Imatges de pÓgina
PDF
EPUB

ter of the situation, turned his pleading, This vengeance which Herr Hippe exmelancholy eyes from one to another of ecuted upon Furbelow seemed to have the motionless three, as if begging that operated as a sort of escape-valve, and he his humble intellect (pardon me, natural- found voice. He hissed out the question, ists, for the use of this word " intellect” “Who are you?” to the hunchback; and in the matter of a monkey!) should be in listening to that essence of sibillation, it enlightened as speedily as possible. Not really seemed as if it proceeded from the receiving the desired information, he, serpent that curled upon his upper lip. after the manner of trained animals, re- “ Who are you ? Deformed dog, who turned to his muttons ; in other words, are you? What do you here ?" he conceived that this unusual entrance, “ My name is Solon," answered the and consequent dramatic tableau, meant fearless head of the hunchback, while the "shop.” He therefore dropped Zoné- frail, cowardly body shivered and tremla's hand and pattered on his velvety bled inch by inch into a corner. little feet over towards the grim figure “ So you come to visit my daughter in of the Wondersmith, holding out his poor the night-time, when I am away ? " conlittle paw for the customary copper. He tinued the Wondersmith, with a sneerhad but one idea drilled into him,---soul- ing tone that dropped from his snakeless creature that he was,--and that was wreathed mouth like poison. “You are alms, But I have seen creatures that a brave and gallant lover, are you not ? professed to have souls, and that would Where did you win that Order of the have been indignant, if you had denied Curse of God that decorates your shoulthem immortality, who took to the solicit- ders? The women turn their heads and ing of alms as naturally as if beggary look after you in the street, when you had been the original sin, and was regu- pass, do they not ? lost in admiration of larly born with them, and never baptized that symmetrical figure, those graceful out of them. I will give these Bandits limbs, that neck pliant as the stem that of the Order of Charity this credit, how- moors the lotus ! Elegant, conquering, ever, that they knew the best highways Christian cripple, what do you here in and the richest founts of benevolence, my daughter's room ?” -unlike to Furbelow, who, unreasoning Can you imagine Jove, limitless in and undiscriminating, begged from the power and wrath, hurling from his vast first person that was near. Furbelow, grasp mountain after mountain upon the owing to this intellectual inferiority to struggling Enceladus,- and picture the the before-mentioned Alsatians, frequent- Titan sinking, sinking, deeper and deeply got more kicks than coppers, and the er into the earth, crushed and dying, present supplication which he indulged with nothing visible through the superin towards the Wondersmith was a terri- incumbent masses of Pelion and Ossa, ble confirination of the rule. The reply but a gigantic head and two flaming eyes, to the extended pleading paw was what that, despite the death which is creeping might be called a double-barrelled kick, through each vein, still flash back defi- a kick to be represented by the power ance to the divine enemy? Well, Soof two when the foot touched the object, lon and Herr Hippe presented such a multiplied by four when the entire leg picture, seen through the wrong end of a formed an angle of 45° with the spinal telescope, — reduced in proportion, but column. The long, nervous leg of the alike in action. Solon's feeble body Wondersmith caught the little creature seemed to sink into utter annihilation bein the centre of the body, doubled up

his neath the horrible taunts that his enemy brown, hairy form, till he looked like a hurled at him, while the large, brave fur driving-glove, and sent him whizzing brow and unconquered eyes still sent across the room into a far corner, where forth a magnetic resistance. he dropped senseless and flaccid.

Suddenly the poor hunchback felt his

ure.

arm grasped. A thrill seemed to run breathless, entreating, sank half-kneeling through his entire body. A warm at- on the floor. mosphere, in vigorating and full of deli- “ Your skeleton will be interesting to cious odor, surrounded him. It appeared science when you are dead, Mr. Solon,” as if invisible bandages were twisted all hissed the Wondersmith. “But before about his limbs, giving him a strange I have the pleasure of reducing you to strength. His sinking legs straightened. an anatomy, which I will assuredly do, I His powerless arms were braced. As- wish to compliment you on your power tonished, he glanced round for an in- of penetration, or sources of information ; stant, and beheld Zonéla, with a world for I know not if you have derived your of love burning in her large lambent knowledge from your own mental reeyes, wreathing her round white arms search or the efforts of others. You about his humped shoulders. Then the are perfectly correct in your statement, poet knew the great sustaining power of that this charming young person, who love. Solon reared himself boldly. day after day parades the streets with a

