Phantastes, A Faerie Romance for Men and Women
George MacDonald

Part 2 out of 4

though, indeed, I was too much agitated to rest in any other way
than by simply ceasing to move.

In half an hour, I heard a heavy step approach and enter the
house. A jolly voice, whose slight huskiness appeared to proceed
from overmuch laughter, called out "Betsy, the pigs' trough is
quite empty, and that is a pity. Let them swill, lass! They're
of no use but to get fat. Ha! ha! ha! Gluttony is not forbidden
in their commandments. Ha! ha! ha!" The very voice, kind and
jovial, seemed to disrobe the room of the strange look which all
new places wear--to disenchant it out of the realm of the ideal
into that of the actual. It began to look as if I had known
every corner of it for twenty years; and when, soon after, the
dame came and fetched me to partake of their early supper, the
grasp of his great hand, and the harvest-moon of his benevolent
face, which was needed to light up the rotundity of the globe
beneath it, produced such a reaction in me, that, for a moment, I
could hardly believe that there was a Fairy Land; and that all I
had passed through since I left home, had not been the wandering
dream of a diseased imagination, operating on a too mobile frame,
not merely causing me indeed to travel, but peopling for me with
vague phantoms the regions through which my actual steps had led
me. But the next moment my eye fell upon a little girl who was
sitting in the chimney-corner, with a little book open on her
knee, from which she had apparently just looked up to fix great
inquiring eyes upon me. I believed in Fairy Land again. She
went on with her reading, as soon as she saw that I observed her
looking at me. I went near, and peeping over her shoulder, saw
that she was reading "The History of Graciosa and Percinet."

"Very improving book, sir," remarked the old farmer, with a good-
humoured laugh. "We are in the very hottest corner of Fairy Land
here. Ha! ha! Stormy night, last night, sir."

"Was it, indeed?" I rejoined. "It was not so with me. A
lovelier night I never saw."
"Indeed! Where were you last night?"

"I spent it in the forest. I had lost my way."

"Ah! then, perhaps, you will be able to convince my good woman,
that there is nothing very remarkable about the forest; for, to
tell the truth, it bears but a bad name in these parts. I dare
say you saw nothing worse than yourself there?"

"I hope I did," was my inward reply; but, for an audible one, I
contented myself with saying, "Why, I certainly did see some
appearances I could hardly account for; but that is nothing to be
wondered at in an unknown wild forest, and with the uncertain
light of the moon alone to go by."

"Very true! you speak like a sensible man, sir. We have but few
sensible folks round about us. Now, you would hardly credit it,
but my wife believes every fairy-tale that ever was written. I
cannot account for it. She is a most sensible woman in
everything else."

"But should not that make you treat her belief with something of
respect, though you cannot share in it yourself?"

"Yes, that is all very well in theory; but when you come to live
every day in the midst of absurdity, it is far less easy to
behave respectfully to it. Why, my wife actually believes the
story of the `White Cat.' You know it, I dare say."

"I read all these tales when a child, and know that one
especially well."

"But, father," interposed the little girl in the chimney-corner,
"you know quite well that mother is descended from that very
princess who was changed by the wicked fairy into a white cat.
Mother has told me so a many times, and you ought to believe
everything she says."

"I can easily believe that," rejoined the farmer, with another
fit of laughter; "for, the other night, a mouse came gnawing and
scratching beneath the floor, and would not let us go to sleep.
Your mother sprang out of bed, and going as near it as she could,
mewed so infernally like a great cat, that the noise ceased
instantly. I believe the poor mouse died of the fright, for we
have never heard it again. Ha! ha! ha!"

The son, an ill-looking youth, who had entered during the
conversation, joined in his father's laugh; but his laugh was
very different from the old man's: it was polluted with a sneer.
I watched him, and saw that, as soon as it was over, he looked
scared, as if he dreaded some evil consequences to follow his
presumption. The woman stood near, waiting till we should seat
ourselves at the table, and listening to it all with an amused
air, which had something in it of the look with which one listens
to the sententious remarks of a pompous child. We sat down to
supper, and I ate heartily. My bygone distresses began already
to look far off.

"In what direction are you going?" asked the old man.

"Eastward," I replied; nor could I have given a more definite
answer. "Does the forest extend much further in that direction?"

"Oh! for miles and miles; I do not know how far. For although I
have lived on the borders of it all my life, I have been too busy
to make journeys of discovery into it. Nor do I see what I could
discover. It is only trees and trees, till one is sick of them.
By the way, if you follow the eastward track from here, you will
pass close to what the children say is the very house of the ogre
that Hop-o'-my-Thumb visited, and ate his little daughters with
the crowns of gold."

"Oh, father! ate his little daughters! No; he only changed their
gold crowns for nightcaps; and the great long-toothed ogre killed
them in mistake; but I do not think even he ate them, for you
know they were his own little ogresses."

"Well, well, child; you know all about it a great deal better
than I do. However, the house has, of course, in such a foolish
neighbourhood as this, a bad enough name; and I must confess
there is a woman living in it, with teeth long enough, and white
enough too, for the lineal descendant of the greatest ogre that
ever was made. I think you had better not go near her."

In such talk as this the night wore on. When supper was
finished, which lasted some time, my hostess conducted me to my

"If you had not had enough of it already," she said, "I would
have put you in another room, which looks towards the forest; and
where you would most likely have seen something more of its
inhabitants. For they frequently pass the window, and even enter
the room sometimes. Strange creatures spend whole nights in it,
at certain seasons of the year. I am used to it, and do not mind
it. No more does my little girl, who sleeps in it always. But
this room looks southward towards the open country, and they
never show themselves here; at least I never saw any."

I was somewhat sorry not to gather any experience that I might
have, of the inhabitants of Fairy Land; but the effect of the
farmer's company, and of my own later adventures, was such, that
I chose rather an undisturbed night in my more human quarters;
which, with their clean white curtains and white linen, were very
inviting to my weariness.

In the morning I awoke refreshed, after a profound and dreamless
sleep. The sun was high, when I looked out of the window,
shining over a wide, undulating, cultivated country. Various
garden-vegetables were growing beneath my window. Everything was
radiant with clear sunlight. The dew-drops were sparkling their
busiest; the cows in a near-by field were eating as if they had
not been at it all day yesterday; the maids were singing at their
work as they passed to and fro between the out-houses: I did not
believe in Fairy Land. I went down, and found the family already
at breakfast. But before I entered the room where they sat, the
little girl came to me, and looked up in my face, as though she
wanted to say something to me. I stooped towards her; she put
her arms round my neck, and her mouth to my ear, and whispered--

"A white lady has been flitting about the house all night."

"No whispering behind doors!" cried the farmer; and we entered
together. "Well, how have you slept? No bogies, eh?"

"Not one, thank you; I slept uncommonly well."

"I am glad to hear it. Come and breakfast."

After breakfast, the farmer and his son went out; and I was left
alone with the mother and daughter.

"When I looked out of the window this morning," I said, "I felt
almost certain that Fairy Land was all a delusion of my brain;
but whenever I come near you or your little daughter, I feel
differently. Yet I could persuade myself, after my last
adventures, to go back, and have nothing more to do with such
strange beings."

"How will you go back?" said the woman.

"Nay, that I do not know."

"Because I have heard, that, for those who enter Fairy Land,
there is no way of going back. They must go on, and go through
it. How, I do not in the least know."

"That is quite the impression on my own mind. Something compels
me to go on, as if my only path was onward, but I feel less
inclined this morning to continue my adventures."

"Will you come and see my little child's room? She sleeps in the
one I told you of, looking towards the forest."

"Willingly," I said.

So we went together, the little girl running before to open the
door for us. It was a large room, full of old-fashioned
furniture, that seemed to have once belonged to some great house.

The window was built with a low arch, and filled with
lozenge-shaped panes. The wall was very thick, and built of
solid stone. I could see that part of the house had been erected
against the remains of some old castle or abbey, or other great
building; the fallen stones of which had probably served to
complete it. But as soon as I looked out of the window, a gush
of wonderment and longing flowed over my soul like the tide of a
great sea. Fairy Land lay before me, and drew me towards it with
an irresistible attraction. The trees bathed their great heads
in the waves of the morning, while their roots were planted deep
in gloom; save where on the borders the sunshine broke against
their stems, or swept in long streams through their avenues,
washing with brighter hue all the leaves over which it flowed;
revealing the rich brown of the decayed leaves and fallen
pine-cones, and the delicate greens of the long grasses and tiny
forests of moss that covered the channel over which it passed in
motionless rivers of light. I turned hurriedly to bid my hostess
farewell without further delay. She smiled at my haste, but with
an anxious look.

"You had better not go near the house of the ogre, I think. My
son will show you into another path, which will join the first
beyond it."

Not wishing to be headstrong or too confident any more, I agreed;
and having taken leave of my kind entertainers, went into the
wood, accompanied by the youth. He scarcely spoke as we went
along; but he led me through the trees till we struck upon a
path. He told me to follow it, and, with a muttered "good
morning" left me.


"I am a part of the part, which at first was the whole."
GOETHE.--Mephistopheles in Faust.

My spirits rose as I went deeper; into the forest; but I could
not regain my former elasticity of mind. I found cheerfulness to
be like life itself--not to be created by any argument.
Afterwards I learned, that the best way to manage some kinds of
pain fill thoughts, is to dare them to do their worst; to let
them lie and gnaw at your heart till they are tired; and you find
you still have a residue of life they cannot kill. So, better
and worse, I went on, till I came to a little clearing in the
forest. In the middle of this clearing stood a long, low hut,
built with one end against a single tall cypress, which rose like
a spire to the building. A vague misgiving crossed my mind when
I saw it; but I must needs go closer, and look through a little
half-open door, near the opposite end from the cypress. Window I
saw none. On peeping in, and looking towards the further end, I
saw a lamp burning, with a dim, reddish flame, and the head of a
woman, bent downwards, as if reading by its light. I could see
nothing more for a few moments. At length, as my eyes got used
to the dimness of the place, I saw that the part of the rude
building near me was used for household purposes; for several
rough utensils lay here and there, and a bed stood in the corner.

An irresistible attraction caused me to enter. The woman never
raised her face, the upper part of which alone I could see
distinctly; but, as soon as I stepped within the threshold, she
began to read aloud, in a low and not altogether unpleasing
voice, from an ancient little volume which she held open with one
hand on the table upon which stood the lamp. What she read was
something like this:

"So, then, as darkness had no beginning, neither will it ever
have an end. So, then, is it eternal. The negation of aught
else, is its affirmation. Where the light cannot come, there
abideth the darkness. The light doth but hollow a mine out of
the infinite extension of the darkness. And ever upon the steps
of the light treadeth the darkness; yea, springeth in fountains
and wells amidst it, from the secret channels of its mighty sea.
Truly, man is but a passing flame, moving unquietly amid the
surrounding rest of night; without which he yet could not be, and
whereof he is in part compounded."

