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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesGodolphin - Chapter 28. The Youth Of Lucilla Volktman.--A Mysterious Conversation...
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Godolphin - Chapter 28. The Youth Of Lucilla Volktman.--A Mysterious Conversation... Post by :66034 Category :Long Stories Author :Edward Bulwer-lytton Date :May 2012 Read :2626

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Godolphin - Chapter 28. The Youth Of Lucilla Volktman.--A Mysterious Conversation...

CHAPTER XXVIII. THE YOUTH OF LUCILLA VOLKTMAN.--A MYSTERIOUS CONVERSATION.--THE RETURN OF ONE UNLOOKED FOR


Time went slowly on, and Lucilla grew up in beauty. The stranger traits of her character increased in strength, but perhaps in the natural bashfulness of maidenhood they became more latent. At the age of fifteen, her elastic shape had grown round and full, and the wild girl had already ripened to the woman. An expression of thought, when the play of her features was in repose, that dwelt upon her lip and forehead, gave her the appearance of being two or three years older than she was; but again, when her natural vivacity returned,--when the clear and buoyant music of her gay laugh rang out, or when the cool air and bright sky of morning sent the blood to her cheek and the zephyr to her step, her face became as the face of childhood, and contrasted with a singular and dangerous loveliness the rich development of her form.

And still was Lucilla Volktman a stranger to all that savoured of the world; the company of others of her sex and age never drew forth her emotions from their resting-place:--


"And Nature said, a lovelier flower
On earth was never sown
* * * * *
Myself will to my darling be
Both law and impulse; and with me
The girl, in rock and plain,
In earth and heaven, in glade and bower,
Shall feel an overseeing power
To kindle or restrain.

The stars of midnight shall be dear
To her; and she shall lean her ear
In many a secret place;
Where rivulets dance their wayward round,
And beauty, born of murmuring sound,
Shall pass into her face."

WORDSWORTH.


These lines have occurred to me again and again, as I looked on the face of her to whom I have applied them. And, remembering as I do its radiance and glory in her happier moments, I can scarcely persuade myself to notice the faults and heats of temper which at times dashed away all its lustre and gladness. Unrestrained and fervid, she gave way to the irritation of grief of the moment with a violence that would have terrified any one who beheld her at such times. But it rarely happened that the scene had its witness even in her father, for she fled to the loneliest spot she could find to indulge these emotions; and perhaps even the agony they occasioned--an agony convulsing the heart and whole of her impassioned frame--took a sort of luxury from the solitary and unchecked nature of its indulgence.

Volktman continued his pursuits with an ardour that increased--as do all species of monomania--with increasing years; and in the accidental truth of some of his predictions, he forgot the erroneous result of the rest. He corresponded at times with the Englishman, who, after a short sojourn in England, had returned to the Continent, and was now making a prolonged tour through its northern capitals.

Very different, indeed, from the astrologer's occupations were those of the wanderer; and time, dissipation, and a maturer intellect had cured the latter of his boyish tendency to studies so idle and so vain. Yet he always looked back with an undefined and unconquered interest to the period of his acquaintance with the astrologer; to their long and thrilling watches in the night season; to the contagious fervour of faith breathing from the visionary; his dark and restless excursions into that remote science associated with the legends of eldest time, and of


"The crew, who, under names of old renown,
Osiris, Isis, Orus, and their train,
With monstrous shapes and sorceries, abused
Fanatic Egypt and her priests."


One night, four years after the last scene we have described in the astrologer's house, Volktman was sitting alone in his favourite room. Before him was a calculation on which the ink was scarcely dry. His face leant on his breast, and he seemed buried in thought. His health had been of late gradually declining; and it might be seen upon his worn brow and attenuated frame, that death was already preparing to withdraw the visionary from a world whose substantial enjoyments he had so sparingly tasted.

Lucilla had been banished from his chamber during the day. She now knew that his occupation was over, and entered the room with his evening repast; that frugal meal, common with the Italians--the polenta (made of Indian corn), the bread and the fruits, which after the fashion of students he devoured unconsciously, and would not have remembered one hour after whether or not it had been tasted!

"Sit thee down, child," said he to Lucilla, kindly;--"sit thee down."

Lucilla obeyed, and took her seat upon the very stool on which she had been seated the last night on which the Englishman had seen her.

"I have been thinking," said Volktman, as he placed his hand on his daughter's head, "that I shall soon leave thee; and I should like to see thee protected by another before my own departure."

"Ah, father," said Lucilla, as the tears rushed to her eyes, "do not talk thus! indeed, indeed, you must not indulge in this perpetual gloom and seclusion of life. You promised to take me with you, some day this week, to the Vatican. Do let it be to-morrow; the weather has been so fine lately; and who knows how long it may last?"

