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THE MAN WITH THE HEYAD.
THERE is scarcely any man that has lived much in the world, who does not know what it is to be haunted. I do not mean by ghosts, goblins, or devils, (unless they be blue devils,) brownies, bogles, or banshees;—I allude to the continual meeting of some individual face, which seems as if it had been formed for the sole purpose of being always opposite your own. Wherever you may chance to be, “in church or market, at wedding or at burial, Sunday or Saturday, meal-time or fasting,”—the everlasting haunter is sure to be at your side. In town (and of course when I spoke of a man living much in the world, I meant in London) this has happened to me to a degree very nearly intolerable; for sometimes your haunter chances to be your horror also ; and the conjunction of the characters is truly deplorable. In the course of one evening I have dined at the same coffee-house with one of this genus—found myself in the same box with him at the play— and afterwards been squeezed against him at the same party. It has sometimes happened to me to have a haunter, who evidently regarded me in the same light—till at last the absurdity of continually finding ourselves nose to nose has caused us to half smile, half laugh at each other in recognition, whenever we met. I have once or twice become acquainted with some of these subsequently, and we have compared notes in amicable disputation, which had played the part of haunter, and which that of apparition. I shall never forget being introduced to a man who had been my torment for nearly two years. I did not know who he was ; but I had noted him as possessing a countenance of the most stolid, obese, and intolerable self-satisfaction on which it had ever been my ill fortune to gaze. There must, indeed, have been something peculiarly insupportable in this person's appearance; for a friend of mine, who is rather nervous, was at last very nearly driven to confine himself to the house, to avoid the never-failing meeting which was sure to follow his venturing out. It was at a very small party where I became known to him:—we were waiting dinner for two or three who had not arrived. At last they came; and in walked my monster at the head of them | I happened to be standing by the side of my host; but when he turned to me to introduce me to the new comers, I had started back several paces in the extremity of my surprise and dismay. There was no real occasion for wonder—for I had often seen this terrible man in fashionable crowds enough—but I certainly should have as soon expected to have been presented to the ghost in Hamlet, or the bleeding nun in Raymond and Agnes, as to this much more formidable apparition. While I met him only in the streets, or at theatres—or at parties—it was like seeing the spirits I have mentioned on the stage, or reading of them in Shakspeare and Monk Lewis; but to sit at the same small table with him—to be named to him, and have him named to me—and to see the creature open its lips and talk, and talk to myself, can be compared only to Hamlet's sensations during his interview with his dead father,-or to the still more unpleasant ones of poor Raymond at finding himself wedded to a bleeding corpse, instead of to a young lady whose flesh was living, and whose blood was warm.
But the person of whom I am about to speak does not come into this class. So far from having met him at every turn, I have seen him only four or five times in the course of my life, after periods of considerable interval, and at places and under circumstances the most distant and dissimilar from each other. Neither has there been any thing to connect me with him, farther than these very casual meetings. There is nothing mysterious about him, for I know his name and rank in life— which are in no way peculiar or romantic. In fact, I doubt whether I shall be able to convey the causes or the nature of my sensations and impressions with respect to him; it is probable, indeed, that I shall not, for I am not quite confident that they are perfectly clear to myself. His very extraordinary personal aspect must have been the origin of the whole; and my falling in witb him again in places and at points of time when he has been the farthest from my thoughts, and consequently when his appearances have had something of the nature of apparitions, has probably confirmed and strengthened the original feeling concerning him.
The first time I saw him was at the door of a French post-house, where 1 had the satisfaction of being detained above two hours for horses, during one of which he was my fellow-sufferer. I had overtaken him in the early part of the preceding stage; and as the neverto-be-sufficiently-accursed laws of the French post would not allow as to pass him, he arrived about three quarters of a minute before us, and was, therefore, to be served first. It was an extremely cold day, and, as I was very comfortably wrapped up, and packed into the carriage (an arrangement which had taken me some pains and considerable time in the morning,) I remained where I was, digesting my ill-humour as best I might. The stranger fortified himself against the weather by the warmth derivable from walking up and down before the door at a stout pace, and from the fumes of a German tobacco-pipe. For some time I took no particular notice of him—but when my eye did glance upon him, it was not speedily removed. There was nothing peculiar in his figure, or in his dress, or in any thing but the extraordinary and almost superhuman length of his face. The features in themselves were good; and the eyes intrinsically had no peculiarity of expression. But the excessive elongation of the whole head had changed the aspect of the individual details. It seemed as if a face of comely and quiet intelligence had been seized by the chin and the forelock, and drawn out as though it had been made of putty or of dough. Or it may, perhaps, be a more intelligible illustration to compare it to a face reflected on the convex side of a spoon held perpendicularly—a pleasant pastime, in which I have no doubt some of my readers (to say nothing of myself) have occasionally indulged. The expression of the eyes was not, as I have said, of itself particularly remarkable—but their very quietness seemed to possess something unnatural when contrasted with the unearthly head in which they were set. Such an outline ought to have had a filling up as strange and singular as itself. The mouth placidly puffing forth the successive volumes of smoke— the eyes, like any other eyes, varying their meditative expression only by occasional glances of moderate impatience towards the stable—all this seemed quite out of keeping, even in a discrepancy which was irksome and disagreeable, when considered with reference to the portentous and unspeakable head of which they formed (though they scarcely seemed to form) a part.
