DREAMS AND DREAM-STORIES

by Anna Kingsford

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M.D. of Paris; President of the Hermetic Society:

Author of "The Perfect Way; or the finding of Christ."

Edited by Edward Maitland

Published in New York by Scribner & Welford in 1889


“For He so giveth unto His Beloved in Sleep.”
Ps. cxxvii. (Marginal Reading, R.V. )


 
  CONTENTS Page
  PREFACE 7
Part 1 DREAMS  
1 THE DOOMED TRAIN 15
2 THE WONDERFUL SPECTACLES   19
3 THE COUNCIL OF PERFECTION 21
4 THE CITY OF BLOOD 22
5 THE BIRD AND THE CAT 24
6 THE TREASURE IN THE LIGHTED HOUSE 25
7 THE FOREST CATHEDRAL 26
8 THE ENCHANTED WOMAN 30
9 THE BANQUET OF THE GODS 38
10 THE DIFFICULT PATH 39
11 A LION IN THE WAY 41
12 A DREAM OF DISEMBODIMENT 41
13 THE PERFECT WAY WITH ANIMALS 43
14 THE LABORATORY UNDERGROUND    44
15 THE OLD YOUNG MAN 45
16 THE METEMPSYCHOSIS 49
17 THE THREE KINGS 51
18 THE ARMED GODDESS     54
19 THE GAME OF CARDS  56
20 THE PANIC-STRUCK PACK-HORSE 59
21 THE HAUNTED INN 61
22 AN EASTERN APOLOGUE 63
23 A HAUNTED HOUSE INDEED ! 64
24 THE SQUARE IN THE HAND  70
  DREAM VERSES  
1 THROUGH THE AGES 77
2 A FRAGMENT -1-  80
3 A FRAGMENT -2- 80
4 SIGNS OF THE TIMES 81
5 WITH THE GODS      81
PART II DREAM - STORIES  
1 A VILLAGE OF SEERS 85
2 STEEPSIDE; A GHOST STORY 116
3 BEYOND THE SUNSET 147
4 A TURN OF LUCK 169
5 NOÉMI 182
6 THE LITTLE OLD MAN'S STORY 212
7 THE NIGHTSHADE 242
8 ST GEORGE THE CHEVALIER 270

 

                 


PREFACE



[Written in 1886. Some of the experiences in this volume were subsequent to that date. This publication is made in accordance with the author’s last wishes. (Ed.)] [Page 7 ]

THE chronicles which I am about to present to the reader are not the result of any conscious effort of the imagination. They are, as the title-page indicates, records of dreams, occurring at intervals during the last ten years, and transcribed, pretty nearly in the order of their occurrence, from my Diary. Written down as soon as possible after awaking from the slumber during which they presented themselves, these narratives, necessarily unstudied in style and wanting in elegance of diction, have at least the merit of fresh and vivid colour, for they were committed to paper at a moment when the effect and impress of each successive vision were strong and forceful in the mind, and before the illusion of reality conveyed by the scenes witnessed and the sounds heard in sleep had had time to pass away.

I do not know whether these experiences of mine are unique. So far, I have not yet met with any one in whom the dreaming faculty appears to be either so strongly or so strangely developed as in myself. Most dreams, even when of unusual vividness and lucidity, betray a want of coherence in their action, and an incongruity of detail and dramatis persona that stamp [Page 8] them as the product of incomplete and disjointed cerebral function. But the most remarkable features of the experiences I am about to record are the methodical consecutiveness of their sequences, and the intelligent purpose disclosed alike in the events witnessed and in the words heard or read. Some of these last, indeed, resemble, for point and profundity, the apologues of Eastern scriptures; and, on more than one occasion, the scenery of the dream has accurately portrayed characteristics of remote regions, city, forest and mountain, which in this existence at least I have never beheld, nor, so far as I can remember, even heard described, and yet, every feature of these unfamiliar climes has revealed itself to my sleeping vision with a splendour of colouring and distinctness of outline which made the waking life seem duller and less real by contrast. I know of no parallel to this phenomenon unless in the pages of Bulwer Lytton's romance entitled — The Pilgrims of the Rhine, in which is related the story of a German student endowed with so marvellous a faculty of dreaming, that for him the normal conditions of sleeping and waking became reversed, his true life was that which he lived in his slumbers, and his hours of wake-fulness appeared to him as so many uneventful and inactive intervals of arrest occurring in an existence of intense and vivid interest which was wholly passed in the hypnotic state. Not that to me there is any such inversion of natural conditions. On the contrary, the priceless insights and illuminations I have acquired by means of my dreams have gone far to elucidate for me many difficulties and enigmas of life, and even of religion, which might otherwise have remained dark to me, and to throw upon the events and vicissitudes of a career [Page 9] filled with bewildering situations, a light which, like sunshine, has penetrated to the very causes and springs of circumstance, and has given meaning and fitness to much in my life that would else have appeared to me incoherent or inconsistent.


I have no theory to offer the reader in explanation of my faculty, — at least in so far as its physiological aspect is concerned. Of course, having received a medical education, I have speculated about the modus operandi of the phenomenon, but my speculations are not of such a character as to entitle them to presentation in the form even of an hypothesis. I am tolerably well acquainted with most of the propositions regarding unconscious cerebration, which have been put forward by men of science, but none of these propositions can, by any process of reasonable expansion or modification, be made to fit my case. Hysteria, to the multiform and manifold categories of which, medical experts are wont to refer the majority of the abnormal experiences encountered by them, is plainly inadequate to explain or account for mine. The singular coherence and sustained dramatic unity observable in these dreams, as well as the poetic beauty and tender subtlety of the instructions and suggestions conveyed in them do not comport with the conditions characteristic of nervous disease. Moreover, during the whole period covered by these dreams, I have been busily and almost continuously engrossed with scientific and literary pursuits demanding accurate judgment and complete self-possession and rectitude of mind. At the time when many of the most vivid and remarkable visions occurred, I was following my course as a student at the Paris Faculty of Medicine, preparing for examinations, daily visiting hospital wards as dresser, and attending lectures. [Page 10] Later, when I had taken my degree, I was engaged in the duties of my profession and in writing for the press on scientific subjects. Neither have I ever taken opium, hashish or other dream-producing agent. A cup of tea or coffee represents the extent of my indulgences in this direction. I mention these details in order to guard against inferences which otherwise might be drawn as to the genesis of my faculty.


With regard to the interpretation and application of particular dreams, I think it best to say nothing. The majority are obviously allegorical, and although obscure in parts, they are invariably harmonious, and tolerably clear in meaning to persons acquainted with the method of Greek and Oriental myth. I shall not, therefore, venture on any explanation of my own, but shall simply record the dreams as they passed before me, and the impressions left upon my mind when I awoke.


Unfortunately, in some instances, which are not, therefore, here transcribed, my waking memory failed to recall accurately, or completely, certain discourses heard or written words seen in the course of the vision, which in these cases left but a fragmentary impression on the brain and baffled all waking endeavour to recall their missing passages.


These imperfect experiences have not, however, been numerous; on the contrary, it is a perpetual marvel to me to find with what ease and certainty I can, as a rule, on recovering ordinary consciousness, recall the picture witnessed in my sleep, and reproduce the words I have heard spoken or seen written.


Sometimes several interims of months occur during which none of these exceptional visions visit me, but only ordinary dreams, incongruous and insignificant [Page 11] after their kind. Observation, based on an experience of considerable length, justifies me, I think, in saying that climate, altitude, and electrical conditions are not without their influence in the production of the cerebral state necessary to the exercise of the faculty I have described. Dry air, high levels, and a crisp, calm, exhilarating atmosphere favour its activity; while, on the other hand, moisture, proximity to rivers, cloudy skies, and a depressing, heavy climate, will, for an indefinite period, suffice to repress it altogether. It is not, therefore, surprising that the greater number of these dreams, and, especially, the most vivid, detailed and idyllic, have occurred to me while on the continent. At my own residence on the banks of the Severn, in a humid, low-lying tract of country, I very seldom experience such manifestations, and sometimes, after a prolonged sojourn at home, am tempted to fancy that the dreaming gift has left me never to return. But the results of a visit to Paris or to Switzerland always speedily reassure me; the necessary magnetic or psychic tension never fails to reassert itself; and before many weeks have elapsed my Diary is once more rich with the record of my nightly visions.


Some of these phantasmagoria have furnished me with the framework, and even details, of stories which from time to time I have contributed to various magazines. A ghost story, [Steepside] published some years ago in a London magazine, and much commented on because of its peculiarly weird and startling character, had this origin; so had a fairy tale, [Beyond the Sunset] which appeared in a Christmas Annual last year, and which has recently been re-issued in German by the editor of a foreign periodical. Many of my more [Page 12] serious contributions to literature have been similarly initiated; and, more than once, fragments of poems, both in English and other languages, have been heard or read by me in dreams. I regret much that I have not yet been able to recover any one entire poem. My memory always failed before I could finish writing out the lines, no matter how luminous and recent the impressions made by them on my mind.[The poem entitled A Discourse on the Communion of Souls or the Uses of love between Creature and Creature, Being a part of the Golden Book of Venus which forms one of the appendices to The Perfect Way would be an exception to this rule but that it was necessary for the dream to be repeated before the whole poem could be recalled. (Ed)] However, even as regards verses, my experience has been far richer and more successful than that of Coleridge, the only product of whose faculty in this direction was the poetical fragment Kubla Khan, and there was no scenic dreaming on the occasion, only the verses were thus obtained; and I am not without hope that at some future time, under more favourable conditions than those I now enjoy, the broken threads may be resumed and these chapters of dream verse perfected and made complete.


It may, perhaps, be worthy of remark that by far the larger number of the dreams set down in this volume, occurred towards dawn; sometimes even, after sunrise, during a second sleep. A condition of fasting, united possibly, with some subtle magnetic or other atmospheric state, seems therefore to be that most open to impressions of the kind. And, in this connection, I think it right to add that for the past fifteen years I have been an abstainer from flesh-meats; not a Vegetarian, because during the whole of that period I have used such [Page 13] animal produce as butter, cheese, eggs, and milk. That the influence of fasting and of sober fare upon the perspicacity of the sleeping brain was known to the ancients in times when dreams were far more highly esteemed than they now are, appears evident from various passages in the records of theurgy and mysticism. Philostratus, in his Life of Apollonius Tyaneus, represents the latter as informing King Phraotes that " the Oneiropolists, or Interpreters of Visions, are wont never to interpret any vision till they have first inquired the time at which it befell; for, if it were early, and of the morning sleep, they then thought that they might make a good interpretation thereof (that is, that it might be worth the interpreting), in that the soul was then fitted for divination, and disincumbered. But if in the first sleep, or near midnight, while the soul was as yet clouded and drowned in libations, they, being wise, refused to give any interpretation. Moreover, the gods themselves are of this opinion, and send their oracles only into abstinent minds. For the priests, taking him who doth so consult, keep him one day from meat and three days from wine, that he may in a clear soul receive the oracles." And again, lamblichus, writing to Agathocles, says: — "There is nothing unworthy of belief in what you have been told concerning the sacred sleep, and seeing by means of dreams. I explain it thus: — The soul has a twofold life, a lower and a higher. In sleep the soul is liberated from the constraint of the body, and enters, as an emancipated being, on its divine life of intelligence. Then, as the noble faculty which beholds objects that truly are — the objects in the world of intelligence — stirs within, and awakens to its power, who can be astonished that the mind which contains in itself the principles of [Page 14] all events, should, in this its state of liberation, discern the future in those antecedent principles which will constitute that future ? The nobler part of the mind is thus united by abstraction to higher natures, and becomes a participant in the wisdom and foreknowledge of the gods. . . . The night-time of the body is the daytime of the soul."


But I have no desire to multiply citations, nor to vex the reader with hypotheses inappropriate to the design of this little work. Having, therefore, briefly recounted the facts and circumstances of my experience so far as they are known to myself, I proceed, without further commentary, to unroll my chart of dream-pictures, and leave them to tell their own tale.

A. B. K.



DREAMS



- 1 - THE DOOMED TRAIN

[This narrative was addressed to the friend particularly referred to in it. The dream occurred near the close of 1876, and on the eve, therefore, of the Russo-Turkish war, and was regarded by us both as having relation to a national crisis, of a moral and spiritual character, our interest in which was so profound as to be destined to dominate all our subsequent lives and work (Author’s Note.)] [Page 15]

I WAS visited last night by a dream of so strange and vivid a kind that I feel impelled to communicate it to you, not only to relieve my own mind of the impression which the recollection of it causes me, but also to give you an opportunity of finding the meaning, which I am still far too much shaken and terrified to seek for myself.


It seemed to me that you and I were two of a vast company of men and women, upon all of whom, with the exception of myself — for I was there voluntarily — sentence of death had been passed. I was sensible of the knowledge — how obtained I know not — that this terrible doom had been pronounced by the official agents of some new reign of terror. Certain I was that none of the party had really been guilty of any crime deserving of death; but that the penalty had been incurred through [Page 16] their connection with some regime, political, social or religious, which was doomed to utter destruction. It became known among us that the sentence was about to be carried out on a colossal scale; but we remained in absolute ignorance as to the place and method of the intended execution. Thus far my dream gave me no intimation of the horrible scene which next burst on me, — a scene which strained to their utmost tension every sense of sight, hearing and touch, in a manner unprecedented in any dream I have previously had.


It was night, dark and starless, and I found myself, together with the whole company of doomed men and women who knew that they were soon to die, but not how or where, in a railway train hurrying through the darkness to some unknown destination. I sat in a carriage quite at the rear end of the train, in a corner seat, and was leaning out of the open window, peering into the darkness, when, suddenly, a voice, which seemed to speak out of the air, said to me in a low, distinct, intense tone, the mere recollection of which makes me shudder, — "The sentence is being carried out even now. You are all of you lost. Ahead of the train is a frightful precipice of monstrous height, and at its base beats a fathomless sea. The railway ends only with the abyss. Over that will the train hurl itself into annihilation. THERE is NO ONE ON THE ENGINE !"


At this I sprang from my seat in horror, and looked round at the faces of the persons in the carriage with me. No one of them had spoken, or had heard those awful words. The lamplight from the dome of the carriage flickered oN the forms about me. I looked from one to the other, but saw no sign of alarm given by any of them. Then again the voice out of the [Page 17] air spoke to me, — "There is but one way to be saved. You must leap out of the train !"


In frantic haste I pushed open the carriage door and stepped out on the footboard. The train was going at a terrific pace, swaying to and fro as with the passion of its speed; and the mighty wind of its passage beat my hair about my face and tore at my garments.


Until this moment I had not thought of you, or even seemed conscious of your presence in the train. Holding tightly on to the rail by the carriage door, I began to creep along the footboard towards the engine, hoping to find a chance of dropping safely down on the line. Hand over hand I passed along in this way from one carriage to another; and as I did so I saw by the light within each carriage that the passengers had no idea of the fate upon which they were being hurried. At length, in one of the compartments, I saw you. "Come out!" I cried; "come out! Save yourself! In another minute we shall be dashed to pieces !"


You rose instantly, wrenched open the door, and stood beside me outside on the footboard. The rapidity at which we were going was now more fearful than ever. The train rocked as it fled onwards. The wind shrieked as we were carried through it. "Leap down", I cried to you; "save yourself! It is certain death to stay here. Before us is an abyss; and there is no one on the engine!"


At this you turned your face full upon me with a look of intense earnestness, and said, "No, we will not leap down. We will stop the train".


With these words you left me, and crept along the footboard towards the front of the train. Full of half-angry anxiety at what seemed to me a Quixotic act, I followed. [Page 18] In one of the carriages we passed I saw my mother and eldest brother, unconscious as the rest. Presently we reached the last carriage, and saw by the lurid light of the furnace that the voice had spoken truly, and that there was no one on the engine.


You continued to move onwards. "Impossible! Impossible!" I cried; "it cannot be done. O, pray, come away!"


Then you knelt upon the footboard, and said, — "You are right. It cannot be done in that way; but we can save the train. Help me to get these irons asunder".


The engine was connected with the train by two great iron hooks and staples. By a tremendous effort, in making which I almost lost my balance, we unhooked the irons and detached the train; when, with a mighty leap as of some mad supernatural monster, the engine sped on its way alone, shooting back as it went a great flaming trail of sparks, and was lost in the darkness. We stood together on the footboard, watching in silence the gradual slackening of the speed. When at length the train had come to a standstill, we cried to the passengers, "Saved ! saved !" and then amid the confusion of opening the doors and descending and eager talking, my dream ended, leaving me shattered and palpitating with the horror of it.

LONDON, Nov. 1876

 

 

- 2 - THE WONDERFUL SPECTACLES

[From another letter to the friend mentioned in the note appended to the Doomed Train. (Author’s Note)] [Page 19]

I was walking alone on the sea-shore. The day was singularly clear and sunny. Inland lay the most beautiful landscape ever seen; and far off were ranges of tall hills, the highest peaks of which were white with glittering snows. Along the sands by the sea came towards me a man accoutred as a postman. He gave me a letter. It was from you. It ran thus: —

"I have got hold of the earliest and most precious book extant. It was written before the world began. The text is easy enough to read; but the notes, which are very copious and numerous, are in such minute and obscure characters that I cannot make them out. I want you to get for me the spectacles which Swedenborg used to wear; not the smaller pair — those he gave to Hans Christian Andersen — but the large pair, and these seem to have got mislaid. I think they are Spinoza's make. You know he was an optical-glass maker by profession, and the best we have ever had. See if you can get them for me."

When I looked up after reading this letter, I saw the postman hastening away across the sands, and I cried out to him, " Stop ! how am I to send the answer ? Will you not wait for it ?"

He looked round, stopped, and came back to me.

"I have the answer here," he said, tapping his letter-bag, " and I shall deliver it immediately." [Page 20]

"How can you have the answer before I have written it?" I asked. "You are making a mistake".

"No", he said. "In the city from which I come, the replies are all written at the office, and sent out with the letters themselves. Your reply is in my bag".

"Let me see it", I said. He took another letter from his wallet and gave it to me. I opened it, and read, in my own handwriting, this answer, addressed to you:—

"The spectacles you want can be bought in London. But you will not be able to use them at once, for they have not been worn for many years, and they sadly want cleaning. This you will not be able to do yourself in London, because it is too dark there to see well, and because your fingers are not small enough to clean them properly. Bring them here to me, and I will do it for you."

I gave this letter back to the postman. He smiled and nodded at me; and I then perceived to my astonishment that he wore a camels-hair tunic round his waist. I had been on the point of addressing him — I know not why — as Hermes. But I now saw that he must be John the Baptist; and in my fright at having spoken with so great a saint, I awoke.[The dreamer knew nothing of Spinoza at this time, and was quite unaware that he was an optician. Subsequent experience made it clear that the spectacles in question were intended to represent her own remarkable faculty of intuitional and interpretive perception (Ed)]

LONDON, Jan. 31, 1877. [Page 21]


- 3 - THE COUNSEL OF PERFECTION

I dreamed that I was in a large room, and there were in it seven persons, all men, sitting at one long table; and each of them had before him a scroll, some having books also; and all were grey-headed and bent with age save one, and this was a youth of about twenty without hair on his face. One of the aged men, who had his finger on a place in a book open before him, said:

"This spirit, who is of our order, writes in this book, — Be ye perfect, therefore, as your Father in heaven is perfect. How shall we understand this word perfection ?" And another of the old men, looking up, answered, " It must mean wisdom, for wisdom is the sum of perfection." And another old man said, "That cannot be; for no creature can be wise as God is wise. Where is he among us who could attain to such a state ? That which is part only, cannot comprehend the whole. To bid a creature to be wise as God is wise would be mockery."

Then a fourth old man said: — " It must be Truth that is intended. For truth only is perfection. "But he who sat next the last speaker answered, "Truth also is partial; for where is he among us who shall be able to see as God sees?"

And the sixth said, " It must surely be Justice; for this is the whole of righteousness." And the old man who had spoken first, answered him: — "Not so; for justice comprehends vengeance, and it is written that vengeance is the Lord's alone." [Page 22]

Then the young man stood up with an open book in his hand and said: —" I have here another record of one who likewise heard these words. Let us see whether his rendering of them can help us to the knowledge we seek." And he found a place in the book and read aloud: —

"Be ye merciful, even as your Father is merciful."

And all of them closed their books and fixed their eyes upon me.

LONDON, April 9, 1877


 

- 4- THE CITY OF BLOOD

I dreamed that I was wandering along a narrow street of vast length, upon either hand of which was an unbroken line of high straight houses, their walls and doors resembling those of a prison. The atmosphere was dense and obscure, and the time seemed that of twilight; in the narrow line of sky visible far overhead between the two rows of house-roofs, I could not discern sun, moon, or stars, or colour of any kind. All was grey, impenetrable, and dim. Under foot, between the paving-stones of the street, grass was springing. Nowhere was the least sign of life: the place seemed utterly deserted. I stood alone in the midst of profound silence and desolation. Silence ? No! As I listened, there came to my ears from all sides, dully at first and almost imperceptibly, a low creeping sound like subdued moaning; a sound that never ceased, and that was so native to the place, I had at first been unaware of it. But now I clearly gathered in the sound and recognised it as expressive of the intensest physical suffering. Looking [Page 23] steadfastly towards one of the houses from which the most distinct of these sounds issued, I perceived a stream of blood slowly oozing out from beneath the door and trickling down into the street, staining the tufts of grass red here and there, as it wound its way towards me. I glanced up and saw that the glass in the closed and barred windows of the house was flecked and splashed with the same horrible dye.

"Some one has been murdered in this place !" I cried, and flew towards the door. Then, for the first time, I perceived that the door had neither lock nor handle on the outside, but could be opened only from within. It had, indeed, the form and appearance of a door, but in every other respect it was solid and impassable as the walls themselves. In vain I searched for bell or knocker, or for some means of making entry into the house. I found only a scroll fastened with nails upon a crossbeam over the door, and upon it I read the words: — This is the Laboratory of a Vivisector. As I read, the wailing sound redoubled in intensity, and a noise as of struggling made itself audible within, as though some new victim had been added to the first. I beat madly against the door with my hands and shrieked for help; but in vain. My dress was reddened with the blood upon the door step. In horror I looked down upon it, then turned and fled. As I passed along the street, the sounds around me grew and gathered volume, formulating themselves into distinct cries and bursts of frenzied sobbing. Upon the door of every house some scroll was attached, similar to that I had already seen. Upon one was inscribed: — "Here is a husband murdering his wife:" upon another: — "Here is a mother beating her child to death:" upon a third: "This is a slaughter-house." [Page 24]

Every door was impassable; every window was barred. The idea of interference from without was futile. Vainly I lifted my voice and cried for aid. The street was desolate as a graveyard; the only thing that moved about me was the stealthy blood that came creeping out from beneath the doors of these awful dwellings. Wild with horror I fled along the street, seeking some outlet, the cries and moans pursuing me as I ran. At length the street abruptly ended in a high dead wall, the top of which was not discernible; it seemed, indeed, to be limitless in height. Upon this wall was written in great black letters —There is no way out.