As I drew nearer, and she read on, she moved a little to turn a
leaf of the dark old volume, and I saw that her face was sallow
and slightly forbidding. Her forehead was high, and her black
eyes repressedly quiet. But she took no notice of me. This end
of the cottage, if cottage it could be called, was destitute of
furniture, except the table with the lamp, and the chair on which
the woman sat. In one corner was a door, apparently of a
cupboard in the wall, but which might lead to a room beyond.
Still the irresistible desire which had made me enter the
building urged me: I must open that door, and see what was
beyond it. I approached, and laid my hand on the rude latch.
Then the woman spoke, but without lifting her head or looking at
me: "You had better not open that door." This was uttered quite
quietly; and she went on with her reading, partly in silence,
partly aloud; but both modes seemed equally intended for herself
alone. The prohibition, however, only increased my desire to
see; and as she took no further notice, I gently opened the door
to its full width, and looked in. At first, I saw nothing worthy
of attention. It seemed a common closet, with shelves on each
hand, on which stood various little necessaries for the humble
uses of a cottage. In one corner stood one or two brooms, in
another a hatchet and other common tools; showing that it was in
use every hour of the day for household purposes. But, as I
looked, I saw that there were no shelves at the back, and that an
empty space went in further; its termination appearing to be a
faintly glimmering wall or curtain, somewhat less, however, than
the width and height of the doorway where I stood. But, as I
continued looking, for a few seconds, towards this faintly
luminous limit, my eyes came into true relation with their
object. All at once, with such a shiver as when one is suddenly
conscious of the presence of another in a room where he has, for
hours, considered himself alone, I saw that the seemingly
luminous extremity was a sky, as of night, beheld through the
long perspective of a narrow, dark passage, through what, or
built of what, I could not tell. As I gazed, I clearly discerned
two or three stars glimmering faintly in the distant blue. But,
suddenly, and as if it had been running fast from a far distance
for this very point, and had turned the corner without abating
its swiftness, a dark figure sped into and along the passage from
the blue opening at the remote end. I started back and
shuddered, but kept looking, for I could not help it. On and on
it came, with a speedy approach but delayed arrival; till, at
last, through the many gradations of approach, it seemed to come
within the sphere of myself, rushed up to me, and passed me into
the cottage. All I could tell of its appearance was, that it
seemed to be a dark human figure. Its motion was entirely
noiseless, and might be called a gliding, were it not that it
appeared that of a runner, but with ghostly feet. I had moved
back yet a little to let him pass me, and looked round after him
instantly. I could not see him.

"Where is he?" I said, in some alarm, to the woman, who still sat

"There, on the floor, behind you," she said, pointing with her
arm half-outstretched, but not lifting her eyes. I turned and
looked, but saw nothing. Then with a feeling that there was yet
something behind me, I looked round over my shoulder; and there,
on the ground, lay a black shadow, the size of a man. It was so
dark, that I could see it in the dim light of the lamp, which
shone full upon it, apparently without thinning at all the
intensity of its hue.

"I told you," said the woman, "you had better not look into that

"What is it?" I said, with a growing sense of horror.

"It is only your shadow that has found you," she replied.
Everybody's shadow is ranging up and down looking for him. I
believe you call it by a different name in your world: yours has
found you, as every person's is almost certain to do who looks
into that closet, especially after meeting one in the forest,
whom I dare say you have met."

Here, for the first time, she lifted her head, and looked full at
me: her mouth was full of long, white, shining teeth; and I knew
that I was in the house of the ogre. I could not speak, but
turned and left the house, with the shadow at my heels. "A nice
sort of valet to have," I said to myself bitterly, as I stepped
into the sunshine, and, looking over my shoulder, saw that it lay
yet blacker in the full blaze of the sunlight. Indeed, only when
I stood between it and the sun, was the blackness at all
diminished. I was so bewildered-- stunned--both by the event
itself and its suddenness, that I could not at all realise to
myself what it would be to have such a constant and strange
attendance; but with a dim conviction that my present dislike
would soon grow to loathing, I took my dreary way through the


"O lady! we receive but what we give,
And in our life alone does nature live:
Ours is her wedding garments ours her shrorwd!
. . . . .
Ah! from the soul itself must issue forth,
A light, a glory, a fair luminous cloud,

Enveloping the Earth--
And from the soul itself must there be sent
A sweet and potent voice of its own birth,
Of all sweet sounds the life and element!"

From this time, until I arrived at the palace of Fairy Land, I
can attempt no consecutive account of my wanderings and
adventures. Everything, henceforward, existed for me in its
relation to my attendant. What influence he exercised upon
everything into contact with which I was brought, may be
understood from a few detached instances. To begin with this
very day on which he first joined me: after I had walked
heartlessly along for two or three hours, I was very weary, and
lay down to rest in a most delightful part of the forest,
carpeted with wild flowers. I lay for half an hour in a dull
repose, and then got up to pursue my way. The flowers on the
spot where I had lain were crushed to the earth: but I saw that
they would soon lift their heads and rejoice again in the sun and
air. Not so those on which my shadow had lain. The very outline
of it could be traced in the withered lifeless grass, and the
scorched and shrivelled flowers which stood there, dead, and
hopeless of any resurrection. I shuddered, and hastened away
with sad forebodings.

In a few days, I had reason to dread an extension of its baleful
influences from the fact, that it was no longer confined to one
position in regard to myself. Hitherto, when seized with an
irresistible desire to look on my evil demon (which longing would
unaccountably seize me at any moment, returning at longer or
shorter intervals, sometimes every minute), I had to turn my head
backwards, and look over my shoulder; in which position, as long
as I could retain it, I was fascinated. But one day, having come
out on a clear grassy hill, which commanded a glorious prospect,
though of what I cannot now tell, my shadow moved round, and came
in front of me. And, presently, a new manifestation increased my
distress. For it began to coruscate, and shoot out on all sides
a radiation of dim shadow. These rays of gloom issued from the
central shadow as from a black sun, lengthening and shortening
with continual change. But wherever a ray struck, that part of
earth, or sea, or sky, became void, and desert, and sad to my
heart. On this, the first development of its new power, one ray
shot out beyond the rest, seeming to lengthen infinitely, until
it smote the great sun on the face, which withered and darkened
beneath the blow. I turned away and went on. The shadow
retreated to its former position; and when I looked again, it had
drawn in all its spears of darkness, and followed like a dog at
my heels.

Once, as I passed by a cottage, there came out a lovely fairy
child, with two wondrous toys, one in each hand. The one was the
tube through which the fairy-gifted poet looks when he beholds
the same thing everywhere; the other that through which he looks
when he combines into new forms of loveliness those images of
beauty which his own choice has gathered from all regions wherein
he has travelled. Round the child's head was an aureole of
emanating rays. As I looked at him in wonder and delight, round
crept from behind me the something dark, and the child stood in
my shadow. Straightway he was a commonplace boy, with a rough
broad-brimmed straw hat, through which brim the sun shone from
behind. The toys he carried were a multiplying-glass and a
kaleidoscope. I sighed and departed.

One evening, as a great silent flood of western gold flowed
through an avenue in the woods, down the stream, just as when I
saw him first, came the sad knight, riding on his chestnut steed.

But his armour did not shine half so red as when I saw him first.

Many a blow of mighty sword and axe, turned aside by the strength
of his mail, and glancing adown the surface, had swept from its
path the fretted rust, and the glorious steel had answered the
kindly blow with the thanks of returning light. These streaks
and spots made his armour look like the floor of a forest in the
sunlight. His forehead was higher than before, for the
contracting wrinkles were nearly gone; and the sadness that
remained on his face was the sadness of a dewy summer twilight,
not that of a frosty autumn morn. He, too, had met the
Alder-maiden as I, but he had plunged into the torrent of mighty
deeds, and the stain was nearly washed away. No shadow followed
him. He had not entered the dark house; he had not had time to
open the closet door. "Will he ever look in?" I said to myself.
"MUST his shadow find him some day?" But I could not answer my
own questions.

We travelled together for two days, and I began to love him. It
was plain that he suspected my story in some degree; and I saw
him once or twice looking curiously and anxiously at my attendant
gloom, which all this time had remained very obsequiously behind
me; but I offered no explanation, and he asked none. Shame at my
neglect of his warning, and a horror which shrunk from even
alluding to its cause, kept me silent; till, on the evening of
the second day, some noble words from my companion roused all my
heart; and I was at the point of falling on his neck, and telling
him the whole story; seeking, if not for helpful advice, for of
that I was hopeless, yet for the comfort of sympathy--when round
slid the shadow and inwrapt my friend; and I could not trust him.

The glory of his brow vanished; the light of his eye grew cold;
and I held my peace. The next morning we parted.

But the most dreadful thing of all was, that I now began to feel
something like satisfaction in the presence of the shadow. I
began to be rather vain of my attendant, saying to myself, "In a
land like this, with so many illusions everywhere, I need his aid
to disenchant the things around me. He does away with all
appearances, and shows me things in their true colour and form.
And I am not one to be fooled with the vanities of the common
crowd. I will not see beauty where there is none. I will dare
to behold things as they are. And if I live in a waste instead
of a paradise, I will live knowing where I live." But of this a
certain exercise of his power which soon followed quite cured me,
turning my feelings towards him once more into loathing and
distrust. It was thus:

One bright noon, a little maiden joined me, coming through the
wood in a direction at right angles to my path. She came along
singing and dancing, happy as a child, though she seemed almost a
woman. In her hands--now in one, now in another--she carried a
small globe, bright and clear as the purest crystal. This seemed
at once her plaything and her greatest treasure. At one moment,
you would have thought her utterly careless of it, and at
another, overwhelmed with anxiety for its safety. But I believe
she was taking care of it all the time, perhaps not least when
least occupied about it. She stopped by me with a smile, and
bade me good day with the sweetest voice. I felt a wonderful
liking to the child--for she produced on me more the impression
of a child, though my understanding told me differently. We
talked a little, and then walked on together in the direction I
had been pursuing. I asked her about the globe she carried, but
getting no definite answer, I held out my hand to take it. She
drew back, and said, but smiling almost invitingly the while,
"You must not touch it;"--then, after a moment's pause--"Or if
you do, it must be very gently." I touched it with a finger. A
slight vibratory motion arose in it, accompanied, or perhaps
manifested, by a faint sweet sound. I touched it again, and the
sound increased. I touched it the third time: a tiny torrent of
harmony rolled out of the little globe. She would not let me
touch it any more.

