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the novel thelma


THELMA
BYMARIECORELLI
THELMA.
BOOKI.
THELANDOFTHEMIDNIGHTSUN.
CHAPTERI.
“Dreambydreamshotthroughhereyes,andeachOutshonethelastthat
lighted.”—Swinburne.
Midnight,—withoutdarkness,withoutstars!Midnight—andtheunweariedsun
stood,yetvisibleintheheavens,likeavictoriouskingthronedonadaisofroyal
purpleborderedwithgold.Theskyabovehim,—hiscanopy,—gleamedwitha
coldyetlustrousblue,whileacrossitslowlyflittedafewwanderingcloudsof
palestamber,deepening,astheysailedalong,toatawnyorange.Abroadstream
oflightfalling,asitwere,fromthecentreofthemagnificentorb,shot
lengthwiseacrosstheAltenfjord,turningitswaterstoamassofquiveringand
shiftingcolorthatalternatedfrombronzetocopper,—fromcoppertosilverand
azure.Thesurroundinghillsglowedwithawarm,deepviolettint,fleckedhere
andtherewithtouchesofbrightred,asthoughfairieswerelightingtinybonfires
ontheirsummits.Awayinthedistanceahugemassofrockstoodouttoview,its
ruggedlinestransfiguredintoethereallovelinessbyamistyveiloftenderrose

pink,—ahuecuriouslysuggestiveofsomeotherandsmallersunthatmighthave
justset.Absolutesilenceprevailed.Noteventhecryofasea-meworkittiwake
brokethealmostdeathlikestillness,—nobreathofwindstirredarippleonthe
glassywater.Thewholescenemightwellhavebeenthefantasticdreamofsome
imaginativepainter,whoseambitionsoaredbeyondthelimitsofhumanskill.Yet
itwasonlyoneofthosemillionwonderfuleffectsofskyandseawhichare
commoninNorway,especiallyontheAltenfjord,where,thoughbeyondthe
Arcticcircle,theclimateinsummeristhatofanotherItaly,andthelandscapea
livingpoemfairerthanthevisionsofEndymion.
Therewasonesolitarywatcherofthesplendidspectacle.Thiswasamanof
refinedfeaturesandaristocraticappearance,who,recliningonalargerugof


skinswhichhehadthrowndownontheshoreforthatpurpose,wasgazingatthe
pageantofthemidnightsunandallitsstatelysurroundings,withanearnestand
raptexpressioninhisclearhazeleyes.
“Glorious!beyondallexpectation,glorious!”hemurmuredhalfaloud,ashe
consultedhiswatchandsawthatthehandsmarkedexactlytwelveonthedial.“I
believeI’mhavingthebestofit,afterall.EvenifthosefellowsgettheEulalie
intogoodpositiontheywillseenothingfinerthanthis.”
Ashespokeheraisedhisfield-glassandsweptthehorizoninsearchofavessel,
hisownpleasureyacht,—whichhadtakenthreeofhisfriends,attheirspecial
desire,totheoppositeislandofSeiland,—Seiland,risinginweirdmajestythree
thousandfeetabovethesea,andboastingasitschiefglorythegreatpeakof
Jedke,themostnorthernglacierinallthewildNorwegianland.Therewasno
signofareturningsail,andheresumedhisstudyofthesumptuoussky,the
colorsofwhichwerenowdeepeningandburningwithincreasinglustre,while
anarrayofcloudsofthedeepestpurplehue,sweptgorgeouslytogetherbeneath
thesunasthoughtoformhisfootstool.
“OnemightimaginethatthetrumpoftheResurrectionhadsounded,andthatall
thisaerialpomp,—thisstrangesilence,—wasjustthepause,thesupreme
momentbeforetheangelsdescended,”hemused,withahalf-smileathisown
fancy,forthoughsomethingofapoetatheart,hewasmuchmoreofacynic.He
wastoodeeplyimbuedwithmodernfashionableatheismtothinkseriouslyabout
angelsorResurrectiontrumps,buttherewasacertainloveofmysticismand
romanceinhisnature,whichnotevenhisOxfordexperiencesandthechilly
dullnessofEnglishmaterialismhadbeenabletoeradicate.Andtherewas
somethingimpressiveinthesightofthemajesticorbholdingsuchimperialrevel
atmidnight,—somethingalmostunearthlyinthelightandlifeoftheheavens,as
comparedwiththereferentialandseeminglyworshippingsilenceoftheearth,—


that,forafewmoments,awedhimintoasenseofthespiritualandunseen.
Mythicalpassagesfromthepoetshelovedcameintohismemory,andstray
fragmentsofoldsongsandballadshehadknowninhischildhoodreturnedto
himwithhauntingpersistence.Itwas,forhim,oneofthosesuddenhaltsinlife
whichweallexperience,—aninstant,—whentimeandtheworldseemtostand
still,asthoughtopermituseasybreathing;abriefspace,—inwhichweare
allowedtostopandwonderawhileatthestrangeunaccountableforcewithinus,
thatenablesustostandwithsuchcalm,smilingaudacity,onoursmallpin’s
pointofthepresent,betweenthewidedarkgapsofpastandfuture;asmallhush,


—inwhichthegiganticenginesoftheuniverseappeartorevolvenomore,and
theimmortalSoulofmanitselfissubjectedandover-ruledbysupremeand
eternalThought.Driftingawayonthosedelicateimperceptiblelinesthatlie
betweenrealityanddreamland,thewatcherofthemidnightsungavehimselfup
tothehalfpainful,halfdelicioussenseofbeingdrawnin,absorbed,andlostin
infiniteimaginings,whentheintensestillnessaroundhimwasbrokenbythe
soundofavoicesinging,afull,richcontralto,thatrangthroughtheairwiththe
clearnessofagoldenbell.Thesweetliquidnoteswerethoseofanold
Norwegianmountainmelody,oneofthosewildlypatheticFOLK-SONGSthat
seemtoholdallthesorrow,wonder,wistfulness,andindescribableyearningofa
hearttoofullforotherspeechthanmusic.Hestartedtohisfeetandlooked
aroundhimforthesinger.Therewasnoonevisible.Theamberstreaksinthe
skywereleapingintocrimsonflame;theFjordglowedliketheburninglakeof
Dante’svision;onesolitarysea-gullwingeditsgraceful,noiselessflightfar
above,itswhitepinionsshimmeringlikejewelsasitcrossedtheradianceofthe
heavens.Othersignofanimallifetherewasnone.Stillthehiddenvoicerippled
oninastreamofmelody,andthelistenerstoodamazedandenchantedatthe
roundnessanddistinctnessofeverynotethatfellfromthelipsoftheunseen
vocalist.
“Awoman’svoice,”hethought;“butwhereisthewoman?”
Puzzled,helookedtotherightandleft,thenouttotheshiningFjord,half
expectingtoseesomefisher-maidenrowingalong,andsingingassherowed,but
therewasnosignofanylivingcreature.Whilehewaited,thevoicesuddenly
ceased,andthesongwasreplacedbythesharpgratingofakeelonthebeach.
Turninginthedirectionofthissound,heperceivedaboatbeingpushedoutby
invisiblehandstowardsthewater’sedgefromarockycave,thatjutteduponthe
Fjord,and,fullofcuriosity,hesteppedtowardsthearchedentrance,when,—all
suddenlyandunexpectedly,—agirlsprangoutfromthedarkinterior,and
standingerectinherboat,facedtheintruder.Agirlofaboutnineteen,she
seemed,tallerthanmostwomen,—withamagnificentuncoveredmassofhair,
thecolorofthemidnightsunshine,tumbledoverhershoulders,andflashing
againstherflushedcheeksanddazzlinglyfairskin.Herdeepblueeyeshadan
astonishedandcertainlyindignantexpressioninthem,whilehe,utterly
unpreparedforsuchavisionoflovelinessatsuchatimeandinsuchaplace,was
foramomenttakenabackandatalossforwords.Recoveringhishabitualselfpossessionquickly,however,heraisedhishat,and,pointingtotheboat,which
wasmorethanhalfwayoutofthecavern,saidsimply—


