Wieland; or The Transformation, An American Tale
Charles Brockden Brown
Part 4 out of 5
know you respecting it? Was it possible to execute this
mischief without witness or coadjutor? I beseech you to relate
to me, when and why Mr. Hallet was summoned to the scene, and by
whom this disaster was first suspected or discovered. Surely,
suspicion must have fallen upon some one, and pursuit was made."
My uncle rose from his seat, and traversed the floor with
hasty steps. His eyes were fixed upon the ground, and he seemed
buried in perplexity. At length he paused, and said with an
emphatic tone, "It is true; the instrument is known. Carwin may
have plotted, but the execution was another's. That other is
found, and his deed is ascertained."
"Good heaven!" I exclaimed, "what say you? Was not Carwin
the assassin? Could any hand but his have carried into act this
"Have I not said," returned he, "that the performance was
another's? Carwin, perhaps, or heaven, or insanity, prompted
the murderer; but Carwin is unknown. The actual performer has,
long since, been called to judgment and convicted, and is, at
this moment, at the bottom of a dungeon loaded with chains."
I lifted my hands and eyes. "Who then is this assassin? By
what means, and whither was he traced? What is the testimony of
"His own, corroborated with that of a servant-maid who spied
the murder of the children from a closet where she was
concealed. The magistrate returned from your dwelling to your
brother's. He was employed in hearing and recording the
testimony of the only witness, when the criminal himself,
unexpected, unsolicited, unsought, entered the hall,
acknowledged his guilt, and rendered himself up to justice.
"He has since been summoned to the bar. The audience was
composed of thousands whom rumours of this wonderful event had
attracted from the greatest distance. A long and impartial
examination was made, and the prisoner was called upon for his
defence. In compliance with this call he delivered an ample
relation of his motives and actions." There he stopped.
I besought him to say who this criminal was, and what the
instigations that compelled him. My uncle was silent. I urged
this inquiry with new force. I reverted to my own knowledge,
and sought in this some basis to conjecture. I ran over the
scanty catalogue of the men whom I knew; I lighted on no one who
was qualified for ministering to malice like this. Again I
resorted to importunity. Had I ever seen the criminal? Was it
sheer cruelty, or diabolical revenge that produced this
He surveyed me, for a considerable time, and listened to my
interrogations in silence. At length he spoke: "Clara, I have
known thee by report, and in some degree by observation. Thou
art a being of no vulgar sort. Thy friends have hitherto
treated thee as a child. They meant well, but, perhaps, they
were unacquainted with thy strength. I assure myself that
nothing will surpass thy fortitude.
"Thou art anxious to know the destroyer of thy family, his
actions, and his motives. Shall I call him to thy presence, and
permit him to confess before thee? Shall I make him the
narrator of his own tale?"
I started on my feet, and looked round me with fearful
glances, as if the murderer was close at hand. "What do you
mean?" said I; "put an end, I beseech you, to this suspence."
"Be not alarmed; you will never more behold the face of this
criminal, unless he be gifted with supernatural strength, and
sever like threads the constraint of links and bolts. I have
said that the assassin was arraigned at the bar, and that the
trial ended with a summons from the judge to confess or to
vindicate his actions. A reply was immediately made with
significance of gesture, and a tranquil majesty, which denoted
less of humanity than godhead. Judges, advocates and auditors
were panic-struck and breathless with attention. One of the
hearers faithfully recorded the speech. There it is," continued
he, putting a roll of papers in my hand, "you may read it at
With these words my uncle left me alone. My curiosity
refused me a moment's delay. I opened the papers, and read as
"Theodore Wieland, the prisoner at the bar, was now called
upon for his defence. He looked around him for some time in
silence, and with a mild countenance. At length he spoke:
"It is strange; I am known to my judges and my auditors. Who
is there present a stranger to the character of Wieland? who
knows him not as an husband--as a father--as a friend? yet here
am I arraigned as criminal. I am charged with diabolical
malice; I am accused of the murder of my wife and my children!
"It is true, they were slain by me; they all perished by my
hand. The task of vindication is ignoble. What is it that I am
called to vindicate? and before whom?
"You know that they are dead, and that they were killed by
me. What more would you have? Would you extort from me a
statement of my motives? Have you failed to discover them
already? You charge me with malice; but your eyes are not shut;
your reason is still vigorous; your memory has not forsaken you.
You know whom it is that you thus charge. The habits of his
life are known to you; his treatment of his wife and his
offspring is known to you; the soundness of his integrity, and
the unchangeableness of his principles, are familiar to your
apprehension; yet you persist in this charge! You lead me
hither manacled as a felon; you deem me worthy of a vile and
"Who are they whom I have devoted to death? My wife--the
little ones, that drew their being from me--that creature who,
as she surpassed them in excellence, claimed a larger affection
than those whom natural affinities bound to my heart. Think ye
that malice could have urged me to this deed? Hide your
audacious fronts from the scrutiny of heaven. Take refuge in
some cavern unvisited by human eyes. Ye may deplore your
wickedness or folly, but ye cannot expiate it.
"Think not that I speak for your sakes. Hug to your hearts
this detestable infatuation. Deem me still a murderer, and drag
me to untimely death. I make not an effort to dispel your
illusion: I utter not a word to cure you of your sanguinary
folly: but there are probably some in this assembly who have
come from far: for their sakes, whose distance has disabled
them from knowing me, I will tell what I have done, and why.
"It is needless to say that God is the object of my supreme
passion. I have cherished, in his presence, a single and
upright heart. I have thirsted for the knowledge of his will.
I have burnt with ardour to approve my faith and my obedience.
"My days have been spent in searching for the revelation of
that will; but my days have been mournful, because my search
failed. I solicited direction: I turned on every side where
glimmerings of light could be discovered. I have not been
wholly uninformed; but my knowledge has always stopped short of
certainty. Dissatisfaction has insinuated itself into all my
thoughts. My purposes have been pure; my wishes indefatigable;
but not till lately were these purposes thoroughly accomplished,
and these wishes fully gratified.
"I thank thee, my father, for thy bounty; that thou didst not
ask a less sacrifice than this; that thou placedst me in a
condition to testify my submission to thy will! What have I
withheld which it was thy pleasure to exact? Now may I, with
dauntless and erect eye, claim my reward, since I have given
thee the treasure of my soul.
"I was at my own house: it was late in the evening: my
sister had gone to the city, but proposed to return. It was in
expectation of her return that my wife and I delayed going to
bed beyond the usual hour; the rest of the family, however, were
"My mind was contemplative and calm; not wholly devoid of
apprehension on account of my sister's safety. Recent events,
not easily explained, had suggested the existence of some
danger; but this danger was without a distinct form in our
imagination, and scarcely ruffled our tranquillity.
"Time passed, and my sister did not arrive; her house is at
some distance from mine, and though her arrangements had been
made with a view to residing with us, it was possible that,
through forgetfulness, or the occurrence of unforeseen
emergencies, she had returned to her own dwelling.
"Hence it was conceived proper that I should ascertain the
truth by going thither. I went. On my way my mind was full of
these ideas which related to my intellectual condition. In the
torrent of fervid conceptions, I lost sight of my purpose. Some
times I stood still; some times I wandered from my path, and
experienced some difficulty, on recovering from my fit of
musing, to regain it.
"The series of my thoughts is easily traced. At first every
vein beat with raptures known only to the man whose parental and
conjugal love is without limits, and the cup of whose desires,
immense as it is, overflows with gratification. I know not why
emotions that were perpetual visitants should now have recurred
with unusual energy. The transition was not new from sensations
of joy to a consciousness of gratitude. The author of my being
was likewise the dispenser of every gift with which that being
was embellished. The service to which a benefactor like this
was entitled, could not be circumscribed. My social sentiments
were indebted to their alliance with devotion for all their
value. All passions are base, all joys feeble, all energies
malignant, which are not drawn from this source.
"For a time, my contemplations soared above earth and its
inhabitants. I stretched forth my hands; I lifted my eyes, and
exclaimed, O! that I might be admitted to thy presence; that
mine were the supreme delight of knowing thy will, and of
performing it! The blissful privilege of direct communication
with thee, and of listening to the audible enunciation of thy
"What task would I not undertake, what privation would I not
cheerfully endure, to testify my love of thee? Alas! thou
hidest thyself from my view: glimpses only of thy excellence
and beauty are afforded me. Would that a momentary emanation
from thy glory would visit me! that some unambiguous token of
thy presence would salute my senses!
"In this mood, I entered the house of my sister. It was
vacant. Scarcely had I regained recollection of the purpose
that brought me hither. Thoughts of a different tendency had
such absolute possession of my mind, that the relations of time
and space were almost obliterated from my understanding. These
wanderings, however, were restrained, and I ascended to her
"I had no light, and might have known by external
observation, that the house was without any inhabitant. With
this, however, I was not satisfied. I entered the room, and the
object of my search not appearing, I prepared to return.
"The darkness required some caution in descending the stair.
I stretched my hand to seize the balustrade by which I might
regulate my steps. How shall I describe the lustre, which, at
that moment, burst upon my vision!
"I was dazzled. My organs were bereaved of their activity.
My eye-lids were half-closed, and my hands withdrawn from the
balustrade. A nameless fear chilled my veins, and I stood
motionless. This irradiation did not retire or lessen. It
seemed as if some powerful effulgence covered me like a mantle.
"I opened my eyes and found all about me luminous and
glowing. It was the element of heaven that flowed around.
Nothing but a fiery stream was at first visible; but, anon, a
shrill voice from behind called upon me to attend.
"I turned: It is forbidden to describe what I saw: Words,
indeed, would be wanting to the task. The lineaments of that
being, whose veil was now lifted, and whose visage beamed upon
my sight, no hues of pencil or of language can pourtray.
"As it spoke, the accents thrilled to my heart. "Thy prayers
are heard. In proof of thy faith, render me thy wife. This is
the victim I chuse. Call her hither, and here let her
fall."--The sound, and visage, and light vanished at once.
