When Lord Nelson was preparing to follow the French fleet to the West Indies, Captain Hardy was present as he gave directions to the commander of a frigate to make sail with all speed,—to proceed to certain points, where he was likely to see the French,—having seen the French, to go to a certain harbour, and there wait Lord Nelson's coming. After the commander had left the cabin, Nelson said to Hardy, "He will go to the West Indies, he will see the French, he will go to the harbour I have directed, but he will not wait for me. He will return to England." He did so. Shortly before the battle of Trafalgar, an English frigate was in advance of the fleet looking out for the enemy; her place in the offing was hardly discernible. Captain Hardy was with Nelson on the quarter-deck of the Victory. Without any thing to lead to it, Nelson said, "The Celeste" (or whatever the frigate's name may have been)—"the Celeste sees the French." Hardy had nothing to say on the matter. "She sees the French; she'll fire a gun." Within a little, the boom of the gun was heard.
Socrates, it is well known, had singular intimations, which he attributed to a familiar or demon. One day being with the army, he tried to persuade an officer, who was going across the country, to take a different route to that which he intended; "If you take that," he said, "you will be met and slain." The officer, neglecting his advice, was killed, as Socrates had forewarned him.
Timarchus, who was curious on the subject of the demon of Socrates, went to the cave of Trophonius, to learn of the oracle about it. There, having for a short time inhaled the mephitic vapour, he felt as if he had received a sudden blow on the head, and sank down insensible. Then his head appeared to him to open and to give issue to his soul into the other world; and an imaginary being seemed to inform him that, "the part of the soul engaged in the body, entrammelled in its organisation, is the soul is ordinarily understood; but that there is another part or province of the soul, which is the demon. This has a certain control over the bodily soul, and among other offices constitutes conscience. In three months," the vision added, "you will know more of this." At the end of three months Timarchus died.
Again adieu. Yours, &c., MAC DAVUS.
V.—TRANCE AND SLEEPWALKING.
DEAR ARCHY.—The subjects which remain to complete our brief correspondence, are Religious Delusions, the Possessed, and Witchcraft.
In order that I may set these fully and distinctly before you, it is necessary that you should know what is meant by Trance.
You have already had partial glimpses of this comprehensive phenomenon. Arnod Paole was in a trance, in his grave in the church-yard of Meduegua: Timarchus was in a trance in the cave of Trophonius.
But we must go still further back. To conceive properly the nature of trance, it is necessary to form clear ideas of the state of the mind in ordinary sleeping and waking.
During our ordinary waking state, we are conscious of an uninterrupted flow of thought, which we may observe to be modified by three influences—the first, suggestions of our experience and reflections, impulses of our natural and acquired character; the second, present impressions on our senses; the third, voluntary exertion of the attention to detain one class of ideas in preference to others.
Further, we habitually perceive things around us, by or through sensation. But on some, and for the most part trivial occasions, we seem endowed with another sort of perception, which is either direct, or dependent on new modes of sensation.
Again, the balance of the mental machinery may be overthrown. The suggestions of the imagination may become sensorial illusions; the judgment may be the subject of parallel hallucinations; the feelings may be perverted; our ideas may lose connexion and coherence; and intelligence may sink into fatuity.
So much for our waking state.
During sleep, there are no adequate reasons for doubting that the flow of our ideas continues as uninterrupted as in a waking state. It is true, that some persons assert that they never dream; and others that they dream occasionally only. But there is a third class, to which I myself belong, who continually dream, and who always, on waking, distinctly discern the fugitive rearguard of their last sleep thoughts. The simplest view of these diversified instances, is to suppose that all persons in sleep are always dreaming, and that the spaces seemingly vacant of dreams, are only gaps in the memory; that all persons asleep always dream, but that all persons do not always remember their dreams.
The suggestive influences that modify the current of ideas in sleep, are not so numerous as those in operation in our waking state.
The principal, indeed in general the exclusive, impulse to our dreaming thoughts, is our past experience and existing character, from and in obedience to which, imagination moulds our dreams.
Not that sensation is suspended in sleep. On the contrary, it appears to have its usual acuteness; and impressions made upon our senses—the feelings produced by an uneasy posture, for instance, or the introduction of sudden light into the room, or a loud and unusual noise, or even whisperings in the ear—will give a new and corresponding direction to the dreaming thoughts. Sensation is only commonly not called into play in sleep: we shut our eyes; we even close the pupils; we cover up our ears; court darkness and quiet; knowing that the more we exclude sensible impressions the better we shall sleep.
But the great difference between sleeping and waking, that which indeed constitutes the essence of the former state, psychically considered, is the suspension of the attention—all the leading phenomena of sleep are directly traceable to this cause: for example—
In sleep we cease to support ourselves, and fall, if we were previously standing or sitting. That is, we cease to attend to the maintenance of our equilibrium. We forget the majority of our dreams: attention is the soul of recollection.
Our dreams are often nonsense, or involve absurdities or ideas which we know to be false. The check of the attention is absent.
Our ideas whirl with unwonted rapidity in our dreams; the fly-wheel of the attention has been taken off.
When we are being overcome with sleep, we are conscious of not being able to fix our attention.
When we would encourage sleep, we endeavour to avoid thoughts which would arouse the attention.
Though the sensibility of our organs is really undiminished, it seems to be lowered in sleep, because then no attention is given to common sensation.
Sleep, however, it should be added, may be either profound, or light, or imperfect; in the two latter cases, the attention seems to be less completely suspended.
So, in sleep, it is the attention alone that really sleeps; the rest of the mental powers and impulses are on the contrary in motion, but free and unchecked, obtaining their refreshment and renovation from gambolling about and stretching themselves. The inspector only slumbers; or, to use a closer figure, he retires to a sufficient distance from them, not to be disturbed by any common noise they may make; any great disturbance calls him back directly; likewise, he sits with his watch in his hand, having a turn for noting the flight of time.
In contrast with the above conception of the states of sleeping and waking, the alternations of which compose our ordinary being, I have now to hold up another conception, resembling the first, of which it is the double,—but vaguer, more shadowy, of larger and gigantic proportions, from its novelty astonishing, like the mocking spectre of the Hartz; which is yet but your own shadow cast by the level sunbeams on the morning mist.
All the phenomena embodied in this conception, I propose to denominate Trance. But let me premise that all do not belong to every instance of trance. If I undertook to specify the external appearances of the human species, I must enunciate among other things, as colours of the skin, white, yellow, brown, black; as qualities of the hair, that it is flowing, soft, lanky, harsh, frizzled, woolly; but I should not mean that every human being presented all these features.
Then, as our ordinary being presents an alternation of sleeping and waking, so does trance-existence. There is a trance-sleep and a trance-waking to correspond with ordinary sleep and ordinary waking.
As natural sleep has different degrees of profoundness, so has trance sleep. They present a latitude so extensive, that it is convenient and allowable to lay down three different degrees or states of trance-sleep.
Then, of trance-sleep first, and of its three degrees.
The deepest grade of trance-sleep extinguishes all the ordinary signs of animation. It forms the condition in which many are buried alive. It is the so-called vampyr state in the vampyr superstition. [See Letter II. of this series.]
The middle grade presents the appearance of profound unconsciousness; but a gentle breathing and the circulation are distinguishable. The body is flexible, relaxed, perfectly impassive to ordinary stimuli. The pupils of the eyes are not contracted, but yet are fixed. This state is witnessed occasionally in hysteria, after violent fits of hysteric excitement.
In the lightest degree of trance-sleep, the person can sustain itself sitting; the pupils are in the same state as above, or natural; the apparent unconsciousness profound.
Two features characterise trance-sleep in all its grades. One, an insensibility to all common stimulants, however violently applied; the other, an inward flow of ideas, a dream or vision. It is as well to provide all words with a precise meaning. The term vision had better be restricted to mean a dream during trance-sleep.
The behaviour of Grando, who had been buried in the vampyr state, when they were clumsily cutting his head off, makes no exception to the first of the above positions. He had then just emerged out of his trance-sleep, either through the lapse of time, or from the admission of fresh air, or what not.
It will not be doubted that the mind may have visions in all the grades of trance-sleep, if it can be proved capable of them in the deepest; therefore, one example will suffice for all three cases.
Henry Engelbrecht, as we learn in a pamphlet published by himself in the year 1639, after a most ascetic life, during which he had experienced sensorial illusions, was thrown for a brief period into the deepest form of trance-sleep, which event he thus describes:—
In the year 1623, exhausted by intense mental excitement of a religious kind, and by abstinence from food, after hearing a sermon which strongly affected him, he felt as if he could combat no more, so he gave in and took to his bed. There he lay a week without tasting any thing but the bread and wine of the sacrament. On the eighth day, he thought he fell into the death-struggle; death seemed to invade him from below upwards; his body became rigid; his hands and feet insensible; his tongue and lips incapable of motion: gradually his sight failed him, but he still heard the laments and consultations of those around him. This gradual demise lasted from mid-day till eleven at night, when he heard the watchmen; then he lost consciousness of outward impressions. But an elaborate vision of immense detail began; the theme of which was, that he was first carried down to hell, and looked into the place of torment; from thence, quicker than an arrow, was he borne to paradise. In these abodes of suffering and happiness, he saw and heard and smelt things unspeakable. These scenes, though long in apprehension, were short in time, for he came enough to himself by twelve o'clock, again to hear the watchmen. It took him another twelve hours to come round entirely. His hearing was first restored; then his sight, feeling, and motion followed; as soon as he could move his limbs, he rose. He felt himself stronger than before the trance.
