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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Ghost-seer (or The Apparitionist) - Book 1, Part 2
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The Ghost-seer (or The Apparitionist) - Book 1, Part 2 Post by :notepage Category :Long Stories Author :Frederich Schiller Date :May 2012 Read :2763

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The Ghost-seer (or The Apparitionist) - Book 1, Part 2

The sun was setting when we arrived at the pleasurehouse, where a supper had been prepared for us. The prince's name had augmented our company to sixteen. Besides the above-mentioned persons there was a virtuoso from Rome, several Swiss gentlemen, and an adventurer from Palermo in regimentals, who gave himself out for a captain. We resolved to spend the evening where we were, and to return home by torchlight. The conversation at table was lively. The prince could not forbear relating his adventure of the key, which excited general astonishment. A warm dispute on the subject presently took place. Most of the company positively maintained that the pretended occult sciences were nothing better than juggling tricks. The French abbe, who had drank rather too much wine, challenged the whole tribe of ghosts, the English lord uttered blasphemies, and the musician made a cross to exorcise the devil. Some few of the company, amongst whom was the prince, contended that opinions respecting such matters ought to be kept to oneself. In the meantime the Russian officer discoursed with the ladies, and did not seem to pay attention to any part of conversation. In the heat of the dispute no one observed that the Sicilian had left the room. In less than half an hour he returned wrapped in a cloak, and placed himself behind the chair of the Frenchman. "A few moments ago," said he, "you had the temerity to challenge the whole tribe of ghosts. Would you wish to make a trial with one of them?"

"I will," answered the abbe, "if you will take upon yourself to introduce one."

"That I am ready to do," replied the Sicilian, turning to us, "as soon as these ladies and gentlemen have left us."

"Why only then?" exclaimed the Englishman. "A courageous ghost will surely not be afraid of a cheerful company."

"I would not answer for the consequences," said the Sicilian.

"For heaven's sake, no!" cried the ladies, starting affrighted from their chairs.

"Call your ghost," said the abbe, in a tone of defiance, "but warn him beforehand that there are sharp-pointed weapons here." At the same time he asked one of the company for a sword.

"If you preserve the same intention in his presence," answered the Sicilian, coolly, "you may then act as you please." He then turned towards the prince: "Your highness," said he, "asserts that your key has been in the hands of a stranger; can you conjecture in whose?"

"No"

"Have you no suspicion?"

"It certainly occurred to me that"--

"Should you know the person if you saw him?"

"Undoubtedly."

The Sicilian, throwing back his cloak, took out a looking-glass and held it before the prince. "Is this the man?"

The prince drew back with affright.

"Whom have you seen?" I inquired.

"The Armenian."

The Sicilian concealed his looking-glass under his cloak.

"Is it the person whom you thought of?" demanded the whole company.

"The same."

A sudden change manifested itself on every face; no more laughter was to be heard. All eyes were fixed with curiosity on the Sicilian.

"Monsieur l'Abbe! The matter grows serious," said the Englishman. "I advise you to think of beating a retreat."

"The fellow is in league with the devil," exclaimed the Frenchman, and rushed out of the house. The ladies ran shrieking from the room. The virtuoso followed them. The German prebendary was snoring in a chair. The Russian officer continued sitting in his place as before, perfectly indifferent to what was passing.

"Perhaps your attention was only to raise a laugh at the expense of that boaster," said the prince, after they were gone, "or would you indeed fulfil your promise to us?"

"It is true," replied the Sicilian; "I was but jesting with the abbe. I took him at his word, because I knew very well that the coward would not suffer me to proceed to extremities. The matter itself is, however, too serious to serve merely as a jest."

"You grant, then, that it is in your power?"

The sorcerer maintained a long silence, and kept his look fixed steadily on the prince, as if to examine him.

"It is!" answered he at last.

The prince's curiosity was now raised to the highest pitch. A fondness for the marvellous had ever been his prevailing weakness. His improved understanding and a proper course of reading had for some time dissipated every idea of this kind; but the appearance of the Armenian had revived them. He stepped aside with the Sicilian, and I heard them in very earnest conversation.

