Wo keine Götter sind, walten Gespenster.
NOVALIS. -- Christenheit.
Where gods are not, spectres rule.
Ein Charakter ist ein vollkommen gebildeter Wille.
NOVALIS. -- Moralische Ansichten.
A character is a perfectly formed will.
IT was not long before Hugh repeated his visit to Falconer. He was not at home. He went again and again, but still failed in finding him. The day after the third failure, however, he received a note from Falconer, mentioning an hour at which he would be at home on the following evening. Hugh went. Falconer was waiting for him.
|I am very sorry. I am out so much,| said Falconer.
|I ought to have taken the opportunity when I had it,| replied Hugh. |I want to ask your help. May I begin at the beginning, and tell you all the story? or must I epitomize and curtail it?|
|Be as diffuse as you please. I shall understand the thing the better.|
So Hugh began, and told the whole of his history, in as far as it bore upon the story of the crystal. He ended with the words:
|I trust, Mr. Falconer, you will not think that it is from a love of talking that I have said so much about this affair.|
|Certainly not. It is a remarkable story. I will think what can be done. Meantime I will keep my eyes and ears open. I may find the fellow. Tell me what he is like.|
Hugh gave as minute a description of the count as he could.
|I think I see the man,| said Falconer. |I am pretty sure I shall recognise him.|
|Have you any idea what he could want with the ring?|
|It is one of the curious coincidences which are always happening,| answered Falconer, |that a newspaper of this very day would have enabled me, without any previous knowledge of similar facts, to give a probably correct suggestion as to his object. But you can judge for yourself.|
So saying, Falconer went to a side-table, heaped up with books and papers, maps, and instruments of various kinds, apparently in triumphant confusion. Without a moment's hesitation, notwithstanding, he selected the paper he wanted, and handed it to Hugh, who read in it a letter to the editor, of which the following is a portion: --
|I have for over thirty years been in the habit of investigating the question by means of crystals. And since 18 -- , I have possessed the celebrated crystal, once belonging to Lady Blessington, in which very many persons, both children and adults, have seen visions of the spirits of the deceased, or of beings claiming to be such, and of numerous angels and other beings of the spiritual world. These have in all cases supported the purest and most liberal Christianity. The faculty of seeing in the crystal I have found to exist in about one person in ten among adults, and in nearly nine in every ten among children; many of whom appear to lose the faculty as they grow to adult age, unless they practise it continually.|
|Is it possible,| said Hugh, pausing, |that this can be a veritable paper of to-day? Are there people to believe such things?|
|There are more fools in the world, Mr. Sutherland, than there are crystals in its mountains.|
Hugh resumed his reading. He came at length to this passage:
|The spirits -- which I feel certain they are -- which appear, do not hesitate to inform us on all possible subjects which may tend to improve our morals, and confirm our faith in the Christian doctrines...The character they give of the class of spirits who are in the habit of communicating with mortals by rapping and such proceedings, is such that it behoves all Christian people to be on their guard against error and delusion through their means.|
Hugh had read this passage aloud.