"What demand was this? The blood of Catharine was to be
shed! My wife was to perish by my hand! I sought opportunity
to attest my virtue. Little did I expect that a proof like this
would have been demanded.
"My wife! I exclaimed: O God! substitute some other victim.
Make me not the butcher of my wife. My own blood is cheap.
This will I pour out before thee with a willing heart; but
spare, I beseech thee, this precious life, or commission some
other than her husband to perform the bloody deed.
"In vain. The conditions were prescribed; the decree had
gone forth, and nothing remained but to execute it. I rushed
out of the house and across the intermediate fields, and stopped
not till I entered my own parlour.
"My wife had remained here during my absence, in anxious
expectation of my return with some tidings of her sister. I had
none to communicate. For a time, I was breathless with my
speed: This, and the tremors that shook my frame, and the
wildness of my looks, alarmed her. She immediately suspected
some disaster to have happened to her friend, and her own speech
was as much overpowered by emotion as mine.
"She was silent, but her looks manifested her impatience to
hear what I had to communicate. I spoke, but with so much
precipitation as scarcely to be understood; catching her, at the
same time, by the arm, and forcibly pulling her from her seat.
"Come along with me: fly: waste not a moment: time will be
lost, and the deed will be omitted. Tarry not; question not;
but fly with me!
"This deportment added afresh to her alarms. Her eyes
pursued mine, and she said, "What is the matter? For God's sake
what is the matter? Where would you have me go?"
"My eyes were fixed upon her countenance while she spoke. I
thought upon her virtues; I viewed her as the mother of my
babes: as my wife: I recalled the purpose for which I thus
urged her attendance. My heart faltered, and I saw that I must
rouse to this work all my faculties. The danger of the least
delay was imminent.
"I looked away from her, and again exerting my force, drew
her towards the door--'You must go with me--indeed you must.'
"In her fright she half-resisted my efforts, and again
exclaimed, 'Good heaven! what is it you mean? Where go? What
has happened? Have you found Clara?"
"Follow me, and you will see," I answered, still urging her
reluctant steps forward.
"What phrenzy has seized you? Something must needs have
happened. Is she sick? Have you found her?"
"Come and see. Follow me, and know for yourself."
"Still she expostulated and besought me to explain this
mysterious behaviour. I could not trust myself to answer her;
to look at her; but grasping her arm, I drew her after me. She
hesitated, rather through confusion of mind than from
unwillingness to accompany me. This confusion gradually abated,
and she moved forward, but with irresolute footsteps, and
continual exclamations of wonder and terror. Her interrogations
Of "what was the matter?" and "whither was I going?" were
ceaseless and vehement.
"It was the scope of my efforts not to think; to keep up a
conflict and uproar in my mind in which all order and
distinctness should be lost; to escape from the sensations
produced by her voice. I was, therefore, silent. I strove to
abridge this interval by my haste, and to waste all my attention
in furious gesticulations.
"In this state of mind we reached my sister's door. She
looked at the windows and saw that all was desolate--"Why come
we here? There is no body here. I will not go in."
"Still I was dumb; but opening the door, I drew her into the
entry. This was the allotted scene: here she was to fall. I
let go her hand, and pressing my palms against my forehead, made
one mighty effort to work up my soul to the deed.
"In vain; it would not be; my courage was appalled; my arms
nerveless: I muttered prayers that my strength might be aided
from above. They availed nothing.
"Horror diffused itself over me. This conviction of my
cowardice, my rebellion, fastened upon me, and I stood rigid and
cold as marble. From this state I was somewhat relieved by my
wife's voice, who renewed her supplications to be told why we
came hither, and what was the fate of my sister.
"What could I answer? My words were broken and inarticulate.
Her fears naturally acquired force from the observation of these
symptoms; but these fears were misplaced. The only inference
she deduced from my conduct was, that some terrible mishap had
"She wrung her hands, and exclaimed in an agony, "O tell me,
where is she? What has become of her? Is she sick? Dead? Is
she in her chamber? O let me go thither and know the worst!"
"This proposal set my thoughts once more in motion. Perhaps
what my rebellious heart refused to perform here, I might obtain
strength enough to execute elsewhere.
"Come then," said I, "let us go."
"I will, but not in the dark. We must first procure a
"Fly then and procure it; but I charge you, linger not. I
will await for your return.
"While she was gone, I strode along the entry. The fellness
of a gloomy hurricane but faintly resembled the discord that
reigned in my mind. To omit this sacrifice must not be; yet my
sinews had refused to perform it. No alternative was offered.
To rebel against the mandate was impossible; but obedience would
render me the executioner of my wife. My will was strong, but
my limbs refused their office.
"She returned with a light; I led the way to the chamber; she
looked round her; she lifted the curtain of the bed; she saw
"At length, she fixed inquiring eyes upon me. The light now
enabled her to discover in my visage what darkness had hitherto
concealed. Her cares were now transferred from my sister to
myself, and she said in a tremulous voice, "Wieland! you are not
well: What ails you? Can I do nothing for you?"
"That accents and looks so winning should disarm me of my
resolution, was to be expected. My thoughts were thrown anew
into anarchy. I spread my hand before my eyes that I might not
see her, and answered only by groans. She took my other hand
between her's, and pressing it to her heart, spoke with that
voice which had ever swayed my will, and wafted away sorrow.
"My friend! my soul's friend! tell me thy cause of grief. Do
I not merit to partake with thee in thy cares? Am I not thy
"This was too much. I broke from her embrace, and retired to
a corner of the room. In this pause, courage was once more
infused into me. I resolved to execute my duty. She followed
me, and renewed her passionate entreaties to know the cause of
"I raised my head and regarded her with stedfast looks. I
muttered something about death, and the injunctions of my duty.
At these words she shrunk back, and looked at me with a new
expression of anguish. After a pause, she clasped her hands,
"O Wieland! Wieland! God grant that I am mistaken; but surely
something is wrong. I see it: it is too plain: thou art
undone--lost to me and to thyself." At the same time she gazed
on my features with intensest anxiety, in hope that different
symptoms would take place. I replied to her with vehemence--
"Undone! No; my duty is known, and I thank my God that my
cowardice is now vanquished, and I have power to fulfil it.
Catharine! I pity the weakness of thy nature: I pity thee, but
must not spare. Thy life is claimed from my hands: thou must
"Fear was now added to her grief. 'What mean you? Why talk
you of death? Bethink yourself, Wieland: bethink yourself, and
this fit will pass. O why came I hither! Why did you drag me
"I brought thee hither to fulfil a divine command. I am
appointed thy destroyer, and destroy thee I must." Saying this
I seized her wrists. She shrieked aloud, and endeavoured to
free herself from my grasp; but her efforts were vain.
"Surely, surely Wieland, thou dost not mean it. Am I not thy
wife? and wouldst thou kill me? Thou wilt not; and yet--I
see--thou art Wieland no longer! A fury resistless and horrible
possesses thee--Spare me--spare--help--help--"
"Till her breath was stopped she shrieked for help--for
mercy. When she could speak no longer, her gestures, her looks
appealed to my compassion. My accursed hand was irresolute and
tremulous. I meant thy death to be sudden, thy struggles to be
brief. Alas! my heart was infirm; my resolves mutable. Thrice
I slackened my grasp, and life kept its hold, though in the
midst of pangs. Her eye-balls started from their sockets.
Grimness and distortion took place of all that used to bewitch
me into transport, and subdue me into reverence.
"I was commissioned to kill thee, but not to torment thee
with the foresight of thy death; not to multiply thy fears, and
prolong thy agonies. Haggard, and pale, and lifeless, at length
thou ceasedst to contend with thy destiny.
"This was a moment of triumph. Thus had I successfully
subdued the stubbornness of human passions: the victim which
had been demanded was given: the deed was done past recal.
"I lifted the corpse in my arms and laid it on the bed. I
gazed upon it with delight. Such was the elation of my
thoughts, that I even broke into laughter. I clapped my hands
and exclaimed, 'It is done! My sacred duty is fulfilled! To
that I have sacrificed, O my God! thy last and best gift, my
"For a while I thus soared above frailty. I imagined I had
set myself forever beyond the reach of selfishness; but my
imaginations were false. This rapture quickly subsided. I
looked again at my wife. My joyous ebullitions vanished, and I
asked myself who it was whom I saw? Methought it could not be
Catharine. It could not be the woman who had lodged for years
in my heart; who had slept, nightly, in my bosom; who had borne
in her womb, who had fostered at her breast, the beings who
called me father; whom I had watched with delight, and cherished
with a fondness ever new and perpetually growing: it could not
be the same.
"Where was her bloom! These deadly and blood-suffused orbs
but ill resemble the azure and exstatic tenderness of her eyes.
The lucid stream that meandered over that bosom, the glow of
love that was wont to sit upon that cheek, are much unlike these
livid stains and this hideous deformity. Alas! these were the
traces of agony; the gripe of the assassin had been here!
"I will not dwell upon my lapse into desperate and outrageous
sorrow. The breath of heaven that sustained me was withdrawn
and I sunk into MERE MAN. I leaped from the floor: I
dashed my head against the wall: I uttered screams of horror:
I panted after torment and pain. Eternal fire, and the
bickerings of hell, compared with what I felt, were music and a
bed of roses.
