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A Child Of The Rain
A Difficult Problem
A Grammatical Ghost
A Memorable Night
A Mysterious Case
A Mystery With A Moral
A Spectral Collie
A Terribly Strange Bed
American Horses
An Astral Onion
An Intangible Clue
As Told By Mr Gryce
Bourgonef
From The Loom Of The Dead
His Last Bow
Hunted Down
Introduction To A Mystery With A Moral
Introduction To Melmoth The Wanderer
Melmoth The Wanderer
Missing: Page Thirteen
My Fascinating Friend
No 1 Branch Line: The Signal-man
On Being Found Out
On The Northern Ice
Problem Ix Violet's Own
Satire Of The Sea
Shall He Wed Her?
Story Of An Obstinate Corpse
Story Of The Vanishing Patient
The Adventure Of Black Peter
The Adventure Of Charles Augustus Milverton
The Adventure Of The Abbey Grange
The Adventure Of The Bruce-partington Plans
The Adventure Of The Cardboard Box
The Adventure Of The Dancing Men
The Adventure Of The Devil's Foot
The Adventure Of The Dying Detective
The Adventure Of The Empty House
The Adventure Of The Golden Pince-nez
The Adventure Of The Missing Three-quarter
The Adventure Of The Norwood Builder
The Adventure Of The Priory School
The Adventure Of The Red Circle
The Adventure Of The Six Napoleons
The Adventure Of The Solitary Cyclist
The Adventure Of The Three Students
The Adventure Of Wisteria Lodge
The Affair Of The Tortoise
The Avenger
The Birth-mark
The Black Cross
The Box With The Iron Clamps
The Bronze Hand
The Cambered Foot
The Case Of He Golden Bullet
The Case Of Mr Foggatt
The Case Of The Dixon Torpedo
The Case Of The Pocket Diary Found In The Snow
The Case Of The Pool Of Blood In The Pastor's Study
The Case Of The Registered Letter
The Closed Cabinet
The Coin Of Dionysius
The Disappearance Of Lady Frances Carfax
The Doctor His Wife And The Clock
The Dreaming Lady
The End Of The Road
The Fortune Teller
The Golden Slipper
The Gray Madam
The Great Valdez Sapphire
The Grotto Spectre
The Haunted And The Haunters Or The House And The Brain
The Hermit Of Street
The Hole In The Mahogany Panel
The House By The Loch
The House Of Clocks
The House That Was Not
The Incantation
The Jew's Breastplate
The Knight's Cross Signal Problem
The Last Adventure
The Last Exploit Of Harry The Actor
The Lenton Croft Robberies
The Loss Of Sammy Crockett
The Lost Lady
The Lost Room
The Man In The Green Hat
The Mortals In The House
The Mysterious Card
The Notch On The Ax - A Story A La Mode
The Oblong Box
The Old Stone House
The Piano Next Door
The Pumpkin Coach
The Quinton Jewel Affair
The Reward
The Room Of The Evil Thought
The Second Bullet
The Shape Of Fear
The Spread Rails
The Stanway Cameo Mystery
The Thing On The Hearth
The Torture By Hope
The Tragedy At Brookbend Cottage
The Wrong Sign
The Yellow Flower
Their Dear Little Ghost

The Lock And Key Library

A Case Of Identity
A Conjurer's Confessions
A Flight Into Texas
A Formidable Weapon
A Mystery With A Moral
A Scandal In Bohemia
A Wish Unexpectedly Gratified
Addressed To The Advocate Who Defended Him At His Trial
Adventure Of The Black Fisherman
Adventures In The Secret Service Of The Post-office Department
An Aspirant For Congress
An Erring Shepherd
An Heiress From Redhorse
An Old Game Revived
Bourgonef
By The Waters Of Paradise
Deception Explained By The Science Of Psychology
Facing The Arab's Pistol
Fact And Fable In Psychology
Fraudulent Spiritualism Unveiled[1]
His Wedded Wife
Horror: A True Tale
How Spirits Materialize
How The Tricks Succeeded
In The House Of Suddhoo
Introduction To A Mystery With A Moral
Introduction To Melmoth The Wanderer
Introduction To The Corpus Delicti
Matter Through Matter
Melmoth The Wanderer
Mind Reading In Public
My Own True Ghost Story
My Wife's Tempter
No 1 Branch Line: The Signal-man
On Being Found Out
Saint-germain The Deathless
Second Sight
Some Famous Exposures
The Avenger
The Baron's Quarry
The Closed Cabinet
The Corpus Delicti
The Dream Woman
The Fortune Of Seth Savage
The Fowl In The Pot
The Gold-bug
The Golden Ingot
The Great Valdez Sapphire
The Haunted And The Haunters Or The House And The Brain
The Hostler's Story Told By Himself
The Incantation
The Lost Duchess
The Magician Who Became An Ambassador
The Man And The Snake
The Man In The Iron Mask
The Methods Of A Doctor Of The Occult
The Minister's Black Veil
The Minor Canon
The Mortals In The House
The Name Of The Dead
The Notch On The Ax - A Story A La Mode
The Oblong Box
The Pavilion On The Links
The Pipe
The Puzzle
The Red-headed League
The Sending Of Dana Da
The Shadows On The Wall
The Story Continued By Percy Fairbank
Wieland's Madness
Wolfert Webber Or Golden Dreams



Bourgonef








I

AT A TABLE D'HOTE


At the close of February, 1848, I was in Nuremberg. My original
intention had been to pass a couple of days there on my way to
Munich, that being, I thought, as much time as could reasonably be
spared for so small a city, beckoned as my footsteps were to the
Bavarian Athens, of whose glories of ancient art and German
Renaissance I had formed expectations the most exaggerated--
expectations fatal to any perfect enjoyment, and certain to be
disappointed, however great the actual merit of Munich might be.
But after two days at Nuremberg I was so deeply interested in its
antique sequestered life, the charms of which had not been deadened
by previous anticipations, that I resolved to remain there until I
had mastered every detail and knew the place by heart.

I have a story to tell which will move amidst tragic circumstances
of too engrossing a nature to be disturbed by archaeological
interests, and shall not, therefore, minutely describe here what I
observed in Nuremberg, although no adequate description of that
wonderful city has yet fallen in my way. To readers unacquainted
with this antique place, it will be enough to say that in it the
old German life seems still to a great extent rescued from the all-
devouring, all-equalizing tendencies of European civilization. The
houses are either of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, or are
constructed after those ancient models. The citizens have
preserved much of the simple manners and customs of their
ancestors. The hurrying feet of commerce and curiosity pass
rapidly by, leaving it sequestered from the agitations and the
turmoils of metropolitan existence. It is as quiet as a village.
During my stay there rose in its quiet streets the startled echoes
of horror at a crime unparalleled in its annals, which, gathering
increased horror from the very peacefulness and serenity of the
scene, arrested the attention and the sympathy in a degree seldom
experienced. Before narrating that, it will be necessary to go
back a little, that my own connection with it may be intelligible,
especially in the fanciful weaving together of remote conjectures
which strangely involved me in the story.

