Charles Robert Maturin, Melmoth the Wanderer
But tell me to what saint, I pray,
What martyr, or what angel bright,
Is dedicate this holy day,
Which brings you here so gaily dight?
Dost thou not, simple Palmer, know,
What every child can tell thee here?—
Nor saint nor angel claims this show,
But the bright season of the year.
— QUEEN-HOO HALL, BY STRUTT
The sole and beautiful inmate of the isle, though disturbed at the appearance of her worshippers, soon recovered her tranquillity. She could not be conscious of fear, for nothing of that world in which she lived had ever borne a hostile appearance to her. The sun and the shade—the flowers and foliage—the tamarinds and figs that prolonged her delightful existence—the water that she drank, wondering at the beautiful being who seemed to drink whenever she did—the peacocks, who spread out their rich and radiant plumage the moment they beheld her—and the loxia, who perched on her shoulder and hand as she walked, and answered her sweet voice with imitative chirpings—all these were her friends, and she knew none but these.
The human forms that sometimes approached the island, caused her a slight emotion; but it was rather that of curiosity than alarm; and their gestures were so expressive of reverence and mildness, their offerings of flowers, in which she delighted, so acceptable, and their visits so silent and peaceful, that she saw them without reluctance, and only wondered, as they rowed away, how they could move on the water in safety; and how creatures so dark, and with features so unattractive, happened to grow amid the beautiful flowers they presented to her as the productions of their abode. The elements might be supposed to have impressed her imagination with some terrible ideas; but the periodical regularity of these phoenomena, in the climate she inhabited, divested them of their terrors to one who had been accustomed to them, as to the alternation of night and day—who could not remember the fearful impression of the first, and, above, all, who had never heard any terror of them expressed by another,—perhaps the primitive cause of fear in most minds. Pain she had never felt—of death she had no idea—how, then, could she become acquainted with fear?
When a north-wester, as it is termed, visited the island, with all its terrific accompaniments of midnight darkness, clouds of suffocating dust, and thunders like the trumpet of doom, she stood amid the leafy colonnades of the banyan-tree, ignorant of her danger, watching the cowering wings and dropping heads of the birds, and the ludicrous terror of the monkies, as they skipt from branch to branch with their young. When the lightning struck a tree, she gazed as a child would on a fire-work played off for its amusement; but the next day she wept, when she saw the leaves would no longer grow on the blasted trunk. When the rains descended in torrents, the ruins of the pagoda afforded her a shelter; and she sat listening to the rushing of the mighty waters, and the murmurs of the troubled deep, till her soul took its colour from the sombrous and magnificent imagery around her, and she believed herself precipitated to earth with the deluge—borne downward, like a leaf, by a cataract—engulphed in the depths of the ocean—rising again to light on the swell of the enormous billows, as if she were heaved on the back of a whale—deafened with the roar—giddy with the rush—till terror and delight embraced in that fearful exercise of imagination. So she lived like a flower amid sun and storm, blooming in the light, and bending to the shower, and drawing the elements of her sweet and wild existence from both. And both seemed to mingle their influences kindly for her, as if she was a thing that nature loved, even in her angry mood, and gave a commission to the storm to nurture her, and to the deluge to spare the ark of her innocence, as it floated over the waters. This existence of felicity, half physical, half imaginative, but neither intellectual or impassioned, had continued till the seventeenth year of this beautiful and mild being, when a circumstance occurred that changed its hue for ever.
On the evening of the day after the Indians had departed, Immalee, for that was the name her votarists had given her, was standing on the shore, when a being approached her unlike any she had ever beheld. The colour of his face and hands resembled her own more than those she was accustomed to see, but his garments, (which were European), from their square uncouthness, their shapelessness, and their disfiguring projection about the hips, (it was the fashion of the year 1680), gave her a mixed sensation of ridicule, disgust, and wonder, which her beautiful features could express only by a smile—that smile, a native of the face from which not even surprise could banish it.
The stranger approached, and the beautiful vision approached also, but not like an European female with low and graceful bendings, still less like an Indian girl with her low salams, but like a young fawn, all animation, timidity, confidence, and cowardice, expressed in almost a single action. She sprung from the sands—ran to her favourite tree;—returned again with her guard of peacocks, who expanded their superb trains with a kind of instinctive motion, as if they felt the danger that menaced their protectress, and, clapping her hands with exultation, seemed to invite them to share in the delight she felt in gazing at the new flower that had grown in the sand.
The stranger advanced, and, to Immalees utter astonishment, addressed her in the language which she herself had retained some words of since her infancy, and had endeavoured in vain to make her peacocks, parrots, and loxias, answer her in corresponding sounds. But her language, from want of practice, had become so limited, that she was delighted to hear its most unmeaning sounds uttered by human lips; and when he said, according to the form of the times, How do you, fair maid? she answered, God made me, from the words of the Christian Catechism that had been breathed into her infant lip. God never made a fairer creature, replied the stranger, grasping her hand, and fixing on her eyes that still burn in the sockets of that arch-deceiver. Oh yes! answered Immalee, he made many things more beautiful. The rose is redder than I am—the palm-tree is taller than I am—and the wave is bluer than I am;—but they all change, and I never change. I have grown taller and stronger, though the rose fades every six moons; and the rock splits to let in the bats, when the earth shakes; and the waves fight in their anger till they turn grey, and far different from the beautiful colour they have when the moon comes dancing on them, and sending all the young, broken branches of her light to kiss my feet, as I stand on the soft sand. I have tried to gather them every night, but they all broke in my hand the moment I dipt it into water.—And have you fared better with the stars? said the stranger smiling.—No, answered the innocent being, the stars are the flowers of heaven, and the rays of the moon the boughs and branches; but though they are so bright, they only blossom in the night,—and I love better the flowers that I can gather, and twine in my hair. When I have been all night wooing a star, and it has listened and descended, springing downwards like a peacock from its nest, it has hid itself often afterwards playfully amid the mangoes and tamarinds where it fell; and though I have searched for it till the moon looked wan and weary of lighting me, I never could find it. But where do you come from?—you are not scaly and voiceless like those who grow in the waters, and show their strange shapes as I sit on the shore at sun-set;—nor are you red and diminutive like those who come over the waters to me from other worlds, in houses that can live on the deep, and walk so swiftly, with their legs plunged in the water. Where do you come from?—you are not so bright as the stars that live in the blue sea above me, nor so deformed as those that toss in the darker sea at my feet. Where did you grow, and how came you here?—there is not a canoe on the sand; and though the shells bear the fish that live in them so lightly over the waters, they never would bear me. When I placed my foot on their scolloped edge of crimson and purple, they sunk into the sand.—Beautiful creature, said the stranger, I come from a world where there are thousands like me.—That is impossible, said Immalee, for I live here alone, and other worlds must be like this.—What I tell you is true, however, said the stranger. Immalee paused for a moment, as if making the first effort of reflection—an exertion painful enough to a being whose existence was composed of felicitous tacts and unreflecting instincts—and then exclaimed, We both must have grown in the world of voices, for I know what you say better than the chirp of the loxia, or the cry of the peacock. That must be a delightful world where they all speak—what would I give that my roses grew in the world of answers!
