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American Mystery Stories

Adventure Of The Black Fisherman
An Heiress From Redhorse
By The Waters Of Paradise
Horror: A True Tale
Introduction To The Corpus Delicti
My Wife's Tempter
The Corpus Delicti
The Gold-bug
The Golden Ingot
The Man And The Snake
The Minister's Black Veil
The Oblong Box
The Shadows On The Wall
Wieland's Madness
Wolfert Webber Or Golden Dreams

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



Wieland's Madness








[As the story opens, the narratress, Clara Wieland, is entering
upon the happy realization of her love for Henry Pleyel, closest
friend of her brother "Wieland."

Their woodland home, Mettingen, on the banks of the then remote
Schuylkill, is the abode of music, letters and thorough culture.
The peace of high thinking and simple outdoor life hovers over
all.]


One sunny afternoon I was standing in the door of my house, when I
marked a person passing close to the edge of the bank that was in
front. His pace was a careless and lingering one, and had none of
that gracefulness and ease which distinguish a person with certain
advantages of education from a clown. His gait was rustic and
awkward. His form was ungainly and disproportioned. Shoulders
broad and square, breast sunken, his head drooping, his body of
uniform breadth, supported by long and lank legs, were the
ingredients of his frame. His garb was not ill adapted to such a
figure. A slouched hat, tarnished by the weather, a coat of thick
gray cloth, cut and wrought, as it seemed, by a country tailor,
blue worsted stockings, and shoes fastened by thongs and deeply
discolored by dust, which brush had never disturbed, constituted
his dress.

There was nothing remarkable in these appearances: they were
frequently to be met with on the road and in the harvest-field. I
cannot tell why I gazed upon them, on this occasion, with more than
ordinary attention, unless it were that such figures were seldom
seen by me except on the road or field. This lawn was only
traversed by men whose views were directed to the pleasures of the
walk or the grandeur of the scenery.

He passed slowly along, frequently pausing, as if to examine the
prospect more deliberately, but never turning his eye toward the
house, so as to allow me a view of his countenance. Presently he
entered a copse at a small distance, and disappeared. My eye
followed him while he remained in sight. If his image remained for
any duration in my fancy after his departure, it was because no
other object occurred sufficient to expel it.

I continued in the same spot for half an hour, vaguely, and by
fits, contemplating the image of this wanderer, and drawing from
outward appearances those inferences, with respect to the
intellectual history of this person, which experience affords us.
I reflected on the alliance which commonly subsists between
ignorance and the practice of agriculture, and indulged myself in
airy speculations as to the influence of progressive knowledge in
dissolving this alliance and embodying the dreams of the poets. I
asked why the plow and the hoe might not become the trade of every
human being, and how this trade might be made conducive to, or at
least consistent with, the acquisition of wisdom and eloquence.

Weary with these reflections, I returned to the kitchen to perform
some household office. I had usually but one servant, and she was
a girl about my own age. I was busy near the chimney, and she was
employed near the door of the apartment, when some one knocked.
The door was opened by her, and she was immediately addressed with,
"Prythee, good girl, canst thou supply a thirsty man with a glass
of buttermilk?" She answered that there was none in the house.
"Aye, but there is some in the dairy yonder. Thou knowest as well
as I, though Hermes never taught thee, that, though every dairy be
a house, every house is not a dairy." To this speech, though she
understood only a part of it, she replied by repeating her
assurances that she had none to give. "Well, then," rejoined the
stranger, "for charity's sweet sake, hand me forth a cup of cold
water." The girl said she would go to the spring and fetch it.
"Nay, give me the cup, and suffer me to help myself. Neither
manacled nor lame, I should merit burial in the maw of carrion
crows if I laid this task upon thee." She gave him the cup, and he
turned to go to the spring.

I listened to this dialogue in silence. The words uttered by the
person without affected me as somewhat singular; but what chiefly
rendered them remarkable was the tone that accompanied them. It
was wholly new. My brother's voice and Pleyel's were musical and
energetic. I had fondly imagined that, in this respect, they were
surpassed by none. Now my mistake was detected. I cannot pretend
to communicate the impression that was made upon me by these
accents, or to depict the degree in which force and sweetness were
blended in them. They were articulated with a distinctness that
was unexampled in my experience. But this was not all. The voice
was not only mellifluent and clear, but the emphasis was so just,
and the modulation so impassioned, that it seemed as if a heart of
stone could not fail of being moved by it. It imparted to me an
emotion altogether involuntary and uncontrollable. When he uttered
the words, "for charity's sweet sake," I dropped the cloth that I
held in my hand; my heart overflowed with sympathy and my eyes with
unbidden tears.

This description will appear to you trifling or incredible. The
importance of these circumstances will be manifested in the sequel.
The manner in which I was affected on this occasion was, to my own
apprehension, a subject of astonishment. The tones were indeed
such as I never heard before; but that they should in an instant,
as it were, dissolve me in tears, will not easily be believed by
others, and can scarcely be comprehended by myself.

It will be readily supposed that I was somewhat inquisitive as to
the person and demeanor of our visitant. After a moment's pause, I
stepped to the door and looked after him. Judge my surprise when I
beheld the selfsame figure that had appeared a half-hour before
upon the bank. My fancy had conjured up a very different image. A
form and attitude and garb were instantly created worthy to
accompany such elocution; but this person was, in all visible
respects, the reverse of this phantom. Strange as it may seem, I
could not speedily reconcile myself to this disappointment.
Instead of returning to my employment, I threw myself in a chair
that was placed opposite the door, and sunk into a fit of musing.

My attention was in a few minutes recalled by the stranger, who
returned with the empty cup in his hand. I had not thought of the
circumstance, or should certainly have chosen a different seat. He
no sooner showed himself, than a confused sense of impropriety,
added to the suddenness of the interview, for which, not having
foreseen it, I had made no preparation, threw me into a state of
the most painful embarrassment. He brought with him a placid brow;
but no sooner had he cast his eyes upon me than his face was as
glowingly suffused as my own. He placed the cup upon the bench,
stammered out thanks, and retired.

It was some time before I could recover my wonted composure. I had
snatched a view of the stranger's countenance. The impression that
it made was vivid and indelible. His cheeks were pallid and lank,
his eyes sunken, his forehead overshadowed by coarse straggling
hairs, his teeth large and irregular, though sound and brilliantly
white, and his chin discolored by a tetter. His skin was of coarse
grain and sallow hue. Every feature was wide of beauty, and the
outline of his face reminded you of an inverted cone.

