THE WORLD'S GREATEST BOOKS, VOL. I
JOINT EDITORS ARTHUR MEE Editor and Founder of the Book of Knowledge
J. A. HAMMERTON Editor of Harmsworth's Universal Encyclopaedia
Table of Contents
ABOUT, EDMOND King of the Mountains
AINSWORTH, HARRISON Tower of London
ANDERSEN, HANS Improvisatore
APULEIUS The Golden Ass
AUCASSIN AND NICOLETTE
AUERBACH, BERTHOLD On the Height
AUSTEN, JANE Sense and Sensibility Pride and Prejudice Northanger Abbey Mansfield Park Emma Persuasion
BALZAC, HONORE DE Eugenie Grandet Old Goriot Magic Skin Quest of the Absolute
BECKFORD, WILLIAM History of the Caliph Vathek
BEHN, APHRA Oroonoko
BERGERAC, CYRANO DE Voyage to the Moon
BJOERNSON, BJOERNSTJERNE Arne In God's Way
BLACK, WILLIAM Daughter of Heth
BLACKMORE, R.D. Lorna Doone
A Complete Index of THE WORLD'S GREATEST BOOKS will be found at the end of Volume XX.
An enterprise such as THE WORLD'S GREATEST BOOKS is to be judged from two different standpoints. It may be judged with respect to its specific achievement—the material of which it consists; or it may be judged with regard to its general utility in the scheme of literature to which it belongs.
In an age which is sometimes ironically called "remarkable" for its commercialism, nothing has been more truly remarkable than the advancement in learning as well as in material progress; and of all the instruments that have contributed to this end, none has been more effective, perhaps, than the practical popularisation of literature.
In THE WORLD'S GREATEST BOOKS an attempt has been made to effect a compendium of the world's best literature in a form that shall be at once accessible to every one and still faithful to its originals; or, in other words, it has been sought to allow the original author to tell his own story over again in his own language, but in the shortest possible space.
Such a method differs entirely from all those in which an author is represented, either by one or more extracts from his work, or else by a formal summary or criticism of it in a language not his own. And, since the style and language of an original is what often constitutes the wings upon which alone its thought will fly, to have access to its thought without its form is too often to possess a skeleton without the spirit which alone could animate it.
Notwithstanding this, however, we are aware that even THE WORLD'S GREATEST BOOKS will not escape the criticism of a small class of people who will profess to object to this, as to any kind of interference with an author's original—in reply to which it can only be said that such objections are seldom, if ever, made in the true interests of learning, or in a genuine spirit of inquiry, and too often only proceed from a knowledge of books or love of them which goes no deeper than their title-page.
For better than all books are the truths which books contain, and to condense those truths into a form that makes them available is not only to invest them with new powers and an enlarged range of usefulness, but is also not necessarily to interfere with any of those essential qualities that make up the exquisite literary flavor of a fine original.
The selections in THE WORLD'S GREATEST BOOKS have been collected, and are alphabetically arranged, in ten different divisions,—namely, Fiction, Lives and Letters, History, Religion, Philosophy, Economics, Science, Poetry and Drama, Travel and Adventure and Miscellaneous Literature.
An important additional feature of the work is the brief, yet highly critical biographical and bibliographical note which accompanies every author and every selection throughout the twenty volumes. To this must be also added the not less important Introductories, and other explanations written by experts, which often accompany the selections in the text—cardinal examples of which will be found in particular in the section of Religion of this work, in the articles dealing with such subjects as the Book of the Dead, Brahmanism, Confucianism, the Koran, Talmud, etc.
With respect to the selections themselves, it may be added that, even where they are derived from foreign originals, they have often been prepared from those originals rather than from any existing translations of them, as in the fine translation of Catullus by Professor Wight Duff, or the condensations from Euripides, Corneille, Kant, Tacitus, and very many more. In other cases, again, the selections have been specially prepared for THE WORLD'S GREATEST BOOKS by their authors or their agents, such as the two selections by Major Martin Hume in History, by Dr. Bramwell and Sir Francis Galton in Science, by Mr. Robert Hichens in Fiction, etc. From this, and still more from the list of authors itself, it will be found, we hope, that besides a completely modern aim, a distinctly proper proportion of modern literature has found a place in the work, and that the best of French, German, Scandinavian, Russian, and other authors take rank in it with American and English, as do the best of the ancients with the best among the moderns.
As the aim of THE WORLD'S GREATEST BOOKS has been directed first of all towards those forms of literature which were in the most need of condensation to make them readily available, it will not be expected that the Poetry section of the work will contain the shorter kind of poems. Moreover, even if the shortness of such poems and their general accessibility in present-day anthologies did not render their inclusion here a work of supererogation, it was felt that their place could be far better filled in a work like the present by the world's best dramatic literature,—as has been done. This does not apply, however, to translations from the shorter poems of ancient classical literature, which, however short they may be, cannot be said to be already generally available for everyday reading.
Throughout, the claims of literature proper, or of fine writing, have been intimately considered in conjunction with the claims of pure learning, or of information, with the result, it is hoped, that to the authority of the world's best thinkers is added the picturesqueness of their fine writing. Plato, Spencer, Newton; Darwin, Haeckel, Virchow; AEschylus, Shelley, Ibsen; Burton, Mandeville, Loti; or Brandes, Matthew Arnold, and Demosthenes—from old and from modern times they yield up their pearls.
The notion of finality, or of an utter inclusiveness, for such a work as THE WORLD'S GREATEST BOOKS may be readily disclaimed. To set it up even would seem ridiculous to any one acquainted with the enormous range of the subject. Not so ridiculous, however, may seem the claim to have established a standard and a form of achievement new in the annals of literary production; and one, moreover, whose importance as an educative factor, no less than as a test of the special needs of the era wherein we are living, may be as valid in its own way and in its own time as some of those other contributions which have helped along the revival of learning and of letters, from that first awakening of the Renascence humanists down to our own day.
* * * * *
The King of the Mountains
Edmond About was the son of a grocer at Dieuze, in Lorraine, France, where he was born Feb. 14, 1828. Even in childhood he displayed the vivacity of mind and the irreverent spirit which were to make him the most entertaining anti-clerical writer of his period. His tales have the qualities of the best writing of the eighteenth century, enhanced by the modern interest of his own century. "The King of the Mountains" is the best-known of his novels, as it is also the best. In 1854 About was working as a poor archaeologist at the French School at Athens, where he noticed there was a curious understanding between the brigands and the police of modern Hellas. Brigandage was becoming a safe and almost a respectable Greek industry. "Why not make it quite respectable and regular?" said About. "Why does not some brigand chief, with a good connection, convert his business into a properly registered joint-stock company?" So he produced, in 1856, one of the most delightful of satirical novels, "The King of the Mountains." Edmond About died on January 17, 1885, shortly after his election to the French Academy.
I.—The Brigand and His Business
I am no coward; still, I have some regard for my life. It is a present I received from my parents, and I wish to preserve it as long as possible in remembrance of them. So, on my arrival at Athens, in April, 1856, I refrained from going into the country.
Had the director of the Hamburg Botanical Gardens said to me when I left Germany: "My dear Hermann Schultz, I want you to go to Greece and draw up a report on the remarkable system of brigandage obtaining in that land," I might bravely have begun by going for a ride outside Athens, as my American friends, John Harris and William Lobster, did. But I had merely been sent, at a salary of L10 a month, to collect the rarer specimens of the flora of Greece. I therefore began by studying the native plants in the royal gardens; and put off the work of searching for new species and varieties.
John Harris and William Lobster, who lodged with me at the shop of the pastry cook, Christodulos, in Hermes Street, were persons of a more adventurous temperament. Borrowing the only two horses that Christodulos possessed, they rode out into the country. But they had scarcely gone a mile when they were stopped by a band of brigands, and urgently invited to pay a visit to the King of the Mountains. The Americans refused to go, as the King of the Mountains had an unkindly way of holding his visitors to large ransoms, and killing them if the money were not quickly paid. But the brigands—there were fourteen of them—insisted, and got out ropes and began to bind their captives. Neither Harris nor Lobster was made of the kind of wood of which faggots are composed. They drew their revolvers, and used them with astonishing effect. They lost the horses, but got safely back to Athens.
"I suppose I mustn't grumble over two horses," said Christodulos. "I served under Hadgi Stavros, the King of the Mountains, in the War of Independence, and earned enough money to set up in business."
Then, over a bottle of Santorin wine, Christodulos related the story of the great brigand chief. Hadgi Stavros was by far the most popular leader among the insurgent Greeks. His hatred of the Turks did not blind him to such a point that he passed through a Greek village without plundering it. A vigorous impartiality enabled him to advance his fame by increasing his wealth. Lord Byron dedicated an ode to him, and sympathisers with the Greek cause throughout Europe sent him subsidies. The result was that when Greece was at last liberated from the Turks, Hadgi Stavros returned to his old trade with a large capital, and a genius for organisation which enabled him to revolutionise the business of brigandage. He entered into arrangements with army officers and politicians, and saw to it that his allies were entrusted with the government of his free, enlightened and progressive country.
"But the pity of it is," continued our honest host, "that poor Hadgi Stavros is growing very old and has no son to succeed him. For the sake of his only daughter, he is investing all his wealth in foreign stocks and shares, instead of using it to extend his business."
"I say, I should be glad of an introduction to Miss Stavros," said John Harris. "I wouldn't mind throwing up my job as captain of the Fancy, now lying at the Piraeus, in order to marry the richest heiress in Greece. Do you think it is worth getting captured for the sake of meeting her?"
As Christodulos was about to reply, the shop-bell rang, and a young lady entered. Like nine out of ten Athenian girls, she had plain features. Her teeth were white and even, and her hair was beautiful; but that was all. Happily, in this world of ours, the ugliest little goose generally finds some honest gander to admire her. Dimitri, the son of the pastry cook, ran forward with a cry of delight, exclaiming, "It's Photini!"
"Gentlemen, let us talk of something else," whispered Christodulos. "We must not alarm this charming girl with tales about brigands."