"True," said Volktman; "and to-morrow will not, I think, be unfavourable to our stirring abroad, for the moon will be of the same age as at my birth--an accident that thou wilt note, my child, to be especially auspicious towards any enterprise."

The poor astrologer so rarely stirred from his home, that he did well to consider a walk of a mile or two in the light of an enterprise.--"I have wished," continued he, after a pause, "that I might see our English friend once more--that is, ere long. For, to tell thee the truth, Lucilla, certain events happening unto him do, strangely enough, occur about the same time as that in which events, equally boding, will befall thee. This coincidence it was which contributed to make me assume so warm an interest in the lot of a stranger. I would I might see him soon."

Lucilla's beautiful breast heaved, and her face was covered with blushes: these were symptoms of a disorder that never occurred to the recluse.

"Thou rememberest the foreigner?" asked Volktman, after a pause.

"Yes," said Lucilla, half inaudibly.

"I have not heard from him of late: I will make question concerning him ere the cock crow."

"Nay my father!" said Lucilla, quickly: "not tonight: you want rest, your eyes are heavy."

"Girl," said the mystic, "the soul sleepeth not, nor wanteth sleep: even as the stars, to which (as the Arabian saith) there is also a soul, wherewith an intent passion of our own doth make a union--so that we, by an unslumbering diligence, do constitute ourselves a part of the heaven itself!--even, I say, as the stars may vanish from the human eye, nor be seen in the common day--though all the while their course is stopped not, nor their voices dumb--even so doth the soul of man retire, as it were, into a seeming sleep and torpor, yet it worketh all the same--and perhaps with a less impeded power, in that it is more free from common obstruction and trivial hindrance. And if I purpose to confer this night with the 'Intelligence' that ruleth earth and earth's beings, concerning this stranger, it will not be by the vigil and the scheme, but by the very sleep which thou imaginest, in thy mental darkness, would deprive me of the resources of my art."

"Can you really, then, my father," said Lucilla, in a tone half anxious, half timid,--"can you really, at will, conjure up in your dreams the persons you wish to see; or draw, from sleep, any oracle concerning their present state?"

"Of a surety," answered the astrologer; "it is one of the great--though not perchance the most gifted--of our endowments."

"Can you teach me the method?" asked Lucilla, gravely.

"All that relates to the art I can," rejoined the mystic: "but the chief and main power rests with thyself. For know, my daughter, that one who seeks the wisdom that is above the earth must cultivate and excite, with long labour and deep thought, his least earthly faculty."

Here the visionary, observing that the countenance of Lucilla was stamped with a fixed attention, which she did not often bestow upon his metaphysical exordiums; paused for a moment; and then pursued the theme with the tone of one desirous of making himself at once as clear and impressive as the nature of an abstruse science would allow.

"There are two things in the outer creation, which, according to the great Hermes, suffice for the operation of all that is wonderful and glorious--Fire and Earth. Even so, my child, there are in the human mind two powers that affect all of which our nature is capable--reason and imagination. Now mankind,--less wise in themselves than in the outer world--have cultivated, for the most part, but one of these faculties; and that the inferior and more passive, reason. They have tilled the earth of the human heart, but suffered its fire to remain dormant, or waste itself in chance and frivolous directions. Hence the insufficiency of human knowledge. Inventions founded only on reason move within a circle from which their escape is momentary and trivial. When some few, endowed with a just instinct, have had recourse to the diviner element, imagination, thou wilt observe, that they have used it only in the service of the lighter arts, and those chiefly disconnected from reason. Such is poetry and music, and other delicious fabrications of genius, that amuse men, soften men, but _advance them not. They have--with but rare exceptions--left this glorious and winged faculty utterly passive in the service of Philosophy. There, reason alone has been admitted, and imagination hath been carefully banished, as an erratic and deceitful meteor. Now mark me, child: I, noting this our error in early youth, did resolve to see what might be effected by the culture of this renounced and maltreated element; and finding, as I proceeded in the studies that grew from this desire, by the occult yet guiding writings of the great philosophers of old, that they had forestalled me in this discovery, I resolved to learn, from their experience, by what means the imagination is best fostered, and, as it were, sublimed.