And yet his forehead, so far as shaggy locks would allow it to be
seen, his eyes lustrously black, and possessing, in the midst of
haggardness, a radiance inexpressibly serene and potent, and
something in the rest of his features which it would be in vain to
describe, but which served to betoken a mind of the highest order,
were essential ingredients in the portrait. This, in the effects
which immediately flowed from it, I count among the most
extraordinary incidents of my life. This face, seen for a moment,
continued for hours to occupy my fancy, to the exclusion of almost
every other image. I had proposed to spend the evening with my
brother; but I could not resist the inclination of forming a sketch
upon paper of this memorable visage. Whether my hand was aided by
any peculiar inspiration, or I was deceived by my own fond
conceptions, this portrait, though hastily executed, appeared
unexceptionable to my own taste.

I placed it at all distances and in all lights; my eyes were
riveted upon it. Half the night passed away in wakefulness and in
contemplation of this picture. So flexible, and yet so stubborn,
is the human mind! So obedient to impulses the most transient and
brief, and yet so unalterably observant of the direction which is
given to it! How little did I then foresee the termination of that
chain of which this may be regarded as the first link!

Next day arose in darkness and storm. Torrents of rain fell during
the whole day, attended with incessant thunder, which reverberated
in stunning echoes from the opposite declivity. The inclemency of
the air would not allow me to walk out. I had, indeed, no
inclination to leave my apartment. I betook myself to the
contemplation of this portrait, whose attractions time had rather
enhanced than diminished. I laid aside my usual occupations, and,
seating myself at a window, consumed the day in alternately looking
out upon the storm and gazing at the picture which lay upon a table
before me. You will perhaps deem this conduct somewhat singular,
and ascribe it to certain peculiarities of temper. I am not aware
of any such peculiarities. I can account for my devotion to this
image no otherwise than by supposing that its properties were rare
and prodigious. Perhaps you will suspect that such were the first
inroads of a passion incident to every female heart, and which
frequently gains a footing by means even more slight and more
improbable than these. I shall not controvert the reasonableness
of the suspicion, but leave you at liberty to draw from my
narrative what conclusions you please.

Night at length returned, and the storm ceased. The air was once
more clear and calm, and bore an affecting contrast to that uproar
of the elements by which it had been preceded. I spent the
darksome hours, as I spent the day, contemplative and seated at the
window. Why was my mind absorbed in thoughts ominous and dreary?
Why did my bosom heave with sighs and my eyes overflow with tears?
Was the tempest that had just passed a signal of the ruin which
impended over me? My soul fondly dwelt upon the images of my
brother and his children; yet they only increased the mournfulness
of my contemplations. The smiles of the charming babes were as
bland as formerly. The same dignity sat on the brow of their
father, and yet I thought of them with anguish. Something
whispered that the happiness we at present enjoyed was set on
mutable foundations. Death must happen to all. Whether our
felicity was to be subverted by it to-morrow, or whether it was
ordained that we should lay down our heads full of years and of
honor, was a question that no human being could solve. At other
times these ideas seldom intruded. I either forbore to reflect
upon the destiny that is reserved for all men, or the reflection
was mixed up with images that disrobed it of terror; but now the
uncertainty of life occurred to me without any of its usual and
alleviating accompaniments. I said to myself, We must die. Sooner
or later, we must disappear forever from the face of the earth.
Whatever be the links that hold us to life, they must be broken.
This scene of existence is, in all its parts, calamitous. The
greater number is oppressed with immediate evils, and those the
tide of whose fortunes is full, how small is their portion of
enjoyment, since they know that it will terminate!

For some time I indulged myself, without reluctance, in these
gloomy thoughts; but at length the delection which they produced
became insupportably painful. I endeavored to dissipate it with
music. I had all my grandfather's melody as well as poetry by
rote. I now lighted by chance on a ballad which commemorated the
fate of a German cavalier who fell at the siege of Nice under
Godfrey of Bouillon. My choice was unfortunate; for the scenes of
violence and carnage which were here wildly but forcibly portrayed
only suggested to my thoughts a new topic in the horrors of war.

I sought refuge, but ineffectually, in sleep. My mind was thronged
by vivid but confused images, and no effort that I made was
sufficient to drive them away. In this situation I heard the
clock, which hung in the room, give the signal for twelve. It was
the same instrument which formerly hung in my father's chamber, and
which, on account of its being his workmanship, was regarded by
everyone of our family with veneration. It had fallen to me in the
division of his property, and was placed in this asylum. The sound
awakened a series of reflections respecting his death. I was not
allowed to pursue them; for scarcely had the vibrations ceased,
when my attention was attracted by a whisper, which, at first,
appeared to proceed from lips that were laid close to my ear.

No wonder that a circumstance like this startled me. In the first
impulse of my terror, I uttered a slight scream and shrunk to the
opposite side of the bed. In a moment, however, I recovered from
my trepidation. I was habitually indifferent to all the causes of
fear by which the majority are afflicted. I entertained no
apprehension of either ghosts or robbers. Our security had never
been molested by either, and I made use of no means to prevent or
counterwork their machinations. My tranquillity on this occasion
was quickly retrieved. The whisper evidently proceeded from one
who was posted at my bedside. The first idea that suggested itself
was that it was uttered by the girl who lived with me as a servant.
Perhaps somewhat had alarmed her, or she was sick, and had come to
request my assistance. By whispering in my ear she intended to
rouse without alarming me.

Full of this persuasion, I called, "Judith, is it you? What do you
want? Is there anything the matter with you?" No answer was
returned. I repeated my inquiry, but equally in vain. Cloudy as
was the atmosphere, and curtained as my bed was, nothing was
visible. I withdrew the curtain, and, leaning my head on my elbow,
I listened with the deepest attention to catch some new sound.
Meanwhile, I ran over in my thoughts every circumstance that could
assist my conjectures.

My habitation was a wooden edifice, consisting of two stories. In
each story were two rooms, separated by an entry, or middle
passage, with which they communicated by opposite doors. The
passage on the lower story had doors at the two ends, and a
staircase. Windows answered to the doors on the upper story.
Annexed to this, on the eastern side, were wings, divided in like
manner into an upper and lower room; one of them comprised a
kitchen, and chamber above it for the servant, and communicated on
both stories with the parlor adjoining it below and the chamber
adjoining it above. The opposite wing is of smaller dimensions,
the rooms not being above eight feet square. The lower of these
was used as a depository of household implements; the upper was a
closet in which I deposited my books and papers. They had but one
inlet, which was from the room adjoining. There was no window in
the lower one, and in the upper a small aperture which communicated
light and air, but would scarcely admit the body. The door which
led into this was close to my bed head, and was always locked but
when I myself was within. The avenues below were accustomed to be
closed and bolted at nights.

