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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesGodolphin - Chapter 30. Magnetism...
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Godolphin - Chapter 30. Magnetism... Post by :66034 Category :Long Stories Author :Edward Bulwer-lytton Date :May 2012 Read :3082

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Godolphin - Chapter 30. Magnetism...


Daily did the health of Volktman decline; Lucilla was the only one ignorant of his danger. She had never seen the gradual approaches of death: her mother's abrupt and rapid illness made the whole of her experience of disease. Physicians and dark rooms were necessarily coupled in her mind with all graver maladies; and as the astrologer, wrapt in his calculations, altered not any of his habits, and was insensible to pain, she fondly attributed his occasional complaints to the melancholy induced by seclusion. With sedentary men, diseases being often those connected with the Organisation of the heart, do not usually terminate suddenly: it was so with Volktman.

One day he was alone with Godolphin, and their conversation turned upon one of the doctrines of the old Magnetism, a doctrine which, depending as it does so much upon a seeming reference to experience, survived the rest of its associates, and is still not wholly out of repute among the wild imaginations of Germany.

"One of the most remarkable and abstruse points in what students call metaphysics," said Volktman, "is sympathy! the first principle, according to some, of all human virtue. It is this, say they, which makes men just, humane, charitable. When one who has never heard of the duty of assisting his neighbour, sees another drowning, he plunges into the water and saves him. Why? because involuntarily, and at once, his imagination places himself in the situation of the stranger: the pain he would experience in the watery death glances across him: from this pain he hastens,--without analysing its cause, to deliver himself.

"Humanity is thus taught him by sympathy: where is this sympathy placed?--in the nerves: the nerves are the communicants with outward nature; the more delicate the nerves, the finer the sympathies; hence, women and children are more alive to sympathy than men. Well, mark me: do not these nerves have attraction and sympathy---not only with human suffering, but with the powers of what is falsely termed inanimate nature? Do not the wind, the influences of the weather and the seasons, act confessedly upon them? and if one part of nature, why not another, inseparably connected too with that part? If the weather and seasons have sympathy with the nerves, why not the moon and the stars, by which the weather and the seasons are influenced and changed? Ye of the schools may allow that sympathy originates some of our actions; I say it governs the whole world--the whole creation! Before the child is born, it is this secret affinity which can mark and stamp him with the witness of his mother's terror or his mother's desire."

"Yet," said Godolphin, "you would scarcely, in your zeal for sympathy, advocate the same cause as Edricius Mohynnus, who cured wounds by a powder, not applied to the wound, but to the towel that had been dipped in its blood?"

"No," answered Volktman: "it is these quacks and pretenders that have wronged all sciences, by clamouring for false deductions. But I do believe of sympathy, that it has a power to transport ourselves out of the body and reunite us with the absent. Hence, trances, and raptures, in which the patient, being sincere, will tell thee, in grave earnestness, and with minute detail, of all that he saw, and heard, and encountered, afar off, in other parts of the earth, or even above the earth. As thou knowest the accredited story of the youth, who, being transported with a vehement and long-nursed desire to see his mother, did, through that same desire, become as it were rapt, and beheld her, being at the distance of many miles, and giving and exchanging signs of their real and bodily conference."

Godolphin turned aside to conceal an involuntary smile at this grave affirmation; but the mystic, perhaps perceiving it, continued yet more eagerly:--

"Nay, I myself, at times, have experienced such trance, if trance it be; and have conversed with them who have passed from the outward earth--with my father and my wife. And," continued he, after a moment's pause, "I do believe that we may, by means of this power of attraction--this elementary and all-penetrative sympathy, pass away, in our last moments, at once into the bosom of those we love. For, by the intent and rapt longing to behold the Blest and to be amongst them, we may be drawn insensibly into their presence, and the hour being come when the affinity between the spirit and the body shall be dissolved, the mind and desire, being so drawn upward, can return to earth no more. And this sympathy, refined and extended, will make, I imagine, our powers, our very being, in a future state. Our sympathy being only, then, with what is immortal, we shall partake necessarily of that nature which attracts us; and the body no longer clogging the intenseness of our desires, we shall be able by a wish to transport ourselves wheresoever we please,--from star to star, from glory to glory, charioted and winged by our wishes."

Godolphin did not reply, for he was struck with the growing paleness of the mystic, and with a dreaming and intent fixedness that seemed creeping over his eyes, which were usually bright and restless. The day was now fast declining, Lucilla entered the room, and came caressingly to her father's side.

"Is the evening warm, my child?" said the astrologer.

"Very mild and warm," answered Lucilla.

"Give me your arm then," said he; "I will sit a little while without the threshold."

The Romans live in flats, as at Edinburgh, and with a common stair. Volktman's abode was in the secondo piano. He descended the stairs with a step lighter than it had been of late; and sinking into a seat without the house, seemed silently and gratefully to inhale the soft and purple air of an Italian sunset.

By and by the sun had entirely vanished: and that most brief but most delicious twilight, common to the clime, had succeeded. Veil-like and soft, the mist that floats at that hour between earth and heaven, lent its transparent shadow to the scene around them: it seemed to tremble as for a moment, and then was gone. The moon arose, and cast its light over Volktman's earnest countenance,--over the rich bloom and watchful eye of Lucilla,--over the contemplative brow and motionless figure of Godolphin. It was a group of indefinable interest: the Earth was so still, that the visionary might well have fancied it had hushed itself, to drink within its quiet heart the voices of that Heaven in whose oracles he believed. Not one of the group spoke,--the astrologer's mind and gaze were riveted above; and neither of his companions wished to break the meditations of the old and dreaming man.

Godolphin, with folded arms and downcast eyes, was pursuing his own thoughts; and Lucilla, to whom Godolphin's presence was a subtle and subduing intoxication, looked indeed upward to the soft and tender heavens, but with the soul of the loving daughter of earth.

Slowly, nor marked by his companions, the gaze of the mystic deepened and deepened in its fixedness.

The minutes went on; and the evening waned, till a chill breeze, floating down from the Latian Hills, recalled Lucilla's attention to her father. She covered him tenderly with her own mantle, and whispered gently in his ear her admonition to shun the coldness of the coming night. He did not answer; and on raising her voice a little higher, with the same result, she looked appealingly to Godolphin. He laid his hand on Volktman's shoulder; and, bending forward to address him,--was struck dumb by the glazed and fixed expression of the mystic's eyes. The certainty flashed across him; he hastily felt Volktman's pulse--it was still. There was no doubt left on his mind; and yet the daughter, looking at him all the while, did not even dream of this sudden and awful stroke. In silence, and unconsciously, the strange and solitary spirit of the mystic had passed from its home--in what exact instant of time, or by what last contest of nature, was not known.

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