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And now I sent my book to be printed at Paris, at (Life of Lord Herbert, p. p. 170. 171.)
place from whence it came.
« A farmer rented a grange, generally reported to be haunted by fairies, and paid a shrewd rent for the same at each half year's end. Now a gentleman asked him how he durst be so hardy as to live in the house, and whether no spirits troubled him? Troth, said the farmer, there be two saints in heaven vex me worse than all the devils in hell; namely, the Virgin Mary, and Michael the archangel-on which days I pay my rent." (Loyd's "Memoires," 1678-p. 109.) The same quaint and amusing writer, in his “Life and Death of Charles I." relates, that Cromwell, after the execution of Charles," to feed his eyes with cruelty, and satisfy his solicitous ambition, curiously surveyed the murthered carcass when it was brought in a coffin to Whitehall, and to assure himself the King was quite dead, with his fingers searched the wound, whether the head were fully severed from the body or no." (p. 221.)
By the Author of "THE FIVE NIGHTS OF ST. ALBANS."
"That hideous sight, a naked human heart.”-Young.
We had wandered to one of the most lonely spots: a steep promontory which overhung the beach at a fearful height. Behind us, hills upon hills upreared their barren summits: beneath, rolled the mighty waters of the ocean; above, the glorious sun shone resplendently; around, all was vast, magnificent, sublime!
A little walk, of less than a mile, led to a populous village; yet here, in this solitary place, we were as much shut out from every thing that betokened man, as if we had been suddenly dropped in the centre of some great desert.
How the soul, (or whatever it is within us, which we know to be distinct from the body) seems to enlarge itself when we ascend heavenward! As if there were some secret influence that makes it joyful and sad, calm, yet leaping with gladness, and that fills it with the spirit of silent adoration because it is nearer, though but by a few furlongs, to that region of beatitude from which it is nevertheless separated by boundless, and incomprehensible
Venite ascendamus! Come, let us climb up to the hills, saith the devout Bernard. Wherefore? Because, in the awfulness and solitude of such places, he could cry-" oh, all ye cares, distractions, labours, pains, servitudes, I fling ye from me, while I am above the earth, where my soul abandons earthly thoughts!"
"And so, you are not of my mind," said I to my companion, reverting abruptly to our previous conversation. "You are satisfied with what is."
"With what is, even because it hath ever been, and will ever continue to be," replied Conrad. "It is enough for my philosophy, to know I am no worse off, in that respect, than were Socrates and Plato, and all who lived before and after them; down to the poor ideot whom we saw, but now, sunning himself in the churchyard, upon the grave of his mother who was buried yesterday; for in that which you grieve for, Albert, the ideot is as wise as any of us."
"I am sick to death, wearied, disquieted, with this eternal mockery, this
huge masquerade, the world-where every man's ambition is to play his character with so much art, that none shall know the actor."
"What if we did know the actor? Our dealings must still be with the character."
"Aye-but how marvellously different, my good friend, would our dealings be, could we peep behind the visor, and see the man. Oh for some talismanic power, by which I could turn friend and foe, the stranger and the nearest of blood, inside out!"
"Ha! ha ha! Methinks it were as wise, to wish your home, a charnel house, your bed, a twisted knot of hissing snakes, your food abhorred reptiles-your drink, the mad dog's foam-and your only company, they for whom the gallows groans."
"The power you speak of would unveil nothing but guilt, fraud, malice, falsehood, revenge, perfidy; in short, all those vices in constant activity which you now see or hear of only as passing blots upon the fair surface of men's actions. Were you thus miserably endowed, Albert, the world would appear to you as one vast lazar-house, crowded with moral lepers, in whose distempered forms you would see your own similitude, and loathing yourself, die by your own hand."
My own similitude?"
"Oh-I cry you mercy" exclaimed Conrad. "You start at that, as if you alone of all mankind could bear this turning inside out and shew nothing to be ashamed of. Good, Albert! good! 'Tis ever an honest client a man has, who pleads his own cause."
"Ah well-rail on-rail on—but I would e'en take my chance for all that could happen, so I might once be able to see something more than the outsides of men."
"And why of men only?"
"Oh, women, too, if it shall so please the demon or angel that grants my prayer.”