He then introduced Photini to us. She was, it appeared, the daughter of one of his old companions-in-arms, Colonel John. Colonel John was apparently a man of means, for Photini was very fashionably dressed, and she was being educated at the best boarding-school in Athens. Her father had asked his old friend to allow Photini to come and chat with us, and improve Her knowledge of French and German. The girl, however, was too timid to enter into conversation, and, to judge by the direction of her glances, it was not French or German that she would have liked to speak if she could, but English.
John Harris, I admit, is a very good-looking man; but the way Photini began to devour him with her eyes, astonished me. I was sitting next to her at table; but she did not utter a word till the end of the meal. Then she asked if he were married.
"No, he isn't," I replied, adding with a touch of malice, "I think he would be glad of an introduction to you."
For something had occurred which made me suspect that she was the richest heiress in Greece. During the meal, Dimitri came running in with a newspaper, and looking far from happy.
"Hadgi Stavros has been defeated," he cried. "The troops have burnt his camp and broken up his army, and pursued him to the marshes of Marathon."
"It's a lie!" shouted Christodulos, his face red with anger. "The King of the Mountains could take Athens if he wanted to, and cut the throat of every man in it."
This, I thought, was strange language from an honest pastry cook, who was also a lieutenant in the militia. I was still more surprised when I turned to Photini, and saw that her face was wet with tears.
"You see, my dear Harris," I said, when he and Lobster and I were talking the matter over in my bedroom, "you have soon got the introduction you wanted."
"That ugly little over-dressed thing!" exclaimed Harris. "I wouldn't marry her to save my life."
"Well, at all events," I said, "I shall be able to begin my botanical researches to-morrow, now that her excellent father has retired to his mountains."
II.—The King of the Mountains Company, Limited
The next morning, I strapped on my collecting-case, and explored Mount Parnassus. There I came upon Dimitri and two ladies.
"The old woman is Mrs. Simons, English, very rich," said Dimitri to me. "The pretty girl is her daughter. I'm their guide. I chose this excursion in the hope of meeting you. But whatever is the matter with the women?"
They shrieked, and stared, horror-stricken, at a clump of bushes. I looked in the same direction, and perceived half a dozen gun-barrels gleaming among the leaves. Then eight ruffians appeared; and I saw that the only difference between devils and brigands is that devils are less black than is said, and brigands much dirtier than is supposed. They took all our money and jewelery, and then allowed Dimitri to depart—I guessed why—and led the two ladies and myself down the hill, and up a winding path on to a high plateau, where Hadgi Stavros and his band were now encamped.
The King of the Mountains was sitting, cross-legged, on a square carpet beneath a pine-tree, a little way from his noisy, crowded camp. Four secretaries were writing on their knees to his dictation. He was undoubtedly a man of majestic appearance. He had a fine figure—tall, supple, and marvelously preserved—and calm, noble features. The only indications of old age were his long white hair and long white moustaches. His dress was very simple—a jacket of black cloth, immense blue cotton trousers, large boots of Russian leather, and a loose red cap. A jeweled belt was the only costly thing he wore.
He raised his head at our approach.
"You are very welcome," he said with great gravity. "Please sit down while I finish dictating my letters."
His servant brought us refreshments, consisting of coffee, Turkish delight, and preserved fruit. Having put us at our ease, the king went on with his correspondence.
"This," he said, "is to Messrs. Barley and Co., 31 Cavendish Square, London."
"Excuse me, sire," said his secretary, bending over and whispering in his ear.
"What does it matter?" said the king in a haughty tone. "I've done nothing wrong. Let all the world come and listen if they want to. Now, take this down."
And he dictated the following letter:
"GENTLEMEN,—I observe by your note of April 5 that I now have L22,750 on current account. Please invest half of this sum in 3 per cent. Consols and half in bearer bonds before the coupons are detached. I shall be obliged if you will sell my shares in the Bank of England, and put the proceeds in London omnibuses. That will be a safe investment and, I think, a profitable one. Your obedient servant,
"P. S. Oblige me by sending a hundred guineas to Messrs. Ralli Brothers as my subscription towards the Hellenic School at Liverpool."
Mrs. Simons, who, like her daughter, did not speak Greek, leaned towards me.
"Mr. Schultz, is he dictating the terms of our ransom?" she asked.
"No, madam," I replied. "He is writing to his bankers."
Mrs. Simons turned to the box of Turkish delight. I found more pleasure in listening to the king's business correspondence. It was extraordinarily interesting.
The next letter was addressed to George Micrommati, Secretary of the King of the Mountains Co., Ltd., the Courts of Justice, Athens.
"I am sorry to say," Hadgi Stavros dictated, "that the company's operations have been much restricted owing to the bad harvest and to the occupation of a part of our beloved land by foreign troops.
"Our gross receipts from May 1, 1855, to April 30, 1856, amount only to:
fr. 261,482 "While our expenses come to 135,482 ————— "Leaving fr. 126,000 Which I propose to divide as follows: One-third of the profits payable to me as managing director 40,000 Amount added to reserve fund at Bank of Athens 6,000 Amount available for dividend 80,000 ————— "Total fr. 126,000
"This comes to about 70 per cent, on our present capital of 120,000 francs. It is, I know, the lowest dividend we have paid since the company was formed fourteen years ago. But the shareholders must consider the difficulties we have had to struggle against. Our business is so closely connected with the interests of the country that it can only flourish in times of general prosperity. From those who have nothing we can take nothing, or very little. The tourist season, however, has opened very favourably, and the affairs of the company will, I think, soon improve. I will send you a detailed statement in the course of a few days. I am too busy now."
The king read over the letters, and affixed his seal to them. Then, with royal courtesy, instead of having us brought before him on the carpet, he came and sat down by our side. Mrs. Simons at once began to talk at him in English. I offered to act as interpreter with a view to protecting her from herself. The king, however, thanked me coldly, and called to one of his brigands who knew English.
As I had foreseen, Mrs. Simons spoke very largely about her great wealth and her high position. The result was that the king fixed her ransom and that of Mary Ann at L4,000. I was determined that he should not over-estimate my resources.
"It's no good putting a ransom on me," I exclaimed. "My father is a poor German innkeeper who has been ruined by the railway. I've been forced to leave home and come to Greece, where I earn a beggarly L10 a month."
"If that is so," said the king, very kindly, "you can return to Athens at once, or stay here for a few days."
"I shall be happy to stay," I replied, "if you will return the collecting-case your men took from me. I want to go botanising."
"What! You are a man of science!" cried the king joyfully. "Ah, how I admire knowledge! Who sent you here to collect our plants? Some famous university, I'll be bound."
"I'm collecting on behalf of the Hamburg Botanical Gardens," I answered.
"And do you think, my dear friend," said the king, "that a great institution like the Hamburg Botanical Gardens would let a man of your worth perish rather than pay his ransom of L600? Happy young man! You now see the value of a sound, scientific education. Had you been an utter ignoramus as I am, I wouldn't have asked the ransom of a penny."
The king listened neither to my objections nor to the cries of Mrs. Simons. He rose up and departed; and one of his secretaries led us to a plot of green sward, where a meal had been laid for us.
"The king has ordered everything to be done to make your sojourn as pleasant as possible," he said. "He is sorry that his men were so ill-mannered as to rob persons of your importance. Everything they took will be returned to you. You have thirty days in which to pay your ransom. Write to your friends without delay, as the king never grants an extension of time."
"But if I can't get the money?" I asked.
"You will be killed," said the secretary.
I did not know what to do. I knew nobody with L100, much less L600. Then I thought of John Harris.
"Tell Christodulos," I wrote, "that Hadgi Stavros won't let me go. If he will not intercede for me, I leave myself, dear friend, in your hands. I know you are a man of courage and imagination. You will find a way to get me out of this fix."
All the same, I had very little hope; and Hadgi Stavros came up and found me looking very gloomy.
"Courage, my boy," he said.
"You know I can't raise L600," I exclaimed. "It's simply murder."
"You're a young fool," said the King of the Mountains. "Were I in your place, my ransom would be paid in two days. Don't you understand? Here you have an opportunity of winning a charming wife and an immense fortune."
Mary Ann was sitting with her mother outside one of the caves in the rocky enclosure, which were to serve as bedrooms. Close at hand was a stream, which ran through a hole in the rocks, and went tumbling down the precipitous side of the plateau. I saw that the stretch of green sward between the rocks had been a lake. This suggested to me a way of escape.
"Suppose," I said to Mary Ann, "that I closed up the hole in the rocks with turf, and let the water run into this hollow ground, do you think we would be able to climb down by the empty river bed?"
She got on the rocks and gazed over the precipice. "I could do it if you would help me."
"But I couldn't," said Mrs. Simons, very snappishly. "The whole thing's utterly ridiculous. I've written to the British Ambassador, and we shall be rescued by the royal troops in two days at the latest."
I then told her of the "King of the Mountains Co., Ltd."
"No doubt," I said, "many of the gallant officers IN the Greek Army have shares in it."
III.—A Way of Escape
And so it proved. Two days afterwards the king was explaining to me his scheme for transforming brigandage into a peaceful orderly system of taxation, when four shots were fired in the distance.
"Get out the Aegean wine," he said. "Pericles is coming with some troops."
Sixty soldiers came marching into the camp. Captain Pericles, whose figure I had often admired at Athens, ran up to Hadgi Stavros, and kissed him.
"Good news, my dear godfather! The paymaster-general is sending L1,000 to Argos this morning by the path near the Scironian Rocks," said the captain.
"Splendid, my boy!" said the king. "I'll go with all my men at once. Guard the camp, and write out the report of our battle. Defeat me if you like, but leave ten of your best troops dead on the field. I am in need of recruits. Look after the three prisoners. They're worth L4,600."
As Hadgi Stavros marched out at the head of his men, they sang a song composed by their king when he knew Lord Byron:
Down the winding valleys a hillsman went his way; His eyes were black and flaming, his gun was clean and bright He cried unto the vultures: "Oh, follow me to-day, And you shall have my foeman to feed upon to-night!"
When Mrs. Simons saw that the brigands had gone, and the troops had arrived, she was wild with excitement. I told her of the real state of affairs; but she wouldn't believe me, and gave Pericles her money and jewels when asked for them. In the evening the king returned with his men, and the troops departed. Mrs. Simons then broke down.
