페이지 이미지

66 You are

country and myself, or I will give you an opportunity of exhibiting your skill in swimming in yonder fish-pond.” At that instant a dagger glittered in the Italian's hand; Erasmus seized him by the throat, threw him down, and giving him a violent kick in the neck, a rattle in the throat announced that he was giving up the ghost. All rushed upon Erasmus, he was almost petrified at his own rashness; he felt himself seized and dragged away, and his senses left him. When he recovered the use of his faculties he found himself in a small cabinet at the feet of Giulietta, who supported him in her arms, with her head anxiously bent over him. “ You wicked, wicked German,” said she, in accents indescribably gentle. “ What anguish have you caused me! I have rescued you from imminent peril, but you are no longer safe in Florence, or in Italy—you must go-I must part with you, dearly as I love you.” The thoughts of separation plunged Erasmus into nameless agony. “Let me stay,” cried he, “ I will gladly die, for is to die more than to live without you ?” As he had uttered these words it seemed to him that a feeble distant voice called him by name in painful accents. Alas! it was the voice of his gentle German housewife.

Erasmus was struck dumb, and Giulietta said in a singular manner, thinking of your wife. . Alas! Erasmus you will too soon forget me.” “ Could I but be thine entirely, and for ever,” exclaimed Erasmus.

They were standing exactly in front of the noble looking glass which hung on the wall of the cabinet, with wax lights burning on either side. Giulietta pressed Erasmus closer to her bosom, while she softly said, “ Leave me thy reflection, thou beloved of my soul; it shall be mine and remain with me for ever.” “ Giulietta, what meanest thou ?” demanded Spikher, full of wonder. He looked in the glass, which reflected his form and Giulietta's folded in a close embrace. retain my reflection,” continued he, a thing that accompanies me every where, coming forth to meet me out of every clear pool and every polished surface ?" “ Not even thy attendant likeness wilt thou bestow upon me, thou who hast professed thyself mine with life and soul! Not even thy unsteady image shall wander with me through this wretched life, that now thou knowest can have neither love nor joy for me !"

The hot tears gushed out of Giulietta's dark and sparkling eyes; then Erasmus, maddening with passion, exclaimed, “ Must I then leave thee? If I must, keep my reflection; it shall be thine for ever, and no power shall tear it from thee till thou hast myself, my body and soul.” Giulietta's kisses burned like fire upon his lips as he uttered these words. She now tore herself away from him and stretched out her arms towards the mirror. Erasmus saw that his image came forth, independent of his motions ; it slid into Giulietta's arms, and vanished with her in a singular vapour. Various croaking hideous voices now mocked him with infernal scoffings ; seized with the cramp of terror he sank to the ground senseless; but the dreadful anguish of his mind overcame the stupefaction of his senses, and he rushed out in the thick darkness, groping his way down the stairs, which he descended without accident. At the house door he was seized and placed in a carriage which rolled rapidly away

“ You are somewhat altered, sir, methinks,” said the man who had placed himself by his side, addressing him in the German language,

How can you

“ however, all will now go well, if you will but give youself up entirely to me; Giulietta has done her part, and recommended you to my care. You are, in truth, sir, a charming young man, astonishingly inclined to agreeable jests, such as Giulietta and I take great delight in. That was an excellent German kick in the gullet, for instance; how the amoroso's tongue dangled out of his mouth, a lurid blue he looked ridiculous enough; and did you mind how he croaked and cackled, and how unwilling he was to make his exit?” The man's tone was so ironical that his words were daggers to the breast of poor Spikher. “Whoever you may be,” said he, “ be silent on the subject of that dreadful deed, which I repent —

“ Repent? Repent? Then probably you repent too that you have known Giulietta, and won her gentle love ?” “ Alas! Giulietta ! Giulietta!" sighed Erasmus, “Why you are childish,” continued the man. You wish and hope, and pretend to be in love, but every little difficulty casts you down. Truly it is 'a disagreeable thing to be compelled to leave your mistress, but yet if you staid here, I could preserve you from all the daggers of your persecutors, as well as from the sword of justice.”

The thought of remaining with Giulietta operated powerfully upon Erasmus. « How were that possible ?” “I know a sympathetic means which will strike your enemies with blindness; which, in short, will so operate that you shall always appear to them with a different face, and they shall never recognize you. As soon as it is day you will have the goodness to look long and stedfastly into a mirror ; with your reflection I will then, without the smallest injury to it, perform certain operations, and you are safe ; you may then live with Giulietta, without danger, enjoying all the delights of love.” “ Dreadful! dreadful! exclaimed Erasmus. “ What is dreadful, my worthy,” inquired the man, deridingly. “ Alas! I have—I have_” “ Left your reflection,” cried the other, hastily ; “left it with Giulietta ? ha, ha, ha, bravissimo, my worthy! Now you may run through meadow and wood, through city and village, till you find your wife and the little Rasmus, and become again a ' family man,' although minus your reflection, a thing of little importance to Madam Spikher, who will possess yourself, while Giulietta must content herself with your image.” “ Peace! thou dreadful wretch !” cried Erasmus, bursting with fury.

