In the Wrong Paradise
by Andrew Lang
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"But," I interrupted, "your father knew all the scroll had to tell him, else he could not have copied it on Gumbo. So why was he in such a rage?"

"You," said Moore, with some indignation, "are not a collector, and you can't understand a collector's feelings. My father knew the contents of the scroll, but what of that? The scroll was the first edition, the real original, and Gumbo had destroyed it. Job would have lost his temper if Job had been a collector. Let me go on. My brother and I both conjectured that the scroll had some connection with the famous riches of the Sun and the secret of the Pyramid of Teohuacan. Probably, we thought, it had contained a chart (now transferred to Gumbo's frame) of the hiding-place of the treasure. However, in the confusion caused by my father's illness, death, and burial, Gumbo escaped, and, being an unusually stupid nigger, he escaped due south-west. Here he seems to have fallen into the hands of some slave-holding Indians, who used him even worse than any white owners would have done, and left him the mere fragment you saw. He filtered back here through the exchange of commerce, 'the higgling of the market,' and as soon as I recognized him at the sale I made up my mind to purchase him. So did my brother; but, thanks to Peter and his hornets, I became Gumbo's owner. On examining him, after he was well washed on the night of the attack, I found this chart, as you may call it, branded on Gumbo's back." Here Moore made a rapid tracing on a sheet of paper. "I concluded that the letters S M (introduced by my father, of course, as the Indian scroll must have been 'before letters') referred to the Sachem's Mound, which is in my land; that the Sun above referred to the treasures of the Sun, that S C stood for the Sachem's Cave, and that the cave led, under the river, within the mound. We might have opened the mound by digging on our own land, but it would have been a long job, and must have attracted curiosity and brought us into trouble. So, you see, the chart Gumbo destroyed was imprinted by my father on his black back, and though he knew nothing of the secret he distinctly had it."

"Yes," said I, "but why did you ask for a razor when you were left alone with Gumbo?"

"Why," said Moore, "I knew Gumbo was marked somewhere and somehow, but the place and manner I didn't know. And my father might have remembered the dodge of Histiaeus in Herodotus: he might have shaved Gumbo's head, tattooed the chart on that, and then allowed the natural covering to hide the secret 'on the place where the wool ought to grow.'"



"Titius. Le premier qui supprime un abus, comme on dit, est toujours victime du service qu'il rend.

Un Homme du Peuple. C'est de sa faute! Pourquoi se mele t'il de ce qui ne le regarde pas."—Le Pretre de Nemi.

The Devil, according to Dr. Johnson and other authorities, was the first Whig. History tells us less about the first Radical—the first man who rebelled against the despotism of unintelligible customs, who asserted the rights of the individual against the claims of the tribal conscience, and who was eager to see society organized, off-hand, on what he thought a rational method. In the absence of history, we must fall back on that branch of hypothetics which is known as prehistoric science. We must reconstruct the Romance of the First Radical from the hints supplied by geology, and by the study of Radicals at large, and of contemporary savages among whom no Radical reformer has yet appeared. In the following little apologue no trait of manners is invented.

The characters of our romance lived shortly after the close of the last glacial epoch in Europe, when the ice had partly withdrawn from the face of the world, and when land and sea had almost assumed their modern proportions. At this period Europe was inhabited by scattered bands of human creatures, who roamed about its surface much as the black fellows used to roam over the Australian continent. The various groups derived their names from various animals and other natural objects, such as the sun, the cabbage, serpents, sardines, crabs, leopards, bears, and hyaenas. It is important for our purpose to remember that all the children took their family name from the mother's side. If she were of the Hyaena clan, the children were Hyaenas. If the mother were tattooed with the badge of the Serpent, the children were Serpents, and so on. No two persons of the same family name and crest might marry, on pain of death. The man of the Bear family who dwelt by the Mediterranean might not ally himself with a woman of the Bear clan whose home was on the shores of the Baltic, and who was in no way related to him by consanguinity. These details are dry, but absolutely necessary to the comprehension of the First Radical's stormy and melancholy career. We must also remember that, among the tribes, there was no fixed or monarchical government. The little democratic groups were much influenced by the medicine-men or wizards, who combined the functions of the modern clergy and of the medical profession. The old men, too, had some power; the braves, or warriors, constituted a turbulent oligarchy; the noisy outcries of the old women corresponded to the utterances of an intelligent daily press. But the real ruler was a body of strange and despotic customs, the nature of which will become apparent as we follow the fortunes of the First Radical.


Why-Why, as our hero was commonly called in the tribe, was born, long before Romulus built his wall, in a cave which may still be observed in the neighbourhood of Mentone. On the warm shores of the Mediterranean, protected from winds by a wall of rock, the group of which Why-Why was the offspring had attained conditions of comparative comfort. The remains of their dinners, many feet deep, still constitute the flooring of the cave, and the tourist, as he pokes the soil with the point of his umbrella, turns up bits of bone, shreds of chipped flint, and other interesting relics. In the big cave lived several little families, all named by the names of their mothers. These ladies had been knocked on the head and dragged home, according to the marriage customs of the period, from places as distant as the modern Marseilles and Genoa. Why- Why, with his little brothers and sisters, were named Serpents, were taught to believe that the serpent was the first ancestor of their race, and that they must never injure any creeping thing. When they were still very young, the figure of the serpent was tattooed over their legs and breasts, so that every member of primitive society who met them had the advantage of knowing their crest and highly respectable family name.

The birth of Why-Why was a season of discomfort and privation. The hill tribe which lived on the summit of the hill now known as the Tete du Chien had long been aware that an addition to the population of the cave was expected. They had therefore prepared, according to the invariable etiquette of these early times, to come down on the cave people, maltreat the ladies, steal all the property they could lay hands on, and break whatever proved too heavy to carry. Good manners, of course, forbade the cave people to resist this visit, but etiquette permitted (and in New Caledonia still permits) the group to bury and hide its portable possessions. Canoes had been brought into the little creek beneath the cave, to convey the women and children into a safe retreat, and the men were just beginning to hide the spears, bone daggers, flint fish-hooks, mats, shell razors, nets, and so forth, when Why-Why gave an early proof of his precocity by entering the world some time before his arrival was expected.

Instantly all was confusion. The infant, his mother and the other non- combatants of the tribe, were bundled into canoes and paddled, through a tempestuous sea, to the site of the modern Bordighiera. The men who were not with the canoes fled into the depths of the Gorge Saint Louis, which now severs France from Italy. The hill tribe came down at the double, and in a twinkling had "made hay" (to borrow a modern agricultural expression) of all the personal property of the cave dwellers. They tore the nets (the use of which they did not understand), they broke the shell razors, they pouched the opulent store of flint arrowheads and bone daggers, and they tortured to death the pigs, which the cave people had just begun to try to domesticate. After performing these rites, which were perfectly legal—indeed, it would have been gross rudeness to neglect them—the hill people withdrew to their wind-swept home on the Tete du Chien.

Philosophers who believe in the force of early impressions will be tempted to maintain that Why-Why's invincible hatred of established institutions may be traced to these hours of discomfort in which his life began.

The very earliest years of Why-Why, unlike those of Mr. John Stuart Mill, whom in many respects he resembled, were not distinguished by proofs of extraordinary intelligence. He rather promptly, however, showed signs of a sceptical character. Like other sharp children, Why-Why was always asking metaphysical conundrums. Who made men? Who made the sun? Why has the cave-bear such a hoarse voice? Why don't lobsters grow on trees?—he would incessantly demand. In answer to these and similar questions, the mother of Why-Why would tell him stories out of the simple mythology of the tribe. There was quite a store of traditional replies to inquisitive children, replies sanctioned by antiquity and by the authority of the medicine-men, and in this lore Why-Why's mother was deeply versed.

Thus, for example, Why-Why would ask his mother who made men. She would reply that long ago Pund-jel, the first man, made two images of human beings in clay, and stuck on curly bark for hair. He then danced a corroboree round them, and sang a song. They rose up, and appeared as full-grown men. To this statement, hallowed by immemorial belief, Why- Why only answered by asking who made Pund-jel. His mother said that Pund- jel came out of a plot of reeds and rushes. Why-Why was silent, but thought in his heart that the whole theory was "bosh-bosh," to use the early reduplicative language of these remote times. Nor could he conceal his doubts about the Deluge and the frog who once drowned all the world. Here is the story of the frog:—"Once, long ago, there was a big frog. He drank himself full of water. He could not get rid of the water. Once he saw a sand-eel dancing on his tail by the sea-shore. It made him laugh so that he burst, and all the water ran out. There was a great flood, and every one was drowned except two or three men and women, who got on an island. Past came the pelican, in a canoe; he took off the men, but wanting to marry the woman, kept her to the last. She wrapped up a log in a 'possum rug to deceive the pelican, and swam to shore and escaped. The pelican was very angry; he began to paint himself white, to show that he was on the war trail, when past came another pelican, did not like his looks, and killed him with his beak. That is why pelicans are partly black and white, if you want to know, my little dear," said the mother of Why-Why.

