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FICTION: SHORT STORIES

· Ludwig Bechstein: Der Mann ohne Herz (Märchen) · Joris-Karl Huysmans: Aan de vrouw · Ludwig Bechstein: Die schöne junge Braut (Märchen) · Ludwig Bechstein: Der weiße Wolf (Märchen) · Ngugi wa Thiong’o: Minutes of Glory and Other Stories · Robert Southey: To Mary Wollstonecraft (Poem) · 10 Minutes 38 Seconds in this Strange World by Elif Shafak · Transformation by Mary Shelley · Eardrums. Literary Modernism as Sonic Warfare by Tyler Whitney · The Swiss Peasant by Mary Shelley · The Dream by Mary Shelley · Saki: The Background (short story)

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Ludwig Bechstein: Der Mann ohne Herz (Märchen)

Der Mann ohne Herz

Es sind einmal sieben Brüder gewesen, waren arme Waisen, hatten keine Schwester, mußten alles im Hause selbst tun, das gefiel ihnen nicht, wurden Rates untereinander, sie wollten heiraten. Nun gab es aber da, wo sie wohnten keine Bräute für sie, da sagten die älteren, sie wollten in die Fremde ziehen, sich Bräute suchen und ihr Jüngster sollte das Haus hüten, und dem wollten sie eine recht schöne Braut mitbringen.

Das war der Jüngste gar wohl zufrieden und die sechse machten sich fröhlich und wohlgemut auf den Weg. Unterwegs kamen sie an ein kleines Häuschen, das stand ganz einsam in einem Walde, und vor dem Häuschen stand ein alter alter Mann, der rief die Brüder an und fragte: »Heda! Ihr jungen Gieke in die Welt! Wohin denn so lustig und so geschwind?« – »Ei, wir wollen uns jeder eine hübsche Braut holen, und unsern jüngsten Bruder daheim auch eine!« antworteten die Brüder.

»O liebe Jungen!« sprach da der Alte: »ich lebe hier so mutterseelensternallein, bringt mir doch auch eine Braut mit, aber eine junge hübsche muß es sein!«

Die Brüder gingen von dannen und dachten: Hm, was will so ein alter eisgrauer Hozelmann mit einer jungen hübschen Braut anfangen? –

Da nun die Brüder in eine Stadt gekommen waren, so fanden sie dort sieben Schwestern, so jung und so hübsch als sie sie nur wünschen konnten, die nahmen sie und die jüngste nahmen sie für ihren Bruder mit. Der Weg führte sie wieder durch den Wald, und der Alte stand wieder vor seinem Häuschen, als wartete er auf sie, und sagte: »Ei ihr braven Jungen! Das lob ich, daß ihr mir so eine junge hübsche Braut mitgebracht habt!« – »Nein!« sagten die Brüder, »die ist nicht für dich, die ist für unsern Bruder zu Hause, den haben wir sie versprochen!« –

»So?« sagte der Alte: »versprochen? Ei daß dich! ich will euch auch versprechen!« und nahm ein weißes Stäbchen und murmelte ein paar Zauberworte, und rührte die Brüder und die Bräute mit dem Stäbchen an – bis auf die jüngste – da wurden sie alle in graue Steine verwandelt. Die jüngste aber von den Schwestern führte der Mann in das Haus, und das mußte sie nun beschicken und in Ordnung halten, tat das auch gern, aber sie hatte immer Angst, der Alte könne bald sterben, und dann werde sie in dem einsamen Häuschen im wilden öden Walde auch so mutterseelensternallein sein, wie der Alte zuvor gewesen war. Das sagte sie ihm und er antwortete: »Hab kein Bangen, fürchte nicht und hoffe nicht, daß ich sterbe. Sieh, ich habe kein Herz in der Brust! stürbe ich aber dennoch, so findest du über der Türe mein weißes Zauberstäbchen, und rührst damit an die grauen Steine, so sind deine Schwestern und ihre Freier befreit und du hast Gesellschaft genug.«

»Wo aber in aller Welt hast du denn dein Herz, wenn du es nicht in der Brust hast?« fragte die junge Braut. »Mußt du alles wissen?« fragte der Alte. »Nun wenn du es denn wissen mußt, in der Bettdecke steckt mein Herz.«

Da nähte und stickte die junge Braut, wenn der Alte fort und seinen Geschäften nachging, in ihrer Einsamkeit gar schöne Blumen auf seine Bettdecke, damit sein Herz eine Freude haben sollte. Der Alte aber lächelte darüber und sagte: »Du gutes Kind, es war ja nur mein Scherz;mein Herz das steckt – das steckt –« »Nun wo steckt es denn lieber Vater?« – »Das steckt in der – Stubentür!« –

Da hat die junge Frau am andern Tage, als der Alte fort[107] war, die Stubentüre gar schön geschmückt mit bunten Federn und frischen Blumen und hat Kränze daran gehangen. Fragte der Alte, als er heimkam, was das bedeuten solle? sagte sie: »Das tat ich, deinem Herzen was zu Liebe zu tun.« Da lächelte wieder der Alte, und sagte: »Gutes Kind, ganz wo anders, als in der Stubentüre, ist mein Herz.« Da wurde die junge Braut sehr betrübt, und sprach: »Ach Vater, so hast du doch ein Herz, und kannst sterben und ich werde dann so allein sein.« Da wiederholte der Alte alles, was er ihr schon zweimal gesagt, und sie drang aufs neue in ihn, ihr zu sagen, wo doch eigentlich sein Herz sei? Da sprach der Alte: »Weit weit von hier liegt in tiefer Einsamkeit eine große uralte Kirche, die ist fest verwahrt mit eisernen Türen, um sie ist ein tiefer Wallgraben gezogen, über den führt keine Brücke, und in der Kirche da fliegt ein Vogel wohl ab und auf, der ißt nicht und trinkt nicht und stirbt nicht, und niemand vermag ihn zu fangen und so lange der Vogel lebt, so lange lebe auch ich, denn in dem Vogel ist mein Herz.«

Da wurde die Braut traurig, daß sie dem Herzen ihres Alten nichts zu Liebe tun konnte, und die Zeit wurde ihr lang, wenn sie so allein saß, denn der Alte war fast den ganzen Tag auswärts.

Da kam einmal ein junger Wandergesell am Häuschen vorüber, der grüßte sie und sie grüßte ihn und sie gefiel ihm, und er kam näher und sie fragte ihn, wohin er reise, woher er komme? – »Ach!« seufzte der junge Gesell: »Ich bin gar traurig. Ich hatte noch sechs Brüder, die sind von dannen gezogen sich Bräute zu holen und mir, dem Jüngsten, wollten sie auch eine mitbringen, sind aber nimmer wieder gekommen, und da bin ich nun auch fort vom Hause, und will meine Brüder suchen.«

»Ach lieber Gesell!« rief die Braut: »da brauchst du nicht weiter zu gehen! Erst setze dich und iß und trinke etwas, und dann laß dir erzählen!« Und gab ihm zu essen und zu trinken, und erzählte ihm, wie seine Brüder in die Stadt gekommen, und wie sie ihre Schwestern und sie selbst als Bräute mit sich nach Hause hätten führen wollen, und daß sie für ihn, ihren Gast, bestimmt gewesen, und wie der Alte sie bei sich behalten, und die andern in graue Steine verwandelt habe. Das alles erzählte sie ihm aufrichtig und weinte dazu, und auch daß der Alte kein Herz in der Brust habe und daß es weit weit weg sei in einer festen Kirche und in einem unsterblichen Vogel. Da sagte der Bräutigam: »Ich will fort, ich will den Vogel suchen, vielleicht hilft mir Gott, daß ich ihn fange.« – »Ja das tue, daran wirst du wohl tun, dann werden deine Brüder und meine Schwestern wieder Menschen werden!« und versteckte den Bräutigam, denn es wurde schon Abend, und als am andern Morgen der Alte wieder fort war, da packte sie dem Wandergesellen viel zu essen und zu trinken ein, und gab es ihm mit, und wünschte ihm alles Glück und Gottes Segen auf seine Fahrt.

Als nun der Gesell eine tüchtige Strecke gegangen war, deuchte ihm, es sei wohl Zeit zu frühstücken, packte seine Reisetasche aus, freute sich der vielen Gaben und rief: »Holla! nun wollen wir schmausen! herbei, wer mein Gast sein will!«

Da rief es hinter dem Gesellen: »Muh!« und wie er sich umsah, stand ein großer roter Ochse da und sprach: »Du hast eingeladen, ich möchte wohl dein Gast sein!« – »Sei willkommen und lange zu, so gut ich’s habe!« Da legte sich der Ochse gemächlich an den Boden, und ließ sich’s schmecken, und leckte sich dann mit der Zunge sein Maul recht schön ab, und als er satt war, sagte er: »Habe du großen Dank und wenn du einmal jemand brauchst, dir in Not und Gefahr zu helfen, so rufe nur in Gedanken nach mir, deinem Gast.« Und erhob sich und verschwand im Gebüsch. Der Gesell packte seine Tafelreste zusammen und pilgerte weiter; wieder eine tüchtige Strecke, da deuchte ihm nach dem kurzen Schatten den er warf, es müsse Mittag sein, und seinem Magen deuchte das nämliche. Da setzte er sich an den Boden hin, breitete sein Tafeltuch aus, setzte seine Speisen und Getränke darauf, und rief: »Wohlan! Mittagmahlzeit! Jetzt melde sich, was mittafeln will!« Da rauschte es ganz stark in den Büschen, und es brach ein wildes Schwein heraus, das grunzte: »Qui oui oui«, und sagte: »Es hat hier jemand zum Essen gerufen! Ich weiß nicht ob du es warst, und ob ich gemeint bin?«

»Immerhin, lange nur zu, was da ist!« sprach der Wandersmann und da aßen sie beide wohlgemut miteinander und schmeckte beiden gut. Darauf erhob sich das wilde Schwein und sagte: »Habe Dank, bedarfst du mein so rufe dem Schwein!« und damit trollte es in die Büsche. Nun wanderte der Gesell gar eine lange Strecke, und war schon gar weit gewandert, da wurde es gegen Abend, und er fühlte wieder Hunger und hatte auch noch Vorrat, und da dachte er: wie wär es mit dem Vespern? Zeit wär es dächt ich; und breitete wieder sein Tuch aus und legte seine Speisen darauf, hatte auch noch etwas zu trinken, und rief: »Wer Lust hat mit zu essen, der soll eingeladen sein. Es ist nicht, als wenn nichts da wäre!« Da rauschte über ihm ein schwerer Flügelschlag und wurde dunkel auf dem Boden, wie vom Schatten einer Wolke, und es ließ sich ein großer Vogel Greif sehen, der rief: »Ich hörte jemand hier unten zur Tafel einladen! Für mich wird wohl nichts abfallen?«

»Warum denn nicht? Lasse dich nieder und nimm vorlieb, viel wird’s nicht mehr sein!« rief der Jüngling, und da ließ sich der Vogel Greif nieder und aß zur Genüge und dann sagte er: »Brauchst du mich, so rufe mich!« hob sich in die Lüfte und verschwand. Ei, dachte der Geselle: der hat’s recht eilig; er hätte mir wohl den Weg nach der Kirche zeigen können, denn so finde ich sie wohl nimmer und raffte seine Sachen zusammen, und wollte vor dem Schlafengehen noch ein Stückchen wandern. Und wie er gar nicht lange gegangen war, so sah er mit einem Male die Kirche vor sich liegen und war bald bei ihr, das heißt, am breiten und tiefen Graben, der sie rings ohne Brücke umzog. Da suchte er sich ein hübsches Ruheplätzchen, denn er war müde von dem weiten Weg und schlief, und am andern Morgen da wünschte er sich über den Graben und dachte: Schau, wenn der rote Ochse da wär und hätte rechten Durst, so könnte der den Graben aussaufen und ich käme trocken hinüber. Kaum war dieser Wunsch getan, so stand der Ochse schon da und begann den Graben auszusaufen. Nun stand der Gesell an der Kirchenmauer, die war gar dick und die Türme waren von Eisen, da dachte er so in seinen Gedanken: ach, wer doch einen Mauerbrecher hätte! Das starke wilde Schwein könnte vielleicht hier eher etwas ausrichten, als ich. Und siehe, gleich kam das wilde Schwein daher gerannt und stieß heftig an die Mauer und wühlte mit seinen Hauern einen Stein los, und wie erst einer los war, so wühlte es immer mehr und immer mehr Steine aus der Mauer, bis ein großes tiefes Loch gewühlt war, durch das man in die Kirche einsteigen konnte. Da stieg nun der Jüngling hinein, und sah den Vogel darin herumfliegen, vermochte aber nicht ihn zu ergreifen. Da sprach er: »Wenn jetzt der Vogel Greif da wäre, der würde dich schon greifen, dafür ist er ja der Vogel Greif!« Und gleich war der Greif da und gleich griff er den Vogel, in dem des alten Mannes Herz war, und der junge Gesell verwahrte selbigen Vogel sehr gut, der Vogel Greif aber flog davon.

Nun eilte der Jüngling so sehr er konnte zur jungen Braut, kam noch vor Abends an und erzählte ihr alles, und sie gab ihm wieder zu essen und zu trinken und hieß ihn unter die Bettstelle kriechen mitsamt seinem Vogel, damit ihn der Alte nicht sähe. Dies tat er alsbald, nachdem er gegessen und getrunken hatte; der Alte kam nach Hause und klagte, daß er sich krank fühle, daß es nicht mehr mit ihm fortwolle – das mache, weil sein Herzvogel gefangen war. Das hörte der Bräutigam unter dem Bette und dachte, der Alte hat dir zwar nichts Böses getan, aber er hat deine Brüder und ihre Bräute verzaubert, und deine Braut hat er für sich behalten, das ist des Bösen nicht zu wenig, und da kneipte er den Vogel, und da wimmerte der Alte: »Ach, es kneipt mich! Ach, der Tod kneipt mich, Kind – ich sterbe!« Und fiel vom Stuhl und war ohnmächtig, und ehe sich’s der Jüngling versah, hatte er den Vogel totgekneipt, und da war es aus mit dem Alten. Nun kroch er hervor, und die Braut nahm den weißen Stab, wie ihr der Alte gelehrt hatte, und schlug damit an die zwölf grauen Steine, siehe, da wurden sie wieder die sechs Brüder und die sechs Schwestern, das war eine Freude und ein Umarmen und Herzen und Küssen, und der alte Mann war tot und blieb tot, konnt ihn keine Meisterwurz wieder lebendig machen, wenn sie ihn auch hätten wieder lebendig haben wollen. Da zogen sie alle miteinander fort, und hielten Hochzeit miteinander und lebten gut und glücklich miteinander lange Jahre.

Ludwig Bechstein
(1801 – 1860)
Der Mann ohne Herz
Sämtliche Märchen

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More in: Archive A-B, Bechstein, Bechstein, Ludwig


Joris-Karl Huysmans: Aan de vrouw

Na een avond uit met zijn beste vriend Cyprien betrapt André zijn vrouw Berthe op overspel. Vernederd, woedend en verdrietig verlaat hij de echtelijke woning.

Wat te doen? Met Cyprien praat hij veelvuldig over de beslommeringen van het huwelijk en het leven van alleenstaanden in een grote stad. Moet André zijn huwelijk proberen te redden, misschien zelf een buitenechtelijke relatie aangaan, of de voorkeur geven aan eenzaamheid?

In de klassieker Aan de vrouw uit 1881 portretteert Huysmans het huiselijke, kleinburgerlijke leven met veel ironie en zwarte humor, evenals het verarmde kunstenaarsmilieu waarin de schrijver André en de schilder Cyprien zich bewegen. Een verrassend tijdloos verhaal over de eeuwige strijd tussen de seksen, over de sleur van een huwelijk, relaties en seksualiteit. Verkiezen André en Cyprien uiteindelijk het burgerlijk bestaan boven hun artistieke ambities en vrijheid?

Met een nawoord door vertalers Martin de Haan & Rokus Hofstede en een voorwoord door fin-de-siècle-expert Sander Bink.

Joris-Karl Huysmans (1848-1907) was een Franse auteur. Hij schreef Aan de vrouw (En ménage) in 1881, drie jaar voor zijn bekendste werk verscheen: Tegen de keer (À rebours, 1884). Joris-Karl Huysmans is een van de favoriete auteurs van Michel Houellebecq.