We travelled on together all that day. She left me when twilight
came on; but next day, at noon, she met me as before, and again
we travelled till evening. The third day she came once more at
noon, and we walked on together. Now, though we had talked about
a great many things connected with Fairy Land, and the life she
had led hitherto, I had never been able to learn anything about
the globe. This day, however, as we went on, the shadow glided
round and inwrapt the maiden. It could not change her. But my
desire to know about the globe, which in his gloom began to waver
as with an inward light, and to shoot out flashes of
many-coloured flame, grew irresistible. I put out both my hands
and laid hold of it. It began to sound as before. The sound
rapidly increased, till it grew a low tempest of harmony, and the
globe trembled, and quivered, and throbbed between my hands. I
had not the heart to pull it away from the maiden, though I held
it in spite of her attempts to take it from me; yes, I shame to
say, in spite of her prayers, and, at last, her tears. The music
went on growing in, intensity and complication of tones, and the
globe vibrated and heaved; till at last it burst in our hands,
and a black vapour broke upwards from out of it; then turned, as
if blown sideways, and enveloped the maiden, hiding even the
shadow in its blackness. She held fast the fragments, which I
abandoned, and fled from me into the forest in the direction
whence she had come, wailing like a child, and crying, "You have
broken my globe; my globe is broken--my globe is broken!" I
followed her, in the hope of comforting her; but had not pursued
her far, before a sudden cold gust of wind bowed the tree-tops
above us, and swept through their stems around us; a great cloud
overspread the day, and a fierce tempest came on, in which I lost
sight of her. It lies heavy on my heart to this hour. At night,
ere I fall asleep, often, whatever I may be thinking about, I
suddenly hear her voice, crying out, "You have broken my globe;
my globe is broken; ah, my globe!"

Here I will mention one more strange thing; but whether this
peculiarity was owing to my shadow at all, I am not able to
assure myself. I came to a village, the inhabitants of which
could not at first sight be distinguished from the dwellers in
our land. They rather avoided than sought my company, though
they were very pleasant when I addressed them. But at last I
observed, that whenever I came within a certain distance of any
one of them, which distance, however, varied with different
individuals, the whole appearance of the person began to change;
and this change increased in degree as I approached. When I
receded to the former distance, the former appearance was
restored. The nature of the change was grotesque, following no
fixed rule. The nearest resemblance to it that I know, is the
distortion produced in your countenance when you look at it as
reflected in a concave or convex surface--say, either side of a
bright spoon. Of this phenomenon I first became aware in rather
a ludicrous way. My host's daughter was a very pleasant pretty
girl, who made herself more agreeable to me than most of those
about me. For some days my companion-shadow had been less
obtrusive than usual; and such was the reaction of spirits
occasioned by the simple mitigation of torment, that, although I
had cause enough besides to be gloomy, I felt light and
comparatively happy. My impression is, that she was quite aware
of the law of appearances that existed between the people of the
place and myself, and had resolved to amuse herself at my
expense; for one evening, after some jesting and raillery, she,
somehow or other, provoked me to attempt to kiss her. But she
was well defended from any assault of the kind. Her countenance
became, of a sudden, absurdly hideous; the pretty mouth was
elongated and otherwise amplified sufficiently to have allowed of
six simultaneous kisses. I started back in bewildered dismay;
she burst into the merriest fit of laughter, and ran from the
room. I soon found that the same undefinable law of change
operated between me and all the other villagers; and that, to
feel I was in pleasant company, it was absolutely necessary for
me to discover and observe the right focal distance between
myself and each one with whom I had to do. This done, all went
pleasantly enough. Whether, when I happened to neglect this
precaution, I presented to them an equally ridiculous appearance,
I did not ascertain; but I presume that the alteration was common
to the approximating parties. I was likewise unable to determine
whether I was a necessary party to the production of this strange
transformation, or whether it took place as well, under the given
circumstances, between the inhabitants themselves.


"From Eden's bowers the full-fed rivers flow,
To guide the outcasts to the land of woe:
Our Earth one little toiling streamlet yields.
To guide the wanderers to the happy fields."

After leaving this village, where I had rested for nearly a
week, I travelled through a desert region of dry sand and
glittering rocks, peopled principally by goblin-fairies. When I
first entered their domains, and, indeed, whenever I fell in with
another tribe of them, they began mocking me with offered
handfuls of gold and jewels, making hideous grimaces at me, and
performing the most antic homage, as if they thought I expected
reverence, and meant to humour me like a maniac. But ever, as
soon as one cast his eyes on the shadow behind me, he made a wry
face, partly of pity, partly of contempt, and looked ashamed, as
if he had been caught doing something inhuman; then, throwing
down his handful of gold, and ceasing all his grimaces, he stood
aside to let me pass in peace, and made signs to his companions
to do the like. I had no inclination to observe them much, for
the shadow was in my heart as well as at my heels. I walked
listlessly and almost hopelessly along, till I arrived one day at
a small spring; which, bursting cool from the heart of a
sun-heated rock, flowed somewhat southwards from the direction I
had been taking. I drank of this spring, and found myself
wonderfully refreshed. A kind of love to the cheerful little
stream arose in my heart. It was born in a desert; but it seemed
to say to itself, "I will flow, and sing, and lave my banks, till
I make my desert a paradise." I thought I could not do better
than follow it, and see what it made of it. So down with the
stream I went, over rocky lands, burning with sunbeams. But the
rivulet flowed not far, before a few blades of grass appeared on
its banks, and then, here and there, a stunted bush. Sometimes
it disappeared altogether under ground; and after I had wandered
some distance, as near as I could guess, in the direction it
seemed to take, I would suddenly hear it again, singing,
sometimes far away to my right or left, amongst new rocks, over
which it made new cataracts of watery melodies. The verdure on
its banks increased as it flowed; other streams joined it; and at
last, after many days' travel, I found myself, one gorgeous
summer evening, resting by the side of a broad river, with a
glorious horse-chestnut tree towering above me, and dropping its
blossoms, milk-white and rosy-red, all about me. As I sat, a
gush of joy sprang forth in my heart, and over flowed at my eyes.

Through my tears, the whole landscape glimmered in such
bewildering loveliness, that I felt as if I were entering Fairy
Land for the first time, and some loving hand were waiting to
cool my head, and a loving word to warm my heart. Roses, wild
roses, everywhere! So plentiful were they, they not only
perfumed the air, they seemed to dye it a faint rose-hue. The
colour floated abroad with the scent, and clomb, and spread,
until the whole west blushed and glowed with the gathered incense
of roses. And my heart fainted with longing in my bosom.

Could I but see the Spirit of the Earth, as I saw once the in
dwelling woman of the beech-tree, and my beauty of the pale
marble, I should be content. Content!--Oh, how gladly would I
die of the light of her eyes! Yea, I would cease to be, if that
would bring me one word of love from the one mouth. The twilight
sank around, and infolded me with sleep. I slept as I had not
slept for months. I did not awake till late in the morning;
when, refreshed in body and mind, I rose as from the death that
wipes out the sadness of life, and then dies itself in the new
morrow. Again I followed the stream; now climbing a steep rocky
bank that hemmed it in; now wading through long grasses and wild
flowers in its path; now through meadows; and anon through woods
that crowded down to the very lip of the water.

At length, in a nook of the river, gloomy with the weight of
overhanging foliage, and still and deep as a soul in which the
torrent eddies of pain have hollowed a great gulf, and then,
subsiding in violence, have left it full of a motionless,
fathomless sorrow--I saw a little boat lying. So still was the
water here, that the boat needed no fastening. It lay as if some
one had just stepped ashore, and would in a moment return. But
as there were no signs of presence, and no track through the
thick bushes; and, moreover, as I was in Fairy Land where one
does very much as he pleases, I forced my way to the brink,
stepped into the boat, pushed it, with the help of the
tree-branches, out into the stream, lay down in the bottom, and
let my boat and me float whither the stream would carry us. I
seemed to lose myself in the great flow of sky above me unbroken
in its infinitude, except when now and then, coming nearer the
shore at a bend in the river, a tree would sweep its mighty head
silently above mine, and glide away back into the past, never
more to fling its shadow over me. I fell asleep in this cradle,
in which mother Nature was rocking her weary child; and while I
slept, the sun slept not, but went round his arched way. When I
awoke, he slept in the waters, and I went on my silent path
beneath a round silvery moon. And a pale moon looked up from the
floor of the great blue cave that lay in the abysmal silence

Why are all reflections lovelier than what we call the
reality?--not so grand or so strong, it may be, but always
lovelier? Fair as is the gliding sloop on the shining sea, the
wavering, trembling, unresting sail below is fairer still. Yea,
the reflecting ocean itself, reflected in the mirror, has a
wondrousness about its waters that somewhat vanishes when I turn
towards itself. All mirrors are magic mirrors. The commonest
room is a room in a poem when I turn to the glass. (And this
reminds me, while I write, of a strange story which I read in the
fairy palace, and of which I will try to make a feeble memorial
in its place.) In whatever way it may be accounted for, of one
thing we may be sure, that this feeling is no cheat; for there is
no cheating in nature and the simple unsought feelings of the
soul. There must be a truth involved in it, though we may but in
part lay hold of the meaning. Even the memories of past pain are
beautiful; and past delights, though beheld only through clefts
in the grey clouds of sorrow, are lovely as Fairy Land. But how
have I wandered into the deeper fairyland of the soul, while as
yet I only float towards the fairy palace of Fairy Land! The
moon, which is the lovelier memory or reflex of the down-gone
sun, the joyous day seen in the faint mirror of the brooding
night, had rapt me away.

I sat up in the boat. Gigantic forest trees were about me;
through which, like a silver snake, twisted and twined the great
river. The little waves, when I moved in the boat, heaved and
fell with a plash as of molten silver, breaking the image of the
moon into a thousand morsels, fusing again into one, as the
ripples of laughter die into the still face of joy. The sleeping
woods, in undefined massiveness; the water that flowed in its
sleep; and, above all, the enchantress moon, which had cast them
all, with her pale eye, into the charmed slumber, sank into my
soul, and I felt as if I had died in a dream, and should never
more awake.

From this I was partly aroused by a glimmering of white, that,
through the trees on the left, vaguely crossed my vision, as I
gazed upwards. But the trees again hid the object; and at the
moment, some strange melodious bird took up its song, and sang,
not an ordinary bird-song, with constant repetitions of the same
melody, but what sounded like a continuous strain, in which one
thought was expressed, deepening in intensity as evolved in
progress. It sounded like a welcome already overshadowed with
the coming farewell. As in all sweetest music, a tinge of
sadness was in every note. Nor do we know how much of the
pleasures even of life we owe to the intermingled sorrows. Joy
cannot unfold the deepest truths, although deepest truth must be
deepest joy. Cometh white-robed Sorrow, stooping and wan, and
flingeth wide the doors she may not enter. Almost we linger with
Sorrow for very love.