At that moment a party approached along a cross-road, singing and laughing in high glee, and bearing torches, which cast their red glare upon the carriage. Erasmus looked his companion in the face, and beheld the detested Signor Dapertutto. He leaped down from the carriage at the risk of his neck, and ran to meet the party, for he had already recognized in the distance Frederick's full-sounding bass voice. Erasmus quickly made his friend acquainted with all that had passed, concealing only the loss of his reflection. Frederick hastened with him to the city, and so speedily were their measures taken, that when morning dawned, Erasmus, mounted upon a fleet horse, had left Florence far behind him.

Spikher has recounted many adventures that befel him on this journey; the most remarkable was the incident which first occasioned him to feel severely the loss of his reflection. He happened to dismount for

the purpose of refreshing himself and his jaded horse at an inn in a large city, just at the moment when dinner was announced, and he seated himself at the crowded table d'hote without remarking that a fine large mirror was hanging immediately opposite to him. A mischievous demon, in the shape of a waiter, who had stationed himself behind his chair, observed that in the mirror one of the chairs appeared empty, and that its occupant was not at all reflected by it. He imparted his discovery to Erasmus' neighbour, he to his, and so on until a general buzz ran round the whole circle, and all eyes were directed first at Spikher and then at the mirror. Erasmus, however, had not remarked that he was himself the object of all this whispering and staring, until a big grave-looking man arose from his seat, handed him rather roughly to the glass, looked into it, and then turning round to the company, proclaimed aloud, “ Truly, he has no reflection.” “ He has no reflection ! He has no reflection !" repeated every tongue, “ a mauvais sujet -a homo nefasturn him out.”

Covered with confusion, and maddening with rage, Erasmus fled to his room ; but no sooner had he taken refuge there than he received notice from the police, that he must either appear before the authorities, accompanied by his entire and perfect reflection, or leave the town within an hour. He chose the latter alternative, and left the city, followed by the rabble hooting after him, and bawling, “ there goes the man who has sold his reflection to the devil ! there he goes !” At length he escaped out of their reach, and thenceforth wherever he came he caused all the mirrors to be covered, under the pretext of a natural aversion to the sight of reflected objects, and acquired the nickname of General Suwarrow, because he does the same. · Erasmus was joyfully received by his gentle housewife and the little Rasmus, on his return, and, in the tranquil enjoyment of domestic happiness soon forgot the loss of his reflection, and of Giulietta. It happened, however, one day, as Spikher was playing with his hopeful son, the boy got a handful of soot, and besmeared papa's face with it. “ Oh, father, how black I have made you, only look," cried the urchin ; and before Spikher could prevent it, he had reached a hand-mirror, which he held before his father's face, looking in it himself at the same time; in a moment, however, he let it fall, burst out a crying, and ran out of the room. Shortly after in came mamma, with astonishment and .consternation in her looks. " What is this that the child tells me of you?” said she. “ That I have no reflection, was it, love ?” said Spikher, forcing a smile, and endeavouring to prove that it was madness to believe a man could lose his reflection ; though, however, it would be no great loss if he did, since every reflection was but a bare illusion, serving to no good end, but, on the contrary, leading through vanity to numberless evils and disasters.

While he was thus wasting his eloquence, his wife had quickly drawn aside the curtain which covered a looking-glass that hung in their parlour; she glanced at it, and fell to the ground as if struck by lightning. Spikher raised her up, but she had no sooner recovered her senses than she repulsed him with tokens of horror. “ Leave me," she cried, “ leave me, dreadful being! You are not my husband, no! you are some demon-some imp of Satan, and you want to rob me of my happiness, to decoy me to destruction! Away, leave me! you have no power over me, Spirit of the damned !” Her voice echoed through the dwelling, the domestics hurried to the room, and Erasmus, filled with fury and desperation, rushed out of the house.

