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Part. 02

2. 6. 2019

dr jekyll and mr hyde
the balance of my soul. And yet I was not alarmed; the fall seemed
natural, like a return to the old days before I had made my discovery.
It was a fine, clear, January day, wet under foot where the frost had
melted, but cloudless overhead; and the Regent’s Park⁵ was full of
winter chirruppings and sweet with Spring odours. I sat in the sun on
a bench; the animal within me licking the chops of memory; the
spiritual side a little drowsed, promising subsequent penitence, but
not yet moved to begin. After all, I reflected I was like my neighbours;
and then I smiled, comparing myself with other men, comparing my
active goodwill with the lazy cruelty of their neglect. And at the very
moment of that vainglorious thought, a qualm came over me, a horrid
nausea and the most deadly shuddering. These passed away, and left
me faint; and then as in its turn the faintness subsided, I began to be
aware of a change in the temper of my thoughts, a greater boldness,
a contempt of danger, a solution of the bonds of obligation. I looked
down; my clothes hung formlessly on my shrunken limbs; the hand
that lay on my knee was corded and hairy. I was once more Edward
Hyde. A moment before I had been safe of all men’s respect, wealthy,
beloved – the cloth laying for me in the dining room at home; and
now I was the common quarry of mankind, hunted, houseless, a
known murderer, thrall to the gallows.
My reason wavered, but it did not fail me utterly. I have more than
once observed that, in my second character, my faculties seemed
sharpened to a point and my spirits more tensely elastic; thus it came
about that, where Jekyll perhaps might have succumbed, Hyde rose
to the importance of the moment. My drugs were in one of the presses
of my cabinet; how was I to reach them? That was the problem that
(crushing my temples in my hands) I set myself to solve. The laboratory
door I had closed. If I sought to enter by the house, my own servants
would consign me to the gallows. I saw I must employ another hand,
and thought of Lanyon. How was he to be reached? how persuaded?
Supposing that I escaped capture in the streets, how was I to make
my way into his presence? and how should I, an unknown and
displeasing visitor, prevail on the famous physician to rifle the study
of his colleague, Dr Jekyll? Then I remembered that of my original
character, one part remained to me: I could write my own hand; and
henry jekyll’s full statement of the case
once I had conceived that kindling spark, the way that I must follow
became lighted up from end to end.
Thereupon, I arranged my clothes as best I could, and summoning
a passing hansom, drove to an hotel in Portland Street,⁶ the name of
which I chanced to remember. At my appearance (which was indeed
comical enough, however tragic a fate these garments covered) the
driver could not conceal his mirth. I gnashed my teeth upon him with
a gust of devilish fury; and the smile withered from his face – happily
for him – yet more happily for myself, for in another instant I had
certainly dragged him from his perch. At the inn, as I entered, I looked
about me with so black a countenance as made the attendants tremble;
not a look did they exchange in my presence; but obsequiously took
my orders, led me to a private room, and brought me wherewithal to
write. Hyde in danger of his life was a creature new to me: shaken
with inordinate anger, strung to the pitch of murder, lusting to inflict
pain. Yet the creature was astute; mastered his fury with a great effort
of the will; composed his two important letters, one to Lanyon and
one to Poole; and that he might receive actual evidence of their being
posted, sent them out with directions that they should be registered.
Thenceforward, he sat all day over the fire in the private room,
gnawing his nails; there he dined, sitting alone with his fears, the
waiter visibly quailing before his eye; and thence, when the night was
fully come, he set forth in the corner of a closed cab, and was driven
to and fro about the streets of the city. He, I say – I cannot say, I. That
child of Hell had nothing human; nothing lived in him but fear and
hatred. And when at last, thinking the driver had begun to grow
suspicious, he discharged the cab and ventured on foot, attired in his
misfitting clothes, an object marked out for observation, into the midst
of the nocturnal passengers, these two base passions raged within him
like a tempest. He walked fast, hunted by his fears, chattering to
himself, skulking through the less frequented thoroughfares, counting
the minutes that still divided him from midnight. Once a woman
spoke to him, offering, I think, a box of lights. He smote her in the
face, and she fled.
When I came to myself at Lanyon’s, the horror of my old friend
perhaps affected me somewhat: I do not know; it was at least but a
dr jekyll and mr hyde
drop in the sea to the abhorrence with which I looked back upon these
hours. A change had come over me. It was no longer the fear of the
gallows, it was the horror of being Hyde that racked me. I received
Lanyon’s condemnation partly in a dream; it was partly in a dream
that I came home to my own house and got into bed. I slept after the
prostration of the day, with a stringent and profound slumber which
not even the nightmares that wrung me could avail to break. I awoke
in the morning shaken, weakened, but refreshed. I still hated and
feared the thought of the brute that slept within me, and I had not of
course forgotten the appalling dangers of the day before; but I was
once more at home, in my own house and close to my drugs; and
gratitude for my escape shone so strong in my soul that it almost
rivalled the brightness of hope.
I was stepping leisurely across the court after breakfast, drinking
the chill of the air with pleasure, when I was seized again with those
indescribable sensations that heralded the change; and I had but the
time to gain the shelter of my cabinet, before I was once again raging
and freezing with the passions of Hyde. It took on this occasion a
double dose to recall me to myself; and alas, six hours after, as I sat
looking sadly in the fire, the pangs returned, and the drug had to be
readministered. In short, from that day forth it seemed only by a great
effort as of gymnastics, and only under the immediate stimulation of
the drug, that I was able to wear the countenance of Jekyll. At all
hours of the day and night, I would be taken with the premonitory
shudder; above all, if I slept, or even dozed for a moment in my chair,
it was always as Hyde that I awakened. Under the strain of this
continually impending doom and by the sleeplessness to which I now
condemned myself, ay, even beyond what I had thought possible to
man, I became, in my own person, a creature eaten up and emptied
by fever, languidly weak both in both and mind, and solely occupied
by one thought: the horror of my other self. But when I slept, or when
the virtue of the medicine wore off, I would leap almost without
transition (for the pangs of transformation grew daily less marked) into
the possession of a fancy brimming with images of terror, a soul boiling
with causeless hatreds, and a body that seemed not strong enough to
contain the raging energies of life. The powers of Hyde seemed to
henry jekyll’s full statement of the case
have grown with the sickliness of Jekyll. And certainly the hate that
now divided them was equal on each side. With Jekyll, it was a thing
of vital instinct. He had now seen the full deformity of that creature
that shared with him some of the phenomena of consciousness, and
was co-heir with him to death: and beyond these links of community,
which in themselves made the most poignant part of his distress, he
thought of Hyde, for all his energy of life, as of something not only
hellish but inorganic. This was the shocking thing; that the slime of
the pit seemed to utter cries and voices; that the amorphous dust
gesticulated and sinned; that what was dead, and had no shape, would
usurp the offices of life. And this again, that that insurgent horror was
knit to him closer than a wife, closer than an eye; lay caged in his
flesh, where he heard it mutter and felt it struggle to be born; and at
every hour of weakness, and in the confidence of slumber, prevailed
against him, and deposed him out of life. The hatred of Hyde for
Jekyll, was of a different order. His terror of the gallows drove him
continually to commit temporary suicide, and return to his subordinate
station of a part instead of a person; but he loathed the necessity, he
loathed the despondency into which Jekyll was now fallen, and he
resented the dislike with which he was himself regarded. Hence the
ape-like tricks that he would play me, scrawling in my own hand
blasphemies on the pages of my books, burning the letters and
destroying the portrait of my father; and indeed, had it not been for
his fear of death, he would long ago have ruined himself in order to
involve me in the ruin. But his love of life is wonderful; I go further: I,
who sicken and freeze at the mere thought of him, when I recall the
abjection and passion of this attachment, and when I know how he
fears my power to cut him off by suicide, I find it in my heart to pity
It is useless, and the time awfully fails me, to prolong this description;
no one has ever suffered such torments, let that suffice; and yet even
to these, habit brought – no, not alleviation – but a certain callousness
of soul, a certain acquiescence of despair; and my punishment might
have gone on for years, but for the last calamity which has now fallen,
and which has finally severed me from my own face and nature. My
provision of the salt, which had never been renewed since the date of
dr jekyll and mr hyde
the first experiment, began to run low. I sent out for a fresh supply,
and mixed the draught; the ebullition followed, and the first change
of colour, not the second; I drank it and it was without efficiency. You
will learn from Poole how I have had London ransacked; it was in
vain; and I am now persuaded that my first supply was impure, and
that it was that unknown impurity which lent efficacy to the draught.
About a week has passed, and I am now finishing this statement
under the influence of the last of the old powders. This, then, is the
last time, short of a miracle, that Henry Jekyll can think his own
thoughts or see his own face (now how sadly altered!) in the glass. Nor
must I delay too long to bring my writing to an end; for if my narrative
has hitherto escaped destruction, it has been by a combination of great
prudence and great good luck. Should the throes of change take me
in the act of writing it, Hyde will tear it in pieces; but if some time
shall have elapsed after I have laid it by, his wonderful selfishness and
circumscription to the moment will probably save it once again from
the action of his ape-like spite. And indeed the doom that is closing
on us both, has already changed and crushed him. Half an hour from
now, when I shall again and forever reindue that hated personality, I
know how I shall sit shuddering and weeping in my chair, or continue,
with the most strained and fearstruck ecstasy of listening, to pace up
and down this room (my last earthly refuge) and give ear to every
sound of menace. Will Hyde die upon the scaffold? or will he find the
courage to release himself at the last moment? God knows; I am
careless; this is my true hour of death, and what is to follow concerns
another than myself. Here then, as I lay down the pen and proceed to
seal up my confession, I bring the life of that unhappy Henry Jekyll to
an end.
  

The Body Snatcher
Every night in the year, four of us sat together in the small parlour of
the George, at Debenham; the undertaker, and the landlord, and
Fettes, and myself. Sometimes there would be more; but blow high,
blow low, come rain, or snow, or frost, we four would be each planted
in his own particular armchair. Fettes was an old drunken Scotchman,
a man of education obviously, and a man of some property; since he
lived in idleness. He had come to Debenham years ago, while still
young; and by mere continuance of living had grown to be an adopted
townsman. His blue camlet cloak¹ was a local antiquity, like the church
spire. His place in the parlour at the George, his absence from church,
his old, crapulous, disreputable vices, were all things of course in
Debenham. He had some vague Radical opinions and some fleeting
infidelities, which he would now and again set forth and emphasize
with tottering slaps upon the table. He drank rum – five glasses
regularly every evening; and for the greater portion of his nightly visit
to the George sat, with his glass in his right hand, in a state of
melancholy, alcoholic saturation. We called him the Doctor; for he
was supposed to have some special knowledge of medicine, and had
been known, upon a pinch, to set a fracture or reduce a dislocation;
but beyond these slight particulars, we had no knowledge of his
character and antecedents.
One dark winter night, it had struck nine some time before the
landlord joined us. There was a sick man in the George, a great
neighbouring proprietor suddenly struck down with apoplexy on his
way to Parliament; and the great man’s still greater London doctor
had been telegraphed to his bedside. It was the first time such a thing
the body snatcher
had happened in Debenham, for the railway was but newly open, and
we were all proportionately moved by the occurrence.
‘He’s come,’ said the landlord, after he had filled and lighted his
‘He?’ said I. ‘Who? – not the doctor?’
‘Himself,’ replied our host.
‘What is his name?’
‘Dr Macfarlane,’ said the landlord.
Fettes was far through his third tumbler, stupidly fuddled, now
nodding over, now staring mazily around him; but at the last word he
seemed to awaken, and repeated the name ‘Macfarlane’ twice, quietly
enough the first time, but with a sudden emotion at the second.
‘Yes,’ said the landlord, ‘that’s his name, Doctor Wolfe Macfarlane.’
Fettes became instantly sober; his eyes awoke, his voice became
clear, loud, and steady, his language forcible and earnest; we were all
startled by the transformation, as if a man had risen from the dead.²
‘I beg your pardon,’ he said; ‘I am afraid I have not been paying
much attention to your talk. Who is this Wolfe Macfarlane?’ And
then, when he had heard the landlord out, ‘It cannot be, it cannot be,’
he added; ‘and yet I would like well to see him face to face.’
‘Do you know him, Doctor?’ asked the undertaker, with a gasp.
‘God forbid,’ was the reply. ‘And yet the name is a strange one; it
were too much to fancy two. Tell me, landlord, is he old?’
‘Well,’ said the host, ‘he’s not a young man, to be sure, and his hair
is white; but he looks younger than you.’
‘He is older, though; years older. But’ – with a slap upon the table
– ‘it’s the rum you see in my face, rum and sin.³ This man, perhaps,
may have an easy conscience and a good digestion. Conscience! hear
me speak. You would think I was some good, old, decent Christian,
would you not? But no, not I; I never canted. Voltaire might have
canted⁴ if he’d stood in my shoes; but the brains’ – with a rattling fillip
on his bald head – ‘the brains were clear and active; and I saw and I
made no deductions.’
‘If you know this doctor,’ I ventured to remark after a somewhat
awful pause, ‘I should gather that you do not share the landlord’s
good opinion.’
the body snatcher
Fettes paid no regard to me. ‘Yes,’ he said, with sudden decision, ‘I
must see him face to face.’
There was another pause, and then a door was closed rather sharply
on the first floor and a step was heard upon the stair.
‘That’s the doctor,’ cried the landlord; ‘look sharp, and you can
catch him.’
It was but two steps from the small parlour to the door of the old
George inn; the wide oak staircase landed almost in the street; there
was room for a Turkey rug and nothing more between the threshold
and the last round of the descent; but this little space was every evening
brilliantly lit up, not only by the light upon the stair and the great
signal lamp below the sign, but by the warm radiance of the bar-room
window. The George thus brightly advertised itself to passers-by in
the cold street. Fettes walked steadily to the spot, and we, who were
hanging behind, beheld the two men meet, as one of them had phrased
it, face to face. Dr Macfarlane was alert and vigorous. His white hair
set off his pale and placid although energetic countenance; he was
richly dressed in the finest of broadcloth and the whitest of linen, with
a great gold watch chain and studs and spectacles of the same precious
material; he wore a broad folded tie, white and speckled with lilac,
and he carried on his arm a comfortable driving-coat of fur. There
was no doubt but he became his years, breathing, as he did, of wealth
and consideration; and it was a surprising contrast to see our parlour
sot, bald, dirty, pimpled, and robed in his old camlet cloak, confront
him at the bottom of the stairs.
‘Macfarlane,’ he said, somewhat loudly, more like a herald than a
The great doctor pulled up short on the fourth step, as though the
familiarity of the address surprised and somewhat shocked his dignity.
‘Toddy Macfarlane,’ repeated Fettes.
The London man almost staggered; he stared for the swiftest of
seconds at the man before him, glanced behind him with a sort of
scare, and then in a startled whisper, ‘Fettes!’ he said, ‘you!’
‘Ay,’ said the other, ‘me. Did you think I was dead, too? We are not
so easy shot of our acquaintance.’
‘Hush, hush!’ exclaimed the Doctor. ‘Hush, hush! this meeting is so
the body snatcher
unexpected – I can see you are unmanned. I hardly knew you, I
confess, at first; but Iamoverjoyed, overjoyed, to have this opportunity.
For the present it must be how-d’ye-do and good-bye in one; for my
fly⁵ is waiting, and I must not fail the train; but you shall – let me see
– yes – you shall give me your address, and you can count on early
news of me. We must do something for you, Fettes; I fear you are out
at elbows; but we must see to that – for auld lang syne, as once we
sang at suppers.’
‘Money!’ cried Fettes; ‘money from you! The money that I had of
you is lying where I cast it in the rain.’
Dr Macfarlane had talked himself into some measure of superiority
and confidence; but the uncommon energy of this refusal cast him
back into his first confusion. A horrible, ugly look came and went
across his almost venerable countenance. ‘My dear fellow,’ he said,
‘be it as you please; my last thought is to offend you. I would intrude
on none. I will leave you my address, however – ’
‘I do not wish it; I do not wish to know the roof that shelters you,’
interrupted the other. ‘I heard your name; I feared it might be you; I
wished to know if, after all, there were a God; I know now that there
is none. Begone!’
