A Mortal Antipathy
Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. (The Physician and Poet)

Part 4 out of 5

in apparently vigorous general health, who, on being lifted too
suddenly to a sitting position, while still confined to her bed,
fainted, and in a few moments ceased to breathe. It may well be
supposed that he took every possible precaution to avert the
accidents which tend to throw from its track a disease the regular
course of which is arranged by nature as carefully as the route of a
railroad from one city to another. The most natural interpretation
which the common observer would put upon the manifestations of one of
these autumnal maladies would be that some noxious combustible
element had found its way into the system which must be burned to
ashes before the heat which pervades the whole body can subside.
Sometimes the fire may smoulder and seem as if it were going out, or
were quite extinguished, and again it will find some new material to
seize upon, and flame up as fiercely as ever. Its coming on most
frequently at the season when the brush fires which are consuming the
dead branches, and withered leaves, and all the refuse of vegetation
are sending up their smoke is suggestive. Sometimes it seems as if
the body, relieved of its effete materials, renewed its youth after
one of these quiet, expurgating, internal fractional cremations.
Lean, pallid students have found themselves plump and blooming, and
it has happened that one whose hair was straight as gnat of an Indian
has been startled to behold himself in his mirror with a fringe of
hyacinthine curls about his rejuvenated countenance.

There was nothing of what medical men call malignity in the case of
Maurice Kirkwood. The most alarming symptom was a profound
prostration, which at last reached such a point that he lay utterly
helpless, as unable to move without aid as the feeblest of
paralytics. In this state he lay for many days, not suffering pain,
but with the sense of great weariness, and the feeling that he should
never rise from his bed again. For the most part his intellect was
unclouded when his attention was aroused. He spoke only in whispers,
a few words at a time. The doctor felt sure, by the expression which
passed over his features from time to time, that something was
worrying and oppressing him; something which he wished to
communicate, and had not the force, or the tenacity of purpose, to
make perfectly clear. His eyes often wandered to a certain desk, and
once he had found strength to lift his emaciated arm and point to it.
The doctor went towards it as if to fetch it to him, but he slowly
shook his head. He had not the power to say at that time what he
wished. The next day he felt a little less prostrated; and succeeded
in explaining to the doctor what he wanted. His words, so far as the
physician could make them out, were these which follow. Dr. Butts
looked upon them as possibly expressing wishes which would be his
last, and noted them down carefully immediately after leaving his

"I commit the secret of my life to your charge. My whole story is
told in a paper locked in that desk. The key is--put your hand under
my pillow. If I die, let the story be known. It will show that I
was--human--and save my memory from reproach."

He was silent for a little time. A single tear stole down his hollow
cheek. The doctor turned his head away, for his own eyes were full.
But he said to himself, "It is a good sign; I begin to feel strong
hopes that he will recover."

Maurice spoke once more. "Doctor, I put full trust in you. You are
wise and kind. Do what you will with this paper, but open it at once
and read. I want you to know the story of my life before it is
finished--if the end is at hand. Take it with you and read it before
you sleep." He was exhausted and presently his eyes closed, but the
doctor saw a tranquil look on his features which added encouragement
to his hopes.



I am an American by birth, but a large part of my life has been
passed in foreign lands. My father was a man of education, possessed
of an ample fortune; my mother was considered, a very accomplished
and amiable woman. I was their first and only child. She died while
I was yet an infant. If I remember her at all it is as a vision,
more like a glimpse of a pre-natal existence than as a part of my
earthly life. At the death of my mother I was left in the charge of
the old nurse who had enjoyed her perfect confidence. She was
devoted to me, and I became absolutely dependent on her, who had for
me all the love and all the care of a mother. I was naturally the
object of the attentions and caresses of the family relatives. I
have been told that I was a pleasant, smiling infant, with nothing to
indicate any peculiar nervous susceptibility; not afraid of
strangers, but on the contrary ready to make their acquaintance. My
father was devoted to me and did all in his power to promote my
health and comfort.

I was still a babe, often carried in arms, when the event happened
which changed my whole future and destined me to a strange and lonely
existence. I cannot relate it even now without a sense of terror. I
must force myself to recall the circumstances as told me and vaguely
remembered, for I am not willing that my doomed and wholly
exceptional life should pass away unrecorded, unexplained,
unvindicated. My nature is, I feel sure, a kind and social one, but
I have lived apart, as if my heart were filled with hatred of my
fellow-creatures. If there are any readers who look without pity,
without sympathy, upon those who shun the fellowship of their fellow
men and women, who show by their downcast or averted eyes that they
dread companionship and long for solitude, I pray them, if this paper
ever reaches them, to stop at this point. Follow me no further, for
you will not believe my story, nor enter into the feelings which I am
about to reveal. But if there are any to whom all that is human is
of interest, who have felt in their own consciousness some stirrings
of invincible attraction to one individual and equally invincible
repugnance to another, who know by their own experience that elective
affinities have as their necessary counterpart, and, as it were,
their polar opposites, currents not less strong of elective
repulsions, let them read with unquestioning faith the story of a
blighted life I am about to relate, much of it, of course, received
from the lips of others.

My cousin Laura, a girl of seventeen, lately returned from Europe,
was considered eminently beautiful. It was in my second summer that
she visited my father's house, where he was living with his servants
and my old nurse, my mother having but recently left him a widower.
Laura was full of vivacity, impulsive, quick in her movements,
thoughtless occasionally, as it is not strange that a young girl of
her age should be. It was a beautiful summer day when she saw me for
the first time. My nurse had me in her arms, walking back and
forward on a balcony with a low railing, upon which opened the
windows of the second story of my father's house. While the nurse
was thus carrying me, Laura came suddenly upon the balcony. She no
sooner saw me than with all the delighted eagerness of her youthful
nature she rushed toward me, and, catching me from the nurse's arms,
began tossing me after the fashion of young girls who have been so
lately playing with dolls that they feel as if babies were very much
of the same nature. The abrupt seizure frightened me; I sprang from
her arms in my terror, and fell over the railing of the balcony. I
should probably enough have been killed on the spot but for the fact
that a low thorn-bush grew just beneath the balcony, into which I
fell and thus had the violence of the shock broken. But the thorns
tore my tender flesh, and I bear to this day marks of the deep wounds
they inflicted.

That dreadful experience is burned deep into my memory. The sudden
apparition of the girl; the sense of being torn away from the
protecting arms around me; the frantic effort to escape; the shriek
that accompanied my fall through what must have seemed unmeasurable
space; the cruel lacerations of the piercing and rending thorns,--all
these fearful impressions blended in one paralyzing terror.

When I was taken up I was thought to be dead. I was perfectly white,
and the physician who first saw me said that no pulse was
perceptible. But after a time consciousness returned; the wounds,
though painful, were none of them dangerous, and the most alarming
effects of the accident passed away. My old nurse cared for me
tenderly day and night, and my father, who had been almost distracted
in the first hours which followed the injury, hoped and believed
that no permanent evil results would be found to result from it. My
cousin Laura was of course deeply distressed to feel that her
thoughtlessness had been the cause of so grave an accident. As soon
as I had somewhat recovered she came to see me, very penitent, very
anxious to make me forget the alarm she had caused me, with all its
consequences. I was in the nursery sitting up in my bed, bandaged,
but not in any pain, as it seemed, for I was quiet and to all
appearance in a perfectly natural state of feeling. As Laura came
near me I shrieked and instantly changed color. I put my hand upon
my heart as if I had been stabbed, and fell over, unconscious. It
was very much the same state as that in which I was found immediately
after my fall.

The cause of this violent and appalling seizure was but too obvious.
The approach of the young girl and the dread that she was about to
lay her hand upon me had called up the same train of effects which
the moment of terror and pain had already occasioned. The old nurse
saw this in a moment. "Go! go!" she cried to Laura, "go, or the
child will die! "Her command did not have to be repeated. After
Laura had gone I lay senseless, white and cold as marble, for some
time. The doctor soon came, and by the use of smart rubbing and
stimulants the color came back slowly to my cheeks and the arrested
circulation was again set in motion.

It was hard to believe that this was anything more than a temporary
effect of the accident. There could be little doubt, it was thought
by the doctor and by my father, that after a few days I should
recover from this morbid sensibility and receive my cousin as other
infants receive pleasant-looking young persons. The old nurse shook
her head. "The girl will be the death of the child," she said, "if
she touches him or comes near him. His heart stopped beating just as
when the girl snatched him out of my arms, and he fell over the
balcony railing." Once more the experiment was tried, cautiously,
almost insidiously. The same alarming consequences followed. It was
too evident that a chain of nervous disturbances had been set up in
my system which repeated itself whenever the original impression gave
the first impulse. I never saw my cousin Laura after this last
trial. Its result had so distressed her that she never ventured
again to show herself to me.

If the effect of the nervous shock had stopped there, it would have
been a misfortune for my cousin and myself, but hardly a calamity.
The world is wide, and a cousin or two more or less can hardly be
considered an essential of existence. I often heard Laura's name
mentioned, but never by any one who was acquainted with all the
circumstances, for it was noticed that I changed color and caught at
my breast as if I wanted to grasp my heart in my hand whenever that
fatal name was mentioned.

Alas! this was not all. While I was suffering from the effects of my
fall among the thorns I was attended by my old nurse, assisted by
another old woman, by a physician, and my father, who would take his
share in caring for me. It was thought best to keep--me perfectly
quiet, and strangers and friends were alike excluded from my nursery,
with one exception, that my old grandmother came in now and then.
With her it seems that I was somewhat timid and shy, following her
with rather anxious eyes, as if not quite certain whether or not she
was dangerous. But one day, when I was far advanced towards
recovery, my father brought in a young lady, a relative of his, who
had expressed a great desire to see me. She was, as I have been
told, a very handsome girl, of about the same age as my cousin Laura,
but bearing no personal resemblance to her in form, features, or
complexion. She had no sooner entered the room than the same sudden
changes which had followed my cousin's visit began to show
themselves, and before she had reached my bedside I was in a state of
deadly collapse, as on the occasions already mentioned.

Some time passed before any recurrence of these terrifying seizures.
A little girl of five or six years old was allowed to come into the
nursery one day and bring me some flowers. I took them from her
hand, but turned away and shut my eyes. There was no seizure, but
there was a certain dread and aversion, nothing more than a feeling
which it might be hoped that time would overcome. Those around me
were gradually finding out the circumstances which brought on the
deadly attack to which I was subject.

The daughter of one of our near neighbors was considered the
prettiest girl of the village where we were passing the summer. She
was very anxious to see me, and as I was now nearly well it was
determined that she should be permitted to pay me a short visit. I
had always delighted in seeing her and being caressed by her. I was
sleeping when she entered the nursery and came and took a seat at my
side in perfect silence. Presently I became restless, and a moment
later I opened my eyes and saw her stooping over me. My hand went to
my left breast,--the color faded from my cheeks,--I was again the
cold marble image so like death that it had well-nigh been mistaken
for it.

