounts of the treatment of travellers in Fairy Land, I found by my bedside a complete suit of fresh clothing, just such as I was in the habit of wearing; for, though varied sufficiently from the one removed, it was yet in complete accordance with my tastes. I dressed myself in this, and went out. The whole palace shone like silver in the sun. The marble was partly dull and partly polished; and every pinnacle, dome, and turret ended in a ball, or cone, or cusp of silver. It was like frost-work, and too dazzling, in the sun, for earthly eyes like mine.
I will not attempt to describe the environs, save by saying, that all the pleasures to be found in the most varied and artistic arrangement of wood and river, lawn and wild forest, garden and shrubbery, rocky hill and luxurious vale; in living creatures wild and tame, in gorgeous birds, scattered fountains, little streams, and reedy lakes — all were here. Some parts of the palace itself I shall have occasion to describe more minutely.
For this whole morning I never thought of my demon shadow; and not till the weariness which supervened on delight brought it again to my memory, did I look round to see if it was behind me: it was scarcely discernible. But its presence, however faintly revealed, sent a pang to my heart, for the pain of which, not all the beauties around me could compensate. It was followed, however, by the comforting reflection that, peradventure, I might here find the magic word of power to banish the demon and set me free, so that I should no longer be a man beside myself. The Queen of Fairy Land, thought I, must dwell here: surely she will put forth her power to deliver me, and send me singing through the further gates of her country back to my own land. “Shadow of me!” I said; “which art not me, but which representest thyself to me as me; here I may find a shadow of light which will devour thee, the shadow of darkness! Here I may find a blessing which will fall on thee as a curse, and damn thee to the blackness whence thou hast emerged unbidden.” I said this, stretched at length on the slope of the lawn above the river; and as the hope arose within me, the sun came forth from a light fleecy cloud that swept across his face; and hill and dale, and the great river winding on through the still mysterious forest, flashed back his rays as with a silent shout of joy; all nature lived and glowed; the very earth grew warm beneath me; a magnificent dragon-fly went past me like an arrow from a bow, and a whole concert of birds burst into choral song.
The heat of the sun soon became too intense even for passive support. I therefore rose, and sought the shelter of one of the arcades. Wandering along from one to another of these, wherever my heedless steps led me, and wondering everywhere at the simple magnificence of the building, I arrived at another hall, the roof of which was of a pale blue, spangled with constellations of silver stars, and supported by porphyry pillars of a paler red than ordinary. — In this house (I may remark in passing), silver seemed everywhere preferred to gold; and such was the purity of the air, that it showed nowhere signs of tarnishing. — The whole of the floor of this hall, except a narrow path behind the pillars, paved with black, was hollowed into a huge basin, many feet deep, and filled with the purest, most liquid and radiant water. The sides of the basin were white marble, and the bottom was paved with all kinds of refulgent stones, of every shape and hue.
In their arrangement, you would have supposed, at first sight, that there was no design, for they seemed to lie as if cast there from careless and playful hands; but it was a most harmonious confusion; and as I looked at the play of their colours, especially when the waters were in motion, I came at last to feel as if not one little pebble could be displaced, without injuring the effect of the whole. Beneath this floor of the water, lay the reflection of the blue inverted roof, fretted with its silver stars, like a second deeper sea, clasping and upholding the first. The fairy bath was probably fed from the fountain in the court. Led by an irresistible desire, I undressed, and plunged into the water. It clothed me as with a new sense and its object both in one. The waters lay so close to me, they seemed to enter and revive my heart. I rose to the surface, shook the water from my hair, and swam as in a rainbow, amid the coruscations of the gems below seen through the agitation caused by my motion. Then, with open eyes, I dived, and swam beneath the surface. And here was a new wonder. For the basin, thus beheld, appeared to extend on all sides like a sea, with here and there groups as of ocean rocks, hollowed by ceaseless billows into wondrous caves and grotesque pinnacles. Around the caves grew sea-weeds of all hues, and the corals glowed between; while far off, I saw the glimmer of what seemed to be creatures of human form at home in the waters. I thought I had been enchanted; and that when I rose to the surface, I should find myself miles from land, swimming alone upon a heaving sea; but when my eyes emerged from the waters, I saw above me the blue spangled vault, and the red pillars around. I dived again, and found myself once more in the heart of a great sea. I then arose, and swam to the edge, where I got out easily, for the water reached the very brim, and, as I drew near washed in tiny waves over the black marble border. I dressed, and went out, deeply refreshed.
And now I began to discern faint, gracious forms, here and there throughout the building. Some walked together in earnest conversation. Others strayed alone. Some stood in groups, as if looking at and talking about a picture or a statue. None of them heeded me. Nor were they plainly visible to my eyes. Sometimes a group, or single individual, would fade entirely out of the realm of my vision as I gazed. When evening came, and the moon arose, clear as a round of a horizon-sea when the sun hangs over it in the west, I began to see them all more plainly; especially when they came between me and the moon; and yet more especially, when I myself was in the shade. But, even then, I sometimes saw only the passing wave of a white robe; or a lovely arm or neck gleamed by in the moonshine; or white feet went walking alone over the moony sward. Nor, I grieve to say, did I ever come much nearer to these glorious beings, or ever look upon the Queen of the Fairies herself. My destiny ordered otherwise.
In this palace of marble and silver, and fountains and moonshine, I spent many days; waited upon constantly in my room with everything desirable, and bathing daily in the fairy bath. All this time I was little troubled with my demon shadow I had a vague feeling that he was somewhere about the palace; but it seemed as if the hope that I should in this place be finally freed from his hated presence, had sufficed to banish him for a time. How and where I found him, I shall soon have to relate.
The third day after my arrival, I found the library of the palace; and here, all the time I remained, I spent most of the middle of the day. For it was, not to mention far greater attractions, a luxurious retreat from the noontide sun. During the mornings and afternoons, I wandered about the lovely neighbourhood, or lay, lost in delicious day-dreams, beneath some mighty tree on the open lawn. My evenings were by-and-by spent in a part of the palace, the account of which, and of my adventures in connection with it, I must yet postpone for a little.
The library was a mighty hall, lighted from the roof, which was formed of something like glass, vaulted over in a single piece, and stained throughout with a great mysterious picture in gorgeous colouring.
The walls were lined from floor to roof with books and books: most of them in ancient bindings, but some in strange new fashions which I had never seen, and which, were I to make the attempt, I could ill describe. All around the walls, in front of the books, ran galleries in rows, communicating by stairs. These galleries were built of all kinds of coloured stones; all sorts of marble and granite, with porphyry, jasper, lapis lazuli, agate, and various others, were ranged in wonderful melody of successive colours. Although the material, then, of which these galleries and stairs were built, rendered necessary a certain degree of massiveness in the construction, yet such was the size of the place, that they seemed to run along the walls like cords.
Over some parts of the library, descended curtains of silk of various dyes, none of which I ever saw lifted while I was there; and I felt somehow that it would be presumptuous in me to venture to look within them. But the use of the other books seemed free; and day after day I came to the library, threw myself on one of the many sumptuous eastern carpets, which lay here and there on the floor, and read, and read, until weary; if that can be designated as weariness, which was rather the faintness of rapturous delight; or until, sometimes, the failing of the light invited me to go abroad, in the hope that a cool gentle breeze might have arisen to bathe, with an airy invigorating bath, the limbs which the glow of the burning spirit within had withered no less than the glow of the blazing sun without.
One peculiarity of these books, or at least most of those I looked into, I must make a somewhat vain attempt to describe.
If, for instance, it was a book of metaphysics I opened, I had scarcely read two pages before I seemed to myself to be pondering over discovered truth, and constructing the intellectual machine whereby to communicate the discovery to my fellow men. With some books, however, of this nature, it seemed rather as if the process was removed yet a great way further back; and I was trying to find the root of a manifestation, the spiritual truth whence a material vision sprang; or to combine two propositions, both apparently true, either at once or in different remembered moods, and to find the point in which their invisibly converging lines would unite in one, revealing a truth higher than either and differing from both; though so far from being opposed to either, that it was that whence each derived its life and power. Or if the book was one of travels, I found myself the traveller. New lands, fresh experiences, novel customs, rose around me. I walked, I discovered, I fought, I suffered, I rejoiced in my success. Was it a history? I was the chief actor therein. I suffered my own blame; I was glad in my own praise. With a fiction it was the same. Mine was the whole story. For I took the place of the character who was most like myself, and his story was mine; until, grown weary with the life of years condensed in an hour, or arrived at my deathbed, or the end of the volume, I would awake, with a sudden bewilderment, to the consciousness of my present life, recognising the walls and roof around me, and finding I joyed or sorrowed only in a book. If the book was a poem, the words disappeared, or took the subordinate position of an accompaniment to the succession of forms and images that rose and vanished with a soundless rhythm, and a hidden rime.
In one, with a mystical title, which I cannot recall, I read of a world that is not like ours. The wondrous account, in such a feeble, fragmentary way as is possible to me, I would willingly impart. Whether or not it was all a poem, I cannot tell; but, from the impulse I felt, when I first contemplated writing it, to break into rime, to which impulse I shall give way if it comes upon me again, I think it must have been, partly at least, in verse.
Chapter 12
Chained is the Spring. The night-wind bold
Blows over the hard earth;
Time is not more confused and cold,
Nor keeps more wintry mirth.
Yet blow, and roll the world about;
Blow, Time — blow, winter’s Wind!
Through chinks of Time, heaven peepeth out,
And Spring the frost behind.
—G. E. M.
They who believe in the influences of the stars over the fates of men, are, in feeling at least, nearer the truth than they who regard the heavenly bodies as related to them merely by a common obedience to an external law. All that man sees has to do with man. Worlds cannot be without an intermundane relationship. The community of the centre of all creation suggests an interradiating connection and dependence of the parts. Else a grander idea is conceivable than that which is already imbodied. The blank, which is only a forgotten life, lying behind the consciousness, and the misty splendour, which is an undeveloped life, lying before it, may be full of mysterious revelations of other connexions with the worlds around us, than those of science and poetry. No shining belt or gleaming moon, no red and green glory in a self-encircling twin-star, but has a relation with the hidden things of a man’s soul, and, it may be, with the secret history of his body as well. They are portions of the living house wherein he abides.
Through the realms of the monarch Sun
Creeps a world, whose course had begun,
On a weary path with a weary pace,
Before the Earth sprang forth on her race:
But many a time the Earth had sped
Around the path she still must tread,
Ere the elder planet, on leaden wing,
Once circled the court of the planet’s king.
There, in that lonely and distant star,
The seasons are not as our seasons are;
But many a year hath Autumn to dress
The trees in their matron loveliness;
As long hath old Winter in triumph to go
O’er beauties dead in his vaults below;
And many a year the Spring doth wear
Combing the icicles from her hair;
And Summer, dear Summer, hath years of June,
With large white clouds, and cool showers at noon:
And a beauty that grows to a weight like grief,
Till a burst of tears is the heart’s relief.
Children, born when Winter is king,
May never rejoice in the hoping Spring;
Though their own heart-buds are bursting with joy,
And the child hath grown to the girl or boy;
But may die with cold and icy hours
Watching them ever in place of flowers.
And some who awake from their primal sleep,
When the sighs of Summer through forests creep,
Live, and love, and are loved again;
Seek for pleasure, and find its pain;
Sink to their last, their forsaken sleeping,
With the same sweet odours around them creeping.
Now the children, there, are not born as the children are born in worlds nearer to the sun. For they arrive no one knows how. A maiden, walking alone, hears a cry: for even there a cry is the first utterance; and searching about, she findeth, under an overhanging rock, or within a clump of bushes, or, it may be, betwixt gray stones on the side of a hill, or in any other sheltered and unexpected spot, a little child. This she taketh tenderly, and beareth home with joy, calling out, “Mother, mother” — if so be that her mother lives — “I have got a baby — I have found a child!” All the household gathers round to see; — “ Where is it? What is it like? Where did you find it? ” and such-like questions, abounding. And thereupon she relates the whole story of the discovery; for by the circumstances, such as season of the year, time of the day, condition of the air, and such like, and, especially, the peculiar and never-repeated aspect of the heavens and earth at the time, and the nature of the place of shelter wherein it is found, is determined, or at least indicated, the nature of the child thus discovered. Therefore, at certain seasons, and in certain states of the weather, according, in part, to their own fancy, the young women go out to look for children. They generally avoid seeking them, though they cannot help sometimes finding them, in places and with circumstances uncongenial to their peculiar likings. But no sooner is a child found, than its claim for protection and nurture obliterates all feeling of choice in the matter. Chiefly, however, in the season of summer, which lasts so long, coming as it does after such long intervals; and mostly in the warm evenings, about the middle of twilight; and principally in the woods and along the river banks, do the maidens go looking for children just as children look for flowers. And ever as the child grows, yea, more and more as he advances in years, will his face indicate to those who understand the spirit of Nature, and her utterances in the face of the world, the nature of the place of his birth, and the other circumstances thereof; whether a clear morning sun guided his mother to the nook whence issued the boy’s low cry; or at eve the lonely maiden (for the same woman never finds a second, at least while the first lives) discovers the girl by the glimmer of her white skin, lying in a nest like that of the lark, amid long encircling grasses, and the upward-gazing eyes of the lowly daisies; whether the storm bowed the forest trees around, or the still frost fixed in silence the else flowing and babbling stream.
After they grow up, the men and women are but little together. There is this peculiar difference between them, which likewise distinguishes the women from those of the earth. The men alone have arms; the women have only wings. Resplendent wings are they, wherein they can shroud themselves from head to foot in a panoply of glistering glory. By these wings alone, it may frequently be judged in what seasons, and under what aspects, they were born. From those that came in winter, go great white wings, white as snow; the edge of every feather shining like the sheen of silver, so that they flash and glitter like frost in the sun. But underneath, they are tinged with a faint pink or rose-colour. Those born in spring have wings of a brilliant green, green as grass; and towards the edges the feathers are enamelled like the surface of the grass-blades. These again are white within. Those that are born in summer have wings of a deep rose-colour, lined with pale gold. And those born in autumn have purple wings, with a rich brown on the inside. But these colours are modified and altered in all varieties, corresponding to the mood of the day and hour, as well as the season of the year; and sometimes I found the various colours so intermingled, that I could not determine even the season, though doubtless the hieroglyphic could be deciphered by more experienced eyes. One splendour, in particular, I remember — wings of deep carmine, with an inner down of warm gray, around a form of brilliant whiteness.
She had been found as the sun went down through a low sea-fog, casting crimson along a broad sea-path into a little cave on the shore, where a bathing maiden saw her lying.
But though I speak of sun and fog, and sea and shore, the world there is in some respects very different from the earth whereon men live. For instance, the waters reflect no forms. To the unaccustomed eye they appear, if undisturbed, like the surface of a dark metal, only that the latter would reflect indistinctly, whereas they reflect not at all, except light which falls immediately upon them. This has a great effect in causing the landscapes to differ from those on the earth. On the stillest evening, no tall ship on the sea sends a long wavering reflection almost to the feet of him on shore; the face of no maiden brightens at its own beauty in a still forest-well. The sun and moon alone make a glitter on the surface. The sea is like a sea of death, ready to ingulf and never to reveal: a visible shadow of oblivion. Yet the women sport in its waters like gorgeous sea-birds. The men more rarely enter them. But, on the contrary, the sky reflects everything beneath it, as if it were built of water like ours. Of course, from its concavity there is some distortion of the reflected objects; yet wondrous combinations of form are often to be seen in the overhanging depth. And then it is not shaped so much like a round dome as the sky of the earth, but, more of an egg-shape, rises to a great towering height in the middle, appearing far more lofty than the other. When the stars come out at night, it shows a mighty cupola, “fretted with golden fires,” wherein there is room for all tempests to rush and rave.
One evening in early summer, I stood with a group of men and women on a steep rock that overhung the sea. They were all questioning me about my world and the ways thereof. In making reply to one of their questions, I was compelled to say that children are not born in the Earth as with them. Upon this I was assailed with a whole battery of inquiries, which at first I tried to avoid; but, at last, I was compelled, in the vaguest manner I could invent, to make some approach to the subject in question. Immediately a dim notion of what I meant, seemed to dawn in the minds of most of the women. Some of them folded their great wings all around them, as they generally do when in the least offended, and stood erect and motionless. One spread out her rosy pinions, and flashed from the promontory into the gulf at its foot. A great light shone in the eyes of one maiden, who turned and walked slowly away, with her purple and white wings half dispread behind her. She was found, the next morning, dead beneath a withered tree on a bare hill-side, some miles inland. They buried her where she lay, as is their custom; for, before they die, they instinctively search for a spot like the place of their birth, and having found one that satisfies them, they lie down, fold their wings around them, if they be women, or cross their arms over their breasts, if they are men, just as if they were going to sleep; and so sleep indeed. The sign or cause of coming death is an indescribable longing for something, they know not what, which seizes them, and drives them into solitude, consuming them within, till the body fails. When a youth and a maiden look too deep into each other’s eyes, this longing seizes and possesses them; but instead of drawing nearer to each other, they wander away, each alone, into solitary places, and die of their desire. But it seems to me, that thereafter they are born babes upon our earth: where, if, when grown, they find each other, it goes well with them; if not, it will seem to go ill. But of this I know nothing. When I told them that the women on the Earth had not wings like them, but arms, they stared, and said how bold and masculine they must look; not knowing that their wings, glorious as they are, are but undeveloped arms.
But see the power of this book, that, while recounting what I can recall of its contents, I write as if myself had visited the far-off planet, learned its ways and appearances, and conversed with its men and women. And so, while writing, it seemed to me that I had.
The book goes on with the story of a maiden, who, born at the close of autumn, and living in a long, to her endless winter, set out at last to find the regions of spring; for, as in our earth, the seasons are divided over the globe. It begins something like this:
She watched them dying for many a day,
Dropping from off the old trees away,
One by one; or else in a shower
Crowding over the withered flower
For as if they had done some grievous wrong,
The sun, that had nursed them and loved them so long,
Grew weary of loving, and, turning back,
Hastened away on his southern track;
And helplessly hung each shrivelled leaf,
Faded away with an idle grief.
And the gusts of wind, sad Autumn’s sighs,
Mournfully swept through their families;
Casting away with a helpless moan
All that he yet might call his own,
As the child, when his bird is gone for ever,
Flingeth the cage on the wandering river.
And the giant trees, as bare as Death,
Slowly bowed to the great Wind’s breath;
And groaned with trying to keep from groaning
Amidst the young trees bending and moaning.
And the ancient planet’s mighty sea
Was heaving and falling most restlessly,
And the tops of the waves were broken and white,
Tossing about to ease their might;
And the river was striving to reach the main,
And the ripple was hurrying back again.
Nature lived in sadness now;
Sadness lived on the maiden’s brow,
As she watched, with a fixed, half-conscious eye,
One lonely leaf that trembled on high,
Till it dropped at last from the desolate bough —
Sorrow, oh, sorrow! ‘tis winter now.
And her tears gushed forth, though it was but a leaf,
For little will loose the swollen fountain of grief:
When up to the lip the water goes,
It needs but a drop, and it overflows.
Oh! many and many a dreary year
Must pass away ere the buds appear:
Many a night of darksome sorrow
Yield to the light of a joyless morrow,
Ere birds again, on the clothed trees,
Shall fill the branches with melodies.
She will dream of meadows with wakeful streams;
Of wavy grass in the sunny beams;
Of hidden wells that soundless spring,
Hoarding their joy as a holy thing;
Of founts that tell it all day long
To the listening woods, with exultant song;
She will dream of evenings that die into nights,
Where each sense is filled with its own delights,
And the soul is still as the vaulted sky,
Lulled with an inner harmony;
And the flowers give out to the dewy night,
Changed into perfume, the gathered light;
And the darkness sinks upon all their host,
Till the sun sail up on the eastern coast —
She will wake and see the branches bare,
Weaving a net in the frozen air.
The story goes on to tell how, at last, weary with wintriness, she travelled towards the southern regions of her globe, to meet the spring on its slow way northwards; and how, after many sad adventures, many disappointed hopes, and many tears, bitter and fruitless, she found at last, one stormy afternoon, in a leafless forest, a single snowdrop growing betwixt the borders of the winter and spring. She lay down beside it and died. I almost believe that a child, pale and peaceful as a snowdrop, was born in the Earth within a fixed season from that stormy afternoon.
Chapter 13
I saw a ship sailing upon the sea
Deeply laden as ship could be;
But not so deep as in love I am
For I care not whether I sink or swim.
—Old Ballad.
But Love is such a Mystery
I cannot find it out:
For when I think I’m best resolv’d,
I then am in most doubt.
—Sir John Suckling.
One story I will try to reproduce. But, alas! it is like trying to reconstruct a forest out of broken branches and withered leaves. In the fairy book, everything was just as it should be, though whether in words or something else, I cannot tell. It glowed and flashed the thoughts upon the soul, with such a power that the medium disappeared from the consciousness, and it was occupied only with the things themselves. My representation of it must resemble a translation from a rich and powerful language, capable of embodying the thoughts of a splendidly developed people, into the meagre and half-articulate speech of a savage tribe. Of course, while I read it, I was Cosmo, and his history was mine. Yet, all the time, I seemed to have a kind of double consciousness, and the story a double meaning. Sometimes it seemed only to represent a simple story of ordinary life, perhaps almost of universal life; wherein two souls, loving each other and longing to come nearer, do, after all, but behold each other as in a glass darkly.
As through the hard rock go the branching silver veins; as into the solid land run the creeks and gulfs from the unresting sea; as the lights and influences of the upper worlds sink silently through the earth’s atmosphere; so doth Faerie invade the world of men, and sometimes startle the common eye with an association as of cause and effect, when between the two no connecting links can be traced.
Cosmo von Wehrstahl was a student at the University of Prague. Though of a noble family, he was poor, and prided himself upon the independence that poverty gives; for what will not a man pride himself upon, when he cannot get rid of it? A favourite with his fellow students, he yet had no companions; and none of them had ever crossed the threshold of his lodging in the top of one of the highest houses in the old town. Indeed, the secret of much of that complaisance which recommended him to his fellows, was the thought of his unknown retreat, whither in the evening he could betake himself and indulge undisturbed in his own studies and reveries. These studies, besides those subjects necessary to his course at the University, embraced some less commonly known and approved; for in a secret drawer lay the works of Albertus Magnus and Cornelius Agrippa, along with others less read and more abstruse. As yet, however, he had followed these researches only from curiosity, and had turned them to no practical purpose.
His lodging consisted of one large low-ceiled room, singularly bare of furniture; for besides a couple of wooden chairs, a couch which served for dreaming on both by day and night, and a great press of black oak, there was very little in the room that could be called furniture.
But curious instruments were heaped in the corners; and in one stood a skeleton, half-leaning against the wall, half-supported by a string about its neck. One of its hands, all of fingers, rested on the heavy pommel of a great sword that stood beside it.
Various weapons were scattered about over the floor. The walls were utterly bare of adornment; for the few strange things, such as a large dried bat with wings dispread, the skin of a porcupine, and a stuffed sea-mouse, could hardly be reckoned as such. But although his fancy delighted in vagaries like these, he indulged his imagination with far different fare. His mind had never yet been filled with an absorbing passion; but it lay like a still twilight open to any wind, whether the low breath that wafts but odours, or the storm that bows the great trees till they strain and creak. He saw everything as through a rose-coloured glass. When he looked from his window on the street below, not a maiden passed but she moved as in a story, and drew his thoughts after her till she disappeared in the vista. When he walked in the streets, he always felt as if reading a tale, into which he sought to weave every face of interest that went by; and every sweet voice swept his soul as with the wing of a passing angel. He was in fact a poet without words; the more absorbed and endangered, that the springing-waters were dammed back into his soul, where, finding no utterance, they grew, and swelled, and undermined. He used to lie on his hard couch, and read a tale or a poem, till the book dropped from his hand; but he dreamed on, he knew not whether awake or asleep, until the opposite roof grew upon his sense, and turned golden in the sunrise. Then he arose too; and the impulses of vigorous youth kept him ever active, either in study or in sport, until again the close of the day left him free; and the world of night, which had lain drowned in the cataract of the day, rose up in his soul, with all its stars, and dim-seen phantom shapes. But this could hardly last long. Some one form must sooner or later step within the charmed circle, enter the house of life, and compel the bewildered magician to kneel and worship.
One afternoon, towards dusk, he was wandering dreamily in one of the principal streets, when a fellow student roused him by a slap on the shoulder, and asked him to accompany him into a little back alley to look at some old armour which he had taken a fancy to possess. Cosmo was considered an authority in every matter pertaining to arms, ancient or modern. In the use of weapons, none of the students could come near him; and his practical acquaintance with some had principally contributed to establish his authority in reference to all. He accompanied him willingly.
They entered a narrow alley, and thence a dirty little court, where a low arched door admitted them into a heterogeneous assemblage of everything musty, and dusty, and old, that could well be imagined. His verdict on the armour was satisfactory, and his companion at once concluded the purchase. As they were leaving the place, Cosmo’s eye was attracted by an old mirror of an elliptical shape, which leaned against the wall, covered with dust. Around it was some curious carving, which he could see but very indistinctly by the glimmering light which the owner of the shop carried in his hand. It was this carving that attracted his attention; at least so it appeared to him. He left the place, however, with his friend, taking no further notice of it. They walked together to the main street, where they parted and took opposite directions.
No sooner was Cosmo left alone, than the thought of the curious old mirror returned to him. A strong desire to see it more plainly arose within him, and he directed his steps once more towards the shop. The owner opened the door when he knocked, as if he had expected him. He was a little, old, withered man, with a hooked nose, and burning eyes constantly in a slow restless motion, and looking here and there as if after something that eluded them. Pretending to examine several other articles, Cosmo at last approached the mirror, and requested to have it taken down.
“Take it down yourself, master; I cannot reach it,” said the old man.
Cosmo took it down carefully, when he saw that the carving was indeed delicate and costly, being both of admirable design and execution; containing withal many devices which seemed to embody some meaning to which he had no clue. This, naturally, in one of his tastes and temperament, increased the interest he felt in the old mirror; so much, indeed, that he now longed to possess it, in order to study its frame at his leisure. He pretended, however, to want it only for use; and saying he feared the plate could be of little service, as it was rather old, he brushed away a little of the dust from its face, expecting to see a dull reflection within. His surprise was great when he found the reflection brilliant, revealing a glass not only uninjured by age, but wondrously clear and perfect (should the whole correspond to this part) even for one newly from the hands of the maker. He asked carelessly what the owner wanted for the thing. The old man replied by mentioning a sum of money far beyond the reach of poor Cosmo, who proceeded to replace the mirror where it had stood before.
“You think the price too high?” said the old man.
“I do not know that it is too much for you to ask,” replied Cosmo; “but it is far too much for me to give.”
The old man held up his light towards Cosmo’s face. “I like your look,” said he.
Cosmo could not return the compliment. In fact, now he looked closely at him for the first time, he felt a kind of repugnance to him, mingled with a strange feeling of doubt whether a man or a woman stood before him.
“What is your name?” he continued.
“Cosmo von Wehrstahl.”
“Ah, ah! I thought as much. I see your father in you. I knew your father very well, young sir. I dare say in some odd corners of my house, you might find some old things with his crest and cipher upon them still. Well, I like you: you shall have the mirror at the fourth part of what I asked for it; but upon one condition.”
“What is that?” said Cosmo; for, although the price was still a great deal for him to give, he could just manage it; and the desire to possess the mirror had increased to an altogether unaccountable degree, since it had seemed beyond his reach.
“That if you should ever want to get rid of it again, you will let me have the first offer.”
“Certainly,” replied Cosmo, with a smile; adding, “a moderate condition indeed.”
“On your honour?” insisted the seller.
“On my honour,” said the buyer; and the bargain was concluded.
“I will carry it home for you,” said the old man, as Cosmo took it in his hands.
“No, no; I will carry it myself,” said he; for he had a peculiar dislike to revealing his residence to any one, and more especially to this person, to whom he felt every moment a greater antipathy. “Just as you please,” said the old creature, and muttered to himself as he held his light at the door to show him out of the court: “Sold for the sixth time! I wonder what will be the upshot of it this time. I should think my lady had enough of it by now!”
Cosmo carried his prize carefully home. But all the way he had an uncomfortable feeling that he was watched and dogged. Repeatedly he looked about, but saw nothing to justify his suspicions. Indeed, the streets were too crowded and too ill lighted to expose very readily a careful spy, if such there should be at his heels. He reached his lodging in safety, and leaned his purchase against the wall, rather relieved, strong as he was, to be rid of its weight; then, lighting his pipe, threw himself on the couch, and was soon lapt in the folds of one of his haunting dreams.
He returned home earlier than usual the next day, and fixed the mirror to the wall, over the hearth, at one end of his long room.
He then carefully wiped away the dust from its face, and, clear as the water of a sunny spring, the mirror shone out from beneath the envious covering. But his interest was chiefly occupied with the curious carving of the frame. This he cleaned as well as he could with a brush; and then he proceeded to a minute examination of its various parts, in the hope of discovering some index to the intention of the carver. In this, however, he was unsuccessful; and, at length, pausing with some weariness and disappointment, he gazed vacantly for a few moments into the depth of the reflected room. But ere long he said, half aloud: “What a strange thing a mirror is! and what a wondrous affinity exists between it and a man’s imagination! For this room of mine, as I behold it in the glass, is the same, and yet not the same. It is not the mere representation of the room I live in, but it looks just as if I were reading about it in a story I like. All its commonness has disappeared. The mirror has lifted it out of the region of fact into the realm of art; and the very representing of it to me has clothed with interest that which was otherwise hard and bare; just as one sees with delight upon the stage the representation of a character from which one would escape in life as from something unendurably wearisome. But is it not rather that art rescues nature from the weary and sated regards of our senses, and the degrading injustice of our anxious everyday life, and, appealing to the imagination, which dwells apart, reveals Nature in some degree as she really is, and as she represents herself to the eye of the child, whose every-day life, fearless and unambitious, meets the true import of the wonder-teeming world around him, and rejoices therein without questioning? That skeleton, now — I almost fear it, standing there so still, with eyes only for the unseen, like a watch-tower looking across all the waste of this busy world into the quiet regions of rest beyond. And yet I know every bone and every joint in it as well as my own fist. And that old battle-axe looks as if any moment it might be caught up by a mailed hand, and, borne forth by the mighty arm, go crashing through casque, and skull, and brain, invading the Unknown with yet another bewildered ghost. I should like to live in that room if I could only get into it.”
Scarcely had the half-moulded words floated from him, as he stood gazing into the mirror, when, striking him as with a flash of amazement that fixed him in his posture, noiseless and unannounced, glided suddenly through the door into the reflected room, with stately motion, yet reluctant and faltering step, the graceful form of a woman, clothed all in white. Her back only was visible as she walked slowly up to the couch in the further end of the room, on which she laid herself wearily, turning towards him a face of unutterable loveliness, in which suffering, and dislike, and a sense of compulsion, strangely mingled with the beauty. He stood without the power of motion for some moments, with his eyes irrecoverably fixed upon her; and even after he was conscious of the ability to move, he could not summon up courage to turn and look on her, face to face, in the veritable chamber in which he stood. At length, with a sudden effort, in which the exercise of the will was so pure, that it seemed involuntary, he turned his face to the couch. It was vacant. In bewilderment, mingled with terror, he turned again to the mirror: there, on the reflected couch, lay the exquisite lady-form. She lay with closed eyes, whence two large tears were just welling from beneath the veiling lids; still as death, save for the convulsive motion of her bosom.
Cosmo himself could not have described what he felt. His emotions were of a kind that destroyed consciousness, and could never be clearly recalled. He could not help standing yet by the mirror, and keeping his eyes fixed on the lady, though he was painfully aware of his rudeness, and feared every moment that she would open hers, and meet his fixed regard. But he was, ere long, a little relieved; for, after a while, her eyelids slowly rose, and her eyes remained uncovered, but unemployed for a time; and when, at length, they began to wander about the room, as if languidly seeking to make some acquaintance with her environment, they were never directed towards him: it seemed nothing but what was in the mirror could affect her vision; and, therefore, if she saw him at all, it could only be his back, which, of necessity, was turned towards her in the glass. The two figures in the mirror could not meet face to face, except he turned and looked at her, present in his room; and, as she was not there, he concluded that if he were to turn towards the part in his room corresponding to that in which she lay, his reflection would either be invisible to her altogether, or at least it must appear to her to gaze vacantly towards her, and no meeting of the eyes would produce the impression of spiritual proximity. By-and-by her eyes fell upon the skeleton, and he saw her shudder and close them. She did not open them again, but signs of repugnance continued evident on her countenance. Cosmo would have removed the obnoxious thing at once, but he feared to discompose her yet more by the assertion of his presence which the act would involve. So he stood and watched her. The eyelids yet shrouded the eyes, as a costly case the jewels within; the troubled expression gradually faded from the countenance, leaving only a faint sorrow behind; the features settled into an unchanging expression of rest; and by these signs, and the slow regular motion of her breathing, Cosmo knew that she slept. He could now gaze on her without embarrassment. He saw that her figure, dressed in the simplest robe of white, was worthy of her face; and so harmonious, that either the delicately moulded foot, or any finger of the equally delicate hand, was an index to the whole. As she lay, her whole form manifested the relaxation of perfect repose. He gazed till he was weary, and at last seated himself near the new-found shrine, and mechanically took up a book, like one who watches by a sick-bed. But his eyes gathered no thoughts from the page before him. His intellect had been stunned by the bold contradiction, to its face, of all its experience, and now lay passive, without assertion, or speculation, or even conscious astonishment; while his imagination sent one wild dream of blessedness after another coursing through his soul. How long he sat he knew not; but at length he roused himself, rose, and, trembling in every portion of his frame, looked again into the mirror. She was gone. The mirror reflected faithfully what his room presented, and nothing more. It stood there like a golden setting whence the central jewel has been stolen away — like a night-sky without the glory of its stars. She had carried with her all the strangeness of the reflected room. It had sunk to the level of the one without.
But when the first pangs of his disappointment had passed, Cosmo began to comfort himself with the hope that she might return, perhaps the next evening, at the same hour. Resolving that if she did, she should not at least be scared by the hateful skeleton, he removed that and several other articles of questionable appearance into a recess by the side of the hearth, whence they could not possibly cast any reflection into the mirror; and having made his poor room as tidy as he could, sought the solace of the open sky and of a night wind that had begun to blow, for he could not rest where he was. When he returned, somewhat composed, he could hardly prevail with himself to lie down on his bed; for he could not help feeling as if she had lain upon it; and for him to lie there now would be something like sacrilege. However, weariness prevailed; and laying himself on the couch, dressed as he was, he slept till day.
With a beating heart, beating till he could hardly breathe, he stood in dumb hope before the mirror, on the following evening. Again the reflected room shone as through a purple vapour in the gathering twilight. Everything seemed waiting like himself for a coming splendour to glorify its poor earthliness with the presence of a heavenly joy. And just as the room vibrated with the strokes of the neighbouring church bell, announcing the hour of six, in glided the pale beauty, and again laid herself on the couch. Poor Cosmo nearly lost his senses with delight. She was there once more! Her eyes sought the corner where the skeleton had stood, and a faint gleam of satisfaction crossed her face, apparently at seeing it empty. She looked suffering still, but there was less of discomfort expressed in her countenance than there had been the night before. She took more notice of the things about her, and seemed to gaze with some curiosity on the strange apparatus standing here and there in her room. At length, however, drowsiness seemed to overtake her, and again she fell asleep. Resolved not to lose sight of her this time, Cosmo watched the sleeping form. Her slumber was so deep and absorbing that a fascinating repose seemed to pass contagiously from her to him as he gazed upon her; and he started as if from a dream, when the lady moved, and, without opening her eyes, rose, and passed from the room with the gait of a somnambulist.
Cosmo was now in a state of extravagant delight. Most men have a secret treasure somewhere. The miser has his golden hoard; the virtuoso his pet ring; the student his rare book; the poet his favourite haunt; the lover his secret drawer; but Cosmo had a mirror with a lovely lady in it. And now that he knew by the skeleton, that she was affected by the things around her, he had a new object in life: he would turn the bare chamber in the mirror into a room such as no lady need disdain to call her own. This he could effect only by furnishing and adorning his. And Cosmo was poor. Yet he possessed accomplishments that could be turned to account; although, hitherto, he had preferred living on his slender allowance, to increasing his means by what his pride considered unworthy of his rank. He was the best swordsman in the University; and now he offered to give lessons in fencing and similar exercises, to such as chose to pay him well for the trouble. His proposal was heard with surprise by the students; but it was eagerly accepted by many; and soon his instructions were not confined to the richer students, but were anxiously sought by many of the young nobility of Prague and its neighbourhood. So that very soon he had a good deal of money at his command. The first thing he did was to remove his apparatus and oddities into a closet in the room. Then he placed his bed and a few other necessaries on each side of the hearth, and parted them from the rest of the room by two screens of Indian fabric. Then he put an elegant couch for the lady to lie upon, in the corner where his bed had formerly stood; and, by degrees, every day adding some article of luxury, converted it, at length, into a rich boudoir.
Every night, about the same time, the lady entered. The first time she saw the new couch, she started with a half-smile; then her face grew very sad, the tears came to her eyes, and she laid herself upon the couch, and pressed her face into the silken cushions, as if to hide from everything. She took notice of each addition and each change as the work proceeded; and a look of acknowledgment, as if she knew that some one was ministering to her, and was grateful for it, mingled with the constant look of suffering. At length, after she had lain down as usual one evening, her eyes fell upon some paintings with which Cosmo had just finished adorning the walls. She rose, and to his great delight, walked across the room, and proceeded to examine them carefully, testifying much pleasure in her looks as she did so. But again the sorrowful, tearful expression returned, and again she buried her face in the pillows of her couch. Gradually, however, her countenance had grown more composed; much of the suffering manifest on her first appearance had vanished, and a kind of quiet, hopeful expression had taken its place; which, however, frequently gave way to an anxious, troubled look, mingled with something of sympathetic pity.
Meantime, how fared Cosmo? As might be expected in one of his temperament, his interest had blossomed into love, and his love — shall I call it ripened , or — withered into passion. But, alas! he loved a shadow. He could not come near her, could not speak to her, could not hear a sound from those sweet lips, to which his longing eyes would cling like bees to their honey-founts. Ever and anon he sang to himself:
I shall die for love of the maiden;