"And why of men and women alone? Why not of every thing the world contains? Nay, why not the world itself? This globe which we inhabit, would be a glorious sight for eyes that could pierce beyond the crust! What wonders, what miracles, lie entombed beneath yon rolling waters for example! Imagine, Albert, you could bid them back to their everlasting source-that the mysteries of their creation were revealed to you—that
Prythee do not feed a humor which is already too much my master. This phantasy, from long indulgence, has taken such hold of me it so haunts my waking hours-disturbs my sleep with eager dreams of realityand assumes such shapes when I muse alone, that I have almost learned to think it no phantasy, but a foreshadowing of what will ere long come to pass." "Bravo Albert! Bravo! I only beg, as your dear and valued friend, (which I know I am) that when it does come to pass, I may have timely notice; for though I esteem myself no jot worse than the best of my betters, I am in no fit condition to be overhauled unawares. I crave this courtesy, therefore at thy hands; that I may put myself in order before I am turned inside out-that I may say to my virtues, Gentlemen--attire yourselves in your most becoming dress'—and to my vices, ' Varlets-hide yourselves behind my virtues.'
"All this preparation were bootless, if the flippant Frenchman's maxim be true, that our virtues are commonly vices disguised.""
"Commonly they may be" replied Conrad laughing, "but I presume to think my virtues are virtues, however it may be with my vices; which upon a more rigorous scrutiny than I am wont to bestow upon them, might, perchance, turn out to be virtues in disguise; though I have never suspected so much."
I was in no mood for jesting: so I answered not this merry speech of my companion, but sunk into deep thought.
At that moment a large black eagle was seen soaring above us. "Look Albert !" exclaimed Conrad, levelling his gun at the royal bird. "What say you? Can I bring him down?"
"Yes," I replied "if you hit him in the right place."
There was a doggedness in this answer of which I grew ashamed the next minute. But he had disturbed my meditations, and withdrawn them from a subject of which they were never weary.
: Conrad fired, and missed. The eagle, as in disdainful confidence of security, circled for a moment over our heads, and then slowly stretched its flight towards a high hill, on the topmost peak of which he alighted.
"That's a challenge" said Conrad-" a saucy challenge.-The fellow has stationed himself there in scorn: but if he do not again spread his wing ere I am beneath yon fir, he shall yield me a trophy for my hunting cap. Will you along, Albert, or abide here?"
Conrad hastened down the steep path of the mountain, to the valley he must cross before he could reach the solitary fir, which crowned a jutting crag midway between the bottom and the elevated point where the eagle remained, surveying the broad expanse. The ascent was difficult and dangerous but Conrad had a firm step, an agile spring, and a practised eye, for such hazardous exploits.
I returned to my thoughts. In the midst of them, (I know not how long they had continued) I felt the light pressure of a hand upon my shoulder. "Well" said I, "have you won your trophy?"
"Albert !" exclaimed a voice that was not Conrad's.
I turned my head. A man in a strange garb stood by my side.
"You have my name, but not my acquaintance," I answered, surveying him from head to foot; for there was that in his mien, his dress, his countenance, and above all, the expression of his eye, which would not let me cease to gaze upon him.
He was silent. I imagined my words had not reached his ear, so I repeated them. "You have my name but not my acquaintance."
"I have thy wishes, too," he replied, in a low, half whispering voice. "Would I had them!"
"Close thine eyes, and when I bid thee open them, thou shalt have power to read the thoughts of men."
"Who art thou that promisest this impossible thing?" I asked, in terror and amazement.
"One that can perform the thing he promises."
"I have not asked that-but who and what thou art?"
"I am not here to answer that."
"Then wherefore are you here?"
"To give thee thy desire," he replied, in the same subdued, murmuring
Hitherto I had kept my seat. Now I arose. My frame was agitated. My brain whirled. My heart quailed. I stood before this unknown being, this creature of human likeness, but unearthly presence. He moved not, spoke not. He only rivetted his eyes upon me; and I felt their beams pierce through me. Had his features been of stone, they could not have been more utterly devoid of all emotion answering to mine. Yet their aspect was gentle.
I have said his garb was strange. It was of the fashion of no country I had ever seen or heard of: a close vestment of purple, composed seemingly
of one entire piece, and fitted to the exact proportions of his body, like a case. It completely enveloped him; covered his hands; and came round his face, so that his features alone were visible. His stature did not exceed my own.
"Dost thou fear to be the thing thou hast so long sighed to be?" he demanded, as I stood before him, bewildered and aghast.
"What if I am thereby tempting my own perdition?"
"Is it perdition to walk in light, where all men else walk in darkness?" "What if I am seeking, like our first parent, knowledge that will bring with it insupportable misery?"
"When thou shalt find it so, and confess the misery too high a price for the knowledge, thou mayst ransom thyself."
"Ha! Can you give me assurance of that?"
"The power shall be thine, to fling away the gift, in the same moment that it shall appear to thee other than the blessing thou now deemst it." “Then I accept it!" I exclaimed—“ be it weal or be it wo.”