Overwhelmed with despair and anguish, I fell upon the stones of the street, repeating aloud — There is no way out.

HlNTON. Jan 1877


- 5- THE BIRD AND THE CAT

[This dream and the next occurred at a moment when it had almost been decided to relax the rule of privacy until then observed in regard to our psychological experiences, among other ways, by submitting them to some of the savants of the Paris Faculté, — a project of which these dreams at once caused the abandonment. This was not the only occasion on which a dream bore a twofold aspect, being a warning or a prediction, according to the heed given to it. (ED.)]

 

I dreamt that I had a beautiful bird in a cage, and that the cage was placed on a table in a room where there was a cat. I took the bird out of the cage and put him on the table. Instantly the cat sprang upon [Page 25] him and seized him in her mouth. I threw myself upon her and strove to wrest away her prey, loading her with reproaches and bewailing the fate of my beautiful bird. Then suddenly some one said to me, "You have only yourself to blame for this misfortune. While the bird remained in his cage he was safe. Why should you have ' taken him out before the eyes of the cat ? "



- 6- THE TREASURE IN THE LIGHTED HOUSE

A second time I dreamt, and saw a house built in the midst of a forest. It was night, and all the rooms of the house were brilliantly illuminated by lamps. But the strange thing was that the windows were without shutters, and reached to the ground. In one of the rooms sat an old man counting money and jewels on a table before him. I stood in the spirit beside him, and presently heard outside the windows a sound of footsteps and of men's voices talking together in hushed tones. Then a face peered in at the lighted room, and I became aware that there were many persons assembled without in the darkness, watching the old man and his treasure. He also heard them, and rose from his seat in alarm, clutching his gold and gems and endeavouring to hide them. " Who are they ? " I asked him. He answered, his face white with terror; "They are robbers and assassins. This forest is their haunt. They will murder me, and seize my treasure". "If this be so", said I, "why did you build your house in the midst of this forest, and why are there no shutters to the windows ? Are you mad, or [Page 26] a fool, that you do not know every one can see from without into your lighted rooms ? " He looked at me with stupid despair. "I never thought of the shutters", said he.


As we stood talking, the robbers outside congregated in great numbers, and the old man fled from the room with his treasure bags into another apartment. But this also was brilliantly illuminated within, and the windows were shutterless. The robbers followed his movements easily, and so pursued him from room to room all round the house. Nowhere had he any shelter. Then came the sound of gouge and mallet and saw, and I knew the assassins were breaking into the house, and that before long, the owner would have met the death his folly had invited, and his treasure would pass into the hands of the robbers.

PARIS, August 3, 1877.


- 7 - THE FOREST CATHEDRAL

I found myself — accompanied by a guide, a young man of Oriental aspect and habit — passing through long vistas of trees which, as we advanced, continually changed in character. Thus we threaded avenues of English oaks and elms, the foliage of which gave way as we proceeded to that of warmer and moister climes, and we saw overhead the hanging masses of broad-leaved palms, and enormous trees whose names I do not know, spreading their fingered leaves over us like great green hands in a manner that frightened me. Here also I saw [Page 27] huge grasses which rose over my shoulders, and through which I had at times to beat my way as through a sea; and ferns of colossal proportions; with every possible variety and mode of tree-life and every conceivable shade of green, from the faintest and clearest yellow to the densest blue-green. One wood in particular I stopped to admire. It seemed as though every leaf of its trees were of gold, so intensely yellow was the tint of the foliage.

In these forests and thickets were numerous shrines of gods such as the Hindus worship. Every now and then we came upon them in open spaces. They were uncouth and rudely painted; but they all were profusely adorned with gems, chiefly turquoises, and they all had many arms and hands, in which they held lotus flowers, sprays of palms, and coloured berries.


Passing by these strange figures, we came to a darker part of our course, where the character of the trees changed and the air felt colder. I perceived that a shadow had fallen on the way; and looking upwards I found we were passing beneath a massive roof of dark indigo-coloured pines, which here and there were positively black in their intensity and depth. Intermingled with them were firs, whose great, straight stems were covered with lichen and mosses of beautiful variety, and some looking strangely like green ice-crystals.


Presently we came to a little broken-down rude kind of chapel in the midst of the wood. It was built of stone; and masses of stone, shapeless and moss-grown, were lying scattered about on the ground around it. At a little rough-hewn altar within it stood a Christian priest, blessing the elements. Overhead, the great dark sprays of the larches and cone-laden firs swept its roof. [Page 28] I sat down to rest on one of the stones, and looked upwards a while at the foliage. Then turning my gaze again towards the earth, I saw a vast circle of stones, moss-grown like that on which I sat, and ranged in a circle such as that of Stonehenge. It occupied an open space in the midst of the forest; and the grasses and climbing plants of the place had fastened on the crevices of the stones.


One stone, larger and taller than the rest, stood at the junction of the circle, in a place of honour, as though it had stood for a symbol of divinity. I looked at my guide, and said, "Here, at least, is an idol whose semblance belongs to another type than that of the Hindus." He smiled, and turning from me to the Christian priest at the altar, said aloud, "Priest, why do your people receive from sacerdotal hands the bread only, while you yourselves receive both bread and wine?" And the priest answered, "We receive no more than they. Yes, though under another form, the people are partakers with us of the sacred wine with its particle. The blood is the life of the flesh, and of it the flesh is formed, and without it the flesh could not consist. The communion is the same".


Then the young man my guide turned again to me and waved his hand towards the stone before me. And as I looked the stone opened from its summit to its base; and I saw that the strata within had the form of a tree: and that every minute crystal of which it was formed, — particles so fine that grains of sand would have been coarse in comparison with them, — and every atom composing its mass, were stamped with this same tree-image, and bore the shape of the ice-crystals, of the ferns and of the colossal palm-leaves I had seen. And my guide [Page 29] said, "Before these stones were, the Tree of Life stood in the midst of the Universe".


And again we passed on, leaving behind us the chapel and the circle of stones, the pines and the firs: and as we went the foliage around us grew more and more stunted and like that at home. We travelled quickly; but now and then, through breaks and openings in the woods, I saw solitary oaks standing in the midst of green spaces, and beneath them kings giving judgment to their peoples, and magistrates administering laws.


At last we came to a forest of trees so enormous that they made me tremble, to look at them. The hugeness of their stems gave them an unearthly appearance; for they rose hundreds of feet from the ground before they burst out far, far above us, into colossal masses of vast-leaved foliage. I cannot sufficiently convey the impressions of awe with which the sight of these monster trees inspired me. There seemed to me something pitiless and phantom-like in the severity of their enormous bare trunks, stretching on without break or branch into the distance overhead, and there at length giving birth to a sea of dark waving plumes, the rustle of which reached my ears as the sound of tossing waves.


Passing beneath these vast trees we came to others of smaller growth, but still of the same type, — straight-stemmed, with branching foliage at their summit. Here we stood to rest, and as we paused I became aware that the trees around me were losing their colour, and turning by imperceptible degrees into stone. In nothing was their form or position altered; only a cold, grey hue overspread them, and the intervening spaces between their stems became filled up, as though by a cloud which gradually grew substantial. Presently I raised my eyes, [Page 30] and lo ! overhead were the arches of a vast cathedral, spanning the sky and hiding it from my sight. The tree stems had become tall columns of grey stone; and their plumed tops, the carven architraves and branching spines of Gothic sculpture. The incense rolled in great dense clouds to their outstretching arms, and, breaking against them, hung in floating, fragrant wreaths about their carven sprays. Looking downwards to the altar, I found it covered with flowers and plants and garlands, in the midst of which stood a great golden crucifix, and I turned to my guide wishing to question him, but he had disappeared, and I could not find him. Then a vast crowd of worshippers surrounded me, a priest before the altar raised the pyx and the patten in his hands. The people fell on their knees, and bent their heads, as a great field of corn over which a strong wind passes. I knelt with the rest, and adored with them in silence.

PARIS, July 1877


- 8- THE ENCHANTED WOMAN



[On the night previous to this dream, Mrs Kingsford was awoke by a bright light, and beheld a hand holding out towards her a glass of foaming ale, the action being accompanied by the words, spoken with strong emphasis, You must drink this. It was not her usual beverage, but she occasionally yielded to pressure and took it when at home. In consequence of the above prohibition she abstained for that day, and on the following night received this vision, in order to fit her for which the prohibition had apparently been imposed. It was originally entitled a Vision of the World’s Fall, on the supposition that it represented the loss of the Intuition, mystically called the Fall of the Woman, through the sorceries of priestcraft. (Ed)]

The first consciousness which broke my sleep last night was one of floating, of being carried swiftly by some invisible force through a vast space; then, of being gently lowered; then of light, until, gradually, I found myself on [Page 31] my feet in a broad noon-day brightness, and before me an open country. Hills, hills, as far as the eye could reach, — hills with snow on their tops, and mists around their gorges. This was the first thing I saw distinctly. Then, casting my eyes towards the ground, I perceived that all about me lay huge masses of grey material which, at first, I took for blocks of stone, having the form of lions; but as I looked at them more intently, my sight grew clearer, and I saw, to my horror, that they were really alive. A panic seized me, and I tried to runaway; but on turning, I became suddenly aware that the whole country was filled with these awful shapes; and the faces of those nearest to me were most dreadful, for their eyes, and something in the expression, though not in the form, of their faces, were human. I was absolutely alone in a terrible world peopled with lions, too, of a monstrous kind. Recovering myself with an effort, I resumed my flight, but, as I passed through the midst of this concourse of monsters, it suddenly struck me that they were perfectly unconscious of my presence. I even laid my hands, in passing, on the heads and manes of several, but they gave no sign of seeing me or of knowing that I touched them. At last I gained the threshold of a great pavilion, not, apparently, built by hands, but formed by Nature. The walls were solid, yet they were composed of huge trees standing close together, like columns; and [Page 32] the roof of the pavilion was formed by their massive foliage, through which not a ray of outer light penetrated. Such light as there was seemed nebulous, and appeared to rise out of the ground. In the centre of this pavilion I stood alone, happy to have got clear away from those terrible beasts and the gaze of their steadfast eyes.


As I stood there, I became conscious of the fact that the nebulous light of the place was concentrating itself into a focus on the columned wall opposite to me. It grew there, became intenser, and then spread, revealing, as it spread, a series of moving pictures that appeared to be scenes actually enacted before me. For the figures in the pictures were living, and they moved before my eyes, though I heard neither word nor sound. And this is what I saw. First there came a writing on the wall of the pavilion: —This is the History of our World. These words, as I looked at them, appeared to sink into the wall as they had risen out of it, and to yield place to the pictures which then began to come out in succession, dimly at first, then strong and clear as actual scenes.


First I beheld a beautiful woman, with the sweetest face and most perfect form conceivable. She was dwelling in a cave among the hills with her husband, and he, too, was beautiful, more like an angel than a man. They seemed perfectly happy together; and their dwelling was like Paradise. On every side was beauty, sunlight, and repose. This picture sank into the wall as the writing had done. And then came out another; the same man and woman driving together in a sleigh drawn by reindeer over fields of ice; with all about them glaciers and snow, and great mountains veiled in wreaths of [Page 33] slowly moving mist. The sleigh went at a rapid pace, and its occupants talked gaily to each other, so far as I could judge by their smiles and the movement of their lips. But, what caused me much surprise was that they carried between them, and actually in their hands, a glowing flame, the fervour of which I felt reflected from the picture upon my own cheeks. The ice around shone with its brightness. The mists upon the snow mountains caught its gleam. Yet, strong as were its light and heat, neither the man nor the woman seemed to be burned or dazzled by it. This picture, too, the beauty and brilliancy of which greatly impressed me, sank and disappeared as the former.


Next, I saw a terrible looking man clad in an enchanter's robe, standing alone upon an ice-crag. In the air above him, poised like a dragon-fly, was an evil spirit, having a head and face like that of a human being. The rest of it resembled the tail of a comet, and seemed made of a green fire, which flickered in and out as though swayed by a wind. And as I looked, suddenly, through an opening among the hills, I saw the sleigh pass, carrying the beautiful woman and her husband; and in the same instant the enchanter also saw it, and his face contracted, and the evil spirit lowered itself and came between me and him. Then this picture sank and vanished.


I next beheld the same cave in the mountains which I had before seen, and the beautiful couple together in it. Then a shadow darkened the door of the cave; and the enchanter was there, asking admittance; cheerfully they bade, him enter, and, as he came forward with his snake-like eyes fixed on the fair woman, I understood that he wished to have her for his own, and was even then devising [Page 34] how to bear her away. And the spirit in the air beside him seemed busy suggesting schemes to this end. Then this picture melted and became confused, giving place for but a brief moment to another, in which I saw the enchanter carrying the woman away in his arms, she struggling and lamenting, her long bright hair streaming behind her. This scene passed from the wall as though a wind had swept over it, and there rose up in its place a picture, which impressed me with a more vivid sense of reality than all the rest.


It represented a market place, in the midst of which was a pile of faggots and a stake, such as were used formerly for the burning of heretics and witches. The market place, round which were rows of seats as though for a concourse of spectators, yet appeared quite deserted. I saw only three living beings present, — the beautiful woman, the enchanter, and the evil spirit. Nevertheless, I thought that the seats were really occupied by invisible tenants, for every now and then there seemed to be a stir in the atmosphere as of a great multitude; and I had, moreover, a strange sense of facing many witnesses. The enchanter led the woman to the stake, fastened her there with iron chains, lit the faggots about her feet and withdrew to a short distance, where he stood with his arms folded, looking on as the flames rose about her. I understood that she had refused his love, and that in his fury he had denounced her as a sorceress. Then in the fire, above the pile, I saw the evil spirit poising itself like a fly, and rising and sinking and fluttering in the thick smoke. While I wondered what this meant, the flames which had concealed the beautiful woman, parted in their midst, and disclosed a sight so horrible and unexpected as to thrill me from [Page 35] head to foot, and curdle my blood. Chained to the stake there stood, not the fair woman I had seen there a moment before, but a hideous monster, — a woman still, but a woman with three heads, and three bodies linked in one. Each of her long arms ended, not in a hand, but in a claw like that of a bird of rapine. Her hair resembled the locks of the classic Medusa, and her faces were inexpressibly loathsome. She seemed, with all her dreadful heads and limbs, to writhe in the flames and yet not to be consumed by them. She gathered them in to herself; her claws caught them and drew them down; her triple body appeared to suck the fire into itself, as though a blast drove it. The sight appalled me. I covered my face and dared look no more.


When at length I again turned my eyes upon the wall, the picture that had so terrified me was gone, and instead of it, I saw the enchanter flying through the world, pursued by the evil spirit and that dreadful woman. Through all the world they seemed to go. The scenes changed with marvellous rapidity. Now the picture glowed with the wealth and gorgeousness of the torrid zone; now the ice-fields of the North rose into view; anon a pine-forest; then a wild sea-shore; but always the same three flying figures; always the horrible three-formed harpy pursuing the enchanter, and beside her the evil spirit with the dragon-fly wings.


At last this succession of images ceased, and I beheld a desolate region, in the midst of which sat the woman with the enchanter beside her, his head reposing in her lap. Either the sight of her must have become familiar to him and, so, less horrible, or she had subjugated him by some spell. At all events, they were mated at last, and their offspring lay around them on the stony ground, [Page 36] or moved to and fro. These were lions, — monsters with human faces, such as I had seen in the beginning of my dream. Their jaws dripped blood; they paced backwards and forwards, lashing their tails. Then too, this picture faded and sank into the wall as the others had done. And through its melting outlines came out again the words I had first seen: — This is the History of our World, only they seemed to me in some way changed, but how, I cannot tell. The horror of the whole thing was too strong upon me to let me dare look longer at the wall. And I awoke, repeating to myself the question, " How could one woman become three ? "

HINTON, February 1877.


- 9 - THE BANQUET OF THE GODS

I saw in my sleep a great table spread upon a beautiful mountain, the distant peaks of which were covered with snow, and brilliant with a bright light. Around the table reclined twelve persons, six male, six female, some of whom I recognised at once, the others afterwards. Those whom I recognised at once were Zeus, Hera, Pallas Athena, Phoebus Apollo, and Artemis. I knew them by the symbols they wore. The table was covered with all kinds of fruit, of great size, including nuts, almonds, and olives, with flat cakes of bread, and cups of gold into which, before drinking, each divinity poured two sorts of liquid, one of which was wine, the other water. As I was looking on, standing on a step a little below the top of the flight which led to the table, I was startled by seeing Hera suddenly fix her eyes on me and say, [Page 37] " What seest thou at the lower end of the table ?" And I looked and answered, "I see two vacant seats". Then she spoke again and said, " When you are able to eat of our food and to drink of our cup, you also shall sit and feast with us." Scarcely had she uttered these words, when Athena, who sat facing me, added, "When you are able to eat of our food and to drink of our cup, then you shall know as you are known". And immediately Artemis, whom I knew by the moon upon her head, continued, " When you are able to eat of our food and to drink of our cup, all things shall become pure to you, and ye shall be made virgins."


Then I said, "O Immortals, what is your food and your drink, and how does your banquet differ from ours, seeing that we also eat no flesh, and blood has no place in our repasts ? "


Then one of the Gods, whom at the time I did not know, but have since recognised as Hermes, rose from the table, and coming to me put into my hands a branch of a fig-tree bearing upon it ripe fruit, and said, "If you would be perfect, and able to know and to do all things, quit the heresy of Prometheus. Let fire warm and comfort you externally: it is heaven's gift. But do not wrest it from its rightful purpose, as did that betrayer of your race, to fill the veins of humanity with its contagion, and to consume your interior being with its breath. All of you are men of clay, as was the image which Prometheus made. Ye are nourished with stolen fire, and it consumes you. Of all the evil uses of heaven's good gifts, none is so evil as the internal use of fire. For your hot foods and drinks have consumed and dried up the magnetic power of your nerves, sealed your senses, and cut short your lives. Now, you neither see nor hear; [Page 38] for the fire in your organs consumes your senses. Ye are all blind and deaf, creatures of clay. We have sent you a book to read. Practise its precepts, and your senses shall be opened."


Then, not yet recognising him, I said, "Tell me your name, Lord." At this he laughed and answered, "I have been about you from the beginning. I am the white cloud on the noon-day sky". "Do you, then", I asked, "desire the whole world to abandon the use of fire in preparing food and drink ? "


Instead of answering my question, he said, "We show you the excellent way. Two places only are vacant at our table. We have told you all that can be shown you on the level on which yoU stand. But our perfect gifts, the fruits of the Tree of Life, are beyond your reach now. We cannot give them to you until you are purified and have come up higher. The conditions are GOD'S; the will is with you."


These last words seemed to be repeated from the sky overhead, and again from beneath my feet. And at the instant I fell, as if shot down like a meteor from a vast height; and with the swiftness and shock of the fall I awoke.

HINTON, Sept. 1877.


[The book referred to was a volume entitled Fruit and Bread, which had been sent anonymously on the previous morning. The fig-tree, which both with the Hebrews and the Greeks was the type of intuitional perception, was a special symbol of Hermes, called by the Hebrews Raphael. The plural used by the seer included myself as the partner of her literary and other studies. The term virgin in its mystical sense signifies a soul pure from admixture of matter. Editor] [Page 39]


- 10 - THE DIFFICULT PATH


Having fallen asleep last night while in a state of great perplexity about the care and education of my daughter, I dreamt as follows.


I was walking with the child along the border of a high cliff, at the foot of which was the sea. The path was exceedingly narrow, and on the inner side was flanked by a line of rocks and stones. The outer side was so close to the edge of the cliff that she was compelled to walk either before or behind me, or else on the stones. And, as it was unsafe to let go her hand, it was on the stones that she had to walk, much to her distress. I was in male attire, and carried a staff in my hand. She wore skirts and had no staff; and every moment she stumbled or her dress caught and was torn by some jutting crag or bramble. In this way our progress was being continually interrupted and rendered almost impossible, when suddenly we came upon a sharp declivity leading to a steep path which wound down the side of the precipice to the beach below. Looking down, I saw on the shore beneath the cliff a collection of fishermen's huts, and groups of men and women on the shingle, mending nets, hauling up boats, and sorting fish of various kinds. In the midst of the little village stood a great crucifix of lead, so cast in a mould as to allow me from the elevated position I occupied behind it, to see that though in front it looked solid, it was in reality hollow. As I was noting this, a voice of some one close at hand suddenly addressed me; and on turning my head I found [Page 40] standing before me a man in the garb of a fisherman, who evidently had just scaled the steep path leading from the beach. He stretched out his hand to take the child, saying he had come to fetch her, for that in the path I was following there was room only for one. "Let her come to us", he added; "she will do very well as a fisherman's daughter". Being reluctant to part with her, and not perceiving then the significance of his garb and vocation, I objected that the calling was a dirty and unsavoury one, and would soil her hands and dress. Whereupon the man became severe, and seemed to insist with a kind of authority upon my acceptance of his proposition. The child, too, was taken with him, and was moreover anxious to leave the rough and dangerous path; and she accordingly went to him of her own will and, placing her hand in his, left me without any sign of regret, and I went on my way alone. Then lifting my eyes to see whither my path led, I beheld it winding along the edge of the cliff to an apparently endless distance, until, as I gazed steadily on the extreme limit of my view, I saw the grey mist from the sea here and there break and roll up into great masses of slow-drifting cloud, in the intervals of which I caught the white gleam of sunlit snow. And these intervals continually closed up to open again in fresh places higher up, disclosing peak upon peak of a range of mountains of enormous altitude.[Always the symbol of high mystical insight and spiritual attainment — Biblically called the Hill of the Lord and Mount of God (Ed)]


By a curious coincidence, the very morning after this dream, a friend, who knew of my perplexity, called to [Page 41] recommend a school in a certain convent as one suitable for my child. There were, however, insuperable objections to the scheme.