|Is not that a comfort, now, Mr. Sutherland?| said Falconer. |For in all the reports which I have seen of the religious instruction communicated in that highly articulate manner, Calvinism, high and low, has predominated. I strongly suspect the crystal phantoms of Arminianism, though. Fancy the old disputes of infant Christendom perpetuated amongst the paltry ghosts of another realm!|
|But,| said Hugh, |I do not quite see how this is to help me, as to the count's object in securing the ring; for certainly, however deficient he may be in such knowledge, he is not likely to have committed the theft for the sake of instruction in the doctrines of the sects.|
|No. But such a crystal might be put to other, not to say better, uses. Besides, Lady Blessington's crystal might be a pious crystal; and the other which belonged to Lady -- |
|To Lady Euphrasia, might be a worldly crystal altogether. This might reveal demons and their counsels, while that was haunted by theological angels and evangelical ghosts.|
|Ah! I see. I should have thought, however, that the count had been too much of a man of the world to believe such things.|
|He might find his account in it, notwithstanding. But no amount of world-wisdom can set a man above the inroads of superstition. In fact, there is but one thing that can free a man from superstition, and that is belief. All history proves it. The most sceptical have ever been the most credulous. This is one of the best arguments for the existence of something to believe.|
|You remind me of a passage in my story which I omitted, as irrelevant to the matter in hand.|
|Do let me have it. It cannot fail to interest me.|
Hugh gave a complete account of the experiments they had made with the careering plate. Now the writing of the name of David Elginbrod was the most remarkable phenomenon of the whole, and Hugh was compelled, in responding to the natural interest of Falconer, to give a description of David. This led to a sketch of his own sojourn at Turriepuffit; in which the character of David came out far more plainly than it could have come out in any description. When he had finished, Falconer broke out, as if he had been hitherto restraining his wrath with difficulty:
|And that was the man the creatures dared to personate! I hate the whole thing, Sutherland. It is full of impudence and irreverence. Perhaps the wretched beings may want another thousand years' damnation, because of the injury done to their character by the homage of men who ought to know better.|
|I do not quite understand you.|
|I mean, that you ought to believe as easily that such a man as you describe is laughing with the devil and his angels, as that he wrote a copy at the order of a charlatan, or worse.|
|But it could hardly be deception.|
|Not deception? A man like him could not get through them without being recognised.|
|I don't understand you. By whom?|
|By swarms of low miserable creatures that so lament the loss of their beggarly bodies that they would brood upon them in the shape of flesh-flies, rather than forsake the putrifying remnants. After that, chair or table or anything that they can come into contact with, possesses quite sufficient organization for such. Don't you remember that once, rather than have no body to go into, they crept into the very swine? There was a fine passion for self-embodiment and sympathy! But the swine themselves could not stand it, and preferred drowning.|
|Then you do think there was something supernatural in it?|
|Nothing in the least. It required no supernatural powers to be aware that a great man was dead, and that you had known him well. It annoys me, Sutherland, that able men, ay, and good men too, should consult with ghosts whose only possible superiority consists in their being out of the body. Why should they be the wiser for that? I should as soon expect to gain wisdom by taking off my clothes, and to lose it by getting into bed; or to rise into the seventh heaven of spirituality by having my hair cut. An impudent forgery of that good man's name! If I were you, Sutherland, I would have nothing to do with such a low set. They are the canaille of the other world. It's of no use to lay hold on their skirts, for they can't fly. They're just like the vultures -- easy to catch, because they're full of garbage. I doubt if they have more intellect left than just enough to lie with. -- I have been compelled to think a good deal about these things of late.|
Falconer put a good many questions to Hugh, about Euphra and her relation to the count; and such was the confidence with which he had inspired him, that Hugh felt at perfect liberty to answer them all fully, not avoiding even the exposure of his own feelings, where that was involved by the story.
|Now,| said Falconer, |I have material out of which to construct a theory. The count is at present like a law of nature concerning which a prudent question is the first half of the answer, as Lord Bacon says; and you can put no question without having first formed a theory, however slight or temporary; for otherwise no question will suggest itself. But, in the meantime, as I said before, I will make inquiry upon the theory that he is somewhere in London, although I doubt it.|
|Then I will not occupy your time any longer at present,| said Hugh. |Could you say, without fettering yourself in the least, when I might be able to see you again?|
|Let me see. I will make an appointment with you. -- Next Sunday; here; at ten o'clock in the morning. Make a note of it.|
|There is no fear of my forgetting it. My consolations are not so numerous that I can afford to forget my sole pleasure. You, I should think, have more need to make a note of it than I, though I am quite willing to be forgotten, if necessary.|
|I never forget my engagements,| said Falconer.
They parted, and Hugh went home to his novel.