The New Portfolio
THE REPORT OF THE BIOLOGICAL COMMITTEE.
PERHAPS it is too much to expect a reader who wishes to be entertained, excited, amused, and does not want to work his passage through pages which he cannot understand without some effort of his own, to read the paper which follows and Dr. Butts’s reflections upon it. If he has no curiosity in the direction of these chapters, he can afford to leave the sheets which contain them uncut. But if he does so leave them he will very probably remain skeptical as to the truth of the story to which they are meant to furnish him with a key.
Of course the case of Maurice Kirkwood is a remarkable and exceptional one, and it is hardly probable that any reader’s experience will furnish him with its parallel. But let him look back over all his acquaintances, if he has reached middle life, and see if he cannot recall more than one who, for some reason or other, shunned the society of young women, as if they had a deadly fear of their company. If he remembers any such, he can understand the simple statements and natural reflections which are laid before him.
One of the most singular facts connected with the history of Maurice Kirkwood was the philosophical equanimity with which he submitted to the fate which had fallen upon him. He did not choose to be pumped by the Interviewer, who would show him up in the sensational columns of his prying newspaper. He lived chiefly by himself, as the easiest mode of avoiding those meetings to which he would be exposed in almost every society into which he might venture. But he had learned to look upon himself very much as he would upon an intimate not himself, — upon a different personality. A young man will naturally enough be ashamed of his shyness. It is something which others believe, and perhaps he himself thinks, he might overcome. But in the case of Maurice Kirkwood there was no room for doubt as to the reality and gravity of the long enduring effects of his first convulsive terror. He had accepted the fact as he would have accepted the calamity of losing his sight or his hearing. When he was questioned by the experts to whom his case was submitted, he told them all that he knew about it almost without a sign of emotion. Nature was so peremptory with him, — saying in language that had no double meaning: “If you violate the condition on which you hold my gift of existence, I slay you on the spot,” — that he became as decisive in his obedience as she was in her command, and accepted his fate without repining.
Yet it must not be thought for a moment, — it cannot be supposed, — that he was insensible because he looked upon himself with the coolness of an enforced philosophy. He bore his burden manfully, hard as it was to live under it, for he lived, as we have seen, in hope. The thought of throwing it off with his life, as too grievous to be borne, was familiar to his lonely hours, but he rejected it as unworthy of his manhood. How he had speculated and dreamed about it is plain enough from the paper the reader may remember on Ocean, River, and Lake.
With these preliminary hints the papers promised are submitted to such as may find any interest in them.
ACCOUNT OF A CASE OF GYNOPHOBIA.
Being the Substance of a Report to the Royal Academy of the Biological Sciences by a Committee of that Institution.
“ The singular nature of the case we are about to narrate and comment upon will, we feel confident, arrest the attention of those who have learned the great fact that nature often throws the strongest light upon her laws by the apparent exceptions and anomalies which from time to time are observed. We have done with the lusus naturœ of earlier generations. We pay little attention to the stories of ‘ miracles,’ except so far as we receive them ready-made at the hands of the churches which still hold to them. Not the less do we meet with strange and surprising facts, which a century or two ago would have been handled by the clergy and the courts, but to-day are calmly recorded and judged by the best light our knowledge of the laws of life can throw upon them. It must be owned that there are stories which we can hardly dispute, so clear and full is the evidence in their support, which do, notwithstanding, tax our faith and sometimes leave us skeptical in spite of all the testimony which supports them.
“ In this category many will be disposed to place the case we commend to the candid attention of the Academy. If one were told that a young man, a gentleman by birth and training, well formed, in apparently perfect health, of agreeable physiognomy and manners, could not endure the presence of the most attractive young woman, but was seized with deadly terror and sudden collapse of all the powers of life, if he came into her immediate presence ; if it were added that this same young man did not shrink from the presence of an old withered crone ; that he had a certain timid liking for little maidens who had not yet outgrown the company of their dolls, the listener would be apt to smile, if he did not laugh, at the absurdity of the fable. Surely, he would say, this must be the fiction of some fanciful brain, the whim of some romancer, the trick of some playwright. It would make a capital farce, this idea, carried out. A young man slighting the lovely heroine of the little comedy and making love to her grandmother ! This would, of course, be overstating the truth of the story, but to such a misinterpretation the plain facts lend themselves too easily. We will relate the leading circumstances of the case, as they were told us with perfect simplicity and frankness by the subject of an affection which, if classified, would come under the general head of Antipathy, but to which, if we gave it a name, we should have to apply the term Gynophobia, or Fear of Woman.”