My companion and I had some discussion as to the country and the calling of " the Man with the Head." His carriage was a German drvtsky; but this proved nothing—for a person of any country, coming from Vienna, would very probably have such a vehicle. His servant was a courier, so this proved nothing—for the members of that craft may almost, like the gipsies, be considered a nation of themselves. They speak all languages, and live in no country for a quarter of a year together. The master did not open his lips except to let out the smoke; the servant talking, bustling, and swearing, as the French say, pour quatre. At length the horses were ready, when " the man" put his " head" into the carriage, followed it, and drove off. We agreed, from his smoke and his silence, that he was a German. Au rente, I was convinced that he was a disciple of Kant, as nothing upon earth could possibly fill such a head short of the subtleties of the transcendental philosophy.
It was some years before I saw him again, but I did not forget him. I used frequently to talk of the extraordinary man I had seen at * * • *, and tried as well as 1 could to describe him;—ill enough 1 dare say; for there is nothing so difficult as to describe personal appearance so as to produce any defined and embodied idea in the party upon whom the description is inflicted. Eyes, hair, nose, mouth, and chin may be described with an exactness which would satisfy Sterne's critic, or the Austrian police when granting an Italian passport;—but the air, the expression, the ensemble, cannot be thus noted; of them every one is left to form his own idea, and probably a different one is formed by each. Description of scenery (on which, except in the Scotch novels, I entreat the Chancellor of the Exchequer immediately to lay a duty amounting to a prohibition) does not labour—would that it did!— under the same difficulty. If you give so much trees to one side, so much ruin to the other, so much water to the centre, and so much hill to the back ground,—set half a dozen painters to work, and their halfdozen pictures jvill be pretty nearly alike. But describe a face to them, and you would have a row of pictures, resembling each other, indeed, in general characteristics, but not to be recognized as springing from the same source, still less as intended to represent the same individual. Anacreon's directions to his painter would have produced a very beautiful, a very luxuriant and luxurious creature, such as his mistress probably was; but the portrait would have been equally that of any other voluptuously beautiful woman in Teos. Thus, I am conscious that I have never been able fully to convey the effect produced by the heterogeneous, conjunction of feature, formation, and size, which existed in the head of my mega-cephalistic friend. If I could but borrow.for two minutes the graver of Cruickshank with the power of using it, I would in a dozen strokes convince my readers that " the head" was indeed calculated to make even more than the impression which I have described it to have done upon me.
I had no idea, however, of ever seeing this well-remembered countenance again. I had ranked it among those which, as they flit across you once during your life, leave nevertheless a remembrance which lasts as long as that life itself. I speak (as of course all people do speak in such matters) from my own feelings and experience:—I do not know whether it is the case with others; but for my own part, some faces which I have never seen but once, and that even passing in the street, have left an impression upon me more deep, immediate, and defined, than that produced by others, w(th which from time and opportunity, I ought to be thoroughly familiar. I have felt more than once, on such occasions, a sudden and indescribable sensation of almost recognition ; —as if I had been wandering through the world, like one of Plato's divided spirits, in search of this very being, and exclaimed "Here it is at last I •
Two or three years after the vision at the post-house, I was crossing from Dublin to Holyhead. It was before the steam-boats were established; consequently during the undisputed reign of that most ingenious of all inventions for human torture—a packet.