Trance-waking presents a great variety of phases; but it is sufficient for a general outline of the subject to make or specify but two grades—half-waking and full-waking.
In trance half-waking, the person rises, moves about with facility, will converse even, but is almost wholly occupied with a dream, which he may be said to act, and his perceptions and apprehensions are with difficulty drawn to any thing out of the circle of that dream.
In trance full-waking, the person is completely alive to all or most of the things passing around him, and would not be known by a stranger to be otherwise than ordinarily awake.
I propose to occupy the latter half of this letter with details of cases exemplifying these two states. Those which I shall select, will be instances either of somnambulism, double consciousness, or catalepsy, the popular phenomena of which I take this occasion of displaying. By these details the following features will be proved to belong to trance-waking.
1. Common feeling, taste, and smell, are generally suspended in trance-waking. In trance half-waking, sight is equally suspended. In trance full-waking, every shade of modified sensibility up to perfect possession of sensation, presents itself in different cases, and sometimes in successive periods of the same cases.
2. The general diminution or suspension of sensation is, as it were, made up for, either by an intense acuteness of partial sensation, often developed in an unaccustomed organ, or by some new mode of perception.
3. The memory and circle of ideas are curiously circumscribed.
4. To make up for this, some of the powers of the mind acquire concentration and temporary increase of force, and occasionally new powers of apprehension appear to be developed.
5. Spasms of the muscles, generally tonic or maintained spasms, but sometimes, having the character of convulsive struggles, are occasionally manifested in trance. And they may bear either of two relations to it. They may occur simultaneously with trance-waking or alternately with it, and occupying the patient's frame in the intervals of trance.
In the ordinary course of things, trance-sleep precedes trance-waking, and follows it. So that some have described trance-waking as waking in trance. Trance-sleep may come on during ordinary sleep, or during ordinary waking. By use the introductory and terminal states of trance-sleep become abridged; and sometimes, if either exist, it is so brief, that the transition to and from trance-waking out of and into ordinary waking, appears immediate.
Now to illustrate the phenomena of trance half-waking, by describing somnambulism.
A curious fate somnambulism has had. When other forms of trance have been exalted into mystical phenomena and figure in history, somnambulism has had no superstitious altars raised to her—has had no fear-worship—has at the highest been promoted to figure in an opera. Of a quiet and homely nature, she has moved about the house, not like a visiting demon, but as a maid of all work. To the public, the phenomenon has presented no more interest than a soap-bubble or the fall of an apple.
Somnambulism is a form of half-waking trance which usually comes on during the night, and in ordinary sleep. When it occurs in the daytime, the attack of trance is still ordinarily preceded by a short period of common sleep.
The somnambulist then, half waking in trance, is disposed to rise and move about. Sometimes his object seems a mere excursion, and then it is remarked that he shows a disposition to ascend heights. So he climbs, perhaps, to the roof of the house, and makes his way along it with agility and certainty: sometimes he is observed, where the tiles are loose, to try if they are secure before he advances. Generally these feats are performed in safety. But occasionally, a somnambulist has missed his footing, fallen, and perished. His greatest danger is from ill-judged attempts to wake and warn him of his perilous situation. Luckily, it is not easy to wake him. He then returns, goes to bed, sleeps, and the next morning has no recollection of what he has done. In other cases, the somnambulist, on rising from his bed, betakes himself to his customary occupations, either to some handiwork, or to composition, or what not.
These three points are easily verifiable respecting his condition. He is in a dream, which he, as it were, acts after his thoughts; occasionally he remembers on the following day some of the incidents of the night before, as part of a dream.
But his common sensibility to ordinary impressions is suspended: he does not feel; his eyes are either shut, or open and fixed; he does not see; he does not observe light, and works as well with as without it; he has not taste or smell: the loudest noise makes no impression on him.
In the mean time, to accomplish the feats he performs, the most accurate perception of sensible objects is required. Of what nature is that of which he so marvellously evinces the possession? You may adopt the simple hypothesis,—that the mind, being disengaged from its ordinary relations to the senses, does without them, and perceives things directly. Or you may suppose, if you prefer it, that the mind still employs sensation, using only impressions that in ordinary waking are not consciously attended to, for its more wonderful feats; and otherwise common sensation, which, however generally suspended, may be awakened by the dreaming attention to its objects.
The following case of somnambulism, in which the seizure supervened, in a girl affected with St Vitus's dance, and combined itself with that disorder, is given by Lord Monboddo:—
The patient, about sixteen years of age, used to be commonly taken in the morning a few hours after rising. The approach of the seizure was announced by a sense of weight in the head, a drowsiness which quickly terminated in sleep, in which her eyes were fast shut. She described a feeling beginning in the feet, creeping like a gradual chill higher and higher, till it reached the heart, when consciousness or recollection left her. Being in this state, she sprang from her seat about the room, over tables and chairs, with the astonishing agility belonging to St Vitus's dance. Then, if she succeeded in getting out of the house, she ran at a pace with which her elder brother could hardly keep up, to a particular spot in the neighbourhood, taking the directest but the roughest path. If she could not manage otherwise, she got over the garden-wall with surprising rapidity and precision of movement. Her eyes were all the time fast closed. The impulse to visit this spot she was often conscious of during the approach of the paroxysm, and, afterwards, she sometimes thought she had dreamed of going thither. Towards the termination of her indisposition, she dreamed that the water of a neighbouring spring would do her good, and she drank much of it. One time they tried to cheat her by giving her water from another spring, but she immediately detected the difference. Towards the end, she foretold that she would have three paroxysms more, and then be well—and so it proved.
The following case is from a communication by M. Pigatti, published in the July Number of the Journal Encyclopedique of the year 1762. The subject was a servant of the name of Negretti, in the household of the Marquis Sale.
In the evening, Negretti would seat himself in a chair in the anteroom, when he commonly fell asleep, and would sleep quietly for a quarter of an hour. He then righted himself in his chair, so as to sit up. [This was the moment of transition from ordinary sleep into trance.] Then he sat some time without motion, as if he saw something. Then he rose and walked about the room. On one occasion, he drew out his snuff-box and would have taken a pinch, but there was little in it; whereupon he walked up to an empty chair, and addressing by name a cavalier whom he supposed to be sitting in it, asked him for a pinch. One of those who were watching the scene, here held towards him an open box, from which he took snuff. Afterwards he fell into the posture of a person who listens; he seemed to think that he heard an order, and thereupon hastened with a wax-candle in his hand, to a spot where a light usually stood. As soon as he imagined that he had lit the candle, he walked with it in the proper manner, through the salle, down the steps, turning and waiting from time to time, as if he had been lighting some one down. Arrived at the door, he placed himself sideways, so as to let the imaginary persons pass, and he bowed as he let them out. He then extinguished the light, returned up the stairs, and sat himself down again in his place, to play the same farce over again once or twice the same evening. When in this condition, he would lay the tablecloth, place the chairs, which he sometimes brought from a distant room, and opening and shutting the doors as he went, with exactness; would take decanters from the beauffet, fill them with water at the spring, put them on a waiter, and so on. All the objects that were concerned in these operations, he distinguished where they were before him with the same precision and certainty as if he had been in the full use of his senses. Otherwise he seemed to observe nothing—so, on one occasion, in passing a table, he upset a waiter with two decanters upon it, which fell and broke, without exciting his attention. The dominant idea had entire possession of him. He would prepare a salad with correctness, and sit down and eat it. Then, if they changed it, the trick passed without his notice. In this manner he would go on eating cabbage, or even pieces of cake, seemingly without observing the difference. The taste he enjoyed was imaginary; the sense was shut. On another occasion, when he asked for wine, they gave him water, which he drank for wine, and remarked that his stomach felt the better for it. On a fellow-servant touching his legs with a stick, the idea arose in his mind that it was a dog, and he scolded to drive it away; but the servant continuing his game, Negretti took a whip to beat the dog. The servant drew off when Negretti began whistling and coaxing to get the dog near him; so they threw a muff against his legs, which he belaboured soundly.
M. Pigatti watched these proceedings with great attention, and convinced himself by many trials that Negretti did not use his senses. The suspension of taste was shown by his not distinguishing between salad and cake. He did not hear the loudest sound, when it lay out of the circle of his dreaming ideas. If a light was held close to his eyes, near enough to singe his eyebrows, he did not appear to be aware of it. He seemed to feel nothing when they inserted a feather into his nostrils. The ordinary sensibility of his organs seemed withdrawn.