The table d'hote at the Bayerischer Hof had about thirty visitors--
all, with one exception, of that local commonplace which escapes
remark. Indeed this may almost always be said of tables d'hote;
though there is a current belief, which I cannot share, of a table
d'hote being very delightful--of one being certain to meet pleasant
people there." It may be so. For many years I believed it was so.
The general verdict received my assent. I had never met those
delightful people, but was always expecting to meet them. Hitherto
they had been conspicuous by their absence. According to my
experience in Spain, France, and Germany, such dinners had been
dreary or noisy and vapid. If the guests were English, they were
chillingly silent, or surlily monosyllabic: to their neighbors they
were frigid; amongst each other they spoke in low undertones. And
if the guests were foreigners, they were noisy, clattering, and
chattering, foolish for the most part, and vivaciously commonplace.
I don't know which made me feel most dreary. The predominance of
my countrymen gave the dinner the gayety of a funeral; the
predominance of the Mossoo gave it the fatigue of got-up
enthusiasm, of trivial expansiveness. To hear strangers imparting
the scraps of erudition and connoisseurship which they had that
morning gathered from their valets de place and guide-books, or
describing the sights they had just seen, to you, who either saw
them yesterday, or would see them to-morrow, could not be
permanently attractive. My mind refuses to pasture on such food
with gusto. I cannot be made to care what the Herr Baron's
sentiments about Albert Durer or Lucas Cranach may be. I can
digest my rindfleisch without the aid of the commis voyageur's
criticisms on Gothic architecture. This may be my misfortune. In
spite of the Italian blood which I inherit, I am a shy man--shy as
the purest Briton. But, like other shy men, I make up in obstinacy
what may be deficient in expansiveness. I can be frightened into
silence, but I won't be dictated to. You might as well attempt the
persuasive effect of your eloquence upon a snail who has withdrawn
into his shell at your approach, and will not emerge till his
confidence is restored. To be told that I MUST see this, and ought
to go there, because my casual neighbor was charme, has never
presented itself to me as an adequate motive.

From this you readily gather that I am severely taciturn at a table
d'hote. I refrain from joining in the "delightful conversation"
which flies across the table, and know that my reticence is
attributed to "insular pride." It is really and truly nothing but
impatience of commonplace. I thoroughly enjoy good talk; but, ask
yourself, what are the probabilities of hearing that rare thing in
the casual assemblage of forty or fifty people, not brought
together by any natural affinities or interests, but thrown
together by the accident of being in the same district, and in the
same hotel? They are not "forty feeding like one," but like forty.
They have no community, except the community of commonplace. No,
tables d'hote are not delightful, and do not gather interesting
people together.

Such has been my extensive experience. But this at Nuremberg is a
conspicuous exception. At that table there was one guest who, on
various grounds, personal and incidental, remains the most
memorable man I ever met. From the first he riveted my attention
in an unusual degree. He had not, as yet, induced me to emerge
from my habitual reserve, for in truth, although he riveted my
attention, he inspired me with a strange feeling of repulsion. I
could scarcely keep my eyes from him; yet, except the formal bow on
sitting down and rising from the table, I had interchanged no sign
of fellowship with him. He was a young Russian, named Bourgonef,
as I at once learned; rather handsome, and peculiarly arresting to
the eye, partly from an air of settled melancholy, especially in
his smile, the amiability of which seemed breaking from under
clouds of grief, and still more so from the mute appeal to sympathy
in the empty sleeve of his right arm, which was looped to the
breast-button of his coat. His eyes were large and soft. He had
no beard or whisker, and only delicate moustaches. The sorrow,
quiet but profound, the amiable smile and the lost arm, were
appealing details which at once arrested attention and excited
sympathy. But to me this sympathy was mingled with a vague
repulsion, occasioned by a certain falseness in the amiable smile,
and a furtiveness in the eyes, which I saw--or fancied--and which,
with an inexplicable reserve, forming as it were the impregnable
citadel in the center of his outwardly polite and engaging manner,
gave me something of that vague impression which we express by the
words "instinctive antipathy."

It was, when calmly considered, eminently absurd. To see one so
young, and by his conversation so highly cultured and intelligent,
condemned to early helplessness, his food cut up for him by a
servant, as if he were a child, naturally engaged pity, and, on the
first day, I cudgeled my brains during the greater part of dinner
in the effort to account for his lost arm. He was obviously not a
military man; the unmistakable look and stoop of a student told
that plainly enough. Nor was the loss one dating from early life:
he used his left arm too awkwardly for the event not to have had a
recent date. Had it anything to do with his melancholy? Here was
a topic for my vagabond imagination, and endless were the romances
woven by it during my silent dinner. For the reader must be told
of one peculiarity in me, because to it much of the strange
complications of my story are due; complications into which a mind
less active in weaving imaginary hypotheses to interpret casual and
trifling facts would never have been drawn. From my childhood I
have been the victim of my constructive imagination, which has led
me into many mistakes and some scrapes; because, instead of
contenting myself with plain, obvious evidence, I have allowed
myself to frame hypothetical interpretations, which, to acts simple
in themselves, and explicable on ordinary motives, render the
simple-seeming acts portentous. With bitter pangs of self-reproach
I have at times discovered that a long and plausible history
constructed by me, relating to personal friends, has crumpled into
a ruin of absurdity, by the disclosure of the primary misconception
on which the whole history was based. I have gone, let us say, on
the supposition that two people were secretly lovers; on this
supposition my imagination has constructed a whole scheme to
explain certain acts, and one fine day I have discovered
indubitably that the supposed lovers were not lovers, but
confidants of their passions in other directions, and, of course,
all my conjectures have been utterly false. The secret flush of
shame at failure has not, however, prevented my falling into
similar mistakes immediately after.

When, therefore, I hereafter speak of my "constructive
imagination," the reader will know to what I am alluding. It was
already busy with Bourgonef. To it must be added that vague
repulsion, previously mentioned. This feeling abated on the second
day; but, although lessened, it remained powerful enough to prevent
my speaking to him. Whether it would have continued to abate until
it disappeared, as such antipathies often disappear, under the
familiarities of prolonged intercourse, without any immediate
appeal to my amour propre, I know not; but every reflective mind,
conscious of being accessible to antipathies, will remember that
one certain method of stifling them is for the object to make some
appeal to our interest or our vanity: in the engagement of these
more powerful feelings, the antipathy is quickly strangled. At any
rate it is so in my case, and was so now.

On the third day, the conversation at table happening to turn, as
it often turned, upon St. Sebald's Church, a young Frenchman, who
was criticising its architecture with fluent dogmatism, drew
Bourgonef into the discussion, and thereby elicited such a display
of accurate and extensive knowledge, no less than delicacy of
appreciation, that we were all listening spellbound. In the midst
of this triumphant exposition the irritated vanity of the Frenchman
could do nothing to regain his position but oppose a flat denial to
a historical statement made by Bourgonef, backing his denial by the
confident assertion that "all the competent authorities" held with
him. At this point Bourgonef appealed to me, and in that tone of
deference so exquisitely flattering from one we already know to be
superior he requested my decision; observing that, from the manner
in which he had seen me examine the details of the architecture, he
could not be mistaken in his confidence that I was a connoisseur.
All eyes were turned upon me. As a shy man, this made me blush; as
a vain man, the blush was accompanied with delight. It might
easily have happened that such an appeal, acting at once upon
shyness and ignorance, would have inflamed my wrath; but the appeal
happening to be directed on a point which I had recently
investigated and thoroughly mastered, I was flattered at the
opportunity of a victorious display.