[Here follows the account furnished to the writer of the paper, which is in all essentials identical with that already laid before the reader.]
“ Such is the case offered to our consideration. Assuming its truthfulness in all its particulars, it remains to see in the first place, whether or not it is as entirely exceptional and anomalous as it seems at first sight, or whether it is only the last term of a series of cases which in their less formidable aspect are well known to us in literature, in the records of science, and even in our common experience.
“ To most of those among us the explanations we are now about to give are entirely superfluous. But there are some whose chief studies have been in different directions, and who will not complain if certain facts are mentioned which to the expert will seem rudimentary, and which hardly require recapitulation to those who are familiarly acquainted with the common textbooks.
“ The heart is the centre of every living movement in the higher animals, and in man, furnishing in varying amount, or withholding to a greater or less extent, the needful supplies to all parts of the system. If its action is diminished to a certain degree, faintness is the immediate consequence; if it is arrested, loss of consciousness; if its action is not soon restored, death, of which fainting plants the white flag, remains in possession of the system.
How closely the heart is under the influence of the emotions we need not go to science to learn, for all human experience and all literature are overflowing with evidence that shows the extent of this relation. Scripture is full of it; the heart in Hebrew poetry represents the entire life, we might almost say. Not less forcible is the language of Shakespeare, as for instance, in ‘ Measure for Measure : ’ —
Making it both unable for itself
And dispossessing all my other parts
Of necessary fitness ? ’
More especially is the heart associated in every literature with the passion of love. A famous old story is that of Galen, who was called to the case of a young lady long ailing, and wasting away from some cause the physicians who had already seen her were unable to make out. The shrewd old practitioner suspected that love was at the bottom of the young lady’s malady. Many relatives and friends of both sexes, all of them ready with their sympathy, came to see her. The physician sat by her bedside during one of these visits, and in an easy, natural way took her hand and placed a finger on her pulse. It beat quietly enough until a certain comely young gentleman entered the apartment, when it suddenly rose in frequency and at the same moment her hurried breathing, her changing color, pale and flushed by turns, betrayed the profound agitation his presence excited. This was enough for the sagacious Greek; love was the disease, the cure of which by its like may be claimed as an anticipation of homœopathy. In the frontispiece to the fine old “Junta” edition of the works of Galen, you may find among the wood-cuts a representation of the interesting scene, with the title Amantis Dignotio, — the diagnosis, or recognition of the lover.
“ Love has many languages, but the heart talks through all of them. The pallid or burning cheek tells of the failing or leaping fountain which gives it color. The lovers at the ‘ Brookside ’ could hear each other’s hearts beating. When Genevieve, in Coleridge’s poem, forgot herself, and was beforehand with her suitor in her sudden embrace, —
And partly ‘t. was a bashful art,
That I might rather feel than see
The swelling of her heart.’
Always the heart, whether its hurried action is seen, or heard, or felt. ‘ But it is not always in this way that the ‘deceitful ’ organ treats the lover.
This saying was not meant, perhaps, to be taken literally, but it has its literal truth. Many a lover has found his heart sink within him,’ — lose all its force, and leave him weak as a child in his emotion at the sight of the object of his affections. When Porphyro looked upon Madeline at her prayers in the chapel, it was too much for him, —
Save wings, for heaven : — Porphyro grew faint,
She knelt, so pure a thing, so free from earthly
And in Balzac’s novel, Cesar Birotteau, the hero of the story ‘fainted away for joy at the moment when, under a lindentree, at Sceaux, Constance - Barbe-Josephine accepted him as her future husband.’