“MayIassistyou?”
Shewassilent,eyeinghimwithakeenglancewhichhadsomethinginitof
disfavorandsuspicion.
“Isupposeshedoesn’tunderstandEnglish,”hethought,“andIcan’tspeaka
wordofNorwegian.Imusttalkbysigns.”
Andforthwithhewentthroughalaboredpantomimeofgesture,sufficiently
ludicrousinitself,yetatthesametimeexpressiveofhismeaning.Thegirlbroke
intoalaugh—alaughofsweetamusementwhichbroughtathousandnew
sparklesoflightintoherlovelyeyes.
“Thatisverywelldone,”sheobservedgraciously,speakingEnglishwith
somethingofaforeignaccent.“EventheLappswouldunderstandyou,andthey
areverystupid,poorthings!”
Halfvexedbyherlaughter,andfeelingthathewassomehowanobjectof
ridiculetothistall,bright-hairedmaiden,heceasedhispantomimicgestures
abruptlyandstoodlookingatherwithaslightflushofembarrassmentonhis
features.
“Iknowyourlanguage,”sheresumedquietly,afterabriefpause,inwhichshe
hadapparentlyconsideredthestranger’sappearanceandgeneralbearing.“Itwas
rudeofmenottohaveansweredyouatonce.Youcanhelpmeifyouwill.The
keelhascaughtamongthepebbles,butwecaneasilymoveitbetweenus.”And,
jumpinglightlyoutofherboat,shegraspeditsedgefirmlywithherstrongwhite
hands,exclaiminggaily,asshedidso,“Push!”
Thusadjured,helostnotimeincomplyingwithherrequest,and,usinghisgreat
strengthandmuscularforcetogoodpurpose,thelightlittlecraftwassoonwell
inthewater,swayingtoandfroasthoughwithimpatiencetobegone.Thegirl
sprangtoherseat,discardinghiseagerlyprofferedassistance,and,takingboth
oars,laidthemintheirrespectiverowlocks,andseemedabouttostart,whenshe
pausedandaskedabruptly—
“Areyouasailor?”
Hesmiled.“NotI!DoIremindyouofone?”


“Youarestrong,andyoumanageaboatasthoughyouwereaccustomedtothe
work.Alsoyoulookasifyouhadbeenatsea.”
“Rightlyguessed!”hereplied,stillsmiling;“IcertainlyHAVEbeenatsea;I
havebeencoastingallaboutyourlovelyland.MyyachtwentacrosstoSeiland
thisafternoon.”
Sheregardedhimmoreintently,andobserved,withthecriticaleyeofawoman,
therefinedtastedisplayedinhisdress,fromtheverycutofhisloosetravelling
coat,totheluxuriousrugoffinefox-shins,thatlaysocarelesslycastonthe
shoreatalittledistancefromhim.Thenshegaveagestureofhauteurandhalfcontempt.
“Youhaveayacht?Oh!thenyouareagentleman.Youdonothingforyour
living?”
“Nothing,indeed!”andheshruggedhisshoulderswithamingledairof
wearinessandself-pity,“exceptonething—Ilive!”
“Isthathardwork?”sheinquiredwonderingly.
“Very.”
Theyweresilentthen,andthegirl’sfacegrewseriousassherestedonheroars,
andstillsurveyedhimwithastraight,candidgaze,that,thoughearnestand
penetrating,hadnothingofboldnessinit.Itwasthelookofoneinwhosepast
therewerenosecrets—thelookofachildwhoissatisfiedwiththepresentand
takesnothoughtforthefuture.Fewwomenlooksoaftertheyhaveenteredtheir
teens.Socialartifice,affectation,andtheinsatiatevanitythatmodernlife
encouragesinthefemininenature—allthesethingssoondoawaywiththe
pellucidclearnessandsteadfastnessoftheeye—thebeautiful,true,untamed
expression,which,thoughsorare,is,whenseeninfinitelymorebewitchingthan
allthebrightarrowsofcoquetryandsparklinginvitationthatflashfromthe
glancesofwell-bredsocietydames,whohavetakencaretoeducatetheireyesif
nottheirhearts.Thisgirlwasevidentlynottrainedproperly;hadshebeenso,
shewouldhavedroppedacurtainoverthosewide,brightwindowsofhersoul;
shewouldhaverememberedthatshewasalonewithastrangemanatmidnight
—atmidnight,thoughthesunshone;shewouldhavesimperedandfeigned
embarrassment,evenifshecouldnotfeelit.Asithappened,shedidnothingof
thekind,onlyherexpressionsoftenedandbecamemorewistfulandearnest,and