The maid was my only companion; and she could not reach my chamber
without previously passing through the opposite chamber and the
middle passage, of which, however, the doors were usually
unfastened. If she had occasioned this noise, she would have
answered my repeated calls. No other conclusion, therefore, was
left me, but that I had mistaken the sounds, and that my
imagination had transformed some casual noise into the voice of a
human creature. Satisfied with this solution, I was preparing to
relinquish my listening attitude, when my ear was again saluted
with a new and yet louder whispering. It appeared, as before, to
issue from lips that touched my pillow. A second effort of
attention, however, clearly showed me that the sounds issued from
within the closet, the door of which was not more than eight inches
from my pillow.

This second interruption occasioned a shock less vehement than the
former. I started, but gave no audible token of alarm. I was so
much mistress of my feelings as to continue listening to what
should be said. The whisper was distinct, hoarse, and uttered so
as to show that the speaker was desirous of being heard by some one
near, but, at the same time, studious to avoid being overheard by
any other:--

"Stop! stop, I say, madman as you are! there are better means than
that. Curse upon your rashness! There is no need to shoot."

Such were the words uttered, in a tone of eagerness and anger,
within so small a distance of my pillow. What construction could I
put upon them? My heart began to palpitate with dread of some
unknown danger. Presently, another voice, but equally near me, was
heard whispering in answer, "Why not? I will draw a trigger in
this business; but perdition be my lot if I do more!" To this the
first voice returned, in a tone which rage had heightened in a
small degree above a whisper, "Coward! stand aside, and see me do
it. I will grasp her throat; I will do her business in an instant;
she shall not have time so much as to groan." What wonder that I
was petrified by sounds so dreadful! Murderers lurked in my
closet. They were planning the means of my destruction. One
resolved to shoot, and the other menaced suffocation. Their means
being chosen, they would forthwith break the door. Flight
instantly suggested itself as most eligible in circumstances so
perilous. I deliberated not a moment; but, fear adding wings to my
speed, I leaped out of bed, and, scantily robed as I was, rushed
out of the chamber, downstairs, and into the open air. I can
hardly recollect the process of turning keys and withdrawing bolts.
My terrors urged me forward with almost a mechanical impulse. I
stopped not till I reached my brother's door. I had not gained the
threshold, when, exhausted by the violence of my emotions and by my
speed, I sunk down in a fit.

How long I remained in this situation I know not. When I
recovered, I found myself stretched on a bed, surrounded by my
sister and her female servants. I was astonished at the scene
before me, but gradually recovered the recollection of what had
happened. I answered their importunate inquiries as well as I was
able. My brother and Pleyel, whom the storm of the preceding day
chanced to detain here, informing themselves of every particular,
proceeded with lights and weapons to my deserted habitation. They
entered my chamber and my closet, and found everything in its
proper place and customary order. The door of the closet was
locked, and appeared not to have been opened in my absence. They
went to Judith's apartment. They found her asleep and in safety.
Pleyel's caution induced him to forbear alarming the girl; and,
finding her wholly ignorant of what had passed, they directed her
to return to her chamber. They then fastened the doors and
returned.

My friends were disposed to regard this transaction as a dream.
That persons should be actually immured in this closet, to which,
in the circumstances of the time, access from without or within was
apparently impossible, they could not seriously believe. That any
human beings had intended murder, unless it were to cover a scheme
of pillage, was incredible; but that no such design had been formed
was evident from the security in which the furniture of the house
and the closet remained.

I revolved every incident and expression that had occurred. My
senses assured me of the truth of them; and yet their abruptness
and improbability made me, in my turn, somewhat incredulous. The
adventure had made a deep impression on my fancy; and it was not
till after a week's abode at my brother's that I resolved to resume
the possession of my own dwelling.

There was another circumstance that enhanced the mysteriousness of
this event. After my recovery, it was obvious to inquire by what
means the attention of the family had been drawn to my situation.
I had fallen before I had reached the threshold or was able to give
any signal. My brother related that, while this was transacting in
my chamber, he himself was awake, in consequence of some slight
indisposition, and lay, according to his custom, musing on some
favorite topic. Suddenly the silence, which was remarkably
profound, was broken by a voice of most piercing shrillness, that
seemed to be uttered by one in the hall below his chamber. "Awake!
arise!" it exclaimed; "hasten to succor one that is dying at your
door!"

This summons was effectual. There was no one in the house who was
not roused by it. Pleyel was the first to obey, and my brother
overtook him before he reached the hall. What was the general
astonishment when your friend was discovered stretched upon the
grass before the door, pale, ghastly, and with every mark of death!

But how was I to regard this midnight conversation? Hoarse and
manlike voices conferring on the means of death, so near my bed,
and at such an hour! How had my ancient security vanished! That
dwelling which had hitherto been an inviolate asylum was now beset
with danger to my life. That solitude formerly so dear to me could
no longer be endured. Pleyel, who had consented to reside with us
during the months of spring, lodged in the vacant chamber, in order
to quiet my alarms. He treated my fears with ridicule, and in a
short time very slight traces of them remained; but, as it was
wholly indifferent to him whether his nights were passed at my
house or at my brother's, this arrangement gave general
satisfaction.


II


I will enumerate the various inquiries and conjectures which these
incidents occasioned. After all our efforts, we came no nearer to
dispelling the mist in which they were involved; and time, instead
of facilitating a solution, only accumulated our doubts.

In the midst of thoughts excited by these events, I was not
unmindful of my interview with the stranger. I related the
particulars, and showed the portrait to my friends. Pleyel
recollected to have met with a figure resembling my description in
the city; but neither his face or garb made the same impression
upon him that it made upon me. It was a hint to rally me upon my
prepossessions, and to amuse us with a thousand ludicrous anecdotes
which he had collected in his travels. He made no scruple to
charge me with being in love; and threatened to inform the swain,
when he met him, of his good fortune.

Pleyel's temper made him susceptible of no durable impressions.
His conversation was occasionally visited by gleams of his ancient
vivacity; but, though his impetuosity was sometimes inconvenient,
there was nothing to dread from his malice. I had no fear that my
character or dignity would suffer in his hands, and was not
heartily displeased when he declared his intention of profiting by
his first meeting with the stranger to introduce him to our
acquaintance.