The pleasure of my triumph diffused itself over my feelings towards
him who had been the occasion of it. The Frenchman was silenced;
the general verdict of the company was too obviously on our side.
From this time the conversation continued between Bourgonef and
myself; and he not only succeeded in entirely dissipating my absurd
antipathy--which I now saw to have been founded on purely imaginary
grounds, for neither the falseness nor the furtiveness could now be
detected--but he succeeded in captivating all my sympathy. Long
after dinner was over, and the salle empty, we sat smoking our
cigars, and discussing politics, literature, and art in that
suggestive desultory manner which often gives a charm to casual
acquaintances.

It was a stirring epoch, that of February, 1848. The Revolution,
at first so hopeful, and soon to manifest itself in failure so
disastrous, was hurrying to an outburst. France had been for many
months agitated by cries of electoral reform, and by indignation at
the corruption and scandals in high places. The Praslin murder,
and the dishonor of M. Teste, terminated by suicide, had been
interpreted as signs of the coming destruction. The political
banquets given in various important cities had been occasions for
inflaming the public mind, and to the far-seeing, these banquets
were interpreted as the sounds of the tocsin. Louis Philippe had
become odious to France, and contemptible to Europe. Guizot and
Duchatel, the ministers of that day, although backed by a
parliamentary majority on which they blindly relied, were
unpopular, and were regarded as infatuated even by their admirers
in Europe. The Spanish marriages had all but led to a war with
England. The Opposition, headed by Thiers and Odillon Barrot, was
strengthened by united action with the republican party, headed by
Ledru Rollin, Marrast, Flocon, and Louis Blanc.

Bourgonef was an ardent republican. So was I; but my color was of
a different shade from his. He belonged to the Reds. My own
dominant tendencies being artistic and literary, my dream was of a
republic in which intelligence would be the archon or ruler; and,
of course, in such a republic, art and literature, as the highest
manifestation of mind, would have the supreme direction. Do you
smile, reader? I smile now; but it was serious earnest with me
then. It is unnecessary to say more on this point. I have said so
much to render intelligible the stray link of communion which
riveted the charm of my new acquaintance's conversation; there was
both agreement enough and difference enough in our views to render
our society mutually fascinating.

On retiring to my room that afternoon I could not help laughing at
my absurd antipathy against Bourgonef. All his remarks had
disclosed a generous, ardent, and refined nature. While my
antipathy had specially fastened upon a certain falseness in his
smile--a falseness the more poignantly hideous if it were
falseness, because hidden amidst the wreaths of amiability--my
delight in his conversation had specially justified itself by the
truthfulness of his mode of looking at things. He seemed to be
sincerity itself. There was, indeed, a certain central reserve;
but that might only he an integrity of pride; or it might be
connected with painful circumstances in his history, of which the
melancholy in his face was the outward sign.

That very evening my constructive imagination was furnished with a
detail on which it was soon to be actively set to work. I had been
rambling about the old fortifications, and was returning at
nightfall through the old archway near Albert Durer's house, when a
man passed by me. We looked at each other in that automatic way in
which men look when they meet in narrow places, and I felt, so to
speak, a start of recognition in the eyes of the man who passed.
Nothing else, in features or gestures, betrayed recognition or
surprise. But although there was only that, it flashed from his
eyes to mine like an electric shock. He passed. I looked back.
He continued his way without turning. The face was certainly known
to me; but it floated in a mist of confused memories.

I walked on slowly, pestering my memory with fruitless calls upon
it, hopelessly trying to recover the place where I could have seen
the stranger before. In vain memory traveled over Europe in
concert-rooms, theaters, shops, and railway carriages. I could not
recall the occasion on which those eyes had previously met mine.
That they had met them I had no doubt. I went to bed with the
riddle undiscovered.


II

THE ECHOES OF MURDER


Next morning Nuremberg was agitated with a horror such as can
seldom have disturbed its quiet; a young and lovely girl had been
murdered. Her corpse was discovered at daybreak under the archway
leading to the old fortifications. She had been stabbed to the
heart. No other signs of violence were visible; no robbery had
been attempted.

In great cities, necessarily great centers of crime, we daily hear
of murders; their frequency and remoteness leave us undisturbed.
Our sympathies can only be deeply moved either by some scenic
peculiarities investing the crime with unusual romance or unusual
atrocity, or else by the more immediate appeal of direct neighborly
interest. The murder which is read of in the Times as having
occurred in Westminster, has seldom any special horror to the
inhabitants of Islington or Oxford Street; but to the inhabitants
of Westminster, and especially to the inhabitants of the particular
street in which it was perpetrated, the crime assumes heart-shaking
proportions. Every detail is asked for, and every surmise listened
to, with feverish eagerness is repeated and diffused through the
crowd with growing interest. The family of the victim; the
antecedents of the assassin, if he is known; or the conjectures
pointing to the unknown assassin,--are eagerly discussed. All the
trivial details of household care or domestic fortunes, all the
items of personal gossip, become invested with a solemn and
affecting interest. Pity for the victim and survivors mingle and
alternate with fierce cries for vengeance on the guilty. The whole
street becomes one family, commingled by an energetic sympathy,
united by one common feeling of compassion and wrath.

In villages, and in cities so small as Nuremberg, the same
community of feeling is manifested. The town became as one street.
The horror spread like a conflagration, the sympathy surged and
swelled like a tide. Everyone felt a personal interest in the
event, as if the murder had been committed at his own door. Never
shall I forget that wail of passionate pity, and that cry for the
vengeance of justice, which rose from all sides of the startled
city. Never shall I forget the hurry, the agitation, the feverish
restlessness, the universal communicativeness, the volunteered
services, the eager suggestion, surging round the house of the
unhappy parents. Herr Lehfeldt, the father of the unhappy girl,
was a respected burgher known to almost every one. His mercer's
shop was the leading one of the city. A worthy, pious man,
somewhat strict, but of irreproachable character; his virtues, no
less than those of his wife, and of his only daughter, Lieschen--
now, alas; for ever snatched from their yearning eyes--were
canvassed everywhere, and served to intensify the general grief.
That such a calamity should have fallen on a household so
estimable, seemed to add fuel to the people's wrath. Poor
Lieschen! her pretty, playful ways--her opening prospects, as the
only daughter of parents so well to do and so kind--her youth and
abounding life--these were detailed with impassioned fervor by
friends, and repeated by strangers who caught the tone of friends,
as if they, too, had known and loved her. But amidst the surging
uproar of this sea of many voices no one clear voice of direction
could be heard; no clue given to the clamorous bloodhounds to run
down the assassin.

Cries had been heard in the streets that night at various parts of
the town, which, although then interpreted as the quarrels of
drunken brawlers, and the conflicts of cats, were now confidently
asserted to have proceeded from the unhappy girl in her death-
struggle. But none of these cries had been heard in the immediate
neighborhood of the archway. All the inhabitants of that part of
the town agreed that in their waking hours the streets had been
perfectly still. Nor were there any traces visible of a struggle
having taken place. Lieschen might have been murdered elsewhere,
and her corpse quietly deposited where it was found, as far as any
evidence went.