Many stories like this were told in the cave, but they found no credit with Why-Why. When he was but ten years old, his inquiring spirit showed itself in the following remarkable manner. He had always been informed that a serpent was the mother of his race, and that he must treat serpents with the greatest reverence. To kill one was sacrilege. In spite of this, he stole out unobserved and crushed a viper which had stung his little brother. He noticed that no harm ensued, and this encouraged him to commit a still more daring act. None but the old men and the warriors were allowed to eat oysters. It was universally held that if a woman or a child touched an oyster, the earth would open and swallow the culprit. Not daunted by this prevalent belief, Why-Why one day devoured no less than four dozen oysters, opening the shells with a flint spear-head, which he had secreted in his waist-band. The earth did not open and swallow him as he had swallowed the oysters, and from that moment he became suspicious of all the ideas and customs imposed by the old men and wizards.

Two or three touching incidents in domestic life, which occurred when Why- Why was about twelve years old, confirmed him in the dissidence of his dissent, for the first Radical was the first Dissenter. The etiquette of the age (which survives among the Yorubas and other tribes) made it criminal for a woman to see her husband, or even to mention his name. When, therefore, the probable father of Why-Why became weary of supporting his family, he did not need to leave the cave and tramp abroad. He merely ceased to bring in tree-frogs, grubs, roots, and the other supplies which Why-Why's mother was accustomed to find concealed under a large stone in the neighbourhood of the cave.

The poor pious woman, who had always religiously abstained from seeing her lord's face, and from knowing his name, was now reduced to destitution. There was no one to grub up pig-nuts for her, nor to extract insects of an edible sort from beneath the bark of trees. As she could not identify her invisible husband, she was unable to denounce him to the wizards, who would, for a consideration, have frightened him out of his life or into the performance of his duty. Thus, even with the aid of Why-Why, existence became too laborious for her strength, and she gradually pined away. As she lay in a half-fainting and almost dying state, Why-Why rushed out to find the most celebrated local medicine-man. In half an hour the chief medicine-man appeared, dressed in the skin of a wolf, tagged about with bones, skulls, dead lizards, and other ornaments of his official attire. You may see a picture very like him in Mr. Catlin's book about the Mandans. Armed with a drum and a rattle, he leaped into the presence of the sick woman, uttering unearthly yells. His benevolent action and "bedside manner" were in accordance with the medical science of the time. He merely meant to frighten away the evil spirit which (according to the received hypothesis) was destroying the mother of Why-Why. What he succeeded in doing was to make Why-Why's mother give a faint scream, after which her jaw fell, and her eyes grew fixed and staring.

The grief of Why-Why was profound. Reckless of consequences, he declared, with impious publicity, that the law which forbade a wife to see her own husband, and the medical science which frightened poor women to death were cruel and ridiculous. As Why-Why (though a promising child) was still under age, little notice was taken of remarks which were attributed to the petulance of youth. But when he went further, and transgressed the law which then forbade a brother to speak to his own sister, on pain of death, the general indignation was no longer repressed. In vain did Why-Why plead that if he neglected his sister no one else would comfort her. His life was spared, but the unfortunate little girl's bones were dug up by a German savant last year, in a condition which makes it only too certain that cannibalism was practised by the early natives of the Mediterranean coast. These incidents then, namely, the neglect of his unknown father, the death of his mother, and the execution of his sister, confirmed Why-Why in the belief that radical social reforms were desirable.

The coming of age of Why-Why was celebrated in the manner usual among primitive people. The ceremonies were not of a character to increase his pleasure in life, nor his respect for constituted authority. When he was fourteen years of age, he was pinned, during his sleep, by four adult braves, who knocked out his front teeth, shaved his head with sharp chips of quartzite, cut off the first joint of his little finger, and daubed his whole body over with clay. They then turned him loose, imposing on him his name of Why-Why; and when his shaven hair began to show through the clay daubing, the women of the tribe washed him, and painted him black and white. The indignation of Why-Why may readily be conceived. Why, he kept asking, should you shave a fellow's head, knock out his teeth, cut off his little finger, daub him with clay, and paint him like a pelican, because he is fourteen years old? To these radical questions, the braves (who had all lost their own front teeth) replied, that this was the custom of their fathers. They tried to console him, moreover, by pointing out that now he might eat oysters, and catch himself a bride from some hostile tribe, or give his sister in exchange for a wife. This was little comfort to Why-Why. He had eaten oysters already without supernatural punishment, and his sister, as we have seen, had suffered the extreme penalty of the law. Nor could our hero persuade himself that to club and carry off a hostile girl in the dark was the best way to win a loving wife. He remained single, and became a great eater of oysters.


As time went on our hero developed into one of the most admired braves of his community. No one was more successful in battle, and it became almost a proverb that when Why-Why went on the war-path there was certain to be meat enough and to spare, even for the women. Why-Why, though a Radical, was so far from perfect that he invariably complied with the usages of his time when they seemed rational and useful. If a little tattooing on the arm would have saved men from a horrible disease, he would have had all the tribe tattooed. He was no bigot. He kept his word, and paid his debts, for no one was ever very "advanced" all at once. It was only when the ceremonious or superstitious ideas of his age and race appeared to him senseless and mischievous that he rebelled, or at least hinted his doubts and misgivings. This course of conduct made him feared and hated both by the medicine-men, or clerical wizards, and by the old women of the tribe. They naturally tried to take their revenge upon him in the usual way.

A charge of heresy, of course, could not well be made, for in the infancy of our race there were neither Courts of Arches nor General Assemblies. But it was always possible to accuse Why-Why of malevolent witchcraft. The medicine-men had not long to wait for an opportunity. An old woman died, as old women will, and every one was asking "Who sent the evil spirit that destroyed poor old Dada?" In Why-Why's time no other explanation of natural death by disease or age was entertained. The old woman's grave was dug, and all the wizards intently watched for the first worm or insect that should crawl out of the mould. The head-wizard soon detected a beetle, making, as he alleged, in the direction where Why-Why stood observing the proceedings. The wizard at once denounced our hero as the cause of the old woman's death. To have blenched for a moment would have been ruin. But Why-Why merely lifted his hand, and in a moment a spear flew from it which pinned his denouncer ignominiously to a pine-tree. The funeral of the old woman was promptly converted into a free fight, in which there was more noise than bloodshed. After this event the medicine-men left Why-Why to his own courses, and waited for a chance of turning public opinion against the sceptic.

The conduct of Why-Why was certainly calculated to outrage all conservative feeling. When on the war-path or in the excitement of the chase he had even been known to address a tribesman by his name, as "Old Cow," or "Flying Cloud," or what not, instead of adopting the orthodox nomenclature of the classificatory system, and saying, "Third cousin by the mother's side, thrice removed, will you lend me an arrow?" or whatever it might be. On "tabu-days," once a week, when the rest of the people in the cave were all silent, sedentary, and miserable (from some superstitious feeling which we can no longer understand), Why-Why would walk about whistling, or would chip his flints or set his nets. He ought to have been punished with death, but no one cared to interfere with him.

Instead of dancing at the great "corroborees," or religious ballets of his people, he would "sit out" with a girl whose sad, romantic history became fatally interwoven with his own. In vain the medicine-men assured him that Pund-jel, the great spirit, was angry. Why-Why was indifferent to the thunder which was believed to be the voice of Pund-jel. His behaviour at the funeral of a celebrated brave actually caused what we would call a reformation in burial ceremonies.

It was usual to lay the corpses of the famous dead in a cave, where certain of the tribesmen were sent to watch for forty days and nights the decaying body. This ghastly task was made more severe by the difficulty of obtaining food. Everything that the watchers were allowed to eat was cooked outside the cave with complicated ceremonies. If any part of the ritual was omitted, if a drop or a morsel were spilled, the whole rite had to be done over again from the beginning. This was not all. The chief medicine-man took a small portion of the meat in a long spoon, and entered the sepulchral cavern. In the dim light he approached one of the watchers of the dead, danced before him, uttered a mysterious formula of words, and made a shot at the hungry man's mouth with a long spoon. If the shot was straight, if the spoon did not touch the lips or nose or mouth, the watcher made ready to receive a fresh spoonful. But if the attempt failed, if the spoon did not go straight to the mark, the mourners were obliged to wait till all the cooking ceremonies were performed afresh, when the feeding began again.