Altogether, the most interesting case of somnambulism on record, is that of a young ecclesiastic, the narrative of which, from the immediate communication of an Archbishop of Bordeaux, is given under the head of somnambulism in the French Encyclopaedia.
This young ecclesiastic, when the archbishop was at the same seminary, used to rise every night, and write out either sermons or pieces of music. To study his condition, the archbishop betook himself several nights consecutively to the chamber of the young man, where he made the following observations.
The young man used to rise, to take paper, and to write. Before he wrote music, he would take a stick and rule the lines with it. He wrote the notes, together with the words corresponding with them, with perfect correctness. Or, when he had written the words too wide, he altered them. The notes that were to be black, he filled in after he had written the whole. After completing a sermon, he read it aloud from beginning to end. If any passage displeased him, he erased it, and wrote the amended passage correctly over the other; on one occasion he had to substitute the word "adorable" for "divin;" but he did not omit to alter the preceding "ce" into "cet," by adding the letter "t" with exact precision to the word first written. To ascertain whether he used his eyes, the archbishop interposed a sheet of pasteboard between the writing and his face. He took not the least notice, but went on writing as before. The limitation of his perceptions to what he was thinking about was very curious. A bit of aniseed cake, that he had sought for, he eat approvingly; but when, on another occasion, a piece of the same cake was put in his month, he spit it out without observation. The following instance of the dependance of his perceptions upon, or rather their subordination to, his preconceived ideas is truly wonderful. It is to be observed that he always knew when his pen had ink in it. Likewise, if they adroitly changed his papers, when he was writing, he knew it, if the sheet substituted was of a different size from the former, and he appeared embarrassed in that case. But if the fresh sheet of paper, which was substituted for that written on, was exactly of the same size with the former, he appeared not to be aware of the change. And he would continue to read off his composition from the blank sheet of paper, as fluently as when the manuscript itself lay before him; nay, more, he would continue his corrections, and introduce the amended passage, writing it upon exactly the place on the blank sheet which it would have occupied on the written page.
The form of trance which has been thus exemplified may be therefore well called half-waking, inasmuch as the performer, whatever his powers of perception may be in respect to the object he is thinking of, is nevertheless lost in dream, and blind and deaf to every thing without its scope.
The following case may serve as a suitable transition to instances of full-waking in trance. The subject of it alternated evidently between that state and half-waking. Or she, could be at once roused from the latter into the former by the conversation of her friends. The case is recorded in the Acta Vratisl. ann. 1722, Feb. class iv., art. 2.
A girl seventeen years of age was used to fall into a kind of sleep in the afternoon, in which it was supposed, from her expression of countenance and her gestures, that she was engaged in dreams which interested her. After some days, she began to speak when in this state. Then, if those present addressed remarks to her, she replied very sensibly; but then fell back into her dream-discourse, which turned principally upon religious and moral topics, and was directed to warn her friends how a female should live, Christianly, well-governed, and so as to incur no reproach. When she sang, which often happened, she heard herself accompanied by an imaginary violin or piano, and would take up and continue the accompaniment upon an instrument herself. She sewed, did knitting, and the like. But on the other hand, she imagined on one occasion that she wrote a letter upon a napkin, which she folded with the intention of sending it to the post. Upon waking, she had not the least recollection of her dreams, or of what she had been doing. After a few months she recovered.
I come now to the exemplification of full-waking in trance, as it is very perfectly manifested in the cases which have been termed double consciousness. These are in their principle very simple; but it is not easy in a few words to convey a distinct idea of the condition of the patient. The case consists of a series of fits of trance, in which the step from ordinary waking to full trance-waking is sudden and immediate, or nearly so, and either was so originally, or through use has become so. Generally for some hours on each day, occasionally for days together, the patient continues in the state of trance; then suddenly reverts to that of ordinary waking. In the perfectest instances of double consciousness, there is nothing in the bearing or behaviour of the entranced person which would lead a stranger to suppose her (for it is an affection far commoner in young women than in boys or men) to be other than ordinarily awaked. But her friends observe that she does every thing with more spirit and better—sings better, plays better, has more readiness, moves even more gracefully, than in her natural state. She has an innocent boldness and disregard of little conventionalisms, which imparts a peculiar charm to her behaviour. In the mean time, she has two complete existences separate and apart, which alternate but never mingle. On the day of her first fit, her life split into a double series of thoughts and recollections. She remembers in her ordinary state nothing of her trance existence. In her trances, she remembers nothing of the intervening hours of ordinary waking. Her recollections of what she had experienced or learned before the fits began is singularly capricious, differing extraordinarily in its extent in different cases. In general, the positive recollection of prior events is annulled; but her prior affections and habits either remain, and her general acquirements, or they are quickly by association rekindled or brought into the circle of her trance ideas. Generally she names all her friends anew; often her tone of voice is a little altered; sometimes she introduces with particular combinations of letters some odd inflection, which she maintains rigorously and cannot unlearn.
Keeping before him this conception, the reader will comprehend the following sketch of a case of double consciousness, communicated by Dr George Barlow. To one reading them without preparation, the details, which are very graphic and instructive, would appear mere confusion:—
"This young lady has two states of existence. During the time that the fit is on her, which varies from a few hours to three days, she is occasionally merry and in spirits; occasionally she appears in pain and rolls about in uneasiness; but in general she seems so much herself, that a stranger entering the room would not remark any thing extraordinary; she amuses herself with reading or working, sometimes plays on the piano and better than at other times, knows every body, and converses rationally, and makes very accurate observations on what she has seen and read. The fit leaves her suddenly, and she then forgets every thing that has passed during it, and imagines that she has been asleep, and sometimes that she has dreamed of any circumstance that has made a vivid impression upon her. During one of these fits she was reading Miss Edgeworth's tales, and had in the morning been reading a part of one of them to her mother, when she went for a few minutes to the window, and suddenly exclaimed, 'Mamma, I am quite well, my headach is gone.' Returning to the table, she took up the open volume, which she had been reading five minutes before, and said, 'What book is this?' she turned over the leaves, looked at the frontispiece, and replaced it on the table. Seven or eight hours afterwards, when the fit returned, she asked for the book, went on at the very paragraph where she had left off, and remembered every circumstance of the narrative. And so it always is; as she reads one set of books during one state, and another during the other. She seems to be conscious of her state; for she said one day, 'Mamma, this is a novel, but I may safely read it; it will not hurt my morals, for, when I am well, I shall not remember a word of it.'"
This state of double consciousness forms the basis of the psychical phenomena observed in the extraordinary cases which have been occasionally described under the general name of catalepsy. The accounts of the most interesting of these that I have met with, were given by M. Petatin in 1787; M. Delpet, 1807; Dr Despine, 1829. The wonderful powers of perception evinced by the patients when in this state of trance-waking would exceed belief, but for the respectable names of the observers, and the internal evidence of good faith and accuracy in the narratives themselves. The patients did not see with their eyes nor hear with their ears. But they heard at the pit of the stomach, and perceived the approach of persons when at some distance from their residence, and read the thoughts of those around.
I am, my dear Archy, no wonder-monger; so I am not tempted to make a parade to you of these extraordinary phenomena. Nor in truth do they interest me further than as they concur with the numerous other facts I have brought forward to show, and positively prove, that under certain conditions the mind enters into new relations, spiritual and material. I will, however, in conclusion, give you the outline of a case of the sort which occurred a few years ago in England, and the details of which were communicated to me by the late Mr Bulteel. He had himself repeatedly seen the patient, and had scrupulously verified what I now narrate to you:—
The patient was towards twenty years of age. Her condition was the state of double consciousness, thus aggravated, that when she was not in the trance, she suffered from spasmodic contraction of the limbs. In her alternate state of trance-waking, she was composed and apparently well; but the expression of her countenance was slightly altered, and there was some peculiarity in her mode of speaking. She would mispronounce certain letters, or introduce consonants into words upon a regular system; and to each of her friends she had given a new name, which she only employed in her trance. As usual, she knew nothing in either state of what passed in the other. Then in her trance she exhibited three marvellous powers: she could read by the touch alone: if she pressed her hand against the whole surface of a written or printed page, she acquired a perfect knowledge of its contents, not of the substance only, but of the words, and would criticise the type or the handwriting. A line of a folded note pressed against the back of her neck, she read equally well: she called this sense-feeling. Contact was necessary for it. Her sense of smell was at the same time singularly acute; when out riding one day, she said, "There is a violet," and cantered her horse fifty yards to where it grew. Persons whom she knew she could tell were approaching the house, when yet at some distance. When persons were playing chess at a table behind her, and intentionally made impossible moves, she would smile, and ask them why they did it.
Cases of this description are no doubt of rare occurrence. Yet not a year passes in London without something transpiring of the existence of one or more of them in the huge metropolis. Medical men view them with unpardonable indifference. Thus one doctor told me of a lady, whom he had been attending with other physicians, who, it appeared, always announced that they were coming some minutes before they drove to her door. It was very odd, he thought, and there was an end of it.