"I thank my God that this degeneracy was transient, that he
deigned once more to raise me aloft. I thought upon what I had
done as a sacrifice to duty, and WAS CALM. My wife was
dead; but I reflected, that though this source of human
consolation was closed, yet others were still open. If the
transports of an husband were no more, the feelings of a father
had still scope for exercise. When remembrance of their mother
should excite too keen a pang, I would look upon them, and BE
"While I revolved these ideas, new warmth flowed in upon my
heart--I was wrong. These feelings were the growth of
selfishness. Of this I was not aware, and to dispel the mist
that obscured my perceptions, a new effulgence and a new mandate
"From these thoughts I was recalled by a ray that was shot
into the room. A voice spake like that which I had before
heard--'Thou hast done well; but all is not done--the sacrifice
is incomplete--thy children must be offered--they must perish
with their mother!--'
Will you wonder that I read no farther? Will you not rather
be astonished that I read thus far? What power supported me
through such a task I know not. Perhaps the doubt from which I
could not disengage my mind, that the scene here depicted was a
dream, contributed to my perseverance. In vain the solemn
introduction of my uncle, his appeals to my fortitude, and
allusions to something monstrous in the events he was about to
disclose; in vain the distressful perplexity, the mysterious
silence and ambiguous answers of my attendants, especially when
the condition of my brother was the theme of my inquiries, were
remembered. I recalled the interview with Wieland in my
chamber, his preternatural tranquillity succeeded by bursts of
passion and menacing actions. All these coincided with the
tenor of this paper.
Catharine and her children, and Louisa were dead. The act
that destroyed them was, in the highest degree, inhuman. It was
worthy of savages trained to murder, and exulting in agonies.
Who was the performer of the deed? Wieland! My brother!
The husband and the father! That man of gentle virtues and
invincible benignity! placable and mild--an idolator of peace!
Surely, said I, it is a dream. For many days have I been vexed
with frenzy. Its dominion is still felt; but new forms are
called up to diversify and augment my torments.
The paper dropped from my hand, and my eyes followed it. I
shrunk back, as if to avoid some petrifying influence that
approached me. My tongue was mute; all the functions of nature
were at a stand, and I sunk upon the floor lifeless.
The noise of my fall, as I afterwards heard, alarmed my
uncle, who was in a lower apartment, and whose apprehensions had
detained him. He hastened to my chamber, and administered the
assistance which my condition required. When I opened my eyes
I beheld him before me. His skill as a reasoner as well as a
physician, was exerted to obviate the injurious effects of this
disclosure; but he had wrongly estimated the strength of my body
or of my mind. This new shock brought me once more to the brink
of the grave, and my malady was much more difficult to subdue
than at first.
I will not dwell upon the long train of dreary sensations,
and the hideous confusion of my understanding. Time slowly
restored its customary firmness to my frame, and order to my
thoughts. The images impressed upon my mind by this fatal paper
were somewhat effaced by my malady. They were obscure and
disjointed like the parts of a dream. I was desirous of freeing
my imagination from this chaos. For this end I questioned my
uncle, who was my constant companion. He was intimidated by the
issue of his first experiment, and took pains to elude or
discourage my inquiry. My impetuosity some times compelled him
to have resort to misrepresentations and untruths.
Time effected that end, perhaps, in a more beneficial manner.
In the course of my meditations the recollections of the past
gradually became more distinct. I revolved them, however, in
silence, and being no longer accompanied with surprize, they did
not exercise a death-dealing power. I had discontinued the
perusal of the paper in the midst of the narrative; but what I
read, combined with information elsewhere obtained, threw,
perhaps, a sufficient light upon these detestable transactions;
yet my curiosity was not inactive. I desired to peruse the
My eagerness to know the particulars of this tale was mingled
and abated by my antipathy to the scene which would be
disclosed. Hence I employed no means to effect my purpose. I
desired knowledge, and, at the same time, shrunk back from
receiving the boon.
One morning, being left alone, I rose from my bed, and went
to a drawer where my finer clothing used to be kept. I opened
it, and this fatal paper saluted my sight. I snatched it
involuntarily, and withdrew to a chair. I debated, for a few
minutes, whether I should open and read. Now that my fortitude
was put to trial, it failed. I felt myself incapable of
deliberately surveying a scene of so much horror. I was
prompted to return it to its place, but this resolution gave
way, and I determined to peruse some part of it. I turned over
the leaves till I came near the conclusion. The narrative of
the criminal was finished. The verdict of GUILTY reluctantly
pronounced by the jury, and the accused interrogated why
sentence of death should not pass. The answer was brief,
solemn, and emphatical.
"No. I have nothing to say. My tale has been told. My
motives have been truly stated. If my judges are unable to
discern the purity of my intentions, or to credit the statement
of them, which I have just made; if they see not that my deed
was enjoined by heaven; that obedience was the test of perfect
virtue, and the extinction of selfishness and error, they must
pronounce me a murderer.
"They refuse to credit my tale; they impute my acts to the
influence of daemons; they account me an example of the highest
wickedness of which human nature is capable; they doom me to
death and infamy. Have I power to escape this evil? If I have,
be sure I will exert it. I will not accept evil at their hand,
when I am entitled to good; I will suffer only when I cannot
"You say that I am guilty. Impious and rash! thus to usurp
the prerogatives of your Maker! to set up your bounded views and
halting reason, as the measure of truth!
"Thou, Omnipotent and Holy! Thou knowest that my actions
were conformable to thy will. I know not what is crime; what
actions are evil in their ultimate and comprehensive tendency or
what are good. Thy knowledge, as thy power, is unlimited. I
have taken thee for my guide, and cannot err. To the arms of
thy protection, I entrust my safety. In the awards of thy
justice, I confide for my recompense.
"Come death when it will, I am safe. Let calumny and
abhorrence pursue me among men; I shall not be defrauded of my
dues. The peace of virtue, and the glory of obedience, will be
my portion hereafter."
Here ended the speaker. I withdrew my eyes from the page;
but before I had time to reflect on what I had read, Mr.
Cambridge entered the room. He quickly perceived how I had been
employed, and betrayed some solicitude respecting the condition
of my mind.
His fears, however, were superfluous. What I had read, threw
me into a state not easily described. Anguish and fury,
however, had no part in it. My faculties were chained up in
wonder and awe. Just then, I was unable to speak. I looked at
my friend with an air of inquisitiveness, and pointed at the
roll. He comprehended my inquiry, and answered me with looks of
gloomy acquiescence. After some time, my thoughts found their
way to my lips.
Such then were the acts of my brother. Such were his words.
For this he was condemned to die: To die upon the gallows! A
fate, cruel and unmerited! And is it so? continued I,
struggling for utterance, which this new idea made difficult; is
"No. He is alive. There could be no doubt as to the cause
of these excesses. They originated in sudden madness; but that
madness continues. and he is condemned to perpetual
"Madness, say you? Are you sure? Were not these sights, and
these sounds, really seen and heard?"
My uncle was surprized at my question. He looked at me with
apparent inquietude. "Can you doubt," said he, "that these were
illusions? Does heaven, think you, interfere for such ends?"
"O no; I think it not. Heaven cannot stimulate to such
unheard-of outrage. The agent was not good, but evil."
"Nay, my dear girl," said my friend, "lay aside these
fancies. Neither angel nor devil had any part in this affair."
"You misunderstand me," I answered; "I believe the agency to
be external and real, but not supernatural."
"Indeed!" said he, in an accent of surprize. "Whom do you
then suppose to be the agent?"
"I know not. All is wildering conjecture. I cannot forget
Carwin. I cannot banish the suspicion that he was the setter of
these snares. But how can we suppose it to be madness? Did
insanity ever before assume this form?"
"Frequently. The illusion, in this case, was more dreadful
in its consequences, than any that has come to my knowledge;
but, I repeat that similar illusions are not rare. Did you
never hear of an instance which occurred in your mother's
"No. I beseech you relate it. My grandfather's death I have
understood to have been extraordinary, but I know not in what
respect. A brother, to whom he was much attached, died in his
youth, and this, as I have heard, influenced, in some remarkable
way, the fate of my grandfather; but I am unacquainted with
"On the death of that brother," resumed my friend, "my father
was seized with dejection, which was found to flow from two
sources. He not only grieved for the loss of a friend, but
entertained the belief that his own death would be inevitably
consequent on that of his brother. He waited from day to day in
expectation of the stroke which he predicted was speedily to
fall upon him. Gradually, however, he recovered his
cheerfulness and confidence. He married, and performed his part
in the world with spirit and activity. At the end of twenty-one
years it happened that he spent the summer with his family at an
house which he possessed on the sea coast in Cornwall. It was
at no great distance from a cliff which overhung the ocean, and
rose into the air to a great height. The summit was level and
secure, and easily ascended on the land side. The company
frequently repaired hither in clear weather, invited by its pure
airs and extensive prospects. One evening in June my father,
with his wife and some friends, chanced to be on this spot.
Every one was happy, and my father's imagination seemed
particularly alive to the grandeur of the scenery.
"Suddenly, however, his limbs trembled and his features
betrayed alarm. He threw himself into the attitude of one
listening. He gazed earnestly in a direction in which nothing
was visible to his friends. This lasted for a minute; then
turning to his companions, he told them that his brother had
just delivered to him a summons, which must be instantly obeyed.
He then took an hasty and solemn leave of each person, and,
before their surprize would allow them to understand the scene,
he rushed to the edge of the cliff, threw himself headlong, and
was seen no more.
"In the course of my practice in the German army, many cases,
equally remarkable, have occurred. Unquestionably the illusions
were maniacal, though the vulgar thought otherwise. They are
all reducible to one class,* and are not more difficult of
explication and cure than most affections of our frame."
This opinion my uncle endeavoured, by various means, to
impress upon me. I listened to his reasonings and illustrations
with silent respect. My astonishment was great on finding
proofs of an influence of which I had supposed there were no
examples; but I was far from accounting for appearances in my
uncle's manner. Ideas thronged into my mind which I was unable
to disjoin or to regulate. I reflected that this madness, if
madness it were, had affected Pleyel and myself as well as
Wieland. Pleyel had heard a mysterious voice. I had seen and
heard. A form had showed itself to me as well as to Wieland.
The disclosure had been made in the same spot. The appearance
was equally complete and equally prodigious in both instances.
Whatever supposition I should adopt, had I not equal reason to
tremble? What was my security against influences equally
terrific and equally irresistable?
