Wieland; or The Transformation, An American Tale
Charles Brockden Brown
Part 2 out of 5
to pursue them; for scarcely had the vibrations ceased, when my
attention was attracted by a whisper, which, at first, appeared
to proceed from lips that were laid close to my ear.
No wonder that a circumstance like this startled me. In the
first impulse of my terror, I uttered a slight scream, and
shrunk to the opposite side of the bed. In a moment, however,
I recovered from my trepidation. I was habitually indifferent
to all the causes of fear, by which the majority are afflicted.
I entertained no apprehension of either ghosts or robbers. Our
security had never been molested by either, and I made use of no
means to prevent or counterwork their machinations. My
tranquillity, on this occasion, was quickly retrieved. The
whisper evidently proceeded from one who was posted at my
bed-side. The first idea that suggested itself was, that it was
uttered by the girl who lived with me as a servant. Perhaps,
somewhat had alarmed her, or she was sick, and had come to
request my assistance. By whispering in my ear, she intended to
rouse without alarming me.
Full of this persuasion, I called; "Judith," said I, "is it
you? What do you want? Is there any thing the matter with
you?" No answer was returned. I repeated my inquiry, but
equally in vain. Cloudy as was the atmosphere, and curtained as
my bed was, nothing was visible. I withdrew the curtain, and
leaning my head on my elbow, I listened with the deepest
attention to catch some new sound. Meanwhile, I ran over in my
thoughts, every circumstance that could assist my conjectures.
My habitation was a wooden edifice, consisting of two
stories. In each story were two rooms, separated by an entry,
or middle passage, with which they communicated by opposite
doors. The passage, on the lower story, had doors at the two
ends, and a stair-case. Windows answered to the doors on the
upper story. Annexed to this, on the eastern side, were wings,
divided, in like manner, into an upper and lower room; one of
them comprized a kitchen, and chamber above it for the servant,
and communicated, on both stories, with the parlour adjoining it
below, and the chamber adjoining it above. The opposite wing is
of smaller dimensions, the rooms not being above eight feet
square. The lower of these was used as a depository of
household implements, the upper was a closet in which I
deposited my books and papers. They had but one inlet, which
was from the room adjoining. There was no window in the lower
one, and in the upper, a small aperture which communicated light
and air, but would scarcely admit the body. The door which led
into this, was close to my bed-head, and was always locked, but
when I myself was within. The avenues below were accustomed to
be closed and bolted at nights.
The maid was my only companion, and she could not reach my
chamber without previously passing through the opposite chamber,
and the middle passage, of which, however, the doors were
usually unfastened. If she had occasioned this noise, she would
have answered my repeated calls. No other conclusion,
therefore, was left me, but that I had mistaken the sounds, and
that my imagination had transformed some casual noise into the
voice of a human creature. Satisfied with this solution, I was
preparing to relinquish my listening attitude, when my ear was
again saluted with a new and yet louder whispering. It
appeared, as before, to issue from lips that touched my pillow.
A second effort of attention, however, clearly shewed me, that
the sounds issued from within the closet, the door of which was
not more than eight inches from my pillow.
This second interruption occasioned a shock less vehement
than the former. I started, but gave no audible token of alarm.
I was so much mistress of my feelings, as to continue listening
to what should be said. The whisper was distinct, hoarse, and
uttered so as to shew that the speaker was desirous of being
heard by some one near, but, at the same time, studious to avoid
being overheard by any other.
"Stop, stop, I say; madman as you are! there are better means
than that. Curse upon your rashness! There is no need to
Such were the words uttered in a tone of eagerness and anger,
within so small a distance of my pillow. What construction
could I put upon them? My heart began to palpitate with dread
of some unknown danger. Presently, another voice, but equally
near me, was heard whispering in answer. "Why not? I will draw
a trigger in this business, but perdition be my lot if I do
more." To this, the first voice returned, in a tone which rage
had heightened in a small degree above a whisper, "Coward! stand
aside, and see me do it. I will grasp her throat; I will do her
business in an instant; she shall not have time so much as to
groan." What wonder that I was petrified by sounds so dreadful!
Murderers lurked in my closet. They were planning the means of
my destruction. One resolved to shoot, and the other menaced
suffocation. Their means being chosen, they would forthwith
break the door. Flight instantly suggested itself as most
eligible in circumstances so perilous. I deliberated not a
moment; but, fear adding wings to my speed, I leaped out of bed,
and scantily robed as I was, rushed out of the chamber, down
stairs, and into the open air. I can hardly recollect the
process of turning keys, and withdrawing bolts. My terrors
urged me forward with almost a mechanical impulse. I stopped
not till I reached my brother's door. I had not gained the
threshold, when, exhausted by the violence of my emotions, and
by my speed, I sunk down in a fit.
How long I remained in this situation I know not. When I
recovered, I found myself stretched on a bed, surrounded by my
sister and her female servants. I was astonished at the scene
before me, but gradually recovered the recollection of what had
happened. I answered their importunate inquiries as well as I
was able. My brother and Pleyel, whom the storm of the
preceding day chanced to detain here, informing themselves of
every particular, proceeded with lights and weapons to my
deserted habitation. They entered my chamber and my closet, and
found every thing in its proper place and customary order. The
door of the closet was locked, and appeared not to have been
opened in my absence. They went to Judith's apartment. They
found her asleep and in safety. Pleyel's caution induced him to
forbear alarming the girl; and finding her wholly ignorant of
what had passed, they directed her to return to her chamber.
They then fastened the doors, and returned.
My friends were disposed to regard this transaction as a
dream. That persons should be actually immured in this closet,
to which, in the circumstances of the time, access from without
or within was apparently impossible, they could not seriously
believe. That any human beings had intended murder, unless it
were to cover a scheme of pillage, was incredible; but that no
such design had been formed, was evident from the security in
which the furniture of the house and the closet remained.
I revolved every incident and expression that had occurred.
My senses assured me of the truth of them, and yet their
abruptness and improbability made me, in my turn, somewhat
incredulous. The adventure had made a deep impression on my
fancy, and it was not till after a week's abode at my brother's,
that I resolved to resume the possession of my own dwelling.
There was another circumstance that enhanced the
mysteriousness of this event. After my recovery it was obvious
to inquire by what means the attention of the family had been
drawn to my situation. I had fallen before I had reached the
threshold, or was able to give any signal. My brother related,
that while this was transacting in my chamber, he himself was
awake, in consequence of some slight indisposition, and lay,
according to his custom, musing on some favorite topic.
Suddenly the silence, which was remarkably profound, was broken
by a voice of most piercing shrillness, that seemed to be
uttered by one in the hall below his chamber. "Awake! arise!"
it exclaimed: "hasten to succour one that is dying at your
This summons was effectual. There was no one in the house
who was not roused by it. Pleyel was the first to obey, and my
brother overtook him before he reached the hall. What was the
general astonishment when your friend was discovered stretched
upon the grass before the door, pale, ghastly, and with every
mark of death!
This was the third instance of a voice, exerted for the
benefit of this little community. The agent was no less
inscrutable in this, than in the former case. When I ruminated
upon these events, my soul was suspended in wonder and awe. Was
I really deceived in imagining that I heard the closet
conversation? I was no longer at liberty to question the
reality of those accents which had formerly recalled my brother
from the hill; which had imparted tidings of the death of the
German lady to Pleyel; and which had lately summoned them to my
But how was I to regard this midnight conversation? Hoarse
and manlike voices conferring on the means of death, so near my
bed, and at such an hour! How had my ancient security vanished!
That dwelling, which had hitherto been an inviolate asylum, was
now beset with danger to my life. That solitude, formerly so
dear to me, could no longer be endured. Pleyel, who had
consented to reside with us during the months of spring, lodged
in the vacant chamber, in order to quiet my alarms. He treated
my fears with ridicule, and in a short time very slight traces
of them remained: but as it was wholly indifferent to him
whether his nights were passed at my house or at my brother's,
this arrangement gave general satisfaction.
I will not enumerate the various inquiries and conjectures
which these incidents occasioned. After all our efforts, we
came no nearer to dispelling the mist in which they were
involved; and time, instead of facilitating a solution, only
accumulated our doubts.
In the midst of thoughts excited by these events, I was not
unmindful of my interview with the stranger. I related the
particulars, and shewed the portrait to my friends. Pleyel
recollected to have met with a figure resembling my description
in the city; but neither his face or garb made the same
impression upon him that it made upon me. It was a hint to
rally me upon my prepossessions, and to amuse us with a thousand
ludicrous anecdotes which he had collected in his travels. He
made no scruple to charge me with being in love; and threatened
to inform the swain, when he met him, of his good fortune.
Pleyel's temper made him susceptible of no durable
impressions. His conversation was occasionally visited by
gleams of his ancient vivacity; but, though his impetuosity was
sometimes inconvenient, there was nothing to dread from his
malice. I had no fear that my character or dignity would suffer
in his hands, and was not heartily displeased when he declared
his intention of profiting by his first meeting with the
stranger to introduce him to our acquaintance.
Some weeks after this I had spent a toilsome day, and, as the
sun declined, found myself disposed to seek relief in a walk.
The river bank is, at this part of it, and for some considerable
space upward, so rugged and steep as not to be easily descended.
In a recess of this declivity, near the southern verge of my
little demesne, was placed a slight building, with seats and
lattices. From a crevice of the rock, to which this edifice was
attached, there burst forth a stream of the purest water, which,
leaping from ledge to ledge, for the space of sixty feet,
produced a freshness in the air, and a murmur, the most
delicious and soothing imaginable. These, added to the odours
of the cedars which embowered it, and of the honey-suckle which
clustered among the lattices, rendered this my favorite retreat
On this occasion I repaired hither. My spirits drooped
through the fatigue of long attention, and I threw myself upon
a bench, in a state, both mentally and personally, of the utmost
supineness. The lulling sounds of the waterfall, the fragrance
and the dusk combined to becalm my spirits, and, in a short
time, to sink me into sleep. Either the uneasiness of my
posture, or some slight indisposition molested my repose with
dreams of no cheerful hue. After various incoherences had taken
their turn to occupy my fancy, I at length imagined myself
walking, in the evening twilight, to my brother's habitation.
A pit, methought, had been dug in the path I had taken, of which
I was not aware. As I carelessly pursued my walk, I thought I
saw my brother, standing at some distance before me, beckoning
and calling me to make haste. He stood on the opposite edge of
the gulph. I mended my pace, and one step more would have
plunged me into this abyss, had not some one from behind caught
suddenly my arm, and exclaimed, in a voice of eagerness and
terror, "Hold! hold!"