"M. l'Abbe," said Voltaire to a visitor, who gave him a commonplace account of some remarkable scenes, "do you know in what respect you differ from Don Quixote?"—"No," said the Abbe, not half liking the look of the question. "Why, M. l'Abbe, Don Quixote took the inns on the road for castles, but you have taken castles for inns."
Adieu, dear Archy.—Yours, &c. MAC DAVUS.
FOUR SONNETS BY ELIZABETH BARRETT BROWNING.
Each creature holds an insular point in space; Yet, what man stirs a finger, breathes a sound, But all the multitudinous beings round In all the countless worlds, with time and place For their conditions, down to the central base, Thrill, haply, in vibration and rebound; Life answering life across the vast profound, In full antiphony, by a common grace?— I think this sudden joyaunce, which illumes A child's mouth sleeping, unaware may run From some soul breaking new the bond of tombs: I think this passionate sigh, which, half begun, I stifle back, may reach and stir the plumes Of God's calm angel standing in the sun.
We cannot live, except thus mutually We alternate, aware or unaware, The reflex act of life: and when we bear Our virtue outward most impulsively, Most full of invocation, and to be Most instantly compellant, certes, there, We live most life, whoever breathes most air And counts his dying years by sun and sea! But when a soul, by choice and conscience, doth Show out her full force on another soul, The conscience and the concentration, both, Make mere life, Love! For life in perfect whole And aim consummated, is Love in sooth, As nature's magnet-heat rounds pole with pole.
III. HEAVEN AND EARTH. 1845.
"And there was silence in heaven for the space of half an hour."—Revelation.
God, who with thunders and great voices kept Beneath thy throne, and stars most silver-paced Along the inferior gyres, and open-faced Melodious angels round, canst intercept Music with music, yet, at will, hast swept All back—all back—(said he in Patmos placed) To fill the heavens with silence of the waste, Which lasted half an hour! Lo! I, who have wept All day and night, beseech Thee by my tears, And by that dread response of curse and groan Men alternate across these hemispheres, Vouchsafe as such a half-hour's hush alone, In compensation of our noisy years! As heaven has paused from song, let earth, from moan.
IV. THE PROSPECT. 1845.
Methinks we do as fretful children do, Leaning their faces on the window-pane To sigh the glass dim with their own breath's stain, And shut the sky and landscape from their view. And thus, alas! since God the maker drew A mystic separation twixt those twain, The life beyond us and our souls in pain, We lose the prospect which we are called unto, By grief we are fools to use. Be still and strong, O man, my brother! hold thy sobbing breath, And keep thy soul's large window pure from wrong, That so, as life's appointment issueth, Thy vision may be clear to watch along The sunset consummation-lights of death.
ROSAURA: A TALE OF MADRID.
Fourteen years have elapsed since there dwelt in Madrid a certain student, who went by the name of El Rojo, or the Red. Not by his acquaintances and intimates alone was he thus designated, but by all the various classes of idlers with whom the Spanish capital abounds; by the listless loiterers at the coffee-house doors, by the lounging gossips of the Puerta del Sol, and by the cloaked saunterers who, when the siesta is over, pace the Calle Alcala, puffing their beloved Havanas, retailing the latest news, discussing the chances of a change of ministry, or the most recent and interesting scandalous anecdote current in that gallant metropolis. It would be wrong to infer, from his somewhat ambiguous appellation, that the student's skin had the copper hue of a Pawnee or an Osage, or his hair the ruddy tint usually deemed detrimental and unbecoming. The name implied no sneer—it was given and taken as a compliment; and Federico was at least as proud of it as of the abundant golden curls to which he owed it, and that flowed in waving luxuriance down his graceful neck and over his well-formed shoulders.
In southern climes, where the ardent sun embrowns the children of the soil, fair locks and eyes of azure are prized in proportion to their rarity. No wonder, then, that Federico found favour in the sight of the dark-browed and inflammable Madrilenas. Many were the tender glances darted at him from beneath veil and mantilla, as he took his evening stroll upon the Prado; oftentimes, when he passed along the street, white and slender fingers, protruded through half-closed jalousies, dropped upon his handsome head a shower of fragrant jasmin blossoms. Amongst the dames and damsels who thus signified their favour and partiality, not a few—so it is certified by the veracious authority whence we derive this history—dwelt in stately mansions, and went abroad in brave equipage, drawn by prancing steeds and comely mules, all glittering with trappings of silk and gold. These, it may be thought, condescended overmuch thus to notice an humble student. But the love-breathing daughters of Castile reck little of rank and station; and Federico, by all personal endowments, well deserved the distinction he obtained. Poor hidalgo though he was, no count or duke, or blue-blooded grandee, from Cadiz to Corunua, bore himself better, or had more the mien of a well-born and thorough-bred caballero. None more gallantly wore the broad-leafed sombrero, none more gracefully draped the ample cloak; and all Spain might have been searched in vain to match the bright and joyous glance of the student's dark-blue eye. Excepting on the coast, and in certain districts where Mahomedan forefathers have bequeathed their oriental physiognomy and tall slender frame to their Christian descendants, Spaniards are rarely of very lofty stature. Federico was from the flat and arid province of La Mancha, where, as in compensation for the unproductiveness of the parched soil, handsome men and beauteous women abound. Of the middle height, his figure was symmetrical, elastic, and muscular, formed for feats of agility and strength; his step was light, but firm; his countenance manly,—the expression of his regular and agreeable features denoted a passionate nature and lofty character. Like most of his countrymen, he was quickly roused, but easy to appease. Generosity and forbearance were prominent amongst his good qualities; and he had nobly displayed them in more than one encounter with antagonists, whose feebleness placed them at his mercy, and rendered them unworthy of his wrath. For in the use of arms, as in all manly exercises, Federico was an adept; and whether with Toledo blade, or Majo's knife, there were few men in Spain who would not have found in him a formidable and dangerous adversary.
Strange to tell of so young a man, and of a Spaniard, in one respect our student appeared passionless. He met the advances of his female admirers with the utmost coldness—seemed, indeed, to avoid the society of the fair sex, threw love-letters into the fire, unread and unanswered, neglected invitations, went to no rendezvous. Favours which other men would gladly have purchased with years of life, he disdainfully rejected. The wrinkled duennas, who under various pretexts brought him tender messages and tempting assignations, met, instead of the golden guerdon with which such Mercuries are usually rewarded, harsh rebuffs and cutting sarcasm at the hands of the stoic of two-and-twenty. And with so much scorn did this Manchegan Joseph repel on one occasion the amorous attentions of a lady of birth and station, that her indiscreet love was changed into bitter hate, and Federico narrowly escaped a dagger-stab and a premature death. From that day, he was more inaccessible than ever, not only to women, but to men. Gradually he withdrew from intercourse with his former associates and was seldom seen in the streets or public places, but sat at home, buried amongst books, and diligently studying, with the intention, he was heard to declare, of going to Ciudad Real, and passing his examination as advocate in the royal courts. And thus, little by little, it happened with Federico as it does with most persons who neglect and forget the world, the world forgot him. His old intimates—joyous, light-hearted lads, revelling in the enjoyments and dissipation of the capital—voted him a spoil-sport and a pedant, and thought of him no more: friends, in the true sense of the word, he had none; and so, after a very short time, the list of visitors to the gloomy old apartment in which the eccentric youth mused and studied was reduced to one man, and that a very odd one, but whom Federico loved, because he in some sort owed him his life.
This second hero of our tale was one of those strange characters to be met with in Spain only. Don Geronimo Regato was a little wizened old creature, blind of an eye, and with a very ugly face, whose life had been a series of extraordinary adventures and bustling incidents. He had served his country in the most opposite capacities. In 1808, he fought the French in the streets of Madrid; two years later, he headed a guerilla band in the wild passes of the Sierra Morena; another two years, and he took the oath to the constitution of Cadiz, and was seen at Wellington's head-quarters as colonel of the Spanish line, and delegate from the Cortes. In 1814, he changed his colours, and was noted, after the return of Ferdinand VII., as a stanch royalist. But variety was his motto; and the revolution of 1820 saw him in the ranks of the Liberals, to whom he continued faithful until their cause was ruined and hopeless. That was the signal, with this Talleyrand on a small scale, for another vuelta casaca: once more he turned his coat; and as an earnest of penitence for past offences, opened to the Royalist troops the gates of a small Estremaduran fortress. Notwithstanding this act of tardy allegiance, he was thrown into prison at Madrid, and owed it entirely to the intercession and good offices of an old schoolfellow, the influential Father Cyrillo, that his neck was not brought into unpleasant contact with the iron hoop of the garrote. Either warned by this narrow escape, or because the comparatively tranquil state of Spain afforded no scope for his restless activity, since 1823 this political Proteus had lived in retirement, eschewing apparently all plots and intrigues; although he was frequently seen in the very highest circles of the capital, where his great experience, his conversational powers, and social qualities sufficiently accounted for the welcome he at all times met.