PARIS, Nov. 3, 1877


- 11 - A LION IN THE WAY

Owing to the many and great difficulties thrown in my way, I had been seriously considering the advisability of withdrawing, if only for a time, from my course of medical studies, when I received the following dream, which determined me to persevere: —


I found myself on the same narrow, rugged, and precipitous path described in my last dream, and confronted by a lion. Afraid to pass him I turned and fled. On this the beast gave chase, when finding escape by flight hopeless, I turned and boldly faced him. Whereupon the lion at once stopped and slunk to the side of the path, and suffered me to pass unmolested, though I was so close to him that I could not avoid touching him with my garments in passing.

[The prognostic was fully justified by the event. (Ed)]

Paris, Nov 15, 1877


 


 

- 12 - A DREAM OF DISEMBODIMENT

I dreamt that I was dead, and wanted to take form and appear to C, in order to converse with him. And it was suggested by those about me — spirits like myself, I suppose — that I might materialize myself through [Page 42] the medium of some man whom they indicated to me. Coming to the place where he was, I was directed to throw myself out forward towards him by an intense concentration of will; which I accordingly tried to do, but without success, though the effort I made was enormous. I can only compare it to the attempt made by a person unable to swim, to fling himself off a platform into deep water. Do all I would, I could not gather myself up for it; and although encouraged and stimulated, and assured I had only to let myself go, my attempts were ineffectual. Even when I had sufficiently collected and prepared myself in one part of my system, the other part failed me.


At length it was suggested to me that I should find it easier if I first took on me the form of the medium. This I at length succeeded in doing, and, to my annoyance, so completely that I materialized myself into the shape not only of his features, but of his clothing also. The effort requisite for this exhausted me to the utmost, so that I was unable to keep up the apparition for more than a few minutes, when I had no choice but to yield to the strain and let myself go again, only in the opposite way. So I went out, and mounted like a sudden flame, and saw myself for a moment like a thin streak of white mist rising in the air; while the comfort and relief I experienced by regaining my light spirit-condition, were indescribable. It was because I had, for want of skill, de-materialized myself without sufficient deliberation, that I had thus rapidly mounted in the air.


After an interval I dreamt that, wishing to see what A would do in case I appeared to him after my death, I went to him as a spirit and called him by his name. Upon hearing my voice he rose and went to the window [Page 43] and looked out uneasily. On my going close to him and speaking in his ear, he was much disturbed, and ran his hand through his hair and rubbed his head in a puzzled and by no means pleased manner. At the third attempt to attract his attention he rushed to the door and, calling for a glass, poured out some wine, which he drank. On seeing this, and finding him inaccessible, I desisted, thinking it must often happen to the departed to be distressed by the inability or unwillingness of those they love to receive and recognize them.

Paris Jan 1878


 

- 13 - THE PERFECT WAY WITH ANIMALS

I saw in my sleep a cart-horse who, coming to me, conversed with me in what seemed a perfectly simple and natural manner, for it caused me no surprise that he should speak. And this is what he said: —


“Kindness to animals of the gentler orders is the very foundation of civilization. For it is the cruelty and harshness of men towards the animals under their protection which is the cause of the present low standard of humanity itself. Brutal usage creates brutes; and the ranks of mankind are constantly recruited from spirits already hardened and depraved by a long course of ill-treatment. Nothing develops the spirit as much as sympathy. Nothing cultivates, refines, and aids it in its progress towards perfection so much as kind and gentle treatment. On the contrary, the brutal usage and want of sympathy with which we meet at the hands of men, [Page 44] stunt our development and reverse all the currents of our nature. We grow coarse with coarseness, vile with reviling, and brutal with the brutality of those who surround us. And when we pass out of this stage we enter on the next depraved and hardened, and with the bent of our dispositions such that we are ready by our nature to do in our turn that which has been done to us. The greater number of us, indeed know no other or better way. For the spirit learns by experience and imitation, and inclines necessarily to do those things which it has been in the habit of seeing done. Humanity will never become perfected until this doctrine is understood and received and made the rule of conduct.”

Paris, October 28, 1879


 

- 14 - THE LABORATORY UNDERGROUND

I dreamed that I found myself underground in a vault artificially lighted. Tables were ranged along the walls of the vault, and upon these tables were bound down the living bodies of half-dissected and mutilated animals. Scientific experts were busy at work on their victims with scalpel, hot iron and forceps. But, as I looked at the creatures lying bound before them, they no longer appeared to be mere rabbits, or hounds, for in each I saw a human shape, the shape of a man, with limbs and lineaments resembling those of their torturers, hidden within the outward form. And when they led into the place an old worn-out horse, crippled with age and long [Page 45] toil in the service of man, and bound him down, and lacerated his flesh with their knives, I saw the human form within him stir and writhe as though it were an unborn babe moving in its mother’s womb. And I cried aloud — “Wretches! you are tormenting an unborn man!” But they heard not, nor could they see what I saw. Then they brought in a white rabbit, and thrust its eyes through with heated irons. And as I gazed, the rabbit seemed to me like a tiny infant, with human face, and hands which stretched themselves towards me in appeal, and lips which sought to cry for help in human accents. And I could bear no more, but broke forth into a bitter rain of tears, exclaiming - “O blind! blind” not to see that you torture a child, the youngest of your own flesh and blood!”


And with that I woke, sobbing vehemently.

Paris, February 2, 1880


 

- 15 - THE OLD YOUNG MAN

I dreamed that I was in Rome with C., and a friend of his called on us there, and asked leave to introduce to us a young man, a student of art, whose history and condition were singular. They came together in the evening. In the room where we sat was a kind of telephonic tube, through which, at intervals, a voice spoke to me. When the young man entered, these words were spoken in my ear through the tube: —


“You have made a good many diagnoses lately of [Page 46] cases of physical disease; here is a curious and interesting type of spiritual pathology, the like of which is rarely met with. Question this young man.”


Accordingly I did so, and drew from him that about a year ago he had been seriously ill of Roman fever; but as he hesitated, and seemed unwilling to speak on the subject, I questioned the friend. From him I learnt that the young man had formerly been a very proficient pupil in one of the best-known studios in Rome, but that a year ago he had suffered from a most terrible attack of malaria, in consequence of his remaining in Rome to work after others had found it necessary to go into the country, and that the malady had so affected the nervous system that since his recovery he had been wholly unlike his former self. His great aptitude for artistic work, from which so much had been expected, seemed to have entirely left him; he was no longer master of his pencil; his former faculty and promise of excellence had vanished. The physician who had attended him during his illness affirmed that all this was readily accounted for by the assumption that the malaria had affected the cerebral centers, and in particular, the nerve-cells of the memory; that such consequences of severe continuous fever were by no means uncommon, and might last for an indefinite period. Meanwhile the young man was now, by slow and painful application, doing his utmost to recover his lost power and skill. Naturally the subject was distasteful to him, and he shrank from discussing it. Here the voice again spoke to me through the tube, telling me to observe the young man, and especially his face. On this I scanned his countenance with attention, and remarked that it wore a singularly old look, — the look of a man advanced in years and [Page 47] experience. But that I surmised to be a not unusual effect of severe fever.


“How old do you suppose the patient to be?” asked the interrogative voice.

“About twenty years old, I suppose” said I.

“He is a year old,” rejoined the voice.

“A year! How can that be?”


“If you will not allow that he is only a year old, then you must admit that he is sixty-five, for he is certainly either one or the other.”


This enigma so perplexed me, that I begged my invisible informant for the solution of the difficulty, which was at once vouchsafed in the following terms: —


“Here is the history of your patient. The youth who was the proficient and gifted student, who astonished his masters, and gave such brilliant indications of future greatness, is dead. The malaria killed him. But he had a father, who, while alive, had loved his son as the apple of his eye, and whose whole being and desire centered in the boy. This father died some six years ago, about the age of sixty. After his death his devotion to the youth continued, and as a spirit, he followed him everywhere, never quitting his side. So entirely was he absorbed in the lad and in his career, that he made no advance in his own spiritual life, nor, indeed was he fully aware of the fact that he had himself quitted the earthly plane. For there are souls which, having been obtuse and dull in their apprehension of spiritual things during their existence in the flesh, and having neither hopes not aims beyond the body, are very slow to realize the fact of their dissolution, and remain, therefore, chained to the earth by earthly affections and interests, haunting the places or persons they have most affected. [Page 48] But the young artist was not of this order. Idealist and genius, he was already highly spiritualized and vitalized even upon earth, and when death rent the bond between him and his body, he passed at once from the atmosphere of carnal things into a loftier sphere. But at the moment of his death, the phantom father was watching beside the son’s sick-bed, and filled with agony at beholding the wreck of all the brilliant hopes he had cherished for the boy, thought only of preserving the physical life of that dear body, since the death of the outward form was still for him the death of all he had loved. He would cling to it, preserve it, re-animate it at any cost. The spirit had quitted it; it lay before him a corpse. What, then did the father do? With a supreme effort of desire, ineffectual indeed to recall the departed ghost, but potent in its reaction upon himself, he projected his own vitality into his son’s dead body, re-animated it with his own soul, and thus effected the resuscitation for which he had so ardently longed. So the body you now behold is, indeed, the son’s body, the soul which animates it is that of the father. And it is a year since this event occurred. Such is the real solution of the problem, whose natural effects the physician attributes to the result of disease. The spirit which now tenants this young man’s form had no knowledge of art when he was so strangely reborn into the world, beyond the mere rudiments of drawing which he had learned while watching his son at work during the previous six years. What, therefore seems to the physician to be a painful recovery of previous aptitude, is, in fact the imperfect endeavour of a novice entering a new and unsuitable career.


“For the father the experience is by no means an unprofitable one. He would certainly sooner or later, have [Page 49] resumed existence upon earth in the flesh, and it is as well that his return should be under the actual circumstances. The study of art upon which he has thus entered is likely to prove to him an excellent means of spiritual education. By means of it his soul may ascend as it has never yet done; while the habits of the body he now possesses, trained as it is to refined and gentle modes of life, may do much to accomplish the purgation and redemption of its new tenant. It is far better for the father that this strange event should have occurred, than that he should have remained an earth-bound phantom, unable to realize his own position, or to rise above the affection which chained him to merely worldly things.”

PARIS, February 21, 1880


 

- 16 - THE METEMPSYCHOSIS

I was visited last night in my sleet by one whom I presently recognized as the famous Adept and Mystic of the first century of our era, Apollonius of Tyana, called the Pagan Christ. He was clad in a grey linen robe with a hood, like that of a monk, and had a smooth, beardless face, and seemed to be between forty and fifty years of age. He made himself known to me by asking if I had heard of his lion. [This was a tame captive lion, in whom Apollonius is said to have recognized the soul of the Egyptian King Amasis, who had lived 500 years previously. The lion burst into tears at the recognition, and showed much misery. (Author’s Note.) ] He commenced by speaking of Metempsychosis, concerning which he informed [Page 50] me as follows: — “There are two streams or currents, and upward and a downward one, by which souls are continually passing and repassing as on a ladder. The carnivorous animals are souls undergoing penance by being imprisoned for a time in such forms on account of their misdeeds. Have you not heard the story of my lion?” I said yes, but that I did not understand it, because I thought it impossible for a human soul to suffer the degradation of returning into the body of a lower creature after once attaining humanity. At this he laughed out, and said that the real degradation was not in the penance but in the sin. “It is not by the penance, but by incurring the need of the penance, that the soul is degraded. The man who sullies his humanity by cruelty or lust, is already degraded thereby below humanity; and the form which his soul assumes afterwards assumes is the mere natural consequence of that degradation. He may again recover humanity, but only by means of passing through another form than that of the carnivora. When you were told [The reference is to an instruction received by her four years previously, but in sleep, and not from Apollonius, though from a source no less transcendental. (Ed.)] that certain creatures were redeemable or not redeemable, the meaning was this: They who are redeemable may, on leaving their present form, return directly into humanity. Their penance accomplished in that form, and in it, therefore, they are redeemed. But they who are not redeemable, are they whose sin has been too deep or too ingrained to suffer them to return until they have passed through other lower forms. They are not redeemable therein, but will be on ascending again. Others, altogether vile and past redemption, sink continually lower and lower down the stream, until [Page 51] at length they burn out. They shall neither be redeemed in the form they now occupy, nor in any other.”

PARIS, May 11, 1880


*** [ Remembering, on being told this dream, that Eliphas Levi in his Haute Magie, had described an interview with the phantom of Apollonius, which he had evoked, I referred to the book, and found that he also saw him with a smooth-shaven face, but wearing a shroud (linceul) (Ed.)]


 

- 17 - THE THREE KINGS

The time was drawing towards dawn in a wild and desolate region. And I stood with my genius at the foot of a mountain the summit of which was hidden in mist. At a few paces from me stood three persons, clad in splendid robes and wearing crowns on their heads. Each personage carried a casket and a key: the three caskets differed from one another, but the keys were all alike. And my genius said to me, “These are the three kings of the East, and they journey hither over the river that is dried up, to go up into the mountain of Sion and rebuild the Temple of the Lord God.” Then I looked more closely at the three royalties, and I saw that the one who stood nearest to me on the left hand was a man, and color of his skin was dark like that of an Indian. And the second was in form like a woman, and her complexion was fair: and the third had the wings of an Angel, and carried a staff of gold. And I heard them say one to another, “Brother, what hast thou in thy casket?” And the first answered, and the King who bore the aspect of a woman, answered, " I am the carp. “I am the Stonelayer, [Page 52] and I carry the implements of my craft; also a bundle of myrrh for thee and for me.”I am the Carpenter, and I bear the instruments of my craft; also a box of frankincense for thee and for me.” And the Angel-king answered, “I am the Measurer, and I carry the secrets of the living God, and the rod of gold to measure your work withal.” Then the first said, “Therefore let us go up into the hill of the Lord and build the walls of Jerusalem. And they turned to ascend the mountain. But they had not taken the first step when the king, whose name was Stonelayer, said to him who was called the Carpenter, “Give me first the implements of thy craft, and the plan of thy building, that I may know after what sort thou buildest, and may fashion thereto my masonry.” And the other asked him, “What buildest thou, brother?” And he answered, “I build the Outer Court,” Then the Carpenter unlocked his casket and gave him a scroll written over in silver, and a crystal rule, and a carpenter’s plane and a saw. And the other took them and put them into his casket. Then the Carpenter said to the Stonelayer, “Brother, give me also the plan of thy building, and the tools of thy craft. For I build the Inner Place, and must needs fit my designing to thy foundation.” But the other answered, “Nay, my brother, for I have promised the laborers. Build thou alone. It is enough that I know thy secrets; ask not mine of me.” And the Carpenter answered, “How then shall the Temple of the Lord be built? Are we not of three Ages, and is the temple yet perfected?” Then the Angel spoke, and said to the Stonelayer, “Fear not, brother: freely hast thou received; freely give. For except thine elder brother had been first a Stonelayer, he [Page 53] could not now be a Carpenter. Art thou not of Solomon, and he of Christ? Therefore he hath already handled thy tools, and is of thy craft. And I also, the Measurer, I know the work of both. But now is that time when the end cometh, and that which hath been spoken in the ear in closets, the same shall be proclaimed on the housetops.” Then the first king unlocked his casket, and gave to the Carpenter a scroll written in red, and a compass and a trowel. But the Carpenter answered him: “It is enough. I have seen, and I remember. For this is the writing King Solomon gave into my hands when I also was a Stonelayer, and when thou wert of the company of them that labor. For I also am thy Brother, and that thou knowest I know also.” Then the third king, the Angel, spoke again and said, “Now is the knowledge perfected and the bond fulfilled. For neither can the Stonelayer build alone, nor the Carpenter construct apart. Therefore, until this day, is the Temple of the Lord unbuilt. But now is the time come, and Salem shall have her habitation on the Hill of the Lord.”


And there came down a mist from the mountain, and out of the mist a star. And my Genius said, “Thou shalt yet see more on this wise.” But I saw then only the mist, which filled the valley, and moistened my hair and my dress; and so I awoke.

LONDON, April 30, 1882


[ For the full comprehension of the above dream, it is necessary to be profoundly versed at once in the esoteric signification of the Scriptures and in the mysteries of Freemasonry. It was the dreamer’s great regret that she neither knew, nor could know, the latter, women being excluded from initiation. (Ed.)] [Page 54]

- 18 - THE ARMED GODDESS

I dreamed that I sat reading in my study, with books lying about all round me. Suddenly a voice marvellously clear and silvery, called me by name. Starting up and turning, I saw behind me a long vista of white marble columns, Greek in architecture, flanking on either side a gallery of white marble. At the end of this gallery stood a shape of exceeding brilliancy, the shape of a woman above mortal height, clad from head to foot in shining mail armor. In her right hand was a spear, on her left arm a shield. Her brow was hidden by a helmet, and the aspect of her face was stern, severe even, I thought, I approached her, and as I went, my body was lifted up from the earth, and I was aware of that strange sensation of floating above the surface of the ground, which is so common with me in sleep that at times I can scarce persuade myself after waking that it has not been a real experience. When I alighted at the end of the long gallery before the armed woman, she said to me:


“Take off the nightdress thou wearest.”


I looked at my attire and was about to answer — “This is not a nightdress,” when she added, as though perceiving my thought: —


“The woman’s garb is a nightdress; it is a garment made to sleep in. The man’s garb is the dress for the day. Look eastward!”


I raised my eyes and, behind the mail-clad shape, I saw the draw breaking, blood-red, and with great clouds like [Page 55] pillars of smoke rolling up on either side of the place where the sun was about to rise. But as yet the sun was not visible. And as I looked, she cried aloud, and her voice rang through the air like the clash of steel: —


“Listen!”


And she struck her spear on the marble pavement. At the same moment there came from afar off, a confused sound of battle. Cries, and human voices in conflict, and the stir as of a vast multitude, the distant clang of arms and a noise of the galloping of many horses rushing furiously over the ground. And then, sudden silence.

Again she smote the pavement, and again the sounds arose, nearer now, and more tumultuous. Once more they ceased, and a third time she struck the marble with her spear.


Then the noises arose all about and around the very spot where we stood, and the clang of the arms was so close that it shook and thrilled the very columns beside me. And the neighing and snorting of horses, and the thud of their ponderous hoofs flying over the earth made, as it were, a wind in my ears, so that it seemed as though a furious battle were raging all around us. But I could see nothing. Only the sounds increased, and became so violent that they awoke me, and even after waking I still seemed to catch the commotion of them in the air. [This dream was shortly followed by Mrs Kingsford’s anti-vivisection expedition to Switzerland, the fierce conflict of which amply fulfilled any predictive significance it may have had.] [Page 56]


PARIS, February 15, 1883


- 19 - THE GAME OF CARDS

I dreamed I was playing at cards with three persons, the two opposed to me being a man and a woman with hoods pulled over their heads, and cloaks covering their persons. I did not particularly observe them. My partner was an old man without hood or cloak, and there was about him this peculiarity, that he did not from one minute to another appear to remain the same. Sometimes he looked like a very young man, the features not appearing to change in order to produce this effect, but an aspect of youth and even of mirth coming into the face as though the features were lighted from within. Behind me stood a personage whom I could not see, for his hand and arm only appeared, handing me a pack of cards. So far as I discerned, it was a man’s figure, habited in black. Shortly after the dream began, my partner addressed me, saying,


“Do you play by luck or by skill?”


I answered” “I play by luck chiefly; I don’t know how to play by skill. But I have generally been lucky." In fact I had already, lying by me, several tricks I had taken. He answered me: —


“To play by luck is to trust to without; to play by skill is to trust to within. In this game, Within goes further than Without.”


“What are trumps?” I asked.


“Diamonds are trumps,” he answered.


I looked at the cards in my hand and said to him: — “I have more clubs than anything else.” [Page 57]

At this he laughed, and seemed all at once quite a youth. “Clubs are strong cards, after all,” he said. “Don’t despise the black suits. I have known some of the best games ever played won by players holding more clubs than you have.”


I examined the cards and found something very odd about them. There were four suits, diamonds, hearts, clubs, and spades. But the picture cards in my hand seemed different altogether from any I had ever seen before. One was queen of Clubs, and her face altered as I looked at it. First it was dark, — almost dusky, — with the imperial crown on the head; then it seemed quite fair, the crown changing to a smaller one of English aspect, and the dress also transforming itself. There was a queen of Hearts, too, in an antique peasant’s gown, with brown hair, and presently this melted into a suit of armor which shone as if reflecting fire-light in its burnished scales. The other cards seemed alive likewise, even the ordinary ones, just like the court-cards. There seemed to be pictures moving inside the emblems on their faces. The clubs in my hand ran into higher figures than the spades; these came next in number, and diamonds next. I had no picture-cards of diamonds, but I had the Ace. And this was so bright I could not look at it. Except the two queens of Clubs and Hearts I think I had no picture-cards in my hand, and very few red cards of any kind. There were high figures in the spades. It was the personage behind my chair who dealt the cards always. I said to my partner: — “It is difficult to play at all, whether by luck or by skill, for I get such a bad hand dealt me each time.


“That is your fault,” he said. “Play your best with what you have, and next time you will get better cards.”[Page 58]

“How can that be? I asked.


“Because after each game, the tricks you take are added to the bottom of the pack which the dealer holds, and you get the honors you have taken up from the table. Play well and take all you can. But you must put more head into it. You trust too much to fortune. Don’t blame the dealer; he can’t see.”


“I shall lose this game,” I said presently, for the two persons playing against us seemed to be taking up all the cards quickly, and the lead never came to my turn.


“It is because you don’t count your points before putting down a card,” my partner said. “If they play high numbers, you must play higher.”


“But they have all the trumps,” I said.


“No,” he answered, “you have the highest trump of all in your own hand. It is the first and the last. You may take every card they have with that, for it is the chief of the whole series. But you have spades too, and high ones.” (He seemed to know what I had.)


“Diamonds are better than spades,” I answered. “And nearly all my cards are black ones. Besides, I can’t count, it wants so much thinking. Can’t you come over here and play for me?”


He shook his head, and I thought that again he laughed. “No,” he replied, “that is against the law of the game. You must play for yourself. Think it out.”