The sound broke my sleep, and I found myself, at the next
moment, standing on my feet, and surrounded by the deepest
darkness. Images so terrific and forcible disabled me, for a
time, from distinguishing between sleep and wakefulness, and
withheld from me the knowledge of my actual condition. My first
panics were succeeded by the perturbations of surprize, to find
myself alone in the open air, and immersed in so deep a gloom.
I slowly recollected the incidents of the afternoon, and how I
came hither. I could not estimate the time, but saw the
propriety of returning with speed to the house. My faculties
were still too confused, and the darkness too intense, to allow
me immediately to find my way up the steep. I sat down,
therefore, to recover myself, and to reflect upon my situation.
This was no sooner done, than a low voice was heard from
behind the lattice, on the side where I sat. Between the rock
and the lattice was a chasm not wide enough to admit a human
body; yet, in this chasm he that spoke appeared to be stationed.
"Attend! attend! but be not terrified."
I started and exclaimed, "Good heavens! what is that? Who
"A friend; one come, not to injure, but to save you; fear
This voice was immediately recognized to be the same with one
of those which I had heard in the closet; it was the voice of
him who had proposed to shoot, rather than to strangle, his
victim. My terror made me, at once, mute and motionless. He
continued, "I leagued to murder you. I repent. Mark my
bidding, and be safe. Avoid this spot. The snares of death
encompass it. Elsewhere danger will be distant; but this spot,
shun it as you value your life. Mark me further; profit by this
warning, but divulge it not. If a syllable of what has passed
escape you, your doom is sealed. Remember your father, and be
Here the accents ceased, and left me overwhelmed with dismay.
I was fraught with the persuasion, that during every moment I
remained here, my life was endangered; but I could not take a
step without hazard of falling to the bottom of the precipice.
The path, leading to the summit, was short, but rugged and
intricate. Even star-light was excluded by the umbrage, and not
the faintest gleam was afforded to guide my steps. What should
I do? To depart or remain was equally and eminently perilous.
In this state of uncertainty, I perceived a ray flit across
the gloom and disappear. Another succeeded, which was stronger,
and remained for a passing moment. It glittered on the shrubs
that were scattered at the entrance, and gleam continued to
succeed gleam for a few seconds, till they, finally, gave place
to unintermitted darkness.
The first visitings of this light called up a train of
horrors in my mind; destruction impended over this spot; the
voice which I had lately heard had warned me to retire, and had
menaced me with the fate of my father if I refused. I was
desirous, but unable, to obey; these gleams were such as
preluded the stroke by which he fell; the hour, perhaps, was the
same--I shuddered as if I had beheld, suspended over me, the
Presently a new and stronger illumination burst through the
lattice on the right hand, and a voice, from the edge of the
precipice above, called out my name. It was Pleyel. Joyfully
did I recognize his accents; but such was the tumult of my
thoughts that I had not power to answer him till he had
frequently repeated his summons. I hurried, at length, from the
fatal spot, and, directed by the lanthorn which he bore,
ascended the hill.
Pale and breathless, it was with difficulty I could support
myself. He anxiously inquired into the cause of my affright,
and the motive of my unusual absence. He had returned from my
brother's at a late hour, and was informed by Judith, that I had
walked out before sun-set, and had not yet returned. This
intelligence was somewhat alarming. He waited some time; but,
my absence continuing, he had set out in search of me. He had
explored the neighbourhood with the utmost care, but, receiving
no tidings of me, he was preparing to acquaint my brother with
this circumstance, when he recollected the summer-house on the
bank, and conceived it possible that some accident had detained
me there. He again inquired into the cause of this detention,
and of that confusion and dismay which my looks testified.
I told him that I had strolled hither in the afternoon, that
sleep had overtaken me as I sat, and that I had awakened a few
minutes before his arrival. I could tell him no more. In the
present impetuosity of my thoughts, I was almost dubious,
whether the pit, into which my brother had endeavoured to entice
me, and the voice that talked through the lattice, were not
parts of the same dream. I remembered, likewise, the charge of
secrecy, and the penalty denounced, if I should rashly divulge
what I had heard. For these reasons, I was silent on that
subject, and shutting myself in my chamber, delivered myself up
What I have related will, no doubt, appear to you a fable.
You will believe that calamity has subverted my reason, and that
I am amusing you with the chimeras of my brain, instead of facts
that have really happened. I shall not be surprized or
offended, if these be your suspicions. I know not, indeed, how
you can deny them admission. For, if to me, the immediate
witness, they were fertile of perplexity and doubt, how must
they affect another to whom they are recommended only by my
testimony? It was only by subsequent events, that I was fully
and incontestibly assured of the veracity of my senses.
Meanwhile what was I to think? I had been assured that a
design had been formed against my life. The ruffians had
leagued to murder me. Whom had I offended? Who was there with
whom I had ever maintained intercourse, who was capable of
harbouring such atrocious purposes?
My temper was the reverse of cruel and imperious. My heart
was touched with sympathy for the children of misfortune. But
this sympathy was not a barren sentiment. My purse, scanty as
it was, was ever open, and my hands ever active, to relieve
distress. Many were the wretches whom my personal exertions had
extricated from want and disease, and who rewarded me with their
gratitude. There was no face which lowered at my approach, and
no lips which uttered imprecations in my hearing. On the
contrary, there was none, over whose fate I had exerted any
influence, or to whom I was known by reputation, who did not
greet me with smiles, and dismiss me with proofs of veneration;
yet did not my senses assure me that a plot was laid against my
I am not destitute of courage. I have shewn myself
deliberative and calm in the midst of peril. I have hazarded my
own life, for the preservation of another, but now was I
confused and panic struck. I have not lived so as to fear
death, yet to perish by an unseen and secret stroke, to be
mangled by the knife of an assassin was a thought at which I
shuddered; what had I done to deserve to be made the victim of
But soft! was I not assured, that my life was safe in all
places but one? And why was the treason limited to take effect
in this spot? I was every where equally defenceless. My house
and chamber were, at all times, accessible. Danger still
impended over me; the bloody purpose was still entertained, but
the hand that was to execute it, was powerless in all places but
Here I had remained for the last four or five hours, without
the means of resistance or defence, yet I had not been attacked.
A human being was at hand, who was conscious of my presence, and
warned me hereafter to avoid this retreat. His voice was not
absolutely new, but had I never heard it but once before? But
why did he prohibit me from relating this incident to others,
and what species of death will be awarded if I disobey?
He talked of my father. He intimated, that disclosure would
pull upon my head, the same destruction. Was then the death of
my father, portentous and inexplicable as it was, the
consequence of human machinations? It should seem, that this
being is apprised of the true nature of this event, and is
conscious of the means that led to it. Whether it shall
likewise fall upon me, depends upon the observance of silence.
Was it the infraction of a similar command, that brought so
horrible a penalty upon my father?
Such were the reflections that haunted me during the night,
and which effectually deprived me of sleep. Next morning, at
breakfast, Pleyel related an event which my disappearance had
hindered him from mentioning the night before. Early the
preceding morning, his occasions called him to the city; he had
stepped into a coffee-house to while away an hour; here he had
met a person whose appearance instantly bespoke him to be the
same whose hasty visit I have mentioned, and whose extraordinary
visage and tones had so powerfully affected me. On an attentive
survey, however, he proved, likewise, to be one with whom my
friend had had some intercourse in Europe. This authorised the
liberty of accosting him, and after some conversation, mindful,
as Pleyel said, of the footing which this stranger had gained in
my heart, he had ventured to invite him to Mettingen. The
invitation had been cheerfully accepted, and a visit promised on
the afternoon of the next day.
This information excited no sober emotions in my breast. I
was, of course, eager to be informed as to the circumstances of
their ancient intercourse. When, and where had they met? What
knew he of the life and character of this man?
In answer to my inquiries, he informed me that, three years
before, he was a traveller in Spain. He had made an excursion
from Valencia to Murviedro, with a view to inspect the remains
of Roman magnificence, scattered in the environs of that town.
While traversing the scite of the theatre of old Saguntum, he
lighted upon this man, seated on a stone, and deeply engaged in
perusing the work of the deacon Marti. A short conversation
ensued, which proved the stranger to be English. They returned
to Valencia together.
His garb, aspect, and deportment, were wholly Spanish. A
residence of three years in the country, indefatigable attention
to the language, and a studious conformity with the customs of
the people, had made him indistinguishable from a native, when
he chose to assume that character. Pleyel found him to be
connected, on the footing of friendship and respect, with many
eminent merchants in that city. He had embraced the catholic
religion, and adopted a Spanish name instead of his own, which
was CARWIN, and devoted himself to the literature and religion
of his new country. He pursued no profession, but subsisted on
remittances from England.
While Pleyel remained in Valencia, Carwin betrayed no
aversion to intercourse, and the former found no small
attractions in the society of this new acquaintance. On general
topics he was highly intelligent and communicative. He had
visited every corner of Spain, and could furnish the most
accurate details respecting its ancient and present state. On
topics of religion and of his own history, previous to his
TRANSFORMATION into a Spaniard, he was invariably silent.
You could merely gather from his discourse that he was English,
and that he was well acquainted with the neighbouring countries.
His character excited considerable curiosity in this
observer. It was not easy to reconcile his conversion to the
Romish faith, with those proofs of knowledge and capacity that
were exhibited by him on different occasions. A suspicion was,
sometimes, admitted, that his belief was counterfeited for some
political purpose. The most careful observation, however,
produced no discovery. His manners were, at all times, harmless
and inartificial, and his habits those of a lover of
contemplation and seclusion. He appeared to have contracted an
affection for Pleyel, who was not slow to return it.
My friend, after a month's residence in this city, returned
into France, and, since that period, had heard nothing
concerning Carwin till his appearance at Mettingen.
On this occasion Carwin had received Pleyel's greeting with
a certain distance and solemnity to which the latter had not
been accustomed. He had waved noticing the inquiries of Pleyel
respecting his desertion of Spain, in which he had formerly
declared that it was his purpose to spend his life. He had
assiduously diverted the attention of the latter to indifferent
topics, but was still, on every theme, as eloquent and judicious
as formerly. Why he had assumed the garb of a rustic, Pleyel
was unable to conjecture. Perhaps it might be poverty, perhaps
he was swayed by motives which it was his interest to conceal,
but which were connected with consequences of the utmost moment.
Such was the sum of my friend's information. I was not sorry
to be left alone during the greater part of this day. Every
employment was irksome which did not leave me at liberty to
meditate. I had now a new subject on which to exercise my
thoughts. Before evening I should be ushered into his presence,
and listen to those tones whose magical and thrilling power I
had already experienced. But with what new images would he then
Carwin was an adherent to the Romish faith, yet was an
Englishman by birth, and, perhaps, a protestant by education.