and ever he looked again, and died not, though his heart seemed ready to break with intensity of life and longing. And the more he did for her, the more he loved her; and he hoped that, although she never appeared to see him, yet she was pleased to think that one unknown would give his life to her. He tried to comfort himself over his separation from her, by thinking that perhaps some day she would see him and make signs to him, and that would satisfy him; “for,” thought he, “is not this all that a loving soul can do to enter into communion with another? Nay, how many who love never come nearer than to behold each other as in a mirror; seem to know and yet never know the inward life; never enter the other soul; and part at last, with but the vaguest notion of the universe on the borders of which they have been hovering for years? If I could but speak to her, and knew that she heard me, I should be satisfied.” Once he contemplated painting a picture on the wall, which should, of necessity, convey to the lady a thought of himself; but, though he had some skill with the pencil, he found his hand tremble so much when he began the attempt, that he was forced to give it up.... .
“Who lives, he dies; who dies, he is alive.”
One evening, as he stood gazing on his treasure, he thought he saw a faint expression of self-consciousness on her countenance, as if she surmised that passionate eyes were fixed upon her. This grew; till at last the red blood rose over her neck, and cheek, and brow. Cosmo’s longing to approach her became almost delirious. This night she was dressed in an evening costume, resplendent with diamonds. This could add nothing to her beauty, but it presented it in a new aspect; enabled her loveliness to make a new manifestation of itself in a new embodiment. For essential beauty is infinite; and, as the soul of Nature needs an endless succession of varied forms to embody her loveliness, countless faces of beauty springing forth, not any two the same, at any one of her heart-throbs; so the individual form needs an infinite change of its environments, to enable it to uncover all the phases of its loveliness. Diamonds glittered from amidst her hair, half hidden in its luxuriance, like stars through dark rain-clouds; and the bracelets on her white arms flashed all the colours of a rainbow of lightnings, as she lifted her snowy hands to cover her burning face. But her beauty shone down all its adornment. “If I might have but one of her feet to kiss,” thought Cosmo, “I should be content.” Alas! he deceived himself, for passion is never content. Nor did he know that there are two ways out of her enchanted house. But, suddenly, as if the pang had been driven into his heart from without, revealing itself first in pain, and afterwards in definite form, the thought darted into his mind, “She has a lover somewhere. Remembered words of his bring the colour on her face now. I am nowhere to her. She lives in another world all day, and all night, after she leaves me. Why does she come and make me love her, till I, a strong man, am too faint to look upon her more?” He looked again, and her face was pale as a lily. A sorrowful compassion seemed to rebuke the glitter of the restless jewels, and the slow tears rose in her eyes. She left her room sooner this evening than was her wont. Cosmo remained alone, with a feeling as if his bosom had been suddenly left empty and hollow, and the weight of the whole world was crushing in its walls. The next evening, for the first time since she began to come, she came not.
And now Cosmo was in wretched plight. Since the thought of a rival had occurred to him, he could not rest for a moment. More than ever he longed to see the lady face to face. He persuaded himself that if he but knew the worst he would be satisfied; for then he could abandon Prague, and find that relief in constant motion, which is the hope of all active minds when invaded by distress. Meantime he waited with unspeakable anxiety for the next night, hoping she would return: but she did not appear. And now he fell really ill. Rallied by his fellow students on his wretched looks, he ceased to attend the lectures. His engagements were neglected. He cared for nothing. The sky, with the great sun in it, was to him a heartless, burning desert. The men and women in the streets were mere puppets, without motives in themselves, or interest to him. He saw them all as on the ever-changing field of a camera obscura . She — she alone and altogether — was his universe, his well of life, his incarnate good. For six evenings she came not. Let his absorbing passion, and the slow fever that was consuming his brain, be his excuse for the resolution which he had taken and begun to execute, before that time had expired.
Reasoning with himself, that it must be by some enchantment connected with the mirror, that the form of the lady was to be seen in it, he determined to attempt to turn to account what he had hitherto studied principally from curiosity. “For,” said he to himself, “if a spell can force her presence in that glass (and she came unwillingly at first), may not a stronger spell, such as I know, especially with the aid of her half-presence in the mirror, if ever she appears again, compel her living form to come to me here? If I do her wrong, let love be my excuse. I want only to know my doom from her own lips.” He never doubted, all the time, that she was a real earthly woman; or, rather, that there was a woman, who, somehow or other, threw this reflection of her form into the magic mirror.
He opened his secret drawer, took out his books of magic, lighted his lamp, and read and made notes from midnight till three in the morning, for three successive nights. Then he replaced his books; and the next night went out in quest of the materials necessary for the conjuration. These were not easy to find; for, in love-charms and all incantations of this nature, ingredients are employed scarcely fit to be mentioned, and for the thought even of which, in connexion with her, he could only excuse himself on the score of his bitter need. At length he succeeded in procuring all he required; and on the seventh evening from that on which she had last appeared, he found himself prepared for the exercise of unlawful and tyrannical power.
He cleared the centre of the room; stooped and drew a circle of red on the floor, around the spot where he stood; wrote in the four quarters mystical signs, and numbers which were all powers of seven or nine; examined the whole ring carefully, to see that no smallest break had occurred in the circumference; and then rose from his bending posture. As he rose, the church clock struck seven; and, just as she had appeared the first time, reluctant, slow, and stately, glided in the lady. Cosmo trembled; and when, turning, she revealed a countenance worn and wan, as with sickness or inward trouble, he grew faint, and felt as if he dared not proceed. But as he gazed on the face and form, which now possessed his whole soul, to the exclusion of all other joys and griefs, the longing to speak to her, to know that she heard him, to hear from her one word in return, became so unendurable, that he suddenly and hastily resumed his preparations. Stepping carefully from the circle, he put a small brazier into its centre. He then set fire to its contents of charcoal, and while it burned up, opened his window and seated himself, waiting, beside it.
It was a sultry evening. The air was full of thunder. A sense of luxurious depression filled the brain. The sky seemed to have grown heavy, and to compress the air beneath it. A kind of purplish tinge pervaded the atmosphere, and through the open window came the scents of the distant fields, which all the vapours of the city could not quench. Soon the charcoal glowed. Cosmo sprinkled upon it the incense and other substances which he had compounded, and, stepping within the circle, turned his face from the brazier and towards the mirror. Then, fixing his eyes upon the face of the lady, he began with a trembling voice to repeat a powerful incantation. He had not gone far, before the lady grew pale; and then, like a returning wave, the blood washed all its banks with its crimson tide, and she hid her face in her hands. Then he passed to a conjuration stronger yet.
The lady rose and walked uneasily to and fro in her room. Another spell; and she seemed seeking with her eyes for some object on which they wished to rest. At length it seemed as if she suddenly espied him; for her eyes fixed themselves full and wide upon his, and she drew gradually, and somewhat unwillingly, close to her side of the mirror, just as if his eyes had fascinated her. Cosmo had never seen her so near before. Now at least, eyes met eyes; but he could not quite understand the expression of hers. They were full of tender entreaty, but there was something more that he could not interpret. Though his heart seemed to labour in his throat, he would allow no delight or agitation to turn him from his task. Looking still in her face, he passed on to the mightiest charm he knew. Suddenly the lady turned and walked out of the door of her reflected chamber. A moment after she entered his room with veritable presence; and, forgetting all his precautions, he sprang from the charmed circle, and knelt before her. There she stood, the living lady of his passionate visions, alone beside him, in a thundery twilight, and the glow of a magic fire.
“Why,” said the lady, with a trembling voice, “didst thou bring a poor maiden through the rainy streets alone?”
“Because I am dying for love of thee; but I only brought thee from the mirror there.”
“Ah, the mirror!” and she looked up at it, and shuddered. “Alas! I am but a slave, while that mirror exists. But do not think it was the power of thy spells that drew me; it was thy longing desire to see me, that beat at the door of my heart, till I was forced to yield.”
“Canst thou love me then?” said Cosmo, in a voice calm as death, but almost inarticulate with emotion.
“I do not know,” she replied sadly; “that I cannot tell, so long as I am bewildered with enchantments. It were indeed a joy too great, to lay my head on thy bosom and weep to death; for I think thou lovest me, though I do not know; — but —”
Cosmo rose from his knees.
“I love thee as — nay, I know not what — for since I have loved thee, there is nothing else.”
He seized her hand: she withdrew it.
“No, better not; I am in thy power, and therefore I may not.”
She burst into tears, and kneeling before him in her turn, said —
“Cosmo, if thou lovest me, set me free, even from thyself; break the mirror.”
“And shall I see thyself instead?”
“That I cannot tell, I will not deceive thee; we may never meet again.”
A fierce struggle arose in Cosmo’s bosom. Now she was in his power. She did not dislike him at least; and he could see her when he would. To break the mirror would be to destroy his very life to banish out of his universe the only glory it possessed. The whole world would be but a prison, if he annihilated the one window that looked into the paradise of love. Not yet pure in love, he hesitated.
With a wail of sorrow the lady rose to her feet. “Ah! he loves me not; he loves me not even as I love him; and alas! I care more for his love than even for the freedom I ask.”
“I will not wait to be willing,” cried Cosmo; and sprang to the corner where the great sword stood.
Meantime it had grown very dark; only the embers cast a red glow through the room. He seized the sword by the steel scabbard, and stood before the mirror; but as he heaved a great blow at it with the heavy pommel, the blade slipped half-way out of the scabbard, and the pommel struck the wall above the mirror. At that moment, a terrible clap of thunder seemed to burst in the very room beside them; and ere Cosmo could repeat the blow, he fell senseless on the hearth. When he came to himself, he found that the lady and the mirror had both disappeared. He was seized with a brain fever, which kept him to his couch for weeks.
When he recovered his reason, he began to think what could have become of the mirror. For the lady, he hoped she had found her way back as she came; but as the mirror involved her fate with its own, he was more immediately anxious about that. He could not think she had carried it away. It was much too heavy, even if it had not been too firmly fixed in the wall, for her to remove it. Then again, he remembered the thunder; which made him believe that it was not the lightning, but some other blow that had struck him down. He concluded that, either by supernatural agency, he having exposed himself to the vengeance of the demons in leaving the circle of safety, or in some other mode, the mirror had probably found its way back to its former owner; and, horrible to think of, might have been by this time once more disposed of, delivering up the lady into the power of another man; who, if he used his power no worse than he himself had done, might yet give Cosmo abundant cause to curse the selfish indecision which prevented him from shattering the mirror at once. Indeed, to think that she whom he loved, and who had prayed to him for freedom, should be still at the mercy, in some degree, of the possessor of the mirror, and was at least exposed to his constant observation, was in itself enough to madden a chary lover.
Anxiety to be well retarded his recovery; but at length he was able to creep abroad. He first made his way to the old broker’s, pretending to be in search of something else. A laughing sneer on the creature’s face convinced him that he knew all about it; but he could not see it amongst his furniture, or get any information out of him as to what had become of it. He expressed the utmost surprise at hearing it had been stolen, a surprise which Cosmo saw at once to be counterfeited; while, at the same time, he fancied that the old wretch was not at all anxious to have it mistaken for genuine. Full of distress, which he concealed as well as he could, he made many searches, but with no avail. Of course he could ask no questions; but he kept his ears awake for any remotest hint that might set him in a direction of search. He never went out without a short heavy hammer of steel about him, that he might shatter the mirror the moment he was made happy by the sight of his lost treasure, if ever that blessed moment should arrive. Whether he should see the lady again, was now a thought altogether secondary, and postponed to the achievement of her freedom. He wandered here and there, like an anxious ghost, pale and haggard; gnawed ever at the heart, by the thought of what she might be suffering — all from his fault.
One night, he mingled with a crowd that filled the rooms of one of the most distinguished mansions in the city; for he accepted every invitation, that he might lose no chance, however poor, of obtaining some information that might expedite his discovery. Here he wandered about, listening to every stray word that he could catch, in the hope of a revelation. As he approached some ladies who were talking quietly in a corner, one said to another:
“Have you heard of the strange illness of the Princess von Hohenweiss?”
“Yes; she has been ill for more than a year now. It is very sad for so fine a creature to have such a terrible malady. She was better for some weeks lately, but within the last few days the same attacks have returned, apparently accompanied with more suffering than ever. It is altogether an inexplicable story.”
“Is there a story connected with her illness?”
“I have only heard imperfect reports of it; but it is said that she gave offence some eighteen months ago to an old woman who had held an office of trust in the family, and who, after some incoherent threats, disappeared. This peculiar affection followed soon after. But the strangest part of the story is its association with the loss of an antique mirror, which stood in her dressing-room, and of which she constantly made use.”
Here the speaker’s voice sank to a whisper; and Cosmo, although his very soul sat listening in his ears, could hear no more. He trembled too much to dare to address the ladies, even if it had been advisable to expose himself to their curiosity. The name of the Princess was well known to him, but he had never seen her; except indeed it was she, which now he hardly doubted, who had knelt before him on that dreadful night. Fearful of attracting attention, for, from the weak state of his health, he could not recover an appearance of calmness, he made his way to the open air, and reached his lodgings; glad in this, that he at least knew where she lived, although he never dreamed of approaching her openly, even if he should be happy enough to free her from her hateful bondage. He hoped, too, that as he had unexpectedly learned so much, the other and far more important part might be revealed to him ere long.
“Have you seen Steinwald lately?”
“No, I have not seen him for some time. He is almost a match for me at the rapier, and I suppose he thinks he needs no more lessons.”
“I wonder what has become of him. I want to see him very much. Let me see; the last time I saw him he was coming out of that old broker’s den, to which, if you remember, you accompanied me once, to look at some armour. That is fully three weeks ago.”
This hint was enough for Cosmo. Von Steinwald was a man of influence in the court, well known for his reckless habits and fierce passions. The very possibility that the mirror should be in his possession was hell itself to Cosmo. But violent or hasty measures of any sort were most unlikely to succeed. All that he wanted was an opportunity of breaking the fatal glass; and to obtain this he must bide his time. He revolved many plans in his mind, but without being able to fix upon any.
At length, one evening, as he was passing the house of Von Steinwald, he saw the windows more than usually brilliant. He watched for a while, and seeing that company began to arrive, hastened home, and dressed as richly as he could, in the hope of mingling with the guests unquestioned: in effecting which, there could be no difficulty for a man of his carriage.
In a lofty, silent chamber, in another part of the city, lay a form more like marble than a living woman. The loveliness of death seemed frozen upon her face, for her lips were rigid, and her eyelids closed. Her long white hands were crossed over her breast, and no breathing disturbed their repose. Beside the dead, men speak in whispers, as if the deepest rest of all could be broken by the sound of a living voice. Just so, though the soul was evidently beyond the reach of all intimations from the senses, the two ladies, who sat beside her, spoke in the gentlest tones of subdued sorrow. “She has lain so for an hour.”
“This cannot last long, I fear.”
“How much thinner she has grown within the last few weeks! If she would only speak, and explain what she suffers, it would be better for her. I think she has visions in her trances, but nothing can induce her to refer to them when she is awake.”
“Does she ever speak in these trances?”
“I have never heard her; but they say she walks sometimes, and once put the whole household in a terrible fright by disappearing for a whole hour, and returning drenched with rain, and almost dead with exhaustion and fright. But even then she would give no account of what had happened.”
A scarce audible murmur from the yet motionless lips of the lady here startled her attendants. After several ineffectual attempts at articulation, the word “ Cosmo! ” burst from her. Then she lay still as before; but only for a moment. With a wild cry, she sprang from the couch erect on the floor, flung her arms above her head, with clasped and straining hands, and, her wide eyes flashing with light, called aloud, with a voice exultant as that of a spirit bursting from a sepulchre, “I am free! I am free! I thank thee!” Then she flung herself on the couch, and sobbed; then rose, and paced wildly up and down the room, with gestures of mingled delight and anxiety. Then turning to her motionless attendants — “Quick, Lisa, my cloak and hood!” Then lower — “I must go to him. Make haste, Lisa! You may come with me, if you will.”
In another moment they were in the street, hurrying along towards one of the bridges over the Moldau. The moon was near the zenith, and the streets were almost empty. The Princess soon outstripped her attendant, and was half-way over the bridge, before the other reached it.
“Are you free, lady? The mirror is broken: are you free?”
The words were spoken close beside her, as she hurried on. She turned; and there, leaning on the parapet in a recess of the bridge, stood Cosmo, in a splendid dress, but with a white and quivering face.
“Cosmo! — I am free — and thy servant for ever. I was coming to you now.”
“And I to you, for Death made me bold; but I could get no further. Have I atoned at all? Do I love you a little — truly?”
“Ah, I know now that you love me, my Cosmo; but what do you say about death?”
He did not reply. His hand was pressed against his side. She looked more closely: the blood was welling from between the fingers. She flung her arms around him with a faint bitter wail.
When Lisa came up, she found her mistress kneeling above a wan dead face, which smiled on in the spectral moonbeams.
And now I will say no more about these wondrous volumes; though I could tell many a tale out of them, and could, perhaps, vaguely represent some entrancing thoughts of a deeper kind which I found within them. From many a sultry noon till twilight, did I sit in that grand hall, buried and risen again in these old books. And I trust I have carried away in my soul some of the exhalations of their undying leaves. In after hours of deserved or needful sorrow, portions of what I read there have often come to me again, with an unexpected comforting; which was not fruitless, even though the comfort might seem in itself groundless and vain.
Chapter 14
Your gallery
Ha we pass’d through, not without much content
In many singularities; but we saw not
That which my daughter came to look upon,
The state of her mother.
— Winter’s Tale .
It seemed to me strange, that all this time I had heard no music in the fairy palace. I was convinced there must be music in it, but that my sense was as yet too gross to receive the influence of those mysterious motions that beget sound. Sometimes I felt sure, from the way the few figures of which I got such transitory glimpses passed me, or glided into vacancy before me, that they were moving to the law of music; and, in fact, several times I fancied for a moment that I heard a few wondrous tones coming I knew not whence. But they did not last long enough to convince me that I had heard them with the bodily sense. Such as they were, however, they took strange liberties with me, causing me to burst suddenly into tears, of which there was no presence to make me ashamed, or casting me into a kind of trance of speechless delight, which, passing as suddenly, left me faint and longing for more.
Now, on an evening, before I had been a week in the palace, I was wandering through one lighted arcade and corridor after another. At length I arrived, through a door that closed behind me, in another vast hall of the palace. It was filled with a subdued crimson light; by which I saw that slender pillars of black, built close to walls of white marble, rose to a great height, and then, dividing into innumerable divergent arches, supported a roof, like the walls, of white marble, upon which the arches intersected intricately, forming a fretting of black upon the white, like the network of a skeleton-leaf. The floor was black.
Between several pairs of the pillars upon every side, the place of the wall behind was occupied by a crimson curtain of thick silk, hanging in heavy and rich folds. Behind each of these curtains burned a powerful light, and these were the sources of the glow that filled the hall. A peculiar delicious odour pervaded the place. As soon as I entered, the old inspiration seemed to return to me, for I felt a strong impulse to sing; or rather, it seemed as if some one else was singing a song in my soul, which wanted to come forth at my lips, imbodied in my breath. But I kept silence; and feeling somewhat overcome by the red light and the perfume, as well as by the emotion within me, and seeing at one end of the hall a great crimson chair, more like a throne than a chair, beside a table of white marble, I went to it, and, throwing myself in it, gave myself up to a succession of images of bewildering beauty, which passed before my inward eye, in a long and occasionally crowded train. Here I sat for hours, I suppose; till, returning somewhat to myself, I saw that the red light had paled away, and felt a cool gentle breath gliding over my forehead. I rose and left the hall with unsteady steps, finding my way with some difficulty to my own chamber, and faintly remembering, as I went, that only in the marble cave, before I found the sleeping statue, had I ever had a similar experience.
After this, I repaired every morning to the same hall; where I sometimes sat in the chair and dreamed deliciously, and sometimes walked up and down over the black floor. Sometimes I acted within myself a whole drama, during one of these perambulations; sometimes walked deliberately through the whole epic of a tale; sometimes ventured to sing a song, though with a shrinking fear of I knew not what. I was astonished at the beauty of my own voice as it rang through the place, or rather crept undulating, like a serpent of sound, along the walls and roof of this superb music-hall. Entrancing verses arose within me as of their own accord, chanting themselves to their own melodies, and requiring no addition of music to satisfy the inward sense. But, ever in the pauses of these, when the singing mood was upon me, I seemed to hear something like the distant sound of multitudes of dancers, and felt as if it was the unheard music, moving their rhythmic motion, that within me blossomed in verse and song. I felt, too, that could I but see the dance, I should, from the harmony of complicated movements, not of the dancers in relation to each other merely, but of each dancer individually in the manifested plastic power that moved the consenting harmonious form, understand the whole of the music on the billows of which they floated and swung.
At length, one night, suddenly, when this feeling of dancing came upon me, I bethought me of lifting one of the crimson curtains, and looking if, perchance, behind it there might not be hid some other mystery, which might at least remove a step further the bewilderment of the present one. Nor was I altogether disappointed. I walked to one of the magnificent draperies, lifted a corner, and peeped in. There, burned a great, crimson, globe-shaped light, high in the cubical centre of another hall, which might be larger or less than that in which I stood, for its dimensions were not easily perceived, seeing that floor and roof and walls were entirely of black marble.
The roof was supported by the same arrangement of pillars radiating in arches, as that of the first hall; only, here, the pillars and arches were of dark red. But what absorbed my delighted gaze, was an innumerable assembly of white marble statues, of every form, and in multitudinous posture, filling the hall throughout. These stood, in the ruddy glow of the great lamp, upon pedestals of jet black. Around the lamp shone in golden letters, plainly legible from where I stood, the two words —
Touch not!
There was in all this, however, no solution to the sound of dancing; and now I was aware that the influence on my mind had ceased. I did not go in that evening, for I was weary and faint, but I hoarded up the expectation of entering, as of a great coming joy.
Next night I walked, as on the preceding, through the hall. My mind was filled with pictures and songs, and therewith so much absorbed, that I did not for some time think of looking within the curtain I had last night lifted. When the thought of doing so occurred to me first, I happened to be within a few yards of it. I became conscious, at the same moment, that the sound of dancing had been for some time in my ears. I approached the curtain quickly, and, lifting it, entered the black hall. Everything was still as death. I should have concluded that the sound must have proceeded from some other more distant quarter, which conclusion its faintness would, in ordinary circumstances, have necessitated from the first; but there was a something about the statues that caused me still to remain in doubt. As I said, each stood perfectly still upon its black pedestal: but there was about every one a certain air, not of motion, but as if it had just ceased from movement; as if the rest were not altogether of the marbly stillness of thousands of years. It was as if the peculiar atmosphere of each had yet a kind of invisible tremulousness; as if its agitated wavelets had not yet subsided into a perfect calm. I had the suspicion that they had anticipated my appearance, and had sprung, each, from the living joy of the dance, to the death-silence and blackness of its isolated pedestal, just before I entered. I walked across the central hall to the curtain opposite the one I had lifted, and, entering there, found all the appearances similar; only that the statues were different, and differently grouped. Neither did they produce on my mind that impression — of motion just expired, which I had experienced from the others. I found that behind every one of the crimson curtains was a similar hall, similarly lighted, and similarly occupied.
The next night, I did not allow my thoughts to be absorbed as before with inward images, but crept stealthily along to the furthest curtain in the hall, from behind which, likewise, I had formerly seemed to hear the sound of dancing. I drew aside its edge as suddenly as I could, and, looking in, saw that the utmost stillness pervaded the vast place. I walked in, and passed through it to the other end.
There I found that it communicated with a circular corridor, divided from it only by two rows of red columns. This corridor, which was black, with red niches holding statues, ran entirely about the statue-halls, forming a communication between the further ends of them all; further, that is, as regards the central hall of white whence they all diverged like radii, finding their circumference in the corridor.
Round this corridor I now went, entering all the halls, of which there were twelve, and finding them all similarly constructed, but filled with quite various statues, of what seemed both ancient and modern sculpture. After I had simply walked through them, I found myself sufficiently tired to long for rest, and went to my own room.
In the night I dreamed that, walking close by one of the curtains, I was suddenly seized with the desire to enter, and darted in. This time I was too quick for them. All the statues were in motion, statues no longer, but men and women — all shapes of beauty that ever sprang from the brain of the sculptor, mingled in the convolutions of a complicated dance. Passing through them to the further end, I almost started from my sleep on beholding, not taking part in the dance with the others, nor seemingly endued with life like them, but standing in marble coldness and rigidity upon a black pedestal in the extreme left corner — my lady of the cave; the marble beauty who sprang from her tomb or her cradle at the call of my songs. While I gazed in speechless astonishment and admiration, a dark shadow, descending from above like the curtain of a stage, gradually hid her entirely from my view. I felt with a shudder that this shadow was perchance my missing demon, whom I had not seen for days. I awoke with a stifled cry.
Of course, the next evening I began my journey through the halls (for I knew not to which my dream had carried me), in the hope of proving the dream to be a true one, by discovering my marble beauty upon her black pedestal. At length, on reaching the tenth hall, I thought I recognised some of the forms I had seen dancing in my dream; and to my bewilderment, when I arrived at the extreme corner on the left, there stood, the only one I had yet seen, a vacant pedestal. It was exactly in the position occupied, in my dream, by the pedestal on which the white lady stood. Hope beat violently in my heart.
“Now,” said I to myself, “if yet another part of the dream would but come true, and I should succeed in surprising these forms in their nightly dance; it might be the rest would follow, and I should see on the pedestal my marble queen. Then surely if my songs sufficed to give her life before, when she lay in the bonds of alabaster, much more would they be sufficient then to give her volition and motion, when she alone of assembled crowds of marble forms, would be standing rigid and cold.”
But the difficulty was, to surprise the dancers. I had found that a premeditated attempt at surprise, though executed with the utmost care and rapidity, was of no avail. And, in my dream, it was effected by a sudden thought suddenly executed. I saw, therefore, that there was no plan of operation offering any probability of success, but this: to allow my mind to be occupied with other thoughts, as I wandered around the great centre-hall; and so wait till the impulse to enter one of the others should happen to arise in me just at the moment when I was close to one of the crimson curtains. For I hoped that if I entered any one of the twelve halls at the right moment, that would as it were give me the right of entrance to all the others, seeing they all had communication behind. I would not diminish the hope of the right chance, by supposing it necessary that a desire to enter should awake within me, precisely when I was close to the curtains of the tenth hall.
At first the impulses to see recurred so continually, in spite of the crowded imagery that kept passing through my mind, that they formed too nearly a continuous chain, for the hope that any one of them would succeed as a surprise. But as I persisted in banishing them, they recurred less and less often; and after two or three, at considerable intervals, had come when the spot where I happened to be was unsuitable, the hope strengthened, that soon one might arise just at the right moment; namely, when, in walking round the hall, I should be close to one of the curtains.
At length the right moment and the impulse coincided. I darted into the ninth hall. It was full of the most exquisite moving forms. The whole space wavered and swam with the involutions of an intricate dance. It seemed to break suddenly as I entered, and all made one or two bounds towards their pedestals; but, apparently on finding that they were thoroughly overtaken, they returned to their employment (for it seemed with them earnest enough to be called such) without further heeding me. Somewhat impeded by the floating crowd, I made what haste I could towards the bottom of the hall; whence, entering the corridor, I turned towards the tenth. I soon arrived at the corner I wanted to reach, for the corridor was comparatively empty; but, although the dancers here, after a little confusion, altogether disregarded my presence, I was dismayed at beholding, even yet, a vacant pedestal. But I had a conviction that she was near me. And as I looked at the pedestal, I thought I saw upon it, vaguely revealed as if through overlapping folds of drapery, the indistinct outlines of white feet. Yet there was no sign of drapery or concealing shadow whatever. But I remembered the descending shadow in my dream. And I hoped still in the power of my songs; thinking that what could dispel alabaster, might likewise be capable of dispelling what concealed my beauty now, even if it were the demon whose darkness had overshadowed all my life.
Chapter 15
Alexander. ‘When will you finish Campaspe?’
Apelles. ‘Never finish: for always in absolute beauty there is somewhat above art.’
—Lyly’s Campaspe .
And now, what song should I sing to unveil my Isis, if indeed she was present unseen? I hurried away to the white hall of Phantasy, heedless of the innumerable forms of beauty that crowded my way: these might cross my eyes, but the unseen filled my brain. I wandered long, up and down the silent space: no songs came. My soul was not still enough for songs. Only in the silence and darkness of the soul’s night, do those stars of the inward firmament sink to its lower surface from the singing realms beyond, and shine upon the conscious spirit. Here all effort was unavailing. If they came not, they could not be found.
Next night, it was just the same. I walked through the red glimmer of the silent hall; but lonely as there I walked, as lonely trod my soul up and down the halls of the brain. At last I entered one of the statue-halls. The dance had just commenced, and I was delighted to find that I was free of their assembly. I walked on till I came to the sacred corner. There I found the pedestal just as I had left it, with the faint glimmer as of white feet still resting on the dead black. As soon as I saw it, I seemed to feel a presence which longed to become visible; and, as it were, called to me to gift it with self-manifestation, that it might shine on me. The power of song came to me. But the moment my voice, though I sang low and soft, stirred the air of the hall, the dancers started; the quick interweaving crowd shook, lost its form, divided; each figure sprang to its pedestal, and stood, a self-evolving life no more, but a rigid, life-like, marble shape, with the whole form composed into the expression of a single state or act. Silence rolled like a spiritual thunder through the grand space. My song had ceased, scared at its own influences. But I saw in the hand of one of the statues close by me, a harp whose chords yet quivered. I remembered that as she bounded past me, her harp had brushed against my arm; so the spell of the marble had not infolded it. I sprang to her, and with a gesture of entreaty, laid my hand on the harp. The marble hand, probably from its contact with the uncharmed harp, had strength enough to relax its hold, and yield the harp to me. No other motion indicated life. Instinctively I struck the chords and sang. And not to break upon the record of my song, I mention here, that as I sang the first four lines, the loveliest feet became clear upon the black pedestal; and ever as I sang, it was as if a veil were being lifted up from before the form, but an invisible veil, so that the statue appeared to grow before me, not so much by evolution, as by infinitesimal degrees of added height. And, while I sang, I did not feel that I stood by a statue, as indeed it appeared to be, but that a real woman-soul was revealing itself by successive stages of imbodiment, and consequent manifestatlon and expression.
Feet of beauty, firmly planting
Arches white on rosy heel!
Whence the life-spring, throbbing, panting,
Pulses upward to reveal!
Fairest things know least despising;
Foot and earth meet tenderly:
‘Tis the woman, resting, rising
Upward to sublimity,
Rise the limbs, sedately sloping,
Strong and gentle, full and free;
Soft and slow, like certain hoping,
Drawing nigh the broad firm knee.
Up to speech! As up to roses
Pants the life from leaf to flower,
So each blending change discloses,
Nearer still, expression’s power.
Lo! fair sweeps, white surges, twining
Up and outward fearlessly!
Temple columns, close combining,
Lift a holy mystery.
Heart of mine! what strange surprises
Mount aloft on such a stair!
Some great vision upward rises,
Curving, bending, floating fair.
Bands and sweeps, and hill and hollow
Lead my fascinated eye;
Some apocalypse will follow,
Some new world of deity.
Zoned unseen, and outward swelling,
With new thoughts and wonders rife,
Queenly majesty foretelling,
See the expanding house of life!
Sudden heaving, unforbidden
Sighs eternal, still the same —
Mounts of snow have summits hidden
In the mists of uttered flame.
But the spirit, dawning nearly
Finds no speech for earnest pain;
Finds a soundless sighing merely —
Builds its stairs, and mounts again.
Heart, the queen, with secret hoping,
Sendeth out her waiting pair;
Hands, blind hands, half blindly groping,
Half inclasping visions rare;
And the great arms, heartways bending;
Might of Beauty, drawing home
There returning, and re-blending,
Where from roots of love they roam.
Build thy slopes of radiance beamy
Spirit, fair with womanhood!
Tower thy precipice, white-gleamy,
Climb unto the hour of good.
Dumb space will be rent asunder,
Now the shining column stands
Ready to be crowned with wonder
By the builder’s joyous hands.
All the lines abroad are spreading,
Like a fountain’s falling race.
Lo, the chin, first feature, treading,
Airy foot to rest the face!
Speech is nigh; oh, see the blushing,
Sweet approach of lip and breath!
Round the mouth dim silence, hushing,
Waits to die ecstatic death.
Span across in treble curving,
Bow of promise, upper lip!
Set them free, with gracious swerving;
Let the wing-words float and dip.
Dumb art thou? O Love immortal,
More than words thy speech must be;
Childless yet the tender portal
Of the home of melody.
Now the nostrils open fearless,
Proud in calm unconsciousness,
Sure it must be something peerless
That the great Pan would express!
Deepens, crowds some meaning tender,
In the pure, dear lady-face.
Lo, a blinding burst of splendour! —
‘Tis the free soul’s issuing grace.
Two calm lakes of molten glory
Circling round unfathomed deeps!
Lightning-flashes, transitory,
Cross the gulfs where darkness sleeps.
This the gate, at last, of gladness,
To the outward striving me:
In a rain of light and sadness,
Out its loves and longings flee!
With a presence I am smitten
Dumb, with a foreknown surprise;
Presence greater yet than written
Even in the glorious eyes.
Through the gulfs, with inward gazes,
I may look till I am lost;
Wandering deep in spirit-mazes,
In a sea without a coast.
Windows open to the glorious!
Time and space, oh, far beyond!
Woman, ah! thou art victorious,
And I perish, overfond.
Springs aloft the yet Unspoken
In the forehead’s endless grace,
Full of silences unbroken;
Infinite, unfeatured face.
Domes above, the mount of wonder;
Height and hollow wrapt in night;
Hiding in its caverns under
Woman-nations in their might.
Passing forms, the highest Human
Faints away to the Divine
Features none, of man or woman,
Can unveil the holiest shine.
Sideways, grooved porches only
Visible to passing eye,
Stand the silent, doorless, lonely
Entrance-gates of melody.
But all sounds fly in as boldly,
Groan and song, and kiss and cry
At their galleries, lifted coldly,
Darkly, ‘twixt the earth and sky.
Beauty, thou art spent, thou knowest
So, in faint, half-glad despair,
From the summit thou o’erflowest
In a fall of torrent hair;
Hiding what thou hast created
In a half-transparent shroud:
Thus, with glory soft-abated,
Shines the moon through vapoury cloud.
Chapter 16
Ev’n the Styx, which ninefold her infoldeth
Hems not Ceres’ daughter in its flow;
But she grasps the apple — ever holdeth
Her, sad Orcus, down below.
—Schiller, Das Ideal und das Leben .
Ever as I sang, the veil was uplifted; ever as I sang, the signs of life grew; till, when the eyes dawned upon me, it was with that sunrise of splendour which my feeble song attempted to re-imbody.
The wonder is, that I was not altogether overcome, but was able to complete my song as the unseen veil continued to rise. This ability came solely from the state of mental elevation in which I found myself. Only because uplifted in song, was I able to endure the blaze of the dawn. But I cannot tell whether she looked more of statue or more of woman; she seemed removed into that region of phantasy where all is intensely vivid, but nothing clearly defined. At last, as I sang of her descending hair, the glow of soul faded away, like a dying sunset. A lamp within had been extinguished, and the house of life shone blank in a winter morn. She was a statue once more — but visible, and that was much gained. Yet the revulsion from hope and fruition was such, that, unable to restrain myself, I sprang to her, and, in defiance of the law of the place, flung my arms around her, as if I would tear her from the grasp of a visible Death, and lifted her from the pedestal down to my heart. But no sooner had her feet ceased to be in contact with the black pedestal, than she shuddered and trembled all over; then, writhing from my arms, before I could tighten their hold, she sprang into the corridor, with the reproachful cry, “You should not have touched me!” darted behind one of the exterior pillars of the circle, and disappeared. I followed almost as fast; but ere I could reach the pillar, the sound of a closing door, the saddest of all sounds sometimes, fell on my ear; and, arriving at the spot where she had vanished, I saw, lighted by a pale yellow lamp which hung above it, a heavy, rough door, altogether unlike any others I had seen in the palace; for they were all of ebony, or ivory, or covered with silver-plates, or of some odorous wood, and very ornate; whereas this seemed of old oak, with heavy nails and iron studs. Notwithstanding the precipitation of my pursuit, I could not help reading, in silver letters beneath the lamp: “ No one enters here without the leave of the Queen .” But what was the Queen to me, when I followed my white lady? I dashed the door to the wall and sprang through. Lo! I stood on a waste windy hill. Great stones like tombstones stood all about me. No door, no palace was to be seen. A white figure gleamed past me, wringing her hands, and crying, “Ah! you should have sung to me; you should have sung to me!” and disappeared behind one of the stones. I followed. A cold gust of wind met me from behind the stone; and when I looked, I saw nothing but a great hole in the earth, into which I could find no way of entering. Had she fallen in? I could not tell. I must wait for the daylight. I sat down and wept, for there was no help.
Chapter 17
First, I thought, almost despairing,
This must crush my spirit now;
Yet I bore it, and am bearing —
Only do not ask me how.
When the daylight came, it brought the possibility of action, but with it little of consolation. With the first visible increase of light, I gazed into the chasm, but could not, for more than an hour, see sufficiently well to discover its nature. At last I saw it was almost a perpendicular opening, like a roughly excavated well, only very large. I could perceive no bottom; and it was not till the sun actually rose, that I discovered a sort of natural staircase, in many parts little more than suggested, which led round and round the gulf, descending spirally into its abyss. I saw at once that this was my path; and without a moment’s hesitation, glad to quit the sunlight, which stared at me most heartlessly, I commenced my tortuous descent. It was very difficult. In some parts I had to cling to the rocks like a bat. In one place, I dropped from the track down upon the next returning spire of the stair; which being broad in this particular portion, and standing out from the wall at right angles, received me upon my feet safe, though somewhat stupefied by the shock. After descending a great way, I found the stair ended at a narrow opening which entered the rock horizontally. Into this I crept, and, having entered, had just room to turn round. I put my head out into the shaft by which I had come down, and surveyed the course of my descent. Looking up, I saw the stars; although the sun must by this time have been high in the heavens. Looking below, I saw that the sides of the shaft went sheer down, smooth as glass; and far beneath me, I saw the reflection of the same stars I had seen in the heavens when I looked up. I turned again, and crept inwards some distance, when the passage widened, and I was at length able to stand and walk upright. Wider and loftier grew the way; new paths branched off on every side; great open halls appeared; till at last I found myself wandering on through an underground country, in which the sky was of rock, and instead of trees and flowers, there were only fantastic rocks and stones. And ever as I went, darker grew my thoughts, till at last I had no hope whatever of finding the white lady: I no longer called her to myself my white lady. Whenever a choice was necessary, I always chose the path which seemed to lead downwards.
At length I began to find that these regions were inhabited. From behind a rock a peal of harsh grating laughter, full of evil humour, rang through my ears, and, looking round, I saw a queer, goblin creature, with a great head and ridiculous features, just such as those described, in German histories and travels, as Kobolds. “What do you want with me?” I said. He pointed at me with a long forefinger, very thick at the root, and sharpened to a point, and answered, “He! he! he! what do you want here?” Then, changing his tone, he continued, with mock humility — “Honoured sir, vouchsafe to withdraw from thy slaves the lustre of thy august presence, for thy slaves cannot support its brightness.” A second appeared, and struck in: “You are so big, you keep the sun from us. We can’t see for you, and we’re so cold.” Thereupon arose, on all sides, the most terrific uproar of laughter, from voices like those of children in volume, but scrannel and harsh as those of decrepit age, though, unfortunately, without its weakness. The whole pandemonium of fairy devils, of all varieties of fantastic ugliness, both in form and feature, and of all sizes from one to four feet, seemed to have suddenly assembled about me. At length, after a great babble of talk among themselves, in a language unknown to me, and after seemingly endless gesticulation, consultation, elbow-nudging, and unmitigated peals of laughter, they formed into a circle about one of their number, who scrambled upon a stone, and, much to my surprise, and somewhat to my dismay, began to sing, in a voice corresponding in its nature to his talking one, from beginning to end, the song with which I had brought the light into the eyes of the white lady. He sang the same air too; and, all the time, maintained a face of mock entreaty and worship; accompanying the song with the travestied gestures of one playing on the lute. The whole assembly kept silence, except at the close of every verse, when they roared, and danced, and shouted with laughter, and flung themselves on the ground, in real or pretended convulsions of delight. When he had finished, the singer threw himself from the top of the stone, turning heels over head several times in his descent; and when he did alight, it was on the top of his head, on which he hopped about, making the most grotesque gesticulations with his legs in the air. Inexpressible laughter followed, which broke up in a shower of tiny stones from innumerable hands. They could not materially injure me, although they cut me on the head and face. I attempted to run away, but they all rushed upon me, and, laying hold of every part that afforded a grasp, held me tight. Crowding about me like bees, they shouted an insect-swarm of exasperating speeches up into my face, among which the most frequently recurring were — “You shan’t have her; you shan’t have her; he! he! he! She’s for a better man; how he’ll kiss her! how he’ll kiss her!”
The galvanic torrent of this battery of malevolence stung to life within me a spark of nobleness, and I said aloud, “Well, if he is a better man, let him have her.”
They instantly let go their hold of me, and fell back a step or two, with a whole broadside of grunts and humphs, as of unexpected and disappointed approbation. I made a step or two forward, and a lane was instantly opened for me through the midst of the grinning little antics, who bowed most politely to me on every side as I passed. After I had gone a few yards, I looked back, and saw them all standing quite still, looking after me, like a great school of boys; till suddenly one turned round, and with a loud whoop, rushed into the midst of the others. In an instant, the whole was one writhing and tumbling heap of contortion, reminding me of the live pyramids of intertwined snakes of which travellers make report. As soon as one was worked out of the mass, he bounded off a few paces, and then, with a somersault and a run, threw himself gyrating into the air, and descended with all his weight on the summit of the heaving and struggling chaos of fantastic figures. I left them still busy at this fierce and apparently aimless amusement. And as I went, I sang —
If a nobler waits for thee,
I will weep aside;
It is well that thou should’st be,
Of the nobler, bride.
For if love builds up the home,
Where the heart is free,
Homeless yet the heart must roam,
That has not found thee.
One must suffer: I, for her
Yield in her my part
Take her, thou art worthier —
Still I be still, my heart!
Gift ungotten! largess high
Of a frustrate will!
But to yield it lovingly
Is a something still.
Then a little song arose of itself in my soul; and I felt for the moment, while it sank sadly within me, as if I was once more walking up and down the white hall of Phantasy in the Fairy Palace. But this lasted no longer than the song; as will be seen.
Do not vex thy violet
Perfume to afford:
Else no odour thou wilt get
From its little hoard.
In thy lady’s gracious eyes
Look not thou too long;
Else from them the glory flies,
And thou dost her wrong.
Come not thou too near the maid,
Clasp her not too wild;
Else the splendour is allayed,
And thy heart beguiled.
A crash of laughter, more discordant and deriding than any I had yet heard, invaded my ears. Looking on in the direction of the sound, I saw a little elderly woman, much taller, however, than the goblins I had just left, seated upon a stone by the side of the path. She rose, as I drew near, and came forward to meet me.
She was very plain and commonplace in appearance, without being hideously ugly. Looking up in my face with a stupid sneer, she said: “Isn’t it a pity you haven’t a pretty girl to walk all alone with you through this sweet country? How different everything would look? wouldn’t it? Strange that one can never have what one would like best! How the roses would bloom and all that, even in this infernal hole! wouldn’t they, Anodos? Her eyes would light up the old cave, wouldn’t they?”
“That depends on who the pretty girl should be,” replied I.
“Not so very much matter that,” she answered; “look here.”
I had turned to go away as I gave my reply, but now I stopped and looked at her. As a rough unsightly bud might suddenly blossom into the most lovely flower; or rather, as a sunbeam bursts through a shapeless cloud, and transfigures the earth; so burst a face of resplendent beauty, as it were through the unsightly visage of the woman, destroying it with light as it dawned through it. A summer sky rose above me, gray with heat; across a shining slumberous landscape, looked from afar the peaks of snow-capped mountains; and down from a great rock beside me fell a sheet of water mad with its own delight.
“Stay with me,” she said, lifting up her exquisite face, and looking full in mine.
I drew back. Again the infernal laugh grated upon my ears; again the rocks closed in around me, and the ugly woman looked at me with wicked, mocking hazel eyes.
“You shall have your reward,” said she. “You shall see your white lady again.”
“That lies not with you,” I replied, and turned and left her.
She followed me with shriek upon shriek of laughter, as I went on my way.
I may mention here, that although there was always light enough to see my path and a few yards on every side of me, I never could find out the source of this sad sepulchral illumination.
Chapter 18
In the wind’s uproar, the sea’s raging grim,
And the sighs that are born in him.
From dreams of bliss shall men awake
One day, but not to weep:
The dreams remain; they only break
The mirror of the sleep.
—Jean Paul, Hesperus .
How I got through this dreary part of my travels, I do not know. I do not think I was upheld by the hope that any moment the light might break in upon me; for I scarcely thought about that. I went on with a dull endurance, varied by moments of uncontrollable sadness; for more and more the conviction grew upon me that I should never see the white lady again. It may seem strange that one with whom I had held so little communion should have so engrossed my thoughts; but benefits conferred awaken love in some minds, as surely as benefits received in others. Besides being delighted and proud that my songs had called the beautiful creature to life, the same fact caused me to feel a tenderness unspeakable for her, accompanied with a kind of feeling of property in her; for so the goblin Selfishness would reward the angel Love. When to all this is added, an overpowering sense of her beauty, and an unquestioning conviction that this was a true index to inward loveliness, it may be understood how it came to pass that my imagination filled my whole soul with the play of its own multitudinous colours and harmonies around the form which yet stood, a gracious marble radiance, in the midst of its white hall of phantasy. The time passed by unheeded; for my thoughts were busy. Perhaps this was also in part the cause of my needing no food, and never thinking how I should find any, during this subterraneous part of my travels. How long they endured I could not tell, for I had no means of measuring time; and when I looked back, there was such a discrepancy between the decisions of my imagination and my judgment, as to the length of time that had passed, that I was bewildered, and gave up all attempts to arrive at any conclusion on the point.
A gray mist continually gathered behind me. When I looked back towards the past, this mist was the medium through which my eyes had to strain for a vision of what had gone by; and the form of the white lady had receded into an unknown region. At length the country of rock began to close again around me, gradually and slowly narrowing, till I found myself walking in a gallery of rock once more, both sides of which I could touch with my outstretched hands. It narrowed yet, until I was forced to move carefully, in order to avoid striking against the projecting pieces of rock. The roof sank lower and lower, until I was compelled, first to stoop, and then to creep on my hands and knees. It recalled terrible dreams of childhood; but I was not much afraid, because I felt sure that this was my path, and my only hope of leaving Fairy Land, of which I was now almost weary.
At length, on getting past an abrupt turn in the passage, through which I had to force myself, I saw, a few yards ahead of me, the long-forgotten daylight shining through a small opening, to which the path, if path it could now be called, led me. With great difficulty I accomplished these last few yards, and came forth to the day. I stood on the shore of a wintry sea, with a wintry sun just a few feet above its horizon-edge. It was bare, and waste, and gray. Hundreds of hopeless waves rushed constantly shorewards, falling exhausted upon a beach of great loose stones, that seemed to stretch miles and miles in both directions. There was nothing for the eye but mingling shades of gray; nothing for the ear but the rush of the coming, the roar of the breaking, and the moan of the retreating wave. No rock lifted up a sheltering severity above the dreariness around; even that from which I had myself emerged rose scarcely a foot above the opening by which I had reached the dismal day, more dismal even than the tomb I had left. A cold, death-like wind swept across the shore, seeming to issue from a pale mouth of cloud upon the horizon. Sign of life was nowhere visible. I wandered over the stones, up and down the beach, a human imbodiment of the nature around me. The wind increased; its keen waves flowed through my soul; the foam rushed higher up the stones; a few dead stars began to gleam in the east; the sound of the waves grew louder and yet more despairing. A dark curtain of cloud was lifted up, and a pale blue rent shone between its foot and the edge of the sea, out from which rushed an icy storm of frozen wind, that tore the waters into spray as it passed, and flung the billows in raving heaps upon the desolate shore. I could bear it no longer.
“I will not be tortured to death,” I cried; “I will meet it half-way. The life within me is yet enough to bear me up to the face of Death, and then I die unconquered.”
Before it had grown so dark, I had observed, though without any particular interest, that on one part of the shore a low platform of rock seemed to run out far into the midst of the breaking waters.
Towards this I now went, scrambling over smooth stones, to which scarce even a particle of sea-weed clung; and having found it, I got on it, and followed its direction, as near as I could guess, out into the tumbling chaos. I could hardly keep my feet against the wind and sea. The waves repeatedly all but swept me off my path; but I kept on my way, till I reached the end of the low promontory, which, in the fall of the waves, rose a good many feet above the surface, and, in their rise, was covered with their waters. I stood one moment and gazed into the heaving abyss beneath me; then plunged headlong into the mounting wave below. A blessing, like the kiss of a mother, seemed to alight on my soul; a calm, deeper than that which accompanies a hope deferred, bathed my spirit. I sank far into the waters, and sought not to return. I felt as if once more the great arms of the beech-tree were around me, soothing me after the miseries I had passed through, and telling me, like a little sick child, that I should be better to-morrow. The waters of themselves lifted me, as with loving arms, to the surface. I breathed again, but did not unclose my eyes. I would not look on the wintry sea, and the pitiless gray sky. Thus I floated, till something gently touched me. It was a little boat floating beside me. How it came there I could not tell; but it rose and sank on the waters, and kept touching me in its fall, as if with a human will to let me know that help was by me. It was a little gay-coloured boat, seemingly covered with glistering scales like those of a fish, all of brilliant rainbow hues. I scrambled into it, and lay down in the bottom, with a sense of exquisite repose.
Then I drew over me a rich, heavy, purple cloth that was beside me; and, lying still, knew, by the sound of the waters, that my little bark was fleeting rapidly onwards. Finding, however, none of that stormy motion which the sea had manifested when I beheld it from the shore, I opened my eyes; and, looking first up, saw above me the deep violet sky of a warm southern night; and then, lifting my head, saw that I was sailing fast upon a summer sea, in the last border of a southern twilight. The aureole of the sun yet shot the extreme faint tips of its longest rays above the horizon-waves, and withdrew them not. It was a perpetual twilight. The stars, great and earnest, like children’s eyes, bent down lovingly towards the waters; and the reflected stars within seemed to float up, as if longing to meet their embraces. But when I looked down, a new wonder met my view. For, vaguely revealed beneath the wave, I floated above my whole Past. The fields of my childhood flitted by; the halls of my youthful labours; the streets of great cities where I had dwelt; and the assemblies of men and women wherein I had wearied myself seeking for rest. But so indistinct were the visions, that sometimes I thought I was sailing on a shallow sea, and that strange rocks and forests of sea-plants beguiled my eye, sufficiently to be transformed, by the magic of the phantasy, into well-known objects and regions. Yet, at times, a beloved form seemed to lie close beneath me in sleep; and the eyelids would tremble as if about to forsake the conscious eye; and the arms would heave upwards, as if in dreams they sought for a satisfying presence. But these motions might come only from the heaving of the waters between those forms and me. Soon I fell asleep, overcome with fatigue and delight. In dreams of unspeakable joy — of restored friendships; of revived embraces; of love which said it had never died; of faces that had vanished long ago, yet said with smiling lips that they knew nothing of the grave; of pardons implored, and granted with such bursting floods of love, that I was almost glad I had sinned — thus I passed through this wondrous twilight. I awoke with the feeling that I had been kissed and loved to my heart’s content; and found that my boat was floating motionless by the grassy shore of a little island.
Chapter 19
In still rest, in changeless simplicity, I bear,
uninterrupted, the consciousness of the whole of Humanity
within me.
—Schleiermachers, Monologen .
...such a sweetness, such a grace,
In all thy speech appear,
That what to th’eye a beauteous face,
That thy tongue is to the ear.
The water was deep to the very edge; and I sprang from the little boat upon a soft grassy turf. The island seemed rich with a profusion of all grasses and low flowers. All delicate lowly things were most plentiful; but no trees rose skywards, not even a bush overtopped the tall grasses, except in one place near the cottage I am about to describe, where a few plants of the gum-cistus, which drops every night all the blossoms that the day brings forth, formed a kind of natural arbour. The whole island lay open to the sky and sea. It rose nowhere more than a few feet above the level of the waters, which flowed deep all around its border. Here there seemed to be neither tide nor storm. A sense of persistent calm and fulness arose in the mind at the sight of the slow, pulse-like rise and fall of the deep, clear, unrippled waters against the bank of the island, for shore it could hardly be called, being so much more like the edge of a full, solemn river. As I walked over the grass towards the cottage, which stood at a little distance from the bank, all the flowers of childhood looked at me with perfect child-eyes out of the grass. My heart, softened by the dreams through which it had passed, overflowed in a sad, tender love towards them. They looked to me like children impregnably fortified in a helpless confidence. The sun stood half-way down the western sky, shining very soft and golden; and there grew a second world of shadows amidst the world of grasses and wild flowers.
The cottage was square, with low walls, and a high pyramidal roof thatched with long reeds, of which the withered blossoms hung over all the eaves. It is noticeable that most of the buildings I saw in Fairy Land were cottages. There was no path to a door, nor, indeed, was there any track worn by footsteps in the island.
The cottage rose right out of the smooth turf. It had no windows that I could see; but there was a door in the centre of the side facing me, up to which I went. I knocked, and the sweetest voice I had ever heard said, “Come in.” I entered. A bright fire was burning on a hearth in the centre of the earthern floor, and the smoke found its way out at an opening in the centre of the pyramidal roof. Over the fire hung a little pot, and over the pot bent a woman-face, the most wonderful, I thought, that I had ever beheld. For it was older than any countenance I had ever looked upon. There was not a spot in which a wrinkle could lie, where a wrinkle lay not. And the skin was ancient and brown, like old parchment. The woman’s form was tall and spare: and when she stood up to welcome me, I saw that she was straight as an arrow. Could that voice of sweetness have issued from those lips of age? Mild as they were, could they be the portals whence flowed such melody? But the moment I saw her eyes, I no longer wondered at her voice: they were absolutely young — those of a woman of five-and-twenty, large, and of a clear gray. Wrinkles had beset them all about; the eyelids themselves were old, and heavy, and worn; but the eyes were very incarnations of soft light. She held out her hand to me, and the voice of sweetness again greeted me, with the single word, “Welcome.” She set an old wooden chair for me, near the fire, and went on with her cooking. A wondrous sense of refuge and repose came upon me. I felt like a boy who has got home from school, miles across the hills, through a heavy storm of wind and snow. Almost, as I gazed on her, I sprang from my seat to kiss those old lips. And when, having finished her cooking, she brought some of the dish she had prepared, and set it on a little table by me, covered with a snow-white cloth, I could not help laying my head on her bosom, and bursting into happy tears. She put her arms round me, saying, “Poor child; poor child!”
As I continued to weep, she gently disengaged herself, and, taking a spoon, put some of the food (I did not know what it was) to my lips, entreating me most endearingly to swallow it. To please her, I made an effort, and succeeded. She went on feeding me like a baby, with one arm round me, till I looked up in her face and smiled: then she gave me the spoon and told me to eat, for it would do me good. I obeyed her, and found myself wonderfully refreshed. Then she drew near the fire an old-fashioned couch that was in the cottage, and making me lie down upon it, sat at my feet, and began to sing. Amazing store of old ballads rippled from her lips, over the pebbles of ancient tunes; and the voice that sang was sweet as the voice of a tuneful maiden that singeth ever from very fulness of song. The songs were almost all sad, but with a sound of comfort. One I can faintly recall. It was something like this:
Sir Aglovaile through the churchyard rode;
Sing, All alone I lie:
Little recked he where’er he yode,
All alone, up in the sky.
Swerved his courser, and plunged with fear
All alone i lie:
His cry might have wakened the dead men near,
All alone, up in the sky.
The very dead that lay at his feet,
Lapt in the mouldy winding-sheet.
But he curbed him and spurred him, until he stood
Still in his place, like a horse of wood,
With nostrils uplift, and eyes wide and wan;
But the sweat in streams from his fetlocks ran.
A ghost grew out of the shadowy air,
And sat in the midst of her moony hair.
In her gleamy hair she sat and wept;
In the dreamful moon they lay and slept;
The shadows above, and the bodies below,
Lay and slept in the moonbeams slow.
And she sang, like the moan of an autumn wind
Over the stubble left behind:
Alas, how easily things go wrong!
A sigh too much, or a kiss too long,
And there follows a mist and a weeping rain,
And life is never the same again.
Alas, how hardly things go right!
‘Tis hard to watch on a summer night,
For the sigh will come and the kiss will stay,
And the summer night is a winter day.
“Oh, lovely ghosts my heart is woes
To see thee weeping and wailing so.
Oh, lovely ghost,” said the fearless knight,
“Can the sword of a warrior set it right?
Or prayer of bedesman, praying mild,
As a cup of water a feverish child,
Sooth thee at last, in dreamless mood
To sleep the sleep a dead lady should?
Thine eyes they fill me with longing sore,
As if I had known thee for evermore.
Oh, lovely ghost, I could leave the day
To sit with thee in the moon away
If thou wouldst trust me, and lay thy head
To rest on a bosom that is not dead.”
The lady sprang up with a strange ghost-cry,
And she flung her white ghost-arms on high:
And she laughed a laugh that was not gay,
And it lengthened out till it died away;
And the dead beneath turned and moaned,
And the yew-trees above they shuddered and groaned.
“Will he love me twice with a love that is vain?
Will he kill the poor ghost yet again?
I thought thou wert good; but I said, and wept:
‘Can I have dreamed who have not slept?’
And I knew, alas! or ever I would,
Whether I dreamed, or thou wert good.
When my baby died, my brain grew wild.
I awoke, and found I was with my child.”

“If thou art the ghost of my Adelaide,
How is it? Thou wert but a village maid,
And thou seemest an angel lady white,
Though thin, and wan, and past delight.”

The lady smiled a flickering smile,
And she pressed her temples hard the while.
“Thou seest that Death for a woman can
Do more than knighthood for a man.”

“But show me the child thou callest mine,
Is she out to-night in the ghost’s sunshine?”

“In St. Peter’s Church she is playing on,
At hide-and-seek, with Apostle John.
When the moonbeams right through the window go,
Where the twelve are standing in glorious show,
She says the rest of them do not stir,
But one comes down to play with her.
Then I can go where I list, and weep,
For good St. John my child will keep.”

“Thy beauty filleth the very air,
Never saw I a woman so fair.”

“Come, if thou darest, and sit by my side;
But do not touch me, or woe will betide.
Alas, I am weak: I might well know
This gladness betokens some further woe.
Yet come. It will come. I will bear it. I can.
For thou lovest me yet — though but as a man.”

The knight dismounted in earnest speed;
Away through the tombstones thundered the steed,
And fell by the outer wall, and died.
But the knight he kneeled by the lady’s side;
Kneeled beside her in wondrous bliss,
Rapt in an everlasting kiss:
Though never his lips come the lady nigh,
And his eyes alone on her beauty lie.
All the night long, till the cock crew loud,
He kneeled by the lady, lapt in her shroud.
And what they said, I may not say:
Dead night was sweeter than living day.
How she made him so blissful glad
Who made her and found her so ghostly sad,
I may not tell; but it needs no touch
To make them blessed who love so much.
“Come every night, my ghost, to me;
And one night I will come to thee.
‘Tis good to have a ghostly wife:
She will not tremble at clang of strife;
She will only hearken, amid the din,
Behind the door, if he cometh in.”

And this is how Sir Aglovaile
Often walked in the moonlight pale.
And oft when the crescent but thinned the gloom,
Full orbed moonlight filled his room;
And through beneath his chamber door,
Fell a ghostly gleam on the outer floor;
And they that passed, in fear averred
That murmured words they often heard.
‘Twas then that the eastern crescent shone
Through the chancel window, and good St. John
Played with the ghost-child all the night,
And the mother was free till the morning light,
And sped through the dawning night, to stay
With Aglovaile till the break of day.
And their love was a rapture, lone and high,
And dumb as the moon in the topmost sky.
One night Sir Aglovaile, weary, slept
And dreamed a dream wherein he wept.
A warrior he was, not often wept he,
But this night he wept full bitterly.
He woke — beside him the ghost-girl shone
Out of the dark: ‘twas the eve of St. John.
He had dreamed a dream of a still, dark wood,
Where the maiden of old beside him stood;
But a mist came down, and caught her away,
And he sought her in vain through the pathless day,
Till he wept with the grief that can do no more,
And thought he had dreamt the dream before.
From bursting heart the weeping flowed on;
And lo! beside him the ghost-girl shone;
Shone like the light on a harbour’s breast,
Over the sea of his dream’s unrest;
Shone like the wondrous, nameless boon,
That the heart seeks ever, night or noon:
Warnings forgotten, when needed most,
He clasped to his bosom the radiant ghost.
She wailed aloud, and faded, and sank.
With upturn’d white face, cold and blank,
In his arms lay the corpse of the maiden pale,
And she came no more to Sir Aglovaile.
Only a voice, when winds were wild,
Sobbed and wailed like a chidden child.
Alas, how easily things go wrong!
A sigh too much, or a kiss too long,
And there follows a mist and a weeping rain,
And life is never the same again.
This was one of the simplest of her songs, which, perhaps, is the cause of my being able to remember it better than most of the others. While she sung, I was in Elysium, with the sense of a rich soul upholding, embracing, and overhanging mine, full of all plenty and bounty. I felt as if she could give me everything I wanted; as if I should never wish to leave her, but would be content to be sung to and fed by her, day after day, as years rolled by. At last I fell asleep while she sang.
When I awoke, I knew not whether it was night or day. The fire had sunk to a few red embers, which just gave light enough to show me the woman standing a few feet from me, with her back towards me, facing the door by which I had entered. She was weeping, but very gently and plentifully. The tears seemed to come freely from her heart. Thus she stood for a few minutes; then, slowly turning at right angles to her former position, she faced another of the four sides of the cottage. I now observed, for the first time, that here was a door likewise; and that, indeed, there was one in the centre of every side of the cottage.
When she looked towards the second door, her tears ceased to flow, but sighs took their place. She often closed her eyes as she stood; and every time she closed her eyes, a gentle sigh seemed to be born in her heart, and to escape at her lips. But when her eyes were open, her sighs were deep and very sad, and shook her whole frame. Then she turned towards the third door, and a cry as of fear or suppressed pain broke from her; but she seemed to hearten herself against the dismay, and to front it steadily; for, although I often heard a slight cry, and sometimes a moan, yet she never moved or bent her head, and I felt sure that her eyes never closed. Then she turned to the fourth door, and I saw her shudder, and then stand still as a statue; till at last she turned towards me and approached the fire. I saw that her face was white as death. But she gave one look upwards, and smiled the sweetest, most child-innocent smile; then heaped fresh wood on the fire, and, sitting down by the blaze, drew her wheel near her, and began to spin. While she spun, she murmured a low strange song, to which the hum of the wheel made a kind of infinite symphony. At length she paused in her spinning and singing, and glanced towards me, like a mother who looks whether or not her child gives signs of waking. She smiled when she saw that my eyes were open. I asked her whether it was day yet. She answered, “It is always day here, so long as I keep my fire burning.”
I felt wonderfully refreshed; and a great desire to see more of the island awoke within me. I rose, and saying that I wished to look about me, went towards the door by which I had entered.
“Stay a moment,” said my hostess, with some trepidation in her voice. “Listen to me. You will not see what you expect when you go out of that door. Only remember this: whenever you wish to come back to me, enter wherever you see this mark.”
She held up her left hand between me and the fire. Upon the palm, which appeared almost transparent, I saw, in dark red, a mark like this — > which I took care to fix in my mind.
She then kissed me, and bade me good-bye with a solemnity that awed me; and bewildered me too, seeing I was only going out for a little ramble in an island, which I did not believe larger than could easily be compassed in a few hours’ walk at most. As I went she resumed her spinning.
I opened the door, and stepped out. The moment my foot touched the smooth sward, I seemed to issue from the door of an old barn on my father’s estate, where, in the hot afternoons, I used to go and lie amongst the straw, and read. It seemed to me now that I had been asleep there. At a little distance in the field, I saw two of my brothers at play. The moment they caught sight of me, they called out to me to come and join them, which I did; and we played together as we had done years ago, till the red sun went down in the west, and the gray fog began to rise from the river. Then we went home together with a strange happiness. As we went, we heard the continually renewed larum of a landrail in the long grass. One of my brothers and I separated to a little distance, and each commenced running towards the part whence the sound appeared to come, in the hope of approaching the spot where the bird was, and so getting at least a sight of it, if we should not be able to capture the little creature. My father’s voice recalled us from trampling down the rich long grass, soon to be cut down and laid aside for the winter. I had quite forgotten all about Fairy Land, and the wonderful old woman, and the curious red mark.
My favourite brother and I shared the same bed. Some childish dispute arose between us; and our last words, ere we fell asleep, were not of kindness, notwithstanding the pleasures of the day. When I woke in the morning, I missed him. He had risen early, and had gone to bathe in the river. In another hour, he was brought home drowned. Alas! alas! if we had only gone to sleep as usual, the one with his arm about the other! Amidst the horror of the moment, a strange conviction flashed across my mind, that I had gone through the very same once before.
I rushed out of the house, I knew not why, sobbing and crying bitterly. I ran through the fields in aimless distress, till, passing the old barn, I caught sight of a red mark on the door. The merest trifles sometimes rivet the attention in the deepest misery; the intellect has so little to do with grief. I went up to look at this mark, which I did not remember ever to have seen before. As I looked at it, I thought I would go in and lie down amongst the straw, for I was very weary with running about and weeping. I opened the door; and there in the cottage sat the old woman as I had left her, at her spinning-wheel.
“I did not expect you quite so soon,” she said, as I shut the door behind me. I went up to the couch, and threw myself on it with that fatigue wherewith one awakes from a feverish dream of hopeless grief.
The old woman sang:
The great sun, benighted,
May faint from the sky;
But love, once uplighted,
Will never more die.
Form, with its brightness,
From eyes will depart:
It walketh, in whiteness,
The halls of the heart.
Ere she had ceased singing, my courage had returned. I started from the couch, and, without taking leave of the old woman, opened the door of Sighs, and sprang into what should appear.
I stood in a lordly hall, where, by a blazing fire on the hearth, sat a lady, waiting, I knew, for some one long desired. A mirror was near me, but I saw that my form had no place within its depths, so I feared not that I should be seen. The lady wonderfully resembled my marble lady, but was altogether of the daughters of men, and I could not tell whether or not it was she.
It was not for me she waited. The tramp of a great horse rang through the court without. It ceased, and the clang of armour told that his rider alighted, and the sound of his ringing heels approached the hall. The door opened; but the lady waited, for she would meet her lord alone. He strode in: she flew like a home-bound dove into his arms, and nestled on the hard steel. It was the knight of the soiled armour. But now the armour shone like polished glass; and strange to tell, though the mirror reflected not my form, I saw a dim shadow of myself in the shining steel.
“O my beloved, thou art come, and I am blessed.”
Her soft fingers speedily overcame the hard clasp of his helmet; one by one she undid the buckles of his armour; and she toiled under the weight of the mail, as she would carry it aside. Then she unclasped his greaves, and unbuckled his spurs; and once more she sprang into his arms, and laid her head where she could now feel the beating of his heart. Then she disengaged herself from his embrace, and, moving back a step or two, gazed at him. He stood there a mighty form, crowned with a noble head, where all sadness had disappeared, or had been absorbed in solemn purpose. Yet I suppose that he looked more thoughtful than the lady had expected to see him, for she did not renew her caresses, although his face glowed with love, and the few words he spoke were as mighty deeds for strength; but she led him towards the hearth, and seated him in an ancient chair, and set wine before him, and sat at his feet.
“I am sad,” he said, “when I think of the youth whom I met twice in the forests of Fairy Land; and who, you say, twice, with his songs, roused you from the death-sleep of an evil enchantment. There was something noble in him, but it was a nobleness of thought, and not of deed. He may yet perish of vile fear.”
“Ah!” returned the lady, “you saved him once, and for that I thank you; for may I not say that I somewhat loved him? But tell me how you fared, when you struck your battle-axe into the ash-tree, and he came and found you; for so much of the story you had told me, when the beggar-child came and took you away.”
“As soon as I saw him,” rejoined the knight, “I knew that earthly arms availed not against such as he; and that my soul must meet him in its naked strength. So I unclasped my helm, and flung it on the ground; and, holding my good axe yet in my hand, gazed at him with steady eyes. On he came, a horror indeed, but I did not flinch. Endurance must conquer, where force could not reach. He came nearer and nearer, till the ghastly face was close to mine. A shudder as of death ran through me; but I think I did not move, for he seemed to quail, and retreated. As soon as he gave back, I struck one more sturdy blow on the stem of his tree, that the forest rang; and then looked at him again. He writhed and grinned with rage and apparent pain, and again approached me, but retreated sooner than before. I heeded him no more, but hewed with a will at the tree, till the trunk creaked, and the head bowed, and with a crash it fell to the earth. Then I looked up from my labour, and lo! the spectre had vanished, and I saw him no more; nor ever in my wanderings have I heard of him again.”
“Well struck! well withstood! my hero,” said the lady.
“But,” said the knight, somewhat troubled, “dost thou love the youth still?”
“Ah!” she replied, “how can I help it? He woke me from worse than death; he loved me. I had never been for thee, if he had not sought me first. But I love him not as I love thee. He was but the moon of my night; thou art the sun of my day, O beloved.”
“Thou art right,” returned the noble man. “It were hard, indeed, not to have some love in return for such a gift as he hath given thee. I, too, owe him more than words can speak.”
Humbled before them, with an aching and desolate heart, I yet could not restrain my words:
“Let me, then, be the moon of thy night still, O woman! And when thy day is beclouded, as the fairest days will be, let some song of mine comfort thee, as an old, withered, half-forgotten thing, that belongs to an ancient mournful hour of uncompleted birth, which yet was beautiful in its time.”
They sat silent, and I almost thought they were listening. The colour of the lady’s eyes grew deeper and deeper; the slow tears grew, and filled them, and overflowed. They rose, and passed, hand in hand, close to where I stood; and each looked towards me in passing. Then they disappeared through a door which closed behind them; but, ere it closed, I saw that the room into which it opened was a rich chamber, hung with gorgeous arras. I stood with an ocean of sighs frozen in my bosom. I could remain no longer. She was near me, and I could not see her; near me in the arms of one loved better than I, and I would not see her, and I would not be by her. But how to escape from the nearness of the best beloved? I had not this time forgotten the mark; for the fact that I could not enter the sphere of these living beings kept me aware that, for me, I moved in a vision, while they moved in life. I looked all about for the mark, but could see it nowhere; for I avoided looking just where it was. There the dull red cipher glowed, on the very door of their secret chamber. Struck with agony, I dashed it open, and fell at the feet of the ancient woman, who still spun on, the whole dissolved ocean of my sighs bursting from me in a storm of tearless sobs. Whether I fainted or slept, I do not know; but, as I returned to consciousness, before I seemed to have power to move, I heard the woman singing, and could distinguish the words:
O light of dead and of dying days!
O Love! in thy glory go,
In a rosy mist and a moony maze,
O’er the pathless peaks of snow.
But what is left for the cold gray soul,
That moans like a wounded dove?
One wine is left in the broken bowl! —
‘Tis — To love, and love and love.
Now I could weep. When she saw me weeping, she sang:
Better to sit at the waters’ birth,
Than a sea of waves to win;
To live in the love that floweth forth,
Than the love that cometh in.
Be thy heart a well of love, my child,
Flowing, and free, and sure;
For a cistern of love, though undefiled,
Keeps not the spirit pure.
I rose from the earth, loving the white lady as I had never loved her before.
Then I walked up to the door of Dismay, and opened it, and went out. And lo! I came forth upon a crowded street, where men and women went to and fro in multitudes. I knew it well; and, turning to one hand, walked sadly along the pavement. Suddenly I saw approaching me, a little way off, a form well known to me ( well-known! — alas, how weak the word!) in the years when I thought my boyhood was left behind, and shortly before I entered the realm of Fairy Land. Wrong and Sorrow had gone together, hand-in-hand as it is well they do.
Unchangeably dear was that face. It lay in my heart as a child lies in its own white bed; but I could not meet her.
“Anything but that,” I said, and, turning aside, sprang up the steps to a door, on which I fancied I saw the mystic sign. I entered — not the mysterious cottage, but her home. I rushed wildly on, and stood by the door of her room.
“She is out,” I said, “I will see the old room once more.”
I opened the door gently, and stood in a great solemn church. A deep-toned bell, whose sounds throbbed and echoed and swam through the empty building, struck the hour of midnight. The moon shone through the windows of the clerestory, and enough of the ghostly radiance was diffused through the church to let me see, walking with a stately, yet somewhat trailing and stumbling step, down the opposite aisle, for I stood in one of the transepts, a figure dressed in a white robe, whether for the night, or for that longer night which lies too deep for the day, I could not tell. Was it she? and was this her chamber? I crossed the church, and followed. The figure stopped, seemed to ascend as it were a high bed, and lay down. I reached the place where it lay, glimmering white. The bed was a tomb. The light was too ghostly to see clearly, but I passed my hand over the face and the hands and the feet, which were all bare. They were cold — they were marble, but I knew them. It grew dark. I turned to retrace my steps, but found, ere long, that I had wandered into what seemed a little chapel. I groped about, seeking the door. Everything I touched belonged to the dead. My hands fell on the cold effigy of a knight who lay with his legs crossed and his sword broken beside him. He lay in his noble rest, and I lived on in ignoble strife. I felt for the left hand and a certain finger; I found there the ring I knew: he was one of my own ancestors. I was in the chapel over the burial-vault of my race. I called aloud: “If any of the dead are moving here, let them take pity upon me, for I, alas! am still alive; and let some dead woman comfort me, for I am a stranger in the land of the dead, and see no light.” A warm kiss alighted on my lips through the dark. And I said, “The dead kiss well; I will not be afraid.” And a great hand was reached out of the dark, and grasped mine for a moment, mightily and tenderly. I said to myself: “The veil between, though very dark, is very thin.”
Groping my way further, I stumbled over the heavy stone that covered the entrance of the vault: and, in stumbling, descried upon the stone the mark, glowing in red fire. I caught the great ring. All my effort could not have moved the huge slab; but it opened the door of the cottage, and I threw myself once more, pale and speechless, on the couch beside the ancient dame. She sang once more:
Thou dreamest: on a rock thou art,
High o’er the broken wave;
Thou fallest with a fearful start
But not into thy grave;
For, waking in the morning’s light,
Thou smilest at the vanished night
So wilt thou sink, all pale and dumb,
Into the fainting gloom;
But ere the coming terrors come,
Thou wak’st — where is the tomb?
Thou wak’st — the dead ones smile above,
With hovering arms of sleepless love.
She paused; then sang again:
We weep for gladness, weep for grief;
The tears they are the same;
We sigh for longing, and relief;
The sighs have but one name,
And mingled in the dying strife,
Are moans that are not sad
The pangs of death are throbs of life,
Its sighs are sometimes glad.
The face is very strange and white:
It is Earth’s only spot
That feebly flickers back the light
The living seeth not.
I fell asleep, and slept a dreamless sleep, for I know not how long. When I awoke, I found that my hostess had moved from where she had been sitting, and now sat between me and the fourth door.
I guessed that her design was to prevent my entering there. I sprang from the couch, and darted past her to the door. I opened it at once and went out. All I remember is a cry of distress from the woman: “Don’t go there, my child! Don’t go there!” But I was gone.
I knew nothing more; or, if I did, I had forgot it all when I awoke to consciousness, lying on the floor of the cottage, with my head in the lap of the woman, who was weeping over me, and stroking my hair with both hands, talking to me as a mother might talk to a sick and sleeping, or a dead child. As soon as I looked up and saw her, she smiled through her tears; smiled with withered face and young eyes, till her countenance was irradiated with the light of the smile. Then she bathed my head and face and hands in an icy cold, colourless liquid, which smelt a little of damp earth. Immediately I was able to sit up. She rose and put some food before me. When I had eaten, she said: “Listen to me, my child. You must leave me directly!”
“Leave you!” I said. “I am so happy with you. I never was so happy in my life.”
“But you must go,” she rejoined sadly. “Listen! What do you hear?”
“I hear the sound as of a great throbbing of water.”
“Ah! you do hear it? Well, I had to go through that door — the door of the Timeless” (and she shuddered as she pointed to the fourth door) — “to find you; for if I had not gone, you would never have entered again; and because I went, the waters around my cottage will rise and rise, and flow and come, till they build a great firmament of waters over my dwelling. But as long as I keep my fire burning, they cannot enter. I have fuel enough for years; and after one year they will sink away again, and be just as they were before you came. I have not been buried for a hundred years now.” And she smiled and wept.
“Alas! alas!” I cried. “I have brought this evil on the best and kindest of friends, who has filled my heart with great gifts.”
“Do not think of that,” she rejoined. “I can bear it very well. You will come back to me some day, I know. But I beg you, for my sake, my dear child, to do one thing. In whatever sorrow you may be, however inconsolable and irremediable it may appear, believe me that the old woman in the cottage, with the young eyes” (and she smiled), “knows something, though she must not always tell it, that would quite satisfy you about it, even in the worst moments of your distress. Now you must go.”
“But how can I go, if the waters are all about, and if the doors all lead into other regions and other worlds?”
“This is not an island,” she replied; “but is joined to the land by a narrow neck; and for the door, I will lead you myself through the right one.”
She took my hand, and led me through the third door; whereupon I found myself standing in the deep grassy turf on which I had landed from the little boat, but upon the opposite side of the cottage. She pointed out the direction I must take, to find the isthmus and escape the rising waters.
Then putting her arms around me, she held me to her bosom; and as I kissed her, I felt as if I were leaving my mother for the first time, and could not help weeping bitterly. At length she gently pushed me away, and with the words, “Go, my son, and do something worth doing,” turned back, and, entering the cottage, closed the door behind her. I felt very desolate as I went.
Chapter 20
Thou hadst no fame; that which thou didst like good
Was but thy appetite that swayed thy blood
For that time to the best; for as a blast
That through a house comes, usually doth cast
Things out of order, yet by chance may come
And blow some one thing to his proper room,
So did thy appetite, and not thy zeal,
Sway thee by chance to do some one thing well.
—Fletcher’s Faithful Shepherdess .
The noble hart that harbours vertuous thought
And is with childe of glorious great intent,
Can never rest, until it forth have brought
Th’ eternall brood of glorie excellent.
—Spenser, The Faerie Queene .
I had not gone very far before I felt that the turf beneath my feet was soaked with the rising waters. But I reached the isthmus in safety. It was rocky, and so much higher than the level of the peninsula, that I had plenty of time to cross. I saw on each side of me the water rising rapidly, altogether without wind, or violent motion, or broken waves, but as if a slow strong fire were glowing beneath it. Ascending a steep acclivity, I found myself at last in an open, rocky country. After travelling for some hours, as nearly in a straight line as I could, I arrived at a lonely tower, built on the top of a little hill, which overlooked the whole neighbouring country. As I approached, I heard the clang of an anvil; and so rapid were the blows, that I despaired of making myself heard till a pause in the work should ensue. It was some minutes before a cessation took place; but when it did, I knocked loudly, and had not long to wait; for, a moment after, the door was partly opened by a noble-looking youth, half-undressed, glowing with heat, and begrimed with the blackness of the forge. In one hand he held a sword, so lately from the furnace that it yet shone with a dull fire. As soon as he saw me, he threw the door wide open, and standing aside, invited me very cordially to enter. I did so; when he shut and bolted the door most carefully, and then led the way inwards. He brought me into a rude hall, which seemed to occupy almost the whole of the ground floor of the little tower, and which I saw was now being used as a workshop. A huge fire roared on the hearth, beside which was an anvil. By the anvil stood, in similar undress, and in a waiting attitude, hammer in hand, a second youth, tall as the former, but far more slightly built. Reversing the usual course of perception in such meetings, I thought them, at first sight, very unlike; and at the second glance, knew that they were brothers. The former, and apparently the elder, was muscular and dark, with curling hair, and large hazel eyes, which sometimes grew wondrously soft. The second was slender and fair, yet with a countenance like an eagle, and an eye which, though pale blue, shone with an almost fierce expression. He stood erect, as if looking from a lofty mountain crag, over a vast plain outstretched below. As soon as we entered the hall, the elder turned to me, and I saw that a glow of satisfaction shone on both their faces. To my surprise and great pleasure, he addressed me thus:
“Brother, will you sit by the fire and rest, till we finish this part of our work?”
I signified my assent; and, resolved to await any disclosure they might be inclined to make, seated myself in silence near the hearth.
The elder brother then laid the sword in the fire, covered it well over, and when it had attained a sufficient degree of heat, drew it out and laid it on the anvil, moving it carefully about, while the younger, with a succession of quick smart blows, appeared either to be welding it, or hammering one part of it to a consenting shape with the rest. Having finished, they laid it carefully in the fire; and, when it was very hot indeed, plunged it into a vessel full of some liquid, whence a blue flame sprang upwards, as the glowing steel entered.
There they left it; and drawing two stools to the fire, sat down, one on each side of me.
“We are very glad to see you, brother. We have been expecting you for some days,” said the dark-haired youth.
“I am proud to be called your brother,” I rejoined; “and you will not think I refuse the name, if I desire to know why you honour me with it?”
“Ah! then he does not know about it,” said the younger. “We thought you had known of the bond betwixt us, and the work we have to do together. You must tell him, brother, from the first.”
So the elder began:
“Our father is king of this country. Before we were born, three giant brothers had appeared in the land. No one knew exactly when, and no one had the least idea whence they came. They took possession of a ruined castle that had stood unchanged and unoccupied within the memory of any of the country people. The vaults of this castle had remained uninjured by time, and these, I presume, they made use of at first. They were rarely seen, and never offered the least injury to any one; so that they were regarded in the neighbourhood as at least perfectly harmless, if not rather benevolent beings. But it began to be observed, that the old castle had assumed somehow or other, no one knew when or how, a somewhat different look from what it used to have. Not only were several breaches in the lower part of the walls built up, but actually some of the battlements which yet stood, had been repaired, apparently to prevent them from falling into worse decay, while the more important parts were being restored. Of course, every one supposed the giants must have a hand in the work, but no one ever saw them engaged in it. The peasants became yet more uneasy, after one, who had concealed himself, and watched all night, in the neighbourhood of the castle, reported that he had seen, in full moonlight, the three huge giants working with might and main, all night long, restoring to their former position some massive stones, formerly steps of a grand turnpike stair, a great portion of which had long since fallen, along with part of the wall of the round tower in which it had been built. This wall they were completing, foot by foot, along with the stair. But the people said they had no just pretext for interfering: although the real reason for letting the giants alone was, that everybody was far too much afraid of them to interrupt them.
“At length, with the help of a neighbouring quarry, the whole of the external wall of the castle was finished. And now the country folks were in greater fear than before. But for several years the giants remained very peaceful. The reason of this was afterwards supposed to be the fact, that they were distantly related to several good people in the country; for, as long as these lived, they remained quiet; but as soon as they were all dead the real nature of the giants broke out. Having completed the outside of their castle, they proceeded, by spoiling the country houses around them, to make a quiet luxurious provision for their comfort within. Affairs reached such a pass, that the news of their robberies came to my father’s ears; but he, alas! was so crippled in his resources, by a war he was carrying on with a neighbouring prince, that he could only spare a very few men, to attempt the capture of their stronghold. Upon these the giants issued in the night, and slew every man of them. And now, grown bolder by success and impunity, they no longer confined their depredations to property, but began to seize the persons of their distinguished neighbours, knights and ladies, and hold them in durance, the misery of which was heightened by all manner of indignity, until they were redeemed by their friends, at an exorbitant ransom. Many knights have adventured their overthrow, but to their own instead; for they have all been slain, or captured, or forced to make a hasty retreat. To crown their enormities, if any man now attempts their destruction, they, immediately upon his defeat, put one or more of their captives to a shameful death, on a turret in sight of all passers-by; so that they have been much less molested of late; and we, although we have burned, for years, to attack these demons and destroy them, dared not, for the sake of their captives, risk the adventure, before we should have reached at least our earliest manhood. Now, however, we are preparing for the attempt; and the grounds of this preparation are these. Having only the resolution, and not the experience necessary for the undertaking, we went and consulted a lonely woman of wisdom, who lives not very far from here, in the direction of the quarter from which you have come. She received us most kindly, and gave us what seems to us the best of advice. She first inquired what experience we had had in arms. We told her we had been well exercised from our boyhood, and for some years had kept ourselves in constant practice, with a view to this necessity.
“‘But you have not actually fought for life and death?’ said she.
“We were forced to confess we had not.
“‘So much the better in some respects,’ she replied. ‘Now listen to me. Go first and work with an armourer, for as long time as you find needful to obtain a knowledge of his craft; which will not be long, seeing your hearts will be all in the work. Then go to some lonely tower, you two alone. Receive no visits from man or woman. There forge for yourselves every piece of armour that you wish to wear, or to use, in your coming encounter. And keep up your exercises. As, however, two of you can be no match for the three giants, I will find you, if I can, a third brother, who will take on himself the third share of the fight, and the preparation. Indeed, I have already seen one who will, I think, be the very man for your fellowship, but it will be some time before he comes to me. He is wandering now without an aim. I will show him to you in a glass, and, when he comes, you will know him at once. If he will share your endeavours, you must teach him all you know, and he will repay you well, in present song, and in future deeds.’
“She opened the door of a curious old cabinet that stood in the room. On the inside of this door was an oval convex mirror. Looking in it for some time, we at length saw reflected the place where we stood, and the old dame seated in her chair. Our forms were not reflected. But at the feet of the dame lay a young man, yourself, weeping.
“‘Surely this youth will not serve our ends,’ said I, ‘for he weeps.’
“The old woman smiled. ‘Past tears are present strength,’ said she.
“‘Oh!’ said my brother, ‘I saw you weep once over an eagle you shot.’
“‘That was because it was so like you, brother,’ I replied; ‘but indeed, this youth may have better cause for tears than that — I was wrong.’
“‘Wait a while,’ said the woman; ‘if I mistake not, he will make you weep till your tears are dry for ever. Tears are the only cure for weeping. And you may have need of the cure, before you go forth to fight the giants. You must wait for him, in your tower, till he comes.’
“Now if you will join us, we will soon teach you to make your armour; and we will fight together, and work together, and love each other as never three loved before. And you will sing to us, will you not?”
“That I will, when I can,” I answered; “but it is only at times that the power of song comes upon me. For that I must wait; but I have a feeling that if I work well, song will not be far off to enliven the labour.”
This was all the compact made: the brothers required nothing more, and I did not think of giving anything more. I rose, and threw off my upper garments.
“I know the uses of the sword,” I said. “I am ashamed of my white hands beside yours so nobly soiled and hard; but that shame will soon be wiped away.”
“No, no; we will not work to-day. Rest is as needful as toil. Bring the wine, brother; it is your turn to serve to-day.”
The younger brother soon covered a table with rough viands, but good wine; and we ate and drank heartily, beside our work. Before the meal was over, I had learned all their story. Each had something in his heart which made the conviction, that he would victoriously perish in the coming conflict, a real sorrow to him. Otherwise they thought they would have lived enough. The causes of their trouble were respectively these:
While they wrought with an armourer, in a city famed for workmanship in steel and silver, the elder had fallen in love with a lady as far beneath him in real rank, as she was above the station he had as apprentice to an armourer. Nor did he seek to further his suit by discovering himself; but there was simply so much manhood about him, that no one ever thought of rank when in his company. This is what his brother said about it. The lady could not help loving him in return. He told her when he left her, that he had a perilous adventure before him, and that when it was achieved, she would either see him return to claim her, or hear that he had died with honour. The younger brother’s grief arose from the fact, that, if they were both slain, his old father, the king, would be childless. His love for his father was so exceeding, that to one unable to sympathise with it, it would have appeared extravagant. Both loved him equally at heart; but the love of the younger had been more developed, because his thoughts and anxieties had not been otherwise occupied. When at home, he had been his constant companion; and, of late, had ministered to the infirmities of his growing age. The youth was never weary of listening to the tales of his sire’s youthful adventures; and had not yet in the smallest degree lost the conviction, that his father was the greatest man in the world. The grandest triumph possible to his conception was, to return to his father, laden with the spoils of one of the hated giants. But they both were in some dread, lest the thought of the loneliness of these two might occur to them, in the moment when decision was most necessary, and disturb, in some degree, the self-possession requisite for the success of their attempt. For, as I have said, they were yet untried in actual conflict. “Now,” thought I, “I see to what the powers of my gift must minister.” For my own part, I did not dread death, for I had nothing to care to live for; but I dreaded the encounter because of the responsibility connected with it. I resolved however to work hard, and thus grow cool, and quick, and forceful.
The time passed away in work and song, in talk and ramble, in friendly fight and brotherly aid. I would not forge for myself armour of heavy mail like theirs, for I was not so powerful as they, and depended more for any success I might secure, upon nimbleness of motion, certainty of eye, and ready response of hand. Therefore I began to make for myself a shirt of steel plates and rings; which work, while more troublesome, was better suited to me than the heavier labour. Much assistance did the brothers give me, even after, by their instructions, I was able to make some progress alone. Their work was in a moment abandoned, to render any required aid to mine. As the old woman had promised, I tried to repay them with song; and many were the tears they both shed over my ballads and dirges. The songs they liked best to hear were two which I made for them. They were not half so good as many others I knew, especially some I had learned from the wise woman in the cottage; but what comes nearest to our needs we like the best.
The king sat on his throne
Glowing in gold and red;
The crown in his right hand shone,
And the gray hairs crowned his head.
His only son walks in,
And in walls of steel he stands:
“Make me, O father, strong to win,
With the blessing of holy hands.”

He knelt before his sire,
Who blessed him with feeble smile
His eyes shone out with a kingly fire,
But his old lips quivered the while.
“Go to the fight, my son,
Bring back the giant’s head;
And the crown with which my brows have done,
Shall glitter on thine instead.”

“My father, I seek no crowns,
But unspoken praise from thee;
For thy people’s good, and thy renown,
I will die to set them free.”

The king sat down and waited there,
And rose not, night nor day;
Till a sound of shouting filled the air,
And cries of a sore dismay.
Then like a king he sat once more,
With the crown upon his head;
And up to the throne the people bore
A mighty giant dead.
And up to the throne the people bore
A pale and lifeless boy.
The king rose up like a prophet of yore,
In a lofty, deathlike joy.
He put the crown on the chilly brow:
“Thou should’st have reigned with me
But Death is the king of both, and now
I go to obey with thee.
“Surely some good in me there lay,
To beget the noble one.”
The old man smiled like a winter day,
And fell beside his son.
“O lady, thy lover is dead,” they cried;
“He is dead, but hath slain the foe;
He hath left his name to be magnified
In a song of wonder and woe.”

“Alas! I am well repaid,” said she,
“With a pain that stings like joy:
For I feared, from his tenderness to me,
That he was but a feeble boy.
“Now I shall hold my head on high,
The queen among my kind;
If ye hear a sound, ‘tis only a sigh
For a glory left behind.”