At this moment the stranger made certain signals of hunger, which Immalee understood in a moment, and told him to follow her to where the tamarind and the fig were shedding their fruit—where the stream was so clear, you could count the purple shells in its bed—and where she would scoop for him in the cocoa-shell the cool waters that flowed beneath the shade of the mango. As they went, she gave him all the information about herself that she could. She told him that she was the daughter of a palm-tree, under whose shade she had been first conscious of existence, but that her poor father had been long withered and dead—that she was very old, having seen many roses decay on their stalks; and though they were succeeded by others, she did not love them so well as the first, which were a great deal larger and brighter—that, in fact, every thing had grown smaller latterly, for she was now able to reach to the fruit which formerly she was compelled to wait for till it dropt on the ground;—but that the water was grown taller, for once she was forced to drink it on her hands and knees, and now she could scoop it in a cocoa-shell. Finally, she added, she was much older than the moon, for she had seen it waste away till it was dimmer than the light of a fire-fly; and the moon that was lighting them now would decline too, and its successor be so small, that she would never again give it the name she had given to the first—Sun of the Night. But, said her companion, how are you able to speak a language you never learned from your loxias and peacocks?—I will tell you, said Immalee, with an air of solemnity, which her beauty and innocence made at once ludicrous and imposing, and in which she betrayed a slight tendency to that wish to mystify that distinguishes her delightful sex,—there came a spirit to me from the world of voices, and it whispered to me sounds that I never have forgotten, long, long before I was born.—Really? said the stranger. Oh yes!—long before I could gather a fig, or gather the water in my hand, and that must be before I was born. When I was born, I was not so high as the rose-bud, at which I tried to catch, now I am as near the moon as the palm-tree—sometimes I catch her beams sooner than he does, therefore I must be very old, and very high. At these words, the stranger, with an expression indescribable, leaned against a tree. He viewed that lovely and helpless being, while he refused the fruits and water she offered him, with a look, that, for the first time, intimated compassion. The stranger feeling did not dwell long in a mansion it was unused to. The expression was soon exchanged for that half-ironical, half-diabolical glance Immalee could not understand. And you live here alone, he said, and you have lived in this beautiful place without a companion?—Oh no! said Immalee, I have a companion more beautiful than all the flowers in the isle. There is not a rose-leaf that drops in the river so bright as its cheek. My friend lives under the water, but its colours are so bright. It kisses me too, but its lips are very cold; and when I kiss it, it seems to dance, and its beauty is all broken into a thousand faces, that come smiling at me like little stars. But, though my friend has a thousand faces, and I have but one, still there is one thing that troubles me. There is but one stream where it meets me, and that is where are no shadows from the trees—and I never can catch it but when the sun is bright. Then when I catch it in the stream, I kiss it on my knees; but my friend has grown so tall, that sometimes I wish it were smaller. Its lips spread so much wider, that I give it a thousand kisses for one that I get. Is your friend male or female, said the stranger.—What is that? answered Immalee.—I mean, of what sex is your friend?
But to this question he could obtain no satisfactory answer; and it was not till his return the next day, when he revisited the isle, that he discovered Immalees friend was what he suspected. He found this innocent and lovely being bending over a stream that reflected her image, and wooing it with a thousand wild and graceful attitudes of joyful fondness. The stranger gazed at her for some time, and thoughts it would be difficult for man to penetrate into, threw their varying expression over his features for a moment. It was the first of his intended victims he had ever beheld with compunction. The joy, too, with which Immalee received him, almost brought back human feelings to a heart that had long renounced them; and, for a moment, he experienced a sensation like that of his master when he visited paradise,—pity for the flowers he resolved to wither for ever. He looked at her as she fluttered round him with outspread arms and dancing eyes; and sighed, while she welcomed him in tones of such wild sweetness, as suited a being who had hitherto conversed with nothing but the melody of birds and the murmur of waters. With all her ignorance, however, she could not help testifying her amazement at his arriving at the isle without any visible means of conveyance. He evaded answering her on this point, but said, Immalee, I come from a world wholly unlike that you inhabit, amid inanimate flowers, and unthinking birds. I come from a world where all, as I do, think and speak. Immalee was speechless with wonder and delight for some time; at length she exclaimed, Oh, how they must love each other! even I love my poor birds and flowers, and the trees that shade, and the waters that sing to me! The stranger smiled. In all that world, perhaps there is not another being beautiful and innocent as you. It is a world of suffering, guilt, and care. It was with much difficulty she was made to comprehend the meaning of these words, but when she did, she exclaimed, Oh, that I could live in that world, for I would make every one happy!—But you could not, Immalee, said the stranger; this world is of such extent that it would take your whole life to traverse it, and, during your progress, you never could be conversant with more than a small number of sufferers at a time, and the evils they undergo are in many instances such as you or no human power could relieve. At these words, Immalee burst into an agony of tears. Weak, but lovely being, said the stranger, could your tears heal the corrosions of disease?—cool the burning throb of a cancered heart?—wash the pale slime from the clinging lips of famine?—or, more than all, quench the fire of forbidden passion? Immalee paused aghast at this enumeration, and could only faulter out, that wherever she went, she would bring her flowers and sunshine among the healthy, and they should all sit under the shade of her own tamarind. That for disease and death, she had long been accustomed to see flowers wither and die their beautiful death of nature. And perhaps, she added, after a reflective pause, as I have often known them to retain their delicious odour even after they were faded, perhaps what thinks may live too after the form has faded, and that is a thought of joy. Of passion, she said she knew nothing, and could propose no remedy for an evil she was unconscious of. She had seen flowers fade with the season, but could not imagine why the flower should destroy itself. But did you never trace a worm in the flower? said the stranger, with the sophistry of corruption. Yes, answered Immalee, but the worm was not the native of the flower; its own leaves never could have hurt it. This led to a discussion, which Immalees impregnable innocence, though combined with ardent curiosity and quick apprehension, rendered perfectly harmless to her. Her playful and desultory answers,—her restless eccentricity of imagination,—her keen and piercing, though ill-poised intellectual weapons,—and, above all, her instinctive and unfailing tact in matters of right and wrong, formed altogether an array that discomfited and baffled the tempter more than if he had been compelled to encounter half the wranglers of the European academies of that day. In the logic of the schools he was well-versed, but in this logic of the heart and of nature, he was ignorance itself. It is said, that the awless lion crouches before a maid in the pride of her purity. The tempter was departing gloomily, when he saw tears start from the bright eyes of Immalee, and caught a wild and dark omen from her innocent grief. And you weep, Immalee? Yes, said the beautiful being, I always weep when I see the sun set in clouds; and will you, the sun of my heart, set in darkness too? and will you not rise again? will you not? and, with the graceful confidence of pure innocence, she pressed her red delicious lip to his hand as she spoke. Will you not? I shall never love my roses and peacocks if you do not return, for they cannot speak to me as you do, nor can I give them one thought, but you can give me many. Oh, I would like to have many thoughts about the world that suffers, from which you came; and I believe you came from it, for, till I saw you, I never felt a pain that was not pleasure; but now, it is all pain when I think you will not return.—I will return, said the stranger, beautiful Immalee, and will shew you, at my return, a glimpse of that world from which I come, and in which you will soon be an inmate.—But shall I see you there, said Immalee, otherwise how shall I talk thoughts?—Oh yes,—oh certainly.—But why do you repeat the same words twice; your once would have been enough.—Well then, yes.—Then take this rose from me, and let us inhale its odour together, as I say to my friend in the fountain, when I bend to kiss it; but my friend withdraws its rose before I have tasted it, and I leave mine on the water. Will you not take my rose, said the beautiful suppliant, bending towards him. I will, said the stranger; and he took a flower from the cluster Immalee held out to him. It was a withered one. He snatched it, and hid it in his breast. And will you go without a canoe across that dark sea? said Immalee.—We shall meet again, and meet in the world of suffering, said the stranger.—Thank you,—oh, thank you, repeated Immalee, as she saw him plunge fearless amid the surf. The stranger answered only, We shall meet again. Twice, as he parted, he threw a glance at the beautiful and isolated being; a lingering of humanity trembled round his heart,—but he tore the withered rose from his bosom, and to the waved arm and angel-smile of Immalee, he answered, We shall meet again.
Più non ho la dolce speranza. — DIDONE
Seven mornings and evenings Immalee paced the sands of her lonely isle, without seeing the stranger. She had still his promise to console her, that they should meet in the world of suffering; and this she repeated to herself as if it was full of hope and consolation. In this interval she tried to educate herself for her introduction into this world, and it was beautiful to see her attempting, from vegetable and animal analogies, to form some image of the incomprehensible destiny of man. In the shade she watched the withering flower.—The blood that ran red through its veins yesterday is purple to-day, and will be black and dry to-morrow, she said; but it feels no pain—it dies patiently,—and the ranunculus and tulip near it are untouched by grief for their companion, or their colours would not be so resplendent. But can it be thus in the world that thinks? Could I see him wither and die, without withering and dying along with him. Oh no! when that flower fades, I will be the dew that falls over him!