whenshespokeagainhervoicewasmellowwithasuavegentleness,thathad
somethinginitofcompassion.
“Ifyoudonotlovelifeitself,”shesaid,“youlovethebeautifulthingsoflife,do
younot?Seeyonder!Thereiswhatwecallthemeetingofnightandmorning.
Oneisgladtobealiveatsuchamoment.Lookquickly!Thelightsoonfades.”
Shepointedtowardstheeast.Hercompaniongazedinthatdirection,anduttered
anexclamation,—almostashout,—ofwonderandadmiration.Withinthespace
ofthepastfewminutestheaspectoftheheavenshadcompletelychanged.The
burningscarletandviolethueshadallmeltedintoatransparentyetbrilliant
shadeofpalemauve,—asdelicateastheinnertintofalilacblossom,—and
acrossthisstretchedtwowing-shapedgossamercloudsofwaterygreen,fringed
withsoftprimrose.Betweenthesecloud-wings,asopalineinlustreasthoseofa
dragon-fly,thefaceofthesunshonelikeashieldofpolishedgold,whilehis
rays,piercingspear-likethroughthevariedtintsofemerald,broughtan
unearthlyradianceoverthelandscape—alustreasthoughthemoonwere,in
somestrangeway,battlingwiththesunformasteryoverthevisibleuniverse
though,lookingsouthward,shecoulddimlybeperceived,theghostofherself—
apoor,fainting,pallidgoddess,—aperishingDiana.
Bringinghisglancedownfromtheskies,theyoungmanturnedittothefaceof
themaidennearhim,andwasstartledathermarvellousbeauty—beautynow
heightenedbytheeffectofthechangefulcolorsthatplayedaroundher.Thevery
boatinwhichshesatglitteredwithabronze-like,metallicbrightnessasit
heavedgentlytoandfroonthesilverygreenwater;themidnightsunshine
bathedthefallinggloryofherlonghair,tilleachthicktress,eachclusteringcurl,
appearedtoemitanambersparkoflight.Thestrange,weirdeffectofthesky
seemedtohavestolenintohereyes,makingthemshinewithwitch-like
brilliancy,—thevariedradianceflashingaboutherbroughtintostrongreliefthe
purenessofherprofile,drawingaswithafinepenciltheoutlinesofhernoble
forehead,sweetmouth,androundedchin.Ittouchedthescarletofherbodice,
andbrightenedthequaintoldsilverclaspssheworeatherwaistandthroat,till
sheseemednolongeranearthlybeing,butmorelikesomefairwonderingsprite
fromthelegendaryNorsekingdomofAlfheim,the“abodeoftheLuminous
Genii.”
Shewasgazingupwards,—heavenwards,—andherexpressionwasoneofrapt
andalmostdevotionalintensity.Thussheremainedforsomemoments,


motionlessasthepictureofanexpectantangelpaintedbyRaffaeleorCorreggio;
thenreluctantlyandwithadeepsighsheturnedhereyestowardsearthagain.In
sodoingshemetthefixedandtoovisiblyadmiringgazeofhercompanion.She
started,andawaveofvividcolorflushedhercheeks.Quicklyrecoveringher
serenity,however,shesalutedhimslightly,and,movingheroarsinunison,was
onthepointofdeparture.
Stirredbyanimpulsehecouldnotresist,helaidonehanddetaininglyontherim
ofherboat.
“Areyougoingnow?”heasked.
Sheraisedhereyebrowsinsomelittlesurpriseandsmiled.
“Going?”sherepeated.“Why,yes.Ishallbelateingettinghomeasitis.”
“Stopamoment,”hesaideagerly,feelingthathecouldnotletthisbeautiful
creatureleavehimasutterlyasamidsummernight’sdreamwithoutsomeclue
astoheroriginanddestination.“Willyounottellmeyourname?”
Shedrewherselferectwithalookofindignation.
“Sir,Idonotknowyou.ThemaidensofNorwaydonotgivetheirnamesto
strangers.”
“Pardonme,”hereplied,somewhatabashed.“Imeannooffense.Wehave
watchedthemidnightsuntogether,and—and—Ithought—”
Hepaused,feelingveryfoolish,andunabletoconcludehissentence.
Shelookedathimdemurelyfromunderherlong,curlinglashes.
“YouwilloftenfindapeasantgirlontheshoresoftheAltenfjordwatchingthe
midnightsunatthesametimeasyourself,”shesaid,andtherewasasuspicion
oflaughterinhervoice.“Itisnotunusual.Itisnotevennecessarythatyou
shouldremembersolittleathing.”
“Necessaryornot,Ishallneverforgetit,”hesaidwithsuddenimpetuosity.“You
arenopeasant!Come;ifIgiveyoumynamewillyoustilldenymeyours?”


Herdelicatebrowsdrewtogetherinafrownofhaughtyanddecidedrefusal.“No
namespleasemyearssavethosethatarefamiliar,”shesaid,withintense
coldness.“Weshallnotmeetagain.Farewell!”
Andwithoutfurtherwordorlook,sheleanedgracefullytotheoars,andpulling
withalong,steady,resolutestroke,thelittleboatdartedawayaslightlyand
swiftlyasaskimmingswallowoutontheshimmeringwater,hestoodgazing
afterittillitbecameadistantspecksparklinglikeadiamondinthelightofsky
andwave,andwhenhecouldnomorewatchitwithunassistedeyes,hetookup
hisfieldglassandfolloweditscourseattentively.Hesawitcuttingalongas
straightlyasanarrow,thensuddenlyitdippedroundtothewestward,apparently
makingstraightforsomeshelvingrocks,thatprojectedfarintotheFjord.It
reachedthem;itgrewlessandless—itdisappeared.Atthesametimethelustre
oftheheavensgavewaytoapalepearl-likeuniformgreytint,thatstretchedfar
andwide,foldingupasinamantlealltheregalluxuryoftheSun-king’spalace.
Thesubtleodoranddelicatechillofthecomingdawnstolefreshlyacrossthe
water.Alighthazeroseandobscuredtheoppositeislands.Somethingofthe
tendermelancholyofautumn,thoughitwaslateJune,toneddowntheaspectof
thebeforebrilliantlandscape.Alarkroseswiftlyfromitsnestinanadjacent
meadow,and,soaringhigherandhigher,pouredfromitstinythroatacascadeof
deliciousmelody.Themidnightsunnolongershoneatmidnight;hisfacesmiled
withasoberedserenitythroughthefaintearlymistsofapproachingmorning.
CHAPTERII.
“Viensdonc—jetechanteraideschansonsquelesespritsdescimetieresm’ont
apprises!”
MATURIN
“Baffled!”heexclaimed,withaslightvexedlaugh,astheboatvanishedfromhis
sight.“Byawoman,too!Whowouldhavethoughtit?”
Whowouldhavethoughtit,indeed!SirPhilipBruce-Errington,Baronet,the
wealthyanddesirablepartiforwhommanymatch-makingmothershadstood
knee-deepinthechillythoughsparklingwatersofsociety,ardentlyplyingrod
andlinewithpatientpersistence,vainlyhopingtosecurehimasahusbandfor
oneoftheirhighlyproperandpassionlessdaughters,—he,theadmired,longsought-after“eligible,”wassuddenlyrebuffed,flouted—bywhom?Astray