Wild and vague were the conjectures. All were baffled in the
attempt to give them a definite direction. The crime was
apparently prompted by revenge--certainly not by lust, or desire of
money. But she was not known to stand in any one's way. In this
utter blank as to the assignable motive, I, perhaps alone among the
furious crowd, had a distinct suspicion of the assassin. No sooner
had the news reached me, than with the specification of the theater
of the crime there at once flashed upon me the intellectual vision
of the criminal: the stranger with the dark beard and startled eyes
stood confessed before me! I held my breath for a few moments, and
then there came a tide of objections rushing over my mind,
revealing the inadequacy of the grounds on which rested my
suspicions. What were the grounds? I had seen a man in a
particular spot, not an unfrequented spot, on the evening of the
night when the crime had been committed there; that man had seemed
to recognize me, and wished to avoid being recognized. Obviously
these grounds were too slender to bear any weight of construction
such as I had based on them. Mere presence on the spot could no
more inculpate him than it could inculpate me; if I had met him
there, equally had he met me there. Nor even if my suspicion were
correct that he knew me, and refused to recognize me, could that be
any argument tending to criminate him in an affair wholly
disconnected with me. Besides, he was walking peaceably, openly,
and he looked like a gentleman. All these objections pressed
themselves upon me, and kept me silent. But in spite of their
force I could not prevent the suspicion from continually arising.
Ashamed to mention it, because it may have sounded too absurd, I
could not prevent my constructive imagination indulging in its
vagaries, and with this secret conviction I resolved to await
events, and in case suspicion from other quarters should ever
designate the probable assassin, I might then come forward with my
bit of corroborative evidence, should the suspected assassin be the
stranger of the archway.

By twelve o'clock a new direction was given to rumor. Hitherto the
stories, when carefully sifted of all exaggerations of flying
conjecture, had settled themselves into something like this: The
Lehfeldts had retired to rest at a quarter before ten, as was their
custom. They had seen Lieschen go into her bedroom for the night,
and had themselves gone to sleep with unclouded minds. From this
peaceful security they were startled early in the morning by the
appalling news of the calamity which had fallen on them.
Incredulous at first, as well they might be, and incapable of
believing in a ruin so unexpected and so overwhelming, they
imagined some mistake, asserting that Lieschen was in her own room.
Into that room they rushed, and there the undisturbed bed, and the
open window, but a few feet from the garden, silently and
pathetically disclosed the fatal truth. The bereaved parents
turned a revealing look upon each other's whitened faces, and then
slowly retired from the room, followed in affecting silence by the
others. Back into their own room they went. The father knelt
beside the bed, and, sobbing, prayed. The mother sat staring with
a stupefied stare, her lips faintly moving. In a short while the
flood of grief, awakened to a thorough consciousness, burst from
their laboring hearts. When the first paroxysms were over they
questioned others, and gave incoherent replies to the questions
addressed to them. From all which it resulted that Lieschen's
absence, though obviously voluntary, was wholly inexplicable to
them; and no clew whatever could be given as to the motives of the
crime. When these details became known, conjecture naturally
interpreted Lieschen's absence at night as an assignation. But
with whom? She was not known to have a lover. Her father, on
being questioned, passionately affirmed that she had none; she
loved no one but her parents, poor child! Her mother, on being
questioned, told the same story--adding, however, that about
seventeen months before, she had fancied that Lieschen was a little
disposed to favor Franz Kerkel, their shopman; but on being spoken
to on the subject with some seriousness, and warned of the distance
between them, she had laughed heartily at the idea, and since then
had treated Franz with so much indifference that only a week ago
she had drawn from her mother a reproof on the subject.

"I told her Franz was a good lad, though not good enough for her,
and that she ought to treat him kindly. But she said my lecture
had given her an alarm, lest Franz should have got the same maggot
into his head."

This was the story now passing through the curious crowds in every
street. After hearing it I had turned into a tobacconist's in the
Adlergrasse, to restock my cigar-case, and found there, as
everywhere, a group discussing the one topic of the hour. Herr
Fischer, the tobacconist, with a long porcelain pipe pendent from
his screwed-up lips, was solemnly listening to the particulars
volubly communicated by a stout Bavarian priest; while behind the
counter, in a corner, swiftly knitting, sat his wife, her black
bead-like eyes also fixed on the orator. Of course I was dragged
into the conversation. Instead of attending to commercial
interests, they looked upon me as the possible bearer of fresh
news. Nor was it without a secret satisfaction that I found I
could gratify them in that respect. They had not heard of Franz
Kerkel in the matter. No sooner had I told what I had heard than
the knitting-needles of the vivacious little woman were at once
suspended.

"Ach Je!" she exclaimed, "I see it all. He's the wretch!"

"Who?" we all simultaneously inquired.

"Who? Why, Kerkel, of course. If she changed, and treated him
with indifference, it was because she loved him; and he has
murdered the poor thing."

"How you run on, wife!" remonstrated Fischer; while the priest
shook a dubious head.

"I tell you it is so. I'm positive."

"If she loved him."

"She did, I tell you. Trust a woman for seeing through such
things."

"Well, say she did," continued Fischer, "and I won't deny that it
may be so; but then that makes against the idea of his having done
her any harm."

"Don't tell me," retorted the convinced woman. "She loved him.
She went out to meet him in secret, and he murdered her--the
villain did. I'm as sure of it as if these eyes had seen him do
it."

The husband winked at us, as much as to say, "You hear these
women!" and the priest and I endeavored to reason her out of her
illogical position. But she was immovable. Kerkel had murdered
her; she knew it; she couldn't tell why, but she knew it. Perhaps
he was jealous, who knows? At any rate, he ought to be arrested.

And by twelve o'clock, as I said, a new rumor ran through the
crowd, which seemed to confirm the little woman in her rash logic.
Kerkel had been arrested, and a waistcoat stained with blood had
been found in his room! By half-past twelve the rumor ran that he
had confessed the crime. This, however, proved on inquiry to be
the hasty anticipation of public indignation. He had been
arrested; the waistcoat had been found: so much was authentic; and
the suspicions gathered ominously over him.

When first Frau Fischer had started the suggestion it flew like
wildfire. Then people suddenly noticed, as very surprising, that
Kerkel had not that day made his appearance at the shop. His
absence had not been noticed in the tumult of grief and inquiry;
but it became suddenly invested with a dreadful significance, now
that it was rumored that he had been Lieschen's lover. Of all men
he would be the most affected by the tragic news; of all men he
would have been the first to tender sympathy and aid to the
afflicted parents, and the most clamorous in the search for the
undiscovered culprit. Yet, while all Nuremberg was crowding round
the house of sorrow, which was also his house of business, he alone
remained away. This naturally pointed suspicion at him. When the
messengers had gone to seek him, his mother refused them admission,
declaring in incoherent phrases, betraying great agitation, that
her son was gone distracted with grief and could see no one. On
this it was determined to order his arrest. The police went, the
house was searched, and the waistcoat found.