Aan de vrouw
Joris-Karl Huysmans
Oorspronkelijke titel: En ménage
Vertaling: Rokus Hofstede
Uitgever: Lebowski
ISBN: 9789048841936
Verschenen: 05-09-2019
Paperback
304 blz.
€ 21.99

# new books
Joris-Karl Huysmans
Aan de vrouw
En ménage

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More in: - Book Lovers, - Book News, - Book Stories, Archive G-H, Archive G-H, Huysmans, J.-K., Huysmans, Joris-Karl, J.-K. Huysmans, Joris-Karl Huysmans


Ludwig Bechstein: Die schöne junge Braut (Märchen)

Die schöne junge Braut

Es ging einmal ein hübsches Landmädchen in den Wald, um Futter für ihre Kuh zu holen; wie sie nun in Gottes Namen grasete und an gar nichts Arges dachte, so kamen auf einmal vier Räuber, umringten sie und führten sie mit sich fort, ohne Gnad und Barmherzigkeit, sie mochte schreien und zappeln, bitten und betteln so viel sie wollte. Weit ab von des Mädchens Heimat in einem finstern Walde hatten die Räuber ein Haus, worin sie sich aufhielten, wenigstens blieben immer einige daheim, wenn die andern auf Raub auszogen. Dem Mädchen taten aber die Räuber weiter nichts zu Leide, als daß sie sie eben aus ihrer Heimat fortführten, und sie in dem Hause gleichsam gefangen hielten; sie mußte den Haushalt besorgen, kochen, backen und waschen, sonst hatte sie es gut, wurde aber immer scharf bewacht. Dabei hatten ihr die Räuber den Namen gegeben: Schöne junge Braut.

So war nun das Mädchen schon einige Jahre in der Räuberherberge, als es sich einmal traf, daß ein Hauptraub ausgeführt werden sollte, an dem, wenn er gelingen sollte, die ganze helle Bande teilnehmen mußte.

Da das Mädchen sich an das Leben in der Räuberhöhle gewöhnt zu haben schien, auch noch keinen Versuch zu entfliehen gemacht hatte, und auch schwerlich durch den wilden Wald die Wege finden würde – so dachte der Hauptmann – so blieb sie diesesmal allein und unbewacht im Waldhause zurück. Aber die Räuber waren kaum fort, so sann die schöne Braut darauf, wie sie unerkannt entfliehen könne. Sie machte geschwind eine Gestalt von Stroh, zog derselben ihre Kleider an, setzte ihr ihre Haube auf, sich selbst aber bestrich sie von Kopf bis zu den Füßen mit Honig, wälzte sich darauf über und über in Federn, so daß sie ganz unkennbar wurde, und aussah, wie ein seltsamer Vogel. Die Gestalt in ihren Kleidern lehnte sie an ein Fenster über der Haustür, und ließ sie hinaussehen, doch mit verdecktem Gesicht, und dann eilte sie von dannen.

Mochte es aber nun sein, daß dem Hauptmann eine Ahnung von des Mädchens beabsichtigter Flucht kam, oder daß etwas vergessen worden war, genug, er sandte einige seiner Räuber nach dem Hause zurück, und gerade mußte es sich treffen, daß ihnen auf ihrem Wege das fiedrige Käuzlein aufstieß. Sie dachten aber es wäre einer ihrer Kumpane, der sich unkenntlich gemacht hätte, und riefen die Gestalt lachend und fragend an:

»Wohin, wohin, Herr Federsack?
Was macht die schöne junge Braut?«

Diese, die es selbst war, war zwar sehr erschrocken, doch faßte sie sich ein Herz und antwortete mit verstellter Stimme:

»Sie fegt und säubert unser Haus
Und schaut wohl auch zum Fenster heraus!«

Damit machte sie, daß sie den Räubern aus dem Gesichte kam, kam auch glücklich aus dem Walde, erreichte ein Dorf, kaufte sich Kleider, badete sich und erlangte glücklich und wohlbehalten, obschon nach langer Wanderung, ihre Heimat wieder, und da sie nicht gerade das Beste in der Räuberherberge zurückgelassen hatte, sondern für ihren Jahrlohn mitgehen heißen, so hatte sie auch wohl zu leben und heiratete einen wackern Burschen.

Jene Räuber, wie die nun des Hauses ansichtig wurden, sahen die Gestalt der schönen jungen Braut am Fenster und grüßten schon von weitem, indem sie riefen:

»Grüß Gott, o schöne junge Braut,
Die freundlich uns entgegenschaut.«

Da aber der Gruß unerwidert blieb, so verwunderten sich die Räuber, und als sie näher kamen, vermeinten sie, die schöne junge Braut sei eingeschlafen. Vergebens riefen sie, sie ermunterte sich nicht; vergebens geboten sie ihr, zu öffnen, alle ihr Pochen und Schreien, Rufen und Schelten war erfolglos, und wütend traten sie zuletzt die Türe in Trümmern, stürmten die Treppe hinauf und faßten die Gestalt der schönen jungen Braut hart an, da fiel ihnen die Strohpuppe in die Arme. Da riefen die Räuber:

»Fahr wohl, du schöne junge Braut!
Ein Tor ist, wer auf Weiber baut!«

Ludwig Bechstein
(1801 – 1860)
Die schöne junge Braut
Sämtliche Märchen

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More in: - Book Stories, Archive A-B, Bechstein, Bechstein, Ludwig


Ludwig Bechstein: Der weiße Wolf (Märchen)

Der weiße Wolf

Ein König ritt jagen in einem großen Walde, darinnen er sich verirrte, und mußte manchen Tag wandern und manche Nacht, fand immer nicht den rechten Weg und mußte Hunger und Durst leiden. Endlich begegnete ihm ein kleines schwarzes Männlein, das fragte der König nach dem rechten Weg. »Ich will dich wohl führen und geleiten«, sagte das Männlein, »aber du mußt mir auch etwas dafür geben, du mußt mir das geben, was dir aus deinem Hause zuerst entgegen kommt.« Der König war froh und sprach unterwegs: »Du bist recht brav, Männchen; wahrlich und wenn mein bester Hund mir entgegenlief, so wollt ich dir ihn doch gern zum Lohne geben.« Das Männlein aber erwiderte: »Deinen besten Hund, den mag ich nicht, mir ist was andres lieb.« Wie sie nun beim Schlosse ankamen, so sah des Königs jüngste Tochter durchs Fenster ihren Vater geritten kommen und sprang ihm fröhlich entgegen. Da sie ihn aber in ihre Arme schloß, sprach er: »Ei wollt ich doch, daß lieber mein bester Hund mir entgegen gekommen wäre!« Über diese Rede erschrak die Königstochter gar sehr, und weinte und rief: »Wie das, mein Vater? Ist dir dein Hund lieber denn ich, und sollte er dich froher willkommen heißen?« aber der König tröstete sie und sagte: »O liebe Tochter, so war es ja nicht gemeint!« und erzählte ihr alles. Sie aber blieb ganz standhaft und sagte: »Es ist besser so, als daß mein lieber Vater umgekommen wäre im wilden Walde«, und das Männchen sagte: »Nach acht Tagen hole ich dich.«

Und nach acht Tagen richtig, da kam ein weißer Wolf in das Königsschloß, und die Königstochter mußte sich auf seinen Rücken setzen, und heisa, da ging’s durch dick und dünn, bergauf und ab, und die Königstochter konnte das Reiten auf dem Wolf nicht aushalten, und fragte: »Ist’s noch weit?« – »Schweig! Weit weit ist’s noch zum gläsernen Berge – schweigst du nicht, so werf ich dich herunter!« Nun ging es wieder so fort, bis die arme Königstochter wieder zagte und klagte und fragte, ob es noch weit sei? Und da sagte ihr der Wolf die nämlichen drohenden Worte, und rannte immer fort, immer weiter, bis sie zum drittenmale die Frage wagte, da warf er sie auf der Stelle von seinen Rücken herunter und rannte davon.

Nun war die arme Prinzessin ganz allein in dem finstern Walde, und ging und ging und dachte, endlich werde ich doch einmal zu Leuten kommen. Und endlich kam sie an eine Hütte, da brannte ein Feuerchen und da saß ein altes Waldmütterchen, das hatte ein Töpfchen am Feuer. Und da fragte die Königstochter: »Mütterchen, hast du den weißen Wolf nicht gesehen?« – »Nein, da mußt du den Wind fragen, der fragt überall herum, aber bleibe erst noch ein wenig hier, und iß mit mir. Ich koche hier ein Hühnersüppchen.« Das tat die Prinzessin, und als sie gegessen hatten, sagte die Alte: »Nimm die Hühnerknöchelchen mit dir, du wirst sie gut gebrauchen können.« Dann zeigte ihr die Alte den rechten Weg nach dem Winde.

Als die Königstochter bei dem Winde ankam, fand sie ihn auch am Feuer sitzen und sich eine Hühnersuppe kochen, aber auf ihre Frage nach dem weißen Wolf antwortete er ihr: »Liebes Kind, ich habe ihn nicht gesehen, ich bin heute einmal nicht gegangen, und wollte mich einmal hübsch ausruhen. Frage die Sonne, die geht alle Tage auf und unter, aber erst mache es wie ich, ruhe dich aus, und iß mit mir, kannst hernach auch alle die Hühnerknöchlein mit dir nehmen, wirst sie wohl gut brauchen können.«

Als dies geschehen war, ging die Kleine nach der Sonne zu, und es ging da gerade wieder wie beim Winde, die Sonne kochte sich gerade eine Hühnersuppe an sich selbst, daher es damit sehr geschwind ging, hatte auch den weißen Wolf nicht gesehen, und lud die Prinzessin zum Mitessen ein. »Du mußt den Mond fragen, denn wahrscheinlich läuft der weiße Wolf nur des Nachts, und da sieht der Mond alles.« Als nun die Königstochter mit der Sonne gegessen und die Knöchlein aufgesammelt hatte, ging sie weiter und fragte den Mond. Auch er kochte Hühnersuppe und sagte: »Es ist fatal, ich habe letzt nicht geschienen, oder bin zu spät aufgegangen, ich weiß gar nichts von dem weißen Wolf.« Da weinte das Mädchen und rief: »O Himmel, wen soll ich nun fragen?« – »Nun nur Geduld mein Kind«, sagte der Mond. – »Vor Essen, wird kein Tanz, setze dich und iß erst die Hühnersuppe mit mir und nimm auch die Knöchelchen mit, du wirst sie wohl brauchen. Etwas Neues weiß ich doch; im gläsernen Berge das schwarze Männchen – das hält heute Hochzeit, der Mann im Mond ist auch dazu eingeladen.« – »Ach der gläserne Berg, der gläserne Berg! dahin wollte ich ja eben, dahin hat mich ja der weiße Wolf tragen sollen!« rief die Königstochter. »Nun bis dorthin kann ich dir schon leuchten und den Weg zeigen«, sagte der Mond, »sonst könntest du dich leichtlich irren, denn ich zum Beispiel bestehe ganz und gar aus lauter gläsernen Bergen. Nimm immer deine Knöchlein hübsch alle mit.« Das tat die Prinzessin, aber in der Eile vergaß sie doch ein Knöchlein.

Bald stand sie an dem gläsernen Berge, aber der war ganz glatt und glitschig, da war nicht hinauf zu kommen, aber da nahm die Königstochter alle Hühnerknöchlein von der alten Waldmutter, von dem Wind, von der Sonne und von dem Monde, und machte sich daraus eine Leiter, die wurde sehr lang, aber o weh, zuletzt fehlte noch eine einzige Sprosse, noch ein Glied. Da schnitt sich die Prinzessin das oberste Gelenk von ihrem kleinen Finger ab, und so tat es gut, und sie konnte nun rasch zum Gipfel des gläsernen Berges klimmen. Oben war eine große Öffnung, da führte eine schöne Treppe hinunter, und war alles voll Glanz und Pracht, und war ein Saal da voll Hochzeitgäste und viele Musikanten und reichbesetzte Tafeln. Und da saß das schwarze Männlein und an seiner Seite saß eine Dame, die war seine Braut, das schwarze Männlein aber schien traurig. Und der Königstochter tat es auch so weh, so weh, daß sie nun zu spät kam, und daß das schwarze Männlein so traurig war, und dachte bei sich, ich will ein Lied vom weißen Wolf singen, vielleicht kennt er mich dann – denn er hatte sie noch gar nicht angesehen, folglich auch nicht wieder erkannt. Und da stand eine Harfe an der Wand, welche die Prinzessin gut spielte, die nahm sie nun und sang

»Deinen besten Hund, den mag ich nicht,
Mir ist was andres lieb!
Die jüngste Königstochter.
Der weiße Wolf, der lief davon,
Sie weiß nicht, wo er blieb;
Die jüngste Königstochter.«

Da horchte das schwarze Männlein hoch auf,
aber die Prinzessin fuhr fort zu spielen und zu singen.

»Sie ist dem Wolfe nachgereist,
Schnitt ab ihr Fingerglied,
Die jüngste Königstochter.
Nun ist sie da – du kennst sie nicht,
Traurig singt dir dies Lied
Die jüngste Königstochter.«

Da sprang das schwarze Männlein von seinem Sitze auf und war plötzlich ein ganz schöner junger Prinz und eilte auf sie zu, und schloß sie in seine Arme.

Alles war Zauber gewesen. Der Prinz war in das alte Männlein und in den weißen Wolf und in den gläsernen Berg hinein verzaubert so lange bis eine Prinzessin, um zu ihm zu gelangen, sich’s ein Glied von ihrem kleinen Finger kosten lassen würde, wenn das aber bis zu einer gewissen Zeit nicht geschähe, so müsse er eine andre freien und ein schwarzes Männlein bleiben all sein Leben lang. Nun war der Zauber gelöst, die andre Braut verschwand, der entzauberte Prinz heiratete die Königstochter, reiste darauf mit ihr zu ihrem Vater, der sich herzlich freute, sie wieder zu sehen, und lebten alle glücklich miteinander bis an ihr Ende. Sollte dieses aber nicht erfolgt sein, so ist es einigermaßen wahrscheinlich, daß sie noch heute leben.

Ludwig Bechstein
(1801 – 1860)
Der weiße Wolf
Sämtliche Märchen

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Ngugi wa Thiong’o: Minutes of Glory and Other Stories

Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o, although renowned for his novels, memoirs, and plays, honed his craft as a short story writer. From “The Fig Tree” (“Mugumo” in this collection), written in 1960, his first year as an undergraduate at Makerere University College in Uganda, to the playful “The Ghost of Michael Jackson,” written as a professor at the University of California, Irvine, these collected stories reveal a master of the short form.

Covering the period of British colonial rule and resistance in Kenya to the bittersweet experience of independence—and including two stories that have never before been published in the United States— Ngũgĩ’s collection features women fighting for their space in a patriarchal society; big men in their Bentleys who have inherited power from the British; and rebels who still embody the fighting spirit of the downtrodden.

One of Ngũgĩ’s most beloved stories, “Minutes of Glory,” tells of Beatrice, a sad but ambitious waitress who fantasizes about being feted and lauded over by the middle-class clientele in the city’s beer halls. Her dream leads her on a witty and heartbreaking adventure.

Published for the first time in America, Minutes of Glory and Other Stories is a major literary event that celebrates the storytelling might of one of Africa’s best-loved writers.

Title: Minutes of Glory and Other Stories
Author: Ngugi wa Thiong’o
Publisher: New Press, The
Format Hardcover
224 pages
ISBN-10 1620974657
ISBN-13 9781620974650
Publication Date 01 March 2019
Hardcover – $24.95

# new books
Ngugi wa Thiong’o
Minutes of Glory and Other Stories

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Robert Southey: To Mary Wollstonecraft (Poem)

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To Mary Wollstonecraft

The lilly cheek, the “purple light of love,”
The liquid lustre of the melting eye,–
Mary! of these the Poet sung, for these
Did Woman triumph! with no angry frown
View this degrading conquest. At that age
No MAID OF ARC had snatch’d from coward man
The heaven-blest sword of Liberty; thy sex
Could boast no female ROLAND’S martyrdom;
No CORDE’S angel and avenging arm
Had sanctified again the Murderer’s name
As erst when Caesar perish’d: yet some strains
May even adorn this theme, befitting me
To offer, nor unworthy thy regard.

Robert Southey
(1774 – 1843)
To Mary Wollstonecraft

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10 Minutes 38 Seconds in this Strange World by Elif Shafak

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is shafak-elif.jpegFor Leila, each minute after her death brings a sensuous memory: the taste of spiced goat stew, sacrificed by her father to celebrate the long-awaited birth of a son; the sight of bubbling vats of lemon and sugar which the women use to wax their legs while the men attend mosque; the scent of cardamom coffee that Leila shares with a handsome student in the brothel where she works.

Each memory, too, recalls the friends she made at each key moment in her life – friends who are now desperately trying to find her. . .

Elif Shafak is an award-winning British-Turkish novelist and the most widely read female author in Turkey.

She writes in both Turkish and English, and has published seventeen books, eleven of which are novels. Her work has been translated into fifty languages. Shafak holds a PhD in political science and she has taught at various universities in Turkey, the US and the UK, including St Anne’s College, Oxford University, where she is an honorary fellow. She is a member of World Economic Forum Global Agenda Council on Creative Economy and a founding member of the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR). An advocate for women’s rights, LGBT rights and freedom of speech, Shafak is an inspiring public speaker and twice a TED global speaker, each time receiving a standing ovation.