Some weeks after this I had spent a toilsome day, and, as the sun
declined, found myself disposed to seek relief in a walk. The
river bank is, at this part of it and for some considerable space
upward, so rugged and steep as not to be easily descended. In a
recess of this declivity, near the southern verge of my little
demesne, was placed a slight building, with seats and lattices.
From a crevice of the rock to which this edifice was attached there
burst forth a stream of the purest water, which, leaping from ledge
to ledge for the space of sixty feet, produced a freshness in the
air, and a murmur, the most delicious and soothing imaginable.
These, added to the odors of the cedars which embowered it, and of
the honeysuckle which clustered among the lattices, rendered this
my favorite retreat in summer.

On this occasion I repaired hither. My spirits drooped through the
fatigue of long attention, and I threw myself upon a bench, in a
state, both mentally and personally, of the utmost supineness. The
lulling sounds of the waterfall, the fragrance, and the dusk,
combined to becalm my spirits, and, in a short time, to sink me
into sleep. Either the uneasiness of my posture, or some slight
indisposition, molested my repose with dreams of no cheerful hue.
After various incoherences had taken their turn to occupy my fancy,
I at length imagined myself walking, in the evening twilight, to my
brother's habitation. A pit, methought, had been dug in the path I
had taken, of which I was not aware. As I carelessly pursued my
walk, I thought I saw my brother standing at some distance before
me, beckoning and calling me to make haste. He stood on the
opposite edge of the gulf. I mended my pace, and one step more
would have plunged me into this abyss, had not some one from behind
caught suddenly my arm, and exclaimed, in a voice of eagerness and
terror, "Hold! hold!"

The sound broke my sleep, and I found myself, at the next moment,
standing on my feet, and surrounded by the deepest darkness.
Images so terrific and forcible disabled me for a time from
distinguishing between sleep and wakefulness, and withheld from me
the knowledge of my actual condition. My first panic was succeeded
by the perturbations of surprise to find myself alone in the open
air and immersed in so deep a gloom. I slowly recollected the
incidents of the afternoon, and how I came hither. I could not
estimate the time, but saw the propriety of returning with speed to
the house. My faculties were still too confused, and the darkness
too intense, to allow me immediately to find my way up the steep.
I sat down, therefore, to recover myself, and to reflect upon my
situation.

This was no sooner done, than a low voice was heard from behind the
lattice, on the side where I sat. Between the rock and the lattice
was a chasm not wide enough to admit a human body; yet in this
chasm he that spoke appeared to be stationed. "Attend! attend! but
be not terrified."

I started, and exclaimed, "Good heavens! what is that? Who are
you?"

"A friend; one come not to injure but to save you: fear nothing."

This voice was immediately recognized to be the same with one of
those which I had heard in the closet; it was the voice of him who
had proposed to shoot rather than to strangle his victim. My
terror made me at once mute and motionless. He continued, "I
leagued to murder you. I repent. Mark my bidding, and be safe.
Avoid this spot. The snares of death encompass it. Elsewhere
danger will be distant; but this spot, shun it as you value your
life. Mark me further: profit by this warning, but divulge it not.
If a syllable of what has passed escape you, your doom is sealed.
Remember your father, and be faithful."

Here the accents ceased, and left me overwhelmed with dismay. I
was fraught with the persuasion that during every moment I remained
here my life was endangered; but I could not take a step without
hazard of falling to the bottom of the precipice. The path leading
to the summit was short, but rugged and intricate. Even starlight
was excluded by the umbrage, and not the faintest gleam was
afforded to guide my steps. What should I do? To depart or remain
was equally and eminently perilous.

In this state of uncertainty, I perceived a ray flit across the
gloom and disappear. Another succeeded, which was stronger, and
remained for a passing moment. It glittered on the shrubs that
were scattered at the entrance, and gleam continued to succeed
gleam for a few seconds, till they finally gave place to
unintermitted darkness.

The first visitings of this light called up a train of horrors in
my mind; destruction impended over this spot; the voice which I had
lately heard had warned me to retire, and had menaced me with the
fate of my father if I refused. I was desirous, but unable to
obey; these gleams were such as preluded the stroke by which he
fell; the hour, perhaps, was the same. I shuddered as if I had
beheld suspended over me the exterminating sword.

Presently a new and stronger illumination burst through the lattice
on the right hand, and a voice from the edge of the precipice above
called out my name. It was Pleyel. Joyfully did I recognize his
accents; but such was the tumult of my thoughts that I had not
power to answer him till he had frequently repeated his summons. I
hurried at length from the fatal spot, and, directed by the lantern
which he bore, ascended the hill.

Pale and breathless, it was with difficulty I could support myself.
He anxiously inquired into the cause of my affright and the motive
of my unusual absence. He had returned from my brother's at a late
hour, and was informed by Judith that I had walked out before
sunset and had not yet returned. This intelligence was somewhat
alarming. He waited some time; but, my absence continuing, he had
set out in search of me. He had explored the neighborhood with the
utmost care, but, receiving no tidings of me, he was preparing to
acquaint my brother with this circumstance, when he recollected the
summer-house on the bank, and conceived it possible that some
accident had detained me there. He again inquired into the cause
of this detention, and of that confusion and dismay which my looks
testified.

I told him that I had strolled hither in the afternoon, that sleep
had overtaken me as I sat, and that I had awakened a few minutes
before his arrival. I could tell him no more. In the present
impetuosity of my thoughts, I was almost dubious whether the pit
into which my brother had endeavored to entice me, and the voice
that talked through the lattice, were not parts of the same dream.
I remembered, likewise, the charge of secrecy, and the penalty
denounced if I should rashly divulge what I had heard. For these
reasons I was silent on that subject, and, shutting myself in my
chamber, delivered myself up to contemplation.

What I have related will, no doubt, appear to you a fable. You
will believe that calamity has subverted my reason, and that I am
amusing you with the chimeras of my brain instead of facts that
have really happened. I shall not be surprised or offended if
these be your suspicions. I know not, indeed, how you can deny
them admission. For, if to me, the immediate witness, they were
fertile of perplexity and doubt, how must they affect another to
whom they are recommended only by my testimony? It was only by
subsequent events that I was fully and incontestably assured of the
veracity of my senses.

Meanwhile, what was I to think? I had been assured that a design
had been formed against my life. The ruffians had leagued to
murder me. Whom had I offended? Who was there, with whom I had
ever maintained intercourse, who was capable of harboring such
atrocious purposes?

My temper was the reverse of cruel and imperious. My heart was
touched with sympathy for the children of misfortune. But this
sympathy was not a barren sentiment. My purse, scanty as it was,
was ever open, and my hands ever active, to relieve distress. Many
were the wretches whom my personal exertions had extricated from
want and disease, and who rewarded me with their gratitude. There
was no face which lowered at my approach, and no lips which uttered
imprecations in my hearing. On the contrary, there was none, over
whose fate I had exerted any influence or to whom I was known by
reputation, who did not greet me with smiles and dismiss me with
proofs of veneration: yet did not my senses assure me that a plot
was laid against my life?