He had adopted Spain for his country, and had intimated a design
to spend his days there, yet now was an inhabitant of this
district, and disguised by the habiliments of a clown! What
could have obliterated the impressions of his youth, and made
him abjure his religion and his country? What subsequent events
had introduced so total a change in his plans? In withdrawing
from Spain, had he reverted to the religion of his ancestors; or
was it true, that his former conversion was deceitful, and that
his conduct had been swayed by motives which it was prudent to
Hours were consumed in revolving these ideas. My meditations
were intense; and, when the series was broken, I began to
reflect with astonishment on my situation. From the death of my
parents, till the commencement of this year, my life had been
serene and blissful, beyond the ordinary portion of humanity;
but, now, my bosom was corroded by anxiety. I was visited by
dread of unknown dangers, and the future was a scene over which
clouds rolled, and thunders muttered. I compared the cause with
the effect, and they seemed disproportioned to each other. All
unaware, and in a manner which I had no power to explain, I was
pushed from my immoveable and lofty station, and cast upon a sea
I determined to be my brother's visitant on this evening, yet
my resolves were not unattended with wavering and reluctance.
Pleyel's insinuations that I was in love, affected, in no
degree, my belief, yet the consciousness that this was the
opinion of one who would, probably, be present at our
introduction to each other, would excite all that confusion
which the passion itself is apt to produce. This would confirm
him in his error, and call forth new railleries. His mirth,
when exerted upon this topic, was the source of the bitterest
vexation. Had he been aware of its influence upon my happiness,
his temper would not have allowed him to persist; but this
influence, it was my chief endeavour to conceal. That the
belief of my having bestowed my heart upon another, produced in
my friend none but ludicrous sensations, was the true cause of
my distress; but if this had been discovered by him, my distress
would have been unspeakably aggravated.
As soon as evening arrived, I performed my visit. Carwin
made one of the company, into which I was ushered. Appearances
were the same as when I before beheld him. His garb was equally
negligent and rustic. I gazed upon his countenance with new
curiosity. My situation was such as to enable me to bestow upon
it a deliberate examination. Viewed at more leisure, it lost
none of its wonderful properties. I could not deny my homage to
the intelligence expressed in it, but was wholly uncertain,
whether he were an object to be dreaded or adored, and whether
his powers had been exerted to evil or to good.
He was sparing in discourse; but whatever he said was
pregnant with meaning, and uttered with rectitude of
articulation, and force of emphasis, of which I had entertained
no conception previously to my knowledge of him.
Notwithstanding the uncouthness of his garb, his manners were
not unpolished. All topics were handled by him with skill, and
without pedantry or affectation. He uttered no sentiment
calculated to produce a disadvantageous impression: on the
contrary, his observations denoted a mind alive to every
generous and heroic feeling. They were introduced without
parade, and accompanied with that degree of earnestness which
He parted from us not till late, refusing an invitation to
spend the night here, but readily consented to repeat his visit.
His visits were frequently repeated. Each day introduced us to
a more intimate acquaintance with his sentiments, but left us
wholly in the dark, concerning that about which we were most
inquisitive. He studiously avoided all mention of his past or
present situation. Even the place of his abode in the city he
concealed from us.
Our sphere, in this respect, being somewhat limited, and the
intellectual endowments of this man being indisputably great,
his deportment was more diligently marked, and copiously
commented on by us, than you, perhaps, will think the
circumstances warranted. Not a gesture, or glance, or accent,
that was not, in our private assemblies, discussed, and
inferences deduced from it. It may well be thought that he
modelled his behaviour by an uncommon standard, when, with all
our opportunities and accuracy of observation, we were able, for
a long time, to gather no satisfactory information. He afforded
us no ground on which to build even a plausible conjecture.
There is a degree of familiarity which takes place between
constant associates, that justifies the negligence of many rules
of which, in an earlier period of their intercourse, politeness
requires the exact observance. Inquiries into our condition are
allowable when they are prompted by a disinterested concern for
our welfare; and this solicitude is not only pardonable, but may
justly be demanded from those who chuse us for their companions.
This state of things was more slow to arrive on this occasion
than on most others, on account of the gravity and loftiness of
this man's behaviour.
Pleyel, however, began, at length, to employ regular means
for this end. He occasionally alluded to the circumstances in
which they had formerly met, and remarked the incongruousness
between the religion and habits of a Spaniard, with those of a
native of Britain. He expressed his astonishment at meeting our
guest in this corner of the globe, especially as, when they
parted in Spain, he was taught to believe that Carwin should
never leave that country. He insinuated, that a change so great
must have been prompted by motives of a singular and momentous
No answer, or an answer wide of the purpose, was generally
made to these insinuations. Britons and Spaniards, he said, are
votaries of the same Deity, and square their faith by the same
precepts; their ideas are drawn from the same fountains of
literature, and they speak dialects of the same tongue; their
government and laws have more resemblances than differences;
they were formerly provinces of the same civil, and till lately,
of the same religious, Empire.
As to the motives which induce men to change the place of
their abode, these must unavoidably be fleeting and mutable. If
not bound to one spot by conjugal or parental ties, or by the
nature of that employment to which we are indebted for
subsistence, the inducements to change are far more numerous and
powerful, than opposite inducements.
He spoke as if desirous of shewing that he was not aware of
the tendency of Pleyel's remarks; yet, certain tokens were
apparent, that proved him by no means wanting in penetration.
These tokens were to be read in his countenance, and not in his
words. When any thing was said, indicating curiosity in us, the
gloom of his countenance was deepened, his eyes sunk to the
ground, and his wonted air was not resumed without visible
struggle. Hence, it was obvious to infer, that some incidents
of his life were reflected on by him with regret; and that,
since these incidents were carefully concealed, and even that
regret which flowed from them laboriously stifled, they had not
been merely disastrous. The secrecy that was observed appeared
not designed to provoke or baffle the inquisitive, but was
prompted by the shame, or by the prudence of guilt.
These ideas, which were adopted by Pleyel and my brother, as
well as myself, hindered us from employing more direct means for
accomplishing our wishes. Questions might have been put in such
terms, that no room should be left for the pretence of
misapprehension, and if modesty merely had been the obstacle,
such questions would not have been wanting; but we considered,
that, if the disclosure were productive of pain or disgrace, it
was inhuman to extort it.
Amidst the various topics that were discussed in his
presence, allusions were, of course, made to the inexplicable
events that had lately happened. At those times, the words and
looks of this man were objects of my particular attention. The
subject was extraordinary; and any one whose experience or
reflections could throw any light upon it, was entitled to my
gratitude. As this man was enlightened by reading and travel,
I listened with eagerness to the remarks which he should make.
At first, I entertained a kind of apprehension, that the tale
would be heard by him with incredulity and secret ridicule. I
had formerly heard stories that resembled this in some of their
mysterious circumstances, but they were, commonly, heard by me
with contempt. I was doubtful, whether the same impression
would not now be made on the mind of our guest; but I was
mistaken in my fears.
He heard them with seriousness, and without any marks either
of surprize or incredulity. He pursued, with visible pleasure,
that kind of disquisition which was naturally suggested by them.
His fancy was eminently vigorous and prolific, and if he did not
persuade us, that human beings are, sometimes, admitted to a
sensible intercourse with the author of nature, he, at least,
won over our inclination to the cause. He merely deduced, from
his own reasonings, that such intercourse was probable; but
confessed that, though he was acquainted with many instances
somewhat similar to those which had been related by us, none of
them were perfectly exempted from the suspicion of human agency.
On being requested to relate these instances, he amused us
with many curious details. His narratives were constructed with
so much skill, and rehearsed with so much energy, that all the
effects of a dramatic exhibition were frequently produced by
them. Those that were most coherent and most minute, and, of
consequence, least entitled to credit, were yet rendered
probable by the exquisite art of this rhetorician. For every
difficulty that was suggested, a ready and plausible solution
was furnished. Mysterious voices had always a share in
producing the catastrophe, but they were always to be explained
on some known principles, either as reflected into a focus, or
communicated through a tube. I could not but remark that his
narratives, however complex or marvellous, contained no instance
sufficiently parallel to those that had befallen ourselves, and
in which the solution was applicable to our own case.
My brother was a much more sanguine reasoner than our guest.
Even in some of the facts which were related by Carwin, he
maintained the probability of celestial interference, when the
latter was disposed to deny it, and had found, as he imagined,
footsteps of an human agent. Pleyel was by no means equally
credulous. He scrupled not to deny faith to any testimony but
that of his senses, and allowed the facts which had lately been
supported by this testimony, not to mould his belief, but merely
to give birth to doubts.
It was soon observed that Carwin adopted, in some degree, a
similar distinction. A tale of this kind, related by others, he
would believe, provided it was explicable upon known principles;
but that such notices were actually communicated by beings of an
higher order, he would believe only when his own ears were
assailed in a manner which could not be otherwise accounted for.
Civility forbad him to contradict my brother or myself, but his
understanding refused to acquiesce in our testimony. Besides,
he was disposed to question whether the voices heard in the
temple, at the foot of the hill, and in my closet, were not
really uttered by human organs. On this supposition he was
desired to explain how the effect was produced.
He answered, that the power of mimickry was very common.
Catharine's voice might easily be imitated by one at the foot of
the hill, who would find no difficulty in eluding, by flight,
the search of Wieland. The tidings of the death of the Saxon
lady were uttered by one near at hand, who overheard the
conversation, who conjectured her death, and whose conjecture
happened to accord with the truth. That the voice appeared to
come from the cieling was to be considered as an illusion of the
fancy. The cry for help, heard in the hall on the night of my
adventure, was to be ascribed to an human creature, who actually
stood in the hall when he uttered it. It was of no moment, he
said, that we could not explain by what motives he that made the
signal was led hither. How imperfectly acquainted were we with
the condition and designs of the beings that surrounded us? The
city was near at hand, and thousands might there exist whose
powers and purposes might easily explain whatever was mysterious
in this transaction. As to the closet dialogue, he was obliged
to adopt one of two suppositions, and affirm either that it was
fashioned in my own fancy, or that it actually took place
between two persons in the closet.
Such was Carwin's mode of explaining these appearances. It
is such, perhaps, as would commend itself as most plausible to
the most sagacious minds, but it was insufficient to impart
conviction to us. As to the treason that was meditated against
me, it was doubtless just to conclude that it was either real or
imaginary; but that it was real was attested by the mysterious
warning in the summer-house, the secret of which I had hitherto
locked up in my own breast.