" Sneer at my poor form,” he cried, in barrel-organ and a monkey,—the last strong vibrating tones, flinging out one unhappily indisposed at present, -listenlong arm and one thin finger at the Won- ing to the degrading jokes of ribald boys dersmith, as if he would have impaled and depraved men,- you are quite corhim like a beetle. “ Humiliate me, if you rect, Sir, in stating that she is not my can. I care not. You are a wretch, and daughter. On the contrary, she is the I am honest and pure. This girl is not daughter of an Hungarian nobleman who your daughter. You are like one of had the misfortune to incur my displeasthose demons in the fairy tales that held I had a son, crooked spawn of a beauty and purity locked in infernal Christian!-a

- a son, not like you, cankered, spells. I do not fear you, Herr Hippe. gnarled stump of life that you are,- but There are stories abroad about you in a youth tall and fair and noble in aspect, the neighborhood, and when you pass, as became a child of one whose lineage people say that they feel evil and blight makes Pharaoh modern,-a youth whose hovering over their thresholds. You foot in the dance was as swift and beautipersecute this girl. You are her tyrant. ful to look at as the golden sandals of You hate her. I am a cripple. Prov- the sun when he dances upon the sea in idence has cast this lump upon my summer. This youth was virtuous and shoulders. But that is nothing. The good; and being of good race, and dwellcamel, that is the salvation of the chil- ing in a country where his rank, gypsy dren of the desert, has been given his as he was, was recognized, he mixed. hump in order that he might bear his with the proudest of the land. One day human burden better. This girl, who is he fell in with this accursed Hungarian, homeless as the Arab, is my appointed load a fierce drinker of that Devil's blood callin life, and, please God, I will carry her on ed brandy. My child until that hour this back, hunched though it may be. I had avoided this bane of our race. Genhave come to see her, because I love her,- erous wine he drank, because the soul of because she loves me. You have no claim the sun our ancestor palpitated in its on her; so I will take her from you." purple waves. But brandy, which is fall

Quick as lightning, the Wondersmith en and accursed wine, as devils are fallen had stridden a few paces, and grasped and accursed angels, had never crossed the poor cripple, who was yet quivering his lips, until in an evil hour he was sewith the departing thunder of his pas- duced by this Christian hog, and from sion. He seized him in his bony, muscu- that day forth his life was one fiery delar grasp, as he would have seized a pup- bauch, which set only in the black waves pet, and held him at arm's length gasp- of death. I vowed vengeance on the ing and powerless; while Zonela, pale, destroyer of my child, and I kept my VOL. IV.

30

word. I have destroyed his child, -not

VI. compassed her death, but blighted her life, steeped her in misery and poverty,

THE POISONING OF THE SWORDS. and now, thanks to the thousand devils, It was New Year's Eve, and eleven I have discovered a new torture for her o'clock at night. All over this great land, heart. She thought to solace her life with and in every great city in the land, curly a love-episode! Sweet little epicure that heads were lying on white pillows, dreamshe was! She shall have her little crook- ing of the coming of the generous Santa ed lover, shan't she ? Oh, yes! She shall Claus. Innumerable stockings hung by have hiin, cold and stark and livid, with countless bedsides. Visions of beautithat great, black, heavy hunch, which no ful toys, passing in splendid pageantry back, however broad, can bear, Death, through myriads of dimly lit dormitories, sitting between his shoulders !” made millions of little hearts palpitate in

There was something so awful and de- sleep. Ah! what heavenly toys those moniac in this entire speech and the were that the children of this soil beheld, manner in which it was delivered, that it that mystic night, in their dreams! Paintpetrified Zonela into a mere inanimate ed cars with orchestral wheels, making figure, whose eyes seemed unalterably fix- music more delicious than the roll of ed on the fierce, cruel face of the Won- planets. Agile men of cylindrical figure, dersmith. As for Solon, he was paralyzed who sprang unexpectedly out of meekin the grasp of his foe. He heard, but looking boxes, with a supernatural fiercecould not reply. His large eyes, dilated ness in their crimson cheeks and furwith horror to far beyond their ordinary whiskers. Herds of marvellous sheep, size, expressed unutterable agony. with fleeces as impossible as the one that

