He turned very slowly round, cast upon me an indifferent
glance, and said, in a sweet and very low tone, â
"You have my blessing, Stranger: there is water in the
cistern; drink, and be healed."
I dipped the bowl in the basin, and took sparingly of the
water. In the accent and tone of the stranger, my ear, accus-
tomed to the dialects of many nations, recognized something
English; I resolved, therefore, to address him in my native
tongue, rather than the indifferent Italian in which I had first
"The water is fresh and cooling- would, holy Father, that
it could penetrate to a deeper malady than the ills of flesh ;
that it could assuage the fever of the heart, or lave from the
wearied mind the dust which it gathers from the mire and
travail of the world."
Now the Hermit testified surprise; but it was slight and
momentary. He gazed upon me more attentively than he
had done before, and said, after a pause, â
"My countryman! and in this spot! It is not often that
the English penetrate into places where no ostentatious celeb-
rity dwells to sate curiosity and flatter pride. My country-
man; it is well, and perhaps fortunate. Yes," he said, after
a second pause, " yes ; it were indeed a boon, had the earth a
fountain for the wounds which fester and the disease which
consumes the heart."
"The earth has oblivion, Father, if not a cure."
"It is false!" cried the Hermit, passionately, and starting
wildly from his seat; "the earth has no oblivion. The
grave, â is that forgetfulness? No, no: there is no grave for
the soul! The deeds pass; the flesh corrupts: but the mem-
ory passes not, and withers not. From age to age, from
world to world, through eternity, throughout creation, it is
perpetuated; and immortality, â a curse, â a hell!"
Surprised by the vehemence of the Hermit, I was still more
startled by the agonizing and ghastly expression of his face.
"My Father," said I, "pardon me if I have pressed upon a
sore. I also have that within which, did a stranger touch it,
would thrill my whole frame with torture, and I would fain
ask from your holy, soothing, and pious comfort, something
of alleviation or of fortitude."
The Hermit drew near to me ; he laid his thin hand upon
my arm, and looked long and wistfully in my face. It was
then that a suspicion crept through me which after observa-
tion proved to be true, that the wanderings of those dark eyes
and the meaning of that blanched brow were tinctured with
"Brother and fellow man," said he, mournfully, "hast thou
in truth suffered? and dost thou still smart at the remem-
brance? We are friends then. If thou hast suffered as much
as I have, I will fall down and do homage to thee as a supe-
rior; for pain has its ranks, and I think at times that none
ever climbed the height that I have done. Yet yovi look not
like one who has had nights of delirium, and days in which
the heart lay in the breast, as a corpse endowed with con-
sciousness might lie in the grave, feeling the worm gnaw it,
and the decay corrupt, and yet incapable of resistance or of
motion. Your cheek is thin, but firm; your eye is haughty
and bright; you have the air of one who has lived with men,
and struggled and not been vanquished in tlie struggle. Suf-
fered! No, man, no, â you have not suffered! "
" My Father, it is not in the countenance that Fate graves
her records. I have, it is true, contended with my fellows;
and if wealth and honour be the premium, not in vain : but I
have not contended against Sorrow with a like success ; and I
stand before you, a being who, if passion be a tormentor and
the death of the loved a loss, has borne that which the most
wretched will not envy."
Again a fearful change came over the face of the recluse :
he grasped my arm more vehemently, "You speak my own
sorrows; you utter my own curse; I will see you again; you
may do my last will better than yon monks. Can I trust
you? If you have in truth known misfortune, I will! I will!
yea, even to the outpouring â merciful, merciful God, what
would I say, â what would I reveal!"
Suddenly changing his voice, he released me, and said,
touching his forehead with a meaning gesture and a quiet
smile, " You say you are my rival in pain. Have you ever
known the rage and despair of the heart mount here ? It is a
wonderful thing to be calm as I am now, when that rising
makes itself felt in fire and torture ! "
" If there be aught. Father, which a man who cares not Avhat
country he visit, or what deed â so it be not of guilt or shame
â he commit, can do towards the quiet of your soul, say it,
and I will attempt your will."