princess,orapeasant.Hevaguelywondered,ashelitacigarandstrolledupand
downontheshore,meditating,withapuzzled,almostannoyedexpressiononhis
handsomefeatures.Hewasnotaccustomedtoslightsofanykind,however
trifling;hispositionbeingcommandingandenviableenoughtoattractflattery
andfriendshipfrommostpeople.Hewastheonlysonofabaronetasrenowned
foreccentricityasforwealth.Hehadbeenthespoiltdarlingofhismother;and
now,bothhisparentsbeingdead,hewasaloneintheworld,heirtohisfather’s
revenues,andentiremasterofhisownactions.Andaspartofthepenaltyhehad
topayforbeingrichandgood-lookingtoboot,hewassomuchrunafterby
womenthathefoundithardtounderstandthehaughtyindifferencewithwhich
hehadjustbeentreatedbyoneofthemostfair,ifnotthefairestofhersex.He
waspiqued,andhisamourproprewaswounded.
“I’msuremyquestionwasharmlessenough,”hemused,halfcrossly,“She
mighthaveansweredit.”
HeglancedoutimpatientlyovertheFjord.Therewasnosignofhisreturning
yachtasyet.
“Whatatimethosefellowsare!”hesaidtohimself.“Ifthepilotwerenoton
board,IshouldbegintothinktheyhadruntheEulalieaground.”
Hefinishedhiscigarandthrewtheendofitintothewater;thenhestood
moodilywatchingtheripplesastheyrolledsoftlyupandcaressedtheshining
brownshoreathisfeet,thinkingallthewhileofthatstrangegirl,sowonderfully
lovelyinfaceandform,sogracefulandproudofbearing,withhergreatblue
eyesandmassesofduskygoldhair.
Hismeetingwithherwasasortofadventureinitsway—thefirstofthekindhe
hadhadforsometime.Hewassubjecttofitsofwearinessorcaprice,anditwas
inoneofthesethathehadsuddenlyleftLondonintheheightoftheseason,and
hadstartedforNorwayonayachtingcruisewiththreechosencompanions,one
ofwhom,GeorgeLorimer,onceanOxfordfellow-student,wasnowhis
“chum”—thePythiastohisDamon,thefidusAchatesofhisclosestconfidence.
Throughtheunexpectedwakeningupofenergyinthelatteryounggentleman,
whowasusuallyofamostsleepyandindolentdisposition,hehappenedtobe
quitealoneonthisparticularoccasion,though,asageneralrule,hewas
accompaniedinhisramblesbyoneifnotallthreeofhisfriends.Uttersolitude
waswithhimarareoccurrence,andhispresentexperienceofithadchancedin


thiswise.Lorimerthelanguid,Lorimerthelazy,Lorimerwhohadremained
blandlyunmovedanddrowsythroughallthemagnificentpanoramaofthe
Norwegiancoast,includingtheSogneFjordandthetopplingpeaksofthe
Justedalglaciers;Lorimerwhohadsleptpeacefullyinahammockondeck,even
whiletheyachtwaspassingundertheloomingsplendorsofMelsnipa;Lorimer,
nowthathehadarrivedattheAltonFjord,thenatitsloveliestinthefullgloryof
thecontinuoussunshine,developedanewturnofmind,andbegantoshow
suddenandabnormalinterestinthescenery.Inthishumorheexpressedhis
desireto“takeasight”ofthemidnightsunfromtheislandofSeiland,andalso
declaredhisresolvetotrythenearlyimpossibleascentofthegreatJedkeglacier.
Erringtonlaughedattheidea.“Don’ttellme,”hesaid,“thatyouaregoinginfor
climbing.AnddoyousupposeIbelievethatyouareinterested—youofall
people—intheheavenlybodies?”
“Whynot?”askedLorimer,withacandidsmile.“I’mnotintheleastinterested
inearthlybodies,exceptmyown.Thesun’sajollyfellow.Isympathizewith
himinhispresentcondition.He’sinhiscups—that’swhat’sthematter—andhe
can’tbepersuadedtogotobed.Iknowhisfeelingsperfectly;andIwantto
surveyhisgloriouslyinebriatedfacefromanotherpointofview.Don’tlaugh,
Phil;I’minearnest!AndIreallyhavequiteacuriositytotrymyskillinamateur
mountaineering.Jedke’stheveryplaceforafirsteffort.Itoffersdifficulties,
and”—thiswithaslightyawn—“Iliketosurmountdifficulties;it’srather
amusing.”
Hismindwassoevidentlysetupontheexcursion,thatSirPhilipmadeno
attempttodissuadehimfromit,butexcusedhimselffromaccompanyingthe
partyonthepleathathewantedtofinishasketchhehadrecentlybegun.Sothat
whentheEulaliegotuphersteam,weighedanchor,andsweptgracefullyaway
towardsthecoastoftheadjacentislands,herownerwasleft,athisdesire,tothe
seclusionofaquietnookontheshoreoftheAltenfjord,wherehesucceededin
makingaboldandvividpictureofthescenebeforehim.Thecolorsofthesky
had,however,defiedhispalette,andafteroneortwofutileattemptstotransfer
tohiscanvasafewofthegorgeoustintsthatillumedthelandscape,hegaveup
thetaskindespair,andresignedhimselftothedolcefarnienteofabsolute
enjoyment.Fromhishalfpleasing,halfmelancholyreveriethevoiceofthe
unknownmaidenhadstartledhim,andnow,—nowshehadlefthimtoresumeit
ifhechose,—lefthim,inchilldispleasure,withacoldyetbrilliantflashof
somethinglikescorninherwonderfuleyes.


Sinceherdeparturethescenery,insomeunaccountableway,seemedless
attractivetohim,thesongsofthebirds,whowereallawake,felloninattentive
ears;hewashauntedbyherfaceandvoice,andhewas,moreover,alittleoutof
humorwithhimselfforhavingbeensuchablundererastogiveheroffenseand
thusleaveanunfavorableimpressiononhermind.
“IsupposeIWASrude,”heconsideredafterawhile.“Sheseemedtothinkso,at
anyrate.ByJove!whatacrushinglookshegaveme!Apeasant?Notshe!Ifshe
hadsaidshewasanempressIshouldn’thavebeenmuchsurprised.Butamere
commonpeasant,withthatregalfigureandthosewhitehands!Idon’tbelieveit.
Perhapsourpilot,Valdemar,knowswhosheis;Imustaskhim.”
Allatoncehebethoughthimselfofthecavewhenceshehademerged.Itwas
closeathand—anaturalgrotto,archedandapparentlylofty.Heresolvedto
exploreit.Glancingathiswatchhesawitwasnotyetoneo’clockinthe
morning,yetthevoiceofthecuckoocalledshrillyfromtheneighboringhills,
andacirclinggroupofswallowsflittedaroundhim,theirlovelywingsglistening
likejewelsinthewarmlightoftheever-wakefulsun.Goingtotheentranceof
thecave,helookedin.Itwasformedofroughrock,hewnoutbythesilentwork
ofthewater,anditsfloorwasstrewnthickwithloosepebblesandpolished
stones.Enteringit,hewasabletowalkuprightforsomefewpaces,then
suddenlyitseemedtoshrinkinsizeandtobecomedarker.Thelightfromthe
openinggraduallynarrowedintoaslenderstreamtoosmallforhimtosee
clearlywherehewasgoing,thereuponhestruckafusee.Atfirsthecould
observenosignofhumanhabitation,notevenarope,orchain,orhook,to
intimatethatitwasacustomaryshelterforaboat.Thefuseewentoutquickly,
andhelitanother.Lookingmorecarefullyandcloselyabouthim,heperceived
onaprojectingshelfofrock,asmallantiquelamp,Etruscaninshape,madeof
ironandwroughtwithcuriousletters.Therewasoilinit,andahalf-burntwick;
ithadevidentlybeenrecentlyused.Heavailedhimselfatonceofthisuseful
adjuncttohisexplorations,andlightingit,wasablebytheclearandsteady
flameitemitted,toseeeverythingverydistinctly.Rightbeforehimwasan
unevenflightofstepsleadingdowntoacloseddoor.
Hepausedandlistenedattentively.Therewasnosoundbuttheslowlappingof
thewaterneartheentrance;within,thethicknessofthecavernwallsshutoutthe
gaycarollingofthebirds,andallthecheerfulnoisesofawakeningnature.
Silence,chillness,andpartialobscurityaredepressinginfluences,andthewarm
bloodflowingthroughhisveins,ranatriflemoreslowlyandcoldlyashefeltthe