It would be vain to attempt to describe the state of mind
which this idea produced. I wondered at the change which a
moment had affected in my brother's condition. Now was I
stupified with tenfold wonder in contemplating myself. Was I
not likewise transformed from rational and human into a creature
of nameless and fearful attributes? Was I not transported to
the brink of the same abyss? Ere a new day should come, my
hands might be embrued in blood, and my remaining life be
consigned to a dungeon and chains.
With moral sensibility like mine, no wonder that this new
dread was more insupportable than the anguish I had lately
endured. Grief carries its own antidote along with it. When
thought becomes merely a vehicle of pain, its progress must be
stopped. Death is a cure which nature or ourselves must
administer: To this cure I now looked forward with gloomy
My silence could not conceal from my uncle the state of my
thoughts. He made unwearied efforts to divert my attention from
views so pregnant with danger. His efforts, aided by time, were
in some measure successful. Confidence in the strength of my
resolution, and in the healthful state of my faculties, was once
more revived. I was able to devote my thoughts to my brother's
state, and the causes of this disasterous proceeding.
My opinions were the sport of eternal change. Some times I
conceived the apparition to be more than human. I had no
grounds on which to build a disbelief. I could not deny faith
to the evidence of my religion; the testimony of men was loud
and unanimous: both these concurred to persuade me that evil
spirits existed, and that their energy was frequently exerted in
the system of the world.
These ideas connected themselves with the image of Carwin.
Where is the proof, said I, that daemons may not be subjected to
the controul of men? This truth may be distorted and debased in
the minds of the ignorant. The dogmas of the vulgar, with
regard to this subject, are glaringly absurd; but though these
may justly be neglected by the wise, we are scarcely justified
in totally rejecting the possibility that men may obtain
The dreams of superstition are worthy of contempt.
Witchcraft, its instruments and miracles, the compact ratified
by a bloody signature, the apparatus of sulpherous smells and
thundering explosions, are monstrous and chimerical. These have
no part in the scene over which the genius of Carwin presides.
That conscious beings, dissimilar from human, but moral and
voluntary agents as we are, some where exist, can scarcely be
denied. That their aid may be employed to benign or malignant
purposes, cannot be disproved.
Darkness rests upon the designs of this man. The extent of
his power is unknown; but is there not evidence that it has been
I recurred to my own experience. Here Carwin had actually
appeared upon the stage; but this was in a human character. A
voice and a form were discovered; but one was apparently
exerted, and the other disclosed, not to befriend, but to
counteract Carwin's designs. There were tokens of hostility,
and not of alliance, between them. Carwin was the miscreant
whose projects were resisted by a minister of heaven. How can
this be reconciled to the stratagem which ruined my brother?
There the agency was at once preternatural and malignant.
The recollection of this fact led my thoughts into a new
channel. The malignity of that influence which governed my
brother had hitherto been no subject of doubt. His wife and
children were destroyed; they had expired in agony and fear; yet
was it indisputably certain that their murderer was criminal?
He was acquitted at the tribunal of his own conscience; his
behaviour at his trial and since, was faithfully reported to me;
appearances were uniform; not for a moment did he lay aside the
majesty of virtue; he repelled all invectives by appealing to
the deity, and to the tenor of his past life; surely there was
truth in this appeal: none but a command from heaven could have
swayed his will; and nothing but unerring proof of divine
approbation could sustain his mind in its present elevation.
*Mania Mutabilis. See Darwin's Zoonomia, vol. ii. Class
III. 1.2. where similar cases are stated.
Such, for some time, was the course of my meditations. My
weakness, and my aversion to be pointed at as an object of
surprize or compassion, prevented me from going into public. I
studiously avoided the visits of those who came to express their
sympathy, or gratify their curiosity. My uncle was my principal
companion. Nothing more powerfully tended to console me than
With regard to Pleyel, my feelings seemed to have undergone
a total revolution. It often happens that one passion supplants
another. Late disasters had rent my heart, and now that the
wound was in some degree closed, the love which I had cherished
for this man seemed likewise to have vanished.
Hitherto, indeed, I had had no cause for despair. I was
innocent of that offence which had estranged him from my
presence. I might reasonably expect that my innocence would at
some time be irresistably demonstrated, and his affection for me
be revived with his esteem. Now my aversion to be thought
culpable by him continued, but was unattended with the same
impatience. I desired the removal of his suspicions, not for
the sake of regaining his love, but because I delighted in the
veneration of so excellent a man, and because he himself would
derive pleasure from conviction of my integrity.
My uncle had early informed me that Pleyel and he had seen
each other, since the return of the latter from Europe. Amidst
the topics of their conversation, I discovered that Pleyel had
carefully omitted the mention of those events which had drawn
upon me so much abhorrence. I could not account for his silence
on this subject. Perhaps time or some new discovery had altered
or shaken his opinion. Perhaps he was unwilling, though I were
guilty, to injure me in the opinion of my venerable kinsman. I
understood that he had frequently visited me during my disease,
had watched many successive nights by my bedside, and manifested
the utmost anxiety on my account.
The journey which he was preparing to take, at the
termination of our last interview, the catastrophe of the
ensuing night induced him to delay. The motives of this journey
I had, till now, totally mistaken. They were explained to me by
my uncle, whose tale excited my astonishment without awakening
my regret. In a different state of mind, it would have added
unspeakably to my distress, but now it was more a source of
pleasure than pain. This, perhaps, is not the least
extraordinary of the facts contained in this narrative. It will
excite less wonder when I add, that my indifference was
temporary, and that the lapse of a few days shewed me that my
feelings were deadened for a time, rather than finally
Theresa de Stolberg was alive. She had conceived the
resolution of seeking her lover in America. To conceal her
flight, she had caused the report of her death to be propagated.
She put herself under the conduct of Bertrand, the faithful
servant of Pleyel. The pacquet which the latter received from
the hands of his servant, contained the tidings of her safe
arrival at Boston, and to meet her there was the purpose of his
This discovery had set this man's character in a new light.
I had mistaken the heroism of friendship for the phrenzy of
love. He who had gained my affections, may be supposed to have
previously entitled himself to my reverence; but the levity
which had formerly characterized the behaviour of this man,
tended to obscure the greatness of his sentiments. I did not
fail to remark, that since this lady was still alive, the voice
in the temple which asserted her death, must either have been
intended to deceive, or have been itself deceived. The latter
supposition was inconsistent with the notion of a spiritual, and
the former with that of a benevolent being.
When my disease abated, Pleyel had forborne his visits, and
had lately set out upon this journey. This amounted to a proof
that my guilt was still believed by him. I was grieved for his
errors, but trusted that my vindication would, sooner or later,
Meanwhile, tumultuous thoughts were again set afloat by a
proposal made to me by my uncle. He imagined that new airs
would restore my languishing constitution, and a varied
succession of objects tend to repair the shock which my mind had
received. For this end, he proposed to me to take up my abode
with him in France or Italy.
At a more prosperous period, this scheme would have pleased
for its own sake. Now my heart sickened at the prospect of
nature. The world of man was shrowded in misery and blood, and
constituted a loathsome spectacle. I willingly closed my eyes
in sleep, and regretted that the respite it afforded me was so
short. I marked with satisfaction the progress of decay in my
frame, and consented to live, merely in the hope that the course
of nature would speedily relieve me from the burthen.
Nevertheless, as he persisted in his scheme, I concurred in it
merely because he was entitled to my gratitude, and because my
refusal gave him pain.
No sooner was he informed of my consent, than he told me I
must make immediate preparation to embark, as the ship in which
he had engaged a passage would be ready to depart in three days.
This expedition was unexpected. There was an impatience in his
manner when he urged the necessity of dispatch that excited my
surprize. When I questioned him as to the cause of this haste,
he generally stated reasons which, at that time, I could not
deny to be plausible; but which, on the review, appeared
insufficient. I suspected that the true motives were concealed,
and believed that these motives had some connection with my
I now recollected that the information respecting Wieland
which had, from time to time, been imparted to me, was always
accompanied with airs of reserve and mysteriousness. What had
appeared sufficiently explicit at the time it was uttered, I now
remembered to have been faltering and ambiguous. I was resolved
to remove my doubts, by visiting the unfortunate man in his
Heretofore the idea of this visit had occurred to me; but the
horrors of his dwelling-place, his wild yet placid physiognomy,
his neglected locks, the fetters which constrained his limbs,
terrible as they were in description, how could I endure to
Now, however, that I was preparing to take an everlasting
farewell of my country, now that an ocean was henceforth to
separate me from him, how could I part without an interview? I
would examine his situation with my own eyes. I would know
whether the representations which had been made to me were true.
Perhaps the sight of the sister whom he was wont to love with a
passion more than fraternal, might have an auspicious influence
on his malady.
Having formed this resolution, I waited to communicate it to
Mr. Cambridge. I was aware that, without his concurrence, I
could not hope to carry it into execution, and could discover no
objection to which it was liable. If I had not been deceived as
to his condition, no inconvenience could arise from this
proceeding. His consent, therefore, would be the test of his
I seized this opportunity to state my wishes on this head.
My suspicions were confirmed by the manner in which my request
affected him. After some pause, in which his countenance
betrayed every mark of perplexity, he said to me, "Why would you
pay this visit? What useful purpose can it serve?"
"We are preparing," said I, "to leave the country forever:
What kind of being should I be to leave behind me a brother in
calamity without even a parting interview? Indulge me for three
minutes in the sight of him. My heart will be much easier after
I have looked at him, and shed a few tears in his presence."
"I believe otherwise. The sight of him would only augment
your distress, without contributing, in any degree, to his
"I know not that," returned I. "Surely the sympathy of his
sister, proofs that her tenderness is as lively as ever, must be
a source of satisfaction to him. At present he must regard all
mankind as his enemies and calumniators. His sister he,
probably, conceives to partake in the general infatuation, and
to join in the cry of abhorrence that is raised against him. To
be undeceived in this respect, to be assured that, however I may
impute his conduct to delusion, I still retain all my former
affection for his person, and veneration for the purity of his
motives, cannot but afford him pleasure. When he hears that I
have left the country, without even the ceremonious attention of
a visit, what will he think of me? His magnanimity may hinder
him from repining, but he will surely consider my behaviour as
savage and unfeeling. Indeed, dear Sir, I must pay this visit.