"You are kind, my Son," said the Hermit, resuming his first
melancholy and dignified composure of mien and bearing;
"and there is something in your voice which seems to me like
a tone that I have heard in youth. Do you live near at
"In the valley, about four miles hence; I am, like your-
self, a fugitive from the world,"
"Come to me then to-morrow at eve; to-morrow! No, that
is a holy eve, and I must keep it with scourge and prayer.
The next at sunset. I shall be collected then, and I would
fain know more of you than I do. Bless you, my Son; adieu."
"Yet stay. Father, may I not conduct you home?"
"No; my limbs are weak, but I trust they can carry me to
that home, till I be borne thence to my last. Farewell ! the
night grows, and man fills even these shades with peril. The
eve after next, at sunset, we meet again."
So saying, the hermit waved his hand, and I stood apart,
watching his receding figure, until the trees cloaked the last
glimpse from my view. I then turned homeward, and reached
my cottage in safety, despite of the hermit's caution. But
I did not retire to rest: a powerful foreboding, rather than
suspicion, that, in the worn and wasted form which I had
beheld, therÂ» was identity with one whom I had not met for
years, and whom I had believed to be no more, thrillingly
"Can â can it be?" thought I. "Can grief have a desola-
tion, or remembrance an agony, sufficient to create so awful a
change? And of all human beings, for that one to be singled
out; that one in whom passion and sin were, if they existed,
nipped in their earliest germ, and seemingly rendered barren
of all fruit! If too, almost against the evidence of sight and
sense, an innate feeling has marked in that most altered form
the traces of a dread recognition, would not his memory have
been yet more vigilant than mine? Am I so changed that he
should have looked me in the face so wistfully, and found
there naught save the lineaments of a stranger? " And, act-
uated by this thought, I placed the light by the small mirror
which graced my chamber. I recalled, as I gazed, my feat-
ures as they had been in earliest youth. "No," I said, with
a sigh, "there is nothing here that he should recognize."
And I said aright : my features, originally small and deli-
cate, had grown enlarged and prominent. The long locks of
my youth (for only upon state occasions did my early vanity
consent to the fashion of the day) were succeeded by curls,
short and crisped; the hues, alternately pale and hectic, that
the dreams of romance had once spread over my cheek, had set-
tled into the unchanging bronze of manhood; the smooth lip
and unshaven chin were clothed with a thick hair; the once
unfurrowed brow was habitually knit in thought; and the
ardent, restless expression that boyhood wore had yielded to
the quiet unmoved countenance of one in whom long custom
has subdued all outward sign of emotion, and many and vari-
ous events left no prevalent token of the mind save that of an
habitual but latent resolution. My frame, too, once scarcely
less slight than a woman's, was become knit and muscular;
and nothing was left by which, in the foreign air, the quiet
brow, and the athletic form, my very mother could have rec-
ognized the slender figure and changeable face of the boy she
had last beheld. The very sarcasm of the eye was gone ; and
I had learned the world's easy lesson,â the dissimulation of
I have noted one thing in others, and it was particularly
noticeable in me; namely, that few who mix very largely
with men, and with the courtier's or the citizen's design, ever
retain the key and tone of their original voice. The voice of
a young man is as yet modulated by nature, and expresses the
passion of the moment; that of the matured pupil of art ex-
presses rather the customary occupation of his life. Whether
he aims at persuading, convincing, or commanding others,
his voice irrevocably settles into the key he ordinarily em-
ploys ; and, as persuasion is the means men chiefly employ in
their commerce with each other, especially in the regions of a
court, so a tone of artificial blandness and subdued insinua-
tion is chiefly that in which the accents of worldly men are
clothed; the artificial intonation, long continued, grows into
nature, and the very pith and basis of the original sound frit-
ter themselves away. The change was great in me, for at
that time which I brought in comparison with the present my
age was one in which the voice is yet confused and undecided,
struggling between the accents of youth and boyhood; so that
even this most powerful and unchanging of all claims upon
the memory v.^as in a great measure absent in me ; and noth-
ing but an occasional and rare tone could have produced even
that faint and unconscious recognition which the Hermit had
I must be pardoned these egotisms, which the nature of my
story renders necessary.