She attempted to enlarge her comprehension, by observing the animal world. A young loxia had fallen dead from its pendent nest; and Immalee, looking into the aperture which that intelligent bird forms at the lower extremity of the nest to secure it from birds of prey, perceived the old ones with fire-flies in their small beaks, their young one lying dead before them. At this sight Immalee burst into tears.—Ah! you cannot weep, she said, what an advantage I have over you! You eat, though your young one, your own one, is dead; but could I ever drink of the milk of the cocoa, if he could no longer taste it? I begin to comprehend what he said—to think, then, is to suffer—and a world of thought must be a world of pain! But how delicious are these tears! Formerly I wept for pleasure—but there is a pain sweeter than pleasure, that I never felt till I beheld him. Oh! who would not think, to have the joy of tears?
But Immalee did not occupy this interval solely in reflection; a new anxiety began to agitate her; and in the intervals of her meditation and her tears, she searched with avidity for the most glowing and fantastically wreathed shells to deck her arms and hair with. She changed her drapery of flowers every day, and never thought them fresh after the first hour; then she filled her largest shells with the most limpid water, and her hollow cocoa nuts with the most delicious figs, interspersed with roses, and arranged them picturesquely on the stone bench of the ruined pagoda. The time, however, passed over without the arrival of the stranger, and Immalee, on visiting her fairy banquet the next day, wept over the withered fruit, but dried her eyes, and hastened to replace them.
She was thus employed on the eighth morning, when she saw the stranger approach; and the wild and innocent delight with which she bounded towards him, excited in him for a moment a feeling of gloomy and reluctant compunction, which Immalees quick susceptibility traced in his pausing step and averted eye. She stood trembling in lovely and pleading diffidence, as if intreating pardon for an unconscious offence, and asking permission to approach by the very attitude in which she forbore it, while tears stood in her eyes ready to fall at another repelling motion. This sight whetted his almost blunted purpose. She must learn to suffer, to qualify her to become my pupil, he thought. Immalee, you weep, he added, approaching her. Oh yes! said Immalee, smiling like a spring morning through her tears; you are to teach me to suffer, and I shall soon be very fit for your world—but I had rather weep for you, than smile on a thousand roses.—Immalee, said the stranger, repelling the tenderness that melted him in spite of himself, Immalee, I come to shew you something of the world of thought you are so anxious to inhabit, and of which you must soon become an inmate. Ascend this hill where the palm-trees are clustering, and you shall see a glimpse of part of it.—But I would like to see the whole, and all at once! said Immalee, with the natural avidity of thirsty and unfed intellect, that believes it can swallow all things, and digest all things. The whole, and all at once! said her conductor, turning to smile at her as she bounded after him, breathless and glowing with newly excited feeling. I doubt the part you will see to-night will be more than enough to satiate even your curiosity. As he spoke he drew a tube from his vest, and bid her apply it to her sight. The Indian obeyed him; but, after gazing a moment, uttered the emphatic exclamation, I am there!—or are they here? and sunk on the earth in a frenzy of delight. She rose again in a moment, and eagerly seizing the telescope, applied it in a wrong direction, which disclosed merely the sea to her view, and exclaimed sadly, Gone!—gone!—all that beautiful world lived and died in a moment—all that I love die so—my dearest roses live not half so long as those I neglect—you were absent for seven moons since I first saw you, and the beautiful world lived only a moment.
The stranger again directed the telescope towards the shore of India, from which they were not far distant, and Immalee again exclaimed in rapture, Alive and more beautiful than ever!—all living, thinking things!—their very walk thinks. No mute fishes, and senseless trees, but wonderful rocks,  on which they look with pride, as if they were the works of their own hands. Beautiful rocks! how I love the perfect straitness of your sides, and the crisped and flower-like knots of your decorated tops! Oh that flowers grew, and birds fluttered round you, and then I would prefer you even to the rocks under which I watch the setting sun! Oh what a world must that be where nothing is natural, and every thing beautiful!—thought must have done all that. But, how little every thing is!—thought should have made every thing larger—thought should be a god. But, she added with quick intelligence and self-accusing diffidence, perhaps I am wrong. Sometimes I have thought I could lay my hand on the top of a palm-tree, but when, after a long, long time, I came close to it, I could not have reached its lowest leaf were I ten times higher than I am. Perhaps your beautiful world may grow higher as I approach it.—Hold, Immalee, said the stranger, taking the telescope from her hands, to enjoy this sight you should understand it.—Oh yes! said Immalee, with submissive anxiety, as the world of sense rapidly lost ground in her imagination against the new-found world of mind,—yes—let me think.—Immalee, have you any religion? said the visitor, as an indescribable feeling of pain made his pale brow still paler. Immalee, quick in understanding and sympathising with physical feeling, darted away at these words, returned in a moment with a banyan leaf, with which she wiped the drops from his livid forehead; and then seating herself at his feet, in an attitude of profound but eager attention, repeated, Religion! what is that? is it a new thought?—It is the consciousness of a Being superior to all worlds and their inhabitants, because he is the Maker of all, and will be their judge—of a Being whom we cannot see, but in whose power and presence we must believe, though invisible—of one who is every where unseen; always acting, though never in motion; hearing all things, but never heard. Immalee interrupted with an air of distraction—Hold! too many thoughts will kill me—let me pause. I have seen the shower that came to refresh the rose-tree beat it to the earth. After an effort of solemn recollection, she added, The voice of dreams told me something like that before I was born, but it is so long ago,—sometimes I have had thoughts within me like that voice. I have thought I loved the things around me too much, and that I should love things beyond me—flowers that could not fade, and a sun that never sets. I could have sprung, like a bird into the air, after such a thought—but there was no one to shew me that path upward. And the young enthusiast lifted towards heaven eyes in which trembled the tears of ecstatic imaginings, and then turned their mute pleadings on the stranger.
1. Intellige buildings.
It is right, he continued, not only to have thoughts of this Being, but to express them by some outward acts. The inhabitants of the world you are about to see, call this, worship,—and they have adopted (a Satanic smile curled his lip as he spoke) very different modes; so different, that, in fact, there is but one point in which they all agree—that of making their religion a torment;—the religion of some prompting them to torture themselves, and the religion of some prompting them to torture others. Though, as I observed, they all agree in this important point, yet unhappily they differ so much about the mode, that there has been much disturbance about it in the world that thinks.—In the world that thinks! repeated Immalee, Impossible! Surely they must know that a difference cannot be acceptable to Him who is One.—And have you then adopted no mode of expressing your thoughts of this Being, that is, of worshipping him? said the stranger.—I smile when the sun rises in its beauty, and I weep when I see the evening star rise, said Immalee.—And do you recoil at the inconsistencies of varied modes of worship, and yet you yourself employ smiles and tears in your address to the Deity?—I do,—for they are both the expressions of joy with me, said the poor Indian; the sun is as happy when he smiles through the rain-clouds, as when he burns in the mid-height of heaven, in the fierceness of his beauty; and I am happy whether I smile or I weep.—Those whom you are about to see, said the stranger, offering her the telescope, are as remote in their forms of worship as smiles from tears; but they are not, like you, equally happy in both. Immalee applied her eye to the telescope, and exclaimed in rapture at what she saw. What do you see? said the stranger. Immalee described what she saw with many imperfect expressions, which, perhaps, may be rendered more intelligible by the explanatory words of the stranger.