The first three times I sang these songs they both wept passionately. But after the third time, they wept no more. Their eyes shone, and their faces grew pale, but they never wept at any of my songs again.
Chapter 21
I put my life in my hands.
— The Book of Judges .
At length, with much toil and equal delight, our armour was finished. We armed each other, and tested the strength of the defence, with many blows of loving force. I was inferior in strength to both my brothers, but a little more agile than either; and upon this agility, joined to precision in hitting with the point of my weapon, I grounded my hopes of success in the ensuing combat. I likewise laboured to develop yet more the keenness of sight with which I was naturally gifted; and, from the remarks of my companions, I soon learned that my endeavours were not in vain.
The morning arrived on which we had determined to make the attempt, and succeed or perish — perhaps both. We had resolved to fight on foot; knowing that the mishap of many of the knights who had made the attempt, had resulted from the fright of their horses at the appearance of the giants; and believing with Sir Gawain, that, though mare’s sons might be false to us, the earth would never prove a traitor. But most of our preparations were, in their immediate aim at least, frustrated.
We rose, that fatal morning, by daybreak. We had rested from all labour the day before, and now were fresh as the lark. We bathed in cold spring water, and dressed ourselves in clean garments, with a sense of preparation, as for a solemn festivity. When we had broken our fast, I took an old lyre, which I had found in the tower and had myself repaired, and sung for the last time the two ballads of which I have said so much already. I followed them with this, for a closing song:
Oh, well for him who breaks his dream
With the blow that ends the strife
And, waking, knows the peace that flows
Around the pain of life!
We are dead, my brothers! Our bodies clasp,
As an armour, our souls about;
This hand is the battle-axe I grasp,
And this my hammer stout.
Fear not, my brothers, for we are dead;
No noise can break our rest;
The calm of the grave is about the head,
And the heart heaves not the breast.
And our life we throw to our people back,
To live with, a further store;
We leave it them, that there be no lack
In the land where we live no more.
Oh, well for him who breaks his dream
With the blow that ends the strife
And, waking, knows the peace that flows
Around the noise of life!
As the last few tones of the instrument were following, like a dirge, the death of the song, we all sprang to our feet. For, through one of the little windows of the tower, towards which I had looked as I sang, I saw, suddenly rising over the edge of the slope on which our tower stood, three enormous heads. The brothers knew at once, by my looks, what caused my sudden movement. We were utterly unarmed, and there was no time to arm.
But we seemed to adopt the same resolution simultaneously; for each caught up his favourite weapon, and, leaving his defence behind, sprang to the door. I snatched up a long rapier, abruptly, but very finely pointed, in my sword-hand, and in the other a sabre; the elder brother seized his heavy battle-axe; and the younger, a great, two-handed sword, which he wielded in one hand like a feather. We had just time to get clear of the tower, embrace and say good-bye, and part to some little distance, that we might not encumber each other’s motions, ere the triple giant-brotherhood drew near to attack us. They were about twice our height, and armed to the teeth. Through the visors of their helmets their monstrous eyes shone with a horrible ferocity. I was in the middle position, and the middle giant approached me. My eyes were busy with his armour, and I was not a moment in settling my mode of attack. I saw that his body-armour was somewhat clumsily made, and that the overlappings in the lower part had more play than necessary; and I hoped that, in a fortunate moment, some joint would open a little, in a visible and accessible part. I stood till he came near enough to aim a blow at me with the mace, which has been, in all ages, the favourite weapon of giants, when, of course, I leaped aside, and let the blow fall upon the spot where I had been standing. I expected this would strain the joints of his armour yet more. Full of fury, he made at me again; but I kept him busy, constantly eluding his blows, and hoping thus to fatigue him. He did not seem to fear any assault from me, and I attempted none as yet; but while I watched his motions in order to avoid his blows, I, at the same time, kept equal watch upon those joints of his armour, through some one of which I hoped to reach his life. At length, as if somewhat fatigued, he paused a moment, and drew himself slightly up; I bounded forward, foot and hand, ran my rapier right through to the armour of his back, let go the hilt, and passing under his right arm, turned as he fell, and flew at him with my sabre. At one happy blow I divided the band of his helmet, which fell off, and allowed me, with a second cut across the eyes, to blind him quite; after which I clove his head, and turned, uninjured, to see how my brothers had fared. Both the giants were down, but so were my brothers. I flew first to the one and then to the other couple. Both pairs of combatants were dead, and yet locked together, as in the death-struggle. The elder had buried his battle-axe in the body of his foe, and had fallen beneath him as he fell. The giant had strangled him in his own death-agonies. The younger had nearly hewn off the left leg of his enemy; and, grappled with in the act, had, while they rolled together on the earth, found for his dagger a passage betwixt the gorget and cuirass of the giant, and stabbed him mortally in the throat. The blood from the giant’s throat was yet pouring over the hand of his foe, which still grasped the hilt of the dagger sheathed in the wound. They lay silent. I, the least worthy, remained the sole survivor in the lists.
As I stood exhausted amidst the dead, after the first worthy deed of my life, I suddenly looked behind me, and there lay the Shadow, black in the sunshine. I went into the lonely tower, and there lay the useless armour of the noble youths — supine as they.
Ah, how sad it looked! It was a glorious death, but it was death. My songs could not comfort me now. I was almost ashamed that I was alive, when they, the true-hearted, were no more. And yet I breathed freer to think that I had gone through the trial, and had not failed. And perhaps I may be forgiven, if some feelings of pride arose in my bosom, when I looked down on the mighty form that lay dead by my hand.
“After all, however,” I said to myself, and my heart sank, “it was only skill. Your giant was but a blunderer.”
I left the bodies of friends and foes, peaceful enough when the death-fight was over, and, hastening to the country below, roused the peasants. They came with shouting and gladness, bringing waggons to carry the bodies. I resolved to take the princes home to their father, each as he lay, in the arms of his country’s foe. But first I searched the giants, and found the keys of their castle, to which I repaired, followed by a great company of the people. It was a place of wonderful strength. I released the prisoners, knights and ladies, all in a sad condition, from the cruelties and neglects of the giants. It humbled me to see them crowding round me with thanks, when in truth the glorious brothers, lying dead by their lonely tower, were those to whom the thanks belonged. I had but aided in carrying out the thought born in their brain, and uttered in visible form before ever I laid hold thereupon. Yet I did count myself happy to have been chosen for their brother in this great deed.
After a few hours spent in refreshing and clothing the prisoners, we all commenced our journey towards the capital. This was slow at first; but, as the strength and spirits of the prisoners returned, it became more rapid; and in three days we reached the palace of the king. As we entered the city gates, with the huge bulks lying each on a waggon drawn by horses, and two of them inextricably intertwined with the dead bodies of their princes, the people raised a shout and then a cry, and followed in multitudes the solemn procession.
I will not attempt to describe the behaviour of the grand old king. Joy and pride in his sons overcame his sorrow at their loss. On me he heaped every kindness that heart could devise or hand execute. He used to sit and question me, night after night, about everything that was in any way connected with them and their preparations. Our mode of life, and relation to each other, during the time we spent together, was a constant theme. He entered into the minutest details of the construction of the armour, even to a peculiar mode of riveting some of the plates, with unwearying interest. This armour I had intended to beg of the king, as my sole memorials of the contest; but, when I saw the delight he took in contemplating it, and the consolation it appeared to afford him in his sorrow, I could not ask for it; but, at his request, left my own, weapons and all, to be joined with theirs in a trophy, erected in the grand square of the palace. The king, with gorgeous ceremony, dubbed me knight with his own old hand, in which trembled the sword of his youth.
During the short time I remained, my company was, naturally, much courted by the young nobles. I was in a constant round of gaiety and diversion, notwithstanding that the court was in mourning. For the country was so rejoiced at the death of the giants, and so many of their lost friends had been restored to the nobility and men of wealth, that the gladness surpassed the grief. “Ye have indeed left your lives to your people, my great brothers!” I said.
But I was ever and ever haunted by the old shadow, which I had not seen all the time that I was at work in the tower. Even in the society of the ladies of the court, who seemed to think it only their duty to make my stay there as pleasant to me as possible, I could not help being conscious of its presence, although it might not be annoying me at the time. At length, somewhat weary of uninterrupted pleasure, and nowise strengthened thereby, either in body or mind, I put on a splendid suit of armour of steel inlaid with silver, which the old king had given me, and, mounting the horse on which it had been brought to me, took my leave of the palace, to visit the distant city in which the lady dwelt, whom the elder prince had loved. I anticipated a sore task, in conveying to her the news of his glorious fate: but this trial was spared me, in a manner as strange as anything that had happened to me in Fairy Land.
Chapter 22
No one has my form but the I.
— Schoppe , in Jean Paul’s Titan .
Joy’s a subtil elf.
I think man’s happiest when he forgets himself.
—Cyril Tourneur, The Revenger’s Tragedy .
On the third day of my journey, I was riding gently along a road, apparently little frequented, to judge from the grass that grew upon it. I was approaching a forest. Everywhere in Fairy Land forests are the places where one may most certainly expect adventures. As I drew near, a youth, unarmed, gentle, and beautiful, who had just cut a branch from a yew growing on the skirts of the wood, evidently to make himself a bow, met me, and thus accosted me:
“Sir knight, be careful as thou ridest through this forest; for it is said to be strangely enchanted, in a sort which even those who have been witnesses of its enchantment can hardly describe.”
I thanked him for his advice, which I promised to follow, and rode on. But the moment I entered the wood, it seemed to me that, if enchantment there was, it must be of a good kind; for the Shadow, which had been more than usually dark and distressing, since I had set out on this journey, suddenly disappeared. I felt a wonderful elevation of spirits, and began to reflect on my past life, and especially on my combat with the giants, with such satisfaction, that I had actually to remind myself, that I had only killed one of them; and that, but for the brothers, I should never have had the idea of attacking them, not to mention the smallest power of standing to it. Still I rejoiced, and counted myself amongst the glorious knights of old; having even the unspeakable presumption — my shame and self-condemnation at the memory of it are such, that I write it as the only and sorest penance I can perform — to think of myself (will the world believe it?) as side by side with Sir Galahad! Scarcely had the thought been born in my mind, when, approaching me from the left, through the trees, I espied a resplendent knight, of mighty size, whose armour seemed to shine of itself, without the sun. When he drew near, I was astonished to see that this armour was like my own; nay, I could trace, line for line, the correspondence of the inlaid silver to the device on my own. His horse, too, was like mine in colour, form, and motion; save that, like his rider, he was greater and fiercer than his counterpart. The knight rode with beaver up. As he halted right opposite to me in the narrow path, barring my way, I saw the reflection of my countenance in the centre plate of shining steel on his breastplate. Above it rose the same face — his face — only, as I have said, larger and fiercer. I was bewildered. I could not help feeling some admiration of him, but it was mingled with a dim conviction that he was evil, and that I ought to fight with him.
“Let me pass,” I said.
“When I will,” he replied.
Something within me said: “Spear in rest, and ride at him! else thou art for ever a slave.”
I tried, but my arm trembled so much, that I could not couch my lance. To tell the truth, I, who had overcome the giant, shook like a coward before this knight. He gave a scornful laugh, that echoed through the wood, turned his horse, and said, without looking round, “Follow me.”
I obeyed, abashed and stupefied. How long he led, and how long I followed, I cannot tell. “I never knew misery before,” I said to myself. “Would that I had at least struck him, and had had my death-blow in return! Why, then, do I not call to him to wheel and defend himself? Alas! I know not why, but I cannot. One look from him would cow me like a beaten hound.” I followed, and was silent.
At length we came to a dreary square tower, in the middle of a dense forest. It looked as if scarce a tree had been cut down to make room for it. Across the very door, diagonally, grew the stem of a tree, so large that there was just room to squeeze past it in order to enter. One miserable square hole in the roof was the only visible suggestion of a window. Turret or battlement, or projecting masonry of any kind, it had none. Clear and smooth and massy, it rose from its base, and ended with a line straight and unbroken. The roof, carried to a centre from each of the four walls, rose slightly to the point where the rafters met. Round the base lay several little heaps of either bits of broken branches, withered and peeled, or half-whitened bones; I could not distinguish which. As I approached, the ground sounded hollow beneath my horse’s hoofs. The knight took a great key from his pocket, and reaching past the stem of the tree, with some difficulty opened the door. “Dismount,” he commanded. I obeyed. He turned my horse’s head away from the tower, gave him a terrible blow with the flat side of his sword, and sent him madly tearing through the forest.
“Now,” said he, “enter, and take your companion with you.”
I looked round: knight and horse had vanished, and behind me lay the horrible shadow. I entered, for I could not help myself; and the shadow followed me. I had a terrible conviction that the knight and he were one. The door closed behind me.
Now I was indeed in pitiful plight. There was literally nothing in the tower but my shadow and me. The walls rose right up to the roof; in which, as I had seen from without, there was one little square opening. This I now knew to be the only window the tower possessed. I sat down on the floor, in listless wretchedness. I think I must have fallen asleep, and have slept for hours; for I suddenly became aware of existence, in observing that the moon was shining through the hole in the roof. As she rose higher and higher, her light crept down the wall over me, till at last it shone right upon my head. Instantaneously the walls of the tower seemed to vanish away like a mist. I sat beneath a beech, on the edge of a forest, and the open country lay, in the moonlight, for miles and miles around me, spotted with glimmering houses and spires and towers. I thought with myself, “Oh, joy! it was only a dream; the horrible narrow waste is gone, and I wake beneath a beech-tree, perhaps one that loves me, and I can go where I will.” I rose, as I thought, and walked about, and did what I would, but ever kept near the tree; for always, and, of course, since my meeting with the woman of the beech-tree far more than ever, I loved that tree. So the night wore on. I waited for the sun to rise, before I could venture to renew my journey. But as soon as the first faint light of the dawn appeared, instead of shining upon me from the eye of the morning, it stole like a fainting ghost through the little square hole above my head; and the walls came out as the light grew, and the glorious night was swallowed up of the hateful day. The long dreary day passed. My shadow lay black on the floor. I felt no hunger, no need of food. The night came. The moon shone. I watched her light slowly descending the wall, as I might have watched, adown the sky, the long, swift approach of a helping angel. Her rays touched me, and I was free. Thus night after night passed away. I should have died but for this. Every night the conviction returned, that I was free. Every morning I sat wretchedly disconsolate. At length, when the course of the moon no longer permitted her beams to touch me, the night was dreary as the day.
When I slept, I was somewhat consoled by my dreams; but all the time I dreamed, I knew that I was only dreaming. But one night, at length, the moon, a mere shred of pallor, scattered a few thin ghostly rays upon me; and I think I fell asleep and dreamed. I sat in an autumn night before the vintage, on a hill overlooking my own castle. My heart sprang with joy. Oh, to be a child again, innocent, fearless, without shame or desire! I walked down to the castle. All were in consternation at my absence. My sisters were weeping for my loss. They sprang up and clung to me, with incoherent cries, as I entered. My old friends came flocking round me. A gray light shone on the roof of the hall. It was the light of the dawn shining through the square window of my tower. More earnestly than ever, I longed for freedom after this dream; more drearily than ever, crept on the next wretched day. I measured by the sunbeams, caught through the little window in the trap of my tower, how it went by, waiting only for the dreams of the night.
About noon, I started as if something foreign to all my senses and all my experience, had suddenly invaded me; yet it was only the voice of a woman singing. My whole frame quivered with joy, surprise, and the sensation of the unforeseen. Like a living soul, like an incarnation of Nature, the song entered my prison-house. Each tone folded its wings, and laid itself, like a caressing bird, upon my heart. It bathed me like a sea; inwrapt me like an odorous vapour; entered my soul like a long draught of clear spring-water; shone upon me like essential sunlight; soothed me like a mother’s voice and hand. Yet, as the clearest forest-well tastes sometimes of the bitterness of decayed leaves, so to my weary, prisoned heart, its cheerfulness had a sting of cold, and its tenderness unmanned me with the faintness of long-departed joys. I wept half-bitterly, half-luxuriously; but not long. I dashed away the tears, ashamed of a weakness which I thought I had abandoned. Ere I knew, I had walked to the door, and seated myself with my ears against it, in order to catch every syllable of the revelation from the unseen outer world. And now I heard each word distinctly. The singer seemed to be standing or sitting near the tower, for the sounds indicated no change of place. The song was something like this:
The sun, like a golden knot on high,
Gathers the glories of the sky,
And binds them into a shining tent,
Roofing the world with the firmament.
And through the pavilion the rich winds blow,
And through the pavilion the waters go.
And the birds for joy, and the trees for prayer,
Bowing their heads in the sunny air,
And for thoughts, the gently talking springs,
That come from the centre with secret things —
All make a music, gentle and strong,
Bound by the heart into one sweet song.
And amidst them all, the mother Earth
Sits with the children of her birth;
She tendeth them all, as a mother hen
Her little ones round her, twelve or ten:
Oft she sitteth, with hands on knee,
Idle with love for her family.
Go forth to her from the dark and the dust,
And weep beside her, if weep thou must;
If she may not hold thee to her breast,
Like a weary infant, that cries for rest
At least she will press thee to her knee,
And tell a low, sweet tale to thee,
Till the hue to thy cheeky and the light to thine eye,
Strength to thy limbs, and courage high
To thy fainting heart, return amain,
And away to work thou goest again.
From the narrow desert, O man of pride,
Come into the house, so high and wide.
Hardly knowing what I did, I opened the door. Why had I not done so before? I do not know.
At first I could see no one; but when I had forced myself past the tree which grew across the entrance, I saw, seated on the ground, and leaning against the tree, with her back to my prison, a beautiful woman. Her countenance seemed known to me, and yet unknown. She looked at me and smiled, when I made my appearance.
“Ah! were you the prisoner there? I am very glad I have wiled you out.”
“Do you know me then?” “Do you not know me? But you hurt me, and that, I suppose, makes it easy for a man to forget. You broke my globe. Yet I thank you. Perhaps I owe you many thanks for breaking it. I took the pieces, all black, and wet with crying over them, to the Fairy Queen. There was no music and no light in them now. But she took them from me, and laid them aside; and made me go to sleep in a great hall of white, with black pillars, and many red curtains. When I woke in the morning, I went to her, hoping to have my globe again, whole and sound; but she sent me away without it, and I have not seen it since. Nor do I care for it now. I have something so much better. I do not need the globe to play to me; for I can sing. I could not sing at all before. Now I go about everywhere through Fairy Land, singing till my heart is like to break, just like my globe, for very joy at my own songs. And wherever I go, my songs do good, and deliver people. And now I have delivered you, and I am so happy.”
She ceased, and the tears came into her eyes.
All this time, I had been gazing at her; and now fully recognised the face of the child, glorified in the countenance of the woman.
I was ashamed and humbled before her; but a great weight was lifted from my thoughts. I knelt before her, and thanked her, and begged her to forgive me.
“Rise, rise,” she said; “I have nothing to forgive; I thank you. But now I must be gone, for I do not know how many may be waiting for me, here and there, through the dark forests; and they cannot come out till I come.”
She rose, and with a smile and a farewell, turned and left me. I dared not ask her to stay; in fact, I could hardly speak to her. Between her and me, there was a great gulf. She was uplifted, by sorrow and well-doing, into a region I could hardly hope ever to enter. I watched her departure, as one watches a sunset. She went like a radiance through the dark wood, which was henceforth bright to me, from simply knowing that such a creature was in it.
She was bearing the sun to the unsunned spots. The light and the music of her broken globe were now in her heart and her brain. As she went, she sang; and I caught these few words of her song; and the tones seemed to linger and wind about the trees after she had disappeared:
Thou goest thine, and I go mine —
Many ways we wend;
Many days, and many ways,
Ending in one end.
Many a wrong, and its curing song;
Many a road, and many an inn;
Room to roam, but only one home
For all the world to win.
And so she vanished. With a sad heart, soothed by humility, and the knowledge of her peace and gladness, I bethought me what now I should do. First, I must leave the tower far behind me, lest, in some evil moment, I might be once more caged within its horrible walls. But it was ill walking in my heavy armour; and besides I had now no right to the golden spurs and the resplendent mail, fitly dulled with long neglect. I might do for a squire; but I honoured knighthood too highly, to call myself any longer one of the noble brotherhood. I stripped off all my armour, piled it under the tree, just where the lady had been seated, and took my unknown way, eastward through the woods. Of all my weapons, I carried only a short axe in my hand.
Then first I knew the delight of being lowly; of saying to myself, “I am what I am, nothing more.” “I have failed,” I said, “I have lost myself — would it had been my shadow.” I looked round: the shadow was nowhere to be seen. Ere long, I learned that it was not myself, but only my shadow, that I had lost. I learned that it is better, a thousand-fold, for a proud man to fall and be humbled, than to hold up his head in his pride and fancied innocence. I learned that he that will be a hero, will barely be a man; that he that will be nothing but a doer of his work, is sure of his manhood. In nothing was my ideal lowered, or dimmed, or grown less precious; I only saw it too plainly, to set myself for a moment beside it. Indeed, my ideal soon became my life; whereas, formerly, my life had consisted in a vain attempt to behold, if not my ideal in myself, at least myself in my ideal. Now, however, I took, at first, what perhaps was a mistaken pleasure, in despising and degrading myself. Another self seemed to arise, like a white spirit from a dead man, from the dumb and trampled self of the past. Doubtless, this self must again die and be buried, and again, from its tomb, spring a winged child; but of this my history as yet bears not the record.
Self will come to life even in the slaying of self; but there is ever something deeper and stronger than it, which will emerge at last from the unknown abysses of the soul: will it be as a solemn gloom, burning with eyes? or a clear morning after the rain? or a smiling child, that finds itself nowhere, and everywhere?
Chapter 23
High erected thought, seated in a heart of courtesy.
—Sir Philip Sidney.
A sweet attractive kinde of grace,
A full assurance given by lookes,
Continuall comfort in a face,
The lineaments of Gospel bookes.
—Matthew Roydon, on Sir Philip Sidney.
I had not gone far, for I had but just lost sight of the hated tower, when a voice of another sort, sounding near or far, as the trees permitted or intercepted its passage, reached me. It was a full, deep, manly voice, but withal clear and melodious. Now it burst on the ear with a sudden swell, and anon, dying away as suddenly, seemed to come to me across a great space. Nevertheless, it drew nearer; till, at last, I could distinguish the words of the song, and get transient glimpses of the singer, between the columns of the trees. He came nearer, dawning upon me like a growing thought. He was a knight, armed from head to heel, mounted upon a strange-looking beast, whose form I could not understand. The words which I heard him sing were like these:
Heart be stout,
And eye be true;
Good blade out!
And ill shall rue.
Courage, horse!
Thou lackst no skill;
Well thy force
Hath matched my will.
For the foe
With fiery breath,
At a blow,
Is still in death.
Gently, horse!
Tread fearlessly;
‘Tis his corse
That burdens thee.
The sun’s eye
Is fierce at noon;
Thou and I
Will rest full soon.
And new strength
New work will meet;
Till, at length,
Long rest is sweet.
And now horse and rider had arrived near enough for me to see, fastened by the long neck to the hinder part of the saddle, and trailing its hideous length on the ground behind, the body of a great dragon. It was no wonder that, with such a drag at his heels, the horse could make but slow progress, notwithstanding his evident dismay. The horrid, serpent-like head, with its black tongue, forked with red, hanging out of its jaws, dangled against the horse’s side. Its neck was covered with long blue hair, its sides with scales of green and gold. Its back was of corrugated skin, of a purple hue. Its belly was similar in nature, but its colour was leaden, dashed with blotches of livid blue. Its skinny, bat-like wings and its tail were of a dull gray. It was strange to see how so many gorgeous colours, so many curving lines, and such beautiful things as wings and hair and scales, combined to form the horrible creature, intense in ugliness.
The knight was passing me with a salutation; but, as I walked towards him, he reined up, and I stood by his stirrup. When I came near him, I saw to my surprise and pleasure likewise, although a sudden pain, like a birth of fire, sprang up in my heart, that it was the knight of the soiled armour, whom I knew before, and whom I had seen in the vision, with the lady of the marble. But I could have thrown my arms around him, because she loved him. This discovery only strengthened the resolution I had formed, before I recognised him, of offering myself to the knight, to wait upon him as a squire, for he seemed to be unattended. I made my request in as few words as possible. He hesitated for a moment, and looked at me thoughtfully. I saw that he suspected who I was, but that he continued uncertain of his suspicion. No doubt he was soon convinced of its truth; but all the time I was with him, not a word crossed his lips with reference to what he evidently concluded I wished to leave unnoticed, if not to keep concealed.
“Squire and knight should be friends,” said he: “can you take me by the hand?” And he held out the great gauntleted right hand. I grasped it willingly and strongly. Not a word more was said. The knight gave the sign to his horse, which again began his slow march, and I walked beside and a little behind.
We had not gone very far before we arrived at a little cottage; from which, as we drew near, a woman rushed out with the cry:
“My child! my child! have you found my child?”
“I have found her,” replied the knight, “but she is sorely hurt. I was forced to leave her with the hermit, as I returned. You will find her there, and I think she will get better. You see I have brought you a present. This wretch will not hurt you again.” And he undid the creature’s neck, and flung the frightful burden down by the cottage door.
The woman was now almost out of sight in the wood; but the husband stood at the door, with speechless thanks in his face.
“You must bury the monster,” said the knight. “If I had arrived a moment later, I should have been too late. But now you need not fear, for such a creature as this very rarely appears, in the same part, twice during a lifetime.”
“Will you not dismount and rest you, Sir Knight?” said the peasant, who had, by this time, recovered himself a little.
“That I will, thankfully,” said he; and, dismounting, he gave the reins to me, and told me to unbridle the horse, and lead him into the shade. “You need not tie him up,” he added; “he will not run away.”
When I returned, after obeying his orders, and entered the cottage, I saw the knight seated, without his helmet, and talking most familiarly with the simple host. I stood at the open door for a moment, and, gazing at him, inwardly justified the white lady in preferring him to me. A nobler countenance I never saw. Loving-kindness beamed from every line of his face. It seemed as if he would repay himself for the late arduous combat, by indulging in all the gentleness of a womanly heart. But when the talk ceased for a moment, he seemed to fall into a reverie. Then the exquisite curves of the upper lip vanished. The lip was lengthened and compressed at the same moment. You could have told that, within the lips, the teeth were firmly closed. The whole face grew stern and determined, all but fierce; only the eyes burned on like a holy sacrifice, uplift on a granite rock.
The woman entered, with her mangled child in her arms. She was pale as her little burden. She gazed, with a wild love and despairing tenderness, on the still, all but dead face, white and clear from loss of blood and terror.
The knight rose. The light that had been confined to his eyes, now shone from his whole countenance. He took the little thing in his arms, and, with the mother’s help, undressed her, and looked to her wounds. The tears flowed down his face as he did so. With tender hands he bound them up, kissed the pale cheek, and gave her back to her mother. When he went home, all his tale would be of the grief and joy of the parents; while to me, who had looked on, the gracious countenance of the armed man, beaming from the panoply of steel, over the seemingly dead child, while the powerful hands turned it and shifted it, and bound it, if possible even more gently than the mother’s, formed the centre of the story.
After we had partaken of the best they could give us, the knight took his leave, with a few parting instructions to the mother as to how she should treat the child.
I brought the knight his steed, held the stirrup while he mounted, and then followed him through the wood. The horse, delighted to be free of his hideous load, bounded beneath the weight of man and armour, and could hardly be restrained from galloping on. But the knight made him time his powers to mine, and so we went on for an hour or two. Then the knight dismounted, and compelled me to get into the saddle, saying: “Knight and squire must share the labour.”
Holding by the stirrup, he walked along by my side, heavily clad as he was, with apparent ease. As we went, he led a conversation, in which I took what humble part my sense of my condition would permit me.
“Somehow or other,” said he, “notwithstanding the beauty of this country of Faerie, in which we are, there is much that is wrong in it. If there are great splendours, there are corresponding horrors; heights and depths; beautiful women and awful fiends; noble men and weaklings. All a man has to do, is to better what he can. And if he will settle it with himself, that even renown and success are in themselves of no great value, and be content to be defeated, if so be that the fault is not his; and so go to his work with a cool brain and a strong will, he will get it done; and fare none the worse in the end, that he was not burdened with provision and precaution.”
“But he will not always come off well,” I ventured to say.
“Perhaps not,” rejoined the knight, “in the individual act; but the result of his lifetime will content him.”
“So it will fare with you, doubtless,” thought I; “but for me —”
Venturing to resume the conversation after a pause, I said, hesitatingly:
“May I ask for what the little beggar-girl wanted your aid, when she came to your castle to find you?”
He looked at me for a moment in silence, and then said —
“I cannot help wondering how you know of that; but there is something about you quite strange enough to entitle you to the privilege of the country; namely, to go unquestioned. I, however, being only a man, such as you see me, am ready to tell you anything you like to ask me, as far as I can. The little beggar-girl came into the hall where I was sitting, and told me a very curious story, which I can only recollect very vaguely, it was so peculiar. What I can recall is, that she was sent to gather wings. As soon as she had gathered a pair of wings for herself, she was to fly away, she said, to the country she came from; but where that was, she could give no information.
“She said she had to beg her wings from the butterflies and moths; and wherever she begged, no one refused her. But she needed a great many of the wings of butterflies and moths to make a pair for her; and so she had to wander about day after day, looking for butterflies, and night after night, looking for moths; and then she begged for their wings. But the day before, she had come into a part of the forest, she said, where there were multitudes of splendid butterflies flitting about, with wings which were just fit to make the eyes in the shoulders of hers; and she knew she could have as many of them as she liked for the asking; but as soon as she began to beg, there came a great creature right up to her, and threw her down, and walked over her. When she got up, she saw the wood was full of these beings stalking about, and seeming to have nothing to do with each other. As soon as ever she began to beg, one of them walked over her; till at last in dismay, and in growing horror of the senseless creatures, she had run away to look for somebody to help her. I asked her what they were like. She said, like great men, made of wood, without knee-or elbow-joints, and without any noses or mouths or eyes in their faces. I laughed at the little maiden, thinking she was making child’s game of me; but, although she burst out laughing too, she persisted in asserting the truth of her story.”
“‘Only come, knight, come and see; I will lead you.’
“So I armed myself, to be ready for anything that might happen, and followed the child; for, though I could make nothing of her story, I could see she was a little human being in need of some help or other. As she walked before me, I looked attentively at her. Whether or not it was from being so often knocked down and walked over, I could not tell, but her clothes were very much torn, and in several places her white skin was peeping through. I thought she was hump-backed; but on looking more closely, I saw, through the tatters of her frock — do not laugh at me — a bunch on each shoulder, of the most gorgeous colours. Looking yet more closely, I saw that they were of the shape of folded wings, and were made of all kinds of butterfly-wings and moth-wings, crowded together like the feathers on the individual butterfly pinion; but, like them, most beautifully arranged, and producing a perfect harmony of colour and shade. I could now more easily believe the rest of her story; especially as I saw, every now and then, a certain heaving motion in the wings, as if they longed to be uplifted and outspread. But beneath her scanty garments complete wings could not be concealed, and indeed, from her own story, they were yet unfinished.
“After walking for two or three hours (how the little girl found her way, I could not imagine), we came to a part of the forest, the very air of which was quivering with the motions of multitudes of resplendent butterflies; as gorgeous in colour, as if the eyes of peacocks’ feathers had taken to flight, but of infinite variety of hue and form, only that the appearance of some kind of eye on each wing predominated. ‘There they are, there they are!’ cried the child, in a tone of victory mingled with terror. Except for this tone, I should have thought she referred to the butterflies, for I could see nothing else. But at that moment an enormous butterfly, whose wings had great eyes of blue surrounded by confused cloudy heaps of more dingy colouring, just like a break in the clouds on a stormy day towards evening, settled near us. The child instantly began murmuring: ‘Butterfly, butterfly, give me your wings’; when, the moment after, she fell to the ground, and began crying as if hurt. I drew my sword and heaved a great blow in the direction in which the child had fallen. It struck something, and instantly the most grotesque imitation of a man became visible. You see this Fairy Land is full of oddities and all sorts of incredibly ridiculous things, which a man is compelled to meet and treat as real existences, although all the time he feels foolish for doing so. This being, if being it could be called, was like a block of wood roughly hewn into the mere outlines of a man; and hardly so, for it had but head, body, legs, and arms — the head without a face, and the limbs utterly formless. I had hewn off one of its legs, but the two portions moved on as best they could, quite independent of each other; so that I had done no good. I ran after it, and clove it in twain from the head downwards; but it could not be convinced that its vocation was not to walk over people; for, as soon as the little girl began her begging again, all three parts came bustling up; and if I had not interposed my weight between her and them, she would have been trampled again under them. I saw that something else must be done. If the wood was full of the creatures, it would be an endless work to chop them so small that they could do no injury; and then, besides, the parts would be so numerous, that the butterflies would be in danger from the drift of flying chips. I served this one so, however; and then told the girl to beg again, and point out the direction in which one was coming. I was glad to find, however, that I could now see him myself, and wondered how they could have been invisible before. I would not allow him to walk over the child; but while I kept him off, and she began begging again, another appeared; and it was all I could do, from the weight of my armour, to protect her from the stupid, persevering efforts of the two. But suddenly the right plan occurred to me. I tripped one of them up, and, taking him by the legs, set him up on his head, with his heels against a tree. I was delighted to find he could not move. Meantime the poor child was walked over by the other, but it was for the last time. Whenever one appeared, I followed the same plan — tripped him up and set him on his head; and so the little beggar was able to gather her wings without any trouble, which occupation she continued for several hours in my company.”
“What became of her?” I asked.
“I took her home with me to my castle, and she told me all her story; but it seemed to me, all the time, as if I were hearing a child talk in its sleep. I could not arrange her story in my mind at all, although it seemed to leave hers in some certain order of its own. My wife —”
Here the knight checked himself, and said no more. Neither did I urge the conversation farther.
Thus we journeyed for several days, resting at night in such shelter as we could get; and when no better was to be had, lying in the forest under some tree, on a couch of old leaves.
I loved the knight more and more. I believe never squire served his master with more care and joyfulness than I. I tended his horse; I cleaned his armour; my skill in the craft enabled me to repair it when necessary; I watched his needs; and was well repaid for all by the love itself which I bore him.
“This,” I said to myself, “is a true man. I will serve him, and give him all worship, seeing in him the imbodiment of what I would fain become. If I cannot be noble myself, I will yet be servant to his nobleness.” He, in return, soon showed me such signs of friendship and respect, as made my heart glad; and I felt that, after all, mine would be no lost life, if I might wait on him to the world’s end, although no smile but his should greet me, and no one but him should say, “Well done! he was a good servant!” at last. But I burned to do something more for him than the ordinary routine of a squire’s duty permitted.
One afternoon, we began to observe an appearance of roads in the wood. Branches had been cut down, and openings made, where footsteps had worn no path below. These indications increased as we passed on, till, at length, we came into a long, narrow avenue, formed by felling the trees in its line, as the remaining roots evidenced. At some little distance, on both hands, we observed signs of similar avenues, which appeared to converge with ours, towards one spot. Along these we indistinctly saw several forms moving, which seemed, with ourselves, to approach the common centre. Our path brought us, at last, up to a wall of yew-trees, growing close together, and intertwining their branches so, that nothing could be seen beyond it. An opening was cut in it like a door, and all the wall was trimmed smooth and perpendicular. The knight dismounted, and waited till I had provided for his horse’s comfort; upon which we entered the place together.
It was a great space, bare of trees, and enclosed by four walls of yew, similar to that through which we had entered. These trees grew to a very great height, and did not divide from each other till close to the top, where their summits formed a row of conical battlements all around the walls. The space contained was a parallelogram of great length. Along each of the two longer sides of the interior, were ranged three ranks of men, in white robes, standing silent and solemn, each with a sword by his side, although the rest of his costume and bearing was more priestly than soldierly. For some distance inwards, the space between these opposite rows was filled with a company of men and women and children, in holiday attire. The looks of all were directed inwards, towards the further end. Far beyond the crowd, in a long avenue, seeming to narrow in the distance, went the long rows of the white-robed men. On what the attention of the multitude was fixed, we could not tell, for the sun had set before we arrived, and it was growing dark within. It grew darker and darker. The multitude waited in silence. The stars began to shine down into the enclosure, and they grew brighter and larger every moment. A wind arose, and swayed the pinnacles of the tree-tops; and made a strange sound, half like music, half like moaning, through the close branches and leaves of the tree-walls. A young girl who stood beside me, clothed in the same dress as the priests, bowed her head, and grew pale with awe.
The knight whispered to me, “How solemn it is! Surely they wait to hear the voice of a prophet. There is something good near!”
But I, though somewhat shaken by the feeling expressed by my master, yet had an unaccountable conviction that here was something bad. So I resolved to be keenly on the watch for what should follow.
Suddenly a great star, like a sun, appeared high in the air over the temple, illuminating it throughout; and a great song arose from the men in white, which went rolling round and round the building, now receding to the end, and now approaching, down the other side, the place where we stood. For some of the singers were regularly ceasing, and the next to them as regularly taking up the song, so that it crept onwards with gradations produced by changes which could not themselves be detected, for only a few of those who were singing ceased at the same moment. The song paused; and I saw a company of six of the white-robed men walk up the centre of the human avenue, surrounding a youth gorgeously attired beneath his robe of white, and wearing a chaplet of flowers on his head. I followed them closely, with my keenest observation; and, by accompanying their slow progress with my eyes, I was able to perceive more clearly what took place when they arrived at the other end. I knew that my sight was so much more keen than that of most people, that I had good reason to suppose I should see more than the rest could, at such a distance. At the farther end a throne stood upon a platform, high above the heads of the surrounding priests. To this platform I saw the company begin to ascend, apparently by an inclined plane or gentle slope. The throne itself was elevated again, on a kind of square pedestal, to the top of which led a flight of steps. On the throne sat a majestic-looking figure, whose posture seemed to indicate a mixture of pride and benignity, as he looked down on the multitude below. The company ascended to the foot of the throne, where they all kneeled for some minutes; then they rose and passed round to the side of the pedestal upon which the throne stood. Here they crowded close behind the youth, putting him in the foremost place, and one of them opened a door in the pedestal, for the youth to enter. I was sure I saw him shrink back, and those crowding behind pushed him in. Then, again, arose a burst of song from the multitude in white, which lasted some time. When it ceased, a new company of seven commenced its march up the centre. As they advanced, I looked up at my master: his noble countenance was full of reverence and awe. Incapable of evil himself, he could scarcely suspect it in another, much less in a multitude such as this, and surrounded with such appearances of solemnity. I was certain it was the really grand accompaniments that overcame him; that the stars overhead, the dark towering tops of the yew-trees, and the wind that, like an unseen spirit, sighed through their branches, bowed his spirit to the belief, that in all these ceremonies lay some great mystical meaning which, his humility told him, his ignorance prevented him from understanding.
More convinced than before, that there was evil here, I could not endure that my master should be deceived; that one like him, so pure and noble, should respect what, if my suspicions were true, was worse than the ordinary deceptions of priestcraft. I could not tell how far he might be led to countenance, and otherwise support their doings, before he should find cause to repent bitterly of his error. I watched the new procession yet more keenly, if possible, than the former. This time, the central figure was a girl; and, at the close, I observed, yet more indubitably, the shrinking back, and the crowding push. What happened to the victims, I never learned; but I had learned enough, and I could bear it no longer. I stooped, and whispered to the young girl who stood by me, to lend me her white garment. I wanted it, that I might not be entirely out of keeping with the solemnity, but might have at least this help to passing unquestioned. She looked up, half-amused and half-bewildered, as if doubting whether I was in earnest or not. But in her perplexity, she permitted me to unfasten it, and slip it down from her shoulders.
I easily got possession of it; and, sinking down on my knees in the crowd, I rose apparently in the habit of one of the worshippers.
Giving my battle-axe to the girl, to hold in pledge for the return of her stole, for I wished to test the matter unarmed, and, if it was a man that sat upon the throne, to attack him with hands bare, as I supposed his must be, I made my way through the crowd to the front, while the singing yet continued, desirous of reaching the platform while it was unoccupied by any of the priests. I was permitted to walk up the long avenue of white robes unmolested, though I saw questioning looks in many of the faces as I passed. I presume my coolness aided my passage; for I felt quite indifferent as to my own fate; not feeling, after the late events of my history, that I was at all worth taking care of; and enjoying, perhaps, something of an evil satisfaction, in the revenge I was thus taking upon the self which had fooled me so long. When I arrived on the platform, the song had just ceased, and I felt as if all were looking towards me. But instead of kneeling at its foot, I walked right up the stairs to the throne, laid hold of a great wooden image that seemed to sit upon it, and tried to hurl it from its seat. In this I failed at first, for I found it firmly fixed. But in dread lest, the first shock of amazement passing away, the guards would rush upon me before I had effected my purpose, I strained with all my might; and, with a noise as of the cracking, and breaking, and tearing of rotten wood, something gave way, and I hurled the image down the steps. Its displacement revealed a great hole in the throne, like the hollow of a decayed tree, going down apparently a great way. But I had no time to examine it, for, as I looked into it, up out of it rushed a great brute, like a wolf, but twice the size, and tumbled me headlong with itself, down the steps of the throne. As we fell, however, I caught it by the throat, and the moment we reached the platform, a struggle commenced, in which I soon got uppermost, with my hand upon its throat, and knee upon its heart. But now arose a wild cry of wrath and revenge and rescue. A universal hiss of steel, as every sword was swept from its scabbard, seemed to tear the very air in shreds. I heard the rush of hundreds towards the platform on which I knelt. I only tightened my grasp of the brute’s throat. His eyes were already starting from his head, and his tongue was hanging out. My anxious hope was, that, even after they had killed me, they would be unable to undo my gripe of his throat, before the monster was past breathing. I therefore threw all my will, and force, and purpose, into the grasping hand. I remember no blow. A faintness came over me, and my consciousness departed.
Chapter 24
We are ne’er like angels till our passions die.
This wretched Inn, where we scarce stay to bait,
We call our Dwelling-Place:
We call one Step a Race:
But angels in their full enlightened state,
Angels, who Live, and know what ‘tis to Be,
Who all the nonsense of our language see,
Who speak things, and our words, their ill-drawn pictures, scorn,
When we, by a foolish figure, say,
Behold an old man dead! then they
Speak properly, and cry, Behold a man-child born!
I was dead, and right content. I lay in my coffin, with my hands folded in peace. The knight, and the lady I loved, wept over me.
Her tears fell on my face.
“Ah!” said the knight, “I rushed amongst them like a madman. I hewed them down like brushwood. Their swords battered on me like hail, but hurt me not. I cut a lane through to my friend. He was dead. But he had throttled the monster, and I had to cut the handful out of its throat, before I could disengage and carry off his body. They dared not molest me as I brought him back.”
“He has died well,” said the lady.
My spirit rejoiced. They left me to my repose. I felt as if a cool hand had been laid upon my heart, and had stilled it. My soul was like a summer evening, after a heavy fall of rain, when the drops are yet glistening on the trees in the last rays of the down-going sun, and the wind of the twilight has begun to blow. The hot fever of life had gone by, and I breathed the clear mountain-air of the land of Death. I had never dreamed of such blessedness. It was not that I had in any way ceased to be what I had been. The very fact that anything can die, implies the existence of something that cannot die; which must either take to itself another form, as when the seed that is sown dies, and arises again; or, in conscious existence, may, perhaps, continue to lead a purely spiritual life. If my passions were dead, the souls of the passions, those essential mysteries of the spirit which had imbodied themselves in the passions, and had given to them all their glory and wonderment, yet lived, yet glowed, with a pure, undying fire. They rose above their vanishing earthly garments, and disclosed themselves angels of light. But oh, how beautiful beyond the old form! I lay thus for a time, and lived as it were an unradiating existence; my soul a motionless lake, that received all things and gave nothing back; satisfied in still contemplation, and spiritual consciousness.
Ere long, they bore me to my grave. Never tired child lay down in his white bed, and heard the sound of his playthings being laid aside for the night, with a more luxurious satisfaction of repose than I knew, when I felt the coffin settle on the firm earth, and heard the sound of the falling mould upon its lid. It has not the same hollow rattle within the coffin, that it sends up to the edge of the grave. They buried me in no graveyard. They loved me too much for that, I thank them; but they laid me in the grounds of their own castle, amid many trees; where, as it was spring-time, were growing primroses, and blue-bells, and all the families of the woods
Now that I lay in her bosom, the whole earth, and each of her many births, was as a body to me, at my will. I seemed to feel the great heart of the mother beating into mine, and feeding me with her own life, her own essential being and nature. I heard the footsteps of my friends above, and they sent a thrill through my heart. I knew that the helpers had gone, and that the knight and the lady remained, and spoke low, gentle, tearful words of him who lay beneath the yet wounded sod. I rose into a single large primrose that grew by the edge of the grave, and from the window of its humble, trusting face, looked full in the countenance of the lady. I felt that I could manifest myself in the primrose; that it said a part of what I wanted to say; just as in the old time, I had used to betake myself to a song for the same end. The flower caught her eye. She stooped and plucked it, saying, “Oh, you beautiful creature!” and, lightly kissing it, put it in her bosom. It was the first kiss she had ever given me. But the flower soon began to wither, and I forsook it.
It was evening. The sun was below the horizon; but his rosy beams yet illuminated a feathery cloud, that floated high above the world. I arose, I reached the cloud; and, throwing myself upon it, floated with it in sight of the sinking sun. He sank, and the cloud grew gray; but the grayness touched not my heart. It carried its rose-hue within; for now I could love without needing to be loved again. The moon came gliding up with all the past in her wan face. She changed my couch into a ghostly pallor, and threw all the earth below as to the bottom of a pale sea of dreams. But she could not make me sad. I knew now, that it is by loving, and not by being loved, that one can come nearest the soul of another; yea, that, where two love, it is the loving of each other, and not the being loved by each other, that originates and perfects and assures their blessedness. I knew that love gives to him that loveth, power over any soul beloved, even if that soul know him not, bringing him inwardly close to that spirit; a power that cannot be but for good; for in proportion as selfishness intrudes, the love ceases, and the power which springs therefrom dies. Yet all love will, one day, meet with its return. All true love will, one day, behold its own image in the eyes of the beloved, and be humbly glad. This is possible in the realms of lofty Death. “Ah! my friends,” thought I, “how I will tend you, and wait upon you, and haunt you with my love.”
“My floating chariot bore me over a great city. Its faint dull sound steamed up into the air — a sound — how composed?” How many hopeless cries,” thought I, “and how many mad shouts go to make up the tumult, here so faint where I float in eternal peace, knowing that they will one day be stilled in the surrounding calm, and that despair dies into infinite hope, and the seeming impossible there, is the law here!
“But, O pale-faced women, and gloomy-browed men, and forgotten children, how I will wait on you, and minister to you, and, putting my arms about you in the dark, think hope into your hearts, when you fancy no one is near! Soon as my senses have all come back, and have grown accustomed to this new blessed life, I will be among you with the love that healeth.”
With this, a pang and a terrible shudder went through me; a writhing as of death convulsed me; and I became once again conscious of a more limited, even a bodily and earthly life.
Chapter 25
Our life is no dream; but it ought to become one, and perhaps will.
And on the ground, which is my modres gate,
I knocke with my staf; erlich and late,
And say to hire, Leve mother, let me in.
—Chaucer, The Pardoneres Tale .
Sinking from such a state of ideal bliss, into the world of shadows which again closed around and infolded me, my first dread was, not unnaturally, that my own shadow had found me again, and that my torture had commenced anew. It was a sad revulsion of feeling. This, indeed, seemed to correspond to what we think death is, before we die. Yet I felt within me a power of calm endurance to which I had hitherto been a stranger. For, in truth, that I should be able if only to think such things as I had been thinking, was an unspeakable delight. An hour of such peace made the turmoil of a lifetime worth striving through.
I found myself lying in the open air, in the early morning, before sunrise. Over me rose the summer heaven, expectant of the sun. The clouds already saw him, coming from afar; and soon every dewdrop would rejoice in his individual presence within it.
I lay motionless for a few minutes; and then slowly rose and looked about me. I was on the summit of a little hill; a valley lay beneath, and a range of mountains closed up the view upon that side. But, to my horror, across the valley, and up the height of the opposing mountains, stretched, from my very feet, a hugely expanding shade. There it lay, long and large, dark and mighty. I turned away with a sick despair; when lo! I beheld the sun just lifting his head above the eastern hill, and the shadow that fell from me, lay only where his beams fell not. I danced for joy. It was only the natural shadow, that goes with every man who walks in the sun. As he arose, higher and higher, the shadow-head sank down the side of the opposite hill, and crept in across the valley towards my feet.
Now that I was so joyously delivered from this fear, I saw and recognised the country around me. In the valley below, lay my own castle, and the haunts of my childhood were all about me hastened home. My sisters received me with unspeakable joy; but I suppose they observed some change in me, for a kind of respect, with a slight touch of awe in it, mingled with their joy, and made me ashamed. They had been in great distress about me. On the morning of my disappearance, they had found the floor of my room flooded; and, all that day, a wondrous and nearly impervious mist had hung about the castle and grounds. I had been gone, they told me, twenty-one days. To me it seemed twenty-one years. Nor could I yet feel quite secure in my new experiences. When, at night, I lay down once more in my own bed, I did not feel at all sure that when I awoke, I should not find myself in some mysterious region of Fairy Land. My dreams were incessant and perturbed; but when I did awake, I saw clearly that I was in my own home.
My mind soon grew calm; and I began the duties of my new position, somewhat instructed, I hoped, by the adventures that had befallen me in Fairy Land. Could I translate the experience of my travels there, into common life? This was the question. Or must I live it all over again, and learn it all over again, in the other forms that belong to the world of men, whose experience yet runs parallel to that of Fairy Land? These questions I cannot answer yet. But I fear.
Even yet, I find myself looking round sometimes with anxiety, to see whether my shadow falls right away from the sun or no. I have never yet discovered any inclination to either side. And if I am not unfrequently sad, I yet cast no more of a shade on the earth, than most men who have lived in it as long as I. I have a strange feeling sometimes, that I am a ghost, sent into the world to minister to my fellow men, or, rather, to repair the wrongs I have already done.
May the world be brighter for me, at least in those portions of it, where my darkness falls not.
Thus I, who set out to find my Ideal, came back rejoicing that I had lost my Shadow.
When the thought of the blessedness I experienced, after my death in Fairy Land, is too high for me to lay hold upon it and hope in it, I often think of the wise woman in the cottage, and of her solemn assurance that she knew something too good to be told. When I am oppressed by any sorrow or real perplexity, I often feel as if I had only left her cottage for a time, and would soon return out of the vision, into it again. Sometimes, on such occasions, I find myself, unconsciously almost, looking about for the mystic mark of red, with the vague hope of entering her door, and being comforted by her wise tenderness. I then console myself by saying: “I have come through the door of Dismay; and the way back from the world into which that has led me, is through my tomb. Upon that the red sign lies, and I shall find it one day, and be glad.”
I will end my story with the relation of an incident which befell me a few days ago. I had been with my reapers, and, when they ceased their work at noon, I had lain down under the shadow of a great, ancient beech-tree, that stood on the edge of the field. As I lay, with my eyes closed, I began to listen to the sound of the leaves overhead. At first, they made sweet inarticulate music alone; but, by-and-by, the sound seemed to begin to take shape, and to be gradually moulding itself into words; till, at last, I seemed able to distinguish these, half-dissolved in a little ocean of circumfluent tones: “A great good is coming — is coming — is coming to thee, Anodos;” and so over and over again. I fancied that the sound reminded me of the voice of the ancient woman, in the cottage that was four-square. I opened my eyes, and, for a moment, almost believed that I saw her face, with its many wrinkles and its young eyes, looking at me from between two hoary branches of the beech overhead. But when I looked more keenly, I saw only twigs and leaves, and the infinite sky, in tiny spots, gazing through between. Yet I know that good is coming to me — that good is always coming; though few have at all times the simplicity and the courage to believe it. What we call evil, is the only and best shape, which, for the person and his condition at the time, could be assumed by the best good. And so, Farewell .
David Elginbrod
First published: 1863
Book 1 — Turriepuffit
Chapter 1 — The Fir-Wood
Chapter 2 — David Elginbrod and the New Tutor
Chapter 3 — The Daisy and the Primrose
Chapter 4 — The Cottage
Chapter 5 — The Students
Chapter 6 — The Laird’s Lady
Chapter 7 — The Secret of the Wood
Chapter 8 — A Sunday Morning
Chapter 9 — Nature
Chapter 10 — Harvest
Chapter 11 — A Change and No Change
Chapter 12 — Charity
Chapter 13 — Heraldry
Chapter 14 — Winter
Chapter 15 — Transition
Book 2 — Arnstead
Chapter 1 — A New Home
Chapter 2 — Harry’s New Horse
Chapter 3 — Euphrasia
Chapter 4 — The Cave in the Straw
Chapter 5— Larch and Other Hunting
Chapter 6 — Fatima
Chapter 7 — The Picture Gallery
Chapter 8 — Nest-Building
Chapter 9 — Geography Point
Chapter 10 — Italian
Chapter 11 — The First Midnight
Chapter 12 — A Sunday
Chapter 13 — A Storm
Chapter 14 — An Evening Lecture
Chapter 15 — Another Evening Lecture
Chapter 16 — A New Visitor and an Old Acquaintance
Chapter 17 — Materialism Alias Ghost-Hunting
Chapter 18 — More Materialism and Some Spiritualism
Chapter 19 — The Ghost’s Walk
Chapter 20 — The Bad Man
Chapter 21 — Spirit Versus Materialism
Chapter 22 — The Ring
Chapter 23 — The Wager
Chapter 24 — The Lady Euphrasia
Chapter 25 — Next Morning
Chapter 26 — An Accident
Chapter 27 — More Troubles
Chapter 28 — A Bird’s-Eye View
Chapter 29 — Hugh’s Awaking
Chapter 30 — Changes
Chapter 31 — Explanations
Chapter 32 — Departure
Book 3 — London
Chapter 1 — Lodgings
Chapter 2 — Letters for the Post
Chapter 3 — Endeavours
Chapter 4 — A Letter from the Post
Chapter 5 — Beginnings
Chapter 6 — A Sunday’s Dinner
Chapter 7 — Sunday Evening
Chapter 8 — Euphra
Chapter 9 — The New Pupils
Chapter 10 — Consultations
Chapter 11 — Questions and Dreams
Chapter 12 — A Sunday with Falconer
Chapter 13 — The Lady’s-Maid
Chapter 14 — David Elginbrod
Chapter 15 — Margaret’s Secret
Chapter 16 — Forebodings
Chapter 17 — Strife
Chapter 18 — Victory
Chapter 19 — Margaret
Chapter 20 — A New Guide
Chapter 21 — The Last Groat
Chapter 22 — Death
Chapter 23 — Nature and Her Lady
Chapter 24 — The Fir-Wood Again
Book 1 — Turriepuffit
With him there was a Ploughman, was his brother.
A trewé swinker, and a good was he,
Living in peace and perfect charity.
God loved he best with all his trewé heart,
At allé timés, were it gain or smart,
And then his neighébour right as himselve.
—Chaucer, Prologue to the Canterbury Tales.
Chapter 1 — The Fir-Wood
Of all the flowers in the mead,
Then love I roost these flowers white and rede,
Such that men callen daisies in our town.
I renne blithe
As soon as ever the sun ginneth west,
To see this flower, how it will go to rest,
For fear of night, so hateth she darkness;
Her cheer is plainly spread in the brightness
Of the sunne, for there it will unclose.
—Chaucer, Prologue to the Legend of Good Women.
“Meg! whaur are ye gaein’ that get, like a wull shuttle? Come in to the beuk.”
Meg’s mother stood at the cottage door, with arms akimbo and clouded brow, calling through the boles of a little forest of fir-trees after her daughter. One would naturally presume that the phrase she employed, comparing her daughter’s motions to those of a shuttle that had “gane wull,” or lost its way, implied that she was watching her as she threaded her way through the trees. But although she could not see her, the fir-wood was certainly the likeliest place for her daughter to be in; and the figure she employed was not in the least inapplicable to Meg’s usual mode of wandering through the trees, that operation being commonly performed in the most erratic manner possible. It was the ordinary occupation of the first hour of almost every day of Margaret’s life. As soon as she woke in the morning, the fir-wood drew her towards it, and she rose and went. Through its crowd of slender pillars, she strayed hither and thither, in an aimless manner, as if resignedly haunting the neighbourhood of something she had lost, or, hopefully, that of a treasure she expected one day to find.
It did not seem that she had heard her mother’s call, for no response followed; and Janet Elginbrod returned into the cottage, where David of the same surname, who was already seated at the white deal table with “the beuk,” or large family bible before him, straightway commenced reading a chapter in the usual routine from the Old Testament, the New being reserved for the evening devotions. The chapter was the fortieth of the prophet Isaiah; and as the voice of the reader re-uttered the words of old inspiration, one might have thought that it was the voice of the ancient prophet himself, pouring forth the expression of his own faith in his expostulations with the unbelief of his brethren. The chapter finished — it is none of the shortest, and Meg had not yet returned — the two knelt, and David prayed thus:
“O Thou who holdest the waters in the hollow of ae han’, and carriest the lambs o’ thy own making in thy bosom with the other han’, it would be altogether unworthy o’ thee, and o’ thy Maijesty o’ love, to require o’ us that which thou knowest we cannot bring unto thee, until thou enrich us with that same. Therefore, like thine own bairns, we boo doon afore thee, an’ pray that thou wouldst tak’ thy wull o’ us, thy holy an’ perfect an’ blessed wull o’ us; for, O God, we are a’ thine ain. An’ for oor lassie, wha’s oot amo’ thy trees, an’ wha’ we dinna think forgets her Maker, though she may whiles forget her prayers, Lord, keep her a bonnie lassie in thy sicht, as white and clean in thy een as she is fair an’ halesome in oors; an’ oh! we thank thee, Father in heaven, for giein’ her to us. An’ noo, for a’ oor wrang-duins an’ ill-min’ins, for a’ oor sins and trespasses o’ mony sorts, dinna forget them, O God, till thou pits them a’ richt, an’ syne exerceese thy michty power e’en ower thine ain sel, an’ clean forget them a’thegither; cast them ahint thy back, whaur e’en thine ain een shall ne’er see them again, that we may walk bold an’ upricht afore thee for evermore, an’ see the face o’ Him wha was as muckle God in doin’ thy biddin’, as gin he had been ordering’ a’ thing Himsel. For his sake, Ahmen.”
I hope my readers will not suppose that I give this as a specimen of Scotch prayers. I know better than that. David was an unusual man, and his prayers were unusual prayers. The present was a little more so in its style, from the fact that one of the subjects of it was absent, a circumstance that rarely happened. But the degree of difference was too small to be detected by any but those who were quite accustomed to his forms of thought and expression. How much of it Janet understood or sympathized with, it is difficult to say; for anything that could be called a thought rarely crossed the threshold of her utterance. On this occasion, the moment the prayer was ended, she rose from her knees, smoothed down her check apron, and went to the door; where, shading her eyes from the sun with her hand, she peered from under its penthouse into the fir-wood, and said in a voice softened apparently by the exercise in which she had taken a silent share.
“Whaur can the lassie be?”
And where was the lassie? In the fir-wood, to be sure, with the thousand shadows, and the sunlight through it all; for at this moment the light fell upon her far in its depths, and revealed her hastening towards the cottage in as straight a line as the trees would permit, now blotted out by a crossing shadow, and anon radiant in the sunlight, appearing and vanishing as she threaded the upright warp of the fir-wood. It was morning all around her; and one might see that it was morning within her too, as, emerging at last in the small open space around the cottage, Margaret — I cannot call her Meg, although her mother does — her father always called her “Maggy, my doo,” Anglicé, dove — Margaret approached her mother with a bright healthful face, and the least possible expression of uneasiness on her fair forehead. She carried a book in her hand.
“What gars ye gang stravaguin’ that get, Meg, whan ye ken weel eneuch ye sud a’ been in to worship lang syne? An sae we maun hae worship our lanes for want o’ you, ye hizzy!”
“I didna ken it was sae late, mither,” replied Margaret, in a submissive tone, musical in spite of the rugged dialect into which the sounds were fashioned.
“Nae dout! Ye had yer brakfast, an’ ye warna that hungry for the word. But here comes yer father, and ye’ll no mend for his flytin’, I’se promise.”
“Hoots! lat the bairn alane, Janet, my woman. The word’ll be mair to her afore lang.”
“I wat she has a word o’ her nain there. What beuk hae ye gotten there, Meg? Whaur got ye’t?”
Had it not been for the handsome binding of the book in her daughter’s hand, it would neither have caught the eye, nor roused the suspicions of Janet. David glanced at the book in his turn, and a faint expression of surprise, embodied chiefly in the opening of his eyelids a little wider than usual, crossed his face. But he only said with a smile:
“I didna ken that the tree o’ knowledge, wi’ sic fair fruit, grew in our wud, Maggy, my doo.”
“Whaur gat ye the beuk?” reiterated Janet.
Margaret’s face was by this time the colour of the crimson boards of the volume in her hand, but she replied at once:
“I got it frae Maister Sutherlan’, I reckon.”
Janet’s first response was an inverted whistle; her next, another question:
“Maister Sutherlan’! wha’s that o’t?”
“Hoot, lass!” interposed David, “ye ken weel aneuch. It’s the new tutor lad, up at the hoose; a fine, douce, honest chield, an’ weel-faured, forby. Lat’s see the bit beuky, lassie.”
Margaret handed it to her father.
“Col-e-ridge’s Poems,” read David, with some difficulty.
“Tak’ it hame direckly,” said Janet.
“Na, na,” said David; “a’ the apples o’ the tree o’ knowledge are no stappit wi sut an stew; an’ gin this ane be, she’ll sune ken by the taste o’t what’s comin’. It’s no muckle o’ an ill beuk ‘at ye’ll read, Maggy, my doo.”
“Guid preserve’s, man! I’m no sayin’ it’s an ill beuk. But it’s no richt to mak appintments wi’ stranger lads i’ the wud sae ear’ i’ the mornin’. Is’t noo, yersel, Meg?”
“Mither! mither!” said Margaret, and her eyes flashed through the watery veil that tried to hide them, “hoo can ye? Ye ken yersel I had nae appintment wi’ him or ony man.”
“Weel, weel!” said Janet; and, apparently either satisfied with or overcome by the emotion she had excited, she turned and went in to pursue her usual house-avocations; while David, handing the book to his daughter, went away down the path that led from the cottage door, in the direction of a road to be seen at a little distance through the trees, which surrounded the cottage on all sides. Margaret followed her mother into the cottage, and was soon as busy as she with her share of the duties of the household; but it was a good many minutes before the cloud caused by her mother’s hasty words entirely disappeared from a forehead which might with especial justice be called the sky of her face.
Meantime David emerged upon the more open road, and bent his course, still through fir-trees, towards a house for whose sake alone the road seemed to have been constructed.
Chapter 2 — David Elginbrod and the New Tutor
Concord between our wit and will
Where highest notes to godliness are raised,
And lowest sink not down to jot of ill.
What Languetus taught Sir Philip Sidney.
—The Arcadia, Third Eclogue .
The House of Turriepuffit stood about a furlong from David’s cottage. It was the abode of the Laird, or landed proprietor, in whose employment David filled several offices ordinarily distinct. The estate was a small one, and almost entirely farmed by the owner himself; who, with David’s help, managed to turn it to good account. Upon week-days, he appeared on horseback in a costume more fitted for following the plough; but he did not work with his own hands; and on Sundays was at once recognizable as a country gentleman.
David was his bailiff or grieve, to overlook the labourers on the estate; his steward to pay them, and keep the farm accounts; his head gardener — for little labour was expended in that direction, there being only one lady, the mistress of the house, and she no patroness of useless flowers: David was in fact the laird’s general adviser and executor.
The laird’s family, besides the lady already mentioned, consisted only of two boys, of the ages of eleven and fourteen, whom he wished to enjoy the same privileges he had himself possessed, and to whom, therefore, he was giving a classical and mathematical education, in view of the University, by means of private tutors; the last of whom — for the changes were not few, seeing the salary was of the smallest — was Hugh Sutherland, the young man concerning whom David Elginbrod has already given his opinion. But notwithstanding the freedom he always granted his daughter, and his good opinion of Hugh as well, David could not help feeling a little anxious, in his walk along the road towards the house, as to what the apparent acquaintance between her and the new tutor might evolve; but he got rid of all the difficulty, as far as he was concerned, by saying at last:
“What richt hae I to interfere? even supposin’ I wanted to interfere. But I can lippen weel to my bonny doo; an’ for the rest, she maun tak’ her chance like the lave o’s. An’ wha’ kens but it micht jist be stan’in’ afore Him, i’ the very get that He meant to gang. The Lord forgie me for speakin’ o’ chance, as gin I believed in ony sic havers. There’s no fear o’ the lassie. Gude mornin’ t’ye, Maister Sutherlan’. That’s a braw beuk o’ ballants ye gae the len’ o’ to my Maggy, this mornin’, sir.”
Sutherland was just entering a side-door of the house when David accosted him. He was not old enough to keep from blushing at David’s words; but, having a good conscience, he was ready with a good answer.
“It’s a good book, Mr. Elginbrod. It will do her no harm, though it be ballads.”
“I’m in no dreed o’ that, sir. Bairns maun hae ballants. An’, to tell the truth, sir, I’m no muckle mair nor a bairn in that respeck mysel’. In fac, this verra mornin’, at the beuk, I jist thocht I was readin’ a gran’ godly ballant, an’ it soundet nane the waur for the notion o’t.”
“You should have been a poet yourself, Mr. Elginbrod.”
“Na, na; I ken naething aboot yer poetry. I hae read auld John Milton ower an’ ower, though I dinna believe the half o’t; but, oh! weel I like some o’ the bonny bitties at the en’ o’t.”
“Il Penseroso, for instance?”
“Is that hoo ye ca’t? I ken’t weel by the sicht, but hardly by the soun’. I aye missed the name o’t, an’ took to the thing itsel’. Eh, man! — I beg yer pardon, sir — but its wonnerfu’ bonny!”
“I’ll come in some evening, and we’ll have a chat about it,” replied Sutherland. “I must go to my work now.”
“We’ll a’ be verra happy to see you, sir. Good mornin’, sir.”
“Good morning.”
David went to the garden, where there was not much to be done in the way of education at this season of the year; and Sutherland to the school-room, where he was busy, all the rest of the morning and part of the afternoon, with Caesar and Virgil, Algebra and Euclid; food upon which intellectual babes are reared to the stature of college youths.
Sutherland was himself only a youth; for he had gone early to college, and had not yet quite completed the curriculum. He was now filling up with teaching, the recess between his third and his fourth winter at one of the Aberdeen Universities. He was the son of an officer, belonging to the younger branch of a family of some historic distinction and considerable wealth. This officer, though not far removed from the estate and title as well, had nothing to live upon but his half-pay; for, to the disgust of his family, he had married a Welsh girl of ancient descent, in whose line the poverty must have been at least coeval with the history, to judge from the perfection of its development in the case of her father; and his relations made this the excuse for quarrelling with him; so relieving themselves from any obligations they might have been supposed to lie under, of rendering him assistance of some sort or other. This, however, rather suited the temperament of Major Robert Sutherland, who was prouder in his poverty than they in their riches. So he disowned them for ever, and accommodated himself, with the best grace in the world, to his yet more straitened circumstances. He resolved, however, cost what it might in pinching and squeezing, to send his son to college before turning him out to shift for himself. In this Mrs. Sutherland was ready to support him to the utmost; and so they had managed to keep their boy at college for three sessions; after the last of which, instead of returning home, as he had done on previous occasions, he had looked about him for a temporary engagement as tutor, and soon found the situation he now occupied in the family of William Glasford, Esq., of Turriepuffit, where he intended to remain no longer than the commencement of the session, which would be his fourth and last. To what he should afterwards devote himself he had by no means made up his mind, except that it must of necessity be hard work of some kind or other. So he had at least the virtue of desiring to be independent. His other goods and bads must come out in the course of the story. His pupils were rather stupid and rather good-natured; so that their temperament operated to confirm their intellectual condition, and to render the labour of teaching them considerably irksome. But he did his work tolerably well, and was not so much interested in the result as to be pained at the moderate degree of his success. At the time of which I write, however, the probability as to his success was scarcely ascertained, for he had been only a fortnight at the task.
It was the middle of the month of April, in a rather backward season. The weather had been stormy, with frequent showers of sleet and snow. Old winter was doing his best to hold young Spring back by the skirts of her garment, and very few of the wild flowers had yet ventured to look out of their warm beds in the mould. Sutherland, therefore, had made but few discoveries in the neighbourhood. Not that the weather would have kept him to the house, had he had any particular desire to go out; but, like many other students, he had no predilection for objectless exertion, and preferred the choice of his own weather indoors, namely, from books and his own imaginings, to an encounter with the keen blasts of the North, charged as they often were with sharp bullets of hail. When the sun did shine out between the showers, his cold glitter upon the pools of rain or melted snow, and on the wet evergreens and gravel walks, always drove him back from the window with a shiver. The house, which was of very moderate size and comfort, stood in the midst of plantations, principally of Scotch firs and larches, some of the former old and of great growth, so that they had arrived at the true condition of the tree, which seems to require old age for the perfection of its idea. There was very little to be seen from the windows except this wood, which, somewhat gloomy at almost any season, was at the present cheerless enough; and Sutherland found it very dreary indeed, as exchanged for the wide view from his own home on the side of an open hill in the Highlands.
In the midst of circumstances so uninteresting, it is not to be wondered at, that the glimpse of a pretty maiden should, one morning, occasion him some welcome excitement. Passing downstairs to breakfast, he observed the drawing-room door ajar, and looked in to see what sort of a room it was; for so seldom was it used that he had never yet entered it. There stood a young girl, peeping, with mingled curiosity and reverence, into a small gilt-leaved volume, which she had lifted from the table by which she stood. He watched her for a moment with some interest; when she, seeming to become mesmerically aware that she was not alone, looked up, blushed deeply, put down the book in confusion, and proceeded to dust some of the furniture. It was his first sight of Margaret. Some of the neighbours were expected to dinner, and her aid was in requisition to get the grand room of the house prepared for the occasion. He supposed her to belong to the household, till, one day, feeling compelled to go out for a stroll, he caught sight of her so occupied at the door of her father’s cottage, that he perceived at once that must be her home: she was, in fact, seated upon a stool, paring potatoes. She saw him as well, and, apparently ashamed at the recollection of having been discovered idling in the drawing-room, rose and went in. He had met David once or twice about the house, and, attracted by his appearance, had had some conversation with him; but he did not know where he lived, nor that he was the father of the girl whom he had seen.
Chapter 3 — The Daisy and the Primrose
Dear secret Greenness, nursed below
Tempests and winds and winter nights!
Vex not that but one sees thee grow;
That One made all these lesser lights.
—Henry Vaughan.
It was, of course, quite by accident that Sutherland had met Margaret in the fir-wood. The wind had changed during the night, and swept all the clouds from the face of the sky; and when he looked out in the morning, he saw the fir-tops waving in the sunlight, and heard the sound of a south-west wind sweeping through them with the tune of running waters in its course. It is a well-practised ear that can tell whether the sound it hears be that of gently falling waters, or of wind flowing through the branches of firs. Sutherland’s heart, reviving like a dormouse in its hole, began to be joyful at the sight of the genial motions of Nature, telling of warmth and blessedness at hand. Some goal of life, vague but sure, seemed to glimmer through the appearances around him, and to stimulate him to action. Be dressed in haste, and went out to meet the Spring. He wandered into the heart of the wood. The sunlight shone like a sunset upon the red trunks and boughs of the old fir-trees, but like the first sunrise of the world upon the new green fringes that edged the young shoots of the larches. High up, hung the memorials of past summers in the rich brown tassels of the clustering cones; while the ground under foot was dappled with sunshine on the fallen fir-needles, and the great fallen cones which had opened to scatter their autumnal seed, and now lay waiting for decay. Overhead, the tops whence they had fallen, waved in the wind, as in welcome of the Spring, with that peculiar swinging motion which made the poets of the sixteenth century call them “sailing pines.” The wind blew cool, but not cold; and was filled with a delicious odour from the earth, which Sutherland took as a sign that she was coming alive at last. And the Spring he went out to meet, met him. For, first, at the foot of a tree, he spied a tiny primrose, peeping out of its rough, careful leaves; and he wondered how, by any metamorphosis, such leaves could pass into such a flower. Had he seen the mother of the next spring-messenger he was about to meet, the same thought would have returned in another form. For, next, as he passed on with the primrose in his hand, thinking it was almost cruel to pluck it, the Spring met him, as if in her own shape, in the person of Margaret, whom he spied a little way off, leaning against the stem of a Scotch fir, and looking up to its top swaying overhead in the first billows of the outburst ocean of life. He went up to her with some shyness; for the presence of even a child-maiden was enough to make Sutherland shy — partly from the fear of startling her shyness, as one feels when drawing near a couching fawn. But she, when she heard his footsteps, dropped her eyes slowly from the tree-top, and, as if she were in her own sanctuary, waited his approach. He said nothing at first, but offered her, instead of speech, the primrose he had just plucked, which she received with a smile of the eyes only, and the sweetest “thank you, sir,” he had ever heard. But while she held the primrose in her hand, her eyes wandered to the book which, according to his custom, Sutherland had caught up as he left the house. It was the only well-bound book in his possession; and the eyes of Margaret, not yet tutored by experience, naturally expected an entrancing page within such beautiful boards; for the gayest bindings she had seen, were those of a few old annuals up at the house — and were they not full of the most lovely tales and pictures? In this case, however, her expectation was not vain; for the volume was, as I have already disclosed, Coleridge’s Poems.
Seeing her eyes fixed upon the book — “Would you like to read it?” said he.
“If you please, sir,” answered Margaret, her eyes brightening with the expectation of deliglit.
“Are you fond of poetry?”
Her face fell. The only poetry she knew was the Scotch Psalms and Paraphrases, and such last-century verses as formed the chief part of the selections in her school-books; for this was a very retired parish, and the newer books had not yet reached its school. She had hoped chiefly for tales.
“I dinna ken much about poetry,” she answered, trying to speak English. “There’s an old book o’t on my father’s shelf; but the letters o’t are auld-fashioned, an’ I dinna care aboot it.”
“But this is quite easy to read, and very beautiful,” said Hugh.
The girl’s eyes glistened for a moment, and this was all her reply.
“Would you like to read it?” resumed Hugh, seeing no further answer was on the road.
She held out her hand towards the volume. When he, in his turn, held the volume towards her hand, she almost snatched it from him, and ran towards the house, without a word of thanks or leave-taking — whether from eagerness, or doubt of the propriety of accepting the offer, Hugh could not conjecture. He stood for some moments looking after her, and then retraced his steps towards the house.
It would have been something, in the monotony of one of the most trying of positions, to meet one who snatched at the offered means of spiritual growth, even if that disciple had not been a lovely girl, with the woman waking in her eyes. He commenced the duties of the day with considerably more of energy than he had yet brought to bear on his uninteresting pupils; and this energy did not flag before its effects upon the boys began to react in fresh impulse upon itself.
Chapter 4 — The Cottage
O little Bethlem! poor in walls,
But rich in furniture.
—John Mason’s Spiritual Songs .
There was one great alleviation to the various discomforts of Sutherland’s tutor-life. It was, that, except during school-hours, he was expected to take no charge whatever of his pupils. They ran wild all other times; which was far better, in every way, both for them and for him. Consequently, he was entirely his own master beyond the fixed margin of scholastic duties; and he soon found that his absence, even from the table, was a matter of no interest to the family. To be sure, it involved his own fasting till the next meal-time came round — for the lady was quite a household martinet; but that was his own concern.
That very evening, he made his way to David’s cottage, about the country supper-time, when he thought he should most likely find him at home. It was a clear, still, moonlit night, with just an air of frost. There was light enough for him to see that the cottage was very neat and tidy, looking, in the midst of its little forest, more like an English than a Scotch habitation. He had had the advantage of a few months’ residence in a leafy region on the other side of the Tweed, and so was able to make the comparison. But what a different leafage that was from this! That was soft, floating, billowy; this hard, stiff, and straight-lined, interfering so little with the skeleton form, that it needed not to be put off in the wintry season of death, to make the trees in harmony with the landscape. A light was burning in the cottage, visible through the inner curtain of muslin, and the outer one of frost. As he approached the door, he heard the sound of a voice; and from the even pitch of the tone, he concluded at once that its owner was reading aloud. The measured cadence soon convinced him that it was verse that was being read; and the voice was evidently that of David, and not of Margaret. He knocked at the door. The voice ceased, chairs were pushed back, and a heavy step approached. David opened the door himself.
“Eh! Maister Sutherlan’,” said he, “I thocht it micht aiblins be yersel. Ye’re welcome, sir. Come butt the hoose. Our place is but sma’, but ye’ll no min’ sitttin’ doon wi’ our ain sels. Janet, ooman, this is Maister Sutherlan’. Maggy, my doo, he’s a frien’ o’ yours, o’ a day auld, already. Ye’re kindly welcome, Maister Sutherlan’. I’m sure it’s verra kin’ o’ you to come an’ see the like o’ huz.”
As Hugh entered, he saw his own bright volume lying on the table, evidently that from which David had just been reading.
Margaret had already placed for him a cushioned arm-chair, the only comfortable one in the house; and presently, the table being drawn back, they were all seated round the peat-fire on the hearth, the best sort for keeping feet warm at least. On the crook, or hooked iron-chain suspended within the chimney, hung a three-footed pot, in which potatoes were boiling away merrily for supper. By the side of the wide chimney, or more properly lum, hung an iron lamp, of an old classical form common to the country, from the beak of which projected, almost horizontally, the lighted wick — the pith of a rush. The light perched upon it was small but clear, and by it David had been reading. Margaret sat right under it, upon a creepie, or small three-legged wooden stool. Sitting thus, with the light falling on her from above, Hugh could not help thinking she looked very pretty. Almost the only object in the distance from which the feeble light was reflected, was the patch-work counterpane of a little bed filling a recess in the wall, fitted with doors which stood open. It was probably Margaret’s refuge for the night.
“Well,” said the tutor, after they had been seated a few minutes, and had had some talk about the weather — surely no despicable subject after such a morning — the first of Spring — “well, how do you like the English poet, Mr. Elginbrod?”
“Spier that at me this day week, Maister Sutherlan’, an’ I’ll aiblins answer ye; but no the nicht, no the nicht.”
“What for no?” said Hugh, taking up the dialect.
“For ae thing, we’re nae clean through wi’ the auld sailor’s story yet; an’ gin I hae learnt ae thing aboon anither, its no to pass jeedgment upo’ halves. I hae seen ill weather half the simmer, an’ a thrang corn-yard after an’ a’, an’ that o’ the best. No that I’m ill pleased wi’ the bonny ballant aither.”
“Weel, will ye jist lat me read the lave o’t till ye?”
“Wi’ muckle pleesur, sir, an’ mony thanks.”
He showed Hugh how far they had got in the reading of the “Ancient Mariner”; whereupon he took up the tale, and carried it on to the end. He had some facility in reading with expression, and his few affectations — for it must be confessed he was not free of such faults — were not of a nature to strike uncritical hearers. When he had finished, he looked up, and his eye chancing to light upon Margaret first, he saw that her cheek was quite pale, and her eyes overspread with the film, not of coming tears, but of emotion notwithstanding.
“Well,” said Hugh, again, willing to break the silence, and turning towards David, “what do you think of it now you have heard it all?”
Whether Janet interrupted her husband or not, I cannot tell; but she certainly spoke first:
“Tshâvah!” — equivalent to pshaw — “it’s a’ lees. What for are ye knittin’ yer broos ower a leein’ ballant — a’ havers as weel as lees?”
“I’m no jist prepared to say sae muckle, Janet,” replied David; “there’s mony a thing ‘at’s lees, as ye ca’t, ‘at’s no lees a’ through. Ye see, Maister Sutherlan’, I’m no gleg at the uptak, an’ it jist taks me twise as lang as ither fowk to see to the ootside o’ a thing. Whiles a sentence ‘ill leuk to me clean nonsense a’thegither; an’ maybe a haill ook efter, it’ll come upo’ me a’ at ance; an’ fegs! it’s the best thing in a’ the beuk.”
Margaret’s eyes were fixed on her father with a look which I can only call faithfulness, as if every word he spoke was truth, whether she could understand it or not.
“But perhaps we may look too far for meanings sometimes,” suggested Sutherland.
“Maybe, maybe; but when a body has a suspeecion o’ a trowth, he sud never lat sit till he’s gotten eyther hit, or an assurance that there’s nothing there. But there’s jist ae thing, in the poem ‘at I can pit my finger upo’, an’ say ‘at it’s no richt clear to me whether it’s a’ straucht-foret or no?”
“What’s that, Mr. Elginbrod?”
“It’s jist this — what for a’ thae sailor-men fell doon deid, an’ the chield ‘at shot the bonnie burdie, an’ did a’ the mischeef, cam’ to little hurt i’ the ‘en — comparateevely.”
“Well,” said Hugh, “I confess I’m not prepared to answer the question. If you get any light on the subject” —
“Ow, I daursay I may. A heap o’ things comes to me as I’m takin’ a daunder by mysel’ i’ the gloamin’. I’ll no say a thing’s wrang till I hae tried it ower an’ ower; for maybe I haena a richt grip o’ the thing ava.”
“What can ye expec, Dawvid, o’ a leevin’ corp, an’ a’ that? — ay, twa hunner corps — fower times fifty’s twa hunner — an’ angels turnin’ sailors, an’ sangs gaein fleein’ aboot like laverocks, and tummelin’ doon again, tired like? — Gude preserve’s a’!”
“Janet, do ye believe ‘at ever a serpent spak?”
“Hoot! Dawvid, the deil was in him, ye ken.”
“The deil a word o’ that’s i’ the word itsel, though,” rejoined David with a smile.
“Dawvid,” said Janet, solemnly, and with some consternation, “ye’re no gaein’ to tell me, sittin’ there, at ye dinna believe ilka word ‘at’s prentit atween the twa brods o’ the Bible? What will Maister Sutherlan’ think o’ ye?”
“Janet, my bonnie lass —” and here David’s eyes beamed upon his wife — “I believe as mony o’ them as ye do, an’ maybe a wheen mair, my dawtie. Keep yer min’ easy aboot that. But ye jist see ‘at fowk warna a’thegither saitisfeed aboot a sairpent speikin’, an’ sae they leukit aboot and aboot till at last they fand the deil in him. Gude kens whether he was there or no. Noo, ye see hoo, gin we was to leuk weel aboot thae corps, an’ thae angels, an’ a’ that queer stuff — but oh! it’s bonny stuff tee! — we micht fa’ in wi’ something we didna awthegither expec, though we was leukin’ for’t a’ the time. Sae I maun jist think aboot it, Mr. Sutherlan’; an’ I wad fain read it ower again, afore I lippen on giein’ my opingan on the maitter. Ye cud lave the bit beukie, sir? We’se tak’ guid care o’t.”
“Ye’re verra welcome to that or ony ither beuk I hae,” replied Hugh, who began to feel already as if he were in the hands of a superior.
“Mony thanks; but ye see, sir, we hae eneuch to chow upo’ for an aucht days or so.”
By this time the potatoes wore considered to be cooked, and were accordingly lifted off the fire. The water was then poured away, the lid put aside, and the pot hung once more upon the crook, hooked a few rings further up in the chimney, in order that the potatoes might be thoroughly dry before they were served. Margaret was now very busy spreading the cloth and laying spoon and plates on the table. Hugh rose to go.
“Will ye no bide,” said Janet, in a most hospitable tone, “an’ tak’ a het pitawta wi’ us?”
“I’m afraid of being troublesome,” answered he.
“Nae fear o’ that, gin ye can jist pit up wi’ oor hamely meat.”
“Mak nae apologies, Janet, my woman,” said David. “A het pitawta’s aye guid fare, for gentle or semple. Sit ye doun again, Maister Sutherlan’. Maggy, my doo, whaur’s the milk?”
“I thocht Hawkie wad hae a drappy o’ het milk by this time,” said Margaret, “and sae I jist loot it be to the last; but I’ll hae’t drawn in twa minutes.” And away she went with a jug, commonly called a decanter in that part of the north, in her hand.
“That’s hardly fair play to Hawkie,” said David to Janet with a smile.
“Hoot! Dawvid, ye see we haena a stranger ilka nicht.”
“But really,” said Hugh, “I hope this is the last time you will consider me a stranger, for I shall be here a great many times — that is, if you don’t get tired of me.”
“Gie us the chance at least, Maister Sutherlan’. It’s no sma’ preevilege to fowk like us to hae a frien’ wi’ sae muckle buik learnin’ as ye hae, sir.”
“I am afraid it looks more to you than it really is.”
“Weel, ye see, we maun a’ leuk at the starns frae the hicht o’ oor ain een. An’ ye seem nigher to them by a lang growth than the lave o’s. My man, ye ought to be thankfu’.”
With the true humility that comes of worshipping the Truth, David had not the smallest idea that he was immeasurably nearer to the stars than Hugh Sutherland.
Maggie having returned with her jug full of frothy milk, and the potatoes being already heaped up in a wooden bowl or bossie in the middle of the table, sending the smoke of their hospitality to the rafters, Janet placed a smaller wooden bowl, called a caup, filled with deliciously yellow milk of Hawkie’s latest gathering, for each individual of the company, with an attendant horn-spoon by its side. They all drew their chairs to the table, and David, asking no blessing, as it was called, but nevertheless giving thanks for the blessing already bestowed, namely, the perfect gift of food, invited Hugh to make a supper. Each, in primitive but not ungraceful fashion, took a potatoe from the dish with the fingers, and ate it, “bite and sup,” with the help of the horn-spoon for the milk. Hugh thought he had never supped more pleasantly, and could not help observing how far real good-breeding is independent of the forms and refinements of what has assumed to itself the name of society.
Soon after supper was over, it was time for him to go; so, after kind hand-shakings and good nights, David accompanied him to the road, where he left him to find his way home by the star-light. As he went, he could not help pondering a little over the fact that a labouring man had discovered a difficulty, perhaps a fault, in one of his favourite poems, which had never suggested itself to him. He soon satisfied himself, however, by coming to the conclusion that the poet had not cared about the matter at all, having had no further intention in the poem than Hugh himself had found in it, namely, witchery and loveliness. But it seemed to the young student a wonderful fact, that the intercourse which was denied him in the laird’s family, simply from their utter incapacity of yielding it, should be afforded him in the family of a man who had followed the plough himself once, perhaps did so still, having risen only to be the overseer and superior assistant of labourers. He certainly felt, on his way home, much more reconciled to the prospect of his sojourn at Turriepuffit, than he would have thought it possible he ever should.
David lingered a few moments, looking up at the stars, before he re-entered his cottage. When he rejoined his wife and child, he found the Bible already open on the table for their evening devotions. I will close this chapter, as I began the first, with something like his prayer. David’s prayers were characteristic of the whole man; but they also partook, in far more than ordinary, of the mood of the moment. His last occupation had been star-gazing:
“O thou, wha keeps the stars alicht, an’ our souls burnin’ wi’ a licht aboon that o’ the stars, grant that they may shine afore thee as the stars for ever and ever. An’ as thou hauds the stars burnin’ a’ the nicht, whan there’s no man to see, so haud thou the licht burnin’ in our souls, whan we see neither thee nor it, but are buried in the grave o’ sleep an’ forgetfu’ness. Be thou by us, even as a mother sits by the bedside o’ her ailin’ wean a’ the lang nicht; only be thou nearer to us, even in our verra souls, an’ watch ower the warl’ o’ dreams that they mak’ for themsels. Grant that more an’ more thochts o’ thy thinkin’ may come into our herts day by day, till there shall be at last an open road atween thee an’ us, an’ thy angels may ascend and descend upon us, so that we may be in thy heaven, e’en while we are upo’ thy earth: Amen.”
Chapter 5 — The Students
In wood and stone, not the softest, but hardest, be always aptest for portraiture, both fairest for pleasure, and most durable for profit. Hard wits be hard to receive, but sure to keep; painful without weariness, heedful without wavering, constant without new-fangleness; bearing heavy things, though not lightly, yet willingly; entering hard things, though not easily, yet deeply; and so come to that perfectness of learning in the end, that quick wits seem in hope but do not in deed, or else very seldom ever attain unto.
—Roger Ascham, The Schoolmaster .
Two or three very simple causes united to prevent Hugh from repeating his visit to David so soon as he would otherwise have done. One was, that, the fine weather continuing, he was seized with the desire of exploring the neighbourhood. The spring, which sets some wild animals to the construction of new dwellings, incites man to the enlarging of his, making, as it were, by discovery, that which lies around him his own. So he spent the greater parts of several evenings in wandering about the neighbourhood; till at length the moonlight failed him. Another cause was, that, in the act of searching for some books for his boys, in an old garret of the house, which was at once lumber room and library, he came upon some stray volumes of the Waverley novels, with which he was as yet only partially acquainted. These absorbed many of his spare hours. But one evening, while reading the Heart of Midlothian, the thought struck him — what a character David would have been for Sir Walter. Whether he was right or not is a question; but the notion brought David so vividly before him, that it roused the desire to see him. He closed the book at once, and went to the cottage.
“We’re no lik’ly to ca’ ye onything but a stranger yet, Maister Sutherlan’,” said David, as he entered.
“I’ve been busy since I saw you,” was all the excuse Hugh offered.
“Weel, ye’r welcome noo; and ye’ve jist come in time after a’, for it’s no that mony hours sin’ I fand it oot awthegither to my ain settisfaction.”
“Found out what?” said Hugh; for he had forgotten all about the perplexity in which he had left David, and which had been occupying his thoughts ever since their last interview.
“Aboot the cross-bow an’ the birdie, ye ken,” answered David, in a tone of surprise.
“Yes, to be sure. How stupid of me!” said Hugh.
“Weel, ye see, the meanin’ o’ the haill ballant is no that ill to win at, seein’ the poet himsel’ tells us that. It’s jist no to be proud or ill-natured to oor neebours, the beasts and birds, for God made ane an’ a’ o’s. But there’s harder things in’t nor that, and yon’s the hardest. But ye see it was jist an unlucky thochtless deed o’ the puir auld sailor’s, an’ I’m thinkin’ he was sair reprocht in’s hert the minit he did it. His mates was fell angry at him, no for killin’ the puir innocent craytur, but for fear o’ ill luck in consequence. Syne when nane followed, they turned richt roun’, an’ took awa’ the character o’ the puir beastie efter ‘twas deid. They appruved o’ the verra thing ‘at he was nae doot sorry for. — But onything to haud aff o’ themsels! Nae suner cam the calm, than roun’ they gaed again like the weathercock, an’ naething wad content them bit hingin’ the deid craytur about the auld man’s craig, an’ abusin’ him forby. Sae ye see hoo they war a wheen selfish crayturs, an’ a hantle waur nor the man ‘at was led astray into an ill deed. But still he maun rue’t. Sae Death got them, an’ a kin’ o’ leevin’ Death, a she Death as ‘twar, an’ in some respecks may be waur than the ither, got grips o’ him, puir auld body! It’s a’ fair and richt to the backbane o’ the ballant, Maister Sutherlan’, an’ that I’se uphaud.”
Hugh could not help feeling considerably astonished to hear this criticism from the lips of one whom he considered an uneducated man. For he did not know that there are many other educations besides a college one, some of them tending far more than that to develope the common-sense, or faculty of judging of things by their nature. Life intelligently met and honestly passed, is the best education of all; except that higher one to which it is intended to lead, and to which it had led David. Both these educations, however, were nearly unknown to the student of books. But he was still more astonished to hear from the lips of Margaret, who was sitting by:
“That’s it, father; that’s it! I was jist ettlin’ efter that same thing mysel, or something like it, but ye put it in the richt words exackly.”
The sound of her voice drew Hugh’s eyes upon her: he was astonished at the alteration in her countenance. While she spoke it was absolutely beautiful. As soon as she ceased speaking, it settled back into its former shadowless calm. Her father gave her one approving glance and nod, expressive of no surprise at her having approached the same discovery as himself, but testifying pleasure at the coincidence of their opinions. Nothing was left for Hugh but to express his satisfaction with the interpretation of the difficulty, and to add, that the poem would henceforth possess fresh interest for him.
After this, his visits became more frequent; and at length David made a request which led to their greater frequency still. It was to this effect:
“Do ye think, Mr. Sutherlan’, I could do onything at my age at the mathematics? I unnerstan’ weel eneuch hoo to measur’ lan’, an’ that kin’ o’ thing. I jist follow the rule. But the rule itsel’s a puzzler to me. I dinna understan’ it by half. Noo it seems to me that the best o’ a rule is, no to mak ye able to do a thing, but to lead ye to what maks the rule richt — to the prenciple o’ the thing. It’s no ‘at I’m misbelievin’ the rule, but I want to see the richts o’t.”
“I’ve no doubt you could learn fast enough,” replied Hugh. “I shall be very happy to help you with it.”
“Na, na; I’m no gaein to trouble you. Ye hae eneuch to do in that way. But if ye could jist spare me ane or twa o’ yer beuks whiles — ony o’ them ‘at ye think proper, I sud be muckle obleeged te ye.”
Hugh promised and fulfilled; but the result was, that, before long, both the father and the daughter were seated at the kitchen-table, every evening, busy with Euclid and Algebra; and that, on most evenings, Hugh was present as their instructor. It was quite a new pleasure to him. Few delights surpass those of imparting knowledge to the eager recipient. What made Hugh’s tutor-life irksome, was partly the excess of his desire to communicate, over the desire of his pupils to partake. But here there was no labour. All the questions were asked by the scholars. A single lesson had not passed, however, before David put questions which Hugh was unable to answer, and concerning which he was obliged to confess his ignorance. Instead of being discouraged, as eager questioners are very ready to be when they receive no answer, David merely said, “Weel, weel, we maun bide a wee,” and went on with what he was able to master. Meantime Margaret, though forced to lag a good way behind her father, and to apply much more frequently to their tutor for help, yet secured all she got; and that is great praise for any student. She was not by any means remarkably quick, but she knew when she did not understand; and that is a sure and indispensable step towards understanding. It is indeed a rarer gift than the power of understanding itself.
The gratitude of David was too deep to be expressed in any formal thanks. It broke out at times in two or three simple words when the conversation presented an opportunity, or in the midst of their work, as by its own self-birth, ungenerated by association.
During the lesson, which often lasted more than two hours, Janet would be busy about the room, and in and out of it, with a manifest care to suppress all unnecessary bustle. As soon as Hugh made his appearance, she would put off the stout shoes — man’s shoes, as we should consider them — which she always wore at other times, and put on a pair of bauchles; that is, an old pair of her Sunday shoes, put down at heel, and so converted into slippers, with which she could move about less noisily. At times her remarks would seem to imply that she considered it rather absurd in her husband to trouble himself with book-learning; but evidently on the ground that he knew everything already that was worthy of the honour of his acquaintance; whereas, with regard to Margaret, her heart was as evidently full of pride at the idea of the education her daughter was getting from the laird’s own tutor.
Now and then she would stand still for a moment, and gaze at them, with her bright black eyes, from under the white frills of her mutch, her bare brown arms akimbo, and a look of pride upon her equally brown honest face.
Her dress consisted of a wrapper, or short loose jacket, of printed calico, and a blue winsey petticoat, which she had a habit of tucking between her knees, to keep it out of harm’s way, as often as she stooped to any wet work, or, more especially, when doing anything by the fire. Margaret’s dress was, in ordinary, like her mother’s, with the exception of the cap; but, every evening, when their master was expected, she put off her wrapper, and substituted a gown of the same material, a cotton print; and so, with her plentiful dark hair gathered neatly under a net of brown silk, the usual head-dress of girls in her position, both in and out of doors, sat down dressed for the sacrament of wisdom. David made no other preparation than the usual evening washing of his large well-wrought hands, and bathing of his head, covered with thick dark hair, plentifully lined with grey, in a tub of cold water; from which his face, which was “cremsin dyed ingrayne” by the weather, emerged glowing. He sat down at the table in his usual rough blue coat and plain brass buttons; with his breeches of broad-striped corduroy, his blue-ribbed stockings, and leather gaiters, or cuiticans, disposed under the table, and his shoes, with five rows of broad-headed nails in the soles, projecting from beneath it on the other side; for he was a tall man — six feet still, although five-and-fifty, and considerably bent in the shoulders with hard work. Sutherland’s style was that of a gentleman who must wear out his dress-coat.
Such was the group which, three or four evenings in the week, might be seen in David Elginbrod’s cottage, seated around the white deal table, with their books and slates upon it, and searching, by the light of a tallow candle, substituted as more convenient, for the ordinary lamp, after the mysteries of the universe.
The influences of reviving nature and of genial companionship operated very favourably upon Hugh’s spirits, and consequently upon his whole powers. For some time he had, as I have already hinted, succeeded in interesting his boy-pupils in their studies; and now the progress they made began to be appreciable to themselves as well as to their tutor. This of course made them more happy and more diligent. There were no attempts now to work upon their parents for a holiday; no real or pretended head or tooth-aches, whose disability was urged against the greater torture of ill-conceded mental labour. They began in fact to understand; and, in proportion to the beauty and value of the thing understood, to understand is to enjoy. Therefore the laird and his lady could not help seeing that the boys were doing well, far better in fact than they had ever done before; and consequently began not only to prize Hugh’s services, but to think more highly of his office than had been their wont. The laird would now and then invite him to join him in a tumbler of toddy after dinner, or in a ride round the farm after school hours. But it must be confessed that these approaches to friendliness were rather irksome to Hugh; for whatever the laird might have been as a collegian, he was certainly now nothing more than a farmer. Where David Elginbrod would have described many a “bonny sicht,” the laird only saw the probable results of harvest, in the shape of figures in his banking book. On one occasion, Hugh roused his indignation by venturing to express his admiration of the delightful mingling of colours in a field where a good many scarlet poppies grew among the green blades of the corn, indicating, to the agricultural eye, the poverty of the soil where they were found. This fault in the soil, the laird, like a child, resented upon the poppies themselves.
“Nasty, ugly weyds! We’ll hae ye admirin’ the smut neist,” said he, contemptuously; “‘cause the bairns can bleck ane anither’s faces wi’t.”
“But surely,” said Hugh, “putting other considerations aside, you must allow that the colour, especially when mingled with that of the corn, is beautiful.”
“Deil hae’t! It’s jist there ‘at I canna bide the sicht o’t. Beauty ye may ca’ ‘t! I see nane o’t. I’d as sune hae a reid-heedit bairn, as see thae reid-coatit rascals i’ my corn. I houp ye’re no gaen to cram stuff like that into the heeds o’ the twa laddies. Faith! we’ll hae them sawin’ thae ill-faured weyds amang the wheyt neist. Poapies ca’ ye them? Weel I wat they’re the Popp’s ain bairns, an’ the scarlet wumman to the mither o’ them. Ha! ha! ha!”
Having manifested both wit and Protestantism in the closing sentence of his objurgation, the laird relapsed into good humour and stupidity. Hugh would gladly have spent such hours in David’s cottage instead; but he was hardly prepared to refuse his company to Mr. Glasford.
Chapter 6 — The Laird’s Lady
Ye archewyves, standith at defence,
Sin ye been strong, as is a great camayle;
Ne suffer not that men you don offence.
And slender wives, fell as in battaile,
Beth eager, as is a tiger, yond in Inde;
Aye clappith as a mill, I you counsaile.
—Chaucer, The Clerk’s Tale.
The length and frequency of Hugh’s absences, careless as she was of his presence, had already attracted the attention of Mrs. Glasford; and very little trouble had to be expended on the discovery of his haunt. For the servants knew well enough where he went, and of course had come to their own conclusions as to the object of his visits. So the lady chose to think it her duty to expostulate with Hugh on the subject. Accordingly, one morning after breakfast, the laird having gone to mount his horse, and the boys to have a few minutes’ play before lessons, Mrs. Glasford, who had kept her seat at the head of the table, waiting for the opportunity, turned towards Hugh who sat reading the week’s news, folded her hands on the tablecloth, drew herself up yet a little more stiffly in her chair, and thus addressed him:
“It’s my duty, Mr. Sutherland, seein’ ye have no mother to look after ye —”
Hugh expected something matronly about his linen or his socks, and put down his newspaper with a smile; but, to his astonishment, she went on —
— “To remonstrate wi’ ye, on the impropriety of going so often to David Elginbrod’s. They’re not company for a young gentleman like you, Mr. Sutherland.”
“They’re good enough company for a poor tutor, Mrs. Glasford,” replied Hugh, foolishly enough.
“Not at all, not at all,” insisted the lady. “With your connexions —”
“Good gracious! who ever said anything about my connexions? I never pretended to have any.” Hugh was getting angry already.
Mrs. Glasford nodded her head significantly, as much as to say, “I know more about you than you imagine,” and then went on:
“Your mother will never forgive me if you get into a scrape with that smooth-faced hussy; and if her father, honest man hasn’t eyes enough in his head, other people have — ay, an’ tongues too, Mr. Sutherland.”
Hugh was on the point of forgetting his manners, and consigning all the above mentioned organs to perdition; but he managed to restrain his wrath, and merely said that Margaret was one of the best girls he had ever known, and that there was no possible danger of any kind of scrape with her. This mode of argument, however, was not calculated to satisfy Mrs. Glasford. She returned to the charge.
“She’s a sly puss, with her shy airs and graces. Her father’s jist daft wi’ conceit o’ her, an’ it’s no to be surprised if she cast a glamour ower you. Mr. Sutherland, ye’re but young yet.”
Hugh’s pride presented any alliance with a lassie who had herded the laird’s cows barefoot, and even now tended their own cow, as an all but inconceivable absurdity; and he resented, more than he could have thought possible, the entertainment of such a degrading idea in the mind of Mrs. Glasford. Indignation prevented him from replying; while she went on, getting more vernacular as she proceeded.
“It’s no for lack o’ company ‘at yer driven to seek theirs, I’m sure. There’s twa as fine lads an’ gude scholars as ye’ll fin’ in the haill kintra-side, no to mention the laird and mysel’.”
But Hugh could bear it no longer; nor would he condescend to excuse or explain his conduct.
“Madam, I beg you will not mention this subject again.”
“But I will mention ‘t, Mr. Sutherlan’; an’ if ye’ll no listen to rizzon, I’ll go to them ‘at maun do’t.”
“I am accountable to you, madam, for my conduct in your house, and for the way in which I discharge my duty to your children — no further.”
“Do ye ca’ that dischairgin’ yer duty to my bairns, to set them the example o’ hingin’ at a quean’s âpron-strings, and fillin’ her lug wi’ idle havers? Ca’ ye that dischairgin’ yer duty? My certie! a bonny dischairgin’!”
“I never see the girl but in her father and mother’s presence.”
“Weel, weel, Mr. Sutherlan’,” said Mrs. Glasford, in a final tone, and trying to smother the anger which she felt she had allowed to carry her further than was decorous, “we’ll say nae mair aboot it at present; but I maun jist speak to the laird himsel’, an’ see what he says till ‘t.”
And, with this threat, she walked out of the room in what she considered a dignified manner.
Hugh was exceedingly annoyed at this treatment, and thought, at first, of throwing up his situation at once; but he got calmer by degrees, and saw that it would be to his own loss, and perhaps to the injury of his friends at the cottage. So he took his revenge by recalling the excited face of Mrs. Glasford, whose nose had got as red with passion as the protuberance of a turkey-cock when gobbling out its unutterable feelings of disdain. He dwelt upon this soothing contemplation till a fit of laughter relieved him, and he was able to go and join his pupils as if nothing had happened.
Meanwhile the lady sent for David, who was at work in the garden, into no less an audience-chamber than the drawing-room, the revered abode of all the tutelar deities of the house; chief amongst which were the portraits of the laird and herself: he, plethoric and wrapped in voluminous folds of neckerchief — she long-necked, and lean, and bare-shouldered. The original of the latter work of art seated herself in the most important chair in the room; and when David, after carefully wiping the shoes he had already wiped three times on his way up, entered with a respectful but no wise obsequious bow, she ordered him, with the air of an empress, to shut the door. When he had obeyed, she ordered him, in a similar tone, to be seated; for she sought to mingle condescension and conciliation with severity.
“David,” she then began, “I am informed that ye keep open door to our Mr. Sutherland, and that he spends most forenichts in your company.”
“Weel, mem, it’s verra true,” was all David’s answer. He sat in an expectant attitude.
“Dawvid, I wonner at ye!” returned Mrs. Glasford, forgetting her dignity, and becoming confidentially remonstrative. “Here’s a young gentleman o’ talans, wi’ ilka prospeck o’ waggin’ his heid in a poopit some day; an’ ye aid an’ abet him in idlin’ awa’ his time at your chimla-lug, duin’ waur nor naething ava! I’m surprised at ye, Dawvid. I thocht ye had mair sense.”
David looked out of his clear, blue, untroubled eyes, upon the ruffled countenance of his mistress, with an almost paternal smile.
“Weel, mem, I maun say I dinna jist think the young man’s in the warst o’ company, when he’s at our ingle-neuk. An’ for idlin’ o’ his time awa’, it’s weel waurd for himsel’, forby for us, gin holy words binna lees.”
“What do ye mean, Dawvid?” said the lady rather sharply, for she loved no riddles.
“I mean this, mem: that the young man is jist actin’ the pairt o’ Peter an’ John at the bonny gate o’ the temple, whan they said: ‘Such as I have, gie I thee;’ an’ gin’ it be more blessed to gie than to receive, as Sant Paul says ‘at the Maister himsel’ said, the young man ‘ill no be the waur aff in’s ain learnin’, that he impairts o’t to them that hunger for’t.”
“Ye mean by this, Dawvid, gin ye could express yersel’ to the pint, ‘at the young man, wha’s ower weel paid to instruck my bairns, neglecks them, an’ lays himsel’ oot upo’ ither fowk’s weans, wha hae no richt to ettle aboon the station in which their Maker pat them.”
This was uttered with quite a religious fervour of expostulation; for the lady’s natural indignation at the thought of Meg Elginbrod having lessons from her boys’ tutor, was cowed beneath the quiet steady gaze of the noble-minded peasant father.
“He lays himsel’ oot mair upo’ the ither fowk themsels’ than upo’ their weans, mem; though, nae doubt, my Maggy comes in for a gude share. But for negleckin’ o’ his duty to you, mem, I’m sure I kenna hoo that can be; for it was only yestreen ‘at the laird himsel’ said to me, ‘at hoo the bairns had never gotten on naething like it wi’ ony ither body.”
“The laird’s ower ready wi’s clavers,” quoth the laird’s wife, nettled to find herself in the wrong, and forgetful of her own and her lord’s dignity at once. “But,” she pursued, “all I can say is, that I consider it verra improper o’ you, wi’ a young lass-bairn, to encourage the nichtly veesits o’ a young gentleman, wha’s sae far aboon her in station, an’ dootless will some day be farther yet.”
“Mem!” said David, with dignity, “I’m willin’ no to understan’ what ye mean. My Maggy’s no ane ‘at needs luikin’ efter; an’ a body had need to be carefu’ an’ no interfere wi’ the Lord’s herdin’, for he ca’s himsel’ the Shepherd o’ the sheep, an’ wee! as I loe her I maun lea’ him to lead them wha follow him wherever he goeth. She’ll be no ill guidit, and I’m no gaeing to kep her at ilka turn.”
“Weel, weel! that’s yer ain affair, Dawvid, my man,” rejoined Mrs. Glasford, with rising voice and complexion. “A’ ‘at I hae to add is jist this: ‘at as lang as my tutor veesits her” —
“He veesits her no more than me, mem,” interposed David; but his mistress went on with dignified disregard of the interruption —
“Veesits her, I canna, for the sake o’ my own bairns, an’ the morals o’ my hoosehold, employ her aboot the hoose, as I was in the way o’ doin’ afore. Good mornin’, Dawvid. I’ll speak to the laird himsel’, sin’ ye’ll no heed me.”
“It’s more to my lassie, mem, excuse me, to learn to unnerstan’ the works o’ her Maker, than it is to be employed in your household. Mony thanks, mem, for what ye hev’ done in that way afore; an’ good mornin’ to ye, mem. I’m sorry we should hae ony misunderstandin’, but I canna help it for my pairt.”
With these words David withdrew, rather anxious about the consequences to Hugh of this unpleasant interference on the part of Mrs. Glasford. That lady’s wrath kept warm without much nursing, till the laird came home; when she turned the whole of her battery upon him, and kept up a steady fire until he yielded, and promised to turn his upon David. But he had more common-sense than his wife in some things, and saw at once how ridiculous it would be to treat the affair as of importance. So, the next time he saw David, he addressed him half jocularly:
“Weel, Dawvid, you an’ the mistress hae been haein’ a bit o’ a dispute thegither, eh?”
“Weel, sir, we warna a’thegither o’ ae min’,” said David, with a smile.
“Weel, weel, we maun humour her, ye ken, or it may be the waur for us a’, ye ken.” And the laird nodded with humorous significance.
“I’m sure I sud be glaid, sir; but this is no sma’ maitter to me an’ my Maggie, for we’re jist gettin’ food for the verra sowl, sir, frae him an’ his beuks.”
“Cudna ye be content wi the beuks wi’out the man, Dawvid?”
“We sud mak’ but sma’ progress, sir, that get.”
The laird began to be a little nettled himself at David’s stiffness about such a small matter, and held his peace. David resumed:
“Besides, sir, that’s a maitter for the young man to sattle, an’ no for me. It wad ill become me, efter a’ he’s dune for us, to steek the door in’s face. Na, na; as lang’s I hae a door to haud open, it’s no to be steekit to him.”
“Efter a’, the door’s mine, Dawvid,” said the laird.
“As lang’s I’m in your hoose an’ in your service, sir, the door’s mine,” retorted David, quietly.
The laird turned and rode away without another word. What passed between him and his wife never transpired. Nothing more was said to Hugh as long as he remained at Turriepuffit. But Margaret was never sent for to the House after this, upon any occasion whatever. The laird gave her a nod as often as he saw her; but the lady, if they chanced to meet, took no notice of her. Margaret, on her part, stood or passed with her eyes on the ground, and no further change of countenance than a slight flush of discomfort.
The lessons went on as usual, and happy hours they were for all those concerned. Often, in after years, and in far different circumstances, the thoughts of Hugh reverted, with a painful yearning, to the dim-lighted cottage, with its clay floor and its deal table; to the earnest pair seated with him at the labours that unfold the motions of the stars; and even to the homely, thickset, but active form of Janet, and that peculiar smile of hers with which, after an apparently snappish speech, spoken with her back to the person addressed, she would turn round her honest face half-apologetically, and shine full upon some one or other of the three, whom she honoured with her whole heart and soul, and who, she feared, might be offended at what she called her “hame-ower fashion of speaking.” Indeed it was wonderful what a share the motherhood of this woman, incapable as she was of entering into the intellectual occupations of the others, had in producing that sense of home-blessedness, which inwrapt Hugh also in the folds of its hospitality, and drew him towards its heart. Certain it is that not one of the three would have worked so well without the sense of the presence of Janet, here and there about the room, or in the immediate neighbourhood of it — love watching over labour. Once a week, always on Saturday nights, Hugh stayed to supper with them: and on these occasions, Janet contrived to have something better than ordinary in honour of their guest. Still it was of the homeliest country fare, such as Hugh could partake of without the least fear that his presence occasioned any inconvenience to his entertainers. Nor was Hugh the only giver of spiritual food. Putting aside the rich gifts of human affection and sympathy, which grew more and more pleasant — I can hardly use a stronger word yet — to Hugh every day, many things were spoken by the simple wisdom of David, which would have enlightened Hugh far more than they did, had he been sufficiently advanced to receive them. But their very simplicity was often far beyond the grasp of his thoughts; for the higher we rise, the simpler we become; and David was one of those of whom is the kingdom of Heaven. There is a childhood into which we have to grow, just as there is a childhood which we must leave behind; a childlikeness which is the highest gain of humanity, and a childishness from which but few of those who are counted the wisest among men, have freed themselves in their imagined progress towards the reality of things.
Chapter 7 — The Secret of the Wood
The unthrift sunne shot vitall gold,
A thousand pieces;
And heaven its azure did unfold,
Chequered with snowy fleeces.
The air was all in spice,
And every bush
A garland wore: Thus fed my Eyes,
But all the Eare lay hush.
—Henry Vaughan.
It was not in mathematics alone that Hugh Sutherland was serviceable to Margaret Elginbrod. That branch of study had been chosen for her father, not for her; but her desire to learn had led her to lay hold upon any mental provision with which the table happened to be spread; and the more eagerly that her father was a guest at the same feast. Before long, Hugh bethought him that it might possibly be of service to her, in the course of her reading, if he taught her English a little more thoroughly than she had probably picked it up at the parish school, to which she had been in the habit of going till within a very short period of her acquaintance with the tutor. — The English reader must not suppose the term parish school to mean what the same term would mean if used in England. Boys and girls of very different ranks go to the Scotch parish schools, and the fees are so small as to place their education within the reach of almost the humblest means. — To his proposal to this effect Margaret responded thankfully; and it gave Hugh an opportunity of directing her attention to many of the more delicate distinctions in literature, for the appreciation of which she manifested at once a remarkable aptitude.
Coleridge’s poems had been read long ago; some of them, indeed, almost committed to memory in the process of repeated perusal. No doubt a good many of them must have been as yet too abstruse for her; not in the least, however, from inaptitude in her for such subjects as they treated of, but simply because neither the terms nor the modes of thought could possibly have been as yet presented to her in so many different positions as to enable her to comprehend their scope. Hugh lent her Sir Walter’s poems next, but those she read at an eye-glance. She returned the volume in a week, saying merely, they were “verra bonnie stories.” He saw at once that, to have done them justice with the girl, he ought to have lent them first. But that could not be helped now; and what should come next? Upon this he took thought. His library was too small to cause much perplexity of choice, but for a few days he continued undecided.
Meantime the interest he felt in his girl-pupil deepened greatly. She became a kind of study to him. The expression of her countenance was far inferior to her intelligence and power of thought. It was still to excess — almost dull in ordinary; not from any fault in the mould of the features, except, perhaps, in the upper lip, which seemed deficient in drawing, if I may be allowed the expression; but from the absence of that light which indicates the presence of active thought and feeling within. In this respect her face was like the earthen pitcher of Gideon: it concealed the light. She seemed to have, to a peculiar degree, the faculty of retiring inside. But now and then, while he was talking to her, and doubtful, from the lack of expression, whether she was even listening with attention to what he was saying, her face would lighten up with a radiant smile of intelligence; not, however, throwing the light upon him, and in a moment reverting to its former condition of still twilight. Her person seemed not to be as yet thoroughly possessed or informed by her spirit. It sat apart within her; and there was no ready transit from her heart to her face. This lack of presence in the face is quite common in pretty school-girls and rustic beauties; but it was manifest to an unusual degree in the case of Margaret. Yet most of the forms and lines in her face were lovely; and when the light did shine through them for a passing moment, her countenance seemed absolutely beautiful. Hence it grew into an almost haunting temptation with Hugh, to try to produce this expression, to unveil the coy light of the beautiful soul. Often he tried; often he failed, and sometimes he succeeded. Had they been alone it might have become dangerous — I mean for Hugh; I cannot tell for Margaret.
When they first met, she had just completed her seventeenth year; but, at an age when a town-bred girl is all but a woman, her manners were those of a child. This childishness, however, soon began to disappear, and the peculiar stillness of her face, of which I have already said so much, made her seem older than she was.
It was now early summer, and all the other trees in the wood — of which there were not many besides the firs of various kinds — had put on their fresh leaves, heaped up in green clouds between the wanderer and the heavens. In the morning the sun shone so clear upon these, that, to the eyes of one standing beneath, the light seemed to dissolve them away to the most ethereal forms of glorified foliage. They were to be claimed for earth only by the shadows that the one cast upon the other, visible from below through the transparent leaf. This effect is very lovely in the young season of the year, when the leaves are more delicate and less crowded; and especially in the early morning, when the light is most clear and penetrating. By the way, I do not think any man is compelled to bid good-bye to his childhood: every man may feel young in the morning, middle-aged in the afternoon, and old at night. A day corresponds to a life, and the portions of the one are “pictures in little” of the seasons of the other. Thus far man may rule even time, and gather up, in a perfect being, youth and age at once.
One morning, about six o’clock, Hugh, who had never been so early in the wood since the day he had met Margaret there, was standing under a beech-tree, looking up through its multitudinous leaves, illuminated, as I have attempted to describe, with the sidelong rays of the brilliant sun. He was feeling young, and observing the forms of nature with a keen discriminating gaze: that was all. Fond of writing verses, he was studying nature, not as a true lover, but as one who would hereafter turn his discoveries to use. For it must be confessed that nature affected him chiefly through the medium of poetry; and that he was far more ambitious of writing beautiful things about nature than of discovering and understanding, for their own sakes, any of her hidden yet patent meanings. Changing his attitude after a few moments, he descried, under another beech-tree, not far from him, Margaret, standing and looking up fixedly as he had been doing a moment before. He approached her, and she, hearing his advance, looked, and saw him, but did not move. He thought he saw the glimmer of tears in her eyes. She was the first to speak, however.
“What were you seeing up there, Mr. Sutherland?”
“I was only looking at the bright leaves, and the shadows upon them.”
“Ah! I thocht maybe ye had seen something.”
“What do you mean, Margaret?”
“I dinna richtly ken mysel’. But I aye expeck to see something in this fir-wood. I’m here maist mornin’s as the day dawns, but I’m later the day.”
“We were later than usual at our work last night. But what kind of thing do you expect to see?”
“That’s jist what I dinna ken. An’ I canna min’ whan I began to come here first, luikin’ for something. I’ve tried mony a time, but I canna min’, do what I like.”
Margaret had never said so much about herself before. I can account for it only on the supposition that Hugh had gradually assumed in her mind a kind of pastoral superiority, which, at a favourable moment, inclined her to impart her thoughts to him. But he did not know what to say to this strange fact in her history. She went on, however, as if, having broken the ice, she must sweep it away as well.
“The only thing ‘at helps me to account for’t, is a picter in our auld Bible, o’ an angel sittin’ aneth a tree, and haudin’ up his han’ as gin he were speakin’ to a woman ‘at’s stan’in’ afore him. Ilka time ‘at I come across that picter, I feel direckly as gin I war my lane in this fir-wood here; sae I suppose that when I was a wee bairn, I maun hae come oot some mornin’ my lane, wi’ the expectation o’ seein’ an angel here waitin’ for me, to speak to me like the ane i’ the Bible. But never an angel hae I seen. Yet I aye hae an expectation like o’ seein’ something, I kenna what; for the whole place aye seems fu’ o’ a presence, an’ it’s a hantle mair to me nor the kirk an’ the sermon forby; an’ for the singin’, the soun’ i’ the fir-taps is far mair solemn and sweet at the same time, an’ muckle mair like praisin’ o’ God than a’ the psalms thegither. But I aye think ‘at gin I could hear Milton playin’ on’s organ, it would be mair like that soun’ o’ mony waters, than onything else ‘at I can think o’.”
Hugh stood and gazed at her in astonishment. To his more refined ear, there was a strange incongruity between the somewhat coarse dialect in which she spoke, and the things she uttered in it. Not that he was capable of entering into her feelings, much less of explaining them to her. He felt that there was something remarkable in them, but attributed both the thoughts themselves and their influence on him, to an uncommon and weird imagination. As of such origin, however, he was just the one to value them highly.
“Those are very strange ideas,” he said.
“But what can there be about the wood? The very primroses — ye brocht me the first this spring yersel’, Mr. Sutherland — come out at the fit o’ the trees, and look at me as if they said, ‘We ken — we ken a’ aboot it;’ but never a word mair they say. There’s something by ordinar’ in’t.”
“Do you like no other place besides?” said Hugh, for the sake of saying something.
“Ou ay, mony ane; but nane like this.”
“What kind of place do you like best?”
“I like places wi’ green grass an’ flowers amo’t.”
“You like flowers then?”
“Like them! whiles they gar me greet an’ whiles they gar me lauch; but there’s mair i’ them than that, an’ i’ the wood too. I canna richtly say my prayers in ony ither place.”
The Scotch dialect, especially to one brought up in the Highlands, was a considerable antidote to the effect of the beauty of what Margaret said.
Suddenly it struck Hugh, that if Margaret were such an admirer of nature, possibly she might enjoy Wordsworth. He himself was as yet incapable of doing him anything like justice; and, with the arrogance of youth, did not hesitate to smile at the Excursion, picking out an awkward line here and there as especial food for laughter even. But many of his smaller pieces he enjoyed very heartily, although not thoroughly — the element of Christian Pantheism, which is their soul, being beyond his comprehension, almost perception, as yet. So he made up his mind, after a moment’s reflection, that this should be the next author he recommended to his pupil. He hoped likewise so to end an interview, in which he might otherwise be compelled to confess that he could render Margaret no assistance in her search after the something in the wood; and he was unwilling to say he could not understand her; for a power of universal sympathy was one of those mental gifts which Hugh was most anxious to believe he possessed.
“I will bring you another book to-night,” said he “which I think you will like, and which may perhaps help you to find out what is in the wood.”
He said this smiling, half in playful jest, and without any idea of the degree of likelihood that there was notwithstanding in what he said. For, certainly, Wordsworth, the high-priest of nature, though perhaps hardly the apostle of nature, was more likely than any other writer to contain something of the secret after which Margaret was searching. Whether she can find it there, may seem questionable.
“Thank you, sir,” said Margaret, gratefully; but her whole countenance looked troubled, as she turned towards her home. Doubtless, however, the trouble vanished before she reached it, for hers was not a nature to cherish disquietude. Hugh too went home, rather thoughtful.
In the evening, he took a volume of Wordsworth, and repaired, according to his wont, to David’s cottage. It was Saturday, and he would stay to supper. After they had given the usual time to their studies, Hugh, setting Margaret some exercises in English to write on her slate, while he helped David with some of the elements of Trigonometry, and again going over those elements with her, while David worked out a calculation — after these were over, and while Janet was putting the supper on the table, Hugh pulled out his volume, and, without any preface, read them the Leech-Gatherer. All listened very intently, Janet included, who delayed several of the operations, that she might lose no word of the verses; David nodding assent every now and then, and ejaculating ay! ay! or eh, man! or producing that strange muffled sound at once common and peculiar to Scotchmen, which cannot be expressed in letters by a nearer approach than hm — hm, uttered, if that can be called uttering, with closed lips and open nasal passage; and Margaret sitting motionless on her creepie, with upturned pale face, and eyes fixed upon the lips of the reader. When he had ceased, all were silent for a moment, when Janet made some little sign of anxiety about her supper, which certainly had suffered by the delay. Then, without a word, David turned towards the table and gave thanks. Turning again to Hugh, who had risen to place his chair, he said,
“That maun be the wark o’ a great poet, Mr. Sutherlan’.”
“It’s Wordsworth’s,” said Hugh.
“Ay! ay! That’s Wordsworth’s! Ay! Weel, I hae jist heard him made mention o’, but I never read word o’ his afore. An’ he never repentit o’ that same resolution, I’se warrant, ‘at he eynds aff wi’. Hoo does it gang, Mr. Sutherlan’?”
Sutherland read: —
‘God,’ said I, ‘be my help and stay secure!
I’ll think of the leech-gatherer on the lonely moor;’