He still stood in the middle of the rug, between the stair and
doorway; and the great London physician, in order to escape, would
be forced to step upon one side. It was plain that he hesitated before
the thought of this humiliation. White as he was, there was a dangerous
glitter in his spectacles; but while he still paused uncertain he became
aware that the driver of his fly was peering in from the street at this
unusual scene, and caught a glimpse at the same time of our little
body from the parlour, huddled by the corner of the bar. The presence
of so many witnesses decided him at once to flee. He crouched
together, brushing on the wainscot, and made a dart, like a serpent,
striking for the door. But his tribulation was not yet entirely at an end;
for even as he was passing Fettes clutched him by the arm, and these
words came in a whisper, and yet painfully distinct, ‘Have you seen it
The great, rich London doctor cried out aloud with a sharp, throttling
cry; he dashed his questioner across the open space, and, with his
the body snatcher
hands over his head, fled out of the door like a detected thief. Before
it had occurred to one of us to make a movement the fly was already
rattling towards the station. The scene was over like a dream; but the
dream had left proofs and traces of its passage. Next day the servant
found the fine gold spectacles crushed and broken on the threshold,
and that very night were we not all standing breathless by the barroom
window, and Fettes at our side, sober, pale, and resolute in
‘God protect us, Mr Fettes!’ said the landlord, coming first into
possession of his customary senses. ‘What in the universe is all this?
These are strange things you have been saying.’
Fettes turned towards us: he looked us each in succession in the face.
‘See if you can hold your tongues,’ said he. ‘That man, Macfarlane, is
not safe to cross; those that have done so already, have repented it too
And then, without so much as finishing his third glass, far less
waiting for the other two, he bade us a good-bye and went forth,
under the lamp of the hotel, into the black night.
We three returned to our places in the parlour, with the big red fire
and four clear candles; and as we recapitulated what had passed the
first chill of our surprise soon changed into a glow of curiosity. We sat
late; it was the latest session I have known in the old George; each
man, before we parted, had his theory that he was bound to prove;
and none of us had any nearer business in this world than to track out
the past of our contemned companion, and surprise the secret that he
shared with the great London doctor. It is no great boast; but I believe
I was a better hand at worming out a story than either of my fellows
at the George; and perhaps there is now no other man alive who could
narrate to you the following foul and unnatural events:
In his young days Fettes studied medicine in the schools of Edinburgh.
He had talent of a kind, the talent that picks up swiftly what it hears
and readily retails it for its own. He worked little at home; but he was
civil, attentive, and intelligent in the presence of his masters. They
soon picked him out as a lad who listened closely and remembered
well; nay, strange as it seemed to me when first I heard it, he was in
the body snatcher
those days well favoured and pleased by his exterior. There was, at
this period, a certain extramural teacher of anatomy, whom I shall
here designate by the letter K—. His name was subsequently too well
known. The man who bore it skulked through the streets of Edinburgh
in disguise, while the mob that applauded at the execution of Burke
called loudly for the blood of his employer.⁶ But Mr K— was then at
the top of his vogue; he enjoyed a popularity due partly to his own
talent and address, partly to the incapacity of his rival, the university
professor. The students, at least, swore by his name, and Fettes believed
himself, and was believed by others, to have laid the foundations of
success when he had acquired the favour of this meteorically famous
man. Mr K— was a bon vivant as well as an accomplished teacher; he
liked a sly allusion no less than a careful preparation. In both capacities
Fettes enjoyed and deserved his notice, and by the second year of his
attendance he held the half-irregular position of second demonstrator
or sub-assistant in the class.
In this capacity, the charge of the theatre and lecture-room devolved
in particular upon his shoulders; he had to answer for the cleanliness
of the premises and the conduct of the other students; and it was a
part of his duty to supply, receive, and divide the various subjects.⁷ It
was with a view to this last – at that time very delicate – affair that he
was lodged by Mr K— in the same wynd,⁸ and at last in the same
building, with the dissecting rooms. Here, after a night of turbulent
pleasures, his hand still tottering, his sight still misty and confused, he
would be called out of bed in the black hours before the winter dawn
by the unclean and desperate interlopers who supplied the table; he
would open the door to these men, since infamous throughout the
land; he would help them with their tragic burden, pay them their
sordid price, and remain alone when they were gone with the
unfriended relics of humanity. From such a scene he would return to
snatch another hour or two of slumber, to repair the abuses of the
night and refresh himself for the labours of the day.
Few lads could have been more insensible to the impressions of a
life thus passed among the ensigns of mortality. His mind was closed
against all general considerations; he was incapable of interest in the
fate and fortunes of another, the slave of his own desires and low
the body snatcher
ambitions. Cold, light, and selfish in the last resort, he had that
modicum of prudence, miscalled morality, which keeps a man from
inconvenient drunkenness or punishable theft. He coveted besides a
measure of consideration from his masters and his fellow-pupils, and
he had no desire to fail conspicuously in the external parts of life. Thus
he made it his pleasure to gain some distinction in his studies, and day
after day rendered unimpeachable eye service to his employer, Mr
K—. For his day of work he indemnified himself by nights of roaring
blackguardly enjoyment;⁹ and, when that balance had been struck,
the organ that he called his conscience declared itself content.
The supply of subjects was a continual trouble to him as well as to
his master. In that large and busy class, the raw material of the
anatomists kept perpetually running out; and the business thus
rendered necessary was not only unpleasant in itself, but threatened
dangerous consequences to all who were concerned. It was the policy
of Mr K— to ask no question in his dealings with the trade. ‘They
bring the body, and we pay the price,’ he used to say – dwelling on
the alliteration – ‘quid pro quo.’¹⁰ And again, and somewhat profanely,
‘Ask no questions,’ he would tell his assistants, ‘for conscience’s sake.’
There was no understanding that the subjects were provided by the
crime of murder; had that idea been broached to him in words he
would have recoiled in horror; but the lightness of his speech upon so
grave a matter was, in itself, an offence against good manners, and a
temptation to the men with whom he dealt. Fettes, for instance, had
often remarked to himself upon the singular freshness of the bodies;
he had been struck again and again by the hangdog, abominable looks
of the ruffians who came to him before the dawn; and, putting
things together clearly in his private thoughts, he perhaps attributed
a meaning too immoral and too categorical to the unguarded counsels
of his master. He understood his duty, in short, to have three branches:
to take what was brought, to pay the price, and to avert the eye from
any evidence of crime.
One November morning this policy of silence was put sharply to
the test. He had been awake all night with racking toothache – pacing
his room like a caged beast, or throwing himself in fury on his bed –
and had fallen at last into that profound, uneasy slumber that so often
the body snatcher
follows on a night of pain, when he was awakened by the third or
fourth angry repetition of the concerted signal. There was a thin,
bright moonshine; it was bitter cold, windy, and frosty; the town had
not yet awakened, but an indefinable stir already preluded the noise
and business of the day. The ghouls¹¹ had come later than usual, and
they seemed more than usually eager to be gone. Fettes, sick with
sleep, lighted them upstairs; he heard their grumbling Irish voices
through a dream; as they stripped the sack from their sad merchandise,
he leaned, dozing, with his shoulder propped against the wall. He had
to shake himself to find the men their money. As he did so his eyes
lighted on the dead face. He started; he took two steps nearer, with
the candle raised.
‘God Almighty,’ he cried, ‘that is Jane Galbraith!’¹²
The men answered nothing, but they shuffled nearer towards the
‘I know her, I tell you,’ he continued. ‘She was alive and hearty
yesterday. It’s impossible she can be dead; it’s impossible you should
have got this body fairly.’
‘Sure, sir, you’re mistaken entirely,’ said one of the men.
But the other looked Fettes darkly in the eyes, and demanded his
money on the spot.
It was impossible to misconceive the threat or to exaggerate the
danger. The lad’s heart failed him; he stammered some excuses,
counted out the sum, and saw his hateful visitors depart. No sooner
were they gone than he hastened to confirm his doubts; by a dozen
unquestionable marks he identified the girl he had jested with the day
before; he saw with horror, marks upon her body that might well
betoken violence. A panic seized him, and he took refuge in his room.
There he reflected at length over the discovery that he had made;
considered soberly the bearing of Mr K—’s instructions, and the
danger to himself of interference in so serious a business; and at last,
in sore perplexity, determined to wait for the advice of his immediate
superior, the class assistant.
This was a young doctor, Wolfe Macfarlane, a high favourite among
all the reckless students, clever, dissipated, and unscrupulous to the
last degree. He had travelled and studied abroad; his manners were
the body snatcher
agreeable and a little forward; he was an authority upon the stage,
skilful on the ice or the links with skate or golf club; he dressed with
nice audacity, and, to put the finishing touch upon his glory, he kept
a gig and a strong, trotting horse. With Fettes he was on terms of
intimacy; indeed, their relative positions called for some community
of life; and when subjects were scarce, the pair would drive far
into the country in Macfarlane’s gig, visit and desecrate some lonely
graveyard, and return before dawn with their booty to the door of the
dissecting room.
On that particular morning Macfarlane arrived somewhat earlier
than his wont. Fettes heard him, and met him on the stairs, told him
his story, and showed him the cause of his alarm. Macfarlane examined
the ecchymoses.
‘Yes,’ he said with a nod, ‘it looks fishy.’
‘Well, what should I do?’ asked Fettes.
‘Do?’ repeated the other. ‘Do you want to do anything? Least said,
soonest mended, I should say.’
‘Someone else might recognize her,’ objected Fettes. ‘She was as
well known as the Castle Rock.’
‘We’ll hope not,’ said Macfarlane, ‘and if anybody does – well, you
didn’t, don’t you see, and there’s an end. The fact is, this has been
going on too long. Stir up the mud, and you’ll get K— into the most
unholy trouble; you’ll be in a shocking box yourself, so will I, if you
come to that. I should like to know how anyone of us would look, or
what the devil we should have to say for ourselves, in any Christian
witness-box. For me, you know, there’s one thing certain; that, practically
speaking, all our subjects have been murdered.’
‘Macfarlane!’ cried Fettes.
‘Come now!’ sneered the other. ‘As if you hadn’t suspected it
yourself !’
‘Suspecting is one thing – ’
‘And proof another. Yes, I know; and I’m as sorry as you are this
should have come here,’ tapping the body with his cane. ‘The next
best thing for me is not to recognize it; and,’ he added coolly, ‘I don’t.
You may, if you please. I don’t dictate, but I think a man of the world
would do as I do; and I may add I fancy that is what K—would look
the body snatcher
for at our hands. The question is, why did he choose us two for his
assistants? And I answer, because he didn’t want old wives.’
This was the tone of all others to affect the mind of a lad like Fettes;
he agreed to imitate Macfarlane; the body of the unfortunate girl was
duly dissected, and no one remarked or appeared to recognize her.
One afternoon, when his day’s work was over, Fettes dropped into
a popular tavern, and found Macfarlane sitting with a stranger. This
was a small man, very pale and dark, with cold black eyes. The cut of
his features gave a promise of intellect and refinement which was
but feebly realized in his manners; for he proved, upon a nearer
acquaintance, coarse, vulgar and stupid. He exercised, however, a
very remarkable control over Macfarlane; issued orders like the Great
Bashaw¹³ became inflamed at the least discussion or delay, and commented
rudely on the servility with which he was obeyed. This most
offensive person took a fancy to Fettes on the spot, plied him with
drinks, and honoured him with unusual confidences on his past career.
If a tenth part of what he confessed were true, he was a very loathsome
rogue; and the lad’s vanity was tickled by the attention of so experienced
a man.
‘I’m a pretty bad fellow myself,’ the stranger remarked; ‘but Macfarlane
is the boy – Toddy Macfarlane, I call him. Toddy, order your
friend another glass.’ Or it might be, ‘Toddy, you jump up and shut
that door.’ ‘Toddy hates me,’ he said again; ‘oh, yes, Toddy, you do.’
‘Don’t you call me that confounded name,’ growled Macfarlane.
‘Hear him! Did you ever see the lads play knife? He would like to
do that all over my body,’ remarked the stranger.
‘We medicals have a better way than that,’ said Fettes. ‘When we
dislike a dear friend of ours, we dissect him.’
Macfarlane looked up sharply, as though this jest were scarcely to
his mind.
The afternoon passed. Gray, for that was the stranger’s name,
invited Fettes to join them at dinner, ordered a feast so sumptuous
that the tavern was thrown into commotion; and when all was done
commanded Macfarlane to settle the bill. It was late before they
separated; the man Gray was incapably drunk; Macfarlane, sobered
by his fury, chewed the end of the money he had been forced to
the body snatcher
squander and the slights he had been obliged to swallow; Fettes,
with various liquors singing in his head, returned home with devious
footsteps and a mind entirely in abeyance. Next day Macfarlane was
absent from the class; and Fettes smiled to himself as he imagined him
still squiring the intolerable Gray from tavern to tavern. As soon as
the hour of liberty had struck, he posted from place to place in quest
of his last night’s companions; he could find them, however, nowhere,
returned early to his rooms, went early to bed, and slept the sleep of
the just.
At four in the morning he was wakened by the well-known signal.
Descending to the door, he was filled with astonishment to find
Macfarlane with his gig, and, in the gig, one of those long and ghastly
packages with which he was so well acquainted.
‘What?’ he cried. ‘Have you been out alone? How did you manage?’
But Macfarlane silenced him roughly, bidding him turn to business.
When they had got the body upstairs and laid it on the table, Macfarlane
made at first as if he were going away; then he paused and seemed
to hesitate; and then, ‘You had better look at the face,’ said he, in
tones of some constraint. ‘You had better,’ he repeated, as Fettes only
stared at him in wonder.
‘But where and how and when did you come by it?’ cried the other.
‘Look at the face,’ was the only answer.
Fettes was staggered; strange doubts assailed him; he looked from
the young doctor to the body, and then back again; at last with a start,
he did as he was bidden. He had almost expected the sight that met
his eyes, and yet the shock was cruel. To see, fixed in the rigidity of
death and naked on that coarse layer of sackcloth, the man whom he
had left well clad and full of meat and sin, upon the threshold of a
tavern, awoke, even in the thoughtless Fettes, some of the terrors of
the conscience. It was a cras tibi¹⁴ which re-echoed in his soul, that two
whom he had known should have come to lie upon these icy tables.
Yet these were only secondary thoughts. His first concern regarded
Wolfe. Unprepared for a challenge so momentous, he knew not how
to look his comrade in the face; he durst not meet his eye, and he had
neither words nor voice at his command.
It was Macfarlane himself who made the first advance. He came
the body snatcher
up quietly behind and laid his hand gently but firmly on the other’s
‘Richardson,’ said he, ‘may have the head.’
Now, Richardson was a student who had long been anxious for that
portion of the human subject to dissect. There was no answer, and
the murderer resumed: ‘Talking of business, you must pay me; your
accounts, you see, must tally.’
Fettes found a voice, the ghost of his own: ‘Pay you!’ he cried. ‘Pay
you for that!’
‘Why, yes, of course you must; by all means and on every possible
account you must,’ returned the other. ‘I dare not give it for nothing;
you dare not take it for nothing: it would compromise us both. This is
another case like Jane Galbraith’s; the more things are wrong, the
more we must act as if all were right. Where does old K— keep his
‘There,’ answered Fettes hoarsely, pointing to a cupboard in the
‘Give me the key, then,’ said the other calmly, holding out his hand.
There was an instant’s hesitation, and the die was cast. Macfarlane
could not suppress a nervous twitch, the infinitesimal mark of an
immense relief, as he felt the key between his fingers. He opened the
cupboard, brought out pen and ink and a paper book that stood in
one compartment, and separated from the funds in a drawer a sum
suitable to the occasion.
‘Now, look here,’ he said, ‘there is the payment made. First proof
of your good faith; first step to your security. You have now to clinch
it by a second. Enter the payment in your book, and then you for your
part may defy the devil.’
The next few seconds were for Fettes an agony of thought; but in
balancing his terrors it was the most immediate that triumphed. Any
future difficulty seemed almost welcome if he could avoid a present
quarrel with Macfarlane. He set down the candle which he had been
carrying all this time, and with a steady hand entered the date, the
nature, and the amount of the transaction.
‘And now,’ said Macfarlane, ‘it’s only fair that you should pocket
the lucre. I’ve had my share already. By-the-by, when a man of the
the body snatcher
world falls into a bit of luck, has a few extra shillings in his pocket –
I’m ashamed to speak of it, but there’s a rule of conduct in the case.
No treating, no purchase of expensive class-books, no squaring of old
debts; borrow, don’t lend.’
‘Macfarlane,’ began Fettes, still somewhat hoarsely, ‘I have put my
neck in a halter to oblige you.’
‘To oblige me?’ cried Wolfe. ‘Oh, come! You did, as near as I can
see the matter, what you downright had to do in self-defence. Suppose
I got into trouble, where would you be? This second little matter flows
clearly from the first; Mr Gray is the continuation of Miss Galbraith;
you can’t begin and then stop; if you begin, you must keep on
beginning; that’s the truth. No rest for the wicked.’