To embark with you without paying it, will be impossible. It
may be of no service to him, but will enable me to acquit myself
of what I cannot but esteem a duty. Besides," continued I, "if
it be a mere fit of insanity that has seized him, may not my
presence chance to have a salutary influence? The mere sight of
me, it is not impossible, may rectify his perceptions."
"Ay," said my uncle, with some eagerness; "it is by no means
impossible that your interview may have that effect; and for
that reason, beyond all others, would I dissuade you from it."
I expressed my surprize at this declaration. "Is it not to
be desired that an error so fatal as this should be rectified?"
"I wonder at your question. Reflect on the consequences of
this error. Has he not destroyed the wife whom he loved, the
children whom he idolized? What is it that enables him to bear
the remembrance, but the belief that he acted as his duty
enjoined? Would you rashly bereave him of this belief? Would
you restore him to himself, and convince him that he was
instigated to this dreadful outrage by a perversion of his
organs, or a delusion from hell?
"Now his visions are joyous and elate. He conceives himself
to have reached a loftier degree of virtue, than any other human
being. The merit of his sacrifice is only enhanced in the eyes
of superior beings, by the detestation that pursues him here,
and the sufferings to which he is condemned. The belief that
even his sister has deserted him, and gone over to his enemies,
adds to his sublimity of feelings, and his confidence in divine
approbation and future recompense.
"Let him be undeceived in this respect, and what floods of
despair and of horror will overwhelm him! Instead of glowing
approbation and serene hope, will he not hate and torture
himself? Self-violence, or a phrenzy far more savage and
destructive than this, may be expected to succeed. I beseech
you, therefore, to relinquish this scheme. If you calmly
reflect upon it, you will discover that your duty lies in
carefully shunning him."
Mr. Cambridge's reasonings suggested views to my
understanding, that had not hitherto occurred. I could not but
admit their validity, but they shewed, in a new light, the depth
of that misfortune in which my brother was plunged. I was
silent and irresolute.
Presently, I considered, that whether Wieland was a maniac,
a faithful servant of his God, the victim of hellish illusions,
or the dupe of human imposture, was by no means certain. In
this state of my mind it became me to be silent during the visit
that I projected. This visit should be brief: I should be
satisfied merely to snatch a look at him. Admitting that a
change in his opinions were not to be desired, there was no
danger from the conduct which I should pursue, that this change
should be wrought.
But I could not conquer my uncle's aversion to this scheme.
Yet I persisted, and he found that to make me voluntarily
relinquish it, it was necessary to be more explicit than he had
hitherto been. He took both my hands, and anxiously examining
my countenance as he spoke, "Clara," said he, "this visit must
not be paid. We must hasten with the utmost expedition from
this shore. It is folly to conceal the truth from you, and,
since it is only by disclosing the truth that you can be
prevailed upon to lay aside this project, the truth shall be
"O my dear girl!" continued he with increasing energy in his
accent, "your brother's phrenzy is, indeed, stupendous and
frightful. The soul that formerly actuated his frame has
disappeared. The same form remains; but the wise and benevolent
Wieland is no more. A fury that is rapacious of blood, that
lifts his strength almost above that of mortals, that bends all
his energies to the destruction of whatever was once dear to
him, possesses him wholly.
"You must not enter his dungeon; his eyes will no sooner be
fixed upon you, than an exertion of his force will be made. He
will shake off his fetters in a moment, and rush upon you. No
interposition will then be strong or quick enough to save you.
"The phantom that has urged him to the murder of Catharine
and her children is not yet appeased. Your life, and that of
Pleyel, are exacted from him by this imaginary being. He is
eager to comply with this demand. Twice he has escaped from his
prison. The first time, he no sooner found himself at liberty,
than he hasted to Pleyel's house. It being midnight, the latter
was in bed. Wieland penetrated unobserved to his chamber, and
opened his curtain. Happily, Pleyel awoke at the critical
moment, and escaped the fury of his kinsman, by leaping from his
chamber-window into the court. Happily, he reached the ground
without injury. Alarms were given, and after diligent search,
your brother was found in a chamber of your house, whither, no
doubt, he had sought you.
"His chains, and the watchfulness of his guards, were
redoubled; but again, by some miracle, he restored himself to
liberty. He was now incautiously apprized of the place of your
abode: and had not information of his escape been instantly
given, your death would have been added to the number of his
"You now see the danger of your project. You must not only
forbear to visit him, but if you would save him from the crime
of embruing his hands in your blood, you must leave the country.
There is no hope that his malady will end but with his life, and
no precaution will ensure your safety, but that of placing the
ocean between you.
"I confess I came over with an intention to reside among you,
but these disasters have changed my views. Your own safety and
my happiness require that you should accompany me in my return,
and I entreat you to give your cheerful concurrence to this
After these representations from my uncle, it was impossible
to retain my purpose. I readily consented to seclude myself
from Wieland's presence. I likewise acquiesced in the proposal
to go to Europe; not that I ever expected to arrive there, but
because, since my principles forbad me to assail my own life,
change had some tendency to make supportable the few days which
disease should spare to me.
What a tale had thus been unfolded! I was hunted to death,
not by one whom my misconduct had exasperated, who was conscious
of illicit motives, and who sought his end by circumvention and
surprize; but by one who deemed himself commissioned for this
act by heaven; who regarded this career of horror as the last
refinement of virtue; whose implacability was proportioned to
the reverence and love which he felt for me, and who was
inaccessible to the fear of punishment and ignominy!
In vain should I endeavour to stay his hand by urging the
claims of a sister or friend: these were his only reasons for
pursuing my destruction. Had I been a stranger to his blood;
had I been the most worthless of human kind; my safety had not
Surely, said I, my fate is without example. The phrenzy
which is charged upon my brother, must belong to myself. My foe
is manacled and guarded; but I derive no security from these
restraints. I live not in a community of savages; yet, whether
I sit or walk, go into crouds, or hide myself in solitude, my
life is marked for a prey to inhuman violence; I am in perpetual
danger of perishing; of perishing under the grasp of a brother!
I recollected the omens of this destiny; I remembered the
gulf to which my brother's invitation had conducted me; I
remembered that, when on the brink of danger, the author of my
peril was depicted by my fears in his form: Thus realized, were
the creatures of prophetic sleep, and of wakeful terror!
These images were unavoidably connected with that of Carwin.
In this paroxysm of distress, my attention fastened on him as
the grand deceiver; the author of this black conspiracy; the
intelligence that governed in this storm.
Some relief is afforded in the midst of suffering, when its
author is discovered or imagined; and an object found on which
we may pour out our indignation and our vengeance. I ran over
the events that had taken place since the origin of our
intercourse with him, and reflected on the tenor of that
description which was received from Ludloe. Mixed up with
notions of supernatural agency, were the vehement suspicions
which I entertained, that Carwin was the enemy whose
machinations had destroyed us.
I thirsted for knowledge and for vengeance. I regarded my
hasty departure with reluctance, since it would remove me from
the means by which this knowledge might be obtained, and this
vengeance gratified. This departure was to take place in two
days. At the end of two days I was to bid an eternal adieu to
my native country. Should I not pay a parting visit to the
scene of these disasters? Should I not bedew with my tears the
graves of my sister and her children? Should I not explore
their desolate habitation, and gather from the sight of its
walls and furniture food for my eternal melancholy?
This suggestion was succeeded by a secret shuddering. Some
disastrous influence appeared to overhang the scene. How many
memorials should I meet with serving to recall the images of
those I had lost!
I was tempted to relinquish my design, when it occurred to me
that I had left among my papers a journal of transactions in
shorthand. I was employed in this manuscript on that night when
Pleyel's incautious curiosity tempted him to look over my
shoulder. I was then recording my adventure in THE RECESS, an
imperfect sight of which led him into such fatal errors.
I had regulated the disposition of all my property. This
manuscript, however, which contained the most secret
transactions of my life, I was desirous of destroying. For this
end I must return to my house, and this I immediately determined
I was not willing to expose myself to opposition from my
friends, by mentioning my design; I therefore bespoke the use of
Mr. Hallet's chaise, under pretence of enjoying an airing, as
the day was remarkably bright.
This request was gladly complied with, and I directed the
servant to conduct me to Mettingen. I dismissed him at the
gate, intending to use, in returning, a carriage belonging to my
The inhabitants of the HUT received me with a mixture of joy
and surprize. Their homely welcome, and their artless sympathy,
were grateful to my feelings. In the midst of their inquiries,
as to my health, they avoided all allusions to the source of my
malady. They were honest creatures, and I loved them well. I
participated in the tears which they shed when I mentioned to
them my speedy departure for Europe, and promised to acquaint
them with my welfare during my long absence.
They expressed great surprize when I informed them of my
intention to visit my cottage. Alarm and foreboding overspread
their features, and they attempted to dissuade me from visiting
an house which they firmly believed to be haunted by a thousand
These apprehensions, however, had no power over my conduct.
I took an irregular path which led me to my own house. All was
vacant and forlorn. A small enclosure, near which the path led,
was the burying-ground belonging to the family. This I was
obliged to pass. Once I had intended to enter it, and ponder on
the emblems and inscriptions which my uncle had caused to be
made on the tombs of Catharine and her children; but now my
heart faltered as I approached, and I hastened forward, that
distance might conceal it from my view.
When I approached the recess, my heart again sunk. I averted
my eyes, and left it behind me as quickly as possible. Silence
reigned through my habitation, and a darkness which closed doors
and shutters produced. Every object was connected with mine or
my brother's history. I passed the entry, mounted the stair,
and unlocked the door of my chamber. It was with difficulty
that I curbed my fancy and smothered my fears. Slight movements
and casual sounds were transformed into beckoning shadows and
I proceeded to the closet. I opened and looked round it with
fearfulness. All things were in their accustomed order. I
sought and found the manuscript where I was used to deposit it.