and added, “It is said Wordsworth never knew what it was to be in want of money all his life.”
“Nae doubt, nae doubt: he trusted in Him.”
It was for the sake of the minute notices of nature, and not for the religious lesson, which he now seemed to see for the first time, that Hugh had read the poem. He could not help being greatly impressed by the confidence with which David received the statement he had just made on the authority of De Quincey in his unpleasant article about Wordsworth. David resumed:
“He maun hae had a gleg ‘ee o’ his ain, that Maister Wordsworth, to notice a’thing that get. Weel he maun hae likit leevin’ things, puir maukin an’ a’ — jist like our Robbie Burns for that. An’ see hoo they a’ ken ane anither, thae poets. What says he aboot Burns? — ye needna tell me, Mr. Sutherlan’; I min’t weel aneuch. He says: —
Him wha walked in glory an’ in joy,
Followin’ his ploo upo’ the muntain-side.
Puir Robbie! puir Robbie! But, man, he was a gran’ chield efter a’; an’ I trust in God he’s won hame by this!”
Both Janet and Hugh, who had had a very orthodox education, started, mentally, at this strange utterance; but they saw the eye of David solemnly fixed, as if in deep contemplation, and lighted in its blue depths with an ethereal brightness; and neither of them ventured to speak. Margaret seemed absorbed for the moment in gazing on her father’s face; but not in the least as if it perplexed her like the fir-wood. To the seeing eye, the same kind of expression would have been evident in both countenances, as if Margaret’s reflected the meaning of her father’s; whether through the medium of intellectual sympathy, or that of the heart only, it would have been hard to say. Meantime supper had been rather neglected; but its operations were now resumed more earnestly, and the conversation became lighter; till at last it ended in hearty laughter, and Hugh rose and took his leave.
Chapter 8 — A Sunday Morning
It is the property of good and sound knowledge, to putrifie and dissolve into a number of subtle, idle, unwholesome, and (as I may tearme them) vermiculate questions; which have indeed a kinde of quicknesse, and life of spirite, but no soundnesse of matter, or goodnesse of quality.
—Lord Bacon, Advancement of Learning.
The following morning, the laird’s family went to church as usual, and Hugh went with them. Their walk was first across fields, by pleasant footpaths; and then up the valley of a little noisy stream, that obstinately refused to keep Scotch Sabbath, praising the Lord after its own fashion. They emerged into rather a bleak country before reaching the church, which was quite new, and perched on a barren eminence, that it might be as conspicuous by its position, as it was remarkable for its ugliness. One grand aim of the reformers of the Scottish ecclesiastical modes, appears to have been to keep the worship pure and the worshippers sincere, by embodying the whole in the ugliest forms that could be associated with the name of Christianity. It might be wished, however, that some of their followers, and amongst them the clergyman of the church in question, had been content to stop there; and had left the object of worship, as represented by them, in the possession of some lovable attribute; so as not to require a man to love that which is unlovable, or worship that which is not honourable — in a word, to bow down before that which is not divine. The cause of this degeneracy they share in common with the followers of all other great men as well as of Calvin. They take up what their leader, urged by the necessity of the time, spoke loudest, never heeding what he loved most; and then work the former out to a logical perdition of everything belonging to the latter.
Hugh, however, thought it was all right: for he had the same good reasons, and no other, for receiving it all, that a Mohammedan or a Buddhist has for holding his opinions; namely, that he had heard those doctrines, and those alone, from his earliest childhood. He was therefore a good deal startled when, having, on his way home, strayed from the laird’s party towards David’s, he heard the latter say to Margaret as he came up:
“Dinna ye believe, my bonny doo, ‘at there’s ony mak’ ups or mak’ shifts wi’ Him. He’s aye bringin’ things to the licht, no covenin’ them up and lattin them rot, an’ the moth tak’ them. He sees us jist as we are, and ca’s us jist what we are. It wad be an ill day for a’ o’s, Maggy, my doo, gin he war to close his een to oor sins, an’ ca’ us just in his sicht, whan we cudna possibly be just in oor ain or in ony ither body’s, no to say his.”
“The Lord preserve’s, Dawvid Elginbrod! Dinna ye believe i’ the doctrine o’ Justification by Faith, an’ you a’maist made an elder o’?”
Janet was the respondent, of course, Margaret listening in silence.
“Ou ay, I believe in’t, nae doot; but, troth! the minister, honest man, near-han’ gart me disbelieve in’t a’thegither wi’ his gran’ sermon this mornin’, about imputit richteousness, an’ a clean robe hidin’ a foul skin or a crookit back. Na, na. May Him ‘at woosh the feet o’ his friens, wash us a’thegither, and straucht oor crookit banes, till we’re clean and weel-faured like his ain bonny sel’.”
“Weel, Dawvid — but that’s sanctificaition, ye ken.”
“Ca’t ony name ‘at you or the minister likes, Janet, my woman. I daursay there’s neither o’ ye far wrang after a’; only this is jist my opingan aboot it in sma’ — that that man, and that man only, is justifeed, wha pits himsel’ into the Lord’s han’s to sanctifee him. Noo! An’ that’ll no be dune by pittin’ a robe o’ richteousness upo’ him, afore he’s gotten a clean skin aneath’t. As gin a father cudna bide to see the puir scabbit skin o’ his ain wee bit bairnie, ay, or o’ his prodigal son either, but bude to hap it a’ up afore he cud lat it come near him! Ahva!”
Here Hugh ventured to interpose a remark.
“But you don’t think, Mr. Elginbrod, that the minister intended to say that justification left a man at liberty to sin, or that the robe of Christ’s righteousness would hide him from the work of the Spirit?”
“Na; but there is a notion in’t o’ hidin’ frae God himsel’. I’ll tell ye what it is Mr. Sutherlan’: the minister’s a’ richt in himsel’, an’ sae’s my Janet here, an’ mony mair; an’ aiblins there’s a kin’ o’ trowth in a’ ‘at they say; but this is my quarrel wi’ a’ thae words an’ words an’ airguments, an’ seemilies as they ca’ them, an’ doctrines, an’ a’ that — they jist haud a puir body at airm’s lenth oot ower frae God himsel’. An’ they raise a mist an’ a stour a’ aboot him, ‘at the puir bairn canna see the Father himsel’, stan’in’ wi’ his airms streekit oot as wide’s the heavens, to tak’ the worn crater, — and the mair sinner, the mair welcome, — hame to his verra hert. Gin a body wad lea’ a’ that, and jist get fowk persuâdit to speyk a word or twa to God him lane, the loss, in my opingan, wad be unco sma’, and the gain verra great.”
Even Janet dared not reply to the solemnity of this speech; for the seer-like look was upon David’s face, and the tears had gathered in his eyes and dimmed their blue. A kind of tremulous pathetic smile flickered about his beautifully curved mouth, like the glimmer of water in a valley, betwixt the lofty aquiline nose and the powerful but finely modelled chin. It seemed as if he dared not let the smile break out, lest it should be followed instantly by a burst of tears.
Margaret went close up to her father and took his hand as if she had been still a child, while Janet walked reverentially by him on the other side. It must not be supposed that Janet felt any uneasiness about her husband’s opinions, although she never hesitated to utter what she considered her common-sense notions, in attempted modification of some of the more extreme of them. The fact was that, if he was wrong, Janet did not care to be right; and if he was right, Janet was sure to be; “for,” said she — and in spirit, if not in the letter, it was quite true — “I never mint at contradickin’ him. My man sall hae his ain get, that sall he.” But she had one especial grudge at his opinions; which was, that it must have been in consequence of them that he had declined, with a queer smile, the honourable position of Elder of the Kirk; for which Janet considered him, notwithstanding his opinions, immeasurably more fitted than any other man “in the haill country-side — ye may add Scotlan’ forby.” The fact of his having been requested to fill the vacant place of Elder, is proof enough that David was not in the habit of giving open expression to his opinions. He was looked upon as a douce man, long-headed enough, and somewhat precise in the exaction of the laird’s rights, but open-hearted and open-handed with what was his own. Every one respected him, and felt kindly towards him; some were a little afraid of him; but few suspected him of being religious beyond the degree which is commonly supposed to be the general inheritance of Scotchmen, possibly in virtue of their being brought up upon oatmeal porridge and the Shorter Catechism.
Hugh walked behind the party for a short way, contemplating them in their Sunday clothes: David wore a suit of fine black cloth. He then turned to rejoin the laird’s company. Mrs. Glasford was questioning her boys, in an intermittent and desultory fashion, about the sermon.
“An’ what was the fourth heid, can ye tell me, Willie?”
Willie, the eldest, who had carefully impressed the fourth head upon his memory, and had been anxiously waiting for an opportunity of bringing it out, replied at once:
“Fourthly: The various appellations by which those who have indued the robe of righteousness are designated in Holy Writ.”
“Weel done, Willie!” cried the laird.
“That’s richt, Willie,” said his mother. Then turning to the younger, whose attention was attracted by a strange bird in the hedge in front. “An’ what called he them, Johnnie, that put on the robe?” she asked.
“Whited sepulchres,” answered Johnnie, indebted for his wit to his wool-gathering.
This put an end to the catechising. Mrs. Glasford glanced round at Hugh, whose defection she had seen with indignation, and who, waiting for them by the roadside, had heard the last question and reply, with an expression that seemed to attribute any defect in the answer, entirely to the carelessness of the tutor, and the withdrawal of his energies from her boys to that “saucy quean, Meg Elginbrod.”
Chapter 9 — Nature
When the Soul is kindled or enlightened by the Holy Ghost, then it beholds what God its Father does, as a Son beholds what his Father does at Home in his own House.
—Jacob Behmen’s Aurora [Law’s Translation].
Margaret began to read Wordsworth, slowly at first, but soon with greater facility. Ere long she perceived that she had found a friend; for not only did he sympathize with her in her love for nature, putting many vague feelings into thoughts, and many thoughts into words for her, but he introduced her to nature in many altogether new aspects, and taught her to regard it in ways which had hitherto been unknown to her. Not only was the pine wood now dearer to her than before, but its mystery seemed more sacred, and, at the same time, more likely to be one day solved. She felt far more assuredly the presence of a spirit in nature,
Whose dwelling is the light of setting suns,
And the round ocean, and the living air;

for he taught her to take wider views of nature, and to perceive and feel the expressions of more extended aspects of the world around her. The purple hill-side was almost as dear to her as the fir-wood now; and the star that crowned its summit at eve, sparkled an especial message to her, before it went on its way up the blue. She extended her rambles in all directions, and began to get with the neighbours the character of an idle girl. Little they knew how early she rose, and how diligently she did her share of the work, urged by desire to read the word of God in his own handwriting; or rather, to pore upon that expression of the face of God, which, however little a man may think of it, yet sinks so deeply into his nature, and moulds it towards its own likeness.
Nature was doing for Margaret what she had done before for Wordsworth’s Lucy: she was making of her “a lady of her own.” She grew taller and more graceful. The lasting quiet of her face began to look as if it were ever upon the point of blossoming into an expression of lovely feeling. The principal change was in her mouth, which became delicate and tender in its curves, the lips seeming to kiss each other for very sweetness. But I am anticipating these changes, for it took a far longer time to perfect them than has yet been occupied by my story.
But even her mother was not altogether proof against the appearance of listlessness and idleness which Margaret’s behaviour sometimes wore to her eyes; nor could she quite understand or excuse her long lonely walks; so that now and then she could not help addressing her after this fashion:
“Meg! Meg! ye do try my patience, lass, idlin’ awa’ yer time that get. It’s an awfu’ wastery o’ time, what wi’ beuks, an’ what wi’ stravaguin’, an’ what wi’ naething ava. Jist pit yer han’ to this kirn noo, like a gude bairn.”
Margaret would obey her mother instantly, but with a look of silent expostulation which her mother could not resist; sometimes, perhaps, if the words were sharper than usual, with symptoms of gathering tears; upon which Janet would say, with her honest smile of sweet relenting,
“Hootoots, bairn! never heed me. My bark’s aye waur nor my bite; ye ken that.”
Then Margaret’s face would brighten at once, and she would work hard at whatever her mother set her to do, till it was finished; upon which her mother would be more glad than she, and in no haste to impose any further labour out of the usual routine.
In the course of reading Wordsworth, Margaret had frequent occasion to apply to Hugh for help. These occasions, however, generally involved no more than small external difficulties, which prevented her from taking in the scope of a passage. Hugh was always able to meet these, and Margaret supposed that the whole of the light which flashed upon her mind when they were removed, was poured upon the page by the wisdom of her tutor; never dreaming — such was her humility with regard to herself, and her reverence towards him — that it came from the depths of her own lucent nature, ready to perceive what the poet came prepared to show. Now and then, it is true, she applied to him with difficulties in which he was incapable of aiding her; but she put down her failure in discovering the meaning, after all which it must be confessed he sometimes tried to say, to her own stupidity or peculiarity — never to his incapacity. She had been helped to so much by his superior acquirements, and his real gift for communicating what he thoroughly understood; he had been so entirely her guide to knowledge, that she would at once have felt self-condemned of impiety — in the old meaning of the word — if she had doubted for a moment his ability to understand or explain any difficulty which she could place clearly before him.
By-and-by he began to lend her harder, that is, more purely intellectual books. He was himself preparing for the class of Moral Philosophy and Metaphysics; and he chose for her some of the simpler of his books on these subjects — of course all of the Scotch school — beginning with Abercrombie’s Intellectual Powers. She took this eagerly, and evidently read it with great attention.
One evening in the end of summer, Hugh climbed a waste heathery hill that lay behind the house of Turriepuffit, and overlooked a great part of the neighbouring country, the peaks of some of the greatest of the Scotch mountains being visible from its top. Here he intended to wait for the sunset. He threw himself on the heather, that most delightful and luxurious of all couches, supporting the body with a kindly upholding of every part; and there he lay in the great slumberous sunlight of the late afternoon, with the blue heavens, into which he was gazing full up, closing down upon him, as the light descended the side of the sky. He fell fast asleep. If ever there be an excuse for falling asleep out of bed, surely it is when stretched at full length upon heather in bloom. When he awoke, the last of the sunset was dying away; and between him and the sunset sat Margaret, book in hand, waiting apparently for his waking. He lay still for a few minutes, to come to himself before she should see he was awake. But she rose at the moment, and drawing near very quietly, looked down upon him with her sweet sunset face, to see whether or not he was beginning to rouse, for she feared to let him lie much longer after sundown. Finding him awake, she drew back again without a word, and sat down as before with her book. At length he rose, and, approaching her, said —
“Well, Margaret, what book are you at now?”
“Dr. Abercrombie, sir,” replied Margaret.
“How do you like it?”
“Verra weel for some things. It makes a body think; but not a’thegither as I like to think either.”
It will be observed that Margaret’s speech had begun to improve, that is, to be more like English.
“What is the matter with it?”
“Weel, ye see, sir, it taks a body a’ to bits like, and never pits them together again. An’ it seems to me that a body’s min’ or soul, or whatever it may be called — but it’s jist a body’s ain sel’ — can no more be ta’en to pieces like, than you could tak’ that red licht there oot o’ the blue, or the haill sunset oot o’ the heavens an’ earth. It may be a’ verra weel, Mr. Sutherland, but oh! it’s no like this!”
And Margaret looked around her from the hill-top, and then up into the heavens, where the stars were beginning to crack the blue with their thin, steely sparkle.
“It seems to me to tak’ a’ the poetry oot o’ us, Mr. Sutherland.”
“Well, well,” said Hugh, with a smile, “you must just go to Wordsworth to put it in again; or to set you again up after Dr. Abercrombie has demolished you.”
“Na, na, sir, he sanna demolish me: nor I winna trouble Mr. Wordsworth to put the poetry into me again. A’ the power on earth shanna tak’ that oot o’ me, gin it be God’s will; for it’s his ain gift, Mr. Sutherland, ye ken.”
“Of course, of course,” replied Hugh, who very likely thought this too serious a way of speaking of poetry, and therefore, perhaps, rather an irreverent way of speaking of God; for he saw neither the divine in poetry, nor the human in God. Could he be said to believe that God made man, when he did not believe that God created poetry — and yet loved it as he did? It was to him only a grand invention of humanity in its loftiest development. In this development, then, he must have considered humanity as farthest from its origin; and God as the creator of savages, caring nothing for poets or their work.
They turned, as by common consent, to go down the hill together.
“Shall I take charge of the offending volume? You will not care to finish it, I fear,” said Hugh.
“No, sir, if you please. I never like to leave onything unfinished. I’ll read ilka word in’t. I fancy the thing ‘at sets me against it, is mostly this; that, readin’ it alang wi’ Euclid, I canna help aye thinkin’ o’ my ain min’ as gin it were in some geometrical shape or ither, whiles ane an’ whiles anither; and syne I try to draw lines an’ separate this power frae that power, the memory frae the jeedgement, an’ the imagination frae the rizzon; an’ syne I try to pit them a’ thegither again in their relations to ane anither. And this aye takes the shape o’ some proposition or ither, generally i’ the second beuk. It near-han’ dazes me whiles. I fancy gin’ I understood the pairts o’ the sphere, it would be mair to the purpose; but I wat I wish I were clear o’t a’thegither.”
Hugh had had some experiences of a similar kind himself, though not at all to the same extent. He could therefore understand her.
“You must just try to keep the things altogether apart,” said he, “and not think of the two sciences at once.”
“But I canna help it,” she replied. “I suppose you can, sir, because ye’re a man. My father can understan’ things ten times better nor me an’ my mother. But nae sooner do I begin to read and think about it, than up comes ane o’ thae parallelograms, an’ nothing will driv’t oot o’ my head again, but a verse or twa o’ Coleridge or Wordsworth.”
Hugh immediately began to repeat the first poem of the latter that occurred to him:
I wandered lonely as a cloud.