As he anointed their lids with I know not what unguent, but it struck colder than ice, he spoke these words:
"The CURSE Would be intolerable were it incessant: wert thou doomed at all times, and in all places, to see what passeth in the heart of man.Thou mightst walk more peacefully through a forest, where lions and tigers, serpents and the famished hyena, crossed thy path at every step, than thou couldst among men and know them for what they are. Therefore, it is only when thou wilt, that thou hast the power to lay bare the human heart. The silent act of thy volition shall call it forth: and by the same, shall its function be suspended. And when thou hast satisfied thy curiosity, when thou hast seen enough of this terrible mystery, and shalt be desirous of being relieved, find out one who hath never sinned in thought or act, and straight thou shalt become again, even as thou wert, before thou becamest what-THOU ART!"
He ceased. I opened my eyes. The mysterious being had disappeared. I arose from my kneess. My spirit was lightsome. I looked towards the valley, for Conrad. I could not see him. The eagle too had left the mountain.
"He has followed its flight" said I, “and may not return till sun down. I am impatient for the haunts of men. I long to lay bare the human heart.” With these words I descended to the plain, and retraced my steps to the populous village where I sojourned.
I met an aged man with silver locks, bending under the weight of fourscore years and ten. It was in the path to the churchyard.
"Here," said I, "is one, walking whither he must ere long be borne. Can it be, at his age, that he lieth down at night with such desire for rest, as he must yearn to lie yonder till time itself shall be no more? Has he not outlived passion? and waits he not, therefore, but to be dismissed a world he has long forgotten?"
As he drew near I accosted him.
“ Venerable father, your blessing." "Thou hast it," he responded.
"Thou art very old!"
He shook his head-raised a palsied, withered hand to heaven, and ex
claimed in a feeble voice, "My journey has been long-but it is short now !" "Hast thou children ?"
"None! None! None! I had all-but all are dead! And alas! I have lived to be a stranger among a generation that knows me not." "Thou art poor?"
"No-I bless God for it! I am rich-in the charity of others; else were I poor indeed. My wants are few; and he who feeds the raven sends goodness into hearts that succour me.'
"Here is for thy need, old man, and remember me in thy prayers to-night." He clutched at the mite I offered. Alas! thought I, thy riches are piety and resignation; not sufficiency.
"Whither goest thou?"
"To sit among the dwellings of those who once sat in mine: to visit graves that are to me histories; for they who sleep in them were my companions when I was a child, my friends, when I grew to manhood. It is my comfort, now, to become acquainted with my own resting place."
"I, as you see, am but entering on the path which you have trodden to its close. Tell me somewhat of this world that lies before me."
"The arrow's flight is not more track less than the past, when we would look upon it. It is fourscore years since I was a schoolboy, and they seem huddled into a space less than that which lies between me and the setting sun! Yet I lived every hour of them: aye-and have often wished the hours were days, the days weeks, that I might have opportunity for all I would fain have done. I sought my pleasures too, and many a time sighed to think I had a month, perhaps, to wait, for the coming of some of them. Yet now, I cannot snatch from the wreck of all, enough to convince me that a month hereafter, would not be an age, compared with the years that have slipped from me.'
While he was speaking, I essayed my power to look into his heart. It was wonderful! I have no language to describe how the new-born faculty appeared to exert itself: but with the eyes of my mind I seemed passively master of what I sought. It was a waking dream-a second existence,-a mental vision produced by the silent energy of volition, yet appearing to operate without volition. I felt that I knew the past life, the present intentions, the future hopes and fears, the secret designs, and all the hidden motives, of the man who stood before me.
Nor this alone. He, too, underwent a strange physical transformation. His countenance grew into harmony with his real character. Its venerable expression was exchanged for one of craft and malignity. His eyes loured upon me with suspicion; or rolled dimly in their rheum-galled orbits, with a knavish leer, as if forecasting the market he should make of my simplicity. To complete the wrinkled deformity, his thin, shrivelled lips, curled up from their toothless gums with a perfidious smile of anticipated triumph. I approached nearer to him, and these involuntary words, (for I seemed not to intend their utterance), fell from me:
"Thou hoary hypocrite! Has hell no terrors for thee, that to the last gasp of life thou playest thus with damnation? Back to thy sordid homebend thy decrepit knees-and pray for so much grace from heaven as may give thee a chance of seeing it. Hark! Dost thou not hear the moan of thy famished mother, who died beneath thy roof of very want, whilst thou sat counting hoarded gold to see what thou couldst spare for burying her? Look! There is thy only child, the son of thy youthful love, a bankrupt, a prisoner, and a suicide, because his father was the churl who denied him wherewith to repair his shattered fortunes, and win back that world's regard, which ever turns aside from misery? Take heed old man! Thou hast a