“ One who faints is dead if he does not ‘ come to,’ and nothing is more likely than that too susceptible lovers have actually gone off in this way. Everything depends on how the heart behaves itself in these and similar trying moments. The mechanism of its actions becomes an interesting subject, therefore, to lovers of both sexes, and to all who are capable of intense emotions.
“ The heart is a great reservoir, which distributes food, drink, air, and heat to every part of the system, in exchange for its waste material. It knocks at the gate of every organ seventy or eighty times in a minute, calling upon it to receive its supplies and unload its refuse. Between it and the brain there is the closest relation. The emotions, which act upon it as we have seen, govern it by a mechanism only of late years thoroughly understood. This mechanism can be made plain enough to the reader who is not afraid to believe that he can understand it.
“ The brain, as all know, is the seat of ideas, emotions, volition. It is the great central telegraphic station with which many lesser centres are in close relation, from which they receive, and to which they transmit, their messages. The heart has its own little brains, so to speak, — small collections of nervous substance which govern its rhythmical motions under ordinary conditions. But these lesser nervous centres are to a large extent dominated by influences transmitted from certain groups of nerve-cells in the brain and its immediate dependencies.
“ There are two among the special groups of nerve-cells which produce directly opposite effects. One of these has the power of accelerating the action of the heart, while the other has the power of retarding or arresting this action. One acts as the spur, the other as the bridle. According as one or the other predominates, the action of the heart will be stimulated or restrained. Among the great modern discoveries in physiology is that of the existence of a distinct centre of inhibition, as the restraining influence over the heart is called.
“ The centre of inhibition plays a terrible part in the history of cowardice and of unsuccessful love. No man can be brave without blood to sustain his courage, any more than he can think, as the German materialist says, not absurdly, without phosphorus. The fainting lover must recover his circulation, or his lady will lend him her smelling salts and take a gallant with blood in his cheeks. Porphyro got over his faintness before he ran away with Madeline, and Cesar Birotteau was an accepted lover when he swooned with happiness: but many an officer has been cashiered, and many a suitor has been rejected, because the centre of inhibition has got the upper hand of the centre of stimulation.
“ In the well-known cases of deadly antipathy which have been recorded, the most frequent cause has been the disturbed and depressing influence of the centre of inhibition. Fainting at the sight of blood is one of the commonest examples of this influence. A single impression, in a very early period of atmospheric existence, — perhaps, indirectly, before that period, as was said to have happened in the case of James the First of England, — may establish a communication between this centre and the heart which will remain open ever afterwards. How does a footpath across a field establish itself ? Its curves are arbitrary, and what we call accidental, but one after another follows it as if he were guided by a chart on which it was laid down. So it is with this dangerous transit between the centre of inhibition and the great organ of life. If once the path is opened by the track of some profound impression, that same impression, if repeated, or a similar one, is likely to find the old footmarks and follow them. Habit only makes the path easier to traverse, and thus the unreasoning terror of a child, of an infant, may perpetuate itself in a timidity which shames the manhood of its subject.
“ The case before us is an exceptional and most remarkable example of the effect of inhibition on the heart.
“ We will not say that we believe it to be unique in the history of the human race; on the contrary, we do not doubt that there have been similar cases, and that in some rare instances sudden death has been the consequence of seizures like that of the subject of this Report. The case most like it is that of Colonel Townsend, which is too well known to require any lengthened description in this paper. It is enough to recall the main facts. He could by a voluntary effort suspend the action of his heart for a considerable period, during which he lay like one dead, pulseless, and without motion. After a time the circulation returned, and he does not seem to have been the worse for his dangerous, or seemingly dangerous, experiment. But in his case it was by an act of the will that the heart’s action was suspended. In the case before us it is an involuntary impulse transmitted from the brain to the inhibiting centre, which arrests the cardiac movements.
“ What is like to be the further history of the case?