He uttered these words very emphatically and with so strange an intonation that they dissipated the rest of the dream, and I remember no more of it. [Page 59]


ATCHAM, Dec 7, 1883


 

- 20 - THE PANIC-STRUCK PACK-HORSE

Out of a veil of palpitating mist there arose before me in my sleep the image of a colossal and precipitous cliff, standing sheer up against a sky of cloud and sea-mist, the tops of the granite peaks being merged and hidden in the vapor. At the foot of the precipice beat a wild sea, tossing and flecked with foam; and out of the flying spray rose sharp splinters of granite, standing like spearheads about the base of the sold rock. As I looked, something stirred far off in the distance, like a fly crawling over the smooth crag. Fixing my gaze upon it I became aware that there was at a great height above the sea, midway between sky and water, a narrow unprotected footpath winding up and down irregularly along the side of the mighty cliff; — a slender, sloping path, horrible to look at, like a rope or a thread stretched midair, hanging between heaven and the hungry foam. One by one, came towards me along this awful path a procession of horses, drawing tall narrow carts filled with bales of merchandise. The horses moved along the edge of the crag as though they clung to it, their bodies aslant towards the wall of granite on their right, their legs moving with the precision of creatures feeling and grasping every step. Like deer they moved, — not like horses, — and as they advanced, the carts they drew swayed behind them, and I thought every jolt would hurl them over the precipice. Fascinated I watched, — I could not choose but watch. At length came a grey horse, not drawing a cart, but carrying something on his back, — on a pack-saddle apparently. Like the rest he [Page 60] came on stealthily, sniffing every inch of the terrible way, until, just at the worst and giddiest point he paused, hesitated, and seemed about to turn. I saw him back himself into a crouching attitude against the wall of rock behind him, lowering his haunches, and rearing his head in a strange manner. The idea flashed on me that he would certainly turn, and then — what could happen? More horses were advancing, and two beasts could not possibly pass each other on that narrow ledge! But I was totally unprepared for the ghastly thing that actually did happen. The miserable horse had been seized with the awful mountain-madness that sometimes overtakes men on stupendous heights, — the madness of suicide. With a frightful scream, that sounded partly like a cry of supreme desperation, partly like one of furious and frenzied joy, the horse reared himself to his full height on the horrible ledge, shook his head wildly, and leaped with a frantic spring into the air, sheer over the precipice, and into the foam beneath. His eyes glared as he shot into the void, a great dark living mass against the white mist. Was he speared on those terrible shafts or rock below, or was his life dashed out in horrible crimson splashes against the cliff-side? Or did he sink into the reeling swirl of the foaming waters, and die more mercifully in their steel-dark depths? I could not see. I saw only the flying form dart through the mist like an arrow from a bow. I head only the appalling cry, like nothing earthly ever heard before; and I woke in a panic, with hands tightly clasped, and my body damp with moisture. It was but a dream — this awful picture; it was gone as an image from a mirror, and I was awake and gazing only upon blank darkness. [Page 61]


ATCHAM, Sept 15, 1884


 

- 21 - THE HAUNTED INN

I seemed in my vision to be on a long and wearisome journey, and to have arrived at an Inn, in which I was offered shelter and rest. The apartment given me consisted of a bedroom and parlor, communicating, and furnished in an antique manner, everything in the rooms appearing to be worm-eaten, dusty and out of date. The walls were bare and dingy; there was not a picture or an ornament in the apartment. An extremely dim light prevailed in the scene; indeed, I do not clearly remember, whether, with the exception of the fire and a night-lamp, the rooms were illumined at all. I seated myself in a chair by the hearth; it was late, and I thought only of rest. But, presently, I became aware of strange things going on about me. On a table in a corner lay some papers and a pencil. With a feeling of indescribable horror I saw this pencil assume an erect position and begin of itself to write on the paper, precisely as though an invisible hand held and guided it. At the same time, small detonations sounded in different parts of the room; tiny bright sparks appeared, burst, and immediately expired in smoke. The pencil having ceased to write, laid itself gently down, and taking the paper in my hand I found on it a quantity of writing which at first appeared to me to be in cipher, but I presently perceived that the words composing as it were written backwards, from right to left, exactly as one sees writing reflected on a looking glass. What was written made a [Page 62] considerable impression on me at the time, but I cannot now recall it, I know, however, that the dominant feeling I experienced was one of horror.


I called the owners of the inn and related to them what had taken place. They received my statement with perfect equanimity, and told me that in their house this was the normal state of things, of which, in fact, they were extremely proud: and they ended by congratulating me as a visitor much favored by the invisible agencies of the place.


We call them our Lights,” they said.


“It is true,” I observed, “that I saw lights in the air about the room, but they went out instantaneously, and left only smoke behind them. And why do they write backwards? Who are They?”


As I asked this question, the pencil on the table rose again, and wrote thus on the paper: —


“ksatonoD”


Again horror seized on me, and the air becoming full of smoke I found it impossible to breathe. “Let me out!” I cried, “I am stifled here, — the air is full of smoke!”


Outside, the people of the house answered, “you will lose your way; it is quite dark, and we have no other rooms to let. And, besides, it is the same in all the other apartments of the inn.”


“But the place is haunted!” I cried; and I pushed past them, and burst out of the house.


Before the doorway stood a tall veiled figure, like translucent silver. A sense of reverence overcame me. The night was balmy, and bright almost as day with resplendent starlight. The stars seemed to lean out of heaven; they looked down on me like living eyes, full of [Page 63] a strange immeasurable sympathy. I crossed the threshold, and stood in the open plain, breathing with rapture and relief the pure warm air of that delicious night. How restful, calm, and glorious was the dark landscape, outlined in purple against the luminous sky ! And what a consciousness of vastness and immensity above and around me ! " Where am I ? " I cried.


The silver figure stood beside me, and lifted its veil. It was Pallas Athena.

 "Under the Stars of the East", she answered me, " the true eternal Lights of the World."


After I was awake, a text in the Gospels was vividly brought to my mind: — "There was no room for them in the Inn." What is this Inn, I wondered, all the rooms of which are haunted, and in which the Christ cannot be born ? And this open country under the eastern night, — is it not the same in which they were " abiding," to whom that Birth was first angelically announced ?

ATCHAM, Nov. 5, 1885.


*** [ The solution of the enigma was received subsequently in an instruction, also imparted in sleep, in which it was said, " If Occultism were all, and held the key of heaven, there would be no need of Christ."(ED.)]


 

- 22 - AN EASTERN APOLOGUE.

The following was read by me during sleep, in an old book printed in archaic type. As with many other things similarly read by me, I do not know whether it is to be found in any book: — [Page 64] "After Buddha had been ten years in retirement, certain sages sent their disciples to him, asking him, —
' What dost thou claim to be, Gautama ?' "

Buddha answered them, ' I claim to be nothing.'


" Ten years afterwards they sent again to him, asking the same question, and again Buddha answered: — ' I claim to be nothing.'


"Then after yet another ten years had passed, they sent a third time, asking, ' What dost thou claim to be, Gautama ?'


"And Buddha replied, ' I claim to be the utterance of the most high God.'

" Then they said to him: ' How is this, that hitherto thou hast proclaimed thyself to be nothing, and now thou declarest thyself to be the very utterance of God ?'


" Buddha answered: ' Either I am nothing, or I am the very utterance of God, for between these two all is silence.'"

 

ATCHAM, March 5, 1885.


 

- 23 - A HAUNTED HOUSE INDEED

I dreamt that during a tour on the Continent with my friend C. we stayed in a town wherein there was an ancient house of horrible reputation, concerning which we received the following account. At the top of the house was a suite of rooms, from which no one who entered at night ever again emerged. No corpse was ever found; but it was said by some that the victims were absorbed bodily by the walls; by others that there [Page 65] were in the rooms a number of pictures in frames, one frame, however, containing a blank canvas, which had the dreadful power, first, of fascinating the beholder, and next of drawing him towards it, so that he was compelled to approach and gaze at it. Then, by the same hideous enchantment, he was forced to touch it, and the touch was fatal. For the canvas seized him as a devil-fish seizes its prey, and sucked him in, so that he perished without leaving a trace of himself, or of the manner of his death. The legend said further that if any person could succeed in passing a night in these rooms and in resisting their deadly influence, the spell would for ever be broken, and no one would thenceforth be sacrificed.


Hearing all this, and being somewhat of the knight-errant order, C. and I determined to face the danger, and, if possible, deliver the town from the enchantment. We were assured that the attempt would be vain, for that it had already been many times made, and the Devils of the place were always triumphant. They had the power, we were told, of hallucinating the senses of their victims; we should be subjected to some illusion, and be fatally deceived. Nevertheless, we were resolved to try what we could do, and in order to acquaint ourselves with the scene of the ordeal, we visited the place in the daytime. It was a gloomy-looking building, consisting of several vast rooms, filled with lumber of old furniture, worm-eaten and decaying; scaffoldings, which seemed to have been erected for the sake of making repairs and then left; the windows were curtainless, the floors bare, and rats ran hither and thither among the rubbish accumulated in the corners. Nothing could possibly look more desolate and gruesome. We saw no pictures; but as we [Page 66] did not explore every part of the rooms, they may have been there without our seeing them.


We were further informed by the people of the town that in order to visit the rooms at night it was necessary to wear a special costume, and that without it we should have no chance whatever of issuing from them alive. This costume was of black and white, and each of us was to carry a black stave. So we put on this attire, — which somewhat resembled the garb of an ecclesiastical order, — and when the appointed time came, repaired to the haunted house, where, after toiling up the great staircase in the darkness, we reached the door of the haunted apartments to find it closed. But light was plainly visible beneath it, and within was the sound of voices. This greatly surprised us; but after a short conference we knocked. The door was presently opened by a servant, dressed as a modern indoor footman usually is, who civilly asked us to walk in. On entering we found the place altogether different from what we expected to find, and had found on our daylight visit. It was brightly lighted, had decorated walls, pretty ornaments, carpets, and every kind of modern garnishment, and, in short, bore all the appearance of an ordinary well-appointed private flat. While we stood in the corridor, astonished, a gentleman in evening dress advanced towards us from one of the reception rooms. As he looked interrogatively at us, we thought it best to explain the intrusion, adding that we presumed we had either entered the wrong house, or stopped at the wrong apartment.


He laughed pleasantly at our tale, and said, "I don't know anything about haunted rooms, and, in fact, don't believe in anything of the kind. As for these rooms, they have for a long time been let for two or three nights [Page 67] every week to our Society for the purpose of social reunion. We are members of a musical and literary association, and are in the habit of holding conversaziones in these rooms on certain evenings, during which we entertain ourselves with dancing, singing, charades, and literary gossip. The rooms are spacious and lofty, and exactly adapted to our requirements. As you are here, I may say, in the name of the rest of the members, that we shall be happy if you will join us." At this I glanced at our dresses in some confusion, which being observed by the gentleman, he hastened to say: " You need be under no anxiety about your appearance, for this is a costume night, and the greater number of our guests are in travesty." As he spoke he threw open the door of a large drawing-room and invited us in. On entering we found a company of men and women, well-dressed, some in ordinary evening attire and some costumed. The room was brilliantly lighted and beautifully furnished and decorated. At one end was a grand piano, round which several persons were grouped; others were seated on ottomans taking tea or coffee; and others strolled about, talking. Our host, who appeared to be master of the ceremonies, introduced us to several persons, and we soon became deeply interested in a conversation on literary subjects. So the evening wore on pleasantly, but I never ceased to wonder how we could have mistaken the house or the staircase after the precaution we had taken of visiting it in the daytime in order to avoid the possibility of error.


Presently, being tired of conversation, I wandered away from the group with which C. was still engaged, to look at the beautiful decorations of the great salon, the walls of which were covered with artistic designs in [Page 68] fresco. Between each couple of panels, the whole length of the salon, was a beautiful painting, representing a landscape or a sea-piece. I passed from one to the other, admiring each, till I had reached the extreme end, and was far away from the rest of the company, where the lights were not so many or so bright as in the centre. The last fresco in the series then caught my attention. At first it appeared to me to be unfinished; and then I observed that there was upon its background no picture at all, but only a background of merging tints which seemed to change, and to be now sky, now sea, now green grass. This empty picture had, moreover, an odd metallic colouring which fascinated me; and saying to myself " Is there really any painting on it ? " I mechanically put out my hand and touched it. On this I was instantly seized by a frightful sensation, a shock that ran from the tips of my fingers to my brain, and steeped my whole being. Simultaneously I was aware of an overwhelming sense of sucking and dragging, which, from my hand and arm, and, as it were, through them, seemed to possess and envelop my whole person. Face, hair, eyes, bosom, limbs, every portion of my body was locked in an awful embrace which, like the vortex of a whirlpool, drew me irresistibly towards the picture. I felt the hideous impulse clinging over me and sucking me forwards into the wall. I strove in vain to resist it. My efforts were more futile than the flutter of gossamer wings. And then there rushed upon my mind the consciousness that all we had been told about the haunted rooms was true; that a strong delusion had been cast over us; that all this brilliant throng of modern ladies and gentlemen were fiends masquerading, prepared beforehand for our coming; that all the beauty and splendour of our surroundings were mere glamour; and [Page 69] that in reality the rooms were those we had seen in the daytime, filled with lumber and rot and vermin. As I realised all this, and was thrilled with the certainty of it, a sudden access of strength came to me, and I was impelled, as a last desperate effort, to turn my back on the awful fresco, and at least to save my face from coming into contact with it and being glued to its surface. With a shriek of anguish I wrenched myself round and fell prostrate on the ground, face downwards, with my back to the wall, feeling as though the flesh had been torn from my hand and arm. Whether I was saved or not I knew not. My whole being was overpowered by the realisation of the deception to which I had succumbed. I had looked for something so different, — darkness, vacant, deserted rooms, and perhaps a tall, white, empty canvas in a frame, against which I should have been on my guard. Who could have anticipated or suspected this cheerful welcome, these entertaining literati, these innocent-looking frescoes ? Who could have foreseen so deadly a horror in such a guise? Was I doomed? Should I, too, be sucked in and absorbed, and perhaps C. after me, knowing nothing of my fate? I had no voice; I could not warn him; all my force seemed to have been spent on the single shriek I had uttered as I turned my back on the wall. I lay prone upon the floor, and knew that I had swooned.


And thus, on seeking me, C. would doubtless have found me, lying insensible among the rubbish, with the rooms restored to the condition in which we had seen them by day, my success in withdrawing myself having dissolved the spell and destroyed the enchantment. But as it was, I awoke from my swoon only to find that I had been dreaming. [Page 70]

- 24 - THE SQUARE IN THE HAND

The foregoing dream was almost immediately succeeded by another, in which I dreamt that I was concerned in a very prominent way in a political struggle in France for liberty and the people's rights. My part in this struggle was, indeed, the leading one, but my friend C. had been drawn into it at my instance, and was implicated in a secondary manner only. The government sought our arrest, and, for a time, we evaded all attempts to take us, but at last we were surprised and driven under escort in a private carriage to a military station, where we were to be detained for examination. With us was arrested a man popularly known as Fou, a poor weakling whom I much pitied. When we arrived at the station which was our destination, Fou gave some trouble to the officials. I think he fainted, but at all events his conveyance from the carriage to the caserne needed the conjoined efforts of our escort, and some commotion was caused by his appearance among the crowd assembled to see us. Clearly the crowd was sympathetic with us and hostile to the military. I particularly noticed one woman who pressed forward as Fou was being carried into the station, and who loudly called on all present to note his feeble condition and the barbarity of arresting a witless creature such as he. At that moment C. laid his hand on my arm and whispered: "Now is our time; the guards are all occupied with Fou; we are left alone for a minute; let us jump out of the carriage and run !" As he said this [Page 71] he opened the carriage door on the side opposite to the caserne and alighted in the street. I instantly followed, and the people favouring us, we pressed through them and fled at the top of our speed down the road. As we ran I espied a pathway winding up a hill-side away from the town, and cried, " Let us go up there; let us get away from the street!" C. answered, "No, no; they would see us there immediately at that height, the path is too conspicuous. Our best safety is to lose ourselves in the town. We may throw them off our track by winding in and out of the streets." Just then a little child, playing in the road, got in our way, and nearly threw us down as we ran. We had to pause a moment to recover ourselves. " That child may have cost us our lives," whispered C., breathlessly. A second afterwards we reached the bottom of the street which branched off right and left. I hesitated a moment; then we both turned to the right. As we did so — in the twinkling of an eye — we found ourselves in the midst of a group of soldiers coming round the corner. I ran straight into the arms of one of them, who the same instant knew me and seized me by throat and waist with a grip of iron. This was a horrible moment! The iron grasp was sudden and solid as the grip of a vice; the man's arm held my waist like a bar of steel. " I arrest you !" he cried, and the soldiers immediately closed round us. At once I realised the hopelessness of the situation, — the utter futility of resistance. " Vous n’avez pas besoin de me tenir ainsi," I said to the officer; "j’irai tranquillement." He loosened his hold and we were then marched off to another military station, in a different part of the town from that whence we had escaped. The man who had arrested me was a sergeant or some officer [Page 72] in petty command. He took me alone with him into the guardroom, and placed before me on a wooden table some papers which he told me to fill in and sign. Then he sat down opposite to me and I looked through the papers. They were forms, with blanks left for descriptions specifying the name, occupation, age, address and so forth of arrested persons. I signed these, and pushing them across the table to the man, asked him what was to be done with us. "You will be shot", he replied, quickly and decisively. "Both of us ? " I asked. "Both", he replied. " But", said I, "my companion has done nothing to deserve death. He was drawn into this struggle entirely by me. Consider, too, his advanced age. His hair is white; he stoops, and, had it not been for the difficulty with which he moves his limbs, both of us would probably be at this moment in a place of safety. What can you gain by shooting an old man such as he ? " The officer was silent. He neither favoured nor discouraged me by his manner. While I sat awaiting his reply, I glanced at the hand with which I had just signed the papers, and a sudden idea flashed into my mind. "At least", I said, "grant me one request. If my companion must die, let me die first." Now I made this request for the following reason. In my right hand, the line of life broke abruptly halfway in its length, indicating a sudden and violent death. But the point at which it broke was terminated by a perfectly marked square, extraordinarily clear-cut and distinct. Such a square, occurring at the end of a broken line means rescue, salvation. I had long been aware of this strange figuration in my hand, and had often wondered what it presaged. But now, as once more I looked at it, it came upon me with sudden conviction that in some way I was [Page 73] destined to be delivered from death at the last moment, and I thought that if this be so it would be horrible should C. have been killed first. If I were to be saved. I should certainly save him also, for my pardon would involve the pardon of both, or my rescue the rescue of both. Therefore it was important to provide for his safety until after my fate was decided. The officer seemed to take this last request into more serious consideration than the first. He said shortly: " I may be able to manage that for you," and then at once rose and took up the papers I had signed. " When are we to be shot ? " I asked him. "Tomorrow morning", he replied, as promptly as before. Then he went out, turning the key of the guard-room upon me.


 

The dawn of the next day broke darkly. It was a terribly stormy day; great black lurid thunderclouds lay piled along the horizon, and came up slowly and awfully against the wind. I looked upon them with terror; they seemed so near the earth, and so like living, watching things. They hung out of the sky, extending long ghostly arms downwards, and their gloom and density seemed supernatural. The soldiers took us out, our hands bound behind us, into a quadrangle at the back of their barracks. The scene is sharply impressed on my mind. A palisade of two sides of a square, made of wooden planks, ran round the quadrangle. Behind this palisade, and pressed up close against it, was a mob of men and women — the people of the town — come to see the execution. But their faces were sympathetic; an unmistakable look of mingled grief and rage, not unmixed with desperation — for they were a down-trodden folk — shone in the hundreds of eyes turned towards us. [Page 74] I was the only woman among the condemned. C. was there, and poor Fou, looking bewildered, and one or two other prisoners. On the third and fourth sides of the quadrangle was a high wall, and in a certain place was a niche partly enclosing the trunk of a tree, cut off at the top. An iron ring was driven into the trunk midway, evidently for the purpose of securing condemned persons for execution. I guessed it would be used for that now. In the centre of the square piece of ground stood a file of soldiers, armed with carbines, and an officer with a drawn sabre. The palisade was guarded by a row of soldiers somewhat sparsely distributed, certainly not more than a dozen in all. A Catholic priest in a black cassock walked beside me, and as we were conducted into the enclosure, he turned to me and offered religious consolation. I declined his ministrations, but asked him anxiously if he knew which of us was to die first. You he replied; "the officer in charge of you said you wished it, and he has been able to accede to your request." Even then I felt a singular joy at hearing this, though I had no longer any expectation of release. Death was, I thought, far too near at hand for that. Just then a soldier approached us, and led me, bareheaded, to the tree trunk, where he placed me with my back against it, and made fast my hands behind me with a rope to the iron ring. No bandage was put over my eyes. I stood thus, facing the file of soldiers in the middle of the quadrangle, and noticed that the officer with the drawn sabre placed himself at the extremity of the line, composed of six men. In that supreme moment I also noticed that their uniform was bright with steel accoutrements. Their helmets were of steel, and their carbines, as they raised them and pointed them at me, [Page 75] ready cocked, glittered in a fitful gleam of sunlight with the same burnished metal. There was an instant's stillness and hush while the men took aim; then I saw the officer raise his bared sabre as the signal to fire. It flashed in the air; then, with a suddenness impossible to convey, the whole quadrangle blazed with an awful light, — a light so vivid, so intense, so blinding, so indescribable that everything was blotted out and devoured by it. It crossed my brain with instantaneous conviction that this amazing glare was the physical effect of being shot, and that the bullets had pierced my brain or heart, and caused this frightful sense of all-pervading flame. Vaguely I remembered having read or having been told that such was the result produced on the nervous system of a victim to death from firearms. " It is over", I said, " that was the bullets". But presently there forced itself on my dazed senses a sound — a confusion of sounds — darkness succeeding the white flash — then steadying itself into gloomy daylight; a tumult; a heap of stricken, tumbled men lying stone-still before me; a fearful horror upon every living face; and then ... it all burst on me with distinct conviction. The storm which had been gathering all the morning had culminated in its blackest and most electric point immediately overhead. The file of soldiers appointed to shoot us stood exactly under it. Sparkling with bright steel on head and breast and carbines, they stood shoulder to shoulder, a complete lightning conductor, and at the end of the chain they formed, their officer, at the critical moment, raised his shining, naked blade towards the sky. Instantaneously heaven opened, and the lightning fell, attracted by the burnished steel. From blade to carbine, from helmet to breastplate it ran, smiting every man dead as he stood. [Page 76] They fell like a row of ninepins, blackened in face and hand in an instant, — in the twinkling of an eye. Dead. The electric flame licked the life out of seven men in that second; not one moved a muscle or a finger again. Then followed a wild scene. The crowd, stupefied for a minute by the thunderbolt and the horror of the devastation it had wrought, presently recovered sense, and with a mighty shout hurled itself against the palisade, burst it, leapt over it and swarmed into the quadrangle, easily overpowering the unnerved guards. I was surrounded; eager hands unbound mine; arms were thrown about me; the people roared, and wept, and triumphed, and fell about me on their knees praising Heaven. I think rain fell, my face was wet with drops, and my hair, — but I knew no more, for I swooned and lay unconscious in the arms of the crowd. My rescue had indeed come, and from the very Heavens!