I am not destitute of courage. I have shown myself deliberative
and calm in the midst of peril. I have hazarded my own life for
the preservation of another; but now was I confused and panic-
struck. I have not lived so as to fear death; yet to perish by an
unseen and secret stroke, to be mangled by the knife of an
assassin, was a thought at which I shuddered: what had I done to
deserve to be made the victim of malignant passions?

But soft! was I not assured that my life was safe in all places but
one? And why was the treason limited to take effect in this spot?
I was everywhere equally defenseless. My house and chamber were at
all times accessible. Danger still impended over me; the bloody
purpose was still entertained, but the hand that was to execute it
was powerless in all places but one!

Here I had remained for the last four or five hours, without the
means of resistance or defense; yet I had not been attacked. A
human being was at hand, who was conscious of my presence, and
warned me hereafter to avoid this retreat. His voice was not
absolutely new, but had I never heard it but once before? But why
did he prohibit me from relating this incident to others, and what
species of death will be awarded if I disobey?

Such were the reflections that haunted me during the night, and
which effectually deprived me of sleep. Next morning, at
breakfast, Pleyel related an event which my disappearance had
hindered him from mentioning the night before. Early the preceding
morning, his occasions called him to the city: he had stepped into
a coffee-house to while away an hour; here he had met a person
whose appearance instantly bespoke him to be the same whose hasty
visit I have mentioned, and whose extraordinary visage and tones
had so powerfully affected me. On an attentive survey, however, he
proved, likewise, to be one with whom my friend had had some
intercourse in Europe. This authorized the liberty of accosting
him, and after some conversation, mindful, as Pleyel said, of the
footing which this stranger had gained in my heart, he had ventured
to invite him to Mettingen. The invitation had been cheerfully
accepted, and a visit promised on the afternoon of the next day.

This information excited no sober emotions in my breast. I was, of
course, eager to be informed as to the circumstances of their
ancient intercourse. When and where had they met? What knew he of
the life and character of this man?

In answer to my inquiries, he informed me that, three years before,
he was a traveler in Spain. He had made an excursion from Valencia
to Murviedro, with a view to inspect the remains of Roman
magnificence scattered in the environs of that town. While
traversing the site of the theater of old Saguntum, he alighted
upon this man, seated on a stone, and deeply engaged in perusing
the work of the deacon Marti. A short conversation ensued, which
proved the stranger to be English. They returned to Valencia
together.

His garb, aspect, and deportment were wholly Spanish. A residence
of three years in the country, indefatigable attention to the
language, and a studious conformity with the customs of the people,
had made him indistinguishable from a native when he chose to
assume that character. Pleyel found him to be connected, on the
footing of friendship and respect, with many eminent merchants in
that city. He had embraced the Catholic religion, and adopted a
Spanish name instead of his own, which was CARWIN, and devoted
himself to the literature and religion of his new country. He
pursued no profession, but subsisted on remittances from England.

While Pleyel remained in Valencia, Carwin betrayed no aversion to
intercourse, and the former found no small attractions in the
society of this new acquaintance, On general topics he was highly
intelligent and communicative. He had visited every corner of
Spain, and could furnish the most accurate details respecting its
ancient and present state. On topics of religion and of his own
history, previous to his TRANSFORMATION into a Spaniard, he was
invariably silent. You could merely gather from his discourse that
he was English, and that he was well acquainted with the
neighboring countries.

His character excited considerable curiosity in the observer. It
was not easy to reconcile his conversion to the Romish faith with
those proofs of knowledge and capacity that were exhibited by him
on different occasions. A suspicion was sometimes admitted that
his belief was counterfeited for some political purpose. The most
careful observation, however, produced no discovery. His manners
were at all times harmless and inartificial, and his habits those
of a lover of contemplation and seclusion. He appeared to have
contracted an affection for Pleyel, who was not slow to return it.

My friend, after a month's residence in this city, returned into
France, and, since that period, had heard nothing concerning Carwin
till his appearance at Mettingen.

On this occasion Carwin had received Pleyel's greeting with a
certain distance and solemnity to which the latter had not been
accustomed. He had waived noticing the inquiries of Pleyel
respecting his desertion of Spain, in which he had formerly
declared that it was his purpose to spend his life. He had
assiduously diverted the attention of the latter to indifferent
topics, but was still, on every theme, as eloquent and judicious as
formerly. Why he had assumed the garb of a rustic Pleyel was
unable to conjecture. Perhaps it might be poverty; perhaps he was
swayed by motives which it was his interest to conceal, but which
were connected with consequences of the utmost moment.

Such was the sum of my friend's information. I was not sorry to be
left alone during the greater part of this day. Every employment
was irksome which did not leave me at liberty to meditate. I had
now a new subject on which to exercise my thoughts. Before evening
I should be ushered into his presence, and listen to those tones
whose magical and thrilling power I had already experienced. But
with what new images would he then be accompanied?

Carwin was an adherent to the Romish faith, yet was an Englishman
by birth, and, perhaps, a Protestant by education. He had adopted
Spain for his country, and had intimated a design to spend his days
there, yet now was an inhabitant of this district, and disguised by
the habiliments of a clown! What could have obliterated the
impressions of his youth and made him abjure his religion and his
country? What subsequent events had introduced so total a change
in his plans? In withdrawing from Spain, had he reverted to the
religion of his ancestors? or was it true that his former
conversion was deceitful, and that his conduct had been swayed by
motives which it was prudent to conceal?

Hours were consumed in revolving these ideas. My meditations were
intense; and, when the series was broken, I began to reflect with
astonishment on my situation. From the death of my parents till
the commencement of this year my life had been serene and blissful
beyond the ordinary portion of humanity; but now my bosom was
corroded by anxiety. I was visited by dread of unknown dangers,
and the future was a scene over which clouds rolled and thunders
muttered. I compared the cause with the effect, and they seemed
disproportioned to each other. All unaware, and in a manner which
I had no power to explain, I was pushed from my immovable and lofty
station and cast upon a sea of troubles.