A month passed away in this kind of intercourse. As to
Carwin, our ignorance was in no degree enlightened respecting
his genuine character and views. Appearances were uniform. No
man possessed a larger store of knowledge, or a greater degree
of skill in the communication of it to others; Hence he was
regarded as an inestimable addition to our society. Considering
the distance of my brother's house from the city, he was
frequently prevailed upon to pass the night where he spent the
evening. Two days seldom elapsed without a visit from him;
hence he was regarded as a kind of inmate of the house. He
entered and departed without ceremony. When he arrived he
received an unaffected welcome, and when he chose to retire, no
importunities were used to induce him to remain.
The temple was the principal scene of our social enjoyments;
yet the felicity that we tasted when assembled in this asylum,
was but the gleam of a former sun-shine. Carwin never parted
with his gravity. The inscrutableness of his character, and the
uncertainty whether his fellowship tended to good or to evil,
were seldom absent from our minds. This circumstance powerfully
contributed to sadden us.
My heart was the seat of growing disquietudes. This change
in one who had formerly been characterized by all the
exuberances of soul, could not fail to be remarked by my
friends. My brother was always a pattern of solemnity. My
sister was clay, moulded by the circumstances in which she
happened to be placed. There was but one whose deportment
remains to be described as being of importance to our happiness.
Had Pleyel likewise dismissed his vivacity?
He was as whimsical and jestful as ever, but he was not
happy. The truth, in this respect, was of too much importance
to me not to make me a vigilant observer. His mirth was easily
perceived to be the fruit of exertion. When his thoughts
wandered from the company, an air of dissatisfaction and
impatience stole across his features. Even the punctuality and
frequency of his visits were somewhat lessened. It may be
supposed that my own uneasiness was heightened by these tokens;
but, strange as it may seem, I found, in the present state of my
mind, no relief but in the persuasion that Pleyel was unhappy.
That unhappiness, indeed, depended, for its value in my eyes,
on the cause that produced it. It did not arise from the death
of the Saxon lady: it was not a contagious emanation from the
countenances of Wieland or Carwin. There was but one other
source whence it could flow. A nameless ecstacy thrilled
through my frame when any new proof occurred that the
ambiguousness of my behaviour was the cause.
My brother had received a new book from Germany. It was a
tragedy, and the first attempt of a Saxon poet, of whom my
brother had been taught to entertain the highest expectations.
The exploits of Zisca, the Bohemian hero, were woven into a
dramatic series and connection. According to German custom, it
was minute and diffuse, and dictated by an adventurous and
lawless fancy. It was a chain of audacious acts, and unheard-of
disasters. The moated fortress, and the thicket; the ambush and
the battle; and the conflict of headlong passions, were
pourtrayed in wild numbers, and with terrific energy. An
afternoon was set apart to rehearse this performance. The
language was familiar to all of us but Carwin, whose company,
therefore, was tacitly dispensed with.
The morning previous to this intended rehearsal, I spent at
home. My mind was occupied with reflections relative to my own
situation. The sentiment which lived with chief energy in my
heart, was connected with the image of Pleyel. In the midst of
my anguish, I had not been destitute of consolation. His late
deportment had given spring to my hopes. Was not the hour at
hand, which should render me the happiest of human creatures?
He suspected that I looked with favorable eyes upon Carwin.
Hence arose disquietudes, which he struggled in vain to conceal.
He loved me, but was hopeless that his love would be
compensated. Is it not time, said I, to rectify this error?
But by what means is this to be effected? It can only be done
by a change of deportment in me; but how must I demean myself
for this purpose?
I must not speak. Neither eyes, nor lips, must impart the
information. He must not be assured that my heart is his,
previous to the tender of his own; but he must be convinced that
it has not been given to another; he must be supplied with space
whereon to build a doubt as to the true state of my affections;
he must be prompted to avow himself. The line of delicate
propriety; how hard it is, not to fall short, and not to
This afternoon we shall meet at the temple. We shall not
separate till late. It will be his province to accompany me
home. The airy expanse is without a speck. This breeze is
usually stedfast, and its promise of a bland and cloudless
evening, may be trusted. The moon will rise at eleven, and at
that hour, we shall wind along this bank. Possibly that hour
may decide my fate. If suitable encouragement be given, Pleyel
will reveal his soul to me; and I, ere I reach this threshold,
will be made the happiest of beings. And is this good to be
mine? Add wings to thy speed, sweet evening; and thou, moon, I
charge thee, shroud thy beams at the moment when my Pleyel
whispers love. I would not for the world, that the burning
blushes, and the mounting raptures of that moment, should be
But what encouragement is wanting? I must be regardful of
insurmountable limits. Yet when minds are imbued with a genuine
sympathy, are not words and looks superfluous? Are not motion
and touch sufficient to impart feelings such as mine? Has he
not eyed me at moments, when the pressure of his hand has thrown
me into tumults, and was it possible that he mistook the
impetuosities of love, for the eloquence of indignation?
But the hastening evening will decide. Would it were come!
And yet I shudder at its near approach. An interview that must
thus terminate, is surely to be wished for by me; and yet it is
not without its terrors. Would to heaven it were come and gone!
I feel no reluctance, my friends to be thus explicit. Time
was, when these emotions would be hidden with immeasurable
solicitude, from every human eye. Alas! these airy and fleeting
impulses of shame are gone. My scruples were preposterous and
criminal. They are bred in all hearts, by a perverse and
vicious education, and they would still have maintained their
place in my heart, had not my portion been set in misery. My
errors have taught me thus much wisdom; that those sentiments
which we ought not to disclose, it is criminal to harbour.
It was proposed to begin the rehearsal at four o'clock; I
counted the minutes as they passed; their flight was at once too
rapid and too slow; my sensations were of an excruciating kind;
I could taste no food, nor apply to any task, nor enjoy a
moment's repose: when the hour arrived, I hastened to my
Pleyel was not there. He had not yet come. On ordinary
occasions, he was eminent for punctuality. He had testified
great eagerness to share in the pleasures of this rehearsal. He
was to divide the task with my brother, and, in tasks like
these, he always engaged with peculiar zeal. His elocution was
less sweet than sonorous; and, therefore, better adapted than
the mellifluences of his friend, to the outrageous vehemence of
What could detain him? Perhaps he lingered through
forgetfulness. Yet this was incredible. Never had his memory
been known to fail upon even more trivial occasions. Not less
impossible was it, that the scheme had lost its attractions, and
that he staid, because his coming would afford him no
gratification. But why should we expect him to adhere to the
An half hour elapsed, but Pleyel was still at a distance.
Perhaps he had misunderstood the hour which had been proposed.
Perhaps he had conceived that to-morrow, and not to-day, had
been selected for this purpose: but no. A review of preceding
circumstances demonstrated that such misapprehension was
impossible; for he had himself proposed this day, and this hour.
This day, his attention would not otherwise be occupied; but
to-morrow, an indispensible engagement was foreseen, by which
all his time would be engrossed: his detention, therefore, must
be owing to some unforeseen and extraordinary event. Our
conjectures were vague, tumultuous, and sometimes fearful. His
sickness and his death might possibly have detained him.
Tortured with suspense, we sat gazing at each other, and at
the path which led from the road. Every horseman that passed
was, for a moment, imagined to be him. Hour succeeded hour, and
the sun, gradually declining, at length, disappeared. Every
signal of his coming proved fallacious, and our hopes were at
length dismissed. His absence affected my friends in no
insupportable degree. They should be obliged, they said, to
defer this undertaking till the morrow; and, perhaps, their
impatient curiosity would compel them to dispense entirely with
his presence. No doubt, some harmless occurrence had diverted
him from his purpose; and they trusted that they should receive
a satisfactory account of him in the morning.
It may be supposed that this disappointment affected me in a
very different manner. I turned aside my head to conceal my
tears. I fled into solitude, to give vent to my reproaches,
without interruption or restraint. My heart was ready to burst
with indignation and grief. Pleyel was not the only object of
my keen but unjust upbraiding. Deeply did I execrate my own
folly. Thus fallen into ruins was the gay fabric which I had
reared! Thus had my golden vision melted into air!
How fondly did I dream that Pleyel was a lover! If he were,
would he have suffered any obstacle to hinder his coming? Blind
and infatuated man! I exclaimed. Thou sportest with happiness.
The good that is offered thee, thou hast the insolence and folly
to refuse. Well, I will henceforth intrust my felicity to no
one's keeping but my own.
The first agonies of this disappointment would not allow me
to be reasonable or just. Every ground on which I had built the
persuasion that Pleyel was not unimpressed in my favor, appeared
to vanish. It seemed as if I had been misled into this opinion,
by the most palpable illusions.
I made some trifling excuse, and returned, much earlier than
I expected, to my own house. I retired early to my chamber,
without designing to sleep. I placed myself at a window, and
gave the reins to reflection.
The hateful and degrading impulses which had lately
controuled me were, in some degree, removed. New dejection
succeeded, but was now produced by contemplating my late
behaviour. Surely that passion is worthy to be abhorred which
obscures our understanding, and urges us to the commission of
injustice. What right had I to expect his attendance? Had I
not demeaned myself like one indifferent to his happiness, and
as having bestowed my regards upon another? His absence might
be prompted by the love which I considered his absence as a
proof that he wanted. He came not because the sight of me, the
spectacle of my coldness or aversion, contributed to his
despair. Why should I prolong, by hypocrisy or silence, his
misery as well as my own? Why not deal with him explicitly, and
assure him of the truth?
You will hardly believe that, in obedience to this
suggestion, I rose for the purpose of ordering a light, that I
might instantly make this confession in a letter. A second
thought shewed me the rashness of this scheme, and I wondered by
what infirmity of mind I could be betrayed into a momentary
approbation of it. I saw with the utmost clearness that a
confession like that would be the most remediless and
unpardonable outrage upon the dignity of my sex, and utterly
unworthy of that passion which controuled me.
I resumed my seat and my musing. To account for the absence
of Pleyel became once more the scope of my conjectures. How
many incidents might occur to raise an insuperable impediment in
his way? When I was a child, a scheme of pleasure, in which he
and his sister were parties, had been, in like manner,
frustrated by his absence; but his absence, in that instance,
had been occasioned by his falling from a boat into the river,
in consequence of which he had run the most imminent hazard of
being drowned. Here was a second disappointment endured by the
same persons, and produced by his failure. Might it not
originate in the same cause? Had he not designed to cross the
river that morning to make some necessary purchases in Jersey?