A horrible sense of blackness and the treachery of fate seized hold
upon the soul of the unhappy student.
‘My God!’ he cried, ‘but what have I done? and when did I begin?
To be made a class assistant – in the name of reason, where’s the
harm in that? Service wanted the position; Service might have got it.
Would he have been where I am now?’
‘My dear fellow,’ said Macfarlane, ‘what a boy you are! What harm
has come to you? What harm can come to you if you hold your tongue?
Why, man, do you know what this life is? There are two squads of us
– the lions and the lambs. If you’re a lamb, you’ll come to lie upon
these tables like Gray or Jane Galbraith; if you’re a lion, you’ll live
and drive a horse like me, like K—, like all the world with any wit or
courage. You’re staggered at the first. But look at K—! My dear
fellow, you’re clever, you have pluck. I like you, and K— likes you;
you were born to lead the hunt; and I tell you, on my honour and my
experience of life, three days from now you’ll laugh at all these
scarecrows like a high-school boy at a farce.’
And with that Macfarlane took his departure, and drove off up the
wynd in his gig to get under cover before daylight. Fettes was thus left
alone with his regrets. He saw the miserable peril in which he stood
involved; he saw, with inexpressible dismay, that there was no limit to
his weakness, and that, from concession to concession, he had fallen
from the arbiter of Macfarlane’s destiny to his paid and helpless
accomplice. He would have given the world to have been a little
the body snatcher
braver at the time, but it did not occur to him that he might still be
brave. The secret of Jane Galbraith and the cursed entry in the day
book closed his mouth.
Hours passed; the class began to arrive; the members of the unhappy
Gray were dealt out to one and to another, and received without
remark; Richardson was made happy with the head; and before the
hour of freedom rang Fettes trembled with exultation to perceive how
far they had already gone towards safety. For two days he continued
to watch, with increasing joy, the dreadful process of disguise. On the
third day Macfarlane made his appearance – he had been ill, he said;
but he made up for lost time by the energy with which he directed the
students; to Richardson, in particular, he extended the most valuable
assistance and advice, and that student, encouraged by the praise of
the demonstrator, burned high with ambitious hopes, and saw the
medal already in his grasp.
Before the week was out Macfarlane’s prophecy had been fulfilled.
Fettes had outlived his terrors and forgotten his abasement. He began
to plume himself upon his courage; and had so arranged the story in
his mind that he could look back on these events with an unhealthy
pride. Of his accomplice he saw but little. They met, of course, in the
business of the class; they received their orders together from MrK—;
at times they had a word or two in private, and Macfarlane was from
first to last particularly kind and jovial. But it was plain that he avoided
any reference to their common secret; and even when Fettes whispered
to him that he had cast in his lot with the lions and forsworn the lambs,
he only signed to him smilingly to hold his peace.
At length an occasion arose which threw the pair once more into a
closer union. Mr K— was again short of subjects; pupils were eager;
and it was a part of this teacher’s pretensions to be always well supplied.
At the same time there came the news of a burial in the rustic graveyard
of Glencorse. Time has little changed the place in question. It stood,
then as now, upon a cross road, out of call of human habitations, and
buried fathom deep in the foliage of six cedar trees. The cries of the
sheep upon the neighbouring hills, the streamlets upon either hand,
one loudly singing among pebbles, the other dripping furtively from
pond to pond, the stir of the wind in mountainous old flowering
the body snatcher
chestnuts, and, once in seven days, the voice of the bell and the old
tunes of the precentor,¹⁵ were the only sounds that disturbed the
silence round the rural church. The Resurrection Man – to use a
by-name of the period – was not to be deterred by any of the sanctities
of customary piety. It was part of his trade to despise and desecrate
the scrolls and trumpets of old tombs, the paths worn by the feet of
worshippers and mourners, and the offerings and the inscriptions of
bereaved affection. To rustic neighbourhoods, where love is more
than commonly tenacious, and where some bonds of blood or fellowship
unite the entire society of a parish, the body snatcher, far from
being repelled by natural respect, was attracted by the ease and safety
of his task. To bodies that had been laid in the earth in joyful
expectation of a far different awakening,¹⁶ there came that hasty,
lamp-lit, terror-haunted resurrection of the spade and mattock; the
coffin was forced, the cerements torn, and the melancholy relics, clad
in sackcloth, after being rattled for hours on moonless byways, were
at length exposed to uttermost indignities before a class of gaping
Somewhat as two vultures may swoop upon a dying lamb, Fettes
and Macfarlane were to be let loose upon a grave in that green and
quiet resting-place. The wife of a farmer, a woman who had lived for
sixty years, and been known for nothing but good butter and a godly
conversation, was to be rooted from her grave at midnight, and
carried, dead and naked, to that far-away city that she had always
honoured with her Sunday’s best; the place beside her family was to
be empty till the crack of doom; her innocent and almost venerable
members to be exposed to that last curiosity of the anatomist.
Late one afternoon the pair set forth, well wrapped in cloaks, and
furnished with a formidable bottle. It rained without remission; a cold,
dense, lashing rain; now and again there blew a puff of wind, but these
sheets of falling water kept it down. Bottle and all, it was a sad and
silent drive as far as Penicuik, where they were to spend the evening.
They stopped once, to hide their implements in a thick bush not far
from the churchyard; and once again at the Fisher’s Tryst, to have a
toast before the kitchen fire, and vary their nips of whisky with a glass
of ale. When they reached their journey’s end the gig was housed, the
the body snatcher
horse was fed and comforted, and the two young doctors, in a private
room, sat down to the best dinner and the best wine the house afforded.
The lights, the fire, the beating rain upon the window, the cold,
incongruous work that lay before them, added zest to their enjoyment
of the meal. With every glass their cordiality increased. Soon Macfarlane
handed a little pile of gold to his companion.
‘A compliment,’ he said. ‘Between friends these little d—d accommodations
ought to fly like pipe-lights.’
Fettes pocketed the money, and applauded the sentiment to the
echo. ‘You are a philosopher,’ he cried. ‘I was an ass till I knew you.
You and K— between you, by the Lord Harry, but you’ll make a
man of me.’
‘Of course we shall,’ applauded Macfarlane. ‘A man? I’ll tell you it
required a man to back me up the other morning. There are some
big, brawling, forty-year-old cowards would have turned sick at the
look of the d—d thing; but not you – you kept your head. I watched
‘Well, and why not?’ Fettes thus vaunted himself. ‘It was no affair
of mine. There was nothing to gain on the one side but disturbance,
and on the other I could count on your gratitude, don’t you see?’ And
he slapped his pocket till the gold pieces rang.
Macfarlane somehow felt a certain touch of alarm at these
unpleasant words; he may have regretted that he had taught his young
companion so successfully; but he had no time to interfere, for the
other noisily continued in this boastful strain.
‘The great thing is not to be afraid. Now, between you and me, I
don’t want to hang – that’s practical – but for all cant, Macfarlane, I
was born with a contempt. Hell, God, devil, right, wrong, sin, crime,
and all that old gallery of curiosities – they may frighten boys, but
men of the world, like you and me, despise them. Here’s to the memory
of Gray!’
It was by this time growing somewhat late. The gig, according to
order, was brought round to the door with both lamps brightly shining,
and the young men had to pay their bill and take the road. They
announced that they were bound for Peebles, drove in that direction
till they were clear of the last houses of the town; then, extinguishing
the body snatcher
the lamps, returned upon their course, and followed a by-road towards
Glencorse. There was no sound but that of their own passage, and the
incessant, strident pouring of the rain. It was pitch dark; here and
there a white gate or a white stone in the wall guided them for a short
space across the night; but for the most part it was at a foot’s pace,
and almost groping, that they picked their way through that resonant
blackness to their solemn and isolated destination. In the sunken
roads that traverse the neighbourhood of the burying-ground the last
glimmer failed them, and it became necessary to kindle a match and
reillume one of the lanterns of the gig. Thus, under the dripping trees,
and environed by huge and moving shadows, they reached the scene
of their unhallowed labours.
They were both experienced in such affairs, and powerful with the
spade; and they had scarce been twenty minutes at their task before
they were rewarded by a dull rattle on the coffin lid. At the same
moment Macfarlane, having hurt his hand upon a stone, flung it
carelessly above his head. The grave, in which they now stood almost
to the shoulders, was close to the edge of the plateau of the graveyard;
and the gig lamp had been propped, the better to illuminate their
labours, against a tree, and on the immediate verge of the steep bank
descending to the stream. Chance had taken a sure aim with the stone.
Then came a clang of broken glass; night fell upon them; sounds
alternately dull and ringing announced the bounding of the lantern
down the bank, and its occasional collision with the trees; a stone or
two, which it had dislodged in its descent, rattled behind it into the
profundities of the glen; and then silence, like night, resumed its sway;
and they might bend their hearing to its utmost pitch but nought was
to be heard except the rain, now marching to the wind, now steadily
falling over miles of open country.
They were so nearly at an end of their abhorred task that they
judged it wiser to complete it in the dark. The coffin was exhumed
and broken open; the body inserted in the dripping sack and carried
between them to the gig; one mounted, to keep it in its place, and the
other, taking the horse by the mouth, groped along by wall and bush,
until they reached the wider road by the Fisher’s Tryst. Here was a
faint, diffused radiancy which they hailed like daylight; by that they
the body snatcher
pushed the horse to a good pace and began to rattle almost merrily in
the direction of the town.
They had both been wetted to the skin during their operations, and
now, as the gig jumped among the deep ruts, the thing that stood
propped between them fell now upon the one and now upon the
other. At every repetition of the horrid contact each instinctively
repelled it with the greater haste; and the process, natural although it
was, began to tell upon the nerves of the companions. Macfarlane
made some ill-favoured jest about the farmer’s wife, but it came
hollowly from his lips, and was allowed to drop in silence. Still their
unnatural burden bumped from side to side, and now the head
would be laid, as if in confidence, upon their shoulders, and now the
drenching sackcloth would flap icily about their faces. A creeping chill
began to possess the soul of Fettes. He peered at the bundle, and it
seemed somehow larger than at first. All over the countryside, and
from every degree of distance, the farm dogs accompanied their
passage with tragic ululations; and it grew and grew upon his mind that
some unnatural miracle had been accomplished, that some nameless
change had befallen the dead body, and that it was in fear of their
unholy burden that the dogs were howling.
‘For God’s sake,’ said he, making a great effort to arrive at speech,
‘for God’s sake let’s have a light.’
Seemingly Macfarlane was affected in the same direction; for,
though he made no reply, he stopped the horse, passed the reins to his
companion, got down, and proceeded to kindle the remaining lamp.
They had by that time got no farther than the cross road down
to Auchenclinny. The rain still poured, as though the deluge were
returning, and it was no easy matter to make a light in such a world
of wet and darkness. When at last the flickering blue flame had been
transferred to the wick, and began to expand and clarify, and shed a
wide circle of misty brightness round the gig, it became possible for
the two young men to see each other and the thing they had along
with them. The rain had moulded the rough sacking to the outlines
of the body underneath; the head was distinct from the trunk, the
shoulders plainly modelled; something at once spectral and human
riveted their eyes upon the ghastly comrade of their drive.
the body snatcher
For some time Macfarlane stood motionless, holding up the hand.
A nameless dread was swathed, like a wet sheet, about the body, and
tightened the white skin upon the face of Fettes; a fear that was
meaningless, a horror of what could not be, kept mounting in his
brain. Another beat of the watch, and he had spoken; but his comrade
forestalled him.
‘That is not a woman,’ said Macfarlane, in a hushed voice.
‘It was a woman when we put her in,’ whispered Fettes.
‘Hold that lamp,’ said the other; ‘I must see her face.’
And as Fettes took the lamp his companion untied the fastenings of
the sack and drew down the cover from the head. The light fell very
clear upon the dark, well-moulded features and smooth-shaven cheeks
of a too familiar countenance, often beheld in dreams by both of these
young men. A wild yell rang up into the night; each leaped from his
own side into the roadway; the lamp fell, broke, and was extinguished;
and the horse, terrified by this unusual commotion, bounded and
went off towards Edinburgh at the gallop, bearing along with it, sole
occupant of the gig, the body of the long dead and long dissected

‘Now,’ said the doctor, ‘my part is done, and, I may say, with some
vanity, well done. It remains only to get you out of this cold and
poisonous city, and to give you two months of a pure air¹ and an easy
conscience. The last is your affair. To the first I think I can help you.
It falls indeed rather oddly; it was but the other day the Padre came
in from the country; and as he and I are old friends, although of
contrary professions,² he applied to me in a matter of distress among
some of his parishioners. This was a family – but you are ignorant of
Spain, and even the names of our grandees are hardly known to you;
suffice it, then, that they were once great people, and are now fallen
to the brink of destitution. Nothing now belongs to them but the
residencia, and certain leagues of desert mountain, in the greater part
of which not even a goat could support life. But the house is a fine
old place, and stands at a great height among the hills, and most
salubriously; and I had no sooner heard my friend’s tale, than I
remembered you. I told him I had a wounded officer, wounded in the
good cause,³ who was now able to make a change; and I proposed
that his friends should take you for a lodger. Instantly the Padre’s face
grew dark, as I had maliciously foreseen it would. It was out of the
question, he said. Then let them starve, said I, for I have no sympathy
with tatterdemalion pride.⁴ Thereupon we separated, not very content
with one another; but yesterday, to my wonder, the Padre returned
and made a submission: the difficulty, he said, he had found upon
inquiry to be less than he had feared; or, in other words, these proud
people had put their pride in their pocket. I closed with the offer; and,
subject to your approval, I have taken rooms for you in the residencia.
The air of these mountains will renew your blood; and the quiet in
which you will there live is worth all the medicines in the world.’
‘Doctor,’ said I, ‘you have been throughout my good angel, and
your advice is a command. But tell me, if you please, something of the
family with which I am to reside.’
‘I am coming to that,’ replied my friend; ‘and, indeed, there is a
difficulty in the way. These beggars are, as I have said, of very high
descent and swollen with the most baseless vanity; they have lived for
some generations in a growing isolation, drawing away, on either
hand, from the rich who had now become too high for them, and
from the poor, whom they still regarded as too low; and even today,
when poverty forces them to unfasten their door to a guest, they
cannot do so without a most ungracious stipulation. You are to remain,
they say, a stranger; they will give you attendance, but they refuse
from the first the idea of the smallest intimacy.’
I will not deny that I was piqued, and perhaps the feeling strengthened
my desire to go, for I was confident that I could break down that
barrier if I desired. ‘There is nothing offensive in such a stipulation,’
said I; ‘and I even sympathize with the feeling that inspired it.’
‘It is true they have never seen you,’ returned the doctor politely;
‘and if they knew you were the handsomest and the most pleasant
man that ever came from England (where I am told that handsome
men are common, but pleasant ones not so much so), they would
doubtless make you welcome with a better grace. But since you take
the thing so well, it matters not. To me, indeed, it seems discourteous.
But you will find yourself the gainer. The family will not much tempt
you. A mother, a son, and a daughter; an old woman said to be
half-witted, a country lout, and a country girl, who stands very high
with her confessor, and is, therefore,’ chuckled the physician, ‘most
likely plain; there is not much in that to attract the fancy of a dashing
‘And yet you say they are high-born,’ I objected.
‘Well, as to that, I should distinguish,’ returned the doctor. ‘The
mother is; not so the children. The mother was the last representative
of a princely stock, degenerate both in parts and fortune.⁵ Her father
was not only poor, he was mad: and the girl ran wild about the
residencia till his death. Then, much of the fortune having died with
him, and the family being quite extinct, the girl ran wilder than ever,
until at last she married, Heaven knows whom, a muleteer some say,
others a smuggler; while there are some who uphold there was no
marriage at all, and that Felipe and Olalla are bastards. The union,
such as it was, was tragically dissolved some years ago; but they live
in such seclusion, and the country at that time was in so much disorder,
that the precise manner of the man’s end is known only to the priest
– if even to him.’
‘I begin to think I shall have strange experiences,’ said I.
‘I would not romance, if I were you,’ replied the doctor; ‘you will
find, I fear, a very grovelling and commonplace reality. Felipe, for
instance, I have seen. And what am I to say? He is very rustic, very
cunning, very loutish, and, I should say, an innocent;⁶ the others are
probably to match. No, no, Sen˜or Commandante, you must seek
congenial society among the great sights of our mountains; and in
these at least, if you are at all a lover of the works of nature, I promise
you will not be disappointed.’