This being secured, there was nothing to detain me; yet I stood
and contemplated awhile the furniture and walls of my chamber.
I remembered how long this apartment had been a sweet and
tranquil asylum; I compared its former state with its present
dreariness, and reflected that I now beheld it for the last
Here it was that the incomprehensible behaviour of Carwin was
witnessed: this the stage on which that enemy of man shewed
himself for a moment unmasked. Here the menaces of murder were
wafted to my ear; and here these menaces were executed.
These thoughts had a tendency to take from me my
self-command. My feeble limbs refused to support me, and I sunk
upon a chair. Incoherent and half-articulate exclamations
escaped my lips. The name of Carwin was uttered, and eternal
woes, woes like that which his malice had entailed upon us, were
heaped upon him. I invoked all-seeing heaven to drag to light
and to punish this betrayer, and accused its providence for
having thus long delayed the retribution that was due to so
enormous a guilt.
I have said that the window shutters were closed. A feeble
light, however, found entrance through the crevices. A small
window illuminated the closet, and the door being closed, a dim
ray streamed through the key-hole. A kind of twilight was thus
created, sufficient for the purposes of vision; but, at the same
time, involving all minuter objects in obscurity.
This darkness suited the colour of my thoughts. I sickened
at the remembrance of the past. The prospect of the future
excited my loathing. I muttered in a low voice, Why should I
live longer? Why should I drag a miserable being? All, for
whom I ought to live, have perished. Am I not myself hunted to
At that moment, my despair suddenly became vigorous. My
nerves were no longer unstrung. My powers, that had long been
deadened, were revived. My bosom swelled with a sudden energy,
and the conviction darted through my mind, that to end my
torments was, at once, practicable and wise.
I knew how to find way to the recesses of life. I could use
a lancet with some skill, and could distinguish between vein and
artery. By piercing deep into the latter, I should shun the
evils which the future had in store for me, and take refuge from
my woes in quiet death.
I started on my feet, for my feebleness was gone, and hasted
to the closet. A lancet and other small instruments were
preserved in a case which I had deposited here. Inattentive as
I was to foreign considerations, my ears were still open to any
sound of mysterious import that should occur. I thought I heard
a step in the entry. My purpose was suspended, and I cast an
eager glance at my chamber door, which was open. No one
appeared, unless the shadow which I discerned upon the floor,
was the outline of a man. If it were, I was authorized to
suspect that some one was posted close to the entrance, who
possibly had overheard my exclamations.
My teeth chattered, and a wild confusion took place of my
momentary calm. Thus it was when a terrific visage had
disclosed itself on a former night. Thus it was when the evil
destiny of Wieland assumed the lineaments of something human.
What horrid apparition was preparing to blast my sight?
Still I listened and gazed. Not long, for the shadow moved;
a foot, unshapely and huge, was thrust forward; a form advanced
from its concealment, and stalked into the room. It was Carwin!
While I had breath I shrieked. While I had power over my
muscles, I motioned with my hand that he should vanish. My
exertions could not last long; I sunk into a fit.
O that this grateful oblivion had lasted for ever! Too
quickly I recovered my senses. The power of distinct vision was
no sooner restored to me, than this hateful form again presented
itself, and I once more relapsed.
A second time, untoward nature recalled me from the sleep of
death. I found myself stretched upon the bed. When I had power
to look up, I remembered only that I had cause to fear. My
distempered fancy fashioned to itself no distinguishable image.
I threw a languid glance round me; once more my eyes lighted
He was seated on the floor, his back rested against the wall,
his knees were drawn up, and his face was buried in his hands.
That his station was at some distance, that his attitude was not
menacing, that his ominous visage was concealed, may account for
my now escaping a shock, violent as those which were past. I
withdrew my eyes, but was not again deserted by my senses.
On perceiving that I had recovered my sensibility, he lifted
his head. This motion attracted my attention. His countenance
was mild, but sorrow and astonishment sat upon his features. I
averted my eyes and feebly exclaimed--"O! fly--fly far and for
ever!--I cannot behold you and live!"
He did not rise upon his feet, but clasped his hands, and
said in a tone of deprecation--"I will fly. I am become a
fiend, the sight of whom destroys. Yet tell me my offence! You
have linked curses with my name; you ascribe to me a malice
monstrous and infernal. I look around; all is loneliness and
desert! This house and your brother's are solitary and
dismantled! You die away at the sight of me! My fear whispers
that some deed of horror has been perpetrated; that I am the
What language was this? Had he not avowed himself a
ravisher? Had not this chamber witnessed his atrocious
purposes? I besought him with new vehemence to go.
He lifted his eyes--"Great heaven! what have I done? I think
I know the extent of my offences. I have acted, but my actions
have possibly effected more than I designed. This fear has
brought me back from my retreat. I come to repair the evil of
which my rashness was the cause, and to prevent more evil. I
come to confess my errors."
"Wretch!" I cried when my suffocating emotions would permit
me to speak, "the ghosts of my sister and her children, do they
not rise to accuse thee? Who was it that blasted the intellects
of Wieland? Who was it that urged him to fury, and guided him
to murder? Who, but thou and the devil, with whom thou art
At these words a new spirit pervaded his countenance. His
eyes once more appealed to heaven. "If I have memory, if I have
being, I am innocent. I intended no ill; but my folly,
indirectly and remotely, may have caused it; but what words are
these! Your brother lunatic! His children dead!"
What should I infer from this deportment? Was the ignorance
which these words implied real or pretended?--Yet how could I
imagine a mere human agency in these events? But if the
influence was preternatural or maniacal in my brother's case,
they must be equally so in my own. Then I remembered that the
voice exerted, was to save me from Carwin's attempts. These
ideas tended to abate my abhorrence of this man, and to detect
the absurdity of my accusations.
"Alas!" said I, "I have no one to accuse. Leave me to my
fate. Fly from a scene stained with cruelty; devoted to
Carwin stood for a time musing and mournful. At length he
said, "What has happened? I came to expiate my crimes: let me
know them in their full extent. I have horrible forebodings!
What has happened?"
I was silent; but recollecting the intimation given by this
man when he was detected in my closet, which implied some
knowledge of that power which interfered in my favor, I eagerly
inquired, "What was that voice which called upon me to hold when
I attempted to open the closet? What face was that which I saw
at the bottom of the stairs? Answer me truly."
"I came to confess the truth. Your allusions are horrible
and strange. Perhaps I have but faint conceptions of the evils
which my infatuation has produced; but what remains I will
perform. It was my VOICE that you heard! It was my
FACE that you saw!"
For a moment I doubted whether my remembrance of events were
not confused. How could he be at once stationed at my shoulder
and shut up in my closet? How could he stand near me and yet be
invisible? But if Carwin's were the thrilling voice and the
fiery visage which I had heard and seen, then was he the
prompter of my brother, and the author of these dismal outrages.
Once more I averted my eyes and struggled for speech.
"Begone! thou man of mischief! Remorseless and implacable
"I will obey," said he in a disconsolate voice; "yet, wretch
as I am, am I unworthy to repair the evils that I have
committed? I came as a repentant criminal. It is you whom I
have injured, and at your bar am I willing to appear, and
confess and expiate my crimes. I have deceived you: I have
sported with your terrors: I have plotted to destroy your
reputation. I come now to remove your errors; to set you beyond
the reach of similar fears; to rebuild your fame as far as I am
"This is the amount of my guilt, and this the fruit of my
remorse. Will you not hear me? Listen to my confession, and
then denounce punishment. All I ask is a patient audience."
"What!" I replied, "was not thine the voice that commanded my
brother to imbrue his hands in the blood of his children--to
strangle that angel of sweetness his wife? Has he not vowed my
death, and the death of Pleyel, at thy bidding? Hast thou not
made him the butcher of his family; changed him who was the
glory of his species into worse than brute; robbed him of
reason, and consigned the rest of his days to fetters and
Carwin's eyes glared, and his limbs were petrified at this
intelligence. No words were requisite to prove him guiltless of
these enormities: at the time, however, I was nearly insensible
to these exculpatory tokens. He walked to the farther end of
the room, and having recovered some degree of composure, he
"I am not this villain; I have slain no one; I have prompted
none to slay; I have handled a tool of wonderful efficacy
without malignant intentions, but without caution; ample will be
the punishment of my temerity, if my conduct has contributed to
this evil." He paused.--
I likewise was silent. I struggled to command myself so far
as to listen to the tale which he should tell. Observing this,
"You are not apprized of the existence of a power which I
possess. I know not by what name to call it.* It enables me to
mimic exactly the voice of another, and to modify the sound so
that it shall appear to come from what quarter, and be uttered
at what distance I please.
"I know not that every one possesses this power. Perhaps,
though a casual position of my organs in my youth shewed me that
I possessed it, it is an art which may be taught to all. Would
to God I had died unknowing of the secret! It has produced
nothing but degradation and calamity.
"For a time the possession of so potent and stupendous an
endowment elated me with pride. Unfortified by principle,
subjected to poverty, stimulated by headlong passions, I made
this powerful engine subservient to the supply of my wants, and
the gratification of my vanity. I shall not mention how
diligently I cultivated this gift, which seemed capable of
unlimited improvement; nor detail the various occasions on which
it was successfully exerted to lead superstition, conquer
avarice, or excite awe.
"I left America, which is my native soil, in my youth. I
have been engaged in various scenes of life, in which my
peculiar talent has been exercised with more or less success.
I was finally betrayed by one who called himself my friend, into
acts which cannot be justified, though they are susceptible of
"The perfidy of this man compelled me to withdraw from
Europe. I returned to my native country, uncertain whether
silence and obscurity would save me from his malice. I resided
in the purlieus of the city. I put on the garb and assumed the
manners of a clown.
"My chief recreation was walking. My principal haunts were
the lawns and gardens of Mettingen. In this delightful region
the luxuriances of nature had been chastened by judicious art,
and each successive contemplation unfolded new enchantments.