He had preconcerted to return to his own house to dinner; but,
perhaps, some disaster had befallen him. Experience had taught
me the insecurity of a canoe, and that was the only kind of boat
which Pleyel used: I was, likewise, actuated by an hereditary
dread of water. These circumstances combined to bestow
considerable plausibility on this conjecture; but the
consternation with which I began to be seized was allayed by
reflecting, that if this disaster had happened my brother would
have received the speediest information of it. The consolation
which this idea imparted was ravished from me by a new thought.
This disaster might have happened, and his family not be
apprized of it. The first intelligence of his fate may be
communicated by the livid corpse which the tide may cast, many
days hence, upon the shore.
Thus was I distressed by opposite conjectures: thus was I
tormented by phantoms of my own creation. It was not always
thus. I can ascertain the date when my mind became the victim
of this imbecility; perhaps it was coeval with the inroad of a
fatal passion; a passion that will never rank me in the number
of its eulogists; it was alone sufficient to the extermination
of my peace: it was itself a plenteous source of calamity, and
needed not the concurrence of other evils to take away the
attractions of existence, and dig for me an untimely grave.
The state of my mind naturally introduced a train of
reflections upon the dangers and cares which inevitably beset an
human being. By no violent transition was I led to ponder on
the turbulent life and mysterious end of my father. I
cherished, with the utmost veneration, the memory of this man,
and every relique connected with his fate was preserved with the
most scrupulous care. Among these was to be numbered a
manuscript, containing memoirs of his own life. The narrative
was by no means recommended by its eloquence; but neither did
all its value flow from my relationship to the author. Its
stile had an unaffected and picturesque simplicity. The great
variety and circumstantial display of the incidents, together
with their intrinsic importance, as descriptive of human manners
and passions, made it the most useful book in my collection. It
was late; but being sensible of no inclination to sleep, I
resolved to betake myself to the perusal of it.
To do this it was requisite to procure a light. The girl had
long since retired to her chamber: it was therefore proper to
wait upon myself. A lamp, and the means of lighting it, were
only to be found in the kitchen. Thither I resolved forthwith
to repair; but the light was of use merely to enable me to read
the book. I knew the shelf and the spot where it stood.
Whether I took down the book, or prepared the lamp in the first
place, appeared to be a matter of no moment. The latter was
preferred, and, leaving my seat, I approached the closet in
which, as I mentioned formerly, my books and papers were
Suddenly the remembrance of what had lately passed in this
closet occurred. Whether midnight was approaching, or had
passed, I knew not. I was, as then, alone, and defenceless.
The wind was in that direction in which, aided by the deathlike
repose of nature, it brought to me the murmur of the water-fall.
This was mingled with that solemn and enchanting sound, which a
breeze produces among the leaves of pines. The words of that
mysterious dialogue, their fearful import, and the wild excess
to which I was transported by my terrors, filled my imagination
anew. My steps faultered, and I stood a moment to recover
I prevailed on myself at length to move towards the closet.
I touched the lock, but my fingers were powerless; I was visited
afresh by unconquerable apprehensions. A sort of belief darted
into my mind, that some being was concealed within, whose
purposes were evil. I began to contend with those fears, when
it occurred to me that I might, without impropriety, go for a
lamp previously to opening the closet. I receded a few steps;
but before I reached my chamber door my thoughts took a new
direction. Motion seemed to produce a mechanical influence upon
me. I was ashamed of my weakness. Besides, what aid could be
afforded me by a lamp?
My fears had pictured to themselves no precise object. It
would be difficult to depict, in words, the ingredients and hues
of that phantom which haunted me. An hand invisible and of
preternatural strength, lifted by human passions, and selecting
my life for its aim, were parts of this terrific image. All
places were alike accessible to this foe, or if his empire were
restricted by local bounds, those bounds were utterly
inscrutable by me. But had I not been told by some one in
league with this enemy, that every place but the recess in the
bank was exempt from danger?
I returned to the closet, and once more put my hand upon the
lock. O! may my ears lose their sensibility, ere they be again
assailed by a shriek so terrible! Not merely my understanding
was subdued by the sound: it acted on my nerves like an edge of
steel. It appeared to cut asunder the fibres of my brain, and
rack every joint with agony.
The cry, loud and piercing as it was, was nevertheless human.
No articulation was ever more distinct. The breath which
accompanied it did not fan my hair, yet did every circumstance
combine to persuade me that the lips which uttered it touched my
"Hold! Hold!" were the words of this tremendous prohibition,
in whose tone the whole soul seemed to be wrapped up, and every
energy converted into eagerness and terror.
Shuddering, I dashed myself against the wall, and by the same
involuntary impulse, turned my face backward to examine the
mysterious monitor. The moon-light streamed into each window,
and every corner of the room was conspicuous, and yet I beheld
The interval was too brief to be artificially measured,
between the utterance of these words, and my scrutiny directed
to the quarter whence they came. Yet if a human being had been
there, could he fail to have been visible? Which of my senses
was the prey of a fatal illusion? The shock which the sound
produced was still felt in every part of my frame. The sound,
therefore, could not but be a genuine commotion. But that I had
heard it, was not more true than that the being who uttered it
was stationed at my right ear; yet my attendant was invisible.
I cannot describe the state of my thoughts at that moment.
Surprize had mastered my faculties. My frame shook, and the
vital current was congealed. I was conscious only to the
vehemence of my sensations. This condition could not be
lasting. Like a tide, which suddenly mounts to an overwhelming
height, and then gradually subsides, my confusion slowly gave
place to order, and my tumults to a calm. I was able to
deliberate and move. I resumed my feet, and advanced into the
midst of the room. Upward, and behind, and on each side, I
threw penetrating glances. I was not satisfied with one
examination. He that hitherto refused to be seen, might change
his purpose, and on the next survey be clearly distinguishable.
Solitude imposes least restraint upon the fancy. Dark is
less fertile of images than the feeble lustre of the moon. I
was alone, and the walls were chequered by shadowy forms. As
the moon passed behind a cloud and emerged, these shadows seemed
to be endowed with life, and to move. The apartment was open to
the breeze, and the curtain was occasionally blown from its
ordinary position. This motion was not unaccompanied with
sound. I failed not to snatch a look, and to listen when this
motion and this sound occurred. My belief that my monitor was
posted near, was strong, and instantly converted these
appearances to tokens of his presence, and yet I could discern
When my thoughts were at length permitted to revert to the
past, the first idea that occurred was the resemblance between
the words of the voice which I had just heard, and those which
had terminated my dream in the summer-house. There are means by
which we are able to distinguish a substance from a shadow, a
reality from the phantom of a dream. The pit, my brother
beckoning me forward, the seizure of my arm, and the voice
behind, were surely imaginary. That these incidents were
fashioned in my sleep, is supported by the same indubitable
evidence that compels me to believe myself awake at present; yet
the words and the voice were the same. Then, by some
inexplicable contrivance, I was aware of the danger, while my
actions and sensations were those of one wholly unacquainted
with it. Now, was it not equally true that my actions and
persuasions were at war? Had not the belief, that evil lurked
in the closet, gained admittance, and had not my actions
betokened an unwarrantable security? To obviate the effects of
my infatuation, the same means had been used.
In my dream, he that tempted me to my destruction, was my
brother. Death was ambushed in my path. From what evil was I
now rescued? What minister or implement of ill was shut up in
this recess? Who was it whose suffocating grasp I was to feel,
should I dare to enter it? What monstrous conception is this?
No; protection, and not injury is his province. Strange and
terrible chimera! Yet it would not be suddenly dismissed. It
was surely no vulgar agency that gave this form to my fears. He
to whom all parts of time are equally present, whom no
contingency approaches, was the author of that spell which now
seized upon me. Life was dear to me. No consideration was
present that enjoined me to relinquish it. Sacred duty combined
with every spontaneous sentiment to endear to me my being.
Should I not shudder when my being was endangered? But what
emotion should possess me when the arm lifted aginst me was
Ideas exist in our minds that can be accounted for by no
established laws. Why did I dream that my brother was my foe?
Why but because an omen of my fate was ordained to be
communicated? Yet what salutary end did it serve? Did it arm
me with caution to elude, or fortitude to bear the evils to
which I was reserved? My present thoughts were, no doubt,
indebted for their hue to the similitude existing between these
incidents and those of my dream. Surely it was phrenzy that
dictated my deed. That a ruffian was hidden in the closet, was
an idea, the genuine tendency of which was to urge me to flight.
Such had been the effect formerly produced. Had my mind been
simply occupied with this thought at present, no doubt, the same
impulse would have been experienced; but now it was my brother
whom I was irresistably persuaded to regard as the contriver of
that ill of which I had been forewarned. This persuasion did
not extenuate my fears or my danger. Why then did I again
approach the closet and withdraw the bolt? My resolution was
instantly conceived, and executed without faultering.
The door was formed of light materials. The lock, of simple
structure, easily forewent its hold. It opened into the room,
and commonly moved upon its hinges, after being unfastened,
without any effort of mine. This effort, however, was bestowed
upon the present occasion. It was my purpose to open it with
quickness, but the exertion which I made was ineffectual. It
refused to open.
At another time, this circumstance would not have looked with
a face of mystery. I should have supposed some casual
obstruction, and repeated my efforts to surmount it. But now my
mind was accessible to no conjecture but one. The door was
hindered from opening by human force. Surely, here was new
cause for affright. This was confirmation proper to decide my
conduct. Now was all ground of hesitation taken away. What
could be supposed but that I deserted the chamber and the house?
that I at least endeavoured no longer to withdraw the door?
Have I not said that my actions were dictated by phrenzy? My
reason had forborne, for a time, to suggest or to sway my
resolves. I reiterated my endeavours. I exerted all my force
to overcome the obstacle, but in vain. The strength that was
exerted to keep it shut, was superior to mine.
A casual observer might, perhaps, applaud the audaciousness
of this conduct. Whence, but from an habitual defiance of
danger, could my perseverance arise? I have already assigned,
as distinctly as I am able, the cause of it. The frantic
conception that my brother was within, that the resistance made
to my design was exerted by him, had rooted itself in my mind.
You will comprehend the height of this infatuation, when I tell
you, that, finding all my exertions vain, I betook myself to
exclamations. Surely I was utterly bereft of understanding.
Now had I arrived at the crisis of my fate. "O! hinder not
the door to open," I exclaimed, in a tone that had less of fear
than of grief in it. "I know you well. Come forth, but harm me
not. I beseech you come forth."
