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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Ghost-seer (or The Apparitionist) - Letter 7
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The Ghost-seer (or The Apparitionist) - Letter 7 Post by :chris26 Category :Long Stories Author :Frederich Schiller Date :May 2012 Read :3374

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The Ghost-seer (or The Apparitionist) - Letter 7

LETTER VII

BARON VON F------ TO COUNT VON O-------
July.


The mysterious unknown of the prince reminded Marquis Civitella of a romantic incident which happened to himself a short time since, and, to divert the prince, he offered to relate it. I will give it you in his own words; but the lively spirit which he infuses into all he tells will be lost in my narration.

(Here follows the subjoined fragment, which appeared in the eighth part of the Thalia, and was originally intended for the second volume of the Ghost-Seer. It found a place here after Schiller had given up the idea of completing the Ghost-Seer.)

"In the spring of last year," began Civitella, "I had the misfortune to embroil myself with the Spanish ambassador, a gentleman who, in his seventieth year, had been guilty of the folly of wishing to marry a Roman girl of eighteen. His vengeance pursued me, and my friends advised me to secure my safety by a timely flight, and to keep out of the way until the hand of nature, or an adjustment of differences, had secured me from the wrath of this formidable enemy. As I felt it too severe a punishment to quit Venice altogether, I took up my abode in a distant quarter of the town, where I lived in a lonely house, under a feigned name, keeping myself concealed by day, and devoting the night to the society of my friends and of pleasure.

"My windows looked upon a garden, the west side of which was bounded by the walls of a convent, while towards the east it jutted out into the Laguna in the form of a little peninsula. The garden was charmingly situated, but little frequented. It was my custom every morning, after my friends had left me, to spend a few moments at the window before retiring to rest, to see the sun rise over the Adriatic, and then to bid him goodnight. If you, my dear prince, have not yet enjoyed this pleasure, I recommend exactly this station, the only eligible one perhaps in all Venice to enjoy so splendid a prospect in perfection. A purple twilight hangs over the deep, and a golden mist on the Laguna announces the sun's approach. The heavens and the sea are wrapped in expectant silence. In two seconds the orb of day appears, casting a flood of fiery light on the waves. It is an enchanting sight.

"One morning, when I was, according to custom, enjoying the beauty of this prospect, I suddenly discovered that I was not the only spectator of the scene. I fancied I heard voices in the garden, and turning to the quarter whence the sound proceeded, I perceived a gondola steering for the land. In a few moments I saw figures walking at a slow pace up the avenue. They were a man and a woman, accompanied by a little negro. The female was clothed in white, and had a brilliant on her finger. It was not light enough to perceive more.

"My curiosity was raised. Doubtless a rendezvous of a pair of lovers-- but in such a place, and at so unusual an hour! It was scarcely three o'clock, and everything was still veiled in dusky twilight. The incident seemed to me novel and proper for a romance, and I waited to see the end.

"I soon lost sight of them among the foliage of the garden, and some time elapsed before they again emerged to view. Meanwhile a delightful song was heard. It proceeded from the gondolier, who was in this manner shortening the time, and was answered by a comrade a short way off. They sang stanzas from Tasso; time and place were in unison, and the melody sounded sweetly, in the profound silence around.

"Day in the meantime had dawned, and objects were discerned more plainly. I sought my people, whom I found walking hand-in-hand up a broad walk, often standing still, but always with their backs turned towards me, and proceeding further from my residence. Their noble, easy carriage convinced me at once that they were people of rank, and the splendid figure of the lady made me augur as much of her beauty. They appeared to converse but little; the lady, however, more than her companion. In the spectacle of the rising sun, which now burst out in all its splendor, they seemed to take not the slightest interest.

"While I was employed in adjusting my glass, in order to bring them into view as closely as possible, they suddenly disappeared down a side path, and some time elapsed before I regained sight of them. The sun had now fully risen; they were approaching straight towards me, with their eyes fixed upon where I stood. What a heavenly form did I behold! Was it illusion, or the magic effect of the beautiful light? I thought I beheld a supernatural being, for my eyes quailed before the angelic brightness of her look. So much loveliness combined with so much dignity!--so much mind, and so much blooming youth! It is in vain I attempt to describe it. I had never seen true beauty till that moment.