As the song concluded the stream bore my little boat with a
gentle sweep round a bend of the river; and lo! on a broad lawn,
which rose from the water's edge with a long green slope to a
clear elevation from which the trees receded on all sides, stood
a stately palace glimmering ghostly in the moonshine: it seemed
to be built throughout of the whitest marble. There was no
reflection of moonlight from windows--there seemed to be none; so
there was no cold glitter; only, as I said, a ghostly shimmer.
Numberless shadows tempered the shine, from column and balcony
and tower. For everywhere galleries ran along the face of the
buildings; wings were extended in many directions; and numberless
openings, through which the moonbeams vanished into the interior,
and which served both for doors and windows, had their separate
balconies in front, communicating with a common gallery that rose
on its own pillars. Of course, I did not discover all this from
the river, and in the moonlight. But, though I was there for
many days, I did not succeed in mastering the inner topography of
the building, so extensive and complicated was it.

Here I wished to land, but the boat had no oars on board.
However, I found that a plank, serving for a seat, was
unfastened, and with that I brought the boat to the bank and
scrambled on shore. Deep soft turf sank beneath my feet, as I
went up the ascent towards the palace.

When I reached it, I saw that it stood on a great platform of
marble, with an ascent, by broad stairs of the same, all round
it. Arrived on the platform, I found there was an extensive
outlook over the forest, which, however, was rather veiled than
revealed by the moonlight.

Entering by a wide gateway, but without gates, into an inner
court, surrounded on all sides by great marble pillars supporting
galleries above, I saw a large fountain of porphyry in the
middle, throwing up a lofty column of water, which fell, with a
noise as of the fusion of all sweet sounds, into a basin beneath;
overflowing which, it ran into a single channel towards the
interior of the building. Although the moon was by this time so
low in the west, that not a ray of her light fell into the court,
over the height of the surrounding buildings; yet was the court
lighted by a second reflex from the sun of other lands. For the
top of the column of water, just as it spread to fall, caught the
moonbeams, and like a great pale lamp, hung high in the night
air, threw a dim memory of light (as it were) over the court
below. This court was paved in diamonds of white and red marble.
According to my custom since I entered Fairy Land, of taking for
a guide whatever I first found moving in any direction, I
followed the stream from the basin of the fountain. It led me to
a great open door, beneath the ascending steps of which it ran
through a low arch and disappeared. Entering here, I found
myself in a great hall, surrounded with white pillars, and paved
with black and white. This I could see by the moonlight, which,
from the other side, streamed through open windows into the hall.

Its height I could not distinctly see. As soon as I entered, I
had the feeling so common to me in the woods, that there were
others there besides myself, though I could see no one, and heard
no sound to indicate a presence. Since my visit to the Church of
Darkness, my power of seeing the fairies of the higher orders had
gradually diminished, until it had almost ceased. But I could
frequently believe in their presence while unable to see them.
Still, although I had company, and doubtless of a safe kind, it
seemed rather dreary to spend the night in an empty marble hall,
however beautiful, especially as the moon was near the going
down, and it would soon be dark. So I began at the place where I
entered, and walked round the hall, looking for some door or
passage that might lead me to a more hospitable chamber. As I
walked, I was deliciously haunted with the feeling that behind
some one of the seemingly innumerable pillars, one who loved me
was waiting for me. Then I thought she was following me from
pillar to pillar as I went along; but no arms came out of the
faint moonlight, and no sigh assured me of her presence.

At length I came to an open corridor, into which I turned;
notwithstanding that, in doing so, I left the light behind.
Along this I walked with outstretched hands, groping my way,
till, arriving at another corridor, which seemed to strike off at
right angles to that in which I was, I saw at the end a faintly
glimmering light, too pale even for moonshine, resembling rather
a stray phosphorescence. However, where everything was white, a
little light went a great way. So I walked on to the end, and a
long corridor it was. When I came up to the light, I found that
it proceeded from what looked like silver letters upon a door of
ebony; and, to my surprise even in the home of wonder itself, the
letters formed the words, THE CHAMBER OF SIR ANODOS. Although I
had as yet no right to the honours of a knight, I ventured to
conclude that the chamber was indeed intended for me; and,
opening the door without hesitation, I entered. Any doubt as to
whether I was right in so doing, was soon dispelled. What to my
dark eyes seemed a blaze of light, burst upon me. A fire of
large pieces of some sweet-scented wood, supported by dogs of
silver, was burning on the hearth, and a bright lamp stood on a
table, in the midst of a plentiful meal, apparently awaiting my
arrival. But what surprised me more than all, was, that the room
was in every respect a copy of my own room, the room whence the
little stream from my basin had led me into Fairy Land. There
was the very carpet of grass and moss and daisies, which I had
myself designed; the curtains of pale blue silk, that fell like a
cataract over the windows; the old- fashioned bed, with the
chintz furniture, on which I had slept from boyhood. "Now I
shall sleep," I said to myself. "My shadow dares not come here."

I sat down to the table, and began to help myself to the good
things before me with confidence. And now I found, as in many
instances before, how true the fairy tales are; for I was waited
on, all the time of my meal, by invisible hands. I had scarcely
to do more than look towards anything I wanted, when it was
brought me, just as if it had come to me of itself. My glass was
kept filled with the wine I had chosen, until I looked towards
another bottle or decanter; when a fresh glass was substituted,
and the other wine supplied. When I had eaten and drank more
heartily and joyfully than ever since I entered Fairy Land, the
whole was removed by several attendants, of whom some were male
and some female, as I thought I could distinguish from the way
the dishes were lifted from the table, and the motion with which
they were carried out of the room. As soon as they were all
taken away, I heard a sound as of the shutting of a door, and
knew that I was left alone. I sat long by the fire, meditating,
and wondering how it would all end; and when at length, wearied
with thinking, I betook myself to my own bed, it was half with a
hope that, when I awoke in the morning, I should awake not only
in my own room, but in my own castle also; and that I should
walk, out upon my own native soil, and find that Fairy Land was,
after all, only a vision of the night. The sound of the falling
waters of the fountain floated me into oblivion.


"A wilderness of building, sinking far
And self-withdrawn into a wondrous depth,
Far sinking into splendour--without end:
Fabric it seemed of diamond and of gold,
With alabaster domes, and silver spires,
And blazing terrace upon terrace, high

But when, after a sleep, which, although dreamless, yet left
behind it a sense of past blessedness, I awoke in the full
morning, I found, indeed, that the room was still my own; but
that it looked abroad upon an unknown landscape of forest and
hill and dale on the one side--and on the other, upon the marble
court, with the great fountain, the crest of which now flashed
glorious in the sun, and cast on the pavement beneath a shower of
faint shadows from the waters that fell from it into the marble
basin below.

Agreeably to all authentic accounts of the treatment of
travellers in Fairy Land, I found by my bedside a complete suit
of fresh clothing, just such as I was in the habit of wearing;
for, though varied sufficiently from the one removed, it was yet
in complete accordance with my tastes. I dressed myself in this,
and went out. The whole palace shone like silver in the sun.
The marble was partly dull and partly polished; and every
pinnacle, dome, and turret ended in a ball, or cone, or cusp of
silver. It was like frost-work, and too dazzling, in the sun,
for earthly eyes like mine.

I will not attempt to describe the environs, save by saying, that
all the pleasures to be found in the most varied and artistic
arrangement of wood and river, lawn and wild forest, garden and
shrubbery, rocky hill and luxurious vale; in living creatures
wild and tame, in gorgeous birds, scattered fountains, little
streams, and reedy lakes-- all were here. Some parts of the
palace itself I shall have occasion to describe more minutely.

For this whole morning I never thought of my demon shadow; and
not till the weariness which supervened on delight brought it
again to my memory, did I look round to see if it was behind me:
it was scarcely discernible. But its presence, however faintly
revealed, sent a pang to my heart, for the pain of which, not all
the beauties around me could compensate. It was followed,
however, by the comforting reflection that, peradventure, I might
here find the magic word of power to banish the demon and set me
free, so that I should no longer be a man beside myself. The
Queen of Fairy Land, thought I, must dwell here: surely she will
put forth her power to deliver me, and send me singing through
the further gates of her country back to my own land. "Shadow of
me!" I said; "which art not me, but which representest thyself to
me as me; here I may find a shadow of light which will devour
thee, the shadow of darkness! Here I may find a blessing which
will fall on thee as a curse, and damn thee to the blackness
whence thou hast emerged unbidden." I said this, stretched at
length on the slope of the lawn above the river; and as the hope
arose within me, the sun came forth from a light fleecy cloud
that swept across his face; and hill and dale, and the great
river winding on through the still mysterious forest, flashed
back his rays as with a silent shout of joy; all nature lived and
glowed; the very earth grew warm beneath me; a magnificent
dragon-fly went past me like an arrow from a bow, and a whole
concert of birds burst into choral song.

The heat of the sun soon became too intense even for passive
support. I therefore rose, and sought the shelter of one of the
arcades. Wandering along from one to another of these, wherever
my heedless steps led me, and wondering everywhere at the simple
magnificence of the building, I arrived at another hall, the roof
of which was of a pale blue, spangled with constellations of
silver stars, and supported by porphyry pillars of a paler red
than ordinary.--In this house (I may remark in passing), silver
seemed everywhere preferred to gold; and such was the purity of
the air, that it showed nowhere signs of tarnishing.--The whole
of the floor of this hall, except a narrow path behind the
pillars, paved with black, was hollowed into a huge basin, many
feet deep, and filled with the purest, most liquid and radiant
water. The sides of the basin were white marble, and the bottom
was paved with all kinds of refulgent stones, of every shape and

In their arrangement, you would have supposed, at first sight,
that there was no design, for they seemed to lie as if cast there
from careless and playful hands; but it was a most harmonious
confusion; and as I looked at the play of their colours,
especially when the waters were in motion, I came at last to feel
as if not one little pebble could be displaced, without injuring
the effect of the whole. Beneath this floor of the water, lay
the reflection of the blue inverted roof, fretted with its silver
stars, like a second deeper sea, clasping and upholding the
first. The fairy bath was probably fed from the fountain in the
court. Led by an irresistible desire, I undressed, and plunged
into the water. It clothed me as with a new sense and its object
both in one. The waters lay so close to me, they seemed to enter
and revive my heart. I rose to the surface, shook the water from
my hair, and swam as in a rainbow, amid the coruscations of the
gems below seen through the agitation caused by my motion. Then,
with open eyes, I dived, and swam beneath the surface. And here
was a new wonder. For the basin, thus beheld, appeared to extend
on all sides like a sea, with here and there groups as of ocean
rocks, hollowed by ceaseless billows into wondrous caves and
grotesque pinnacles. Around the caves grew sea-weeds of all
hues, and the corals glowed between; while far off, I saw the
glimmer of what seemed to be creatures of human form at home in
the waters. I thought I had been enchanted; and that when I rose
to the surface, I should find myself miles from land, swimming
alone upon a heaving sea; but when my eyes emerged from the
waters, I saw above me the blue spangled vault, and the red
pillars around. I dived again, and found myself once more in the
heart of a great sea. I then arose, and swam to the edge, where
I got out easily, for the water reached the very brim, and, as I
drew near washed in tiny waves over the black marble border. I
dressed, and went out, deeply refreshed.