"If you were an Englishman, you would rescue us, and marry my daughter," she exclaimed. "I suppose I must write to Barley & Co., and get Edward to send our ransom."
"Barley & Co. of Cavendish Square?"
"Yes," said Mary Ann. "Didn't you know my mother and my uncle were bankers?"
"Then I have found a way of escape," I exclaimed. "Hadgi Stavros banks with your firm. Do you remember the letter he was dictating when we arrived? That was to Barley & Co. about an investment."
"I see. I must explain the position at once to him," said Mrs. Simons.
"And he will want half a million or more ransom," I said. "No! Write at once to your agents in Athens to send you L4,600. Pay Hadgi Stavros; make him give you a receipt. Enclose this in the next letter from Messrs. Barley & Co., with the note—'Item. L4,600 personally remitted by our partner, Mrs. Simons, as per enclosed receipt.'"
I raised my head, and saw the sweet brown eyes of Mary Ann looking at me, radiant with joy. I then went to Hadgi Stavros, and explained that the L4,600 would be paid into his account at the Bank of Athens on the production of his receipt for that amount. He refused at first to give a receipt. He had never done such a thing. Then I took him on his weak side, and said that perhaps it was more prudent not to give one. If ever he were captured it might be used against him. This touched him.
"I will not give one receipt," he cried. "I will give two—one for Mrs. and Miss Simons, one for Hermann Schultz."
Alas! from my point of view the result was deplorable. The ransom of the two ladies was paid, and they were set free. But as Messrs. Barley & Co. could not recover any money on a receipt given to me, their agent refused to pay my ransom.
"It doesn't matter," said Mrs. Simons, as she and Mary Ann departed. "You can escape by the way down the cascade. Your first plan was impossible with two women, but now you are alone, it is admirable. Come and see us as soon as you get away."
That night I made friends with the ruffian set to watch over me, and I plied him with wine until he fell on the grass and was unable to rise. I then dammed the stream, and climbed down its empty bed. It was difficult work, as the rocks were wet and the night was very dark. I was covered with bruises when I reached a platform of rock about ten feet from the bottom of the precipice. Just as I was about to jump down, a white form appeared below, and a savage growl came from it. I had forgotten the pack of fierce dogs, which, as the King of the Mountains had told me, were the best of all his sentries. Happily, I carried my collecting case, and in it was a packet of arsenic which I used for stuffing birds. I put some of the powder on a piece of bread, and threw the poisoned food to the dog; but arsenic takes a long time to act. In about half an hour's time the creature began to howl in a frightful manner, and it did not expire until daybreak. It also succeeded in arousing the camp, and I was recaptured and brought before the king.
"I don't mind your trying to escape," he said, with a terrible look; "but in your wild prank you have, drowned the man I set to watch over you. Were I to give way to my feelings I would have you killed. But I will be merciful. You will merely be bastinadoed to prevent you from wandering out of bounds until your ransom is paid."
I received twenty strokes on my feet. At the third I began to bleed. At the fourth I began to howl. At the tenth I was insensible to pain. When I came to I was in such an agony that I would have given my soul to kill Hadgi Stavros. I tried to, but failed. But I would hurt him, though I knew I should die for it. So, with a torrent of invectives, I explained how I tricked him over the ransom of Mrs. Simons and her daughter.
"She's a partner in Barley's Bank, you fool, you ass!" I shrieked. "She will get back all the L4,000 on your receipt."
Hadgi Stavros turned pale and trembled.
"No," he said, very slowly; "I will not kill you. You have not suffered enough. Four thousand pounds! It is a fortune. You have stolen my daughter's fortune. What can I do to you? Find me, you brutes," he cried, turning to his men, "a torture of L4,000."
Then he left me in their hands.
"Treat him gently," he said. "I don't want him to get so exhausted that he dies before I begin to play with him."
As a beginning, they stripped me to the waist, and their cook put me close to a great fierce fire, where some lambs were being fried. The red cinders fell about me, and the heat was unsupportable. I dragged myself away on my hands—I could not use my feet—but the ruffian kicked me back. Then he left me for a moment to get some salt and pepper. I remembered that I had put the arsenic in my trousers pocket. With a supreme effort I rose up and scattered the powder over the meat.
"What are you doing?" said the cook. "Trying to cast a spell on our food?"
He had only seen, from a distance, the motion of my hand. I was avenged!
Suddenly I heard a cry: "The king! Where is the king?" And Dimitri, the son of Christodulos, came running up.
"Good God!" he said when he saw me. "The poor girl!"
The cook was so astonished that he forgot me for a minute; and I managed to crawl away and lay on the cold grass. Then Hadgi Stavros appeared. With a cry of anguish he took me gently in his arms, and carried me to the cave among the rocks.
"Poor boy!" he said. "How you have suffered! But you will soon be well. I once had sixty strokes of the bastinado, and two days afterwards I was dancing the Romaika. It was this ointment that cured me."
"But what has happened?" I murmured.
"Read that!" he cried, throwing me a letter. "What a pirate! What an assassin! If I only had you and your friend, one in each hand! Oh, he won't do it! Will he?"
The letter was from John Harris. It ran:
"Hadgi Stavros,—Photini is now on my ship, the Fancy, which carries four guns. She remains a hostage as long as Hermann Schultz remains a prisoner. As you treat my friend, so I will treat your daughter. She shall pay hair for hair, tooth for tooth, head for head. Answer at once, or I will come and see you.—JOHN HARRIS."
"I know Photini," I said to the king, "and I swear that she will not be harmed. But I must return to Athens at once. Get four of your men to carry me down the mountains in a litter."
The king rose up, and then groaned and staggered. I remembered the arsenic. He must have eaten some of the meat. I tickled the inside of his throat, and he brought up most of the poison. Soon afterwards the other brigands came up to the enclosure, screaming with pain, and wanted to murder me. I had cast a spell over their meat, and it was torturing them, they cried. I must be killed at once, and then the spell would be removed. The king commanded them to withdraw. They resisted. He drew his saber, and cut down two of the ringleaders. The rest seized their guns and began to shoot. There were about sixty of them, all suffering, more or less, from the effects of arsenic poisoning. We were only twelve in number, but our men had the steadier aim; and the king fought like a hero, though his hands and feet were swelling painfully.
The fact was that he had eaten some time before his men, and I could not therefore get the poison completely out of his system. But it was the arsenic that saved his life. He had at last to come and lie down beside me. We heard the sound of rapid firing in the distance; and suddenly two men entered our enclosure, with revolvers in each hand, and shot down our defenders with an extraordinary quickness of aim. They were Harris and Lobster.
"Hermann, where are you?" Harris yelled at last, with all his strength, as he turned and found nothing more to shoot at.
"Here," I replied. "The men you've just killed have been fighting for me. There has been civil war in the camp."
"Well, we've stamped it out!" said Harris. "What's the matter with the old scoundrel lying beside you?"
"It's Hadgi Stavros," I said. "He and his men have been eating some arsenic I had in my collecting case."
My friends managed to carry me down the mountain, and at the first village we came to they got a carriage and took me to Athens. The ointment used by Hadgi Stavros was, as he had said, marvelous; and in two days I could walk as well as ever. I at once called on Mrs. and Miss Simons.
"They departed yesterday for Trieste," said the servant, "on their way to London."
As I was returning to Hermes Street I met Hadgi Stavros and Photini.
"How is it that the King of the Mountains is found walking in the streets of Athens?" I said.
"What can I do in the mountains now?" he replied. "All my men are killed, wounded or fled. I might get others. But look at my swollen hands. How can I use a sword? No; let some one younger now take my place. But I defy him to equal me in fame or fortune. And I have not done yet. Before six months are gone, you will see Hadgi Stavros, Prime Minister of Greece. Oh, there are more ways of making money than one!"
And that was the last I saw of the King of the Mountains. On the advice of Harris, I at once returned to Hamburg, lest some of the remaining brigands found me out, and take vengeance for the spell I had cast on their meat. But some day I hope to go to London, and call at 31, Cavendish Square.
* * * * *
Tower of London
William Harrison Ainsworth, born at Manchester, England, Feb. 4, 1805, was a popular rather than a great writer. A solicitor's son, he was himself trained in the law, but some adventures in journalism led him finally to the literary life, his first success as a writer of romance being scored with "Rookwood" in 1834. "Tower of London" was the fourth work of the novelist, and, according to Ainsworth himself, it was written chiefly with the aim of interesting his fellow-countrymen in the historical associations of the Tower. From the popularity of the romance it is reasonable to suppose that it fulfilled its author's hopes in this respect, though it must be confessed its history leaves a good deal to be desired. Here is not the place to discuss the rights and wrongs of Ainsworth's bold liberties in respect to the historical personages he introduces; but there is no doubt that the romance is told with vigour and dramatic movement, and it is an excellent example of the novelist's spirited style of narrative, though, judged on purely literary merits, like his other works, the "Tower of London" will not bear comparison with the masterpieces of Sir Walter Scott in the field of historical romance. Ainsworth died at Reigate on January 3, 1882.
I.—Prisoners in the Tower
Edward VI. was dead, poisoned, it was rumoured, by the Duke of Northumberland, Grandmaster of the Realm. For three days had an attempt been made to keep his death secret, so that the proud and ambitious duke might seize the persons of the Princess Mary and the Princess Elizabeth. But the former, warned in time, had escaped the snare; and the Duke of Northumberland, finding further dissimulation useless, boldly proclaimed his daughter-in-law, Lady Jane Grey, queen.
On July 10, 1553, Queen Jane, the wisest and most beautiful woman in the kingdom, though only sixteen years of age, was conducted in state to the Tower, where it was the custom for the monarchs of England to spend the first few days of their reign.
But the crowds who watched her departure from Durham House, in the Strand, were silent and sullen. Her youthful beauty and grace might win an involuntary cry of admiration, but the heart of the people was not hers. They recognised that she was but the tool of her father-in-law, whom, because of his overweening ambition, they hated.