Could it be possible that the fright which had chilled my blood had
left me with an unconquerable fear of woman at the period when she is
most attractive not only to adolescents, but to children of tender
age, who feel the fascination of her flowing locks, her bright eyes,
her blooming cheeks, and that mysterious magnetism of sex which draws
all life into its warm and potently vitalized atmosphere? So it did
indeed seem. The dangerous experiment could not be repeated
indefinitely. It was not intentionally tried again, but accident
brought about more than one renewal of it during the following years,
until it became fully recognized that I was the unhappy subject of a
mortal dread of woman,--not absolutely of the human female, for I had
no fear of my old nurse or of my grandmother, or of any old wrinkled
face, and I had become accustomed to the occasional meeting of a
little girl or two, whom I nevertheless regarded with a certain ill-
defined feeling that there was danger in their presence. I was sent
to a boys' school very early, and during the first ten or twelve
years of my life I had rarely any occasion to be reminded of my
strange idiosyncrasy.

As I grew out of boyhood into youth, a change came over the feelings
which had so long held complete possession of me. This was what my
father and his advisers had always anticipated, and was the ground of
their confident hope in my return to natural conditions before I
should have grown to mature manhood.

How shall I describe the conflicts of those dreamy, bewildering,
dreadful years? Visions of loveliness haunted me sleeping and
waking. Sometimes a graceful girlish figure would so draw my eyes
towards it that I lost sight of all else, and was ready to forget all
my fears and find myself at her side, like other youths by the side
of young maidens,--happy in their cheerful companionship, while I,--
I, under the curse of one blighting moment, looked on, hopeless.
Sometimes the glimpse of a fair face or the tone of a sweet voice
stirred within me all the instincts that make the morning of life
beautiful to adolescence. I reasoned with myself:

Why should I not have outgrown that idle apprehension which had been
the nightmare of my earlier years? Why should not the rising tide of
life have drowned out the feeble growths that infested the shallows
of childhood? How many children there are who tremble at being left
alone in the dark, but who, a few years later, will smile at their
foolish terrors and brave all the ghosts of a haunted chamber! Why
should I any longer be the slave of a foolish fancy that has grown
into a half insane habit of mind? I was familiarly acquainted with
all the stories of the strange antipathies and invincible repugnances
to which others, some of them famous men, had been subject. I said
to myself, Why should not I overcome this dread of woman as Peter the
Great fought down his dread of wheels rolling over a bridge? Was I,
alone of all mankind, to be doomed to perpetual exclusion from the
society which, as it seemed to me, was all that rendered existence
worth the trouble and fatigue of slavery to the vulgar need of
supplying the waste of the system and working at the task of
respiration like the daughters of Danaus,--toiling day and night as
the worn-out sailor labors at the pump of his sinking vessel?

Why did I not brave the risk of meeting squarely, and without regard
to any possible danger, some one of those fair maidens whose far-off
smile, whose graceful movements, at once attracted and agitated me?
I can only answer this question to the satisfaction of any really
inquiring reader by giving him the true interpretation of the
singular phenomenon of which I was the subject. For this I shall
have to refer to a paper of which I have made a copy, and which will
be found included with this manuscript. It is enough to say here,
without entering into the explanation of the fact, which will be
found simple enough as seen by the light of modern physiological
science, that the "nervous disturbance" which the presence of a woman
in the flower of her age produced in my system was a sense of
impending death, sudden, overwhelming, unconquerable, appalling. It
was a reversed action of the nervous centres,--the opposite of that
which flushes the young lover's cheek and hurries his bounding pulses
as he comes into the presence of the object of his passion. No one
who has ever felt the sensation can have failed to recognize it as an
imperative summons, which commands instant and terrified submission.

It was at this period of my life that my father determined to try the
effect of travel and residence in different localities upon my bodily
and mental condition. I say bodily as well as mental, for I was too
slender for my height and subject to some nervous symptoms which were
a cause of anxiety. That the mind was largely concerned in these
there was no doubt, but the mutual interactions of mind and body are
often too complex to admit of satisfactory analysis. Each is in part
cause and each also in part effect.

We passed some years in Italy, chiefly in Rome, where I was placed in
a school conducted by priests, and where of course I met only those
of my own sex. There I had the opportunity of seeing the influences
under which certain young Catholics, destined for the priesthood, are
led to separate themselves from all communion with the sex associated
in their minds with the most subtle dangers to which the human soul
can be exposed. I became in some degree reconciled to the thought of
exclusion from the society of women by seeing around me so many who
were self-devoted to celibacy. The thought sometimes occurred to me
whether I should not find the best and the only natural solution of
the problem of existence, as submitted to myself, in taking upon me
the vows which settle the whole question and raise an impassable
barrier between the devotee and the object of his dangerous

How often I talked this whole matter over with the young priest who
was at once my special instructor and my favorite companion! But
accustomed as I had become to the forms of the Roman Church, and
impressed as I was with the purity and excellence of many of its
young members with whom I was acquainted, my early training rendered
it impossible for me to accept the credentials which it offered me as
authoritative. My friend and instructor had to set me down as a case
of "invincible ignorance." This was the loop-hole through which he
crept out of the prison-house of his creed, and was enabled to look
upon me without the feeling of absolute despair with which his
sterner brethren would, I fear, have regarded me.

I have said that accident exposed me at times to the influence which
I had such reasons for dreading. Here is one example of such an
occurrence, which I relate as simply as possible, vividly as it is
impressed upon my memory. A young friend whose acquaintance I had
made in Rome asked me one day to come to his rooms and look at a
cabinet of gems and medals which he had collected. I had been but a
short time in his library when a vague sense of uneasiness came over
me. My heart became restless,--I could feel it stirring irregularly,
as if it were some frightened creature caged in my breast. There was
nothing that I could see to account for it. A door was partly open,
but not so that I could see into the next room. The feeling grew
upon me of some influence which was paralyzing my circulation. I
begged my friend to open a window. As be did so, the door swung in
the draught, and I saw a blooming young woman,--it was my friend's
sister, who had been sitting with a book in her hand, and who rose at
the opening of the door. Something had warned me of the presence of
a woman, that occult and potent aura of individuality, call it
personal magnetism, spiritual effluence, or reduce it to a simpler
expression if you will; whatever it was, it had warned me of the
nearness of the dread attraction which allured at a distance and
revealed itself with all the terrors of the Lorelei if approached too
recklessly. A sign from her brother caused her to withdraw at once,
but not before I had felt the impression which betrayed itself in my
change of color, anxiety about the region of the heart, and sudden
failure as if about to fall in a deadly fainting-fit.

Does all this seem strange and incredible to the reader of my
manuscript? Nothing in the history of life is so strange or
exceptional as it seems to those who have not made a long study of
its mysteries. I have never known just such a case as my own, and
yet there must have been such, and if the whole history of mankind
were unfolded I cannot doubt that there have been many like it. Let
my reader suspend his judgment until he has read the paper I have
referred to, which was drawn up by a Committee of the Royal Academy
of the Biological Sciences. In this paper the mechanism of the
series of nervous derangements to which I have been subject since the
fatal shock experienced in my infancy is explained in language not
hard to understand. It will be seen that such a change of polarity
in the nervous centres is only a permanent form and an extreme degree
of an emotional disturbance, which as a temporary and comparatively
unimportant personal accident is far from being uncommon,--is so
frequent, in fact, that every one must have known instances of it,
and not a few must have had more or less serious experiences of it in
their own private history.

It must not be supposed that my imagination dealt with me as I am now
dealing with the reader. I was full of strange fancies and wild
superstitions. One of my Catholic friends gave me a silver medal
which had been blessed by the Pope, and which I was to wear next my
body. I was told that this would turn black after a time, in virtue
of a power which it possessed of drawing out original sin, or certain
portions of it, together with the evil and morbid tendencies which
had been engrafted on the corrupt nature. I wore the medal
faithfully, as directed, and watched it carefully. It became
tarnished and after a time darkened, but it wrought no change in my
unnatural condition.

There was an old gypsy who had the reputation of knowing more of
futurity than she had any right to know. The story was that she had
foretold the assassination of Count Rossi and the death of Cavour.

However that may have been, I was persuaded to let her try her black
art upon my future. I shall never forget the strange, wild look of
the wrinkled hag as she took my hand and studied its lines and fixed
her wicked old eyes on my young countenance. After this examination
she shook her head and muttered some words, which as nearly as I
could get them would be in English like these:

Fair lady cast a spell on thee,
Fair lady's hand shall set thee free.

Strange as it may seem, these words of a withered old creature, whose
palm had to be crossed with silver to bring forth her oracular
response, have always clung to my memory as if they were destined to
fulfilment. The extraordinary nature of the affliction to which I
was subject disposed me to believe the incredible with reference to
all that relates to it. I have never ceased to have the feeling
that, sooner or later, I should find myself freed from the blight
laid upon me in my infancy. It seems as if it would naturally come
through the influence of some young and fair woman, to whom that
merciful errand should be assigned by the Providence that governs our
destiny. With strange hopes, with trembling fears, with mingled
belief and doubt, wherever I have found myself I have sought with
longing yet half-averted eyes for the "elect lady," as I have learned
to call her, who was to lift the curse from my ruined life.

Three times I have been led to the hope, if not the belief, that I
had found the object of my superstitious belief.--Singularly enough
it was always on the water that the phantom of my hope appeared
before my bewildered vision. Once it was an English girl who was a
fellow passenger with me in one of my ocean voyages. I need not say
that she was beautiful, for she was my dream realized. I heard her
singing, I saw her walking the deck on some of the fair days when
sea-sickness was forgotten. The passengers were a social company
enough, but I had kept myself apart, as was my wont. At last the
attraction became too strong to resist any longer. "I will venture
into the charmed circle if it kills me," I said to my father. I did
venture, and it did not kill me, or I should not be telling this
story. But there was a repetition of the old experiences. I need
not relate the series of alarming consequences of my venture. The
English girl was very lovely, and I have no doubt has made some one
supremely happy before this, but she was not the "elect lady" of the
prophecy and of my dreams.

A second time I thought myself for a moment in the presence of the
destined deliverer who was to restore me to my natural place among my
fellow men and women. It was on the Tiber that I met the young
maiden who drew me once more into that inner circle which surrounded
young womanhood with deadly peril for me, if I dared to pass its
limits. I was floating with the stream in the little boat in which I
passed many long hours of reverie when I saw another small boat with
a boy and a young girl in it. The boy had been rowing, and one of
his oars had slipped from his grasp. He did not know how to paddle
with a single oar, and was hopelessly rowing round and round, his oar
all the time floating farther away from him. I could not refuse my
assistance. I picked up the oar and brought my skiff alongside of
the boat. When I handed the oar to the boy the young girl lifted her
veil and thanked me in the exquisite music of the language which

'Sounds as if it should be writ on satin.'

She was a type of Italian beauty,--a nocturne in flesh and blood, if
I may borrow a term certain artists are fond of; but it was her voice
which captivated me and for a moment made me believe that I was no
longer shut off from all relations with the social life of my race.
An hour later I was found lying insensible on the floor of my boat,
white, cold, almost pulseless. It cost much patient labor to bring
me back to consciousness. Had not such extreme efforts been made, it
seems probable that I should never have waked from a slumber which
was hardly distinguishable from that of death.