He ran wildly through the solitary alleys of the park which lay near the city ; Giulietta's form arose before his mind's eye in angelic beauty, and he cried aloud, “Is it thus that you avenge yourself, Giulietta, because I left you and gave you my reflection only instead of myself? Ah Giulietta ! I will be thine with body and soul-she has thrust me from her ; she to whom I sacrificed you. Yes, I will be thine for ever!” That you may easily enough, my worthiest,” said Doctor Dapertutto, who suddenly stood beside him in his fiery coat with buttons of polished steel. The words were drops of balsam to the unlucky Erasmus, and he did not observe the Signor's malicious grin which accompanied the utterance of them. “How shall I then recover her,” said he, in a plaintive tone, “ she who is lost to me for ever!” “ By no means," resumed Dapertutto; “ she is not far off, and she longs to possess your worthy self, for as you perceive, your reflection is but an empty illusion after all. Moreover, when she is certain of yourself, namely, when she possesses you with body, life, and soul, she will willingly return your agreeable reflection, smooth and uninjured.” “ Lead me to her !” cried Erasmus ; “ Where is she? lead on?“ There is a trifling formality necessary,” said the other, “ before you can see Giulietta, and give yourself to her in lieu of your reflection. She has now no power over your person, because you are fettered by certain bands which must first be broken, your dear housewife, together with your hopeful son" " What do you mean?” cried Erasmus, wildly. " A separation of these bands might be easily effected by human means -you must have heard at Florence, that I possess the receipts for certain wonderful medicaments, and perchance I have such a little family nostrum with me. They who stand in the way between you and the lovely Giulietta, need only take a few drops of this, and they will sink down without pain or noise. It is called dying, and death they say is bitter; but is not the flavour of bitter almonds agreeable ? and this bitterness only has the death which is inclosed in this little flask. Immediately after taking it, your worthy family will breathe forth an agreeable odour of bitter almonds. Take it, my good sir.” He presented a small phial to Erasmus. “ Horrible wretch !" exclaimed the latter, “shall I poison my wife and child ?” “ Who talks of poison ? the phial contains only an agreeable family nostrum. I might employ other means to procure your freedom, but I prefer to operate thus naturally through you, that is my delight. Take it with confidence, my friend.” Erasmus held the phial in his hand without seeming to be conscious of it. He ran home and shut himself up in his chamber.

Madam Spikher had passed the night in the utmost anguish of mind; she continued to maintain that the being returned to her in the shape of her husband was not her husband, but a demon who had assumed his likeness, so that when Spikher entered his house all fled before him ; the little Rasmus only ventured to approach him, inquiring artlessly why he had not brought back his reflection, for his mamma would fret herself to death about it. Erasmus gazed wildly at the boy; he had

Dapertutto's phial in his hand. The child carried his favourite dove upon his wrist, and it happened that the creature pecked at the cork with her bill; she instantly dropped her head-she was dead. Erasmus started with horror. “ Traitor !” he exclaimed, “ thou shalt not seduce me to this deed of hell !" He threw the phial out of the window, so that it broke into a thousand pieces upon the stone pavement, and an odour of bitter almonds rose and scented the chamber. The little Rasmus had run away affrighted.

Erasmus passed the day upon the rack; at length midnight came, and Giulietta's portrait again presented itself in glowing colours to his imagination. Once in his presence a necklace broke, composed of those little red berries which the ladies wear for beads; gathering up the berries he secreted one, because it had lain on Giulietta's neck, and had carefully preserved it ever since; he now took this berry out of his pocket, and gazing fixedly on it, directed his whole mind and thoughts to his lost mistress. “Alas! Giulietta,” sighed he, “I must see thee once again, and then perish !" He had scarcely uttered this ejaculation when he heard footsteps approaching through the corridor; then a gentle tap at the door of his chamber. Breathless with hope and fear he lifted the latch, and Giulietta entered, arrayed in all her beauty and loveliness. He caught her in his arms. “Here I am, my love,” said she, softly ; “ only see how faithfully I have preserved your reflection !" She uncovered the looking-glass, and Erasmus beheld with rapture, his image embracing Giulietta, but as before it was totally independent of himself. Erasmus shuddered. “Giulietta,” cried he, “ shall I go mad with love for you? Give me back the reflection-take myself, with body, and life, and soul.” “ There is something yet between us, dear Erasmus--you know-has not Dapertutto told you ?” “ For heaven's sake, Giulietta, if I can be thine by no other means, let me rather die ?". “ No, Erasmus, the doctor shall not seduce you to the commission of such a deed. But it is truly grievous that an oath, and the priest's benediction, have such power ; you must burst the bonds, however, or else you can never be entirely mine, and there is a better mean than that proposed by Dapertutto.” “In what does that consist ?" Here Giulietta threw her arms around his neck, and resting her head upon his breast, whispered softly, “ You shall write your name, Erasmus Spikher, under these few words : I give my good friend, Dapertutto, power over my wife and child, that he may deal with them entirely as he will, and loosen the bonds which bind me, because I will belong in future, with my body and my immortal soul to Giulietta, whom I have chosen for my wife, and to whom I will bind myself by a peculiar oath.” A deathlike shudder thrilled his nerves ; Giulietta's kisses of fire inflamed him to madness. He held the paper which she had given him in his hand.Suddenly, Dapertutto started up in a gigantic form behind Giulietta, and handed him a metallic pen. At the same instant a vein burst in Erasmus' left wrist, and the blood spurted out. “ Dip-dip-signsign !” screamed the red giant. “ Sign ! sign! my eternal, my only love !” whispered Giulietta.

· He had filled the pen with blood and was about to put it to the paper when the room door opened and a figure in white stalked in; she fixed her glassy eyes upon Erasmus, and exclaimed in a tone of anguish, “ Erasmus !

« 이전계속 »