All the pride and pomp of silken banners and cloth of gold could not mask the gloomy presage of the young queen's reign. The very heavens thundered; and owing to the press of boats that surrounded the procession, many small craft were overturned and their occupants thrown into the water. And if further signs of portending evil were wanted, they could be discerned in the uneasy whisperings of those lords of the Privy Council who were present, or in the sinister face of the Spaniard, Simon Renard, ambassador to the Emperor Charles V.
"This farce will not last long," he said to De Noailles, the French ambassador. "The Privy Council are the duke's secret enemies, and through them I shall strike the scepter from Jane's grasp and place it in the hand of Mary."
Elsewhere in the procession, Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury, uttered in a low voice to Ridley, Bishop of London, his fears for the future; while certain lords of the Privy Council, who had planned the assassination of the Duke of Northumberland, and were aware that their plot had been discovered, approached the portals of the Tower in fear and trembling.
But there was one man at least who did not share the general depression and uneasiness. Cuthbert Cholmondeley, esquire to Lord Guildford Dudley, husband of Queen Jane, found much to interest him in the scene. The reception of her Majesty by Og, Gog, and Magog had already driven away the sense of portending evil from his mind when he caught sight of a girl's face in the crowd. It was only for a moment that he had sight of it; but it left such a deep impression on his mind that for the rest of the day he burned with impatience to discover who the girl might be.
Much had to happen before he could satisfy his curiosity. Once in the Tower, plots against Queen Jane and the Duke of Northumberland began to thicken. At a meeting of the Privy Council the duke compelled the lords, under threat of imprisonment, to sign a proclamation declaring Princess Mary illegitimate. Renard lost no time in turning to his own advantage the bad impression created by these tactics.
"Do you consent to Northumberland's assassination?" he whispered to Pembroke.
"I do," replied the Earl of Pembroke. "But who will strike the blow?"
"I will find the man."
This sinister fragment of conversation fell upon the ears of Cuthbert. He at once sent a warning missive to his master, telling him of the plot against the duke's life. Then, this duty performed, he set out to try and find the girl whose face had so impressed him. From the giant warders he learnt that she was the adopted daughter of Dame Potentia Trusbut, wife of Peter, the pantler of the Tower. A mystery surrounded her birth. Her mother had been imprisoned in the Tower by Henry VIII., and in her dungeon had given birth to Cicely—such was the name of the girl.
Magog, seeing Cuthbert's interest, good-naturedly carried him off with him to the pantler's quarters. Here a gargantuan feast was in progress, to which the three giants did full justice, devouring whole joints and pasties and quaffing vast flagons of wine, to the great delight of the pantler and his wife. But Cuthbert had no eyes except for Cicely. He was not content until he was by her side and was able to hear her voice. The attraction between them was mutual, and it was not long before they were whispering the first words of love into one another's ears.
While all was merriment, Renard and Pembroke made their appearance unobserved. They had intercepted Cuthbert's letter, and were anxious to satisfy themselves as to the identity of the rash youth who had dared to cross their path.
"Though we have intercepted his missive to Lord Dudley," whispered Renard, "he may yet betray us. He must not return to the palace."
"He shall never return, my lords," said a tall, dark man, advancing towards them, "if you will entrust his detention to me."
"Who are you?" demanded Renard, eyeing him suspiciously.
"Lawrence Nightgall, the chief gaoler."
"What is your motive for this offer?"
"Look there!" returned Nightgall. "I love that damsel. He has supplanted me, but he shall not profit by his good fortune."
"You are the very man I want!" cried Renard, rubbing his hands gleefully. "Lead me where we can speak more freely."
The three withdrew unobserved. Half an hour later Cuthbert dragged himself unwillingly from Cicely's side and passed into the open air. As he did so he received a blow on the back of his head which stretched him unconscious on the ground.
When he came to his senses he found himself bound by a chain in a gloomy dungeon, a ghastly, dreadful place, but a few feet in height. His first instinct was to try to loosen his bonds, but after vainly lacerating his hands he sank down exhausted.
Terrible recollections flashed upon his mind of the pitiless sufferings he had heard that the miserable wretches immured in these dungeons endured before death.
For a time these mental tortures were acute; but at last nature asserted herself, and he sank exhausted into sleep. He was awakened by a cry, and perceived the tall, skeleton figure of a woman standing by him. She placed a thin and bony hand upon his shoulder. He shrank back as far as his chain would permit, horror-stricken. The figure pursued him, shrieking, "My child! My child! You have taken my child!"
Suddenly she stopped and stood erect. A distant footstep was heard.
"He comes! He comes!" she cried, and with a loud shriek dashed from the dungeon and disappeared.
In another second Nightgall stood before him. The gaoler made no attempt to disguise the motives which prompted him to imprison the young esquire. No threats that Cuthbert could use had the least effect on him. He quailed before the charge that Cuthbert made at random—that he had murdered the child of the unfortunate wretch who had disappeared at his coming, but on the question of his release he was obdurate. If Cuthbert would agree to give up Cicely he should be released; otherwise he should meet with a secret death at the hands of Mauger, the executioner.
At this juncture, Cicely, who had been directed by the dwarf, Xit, appeared. To save the man she loved she boldly declared that she would wed Nightgall, provided that he would conduct his prisoner outside the walls of the Tower.
"Bring me back some token that you have done so, and I am yours," she said.
Nightgall consented, and agreed to withdraw while Cuthbert and Cicely arranged privately what the token should be.
Hurriedly Cuthbert gave her a ring to send to Lord Dudley, who, he knew, would at once effect his release. Then, accompanied by Nightgall, Cicely withdrew from the gloomy dungeon.
Unable to deliver the ring herself to Lord Dudley, Cicely entrusted that task to Xit. But the vanity of the dwarf prevented the execution of the plan. As he was exhibiting the ring to Og, Nightgall suddenly approached, and snatched it from him, and, without taking any notice of the little man's threats, made his way to Cicely. When he displayed the ring as the token that her lover had been set free, Cicely, shrieking "Lost! Lost!" fell senseless on the floor.
II.—The Twelfth Day Queen
While Renard's intrigues were maturing, and the Duke of Northumberland had left the Tower on a campaign against the Princess Mary, Cuthbert Cholmondeley was kept languishing in his terrible dungeon.
At long intervals Nightgall visited him, and once the wretched prisoner, whom the gaoler called Alexia, came to him, entreating his help against Nightgall.
At last Cuthbert decided upon a daring plan of escape. After several days' imprisonment he feigned to be dead. Nightgall, seeing him stretched on the ground, apparently lifeless, chuckled with delight, and, releasing the chain that bound his leg, bent over him with the intention of carrying his body into the burial vault near the moat. But a suspicion crossed his mind, and he drew his dagger, determined to make sure that his prisoner had passed away. As he did so, the young esquire sprang to his feet, and wrested the poniard from his grasp. In another second Nightgall was lying chained to the floor, where his prisoner had been a moment before.
Despite the gaoler's threats, Cuthbert set out, determined to liberate Alexia and made good his own escape. He wandered through the terrible torture chambers, released an old man confined in a cell called Little Ease, a cell so low and so contrived that the wretched inmate could not stand, walk, sit, or lie at full length within, and then, unable to discover the whereabouts of the ill-fated Alexia, returned to the gaoler, and, possessing himself of his keys and cloak, started forth once more. After wandering for a long time, chance at last brought him to a secret door, which led into St. John's Chapel in the White Tower.
While these events were in progress Cicely, despairing of her lover's safety, sought an audience of Queen Jane, and poured out her story. Moved by compassion, the queen gave directions for a search to be made, and, delighted by the grace and charm of Cicely, appointed her one of her attendants. Lord Guildford Dudley, procuring the assistance of Magog, burst open the door leading to the subterranean dungeons beneath the Devilin Tower, and eventually discovered Nightgall, who made a full confession of his crime as the price of his release.
Cholmondeley's arrival in St. John's Chapel was opportune. Renard, with Pembroke by his side, had just demanded the resignation of the crown by Queen Jane, and the queen, helpless but courageous, had ordered Lord Pembroke to arrest the Spaniard. Pembroke had refused to move, and at this juncture Cholmondeley stepped forward, and, advancing towards the ambassador, said, "M. Simon Renard, you are the queen's prisoner."
The Spaniard drew his sword, and, with the assistance of the Earl of Pembroke, kept Cuthbert at bay until they were both able to slip through the secret door.
Next day, Queen Jane was forced by the Privy Council to resign her crown, and that same night, accompanied by Cuthbert and Cicely, she escaped by a secret passage from the Tower, and, taking a boat, made her way to Sion House. Here, the following day, she and her husband were arrested, and learnt the news that the Duke of Northumberland was in captivity, and that Queen Mary had ascended the throne. Once more Lady Jane was led back to the Tower, and as she entered by the Traitors' Gate she saw Renard standing hard by, with a smile of bitter mockery in his face.
"So," he said, "Epiphany is over. The Twelfth Day Queen has played her part."
III.—The Price of Pardon
Simon Renard's influence was now for the time supreme. At his instigation the Duke of Northumberland was tricked into a confession of the Roman Catholic faith on the scaffold, and then executed. Ambitious that Mary should marry Philip of Spain, he contrived by intrigue to kill her affection for Courtenay, the young Earl of Devon, and succeeded so successfully that Courtenay was placed under arrest, and the Princess Elizabeth, with whom the earl had fallen in love, became the victim of her sister's jealousy. Cuthbert, though not confined in a cell, was kept prisoner in the Tower, and occupied quarters in the pantler's house. Cicely had disappeared, and nothing had been heard of her since the arrest of Lady Jane Grey at Sion House.
Consumed with anxiety for the safety of the girl he loved, the esquire began to suspect that she had been kidnapped by Nightgall. He determined to find her at all cost, and getting Xit to steal the gaoler's keys, he once more made his way to the subterranean dungeons.
Cell after cell he searched, but nowhere could he find a trace of his beloved Cicely. All that he discovered was the dead body of Alexia. He made haste to return to his quarters, and had almost reached them when Nightgall appeared, and at once placed him under arrest for stealing his keys.