Why should I provoke a catastrophe which appears inevitable if I
invite it by exposing myself to its too well ascertained cause? The
habit of these deadly seizures has become a second nature. The
strongest and the ablest men have found it impossible to resist the
impression produced by the most insignificant object, by the most
harmless sight or sound to which they had a congenital or acquired
antipathy. What prospect have I of ever being rid of this long and
deep-seated infirmity? I may well ask myself these questions, but my
answer is that I will never give up the hope that time will yet bring
its remedy. It may be that the wild prediction which so haunts me
shall find itself fulfilled. I have had of late strange
premonitions, to which if I were superstitious I could not help
giving heed. But I have seen too much of the faith that deals in
miracles to accept the supernatural in any shape,--assuredly when it
comes from an old witch-like creature who takes pay for her
revelations of the future. Be it so: though I am not superstitious,
I have a right to be imaginative, and my imagination will hold to
those words of the old zingara with an irresistible feeling that,
sooner or later, they will prove true.

Can it be possible that her prediction is not far from its
realization? I have had both waking and sleeping visions within
these last months and weeks which have taken possession of me and
filled my life with new thoughts, new hopes, new resolves.

Sometimes on the bosom of the lake by which I am dreaming away this
season of bloom and fragrance, sometimes in the fields or woods in a
distant glimpse, once in a nearer glance, which left me pale and
tremulous, yet was followed by a swift reaction, so that my cheeks
flushed and my pulse bounded, I have seen her who--how do I dare to
tell it so that my own eyes can read it?---I cannot help believing is
to be my deliverer, my saviour.

I have been warned in the most solemn and impressive language by the
experts most deeply read in the laws of life and the history of its
disturbing and destroying influences, that it would be at the
imminent risk of my existence if I should expose myself to the
repetition of my former experiences. I was reminded that unexplained
sudden deaths were of constant, of daily occurrence; that any emotion
is liable to arrest the movements of life: terror, joy, good news or
bad news,--anything that reaches the deeper nervous centres. I had
already died once, as Sir Charles Napier said of himself; yes, more
than once, died and been resuscitated. The next time, I might very
probably fail to get my return ticket after my visit to Hades. It
was a rather grim stroke of humor, but I understood its meaning full
well, and felt the force of its menace.

After all, what had I to live for if the great primal instinct which
strives to make whole the half life of lonely manhood is defeated,
suppressed, crushed out of existence? Why not as well die in the
attempt to break up a wretched servitude to a perverted nervous
movement as in any other way? I am alone in the world,--alone save
for my faithful servant, through whom I seem to hold to the human
race as it were by a single filament. My father, who was my
instructor, my companion, my dearest and best friend through all my
later youth and my earlier manhood, died three years ago and left me
my own master, with the means of living as might best please my
fancy. This season shall decide my fate. One more experiment, and I
shall find myself restored to my place among my fellow-beings, or, as
I devoutly hope, in a sphere where all our mortal infirmities are
past and forgotten.

I have told the story of a blighted life without reserve, so that
there shall not remain any mystery or any dark suspicion connected
with my memory if I should be taken away unexpectedly. It has cost
me an effort to do it, but now that my life is on record I feel more
reconciled to my lot, with all its possibilities, and among these
possibilities is a gleam of a better future. I have been told by my
advisers, some of them wise, deeply instructed, and kind-hearted men,
that such a life-destiny should be related by the subject of it for
the instruction of others, and especially for the light it throws on
certain peculiarities of human character often wrongly interpreted as
due to moral perversion, when they are in reality the results of
misdirected or reversed actions in some of the closely connected
nervous centres.

For myself I can truly say that I have very little morbid sensibility
left with reference to the destiny which has been allotted to me. I
have passed through different stages of feeling with reference to it,
as I have developed from infancy to manhood. At first it was mere
blind instinct about which I had no thought, living like other
infants the life of impressions without language to connect them in
series. In my boyhood I began to be deeply conscious of the
infirmity which separated me from those around me. In youth began
that conflict of emotions and impulses with the antagonistic
influence of which I have already spoken, a conflict which has never
ceased, but to which I have necessarily become to a certain degree
accustomed; and against the dangers of which I have learned to guard
myself habitually. That is the meaning of my isolation. You, young
man,--if at any time your eyes shall look upon my melancholy record,
--you at least will understand me. Does not your heart throb, in the
presence of budding or blooming womanhood, sometimes as if it "were
ready to crack" with its own excess of strain? What if instead of
throbbing it should falter, flutter, and stop as if never to beat
again? You, young woman, who with ready belief and tender sympathy
will look upon these pages, if they are ever spread before you, know
what it is when your breast heaves with uncontrollable emotion and
the grip of the bodice seems unendurable as the embrace of the iron
virgin of the Inquisition. Think what it would be if the grasp were
tightened so that no breath of air could enter your panting chest!

Does your heart beat in the same way, young man, when your honored
friend, a venerable matron of seventy years, greets you with her
kindly smile as it does in the presence of youthful loveliness? When
a pretty child brings you her doll and looks into your eyes with
artless grace and trustful simplicity, does your pulse quicken, do
you tremble, does life palpitate through your whole being, as when
the maiden of seventeen meets your enamored sight in the glow of her
rosebud beauty? Wonder not, then, if the period of mystic attraction
for you should be that of agitation, terror, danger, to one in whom
the natural current of the instincts has had its course changed as
that of a stream is changed by a convulsion of nature, so that the
impression which is new life to you is death to him.

I am now twenty-five years old. I have reached the time of life
which I have dreamed, nay even ventured to hope, might be the limit
of the sentence which was pronounced upon me in my infancy. I can
assign no good reason for this anticipation. But in writing this
paper I feel as if I were preparing to begin a renewed existence.
There is nothing for me to be ashamed of in the story I have told.
There is no man living who would not have yielded to the sense of
instantly impending death which seized upon me under the conditions I
have mentioned. Martyrs have gone singing to their flaming shrouds,
but never a man could hold his breath long enough to kill himself; he
must have rope or water, or some mechanical help, or nature will make
him draw in a breath of air, and would make him do so though he knew
the salvation of the human race would be forfeited by that one gasp.

This paper may never reach the eye of any one afflicted in the same
way that I have been. It probably never will; but for all that,
there are many shy natures which will recognize tendencies in
themselves in the direction of my unhappy susceptibility. Others, to
whom such weakness seems inconceivable, will find their scepticism
shaken, if not removed, by the calm, judicial statement of the Report
drawn up for the Royal Academy. It will make little difference to me
whether my story is accepted unhesitatingly or looked upon as largely
a product of the imagination. I am but a bird of passage that lights
on the boughs of different nationalities. I belong to no flock; my
home may be among the palms of Syria, the olives of Italy, the oaks
of England, the elms that shadow the Hudson or the Connecticut; I
build no nest; to-day I am here, to-morrow on the wing.

If I quit my native land before the trees have dropped their leaves I
shall place this manuscript in the safe hands of one whom I feel sure
that I can trust; to do with it as he shall see fit. If it is only
curious and has no bearing on human welfare, he may think it well to
let it remain unread until I shall have passed away. If in his
judgment it throws any light on one of the deeper mysteries of our
nature,--the repulsions which play such a formidable part in social
life, and which must be recognized as the correlatives of the
affinities that distribute the individuals governed by them in the
face of impediments which seem to be impossibilities,--then it may be
freely given to the world.

But if I am here when the leaves are all fallen, the programme of my
life will have changed, and this story of the dead past will be
illuminated by the light of a living present which will irradiate all
its saddening features. Who would not pray that my last gleam of
light and hope may be that of dawn and not of departing day?

The reader who finds it hard to accept the reality of a story so far
from the common range of experience is once more requested to suspend
his judgment until he has read the paper which will next be offered
for his consideration.


Perhaps it is too much to expect a reader who wishes to be
entertained, excited, amused, and does not want to work his passage
through pages which he cannot understand without some effort of his
own, to read the paper which follows and Dr. Butts's reflections upon
it. If he has no curiosity in the direction of these chapters, he
can afford to leave them to such as relish a slight flavor of
science. But if he does so leave them he will very probably remain
sceptical as to the truth of the story to which they are meant to
furnish him with a key.

Of course the case of Maurice Kirkwood is a remarkable and
exceptional one, and it is hardly probable that any reader's
experience will furnish him with its parallel. But let him look back
over all his acquaintances, if he has reached middle life, and see if
he cannot recall more than one who, for some reason or other, shunned
the society of young women, as if they had a deadly fear of their
company. If he remembers any such, he can understand the simple
statements and natural reflections which are laid before him.

One of the most singular facts connected with the history of Maurice
Kirkwood was the philosophical equanimity with which he submitted to
the fate which had fallen upon him. He did not choose to be pumped
by the Interviewer, who would show him up in the sensational columns
of his prying newspaper. He lived chiefly by himself, as the easiest
mode of avoiding those meetings to which he would be exposed in
almost every society into which he might venture. But he had learned
to look upon himself very much as he would upon an intimate not
himself,--upon a different personality. A young man will naturally
enough be ashamed of his shyness. It is something which others
believe, and perhaps he himself thinks, he might overcome. But in
the case of Maurice Kirkwood there was no room for doubt as to the
reality and gravity of the long enduring effects of his first
convulsive terror. He had accepted the fact as he would have
accepted the calamity of losing his sight or his hearing. When he
was questioned by the experts to whom his case was submitted, he told
them all that he knew about it almost without a sign of emotion.
Nature was so peremptory with him,--saying in language that had no
double meaning: "If you violate the condition on which you hold my
gift of existence I slay you on the spot,"--that he became as
decisive in his obedience as she was in her command, and accepted his
fate without repining.

Yet it must not be thought for a moment,--it cannot be supposed,--
that he was insensible because he looked upon himself with the
coolness of an enforced philosophy. He bore his burden manfully,
hard as it was to live under it, for he lived, as we have seen, in
hope. The thought of throwing it off with his life, as too grievous
to be borne, was familiar to his lonely hours, but he rejected it as
unworthy of his manhood. How he had speculated and dreamed about it
is plain enough from the paper the reader may remember on Ocean,
River, and Lake.

With these preliminary hints the paper promised is submitted to such
as may find any interest in them.



Being the Substance of a Report to the Royal Academy of the Biological
Sciences by a Committee of that Institution.

"The singular nature of the case we are about to narrate and comment
upon will, we feel confident, arrest the attention of those who have
learned the great fact that Nature often throws the strongest light
upon her laws by the apparent exceptions and anomalies which from
time to time are observed. We have done with the lusus naturae of
earlier generations. We pay little attention to the stories of
'miracles,' except so far as we receive them ready-made at the hands
of the churches which still hold to them. Not the less do we meet
with strange and surprising facts, which a century or two ago would
have been handled by the clergy and the courts, but today are calmly
recorded and judged by the best light our knowledge of the laws of
life can throw upon them. It must be owned that there are stories
which we can hardly dispute, so clear and full is the evidence in
their support, which do, notwithstanding, tax our faith and sometimes
leave us sceptical in spite of all the testimony which supports them.