sortofuncomfortableeeriesensationwhichisexperiencedbythejolliestand
mostcarelesstraveller,whenhefirstgoesdowntothecatacombsinRome.A
sortofdamp,earthyshuddercreepsthroughthesystem,andadrearyfeelingof
generalhopelessnessbenumbsthefaculties;amorbidstateofbodyandmind
whichisonlytoberemediedbyaspeedyreturntothewarmsunlight,anda
draughtofgenerouswine.
SirPhilip,however,heldtheantiquelampaloft,anddescendedtheclumsysteps
cautiously,countingtwentystepsinall,atthebottomofwhichhefoundhimself
facetofacewiththecloseddoor.Itwasmadeofhardwood,sohardastobe
almostlikeiron.Itwasblackwithage,andcoveredwithquaintcarvingsand
inscriptions;butinthemiddle,standingoutinboldreliefamongthenumberless
Runicfiguresanddevices,waswritteninlargewell-cutletterstheword—
THELMA
“ByJove!”heexclaimed,“Ihaveit!Thegirl’sname,ofcourse!Thisissome
privateretreatofhers,Isuppose,—akindofboudoirlikemyLadyWinsleigh’s,
onlywithratheradifference.”
Andhelaughedaloud,thinkingofthedaintygold-satinhangingsofacertain
roominacertaingreatmansioninParkLane,whereanaristocraticand
handsomelady-leaderoffashionhadasnearlymadelovetohimasitwas
possibleforhertodowithoutlosinghersocialdignity.Hislaughwasechoed
backwithaweirdandhollowsound,asthoughahiddendemonofthecavewere
mockinghim,ademonwhosemerrimentwasintensebutalsohorrible.Heheard
theunpleasantjeeringrepetitionwithakindofcarelessadmiration.
“ThatechowouldmakeafortuneinFaust,ifitcouldbepersuadedtobackup
Mephistopheleswiththattrulyfiendish,‘HAHA!’”hesaid,resuminghis
examinationofthenameonthedoor.Thenanoddfancyseizedhim,andhe
calledloudly—
“Thelma!”
“Thelma!”shoutedtheecho.
“Isthathername?”
“Hername!”repliedtheecho.


“Ithoughtso!”AndPhiliplaughedagain,whiletheecholaughedwildlyin
answer.“JustthesortofnametosuitaNorwegiannymphorgoddess.THELMA
isquaintandappropriate,andasfarasIcanrememberthere’snorhymetoitin
theEnglishlanguage.THELMA!”Andhelingeredonthepronunciationofthe
strangewordwithacurioussensationofpleasure.“Thereissomething
mysteriouslysuggestiveaboutthesoundofit;likeachordofmusicplayed
softlyinthedistance.Now,canIgetthroughthisdoor,Iwonder?”
Hepusheditgently.Ityieldedveryslightly,andhetriedagainandyetagain.
Finally,heputdownthelampandsethisshoulderagainstthewoodenbarrier
withallhisforce.Adullcreakingsoundrewardedhisefforts,andinchbyinch
thehugedooropenedintowhatatfirstappearedimmeasurabledarkness.
Holdingupthelighthelookedin,andutteredasmotheredexclamation.A
suddengustofwindrushedfromtheseathroughthepassageandextinguished
thelamp,leavinghiminprofoundgloom.Nothingdauntedhesoughthisfusee
case;therewasjustoneleftinit.Thishehastilystruck,andshieldingtheglow
carefullywithonehand,relithislamp,andsteppedboldlyintothemysterious
grotto.
Themurmurofthewindandwaves,likespirit-voicesinunison,followedhimas
heentered.Hefoundhimselfinaspaciouswindingcorridor,thathadevidently
beenhollowedoutintherocksandfashionedbyhumanhands.Itsconstruction
wasaftertheancientGothicmethod;butthewonderoftheplaceconsistedinthe
walls,whichwereentirelycoveredwithshells,—shellsofeveryshapeandhue,
—somedelicateasrose-leaves,someroughandprickly,otherspolishedasivory,
somegleamingwithathousandirridescentcolors,otherspurewhiteasthefoam
onhighbillows.Manyofthemwereturnedartisticallyinsuchapositionasto
showtheirinnersidesglisteningwithsofttintsliketheshadesoffinesilkor
satin,—othersglitteredwiththeopalinesheenofmother-o’pearl.Allwere
arrangedinexquisitepatterns,evidentlycopiedfromfixedmathematical
designs,-therewerestars,crescents,roses,sunflowers,hearts,crosseddaggers,
shipsandimplementsofwar,allfaithfullydepictedwithextraordinaryneatness
andcare,asthougheachparticularemblemhadservedsomespecialpurpose.
SirPhilipwalkedalongveryslowly,delightedwithhisdiscovery,and,—pausing
toexamineeachpanelashepassed,—amusedhimselfwithspeculationsastothe
meaningofthisbeautifulcavern,sofancifullyyetskillfullydecorated.
“Someoldplaceofworship,Isuppose,”hethought.“Theremustbemanysuch