Shafak contributes to many major publications around the world and she has been awarded the title of Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres. In 2017 she was chosen by Politico as one of the twelve people who would make the world better. She has judged numerous literary prizes and is chairing the Wellcome Prize 2019.

She lives in London and can be found at www.elifshafak.com
Twitter @Elif_Safak; Instagram @shafakelif

10 Minutes 38 Seconds in this Strange World
Elif Shafak (Author)
Hardcover
6 Jun 2019
320 pages
Publisher: Viking
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0241293863
ISBN-13: 978-0241293867
Dimensions: 13.8 x 2.7 x 20.4 cm
RRP: £14.99

# new books
Elif Shafak
10 Minutes 38 Seconds in this Strange World

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Transformation by Mary Shelley

Forthwith this frame of mine was wrench’d
With a woful agony,
Which forced me to begin my tale,
And then it set me free.

Since then, at an uncertain hour,
That agony returns;
And till my ghastly tale is told
This heart within me burns.

—Coleridge’s Ancient Mariner.

 

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is MaryShelley105-2.jpegI have heard it said, that, when any strange, supernatural, and necromantic adventure has occurred to a human being, that being, however desirous he may be to conceal the same, feels at certain periods torn up as it were by an intellectual earthquake, and is forced to bare the inner depths of his spirit to another. I am a witness of the truth of this. I have dearly sworn to myself never to reveal to human ears the horrors to which I once, in excess of fiendly pride, delivered myself over. The holy man who heard my confession, and reconciled me to the Church, is dead. None knows that once—

Why should it not be thus? Why tell a tale of impious tempting of Providence, and soul-subduing humiliation? Why? answer me, ye who are wise in the secrets of human nature! I only know that so it is; and in spite of strong resolve,—of a pride that too much masters me—of shame, and even of fear, so to render myself odious to my species,—I must speak.

Genoa! my birthplace—proud city! looking upon the blue Mediterranean—dost thou remember me in my boyhood, when thy cliffs and promontories, thy bright sky and gay vineyards, were my world? Happy time! when to the young heart the narrow-bounded universe, which leaves, by its very limitation, free scope to the imagination, enchains our physical energies, and, sole period in our lives, innocence and enjoyment are united. Yet, who can look back to childhood, and not remember its sorrows and its harrowing fears? I was born with the most imperious, haughty, tameless spirit. I quailed before my father only; and he, generous and noble, but capricious and tyrannical, at once fostered and checked the wild impetuosity of my character, making obedience necessary, but inspiring no respect for the motives which guided his commands. To be a man, free, independent; or, in better words, insolent and domineering, was the hope and prayer of my rebel heart.

My father had one friend, a wealthy Genoese noble, who in a political tumult was suddenly sentenced to banishment, and his property confiscated. The Marchese Torella went into exile alone. Like my father, he was a widower: he had one child, the almost infant Juliet, who was left under my father’s guardianship. I should certainly have been unkind to the lovely girl, but that I was forced by my position to become her protector. A variety of childish incidents all tended to one point,—to make Juliet see in me a rock of defence; I in her, one who must perish through the soft sensibility of her nature too rudely visited, but for my guardian care. We grew up together. The opening rose in May was not more sweet than this dear girl. An irradiation of beauty was spread over her face. Her form, her step, her voice—my heart weeps even now, to think of all of relying, gentle, loving, and pure, that she enshrined. When I was eleven and Juliet eight years of age, a cousin of mine, much older than either—he seemed to us a man—took great notice of my playmate; he called her his bride, and asked her to marry him. She refused, and he insisted, drawing her unwillingly towards him. With the countenance and emotions of a maniac I threw myself on him—I strove to draw his sword—I clung to his neck with the ferocious resolve to strangle him: he was obliged to call for assistance to disengage himself from me. On that night I led Juliet to the chapel of our house: I made her touch the sacred relics—I harrowed her child’s heart, and profaned her child’s lips with an oath, that she would be mine, and mine only.

Well, those days passed away. Torella returned in a few years, and became wealthier and more prosperous than ever. When I was seventeen, my father died; he had been magnificent to prodigality; Torella rejoiced that my minority would afford an opportunity for repairing my fortunes. Juliet and I had been affianced beside my father’s deathbed—Torella was to be a second parent to me.

I desired to see the world, and I was indulged. I went to Florence, to Rome, to Naples; thence I passed to Toulon, and at length reached what had long been the bourne of my wishes, Paris. There was wild work in Paris then. The poor king, Charles the Sixth, now sane, now mad, now a monarch, now an abject slave, was the very mockery of humanity. The queen, the dauphin, the Duke of Burgundy, alternately friends and foes,—now meeting in prodigal feasts, now shedding blood in rivalry,—were blind to the miserable state of their country, and the dangers that impended over it, and gave themselves wholly up to dissolute enjoyment or savage strife. My character still followed me. I was arrogant and self-willed; I loved display, and above all, I threw off all control. My young friends were eager to foster passions which furnished them with pleasures. I was deemed handsome—I was master of every knightly accomplishment. I was disconnected with any political party. I grew a favourite with all: my presumption and arrogance was pardoned in one so young: I became a spoiled child. Who could control me? not the letters and advice of Torella—only strong necessity visiting me in the abhorred shape of an empty purse. But there were means to refill this void. Acre after acre, estate after estate, I sold. My dress, my jewels, my horses and their caparisons, were almost unrivalled in gorgeous Paris, while the lands of my inheritance passed into possession of others.

The Duke of Orleans was waylaid and murdered by the Duke of Burgundy. Fear and terror possessed all Paris. The dauphin and the queen shut themselves up; every pleasure was suspended. I grew weary of this state of things, and my heart yearned for my boyhood’s haunts. I was nearly a beggar, yet still I would go there, claim my bride, and rebuild my fortunes. A few happy ventures as a merchant would make me rich again. Nevertheless, I would not return in humble guise. My last act was to dispose of my remaining estate near Albaro for half its worth, for ready money. Then I despatched all kinds of artificers, arras, furniture of regal splendour, to fit up the last relic of my inheritance, my palace in Genoa. I lingered a little longer yet, ashamed at the part of the prodigal returned, which I feared I should play. I sent my horses. One matchless Spanish jennet I despatched to my promised bride: its caparisons flamed with jewels and cloth of gold. In every part I caused to be entwined the initials of Juliet and her Guido. My present found favour in hers and in her father’s eyes.

Still to return a proclaimed spendthrift, the mark of impertinent wonder, perhaps of scorn, and to encounter singly the reproaches or taunts of my fellow-citizens, was no alluring prospect. As a shield between me and censure, I invited some few of the most reckless of my comrades to accompany me: thus I went armed against the world, hiding a rankling feeling, half fear and half penitence, by bravado.

I arrived in Genoa. I trod the pavement of my ancestral palace. My proud step was no interpreter of my heart, for I deeply felt that, though surrounded by every luxury, I was a beggar. The first step I took in claiming Juliet must widely declare me such. I read contempt or pity in the looks of all. I fancied that rich and poor, young and old, all regarded me with derision. Torella came not near me. No wonder that my second father should expect a son’s deference from me in waiting first on him. But, galled and stung by a sense of my follies and demerit, I strove to throw the blame on others. We kept nightly orgies in Palazzo Carega. To sleepless, riotous nights followed listless, supine mornings. At the Ave Maria we showed our dainty persons in the streets, scoffing at the sober citizens, casting insolent glances on the shrinking women. Juliet was not among them—no, no; if she had been there, shame would have driven me away, if love had not brought me to her feet.

I grew tired of this. Suddenly I paid the Marchese a visit. He was at his villa, one among the many which deck the suburb of San Pietro d’Arena. It was the month of May, the blossoms of the fruit-trees were fading among thick, green foliage; the vines were shooting forth; the ground strewed with the fallen olive blooms; the firefly was in the myrtle hedge; heaven and earth wore a mantle of surpassing beauty. Torella welcomed me kindly, though seriously; and even his shade of displeasure soon wore away. Some resemblance to my father—some look and tone of youthful ingenuousness, softened the good old man’s heart. He sent for his daughter—he presented me to her as her betrothed. The chamber became hallowed by a holy light as she entered. Hers was that cherub look, those large, soft eyes, full dimpled cheeks, and mouth of infantine sweetness, that expresses the rare union of happiness and love. Admiration first possessed me; she is mine! was the second proud emotion, and my lips curled with haughty triumph. I had not been the enfant gâté of the beauties of France not to have learnt the art of pleasing the soft heart of woman. If towards men I was overbearing, the deference I paid to them was the more in contrast. I commenced my courtship by the display of a thousand gallantries to Juliet, who, vowed to me from infancy, had never admitted the devotion of others; and who, though accustomed to expressions of admiration, was uninitiated in the language of lovers.

For a few days all went well. Torella never alluded to my extravagance; he treated me as a favourite son. But the time came, as we discussed the preliminaries to my union with his daughter, when this fair face of things should be overcast. A contract had been drawn up in my father’s lifetime. I had rendered this, in fact, void by having squandered the whole of the wealth which was to have been shared by Juliet and myself. Torella, in consequence, chose to consider this bond as cancelled, and proposed another, in which, though the wealth he bestowed was immeasurably increased, there were so many restrictions as to the mode of spending it, that I, who saw independence only in free career being given to my own imperious will, taunted him as taking advantage of my situation, and refused utterly to subscribe to his conditions. The old man mildly strove to recall me to reason. Roused pride became the tyrant of my thought: I listened with indignation—I repelled him with disdain.

“Juliet, thou art mine! Did we not interchange vows in our innocent childhood? Are we not one in the sight of God? and shall thy cold-hearted, cold-blooded father divide us? Be generous, my love, be just; take not away a gift, last treasure of thy Guido—retract not thy vows—let us defy the world, and, setting at nought the calculations of age, find in our mutual affection a refuge from every ill.”

Fiend I must have been with such sophistry to endeavour to poison that sanctuary of holy thought and tender love. Juliet shrank from me affrighted. Her father was the best and kindest of men, and she strove to show me how, in obeying him, every good would follow. He would receive my tardy submission with warm affection, and generous pardon would follow my repentance;—profitless words for a young and gentle daughter to use to a man accustomed to make his will law, and to feel in his own heart a despot so terrible and stern that he could yield obedience to nought save his own imperious desires! My resentment grew with resistance; my wild companions were ready to add fuel to the flame. We laid a plan to carry off Juliet. At first it appeared to be crowned with success. Midway, on our return, we were overtaken by the agonized father and his attendants. A conflict ensued. Before the city guard came to decide the victory in favour of our antagonists, two of Torella’s servitors were dangerously wounded.

This portion of my history weighs most heavily with me. Changed man as I am, I abhor myself in the recollection. May none who hear this tale ever have felt as I. A horse driven to fury by a rider armed with barbed spurs was not more a slave than I to the violent tyranny of my temper. A fiend possessed my soul, irritating it to madness. I felt the voice of conscience within me; but if I yielded to it for a brief interval, it was only to be a moment after torn, as by a whirlwind, away—borne along on the stream of desperate rage—the plaything of the storms engendered by pride. I was imprisoned, and, at the instance of Torella, set free. Again I returned to carry off both him and his child to France, which hapless country, then preyed on by freebooters and gangs of lawless soldiery, offered a grateful refuge to a criminal like me. Our plots were discovered. I was sentenced to banishment; and, as my debts were already enormous, my remaining property was put in the hands of commissioners for their payment. Torella again offered his mediation, requiring only my promise not to renew my abortive attempts on himself and his daughter. I spurned his offers, and fancied that I triumphed when I was thrust out from Genoa, a solitary and penniless exile. My companions were gone: they had been dismissed the city some weeks before, and were already in France. I was alone—friendless, with neither sword at my side, nor ducat in my purse.

I wandered along the sea-shore, a whirlwind of passion possessing and tearing my soul. It was as if a live coal had been set burning in my breast. At first I meditated on what I should do. I would join a band of freebooters. Revenge!—the word seemed balm to me; I hugged it, caressed it, till, like a serpent, it stung me. Then again I would abjure and despise Genoa, that little corner of the world. I would return to Paris, where so many of my friends swarmed; where my services would be eagerly accepted; where I would carve out fortune with my sword, and make my paltry birthplace and the false Torella rue the day when they drove me, a new Coriolanus, from her walls. I would return to Paris—thus on foot—a beggar—and present myself in my poverty to those I had formerly entertained sumptuously? There was gall in the mere thought of it.

The reality of things began to dawn upon my mind, bringing despair in its train. For several months I had been a prisoner: the evils of my dungeon had whipped my soul to madness, but they had subdued my corporeal frame. I was weak and wan. Torella had used a thousand artifices to administer to my comfort; I had detected and scorned them all, and I reaped the harvest of my obduracy. What was to be done? Should I crouch before my foe, and sue for forgiveness?—Die rather ten thousand deaths!—Never should they obtain that victory! Hate—I swore eternal hate! Hate from whom?—to whom?—From a wandering outcast—to a mighty noble! I and my feelings were nothing to them: already had they forgotten one so unworthy. And Juliet!—her angel face and sylph-like form gleamed among the clouds of my despair with vain beauty; for I had lost her—the glory and flower of the world! Another will call her his!—that smile of paradise will bless another!

Even now my heart fails within me when I recur to this rout of grim-visaged ideas. Now subdued almost to tears, now raving in my agony, still I wandered along the rocky shore, which grew at each step wilder and more desolate. Hanging rocks and hoar precipices overlooked the tideless ocean; black caverns yawned; and for ever, among the seaworn recesses, murmured and dashed the unfruitful waters. Now my way was almost barred by an abrupt promontory, now rendered nearly impracticable by fragments fallen from the cliff. Evening was at hand, when, seaward, arose, as if on the waving of a wizard’s wand, a murky web of clouds, blotting the late azure sky, and darkening and disturbing the till now placid deep. The clouds had strange, fantastic shapes, and they changed and mingled and seemed to be driven about by a mighty spell. The waves raised their white crests; the thunder first muttered, then roared from across the waste of waters, which took a deep purple dye, flecked with foam. The spot where I stood looked, on one side, to the widespread ocean; on the other, it was barred by a rugged promontory. Round this cape suddenly came, driven by the wind, a vessel. In vain the mariners tried to force a path for her to the open sea—the gale drove her on the rocks. It will perish!—all on board will perish! Would I were among them! And to my young heart the idea of death came for the first time blended with that of joy. It was an awful sight to behold that vessel struggling with her fate. Hardly could I discern the sailors, but I heard them. It was soon all over! A rock, just covered by the tossing waves, and so unperceived, lay in wait for its prey. A crash of thunder broke over my head at the moment that, with a frightful shock, the vessel dashed upon her unseen enemy. In a brief space of time she went to pieces. There I stood in safety; and there were my fellow-creatures battling, how hopelessly, with annihilation. Me thought I saw them struggling—too truly did I hear their shrieks, conquering the barking surges in their shrill agony. The dark breakers threw hither and thither the fragments of the wreck: soon it disappeared. I had been fascinated to gaze till the end: at last I sank on my knees—I covered my face with my hands. I again looked up; something was floating on the billows towards the shore. It neared and neared. Was that a human form? It grew more and more distinct; and at last a mighty wave, lifting the whole freight, lodged it upon a rock. A human being bestriding a sea-chest!—a human being! Yet was it one? Surely never such had existed before—a misshapen dwarf, with squinting eyes, distorted features, and body deformed, till it became a horror to behold. My blood, lately warming towards a fellow-being so snatched from a watery tomb, froze in my heart. The dwarf got off his chest; he tossed his straight, struggling hair from his odious visage.

“By St. Beelzebub!” he exclaimed, “I have been well bested.” He looked round and saw me. “Oh, by the fiend! here is another ally of the mighty One. To what saint did you offer prayers, friend—if not to mine? Yet I remember you not on board.”

I shrank from the monster and his blasphemy. Again he questioned me, and I muttered some inaudible reply. He continued:—

“Your voice is drowned by this dissonant roar. What a noise the big ocean makes! Schoolboys bursting from their prison are not louder than these waves set free to play. They disturb me. I will no more of their ill-timed brawling. Silence, hoary One!—Winds, avaunt!—to your homes!—Clouds, fly to the antipodes, and leave our heaven clear!”

As he spoke, he stretched out his two long, lank arms, that looked like spider’s claws, and seemed to embrace with them the expanse before him. Was it a miracle? The clouds became broken and fled; the azure sky first peeped out, and then was spread a calm field of blue above us; the stormy gale was exchanged to the softly breathing west; the sea grew calm; the waves dwindled to riplets.

“I like obedience even in these stupid elements,” said the dwarf. “How much more in the tameless mind of man! It was a well-got-up storm, you must allow—and all of my own making.”

It was tempting Providence to interchange talk with this magician. But Power, in all its shapes, is respected by man. Awe, curiosity, a clinging fascination, drew me towards him.