" In this category many will be disposed to place the case we commend
to the candid attention of the Academy. If one were told that a
young man, a gentleman by birth and training, well formed, in
apparently perfect health, of agreeable physiognomy and manners,
could not endure the presence of the most attractive young woman, but
was seized with deadly terror and sudden collapse of all the powers
of life, if he came into her immediate presence; if it were added
that this same young man did not shrink from the presence of an old
withered crone; that he had a certain timid liking for little maidens
who had not yet outgrown the company of their dolls, the listener
would be apt to smile, if he did not laugh, at the absurdity of the
fable. Surely, he would say, this must be the fiction of some
fanciful brain, the whim of some romancer, the trick of some
playwright. It would make a capital farce, this idea, carried out.
A young man slighting the lovely heroine of the little comedy and
making love to her grandmother! This would, of course, be
overstating the truth of the story, but to such a misinterpretation
the plain facts lend themselves too easily. We will relate the
leading circumstances of the case, as they were told us with perfect
simplicity and frankness by the subject of an affection which, if
classified, would come under the general head of Antipathy, but to
which, if we give it a name, we shall have to apply the term
Gynophobia, or Fear of Woman."

Here follows the account furnished to the writer of the paper, which
is in all essentials identical with that already laid before the

" Such is the case offered to our consideration. Assuming its
truthfulness in all its particulars, it remains to see in the first
place whether or not it is as entirely exceptional and anomalous as
it seems at first sight, or whether it is only the last term of a
series of cases which in their less formidable aspect are well known
to us in literature, in the records of science, and even in our
common experience.

"To most of those among us the explanations we are now about to give
are entirely superfluous. But there are some whose chief studies
have been in different directions, and who will not complain if
certain facts are mentioned which to the expert will seem
rudimentary, and which hardly require recapitulation to those who are
familiarly acquainted with the common text-books.

"The heart is the centre of every living movement in the higher
animals, and in man, furnishing in varying amount, or withholding to
a greater or less extent, the needful supplies to all parts of the
system. If its action is diminished to a certain degree, faintness
is the immediate consequence; if it is arrested, loss of
consciousness; if its action is not soon restored, death, of which
fainting plants the white flag, remains in possession of the system.

"How closely the heart is under the influence of the emotions we need
not go to science to learn, for all human experience and all
literature are overflowing with evidence that shows the extent of
this relation. Scripture is full of it; the heart in Hebrew poetry
represents the entire life, we might almost say. Not less forcible
is the language of Shakespeare, as for instance, in 'Measure for

"'Why does my blood thus muster to my heart,
Making it both unable for itself
And dispossessing all my other parts
Of necessary fitness?'

"More especially is the heart associated in every literature with the
passion of love. A famous old story is that of Galen, who was called
to the case of a young lady long ailing, and wasting away from some
cause the physicians who had already seen her were unable to make
out. The shrewd old practitioner suspected that love was at the
bottom of the young lady's malady. Many relatives and friends of
both sexes, all of them ready with their sympathy, came to see her.
The physician sat by her bedside during one of these visits, and in
an easy, natural way took her hand and placed a finger on her pulse.
It beat quietly enough until a certain comely young gentleman entered
the apartment, when it suddenly rose infrequency, and at the same
moment her hurried breathing, her changing color, pale and flushed by
turns, betrayed the profound agitation his presence excited. This
was enough for the sagacious Greek; love was the disease, the cure of
which by its like may be claimed as an anticipation of homoeopathy.
In the frontispiece to the fine old 'Junta' edition of the works of
Galen, you may find among the wood-cuts a representation of the
interesting scene, with the title Amantas Dignotio,--the diagnosis,
or recognition, of the lover.

"Love has many languages, but the heart talks through all of them.
The pallid or burning cheek tells of the failing or leaping fountain
which gives it color. The lovers at the 'Brookside' could hear each
other's hearts beating. When Genevieve, in Coleridge's poem, forgot
herself, and was beforehand with her suitor in her sudden embrace,

"'T was partly love and partly fear,
And partly 't was a bashful art,
That I might rather feel than see
The swelling of her heart'

"Always the heart, whether its hurried action is seen, or heard, or
felt. But it is not always in this way that the 'deceitful' organ
treats the lover.

"'Faint heart never won fair lady.'

"This saying was not meant, perhaps, to be taken literally, but it has
its literal truth. Many a lover has found his heart sink within
him,--lose all its force, and leave him weak as a child in his
emotion at the sight of the object of his affections. When Porphyro
looked upon Madeline at her prayers in the chapel, it was too much
for him:

"'She seemed a splendid angel, newly drest,
Save wings, for heaven:--Porphyro grew faint,
She knelt, so pure a thing, so free from earthly taint.'

"And in Balzac's novel, 'Cesar Birotteau,' the hero of the story
'fainted away for-joy at the moment when, under a linden-tree, at
Sceaux, Constance-Barbe-Josephine accepted him as her future

"One who faints is dead if he does not I come to,' and nothing is
more likely than that too susceptible lovers have actually gone off
in this way. Everything depends on how the heart behaves itself in
these and similar trying moments. The mechanism of its actions
becomes an interesting subject, therefore, to lovers of both sexes,
and to all who are capable of intense emotions.

"The heart is a great reservoir, which distributes food, drink, air,
and heat to every part of the system, in exchange for its waste
material. It knocks at the gate of every organ seventy or eighty
times in a minute, calling upon it to receive its supplies and unload
its refuse. Between it and the brain there is the closest relation.
The emotions, which act upon it as we have seen, govern it by a
mechanism only of late years thoroughly understood. This mechanism
can be made plain enough to the reader who is not afraid to believe
that he can understand it.

"The brain, as all know, is the seat of ideas, emotions, volition.
It is the great central telegraphic station with which many lesser
centres are in close relation, from which they receive, and to which
they transmit, their messages. The heart has its own little brains,
so to speak,--small collections of nervous substance which govern its
rhythmical motions under ordinary conditions. But these lesser
nervous centres are to a large extent dominated by influences
transmitted from certain groups of nerve-cells in the brain and its
immediate dependencies.

"There are two among the special groups of nerve-cells which produce
directly opposite effects. One of these has the power of
accelerating the action of the heart, while the other has the power
of retarding or arresting this action. One acts as the spur, the
other as the bridle. According as one or the other predominates, the
action of the heart will be stimulated or restrained. Among the
great modern discoveries in physiology is that of the existence of a
distinct centre of inhibition, as the restraining influence over the
heart is called.

"The centre of inhibition plays a terrible part in the history of
cowardice and of unsuccessful love. No man can be brave without
blood to sustain his courage, any more than he can think, as the
German materialist says, not absurdly, without phosphorus. The
fainting lover must recover his circulation, or his lady will lend
him her smelling-salts and take a gallant with blood in his cheeks.
Porphyro got over his faintness before he ran away with Madeline, and
Cesar Birotteau was an accepted lover when he swooned with happiness:
but many an officer has been cashiered, and many a suitor has been
rejected, because the centre of inhibition has got the upper hand of
the centre of stimulation.

"In the well-known cases of deadly antipathy which have been
recorded, the most frequent cause has been the disturbed and
depressing influence of the centre of inhibition. Fainting at the
sight of blood is one of the commonest examples of this influence. A
single impression, in a very early period of atmospheric existence,--
perhaps, indirectly, before that period, as was said to have happened
in the case of James the First of England,--may establish a
communication between this centre and the heart which will remain
open ever afterwards. How does a footpath across a field establish
itself? Its curves are arbitrary, and what we call accidental, but
one after another follows it as if he were guided by a chart on which
it was laid down. So it is with this dangerous transit between the
centre of inhibition and the great organ of life. If once the path
is opened by the track of some profound impression, that same
impression, if repeated, or a similar one, is likely to find the old
footmarks and follow them. Habit only makes the path easier to
traverse, and thus the unreasoning terror of a child, of an infant,
may perpetuate itself in a timidity which shames the manhood of its

"The case before us is an exceptional and most remarkable example of
the effect of inhibition on the heart.

"We will not say that we believe it to be unique in the history of
the human race; on the contrary, we do not doubt that there have been
similar cases, and that in some rare instances sudden death has been
the consequence of seizures like that of the subject of this Report.
The case most like it is that of Colone Townsend, which is too well
known to require any lengthened description in this paper. It is
enough to recall the main facts. He could by a voluntary effort
suspend the action of his heart for a considerable period, during
which he lay like one dead, pulseless, and without motion. After a
time the circulation returned, and he does not seem to have been the
worse for his dangerous, or seemingly dangerous, experiment. But in
his case it was by an act of the will that the heart's action was
suspended. In the case before us it is an involuntary impulse
transmitted from the brain to the inhibiting centre, which arrests
the cardiac movements.

"What is like to be the further history of the case?

"The subject of this anomalous affliction is now more than twenty
years old. The chain of nervous actions has become firmly
established. It might have been hoped that the changes of
adolescence would have effected a transformation of the perverted
instinct. On the contrary, the whole force of this instinct throws
itself on the centre of inhibition, instead of quickening the heart-
beats, and sending the rush of youthful blood with fresh life through
the entire system to the throbbing finger-tips.

"Is it probable that time and circumstances will alter a habit of
nervous interactions so long established? We are disposed to think
that there is a chance of its being broken up. And we are not afraid
to say that we suspect the old gypsy woman, whose prophecy took such
hold of the patient's imagination, has hit upon the way in which the
"spell,' as she called it, is to be dissolved. She must, in all
probability, have had a hint of the 'antipatia' to which the youth
before her was a victim, and its cause, and if so, her guess as to
the probable mode in which the young man would obtain relief from his
unfortunate condition was the one which would naturally suggest

"If once the nervous impression which falls on the centre of
inhibition can be made to change its course, so as to follow its
natural channel, it will probably keep to that channel ever
afterwards. And this will, it is most likely, be effected by some
sudden, unexpected impression. If he were drowning, and a young
woman should rescue him, it is by no means impossible that the change
in the nervous current we have referred to might be brought about as
rapidly, as easily, as the reversal of the poles in a magnet, which
is effected in an instant. But he cannot be expected to throw
himself into the water just at the right moment when the 'fair lady'
of the gitana's prophecy is passing on the shore. Accident may
effect the cure which art seems incompetent to perform. It would not
be strange if in some future seizure he should never come back to
consciousness. But it is quite conceivable, on the other hand, that
a happier event may occur, that in a single moment the nervous
polarity may be reversed, the whole course of his life changed, and
his past terrible experiences be to him like a scarce-remembered

"This is one, of those cases in which it is very hard to determine
the wisest course to be pursued. The question is not unlike that
which arises in certain cases of dislocation of the bones of the
neck. Shall the unfortunate sufferer go all his days with his face
turned far round to the right or the left, or shall an attempt be
made to replace the dislocated bones? an attempt which may succeed,
or may cause instant death. The patient must be consulted as to
whether he will take the chance. The practitioner may be unwilling
to risk it, if the patient consents. Each case must be judged on its
own special grounds. We cannot think that this young man is doomed
to perpetual separation from the society of womanhood during the
period of its bloom and attraction. But to provoke another seizure
after his past experiences would be too much like committing suicide.
We fear that we must trust to the chapter of accidents. The strange
malady--for such it is--has become a second nature, and may require
as energetic a shock to displace it as it did to bring it into
existence. Time alone can solve this question, on which depends the
well-being and, it may be, the existence of a young man every way
fitted to be happy, and to give happiness, if restored to his true



Dr. Butts sat up late at night reading these papers and reflecting
upon them. He was profoundly impressed and tenderly affected by the
entire frankness, the absence of all attempt at concealment, which
Maurice showed in placing these papers at his disposal. He believed
that his patient would recover from this illness for which he had
been taking care of him. He thought deeply and earnestly of what he
could do for him after he should have regained his health and

There were references, in Maurice's own account of himself, which the
doctor called to mind with great interest after reading his brief
autobiography. Some one person--some young woman, it must be--had
produced a singular impression upon him since those earlier perilous
experiences through which he had passed. The doctor could not help
thinking of that meeting with Euthymia of which she had spoken to
him. Maurice, as she said, turned pale,--he clapped his hand to his
breast. He might have done so if be had met her chambermaid, or any
straggling damsel of the village. But Euthymia was not a young woman
to be looked upon with indifference. She held herself like a queen,
and walked like one, not a stage queen, but one born and bred to
self-reliance, and command of herself as well as others. One could
not pass her without being struck with her noble bearing and spirited
features. If she had known how Maurice trembled as he looked upon
her, in that conflict of attraction and uncontrollable dread,--if she
had known it! But what, even then, could she have done? Nothing but
get away from him as fast as she could. As it was, it was a long
time before his agitation subsided, and his heart beat with its
common force and frequency.