And now I began to discern faint, gracious forms, here and there
throughout the building. Some walked together in earnest
conversation. Others strayed alone. Some stood in groups, as if
looking at and talking about a picture or a statue. None of them
heeded me. Nor were they plainly visible to my eyes. Sometimes
a group, or single individual, would fade entirely out of the
realm of my vision as I gazed. When evening came, and the moon
arose, clear as a round of a horizon-sea when the sun hangs over
it in the west, I began to see them all more plainly; especially
when they came between me and the moon; and yet more especially,
when I myself was in the shade. But, even then, I sometimes saw
only the passing wave of a white robe; or a lovely arm or neck
gleamed by in the moonshine; or white feet went walking alone
over the moony sward. Nor, I grieve to say, did I ever come much
nearer to these glorious beings, or ever look upon the Queen of
the Fairies herself. My destiny ordered otherwise.

In this palace of marble and silver, and fountains and moonshine,
I spent many days; waited upon constantly in my room with
everything desirable, and bathing daily in the fairy bath. All
this time I was little troubled with my demon shadow I had a
vague feeling that he was somewhere about the palace; but it
seemed as if the hope that I should in this place be finally
freed from his hated presence, had sufficed to banish him for a
time. How and where I found him, I shall soon have to relate.

The third day after my arrival, I found the library of the
palace; and here, all the time I remained, I spent most of the
middle of the day. For it was, not to mention far greater
attractions, a luxurious retreat from the noontide sun. During
the mornings and afternoons, I wandered about the lovely
neighbourhood, or lay, lost in delicious day-dreams, beneath some
mighty tree on the open lawn. My evenings were by-and-by spent
in a part of the palace, the account of which, and of my
adventures in connection with it, I must yet postpone for a

The library was a mighty hall, lighted from the roof, which was
formed of something like glass, vaulted over in a single piece,
and stained throughout with a great mysterious picture in
gorgeous colouring.

The walls were lined from floor to roof with books and books:
most of them in ancient bindings, but some in strange new
fashions which I had never seen, and which, were I to make the
attempt, I could ill describe. All around the walls, in front of
the books, ran galleries in rows, communicating by stairs. These
galleries were built of all kinds of coloured stones; all sorts
of marble and granite, with porphyry, jasper, lapis lazuli,
agate, and various others, were ranged in wonderful melody of
successive colours. Although the material, then, of which these
galleries and stairs were built, rendered necessary a certain
degree of massiveness in the construction, yet such was the size
of the place, that they seemed to run along the walls like cords.

Over some parts of the library, descended curtains of silk of
various dyes, none of which I ever saw lifted while I was there;
and I felt somehow that it would be presumptuous in me to venture
to look within them. But the use of the other books seemed free;
and day after day I came to the library, threw myself on one of
the many sumptuous eastern carpets, which lay here and there on
the floor, and read, and read, until weary; if that can be
designated as weariness, which was rather the faintness of
rapturous delight; or until, sometimes, the failing of the light
invited me to go abroad, in the hope that a cool gentle breeze
might have arisen to bathe, with an airy invigorating bath, the
limbs which the glow of the burning spirit within had withered no
less than the glow of the blazing sun without.

One peculiarity of these books, or at least most of those I
looked into, I must make a somewhat vain attempt to describe.

If, for instance, it was a book of metaphysics I opened, I had
scarcely read two pages before I seemed to myself to be pondering
over discovered truth, and constructing the intellectual machine
whereby to communicate the discovery to my fellow men. With some
books, however, of this nature, it seemed rather as if the
process was removed yet a great way further back; and I was
trying to find the root of a manifestation, the spiritual truth
whence a material vision sprang; or to combine two propositions,
both apparently true, either at once or in different remembered
moods, and to find the point in which their invisibly converging
lines would unite in one, revealing a truth higher than either
and differing from both; though so far from being opposed to
either, that it was that whence each derived its life and power.
Or if the book was one of travels, I found myself the traveller.
New lands, fresh experiences, novel customs, rose around me. I
walked, I discovered, I fought, I suffered, I rejoiced in my
success. Was it a history? I was the chief actor therein. I
suffered my own blame; I was glad in my own praise. With a
fiction it was the same. Mine was the whole story. For I took
the place of the character who was most like myself, and his
story was mine; until, grown weary with the life of years
condensed in an hour, or arrived at my deathbed, or the end of
the volume, I would awake, with a sudden bewilderment, to the
consciousness of my present life, recognising the walls and roof
around me, and finding I joyed or sorrowed only in a book. If
the book was a poem, the words disappeared, or took the
subordinate position of an accompaniment to the succession of
forms and images that rose and vanished with a soundless rhythm,
and a hidden rime.

In one, with a mystical title, which I cannot recall, I read of a
world that is not like ours. The wondrous account, in such a
feeble, fragmentary way as is possible to me, I would willingly
impart. Whether or not it was all a poem, I cannot tell; but,
from the impulse I felt, when I first contemplated writing it, to
break into rime, to which impulse I shall give way if it comes
upon me again, I think it must have been, partly at least, in


"Chained is the Spring. The night-wind bold
Blows over the hard earth;
Time is not more confused and cold,
Nor keeps more wintry mirth.

"Yet blow, and roll the world about;
Blow, Time--blow, winter's Wind!
Through chinks of Time, heaven peepeth out,
And Spring the frost behind."
G. E. M.

They who believe in the influences of the stars over the fates of
men, are, in feeling at least, nearer the truth than they who
regard the heavenly bodies as related to them merely by a common
obedience to an external law. All that man sees has to do with
man. Worlds cannot be without an intermundane relationship. The
community of the centre of all creation suggests an
interradiating connection and dependence of the parts. Else a
grander idea is conceivable than that which is already imbodied.
The blank, which is only a forgotten life, lying behind the
consciousness, and the misty splendour, which is an undeveloped
life, lying before it, may be full of mysterious revelations of
other connexions with the worlds around us, than those of science
and poetry. No shining belt or gleaming moon, no red and green
glory in a self-encircling twin-star, but has a relation with the
hidden things of a man's soul, and, it may be, with the secret
history of his body as well. They are portions of the living
house wherein he abides.

Through the realms of the monarch Sun
Creeps a world, whose course had begun,
On a weary path with a weary pace,
Before the Earth sprang forth on her race:
But many a time the Earth had sped
Around the path she still must tread,
Ere the elder planet, on leaden wing,
Once circled the court of the planet's king.

There, in that lonely and distant star,
The seasons are not as our seasons are;
But many a year hath Autumn to dress
The trees in their matron loveliness;
As long hath old Winter in triumph to go
O'er beauties dead in his vaults below;
And many a year the Spring doth wear
Combing the icicles from her hair;
And Summer, dear Summer, hath years of June,
With large white clouds, and cool showers at noon:
And a beauty that grows to a weight like grief,
Till a burst of tears is the heart's relief.

Children, born when Winter is king,
May never rejoice in the hoping Spring;
Though their own heart-buds are bursting with joy,
And the child hath grown to the girl or boy;
But may die with cold and icy hours
Watching them ever in place of flowers.
And some who awake from their primal sleep,
When the sighs of Summer through forests creep,
Live, and love, and are loved again;
Seek for pleasure, and find its pain;
Sink to their last, their forsaken sleeping,
With the same sweet odours around them creeping.

Now the children, there, are not born as the children are born in
worlds nearer to the sun. For they arrive no one knows how. A
maiden, walking alone, hears a cry: for even there a cry is the
first utterance; and searching about, she findeth, under an
overhanging rock, or within a clump of bushes, or, it may be,
betwixt gray stones on the side of a hill, or in any other
sheltered and unexpected spot, a little child. This she taketh
tenderly, and beareth home with joy, calling out, "Mother,
mother"--if so be that her mother lives--"I have got a baby--I
have found a child!" All the household gathers round to
and such-like questions, abounding. And thereupon she relates
the whole story of the discovery; for by the circumstances, such
as season of the year, time of the day, condition of the air, and
such like, and, especially, the peculiar and never-repeated
aspect of the heavens and earth at the time, and the nature of
the place of shelter wherein it is found, is determined, or at
least indicated, the nature of the child thus discovered.
Therefore, at certain seasons, and in certain states of the
weather, according, in part, to their own fancy, the young women
go out to look for children. They generally avoid seeking them,
though they cannot help sometimes finding them, in places and
with circumstances uncongenial to their peculiar likings. But no
sooner is a child found, than its claim for protection and
nurture obliterates all feeling of choice in the matter.
Chiefly, however, in the season of summer, which lasts so long,
coming as it does after such long intervals; and mostly in the
warm evenings, about the middle of twilight; and principally in
the woods and along the river banks, do the maidens go looking
for children just as children look for flowers. And ever as the
child grows, yea, more and more as he advances in years, will his
face indicate to those who understand the spirit of Nature, and
her utterances in the face of the world, the nature of the place
of his birth, and the other circumstances thereof; whether a
clear morning sun guided his mother to the nook whence issued the
boy's low cry; or at eve the lonely maiden (for the same woman
never finds a second, at least while the first lives) discovers
the girl by the glimmer of her white skin, lying in a nest like
that of the lark, amid long encircling grasses, and the
upward-gazing eyes of the lowly daisies; whether the storm bowed
the forest trees around, or the still frost fixed in silence the
else flowing and babbling stream.

After they grow up, the men and women are but little together.
There is this peculiar difference between them, which likewise
distinguishes the women from those of the earth. The men alone
have arms; the women have only wings. Resplendent wings are
they, wherein they can shroud themselves from head to foot in a
panoply of glistering glory. By these wings alone, it may
frequently be judged in what seasons, and under what aspects,
they were born. From those that came in winter, go great white
wings, white as snow; the edge of every feather shining like the
sheen of silver, so that they flash and glitter like frost in the
sun. But underneath, they are tinged with a faint pink or rose-
colour. Those born in spring have wings of a brilliant green,
green as grass; and towards the edges the feathers are enamelled
like the surface of the grass-blades. These again are white
within. Those that are born in summer have wings of a deep
rose-colour, lined with pale gold. And those born in autumn have
purple wings, with a rich brown on the inside. But these colours
are modified and altered in all varieties, corresponding to the
mood of the day and hour, as well as the season of the year; and
sometimes I found the various colours so intermingled, that I
could not determine even the season, though doubtless the
hieroglyphic could be deciphered by more experienced eyes. One
splendour, in particular, I remember--wings of deep carmine, with
an inner down of warm gray, around a form of brilliant whiteness.

She had been found as the sun went down through a low sea- fog,
casting crimson along a broad sea-path into a little cave on the
shore, where a bathing maiden saw her lying.