“Come, don’t be frightened, friend,” said the wretch: “I am good-humoured when pleased; and something does please me in your well-proportioned body and handsome face, though you look a little woe-begone. You have suffered a land—I, a sea wreck. Perhaps I can allay the tempest of your fortunes as I did my own. Shall we be friends?”—And he held out his hand; I could not touch it. “Well, then, companions—that will do as well. And now, while I rest after the buffeting I underwent just now, tell me why, young and gallant as you seem, you wander thus alone and downcast on this wild sea-shore.”

The voice of the wretch was screeching and horrid, and his contortions as he spoke were frightful to behold. Yet he did gain a kind of influence over me, which I could not master, and I told him my tale. When it was ended, he laughed long and loud: the rocks echoed back the sound: hell seemed yelling around me.

“Oh, thou cousin of Lucifer!” said he; “so thou too hast fallen through thy pride; and, though bright as the son of Morning, thou art ready to give up thy good looks, thy bride, and thy well-being, rather than submit thee to the tyranny of good. I honour thy choice, by my soul!—So thou hast fled, and yield the day; and mean to starve on these rocks, and to let the birds peck out thy dead eyes, while thy enemy and thy betrothed rejoice in thy ruin. Thy pride is strangely akin to humility, methinks.”

As he spoke, a thousand fanged thoughts stung me to the heart.

“What would you that I should do?” I cried.

“I!—Oh, nothing, but lie down and say your prayers before you die. But, were I you, I know the deed that should be done.”

I drew near him. His supernatural powers made him an oracle in my eyes; yet a strange unearthly thrill quivered through my frame as I said, “Speak!—teach me—what act do you advise?”

“Revenge thyself, man!—humble thy enemies!—set thy foot on the old man’s neck, and possess thyself of his daughter!”

“To the east and west I turn,” cried I, “and see no means! Had I gold, much could I achieve; but, poor and single, I am powerless.”

The dwarf had been seated on his chest as he listened to my story. Now he got off; he touched a spring; it flew open! What a mine of wealth—of blazing jewels, beaming gold, and pale silver—was displayed therein. A mad desire to possess this treasure was born within me.

“Doubtless,” I said, “one so powerful as you could do all things.”

“Nay,” said the monster humbly, “I am less omnipotent than I seem. Some things I possess which you may covet; but I would give them all for a small share, or even for a loan of what is yours.”

“My possessions are at your service,” I replied bitterly—“my poverty, my exile, my disgrace—I make a free gift of them all.”

“Good! I thank you. Add one other thing to your gift, and my treasure is yours.”

“As nothing is my sole inheritance, what besides nothing would you have?”

“Your comely face and well-made limbs.”

I shivered. Would this all-powerful monster murder me? I had no dagger. I forgot to pray—but I grew pale.

“I ask for a loan, not a gift,” said the frightful thing: “lend me your body for three days—you shall have mine to cage your soul the while, and, in payment, my chest. What say you to the bargain?—Three short days.”

We are told that it is dangerous to hold unlawful talk; and well do I prove the same. Tamely written down, it may seem incredible that I should lend any ear to this proposition; but, in spite of his unnatural ugliness, there was something fascinating in a being whose voice could govern earth, air, and sea. I felt a keen desire to comply; for with that chest I could command the worlds. My only hesitation resulted from a fear that he would not be true to his bargain. Then, I thought, I shall soon die here on these lonely sands, and the limbs he covets will be mine no more:—it is worth the chance. And, besides, I knew that, by all the rules of art-magic, there were formula and oaths which none of its practisers dared break. I hesitated to reply; and he went on, now displaying his wealth, now speaking of the petty price he demanded, till it seemed madness to refuse. Thus is it;—place our bark in the current of the stream, and down, over fall and cataract it is hurried; give up our conduct to the wild torrent of passion, and we are away, we know not whither.

He swore many an oath, and I adjured him by many a sacred name; till I saw this wonder of power, this ruler of the elements, shiver like an autumn leaf before my words; and as if the spirit spake unwillingly and perforce within him, at last, he, with broken voice, revealed the spell whereby he might be obliged, did he wish to play me false, to render up the unlawful spoil. Our warm life-blood must mingle to make and to mar the charm.

Enough of this unholy theme. I was persuaded—the thing was done. The morrow dawned upon me as I lay upon the shingles, and I knew not my own shadow as it fell from me. I felt myself changed to a shape of horror, and cursed my easy faith and blind credulity. The chest was there—there the gold and precious stones for which I had sold the frame of flesh which nature had given me. The sight a little stilled my emotions: three days would soon be gone.

They did pass. The dwarf had supplied me with a plenteous store of food. At first I could hardly walk, so strange and out of joint were all my limbs; and my voice—it was that of the fiend. But I kept silent, and turned my face to the sun, that I might not see my shadow, and counted the hours, and ruminated on my future conduct. To bring Torella to my feet—to possess my Juliet in spite of him—all this my wealth could easily achieve. During dark night I slept, and dreamt of the accomplishment of my desires. Two suns had set—the third dawned. I was agitated, fearful. Oh expectation, what a frightful thing art thou, when kindled more by fear than hope! How dost thou twist thyself round the heart, torturing its pulsations! How dost thou dart unknown pangs all through our feeble mechanism, now seeming to shiver us like broken glass, to nothingness—now giving us a fresh strength, which can do nothing, and so torments us by a sensation, such as the strong man must feel who cannot break his fetters, though they bend in his grasp. Slowly paced the bright, bright orb up the eastern sky; long it lingered in the zenith, and still more slowly wandered down the west: it touched the horizon’s verge—it was lost! Its glories were on the summits of the cliff—they grew dun and grey. The evening star shone bright. He will soon be here.

He came not!—By the living heavens, he came not!—and night dragged out its weary length, and, in its decaying age, “day began to grizzle its dark hair;” and the sun rose again on the most miserable wretch that ever upbraided its light. Three days thus I passed. The jewels and the gold—oh, how I abhorred them!

Well, well—I will not blacken these pages with demoniac ravings. All too terrible were the thoughts, the raging tumult of ideas that filled my soul. At the end of that time I slept; I had not before since the third sunset; and I dreamt that I was at Juliet’s feet, and she smiled, and then she shrieked—for she saw my transformation—and again she smiled, for still her beautiful lover knelt before her. But it was not I—it was he, the fiend, arrayed in my limbs, speaking with my voice, winning her with my looks of love. I strove to warn her, but my tongue refused its office; I strove to tear him from her, but I was rooted to the ground—I awoke with the agony. There were the solitary hoar precipices—there the plashing sea, the quiet strand, and the blue sky over all. What did it mean? was my dream but a mirror of the truth? was he wooing and winning my betrothed? I would on the instant back to Genoa—but I was banished. I laughed—the dwarf’s yell burst from my lips—I banished! Oh no! they had not exiled the foul limbs I wore; I might with these enter, without fear of incurring the threatened penalty of death, my own, my native city.

I began to walk towards Genoa. I was somewhat accustomed to my distorted limbs; none were ever so ill-adapted for a straightforward movement; it was with infinite difficulty that I proceeded. Then, too, I desired to avoid all the hamlets strewed here and there on the sea-beach, for I was unwilling to make a display of my hideousness. I was not quite sure that, if seen, the mere boys would not stone me to death as I passed, for a monster; some ungentle salutations I did receive from the few peasants or fishermen I chanced to meet. But it was dark night before I approached Genoa. The weather was so balmy and sweet that it struck me that the Marchese and his daughter would very probably have quitted the city for their country retreat. It was from Villa Torella that I had attempted to carry off Juliet; I had spent many an hour reconnoitring the spot, and knew each inch of ground in its vicinity. It was beautifully situated, embosomed in trees, on the margin of a stream. As I drew near, it became evident that my conjecture was right; nay, moreover, that the hours were being then devoted to feasting and merriment. For the house was lighted up; strains of soft and gay music were wafted towards me by the breeze. My heart sank within me. Such was the generous kindness of Torella’s heart that I felt sure that he would not have indulged in public manifestations of rejoicing just after my unfortunate banishment, but for a cause I dared not dwell upon.

The country people were all alive and flocking about; it became necessary that I should conceal myself; and yet I longed to address some one, or to hear others discourse, or in any way to gain intelligence of what was really going on. At length, entering the walks that were in immediate vicinity to the mansion, I found one dark enough to veil my excessive frightfulness; and yet others as well as I were loitering in its shade. I soon gathered all I wanted to know—all that first made my very heart die with horror, and then boil with indignation. To-morrow Juliet was to be given to the penitent, reformed, beloved Guido—to-morrow my bride was to pledge her vows to a fiend from hell! And I did this!—my accursed pride—my demoniac violence and wicked self-idolatry had caused this act. For if I had acted as the wretch who had stolen my form had acted—if, with a mien at once yielding and dignified, I had presented myself to Torella, saying, I have done wrong, forgive me; I am unworthy of your angel-child, but permit me to claim her hereafter, when my altered conduct shall manifest that I abjure my vices, and endeavour to become in some sort worthy of her. I go to serve against the infidels; and when my zeal for religion and my true penitence for the past shall appear to you to cancel my crimes, permit me again to call myself your son. Thus had he spoken; and the penitent was welcomed even as the prodigal son of Scripture: the fatted calf was killed for him; and he, still pursuing the same path, displayed such open-hearted regret for his follies, so humble a concession of all his rights, and so ardent a resolve to reacquire them by a life of contrition and virtue, that he quickly conquered the kind old man; and full pardon, and the gift of his lovely child, followed in swift succession.

Oh, had an angel from Paradise whispered to me to act thus! But now, what would be the innocent Juliet’s fate? Would God permit the foul union—or, some prodigy destroying it, link the dishonoured name of Carega with the worst of crimes? To-morrow at dawn they were to be married: there was but one way to prevent this—to meet mine enemy, and to enforce the ratification of our agreement. I felt that this could only be done by a mortal struggle. I had no sword—if indeed my distorted arms could wield a soldier’s weapon—but I had a dagger, and in that lay my hope. There was no time for pondering or balancing nicely the question: I might die in the attempt; but besides the burning jealousy and despair of my own heart, honour, mere humanity, demanded that I should fall rather than not destroy the machinations of the fiend.

The guests departed—the lights began to disappear; it was evident that the inhabitants of the villa were seeking repose. I hid myself among the trees—the garden grew desert—the gates were closed—I wandered round and came under a window—ah! well did I know the same!—a soft twilight glimmered in the room—the curtains were half withdrawn. It was the temple of innocence and beauty. Its magnificence was tempered, as it were, by the slight disarrangements occasioned by its being dwelt in, and all the objects scattered around displayed the taste of her who hallowed it by her presence. I saw her enter with a quick light step—I saw her approach the window—she drew back the curtain yet further, and looked out into the night. Its breezy freshness played among her ringlets, and wafted them from the transparent marble of her brow. She clasped her hands, she raised her eyes to heaven. I heard her voice. Guido! she softly murmured—mine own Guido! and then, as if overcome by the fulness of her own heart, she sank on her knees;—her upraised eyes—her graceful attitude—the beaming thankfulness that lighted up her face—oh, these are tame words! Heart of mine, thou imagest ever, though thou canst not portray, the celestial beauty of that child of light and love.

I heard a step—a quick firm step along the shady avenue. Soon I saw a cavalier, richly dressed, young and, methought, graceful to look on, advance. I hid myself yet closer. The youth approached; he paused beneath the window. She arose, and again looking out she saw him, and said—I cannot, no, at this distant time I cannot record her terms of soft silver tenderness; to me they were spoken, but they were replied to by him.

“I will not go,” he cried: “here where you have been, where your memory glides like some heaven-visiting ghost, I will pass the long hours till we meet, never, my Juliet, again, day or night, to part. But do thou, my love, retire; the cold morn and fitful breeze will make thy cheek pale, and fill with languor thy love-lighted eyes. Ah, sweetest! could I press one kiss upon them, I could, methinks, repose.”

And then he approached still nearer, and methought he was about to clamber into her chamber. I had hesitated, not to terrify her; now I was no longer master of myself. I rushed forward—I threw myself on him—I tore him away—I cried, “O loathsome and foul-shaped wretch!”

I need not repeat epithets, all tending, as it appeared, to rail at a person I at present feel some partiality for. A shriek rose from Juliet’s lips. I neither heard nor saw—I felt only mine enemy, whose throat I grasped, and my dagger’s hilt; he struggled, but could not escape. At length hoarsely he breathed these words: “Do!—strike home! destroy this body—you will still live: may your life be long and merry!”

The descending dagger was arrested at the word, and he, feeling my hold relax, extricated himself and drew his sword, while the uproar in the house, and flying of torches from one room to the other, showed that soon we should be separated. In the midst of my frenzy there was much calculation:—fall I might, and so that he did not survive, I cared not for the death-blow I might deal against myself. While still, therefore, he thought I paused, and while I saw the villanous resolve to take advantage of my hesitation, in the sudden thrust he made at me, I threw myself on his sword, and at the same moment plunged my dagger, with a true, desperate aim, in his side. We fell together, rolling over each other, and the tide of blood that flowed from the gaping wound of each mingled on the grass. More I know not—I fainted.

Again I return to life: weak almost to death, I found myself stretched upon a bed—Juliet was kneeling beside it. Strange! my first broken request was for a mirror. I was so wan and ghastly, that my poor girl hesitated, as she told me afterwards; but, by the mass! I thought myself a right proper youth when I saw the dear reflection of my own well-known features. I confess it is a weakness, but I avow it, I do entertain a considerable affection for the countenance and limbs I behold, whenever I look at a glass; and have more mirrors in my house, and consult them oftener, than any beauty in Genoa. Before you too much condemn me, permit me to say that no one better knows than I the value of his own body; no one, probably, except myself, ever having had it stolen from him.

Incoherently I at first talked of the dwarf and his crimes, and reproached Juliet for her too easy admission of his love. She thought me raving, as well she might; and yet it was some time before I could prevail on myself to admit that the Guido whose penitence had won her back for me was myself; and while I cursed bitterly the monstrous dwarf, and blest the well-directed blow that had deprived him of life, I suddenly checked myself when I heard her say, Amen! knowing that him whom she reviled was my very self. A little reflection taught me silence—a little practice enabled me to speak of that frightful night without any very excessive blunder. The wound I had given myself was no mockery of one—it was long before I recovered—and as the benevolent and generous Torella sat beside me, talking such wisdom as might win friends to repentance, and mine own dear Juliet hovered near me, administering to my wants, and cheering me by her smiles, the work of my bodily cure and mental reform went on together. I have never, indeed, wholly recovered my strength—my cheek is paler since—my person a little bent. Juliet sometimes ventures to allude bitterly to the malice that caused this change, but I kiss her on the moment, and tell her all is for the best. I am a fonder and more faithful husband, and true is this—but for that wound, never had I called her mine.

I did not revisit the sea-shore, nor seek for the fiend’s treasure; yet, while I ponder on the past, I often think, and my confessor was not backward in favouring the idea, that it might be a good rather than an evil spirit, sent by my guardian angel, to show me the folly and misery of pride. So well at least did I learn this lesson, roughly taught as I was, that I am known now by all my friends and fellow-citizens by the name of Guido il Cortese.

Shelley’s Transformation was first published in The Keepsake in 1831. “Before you too much condemn me, permit me to say that no one better knows than I the value of his own body; no one, probably, except myself, ever having had it stolen from him.”

Mary Shelley
(1797 – 1851)
Transformation

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Eardrums. Literary Modernism as Sonic Warfare by Tyler Whitney

In this innovative study, Tyler Whitney demonstrates how a transformation and militarization of the civilian soundscape in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries left indelible traces on the literature that defined the period.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is eardrums19.jpegBoth formally and thematically, the modernist aesthetics of Franz Kafka, Robert Musil, Detlev von Liliencron, and Peter Altenberg drew on this blurring of martial and civilian soundscapes in traumatic and performative repetitions of war.

At the same time, Richard Huelsenbeck assaulted audiences in Zurich with his “sound poems,” which combined references to World War I, colonialism, and violent encounters in urban spaces with nonsensical utterances and linguistic detritus—all accompanied by the relentless beating of a drum on the stage of the Cabaret Voltaire.

Eardrums is the first book-length study to explore the relationship between acoustical modernity and German modernism, charting a literary and cultural history written in and around the eardrum. The result is not only a new way of understanding the sonic impulses behind key literary texts from the period. It also outlines an entirely new approach to the study of literature as as the interaction of text and sonic practice, voice and noise, which will be of interest to scholars across literary studies, media theory, sound studies, and the history of science.

Tyler Whitney is an assistant professor of German at the University of Michigan.