Now, Why-why was a mourner whom the chief medicine-man was anxious to "spite," as children say, and at the end of three days' watching our hero had not received a morsel of food. The spoon had invariably chanced to miss him. On the fourth night Why-Why entertained his fellow-watchers with a harangue on the imbecility of the whole proceeding. He walked out of the cave, kicked the chief medicine-man into a ravine, seized the pot full of meat, brought it back with him, and made a hearty meal. The other mourners, half dead with fear, expected to see the corpse they were "waking" arise, "girn," and take some horrible revenge. Nothing of the sort occurred, and the burials of the cave dwellers gradually came to be managed in a less irksome way.


No man, however intrepid, can offend with impunity the most sacred laws of society. Why-Why proved no exception to this rule. His decline and fall date, we may almost say, from the hour when he bought a fair-haired, blue-eyed female child from a member of a tribe that had wandered out of the far north. The tribe were about to cook poor little Verva because her mother was dead, and she seemed a bouche inutile. For the price of a pair of shell fish-hooks, a bone dagger, and a bundle of grass-string Why- Why (who had a tender heart) ransomed the child. In the cave she lived an unhappy life, as the other children maltreated and tortured her in the manner peculiar to pitiless infancy.

Such protection as a man can give to a child the unlucky little girl received from Why-Why. The cave people, like most savages, made it a rule never to punish their children. Why-Why got into many quarrels because he would occasionally box the ears of the mischievous imps who tormented poor Verva, the fair-haired and blue-eyed captive from the north. There grew up a kind of friendship between Why-Why and the child. She would follow him with dog-like fidelity and with a stealthy tread when he hunted the red deer in the forests of the Alpine Maritimes. She wove for him a belt of shells, strung on stout fibres of grass. In this belt Why-Why would attend the tribal corroborees, where, as has been said, he was inclined to "sit out" with Verva and watch, rather than join in the grotesque dance performed as worship to the Bear.

As Verva grew older and ceased to be persecuted by the children, she became beautiful in the unadorned manner of that early time. Her friendship with Why-Why began to embarrass the girl, and our hero himself felt a quite unusual shyness when he encountered the captive girl among the pines on the hillside. Both these untutored hearts were strangely stirred, and neither Why-Why nor Verva could imagine wherefore they turned pale or blushed when they met, or even when either heard the other's voice. If Why-Why had not distrusted and indeed detested the chief medicine-man, he would have sought that worthy's professional advice. But he kept his symptoms to himself, and Verva also pined in secret.

These artless persons were in love without knowing it.

It is not surprising that they did not understand the nature of their complaint, for probably before Why-Why no one had ever been in love. Courtship had consisted in knocking a casual girl on the head in the dark, and the only marriage ceremony had been that of capture. Affection on the side of the bride was out of the question, for, as we have remarked, she was never allowed so much as to see her husband's face. Probably the institution of falling in love has been evolved in, and has spread from, various early centres of human existence. Among the primitive Ligurian races, however, Why-Why and Verva must be held the inventors, and, alas! the protomartyrs of the passion. Love, like murder, "will out," and events revealed to Why-Why and Verva the true nature of their sentiments.

It was a considerable exploit of Why-Why's that brought him and the northern captive to understand each other. The brother of Why-Why had died after partaking too freely of a member of a hostile tribe. The cave people, of course, expected Why-Why to avenge his kinsman. The brother, they said, must have been destroyed by a boilya or vampire, and, as somebody must have sent that vampire against the lad, somebody must be speared for it. Such are primitive ideas of medicine and justice. An ordinary brave would have skulked about the dwellings of some neighbouring human groups till he got a chance of knocking over a child or an old woman, after which justice and honour would have been satisfied. But Why-Why declared that, if he must spear somebody, he would spear a man of importance. The forms of a challenge were therefore notched on a piece of stick, which was solemnly carried by heralds to the most renowned brave of a community settled in the neighbourhood of the modern San Remo. This hero might have very reasonably asked, "Why should I spear Why-Why because his brother over-ate himself?" The laws of honour, however (which even at this period had long been established), forbade a gentleman when challenged to discuss the reasonableness of the proceeding.

The champions met on a sandy plain beside a little river near the modern Ventimiglia. An amphitheatre of rock surrounded them, and, far beyond, the valley was crowned by the ancient snow of an Alpine peak. The tribes of either party gathered in the rocky amphitheatre, and breathlessly watched the issue of the battle. Each warrior was equipped with a shield, a sheaf of spears, and a heavy, pointed club. At thirty paces distance they began throwing, and the spectators enjoyed a beautiful exposition of warlike skill. Both men threw with extreme force and deadly aim; while each defended himself cleverly with his shield. The spears were exhausted, and but one had pierced the thigh of Why-Why, while his opponent had two sticking in his neck and left arm.

Then, like two meeting thunder-clouds, the champions dashed at each other with their clubs. The sand was whirled up around them as they spun in the wild dance of battle, and the clubs rattled incessantly on the heads and shields. Twice Why-Why was down, but he rose with wonderful agility, and never dropped his shield. A third time he stooped beneath a tremendous whack, but when all seemed over, grasped a handful of sand, and flung it right in his enemy's eyes. The warrior reeled, blinded and confused, when Why-Why gave point with the club in his antagonist's throat; the blood leaped out, and both fell senseless on the plain.

* * * * *

When the slow mist cleared from before the eyes of Why-Why he found himself (he was doubtless the first hero of the many heroes who have occupied this romantic position) stretched on a grassy bed, and watched by the blue eyes of Verva. Where were the sand, the stream, the hostile warrior, the crowds of friends and foes? It was Verva's part to explain. The champion of the other tribe had never breathed after he received the club-thrust, and the chief medicine-man had declared that Why-Why was also dead. He had suggested that both champions should be burned in the desolate spot where they lay, that their boilyas, or ghosts, might not harm the tribes. The lookers-on had gone to their several and distant caves to fetch fire for the ceremony (they possessed no means of striking a light), and Verva, unnoticed, had lingered beside Why-Why, and laid his bleeding head in her lap. Why-Why had uttered a groan, and the brave girl dragged him from the field into a safe retreat among the woods not far from the stream. Why-Why had been principally beaten about the head, and his injuries, therefore, were slight.

After watching the return of the tribesmen, and hearing the chief medicine-man explain that Why-Why's body had been carried away by "the bad black-fellow with a tail who lives under the earth," Why-Why enjoyed the pleasure of seeing his kinsmen and his foes leave the place to its natural silence. Then he found words, and poured forth his heart to Verva. They must never be sundered—they must be man and wife! The girl leaned her golden head on Why-Why's dark shoulder, and sniffed at him, for kissing was an institution not yet evolved. She wept. She had a dreadful thing to tell him,—that she could never be his. "Look at this mark," she said, exposing the inner side of her arm. Why-Why looked, shuddered, and turned pale. On Verva's arm he recognized, almost defaced, the same tattooed badge that wound its sinuous spirals across his own broad chest and round his manly legs. It was the mark of the Serpent!

Both were Serpents; both, unknown to Why-Why, though not to Verva, bore the same name, the same badge, and, if Why-Why had been a religious man, both would have worshipped the same reptile. Marriage between them then was a thing accursed; man punished it by death. Why-Why bent his head and thought. He remembered all his youth—the murder of his sister for no crime; the killing of the serpent, and how no evil came of it; the eating of the oysters, and how the earth had not opened and swallowed him. His mind was made up. It was absolutely certain that his tribe and Verva's kin had never been within a thousand miles of each other. In a few impassioned words he explained to Verva his faith, his simple creed that a thing was not necessarily wrong because the medicine-men said so, and the tribe believed them. The girl's own character was all trustfulness, and Why-Why was the person she trusted. "Oh, Why-Why, dear," she said blushing (for she had never before ventured to break the tribal rule which forbade calling any one by his name), "Oh, Why-Why, you are always right!"

And o'er the hills, and far away Beyond their utmost purple rim, Beyond the night, across the day, Through all the world she followed him.


Two years had passed like a dream in the pleasant valley which, in far later ages, the Romans called Vallis Aurea, and which we call Vallauris. Here, at a distance of some thirty miles from the cave and the tribe, dwelt in fancied concealment Why-Why and Verva. The clear stream was warbling at their feet, in the bright blue weather of spring; the scent of the may blossoms was poured abroad, and, lying in the hollow of Why- Why's shield, a pretty little baby with Why-Why's dark eyes and Verva's golden locks was crowing to his mother. Why-Why sat beside her, and was busily making the first European pipkin with the clay which he had found near Vallauris. All was peace.

* * * * *

There was a low whizzing sound, something seemed to rush past Why-Why, and with a scream Verva fell on her face. A spear had pierced her breast. With a yell like that of a wounded lion, Why-Why threw himself on the bleeding body of his bride. For many moments he heard no sound but her long, loud and unconscious breathing. He did not mark the yells of his tribesmen, nor feel the spears that rained down on himself, nor see the hideous face of the chief medicine-man peering at his own. Verva ceased to breathe. There was a convulsion, and her limbs were still. Then Why-Why rose. In his right hand was his famous club, "the watcher of the fords;" in his left his shield. These had never lain far from his hand since he fled with Verva.