You see, said he, the coast of India, the shores of the world near you.—There is the black pagoda of Juggernaut, that enormous building on which your eye is first fixed. Beside it stands a Turkish mosque—you may distinguish it by a figure like that of the half-moon. It is the will of him who rules that world, that its inhabitants should worship him by that sign.  At a small distance you may see a low building with a trident on its summit—that is the temple of Maha-deva, one of the ancient goddesses of the country.—But the houses are nothing to me, said Immalee, shew me the living things that go there. The houses are not half so beautiful as the rocks on the shore, draperied all over with seaweeds and mosses, and shaded by the distant palm-tree and cocoa.—But those buildings, said the tempter, are indicative of the various modes of thinking of those who frequent them. If it is into their thoughts you wish to look, you must see them expressed by their actions. In their dealings with each other, men are generally deceitful, but in their dealings with their gods, they are tolerably sincere in the expression of the character they assign them in their imaginations. If that character be formidable, they express fear; if it be one of cruelty, they indicate it by the sufferings they inflict on themselves; if it be gloomy, the image of the god is faithfully reflected in the visage of the worshipper. Look and judge.
1. Tippoo Saib wished to substitute the Mohamedan for the Indian mythology throughout his dominions. This circumstance, though long antedated, is therefore imaginable.
Immalee looked and saw a vast sandy plain, with the dark pagoda of Juggernaut in the perspective. On this plain lay the bones of a thousand skeletons, bleaching in the burning and unmoistened air. A thousand human bodies, hardly more alive, and scarce less emaciated, were trailing their charred and blackened bodies over the sands, to perish under the shadow of the temple, hopeless of ever reaching that of its walls.
Multitudes of them dropt dead as they crawled. Multitudes still living, faintly waved their hands, to scare the vultures that hovered nearer and nearer at every swoop, and scooped the poor remnants of flesh from the living bones of the screaming victim, and retreated, with an answering scream of disappointment at the scanty and tasteless morsel they had torn away.
Many tried, in their false and fanatic zeal, to double their torments, by crawling through the sands on their hands and knees; but hands through the backs of which the nails had grown, and knees worn literally to the bone, struggled but feebly amid the sands and the skeletons, and the bodies that were soon to be skeletons, and the vultures that were to make them so.
Immalee withheld her breath, as if she inhaled the abominable effluvia of this mass of putrefaction, which is said to desolate the shores near the temple of Juggernaut, like a pestilence.
Close to this fearful scene, came on a pageant, whose splendour made a brilliant and terrible contrast to the loathsome and withering desolation of animal and intellectual life, amid which its pomp came towering, and sparkling, and trembling on. An enormous fabric, more resembling a moving palace than a triumphal car, supported the inshrined image of Juggernaut, and was dragged forward by the united strength of a thousand human bodies, priests, victims, brahmins, faqueers and all. In spite of this huge force, the impulse was so unequal, that the whole edifice rocked and tottered from time to time, and this singular union of instability and splendour, of trembling decadence and terrific glory, gave a faithful image of the meretricious exterior, and internal hollowness, of idolatrous religion. As the procession moved on, sparkling amid desolation, and triumphant amid death, multitudes rushed forward from time to time, to prostrate themselves under the wheels of the enormous machine, which crushed them to atoms in a moment, and passed on;—others cut themselves with knives and lancets after their manner, and not believing themselves worthy to perish beneath the wheels of the idols chariot, sought to propitiate him by dying the tracks of those wheels with their blood;—their relatives and friends shouted with delight as they saw the streams of blood dye the car and its line of progress, and hoped for an interest in these voluntary sacrifices, with as much energy, and perhaps as much reason, as the Catholic votarist does in the penance of St Bruno, or the ex-oculation of St Lucia, or the martyrdom of St Ursula and her eleven thousand virgins, which, being interpreted, means the martyrdom of a single female named Undecimilla, which the Catholic legends read Undecim Mille.
The procession went on, amid that mixture of rites that characterizes idolatry in all countries,—half resplendent, half horrible—appealing to nature while they rebel against her—mingling flowers with blood, and casting alternately a screaming infant, or a garland of roses, beneath the car of the idol.
Such was the picture that presented to the strained, incredulous eyes of Immalee, those mingled features of magnificence and horror,—of joy and suffering,—of crushed flowers and mangled bodies,—of magnificence calling on torture for its triumph,—and the steam of blood and the incense of the rose, inhaled at once by the triumphant nostrils of an incarnate demon, who rode amid the wrecks of nature and the spoils of the heart! Immalee gazed on in horrid curiosity. She saw, by the aid of the telescope, a boy seated on the front of the moving temple, who perfected the praise of the loathsome idol, with all the outrageous lubricities of the Phallic worship. From the slightest consciousness of the meaning of this phenomenon, her unimaginable purity protected her as with a shield. It was in vain that the tempter plied her with questions, and hints of explanation, and offers of illustration. He found her chill, indifferent, and even incurious. He gnashed his teeth and gnawed his lip en parenthese. But when she saw mothers cast their infants under the wheels of the car, and then turn to watch the wild and wanton dance of the Almahs, and appear, by their open lips and clapped hands, to keep time to the sound of the silver bells that tinkled round their slight ankles, while their infants were writhing in their dying agony,—she dropt the telescope in horror, and exclaimed, The world that thinks does not feel. I never saw the rose kill the bud!
But look again, said the tempter, to that square building of stone, round which a few stragglers are collected, and whose summit is surmounted by a trident,—that is the temple of Maha-deva, a goddess who possesses neither the power or the popularity of the great idol Juggernaut. Mark how her worshippers approach her. Immalee looked, and saw women offering flowers, fruits, and perfumes; and some young girls brought birds in cages, whom they set free; others, after making vows for the safety of some absent, sent a small and gaudy boat of paper, illuminated with wax, down the stream of an adjacent river, with injunctions never to sink till it reached him.
Immalee smiled with pleasure at the rites of this harmless and elegant superstition. This is not the religion of torment, said she.—Look again, said the stranger. She did, and beheld those very women whose hands had been employed in liberating birds from their cages, suspending, on the branches of the trees which shadowed the temple of Maha-deva, baskets containing their newborn infants, who were left there to perish with hunger, or be devoured by the birds, while their mothers danced and sung in honour of the goddess.
Others were occupied in conveying, apparently with the most zealous and tender watchfulness, their aged parents to the banks of the river, where, after assisting them to perform their ablutions, with all the intensity of filial and divine piety, they left them half immersed in the water, to be devoured by alligators, who did not suffer their wretched prey to linger in long expectation of their horrible death; while others were deposited in the jungles near the banks of the river, where they met with a fate as certain and as horrible, from the tigers who infested it, and whose yell soon hushed the feeble wail of their unresisting victims.
Immalee sunk on the earth at this spectacle, and clasping both hands over her eyes, remained speechless with grief and horror.
Look yet again, said the stranger, the rites of all religions are not so bloody. Once more she looked, and saw a Turkish mosque, towering in all the splendour that accompanied the first introduction of the religion of Mahomet among the Hindoos. It reared its gilded domes, and carved minarets, and crescented pinnacles, rich with all the profusion which the decorative imagination of Oriental architecture, at once light and luxuriant, gorgeous and aerial, delights to lavish on its favourite works.
A group of stately Turks were approaching the mosque, at the call of the muezzin. Around the building arose neither tree nor shrub; it borrowed neither shade nor ornament from nature; it had none of those soft and graduating shades and hues, which seem to unite the works of God and the creature for the glory of the former, and calls on the inventive magnificence of art, and the spontaneous loveliness of nature, to magnify the Author of both; it stood the independent work and emblem of vigorous hands and proud minds, such as appeared to belong to those who now approached it as worshippers. Their finely featured and thoughtful countenances, their majestic habits, and lofty figures, formed an imposing contrast to the unintellectual expression, the crouching posture, and the half naked squalidness of some poor Hindoos, who, seated on their hams, were eating their mess of rice, as the stately Turks passed on to their devotions. Immalee viewed them with a feeling of awe and pleasure, and began to think there might be some good in the religion professed by these noble-looking beings. But, before they entered the mosque, they spurned and spit at the unoffending and terrified Hindoos; they struck them with the flats of their sabres, and, terming them dogs of idolaters, they cursed them in the name of God and the prophet. Immalee, revolted and indignant at the sight, though she could not hear the words that accompanied it, demanded the reason of it. Their religion, said the stranger, binds them to hate all who do not worship as they do.—Alas! said Immalee, weeping, is not that hatred which their religion teaches, a proof that theirs is the worst? But why, she added, her features illuminated with all the wild and sparkling intelligence of wonder, while flushed with recent fears, why do I not see among them some of those lovelier beings, whose habits differ from theirs, and whom you call women? Why do they not worship also; or have they a milder religion of their own?—That religion, replied the stranger, is not very favourable to those beings, of whom you are the loveliest; it teaches that men shall have different companions in the world of souls; nor does it clearly intimate that women shall ever arrive there. Hence you may see some of these excluded beings wandering amid those stones that designate the place of their dead, repeating prayers for the dead whom they dare not hope to join; and others, who are old and indigent, seated at the doors of the mosque, reading aloud passages from a book lying on their knees, (which they call the Koran), with the hope of soliciting alms, not of exciting devotion. At these desolating words, Immalee, who had in vain looked to any of these systems for that hope or solace which her pure spirit and vivid imagination alike thirsted for, felt a recoiling of the soul unutterable at religion thus painted to her, and exhibiting only a frightful picture of blood and cruelty, of the inversion of every principle of nature, and the disruption of every tie of the heart.