I determined to be my brother's visitant on this evening; yet my
resolves were not unattended with wavering and reluctance.
Pleyel's insinuations that I was in love affected in no degree my
belief; yet the consciousness that this was the opinion of one who
would probably be present at our introduction to each other would
excite all that confusion which the passion itself is apt to
produce. This would confirm him in his error and call forth new
railleries. His mirth, when exerted upon this topic, was the
source of the bitterest vexation. Had he been aware of its
influence upon my happiness, his temper would not have allowed him
to persist; but this influence it was my chief endeavor to conceal.
That the belief of my having bestowed my heart upon another
produced in my friend none but ludicrous sensations was the true
cause of my distress; but if this had been discovered by him my
distress would have been unspeakably aggravated.


III


As soon as evening arrived, I performed my visit. Carwin made one
of the company into which I was ushered. Appearances were the same
as when I before beheld him. His garb was equally negligent and
rustic. I gazed upon his countenance with new curiosity. My
situation was such as to enable me to bestow upon it a deliberate
examination. Viewed at more leisure, it lost none of its wonderful
properties. I could not deny my homage to the intelligence
expressed in it, but was wholly uncertain whether he were an object
to be dreaded or adored, and whether his powers had been exerted to
evil or to good.

He was sparing in discourse; but whatever he said was pregnant with
meaning, and uttered with rectitude of articulation and force of
emphasis of which I had entertained no conception previously to my
knowledge of him. Notwithstanding the uncouthness of his garb, his
manners were not unpolished. All topics were handled by him with
skill, and without pedantry or affectation. He uttered no
sentiment calculated to produce a disadvantageous impression; on
the contrary, his observations denoted a mind alive to every
generous and heroic feeling. They were introduced without parade,
and accompanied with that degree of earnestness which indicates
sincerity.

He parted from us not till late, refusing an invitation to spend
the night here, but readily consented to repeat his visit. His
visits were frequently repeated. Each day introduced us to a more
intimate acquaintance with his sentiments, but left us wholly in
the dark concerning that about which we were most inquisitive. He
studiously avoided all mention of his past or present situation.
Even the place of his abode in the city he concealed from us.

Our sphere in this respect being somewhat limited, and the
intellectual endowments of this man being indisputably great, his
deportment was more diligently marked and copiously commented on by
us than you, perhaps, will think the circumstances warranted. Not
a gesture, or glance, or accent, that was not, in our private
assemblies, discussed, and inferences deduced from it. It may well
be thought that he modeled his behavior by an uncommon standard,
when, with all our opportunities and accuracy of observation, we
were able for a long time to gather no satisfactory information.
He afforded us no ground on which to build even a plausible
conjecture.

There is a degree of familiarity which takes place between constant
associates, that justifies the negligence of many rules of which,
in an earlier period of their intercourse, politeness requires the
exact observance. Inquiries into our condition are allowable when
they are prompted by a disinterested concern for our welfare; and
this solicitude is not only pardonable, but may justly be demanded
from those who choose us for their companions. This state of
things was more slow to arrive at on this occasion than on most
others, on account of the gravity and loftiness of this man's
behavior.

Pleyel, however, began at length to employ regular means for this
end. He occasionally alluded to the circumstances in which they
had formerly met, and remarked the incongruousness between the
religion and habits of a Spaniard with those of a native of
Britain. He expressed his astonishment at meeting our guest in
this corner of the globe, especially as, when they parted in Spain,
he was taught to believe that Carwin should never leave that
country. He insinuated that a change so great must have been
prompted by motives of a singular and momentous kind.

No answer, or an answer wide of the purpose, was generally made to
these insinuations. Britons and Spaniards, he said, are votaries
of the same Deity, and square their faith by the same precepts;
their ideas are drawn from the same fountains of literature, and
they speak dialects of the same tongue; their government and laws
have more resemblances than differences; they were formerly
provinces of the same civil, and, till lately, of the same
religious, empire.

As to the motives which induce men to change the place of their
abode, these must unavoidably be fleeting and mutable. If not
bound to one spot by conjugal or parental ties, or by the nature of
that employment to which we are indebted for subsistence, the
inducements to change are far more numerous and powerful than
opposite inducements.

He spoke as if desirous of showing that he was not aware of the
tendency of Pleyel's remarks; yet certain tokens were apparent that
proved him by no means wanting in penetration. These tokens were
to be read in his countenance, and not in his words. When anything
was said indicating curiosity in us, the gloom of his countenance
was deepened, his eyes sunk to the ground, and his wonted air was
not resumed without visible struggle. Hence, it was obvious to
infer that some incidents of his life were reflected on by him with
regret; and that, since these incidents were carefully concealed,
and even that regret which flowed from them laboriously stifled,
they had not been merely disastrous. The secrecy that was observed
appeared not designed to provoke or baffle the inquisitive, but was
prompted by the shame or by the prudence of guilt.

These ideas, which were adopted by Pleyel and my brother as well as
myself, hindered us from employing more direct means for
accomplishing our wishes. Questions might have been put in such
terms that no room should be left for the pretense of misapprehension;
and, if modesty merely had been the obstacle, such questions would
not have been wanting; but we considered that, if the disclosure
were productive of pain or disgrace, it was inhuman to extort it.

Amidst the various topics that were discussed in his presence,
allusions were, of course, made to the inexplicable events that had
lately happened. At those times the words and looks of this man
were objects of my particular attention. The subject was
extraordinary; and anyone whose experience or reflections could
throw any light upon it was entitled to my gratitude. As this man
was enlightened by reading and travel, I listened with eagerness to
the remarks which he should make.

At first I entertained a kind of apprehension that the tale would
be heard by him with incredulity and secret ridicule. I had
formerly heard stories that resembled this in some of their
mysterious circumstances; but they were commonly heard by me with
contempt. I was doubtful whether the same impression would not now
be made on the mind of our guest; but I was mistaken in my fears.

He heard them with seriousness, and without any marks either of
surprise or incredulity. He pursued with visible pleasure that
kind of disquisition which was naturally suggested by them. His
fancy was eminently vigorous and prolific; and, if he did not
persuade us that human beings are sometimes admitted to a sensible
intercourse with the Author of nature, he at least won over our
inclination to the cause. He merely deduced, from his own
reasonings, that such intercourse was probable, but confessed that,
though he was acquainted with many instances somewhat similar to
those which had been related by us, none of them were perfectly
exempted from the suspicion of human agency.

On being requested to relate these instances, he amused us with
many curious details. His narratives were constructed with so much
skill, and rehearsed with so much energy, that all the effects of a
dramatic exhibition were frequently produced by them. Those that
were most coherent and most minute, and, of consequence, least
entitled to credit, were yet rendered probable by the exquisite art
of this rhetorician. For every difficulty that was suggested a
ready and plausible solution was furnished. Mysterious voices had
always a share in producing the catastrophe; but they were always
to be explained on some known principles, either as reflected into
a focus or communicated through a tube. I could not but remark
that his narratives, however complex or marvelous, contained no
instance sufficiently parallel to those that had befallen
ourselves, and in which the solution was applicable to our own
case.