ROME, April 12, 1887.



DREAM-VERSES


THROUGH THE AGES

WAKE, thou that sleepest! Soul, awake !

Thy light is come, arise and shine !

For darkness melts, and dawn divine

Doth from the holy Orient break;

Swift-darting down the shadowy ways

And misty deeps of unborn Time,

God's Light, God's Day, whose perfect prime

Is as the light of seven days.


Wake, prophet-soul, the time draws near,

The God who knows within thee stirs

And speaks, for His thou art, and Hers

Who bears the mystic shield and spear.


The hidden secrets of their shrine

Where thou, initiate, didst adore,

Their quickening finger shall restore

And make its glories newly thine.


A touch divine shall thrill thy brain,

Thy soul shall leap to life, and lo !

What she has known, again shall know;

What she has seen, shall see again;


The ancient Past through which she came,—

A cloud across a sunset sky,—

A cactus flower of scarlet dye,—

A bird with throat and wings of flame;— [Page 78]

A red wild roe, whose mountain bed

Nor ever hound or hunter knew,

Whose flying footprint dashed the dew

In nameless forests, long since dead.


And ever thus in ceaseless roll

The wheels of Destiny and Time

Through changing form and age and clime

Bear onward the undying Soul:


Till now a Sense, confused and dim,

Dawns in a shape of nobler mould,

Less beast, scarce human; uncontrolled,

With free fierce life in every limb;


A savage youth, in painted gear,

Foot fleeter than the summer wind;

Scant speech for scanty needs designed,

Content with sweetheart, spoil and spear:


And, passing thence, with burning breath,

A fiery Soul that knows no fear,

The arméd hosts of Odin hear

Her voice amid the ranks of death;


There, where the sounds of war are shrill,

And clarion shrieks, and battle roars,

Once more set free, she leaps and soars

A Soul of flame, aspiring still !


Till last, in fairer shape she stands

Where lotos-scented waters glide,

A Theban Priestess, dusky-eyed,

Barefooted on the golden sands; [Page 79]

Or, prostrate, in the Temple-halls,

When Spirits wake, and mortals sleep,

She hears what mighty Voices sweep

Like winds along the columned walls.


A Princess then beneath the palms

Which wave o'er Afric's burning plains,

The blood of Afric in thy veins,

A golden circlet on thine arms.


By sacred Ganges' sultry tide,

With dreamy gaze and claspéd hands

Thou walkst a Seeress in the lands

Where holy Buddha lived and died.


Anon, a sea-bleached mountain cave

Makes shelter for thee, grave and wan,

Thou solemn, solitary Man,

Who, nightly, by the star-lit wave


Invokest with illumined eyes

The steadfast Lords who rule and wait

Beyond the heavens and Time and fate.

Until the perfect Dawn shall rise,


And oracles, through ages dumb,

Shall wake, and holy forms shall shine

On mountain peaks in light divine,

When mortals bid God's kingdom come !


So turns the wheel of thy [keen] soul;

From birth to birth her ruling stars,

Swift Mercury and fiery Mars,

In ever changing orbits roll!


PARIS, May 1880. [Page 80]

FRAGMENT - 1 -

A jarring note, a chord amiss —

The music's sweeter after,

Like wrangling ended with a kiss,

Or tears, with silver laughter.


The high gods have no joys like these,

So sweet in human story;

No tempest rends their tranquil seas

Beyond the sunset glory.


The whirling wheels of Time and Fate

 


 


FRAGMENT 2


[These are not properly dream-verses, having been suddenly presented to the waking vision one day in Paris while gazing at the bright sky. (Ed)]

I thank Thee, Lord, who hast through devious ways

Led me to know Thy Praise,

And to this Wildernesse

Hast brought me out, Thine Israel to blesse.


If should faint with Thirst, or weary, sink,

To these my Soule is Drink,

To these the Majick Rod

Is Life, and mine is hid with Christ in God. [Page 81]

 

SIGNS OF THE TIMES

Eyes of the dawning in heaven ?

Sparks from the opening of hell ?

Gleams from the altar-lamps seven ?

Can you tell ?


Is it the glare of a fire ?

Is it the breaking of day ?

Birth-lights, or funeral pyre?

Who shall say ?

April 19, 1886.


WITH THE GODS

Sweet lengths of shore with sea between,

Sweet gleams of tender blue and green,

Sweet wind caressive and unseen,

Soft breathing from the deep;


What joy have I in all sweet things;

How clear and bright my spirit sings;

Rising aloft on mystic wings;

 While sense and body sleep.


In some such dream of grace and light,

My soul shall pass into the sight

Of the dear Gods who in the height

Of inward being dwell; [Page 82]

And joyful at Her perfect feet

Whom most of all I long to greet,

My soul shall lie in meadow sweet

All white with asphodel.

August 31, 1887 [Pages 83 - 85]




PART II

DREAM-STORIES


 

- 1 - A VILLAGE OF SEERS

A CHRISTMAS STORY

A DAY or two before Christmas, a few years since, I found myself compelled by business to leave England for the Continent.


I am an American, junior partner in a London mercantile house having a large Swiss connection; and a transaction — needless to specify here — required immediate and personal supervision abroad, at a season of the year when I would gladly have kept festival in London with my friends. But my journey was destined to bring me an adventure of a very remarkable character, which made me full amends for the loss of Christmas cheer at home.


I crossed the Channel at night from Dover to Calais. The passage was bleak and snowy, and the passengers were very few. On board the steamboat I remarked one traveller whose appearance and manner struck me as altogether unusual and interesting, and I deemed it by no means a disagreeable circumstance that, on arriving at Calais, this man entered the compartment of the railway carriage in which I had already seated myself.


So far as the dim light permitted me a glimpse of the [Page 86] stranger's face, I judged him to be about fifty years of age. The features were delicate and refined in type, the eyes dark and deep-sunken, but full of intelligence and thought, and the whole aspect of the man denoted good birth, a nature given to study and meditation, and a life of much sorrowful experience.


Two other travellers occupied our carriage until Amiens was reached. They then left us, and the interesting stranger and I remained alone together.


" A bitter night", I said to him, as I drew up the window, " and the worst of it is yet to come ! The early hours of dawn are always the coldest".


" I suppose so," he answered in a grave voice. The voice impressed me as strongly as the face; it was subdued and restrained, the voice of a man undergoing great mental suffering.


" You will find Paris bleak at this season of the year", I continued, longing to make him talk. " It was colder there last winter than in London."


" I do not stay in Paris," he replied, " save to breakfast."


"Indeed; that is my case. I am going on to Bâle."


" And I also", he said, " and further yet".


Then he turned his face to the window, and would say no more. My speculations regarding him multipled with his taciturnity. I felt convinced that he was a man with a romance, and a desire to know its nature became strong in me. We breakfasted apart at Paris, but I watched him into his compartment for Bâle, and sprang in after him. During the first part of our journey we slept; but, as we neared the Swiss frontier, a spirit of wakefulness took hold of us, and fitful sentences were exchanged. My companion, it appeared, intended to [Page 87] rest but a single day at Bâle. He was bound for far-away Alpine regions, ordinarily visited by tourists during the summer months only, and, one would think, impassable at this season of the year.


" And you go alone ? " I asked him. " You will have no companions to join you?"


" I shall have guides", he answered, and relapsed into meditative silence.


Presently I ventured another question: "You go on business, perhaps — not on pleasure ? "


He turned his melancholy eyes on mine. "Do I look as if I were travelling for pleasure's sake ? " he asked gently.


I felt rebuked, and hastened to apologise. " Pardon me; I ought not to have said that. But you interest me greatly, and I wish, if possible, to be of service to you. If you are going into Alpine districts on business and alone, at this time of the year — "

There I hesitated and paused. How could I tell him that he interested me so much as to make me long to know the romance which, I felt convinced, attached to his expedition ?


Perhaps he perceived what was in my mind, for he questioned me in his turn. " And you — have you business in Bâle ? "


" Yes, and in other places. My accent may have told you my nationality. I travel in the interests of the American firm, Fletcher Bros., Roy, & Co., whose London house, no doubt, you know. But I need remain only twenty-four hours in Bâle. Afterwards I go to Berne, then to Geneva. I must, however, wait for letters from England after doing my business at Bâle, and I shall have some days free." [Page 88]

"How many?"


" From the 21st to the 26th."


He was silent for a minute, meditating. Then he took from his travelling-bag a porte-feullle, and from the porte-feuille a visiting-card, which he handed to me.


" That is my name," he said briefly.


I took the hint, and returned the compliment in kind. On his card I read:


MR CHARLES DENIS ST AUBYN,
Grosvenor Square, London.
St Aubyn's Court, Shrewsbury.


And mine bore the legend:


MR FRANK ROY, Merchants' Club, W. C.


"Now that we are no longer unknown to each other," said I, " may I ask, without committing an indiscretion, if I can use the free time at my disposal in your interests ? "


"You are very good, Mr Roy. It is the characteristic of your nation to be kind-hearted and readily interested in strangers." Was this sarcastic? I wondered. Perhaps; but he said it quite courteously. " I am a solitary and unfortunate man. Before I accept your kindness, will you permit me to tell you the nature of the journey I am making? It is a strange one."


He spoke huskily, and with evident effort. I assented eagerly.


The following, recounted in broken sentences, and with many abrupt pauses, is the story to which I listened:


Mr St Aubyn was a widower. His only child, a boy twelve years of age, had been for a year past afflicted with loss of speech and hearing, the result of a severe [Page 89] typhoid fever, from which he barely escaped with life. Last summer, his father, following medical advice, brought him to Switzerland, in the hope that Alpine air, change of scene, exercise, and the pleasure of the trip, would restore him to his normal condition. One day father and son, led by a guide, were ascending a mountain pathway, not ordinarily regarded as dangerous, when the boy, stepping aside to view the snowy ranges above and around, slipped on a treacherous fragment of half-detached rock, and went sliding into the ravine beneath. The height of the fall was by no means great, and the level ground on which the boy would necessarily alight was overgrown with soft herbage and long grass, so that neither the father nor the guide at first conceived any serious apprehensions for the safety of the boy's life or limbs. He might be bruised, perhaps even a few cuts or a sprained wrist might disable him for a few days, but they feared nothing worse than these. As quickly as the slippery ground would permit, they descended the winding path leading to the meadow, but when they reached it, the boy was nowhere to be seen. Hours passed in vain and anxious quest; no track, no sound, no clue assisted the seekers, and the shouts of the guide, if they reached, as doubtless they did, the spot where the lost boy lay, fell on ears as dull and deadened as those of a corpse. Nor could the boy, if crippled by his fall, and unable to show himself, give evidence of his whereabouts by so much as a single cry. Both tongue and ears were sealed by infirmity, and any low sound such as that he might have been able to utter would have been rendered inaudible by the torrent rushing through the ravine hard by. At nightfall the search was suspended, to be renewed before daybreak with fresh assistance from the [Page 90] nearest village. Some of the new-comers spoke of a cave on the slope of the meadow, into which the boy might have crept. This was easily reached. It was apparently of but small extent; a few goats reposed in it, but no trace of the child was discoverable. After some days spent in futile endeavour, all hope was abandoned. The father returned to England to mourn his lost boy, and another disaster was added to the annual list of casualties in the Alps.


So far the story was sad enough, but hardly romantic. I clasped the hand of the narrator, and assured him warmly of my sympathy, adding, with as little appearance of curiosity as I could command: —


"And your object in coming back is only, then, to — to — be near the scene of your great trouble ? "


"No, Mr Roy; that is not the motive of my journey. I do not believe either that my boy's corpse lies concealed among the grasses of the plateau, or that it was swept away, as has been suggested, by the mountain cataract. Neither hypothesis seems to me tenable. The bed of the stream was followed and searched for miles; and though, when he fell, he was carrying over his shoulder a flask and a thick fur-lined cloak, — for we expected cold on the heights, and went provided against it, — not a fragment of anything belonging to him was found. Had he fallen into the torrent, it is impossible his clothing should not have become detached from the body and caught by the innumerable rocks in the shallow parts of the stream. But that is not all. I have another reason for the belief I cherish." He leaned forward, and added in firmer and slower tones: " I am convinced that my boy still lives, for — / have seen him"


" You have seen him !" I cried. [Page 91]

"Yes; again and again — in dreams. And always in the same way, and with the same look. He stands before me, beckoning to me, and making signs that I should come and help him. Not once or twice only, but many times, night after night I have seen the same thing!"


Poor father! Poor desolate man! Not the first driven distraught by grief; not the first deluded by the shadows of love and longing !


" You think I am deceived by hallucinations," he said, watching my face. " It is you who are misled by the scientific idiots of the day, the wiseacres who teach us to believe, whenever soul speaks to soul, that the highest and holiest communion attainable by man is the product of physical disease! Forgive me the energy of my words; but had you loved and lost your beloved — wife and child — as I have done, you would comprehend the contempt and anger with which I regard those modern teachers whose cold and ghastly doctrines give the lie, not only to all human hopes and aspirations towards the higher life, but also to the possibility of that very progress from lower to nobler forms which is the basis of their own philosophy, and to the conception of which the idea of the soul and of love are essential ! Evolution pre-supposes possible perfecting, and the conscious adaptation of means to ends in order to attain it. And both the ideal itself and the endeavour to reach it are incomprehensible without desire, which is love, and whose seat is in the interior self, the living soul — the maker of the outward form ! "


He was roused from his melancholy now, and spoke connectedly and with enthusiasm. I was about to reassure him in regard to my own philosophical convictions, [Page 92] the soundness of which he seemed to question, when his voice sank again, and he added earnestly: —


" I tell you I have seen my boy, and that I know he lives, — not in any far-off sphere beyond the grave, but here on earth, among living men ! Twice since his loss I have returned from England to seek him, in obedience to the vision, but in vain, and I have gone back home to dream the same dream. But — only last week — I heard a wonderful story. It was told me by a friend who is a great traveller, and who has but just returned from a lengthened tour in the south. I met him at my club, by accident, as unthinking persons say. He told me that there exists, buried away out of common sight and knowledge, in the bosom of the Swiss Alps, a little village whose inhabitants possess, in varying degrees, a marvellous and priceless faculty. Almost all the dwellers in this village are mutually related, either bearing the same ancestral name, or being branches from one original stock. The founder of this community was a blind man, who, by some unexplained good fortune, acquired or became endowed with the psychic faculty called second sight, or clairvoyance. This faculty, it appears, is now the hereditary property of the whole village, more developed in the blind man's immediate heirs than in his remoter relatives; but, strange to say, it is a faculty which, for a reason connected with the history of its acquirement, they enjoy only once a year, and that is on Christmas Eve. I know well," continued Mr St Aubyn, "all you have it in your mind to say. Doubtless, you would hint to me that the narrator of the tale was amusing himself with my credulity; or that these Alpine villagers, if they exist, are not clairvoyants, but charlatans trading on the [Page 93] folly of the curious, or even that the whole story is a chimera of my own dreaming brain. I am willing that, if it please you, you should accept any of these hypotheses. As for me, in my sorrow and despair, I am resolved to leave no means untried to recover my boy; and it happens that the village in question is not far from the scene of the disaster which deprived me of him. A strange hope — a confidence even — grows in my heart as I approach the end of my journey. I believe I am about to verify the truth of my friend's story, and that, through the wonderful faculty possessed by these Alpine peasants, the promise of my visions will be realized."


His voice broke again, he ceased speaking, and turned his face away from me. I was greatly moved, and anxious to impress him with a belief in the sincerity of my sympathy, and in my readiness to accept the truth of the tale he had repeated.


"Do not think", I said with some warmth, " that I am disposed to make light of what you tell me, strange though it sounds. Out in the West, where I come from, I heard, when a boy, many a story at least as curious as yours. In our wild country, odd things chance at times, and queer circumstances, they say, happen in out of the way tracks in forest and prairie; — aye, and there are strange creatures that haunt the bush, some tell, in places where no human foot is wont to tread. So that nothing of this sort comes upon me with an air of newness, at least! I mayn't quite trust it, as you do, but I am no scoffer. Look, now, Mr St Aubyn, I have a proposal to make. You are alone, and purpose undertaking a bitter and, it may be, a perilous journey in mountain ground at this season. What say you to [Page 94] taking me along with you ? May be, I shall prove of some use; and at any rate, your adventure and your story interest me greatly !"


I was quite tremulous with apprehension lest he should refuse my request, but he did not. He looked earnestly and even fixedly at me for a minute, then silently held out his hand and grasped mine with energy. It was a sealed compact. After that we considered ourselves comrades, and continued our journey together.


Our day's rest at Bâle being over, and the business which concerned me there transacted, we followed the route indicated by Mr St Aubyn, and on the evening of the 22nd of December arrived at a little hill station, where we found a guide who promised to conduct us the next morning to the village we sought. Sunrise found us on our way, and a tramp of several weary hours, with occasional breaks for rest and refreshment, brought us at last to the desired spot.


It was a quaint, picturesque little hamlet, embosomed in a mountain recess, a sheltered oasis in the midst of a wind-swept, snow-covered region. The usual Swiss trade of wood-carving appeared to be the principal occupation of the community. The single narrow street was thronged with goats, whose jingling many-toned bells made an incessant and agreeable symphony. Under the projecting roofs of the log-built châlets bundles of dried herbs swung in the frosty air; stacks of fir-wood, handy for use, were piled about the doorways, and here and there we noticed a huge dog of the St Bernard breed, with solemn face, and massive paws that left tracks like a lion's in the fresh-fallen snow. A rosy afternoon-radiance glorified the surrounding mountains and warmed the aspect of the little village as we entered it. It was not [Page 95] more than three o'clock, yet already the sun drew near the hill-tops, and in a short space he would sink behind them and leave the valleys immersed in twilight. Inn or hostelry proper there was none in this out of the world recess, but the peasants were right willing to entertain us, and the owner of the largest châlet in the place speedily made ready the necessary board and lodging. Supper — of goat's milk cheese, coarse bread, honey, and drink purporting to be coffee — being concluded, the villagers began to drop in by twos and threes to have a look at us; and presently, at the invitation of our host, we all drew our stools around the pine-wood fire, and partook of a strange beverage served hot with sugar and toast, tasting not unlike elderberry wine. Meanwhile my English friend, more conversant than myself with the curiously mingled French and German patois of the district, plunged into the narration of his trouble, and ended with a frank and pathetic appeal to those present, that if there were any truth in the tale he had heard regarding the annual clairvoyance of the villagers, they would consent to use their powers in his service.


Probably they had never been so appealed to before. When my friend had finished speaking, silence, broken only by a few half-audible whispers, fell on the group. I began to fear that, after all, he had been either misinformed or misunderstood, and was preparing to help him out with an explanation to the best of my ability, when a man sitting in the chimney-corner rose and said that, if we pleased, he would fetch the grandsons of the original seer, who would give us the fullest information possible on the subject of our inquiry. This announcement was encouraging, and we assented with joy. He left the châlet, and shortly afterwards returned with two [Page 95] stalwart and intelligent-looking men of about thirty and thirty-five respectively, accompanied by a couple of St Bernards, the most magnificent dogs I had ever seen. I was reassured instantly, for the faces of these two peasants were certainly not those of rogues or fools. They advanced to the centre of the assembly, now numbering some twenty persons, men and women, and were duly introduced to us by our host as Theodor and Augustin Raoul. A wooden bench by the hearth was accorded them, the great dogs couched at their feet, pipes were lit here and there among the circle; and the scene, embellished by the ruddy glow of the flaming pine-logs, the unfamiliar costume of the peasantry, the quaint furniture of the chalet-kitchen in which we sat, and enhanced by the strange circumstances of our journey and the yet stranger story now recounted by the two Raouls, became to my mind every moment more romantic and unworld-like. But the intent and strained expression of St Aubyn's features as he bent eagerly forward, hanging as if for life or death on the words which the brothers poured forth, reminded me that, in one respect at least, the spectacle before me presented a painful reality, and that for this desolate and lonely man every word of the Christmas tale told that evening was pregnant with import of the deepest and most serious kind. Here, in English guise, is the legend of the Alpine seer, recounted with much gesticulation and rugged dramatic force by his grandsons, the younger occasionally interpolating details which the elder forgot, confirming the data, and echoing with a sonorous interjection the exclamations of the listeners.


Augustin Franz Raoul, the grandfather of the men who addressed us, originally differed in no respect, save that [Page 97] of blindness, from ordinary people. One Christmas Eve, as the day drew towards twilight, and a driving storm of frozen snow raged over the mountains, he, his dog Hans, and his mule were fighting their way home up the pass in the teeth of the tempest. At a turn of the road they came on a priest carrying the Viaticum to a dying man who inhabited a solitary hut in the valley below. The priest was on foot, almost spent with fatigue, and bewildered by the blinding snow which obscured the pathway and grew every moment more impenetrable and harder to face. The whirling flakes circled and danced before his sight, the winding path was well-nigh obliterated, his brain grew dizzy and his feet unsteady, and he felt that without assistance he should never reach his destination in safety. Blind Raoul, though himself tired, and longing for shelter, listened with sympathy to the priest's complaint, and answered, "Father, you know well I am hardly a pious son of the Church; but if the penitent dying down yonder needs spiritual consolation from her, Heaven forbid that I should not do my utmost to help you to him ! Sightless though I am, I know my way over these crags as no other man knows it, and the snow-storm which bewilders your eyes so much cannot daze mine. Come, mount my mule, Hans will go with us, and we three will take you to your journey's end safe and sound."