His enemy was now at his mercy, and Nightgall, after burying the body of Alexia, sought out Cicely, whom be had kept for several weeks a close prisoner in the Salt Tower. He told her that he was about to remove her to another prison in the Tower leading to the Iron Gate.
"I will never go thither of my own accord," replied Cicely, shrinking terrified from him. "Release me, villain; I will die sooner than become your bride."
"We shall see that," growled the gaoler, seizing hold of her. "You shall never be set free unless you consent to be mine."
He carried her, shrieking and struggling in his arms, out of the room, and dragged her by main force down the secret staircase. She continued her screams, until her head, striking against the stones, she was stunned by the blow and became insensible. Nightgall raised her, and carried her quickly to the dark cell he had already prepared. Here she would have languished for months without seeing anybody save Nightgall, except for a curious chain of circumstances.
Renard's plan of marrying Mary to Philip of Spain, to which end he had had Courtenay and the Princess Elizabeth imprisoned in the Tower, was bitterly opposed by De Noailles. The French ambassador determined to prevent the Spaniard's plans, and, by means of Xit, sent a communication to the princess just as she was leaving her prison for Ashbridge. Further, the little mannikin managed to creep, by way of the chimney, into the chamber where Courtenay was confined, and arrange a plan by which the Earl was able to escape. His share in these events, however, was discovered, and, much to his amazement, he was arrested and taken to the torture chamber. Though none of the instruments were small enough to inflict much pain upon him, he was so terrified that he answered every question that Renard asked him, giving those answers that he thought the Spaniard would approve. The examination over he was placed in a cell. Here he was visited by Nightgall, from whose girdle he managed to cut, unobserved, the bunch of keys.
Unlocking his own door, he hurried out into the labyrinth of passages and cells, and in his wanderings in search of an exit lighted upon the cell in which Cicely was confined. He was not able to effect her escape, for as they were setting out Nightgall appeared, and put an end to their hopes.
Cuthbert had meanwhile been released, together with Lady Jane and her husband. For a time they lived together quietly in Sion House, but De Noailles' plan to prevent the Spanish marriage at all costs dragged them once more into the whirlpool.
Under the leadership of Sir Thomas Wyatt, an insurrection took place, having for its nominal object the prevention of Mary's marriage with Philip of Spain; but it was joined by all the forces opposed to the crown. Courtenay shared in it because he hoped to wed Elizabeth, who would be made Queen on the deposition of Mary. Lord Guildford Dudley joined in it in the anticipation that his wife might once more mount the throne.
At first Wyatt carried everything before him. Mary was actually besieged in the Tower, which it was attempted to carry by force. Supported by Cuthbert, Lord Guildford led the assault, shouting, "Long live Queen Jane! Down with Renard and the See of Rome!" The attack had almost succeeded, when Dudley was struck from behind by Renard and taken prisoner.
Cuthbert only escaped by forcing himself through an aperture, and dropping into the moat, from where he managed to swim ashore. He made his way at once to Lady Jane, and related to her how the insurrection had collapsed, and how her husband had been taken prisoner. For her own safety Jane had no thought. She at once determined to seek out the queen, and beseech her to spare her husband.
Accompanied by Cuthbert, she presented herself at the Tower, and, obtaining an audience with Mary, flung herself at her feet.
"I am come to submit myself to your highness's mercy," she said, as soon as she could find utterance.
"Mercy?" exclaimed Mary scornfully. "You shall receive justice, but no mercy."
"I do not sue for myself," rejoined Jane, "but for my husband. I have come to offer myself for him. If your highness has any pity for me, extend it to him, and heap his faults on my head."
Queen Mary was deeply moved. Had not Gardiner intervened, she would undoubtedly have granted the request; but Gardiner suggested that the price of the pardon should be the public reconciliation of Lady Jane and her husband with the Church of Rome.
"I cannot," said Jane. "I will die for him, but I cannot destroy my soul alive."
IV.—The Torture Chamber and the Block
After a week's imprisonment, Cuthbert was closely questioned, and his answers being deemed unsatisfactory, he was ordered to be examined under torture. With fiendish delight Nightgall took him to the horrible chamber. There, the first thing that he saw was the tortured, mangled figure of Lord Dudley, covered from head to foot by a blood-coloured cloth.
"You here?" cried the ghastly, distorted figure. "Where is Jane? Has she fled? Has she escaped?"
"She has surrendered herself," replied Cholmondeley, "in the hope of obtaining your pardon."
"False hope! Delusive expectation!" exclaimed Dudley, in tones of anguish, as he was carried from the room. "She will share my fate. Oh God! I am her destroyer!"
Cholmondeley, as soon as his master had been borne away, was seized by the torturers and placed on the rack. He determined that not a sound should escape him, and though his whole frame seemed rent asunder, he bravely kept his resolve.
"Go on," cried Nightgall, as the torturers paused. "Turn the roller again."
Even as he spoke Cholmondeley fainted, and, finding that no answers could be extracted from him, he was taken back to his cell and flung upon a heap of straw. As he lay there, Nightgall, with diabolical cruelty, brought Cicely to his side, and bade her look on his nerveless arms and crippled limbs, and mockingly offered to set him free if Cicely would marry him of her own free will. When at Cuthbert's instigation she refused, he forced her away, shrieking for help.
Cuthbert sank once more into insensibility. He came to his senses again to find that men were chafing his limbs and bathing his temples, and that Renard was in his cell. At the Spaniard's order he was given a cup of wine, and the rest having withdrawn, Renard questioned him further.
While this examination was going on the cell door opened softly, and a masked figure appeared. It was Nightgall, who, bribed by De Noailles, had come to assassinate Renard. He flung himself on his intended victim, and was about to dispatch him with his poniard, when Cuthbert, summoning up all his strength, intervened.
Finding that he had two men to deal with instead of one, the gaoler sprang to his feet, and rushed from the dungeon. Renard followed him, furious with rage, and Cuthbert at once took advantage of the opportunity to escape.
After some search he discovered the whereabouts of Cicely, and together the lovers, happy once more at being united, if only for a short time, succeeded in finding their way out of the dungeons. As soon as they emerged into the open air they were arrested by the warders, and taken to the guard-room in the White Tower, where Cicely received a warm welcome from the three giants. There was no time to relate their adventures before Renard appeared, walking before a litter upon which was borne the mangled body of Nightgall, who, in his attempt to escape the Spaniard's sword, had been forced to jump from an embrasure of the White Tower.
The wretch was dying; but with his last breath he attempted to make some amends for all the evil he had done in his life. Bidding Cicely come to his side, he told her that she was the daughter of Alexia, whose real name was Lady Mountjoy, and he gave her papers, proving her right to the estates of her father, Sir Alberic Mountjoy, who had incurred the vengeance of Henry VIII.
Renard, grateful to Cholmondeley for saving his life, secured his pardon.
Cicely also returned to the side of Lady Jane Grey, and watched the splendid fortitude and unswerving courage with which her unfortunate mistress prepared for the scaffold. The day before her death her wish that Cicely and Cuthbert should be united was granted, and they were married in her presence by Master John Bradford, Prebendary of St. Paul's.
At last Monday, the twelfth of February, 1544, dawned, and Lady Jane Grey was led out to the scaffold. On the way she passed the headless corpse of Lord Guildford, being borne to the grave. Cicely accompanied the beautiful girl to the last. It was her hands that helped her to remove her attire and that tied the handkerchief over those eyes which were never to look on the world again.
Blindfolded, Jane groped for the block, crying, "What shall I do? Where is it?"
She was guided to the place, and, laying her head on the block, cried, "Lord—into Thy hands I commend my spirit!"
The axe then fell, and one of the fairest and wisest heads that ever sat on human shoulders fell also.
* * * * *
HANS CHRISTIAN ANDERSEN
Hans Christian Andersen was born at Odense, in Denmark, on April 2, 1805, the son of a poor bootmaker. His life was full of exciting incidents; his early years in particular constitute a record of hard struggle, poverty and lack of recognition. When nine he tried his hand at tragedy and comedy, and was sent, after his father's death in 1819, to Copenhagen, where he engaged in various occupations with little success, until his talents attracted the attention of a few influential personages, who provided him with the means for continuing his studies. He won considerable reputation with some early poems, and was quite well known to the public before he entered the university in 1828. He next published a satirical story, and after a journey in Italy, his famous novel, "The Improvisatore," which gave him an opportunity for a brilliant series of word-pictures describing the life and character of the parts of Italy he had visited. Apart from his world-famous fairy tales, by which he set no great store, being ambitious of fame as a novelist, he wrote several successful plays, epic poems and novels. His fairy tales have been translated practically into every language. Hans Andersen died at the age of seventy, in Copenhagen, on August 4, 1875.
I.—A Boyhood in Rome
My earliest recollections take me back to my tender youth, when I lived with my widowed mother in a little garret in a Roman square. She supported us by sewing and by the rent of a larger room, sublet to a young painter. On the house opposite there was an image of the Virgin, before which, when the evening bells rang, I and the neighbours' children used to kneel and sing in honour of the Mother of God and the Child Jesus. Once an English family stopped to listen; and the gentleman gave me a silver coin, "because of my fine voice," as my mother told me.
My mother's confessor, Fra Martino, always showed great kindness to me; and I spent many hours with him at the convent. It was through him that I became chorister in the Capuchin church, and was allowed to carry the great censer.
Before I was nine, I was chosen as one of the boys and girls who were to preach between Christmas and the New Year in the church of Ara Croeli, before the image of Jesus. I had no fear, and it seemed decided that I, of all children, gave most delight; but after me came a little girl of exquisitely delicate form, bright countenance, and so melodious a voice that even my mother, with all her pride of me, awarded her the palm, and declared that she was just like an angel. But I had often to repeat my speech at home, and then made up a new one describing the festival in the church, which was considered just as good.
One moonlit evening, on returning with my mother from a visit in Trastevere, we found a crowd in the Piazza di Trevi, listening to a man singing to a guitar—not songs like those which I had so often heard, but about things around him, of what we saw and heard, and we ourselves were in the song. My mother told me he was an improvisatore; and Federigo, our artist lodger, told me I should also improvise, for I was really a poet. And I tried it forthwith—singing about the foodshop over the way, with its attractively set out window and the haggling customers. I gained much applause; and from this time forth I turned everything into song.