She flung herself on the ground, and exclaiming, There is no God, if there be none but theirs! then, starting up as if to take a last view, in the desperate hope that all was an illusion, she discovered a small obscure building overshaded by palm-trees, and surmounted by a cross; and struck by the unobtrusive simplicity of its appearance, and the scanty number and peaceable demeanour of the few who were approaching it, she exclaimed, that this must be a new religion, and eagerly demanded its name and rites. The stranger evinced some uneasiness at the discovery she had made, and testified still more reluctance to answer the questions which it suggested; but they were pressed with such restless and coaxing importunity, and the beautiful being who urged them made such an artless transition from profound and meditative grief to childish, yet intelligent curiosity, that it was not in man, or more or less than man, to resist her.
Her glowing features, as she turned them toward him, with an expression half impatient, half pleading, were indeed those of a stilled infant smiling through its tears.  Perhaps, too, another cause might have operated on this prophet of curses, and made him utter a blessing where he meant malediction; but into this we dare not inquire, nor will it ever be fully known till the day when all secrets must be disclosed. However it was, he felt himself compelled to tell her it was a new religion, the religion of Christ, whose rites and worshippers she beheld. But what are the rites? asked Immalee. Do they murder their children, or their parents, to prove their love to God? Do they hang them on baskets to perish, or leave them on the banks of rivers to be devoured by fierce and hideous animals?—The religion they profess forbids that, said the stranger, with reluctant truth; it requires them to honour their parents, and to cherish their children.—But why do they not spurn from the entrance to their church those who do not think as they do?—Because their religion enjoins them to be mild, benevolent, and tolerant; and neither to reject or disdain those who have not attained its purer light.—But why is there no splendour or magnificence in their worship; nothing grand or attractive?—Because they know that God cannot be acceptably worshipped but by pure hearts and crimeless hands; and though their religion gives every hope to the penitent guilty, it flatters none with false promises of external devotion supplying the homage of the heart; or artificial and picturesque religion standing in the place of that single devotion to God, before whose throne, though the proudest temples erected to his honour crumble into dust, the heart burns on the altar still, an inextinguishable and acceptable victim.
1. I trust the absurdity of this quotation here will be forgiven for its beauty. It is borrowed from Miss Baillie, the first dramatic poet of the age.
As he spoke, (perhaps constrained by a higher power), Immalee bowed her glowing face to the earth, and then raising it with the look of a new-born angel, exclaimed, Christ shall be my God, and I will be a Christian! Again she bowed in the deep prostration which indicates the united submission of soul, and body, and remained in this attitude of absorption so long, that, when she rose, she did not perceive the absence of her companion.—He fled murmuring, and with him fled the shades of night.
Why, I did say something about getting a licence from the Cadi. —BLUE BEARD.
The visits of the stranger were interrupted for some time, and when he returned, it seemed as if their purpose was no longer the same. He no longer attempted to corrupt her principles, or sophisticate her understanding, or mystify her views of religion. On the latter subject he was quite silent, seemed to regret he had ever touched on it, and not all her restless avidity of knowledge, or caressing importunity of manner, could extract from him another syllable on the subject. He repayed her amply, however, by the rich, varied, and copious stores of a mind, furnished with matter apparently beyond the power of human experience to have collected, confined, as it is, within the limits of threescore years and ten. But this never struck Immalee; she took no note of time; and the tale of yesterday, or the record of past centuries, were synchronized in a mind to which facts and dates were alike unknown; and which was alike unacquainted with the graduating shades of manner, and the linked progress of events.
They often sat on the shore of the isle in the evening, where Immalee always prepared a seat of moss for her visitor, and gazed together on the blue deep in silence; for Immalees newly-awaked intellect and heart felt that bankruptcy of language, which profound feeling will impress on the most cultivated intellect, and which, in her case, was increased alike by her innocence and her ignorance; and her visitor had perhaps reasons still stronger for his silence. This silence, however, was often broken. There was not a vessel that sailed in the distance which did not suggest an eager question from Immalee, and did not draw a slow and extorted reply from the stranger. His knowledge was immense, various, and profound, (but this was rather a subject of delight than of curiosity to his beautiful pupil); and from the Indian canoe, rowed by naked natives, to the splendid, and clumsy, and ill-managed vessels of the Rajahs, that floated like huge and gilded fish tumbling in uncouth and shapeless mirth on the wave, to the gallant and well-manned vessels of Europe, that came on like the gods of ocean bringing fertility and knowledge, the discoveries of art, and the blessings of civilization, wherever their sails were unfurled and their anchors dropt,—he could tell her all,—describe the destination of every vessel,—the feelings, characters, and national habits of the many-minded inmates,—and enlarge her knowledge to a degree which books never could have done; for colloquial communication is always the most vivid and impressive medium, and lips have a prescriptive right to be the first intelligencers in instruction and in love.
Perhaps this extraordinary being, with regard to whom the laws of mortality and the feelings of nature seemed to be alike suspended, felt a kind of sad and wild repose from the destiny that immitigably pursued him, in the society of Immalee. We know not, and can never tell, what sensations her innocent and helpless beauty inspired him with, but the result was, that he ceased to regard her as his victim; and, when seated beside her listening to her questions, or answering them, seemed to enjoy the few lucid intervals of his insane and morbid existence. Absent from her, he returned to the world to torture and to tempt in the mad-house where the Englishman Stanton was tossing on his straw—
Hold! said Melmoth; what name have you mentioned?—Have patience with me, Senhor, said Monçada, who did not like interruption; have patience, and you will find we are all beads strung on the same string. Why should we jar against each other? our union is indissoluble. He proceeded with the story of the unhappy Indian, as recorded in the parchments of Adonijah, which he had been compelled to copy, and of which he was anxious to impress every line and letter on his listener, to substantiate his own extraordinary story.
When absent from her, his purpose was what I have described; but while present, that purpose seemed suspended; he gazed often on her with eyes whose wild and fierce lustre was quenched in a dew that he hastily wiped away, and gazed on her again. While he sat near her on the flowers she had collected for him,—while he looked on those timid and rosy lips that waited his signal to speak, like buds that did not dare to blow till the sun shone on them,—while he heard accents issue from those lips which he felt it would be as impossible to pervert as it would be to teach the nightingale blasphemy,—he sunk down beside her, passed his hand over his livid brow, and, wiping off some cold drops, thought for a moment he was not the Cain of the moral world, and that the brand was effaced,—at least for a moment. The habitual and impervious gloom of his soul soon returned. He felt again the gnawings of the worm that never dies, and the scorchings of the fire that is never to be quenched. He turned the fatal light of his dark eyes on the only being who never shrunk from their expression, for her innocence made her fearless. He looked intensely at her, while rage, despair, and pity, convulsed his heart; and as he beheld the confiding and conciliating smile with which this gentle being met a look that might have withered the heart of the boldest within him,—a Semele gazing in supplicating love on the lightnings that were to blast her,—one human drop dimmed their portentous lustre, as its softened rays fell on her. Turning fiercely away, he flung his view on the ocean, as if to find, in the sight of human life, some fuel for the fire that was consuming his vitals. The ocean, that lay calm and bright before them as a sea of jasper, never reflected two more different countenances, or sent more opposite feelings to two hearts. Over Immalees, it breathed that deep and delicious reverie, which those forms of nature that unite tranquillity and profundity diffuse over souls whose innocence gives them a right to an unmingled and exclusive enjoyment of nature. None but crimeless and unimpassioned minds ever truly enjoyed earth, ocean, and heaven. At our first transgression, nature expels us, as it did our first parents, from her paradise for ever.