He knew that the end had come, as he had so often dreamt of it; he knew that he was trapped and taken by his offended tribesmen. His first blow shattered the head of the chief medicine-man. Then he flung himself, all bleeding from the spears, among the press of savages who started from every lentisk bush and tuft of tall flowering heath. They gave back when four of their chief braves had fallen, and Why-Why lacked strength and will to pursue them. He turned and drew Verva's body beneath the rocky wall, and then he faced his enemies. He threw down shield and club and raised his hands. A light seemed to shine about his face, and his first word had a strange tone that caught the ear and chilled the heart of all who heard him. "Listen," he said, "for these are the last words of Why- Why. He came like the water, and like the wind he goes, he knew not whence, and he knows not whither. He does not curse you, for you are that which you are. But the day will come" (and here Why-Why's voice grew louder and his eyes burned), "the day will come when you will no longer be the slave of things like that dead dog," and here he pointed to the shapeless face of the slain medicine-man. "The day will come, when a man shall speak unto his sister in loving kindness, and none shall do him wrong. The day will come when a woman shall unpunished see the face and name the name of her husband. As the summers go by you will not bow down to the hyaenas, and the bears, and worship the adder and the viper. You will not cut and bruise the bodies of your young men, or cruelly strike and seize away women in the darkness. Yes, and the time will be when a man may love a woman of the same family name as himself"—but here the outraged religion of the tribesmen could endure no longer to listen to these wild and blasphemous words. A shower of spears flew out, and Why- Why fell across the body of Verva. His own was "like a marsh full of reeds," said the poet of the tribe, in a song which described these events, "so thick the spears stood in it."

* * * * *

When he was dead, the tribe knew what they had lost in Why-Why. They bore his body, with that of Verva, to the cave; there they laid the lovers—Why-Why crowned with a crown of sea-shells, and with a piece of a rare magical substance (iron) at his side. {208} Then the tribesmen withdrew from that now holy ground, and built them houses, and forswore the follies of the medicine-men, as Why-Why had prophesied. Many thousands of years later the cave was opened when the railway to Genoa was constructed, and the bones of Why-Why, with the crown, and the fragment of iron, were found where they had been laid by his repentant kinsmen. He had bravely asserted the rights of the individual conscience against the dictates of Society; he had lived, and loved, and died, not in vain. Last April I plucked a rose beside his cave, and laid it with another that had blossomed at the door of the last house which covered the homeless head of SHELLEY.

The prophecies of Why-Why have been partially fulfilled. Brothers, if they happen to be on speaking terms, may certainly speak to their sisters, though we are still, alas, forbidden to marry the sisters of our deceased wives. Wives may see their husbands, though in Society, they rarely avail themselves of the privilege. Young ladies are still forbidden to call young men at large by their Christian names; but this tribal law, and survival of the classificatory system, is rapidly losing its force. Burials in the savage manner to which Why-Why objected, will soon, doubtless, be permitted to conscientious Nonconformists in the graveyards of the Church of England. The teeth of boys are still knocked out at public and private schools, but the ceremony is neither formal nor universal. Our advance in liberty is due to an army of forgotten Radical martyrs of whom we know less than we do of Mr. Bradlaugh.


When I was poor, and honest, and a novelist, I little thought that I should ever be rich, and something not very unlike a Duke; and, as to honesty, but an indifferent character. I have had greatness thrust on me. I am, like Simpcox in the dramatis personae of "Henry IV.," "an impostor;" and yet I scarcely know how I could have escaped this deplorable (though lucrative) position. "Love is a great master," says the "Mort d'Arthur," and I perhaps may claim sympathy and pity as a victim of love. The following unaffected lines (in which only names and dates are disguised) contain all the apology I can offer to a censorious world.

Two or three years ago I was dependent on literature for my daily bread. I was a regular man-of-all-work. Having the advantage of knowing a clerk in the Foreign Office who went into society (he had been my pupil at the university), I picked up a good deal of scandalous gossip, which I published in the Pimlico Postboy, a journal of fashion. I was also engaged as sporting prophet to the Tipster, and was not less successful than my contemporaries as a vaticinator of future events. At the same time I was contributing a novel (anonymously) to the Fleet Street Magazine, a very respectable publication, though perhaps a little dull. The editor had expressly requested me to make things rather more lively, and I therefore gave my imagination free play in the construction of my plot. I introduced a beautiful girl, daughter of a preacher in the Shaker community. Her hand was sought in marriage by a sporting baronet, who had seen her as he pursued the chase through the pathless glens of the New Forest. This baronet she married after suffering things intolerable from the opposition of the Shakers. Here I had a good deal of padding about Shakers and their ways; and, near the end of the sixth chapter my heroine became the wife of Sir William Buckley. But the baronet proved a perfect William Rufus for variegated and versatile blackguardism. Lady Buckley's life was made impossible by his abominable conduct. At this juncture my heroine chanced to be obliged to lunch at a railway refreshment-room. My last chapter had described the poor lady lunching lonely in the bleak and gritty waiting room of Swilby Junction, lonely except for the company of her little boy. I showed how she fell into a strange and morbid vein of reflection suggested by the qualities of the local sherry. If she was to live, her lord and master, Sir W. Buckley, must die! And I described how a fiendish temptation was whispered to her by the glass of local sherry. "William's constitution, strong as it is," she murmured inwardly, "could never stand a dozen of that sherry. Suppose he chanced to partake of it—accidentally—rather late in the evening." Amidst these reflections I allowed the December instalment of "The Baronet's Wife" to come to a conclusion in the Fleet Street Magazine. Obviously crime was in the wind.

It is my habit to read the "Agony Column" (as it is flippantly called), the second column in the outer sheet of the Times. Who knows but he may there see something to his advantage; and, besides, the mysterious advertisements may suggest ideas for plots. One day I took up the "Agony Column," as usual, at my club, and, to my surprise, read the following advertisement:—

"F. S. M.—SHERRY WINE. WRECK OF THE "JINGO."—WRETCHED BOY: Stay your unhallowed hand! Would you expose an erring MOTHER'S secret? Author will please communicate with Messrs. Mantlepiece and Co., Solicitors, Upton-on-the-Wold."

As soon as I saw this advertisement, as soon as my eyes fell on "Sherry Wine" and "Author," I felt that here was something for me. "F. S. M." puzzled me at first, but I read it Fleet Street Magazine, by a flash of inspiration. "Wretched Boy" seemed familiar and unappropriate—I was twenty-nine—but what of that? Of course I communicated with Messrs. Mantlepiece, saying that I had reason for supposing that I was the "author" alluded to in the advertisement. As to the words, "Wreck of the Jingo" they entirely beat me, but I hoped that some light would be thrown on their meaning by the respectable firm of solicitors. It did occur to me that if any one had reasons for communicating with me, it would have been better and safer to address a letter to me, under cover, to the editor of the Fleet Street Magazine. But the public have curious ideas on these matters. Two days after I wrote to Messrs. Mantlepiece I received a very guarded reply, in which I was informed that their client wished to make my acquaintance, and that a carriage would await me, if I presented myself at Upton-on-the-Wold Station, by the train arriving at 5.45 on Friday. Well, I thought to myself, I may as well do a "week-ending," as some people call it, with my anonymous friend as anywhere else. At the same time I knew that the "carriage" might be hired by enemies to convey me to the Pauper Lunatic Asylum or to West Ham, the place where people disappear mysteriously. I might be the victim of a rival's jealousy (and many men, novelists of most horrible imaginings, envied my talents and success), or a Nihilist plot might have drawn me into its machinery. But I was young, and I thought I would see the thing out. My journey was unadventurous, if you except a row with a German, who refused to let me open the window. But this has nothing to do with my narrative, and is not a false scent to make a guileless reader keep his eye on the Teuton. Some novelists permit themselves these artifices, which I think untradesmanlike and unworthy. When I arrived at Upton, the station-master made a charge at my carriage, and asked me if I was "The gentleman for the Towers?" The whole affair was so mysterious that I thought it better to answer in the affirmative. My luggage (a Gladstone bag) was borne by four stately and liveried menials to a roomy and magnificent carriage, in which everything, from the ducal crown on the silver foot-warmers to the four splendid bays, breathed of opulence, directed and animated by culture. I dismissed all thoughts of the Pauper Lunatic Asylum and the Nihilists, and was whirled through miles of park and up an avenue lighted by electricity. We reached the baronial gateway of the Towers, a vast Gothic pile in the later manner of Inigo Jones, and a seneschal stood at the foot of a magnificent staircase to receive me. I had never seen a seneschal before, but I recognized him by the peeled white wand he carried, by his great silver chain, and his black velvet coat and knee-breeches.