"In the heat of conversation they lingered near me, and I had full opportunity to contemplate her. Scarcely, however, had I cast my eyes upon her companion, but even her beauty was not powerful enough to fix my attention. He appeared to be a man still in the prime of life, rather slight, and of a tall, noble figure. Never have I beheld so much mind, so much noble expression, in a human countenance. Though perfectly secured from observation, I was unable to meet the lightning glance that shot from beneath his dark eyebrows. There was a moving expression of sorrow about his eyes, but an expression of benevolence about the mouth which relieved the settled gravity spread over his whole countenance. A certain cast of features, not quite European, together with his dress, which appeared to have been chosen with inimitable good taste from the most varied costumes, gave him a peculiar air, which not a little heightened the impression produced by his appearance. A degree of wildness in his looks warranted the supposition that he was an enthusiast, but his deportment and carriage showed that his character had been formed by mixing in society."

Z--------, who you know must always give utterance to what he thinks, could contain himself no longer. "Our Armenian!" cried he. "Our very Armenian, and nobody else."

"What Armenian, if one may ask?" inquired Civitella.

"Has no one told you of the farce?" replied the prince. "But no interruption! I begin to feel interested in your hero. Pray continue your narrative."

"There was something inexplicable in his whole demeanor," continued Civitella. "His eyes were fixed upon his companion with an expression of anxiety and passion, but the moment they met hers he looked down abashed. 'Is the man beside himself!' thought I. I could stand for ages and gaze at nothing else but her.

"The foliage again concealed them from my sight. Long, long did I look for their reappearance, but in vain. At length I caught sight of them from another window.

"They were standing before the basin of a fountain at some distance apart, and both wrapped in deep silence. They had, probably, remained some time in the same position. Her clear and intelligent eyes were resting inquiringly on his, and seemed as if they would imbibe every thought from him as it revealed itself in his countenance. He, as if he wanted courage to look directly into her face, furtively sought its reflection in the watery mirror before him, or gazed steadfastly at the dolphin which bore the water to the basin. Who knows how long this silent scene might have continued could the lady have endured it? With the most bewitching grace the lovely girl advanced towards him, and passing her arm round his neck, raised his hand to her lips. Calmly and unmoved the strange being suffered her caresses, but did not return them.

"This scene moved me strangely. It was the man that chiefly excited my sympathy and interest. Some violent emotion seemed to struggle in his breast; it was as if some irresistible force drew him towards her, while an unseen arm held him back. Silent, but agonizing, was the struggle, and beautiful the temptation. 'No,' I thought, 'he attempts too much; he will, he must yield.'

"At his silent intimation the young negro disappeared. I now expected some touching scene--a prayer on bended knees, and a reconciliation sealed with glowing kisses. But no! nothing of the kind occurred. The incomprehensible being took from his pocketbook a sealed packet, and placed it in the hands of the lady. Sadness overcast her face as she she looked at it, and a tear bedewed her eye.

"After a short silence they separated. At this moment an elderly lady advanced from one of the sidewalks, who had remained at a distance, and whom I now first discovered. She and the fair girl slowly advanced along the path, and, while they were earnestly engaged in conversation, the stranger took the opportunity of remaining behind. With his eyes turned towards her, he stood irresolute, at one instant making a rapid step forward, and in the next retreating. In another moment he had disappeared in the copse.

"The women at length look round, seem uneasy at not finding him, and pause as if to await his coming. He comes not. Anxious glances are cast around, and steps are redoubled. My eyes aid in searching through the garden; he comes not, he is nowhere to be seen.

"Suddenly I see a plash in the canal, and see a gondola moving from the shore. It is he, and I scarcely can refrain from calling to him. Now the whole thing is clear--it was a parting.