I had taken my hand from the lock, and removed to a small
distance from the door. I had scarcely uttered these words,
when the door swung upon its hinges, and displayed to my view
the interior of the closet. Whoever was within, was shrouded in
darkness. A few seconds passed without interruption of the
silence. I knew not what to expect or to fear. My eyes would
not stray from the recess. Presently, a deep sigh was heard.
The quarter from which it came heightened the eagerness of my
gaze. Some one approached from the farther end. I quickly
perceived the outlines of a human figure. Its steps were
irresolute and slow. I recoiled as it advanced.
By coming at length within the verge of the room, his form
was clearly distinguishable. I had prefigured to myself a very
different personage. The face that presented itself was the
last that I should desire to meet at an hour, and in a place
like this. My wonder was stifled by my fears. Assassins had
lurked in this recess. Some divine voice warned me of danger,
that at this moment awaited me. I had spurned the intimation,
and challenged my adversary.
I recalled the mysterious countenance and dubious character
of Carwin. What motive but atrocious ones could guide his steps
hither? I was alone. My habit suited the hour, and the place,
and the warmth of the season. All succour was remote. He had
placed himself between me and the door. My frame shook with the
vehemence of my apprehensions.
Yet I was not wholly lost to myself: I vigilantly marked his
demeanour. His looks were grave, but not without perturbation.
What species of inquietude it betrayed, the light was not strong
enough to enable me to discover. He stood still; but his eyes
wandered from one object to another. When these powerful organs
were fixed upon me, I shrunk into myself. At length, he broke
silence. Earnestness, and not embarrassment, was in his tone.
He advanced close to me while he spoke.
"What voice was that which lately addressed you?"
He paused for an answer; but observing my trepidation, he
resumed, with undiminished solemnity: "Be not terrified.
Whoever he was, he hast done you an important service. I need
not ask you if it were the voice of a companion. That sound was
beyond the compass of human organs. The knowledge that enabled
him to tell you who was in the closet, was obtained by
"You knew that Carwin was there. Were you not apprized of
his intents? The same power could impart the one as well as the
other. Yet, knowing these, you persisted. Audacious girl! but,
perhaps, you confided in his guardianship. Your confidence was
just. With succour like this at hand you may safely defy me.
"He is my eternal foe; the baffler of my best concerted
schemes. Twice have you been saved by his accursed
interposition. But for him I should long ere now have borne
away the spoils of your honor."
He looked at me with greater stedfastness than before. I
became every moment more anxious for my safety. It was with
difficulty I stammered out an entreaty that he would instantly
depart, or suffer me to do so. He paid no regard to my request,
but proceeded in a more impassioned manner.
"What is it you fear? Have I not told you, you are safe?
Has not one in whom you more reasonably place trust assured you
of it? Even if I execute my purpose, what injury is done? Your
prejudices will call it by that name, but it merits it not.
"I was impelled by a sentiment that does you honor; a
sentiment, that would sanctify my deed; but, whatever it be, you
are safe. Be this chimera still worshipped; I will do nothing
to pollute it." There he stopped.
The accents and gestures of this man left me drained of all
courage. Surely, on no other occasion should I have been thus
pusillanimous. My state I regarded as a hopeless one. I was
wholly at the mercy of this being. Whichever way I turned my
eyes, I saw no avenue by which I might escape. The resources of
my personal strength, my ingenuity, and my eloquence, I
estimated at nothing. The dignity of virtue, and the force of
truth, I had been accustomed to celebrate; and had frequently
vaunted of the conquests which I should make with their
I used to suppose that certain evils could never befall a
being in possession of a sound mind; that true virtue supplies
us with energy which vice can never resist; that it was always
in our power to obstruct, by his own death, the designs of an
enemy who aimed at less than our life. How was it that a
sentiment like despair had now invaded me, and that I trusted to
the protection of chance, or to the pity of my persecutor?
His words imparted some notion of the injury which he had
meditated. He talked of obstacles that had risen in his way.
He had relinquished his design. These sources supplied me with
slender consolation. There was no security but in his absence.
When I looked at myself, when I reflected on the hour and the
place, I was overpowered by horror and dejection.
He was silent, museful, and inattentive to my situation, yet
made no motion to depart. I was silent in my turn. What could
I say? I was confident that reason in this contest would be
impotent. I must owe my safety to his own suggestions.
Whatever purpose brought him hither, he had changed it. Why
then did he remain? His resolutions might fluctuate, and the
pause of a few minutes restore to him his first resolutions.
Yet was not this the man whom we had treated with unwearied
kindness? Whose society was endeared to us by his intellectual
elevation and accomplishments? Who had a thousand times
expatiated on the usefulness and beauty of virtue? Why should
such a one be dreaded? If I could have forgotten the
circumstances in which our interview had taken place, I might
have treated his words as jests. Presently, he resumed:
"Fear me not: the space that severs us is small, and all
visible succour is distant. You believe yourself completely in
my power; that you stand upon the brink of ruin. Such are your
groundless fears. I cannot lift a finger to hurt you. Easier
it would be to stop the moon in her course than to injure you.
The power that protects you would crumble my sinews, and reduce
me to a heap of ashes in a moment, if I were to harbour a
thought hostile to your safety.
"Thus are appearances at length solved. Little did I expect
that they originated hence. What a portion is assigned to you?
Scanned by the eyes of this intelligence, your path will be
without pits to swallow, or snares to entangle you. Environed
by the arms of this protection, all artifices will be
frustrated, and all malice repelled."
Here succeeded a new pause. I was still observant of every
gesture and look. The tranquil solemnity that had lately
possessed his countenance gave way to a new expression. All now
was trepidation and anxiety.
"I must be gone," said he in a faltering accent. "Why do I
linger here? I will not ask your forgiveness. I see that your
terrors are invincible. Your pardon will be extorted by fear,
and not dictated by compassion. I must fly from you forever.
He that could plot against your honor, must expect from you and
your friends persecution and death. I must doom myself to
Saying this, he hastily left the room. I listened while he
descended the stairs, and, unbolting the outer door, went forth.
I did not follow him with my eyes, as the moon-light would have
enabled me to do. Relieved by his absence, and exhausted by the
conflict of my fears, I threw myself on a chair, and resigned
myself to those bewildering ideas which incidents like these
could not fail to produce.
Order could not readily be introduced into my thoughts. The
voice still rung in my ears. Every accent that was uttered by
Carwin was fresh in my remembrance. His unwelcome approach, the
recognition of his person, his hasty departure, produced a
complex impression on my mind which no words can delineate. I
strove to give a slower motion to my thoughts, and to regulate
a confusion which became painful; but my efforts were nugatory.
I covered my eyes with my hand, and sat, I know not how long,
without power to arrange or utter my conceptions.
I had remained for hours, as I believed, in absolute
solitude. No thought of personal danger had molested my
tranquillity. I had made no preparation for defence. What was
it that suggested the design of perusing my father's manuscript?
If, instead of this, I had retired to bed, and to sleep, to what
fate might I not have been reserved? The ruffian, who must
almost have suppressed his breathing to screen himself from
discovery, would have noticed this signal, and I should have
awakened only to perish with affright, and to abhor myself.
Could I have remained unconscious of my danger? Could I have
tranquilly slept in the midst of so deadly a snare?
And who was he that threatened to destroy me? By what means
could he hide himself in this closet? Surely he is gifted with
supernatural power. Such is the enemy of whose attempts I was
forewarned. Daily I had seen him and conversed with him.
Nothing could be discerned through the impenetrable veil of his
duplicity. When busied in conjectures, as to the author of the
evil that was threatened, my mind did not light, for a moment,
upon his image. Yet has he not avowed himself my enemy? Why
should he be here if he had not meditated evil?
He confesses that this has been his second attempt. What was
the scene of his former conspiracy? Was it not he whose
whispers betrayed him? Am I deceived; or was there not a faint
resemblance between the voice of this man and that which talked
of grasping my throat, and extinguishing my life in a moment?
Then he had a colleague in his crime; now he is alone. Then
death was the scope of his thoughts; now an injury unspeakably
more dreadful. How thankful should I be to the power that has
interposed to save me!
That power is invisible. It is subject to the cognizance of
one of my senses. What are the means that will inform me of
what nature it is? He has set himself to counterwork the
machinations of this man, who had menaced destruction to all
that is dear to me, and whose cunning had surmounted every human
impediment. There was none to rescue me from his grasp. My
rashness even hastened the completion of his scheme, and
precluded him from the benefits of deliberation. I had robbed
him of the power to repent and forbear. Had I been apprized of
the danger, I should have regarded my conduct as the means of
rendering my escape from it impossible. Such, likewise, seem to
have been the fears of my invisible protector. Else why that
startling intreaty to refrain from opening the closet? By what
inexplicable infatuation was I compelled to proceed?
Yet my conduct was wise. Carwin, unable to comprehend my
folly, ascribed my behaviour to my knowledge. He conceived
himself previously detected, and such detection being possible
to flow only from MY heavenly friend, and HIS enemy, his
fears acquired additional strength.
He is apprized of the nature and intentions of this being.
Perhaps he is a human agent. Yet, on that supposition his
atchievements are incredible. Why should I be selected as the
object of his care; or, if a mere mortal, should I not recognize
some one, whom, benefits imparted and received had prompted to
love me? What were the limits and duration of his guardianship?
Was the genius of my birth entrusted by divine benignity with
this province? Are human faculties adequate to receive stronger
proofs of the existence of unfettered and beneficent
intelligences than I have received?
But who was this man's coadjutor? The voice that
acknowledged an alliance in treachery with Carwin warned me to
avoid the summer-house. He assured me that there only my safety
was endangered. His assurance, as it now appears, was
fallacious. Was there not deceit in his admonition? Was his
compact really annulled? Some purpose was, perhaps, to be
accomplished by preventing my future visits to that spot. Why
was I enjoined silence to others, on the subject of this
admonition, unless it were for some unauthorized and guilty
No one but myself was accustomed to visit it. Backward, it
was hidden from distant view by the rock, and in front, it was
screened from all examination, by creeping plants, and the
branches of cedars. What recess could be more propitious to
secrecy? The spirit which haunted it formerly was pure and
rapturous. It was a fane sacred to the memory of infantile
days, and to blissful imaginations of the future! What a gloomy
reverse had succeeded since the ominous arrival of this
stranger! Now, perhaps, it is the scene of his meditations.
Purposes fraught with horror, that shun the light, and
contemplate the pollution of innocence, are here engendered, and
fostered, and reared to maturity.
