Fashionable Philosophy - and Other Sketches
by Laurence Oliphant
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Transcribed from the 1887 William Blackwood and Sons edition by David Price, email


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That railway travel is not, as a rule, conducive to serious thought, may fairly be inferred from the class of literature displayed on the bookstalls at the stations. I have therefore refrained from any attempt to excite the reflective faculties of the reader, excepting in the first and third of the accompanying sketches, and even in these have only ventured to suggest ideas, the full scope and pregnancy of which it must be left to his own idiosyncrasy to appreciate and develop, the more especially as they bear upon a certain current of investigation which has recently become popular.

I have to express my thanks to the Editor of the 'Nineteenth Century Review' for the kind permission he has granted me to reproduce "The Sisters of Thibet"; and I avail myself of the opportunity thus afforded of removing the impression which, to my surprise, was conveyed to me by letters from numerous correspondents, that the article contained any record of my own personal experiences. The satire was suggested by the work of an author whose sincerity I do not doubt, and for whose motives I have the highest respect, in order to point out what appears to me the defective morality, from an altruistic and practical point of view, of a system of which he is the principal exponent in this country, and which, under the name of Esoteric Buddhism, still seems to possess some fascination for a certain class of minds.

The other articles originally appeared in 'Blackwood's Magazine,' and I wish to express my acknowledgments to my publishers for their usual courtesy in allowing me to republish them in this form.

ATHENAEUM CLUB, January 1887.


Fashionable Philosophy The Brigand's Bride: a tale of Southern Italy The Sisters of Thibet Adolphus: a comedy of affinities


SCENE—A London Drawing-room. TIME—5 o'clock P.M.

The afternoon tea apparatus in one corner of the room, and Lady Fritterly on a couch in another. The Hon. Mrs Allmash is announced.

Lady Fritterly. How too kind, dear, of you to come, and so early, too! I've got such a lot of interesting people coming, and we are going to discuss the religion of the future.

Mrs Allmash. How quite delightful! I do so long for something more substantial than the theologies of the past! It is becoming quite puzzling to know what to teach one's children: mine are getting old enough now to understand about things, and one ought to teach them something. I was talking about it to that charming Professor Germsell last night.

Lady Fritterly. Well, I hope he is coming presently, so you will be able to continue your conversation. Then there is Mr Coldwaite, the celebrated Comtist; and Mr Fussle, who writes those delightful articles on prehistoric aesthetic evolution; and Mr Drygull, the eminent theosophist, whose stories about esoteric Buddhism are quite too extraordinary, and who has promised to bring a Khoja—a most interesting moral specimen, my dear—who has just arrived from Bombay; and Lord Fondleton.

Mrs Allmash. Lord Fondleton! I did not know that he was interested in such subjects.

Lady Fritterly. He says he is, dear; between ourselves—but this, of course, is strictly entre nous—I rather think that it is I who interest him: but I encourage him, poor fellow; it may wean him from the unprofitable life he is leading, and turn his mind to higher things. Oh! I almost forgot,—-then there is my new beauty!

Mrs Allmash. Your new beauty!

Lady Fritterly. Yes; if you could only have dined with me the other night, you would have met her. I had such a perfect little dinner. Just think! A poet, an actor, a journalist, a painter, a wit, and a new beauty. I'll tell you how I found her. She really belongs at present to Lady Islington and myself; but of course, now we have started her, all the other people will snap her up. We found that we both owed that vulgar upstart, Mrs Houndsley, a visit, and went there together—because I always think two people are less easily bored than one—when suddenly the most perfect apparition you ever beheld stood before us;—an old master dress, an immense pattern, a large hat rim encircling a face, some rich auburn hair inside, and the face a perfect one. Well, you know, it turned out that she was not born in the purple—her husband is just a clerk in Burley's Bank; but we both insisted on being introduced to her—for, you see, my dear, there is no doubt about it, she is a ready- made beauty. The same idea occurred to Lady Islington, so we agreed as we drove away that we would bring her out. The result is, that she went to Islington House on Tuesday, and came to me on Thursday, and created a perfect furor on both occasions; so now she is fairly started.

Mrs Allmash. How wonderfully clever and fortunate you are, dear! What is her name?

Lady Fritterly. Mrs Gloring.

Mrs Allmash. Oh yes; everybody was talking about her at the Duchess's last night. I am dying to see her; but they say that she is rather a fool.

Lady Fritterly. Pure spite and jealousy. Yet that is the way these Christian women of society obey the precept of their religion, and love their neighbours as themselves.

[Lord Fondleton is announced, accompanied by a stranger.

Lord Fondleton. How d'ye do, Lady Fritterly? I am sure you will excuse my taking the liberty of introducing Mr Rollestone, a very old friend of mine, to you; he has only just returned to England, after an absence of so many years that he is quite a stranger in London.

[Lady Fritterly is "delighted." The rest of the party arrive in rapid succession.

Mrs Allmash. Dear Mr Germsell, I was just telling Lady Fritterly what an interesting conversation we were having last night when it was unfortunately interrupted. I shall be so glad if you would explain more fully now what you were telling me. I am sure everybody would be interested.

Lady Fritterly. Oh do, Mr Germsell; it would be quite too nice of you. And, Mr Drygull, will you ask the Khoja to—

Mr Drygull. My friend's name is Ali Seyyid, Lady Fritterly.

Lady Fritterly. Pray excuse my stupidity, Mr Allyside, and come and sit near me. Lord Fondleton, find Mrs Gloring a chair.

Lord Fondleton [aside to Mrs Gloring]. Who's our black friend?

Mrs Gloring. I am sure I don't know. I think Lady Fritterly called him a codger.

Lord Fondleton. Ah, he looks like it,—and a rum one at that, as our American cousins say.

Mrs Gloring. Hush! Mr Germsell is going to begin.

Mr Germsell. Mrs Allmash asked me last night whether my thoughts had been directed to the topic which is uppermost just now in so many minds in regard to the religion of the future, and I ventured to tell her that it would be found to be contained in the generalised expediency of the past.

Mr Fussle. Pardon me, but the religion of the future must be the result of an evolutionary process, and I don't see how generalisations of past expediency are to help the evolution of humanity.

Germsell. They throw light upon it; and the study of the evolutionary process so far teaches us how we may evolve in the future. For instance, you have only got to think of evolution as divided into moral, astronomic, geologic, biologic, psychologic, sociologic, aesthetic, and so forth, and you will find that there is always an evolution of the parts into which it divides itself, and that therefore there is but one evolution going on everywhere after the same manner. The work of science has been not to extend our experience, for that is impossible, but to systematise it; and in that systematisation of it will be found the religion of which we are in search.

Drygull. May I ask why you deem it impossible that our experience can be extended?

Germsell. Because it has itself defined its limits. The combined experience of humanity, so far as its earliest records go, has been limited by laws, the nature of which have been ascertained: it is impossible that it should be transcended without violation of the conclusions arrived at by positive science.

Drygull. I can more easily understand that the conclusions arrived at by men of science should be limited, than that the experience of humanity should be confined by those conclusions; but I fail to perceive why those philosophers should deny the existence of certain human faculties, because they don't happen to possess them themselves. I think I know a Rishi who can produce experiences which would scatter all their conclusions to the winds, when the whole system which is built upon them would collapse.

Mrs Gloring [aside to Lord Fondleton]. Pray, Lord Fondleton, can you tell me what a Rishi is?

Lord Fondleton. A man who has got into higher states, you know—what I heard Mr Drygull call a transcendentalist the other day, whatever that may be. I don't understand much about these matters myself, but I take it he is a sort of evolved codger.

Mrs Allmash. Oh, how awfully interesting! Dear Mr Drygull, do tell us some of the extraordinary things the Rishi can do.

Drygull. If you will only all of you listen attentively, and if Mr Germsell will have the goodness to modify to some degree the prejudiced attitude of mind common to all men of science, you will hear him as plainly as I can at this moment beating a tom-tom in his cottage in the Himalayas.

[Mr Germsell gets up impatiently, and walks to the other end of the back drawing-room.

Drygull [casting a compassionate glance after him]. Perhaps it is better so. Now please, Lady Fritterly, I must request a few moments of the most profound silence on the part of all. You will not hear the sound as though coming from a distance, but it will seem rather like a muffled drumming taking place inside your head, scarcely perceptible at first, when its volume will gradually increase.

Lord Fondleton [aside to Mrs Gloring]. Some bad champagne produced the same phenomenon in my head last night.

Lady Fritterly [severely]. Hush! Lord Fondleton.

[There is a dead silence for some minutes.

Mrs Gloring [excitedly]. Oh, I hear it! It is something like a woodpecker inside of one.

Drygull. Not a word, my dear madam, if you please.

Lady Fritterly [after a long pause]. I imagine I hear a very faint something; there it goes—boom, boom, boom—at the back of my tympanum.

Lord Fondleton. That's not like a woodpecker.

Mrs Gloring. No; it seems to me more like tic-tic-tic.

Mrs Allmash. How too tiresome! I can't hear anything. I suppose it is on account of the rumble of the carriages.

Lord Fondleton [whispers to Mrs Gloring]. I hear something inside of me; do you know what?

Mrs Gloring. No; what?

Lord Fondleton. The beating of my own heart. Can't you guess for whom?