"You see in me," said the prince, "a man who burns with impatience to be convinced on this momentous subject. I would embrace as a benefactor, I would cherish as my best friend him who could dissipate my doubts and remove the veil from my eyes. Would you render me this important service?"

"What is your request!" inquired the Sicilian, hesitating.

"For the present I only beg some proof of your art. Let me see an apparition."

"To what will this lead?"

"After a more intimate acquaintance with me you may be able to judge whether I deserve further instruction."

"I have the greatest esteem for your highness, gracious prince. A secret power in your countenance, of which you yourself are as yet ignorant, drew me at first sight irresistibly towards you. You are more powerful than you are yourself aware. You may command me to the utmost extent of my power, but--"

"Then let me see an apparition."

"But I must first be certain that you do not require it from mere curiosity. Though the invisible powers are in some degree at my command, it is on the sacred condition that I do not abuse my authority."

"My intentions are most pure. I want truth."

They left their places, and removed to a distant window, where I could no longer hear them. The English lord, who had likewise overheard this conversation, took me aside. "Your prince has a noble mind. I am sorry for him. I will pledge my salvation that he has to do with a rascal."

"Everything depends on the manner in which the sorcerer will extricate himself from this business."

"Listen to me. The poor devil is now pretending to be scrupulous. He will not show his tricks unless he hears the sound of gold. There are nine of us. Let us make a collection. That will spoil his scheme, and perhaps open the eyes of the prince."

"I am content." The Englishman threw six guineas upon a plate, and went round gathering subscriptions. Each of us contributed some louis-d'ors. The Russian officer was particularly pleased with our proposal; he laid a bank-note of one hundred zechins on the plate, a piece of extravagance which startled the Englishman. We brought the collection to the prince. "Be so kind," said the English lord, "as to entreat this gentleman in our names to let us see a specimen of his art, and to accept of this small token of our gratitude." The prince added a ring of value, and offered the whole to the Sicilian. He hesitated a few moments. "Gentlemen," answered he, "I am humbled by this generosity, but I yield to your request. Your wishes shall be gratified." At the same time he rang the bell. "As for this money," continued he, "to which I have no right myself, permit me to send it to the next monastery to be applied to pious uses. I shall only keep this ring as a precious memorial of the worthiest of princes."

Here the landlord entered; and the Sicilian handed him over the money. "He is a rascal notwithstanding," whispered the Englishman to me. "He refuses the money because at present his designs are chiefly on the prince."

"Whom do you wish to see?" asked the sorcerer.

The prince considered for a moment. "We may as well have a great man at once," said the Englishman. "Ask for Pope Ganganelli. It can make no difference to this gentleman."

The Sicilian bit his lips. "I dare not call one of the Lord's anointed."

"That is a pity!" replied the English lord; "perhaps we might have heard from him what disorder he died of."

"The Marquis de Lanoy," began the prince, "was a French brigadier in the late war, and my most intimate friend. Having received a mortal wound in the battle of Hastinbeck, he was carried to my tent, where he soon after died in my arms. In his last agony he made a sign for me to approach. 'Prince,' said he to me, 'I shall never again behold my native land. I must, therefore, acquaint you with a secret known to none but myself. In a convent on the frontiers of Flanders lives a --------' He expired. Death cut short the thread of his discourse. I wish to see my friend to hear the remainder."

"You ask much," exclaimed the Englishman, with an oath. "I proclaim you the greatest sorcerer on earth if you can solve this problem," continued he, turning to the Sicilian. We admired the wise choice of the prince, and unanimously gave our approval to the proposition. In the meantime the sorcerer paced up and down the room with hasty steps, apparently struggling with himself.

"This was all that the dying marquis communicated to you?"

"It is all."

"Did you make no further inquiries about the matter in his native country?"

"I did, but they all proved fruitless."

"Had the Marquis de Lanoy led an irreproachable life? I dare not call up every shade indiscriminately."

"He died, repenting the excesses of his youth."

"Do you carry with you any token of his!"

"I do." (The prince had really a snuff-box with the marquis' portrait enamelled in miniature on the lid, which he had placed upon the table near his plate during the time of supper.)

"I do not want to know what it is. If you will leave me you shall see the deceased."