My brother was a much more sanguine reasoner than our guest. Even
in some of the facts which were related by Carwin, he maintained
the probability of celestial interference, when the latter was
disposed to deny it, and had found, as he imagined, footsteps of a
human agent. Pleyel was by no means equally credulous. He
scrupled not to deny faith to any testimony but that of his senses,
and allowed the facts which had lately been supported by this
testimony not to mold his belief, but merely to give birth to
doubts.

It was soon observed that Carwin adopted, in some degree, a similar
distinction. A tale of this kind, related by others, he would
believe, provided it was explicable upon known principles; but that
such notices were actually communicated by beings of a higher order
he would believe only when his own ears were assailed in a manner
which could not be otherwise accounted for. Civility forbade him
to contradict my brother or myself, but his understanding refused
to acquiesce in our testimony. Besides, he was disposed to
question whether the voices were not really uttered by human
organs. On this supposition he was desired to explain how the
effect was produced.

He answered that the cry for help, heard in the hall on the night
of my adventure, was to be ascribed to a human creature, who
actually stood in the hall when he uttered it. It was of no
moment, he said, that we could not explain by what motives he that
made the signal was led hither. How imperfectly acquainted were we
with the condition and designs of the beings that surrounded us!
The city was near at hand, and thousands might there exist whose
powers and purposes might easily explain whatever was mysterious in
this transaction. As to the closet dialogue, he was obliged to
adopt one of two suppositions, and affirm either that it was
fashioned in my own fancy, or that it actually took place between
two persons in the closet.

Such was Carwin's mode of explaining these appearances. It is
such, perhaps, as would commend itself as most plausible to the
most sagacious minds; but it was insufficient to impart conviction
to us. As to the treason that was meditated against me, it was
doubtless just to conclude that it was either real or imaginary;
but that it was real was attested by the mysterious warning in the
summer-house, the secret of which I had hitherto locked up in my
own breast.

A month passed away in this kind of intercourse. As to Carwin, our
ignorance was in no degree enlightened respecting his genuine
character and views. Appearances were uniform. No man possessed a
larger store of knowledge, or a greater degree of skill in the
communication of it to others; hence he was regarded as an
inestimable addition to our society. Considering the distance of
my brother's house from the city, he was frequently prevailed upon
to pass the night where he spent the evening. Two days seldom
elapsed without a visit from him; hence he was regarded as a kind
of inmate of the house. He entered and departed without ceremony.
When he arrived he received an unaffected welcome, and when he
chose to retire no importunities were used to induce him to remain.

Carwin never parted with his gravity. The inscrutableness of his
character, and the uncertainty whether his fellowship tended to
good or to evil, were seldom absent from our minds. This
circumstance powerfully contributed to sadden us.

My heart was the seat of growing disquietudes. This change in one
who had formerly been characterized by all the exuberances of soul
could not fail to be remarked by my friends. My brother was always
a pattern of solemnity. My sister was clay, molded by the
circumstances in which she happened to be placed. There was but
one whose deportment remains to be described as being of importance
to our happiness. Had Pleyel likewise dismissed his vivacity?

He was as whimsical and jestful as ever, but he was not happy. The
truth in this respect was of too much importance to me not to make
me a vigilant observer. His mirth was easily perceived to be the
fruit of exertion. When his thoughts wandered from the company, an
air of dissatisfaction and impatience stole across his features.
Even the punctuality and frequency of his visits were somewhat
lessened. It may be supposed that my own uneasiness was heightened
by these tokens; but, strange as it may seem, I found, in the
present state of my mind, no relief but in the persuasion that
Pleyel was unhappy.

That unhappiness, indeed, depended for its value in my eyes on the
cause that produced it. There was but one source whence it could
flow. A nameless ecstasy thrilled through my frame when any new
proof occurred that the ambiguousness of my behavior was the cause.


IV


My brother had received a new book from Germany. It was a tragedy,
and the first attempt of a Saxon poet of whom my brother had been
taught to entertain the highest expectations. The exploits of
Zisca, the Bohemian hero, were woven into a dramatic series and
connection. According to German custom, it was minute and diffuse,
and dictated by an adventurous and lawless fancy. It was a chain
of audacious acts and unheard-of disasters. The moated fortress
and the thicket, the ambush and the battle, and the conflict of
headlong passions, were portrayed in wild numbers and with terrific
energy. An afternoon was set apart to rehearse this performance.
The language was familiar to all of us but Carwin, whose company,
therefore, was tacitly dispensed with.

The morning previous to this intended rehearsal I spent at home.
My mind was occupied with reflections relative to my own situation.
The sentiment which lived with chief energy in my heart was
connected with the image of Pleyel. In the midst of my anguish, I
had not been destitute of consolation. His late deportment had
given spring to my hopes. Was not the hour at hand which should
render me the happiest of human creatures? He suspected that I
looked with favorable eyes upon Carwin. Hence arose disquietudes
which he struggled in vain to conceal. He loved me, but was
hopeless that his love would be compensated. Is it not time, said
I, to rectify this error? But by what means is this to be

effected? It can only be done by a change of deportment in me; but
how must I demean myself for this purpose?

I must not speak. Neither eyes nor lips must impart the
information. He must not be assured that my heart is his, previous
to the tender of his own; but he must be convinced that it has not
been given to another; he must be supplied with space whereon to
build a doubt as to the true state of my affections; he must be
prompted to avow himself. The line of delicate propriety,--how
hard it is not to fall short, and not to overleap it!

This afternoon we shall meet. . . . We shall not separate till
late. It will be his province to accompany me home. The airy
expanse is without a speck. This breeze is usually steadfast, and
its promise of a bland and cloudless evening may be trusted. The
moon will rise at eleven, and at that hour we shall wind along this
bank. Possibly that hour may decide my fate. If suitable
encouragement be given, Pleyel will reveal his soul to me; and I,
ere I reach this threshold, will be made the happiest of beings.

And is this good to be mine? Add wings to thy speed, sweet
evening; and thou, moon, I charge thee, shroud thy beams at the
moment when my Pleyel whispers love. I would not for the world
that the burning blushes and the mounting raptures of that moment
should be visible.

But what encouragement is wanting? I must be regardful of
insurmountable limits. Yet, when minds are imbued with a genuine
sympathy, are not words and looks superfluous? Are not motion and
touch sufficient to impart feelings such as mine? Has he not eyed
me at moments when the pressure of his hand has thrown me into
tumults, and was it impossible that he mistook the impetuosities of
love for the eloquence of indignation?