But though I speak of sun and fog, and sea and shore, the world
there is in some respects very different from the earth whereon
men live. For instance, the waters reflect no forms. To the
unaccustomed eye they appear, if undisturbed, like the surface of
a dark metal, only that the latter would reflect indistinctly,
whereas they reflect not at all, except light which falls
immediately upon them. This has a great effect in causing the
landscapes to differ from those on the earth. On the stillest
evening, no tall ship on the sea sends a long wavering reflection
almost to the feet of him on shore; the face of no maiden
brightens at its own beauty in a still forest-well. The sun and
moon alone make a glitter on the surface. The sea is like a sea
of death, ready to ingulf and never to reveal: a visible shadow
of oblivion. Yet the women sport in its waters like gorgeous
sea-birds. The men more rarely enter them. But, on the
contrary, the sky reflects everything beneath it, as if it were
built of water like ours. Of course, from its concavity there is
some distortion of the reflected objects; yet wondrous
combinations of form are often to be seen in the overhanging
depth. And then it is not shaped so much like a round dome as
the sky of the earth, but, more of an egg-shape, rises to a great
towering height in the middle, appearing far more lofty than the
other. When the stars come out at night, it shows a mighty
cupola, "fretted with golden fires," wherein there is room for
all tempests to rush and rave.

One evening in early summer, I stood with a group of men and
women on a steep rock that overhung the sea. They were all
questioning me about my world and the ways thereof. In making
reply to one of their questions, I was compelled to say that
children are not born in the Earth as with them. Upon this I was
assailed with a whole battery of inquiries, which at first I
tried to avoid; but, at last, I was compelled, in the vaguest
manner I could invent, to make some approach to the subject in
question. Immediately a dim notion of what I meant, seemed to
dawn in the minds of most of the women. Some of them folded
their great wings all around them, as they generally do when in
the least offended, and stood erect and motionless. One spread
out her rosy pinions, and flashed from the promontory into the
gulf at its foot. A great light shone in the eyes of one maiden,
who turned and walked slowly away, with her purple and white
wings half dispread behind her. She was found, the next morning,
dead beneath a withered tree on a bare hill-side, some miles
inland. They buried her where she lay, as is their custom; for,
before they die, they instinctively search for a spot like the
place of their birth, and having found one that satisfies them,
they lie down, fold their wings around them, if they be women, or
cross their arms over their breasts, if they are men, just as if
they were going to sleep; and so sleep indeed. The sign or cause
of coming death is an indescribable longing for something, they
know not what, which seizes them, and drives them into solitude,
consuming them within, till the body fails. When a youth and a
maiden look too deep into each other's eyes, this longing seizes
and possesses them; but instead of drawing nearer to each other,
they wander away, each alone, into solitary places, and die of
their desire. But it seems to me, that thereafter they are born
babes upon our earth: where, if, when grown, they find each
other, it goes well with them; if not, it will seem to go ill.
But of this I know nothing. When I told them that the women on
the Earth had not wings like them, but arms, they stared, and
said how bold and masculine they must look; not knowing that
their wings, glorious as they are, are but undeveloped arms.

But see the power of this book, that, while recounting what I can
recall of its contents, I write as if myself had visited the
far-off planet, learned its ways and appearances, and conversed
with its men and women. And so, while writing, it seemed to me
that I had.

The book goes on with the story of a maiden, who, born at the
close of autumn, and living in a long, to her endless winter, set
out at last to find the regions of spring; for, as in our earth,
the seasons are divided over the globe. It begins something like

She watched them dying for many a day,
Dropping from off the old trees away,
One by one; or else in a shower
Crowding over the withered flower
For as if they had done some grievous wrong,
The sun, that had nursed them and loved them so long,
Grew weary of loving, and, turning back,
Hastened away on his southern track;
And helplessly hung each shrivelled leaf,
Faded away with an idle grief.
And the gusts of wind, sad Autumn's sighs,
Mournfully swept through their families;
Casting away with a helpless moan
All that he yet might call his own,
As the child, when his bird is gone for ever,
Flingeth the cage on the wandering river.
And the giant trees, as bare as Death,
Slowly bowed to the great Wind's breath;
And groaned with trying to keep from groaning
Amidst the young trees bending and moaning.
And the ancient planet's mighty sea
Was heaving and falling most restlessly,
And the tops of the waves were broken and white,
Tossing about to ease their might;
And the river was striving to reach the main,
And the ripple was hurrying back again.
Nature lived in sadness now;
Sadness lived on the maiden's brow,
As she watched, with a fixed, half-conscious eye,
One lonely leaf that trembled on high,
Till it dropped at last from the desolate bough--
Sorrow, oh, sorrow! 'tis winter now.
And her tears gushed forth, though it was but a leaf,
For little will loose the swollen fountain of grief:
When up to the lip the water goes,
It needs but a drop, and it overflows.

Oh! many and many a dreary year
Must pass away ere the buds appear:
Many a night of darksome sorrow
Yield to the light of a joyless morrow,
Ere birds again, on the clothed trees,
Shall fill the branches with melodies.
She will dream of meadows with wakeful streams;
Of wavy grass in the sunny beams;
Of hidden wells that soundless spring,
Hoarding their joy as a holy thing;
Of founts that tell it all day long
To the listening woods, with exultant song;
She will dream of evenings that die into nights,
Where each sense is filled with its own delights,
And the soul is still as the vaulted sky,
Lulled with an inner harmony;

And the flowers give out to the dewy night,
Changed into perfume, the gathered light;
And the darkness sinks upon all their host,
Till the sun sail up on the eastern coast--
She will wake and see the branches bare,
Weaving a net in the frozen air.

The story goes on to tell how, at last, weary with wintriness,
she travelled towards the southern regions of her globe, to meet
the spring on its slow way northwards; and how, after many sad
adventures, many disappointed hopes, and many tears, bitter and
fruitless, she found at last, one stormy afternoon, in a leafless
forest, a single snowdrop growing betwixt the borders of the
winter and spring. She lay down beside it and died. I almost
believe that a child, pale and peaceful as a snowdrop, was born
in the Earth within a fixed season from that stormy afternoon.

"I saw a ship sailing upon the sea
Deeply laden as ship could be;
But not so deep as in love I am
For I care not whether I sink or swim."
Old Ballad.

"But Love is such a Mystery
I cannot find it out:
For when I think I'm best resols'd,
I then am in most doubt."

One story I will try to reproduce. But, alas! it is like trying
to reconstruct a forest out of broken branches and withered
leaves. In the fairy book, everything was just as it should be,
though whether in words or something else, I cannot tell. It
glowed and flashed the thoughts upon the soul, with such a power
that the medium disappeared from the consciousness, and it was
occupied only with the things themselves. My representation of
it must resemble a translation from a rich and powerful language,
capable of embodying the thoughts of a splendidly developed
people, into the meagre and half-articulate speech of a savage
tribe. Of course, while I read it, I was Cosmo, and his history
was mine. Yet, all the time, I seemed to have a kind of double
consciousness, and the story a double meaning. Sometimes it
seemed only to represent a simple story of ordinary life, perhaps
almost of universal life; wherein two souls, loving each other
and longing to come nearer, do, after all, but behold each other
as in a glass darkly.

As through the hard rock go the branching silver veins; as into
the solid land run the creeks and gulfs from the unresting sea;
as the lights and influences of the upper worlds sink silently
through the earth's atmosphere; so doth Faerie invade the world
of men, and sometimes startle the common eye with an association
as of cause and effect, when between the two no connecting links
can be traced.

Cosmo von Wehrstahl was a student at the University of Prague.
Though of a noble family, he was poor, and prided himself upon
the independence that poverty gives; for what will not a man
pride himself upon, when he cannot get rid of it? A favourite
with his fellow students, he yet had no companions; and none of
them had ever crossed the threshold of his lodging in the top of
one of the highest houses in the old town. Indeed, the secret of
much of that complaisance which recommended him to his fellows,
was the thought of his unknown retreat, whither in the evening he
could betake himself and indulge undisturbed in his own studies
and reveries. These studies, besides those subjects necessary to
his course at the University, embraced some less commonly known
and approved; for in a secret drawer lay the works of Albertus
Magnus and Cornelius Agrippa, along with others less read and
more abstruse. As yet, however, he had followed these researches
only from curiosity, and had turned them to no practical purpose.

His lodging consisted of one large low-ceiled room, singularly
bare of furniture; for besides a couple of wooden chairs, a couch
which served for dreaming on both by day and night, and a great
press of black oak, there was very little in the room that could
be called furniture.

But curious instruments were heaped in the corners; and in one
stood a skeleton, half-leaning against the wall, half-supported
by a string about its neck. One of its hands, all of fingers,
rested on the heavy pommel of a great sword that stood beside it.

Various weapons were scattered about over the floor. The walls
were utterly bare of adornment; for the few strange things, such
as a large dried bat with wings dispread, the skin of a
porcupine, and a stuffed sea-mouse, could hardly be reckoned as
such. But although his fancy delighted in vagaries like these,
he indulged his imagination with far different fare. His mind
had never yet been filled with an absorbing passion; but it lay
like a still twilight open to any wind, whether the low breath
that wafts but odours, or the storm that bows the great trees
till they strain and creak. He saw everything as through a
rose-coloured glass. When he looked from his window on the
street below, not a maiden passed but she moved as in a story,
and drew his thoughts after her till she disappeared in the
vista. When he walked in the streets, he always felt as if
reading a tale, into which he sought to weave every face of
interest that went by; and every sweet voice swept his soul as
with the wing of a passing angel. He was in fact a poet without
words; the more absorbed and endangered, that the
springing-waters were dammed back into his soul, where, finding
no utterance, they grew, and swelled, and undermined. He used to
lie on his hard couch, and read a tale or a poem, till the book
dropped from his hand; but he dreamed on, he knew not whether
awake or asleep, until the opposite roof grew upon his sense, and
turned golden in the sunrise. Then he arose too; and the
impulses of vigorous youth kept him ever active, either in study
or in sport, until again the close of the day left him free; and
the world of night, which had lain drowned in the cataract of the
day, rose up in his soul, with all its stars, and dim-seen
phantom shapes. But this could hardly last long. Some one form
must sooner or later step within the charmed circle, enter the
house of life, and compel the bewildered magician to kneel and

One afternoon, towards dusk, he was wandering dreamily in one of
the principal streets, when a fellow student roused him by a slap
on the shoulder, and asked him to accompany him into a little
back alley to look at some old armour which he had taken a fancy
to possess. Cosmo was considered an authority in every matter
pertaining to arms, ancient or modern. In the use of weapons,
none of the students could come near him; and his practical
acquaintance with some had principally contributed to establish
his authority in reference to all. He accompanied him willingly.

They entered a narrow alley, and thence a dirty little court,
where a low arched door admitted them into a heterogeneous
assemblage of everything musty, and dusty, and old, that could
well be imagined. His verdict on the armour was satisfactory,
and his companion at once concluded the purchase. As they were
leaving the place, Cosmo's eye was attracted by an old mirror of
an elliptical shape, which leaned against the wall, covered with
dust. Around it was some curious carving, which he could see but
very indistinctly by the glimmering light which the owner of the
shop carried in his hand. It was this carving that attracted his
attention; at least so it appeared to him. He left the place,
however, with his friend, taking no further notice of it. They
walked together to the main street, where they parted and took
opposite directions.