Tyler Whitney (Author)
Eardrums.
Literary Modernism as Sonic Warfare
Cloth Text – $99.95
ISBN 978-0-8101-4022-6
Paper Text – $34.95
ISBN 978-0-8101-4021-9
Northwestern University Press
Publication Date June 2019
Literary Criticism
232 pages
Price: $24.00

# new books
Tyler Whitney
Eardrums.
Literary Modernism as Sonic Warfare

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The Swiss Peasant by Mary Shelley

The Swiss Peasant examines the rewards of love’s constancy. “To have heard them talk of life and death, and all its shows, you would have wondered by what freak philosophy had dressed herself in youth and a peasant’s garb, and wandered from the schools to these untaught wilds.”

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is MaryShelley103-1.jpegWhy is the mind of man so apt to be swayed by contraries? why does the imagination for ever paint the impossible in glittering tints, and the hearts of wayward mortals cling, with the greatest tenacity, to what, eel-like, is bent on escaping from their grasp? Why—to bring the matter home—is solitude abhorrent to me, now that I enjoy it in perfection? I have apostrophized the coy nymph in ball-rooms, when the bright lamps of heaven were shamed by brighter earth-stars, and lamented her absence at a picnic party, where the nightingale was silenced by the fiddle.

And now, O solitude! I abjure thee, in thy fitting temple—in Switzerland—among cloud-piercing mountains, by the resounding waves of the isle-surrounding lake. I am beside the waters of Uri—where Tell lived—in Brunen, where the Swiss patriots swore to die for freedom. It rains—magic word to destroy the spell to which these words give rise—the clouds envelop the hills—the white mists veil the ravines—there is a roar and a splash in my ears—and now and then the vapours break and scatter themselves, and I see something dark between, which is the hoar side of a dark precipice, but which might as well be the turf stack or old wall that bounded Cumberland’s view as he wrote the Wheel of Fortune.

The sole book that I possess is the Prisoner of Chillon. I have read it through three times within an hour. Its noble author composed it to beguile weary hours like these when he remained rain-bound for three days in a little inn on the shores of the Lake of Geneva; and cannot I, following with unequal steps, so cheat the minutes in this dim spot? I never, by the by, could invent the commonest incident. As a man of honour, of course I never lie; but, as a nursery child and schoolboy, I never did; simply, as I remember, because I never could concoct one;—but a true tale was lately narrated to me by its very heroine, the incidents of which haunt my memory, adorned as they were by her animated looks and soft silvery accent. Let me try to record them, stripped though they must be of their greatest charm.

I was, but a week ago, travelling with my friend Ashburn in a coupée, in the district of Subiaco, in the ecclesiastical territory. We were jolted along a rough ravine, through which the river Anio sped, and beetling mountains and shady trees, a distant convent and a picturesque cell on a hill, formed a view which so awoke the pictorial propensities of my friend, that he stopped the coupée (though we were assured that we should never reach our inn by nightfall, and that the road was dangerous in the dark), took out his portfolio, and began to sketch. As he drew, I continued to speak in support of an argument we had entered upon before. I had been complaining of the commonplace and ennui of life. Ashburn insisted that our existence was only too full of variety and change—tragic variety and wondrous incredible change. “Even,” said the painter, “as sky, and earth, and water seem for ever the same to the vulgar eye, and yet to the gifted one assume a thousand various guises and hues—now robed in purple—now shrouded in black—now resplendent with living gold—and anon sinking into sober and unobtrusive grey, so do our mortal lives change and vary. No living being among us but could tell a tale of soul-subduing joys and heart-consuming woes, worthy, had they their poet, of the imagination of Shakespeare or Goethe. The veriest weather-worn cabin is a study for colouring, and the meanest peasant will offer all the acts of a drama in the apparently dull routine of his humble life.”

“This is pure romance,” I replied; “put it to the test. Let us take, for example, yonder woman descending the mountain-path.”

“What a figure!” cried Ashburn; “oh that she would stay thus but one quarter of an hour!—she has come down to bathe her child—her upturned face—her dark hair—her picturesque costume—the little plump fellow bestriding her—the rude scenery around”—

“And the romantic tale she has to tell.”

“I would wager a louis that hers has been no common fate. She steps a goddess—her attitude, her looks, are all filled with majesty.”

I laughed at his enthusiasm, and accepted his bet. We hurried to join our fair peasantess, and thus formed acquaintance with Fanny Chaumont. A sudden storm, as we were engaged conversing with her, came, driven down from the tempest-bearing hills, and she gave us a cordial invitation to her cottage.

It was situated on a sunny, yet sheltered slope. There was a look of cheerfulness and aisance about it, beyond what is usually met in that part of Switzerland, reminding me of the cottages of the inhabitants of the free States. There, also, we found her husband. I always feel curious to know on whom a woman, who bears the stamp of superior intellect, who is beautiful and refined—for peasant as she was, Fanny was both—has been induced to bestow herself.

Louis Chaumont was considerably older than his wife; he was handsome, with brown lively eyes, curly chestnut hair, a visage embrowned by the sun, bearing every mark of having led an active, even an adventurous life; there was, besides, an expression which, if it were not ferocity, resembled it, in his vivacious glances, and in the sternness of his deeply-lined forehead; while she, in spite of her finely-formed brow, her majestic person, and her large expressive eyes, looked softness and patience itself. There was something incongruous in the pair, and more strangely matched they seemed when we heard their story. It lost me my louis, but proved Fanny at once to be a fitting heroine for romance, and was a lesson, moreover, to teach the strange pranks love can play with us, mingling fire and water, blending in one harmonious concord the harsh base and melodious tenor of two differently stringed instruments. Though their child was five years old, Fanny and her husband were attached to each other with the tenderness and passion of early love; they were happy—his faults were tempered by her angel disposition, and her too melancholy and feeling-fraught spirit was enlivened and made plastic to the purposes of this world by his energy and activity.

Fanny was a Bernese by birth: she was the child of humble cottagers, one among a large family. They lived on the brow of one summit and at the foot of another. The snowy mountains were piled about them; thaw-fed torrents brawled around; during the night a sound like thunder, a crash among the tempest-beaten pines would tell of an avalanche; or the snowdrift, whirring past the lattice, threatened to bury the little fabric. Winter was the season of peace in the deep vales, not so in the higher district. The peasant was often kept waking by the soft-falling snow which threatened insidiously to encroach on, and to overwhelm his habitation; or a straying cow would lead him far into the depths of the stormy hills, and his fearful family would count in agony the hours of his absence. Perpetual hardship and danger, however, rather brutify than exalt the soul of man; and those of the Swiss who are most deeply planted among the rocky wilds are often stultified and sullen.

Fanny opened her youthful eyes and observation on this scene. She was one of those lovely children whose beauty is heartfelt but indescribable: hers was the smooth candid brow, the large hazel eyes, half soft, half wild; the round dimpled cheek, the full sensitive mouth, the pointed chin, and (as framework to the picture) the luxuriant curly chestnut hair, and voice which is sweetest music. The exceeding beauty of little Fanny gained her the observation of the wife of the owner of the chateau which overlooked and commanded the district, and at ten years of age she became a frequent visitor there. Fanny’s little soul was love, so she soon twined herself round the kind lady’s heart, became a pet with her husband, and the favourite playmate of their only son.

One fête day Fanny had dined at the chateau. It had been fine warm spring weather, but wind and storm came on with the setting sun; the snow began to fall thickly, and it was decided that Fanny must pass the night in the chateau. She had been unusually eager to return home; and when the tempest came on, she crept near her protectress, and begged to be sent to her mother. C’est impossible—Fanny pressed no further, but she clambered to a window, and looked out wistfully to where, hidden by the hills, her parents’ cottage stood. It was a fatal night for her: the thunders of frequent avalanches, the roaring of torrents, the crash of trees, spoke of devastation, and her home was its chief prey. Father, mother, brothers, and sisters, not one survived. Where, the day before, cottage and outhouse and flower garden had stood, the little lawn where she played, and the grove that sheltered her, there was now a monumental pile of snow, and the rocky path of a torrent; no trace remained, not one survivor to tell the tale. From that night Fanny became a constant inmate of the chateau.

It was Madame de Marville’s project to give her a bourgeois education, which would raise her from the hardships of a peasant’s life, and yet not elevate her above her natural position in society. She was brought up kindly, but humbly; it was the virtues of her disposition which raised her in the eyes of all around her—not any ill-judged favour of her benefactress. The night of the destruction of her family never passed away from her memory; it set a seal of untimely seriousness on her childish brow, awoke deep thoughts in her infant heart, and a strong resolve that while she lived, her beloved friends should find her, as far as her humble powers admitted, a source of good alone—a reason to rejoice that they had saved her from the destruction that had overwhelmed her family.

Thus Fanny grew up in beauty and in virtue. Her smiles were as the rainbows of her native torrents: her voice, her caresses, her light step, her unalterable sweetness and ceaseless devotion to the wishes of others, made her the idol of the family. Henry, the only child of her protectors, was of her own age, or but a few months her senior. Every time Henry returned from school to visit his parents, he found Fanny more beautiful, more kind, more attractive than before; and the first passion his youthful heart knew was for the lovely peasant girl, whose virtues sanctified his home. A look, a gesture betrayed his secret to his mother; she turned a hasty glance on Fanny, and saw on her countenance innocence and confidence alone. Half reassured, yet still fearful, Madame de Marville began to reflect on some cure for the threatened evil. She could not bear to send away Fanny; she was solicitous that her son should for the present reside in his home. The lovely girl was perfectly unconscious of the sentiments of the young seigneur; but would she always continue so? and was the burning heart that warmed her gentle bosom to be for ever insensible to the despotic and absorbing emotions of love?

It was with wonder, and a curious mixture of disappointed maternal pride and real gladness, that the lady at length discovered a passion dawning in fair Fanny’s heart for Louis Chaumont, a peasant some ten years older than herself. It was natural that one with such high-wrought feelings as our heroine should love one to whom she could look up, and on whom to depend, rather than her childhood’s playmate—the gay, thoughtless Henry. Louis’s family had been the victim of a moral ruin, as hers of a physical one. They had been oppressed, reduced to poverty, driven from their homes by a feudal tyrant, and had come poor and forlorn from a distant district. His mother, accustomed to a bourgeois’ life, died broken-hearted: his father, a man of violent passions, nourished in his own and in his son’s heart, sentiments of hatred and revenge against the “proud oppressors of the land.” They were obliged to labour hard, yet in the intervals of work, father and son would read or discourse concerning the ills attendant on humanity, and they traced all to the social system, which made the few the tyrants of the many.

Louis was handsome, bold, and active; he excelled his compeers in every hardy exercise; his resolution, his daring, made him, in spite of his poverty, a kind of leader among them. He had many faults; he was too full of passion, of the spirit of resistance and revenge; but his heart was kind; his understanding, when not thwarted, strong; and the very depth of his feelings made him keenly susceptible to love. Fanny, in her simple but majestic beauty, in her soft kindness of manner, mingled with the profoundest sensibility, made a deep impression on the young man’s heart. His converse, so different and so superior to those of his fellows, won her attention.

Hitherto Fanny had never given utterance to the secrets of her soul. Habitual respect held her silent with Madame, and Henry, as spirited and as heedless as a chamois, could ill understand her; but Louis became the depository of the many feelings which, piled up in secrecy and silence, were half awful to herself; he brought reason, or what he deemed such, to direct her heart-born conclusions. To have heard them talk of life and death, and all its shows, you would have wondered by what freak philosophy had dressed herself in youth and a peasant’s garb, and wandered from the schools to these untaught wilds.

Madame de Marville saw and encouraged this attachment. Louis was not exactly the person she would have selected for Fanny; but he was the only being for whom she had ever evinced a predilection; and, besides, the danger of a misalliance which threatened her own son, rendered her eager to build an insurmountable wall between him and the object of his affections. Thus Fanny enjoyed the heart-gladdening pride of hearing her choice applauded and praised by the person she most respected and loved in the world. As yet, however, love had been covert; the soul but not the apparent body of their intercourse. Louis was kept in awe by this high-minded girl, and Fanny had not yet learned her own secret. It was Henry who made the discovery for them;—Henry, who, with all the impetuosity of his vivacious character, contrived a thousand ways to come between them, who, stung by jealousy to injustice, reviled Louis for his ruin, his poverty, his opinions, and brought the spirit of dissension to disquiet a mind entirely bent, as she imagined, on holy and pure thoughts.

Under this clash of passion, the action of the drama rapidly developed itself, and, for nearly a year, a variety of scenes were acted among these secluded mountains of no interest save to the parties themselves, but to them fateful and engrossing. Louis and Fanny exchanged vows; but that sufficed not. Fanny insisted on the right of treating with uniform kindness the son of her best friend, in spite of his injustice and insolence. The young men were often, during the rural festivals, brought into angry collision. Fanny was the peacemaker: but a woman is the worst possible mediator between her rival lovers. Henry was sometimes irritated to complain to his father of Louis’ presumption. The spirit of the French Revolution then awakening, rendered a peasant’s assumptions peculiarly grating; and it required Madame de Marville’s impartial gentleness to prevent Fanny’s betrothed, as now he was almost considered, from being further oppressed.

At length it was decided that Henry should absent himself for a time, and visit Paris. He was enraged in the extreme by what he called his banishment. Noble and generous as he naturally was, love was the tyrant of his soul, and drove him almost to crime. He entered into a fierce quarrel with his rival on the very eve of his departure: it ended in a scene of violence and bloodshed. No great real harm was done; but Monsieur de Marville, hitherto scarcely kept back from such a measure by his wife, suddenly obtained an order for Louis (his father had died a year before) to quit the territory within twelve hours. Fanny was commanded, as she valued the favour of her friends, to give him up. The young men were both gone before any intercession could avail; and that kind of peace which resembles desolation took possession of the chateau.

Aware of the part she had taken in encouraging Fanny’s attachment to her peasant-lover, Madame de Marville did not make herself a party to the tyranny of her husband; she requested only of her protégée to defer any decisive step, and not to quit her guardianship until the return of her son, which was to take place the following year. Fanny consented to such a delay, although in doing so she had to resist the angry representations of her lover, who exacted that she should quit the roof of his oppressors. It was galling to his proud spirit that she should continue to receive benefits from them, and injurious to his love that she should remain where his rival’s name was the constant theme of discourse and the object of interest. Fanny in vain represented her debt of gratitude, the absence of Henry, the impossibility that she could feel any undue sentiment towards the young seigneur; not to hate him was a crime in Louis’ eyes; yet how, in spite of his ill-conduct, could Fanny hate her childhood’s playmate—her brother? His violent passions excited to their utmost height—jealousy and the sense of impotent indignation raging in his heart—Louis swore to revenge himself on the Marvilles—to forget and to abhor his mistress!—his last words were a malediction on them, and a violent denunciation of scorn upon her.

“It will all be well yet,” thought Fanny, as she strove to calm the tumultuous and painful emotions to which his intemperate passion gave rise. “Not only are storms the birth of the wild elements, but of the heart of man, and we can oppose patience and fortitude alone to their destructive violence. A year will pass—I shall quit the chateau; Louis will acknowledge my truth, and retract his frightful words.”

She continued, therefore, to fulfil her duties cheerfully, not permitting her thoughts to dwell on the idea, that, in spite of her struggles, too painfully occupied her—the probability that Louis would in the end renounce or forget her; but committing her cause to the spirit of good, she trusted that its influence would in the end prevail.

She had, however, much to endure; for months passed, and no tidings reached her of Louis. Often she felt sick at heart; often she became the prey of the darkest despair; above all, her tender heart missed the fond attentions of love, the bliss of knowing that she bestowed happiness, and the unrestrained intercourse to which mutual affection had given rise. She cherished hope as a duty, and faith in love, rather than in her unjust and cruelly neglectful lover. It was a hard task, for she had nowhere to turn for consolation or encouragement. Madame de Marville marked with gladness the total separation between them. Now that the danger that threatened her son was averted, she relented having been influential in producing an attachment between Fanny and one whom she deemed unworthy of her. She redoubled her kindness, and, in the true Continental fashion, tried to get up a match between her and some one among her many and more prosperous admirers. She failed, but did not despair, till she saw the poor girl’s cheek grow pale and her vivacity desert her, as month after month passed away, and the very name of Louis appeared to be forgotten by all except herself.

The stirring and terrible events that took place at this time in France added to Fanny’s distress of mind. She had been familiarized to the discussion of the theories, now attempted to be put in practice, by the conversations of Chaumont. As each fresh account brought information of the guilty and sanguinary acts of men whose opinions were the same as those of her lover, her fears on his account increased. In a few words I shall hurry over this part of her story. Switzerland became agitated by the same commotions as tore the near kingdom. The peasantry rose in tumult; acts of violence and blood were committed; at first at a distance from her retired valley, but gradually approaching its precincts, until at last the tree of liberty was set up in the neighbouring village. Monsieur de Marville was an aristocrat of the most bigoted species. In vain was the danger represented to him, and the unwarlike state of his retinue. He armed them—he hurried down—he came unawares on the crowd who were proclaiming the triumph of liberty, rather by feasting than force. On the first attack, they were dispersed, and one or two among them were wounded; the pole they had gathered round was uprooted, the emblematic cap trampled to the earth. The governor returned victorious to his chateau.

