Imágenes de página
PDF
ePub

**

*

* in vain! in vain!

**

brought senseless home? Then speech died on my lips. Then in search of death I wandered over the world. Was I not ever foremost in the ranks of those who were vowed to destruction by the wrath of the savage Tscherkess? Like the Roman of old who had heard, to his hurt, the voice of the augur, wrapped in the robe of despair, blindfold I rushed into the heart of the battle, invoking the gods to devote me 'to the dead and to Mother Earth.' In vain! in vain! With a sigh of relief I saw the sword flash bare above me; with a sigh of relief I watched the muzzle of the gun leveled at my head by the eye that never errs. What balked them of a willing victim? What turned them from their certain aim, and my release?

"Ever, ever the same! on the rocks of the Caucasus; amid the camps of the Circassian; in the howling Baltic billows; in the battle and the storm; that Hand! Why did I start like a stricken man, and fall to earth, when unawares I saw it on the stretched forefinger of a common sign-post glittering at me? Then when, by my fall (thy work!) we were all saved from imminent sudden death under the tumbling rock? Ever thy ghostly hand, fearful protecting spectre! Enough! my punishment is greater than I can bear. What right hast thou to rob the grave? Let me die. * Felix! Felix! * that should have blessed

*

*

*

*

*

*

*

me, that has been my curse! And when the priest

*

*

*

*

our union, did I not

*

*

that

She

*

*

see in hers

froze the marrow of

my

[ocr errors]

*

bones?

*

*

*

*

herself, had she not seen it sparkle? And then

*

*

*

*

*

*

*

the fright

ful secret suppressed for years with the force of a giant, and endured with the fortitude of a martyr * in a moment of

*

*

*

*

*

*

*

*

mad delirium! Ay, from the lips of fever the burning breath of hell streamed into her heart, and seared all pity in it, and hardened it forever!

*

*

forever! *

*

*

*

*

*

*

I saw her in the silent morning light, when all the world was still and holy-I saw her when, in the stillness, my heart was lifted up. Then when I began to bless God, thinking 'surely the bitterness of death is passed,' I saw her by my bedside, watching -another spectre! *

*

-X

* and

her eyes were on me, and I could not answer her question."

Here the fragment ended. I could have no doubt that the writer of it was Count R, and that, in some way or other, it had passed from his hands into mine. I had distinctly identified him with the solitary figure I had seen issuing from the willow-tree immediately after I had overheard those strange words which had so strongly affected my imagination, and between which and the contents of this page of manuscript I could now trace an obvious connection. The count may have been not far from me, somewhere in the forest at the time of my fall. This paper, which looked like the page of a private journal, he may have

had with him at the time. Perhaps the wind had swept it away, perhaps he himself may have torn it out, crumpled it up, and tossed it from him, not deeming that the darkness of that night could have any eyes to read it. This paper, fluttering on the wind, and gleaming white in the night air, may have been the very thing which frightened my horse; the very thing which I had seized in my giddy trance, as I fell, supposing it to be the hand of the Loreley.

The events recorded in the first part of this book, and which I witnessed on my way to Paris, had made upon me an impression hardly to be accounted for by the nature of the events themselves, which had in it nothing at all extraordinary. I had seen a boat upset, and a little boy rescued from drowning by a Silesian nobleman, who appeared to be a practiced swimmer, the husband of a woman of great beauty, with whom he did not seem to be very happily united. There was nothing wonderful in all this. Little boats will upset if they are carelessly managed; men who know how to swim will do what they can to save little boys from being drowned; and beautiful women will live on bad terms with their husbands, without any special exertions on the part of Fate.

But there are moments in life when, without any apparent preparation, some unseen Power lifts aside. the veil which hides from our inward eye a world of things obscurely apprehended.

In the dead stagnant flats of daily life, when we have only a sleepy sense of being, and the leaden weight of accumulated triviality weighs us down, and keeps us low and lazy in the muddy bottom-bed of

the running river of life, we are easily satisfied, because our desires also are low and muddy

"Rising to no fancy flies;"

and we perceive not then the spiritual breeze that lightly ruffles the surface of the living element. But sometimes the deeps are disturbed, or sometimes we must come to the surface for air, and then we behold in a moment of time a world of strange, new things, bright, and sharp, and vivid, as they really are, and not flat, and faint, and hueless, as the smeared image of them is imperfectly reflected on the dull and heavy ooze of our customary perceptions.

There are undoubtedly moments of preternatural vision when the whole mind is in the eye, and achieves for our knowledge of the universe in man what the telescope achieves for our knowledge of the universe outside. It annihilates time and space by calling the invisible into sight and bringing near what is distant. Lovers sometimes have this faculty of vision in moments of passion; poets in moments of genius. The former, in such moments, know each other's hearts at a glance; the latter, in such moments, know the whole world's heart at a glance.

Shakspeare, one might almost think, must have been in permanent possession of such a gift. When he, whose intuition seems superhuman, undertook to depict the birth of love, it is noteworthy that he did not select for the expression of it a single word from the inexhaustible treasures of his vast vocabulary.

In the thick of a thoughtless crowd two human beings meet each other. These two beings exchange a

single momentary look, and all is consummated. Nothing has been said, and all is said. Nothing has been done, and all is done. The chain of Fate snaps fast both ends of it, and shuts before, behind. Every link in that chain of fatality is the logical sequence of a necessary law. We call it Love. And for the highest earthly expression of it, we know no other name than Romeo and Juliet.

It is worthy of notice how lovers are never tired of talking about eternity. With them every thing, however common, assumes colossal proportions. They are to be satisfied with nothing less than Forever. The vulgarest of men, who is probably incapable of loving any thing for more than a few hours, does not scruple during those few hours to exercise a lover's established prerogative, and prate of eternity as though it were his to dispose of. Blame him not. He is sincere. What is the reason of this?

It is not hard to find. For what is Eternity but that which, being present, absorbs into its own presence, and so fully possesses, both past and future? Lovers do this when they love, even though their love may last but a moment. That moment is eternity. All that it contains belongs to eternity, and stands in vast and superlative proportions to the mean relations of time.

But such moments of intuition are not exclusively the property of lovers and men of genius.

It was in such a moment, years ago, on the deck of the "Loreley," that (I know not how) the entire fate of two hearts had been laid bare to my eye at a glance; and that so clearly, that I seemed to feel through and

« AnteriorContinuar »