Returning late one night from a tertulia at the house of Ferdinand's prime minister, Don Geronimo heard the clash of steel and sound of a scuffle, and hurrying to the spot, saw a young man defending himself against the attack of two bravos. Forthwith Regato set himself to shout out words of command, as if he had a whole regiment at his back, and the ruffians, thinking the patrol was upon them, instantly took to flight. Federico was the person assailed; and although he boldly asserted and doubtlessly fully believed, that, left to himself, he would speedily have defeated his cowardly opponents, he was still not altogether sorry to be relieved from such odds by the old gentleman's timely arrival and ingenious stratagem. This was the origin of his acquaintance with Regato. From that night forward they visited each other, and soon Geronimo took particular pleasure in the society of the handsome youth, whose earnestness and vigour of mind, he said, were refreshing to contemplate in a century when the actions of most men made them resemble beasts and apes, rather than beings formed in the image of their Creator. The young student, for his part, found much to interest him in his new friend, the only person who now varied the monotony of his solitude. He listened eagerly to Regato's discourse, as he alternately poured out his stores of knowledge and experience, and broke into a vein of keen and bitter sarcasm on the men, parties, and circumstances of distracted and unhappy Spain. Federico enthusiastically loved his country, and his proud eyes often filled with tears when the old man placed its former greatness in striking contrast with its present degradation. In spite of all the veerings and weathercock variations of his political life, Regato was at heart a Liberal. He set forth in glowing colours the evils and tyranny of Ferdinand's government, expatiated on the barbarous executions of Riego, Torrijos, and other martyrs to freedom's cause, and exposed the corruption and villany of the men who retained their country in the bonds of slavery and fanaticism; until Federico's cheeks glowed, and heart beat quick with patriotic indignation, and he felt that he too, when the battle-hour should strike, would joyfully draw his sword and lose his life for the liberation of the land he loved so well. At times the student would take down his guitar, and sing, with closed doors and windows—for Ferdinand's spies were, a quick-eared legion—the spirit-stirring Hymn of the Constitution, or the wild Tragala—that Spanish Marseillaise, to whose exciting notes rivers of blood have flowed. And then old Regato beat time with his hand, and his solitary eye gleamed like a ball of fire, whilst he mingled his hoarse and suppressed bass with Federico's mellow tenor.
Notwithstanding their vast difference of age and character, and although the one was but commencing, whilst the other had nearly run, the up-hill race of life, the more these two men saw of each other the stronger grow their sympathy and friendship. Don Geronimo's visits to the student became more and more frequent, and often, forgetful or careless of the time, they would sit talking till far into the night. It seemed a relief to Regato to disburden his heart and mind of their innermost secrets; and he rejoiced to have found a man to whose honour, truth, and secresy, he felt he could safely entrust them. Federico repaid his confidence with one equally unlimited. He not only told his friend the history of his short life from infancy upwards, but he made him his father confessor, informed him of the progress of his studies, confided to him his doubts and hopes, his religious creed and political aspirations, and even his connexion with some of the secret orders and societies, of which, at that period, notwithstanding the vigilance of the police, a multitude existed in Spain.
"And can it be, my young friend," said Geronimo one evening, when a brief pause succeeded to some of the fiery Federico's vehement political diatribes—"can it be," he said, fixing his penetrating eye upon the flushed and impassioned countenance of the student, "that you have reached your present age and never loved woman?"
"Pshaw!" replied the student, "you have asked the question before, and I have answered it."
"But 'tis incomprehensible, and out of nature," cried the old Don. "Why have you a heart in your bosom, blood in your veins, strong limbs, and bright eyes?"
"Was all that given me that I might love woman?" retorted Federico with a merry laugh.
"Certainly: what is life worth, without love to sweeten it? Nothing, worse than nothing. It is that gentle sympathy of hearts, that strange fever of the soul, those sweet hopes and joyous transports, and tremors scarce less pleasing, that render life endurable, and reconcile man to the vileness of mortality. The nearest approach to paradise on earth, is found in bright eyes that beam for us alone—in gentle lips that murmur to our ears words of pure tenderness and unselfish affection."
"By the Virgin!" cried Federico, "I am neither of wood nor stone. Yes, there are creatures of heavenly beauty whom I could love. But I am like the Moorish Prince of Granada, who was too proud to eat common food, and fed on gold. The metal was over hard for his royal stomach, and so he starved."
"Which means that what you could have, you don't like, and what you would like, you can't get."
"Possible," replied Federico smiling. "I strike high."
"And why not? To dare is often to succeed. For the bold and the prudent, no aim is too lofty. But tell me more."
"Nonsense!" cried the student. "I did but jest. It occurred to me that this very day I saw a lady whose fair face I shall not easily forget. She was richly dressed, and sat in an open carriage, drawn by magnificent horses."
"What colour was the carriage?"
"Brown, lined with purple velvet. The arms on the panels were supported by coroneted griffins; and on the luxurious cushions my goddess reclined, in a robe of rose-coloured satin. A black lace mantilla floated over her alabaster shoulders, further veiled by a cloud of glossy ebon hair; and her eyes, friend Geronimo—her beauteous eyes, were soft and heavenly as a spring day in the almond groves of Valencia."
"You are poetical," said Regato. "A good sign. Federico, you are in love; but, by our Lady, you are audacious in your choice."
"Do you know her?" eagerly exclaimed Federico.
"Did she appear to notice you?" inquired Geronimo, leaving the question unanswered.
"Paralysed by her exceeding beauty," replied the student, "I stood dumb and motionless in the carriage-way, and was nearly run over. I sprang aside, but just in time. She observed me, and smiled: I almost think she blushed. One thing I am sure of, she could not help seeing that her wondrous beauty had turned my head."
"And that is all?" said Regato, slyly.
"What more could there be?" cried the young lawyer, indignantly. "Would you have such an angel throw flowers at me, or appoint a rendezvous? When the carriage turned out of the street towards the Prado, she looked back. Holy Mother of Sorrows! even at that distance, the sunshine of those eyes scorched my very heart!—But this is folly, sheer folly! Next week I go to Ciudad Real, and amongst dusty deeds and dry folios I shall soon forget eyes and their owner."
Senor Regato assumed a thoughtful countenance, took a large pinch of snuff, and lit a fresh cigar. After three or four puffs, emitted through his nostrils with the delectation of a veteran smoker, he broke silence.
"You will not go to Ciudad Real."
"And why not?" cried Federico.
"Because, if I am not greatly mistaken, you will remain here."
"Strange if I do!" laughed the student.
"Less so, perhaps, than you imagine. Would you go if the rose-coloured lady bid you stay? What if she sent a tender billet to the young woman-hater, and said, 'Come and love me, if you have the heart and courage of a man.' I think I see you then, though ten thousand devils barred the way. Ciudad Real and the royal courts would soon be forgotten."
"Perhaps," replied Federico. "But you tantalise me with impossibilities."
Don Geronimo put on his hat, took his young friend's hand, and said with great gravity,—"Nothing is impossible. And as regards love, nought in this world can withstand it—no bolt, or lock, or bar, or rank, or power. Bear that in mind, and be of good courage, if you again fall in with her of the rose-coloured robe. I should not wonder if you saw her this very night. Be happy whilst you may, whilst youth and beauty last. They quickly pass, and never return; and in love be adventurous and bold, like a true Spaniard and gallant gentleman. Daring wins the day."
He departed. Federico remained alone. With a smile at his friend's advice, the young man sat down to study. But he soon started up, and gazed like one in a dream at the massive volumes encumbering his table. He knew not how it happened, but the well-known letters of the alphabet seemed changed into inexplicable hieroglyphics. The simplest passages were wholly unintelligible; the paragraphs were all rose-coloured; black locks and brilliant eyes twined and sparkled through the quaint arabesques and angular capitals that commenced each chapter of the code, confusing and dazzling his brain. At last he angrily slammed the parchment-bound volume, muttered a curse on his own folly, then laughed aloud at the recollection of that comical old fellow, Geronimo Regato, and went to bed. There he found little rest. When he closed his eyes, the slender form of the incognita glided before them. Her white hand, extended from beneath her mantilla, beckoned him to follow; nay, he felt the pressure of the tiny fingers, her warm breath upon his cheek, her velvet lips gently laid to his. And when he started from his sleep, it was to fancy the rustle of a dress, and a sweet low voice that timidly uttered his name. So passed the night, and only towards daybreak did he sink into a sounder and more refreshing slumber. But when he arose, he found, to his consternation, that she who had haunted his dreams was equally present to his waking imagination. The fascinating image of the beautiful stranger had established itself in his heart, and Federico felt that all efforts to dislodge it would be as fruitless as painful.
"If I believed in sorcery," he soliloquised, "I should think that old rogue Geronimo had cast a charm over me. He predicted that she would visit me this night, and truly she has done so, and here remains. Whether it be for the best, I greatly doubt."