This act of violence on his part seemed the match to fire a train of organized resistance to his authority, of which none had dreamt before. Strangers from other cantons thronged into the valley; rustic labours were cast aside; popular assemblies were held, and the peasants exercised in the use of arms. One was coming to place himself at their head, it was said, who had been a party in the tumults at Geneva. Louis Chaumont was coming—the champion of liberty, the sworn enemy of M. de Marville. The influence of his presence soon became manifest. The inhabitants of the chateau were besieged. If one ventured beyond a certain limit he was assailed. It was the resolve of Louis that all within its walls should surrender themselves to his mercy. What that might be, the proud curl of his lip and the fire that glanced from his dark eyes rendered scarcely problematic. Fanny would not believe the worst of her lover, but Monsieur and Madame de Marville, no longer restrained by any delicacy, spoke of the leveller in unmeasured terms of abhorrence, comparing him to the monsters who then reigned in France, while the danger they incurred through him added a bitter sting to their words. The peril grew each day; famine began to make its appearance in the chateau; while the intelligence which some of the more friendly peasants brought was indicative of preparations for a regular attack of the most formidable nature. A summons at last came from the insurgents. They were resolved to destroy the emblem of their slavery—the feudal halls of their tyrants. They declared their intention of firing the chateau the next day, and called on all within to deliver themselves up, if they would not be buried in its ruins. They offered their lives and free leave to depart to all, save the governor himself, who must place himself unconditionally at the mercy of their leader. “The wretch,” exclaimed his lady, “who thirsts for your blood! Fly! if there is yet time for flight; we, you see, are safe. Fly! nor suffer these cruel dastards to boast of having murdered you.”

M. de Marville yielded to these entreaties and representations. He had sent for a military force to aid him—it had been denied. He saw that he himself, as the detested person, was the cause of danger to his family. It was therefore agreed that he should seek a châlet situated on a mountain ten leagues distant, where he might lie concealed till his family joined him. Accordingly, in a base disguise, he quitted at midnight the walls he was unable to defend; a miserable night for the unfortunate beings left behind. The coming day was to witness the destruction of their home; and they, beggars in the world, were to wander through the inhospitable mountains, till, with caution and terror, they could unobserved reach the remote and miserable châlet, and learn the fate of the unhappy fugitive. It was a sleepless night for all. To add to Madame’s agony, she knew that her son’s life was in danger in Paris—that he had been denounced—and, though yet untaken, his escape was still uncertain. From the turret of the castle that, situated high on a rock, commanded the valley below, she sat the livelong night watching for every sound—fearful of some shout, some report of firearms, which would announce the capture of her husband. It was September; the nights were chill; pale and trembling, she saw day break over the hills. Fanny had busied herself during these anxious hours by preparing for their departure; the terrified domestics had already fled; she, the lady, and the old lame gardener were all that remained. At dawn she brought forth the mule, and harnessed him to the rude vehicle which was to convey them to their place of refuge. Whatever was most valuable in the chateau had already been sent away long before, or was secreted; a few necessaries alone she provided. And now she ascended the turret stairs, and stood before her protectress, announcing that all was ready, and that they must depart. At this last moment, Madame de Marville appeared deprived of strength; she strove to rise—she sank to the ground in a fit. Forgetful of her deserted state, Fanny called aloud for help, and then her heart beat wildly as a quick, youthful step was heard on the stairs. Who could he be? would he come to insult their wretchedness—he, the author of their woe? The first glance changed the object of her terror. Henry flew to his mother’s side, and, with broken exclamations and agitated questions, demanded an explanation of what he saw. He had fled for safety to the habitation of his parents—he found it deserted; the first voice he heard was that of Fanny crying for help—the first sight that presented itself was his mother, to all appearance dead, lying on the floor of the turret. Her recovery was followed by brief explanations, and a consultation of how his safety was to be provided for. The name of Chaumont excited his bitterest execrations. With a soldier’s haughty resolve, he was darting from the castle to meet and to wreak vengeance on his rival. His mother threw herself at his feet, clasping his knees, calling wildly on him not to desert her. Fanny’s gentle, sweet voice was of more avail to calm his passion. “Chevalier,” she said, “it is not thus that you must display your courage or protect the helpless. To encounter yonder infuriated mob would be to run on certain death; you must preserve yourself for your family—you must have pity on your mother, who cannot survive you. Be guided by me, I beseech you.”

Henry yielded to her voice, and a more reasonable arrangement took place. The departure of Madame de Marville and Fanny was expected at the village, and a pledge had been given that they should proceed unmolested. But deeply had the insurgents sworn that if the governor or his son (whose arrival in the chateau had been suspected) attempted to escape with them, they should be immediately sacrificed to justice. No disguise would suffice—the active observation of their enemies was known. Every inhabitant of the castle had been numbered—the fate of each ascertained, save that of the two most detested—the governor, whose flight had not been discovered, and his son, whose arrival was so unexpected and ill-timed. As still they consulted, a beat to arms was heard in the valley below: it was the signal that the attack on the empty castle walls would soon begin. There was no time for delay or hesitation. Henry placed himself at the bottom of the charrette; straw and a variety of articles were heaped upon him; the two women ascended in trepidation; and the old gardener sat in front and held the reins.

In consequence of the disturbed state of the districts through which they were to pass,—where the appearance of one of the upper classes excited the fiercest enmity, and frightful insult, if not death, was their sure welcome,—Madame and her friend assumed a peasant’s garb. And thus they wound their way down the steep; the unhappy lady weeping bitterly; Fanny, with tearless eyes, but with pale cheek and compressed lips, gazing for the last time on the abode which had been her refuge when, in helpless infancy, she was left an orphan—where kindness and benevolence had waited on her, and where her days had passed in innocence and peace. “And he drives us away!—him, whom I loved—whom I love!—O misery!”

They reached the foot of the eminence on which the chateau was placed, and proceeded along the road which led directly through the village. With the approach of danger, vain regrets were exchanged for a lively sense of fear in the bosom of the hapless mother, and for the exertion of her courage and forethought in Fanny’s more energetic mind. They passed a peasant or two, who uttered a malediction or imprecation on them as they went; then groups of two or three, who were even more violent in gesture and menace; when suddenly the sound of many steps came on their ears, and at a turn of the road they met Chaumont with a band of about twenty disciplined men.

“Fear not,” he said to Madame de Marville; “I will protect you from danger till you are beyond the village.”

With a shriek, the lady, in answer, threw herself in Fanny’s arms.

“Fear not, Madame—he dares not injure you. Begone, Louis! insult us not by your presence. Begone! I say.”

Fanny spoke angrily. She had not adopted this tone, but that the lady’s terror, and the knowledge that even then the young soldier crouched at their feet, burnt to spring up and confront his enemy, made her use an authority which a woman always imagines that a lover dare not resist.

“I do not insult you,” repeated Chaumont—“I save you. I have no quarrel with the lady; tyrants alone need fear me. You are not safe without my escort. Do not you, false girl, irritate me. I have ensured her escape; but yours—you are in my power.”

A violent movement at the bottom of the charrette called forth all Fanny’s terrors.

“Take me!” she cried; “do with me what you please; but you dare not, you cannot raise a finger against the innocent. Begone, I say! let me never see you more!”

“You are obeyed. On you fall the consequences.”

Thus, after many months of separation, did Fanny and her lover meet. She had purposed when she should see him to make an appeal to his better nature—his reason; she had meant to use her all-persuasive voice to recall him from the dangerous path he was treading. Several times, indeed, since his arrival in the valley, she had endeavoured to obtain an interview with him, but he dreaded her influence: he had resolved on revenge, and he feared to be turned back. But now the unexpected presence of his rival robbed her of her self-possession, and forced her to change her plans. She saw frightful danger in their meeting, and all her endeavours were directed to the getting rid of her lover.

Louis and his companions proceeded towards the chateau, while the charrette of the fugitives moved on in the opposite direction. They met many a ferocious group, who were rushing forward to aid in the destruction of their home; and glad they were, in that awful hour, that any object had power to divert the minds of their enemies from attention to themselves. The road they pursued wound through the valley; the precipitous mountain on one side, a brawling stream on the other. Now they ascended higher and now again descended in their route, while the road, broken by the fall of rocks, intersected by torrents, which tore their way athwart it, made their progress slow. To get beyond the village was the aim of their desires; when, lo! just as they came upon it, and were in the very midst of its population, which was pouring towards the castle, suddenly the charrette sank in a deep rut; it half upset, and every spoke in the wheel giving way rendered the vehicle wholly useless.

Fanny had indeed already sprung to the ground to examine what hope remained: there was none. “Grand Dieu! we are lost!” were the first words that escaped her, while Madame stood aghast, trembling, almost insensible, knowing that the hope of her life, the existence of her son, depended on these miserable moments.

A peasant who owed Fanny some kindness now advanced, and in a kind of cavalier way, as if to blemish as much as he could the matter of his offer by its manner, told them, that, for the pleasure of getting rid of the aristocrats, he would lend his car—there it was, let them quickly bestow their lading in it and pursue their way. As he spoke, he caught up a box, and began the transfer from one car to the other.

“No, no!” cried Madame de Marville, as, with a scream, she sprang forward and grasped the arm of the man as he was in the very act of discovering her son’s hiding-place. “We will accept nothing from our base enemies!—Begone with your offers! we will die here, rather than accept anything from such canaille.”

The word was electric. The fierce passions of the mob, excited by the mischief they were about to perpetrate, now burst like a stream into this new channel. With violent execrations they rushed upon the unfortunate woman: they would have torn her from the car, but already her son had sprung from his hiding-place, and, striking a violent blow at the foremost assailant, checked for a moment their brutal outrages. Then again, with a yell, such as the savage Indians alone could emulate, they rushed on their prey. Mother and son were torn asunder, and cries of “A bas les aristocrats!”—“A la lanterne!” declared too truly their sanguinary designs.

At this moment Louis appeared—Louis, whose fears for Fanny had overcome his indignation, and who returned to guard her; while she, perceiving him, with a burst of joy, called on him to rescue her friends. His cry of “Arretez-vous!” was loud and distinct amidst the uproar. It was obeyed; and then first he beheld his rival, his oppressor, his enemy in his power. At first, rage inflamed every feature, to be replaced by an expression of triumph and implacable hatred. Fanny caught the fierce glance of his eye, and grew pale. She trembled as, trying to be calm, she said, “Yes, you behold he is here. And you must save him—and your own soul. Rescue him from death, and be blest that your evil career enables you at least to perform this one good action.”

For a moment Louis seemed seeking for a word, as a man, meaning to stab, may fumble for his dagger’s hilt, unable in his agitation to grasp his weapon.

“My friends,” at length he said, “let the women depart—we have promised it. Ye may deal with the young aristocrat according to his merits.”

“A la lanterne!” burst in response from a hundred voices.

“Let his mother first depart!”

Could it be Louis that spoke these words, and had she loved this man? To appeal to him was to rouse a tiger from his lair. Another thought darted into Fanny’s mind; she scarcely knew what she said or did: but already knives were drawn; already, with a thrill of horror, she thought she saw the blood of her childhood’s playmate spilt like water on the earth. She rushed forward—she caught the upraised arm of one—“He is no aristocrat!” she cried; “he is my husband!—Will you murder one who, forgetting his birth, his duty, his honour, has married a peasant girl—one of yourselves?”

Even this appeal had little effect upon the mob; but it strangely affected her cruel lover. Grasping her arm with iron fingers, he cried, “Is this tale true? Art thou married to that man—his wife?”

“Even so!”—the words died on her lips as she strove to form them, terrified by their purport, and the effect they might produce. An inexplicable expression passed over Chaumont’s face; the fierceness that jealousy had engendered for a moment was exalted almost to madness, and then faded wholly away. The stony heart within him softened at once. A tide of warm, human, and overpowering emotion flowed into his soul: he looked on her he had loved, on her whom he had lost for ever; and tears rushed into his eyes, as he saw her trembling before him.

“Fear not,” at last he said; “fear neither for him nor yourself. Poor girl! so young, you shall not lose all—so young, you shall not become a widow. He shall be saved!”

Yet it was no easy task, even for him, to stem the awakened passions of the bloodthirsty mob. He had spent many an hour in exciting them against their seigneurs, and now at once to control the violence to which he had given rise seemed impossible. Yet his energy, his strong will overcame all opposition. They should pierce the chevalier’s heart, he swore, through his alone. He prevailed. He took the rein of their mule, and led them out of the village. All were silent; Fanny knew not what to say, and surprise held the others mute. Louis went with them until a turn in the road hid them from the view of the village. What his thoughts were, none could guess: he looked calm, as resigning the rein into the chevalier’s hands, he gently bade them “Farewell,” touching his hat in reply to their salutations. They moved on, and Fanny looked back to catch a last view of her lover: he was standing where they left him, when suddenly, instead of returning on his steps into the village, she saw him with rapid strides ascend the mountain-side, taking a well-known path that conducted him away from the scene of his late exploits. His pace was that of a man flying from pursuers—soon he was lost to sight.

Astonishment still kept the fugitives silent, as they pursued their way; and when at last joy broke forth, and Madame de Marville, rejoicing in their escape, embraced again and again her son, he with the softest tenderness thanked Fanny for his life: she answered not, but wept bitterly.

Late that night they reached the destined châlet, and found Monsieur de Marville arrived. It was a half-ruined miserable habitation perched among the snows, cold and bare; food was ill to be obtained, and danger breathed around them. Fanny attended on them with assiduous care, but she never spoke of the scene in the village; and though she strove to look the same, Henry never addressed her but she grew pale, and her voice trembled. She could not divine her absent lover’s thoughts, but she knew that he believed her married to another; and that other, earnestly though she strove to rule her feelings, became an object of abhorrence to her.

Three weeks they passed in this wretched abode; three weeks replete with alarm, for the district around was in arms, and the life of Monsieur de Marville loudly threatened. They never slept but they dreaded the approach of the murderers; food they had little, and the inclement season visited them roughly. Fanny seemed to feel no inconvenience; her voice was cheerful: to console, encourage, and assist her friends appeared to occupy her whole heart. At length one night they were roused by a violent knocking at the door of their hut: Monsieur de Marville and Henry were on their feet in a moment, seizing their weapons as they rose. It was a domestic of their own, come to communicate the intelligence that the troubles were over, that the legal government had reasserted its authority, and invited the governor to return to Berne.

They descended from their mountain refuge, and the name of Louis hovered on Fanny’s lips, but she spoke it not. He seemed everywhere forgotten. It was not until some time afterwards that she ascertained the fact that he had never been seen or heard of since he had parted from her on the morning of their escape. The villagers had waited for him in vain; they suspended their designs, for they all depended upon him; but he came not.

Monsieur and Madame de Marville returned to their chateau with their son, but Fanny remained behind. She would not inhabit the same roof as Henry; she recoiled even from receiving further benefits from his parents. What could she do? Louis would doubtless discover the falsehood of her marriage, but he dared not return; and even if he communicated with her, even though yet she loved him, could she unite herself with one accused too truly of the most frightful crimes? At first, these doubts agitated her, but by degrees they faded as oblivion closed over Chaumont’s name; and he came not, and she heard not of him, and he was as dead to her. Then the memory of the past revived in her heart; her love awoke with her despair; his mysterious flight became the sole occupation of her thoughts; time rolled on and brought its changes. Madame de Marville died—Henry was united to another—Fanny remained, to her own thoughts, alone in the world. A relation, who lived at Subiaco, sent for her, and there she went to take up her abode. In vain she strove to wean herself from the memory of Louis—her love for him haunted her soul.

There was war in Europe, and every man was converted into a soldier; the country was thinned of its inhabitants, and each victory or defeat brought a new conscription. At length peace came again, and its return was celebrated with rejoicing. Many a soldier returned to his home—and one came back who had no home. A man, evidently suffering from recent wounds, wayworn and sick, asked for hospitality at Fanny’s cottage; it was readily afforded, and he sat at her cottage fire, and removed his cap from his brow. His person was bent, his cheeks fallen in; yet those eyes of fire, that quick animated look, which almost brought the bright expression of youth back into his face, could never be forgotten. Fanny gazed almost in alarm, and then in joy, and at last, in her own sweet voice, she said, “Et toi, Louis—tu aussi es de retour.”

Louis had endured many a sorrow and many a hardship, and, most of all, he had been called on to wage battle with his own fierce spirit. The rage and hate which he had sedulously nourished suddenly became his tormentors and his tyrants—at the moment that love, before too closely allied to them, emancipated itself from their control. Love, which is the source of all that is most generous and noble in our nature, of self-devotion and of high intent, separated from the alloy he had blended with it, asserted its undivided power over him; strange that it should be so at the moment that he believed that he had lost her he loved for ever!