"Your lordship's room," says the seneschal (obviously an old and confidential family servant), "is your old one—the Tapestried Chamber. Her Grace is waiting anxiously for you."

Then two menials marched, with my Gladstone bag, to the apartment thus indicated. For me, I felt in a dream, or like a man caught up into the fairyland of the "Arabian Nights." "Her Grace" was all very well—the aristocracy always admired my fictitious creations; but "Your Lordship!" Why your Lordship? Then the chilling idea occurred to me that I had not been "the gentleman for the Towers;" that I was in the position of the hero of "Happy Thoughts" when he went to the Duke's by mistake for the humble home of the Plyte Frazers. But I was young. "Her Grace" could not eat me, and I determined, as I said before, to see it out.

I dressed very deliberately, and that process over, was led by the worthy seneschal into a singular octagonal boudoir, hung with soft dark blue arras. The only person in the room was a gaunt, middle-aged lady, in deep mourning. Though I knew no more of the British aristocracy than Mr. W. D. Howells, of New York, I recognized her for the Duchess by her nose, which resembled those worn by the duchesses of Mr. Du Maurier. As soon as we were alone, she rose, drew me to her bosom, much to my horror, looked at me long and earnestly, and at last exclaimed, "How changed you are, Percy!" (My name is Thomas—Thomas Cobson.) Before I could reply, she was pouring out reproaches on me for having concealed my existence, and revealed in my novel what she spoke of as "the secret."

When she grew, not calm, but fatigued, I ventured to ask why she had conferred on me the honour of her invitation, and how I had been unfortunate enough to allude to affairs of which I had certainly no knowledge. Her reply was given with stately dignity. "You need not pretend," she said, "to have forgotten what I told you in this very room, before you left England for an African tour in the Jingo. I then revealed to you the secret of my life, the secret of the Duke's death. Your horror when you heard how that most unhappy man compelled me to free myself from his tyranny, by a method which his habits rendered only too easy—in short, by a dose of cheap sherry, was deep and natural. Oh, Percy, you did not kiss your mother before starting on your ill-omened voyage. As soon as I heard of the wreck of the Jingo, and that you were the only passenger drowned, I recognized an artifice, un vieux truc, by which you hoped to escape from a mother of whom you were ashamed. You had only pretended to be the victim of Ocean's rage! People who are drowned in novels always do reappear: and, Percy, your mother is an old novel-reader! My agents have ever since been on your track, but it was reserved for me to discover the last of the Birkenheads in the anonymous author of the 'Baronet's Wife.' That romance, in which you have had the baseness to use your knowledge of a mother's guilt as a motif in your twopenny plot, unveiled to me the secret of your hidden existence. You must stop the story, or alter the following numbers; you must give up your discreditable mode of life. Heavens, that a Birkenhead should be a literary character! And you must resume your place in my house and in society."

Here the Duchess of Stalybridge paused; she had quite recovered that repose of manner and icy hauteur which, I understand, is the heritage of the house of Birkenhead. For my part, I had almost lost the modest confidence which is, I believe, hereditary in the family of Cobson. It was a scene to make the boldest stand aghast. Here was an unknown lady of the highest rank confessing a dreadful crime to a total stranger, and recognizing in that stranger her son, and the heir to an enormous property and a title as old—as old as British dukedoms, however old they may be. Ouida would have said "heir to a title older than a thousand centuries," but I doubt if the English duke is so ancient as that, or a direct descendant of the Dukes of Edom mentioned in Holy Writ. I began pouring out an incoherent flood of evidence to show that I was only Thomas Cobson, and had never been any one else, but at that moment a gong sounded, and a young lady entered the room. She also was dressed in mourning, and the Duchess introduced her to me as my cousin, Miss Birkenhead. "Gwyneth was a child, Percy," said my august hostess, "when you went to Africa." I shook hands with my cousin with as much composure as I could assume, for, to tell the truth, I was not only moved by my recent adventures, but I had on the spot fallen hopelessly in love with my new relative. It was le coup de foudre of a French writer on the affections—M. Stendhal. Miss Birkenhead had won my heart from the first moment of our meeting. Why should I attempt to describe a psychological experience as rare as instantaneous conversion, or more so? Miss Birkenhead was tall and dark, with a proud pale face, and eyes which unmistakably indicated the possession of a fine sense of humour. Proud pale people seldom look when they first meet a total stranger—still more a long-lost cousin—as if they had some difficulty in refraining from mirth. Miss Birkenhead's face was as fixed and almost as pure as marble, but I read sympathy and amusement and kindness in her eyes.

Presently the door opened again, and an elderly man in the dress of a priest came in. To him I was presented—

"Your old governor, Percy."

For a moment my unhappy middle-class association made me suppose that the elderly ecclesiastic was my "old Guv'nor,"—my father, the late Duke. But an instant's reflection proved to me that her Grace meant "tutor" by governor. I am ashamed to say that I now entered into the spirit of the scene, shook the holy man warmly by the hand, and quoted a convenient passage from Horace.

He appeared to fall into the trap, and began to speak of old recollections of my boyhood.

Stately liveried menials now, greatly to my surprise, brought in tea. I was just declining tea (for I expected dinner in a few minutes), when a voice (a sweet low voice) whispered—

"Take some!"

I took some, providentially, as it turned out. Again, I was declining tea-cake, when I could have sworn I heard the same voice (so low that it seemed like the admonition of a passing spirit) say—

"Take some!"

I took some, for I was exceedingly hungry; and then the conversation lapsed, began again vaguely, and lapsed again.

We all know that wretched quarter of an hour, or half hour, which unpunctual guests make us pass in famine and fatigue while they keep dinner waiting. Upon my word, we waited till half-past eleven before dinner was announced. But for the tea, I must have perished; for, like the butler in Sir George Dasent's novel, "I likes my meals regular."

The Duchess had obviously forgotten all about dinner. There was a spinning-wheel in the room, and she sat and span like an elderly Fate. When dinner was announced at last, I began to fear it would never end. The menu covered both sides of the card. The Duchess ate little, and "hardly anything was drunk." At last the ladies left us, about one in the morning. I saw my chance, and began judiciously to "draw" the chaplain. It appeared that the Duchess did not always dine at half-past eleven. The feast was a movable one, from eight o'clock onwards. The Duchess and the establishment had got into these habits during the old Duke's time. A very strange man the old Duke; rarely got up till eight in the evening, often prolonged breakfast till next day.

"But I need not tell you all this, Percy, my old pupil," said the chaplain; and he winked as a clergyman ought not to wink.

"My dear sir," cried I, encouraged by this performance, "for Heaven's sake tell me what all this means? In this so-called nineteenth century, in our boasted age of progress, what does the Duchess mean by her invitation to me, and by her conduct at large? Indeed, why is she at large?"

The chaplain drew closer to me. "Did ye ever hear of a duchess in a madhouse?" said he; and I owned that I never had met with such an incident in my reading (unless there is one in Webster's plays, somewhere).

"Well, then, who is to make a beginning?" asked the priest. "The Duchess has not a relation in the world but Miss Birkenhead, the only daughter of a son of the last Duke but one. The late Duke was a dreadful man, and he turned the poor Duchess's head with the life he led her. The drowning of her only son in the Jingo finished the business. She has got that story about"—(here he touched the decanter of sherry: I nodded)—"she has got that story into her head, and she believes her son is alive; otherwise she is as sane and unimaginative as—as—as Mr. Chaplin," said he, with a flash of inspiration. "Happily you are an honest man, or you seem like one, and won't take advantage of her delusion."

This was all I could get out of the chaplain; indeed, there was no more to be got. I went to bed, but not to sleep. Next day, and many other days, I spent wrestling in argument with the Duchess. I brought her my certificate of baptism, my testamurs in Smalls and Greats, an old passport, a bill of Poole's, anything I could think of to prove my identity. She was obdurate, and only said—"If you are not Percy, how do you know my secret?" I had in the meantime to alter the intended course of my novel—"The Baronet's Wife." The Baronet was made to become a reformed character. But in all those days at the lonely Towers, and in the intervals of arguing with the poor Duchess, I could not but meet Gwyneth Birkenhead. We met, not as cousins, for Miss Birkenhead had only too clearly appreciated the situation from the moment she first met me. The old seneschal, too, was in the secret; I don't know what the rest of the menials thought. They were accustomed to the Duchess. But if Gwyneth and I did not meet as cousins, we met as light-hearted young people, in a queer situation, and in a strange, dismal old house.

We could not in the selfsame mansion dwell Without some stir of heart, some malady; We could not sit at meals but feel how well It soothed each to be the other by.

Indeed I could not sit at meals without being gratefully reminded of Gwyneth's advice about "taking some" on the night of my first arrival at the Towers.

These queer happy times ended.