The next day Felipe came for me in a rough country cart, drawn
by a mule; and a little before the stroke of noon, after I had said
farewell to the doctor, the innkeeper, and different good souls who
had befriended me during my sickness, we set forth out of the city by
the Eastern gate, and began to ascend into the Sierra. I had been so
long a prisoner, since I was left behind for dying after the loss of the
convoy, that the mere smell of the earth set me smiling. The country
through which we went was wild and rocky, partially covered with
rough woods, now of the cork-tree, and now of the great Spanish
chestnut, and frequently intersected by the beds of mountain torrents.
The sun shone, the wind rustled joyously; and we had advanced some
miles, and the city had already shrunk into an inconsiderable knoll
upon the plain behind us, before my attention began to be diverted to
the companion of my drive. To the eye, he seemed but a diminutive,
loutish, well-made country lad, such as the doctor had described,
mighty quick and active, but devoid of any culture; and this first
impression was with most observers final. What began to strike me
was his familiar, chattering talk; so strangely inconsistent with the
terms on which I was to be received; and partly from his imperfect
enunciation, partly from the sprightly incoherence of the matter, so
very difficult to follow clearly without an effort of the mind. It is true
I had before talked with persons of a similar mental constitution;
persons who seemed to live (as he did) by the senses, taken and
possessed by the visual object of the moment and unable to discharge
their minds of that impression. His seemed to me (as I sat, distantly
giving ear) a kind of conversation proper to drivers, who pass much
of their time in a great vacancy of the intellect and threading the sights
of a familiar country. But this was not the case of Felipe; by his own
account, he was a home-keeper; ‘I wish I was there now,’ he said; and
then, spying a tree by the wayside, he broke off to tell me that he had
once seen a crow among its branches.
‘A crow?’ I repeated, struck by the ineptitude of the remark, and
thinking I had heard imperfectly.
But by this time he was already filled with a new idea; hearkening
with a rapt intentness, his head on one side, his face puckered; and he
struck me rudely, to make me hold my peace. Then he smiled and
shook his head.
‘What did you hear?’ I asked.
‘O, it is all right,’ he said; and began encouraging his mule with
cries that echoed unhumanly up the mountain walls.
I looked at him more closely. He was superlatively well-built, light,
and lithe and strong; he was well-featured; his yellow eyes were very
large, though, perhaps, not very expressive; take him altogether, he
was a pleasant-looking lad, and I had no fault to find with him,
beyond that he was of a dusky hue, and inclined to hairyness;⁷ two
characteristics that I disliked. It was his mind that puzzled, and yet
attracted me. The doctor’s phrase – an innocent – came back to me;
and I was wondering if that were, after all, the true description, when
the road began to go down into the narrow and naked chasm of a
torrent. The waters thundered tumultuously in the bottom; and the
ravine was filled full of the sound, the thin spray, and the claps
of wind, that accompanied their descent. The scene was certainly
impressive; but the road was in that part very securely walled in; the
mule went steadily forward; and I was astonished to perceive the
paleness of terror in the face of my companion. The voice of that
wild river was inconstant, now sinking lower as if in weariness, now
doubling its hoarse tones; momentary freshets seemed to swell its
volume, sweeping down the gorge, raving and booming against the
barrier walls; and I observed it was at each of these accessions to the
clamour, that my driver more particularly winced and blanched. Some
thoughts of Scottish superstition and the river Kelpie⁸ passed across
my mind; I wondered if perchance the like were prevalent in that part
of Spain; and turning to Felipe, sought to draw him out.
‘What is the matter?’ I asked.
‘O, I am afraid,’ he replied.
‘Of what are you afraid?’ I returned. ‘This seems one of the safest
places on this very dangerous road.’
‘It makes a noise,’ he said, with a simplicity of awe that set my
doubts at rest.
The lad was but a child in intellect; his mind was like his body,
active and swift, but stunted in development; and I began from that
time forth to regard him with a measure of pity, and to listen at first
with indulgence, and at last even with pleasure, to his disjointed babble.
By about four in the afternoon we had crossed the summit of the
mountain line, said farewell to the western sunshine, and began to go
down upon the other side, skirting the edge of many ravines and
moving through the shadow of dusky woods. There rose upon all sides
the voice of falling water, not condensed and formidable as in the
gorge of the river, but scattered and sounding gaily and musically
from glen to glen. Here, too, the spirits of my driver mended, and he
began to sing aloud in a falsetto voice, and with a singular bluntness
of musical perception, never true either to melody or key, but wandering
at will, and yet somehow with an effect that was natural and
pleasing, like that of the song of birds. As the dusk increased, I fell
more and more under the spell of this artless warbling, listening and
waiting for some articulate air, and still disappointed; and when at last
I asked him what it was he sang – ‘O,’ cried he, ‘I am just singing!’
Above all, I was taken with a trick he had of unweariedly repeating
the same note at little intervals; it was not so monotonous as you
would think, or, at least, not disagreeable; and it seemed to breathe a
wonderful contentment with what is, such as we love to fancy in the
attitude of trees, or the quiescence of a pool.
Night had fallen dark before we came out upon a plateau, and drew
up a little after, before a certain lump of superior blackness which I
could only conjecture to be the residencia. Here, my guide, getting
down from the cart, hooted and whistled for a long time in vain; until
at last an old peasant man came towards us from somewhere in the
surrounding dark, carrying a candle in his hand. By the light of this I
was able to perceive a great arched doorway of a Moorish character:
it was closed by iron-studded gates, in one of the leaves of which Felipe
opened a wicket. The peasant carried off the cart to some out-building;
but my guide and I passed through the wicket, which was closed again
behind us; and by the glimmer of the candle, passed through a court,
up a stone stair, along a section of an open gallery, and up more stairs
again, until we came at last to the door of a great and somewhat bare
apartment. This room, which I understood was to be mine, was
pierced by three windows, lined with some lustrous wood disposed in
panels, and carpeted with the skins of many savage animals. A bright
fire burned in the chimney, and shed abroad a changeful flicker; close
up to the blaze there was drawn a table, laid for supper; and in the far
end a bed stood ready. I was pleased by these preparations, and said
so to Felipe; and he, with the same simplicity of disposition that I had
already remarked on him, warmly re-echoed my praises. ‘A fine room,’
he said; ‘a very fine room. And fire, too; fire is good; it melts out the
pleasure in your bones. And the bed,’ he continued, carrying over the
candle in that direction – ‘see what fine sheets – how soft, how smooth,
smooth;’ and he passed his hand again and again over their texture,
and then laid down his head and rubbed his cheeks among them with
a grossness of content that somehow offended me. I took the candle
from his hand (for I feared he would set the bed on fire) and walked
back to the supper-table, where, perceiving a measure of wine, I
poured out a cup and called to him to come and drink of it. He started
to his feet at once and ran to me with a strong expression of hope; but
when he saw the wine, he visibly shuddered.
‘Oh, no,’ he said, ‘not that; that is for you. I hate it.’
‘Very well, Sen˜ or,’ said I; ‘then I will drink to your good health,
and to the prosperity of your house and family. Speaking of which,’ I
added, after I had drunk, ‘shall I not have the pleasure of laying my
salutations in person at the feet of the Sen˜ ora, your mother?’
But at these words all the childishness passed out of his face, and
was succeeded by a look of indescribable cunning and secrecy. He
backed away from me at the same time, as though I were an animal
about to leap or some dangerous fellow with a weapon, and when he
had got near the door, glowered at me suddenly with contracted
pupils. ‘No,’ he said at last, and the next moment was gone noiselessly
out of the room; and I heard his footing die away downstairs as light
as rainfall, and silence closed over the house.
After I had supped I drew up the table nearer to the bed and began
to prepare for rest; but in the new position of the light, I was struck by
a picture on the wall. It represented a woman, still young. To judge
by her costume and the mellow unity which reigned over the canvas,
she had long been dead; to judge by the vivacity of the attitude, the
eyes and the features, I might have been beholding in a mirror the
image of life. Her figure was very slim and strong, and of a just
proportion; red tresses lay like a crown over her brow; her eyes, of a
very golden brown, held mine with a look; and her face, which was
perfectly shaped, was yet marred by a cruel, sullen, and sensual
expression. Something in both face and figure, something exquisitely
intangible, like the echo of an echo, suggested the features and bearing
of my guide; and I stood awhile, unpleasantly attracted and wondering
at the oddity of the resemblance. The common, carnal stock of that
race, which had been originally designed for such high dames as the
one now looking on me from the canvas, had fallen to baser uses,
wearing country clothes, sitting on the shaft and holding the reins of
a mule cart, to bring home a lodger. Perhaps an actual link subsisted;
perhaps some scruple of the delicate flesh that was once clothed upon
with the satin and brocade of the dead lady, now winced at the rude
contact of Felipe’s frieze.
The first light of the morning shone full upon the portrait, and,
as I lay awake, my eyes continued to dwell upon it with growing
complacency; its beauty crept about my heart insidiously, silencing
my scruples one after another; and while I knew that to love such a
woman were to sign and seal one’s own sentence of degeneration, I
still knew that, if she were alive, I should love her. Day after day the
double knowledge of her wickedness and of my weakness grew clearer.
She came to be the heroine of many day-dreams, in which her eyes
led on to, and sufficiently rewarded, crimes. She cast a dark shadow
on my fancy; and when I was out in the free air of heaven, taking
vigorous exercise and healthily renewing the current of my blood, it
was often a glad thought to me that my enchantress was safe in the
grave, her wand of beauty broken, her lips closed in silence, her philtre
spilt. And yet I had a half-lingering terror that she might not be dead
after all, but re-arisen in the body of some descendant.
Felipe served my meals in my own apartment; and his resemblance
to the portrait haunted me. At times it was not; at times, upon some
change of attitude or flash of expression, it would leap out upon me
like a ghost. It was above all in his ill tempers that the likeness
triumphed. He certainly liked me; he was proud of my notice, which
he sought to engage by many simple and childlike devices; he loved
to sit close before my fire, talking his broken talk or singing his odd,
endless, wordless songs, and sometimes drawing his hand over my
clothes with an affectionate manner of caressing that never failed to
cause in me an embarrassment of which I was ashamed. But for all
that, he was capable of flashes of causeless anger and fits of sturdy
sullenness. At a word of reproof, I have seen him upset the dish of
which I was about to eat, and this not surreptitiously, but with defiance;
and similarly at a hint of inquisition. I was not unnaturally curious,
being in a strange place and surrounded by strange people; but at the
shadow of a question, he shrank back, lowering and dangerous. Then
it was that, for a fraction of a second, this rough lad might have been
the brother of the lady in the frame. But these humours were swift to
pass; and the resemblance died along with them.
In these first days I saw nothing of anyone but Felipe, unless the
portrait is to be counted; and since the lad was plainly of weak mind,
and had moments of passion, it may be wondered that I bore his
dangerous neighbourhood with equanimity. As a matter of fact, it was
for some time irksome; but it happened before long that I obtained
over him so complete a mastery as set my disquietude at rest.
It fell in this way. He was by nature slothful, and much of a
vagabond, and yet he kept by the house, and not only waited upon
my wants, but laboured every day in the garden or small farm to the
south of the residencia. Here he would be joined by the peasant whom
I had seen on the night of my arrival, and who dwelt at the far end of
the enclosure, about half a mile away, in a rude out-house; but it was
plain to me that, of these two, it was Felipe who did most; and though
I would sometimes see him throw down his spade and go to sleep
among the very plants he had been digging, his constancy and energy
were admirable in themselves, and still more so since I was well assured
they were foreign to his disposition and the fruit of an ungrateful effort.
But while I admired, I wondered what had called forth in a lad so
shuttle-witted this enduring sense of duty. How was it sustained? I
asked myself, and to what length did it prevail over his instincts? The
priest was possibly his inspirer; but the priest came one day to the
residencia. I saw him both come and go after an interval of close upon
an hour, from a knoll where I was sketching, and all that time Felipe
continued to labour undisturbed in the garden.
At last, in a very unworthy spirit, I determined to debauch the lad
from his good resolutions, and, waylaying him at the gate, easily
persuaded him to join me in a ramble. It was a fine day, and the woods
to which I led him were green and pleasant and sweet-smelling and
alive with the hum of insects. Here he discovered himself in a fresh
character, mounting up to heights of gaiety that abashed me, and
displaying an energy and grace of movement that delighted the eye.
He leaped, he ran round me in mere glee; he would stop, and look
and listen, and seem to drink in the world like a cordial; and then he
would suddenly spring into a tree with one bound, and hang and
gambol there like one at home. Little as he said to me, and that of not
much import, I have rarely enjoyed more stirring company; the sight
of his delight was a continual feast; the speed and accuracy of his
movements pleased me to the heart; and I might have been so thoughtlessly
unkind as to make a habit of these walks, had not chance
prepared a very rude conclusion to my pleasure. By some swiftness or
dexterity the lad captured a squirrel in a tree top. He was then some
way ahead of me, but I saw him drop to the ground and crouch there,
crying aloud for pleasure like a child. The sound stirredmy sympathies,
it was so fresh and innocent; but as I bettered my pace to draw near,
the cry of the squirrel knocked upon my heart. I have heard and seen
much of the cruelty of lads, and above all of peasants; but what I now
beheld struck me into a passion of anger. I thrust the fellow aside,
plucked the poor brute out of his hands, and with swift mercy killed
it. Then I turned upon the torturer, spoke to him long out of the heart
of my indignation, calling him names at which he seemed to wither;
and at length, pointing toward the residencia, bade him begone and
leave me, for I chose to walk with men, not with vermin. He fell upon
his knees, and, the words coming to him with more clearness than
usual, poured out a stream of the most touching supplications, begging
me in mercy to forgive him, to forget what he had done, to look to the
future. ‘O, I try so hard,’ he said. ‘O, Commandante, bear with Felipe
this once; he will never be a brute again!’ Thereupon, much more
affected than I cared to show, I suffered myself to be persuaded, and
at last shook hands with him and made it up. But the squirrel, by way
of penance, I made him bury; speaking of the poor thing’s beauty,
telling him what pains it had suffered, and how base a thing was the
abuse of strength. ‘See, Felipe,’ said I, ‘you are strong indeed; but in
my hands you are as helpless as that poor thing of the trees. Give me
your hand in mine. You cannot remove it. Now suppose that I were
cruel like you, and took a pleasure in pain. I only tighten my hold,
and see how you suffer.’ He screamed aloud, his face stricken ashy
and dotted with needle points of sweat; and when I set him free, he
fell to the earth and nursed his hand and moaned over it like a baby.
But he took the lesson in good part; and whether from that, or from
what I had said to him, or the higher notion he now had of my bodily
strength, his original affection was changed into a dog-like, adoring
Meanwhile I gained rapidly in health. The residencia stood on the
crown of a stony plateau; on every side the mountains hemmed it
about; only from the roof, where was a bartizan, there might be seen
between two peaks, a small segment of plain, blue with extreme
distance. The air in these altitudes moved freely and largely; great
clouds congregated there, and were broken up by the wind and left in
tatters on the hilltops; a hoarse, and yet faint rumbling of torrents rose
from all round; and one could there study all the ruder and more
ancient characters of nature in something of their pristine force. I
delighted from the first in the vigorous scenery and changeful weather;
nor less in the antique and dilapidated mansion where I dwelt. This
was a large oblong, flanked at two opposite corners by bastion-like
projections, one of which commanded the door, while both were
loopholed for musketry. The lower storey was, besides, naked of
windows, so that the building, if garrisoned, could not be carried
without artillery. It enclosed an open court planted with pomegranate
trees. From this a broad flight of marble stairs ascended to an open
gallery, running all round and resting, towards the court, on slender
pillars. Thence again, several enclosed stairs led to the upper storeys
of the house, which were thus broken up into distinct divisions. The
windows, both within and without, were closely shuttered; some of
the stone-work in the upper parts had fallen; the roof, in one place,
had been wrecked in one of the flurries of wind which were common
in these mountains; and the whole house, in the strong, beating
sunlight, and standing out above a grove of stunted cork-trees, thickly
laden and discoloured with dust, looked like the sleeping palace of the
legend.⁹ The court, in particular, seemed the very home of slumber.
A hoarse cooing of doves haunted about the eaves; the winds were
excluded, but when they blew outside, the mountain dust fell here as
thick as rain, and veiled the red bloom of the pomegranates; shuttered
windows and the closed doors of numerous cellars, and the vacant
arches of the gallery, enclosed it; and all day long the sun made broken
profiles on the four sides, and paraded the shadow of the pillars on
the gallery floor. At the ground level there was, however, a certain
pillared recess, which bore the marks of human habitation. Though it
was open in front upon the court, it was yet provided with a chimney,
where a wood fire would be always prettily blazing; and the tile floor
was littered with the skins of animals.