"She appears to have a presentiment of what has happened. With a speed that her companion cannot use she hastens to the shore. Too late! Quick as the arrow in its flight the gondola bounds forward, and soon nothing is visible but a white handkerchief fluttering in the air from afar. Soon after this I saw the fair incognita and her companion cross the water.

"When I awoke from a short sleep I could not help smiling at my delusion. My fancy had incorporated these events in my dreams until truth itself seemed a dream. A maiden, fair as an houri, wandering beneath my windows at break of day with her lover--and a lover who did not know how to make a better use of such an hour. Surely these supplied materials for the composition of a picture which might well occupy the fancy of a dreamer! But the dream had been too lovely for me not to desire its renewal again and again; nay, even the garden had become more charming in my sight since my imagination had peopled it with such attractive forms. Several cheerless days that succeeded this eventful morning drove me from the window, but the first fine evening involuntarily drew me back to my post of observation. Judge of my surprise when after a short search I caught sight of the white dress of my incognita! Yes, it was she herself. I had not dreamed!

"Her former companion was with her, and led by the hand a little boy; but the fair girl herself walked apart, and seemed absorbed in thought. All spots were visited that had been rendered memorable by the presence of her friend. She paused for a long time before the basin, and her fixed gaze seemed to seek on its crystal mirror the reflection of one beloved form.

"Although her noble beauty had attracted me when I first saw her the impression produced was even stronger on this occasion, although perhaps at the same time more conducive to gentler emotions. I had now ample opportunity of considering this divine form; the surprise of the first impression gradually gave place to softer feelings. The glory that seemed to invest her had departed, and I saw before me the loveliest of women, and felt my senses inflamed. In a moment the resolution was formed that she must be mine.

"While I was deliberating whether I should descend and approach her, or whether before I ventured on such a step it would not be better to obtain information regarding her, a door opened in the convent wall, through which there advanced a Carmelite monk. The sound of his approach roused the lady, and I saw her advance with hurried steps towards him. He drew from his bosom a paper, which she eagerly grasped, while a vivid color instantaneously suffused her countenance.

"At this moment I was called from the window by the arrival of my usual evening visitor. I carefully avoided approaching the spot again as I had no desire to share my conquest with another. For a whole hour I was obliged to endure this painful constraint before I could succeed in freeing myself from my importunate guest, and when I hastened to the window all had disappeared.

"The garden was empty when I entered it; no vessel of any kind was visible in the canal; no trace of people on any side; I neither knew whence she had come nor whither she had gone. While I was looking round me in all directions I observed something white upon the ground. On drawing near I found it was a piece of paper folded in the shape of a note. What could it be but the letter which the Carmelite had brought? 'Happy discovery!' I exclaimed; 'this will reveal the whole secret, and make me master of her fate.'

"The letter was sealed with a sphinx, had no superscription, and was written in cyphers; this, however, did not discourage me, for I have some knowledge of this mode of writing. I copied it hastily, as there was every reason to expect that she would soon miss it and return in search of it. If she should not find it she would regard its loss as an evidence that the garden was resorted to by different persons, and such a discovery might easily deter her from visiting it again. And what worse fortune could attend my hopes.

"That which I had conjectured actually took place, and I had scarcely ended my copy when she reappeared with her former companion, anxiously intent on the search. I attached the note to a tile which I had detached from the roof, and dropped it at a spot which she would pass. Her gracefully expressed joy at finding it rewarded me for my generosity. She examined it in every part with keen, searching glances, as if she were seeking to detect the unhallowed hands that might have touched it; but the contented look with which she hid it in her bosom showed that she was free from all suspicion. She went, and the parting glance she threw on the garden seemed expressive of gratitude to the guardian deities of the spot, who had so faithfully watched over the secret of her heart.

"I now hastened to decipher the letter. After trying several languages, I at length succeeded by the use of English. Its contents were so remarkable that my memory still retains a perfect recollection of them."

I am interrupted, and must give you the conclusion on a future occasion.

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