The testimony of the girl who lived as servant in Kerkel's house
was also criminatory. She deposed that on the night in question
she awoke about half-past eleven with a violent toothache; she was
certain as to the hour, because she heard the clock afterwards
strike twelve. She felt some alarm at hearing voices in the rooms
at an hour when her mistress and young master must long ago have
gone to bed; but as the voices were seemingly in quiet
conversation, her alarm subsided, and she concluded that instead of
having gone to bed her mistress was still up. In her pain she
heard the door gently open, and then she heard footsteps in the
garden. This surprised her very much. She couldn't think what the
young master could want going out at that hour. She became
terrified without knowing exactly at what. Fear quite drove away
the toothache, which had not since returned. After lying there
quaking for some time, again she heard footsteps in the garden; the
door opened and closed gently; voices were heard; and she at last
distinctly heard her mistress say, "Be a man, Franz. Good-night--
sleep well;" upon which Franz replied in a tone of great agony,
"There's no chance of sleep for me." Then all was silent. Next
morning her mistress seemed "very queer." Her young master went
out very early, but soon came back again; and there were dreadful
scenes going on in his room, as she heard, but she didn't know what
it was all about. She heard of the murder from a neighbor, but
never thought of its having any particular interest for Mr. Franz,
though, of course, he would be very sorry for the Lehfeldts.

The facts testified to by the servant, especially the going out at
that late hour, and the "dreadful scenes" of the morning, seemed to
bear but one interpretation. Moreover, she identified the
waistcoat as the one worn by Franz on the day preceding the fatal
night.


III

THE ACCUSED


Now at last the pent-up wrath found a vent. From the distracting
condition of wandering uncertain suspicion, it had been recalled
into the glad security of individual hate. Although up to this
time Kerkel had borne an exemplary reputation, it was now
remembered that he had always been of a morose and violent temper,
a hypocrite in religion, a selfish sensualist. Several sagacious
critics had long "seen through him"; others had "never liked him";
others had wondered how it was he kept his place so long in
Lehfeldt's shop. Poor fellow! his life and actions, like those of
every one else when illuminated by a light thrown back upon them,
seemed so conspicuously despicable, although when illuminated in
their own light they had seemed innocent enough. His mother's
frantic protestations of her son's innocence--her assertions that
Franz loved Lieschen more than his own soul--only served to envelop
her in the silent accusation of being an accomplice, or at least of
being an accessory after the fact.

I cannot say why it was, but I did not share the universal belief.
The logic seemed to me forced; the evidence trivial. On first
hearing of Kerkel's arrest, I eagerly questioned my informant
respecting his personal appearance; and on hearing that he was
fair, with blue eyes and flaxen hair, my conviction of his
innocence was fixed. Looking back on these days, I am often amused
at this characteristic of my constructive imagination. While
rejecting the disjointed logic of the mob, which interpreted his
guilt, I was myself deluded by a logic infinitely less rational.
Had Kerkel been dark, with dark eyes and beard, I should probably
have sworn to his guilt, simply because the idea of that stranger
had firmly fixed itself in my mind.

All that afternoon, and all the next day, the busy hum of voices
was raised by the one topic of commanding interest. Kerkel had
been examined. He at once admitted that a secret betrothal had for
some time existed between him and Lieschen. They had been led to
take this improper step by fear of her parents, who, had the
attachment been discovered, would, it was thought, have separated
them for ever. Herr Lehfeldt's sternness, no less than his
superior position, seemed an invincible obstacle, and the good
mother, although doting upon her only daughter, was led by the very
intensity of her affection to form ambitious hopes of her
daughter's future. It was barely possible that some turn in events
might one day yield an opening for their consent; but meanwhile
prudence dictated secrecy, in order to avert the most pressing
danger, that of separation.

And so the pretty Lieschen, with feminine instinct of ruse, had
affected to treat her lover with indifference; and to compensate
him and herself for this restraint, she had been in the habit of
escaping from home once or twice a week, and spending a delicious
hour or two at night in the company of her lover and his mother.
Kerkel and his mother lived in a cottage a little way outside the
town. Lehfeldt's shop stood not many yards from the archway. Now,
as in Nuremberg no one was abroad after ten o'clock, except a few
loungers at the cafes and beer-houses, and these were only to be
met inside the town, not outside it, Lieschen ran extremely little
risk of being observed in her rapid transit from her father's to
her lover's house. Nor, indeed, had she ever met anyone in the
course of these visits.

On the fatal night Lieschen was expected at the cottage. Mother
and son waited at first hopefully, then anxiously, at last with
some vague uneasiness at her non-appearance. It was now a quarter
past eleven--nearly an hour later than her usual time. They
occasionally went to the door to look for her; then they walked a
few yards down the road, as if to catch an earlier glimpse of her
advancing steps. But in vain. The half-hour struck. They came
back into the cottage, discussing the various probabilities of
delay. Three-quarters struck. Perhaps she had been detected;
perhaps she was ill; perhaps--but this was his mother's suggestion,
and took little hold of him--there had been visitors who had stayed
later than usual, and Lieschen, finding the night so advanced, had
postponed her visit to the morrow. Franz, who interpreted
Lieschen's feelings by his own, was assured that no postponement of
a voluntary kind was credible of her. Twelve o'clock struck.
Again Franz went out into the road, and walked nearly up to the
archway; he returned with heavy sadness and foreboding at his
heart, reluctantly admitting that now all hope of seeing her that
night was over. That night? Poor sorrowing heart, the night was
to be eternal! The anguish of the desolate "never more" was
awaiting him.

There is something intensely pathetic in being thus, as it were,
spectators of a tragic drama which is being acted on two separate
stages at once--the dreadful link of connection, which is unseen to
the separate actors, being only too vividly seen by the spectators.
It was with some interest that I, who believed in Kerkel's
innocence, heard this story; and in imagination followed its
unfolding stage. He went to bed, not, as may be expected, to
sleep; tossing restlessly in feverish agitation, conjuring up many
imaginary terrors--but all of them trifles compared with the dread
reality which he was so soon to face. He pictured her weeping--and
she was lying dead on the cold pavement of the dark archway. He
saw her in agitated eloquence pleading with offended parents--and
she was removed for ever from all agitations, with the peace of
death upon her young face.

At an early hour he started, that he might put an end to his
suspense. He had not yet reached the archway before the shattering
news burst upon him. From that moment he remembered nothing. But
his mother described his ghastly agitation, as, throwing himself
upon her neck, he told her, through dreadful sobs, the calamity
which had fallen. She did her best to comfort him; but he grew
wilder and wilder, and rolled upon the ground in the agony of an
immeasurable despair. She trembled for his reason and his life.
And when the messengers came to seek him, she spoke but the simple
truth in saying that he was like one distracted. Yet no sooner had
a glimpse of light dawned on him that some vague suspicion rested
on him in reference to the murder, than he started up, flung away
his agitation, and, with a calmness which was awful, answered every
question, and seemed nerved for every trial. From that moment not
a sob escaped him until, in the narrative of the night's events, he
came to that part which told of the sudden disclosure of his
bereavement. And the simple, straightforward manner in which he
told this tale, with a face entirely bloodless, and eyes that
seemed to have withdrawn all their light inwards, made a great
impression on the audience, which was heightened into sympathy when
the final sob, breaking through the forced calmness, told of the
agony which was eating its fiery way through the heart.

The story was not only plausible in itself, but accurately tallied
with what before had seemed like the criminating evidence of the
maid; tallied, moreover, precisely as to time, which would hardly
have been the case had the story been an invention. As to the
waistcoat which had figured so conspicuously in all the rumors, it
appeared that suspicion had monstrously exaggerated the facts.
Instead of a waistcoat plashed with blood--as popular imagination
pictured it--it was a gray waistcoat, with one spot and a slight
smear of blood, which admitted of a very simple explanation. Three
days before, Franz had cut his left hand in cutting some bread; and
to this the maid testified, because she was present when the
accident occurred. He had not noticed that his waistcoat was
marked by it until the next day, and had forgotten to wash out the
stains.