Mrs Gloring. No. Perhaps the Rishi makes it beat.

Lord Fondleton. Dear Mrs Gloring, you are the Rishi for whom—

Mrs Gloring. Hush!

Lady Fritterly. There, it is getting louder, like distant artillery, and yet so near. Oh, Mr Drygull, what a wonderful man the Rishi must be!

Drygull. Yes; he knew that at this hour to-day I should need an illustration of his power, and he is kindly furnishing us with one. This is an experience which I think our friend over there [looking towards Mr Germsell] would find it difficult to classify.

Germsell. Fussle, have the goodness to step here for a moment—[points to a woman beating a carpet in the back-yard of an adjoining house]. That is the tom-tom in the Himalayas they are listening to.

Fussle. Well, now, do you know, I don't feel quite sure of that. I was certainly conscious of a sort of internal hearing of something when you called me, which was not that; it was as though I had fiddlestrings in my head and somebody was beginning to strum upon them.

Germsell. Fiddlestrings indeed—say rather fiddlesticks. I am surprised at a sensible man like yourself listening to such nonsense.

Fussle [testily]. It is much greater nonsense for you to tell me I don't hear something I do hear, than for me to hear something you can't hear. You may be deaf, while my sense of hearing may be evolving. Can you hear what Lord Fondleton is saying to Mrs Gloring at this moment?

Germsell. No, and I don't want to.

Fussle. Ah, there it is. You won't hear anything you don't want to. Now I can, and he ought not to say it;—look how she is blushing. Oh, I forgot you are short-sighted. Well, you see, I can hear further than you, and see further than you. Why should you set a limit on the evolution of the senses, and say that no man in the future can ever hear or see further than men have in the past? How dare you, sir, with your imperfect faculties and your perfunctory method of research, which can only cover an infinitesimal period in the existence of this planet, venture to limit the potentialities of those laws which have already converted us from ascidians into men, and which may as easily evolve in us the faculty of hearing tom-toms in the Himalayas while we are sitting here, as of that articulate speech or intelligent reasoning which, owing to their operation, we now possess?

Germsell. Pardon me, you do not possess them, Mr Fussle.

Lady Fritterly. Mr Fussle, might I ask you to take this cup of tea to Mrs Allmash? Mr Germsell, it would be too kind of you to hand Mrs Gloring the cake.

Fussle [savagely]. We will continue this conversation at the Minerva.

Mrs Allmash [apart to the Khoja]. Oh, Mr Allyside, I am so glad to hear that you speak English so perfectly! I want you to tell me all about your religion; perhaps it may help us, you know, to find the religion of the future, which we are all longing for. And I am so interested in oriental religions! there is something so charmingly picturesque about them. I quite dote on those dear old Shastras, and Vedas, and Puranas; they contain such a lot of beautiful things, you know.

Ali Seyyid. I know as little, madam, of the Indian books you mention as I do of the Bible, which I have always heard was a very good book, and contained also a great many beautiful things. I am neither a Hindoo nor a Buddhist,—in fact, it is forbidden to me by my religion to tell you exactly what I am.

Mrs Allmash. But indeed I won't tell anybody if you will only confide in me. Oh, this mystery is too exquisitely delicious! Who knows, perhaps you might make a convert of me?

Ali Seyyid [with an admiring gaze]. Madam, you would be a prize so well worth winning, that you almost tempt me. The first of our secrets is that we are all things to all men, until we are quite sure of the sympathy of the listener; then we venture a step further.

Mrs Allmash. How wise that is! and how unlike the system adopted by Christians! You may be sure of my most entire sympathy.

Ali Seyyid. The next principle is—but this is a profound secret, which you must promise not to repeat—the rejection of all fixed rules of religion or morality. It really does not matter in the least what you do: the internal disposition is the only thing of any value. Now, as far as I understand, you have already got rid of the religion, or you would not be looking for a new one; all you have to do is to get rid of the morality, and there you are.

Mrs Allmash [with an expression of horror and alarm]. Yes, there I should be indeed. Oh, Mr Allyside, what a dreadful man you are! Who started such an extraordinary doctrine?

Ali Seyyid. Well, his name was Hassan-bin-Saba—commonly known among Westerns as the "Old Man of the Mountain." His followers, owing to the value they attached to murder as a remedial agent, have been known by the name of the "Assassins."

Mrs Allmash. Oh, good gracious!

Lady Fritterly. My dear Louisa, what is the matter? You look quite frightened.

Ali Seyyid. Mrs Allmash is a little alarmed because I proposed a new morality for the future, as well as a new religion.

Mr Coldwaite. Excuse me; but in discussions of this sort, I think it is most important that we should clearly understand the meanings of the terms we employ. Now I deny that any difference subsists between religion and morality. That any such distinction should exist in men's minds is due to the fact that dogma is inseparably connected with religion. If you eliminate dogma, what does religion consist of but morality? Substitute the love of Humanity for the love of the Unknowable—which is the subject of worship of Mr Germsell; or of the Deity, who is the object of worship of the majority of mankind—and you obtain a stimulus to morality which will suffice for all human need. It is in this great emotion, as it seems to me, that you will find at once the religion and the morality of the future.

Germsell. From what source do you get the force which enables you to love humanity with a devotion so intense that it shall elevate your present moral standard?

Coldwaite. From humanity itself. I am not going to be entrapped into getting it from any unknowable source; the love of humanity, whether it be humanity as existing, or when absorbed by death into the general mass, is perpetually generating itself.

Mrs Allmash. Then it must produce itself from what was there before; therefore it must be the same love, which keeps on going round and round.

Lord Fondleton. A sort of circular love, in fact. I've often felt it: but I didn't think it right to encourage it.

Lady Fritterly. Lord Fondleton, how can you be so silly? Don't pay attention to him, Mr Coldwaite. I confess I still don't see how you can get a higher love out of humanity than humanity has already got in it, unless you are to look to some other source for it.

Coldwaite. Why, mayn't it evolve from itself?

Germsell. How can it evolve without a propulsive force behind it? The thing is too palpable an absurdity to need argument. You can no more fix limits to the origin of force than you can destroy its persistency.

Lord Fondleton [aside]. That seems to me one of those sort of things no fellow can understand.

Germsell. All you can say of it is that it is a conditioned effect of an unconditioned cause. That no idea or feeling arises, save as a result of some physical force expended in producing it, is fast becoming a commonplace of science; and whoever duly weighs the evidence will see that nothing but an overwhelming bias in favour of a preconceived theory can explain its non-acceptance. I think my friend Mr Herbert Spencer has demonstrated this conclusively.

Coldwaite. Pardon me; do I understand you to say that the mental process which enabled Mr Spencer to elaborate his system of philosophy, or that the profound emotion which finds its expression in a love for humanity, are the result of physical force alone?

Germsell. He says so himself, and he ought to know. His whole system of philosophy is nothing more nor less than the result of the liberation of certain forces produced by chemical action in the brain.

Drygull. Then, if I understand you rightly, if the chemical changes which have been taking place for some years past in his brain had liberated a different set of forces, we should have had altogether a different philosophy.

Germsell. The chemical changes would in that case have been different.

Drygull. But the changes must be produced by forces acting on them.

Germsell. Exactly: a force which has its source in the Unknowable produces a certain chemical action in the brain by which it becomes converted into thought or emotion, into love or philosophy, into art or religion, as the case may be: what the nature of that love or philosophy, or art or religion, may be, must depend entirely on the nature of the chemical change.

Lord Fondleton [aside to Mrs Gloring]. I feel the most delightful chemical changes taking place now in my brain, dear Mrs Gloring. May I explain to you the exquisite nature of the forces that are being liberated, and which produce emotions of the most tender character.

Lady Fritterly [sharply]. What are you saying, Lord Fondleton?

Lord Fondleton. Ahem—I was saying—ahem—I was saying that we shall be having some Yankee inventing steam thinking-mills and galvanic loving- batteries soon. What a lot of wear and tear it would save! I should go about covered with a number of electric love-wires for the force to play upon.

Fussle. I think this matter wants clearing up, Mr Germsell. Why don't you write a book on mental and emotional physics?

Mr Rollestone. I would venture with great diffidence to remark that the confusion seems to me to arise from the limit we attach to the meaning of the word employed. It may be quite true that no idea or emotion can exist except as the result of physical force; but it is also true that its effect must be conditioned on the quality of the force. There is as wide a difference between the physical forces operant in the brain, and which give rise to ideas, and those which move a steam-engine, as there is between mind and matter as popularly defined. Both, as Mr Germsell will admit, are conditioned manifestations of force; but the one contains a vital element in its dynamism which the other does not. You may apply as much physical force by means of a galvanic battery to a dead brain as you please, but you can't strike an idea out of it; and this vital force, while it is "conditioned force," like light and heat, differs in its mode of manifestation from every other manifestation of force, even more than they do from each other, in that it possesses a potency inherent to it, which they have not, and this potency it is which creates emotion and generates ideas. The fallacy which underlies the whole of this system of philosophy is contained in the assumption that there is only one description of physical force in nature.