He requested us to wait in the other pavilion until he should call us. At the same time he caused all the furniture to be removed from the room, the windows to be taken out, and the shutters to be bolted. He ordered the innkeeper, with whom he appeared to be intimately connected, to bring a vessel with burning coals, and carefully to extinguish every fire in the house. Previous to our leaving the room he obliged us separately to pledge our honor that we would maintain an everlasting silence respecting everything we should see and hear. All the doors of the pavilion we were in were bolted behind us when we left it.

It was past eleven, and a dead silence reigned throughout the whole house. As we were retiring from the saloon the Russian officer asked me whether we had loaded pistols. "For what purpose?" asked I. "They may possibly be of some use," replied he. "Wait a moment. I will provide some." He went away. The Baron F------ and I opened a window opposite the pavilion we had left. We fancied we heard two persons whispering to each other, and a noise like that of a ladder applied to one of the windows. This was, however, a mere conjecture, and I did not dare affirm it as a fact. The Russian officer came back with a brace of pistols, after having been absent about half an hour. We saw him load them with powder and ball. It was almost two o'clock in the morning when the sorcerer came and announced that all was prepared. Before we entered the room he desired us to take off our shoes, and to appear in our shirts, stockings, and under-garments. He bolted the doors after us as before.

We found in the middle of the room a large, black circle, drawn with charcoal, the space within which was capable of containing us all very easily. The planks of the chamber floor next to the wall were taken up all round the room, so that we stood as it were upon an island. An altar covered with black cloth was placed in the centre upon a carpet of red satin. A Chaldee Bible was laid open, together with a skull; and a silver crucifix was fastened upon the altar. Instead of candles some spirits of wine were burning in a silver vessel. A thick smoke of frankincense darkened the room and almost extinguished the lights. The sorcerer was undressed like ourselves, but barefooted; about his bare neck he wore an amulet, suspended by a chain of human hair; round his middle was a white apron marked with cabalistic characters and symbolical figures.

(Amulet is a charm or preservative against mischief, witchcraft, or diseases. Amulets were made of stone metal, simples, animals, and everything which fancy or caprice suggested; and sometimes they consisted of words, characters, and sentences ranged in a particular order and engraved upon wood, and worn about the neck or some other part of the body. At other times they were neither written nor engraved, but prepared with many superstitious ceremonies, great regard being usually paid to the influence of the stars. The Arabians have given to this species of amulets the name of talismans. All nations have been fond of amulets. The Jews were extremely superstitious in the use of them to drive away diseases; and even amongst the Christians of the early times amulets were made of the wood of the cross or ribbons, with a text of Scripture written on them, as preservatives against diseases.)

He desired us to join hands and to observe profound silence; above all he ordered us not to ask the apparition any question. He desired the Englishman and myself, whom he seemed to distrust the most, constantly to hold two naked swords crossways an inch above his head as long as the conjuration should last. We formed a half-moon round him; the Russian officer placed himself close to the English lord, and was the nearest to the altar. The sorcerer stood upon the satin carpet with his face turned to the east. He sprinkled holy water in the direction of the four cardinal points of the compass, and bowed three times before the Bible. The formula of the conjuration, of which we did not understand a word, lasted for the space of seven or eight minutes, at the end of which he made a sign to those who stood close behind to seize him firmly by the hair. Amid the most violent convulsions he called the deceased three times by his name, and the third time he stretched forth his hand towards the crucifix.

On a sudden we all felt at the same instant a stroke as of a flash of lightning, so powerful that it obliged us to quit each other's hands; a terrible thunder shook the house; the locks jarred; the doors creaked; the cover of the silver box fell down and extinguished the light; and on the opposite wall over the chimney-piece appeared a human figure in a bloody shirt, with the paleness of death on its countenance.

"Who calls me?" said a hollow, hardly intelligible voice.

"Thy friend," answered the sorcerer, "who respects thy memory, and prays for thy soul." He named the prince.

The answers of the apparition were always given at very long intervals.

"What does he want with me?" continued the voice.

"He wants to hear the remainder of the confession which then had begun to impart to him in thy dying hour, but did not finish."