The last sentence had hardly been Jason sailed after; animals entirely inhissed out by the gypsy when he took different to grass and water and “ rot" from his pocket a long, thin coil of whip- and “ ticks.” Horses spotted with an ascord, which he entangled in a compli- tounding regularity, and furnished with cated mesh around the cripple’s body. the most ingenious methods of locomo It was not the ordinary binding of a tion. Slender foreigners, attired in painprisoner. The slender lash passed and fully short tunics, whose existence passrepassed in a thousand intricate folds ed in continually turning heels over head over the powerless limbs of the poor down a steep flight of steps, at the bothumpback. When the operation was tom of which they lay in an exhausted completed, he looked as if he had been condition with dislocated limbs, until they sewed from head to foot in some singu- were restored to their former elevation, larly ingenious species of network. when they went at it again as if noth

“ Now, my pretty lop-sided little lov- ing had happened. Stately swans, that er," laughed Herr lippe, flinging Solon seemed to have a touch of the ostrich in over his shoulder, as a fisherman might them; for they swam continually after fling a net-full of fish, “ we will proceed a piece of iron which was held before to put you into your little cage until them, as if consumed with a ferruginous your little coffin is quite ready. Mean- hunger. Whole farm-yards of roosters, while we will lock up your darling beggar- whose tails curled the wrong way,-a girl to mourn over your untimely end.” slight defect, that was, however, amply

So saying, he stepped from the room atoned for by the size and brilliancy of with his captive, and securely locked the their scarlet combs, which, it would apdoor behind him.

pear, Providence had intended for penWhen he had disappeared, the frozen wipers. Pears, that, when applied to Zonéla thawed, and with a shriek of an- youthful lips, gave forth sweet and inspirguish flung herself on the inanimate body ing sounds. Regiments of soldiers, that of Furbelow.

performed neat, but limited evolutions on cross-jointed contractile battle-fields. Allzar," said the old fortune-teller and midthese things, idealized, transfigured, and wife, Madame Filomel, nodding in her illuminated by the powers and atmos- chair as she swallowed her wine in great phere and colored lamps of Dreamland, gulps. “Where did you obtain it?” did the millions of dear sleeping children " It is made,” said the Wondersmith, behold, the night of the New Year's Eve swallowing another great goblet-full of of which I speak.

wine ere he replied, “in the wild woods It was on this night, when Time was of Guiana, in silence and in mystery. preparing to shed his skin and come out But one tribe of Indians, the Macoushi young and golden and glossy as ever, - Indians, know the secret. It is simmerwhen, in the vast chambers of the uni- ed over fires built of strange woods, and verse, silent and infallible preparations the maker of it dies in the making. The were making for the wonderful birth of place, for a mile around the spot where the coming year, - when mystic dews it is fabricated, is shunned as accursed. were secreted for his baptism, and mys- Devils hover over the pot in which it tic instruments were tuned in space to stews; and the birds of the air, scenting welcome him, - it was at this holy and the smallest breath of its vapor from far solemn hour that the Wondersmith and away, drop to earth with paralyzed wings, his three gypsy companions sat in close cold and dead.” conclave in the little parlor before men- “ It kills, then, fast?" asked Kerplonne, tioned.

the artificial eyemaker, — his own eyes There was a fire roaring in the grate. gleaming, under the influence of the wine, On a table, nearly in the centre of the with a sinister lustre, as if they had been room, stood a huge decanter of Port wine, fresh from the factory, and were yet unthat glowed in the blaze which lit the tarnished by use. chamber like a flask of crimson fire. On “ Kills ? " echoed the Wondersmith, every side, piled in heaps, inanimate, but derisively; “it is swifter than thunderscowling with the same old wondrous bolts, stronger than lightning. But you scowl, lay myriads of the manikins, all shall see it proved before we let forth our clutching in their wooden bands their army on the city accursed. You shall tiny weapons. The Wondersmith held

see a wretch die, as if smitten by a fallin one hand a small silver bowl filled with ing fragment of the sun.” a green, glutinous substance, which he “ What? Do you mean Solon ? " askwas delicately applying, with the aid of a ed Oaksmith and the fortune-teller tocamel's-hair brush, to the tips of tiny gether. swords and daggers. A horrible smile “Ah! you mean the young man who wandered over his sallow face,-a smile makes the commerce with books ? " echoas unwholesome in appearance as the ed Kerplonne. “It is well. His agonies sickly light that plays above reeking will instruct us.” graveyards.