" I was studious of seclusion: I was satiated with the
intercourse of mankind, and discretion required me to shun their
intercourse. For these reasons I long avoided the observation
of your family, and chiefly visited these precincts at night.
"I was never weary of admiring the position and ornaments of
THE TEMPLE. Many a night have I passed under its roof,
revolving no pleasing meditations. When, in my frequent
rambles, I perceived this apartment was occupied, I gave a
different direction to my steps. One evening, when a shower had
just passed, judging by the silence that no one was within, I
ascended to this building. Glancing carelessly round, I
perceived an open letter on the pedestal. To read it was
doubtless an offence against politeness. Of this offence,
however, I was guilty.
"Scarcely had I gone half through when I was alarmed by the
approach of your brother. To scramble down the cliff on the
opposite side was impracticable. I was unprepared to meet a
stranger. Besides the aukwardness attending such an interview
in these circumstances, concealment was necessary to my safety.
A thousand times had I vowed never again to employ the dangerous
talent which I possessed; but such was the force of habit and
the influence of present convenience, that I used this method of
arresting his progress and leading him back to the house, with
his errand, whatever it was, unperformed. I had often caught
parts, from my station below, of your conversation in this
place, and was well acquainted with the voice of your sister.
"Some weeks after this I was again quietly seated in this
recess. The lateness of the hour secured me, as I thought, from
all interruption. In this, however, I was mistaken, for Wieland
and Pleyel, as I judged by their voices, earnest in dispute,
ascended the hill.
"I was not sensible that any inconvenience could possibly
have flowed from my former exertion; yet it was followed with
compunction, because it was a deviation from a path which I had
assigned to myself. Now my aversion to this means of escape was
enforced by an unauthorized curiosity, and by the knowledge of
a bushy hollow on the edge of the hill, where I should be safe
from discovery. Into this hollow I thrust myself.
"The propriety of removal to Europe was the question eagerly
discussed. Pleyel intimated that his anxiety to go was
augmented by the silence of Theresa de Stolberg. The temptation
to interfere in this dispute was irresistible. In vain I
contended with inveterate habits. I disguised to myself the
impropriety of my conduct, by recollecting the benefits which it
might produce. Pleyel's proposal was unwise, yet it was
enforced with plausible arguments and indefatigable zeal. Your
brother might be puzzled and wearied, but could not be
convinced. I conceived that to terminate the controversy in
favor of the latter was conferring a benefit on all parties.
For this end I profited by an opening in the conversation, and
assured them of Catharine's irreconcilable aversion to the
scheme, and of the death of the Saxon baroness. The latter
event was merely a conjecture, but rendered extremely probable
by Pleyel's representations. My purpose, you need not be told,
"My passion for mystery, and a species of imposture, which I
deemed harmless, was thus awakened afresh. This second lapse
into error made my recovery more difficult. I cannot convey to
you an adequate idea of the kind of gratification which I
derived from these exploits; yet I meditated nothing. My views
were bounded to the passing moment, and commonly suggested by
the momentary exigence.
"I must not conceal any thing. Your principles teach you to
abhor a voluptuous temper; but, with whatever reluctance, I
acknowledge this temper to be mine. You imagine your servant
Judith to be innocent as well as beautiful; but you took her
from a family where hypocrisy, as well as licentiousness, was
wrought into a system. My attention was captivated by her
charms, and her principles were easily seen to be flexible.
"Deem me not capable of the iniquity of seduction. Your
servant is not destitute of feminine and virtuous qualities; but
she was taught that the best use of her charms consists in the
sale of them. My nocturnal visits to Mettingen were now
prompted by a double view, and my correspondence with your
servant gave me, at all times, access to your house.
"The second night after our interview, so brief and so little
foreseen by either of us, some daemon of mischief seized me.
According to my companion's report, your perfections were little
less than divine. Her uncouth but copious narratives converted
you into an object of worship. She chiefly dwelt upon your
courage, because she herself was deficient in that quality. You
held apparitions and goblins in contempt. You took no
precautions against robbers. You were just as tranquil and
secure in this lonely dwelling, as if you were in the midst of
"Hence a vague project occurred to me, to put this courage to
the test. A woman capable of recollection in danger, of warding
off groundless panics, of discerning the true mode of
proceeding, and profiting by her best resources, is a prodigy.
I was desirous of ascertaining whether you were such an one.
"My expedient was obvious and simple: I was to counterfeit
a murderous dialogue; but this was to be so conducted that
another, and not yourself, should appear to be the object. I
was not aware of the possibility that you should appropriate
these menaces to yourself. Had you been still and listened, you
would have heard the struggles and prayers of the victim, who
would likewise have appeared to be shut up in the closet, and
whose voice would have been Judith's. This scene would have
been an appeal to your compassion; and the proof of cowardice or
courage which I expected from you, would have been your
remaining inactive in your bed, or your entering the closet with
a view to assist the sufferer. Some instances which Judith
related of your fearlessness and promptitude made me adopt the
latter supposition with some degree of confidence.
"By the girl's direction I found a ladder, and mounted to
your closet window. This is scarcely large enough to admit the
head, but it answered my purpose too well.
"I cannot express my confusion and surprize at your abrupt
and precipitate flight. I hastily removed the ladder; and,
after some pause, curiosity and doubts of your safety induced me
to follow you. I found you stretched on the turf before your
brother's door, without sense or motion. I felt the deepest
regret at this unlooked-for consequence of my scheme. I knew
not what to do to procure you relief. The idea of awakening the
family naturally presented itself. This emergency was critical,
and there was no time to deliberate. It was a sudden thought
that occurred. I put my lips to the key-hole, and sounded an
alarm which effectually roused the sleepers. My organs were
naturally forcible, and had been improved by long and assiduous
"Long and bitterly did I repent of my scheme. I was somewhat
consoled by reflecting that my purpose had not been evil, and
renewed my fruitless vows never to attempt such dangerous
experiments. For some time I adhered, with laudable
forbearance, to this resolution.
"My life has been a life of hardship and exposure. In the
summer I prefer to make my bed of the smooth turf, or, at most,
the shelter of a summer-house suffices. In all my rambles I
never found a spot in which so many picturesque beauties and
rural delights were assembled as at Mettingen. No corner of
your little domain unites fragrance and secrecy in so perfect a
degree as the recess in the bank. The odour of its leaves, the
coolness of its shade, and the music of its water-fall, had
early attracted my attention. Here my sadness was converted
into peaceful melancholy--here my slumbers were sound, and my
"As most free from interruption, I chose this as the scene of
my midnight interviews with Judith. One evening, as the sun
declined, I was seated here, when I was alarmed by your
approach. It was with difficulty that I effected my escape
unnoticed by you.
"At the customary hour, I returned to your habitation, and
was made acquainted by Judith, with your unusual absence. I
half suspected the true cause, and felt uneasiness at the danger
there was that I should be deprived of my retreat; or, at least,
interrupted in the possession of it. The girl, likewise,
informed me, that among your other singularities, it was not
uncommon for you to leave your bed, and walk forth for the sake
of night-airs and starlight contemplations.
"I desired to prevent this inconvenience. I found you easily
swayed by fear. I was influenced, in my choice of means, by the
facility and certainty of that to which I had been accustomed.
All that I forsaw was, that, in future, this spot would be
cautiously shunned by you.
"I entered the recess with the utmost caution, and
discovered, by your breathings, in what condition you were. The
unexpected interpretation which you placed upon my former
proceeding, suggested my conduct on the present occasion. The
mode in which heaven is said by the poet, to interfere for the
prevention of crimes,** was somewhat analogous to my province,
and never failed to occur to me at seasons like this. It was
requisite to break your slumbers, and for this end I uttered the
powerful monosyllable, "hold! hold!" My purpose was not
prescribed by duty, yet surely it was far from being atrocious
and inexpiable. To effect it, I uttered what was false, but it
was well suited to my purpose. Nothing less was intended than
to injure you. Nay, the evil resulting from my former act, was
partly removed by assuring you that in all places but this you
*BILOQUIUM, or ventrilocution. Sound is varied according
to the variations of direction and distance. The art of the
ventriloquist consists in modifying his voice according to all
these variations, without changing his place. See the work of
the Abbe de la Chappelle, in which are accurately recorded the
performances of one of these artists, and some ingenious, though
unsatisfactory speculations are given on the means by which the
effects are produced. This power is, perhaps, given by nature,
but is doubtless improvable, if not acquirable, by art. It may,
possibly, consist in an unusual flexibility or exertion of the
bottom of the tongue and the uvula. That speech is producible
by these alone must be granted, since anatomists mention two
instances of persons speaking without a tongue. In one case,
the organ was originally wanting, but its place was supplied by
a small tubercle, and the uvula was perfect. In the other, the
tongue was destroyed by disease, but probably a small part of it
This power is difficult to explain, but the fact is
undeniable. Experience shews that the human voice can imitate
the voice of all men and of all inferior animals. The sound of
musical instruments, and even noises from the contact of
inanimate substances, have been accurately imitated. The
mimicry of animals is notorious; and Dr. Burney (Musical
Travels) mentions one who imitated a flute and violin, so as to
deceive even his ears.
**--Peeps through the blanket of the dark, and cries Hold!
"My morals will appear to you far from rigid, yet my conduct
will fall short of your suspicions. I am now to confess actions
less excusable, and yet surely they will not entitle me to the
name of a desperate or sordid criminal.
"Your house was rendered, by your frequent and long absences,
easily accessible to my curiosity. My meeting with Pleyel was
the prelude to direct intercourse with you. I had seen much of
the world, but your character exhibited a specimen of human
powers that was wholly new to me. My intercourse with your
servant furnished me with curious details of your domestic
management. I was of a different sex: I was not your husband;
I was not even your friend; yet my knowledge of you was of that
kind, which conjugal intimacies can give, and, in some respects,
more accurate. The observation of your domestic was guided by
"You will not be surprized that I should sometimes profit by
your absence, and adventure to examine with my own eyes, the
interior of your chamber. Upright and sincere, you used no
watchfulness, and practised no precautions. I scrutinized every
thing, and pried every where. Your closet was usually locked,
but it was once my fortune to find the key on a bureau. I
opened and found new scope for my curiosity in your books. One
of these was manuscript, and written in characters which
essentially agreed with a short-hand system which I had learned
from a Jesuit missionary.