It was in this place that I first saw my hostess. She had drawn one
of the skins forward and sat in the sun, leaning against a pillar. It was
her dress that struck me first of all, for it was rich and brightly coloured,
and shone out in that dusty courtyard with something of the same
relief as the flowers of the pomegranates. At a second look it was her
beauty of person that took hold of me. As she sat back – watching me,
I thought, though with invisible eyes – and wearing at the same time
an expression of almost imbecile good-humour and contentment, she
showed a perfectness of feature and a quiet nobility of attitude that
were beyond a statue’s. I took off my hat to her in passing, and her
face puckered with suspicion as swiftly and lightly as a pool ruffles in
the breeze; but she paid no heed to my courtesy. I went forth on my
customary walk a trifle daunted, her idol-like impassivity haunting
me; and when I returned, although she was still in much the same
posture, I was half surprised to see that she had moved as far as the
next pillar, following the sunshine. This time, however, she addressed
me with some trivial salutation, civilly enough conceived, and uttered
in the same deep-chested, and yet indistinct and lisping tones, that
had already baffled the utmost niceness of my hearing from her son.
I answered rather at a venture; for not only did I fail to take her
meaning with precision, but the sudden disclosure of her eyes disturbed
me. They were unusually large, the iris golden like Felipe’s, but the
pupil at that moment so distended that they seemed almost black; and
what affected me was not so much their size as (what was perhaps its
consequence) the singular insignificance of their regard. A look more
blankly stupid I have never met. My eyes dropped before it even as I
spoke, and I went on my way upstairs to my own room, at once baffled
and embarrassed. Yet, when I came there and saw the face of the
portrait, I was again reminded of the miracle of family descent. My
hostess was, indeed, both older and fuller in person; her eyes were of
a different colour; her face, besides, was not only free from the
ill-significance that offended and attracted me in the painting; it was
devoid of either good or bad – a moral blank expressing literally
naught. And yet there was a likeness, not so much speaking as immanent,
not so much in any particular feature as upon the whole. It
should seem, I thought, as if when the master set his signature to that
grave canvas, he had not only caught the image of one smiling and
false-eyed woman, but stamped the essential quality of a race.
From that day forth, whether I came or went, I was sure to find the
Sen˜ora seated in the sun against a pillar, or stretched on a rug before
the fire; only at times she would shift her station to the top round of
the stone staircase, where she lay with the same nonchalance right
across my path. In all these days, I never knew her to display the
least spark of energy beyond what she expended in brushing and
re-brushing her copious copper-coloured hair, or in lisping out, in the
rich and broken hoarseness of her voice, her customary idle salutations
to myself. These, I think, were her two chief pleasures, beyond that of
mere quiescence. She seemed always proud of her remarks, as though
they had been witticisms: and, indeed, though they were empty
enough, like the conversation of many respectable persons, and turned
on a very narrow range of subjects, they were never meaningless or
incoherent; nay, they had a certain beauty of their own, breathing, as
they did, of her entire contentment. Now she would speak of the
warmth, in which (like her son) she greatly delighted; now of the
flowers of the pomegranate trees, and now of the white doves and
long-winged swallows that fanned the air of the court. The birds
excited her. As they raked the eaves in their swift flight, or skimmed
sidelong past her with a rush of wind, she would sometimes stir, and
sit a little up, and seem to awaken from her doze of satisfaction. But
for the rest of her days she lay luxuriously folded on herself and sunk
in sloth and pleasure. Her invincible content at first annoyed me, but
I came gradually to find repose in the spectacle, until at last it grew to
be my habit to sit down beside her four times in the day, both coming
and going, and to talk with her sleepily, I scarce knew of what. I had
come to like her dull, almost animal neighbourhood; her beauty and
her stupidity soothed and amused me. I began to find a kind of
transcendental good sense in her remarks, and her unfathomable good
nature moved me to admiration and envy. The liking was returned;
she enjoyed my presence half-unconsciously, as a man in deep meditation
may enjoy the babbling of a brook. I can scarce say she
brightened when I came, for satisfaction was written on her face
eternally, as on some foolish statue’s; but I was made conscious of her
pleasure by some more intimate communication than the sight. And
one day, as I sat within reach of her on the marble step, she suddenly
shot forth one of her hands and patted mine. The thing was done, and
she was back in her accustomed attitude, before my mind had received
intelligence of the caress; and when I turned to look her in the face I
could perceive no answerable sentiment. It was plain she attached no
moment to the act, and I blamed myself for my own more uneasy
The sight and (if I may so call it) the acquaintance of the mother
confirmed the view I had already taken of the son. The family blood
had been impoverished, perhaps by long inbreeding, which I knew to
be a common error among the proud and the exclusive.¹⁰ No decline,
indeed, was to be traced in the body, which had been handed down
unimpaired in shapeliness and strength; and the faces of today were
struck as sharply from the mint, as the face of two centuries ago that
smiled upon me from the portrait. But the intelligence (that more
precious heirloom) was degenerate; the treasure of ancestral memory
ran low; and it had required the potent, plebeian crossing of a muleteer
or mountain contrabandista¹¹ to raise, what approached hebetude¹²
in the mother, into the active oddity of the son. Yet of the two, it was
the mother I preferred. Of Felipe, vengeful and placable, full of starts
and shyings, inconstant as a hare, I could even conceive as a creature
possibly noxious. Of the mother I had no thoughts but those of
kindness. And indeed, as spectators are apt ignorantly to take sides, I
grew something of a partisan in the enmity which I perceived to
smoulder between them. True, it seemed mostly on the mother’s part.
She would sometimes draw in her breath as he came near, and the
pupils of her vacant eyes would contract as if with horror or fear. Her
emotions, such as they were, were much upon the surface and readily
shared; and this latent repulsion occupied my mind, and kept me
wondering on what grounds it rested, and whether the son was certainly
in fault.
I had been about ten days in the residencia, when there sprang up
a high and harsh wind, carrying clouds of dust. It came out of malarious
lowlands, and over several snowy sierras. The nerves of those on
whom it blew were strung and jangled; their eyes smarted with the
dust; their legs ached under the burden of their body; and the touch
of one hand upon another grew to be odious. The wind, besides, came
down the gullies of the hills and stormed about the house with a great,
hollow buzzing and whistling that was wearisome to the ear and
dismally depressing to the mind. It did not so much blow in gusts as
with the steady sweep of a waterfall, so that there was no remission of
discomfort while it blew. But higher upon the mountain, it was probably
of a more variable strength, with accesses of fury; for there came
down at times a far-off wailing, infinitely grievous to hear; and at
times, on one of the high shelves or terraces, there would start up, and
then disperse, a tower of dust, like the smoke of an explosion.
I no sooner awoke in bed than I was conscious of the nervous
tension and depression of the weather, and the effect grew stronger as
the day proceeded. It was in vain that I resisted; in vain that I set forth
upon my customary morning’s walk; the irrational, unchanging fury
of the storm had soon beat down my strength and wrecked my temper;
and I returned to the residencia, glowing with dry heat, and foul and
gritty with dust. The court had a forlorn appearance; now and then a
glimmer of sun fled over it; now and then the wind swooped down
upon the pomegranates, and scattered the blossoms, and set the
window shutters clapping on the wall. In the recess the Sen˜ora was
pacing to and fro with a flushed countenance and bright eyes; I
thought, too, she was speaking to herself, like one in anger. But when
I addressed her with my customary salutation, she only replied by a
sharp gesture and continued her walk. The weather had distempered
even this impassive creature; and as I went on upstairs I was the less
ashamed of my own discomposure.
All day the wind continued; and I sat in my room and made a feint
of reading, or walked up and down, and listened to the riot overhead.
Night fell, and I had not so much as a candle. I began to long for some
society, and stole down to the court. It was now plunged in the blue
of the first darkness; but the recess was redly lighted by the fire. The
wood had been piled high, and was crowned by a shock of flames,
which the draught of the chimney brandished to and fro. In this strong
and shaken brightness the Sen˜ora continued pacing from wall to wall
with disconnected gestures, clasping her hands, stretching forth her
arms, throwing back her head as in appeal to heaven. In these disordered
movements the beauty and grace of the woman showed more
clearly; but there was a light in her eye that struck on me unpleasantly;
and when I had looked on awhile in silence, and seemingly unobserved,
I turned tail as I had come, and groped my way back again to my own
By the time Felipe brought my supper and lights, my nerve was
utterly gone; and, had the lad been such as I was used to seeing him,
I should have kept him (even by force had that been necessary) to take
off the edge from my distasteful solitude. But on Felipe, also, the wind
had exercised its influence. He had been feverish all day; now that the
night had come he was fallen into a low and tremulous humour that
reacted on my own. The sight of his scared face, his starts and pallors
and sudden harkenings, unstrung me; and when he dropped and
broke a dish, I fairly leaped out of my seat.
‘I think we are all mad today,’ said I, affecting to laugh.
‘It is the black wind,’ he replied dolefully. ‘You feel as if you must
do something, and you don’t know what it is.’
I noted the aptness of the description; but, indeed, Felipe had
sometimes a strange felicity in rendering into words the sensations of
the body. ‘And your mother, too,’ said I; ‘she seems to feel this weather
much. Do you not fear she may be unwell?’
He stared at me a little, and then said, ‘No,’ almost defiantly; and
the next moment, carrying his hand to his brow, cried out lamentably
on the wind and the noise that made his head go round like a millwheel.
‘Who can be well?’ he cried; and, indeed, I could only echo his
question, for I was disturbed enough myself.
I went to bed early, wearied with day-long restlessness; but the
poisonous nature of the wind, and its ungodly and unintermittent
uproar, would not suffer me to sleep. I lay there and tossed, my nerves
and senses on the stretch. At times I would doze, dream horribly, and
wake again; and these snatches of oblivion confused me as to time.
But it must have been late on in the night, when I was suddenly
startled by an outbreak of pitiable and hateful cries. I leaped from my
bed, supposing I had dreamed; but the cries still continued to fill the
house, cries of pain, I thought, but certainly of rage also, and so savage
and discordant that they shocked the heart. It was no illusion; some
living thing, some lunatic or some wild animal, was being foully
tortured. The thought of Felipe and the squirrel flashed into my mind,
and I ran to the door, but it had been locked from the outside; and I
might shake it as I pleased, I was a fast prisoner. Still the cries
continued. Now they would dwindle down into a moaning that seemed
to be articulate, and at these times I made sure they must be human;
and again they would break forth and fill the house with ravings
worthy of hell. I stood at the door and gave ear to them, till at last
they died away. Long after that, I still lingered and still continued to
hear them mingle in fancy with the storming of the wind; and when
at last I crept to my bed, it was with a deadly sickness and a blackness
of horror on my heart.
It was little wonder if I slept no more. Why had I been locked in?
What had passed? Who was the author of these indescribable and
shocking cries? A human being? It was inconceivable. A beast? The
cries were scarce quite bestial; and what animal, short of a lion or a
tiger, could thus shake the solid walls of the residencia? And while I
was thus turning over the elements of the mystery, it came into my
mind that I had not yet set eyes upon the daughter of the house. What
was more probable than that the daughter of the Sen˜ ora, and the
sister of Felipe, should be herself insane? Or, what more likely than
that these ignorant and half-witted people should seek to manage an
afflicted kinswoman by violence? Here was a solution; and yet when
I called to mind the cries (which I never did without a shuddering
chill) it seemed altogether insufficient: not even cruelty could wring
such cries from madness. But of one thing I was sure: I could not live
in a house where such a thing was half conceivable, and not probe the
matter home and, if necessary, interfere.
The next day came, the wind had blown itself out, and there was
nothing to remind me of the business of the night. Felipe came to my
bedside with obvious cheerfulness; as I passed through the court, the
Sen˜ora was sunning herself with her accustomed immobility; and
when I issued from the gateway, I found the whole face of nature
austerely smiling, the heavens of a cold blue, and sown with great
cloud islands, and the mountainsides mapped forth into provinces of
light and shadow. A short walk restored me to myself, and renewed
within me the resolve to plumb this mystery; and when, from the
vantage of my knoll, I had seen Felipe pass forth to his labours in the
garden, I returned at once to the residencia to put my design in
practice. The Sen˜ora appeared plunged in slumber; I stood awhile
and marked her, but she did not stir; even if my design were indiscreet,
I had little to fear from such a guardian; and turning away, I mounted
to the gallery and began my exploration of the house.
All morning I went from one door to another, and entered spacious
and faded chambers, some rudely shuttered, some receiving their full
charge of daylight, all empty and unhomely. It was a rich house, on
which Time had breathed his tarnish and dust had scattered disillusion.
The spider swung there; the bloated tarantula scampered on the
cornices; ants had their crowded highways on the floor of halls of
audience; the big and foul fly, that lives on carrion and is often the
messenger of death, had set up his nest in the rotten woodwork, and
buzzed heavily about the rooms. Here and there a stool or two, a
couch, a bed, or a great carved chair remained behind, like islets on
the bare floors, to testify of man’s bygone habitation; and everywhere
the walls were set with the portraits of the dead. I could judge, by
these decaying effigies, in the house of what a great and what a
handsome race I was then wandering. Many of the men wore orders
on their breasts and had the port of noble offices; the women were all
richly attired; the canvases most of them by famous hands. But it was
not so much these evidences of greatness that took hold upon my
mind, even contrasted, as they were, with the present depopulation
and decay of that great house. It was rather the parable of family life
that I read in this succession of fair faces and shapely bodies. Never
before had I so realized the miracle of the continued race, the creation
and recreation, the weaving and changing and handing down of fleshly
elements. That a child should be born of its mother, that it should
grow and clothe itself (we know not how) with humanity, and put on
inherited looks, and turn its head with the manner of one ascendant,
and offer its hand with the gesture of another, are wonders dulled for
us by repetition. But in the singular unity of look, in the common
features and common bearing, of all these painted generations on the
walls of the residencia, the miracle started out and looked me in the
face. And an ancient mirror falling opportunely in my way, I stood
and read my own features a long while, tracing out on either hand the
filaments of descent and the bonds that knit me with my family.¹³
At last, in the course of these investigations, I opened the door of a
chamber that bore the marks of habitation. It was of large proportions
and faced to the north, where the mountains were most wildly figured.
The embers of a fire smouldered and smoked upon the hearth, to
which a chair had been drawn close. And yet the aspect of the chamber
was ascetic to the degree of sternness; the chair was uncushioned; the
floor and walls were naked; and beyond the books which lay here and
there in some confusion, there was no instrument of either work or
pleasure. The sight of books in the house of such a family exceedingly
amazed me; and I began with a great hurry, and in momentary fear
of interruption, to go from one to another and hastily inspect their
character. They were of all sorts, devotional, historical, and scientific,
but mostly of a great age and in the Latin tongue. Some I could see to
bear the marks of constant study; others had been torn across and
tossed aside as if in petulance or disapproval. Lastly, as I cruised about
that empty chamber, I espied some papers written upon with pencil
on a table near the window. An unthinking curiosity led me to take
one up. It bore a copy of verses, very roughly metred in the original
Spanish, and which I may render somewhat thus –
Pleasure approached with pain and shame,
Grief with a wreath of lilies came.
Pleasure showed the lovely sun;
Jesu dear, how sweet it shone!
Grief with her worn hand pointed on,
Jesu dear, to thee!
Shame and confusion at once fell on me; and, laying down the
paper, I beat an immediate retreat from the apartment. Neither Felipe
nor his mother could have read the book nor written these rough but
feeling verses. It was plain I had stumbled with sacrilegious feet into
the room of the daughter of the house. God knows, my own heart
most sharply punished me for my indiscretion. The thought that I had
thus secretly pushed my way into the confidence of a girl so strangely
situated, and the fear that she might somehow come to hear of it,
oppressed me like guilt. I blamed myself besides for my suspicions of
the night before; wondered that I should ever have attributed those
shocking cries to one of whom I now conceived as of a saint, spectral
of mien, wasted with maceration, bound up in the practices of a
mechanical devotion, and dwelling in a great isolation of soul with her
incongruous relatives; and as I leaned on the balustrade of the gallery
and looked down into the bright close of pomegranates and at the
gaily dressed and somnolent woman, who just then stretched herself
and delicately licked her lips as in the very sensuality of sloth, my mind
swiftly compared the scene with the cold chamber looking northward
on the mountains, where the daughter dwelt.
That same afternoon, as I sat upon my knoll, I saw the Padre enter
the gates of the residencia. The revelation of the daughter’s character
had struck home to my fancy, and almost blotted out the horrors of
the night before; but at sight of this worthy man the memory revived.