Dr. Butts was not a male gossip nor a matchmaking go-between. But he
could not help thinking what a pity it was that these two young
persons could not come together as other young people do in the
pairing season, and find out whether they cared for and were fitted
for each other. He did not pretend to settle this question in his
own mind, but the thought was a natural one. And here was a gulf
between them as deep and wide as that between Lazarus and Dives.
Would it ever be bridged over? This thought took possession of the
doctor's mind, and he imagined all sorts of ways of effecting some
experimental approximation between Maurice and Euthymia. From this
delicate subject he glanced off to certain general considerations
suggested by the extraordinary history he had been reading. He began
by speculating as to the possibility of the personal presence of an
individual making itself perceived by some channel other than any of
the five senses. The study of the natural sciences teaches those who
are devoted to them that the most insignificant facts may lead the
way to the discovery of the most important, all-pervading laws of the
universe. From the kick of a frog's hind leg to the amazing triumphs
which began with that seemingly trivial incident is a long, a very
long stride if Madam Galvani had not been in delicate health, which
was the occasion of her having some frog-broth prepared for her, the
world of to-day might not be in possession of the electric telegraph
and the light which blazes like the sun at high noon. A common-
looking occurrence, one seemingly unimportant, which had hitherto
passed unnoticed with the ordinary course of things, was the means of
introducing us to a new and vast realm of closely related phenomena.
It was like a key that we might have picked up, looking so simple
that it could hardly fit any lock but one of like simplicity, but
which should all at once throw back the bolts of the one lock which
had defied the most ingenious of our complex implements and open our
way into a hitherto unexplored territory.

It certainly was not through the eye alone that Maurice felt the
paralyzing influence. He could contemplate Euthymia from a distance,
as he did on the day of the boat-race, without any nervous
disturbance. A certain proximity was necessary for the influence to
be felt, as in the case of magnetism and electricity. An atmosphere
of danger surrounded every woman he approached during the period when
her sex exercises its most powerful attractions. How far did that
atmosphere extend, and through what channel did it act?

The key to the phenomena of this case, he believed, was to be found
in a fact as humble as that which gave birth to the science of
galvanism and its practical applications. The circumstances
connected with the very common antipathy to cats were as remarkable
in many points of view as the similar circumstances in the case of
Maurice Kirkwood. The subjects of that antipathy could not tell what
it was which disturbed their nervous system. All they knew was that
a sense of uneasiness, restlessness, oppression, came over them in
the presence of one of these animals. He remembered the fact already
mentioned, that persons sensitive to this impression can tell by
their feelings if a cat is concealed in the apartment in which they
may happen to be. It may be through some emanation. It may be
through the medium of some electrical disturbance. What if the
nerve-thrills passing through the whole system of the animal
propagate themselves to a certain distance without any more regard to
intervening solids than is shown by magnetism? A sieve lets sand
pass through it; a filter arrests sand, but lets fluids pass, glass
holds fluids, but lets light through; wood shuts out light, but
magnetic attraction goes through it as sand went through the sieve.
No good reasons can be given why the presence of a cat should not
betray itself to certain organizations, at a distance, through the
walls of a box in which the animal is shut up. We need not
disbelieve the stories which allege such an occurrence as a fact and
a not very infrequent one.

If the presence of a cat can produce its effects under these
circumstances, why should not that of a human being under similar
conditions, acting on certain constitutions, exercise its specific
influence? The doctor recalled a story told him by one of his
friends, a story which the friend himself heard from the lips of the
distinguished actor, the late Mr. Fechter. The actor maintained that
Rachel had no genius as an actress. It was all Samson's training and
study, according to him, which explained the secret of her wonderful
effectiveness on the stage. But magnetism, he said,--magnetism, she
was full of. He declared that he was made aware of her presence on
the stage, when he could not see her or know of her presence
otherwise, by this magnetic emanation. The doctor took the story for
what it was worth. There might very probably be exaggeration,
perhaps high imaginative coloring about it, but it was not a whit
more unlikely than the cat-stories, accepted as authentic. He
continued this train of thought into further developments. Into this
series of reflections we will try to follow him.

What is the meaning of the halo with which artists have surrounded
the heads of their pictured saints, of the aureoles which wraps them
like a luminous cloud? Is it not a recognition of the fact that
these holy personages diffuse their personality in the form of a
visible emanation, which reminds us of Milton's definition of light:

"Bright effluence of bright essence increate"?

The common use of the term influence would seem to imply the
existence of its correlative, effluence. There is no good reason
that I can see, the doctor said to himself, why among the forces
which work upon the nervous centres there should not be one which
acts at various distances from its source. It may not be visible
like the "glory" of the painters, it may not be appreciable by any
one of the five senses, and yet it may be felt by the person reached
by it as much as if it were a palpable presence,--more powerfully,
perhaps, from the mystery which belongs to its mode of action.

Why should not Maurice have been rendered restless and anxious by the
unseen nearness of a young woman who was in the next room to him,
just as the persons who have the dread of cats are made conscious of
their presence through some unknown channel? Is it anything strange
that the larger and more powerful organism should diffuse a
consciousness of its presence to some distance as well as the
slighter and feebler one? Is it strange that this mysterious
influence or effluence should belong especially or exclusively to the
period of complete womanhood in distinction from that of immaturity
or decadence? On the contrary, it seems to be in accordance with all
the analogies of nature,--analogies too often cruel in the sentence
they pass upon the human female.

Among the many curious thoughts which came up in the doctor's mind
was this, which made him smile as if it were a jest, but which he
felt very strongly had its serious side, and was involved with the
happiness or suffering of multitudes of youthful persons who die
without telling their secret:

How many young men have a mortal fear of woman, as woman, which they
never overcome, and in consequence of which the attraction which
draws man towards her, as strong in them as in others,--oftentimes,
in virtue of their peculiarly sensitive organizations, more potent in
them than in others of like age and conditions,--in consequence of
which fear, this attraction is completely neutralized, and all the
possibilities of doubled and indefinitely extended life depending
upon it are left unrealized! Think what numbers of young men in
Catholic countries devote themselves to lives of celibacy. Think how
many young men lose all their confidence in the presence of the young
woman to whom they are most attracted, and at last steal away from a
companionship which it is rapture to dream of and torture to endure,
so does the presence of the beloved object paralyze all the powers of
expression. Sorcerers have in all time and countries played on the
hopes and terrors of lovers. Once let loose a strong impulse on the
centre of inhibition, and the warrior who had faced bayonets and
batteries becomes a coward whom the well-dressed hero of the ball-
room and leader of the German will put to ignominious flight in five
minutes of easy, audacious familiarity with his lady-love.

Yes, the doctor went on with his reflections, I do not know that I
have seen the term Gynophobia before I opened this manuscript, but I
have seen the malady many times. Only one word has stood between
many a pair of young people and their lifelong happiness, and that
word has got as far as the lips, but the lips trembled and would not,
could not, shape that little word. All young women are not like
Coleridge's Genevieve, who knew how to help her lover out of his
difficulty, and said yes before he had asked for an answer. So the
wave which was to have wafted them on to the shore of Elysium has
just failed of landing them, and back they have been drawn into the
desolate ocean to meet no more on earth.

Love is the master-key, he went on thinking, love is the master-key
that opens the gates of happiness, of hatred, of jealousy, and, most
easily of all, the gate of fear. How terrible is the one fact of
beauty!--not only the historic wonder of beauty, that "burnt the
topless towers of Ilium "for the smile of Helen, and fired the
palaces of Babylon by the hand of Thais, but the beauty which springs
up in all times and places, and carries a torch and wears a serpent
for a wreath as truly as any of the Eumenides. Paint Beauty with her
foot upon a skull and a dragon coiled around her.

The doctor smiled at his own imposing classical allusions and
pictorial imagery. Drifting along from thought to thought, he
reflected on the probable consequences of the general knowledge of
Maurice Kirkwood's story, if it came before the public.

What a piece of work it would make among the lively youths of the
village, to be sure! What scoffing, what ridicule, what
embellishments, what fables, would follow in the trail of the story!
If the Interviewer got hold of it, how "The People's Perennial and
Household Inquisitor" would blaze with capitals in its next issue!
The young fellows' of the place would be disposed to make fun of the
whole matter. The young girls-the doctor hardly dared to think what
would happen when the story got about among them. "The Sachem" of
the solitary canoe, the bold horseman, the handsome hermit,--handsome
so far as the glimpses they had got of him went,--must needs be an
object of tender interest among them, now that he was ailing,
suffering, in danger of his life, away from friends,--poor fellow!
Little tokens of their regard had reached his sick-chamber; bunches
of flowers with dainty little notes, some of them pinkish, some
three-cornered, some of them with brief messages, others "criss-
crossed," were growing more frequent as it was understood that the
patient was likely to be convalescent before many days had passed.
If it should come to be understood that there was a deadly obstacle
to their coming into any personal relations with him, the doctor had
his doubts whether there were not those who would subject him to the
risk; for there were coquettes in the village,--strangers, visitors,
let us hope,--who would sacrifice anything or anybody to their vanity
and love of conquest.



The illness from which Maurice had suffered left him in a state of
profound prostration. The doctor, who remembered the extreme danger
of any overexertion in such cases, hardly allowed him to lift his
head from the pillow. But his mind was gradually recovering its
balance, and he was able to hold some conversation with those about
him. His faithful Paolo had grown so thin in waiting upon him and
watching with him that the village children had to take a second look
at his face when they passed him to make sure that it was indeed
their old friend and no other. But as his master advanced towards
convalescence and the doctor assured him that he was going in all
probability to get well, Paolo's face began to recover something of
its old look and expression, and once more his pockets filled
themselves with comfits for his little circle of worshipping three
and four year old followers.