"I cannot justify my conduct, yet my only crime was
curiosity. I perused this volume with eagerness. The intellect
which it unveiled, was brighter than my limited and feeble
organs could bear. I was naturally inquisitive as to your ideas
respecting my deportment, and the mysteries that had lately
"You know what you have written. You know that in this
volume the key to your inmost soul was contained. If I had been
a profound and malignant impostor, what plenteous materials were
thus furnished me of stratagems and plots!
"The coincidence of your dream in the summer-house with my
exclamation, was truly wonderful. The voice which warned you to
forbear was, doubtless, mine; but mixed by a common process of
the fancy, with the train of visionary incidents.
"I saw in a stronger light than ever, the dangerousness of
that instrument which I employed, and renewed my resolutions to
abstain from the use of it in future; but I was destined
perpetually to violate my resolutions. By some perverse fate,
I was led into circumstances in which the exertion of my powers
was the sole or the best means of escape.
"On that memorable night on which our last interview took
place, I came as usual to Mettingen. I was apprized of your
engagement at your brother's, from which you did not expect to
return till late. Some incident suggested the design of
visiting your chamber. Among your books which I had not
examined, might be something tending to illustrate your
character, or the history of your family. Some intimation had
been dropped by you in discourse, respecting a performance of
your father, in which some important transaction in his life was
"I was desirous of seeing this book; and such was my habitual
attachment to mystery, that I preferred the clandestine perusal
of it. Such were the motives that induced me to make this
attempt. Judith had disappeared, and finding the house
unoccupied, I supplied myself with a light, and proceeded to
"I found it easy, on experiment, to lock and unlock your
closet door without the aid of a key. I shut myself in this
recess, and was busily exploring your shelves, when I heard some
one enter the room below. I was at a loss who it could be,
whether you or your servant. Doubtful, however, as I was, I
conceived it prudent to extinguish the light. Scarcely was this
done, when some one entered the chamber. The footsteps were
easily distinguished to be yours.
"My situation was now full of danger and perplexity. For
some time, I cherished the hope that you would leave the room so
long as to afford me an opportunity of escaping. As the hours
passed, this hope gradually deserted me. It was plain that you
had retired for the night.
"I knew not how soon you might find occasion to enter the
closet. I was alive to all the horrors of detection, and
ruminated without ceasing, on the behaviour which it would be
proper, in case of detection, to adopt. I was unable to
discover any consistent method of accounting for my being thus
"It occurred to me that I might withdraw you from your
chamber for a few minutes, by counterfeiting a voice from
without. Some message from your brother might be delivered,
requiring your presence at his house. I was deterred from this
scheme by reflecting on the resolution I had formed, and on the
possible evils that might result from it. Besides, it was not
improbable that you would speedily retire to bed, and then, by
the exercise of sufficient caution, I might hope to escape
"Meanwhile I listened with the deepest anxiety to every
motion from without. I discovered nothing which betokened
preparation for sleep. Instead of this I heard deep-drawn
sighs, and occasionally an half-expressed and mournful
ejaculation. Hence I inferred that you were unhappy. The true
state of your mind with regard to Pleyel your own pen had
disclosed; but I supposed you to be framed of such materials,
that, though a momentary sadness might affect you, you were
impregnable to any permanent and heartfelt grief. Inquietude
for my own safety was, for a moment, suspended by sympathy with
"To the former consideration I was quickly recalled by a
motion of yours which indicated I knew not what. I fostered the
persuasion that you would now retire to bed; but presently you
approached the closet, and detection seemed to be inevitable.
You put your hand upon the lock. I had formed no plan to
extricate myself from the dilemma in which the opening of the
door would involve me. I felt an irreconcilable aversion to
detection. Thus situated, I involuntarily seized the door with
a resolution to resist your efforts to open it.
"Suddenly you receded from the door. This deportment was
inexplicable, but the relief it afforded me was quickly gone.
You returned, and I once more was thrown into perplexity. The
expedient that suggested itself was precipitate and inartificial.
I exerted my organs and called upon you TO HOLD.
"That you should persist in spite of this admonition, was a
subject of astonishment. I again resisted your efforts; for the
first expedient having failed, I knew not what other to resort
to. In this state, how was my astonishment increased when I
heard your exclamations!
"It was now plain that you knew me to be within. Further
resistance was unavailing and useless. The door opened, and I
shrunk backward. Seldom have I felt deeper mortification, and
more painful perplexity. I did not consider that the truth
would be less injurious than any lie which I could hastily
frame. Conscious as I was of a certain degree of guilt, I
conceived that you would form the most odious suspicions. The
truth would be imperfect, unless I were likewise to explain the
mysterious admonition which had been given; but that explanation
was of too great moment, and involved too extensive consequences
to make me suddenly resolve to give it.
"I was aware that this discovery would associate itself in
your mind, with the dialogue formerly heard in this closet.
Thence would your suspicions be aggravated, and to escape from
these suspicions would be impossible. But the mere truth would
be sufficiently opprobrious, and deprive me for ever of your
"Thus was I rendered desperate, and my mind rapidly passed to
the contemplation of the use that might be made of previous
events. Some good genius would appear to you to have interposed
to save you from injury intended by me. Why, I said, since I
must sink in her opinion, should I not cherish this belief? Why
not personate an enemy, and pretend that celestial interference
has frustrated my schemes? I must fly, but let me leave wonder
and fear behind me. Elucidation of the mystery will always be
practicable. I shall do no injury, but merely talk of evil that
was designed, but is now past.
"Thus I extenuated my conduct to myself, but I scarcely
expect that this will be to you a sufficient explication of the
scene that followed. Those habits which I have imbibed, the
rooted passion which possesses me for scattering around me
amazement and fear, you enjoy no opportunities of knowing. That
a man should wantonly impute to himself the most flagitious
designs, will hardly be credited, even though you reflect that
my reputation was already, by my own folly, irretrievably
ruined; and that it was always in my power to communicate the
truth, and rectify the mistake.
"I left you to ponder on this scene. My mind was full of
rapid and incongruous ideas. Compunction, self-upbraiding,
hopelesness, satisfaction at the view of those effects likely to
flow from my new scheme, misgivings as to the beneficial result
of this scheme took possession of my mind, and seemed to
struggle for the mastery.
"I had gone too far to recede. I had painted myself to you
as an assassin and ravisher, withheld from guilt only by a voice
from heaven. I had thus reverted into the path of error, and
now, having gone thus far, my progress seemed to be irrevocable.
I said to myself, I must leave these precincts for ever. My
acts have blasted my fame in the eyes of the Wielands. For the
sake of creating a mysterious dread, I have made myself a
villain. I may complete this mysterious plan by some new
imposture, but I cannot aggravate my supposed guilt.
"My resolution was formed, and I was swiftly ruminating on
the means for executing it, when Pleyel appeared in sight. This
incident decided my conduct. It was plain that Pleyel was a
devoted lover, but he was, at the same time, a man of cold
resolves and exquisite sagacity. To deceive him would be the
sweetest triumph I had ever enjoyed. The deception would be
momentary, but it would likewise be complete. That his delusion
would so soon be rectified, was a recommendation to my scheme,
for I esteemed him too much to desire to entail upon him lasting
"I had no time to reflect further, for he proceeded, with a
quick step, towards the house. I was hurried onward
involuntarily and by a mechanical impulse. I followed him as he
passed the recess in the bank, and shrowding myself in that
spot, I counterfeited sounds which I knew would arrest his
"He stopped, turned, listened, approached, and overheard a
dialogue whose purpose was to vanquish his belief in a point
where his belief was most difficult to vanquish. I exerted all
my powers to imitate your voice, your general sentiments, and
your language. Being master, by means of your journal, of your
personal history and most secret thoughts, my efforts were the
more successful. When I reviewed the tenor of this dialogue, I
cannot believe but that Pleyel was deluded. When I think of
your character, and of the inferences which this dialogue was
intended to suggest, it seems incredible that this delusion
should be produced.
"I spared not myself. I called myself murderer, thief,
guilty of innumerable perjuries and misdeeds: that you had
debased yourself to the level of such an one, no evidence,
methought, would suffice to convince him who knew you so
thoroughly as Pleyel; and yet the imposture amounted to proof
which the most jealous scrutiny would find to be
"He left his station precipitately and resumed his way to the
house. I saw that the detection of his error would be
instantaneous, since, not having gone to bed, an immediate
interview would take place between you. At first this
circumstance was considered with regret; but as time opened my
eyes to the possible consequences of this scene, I regarded it
"In a short time the infatuation which had led me thus far
began to subside. The remembrance of former reasonings and
transactions was renewed. How often I had repented this kind of
exertion; how many evils were produced by it which I had not
foreseen; what occasions for the bitterest remorse it had
administered, now passed through my mind. The black catalogue
of stratagems was now increased. I had inspired you with the
most vehement terrors: I had filled your mind with faith in
shadows and confidence in dreams: I had depraved the
imagination of Pleyel: I had exhibited you to his understanding
as devoted to brutal gratifications and consummate in hypocrisy.
The evidence which accompanied this delusion would be
irresistible to one whose passion had perverted his judgment,
whose jealousy with regard to me had already been excited, and
who, therefore, would not fail to overrate the force of this
evidence. What fatal act of despair or of vengeance might not
this error produce?
"With regard to myself, I had acted with a phrenzy that
surpassed belief. I had warred against my peace and my fame:
I had banished myself from the fellowship of vigorous and pure
minds: I was self-expelled from a scene which the munificence
of nature had adorned with unrivalled beauties, and from haunts
in which all the muses and humanities had taken refuge.
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