Musing on the fair apparition that thus pertinaciously intruded upon him, the young lawyer dressed himself. It was late, and to atone for lost time, he resolved to remain at home, and study hard the whole day. But somehow or other, exactly at the same hour as on the previous one, he found himself in the Calle Alcala; and scarcely was he there, when the brown carriage and the splendid horses came rattling by. And there, upon the purple cushions, sat, more beautiful than ever, the divinity who for the last twenty-four hours had monopolised so large a share of the love-sick student's thoughts. He gazed at her with rapture, and involuntarily bowed his head, as to a being not of the earth. She smiled: her look had something inquiring and mysterious; then, as if by accident, she placed her hand upon the edge of the carriage, and let a flower fall. Almost before it reached the ground, Federico caught and concealed it in his bosom, as though it had been some precious jewel which all would seek to tear from him. It was an almond blossom, a symbol of love and hope. Like a criminal, he hurried away, lest his prize should be reclaimed, when he suddenly found himself face to face with Geronimo, who gravely took off his hat and greeted his friend.
"How goes it?" said the old Don, his widowed eye twinkling significantly as he spoke. "How have you slept? Did the lady visit you or not?"
"You saw her!" cried Federico imploringly. "For heaven's sake, her name?"
"Bah!" replied Geronimo; "I saw nothing. But if it be she who sits in yonder carriage, beware, young man! 'Tis dangerous jesting with giants, who can crush us like straws beneath their finger. Your life is in danger," he continued in a whisper; "forget this folly. There are plenty of handsome faces in the world. Throw away the silly flower that peeps from your vest, and be off to Ciudad Real, where scores of pretty girls await you."
He turned to depart; Federico detained him.
"Let me go," said Geronimo: "I am in haste. I will call upon you presently, and you shall hear more."
But, notwithstanding his promise, and although Federico remained all day at home, impatiently expecting him, Geronimo came not. Never had the student been so out of temper. He bitterly reproached himself as a dreamer, a fool, an idiot; and yet there he remained, his thoughts fixed upon one object, his eyes riveted on the almond blossom, which he had placed in water, and whose delicate cup, now fully open, emitted a delightful perfume. And as he gazed, fancy played her wildest pranks with the enamoured youth. Small fairy-like creatures glided and danced between the dusty stamina of the graceful flower. At times, its leaves seemed partly to close, and from out the contracted aperture, the lady of his thoughts smiled sweetly upon him. Then the welcome vision vanished, and was succeeded by stern frowning faces of men, armed from head to heel, who levelled daggers at his heart.
"By St Jago!" the bewildered student at last exclaimed, "this is too much. When will it end? What ails me? Have I so long withstood the fascinations of the black-eyed traitresses, to be thus at last entrapped and unmanned? Geronimo was right; at daybreak, I start for Ciudad Real. I will think no more of that perilous syren." He plucked the almond blossom from its vase. "And this flower," he pensively murmured, "has touched her hand, perhaps her lips! Oh! were it possible that she loves me!" As he spoke, he pressed the flower so impetuously to his mouth, that its tender leaves were crushed and tarnished. He laughed scornfully. "Thus is it," he exclaimed, "with woman's love; as fair and as fragile as this poor blossom. Begone, then! Wither, and become dust, thou perishable emblem of frailty!" Approaching the open window, he was about to throw away the flower, when something flew into the room, struck his breast, and rolled upon the ground. Federico started back, and his eye fell upon the clock that regulated his studies. The hands were on the stroke of midnight, and for a moment, in his then excited state, a feeling of superstitious fear stole over him. The next instant he was again at the window, straining his eyes through the gloom. He could see nothing. The night was dark: a few large stars twinkled in the sable canopy, the jasmin bushes in his balcony rustled in the breeze, and brushed their cool leaves against his heated temples. "Who is there?" he cried. His question was unanswered. Closing the jalousies, he took a light and sought about the room till he perceived something white under a table. It was a paper wrapped round a small roll of wood, and secured by a silken thread. Trembling with eagerness, he detached the scroll. Upon it were traced a few lines in a woman's delicate handwriting. "If you are willing," so ran the missive, "to encounter some risk for an interview with her who writes this, you will repair, to-morrow evening at nine o'clock, to the western door of the church of St James. One will meet you there in whom you may confide, if he asks you what flower you love best."
"And though death were in the path," exclaimed Federico, with vehement passion—"though a thousand swords opposed me, and King Ferdinand himself—" He paused at that name, with the habitual caution of a Manchegan. "I will go," he resumed, in a calmer but equally decided tone, "I will go; and though certain to be stabbed at her feet, I still would go."
Lazily, to the impetuous student's thinking, did the long hours loiter till that of his rendezvous arrived. Tormented by a thousand doubts and anxieties, not the least of these arose from the probability that the assignation came not whence he hoped, and was, perhaps, the work of some mischievous jester, to send him on a fool's errand to the distant church of St James. Above all things, he wished to see his friend Geronimo; but although he passed the day in invoking his presence, and heaping curses on his head, that personage did not appear. Evening came; the sun went down behind the gardens of Buen Retiro; at last it was quite dark. Federico wrapped himself in his cloak, pressed his hat over his brows, concealed in the breast of his coat one of those forbidden knives whose short strong triangular blade is so terrible a weapon in a Spaniard's hand, and crossing the Plaza Mayor, glided swiftly through streets and lanes, until, exactly as the clock of St James's church struck nine, he stood beneath the massive arches of the western portico. All was still as the grave. The dark enclosure of a convent arose at a short distance, and from a small high window a solitary ray of light fell upon the painted figure of the Virgin that stood in its grated niche on the church wall.
His back against the stone parapet, in the darkest corner of the portico, Federico posted himself, silent and motionless. He had not long waited, when he heard the sound of footsteps upon the rough pavement. They came nearer; a shadow crossed the front of the arched gateway and was merged in the gloom, as its owner, muttering indistinctly to himself, entered the portico. It was a man, closely muffled in a dark cloak. To judge from his high and pointed hat, he belonged to the lower class of the people; a wild black beard, a moment visible in the light from the convent window, was all of his physiognomy discernible by the student. He might be any thing; a Gallego, a muleteer, or a robber.
After a moment, Federico made a slight noise, and advanced a step from his corner. "Who is there?" cried the stranger. "Who is there?" he said. "Answer, in God's name. What do you here at this hour of the night?"
"Who questions me?" boldly demanded the young man. And at the same time he approached the speaker.
For a moment the two men gazed suspiciously at each other; then the stranger again spoke. "Night and solitude enjoin prudence, senor," said he; "and so, keep your distance. What brings you to this gloomy church door? At this hour such gay cavaliers are oftener found in the Prado or the Delicias, plucking flowers for their mistresses."
"I love flowers," replied Federico, "but I also love solitude."
"And what flower, my gallant young gentleman, do you best love?"
"Enough! enough!" joyfully exclaimed the student. "'Tis you I seek: I am ready to follow."
Without reply, the stranger produced a long black cloth.
"What is that?" said Federico, who vigilantly observed his movements.
"To blindfold you."
"Senor, that you may not see whither I conduct you."
"Not so!" cried the student suspiciously. "I will follow, but with open eyes."
The Gallego threw the skirt of his large cloak over his left shoulder, touched his pointed hat by way of salutation, and said courteously, "Buenas noches, senor. May you sleep well, and live a thousand years."
"Stop!" cried Federico; "you are mad. Whither away?"
"Without you, senor. The truth is, you are wanted blind, or not at all."
The result of the colloquy that ensued was, that the Gallego twisted his cloth thrice round the student's eyes, ears, and nose, and led him carefully across the Plaza, down a street and round sundry corners and turnings, till at last he deposited him in a carriage, which instantly set off at a rapid pace. After a tolerably long drive, by no means a pleasant one for our adventurer, whose guide held his hands firmly in his—probably to prevent his removing the bandage—the coach stopped, the two men got out, and Federico was again conducted for some distance on foot. He knew that he was still in Madrid, for he walked over pavement, and in spite of the thick cloth that impeded his hearing, he could distinguish the distant sound of carriages and hum of life. Presently a door creaked, and he apparently entered a garden, for there was a smell of flowers and a rustling of leaves; then he ascended a staircase, and was conducted through cool lofty apartments, and through doors which seemed to open and shut of themselves. Suddenly his companion let go his hand. Federico stood for a minute in silent expectation, then, groping around him with extended arms, he said in a low voice—"Am I at my journey's end? Answer!" But nobody replied.
By one decided pull, the student tore the bandage from his eyes and gazed around him in wonder and bewilderment. He was alone in a spacious and magnificent apartment, whose walls were tapestried with striped blue and white satin, and whose carved ceiling was richly gilt and decorated. The tall Venetian mirrors, the costly furniture, the beautifully fine Indian matting, every thing in the room, in short, convinced him that he was in the favoured abode of wealth, and rank, and luxury. A lamp, suspended by silver chains, shed a soft light over the apartment. Federico's position was a doubtful, probably a dangerous one; but love emboldened him, and he felt the truth of a saying of Geronimo's, that courage grows with peril. Happen what might, there he was, and he knew no fear. The only perceptible exit from the room was by the large, folding-doors through which he had entered. He tried them—they were fastened. His mother-wit suggested to him that his retreat had perhaps been thus cut off, that he might seek another outlet. He did so, and presently perceived hinges under the tapestry. A silver handle protruded from the wall; he grasped it, a door opened, and a cry of astonishment and delight burst from the student. Beaming with loveliness, a blush upon her cheek, a soft smile upon her rosy lips, the lady of his thoughts stood before him.