How is Mr. Kirkwood?" was the question with which he was always
greeted. In the worst periods of the fever be rarely left his
master. When he did, and the question was put to him, he would shake
his head sadly, sometimes without a word, sometimes with tears and
sobs and faltering words,--more like a brokenhearted child than a
stalwart man as he was, such a man as soldiers are made of in the
great Continental armies.

"He very bad,--he no eat nothing,--he--no say nothing,--he never be
no better," and all his Southern nature betrayed itself in a
passionate burst of lamentation. But now that he began to feel easy
about his master, his ready optimism declared itself no less

"He better every day now. He get well in few weeks, sure. You see
him on hoss in little while." The kind-hearted creature's life was
bound up in that of his "master," as he loved to call him, in
sovereign disregard of the comments of the natives, who held
themselves too high for any such recognition of another as their
better. They could not understand how he, so much their superior in
bodily presence, in air and manner, could speak of the man who
employed him in any other way than as "Kirkwood," without even
demeaning himself so far as to prefix a "Mr." to it. But "my
master" Maurice remained for Paolo in spite of the fact that all men
are born free and equal. And never was a servant more devoted to a
master than was Paolo to Maurice during the days of doubt and danger.
Since his improvement Maurice insisted upon his leaving his chamber
and getting out of the house, so as to breathe the fresh air of which
he was in so much need. It worried him to see his servant returning
after too short an absence. The attendant who had helped him in the
care of the patient was within call, and Paolo was almost driven out
of the house by the urgency of his master's command that he should
take plenty of exercise in the open air.

Notwithstanding the fact of Maurice's improved condition, although
the force of the disease had spent itself, the state of weakness to
which he had been reduced was a cause of some anxiety, and required
great precautions to be taken. He lay in bed, wasted, enfeebled to
such a degree that he had to be cared for very much as a child is
tended. Gradually his voice was coming back to him, so that he could
hold some conversation, as was before mentioned, with those about
him. The doctor waited for the right moment to make mention of the
manuscript which Maurice had submitted to him. Up to this time,
although it had been alluded to and the doctor had told him of the
intense interest with which he had read it, he had never ventured to
make it the subject of any long talk, such as would be liable to
fatigue his patient. But now he thought the time had come.

"I have been thinking," the doctor said, "of the singular seizures to
which you are liable, and as it is my business not merely to think
about such cases, but to do what I can to help any who may be capable
of receiving aid from my art, I wish to have some additional facts
about your history. And in the first place, will you allow me to ask
what led you to this particular place? It is so much less known to
the public at large than many other resorts that we naturally ask,
What brings this or that new visitor among us? We have no ill-
tasting, natural spring of bad water to be analyzed by the state
chemist and proclaimed as a specific. We have no great gambling-
houses, no racecourse (except that fox boats on the lake); we have no
coaching-club, no great balls, few lions of any kind, so we ask, What
brings this or that stranger here? And I think I may venture to ask
you whether any, special motive brought you among us, or whether it
was accident that determined your coming to this place."

"Certainly, doctor," Maurice answered, "I will tell you with great
pleasure. Last year I passed on the border of a great river. The
year before I lived in a lonely cottage at the side of the ocean. I
wanted this year to be by a lake. You heard the paper read at the
meeting of your society, or at least you heard of it,--for such
matters are always talked over in a village like this. You can judge
by that paper, or could, if it were before you, of the frame of mind
in which I came here. I was tired of the sullen indifference of the
ocean and the babbling egotism of the river, always hurrying along on
its own private business. I wanted the dreamy stillness of a large,
tranquil sheet of water that had nothing in particular to do, and
would leave me to myself and my thoughts. I had read somewhere about
the place, and the old Anchor Tavern, with its paternal landlord and
motherly landlady and old-fashioned household, and that, though it
was no longer open as a tavern, I could find a resting-place there
early in the season, at least for a few days, while I looked about me
for a quiet place in which I might pass my summer. I have found this
a pleasant residence. By being up early and out late I have kept
myself mainly in the solitude which has become my enforced habit of
life. The season has gone by too swiftly for me since my dream has
become a vision."

The doctor was sitting with his hand round Maurice's wrist, three
fingers on his pulse. As he spoke these last words he noticed that
the pulse fluttered a little,--beat irregularly a few times;
intermitted; became feeble and thready; while his cheek grew whiter
than the pallid bloodlessness of his long illness had left it.

"No more talk, now," he said. "You are too tired to be using your
voice. I will hear all the rest another time."

The doctor had interrupted Maurice at an interesting point. What did
he mean by saying that his dream had become a vision? This is what
the doctor was naturally curious, and professionally anxious, to
know. But his hand was still on his patient's pulse, which told him
unmistakably that the heart had taken the alarm and was losing its
energy under the depressing nervous influence. Presently, however,
it recovered its natural force and rhythm, and a faint flush came
back to the pale cheek. The doctor remembered the story of Galen,
and the young maiden whose complaint had puzzled the physicians.

The next day his patient was well enough to enter once more into

"You said something about a dream of yours which had become a
vision," said the doctor, with his fingers on his patient's wrist, as
before. He felt the artery leap, under his pressure, falter a
little, stop, then begin again, growing fuller in its beat. The
heart had felt the pull of the bridle, but the spur had roused it to
swift reaction.

"You know the story of my past life, doctor," Maurice answered; "and,
I will tell you what is the vision which has taken the place of my
dreams. You remember the boat-race? I watched it from a distance,
but I held a powerful opera-glass in my hand, which brought the whole
crew of the young ladies' boat so close to me that I could see the
features, the figures, the movements, of every one of the rowers. I
saw the little coxswain fling her bouquet in the track of the other
boat,--you remember how the race was lost and won,--but I saw one
face among those young girls which drew me away from all the rest.
It was that of the young lady who pulled the bow oar, the captain of
the boat's crew. I have since learned her name, you know it well,--I
need not name her. Since that day I have had many distant glimpses
of her; and once I met her so squarely that the deadly sensation came
over me, and I felt that in another moment I should fall senseless at
her feet. But she passed on her way and I on mine, and the spasm
which had clutched my heart gradually left it, and I was as well as
before. You know that young lady, doctor?"

"I do; and she is a very noble creature. You are not the first young
man who has been fascinated, almost at a glance, by Miss Euthymia
Tower. And she is well worth knowing more intimately."

The doctor gave him a full account of the young lady, of her early
days, her character, her accomplishments. To all this he listened
devoutly, and when the doctor left him he said to himself,
"I will see her and speak with her, if it costs me my life."



"The Wonder" of the Corinna Institute had never willingly made a show
of her gymnastic accomplishments. Her feats, which were so much
admired, were only her natural exercise. Gradually the dumb-bells
others used became too light for her, the ropes she climbed too
short, the clubs she exercised with seemed as if they were made of
cork instead of being heavy wood, and all the tests and meters of
strength and agility had been strained beyond the standards which the
records of the school had marked as their historic maxima. It was
not her fault that she broke a dynamometer one day; she apologized
for it, but the teacher said he wished he could have a dozen broken
every year in the same way. The consciousness of her bodily strength
had made her very careful in her movements. The pressure of her hand
was never too hard for the tenderest little maiden whose palm was
against her own. So far from priding herself on her special gifts,
she was disposed to be ashamed of them. There were times and places
in which she could give full play to her muscles without fear or
reproach. She had her special costume for the boat and for the
woods. She would climb the rugged old hemlocks now and then for the
sake of a wide outlook, or to peep into the large nest where a hawk,
or it may be an eagle, was raising her little brood of air-pirates.

There were those who spoke of her wanderings in lonely places as an
unsafe exposure. One sometimes met doubtful characters about the
neighborhood, and stories were--told of occurrences which might well
frighten a young girl, and make her cautious of trusting herself
alone in the wild solitudes which surrounded the little village..
Those who knew Euthymia thought her quite equal to taking care of
herself. Her very look was enough to ensure the respect of any
vagabond who might cross her path, and if matters came to the worst
she would prove as dangerous as a panther.

But it was a pity to associate this class of thoughts with a noble
specimen of true womanhood. Health, beauty, strength, were fine
qualities, and in all these she was rich. She enjoyed all her
natural gifts, and thought little about them. Unwillingly, but over-
persuaded by some of her friends, she had allowed her arm and hand to
be modelled. The artists who saw the cast wondered if it would be
possible to get the bust of the maiden from whom it was taken.
Nobody would have dared to suggest such an idea to her except Lurida.
For Lurida sex was a trifling accident, to be disregarded not only in
the interests of humanity, but for the sake of art.

"It is a shame," she said to Euthymia, "that you will not let your
exquisitely moulded form be perpetuated in marble. You have no right
to withhold such a model from the contemplation of your fellow-
creatures. Think how rare it is to see a woman who truly represents
the divine idea! You belong to your race, and not to yourself,--at
least, your beauty is a gift not to be considered as a piece of
private property. Look at the so-called Venus of Milo. Do you
suppose the noble woman who was the original of that divinely chaste
statue felt any scruple about allowing the sculptor to reproduce her
pure, unblemished perfections?"

Euthymia was always patient with her imaginative friend. She
listened to her eloquent discourse, but she could not help blushing,
used as she was to Lurida's audacities. "The Terror's" brain had run
away with a large share of the blood which ought to have gone to the
nourishment of her general system. She could not help admiring,
almost worshipping, a companion whose being was rich in the womanly
developments with which nature had so economically endowed herself.
An impoverished organization carries with it certain neutral
qualities which make its subject appear, in the presence of complete
manhood and womanhood, like a deaf-mute among speaking persons. The
deep blush which crimsoned Euthymia's cheek at Lurida's suggestion
was in a strange contrast to her own undisturbed expression. There
was a range of sensibilities of which Lurida knew far less than she
did of those many and difficult studies which had absorbed her vital
forces. She was startled to see what an effect her proposal had
produced, for Euthymia was not only blushing, but there was a flame
in her eyes which she had hardly ever seen before.

"Is this only your own suggestion?" Euthymia said, "or has some one
been putting the idea into your head?" The truth was that she had
happened to meet the Interviewer at the Library, one day, and she was
offended by the long, searching stare with which that individual had
honored her. It occurred to her that he, or some such visitor to the
place, might have spoken of her to Lurida, or to some other person
who had repeated what was said to Lurida, as a good subject for the
art of the sculptor, and she felt all her maiden sensibilities
offended by the proposition. Lurida could not understand her
excitement, but she was startled by it. Natures which are
complementary of each other are liable to these accidental collisions
of feeling. They get along very well together, none the worse for
their differences, until all at once the tender spot of one or the
other is carelessly handled in utter unconsciousness on the part of
the aggressor, and the exclamation, the outcry, or the explosion
explains the situation altogether too emphatically. Such scenes did
not frequently occur between the two friends, and this little flurry
was soon over; but it served to warn Lurida that Miss Euthymia Tower
was not of that class of self-conscious beauties who would be ready
to dispute the empire of the Venus of Milo on her own ground, in
defences as scanty and insufficient as those of the marble divinity.