With what eager impatience did I watch the hours to the
appointed interview with the Hermit languish themselves
away! However, before that time arrived and towards the
evening of the next day, I was surprised by the rare honour
of a visit from Anselmo himself. He came attended by two
of the mendicant friars of his order, and they carried between
them a basket of tolerable size, which, as mine hostess after-
wards informed me, with many a tear, went back somewhat
heavier than it came, from the load of certain receptacula of
that rarer wine which she had had the evening before the in-
discreet hospitality to produce.
The Abbot came to inform me that the Hermit had been with
him that morning, making many inquiries respecting me. "I
told him," said he, "that I was acquainted with your name
and birth, but that I was under a solemn promise not to re-
veal them, without your consent ; and I am now here, my Son,
to learn from you whether that consent may be obtained? "
" Assuredly not, holy Father ! " said I, hastily ; nor was I
contented until I had obtained a renewal of his promise to
that effect. This seemed to give the Abbot some little cha-
grin : perhaps the Hermit had offered a reward for my discov-
ery. However, I knew that Anselmo, though a griping was
a trustworthy man, and I felt safe in his renewed promise. I
saw him depart with great satisfaction, and gave myself once
more to conjectures respecting the strange recluse.
As the next evening I prepared to depart towards the her-
mitage, I took peculiar pains to give my person a foreign and
disguised appearance. A loose dress, of rude and simple
material, and a high cap of fur, were pretty successful in ac-
complishing this purpose. And, as I gave the last look at
the glass before I left the house, I said inly, "If there be
any truth in my wild and improbable conjecture respecting
the identity of the anchorite, I think time and this dress are
sufficient wizards to secure me from a chance of discovery. I
will keep a guard upon my words and tones, until, if my
thought be verified, a moment fit for unmasking myself ar-
rives. But would to God that the thought be groundless ! In
such circumstances, and after such an absence, to meet him!
No; and yet â Well, this meeting will decide."
THE SOLUTION OF MANY MYSTERIES. A DARK VIEW OF THE
LIFE AND NATURE OF MAN.
Powerful, though not clearly developed in my own mind,
was the motive which made me so strongly desire to preserve
the incognito during my interview with the Hermit. I have
before said that I could not resist a vague but intense belief
that he was a person whom I had long believed in the grave ;
and I had more than once struggled against a dark but pass-
ing suspicion that that person was in some measure â medi-
ately, though not directly â connected with the mysteries of
my former life. If both these conjectures were true, I
thought it possible that the communication the Hermit wished
to make might be made yet more willingly to me as a stranger
than if he knew who was in reality his confidant. And, at
all events, if I could curb the impetuous gushings of my own
heart, which yearned for immediate disclosure, I might by
hint and prelude ascertain the advantages and disadvantages
of revealing myself.
I arrived at the well : the Hermit was already at the place
of rendezvous, seated in the same posture in which I had
before seen him. I made my reverence and accosted him.
"I have not failed you, Father."
"That is rarely a true boast with men," said the Hermit,
smiling mournfully, but Avithout sarcasm; "and were the
promise of greater avail, it might not have been so rigidly
" The promise. Father, seemed to me of greater weight than
you would intimate," answered I.
"How mean you?" said the Hermit, hastily.
"Why, that we may perhaps serve each other by our meet-
ing : you, Father, may comfort me by your counsels ; I you by
my readiness to obey your request."
The Hermit looked at me for some moments, and, as well as
I could, I turned away my face from his gaze. I might have
spared myself the effort. He seemed to recognize nothing
familiar in my countenance; perhaps his mental malady as-
sisted my own alteration.
" I have inquired respecting you, " he said, after a pause,
"and I hear that you are a learned and wise man, who has
seen much of the world, and played the part both of soldier
and of scholar in its various theatres: is my information
" Not true with the respect to the learning, Father, but true
with regard to the experience. I have been a pilgrim in
many countries of Europe."
"Indeed!" said the Hermit, eagerly. "Come with me to
my home, and tell me of the wonders you have seen. "
I assisted the Hermit to rise, and he walked slowly towards
the cavern, leaning upon my arm. Oh, how that light touch
thrilled through my frame ! How I longed to cry, " Are you
not the one whom I have loved, and mourned, and believed
buried in the tomb?" But I checked myself. We moved on
in silence. The Hermit's hand was on the door of the cavern,
when he said, in a calm tone, but with evident effort, and
turning his face from me while he spoke: â
" And did your wanderings ever carry you into the farther
regions of the north? Did the fame of the great Czar ever
lead you to the city he has founded?"