" Son", answered the priest, "God will reward you for this act of charity. The penitent to whom I go bears an evil reputation as a sorcerer, and we all know his name well enough in these parts. He may have some crime on his conscience which he desires to confess before death. But for your timely help I should not be able to fight my way through this [Page 98] tempest to his door, and he would certainly perish unshriven.”


The fury of the storm increased as darkness came on. Dense clouds of snow obscured the whole landscape, and rendered sky and mountain alike indistinguishable. Terror seized the priest; but for the blind man, to whose sight day and night were indifferent, these horrors had no great danger. He and his dumb friends plodded quietly and slowly on in the accustomed path, and at length, close upon midnight, the valley was safely reached, and the priest ushered into the presence of his penitent. What the dying sorcerer's confession was the blind man never knew; but after it was over, and the Sacred Host had passed his lips, Raoul was summoned to his bedside, where a strange and solemn voice greeted him by name and thanked him for the service he had rendered.


"Friend", said the dying man, "you will never know how great a debt I owe you. But before I pass out of the world, I would fain do somewhat towards repayment. Sorcerer though I am by repute, I cannot give you that which, were it possible, I would give with all my heart, the blessing of physical sight. But may God hear the last earthly prayer of a dying penitent, and grant you a better gift and a rarer one than even that of the sight of your outward eyes, by opening those of your spirit ! And may the faculty of that interior vision be continued to you and yours so long as ye use it in deeds of mercy and human kindness such as this !"


The speaker laid his hand a moment on the blind man's forehead, and his lips moved silently awhile, though Raoul saw it not. The priest and he remained to the last with the penitent; and when the grey Christmas [Page 99] morning broke over the whitened plain they left the little hut in which the corpse lay, to apprise the dwellers in the valley hamlet of the death of the wizard, and to arrange for his burial. And ever since that Christmas Eve, said the two Raouls, their grandfather found himself when the sacred time came round again, year after year, possessed of a new and extraordinary power, that of seeing with the inward senses of the spirit whatever he desired to see, and this as plainly and distinctly, miles distant, as at his own threshold. The power of interior vision came upon him in sleep or in trance, precisely as with the prophets and sybils of old, and in this condition, sometimes momentary only, whole scenes were flashed before him, the faces of friends leagues away became visible, and he seemed to touch their hands. At these times nothing was hidden from him; it was necessary only that he should desire fervently to see any particular person or place, and that the intent of the wish should be innocent, and he became straightway clairvoyant. To the blind man, deprived in early childhood of physical sight, this miraculous power was an inestimable consolation, and Christmas Eve became to him a festival of illumination whose annual reminiscences and anticipations brightened the whole round of the year. And when at length he died, the faculty remained a family heritage, of which all his descendants partook in some degree, his two grandsons, as his nearest kin, possessing the gift in its completest development. And — most strange of all — the two hounds which lay couched before us by the hearth, appeared to enjoy a share of the sorcerer's benison ! These dogs, Fritz and Bruno, directly descended from Hans, had often displayed strong evidence of lucidity, and under its influence they had been known to [Page 100] act with acumen and sagacity wholly beyond the reach of ordinary dogs. Their immediate sire, Glück, was the property of a community of monks living fourteen miles distant in the Arblen valley; and though the Raouls were not aware that he had yet distinguished himself by any remarkable exploit of a clairvoyant character, he was commonly credited with a goodly share of the family gift.


"And the mule ? " I asked thoughtlessly.


"The mule, monsieur", replied the younger Raoul, with a smile, "has been dead many long years. Naturally he left no posterity."


Thus ended the tale, and for a brief space all remained silent, while many glances stole furtively towards St Aubyn. He sat motionless, with bowed head and folded arms, absorbed in thought.


One by one the members of the group around us rose, knocked the ashes from their pipes, and with a few brief words quitted the châlet. In a few minutes there remained only our host, the two Raouls, with their dogs, my friend, and myself. Then St Aubyn found his voice. He too rose, and in slow tremulous tones, addressing Theodor, asked, —


"You will have everything prepared for an expedition tomorrow, in case — you should have anything to tell us?”


"All shall be in readiness, monsieur. Pierre (the host) will wake you by sunrise, for with the dawn of Christmas Eve our lucid faculty returns to us, and if we should have good news to give, the start ought to be made early. We may have far to go, and the days are short.”


He whistled to the great hounds, wished us good-night, [Page 101] and the two brothers left the house together, followed by Fritz and Bruno.


Pierre lighted a lantern, and mounting a ladder in the corner of the room, invited us to accompany him. We clambered up this primitive staircase with some difficulty, and presently found ourselves in a bed-chamber not less quaint and picturesque than the kitchen below. Our beds were both prepared in this room, round the walls of which were piled goat's-milk cheeses, dried herbs, sacks of meal, and other winter provender.


Outside it was a star-lit night, clear, calm, and frosty, with brilliant promise for the coming day. Long after I was in the land of dreams, I fancy St Aubyn lay awake, following with restless eyes the stars in their courses, and wondering whether from some far-off, unknown spot his lost boy might not be watching them also.


Dawn, grey and misty, enwrapped the little village when I was startled from my sleep by a noisy chorus of voices and a busy hurrying of footsteps. A moment later some one, heavily booted, ascended the ladder leading to our bedroom, and a ponderous knock resounded on our door. St Aubyn sprang from his bed, lifted the latch, and admitted the younger Raoul, whose beaming eyes and excited manner betrayed, before he spoke, the good tidings in store.


"We have seen him !" he cried, throwing up his hands triumphantly above his head. " Both of us have seen your son, monsieur ! Not half an hour ago, just as the dawn broke, we saw him in a vision, alive and well in a mountain cave, separated from the valley by a broad torrent. An Angel of the good Lord has ministered to him: it is a miracle! Courage, he will be restored to you. Dress quickly, and come down to breakfast. Everything is ready for the expedition, and there is no time to lose! "


These broken ejaculations were interrupted by the voice of the elder brother, calling from the foot of the ladder:


"Make haste, messieurs, if you please. The valley we have seen in our dream is fully twelve miles away, and to reach it we shall have to cut our way through the snow. It is bad at this time of the year, and the passes may be blocked ! Come, Augustin !"


Everything was now hurry and commotion. All the village was astir; the excitement became intense. From the window we saw men running eagerly towards our châlet with pickaxes, ropes, hatchets, and other necessary adjuncts of Alpine adventure. The two great hounds, with others of their breed, were bounding joyfully about in the snow, and showing, I thought, by their intelligent glances and impatient behaviour, that they already understood the nature of the intended day's work.


At sunrise we sat down to a hearty meal, and amid the clamor of voices and rattling of platters, the elder Raoul unfolded to us his plans for reaching the valley, which both he and his brother had recognized as the higher level of the Arblen, several thousand feet above our present altitude, and in mid-winter a perilous place to visit.


"The spot is completely shut off from the valley by the cataract", said he, "and last year a landslip blocked up the only route to it from the mountains. How the child got there is a mystery !"


" We must cut our way over the Thurgau Pass", cried Augustin.


"That is just my idea. Quick now, if you have [Page 103] finished eating, call Georges and Albert, and take the ropes with you ! "


Our little party was speedily equipped, and amid the lusty cheers of the men and the sympathetic murmurs of the women, we passed swiftly through the little snow-carpeted street and struck into the mountain path. We were six in number, St Aubyn and myself, the two Raouls, and a couple of villagers carrying the requisite implements of mountaineering, while the two dogs, Fritz and Bruno, trotted on before us.


At the outset there was some rough ground to traverse, and considerable work to be done with ropes and tools, for the slippery edges of the highland path afforded scarce any foothold, and in some parts the difficulties appeared well-nigh insurmountable. But every fresh obstacle overcome added a new zest to our resolution, and, cheered by the reiterated cry of the two seers, "Courage, messieurs ! Avançons! The worst will soon be passed !" we pushed forward with right good will, and at length found ourselves on a broad rocky plateau.


All this time the two hounds had taken the lead, pioneering us with amazing skill round precipitous corners, and springing from crag to crag over the icy ravines with a daring and precision which curdled my blood to witness. It was a relief to see them finally descend the narrow pass in safety, and halt beside us panting and exultant. All around lay glittering reaches of untrodden snow, blinding to look at, scintillant as diamond dust. We sat down to rest on some scattered boulders, and gazed with wonder at the magnificent vistas of glowing peaks towering above us, and the luminous expanse of purple gorge and valley, with the white, roaring torrents [Page 104] below, over which wreaths of foam-like filmy mist hovered and floated continually.


As I sat, lost in admiration, St Aubyn touched my arm, and silently pointed to Theodor Raoul. He had risen, and now stood at the edge of the plateau overhanging the lowland landscape, his head raised, his eyes wide-opened, his whole appearance indicative of magnetic trance. While we looked he turned slowly towards us, moved his hands to and fro with a gesture of uncertainty, as though feeling his way in the dark, and spoke with a slow dreamy utterance:


"I see the lad sitting in the entrance of the cavern, looking out across the valley, as though expecting some one. He is pallid and thin, and wears a dark-coloured mantle — a large mantle — lined with sable fur."


St Aubyn sprang from his seat. True ! he exclaimed. " It is the mantle he was carrying on his arm when he slipped over the pass ! O, thank God for that; it may have saved his life!"


"The place in which I see your boy", continued the mountaineer, "is fully three miles distant from the plateau on which we now stand. But I do not know how to reach it. I cannot discern the track. I am at fault! " He moved his hands impatiently to and fro, and cried in tones which manifested the disappointment he felt: "I can see no more! the vision passes from me. I can discover nothing but confused shapes merged in ever-increasing darkness !"


We gathered round him in some dismay, and St Aubyn urged the younger Raoul to attempt an elucidation of the difficulty. But he too failed. The scene in the cave appeared to him with perfect distinctness; but when he strove to trace the path which should conduct [Page 105] us to it, profound darkness obliterated the vision.


"It must be underground," he said, using the groping action we had already observed on Theodor's part. " It is impossible to distinguish anything, save a few vague outlines of rock. Now there is not a glimmer of light; all is profound gloom !"


Suddenly, as we stood discussing the situation, one advising this, another that, a sharp bark from one of the hounds startled us all, and immediately arrested our consultation. It was Fritz who had thus interrupted the debate. He was running excitedly to and fro, sniffing about the edge of the plateau, and every now and then turning himself with an abrupt jerk, as if seeking something which eluded him. Presently Bruno joined in this mysterious quest, and the next moment, to our admiration and amazement, both dogs simultaneously lifted their heads, their eyes illumined with intelligence and delight, and uttered a prolonged and joyous cry that reverberated chorus-like from the mountain wall behind us.


"They know ! They see ! They have the clue ! " cried the peasants, as the two hounds leapt from the plateau down the steep declivity leading to the valley, scattering the snow-drifts of the crevices pell-mell in their headlong career. In frantic haste we resumed our loads, and hurried after our flying guides with what speed we could. When the dogs had reached the next level, they paused and waited, standing with uplifted heads and dripping tongues while we clambered down the gorge to join them. Again they took the lead; but this time the way was more intricate, and their progress slower. Single-file we followed them along a narrow winding track of [Page 106] broken ground, over which every moment a tiny torrent foamed and tumbled; and as we descended the air became less keen, the snow rarer, and a few patches of gentian and hardy plants appeared on the craggy sides of the mountain.


Suddenly a great agitation seized St Aubyn. "Look ! look!" he cried, clutching me by the arm; " here, where we stand, is the very spot from which my boy fell! And below yonder is the valley !"


Even as he uttered the words, the dogs halted and came towards us, looking wistfully into St Aubyn's face, as though they fain would speak to him. We stood still, and looked down into the green valley, green even in mid-winter, where a score of goats were browsing in the sunshine. Here my friend would have descended, but the Raouls bade him trust the leadership of the dogs.


" Follow them, monsieur", said Theodor, impressively; " they can see, and you cannot. It is the good God that conducts them. Doubtless they have brought us to this spot to show you they know it, and to inspire you with confidence in their skill and guidance. See! they are advancing! On ! do not let us remain behind!


Thus urged, we hastened after our canine guides, who, impelled by the mysterious influence of their strange faculty, were again pressing forward. This time the track ascended. Soon we lost sight of the valley, and an hour's upward scrambling over loose rocks and sharp crags brought us to a chasm, the two edges of which were separated by a precipitous gulf some twenty feet across. This chasm was probably about eight or nine hundred feet deep, and its sides were straight and sheer as those of a well. Our ladders were in requisition, [Page 107] now, and with the aid of these and the ropes, all the members of our party, human and canine, were safely landed on the opposite brink of the abyss.


We had covered about two miles of difficult ground beyond the chasm, when once more, on the brow of a projecting eminence, the hounds halted for the last time, and drew near St Aubyn, gazing up at him with eloquent exulting eyes, as though they would have said, " He whom you seek is here ! "


It was a wild and desolate spot, strewn with tempest-torn branches, a spot hidden from the sun by dense masses of pine foliage, and backed by sharp peaks of granite. St Aubyn looked around him, trembling with emotion.


"Shout", cried one of the peasants; " shout, the boy may hear you ! "


"Alas", answered the father, "he cannot hear; you forget that my child is deaf and dumb !"


At that instant, Theodor, who for a brief while had stood apart, abstracted and silent, approached St Aubyn and grasped his hand.


"Shout!" repeated he, with the earnestness of a command; " call your boy by his name ! "


St Aubyn looked at him with astonishment; then in a clear piercing voice obeyed.


"Charlie!" he cried; "Charlie, my boy ! where are you ? "


We stood around him in dread silence and expectancy, a group for a picture. St Aubyn in the midst, with white quivering face and clasped hands, the two Raouls on either side, listening intently, the dogs motionless and eager, their ears erect, their hair bristling round their stretched throats. You might have heard a pin drop on [Page 108] the rock at our feet, as we stood and waited after that cry. A minute passed thus, and then there was heard from below, at a great depth, a faint uncertain sound. One word only — uttered in the voice of a child, tremulous, and intensely earnest: " Father ! "


St Aubyn fell on his knees. "My God ! my God !" he cried, sobbing; "it is my boy ! He is alive, and can hear and speak !"


With feverish haste we descended the crag, and speedily found ourselves on a green sward, sheltered on three sides by high walls of cliff, and bounded on the fourth, southward, by a rushing stream some thirty feet from shore to shore. Beyond the stream was a wide expanse of pasture stretching down into the Arblen valley.


Again St Aubyn shouted, and again the child-like cry replied, guiding us to a narrow gorge or fissure in the cliff almost hidden under exuberant foliage. This passage brought us to a turfy knoll, upon which opened a deep recess in the mountain rock; a picturesque cavern, carpeted with moss, and showing, from some ancient, half obliterated carvings which here and there adorned its walls, that It had once served as a crypt or chapel, possibly in some time of ecclesiastical persecution. At the mouth of this cave, with startled eyes and pallid parted lips, stood a fair-haired lad, wrapped in the mantle described by the elder Raoul. One instant only he stood there; the next he darted forward, and fell with weeping and inarticulate cries into his father's embrace.


We paused, and waited aloof in silence, respecting the supreme joy and emotion of a greeting so sacred as this. The dogs only, bursting into the cave, leapt and [Page 109] gambolled about, venting their satisfaction in sonorous barks and turbulent demonstrations of delight. But for them, as they seemed well to know, this marvellous discovery would have never been achieved, and the drama which now ended with so great happiness, might have terminated in a life-long tragedy.


Therefore we were not surprised to see St Aubyn, after the first transport of the meeting, turn to the dogs, and clasping each huge rough head in turn, kiss it fervently and with grateful tears.


It was their only guerdon for that day's priceless service: the dumb beasts that love us do not work for gold !


And now came the history of the three long months which had elapsed since the occurrence of the disaster which separated my friend from his little son.


Seated on the soft moss of the cavern floor, St Aubyn in the midst and the boy beside him, we listened to the sequel of the strange tale recounted the preceding evening by Theodor and Augustin Raoul. And first we learnt that until the moment when his father's shout broke upon his ear that day, Charlie St Aubyn had remained as insensible to sound and as mute of voice as he was when his accident befell him. Even now that the powers of hearing and of speech were restored, he articulated uncertainly and with great difficulty, leaving many words unfinished, and helping out his phrases with gesticulations and signs, his father suggesting and assisting as the narrative proceeded. Was it the strong love in St Aubyn's cry that broke through the spell of disease and thrilled his child's dulled nerves into life ? was it the shock of an emotion coming unexpected and intense after all those dreary weeks of futile watchfulness ? or was the miracle an effect of the same Divine grace which, by [Page 110] means of a mysterious gift, had enabled us to track and to find this obscure and unknown spot ?


It matters little; the spirit of man is master of all things, and the miracles of love are myriad-fold. For, where love abounds and is pure, the spirit of man is as the Spirit of God.


Little St Aubyn had been saved from death, and sustained during the past three months by a creature dumb like himself: — a large dog exactly resembling Fritz and Bruno. This dog, he gave us to understand, came from over the torrent, indicating with a gesture the Arblen Valley; and, from the beginning of his troubles, had been to him like a human friend. The fall from the hill-side had not seriously injured, but only bruised and temporarily lamed the lad, and after lying for a minute or two a little stunned and giddy, he rose and with some difficulty made his way across the meadow slope on which he found himself, expecting to meet his father descending the path. But he miscalculated its direction, and speedily discovered he had lost his way. After waiting a long time in great suspense, and seeing no one but a few goatherds at a distance, whose attention he failed to attract, the pain of a twisted ankle, increased by continual movement, compelled him to seek a night's shelter in the cave subsequently visited by his father at the suggestion of the peasants who assisted in the search. These peasants were not aware that the cave was but the mouth of a vast and wandering labyrinth tunnelled, partly by nature and partly by art, through the rocky heart of the mountain. A little before sunrise, on the morning after his accident, the boy, examining with minute curiosity the picturesque grotto in which he had passed the night, discovered in its darkest corner a [Page 111] moss-covered stone behind which had accumulated a great quantity of weeds, ivy, and loose rubbish. Boy-like, he fell to clearing away these impedimenta and excavating the stone, until, after some industrious labour thus expended, he dismantled behind and a little above it a narrow passage, into which he crept, partly to satisfy his love of exploring, partly in the hope that it might afford him an egress in the direction of the village. The aperture thus exposed had not, in fact, escaped the eye of St Aubyn, when about an hour afterwards the search for the lost boy was renewed. But one of his guides, after a brief inspection, declared the recess into which it opened empty, and the party, satisfied with his report, left the spot, little thinking that all their labour had been lost by a too hasty examination. For, in fact, this narrow and apparently limited passage gradually widened in its darkest part, and, as little St Aubyn found, became by degrees a tolerably roomy corridor, in which he could just manage to walk upright, and into which light from the outer world penetrated dimly through artificial fissures hollowed out at intervals in the rocky wall. Delighted at this discovery, but chilled by the vault-like coldness of the place, the lad hastened back to fetch the fur mantle he had left in the cave, threw it over his shoulders, and returned to continue his exploration. The cavern gallery beguiled him with ever-new wonders at every step. Here rose a subterranean spring, there a rudely carved gurgoyle grinned from the granite roof; curious and intricate windings enticed his eager steps, while all the time the death-like and horrible silence which might have deterred an ordinary child from further advance, failed of its effect upon ears unable to distinguish between the living sounds of the outer world and the stillness of a sepulchre.[Page 112] Thus he groped and wandered, until he became aware that the gloom of the corridor had gradually deepened, and that the tiny openings in the rock were now far less frequent than at the outset. Even to his eyes, by this time accustomed to obscurity, the darkness grew portentous, and at every step he stumbled against some unseen projection, or bruised his hands in vain efforts to discover a returning path. Too late he began to apprehend that he was nearly lost in the heart of the mountain. Either the windings of the labyrinth were hopelessly confusing, or some débris, dislodged by the unaccustomed concussion of footsteps, had fallen from the roof and choked the passage behind him. The account which the boy gave of his adventure, and of his vain and long-continued efforts to retrace his way, made the latter hypothesis appear to us the more acceptable, the noise occasioned by such a fall having of course passed unheeded by him. In the end, thoroughly baffled and exhausted, the lad determined to work on through the Cimmerian darkness in the hope of discovering a second terminus on the further side of the mountain. This at length he did. A faint star-like outlet finally presented itself to his delighted eyes; he groped painfully towards it; gradually it widened and brightened, till at length he emerged from the subterranean gulf which had so long imprisoned him into the mountain cave wherein he had ever since remained. How long it had taken him to accomplish this passage he could not guess, but from the sun's position it seemed to be about noon when he again beheld day. He sat down, dazzled and fatigued, on the mossy floor of the grotto, and watched the mountain torrent eddying and sweeping furiously past in the gorge beneath his retreat. After [Page 113] a while he slept, and awoke towards evening faint with hunger and bitterly regretting the affliction which prevented him from attracting help.


Suddenly, to his great amaze, a huge tawny head appeared above the rocky edge of the plateau, and in another moment a St Bernard hound clambered up the steep bank and ran towards the cave. He was dripping wet, and carried, strapped across his broad back, a double panier, the contents of which proved on inspection to consist of three flasks of goat's milk, and some half-dozen rye loaves packed in a tin box.


The friendly expression and intelligent demeanour of his visitor invited little St Aubyn's confidence and reanimated his sinking heart. Delighted at such evidence of human proximity, and eager for food, he drank of the goat's milk and ate part of the bread, afterwards emptying his pockets of the few sous he possessed and enclosing them with the remaining loaves in the tin case, hoping that the sight of the coins would inform the dog's owners of the incident. The creature went as he came, plunging into the deepest and least boisterous part of the torrent, which he crossed by swimming, regained the opposite shore, and soon disappeared from view.


But next day, at about the same hour, the dog reappeared alone, again bringing milk and bread, of which again the lad partook, this time, however, having no sous to deposit in the basket. And when, as on the previous day, his new friend rose to depart, Charlie St Aubyn left the cave with him, clambered down the bank with difficulty, and essayed to cross the torrent ford. But the depth and rapidity of the current dismayed him, and with sinking heart the child returned to his abode. Every day the same thing happened, and at length the strange [Page 114] life became familiar to him, the trees, the birds, and the flowers became his friends, and the great hound a mysterious protector whom he regarded with reverent affection and trusted with entire confidence. At night he dreamed of home, and constantly visited his father in visions, saying always the same words, " Father, I am alive and well."