Euthymia had had admirers enough, at a distance, while at school, and
in the long vacations, near enough to find out that she was anything
but easy to make love to. She fairly frightened more than one rash
youth who was disposed to be too sentimental in her company. They
overdid flattery, which she was used to and tolerated, but which
cheapened the admirer in her estimation, and now and then betrayed
her into an expression which made him aware of the fact, and was a
discouragement to aggressive amiability. The real difficulty was
that not one of her adorers had ever greatly interested her. It
could not be that nature had made her insensible. It must have been
because the man who was made for her had never yet shown himself.
She was not easy to please, that was certain; and she was one of
those young women who will not accept as a lover one who but half
pleases them. She could not pick up the first stick that fell in her
way and take it to shape her ideal out of. Many of the good people
of the village doubted whether Euthymia would ever be married.

"There 's nothing good enough for her in this village," said the old
landlord of what had been the Anchor Tavern.

"She must wait till a prince comes along," the old landlady said in
reply. "She'd make as pretty a queen as any of them that's born to
it. Wouldn't she be splendid with a gold crown on her head, and
di'monds a glitterin' all over her! D' you remember how handsome she
looked in the tableau, when the fair was held for the Dorcas Society?
She had on an old dress of her grandma's,--they don't make anything.
half so handsome nowadays,--and she was just as pretty as a pictur'.
But what's the use of good looks if they scare away folks? The young
fellows think that such a handsome girl as that would cost ten times
as much to keep as a plain one. She must be dressed up like an
empress,--so they seem to think. It ain't so with Euthymy: she'd
look like a great lady dressed anyhow, and she has n't got any more
notions than the homeliest girl that ever stood before a glass to
look at herself."

In the humbler walks of Arrowhead Village society, similar opinions
were entertained of Miss Euthymia. The fresh-water fisherman
represented pretty well the average estimate of the class to which he
belonged. "I tell ye," said he to another gentleman of leisure,
whose chief occupation was to watch the coming and going of the
visitors to Arrowhead Village,--"I tell ye that girl ain't a gon to
put up with any o' them slab-sided fellahs that you see hangin'
raound to look at her every Sunday when she comes aout o' meetin'.
It's one o' them big gents from Boston or New York that'll step up
an' kerry her off."

In the mean time nothing could be further from the thoughts of
Euthymia than the prospect of an ambitious worldly alliance. The
ideals of young women cost them many and great disappointments, but
they save them very often from those lifelong companionships which
accident is constantly trying to force upon them, in spite of their
obvious unfitness. The higher the ideal, the less likely is the
commonplace neighbor who has the great advantage of easy access, or
the boarding-house acquaintance who can profit by those vacant hours
when the least interesting of visitors is better than absolute
loneliness,--the less likely are these undesirable personages to be
endured, pitied, and, if not embraced, accepted, for want of
something better. Euthymia found so much pleasure in the
intellectual companionship of Lurida, and felt her own prudence and
reserve so necessary to that independent young lady, that she had
been contented, so far, with friendship, and thought of love only in
an abstract sort of way. Beneath her abstractions there was a
capacity of loving which might have been inferred from the expression
of her features, the light that shone in her eyes, the tones of her
voice, all of which were full of the language which belongs to
susceptible natures. How many women never say to themselves that
they were born to love, until all at once the discovery opens upon
them, as the sense that he was born a painter is said to have dawned
suddenly upon Correggio!

Like all the rest of the village and its visitors, she could not help
thinking a good deal about the young man lying ill amongst strangers.
She was not one of those who had sent him the three-cornered notes or
even a bunch of flowers. She knew that he was receiving abounding
tokens of kindness and sympathy from different quarters, and a
certain inward feeling restrained her from joining in these
demonstrations. If he had been suffering from some deadly and
contagious malady she would have risked her life to help him, without
a thought that there was any wonderful heroism in such self-devotion.
Her friend Lurida might have been capable of the same sacrifice, but
it would be after reasoning with herself as to the obligations which
her sense of human rights and duties laid upon her, and fortifying
her courage with the memory of noble deeds recorded of women in
ancient and modern history. With Euthymia the primary human
instincts took precedence of all reasoning or reflection about them.
All her sympathies were excited by the thought of this forlorn
stranger in his solitude, but she felt the impossibility of giving
any complete expression to them. She thought of Mungo Park in the
African desert, and she envied the poor negress who not only pitied
him, but had the blessed opportunity of helping and consoling him.
How near were these two human creatures, each needing the other! How
near in bodily presence, how far apart in their lives, with a barrier
seemingly impassable between them!



These autumnal fevers, which carry off a large number of our young
people every year, are treacherous and deceptive diseases. Not only
are they liable, as has been mentioned, to various accidental
complications which may prove suddenly fatal, but too often, after
convalescence seems to be established, relapses occur which are more
serious than the disease had appeared to be in its previous course.
One morning Dr. Butts found Maurice worse instead of better, as he
had hoped and expected to find him. Weak as he was, there was every
reason to fear the issue of this return of his threatening symptoms.
There was not much to do besides keeping up the little strength which
still remained. It was all needed.

Does the reader of these pages ever think of the work a sick man as
much as a well one has to perform while he is lying on his back and
taking what we call his "rest"? More than a thousand times an hour,
between a hundred and fifty and two hundred thousand times a week, he
has to lift the bars of the cage in which his breathing organs are
confined, to save himself from asphyxia. Rest! There is no rest
until the last long sigh tells those who look upon the dying that the
ceaseless daily task, to rest from which is death, is at last
finished. We are all galley-slaves, pulling at the levers of
respiration,--which, rising and falling like so many oars, drive us
across an unfathomable ocean from one unknown shore to another. No!
Never was a galley-slave so chained as we are to these four and
twenty oars, at which we must tug day and night all our life long

The doctor could not find any accidental cause to account for this
relapse. It presently occurred to him that there might be some local
source of infection which had brought on the complaint, and was still
keeping up the symptoms which were the ground of alarm. He
determined to remove Maurice to his own house, where he could be sure
of pure air, and where he himself could give more constant attention
to his patient during this critical period of his disease. It was a
risk to take, but he could be carried on a litter by careful men, and
remain wholly passive during the removal. Maurice signified his
assent, as he could hardly help doing,--for the doctor's suggestion
took pretty nearly the form of a command. He thought it a matter of
life and death, and was gently urgent for his patient's immediate
change of residence. The doctor insisted on having Maurice's books
and other movable articles carried to his own house, so that he
should be surrounded by familiar sights, and not worry himself about
what might happen to objects which he valued, if they were left
behind him.

All these dispositions were quickly and quietly made, and everything
was ready for the transfer of the patient to the house of the
hospitable physician. Paolo was at the doctor's, superintending the
arrangement of Maurice's effects and making all ready for his master.
The nurse in attendance, a trustworthy man enough in the main,
finding his patient in a tranquil sleep, left his bedside for a
little fresh air. While he was at the door he heard a shouting which
excited his curiosity, and he followed the sound until he found
himself at the border of the lake. It was nothing very wonderful
which had caused the shouting. A Newfoundland dog had been showing
off his accomplishments, and some of the idlers were betting as to
the time it would take him to bring back to his master the various
floating objects which had been thrown as far from the shore as
possible. He watched the dog a few minutes, when his attention was
drawn to a light wherry, pulled by one young lady and steered by
another. It was making for the shore, which it would soon reach.
The attendant remembered all at once, that he had left his charge,
and just before the boat came to land he turned and hurried back to
the patient. Exactly how long he had been absent he could not have
said,--perhaps a quarter of an hour, perhaps longer; the time
appeared short to him, wearied with long sitting and watching.

It had seemed, when he stole away from Maurice's bedside, that he was
not in the least needed. The patient was lying perfectly quiet, and
to all appearance wanted nothing more than letting alone. It was
such a comfort to look at something besides the worn features of a
sick man, to hear something besides his labored breathing and faint,
half-whispered words, that the temptation to indulge in these
luxuries for a few minutes had proved irresistible.

Unfortunately, Maurice's slumbers did not remain tranquil during the
absence of the nurse. He very soon fell into a dream, which began
quietly enough, but in the course of the sudden transitions which
dreams are in the habit of undergoing became successively anxious,
distressing, terrifying. His earlier and later experiences came up
before him, fragmentary, incoherent, chaotic even, but vivid as
reality. He was at the bottom of a coal-mine in one of those long,
narrow galleries, or rather worm-holes, in which human beings pass a
large part of their lives, like so many larvae boring their way into
the beams and rafters of some old building. How close the air was in
the stifling passage through which he was crawling! The scene
changed, and he was climbing a slippery sheet of ice with desperate
effort, his foot on the floor of a shallow niche, his hold an icicle
ready to snap in an instant, an abyss below him waiting for his foot
to slip or the icicle to break. How thin the air seemed, how
desperately hard to breathe! He was thinking of Mont Blanc, it may
be, and the fearfully rarefied atmosphere which he remembered well as
one of the great trials in his mountain ascents. No, it was not Mont
Blanc,--it was not any one of the frozen Alpine summits; it was Hecla
that he was climbing

The smoke of the burning mountain was wrapping itself around him; he
was choking with its dense fumes; he heard the flames roaring around
him, he felt the hot lava beneath his feet, he uttered a faint cry,
and awoke.

The room was full of smoke. He was gasping for breath, strangling in
the smothering oven which his chamber had become.

The house was on fire!

He tried to call for help, but his voice failed him, and died away in
a whisper. He made a desperate effort, and rose so as to sit up in
the bed for an instant, but the effort was too much for him, and he
sank back upon his pillow, helpless. He felt that his hour had come,
for he could not live in this dreadful atmosphere, and he was left
alone. He could hear the crackle of fire as the flame crept along
from one partition to another. It was a cruel fate to be left to
perish in that way,--the fate that many a martyr had had to face,--to
be first strangled and then burned. Death had not the terror for him
that it has for most young persons. He was accustomed to thinking of
it calmly, sometimes wistfully, even to such a degree that the
thought of self-destruction had come upon him as a temptation. But
here was death in an unexpected and appalling shape. He did not know
before how much he cared to live. All his old recollections came
before him as it were in one long, vivid flash. The closed vista of
memory opened to its far horizon-line, and past and present were
pictured in a single instant of clear vision. The dread moment which
had blighted his life returned in all its terror. He felt the
convulsive spring in the form of a faint, impotent spasm,--the rush
of air,--the thorns of the stinging and lacerating cradle into which
he was precipitated. One after another those paralyzing seizures
which had been like deadening blows on the naked heart seemed to
repeat themselves, as real as at the moment of their occurrence. The
pictures passed in succession with such rapidity that they appeared
almost as if simultaneous. The vision of the "inward eye" was so
intensified in this moment of peril that an instant was like an hour
of common existence. Those who have been very near drowning know
well what this description means. The development of a photograph
may not explain it, but it illustrates the curious and familiar fact
of the revived recollections of the drowning man's experience. The
sensitive plate has taken one look at a scene, and remembers it all,

Every little circumstance is there,--the hoof in air, the wing in
flight, the leaf as it falls, the wave as it breaks. All there, but
invisible; potentially present, but impalpable, inappreciable, as if
not existing at all. A wash is poured over it, and the whole scene
comes out in all its perfection of detail. In those supreme moments
when death stares a man suddenly in the face the rush of unwonted
emotion floods the undeveloped pictures of vanished years, stored
away in the memory, the vast panorama of a lifetime, and in one swift
instant the past comes out as vividly as if it were again the
present. So it was at this moment with the sick man, as he lay
helpless and felt that he was left to die. For he saw no hope of
relief: the smoke was drifting in clouds into the room; the flames
were very near; if he was not reached and rescued immediately it was
all over with him.