Germsell. No more there is. Why, Mr Spencer says that the law of metamorphosis which holds among the physical forces, holds equally between them and the mental forces; but mark you, what is the grand conclusion at which he arrives? I happen to remember the passage: "How this metamorphosis takes place; how a force existing, as motion, heat, or light, can become a mode of consciousness; how it is possible for aerial vibrations to generate the sensation we call sound; or for the forces liberated by chemical changes in the brain to give rise to emotion,—these are mysteries which it is impossible to fathom."

Lord Fondleton [aside to Mrs Gloring]. What a jolly easy way of getting out of a difficulty!

Drygull. Of course, if you admit such gross ignorance as to how it is possible for aerial vibrations "to generate the sensation we call sound," I don't wonder at your not hearing the tom-tom in the Himalayas we were listening to just now. If you knew a little more about the astral law under which aerial vibrations may be generated, you would not call things impossible which you admit to be unfathomable mysteries. If it is an unfathomable mystery how a sound is projected a mile, why do you refuse to admit the possibility of its being projected two, or two hundred, or two thousand? Under the laws which govern mysteries, which you say are unfathomable, if the mystery is unfathomable, so is the law, and you have no right to limit its action.

Rollestone. To come back to the question of a possible distinction in the essential or inherent qualities of dynamic or physical forces. There is nothing in the hypothesis which may not be reasonably assumed and tested by experiment; and before any man has a right to affirm that there is only one quality of physical force in nature, which, by undergoing transformation and metamorphosis, shall account for all its phenomena, I have a right to ask whether the hypothesis, that there may be another, has been experimentally tested. It would then be time for me to accept the conclusion that there is only one, and that it is an unfathomable mystery how this one force should be able to perform all the functions attributed to it.

Germsell. I admit that the forces called vital are correlates of the forces called physical, if you choose to call that a distinction; but their character is conditioned by the state of the brain, and it comes to the same thing in the end. The seat of emotion as well as of thought is the brain, and it entirely depends on its chemical constitution, on its circulation, and on other causes affecting that organ, what you think, and feel, and say, and do. People's characters differ because their brains do, not because there is any difference in the vital force which animates them.

Rollestone. You might as well say that sounds differ because their aerial vibrations differ, but those vibrations only differ because the force makes them differ which is acting upon them. They don't generate tunes, but convey them. And the result, so far as our hearing is concerned, depends upon what are called the acoustic conditions under which the vibrations take place. Just so the brain possesses no generating function of its own; it deals with and transmits the ideas and emotions projected upon it according to the organic conditions by which it may be affected at the time, whether those ideas and emotions are produced by external stimuli, or apparently, but only apparently, as I believe, owe their origin to genesis in the brain itself. In the one case the brain is vibrating to the touch of an external force, in the other to one that is internal and unseen, just as the air does when it transmits sound, whether you see the cause which produces it or not; and the mystery which remains to be fathomed, but which I do not admit to be unfathomable until somebody tries to fathom it, is the nature of those unseen forces.

Germsell. How would you propose to try and fathom it?

Rollestone. By experiment: I know of no other way. The forces which generate emotions and ideas must possess a moral quality: the experiments must therefore be moral experiments.

Germsell. How do you set to work to experimentalise morally?

Rollestone. As the process must of necessity be a purely personal one, carried on, if I may use the expression, in one's own moral organism, I have a certain delicacy in attempting to describe it. In fact, Lady Fritterly, if you will allow me to say so, as the whole subject which has been under discussion this afternoon is the most profoundly solemn which can engage the attention of a human being, I shrink from entering upon it as fully as I would do under other circumstances. I people begin to want a new religion because it is the fashion to want one, I venture to predict that they will never find it. If they want a new religion because they can't come up to the moral standard of the one they have got, then I would advise them to look rather to that unseen force within them, which I have been attempting to describe to Mr Germsell, for the potency which may enable them to reach it.

Lady Fritterly. Indeed, Mr Rollestone, we are all exceedingly in earnest. I never felt so serious in my life. Of course this London life must all seem very frivolous to you; but that we can't help, you know. We can't all go away and make moral experiments like you. What we feel is, that we ought all to endeavour as much as possible to introduce a more serious tone into society. We want to get rid of the selfishness, and the littlenesses, and the petty ambitions and envyings, and the scandals that go on. Don't we, Louisa, dear? And you can't think how grateful I am to Lord Fondleton for having given me the pleasure of your acquaintance. I hope I may often see you; I am sure you would do us all so much good. You will always find me at home on Sunday afternoons at this hour.

Mrs Allmash. It is so refreshing to meet any one so full of information and earnestness as you are, in this wicked, jaded London. Please go on, Mr Rollestone; what you were saying was so interesting. Have you really been experimentalising on your own moral organism? How quite too extraordinary!

Lord Fondleton [aside to Mrs Gloring]. By Jove! I had no idea old Rollestone could come out in this line. He is a regular dark horse. I should never have suspected it. He will be first favourite in London this season, and win in a canter.

Coldwaite. You will excuse me, Mr Rollestone, but I really am interested, and I really am serious. It was with no idle curiosity that I was waiting to hear your answer to Mr Germsell's inquiry, as to the nature of the moral experiment necessary to test the character of this unseen force.

Rollestone. I can only say that any experiment which deals with the affectional and emotional part of one's nature must be painful in the extreme. There is, indeed, only one motive which would induce one to undergo the trials, sufferings, sacrifices, and ordeals which it involves—and that is one in which you will sympathise: it is the hope that humanity may benefit by the result of one's efforts. Indeed, any lower motive than this would vitiate them. I will venture to assert to Mr Germsell, who is so sceptical as to the existence of any other quality in that force, which he can only fathom so far as to know that it is physical, that I will put him through a course of experiment which will cause him more acute moral suffering than his brain could bear, unless it was sustained by a force which, by that experimental process, will reveal attributes contained in it not dreamt of in his philosophy.

Germsell. I have no doubt you could strain my mind until it was weak enough to believe anything, even your fantastic theories. Thank you, I would rather continue to experiment with my own microscope and forceps than let you experiment either upon my affections or my brains.

Fussle [aside to Mr Rollestone]. You could not make anything of them even if he consented—the former don't exist, and the latter are mere putty—but I can quite understand your desire to begin in corpore vili.

Lord Fondleton [aside to Mrs Gloring]. Allow me freely to offer you my affections as peculiarly adapted to experiments of this nature.

Rollestone. It has always struck me as strange that men of science, who don't shrink from testing, for instance, the value of poisons, or the nature of disease, by heroically subjecting their own external organisms to their action, should shrink from experimenting on that essential if remote vitalising force, which can only be reached by moral experiment, and disorder in which produces not only moral obliquity and mental alienation, but physical disease as well.

Fussle. Thus a man may die of apoplexy brought on by a fit of passion. Cure his temper, and you lessen the danger of apoplexy; that, I take it, is an illustration of what you mean.

Rollestone. In its most external application it is; the question is where his bad temper comes from, and whether, as Mr Germsell would maintain, it is entirely due to his cerebral condition, and not to the moral qualities inherent in the force, which, acting on peculiar cerebral conditions, causes one man's temper to differ from another's. It is not the liberated force which generates the temper. For that you have to go farther back; and the reason why research is limited in this direction is not because it is impossible to go farther back, but because it must inevitably entail, as I have already said, acute personal suffering. Nor, as these experiments must be purely personal, and involve experiences of an entirely novel kind, is it possible to discuss them except with those who have participated in them. One might as well attempt to describe the emotion of love to a man whose affections had never been called forth. If I have alluded to them so fully now, it is because they justify me in making the assertion, for which I can offer no other proof than they have afforded to me personally, that a force does exist in nature possessing an inherent spiritual potency—I use the word spiritual for lack of a better—which is capable of lifting humanity to a higher moral plane of daily living and acting than that which it has hitherto attained. But I fear I am trespassing on your patience in having said thus much.

Lady Fritterly. Oh no, Mr Rollestone; please go on. There is something so delightfully fresh and original in all you are saying, I can't tell you how much you interest me.

Germsell [aside]. I know a milkmaid quite as fresh and rather more original. [Aloud, looking at his watch.] Bless me! it is past six, and I have an appointment at the club at six. So sorry to tear myself away, dear Lady Fritterly. I can't tell you how I have enjoyed the intellectual treat you have provided for me.

Lady Fritterly. I thank you so much for coming. I hope you will often look in on our Sundays. I think, you know, that these little conversations are so very improving.

Germsell. You may rely upon me; it is impossible to imagine anything more interesting. [Mutters as he leaves the room.] No, Lady Fritterly, this is the last time I enter this house, except perhaps to dinner. You don't catch me again making one of your Sunday afternoon collection of bores and idiots. What an insufferable prig that Rollestone is!

Fussle [aside to Drygull]. Thank heaven, that pompous nuisance has taken himself off!

Drygull [aside to Fussle]. I don't know which I dislike most—the Pharisee of science or the Pharisee of religion.