One day a party of archaeologists came to visit the Towers. They were members of a "Society for Badgering the Proprietors of Old Houses," and they had been lunching at Upton-on-the-Wold. After luncheon they invaded the Towers, personally conducted by Mr. Bulkin, a very learned historian. Bulkin had nearly plucked me in Modern History, and when I heard his voice afar off I arose and fled swiftly. Unluckily the Duchess chanced, by an unprecedented accident, to be in the library, a room which the family never used, and which was, therefore, exhibited to curious strangers. Into this library Bulkin precipitated himself, followed by his admirers, and began to lecture on the family portraits. Beginning with the Crusaders (painted by Lorenzo Credi) he soon got down to modern times. He took no notice of the Duchess, whom he believed to be a housekeeper; but, posting himself between the unfortunate lady and the door, gave a full account of the career of the late Duke. This was more than the Duchess (who knew all about the subject of the lecture) could stand; but Mr. Bulkin, referring her to his own Appendices, finished his address, and offered the Duchess half-a-crown as he led his troop to other victories. From this accident the Duchess never recovered. Her spirits, at no time high, sank to zero, and she soon passed peacefully away. She left a will in which her personal property (about 40,000 pounds a year) was bequeathed to Gwyneth, "as my beloved son, Percy, has enough for his needs," the revenues of the dukedom of Stalybridge being about 300,000 pounds per annum before the agricultural depression. She might well have thought I needed no more. Of course I put in no claim for these estates, messuages, farms, mines, and so forth, nor for my hereditary ducal pension of 15,000 pounds. But Gwyneth and I are not uncomfortably provided for, and I no longer contribute paragraphs of gossip to the Pimlico Postboy, nor yet do I vaticinate in the columns of the Tipster. Perhaps I ought to have fled from the Towers the morning after my arrival. And I declare that I would have fled but for Gwyneth and "Love, that is a great Master."


The House of Strange Stories, as I prefer to call it (though it is not known by that name in the county), seems the very place for a ghost. Yet, though so many peoples have dwelt upon its site and in its chambers, though the ancient Elizabethan oak, and all the queer tables and chairs that a dozen generations have bequeathed, might well be tenanted by ancestral spirits, and disturbed by rappings, it is a curious fact that there is not a ghost in the House of Strange Stories. On my earliest visit to this mansion, I was disturbed, I own, by a not unpleasing expectancy. There must, one argued, be a shadowy lady in green in the bedroom, or, just as one was falling asleep, the spectre of a Jesuit would creep out of the priest's hole, where he was starved to death in the "spacious times of great Elizabeth," and would search for a morsel of bread. The priest was usually starved out, sentinels being placed in all the rooms and passages, till at last hunger and want of air would drive the wretched man to give himself up, for the sake of change of wretchedness. Then perhaps he was hanged, or he "died in our hands," as one of Elizabeth's officers euphemistically put it, when the Jesuit was tortured to death in the Tower. No "House of Seven Gables" across the Atlantic can have quite such memories as these, yet, oddly enough, I do not know of more than one ghost of a Jesuit in all England. He appeared to a learned doctor in a library, and the learned doctor described the phantom, not long ago, in the Athenaeum.

"Does the priest of your 'priest-hole' walk?" I asked the squire one winter evening in the House of Strange Stories.

Darkness had come to the rescue of the pheasants about four in the afternoon, and all of us, men and women, were sitting at afternoon tea in the firelit study, drowsily watching the flicker of the flame on the black panelling. The characters will introduce themselves, as they take part in the conversation.

"No," said the squire, "even the priest does not walk. Somehow very few of the Jesuits have left ghosts in country houses. They are just the customers you would expect to 'walk,' but they don't."

There is, to be sure, one priestly ghost-story, which you may or may not know, and I tell it here, though I don't believe it, just as I heard it from the Bishop of Dunchester himself. According to this most affable and distinguished prelate, now no more, he once arrived in a large country house shortly before dinner-time; he was led to his chamber, he dressed, and went downstairs. Not knowing the plan of the house, he found his way into the library, a chamber lined with the books of many studious generations. Here the learned bishop remained for a few minutes, when the gong sounded for dinner, and a domestic, entering the apartment showed the prelate the way to the drawing-room, where the other guests were now assembled. The bishop, when the company appeared complete, and was beginning to manoeuvre towards the dining-room, addressed his host (whom we shall call Lord Birkenhead), and observed that the ecclesiastic had not yet appeared.

"What ecclesiastic?" asked his lordship.

"The priest," replied the bishop, "whom I met in the library."

Upon this Lord Birkenhead's countenance changed somewhat, and, with a casual remark, he put the question by. After dinner, when the ladies had left the men to their wine, Lord Birkenhead showed some curiosity as to "the ecclesiastic," and learned that he had seemed somewhat shy and stiff, yet had the air of a man just about to enter into conversation.

"At that moment," said the bishop, "I was summoned to the drawing-room, and did not at first notice that my friend the priest had not followed me. He had an interesting and careworn face," added the bishop.

"You have certainly seen the family ghost," said Lord Birkenhead; "he only haunts the library, where, as you may imagine, his retirement is but seldom disturbed." And, indeed, the habits of the great, in England, are not studious, as a rule.

"Then I must return, Lord Birkenhead, to your library," said the bishop, "and that without delay, for this appears to be a matter in which the services of one of the higher clergy, however unworthy, may prove of incalculable benefit."

"If I could only hope," answered Lord Birkenhead (who was a Catholic) with a deep sigh, "that his reverence would recognize Anglican orders!"

The bishop was now, as may be fancied, on his mettle, and without further parley, retired to the library. The rest of the men awaited his return, and beguiled the moments of expectation with princely havannas.

In about half an hour the bishop reappeared, and a close observer might have detected a shade of paleness on his apostolic features, yet his face was radiant like that of a good man who has performed a good action. Being implored to relieve the anxiety of the company, the worthy prelate spoke as follows:

"On entering the library, which was illuminated by a single lamp, I found myself alone. I drew a chair to the fire, and, taking up a volume of M. Renan's which chanced to be lying on the table, I composed myself to detect the sophistries of this brilliant but unprincipled writer. Thus, by an effort of will, I distracted myself from that state of 'expectant attention' to which modern science attributes such phantoms and spectral appearances as can neither be explained away by a morbid condition of the liver, nor as caused by the common rat (Mus rattus). I should observe by the way," said the learned bishop, interrupting his own narrative, "that scepticism will in vain attempt to account, by the latter cause, namely rats, for the spectres, Lemures, simulacra, and haunted houses of the ancient Greeks and Romans. With these supernatural phenomena, as they prevailed in Athens and Rome, we are well acquainted, not only from the Mostellaria of Plautus, but from the numerous ghost-stories of Pliny, Plutarch, the Philopseudes of Lucian, and similar sources. But it will at once be perceived, and admitted even by candid men of science, that these spiritual phenomena of the classical period cannot plausibly, nor even possibly, be attributed to the agency of rats, when we recall the fact that the rat was an animal unknown to the ancients. As the learned M. Selys Longch observes in his Etudes de Micromammalogie (Paris, 1839, p. 59), 'the origin of the rat is obscure, the one thing certain is that the vermin was unknown to the ancients, and that it arrived in Europe, introduced, perhaps, by the Crusaders, after the Middle Ages.' I think," added the prelate, looking round, not without satisfaction, "that I have completely disposed of the rat hypothesis, as far, at least, as the ghosts of classical tradition are concerned."

"Your reasoning, bishop," replied Lord Birkenhead, "is worthy of your reputation; but pray pardon the curiosity which entreats you to return from the simulacra of the past to the ghost of the present."

"I had not long been occupied with M. Renan," said the bishop, thus adjured, "when I became aware of the presence of another person in the room. I think my eyes had strayed from the volume, as I turned a page, to the table, on which I perceived the brown strong hand of a young man. Looking up, I beheld my friend the priest, who was indeed a man of some twenty-seven years of age, with a frank and open, though somewhat careworn, aspect. I at once rose, and asked if I could be of service to him in anything, and I trust I did not betray any wounding suspicion that he was other than a man of flesh and blood.

"'You can, indeed, my lord, relieve me of a great burden,' said the young man, and it was apparent enough that he did acknowledge the validity of Anglican orders. 'Will you kindly take from the shelf that volume of Cicero "De Officiis," he said, pointing to a copy of an Elzevir variorum edition,—not the small duodecimo Elzevir,—'remove the paper you will find there, and burn it in the fire on the hearth.'

"'Certainly I will do as you say, but will you reward me by explaining the reason of your request?'