hiddenindifferentpartsofNorway.IthasnothingtodowiththeChristianfaith,
foramongallthesedevicesIdon’tperceiveasinglecross.”
Hewasright.Therewerenocrosses;butthereweremanydesignsofthesun—
thesunrising,thesunsetting,thesuninfullglory,withallhisraysembroidered
roundhimintinyshells,someofthemnobiggerthanapin’shead.“Whata
wasteoftimeandlabor,”hemused.“Whowouldundertakesuchathing
nowadays?Fancythepatienceanddelicacyoffingerrequiredtofitallthese
shellsintheirplaces!andtheyareembeddedinstrongmortartoo,asifthework
weremeanttobeindestructible.”
Pullofpleasedinterest,hepursuedhisway,windinginandoutthroughdifferent
arches,allmoreorlessrichlyornamented,tillhecametoatall,roundcolumn,
whichseeminglysupportedthewholegallery,forallthearchesconverged
towardsit.Itwasgarlandedfromtoptobottomwiththeirrosesandtheirleaves,
allworkedinpinkandlilacshells,interspersedwithsmallpiecesofshining
amberandpolishedmalachite.Theflickerofthelamphecarried,madeitglisten
likeamassofjewel-work,and,absorbedinhiscloseexaminationofthisunique
specimenofancientart,SirPhilipdidnotatonceperceivethatanotherlight
besidehisownglimmeredfromoutthefurthestarchwayalittlebeyondhim,—
anopeningthatledintosomerecesshehadnotasyetexplored.Apeculiarlustre
sparklingononesideoftheshell-workhowever,atlastattractedhisattention,
and,glancingupquickly,hesaw,tohissurprise,thereflectionofastrange
radiance,rosilytintedandbrilliant.
Turninginitsdirection,hepaused,irresolute.Couldtherebesomeonelivingin
thatfurthestchambertowhichthelongpassagehehadfollowedevidentlyled?
someonewhowouldperhapsresenthisintrusionasanimpertinence?some
eccentricartistorhermitwhohadmadethecavehishome?Orwasitperhapsa
refugeforsmugglers?Helistenedanxiously.Therewasnosound.Hewaiteda
minuteortwo,thenboldlyadvanced,determinedtosolvethemystery.
Thislastarchwaywaslowerthananyofthosehehadpassedthrough,andhe
wasforcedtotakeoffhishatandstoopashewentunderit.Whenheraisedhis
headheremaineduncovered,forhesawataglancethattheplacewassacred.
Hewasinthepresence,notofLife,butDeath.Thechamberinwhichhestood
wassquareinform,andmorerichlyornamentedwithshell-designsthanany
otherportionofthegrottohehadseen,andfacingtheeastwasanaltarhewnout
ofthesolidrockandstuddedthicklywithamber,malachiteandmother-o’-pearl.


ItwascoveredWiththeincomprehensibleemblemsofabygonecreedworkedin
mostexquisiteshell-patterns,butonit,—asthoughinsolemnprotestagainstthe
past,—stoodacrucifixofebonyandcarvedivory,beforewhichburnedsteadily
aredlamp.
Themeaningofthemysteriouslightwasthusexplained,butwhatchiefly
interestedErringtonwasthecentralobjectoftheplace,—acoffin,—ofrathera
plaingranitesarcophaguswhichwasplacedonthefloorlyingfromnorthto
south.Uponit,—instrangecontrasttothesombrecoldnessofthestone,—
reposedalargewreathofpoppiesfreshlygathered.Thevividscarletofthe
flowers,thegleamoftheshiningshellsonthewalls,themournfulfigureofthe
ivoryChriststretchedonthecrossamongallthosepaganemblems,—the
intensesilencebrokenonlybytheslowdrip,dripofwatertricklingsomewhere
behindthecavern,—andmorethantheseoutwardthings,—hisownimpressive
convictionthathewaswiththeimperialDead—imperialbecausepastthesway
ofempire—allmadeapowerfulimpressiononhismind.Overcomingbydegrees
hisfirstsensationsofawe,heapproachedthesarcophagusandexaminedit.It
wassolidlyclosedandmortaredallround,sothatitmighthavebeenone
compactcoffin-shapedblockofstonesofarasitsoutwardappearancetestified.
Stoopingmoreclosely,however,tolookatthebrilliantpoppy-wreath,hestarted
backwithaslightexclamation.Cutdeeplyinthehardgranitehereadforthe
secondtimethatoddname—
THELMA
Itbelongedtosomeonedead,then—nottothelovelylivingwomanwhohadso
latelyconfrontedhimintheburningglowofthemidnightsun?Hefeltdismayed
athisunthinkingprecipitation,—hehad,inhisfancy,actuallyassociatedHER,
sofullofradianthealthandbeauty,withwhatwasprobablyamoulderingcorpse
inthathermeticallysealedtenementofstone!Thisideawasunpleasant,and
jarreduponhisfeelings.Surelyshe,thatgolden-hairednymphoftheFjord,had
nothingtodowithdeath!Hehadevidentlyfoundhiswayintosomeancient
tomb.“Thelma”mightbethenameortitleofsomelong-departedqueenor
princessofNorway,yet,ifso,howcamethecrucifixthere,—theredlamp,the
flowers?
Helingered,lookingcuriouslyabouthim,asifhefanciedtheshell-embroidered
wallsmightwhispersomeanswertohisthoughts.Thesilenceofferedno
suggestions.TheplaintivefigureofthetorturedChristsuspendedonthecross


maintainedanimmovablewatchoverallthings,andtherewasasubtle,faint
odorfloatingaboutasofcrushedspicesorherbs.Whilehestillstoodthere
absorbedinperplexedconjectures,hebecameoppressedbywantofair.Thered
hueofthepoppy-wreathmingledwiththesofterglowofthelamponthealtar,—
themoistglitteroftheshellsandpolishedpebbles,seemedtodazzleandconfuse
hiseyes.Hefeltdizzyandfaint—andhastilymadehiswayoutofthatclose
death-chamberintothepassage,whereheleanedforafewminutesagainstthe
greatcentralcolumntorecoverhimself.AbriskbreathofwindfromtheFjord
camecareeringthroughthegallery,andblewcoldlyuponhisforehead.
Refreshedbyit,herapidlyovercamethesensationofgiddiness,andbeganto
retracehisstepsthroughthewindingarches,thinkingwithsomesatisfactionas
hewent,whataromanticincidenthewouldhavetorelatetoLorimerandhis
otherfriends,whenasuddenglareoflightilluminedthepassage,andhewas
broughttoanabruptstandstillbythesoundofawild“Halloo!”Thelight
vanished;itreappeared.Itvanishedagain,andagainappeared,flingingastrong
flareupontheshell-workedwallsasitapproached.Againthefierce“Halloo!”
resoundedthroughthehollowcavitiesofthesubterraneantemple,andhe
remainedmotionless,waitingforanexplanationofthisunlooked-forturntothe
eventsofthemorning.
Hehadplentyofphysicalcourage,andtheideaofanyadditiontohisadventure
ratherpleasedhimthanotherwise.Still,withallhisbravery,herecoiledalittle
whenhefirstcaughtsightoftheextraordinarybeingthatemergedfromthe
darkness—awild,distortedfigurethatrantowardshimwithitshead
downwards,bearingaloftinoneskinnyhandasmokingpine-torch,fromwhich
thesparksflewlikesomanyfireflies.Thisuncannypersonage,wearingthe
semblanceofman,camewithintwopacesofErringtonbeforeperceivinghim;
then,stoppingshortinhisheadlongcareer,thecreatureflourishedhistorchand
utteredadefiantyell.
Philipsurveyedhimcoollyandwithoutalarm,thoughsoweirdanobjectmight
wellhavearousedapardonabledistrust,andeventimidity.Hesawamisshapen
dwarf,notquitefourfeethigh,withlarge,ungainlylimbsoutofallproportionto
hishead,whichwassmallandcompact.Hisfeatureswereofalmostfeminine
fineness,andfromunderhisshaggybrowsgleamedarestlesspairoflarge,full,
wildblueeyes.Histhick,roughflaxenhairwaslongandcurly,andhungin
disorderedprofusionoverhisdeformedshoulders.Hisdresswasofreindeer
skin,veryfancifullycut,andornamentedwithbeadsofdifferentcolors,—and
twistedabouthimasthoughinanefforttobeartistic,wasalongstripofbright