She listened, walking along with her eyes fixed on the ground; and when he had finished, gave a sigh of delight and relief — all the comment she uttered. She seemed never to find it necessary to say what she felt; least of all when the feeling was a pleasant one; for then it was enough for itself. This was only the second time since their acquaintance, that she had spoken of her feelings at all; and in this case they were of a purely intellectual origin. It is to be observed, however, that in both cases she had taken pains to explain thoroughly what she meant, as far as she was able.
It was dark before they reached home, at least as dark as it ever is at this season of the year in the north. They found David looking out with some slight anxiety for his daughter’s return, for she was seldom out so late as this. In nothing could the true relation between them have been more evident than in the entire absence from her manner of any embarrassment when she met her father. She went up to him and told him all about finding Mr. Sutherland asleep on the hill, and waiting beside him till he woke, that she might walk home with him. Her father seemed perfectly content with an explanation which he had not sought, and, turning to Hugh, said, smiling:
“Weel, no to be troublesome, Mr. Sutherlan’, ye maun gie the auld man a turn as weel as the young lass. We didna expec ye the nicht, but I’m sair puzzled wi’ a sma’ eneuch matter on my sklet in there. Will you no come in and gie me a lift?”
“With all my heart,” said Sutherland. So there were five lessons in that week.
When Hugh entered the cottage he had a fine sprig of heather in his hand, which he laid on the table.
He had the weakness of being proud of small discoveries — the tinier the better; and was always sharpening his senses, as well as his intellect, to a fine point, in order to make them. I fear that by these means he shut out some great ones, which could not enter during such a concentration of the faculties. He would stand listening to the sound of goose-feet upon the road, and watch how those webs laid hold of the earth like a hand. He would struggle to enter into their feelings in folding their wings properly on their backs. He would calculate, on chemical and arithmetical grounds, whether one might not hear the nocturnal growth of plants in the tropics. He was quite elated by the discovery, as he considered it, that Shakspeare named his two officers of the watch, Dogberry and Verjuice; the poisonous Dogberry, and the acid liquor of green fruits, affording suitable names for the stupidly innocuous constables, in a play the very essence of which is Much Ado About Nothing. Another of his discoveries he had, during their last lesson, unfolded to David, who had certainly contemplated it with interest. It was, that the original forms of the Arabic numerals were these:
the number for which each figure stands being indicated by the number of straight lines employed in forming that numeral. I fear the comparative anatomy of figures gives no countenance to the discovery which Hugh flattered himself he had made.
After he had helped David out of his difficulty, he took up the heather, and stripping off the bells, shook them in his hand at Margaret’s ear. A half smile, like the moonlight of laughter, dawned on her face; and she listened with something of the same expression with which a child listens to the message from the sea, inclosed in a twisted shell. He did the same at David’s ear next.
“Eh, man! that’s a bonny wee soun’! It’s jist like sma’ sheep-bells — fairy-sheep, I reckon, Maggy, my doo.”
“Lat me hearken as weel,” said Janet.
Hugh obeyed. She laughed.
“It’s naething but a reestlin’. I wad raither hear the sheep baain’, or the kye routin’.”
“Eh, Mr. Sutherlan’! but, ye hae a gleg ee an’ a sharp lug. Weel, the warld’s fu’ o’ bonny sichts and souns, doon to the verra sma’est. The Lord lats naething gang. I wadna wonner noo but there micht be thousands sic like, ower sma’ a’thegither for human ears, jist as we ken there are creatures as perfect in beowty as ony we see, but far ower sma’ for our een wintin’ the glass. But for my pairt, I aye like to see a heap o’ things at ance, an’ tak’ them a’ in thegither, an’ see them playin’ into ane anither’s han’ like. I was jist thinkin’, as I came hame the nicht in the sinset, hoo it wad hae been naewise sae complete, wi’ a’ its red an’ gowd an’ green, gin it hadna been for the cauld blue east ahint it, wi’ the twa-three shiverin’ starnies leukin’ through’t. An’ doubtless the warld to come ‘ill be a’ the warmer to them ‘at hadna ower muckle happin here. But I’m jist haverin’, clean haverin’, Mr. Sutherlan’,” concluded David, with a smile of apologetic humour.
“I suppose you could easily believe with Plato, David, that the planets make a grand choral music as they roll about the heavens, only that as some sounds are too small, so that is too loud for us to hear.”
“I cud weel believe that,” was David’s unhesitating answer. Margaret looked as if she not only could believe it, but would be delighted to know that it was true. Neither Janet nor Hugh gave any indication of feeling on the matter.
Chapter 10 — Harvest
So a small seed that in the earth lies hid
And dies, reviving bursts her cloddy side,
Adorned with yellow locks, of new is born,
And doth become a mother great with corn,
Of grains brings hundreds with it, which when old
Enrich the furrows with a sea of gold.
—Sir William Drummond, Hymn of the Resurrection .
Hugh had watched the green corn grow, and ear, and turn dim; then brighten to yellow, and ripen at last under the declining autumn sun, and the low skirting moon of the harvest, which seems too full and heavy with mellow and bountiful light to rise high above the fields which it comes to bless with perfection. The long threads, on each of which hung an oat-grain — the harvest here was mostly of oats — had got dry and brittle; and the grains began to spread out their chaff-wings, as if ready to fly, and rustled with sweet sounds against each other, as the wind, which used to billow the fields like the waves of the sea, now swept gently and tenderly over it, helping the sun and moon in the drying and ripening of the joy to be laid up for the dreary winter. Most graceful of all hung those delicate oats; next bowed the bearded barley; and stately and wealthy and strong stood the few fields of wheat, of a rich, ruddy, golden hue. Above the yellow harvest rose the purple hills, and above the hills the pale-blue autumnal sky, full of light and heat, but fading somewhat from the colour with which it deepened above the vanished days of summer. For the harvest here is much later than in England.
At length the day arrived when the sickle must be put into the barley, soon to be followed by the scythe in the oats. And now came the joy of labour. Everything else was abandoned for the harvest field. Books were thrown utterly aside; for, even when there was no fear of a change of weather to urge to labour prolonged beyond the natural hours, there was weariness enough in the work of the day to prevent even David from reading, in the hours of bodily rest, anything that necessitated mental labour.
Janet and Margaret betook themselves to the reaping-hook; and the somewhat pale face of the latter needed but a single day to change it to the real harvest hue — the brown livery of Ceres. But when the oats were attacked, then came the tug of war. The laird was in the fields from morning to night, and the boys would not stay behind; but, with their father’s permission, much to the tutor’s contentment, devoted what powers they had to the gathering of the fruits of the earth. Hugh himself, whose strength had grown amazingly during his stay at Turriepuffit, and who, though he was quite helpless at the sickle, thought he could wield the scythe, would not be behind. Throwing off coat and waistcoat, and tying his handkerchief tight round his loins, he laid hold on the emblematic weapon of Time and Death, determined likewise to earn the name of Reaper. He took the last scythe. It was desperate work for a while, and he was far behind the first bout; but David, who was the best scyther in the whole country side, and of course had the leading scythe, seeing the tutor dropping behind, put more power to his own arm, finished his own bout, and brought up Hugh’s before the others had done sharpening their scythes for the next.
“Tak’ care an’ nae rax yersel’ ower sair, Mr. Sutherlan’. Ye’ll be up wi’ the best o’ them in a day or twa; but gin ye tyauve at it aboon yer strenth, ye’ll be clean forfochten. Tak’ a guid sweep wi’ the scythe, ‘at ye may hae the weicht o’t to ca’ through the strae, an’ tak’ nae shame at bein’ hindmost. Here, Maggy, my doo, come an’ gather to Mr. Sutherlan’. Ane o’ the young gentlemen can tak’ your place at the binin’.”
The work of Janet and Margaret had been to form bands for the sheaves, by folding together cunningly the heads of two small handfuls of the corn, so as to make them long enough together to go round the sheaf; then to lay this down for the gatherer to place enough of the mown corn upon it; and last, to bind the band tightly around by another skilful twist and an insertion of the ends, and so form a sheaf. From this work David called his daughter, desirous of giving Hugh a gatherer who would not be disrespectful to his awkwardness. This arrangement, however, was far from pleasing to some of the young men in the field, and brought down upon Hugh, who was too hard-wrought to hear them at first, many sly hits of country wit and human contempt. There had been for some time great jealousy of his visits at David’s cottage; for Margaret, though she had very little acquaintance with the young men of the neighbourhood, was greatly admired amongst them, and not regarded as so far above the station of many of them as to render aspiration useless. Their remarks to each other got louder and louder, till Hugh at last heard some of them, and could not help being annoyed, not by their wit or personality, but by the tone of contempt in which they were uttered.
“Tak’ care o’ yer legs, sir. It’ll be ill cuttin’ upo’ stumps.”
“Fegs! he’s taen the wings aff o’ a pairtrick.”
“Gin he gang on that get, he’ll cut twa bouts at ance.”
“Ye’ll hae the scythe ower the dyke, man. Tak’ tent.”
“Losh! sir; ye’ve taen aff my leg at the hip!”
“Ye’re shavin’ ower close: ye’ll draw the bluid, sir.”
“Hoot, man! lat alane. The gentleman’s only mista’en his trade, an’ imaigins he’s howkin’ a grave.”
And so on. Hugh gave no further sign of hearing their remarks than lay in increased exertion. Looking round, however, he saw that Margaret was vexed, evidently not for her own sake. He smiled to her, to console her for his annoyance; and then, ambitious to remove the cause of it, made a fresh exertion, recovered all his distance, and was in his own place with the best of them at the end of the bout. But the smile that had passed between them did not escape unobserved; and he had aroused yet more the wrath of the youths, by threatening soon to rival them in the excellencies to which they had an especial claim. They had regarded him as an interloper, who had no right to captivate one of their rank by arts beyond their reach; but it was still less pardonable to dare them to a trial of skill with their own weapons. To the fire of this jealousy, the admiration of the laird added fuel; for he was delighted with the spirit with which Hugh laid himself to the scythe. But all the time, nothing was further from Hugh’s thoughts than the idea of rivalry with them. Whatever he might have thought of Margaret in relation to himself, he never thought of her, though labouring in the same field with them, as in the least degree belonging to their class, or standing in any possible relation to them, except that of a common work.
In ordinary, the labourers would have had sufficient respect for Sutherland’s superior position, to prevent them from giving such decided and articulate utterance to their feelings. But they were incited by the presence and example of a man of doubtful character from the neighbouring village, a travelled and clever ne’er-do-weel, whose reputation for wit was equalled by his reputation for courage and skill, as well as profligacy. Roused by the effervescence of his genius, they went on from one thing to another, till Hugh saw it must be put a stop to somehow, else he must abandon the field. They dared not have gone so far if David had been present; but he had been called away to superintend some operations in another part of the estate; and they paid no heed to the expostulations of some of the other older men. At the close of the day’s work, therefore, Hugh walked up to this fellow, and said:
“I hope you will be satisfied with insulting me all to-day, and leave it alone to-morrow.”
The man replied, with an oath and a gesture of rude contempt,
“I dinna care the black afore my nails for ony skelp-doup o’ the lot o’ ye.”
Hugh’s highland blood flew to his brain, and before the rascal finished his speech, he had measured his length on the stubble. He sprang to his feet in a fury, threw off the coat which he had just put on, and darted at Hugh, who had by this time recovered his coolness, and was besides, notwithstanding his unusual exertions, the more agile of the two. The other was heavier and more powerful. Hugh sprang aside, as he would have done from the rush of a bull, and again with a quick blow felled his antagonist. Beginning rather to enjoy punishing him, he now went in for it; and, before the other would yield, he had rendered his next day’s labour somewhat doubtful. He withdrew, with no more injury to himself than a little water would remove. Janet and Margaret had left the field before he addressed the man.
He went borne and to bed — more weary than he had ever been in his life. Before he went to sleep, however, he made up his mind to say nothing of his encounter to David, but to leave him to hear of it from other sources. He could not help feeling a little anxious as to his judgment upon it. That the laird would approve, he hardly doubted; but for his opinion he cared very little.
“Dawvid, I wonner at ye,” said Janet to her husband, the moment he came home, “to lat the young lad warstle himsel’ deid that get wi’ a scythe. His banes is but saft yet, There wasna a dry steek on him or he wan half the lenth o’ the first bout. He’s sair disjaskit, I’se warran’.”
“Nae fear o’ him, Janet; it’ll do him guid. Mr. Sutherland’s no feckless winlestrae o’ a creater. Did he haud his ain at a’ wi’ the lave?”
“Haud his ain! Gin he be fit for onything the day, he maun be pitten neist yersel’, or he’ll cut the legs aff o’ ony ither man i’ the corn.”
A glow of pleasure mantled in Margaret’s face at her mother’s praise of Hugh. Janet went on:
“But I was jist clean affronted wi’ the way ‘at the young chields behaved themselves till him.”
“I thocht I heard a toot-moot o’ that kin’ afore I left, but I thocht it better to tak’ nae notice o’t. I’ll be wi’ ye a’ day the morn though, an’ I’m thinkin’ I’ll clap a rouch han’ on their mou’s ‘at I hear ony mair o’t frae.”
But there was no occasion for interference on David’s part. Hugh made his appearance — not, it is true, with the earliest in the hairst-rig, but after breakfast with the laird, who was delighted with the way in which he had handled his scythe the day before, and felt twice the respect for him in consequence. It must be confessed he felt very stiff, but the best treatment for stiffness being the homoeopathic one of more work, he had soon restored the elasticity of his muscles, and lubricated his aching joints. His antagonist of the foregoing evening was nowhere to be seen; and the rest of the young men were shame-faced and respectful enough.
David, having learned from some of the spectators the facts of the combat, suddenly, as they were walking home together, held out his hand to Hugh, shook his hard, and said:
“Mr. Sutherlan’, I’m sair obleeged to ye for giein’ that vratch, Jamie Ogg, a guid doonsettin’. He’s a coorse crater; but the warst maun hae meat, an’ sae I didna like to refeese him when he cam for wark. But its a greater kin’ness to clout him nor to cleed him. They say ye made an awfu’ munsie o’ him. But it’s to be houpit he’ll live to thank ye. There’s some fowk ‘at can respeck no airgument but frae steekit neives; an’ it’s fell cruel to haud it frae them, gin ye hae’t to gie them. I hae had eneuch ado to haud my ain han’s aff o’ the ted, but it comes a hantle better frae you, Mr. Sutherlan’.”
Hugh wielded the scythe the whole of the harvest, and Margaret gathered to him. By the time it was over, leading-home and all, he measured an inch less about the waist, and two inches more about the shoulders; and was as brown as a berry, and as strong as an ox, or “owse,” as David called it, when thus describing Mr. Sutherland’s progress in corporal development; for he took a fatherly pride in the youth, to whom, at the same time, he looked up with submission, as his master in learning.
Chapter 11 — A Change and No Change
Affliction, when I know it, is but this —
A deep alloy, whereby man tougher is
To bear the hammer; and the deeper still,
We still arise more image of his will.
Sickness — an humorous cloud ‘twist us and light;
And death, at longest, but another night.
Man is his own star; and that soul that can
Be honest, is the only perfect Man.
—John Fletcher, Upon an Honest Man’s Fortune .
Had Sutherland been in love with Margaret, those would have been happy days; and that a yet more happy night, when, under the mystery of a low moonlight and a gathering storm, the crop was cast in haste into the carts, and hurried home to be built up in safety; when a strange low wind crept sighing across the stubble, as if it came wandering out of the past and the land of dreams, lying far off and withered in the green west; and when Margaret and he came and went in the moonlight like creatures in a dream — for the vapours of sleep were floating in Hugh’s brain, although he was awake and working.
“Margaret,” he said, as they stood waiting a moment for the cart that was coming up to be filled with sheaves, “what does that wind put you in mind of?”
“Ossian’s Poems,” replied Margaret, without a moment’s hesitation.
Hugh was struck by her answer. He had meant something quite different. But it harmonized with his feeling about Ossian; for the genuineness of whose poetry, Highlander as he was, he had no better argument to give than the fact, that they produced in himself an altogether peculiar mental condition; that the spiritual sensations he had in reading them were quite different from those produced by anything else, prose or verse; in fact, that they created moods of their own in his mind. He was unwilling to believe, apart from national prejudices (which have not prevented the opinions on this question from being as strong on the one side as on the other), that this individuality of influence could belong to mere affectations of a style which had never sprung from the sources of real feeling. “Could they,” he thought, “possess the power to move us like remembered dreams of our childhood, if all that they possessed of reality was a pretended imitation of what never existed, and all that they inherited from the past was the halo of its strangeness?”
But Hugh was not in love with Margaret, though he could not help feeling the pleasure of her presence. Any youth must have been the better for having her near him; but there was nothing about her quiet, self-contained being, free from manifestation of any sort, to rouse the feelings commonly called love, in the mind of an inexperienced youth like Hugh Sutherland. — I say commonly called, because I believe that within the whole sphere of intelligence there are no two loves the same. — Not that he was less easily influenced than other youths. A designing girl might have caught him at once, if she had had no other beauty than sparkling eyes; but the womanhood of the beautiful Margaret kept so still in its pearly cave, that it rarely met the glance of neighbouring eyes. How Margaret regarded him I do not know; but I think it was with a love almost entirely one with reverence and gratitude. Cause for gratitude she certainly had, though less than she supposed; and very little cause indeed for reverence. But how could she fail to revere one to whom even her father looked up? Of course David’s feeling of respect for Hugh must have sprung chiefly from intellectual grounds; and he could hardly help seeing, if he thought at all on the subject, which is doubtful, that Hugh was as far behind Margaret in the higher gifts and graces, as he was before her in intellectual acquirement. But whether David perceived this or not, certainly Margaret did not even think in that direction. She was pure of self-judgment — conscious of no comparing of herself with others, least of all with those next her.
At length the harvest was finished; or, as the phrase of the district was, clyack was gotten — a phrase with the derivation, or even the exact meaning of which, I am unacquainted; knowing only that it implies something in close association with the feast of harvest-home, called the kirn in other parts of Scotland. Thereafter, the fields lay bare to the frosts of morning and evening, and to the wind that grew cooler and cooler with the breath of Winter, who lay behind the northern hills, and waited for his hour. But many lovely days remained, of quiet and slow decay, of yellow and red leaves, of warm noons and lovely sunsets, followed by skies — green from the west horizon to the zenith, and walked by a moon that seemed to draw up to her all the white mists from pond and river and pool, to settle again in hoar-frost, during the colder hours that precede the dawn. At length every leafless tree sparkled in the morning sun, incrusted with fading gems; and the ground was hard under foot; and the hedges were filled with frosted spider-webs; and winter had laid the tips of his fingers on the land, soon to cover it deep with the flickering snow-flakes, shaken from the folds of his outspread mantle. But long ere this, David and Margaret had returned with renewed diligence, and powers strengthened by repose, or at least by intermission, to their mental labours, and Hugh was as constant a visitor at the cottage as before. The time, however, drew nigh when he must return to his studies at Aberdeen; and David and Margaret were looking forward with sorrow to the loss of their friend. Janet, too, “cudna bide to think o’t.”
“He’ll tak’ the daylicht wi’ him, I doot, my lass,” she said, as she made the porridge for breakfast one morning, and looked down anxiously at her daughter, seated on the creepie by the ingle-neuk.
“Na, na, mither,” replied Margaret, looking up from her book; “he’ll lea’ sic gifts ahin’ him as’ll mak’ daylicht i’ the dark;” and then she bent her head and went on with her reading, as if she had not spoken.
The mother looked away with a sigh and a slight, sad shake of the head.
But matters were to turn out quite different from all anticipations. Before the day arrived on which Hugh must leave for the university, a letter from home informed him that his father was dangerously ill. He hastened to him, but only to comfort his last hours by all that a son could do, and to support his mother by his presence during the first hours of her loneliness. But anxious thoughts for the future, which so often force themselves on the attention of those who would gladly prolong their brooding over the past, compelled them to adopt an alteration of their plans for the present.
The half-pay of Major Sutherland was gone, of course; and all that remained for Mrs. Sutherland was a small annuity, secured by her husband’s payments to a certain fund for the use of officers’ widows. From this she could spare but a mere trifle for the completion of Hugh’s university-education; while the salary he had received at Turriepuffit, almost the whole of which he had saved, was so small as to be quite inadequate for the very moderate outlay necessary. He therefore came to the resolution to write to the laird, and offer, if they were not yet provided with another tutor, to resume his relation to the young gentlemen for the winter. It was next to impossible to spend money there; and he judged that before the following winter, he should be quite able to meet the expenses of his residence at Aberdeen, during the last session of his course. He would have preferred trying to find another situation, had it not been that David and Janet and Margaret had made there a home for him.
Whether Mrs. Glasford was altogether pleased at the proposal, I cannot tell; but the laird wrote a very gentlemanlike epistle, condoling with him and his mother upon their loss, and urging the usual common-places of consolation. The letter ended with a hearty acceptance of Hugh’s offer, and, strange to tell, the unsolicited promise of an increase of salary to the amount of five pounds. This is another to be added to the many proofs that verisimilitude is not in the least an essential element of verity.
He left his mother as soon as circumstances would permit, and returned to Turriepuffit; an abode for the winter very different indeed from that in which he had expected to spend it.
He reached the place early in the afternoon; received from Mrs. Glasford a cold “I hope you’re well, Mr. Sutherland;” found his pupils actually reading, and had from them a welcome rather boisterously evidenced; told them to get their books; and sat down with them at once to commence their winter labours. He spent two hours thus; had a hearty shake of the hand from the laird, when he came home; and, after a substantial tea, walked down to David’s cottage, where a welcome awaited him worth returning for.
“Come yer wa’s butt,” said Janet, who met him as he opened the door without any prefatory knock, and caught him with both hands; “I’m blithe to see yer bonny face ance mair. We’re a’ jist at ane mair wi’ expeckin’ o’ ye.”
David stood in the middle of the floor, waiting for him.
“Come awa’, my bonny lad,” was all his greeting, as he held out a great fatherly hand to the youth, and, grasping his in the one, clapped him on the shoulder with the other, the water standing in his blue eyes the while. Hugh thought of his own father, and could not restrain his tears. Margaret gave him a still look full in the face, and, seeing his emotion, did not even approach to offer him any welcome. She hastened, instead, to place a chair for him as she had done when first he entered the cottage, and when he had taken it sat down at his feet on her creepie. With true delicacy, no one took any notice of him for some time. David said at last,
“An’ hoo’s yer puir mother, Mr. Sutherlan’?”
“She’s pretty well,” was all Hugh could answer.
“It’s a sair stroke to bide,” said David; “but it’s a gran’ thing whan a man’s won weel throw’t. Whan my father deit, I min’ weel, I was sae prood to see him lyin’ there, in the cauld grandeur o’ deith, an’ no man ‘at daured say he ever did or spak the thing ‘at didna become him, ‘at I jist gloried i’ the mids o’ my greetin’. He was but a puir auld shepherd, Mr. Sutherlan’, wi’ hair as white as the sheep ‘at followed him; an’ I wat as they followed him, he followed the great Shepherd; an’ followed an’ followed, till he jist followed Him hame, whaur we’re a’ boun’, an’ some o’ us far on the road, thanks to Him!”
And with that David rose, and got down the Bible, and, opening it reverently, read with a solemn, slightly tremulous voice, the fourteenth chapter of St. John’s Gospel. When he had finished, they all rose, as by one accord, and knelt down, and David prayed:
“O Thou in whase sicht oor deeth is precious, an’ no licht maitter; wha through darkness leads to licht, an’ through deith to the greater life! — we canna believe that thou wouldst gie us ony guid thing, to tak’ the same again; for that would be but bairns’ play. We believe that thou taks, that thou may gie again the same thing better nor afore — mair o’t and better nor we could ha’ received it itherwise; jist as the Lord took himsel’ frae the sicht o’ them ‘at lo’ed him weel, that instead o’ bein’ veesible afore their een, he micht hide himsel’ in their verra herts. Come thou, an’ abide in us, an’ tak’ us to bide in thee; an’ syne gin we be a’ in thee, we canna be that far frae ane anither, though some sud be in haven, an’ some upo’ earth. Lord help us to do oor wark like thy men an’ maidens doon the stair, remin’in’ oursel’s, ‘at them ‘at we miss hae only gane up the stair, as gin ‘twar to haud things to thy han’ i’ thy ain presence-chamber, whaur we houp to be called or lang, an’ to see thee an’ thy Son, wham we lo’e aboon a’; an’ in his name we say, Amen!”
Hugh rose from his knees with a sense of solemnity and reality that he had never felt before. Little was said that evening; supper was eaten, if not in silence, yet with nothing that could be called conversation. And, almost in silence, David walked home with Hugh. The spirit of his father seemed to walk beside him. He felt as if he had been buried with him; and had found that the sepulchre was clothed with green things and roofed with stars — was in truth the heavens and the earth in which his soul walked abroad.
If Hugh looked a little more into his Bible, and tried a little more to understand it, after his father’s death, it is not to be wondered at. It is but another instance of the fact that, whether from education or from the leading of some higher instinct, we are ready, in every more profound trouble, to feel as if a solution or a refuge lay somewhere — lay in sounds of wisdom, perhaps, to be sought and found in the best of books, the deepest of all the mysterious treasuries of words. But David never sought to influence Hugh to this end. He read the Bible in his family, but he never urged the reading of it on others. Sometimes he seemed rather to avoid the subject of religion altogether; and yet it was upon those very occasions that, if he once began to speak, he would pour out, before he ceased, some of his most impassioned utterances.
Chapter 12 — Charity
Knowledge bloweth up, but charity buildeth up.
—Lord Bacon’s rendering of 1 Cor. viii. I.
Things went on as usual for a few days, when Hugh began to encounter a source of suffering of a very material and unromantic kind, but which, nevertheless, had been able before now, namely, at the commencement of his tutorship, to cause him a very sufficient degree of distress. It was this; that he had no room in which he could pursue his studies in private, without having to endure a most undesirable degree of cold. In summer this was a matter of little moment, for the universe might then be his secret chamber; but in a Scotch spring or autumn, not to say winter, a bedroom without a fire-place, which, strange to say, was the condition of his, was not a study in which thought could operate to much satisfactory result. Indeed, pain is a far less hurtful enemy to thinking than cold. And to have to fight such suffering and its benumbing influences, as well as to follow out a train of reasoning, difficult at any time, and requiring close attention — is too much for any machine whose thinking wheels are driven by nervous gear. Sometimes — for he must make the attempt — he came down to his meals quite blue with cold, as his pupils remarked to their mother; but their observation never seemed to suggest to her mind the necessity of making some better provision for the poor tutor. And Hugh, after the way in which she had behaved to him, was far too proud to ask her a favour, even if he had had hopes of receiving his request. He knew, too, that, in the house, the laird, to interfere in the smallest degree, must imperil far more than he dared. The prospect, therefore, of the coming winter, in a country where there was scarcely any afternoon, and where the snow might lie feet deep for weeks, was not at all agreeable. He had, as I have said, begun to suffer already, for the mornings and evenings were cold enough now, although it was a bright, dry October. One evening Janet remarked that he had caught cold, for he was ‘hostin’ sair;’ and this led Hugh to state the discomfort he was condemned to experience up at the ha’ house.
“Weel,” said David, after some silent deliberation, “that sattles’t; we maun set aboot it immedantly.”
Of course Hugh was quite at a loss to understand what he meant, and begged him to explain.
“Ye see,” replied David, “we hae verra little hoose-room i’ this bit cot; for, excep this kitchen, we hae but the ben whaur Janet and me sleeps; and sae last year I spak’ to the laird to lat me hae muckle timmer as I wad need to big a kin’ o’ a lean-to to the house ahin’, so ‘at we micht hae a kin’ o’ a bit parlour like, or rather a roomie ‘at ony o’ us micht retire till for a bit, gin we wanted to be oor lanes. He had nae objections, honest man. But somehoo or ither I never sat han’ till’t; but noo the wa’s maun be up afore the wat weather sets in. Sae I’se be at it the morn, an’ maybe ye’ll len’ me a han’, Mr. Sutherlan’, and tak’ oot yer wages in house-room an’ firin’ efter it’s dune.”
“Thank you heartily!” said Hugh; “that would be delightful. It seems too good to be possible. But will not wooden walls be rather a poor protection against such winters as I suppose you have in these parts?”
“Hootoot, Mr. Sutherlan’, ye micht gie me credit for raither mair rumgumption nor that comes till. Timmer was the only thing I not (needed) to spier for; the lave lies to ony body’s han’ — a few cart-fu’s o’ sods frae the hill ahint the hoose, an’ a han’fu’ or twa o’ stanes for the chimla oot o’ the quarry — there’s eneuch there for oor turn ohn blastit mair; an’ we’ll saw the wood oorsels; an’ gin we had ance the wa’s up, we can carry on the inside at oor leisur’. That’s the way ‘at the Maker does wi’ oorsels; he gie’s us the wa’s an’ the material, an’ a whole lifetime, maybe mair, to furnish the house.”
“Capital!” exclaimed Hugh. “I’ll work like a horse, and we’ll be at it the morn.”
“I’se be at it afore daylicht, an’ ane or twa o’ the lads’ll len’ me a han’ efter wark-hours; and there’s yersel’, Mr. Sutherlan’, worth ane an’ a half o’ ordinary workers; an’ we’ll hae truff aneuch for the wa’s in a jiffey. I’ll mark a feow saplin’s i’ the wud here at denner-time, an’ we’ll hae them for bauks, an’ couples, an’ things; an’ there’s plenty dry eneuch for beurds i’ the shed, an’ bein’ but a lean-to, there’ll be but half wark, ye ken.”
They went out directly, in the moonlight, to choose the spot; and soon came to the resolution to build it so, that a certain back door, which added more to the cold in winter than to the convenience in summer, should be the entrance to the new chamber. The chimney was the chief difficulty; but all the materials being in the immediate neighbourhood, and David capable of turning his hands to anything, no obstruction was feared. Indeed, he set about that part first, as was necessary; and had soon built a small chimney, chiefly of stones and lime; while, under his directions, the walls were making progress at the same time, by the labour of Hugh and two or three of the young men from the farm, who were most ready to oblige David with their help, although they were still rather unfriendly to the colliginer, as they called him. But Hugh’s frankness soon won them over, and they all formed within a day or two a very comfortable party of labourers. They worked very hard; for if the rain should set in before the roof was on, their labour would be almost lost from the soaking of the walls. They built them of turf, very thick, with a slight slope on the outside towards the roof; before commencing which, they partially cut the windows out of the walls, putting wood across to support the top. I should have explained that the turf used in building was the upper and coarser part of the peat, which was plentiful in the neighbourhood. The thatch-eaves of the cottage itself projected over the joining of the new roof, so as to protect it from the drip; and David soon put a thick thatch of new straw upon the little building. Second-hand windows were procured at the village, and the holes in the walls cut to their size. They next proceeded to the saw-pit on the estate — for almost everything necessary for keeping up the offices was done on the farm itself — where they sawed thin planks of deal, to floor and line the room, and make it more cosie. These David planed upon one side; and when they were nailed against slight posts all round the walls, and the joints filled in with putty, the room began to look most enticingly habitable. The roof had not been thatched two days before the rain set in; but now they could work quite comfortably inside; and as the space was small, and the forenights were long, they had it quite finished before the end of November. David bought an old table in the village, and one or two chairs; mended them up; made a kind of rustic sofa or settle; put a few bookshelves against the wall; had a peat fire lighted on the hearth every day; and at length, one Saturday evening, they had supper in the room, and the place was consecrated henceforth to friendship and learning. From this time, every evening, as soon as lessons, and the meal which immediately followed them, were over, Hugh betook himself to the cottage, on the shelves of which all his books by degrees collected themselves; and there spent the whole long evening, generally till ten o’clock; the first part alone reading or writing; the last in company with his pupils, who, diligent as ever, now of course made more rapid progress than before, inasmuch as the lessons were both longer and more frequent. The only drawback to their comfort was, that they seemed to have shut Janet out; but she soon remedied this, by contriving to get through with her house work earlier than she had ever done before; and, taking her place on the settle behind them, knitted away diligently at her stocking, which, to inexperienced eyes, seemed always the same, and always in the same state of progress, notwithstanding that she provided the hose of the whole family, blue and grey, ribbed and plain. Her occasional withdrawings, to observe the progress of the supper, were only a cheerful break in the continuity of labour. Little would the passer-by imagine that beneath that roof, which seemed worthy only of the name of a shed, there sat, in a snug little homely room, such a youth as Hugh, such a girl as Margaret, such a grand peasant king as David, and such a true-hearted mother to them all as Janet. There were no pictures and no music; for Margaret kept her songs for solitary places; but the sound of verse was often the living wind which set a-waving the tops of the trees of knowledge, fast growing in the sunlight of Truth. The thatch of that shed-roof was like the grizzled hair of David, beneath which lay the temple not only of holy but of wise and poetic thought. It was like the sylvan abode of the gods, where the architecture and music are all of their own making, in their kind the more beautiful, the more simple and rude; and if more doubtful in their intent, and less precise in their finish, yet therein the fuller of life and its grace, and the more suggestive of deeper harmonies.
Chapter 13 — Heraldry
And like his father of face and of stature,
And false of love — it came him of nature;
As doth the fox Renard, the fox’s son;
Of kinde, he coud his old father’s wone,
Without lore, as can a drake swim,
When it is caught, and carried to the brim.
—Chaucer, Legend of Phillis .
Of course, the yet more lengthened absences of Hugh from the house were subjects of remark as at the first; but Hugh had made up his mind not to trouble himself the least about that. For some time Mrs. Glasford took no notice of them to himself; but one evening, just as tea was finished, and Hugh was rising to go, her restraint gave way, and she uttered one spiteful speech, thinking it, no doubt, so witty that it ought to see the light.
“Ye’re a day-labourer it seems, Mr. Sutherlan’, and gang hame at night.”
“Exactly so, madam,” rejoined Hugh. “There is no other relation between you and me, than that of work and wages. You have done your best to convince me of that, by making it impossible for me to feel that this house is in any sense my home.”
With this grand speech he left the room, and from that time till the day of his final departure from Turriepuffit, there was not a single allusion made to the subject.
He soon reached the cottage. When he entered the new room, which was always called Mr. Sutherland’s study, the mute welcome afforded him by the signs of expectation, in the glow of the waiting fire, and the outspread arms of the elbow-chair, which was now called his, as well as the room, made ample amends to him for the unfriendliness of Mrs. Glasford. Going to the shelves to find the books he wanted, he saw that they had been carefully arranged on one shelf, and that the others were occupied with books belonging to the house. He looked at a few of them. They were almost all old books, and such as may be found in many Scotch cottages; for instance, Boston’s Fourfold State, in which the ways of God and man may be seen through a fourfold fog; Erskine’s Divine Sonnets, which will repay the reader in laughter for the pain it costs his reverence, producing much the same effect that a Gothic cathedral might, reproduced by the pencil and from the remembrance of a Chinese artist, who had seen it once; Drelincourt on Death, with the famous ghost-hoax of De Foe, to help the bookseller to the sale of the unsaleable; the Scots Worthies, opening of itself at the memoir of Mr. Alexander Peden; the Pilgrim’s Progress, that wonderful inspiration, failing never save when the theologian would sometimes snatch the pen from the hand of the poet; Theron and Aspasio; Village Dialogues; and others of a like class. To these must be added a rare edition of Blind Harry. It was clear to Hugh, unable as he was fully to appreciate the wisdom of David, that it was not from such books as these that he had gathered it; yet such books as these formed all his store. He turned from them, found his own, and sat down to read. By and by David came in.
“I’m ower sune, I doubt, Mr. Sutherlan’. I’m disturbin’ ye.”
“Not at all,” answered Hugh. “Besides, I am not much in a reading mood this evening: Mrs. Glasford has been annoying me again.”
“Poor body! What’s she been sayin’ noo?”
Thinking to amuse David, Hugh recounted the short passage between them recorded above. David, however, listened with a very different expression of countenance from what Hugh had anticipated; and, when he had finished, took up the conversation in a kind of apologetic tone.
“Weel, but ye see,” said he, folding his palms together, “she hasna’ jist had a’thegither fair play. She does na come o’ a guid breed. Man, it’s a fine thing to come o’ a guid breed. They hae a hantle to answer for ‘at come o’ decent forbears.”
“I thought she brought the laird a good property,” said Hugh, not quite understanding David.
“Ow, ay, she brocht him gowpenfu’s o’ siller; but hoo was’t gotten? An’ ye ken it’s no riches ‘at ‘ill mak’ a guid breed — ‘cep’ it be o’ maggots. The richer cheese the mair maggots, ye ken. Ye maunna speyk o’ this; but the mistress’s father was weel kent to hae made his siller by fardins and bawbees, in creepin’, crafty ways. He was a bit merchan’ in Aberdeen, an’ aye keepit his thoom weel ahint the peint o’ the ellwan’, sae ‘at he made an inch or twa upo’ ilka yard he sauld. Sae he took frae his soul, and pat intill his siller-bag, an’ had little to gie his dochter but a guid tocher. Mr. Sutherlan’, it’s a fine thing to come o’ dacent fowk. Noo, to luik at yersel’: I ken naething aboot yer family; but ye seem at eesicht to come o’ a guid breed for the bodily part o’ ye. That’s a sma’ matter; but frae what I ha’e seen — an’ I trust in God I’m no’ mista’en — ye come o’ the richt breed for the min’ as weel. I’m no flatterin’ ye, Mr. Sutherlan’; but jist layin’ it upo’ ye, ‘at gin ye had an honest father and gran’father, an’ especially a guid mither, ye hae a heap to answer for; an’ ye ought never to be hard upo’ them ‘at’s sma’ creepin’ creatures, for they canna help it sae weel as the like o’ you and me can.”
David was not given to boasting. Hugh had never heard anything suggesting it from his lips before. He turned full round and looked at him. On his face lay a solemn quiet, either from a feeling of his own responsibility, or a sense of the excuse that must be made for others. What he had said about the signs of breed in Hugh’s exterior, certainly applied to himself as well. His carriage was full of dignity, and a certain rustic refinement; his voice was wonderfully gentle, but deep; and slowest when most impassioned. He seemed to have come of some gigantic antediluvian breed: there was something of the Titan slumbering about him. He would have been a stern man, but for an unusual amount of reverence that seemed to overflood the sternness, and change it into strong love. No one had ever seen him thoroughly angry; his simple displeasure with any of the labourers, the quality of whose work was deficient, would go further than the laird’s oaths.
Hugh sat looking at David, who supported the look with that perfect calmness that comes of unconscious simplicity. At length Hugh’s eye sank before David’s, as he said:
“I wish I had known your father, then, David.”
“My father was sic a ane as I tauld ye the ither day, Mr. Sutherlan’. I’m a’ richt there. A puir, semple, God-fearin’ shepherd, ‘at never gae his dog an ill-deserved word, nor took the skin o’ ony puir lammie, wha’s woo’ he was clippin’, atween the shears. He was weel worthy o’ the grave ‘at he wan till at last. An’ my mither was jist sic like, wi’ aiblins raither mair heid nor my father. They’re her beuks maistly upo’ the skelf there abune yer ain, Mr. Sutherlan’. I honour them for her sake, though I seldom trouble them mysel’. She gae me a kin’ o’ a scunner at them, honest woman, wi’ garrin’ me read at them o’ Sundays, till they near scomfisht a’ the guid ‘at was in me by nater. There’s doctrine for ye, Mr. Sutherlan’!” added David, with a queer laugh.
“I thought they could hardly be your books,” said Hugh.
“But I hae ae odd beuk, an’ that brings me upo’ my pedigree, Mr. Sutherlan’; for the puirest man has as lang a pedigree as the greatest, only he kens less aboot it, that’s a’. An’ I wat, for yer lords and ladies, it’s no a’ to their credit ‘at’s tauld o’ their hither-come; an’ that’s a’ against the breed, ye ken. A wilfu’ sin in the father may be a sinfu’ weakness i’ the son; an’ that’s what I ca’ no fair play.”
So saying, David went to his bedroom, whence he returned with a very old-looking book, which he laid on the table before Hugh. He opened it, and saw that it was a volume of Jacob Boehmen, in the original language. He found out afterwards, upon further inquiry, that it was in fact a copy of the first edition of his first work, The Aurora, printed in 1612. On the title-page was written a name, either in German or old English character, he was not sure which; but he was able to read it — Martin Elginbrodde. David, having given him time to see all this, went on:
“That buik has been in oor family far langer nor I ken. I needna say I canna read a word o’t, nor I never heard o’ ane ‘at could. But I canna help tellin’ ye a curious thing, Mr. Sutherlan’, in connexion wi’ the name on that buik: there’s a gravestane, a verra auld ane — hoo auld I canna weel mak’ out, though I gaed ends-errand to Aberdeen to see’t — an’ the name upo’ that gravestane is Martin Elginbrod, but made mention o’ in a strange fashion; an’ I’m no sure a’thegither aboot hoo ye’ll tak’ it, for it soun’s rather fearsome at first hearin’ o’t. But ye’se hae’t as I read it:
‘Here lie I, Martin Elginbrodde:
Hae mercy o’ my soul, Lord God;
As I wad do, were I Lord God,
And ye were Martin Elginbrodde.’