Such were the ideas that, during the night, were tumultuously
revolved by me. I reviewed every conversation in which Carwin
had borne a part. I studied to discover the true inferences
deducible from his deportment and words with regard to his
former adventures and actual views. I pondered on the comments
which he made on the relation which I had given of the closet
dialogue. No new ideas suggested themselves in the course of
this review. My expectation had, from the first, been
disappointed on the small degree of surprize which this
narrative excited in him. He never explicitly declared his
opinion as to the nature of those voices, or decided whether
they were real or visionary. He recommended no measures of
caution or prevention.
But what measures were now to be taken? Was the danger which
threatened me at an end? Had I nothing more to fear? I was
lonely, and without means of defence. I could not calculate the
motives and regulate the footsteps of this person. What
certainty was there, that he would not re-assume his purposes,
and swiftly return to the execution of them?
This idea covered me once more with dismay. How deeply did
I regret the solitude in which I was placed, and how ardently
did I desire the return of day! But neither of these
inconveniencies were susceptible of remedy. At first, it
occurred to me to summon my servant, and make her spend the
night in my chamber; but the inefficacy of this expedient to
enhance my safety was easily seen. Once I resolved to leave the
house, and retire to my brother's, but was deterred by
reflecting on the unseasonableness of the hour, on the alarm
which my arrival, and the account which I should be obliged to
give, might occasion, and on the danger to which I might expose
myself in the way thither. I began, likewise, to consider
Carwin's return to molest me as exceedingly improbable. He had
relinquished, of his own accord, his design, and departed
"Surely," said I, "there is omnipotence in the cause that
changed the views of a man like Carwin. The divinity that
shielded me from his attempts will take suitable care of my
future safety. Thus to yield to my fears is to deserve that
they should be real."
Scarcely had I uttered these words, when my attention was
startled by the sound of footsteps. They denoted some one
stepping into the piazza in front of my house. My new-born
confidence was extinguished in a moment. Carwin, I thought, had
repented his departure, and was hastily returning. The
possibility that his return was prompted by intentions
consistent with my safety, found no place in my mind. Images of
violation and murder assailed me anew, and the terrors which
succeeded almost incapacitated me from taking any measures for
my defence. It was an impulse of which I was scarcely
conscious, that made me fasten the lock and draw the bolts of my
chamber door. Having done this, I threw myself on a seat; for
I trembled to a degree which disabled me from standing, and my
soul was so perfectly absorbed in the act of listening, that
almost the vital motions were stopped.
The door below creaked on its hinges. It was not again
thrust to, but appeared to remain open. Footsteps entered,
traversed the entry, and began to mount the stairs. How I
detested the folly of not pursuing the man when he withdrew, and
bolting after him the outer door! Might he not conceive this
omission to be a proof that my angel had deserted me, and be
thereby fortified in guilt?
Every step on the stairs, which brought him nearer to my
chamber, added vigor to my desperation. The evil with which I
was menaced was to be at any rate eluded. How little did I
preconceive the conduct which, in an exigence like this, I
should be prone to adopt. You will suppose that deliberation
and despair would have suggested the same course of action, and
that I should have, unhesitatingly, resorted to the best means
of personal defence within my power. A penknife lay open upon
my table. I remembered that it was there, and seized it. For
what purpose you will scarcely inquire. It will be immediately
supposed that I meant it for my last refuge, and that if all
other means should fail, I should plunge it into the heart of my
I have lost all faith in the stedfastness of human resolves.
It was thus that in periods of calm I had determined to act. No
cowardice had been held by me in greater abhorrence than that
which prompted an injured female to destroy, not her injurer ere
the injury was perpetrated, but herself when it was without
remedy. Yet now this penknife appeared to me of no other use
than to baffle my assailant, and prevent the crime by destroying
myself. To deliberate at such a time was impossible; but among
the tumultuous suggestions of the moment, I do not recollect
that it once occurred to me to use it as an instrument of direct
The steps had now reached the second floor. Every footfall
accelerated the completion, without augmenting, the certainty of
evil. The consciousness that the door was fast, now that
nothing but that was interposed between me and danger, was a
source of some consolation. I cast my eye towards the window.
This, likewise, was a new suggestion. If the door should give
way, it was my sudden resolution to throw myself from the
window. Its height from the ground, which was covered beneath
by a brick pavement, would insure my destruction; but I thought
not of that.
When opposite to my door the footsteps ceased. Was he
listening whether my fears were allayed, and my caution were
asleep? Did he hope to take me by surprize? Yet, if so, why
did he allow so many noisy signals to betray his approach?
Presently the steps were again heard to approach the door. An
hand was laid upon the lock, and the latch pulled back. Did he
imagine it possible that I should fail to secure the door? A
slight effort was made to push it open, as if all bolts being
withdrawn, a slight effort only was required.
I no sooner perceived this, than I moved swiftly towards the
window. Carwin's frame might be said to be all muscle. His
strength and activity had appeared, in various instances, to be
prodigious. A slight exertion of his force would demolish the
door. Would not that exertion be made? Too surely it would;
but, at the same moment that this obstacle should yield, and he
should enter the apartment, my determination was formed to leap
from the window. My senses were still bound to this object. I
gazed at the door in momentary expectation that the assault
would be made. The pause continued. The person without was
irresolute and motionless.
Suddenly, it occurred to me that Carwin might conceive me to
have fled. That I had not betaken myself to flight was, indeed,
the least probable of all conclusions. In this persuasion he
must have been confirmed on finding the lower door unfastened,
and the chamber door locked. Was it not wise to foster this
persuasion? Should I maintain deep silence, this, in addition
to other circumstances, might encourage the belief, and he would
once more depart. Every new reflection added plausibility to
this reasoning. It was presently more strongly enforced, when
I noticed footsteps withdrawing from the door. The blood once
more flowed back to my heart, and a dawn of exultation began to
rise: but my joy was short lived. Instead of descending the
stairs, he passed to the door of the opposite chamber, opened
it, and having entered, shut it after him with a violence that
shook the house.
How was I to interpret this circumstance? For what end could
he have entered this chamber? Did the violence with which he
closed the door testify the depth of his vexation? This room
was usually occupied by Pleyel. Was Carwin aware of his absence
on this night? Could he be suspected of a design so sordid as
pillage? If this were his view there were no means in my power
to frustrate it. It behoved me to seize the first opportunity
to escape; but if my escape were supposed by my enemy to have
been already effected, no asylum was more secure than the
present. How could my passage from the house be accomplished
without noises that might incite him to pursue me?
Utterly at a loss to account for his going into Pleyel's
chamber, I waited in instant expectation of hearing him come
forth. All, however, was profoundly still. I listened in vain
for a considerable period, to catch the sound of the door when
it should again be opened. There was no other avenue by which
he could escape, but a door which led into the girl's chamber.
Would any evil from this quarter befall the girl?
Hence arose a new train of apprehensions. They merely added
to the turbulence and agony of my reflections. Whatever evil
impended over her, I had no power to avert it. Seclusion and
silence were the only means of saving myself from the perils of
this fatal night. What solemn vows did I put up, that if I
should once more behold the light of day, I would never trust
myself again within the threshold of this dwelling!
Minute lingered after minute, but no token was given that
Carwin had returned to the passage. What, I again asked, could
detain him in this room? Was it possible that he had returned,
and glided, unperceived, away? I was speedily aware of the
difficulty that attended an enterprize like this; and yet, as if
by that means I were capable of gaining any information on that
head, I cast anxious looks from the window.
The object that first attracted my attention was an human
figure standing on the edge of the bank. Perhaps my penetration
was assisted by my hopes. Be that as it will, the figure of
Carwin was clearly distinguishable. From the obscurity of my
station, it was impossible that I should be discerned by him,
and yet he scarcely suffered me to catch a glimpse of him. He
turned and went down the steep, which, in this part, was not
difficult to be scaled.
My conjecture then had been right. Carwin has softly opened
the door, descended the stairs, and issued forth. That I should
not have overheard his steps, was only less incredible than that
my eyes had deceived me. But what was now to be done? The
house was at length delivered from this detested inmate. By one
avenue might he again re-enter. Was it not wise to bar the
lower door? Perhaps he had gone out by the kitchen door. For
this end, he must have passed through Judith's chamber. These
entrances being closed and bolted, as great security was gained
as was compatible with my lonely condition.
The propriety of these measures was too manifest not to make
me struggle successfully with my fears. Yet I opened my own
door with the utmost caution, and descended as if I were afraid
that Carwin had been still immured in Pleyel's chamber. The
outer door was a-jar. I shut, with trembling eagerness, and
drew every bolt that appended to it. I then passed with light
and less cautious steps through the parlour, but was surprized
to discover that the kitchen door was secure. I was compelled
to acquiesce in the first conjecture that Carwin had escaped
through the entry.
My heart was now somewhat eased of the load of apprehension.
I returned once more to my chamber, the door of which I was
careful to lock. It was no time to think of repose. The
moon-light began already to fade before the light of the day.
The approach of morning was betokened by the usual signals. I
mused upon the events of this night, and determined to take up
my abode henceforth at my brother's. Whether I should inform
him of what had happened was a question which seemed to demand
some consideration. My safety unquestionably required that I
should abandon my present habitation.
As my thoughts began to flow with fewer impediments, the
image of Pleyel, and the dubiousness of his condition, again
recurred to me. I again ran over the possible causes of his
absence on the preceding day. My mind was attuned to
melancholy. I dwelt, with an obstinacy for which I could not
account, on the idea of his death. I painted to myself his
struggles with the billows, and his last appearance. I imagined
myself a midnight wanderer on the shore, and to have stumbled on
his corpse, which the tide had cast up. These dreary images
affected me even to tears. I endeavoured not to restrain them.
They imparted a relief which I had not anticipated. The more
copiously they flowed, the more did my general sensations appear
to subside into calm, and a certain restlessness give way to
Perhaps, relieved by this effusion, the slumber so much
wanted might have stolen on my senses, had there been no new
cause of alarm.
I was aroused from this stupor by sounds that evidently arose
in the next chamber. Was it possible that I had been mistaken
in the figure which I had seen on the bank? or had Carwin, by
some inscrutable means, penetrated once more into this chamber?
The opposite door opened; footsteps came forth, and the person,
advancing to mine, knocked.
So unexpected an incident robbed me of all presence of mind,
and, starting up, I involuntarily exclaimed, "Who is there?" An
answer was immediately given. The voice, to my inexpressible
astonishment, was Pleyel's.
"It is I. Have you risen? If you have not, make haste; I
want three minutes conversation with you in the parlour--I will
wait for you there." Saying this he retired from the door.