People outside shook skeptical heads at this story of the cut hand.
The bloody waistcoat was not to be disposed of in that easy way.
It had fixed itself too strongly in their imagination. Indeed, my
belief is that even could they have seen the waistcoat, its
insignificant marks would have appeared murderous patches to their
eyes. I had seen it, and my report was listened to with ill-
concealed disbelief, when not with open protestation. And when
Kerkel was discharged as free from all suspicion, there was a low
growl of disappointed wrath heard from numerous groups.

This may sympathetically be understood by whomsoever remembers the
painful uneasiness of the mind under a great stress of excitement
with no definite issue. The lust for a vengeance, demanded by the
aroused sensibilities of compassion, makes men credulous in their
impatience; they easily believe anyone is guilty, because they feel
an imperious need for fastening the guilt upon some definite head.
Few verdicts of "Not Guilty" are well received, unless another
victim is at hand upon whom the verdict of guilty is likely to
fall. It was demonstrable to all judicial minds that Kerkel was
wholly, pathetically innocent. In a few days this gradually became
clear to the majority, but at first it was resisted as an attempt
to balk justice; and to the last there were some obstinate
doubters, who shook their heads mysteriously, and said, with a
certain incisiveness, "Somebody must have done it; I should very
much like to know who."

Suspicion once more was drifting aimlessly. None had pointed in
any new direction. No mention of anyone whom I could identify with
the stranger had yet been made; but, although silent on the
subject, I kept firm in my conviction, and I sometimes laughed at
the pertinacity with which I scrutinized the face of every man I
met, if he happened to have a black beard; and as black beards are
excessively common, my curiosity, though never gratified, was never
allowed repose.

Meanwhile Lieschen's funeral had been emphatically a public
mourning. Nay, so great was the emotion, that it almost deadened
the interest which otherwise would have been so powerful, in the
news now daily reaching us from Paris. Blood had flowed upon her
streets--in consequence of that pistol-shot, which, either by
accident or criminal intent, had converted the demonstration before
the hotel of the Minister of Foreign Affairs into an insurrection.
Paris had risen; barricades were erected. The troops were under
arms. This was agitating news.

Such is the solidarity of all European nations, and so quick are
all to vibrate in unison with the vibrations of each, that events
like those transacted in Paris necessarily stirred every city, no
matter how remote, nor politically how secure. And it says much
for the intense interest excited by the Lehfeldt tragedy that
Nuremberg was capable of sustaining that interest even amid the
tremendous pressure of the February Revolution. It is true that
Nuremberg is at all times somewhat sequestered from the great
movements of the day, following slowly in the rear of great waves;
it is true, moreover, that some politicians showed remarkable
eagerness in canvassing the characters and hopes of Louis Philippe
and Guizot; but although such events would at another period have
formed the universal interest, the impenetrable mystery hanging
over Lieschen's death threw the Revolution into the background of
their thoughts. If when a storm is raging over the dreary
moorland, a human cry of suffering is heard at the door, at once
the thunders and the tumult sink into insignificance, and are not
even heard by the ear which is pierced with the feeble human voice:
the grandeurs of storm and tempest, the uproar of surging seas, the
clamorous wail of sea-birds amid the volleying artillery of heaven,
in vain assail the ear that has once caught even the distant cry of
a human agony, or serve only as scenical accompaniments to the
tragedy which is foreshadowed by that cry. And so it was amid the
uproar of 1848. A kingdom was in convulsions; but here, at our
door, a young girl had been murdered, and two hearths made
desolate. Rumors continued to fly about. The assassin was always
about to be discovered; but he remained shrouded in impenetrable
darkness. A remark made by Bourgonef struck me much. Our host,
Zum Bayerischen Hof, one day announced with great satisfaction that
he had himself heard from the syndic that the police were on the
traces of the assassin.

"I am sorry to hear it," said Bourgonef.

The guests paused from eating, and looked at him with astonishment.

"It is a proof," he added, "that even the police now give it up as
hopeless. I always notice that whenever the police are said to be
on the traces the malefactor is never tracked. When they are on
his traces they wisely say nothing about it; they allow it to be
believed that they are baffled, in order to lull their victim into
a dangerous security. When they know themselves to be baffled,
there is no danger in quieting the public mind, and saving their
own credit, by announcing that they are about to be successful."


IV

A DISCOVERY


Bourgonef's remark had been but too sagacious. The police were
hoplessly baffled. In all such cases possible success depends upon
the initial suggestion either of a motive which leads to a
suspicion of the person, or of some person which leads to a
suspicion of the motive. Once set suspicion on the right track,
and evidence is suddenly alight in all quarters. But, unhappily,
in the present case there was no assignable motive, no shadow
darkening any person.

An episode now came to our knowledge in which Bourgonef manifested
an unusual depth of interest. I was led to notice this interest,
because it had seemed to me that in the crime itself, and the
discussions which arose out of it, he shared but little of the
universal excitement. I do not mean that he was indifferent--by no
means; but the horror of the crime did not seem to fascinate his
imagination as it fascinated ours. He could talk quite as readily
of other things, and far more readily of the French affairs. But
on the contrary, in this new episode he showed peculiar interest.
It appeared that Lehfeldt, moved, perhaps, partly by a sense of the
injustice which had been done to Kerkel in even suspecting him of
the crime, and in submitting him to an examination more poignantly
affecting to him under such circumstances than a public trial would
have been under others; and moved partly by the sense that
Lieschen's love had practically drawn Kerkel within the family--for
her choice of him as a husband had made him morally, if not
legally, a son-in-law; and moved partly by the sense of loneliness
which had now settled on their childless home,--Lehfeldt had in the
most pathetic and considerate terms begged Kerkel to take the place
of his adopted son, and become joint partner with him in the
business. This, however, Kerkel had gently yet firmly declined.
He averred that he felt no injury, though great pain had been
inflicted on him by the examination. He himself in such a case
would not have shrunk from demanding that his own brother should be
tried, under suspicions of similar urgency. It was simple justice
that all who were suspected should be examined; justice also to
them that they might for ever clear themselves of doubtful
appearances. But for the rest, while he felt his old affectionate
respect for his master, he could recognize no claim to be removed
from his present position. Had she lived, said the heartbroken
youth, he would gladly have consented to accept any fortune which
her love might bestow, because he felt that his own love and the
devotion of a life might repay it. But there was nothing now that
he could give in exchange. For his services he was amply paid; his
feelings towards Lieschen's parents must continue what they had
ever been. In vain Lehfeldt pleaded, in vain many friends argued.
Franz remained respectfully firm in his refusal.

This, as I said, interested Bourgonef immensely. He seemed to
enter completely into the minds of the sorrowing, pleading parents,
and the sorrowing, denying lover. He appreciated and expounded
their motives with a subtlety and delicacy of perception which
surprised and delighted me. It showed the refinement of his moral
nature. But, at the same time, it rendered his minor degree of
interest in the other episodes of the story, those which had a more
direct and overpowering appeal to the heart, a greater paradox.