Certainly Hugh could not help a slight shudder at what seemed to him the irreverence of the epitaph, if indeed it was not deserving of a worse epithet. But he made no remark; and, after a moment’s pause, David resumed:
“I was unco ill-pleased wi’t at the first, as ye may suppose, Mr. Sutherlan’; but, after a while, I begude (began) an’ gaed through twa or three bits o’ reasonin’s aboot it, in this way: By the natur’ o’t, this maun be the man’s ain makin’, this epitaph; for no ither body cud ha’ dune’t; and he had left it in’s will to be pitten upo’ the deid-stane, nae doot: I’ the contemplation o’ deith, a man wad no be lik’ly to desire the perpetuation o’ a blasphemy upo’ a table o’ stone, to stan’ against him for centuries i’ the face o’ God an’ man: therefore it cudna ha’ borne the luik to him o’ the presumptuous word o’ a proud man evenin’ himsel’ wi’ the Almichty. Sae what was’t, then, ‘at made him mak’ it? It seems to me — though I confess, Mr. Sutherlan’, I may be led astray by the nateral desire ‘at a man has to think weel o’ his ain forbears — for ‘at he was a forbear o’ my ain, I canna weel doot, the name bein’ by no means a common ane, in Scotland ony way — I’m sayin’, it seems to me, that it’s jist a darin’ way, maybe a childlike way, o’ judgin’, as Job micht ha’ dune, ‘the Lord by himsel’;’ an’ sayin’, ‘at gin he, Martin Elginbrod, wad hae mercy, surely the Lord was not less mercifu’ than he was. The offspring o’ the Most High was, as it were, aware o’ the same spirit i’ the father o’ him, as muved in himsel’. He felt ‘at the mercy in himsel’ was ane o’ the best things; an’ he cudna think ‘at there wad be less o’t i’ the father o’ lichts, frae whom cometh ilka guid an’ perfeck gift. An’ may be he remembered ‘at the Saviour himsel’ said: ‘Be ye perfect as your father in Heaven is perfect;’ and that the perfection o’ God, as He had jist pinted oot afore, consisted in causin’ his bonny sun to shine on the evil an’ the good, an’ his caller rain to fa’ upo’ the just an’ the unjust.”
It may well be doubted whether David’s interpretation of the epitaph was the correct one. It will appear to most of my readers to breathe rather of doubt lighted up by hope, than of that strong faith which David read in it. But whether from family partiality, and consequent unwillingness to believe that his ancestor had been a man who, having led a wild, erring, and evil life, turned at last towards the mercy of God as his only hope, which the words might imply; or simply that he saw this meaning to be the best; this was the interpretation which David had adopted.
“But,” interposed Hugh, “supposing he thought all that, why should he therefore have it carved on his tombstone?”
“I hae thocht aboot that too,” answered David. “For ae thing, a body has but feow ways o’ sayin’ his say to his brithermen. Robbie Burns cud do’t in sang efter sang; but maybe this epitaph was a’ that auld Martin was able to mak’. He michtna hae had the gift o’ utterance. But there may be mair in’t nor that. Gin the clergy o’ thae times warna a gey hantle mair enlichtened nor a fowth o’ the clergy hereabouts, he wad hae heard a heap aboot the glory o’ God, as the thing ‘at God himsel’ was maist anxious aboot uphaudin’, jist like a prood creater o’ a king; an’ that he wad mak’ men, an’ feed them, an’ cleed them, an’ gie them braw wives an’ toddlin’ bairnies, an’ syne damn them, a’ for’s ain glory. Maybe ye wadna get mony o’ them ‘at wad speyk sae fair-oot noo-a-days, for they gang wi’ the tide jist like the lave; but i’ my auld minny’s buiks, I hae read jilt as muckle as that, an’ waur too. Mony ane ‘at spak like that, had nae doot a guid meanin’ in’t; but, hech man! it’s an awesome deevilich way o’ sayin’ a holy thing. Noo, what better could puir auld Martin do, seein’ he had no ae word to say i’ the kirk a’ his lifelang, nor jist say his ae word, as pithily as might be, i’ the kirkyard, efter he was deid; an’ ower an’ ower again, wi’ a tongue o’ stane, let them tak’ it or lat it alane ‘at likit? That’s a’ my defence o’ my auld luckie-daddy — Heaven rest his brave auld soul!”
“But are we not in danger,” said Hugh, “of thinking too lightly and familiarly of the Maker, when we proceed to judge him so by ourselves?”
“Mr. Sutherlan’,” replied David, very solemnly, “I dinna thenk I can be in muckle danger o’ lichtlyin’ him, whan I ken in my ain sel’, as weel as she ‘at was healed o’ her plague, ‘at I wad be a horse i’ that pleuch, or a pig in that stye, not merely if it was his will — for wha can stan’ against that — but if it was for his glory; ay, an’ comfort mysel’, a’ the time the change was passin’ upo’ me, wi’ the thocht that, efter an’ a’, his blessed han’s made the pigs too.”
“But, a moment ago, David, you seemed to me to be making rather little of his glory.”
“O’ his glory, as they consider glory — ay; efter a warldly fashion that’s no better nor pride, an’ in him would only be a greater pride. But his glory! consistin’ in his trowth an’ lovin’kindness — (man! that’s a bonny word) — an’ grand self-forgettin’ devotion to his creaters — lord! man, it’s unspeakable. I care little for his glory either, gin by that ye mean the praise o’ men. A heap o’ the anxiety for the spread o’ his glory, seems to me to be but a desire for the sempathy o’ ither fowk. There’s no fear but men ‘ll praise him, a’ in guid time — that is, whan they can. But, Mr. Sutherlan’, for the glory o’ God, raither than, if it were possible, one jot or one tittle should fail of his entire perfection of holy beauty, I call God to witness, I would gladly go to hell itsel’; for no evil worth the full name can befall the earth or ony creater in’t, as long as God is what he is. For the glory o’ God, Mr. Sutherlan’, I wad die the deith. For the will o’ God, I’m ready for onything he likes. I canna surely be in muckle danger o’ lichtlyin’ him. I glory in my God.”
The almost passionate earnestness with which David spoke, would alone have made it impossible for Hugh to reply at once. After a few moments, however, he ventured to ask the question:
“Would you do nothing that other people should know God, then, David?”
“Onything ‘at he likes. But I would tak’ tent o’ interferin’. He’s at it himsel’ frae mornin’ to nicht, frae year’s en’ to year’s en’.”
“But you seem to me to make out that God is nothing but love!”
“Ay, naething but love. What for no?”
“Because we are told he is just.”
“Would he be lang just if he didna lo’e us?”
“But does he not punish sin?”
“Would it be ony kin’ness no to punish sin? No to us a’ means to pit awa’ the ae ill thing frae us? Whatever may be meant by the place o’ meesery, depen’ upo’t, Mr. Sutherlan’, it’s only anither form o’ love, love shinin’ through the fogs o’ ill, an’ sae gart leuk something verra different thereby. Man, raither nor see my Maggy — an’ ye’ll no doot ‘at I lo’e her — raither nor see my Maggy do an ill thing, I’d see her lyin’ deid at my feet. But supposin’ the ill thing ance dune, it’s no at my feet I wad lay her, but upo’ my heart, wi’ my auld arms aboot her, to hand the further ill aff o’ her. An’ shall mortal man be more just than God? Shall a man be more pure than his Maker? O my God! my God!”
The entrance of Margaret would have prevented the prosecution of this conversation, even if it had not already drawn to a natural close. Not that David would not have talked thus before his daughter, but simply that minds, like instruments, need to be brought up to the same pitch, before they can “atone together,” and that one feels this instinctively on the entrance of another who has not gone through the same immediate process of gradual elevation of tone.
Their books and slates were got out, and they sat down to their work; but Hugh could not help observing that David, in the midst of his lines and angles and algebraic computations, would, every now and then, glance up at Margaret, with a look of tenderness in his face yet deeper and more delicate in its expression than ordinary. Margaret was, however, quite unconscious of it, pursuing her work with her ordinary even diligence. But Janet observed it.
“What ails the bairn, Dawvid, ‘at ye leuk at her that get? said she.
“Naething ails her, woman. Do ye never leuk at a body but when something ails them?”
“Ow, ay — but no that get.”
“Weel, maybe I was thinkin’ hoo I wad leuk at her gin onything did ail her.”
“Hoot! hoot! dinna further the ill hither by makin’ a bien doonsittin’ an’ a bed for’t.”
All David’s answer to this was one of his own smiles.
At supper, for it happened to be Saturday, Hugh said:
“I’ve been busy, between whiles, inventing, or perhaps discovering, an etymological pedigree for you, David!”
“Weel, lat’s hear’t,” said David.
“First — do you know that that volume with your ancestor’s name on it, was written by an old German shoemaker, perhaps only a cobbler, for anything I know?”
“I know nothing aboot it, more or less,” answered David.
“He was a wonderful man. Some people think he was almost inspired.”
“Maybe, maybe,” was all David’s doubtful response.
“At all events, though I know nothing about it myself, he must have written wonderfully for a cobbler.”
“For my pairt,” replied David, “if I see no wonder in the man, I can see but little in the cobbler. What for shouldna a cobbler write wonnerfully, as weel as anither? It’s a trade ‘at furthers meditation. My grandfather was a cobbler, as ye ca’t; an’ they say he was no fule in his ain way either.”
“Then it does go in the family!” cried Hugh, triumphantly. “I was in doubt at first whether your name referred to the breadth of your shoulders, David, as transmitted from some ancient sire, whose back was an Ellwand-broad; for the g might come from a w or v, for anything I know to the contrary. But it would have been braid in that case. And, now, I am quite convinced that that Martin or his father was a German, a friend of old Jacob Boehmen, who gave him the book himself, and was besides of the same craft; and he coming to this country with a name hard to be pronounced, they found a resemblance in the sound of it to his occupation; and so gradually corrupted his name, to them uncouth, into Elsynbrod, Elshinbrod, thence Elginbrod, with a soft g, and lastly Elginbrod, as you pronounce it now, with a hard g. This name, turned from Scotch into English, would then be simply Martin Awlbore. The cobbler is in the family, David, descended from Jacob Boehmen himself, by the mother’s side.”
This heraldic blazon amused them all very much, and David expressed his entire concurrence with it, declaring it to be incontrovertible. Margaret laughed heartily.
Besides its own beauty, two things made Margaret’s laugh of some consequence; one was, that it was very rare; and the other, that it revealed her two regular rows of dainty white teeth, suiting well to the whole build of the maiden. She was graceful and rather tall, with a head which, but for its smallness, might have seemed too heavy for the neck that supported it, so ready it always was to droop like a snowdrop. The only parts about her which Hugh disliked, were her hands and feet. The former certainly had been reddened and roughened by household work: but they were well formed notwithstanding. The latter he had never seen, notwithstanding the bare-foot habits of Scotch maidens; for he saw Margaret rarely except in the evenings, and then she was dressed to receive him. Certainly, however, they were very far from following the shape of the clumsy country shoes, by which he misjudged their proportions. Had he seen them, as he might have seen them some part of any day during the summer, their form at least would have satisfied him.
Chapter 14 — Winter
Out of whose womb came the ice? and the hoary frost of heaven, who hath gendered it? The waters are hid as with a stone, and the face of the deep is frozen.
He giveth snow like wool; he scattereth the hoar frost like ashes.
Job xxxviii. 29, 30; Psalm cxlvii. 16.
Winter was fairly come at last. A black frost had bound the earth for many days; and at length a peculiar sensation, almost a smell of snow in the air, indicated an approaching storm. The snow fell at first in a few large unwilling flakes, that fluttered slowly and heavily to the earth, where they lay like the foundation of the superstructure that was about to follow. Faster and faster they fell — wonderful multitudes of delicate crystals, adhering in shapes of beauty which outvied all that jeweller could invent or execute of ethereal, starry forms, structures of evanescent yet prodigal loveliness — till the whole air was obscured by them, and night came on, hastened by an hour, from the gathering of their white darkness. In the morning, all the landscape was transfigured. The snow had ceased to fall; but the whole earth, houses, fields, and fences, ponds and streams, were changed to whiteness. But most wonderful looked the trees — every bough and every twig thickened, and bent earthward with its own individual load of the fairy ghost-birds. Each retained the semblance of its own form, wonderfully, magically altered by its thick garment of radiant whiteness, shining gloriously in the sunlight. It was the shroud of dead nature; but a shroud that seemed to prefigure a lovely resurrection; for the very death-robe was unspeakably, witchingly beautiful. Again at night the snow fell; and again and again, with intervening days of bright sunshine. Every morning, the first fresh footprints were a new wonder to the living creatures, the young-hearted amongst them at least, who lived and moved in this death-world, this sepulchral planet, buried in the shining air before the eyes of its sister-stars in the blue, deathless heavens. Paths had to be cleared in every direction towards the out-houses, and again cleared every morning; till at last the walls of solid rain stood higher than the head of little Johnnie, as he was still called, though he was twelve years old. It was a great delight to him to wander through the snow-avenues in every direction; and great fun it was, both to him and his brother, when they were tired of snowballing each other and every living thing about the place except their parents and tutor, to hollow out mysterious caves and vaulted passages. Sometimes they would carry these passages on from one path to within an inch or two of another, and there lie in wait till some passer-by, unweeting of harm, was just opposite their lurking cave; when they would dash through the solid wall of snow with a hideous yell, almost endangering the wits of the maids, and causing a recoil and startled ejaculation even of the strong man on whom they chanced to try their powers of alarm. Hugh himself was once glad to cover the confusion of his own fright with the hearty fit of laughter into which the perturbation of the boys, upon discovering whom they had startled, threw him. It was rare fun to them; but not to the women about the house, who moved from place to place in a state of chronic alarm, scared by the fear of being scared; till one of them going into hysterics, real or pretended, it was found necessary to put a stop to the practice; not, however, before Margaret had had her share of the jest. Hugh happened to be looking out of his window at the moment — watching her, indeed, as she passed towards the kitchen with some message from her mother; when an indescribable monster, a chaotic mass of legs and snow, burst, as if out of the earth, upon her. She turned pale as the snow around her (and Hugh had never observed before how dark her eyes were), as she sprang back with the grace of a startled deer. She uttered no cry, however, perceiving in a moment who it was, gave a troubled little smile, and passed on her way as if nothing had happened. Hugh was not sorry when maternal orders were issued against the practical joke. The boys did not respect their mother very much, but they dared not disobey her, when she spoke in a certain tone.
There was no pathway cut to David’s cottage; and no track trodden, except what David, coming to the house sometimes, and Hugh going every afternoon to the cottage, made between them. Hugh often went to the knees in snow, but was well dried and warmed by Janet’s care when he arrived. She had always a pair of stockings and slippers ready for him at the fire, to be put on the moment of his arrival; and exchanged again for his own, dry and warm, before he footed once more the ghostly waste. When neither moon was up nor stars were out, there was a strange eerie glimmer from the snow that lighted the way home; and he thought there must be more light from it than could be accounted for merely by the reflection of every particle of light that might fall upon it from other sources.
Margaret was not kept to the house by the snow, even when it was falling. She went out as usual — not of course wandering far, for walking was difficult now. But she was in little danger of losing her way, for she knew the country as well as any one; and although its face was greatly altered by the filling up of its features, and the uniformity of the colour, yet those features were discernible to her experienced eye through the sheet that covered them. It was only necessary to walk on the tops of dykes, and other elevated ridges, to keep clear of the deep snow.
There were many paths between the cottages and the farms in the neighbourhood, in which she could walk with comparative ease and comfort. But she preferred wandering away through the fields and toward the hills. Sometimes she would come home like a creature of the snow, born of it, and living in it; so covered was she from head to foot with its flakes. David used to smile at her with peculiar complacency on such occasions. It was evident that it pleased him she should be the playmate of Nature. Janet was not altogether indulgent to these freaks, as she considered them, of Marget — she had quite given up calling her Meg, “sin’ she took to the beuk so eident.” But whatever her mother might think of it, Margaret was in this way laying up a store not only of bodily and mental health, but of resources for thought and feeling, of secret understandings and communions with Nature, and everything simple, and strong, and pure through Nature, than which she could have accumulated nothing more precious.
This kind of weather continued for some time, till the people declared they had never known a storm last so long “ohn ever devallt,” that is, without intermission. But the frost grew harder; and then the snow, instead of falling in large adhesive flakes, fell in small dry flakes, of which the boys could make no snaw-ba’s. All the time, however, there was no wind; and this not being a sheep country, there was little uneasiness or suffering occasioned by the severity of the weather, beyond what must befall the poorer classes in every northern country during the winter.
One day, David heard that a poor old man of his acquaintance was dying, and immediately set out to visit him, at a distance of two or three miles. He returned in the evening, only in time for his studies; for there was of course little or nothing to be done at present in the way of labour. As he sat down to the table, he said:
“I hae seen a wonnerfu’ sicht sin’ I saw you, Mr. Sutherlan’. I gaed to see an auld Christian, whase body an’ brain are nigh worn oot. He was never onything remarkable for intellec, and jist took what the minister tellt him for true, an’ keepit the guid o’t; for his hert was aye richt, an’ his faith a hantle stronger than maybe it had ony richt to be, accordin’ to his ain opingans; but, hech! there’s something far better nor his opingans i’ the hert o’ ilka God-fearin’ body. Whan I gaed butt the hoose, he was sittin’ in’s auld arm-chair by the side o’ the fire, an’ his face luikit dazed like. There was no licht in’t but what cam’ noo an’ than frae a low i’ the fire. The snaw was driftin’ a wee aboot the bit winnock, an’ his auld een was fixed upo’t; an’ a’ ‘at he said, takin’ no notice o’ me, was jist, ‘The birdies is flutterin’; the birdies is flutterin’.’ I spak’ till him, an’ tried to roose him, wi’ ae thing after anither, bit I micht as weel hae spoken to the door-cheek, for a’ the notice that he took. Never a word he spak’, but aye ‘The birdies is flutterin’.’ At last, it cam’ to my min’ ‘at the body was aye fu’ o’ ane o’ the psalms in particler; an’ sae I jist said till him at last: ‘John, hae ye forgotten the twenty-third psalm?’ ‘Forgotten the twenty-third psalm!’ quo’ he; an’ his face lighted up in a moment frae the inside: ‘The Lord’s my shepherd, — an’ I hae followed Him through a’ the smorin’ drift o’ the warl’, an’ he’ll bring me to the green pastures an’ the still waters o’ His summer-kingdom at the lang last. I shall not want. An’ I hae wanted for naething, naething.’ He had been a shepherd himsel’ in’s young days. And so on he gaed, wi’ a kin’ o’ a personal commentary on the haill psalm frae beginnin’ to en’, and syne he jist fell back into the auld croonin’ sang, ‘The birdies is flutterin’; the birdies is flutterin’.’ The licht deed oot o’ his face, an’ a’ that I could say could na’ bring back the licht to his face, nor the sense to his tongue. He’ll sune be in a better warl’. Sae I was jist forced to leave him. But I promised his dochter, puir body, that I would ca’ again an’ see him the morn’s afternoon. It’s unco dowie wark for her; for they hae scarce a neebor within reach o’ them, in case o’ a change; an’ there had hardly been a creatur’ inside o’ their door for a week.”
The following afternoon, David set out according to his promise. Before his return, the wind, which had been threatening to wake all day, had risen rapidly, and now blew a snowstorm of its own. When Hugh opened the door to take his usual walk to the cottage, just as darkness was beginning to fall, the sight he saw made his young strong heart dance with delight. The snow that fell made but a small part of the wild, confused turmoil and uproar of the ten-fold storm. For the wind, raving over the surface of the snow, which, as I have already explained, lay nearly as loose as dry sand, swept it in thick fierce clouds along with it, tearing it up and casting it down again no one could tell where — for the whole air was filled with drift, as they call the snow when thus driven. A few hours of this would alter the face of the whole country, leaving some parts bare, and others buried beneath heaps on heaps of snow, called here snaw-wreaths. For the word snow-wreaths does not mean the lovely garlands hung upon every tree and bush in its feathery fall; but awful mounds of drifted snow, that may be the smooth, soft, white sepulchres of dead men, smothered in the lapping folds of the almost solid wind. Path or way was none before him. He could see nothing but the surface of a sea of froth and foam, as it appeared to him, with the spray torn from it, whirled in all shapes and contortions, and driven in every direction; but chiefly, in the main direction of the wind, in long sloping spires of misty whiteness, swift as arrows, and as keen upon the face of him who dared to oppose them.
Hugh plunged into it with a wild sense of life and joy. In the course of his short walk, however, if walk it could be called, which was one chain of plungings and emergings, struggles with the snow, and wrestles with the wind, he felt that it needed not a stout heart only, but sound lungs and strong limbs as well, to battle with the storm, even for such a distance. When he reached the cottage, he found Janet in considerable anxiety, not only about David, who had not yet returned, but about Margaret as well, whom she had not seen for some time, and who must be out somewhere in the storm — “the wull hizzie.” Hugh suggested that she might have gone to meet her father.
“The Lord forbid!” ejaculated Janet. “The road lies ower the tap o’ the Halshach, as eerie and bare a place as ever was hill-moss, wi’ never a scoug or bield in’t, frae the tae side to the tither. The win’ there jist gangs clean wud a’thegither. An’ there’s mony a well-ee forbye, that gin ye fell intill’t, ye wud never come at the boddom o’t. The Lord preserve’s! I wis’ Dawvid was hame.”
“How could you let him go, Janet?”
“Lat him gang, laddie! It’s a strang tow ‘at wad haud or bin’ Dawvid, whan he considers he bud to gang, an’ ‘twere intill a deil’s byke. But I’m no that feared aboot him. I maist believe he’s under special protection, if ever man was or oucht to be; an’ he’s no more feared at the storm, nor gin the snaw was angels’ feathers flauchterin’ oot o’ their wings a’ aboot him. But I’m no easy i’ my min’ aboot Maggy — the wull hizzie! Gin she be meetin’ her father, an’ chance to miss him, the Lord kens what may come o’ her.”
Hugh tried to comfort her, but all that could be done was to wait David’s return. The storm seemed to increase rather than abate its force. The footprints Hugh had made, had all but vanished already at the very door of the house, which stood quite in the shelter of the fir-wood. As they looked out, a dark figure appeared within a yard or two of the house.
“The Lord grant it be my bairn!” prayed poor Janet. But it was David, and alone. Janet gave a shriek.
“Dawvid, whaur’s Maggie?”
“I haena seen the bairn,” replied David, in repressed perturbation. “She’s no theroot, is she, the nicht?”
“She’s no at hame, Dawvid, that’s a’ ‘at I ken.”
“Whaur gaed she?”
“The Lord kens. She’s smoored i’ the snaw by this time.”
“She’s i’ the Lord’s han’s, Janet, be she aneath a snaw-vraith. Dinna forget that, wuman. Hoo lang is’t sin’ ye missed her?”
“An hour an’ mair — I dinna ken hoo lang. I’m clean doitit wi’ dreid.”
“I’ll awa’ an’ leuk for her. Just haud the hert in her till I come back, Mr. Sutherlan’.”
“I won’t be left behind, David. I’m going with you.”
“Ye dinna ken what ye’re sayin’, Mr. Sutherlan’. I wad sune hae twa o’ ye to seek in place o’ ane.”
“Never heed me; I’m going on my own account, come what may.”
“Weel, weel; I downa bide to differ. I’m gaein up the burn-side; baud ye ower to the farm, and spier gin onybody’s seen her; an’ the lads ‘ll be out to leuk for her in a jiffey. My puir lassie!”
The sigh that must have accompanied the last words, was lost in the wind, as they vanished in the darkness. Janet fell on her knees in the kitchen, with the door wide open, and the wind drifting in the powdery snow, and scattering it with the ashes from the hearth over the floor. A picture of more thorough desolation can hardly be imagined. She soon came to herself, however; and reflecting that, if the lost child was found, there must be a warm bed to receive her, else she might be a second time lost, she rose and shut the door, and mended the fire. It was as if the dumb attitude of her prayer was answered; for though she had never spoken or even thought a word, strength was restored to her distracted brain. When she had made every preparation she could think of, she went to the door again, opened it, and looked out. It was a region of howling darkness, tossed about by pale snow-drifts; out of which it seemed scarce more hopeful that welcome faces would emerge, than that they should return to our eyes from the vast unknown in which they vanish at last. She closed the door once more, and knowing nothing else to be done, sat down on a chair, with her hands on her knees, and her eyes fixed on the door. The clock went on with its slow swing, tic — tac, tic — tac, an utterly inhuman time-measurer; but she heard the sound of every second, through the midst of the uproar in the fir-trees, which bent their tall heads hissing to the blast, and swinging about in the agony of their strife. The minutes went by, till an hour was gone, and there was neither sound nor hearing, but of the storm and the clock. Still she sat and stared, her eyes fixed on the door-latch. Suddenly, without warning it was lifted, and the door opened. Her heart bounded and fluttered like a startled bird; but alas! the first words she heard were: “Is she no come yet?” It was her husband, followed by several of the farm servants. He had made a circuit to the farm, and finding that Hugh had never been there, hoped, though with trembling, that Margaret had already returned home. The question fell upon Janet’s heart like the sound of the earth on the coffin-lid, and her silent stare was the only answer David received.
But at that very moment, like a dead man burst from the tomb, entered from behind the party at the open door, silent and white, with rigid features and fixed eyes, Hugh. He stumbled in, leaning forward with long strides, and dragging something behind him. He pushed and staggered through them as if he saw nothing before him; and as they parted horror-stricken, they saw that it was Margaret, or her dead body, that he dragged after him. He dropped her at her mother’s feet, and fell himself on the floor, before they were able to give him any support. David, who was quite calm, got the whisky bottle out, and tried to administer some to Margaret first; but her teeth were firmly set, and to all appearance she was dead. One of the young men succeeded better with Hugh, whom at David’s direction they took into the study; while he and Janet got Margaret undressed and put to bed, with hot bottles all about her; for in warmth lay the only hope of restoring her. After she had lain thus for a while, she gave a sigh; and when they had succeeded in getting her to swallow some warm milk, she began to breathe, and soon seemed to be only fast asleep. After half an hour’s rest and warming, Hugh was able to move and speak. David would not allow him to say much, however, but got him to bed, sending word to the house that he could not go home that night. He and Janet sat by the fireside all night, listening to the storm that still raved without, and thanking God for both of the lives. Every few minutes a tip-toe excursion was made to the bedside, and now and then to the other room. Both the patients slept quietly. Towards morning Margaret opened her eyes, and faintly called her mother; but soon fell asleep once more, and did not awake again till nearly noon. When sufficiently restored to be able to speak, the account she gave was, that she had set out to meet her father; but the storm increasing, she had thought it more prudent to turn. It grew in violence, however, so rapidly, and beat so directly in her face, that she was soon exhausted with struggling, and benumbed with the cold. The last thing she remembered was, dropping, as she thought, into a hole, and feeling as if she were going to sleep in bed, yet knowing it was death; and thinking how much sweeter it was than sleep. Hugh’s account was very strange and defective, but he was never able to add anything to it. He said that, when he rushed out into the dark, the storm seized him like a fury, beating him about the head and face with icy wings, till he was almost stunned. He took the road to the farm, which lay through the fir-wood; but he soon became aware that he had lost his way and might tramp about in the fir-wood till daylight, if he lived as long. Then, thinking of Margaret, he lost his presence of mind, and rushed wildly along. He thought he must have knocked his head against the trunk of a tree, but he could not tell; for he remembered nothing more but that he found himself dragging Margaret, with his arms round her, through the snow, and nearing the light in the cottage-window. Where or how he had found her, or what the light was that he was approaching, he had not the least idea. He had only a vague notion that he was rescuing Margaret from something dreadful. Margaret, for her part, had no recollection of reaching the fir-wood, and as, long before morning, all traces were obliterated, the facts remained a mystery. Janet thought that David had some wonderful persuasion about it; but he was never heard even to speculate on the subject. Certain it was, that Hugh had saved Margaret’s life. He seemed quite well next day, for he was of a very powerful and enduring frame for his years. She recovered more slowly, and perhaps never altogether overcame the effects of Death’s embrace that night. From the moment when Margaret was brought home, the storm gradually died away, and by the morning all was still; but many starry and moonlit nights glimmered and passed, before that snow was melted away from the earth; and many a night Janet awoke from her sleep with a cry, thinking she heard her daughter moaning, deep in the smooth ocean of snow, and could not find where she lay.
The occurrences of this dreadful night could not lessen the interest his cottage friends felt in Hugh; and a long winter passed with daily and lengthening communion both in study and in general conversation. I fear some of my younger readers will think my story slow; and say: “What! are they not going to fall in love with each other yet? We have been expecting it ever so long.” I have two answers to make to this. The first is: “I do not pretend to know so much about love as you — excuse me — think you do; and must confess, I do not know whether they were in love with each other or not.” The second is: “That I dare not pretend to understand thoroughly such a sacred mystery as the heart of Margaret; and I should feel it rather worse than presumptuous to talk as if I did. Even Hugh’s is known to me only by gleams of light thrown, now and then, and here and there, upon it.” Perhaps the two answers are only the same answer in different shapes.
Mrs. Glasford, however, would easily answer the question, if an answer is all that is wanted; for she, notwithstanding the facts of the story, which she could not fail to have heard correctly from the best authority, and notwithstanding the nature of the night, which might have seemed sufficient to overthrow her conclusions, uniformly remarked, as often as their escape was alluded to in her hearing,
“Lat them tak’ it They had no business to be oot aboot thegither.”
Chapter 15 — Transition
Tell me, bright boy, tell me, my golden lad,
Whither away so frolic? Why so glad?
What all thy wealth in council? all thy state?
Are husks so dear? troth, ‘tis a mighty rate.
—Richard Crashaw.
The long Scotch winter passed by without any interruption to the growing friendship. But the spring brought a change; and Hugh was separated from his friends sooner than he had anticipated, by more than six months. For his mother wrote to him in great distress, in consequence of a claim made upon her for some debt which his father had contracted, very probably for Hugh’s own sake. Hugh could not bear that any such should remain undischarged, or that his father’s name should not rest in peace as well as his body and soul. He requested, therefore, from the laird, the amount due to him, and despatched almost the whole of it for the liquidation of this debt, so that he was now as unprovided as before for the expenses of the coming winter at Aberdeen. But, about the same time, a fellow-student wrote to him with news of a situation for the summer, worth three times as much as his present one, and to be procured through his friend’s interest. Hugh having engaged himself to the laird only for the winter, although he had intended to stay till the commencement of the following session, felt that, although he would much rather remain where he was, he must not hesitate a moment to accept his friend’s offer; and therefore wrote at once.
I will not attempt to describe the parting. It was very quiet, but very solemn and sad. Janet showed far more distress than Margaret, for she wept outright. The tears stood in David’s eyes, as he grasped the youth’s hand in silence. Margaret was very pale; that was all. As soon as Hugh disappeared with her father, who was going to walk with him to the village through which the coach passed, she hurried away, and went to the fir-wood for comfort.
Hugh found his new situation in Perthshire very different from the last. The heads of the family being themselves a lady and a gentleman, he found himself a gentleman too. He had more to do, but his work left him plenty of leisure notwithstanding. A good portion of his spare time he devoted to verse-making, to which he felt a growing impulse; and whatever may have been the merit of his compositions, they did him intellectual good at least, if it were only through the process of their construction. He wrote to David after his arrival, telling him all about his new situation; and received in return a letter from Margaret, written at her father’s dictation. The mechanical part of letter-writing was rather laborious to David; but Margaret wrote well, in consequence of the number of papers, of one sort and another, which she had written for Hugh. Three or four letters more passed between them at lengthening intervals. Then they ceased — on Hugh’s side first; until, when on the point of leaving for Aberdeen, feeling somewhat conscience-stricken at not having written for so long, he scribbled a note to inform them of his approaching departure, promising to let them know his address as soon as he found himself settled. Will it be believed that the session went by without the redemption of this pledge? Surely he could not have felt, to any approximate degree, the amount of obligation he was under to his humble friends. Perhaps, indeed, he may have thought that the obligation was principally on their side; as it would have been, if intellectual assistance could outweigh heart-kindness, and spiritual impulse and enlightenment; for, unconsciously in a great measure to himself, he had learned from David to regard in a new and more real aspect, many of those truths which he had hitherto received as true, and which yet had till then produced in him no other than a feeling of the common-place and uninteresting at the best.
Besides this, and many cognate advantages, a thousand seeds of truth must have surely remained in his mind, dropped there from the same tongue of wisdom, and only waiting the friendly aid of a hard winter, breaking up the cold, selfish clods of clay, to share in the loveliness of a new spring, and be perfected in the beauty of a new summer.
However this may have been, it is certain that he forgot his old friends far more than he himself could have thought it possible he should; for, to make the best of it, youth is easily attracted and filled with the present show, and easily forgets that which, from distance in time or space, has no show to show. Spending his evenings in the midst of merry faces, and ready tongues fluent with the tones of jollity, if not always of wit, which glided sometimes into no too earnest discussion of the difficult subjects occupying their student hours; surrounded by the vapours of whisky-toddy, and the smoke of cutty pipes, till far into the short hours; then hurrying home, and lapsing into unrefreshing slumbers over intended study; or sitting up all night to prepare the tasks which had been neglected for a ball or an evening with Wilson, the great interpreter of Scottish song — it is hardly to be wondered at that he should lose the finer consciousness of higher powers and deeper feelings, not from any behaviour in itself wrong, but from the hurry, noise, and tumult in the streets of life, that, penetrating too deep into the house of life, dazed and stupefied the silent and lonely watcher in the chamber of conscience, far apart. He had no time to think or feel.
The session drew to a close. He eschewed all idleness; shut himself up, after class hours, with his books; ate little, studied hard, slept irregularly, working always best between midnight and two in the morning; carried the first honours in most of his classes; and at length breathed freely, but with a dizzy brain, and a face that revealed, in pale cheeks, and red, weary eyes, the results of an excess of mental labour — an excess which is as injurious as any other kind of intemperance, the moral degradation alone kept out of view. Proud of his success, he sat down and wrote a short note, with a simple statement of it, to David; hoping, in his secret mind, that he would attribute his previous silence to an absorption in study which had not existed before the end of the session was quite at hand. Now that he had more time for reflection, he could not bear the idea that that noble rustic face should look disapprovingly or, still worse, coldly upon him; and he could not help feeling as if the old ploughman had taken the place of his father, as the only man of whom he must stand in awe, and who had a right to reprove him. He did reprove him now, though unintentionally. For David was delighted at having such good news from him; and the uneasiness which he had felt, but never quite expressed, was almost swept away in the conclusion, that it was unreasonable to expect the young man to give his time to them both absent and present, especially when he had been occupied to such good purpose as this letter signified. So he was nearly at peace about him — though not quite. Hugh received from him the following letter in reply to his; dictated, as usual, to his secretary, Margaret: —
My dear Sir,
Ye’ll be a great man some day, gin ye haud at it. But things maunna be gotten at the outlay o’ mair than they’re worth. Ye’ll ken what I mean. An’ there’s better things nor bein’ a great man, efter a’. Forgie the liberty I tak’ in remin’in’ ye o’ sic like. I’m only remin’in’ ye o’ what ye ken weel aneuch. But ye’re a brave lad, an’ ye hae been an unco frien’ to me an’ mine; an’ I pray the Lord to thank ye for me, for ye hae dune muckle guid to his bairns — meanin’ me an’ mine. It’s verra kin’ o’ ye to vrite till’s in the verra moment o’ victory; but weel ye kent that amid a’ yer frien’s — an’ ye canna fail to hae mony a ane, wi’ a head an’ a face like yours — there was na ane — na, no ane, that wad rejoice mair ower your success than Janet, or my doo, Maggie, or yer ain auld obleeged frien’ an’ servant,
David Elginbrod.
P.S. — We’re a’ weel, an’ unco blythe at your letter.
Maggy —
P.S. 2. — Dear Mr. Sutherland, — I wrote all the above at my father’s dictation, and just as he said it, for I thought you would like his Scotch better than my English. My mother and I myself are rejoiced at the good news. My mother fairly grat outright. I gaed out to the tree where I met you first. I wonder sair sometimes if you was the angel I was to meet in the fir-wood. I am,
Your obedient servant,
Margaret Elginbrod.
This letter certainly touched Hugh. But he could not help feeling rather offended that David should write to him in such a warning tone. He had never addressed him in this fashion when he saw him every day. Indeed, David could not very easily have spoken to him thus. But writing is a different thing; and men who are not much accustomed to use a pen, often assume a more solemn tone in doing so, as if it were a ceremony that required state. As for David, having been a little uneasy about Hugh, and not much afraid of offending him — for he did not know his weaknesses very thoroughly, and did not take into account the effect of the very falling away which he dreaded, in increasing in him pride, and that impatience of the gentlest reproof natural to every man — he felt considerably relieved after he had discharged his duty in this memento vivere. But one of the results, and a very unexpected one, was, that a yet longer period elapsed before Hugh wrote again to David. He meant to do so, and meant to do so; but, as often as the thought occurred to him, was checked both by consciousness and by pride. So much contributes, not the evil alone that is in us, but the good also sometimes, to hold us back from doing the thing we ought to do.
It now remained for Hugh to look about for some occupation. The state of his funds rendered immediate employment absolutely necessary; and as there was only one way in which he could earn money without yet further preparation, he must betake himself to that way, as he had done before, in the hope that it would lead to something better. At all events, it would give him time to look about him, and make up his mind for the future. Many a one, to whom the occupation of a tutor is far more irksome than it was to Hugh, is compelled to turn his acquirements to this immediate account; and, once going in this groove, can never get out of it again. But Hugh was hopeful enough to think, that his reputation at the university would stand him in some stead; and, however much he would have disliked the thought of being a tutor all his days, occupying a kind of neutral territory between the position of a gentleman and that of a menial, he had enough of strong Saxon good sense to prevent him, despite his Highland pride, from seeing any great hardship in labouring still for a little while, as he had laboured hitherto. But he hoped to find a situation more desirable than either of those he had occupied before; and, with this expectation, looked towards the South, as most Scotchmen do, indulging the national impulse to spoil the Egyptians. Nor did he look long, sending his tentacles afloat in every direction, before he heard, through means of a college friend, of just such a situation as he wanted, in the family of a gentleman of fortune in the county of Surrey, not much more than twenty miles from London. This he was fortunate enough to obtain without difficulty.
Margaret was likewise on the eve of a change. She stood like a young fledged bird on the edge of the nest, ready to take its first long flight. It was necessary that she should do something for herself, not so much from the compulsion of immediate circumstances, as in prospect of the future. Her father was not an old man, but at best he could leave only a trifle at his death; and if Janet outlived him, she would probably require all that, and what labour she would then be capable of as well, to support herself. Margaret was anxious, too, though not to be independent, yet, not to be burdensome. Both David and Janet saw that, by her peculiar tastes and habits, she had separated herself so far from the circle around her, that she could never hope to be quite comfortable in that neighbourhood. It was not that by any means she despised or refused the labours common to the young women of the country; but, all things considered, they thought that something more suitable for her might be procured.
The laird’s lady continued to behave to her in the most supercilious fashion. The very day of Hugh’s departure, she had chanced to meet Margaret walking alone with a book, this time unopened, in her hand. Mrs. Glasford stopped. Margaret stopped too, expecting to be addressed. The lady looked at her, all over, from head to foot, as if critically examining the appearance of an animal she thought of purchasing; then, without a word, but with a contemptuous toss of the head, passed on, leaving poor Margaret both angry and ashamed.
But David was much respected by the gentry of the neighbourhood, with whom his position, as the laird’s steward, brought him not unfrequently into contact; and to several of them he mentioned his desire of finding some situation for Margaret. Janet could not bear the idea of her lady-bairn leaving them, to encounter the world alone; but David, though he could not help sometimes feeling a similar pang, was able to take to himself hearty comfort from the thought, that if there was any safety for her in her father’s house, there could not be less in her heavenly Father’s, in any nook of which she was as full in His eye, and as near His heart, as in their own cottage. He felt that anxiety in this case, as in every other, would just be a lack of confidence in God, to suppose which justifiable would be equivalent to saying that He had not fixed the foundations of the earth that it should not be moved; that He was not the Lord of Life, nor the Father of His children; in short, that a sparrow could fall to the ground without Him, and that the hairs of our head are not numbered. Janet admitted all this, but sighed nevertheless. So did David too, at times; for he knew that the sparrow must fall; that many a divine truth is hard to learn, all-blessed as it is when learned; and that sorrow and suffering must come to Margaret, ere she could be fashioned into the perfection of a child of the kingdom. Still, she was as safe abroad as at home.
An elderly lady of fortune was on a visit to one of the families in the neighbourhood. She was in want of a lady’s-maid, and it occurred to the housekeeper that Margaret might suit her. This was not quite what her parents would have chosen, but they allowed her to go and see the lady. Margaret was delighted with the benevolent-looking gentlewoman; and she, on her part, was quite charmed with Margaret. It was true she knew nothing of the duties of the office; but the present maid, who was leaving on the best of terms, would soon initiate her into its mysteries. And David and Janet were so much pleased with Margaret’s account of the interview, that David himself went to see the lady. The sight of him only increased her desire to have Margaret, whom she said she would treat like a daughter, if only she were half as good as she looked. Before David left her, the matter was arranged; and within a month, Margaret was borne in her mistress’s carriage, away from father and mother and cottage-home.
Book 2 — Arnstead
The earth hath bubbles as the water has.
— Macbeth , I.3
Chapter 1 — A New Home
A wise man’s home is whereso’er he’s wise.
—John Marston, Antonio’s Revenge .
Hugh left the North dead in the arms of grey winter, and found his new abode already alive in the breath of the west wind. As he walked up the avenue to the house, he felt that the buds were breaking all about, though, the night being dark and cloudy, the green shadows of the coming spring were invisible.
He was received at the hall-door, and shown to his room, by an old, apparently confidential, and certainly important butler; whose importance, however, was inoffensive, as founded, to all appearance, on a sense of family and not of personal dignity. Refreshment was then brought him, with the message that, as it was late, Mr. Arnold would defer the pleasure of meeting him till the morning at breakfast.
Left to himself, Hugh began to look around him. Everything suggested a contrast between his present position and that which he had first occupied about the same time of the year at Turriepuffit. He was in an old handsome room of dark wainscot, furnished like a library, with book-cases about the walls. One of them, with glass doors, had an ancient escritoire underneath, which was open, and evidently left empty for his use. A fire was burning cheerfully in an old high grate; but its light, though assisted by that of two wax candles on the table, failed to show the outlines of the room, it was so large and dark. The ceiling was rather low in proportion, and a huge beam crossed it. At one end, an open door revealed a room beyond, likewise lighted with fire and candles. Entering, he found this to be an equally old-fashioned bedroom, to which his luggage had been already conveyed.
“As far as creature comforts go,” thought Hugh, “I have fallen on my feet.” He rang the bell, had the tray removed, and then proceeded to examine the book-cases. He found them to contain much of the literature with which he was most desirous of making an acquaintance. A few books of the day were interspersed. The sense of having good companions in the authors around him, added greatly to his feeling of comfort; and he retired for the night filled with pleasant anticipations of his sojourn at Arnstead. All the night, however, his dreams were of wind and snow, and Margaret out in them alone. Janet was waiting in the cottage for him to bring her home. He had found her, but could not move her; for the spirit of the storm had frozen her to ice, and she was heavy as a marble statue.
When he awoke, the shadows of boughs and budding twigs were waving in changeful network-tracery, across the bright sunshine on his window-curtains. Before he was called he was ready to go down; and to amuse himself till breakfast-time, he proceeded to make another survey of the books. He concluded that these must be a colony from the mother-library; and also that the room must, notwithstanding, be intended for his especial occupation, seeing his bedroom opened out of it. Next, he looked from all the windows, to discover into what kind of a furrow on the face of the old earth he had fallen. All he could see was trees and trees. But oh! how different from the sombre, dark, changeless fir-wood at Turriepuffit! whose trees looked small and shrunken in his memory, beside this glory of boughs, breaking out into their prophecy of an infinite greenery at hand. His rooms seemed to occupy the end of a small wing at the back of the house, as well as he could judge. His sitting-room windows looked across a small space to another wing; and the windows of his bedroom, which were at right-angles to those of the former, looked full into what seemed an ordered ancient forest of gracious trees of all kinds, coming almost close to the very windows. They were the trees which had been throwing their shadows on these windows for two or three hours of the silent spring sunlight, at once so liquid and so dazzling. Then he resolved to test his faculty for discovery, by seeing whether he could find his way to the breakfast-room without a guide. In this he would have succeeded without much difficulty, for it opened from the main-entrance hall, to which the huge square-turned oak staircase, by which he had ascended, led; had it not been for the somewhat intricate nature of the passages leading from the wing in which his rooms were (evidently an older and more retired portion of the house) to the main staircase itself. After opening many doors and finding no thoroughfare, he became convinced that, in place of finding a way on, he had lost the way back. At length he came to a small stair, which led him down to a single door. This he opened, and straightway found himself in the library, a long, low, silent-looking room, every foot of the walls of which was occupied with books in varied and rich bindings. The lozenge-paned windows, with thick stone mullions, were much overgrown with ivy, throwing a cool green shadowiness into the room. One of them, however, had been altered to a more modern taste, and opened with folding-doors upon a few steps, descending into an old-fashioned, terraced garden. To approach this window he had to pass a table, lying on which he saw a paper with verses on it, evidently in a woman’s hand, and apparently just written, for the ink of the corrective scores still glittered. Just as he reached the window, which stood open, a lady had almost gained it from the other side, coming up the steps from the garden. She gave a slight start when she saw him, looked away, and as instantly glanced towards him again. Then approaching him through the window, for he had retreated to allow her to enter, she bowed with a kind of studied ease, and a slight shade of something French in her manner. Her voice was very pleasing, almost bewitching; yet had, at the same time, something assumed, if not affected, in the tone. All this was discoverable, or rather spiritually palpable, in the two words she said — merely, “Mr. Sutherland?” interrogatively. Hugh bowed, and said:
“I am very glad you have found me, for I had quite lost myself. I doubt whether I should ever have reached the breakfast-room.”
“Come this way,” she rejoined.
As they passed the table on which the verses lay, she stopped and slipped them into a writing-case. Leading him through a succession of handsome, evidently modern passages, she brought him across the main hall to the breakfast-room, which looked in the opposite direction to the library, namely, to the front of the house. She rang the bell; the urn was brought in; and she proceeded at once to make the tea; which she did well, rising in Hugh’s estimation thereby. Before he had time, however, to make his private remarks on her exterior, or his conjectures on her position in the family, Mr. Arnold entered the room, with a slow, somewhat dignified step, and a dull outlook of grey eyes from a grey head well-balanced on a tall, rather slender frame. The lady rose, and, addressing him as uncle, bade him good morning; a greeting which he returned cordially, with a kiss on her forehead. Then accosting Hugh, with a manner which seemed the more polite and cold after the tone in which he had spoken to his niece, he bade him welcome to Arnstead.
“I trust you were properly attended to last night, Mr. Sutherland? Your pupil wanted very much to sit up till you arrived, but he is altogether too delicate, I am sorry to say, for late hours, though he has an unfortunate preference for them himself. Jacob,” (to the man in waiting), “is not Master Harry up yet?”
Master Harry’s entrance at that moment rendered reply unnecessary.
“Good morning, Euphra,” he said to the lady, and kissed her on the cheek.
“Good morning, dear,” was the reply, accompanied by a pretence of returning the kiss. But she smiled with a kind of confectionary sweetness on him; and, dropping an additional lump of sugar into his tea at the same moment, placed it for him beside herself; while he went and shook hands with his father, and then glancing shyly up at Hugh from a pair of large dark eyes, put his hand in his, and smiled, revealing teeth of a pearly whiteness. The lips, however, did not contrast them sufficiently, being pale and thin, with indication of suffering in their tremulous lines. Taking his place at table, he trifled with his breakfast; and after making pretence of eating for a while, asked Euphra if he might go. She giving him leave, he hastened away.
Mr. Arnold took advantage of his retreat to explain to Hugh what he expected of him with regard to the boy.
“How old would you take Harry to be, Mr. Sutherland?”
“I should say about twelve from his size,” replied Hugh; “but from his evident bad health, and intelligent expression —”
“Ah! you perceive the state he is in,” interrupted Mr. Arnold, with some sadness in his voice. “You are right; he is nearly fifteen. He has not grown half-an-inch in the last twelve months.”
“Perhaps that is better than growing too fast,” said Hugh.
“Perhaps — perhaps; we will hope so. But I cannot help being uneasy about him. He reads too much, and I have not yet been able to help it; for he seems miserable, and without any object in life, if I compel him to leave his books.”
“Perhaps we can manage to get over that in a little while.”
“Besides,” Mr. Arnold went on, paying no attention to what Hugh said, “I can get him to take no exercise. He does not even care for riding. I bought him a second pony a month ago, and he has not been twice on its back yet.”
Hugh could not help thinking that to increase the supply was not always the best mode of increasing the demand; and that one who would not ride the first pony, would hardly be likely to ride the second. Mr. Arnold concluded with the words:
“I don’t want to stop the boy’s reading, but I can’t have him a milksop.”
“Will you let me manage him as I please, Mr. Arnold?” Hugh ventured to say.
Mr. Arnold looked full at him, with a very slight but quite manifest expression of surprise; and Hugh was aware that the eyes of the lady, called by the boy Euphra, were likewise fixed upon him penetratingly. As if he were then for the first time struck by the manly development of Hugh’s frame, Mr. Arnold answered:
“I don’t want you to overdo it, either. You cannot make a muscular Christian of him.” (The speaker smiled at his own imagined wit.) “The boy has talents, and I want him to use them.”
“I will do my best for him both ways,” answered Hugh, “if you will trust me. For my part, I think the only way is to make the operation of the intellectual tendency on the one side, reveal to the boy himself his deficiency on the other. This once done, all will be well.”
As he said this, Hugh caught sight of a cloudy, inscrutable dissatisfaction slightly contracting the eyebrows of the lady. Mr. Arnold, however, seemed not to be altogether displeased.
“Well,” he answered, “I have my plans; but let us see first what you can do with yours. If they fail, perhaps you will oblige me by trying mine.”
This was said with the decisive politeness of one who is accustomed to have his own way, and fully intends to have it — every word as articulate and deliberate as organs of speech could make it. But he seemed at the same time somewhat impressed by Hugh, and not unwilling to yield.
Throughout the conversation, the lady had said nothing, but had sat watching, or rather scrutinizing, Hugh’s countenance, with a far keener and more frequent glance than, I presume, he was at all aware of. Whether or not she was satisfied with her conclusions, she allowed no sign to disclose; but, breakfast being over, rose and withdrew, turning, however, at the door, and saying:
“When you please, Mr. Sutherland, I shall be glad to show you what Harry has been doing with me; for till now I have been his only tutor.”
“Thank you,” replied Hugh; “but for some time we shall be quite independent of school-books. Perhaps we may require none at all. He can read, I presume, fairly well?”
“Reading is not only his forte but his fault,” replied Mr. Arnold; while Euphra, fixing one more piercing look upon him, withdrew.
“Yes,” responded Hugh; “but a boy may shuffle through a book very quickly, and have no such accurate perceptions of even the mere words, as to be able to read aloud intelligibly.”
How little this applied to Harry, Hugh was soon to learn.
“Well, you know best about these things, I daresay. I leave it to you. With such testimonials as you have, Mr. Sutherland, I can hardly be wrong in letting you try your own plans with him. Now, I must bid you good morning. You will, in all probability, find Harry in the library.”
Chapter 2 — Harry’s New Horse
It is not the intention of sportive instruction that the child should be spared effort, or delivered from it; but that thereby a passion should be wakened in him, which shall both necessitate and facilitate the strongest exertion.
—Jean Paul, Die Unsichtbare Loge .
Hugh made no haste to find his pupil in the library; thinking it better, with such a boy, not to pounce upon him as if he were going to educate him directly. He went to his own rooms instead; got his books out and arranged them, — supplying thus, in a very small degree, the scarcity of modern ones in the book-cases; then arranged his small wardrobe, looked about him a little, and finally went to seek his pupil.
He found him in the library, as he had been given to expect, coiled up on the floor in a corner, with his back against the book-shelves, and an old folio on his knees, which he was reading in silence.
“Well, Harry,” said Hugh, in a half-indifferent tone, as he threw himself on a couch, “what are you reading?”
Harry had not heard him come in. He started, and almost shuddered; then looked up, hesitated, rose, and, as if ashamed to utter the name of the book, brought it to Hugh, opening it at the title-page as he held it out to him. It was the old romance of Polexander. Hugh knew nothing about it; but, glancing over some of the pages, could not help wondering that the boy should find it interesting.
“Do you like this very much?” said he.
“Well — no. Yes, rather.”
“I think I could find you something more interesting in the book-shelves.”
“Oh! please, sir, mayn’t I read this?” pleaded Harry, with signs of distress in his pale face.
“Oh, yes, certainly, if you wish. But tell me why you want to read it so very much.”
“Because I have set myself to read it through.”
Hugh saw that the child was in a diseased state of mind, as well as of body.
“You should not set yourself to read anything, before you know whether it is worth reading.”
“I could not help it. I was forced to say I would.”
“To whom?”
“To myself. Mayn’t I read it?”
“Certainly,” was all Hugh’s answer; for he saw that he must not pursue the subject at present: the boy was quite hypochondriacal. His face was keen, with that clear definition of feature which suggests superior intellect. He was, though very small for his age, well proportioned, except that his head and face were too large. His forehead indicated thought; and Hugh could not doubt that, however uninteresting the books which he read might be, they must have afforded him subjects of mental activity. But he could not help seeing as well, that this activity, if not altered in its direction and modified in its degree, would soon destroy itself, either by ruining his feeble constitution altogether, or, which was more to be feared, by irremediably injuring the action of the brain. He resolved, however, to let him satisfy his conscience by reading the book; hoping, by the introduction of other objects of thought and feeling, to render it so distasteful, that he would be in little danger of yielding a similar pledge again, even should the temptation return, which Hugh hoped to prevent.
“But you have read enough for the present, have you not?” said he, rising, and approaching the book-shelves.
“Yes; I have been reading since breakfast.”
“Ah! there’s a capital book. Have you ever read it — Gulliver’s Travels?”
“No. The outside looked always so uninteresting.”
“So does Polexander’s outside.”
“Yes. But I couldn’t help that one.”
“Well, come along. I will read to you.”
“Oh! thank you. That will be delightful. But must we not go to our lessons?”
“I’m going to make a lesson of this. I have been talking to your papa; and we’re going to begin with a holiday, instead of ending with one. I must get better acquainted with you first, Harry, before I can teach you right. We must be friends, you know.”
The boy crept close up to him, laid one thin hand on his knee, looked in his face for a moment, and then, without a word, sat down on the couch close beside him. Before an hour had passed, Harry was laughing heartily at Gulliver’s adventures amongst the Lilliputians. Having arrived at this point of success, Hugh ceased reading, and began to talk to him.
“Is that lady your cousin?”
“Yes. Isn’t she beautiful?”
“I hardly know yet. I have not got used to her enough yet. What is her name?”
“Oh! such a pretty name — Euphrasia.”
“Is she the only lady in the house?”
“Yes; my mamma is dead, you know. She was ill for a long time, they say; and she died when I was born.”
The tears came in the poor boy’s eyes. Hugh thought of his own father, and put his hand on Harry’s shoulder. Harry laid his head on Hugh’s shoulder.
“But,” he went on, “Euphra is so kind to me! And she is so clever too! She knows everything.”
“Have you no brothers or sisters?”
“No, none. I wish I had.”
“Well, I’ll be your big brother. Only you must mind what I say to you; else I shall stop being him. Is it a bargain?”
“Yes, to be sure!” cried Harry in delight; and, springing from the couch, he began hopping feebly about the room on one foot, to express his pleasure.
“Well, then, that’s settled. Now, you must come and show me the horses — your ponies, you know — and the pigs —”
“I don’t like the pigs — I don’t know where they are.”
“Well, we must find out. Perhaps I shall make some discoveries for you. Have you any rabbits?”
“A dog though, surely?”
“No. I had a canary, but the cat killed it, and I have never had a pet since.”
“Well, get your cap, and come out with me. I will wait for you here.”
Harry walked away — he seldom ran. He soon returned with his cap, and they sallied out together.
Happening to look back at the house, when a few paces from it, Hugh thought he saw Euphra standing at the window of a back staircase. They made the round of the stables, and the cow-house, and the poultry-yard; and even the pigs, as proposed, came in for a share of their attention. As they approached the stye, Harry turned away his head with a look of disgust. They were eating out of the trough.
“They make such a nasty noise!” he said.
“Yes, but just look: don’t they enjoy it?” said Hugh.
Harry looked at them. The notion of their enjoyment seemed to dawn upon him as something quite new. He went nearer and nearer to the stye. At last a smile broke out over his countenance.
“How tight that one curls his tail!” said he, and burst out laughing.
“How dreadfully this boy must have been mismanaged!” thought Hugh to himself. “But there is no fear of him now, I hope.”
By this time they had been wandering about for more than an hour; and Hugh saw, by Harry’s increased paleness, that he was getting tired.
“Here, Harry, get on my back, my boy, and have a ride. You’re tired.”
And Hugh knelt down.
Harry shrunk back.
“I shall spoil your coat with my shoes.”
“Nonsense! Rub them well on the grass there. And then get on my back directly.”
Harry did as he was bid, and found his tutor’s broad back and strong arms a very comfortable saddle. So away they went, wandering about for a long time, in their new relation of horse and his rider. At length they got into the middle of a long narrow avenue, quite neglected, overgrown with weeds, and obstructed with rubbish. But the trees were fine beeches, of great growth and considerable age. One end led far into a wood, and the other towards the house, a small portion of which could be seen at the end, the avenue appearing to reach close up to it.
“Don’t go down this,” said Harry.
“Well, it’s not a very good road for a horse certainly, but I think I can go it. What a beautiful avenue! Why is it so neglected?”
“Don’t go down there, please, dear horse.”
Harry was getting wonderfully at home with Hugh already.
“Why?” asked Hugh.
“They call it the Ghost’s Walk, and I don’t much like it. It has a strange distracted look!”
“That’s a long word, and a descriptive one too,” thought Hugh; but, considering that there would come many a better opportunity of combating the boy’s fears than now, he simply said: “Very well, Harry,” — and proceeded to leave the avenue by the other side. But Harry was not yet satisfied.
“Please, Mr. Sutherland, don’t go on that side, just now. Ride me back, please. It is not safe, they say, to cross her path. She always follows any one who crosses her path.”
Hugh laughed; but again said, “Very well, my boy;” and, returning, left the avenue by the side by which he had entered it.
“Shall we go home to luncheon now?” said Harry.
“Yes,” replied Hugh. “Could we not go by the front of the house? I should like very much to see it.”
“Oh, certainly,” said Harry, and proceeded to direct Hugh how to go; but evidently did not know quite to his own satisfaction. There being, however, but little foliage yet, Hugh could discover his way pretty well. He promised himself many a delightful wander in the woody regions in the evenings.
They managed to get round to the front of the house, not without some difficulty; and then Hugh saw to his surprise that, although not imposing in appearance, it was in extent more like a baronial residence than that of a simple gentleman. The front was very long, apparently of all ages, and of all possible styles of architecture, the result being somewhat mysterious and eminently picturesque. All kinds of windows; all kinds of projections and recesses; a house here, joined to a hall there; here a pointed gable, the very bell on the top overgrown and apparently choked with ivy; there a wide front with large bay windows; and next a turret of old stone, with not a shred of ivy upon it, but crowded over with grey-green lichens, which looked as if the stone itself had taken to growing; multitudes of roofs, of all shapes and materials, so that one might very easily be lost amongst the chimneys and gutters and dormer windows and pinnacles — made up the appearance of the house on the outside to Hugh’s first inquiring glance, as he paused at a little distance with Harry on his back, and scanned the wonderful pile before him. But as he looked at the house of Arnstead, Euphra was looking at him with the boy on his back, from one of the smaller windows. Was she making up her mind?
“You are as kind to me as Euphra,” said Harry, as Hugh set him down in the hall. “I’ve enjoyed my ride very much, thank you, Mr. Sutherland. I am sure Euphra will like you very much — she likes everybody.”
Chapter 3 — Euphrasia
…then purged with Euphrasy and Rue
The visual nerve, for he had much to see.
— Paradise Lost , b. xi.
Soft music came to mine ear. It was like the rising breeze, that whirls, at first, the thistle’s beard; then flies, dark-shadowy, over the grass. It was the maid of Fuärfed wild: she raised the nightly song; for she knew that my soul was a stream, that flowed at pleasant sounds.
—Ossian, Oina-Morul .
Harry led Hugh by the hand to the dining-room, a large oak hall with Gothic windows, and an open roof supported by richly carved woodwork, in the squares amidst which were painted many escutcheons parted by fanciful devices. Over the high stone carving above the chimney hung an old piece of tapestry, occupying the whole space between that and the roof. It represented a hunting-party of ladies and gentlemen, just setting out. The table looked very small in the centre of the room, though it would have seated twelve or fourteen. It was already covered for luncheon; and in a minute Euphra entered and took her place without a word. Hugh sat on one side and Harry on the other. Euphra, having helped both to soup, turned to Harry and said, “Well, Harry, I hope you have enjoyed your first lesson.”
“Very much,” answered Harry with a smile. “I have learned pigs and horseback.”
“The boy is positively clever,” thought Hugh.
“Mr. Sutherland” — he continued, “has begun to teach me to like creatures.”
“But I thought you were very fond of your wild-beast book, Harry.”
“Oh! yes; but that was only in the book, you know. I like the stories about them, of course. But to like pigs, you know, is quite different. They are so ugly and ill-bred. I like them though.”
“You seem to have quite gained Harry already,” said Euphra, glancing at Hugh, and looking away as quickly.
“We are very good friends, and shall be, I think,” replied he.
Harry looked at him affectionately, and said to him, not to Euphra, “Oh! yes, that we shall, I am sure.” Then turning to the lady — “Do you know, Euphra, he is my big brother?”
“You must mind how you make new relations, though, Harry; for you know that would make him my cousin.”
“Well, you will be a kind cousin to him, won’t you?”
“I will try,” replied Euphra, looking up at Hugh with a naïve expression of shyness, and the slightest possible blush.
Hugh began to think her pretty, almost handsome. His next thought was to wonder how old she was. But about this he could not at once make up his mind. She might be four-and-twenty; she might be two-and-thirty. She had black, lustreless hair, and eyes to match, as far as colour was concerned — but they could sparkle, and probably flash upon occasion; a low forehead, but very finely developed in the faculties that dwell above the eyes; slender but very dark eyebrows — just black arched lines in her rather sallow complexion; nose straight, and nothing remarkable — “an excellent thing in woman,” a mouth indifferent when at rest, but capable of a beautiful laugh. She was rather tall, and of a pretty enough figure; hands good; feet invisible. Hugh came to these conclusions rapidly enough, now that his attention was directed to her; for, though naturally unobservant, his perception was very acute as soon as his attention was roused.
“Thank you,” he replied to her pretty speech. “I shall do my best to deserve it.”
“I hope you will, Mr. Sutherland,” rejoined she, with another arch look. “Take some wine, Harry.”
She poured out a glass of sherry, and gave it to the boy, who drank it with some eagerness. Hugh could not approve of this, but thought it too early to interfere. Turning to Harry, he said:
“Now, Harry, you have had rather a tiring morning. I should like you to go and lie down a while.”
“Very well, Mr. Sutherland,” replied Harry, who seemed rather deficient in combativeness, as well as other boyish virtues. “Shall I lie down in the library?”
“No — have a change.”
“In my bed-room?”
“No, I think not. Go to my room, and lie on the couch till I come to you.”
Harry went; and Hugh, partly for the sake of saying something, and partly to justify his treatment of Harry, told Euphra, whose surname he did not yet know, what they had been about all the morning, ending with some remark on the view of the house in front. She heard the account of their proceedings with apparent indifference, replying only to the remark with which he closed it:
“It is rather a large house, is it not, for three — I beg your pardon, for four persons to live in, Mr. Sutherland?”
“It is, indeed; it quite bewilders me.”
“To tell the truth, I don’t quite know above the half of it myself.”
Hugh thought this rather a strange assertion, large as the house was; but she went on:
“I lost myself between the housekeeper’s room and my own, no later than last week.”
I suppose there was a particle of truth in this; and that she had taken a wrong turning in an abstracted fit. Perhaps she did not mean it to be taken as absolutely true.
“You have not lived here long, then?”
“Not long for such a great place. A few years. I am only a poor relation.”
She accompanied this statement with another swift uplifting of the eyelids. But this time her eyes rested for a moment on Hugh’s, with something of a pleading expression; and when they fell, a slight sigh followed. Hugh felt that he could not quite understand her. A vague suspicion crossed his mind that she was bewitching him, but vanished instantly. He replied to her communication by a smile, and the remark:
“You have the more freedom, then. — Did you know Harry’s mother?” he added, after a pause.
“No. She died when Harry was born. She was very beautiful, and, they say, very clever, but always in extremely delicate health. Between ourselves, I doubt if there was much sympathy — that is, if my uncle and she quite understood each other. But that is an old story.”
A pause followed. Euphra resumed:
“As to the freedom you speak of, Mr. Sutherland, I do not quite know what to do with it. I live here as if the place were my own, and give what orders I please. But Mr. Arnold shows me little attention — he is so occupied with one thing and another, I hardly know what; and if he did, perhaps I should get tired of him. So, except when we have visitors, which is not very often, the time hangs rather heavy on my hands.”
“But you are fond of reading — and writing, too, I suspect;” Hugh ventured to say.
She gave him another of her glances, in which the apparent shyness was mingled with something for which Hugh could not find a name. Nor did he suspect, till long after, that it was in reality slyness, so tempered with archness, that, if discovered, it might easily pass for an expression playfully assumed.
“Oh! yes,” she said; “one must read a book now and then; and if a verse” — again a glance and a slight blush — “should come up from nobody knows where, one may as well write it down. But, please, do not take me for a literary lady. Indeed, I make not the slightest pretensions. I don’t know what I should do without Harry; and indeed, indeed, you must not steal him from me, Mr. Sutherland.”
“I should be very sorry,” replied Hugh. “Let me beg you, as far as I have a right to do so, to join us as often and as long as you please. I will go and see how he is. I am sure the boy only wants thorough rousing, alternated with perfect repose.”
He went to his own room, where he found Harry, to his satisfaction, fast asleep on the sofa. He took care not to wake him, but sat down beside him to read till his sleep should be over. But, a moment after, the boy opened his eyes with a start and a shiver, and gave a slight cry. When he saw Hugh he jumped up, and with a smile which was pitiful to see upon a scared face, said:
“Oh! I am so glad you are there.”
“What is the matter, dear Harry?”
“I had a dreadful dream.”
“What was it?”
“I don’t know. It always comes. It is always the same. I know that. And yet I can never remember what it is.”
Hugh soothed him as well as he could; and he needed it, for the cold drops were standing on his forehead. When he had grown calmer, he went and fetched Gulliver, and, to the boy’s great delight, read to him till dinner-time. Before the first bell rang, he had quite recovered, and indeed seemed rather interested in the approach of dinner.
Dinner was an affair of some state at Arnstead. Almost immediately after the second bell had rung, Mr. Arnold made his appearance in the drawing-room, where the others were already waiting for him. This room had nothing of the distinctive character of the parts of the house which Hugh had already seen. It was merely a handsome modern room, of no great size. Mr. Arnold led Euphra to dinner, and Hugh followed with Harry.
Mr. Arnold’s manner to Hugh was the same as in the morning — studiously polite, without the smallest approach to cordiality. He addressed him as an equal, it is true; but an equal who could never be in the smallest danger of thinking he meant it. Hugh, who, without having seen a great deal of the world, yet felt much the same wherever he was, took care to give him all that he seemed to look for, as far at least as was consistent with his own self-respect. He soon discovered that he was one of those men, who, if you will only grant their position, and acknowledge their authority, will allow you to have much your own way in everything. His servants had found this out long ago, and almost everything about the house was managed as they pleased; but as the oldest of them were respectable family servants, nothing went very far wrong. They all, however, waited on Euphra with an assiduity that showed she was, or could be, quite mistress when and where she pleased. Perhaps they had found out that she had great influence with Mr. Arnold; and certainly he seemed very fond of her indeed, after a stately fashion. She spoke to the servants with peculiar gentleness; never said, if you please; but always, thank you. Harry never asked for anything, but always looked to Euphra, who gave the necessary order. Hugh saw that the boy was quite dependent upon her, seeming of himself scarcely capable of originating the simplest action. Mr. Arnold, however, dull as he was, could not help seeing that Harry’s manner was livelier than usual, and seemed pleased at the slight change already visible for the better. Turning to Hugh he said:
“Do you find Harry very much behind with his studies, Mr. Sutherland?”
“I have not yet attempted to find out,” replied Hugh.
“Not?” said Mr. Arnold, with surprise.
“No. If he be behind, I feel confident it will not be for long.”
“But,” began Mr. Arnold, pompously; and then he paused.
“You were kind enough to say, Mr. Arnold, that I might try my own plans with him first. I have been doing so.”
“Yes — certainly. But —”
Here Harry broke in with some animation:
“Mr. Sutherland has been my horse, carrying me about on his back all the morning — no, not all the morning — but an hour, or an hour and a half — or was it two hours, Mr. Sutherland?”
“I really don’t know, Harry,” answered Hugh; “I don’t think it matters much.”
Harry seemed relieved, and went on:
“He has been reading Gulliver’s Travels to me — oh, such fall! And we have been to see the cows and the pigs; and Mr. Sutherland has been teaching me to jump. Do you know, papa, he jumped right over the pony’s back without touching it.”
Mr. Arnold stared at the boy with lustreless eyes and hanging checks. These grew red, as if he were going to choke. Such behaviour was quite inconsistent with the dignity of Arnstead and its tutor, who had been recommended to him as a thorough gentleman. But for the present he said nothing; probably because he could think of nothing to say.
“Certainly Harry seems better already,” interposed Euphra.
“I cannot help thinking Mr. Sutherland has made a good beginning.”
Mr. Arnold did not reply, but the cloud wore away from his face by degrees; and at length he asked Hugh to take a glass of wine with him.
When Euphra rose from the table, and Harry followed her example, Hugh thought it better to rise as well. Mr. Arnold seemed to hesitate whether or not to ask him to resume his seat and have a glass of claret. Had he been a little wizened pedagogue, no doubt he would have insisted on his company, sure of acquiescence from him in every sentiment he might happen to utter. But Hugh really looked so very much like a gentleman, and stated his own views, or adopted his own plans, with so much independence, that Mr. Arnold judged it safer to keep him at arm’s length for a season at least, till he should thoroughly understand his position — not that of a guest, but that of his son’s tutor, belonging to the household of Arnstead only on approval.
On leaving the dining-room, Hugh hesitated, in his turn, whether to betake himself to his own room, or to accompany Euphra to the drawing-room, the door of which stood open on the opposite side of the hall, revealing a brightness and warmth, which the chill of the evening, and the lowness of the fire in the dining-room, rendered quite enticing. But Euphra, who was half-across the hall, seeming to divine his thoughts, turned, and said, “Are you not going to favour us with your company, Mr. Sutherland?”
“With pleasure,” replied Hugh; but, to cover his hesitation, added, “I will be with you presently;” and ran up stairs to his own room. “The old gentleman sits on his dignity — can hardly be said to stand on it,” thought he, as he went. “The poor relation, as she calls herself, treats me like a guest. She is mistress here, however; that is clear enough.”
As he descended the stairs to the drawing-room, a voice rose through the house, like the voice of an angel. At least so thought Hugh, hearing it for the first time. It seemed to take his breath away, as he stood for a moment on the stairs, listening. It was only Euphra singing The Flowers of the Forest. The drawing-room door was still open, and her voice rang through the wide lofty hall. He entered almost on tip-toe, that he might lose no thread of the fine tones. — Had she chosen the song of Scotland out of compliment to him? — She saw him enter, but went on without hesitating even. In the high notes, her voice had that peculiar vibratory richness which belongs to the nightingale’s; but he could not help thinking that the low tones were deficient both in quality and volume. The expression and execution, however, would have made up for a thousand defects. Her very soul seemed brooding over the dead upon Flodden field, as she sang this most wailful of melodies — this embodiment of a nation’s grief. The song died away as if the last breath had gone with it; failing as it failed, and ceasing with its inspiration, as if the voice that sang lived only for and in the song. A moment of intense silence followed. Then, before Hugh had half recovered from the former, with an almost grand dramatic recoil, as if the second sprang out of the first, like an eagle of might out of an ocean of weeping, she burst into Scots wha hae. She might have been a new Deborah, heralding her nation to battle. Hugh was transfixed, turned icy cold, with the excitement of his favourite song so sung. — Was that a glance of satisfied triumph with which Euphra looked at him for a single moment? — She sang the rest of the song as if the battle were already gained; but looked no more at Hugh.
The excellence of her tones, and the lambent fluidity of her transitions, if I may be allowed the phrase, were made by her art quite subservient to the expression, and owed their chief value to the share they bore in producing it. Possibly there was a little too much of the dramatic in her singing, but it was all in good taste; and, in a word, Hugh had never heard such singing before. As soon as she had finished, she rose, and shut the piano.
“Do not, do not,” faltered Hugh, seeking to arrest her hand, as she closed the instrument.
“I can sing nothing after that,” she said with emotion, or perhaps excitement; for the trembling of her voice might be attributed to either cause. “Do not ask me.”
Hugh respectfully desisted; but after a few minutes’ pause ventured to remark:
“I cannot understand how you should be able to sing Scotch songs so well. I never heard any but Scotch women sing them, even endurably, before: your singing of them is perfect.”
“It seems to me,” said Euphra, speaking as if she would rather have remained silent, “that a true musical penetration is independent of styles and nationalities. It can perceive, or rather feel, and reproduce, at the same moment. If the music speaks Scotch, the musical nature hears Scotch. It can take any shape, indeed cannot help taking any shape, presented to it.”
Hugh was yet further astonished by this criticism from one whom he had been criticising with so much carelessness that very day.
“You think, then,” said he, modestly, not as if he would bring her to book, but as really seeking to learn from her, “that a true musical nature can pour itself into the mould of any song, in entire independence of association and education?”
“Yes; in independence of any but what it may provide for itself.”
Euphrasia, however, had left one important element unrepresented in the construction of her theory — namely, the degree of capability which a mind may possess of sympathy with any given class of feelings. The blossom of the mind, whether it flower in poetry, music, or any other art, must be the exponent of the nature and condition of that whose blossom it is. No mind, therefore, incapable of sympathising with the feelings whence it springs, can interpret the music of another. And Euphra herself was rather a remarkable instance of this forgotten fact.
Further conversation on the subject was interrupted by the entrance of Mr. Arnold, who looked rather annoyed at finding Hugh in the drawing-room, and ordered Harry off to bed, with some little asperity of tone. The boy rose at once, rang the bell, bade them all good night, and went. A servant met him at the door with a candle, and accompanied him.
Thought Hugh: “Here are several things to be righted at once. The boy must not have wine; and he must have only one dinner a-day — especially if he is ordered to bed so early. I must make a man of him if I can.”
He made inquiries, and, with some difficulty, found out where the boy slept. During the night he was several times in Harry’s room, and once in happy time to wake him from a nightmare dream. The boy was so overcome with terror, that Hugh got into bed beside him and comforted him to sleep in his arms. Nor did he leave him till it was time to get up, when he stole back to his own quarters, which, happily, were at no very great distance.
I may mention here, that it was not long before Hugh succeeded in stopping the wine, and reducing the dinner to a mouthful of supper. Harry, as far as he was concerned, yielded at once; and his father only held out long enough to satisfy his own sense of dignity.
Chapter 4 — The Cave in the Straw
All knowledge and wonder (which is the seed of knowledge) is an impression of pleasure in itself.
—Lord Bacon, Advancement of Learning .
The following morning dawned in a cloud; which, swathed about the trees, wetted them down to the roots, without having time to become rain. They drank it in like sorrow, the only material out of which true joy can be fashioned. This cloud of mist would yet glimmer in a new heaven, namely, in the cloud of blooms which would clothe the limes and the chestnuts and the beeches along the ghost’s walk. But there was gloomy weather within doors as well; for poor Harry was especially sensitive to variations of the barometer, without being in the least aware of the fact himself. Again Hugh found him in the library, seated in his usual corner, with Polexander on his knees. He half dropped the book when Hugh entered, and murmured with a sigh:
“It’s no use; I can’t read it.”
“What’s the matter, Harry?” said his tutor.
“I should like to tell you, but you will laugh at me.”
“I shall never laugh at you, Harry.”
“No, never.”
“Then tell me how I can be sure that I have read this book.”
“I do not quite understand you.”
“All! I was sure nobody could be so stupid as I am. Do you know, Mr. Sutherland, I seem to have read a page from top to bottom sometimes, and when I come to the bottom I know nothing about it, and doubt whether I have read it at all; and then I stare at it all over again, till I grow so queer, and sometimes nearly scream. You see I must be able to say I have read the book.”
“Why? Nobody will ever ask you.”
“Perhaps not; but you know that is nothing. I want to know that I have read the book — really and truly read it.”
Hugh thought for a moment, and seemed to see that the boy, not being strong enough to be a law to himself, just needed a benign law from without, to lift him from the chaos of feeble and conflicting notions and impulses within, which generated a false law of slavery. So he said:
“Harry, am I your big brother?”
“Yes, Mr. Sutherland.”
“Then, ought you to do what I wish, or what you wish yourself?”
“What you wish, sir.”
“Then I want you to put away that book for a month at least.”
“Oh, Mr. Sutherland! I promised.”
“To whom?”
“To myself.” “But I am above you; and I want you to do as I tell you. Will you, Harry?”
“Put away the book, then.”
Harry sprang to his feet, put the book on its shelf, and, going up to Hugh, said,
“You have done it, not me.”
“Certainly, Harry.”
The notions of a hypochondriacal child will hardly be interesting to the greater part of my readers; but Hugh learned from this a little lesson about divine law which he never forgot.
“Now, Harry,” added he, “you must not open a book till I allow you.”
“No poetry, either?” said poor Harry; and his face fell.
“I don’t mind poetry so much; but of prose I will read as much to you as will be good for you. Come, let us have a bit of Gulliver again.”
“Oh, how delightful!” cried Harry. “I am so glad you made me put away that tiresome book. I wonder why it insisted so on being read.”
Hugh read for an hour, and then made Harry put on his cloak, notwithstanding the rain, which fell in a slow thoughtful spring shower. Taking the boy again on his back, he carried him into the woods. There he told him how the drops of wet sank into the ground, and then went running about through it in every direction, looking for seeds: which were all thirsty little things, that wanted to grow, and could not, till a drop came and gave them drink. And he told him how the rain-drops were made up in the skies, and then came down, like millions of angels, to do what they were told in the dark earth. The good drops went into all the cellars and dungeons of the earth, to let out the imprisoned flowers. And he told him how the seeds, when they had drunk the rain-drops, wanted another kind of drink next, which was much thinner and much stronger, but could not do them any good till they had drunk the rain first.
“What is that?” said Harry. “I feel as if you were reading out of the Bible, Mr. Sutherland.”
“It is the sunlight,” answered his tutor. “When a seed has drunk of the water, and is not thirsty any more, it wants to breathe next; and then the sun sends a long, small finger of fire down into the grave where the seed is lying; and it touches the seed, and something inside the seed begins to move instantly and to grow bigger and bigger, till it sends two green blades out of it into the earth, and through the earth into the air; and then it can breathe. And then it sends roots down into the earth; and the roots keep drinking water, and the leaves keep breathing the air, and the sun keeps them alive and busy; and so a great tree grows up, and God looks at it, and says it is good.”
“Then they really are living things?” said Harry.
“Thank you, Mr. Sutherland. I don’t think I shall dislike rain so much any more.”
Hugh took him next into the barn, where they found a great heap of straw. Recalling his own boyish amusements, he made him put off his cloak, and help to make a tunnel into this heap. Harry was delighted — the straw was so nice, and bright, and dry, and clean. They drew it out by handfuls, and thus excavated a round tunnel to the distance of six feet or so; when Hugh proceeded to more extended operations. Before it was time to go to lunch, they had cleared half of a hollow sphere, six feet in diameter, out of the heart of the heap.
After lunch, for which Harry had been very unwilling to relinquish the straw hut, Hugh sent him to lie down for a while; when he fell fast asleep as before. After he had left the room, Euphra said:
“How do you get on with Harry, Mr. Sutherland?”
“Perfectly to my satisfaction,” answered Hugh.
“Do you not find him very slow?”
“Quite the contrary.”
“You surprise me. But you have not given him any lessons yet.”
“I have given him a great many, and he is learning them very fast.”
“I fear he will have forgotten all my poor labours before you take up the work where we left it. When will you give him any book-lessons?”
“Not for a while yet.”
Euphra did not reply. Her silence seemed intended to express dissatisfaction; at least so Hugh interpreted it.
“I hope you do not think it is to indulge myself that I manage Master Harry in this peculiar fashion,” he said. “The fact is, he is a very peculiar child, and may turn out a genius or a weakling, just as he is managed. At least so it appears to me at present. May I ask where you left the work you were doing with him?”
“He was going through the Eton grammar for the third time,” answered Euphra, with a defiant glance, almost of dislike, at Hugh. “But I need not enumerate his studies, for I daresay you will not take them up at all after my fashion. I only assure you I have been a very exact disciplinarian. What he knows, I think you will find he knows thoroughly.”
So saying, Euphra rose, and with a flush on her cheek, walked out of the room in a more stately manner than usual.
Hugh felt that he had, somehow or other, offended her. But, to tell the truth, he did not much care, for her manner had rather irritated him. He retired to his own room, wrote to his mother, and, when Harry awoke, carried him again to the barn for an hour’s work in the straw. Before it grew dusk, they had finished a little, silent, dark chamber, as round as they could make it, in the heart of the straw. All the excavated material they had thrown on the top, reserving only a little to close up the entrance when they pleased.
The next morning was still rainy; and when Hugh found Harry in the library as usual, he saw that the clouds had again gathered over the boy’s spirit. He was pacing about the room in a very odd manner. The carpet was divided diamond-wise in a regular pattern. Harry’s steps were, for the most part, planted upon every third diamond, as he slowly crossed the floor in a variety of directions; for, as on previous occasions, he had not perceived the entrance of his tutor. But, every now and then, the boy would make the most sudden and irregular change in his mode of progression, setting his foot on the most unexpected diamond, at one time the nearest to him, at another the farthest within his reach. When he looked up, and saw his tutor watching him, he neither started nor blushed: but, still retaining on his countenance the perplexed, anxious expression which Hugh had remarked, said to him:
“How can God know on which of those diamonds I am going to set my foot next?”
“If you could understand how God knows, Harry, then you would know yourself; but before you have made up your mind, you don’t know which you will choose; and even then you only know on which you intend to set your foot; for you have often changed your mind after making it up.”
Harry looked as puzzled as before.
“Why, Harry, to understand how God understands, you would need to be as wise as he is; so it is no use trying. You see you can’t quite understand me, though I have a real meaning in what I say.”
“Ah! I see it is no use; but I can’t bear to be puzzled.”
“But you need not be puzzled; you have no business to be puzzled. You are trying to get into your little brain what is far too grand and beautiful to get into it. Would you not think it very stupid to puzzle yourself how to put a hundred horses into a stable with twelve stalls?”
Harry laughed, and looked relieved.
“It is more unreasonable a thousand times to try to understand such things. For my part, it would make me miserable to think that there was nothing but what I could understand. I should feel as if I had no room anywhere. Shall we go to our cave again?”
“Oh! yes, please,” cried Harry; and in a moment he was on Hugh’s back once more, cantering joyously to the barn.
After various improvements, including some enlargement of the interior, Hugh and Harry sat down together in the low yellow twilight of their cave, to enjoy the result of their labours. They could just see, by the light from the tunnel, the glimmer of the golden hollow all about them. The rain was falling heavily out-of-doors; and they could hear the sound of the multitudinous drops of the broken cataract of the heavens like the murmur of the insects in a summer wood. They knew that everything outside was rained upon, and was again raining on everything beneath it, while they were dry and warm.
“This is nice!” exclaimed Harry, after a few moments of silent enjoyment.
“This is your first lesson in architecture,” said Hugh.
“Am I to learn architecture?” asked Harry, in a rueful tone.
“It is well to know how things came to be done, if you should know nothing more about them, Harry. Men lived in the cellars first of all, and next on the ground floor; but they could get no further till they joined the two, and then they could build higher.”
“I don’t quite understand you, sir.”
“I did not mean you should, Harry.”
“Then I don’t mind, sir. But I thought architecture was building.”
“So it is; and this is one way of building. It is only making an outside by pulling out an inside, instead of making an inside by setting up an outside.”
Harry thought for a while, and then said joyfully:
“I see it, sir! I see it. The inside is the chief thing — not the outside.”
“Yes, Harry; and not in architecture only. Never forget that.”
They lay for some time in silence, listening to the rain. At length Harry spoke:
“I have been thinking of what you told me yesterday, Mr. Sutherland, about the rain going to look for the seeds that were thirsty for it. And now I feel just as if I were a seed, lying in its little hole in the earth, and hearing the rain-drops pattering down all about it, waiting — oh, so thirsty! — for some kind drop to find me out, and give me itself to drink. I wonder what kind of flower I should grow up,” added he, laughing.
“There is more truth than you think, in your pretty fancy, Harry,” rejoined Hugh, and was silent — self-rebuked; for the memory of David came back upon him, recalled by the words of the boy; of David, whom he loved and honoured with the best powers of his nature, and whom yet he had neglected and seemed to forget; nay, whom he had partially forgotten — he could not deny. The old man, whose thoughts were just those of a wise child, had said to him once:
“We ken no more, Maister Sutherlan’, what we’re growin’ till, than that neep-seed there kens what a neep is, though a neep it will be. The only odds is, that we ken that we dinna ken, and the neep-seed kens nothing at all aboot it. But ae thing, Maister Sutherlan’, we may be sure o’: that, whatever it be, it will be worth God’s makin’ an’ our growin’.”
A solemn stillness fell upon Hugh’s spirit, as he recalled these words; out of which stillness, I presume, grew the little parable which follows; though Hugh, after he had learned far more about the things therein hinted at, could never understand how it was, that he could have put so much more into it, than he seemed to have understood at that period of his history.
For Harry said:
“Wouldn’t this be a nice place for a story, Mr. Sutherland? Do you ever tell stories, sir?”
“I was just thinking of one, Harry; but it is as much yours as mine, for you sowed the seed of the story in my mind.”
“Do you mean a story that never was in a book — a story out of your own head? Oh! that will be grand!”
“Wait till we see what it will be, Harry; for I can’t tell you how it will turn out.”
After a little further pause, Hugh began:
“Long, long ago, two seeds lay beside each other in the earth, waiting. It was cold, and rather wearisome; and, to beguile the time, the one found means to speak to the other.
“‘What are you going to be?’ said the one.
“‘I don’t know,’ answered the other.
“‘For me,’ rejoined the first, ‘I mean to be a rose. There is nothing like a splendid rose. Everybody will love me then!’
“‘It’s all right,’ whispered the second; and that was all he could say; for somehow when he had said that, he felt as if all the words in the world were used up. So they were silent again for a day or two.
“‘Oh, dear!’ cried the first, ‘I have had some water. I never knew till it was inside me. I’m growing! I’m growing! Good-bye!’
“‘Good-bye!’ repeated the other, and lay still; and waited more than ever.
“The first grew and grew, pushing itself straight up, till at last it felt that it was in the open air, for it could breathe. And what a delicious breath that was! It was rather cold, but so refreshing. The flower could see nothing, for it was not quite a flower yet, only a plant; and they never see till their eyes come, that is, till they open their blossoms — then they are flowers quite. So it grew and grew, and kept its head up very steadily, meaning to see the sky the first thing, and leave the earth quite behind as well as beneath it. But somehow or other, though why it could not tell, it felt very much inclined to cry. At length it opened its eye. It was morning, and the sky was over its head; but, alas! itself was no rose — only a tiny white flower. It felt yet more inclined to hang down its head and to cry; but it still resisted, and tried hard to open its eye wide, and to hold its head upright, and to look full at the sky.
“‘I will be a star of Bethlehem at least!’ said the flower to itself.
“But its head felt very heavy; and a cold wind rushed over it, and bowed it down towards the earth. And the flower saw that the time of the singing of birds was not come, that the snow covered the whole land, and that there was not a single flower in sight but itself. And it half-closed its leaves in terror and the dismay of loneliness. But that instant it remembered what the other flower used to say; and it said to itself: ‘It’s all right; I will be what I can.’ And thereon it yielded to the wind, drooped its head to the earth, and looked no more on the sky, but on the snow. And straightway the wind stopped, and the cold died away, and the snow sparkled like pearls and diamonds; and the flower knew that it was the holding of its head up that had hurt it so; for that its body came of the snow, and that its name was Snow-drop. And so it said once more, ‘It’s all right!’ and waited in perfect peace. All the rest it needed was to hang its head after its nature.”
“And what became of the other?” asked Harry.
“I haven’t done with this one yet,” answered Hugh. “I only told you it was waiting. One day a pale, sad-looking girl, with thin face, large eyes, and long white hands, came, hanging her head like the snowdrop, along the snow where the flower grew. She spied it, smiled joyously, and saying, ‘Ah! my little sister, are you come?’ stooped and plucked the snowdrop. It trembled and died in her hand; which was a heavenly death for a snowdrop; for had it not cast a gleam of summer, pale as it had been itself, upon the heart of a sick girl?”
“And the other?” repeated Harry.
“The other had a long time to wait; but it did grow one of the loveliest roses ever seen. And at last it had the highest honour ever granted to a flower: two lovers smelled it together, and were content with it.”
Harry was silent, and so was Hugh; for he could not understand himself quite. He felt, all the time he was speaking, is if he were listening to David, instead of talking himself. The fact was, he was only expanding, in an imaginative soil, the living seed which David had cast into it. There seemed to himself to be more in his parable than he had any right to invent. But is it not so with all stories that are rightly rooted in the human?
“What a delightful story, Mr. Sutherland!” said Harry, at last. “Euphra tells me stories sometimes; but I don’t think I ever heard one I liked so much. I wish we were meant to grow into something, like the flower-seeds.”
“So we are, Harry.”
“Are we indeed? How delightful it would be to think that I am only a seed, Mr. Sutherland! Do you think I might think so?”
“Yes, I do.”
“Then, please, let me begin to learn something directly. I haven’t had anything disagreeable to do since you came; and I don’t feel as if that was right.”
Poor Harry, like so many thousands of good people, had not yet learned that God is not a hard task-master.
“I don’t intend that you should have anything disagreeable to do, if I can help it. We must do such things when they come to us; but we must not make them for ourselves, or for each other.”
“Then I’m not to learn any more Latin, am I?” said Harry, in a doubtful kind of tone, as if there were after all a little pleasure in doing what he did not like.
“Is Latin so disagreeable, Harry?”
“Yes; it is rule after rule, that has nothing in it I care for. How can anybody care for Latin? But I am quite ready to begin, if I am only a seed — really, you know.”
“Not yet, Harry. Indeed, we shall not begin again — I won’t let you — till you ask me with your whole heart, to let you learn Latin.”
“I am afraid that will be a long time, and Euphra will not like it.”
“I will talk to her about it. But perhaps it will not be so long as you think. Now, don’t mention Latin to me again, till you are ready to ask me, heartily, to teach you. And don’t give yourself any trouble about it either. You never can make yourself like anything.”
Harry was silent. They returned to the house, through the pouring rain; Harry, as usual, mounted on his big brother.
As they crossed the hall, Mr. Arnold came in. He looked surprised and annoyed. Hugh set Harry down, who ran upstairs to get dressed for dinner; while he himself half-stopped, and turned towards Mr. Arnold. But Mr. Arnold did not speak, and so Hugh followed Harry.
Hugh spent all that evening, after Harry had gone to bed, in correcting his impressions of some of the chief stories of early Roman history; of which stories he intended commencing a little course to Harry the next day.
Meantime there was very little intercourse between Hugh and Euphra, whose surname, somehow or other, Hugh had never inquired after. He disliked asking questions about people to an uncommon degree, and so preferred waiting for a natural revelation. Her later behaviour had repelled him, impressing him with the notion that she was proud, and that she had made up her mind, notwithstanding her apparent frankness at first, to keep him at a distance. That she was fitful, too, and incapable of showing much tenderness even to poor Harry, he had already concluded in his private judgment-hall. Nor could he doubt that, whether from wrong theories, incapacity, or culpable indifference, she must have taken very bad measures indeed with her young pupil.
The next day resembled the two former; with this difference, that the rain fell in torrents. Seated in their strawy bower, they cared for no rain. They were safe from the whole world, and all the tempers of nature.
Then Hugh told Harry about the slow beginnings and the mighty birth of the great Roman people. He told him tales of their battles and conquests; their strifes at home, and their wars abroad. He told him stories of their grand men, great with the individuality of their nation and their own. He told him their characters, their peculiar opinions and grounds of action, and the results of their various schemes for their various ends. He told him about their love to their country, about their poetry and their religion; their courage, and their hardihood; their architecture, their clothes, and their armour; their customs and their laws; but all in such language, or mostly in such language, as one boy might use in telling another of the same age; for Hugh possessed the gift of a general simplicity of thought, one of the most valuable a man can have. It cost him a good deal of labour (well-repaid in itself, not to speak of the evident delight of Harry), to make himself perfectly competent for this; but he had a good foundation of knowledge to work upon.
This went on for a long time after the period to which I am now more immediately confined. Every time they stopped to rest from their rambles or games — as often, in fact, as they sat down alone, Harry’s constant request was:
“Now, Mr. Sutherland, mightn’t we have something more about the Romans?”
And Mr. Sutherland gave him something more. But all this time he never uttered the word — Latin.
Chapter 5— Larch and Other Hunting
For there is neither buske nor hay
In May, that it n’ill shrouded bene,
And it with newé leavés wrene;
These woodés eke recoveren grene,
That drie in winter ben to sene,
And the erth waxeth proud withall,
For swoté dewes that on it fall,
And the poore estate forget,
In which that winter had it set:
And than becomes the ground so proude,
That it wol have a newé shroude,
And maketh so queint his robe and faire,
That it hath hewes an hundred paire,
Of grasse and floures, of Ind and Pers,
And many hewés full divers:
That is the robe I mean, ywis,
Through which the ground to praisen is.
—Chaucer’s translation of The Romaunt of the Rose .
So passed the three days of rain. After breakfast the following morning, Hugh went to find Harry, according to custom, in the library. He was reading.
“What are you reading, Harry?” asked he.
“A poem,” said Harry; and, rising as before, he brought the book to Hugh. It was Mrs. Hemans’s Poems.
“You are fond of poetry, Harry.”
“Yes, very.”
“Whose poems do you like best?”
“Mrs. Hemans’s, of course. Don’t you think she is the best, sir?”
“She writes very beautiful verses, Harry. Which poem are you reading now?”
“Oh! one of my favourites — The Voice of Spring.”
“Who taught you to like Mrs. Hemans?”
“Euphra, of course.”
“Will you read the poem to me?”
Harry began, and read the poem through, with much taste and evident enjoyment; an enjoyment which seemed, however, to spring more from the music of the thought and its embodiment in sound, than from sympathy with the forms of nature called up thereby. This was shown by his mode of reading, in which the music was everything, and the sense little or nothing. When he came to the line,
And the larch has hung all his tassels forth,