Rollestone. If, then, you admit that the human organism not only cannot generate force, but that the emotions which control the body are in their turn generated by a force which is behind it, and that this force is dependent for its manifestation on its own special conditions, as well as on those of its transmitting organic medium, I venture to assert that experiment in the direction I have suggested will prove to our consciousness that the moral or spiritual quality of the original invading force is a pure one, and that the degree of its pollution in the human frame is the effect of inherited and other organic conditions; and the question which presents itself to the experimentalist is, whether by an effort of the will this same force may not be evoked to change and purify those conditions. Indeed the very effort is in itself an invocation, and if made unflinchingly, will not fail to meet with a response. Much that has heretofore been to earnest seekers unknowable will become knowable, and a love, Mr Coldwaite, higher, if that be possible, than the love of humanity, yet correlative with and inseparable from it, will be found pressing with an irresistible potency into those vacant spaces of the human heart, which have from all time yearned for a closer contact with the Great Source of all love and of all force. It is in this attempt to sever the love of humanity from its Author, that the Positivist philosophy has failed: it is the worship of a husk without the kernel, of a body without the soul; and hence it will never satisfy the human aspiration. That aspiration is ever the same; it needs, if you will allow me to say so, Lady Fritterly, no new religion to satisfy its demands. If the world is of late beginning to feel dissatisfied with Christianity, it is not because the moral standard which that religion proposes is not sufficiently lofty for its requirements, but because, after eighteen hundred years of effort, its professors have altogether failed to reach that standard. Christianity seems a failure because Christians have failed—have failed to understand its application to everyday life, have failed to embody it in practice, and have sought an escape from the apparent impossibility of doing so, by smothering it with dogmas, and diverting its scope from this world to the next. It will be time to look for a new religion, when we have succeeded in the literal application of the ethics of the one we have got to the social and economic problems of daily life. It is not by any intellectual effort or scientific process that the discovery will be made of how this is to be done, but by the introduction into the organism of new and unsuspected potencies of moral force which have hitherto lain dormant in nature, waiting for the great invocation of wearied and distressed humanity. There can be no stronger evidence of the approach of this new force, destined to make the ethics of Christianity a practical social standard, than the growing demand of society for a new religion. It is the inarticulate utterance of the quickened human aspiration, in itself a proof that these new potencies are already stirring the dry bones of Christendom, and a sure earnest that their coming in answer to that aspiration will not be long delayed.

Drygull. Of course, I entirely disagree with you as to any such necessity in regard to the moral requirements of the world, existing. You must have met, in the course of your travels, that more enlightened and initiated class of Buddhists, with whom I sympathise, who are quite indifferent to considerations of this nature.

Rollestone. And who were too much occupied with their subjective prospects in Nirvana, to be affected by the needs of terrestrial humanity.

Drygull. Quite so.

Mrs Allmash. And, Mr Allyside, I am afraid you are equally indifferent.

Ali Seyyid. I am certainly not indifferent to the discovery of any force latent in Christendom which may check the force of its cupidity, and put a stop to the exploitation and subjugation of Eastern countries for the sake of advancing its own material interests, under the specious pretext of introducing the blessings of civilisation.

Coldwaite. You have certainly presented the matter in a light which is altogether new to me, Mr Rollestone, and upon which, therefore, I am not now prepared to express an opinion. I should like to discuss the subject with you further privately.

Rollestone. It is a subject which should never be discussed except privately.

Mrs Allmash. Now, I should say, Mr Rollestone, on the contrary, that it was just a subject you ought to write a book about. You would have so much to tell,—all your personal experiments, you know; now do.

Fussle. Take my advice, Mr Rollestone, and don't. You would have very few readers, and those who read you would only sneer at what they would call your crude ideas; and indeed, you will excuse me for saying so, but I am not sure that they would not be right.

Lord Fondleton. I quite disagree with you, Mr Fussle. If Rollestone would write a book which would put a stop to this "religion of the future" business, he would earn the gratitude of society. Do you know, I am getting rather bored with it.

Fussle. Not if he introduced instead a latent force, which should overturn all existing institutions, and revolutionise society—which it would inevitably have to do if we were all coerced by it into adopting literally the ethics of Christianity, instead of merely professing them. Why, the "Sermon on the Mount" alone, practised to the letter, would produce a general destruction. Church and State, and the whole economic system upon which society is based, would melt away before it like an iceberg under a tropical sun. I don't mind discussing the religion of the future as a subject of interesting speculation; but, depend upon it, we had better let well alone. It seems to me that we—at least those of us who are well off—have nothing to complain of. Let us trust to the silent forces of evolution. See how much they have lately done for us in the matter of art. What can be pleasanter than this gentle process of aesthetic development which our higher faculties are undergoing? With due deference to Mr Rollestone, I think we shall be far better employed in cultivating our taste, than in probing our own organisms in the hope of discovering forces which may enable us to apply a perfectly unpractical system of morality, to a society which has every reason to be satisfied with the normal progress it is making.

Mrs Gloring. Indeed, Mr Rollestone, I agree with you a great deal more than with Mr Fussle. I should like to call out a higher moral force in myself—but I should never have the courage to undergo all the ordeals you say it would involve; I am too weak to try.

Lord Fondleton. Of course you are,—don't! You are much nicer as you are. Why, Rollestone, you would make all the women detestable if you could have your way.

Rollestone. I don't think there is any immediate cause for alarm on that score.

Mrs Allmash [rising]. Dearest Augusta, I am afraid I must run away: thank you so much, for such a treat. [All rise] Mrs Gloring, we have all been so deeply interested, that we have scarcely been able to exchange a word, but I hope we shall see a great deal of each other this year. I have a few people coming to me to-morrow evening; do you think you can spare a moment from your numerous engagements? Lady Fritterly and Lord Fondleton are coming; and perhaps, Mr Drygull, you will come, and bring Mr Allyside. Mr Fussle, I know it is useless to expect you; and I cannot venture to ask Mr Rollestone to anything so frivolous. But perhaps you will dine with me on Thursday—you will meet some congenial spirits.

Rollestone. Thank you, but I fear it will be impossible, as I leave London to-morrow. Good-bye, Lady Fritterly. Forgive me, an utter stranger, for having so far obtruded my experiences upon you, and for venturing finally to suggest that it is in our own hearts that we should search for the religion that we need; for is it not written, "The kingdom of heaven is within you"?


The Italian peninsula during the years 1859-60-61 offered a particularly tempting field for adventure to ardent spirits in search of excitement; and, attracted partly by my sympathy with the popular movement, and partly by that simple desire, which gives so much zest to the life of youth, of risking it on all possible occasions, I had taken an active part, chiefly as an officious spectator, in all the principal events of those stirring years. It was in the spring of 1862 that I found matters beginning to settle down to a degree that threatened monotony; and with the termination of the winter gaieties at Naples and the close of the San Carlo, I seriously bethought me of accepting the offer of a naval friend who was about to engage in blockade-running, and offered to land me in the Confederate States, when a recrudescence of activity on the part of the brigand bands in Calabria induced me to turn my attention in that direction. The first question I had to consider was, whether I should enjoy myself most by joining the brigands, or the troops which were engaged in suppressing them. As the former aspired to a political character, and called themselves patriotic bands fighting for their Church, their country, and their King—the refugee monarch of Naples—one could espouse their cause without exactly laying one's self open to the charge of being a bandit; but it was notorious in point of fact that the bands cared for neither the Pope nor the exiled King nor their annexed country, but committed the most abominable atrocities in the names of all the three, for the simple purpose of filling their pockets. I foresaw not only extreme difficulty in being accepted as a member of the fraternity, more especially as I had hitherto been identified with the Garibaldians; but also the probability of finding myself compromised by acts from which my conscience would revolt, and for which my life would in all likelihood pay the forfeit. On the other hand, I could think of no friend among the officers of the Bersaglieri and cavalry regiments, then engaged in brigand-hunting in the Capitanata and Basilicata, to whom I could apply for an invitation to join them.

Under these circumstances, I determined to trust to the chapter of accidents; and armed with a knapsack, a sketch-book, and an air-gun, took my seat one morning in the Foggia diligence, with the vague idea of getting as near the scene of operations as possible, and seeing what would turn up. The air-gun was not so much a weapon of offence or defence as a means of introduction to the inhabitants. It had the innocent appearance of rather a thick walking-cane, with a little brass trigger projecting; and in the afternoon I would join the group sitting in front of the chemist's, which, for some reason or other, is generally a sort of open-air club in a small Neapolitan town, or stroll into the single modest cafe of which it might possibly boast, and toy abstractedly with the trigger. This, together with my personal appearance—for do what I would, I could never make myself look like a Neapolitan—would be certain to attract attention, and some one bolder than the rest would make himself the spokesman, and politely ask me whether the cane in my hand was an umbrella or a fishing-rod; on which I would amiably reply that it was a gun, and that I should have much pleasure in exhibiting my skill and the method of its operation to the assembled company. Then the whole party would follow me to an open space, and I would call for a pack of cards, and possibly—for I was a good shot in those days—pink the ace of hearts at fifteen paces. At any rate my performances usually called forth plaudits, and this involved a further interchange of compliments and explanations, and the production of my sketch-book, which soon procured me the acquaintance of some ladies and an invitation as an English artist, to the house of some respectable citizen.