“ The subject of this anomalous affliction is now more than twenty years old. The chain of nervous actions has become firmly established. It might have been hoped that the changes of adolescence would have effected a transformation of the perverted instinct. On the contrary, the whole force of this instinct throws itself on the centre of inhibition, instead of quickening the heart-beats, and sending the rush of youthful blood with fresh life through the entire system to the throbbing finger-tips.
“ Is it probable that time and circumstances will alter a habit of nervous interactions so long established? We are disposed to think that there is a chance of its being broken up. And we are not afraid to say that we suspect the old gypsy woman, whose prophecy took such hold of the patient’s imagination, has hit upon the way in which the ‘ spell,’ as she called it, is to be dissolved. She must, in all probability, have had a hint of the ‘ antipatia ’ to which the youth before her was a victim, and its cause, and if so, her guess as to the probable mode in which the young man would obtain relief from his unfortunate condition was the one which would naturally suggest itself.
“ If once the nervous impression which falls on the centre of inhibition can be made to change its course, so as to follow its natural channel, it will probably keep to that channel ever afterwards. And this will, it is most likely, be effected by some sudden, unexpected impression. If he were drowning, and a young woman should rescue him, it is by no means impossible that the change in the nervous current we have referred to might be brought about as rapidly, as easily, as the reversal of the poles in a magnet, which is effected in an instant. But he cannot be expected to throw himself into the water just at the right moment when the ‘ fair lady ’ of the gitana’s prophecy is passing on the shore. Accident may effect the cure which art seems incompetent to perform. It would not be strange if in some future seizure he should never come back to consciousness. But it is quite conceivable, on the other hand, that a happier event may occur, — that in a single moment the nervous polarity may be reversed, the whole course of his life changed, and his past terrible experiences be to him like a scarce-remembered dream.
“ This is one of those cases in which it is very hard to determine the wisest course to be pursued. The question is not unlike that which arises in certain cases of dislocation of the bones of the neck. Shall the unfortunate sufferer go all his days with his face turned far round to the right or the left, or shall an attempt be made to replace the dislocated bones, — an attempt which may succeed, or may cause instant death ? The patient must be consulted as to whether he will take the chance. The practitioner may be unwilling to risk it, if the patient consents. Each case must be judged on its own special grounds. We cannot think that this young man is doomed to perpetual separation from the society of womanhood during the period of its bloom and attraction. But to provoke another seizure after his past experiences would be too much like committing suicide. We fear that we must trust to the chapter of accidents. The strange malady, for such it is, has become a second nature, and may require as energetic a shock to displace it as it did to bring it into existence. Time alone can solve this question, on which depends the well-being, and, it may be, the existence of a young man every way fitted to be happy, and to give happiness, if restored to his true nature.”
DR. BUTTS REFLECTS.
Dr. Butts sat up late at night reading these papers and reflecting upon them. He was profoundly impressed and tenderly affected by the entire frankness, the absence of all attempt at concealment, which Maurice showed in placing these papers at his disposal. He believed that his patient would recover from this illness for which he had been taking care of him. He thought deeply and earnestly of what he could do for him after he should have regained his health and strength.
There were references, in Maurice’s own account of himself, which the doctor called to mind with great interest after reading his brief autobiography. Some one person — some young woman, it must be — had produced a singular impression upon him since those earlier perilous experiences through which he had passed. The doctor could not help thinking of that meeting with Euthymia of which she had spoken to him. Maurice, as she said, turned pale, — he clapped his hand to his breast. He might have done so if he had met her chambermaid, or any straggling damsel of the village. But Euthymia was not a young woman to be looked upon with indifference. She held herself like a queen, and walked like one, — not a stage queen, but one born and bred to self-reliance, and command of herself as well as others. One could not pass her without being struck with her noble bearing and spirited features. If she had known how Maurice trembled as he looked upon her, in that conflict of attraction and uncontrollable dread, — if she had known it! But what, even then, could she have done ? Nothing but get away from him as fast as she could. As it was, it was a long time before his agitation subsided, and his heart beat with its common force and frequency.