Should I confide in the testimony of my ears? If that were
true, it was Pleyel that had been hitherto immured in the
opposite chamber: he whom my rueful fancy had depicted in so
many ruinous and ghastly shapes: he whose footsteps had been
listened to with such inquietude! What is man, that knowledge
is so sparingly conferred upon him! that his heart should be
wrung with distress, and his frame be exanimated with fear,
though his safety be encompassed with impregnable walls! What
are the bounds of human imbecility! He that warned me of the
presence of my foe refused the intimation by which so many
racking fears would have been precluded.
Yet who would have imagined the arrival of Pleyel at such an
hour? His tone was desponding and anxious. Why this
unseasonable summons? and why this hasty departure? Some
tidings he, perhaps, bears of mysterious and unwelcome import.
My impatience would not allow me to consume much time in
deliberation: I hastened down. Pleyel I found standing at a
window, with eyes cast down as in meditation, and arms folded on
his breast. Every line in his countenance was pregnant with
sorrow. To this was added a certain wanness and air of fatigue.
The last time I had seen him appearances had been the reverse of
these. I was startled at the change. The first impulse was to
question him as to the cause. This impulse was supplanted by
some degree of confusion, flowing from a consciousness that love
had too large, and, as it might prove, a perceptible share in
creating this impulse. I was silent.
Presently he raised his eyes and fixed them upon me. I read
in them an anguish altogether ineffable. Never had I witnessed
a like demeanour in Pleyel. Never, indeed, had I observed an
human countenance in which grief was more legibly inscribed. He
seemed struggling for utterance; but his struggles being
fruitless, he shook his head and turned away from me.
My impatience would not allow me to be longer silent:
"What," said I, "for heaven's sake, my friend, what is the
He started at the sound of my voice. His looks, for a
moment, became convulsed with an emotion very different from
grief. His accents were broken with rage.
"The matter--O wretch!--thus exquisitely fashioned--on whom
nature seemed to have exhausted all her graces; with charms so
awful and so pure! how art thou fallen! From what height
fallen! A ruin so complete--so unheard of!"
His words were again choaked by emotion. Grief and pity were
again mingled in his features. He resumed, in a tone half
suffocated by sobs:
"But why should I upbraid thee? Could I restore to thee what
thou hast lost; efface this cursed stain; snatch thee from the
jaws of this fiend; I would do it. Yet what will avail my
efforts? I have not arms with which to contend with so
consummate, so frightful a depravity.
"Evidence less than this would only have excited resentment
and scorn. The wretch who should have breathed a suspicion
injurious to thy honor, would have been regarded without anger;
not hatred or envy could have prompted him; it would merely be
an argument of madness. That my eyes, that my ears, should bear
witness to thy fall! By no other way could detestible
conviction be imparted.
"Why do I summon thee to this conference? Why expose myself
to thy derision? Here admonition and entreaty are vain. Thou
knowest him already, for a murderer and thief. I had thought to
have been the first to disclose to thee his infamy; to have
warned thee of the pit to which thou art hastening; but thy eyes
are open in vain. O foul and insupportable disgrace!
"There is but one path. I know you will disappear together.
In thy ruin, how will the felicity and honor of multitudes be
involved! But it must come. This scene shall not be blotted by
his presence. No doubt thou wilt shortly see thy detested
paramour. This scene will be again polluted by a midnight
assignation. Inform him of his danger; tell him that his crimes
are known; let him fly far and instantly from this spot, if he
desires to avoid the fate which menaced him in Ireland.
"And wilt thou not stay behind?--But shame upon my weakness.
I know not what I would say.--I have done what I purposed. To
stay longer, to expostulate, to beseech, to enumerate the
consequences of thy act--what end can it serve but to blazon thy
infamy and embitter our woes? And yet, O think, think ere it be
too late, on the distresses which thy flight will entail upon
us; on the base, grovelling, and atrocious character of the
wretch to whom thou hast sold thy honor. But what is this? Is
not thy effrontery impenetrable, and thy heart thoroughly
cankered? O most specious, and most profligate of women!"
Saying this, he rushed out of the house. I saw him in a few
moments hurrying along the path which led to my brother's. I
had no power to prevent his going, or to recall, or to follow
him. The accents I had heard were calculated to confound and
bewilder. I looked around me to assure myself that the scene
was real. I moved that I might banish the doubt that I was
awake. Such enormous imputations from the mouth of Pleyel! To
be stigmatized with the names of wanton and profligate! To be
charged with the sacrifice of honor! with midnight meetings with
a wretch known to be a murderer and thief! with an intention to
fly in his company!
What I had heard was surely the dictate of phrenzy, or it was
built upon some fatal, some incomprehensible mistake. After the
horrors of the night; after undergoing perils so imminent from
this man, to be summoned to an interview like this; to find
Pleyel fraught with a belief that, instead of having chosen
death as a refuge from the violence of this man, I had hugged
his baseness to my heart, had sacrificed for him my purity, my
spotless name, my friendships, and my fortune! that even madness
could engender accusations like these was not to be believed.
What evidence could possibly suggest conceptions so wild?
After the unlooked-for interview with Carwin in my chamber, he
retired. Could Pleyel have observed his exit? It was not long
after that Pleyel himself entered. Did he build on this
incident, his odious conclusions? Could the long series of my
actions and sentiments grant me no exemption from suspicions so
foul? Was it not more rational to infer that Carwin's designs
had been illicit; that my life had been endangered by the fury
of one whom, by some means, he had discovered to be an assassin
and robber; that my honor had been assailed, not by
blandishments, but by violence?
He has judged me without hearing. He has drawn from dubious
appearances, conclusions the most improbable and unjust. He has
loaded me with all outrageous epithets. He has ranked me with
prostitutes and thieves. I cannot pardon thee, Pleyel, for this
injustice. Thy understanding must be hurt. If it be not, if
thy conduct was sober and deliberate, I can never forgive an
outrage so unmanly, and so gross.
These thoughts gradually gave place to others. Pleyel was
possessed by some momentary phrenzy: appearances had led him
into palpable errors. Whence could his sagacity have contracted
this blindness? Was it not love? Previously assured of my
affection for Carwin, distracted with grief and jealousy, and
impelled hither at that late hour by some unknown instigation,
his imagination transformed shadows into monsters, and plunged
him into these deplorable errors.
This idea was not unattended with consolation. My soul was
divided between indignation at his injustice, and delight on
account of the source from which I conceived it to spring. For
a long time they would allow admission to no other thoughts.
Surprize is an emotion that enfeebles, not invigorates. All my
meditations were accompanied with wonder. I rambled with
vagueness, or clung to one image with an obstinacy which
sufficiently testified the maddening influence of late
Gradually I proceeded to reflect upon the consequences of
Pleyel's mistake, and on the measures I should take to guard
myself against future injury from Carwin. Should I suffer this
mistake to be detected by time? When his passion should
subside, would he not perceive the flagrancy of his injustice,
and hasten to atone for it? Did it not become my character to
testify resentment for language and treatment so opprobrious?
Wrapt up in the consciousness of innocence, and confiding in the
influence of time and reflection to confute so groundless a
charge, it was my province to be passive and silent.
As to the violences meditated by Carwin, and the means of
eluding them, the path to be taken by me was obvious. I
resolved to tell the tale to my brother, and regulate myself by
his advice. For this end, when the morning was somewhat
advanced, I took the way to his house. My sister was engaged in
her customary occupations. As soon as I appeared, she remarked
a change in my looks. I was not willing to alarm her by the
information which I had to communicate. Her health was in that
condition which rendered a disastrous tale particularly
unsuitable. I forbore a direct answer to her inquiries, and
inquired, in my turn, for Wieland.
"Why," said she, "I suspect something mysterious and
unpleasant has happened this morning. Scarcely had we risen
when Pleyel dropped among us. What could have prompted him to
make us so early and so unseasonable a visit I cannot tell. To
judge from the disorder of his dress, and his countenance,
something of an extraordinary nature has occurred. He permitted
me merely to know that he had slept none, nor even undressed,
during the past night. He took your brother to walk with him.
Some topic must have deeply engaged them, for Wieland did not
return till the breakfast hour was passed, and returned alone.
His disturbance was excessive; but he would not listen to my
importunities, or tell me what had happened. I gathered from
hints which he let fall, that your situation was, in some way,
the cause: yet he assured me that you were at your own house,
alive, in good health, and in perfect safety. He scarcely ate
a morsel, and immediately after breakfast went out again. He
would not inform me whither he was going, but mentioned that he
probably might not return before night."
I was equally astonished and alarmed by this information.
Pleyel had told his tale to my brother, and had, by a plausible
and exaggerated picture, instilled into him unfavorable thoughts
of me. Yet would not the more correct judgment of Wieland
perceive and expose the fallacy of his conclusions? Perhaps his
uneasiness might arise from some insight into the character of
Carwin, and from apprehensions for my safety. The appearances
by which Pleyel had been misled, might induce him likewise to
believe that I entertained an indiscreet, though not
dishonorable affection for Carwin. Such were the conjectures
rapidly formed. I was inexpressibly anxious to change them into
certainty. For this end an interview with my brother was
desirable. He was gone, no one knew whither, and was not
expected speedily to return. I had no clue by which to trace
My anxieties could not be concealed from my sister. They
heightened her solicitude to be acquainted with the cause.
There were many reasons persuading me to silence: at least,
till I had seen my brother, it would be an act of inexcusable
temerity to unfold what had lately passed. No other expedient
for eluding her importunities occurred to me, but that of
returning to my own house. I recollected my determination to
become a tenant of this roof. I mentioned it to her. She
joyfully acceded to this proposal, and suffered me, with less
reluctance, to depart, when I told her that it was with a view
to collect and send to my new dwelling what articles would be
immediately useful to me.
Once more I returned to the house which had been the scene of
so much turbulence and danger. I was at no great distance from
it when I observed my brother coming out. On seeing me he
stopped, and after ascertaining, as it seemed, which way I was
going, he returned into the house before me. I sincerely
rejoiced at this event, and I hastened to set things, if
possible, on their right footing.
His brow was by no means expressive of those vehement
emotions with which Pleyel had been agitated. I drew a
favorable omen from this circumstance. Without delay I began
"I have been to look for you," said I, "but was told by
Catharine that Pleyel had engaged you on some important and
disagreeable affair. Before his interview with you he spent a
few minutes with me. These minutes he employed in upbraiding me
for crimes and intentions with which I am by no means
chargeable. I believe him to have taken up his opinions on very
insufficient grounds. His behaviour was in the highest degree
precipitate and unjust, and, until I receive some atonement, I
shall treat him, in my turn, with that contempt which he justly
merits: meanwhile I am fearful that he has prejudiced my
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