he smiled so delightedly, that Hugh said:
“Are you fond of the larch, Harry?”
“Yes, very.”
“Are there any about here?”
“I don’t know. What is it like?”
“You said you were fond of it.”
“Oh, yes; it is a tree with beautiful tassels, you know. I think I should like to see one. Isn’t it a beautiful line?”
“When you have finished the poem, we will go and see if we can find one anywhere in the woods. We must know where we are in the world, Harry — what is all round about us, you know.”
“Oh, yes,” said Harry; “let us go and hunt the larch.”
“Perhaps we shall meet Spring, if we look for her — perhaps hear her voice, too.”
“That would be delightful,” answered Harry, smiling. And away they went.
I may just mention here that Mrs. Hemans was allowed to retire gradually, till at last she was to be found only in the more inaccessible recesses of the library-shelves; while by that time Harry might be heard, not all over the house, certainly, but as far off as outside the closed door of the library, reading aloud to himself one or other of Macaulay’s ballads, with an evident enjoyment of the go in it. A story with drum and trumpet accompaniment was quite enough, for the present, to satisfy Harry; and Macaulay could give him that, if little more.
As they went across the lawn towards the shrubbery, on their way to look for larches and Spring, Euphra joined them in walking dress. It was a lovely morning.
“I have taken you at your word, you see, Mr. Sutherland,” said she. “I don’t want to lose my Harry quite.”
“You dear kind Euphra!” said Harry, going round to her side and taking her hand. He did not stay long with her, however, nor did Euphra seem particularly to want him.
“There was one thing I ought to have mentioned to you the other night, Mr. Sutherland; and I daresay I should have mentioned it, had not Mr. Arnold interrupted our tête-à-tête. I feel now as if I had been guilty of claiming far more than I have a right to, on the score of musical insight. I have Scotch blood in me, and was indeed born in Scotland, though I left it before I was a year old. My mother, Mr. Arnold’s sister, married a gentleman who was half Sootch; and I was born while they were on a visit to his relatives, the Camerons of Lochnie. His mother, my grandmother, was a Bohemian lady, a countess with sixteen quarterings — not a gipsy, I beg to say.”
Hugh thought she might have been, to judge from present appearances.
But how was he to account for this torrent of genealogical information, into which the ice of her late constraint had suddenly thawed? It was odd that she should all at once volunteer so much about herself. Perhaps she had made up one of those minds which need making up, every now and then, like a monthly magazine; and now was prepared to publish it. Hugh responded with a question:
“Do I know your name, then, at last? You are Miss Cameron?”
“Euphrasia Cameron; at your service, sir.” And she dropped a gay little courtesy to Hugh, looking up at him with a flash of her black diamonds.
“Then you must sing to me to-night.”
“With all the pleasure in gipsy-land,” replied she, with a second courtesy, lower than the first; taking for granted, no doubt, his silent judgment on her person and complexion.
By this time they had reached the woods in a different quarter from that which Hugh had gone through the other day with Harry. And here, in very deed, the Spring met them, with a profusion of richness to which Hugh was quite a stranger. The ground was carpeted with primroses, and anemones, and other spring flowers, which are the loveliest of all flowers. They were drinking the sunlight, which fell upon them through the budded boughs. By the time the light should be hidden from them by the leaves, which are the clouds of the lower firmament of the woods, their need of it would be gone: exquisites in living, they cared only for the delicate morning of the year.
“Do look at this darling, Mr. Sutherland!” exclaimed Euphrasia suddenly, as she bent at the root of a great beech, where grew a large bush of rough leaves, with one tiny but perfectly-formed primrose peeping out between. “Is it not a little pet? — all eyes — all one eye staring out of its curtained bed to see what ever is going on in the world. — You had better lie down again: it is not a nice place.”
She spoke to it as if it had been a kitten or a baby. And as she spoke, she pulled the leaves yet closer over the little starer so as to hide it quite.
As they went on, she almost obtrusively avoided stepping on the flowers, saying she almost felt cruel, or at least rude, when she did so. Yet she trailed her dress over them in quite a careless way, not lifting it at all. This was a peculiarity of hers, which Hugh never understood till he understood herself.
All about in shady places, the ferns were busy untucking themselves from their grave-clothes, unrolling their mysterious coils of life, adding continually to the hidden growth as they unfolded the visible. In this, they were like the other revelations of God the Infinite. All the wild lovely things were coming up for their month’s life of joy. Orchis-harlequins, cuckoo-plants, wild arums, more properly lords-and-ladies, were coming, and coming — slowly; for had they not a long way to come, from the valley of the shadow of death into the land of life? At last the wanderers came upon a whole company of bluebells — not what Hugh would have called bluebells, for the bluebells of Scotland are the single-poised harebells — but wild hyacinths, growing in a damp and shady spot, in wonderful luxuriance. They were quite three feet in height, with long, graceful, drooping heads; hanging down from them, all along one side, the largest and loveliest of bells — one lying close above the other, on the lower part; while they parted thinner and thinner as they rose towards the lonely one at the top. Miss Cameron went into ecstasies over these; not saying much, but breaking up what she did say with many prettily passionate pauses.
She had a very happy turn for seeing external resemblances, either humorous or pathetic; for she had much of one element that goes to the making of a poet — namely, surface impressibility.
“Look, Harry; they are all sad at having to go down there again so soon. They are looking at their graves so ruefully.”
Harry looked sad and rather sentimental immediately. When Hugh glanced at Miss Cameron, he saw tears in her eyes.
“You have nothing like this in your country, have you, Mr. Sutherland?” said she, with an apparent effort.
“No, indeed,” answered Hugh.
And he said no more. For a vision rose before him of the rugged pine-wood and the single primrose; and of the thoughtful maiden, with unpolished speech and rough hands, and — but this he did not see — a soul slowly refining itself to a crystalline clearness. And he thought of the grand old grey-haired David, and of Janet with her quaint motherhood, and of all the blessed bareness of the ancient time — in sunlight and in snow; and he felt again that he had forgotten and forsaken his friends.
“How the fairies will be ringing the bells in these airy steeples in the moonlight!” said Miss Cameron to Harry, who was surprised and delighted with it all. He could not help wondering, however, after he went to bed that night, that Euphra had never before taken him to see these beautiful things, and had never before said anything half so pretty to him, as the least pretty thing she had said about the flowers that morning when they were out with Mr. Sutherland. Had Mr. Sutherland anything to do with it? Was he giving Euphra a lesson in flowers such as he had given him in pigs?
Miss Cameron presently drew Hugh into conversation again, and the old times were once more forgotten for a season. They were worthy of distinguishing note — that trio in those spring woods: the boy waking up to feel that flowers and buds were lovelier in the woods than in verses; Euphra finding everything about her sentimentally useful, and really delighting in the prettinesses they suggested to her; and Hugh regarding the whole chiefly as a material and means for reproducing in verse such impressions of delight as he had received and still received from all (but the highest) poetry about nature. The presence of Harry and his necessities was certainly a saving influence upon Hugh; but, however much he sought to realize Harry’s life, he himself, at this period of his history, enjoyed everything artistically far more than humanly.
Margaret would have walked through all this infant summer without speaking at all, but with a deep light far back in her quiet eyes. Perhaps she would not have had many thoughts about the flowers. Rather she would have thought the very flowers themselves; would have been at home with them, in a delighted oneness with their life and expression. Certainly she would have walked through them with reverence, and would not have petted or patronised nature by saying pretty things about her children. Their life would have entered into her, and she would have hardly known it from her own. I daresay Miss Cameron would have called a mountain a darling or a beauty. But there are other ways of showing affection than by patting and petting — though Margaret, for her part, would have needed no art-expression, because she had the things themselves. It is not always those who utter best who feel most; and the dumb poets are sometimes dumb because it would need the “large utterance of the early gods” to carry their thoughts through the gates of speech.
But the fancy and skin-sympathy of Miss Cameron began already to tell upon Hugh. He knew very little of women, and had never heard a woman talk as she talked. He did not know how cheap this accomplishment is, and took it for sensibility, imaginativeness, and even originality. He thought she was far more en rapport with nature than he was. It was much easier to make this mistake after hearing the really delightful way in which she sang. Certainly she could not have sung so, perhaps not even have talked so, except she had been capable of more; but to be capable of more, and to be able for more, are two very distinct conditions.
Many walks followed this, extending themselves farther and farther from home, as Harry’s strength gradually improved. It was quite remarkable how his interest in everything external increased, in exact proportion as he learned to see into the inside or life of it. With most children, the interest in the external comes first, and with many ceases there. But it is in reality only a shallower form of the deeper sympathy; and in those cases where it does lead to a desire after the hidden nature of things, it is perhaps the better beginning of the two. In such exceptional cases as Harry’s, it is of unspeakable importance that both the difference and the identity should be recognized; and in doing so, Hugh became to Harry his big brother indeed, for he led him where he could not go alone.
As often as Mr. Arnold was from home, which happened not unfrequently, Miss Cameron accompanied them in their rambles. She gave as her reason for doing so only on such occasions, that she never liked to be out of the way when her uncle might want her. Traces of an inclination to quarrel with Hugh, or even to stand upon her dignity, had all but vanished; and as her vivacity never failed her, as her intellect was always active, and as by the exercise of her will she could enter sympathetically, or appear to enter, into everything, her presence was not in the least a restraint upon them.
On one occasion, when Harry had actually run a little way after a butterfly, Hugh said to her:
“What did you mean, Miss Cameron, by saying you were only a poor relation? You are certainly mistress of the house.”
“On sufferance, yes. But I am only a poor relation. I have no fortune of my own.”
“But Mr. Arnold does not treat you as such.”
“Oh! no. He likes me. He is very kind to me. — He gave me this ring on my last birthday. Is it not a beauty?”
She pulled off her glove and showed a very fine diamond on a finger worthy of the ornament.
“It is more like a gentleman’s, is it not?” she added, drawing it off. “Let me see how it would look on your hand.”
She gave the ring to Hugh; who, laughing, got it with some difficulty just over the first joint of his little finger, and held it up for Euphra to see.
“Ah! I see I cannot ask you to wear it for me,” said she. “I don’t like it myself. I am afraid, however,” she added, with an arch look, “my uncle would not like it either — on your finger. Put it on mine again.”
Holding her hand towards Hugh, she continued:
“It must not be promoted just yet. Besides, I see you have a still better one of your own.”
As Hugh did according to her request, the words sprang to his lips, “There are other ways of wearing a ring than on the finger.” But they did not cross the threshold of speech. Was it the repression of them that caused that strange flutter and slight pain at the heart, which he could not quite understand?
Chapter 6 — Fatima
Those lips that Love’s own hand did make
Breathed forth the sound that said, “I hate,”
To me that languished for her sake:
But when she saw my woeful state,
Straight in her heart did mercy come,
Chiding that tongue that, ever sweet,
Was used in giving gentle doom,
And taught it thus anew to greet:
“I hate” she altered with an end,
That followed it as gentle day
Doth follow night, who, like a fiend,
From heaven to hell is flown away.
“I hate” from hate away she threw,
And saved my life, saying — “Not you.”
Mr. Arnold was busy at home for a few days after this, and Hugh and Harry had to go out alone. One day, when the wind was rather cold, they took refuge in the barn; for it was part of Hugh’s especial care that Harry should be rendered hardy, by never being exposed to more than he could bear without a sense of suffering. As soon as the boy began to feel fatigue, or cold, or any other discomfort, his tutor took measures accordingly.
Harry would have crept into the straw-house; but Hugh said, pulling a book out of his pocket,
“I have a poem here for you, Harry. I want to read it to you now; and we can’t see in there.”
They threw themselves down on the straw, and Hugh, opening a volume of Robert Browning’s Poems, read the famous ride from Ghent to Aix. He knew the poem well, and read it well. Harry was in raptures.
“I wish I could read that as you do,” said he.
“Try,” said Hugh.
Harry tried the first verse, and threw the book down in disgust with himself.
“Why cannot I read it?” said he.
“Because you can’t ride.”
“I could ride, if I had such a horse as that to ride upon.”
“But you could never have such a horse as that except you could ride, and ride well, first. After that, there is no saying but you might get one. You might, in fact, train one for yourself — till from being a little foal it became your own wonderful horse.”
“Oh! that would be delightful! Will you teach me horses as well, Mr. Sutherland?”
“Perhaps I will.”
That evening, at dinner, Hugh said to Mr. Arnold:
“Could you let me have a horse to-morrow morning, Mr. Arnold?”
Mr. Arnold stared a little, as he always did at anything new. But Hugh went on:
“Harry and I want to have a ride to-morrow; and I expect we shall like it so much, that we shall want to ride very often.”
“Yes, that we shall!” cried Harry.
“Could not Mr. Sutherland have your white mare, Euphra?” said Mr. Arnold, reconciled at once to the proposal.
“I would rather not, if you don’t mind, uncle. My Fatty is not used to such a burden as I fear Mr. Sutherland would prove. She drops a little now, on the hard road.”
The fact was, Euphra would want Fatima.
“Well, Harry,” said Mr. Arnold, graciously pleased to be facetious, “don’t you think your Welsh dray-horse could carry Mr. Sutherland?”
“Ha! ha! ha! Papa, do you know, Mr. Sutherland set him up on his hind legs yesterday, and made him walk on them like a dancing-dog. He was going to lift him, but he kicked about so when he felt himself leaving the ground, that he tumbled Mr. Sutherland into the horse-trough.”
Even the solemn face of the butler relaxed into a smile, but Mr. Arnold’s clouded instead. His boy’s tutor ought to be a gentleman.
“Wasn’t it fun, Mr. Sutherland?”
“It was to you, you little rogue!” said Sutherland, laughing.
“And how you did run home, dripping like a water-cart! — and all the dogs after you!”
Mr. Arnold’s monotonous solemnity soon checked Harry’s prattle.
“I will see, Mr. Sutherland, what I can do to mount you.”
“I don’t care what it is,” said Hugh; who though by no means a thorough horseman, had been from boyhood in the habit of mounting everything in the shape of a horse that he could lay hands upon, from a cart-horse upwards and downwards.
“There’s an old bay that would carry me very well.”
“That is my own horse, Mr. Sutherland.”
This stopped the conversation in that direction. But next morning after breakfast, an excellent chestnut horse was waiting at the door, along with Harry’s new pony. Mr. Arnold would see them go off. This did not exactly suit Miss Cameron, but if she frowned, it was when nobody saw her. Hugh put Harry up himself, told him to stick fast with his knees, and then mounted his chestnut. As they trotted slowly down the avenue, Euphrasia heard Mr. Arnold say to himself, “The fellow sits well, at all events.” She took care to make herself agreeable to Hugh by reporting this, with the omission of the initiatory epithet, however.
Harry returned from his ride rather tired, but in high spirits.
“Oh, Euphra!” he cried, “Mr. Sutherland is such a rider! He jumps hedges and ditches and everything. And he has promised to teach me and my pony to jump too. And if I am not too tired, we are to begin to-morrow, out on the common. Oh! jolly!”
The little fellow’s heart was full of the sense of growing life and strength, and Hugh was delighted with his own success. He caught sight of a serpentine motion in Euphra’s eyebrows, as she bent her face again over the work from which she had lifted it on their entrance. He addressed her.
“You will be glad to hear that Harry has ridden like a man.”
“I am glad to hear it, Harry.”
Why did she reply to the subject of the remark, and not to the speaker? Hugh perplexed himself in vain to answer this question; but a very small amount of experience would have made him able to understand at once as much of her behaviour as was genuine. At luncheon she spoke only in reply; and then so briefly, as not to afford the smallest peg on which to hang a response.
“What can be the matter?” thought Hugh. “What a peculiar creature she is! But after what has passed between us, I can’t stand this.”
When dinner was over that evening, she rose as usual and left the room, followed by Hugh and Harry; but as soon as they were in the drawing-room, she left it; and, returning to the dining-room, resumed her seat at the table.
“Take a glass of claret, Euphra, dear?” said Mr. Arnold.
“I will, if you please, uncle. I should like it. I have seldom a minute with you alone now.”
Evidently flattered, Mr. Arnold poured out a glass of claret, rose and carried it to his niece himself, and then took a chair beside her.
“Thank you, dear uncle,” she said, with one of her bewitching flashes of smile.
“Harry has been getting on bravely with his riding, has he not?” she continued.
“So it would appear.”
Harry had been full of the story of the day at the dinner-table, where he still continued to present himself; for his father would not be satisfied without hint. It was certainly good moral training for the boy, to sit there almost without eating; and none the worse that he found it rather hard sometimes. He talked much more freely now, and asked the servants for anything he wanted without referring to Euphra. Now and then he would glance at her, as if afraid of offending her; but the cords which bound him to her were evidently relaxing; and she saw it plainly enough, though she made no reference to the unpleasing fact.
“I am only a little fearful, uncle, lest Mr. Sutherland should urge the boy to do more than his strength will admit of. He is exceedingly kind to him, but he has evidently never known what weakness is himself.”
“True, there is danger of that. But you see he has taken him so entirely into his own hands. I don’t seem to be allowed a word in the matter of his education any more.” Mr. Arnold spoke with the peevishness of weak importance. “I wish you would take care that he does not carry things too far, Euphra.”
This was just what Euphra wanted.
“I think, if you do not disapprove, uncle, I will have Fatima saddled to-morrow morning, and go with them myself.”
“Thank you, my love; I shall be much obliged to you.” The glass of claret was soon finished after this. A little more conversation about nothing followed, and Euphra rose the second time, and returned to the drawing-room. She found it unoccupied. She sat down to the piano, and sang song after song — Scotch, Italian, and Bohemian. But Hugh did not make his appearance. The fact was, he was busy writing to his mother, whom he had rather neglected since he came. Writing to her made him think of David, and he began a letter to him too; but it was never finished, and never sent. He did not return to the drawing-room that evening. Indeed, except for a short time, while Mr. Arnold was drinking his claret, he seldom showed himself there. Had Euphra repelled him too much — hurt him? She would make up for it to-morrow.
Breakfast was scarcely over, when the chestnut and the pony passed the window, accompanied by a lovely little Arab mare, broad-chested and light-limbed, with a wonderfully small head. She was white as snow, with keen, dark eyes. Her curb-rein was red instead of white. Hearing their approach, and begging her uncle to excuse her, Euphra rose from the table, and left the room; but re-appeared in a wonderfully little while, in a well-fitted riding-habit of black velvet, with a belt of dark red leather clasping a waist of the roundest and smallest. Her little hat, likewise black, had a single long, white feather, laid horizontally within the upturned brim, and drooping over it at the back. Her white mare would be just the right pedestal for the dusky figure — black eyes, tawny skin, and all. As she stood ready to mount, and Hugh was approaching to put her up, she called the groom, seemed just to touch his hand, and was in the saddle in a moment, foot in stirrup, and skirt falling over it. Hugh thought she was carrying out the behaviour of yesterday, and was determined to ask her what it meant. The little Arab began to rear and plunge with pride, as soon as she felt her mistress on her back; but she seemed as much at home as if she had been on the music-stool, and patted her arching neck, talking to her in the same tone almost in which she had addressed the flowers.
“Be quiet, Fatty dear; you’re frightening Mr. Sutherland.”
But Hugh, seeing the next moment that she was in no danger, sprang into his saddle. Away they went, Fatima infusing life and frolic into the equine as Euphra into the human portion of the cavalcade. Having reached the common, out of sight of the house, Miss Cameron, instead of looking after Harry, lest he should have too much exercise, scampered about like a wild girl, jumping everything that came in her way, and so exciting Harry’s pony, that it was almost more than he could do to manage it, till at last Hugh had to beg her to go more quietly, for Harry’s sake. She drew up alongside of them at once, and made her mare stand as still as she could, while Harry made his first essay upon a little ditch. After crossing it two or three times, he gathered courage; and setting his pony at a larger one beyond, bounded across it beautifully.
“Bravo! Harry!” cried both Euphra and Hugh. Harry galloped back, and over it again; then came up to them with a glow of proud confidence on his pale face.
“You’ll be a horseman yet, Harry,” said Hugh.
“I hope so,” said Harry, in an aspiring tone, which greatly satisfied his tutor. The boy’s spirit was evidently reviving. Euphra must have managed him ill. Yet she was not in the least effeminate herself. It puzzled Hugh a good deal. But he did not think about it long; for Harry cantering away in front, he had an opportunity of saying to Euphra:
“Are you offended with me, Miss Cameron?”
“Offended with you! What do you mean? A girl like me offended with a man like you?”
She looked two and twenty as she spoke; but even at that she was older than Hugh. He, however, certainly looked considerably older than he really was.
“What makes you think so?” she added, turning her face towards him.
“You would not speak to me when we came home yesterday.”
“Not speak to you? — I had a little headache — and perhaps I was a little sullen, from having been in such bad company all the morning.”
“What company had you?” asked Hugh, gazing at her in some surprise.
“My own,” answered she, with a lovely laugh, thrown full in his face. Then after a pause: “Let me advise you, if you want to live in peace, not to embark on that ocean of discovery.”
“What ocean? what discovery?” asked Hugh, bewildered, and still gazing.
“The troubled ocean of ladies’ looks,” she replied. “You will never be able to live in the same house with one of our kind, if it be necessary to your peace to find out what every expression that puzzles you may mean.”
“I did not intend to be inquisitive — it really troubled me.”
“There it is. You must never mind us. We show so much sooner than men — but, take warning, there is no making out what it is we do show. Your faces are legible; ours are so scratched and interlined, that you had best give up at once the idea of deciphering them.”
Hugh could not help looking once more at the smooth, simple, naïve countenance shining upon him.
“There you are at it again,” she said, blushing a little, and turning her head away. “Well, to comfort you, I will confess I was rather cross yesterday — because — because you seemed to have been quite happy with only one of your pupils.”
As she spoke the words, she gave Fatima the rein, and bounded off, overtaking Harry’s pony in a moment. Nor did she leave her cousin during all the rest of their ride.
Most women in whom the soul has anything like a chance of reaching the windows, are more or less beautiful in their best moments. Euphra’s best was when she was trying to fascinate. Then she was — fascinating. During the first morning that Hugh spent at Arnstead, she had probably been making up her mind whether, between her and Hugh, it was to be war to the knife, or fascination. The latter had carried the day, and was now carrying him. But had she calculated that fascination may re-act as well?
Hugh’s heart bounded, like her Arab steed, as she uttered the words last recorded. He gave his chestnut the rein in his turn, to overtake her; but Fatima’s canter quickened into a gallop, and, inspirited by her companionship, and the fact that their heads were turned stablewards, Harry’s pony, one of the quickest of its race, laid itself to the ground, and kept up, taking three strides for Fatty’s two, so that Hugh never got within three lengths of them till they drew rein at the hall-door, where the grooms were waiting them. Euphra was off her mare in a moment, and had almost reached her own room before Hugh and Harry had crossed the hall. She came down to luncheon in a white muslin dress, with the smallest possible red spot in it; and, taking her place at the table, seemed to Hugh to have put off not only her riding habit, but the self that was in it as well; for she chatted away in the most unconcerned and easy manner possible, as if she had not been out of her room all the morning. She had ridden so hard, that she had left her last speech in the middle of the common, and its mood with it; and there seemed now no likelihood of either finding its way home.
Chapter 7 — The Picture Gallery
…the house is crencled to and fro,
And hath so queint waies for to go,
For it is shapen as the mase is wrought.
—Chaucer, Legend of Ariadne .
Luncheon over, and Harry dismissed as usual to lie down, Miss Cameron said to Hugh:
“You have never been over the old house yet, I believe, Mr. Sutherland. Would you not like to see it?”
“I should indeed,” said Hugh. “It is what I have long hoped for, and have often been on the point of begging.”
“Come, then; I will be your guide — if you will trust yourself with a madcap like me, in the solitudes of the old hive.”
“Lead on to the family vaults, if you will,” said Hugh.
“That might be possible, too, from below. We are not so very far from them. Even within the house there is an old chapel, and some monuments worth looking at. Shall we take it last?”
“As you think best,” answered Hugh.
She rose and rang the bell. When it was answered,
“Jacob,” she said, “get me the keys of the house from Mrs. Horton.”
Jacob vanished, and reappeared with a huge bunch of keys. She took them.
“Thank you. They should not be allowed to get quite rusty, Jacob.”
“Please, Miss, Mrs. Horton desired me to say, she would have seen to them, if she had known you wanted them.”
“Oh! never mind. Just tell my maid to bring me an old pair of gloves.”
Jacob went; and the maid came with the required armour.
“Now, Mr. Sutherland. Jane, you will come with us. No, you need not take the keys. I will find those I want as we go.”
She unlocked a door in the corner of the hall, which Hugh had never seen open. Passing through a long low passage, they came to a spiral staircase of stone, up which they went, arriving at another wide hall, very dusty, but in perfect repair. Hugh asked if there was not some communication between this hall and the great oak staircase.
“Yes,” answered Euphra; “but this is the more direct way.”
As she said this, he felt somehow as if she cast on him one of her keenest glances; but the place was very dusky, and he stood in a spot where the light fell upon him from an opening in a shutter, while she stood in deep shadow.
“Jane, open that shutter.”
The girl obeyed; and the entering light revealed the walls covered with paintings, many of them apparently of no value, yet adding much to the effect of the place. Seeing that Hugh was at once attracted by the pictures, Euphra said:
“Perhaps you would like to see the picture gallery first?”
Hugh assented. Euphra chose key after key, and opened door after door, till they came into a long gallery, well lighted from each end. The windows were soon opened.
“Mr. Arnold is very proud of his pictures, especially of his family portraits; but he is content with knowing he has them, and never visits them except to show them; or perhaps once or twice a year, when something or other keeps him at home for a day, without anything particular to do.”
In glancing over the portraits, some of them by famous masters, Hugh’s eyes were arrested by a blonde beauty in the dress of the time of Charles II. There was such a reality of self-willed boldness as well as something worse in her face, that, though arrested by the picture, Hugh felt ashamed of looking at it in the presence of Euphra and her maid. The pictured woman almost put him out of countenance, and yet at the same time fascinated him. Dragging his eyes from it, he saw that Jane had turned her back upon it, while Euphra regarded it steadily.
“Open that opposite window, Jane,” said she; “there is not light enough on this portrait.”
Jane obeyed. While she did so, Hugh caught a glimpse of her face, and saw that the formerly rosy girl was deadly pale. He said to Euphra:
“Your maid seems ill, Miss Cameron.”
“Jane, what is the matter with you?”
She did not reply, but, leaning against the wall, seemed ready to faint.
“The place is close,” said her mistress. “Go into the next room there,” — she pointed to a door — “and open the window. You will soon be well.”
“If you please, Miss, I would rather stay with you. This place makes me feel that strange.”
She had come but lately, and had never been over the house before.
“Nonsense!” said Miss Cameron, looking at her sharply. “What do you mean?”
“Please, don’t be angry, Miss; but the first night e’er I slept here, I saw that very lady —”
“Saw that lady!”
“Well, Miss, I mean, I dreamed that I saw her; and I remembered her the minute I see her up there; and she give me a turn like. I’m all right now, Miss.”
Euphra fixed her eyes on her, and kept them fixed, till she was very nearly all wrong again. She turned as pale as before, and began to draw her breath hard.
“You silly goose!” said Euphra, and withdrew her eyes; upon which the girl began to breathe more freely.
Hugh was making some wise remarks in his own mind on the unsteady condition of a nature in which the imagination predominates over the powers of reflection, when Euphra turned to him, and began to tell him that that was the picture of her three or four times great-grandmother, painted by Sir Peter Lely, just after she was married.
“Isn’t she fair?” said she. — “She turned nun at last, they say.”
“She is more fair than honest,” thought Hugh. “It would take a great deal of nun to make her into a saint.” But he only said, “She is more beautiful than lovely. What was her name?”
“If you mean her maiden name, it was Halkar — Lady Euphrasia Halkar — named after me, you see. She had foreign blood in her, of course; and, to tell the truth, there were strange stories told of her, of more sorts than one. I know nothing of her family. It was never heard of in England, I believe, till after the Restoration.”
All the time Euphra was speaking, Hugh was being perplexed with that most annoying of perplexities — the flitting phantom of a resemblance, which he could not catch. He was forced to dismiss it for the present, utterly baffled.
“Were you really named after her, Miss Cameron?”
“No, no. It is a family name with us. But, indeed, I may be said to be named after her, for she was the first of us who bore it. You don’t seem to like the portrait.”
“I do not; but I cannot help looking at it, for all that.”
“I am so used to the lady’s face,” said Euphra, “that it makes no impression on me of any sort. But it is said,” she added, glancing at the maid, who stood at some distance, looking uneasily about her — and as she spoke she lowered her voice to a whisper — “it is said, she cannot lie still.”
“Cannot lie still! What do you mean?”
“I mean down there in the chapel,” she answered, pointing.
The Celtic nerves of Hugh shuddered. Euphra laughed; and her voice echoed in silvery billows, that broke on the faces of the men and women of old time, that had owned the whole; whose lives had flowed and ebbed in varied tides through the ancient house; who had married and been given in marriage; and gone down to the chapel below — below the prayers and below the psalms — and made a Sunday of all the week.
Ashamed of his feeling of passing dismay, Hugh said, just to say something:
“What a strange ornament that is! Is it a brooch or a pin? No, I declare it is a ring — large enough for three cardinals, and worn on her thumb. It seems almost to sparkle. Is it ruby, or carbuncle, or what?”
“I don’t know: some clumsy old thing,” answered Euphra, carelessly.
“Oh! I see,” said Hugh; “it is not a red stone. The glow is only a reflection from part of her dress. It is as clear as a diamond. But that is impossible — such a size. There seems to me something curious about it; and the longer I look at it, the more strange it appears.”
Euphra stole another of her piercing glances at him, but said nothing.
“Surely,” Hugh went on, “a ring like that would hardly be likely to be lost out of the family? Your uncle must have it somewhere.”
Euphra laughed; but this laugh was very different from the last. It rattled rather than rang.
“You are wonderfully taken with a bauble — for a man of letters, that is, Mr. Sutherland. The stone may have been carried down any one of the hundred streams into which a family river is always dividing.”
“It is a very remarkable ornament for a lady’s finger, notwithstanding,” said Hugh, smiling in his turn.
“But we shall never get through the pictures at this rate,” remarked Euphra; and going on, she directed Hugh’s attention now to this, now to that portrait, saying who each was, and mentioning anything remarkable in the history of their originals. She manifested a thorough acquaintance with the family story, and made, in fact, an excellent show-woman. Having gone nearly to the other end of the gallery,
“This door,” said she, stopping at one, and turning over the keys, “leads to one of the oldest portions of the house, the principal room in which is said to have belonged especially to the lady over there.”
As she said this, she fixed her eyes once more on the maid.
“Oh! don’t ye now, Miss,” interrupted Jane. “Hannah du say as how a whitey-blue light shines in the window of a dark night, sometimes — that lady’s window, you know, Miss. Don’t ye open the door — pray, Miss.”
Jane seemed on the point of falling into the same terror as before.
“Really, Jane,” said her mistress, “I am ashamed of you; and of myself, for having such silly servants about me.”
“I beg your pardon, Miss, but —”
“So Mr. Sutherland and I must give up our plan of going over the house, because my maid’s nerves are too delicate to permit her to accompany us. For shame!”
“Oh, du ye now go without me!” cried the girl, clasping her hands.
“And you will wait here till we come back?”
“Oh! don’t ye leave me here. Just show me the way out.”
And once more she turned pale as death.
“Mr. Sutherland, I am very sorry, but we must put off the rest of our ramble till another time. I am, like Hamlet, very vilely attended, as you see. Come, then, you foolish girl,” she added, more mildly.
The poor maid, what with terror of Lady Euphrasia, and respect for her mistress, was in a pitiable condition of moral helplessness. She seemed almost too frightened to walk behind them. But if she had been in front it would have been no better; for, like other ghost-fearers, she seemed to feel very painfully that she had no eyes in her back.
They returned as they came; and Jane receiving the keys to take to the housekeeper, darted away. When she reached Mrs. Horton’s room, she sank on a chair in hysterics.
“I must get rid of that girl, I fear,” said Miss Cameron, leading the way to the library; “she will infect the whole household with her foolish terrors. We shall not hear the last of this for some time to come. We had a fit of it the same year I came; and I suppose the time has come round for another attack of the same epidemic.”
“What is there about the room to terrify the poor thing?”
“Oh! they say it is haunted; that is all. Was there ever an old house anywhere over Europe, especially an old family house, but was said to be haunted? Here the story centres in that room — or at least in that room and the avenue in front of its windows.”
“Is that the avenue called the Ghost’s Walk?”
“Yes. Who told you?”
“Harry would not let me cross it.”
“Poor boy! This is really too bad. He cannot stand anything of that kind, I am sure. Those servants!”
“Oh! I hope we shall soon get him too well to be frightened at anything. Are these places said to be haunted by any particular ghost?”
“Yes. By Lady Euphrasia — Rubbish!”
Had Hugh possessed a yet keener perception of resemblance, he would have seen that the phantom-likeness which haunted him in the portrait of Euphrasia Halkar, was that of Euphrasia Cameron — by his side all the time. But the mere difference of complexion was sufficient to throw him out — insignificant difference as that is, beside the correspondence of features and their relations. Euphra herself was perfectly aware of the likeness, but had no wish that Hugh should discover it.
As if the likeness, however, had been dimly identified by the unconscious part of his being, he sat in one corner of the library sofa, with his eyes fixed on the face of Euphra, as she sat in the other. Presently he was made aware of his unintentional rudeness, by seeing her turn pale as death, and sink back in the sofa. In a moment she started up, and began pacing about the room, rubbing her eyes and temples. He was bewildered and alarmed.
“Miss Cameron, are you ill?” he exclaimed.
She gave a kind of half-hysterical laugh, and said:
“No — nothing worth speaking of. I felt a little faint, that was all. I am better now.”
She turned full towards him, and seemed to try to look all right; but there was a kind of film over the clearness of her black eyes.
“I fear you have headache.”
“A little, but it is nothing. I will go and lie down.”
“Do, pray; else you will not be well enough to appear at dinner.”
She retired, and Hugh joined Hairy.
Euphra had another glass of claret with her uncle that evening, in order to give her report of the morning’s ride.
“Really, there is not much to be afraid of, uncle. He takes very good care of Harry. To be sure, I had occasion several times to check him a little; but he has this good quality in addition to a considerable aptitude for teaching, that he perceives a hint, and takes it at once.”
Knowing her uncle’s formality, and preference for precise and judicial modes of expression, Euphra modelled her phrase to his mind.
“I am glad he has your good opinion so far, Euphra; for I confess there is something about the youth that pleases me. I was afraid at first that I might be annoyed by his overstepping the true boundaries of his position in my family: he seems to have been in good society, too. But your assurance that he can take a hint, lessens my apprehension considerably. To-morrow, I will ask him to resume his seat after dessert.”
This was not exactly the object of Euphra’s qualified commendation of Hugh. But she could not help it now.
“I think, however, if you approve, uncle, that it will be more prudent to keep a little watch over the riding for a while. I confess, too, I should be glad of a little more of that exercise than I have had for some time: I found my seat not very secure to-day.”
“Very desirable on both considerations, my love.”
And so the conference ended.
Chapter 8 — Nest-Building
If you will have a tree bear more fruit than it hath used to do, it is not anything you can do to the boughs, but it is the stirring of the earth, and putting new mould about the roots, that must work it.
—Lord Bacon’s Advancement of Learning , b. ii.
In a short time Harry’s health was so much improved, and consequently the strength and activity of his mind so much increased, that Hugh began to give him more exact mental operations to perform. But as if he had been a reader of Lord Bacon, which as yet he was not, and had learned from him that “wonder is the seed of knowledge,” he came, by a kind of sympathetic instinct, to the same conclusion practically, in the case of Harry. He tried to wake a question in him, by showing him something that would rouse his interest. The reply to this question might be the whole rudiments of a science.
Things themselves should lead to the science of them. If things are not interesting in themselves, how can any amount of knowledge about them be? To be sure, there is such a thing as a purely or abstractly intellectual interest — the pleasure of the mere operation of the intellect upon the signs of things; but this must spring from a highly exercised intellectual condition, and is not to be expected before the pleasures of intellectual motion have been experienced through the employment of its means for other ends. Whether this is a higher condition or not, is open to much disquisition.
One day Hugh was purposely engaged in taking the altitude of the highest turret of the house, with an old quadrant he had found in the library, when Harry came up.
“What are you doing, big brother?” said he; for now that he was quite at home with Hugh, there was a wonderful mixture of familiarity and respect in him, that was quite bewitching.
“Finding out how high your house is, little brother,” answered Hugh.
“How can you do it with that thing? Will it measure the height of other things besides the house?”
“Yes, the height of a mountain, or anything you like.”
“Do show me how.”
Hugh showed him as much of it as he could.
“But I don’t understand it.”
“Oh! that is quite another thing. To do that, you must learn a great many things — Euclid to begin with.”
That very afternoon Harry began Euclid, and soon found quite enough of interest on the road to the quadrant, to prevent him from feeling any tediousness in its length.
Of an afternoon Hugh had taken to reading Shakspere to Harry. Euphra was always a listener. On one occasion Harry said:
“I am so sorry, Mr. Sutherland, but I don’t understand the half of it. Sometimes when Euphra and you are laughing, — and sometimes when Euphra is crying,” added he, looking at her slyly, “I can’t understand what it is all about. Am I so very stupid, Mr. Sutherland?” And he almost cried himself.
“Not a bit of it, Harry, my boy; only you must learn a great many other things first.”
“How can I learn them? I am willing to learn anything. I don’t find it tire me now as it used.”
“There are many things necessary to understand Shakspere that I cannot teach you, and that some people never learn. Most of them will come of themselves. But of one thing you may be sure, Harry, that if you learn anything, whatever it be, you are so far nearer to understanding Shakspere.”
The same afternoon, when Harry had waked from his siesta, upon which Hugh still insisted, they went out for a walk in the fields. The sun was half way down the sky, but very hot and sultry.
“I wish we had our cave of straw to creep into now,” said Harry. “I felt exactly like the little field-mouse you read to me about in Burns’s poems, when we went in that morning, and found it all torn up, and half of it carried away. We have no place to go to now for a peculiar own place; and the consequence is, you have not told me any stories about the Romans for a whole week.”
“Well, Harry, is there any way of making another?”
“There’s no more straw lying about that I know of,” answered Harry; “and it won’t do to pull the inside out of a rick, I am afraid.”
“But don’t you think it would be pleasant to have a change now; and as we have lived underground, or say in the snow like the North people, try living in the air, like some of the South people?”
“Delightful!” cried Harry. — “A balloon?”
“No, not quite that. Don’t you think a nest would do?”
“Up in a tree?”
Harry darted off for a run, as the only means of expressing his delight. When he came back, he said:
“When shall we begin, Mr. Sutherland?”
“We will go and look for a place at once; but I am not quite sure when we shall begin yet. I shall find out to-night, though.”
They left the fields, and went into the woods in the neighbourhood of the house, at the back. Here the trees had grown to a great size, some of them being very old indeed. They soon fixed upon a grotesque old oak as a proper tree in which to build their nest; and Harry, who, as well as Hugh, had a good deal of constructiveness in his nature, was so delighted, that the heat seemed to have no more influence upon him; and Hugh, fearful of the reaction, was compelled to restrain his gambols.
Pursuing their way through the dark warp of the wood, with its golden weft of crossing sunbeams, Hugh began to tell Harry the story of the killing of Cæsar by Brutus and the rest, filling up the account with portions from Shakspere. Fortunately, he was able to give the orations of Brutus and Antony in full. Harry was in ecstasy over the eloquence of the two men.
“Well, what language do you think they spoke, Harry?” said Hugh.
“Why,” said Harry, hesitating, “I suppose —” then, as if a sudden light broke upon him — “Latin of course. How strange!”
“Why strange?”
“That such men should talk such a dry, unpleasant language.”
“I allow it is a difficult language, Harry; and very ponderous and mechanical; but not necessarily dry or unpleasant. The Romans, you know, were particularly fond of law in everything; and so they made a great many laws for their language; or rather, it grew so, because they were of that sort. It was like their swords and armour generally, not very graceful, but very strong; — like their architecture too, Harry. Nobody can ever understand what a people is, without knowing its language. It is not only that we find all these stories about them in their language, but the language itself is more like them than anything else can be. Besides, Harry, I don’t believe you know anything about Latin yet.”
“I know all the declensions and conjugations.”
“But don’t you think it must have been a very different thing to hear it spoken?”
“Yes, to be sure — and by such men. But how ever could they speak it?”
“They spoke it just as you do English. It was as natural to them. But you cannot say you know anything about it, till you read what they wrote in it; till your ears delight in the sound of their poetry; —”
“Yes; and beautiful letters; and wise lessons; and histories and plays.”
“Oh! I should like you to teach me. Will it be as hard to learn always as it is now?”
“Certainly not. I am sure you will like it.”
“When will you begin me?”
“To-morrow. And if you get on pretty well, we will begin our nest, too, in the afternoon.”
“Oh, how kind you are! I will try very hard.”
“I am sure you will, Harry.”
Next morning, accordingly, Hugh did begin him, after a fashion of his own; namely, by giving him a short simple story to read, finding out all the words with him in the dictionary, and telling him what the terminations of the words signified; for he found that he had already forgotten a very great deal of what, according to Euphra, he had been thoroughly taught. No one can remember what is entirely uninteresting to him.
Hugh was as precise about the grammar of a language as any Scotch Professor of Humanity, old Prosody not excepted; but he thought it time enough to begin to that, when some interest in the words themselves should have been awakened in the mind of his pupil. He hated slovenliness as much as any one; but the question was, how best to arrive at thoroughness in the end, without losing the higher objects of study; and not how, at all risks, to commence teaching the lesson of thoroughness at once, and so waste on the shape of a pin-head the intellect which, properly directed, might arrive at the far more minute accuracies of a steam-engine. The fault of Euphra in teaching Harry, had been that, with a certain kind of tyrannical accuracy, she had determined to have the thing done — not merely decently and in order, but prudishly and pedantically; so that she deprived progress of the pleasure which ought naturally to attend it. She spoiled the walk to the distant outlook, by stopping at every step, not merely to pick flowers, but to botanise on the weeds, and to calculate the distance advanced. It is quite true that we ought to learn to do things irrespective of the reward; but plenty of opportunities will be given in the progress of life, and in much higher kinds of action, to exercise our sense of duty in severe loneliness. We have no right to turn intellectual exercises into pure operations of conscience: these ought to involve essential duty; although no doubt there is plenty of room for mingling duty with those; while, on the other hand, the highest act of suffering self-denial is not without its accompanying reward. Neither is there any exercise of the higher intellectual powers in learning the mere grammar of a language, necessary as it is for a means. And language having been made before grammar, a language must be in some measure understood, before its grammar can become intelligible.
Harry’s weak (though true and keen) life could not force its way into any channel. His was a nature essentially dependent on sympathy. It could flow into truth through another loving mind: left to itself, it could not find the way, and sank in the dry sand of ennui and self-imposed obligations. Euphra was utterly incapable of understanding him; and the boy had been dying for lack of sympathy, though neither he nor any one about him had suspected the fact.
There was a strange disproportion between his knowledge and his capacity. He was able, when his attention was directed, his gaze fixed, and his whole nature supported by Hugh, to see deep into many things, and his remarks were often strikingly original; but he was one of the most ignorant boys, for his years, that Hugh had ever come across. A long and severe illness, when he was just passing into boyhood, had thrown him back far into his childhood; and he was only now beginning to show that he had anything of the boy-life in him. Hence arose that unequal development which has been sufficiently evident in the story.
In the afternoon, they went to the wood, and found the tree they had chosen for their nest. To Harry’s intense admiration, Hugh, as he said, went up the tree like a squirrel, only he was too big for a bear even. Just one layer of foliage above the lowest branches, he came to a place where he thought there was a suitable foundation for the nest. From the ground Harry could scarcely see him, as, with an axe which he had borrowed for the purpose (for there was a carpenter’s work-shop on the premises), he cut away several small branches from three of the principal ones; and so had these three as rafters, ready dressed and placed, for the foundation of the nest. Having made some measurements, he descended; and repairing with Harry to the work-shop, procured some boarding and some tools, which Harry assisted in carrying to the tree. Ascending again, and drawing up his materials, by the help of Harry, with a piece of string, Hugh in a very little while had a level floor, four feet square, in the heart of the oak tree, quite invisible from below — buried in a cloud of green leaves. For greater safety, he fastened ropes as handrails all around it from one branch to another. And now nothing remained but to construct a bench to sit on, and such a stair as Harry could easily climb. The boy was quite restless with anxiety to get up and see the nest; and kept calling out constantly to know if he might not come up yet. At length Hugh allowed him to try; but the poor boy was not half strong enough to climb the tree without help. So Hugh descended, and with his aid Harry was soon standing on the new-built platform.
“I feel just like an eagle,” he cried; but here his voice faltered, and he was silent.
“What is the matter, Harry?” said his tutor.
“Oh, nothing,” replied he; “only I didn’t exactly know whereabouts we were till I got up here.”
“Whereabouts are we, then?”
“Close to the end of the Ghost’s Walk.”
“But you don’t mind that now, surely, Harry?”
“No, sir; that is, not so much as I used.”
“Shall I take all this down again, and build our nest somewhere else?”
“Oh, no, if you don’t think it matters. It would be a great pity, after you have taken so much trouble with it. Besides, I shall never be here without you; and I do not think I should be afraid of the ghost herself, if you were with me.”
Yet Harry shuddered involuntarily at the thought of his own daring speech.
“Very well, Harry, my boy; we will finish it here. Now, if you stand there, I will fasten a plank across here between these two stumps — no, that won’t do exactly. I must put a piece on to this one, to raise it to a level with the other — then we shall have a seat in a few minutes.”
Hammer and nails were busy again; and in a few minutes they sat down to enjoy the “soft pipling cold” which swung all the leaves about like little trap-doors that opened into the Infinite. Harry was highly contented. He drew a deep breath of satisfaction as, looking above and beneath and all about him, he saw that they were folded in an almost impenetrable net of foliage, through which nothing could steal into their sanctuary, save “the chartered libertine, the air,” and a few stray beams of the setting sun, filtering through the multitudinous leaves, from which they caught a green tint as they passed.
“Fancy yourself a fish,” said Hugh, “in the depth of a cavern of sea weed, which floats about in the slow swinging motion of the heavy waters.”
“What a funny notion!”
“Not so absurd as you may think, Harry; for just as some fishes crawl about on the bottom of the sea, so do we men at the bottom of an ocean of air; which, if it be a thinner one, is certainly a deeper one.”
“Then the birds are the swimming fishes, are they not?”
“Yes, to be sure.”
“And you and I are two mermen — doing what? Waiting for mother mermaid to give us our dinner. I am getting hungry. But it will be a long time before a mermaid gets up here, I am afraid.”
“That reminds me,” said Hugh, “that I must build a stair for you, Master Harry; for you are not merman enough to get up with a stroke of your scaly tail. So here goes. You can sit there till I fetch you.”
Nailing a little rude bracket here and there on the stem of the tree, just where Harry could avail himself of hand-hold as well, Hugh had soon finished a strangely irregular staircase, which it took Harry two or three times trying, to learn quite off.
Chapter 9 — Geography Point
I will fetch you a tooth-picker now from the farthest inch of Asia; bring you the length of Prester John’s foot; fetch you a hair off the great Cham’s beard; do you any embassage to the Pigmies.
— Much Ado about Nothing .
The next day, after dinner, Mr. Arnold said to the tutor:
“Well, Mr. Sutherland, how does Harry get on with his geography?”
Mr. Arnold, be it understood, had a weakness for geography.
“We have not done anything at that yet, Mr. Arnold.”
“Not done anything at geography! And the boy getting quite robust now! I am astonished, Mr. Sutherland. Why, when he was a mere child, he could repeat all the counties of England.”
“Perhaps that may be the reason for the decided distaste he shows for it now, Mr. Arnold. But I will begin to teach him at once, if you desire it.”
“I do desire it, Mr. Sutherland. A thorough geographical knowledge is essential to the education of a gentleman. Ask me any question you please, Mr. Sutherland, on the map of the world, or any of its divisions.”
Hugh asked a few questions, which Mr. Arnold answered at once.
“Pooh! pooh!” said he, “this is mere child’s play. Let me ask you some, Mr. Sutherland.”
His very first question posed Hugh, whose knowledge in this science was not by any means minute.
“I fear I am no gentleman,” said he, laughing; “but I can at least learn as well as teach. We shall begin to-morrow.”
“What books have you?”
“Oh! no books, if you please, just yet. If you are satisfied with Harry’s progress so far, let me have my own way in this too.”
“But geography does not seem your strong point.”
“No; but I may be able to teach it all the better from feeling the difficulties of a learner myself.”
“Well, you shall have a fair trial.”
Next morning Hugh and Harry went out for a walk to the top of a hill in the neighbourhood. When they reached it, Hugh took a small compass from his pocket, and set it on the ground, contemplating it and the horizon alternately.
“What are you doing, Mr. Sutherland?”
“I am trying to find the exact line that would go through my home,” said he.
“Is that funny little thing able to tell you?”
“Yes; this along with other things. Isn’t it curious, Harry, to have in my pocket a little thing with a kind of spirit in it, that understands the spirit that is in the big world, and always points to its North Pole?”
“Explain it to me.”
“It is nearly as much a mystery to me as to you.”
“Where is the North Pole?”
“Look, the little thing points to it.”
“But I will turn it away. Oh! it won’t go. It goes back and back, do what I will.”
“Yes, it will, if you turn it away all day long. Look, Harry, if you were to go straight on in this direction, you would come to a Laplander, harnessing his broad-horned reindeer to his sledge. He’s at it now, I daresay. If you were to go in this line exactly, you would go through the smoke and fire of a burning mountain in a land of ice. If you were to go this way, straight on, you would find yourself in the middle of a forest with a lion glaring at your feet, for it is dark night there now, and so hot! And over there, straight on, there is such a lovely sunset. The top of a snowy mountain is all pink with light, though the sun is down — oh! such colours all about, like fairyland! And there, there is a desert of sand, and a camel dying, and all his companions just disappearing on the horizon. And there, there is an awful sea, without a boat to be seen on it, dark and dismal, with huge rocks all about it, and waste borders of sand — so dreadful!”
“How do you know all this, Mr. Sutherland? You have never walked along those lines, I know, for you couldn’t.”
“Geography has taught me.”
“No, Mr. Sutherland!” said Harry, incredulously. “Well, shall we travel along this line, just across that crown of trees on the hill?”
“Yes, do let us.”
“Then,” said Hugh, drawing a telescope from his pocket, “this hill is henceforth Geography Point, and all the world lies round about it. Do you know we are in the very middle of the earth?”
“Are we, indeed?”
“Yes. Don’t you know any point you like to choose on a ball is the middle of it?”
“Oh! yes — of course.”
“Very well. What lies at the bottom of the hill down there?”
“Arnstead, to be sure.”
“And what beyond there?”
“I don’t know.”
“Look through here.”
“Oh! that must be the village we rode to yesterday — I forget the name of it.”
Hugh told him the name; and then made him look with the telescope all along the receding line to the trees on the opposite hill. Just as he caught them, a voice beside them said:
“What are you about, Harry?”
Hugh felt a glow of pleasure as the voice fell on his ear.
It was Euphra’s.
“Oh!” replied Harry, “Mr. Sutherland is teaching me geography with a telescope. It’s such fun!”
“He’s a wonderful tutor, that of yours, Harry!”
“Yes, isn’t he just? But,” Harry went on, turning to Hugh, “what are we to do now? We can’t get farther for that hill.”
“Ah! we must apply to your papa now, to lend us some of his beautiful maps. They will teach us what lies beyond that hill. And then we can read in some of his books about the places; and so go on and on, till we reach the beautiful, wide, restless sea; over which we must sail in spite of wind and tide — straight on and on, till we come to land again. But we must make a great many such journeys before we really know what sort of a place we are living in; and we shall have ever so many things to learn that will surprise us.”
“Oh! it will be nice!” cried Harry.
After a little more geographical talk, they put up their instruments, and began to descend the hill. Harry was in no need of Hugh’s back now, but Euphra was in need of his hand. In fact, she spelled for its support.
“How awkward of me! I am stumbling over the heather shamefully!”
She was, in fact, stumbling over her own dress, which she would not hold up. Hugh offered his hand; and her small one seemed quite content to be swallowed up in his large one.
“Why do you never let me put you on your horse?” said Hugh. “You always manage to prevent me somehow or other. The last time, I just turned my head, and, behold! when I looked, you were gathering your reins.”
“It is only a trick of independence, Hugh — Mr. Sutherland — I beg your pardon.”
I can make no excuse for Euphra, for she had positively never heard him called Hugh: there was no one to do so. But, the slip had not, therefore, the less effect; for it sounded as if she had been saying his name over and over again to herself.
“I beg your pardon,” repeated Euphra, hastily; for, as Hugh did not reply, she feared her arrow had swerved from its mark.
“For a sweet fault, Euphra — I beg your pardon — Miss Cameron.”
“You punish me with forgiveness,” returned she, with one of her sweetest looks.
Hugh could not help pressing the little hand.
Was the pressure returned? So slight, so airy was the touch, that it might have been only the throb of his own pulses, all consciously vital about the wonderful woman-hand that rested in his. If he had claimed it, she might easily have denied it, so ethereal and uncertain was it. Yet he believed in it. He never dreamed that she was exercising her skill upon him. What could be her object in bewitching a poor tutor? Ah! what indeed?
Meantime this much is certain, that she was drawing Hugh closer and closer to her side; that a soothing dream of delight had begun to steal over his spirit, soon to make it toss in feverous unrest — as the first effects of some poisons are like a dawn of tenfold strength. The mountain wind blew from her to him, sometimes sweeping her garments about him, and bathing him in their faint sweet odours — odours which somehow seemed to belong to her whom they had only last visited; sometimes, so kindly strong did it blow, compelling her, or at least giving her excuse enough, to leave his hand and cling closely to his arm. A fresh spring began to burst from the very bosom of what had seemed before a perfect summer. A spring to summer! What would the following summer be? Ah! and what the autumn? And what the winter? For if the summer be tenfold summer, then must the winter be tenfold winter.
But though knowledge is good for man, foreknowledge is not so good.
And, though Love be good, a tempest of it in the brain will not ripen the fruits like a soft steady wind, or waft the ships home to their desired haven.
Perhaps, what enslaved Hugh most, was the feeling that the damsel stooped to him, without knowing that she stooped. She seemed to him in every way above him. She knew so many things of which he was ignorant; could say such lovely things; could, he did not doubt, write lovely verses; could sing like an angel; (though Scotch songs are not of essentially angelic strain, nor Italian songs either, in general; and they were all that she could do); was mistress of a great rich wonderful house, with a history; and, more than all, was, or appeared to him to be — a beautiful woman. It was true that his family was as good as hers; but he had disowned his family — so his pride declared; and the same pride made him despise his present position, and look upon a tutor’s employment as — as — well, as other people look upon it; as a rather contemptible one in fact, especially for a young, powerful, six-foot fellow.
The influence of Euphrasia was not of the best upon him from the first; for it had greatly increased this feeling about his occupation. It could not affect his feelings towards Harry; so the boy did not suffer as yet. But it set him upon a very unprofitable kind of castle-building: he would be a soldier like his father; he would leave Arnstead, to revisit it with a sword by his side, and a Sir before his name. Sir Hugh Sutherland would be somebody even in the eyes of the master of Arnstead. Yes, a six-foot fellow, though he may be sensible in the main, is not, therefore, free from small vanities, especially if he be in love. But how leave Euphra?
Again I outrun my story.
Chapter 10 — Italian
Per me si va nella citt à dolente.
Of necessity, with so many shafts opened into the mountain of knowledge, a far greater amount of time must be devoted by Harry and his tutor to the working of the mine, than they had given hitherto. This made a considerable alteration in the intercourse of the youth and the lady; for, although Euphra was often present during school-hours, it must be said for Hugh that, during those hours, he paid almost all his attention to Harry; so much of it, indeed, that perhaps there was not enough left to please the lady. But she did not say so. She sat beside them in silence, occupied with her work, and saving up her glances for use. Now and then she would read; taking an opportunity sometimes, but not often, when a fitting pause occurred, to ask him to explain some passage about which she was in doubt. It must be conceded that such passages were well chosen for the purpose; for she was too wise to do her own intellect discredit by feigning a difficulty where she saw none; intellect being the only gift in others for which she was conscious of any reverence.
By-and-by she began to discontinue these visits to the schoolroom. Perhaps she found them dull. Perhaps — but we shall see.
One morning, in the course of their study — Euphra not present — Hugh had occasion to go from his own room, where, for the most part, they carried on the severer portion of their labours, down to the library for a book, to enlighten them upon some point on which they were in doubt. As he was passing an open door, Euphra’s voice called him. He entered, and found himself in her private sitting-room. He had not known before where it was.
“I beg your pardon, Mr. Sutherland, for calling you, but I am at this moment in a difficulty. I cannot manage this line in the Inferno. Do help me.”
She moved the book towards him, as he now stood by her side, she remaining seated at her table. To his mortification, he was compelled to confess his utter ignorance of the language.
“Oh! I am disappointed,” said Euphra.
“Not so much as I am,” replied Hugh. “But could you spare me one or two of your Italian books?”
“With pleasure,” she answered, rising and going to her bookshelves.
“I want only a grammar, a dictionary, and a New Testament.”
“There they are,” she said, taking them down one after the other, and bringing them to him. “I daresay you will soon get up with poor stupid me.”
“I shall do my best to get within hearing of your voice, at least, in which Italian must be lovely.”
No reply, but a sudden droop of the head.
“But,” continued Hugh, “upon second thoughts, lest I should be compelled to remain dumb, or else annoy your delicate ear with discordant sounds, just give me one lesson in the pronunciation. Let me hear you read a little first.”
“With all my heart.”
Euphra began, and read delightfully; for she was an excellent Italian scholar. It was necessary that Hugh should look over the book. This was difficult while he remained standing, as she did not offer to lift it from the table. Gradually, therefore, and hardly knowing how, he settled into a chair by her side. Half-an-hour went by like a minute, as he listened to the silvery tones of her voice, breaking into a bell-like sound upon the double consonants of that sweet lady-tongue. Then it was his turn to read and be corrected, and read again and be again corrected. Another half-hour glided away, and yet another. But it must be confessed he made good use of the time — if only it had been his own to use; for at the end of it he could pronounce Italian very tolerably — well enough, at least, to keep him from fixing errors in his pronunciation, while studying the language alone. Suddenly he came to himself, and looked up as from a dream. Had she been bewitching him? He was in Euphra’s room — alone with her. And the door was shut — how or when? And — he looked at his watch — poor little Harry had been waiting his return from the library, for the last hour and a half. He was conscience-stricken. He gathered up the books hastily, thanked Euphra in the same hurried manner, and left the room with considerable disquietude, closing the door very gently, almost guiltily, behind him.
I am afraid Euphra had been perfectly aware that he knew nothing about Italian. Did she see her own eyes shine in the mirror before her, as he closed the door? Was she in love with him, then?
When Hugh returned with the Italian books, instead of the encyclopædia he had gone to seek, he found Harry sitting where he had left him, with his arms and head on the table, fast asleep.
“Poor boy!” said Hugh to himself; but he could not help feeling glad he was asleep. He stole out of the room again, passed the fatal door with a longing pain, found the volume of his quest in the library, and, returning with it, sat down beside Harry. There he sat till he awoke.
When he did awake at last, it was almost time for luncheon. The shame-faced boy was exceedingly penitent for what was no fault, while Hugh could not relieve him by confessing his. He could only say:
“It was my fault, Harry dear. I stayed away too long. You were so nicely asleep, I would not wake you. You will not need a siesta, that is all.”
He was ashamed of himself, as he uttered the false words to the true-hearted child. But this, alas! was not the end of it all.
Desirous of learning the language, but far more desirous of commending himself to Euphra, Hugh began in downright earnest. That very evening, he felt that he had a little hold of the language. Harry was left to his own resources. Nor was there any harm in this in itself: Hugh had a right to part of every day for his own uses. But then, he had been with Harry almost every evening, or a great part of it, and the boy missed him much; for he was not yet self-dependent. He would have gone to Euphrasia, but somehow she happened to be engaged that evening. So he took refuge in the library, where, in the desolation of his spirit, Polexander began, almost immediately, to exercise its old dreary fascination upon him. Although he had not opened the book since Hugh had requested him to put it away, yet he had not given up the intention of finishing it some day; and now he took it down, and opened it listlessly, with the intention of doing something towards the gradual redeeming of the pledge he had given to himself. But he found it more irksome than ever. Still he read on; till at length he could discover no meaning at all in the sentences. Then he began to doubt whether he had read the words. He fixed his attention by main force on every individual word; but even then he began to doubt whether he could say he had read the words, for he might have missed seeing some of the letters composing each word. He grew so nervous and miserable over it, almost counting every letter, that at last he burst into tears, and threw the book down.
His intellect, which in itself was excellent, was quite of the parasitic order, requiring to wind itself about a stronger intellect, to keep itself in the region of fresh air and possible growth. Left to itself, its weak stem could not raise it above the ground: it would grow and mass upon the earth, till it decayed and corrupted, for lack of room, light, and air. But, of course, there was no danger in the meantime. This was but the passing sadness of an occasional loneliness.
He crept to Hugh’s room, and received an invitation to enter, in answer to his gentle knock; but Hugh was so absorbed in his new study, that he hardly took any notice of him, and Harry found it almost as dreary here as in the study. He would have gone out, but a drizzling rain was falling; and he shrank into himself at the thought of the Ghost’s Walk. The dinner-bell was a welcome summons.
Hugh, inspirited by the reaction from close attention, by the presence of Euphra, and by the desire to make himself generally agreeable, which sprung from the consciousness of having done wrong, talked almost brilliantly, delighting Euphra, overcoming Harry with reverent astonishment, and even interesting slow Mr. Arnold. With the latter Hugh had been gradually becoming a favourite; partly because he had discovered in him what he considered high-minded sentiments; for, however stupid and conventional Mr. Arnold might be, he had a foundation of sterling worthiness of character. Euphra, instead of showing any jealousy of this growing friendliness, favoured it in every way in her power, and now and then alluded to it in her conversations with Hugh, as affording her great satisfaction.
“I am so glad he likes you!” she would say.
“Why should she be glad?” thought Hugh.
This gentle claim of a kind of property in him, added considerably to the strength of the attraction that drew him towards her, as towards the centre of his spiritual gravitation; if indeed that could be called spiritual which had so little of the element of moral or spiritual admiration, or even approval, mingled with it. He never felt that Euphra was good. He only felt that she drew him with a vague force of feminine sovereignty — a charm which he could no more resist or explain, than the iron could the attraction of the loadstone. Neither could he have said, had he really considered the matter, that she was beautiful — only that she often, very often, looked beautiful. I suspect if she had been rather ugly, it would have been all the same for Hugh.
He pursued his Italian studies with a singleness of aim and effort that carried him on rapidly. He asked no assistance from Euphra, and said nothing to her about his progress. But he was so absorbed in it, that it drew him still further from his pupil. Of course he went out with him, walking or riding every day that the weather would permit; and he had regular school hours with him within doors. But during the latter, while Harry was doing something on his slate, or writing, or learning some lesson (which kind of work happened oftener now than he could have approved of), he would take up his Italian; and, notwithstanding Harry’s quiet hints that he had finished what had been set him, remain buried in it for a long time. When he woke at last to the necessity of taking some notice of the boy, he would only appoint him something else to occupy him again, so as to leave himself free to follow his new bent. Now and then he would become aware of his blameable neglect, and make a feeble struggle to rectify what seemed to be growing into a habit — and one of the worst for a tutor; but he gradually sank back into the mire, for mire it was, comforting himself with the resolution that as soon as he was able to read Italian without absolutely spelling his way, he would let Euphra see what progress he had made, and then return with renewed energy to Harry’s education, keeping up his own new accomplishment by more moderate exercise therein. It must not be supposed, however, that a long course of time passed in this way. At the end of a fortnight, he thought he might venture to request Euphra to show him the passage which had perplexed her. This time he knew where she was — in her own room; for his mind had begun to haunt her whereabouts. He knocked at her door, heard the silvery, thrilling, happy sound, “Come in;” and entered trembling.