Dr. Butts was not a male gossip nor a match-making go-between. But he could not help thinking what a pity it was that these two young persons could not come together as other young people do in the pairing season and find out whether they cared for and were fitted for each other. He did not pretend to settle this question in his own mind, but the thought was a natural one. And here was a gulf between them as deep and wide as that between Lazarus and Dives. Would it ever be bridged over? This thought took possession of the doctor’s mind, and he imagined all sorts of ways of effecting some experimental approximation between Maurice and Euthymia. From this delicate subject he glanced off to certain general considerations suggested by the extraordinary history he had been reading. He began by speculating as to the possibility of the personal presence of an individual making itself perceived by some channel other than any of the five senses. The study of the natural sciences teaches those who are devoted to them that the most insignificant facts may lead the way to the discovery of the most important, all pervading laws of the universe. From the kick of a frog’s hind leg to the amazing triumphs which began with that seemingly trivial incident is a long, a very long stride. If Madam Galvani had not been in delicate health, which was the occasion of her having some frog-broth prepared for her, the world of to-day might not be in possession of the electric telegraph and the light which blazes like the sun at high noon. A common-looking fact, one seemingly insignificant, hitherto passing unnoticed with the ordinary sequence of events to which we are accustomed, may introduce us to a new and vast realm of closely related phenomena. It is like a key that we may have picked up, looking so simple that it can hardly fit any lock but one of like simplicity, and all at once we find that it will throw back the bolts of the one lock which has defied the most ingenious of our complex implements and open our way into a hitherto unexplored territory.
It certainly was not through the eye alone that Maurice felt the paralyzing influence. He could contemplate Euthymia from a distance, as he did on the day of the boat-race, without any nervous disturbance. A certain proximity was necessary for the influence to be felt, as in the case of magnetism and electricity. An atmosphere of danger surrounded every woman he approached during the period when her sex exercises its most powerful attractions. How far did that atmosphere extend, and through what channel did it act ?
The key to the phenomena of this case, he believed, was to be found in a fact as humble as that which gave birth to the science of galvanism and its practical applications. The circumstances connected with the very common antipathy to cats were as remarkable in many points of view as the similar circumstances in the case of Maurice Kirkwood. The subjects of that antipathy could not tell what it was which disturbed their nervous system. All they knew was that a sense of uneasiness, restlessness, oppression, came over them in the presence of one of these animals. He remembered the fact already mentioned, that persons sensitive to this impression can tell by their feelings if a cat is concealed in the apartment in which they may happen to be. It may be through some emanation. It may be through the medium of some electrical disturbance. What if the nerve-thrills passing through the whole system of the animal propagate themselves to a certain distance without any more regard to intervening solids than is shown by magnetism ? A sieve lets sand pass through it; a filter arrests sand, but lets fluids pass; glass holds fluids, but lets light through ; wood shuts out light, but magnetic attraction goes through it as sand went through the sieve. No good reasons can be given why the presence of a cat should not betray itself to certain organizations, at a distance, through the walls of a box in which the animal is shut up. We need not disbelieve the stories which allege such an occurrence as a fact and a not very infrequent one.
If the presence of a cat can produce its effects under these circumstances, why should not that of a human being under similar conditions, acting on certain constitutions, exercise its specific influence ? The doctor recalled a story told him by one of his friends, a story which the friend himself heard from the lips of the distinguished actor, the late Mr. Fechter. The actor maintained that Rachel had no genius as an actress. It was all Samson’s training and study, according to him, which explained the secret of her wonderful effectiveness on the stage. But magnetism, he said,— magnetism, she was full of. He declared that he was made aware of her presence on the stage, when he could not see her or know of her presence otherwise, by this magnetic emanation. The doctor took the story for what it was worth. There might very probably be exaggeration, perhaps high imaginative coloring about it, but it was not a whit more unlikely than the cat-stories, accepted as authentic. He continued this train of thought into further developments. Into this series of reflections we will try to follow him.