"I am right! I am right! " thought I, as I answered, "In
truth, holy Father, I spent not a long time at Petersburg; but
I am not a stranger either to its wonders or its inhabitants."
"Possibly, then, you may have met with the English fa-
vourite of the Czar of whom I hear in my retreat that men
have lately spoken somewhat largely? " The Hermit paused
again. We were now in a long, low passage, almost in dark-
ness. I scarcely saw him, yet I heard a convulsed movement
in his throat before he uttered the remainder of the sentence.
"He is called the Count Devereux."
"Father," said I, calmly, "I have both seen and known the
" Ha! " said the Hermit, and he leaned for a moment against
the wall; "known him â and â how â how â I mean, where
is he at this present time?"
"That, Father, is a difficult question respecting one who
has led so active a life. He was ambassador at the court of
, just before I left it."
We had now passed the passage and gained a room of tol-
erable size; an iron lamp burned within, and afforded a suffi-
cient but somewhat dim light. The Hermit, as I concluded
my reply, sank down on a long stone bench, beside a table of
the same substance, and leaning his face on his hand, so that
the long, large sleeve he wore perfectly concealed his feat-
ures, said, "Pardon me; my breath is short, and my frame
weak; I am quite exhausted, but will speak to j'ou more
I uttered a short answer, and drew a small wooden stool
within a few feet of the Hermit's seat. After a brief silence
he rose, placed wine, bread, and preserved fruits before me
and bade me eat. I seemed to comply with his request, and
the apparent diversion of my attention from himself some-
what relieved the embarrassment under which he evidently
"May I hope," he said, "that were my commission to this
â to the Count Devereux â you would execute it faithfully
and with speed? Yet stay: you have a high mien, as of one
above fortune, but your garb is rude and poor ; and if aught
of gold could compensate your trouble, the Hermit has other
treasuries besides this cell."
"I will do your bidding, Father, without robbing the poor.
You wish, then, that I should seek Morton Devereux; you
wish that I should summon him hither; you wish to see and
to confer with him?"
"God of mercy forbid! " cried the Hermit, and with such a
vehemence that I was startled from the design of revealing
myself, which I was on the point of executing. "I would
rather that these walls would crush me into dust, or that this
solid stone would crumble beneath my feet, â ay, even into
a bottomless pit, than meet the glance of Morton Devereux I "
"Is it even so?" said I, stooping over the wine-cup; "ye
have been foes then, I suspect. Well, it matters not: tell
me your errand, and it shall be done."
"Done! " cried the Hermit, and a new and certainly a most
natural suspicion darted within him, "done! and â fool that
I am! â who or what are you that I should believe you take
so keen an interest in the wishes of a man utterly unknown
to 3'ou? I tell you that my wish is that you should cross seas
and traverse lands until you find the man I have named to
you. Will a stranger do this, and without hire? Xo â no â
I was a fool, and will trust the monks, and give gold, and
then my errand will be sped."
"Father, or rather brother," said I, with a slow and firm
voice, "for you are of mine own age, and you have the pas-
sion and the infirmity Avhich make brethren of all mankind, I
am one to whom all places are alike : it matters not whether
I visit a northern or a southern clime; I have wealth, which
is sufficient to smooth toil ; I have leisure, which makes occu-
pation an enjoyment. More than this, I am one who in his
gayest and wildest moments has ever loved mankind, and
would have renounced at any time his own pleasure for the
advantage of another. But at this time, above all others, I
am most disposed to forget myself, and there is a passion in
your words which leads me to hope that it may be a great
benefit which I can confer upon you."
"You speak well," said the Hermit, musingly, "and I maj^
trust you; I will consider yet a little longer, and to-morrow
at this hour you shall have my final answer. If you execute
the charge I entrust to you, may the blessing of a dying and
most wretched man cleave to you forever! But hush; the
clock strikes: it is my hour of prayer."