"In a convent on the frontiers of Flanders lives a -------"

The house again trembled; a dreadful thunder rolled; a flash of lightning illuminated the room; the doors flew open, and another human figure, bloody and pale as the first, but more terrible, appeared on the threshold. The spirit in the box began to burn again by itself, and the hall was light as before.

"Who is amongst us?" exclaimed the sorcerer, terrified, casting a look of horror on the assemblage; "I did not want thee." The figure advanced with noiseless and majestic steps directly up to the altar, stood on the satin Carpet over against us, and touched the crucifix. The first apparition was seen no more.

"Who calls me?" demanded the second apparition.

"The sorcerer began to tremble. Terror and amazement kept us motionless for some time. I seized a pistol. The sorcerer snatched it out of my hand, and fired it at the apparition. The ball rolled slowly upon the altar, and the figure emerged unaltered from the smoke. The Sorcerer fell senseless on the ground.

"What is this?" exclaimed the Englishman, in astonishment, aiming a blow at the ghost with a sword. The figure touched his arm, and the weapon fell to the ground. The perspiration stood on my brow with horror. Baron ------ afterwards confessed to me that he had prayed silently.

During all this time the prince stood fearless and tranquil, his eyes riveted on the second apparition. "Yes, I know thee," said he at length, with emotion; "thou art Lanoy; thou art my friend. Whence comest thou?"

"Eternity is mute. Ask me concerning my past life."

"Who is it that lives in the convent which thou mentionedst to me in thy last moments?"

"My daughter."

"How? Hast thou been a father?"

"Woe is me that I was not."

"Art thou not happy, Lanoy?"

"God has judged."

"Can I render thee any further service in this world?"

"None but to think of thyself."

"How must I do that?"

"Thou wilt learn at Rome."

The thunder again rolled; a black cloud of smoke filled the room; when it had dispersed the figure was no longer visible. I forced open one of the window shutters. It was daylight.

The sorcerer now recovered from his swoon. "Where are we?" asked he, seeing the daylight.

The Russian officer stood close beside him, and looked over his shoulder. "Juggler," said he to him, with a terrible countenance, "Thou shalt summon no more ghosts."

The Sicilian turned round, looked steadfastly in his face, uttered a loud shriek, and threw himself at his feet.

We looked all at once at the pretended Russian. The prince instantly recognized the features of the Armenian, and the words he was about to utter expired on his tongue. We were all as it were petrified with fear and amazement. Silent and motionless, our eyes were fixed on this mysterious being, who beheld us with a calm but penetrating look of grandeur and superiority. A minute elapsed in this awful silence; another succeeded; not a breath was to be heard.

A violent battering against the door roused us at last from this stupor. The door fell in pieces into the room, and several officers of justice, with a guard, rushed in. "Here they are, all together," said the leader to his followers. Then addressing himself to us, "In the name of the government," continued he, "I arrest you." We had no time to recollect ourselves; in a few moments we were surrounded. The Russian officer, whom I shall again call the Armenian, took the chief officer aside, and, as far as I in my confusion could notice, I observed him whisper a few words to the latter, and show him a written paper. The officer, bowing respectfully, immediately quitted him, turned to us, and taking off his hat, said "Gentlemen, I humbly beg your pardon for having confounded you with this impostor. I shall not inquire who you are, as this gentleman assures me you are men of honor." At the same time he gave his companions a sign to leave us at liberty. He ordered the Sicilian to be bound and strictly guarded. "The fellow is ripe for punishment," added he; "we have been searching for him these seven months."

The wretched sorcerer was really an object of pity. The terror caused by the second apparition, and by this unexpected arrest, had together overpowered his senses. Helpless as a child, he suffered himself to be bound without resistance. His eyes were wide open and immovable; his face was pale as death; his lips quivered convulsively, but he was unable to utter a sound. Every moment we expected he would fall into a fit. The prince was moved by the situation in which he saw him. He undertook to procure his discharge from the leader of the police, to whom he discovered his rank. "Do you know, gracious prince," said the officer, "for whom your highness is so generously interceding? The juggling tricks by which he endeavored to deceive you are the least of his crimes. We have secured his accomplices; they depose terrible facts against him. He may think himself fortunate if he is only punished with the galleys."