So it happened that, getting out of the diligence before it reached Foggia, I struck south, and wandered for some days from one little town to another, being always hospitably entertained, whether there happened to be an albergo or not, at private houses, seeing in this way more of the manners and customs of the inhabitants than would have been otherwise possible, gaining much information as to the haunts of the brigands, the whereabouts of the troops, and hearing much local gossip generally. The ignorance of the most respectable classes at this period was astounding; it has doubtless all changed since. I have been at a town of 2000 inhabitants, not one of whom took in a newspaper: the whole population, therefore, was in as profound ignorance of what was transpiring in the rest of the world as if they had been in Novaia Zemlia. I have stayed with a mayor who did not know that England was an island; I have been the guest of a citizen who had never heard of Scotland, and to whom, therefore, my nationality was an enigma: but I never met any one—I mean of this same class—who had not heard of Palmerston. He was a mysterious personage, execrated by the "blacks" and adored by the "reds." And I shone with a reflected lustre as the citizen of a country of which he was the Prime Minister. As a consequence, we had political discussions, which were protracted far into the night, for the principal meal of the twenty-four hours was a 10 o'clock P.M. supper, at which, after the inevitable macaroni, were many unwholesome dishes, such as salads made of thistles, cows' udders, and other delicacies, which deprived one of all desire for sleep. Notwithstanding which, we rose early, my hostess and the ladies of the establishment appearing in the early part of the day in the most extreme deshabille. Indeed, on one occasion when I was first introduced into the family of a respectable citizen, and shown into my bedroom, I mistook one of two females who were making the bed for the servant, and was surprised to see her hand a little douceur I gave her as an earnest of attention on her part, to the other with a smile. She soon afterwards went to bed: we all did, from 11 A.M. till about 3 P.M., at which hour I was horrified to meet her arrayed in silks and satins, and to find that she was the wife of my host. She kindly took me a drive with her in a carriage and pair, and with a coachman in livery.

It was by this simple means, and by thus imposing myself upon the hospitality of these unsophisticated people, that I worked my way by slow degrees, chiefly on foot, into the part of the country I desired to visit; and I trust that I in a measure repaid them for it by the stores of information which I imparted to them, and of which they stood much in need, and by little sketches of their homes and the surrounding scenery, with which I presented them. I was, indeed, dependent in some measure for hospitality of this description, as I had taken no money with me, partly because, to tell the truth, I had scarcely got any, and partly because I was afraid of being robbed by brigands of the little I had. I therefore eschewed the character of a milordo Inglese; but I never succeeded in dispelling all suspicion that I might not be a nephew of the Queen, or at least a very near relative of "Palmerston" in disguise. It was so natural, seeing what a deep interest both her Majesty and the Prime Minister took in Italy, that they should send some one incognito whom they could trust to tell them all about it.

Meantime, I was not surprised, when I came to know the disposition of the inhabitants, at the success of brigandage. It has never been my fortune before or since to live among such a timid population. One day at a large town a leading landed proprietor received notice that if he did not pay a certain sum in black-mail,—I forget at this distance of time the exact amount,—his farm or masseria would be robbed. This farm, which was in fact a handsome country-house, was distant about ten miles from the town. He therefore made an appeal to the citizens that they should arm themselves, and help him to defend his property, as he had determined not to pay, and had taken steps to be informed as to the exact date when the attack was to be made in default of payment. More than 300 citizens enrolled themselves as willing to turn out in arms. On the day preceding the attack by the brigands, a rendezvous was given to these 300 on the great square for five in the morning, and thither I accordingly repaired, unable, however, to induce my host to accompany me, although he had signed as a volunteer. On reaching the rendezvous, I found the landed proprietor and a friend who was living with him, and about ten minutes afterwards two other volunteers strolled up. Five was all we could muster out of 300. It was manifestly useless to attempt anything with so small a force, and no arguments could induce any of the others to turn out: so the unhappy gentleman had the satisfaction of knowing that the brigands had punctually pillaged his place, carrying off all his live stock on the very day and at the very hour they said they would. As for the inhabitants venturing any distance from town, except under military escort, such a thing was unknown, and all communication with Naples was for some time virtually intercepted. I was regarded as a sort of monomaniac of recklessness, because I ventured on a solitary walk of a mile or two in search of a sketch,—an act of no great audacity on my part, for I had walked through various parts of the country without seeing a brigand, and found it difficult to realise that there was any actual danger in strolling a mile from a moderately large town.

Emboldened by impunity, I was tempted one day to follow up a most romantic glen in search of a sketch, when I came upon a remarkably handsome peasant girl, driving a donkey before her loaded with wood. My sudden appearance on the narrow path made the animal shy against a projecting piece of rock, off which he rebounded to the edge of the path, which, giving way, precipitated him and his load down the ravine. He was brought up unhurt against a bush some twenty feet below, the fagots of wood being scattered in his descent in all directions. For a moment the girl's large fierce eyes flashed upon me with anger; but the impetuosity with which I went headlong after the donkey, with a view of repairing my error, and the absurd attempts I made to reverse the position of his feet, which were in the air, converted her indignation into a hearty fit of laughter, as, seeing that the animal was apparently uninjured, she scrambled down to my assistance. By our united efforts we at last succeeded in hoisting the donkey up to the path, and then I collected the wood and helped her to load it again—an operation which involved a frequent meeting of hands, and of the eyes, which had now lost the ferocity that had startled me at first, and seemed getting more soft and beaming every time I glanced at them, till at last, producing my sketch- book, I ventured to remark, "Ah, signorina, what a picture you would make! Now that the ass is loaded, let me draw you before we part, that I may carry away the recollection of the loveliest woman I have seen."

"First draw the donkey," she replied, "that I may carry away a recollection of the galantuomo who first upset him over the bank, and then helped me to load him."

Smiling at this ambiguous compliment, I gave her the sketch she desired, and was about to claim my reward, when she abruptly remarked—

"There is not time now; it is getting late, and I must not linger, as I have still an hour to go before reaching home. How is it that you are not afraid to be wandering in this solitary glen by yourself? Do you not know the risks?"

"I have heard of them, but I do not believe in them," I said; "besides, I should be poor plunder for robbers."

"But you have friends, who would pay to ransom you, I suppose, if you were captured?"

"My life is not worth a hundred scudi to any of them," I replied, laughing; "but I am willing to forego the pleasure of drawing you now, bellissima, if you will tell me where you live, and let me come and paint you there at my leisure."

"You're a brave one," she said, with a little laugh; "there is not another man in all Ascoli who would dare to pay me a visit without an escort of twenty soldiers. But I am too grateful for your amiability to let you run such a risk. Addio, Signer Inglese. There are many reasons why I can't let you draw my picture, but I am not ungrateful, see!"—and she offered me her cheek, on which I instantly imprinted a chaste and fraternal salute.

"Don't think that you've seen the last of me, carissima," I called out, as she turned away. "I shall live on the memory of that kiss till I have an opportunity of repeating it."

And as I watched her retreating figure with an artist's eye, I was struck with its grace and suppleness, combined, as I had observed while she was helping me to load the donkey, with an unusual degree of muscular strength for a woman.

The spot at which this episode had taken place was so romantic, that I determined to make a sketch of it, and the shades of evening were closing in so fast that they warned me to hurry if I would reach the town before dark. I had just finished it, and was stooping to pick up my air-gun, when I heard a sudden rush, and before I had time to look up, I was thrown violently forward on my face, and found myself struggling in the embrace of a powerful grasp, from which I had nearly succeeded in freeing myself, when the arms which were clasping me were reinforced by several more pair, and I felt a rope being passed round my body.

"All right, signors!" I exclaimed; "I yield to superior numbers. You need not pull so hard; let me get up, and I promise to go with you quietly." And by this time I had turned sufficiently on my back to see that four men were engaged in tying me up.

"Tie his elbows together, and let him get up," said one; "he is not armed. Here, Giuseppe, carry his stick and paint-box, while I feel his pockets. Corpo di Baccho! twelve bajocchi," he exclaimed, producing those copper coins with an air of profound disgust. "It is to be hoped he is worth more to his friends. Now, young man, trudge, and remember that the first sign you make of attempting to run away, means four bullets through you."

As I did not anticipate any real danger, and as a prolonged detention was a matter of no consequence to a man without an occupation, I stepped forward with a light heart, rather pleased than otherwise with anticipations of the brigand's cave, and turning over in my mind whether or not I should propose to join the band.

We had walked an hour, and it had become dark, when we turned off the road, up a narrow path that led between rocky sides to a glade, at the extremity of which, under an overhanging ledge, was a small cottage, with what seemed to be a patch of garden in front.

"Ho! Anita!" called out the man who appeared to be the leader of the band; "open! We have brought a friend to supper, who will require a night's lodgings."

An old woman with a light appeared, and over her shoulder, to my delight, I saw the face I had asked to be allowed to paint so shortly before. I was about to recognise her with an exclamation, when I saw a hurried motion of her finger to her lip, which looked a natural gesture to the casual observer, but which I construed into a sign of prudence.

"Where did you pick him up, Croppo?" she asked carelessly. "He ought to be worth something."

"Just twelve bajocchi," he answered with a sneering laugh. "Come, amico mio, you will have to give us the names of some of your friends."

"I am tolerably intimate with his Holiness the Pope, and I have a bowing acquaintance with the King of Naples, whom may God speedily restore to his own," I replied in a light and airy fashion, which seemed exceedingly to exasperate the man called Croppo.