scarletwoollenmaterial,whichshoweduptheextremepallorandill-healthof
themeagrecountenance,andthebrilliancyoftheeyesthatnowsparkledwith
rageastheymetthoseofErrington.He,fromhissuperiorheight,glanceddown
withpityontheunfortunatecreature,whomheatoncetooktobetheactual
ownerofthecavehehadexplored.Uncertainwhattodo,whethertospeakor
remainsilent,hemovedslightlyasthoughtopasson;buttheshock-headed
dwarfleapedlightlyinhisway,and,plantinghimselffirmlybeforehim,
shriekedsomeunintelligiblethreat,ofwhichErringtoncouldonlymakeoutthe
lastwords,“Nifleheim”and“Nastrond”
“IbelieveheiscommendingmetotheoldNorwegianinferno,”thoughtthe
youngbaronetwithasmile,amusedatthelittleman’sevidentexcitement.“Very
politeofhim,I’msure!But,afterall,Ihadnobusinesshere.I’dbetter
apologize.”AndforthwithhebegantospeakinthesimplestEnglishwordshe
couldchoose,takingcaretopronouncethemveryslowlyanddistinctly.
“Icannotunderstandyou,mygoodsir;butIseeyouareangry.Icamehereby
accident.Iamgoingawaynowatonce.”
Hisexplanationhadastrangeeffect.Thedwarfdrewnearer,twirledhimself
rapidlyroundthreetimesasthoughwaltzing;then,holdinghistorchalittleto
oneside,turneduphisthin,palecountenance,and,fixinghisgazeonSirPhilip,
studiedeveryfeatureofhisfacewithabsorbinginterest.Thenheburstintoa
violentfitoflaughter.
“Atlast—atlast?”hecriedinfluentEnglish.“Goingnow?Going,yousay?
Never!never!Youwillnevergoawayanymore.No,notwithoutsomething
stolen!Thedeadhavesummonedyouhere!Theirwhitebonyfingershave
draggedyouacrossthedeep!Didyounotheartheirvoices,coldandhollowas
thewinterwind,calling,callingyou,andsaying,‘Come,come,proudrobber,
fromoverthefarseas;comeandgatherthebeautifulroseofthenorthern
forest’?Yes,Yes!Youhaveobeyedthedead—thedeadwhofeignsleep,butare
everwakeful;—youhavecomeasathiefinthegoldenmidnight,andthething
youseekisthelifeofSigurd!Yes—yes!itistrue.Thespiritcannotlie.You
mustkill,youmuststeal!Seehowtheblooddrips,dropbydrop,fromtheheart
ofSigurd!Andthejewelyousteal—ah,whatajewel!—youshallnotfindsuch
anotherinNorway!”
Hisexcitedvoicesankbydegreestoaplaintiveandforlornwhisper,and


droppinghistorchwithagestureofdespairontheground,helookedatit
burning,withanairofmournfulandutterdesolation.Profoundlytouched,ashe
immediatelyunderstoodtheconditionofhiscompanion’swanderingwits,
Erringtonspoketohimsoothingly.
“Youmistakeme,”hesaidingentleaccents;“Iwouldnotstealanythingfrom
you,norhaveIcometokillyou.See,”andheheldouthishand,“Iwouldn’t
harmyoufortheworld.Ididn’tknowthiscavebelongedtoyou.Forgivemefor
havingenteredit.Iamgoingtorejoinmyfriends.Good-bye!”
Thestrange,half-crazycreaturetouchedhisoutstretchedhandtimidly,andwith
asortofappeal.
“Good-bye,good-bye!”hemuttered.“Thatiswhattheyallsay,—eventhedead,
—good-bye;buttheynevergo—never,never!Youcannotbedifferenttothe
rest.AndyoudonotwishtohurtpoorSigurd?”
“Certainlynot,ifYOUareSigurd,”saidPhilip,halflaughing;“Ishouldbevery
sorrytohurtyou.”
“YouareSURE?”hepersisted,withasortofobstinateeagerness.“Youhave
eyeswhichtelltruths;butthereareotherthingswhicharetruerthaneyes—
thingsintheair,inthegrass,inthewaves,andtheytalkverystrangelyofyou.I
knowyou,ofcourse!Iknewyouagesago—longbeforeIsawyoudeadonthe
fieldofbattle,andtheblack-hairedValkyriegallopedwithyoutoValhalla!Yes;
Iknewyoulongbeforethat,andyouknewme;forIwasyourKing,andyou
weremyvassal,wildandrebellious—nottheproud,richEnglishmanyouaretoday.”
Erringtonstartled.HowcouldthisSigurd,ashecalledhimself,beawareof
eitherhiswealthornationality?
Thedwarfobservedhismovementofsurprisewithacunningsmile.
“Sigurdiswise,—Sigurdisbrave!Whoshalldeceivehim?Heknowsyouwell;
hewillalwaysknowyou.TheoldgodsteachSigurdallhiswisdom—thegods
oftheseaandthewind—thesleepygodsthatlieintheheartsoftheflowers—
thesmallspiritsthatsitinshellsandsingalldayandallnight.”Hepaused,and
hiseyesfilledwithawistfullookofattention.Hedrewcloser.


“Come,”hesaidearnestly,“come,youmustlistentomymusic;perhapsyoucan
tellmewhatitmeans.”
Hepickeduphissmoulderingtorchandhelditaloftagain;then,beckoning
Erringtontofollowhim,heledthewaytoasmallgrotto,cutdeeplyintothewall
ofthecavern.Heretherewerenoshellpatterns.Littlegreenfernsgrewthickly
outofthestonecrevices,andaminuterunletofwatertrickledslowlydownfrom
above,fresheningthedelicatefrondageasitfell.Withquick,agilefingershe
removedaloosestonefromthisaperture,andashedidso,alowshuddering
wailresoundedthroughthearches—amelancholymoanthatroseandsank,and
roseagaininweird,sorrowfulminorechoes.
“Hearher,”murmuredSigurdplaintively.“Sheisalwayscomplaining;itisapity
shecannotrest!Sheisaspirit,youknow.Ihaveoftenaskedherwhattroubles
her,butshewillnottellme;sheonlyweeps!”
Hiscompanionlookedathimcompassionately.Thesoundthatsoaffectedhis
disorderedimaginationwasnothingbutthewindblowingthroughthenarrow
holeformedbytheremovalofthestone;butitwasuselesstoexplainthissimple
facttooneinhiscondition.
“Tellme,”andSirPhilipspokeverygently,“isthisyourhome?”
Thedwarfsurveyedhimalmostscornfully.“MYhome!”heechoed.“Myhome
iseverywhere—onthemountains,intheforests,ontheblackrocksandbarren
shores!Mysoullivesbetweenthesunandthesea;myheartiswithThelma!”
Thelma!Herewasperhapsacluetothemystery.
“WhoisThelma?”askedErringtonsomewhathurriedly.
Sigurdbrokeintoviolentandderisivelaughter.“DoyouthinkIwilltellYOU?”
hecriedloudly.“YOU,—oneofthatstrong,cruelracewhomustconquerall
theysee;whocoveteverythingfairunderheaven,andwillbuyit,evenatthe
costofbloodandtears!DoyouthinkIwillunlockthedoorofmytreasureto
YOU?No,no;besides,”andhisvoicesanklower,“whatshouldyoudowith
Thelma?Sheisdead!”
And,asifpossessedbyasuddenaccessoffrenzy,hebrandishedhispine-torch
wildlyabovehisheadtillitshoweredarainofbrightsparksabovehim,and