I descended, then, from the knoll, and making a circuit among the
woods, posted myself by the wayside to await his passage. As soon as
he appeared I stepped forth and introduced myself as the lodger of
the residencia. He had a very strong, honest countenance, on which
it was easy to read the mingled emotions with which he regarded me,
as a foreigner, a heretic, and yet one who had been wounded for the
good cause. Of the family at the residencia he spoke with reserve, and
yet with respect. I mentioned that I had not yet seen the daughter,
whereupon he remarked that that was as it should be, and looked at
me a little askance. Lastly, I plucked up courage to refer to the cries
that had disturbed me in the night. He heard me out in silence, and
then stopped and partly turned about, as though to mark beyond
doubt that he was dismissing me.
‘Do you take tobacco powder?’ said he, offering his snuff-box; and
then, when I had refused, ‘I am an old man,’ he added, ‘and I may be
allowed to remind you that you are a guest.’
‘I have, then, your authority,’ I returned, firmly enough, although
I flushed at the implied reproof, ‘to let things take their course, and
not to interfere?’
He said ‘yes,’ and with a somewhat uneasy salute turned and left
me where I was. But he had done two things: he had set my conscience
at rest, and he had awakened my delicacy. I made a great effort, once
more dismissed the recollections of the night, and fell once more to
brooding on my saintly poetess. At the same time, I could not quite
forget that I had been locked in, and that night when Felipe brought
me my supper I attacked him warily on both points of interest.
‘I never see your sister,’ said I casually.
‘Oh, no,’ said he; ‘she is a good, good girl,’ and his mind instantly
veered to something else.
‘Your sister is pious, I suppose?’ I asked in the next pause.
‘Oh!’ he cried, joining his hands with extreme fervour, ‘a saint; it is
she that keeps me up.’
‘You are very fortunate,’ said I, ‘for the most of us, I am afraid, and
myself among the number, are better at going down.’
‘Sen˜ or,’ said Felipe earnestly, ‘I would not say that. You should not
tempt your angel. If one goes down, where is he to stop?’
‘Why, Felipe,’ said I, ‘I had no guess you were a preacher, and I
may say a good one; but I suppose that is your sister’s doing?’
He nodded at me with round eyes.
‘Well, then,’ I continued, ‘she has doubtless reproved you for your
sin of cruelty?’
‘Twelve times!’ he cried; for this was the phrase by which the odd
creature expressed the sense of frequency. ‘And I told her you had
done so – I remembered that,’ he added proudly – ‘and she was
‘Then, Felipe,’ said I, ‘what were those cries that I heard last night
for surely they were cries of some creature in suffering.’
‘The wind,’ returned Felipe, looking in the fire.
I took his hand in mine, at which, thinking it to be a caress, he
smiled with a brightness of pleasure that came near disarming my
resolve. But I trod the weakness down. ‘The wind,’ I repeated; ‘and
yet I think it was this hand,’ holding it up, ‘that had first locked me
in.’ The lad shook visibly, but answered never a word. ‘Well,’ said I,
‘I am a stranger and a guest. It is not my part either to meddle or to
judge in your affairs; in these you shall take your sister’s counsel, which
I cannot doubt to be excellent. But in so far as concerns my own I will
be no man’s prisoner, and I demand that key.’ Half an hour later my
door was suddenly thrown open, and the key tossed ringing on the
A day or two after I came in from a walk a little before the point of
noon. The Sen˜ora was lying lapped in slumber on the threshold of the
recess; the pigeons dozed below the caves like snowdrifts; the house
was under a deep spell of noontide quiet; and only a wandering and
gentle wind from the mountain stole round the galleries, rustled among
the pomegranates, and pleasantly stirred the shadows. Something in
the stillness moved me to imitation, and I went very lightly across the
court and up the marble staircase. My foot was on the topmost round,
when a door opened, and I found myself face to face with Olalla.
Surprise transfixed me; her loveliness struck to my heart; she glowed
in the deep shadow of the gallery, a gem of colour; her eyes took hold
upon mine and clung there, and bound us together like the joining of
hands; and the moments we thus stood face to face, drinking each
other in, were sacramental and the wedding of souls. I know not how
long it was before I awoke out of a deep trance, and, hastily bowing,
passed on into the upper stair. She did not move, but followed me
with her great, thirsting eyes; and as I passed out of sight it seemed to
me as if she paled and faded.
In my own room, I opened the window and looked out, and could
not think what change had come upon that austere field of mountains
that it should thus sing and shine under the lofty heaven. I had seen
her – Olalla! And the stone crags answered, Olalla! and the dumb,
unfathomable azure answered, Olalla! The pale saint of my dreams
had vanished for ever; and in her place I beheld this maiden on whom
God had lavished the richest colours and the most exuberant energies
of life, whom he had made active as a deer, slender as a reed, and in
whose great eyes he had lighted the torches of the soul. The thrill of
her young life, strung like a wild animal’s, had entered into me; the
force of soul that had looked out from her eyes and conquered mine,
mantled about my heart and sprang to my lips in singing. She passed
through my veins: she was one with me.
I will not say that this enthusiasm declined; rather my soul held out
in its ecstasy as in a strong castle, and was there besieged by cold and
sorrowful considerations. I could not doubt but that I loved her at first
sight, and already with a quivering ardour that was strange to my
experience. What then was to follow? She was a child of an afflicted
house,¹⁴ the Sen˜ ora’s daughter, the sister of Felipe; she bore it even in
her beauty. She had the lightness and swiftness of the one, swift as an
arrow, light as dew; like the other, she shone on the pale background
of the world with the brilliancy of flowers. I could not call by the name
of brother that half-witted lad, nor by the name of mother that
immovable and lovely thing of flesh, whose silly eyes and perpetual
simper now recurred to my mind like something hateful. And if I
could not marry, what then? She was helplessly unprotected; her eyes,
in that single and long glance which had been all our intercourse, had
confessed a weakness equal to my own; but in my heart I knew her
for the student of the cold northern chamber, and the writer of the
sorrowful lines; and this was a knowledge to disarm a brute. To flee
was more than I could find courage for; but I registered a vow of
unsleeping circumspection.
As I turned from the window, my eyes alighted on the portrait. It
had fallen dead, like a candle after sunrise; it followed me with eyes of
paint. I knew it to be like, and marvelled at the tenacity of type in that
declining race; but the likeness was swallowed up in difference. I
remembered how it had seemed to me a thing unapproachable in the
life, a creature rather of the painter’s craft than of the modesty of
nature, and I marvelled at the thought, and exulted in the image of
Olalla. Beauty I had seen before, and not been charmed, and I had been
often drawn to women, who were not beautiful except to me; but in
Olalla all that I desired and had not dared to imagine was united.
I did not see her the next day, and my heart ached and my eyes
longed for her, as men long for morning. But the day after, when I
returned, about my usual hour, she was once more on the gallery, and
our looks once more met and embraced. I would have spoken, I would
have drawn near to her; but strongly as she plucked at my heart,
drawing me like a magnet, something yet more imperious withheld
me; and I could only bow and pass by; and she, leaving my salutation
unanswered, only followed me with her noble eyes.
I had now her image by rote, and as I conned the traits in memory
it seemed as if I read her very heart. She was dressed with something
of her mother’s coquetry, and love of positive colour. Her robe, which
I knew she must have made with her own hands, clung about her with
a cunning grace. After the fashion of that country, besides, her bodice
stood open in the middle, in a long slit, and here, in spite of the poverty
of the house, a gold coin, hanging by a ribbon, lay on her brown
bosom. These were proofs, had any been needed, of her inborn delight
in life and her own loveliness. On the other hand, in her eyes that
hung upon mine, I could read depth beyond depth of passion and
sadness, lights of poetry and hope, blacknesses of despair, and thoughts
that were above the earth. It was a lovely body, but the inmate, the
soul, was more than worthy of that lodging. Should I leave this
incomparable flower to wither unseen on these rough mountains?
Should I despise the great gift offered me in the eloquent silence of
her eyes? Here was a soul immured; should I not burst its prison? All
side considerations fell off from me; were she the child of Herod I
swore I should make her mine; and that very evening I set myself,
with a mingled sense of treachery and disgrace, to captivate the
brother. Perhaps I read him with more favourable eyes, perhaps the
thought of his sister always summoned up the better qualities of that
imperfect soul; but he had never seemed to me so amiable, and his
very likeness to Olalla, while it annoyed, yet softened me.
A third day passed in vain – an empty desert of hours. I would not
lose a chance, and loitered all afternoon in the court where (to give
myself a countenance) I spoke more than usual with the Sen˜ ora. God
knows it was with a most tender and sincere interest that I now studied
her; and even as for Felipe, so now for the mother, I was conscious of
a growing warmth of toleration. And yet I wondered. Even while I
spoke with her, she would doze off into a little sleep, and presently
awake again without embarrassment; and this composure staggered
me. And again, as I marked her make infinitesimal changes in her
posture, savouring and lingering on the bodily pleasure of the movement,
I was driven to wonder at this depth of passive sensuality.
She lived in her body; and her consciousness was all sunk into and
disseminated through her members, where it luxuriously dwelt. Lastly,
I could not grow accustomed to her eyes. Each time she turned on me
these great beautiful and meaningless orbs, wide open to the day, but
closed against human inquiry – each time I had occasion to observe
the lively changes of her pupils which expanded and contracted in a
breath – I know not what it was came over me, I can find no name
for the mingled feeling of disappointment, annoyance, and distaste
that jarred along my nerves. I tried her on a variety of subjects, equally
in vain; and at last led the talk to her daughter. But even there she
proved indifferent; said she was pretty, which (as with children) was
her highest word of commendation, but was plainly incapable of any
higher thought; and when I remarked that Olalla seemed silent, merely
yawned in my face and replied that speech was of no great use when
you had nothing to say. ‘People speak much, very much,’ she added,
looking at me with expanded pupils; and then again yawned, and
again showed me a mouth that was as dainty as a toy. This time I took
the hint, and, leaving her to her repose, went up into my own chamber
to sit by the open window, looking on the hills and not beholding
them, sunk in lustrous and deep dreams, and hearkening in fancy to
the note of a voice that I had never heard.
I awoke on the fifth morning with a brightness of anticipation that
seemed to challenge fate. I was sure of myself, light of heart and foot,
and resolved to put my love incontinently to the touch of knowledge.
It should lie no longer under the bonds of silence, a dumb thing, living
by the eye only, like the love of beasts; but should not put on the spirit,
and enter upon the joys of the complete human intimacy. I thought
of it with wild hopes, like a voyager to El Dorado;¹⁵ into that unknown
and lovely country of her soul, I no longer trembled to adventure. Yet
when I did indeed encounter her, the same force of passion descended
on me and at once submerged my mind; speech seemed to drop away
from me like a childish habit; and I but drew near to her as the giddy
man draws near to the margin of a gulf. She drew back from me a
little as I came; but her eyes did not waver from mine, and these lured
me forward. At last, when I was already within reach of her, I stopped.
Words were denied me; if I advanced I could but clasp her to my
heart in silence; and all that was sane in me, all that was still unconquered,
revolted against the thought of such an accost. So we stood
for a second, all our life in our eyes, exchanging salvos of attraction
and yet each resisting; and then, with a great effort of the will, and
conscious at the same time of a sudden bitterness of disappointment,
I turned and went away in the same silence.
What power lay upon me that I could not speak? And she, why was
she also silent? Why did she draw away before me dumbly, with
fascinated eyes? Was this love? or was it a mere brute attraction,
mindless and inevitable, like that of the magnet for the steel? We had
never spoken, we were wholly strangers; and yet an influence, strong
as the grasp of a giant, swept us silently together. On my side, it filled
me with impatience; and yet I was sure that she was worthy; I had
seen her books, read her verses, and thus, in a sense, divined the soul
of my mistress. But on her side, it struck me almost cold. Of me, she
knew nothing but my bodily favour; she was drawn to me as stones
fall to the earth; the laws that rule the earth conducted her, unconsenting,
to my arms; and I drew back at the thought of such a bridal,
and began to be jealous for myself. It was not thus that I desired to be
loved. And then I began to fall into a great pity for the girl herself. I
thought how sharp must be her mortification, that she, the student,
the recluse, Felipe’s saintly monitress, should have thus confessed an
overweening weakness for a man with whom she had never exchanged
a word. And at the coming of pity, all other thoughts were swallowed
up; and I longed only to find and console and reassure her; to tell her
how wholly her love was returned on my side, and how her choice,
even if blindly made, was not unworthy.
The next day it was glorious weather; depth upon depth of blue
over-canopied the mountains; the sun shone wide; and the wind in
the trees and the many falling torrents in the mountains filled the air
with delicate and haunting music. Yet I was prostrated with sadness.
My heart wept for the sight of Olalla, as a child weeps for its mother.
I sat down on a boulder on the verge of the low cliffs that bound the
plateau to the north. Thence I looked down into the wooded valley of
a stream, where no foot came. In the mood I was in, it was even
touching to behold the place untenanted; it lacked Olalla; and I
thought of the delight and glory of a life passed wholly with her in that
strong air, and among these rugged and lovely surroundings, at first
with a whimpering sentiment, and then again with such a fiery joy
that I seemed to grow in strength and stature, like a Samson.¹⁶
And then suddenly I was aware of Olalla drawing near. She
appeared out of a grove of cork-trees, and came straight towards me;
and I stood up and waited. She seemed in her walking a creature of
such life and fire and lightness as amazed me; yet she came quietly
and slowly. Her energy was in the slowness; but for inimitable strength,
I felt she would have run, she would have flown to me. Still, as she
approached, she kept her eyes lowered to the ground; and when she
had drawn quite near, it was without one glance that she addressed
me. At the first note of her voice I started. It was for this I had been
waiting; this was the last test of my love. And lo, her enunciation was
precise and clear, not lisping and incomplete like that of her family;
and the voice, though deeper than usual with women, was still both
youthful and womanly. She spoke in a rich chord; golden contralto
strains mingled with hoarseness, as the red threads were mingled with
the brown among her tresses. It was not only a voice that spoke to my
heart directly; but it spoke to me of her. And yet her words immediately
plunged me back upon despair.
‘You will go away,’ she said, ‘today.’
Her example broke the bonds of my speech; I felt as lightened of a
weight, or as if a spell had been dissolved. I know not in what words I
answered; but, standing before her on the cliffs, I poured out the whole
ardour of my love, telling her that I lived upon the thought of her,
slept only to dream of her loveliness, and would gladly forswear my
country, my language, and my friends, to live for ever by her side. And
then, strongly commanding myself, I changed the note; I reassured, I
comforted her; I told her I had divined in her a pious and heroic spirit,
with which I was worthy to sympathize, and which I longed to share
and lighten. ‘Nature,’ I told her, ‘was the voice of God, which men
disobey at peril; and if we were thus dumbly drawn together, ay, even
as by a miracle of love, it must imply a divine fitness in our souls; we
must be made,’ I said – ‘made for one another. We should be mad
rebels,’ I cried out – ‘mad rebels against God, not to obey this instinct.’
She shook her head. ‘You will go today,’ she repeated, and then
with a gesture, and in a sudden, sharp note – ‘No, not today,’ she
cried, ‘tomorrow!’
But at this sign of relenting, power came in upon me in a tide. I
stretched out my arms and called upon her name; and she leaped to
me and clung to me. The hills rocked about us, the earth quailed; a
shock as of a blow went through me and left me blind and dizzy. And
the next moment she had thrust me back, broken rudely from my
arms, and fled with the speed of a deer among the cork-trees.
I stood and shouted to the mountains; I turned and went back
towards the residencia, walking upon air. She sent me away, and yet
I had but to call upon her name and she came to me. These were but
the weaknesses of girls, from which even she, the strangest of her sex,
was not exempted. Go? Not I, Olalla – O, not I, Olalla, my Olalla! A
bird sang near by; and in that season, birds were rare. It bade me be
of good cheer. And once more the whole countenance of nature, from
the ponderous and stable mountains down to the lightest leaf and the
smallest darting fly in the shadow of the groves, began to stir before
me and to put on the lineaments of life and wear a face of awful joy.
The sunshine struck upon the hills, strong as a hammer on the anvil,
and the hills shook; the earth, under that vigorous insolation, yielded
up heady scents; the woods smouldered in the blaze. I felt the thrill
of travail and delight run through the earth. Something elemental,
something rude, violent, and savage, in the love that sang in my heart,
was like a key to nature’s secrets; and the very stones that rattled under
my feet appeared alive and friendly. Olalla! Her touch had quickened,
and renewed, and strung me up to the old pitch of concert with the
rugged earth, to a swelling of the soul that men learn to forget in their
polite assemblies. Love burned in me like rage; tenderness waxed
fierce; I hated, I adored, I pitied, I revered her with ecstasy. She
seemed the link that bound me in with dead things on the one hand,
and with our pure and pitying God upon the other: a thing brutal and
divine, and akin at once to the innocence and to the unbridled forces
of the earth.