My first visit to the country ended in a sad event, which was to shape the whole course of my life. It was in June, and my mother and her friend Mariuccia took me to see the famous flower fete at Genzano. We stayed the night at an inn, and in the morning joined the dense holiday crowd that moved over the carpet of flowers on the pavement of the main street. Suddenly there was a piercing cry—a pair of unmanageable horses rushed through. I was thrown down, and all was blackness. When I awoke, Mother of God, I lay with my head on Mariuccia's lap, beside the lifeless form of my mother, crushed by the carriage wheel! The occupant of the carriage, a gentleman of the Borghese family, had escaped with a shaking, and sent a servant in rich livery with a purse containing twenty scudi for the motherless child.
Mariuccia took me back to Rome; it was decided that her parents, who kept flocks in the Campagna—honest people to whom my twenty scudi would be wealth—should take charge of me. Thus, in the dreary Campagna, with honest Benedetto and kindly Domenica, I spent the summer and the early autumn in the ancient tomb which they had transformed into a hut. The first week it rained incessantly; then, with the sun, came the insufferable heat, increasing in intensity from day to day, from week to week. Even the buffaloes lay like dead masses upon the burnt-up grass, unless, excited to madness by the poison-stings of myriads of flies, that covered them as if they were carrion, they rushed in mad career to the Tiber to roll themselves in the yellow water.
One day, towards sunset, I was just opening the door to leave the hut, when a man darted in so suddenly that I was thrown down. With lightning speed he shut the door, and in a distressed tone uttered the name of the Madonna, when a violent blow shattered the door, and the whole opening was filled with the head of a fierce buffalo, whose body was tightly squeezed into the doorway. The stranger seized a gun from the wall, took aim, and shot the beast. The danger over, he lifted me from the ground, and said: "Blessed be Madonna! You have saved my life." He inquired about me. I was made to show him my abominable sketches upon bits of paper and to sing to him, and caused him astonishment at my improvising about the Madonna and himself and the buffalo. He finally asked Domenica to bring me next morning to see him at the Borghese Palace. He was the powerful prince himself, who had unwittingly been the cause of my poor mother's death!
II.—In the School of Life
The prince, his daughter Francesca, and her fiance Fabiani, overwhelmed me with kindness. The visit had to be frequently repeated; and I became quite accustomed to the splendours of the palazzo. Finally, Eccellenza decided to have me educated in the Jesuits' school; and I had to bid farewell to good Domenica and to enter upon my school life. New occupations engrossed me; new acquaintances presented themselves; the dramatic portion of my life began to unfold itself. Here years compress themselves together.
I became particularly attached to one of my school-fellows, Bernardo, a gay, almost dissolute son of a Roman senator. When he suddenly left school to join the Papal Guard the whole world seemed to me empty and deserted. One day I saw him pass my window on a prancing horse. I rushed out, but ran across the porter's wife of the Borghese Palace, who informed me that the young Eccellenza and her husband had just arrived. Would I not come to give them welcome? To the palace I went, was graciously received by Fabiani and Francesca, who brought me their little daughter Flaminia, the "little abbess," as she was called, having been destined from her birth for the life of a nun. The child had wonderfully bright eyes, and came towards me as though we were old acquaintances, laughing and chattering, and showing me her toys.
On my way back, early in the evening, as luck would have it, I almost ran into the arms of Bernardo. He was delighted to see me, told me of his merry life and adventures, and wanted to drag me into an artists' tavern to drink a bottle of wine. That was impossible for me, a Jesuits' pupil. I refused. As we walked on we met a crowd hustling an old Jew. A thick-set brute of a fellow wanted to force him to jump over a long stick, and everybody shouted, "Leap, Jew!" Bernardo sprang forth, snatched the stick out of the fellow's hand, brandished his sword, and cried in a strong, manly voice, "Leap yourself, or I shall cleave your head!" He made him jump, and jump again, and struck him lightly with the flat of his sword. The crowd veered round at once, laughed and applauded, the old Jew meanwhile making his escape. "Come," said I, when we were out of the crowd, "come! Let them say what they may, I will drink a bottle of wine with you. May we always be friends!"
I met Bernardo again some time after at the Vatican. His joy equalled mine, and he immediately plunged into confidences. One day, when straying into the Ghetto, he had encountered the old Jew of our adventure, bowing and scraping, and requesting the honour of receiving, him in his house. They entered; wine was brought to him by a dark Jewish maiden, of such beauty as to set his whole blood on fire. Since then he had vainly tried to see her. He visited the Jew's house on all sorts of pretexts, but his charmer remained invisible. He now made the amazing proposition that I should take up the study of Hebrew with the old Jew, and thus help him in this affair. I explained the utter impossibility of aiding him in a project of this nature. He was obviously offended; and when we parted he returned my warmth with chilly politeness.
We met but rarely after this meeting; Bernardo was always jovial and friendly, though not confidential, until, on the occasion of a dance at the Borghese Palace, when I asked him about the handsome Jewish maiden, he laughed. "I have found," he said, "another and tamer little golden bird. The other has flown out of the Ghetto—nay, even out of Rome!"
My patron's family left Rome; and I had to throw myself into the study for the examination that was to bring me the title of an abbe. With the advent of the carnival I had assumed the black dress and the short silk coat of an abbate, and had become a new and happier person. For the first time I took part in the jollities of the carnival, and at the end of the first day again came across Bernardo, who insisted upon taking me to the opera to hear a new prima donna who had turned everybody's heart at Naples. Rumour had not belied her. Her appearance was greeted with rapturous applause. Bernardo seized my arm; he had recognised in her his Jewish maiden, just as I was about to exclaim, "It is she!"—the lovely child who had preached that Christmas at Ara Coeli. There were endless calls for "Annunciata" when the curtain fell; flowers and garlands were thrown at her feet, and among them a little poem which I had written under the inspiration of her exquisite voice. With a crowd of enthusiasts, we hurried to the stage-door, took the horses from her carriage, and conducted her in triumph to her apartments.
Bernardo, who, bolder than I, had called on Annunciata, brought me to her the next day. She was friendly, brilliant in her conversation, and appeared deeply impressed with my improvisation on "Immortality"—the immortality first of eternal Rome, and then of the fair singer's art—to which I was pressed when Bernardo let out the secret of my gift.
"You have given me the sincerest pleasure," she said, and looked confidingly into my eyes. I ventured to kiss her hand. After that I saw her every day during the gay carnival, and was more and more captivated by her charm.
Annunciata left Rome on Ash Wednesday, and with her the brightness seemed to have gone completely out of my life, my only pleasure being the recollection of those happy days of the carnival.
III.—Love and Adventure in Rome
I saw Annunciata again when Rome had begun to fill with Easter visitors, and had the happiness of dining with her the same day. She told me that, although born in Spain, she had been, as a child, in Rome; that it was she who preached that day at Ara Coeli, "an orphan, who would have perished of hunger had not a despised Jew given it shelter and food until it could flutter forth over the wild, restless sea." Next day I showed her over the Borghese gallery; and on the day before Easter we drove out to see the procession which initiated the Easter festival, and in the evening to Monte Mario to see the illuminations of St. Peter's— an unforgettable sight!
As I went into the little inn to fetch some refreshment I found myself in the narrow passage face to face with Bernardo, pale, and with glowing eyes. He wildly seized my hand, and said: "I am not an assassin, Antonio; but fight with me you shall, or I shall become your murderer!"
I tried to calm him, but he forced a pistol into my hand. "She loves you," he whispered; "and you, in your vanity, will parade it before all the Roman people—before me!" He threw himself upon me. I thrust him back. I heard a report; my hand trembled. Bernardo lay before me in his blood. The people of the house rushed in, and with them Annunciata. I wanted to fling myself, in despair, upon Bernardo's body; but Annunciata lay on her knees beside him, trying to staunch the blood. "Save yourself!" she cried. But I, overcome by anguish, exclaimed: "I am innocent; the pistol went off by accident. Yes, Annunciata, we loved you. I would die for you, like he! Which of us was the dearer to you? Tell me whether you love me, and then I will escape." She bowed her head down to the dead. I heard her weeping, and saw her press her lips to Bernardo's brow. Then I heard voices shout "Fly, fly!" and, as by invisible hands, I was torn out of the house.
Like a madman I rushed through bushes and underwood until I reached the Tiber. Among the ruins of a tomb I came across three men sitting around a fire, to whom I explained that I wanted a boat to cross the river. They agreed to take me across; but I had better give them my money to keep for safety. I realised that I had fallen into the hands of robbers, gave them all I had, was tied on to a horse, and taken across the river, riding all night, until at dawn we reached a wild part of the mountains. They wanted to keep me for ransom, and dispatched one of their number to Rome to find out all he could about me. The man returned; and with a thankful heart I heard that Bernardo was only wounded and on the way to recovery.
My rough hosts having found out my gift, I was asked to sing to them; and once more my power of improvisation stood me in good stead. When I had finished, a wrinkled old woman, who seemed to be held in great reverence by the robbers, came towards me. "Thou hast sung thy ransom!" she exclaimed. "The sound of music is stronger than gold!" Yet I was detained six days, during which there were mysterious comings and goings. The old witch herself, who had made me write on a piece of paper the words "I travel to Naples" and my name, disappeared for a day, and came back with a letter, which she commanded me not to read then. Finally, in the midst of night, she led me out of the robbers' den and took me across a rocky path to a dumb peasant with an ass, which I was made to mount. She kissed my forehead and departed. When daylight broke I opened the letter, which contained a passport in my name, an order for five hundred scudi on a Naples bank, and the words "Bernardo is out of danger, but do not return to Rome for some months."