But the hastening evening will decide. Would it were come! And
yet I shudder at its near approach. An interview that must thus
terminate is surely to be wished for by me; and yet it is not
without its terrors. Would to heaven it were come and gone!

I feel no reluctance, my friends, to be thus explicit. Time was,
when these emotions would be hidden with immeasurable solicitude
from every human eye. Alas! these airy and fleeting impulses of
shame are gone. My scruples were preposterous and criminal. They
are bred in all hearts by a perverse and vicious education, and
they would still have maintained their place in my heart, had not
my portion been set in misery. My errors have taught me thus much
wisdom:--that those sentiments which we ought not to disclose it is
criminal to harbor.

It was proposed to begin the rehearsal at four o'clock. I counted
the minutes as they passed; their flight was at once too rapid and
too slow: my sensations were of an excruciating kind; I could taste
no food, nor apply to any task, nor enjoy a moment's repose; when
the hour arrived I hastened to my brother's.

Pleyel was not there. He had not yet come. On ordinary occasions
he was eminent for punctuality. He had testified great eagerness
to share in the pleasures of this rehearsal. He was to divide the
task with my brother, and in tasks like these he always engaged
with peculiar zeal. His elocution was less sweet than sonorous,
and, therefore, better adapted than the mellifluences of his friend
to the outrageous vehemence of this drama.

What could detain him? Perhaps he lingered through forgetfulness.
Yet this was incredible. Never had his memory been known to fail
upon even more trivial occasions. Not less impossible was it that
the scheme had lost its attractions, and that he stayed because his
coming would afford him no gratification. But why should we expect
him to adhere to the minute?

A half-hour elapsed, but Pleyel was still at a distance. Perhaps
he had misunderstood the hour which had been proposed. Perhaps he
had conceived that to-morrow, and not to-day, had been selected for
this purpose; but no. A review of preceding circumstances
demonstrated that such misapprehension was impossible; for he had
himself proposed this day, and this hour. This day his attention
would not otherwise be occupied; but to-morrow an indispensable
engagement was foreseen, by which all his time would be engrossed;
his detention, therefore, must be owing to some unforeseen and
extraordinary event. Our conjectures were vague, tumultuous, and
sometimes fearful. His sickness and his death might possibly have
detained him.

Tortured with suspense, we sat gazing at each other, and at the
path which led from the road. Every horseman that passed was, for
a moment, imagined to be him. Hour succeeded hour, and the sun,
gradually declining, at length disappeared. Every signal of his
coming proved fallacious, and our hopes were at length dismissed.
His absence affected my friends in no insupportable degree. They
should be obliged, they said, to defer this undertaking till the
morrow; and perhaps their impatient curiosity would compel them to
dispense entirely with his presence. No doubt some harmless
occurrence had diverted him from his purpose; and they trusted that
they should receive a satisfactory account of him in the morning.

It may be supposed that this disappointment affected me in a very
different manner. I turned aside my head to conceal my tears. I
fled into solitude, to give vent to my reproaches without
interruption or restraint. My heart was ready to burst with
indignation and grief. Pleyel was not the only object of my keen
but unjust upbraiding. Deeply did I execrate my own folly. Thus
fallen into ruins was the gay fabric which I had reared! Thus had
my golden vision melted into air!

How fondly did I dream that Pleyel was a lover! If he were, would
he have suffered any obstacle to hinder his coming? "Blind and
infatuated man!" I exclaimed. "Thou sportest with happiness. The
good that is offered thee thou hast the insolence and folly to
refuse. Well, I will henceforth intrust my felicity to no one's
keeping but my own."

The first agonies of this disappointment would not allow me to be
reasonable or just. Every ground on which I had built the
persuasion that Pleyel was not unimpressed in my favor appeared to
vanish. It seemed as if I had been misled into this opinion by the
most palpable illusions.

I made some trifling excuse, and returned, much earlier than I
expected, to my own house. I retired early to my chamber, without
designing to sleep. I placed myself at a window, and gave the
reins to reflection.

The hateful and degrading impulses which had lately controlled me
were, in some degree, removed. New dejection succeeded, but was
now produced by contemplating my late behavior. Surely that
passion is worthy to be abhorred which obscures our understanding
and urges us to the commission of injustice. What right had I to
expect his attendance? Had I not demeaned myself like one
indifferent to his happiness, and as having bestowed my regards
upon another? His absence might be prompted by the love which I
considered his absence as a proof that he wanted. He came not
because the sight of me, the spectacle of my coldness or aversion,
contributed to his despair. Why should I prolong, by hypocrisy or
silence, his misery as well as my own? Why not deal with him
explicitly, and assure him of the truth?

You will hardly believe that, in obedience to this suggestion, I
rose for the purpose of ordering a light, that I might instantly
make this confession in a letter. A second thought showed me the
rashness of this scheme, and I wondered by what infirmity of mind I
could be betrayed into a momentary approbation of it. I saw with
the utmost clearness that a confession like that would be the most
remediless and unpardonable outrage upon the dignity of my sex, and
utterly unworthy of that passion which controlled me.

I resumed my seat and my musing. To account for the absence of
Pleyel became once more the scope of my conjectures. How many
incidents might occur to raise an insuperable impediment in his
way! When I was a child, a scheme of pleasure, in which he and his
sister were parties, had been in like manner frustrated by his
absence; but his absence, in that instance, had been occasioned by
his falling from a boat into the river, in consequence of which he
had run the most imminent hazard of being drowned. Here was a
second disappointment endured by the same persons, and produced by
his failure. Might it not originate in the same cause? Had he not
designed to cross the river that morning to make some necessary
purchases in New Jersey? He had preconcerted to return to his own
house to dinner but perhaps some disaster had befallen him.
Experience had taught me the insecurity of a canoe, and that was
the only kind of boat which Pleyel used; I was, likewise, actuated
by an hereditary dread of water. These circumstances combined to
bestow considerable plausibility on this conjecture; but the
consternation with which I began to be seized was allayed by
reflecting that, if this disaster had happened, my brother would
have received the speediest information of it. The consolation
which this idea imparted was ravished from me by a new thought.
This disaster might have happened, and his family not be apprised
of it. The first intelligence of his fate may be communicated by
the livid corpse which the tide may cast, many days hence, upon the
shore.

Thus was I distressed by opposite conjectures; thus was I tormented
by phantoms of my own creation. It was not always thus. I can
ascertain the date when my mind became the victim of t





Next: The Golden Ingot

Previous: Adventure Of The Black Fisherman



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