For a moment the pair gazed at each other in silence, their looks telling more eloquently than any words, the love that filled their hearts. But soon Federico started from his brief trance, threw himself at the feet of the incognita, and, seizing her hand, pressed it ardently to his lips, murmuring the while, in low and passionate accents, such broken and rapturous sentences as only lovers speak and love alone can comprehend. The lady stood over him, her graceful form slightly bowed, her large lustrous eyes alternately fixed upon the kneeling youth and roving anxiously round the apartment.
"Don Federico," she said, in tones whose sweetness thrilled his blood, "may the Holy Virgin forgive my unmaidenly boldness. I have yielded to an impulse stronger than my reason, to the desire of seeing you, of hearing—"
"That I love you," interrupted Federico—"that I adore you since the first hour I beheld you,—that I will die at your feet if you refuse me hope!"
She bent forward, and laid her small rosy hand upon his throbbing forehead. The touch was electric, the fiery glow of passion flashed in her glance. "Light of my eyes!" she whispered, "it were vain to deny that my heart is thine. But our love is a flower on the precipice's brink."
"I fear not the fall," Federico impetuously exclaimed.
"Dare you risk every thing?"
"For your love, every thing!" was the enthusiastic reply.
"Listen, then, to the difficulties that beset us, and say if they are surmountable."
The maiden paused, started, grew pale.
"Hark!" she exclaimed—"what is that? He comes! Be still! be silent!" With wild and terrified haste, she seized Federico's hand, dragged him across the room, and opened a door. The student felt a burning kiss upon his lips, and before he knew where he was, the door was shut, and he was in total darkness. All that had happened since he entered the house had occurred so rapidly, was so mysterious and startling, that he was utterly bewildered. For a moment he thought himself betrayed, groped round his prison, which was a narrow closet, found the door, and, grasping his stiletto, was about to force his way through all opposition, when he suddenly heard heavy steps on the other side of the tapestried screen. Motionless, he listened.
"Bring lights!" said a deep commanding voice; "the lamp burns dim as in a bridal chamber."
"It anticipates its office," replied another male voice, with a laugh. "Is not your wedding-day fixed?"
"Not yet; in the course of next week, perhaps," answered the first speaker, striding up and down the apartment.
"You are in small haste," returned his companion, "to enjoy what all envy you. Never did I behold beauty more divine and captivating."
"Beautiful she certainly is," was the reply; "but what is woman's beauty? The vision of a day; snow, sullied and dispelled in a night."
"You are in exceeding good humour," said the friend of this morose and moralising bridegroom.
A pause ensued, during which Federico's heart beat so strongly that he thought its throbbings must surely be audible through the slight barrier separating him from the speakers. A servant brought lights, and a slender bright ray shot through a small opening in the tapestry, previously unobserved by the student. Applying his eye to the crevice, he obtained a view of the apartment, and of the persons whose conversation he had overheard. One of these wore a uniform glittering with embroidery; the other was dressed in black, with several stars and orders on his breast. Both were in the middle period of life: the one in uniform was the youngest and most agreeable looking; the dark features of the other were of a sombre and unpleasing cast.
The servant left the room, and the man in black suspended his walk and paused opposite his friend.
"You had something to communicate?" he said, in a suppressed voice.
"Are we secure from listeners?" asked the officer, in French.
"Entirely; and doubly so if we speak French. Rosaura herself, did she overhear us, would be none the wiser."
"Count," said the soldier, "I sincerely wish you joy of this marriage."
"A thousand thanks! But with equal sincerity I tell you that I am heartily weary of such congratulations. In marrying, one gives and takes. I give Rosaura my name and rank, titles and dignities, honours and privileges."
"And you take your lovely ward and a rich estate. A fair exchange, Excellency. I can only say that the world wonders at the delay of so suitable a union, and even inclines to the belief that a certain disinclination——"
"The world is greatly mistaken," interrupted the Count. "I ardently love Rosaura, and I have his Majesty's consent to the marriage. But what a fool men take me for, if they suppose——" he stopped short, and tossed his head with a scornful smile.
"Well?" said the officer.
"Solve the riddle yourself."
"I understand! Your position is uneasy, the future dark, the decisive moment at hand. With one's feet on a volcano, one is little disposed to enjoy a honeymoon."
"But when the mine explodes, and one is tossed into the air, it is pleasant to fall in the soft lap of love, there to forget one's wounds."
"Bravo! But what if the lap refuse to receive the luckless engineer?"
"Amigo!" replied the Count—"I thought you knew me better. Under all circumstances, Rosaura remains mine. For myself, I have trained and nurtured this fair and delicate plant, and to me, as the gardener, it belongs."
"She loves you, then?"
"Loves me? What a question! Of course she does. She has grown up with the idea that she is to be my wife. Her heart is pure and unblemished as a diamond: it shall be my care to keep it so."
"You fear rivals."
"Fear!" repeated the Count, a smile flitting over his dark countenance. "But we trifle precious time. What have you to tell me?"
"Something important to our cause," replied the officer, drawing nearer to his companion. "But first, how goes it yonder?"
He pointed with his finger in the direction of the closet. Federico instinctively started back, but again applied his eye to the loophole on hearing the Count's answer. "I have just come thence," he said, "and must soon return. The hand of death is upon him—in vain would he parry the blow. Still the struggle is a hard one; he persists in discrediting his danger, and will abandon none of his habits. But the remorseless tyrant is there, soon to claim him for his own."
"Then we must take our measures without delay," said the officer.
"They are already taken," was his companion's quiet answer.
"Your colleagues are agreed?"
"Read that," said the Count, taking a large folded paper from a portfolio, and spreading it before his friend, who devoured its contents with every demonstration of extreme surprise.
"His handwriting! his signature!" he cried. "A revocation, annihilating the shameless intrigues and machinations of years! Now, Heaven be praised, our country and religion—the faith, honour, and dignity of Spain are rescued! How was it obtained? How possible? My noble friend, you are indeed a great statesman!"
"Take this priceless document," calmly replied the Count; "convey it to your master. Only in his hands is it entirely safe. The future welfare of Spain, the salvation of us all, is suspended to its seal. That I obtained it," he continued, his voice sinking to a whisper, "is the work of Providence. During the last two days, he has had spasms and fainting fits that have weakened his mind and energies. The secret is well kept, and without the palace gates nought is known of these dangerous symptoms. In such moments of agony and depression, the weary soul recalls the past, and trembles for the future. Then, in vivid colours, I placed before him the confusion and unhappiness, and infernal mischief, to which his deplorable decision must give rise; I urged the injustice he had committed, the sin that would lie at his door; and showed how, almost before his eyes had closed, the work he had achieved at peril to his soul, would sink and crumble in an ocean of blood and tears. Alcudia supported me; the others chimed in; this document was ready, and—he signed."
"And now we have got it," cried the officer triumphantly, "we will hold it fast with hands and teeth. How long, think you, may he still live?"
"Castillo says not more than two days, and that he will hardly regain the full use of his intellects." The eyes of the conspirators met; for a moment they gazed at each other, and then broke into a smile.
"Well," said the officer, "I came commissioned to assure you special favour and high reward, but, by my honour as a soldier, no gain or recompense can worthily requite such service as yours."
"For me little can be done," replied the Count. "My desires tend to the peaceful existence in the arms of my young wife, far removed from cares of state. Such is the reward I promise myself. Let your acts be speedy and decided, for it might well happen that—" his brow contracted into deeper folds, and his voice assumed a discordant harshness—"I have decimated the ranks of the scoundrels, but enough yet remain to give much trouble. Take sure measures, and muster your resources. You will need them all."
"Fear not," replied the confident soldier. "We, too, have been active, and have good and steady friends. At a word, the Realista volunteers and the trusty Agraviados fly to their arms. Romagosa, Caraval, Erro, Gonzalez, and the venerable Cyrillo, still live. The Guards are for us. So are the civil authorities and captains-general of eleven provinces. Let the moment come, and you will see that, with this document in our hand, all is done. Confidence for confidence," he continued. "Read this list of names. It contains those of our most approved friends, and will reassure you as to the chances of the future."
He handed a paper to the Count, who, barely looking at it, said thoughtfully—
"Leave it with me till to-morrow. At the critical moment, it will be of immense weight with many waverers. 'Tis late; in a few minutes I must go out. Place me at the feet of your gracious master, and tell him he will have no more faithful subject than his humble slave."
"Will you see him?" said the officer gently. His companion shook his head.
"'Twere not wise," he replied. "The time is not yet come. When it arrives, I shall be the first to bend knee before him. Be watchful, prudent, and prompt. Yet one word. You have confided somewhat in that fellow Regato. Trust him not too far. I deem him a traitor. Let him be proved such, and he shall not escape the rope he has long deserved. And now, farewell!"