A packet is a small vessel, it is true; but it contains in my view as many horrors as a large one; —nay more; for of necessity the great majority of the passengers are not used to the sea, and the shortness of the voyage prevents their becoming so. Nine out of ten are,-therefore, sick—and, as the whole set of them are piled, like fowls in a coop, in a cabin of a few feet square, the size of the vessel operates only as a condensing power of abominations. For my own part, I am bon marin, as far as stomach goes; and at the time 1 mention, had never been seasick. We embarked at night, at the Pigeon-house, which is built upon a pier running out two or three miles into Dublin bay. It was a beautiful night; and we had a fine fresh breeze, which sent the vessel gallantly through the water. I remained on deck, of course,—which I paced, although there was a good deal of motion,—for I have at least gained so much by my voyages as to have pretty good sea legs. The Irish are very proud of the beauties of Dublin bay—and justly, for they are great. It was impossible to see them to more advantage than at this moment. Indeed, I think all sea-views are best " visited by pale moonlight." The waves, as they rise, glitter without dazzling, and the general light is strong enough to shew the beauties of the prospect, and yet sufficiently subdued to throw a most becoming softness and indistinctness over the whole. As we cut rapidly out of the bay, with this beautiful light shining down upon the beautiful scene, and the fresh salt breeze blowing inspiritingly upon me, I began almost to forget that I was condemned to sixty miles of sea, and caught myself repeating in a buoyant tone
"Oft had he ridden on that winged wave,
almost before I was aware of the folly I was committing. It was not long, however, before I had occasion to observe the want of seamanship of the couplet, which so practised a sailor as Lord Byron would never have been guilty of in prose. When we cleared the land, the wind (which had hitherto been a pretty fair side-wind) began to draw a-head; and of course the " roughness" of our progress became greater, and its " speed" proportionately less. I was sailor enough to perceive that rf matters went on as they appeared likely to do, we should have a long passage, which at once cured me of the slight fit of romance into which
* My readers will please to observe that the pronoun " it" is equally applicable to a face of either sex.'
I had been trepanned, and punished me for it at the same time. We hauled closer to the wind, which caused the vessel to lie over so much as to stop my walk; so " I wrapped my old cloak about me," and took my station against the taffrail. I tried to enter into conversation with the man at the helm; but he was a surly Welshman, and either could not or would not speak a word of English. The few passengers who had remained on deck at first, gave in one by one, and slunk away to their births, some to sleep, but the great majority to be sick. For me, with all my stomach, I was well convinced what would be the inevitable consequence of a descent into the tartarus of a cabin, and had, therefore, no sort of idea of going below. By degrees, however, black clouds began to gather and approach from a-head, which foreboded not only rain, but also the extreme slowness of the progress we were likely to make. Both prognostics were accomplished: for the rain soon began to fall, in a manner which proved to me that it would not be very long before my water-proof cloak was wet through. With the rain, also, the wind increased—which, as we were close hauled, made the vessel pitch much more strongly. At last the spray began to wash over the deck in thick showers,—and I found that I must determine at once on being drenched and on remaining in my wet clothes during a long passage, or risk the encounter with all the horrors I might meet below.
I accordingly descended, and crept to the birth which I had had the foresight to secure in case of need. I did not close an eye—that of course; I was not sick;—but the Seven Sleepers themselves could not have rested in the births of a packet. The very uncomfortable human noises which surrounded me would, of themselves, have been enough to keep any body but a boatswain awake. But besides, each pitch of the vessel drew out every limb to a stretch of the sinews very far from agreeable :—I occupied myself in trying to draw from it an idea of what the rack was. As the night advanced, every five minutes some redhot Irish voice called out " Stewart!"—as it is pronounced Hibernicfe— "are we near the Head?"—"Stewart! are we half-way over?"—• "Stewart! how long will it be before we '11 be in ?"—Every impatient answer to which questions proved that we should not " be in" for four-and-twenty hours at least.
I passed the night without sickness; but in the morning I began to be so weary and uncomfortable, that I resolved to go upon deck again, coute qui coute. But I had scarcely got my head above the companion ladder, before I saw that the weather was such as to render my staying there totally impracticable. I was therefore obliged to return, and then— the first mouthful of the thick, foul air, poisoned by the abominations of the whole night, quite upset me; and for four-and-twenty hours I felt, for the first time, the horrors of that most dreadful of all maladies, sea-sickness. I call it so in sober seriousness, for it is so for the time it lasts.—Why it should be always the subject of a joke, I never could give the most distant guess. It is impossible for any thing to be less of a jesting matter to him who feels it; and really I think it comes within that class of human calamities which are usually reckoned too serious for ridicule. I think we might as well laugh at a man for having'a typhus fever. ••
We were six-and-thirty hours on the passage!—At last, the wel