"'In me,' said the appearance, 'you behold Francis Wilton, priest. I was born in 1657, and, after adventures and an education with which I need not trouble you, found myself here as chaplain to the family of the Lord Birkenhead of the period. It chanced one day that I heard in confession, from the lips of Lady Birkenhead, a tale so strange, moving, and, but for the sacred circumstances of the revelation, so incredible, that my soul had no rest for thinking thereon. At last, neglecting my vow, and fearful that I might become forgetful of any portion of so marvellous a narrative, I took up my pen and committed the confession to the security of manuscript. Litera scripta manet. Scarcely had I finished my unholy task when the sound of a distant horn told me that the hunt (to which pleasure I was passionately given) approached the demesne. I thrust the written confession into that volume of Cicero, hurried to the stable, saddled my horse with my own hands, and rode in the direction whence I heard the music of the hounds. On my way a locked gate barred my progress. I put Rupert at it, he took off badly, fell, and my spirit passed away in the fall. But not to the place of repose did my sinful spirit wing its flight. I found myself here in the library, where, naturally, scarcely any one ever comes except the maids. When I would implore them to destroy the unholy document that binds me to earth, they merely scream; nor have I found any scion of the house, nor any guest, except your lordship, of more intrepid resolution or more charitable mood. And now, I trust, you will release me.'

"I rose (for I had seated myself during his narrative), my heart was stirred with pity; I took down the Cicero, and lit on a sheet of yellow paper covered with faded manuscript, which, of course, I did not read. I turned to the hearth, tossed on the fire the sere old paper, which blazed at once, and then, hearing the words pax vobiscum, I looked round. But I was alone. After a few minutes, devoted to private ejaculations, I returned to the dining-room; and that is all my story. Your maids need no longer dread the ghost of the library. He is released."

"Will any one take any more wine?" asked Lord Birkenhead, in tones of deep emotion. "No? Then suppose we join the ladies."

"Well," said one of the ladies, the Girton girl, when the squire had finished the prelate's narrative, "I don't call that much of a story. What was Lady Birkenhead's confession about? That's what one really wants to know."

"The bishop could not possibly have read the paper," said the Bachelor of Arts, one of the guests; "not as a gentleman, nor a bishop."

"I wish I had had the chance," said the Girton girl.

"Perhaps the confession was in Latin," said the Bachelor of Arts.

The Girton girl disdained to reply to this unworthy sneer.

"I have often observed," she said in a reflective voice, "that the most authentic and best attested bogies don't come to very much. They appear in a desultory manner, without any context, so to speak, and, like other difficulties, require a context to clear up their meaning."

These efforts of the Girton girl to apply the methods of philology to spectres, were received in silence. The women did not understand them, though they had a strong personal opinion about their learned author.

"The only ghost I ever came across, or, rather, came within measurable distance of, never appeared at all so far as one knew."

"Miss Lebas has a story," said the squire, "Won't she tell us her story?"

The ladies murmured, "Do, please."

"It really cannot be called a ghost-story," remarked Miss Lebas, "it was only an uncomfortable kind of coincidence, and I never think of it without a shudder. But I know there is not any reason at all why it should make any of you shudder; so don't be disappointed.

"It was the Long Vacation before last," said the Girton girl, "and I went on a reading-party to Bantry Bay, with Wyndham and Toole of Somerville, and Clare of Lady Margaret's. Leighton coached us."

"Dear me! With all these young men, my dear?" asked the maiden aunt.

"They were all women of my year, except Miss Leighton of Newnham, who was our coach," answered the Girton girl composedly.

"Dear me! I beg your pardon for interrupting you," said the maiden aunt.

"Well, term-time was drawing near, and Bantry Bay was getting pretty cold, when I received an invitation from Lady Garryowen to stay with them at Dundellan on my way south. They were two very dear, old, hospitable Irish ladies, the last of their race, Lady Garryowen and her sister, Miss Patty. They were so hospitable that, though I did not know it, Dundellan was quite full when I reached it, overflowing with young people. The house has nothing very remarkable about it: a grey, plain building, with remains of the chateau about it, and a high park wall. In the garden wall there is a small round tower, just like those in the precinct wall at St. Andrews. The ground floor is not used. On the first floor there is a furnished chamber with a deep round niche, almost a separate room, like that in Queen Mary's apartments in Holy Rood. The first floor has long been fitted up as a bedroom and dressing-room, but it had not been occupied, and a curious old spinning-wheel in the corner (which has nothing to do with my story, if you can call it a story), must have been unused since '98, at least. I reached Dublin late—our train should have arrived at half-past six—it was ten before we toiled into the station. The Dundellan carriage was waiting for me, and, after an hour's drive, I reached the house. The dear old ladies had sat up for me, and I went to bed as soon as possible, in a very comfortable room. I fell asleep at once, and did not waken till broad daylight, between seven and eight, when, as my eyes wandered about, I saw, by the pictures on the wall, and the names on the books beside my bed, that Miss Patty must have given up her own room to me. I was quite sorry and, as I dressed, determined to get her to let me change into any den rather than accept this sacrifice. I went downstairs, and found breakfast ready, but neither Lady Garryowen nor Miss Patty. Looking out of the window into the garden, I heard, for the only time in my life, the wild Irish keen over the dead, and saw the old nurse wailing and wringing her hands and hurrying to the house. As soon as she entered she told me, with a burst of grief, and in language I shall not try to imitate, that Miss Patty was dead.

"When I arrived the house was so full that there was literally no room for me. But 'Dundellan was never beaten yet,' the old ladies had said. There was still the room in the tower. But this room had such an evil reputation for being 'haunted' that the servants could hardly be got to go near it, at least after dark, and the dear old ladies never dreamed of sending any of their guests to pass a bad night in a place with a bad name. Miss Patty, who had the courage of a Bayard, did not think twice. She went herself to sleep in the haunted tower, and left her room to me. And when the old nurse went to call her in the morning, she could not waken Miss Patty. She was dead. Heart-disease, they called it. Of course," added the Girton girl, "as I said, it was only a coincidence. But the Irish servants could not be persuaded that Miss Patty had not seen whatever the thing was that they believed to be in the garden tower. I don't know what it was. You see the context was dreadfully vague, a mere fragment."

There was a little silence after the Girton girl's story.

"I never heard before in my life," said the maiden aunt, at last, "of any host or hostess who took the haunted room themselves, when the house happened to be full. They always send the stranger within their gates to it, and then pretend to be vastly surprised when he does not have a good night. I had several bad nights myself once. In Ireland too."

"Tell us all about it, Judy," said her brother, the squire.

"No," murmured the maiden aunt. "You would only laugh at me. There was no ghost. I didn't hear anything. I didn't see anything. I didn't even smell anything, as they do in that horrid book, 'The Haunted Hotel.'"

"Then why had you such bad nights?"

"Oh, I felt" said the maiden aunt, with a little shudder.

"What did you feel, Aunt Judy?"

"I know you will laugh," said the maiden aunt, abruptly entering on her nervous narrative. "I felt all the time as if somebody was looking through the window. Now, you know, there couldn't be anybody. It was in an Irish country house where I had just arrived, and my room was on the second floor. The window was old-fashioned and narrow, with a deep recess. As soon as I went to bed, my dears, I felt that some one was looking through the window, and meant to come in. I got up, and bolted the window, though I knew it was impossible for anybody to climb up there, and I drew the curtains, but I could not fall asleep. If ever I began to dose, I would waken with a start, and turn and look in the direction of the window. I did not sleep all night, and next night, though I was dreadfully tired, it was just the same thing. So I had to take my hostess into my confidence, though it was extremely disagreeable, my dears, to seem so foolish. I only told her that I thought the air, or something, must disagree with me, for I could not sleep. Then, as some one was leaving the house that day, she implored me to try another room, where I slept beautifully, and afterwards had a very pleasant visit. But, the day I went away, my hostess asked me if I had been kept awake by anything in particular, for instance, by a feeling that some one was trying to come in at the window. Well, I admitted that I had a nervous feeling of that sort, and she said that she was very sorry, and that every one who lay in the room had exactly the same sensation. She supposed they must all have heard the history of the room, in childhood, and forgotten that they had heard it, and then been consciously reminded of it by reflex action. It seems, my dears, that that is the new scientific way of explaining all these things, presentiments and dreams and wraiths, and all that sort of thing. We have seen them before, and remember them without being aware of it. So I said I'd never heard the history of the room; but she said I must have, and so must all the people who felt as if some one was coming in by the window. And I said that it was rather a curious thing they should all forget they knew it, and all be reminded of it without being aware of it, and that, if she did not mind, I'd like to be reminded of it again. So she said that these objections had all been replied to (just as clergymen always say in sermons), and then she told me the history of the room. It only came to this, that, three generations before, the family butler (whom every one had always thought a most steady, respectable man), dressed himself up like a ghost, or like his notion of a ghost, and got a ladder, and came in by the window to steal the diamonds of the lady of the house, and he frightened her to death, poor woman! That was all. But, ever since, people who sleep in the room don't sleep, so to speak, and keep thinking that some one is coming in by the casement. That's all; and I told you it was not an interesting story, but perhaps you will find more interest in the scientific explanation of all these things."