To the stranger the view was fraught with far different visions. He viewed it as a tiger views a forest abounding with prey; there might be the storm and the wreck; or, if the elements were obstinately calm, there might be the gaudy and gilded pleasure barge, in which a Rajah and the beautiful women of his haram were inhaling the sea breeze under canopies of silk and gold, overturned by the unskilfulness of their rowers, and their plunge, and struggle, and dying agony, amid the smile and beauty of the calm ocean, produce one of those contrasts in which his fierce spirit delighted. Or, were even this denied, he could watch the vessels as they floated by, and, from the skiff to the huge trader, be sure that every one bore its freight of woe and crime. There came on the European vessels full of the passions and crimes of another world,—of its sateless cupidity, remorseless cruelty, its intelligence, all awake and ministrant in the cause of its evil passions, and its very refinement operating as a stimulant to more inventive indulgence, and more systematized vice. He saw them approach to traffic for gold, and silver, and the souls of men;—to grasp, with breathless rapacity, the gems and precious produce of those luxuriant climates, and deny the inhabitants the rice that supported their inoffensive existence;—to discharge the load of their crimes, their lust and their avarice, and after ravaging the land, and plundering the natives, depart, leaving behind them famine, despair, and execration; and bearing with them back to Europe, blasted constitutions, inflamed passions, ulcerated hearts, and consciences that could not endure the extinction of a light in their sleeping apartment.
Such were the objects for which he watched; and one evening, when solicited by Immalees incessant questions about the worlds to which the vessels were hastening, or to which they were returning, he gave her a description of the world, after his manner, in a spirit of mingled derision, malignity, and impatient bitterness at the innocence of her curiosity. There was a mixture of fiendish acrimony, biting irony, and fearful truth, in his wild sketch, which was often interrupted by the cries of astonishment, grief, and terror, from his hearer. They come, said he, pointing to the European vessels, from a world where the only study of the inhabitants is how to increase their own sufferings, and those of others, to the utmost possible degree; and, considering they have only had 4000 years practice at the task, it must be allowed they are tolerable proficients.—But is it possible?—You shall judge. In aid, doubtless, of this desirable object, they have been all originally gifted with imperfect constitutions and evil passions; and, not to be ungrateful, they pass their lives in contriving how to augment the infirmities of the one, and aggravate the acerbities of the other. They are not like you, Immalee, a being who breathes amid roses, and subsists only on the juices of fruits, and the lymph of the pure element. In order to render their thinking powers more gross, and their spirits more fiery, they devour animals, and torture from abused vegetables a drink, that, without quenching thirst, has the power of extinguishing reason, inflaming passion, and shortening life—the best result of all—for life under such circumstances owes its only felicity to the shortness of its duration.
Immalee shuddered at the mention of animal food, as the most delicate European would at the mention of a cannibal feast; and while tears trembled in her beautiful eyes, she turned them wistfully on her peacocks with an expression that made the stranger smile. Some, said he, by way of consolation, have a taste by no means so sophisticated,—they content themselves at their need with the flesh of their fellow-creatures; and as human life is always miserable, and animal life never so, (except from elementary causes), one would imagine this the most humane and salutary way of at once gratifying the appetite, and diminishing the mass of human suffering. But as these people pique themselves on their ingenuity in aggravating the sufferings of their situation, they leave thousands of human beings yearly to perish by hunger and grief, and amuse themselves in feeding on animals, whom, by depriving of existence, they deprive of the only pleasure their condition has allotted them. When they have thus, by unnatural diet and outrageous stimulation, happily succeeded in corrupting infirmity into disease, and exasperating passion into madness, they proceed to exhibit the proofs of their success, with an expertness and consistency truly admirable. They do not, like you, Immalee, live in the lovely independence of nature—lying on the earth, and sleeping with all the eyes of heaven unveiled to watch you—treading the same grass till your light step feels a friend in every blade it presses—and conversing with flowers, till you feel yourself and them children of the united family of nature, whose mutual language of love you have almost learned to speak to each other—no, to effect their purpose, their food, which is of itself poison, must be rendered more fatal by the air they inhale; and therefore the more civilized crowd all together into a space which their own respiration, and the exhalation of their bodies, renders pestilential, and which gives a celerity inconceivable to the circulation of disease and mortality. Four thousand of them will live together in a space smaller than the last and lightest colonnade of your young banyan-tree, in order, doubtless, to increase the effects of foetid air, artificial heat, unnatural habits, and impracticable exercise. The result of these judicious precautions is just what may be guessed. The most trifling complaint becomes immediately infectious, and, during the ravages of the pestilence, which this habit generates, ten thousand lives a-day are the customary sacrifice to the habit of living in cities.—But they die in the arms of those they love, said Immalee, whose tears flowed fast at this recital; and is not that better than even life in solitude,—as mine was before I beheld you?
The stranger was too intent on his description to heed her. To these cities they resort nominally for security and protection, but really for the sole purpose to which their existence is devoted,—that of aggravating its miseries by every ingenuity of refinement. For example, those who live in uncontrasted and untantalized misery, can hardly feel it—suffering becomes their habit, and they feel no more jealousy of their situation than the bat, who clings in blind and famishing stupefaction to the cleft of a rock, feels of the situation of the butterfly, who drinks of the dew, and bathes in the bloom of every flower. But the people of the other worlds have invented, by means of living in cities, a new and singular mode of aggravating human wretchedness—that of contrasting it with the wild and wanton excess of superfluous and extravagant splendour.
Here the stranger had incredible difficulty to make Immalee comprehend how there could be an unequal division of the means of existence; and when he had done his utmost to explain it to her, she continued to repeat, (her white finger on her scarlet lip, and her small foot beating the moss), in a kind of pouting inquietude, Why should some have more than they can eat, and others nothing to eat?—This, continued the stranger, is the most exquisite refinement on that art of torture which those beings are so expert in—to place misery by the side of opulence—to bid the wretch who dies for want feed on the sound of the splendid equipages which shake his hovel as they pass, but leave no relief behind—to bid the industrious, the ingenious, and the imaginative, starve, while bloated mediocrity pants from excess—to bid the dying sufferer feel that life might be prolonged by one drop of that exciting liquor, which, wasted, produces only sickness or madness in those whose lives it undermines;—to do this is their principal object, and it is fully attained. The sufferer through whose rags the wind of winter blows, like arrows lodging in every pore—whose tears freeze before they fall—whose soul is as dreary as the night under whose cope his resting-place must be—whose glued and clammy lips are unable to receive the food which famine, lying like a burning coal at his vitals, craves—and who, amid the horrors of a houseless winter, might prefer its desolation to that of the den that abuses the name of home—without food—without light—where the howlings of the storm are answered by the fiercer cries of hunger—and he must stumble to his murky and strawless nook over the bodies of his children, who have sunk on the floor, not for rest, but despair. Such a being, is he not sufficiently miserable?