When I joined the high-road, I took carriage for Naples. Among my travelling companions was a portly, handsome, Neapolitan lady, with whom I became very friendly, and who invited me to her house. She was the wife of a Professor Maretti, and her name was Santa. The professor himself was a little half-famished looking man, full of learning, by the show of which he was in the habit of boring everybody who came near him. Santa made up for this by her liveliness and her warm interest in my affairs. Amid music and laughter I spent many happy hours in her house, made friends, and was encouraged to make my debut as an improvisatore. I had written to Eccellenza a true account of the reason of my departure, and informed him of my future intentions; but his reply, which arrived after long delay, was a stunning blow to me. He was exceedingly annoyed, washed his hands of me, and wished me not on any account to connect his name with my public life.
IV.—On the Road to Fame
The bitterness of my misery was brought home to me with new force when I saw Bernardo at a gambling saloon in the company of a handsome woman of doubtful reputation. That Annunciata should have preferred this fickle man to me! My debut at San Carlo aroused great enthusiasm, and Santa, whom I saw next day in her snug heavily curtained room, seemed radiant with happiness at my success. She made me sit on a soft silken sofa, stroked my head, and spoke of my future. I kissed her hand, and looked into her dark eyes with a purity of soul and thought. She was greatly excited. I saw her bosom heave violently; she loosened a scarf to breathe more freely. "You are deserving of love," said she. "Soul and beauty are deserving of any woman's love!" She drew me towards her; her lips were like fire that flowed into my very soul!
Eternal Mother of God! The holy image, at that moment, fell down from the wall. It was no mere accident. "No, no!" I exclaimed, starting up. "Antonio," cried she, "kill me! kill me! but do not leave me!" But I rushed out of the house, determined never to set eyes upon Santa again. The sea air would cool me. I took a boat to Torre del Annunciata; and happiness gradually returned to me as I realised what danger I had escaped by the grace of the Virgin.
I joined the crowd watching the fiery stream of lava slowly descending towards the sea, when I heard somebody calling my name. It was Fabiani, who insisted on taking me at once to see Francesca. The welcome was hearty. There were no recriminations, although I resented for a while the tone of benevolent patronage adopted by my benefactors. I learnt that Bernardo had entered the King of Naples' service, and that Annunciata was shortly expected. An expedition was arranged to Paestum and Capri; and Fabiani insisted upon my joining the party. He also undertook to write to his father-in-law on my behalf....
At Paestum we found the abundance and luxuriance of Sicilian landscape; its Grecian temples and its poverty. We were surrounded by crowds of half-naked beggars. One young girl there was, a little away from the others, scarcely more than eleven years old, but lovely as the goddess of beauty. Modesty, soul, and a deep expression of suffering were expressed in her countenance. She was blind! I gave her a scudo. Her cheeks burned. She kissed my hand; and the touch seemed to go through my blood. The guide told us afterwards that her name was Lara, and that she generally sat in the Temple of Neptune.
The ruined temple made a mighty impression upon us; I was requested to improvise in these romantic surroundings. Deeply moved by my thoughts of the blind girl, I sang of the glories of Nature and art, and of the poor maiden from whom all this magnificence was concealed. When we left the temple, I lagged behind, and, looking around, I saw Lara on her knees, her hands clasped together. She had heard my song! It smote me to the soul. I saw her pressing my scudo to her lips and smile; I grew quite warm at the sight of it, and pressed a hot kiss upon her forehead. With a thrilling cry she sprang up like a terrified deer, and was gone. I felt as if I had committed a sin, and sadly joined my party.
Amalfi, Capri—I drank the intoxicating beauty of it all. Then I was prevailed upon to return to Rome with Fabiani and Francesca. We spent a day at Naples, where I found two letters waiting for me. The first was a brief note to this effect: "A faithful heart, which intends honourably and kindly towards you, expects you this evening." It gave an address, but no name—merely "Your old friend." The second was from the same hand, and read: "Come, Antonio! The terror of the last unfortunate moment of our parting is now well over. Come quickly! Delay not a moment in coming!" The letters were obviously from Santa.
My mind was made up not to see her again. We left for Rome....
The Palazzo Borghese was now my home. Eccellenza received me with the greatest kindness, but all the family continued to use the old teaching tone and depreciating mode of treatment. Thus six years went by; but somehow my protectors did not realise that I was no longer a boy, and my dependence gave them the right to make them let me feel the bitterness of my position. Even my talent as poet and improvisatore was by no means taken seriously at the palace.
Happiness was brought into my life once more by Flaminia, "the little abbess," who came home to have her last glimpse of the world before taking the veil. She had grown tall and pale of complexion, with an expression of wonderful gentleness in her features. She recalled our early friendship, when she used to sit on my knee and make me draw pictures for her and tell her stories. From her, at any rate, I suffered no humiliation, and from day to day our friendship grew closer. I told her about Bernardo and Annunciata, and about Lara, who became inexpressibly dear to her. I also endeavoured to make her reconsider her decision to take the veil and immure herself for life; but her whole education and inclination tended towards that goal. At last the day itself came—a day of great solemnity and state. Flaminia was dead and buried—and Elizabeth the nun, the bride of Heaven, arose from the bier!
V.—The Sorrowful Wayfarer
In my sadness of heart I thought of my childhood and old Domenica, whom I had not seen for many months. I went out to the Campagna. Domenica had died six months back! When I returned I was seized by a violent fever, from which I recovered but slowly. It was six months after Flaminia had taken the veil that the doctor allowed me to go out.
My first walk was to the grey convent where she now passed her monotonous days. Every evening I returned, and often I stood gazing at her prison and thinking of Flaminia as I used to know her. One evening Fabiani found me thus, and made me follow him home. He spoke to me with unusual solemnity in his voice, but with great kindness. I was ill. Travelling, change of scene, would do me good. I was to move about for a year, and then return to show what the world had made of me.
I went to Venice. Dreary, sad and quiet seemed to me the Queen of the Adriatic. In the gently swaying gondola I thought with bitterness of Annunciata. I felt a grudge even against innocent, pious Flaminia, who preferred the convent to my strong, brotherly love. Then my thoughts floated between Lara, the image of beauty, and Santa, the daughter of sin.
One day I took a boat to the Lido to breathe the fresh air of the sea. On the beach I came across Poggio, a young Venetian nobleman with whom I had made friends; and as a storm hung threatening in the sky I decided to accept his invitation for dinner. We watched the fury of the storm from the window, and then joined a crowd of women and children anxiously watching a fishing boat out at sea. Before our very eyes the boat was swallowed by the waves, and with aching hearts we witnessed the prayers, shrieks, and despair of the anxious watchers whose husbands and fathers perished thus within their sight.
Next evening there was a reception at my banker's. The storm became a topic of conversation; and Poggio related the death of the fishermen, trying to enlist sympathy for the poor survivors. But nobody seemed to understand his intention. Then I was asked to improvise. I was quickly determined. "I know of an emotion," I exclaimed, "which awakens supreme happiness in everybody, and I have the power of exciting it in every heart. But this art cannot be given, it must be purchased. He who gives most will be most deeply initiated." Money and jewels were quickly forthcoming; and I began to sing of the proud sea and the bold mariners and fishermen. I described what I had seen; and my art succeeded where Poggio's words had failed. A tumult of applause arose. A young lady sank at my feet, seized my hand, and with her beautiful, tear-filled eyes gave me a look of intense gratitude, which agitated me in strange fashion. Then she withdrew as if in horror at what she had done.
Poggio afterwards told me that she was the queen of beauty in Venice, the podesta's niece, adored by everybody, but known by few, since the podesta's house was most exclusive, and received but few guests. He accounted me the luckiest of mortals when he heard that I had received an invitation from the podesta, and would have a chance of improving my acquaintance with Maria, his beautiful niece. I was received as if I had been a beloved relative. Something in Maria's expression recalled to me the blind beggar-girl Lara; but Maria had eyes with a singularly dark glance of fire. I became a daily visitor at the podesta's house, and spent many happy hours in Maria's company. Her intellect and charm of character captivated me as much as her beauty.
VI.—A Marriage in Venice
One evening I strayed into a wretched little theatre, where one of Mercadante's operas was being performed. How can I describe my feelings when in one of the singers—a slight, ordinary figure, with a thin, sharp countenance and deeply sunken eyes, in a poor dress, and with a poorer voice, but still with surprising grace of manner—I recognised Annunciata? With aching heart I left the theatre, and ascertained Annunciata's address. She lived in a miserable garret. She turned deathly pale when she recognised me, and implored me to leave her. "I come as a friend, as a brother," I said. "You have been ill, Annunciata!" Then she told me of her illness, four years back, which robbed her of her youth, her voice, her money, her friends. She implored me, with a pitiful voice, to leave her. I could not speak. I pressed her hand to my lips, stammered, "I come—I come again!" and left her.
Next day I called again, and found Annunciata had left, no one knew whither.
It was a month later that Maria handed me a letter, which had been given to her for me by a dying person who had sent for her. The letter was from Annunciata, who was no more. It told me of her happiness at having seen me once more—told me that she had always loved me; that her pain at having to part from me had made her conceal her face on what she then believed to be Bernardo's dead body; told me that it was she who had sent me those two letters in Naples, who had believed my love was dead, since I left for Rome without sending her a reply. It told me of her illness, her years of poverty, and her undying love. And then she wished me happiness with, as she had been told, the most beautiful and the noblest maid in Venice for my bride! ...
In travel I sought forgetfulness and consolation. I went to Padua, Verona, Milan; but heaviness did not leave my heart. Then came an irrepressible longing to be back in Venice, to see Maria—a foreboding of some new misfortune. I hastened back to Venice. The podesta received me kindly; but when I inquired after Maria, he seemed to me to become grave, as he told me she had gone to Padua on a short visit. During supper I fell into a swoon, followed by a violent fever in which I had visions of Maria dead, laid out before an altar. Then it was Lara I saw on the bier, and I loudly called her by name. Then everything became bright; a hand passed softly over my head. I awoke, and found Maria and her aunt by my bedside.
"Lara, Maria, hear me!" I cried. "It is no dream. You have heard my voice at Paestum. You know it again! I feel it. I love you; I have always loved you!"
"I have loved you, too," she said, kneeling by my side and seizing my hand. "I have loved you from the day when the sun burnt your kiss into my forehead—loved you with the intuition of the blind!"