My head thus reeling, I came into the courtyard of the residencia,
and the sight of the mother struck me like a revelation. She sat there,
all sloth and contentment, blinking under the strong sunshine, branded
with a passive enjoyment, a creature set quite apart, before whom my
ardour fell away like a thing ashamed. I stopped a moment, and,
commanding such shaken tones as I was able, said a word or two. She
looked at me with her unfathomable kindness; her voice in reply
sounded vaguely out of the realm of peace in which she slumbered,
and there fell on my mind, for the first time, a sense of respect for one
so uniformly innocent and happy, and I passed on in a kind of wonder
at myself, that I should be so much disquieted.
On my table there lay a piece of the same yellow paper I had seen
in the north room; it was written on with pencil in the same hand,
Olalla’s hand, and I picked it up with a sudden sinking of alarm, and
read, ‘If you have any kindness for Olalla, if you have any chivalry for
a creature sorely wrought, go from here today; in pity, in honour,
for the sake of Him who died, I supplicate that you shall go.’ I looked
at this awhile in mere stupidity, then I began to awaken to a weariness
and horror of life; the sunshine darkened outside on the bare hills,
and I began to shake like a man in terror. The vacancy thus suddenly
opened in my life unmanned me like a physical void. It was not my
heart, it was not my happiness, it was life itself that was involved. I
could not lose her. I said so, and stood repeating it. And then, like one
in a dream, I moved to the window, put forth my hand to open the
casement, and thrust it through the pane. The blood spurted from my
wrist; and with an instantaneous quietude and command of myself, I
pressed my thumb on the little leaping fountain, and reflected what to
do. In that empty room there was nothing to my purpose; I felt,
besides, that I required assistance. There shot into my mind a hope
that Olalla herself might be my helper, and I turned and went down
stairs, still keeping my thumb upon the wound.
There was no sign of either Olalla or Felipe, and I addressed myself
to the recess, whither the Sen˜ora had not drawn quite back and sat
dozing close before the fire, for no degree of heat appeared too much
for her.
‘Pardon me,’ said I, ‘if I disturb you, but I must apply to you for
She looked up sleepily and asked me what it was, and with the very
words I thought she drew in her breath with a widening of the nostrils
and seemed to come suddenly and fully alive.
‘I have cut myself,’ I said, ‘and rather badly. See!’ And I held out
my two hands from which the blood was oozing and dripping.
Her great eyes opened wide, the pupils shrank into points;¹⁷ a veil
seemed to fall from her face, and leave it sharply expressive and yet
inscrutable. And as I still stood, marvelling a little at her disturbance,
she came swiftly up to me, and stooped and caught me by the hand;
and the next moment my hand was at her mouth, and she had bitten
me to the bone. The pang of the bite, the sudden spurting of blood,
and the monstrous horror of the act, flashed through me all in one,
and I beat her back; and she sprang at me again and again, with
bestial cries, cries that I recognized, such cries as had awakened me
on the night of the high wind. Her strength was like that of madness;
mine was rapidly ebbing with the loss of blood; my mind besides was
whirling with the abhorrent strangeness of the onslaught, and I was
already forced against the wall, when Olalla ran betwixt us, and Felipe,
following at a bound, pinned down his mother on the floor.
A trance-like weakness fell upon me; I saw, heard, and felt, but I
was incapable of movement. I heard the struggle roll to and fro upon
the floor, the yells of that catamount ringing up to Heaven as she
strove to reach me. I felt Olalla clasp me in her arms, her hair falling
on my face, and, with the strength of a man, raise and half drag, half
carry me upstairs into my own room, where she cast me down upon
the bed. Then I saw her hasten to the door and lock it, and stand an
instant listening to the savage cries that shook the residencia. And
then, swift and light as a thought, she was again beside me, binding
up my hand, laying it in her bosom, moaning and mourning over it
with dove-like sounds. They were not words that came to her, they
were sounds more beautiful than speech, infinitely touching, infinitely
tender; and yet as I lay there, a thought stung to my heart, a thought
wounded me like a sword, a thought, like a worm in a flower, profaned
the holiness of my love. Yes, they were beautiful sounds, and they
were inspired by human tenderness; but was their beauty human?
All day I lay there. For a long time the cries of that nameless female
thing, as she struggled with her half-witted whelp, resounded through
the house, and pierced me with despairing sorrow and disgust. They
were the death-cry of my love; my love was murdered; it was not only
dead, but an offence to me; and yet, think as I pleased, feel as I must,
it still swelled within me like a storm of sweetness, and my heart melted
at her looks and touch. This horror that had sprung out, this doubt
upon Olalla, this savage and bestial strain that ran not only through
the whole behaviour of her family, but found a place in the very
foundations and story of our love – though it appalled, though it
shocked and sickened me, was yet not of power to break the knot of
my infatuation.
When the cries had ceased, there came a scraping at the door, by
which I knew Felipe was without; and Olalla went and spoke to him
– I know not what. With that exception, she stayed close beside me,
now kneeling by my bed and fervently praying, now sitting with her
eyes upon mine. So then, for these six hours I drank in her beauty,
and silently perused the story in her face. I saw the golden coin hover
on her breasts; I saw her eyes darken and brighten, and still speak no
language but that of an unfathomable kindness; I saw the faultless
face, and, through the robe, the lines of the faultless body. Night came
at last, and in the growing darkness of the chamber, the sight of her
slowly melted; but even then the touch of her smooth hand lingered
in mine and talked with me. To lie thus in deadly weakness and drink
in the traits of the beloved, is to reawake to love from whatever shock
of disillusion. I reasoned with myself; and I shut my eyes on horrors,
and again I was very bold to accept the worst. What mattered it, if
that imperious sentiment survived; if her eyes still beckoned and
attached me; if now, even as before, every fibre of my dull body
yearned and turned to her? Late on in the night some strength revived
in me, and I spoke:
‘Olalla,’ I said, ‘nothing matters; I ask nothing; I am content; I love
She knelt down awhile and prayed, and I devoutly respected her
devotions. The moon had begun to shine in upon one side of each of
the three windows, and make a misty clearness in the room, by which
I saw her indistinctly. When she re-arose she made the sign of the
‘It is for me to speak,’ she said, ‘and for you to listen. I know; you
can but guess. I prayed, how I prayed for you to leave this place. I
begged it of you, and I know you would have granted me even this;
or if not, O let me think so!’
‘I love you,’ I said.
‘And yet you have lived in the world,’ she said; after a pause, ‘you
are a man and wise; and I am but a child. Forgive me, if I seem to
teach, who am as ignorant as the trees of the mountain; but those who
learn much do but skim the face of knowledge; they seize the laws,
they conceive the dignity of the design – the horror of the living fact
fades from their memory. It is we who sit at home with evil who
remember, I think, and are warned and pity. Go, rather, go now, and
keep me in mind. So I shall have a life in the cherished places of your
memory: a life as much my own, as that which I lead in this body.’
‘I love you,’ I said once more; and reaching out my weak hand,
took hers, and carried it to my lips, and kissed it. Nor did she resist,
but winced a little; and I could see her look upon me with a frown
that was not unkindly, only sad and baffled. And then it seemed she
made a call upon her resolution; plucked my hand towards her, herself
at the same time leaning somewhat forward, and laid it on the beating
of her heart. ‘There,’ she cried, ‘you feel the very footfall of my life. It
only moves for you; it is yours. But is it even mine? It is mine indeed
to offer you, as I might take the coin from my neck, as I might break
a live branch from a tree, and give it you. And yet not mine! I dwell,
or I think I dwell (if I exist at all), somewhere apart, an impotent
prisoner, and carried about and deafened by a mob that I disown.
This capsule, such as throbs against the sides of animals, knows you
at a touch for its master; ay, it loves you! But my soul, does my soul? I
think not; I know not, fearing to ask. Yet when you spoke to me your
words were of the soul; it is of the soul that you ask – it is only from
the soul that you would take me.’
‘Olalla,’ I said, ‘the soul and the body are one, and mostly so in
love. What the body chooses, the soul loves; where the body clings,
the soul cleaves; body for body, soul to soul, they come together at
God’s signal; and the lower part (if we can call aught low) is only the
footstool and foundation of the highest.’
‘Have you,’ she said, ‘seen the portraits in the house of my fathers?
Have you looked at my mother or at Felipe? Have your eyes never
rested on that picture that hangs by your bed? She who sat for it died
ages ago; and she did evil in her life. But, look again: there is my hand
to the least line, there are my eyes and my hair. What is mine, then,
and what am I? If not a curve in this poor body of mine (which you
love, and for the sake of which you dotingly dream that you love me)
not a gesture that I can frame, not a tone of my voice, not any look
from my eyes, no, not even now when I speak to him I love, but has
belonged to others? Others, ages dead, have wooed other men with
my eyes; other men have heard the pleading of the same voice that
now sounds in your ears. The hands of the dead are in my bosom;
they move me, they pluck me, they guide me; I am a puppet at their
command; and I but reinform features and attributes that have long
been laid aside from evil in the quiet of the grave. Is it me you love,
friend? or the race that made me? The girl who does not know and
cannot answer for the least portion of herself ? or the stream of which
she is a transitory eddy, the tree of which she is the passing fruit? The
race exists; it is old, it is ever young, it carries its eternal destiny in
its bosom; upon it, like waves upon the sea, individual succeeds to
individual, mocked with a semblance of self-control, but they are
nothing. We speak of the soul, but the soul is in the race.’
‘You fret against the common law,’ I said. ‘You rebel against the
voice of God, which he has made so winning to convince, so imperious
to command. Hear it, and how it speaks between us! Your hand clings
to mine, your heart leaps at my touch, the unknown elements of which
we are compounded awake and run together at a look; the clay of the
earth remembers its independent life and yearns to join us; we are
drawn together as the stars are turned about in space, or as the tides
ebb and flow, by things older and greater than we ourselves.’
‘Alas!’ she said, ‘what can I say to you? My fathers, eight hundred
years ago, ruled all this province: they were wise, great, cunning, and
cruel; they were a picked race of the Spanish; their flags led in war;
the king called them his cousin; the people, when the rope was slung
for them or when they returned and found their hovels smoking,
blasphemed their name. Presently a change began. Man has risen; if
he has sprung from the brutes, he can descend again to the same level.
The breath of weariness blew on their humanity and the cords relaxed;
they began to go down; their minds fell on sleep, their passions awoke
in gusts, heady and senseless like the wind in the gutters of the
mountains; beauty was still handed down, but no longer the guiding
wit nor the human heart; the seed passed on, it was wrapped in flesh,
the flesh covered the bones, but they were the bones and the flesh of
brutes, and their mind was as the mind of flies. I speak to you as I
dare; but you have seen for yourself how the wheel has gone backward
with my doomed race. I stand, as it were, upon a little rising ground
in this desperate descent, and see both before and behind, both what
we have lost and to what we are condemned to go farther downward.
And shall I – I that dwell apart in the house of the dead, my body,
loathing its ways – shall I repeat the spell? Shall I bind another spirit,
reluctant as myown, into this bewitched and tempest-broken tenement
that I now suffer in? Shall I hand down this cursed vessel of humanity,
charge it with fresh life as with fresh poison, and dash it, like a fire, in
the faces of posterity? But my vow has been given; the race shall cease
from off the earth.¹⁸ At this hour my brother is making ready; his foot
will soon be on the stair; and you will go with him and pass out of my
sight for ever. Think of me sometimes as one to whom the lesson of
life was very harshly told, but who heard it with courage; as one who
loved you indeed, but who hated herself so deeply that her love was
hateful to her; as one who sent you away and yet would have longed
to keep you for ever; who had no dearer hope than to forget you, and
no greater fear than to be forgotten.’
She had drawn towards the door as she spoke, her rich voice
sounding softer and farther away; and with the last word she was gone,
and I lay alone in the moonlit chamber. What I might have done had
not I lain bound by my extreme weakness, I know not; but as it was
there fell upon me a great and blank despair. It was not long before
there shone in at the door the ruddy glimmer of a lantern, and Felipe
coming, charged me without a word upon his shoulders, and carried
me down to the great gate, where the cart was waiting. In the moonlight
the hills stood out sharply, as if they were of cardboard; on the
glimmering surface of the plateau, and from among the low trees
which swung together and sparkled in the wind, the great black cube
of the residencia stood out bulkily, its mass only broken by three dimly
lighted windows in the northern front above the gate. They were
Olalla’s windows, and as the cart jolted onwards I kept my eyes fixed
upon them till, where the road dipped into a valley, they were lost to
my view for ever. Felipe walked in silence beside the shafts, but from
time to time he would check the mule and seem to look back upon
me; and at length drew quite near and laid his hand upon my head.
There was such kindness in the touch, and such a simplicity, as of the
brutes, that tears broke from me like the bursting of an artery.
‘Felipe,’ I said, ‘take me where they will ask no questions.’
He said never a word, but he turned his mule about, end for end,
retraced some part of the way we had gone, and, striking into another
path, led me to the mountain village, which was, as we say in Scotland,
the kirkton¹⁹ of that thinly peopled district. Some broken memories
dwell in my mind of the day breaking over the plain, of the cart
stopping, of arms that helped me down, of a bare room into which I
was carried, and of a swoon that fell upon me like sleep.
The next day and the days following the old priest was often at my
side with his snuff-box and prayer book, and after a while, when I
began to pick up strength, he told me that I was now on a fair way to
recovery, and must as soon as possible hurry my departure; whereupon,
without naming any reason, he took snuff and looked at me
sideways. I did not affect ignorance; I knew he must have seen Olalla.
‘Sir,’ said I, ‘you know that I do not ask in wantonness. What of that
He said they were very unfortunate; that it seemed a declining race,
and that they were very poor and had been much neglected.
‘But she has not,’ I said. ‘Thanks, doubtless, to yourself, she is
instructed and wise beyond the use of women.’
‘Yes,’ he said; ‘the Sen˜ orita is well-informed. But the family has
been neglected.’
‘The mother?’ I queried.
‘Yes, the mother too,’ said the Padre, taking snuff. ‘But Felipe is a
well-intentioned lad.
‘The mother is odd?’ I asked.
‘Very odd,’ replied the priest.
‘I think, sir, we beat about the bush,’ said I. ‘You must know more
of my affairs than you allow. You must know my curiosity to be
justified on many grounds. Will you not be frank with me?’
‘My son,’ said the old gentleman, ‘I will be very frank with you on
matters within my competence; on those of which I know nothing it
does not require much discretion to be silent. I will not fence with
you, I take your meaning perfectly; and what can I say, but that we
are all in God’s hands, and that His ways are not as our ways? I have
even advised with my superiors in the church, but they, too, were
dumb. It is a great mystery.’
‘Is she mad?’ I asked.
‘I will answer you according to my belief. She is not,’ returned the
Padre, ‘or she was not. When she was young – God help me, I fear I
neglected that wild lamb – she was surely sane; and yet, although it
did not run to such heights, the same strain was already notable; it
had been so before her in her father, ay, and before him, and this
inclined me, perhaps, to think too lightly of it. But these things go on
growing, not only in the individual but in the race.’
‘When she was young,’ I began, and my voice failed me for a
moment, and it was only with a great effort that I was able to add,
‘was she like Olalla?’
‘Now God forbid!’ exclaimed the Padre. ‘God forbid that any man
should think so slightingly of my favourite penitent. No, no; the
Sen˜ orita (but for her beauty, which I wish most honestly she had less
of ) has not a hair’s resemblance to what her mother was at the same
age. I could not bear to have you think so; though, Heaven knows, it
were, perhaps, better that you should.’
At this, I raised myself in bed, and opened my heart to the old man;
telling him of our love and of her decision, owning my own horrors,
my own passing fancies, but telling him that these were at an end; and
with something more than a purely formal submission, appealing to
his judgement.
He heard me very patiently and without surprise; and when I had
done, he sat for some time silent. Then he began: ‘The church,’ and
instantly broke off again to apologize. ‘I had forgotten, my child, that
you were not a Christian,’²⁰ said he. ‘And indeed, upon a point so
highly unusual, even the church can scarce be said to have decided.
But would you have my opinion? The Sen˜ orita is, in a matter of this
kind, the best judge; I would accept her judgement.’
On the back of that he went away, nor was he thenceforward so
assiduous in his visits; indeed, even when I began to get about again,
he plainly feared and deprecated my society, not as in distaste but
much as a man might be disposed to flee from the riddling sphynx.