“ Yes! Solon,” answered Hippe, with “Let us drink great draughts, broth- a savage accent. I hate him, and he ers,” he cried, leaving off his strange shall die this horrid death. Ah! how the anointment for a while, to lift a great little fellows will leap upon him, when glass, filled with sparkling liquor, to his I bring him in, bound and helpless, and lips. " Let us drink to our approaching give their beautif icked souls to them ! triumph. Let us drink to the great poi- How they will pierce him in ten thousand son, Macousha. Subtle seed of Death,- spots with their poisoned weapons, until swift hurricane that sweeps away Life,- his skin turns blue and violet and crimson, vast hammer that crushes brain and heart and his form swells with the venom, and artery with its resistless weight,—I until his hump is lost in shapeless flesh! drink to it."

He hears what I say, every word of it. " It is a noble decoction, Duke Baltha- He is in the closet next door, and is listening. How comfortable he feels! How narrative, and let it slide again into her the sweat of terror rolls on his brow! pocket, — let it slide again, but it did How he tries to loosen his bonds, and not completely regain its former place. curses all earth and heaven when he finds Caught by some accident, it hung half that he cannot ! Ho! ho! Handsome lov- out, swaying over the edge of the pocket, er of Zonéla, will she kiss you when you as the fat midwife rolled backwards and are livid and swollen? Brothers, let us forwards in her drunken efforts at equidrink again,-drink always. Here, Oak- librium. smith, take these brushes,- and you, Fil- “ All right,” said Herr Hippe, “peromel, --- and finish the anointing of these fectly right! Let's drink.” swords. This wine is grand. This poi- He reached out his hand for his glass, son is grand. It is fine to have good wine and, with a dull sigh, dropped on the tato drink, and good poison to kill with ; is ble, in the instantaneous slumber of init not ?" and, with flushed face and roll- toxication. Oaksmith soon fell back in ing eyes, the Wondersmith continued to his chair, breathing heavily. Kerplonne drink and use his brush alternately. followed. And the heavy, stertorous

The others hastened to follow his ex- breathing of Filomel told that she slumample. It was a horrible scene : those bered also; but still her chair retained its four wicked faces ; those myriads of ti- rocking motion, and still the bottle of souls ny faces, just as wicked; the certain un- balanced itself on the edge of her pocket. earthly air that pervaded the apartment; the red, unwholesome glare cast by the

VII. fire; the wild and reckless way in which the weird company drank the red-illum

LET LOOSE. ined wine.

SURE enough, Solon heard every word The anointing of the swords went on of the fiendish talk of the Wondersmith. rapidly, and the wine went as rapidly For how many days he had been shut down the throats of the four poisoners. up, bound in the terrible net, in that Their faces grew more and more inflamed dark closet, he did not know; but now each instant; their eyes shone like roll- he felt that his last hour was come. His ing fireballs ; their hair was moist and little strength was completely worn out dishevelled. The old fortune-teller rock- in efforts to disentangle himself. Once ed to and fro in her chair, like those leg- a day a door opened, and Herr Hippe less plaster figures that sway upon con- placed a crust of bread and a cup of vex loaded bottoms. All four began to water within his reach. On this meagre mutter incoherent sentences, and babble fare he had subsisted. It was a hard life; unintelligible wickednesses. Still the but, bad as it was, it was better than the anointing of the swords went on. horrible death that menaced him. His

“ I see the faces of millions of young brain reeled with terror at the prospect corpses,” babbled Herr Hippe, gazing, of it. Then, where was Zonela? Why with swimming eyes, into the silver bowl did she not come to his rescue ? But she that contained the Macousha poison, — was, perhaps, dead. The darkness, too, "all young, all Christians -and the little appalled him. A faint light, when the fellows dancing, dancing, and stabbing, moon was bright, came at night through stabbing. Filomel, Filomel, I say!” a chink far up in the wall; and the only

“ Well, Grand Duke," snored the old other hole in the chamber was an aperwoman, giving a violent lurch.

ture through which, at some former time, “ Where's the bottle of souls ?a stove-pipe had been passed. Even if

“ In my right-hand pocket, Herr Hip- he were free, there would have been pe"; and she felt, so as to assure herself small hope of escape; but, laced as it that it was there. She half drew out the were in a network of steel, what was to black bottle, before described in this be done? He groaned and writhed upon

« AnteriorContinua »