Human nature is troubled in the presence of all mystery which has
not by long familiarity lost its power of soliciting attention; and
for my own part, I have always been uneasy in the presence of moral
problems. Puzzled by the contradictions which I noticed in
Bourgonef, I tried to discover whether he had any general
repugnance to stories of crimes, or any special repugnance to
murders, or, finally, any strange repugnance to this particular
case now everywhere discussed. And it is not a little remarkable
that during three separate interviews, in the course of which I
severally, and as I thought artfully, introduced these topics,
making them seem to arise naturally out of the suggestion of our
talk, I totally failed to arrive at any distinct conclusion. I was
afraid to put the direct question: Do you not share the common
feeling of interest in criminal stories? This question would
doubtless have elicited a categorical reply; but somehow, the
consciousness of an arriere-pensee made me shrink from putting such
a question.

Reflecting on this indifference on a special point, and on the
numerous manifestations I had noticed of his sensibility, I came at
last to the conclusion that he must be a man of tender heart, whose
delicate sensibilities easily shrank from the horrible under every
form; and no more permitted him to dwell unnecessarily upon painful
facts, than they permit imaginative minds to dwell on the details
of an operation.

I had not long settled this in my mind before an accident suddenly
threw a lurid light upon many details noticed previously, and
painfully revived that inexplicable repulsion with which I had at
first regarded him. A new suspicion filled my mind, or rather, let
me say, a distinct shape was impressed upon many fluctuating
suspicions. It scarcely admitted of argument, and at times seemed
preposterous, nevertheless it persisted. The mind which in broad
daylight assents to all that can be alleged against the absurdities
of the belief in apparitions, will often acknowledge the dim
terrors of darkness and loneliness--terrors at possibilities of
supernatural visitations. In like manner, in the clear daylight of
reason I could see the absurdity of my suspicion, but the vague
stirrings of feeling remained unsilenced. I was haunted by the dim
horrors of a possibility.

Thus it arose. We were both going to Munich, and Bourgonef had
shortened his contemplated stay at Nuremberg that he might have the
pleasure of accompanying me; adding also that he, too, should be
glad to reach Munich, not only for its art, but for its greater
command of papers and intelligence respecting what was then going
on in France. On the night preceding the morning of our departure,
I was seated in his room, smoking and discussing as usual, while
Ivan, his servant, packed up his things in two large portmanteaus.

Ivan was a serf who spoke no word of any language but his own.
Although of a brutal, almost idiotic type, he was loudly eulogized
by his master as the model of fidelity and usefulness. Bourgonef
treated him with gentleness, though with a certain imperiousness;
much as one might treat a savage mastiff which it was necessary to
dominate without exasperating. He more than once spoke of Ivan as
a living satire on physiognomists and phrenologists; and as I am a
phrenologist, I listened with some incredulity.

"Look at him," he would say. "Observe the low, retreating brow,
the flat face, the surly mouth, the broad base of the head, and the
huge bull-like neck. Would not anyone say Ivan was as destructive
as a panther, as tenacious as a bull-dog, as brutal as a bull? Yet
he is the gentlest of sluggish creatures, and as tender-hearted as
a girl! That thick-set muscular frame shrouds a hare's heart. He
is so faithful and so attached that I believe for me he would risk
his life; but on no account could you get him to place himself in
danger on his own account. Part of his love for me is gratitude
for having rescued him from the conscription: the dangers incident
to a military life had no charm for him!"

Now, although Bourgonef, who was not a phrenologist, might be
convinced of the absence of ferocious instincts in Ivan, to me, as
a phrenologist, the statement was eminently incredible. All the
appearances of his manner were such as to confirm his master's
opinion. He was quiet, even tender in his attentions. But the
tyrannous influence of ideas and physical impressions cannot be set
aside; and no evidence would permanently have kept down my distrust
of this man. When women shriek at the sight of a gun, it is in
vain that you solemnly assure them that the gun is not loaded. "I
don't know," they reply,--"at any rate, I don't like it." I was
much in this attitude with regard to Ivan. He might be harmless.
I didn't know that; what I did know was--that I didn't like his
looks.

On this night he was moving noiselessly about the room, employed in
packing. Bourgonef's talk rambled over the old themes; and I
thought I had never before met with one of my own age whose society
was so perfectly delightful. He was not so conspicuously my
superior on all points that I felt the restraints inevitably
imposed by superiority; yet he was in many respects sufficiently
above me in knowledge and power to make me eager to have his assent
to my views where we differed, and to have him enlighten me where I
knew myself to be weak.

In the very moment of my most cordial admiration came a shock.
Ivan, on passing from one part of the room to the other, caught his
foot in the strap of the portmanteau and fell. The small wooden
box, something of a glove-box, which he held in his hand at the
time, fell on the floor, and falling over, discharged its contents
close to Bourgonef's feet. The objects which caught my eyes were
several pairs of gloves, a rouge-pot and hare's foot, and a black
beard!

By what caprice of imagination was it that the sight of this false
beard lying at Bourgonef's feet thrilled me with horror? In one
lightning-flash I beheld the archway--the stranger with the
startled eyes--this stranger no longer unknown to me, but too
fatally recognized as Bourgonef--and at his feet the murdered girl!

Moved by what subtle springs of suggestion I know not, but there
before me stood that dreadful vision, seen in a lurid light, but
seen as clearly as if the actual presence of the objects were
obtruding itself upon my eyes. In the inexpressible horror of this
vision my heart seemed clutched with an icy hand.

Fortunately Bourgonef's attention was called away from me. He
spoke angrily some short sentence, which of course was in Russian,
and therefore unintelligible to me. He then stooped, and picking
up the rouge-pot, held it towards me with his melancholy smile. He
was very red in the face; but that may have been either anger or
the effect of sudden stooping. "I see you are surprised at these
masquerading follies," he said in a tone which, though low, was
perfectly calm. "You must not suppose that I beautify my sallow
cheeks on ordinary occasions."

He then quietly handed the pot to Ivan, who replaced it with the
gloves and the beard in the box; and after making an inquiry which
sounded like a growl, to which Bourgonef answered negatively, he
continued his packing.

Bourgonef resumed his cigar and his argument as if nothing had
happened.

The vision had disappeared, but a confused mass of moving figures
took its place. My heart throbbed so violently that it seemed to
me as if its tumult must be heard by others. Yet my face must have
been tolerably calm, since Bourgonef made no comment on it.

I answered his remarks in vague fragments, for, in truth, my
thoughts were flying from conjecture to conjecture. I remembered
that the stranger had a florid complexion; was this rouge? It is
true that I fancied the stranger carried a walking-stick in his
right hand; if so, this was enough to crush all suspicions of his
identity with Bourgonef; but then I was rather hazy on this point,
and probably did not observe a walking-stick.

After a while my inattention struck him, and looking at me with
some concern, he inquired if there was anything the matter. I
pleaded a colic, which I attributed to the imprudence of having
indulged in sauerkraut at dinner. He advised me to take a little
brandy; but, affecting a fresh access of pain, I bade him good-
night. He hoped I should be all right on the morrow--if not, he
added, we can postpone our journey till the day after.

Once in my own room I bolted the door, and sat down on the edge of
the bed in a tumult of excitement.