The villagers, too, avoided me; they were unwilling to be my guides
upon the mountain. I thought they looked at me askance, and I made
sure that the more superstitious crossed themselves on my approach.²¹
At first I set this down to my heretical opinions; but it began at length
to dawn upon me that if I was thus redoubted it was because I had
stayed at the residencia. All men despise the savage notions of such
peasantry; and yet I was conscious of a chill shadow that seemed to
fall and dwell upon my love. It did not conquer, but I may not deny
that it restrained my ardour.
Some miles westward of the village there was a gap in the sierra,
from which the eye plunged direct upon the residencia; and thither it
became my daily habit to repair. A wood crowned the summit; and
just where the pathway issued from its fringes, it was overhung by a
considerable shelf of rock, and that, in its turn, was surmounted by a
crucifix of the size of life and more than usually painful in design. This
was my perch; thence, day after day, I looked down upon the plateau,
and the great old house, and could see Felipe, no bigger than a fly,
going to and fro about the garden. Sometimes mists would draw across
the view, and be broken up again by mountain winds; sometimes the
plain slumbered below me in unbroken sunshine; it would sometimes
be all blotted out by rain. This distant post, these interrupted sights of
the place where my life had been so strangely changed, suited the
indecision of my humour. I passed whole days there, debating with
myself the various elements of our position; now leaning to the suggestions
of love, now giving an ear to prudence, and in the end halting
irresolute between the two.
One day, as I was sitting on my rock, there came by that way a
somewhat gaunt peasant wrapped in a mantle. He was a stranger, and
plainly did not know me even by repute; for, instead of keeping the
other side, he drew near and sat down beside me, and we had soon
fallen in talk. Among other things he told me he had been a muleteer,
and in former years had much frequented these mountains; later on,
he had followed the army with his mules, had realized a competence,
and was now living retired with his family.
‘Do you know that house?’ I inquired, at last, pointing to the
residencia, for I readily wearied of any talk that kept me from the
thought of Olalla.
He looked at me darkly and crossed himself.
‘Too well,’ he said, ‘it was there that one of my comrades sold
himself to Satan; the Virgin shield us from temptations! He has paid
the price; he is now burning in the reddest place in Hell!’
A fear came upon me; I could answer nothing; and presently the
man resumed, as if to himself: ‘Yes,’ he said, ‘O yes, I know it. I have
passed its doors. There was snow upon the pass, the wind was driving
it; sure enough there was death that night upon the mountains, but
there was worse beside the hearth. I took him by the arm, Sen˜ or, and
dragged him to the gate; I conjured him, by all he loved and respected,
to go forth with me; I went on my knees before him in the snow; and
I could see he was moved by my entreaty. And just then she came out
on the gallery, and called him by his name; and he turned, and there
was she standing with a lamp in her hand and smiling on him to come
back. I cried out aloud to God, and threw my arms about him, but he
put me by, and left me alone. He had made his choice; God help us.
I would pray for him, but to what end? there are sins that not even
the Pope can loose.’
‘And your friend,’ I asked, ‘what became of him?’
‘Nay, God knows,’ said the muleteer. ‘If all be true that we hear,
his end was like his sin, a thing to raise the hair.’
‘Do you mean that he was killed?’ I asked.
‘Sure enough, he was killed,’ returned the man. ‘But how? Ay, how?
But these are things that it is sin to speak of.’
‘The people of that house . . .’ I began.
But he interrupted me with a savage outburst. ‘The people?’ he
cried. ‘What people? There are neither men nor women in that house
of Satan’s! What? Have you lived here so long, and never heard?’ And
here he put his mouth to my ear and whispered, as if even the fowls
of the mountain might have overheard and been stricken with horror.
What he told me was not true, nor was it even original; being,
indeed, but a new edition, vamped up again by village ignorance and
superstition, of stories nearly as ancient as the race of man. It was
rather the application that appalled me. In the old days, he said, the
church would have burned out that nest of basilisks; but the arm of
the church was now shortened; his friend Miguel had been unpunished
by the hands of men, and left to the more awful judgment of an
offended God. This was wrong; but it should be so no more. The
Padre was sunk in age; he was even bewitched himself; but the eyes of
his flock were now awake to their own danger; and some day – ay,
and before long – the smoke of that house should go up to heaven.
He left me filled with horror and fear. Which way to turn I knew
not; whether first to warn the Padre, or to carry my ill-news direct to
the threatened inhabitants of the residencia. Fate was to decide for
me; for, while I was still hesitating, I beheld the veiled figure of a
woman drawing near to me up the pathway. No veil could deceive
my penetration; by every line and every movement I recognized
Olalla; and keeping hidden behind a corner of the rock, I suffered her
to gain the summit. Then I came forward. She knew me and paused,
but did not speak; I, too, remained silent; and we continued for some
time to gaze upon each other with a passionate sadness.
‘I thought you had gone,’ she said at length. ‘It is all that you can
do for me – to go. It is all I ever asked of you. And you still stay. But
do you know, that every day heaps up the peril of death, not only on
your head, but on ours? A report has gone about the mountain; it is
thought you love me, and the people will not suffer it.’
I saw she was already informed of her danger, and I rejoiced at it.
‘Olalla,’ I said, ‘I am ready to go this day, this very hour, but not
She stepped aside and knelt down before the crucifix to pray, and I
stood by and looked now at her and now at the object of her adoration,
now at the living figure of the penitent, and now at the ghastly, daubed
countenance, the painted wounds, and the projected ribs of the image.
The silence was only broken by the wailing of some large birds that
circled sidelong, as if in surprise or alarm, about the summit of the
hills. Presently Olalla rose again, turned towards me, raised her veil,
and, still leaning with one hand on the shaft of the crucifix, looked
upon me with a pale and sorrowful countenance.
‘I have laid my hand upon the cross,’ she said. ‘The Padre says you
are no Christian; but look up for a moment with my eyes, and behold
the face of the Man of Sorrows. We are all such as He was – the
inheritors of sin; we must all bear and expiate a past which was not
ours; there is in all of us – ay, even in me – a sparkle of the divine.
Like Him, we must endure for a little while, until morning returns
bringing peace. Suffer me to pass on upon my way alone; it is thus
that I shall be least lonely, counting for my friend Him who is the
friend of all the distressed; it is thus that I shall be the most happy,
having taken my farewell of earthly happiness, and willingly accepted
sorrow for my portion.’
I looked at the face of the crucifix, and, though I was no friend to
images, and despised that imitative and grimacing art of which it was
a rude example, some sense of what the thing implied was carried
home to my intelligence. The face looked down upon me with a
painful and deadly contraction; but the rays of a glory encircled it,
and reminded me that the sacrifice was voluntary. It stood there,
crowning the rock, as it still stands on so many highway sides, vainly
preaching to passers-by, an emblem of sad and noble truths: that
pleasure is not an end, but an accident; that pain is the choice of the
magnanimous; that it is best to suffer all things and do well. I turned
and went down the mountain in silence; and when I looked back for
the last time before the wood closed about my path, I saw Olalla still
leaning on the crucifix.
   

A Chapter on Dreams
. . . There are some among us who claim to have lived longer and
more richly than their neighbours; when they lay asleep they claim
they were still active; and among the treasures of memory that all men
review for their amusement, these count in no second place the
harvests of their dreams. There is one of this kind whom I have in my
eye, and whose case is perhaps unusual enough to be described. He
was from a child an ardent and uncomfortable dreamer. When he
had a touch of fever at night, and the room swelled and shrank, and
his clothes, hanging on a nail, now loomed up instant to the bigness
of a church, and now drew away into a horror of infinite distance and
infinite littleness, the poor soul was very well aware of what must
follow, and struggled hard against the approaches of that slumber
which was the beginning of sorrows. But his struggles were in vain;
sooner or later the night-hag would have him by the throat, and pluck
him, strangling and screaming, from his sleep.
. . . And then, while he was yet a student, there came to him a
dream-adventure which he has no anxiety to repeat; he began, that is
to say, to dream in sequence and thus to lead a double life – one of
the day, one of the night¹ – one that he had every reason to believe
was the true one, another that he had no means of proving to be false.
I should have said he studied, or was by way of studying, at Edinburgh
College, which (it may be supposed) was how I came to know him.
Well, in his dream-life he passed a long day in the surgical theatre, his
heart in his mouth, his teeth on edge, seeing monstrous malformations
and the abhorred dexterity of surgeons. In a heavy, rainy, foggy
evening he came forth into the South Bridge, turned up the High
a chapter on dreams
Street, and entered the door of a tall land, at the top of which he
supposed himself to lodge. All night long, in his wet clothes, he climbed
the stairs, stair after stair in endless series, and at every second flight a
flaring lamp with a reflector. All night long he brushed by single
persons passing downward – beggarly women of the street, great,
weary, muddy labourers, poor scarecrows of men, pale parodies of
women – but all drowsy and weary like himself, and all single, and all
brushing against him as they passed. In the end, out of a northern
window, he would see day beginning to whiten over the Firth, give up
the ascent, turn to descend, and in a breath be back again upon the
streets, in his wet clothes, in the wet, haggard dawn, trudging to
another day of monstrosities and operations.
. . . This honest fellow had long been in the custom of setting himself
to sleep with tales, and so had his father before him; but these were
irresponsible inventions, told for the teller’s pleasure, with no eye to
the crass public or the thwart reviewer: tales where a thread might
be dropped, or one adventure quitted for another, on fancy’s least
suggestion. So that the little people who manage man’s internal theatre
had not as yet received a very rigorous training; and played upon their
stage like children who should have slipped into the house and found
it empty, rather than like drilled actors performing a set piece to a
huge hall of faces. But presently my dreamer began to turn his former
amusement of story-telling to (what is called) account; by which I
mean that he began to write and sell his tales. Here was he, and here
were the little people who did that part of his business, in quite new
conditions. The stories must now be trimmed and pared and set upon
all-fours, they must run from a beginning to an end and fit (after a
manner) with the laws of life; the pleasure, in one word, had become
a business; and that not only for the dreamer, but for the little people
of his theatre. These understood the change as well as he. When he
lay down to prepare himself for sleep, he no longer sought amusement,
but printable and profitable tales; and after he had dozed off in his
box-seat, his little people continued their evolutions with the same
mercantile designs. All other forms of dream deserted him but two:
he still occasionally reads the most delightful books, he still visits at
times the most delightful places; and it is perhaps worthy of note that
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to these same places, and to one in particular, he returns at intervals
of months and years, finding new field-paths, visiting new neighbours,
beholding that happy valley under new effects of noon and dawn and
sunset. But all the rest of the family of visions is quite lost to him: the
common, mangled version of yesterday’s affairs, the raw-head-andbloody-
bones nightmare, rumoured to be the child of toasted cheese
– these and their like are gone; and, for the most part, whether awake
or asleep, he is simply occupied – he or his little people – in consciously
making stories for the market.² This dreamer (like many other persons)
has encountered some trifling vicissitudes of fortune. When the bank
begins to send letters and the butcher to linger at the back gate, he
sets to belabouring his brains after a story, for that is his readiest
money-winner; and, behold! at once the little people begin to bestir
themselves in the same quest, and labour all night long, and all night
long set before him truncheons of tales upon their lighted theatre. No
fear of his being frightened now; the flying heart and the frozen
scalp are things bygone; applause, growing applause, growing interest,
growing exultation in his own cleverness (for he takes all the credit),
and at last a jubilant leap to wakefulness, with the cry, ‘I have it, that’ll
do!’ upon his lips: with such and similar emotions he sits at these
nocturnal dramas, with such outbreaks, like Claudius in the play,³ he
scatters the performance in the midst. Often enough the waking is a
disappointment: he has been too deep asleep, as I explain the thing;
drowsiness has gained his little people, they were gone stumbling and
maundering through their parts; and the play, to the awakened mind,
is seen to be a tissue of absurdities. And yet how often have these
sleepless Brownies⁴ done him honest service, and given him, as he sat
idly taking his pleasure in the boxes, better tales than he could fashion
for himself.
. . . The more I think of it, the more I am moved to press upon
the world my question: Who are the Little People? They are near
connections of the dreamer’s, beyond doubt; they share in his financial
worries and have an eye to the bank-book; they share plainly in his
training; they have plainly learned like him to build the scheme of a
considerate story and to arrange emotion in progressive order; only I
think they have more talent; and one thing is beyond doubt, they can
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tell him a story piece by piece, like a serial, and keep him all the while
in ignorance of where they aim. Who are they, then? and who is the
Well, as regards the dreamer, I can answer that, for he is no less a
person than myself; – as I might have told you from the beginning,
only that the critics murmur over my consistent egotism; – and as I
am positively forced to tell you now, or I could advance but little
further with my story. And for the Little People, what shall I say they
are but just my Brownies, God bless them! who do one-half my work
for me while I am fast asleep, and in all human likelihood, do the rest
for me as well, when I am wide awake and fondly suppose I do it for
myself. That part which is done while I am sleeping is the Brownies’
part beyond contention; but that which is done when I am up and
about is by no means necessarily mine, since all goes to show the
Brownies have a hand in it even then. Here is a doubt that much
concerns my conscience. For myself – what I call I, my conscious ego,
the denizen of the pineal gland unless he has changed his residence
since Descartes,⁵ the man with the conscience and the variable bankaccount,
the man with the hat and the boots, and the privilege of
voting and not carrying his candidate at the general elections – I am
sometimes tempted to suppose is no story-teller at all, but a creature
as matter of fact as any cheesemonger or any cheese, and a realist
bemired up to the ears in actuality; so that, by that account, the whole
of my published fiction should be the single-handed product of some
Brownie, some Familiar, some unseen collaborator, whom I keep
locked in a back garret, while I get all the praise and he but a share
(which I cannot prevent him getting) of the pudding. I am an excellent
adviser, something like Molie`re’s servant.⁶ I pull back and I cut down;
and I dress the whole in the best words and sentences that I can find
and make; I hold the pen, too; and I do the sitting at the table, which
is about the worst of it; and when all is done, I make up the manuscript
and pay for the registration; so that, on the whole, I have some claim
to share, though not so largely as I do, in the profits of our common
I can but give an instance or so of what part is done sleeping and
what part awake, and leave the reader to share what laurels there are,
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at his own nod, between myself and my collaborators; and to do this
I will first take a book that a number of persons have been polite
enough to read, ‘The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde’. I had
long been trying to write a story on this subject, to find a body, a
vehicle, for that strong sense of man’s double being which must at
times come in upon and overwhelm the mind of every thinking
creature. I had even written one, ‘The Travelling Companion’, which
was returned by an editor on the plea that it was a work of genius and
indecent, and which I burned the other day on the ground that it was
not a work of genius, and that ‘Jekyll’ had supplanted it. Then came
one of those financial fluctuations to which (with an elegant modesty)
I have hitherto referred in the third person. For two days I went about
racking my brains for a plot of any sort; and on the second night I
dreamed the scene at the window, and a scene afterward split in
two, in which Hyde, pursued for some crime, took the powder and
underwent the change in the presence of his pursuers.⁷ All the rest
was made awake, and consciously, although I think I can trace in
much of it the manner of my Brownies. The meaning of the tale is
therefore mine, and had long pre-existed in my garden of Adonis,⁸
and tried one body after another in vain; indeed, I do most of the
morality, worse luck! and my Brownies have not a rudiment of what
we call a conscience. Mine, too, is the setting, mine the characters. All
that was given me was the matter of three scenes, and the central
idea of a voluntary change becoming involuntary. Will it be thought
ungenerous, after I have been so liberally ladling out praise to my
unseen collaborators, if I here toss them over, bound hand and foot,
into the arena of the critics? For the business of the powders, which
so many have censured, is, I am relieved to say, not mine at all, but
the Brownies’. Of another tale, in case the reader should have glanced
at it, I may say a word: the not very defensible story of ‘Olalla’. Here
the court, the mother, the mother’s niche, Olalla, Olalla’s chamber,
the meetings on the stair, the broken window, the ugly scene of the
bite, were all given me in bulk and detail as I have tried to write them;
to this I added only the external scenery (for in my dream I never was
beyond the court), the portrait, the characters of Felipe and the priest,
the moral, such as it is, and the last pages, such as, alas! they are. And
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I may even say that is this case the moral itself was given me; for it
arose immediately on a comparison of the mother and the daughter,
and from the hideous trick of atavism⁹ in the first. Sometimes a
parabolic sense is still more undeniably present in a dream; sometimes
I cannot but suppose my Brownies have been aping Bunyan,¹⁰ and
yet in no case with what would possibly be called a moral in a tract;
never with the ethical narrowness; conveying hints instead of life’s
larger limitations and that sort of sense which we seem to perceive in
the arabesque of time and space . . .