"Oh yes, we know all about that; we never catch a man who does not profess to be a Nero of the deepest dye in order to conciliate our sympathies. It is just as well that you should understand, my friend, that all are fish who come into our net. The money of the Pope's friends is quite as good as the money of Garibaldi's. You need not hope to put us off with your Italian friends of any colour: what we want is English gold—good solid English gold, and plenty of it."

"Ah," said I, with a laugh, "if you did but know, my friend, how long I have wanted it too. If you could only suggest an Englishman who would pay you for my life, I would write to him immediately, and we would go halves in the ransom. Hold!" I said, a bright idea suddenly striking me; "suppose I were to write to my Government—how would that do?"

Croppo was evidently puzzled: my cheerful and unembarrassed manner apparently perplexed him. He had a suspicion that I was even capable of the audacity of making a fool of him, and yet that proposition about the Government rather staggered him. There might be something in it.

"Don't you think," he remarked grimly, "it would add to the effect of your communication if you were to enclose your own ears in your letter? I can easily supply them; and if you are not a little more guarded in your speech, you may possibly have to add your tongue."

"It would not have the slightest effect," I replied, paying no heed to this threat; "you don't know Palmerston as I do. If you wish to get anything out of him you must be excessively civil. What does he care about my ears?" And I laughed with such scornful contempt that Croppo this time felt that he had made a fool of himself; and I observed the lovely girl behind, while the corners of her mouth twitched with suppressed laughter, make a sign of caution.

"Per Dio!" he exclaimed, jumping up with fury, "understand, Signor Inglese, that Croppo is not to be trifled with. I have a summary way of treating disrespect," and he drew a long and exceedingly sharp-looking two-edged knife.

"So you would kill the goose"—and I certainly am a goose, I reflected—"that may lay a golden egg." But my allusion was lost upon him, and I saw my charmer touch her forehead significantly, as though to imply to Croppo that I was weak in the upper storey.

"An imbecile without friends and twelve bajocchi in his pocket," he muttered savagely. "Perhaps the night without food will restore his senses. Come, fool!" and he roughly pushed me into a dark little chamber adjoining. "Here, Valeria, hold the light."

So Valeria was the name of the heroine of the donkey episode. As she held a small oil-lamp aloft, I perceived that the room in which I was to spend the night had more the appearance of a cellar than a chamber; it had been excavated on two sides from the bank, on the third there was a small hole about six inches square, apparently communicating with another room, and on the fourth was the door by which I had entered, and which opened into the kitchen and general living-room of the inhabitants. There was a heap of onions running to seed, the fagots of firewood which Valeria had brought that afternoon, and an old cask or two.

"Won't you give him some kind of a bed?" she asked Croppo.

"Bah! he can sleep on the onions," responded that worthy. "If he had been more civil and intelligent he should have had something to eat. You three," he went on, turning to the other men, "sleep in the kitchen, and watch that the prisoner does not escape. The door has a strong bolt besides. Come, Valeria."

And the pair disappeared, leaving me in a dense gloom, strongly pervaded by an odour of fungus and decaying onions. Groping into one of the casks, I found some straw, and spreading it on a piece of plank, I prepared to pass the night sitting with my back to the driest piece of wall I could find, which happened to be immediately under the airhole, a fortunate circumstance, as the closeness was often stifling. I had probably been dozing for some time in a sitting position, when I felt something tickle the top of my head. The idea that it might be a large spider caused me to start, when stretching up my hand, it came in contact with what seemed to be a rag, which I had not observed. Getting carefully up, I perceived a faint light gleaming through the aperture, and then saw that a hand was protruded through it, apparently waving the rag. As I felt instinctively that the hand was Valeria's, I seized the finger-tips, which was all I could get hold of, and pressed them to my lips. They were quickly drawn away, and then the whisper reached my ears—

"Are you hungry?"


"Then eat this," and she passed me a tin pannikin full of cold macaroni, which would just go through the opening.

"Dear Valeria," I said, with my mouth full, "how good and thoughtful you are!"

"Hush! he'll hear."



"Where is he?"

"Asleep in the bed just behind me."

"How do you come to be in his bedroom?"

"Because I'm his wife."

"Oh!" A long pause during which I collapsed upon my straw seat, and swallowed macaroni thoughtfully. As the result of my meditations—"Valeria carissima."

"Hush! Yes."

"Can't you get me out of this infernal den?"

"Perhaps, if they all three sleep in the kitchen; at present one is awake. Watch for my signal, and if they all three sleep, I will manage to slip the bolt. Then you must give me time to get back into bed, and when you hear me snore you may make the attempt. They are all three sleeping on the floor, so be very careful where you tread; I will also leave the front door a little open, so that you can slip through without noise."

"Dearest Valeria!"

"Hush! Yes."

"Hand me that cane—it is my fishing-rod, you know—through this hole; you can leave the sketch-book and paint-box under the tree that the donkey fell against,—I will call for them some day soon. And, Valeria, don't you think we could make our lips meet through this beastly hole?"

"Impossible. There's my hand; heavens! Croppo would murder me if he knew. Now keep quiet till I give the signal. Oh, do let go my hand!"

"Remember, Valeria, bellissima, carissima, whatever happens, that I love you."

But I don't think she heard this, and I went and sat on the onions because I could see the hole better, and the smell of them kept me awake.

It was at least two hours after this that the faint light appeared at the hole in the wall, and a hand was pushed through. I rushed at the finger- tips.

"Here's your fishing-rod," she said when I had released them, and she had passed me my air-gun. "Now be very careful how you tread. There is one asleep across the door, but you can open it about two feet. Then step over him; then make for a gleam of moonlight that comes through the crack of the front door, open it very gently and slip out. Addio, caro Inglese; mind you wait till you hear me snoring."

Then she lingered, and I heard a sigh. "What is it, sweet Valeria?" and I covered her hand with kisses.

"I wish Croppo had blue eyes like you."

This was murmured so softly that I may have been mistaken, but I'm nearly sure that was what she said; then she drew softly away, and two minutes afterwards I heard her snoring. As the first sound issued from her lovely nostrils, I stealthily approached the door, gently pushed it open; stealthily stepped over a space which I trusted cleared the recumbent figure that I could not see; cleared him; stole gently on for the streak of moonlight; trod squarely on something that seemed like an outstretched hand, for it gave under my pressure and produced a yell; felt that I must now rush for my life; dashed the door open, and down the path with four yelling ruffians at my heels. I was a pretty good runner, but the moon was behind a cloud, and the way was rocky,—moreover, there must have been a short cut I did not know, for one of my pursuers gained upon me with unaccountable rapidity—he appeared suddenly within ten yards of my heels. The others were at least a hundred yards behind. I had nothing for it but to turn round, let him almost run against the muzzle of my air- gun, pull the trigger, and see him fall in his tracks. It was the work of a second, but it checked my pursuers. They had heard no noise, but they found something that they did not bargain for, and lingered a moment, then they took up the chase with redoubled fury. But I had too good a start; and where the path joined the main road, instead of turning down towards the town, as they expected I would, I dodged round in the opposite direction, the uncertain light this time favouring me, and I heard their footsteps and their curses dying away on the wrong track. Nevertheless I ran on at full speed, and it was not till the day was dawning that I began to feel safe and relax my efforts. The sun had been up an hour when I reached a small town, and the little locanda was just opening for the day when I entered it, thankful for a hot cup of coffee, and a dirty little room, with a dirtier bed, where I could sleep off the fatigue and excitement of the night. I was strolling down almost the only street in the afternoon when I met a couple of carabineers riding into it, and shortly after encountered the whole troop, to my great delight, in command of an intimate friend whom I had left a month before in Naples.

"Ah, caro mio!" he exclaimed, when he saw me, "well met. What on earth are you doing here?—looking for those brigands you were so anxious to find when you left Naples? Considering that you are in the heart of their country, you should not have much difficulty in gratifying your curiosity."

"I have had an adventure or two," I replied carelessly. "Indeed that is partly the reason you find me here. I was just thinking how I could get safely back to Ascoli, when your welcome escort appeared; for I suppose you are going there, and will let me take advantage of it."

"Only too delighted; and you can tell me your adventures. Let us dine together tonight, and I will find you a horse to ride on with us in the morning."

I am afraid my account of the episode with which I have acquainted the reader was not strictly accurate in all its details, as I did not wish to bring down my military friends on poor Valeria, so I skipped all allusion to her and my detention in her home; merely saying that I had had a scuffle with brigands, and had been fortunate enough to escape under cover of the night. As we passed it next morning I recognised the path which led up to Valeria's cottage, and shortly after observed that young woman herself coming up the glen.

"Holloa!" I said, with great presence of mind as she drew near, "my lovely model, I declare! Just you ride on, old fellow, while I stop and ask her when she can come and sit to me again."

"You artists are sad rogues,—what chances your profession must give you!" remarked my companion, as he cast an admiring glance on Valeria, and rode discreetly on.

"There is nothing to be afraid of, lovely Valeria," I said in a low tone, as I lingered behind; "be sure I will never betray either you or your rascally—hem! I mean your excellent Croppo. By the way, was that man much hurt that I was obliged to trip up?"

"Hurt! Santa Maria, he is dead, with a bullet through his heart. Croppo says it must have been magic; for he had searched you, and he knew you were not armed, and he was within a hundred yards of you when poor Pippo fell, and he heard no sound."