V

FLUCTUATIONS


Alone with my thoughts, and capable of pursuing conjectures and
conclusions without external interruption, I quickly exhausted all
the hypothetical possibilities of the case, and, from having
started with the idea that Bourgonef was the assassin, I came at
last to the more sensible conclusion that I was a constructive
blockhead. My suspicions were simply outrageous in their defect of
evidence, and could never for one moment have seemed otherwise to
any imagination less riotously active than mine.

I bathed my heated head, undressed myself, and got into bed,
considering what I should say to the police when I went next
morning to communicate my suspicions. And it is worthy of remark,
as well as somewhat ludicrously self-betraying, that no sooner did
I mentally see myself in the presence of the police, and was thus
forced to confront my suspicions with some appearance of evidence,
than the whole fabric of my vision rattled to the ground. What had
I to say to the police? Simply that, on the evening of the night
when Lieschen was murdered, I had passed in a public thoroughfare a
man whom I could not identify, but who as I could not help
fancying, seemed to recognize me. This man, I had persuaded
myself, was the murderer; for which persuasion I was unable to
adduce a tittle of evidence. It was uncolored by the remotest
possibility. It was truly and simply the suggestion of my vagrant
fancy, which had mysteriously settled itself into a conviction; and
having thus capriciously identified the stranger with Lieschen's
murderer, I now, upon evidence quite as preposterous, identified
Bourgonef with the stranger.

The folly became apparent even to myself. If Bourgonef had in his
possession a rouge-pot and false beard, I could not but acknowledge
that he made no attempt to conceal them, nor had he manifested any
confusion on their appearance. He had quietly characterized them
as masquerading follies. Moreover, I now began to remember
distinctly that the stranger did carry a walking-stick in his right
hand; and as Bourgonef had lost his right arm, that settled the
point.

Into such complications, would the tricks of imagination lead me!
I blushed mentally, and resolved to let it serve as a lesson in
future. It is needless, however, to say that the lesson was lost,
as such lessons always are lost; a strong tendency in any direction
soon disregards all the teachings of experience. I am still not
the less the victim of my constructive imagination, because I have
frequently had to be ashamed of its vagaries.

The next morning I awoke with a lighter breast, rejoicing in the
caution which had delayed me from any rash manifestation of
suspicions now seen to be absurd. I smiled as the thought arose:
what if this suspected stranger should also be pestered by an
active imagination, and should entertain similar suspicions of me?
He must have seen in my eyes the look of recognition which I saw in
his. On hearing of the murder, our meeting may also have recurred
to him; and his suspicions would have this color, wanting to mine,
that I happen to inherit with my Italian blood a somewhat truculent
appearance, which has gained for me among my friends the playful
sobriquet of "the brigand."

Anxious to atone at once for my folly, and to remove from my mind
any misgiving--if it existed--at my quitting him so soon after the
disclosures of the masquerading details, I went to Bourgonef as
soon as I was dressed and proposed a ramble till the diligence
started for Munich. He was sympathetic in his inquiries about my
colic, which I assured him had quite passed away, and out we went.
The sharp morning air of March made us walk briskly, and gave a
pleasant animation to our thoughts. As he discussed the acts of
the provisional government, so wise, temperate, and energetic, the
fervor and generosity of his sentiments stood out in such striking
contrast with the deed I had last night recklessly imputed to him
that I felt deeply ashamed, and was nearly carried away by mingled
admiration and self-reproach to confess the absurd vagrancy of my
thoughts and humbly ask his pardon. But you can understand the
reluctance at a confession so insulting to him, so degrading to me.
It is at all times difficult to tell a man, face to face, eye to
eye, the evil you have thought of him, unless the recklessness of
anger seizes on it as a weapon with which to strike; and I had now
so completely unsaid to myself all that I once had thought of evil,
that to put it in words seemed a gratuitous injury to me and insult
to him.

A day or two after our arrival in Munich a reaction began steadily
to set in. Ashamed as I was of my suspicions, I could not
altogether banish from my mind the incident which had awakened
them. The image of that false beard would mingle with my thoughts.
I was vaguely uncomfortable at the idea of Bourgonef's carrying
about with him obvious materials of disguise. In itself this would
have had little significance; but coupled with the fact that his
devoted servant was--in spite of all Bourgonef's eulogies--
repulsively ferocious in aspect, capable, as I could not help
believing, of any brutality,--the suggestion was unpleasant. You
will understand that having emphatically acquitted Bourgonef in my
mind, I did not again distinctly charge him with any complicity in
the mysterious murder; on the contrary, I should indignantly have
repelled such a thought; but the uneasy sense of some mystery about
him, coupled with the accessories of disguise, and the aspect of
the servant, gave rise to dim, shadowy forebodings which ever and
anon passed across my mind.

Did it ever occur to you, reader, to reflect on the depths of
deceit which lie still and dark even in the honestest minds?
Society reposes on a thin crust of convention, underneath which lie
fathomless possibilities of crime, and consequently suspicions of
crime. Friendship, however close and dear, is not free from its
reserves, unspoken beliefs, more or less suppressed opinions. The
man whom you would indignantly defend against any accusation
brought by another, so confident are you in his unshakable
integrity, you may yourself momentarily suspect of crimes far
exceeding those which you repudiate. Indeed, I have known
sagacious men hold that perfect frankness in expressing the
thoughts is a sure sign of imperfect friendship; something is
always suppressed; and it is not he who loves you that "tells you
candidly what he thinks" of your person, your pretensions, your
children, or your poems. Perfect candor is dictated by envy, or
some other unfriendly feeling, making friendship a stalking-horse,
under cover of which it shoots the arrow which will rankle.
Friendship is candid only when the candor is urgent--meant to avert
impending danger or to rectify an error. The candor which is an
impertinence never springs from friendship. Love is sympathetic.

I do not, of course, mean to intimate that my feeling for Bourgonef
was of that deep kind which justifies the name of friendship. I
only want to say that in our social relations we are constantly
hiding from each other, under the smiles and courtesies of friendly
interest, thoughts which, if expressed, would destroy all possible
communion--and that, nevertheless, we are not insincere in our
smiles and courtesies; and therefore there is nothing paradoxical
in my having felt great admiration for Bourgonef, and great
pleasure in his society, while all the time there was deep down in
the recesses of my thoughts an uneasy sense of a dark mystery which
possibly connected him with a dreadful crime.

This feeling was roused into greater activity by an incident which
now occurred. One morning I went to Bourgonef's room, which was at
some distance from mine on the same floor, intending to propose a
visit to the sculpture at the Glyptothek. To my surprise I found
Ivan the serf standing before the closed door. He looked at me
like a mastiff about to spring; and intimated by significant
gestures that I was not allowed to enter the room. Concluding that
his master was occupied in some way, and desired not to be
disturbed, I merely signified by a nod that my visit was of no
consequence, and went out. On returning about an hour afterwards I
saw Ivan putting three pink letters into the letter-box of the
hotel. I attached no significance to this very ordinary fact at
the time, but went up to my room and began writing my letters, one
of which was to my lawyer, sending him an important receipt. The
dinner-bell sounded before I had half finished this letter; but I
wrote on, determined to have done with it at once, in case the
afternoon should offer any expedition with Bourgonef.

At dinner he quietly intimated that Ivan had informed him of my
visit, and apologized for not having been able to see me. I, of
course, assured





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