"And now", whispered the child, nestling closer in St Aubyn's embrace, " the wonderful thing is that today, for the first and only time since I have been in this cave, my dog has not come to me ! It looks, does it not, as if in some strange and fairy-like way he really knew what was happening, and had known it all along from the very beginning! O father ! can he be — do you think — can he be an Angel in disguise? And, to be sure, I patted him, and thought he was only a dog !"


As the boy, an awed expression in his lifted blue eyes, gave utterance to this naïve idea, I glanced at St Aubyn's face, and saw that, though his lips smiled, his eyes were grave and full of grateful wonder.


He turned towards the peasants grouped around us, and in their own language recited to them the child's story. They listened intently, from time to time exchanging among themselves intelligent glances and muttering interjections expressive of astonishment. When the last word of the tale was spoken, the elder Raoul, who stood at the entrance of the cave, gazing out over the sunlit valley of the Arblen, removed his hat with a reverent gesture and crossed himself.


"God forgive us miserable sinners", he said humbly, "and pardon us our human pride! The Angel of the Lord whom Augustin and I beheld in our vision, ministering to the lad, is no other than the dog Glück who [Page 115] lives at the monastery out yonder ! And while we men are lucid only once a year, he has the seeing gift all the year round, and the good God showed him the lad in this cave, when we, forsooth, should have looked for him in vain. I know that every day Glück is sent from the monastery laden with food and drink to a poor widow living up yonder over the ravine. She is infirm and bedridden, and her little grand-daughter takes care of her. Doubtless the poor soul took the sous in the basket to be the gift of the brothers, and, as her portion is not always the same from day to day, but depends on what they can spare from the store set apart for almsgiving, she would not notice the diminished cakes and milk, save perhaps to grumble a little at the increase of the beggars who trespassed thus on her pension."


There was silence among us for a moment, then St Aubyn's boy spoke.


"Father", he asked, tremulously, "shall I not see that good Glück again and tell the monks how he saved me, and how Fritz and Bruno brought you here ?"


" Yes, my child", answered St Aubyn, rising, and drawing the boy's hand into his own, "we will go and find Glück, who knows, no doubt, all that has passed today, and is waiting for us at the monastery."


" We must ford the torrent," said Augustin; " the bridge was carried off by last year's avalanche, but with six of us and the dogs it will be easy work."



Twilight was falling; and already the stars of Christmas Eve climbed the frosty heavens and appeared above the snowy far-off peaks.


Filled with gratitude and wonder at all the strange events of the day we betook ourselves to the ford, and by the help of ropes and stocks our whole party landed [Page 116] safely on the valley side. Another half-hour brought us into the warm glow of the monk's refectory fire, where, while supper was prepared, the worthy brothers listened to a tale at least as marvellous as any legend in their ecclesiastical repertory. I fancy they must have felt a pang of regret that holy Mother Church would find it impossible to bestow upon Glück and his two noble sons the dignity of canonization.

 


- 2 - STEEPSIDE

A GHOST STORY

THE strange things I am going to tell you, dear reader, did not occur, as such things generally do, to my great-uncle, or to my second cousin, or even to my grandfather, but to myself. It happened that a few years ago I received an invitation from an old schoolfellow to spend Christmas week with him in his country house on the borders of North Wales, and, as I was then a happy bachelor, and had not seen my friend for a considerable time, I accepted the invitation, and turned my back upon London on the appointed day with a light heart and anticipations of the pleasantest description.


Leaving my City haunts by a morning train, I was landed early in the afternoon at the nearest station to my friend's house, although in this case nearest was indeed, as it proved, by no means near. When I reached the inn where I had fondly expected to find " flys, omnibuses, and other vehicles obtainable on the shortest notice," I was met by the landlady of the establishment, [Page 117] who, with an apologetic curtsey and a deprecating smile, informed me that she was extremely sorry to say her last conveyance had just started with a party, and would not return until late at night. I looked at my watch; it was nearing four. Seven miles, and I had a large travelling-bag to carry.


"Is it a good road from here to -----?" I asked the landlady.


"Oh yes, sir; very fair."


"Well", I said, "I think I'll walk it. The railway journey has rather numbed my feet, and a sharp walk will certainly improve their temperature."


So I courageously lifted my bag and set out on the journey to my friend's house. Ah, how little I guessed what was destined to befall me before I reached that desired haven! I had gone, I suppose, about two miles when I descried behind me a vast mass of dark, surging cloud driving up rapidly with the wind. I was in open country, and there was evidently going to be a very heavy snowstorm. Presently it began. At first I made up my mind not to heed it; but in about twenty minutes after the commencement of the fall the snow became so thick and so blinding, that it was absolutely impossible for me to find my way along a road which was utterly new to me. Moreover, with the cloud came the twilight, and a most disagreeably keen wind. The travelling-bag became unbearably heavy. I shifted it from one hand to the other; I hung it over my shoulder; I put it under my arm; I carried it in all sorts of ways, but none afforded me any permanent relief. To add to my misfortune, I strongly suspected that I had mistaken my way, for by this time the snow was so deep that the footpath was altogether obliterated. In this predicament I [Page 118] looked out wistfully across the whitened landscape for signs of an inn or habitation of some description where I might put up for the night, and by good fortune (or was it bad ?) I at last espied through the gathering gloom a solitary and not very distant light twinkling from a lodge at the entrance of a private road. I fought my way through the snow as quickly as possible, and, presenting myself at the gate of the little cottage, rang the bell complacently, and flattered myself that I had at length discovered a resting-place. An old man with grey hair answered my summons. Him I acquainted with my misfortune, and to him I preferred my request that I might be allowed a night's shelter in the lodge, or at least the temporary privilege of drying myself and mes habillements at his fireside. The old fellow admitted me cheerfully enough; but he seemed more than doubtful as to the possibility of my passing the night beneath his roof. "Ye see, sir", he said, "we've only one small room — me and the missis; and I don't well see how we're to manage about you. All the same, sir, I wouldn't advise ye to go on tonight, for if ye're bound for Mr ------'s, ye've come a deal out of your way, and the storm's getting worse and worse every minute. We shall have a nasty night of it, sir, and it'll be a deal too stiff for travelling on foot."


Here the wife, a hospitable-looking old woman, interposed.


"Willum, don't ye think as the gentleman might be put to sleep in the room up at the House, where George slept last time he was here to see us ? His bed's there still, ye know. It's a very good room, sir," she argued, addressing me; " and I can give ye a pair of blankets in no time."[Page 119]

"But" said I, "the master of the house doesn't know me. I am a stranger here altogether."


"Lor! bless ye, sir !" answered my host, " there ain't nobody in the place. The house has been to let these ten years at least to my knowledge; for I've been here eight, and the house and the lodge had both been empty no one knows how long when I come, I rents this cottage of Mr Houghton, out yonder."


"Oh well", I rejoined, "if that is the case, and there is nobody's leave save yours to ask, I'm willing enough to sleep at the house, and thank you too for your kindness."


So it was arranged that I should pass the coming night within the walls of the empty mansion; and, until it was time to retire thither, I amused and edified myself by a friendly chat with the old man and his spouse, both of whom were vastly communicative. At ten o'clock I and my host adjourned to the house, which stood at a very short distance from the lodge. I carried my bag, and my companion bore the blankets already referred to, a candle, and some firewood and matches. The chamber to which he conducted me was comfortable enough, but by no means profusely furnished. It contained a small truckle bedstead, two chairs, and a washstand, but no attempt at pictures or ornaments of any description. Evidently it was an impromptu bedroom.


My entertainer in a few minutes kindled a cheerful fire upon the old-fashioned stone hearth. Then, after arranging my bed and placing my candle on the mantelpiece, he wished me a respectful good-night and withdrew. When he was gone I dragged one of the chairs towards the fireplace, and sat down to enjoy the pleasant flicker of the blaze. I ruminated upon the occurrences of the [Page 120] day, and the possible history of the old house, whose sole occupant I had thus strangely become. Now, I am of an inquisitive turn of mind, and perhaps less apt than most men to be troubled with that uncomfortable sensation which those people who are its victims describe as nervousness, and those who are not, as cowardice. Another in my place might have shrunk from doing what I presently resolved to do, and that was to explore, before going to rest, at least some part of this empty old house. Accordingly, I took up my candle and walked out into the passage, leaving the door of my room widely open, so that the fire-light streamed full into the entrance of the dark gallery, and served to guide me on my way along it. When I had thus progressed for some twenty yards, I was brought to a standstill by encountering a large red baize door, which evidently shut off the wing in which my room was situated from the rest of the mansion, and completely closed all egress from the corridor where I then stood. I paused a moment or two in uncertainty, for the door was locked; but presently my glance fell on an old rusty key hanging from a nail, likewise rusty, in a niche of the wall. I abstracted this key from its resting-place, destroying as I did so the residences of a dozen spiders, which, to judge from appearances, seemed to have thrived excellently in the atmosphere of desolation which surrounded them. It was some time before I could get the clumsy old lock to act properly, or summon sufficient strength to turn the key; but at length perseverance met with its proverbial reward, and the door moved slowly and noisily on its hinges. Still bearing my candle, I went on my way into a second corridor, which was literally carpeted with dust, the accumulation probably of the ten years to which my host had referred.[Page 121]

All round was gloomy and silent as a sepulchre, save that every now and then the loosened boards creaked beneath my tread, or some little misanthropical animal, startled from his hermitage by the unwonted sound of my steps, hurried across the passage, making as he went a tiny trail in the thick furry dust. Several galleries branched off from the mainway like tributary streams, but I preferred to steer my course down the central corridor, which finally conducted me to a large antique-looking apartment with carved wainscot and curious old paintings on the panelled walls. I put the candle upon a table which stood in the centre of the room, and standing beside it, took a general survey. There was an old mouldy-looking bookcase in one corner of the chamber, with some old mouldy books packed closely together on a few of its shelves. This piece of furniture was hollowed out, crescent-wise, at the base, and partially concealed a carved oaken door, which had evidently in former times been the means of communication with an adjoining apartment. Prompted by curiosity, I took down and opened a few of the nearest books on the shelves before me. They proved to be some of the very earliest volumes of the Spectator, — books of considerable interest to me, — and in ten minutes I was quite absorbed in an article by one of our most noted masters of literature. I drew one of the queer high-backed chairs scattered about the room, towards the table, and sat down to enjoy a feast of reason and a flow of soul. As I turned the mildewed page, something suddenly fell with a dull flop upon the paper. It was a drop of blood ! I stared at it with a strange sensation of mingled horror and astonishment. Could it have been upon the page before I turned it ? No; it was wet and bright, [Page 122] and presented the uneven, broken disc which drops of liquid always possess when they fall from a considerable height. Besides I had heard and seen it fall. I put the book down on the table and looked upward at the ceiling. There was nothing visible there save the grey dirt of years. I looked closely at the hideous blotch, and saw it rapidly soaking and widening its way into the paper, already softened with age. As, of course, after this incident I was not inclined to continue my studies of Addison and Steele, I shut the volume and replaced it on the shelves. Turning back towards the table to take up my candle, my eyes rested upon a full-length portrait immediately facing the bookcase. It was that of a young and handsome woman with glossy black hair coiled round her head, but, I thought, with something repulsive in the proud, stony face and shadowed eyes. I raised the light above my head to get a better view of the painting. As I did this, it seemed to me that the countenance of the figure changed, or rather that a Thing came between me and it. It was a momentary distortion, as though a gust of wind had passed across the portrait and disturbed the outline of the features; the how and the why I know not but the face changed; nor shall I ever forget the sudden horror of the look it assumed. It was like that face of phantom ghastliness that we see sometimes in the delirium of fever, — the face that meets us and turns upon us in the mazes of nightmare, with a look that wakes us in the darkness, and drives the cold sweat out upon our forehead while we lie still and hold our breath for fear. Man as I was, I shuddered convulsively from head to foot, and fixed my eyes earnestly on the terrible portrait. In a minute it was a mere picture again — an inanimate [Page 123] colored canvas — wearing no expression upon its painted features save that which the artist had given to it nearly a century ago. I thought then that the strange appearance I had witnessed was probably the effect of the fitful candle-light, or an illusion of my own vision; but now I believe otherwise. Seeing nothing further unusual in the picture, I turned my back upon it, and made a few steps towards the door, intending to quit this mysterious chamber of horrors, when a third and more hideous phenomenon riveted me to the spot where I stood; for, as I looked towards the oaken door in the corner, I became aware of something slowly filtering from beneath it, and creeping towards me. O heaven ! I had not long to look to know what that something was: — it was blood, — red, thick, stealthy ! On it came, winding its way in a frightful stream into the room, soddening the rich carpet, and lying presently in a black pool at my feet. It had trickled in from the adjoining chamber, that chamber the entrance to which was closed by the bookcase. There were some great volumes on the ground before the door, — volumes which I had noticed when I entered the room, on account of the thick dust with which they were surrounded. They were lying now in a pool of stagnant blood. It would be utterly impossible for me to attempt to describe my sensations at that minute. I was not capable of feeling any distinct emotion. My brain seemed oppressed, I could scarcely breathe — scarcely move. I watched the dreadful stream oozing drowsily through the crevices of the mouldy, rotting woodwork — bulging out in great beads like raindrops on the sides of the door — trickling noiselessly down the knots of the carved oak. Still I stood and watched it, and it crept on slowly, slowly, like a living thing, [Page 124] and growing as it came, to my very feet. I cannot say how long I might have stood there, fascinated by it, had not something suddenly occurred to startle me into my senses again; for full upon the back of my right hand fell, with a sullen, heavy sound, a second drop of blood. It stung and burnt my flesh like molten lead, and the sharp, sudden pain it gave me shot up my arm and shoulder, and seemed in an instant to mount into my brain and pervade my whole being. I turned and fled from the terrible place with a shrill cry that rang through the empty corridors and ghostly rooms like nothing human. I did not recognise it for my own voice, so strange it was, — so totally unlike its accustomed sound; and now, when I recall it, I am disposed to think it was surely not the cry of living mortal, but of that unknown Thing that passed before the portrait, and that stood beside me even then in the lonely room. Certain I am that the echoes of that cry had in them something inexpressibly fiendish, and through the deathly gloom of the mansion they came back, reverberated and repeated from a hundred invisible corners and galleries. Now, I had to pass, on my return, a long, broad window that lighted the principal staircase. This window had neither shutters nor blind, and was composed of those small square panes that were in vogue a century ago. As I went by it, I threw a hasty, appalled glance behind me, and distinctly saw, even through the blurred and dirty glass, the figures of two women, one pursuing the other over the thick white snow outside. In the rapid view I had of them, I observed only that the first carried something in her hand that looked like a pistol, and her long black hair streamed behind her, showing darkly against the dead whiteness of the landscape. The arms of her pursuer [Page 125] were outstretched, as though she were calling to her companion to stop; but perfect as was the silence of the night, and close as the figures seemed to be, I heard no sound of a voice. Next I came to a second and smaller window which had been once boarded up, but with lapse of time the plank had loosened and partly fallen, and here I paused a moment to look out. It still snowed slightly, but there was a clear moon, sufficient to throw a ghastly light upon the outside objects nearest to me. With the sleeve of my coat I rubbed away the dust and cobwebs which overhung the glass, and peered out. The two women were still hurrying onward, but the distance between them was considerably lessened. And now for the first time a peculiarity about them struck me. It was this, that the figures were not substantial; they flickered and waved precisely like flames, as they ran. As I gazed at them the foremost turned her head to look at the woman behind her, and as she did so, stumbled, fell, and disappeared. She seemed to have suddenly dropped down a precipice, so quickly and so completely she vanished. The other figure stopped, wrung its hands wildly, and presently turned and fled in the direction of the park-gates, and was soon lost in the obscurity of the distance. The sights I had just witnessed in the panelled chamber had not been of a nature to inspire courage in any one, and I must candidly confess that my knees actually shook and my teeth rattled as I left the window and darted up the solitary passage to the baize door at the top of it. Would I had never unlocked that door ! Would that the key had been lost, or that I had never set foot in this abominable house! Hastily I refastened the door, hung up the rusty key in its niche, and rushed into my own room, where I dropped into a chair with a [Page 126] deadly faintness creeping over me. I looked at my hand, where the clot of blood had fallen. It seemed to have burnt its way into my flesh, for it no longer appeared on the surface, but, where it had been was a round, purple mark, with an outer ring, like the scar of a burn. That scar is on my hand now, and I suppose will be there all my life. I looked at my watch, which I had left behind on the mantelpiece. It was five minutes past twelve. Should I go to bed? I stirred the sinking fire into a blaze, and looked anxiously at my candle. Neither fire nor candles, I perceived, would last much longer. Before long both would be expended, and I should be in darkness. In darkness, and alone in that house. The bare idea of a night passed in such solitude was terrible to me. I tried to laugh at my fears, and reproached myself with weakness and cowardice. I reverted to the stereotyped method of consolation under circumstances of this description, and strove to persuade myself that, being guiltless, I had no cause to fear the powers of evil. But in vain. Trembling from head to foot, I raked together the smoldering embers in the stove for the last time, wrapped my railway rug around me — for I dared not undress — and threw myself on the bed, where I lay sleepless until the dawn. But oh, what I endured all those weary hours no human creature can imagine. I watched the last sparks of the fire die out, one by one, and heard the ashes slide and drop slowly upon the hearth. I watched the flame of the candle flare up and sink again a dozen times, and then at last expire, leaving me in utter darkness and silence. I fancied, ever and anon, that I could distinguish the sound of phantom feet coming down the corridor towards my room, and that the mysterious Presence I had encountered in the [Page 127] paneled chamber stood at my bedside looking at me, or that a stealthy hand touched mine. I felt the sweat upon my forehead, but I dared not move to wipe it away. I thought of people whose hair had turned white through terror in a few brief hours, and wondered what colour mine would be in the morning. And when at last — at last — the first grey glimmer of that morning peered through the window-blind, I hailed its appearance with much the same emotions as, no doubt, a traveller fainting with thirst in a desert would experience upon descrying a watery oasis in the midst of the burning sands. Long before the sun arose, I leapt from my couch, and having made a hasty toilette, I sallied out into the bleak, frosty air. It revived me at once, and brought new courage into my heart. Looking at the whitened expanse of lawn where last night I had seen the two women running, I could detect no sign of footmarks in the snow. The whole lawn presented an unbroken surface of sparkling crystals. I walked down the drive to the lodge. The old man, evidently an early bird, was in the act of unbarring his door as I appeared.


"Halloa, sir, you're up betimes!" he exclaimed. "Will ye just step in now and take somethin' ? My ole woman's agoin' to get out the breakfast. Slept well last night, sir ? " he continued, as I entered the little parlour; "the bed is rayther hard, I know; but, ye see, it does well enow for my son George when he's up here, which isna often. Ye look tired like, this morning; didna get much rest p'raps ? Ah ! now then, Bess, gi' us another plate here, ole gal."


I ate my breakfast in comparative silence, wondering to myself whether it would be well to say anything to my host of my recent experiences, since he had clearly [Page 128] no suspicions on the subject; and, anon, wishing I had comported myself in that terrible house with as little curiosity as the son George, who no doubt was content to stay where he was put at night, and was not given to nocturnal excursions in empty mansions.


"Have you any idea", said I, at last, "whether there's any story connected with that place where I slept last night ? I only ask", added I, with a feeble grin, like the ghost of a smile that had been able-bodied once, "because I'm fond of hearing stories, and because, as you know, there generally is a legend, or something of that sort, related about old family mansions".


"Well, sir", answered the old man slowly, " I never heard nothin' but then, you see, I never asked no questions. We came here eight years agone, and then no one round remembered a tenant at the big house. It's been empty somewhere nigh twenty years, I should say, — to my own knowledge more than ten, — and what's more, nobody knows exactly who it belongs to: and there's been lawsuits about it and all manner o' things, but nothin' ever came of them."


"Did no one ever tell you anything about its history", I asked, "or were you never asked any questions about it until now ? "


"Not particularly as I remember", replied he musingly.


Then, after a moment's pause, he added more briskly, " Ay, ay, though, now I come to think of it, there was a man up here more'n five months back, a Frenchman, who came on purpose to see it and ask me one or two questions, but I on'y jest told him nothin' as I've told you. He was a popish priest, and seemed to take a sight of interest in the place somehow. I think if you want to know about it, sir, you'd better go and see him; he's [Page 129] staying down here in the village, about a mile and a half off, at the Crown Inn."


"And a queer old fellow he is", broke in my host's wife, who was clearing away the breakfast; "no one knows where he comes from, 'cept as he's a Frenchman. I see him about often, prowlin' along with his stick and his snuff-box, always alone, and sometimes he nods at me and says 'good-morning' as I go by."


In consequence of this information I resolved to make my way immediately to the old priest's dwelling, and having acquainted myself with the direction in which the house lay, I took leave of my host, shouldered my bag once more, and set out en route. The air was clear and sharp, and the crisp snow crackled pleasantly under my Hessian boots as I strode along the country lanes. All traces of cloud had totally disappeared from the sky, the sun looked cheerfully down on me, and my morning's walk thoroughly refreshed and invigorated me. In due time I arrived at the inn which had been named to me as the abode of the Rev. M. Pierre, — a pretty homely little nest, with an antique gable and portico. Addressing myself to the elderly woman who answered my summons at the house-door, I inquired if I could see M. Pierre, and, in reply, received a civil invitation to "step inside and wait". My suspense did not last long, for M. Pierre made his appearance very promptly. He was a tall, thin individual with a fried-looking complexion, keen sunken eyes, and sparse hair streaked with grey. He entered the room with a courteous bow and inquiring look. Rising from the chair in which I had rested myself by the fire, I advanced towards him and addressed him by name in my suavest tones. He inclined his head and looked at me more inquiringly than before. " I [Page 130] have taken the liberty to request an interview with you this morning", continued I, " because I have been told that you may probably be able to give me some information of which I am in search, with regard to an old mansion in this part of the county, called Steepside, and in which I spent last night."


Scarcely had I uttered these last words when the expression of the old priest's face changed from one of courteous indifference to earnest interest.


"Do I understand you rightly, monsieur ?" he said. " You say you slept last night in Steepside mansion ? "


"I did not say I slept there," I rejoined, with an emphasis; "I said I passed the night there."


"Bien", said he dryly, "I comprehend. And you were not pleased with your night's lodging. That is so, is it not, monsieur, — is it not ? " he repeated, eying my face curiously, as though he were seeking to read the expression of my thoughts there.