What is the meaning of the halo with which artists have surrounded the heads of their pictured saints,— of the aureola which wraps them like a luminous cloud ? Is it not a recognition of the fact that these holy personages diffuse their personality in the form of a visible emanation, which reminds us of Milton’s definition of light: —
“ Bright effluence of bright essence increate ” ? The common use of the term influence would seem to imply the existence of its correlative, effluence. There is no good reason that I can see, the doctor said to himself, why among the forces which work upon the nervous centres there should not be one which acts at various distances from its source. It may not be visible like the “glory” of the painters ; it may not be appreciable by any of the senses, and yet it may be felt by the person reached by it as much as if it were a palpable presence — more powerfully, perhaps, from the mystery which belongs to its mode of action.
Why should not Maurice have been rendered restless and anxious by the unseen nearness of a young woman who was in the next room to him, just as the persons who have the dread of cats are made conscious of their presence through some unknown channel ? Is it anything strange that the larger and more powerful organism should diffuse a consciousness of its presence to some distance as well as the slighter and feebler one ? Is it strange that this mysterious influence or effluence should belong especially or exclusively to the period of complete womanhood in distinction from that of immaturity or decadence ? On the contrary, it seems to be in accordance with all the analogies of nature, — analogies too often cruel in the sentence they pass upon the human female.
Among the many curious thoughts which came up in the doctor’s mind was this, which made him smile as if it were a jest, but which he felt very strongly had its serious side, and was involved with the happiness or suffering of multitudes of youthful persons who die without telling their secret: —
How many young men have a mortal fear of woman, as woman, which they never overcome, and in consequence of which the great instinct of their nature, as strong in them as in others, — oftentimes, in virtue of their peculiarly sensitive organizations, more potent in them than in the average human being of like age and conditions, — in consequence of which fear, this great instinct is utterly defeated, and all the possibilities of doubled and indefinitely extended life depending upon it are left unrealized ? Think what numbers of young men in Catholic countries devote themselves to lives of celibacy. Think how many young men lose all their confidence in the presence of the young woman to whom they are most attracted, and at last steal away from a companionship which it is rapture to dream of and torture to endure, so does the presence of the beloved object paralyze all the powers of expression. Sorcerers have in all times and countries played on the hopes and terrors of lovers. Once let loose a strong impulse on the centre of inhibition, and the warrior who had faced bayonets and batteries becomes a coward whom the well-dressed hero of the ball-room and leader of the German will put to ignominious flight in five minutes of easy, audacious familiarity with his lady-love.
Yes, the doctor went on with his reflections, I do not know that I have seen the term Gynophobia before I opened this manuscript, but I have seen the malady many times. Only one word has stood between many a pair of young people and their lifelong happiness, and that word has got as far as the lips, — but the lips trembled and would not, could not, shape that little word. All young women are not like Coleridge’s Genevieve, who knew how to help her lover out of his difficulty, and said yes before he had asked for an answer. So the wave which was to have wafted them on to the shore of Elysium has just failed of landing them, and back they have been drawn into the desolate ocean to meet no more on earth.
Love is the master-key, he went on thinking, — love is the master-key that opens the gates of happiness, of hatred, of jealousy, and most easily of all, the gate of fear. How terrible is the one fact of beauty, — not only the historic wonder of beauty, that “ burnt the topless towers of Ilium ” for the smile of Helen, and fired the palaces of Babylon by the hand of Thais, — but the beauty which springs up in all times and places, and carries a torch and wears a serpent for a wreath as truly as any of the Eumenides! Paint Beauty with her foot upon a skull and a dragon coiled around her.
The doctor smiled at his own imposing classical allusions and pictorial imagery. Drifting along from thought to thought, he reflected on the probable consequences of the general knowledge of Maurice Kirkwood’s story, if it came before the public.