"Croppo is not far wrong," I said, glad of the opportunity thus offered of imposing on the ignorance and credulity of the natives. "He seemed surprised that he could not frighten me the other night. Tell him he was much more in my power than I was in his, dear Valeria," I added, looking tenderly into her eyes. "I didn't want to alarm you, that was the reason I let him off so easily; but I may not be so merciful next time. Now, sweetest, that kiss you owe me, and which the wall prevented your giving me the other night." She held up her face with the innocence of a child, as I stooped from my saddle.

"I shall never see you again, Signer Inglese," she said, with a sigh; "for Croppo says it is not safe, after what happened the night before last, to stay another hour. Indeed he went off yesterday, leaving me orders to follow to-day; but I went first to put your sketch-book under the bush where the donkey fell, and where you will find it."

It took us another minute or two to part after this; and when I had ridden away I turned to look back, and there was Valeria gazing after me. "Positively," I reflected, "I am over head and ears in love with the girl, and I believe she is with me. I ought to have nipped my feelings in the bud when she told me she was his wife; but then he is a brigand, who threatened both my ears and my tongue, to say nothing of my life. To what extent is the domestic happiness of such a ruffian to be respected?" and I went on splitting the moral straws suggested by this train of thought, until I had recovered my sketch-book and overtaken my escort, with whom I rode triumphantly back into Ascoli, where my absence had been the cause of much anxiety, and my fate was even then being eagerly discussed. My friends with whom I usually sat round the chemist's door, were much exercised by the reserve which I manifested in reply to the fire of cross-examination to which I was subjected for the next few days; and English eccentricity, which was proverbial even in this secluded town, received a fresh illustration in the light and airy manner with which I treated a capture and escape from brigands, which I regarded with such indifference that I could not be induced even to condescend to details. "It was a mere scuffle; there were only four; and, being an Englishman, I polished them all off with the 'box,'"—and I closed my fist, and struck a scientific attitude of self-defence, branching off into a learned disquisition on the pugilistic art, which filled my hearers with respect and amazement. From this time forward the sentiment with which I regarded my air-gun underwent a change. When a friend had made me a present of it a year before, I regarded it in the light of a toy, and rather resented the gift as too juvenile. I wonder he did not give me a kite or a hoop, I mentally reflected. Then I had found it useful among Italians, who are a trifling people, and like playthings; but now that it had saved my life, and sent a bullet through a man's heart, I no longer entertained the same feeling of contempt for it. Not again would I make light of it,—this potent engine of destruction which had procured me the character of being a magician. I would hide it from human gaze, and cherish it as a sort of fetish. So I bought a walking- stick and an umbrella, and strapped it up with them, wrapped in my plaid; and when, shortly after, an unexpected remittance from an aunt supplied me with money enough to buy a horse from one of the officers of my friend's regiment, which soon after arrived, I accepted their invitation to accompany them on their brigand-hunting expeditions, not one of them knew that I had such a weapon as an air-gun in my possession.

Our modus operandi on these occasions was as follows: On receiving information from some proprietor that the brigands were threatening his property,—it was impossible to get intelligence from the peasantry, for they were all in league with the brigands; indeed they all took a holiday from regular work, and joined a band for a few weeks from time to time,—we proceeded, with a force sufficiently strong to cope with the supposed strength of the band, to the farm in question. The bands were all mounted, and averaged from 200 to 400 men each. It was calculated that upwards of 2000 men were thus engaged in harrying the country, and this enabled the Neri to talk of the king's forces engaged in legitimate warfare against those of Victor Emmanuel. Riding over the vast plains of the Capitanata, we would discern against the sky-outline the figure of a solitary horseman. This we knew to be a picket. Then there was no time to be lost, and away we would go for him helter-skelter across the plain; he would instantly gallop in on the main body, probably occupying a masseria. If they thought they were strong enough, they would show fight. If not, they would take to their heels in the direction of the mountains, with us in full cry after them. If they were hardly pressed they would scatter, and we were obliged to do the same, and the result would be that the swiftest horsemen might possibly effect a few captures. It was an exciting species of warfare, partaking a good deal more of the character of a hunting-field than of cavalry skirmishing. Sometimes, where the ground was hilly, we had Bersaglieri with us; and as the brigands took to the mountains, the warfare assumed a different character. Sometimes, in default of these active little troops, we took local volunteers, whom we found a very poor substitute. On more than one occasion when we came upon the brigands in a farm, they thought themselves sufficiently strong to hold it against us, and once the cowardice of the volunteers was amusingly illustrated. The band was estimated at about 200, and we had 100 volunteers and a detachment of 50 cavalry. On coming under the fire of the brigands, the cavalry captain, who was in command, ordered the volunteers to charge, intending when they had dislodged the enemy to ride him down on the open; but the volunteer officer did not repeat the word, and stood stock-still, his men all imitating his example.

"Charge! I say," shouted the cavalry captain; "why don't you charge? I believe you're afraid!"

"E vero," said the captain of volunteers, shrugging his shoulders.

"Here, take my horse—you're only fit to be a groom; and you, men, dismount and let these cowards hold your horses, while you follow me,"—and jumping from his horse, the gallant fellow, followed by his men, charged the building, from which a hot fire was playing upon them, sword in hand. In less than a quarter of an hour the brigands were scampering, some on foot and some on horseback, out of the farm-buildings, followed by a few stray and harmless shots from such of the volunteers as had their hands free. We lost three men killed and five wounded in this little skirmish, and killed six of the brigands, besides making a dozen prisoners. When I say we, I mean my companions; for having no weapon, I had discreetly remained with the volunteers. The scene of this gallant exploit was on the classic battle-field of Cannae. This captain, who was not the friend I had joined the day after my brigand adventure, was a most plucky and dashing cavalry officer, and was well seconded by his men, who were all Piedmontese, and of very different temperament from the Neapolitans. On one occasion a band of 250 brigands waited for us on the top of a small hill, never dreaming that we should charge up it with the odds five to one against us—but we did; and after firing a volley at us, which emptied a couple of saddles, they broke and fled when we were about twenty yards from them. Then began one of the most exciting scurries across country it was ever my fortune to be engaged in. The brigands scattered—so did we; and I found myself with two troopers in chase of a pair of bandits, one of whom seemed to be the chief of the band. A small stream wound through the plain, which we dashed across. Just beyond was a tributary ditch, which would have been considered a fair jump in the hunting-field: both brigands took it in splendid style. The hindmost was not ten yards ahead of the leading trooper, who came a cropper, on which the brigand reined up, fired a pistol-shot into the prostrate horse and man, and was off: but the delay cost him dear. The other trooper, who was a little ahead of me, got safely over. I followed suit. In another moment he had fired his carbine into the brigand's horse, and down they both came by the run. We instantly reined up, for I saw there was no chance of overtaking the remaining brigand, and the trooper was in the act of cutting down the man as he struggled to his feet, when to my horror I recognised the lovely features of—Valeria.

"Stay, man!" I shouted, throwing myself from my horse; "it's a woman! touch her if you dare!" and then seeing the man's eye gleam with indignation, I added, "Brave soldiers, such as you have proved yourself to be, do not kill women; though your traducers say you do, do not give them cause to speak truth. I will be responsible for this woman's safety. Here, to make it sure, you had better strap us together." I piqued myself exceedingly on this happy inspiration, whereby I secured an arm-in-arm walk, of a peculiar kind it is true, with Valeria, and indeed my readiness to sacrifice myself seemed rather to astonish the soldier, who hesitated. However, his comrade, whose horse had been shot in the ditch, now came up, and seconded my proposal, as I offered him a mount on mine.

"How on earth am I to let you escape, dear Valeria?" I whispered, giving her a sort of affectionate nudge: the position of our arms prevented my squeezing hers, as I could have wished, and the two troopers kept behind us, watching us, I thought, suspiciously.

"It is quite impossible now—don't attempt it," she answered; "perhaps there may be an opportunity later."

"Was that Croppo who got away?" I asked. "Yes. He could not get his cowardly men to stand on that hill."

"What a bother those men are behind, dearest! Let me pretend to scratch my nose with this hand that is tied to yours, which I can thus bring to my lips."

I accomplished this manoeuvre rather neatly, but parties now came straggling in from other directions, and I was obliged to give up whispering and become circumspect. They all seemed rather astonished at our group, and the captain laughed heartily as he rode up and called out, "Who have you got tied to you there, caro mio?"

"Croppo's wife. I had her tied to me for fear she should escape; besides, she is not bad-looking."

"What a prize!" he exclaimed. "We have made a tolerable haul this time,—twenty prisoners in all—among them the priest of the band. Our colonel has just arrived, so I am in luck—he will be delighted. See, the prisoners are being brought up to him now: but you had better remount and present yours in a less singular fashion."

When we reached the colonel we found him examining the priest. His breviary contained various interesting notes, written on some of the fly- leaves. For instance:—

"Administered extreme unction to A—-, shot by Croppo's orders: my share ten scudi.

"Ditto, ditto, to R—-, hung by Croppo's order; my share two scudi.

"Ditto, ditto, to S—-, roasted by Croppo's order, to make him name an agent to bring his ransom: overdone by mistake, and died—so got nothing.

"Ditto, ditto, to P—-, executed by the knife by Croppo's order, for disobedience.