I then learnt that Maria—my Lara—had been cured of her blindness by a great specialist in Naples, the podesta's brother, who, touched by her beauty and purity, had her educated, and adopted her as his own child. On his death his sister took her to Venice, where she found a new home in the podesta's palace.
* * * * *
The Golden Ass
Apuleius was born about 125 A.D., at Madaura, in Africa. After studying at Athens, he practised as an advocate at Rome, and then wandered about Northern Africa, lecturing on philosophy and rhetoric. At Tripoli he was charged with having won by witchcraft the love of a rich widow who had left him her wealth. But he was acquitted after delivering an interesting defence, included among his extant works. He then settled in Carthage, where he died at an advanced age. Poor Apuleius! His good fame was darkened by the success of an amusing romance, "The Golden Ass," which he wrote, by way of recreation, at Rome. He related the story of the adventures which befell a young Greek nobleman who, by an extreme curiosity in regard to witchcraft, got changed into a donkey. It was an age of wild superstition and foolish credulity; and his readers confused the author of "The Golden Ass" with the hero of it. Apuleius was credited with a series of impossible exploits, which he had not even invented. For his work is merely a Latin adaptation of a lost Greek romance by Lucius of Patras. But Apuleius deserves our gratitude for preserving a unique specimen of the lighter literature of the ancient Greeks, together with the beautiful folk-tale of Cupid and Psyche.
I.—Lucius Sets Out on His Wonderful Adventures
I set out from Corinth in a fever of excitement and expectation, riding my horse so hard that it fell lame; so I had to do the remainder of the journey on foot. My heart was filled with joy and terror as I entered the town of Hypata.
"Here I am, at last," I cried, "in Thessaly! Thessaly, the land of magic and witchcraft, famous through the world for its marvels and enchantments!"
Carried away by my desire after strange and mystic knowledge, I gazed around with wonder and disquietude. Nothing in this marvellous city, I thought to myself, is really what it seems to be. The stones I stumbled over appeared to be living creatures petrified by magic. I fancied that the trees in the gardens and the birds that sang in their branches were men that had been transformed by Thessalian witches. The very statues seemed as if they were about to walk; every wall had ears; and I looked up into the blue, cloudless sky, expecting to hear oracles.
Entering the market place, I passed close to a noble lady who was walking with a crowd of servants in her train.
"By Hercules!" she cried. "It's Lucius!" I hung back, confused and blushing, and Byrrhena, for it was she, said to one of her companions:
"It's Salvia's boy! Isn't he the image of his modest, beautiful mother? Young, tall and fair, with just her bright, grey-blue eyes, and her alert glance. A Plutarch every bit of him! Lucius, don't you remember your kinswoman, Byrrhena? Why, I brought you up with my own hands!"
I remembered Byrrhena very well, and loved her. But I did not want to meet her just then. However, I went with her to her house, a beautiful building of fine marble, containing some exquisite statuary.
"You will stay here, my dear Lucius, won't you?" she said.
I then told her that I had come to Hypata to see Milo and his wife Pamphila. My friend Demeas of Corinth had given me a letter of introduction.
"Don't you know that Pamphila is a witch?" she cried. "Do not go near her, my child, or she will practise her wicked arts on you. It is just handsome young men like you that she enchants and destroys."
Far from being terrified by Byrrhena's warning, I was delighted with it. I longed to become an apprentice to a witch as powerful as Pamphila. With a hasty excuse I left the house and set out to find Milo. Neither he nor Pamphila was in when I called. But their maid who opened the door, was such a pretty wench that I did not regret their absence. Fotis, as she was called, was a graceful, sprightly little thing, with the loveliest hair I ever saw. I liked the way it fell in soft puffs on her neck, and rested on her neat linen tunic.
It was a case of love at first sight with both of us. But before I began to ask her about Pamphila, Milo returned. He welcomed me very warmly, and put the best room in his house at my disposal, and desired me to stay to dinner. But in spite of my ardent curiosity, I was, I must confess, rather afraid of meeting his wife. So I said that my kinswoman Byrrhena had already engaged me to dine with her.
On arriving at Byrrhena's mansion I was surprised to find that a splendid banquet had been prepared, and that all the best people in Hypata were present. We reclined on couches of ivory, covered with golden drapery, and a throng of lovely girls served us with exquisite dishes; while pretty curly-headed boys brought the wine round in goblets of gold and amber.
When the lights were brought in, the talk became freer and gayer; everybody was bent on laughing and making his neighbours laugh.
"We are, you see, preparing for the great festival to-morrow," Byrrhena said to me. "Hypata is the only city that keeps the feast of the god of laughter. You must come, and invent some pleasantry to propitiate the merriest of all deities."
"By Hercules!" I replied. "If the laughing god will only lend me inspiration to-night, I will do my best to entertain the townspeople to-morrow."
II.—The Feast of the God of Laughter
It was the jolliest banquet I was ever at. Even in Corinth we did not do the thing so well. It was not until I got into the open air, and set out for Milo's house, that I knew how much wine I had taken. But though I was rather unsteady on my feet, I retained my presence of mind. I reached the house, and suddenly three great burly fellows sprang up, and battered furiously at the door. They were clearly robbers of the most desperate type, and I drew my sword, and, as they came at me one by one, I plunged it swiftly into their bodies. Fotis was aroused, and opened the door, and I entered, utterly worn out by the struggle, and went at once to bed and to sleep.
Early in the morning I was awakened by a great clamour. A throng of people burst into my bedroom, and two lictors arrested me, and dragged me to the forum. But as they took me through the streets and squares, everybody turned out to see me, and the crowd grew so great that the forum was not large enough to hold the people, and I was led to the theatre.
There the lictors pushed me down through the proscenium, as though I were a victim for sacrifice, and put me in the centre of the orchestra.
"Citizens," said the prefect of the watch, "as I was going on my rounds late last night, I saw this ferocious young foreigner, sword in hand, slashing and stabbing three inoffensive creatures. When I arrived they were lying dead upon the ground. Their murderer, overwhelmed by his terrible crime, fled into a house, and hid there, hoping, no doubt, to escape in the morning. Men of Hypata, you do not allow your own fellow-townsmen to commit murder with impunity. Shall, then, this savage, brutal alien avoid the consequences of his fearful crime?"
For some time I could not reply. The suddenness of the whole thing terrified me, and it was with a voice broken with sobs that I at last managed to make my defence.
"They were robbers," I cried, "robbers of the most desperate and vilest character! I caught them breaking into the house of my friend Milo, your esteemed fellowtownsman, oh, citizens of Hypata! There were three of them—three great, rough, burly rascals, each more than a match for a mere boy like myself. Yet I managed to kill them; and I think I deserve praise at your hands, and not censure, for my public-spirited action."
Here I stopped, for I saw that all the vast multitude of people was laughing at me. And what grieved me most was to see my kinswoman Byrrhena and my host Milo among my mockers. The senior magistrate ordered the wheel and other instruments of torture to be brought forth.
"I cannot believe a mere boy like this could have slain three great strong men single-handed," he said. "He must have had accomplices, and we must torture him until he reveals the names of his partners in this most dastardly crime. But, first of all, let him look upon the bodies of the men he has foully murdered. Perhaps that will melt his hard, savage nature."
The lictors then led me to the bier, and forced me to uncover the bodies. Ye gods! The corpses were merely three inflated wine-skins, and I observed that they were cut in the very spots in which I thought I had wounded the robbers. I had, indeed, invented a pleasantry for the festival of the god of laughter! The townspeople laughed with the inextinguishable laughter of the Olympian deities. They climbed up to the roof to get a good look at me; they swarmed up the pillars; they clung to the statues; they hung from the windows at the risk of their lives; all shouting at me in wild jollity.
"Sir Lucius," the magistrate then said to me, "we are not ignorant of your dignity and your rank. The noble family to which you belong is famous throughout Greece. So do not take this pleasantry in honour of the joyful god of laughter as an insult. In return for your excellent services at this great festival, the city of Hypata has decreed that your statue shall be cast in bronze and erected in a place of honour."
By this time I had recovered somewhat of my good humour. But knowing how mercilessly I should be teased at the banquet Byrrhena wished to give in celebration of my exploits, I went quickly home with Milo, and after supping with him, retired at a very early hour to my bed-chamber.
III.—Lucius Becomes an Ass
In the middle of the night I heard a knock at my door. I opened it, and in came pretty Fotis, looking a picture of misery.
"I can't sleep without telling you everything," she said. "I was the cause of all the trouble that befell you to-day. As my mistress was coming from the baths yesterday, she saw a handsome young gentleman having his hair cut by a barber. Seized with a wild passion for him, she ordered me to get some of his hair. But the barber saw me and drove me away. I knew I should get a cruel whipping if I returned empty-handed. Close by was a man shaving some wine-bags of goat-skin; the hair was soft and yellow like the young gentleman's, so I took some of it to Pamphila. You know my mistress is a terrible witch, so you can guess what happened. She rose up in the night, and burnt the hair in her magic cauldron. As it burnt, the wine-bags from which it was taken felt the compulsion of the spell. They became like human beings. Rushing out into the street, they hurled themselves against the door of our house, as Pamphila expected the young gentleman would do. You came up—just a little intoxicated, eh?—and committed the horrible crime of bag-slaughter."
"Now, don't make fun of me, Fotis," I said. "This is a serious matter, this witchcraft. What is Pamphila doing to-night? I have come here to learn magic, and I am very anxious to see her practising her strange arts."
"Come, then, and look," said Fotis.
We crept to the room where Pamphila was, and peeped through a chink in the door. The witch undressed herself, and then took some boxes of ointment out of a casket, and opened one box and smeared herself with the stuff it contained. In the twinkling of an eye, feathers sprouted out of her skin, and she changed into an owl, and flew out of the window.
"She has gone after that handsome young gentleman," said Fotis. "I have to wait here all night until she returns, and then give her a lotion of aniseed and laurel-leaves to restore her to her proper shape."
"Why, my dear Fotis," I exclaimed, in intense admiration, "you know as much about witchcraft as your mistress! Come, practise on me! Get me some of that ointment and change me into a bird. Oh, how I should like to fly!"