All his plans had been built for revenge. He would destroy the family that oppressed him; unbuild, stone by stone, the proud abode of their inheritance; he would be the sole refuge and support of his mistress in exile and in poverty. He had entered upon his criminal career with this design alone, and with the anticipation of ending all by heaping benefits and the gifts of fortune upon Fanny. The very steps he had taken, he now believed to be those that occasioned his defeat. He had lost her—the lovely and the good—he had lost her by proving unworthy, yet not so unworthy was he as to make her the victim of his crimes. The family he had vowed to ruin was now hers, and every injury that befell them visited her; to save her he must unweave his pernicious webs; to keep her scatheless, his dearest designs must fall to the ground.

A veil seemed rent before his eyes; he had fled, for he would not assist in the destruction of her fortunes; he had not returned, for it was torture to him to know that she lived, the wife of another. He entered the French army, but in every change his altered feelings pursued him, and to prove himself worthy of her he had lost was the constant aim of his ambition. His excellent conduct led to his promotion, and yet mishap still waited on him. He was wounded, even dangerously, and became so incapable of service as to be forced to solicit his dismission. This had occurred at the end of a hard campaign in Germany, and his intention was to pass into Italy, where a friend, with whom he had formed an intimacy in the army, promised to procure him some employment under Government. He passed through Subiaco in his way, and, ignorant of its occupiers, had asked for hospitality in his mistress’s cottage.

If guilt can be expiated by repentance and reform, as is the best lesson of religion, Louis had expiated his. If constancy in love deserve reward, these lovers deserved that, which they reaped, in the happiness consequent on their union. Her image, side by side with all that is good in our nature, had dwelt in his heart, which thus became a shrine at which he sacrificed every evil passion. It was a greater bliss than he had ever dared to anticipate, to find, that in so doing, he had at the same time been conducing to the welfare of her he loved, and that the lost and idolized being whom he worshipped founded the happiness of her life upon his return to virtue, and the constancy of his affection.

Mary Shelley
(1797 – 1851)
The Swiss Peasant

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The Dream by Mary Shelley

“Chi dice mal d’amore
Dice una falsità!”
—Italian Song.

 

The time of the occurrence of the little legend about to be narrated, was that of the commencement of the reign of Henry IV. of France, whose accession and conversion, while they brought peace to the kingdom whose throne he ascended, were inadequate to heal the deep wounds mutually inflicted by the inimical parties.

Private feuds, and the memory of mortal injuries, existed between those now apparently united; and often did the hands that had clasped each other in seeming friendly greeting, involuntarily, as the grasp was released, clasp the dagger’s hilt, as fitter spokesman to their passions than the words of courtesy that had just fallen from their lips. Many of the fiercer Catholics retreated to their distant provinces; and while they concealed in solitude their rankling discontent, not less keenly did they long for the day when they might show it openly.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is MaryShelley103.jpegIn a large and fortified chateau built on a rugged steep overlooking the Loire, not far from the town of Nantes, dwelt the last of her race, and the heiress of their fortunes, the young and beautiful Countess de Villeneuve. She had spent the preceding year in complete solitude in her secluded abode; and the mourning she wore for a father and two brothers, the victims of the civil wars, was a graceful and good reason why she did not appear at court, and mingle with its festivities. But the orphan countess inherited a high name and broad lands; and it was soon signified to her that the king, her guardian, desired that she should bestow them, together with her hand, upon some noble whose birth and accomplishments should entitle him to the gift. Constance, in reply, expressed her intention of taking vows, and retiring to a convent. The king earnestly and resolutely forbade this act, believing such an idea to be the result of sensibility overwrought by sorrow, and relying on the hope that, after a time, the genial spirit of youth would break through this cloud.

A year passed, and still the countess persisted; and at last Henry, unwilling to exercise compulsion,—desirous, too, of judging for himself of the motives that led one so beautiful, young, and gifted with fortune’s favours, to desire to bury herself in a cloister,—announced his intention, now that the period of her mourning was expired, of visiting her chateau; and if he brought not with him, the monarch said, inducement sufficient to change her design, he would yield his consent to its fulfilment.

Many a sad hour had Constance passed—many a day of tears, and many a night of restless misery. She had closed her gates against every visitant; and, like the Lady Olivia in “Twelfth Night,” vowed herself to loneliness and weeping. Mistress of herself, she easily silenced the entreaties and remonstrances of underlings, and nursed her grief as it had been the thing she loved. Yet it was too keen, too bitter, too burning, to be a favoured guest. In fact, Constance, young, ardent, and vivacious, battled with it, struggled, and longed to cast it off; but all that was joyful in itself, or fair in outward show, only served to renew it; and she could best support the burden of her sorrow with patience, when, yielding to it, it oppressed but did not torture her.

Constance had left the castle to wander in the neighbouring grounds. Lofty and extensive as were the apartments of her abode, she felt pent up within their walls, beneath their fretted roofs. The spreading uplands and the antique wood, associated to her with every dear recollection of her past life, enticed her to spend hours and days beneath their leafy coverts. The motion and change eternally working, as the wind stirred among the boughs, or the journeying sun rained its beams through them, soothed and called her out of that dull sorrow which clutched her heart with so unrelenting a pang beneath her castle roof.

There was one spot on the verge of the well-wooded park, one nook of ground, whence she could discern the country extended beyond, yet which was in itself thick set with tall umbrageous trees—a spot which she had forsworn, yet whither unconsciously her steps for ever tended, and where now again, for the twentieth time that day, she had unaware found herself. She sat upon a grassy mound, and looked wistfully on the flowers she had herself planted to adorn the verdurous recess—to her the temple of memory and love. She held the letter from the king which was the parent to her of so much despair. Dejection sat upon her features, and her gentle heart asked fate why, so young, unprotected, and forsaken, she should have to struggle with this new form of wretchedness.

“I but ask,” she thought, “to live in my father’s halls—in the spot familiar to my infancy—to water with my frequent tears the graves of those I loved; and here in these woods, where such a mad dream of happiness was mine, to celebrate for ever the obsequies of Hope!”

A rustling among the boughs now met her ear—her heart beat quick—all again was still.

“Foolish girl!” she half muttered; “dupe of thine own passionate fancy: because here we met; because seated here I have expected, and sounds like these have announced, his dear approach; so now every coney as it stirs, and every bird as it awakens silence, speaks of him. O Gaspar!—mine once—never again will this beloved spot be made glad by thee—never more!”

Again the bushes were stirred, and footsteps were heard in the brake. She rose; her heart beat high; it must be that silly Manon, with her impertinent entreaties for her to return. But the steps were firmer and slower than would be those of her waiting-woman; and now emerging from the shade, she too plainly discerned the intruder. Her first impulse was to fly:—but once again to see him—to hear his voice:—once again before she placed eternal vows between them, to stand together, and find the wide chasm filled which absence had made, could not injure the dead, and would soften the fatal sorrow that made her cheek so pale.

And now he was before her, the same beloved one with whom she had exchanged vows of constancy. He, like her, seemed sad; nor could she resist the imploring glance that entreated her for one moment to remain.

“I come, lady,” said the young knight, “without a hope to bend your inflexible will. I come but once again to see you, and to bid you farewell before I depart for the Holy Land. I come to beseech you not to immure yourself in the dark cloister to avoid one as hateful as myself,—one you will never see more. Whether I die or live, France and I are parted for ever!”

“That were fearful, were it true,” said Constance; “but King Henry will never so lose his favourite cavalier. The throne you helped to build, you still will guard. Nay, as I ever had power over thought of thine, go not to Palestine.”

“One word of yours could detain me—one smile—Constance”—and the youthful lover knelt before her; but her harsher purpose was recalled by the image once so dear and familiar, now so strange and so forbidden.

“Linger no longer here!” she cried. “No smile, no word of mine will ever again be yours. Why are you here—here, where the spirits of the dead wander, and, claiming these shades as their own, curse the false girl who permits their murderer to disturb their sacred repose?”

“When love was young and you were kind,” replied the knight, “you taught me to thread the intricacies of these woods—you welcomed me to this dear spot, where once you vowed to be my own—even beneath these ancient trees.”

“A wicked sin it was,” said Constance, “to unbar my father’s doors to the son of his enemy, and dearly is it punished!”

The young knight gained courage as she spoke; yet he dared not move, lest she, who, every instant, appeared ready to take flight, should be startled from her momentary tranquillity; but he slowly replied:—“Those were happy days, Constance, full of terror and deep joy, when evening brought me to your feet; and while hate and vengeance were as its atmosphere to yonder frowning castle, this leafy, starlit bower was the shrine of love.”

“Happy?—miserable days!” echoed Constance; “when I imagined good could arise from failing in my duty, and that disobedience would be rewarded of God. Speak not of love, Gaspar!—a sea of blood divides us for ever! Approach me not! The dead and the beloved stand even now between us: their pale shadows warn me of my fault, and menace me for listening to their murderer.”

“That am not I!” exclaimed the youth. “Behold, Constance, we are each the last of our race. Death has dealt cruelly with us, and we are alone. It was not so when first we loved—when parent, kinsman, brother, nay, my own mother breathed curses on the house of Villeneuve; and in spite of all I blessed it. I saw thee, my lovely one, and blessed it. The God of peace planted love in our hearts, and with mystery and secrecy we met during many a summer night in the moonlit dells; and when daylight was abroad, in this sweet recess we fled to avoid its scrutiny, and here, even here, where now I kneel in supplication, we both knelt and made our vows. Shall they be broken?”

Constance wept as her lover recalled the images of happy hours. “Never,” she exclaimed, “O never! Thou knowest, or wilt soon know, Gaspar, the faith and resolves of one who dare not be yours. Was it for us to talk of love and happiness, when war, and hate, and blood were raging around? The fleeting flowers our young hands strewed were trampled by the deadly encounter of mortal foes. By your father’s hand mine died; and little boots it to know whether, as my brother swore, and you deny, your hand did or did not deal the blow that destroyed him. You fought among those by whom he died. Say no more—no other word: it is impiety towards the unreposing dead to hear you. Go, Gaspar; forget me. Under the chivalrous and gallant Henry your career may be glorious; and some fair girl will listen, as once I did, to your vows, and be made happy by them. Farewell! May the Virgin bless you! In my cell and cloister-home I will not forget the best Christian lesson—to pray for our enemies. Gaspar, farewell!”

She glided hastily from the bower: with swift steps she threaded the glade and sought the castle. Once within the seclusion of her own apartment she gave way to the burst of grief that tore her gentle bosom like a tempest; for hers was that worst sorrow which taints past joys, making remorse wait upon the memory of bliss, and linking love and fancied guilt in such fearful society as that of the tyrant when he bound a living body to a corpse. Suddenly a thought darted into her mind. At first she rejected it as puerile and superstitious; but it would not be driven away. She called hastily for her attendant. “Manon,” she said, “didst thou ever sleep on St. Catherine’s couch?”

Manon crossed herself. “Heaven forefend! None ever did, since I was born, but two: one fell into the Loire and was drowned; the other only looked upon the narrow bed, and returned to her own home without a word. It is an awful place; and if the votary have not led a pious and good life, woe betide the hour when she rests her head on the holy stone!”

Constance crossed herself also. “As for our lives, it is only through our Lord and the blessed saints that we can any of us hope for righteousness. I will sleep on that couch to-morrow night!”

“Dear, my lady! and the king arrives to-morrow.”

“The more need that I resolve. It cannot be that misery so intense should dwell in any heart, and no cure be found. I had hoped to be the bringer of peace to our houses; and is the good work to be for me a crown of thorns? Heaven shall direct me. I will rest to-morrow night on St. Catherine’s bed: and if, as I have heard, the saint deigns to direct her votaries in dreams, I will be guided by her; and, believing that I act according to the dictates of Heaven, I shall feel resigned even to the worst.”

The king was on his way to Nantes from Paris, and he slept on this night at a castle but a few miles distant. Before dawn a young cavalier was introduced into his chamber. The knight had a serious, nay, a sad aspect; and all beautiful as he was in feature and limb, looked wayworn and haggard. He stood silent in Henry’s presence, who, alert and gay, turned his lively blue eyes upon his guest, saying gently, “So thou foundest her obdurate, Gaspar?”

“I found her resolved on our mutual misery. Alas! my liege, it is not, credit me, the least of my grief, that Constance sacrifices her own happiness when she destroys mine.”

“And thou believest that she will say nay to the gaillard chevalier whom we ourselves present to her?”

“Oh, my liege, think not that thought! it cannot be. My heart deeply, most deeply, thanks you for your generous condescension. But she whom her lover’s voice in solitude—whose entreaties, when memory and seclusion aided the spell—could not persuade, will resist even your majesty’s commands. She is bent upon entering a cloister; and I, so please you, will now take my leave:—I am henceforth a soldier of the cross.”

“Gaspar,” said the monarch, “I know woman better than thou. It is not by submission nor tearful plaints she is to be won. The death of her relatives naturally sits heavy at the young countess’s heart; and nourishing in solitude her regret and her repentance, she fancies that Heaven itself forbids your union. Let the voice of the world reach her—the voice of earthly power and earthly kindness—the one commanding, the other pleading, and both finding response in her own heart—and by my fay and the Holy Cross, she will be yours. Let our plan still hold. And now to horse: the morning wears, and the sun is risen.”

The king arrived at the bishop’s palace, and proceeded forthwith to mass in the cathedral. A sumptuous dinner succeeded, and it was afternoon before the monarch proceeded through the town beside the Loire to where, a little above Nantes, the Chateau Villeneuve was situated. The young countess received him at the gate. Henry looked in vain for the cheek blanched by misery, the aspect of downcast despair which he had been taught to expect. Her cheek was flushed, her manner animated, her voice scarce tremulous. “She loves him not,” thought Henry, “or already her heart has consented.”

A collation was prepared for the monarch; and after some little hesitation, arising even from the cheerfulness of her mien, he mentioned the name of Gaspar. Constance blushed instead of turning pale, and replied very quickly, “To-morrow, good my liege; I ask for a respite but until to-morrow;—all will then be decided;—to-morrow I am vowed to God—or”—

She looked confused, and the king, at once surprised and pleased, said, “Then you hate not young De Vaudemont;—you forgive him for the inimical blood that warms his veins.”

“We are taught that we should forgive, that we should love our enemies,” the countess replied, with some trepidation.

“Now, by Saint Denis, that is a right welcome answer for the novice,” said the king, laughing. “What ho! my faithful serving-man, Dan Apollo in disguise! come forward, and thank your lady for her love.”

In such disguise as had concealed him from all, the cavalier had hung behind, and viewed with infinite surprise the demeanour and calm countenance of the lady. He could not hear her words: but was this even she whom he had seen trembling and weeping the evening before?—this she whose very heart was torn by conflicting passion?—who saw the pale ghosts of parent and kinsman stand between her and the lover whom more than her life she adored? It was a riddle hard to solve. The king’s call was in unison with his impatience, and he sprang forward. He was at her feet; while she, still passion-driven, overwrought by the very calmness she had assumed, uttered one cry as she recognised him, and sank senseless on the floor.

All this was very unintelligible. Even when her attendants had brought her to life, another fit succeeded, and then passionate floods of tears; while the monarch, waiting in the hall, eyeing the half-eaten collation, and humming some romance in commemoration of woman’s waywardness, knew not how to reply to Vaudemont’s look of bitter disappointment and anxiety. At length the countess’ chief attendant came with an apology: “Her lady was ill, very ill The next day she would throw herself at the king’s feet, at once to solicit his excuse, and to disclose her purpose.”

“To-morrow—again to-morrow!—Does to-morrow bear some charm, maiden?” said the king. “Can you read us the riddle, pretty one? What strange tale belongs to to-morrow, that all rests on its advent?”

Manon coloured, looked down, and hesitated. But Henry was no tyro in the art of enticing ladies’ attendants to disclose their ladies’ counsel. Manon was besides frightened by the countess’ scheme, on which she was still obstinately bent, so she was the more readily induced to betray it. To sleep in St. Catherine’s bed, to rest on a narrow ledge overhanging the deep rapid Loire, and if, as was most probable, the luckless dreamer escaped from falling into it, to take the disturbed visions that such uneasy slumber might produce for the dictate of Heaven, was a madness of which even Henry himself could scarcely deem any woman capable. But could Constance, her whose beauty was so highly intellectual, and whom he had heard perpetually praised for her strength of mind and talents, could she be so strangely infatuated! And can passion play such freaks with us?—like death, levelling even the aristocracy of the soul, and bringing noble and peasant, the wise and foolish, under one thraldom? It was strange—yet she must have her way. That she hesitated in her decision was much; and it was to be hoped that St. Catherine would play no ill-natured part. Should it be otherwise, a purpose to be swayed by a dream might be influenced by other waking thoughts. To the more material kind of danger some safeguard should be brought.