“Would you show me the passage in Dante that perplexed you the other day?”
Euphra looked a little surprised; but got the book and pointed it out at once.
Hugh glanced at it. His superior acquaintance with the general forms of language enabled him, after finding two words in Euphra’s larger dictionary, to explain it, to her immediate satisfaction.
“You astonish me,” said Euphra.
“Latin gives me an advantage, you see,” said Hugh modestly.
“It seems to be very wonderful, nevertheless.”
These were sweet sounds to Hugh’s ear. He had gained his end. And she hers.
“Well,” she said, “I have just come upon another passage that perplexes me not a little. Will you try your powers upon that for me?”
So saying, she proceeded to find it.
“It is school-time,” said Hugh “I fear I must not wait now.”
“Pooh! pooh! Don’t make a pedagogue of yourself. You know you are here more as a guardian — big brother, you know — to the dear child. By the way, I am rather afraid you are working him a little more than his constitution will stand.”
“Do you think so?” returned Hugh quite willing to be convinced. “I should be very sorry.”
“This is the passage,” said Euphra.
Hugh sat down once more at the table beside her. He found this morsel considerably tougher than the last. But at length he succeeded in pulling it to pieces and reconstructing it in a simpler form for the lady. She was full of thanks and admiration. Naturally enough, they went on to the next line, and the next stanza, and the next and the next; till — shall I be believed? — they had read a whole canto of the poem. Euphra knew more words by a great many than Hugh; so that, what with her knowledge of the words, and his insight into the construction, they made rare progress.
“What a beautiful passage it is!” said Euphra.
“It is indeed,” responded Hugh; “I never read anything more beautiful.”
“I wonder if it would be possible to turn that into English. I should like to try.”
“You mean verse, of course?”
“To be sure.”
“Let us try, then. I will bring you mine when I have finished it. I fear it will take some time, though, to do it well. Shall it be in blank verse, or what?”
“Oh! don’t you think we had better keep the Terza Rima of the original?”
“As you please. It will add much to the difficulty.”
“Recreant knight! will you shrink from following where your lady leads?”
“Never! so help me, my good pen!” answered Hugh, and took his departure, with burning cheeks and a trembling at the heart. Alas! the morning was gone. Harry was not in his study: he sought and found him in the library, apparently buried in Polexander.
“I am so glad you are come,” said Harry; “I am so tired.”
“Why do you read that stupid book, then?”
“Oh! you know, I told you.”
“Tut! tut! nonsense! Put it away,” said Hugh, his dissatisfaction with himself making him cross with Harry, who felt, in consequence, ten times more desolate than before. He could not understand the change.
If it went ill before with the hours devoted to common labour, it went worse now. Hugh seized every gap of time, and widened its margins shamefully, in order to work at his translation. He found it very difficult to render the Italian in classical and poetic English. The three rhyming words, and the mode in which the stanzas are looped together, added greatly to the difficulty. Blank verse he would have found quite easy compared to this. But he would not blench. The thought of her praise, and of the yet better favour he might gain, spurred him on; and Harry was the sacrifice. But he would make it all up to him, when this was once over. Indeed, he would.
Thus he baked cakes of clay to choke the barking of Cerberian conscience. But it would growl notwithstanding.
The boy’s spirit was sinking; but Hugh did not or would not see it. His step grew less elastic. He became more listless, more like his former self — sauntering about with his hands in his pockets. And Hugh, of course, found himself caring less about him; for the thought of him, rousing as it did the sense of his own neglect, had become troublesome. Sometimes he even passed poor Harry without speaking to him.
Gradually, however, he grew still further into the favour of Mr. Arnold, until he seemed to have even acquired some influence with him. Mr. Arnold would go out riding with them himself sometimes, and express great satisfaction, not only with the way Harry sat his pony, for which he accorded Hugh the credit due to him, but with the way in which Hugh managed his own horse as well. Mr. Arnold was a good horseman, and his praise was especially grateful to Hugh, because Euphra was always near, and always heard it. I fear, however, that his progress in the good graces of Mr. Arnold, was, in a considerable degree, the result of the greater anxiety to please, which sprung from the consciousness of not deserving approbation. Pleasing was an easy substitute for well-doing. Not acceptable to himself, he had the greater desire to be acceptable to others; and so reflect the side-beams of a false approbation on himself — who needed true light and would be ill-provided for with any substitute. For a man who is received as a millionaire can hardly help feeling like one at times, even if he knows he has overdrawn his banker’s account. The necessity to Hugh’s nature of feeling right, drove him to this false mode of producing the false impression. If one only wants to feel virtuous, there are several royal roads to that end. But, fortunately, the end itself would be unsatisfactory if gained; while not one of these roads does more than pretend to lead even to that land of delusion.
The reaction in Hugh’s mind was sometimes torturing enough. But he had not strength to resist Euphra, and so reform.
Well or ill done, at length his translation was finished. So was Euphra’s. They exchanged papers for a private reading first; and arranged to meet afterwards, in order to compare criticisms.
Chapter 11 — The First Midnight
Well, if anything be damned,
It will be twelve o’clock at night; that twelve
Will never scape.
—Cyril Tourneur, The Revenger’s Tragedy .
Letters arrived at Arnstead generally while the family was seated at breakfast. One morning, the post-bag having been brought in, Mr. Arnold opened it himself, according to his unvarying custom; and found, amongst other letters, one in an old-fashioned female hand, which, after reading it, he passed to Euphra.
“You remember Mrs. Elton, Euphra?”
“Quite well, uncle — a dear old lady!”
But the expression which passed across her face, rather belied her words, and seemed to Hugh to mean: “I hope she is not going to bore us again.”
She took care, however, to show no sign with regard to the contents of the letter; but, laying it beside her on the table, waited to hear her uncle’s mind first.
“Poor, dear girl!” said he at last. “You must try to make her as comfortable as you can. There is consumption in the family, you see,” he added, with a meditative sigh.
“Of course I will, uncle. Poor girl! I hope there is not much amiss though, after all.”
But, as she spoke, an irrepressible flash of dislike, or displeasure of some sort, broke from her eyes, and vanished. No one but himself seemed to Hugh to have observed it; but he was learned in the lady’s eyes, and their weather-signs. Mr. Arnold rose from the table and left the room, apparently to write an answer to the letter. As soon as he was gone, Euphra gave the letter to Hugh. He read as follows: —
My Dear Mr. Arnold,
Will you extend the hospitality of your beautiful house to me and my young friend, who has the honour of being your relative, Lady Emily Lake? For some time her health has seemed to be failing, and she is ordered to spend the winter abroad, at Pau, or somewhere in the south of France. It is considered highly desirable that in the meantime she should have as much change as possible; and it occurred to me, remembering the charming month I passed at your seat, and recalling the fact that Lady Emily is cousin only once removed to your late most lovely wife, that there would be no impropriety in writing to ask you whether you could, without inconvenience, receive us as your guests for a short time. I say us; for the dear girl has taken such a fancy to unworthy old me, that she almost refuses to set out without me. Not to be cumbersome either to our friends or ourselves, we shall bring only our two maids, and a steady old man-servant, who has been in my family for many years. — I trust you will not hesitate to refuse my request, should I happen to have made it at an unsuitable season; assured, as you must be, that we cannot attribute the refusal to any lack of hospitality or friendliness on your part. At all events, I trust you will excuse what seems — now I have committed it to paper — a great liberty, I hope not presumption, on mine. I am, my dear Mr. Arnold,
Yours most sincerely,
Hannah Elton.
Hugh refolded the letter, and laid it down without remark. Harry had left the room.
“Isn’t it a bore?” said Euphra.
Hugh answered only by a look. A pause followed.
“Who is Mrs. Elton?” he said at last.
“Oh, a good-hearted creature enough. Frightfully prosy.”
“But that is a well-written letter?”
“Oh, yes. She is famed for her letter-writing; and, I believe, practises every morning on a slate. It is the only thing that redeems her from absolute stupidity.”
Euphra, with her taper fore-finger, tapped the table-cloth impatiently, and shifted back in her chair, as if struggling with an inward annoyance.
“And what sort of person is Lady Emily?” asked Hugh.
“I have never seen her. Some blue-eyed milk-maid with a title, I suppose. And in a consumption, too! I presume the dear girl is as religious as the old one. — Good heavens! what shall we do?” she burst out at length; and, rising from her chair, she paced about the room hurriedly, but all the time with a gliding kind of footfall, that would have shaken none but the craziest floor.
“Dear Euphra!” Hugh ventured to say, “never mind. Let us try to make the best of it.”
She stopped in her walk, turned towards him, smiled as if ashamed and delighted at the same moment, and slid out of the room. Had Euphra been the same all through, she could hardly have smiled so without being in love with Hugh.
That morning he sought her again in her room. They talked over their versions of Dante. Hugh’s was certainly the best, for he was more practised in such things than Euphra. He showed her many faults, which she at once perceived to be faults, and so rose in his estimation. But at the same time there were individual lines and passages of hers, which he considered not merely better than the corresponding lines and passages, but better than any part of his version. This he was delighted to say; and she seemed as delighted that he should think so. A great part of the morning was spent thus.
“I cannot stay longer,” said Hugh.
“Let us read for an hour, then, after we come up stairs to-night.”
“With more pleasure than I dare to say.”
“But you mean what you do say?”
“You can doubt it no more than myself.”
Yet he did not like Euphra’s making the proposal. No more did he like the flippant, almost cruel way in which she referred to Lady Emily’s illness. But he put it down to annoyance and haste — got over it somehow — anyhow; and began to feel that if she were a devil he could not help loving her, and would not help it if he could. The hope of meeting her alone that night, gave him spirit and energy with Harry; and the poor boy was more cheery and active than he had been for some time. He thought his big brother was going to love him again as at the first. Hugh’s treatment of his pupil might still have seemed kind from another, but Harry felt it a great change in him.
In the course of the day, Euphra took an opportunity of whispering to him:
“Not in my room — in the library.” I presume she thought it would be more prudent, in the case of any interruption.
After dinner that evening, Hugh did not go to the drawingroom with Mr. Arnold, but out into the woods about the house. It was early in the twilight; for now the sun set late. The month was June; and the even a rich, dreamful, rosy even — the sleep of a gorgeous day. “It is like the soul of a gracious woman,” thought Hugh, charmed into a lucid interval of passion by the loveliness of the nature around him. Strange to tell, at that moment, instead of the hushed gloom of the library, towards which he was hoping and leaning in his soul, there arose before him the bare, stern, leafless pine-wood — for who can call its foliage leaves? — with the chilly wind of a northern spring morning blowing through it with a wailing noise of waters; and beneath a weird fir-tree, lofty, gaunt, and huge, with bare goblin arms, contorted sweepily, in a strange mingling of the sublime and the grotesque — beneath this fir-tree, Margaret sitting on one of its twisted roots, the very image of peace, with a face that seemed stilled by the expected approach of a sacred and unknown gladness; a face that would blossom the more gloriously because its joy delayed its coming. And above it, the tree shone a “still,” almost “awful red,” in the level light of the morning.
The vision came and passed, for he did not invite its stay: it rebuked him to the deepest soul. He strayed in troubled pleasure, restless and dissatisfied. Woods of the richest growth were around him; heaps on heaps of leaves floating above him like clouds, a trackless wilderness of airy green, wherein one might wish to dwell for ever, looking down into the vaults and aisles of the long-ranging boles beneath. But no peace could rest on his face; only, at best, a false mask, put on to hide the trouble of the unresting heart. Had he been doing his duty to Harry, his love for Euphra, however unworthy she might be, would not have troubled him thus.
He came upon an avenue. At the further end the boughs of the old trees, bare of leaves beneath, met in a perfect pointed arch, across which were barred the lingering colours of the sunset, transforming the whole into a rich window full of stained glass and complex tracery, closing up a Gothic aisle in a temple of everlasting worship. A kind of holy calm fell upon him as he regarded the dim, dying colours; and the spirit of the night, a something that is neither silence nor sound, and yet is like both, sank into his soul, and made a moment of summer twilight there. He walked along the avenue for some distance; and then, leaving it, passed on through the woods. — Suddenly it flashed upon him that he had crossed the Ghost’s Walk. A slight but cold shudder passed through the region of his heart. Then he laughed at himself, and, as it were in despite of his own tremor, turned, and crossed yet again the path of the ghost.
A spiritual epicure in his pleasures, he would not spoil the effect of the coming meeting, by seeing Euphra in the drawingroom first: he went to his own study, where he remained till the hour had nearly arrived. He tried to write some verses. But he found that, although the lovely form of its own Naiad lay on the brink of the Well of Song, its waters would not flow: during the sirocco of passion, its springs withdraw into the cool caves of the Life beneath. At length he rose, too much preoccupied to mind his want of success; and, going down the back stair, reached the library. There he seated himself, and tried to read by the light of his chamber-candle. But it was scarcely even an attempt, for every moment he was looking up to the door by which he expected her to enter.
Suddenly an increase of light warned him that she was in the room. How she had entered he could not tell. One hand carried her candle, the light of which fell on her pale face, with its halo of blackness — her hair, which looked like a well of darkness, that threatened to break from its bonds and overflood the room with a second night, dark enough to blot out that which was now looking in, treeful and deep, at the uncurtained windows. The other hand was busy trying to incarcerate a stray tress which had escaped from its net, and made her olive shoulders look white beside it.
“Let it alone,” said Hugh, “let it be beautiful.”
But she gently repelled the hand he raised to hers, and, though she was forced to put down her candle first, persisted in confining the refractory tress; then seated herself at the table, and taking from her pocket the manuscript which Hugh had been criticising in the morning, unfolded it, and showed him all the passages he had objected to, neatly corrected or altered. It was wonderfully done for the time she had had. He went over it all with her again, seated close to her, their faces almost meeting as they followed the lines. They had just finished it, and were about to commence reading from the original, when Hugh, who missed a sheet of Euphra’s translation, stooped under the table to look for it. A few moments were spent in the search, before he discovered that Euphra’s foot was upon it. He begged her to move a little, but received no reply either by word or act. Looking up in some alarm, he saw that she was either asleep or in a faint. By an impulse inexplicable to himself at the time, he went at once to the windows, and drew down the green blinds. When he turned towards her again, she was reviving or awaking, he could not tell which.
“How stupid of me to go to sleep!” she said. “Let us go on with our reading.”
They had read for about half an hour, when three taps upon one of the windows, slight, but peculiar, and as if given with the point of a finger, suddenly startled them. Hugh turned at once towards the windows; but, of course, he could see nothing, having just lowered the blinds. He turned again towards Euphra. She had a strange wild look; her lips were slightly parted, and her nostrils wide; her face was rigid, and glimmering pale as death from the cloud of her black hair.
“What was it?” said Hugh, affected by her fear with the horror of the unknown. But she made no answer, and continued staring towards one of the windows. He rose and was about to advance to it, when she caught him by the hand with a grasp of which hers would have been incapable except under the influence of terror. At that moment a clock in the room began to strike. It was a slow clock, and went on deliberately, striking one...two...three...till it had struck twelve. Every stroke was a blow from the hammer of fear, and his heart was the bell. He could not breathe for dread so long as the awful clock was striking. When it had ended, they looked at each other again, and Hugh breathed once.
“Euphra!” he sighed.
But she made no answer; she turned her eyes again to one of the windows. They were both standing. He sought to draw her to him, but she yielded no more than a marble statue.
“I crossed the Ghost’s Walk to-night,” said he, in a hard whisper, scarcely knowing that he uttered it, till he heard his own words. They seemed to fall upon his ear as if spoken by some one outside the room. She looked at him once more, and kept looking with a fixed stare. Gradually her face became less rigid, and her eyes less wild. She could move at last.
“Come, come,” she said, in a hurried whisper. “Let us go — no, no, not that way;” — as Hugh would have led her towards the private stair — “let us go the front way, by the oak staircase.”
They went up together. When they reached the door of her room, she said, “Good night,” without even looking at him, and passed in. Hugh went on, in a state of utter bewilderment, to his own apartment; shut the door and locked it — a thing he had never done before; lighted both the candles on his table; and then walked up and down the room, trying, like one aware that he is dreaming, to come to his real self.
“Pshaw!” he said at last. “It was only a little bird, or a large moth. How odd it is that darkness can make a fool of one! I am ashamed of myself. I wish I had gone out at the window, if only to show Euphra I was not afraid, though of course there was nothing to be seen.”
As he said this in his mind, — he could not have spoken it aloud, for fear of hearing his own voice in the solitude, — he went to one of the windows of his sitting-room, which was nearly over the library, and looked into the wood. — Could it be? — Yes. — He did see something white, gliding through the wood, away in the direction of the Ghost’s Walk. It vanished; and he saw it no more.
The morning was far advanced before he could go to bed. When the first light of the aurora broke the sky, he looked out again; — and the first glimmerings of the morning in the wood were more dreadful than the deepest darkness of the past night. Possessed by a new horror, he thought how awful it would be to see a belated ghost, hurrying away in helpless haste. The spectre would be yet more terrible in the grey light of the coming day, and the azure breezes of the morning, which to it would be like a new and more fearful death, than amidst its own homely sepulchral darkness; while the silence all around — silence in light — could befit only that dread season of loneliness when men are lost in sleep, and ghosts, if they walk at all, walk in dismay.
But at length fear yielded to sleep, though still he troubled her short reign.
When he awoke, he found it so late, that it was all he could do to get down in time for breakfast. But so anxious was he not to be later than usual, that he was in the room before Mr. Arnold made his appearance. Euphra, however, was there before him. She greeted him in the usual way, quite circumspectly. But she looked troubled. Her face was very pale, and her eyes were red, as if from sleeplessness or weeping. When her uncle entered, she addressed him with more gaiety than usual, and he did not perceive that anything was amiss with her. But the whole of that day she walked as in a reverie, avoiding Hugh two or three times that they chanced to meet without a third person in the neighbourhood. Once in the forenoon — when she was generally to be found in her room — he could not refrain from trying to see her. The change and the mystery were insupportable to him. But when he tapped at her door, no answer came; and he walked back to Harry, feeling, as if, by an unknown door in his own soul, he had been shut out of the half of his being. Or rather — a wall seemed to have been built right before his eyes, which still was there wherever he went.
As to the gliding phantom of the previous night, the day denied it all, telling him it was but the coinage of his own over-wrought brain, weakened by prolonged tension of the intellect, and excited by the presence of Euphra at an hour claimed by phantoms when not yielded to sleep. This was the easiest and most natural way of disposing of the difficulty. The cloud around Euphra hid the ghost in its skirts.
Although fear in some measure returned with the returning shadows, he yet resolved to try to get Euphra to meet him again in the library that night. But she never gave him a chance of even dropping a hint to that purpose. She had not gone out with them in the morning; and when he followed her into the drawing-room, she was already at the piano. He thought he might convey his wish without interrupting the music; but as often as he approached her, she broke, or rather glided, out into song, as if she had been singing in an undertone all the while. He could not help seeing she did not intend to let him speak to her. But, all the time, whatever she sang was something she knew he liked; and as often as she spoke to him in the hearing of her uncle or cousin, it was in a manner peculiarly graceful and simple.
He could not understand her; and was more bewitched, more fascinated than ever, by seeing her through the folds of the incomprehensible, in which element she had wrapped herself from his nearer vision. She had always seemed above him — now she seemed miles away as well; a region of Paradise, into which he was forbidden to enter. Everything about her, to her handkerchief and her gloves, was haunted by a vague mystery of worshipfulness, and drew him towards it with wonder and trembling. When they parted for the night, she shook hands with him with a cool frankness, that put him nearly beside himself with despair; and when he found himself in his own room, it was some time before he could collect his thoughts. Having succeeded, however, he resolved, in spite of growing fears, to go to the library, and see whether it were not possible she might be there. He took up a candle, and went down the back stair. But when he opened the library door, a gust of wind blew his candle out; all was darkness within; a sudden horror seized him; and, afraid of yielding to the inclination to bound up the stair, lest he should go wild with the terror of pursuit, he crept slowly back, feeling his way to his own room with a determined deliberateness. — Could the library window have been left open? Else whence the gust of wind?
Next day, and the next, and the next, he fared no better: her behaviour continued the same; and she allowed him no opportunity of requesting an explanation.
Chapter 12 — A Sunday
A man may be a heretic in the truth; and if he believe things only because his pastor says so, or the assembly so determines, without knowing other reason, though his belief be true, yet the very truth he holds becomes his heresy.
—Milton, Areopagitica .
At length the expected visitors arrived. Hugh saw nothing of them till they assembled for dinner. Mrs. Elton was a benevolent old lady — not old enough to give in to being old — rather tall, and rather stout, in rich widow-costume, whose depth had been moderated by time. Her kindly grey eyes looked out from a calm face, which seemed to have taken comfort from loving everybody in a mild and moderate fashion. Lady Emily was a slender girl, rather shy, with fair hair, and a pale innocent face. She wore a violet dress, which put out her blue eyes. She showed to no advantage beside the suppressed glow of life which made Euphra look like a tropical twilight — I am aware there is no such thing, but if there were, it would be just like her.
Mrs. Elton seemed to have concentrated the motherhood of her nature, which was her most prominent characteristic, notwithstanding — or perhaps in virtue of — her childlessness, upon Lady Emily. To her Mrs. Elton was solicitously attentive; and she, on her part, received it all sweetly and gratefully, taking no umbrage at being treated as more of an invalid than she was.
Lady Emily ate nothing but chicken, and custard-pudding or rice, all the time she was at Arnstead.
The richer and more seasoned any dish, the more grateful it was to Euphra.
Mr. Arnold was a saddle-of-mutton man.
Hugh preferred roast-beef, but ate anything.
“What sort of a clergyman have you now, Mr. Arnold?” asked Mrs. Elton, at the dinner-table.
“Oh! a very respectable young gentleman, brother to Sir Richard, who has the gift, you know. A very moderate, excellent clergyman he makes, too!”
“All! but you know, Lady Emily and I” — here she looked at Lady Emily, who smiled and blushed faintly, “are very dependent on our Sundays, and” —
“We all go to church regularly, I assure you, Mrs. Elton; and of course my carriage shall be always at your disposal.”
“I was in no doubt about either of those things, indeed, Mr. Arnold. But what sort of a preacher is he?”
“Ah, well! let me see. — What was the subject of his sermon last Sunday, Euphra, my dear?”
“The devil and all his angels,” answered Euphra, with a wicked flash in her eyes.
“Yes, yes; so it was. Oh! I assure you, Mrs. Elton, he is quite a respectable preacher, as well as clergyman. He is an honour to the cloth.”
Hugh could not help thinking that the tailor should have his due, and that Mr. Arnold gave it him.
“He is no Puseyite either,” added Mr. Arnold, seeing but not understanding Mrs. Elton’s baffled expression, “though he does preach once a month in his surplice.”
“I am afraid you will not find him very original, though,” said Hugh, wishing to help the old lady.
“Original!” interposed Mr. Arnold. “Really, I am bound to say I don’t know how the remark applies. How is a man to be original on a subject that is all laid down in plain print — to use a vulgar expression — and has been commented upon for eighteen hundred years and more?”
“Very true, Mr. Arnold,” responded Mrs. Elton. “We don’t want originality, do we? It is only the gospel we want. Does he preach the gospel?”
“How can he preach anything else? His text is always out of some part of the Bible.”
“I am glad to see you hold by the Inspiration of the Scriptures, Mr. Arnold,” said Mrs. Elton, chaotically bewildered.
“Good heavens! Madam, what do you mean? Could you for a moment suppose me to be an atheist? Surely you have not become a student of German Neology?” And Mr. Arnold smiled a grim smile.
“Not I, indeed!” protested poor Mrs. Elton, moving uneasily in her seat; — “I quite agree with you, Mr. Arnold.”
“Then you may take my word for it, that you will hear nothing but what is highly orthodox, and perfectly worthy of a gentleman and a clergyman, from the pulpit of Mr. Penfold. He dined with us only last week.”
This last assertion was made in an injured tone, just sufficient to curl the tail of the sentence. After which, what was to be said?
Several vain attempts followed, before a new subject was started, sufficiently uninteresting to cause, neither from warmth nor stupidity, any danger of dissension, and quite worthy of being here omitted.
Dinner over, and the ceremony of tea — in Lady Emily’s case, milk and water — having been observed, the visitors withdrew.
The next day was Sunday. Lady Emily came down stairs in black, which suited her better. She was a pretty, gentle creature, interesting from her illness, and good, because she knew no evil, except what she heard of from the pulpit. They walked to church, which was at no great distance, along a meadow-path paved with flags, some of them worn through by the heavy shoes of country generations. The church was one of those which are, in some measure, typical of the Church itself; for it was very old, and would have been very beautiful, had it not been all plastered over, and whitened to a smooth uniformity of ugliness — the attempt having been more successful in the case of the type. The open roof had had a French heaven added to it — I mean a ceiling; and the pillars, which, even if they were not carved — though it was impossible to come to a conclusion on that point — must yet have been worn into the beauty of age, had been filled up, and stained with yellow ochre. Even the remnants of stained glass in some of the windows, were half concealed by modern appliances for the partial exclusion of the light. The church had fared as Chaucer in the hands of Dryden. So had the truth, that flickered through the sermon, fared in the hands of the clergyman, or of the sermon-wright whose manuscript he had bought for eighteen pence — I am told that sermons are to be procured at that price — on his last visit to London. Having, although a Scotchman, had an episcopalian education, Hugh could not help rejoicing that not merely the Bible, but the Church-service as well, had been fixed beyond the reach of such degenerating influences as those which had operated on the more material embodiments of religion; for otherwise such would certainly have been the first to operate, and would have found the greatest scope in any alteration. We may hope that nothing but a true growth in such religion as needs and seeks new expression for new depth and breadth of feeling, will ever be permitted to lay the hand of change upon it — a hand, otherwise, of desecration and ruin.
The sermon was chiefly occupied with proving that God is no respecter of persons; a mark of indubitable condescension in the clergyman, the rank in society which he could claim for himself duly considered. But, unfortunately, the church was so constructed, that its area contained three platforms of position, actually of differing level; the loftiest, in the chancel, on the right hand of the pulpit, occupied by the gentry; the middle, opposite the pulpit, occupied by the tulip-beds of their servants; and the third, on the left of the pulpit, occupied by the common parishioners. Unfortunately, too, by the perpetuation of some old custom, whose significance was not worn out, all on the left of the pulpit were expected, as often as they stood up to sing — which was three times — to turn their backs to the pulpit, and so face away from the chancel where the gentry stood. But there was not much inconsistency, after all; the sermon founding its argument chiefly on the antithetical facts, that death, lowering the rich to the level of the poor, was a dead leveller; and that, on the other hand, the life to come would raise the poor to the level of the rich. It was a pity that there was no phrase in the language to justify him in carrying out the antithesis, and so balancing his sentence like a rope-walker, by saying that life was a live leveller. The sermon ended with a solemn warning: “Those who neglect the gospel-scheme, and never think of death and judgment — be they rich or poor, be they wise or ignorant — whether they dwell in the palace or the hut — shall be damned. Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost,” &c.
Lady Emily was forced to confess that she had not been much interested in the sermon. Mrs. Elton thought he spoke plainly, but there was not much of the gospel in it. Mr. Arnold opined that people should not go to church to hear sermons, but to make the responses; whoever read prayers, it made no difference, for the prayers were the Church’s, not the parson’s; and for the sermon, as long as it showed the uneducated how to be saved, and taught them to do their duty in the station of life to which God had called them, and so long as the parson preached neither Puseyism nor Radicalism — (he frowned solemnly and disgustedly as he repeated the word) — nor Radicalism, it was of comparatively little moment whether he was a man of intellect or not, for he could not go wrong.
Little was said in reply to this, except something not very audible or definite, by Mrs. Elton, about the necessity of faith. The conversation, which took place at luncheon, flagged, and the visitors withdrew to their respective rooms, to comfort themselves with their Daily Portions.
At dinner, Mr. Arnold, evidently believing he had made an impression by his harangue of the morning, resumed the subject. Hugh was a little surprised to find that he had, even of a negative sort, strong opinions on the subject of religion.
“What do you think, then, Mrs. Elton, my dear madam, that a clergyman ought to preach?”
“I think, Mr. Arnold, that he ought to preach salvation by faith in the merits of the Saviour.”
“Oh! of course, of course. We shall not differ about that. Everybody believes that.”
“I doubt it very much. — He ought, in order that men may believe, to explain the divine plan, by which the demands of divine justice are satisfied, and the punishment due to sin averted from the guilty, and laid upon the innocent; that, by bearing our sins, he might make atonement to the wrath of a justly offended God; and so —”
“Now, my dear madam, permit me to ask what right we, the subjects of a Supreme Authority, have to inquire into the reasons of his doings? It seems to me — I should be sorry to offend any one, but it seems to me quite as presumptuous as the present arrogance of the lower classes in interfering with government, and demanding a right to give their opinion, forsooth, as to the laws by which they shall be governed; as if they were capable of understanding the principles by which kings rule, and governors decree justice. — I believe I quote Scripture.”
“Are we, then, to remain in utter ignorance of the divine character?”
“What business have we with the divine character? Or how could we understand it? It seems to me we have enough to do with our own. Do I inquire into the character of my sovereign? All we have to do is, to listen to what we are told by those who are educated for such studies, whom the Church approves, and who are appointed to take care of the souls committed to their charge; to teach them to respect their superiors, and to lead honest, hard-working lives.”
Much more of the same sort flowed from the oracular lips of Mr. Arnold. When he ceased, he found that the conversation had ceased also. As soon as the ladies withdrew, he said, without looking at Hugh, as he filled his glass:
“Mr. Sutherland, I hate cant.”
And so he canted against it.
But the next day, and during the whole week, he seemed to lay himself out to make amends for the sharpness of his remarks on the Sunday. He was afraid he had made his guests uncomfortable, and so sinned against his own character as a host. Everything that he could devise, was brought to bear for their entertainment; daily rides in the open carriage, in which he always accompanied them, to show his estate, and the improvements he was making upon it; visits sometimes to the more deserving, as he called them, of the poor upon his property — the more deserving being the most submissive and obedient to the wishes of their lord; inspections of the schools, &c., &c.; in all of which matters he took a stupid, benevolent interest. For if people would be content to occupy the corner in which he chose to place them, he would throw them morsel after morsel, as long as ever they chose to pick it up. But woe to them if they left this corner a single pace!
Euphra made one of the party always; and it was dreary indeed for Hugh to be left in the desolate house without her, though but for a few hours. And when she was at home, she never yet permitted him to speak to her alone.
There might have been some hope for Harry in Hugh’s separation from Euphra; but the result was, that, although he spent school-hours more regularly with him, Hugh was yet more dull, and uninterested in the work, than he had been before. Instead of caring that his pupil should understand this or that particular, he would be speculating on Euphra’s behaviour, trying to account for this or that individual look or tone, or seeking, perhaps, a special symbolic meaning in some general remark that she had happened to let fall. Meanwhile, poor Harry would be stupifying himself with work which he could not understand for lack of some explanation or other that ought to have been given him weeks ago. Still, however, he clung to Hugh with a far-off, worshipping love, never suspecting that he could be to blame, but thinking at one time that he must be ill, at another that he himself was really too stupid, and that his big brother could not help getting tired of him. When Hugh would be wandering about the place, seeking to catch a glimpse of the skirt of Euphra’s dress, as she went about with her guests, or devising how he could procure an interview with her alone, Harry would be following him at a distance, like a little terrier that had lost its master, and did not know whether this man would be friendly or not; never spying on his actions, but merely longing to be near him — for had not Hugh set him going in the way of life, even if he had now left him to walk in it alone? If Hugh could have once seen into that warm, true, pining little heart, he would not have neglected it as he did. He had no eyes, however, but for Euphra.
Still, it may be that even now Harry was able to gather, though with tears, some advantage from Hugh’s neglect. He used to wander about alone; and it may be that the hints which his tutor had already given him, enabled him now to find for himself the interest belonging to many objects never before remarked. Perhaps even now he began to take a few steps alone; the waking independence of which was of more value for the future growth of his nature, than a thousand miles accomplished by the aid of the strong arm of his tutor. One certain advantage was, that the constitutional trouble of the boy’s nature had now assumed a definite form, by gathering around a definite object, and blending its own shadowy being with the sorrow he experienced from the loss of his tutor’s sympathy. Should that sorrow ever be cleared away, much besides might be cleared away along with it.
Meantime, nature found some channels, worn by his grief, through which her comforts, that, like waters, press on all sides, and enter at every cranny and fissure in the house of life, might gently flow into him with their sympathetic soothing. Often he would creep away to the nest which Hugh had built and then forsaken; and seated there in the solitude of the wide-bourgeoned oak, he would sometimes feel for a moment as if lifted up above the world and its sorrows, to be visited by an all-healing wind from God, that came to him, through the wilderness of leaves around him — gently, like all powerful things.
But I am putting the boy’s feelings into forms and words for him. He had none of either for them.
Chapter 13 — A Storm
When the mind’s free,
The body’s delicate: the tempest in my mind
Doth from my senses take all feeling else
Save what beats there.
— King Lear .
While Harry took to wandering abroad in the afternoon sun, Hugh, on the contrary, found the bright weather so distasteful to him, that he generally trifled away his afternoons with some old romance in the dark library, or lay on the couch in his study, listless and suffering. He could neither read nor write. What he felt he must do he did; but nothing more.
One day, about noon, the weather began to change. In the afternoon it grew dark; and Hugh, going to the window, perceived with delight — the first he had experienced for many days — that a great thunder-storm was at hand. Harry was rather frightened; but under his fear, there evidently lay a deep delight. The storm came nearer and nearer; till at length a vivid flash broke from the mass of darkness over the woods, lasted for one brilliant moment, and vanished. The thunder followed, like a pursuing wild beast, close on the traces of the vanishing light; as if the darkness were hunting the light from the earth, and bellowing with rage that it could not overtake and annihilate it. Without the usual prelude of a few great drops, the rain poured at once, in continuous streams, from the dense canopy overhead; and in a few moments there were six inches of water all round the house, which the force of the falling streams made to foam, and fume, and flash like a seething torrent. Harry had crept close to Hugh, who stood looking out of the window; and as if the convulsion of the elements had begun to clear the spiritual and moral, as well as the physical atmosphere, Hugh looked down on the boy kindly, and put his arm round his shoulders. Harry nestled closer, and wished it would thunder for ever. But longing to hear his tutor’s voice, he ventured to speak, looking up to his face:
“Euphra says it is only electricity, Mr. Sutherland. What is that?”
A common tutor would have seized the opportunity of explaining what he knew of the laws and operations of electricity. But Hugh had been long enough a pupil of David to feel that to talk at such a time of anything in nature but God, would be to do the boy a serious wrong. One capable of so doing would, in the presence of the Saviour himself, speculate on the nature of his own faith; or upon the death of his child, seize the opportunity of lecturing on anatomy. But before Hugh could make any reply, a flash, almost invisible from excess of light, was accompanied rather than followed by a roar that made the house shake; and in a moment more the room was filled with the terrified household, which, by an unreasoning impulse, rushed to the neighbourhood of him who was considered the strongest. — Mr. Arnold was not at home.
“Come from the window instantly, Mr. Sutherland. How can you be so imprudent!” cried Mrs. Elton, her usually calm voice elevated in command, but tremulous with fear.
“Why, Mrs. Elton,” answered Hugh on whose temper, as well as conduct, recent events had had their operation, “do you think the devil makes the thunder?”
Lady Emily gave a faint shriek, whether out of reverence for the devil, or fear of God, I hesitate to decide; and flitting out of the room, dived into her bed, and drew the clothes over her head — at least so she was found at a later period of the day. Euphra walked up to the window beside Hugh, as if to show her approval of his rudeness; and stood looking out with eyes that filled their own night with home-born flashes, though her lip was pale, and quivered a little. Mrs. Elton, confounded at Hugh’s reply, and perhaps fearing the house might in consequence share the fate of Sodom, notwithstanding the presence of a goodly proportion of the righteous, fled, accompanied by the housekeeper, to the wine-cellar. The rest of the household crept into corners, except the coachman, who, retaining his composure, in virtue of a greater degree of insensibility from his nearer approximation to the inanimate creation, emptied the jug of ale intended for the dinner of the company, and went out to look after his horses.
But there was one in the house who, left alone, threw the window wide open; and, with gently clasped hands and calm countenance, looked up into the heavens; and the clearness of whose eye seemed the prophetic symbol of the clearness that rose all untroubled above the turmoil of the earthly storm. Truly God was in the storm; but there was more of God in the clear heaven beyond; and yet more of Him in the eye that regarded the whole with a still joy, in which was mingled no dismay.
Euphra, Hugh, and Harry were left together, looking out upon the storm. Hugh could not speak in Harry’s presence. At length the boy sat down in a dark corner on the floor, concealed from the others by a window-curtain. Hugh thought he had left the room.
“Euphra,” he began.
Euphra looked round for Harry, and not seeing him, thought likewise that he had left the room: she glided away without making any answer to Hugh’s invocation.
He stood for a few moments in motionless despair; then glancing round the room, and taking in all its desertedness, caught up his hat, and rushed out into the storm. It was the best relief his feelings could have had; for the sullen gloom, alternated with bursts of flame, invasions of horrid uproar, and long wailing blasts of tyrannous wind, gave him his own mood to walk in; met his spirit with its own element; widened, as it were, his microcosm to the expanse of the macrocosm around him. All the walls of separation were thrown down, and he lived, not in his own frame, but in the universal frame of nature. The world was for the time, to the reality of his feeling, what Schleiermacher, in his Monologen, describes it as being to man, an extension of the body in which he dwells. His spirit flashed in the lightning, raved in the thunder, moaned in the wind, and wept in the rain.
But this could not last long, either without or within him.
He came to himself in the woods. How far he had wandered, or whereabout he was, he did not know. The storm had died away, and all that remained was the wind and the rain. The tree-tops swayed wildly in the irregular blasts, and shook new, fitful, distracted, and momentary showers upon him. It was evening, but what hour of the evening he could not tell. He was wet to the skin; but that to a young Scotchman is a matter of little moment.
Although he had no intention of returning home for some time, and meant especially to avoid the dinner-table — for, in the mood he was in, it seemed more than he could endure — he yet felt the weakness to which we are subject as embodied beings, in a common enough form; that, namely, of the necessity of knowing the precise portion of space which at the moment we fill; a conviction of our identity not being sufficient to make us comfortable, without a knowledge of our locality. So, looking all about him, and finding where the wood seemed thinnest, he went in that direction; and soon, by forcing his way through obstacles of all salvage kinds, found himself in the high road, within a quarter of a mile of the country town next to Arnstead, removed from it about three miles. This little town he knew pretty well; and, beginning to feel exhausted, resolved to go to an inn there, dry his clothes, and then walk back in the moonlight; for he felt sure the storm would be quite over in an hour or so. The fatigue he now felt was proof enough in itself, that the inward storm had, for the time, raved itself off; and now — must it be confessed? — he wished very much for something to eat and drink.
He was soon seated by a blazing fire, with a chop and a jug of ale before him.
Chapter 14 — An Evening Lecture
The Nightmare
Shall call thee when it walks.
—Middleton, The Witch .
The inn to which Hugh had betaken himself, though not the first in the town, was yet what is called a respectable house, and was possessed of a room of considerable size, in which the farmers of the neighbourhood were accustomed to hold their gatherings. While eating his dinner, Hugh learned from the conversation around him — for he sat in the kitchen for the sake of the fire — that this room was being got ready for a lecture on Bilology, as the landlady called it. Bills in red and blue had been posted all over the town; and before he had finished his dinner, the audience had begun to arrive. Partly from curiosity about a subject of which he knew nothing, and partly because it still rained, and, having got nearly dry, he did not care about a second wetting if he could help it, Hugh resolved to make one of them. So he stood by the fire till he was informed that the lecturer had made his appearance, when he went up-stairs, paid his shilling, and was admitted to one of the front seats. The room was tolerably lighted with gas; and a platform had been constructed for the lecturer and his subjects. When the place was about half-filled, he came from another room alone — a little, thick-set, bull-necked man, with vulgar face and rusty black clothes; and, mounting the platform, commenced his lecture; if lecture it could be called, in which there seemed to be no order, and scarcely any sequence. No attempt even at a theory, showed itself in the mass of what he called facts and scientific truths; and he perpeturated the most awful blunders in his English. It will not be desired that I should give any further account of such a lecture. The lecturer himself seemed to depend chiefly for his success, upon the manifestations of his art which he proceeded to bring forward. He called his familiar by the name of Willi-am, and a stunted, pale-faced, dull-looking youth started up from somewhere, and scrambled upon the platform beside his master. Upon this tutored slave a number of experiments was performed. He was first cast into whatever abnormal condition is necessary for the operations of biology, and then compelled to make a fool of himself by exhibiting actions the most inconsistent with his real circumstances and necessities. But, aware that all this was open to the most palpable objection of collusion, the operator next invited any of the company that pleased, to submit themselves to his influences. After a pause of a few moments, a stout country fellow, florid and healthy, got up and slouched to the platform. Certainly, whatever might be the nature of the influence that was brought to bear, its operative power could not, with the least probability, be attributed to an over-activity of imagination in either of the subjects submitted to its exercise. In the latter, as well as in the former case, the operator was eminently successful; and the clown returned to his seat, looking remarkably foolish and conscious of disgrace — a sufficient voucher to most present, that in this case at least there had been no collusion. Several others volunteered their negative services; but with no one of them did he succeed so well; and in one case the failure was evident. The lecturer pretended to account for this, in making some confused and unintelligible remarks about the state of the weather, the thunder-storm, electricity, &c., of which things he evidently did not understand the best known laws.
“The blundering idiot!” growled, close to Hugh’s ear, a voice with a foreign accent.
He looked round sharply.
A tall, powerful, eminently handsome man, with a face as foreign as his tone and accent, sat beside him.
“I beg your pardon,” he said to Hugh; “I thought aloud.”
“I should like to know, if you wouldn’t mind telling me, what you detect of the blunderer in him. I am quite ignorant of these matters.”
“I have had many opportunities of observing them; and I see at once that this man, though he has the natural power, is excessively ignorant of the whole subject.”
This was all the answer he vouchsafed to Hugh’s modest inquiry. Hugh had not yet learned that one will always fare better by concealing than by acknowledging ignorance. The man, whatever his capacity, who honestly confesses even a partial ignorance, will instantly be treated as more or less incapable, by the ordinary man who has already gained a partial knowledge, or is capable of assuming a knowledge which he does not possess. But, for God’s sake! let the honest and modest man stick to his honesty and modesty, cost what they may.
Hugh was silent, and fixed his attention once more on what was going on. But presently he became aware that the foreigner was scrutinizing him with the closest attention. He knew this, somehow, without having looked round; and the knowledge was accompanied with a feeling of discomfort that caused him to make a restless movement on his seat. Presently he felt that the annoyance had ceased; but not many minutes had passed, before it again commenced. In order to relieve himself from a feeling which he could only compare to that which might be produced by the presence of the dead, he turned towards his neighbour so suddenly, that it seemed for a moment to embarrass him, his eyes being caught in the very act of devouring the stolen indulgence. But the stranger recovered himself instantly with the question:
“Will you permit me to ask of what country you are?”
Hugh thought he made the request only for the sake of covering his rudeness; and so merely answered:
“Why, an Englishman, of course.”
“Ah! yes; it is not necessary to be told that. But it seems to me, from your accent, that you are a Scotchman.”
“So I am.”
“A Highlander?”
“I was born in the Highlands. But if you are very anxious to know my pedigree, I have no reason for concealing the fact that I am, by birth, half a Scotchman and half a Welchman.”
The foreigner riveted his gaze, though but for the briefest moment sufficient to justify its being called a gaze, once more upon Hugh; and then, with a slight bow, as of acquiescence, turned towards the lecturer.
When the lecture was over, and Hugh was walking away in the midst of the withdrawing audience, the stranger touched him on the shoulder.
“You said that you would like to know more of this science: will you come to my lodging?” said he.
“With pleasure,” Hugh answered; though the look with which he accompanied the words, must have been one rather of surprise.
“You are astonished that a stranger should invite you so. Ah! you English always demand an introduction. There is mine.”
He handed Hugh a card: Herr von Funkelstein. Hugh happened to be provided with one in exchange.
The two walked out of the inn, along the old High Street, full of gables and all the delightful irregularities of an old country-town, till they came to a court, down which Herr von Funkelstein led the way.
He let himself in with a pass-key at a low door, and then conducted Hugh, by a stair whose narrowness was equalled by its steepness, to a room, which, though not many yards above the level of the court, was yet next to the roof of the low house. Hugh could see nothing till his conductor lighted a candle. Then he found himself in a rather large room with a shaky floor and a low roof. A chintz-curtained bed in one corner had the skin of a tiger thrown over it; and a table in another had a pair of foils lying upon it. The German — for such he seemed to Hugh — offered him a chair in the politest manner; and Hugh sat down.
“I am only in lodgings here,” said the host; “so you will forgive the poverty of my establishment.”
“There is no occasion for forgiveness, I assure you,” answered Hugh.
“You wished to know something of the subject with which that lecturer was befooling himself and the audience at the same time.”
“I shall be grateful for any enlightenment.”
“Ah! it is a subject for the study of a benevolent scholar, not for such a clown as that. He jumps at no conclusions; yet he shares the fate of one who does: he flounders in the mire between. No man will make anything of it who has not the benefit of the human race at heart. Humanity is the only safe guide in matters such as these. This is a dangerous study indeed in unskilful hands.”
Here a frightful caterwauling interrupted Herr von Funkelstein. The room had a storm-window, of which the lattice stood open. In front of it, on the roof, seen against a white house opposite, stood a demon of a cat, arched to half its length, with a tail expanded to double its natural thickness. Its antagonist was invisible from where Hugh sat. Von Funkelstein started up without making the slightest noise, trod as softly as a cat to the table, took up one of the foils, removed the button, and, creeping close to the window, made one rapid pass at the enemy, which vanished with a shriek of hatred and fear. He then, replacing the button, laid the foil down, and resumed his seat and his discourse. This, after dealing with generalities and commonplaces for some time, gave no sign of coming either to an end or to the point. All the time he was watching Hugh — at least so Hugh thought — as if speculating on him in general. Then appearing to have come to some conclusion, he gave his mind more to his talk, and encouraged Hugh to speak as well. The conversation lasted for nearly half an hour. At its close, Hugh felt that the stranger had touched upon a variety of interesting subjects, as one possessed of a minute knowledge of them. But he did not feel that he had gained any insight from his conversation. It seemed rather as if he had been giving him a number of psychological, social, literary, and scientific receipts. During the course of the talk, his eye had appeared to rest on Hugh by a kind of compulsion; as if by its own will it would have retired from the scrutiny, but the will of its owner was too strong for it. In seemed, in relation to him, to be only a kind of tool, which he used for a particular purpose.
At length Funkelstein rose, and, marching across the room to a cupboard, brought out a bottle and glasses, saying, in the most by-the-bye way, as he went:
“Have you the second-sight, Mr. Sutherland?”
“Certainly not, as far as I am aware.”
“Ah! the Welch do have it, do they not?”
“Oh! yes, of course,” answered Hugh laughing. “I should like to know, though,” he added, “whether they inherit the gift as Celts or as mountaineers.”
“Will you take a glass of —?”
“Of nothing, thank you,” answered and interrupted Hugh. “It is time for me to be going. Indeed, I fear I have stayed too long already. Good night, Herr von Funkelstein.”
“You will allow me the honour of returning your visit?”
Hugh felt he could do no less, although he had not the smallest desire to keep up the acquaintance. He wrote Arnstead on his card.
As he left the house, he stumbled over something in the court. Looking down, he saw it was a cat, apparently dead.
“Can it be the cat Herr Funkelstein made the pass at?” thought he. But presently he forgot all about it, in the visions of Euphra which filled his mind during his moonlight walk home. It just occurred to him, however, before those visions had blotted everything else from his view, that he had learned simply nothing whatever about biology from his late host.
When he reached home, he was admitted by the butler, and retired to bed at once, where he slept soundly, for the first time for many nights.
But, as he drew near his own room, he might have seen, though he saw not, a little white figure gliding away in the far distance of the long passage. It was only Harry, who could not lie still in his bed, till he knew that his big brother was safe at home.
Chapter 15 — Another Evening Lecture
This Eneas is come to Paradise
Out of the swolowe of Hell.
—Chaucer, Legend of Dido .
The next day, Hugh was determined to find or make an opportunity of speaking to Euphra; and fortune seemed to favour him. — Or was it Euphra herself, in one or other of her inexplicable moods? At all events, she had that morning allowed the ladies and her uncle to go without her; and Hugh met her as he went to his study.
“May I speak to you for one moment?” said he, hurriedly, and with trembling lips.
“Yes, certainly,” she replied with a smile, and a glance in his face as of wonder as to what could trouble him so much. Then turning, and leading the way, she said:
“Come into my room.”
He followed her. She turned and shut the door, which he had left open behind him. He almost knelt to her; but something held him back from that.
“Euphra,” he said, “what have I done to offend you?”
“Offend me! Nothing.” — This was uttered in a perfect tone of surprise.
“How is it that you avoid me as you do, and will not allow me one moment’s speech with you? You are driving me to distraction.”
“Why, you foolish man!” she answered, half playfully, pressing the palms of her little hands together, and looking up in his face, “how can I? Don’t you see how those two dear old ladies swallow me up in their faddles? Oh, dear? Oh, dear! I wish they would go. Then it would be all right again — wouldn’t it?”
But Hugh was not to be so easily satisfied.
“Before they came, ever since that night —”
“Hush-sh!” she interrupted, putting her finger on his lips, and looking hurriedly round her with an air of fright, of which he could hardly judge whether it was real or assumed — “hush!”
Comforted wondrously by the hushing finger, Hugh would yet understand more.
“I am no baby, dear Euphra,” he said, taking hold of the hand to which the finger belonged, and laying it on his mouth; “do not make one of me. There is some mystery in all this — at least something I do not understand.”
“I will tell you all about it one day. But, seriously, you must be careful how you behave to me; for if my uncle should, but for one moment, entertain a suspicion — good-bye to you — perhaps good-bye to Arnstead. All my influence with him comes from his thinking that I like him better than anybody else. So you must not make the poor old man jealous. By the bye,” she went on — rapidly, as if she would turn the current of the conversation aside — “what a favourite you have grown with him! You should have heard him talk of you to the old ladies. I might well be jealous of you. There never was a tutor like his.”
Hugh’s heart smote him that the praise of even this common man, proud of his own vanity, should be undeserved by him. He was troubled, too, at the flippancy with which Euphra spoke; yet not the less did he feel that he loved her passionately.
“I daresay,” he replied, “he praised me as he would anything else that happened to be his. Isn’t that old bay horse of his the best hack in the county?”
“You naughty man! Are you going to be satirical?”
“You claim that as your privilege, do you?”
“Worse and worse! I will not talk to you. But, seriously, for I must go — bring your Italian to — to —” She hesitated.
“To the library — why not?” suggested Hugh.
“No-o,” she answered, shaking her head, and looking quite solemn.
“Well, will you come to my study? Will that please you better?”
“Yes, I will,” she answered, with a definitive tone. “Good-bye, now.”
She opened the door, and having looked out to see that no one was passing, told him to go. As he went, he felt as if the oaken floor were elastic beneath his tread.
It was sometime after the household had retired, however, before Euphra made her appearance at the door of his study. She seemed rather shy of entering, and hesitated, as if she felt she was doing something she ought not to do. But as soon as she had entered, and the door was shut, she appeared to recover herself quite; and they sat down at the table with their books. They could not get on very well with their reading, however. Hugh often forgot what he was about, in looking at her; and she seemed nowise inclined to avert his gazes, or check the growth of his admiration.
Rather abruptly, but apparently starting from some suggestion in the book, she said to him:
“By the bye, has Mr. Arnold ever said anything to you about the family jewels?”
“No,” said Hugh. “Are there many?”
“Yes, a great many. Mr. Arnold is very proud of them, as well as of the portraits; so he treats them in the same way — keeps them locked up. Indeed he seldom allows them to see daylight, except it be as a mark of especial favour to some one.”
“I should like much to see them. I have always been curious about stones. They are wonderful, mysterious things to me.”
Euphra gave him a very peculiar, searching glance, as he spoke.
“Shall I,” he continued, “give him a hint that I should like to see them?”
“By no means,” answered Euphra, emphatically, “except he should refer to them himself. He is very jealous of his possessions — his family possessions, I mean. Poor old man! he has not much else to plume himself upon; has he?”
“He is kind to you, Euphra.”
She looked at him as if she did not understand him.
“Yes. What then?”
“You ought not to be unkind to him.”
“You odd creature! I am not unkind to him. I like him. But we are not getting on with our reading. What could have led me to talk about family-jewels? Oh! I see. What a strange thing the association of ideas is! There is not a very obvious connexion here; is there?”
“No. One cannot account for such things. The links in the chain of ideas are sometimes slender enough. Yet the slenderest is sufficient to enable the electric flash of thought to pass along the line.”
She seemed pondering for a moment.
“That strikes me as a fine simile,” she said. “You ought to be a poet yourself.”
Hugh made no reply.
“I daresay you have hundreds of poems in that old desk, now?”
“I think they might be counted by tens.”
“Do let me see them.”
“You would not care for them.”
“Wouldn’t I, Hugh?”
“I will, on one condition — two conditions, I mean.”
“What are they?”
“One is, that you show me yours.”
“Who told you I wrote verses? That silly boy?”
“No — I saw your verses before I saw you. You remember?”
“It was very dishonourable in you to read them.”
“I only saw they were verses. I did not read a word.”
“I forgive you, then. You must show me yours first, till I see whether I could venture to let you see mine. If yours were very bad indeed, then I might risk showing mine.”
And much more of this sort, with which I will not weary my readers. It ended in Hugh’s taking from the old escritoire a bundle of papers, and handing them to Euphra. But the reader need not fear that I am going to print any of these verses. I have more respect for my honest prose page than to break it up so. Indeed, the whole of this interview might have been omitted, but for two circumstances. One of them was, that in getting these papers, Hugh had to open a concealed portion of the escritoire, which his mathematical knowledge had enabled him to discover. It had evidently not been opened for many years before he found it. He had made use of it to hold the only treasures he had — poor enough treasures, certainly! Not a loving note, not a lock of hair even had he — nothing but the few cobwebs spun from his own brain. It is true, we are rich or poor according to what we are, not what we have. But what a man has produced, is not what he is. He may even impoverish his true self by production.
When Euphra saw him open this place, she uttered a suppressed cry of astonishment.
“Ah!” said Hugh, “you did not know of this hidie-hole, did you?”
“Indeed, I did not. I had used the desk myself, for this was a favourite room of mine before you came, but I never found that. Dear me! Let me look.”
She put her hand on his shoulder and leaned over him, as he pointed out the way of opening it.
“Did you find nothing in it?” she said, with a slight tremour in her voice.
“Nothing whatever.”
“There may be more places.”
“No. I have accounted for the whole bulk, I believe.”
“How strange!”
“But now you must give me my guerdon,” said Hugh timidly.
The fact was, the poor youth had bargained, in a playful manner, and yet with an earnest, covetous heart, for one, the first kiss, in return for the poems she begged to see.
She turned her face towards him.
The second circumstance which makes the interview worth recording is, that, at this moment, three distinct knocks were heard on the window. They sprang asunder, and saw each other’s face pale as death. In Euphra’s, the expression of fright was mingled with one of annoyance. Hugh, though his heart trembled like a bird, leaped to the window. Nothing was to be seen but the trees that “stretched their dark arms” within a few feet of the oriel. Turning again towards Euphra, he found, to his mortification, that she had vanished — and had left the packet of poems behind her.
He replaced them in their old quarters in the escritoire; and his vague dismay at the unaccountable noises, was drowned in the bitter waters of miserable humiliation. He slept at last, from the exhaustion of disappointment.
When he awoke, however, he tried to persuade himself that he had made far too much of the trifling circumstance of her leaving the verses behind. For was she not terrified? — Why, then, did she leave him and go alone to her own room? — She must have felt that she ought not to be in his, at that hour, and therefore dared not stay. — Why dared not? Did she think the house was haunted by a ghost of propriety? What rational theory could he invent to account for the strange and repeated sounds? — He puzzled himself over it to the verge of absolute intellectual prostration.
He was generally the first in the breakfast-room; that is, after Euphra, who was always the first. She went up to him as he entered, and said, almost in a whisper:
“Have you got the poems for me? Quick!”
Hugh hesitated. She looked at him.
“No,” he said at last. — “You never wanted them.”
“That is very unkind; when you know I was frightened out of my wits. Do give me them.”
“They are not worth giving you. Besides, I have not got them. I don’t carry them in my pocket. They are in the escritoire. I couldn’t leave them lying about. Never mind them.”
“I have a right to them,” she said, looking up at him slyly and shyly.
“Well, I gave you them, and you did not think them worth keeping. I kept my part of the bargain.”
She looked annoyed.
“Never mind, dear Euphra; you shall have them, or anything else I have; — the brain that made them, if you like.”
“Was it only the brain that had to do with the making of them?”
“Perhaps the heart too; but you have that already.”
Her face flushed like a damask rose.
At that moment Mrs. Elton entered, and looked a little surprised. Euphra instantly said:
“I think it is rather too bad of you, Mr. Sutherland, to keep the poor boy so hard to his work, when you know he is not strong. Mrs. Elton, I have been begging a holiday for poor Harry, to let him go with us to Wotton House; but he has such a hard task-master! He will not hear of it.”
The flush, which she could not get rid of all at once, was thus made to do duty as one of displeasure. Mrs. Elton was thoroughly deceived, and united her entreaties to those of Miss Cameron. Hugh was compelled to join in the deception, and pretend to yield a slow consent. Thus a holiday was extemporised for Harry, subject to the approbation of his father. This was readily granted; and Mr. Arnold, turning to Hugh, said:
“You will have nothing to do, Mr. Sutherland: had you not better join us?”
“With pleasure,” replied he; “but the carriage will be full.”
“You can take your horse.”
“Thank you very much. I will.”
The day was delightful; one of those grey summer-days, that are far better for an excursion than bright ones. In the best of spirits, mounted on a good horse, riding alongside of the carriage in which was the lady who was all womankind to him, and who, without taking much notice of him, yet contrived to throw him a glance now and then, Hugh would have been overflowingly happy, but for an unquiet, distressed feeling, which all the time made him aware of the presence of a sick conscience somewhere within. Mr. Arnold was exceedingly pleasant, for he was much taken with the sweetness and modesty of Lady Emily, who, having no strong opinions upon anything, received those of Mr. Arnold with attentive submission. He saw, or fancied he saw in her, a great resemblance to his deceased wife, to whom he had been as sincerely attached as his nature would allow. In fact, Lady Emily advanced so rapidly in his good graces, that either Euphra was, or thought fit to appear, rather jealous of her. She paid her every attention, however, and seemed to gratify Mr. Arnold by her care of the invalid. She even joined in the entreaties which, on their way home, he made with evident earnestness, for an extension of their visit to a month. Lady Emily was already so much better for the change, that Mrs. Elton made no objection to the proposal. Euphra gave Hugh one look of misery, and, turning again, insisted with increased warmth on their immediate consent. It was gained without much difficulty before they reached home.
Harry, too, was captivated by the gentle kindness of Lady Emily, and hardly took his eyes off her all the way; while, on the other hand, his delicate little attentions had already gained the heart of good Mrs. Elton, who from the first had remarked and pitied the sad looks of the boy.
Chapter 16 — A New Visitor and an Old Acquaintance
He’s enough
To bring a woman to confusion,
More than a wiser man, or a far greater.
—Middleton, The Witch .
When they reached the lodge, Lady Emily expressed a wish to walk up the avenue to the house. To this Mr. Arnold gladly consented. The carriage was sent round the back way; and Hugh, dismounting, gave his horse to the footman in attendance. As they drew near the house, the rest of the party having stopped to look at an old tree which was a favourite with its owner, Hugh and Harry were some yards in advance; when the former spied, approaching them from the house, the distinguished figure of Herr von Funkelstein. Saluting as they met, the visitor informed Hugh that he had just been leaving his card for him, and would call some other morning soon; for, as he was rusticating, he had little to occupy him. Hugh turned with him towards the rest of the party, who were now close at hand; when Funkelstein exclaimed, in a tone of surprise,
“What! Miss Cameron here!” and advanced with a profound obeisance, holding his hat in his hand.
Hugh thought he saw her look annoyed; but she held out her hand to him, and, in a voice indicating — still as it appeared to Hugh — some reluctance, introduced him to her uncle, with the words:
“We met at Sir Edward Laston’s, when I was visiting Mrs. Elkingham, two years ago, uncle.”
Mr. Arnold lifted his hat and bowed politely to the stranger. Had Euphra informed him that, although a person of considerable influence in Sir Edward’s household, Herr von Funkelstein had his standing there only as Sir Edward’s private secretary, Mr. Arnold’s aversion to foreigners generally would not have been so scrupulously banished into the background of his behaviour. Ordinary civilities passed between them, marked by an air of flattering deference on Funkelstein’s part, which might have been disagreeable to a man less uninterruptedly conscious of his own importance than Mr. Arnold; and the new visitor turned once more, as if forgetful of his previous direction, and accompanied them towards the house. Before they reached it he had, even in that short space, ingratiated himself so far with Mr. Arnold, that he asked him to stay and dine with them — an invitation which was accepted with manifest pleasure.
“Mr. Sutherland,” said Mr. Arnold, “will you show your friend anything worth note about the place? He has kindly consented to dine with us; and in the meantime I have some letters to write.”
“With pleasure,” answered Hugh.
But all this time he had been inwardly commenting on the appearance of his friend, as Mr. Arnold called him, with the jealousy of a youth in love; for was not Funkelstein an old acquaintance of Miss Cameron? What might not have passed between them in that old hidden time? — for love is jealous of the past as well as of the future. Love, as well as metaphysics, has a lasting quarrel with time and space: the lower love fears them, while the higher defies them. — And he could not help seeing that Funkelstein was one to win favour in ladies’ eyes. Very regular features and a dark complexion were lighted up by eyes as black as Euphra’s, and capable of a wonderful play of light; while his form was remarkable for strength and symmetry. Hugh felt that in any company he would attract immediate attention. His long dark beard, of which just the centre was removed to expose a finely-turned chin, blew over each shoulder as often as they met the wind in going round the house. From what I have heard of him from other deponents besides Hugh, I should judge that he did well to conceal the lines of his mouth in a long moustache, which flowed into his bifurcated beard. He had