His past life had flashed before him. Then all at once rose the
thought of his future,--of all its possibilities, of the vague hopes
which he had cherished of late that his mysterious doom would be
lifted from him. There was something, then, to be lived for,
something! There was a new life, it might be, in store for him, and
such a new life! He thought of all he was losing. Oh, could he but
have lived to know the meaning of love! And the passionate desire of
life came over him,--not the dread of death, but the longing for what
the future might yet have of happiness for him.

All this took place in the course of a very few moments. Dreams and
visions have little to do with measured time, and ten minutes,
possibly fifteen or twenty, were all that had passed since the
beginning of those nightmare terrors which were evidently suggested
by the suffocating air he was breathing.

What had happened? In the confusion of moving books and other
articles to the doctor's house, doors and windows had been forgotten.
Among the rest a window opening into the cellar, where some old
furniture had been left by a former occupant, had been left unclosed.
One of the lazy natives, who had lounged by the house smoking a bad
cigar, had thrown the burning stump in at this open window. He had
no particular intention of doing mischief, but he had that
indifference to consequences which is the next step above the
inclination to crime. The burning stump happened to fall among the
straw of an old mattress which had been ripped open. The smoker went
his way without looking behind him, and it so chanced that no other
person passed the house for some time. Presently the straw was in a
blaze, and from this the fire extended to the furniture, to the
stairway leading up from the cellar, and was working its way along
the entry under the stairs leading up to the apartment where Maurice
was lying.

The blaze was fierce and swift, as it could not help being with such
a mass of combustibles,--loose straw from the mattress, dry old
furniture, and old warped floors which had been parching and
shrinking for a score or two of years. The whole house was, in the
common language of the newspaper reports, "a perfect tinder-box," and
would probably be a heap of ashes in half an hour. And there was
this unfortunate deserted sick man lying between life and death,
beyond all help unless some unexpected assistance should come to his

As the attendant drew near the house where Maurice was lying, he was
horror-struck to see dense volumes of smoke pouring out of the lower
windows. It was beginning to make its way through the upper windows,
also, and presently a tongue of fire shot out and streamed upward
along the side of the house. The man shrieked Fire! Fire! with all
his might, and rushed to the door of the building to make his way to
Maurice's room and save him. He penetrated but a short distance
when, blinded and choking with the smoke, he rushed headlong down the
stairs with a cry of despair that roused every man, woman, and child
within reach of a human voice. Out they came from their houses in
every quarter of the village. The shout of Fire! Fire! was the
chief aid lent by many of the young and old. Some caught up pails
and buckets: the more thoughtful ones filling them; the hastier
snatching them up empty, trusting to find water nearer the burning

Is the sick man moved?

This was the awful question first asked,--for in the little village
all knew that Maurice was about being transferred to the doctor's
house. The attendant, white as death, pointed to the chamber where
he had left him, and gasped out,

"He is there!"

A ladder! A ladder! was the general cry, and men and boys rushed
off in search of one. But a single minute was an age now, and there
was no ladder to be had without a delay of many minutes. The sick
man was going to be swallowed up in the flames before it could
possibly arrive. Some were going for a blanket or a coverlet, in the
hope that the young man might have strength enough to leap from the
window and be safely caught in it. The attendant shook his head, and
said faintly,

"He cannot move from his bed."

One of the visitors at the village,--a millionaire, it was said,--a
kind-hearted man, spoke in hoarse, broken tones:

"A thousand dollars to the man that will bring him from his chamber!"

The fresh-water fisherman muttered, "I should like to save the man
and to see the money, but it ain't a thaousan' dollars, nor ten
thaousan' dollars, that'll pay a fellah for burnin' to death,--or
even chokin' to death, anyhaow."

The carpenter, who knew the framework of every house in the village,
recent or old, shook his head.

"The stairs have been shored up," he said, "and when the fists that
holds 'em up goes, down they'll come. It ain't safe for no man to go
over them stairs. Hurry along your ladder,--that's your only

All was wild confusion around the burning house. The ladder they had
gone for was missing from its case,--a neighbor had carried it off
for the workmen who were shingling his roof. It would never get
there in time. There was a fire-engine, but it was nearly half a
mile from the lakeside settlement. Some were throwing on water in an
aimless, useless way; one was sending a thin stream through a garden
syringe: it seemed like doing something, at least. But all hope of
saving Maurice was fast giving way, so rapid was the progress of the
flames, so thick the cloud of smoke that filled the house and poured
from the windows. Nothing was heard but confused cries, shrieks of
women, all sorts of orders to do this and that, no one knowing what
was to be done. The ladder! The ladder! Five minutes more and it
will be too late!

In the mean time the alarm of fire had reached Paolo, and he had
stopped his work of arranging Maurice's books in the same way as that
in which they had stood in his apartment, and followed in the
direction of the sound, little thinking that his master was lying
helpless in the burning house. "Some chimney afire," he said to
himself; but he would go and take a look, at any rate.

Before Paolo had reached the scene of destruction and impending
death, two young women, in boating dresses of decidedly Bloomerish
aspect, had suddenly joined the throng. "The Wonder" and "The
Terror" of their school-days--Miss Euthymia rower and Miss Lurida
Vincent had just come from the shore, where they had left their
wherry. A few hurried words told them the fearful story. Maurice
Kirkwood was lying in the chamber to which every eye was turned,
unable to move, doomed to a dreadful death. All that could be hoped
was that he would perish by suffocation rather than by the flames,
which would soon be upon him. The man who had attended him had just
tried to reach his chamber, but had reeled back out of the door,
almost strangled by the smoke. A thousand dollars had been offered
to any one who would rescue the sick man, but no one had dared to
make the attempt; for the stairs might fall at any moment, if the
smoke did not blind and smother the man who passed them before they

The two young women looked each other in the face for one swift

"How can he be reached?" asked Lurida. "Is there nobody that will
venture his life to save a brother like that?"

"I will venture mine," said Euthymia.

"No! no!" shrieked Lurida,--"not you! not you! It is a man's work,
not yours! You shall not go!" Poor Lurida had forgotten all her
theories in this supreme moment. But Euthymia was not to be held
back. Taking a handkerchief from her neck, she dipped it in a pail
of water and bound it about her head. Then she took several deep
breaths of air, and filled her lungs as full as they would hold. She
knew she must not take a single breath in the choking atmosphere if
she could possibly help it, and Euthymia was noted for her power of
staying under water so long that more than once those who saw her
dive thought she would never come up again. So rapid were her
movements that they paralyzed the bystanders, who would forcibly have
prevented her from carrying out her purpose. Her imperious
determination was not to be resisted. And so Euthymia, a willing
martyr, if martyr she was to be, and not saviour, passed within the
veil that hid the sufferer.

Lurida turned deadly pale, and sank fainting to the ground. She was
the first, but not the only one, of her sex that fainted as Euthymia
disappeared in the smoke of the burning building. Even the rector
grew very white in the face,--so white that one of his vestry-men
begged him to sit down at once, and sprinkled a few drops of water on
his forehead, to his great disgust and manifest advantage. The old
landlady was crying and moaning, and her husband was wiping his eyes
and shaking his head sadly.

"She will nevar come out alive," he said solemnly.

"Nor dead, neither," added the carpenter. "Ther' won't be nothing
left of neither of 'em but ashes." And the carpenter hid his face in
his hands.

The fresh-water fisherman had pulled out a rag which he called a
"hangkercher,"--it had served to carry bait that morning,--and was
making use of its best corner to dry the tears which were running
down his cheeks. The whole village was proud of Euthymia, and with
these more quiet signs of grief were mingled loud lamentations,
coming alike from old and young.

All this was not so much like a succession of events as it was like a
tableau. The lookers-on were stunned with its suddenness, and before
they had time to recover their bewildered senses all was lost, or
seemed lost. They felt that they should never look again on either
of those young faces.

The rector, not unfeeling by nature, but inveterately professional by
habit, had already recovered enough to be thinking of a text for the
funeral sermon. The first that occurred to him was this,--vaguely,
of course, in the background of consciousness:

"Then Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego came forth of the midst of the

The village undertaker was of naturally sober aspect and reflective
disposition. He had always been opposed to cremation, and here was a
funeral pile blazing before his eyes. He, too, had his human
sympathies, but in the distance his imagination pictured the final
ceremony, and how he himself should figure in a spectacle where the
usual centre piece of attraction would be wanting,--perhaps his own
services uncalled for.

Blame him not, you whose garden-patch is not watered with the tears
of mourners. The string of self-interest answers with its chord to
every sound; it vibrates with the funeral-bell, it finds itself
trembling to the wail of the De Profundis. Not always,--not always;
let us not be cynical in our judgments, but common human nature, we
may safely say, is subject to those secondary vibrations under the
most solemn and soul-subduing influences.

It seems as if we were doing great wrong to the scene we are
contemplating in delaying it by the description of little
circumstances and individual thoughts and feelings. But linger as we
may, we cannot compress into a chapter--we could not crowd into a
volume--all that passed through the minds and stirred the emotions of
the awe-struck company which was gathered about the scene of danger
and of terror. We are dealing with an impossibility: consciousness
is a surface; narrative is a line.

Maurice had given himself up for lost. His breathing was becoming
every moment more difficult, and he felt that his strength could hold
out but a few minutes longer.

"Robert!" he called in faint accents. But the attendant was not
there to answer.

"Paolo! Paolo!" But the faithful servant, who would have given his
life for his master, had not yet reached the place where the crowd
was gathered.

"Oh, for a breath of air! Oh, for an arm to lift me from this bed!
Too late! Too late!" he gasped, with what might have seemed his
dying expiration.

"Not too late!" The soft voice reached his obscured consciousness as
if it had come down to him from heaven.

In a single instant he found himself rolled in a blanket and in the
arms of--a woman!

Out of the stifling chamber,--over the burning stairs,--close by the
tongues of fire that were lapping up all they could reach,--out into
the open air, he was borne swiftly and safely,--carried as easily as
if he had been a babe, in the strong arms of "The Wonder" of the
gymnasium, the captain of the Atalanta, who had little dreamed of the
use she was to make of her natural gifts and her school-girl

Such a cry as arose from the crowd of on-lookers! It was a sound
that none of them had ever heard before or could expect ever to hear
again, unless he should be one of the last boat-load rescued from a
sinking vessel. Then, those who had resisted the overflow of their
emotion, who had stood in white despair as they thought of these two
young lives soon to be wrapped in their burning shroud,--those stern
men--the old sea-captain, the hard-faced, moneymaking, cast-iron
tradesmen of the city counting-room--sobbed like hysteric women; it
was like a convulsion that overcame natures unused to those deeper


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