"You may be sure", said I, "that if something very peculiar had not occurred to me in that house, I should not thus have troubled a gentleman to whom I am, unhappily, a stranger."


He bowed slightly and then stood silent, contemplating me, and, as I think, considering whether or not he should afford me the information I desired. Presently, his scrutiny having apparently proved satisfactory, he withdrew his eyes from my face, and seated himself beside me.


" Monsieur", said he, "before I begin to answer your inquiry, I will ask you to tell me what you saw last night at Steepside."


He drew from his pocket a small, old-fashioned snuffbox and refreshed his little yellow nose with a pinch of [Page 131] rappee, after which ceremonial he leaned back at his ease, resting his chin in his hand and regarding me fixedly during the whole of my strange recital. When I had finished speaking he sat silent a few minutes, and then resumed, in his queer broken manner:


"What I am going to tell you I would not tell to any man who had not done what you have done, and seen what you saw last night. Mon Dieu! it is strange you should have been at that house last night of all nights in the year, the 22nd of December!”


He seemed to make this reflection rather to himself than to me, and presently continued, taking a small key from a pocket in his vest as he spoke:

"Do you understand French well, monsieur ? "


"Excellently well", returned I with alacrity; "a great part of my business correspondence is conducted in French, and I speak and hear it every day of my life."


He smiled pleasantly in reply, rose from his seat, and, unlocking with the key he held a small drawer in a chest that stood beside the chimney-piece, took out of it a roll of manuscript and a cigar.


"Monsieur" , said he, offering me the latter, "let me recommend this, if you care to smoke so early in the day. I always prefer rappee, but you, doubtless, have younger tastes."


Having thus provided for my comfort, the old priest reseated himself, unfolded the manuscript, and, without further apology, read the following story in the French language: —


Towards the latter part of the last century Steepside became the property of a certain Sir Julian Lorrington. His family consisted only of his wife, Lady Sarah, and [Page 132] their daughter Julia, a girl remarkable alike for her beauty and her expectations.


For a long time Sir Julian had retained in his establishment an old French maitre d'hôtel and his wife, who both died in the baronet's service, leaving one child, Virginie, whom Lady Sarah, out of regard for the fidelity of her parents, engaged to educate and protect.


In due time this orphan, brought up in the household of Sir Julian, became the chosen companion of his heiress; and when the family took up their residence at Steepside, Virginie Giraud, who had been associated in Julia's studies and recreations from early childhood, was installed there as maid and confidant to the hope of the house.


Not long after the settlement at Steepside, Sir Julian, in the summary fashion of those days with regard to matrimonial affairs, announced his intention of bestowing his daughter upon a certain Welsh squire of old ancestry and broad acres. Sir Julian was a practical man, thoroughly incapable of regarding wedlock in any other light than as a mere union of wealth and property, the owners of which joined hands and lived together. This was the way in which he had married, and it was the way in which he intended his daughter to marry; love and passion were meaningless, if not vulgar words in his ears, and he conceived it impossible they should be otherwise to his only child. As for Lady Sarah, she was an unsympathetic creature, whose thoughts ran only on the ambition of seeing Julia married to some gentleman of high position, and heading a fine establishment with social success and distinction.


So it was not until all things relative to the contract had been duly arranged between these amiable parents [Page 133] and their intended son-in-law, that the bride elect was informed of the fortune in store for her.


But all the time that the lawyers had been preparing the marriage settlements, a young penniless gentleman named Philip Brian had been finding out for himself the way to Julia's heart, and these two had pledged their faith to each other only a few days before Sir Julian and Lady Lorrington formally announced their plans to their daughter. In consequence of her engagement with Philip, Julia received their intelligence with indignation, and protested that no power on earth should force her to act falsely to the young man whose promised wife she had become. The expression of this determination was received by both parents with high displeasure. Sir Julian indulged in a few angry oaths, and Lady Sarah in a little select satire; Philip Brian was, of course, forbidden the house, all letters and messages between the lovers were interdicted, and Julia was commanded to comport herself like a dutiful and obedient heiress.


Now Virginie Giraud was the friend as well as the attendant of Sir Julian's daughter, and it was Virginie therefore who, after the occurrence of this outbreak, was despatched to Philip with a note of warning from his mistress. Naturally the lover returned an answer by the same means, and from that hour Virginie continued to act as agent between the two, carrying letters to and fro, giving counsel and arranging meetings. Meanwhile the bridal day was fixed by the parent Lorringtons, and elaborate preparations were made for a wedding festival which should be the wonderment and admiration of the county. The breakfast room was decorated with lavish splendour, the richest apparel bespoken for the bride, and all the wealthy and titled relatives of both contracting [Page 134] families were invited to the pageant. Nor were Philip and Julia idle. It was arranged between them that, at eleven o'clock on the night of the day preceding the intended wedding, the young man should present himself beneath Julia's window, Virginie being on the watch and in readiness to accompany the flight of the lovers. All three, under cover of the darkness, should then steal down the avenue of the coach-drive and make their exit by the shrubbery gate, the key of which Virginie already had in keeping. The appointed evening came, — the 22nd of December. Snow lay deep upon the ground, and more threatened to fall before dawn, but Philip had engaged to provide horses equal to any emergency of weather, and the darkness of the night lent favour to the enterprise. Virginie's behaviour all that day had somehow seemed unaccountable to her mistress. The maid's face was pallid and wore a strange expression of anxiety and apprehension. She winced and trembled when Julia's glance rested upon her, and her hands quivered violently while she helped the latter to adjust her hood and mantle as the hour of assignation approached. Endeavouring, however, to persuade herself that this strange conduct arose from a feeling of excitement or nervousness natural under the circumstances, Julia used a hundred kind words and tender gestures to reassure and support her companion. But the more she consoled or admonished, the more agitated Virginie became, and matters stood in this condition when eleven o'clock arrived.


Julia waited at her chamber window, which was not above three feet from the ground without, her hood and mantle donned, listening eagerly for the sound of her lover's voice; and the French girl leant behind her [Page 135] against the closed door, nervously tearing to fragments a piece of paper she had taken from her pocket a minute ago. These torn atoms she flung upon the hearth, where a bright fire was blazing, not observing that, meanwhile, Julia had opened the window-casement. A gust of wind darting into the room from outside caught up a fragment of the yet unconsumed paper and whirled it back from the flames to Julia's feet. She glanced at it indifferently, but the sight of some characters on it suddenly attracting her, she stooped and picked it up.


It bore her name written over and over several times, first in rather laboured imitation of her own handwriting, then more successfully, and, lastly, in so perfect a manner that even Julia herself was almost deceived into believing it her genuine signature. Then followed several L's and J's, as though the copyist had not considered those initials satisfactory counterparts of the original.


Julia wondered, but did not doubt; and as she tossed the fragment from her hand, Virginie turned and perceived the action. Instantly a deep flush of crimson overspread the maid's face; she darted suddenly forward, and uttered an exclamation of alarm. Her cry was immediately succeeded by the sharp noise of a pistol report beneath the window, and a heavy, muffled sound, as of the fall of a body upon the snow-covered earth. Julia looked out in fear and surprise. The leaping firelight from within the room streamed through the window, and, in the heart of its vivid brightness, revealed the figure of a man lying motionless upon the whitened ground, his face buried in the scattered snow, and his outstretched hand grasping a pistol.


Julia leaped through the open casement with a wild shriek, and flung herself on her knees beside him.[Page 136]

"Phil! Phil!" she said. " what have you done ? what has happened ? Speak to me!"


But the only response was a faint, low moan.


Philip Brian had shot himself!


In an agony of grief and horror Julia lifted his head upon her arm, and pressed her hand to his heart. The movement recalled him to life for a few moments; he opened his eyes, looked at her, and uttered a few broken words. She stooped and listened eagerly.


The letter ! he gasped; " the letter you sent me ! O Julia, you have broken my heart! How could you be false to me, and I loving you — trusting you — so wholly ! But at least I shall not live to see you wed the man you have chosen; I came here tonight to die, since without you life would be intolerable. See what you have done!"


Desperate and silent, she wound her arms around him, and pressed her lips to his. A convulsive shudder seized him; his eyes rolled back, and with a sigh he resigned himself to the death he had courted so madly. Death in the passion of a last kiss !


Julia sat still, the corpse of her lover supported on her arm, and her hand clasped in his, tearless and frigid as though she had been turned into stone by some fearful spell. Half hidden in the bosom of his vest was a letter, the broken seal of which bore her own monogram. She plucked it out of its resting-place, and read it hastily by the flicker of the firelight. It was in Lady Sarah's handwriting, and ran thus: —


"MY DEAR MR BRIAN, — Although, when last we parted, it was with the usual understanding that tonight we should meet again; yet subsequent reflection, and [Page 137] the positive injunctions of my parents, have obliged me to decide otherwise. You are to know, therefore, that, in obedience to the wishes of my father and mother, I have promised to become the wife of the gentleman they have chosen for me. All correspondence between us must therefore wholly cease, nor must you longer suffer yourself to entertain a thought of me. It is hardly necessary to add that I shall not expect to see you this evening; your own sense of honour will, I am persuaded, be sufficient to restrain you from keeping an appointment against my wishes. In concluding, I beg you will not attempt to obtain any further explanation of my conduct; but rest assured that it is the unalterable resolve of cool and earnest deliberation.


" For the last time I subscribe myself”.

JULIA LORRINGTON.


" Postscript. — In order to save you any doubt of my entire concurrence in my mother's wishes, I sign and address this with my own hand, and Virginie, who undertakes to deliver it, will add her personal testimony to the truth of these statements, since she has witnessed the writing of the letter, and knows how fully my consent has been given to all its expressions."


" With my own hand ! " Yes, surely; both signature and address were perfect facsimiles of Julia's writing ! What wonder that Philip had been deceived into believing her false ? Twice she read the letter from beginning to end; then she laid her lover's corpse gently down on the snow, and stood up erect and silent, her face more ghastly and death-like than the face of the dead beside her.


In a moment the whole shameful scheme had flashed [Page 138] upon her mind; — Virginie's treachery and clever fraud; its connection with the torn fragment of paper which Julia had seen only a few minutes before; the deliberate falsehood of which Lady Sarah had been guilty; the bribery, by means of which she had probably corrupted Virginie's fidelity; the cruel disappointment and suffering of her lover; all these things pressed themselves upon her reeling brain, and gave birth to the suggestions of madness.


Stooping down, she put her lithe hand upon the belt of the dead man. There was, as she expected, a second pistol in it, the fellow of that with which he had shot himself. It was loaded. Julia drew it out, wrapped her mantle round it, and climbed noiselessly into her chamber through the still open window. Crossing the room, she passed out into the corridor beyond, and went like a shadow, swift and silent of foot, to the door of her father's study, — an apartment communicating, by means of an oaken door, with the panelled chamber.


Virginie, from a dark recess in the wall of the house, had heard and noted all that passed in the garden. She saw Julia open and read the letter; she caught the expression of her face as she stooped for the pistol, and apprehending something of what might follow, she crept through the window after her mistress and pursued her up the dark passages. Here, crouching again into a recess in the gallery outside the panelled room, she waited in terror for the next scene of the tragedy.


Julia flung open the door of the study where her father sat writing at his table, and, standing on the threshold in the full glare of the lamplight which illumined the apartment, raised the pistol, cocked and aimed it. Sir Julian had barely time to leap from his [Page 139] chair with a cry when she fired, and the next instant he fell, struck by the bullet on the left temple, and expired at his daughter's feet. At the report of the pistol and the sound of his fall, Lady Sarah quitted her dressing-room and ran in disordered attire into the study, where she beheld her husband lying dead and bloody upon the floor, and Julia standing at the entrance of the panelled chamber, with the light of madness and murder in her eyes. Not long she stood there, however, for, seeing Lady Sarah enter, the distracted girl threw down the empty weapon, and flinging herself upon her mother, grasped her throat with all the might of her frenzied being. Up and down the room they wrestled together, two desperate women, one bent upon murder, the other battling for her life, and neither uttered cry or groan, so terribly earnest was the struggle. At length Lady Sarah's strength gave way; she fell under her assailant's weight, her face black with suffocation, and her eyes protruding from their swelling sockets. Julia redoubled her grip. She knelt upon Lady Sarah's breast, and held her down with the force and resolution of a fiend, though the blood burst from the ears of her victim and filmed her staring eyes; nor did the pitiless fingers relax until the murderess knew her vengeance was complete. Then she leapt to her feet, seized Philip's pistol from the floor, and, with a wild, pealing shriek, fled forth along the gallery, down the staircase, and out into the park, — out into the wind, and the driving snow, and the cold, her uncoiled hair streaming in dishevelled masses down her shoulders, and her dress of trailing satin daubed with stains of blood. Behind her ran Virginie, well-nigh maddened herself with horror, vainly endeavouring to catch or to stop the unhappy fugitive. But just as the [Page 140] latter reached the brink of a high precipice at the boundary of the terraced lawn, from which the mansion took its name of Steepside she turned to look at her pursuer, missed her footing, and fell headlong over the low stone coping that bordered the slope into the snow-drift at the bottom of the chasm.


Virginie ran to the spot and looked over. The steep was exceedingly high and sudden; not a trace of Julia could be seen in the darkness below. Doubtless the miserable heiress of the Lorringtons had found a grave in the bed of soft, deep snow which surrounded its base.


Then, stricken through heart and brain with the curse of madness which had already sent her mistress red-handed to death, Virginie Giraud fled across the lawn — through the park-gates — out upon the bleak common beyond, and was gone.


The old priest laid aside the manuscript and took a fresh pinch of rappee from the silver snuff-box.


"Monsieur", said he, with a polite inclination of his grey head, "I have had the honour to read you the history you wished to hear".


"And I thank you most heartily for your kindness", returned I. "But may I, without danger of seeming too inquisitive, ask you one question more?"


Seeing assent in his face, and a smile that anticipated my inquiry wrinkling the corners of his mouth, I continued boldly, " Will you tell me, then, M. Pierre, by what means you became possessed of this manuscript, and who wrote it ? "


"It is a natural question, monsieur", he answered after a short pause, "and I have no good reason for withholding [Page 141] the reply, since every one who was personally concerned in the tragedy has long been dead. You must know, then, that in my younger days I was curé to a little parish of about two hundred souls in the province of Berry. Many years ago there came to this village a strange old woman of whom nobody in the place had the least knowledge. She took and rented a small hovel on the borders of a wood about two miles from our church, and, except on market days, when she came to the village for her weekly provisions, none of my parishioners ever held any intercourse with her. She was evidently insane, and although she did harm to nobody, yet she often caused considerable alarm and wonderment by her eccentric behaviour. It is, as you must know, often the case in intermittent mania that its victims are insane upon some particular subject, some point upon which their frenzy always betrays itself, — even when, with regard to other matters, they conduct themselves like ordinary people. Now this old woman's weakness manifested itself in a wild and continual desire to copy every written document she saw. If, on her market-day visits to the village, any written notice upon the church-doors chanced to catch her eye as she passed, she would immediately pause, draw out pencil and paper from her pocket, and stand muttering to herself until she had closely transcribed the whole of the placard, when she would quietly return the copy to her pocket and go on her way.

"Thinking it my duty, as pastor of the village, to make myself acquainted with this poor creature, who had thus become one of my flock, I went occasionally to visit her, in the hope that I might possibly discover the cause of her strange disorder (which I suspected had its origin in some calamity of her earlier days), and so qualify myself [Page 142] to afford her the advice and comfort she might need. During the first two or three visits I paid her I could elicit nothing. She sat still as a statue, and watched me sullenly while I spoke to her of the mysteries and consolations of our faith, exhorting her vainly to make confession and obtain that peace of heart and mind which the sacrament of penance could alone bestow. Well, it chanced that on the occasion of one of these visits I took with me, besides my prayer-book, a small sheet of paper, on which I had written a few passages of Scripture, such as I conjectured to be most suited to her soul's necessity. I found her, as usual, moody and reserved, until I drew from my missal the sheet of transcribed texts and put it into her hand. In an instant her manner changed. The madness gleamed in her eyes, and she began searching nervously for a pencil. 'I can do it!' she cried. 'My writing was always like hers, for we learnt together when we were children. He will never know I wrote it; we shall dupe him easily. Already I have practised her signature many times — soon I shall be able to make it exactly like her own hand. And I shall tell her, my lady, that he would have deceived her, that I overheard him love-making to another girl — that I discovered his falsehood — his baseness — and that he fled in his shame from the county. Yes, yes, we will dupe them both.'


"In this fashion she chattered and muttered feverishly for some minutes, till I grew alarmed, and taking her by the shoulders, tried to shake back the senses into her distracted brain. ' What ails you, foolish old woman ?' cried I ' I am not miladi; I am your parish pastor. Say your Pater Noster, or your Ave, and drive Satan away.'


"I am not sure whether my words or the removal of [Page 143] the unlucky manuscript recalled her wandering wits. At any rate, she speedily recovered, and, after doing my best to soothe and calm her by leading her to speak on other topics, I quitted the cottage reassured.


"Not long after this episode a neighbour called at my house one morning, and told me that, having missed the old woman from the weekly market, and knowing how regular she had always been in her attendance, he had gone to her dwelling and found her lying sick and desiring to see me. Of course I immediately prepared to comply with her request, providing myself in case I should find her anxious for absolution and the viaticum. Directly I entered her hut, she beckoned me to the bedside, and said in a low, hurried voice: —


" 'Father, I wish to confess to you at once, for I know I am going to die.'


"Perceiving that, for the present at least, she was perfectly sane, I willingly complied with her request, and heard her slowly and painfully unburden her miserable soul.


"Monsieur, if the story with which Virginie Giraud intrusted me had been told only in her sacramental confession, I should not have been able to repeat it to you. But, when the final words of peace had been spoken, she took a packet of papers from beneath her pillow and placed it in my hands. ' Here, father,' she said, ' is the substance of my history. When I am dead, you are free to make what use of it you please. It may warn some, perhaps, from yielding to the great temptation which overcame me.'


" ' The temptation of a bribe ? " said I, inquiringly. She turned her failing sight towards my face and shook her head feebly. [Page 144]

" 'No bribe, father," she answered. ' Do you believe I would have done what I did for mere coin? "


"I gave no reply, for her words were enigmatical to me, and I was loath to harass with my curiosity a soul so near its departure as hers. So I leaned back in my chair and sat silent, in the hope that, being wearied with her religious exercises, she might be able to sleep a little. But, no doubt, my last question, working in her disordered mind, awoke again the madness that had only slumbered for a time. Suddenly she raised herself on her pillow, pressed her withered hands to her head, and cried out wildly: —


" ' Money ! — money to me, who would have sold my own soul for one day of his love! Ah! I could have flung it back in their faces! — fools that they were to believe I cared for gold ! Philip ! Philip ! you were mad to think of the heiress as a wife; it had been better for you had you cared to look on me — on me who loved you so ! Then I should never have ruined you — never betrayed you to Lady Sarah! But I could not forgive the hard words you gave me; I could not forgive your love, for Julia ! Shall I ever go to paradise — to paradise where the saints are ? Will they let me in there ? — will they suffer my soul among them ? Or shall I never leave purgatory, but burn, and burn, and burn there always uncleansed ? For, oh ! if all the past should come back to me a thousand years hence, I should do the same thing again, Phil Brian, for love of you !'


"She started from the bed in her delirium; there came a rattling sound in her throat — a sudden choking cry — and in a moment her breast and pillow and quilt were deluged with a crimson stream ! In her paroxysm she had burst a blood-vessel. I sprang forward to catch [Page 145] her as she fell prone upon the brick floor; raised her in my arms, and gazed at her distorted features. There was no breath from the reddened lips. Virginie Giraud was a corpse.


" Thus in her madness was told the secret of her life and her crime; a secret she would not confess even to me in her sane moments. It was no greed of gold, but despised and vindictive love that lay behind all the horrors she had related. From my soul I pitied the poor dead wretch, for I dimly comprehended what a hell her existence on earth had been.


"The written account of the Steepside tragedy with which she had intrusted me furnished, in somewhat briefer language, the story I have just read to you, and many of its more important details have subsequently been verified by me on application to other sources, so that in that paper you have the testimony of an eyewitness to the facts, as well as the support of legal evidence.


"Some forty years after Virginie's death, monsieur, family reasons obliged me to seek temporary release from duty and come to England; and, finding that circumstances would keep me in the country for some time, I came here and went to see that house. But the tenant at the lodge could only tell me that Steepside was empty then, and had been empty for years past; and I have discovered that, since that horrible 22nd of December, it never had an occupant. Sir Julian, to whom it belonged by purchase, left no immediate heirs, and his relatives squabbled between themselves over the property, till one by one the disputing parties died off, and now there is no one enterprising enough to resuscitate the lawsuit."


Rising to take my leave of the genial old man, it [Page 146] occurred to me as extremely probable that he might have been led to form some opinion worth hearing with regard to the nature of the strange appearances at Steepside, and I ventured accordingly to make the inquiry.


"If my views on the subject have any value or interest for you", said he, "you are very welcome to know them. As a priest of the Catholic Church, I cannot accept the popular notions about ghostly visitations. Such experiences as yours in that ill-fated mansion are explicable to me only on the following hypothesis. There is a Power greater than the powers of evil; a Will to which even demons must submit. It is not inconsistent with Christian doctrine to suppose that, in cases of such terrible crimes as that we have been discussing, the evil spirits who prompted these crimes may, for a period more or less lengthy, be forced to haunt the scene of their machinations, and re-enact there, in phantom show, the horrors they once caused in reality. Naturally — or perhaps", said he, breaking off with a little smile, " I ought rather to say super-naturally — these demons, in order to manifest themselves, would be forced to resume some shape that would identify them with the crime they had suggested; and, in such a case, what more likely than that they should adopt the spectral forms of their human victims — murdered and murderer, or otherwise — according to the nature of the wickedness perpetrated ? This is but an amateur opinion, monsieur; I offer it as an individual, not as a priest speaking on the part of the Church. But it may serve to account for a real difficulty, and may be held without impiety. Of one thing at least we may rest assured as Christian men; that the souls of the dead, whether of saints or sinners, are in God's safe keeping, and walk the earth no more." [Page 147]

Then I shook hands with M. Pierre, and we parted. And after that, reader, I went to my friend's house, and spent my Christmas week right merrily.

 

Continues on Part 2


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