What a piece of work it would make among the young people of the village, to be sure ! What scoffing, what ridicule, what embellishments, what fables, would follow in the trail of the story! If the Interviewer got hold of it, how “ The People’s Perennial and Household Inquisitor” would blaze with capitals in its next issue ! The young fellows of the village would be disposed to make fun of the whole matter. The young girls — the doctor hardly dared to think what would happen when the story got about among them. “ The Sachem ” of the solitary canoe, the bold horseman, the handsome young man, — handsome so far as the glimpses they had got of him went, — must needs be an object of tender interest among them, now that he was ailing, suffering, in danger of his life, away from friends, — poor fellow! Little tokens of their regard had reached his sick chamber; bunches of flowers with dainty little notes, some of them pinkish, some three cornered, some of them with brief messages, others " criscrossed,” were growing more frequent as it was understood that the patient was likely to be convalescent before many days had passed. If it should come to be understood that there was a deadly obstacle to their coming into any personal relations with him, the doctor had his doubts whether there were not those who would subject him to the risk; for there were coquettes in the village,— strangers, visitors, let us hope, — who would sacrifice anything or anybody to their vanity and love of conquest.
AN INTIMATE CONVERSATION.
The illness from which Maurice had suffered left him in a state of profound prostration. The doctor, who remembered the extreme danger of any overexertion in such cases, hardly allowed him to lift his head from the pillow. But his mind was gradually recovering its balance, and he was able to hold some conversation with those about him. His faithful Paolo had grown so thin in waiting upon him and watching with him that the village children had to take a second look at his face when they passed him to make sure that it was indeed their old friend and no other. But as his master advanced towards convalescence and the doctor assured him that he was going in all probability to get well, Paolo’s face began to recover something of its old look and expression, and once more his pockets filled themselves with comfits for his little circle of worshipping three and four year old followers.
“ How is Mr. Kirkwood ? ” was the question with which he was always greeted. In the worst periods of the fever he rarely left his master. When he did, and the question was put to him, he would shake his head sadly, sometimes without a word, sometimes with tears and sobs and faltering words, — more like a broken-hearted child than a stalwart man as he was, such a man as soldiers are made of in the great continental armies.
“ He very bad, — he no eat nothing, — he no say nothing, — he never be no better,” and all his Southern nature betrayed itself in a passionate burst of lamentation. But now that he began to feel easy about his master, his ready optimism declared itself no less transparently.
“ He better every day now. He get well in few weeks, sure. You see him on hoss in little while.” The kindhearted creature’s life was bound up in that of his “ master,” as he loved to call him, in sovereign disregard of the comments of the natives, who held themselves too high for any such recognition of another as their better. They could not understand how he, so much their superior in bodily presence, in air and manner, could speak of the man who employed him in any other way than as “ Kirkwood,” without even demeaning himself so far as to prefix a Mr. to it. But " my master ” Maurice remained for Paolo in spite of the fact that all men are born free and equal. And never was a servant more devoted to a master than was Paolo to Maurice during the days of doubt and danger. Since his improvement Maurice insisted upon his leaving his chamber and getting out of the house, so as to breathe the fresh air of which he was in so much need. It worried him to see his servant returning after too short an absence. The attendant who had helped him in the care of the patient was within call, and Paolo was almost driven out of the house by the urgency of his master’s command that he should take plenty of exercise in the open air.
Notwithstanding the fact of Maurice’s improved condition, although the force of the disease had spent itself, the state of weakness to which he had been reduced was a cause of some anxiety and required great precautions to be taken. He lay in bed, wasted, enfeebled to such a degree that he had to he cared for very much as a child is tended. Gradually his voice was coming back to him, so that he could hold some conversation, as was before mentioned, with those about him. The doctor waited for the right moment to introduce the subject of the manuscript which Maurice had submitted to him. Up to this time, although it had been alluded to and the doctor had told him of the intense interest with which he had read it, he had never ventured to make it the topic of any long talk, such as would be liable to fatigue his patient. But now he thought the time had come.