The two men parted, and, as the Count returned from the door, Federico heard a rustling of silks that materially increased the rapidity of his heart's pulsations.
"My fair bride!" gallantly exclaimed his Excellency, "I am enchanted to see you. How lovely you look, Rosaura! and how deeply I regret that important affairs leave me but a few moments to devote to you."
"It would seem," said the lady, with cold severity, "that your Excellency has converted my poor apartment into an audience chamber."
"A thousand pardons, dear Rosaura," was the reply. "A particular friend craved a short interview."
"It is late," said the lady pointedly. "I wish your Excellency a good night."
"What!" cried the Count impatiently. "You dismiss me thus?"
"I am indisposed to-night."
"You are a cruel tyrant, Rosaura."
"I, Excellency? They say worse things of you."
"Who, and what?"
"No matter. May your Excellency live a thousand years!"
"With you, Rosaura," replied the Count, assuming an air of tenderness which, as Federico thought, sat supremely ill upon him, and endeavouring to take her hand. She drew it quickly back.
"Veremos, Excelencia. We shall see."
"The devil take the Excellency!" cried the Count, losing all self-command, and stamping angrily with his foot. Rosaura curtsied low.
"You forget my rights over you, Rosaura. I came to tell you that in a few days, as I hope, my dearest wishes will be accomplished."
"We shall see, Excellency," repeated the provoking beauty.
The Count stepped up to her, and said, with his sullen smile, "You rejoice not at it, Rosaura?"
"No," was her laconic, reply.
"You love me not?"
"Love you, Excellency? a great statesman like you! Certainly not, Excellency."
"I grieve to hear it, my beautiful bride; but, fortunately, love often comes with marriage. You shall learn to love me, Rosaura. Our existence shall be a happy and envied one. You detest state affairs: I will leave them and devote myself solely to you. Far from the capital, we will lead a pastoral life, amidst myrtles and meadows, flocks and shepherds, in all the sweet tranquillity of a terrestrial paradise."
Whether sketched in jest or in earnest, this picture of rustic felicity had evidently few charms for Rosaura, at least in the companionship proposed. Suddenly she stepped up to the Count, took his hand, looked full into his dark serious countenance, and laughed aloud and most musically.
"What do I hear, Excellency?" she exclaimed; "you in myrtle groves and smiling meadows—you leading a shepherd's tranquil life! Oh, ye Saints! he a shepherd in the Alpuxarras. Ah! the flocks would fly and scatter themselves, when they beheld the gloomy lines upon your brow. Where are sheep to be found who would be tended by that ensanguined hand? Where could you find repose? Is there a place free from the echoes of the curses that martyred Liberals have heaped upon you? Where is the domestic hearth around which would not range themselves the spectres of the wretches who, at your command, have been blotted from the book of life. Count, I shudder at the thought! Holy Mother of God! is that the happy future you would compel me to share? No, no, never!—though the garrote were to encircle my neck, as it did that of the unhappy lady at Granada, who refused to betray her husband, and whom you sent to the scaffold in his stead! Has she never appeared to your Excellency, cold and pale, and with sightless eyes? For Quito's treasures would I not behold her—her and the whole ghastly train; hundreds, ay hundreds of them, in the long, black-bordered shrouds, and the barefooted friars with their fearful misericordia! Mercy, mercy, Excellency! with me would come the evil spirits, and a thousand——but, good-night, good-night, Excellency."
With a graceful movement of hand and head she glided from the room. The Count attempted not to detain her. He stood motionless, his hand thrust into his breast, and followed her with his eyes in mute astonishment.
"The silly child!" he at last murmured. "But how lovely she is! I, whom all fear—even HE," he emphatically added—"I almost quail before her mad petulance. Well, well!" he continued after a pause, "the priest first, and discipline afterwards. A man who has bowed and broken so many stubborn spirits, will hardly be vanquished by the humours of a wilful girl. Good-night, my lovely bride. 'We shall see,' you said; and assuredly we will see."
He took his hat, and was about to leave the room, when, by an inadvertent movement, Federico let fall his poniard. The Count was quick of hearing, and the noise, slight as it was, drew his attention. He turned sharply towards the spot where the student was concealed.
"What was that?" he cried. "Something fell in the closet. Have we listeners here?"
For an instant he hesitated; then, taking one of the massive silver candlesticks, he stepped briskly to the closet, and was almost knocked down by the door, which Federico pushed violently open. The waxlights fell to the ground; like a winged shadow, the student sprang past the astonished Count, reached the door before the latter recovered from his alarm, and would doubtless have got clear off, had he not, in hurry and ignorance, turned the wrong handle. The Count grasped his coat-skirt, and pulled him back.
"Scoundrel!" he cried. "What do you here?"
For sole reply, Federico seized his assailant by the throat, and a struggle began, which, although speedily decided in favour of the active student, was destined to have most important results. The Count was vigorous, and defended himself well. He had little opportunity of calling out, closely grappled as he was, but he dealt his antagonist more than one heavy blow. At last Federico dashed him to the ground, and disappeared from the room, leaving behind him one of his coat-skirts, torn off in the contest. In falling, the Count's head struck against a table, and he lay for a few seconds stunned by the shock. Recovering himself, he sprang to his feet, foaming with rage, his dark visage black with shame and anger. "Seize him!" he cried, hurrying down the corridor. Twenty servants flew to obey the order. But it was too late. The student passed like a fire-flash before the porter, and made good his escape from the house. "Follow him!" shouted the Count—"a hundred ounces for his captor!" And, stimulated by this princely reward, the eager domestics ran, like hounds after a deer, on the track of the student, who soon heard the shouts of his enemies, and the shrill whistle of the serenos, around and on all sides of him.
Although panting from his brief but violent struggle with the Count, Federico traversed with extreme swiftness several streets and squares, until want of breath at last compelled him to a moment's pause. He looked around, and observed the locality. Before him lay the massive buildings of the royal palace, favoured by whose shadow he continued his flight, now up-hill. But the numbers of his pursuers, their intimate knowledge of the ground, and of the short cuts and by-lanes, gave them a great advantage; and, to his dismay, he found himself so closely and accurately followed, that capture appeared inevitable.
"Had I but my knife," he exclaimed aloud, pausing in despair, "I would keep them off or die! Fool that I have been! Sentries on all sides! They have taken alarm! What can I do?"
"Go to Ciudad Real, if not too late," said a man, wrapped in a cloak, and wearing a small three-cornered hat, who suddenly stepped from behind a massive stone column, close to where the student stood.
Federico at once recognised the speaker.
"For God's sake, Geronimo!" he cried, "assist me in this strait. If they catch me, I am lost. And hark! yonder they come! I hear the baying of the menial pack. On all sides the way is barred!"
Geronimo seized Federico's hand, and hurried him behind the pillar. "There is only one chance," he said, "muffle yourself in my cloak, take my hat, assume a stoop, and walk slowly, like an old man."
"What is your plan?" cried the student.
"Ask no questions. Do as I bid you. Do you see yonder door?"
"Of the palace?"
"Go in there."
"Into the palace?"
"Of course. Look neither right nor left; cross the first court to the great portal. There await me. Quick, quick—here they come!" And he pushed him away.
Not without doubt and disquietude did Federico obey the orders of the old man, who displayed, in this conjuncture, a promptitude and decision rare at his age. But the student had no alternative. Wrapped in Regato's cloak, and feigning a feeble gait, he passed slowly and unquestioned before the soldiers of the royal guard. This impunity in a palace where the strictest watch and ward were usually kept, was an enigma to Federico; and he was still more puzzled, when, whilst waiting at the portal, several persons, shrouded like himself in dark cloaks, passed before him, greeting him as they went with a muttered "buenas noches," and disappeared in the corridors of the palace. At last came Geronimo. He had provided himself in the interval with another cloak. His appearance was an immense relief to the student.
"Are they gone?" said Federico. "May I venture out?"
"Thank the saints that you are here!" replied Geronimo. "And now, tell me what has happened."
Federico told his adventures; and old Regato listened to the narrative with marks of the strongest interest. Now he nodded his head, then beat the ground with his heel, or threw back his cloak and gesticulated with his arms. When he heard what the Count had said of him and of his probable fate, he laughed heartily. "Bah!" said he; "threatened men live long. I have had hotter broth cooked for me, and cooled it with my breath. I hope to die in my bed, like a good Christian; and as for my chance of a rope, I would not change with his Excellency. The infernal schemer! I'll pay him off now. Madre de todas gracias! had we but the list of the conspirators, what a blow might be struck!"
"The list!" repeated Federico. "Stay, let me remember!" and, plunging his hand into his pocket, he pulled out a torn paper. "When I threw the man down, this remained sticking between my waistcoat and neckcloth, where he had grappled me. I noticed it when I got outside, and thrust it into my pocket."
Without listening to this explanation, Geronimo seized the paper, and, by the light of a lamp under the portal, examined it with eager curiosity. At sight of its contents, a savage joy sparkled in his eye.