In the meantime we saw the innkeeper and his family led bound through the yard. "This man, too?" said the prince; "and what is his crime?"

"He was his comrade and accomplice," answered the officer. "He assisted him in his deceptions and robberies, and shared the booty with him. Your highness shall be convinced of it presently. Search the house," continued he, turning to his followers, "and bring me immediate notice of what you find."

The prince looked around for the Armenian, but he had disappeared. In the confusion occasioned by the arrival of the watch he had found means to steal away unperceived. The prince was inconsolable; he declared he would send all his servants, and would himself go in search of this mysterious man; and he wished me to go with him. I hastened to the window; the house was surrounded by a great number of idlers, whom the account of this event had attracted to the spot. It was impossible to get through the crowd. I represented this to the prince. "If," said I, "it is the Armenian's intention to conceal himself from us, he is doubtless better acquainted with the intricacies of the place than we, and all our inquiries would prove fruitless. Let us rather remain here a little longer, gracious prince," added I. "This officer, to whom, if I observed right, he discovered himself, may perhaps give us some information respecting him."

We now for the first time recollected that we were still undressed. We hastened to the other pavilion and put on our clothes as quickly as possible. When we returned they had finished searching the house.

On removing the altar and some of the boards of the floor a spacious vault was discovered. It was high enough, for a man might sit upright in it with ease, and was separated from the cellar by a door and a narrow staircase. In this vault they found an electrical machine, a clock, and a little silver bell, which, as well as the electrical machine, was in communication with the altar and the crucifix that was fastened upon it. A hole had been made in the window-shutter opposite the chimney, which opened and shut with a slide. In this hole, as we learnt afterwards, was fixed a magic lantern, from which the figure of the ghost had been reflected on the opposite wall, over the chimney. From the garret and the cellar they brought several drums, to which large leaden bullets were fastened by strings; these had probably been used to imitate the roaring of thunder which we had heard.

On searching the Sicilian's clothes they found, in a case, different powders, genuine mercury in vials and boxes, phosphorus in a glass bottle, and a ring, which we immediately knew to be magnetic, because it adhered to a steel button that by accident had been placed near it. In his coat-pockets were found a rosary, a Jew's beard, a dagger, and a brace of pocket-pistols. "Let us see whether they are loaded," said one of the watch, and fired up the chimney.

"Jesus Maria!" cried a hollow voice, which we knew to be that of the first apparition, and at the same instant a bleeding person came tumbling down the chimney. "What! not yet laid, poor ghost!" cried the Englishman, while we started back in affright. "Home to thy grave. Thou hast appeared what thou wert not; now thou wilt become what thou didst but seem."

"Jesus Maria! I am wounded," repeated the man in the chimney. The ball had fractured his right leg. Care was immediately taken to have the wound dressed.

"But who art thou?" said the English lord; "and what evil spirit brought thee here?"

"I am a poor mendicant friar," answered the wounded man; "a strange gentleman gave me a zechin to--"

"Repeat a speech. And why didst thou not withdraw as soon as thy task was finished?"

I was waiting for a signal which we had agreed on to continue my speech; but as this signal was not given, I was endeavoring to get away, when I found the ladder had been removed.

"And what was the formula he taught thee?"

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The wounded man fainted away; nothing more could be got from him. In the meantime the prince turned towards the principal officer of the watch, giving him at the same time some pieces of gold. "You have rescued us," said he, "from the hands of an impostor, and done us justice without even knowing who we were; would you increase our gratitude by telling us the name of the stranger who, by speaking only a few words, was able to procure us our liberty." "Whom do you mean?" inquired the party addressed, with an air which plainly showed that the question
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PART V CHAPTER VIION the morrow, a clear December day, a young man and a woman who rested on his arm, passed through the garden of the Palais-Royal. They entered a jeweler's store where they chose two similar rings which they smilingly exchanged. After a short walk they took breakfast at the Freres-Provencaux, in one of those little rooms which are, all things considered, one of the most beautiful spots in the world. There, when the garcon had left them, they sat near the windows, hand in hand. The young man was in traveling dress; to see the joy which shone
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