No sooner was Cosmo left alone, than the thought of the curious
old mirror returned to him. A strong desire to see it more
plainly arose within him, and he directed his steps once more
towards the shop.The owner opened the door when he knocked, as if
he had expected him.He was a little, old, withered man, with a
hooked nose, and burning eyes constantly in a slow restless
motion, and looking here and there as if after something that
eluded them. Pretending to examine several other articles, Cosmo
at last approached the mirror, and requested to have it taken

"Take it down yourself, master; I cannot reach it," said the old

Cosmo took it down carefully, when he saw that the carving was
indeed delicate and costly, being both of admirable design and
execution; containing withal many devices which seemed to embody
some meaning to which he had no clue. This, naturally, in one of
his tastes and temperament, increased the interest he felt in the
old mirror; so much, indeed, that he now longed to possess it, in
order to study its frame at his leisure. He pretended, however,
to want it only for use; and saying he feared the plate could be
of little service, as it was rather old, he brushed away a little
of the dust from its face, expecting to see a dull reflection
within. His surprise was great when he found the reflection
brilliant, revealing a glass not only uninjured by age, but
wondrously clear and perfect (should the whole correspond to this
part) even for one newly from the hands of the maker. He asked
carelessly what the owner wanted for the thing. The old man
replied by mentioning a sum of money far beyond the reach of poor
Cosmo, who proceeded to replace the mirror where it had stood

"You think the price too high?" said the old man.

"I do not know that it is too much for you to ask," replied
Cosmo; "but it is far too much for me to give."

The old man held up his light towards Cosmo's face. "I like your
look," said he.

Cosmo could not return the compliment. In fact, now he looked
closely at him for the first time, he felt a kind of repugnance
to him, mingled with a strange feeling of doubt whether a man or
a woman stood before him.

"What is your name?" he continued.

"Cosmo von Wehrstahl."

"Ah, ah! I thought as much. I see your father in you. I knew
your father very well, young sir. I dare say in some odd corners
of my house, you might find some old things with his crest and
cipher upon them still. Well, I like you: you shall have the
mirror at the fourth part of what I asked for it; but upon one

"What is that?" said Cosmo; for, although the price was still a
great deal for him to give, he could just manage it; and the
desire to possess the mirror had increased to an altogether
unaccountable degree, since it had seemed beyond his reach.

"That if you should ever want to get rid of it again, you will
let me have the first offer."

"Certainly," replied Cosmo, with a smile; adding, "a moderate
condition indeed."

"On your honour?" insisted the seller.

"On my honour," said the buyer; and the bargain was concluded.

"I will carry it home for you," said the old man, as Cosmo took
it in his hands.

"No, no; I will carry it myself," said he; for he had a peculiar
dislike to revealing his residence to any one, and more
especially to this person, to whom he felt every moment a greater
"Just as you please," said the old creature, and muttered to
himself as he held his light at the door to show him out of the
court: "Sold for the sixth time! I wonder what will be the
upshot of it this time. I should think my lady had enough of it
by now!"

Cosmo carried his prize carefully home. But all the way he had
an uncomfortable feeling that he was watched and dogged.
Repeatedly he looked about, but saw nothing to justify his
suspicions. Indeed, the streets were too crowded and too ill
lighted to expose very readily a careful spy, if such there
should be at his heels. He reached his lodging in safety, and
leaned his purchase against the wall, rather relieved, strong as
he was, to be rid of its weight; then, lighting his pipe, threw
himself on the couch, and was soon lapt in the folds of one of
his haunting dreams.

He returned home earlier than usual the next day, and fixed the
mirror to the wall, over the hearth, at one end of his long room.

He then carefully wiped away the dust from its face, and, clear
as the water of a sunny spring, the mirror shone out from beneath
the envious covering. But his interest was chiefly occupied with
the curious carving of the frame. This he cleaned as well as he
could with a brush; and then he proceeded to a minute examination
of its various parts, in the hope of discovering some index to
the intention of the carver. In this, however, he was
unsuccessful; and, at length, pausing with some weariness and
disappointment, he gazed vacantly for a few moments into the
depth of the reflected room. But ere long he said, half aloud:
"What a strange thing a mirror is! and what a wondrous affinity
exists between it and a man's imagination! For this room of mine,
as I behold it in the glass, is the same, and yet not the same.
It is not the mere representation of the room I live in, but it
looks just as if I were reading about it in a story I like. All
its commonness has disappeared. The mirror has lifted it out of
the region of fact into the realm of art; and the very
representing of it to me has clothed with interest that which was
otherwise hard and bare; just as one sees with delight upon the
stage the representation of a character from which one would
escape in life as from something unendurably wearisome. But is
it not rather that art rescues nature from the weary and sated
regards of our senses, and the degrading injustice of our anxious
everyday life, and, appealing to the imagination, which dwells
apart, reveals Nature in some degree as she really is, and as she
represents herself to the eye of the child, whose every-day life,
fearless and unambitious, meets the true import of the
wonder-teeming world around him, and rejoices therein without
questioning? That skeleton, now--I almost fear it, standing
there so still, with eyes only for the unseen, like a watch-tower
looking across all the waste of this busy world into the quiet
regions of rest beyond. And yet I know every bone and every
joint in it as well as my own fist. And that old battle-axe
looks as if any moment it might be caught up by a mailed hand,
and, borne forth by the mighty arm, go crashing through casque,
and skull, and brain, invading the Unknown with yet another
bewildered ghost. I should like to live in THAT room if I could
only get into it."

Scarcely had the half-moulded words floated from him, as he stood
gazing into the mirror, when, striking him as with a flash of
amazement that fixed him in his posture, noiseless and
unannounced, glided suddenly through the door into the reflected
room, with stately motion, yet reluctant and faltering step, the
graceful form of a woman, clothed all in white. Her back only
was visible as she walked slowly up to the couch in the further
end of the room, on which she laid herself wearily, turning
towards him a face of unutterable loveliness, in which suffering,
and dislike, and a sense of compulsion, strangely mingled with
the beauty. He stood without the power of motion for some
moments, with his eyes irrecoverably fixed upon her; and even
after he was conscious of the ability to move, he could not
summon up courage to turn and look on her, face to face, in the
veritable chamber in which he stood. At length, with a sudden
effort, in which the exercise of the will was so pure, that it
seemed involuntary, he turned his face to the couch. It was
vacant. In bewilderment, mingled with terror, he turned again to
the mirror: there, on the reflected couch, lay the exquisite
lady-form. She lay with closed eyes, whence two large tears were
just welling from beneath the veiling lids; still as death, save
for the convulsive motion of her bosom.

Cosmo himself could not have described what he felt. His
emotions were of a kind that destroyed consciousness, and could
never be clearly recalled. He could not help standing yet by the
mirror, and keeping his eyes fixed on the lady, though he was
painfully aware of his rudeness, and feared every moment that she
would open hers, and meet his fixed regard. But he was, ere
long, a little relieved; for, after a while, her eyelids slowly
rose, and her eyes remained uncovered, but unemployed for a time;
and when, at length, they began to wander about the room, as if
languidly seeking to make some acquaintance with her environment,
they were never directed towards him: it seemed nothing but what
was in the mirror could affect her vision; and, therefore, if she
saw him at all, it could only be his back, which, of necessity,
was turned towards her in the glass. The two figures in the
mirror could not meet face to face, except he turned and looked
at her, present in his room; and, as she was not there, he
concluded that if he were to turn towards the part in his room
corresponding to that in which she lay, his reflection would
either be invisible to her altogether, or at least it must appear
to her to gaze vacantly towards her, and no meeting of the eyes
would produce the impression of spiritual proximity. By-and-by
her eyes fell upon the skeleton, and he saw her shudder and close
them. She did not open them again, but signs of repugnance
continued evident on her countenance. Cosmo would have removed
the obnoxious thing at once, but he feared to discompose her yet
more by the assertion of his presence which the act would
involve. So he stood and watched her. The eyelids yet shrouded
the eyes, as a costly case the jewels within; the troubled
expression gradually faded from the countenance, leaving only a
faint sorrow behind; the features settled into an unchanging
expression of rest; and by these signs, and the slow regular
motion of her breathing, Cosmo knew that she slept. He could now
gaze on her without embarrassment. He saw that her figure,
dressed in the simplest robe of white, was worthy of her face;
and so harmonious, that either the delicately moulded foot, or
any finger of the equally delicate hand, was an index to the
whole. As she lay, her whole form manifested the relaxation of
perfect repose. He gazed till he was weary, and at last seated
himself near the new-found shrine, and mechanically took up a
book, like one who watches by a sick-bed. But his eyes gathered
no thoughts from the page before him. His intellect had been
stunned by the bold contradiction, to its face, of all its
experience, and now lay passive, without assertion, or
speculation, or even conscious astonishment; while his
imagination sent one wild dream of blessedness after another
coursing through his soul. How long he sat he knew not; but at
length he roused himself, rose, and, trembling in every portion
of his frame, looked again into the mirror. She was gone. The
mirror reflected faithfully what his room presented, and nothing
more. It stood there like a golden setting whence the central
jewel has been stolen away--like a night- sky without the glory
of its stars. She had carried with her all the strangeness of
the reflected room. It had sunk to the level of the one without.

But when the first pangs of his disappointment had passed, Cosmo
began to comfort himself with the hope that she might return,
perhaps the next evening, at the same hour. Resolving that if
she did, she should not at least be scared by the hateful
skeleton, he removed that and several other articles of
questionable appearance into a recess by the side of the hearth,
whence they could not possibly cast any reflection into the
mirror; and having made his poor room as tidy as he could, sought
the solace of the open sky and of a night wind that had begun to
blow, for he could not rest where he was. When he returned,
somewhat composed, he could hardly prevail with himself to lie
down on his bed; for he could not help feeling as if she had lain
upon it; and for him to lie there now would be something like
sacrilege. However, weariness prevailed; and laying himself on
the couch, dressed as he was, he slept till day.

With a beating heart, beating till he could hardly breathe, he
stood in dumb hope before the mirror, on the following evening.
Again the reflected room shone as through a purple vapour in the
gathering twilight. Everything seemed waiting like himself for a
coming splendour to glorify its poor earthliness with the
presence of a heavenly joy. And just as the room vibrated with
the strokes of the neighbouring church bell, announcing the hour
of six, in glided the pale beauty, and again laid herself on the
couch. Poor Cosmo nearly lost his senses with delight. She was
there once more! Her eyes sought the corner where the skeleton
had stood, and a faint gleam of satisfaction crossed her face,
apparently at seeing it empty. She looked suffering still, but
there was less of discomfort expressed in her countenance than
there had been the night before. She took more notice of the
things about her, and seemed to gaze with some curiosity on the
strange apparatus standing here and there in her room. At
length, however, drowsiness seemed to overtake her, and again she
fell asleep. Resolved not to lose sight of her this time, Cosmo
watched the sleeping form. Her slumber was so deep and absorbing
that a fascinating repose seemed to pass contagiously from her to
him as he gazed upon her; and he started as if from a dream, when
the lady moved, and, without opening her eyes, rose, and passed
from the room with the gait of a somnambulist.