"Anxiously following their precepts--the truth of which soon appeared--I found that solitude, fast, intense reverie upon the one theme on which we desired knowledge, were the true elements and purifiers of this glorious faculty. It was by these means, and by this power, that men so far behind us in lesser lore achieved, on the mooned plains of Chaldea and by the dark waters of Egypt, their penetration into the womb of Event;--by these means, and this power, the solitaries of the Gothic time not only attained to the most intricate arcana of the stars, but to the empire of the spirits about, above, and beneath the earth; a power, indeed, disputed by the presumptuous sophists of the present time, but of which their writings yet contain ample proof. Nay, by the constant feeding, and impressing and moulding, and refining, and heightening, the imaginative power, I do conceive that even the false prophets and the evil practitioners of the blacker cabala clomb into the power seemingly inconceivable--the power of accomplishing miracles and prodigies, and to appearance belie, but in truth verify, the course of nature. By this spirit within the flesh, we grow _from the flesh, and may see, and at length invoke, the souls of the dead, and receive warnings, and hear omens, and girdle our sleep with dreams.

"Not unto me," continued the cabalist, in a lowlier tone, "have been vouchsafed all these gifts; for I began the art when the first fire of youth was dim within me; and it was therefore with duller and already earth-clogged pinions that I sought to rise. Something, however, I have won as a recompense for austere abstinence and much labour; and this power over the land of dreams is at least within my command."

"Then," said Lucilla, in a disappointed tone, "it is only by a long course of indulgence to the fervour of the imagination, and not by spell or charm, that one can gain a similar power?"

"Not wholly so, my daughter," replied the mystic; "they who do so excite, and have so raised the diviner faculty, can alone possess the certain and invariable power over dreams, even without charms and talismans; but the most dull or idle may hope to do so with just confidence (though not certainty) by help of skill, and by directing the full force of their half-roused fancy towards the person or object they wish to see reflected in the glass of Sleep."

"And what means should the uninitiated employ?" asked Lucilla, in a tone betokening her interest.

"I will tell thee," answered the astrologer. "Thou must inscribe on a white parchment an image of the sun."

"As how?" interrupted Lucilla.

"Thus!" said the astrologer, drawing from among his papers one inscribed with the figure of a man asleep on the bosom of an angel. "This was made at the potential and appointed time, when the sun was in the Ninth of the Celestial Houses, and the Lion shook his bright mane as he ascended the blue mount. Observe, that on the figure must be written thy desire--the name of the person thou wishest to see, or the thing thou wouldst have foreshown: then having prepared and brought the mind to a faith in the effect--for without faith the imagination lies inert and lifeless--this image will be placed under the head of the invoker, and when the moon goeth through the sign which was in the Ninth House of his nativity, the Dream will glide into him, and his soul walk with the spirit of the vision."

"Give me the image," said Lucilla, eagerly.

The mystic hesitated--"No, Lucilla," said he, at length; "no, it is a dark and comfortless path, that of prescience and unearthly knowledge, save to the few that walk it with a gifted light and a fearless soul. It is not for women or children--nay, for few amongst men: it withers up the sap of life, and makes the hair grey before its time. No, no; take the broad sunshine, and the brief but sweet flowers of earth; they are better for thee, my child, and for thy years than the fever and hope of the night-dream and the planetary influence."

So saying, the astrologer replaced the image within the leaves of one of his books; and with prudence not common to him, thrust the volume into a drawer, which he locked. The fair face of Lucilla became clouded, but the ill health of her father imposed a restraint on her wild temper.

Just at that moment the door slowly opened, and the Englishman stood before the daughter and sire. They did not note him at first. The solitary servant of the sage had admitted him; he had proceeded, without ceremony, to the well-remembered apartment.

As he now stood gazing on the pair, he observed with an inward smile, how exactly their present attitudes (as well as the old aspect of the scene) resembled those in which he had broken upon them on the last evening he had visited that chamber; the father bending over the old, worn, quaint, table; and the daughter seated beside him on the same low stool. The character of their countenances struck him, too, as wearing the same ominous expression as when those countenances had chilled him on that evening. For Volktman's features were impressed with the sadness that breathed from, and caused, his prohibition to his daughter; and that prohibition had given to her features an abstraction and shadow similar to the dejection they had worn on the night we recur to.

This remembered coincidence did not cheer the spirits of the young traveller; he muttered to himself; and then, as if anxious to break the silence, moved forward with a heavy step.

Volktman started at the sound; and looking up, seemed literally electrified by this sudden apparition of one whom he had so lately expressed his desire to see. His lips muttered the intruder's name, one well known to the reader (it was the name of Godolphin) and then closed; but Lucilla sprang from her seat, and, clasping her hands joyously together, darted forward till she came within a foot of the unexpected visitor. There she abruptly arrested herself, blushed deeply, and stood before him humbled, agitated, but all vivid with delight.

"What, is this Lucilla?" said Godolphin admiringly: "how beautiful she is grown!" and advancing, he saluted, with a light and fraternal kiss, her girlish and damask cheek: then, without heeding her confusion, he turned to the astrologer, who by this time had a little recovered from his amaze.

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