Immalees shudderings were her only answer, (though of many parts of his description she had a very imperfect idea). No, he is not enough so yet, pursued the stranger, pressing the picture on her; let his steps, that know not where they wander, conduct him to the gates of the affluent and the luxurious—let him feel that plenty and mirth are removed from him but by the interval of a wall, and yet more distant than if severed by worlds—let him feel that while his world is darkness and cold, the eyes of those within are aching with the blaze of light, and hands relaxed by artificial heat, are soliciting with fans the refreshment of a breeze—let him feel that every groan he utters is answered by a song or a laugh—and let him die on the steps of the mansion, while his last conscious pang is aggravated by the thought, that the price of the hundredth part of the luxuries that lie untasted before heedless beauty and sated epicurism, would have protracted his existence, while it poisons theirs—let him die of want on the threshold of a banquet-hall, and then admire with me the ingenuity that displays itself in this new combination of misery. The inventive activity of the people of the world, in the multiplication of calamity, is inexhaustibly fertile in resources. Not satisfied with diseases and famine, with sterility of the earth, and tempests of the air, they must have laws and marriages, and kings and tax-gatherers, and wars and fetes, and every variety of artificial misery inconceivable to you.
Immalee, overpowered by this torrent of words, to her unintelligible words, in vain asked a connected explanation of them. The demon of his superhuman misanthropy had now fully possessed him, and not even the tones of a voice as sweet as the strings of Davids harp, had power to expel the evil one. So he went on flinging about his fire-brands and arrows, and then saying, Am I not in sport? These people,  said he, have made unto themselves kings, that is, beings whom they voluntarily invest with the privilege of draining, by taxation, whatever wealth their vices have left to the rich, and whatever means of subsistence their want has left to the poor, till their extortion is cursed from the castle to the cottage—and this to support a few pampered favourites, who are harnessed by silken reins to the car, which they drag over the prostrate bodies of the multitude. Sometimes exhausted by the monotony of perpetual fruition, which has no parallel even in the monotony of suffering, (for the latter has at least the excitement of hope, which is for ever denied to the former), they amuse themselves by making war, that is, collecting the greatest number of human beings that can be bribed to the task, to cut the throats of a less, equal, or greater number of beings, bribed in the same manner for the same purpose. These creatures have not the least cause of enmity to each other—they do not know, they never beheld each other. Perhaps they might, under other circumstances, wish each other well, as far as human malignity would suffer them; but from the moment they are hired for legalized massacre, hatred is their duty, and murder their delight. The man who would feel reluctance to destroy the reptile that crawls in his path, will equip himself with metals fabricated for the purpose of destruction, and smile to see it stained with the blood of a being, whose existence and happiness he would have sacrificed his own to promote, under other circumstances. So strong is this habit of aggravating misery under artificial circumstances, that it has been known, when in a sea-fight a vessel has blown up, (here a long explanation was owed to Immalee, which may be spared the reader), the people of that world have plunged into the water to save, at the risk of their own lives, the lives of those with whom they were grappling amid fire and blood a moment before, and whom, though they would sacrifice to their passions, their pride refused to sacrifice to the elements.—Oh that is beautiful!—that is glorious! said Immalee, clasping her white hands; I could bear all you describe to see that sight!
1. As, by a mode of criticism equally false and unjust, the worst sentiments of my worst characters, (from the ravings of Bertram to the blasphemies of Cardonneau), have been represented as my own, I must here trespass so far on the patience of the reader as to assure him, that the sentiments ascribed to the stranger are diametrically opposite to mine, and that I have purposely put them into the mouth of an agent of the enemy of mankind.
Her smile of innocent delight, her spontaneous burst of high-toned feeling, had the usual effect of adding a darker shade to the frown of the stranger, and a sterner curve to the repulsive contraction of his upper lip, which was never raised but to express hostility or contempt.
But what do the kings do? said Immalee, while they are making men kill each other for nothing?—You are ignorant, Immalee, said the stranger, very ignorant, or you would not have said it was for nothing. Some of them fight for ten inches of barren sand—some for the dominion of the salt wave—some for any thing—and some for nothing—but all for pay and poverty, and occasional excitement, and the love of action, and the love of change, and the dread of home, and the consciousness of evil passions, and the hope of death, and the admiration of the showy dress in which they are to perish. The best of the jest is, they contrive not only to reconcile themselves to these cruel and wicked absurdities, but to dignify them with the most imposing names their perverted language supplies—the names of fame, of glory, of recording memory, and admiring posterity.
Thus a wretch whom want, idleness, or intemperance, drives to this reckless and heart-withering business,—who leaves his wife and children to the mercy of strangers, or to famish, (terms nearly synonimous), the moment he has assumed the blushing badge that privileges massacre, becomes, in the imagination of this intoxicated people, the defender of his country, entitled to her gratitude and to her praise. The idle stripling, who hates the cultivation of intellect, and despises the meanness of occupation, feels, perhaps, a taste for arraying his person in colours as gaudy as the parrots or the peacocks; and this effeminate propensity is baptised by the prostituted name of the love of glory—and this complication of motives borrowed from vanity and from vice, from the fear of distress, the wantonness of idleness, and the appetite for mischief, finds one convenient and sheltering appellation in the single sound—patriotism. And those beings who never knew one generous impulse, one independent feeling, ignorant of either the principles or the justice of the cause for which they contend, and wholly uninterested in the result, except so far as it involves the concerns of their own vanity, cupidity, and avarice, are, while living, hailed by the infatuated world as its benefactors, and when dead, canonized as its martyrs. He died in his countrys cause, is the epitaph inscribed by the rash hand of indiscriminating eulogy on the grave of ten thousand, who had ten thousand different motives for their choice and their fate,—who might have lived to be their countrys enemies if they had not happened to fall in her defence,—and whose love of their country, if fairly analysed, was, under its various forms of vanity, restlessness, the love of tumult, or the love of show—purely love of themselves. There let them rest—nothing but the wish to disabuse their idolaters, who prompt the sacrifice, and then applaud the victim they have made, could have tempted me to dwell thus long on beings as mischievous in their lives, as they are insignificant in their death.
Another amusement of these people, so ingenious in multiplying the sufferings of their destiny, is what they call law. They pretend to find in this a security for their persons and their properties—with how much justice, their own felicitous experience must inform them! Of the security it gives to the latter, judge, Immalee, when I tell you, that you might spend your life in their courts, without being able to prove that those roses you have gathered and twined in your hair were your own—that you might starve for this days meal, while proving your right to a property which must incontestibly be yours, on the condition of your being able to fast on a few years, and survive to enjoy it—and that, finally, with the sentiments of all upright men, the opinions of the judges of the land, and the fullest conviction of your own conscience in your favour, you cannot obtain the possession of what you and all feel to be your own, while your antagonist can start an objection, purchase a fraud, or invent a lie. So pleadings go on, and years are wasted, and property consumed, and hearts broken,—and law triumphs. One of its most admirable triumphs is in that ingenuity by which it contrives to convert a difficulty into an impossibility, and punish a man for not doing what it has rendered impracticable for him to do.
When he is unable to pay his debts, it deprives him of liberty and credit, to insure that inability still further; and while destitute alike of the means of subsistence, or the power of satisfying his creditors, he is enabled, by this righteous arrangement, to console himself, at least, with the reflection, that he can injure his creditor as much as he has suffered from him—that certain loss is the reward of immitigable cruelty—and that, while he famishes in prison, the page in which his debt is recorded rots away faster than his body; and the angel of death, with one obliterating sweep of his wing, cancels misery and debt, and presents, grinning in horrid triumph, the release of debtor and debt, signed by a hand that makes the judges tremble on their seats.—But they have religion, said the poor Indian, trembling at this horrible description; they have that religion which you shewed me—its mild and peaceful spirit—its quietness and resignation—no blood—no cruelty.—Yes,—true, said the stranger, with some reluctance, they have religion; for in their zeal for suffering, they feel the torments of one world not enough, unless aggravated by the terrors of another. They have such a religion, but what use have they made of it? Intent on their settled purpose of discovering misery wherever it could be traced, and inventing it where it could not, they have found, even in the pure pages of that book, which, they presume to say, contains their title to peace on earth, and happiness hereafter, a right to hate, plunder, and murder each other. Here they have been compelled to exercise an extraordinary share of perverted ingenuity. The book contains nothing but what is good, and evil must be the minds, and hard the labour of those evil minds, to extort a tinge from it to colour their pretensions withal. But mark, in pursuance of their great object, (the aggravation of general misery), mark how subtilly they have wrought. They call themselves by various names, to excite passions suitable to the names they bear. Thus some forbid the perusal of that book to their disciples, and others assert, that from the exclusive study of its pages alone, can the hope of salvation be learned or substantiated. It is singular, however, that with all their ingenuity, they have never been able to extract a subject of difference from the essential contents of that book, to which they all appeal—so they proceed after their manner.