Cosmo was now in a state of extravagant delight. Most men have a
secret treasure somewhere. The miser has his golden hoard; the
virtuoso his pet ring; the student his rare book; the poet his
favourite haunt; the lover his secret drawer; but Cosmo had a
mirror with a lovely lady in it. And now that he knew by the
skeleton, that she was affected by the things around her, he had
a new object in life: he would turn the bare chamber in the
mirror into a room such as no lady need disdain to call her own.
This he could effect only by furnishing and adorning his. And
Cosmo was poor. Yet he possessed accomplishments that could be
turned to account; although, hitherto, he had preferred living on
his slender allowance, to increasing his means by what his pride
considered unworthy of his rank. He was the best swordsman in
the University; and now he offered to give lessons in fencing and
similar exercises, to such as chose to pay him well for the
trouble. His proposal was heard with surprise by the students;
but it was eagerly accepted by many; and soon his instructions
were not confined to the richer students, but were anxiously
sought by many of the young nobility of Prague and its
neighbourhood. So that very soon he had a good deal of money at
his command. The first thing he did was to remove his apparatus
and oddities into a closet in the room. Then he placed his bed
and a few other necessaries on each side of the hearth, and
parted them from the rest of the room by two screens of Indian
fabric. Then he put an elegant couch for the lady to lie upon,
in the corner where his bed had formerly stood; and, by degrees,
every day adding some article of luxury, converted it, at length,
into a rich boudoir.

Every night, about the same time, the lady entered. The first
time she saw the new couch, she started with a half-smile; then
her face grew very sad, the tears came to her eyes, and she laid
herself upon the couch, and pressed her face into the silken
cushions, as if to hide from everything. She took notice of each
addition and each change as the work proceeded; and a look of
acknowledgment, as if she knew that some one was ministering to
her, and was grateful for it, mingled with the constant look of
suffering. At length, after she had lain down as usual one
evening, her eyes fell upon some paintings with which Cosmo had
just finished adorning the walls. She rose, and to his great
delight, walked across the room, and proceeded to examine them
carefully, testifying much pleasure in her looks as she did so.
But again the sorrowful, tearful expression returned, and again
she buried her face in the pillows of her couch. Gradually,
however, her countenance had grown more composed; much of the
suffering manifest on her first appearance had vanished, and a
kind of quiet, hopeful expression had taken its place; which,
however, frequently gave way to an anxious, troubled look,
mingled with something of sympathetic pity.

Meantime, how fared Cosmo? As might be expected in one of his
temperament, his interest had blossomed into love, and his
love--shall I call it RIPENED, or--WITHERED into passion. But,
alas! he loved a shadow. He could not come near her, could not
speak to her, could not hear a sound from those sweet lips, to
which his longing eyes would cling like bees to their
honey-founts. Ever and anon he sang to himself:

"I shall die for love of the maiden;"

and ever he looked again, and died not, though his heart seemed
ready to break with intensity of life and longing. And the more
he did for her, the more he loved her; and he hoped that,
although she never appeared to see him, yet she was pleased to
think that one unknown would give his life to her. He tried to
comfort himself over his separation from her, by thinking that
perhaps some day she would see him and make signs to him, and
that would satisfy him; "for," thought he, "is not this all that
a loving soul can do to enter into communion with another? Nay,
how many who love never come nearer than to behold each other as
in a mirror; seem to know and yet never know the inward life;
never enter the other soul; and part at last, with but the
vaguest notion of the universe on the borders of which they have
been hovering for years? If I could but speak to her, and knew
that she heard me, I should be satisfied." Once he contemplated
painting a picture on the wall, which should, of necessity,
convey to the lady a thought of himself; but, though he had some
skill with the pencil, he found his hand tremble so much when he
began the attempt, that he was forced to give it up. .
. . . .

"Who lives, he dies; who dies, he is alive."

One evening, as he stood gazing on his treasure, he thought he
saw a faint expression of self-consciousness on her countenance,
as if she surmised that passionate eyes were fixed upon her.
This grew; till at last the red blood rose over her neck, and
cheek, and brow. Cosmo's longing to approach her became almost
delirious. This night she was dressed in an evening costume,
resplendent with diamonds. This could add nothing to her beauty,
but it presented it in a new aspect; enabled her loveliness to
make a new manifestation of itself in a new embodiment. For
essential beauty is infinite; and, as the soul of Nature needs an
endless succession of varied forms to embody her loveliness,
countless faces of beauty springing forth, not any two the same,
at any one of her heart-throbs; so the individual form needs an
infinite change of its environments, to enable it to uncover all
the phases of its loveliness. Diamonds glittered from amidst her
hair, half hidden in its luxuriance, like stars through dark
rain-clouds; and the bracelets on her white arms flashed all the
colours of a rainbow of lightnings, as she lifted her snowy hands
to cover her burning face. But her beauty shone down all its
adornment. "If I might have but one of her feet to kiss,"
thought Cosmo, "I should be content." Alas! he deceived himself,
for passion is never content. Nor did he know that there are TWO
ways out of her enchanted house. But, suddenly, as if the pang
had been driven into his heart from without, revealing itself
first in pain, and afterwards in definite form, the thought
darted into his mind, "She has a lover somewhere. Remembered
words of his bring the colour on her face now. I am nowhere to
her. She lives in another world all day, and all night, after
she leaves me. Why does she come and make me love her, till I, a
strong man, am too faint to look upon her more?" He looked
again, and her face was pale as a lily. A sorrowful compassion
seemed to rebuke the glitter of the restless jewels, and the slow
tears rose in her eyes. She left her room sooner this evening
than was her wont. Cosmo remained alone, with a feeling as if
his bosom had been suddenly left empty and hollow, and the weight
of the whole world was crushing in its walls. The next evening,
for the first time since she began to come, she came not.

And now Cosmo was in wretched plight. Since the thought of a
rival had occurred to him, he could not rest for a moment. More
than ever he longed to see the lady face to face. He persuaded
himself that if he but knew the worst he would be satisfied; for
then he could abandon Prague, and find that relief in constant
motion, which is the hope of all active minds when invaded by
distress. Meantime he waited with unspeakable anxiety for the
next night, hoping she would return: but she did not appear. And
now he fell really ill. Rallied by his fellow students on his
wretched looks, he ceased to attend the lectures. His
engagements were neglected. He cared for nothing, The sky, with
the great sun in it, was to him a heartless, burning desert. The
men and women in the streets were mere puppets, without motives
in themselves, or interest to him. He saw them all as on the
ever- changing field of a camera obscura. She--she alone and
altogether--was his universe, his well of life, his incarnate
good. For six evenings she came not. Let his absorbing passion,
and the slow fever that was consuming his brain, be his excuse
for the resolution which he had taken and begun to execute,
before that time had expired.

Reasoning with himself, that it must be by some enchantment
connected with the mirror, that the form of the lady was to be
seen in it, he determined to attempt to turn to account what he
had hitherto studied principally from curiosity. "For," said he
to himself, "if a spell can force her presence in that glass (and
she came unwillingly at first), may not a stronger spell, such as
I know, especially with the aid of her half-presence in the
mirror, if ever she appears again, compel her living form to come
to me here? If I do her wrong, let love be my excuse. I want
only to know my doom from her own lips." He never doubted, all
the time, that she was a real earthly woman; or, rather, that
there was a woman, who, somehow or other, threw this reflection
of her form into the magic mirror.

He opened his secret drawer, took out his books of magic, lighted
his lamp, and read and made notes from midnight till three in the
morning, for three successive nights. Then he replaced his
books; and the next night went out in quest of the materials
necessary for the conjuration. These were not easy to find; for,
in love-charms and all incantations of this nature, ingredients
are employed scarcely fit to be mentioned, and for the thought
even of which, in connexion with her, he could only excuse
himself on the score of his bitter need. At length he succeeded
in procuring all he required; and on the seventh evening from
that on which she had last appeared, he found himself prepared
for the exercise of unlawful and tyrannical power.

He cleared the centre of the room; stooped and drew a circle of
red on the floor, around the spot where he stood; wrote in the
four quarters mystical signs, and numbers which were all powers
of seven or nine; examined the whole ring carefully, to see that
no smallest break had occurred in the circumference; and then
rose from his bending posture. As he rose, the church clock
struck seven; and, just as she had appeared the first time,
reluctant, slow, and stately, glided in the lady. Cosmo
trembled; and when, turning, she revealed a countenance worn and
wan, as with sickness or inward trouble, he grew faint, and felt
as if he dared not proceed. But as he gazed on the face and
form, which now possessed his whole soul, to the exclusion of all
other joys and griefs, the longing to speak to her, to know that
she heard him, to hear from her one word in return, became so
unendurable, that he suddenly and hastily resumed his
preparations. Stepping carefully from the circle, he put a small
brazier into its centre. He then set fire to its contents of
charcoal, and while it burned up, opened his window and seated
himself, waiting, beside it.

It was a sultry evening. The air was full of thunder. A sense
of luxurious depression filled the brain. The sky seemed to have
grown heavy, and to compress the air beneath it. A kind of
purplish tinge pervaded the atmosphere, and through the open
window came the scents of the distant fields, which all the
vapours of the city could not quench. Soon the charcoal glowed.
Cosmo sprinkled upon it the incense and other substances which he
had compounded, and, stepping within the circle, turned his face
from the brazier and towards the mirror. Then, fixing his eyes
upon the face of the lady, he began with a trembling voice to
repeat a powerful incantation. He had not gone far, before the
lady grew pale; and then, like a returning wave, the blood washed
all its banks with its crimson tide, and she hid her face in her
hands. Then he passed to a conjuration stronger yet.

The lady rose and walked uneasily to and fro in her room.
Another spell; and she seemed seeking with her eyes for some
object on which they wished to rest. At length it seemed as if
she suddenly espied him; for her eyes fixed themselves full and
wide upon his, and she drew gradually, and somewhat unwillingly,
close to her side of the mirror, just as if his eyes had
fascinated her. Cosmo had never seen her so near before. Now at
least, eyes met eyes; but he could not quite understand the
expression of hers. They were full of tender entreaty, but there
was something more that he could not interpret. Though his heart
seemed to labour in his throat, he would allow no delight or
agitation to turn him from his task. Looking still in her face,
he passed on to the mightiest charm he knew. Suddenly the lady
turned and walked out of the door of her reflected chamber. A
moment after she entered his room with veritable presence; and,
forgetting all his precautions, he sprang from the charmed
circle, and knelt before her. There she stood, the living lady
of his passionate visions, alone beside him, in a thundery


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