“ I have been thinking,” the doctor said, " of the singular affection to which you are subject, and as it is my business not merely to think about such cases, but to do what I can to help any who may be capable of receiving aid from my art, I wish to have some additional facts about your history. And in the first place, will you allow me to ask what led you to this particular place ? It is so much less known to the public at large than many other resorts that we naturally ask, What brings this or that new visitor among us? We have no ill-tasting, natural spring of bad water to be analyzed by the state chemist and proclaimed as a specific. We have no great gambling-houses, no race-course (except that for boats on the lake) ; we have no coaching-club, no great balls, few lions of any kind, — so we ask, What brings this or that stranger here ? And I think I may venture to ask you whether any special motive brought you among us, or whether it was accident that determined your coming to this place ?”
“ Certainly, doctor,” Maurice answered, “ I will tell you with great pleasure. Last year I passed on the border of a great river. The year before I passed in a lonely cottage at the side of the ocean. I wanted this year to be by a lake. You heard the paper read at the meeting of your society, or at least you heard of it, —for such matters are always talked over in a village like this. You can judge by that paper, or could, if it were before you, of the frame of mind in which I came here. I was tired of the sullen indifference of the ocean and the babbling egotism of the river, always hurrying along on its own private business. I wanted the dreamy stillness of a large, tranquil sheet of water that had nothing in particular to do, and would leave me to myself and my thoughts. I had read somewhere about the place, and the old Anchor Tavern, with its paternal landlord and motherly landlady and old-fashioned household, and that though it was no longer open as a tavern, I could find a resting-place there early in the season, at least for a few days, while I looked about me for a quiet place in which I might pass my summer. I have found this a pleasant residence. By being up early and out late I have kept myself mainly in the solitude which has become my enforced habit of life. The season has passed too swiftly for me since my dream has become a vision.”
The doctor was sitting with his hand round Maurice’s wrist, three fingers on his pulse. As he spoke these last words he noticed that the pulse fluttered a little, — beat irregularly a few times ; intermitted ; grew feeble and thready; while his cheek grew whiter than the pallid bloodlessness of his long illness had left it.
“ No more talk, now,” he said. “ You are too tired to he using your voice. I will hear all the rest another time.”
The doctor had interrupted Maurice at an interesting point. What did he mean by saying that his dream had become a vision ? This is what the doctor was naturally curious, and professionally anxious, to know. But his hand was still on his patient’s pulse, which told him unmistakably that the heart had taken the alarm and was losing its energy under the depressing nervous influence. Presently, however, it recovered its natural force and rhythm, and a faint flush came back to the pale cheek. The doctor remembered the story of Galen, and the young maiden whose complaint had puzzled the physicians.
The next day his patient was well enough to enter once more into conversation.
“ You said something about a dream of yours which had become a vision,” said the doctor, with his fingers on his patient’s wrist, as before. He felt the artery leap, under his pressure, falter a little, stop, then begin again, growing fuller in its beat. The heart had felt the pull of the bridle, but the spur had roused it to swift reaction.
“ You know the story of my past life, doctor,” Maurice answered ; “ and I will tell you what is the vision which has taken the place of my dreams. You remember the boat-race ? I watched it from afar off, but I held a powerful opera-glass in my hand, which brought the whole crew of the young ladies’ boat so close to me that I could see the features, the figures, the movements, of every one of the rowers. I saw the little coxswain fling her bouquet in the track of the other boat, — you remember how the race was lost and won, — but I saw one face among those young girls which drew me away from all the rest. It was that of the young lady who pulled the bow-oar, the captain of the boat’s crew. I have since learned her name, — you know it well, — I need not name her. Since that day I have had many distant glimpses of her; and once I met her so squarely that the deadly sensation came over me, and I felt that in another moment I should fall senseless at her feet. But she passed on her way and I on mine, and the spasm which had clutched my heart gradually left it, and I was as well as before. You know that young lady, doctor ? ”
“I do; and she is a very noble creature. You are not the first young man who has been fascinated, almost at a glance, by Miss Euthymia Tower. And she is well worth knowing more intimately.”
The doctor gave him a full account of the young lady, of her early days, her character, her accomplishments. To all this he listened devoutly, and when the doctor left him he said to himself,—
“ I will see her and speak with her, if it costs me my life.”
Oliver Wendell Holmes.