They never dare to dispute that it contains irresistible injunctions,—that those who believe in it should live in habits of peace, benevolence, and harmony,—that they should love each other in prosperity, and assist each other in adversity. They dare not deny that the spirit that book inculcates and inspires, is a spirit whose fruits are love, joy, peace, long-suffering, mildness, and truth. On these points they never presumed to differ.—They are too plain to be denied, so they contrive to make matter of difference out of the various habits they wear; and they cut each others throats for the love of God, on the important subject,  whether their jackets should be red or white—or whether their priests should be arrayed in silk ribbons,  or white linen,  or black household garments4—or whether they should immerse their children in water, or sprinkle them with a few drops of it—or whether they should partake of the memorials of the death of him they all profess to love, standing or on their knees—or—But I weary you with this display of human wickedness and absurdity. One point is plain, they all agree that the language of the book is, Love one another, while they all translate that language, Hate one another. But as they can find neither materials or excuse from that book, they search for them in their own minds,—and there they are never at a loss, for human minds are inexhaustible in malignity and hostility; and when they borrow the name of that book to sanction them, the deification of their passions becomes a duty, and their worst impulses are hallowed and practised as virtues.—Are there no parents or children in these horrible worlds? said Immalee, turning her tearful eyes on this traducer of humanity; none that love each other as I loved the tree under which I was first conscious of existence, or the flowers that grew with me?—Parents?—children? said the stranger; Oh yes! There are fathers who instruct their sons — And his voice was lost—he struggled to recover it.
1. The Catholics and Protestants were thus distinguished in the wars of the League.
2. Catholics. 3 Protestants. 4 Dissenters.
After a long pause, he said, There are some kind parents among those sophisticated people.—And who are they? said Immalee, whose heart throbbed spontaneously at the mention of kindliness.—Those, said the stranger, with a withering smile, who murder their children at the hour of their birth, or, by medical art, dismiss them before they have seen the light; and, in so doing, they give the only credible evidence of parental affection.
He ceased, and Immalee remained silent in melancholy meditation on what she had heard. The acrid and searing irony of his language had made no impression on one with whom speech was truth, and who could have no idea why a circuitous mode of conveying meaning could be adopted, when even a direct one was often attended with difficulty to herself. But she could understand, that he had spoken much of evil and of suffering, names unknown to her before she beheld him, and she turned on him a glance that seemed at once to thank and reproach him for her painful initiation into the mysteries of a new existence. She had, indeed, tasted of the tree of knowledge, and her eyes were opened, but its fruit was bitter to her taste, and her looks conveyed a kind of mild and melancholy gratitude, that would have wrung the heart for giving its first lesson of pain to the heart of a being so beautiful, so gentle, and so innocent. The stranger marked this blended expression, and exulted.
He had distorted life thus to her imagination, perhaps with the purpose of terrifying her from a nearer view of it; perhaps in the wild hope of keeping her for ever in this solitude, where he might sometimes see her, and catch, from the atmosphere of purity that surrounded her, the only breeze that floated over the burning desert of his own existence. This hope was strengthened by the obvious impression his discourse had made on her. The sparkling intelligence,—the breathless curiosity,—the vivid gratitude of her former expression,—were all extinguished, and her down cast and thoughtful eyes were full of tears.
Has my conversation wearied you, Immalee? said he.—It has grieved me, yet I wish to listen still, answered the Indian. I love to hear the murmur of the stream, though the crocodile may be beneath the waves.—Perhaps you wish to encounter the people of this world, so full of crime and misfortune.—I do, for it is the world you came from, and when you return to it all will be happy but me.—And is it, then, in my power to confer happiness? said her companion; is it for this purpose I wander among mankind? A mingled and indefinable expression of derision, malevolence, and despair, overspread his features, as he added, You do me too much honour, in devising for me an occupation so mild and so congenial to my spirit.
Immalee, whose eyes were averted, did not see this expression, and she replied, I know not, but you have taught me the joy of grief; before I saw you I only smiled, but since I saw you, I weep, and my tears are delicious. Oh! they are far different from those I shed for the setting sun, or the faded rose! And yet I know not — And the poor Indian, oppressed by emotions she could neither understand or express, clasped her hands on her bosom, as if to hide the secret of its new palpitations, and, with the instinctive diffidence of her purity, signified the change of her feelings, by retiring a few steps from her companion, and casting on the earth eyes which could contain their tears no longer. The stranger appeared troubled,—an emotion new to himself agitated him for a moment,—then a smile of self-disdain curled his lip, as if he reproached himself for the indulgence of human feeling even for a moment. Again his features relaxed, as he turned to the bending and averted form of Immalee, and he seemed like one conscious of agony of soul himself, yet inclined to sport with the agony of anothers. This union of inward despair and outward levity is not unnatural. Smiles are the legitimate offspring of happiness, but laughter is often the misbegotten child of madness, that mocks its parent to her face. With such an expression he turned towards her, and asked, But what is your meaning, Immalee?—A long pause followed this question, and at length the Indian answered, I know not, with that natural and delicious art which teaches the sex to disclose their meaning in words that seem to contradict it. I know not, means, I know too well. Her companion understood this, and enjoyed his anticipated triumph. And why do your tears flow, Immalee?—I know not, said the poor Indian, and her tears flowed faster at the question.
At these words, or rather at these tears, the stranger forgot himself for a moment. He felt that melancholy triumph which the conqueror is unable to enjoy; that triumph which announces a victory over the weakness of others, obtained at the expence of a greater weakness in ourselves. A human feeling, in spite of him, pervaded his whole soul, as he said, in accents of involuntary softness, What would you have me do, Immalee? The difficulty of speaking a language that might be at once intelligible and reserved,—that might convey her wishes without betraying her heart,—and the unknown nature of her new emotions, made Immalee faulter long before she could answer, Stay with me,—return not to that world of evil and sorrow.—Here the flowers will always bloom, and the sun be as bright as on the first day I beheld you.—Why will you go back to the world to think and to be unhappy? The wild and discordant laugh of her companion, startled and silenced her. Poor girl, he exclaimed, with that mixture of bitterness and commiseration, that at once terrifies and humiliates; and is this the destiny I am to fulfil?—to listen to the chirping of birds, and watch the opening of buds? Is this to be my lot? and with another wild burst of unnatural laughter, he flung away the hand which Immalee had extended to him as she had finished her simple appeal.—Yes, doubtless, I am well fitted for such a fate, and such a partner. Tell me, he added, with still wilder fierceness, tell me from what line of my features,—from what accent of my voice,—from what sentiment of my discourse, have you extracted the foundation of a hope that insults me with the view of felicity? Immalee, who might have replied, I understand a fury in your words, but not your words, had yet sufficient aid from her maide pride, and female penetration, to discover that she was rejected by the stranger; and a brief emotion of indignant grief struggled with the tenderness of her exposed and devoted heart. She paused a moment, and then checking her tears, said, in her firmest tones, Go, then, to your world,—since you wish to be unhappy—go!—Alas! it is not necessary to go there to be unhappy, for I must be so here. Go,—but take with you these roses, for they will all wither when you are gone!—take with you these shells, for I shall no longer love to wear them when you no longer see them! And as she spoke, with simple, but emphatic action, she untwined from her bosom and hair the shells and flowers with which they were adorned, and threw them at his feet; then turning to throw one glance of proud and melancholy grief at him, she was retiring. Stay, Immalee,—stay, and hear me for a moment, said the stranger; and he would, at that moment, have perhaps discovered the ineffable and forbidden secret of his destiny, but Immalee, in silence, which her look of profound grief made eloquent, shook sadly her averted head, and departed.
[ End of Chapter XVI ]