There is no feeling more awful than that which invades a weak human heart bent upon gratifying its ungovernable impulses in contradiction to the dictates of conscience. Forbidden pleasures are said to be the most agreeable;—it may be so to rude natures, to those who love to struggle, combat, and contend; who find happiness in a fray, and joy in the conflict of passion. But softer and sweeter was the gentle spirit of Constance; and love and duty contending crushed and tortured her poor heart. To commit her conduct to the inspirations of religion, or, if it was so to be named, of superstition, was a blessed relief. The very perils that threatened her undertaking gave a zest to it;—to dare for his sake was happiness;—the very difficulty of the way that led to the completion of her wishes at once gratified her love and distracted her thoughts from her despair. Or if it was decreed that she must sacrifice all, the risk of danger and of death were of trifling import in comparison with the anguish which would then be her portion for ever.

The night threatened to be stormy, the raging wind shook the casements, and the trees waved their huge shadowy arms, as giants might in fantastic dance and mortal broil. Constance and Manon, unattended, quitted the chateau by a postern, and began to descend the hill-side. The moon had not yet risen; and though the way was familiar to both, Manon tottered and trembled; while the countess, drawing her silken cloak round her, walked with a firm step down the steep. They came to the river’s side, where a small boat was moored, and one man was in waiting. Constance stepped lightly in, and then aided her fearful companion. In a few moments they were in the middle of the stream. The warm, tempestuous, animating, equinoctial wind swept over them. For the first time since her mourning, a thrill of pleasure swelled the bosom of Constance. She hailed the emotion with double joy. It cannot be, she thought, that Heaven will forbid me to love one so brave, so generous, and so good as the noble Gaspar. Another I can never love; I shall die if divided from him; and this heart, these limbs, so alive with glowing sensation, are they already predestined to an early grave? Oh no! life speaks aloud within them. I shall live to love. Do not all things love?—the winds as they whisper to the rushing waters? the waters as they kiss the flowery banks, and speed to mingle with the sea? Heaven and earth are sustained by, and live through, love; and shall Constance alone, whose heart has ever been a deep, gushing, overflowing well of true affection, be compelled to set a stone upon the fount to lock it up for ever?

These thoughts bade fair for pleasant dreams; and perhaps the countess, an adept in the blind god’s lore, therefore indulged them the more readily. But as thus she was engrossed by soft emotions, Manon caught her arm:—“Lady, look,” she cried; “it comes—yet the oars have no sound. Now the Virgin shield us! Would we were at home!”

A dark boat glided by them. Four rowers, habited in black cloaks, pulled at oars which, as Manon said, gave no sound; another sat at the helm: like the rest, his person was veiled in a dark mantle, but he wore no cap; and though his face was turned from them, Constance recognised her lover. “Gaspar,” she cried aloud, “dost thou live?”—but the figure in the boat neither turned its head nor replied, and quickly it was lost in the shadowy waters.

How changed now was the fair countess’ reverie! Already Heaven had begun its spell, and unearthly forms were around, as she strained her eyes through the gloom. Now she saw and now she lost view of the bark that occasioned her terror; and now it seemed that another was there, which held the spirits of the dead; and her father waved to her from shore, and her brothers frowned on her.

Meanwhile they neared the landing. Her bark was moored in a little cove, and Constance stood upon the bank. Now she trembled, and half yielded to Manon’s entreaty to return; till the unwise suivante mentioned the king’s and De Vaudemont’s name, and spoke of the answer to be given to-morrow. What answer, if she turned back from her intent?

She now hurried forward up the broken ground of the bank, and then along its edge, till they came to a hill which abruptly hung over the tide. A small chapel stood near. With trembling fingers the countess drew forth the key and unlocked its door. They entered. It was dark—save that a little lamp, flickering in the wind, showed an uncertain light from before the figure of Saint Catherine. The two women knelt; they prayed; and then rising, with a cheerful accent the countess bade her attendant good-night. She unlocked a little low iron door. It opened on a narrow cavern. The roar of waters was heard beyond. “Thou mayest not follow, my poor Manon,” said Constance,—“nor dost thou much desire:—this adventure is for me alone.”

It was hardly fair to leave the trembling servant in the chapel alone, who had neither hope nor fear, nor love, nor grief to beguile her; but, in those days, esquires and waiting-women often played the part of subalterns in the army, gaining knocks and no fame. Besides, Manon was safe in holy ground. The countess meanwhile pursued her way groping in the dark through the narrow tortuous passage. At length what seemed light to her long-darkened sense gleamed on her. She reached an open cavern in the overhanging hill’s side, looking over the rushing tide beneath. She looked out upon the night. The waters of the Loire were speeding, as since that day have they ever sped—changeful, yet the same; the heavens were thickly veiled with clouds, and the wind in the trees was as mournful and ill-omened as if it rushed round a murderer’s tomb. Constance shuddered a little, and looked upon her bed,—a narrow ledge of earth and a moss-grown stone bordering on the very verge of the precipice. She doffed her mantle,—such was one of the conditions of the spell;—she bowed her head, and loosened the tresses of her dark hair; she bared her feet; and thus, fully prepared for suffering to the utmost the chill influence of the cold night, she stretched herself on the narrow couch that scarce afforded room for her repose, and whence, if she moved in sleep, she must be precipitated into the cold waters below.

At first it seemed to her as if she never should sleep again. No great wonder that exposure to the blast and her perilous position should forbid her eyelids to close. At length she fell into a reverie so soft and soothing that she wished even to watch; and then by degrees her senses became confused; and now she was on St. Catherine’s bed—the Loire rushing beneath, and the wild wind sweeping by—and now—oh whither?—and what dreams did the saint send, to drive her to despair, or to bid her be blest for ever?

Beneath the rugged hill, upon the dark tide, another watched, who feared a thousand things, and scarce dared hope. He had meant to precede the lady on her way, but when he found that he had outstayed his time, with muffled oars and breathless haste he had shot by the bark that contained his Constance, nor even turned at her voice, fearful to incur her blame, and her commands to return. He had seen her emerge from the passage, and shuddered as she leant over the cliff. He saw her step forth, clad as she was in white, and could mark her as she lay on the ledge beetling above. What a vigil did the lovers keep!—she given up to visionary thoughts, he knowing—and the consciousness thrilled his bosom with strange emotion—that love, and love for him, had led her to that perilous couch; and that while dangers surrounded her in every shape, she was alive only to the small still voice that whispered to her heart the dream which was to decide their destinies. She slept perhaps—but he waked and watched, and night wore away, as, now praying, now entranced by alternating hope and fear, he sat in his boat, his eyes fixed on the white garb of the slumberer above.

Morning—was it morning that struggled in the clouds? Would morning ever come to waken her? And had she slept? and what dreams of weal or woe had peopled her sleep? Gaspar grew impatient. He commanded his boatmen still to wait, and he sprang forward, intent on clambering the precipice. In vain they urged the danger, nay, the impossibility of the attempt; he clung to the rugged face of the hill, and found footing where it would seem no footing was. The acclivity, indeed, was not high; the dangers of St. Catherine’s bed arising from the likelihood that any one who slept on so narrow a couch would be precipitated into the waters beneath. Up the steep ascent Gaspar continued to toil, and at last reached the roots of a tree that grew near the summit. Aided by its branches, he made good his stand at the very extremity of the ledge, near the pillow on which lay the uncovered head of his beloved. Her hands were folded on her bosom; her dark hair fell round her throat and pillowed her cheek; her face was serene: sleep was there in all its innocence and in all its helplessness; every wilder emotion was hushed, and her bosom heaved in regular breathing. He could see her heart beat as it lifted her fair hands crossed above. No statue hewn of marble in monumental effigy was ever half so fair; and within that surpassing form dwelt a soul true, tender, self-devoted, and affectionate as ever warmed a human breast.

With what deep passion did Gaspar gaze, gathering hope from the placidity of her angel countenance! A smile wreathed her lips; and he too involuntarily smiled, as he hailed the happy omen; when suddenly her cheek was flushed, her bosom heaved, a tear stole from her dark lashes, and then a whole shower fell, as starting up she cried, “No!—he shall not die!—I will unloose his chains!—I will save him!” Gaspar’s hand was there. He caught her light form ready to fall from the perilous couch. She opened her eyes and beheld her lover, who had watched over her dream of fate, and who had saved her.

Manon also had slept well, dreaming or not, and was startled in the morning to find that she waked surrounded by a crowd. The little desolate chapel was hung with tapestry—the altar adorned with golden chalices—the priest was chanting mass to a goodly array of kneeling knights. Manon saw that King Henry was there; and she looked for another whom she found not, when the iron door of the cavern passage opened, and Gaspar de Vaudemont entered from it, leading the fair form of Constance; who, in her white robes and dark dishevelled hair, with a face in which smiles and blushes contended with deeper emotion, approached the altar, and, kneeling with her lover, pronounced the vows that united them for ever.

It was long before the happy Gaspar could win from his lady the secret of her dream. In spite of the happiness she now enjoyed, she had suffered too much not to look back even with terror to those days when she thought love a crime, and every event connected with them wore an awful aspect. “Many a vision,” she said, “she had that fearful night. She had seen the spirits of her father and brothers in Paradise; she had beheld Gaspar victoriously combating among the infidels; she had beheld him in King Henry’s court, favoured and beloved; and she herself—now pining in a cloister, now a bride, now grateful to Heaven for the full measure of bliss presented to her, now weeping away her sad days—till suddenly she thought herself in Paynim land; and the saint herself, St Catherine, guiding her unseen through the city of the infidels. She entered a palace, and beheld the miscreants rejoicing in victory; and then, descending to the dungeons beneath, they groped their way through damp vaults, and low, mildewed passages, to one cell, darker and more frightful than the rest. On the floor lay one with soiled and tattered garments, with unkempt locks and wild, matted beard. His cheek was worn and thin; his eyes had lost their fire; his form was a mere skeleton; the chains hung loosely on the fleshless bones.”

“And was it my appearance in that attractive state and winning costume that softened the hard heart of Constance!” asked Gaspar, smiling at this painting of what would never be.

“Even so,” replied Constance; “for my heart whispered me that this was my doing; and who could recall the life that waned in your pulses—who restore, save the destroyer! My heart never warmed to my living, happy knight as then it did to his wasted image as it lay, in the visions of night, at my feet. A veil fell from my eyes; a darkness was dispelled from before me. Methought I then knew for the first time what life and what death was. I was bid believe that to make the living happy was not to injure the dead; and I felt how wicked and how vain was that false philosophy which placed virtue and good in hatred and unkindness. You should not die; I would loosen your chains and save you, and bid you live for love. I sprung forward, and the death I deprecated for you would, in my presumption, have been mine,—then, when first I felt the real value of life,—but that your arm was there to save me, your dear voice to bid me be blest for evermore.”

The Dream was published in Tales and Stories by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley (1891)

Mary Shelley
(1797 – 1851)
The Dream

•fleursdumal.nl magazine

More in: Archive S-T, Mary Shelley, Shelley, Mary, Tales of Mystery & Imagination


Saki: The Background (short story)

The Background

“That woman’s art-jargon tires me,” said Clovis to his journalist friend. “She’s so fond of talking of certain pictures as ‘growing on one,’ as though they were a sort of fungus.”

“That reminds me,” said the journalist, “of the story of Henri Deplis. Have I ever told it you?”

Clovis shook his head.

“Henri Deplis was by birth a native of the Grand Duchy of Luxemburg. On maturer reflection he became a commercial traveller. His business activities frequently took him beyond the limits of the Grand Duchy, and he was stopping in a small town of Northern Italy when news reached him from home that a legacy from a distant and deceased relative had fallen to his share.

“It was not a large legacy, even from the modest standpoint of Henri Deplis, but it impelled him towards some seemingly harmless extravagances. In particular it led him to patronize local art as represented by the tattoo-needles of Signor Andreas Pincini. Signor Pincini was, perhaps, the most brilliant master of tattoo craft that Italy had ever known, but his circumstances were decidedly impoverished, and for the sum of six hundred francs he gladly undertook to cover his client’s back, from the collar-bone down to the waistline, with a glowing representation of the Fall of Icarus. The design, when finally developed, was a slight disappointment to Monsieur Deplis, who had suspected Icarus of being a fortress taken by Wallenstein in the Thirty Years’ War, but he was more than satisfied with the execution of the work, which was acclaimed by all who had the privilege of seeing it as Pincini’s masterpiece.

“It was his greatest effort, and his last. Without even waiting to be paid, the illustrious craftsman departed this life, and was buried under an ornate tombstone, whose winged cherubs would have afforded singularly little scope for the exercise of his favourite art. There remained, however, the widow Pincini, to whom the six hundred francs were due. And thereupon arose the great crisis in the life of Henri Deplis, traveller of commerce. The legacy, under the stress of numerous little calls on its substance, had dwindled to very insignificant proportions, and when a pressing wine bill and sundry other current accounts had been paid, there remained little more than 430 francs to offer to the widow. The lady was properly indignant, not wholly, as she volubly explained, on account of the suggested writing-off of 170 francs, but also at the attempt to depreciate the value of her late husband’s acknowledged masterpiece. In a week’s time Deplis was obliged to reduce his offer to 405 francs, which circumstance fanned the widow’s indignation into a fury. She cancelled the sale of the work of art, and a few days later Deplis learned with a sense of consternation that she had presented it to the municipality of Bergamo, which had gratefully accepted it. He left the neighbourhood as unobtrusively as possible, and was genuinely relieved when his business commands took him to Rome, where he hoped his identity and that of the famous picture might be lost sight of.

“But he bore on his back the burden of the dead man’s genius. On presenting himself one day in the steaming corridor of a vapour bath, he was at once hustled back into his clothes by the proprietor, who was a North Italian, and who emphatically refused to allow the celebrated Fall of Icarus to be publicly on view without the permission of the municipality of Bergamo. Public interest and official vigilance increased as the matter became more widely known, and Deplis was unable to take a simple dip in the sea or river on the hottest afternoon unless clothed up to the collarbone in a substantial bathing garment. Later on the authorities of Bergamo, conceived the idea that salt water might be injurious to the masterpiece, and a perpetual injunction was obtained which debarred the muchly harassed commercial traveller from sea bathing under any circumstances. Altogether, he was fervently thankful when his firm of employers found him a new range of activities in the neighbourhood of Bordeaux. His thankfulness, however, ceased abruptly at the Franco–Italian frontier. An imposing array of official force barred his departure, and he was sternly reminded of the stringent law which forbids the exportation of Italian works of art.

“A diplomatic parley ensued between the Luxemburgian and Italian Governments, and at one time the European situation became overcast with the possibilities of trouble. But the Italian Government stood firm; it declined to concern itself in the least with the fortunes or even the existence of Henri Deplis, commercial traveller, but was immovable in its decision that the Fall of Icarus (by the late Pincini, Andreas) at present the property of the municipality of Bergamo, should not leave the country.

“The excitement died down in time, but the unfortunate Deplis, who was of a constitutionally retiring disposition, found himself a few months later, once more the storm-centre of a furious controversy. A certain German art expert, who had obtained from the municipality of Bergamo permission to inspect the famous masterpiece, declared it to be a spurious Pincini, probably the work of some pupil whom he had employed in his declining years. The evidence of Deplis on the subject was obviously worthless, as he had been under the influence of the customary narcotics during the long process of pricking in the design. The editor of an Italian art journal refuted the contentions of the German expert and undertook to prove that his private life did not conform to any modern standard of decency. The whole of Italy and Germany were drawn into the dispute, and the rest of Europe was soon involved in the quarrel. There were stormy scenes in the Spanish Parliament, and the University of Copenhagen bestowed a gold medal on the German expert (afterwards sending a commission to examine his proofs on the spot), while two Polish schoolboys in Paris committed suicide to show what THEY thought of the matter.

“Meanwhile, the unhappy human background fared no better than before, and it was not surprising that he drifted into the ranks of Italian anarchists. Four times at least he was escorted to the frontier as a dangerous and undesirable foreigner, but he was always brought back as the Fall of Icarus (attributed to Pincini, Andreas, early Twentieth Century). And then one day, at an anarchist congress at Genoa, a fellow-worker, in the heat of debate, broke a phial full of corrosive liquid over his back. The red shirt that he was wearing mitigated the effects, but the Icarus was ruined beyond recognition. His assailant was severely reprimanded for assaulting a fellow-anarchist and received seven years’ imprisonment for defacing a national art treasure. As soon as he was able to leave the hospital Henri Deplis was put across the frontier as an undesirable alien.

“In the quieter streets of Paris, especially in the neighbourhood of the Ministry of Fine Arts, you may sometimes meet a depressed, anxious-looking man, who, if you pass him the time of day, will answer you with a slight Luxemburgian accent. He nurses the illusion that he is one of the lost arms of the Venus de Milo, and hopes that the French Government may be persuaded to buy him. On all other subjects I believe he is tolerably sane.”

The Background
From ‘The Chronicles of Clovis’
by Saki (H. H. Munro)
(1870 – 1916)

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