The story of the maiden aunt, so far as it recounted her own experience, did not contain anything to which the judicial faculties of the mind refused assent. Probably the Bachelor of Arts felt that something a good deal more unusual was wanted, for he instantly started, without being asked, on the following narrative:—

"I also was staying," said the Bachelor of Arts, "at the home of my friends, the aristocracy in Scotland. The name of the house, and the precise rank in the peerage of my illustrious host, it is not necessary for me to give. All, however, who know those more than feudal and baronial halls, are aware that the front of the castle looks forth on a somewhat narrow drive, bordered by black and funereal pines. On the night of my arrival at the castle, although I went late to bed, I did not feel at all sleepy. Something, perhaps, in the mountain air, or in the vicissitudes of baccarat, may have banished slumber. I had been in luck, and a pile of sovereigns and notes lay, in agreeable confusion, on my dressing-table. My feverish blood declined to be tranquillized, and at last I drew up the blind, threw open the latticed window, and looked out on the drive and the pine-wood. The faint and silvery blue of dawn was just wakening in the sky, and a setting moon hung, with a peculiarly ominous and wasted appearance, above the crests of the forest. But conceive my astonishment when I beheld, on the drive, and right under my window, a large and well-appointed hearse, with two white horses, with plumes complete, and attended by mutes, whose black staffs were tipped with silver that glittered pallid in the dawn.

I exhausted my ingenuity in conjectures as to the presence of this remarkable vehicle with the white horses, so unusual, though, when one thinks of it, so appropriate to the chariot of Death. Could some belated visitor have arrived in a hearse, like the lady in Miss Ferrier's novel? Could one of the domestics have expired, and was it the intention of my host to have the body thus honourably removed without casting a gloom over his guests?

Wild as these hypotheses appeared, I could think of nothing better, and was just about to leave the window, and retire to bed, when the driver of the strange carriage, who had hitherto sat motionless, turned, and looked me full in the face. Never shall I forget the appearance of this man, whose sallow countenance, close-shaven dark chin, and small, black moustache, combined with I know not what of martial in his air, struck into me a certain indefinable alarm. No sooner had he caught my eye, than he gathered up his reins, just raised his whip, and started the mortuary vehicle at a walk down the road. I followed it with my eyes till a bend in the avenue hid it from my sight. So wrapt up was my spirit in the exercise of the single sense of vision that it was not till the hearse became lost to view that I noticed the entire absence of sound which accompanied its departure. Neither had the bridles and trappings of the white horses jingled as the animals shook their heads, nor had the wheels of the hearse crashed upon the gravel of the avenue. I was compelled by all these circumstances to believe that what I had looked upon was not of this world, and, with a beating heart, I sought refuge in sleep.

"Next morning, feeling far from refreshed, I arrived among the latest at a breakfast which was a desultory and movable feast. Almost all the men had gone forth to hill, forest, or river, in pursuit of the furred, finned, or feathered denizens of the wilds—"

"You speak," interrupted the schoolboy, "like a printed book! I like to hear you speak like that. Drive on, old man! Drive on your hearse!"

The Bachelor of Arts "drove on," without noticing this interruption. "I tried to 'lead up' to the hearse," he said, "in conversation with the young ladies of the castle. I endeavoured to assume the languid and preoccupied air of the guest who, in ghost-stories, has had a bad night with the family spectre. I drew the conversation to the topic of apparitions, and even to warnings of death. I knew that every family worthy of the name has its omen: the Oxenhams a white bird, another house a brass band, whose airy music is poured forth by invisible performers, and so on. Of course I expected some one to cry, 'Oh, we've got a hearse with white horses,' for that is the kind of heirloom an ancient house regards with complacent pride. But nobody offered any remarks on the local omen, and even when I drew near the topic of hearses, one of the girls, my cousin, merely quoted, 'Speak not like a death's-head, good Doll' (my name is Adolphus), and asked me to play at lawn-tennis.

In the evening, in the smoking-room, it was no better, nobody had ever heard of an omen in this particular castle. Nay, when I told my story, for it came to that at last, they only laughed at me, and said I must have dreamed it. Of course I expected to be wakened in the night by some awful apparition, but nothing disturbed me. I never slept better, and hearses were the last things I thought of during the remainder of my visit. Months passed, and I had almost forgotten the vision, or dream, for I began to feel apprehensive that, after all, it was a dream. So costly and elaborate an apparition as a hearse with white horses and plumes complete, could never have been got up, regardless of expense, for one occasion only, and to frighten one undergraduate, yet it was certain that the hearse was not 'the old family coach.' My entertainers had undeniably never heard of it in their lives before. Even tradition at the castle said nothing of a spectral hearse, though the house was credited with a white lady deprived of her hands, and a luminous boy.

Here the Bachelor of Arts paused, and a shower of chaff began.

"Is that really all?" asked the Girton girl.

"Why, this is the third ghost-story to-night without any ghost in it!"

"I don't remember saying that it was a ghost-story," replied the Bachelor of Arts; "but I thought a little anecdote of a mere 'warning' might not be unwelcome."

"But where does the warning come in?" asked the schoolboy.

"That's just what I was arriving at," replied the narrator, "when I was interrupted with as little ceremony as if I had been Mr. Gladstone in the middle of a most important speech. I was going to say that, in the Easter Vacation after my visit to the castle, I went over to Paris with a friend, a fellow of my college. We drove to the Hotel d'Alsace (I believe there is no hotel of that name; if there is, I beg the spirited proprietor's pardon, and assure him that nothing personal is intended). We marched upstairs with our bags and baggage, and jolly high stairs they were. When we had removed the soil of travel from our persons, my friend called out to me, 'I say, Jones, why shouldn't we go down by the lift.' {256} 'All right,' said I, and my friend walked to the door of the mechanical apparatus, opened it, and got in. I followed him, when the porter whose business it is to 'personally conduct' the inmates of the hotel, entered also, and was closing the door.

"His eyes met mine, and I knew him in a moment. I had seen him once before. His sallow face, black, closely shaven chin, furtive glance, and military bearing, were the face and the glance and bearing of the driver of that awful hearse!

"In a moment—more swiftly than I can tell you—I pushed past the man, threw open the door, and just managed, by a violent effort, to drag my friend on to the landing. Then the lift rose with a sudden impulse, fell again, and rushed, with frightful velocity, to the basement of the hotel, whence we heard an appalling crash, followed by groans. We rushed downstairs, and the horrible spectacle of destruction that met our eyes I shall never forget. The unhappy porter was expiring in agony; but the warning had saved my life and my friend's."

"I was that friend," said I—the collector of these anecdotes; "and so far I can testify to the truth of Jones's story."

At this moment, however, the gong for dressing sounded, and we went to our several apartments, after this emotional specimen of "Evenings at Home."


"What we suffer from most," said the spectre, when I had partly recovered from my fright, "is a kind of aphasia."

The spectre was sitting on the armchair beside my bed in the haunted room of Castle Perilous.

"I don't know," said I, as distinctly as the chattering of my teeth would permit, "that I quite follow you. Would you mind—excuse me—handing me that flask which lies on the table near you. . . . Thanks."

The spectre, without stirring, so arranged the a priori sensuous schemata of time and space {261} that the silver flask, which had been well out of my reach, was in my hand. I poured half the contents into a cup and offered it to him.

"No spirits," he said curtly.

I swallowed eagerly the heady liquor, and felt a little more like myself.

"You were complaining," I remarked, "of something like aphasia?"

"I was," he replied. "You know what aphasia is in the human subject? A paralysis of certain nervous centres, which prevents the patient, though perfectly sane, from getting at the words which he intends to use, and forces others upon him. He may wish to observe that it is a fine morning, and may discover that his idea has taken the form of an observation about the Roman Calendar under the Emperor Justinian. That is aphasia, and we suffer from what, I presume, is a spiritual modification of that disorder."

"Yet to-night," I responded, "you are speaking like a printed book."

"To-night," said the spectre, acknowledging the compliment with a bow, "the conditions are peculiarly favourable."

"Not to me," I thought, with a sigh.

"And I am able to manifest myself with unusual clearness."

"Then you are not always in such form as I am privileged to find you in?" I inquired.

"By no means," replied the spectre. "Sometimes I cannot appear worth a cent. Often I am invisible to the naked eye, and even quite indiscernible by any of the senses. Sometimes I can only rap on the table, or send a cold wind over a visitor's face, or at most pull off his bedclothes (like the spirit which appeared to Caligula, and is mentioned by Suetonius) and utter hollow groans."

"That's exactly what you did," I said, "when you wakened me. I thought I should have died."

"I can't say how distressed I am," answered the spectre. "It is just an instance of what I was trying to explain. We don't know how we are going to manifest ourselves."

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