"M—- and F—-, and D—-, three new members, joined to-day: confessed them, and received the usual fees."

He was a dark, beetle-browed-looking ruffian, this holy man; and the colonel, when he had finished examining his book of prayer and crime, tossed it to me, saying,—"There! that will show your friends in England the kind of politicians we make war against. Ha! what have we here? This is more serious." And he unfolded a piece of paper which had been concealed in the breast of the priest. "This contains a little valuable information," he added, with a grim smile. "Nobody like priests and women for carrying about political secrets, so you may have made a valuable capture," and he turned to where I stood with Valeria; "let her be carefully searched."

Now the colonel was a very pompous man, and the document he had just discovered on the priest added to his sense of self-importance. When, therefore, a large, carefully folded paper was produced from the neighbourhood of Valeria's lovely bosom, his eyes sparkled with anticipation. "Ho, ho!" he exclaimed, as he clutched it eagerly, "the plot is thickening!" and he spread out triumphantly, before he had himself seen what it was, the exquisitely drawn portrait of a donkey. There was a suppressed titter, which exploded into a shout when the bystanders looked into the colonel's indignant face. I only was affected differently, as my gaze fell upon this touching evidence of dear Valeria's love for me, and I glanced at her tenderly. "This has a deeper significance than you think for," said the colonel, looking round angrily. "Croppo's wife does not carefully secrete a drawing like that on her person for nothing. See, it is done by no common artist. It means something, and must be preserved."

"It may have a Biblical reference to the state of Italy. You remember Issachar was likened to an ass between two burdens. In that case it probably emanated from Rome," I remarked; but nobody seemed to see the point of the allusion, and the observation fell flat.

That night I dined with the colonel, and after dinner I persuaded him to let me visit Valeria in prison, as I wished to take the portrait of the wife of the celebrated brigand chief. I thanked my stars that my friend who had seen her when we met in the glen, was away on duty with his detachment, and could not testify to our former acquaintance. My meeting with Valeria on this occasion was too touching and full of tender passages to be of any general interest. Valeria told me that she was still a bride; that she had only been married a few months, and that she had been compelled to become Croppo's wife against her choice, as the brigand's will was too powerful to be resisted; but that, though he was jealous and attached to her, he was stern and cruel, and so far from winning her love since her marriage, he had rather estranged it by his fits of passion and ferocity. As may be imagined, the portrait, which was really very successful, took some time in execution, the more especially as we had to discuss the possibilities of Valeria's escape.

"We are going to be transferred to-morrow to the prison at Foggia," she said. "If, while we were passing through the market-place, a disturbance of some sort could be created, as it is market day, and all the country people know me, and are my friends, a rescue might be attempted. I know how to arrange for that, only they must see some chance of success."

A bright thought suddenly struck me; it was suggested by a trick I had played shortly after my arrival in Italy.

"You know I am something of a magician, Valeria; you have had proof of that. If I create a disturbance by magic to-morrow, when you are passing through the market-place, you won't stay to wonder what is the cause of the confusion, but instantly take advantage of it to escape."

"Trust me for that, caro mio."

"And if you escape, when shall we meet again?"

"I am known too well now to risk another meeting. I shall be in hiding with Croppo, where it will be impossible for you to find me, nor while he lives could I ever dare to think of leaving him; but I shall never forget you"—and she pressed my hands to her lips—"though I shall no longer have the picture of the donkey to remember you by."

"See, here's my photograph; that will be better," said I, feeling a little annoyed—foolishly, I admit. Then we strained each other to our respective hearts, and parted. Now it so happened that my room in the locanda in which I was lodging overlooked the market-place. Here at ten o'clock in the morning I posted myself—for that was the hour, as I had been careful to ascertain, when the prisoners were to start for Foggia. I opened the window about three inches, and fixed it there: I took out my gun, put eight balls in it, and looked down upon the square. It was crowded with the country people in their bright-coloured costumes, chaffering over their produce. I looked above them to the tall campanile of the church which filled one side of the square. I receded a step and adjusted my gun on the ledge of the window to my entire satisfaction. I then looked down the street in which the prison was situated, and which debouched on the square, and awaited events. At ten minutes past ten I saw the soldiers at the door of the prison form up, and then I knew that the twenty prisoners of whom they formed the escort were starting; but the moment they began to move, I fired at the big bell in the campanile, which responded with a loud clang. All the people in the square looked up. As the prisoners entered the square, which they had to cross in its whole breadth, I fired again and again. The bell banged twice, and the people began to buzz about. Now, I thought, I must let the old bell have it. By the time five more balls had struck the bell with a resounding din, the whole square was in commotion. A miracle was evidently in progress, or the campanile was bewitched. People began to run hither and thither; all the soldiers forming the escort gaped open-mouthed at the steeple as the clangour continued. As soon as the last shot had been fired, I looked down into the square and saw all this, and I saw that the prisoners were attempting to escape, and in more than one instance had succeeded, for the soldiers began to scatter in pursuit, and the country people to form themselves into impeding crowds, as though by accident, but nowhere could I see Valeria. When I was quite sure she had escaped, I went down and joined the crowd. I saw three prisoners captured and brought back; and when I asked the officer in command how many had escaped, he said three—Croppo's wife, the priest, and another.

When I met my cavalry friends at dinner that evening, it was amusing to hear them speculate upon the remarkable occurrence which had, in fact, upset the wits of the whole town. Priests and vergers and sacristans had visited the campanile, and one of them had brought away a flattened piece of lead, which looked as if it might have been a bullet; but the suggestion that eight bullets could have hit the bell in succession without anybody hearing a sound, was treated with ridicule. I believe the bell was subsequently exorcised with holy water. I was afraid to remain with the regiment with my air-gun after this, lest some one should discover it, and unravel the mystery; besides, I felt a sort of traitor to the brave friends who had so generously offered me their hospitality, so I invented urgent private affairs, which demanded my immediate return to Naples, and on the morning of my departure found myself embraced by all the officers of the regiment, from the colonel downwards, who, in the fervour of their kisses, thrust sixteen waxed moustache-points against my cheeks.

About eighteen months after this, I heard of the capture and execution of Croppo, and I knew that Valeria was free; but I had unexpectedly inherited a property, and was engaged to be married. I am now a country gentleman with a large family. My sanctum is stocked with various mementoes of my youthful adventures, but none awakens in me such thrilling memories as are excited by the breviary of the brigand priest, and the portrait of the brigand's bride.


It is now nearly twenty-seven years ago—long before the Theosophical Society was founded, or Esoteric Buddhism was known to exist in the form recently revealed to us by Mr Sinnett{81}—that I became the chela, or pupil, of an adept of Buddhist occultism in Khatmandhu. At that time Englishmen, unless attached to the Residency, were not permitted to reside in that picturesque Nepaulese town. Indeed I do not think that they are now; but I had had an opportunity during the Indian Mutiny, when I was attached to the Nepaulese contingent, of forming an intimacy with a "Guru" connected with the force. It was not until our acquaintance had ripened into a warm friendship that I gradually made the discovery that this interesting man held views which differed so widely from the popular conception of Buddhism as I had known it in Ceylon—where I had resided for some years—that my curiosity was roused,—the more especially as he was in the habit of sinking off gradually, even while I was speaking to him, into trance-conditions, which would last sometimes for a week, during which time he would remain without food; and upon more than one occasion I missed even his material body from my side, under circumstances which appeared to me at the time unaccountable. The Nepaulese troops were not very often engaged with the rebels during the Indian Mutiny; but when they were, the Guru was always to be seen under the hottest fire, and it was generally supposed by the army that his body, so far from being impervious to bullets, was so pervious to them that they could pass through it without producing any organic disturbance. I was not aware of this fact at first; and it was not until I observed that, while he stood directly in the line of fire, men were killed immediately behind him, that I ceased to accompany him into action, and determined, if possible, to solve a mystery which had begun to stimulate my curiosity to the highest pitch. It is not necessary for me to enter here into the nature of the conversations I had with him on the most important and vital points affecting universal cosmogony and the human race and its destiny. Suffice it to say, that they determined me to sever my connection with the Government of India; to apply privately, through my friend the Guru, to the late Jung Bahadoor for permission to reside in Nepaul; and finally, in the garb of an Oriental, to take up my residence in Khatmandhu, unknown to the British authorities. I should not now venture on this record of my experiences, or enter upon the revelation of a phase hitherto unknown and unsuspected, of that esoteric science which has, until now, been jealously guarded as a precious heritage belonging exclusively to regularly initiated members of mysteriously organised associations, had not Mr Sinnett, with the consent of a distinguished member of the Thibetan brotherhood, and, in fact, at his dictation, let, if I may venture to use so profane an expression in connection with such a sacred subject, "the cat out of the bag." Since, however, the arhats, or illuminati, of the East, seem to have arrived at the conclusion that the Western mind is at last sufficiently prepared and advanced in spiritual knowledge to be capable of assimilating the occult doctrines of Esoteric Buddhism, and have allowed their pupil to burst them upon a thoughtless and frivolous society with the suddenness of a bomb-shell, I feel released from the obligations to secrecy by which I have hitherto felt bound, and will proceed to unfold a few arcana of a far more extraordinary character than any which are to be found even in the pages of the 'Theosophist' or of 'Esoteric Buddhism.'

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