And, pointing to a huge black clock that hung opposite the
door, and indicated the hour of nine (according to our Eng-
lish mode of numbering the hours), the Hermit fell on his
knees, and, clasping his hands tightly, bent his face over
them in the attitude of humiliation and devotion. I fol-
lowed his example. After a few minutes he rose : " Once in
every three hours," said he, with a ghastly expression, "for
tlie last twelve j^ears have I bowed my soul in anguish, before
God, and risen to feel that it was in vain : I am cursed with-
out and Avithin ! "
" My Father, my Father, is this your faith in the mercies of
the Redeemer who died for man?"
" Talk not to me of faith ! " cried the Hermit, wildly. " Ye
laymen and worldlings know nothing of its mysteries and its
powers. But begone ! the dread hour is upon me, when my
tongue is loosed and my brain darkened, and I know not my
words and shudder at my own thoughts. Begone ! no human
being shall witness those moments : they are only for Heaven
and my own soul."
So saying, this unhappy and strange being seized me by the
arm and dragged me towards the passage we had entered. I
was in doubt whether to yield to or contend with him; but
there was a glare in his eye and a flush upon his brow, which,
while it betrayed the dreadful disease of his mind, made me
fear that resistance to his wishes might operate dangerously
upon a frame so feeble and reduced. I therefore mechani-
cally obeyed him. He opened again the entrance to his
rugged home, and the moonlight streamed wanly over his
dark robes and spectral figure.
"Go," said he, more mildly than before, "go, and forgive
the vehemence of one whose mind and heart alike are broken
within him. Go, but return to-morrow at sunset. Your air
disposes me to trust you."
So saying, he closed the door upon me, and I stood without
the cavern alone.
But did I return home? Did I hasten to press my couch in
sleep and sweet forgetfulness, while he was in that gloomy
sepulture of the living, a prey to anguish, and torn by the
fangs of madness and a fierce disease? No: on the damp
grass, beneath the silent skies, I passed a night which could
scarcely have been less wretched than his own. IVIy conject-
ure was now and in full confirmed. Heavens! how I loved
that man! how, from my youngest years, had my soul's fond-
est affections interlaced themselves with him! with what an-
guish had I wept his imagined death ! and now to know that
he lay within those walls, smitten from brain to heart with
so fearful and mysterious a curse, â to know, too, that he
dreaded the sight of me, â of me who would have laid down
my life for his ! the grave, which I imagined his home, had
been a mercy to a doom like this.
"He fears," I murmured, and I wept as I said it, "to look
on one who would watch over, and soothe, and bear with him,
with more than a woman's love! By what awful fate has
this calamity fallen on one so holy and so pure? or by what
preordered destiny did I come to these solitudes, to find at
the same time a new charm for the earth and a spell to change
it again into a desert and a place of woe? "
All night I kept vigil by the cave, and listened if I could
catch moan or sound; but everything was silent: the thick
walls of the rock kept even the voice of despair from my ear.
The day dawned, and I retired among the trees, lest the Her-
mit might come out unawares and see me. At sunrise I saw
him appear for a few moments and again retire, and I then
hastened home, exhausted and wearied by the internal con-
flicts of the night, to gather coolness and composure for the
ensuing interview, which I contemplated at once with eager-
ness and dread.
At the appointed hour I repaired to the cavern : the door
was partially closed; I opened it, hearing no answer to my
knock, and walked gently along the passage ; but I now heard
shrieks and groans and wild laughter as I neared the rude
chamber. I paused for a moment, and then in terror and dis-
may entered the apartment. It was empty, but I saw near
the clock a small door, from within which the sounds that
alarmed me proceeded. I had no scruple in opening it, and
found myself in the Hermit's sleeping chamber, â a small dark
room, where, upon a straw pallet, lay the wretched occupant
in a state of frantic delirium. I stood mute and horror-struck,
v/hile his exclamations of frenzy burst upon my ear.
"There â there!" he cried, "I have struck thee to the
heart, and now I will kneel, and kiss those white lips, and
bathe my hands in that blood! Ha! â do I hate thee? â hate
â ay â hate, abhor, detest! Have you the beads there? â let
me tell them. Yes, I will go to the confessional â confess?
â Xo, no â all the priests in the world could not lift up a
soul so heavy with guilt. Help â help â help! I am fall-
ing â falling â there is the pit, and the fire, and the devils!
Do you hear them laugh? â I can laugh too! â ha I ha! ha!
Hush, I have written it all out, in a fair hand ; he shall read