exclaimedfuriously—“Away,away,andtroublemenot!Thedaysarenotyet
fulfilled,—thetimeisnotyetripe.Whyseektohastenmyend?Away,away,I
tellyou!Leavemeinpeace!IwilldiewhenThelmabidsme;butnottillthen!”
Andherusheddownthelonggalleryanddisappearedinthefurthestchamber,
wherehegaveventtoasortoflong,sobbingcry,whichrangdolefullythrough
thecavernandthensubsidedintouttersilence.
Feelingasifhewereinachaoticdream,Erringtonpursuedhisinterrupted
coursethroughthewindingpassageswithabewilderedandwonderingmind.
Whatstrangeplacehadheinadvertentlylightedon?andwhowerethestill
strangerbeingsinconnectionwithit?Firstthebeautifulgirlherself;nextthe
mysteriouscoffin,hiddeninitsfancifulshelltemple;andnowthisdeformed
madman,withthepalefaceandfineeyes;whoseutterances,thoughincoherent,
savoredsomewhatofpoesyandprophecy.Andwhatspellwasattachedtothat
nameofThelma?Themorehethoughtofhismorning’sadventure,themore
puzzledhebecame.Asarule,hebelievedmoreinthecommonplacethaninthe
romantic—mostpeopledo.Buttruthtotell,romanceisfarmorecommonthan
thecommonplace.Therearefewwhohavenot,atonetimeorotheroftheir
lives,hadsomestrangeortragicepisodewovenintothetissueoftheirevery-day
existence;anditwouldbedifficulttofindonepersonevenamonghumdrum
individuals,who,frombirthtodeath,hasexperiencednothingoutofthe
common.
Erringtongenerallydismissedalltalesofadventureasmereexaggerationsof
heatedfancy;and,hadhereadinsomebook,ofarespectablenineteenth-century
yachtsmanhavingsuchaninterviewwithamadmaninasea-cavern,hewould
havelaughedattheaffairasanutterimprobability,thoughhecouldnothave
explainedwhyheconsidereditimprobable.Butnowithadoccurredtohimself,
hewasbothsurprisedandamusedatthewholecircumstance;moreover,hewas
sufficientlyinterestedandcarioustobedesirousofsiftingthemattertoits
foundation.
Itwas,however,somewhatofarelieftohimwhenheagainreadiedtheouter
cavern.Hereplacedthelampontheshelfwherehehadfoundit,andstepped
oncemoreintothebrilliantlightoftheveryearlydawn,whichthenhadallthe
splendoroffullmorning.Therewasadeliciouslybalmywind,theblueskywas
musicalwithachorusoflarks,andeverybreathofairthatwavedasidethelong
grasssentforthathousandodorsfromhiddenbedsofwildthymeandbog-


myrtle.
HeperceivedtheEulalieatanchorinheroldplaceontheFjord;shehad
returnedwhilehewasabsentonhisexplorations.Gatheringtogetherhisrugand
paintingmaterials,heblewawhistlesharplythreetimes;hewasansweredfrom
theyacht,andpresentlyaboat,mannedbyacoupleofsailors,cameskimming
overthewatertowardshim.Itsoonreachedtheshore,and,enteringit,hewas
speedilyrowedawayfromthesceneofhismorning’sexperiencebacktohis
floatingpalace,where,asyet,noneofhisfriendswerestirring.
“HowaboutJedke?”heinquiredofoneofhismen.“Didtheyclimbit?”
Aslowgrinoverspreadthesailor’sbrownface.
“Lordblessyou,no,sir!Mr.Lorimer,hejustlookedatitandsatdowninthe
shade;theothergentlemanplayedpitch-and-tosswithpebbles.Theywasmain
hungrytoo,andateamightysightof‘amandpickles.Thentheycameonboard
andallturnedinatonce.”
Erringtonlaughed.HewasamusedattheutterfailureofLorimer’srecentsudden
energy,butnotsurprised.Histhoughtswere,however,busiedwithsomething
else,andhenextasked—“Where’sourpilot?”
“ValdemarSvensen,sir?Hewentdowntohisbunkassoonasweanchored,for
asnooze,hesaid.”
“Allright.IfhecomesondeckbeforeIdo,justtellhimnottogoashorefor
anythingtillIseehim.Iwanttospeaktohimafterbreakfast.”
“Ay,ay,sir.”
WhereuponSirPhilipdescendedtohisprivatecabin.Hedrewtheblindatthe
port-holetoshutoutthedazzlingsunlight,foritwasnearlythreeo’clockinthe
morning,andquicklyundressing,heflunghimselfintohisberthwithaslight,
notaltogetherunpleasant,feelingofexhaustion.Tothelast,ashiseyesclosed
drowsily,heseemedtoheartheslowdrip,dripofthewaterbehindtherocky
cavern,andthedesolatecryoftheincomprehensibleSigurd,whilethroughthese
soundsthatmingledwiththegurgleoflittlewaveslappingagainstthesidesof
theEulalie,thenameof“Thelma”murmureditselfinhisearstillslumber
drownedhissensesinoblivion.


CHAPTERIII.
“Hastanymortalname,Fitappellationforthisdazzlingframe,Orfriendsor
kinsfolkonthecitiedearth?”KEATS.
“Thisispositivelyabsurd,”murmuredLorimer,inmildlyinjuredtones,seven
hourslater,ashesatontheedgeofhisberth,surveyingErrington,who,fully
dressed,andinthehighestspirits,hadburstintoupbraidhimforhislaziness
whilehewasyetbutscantilyattired.“Itellyou,mygoodfellow,therearesome
thingswhichtheutmoststretchoffriendshipwillNOTstand.HereamIinshirt
andtrouserswithonlyonesockon,andyoudaretosayyouhavehadan
adventure!Why,ifyouhadcutapieceoutofthesun,yououghttowaittilla
manisshavedbeforementioningit.”
“Don’tbesnappish,oldboy!”laughedErringtongaily.“Putonthatothersock
andlisten.Idon’twanttotellthoseotherfellowsjustyet,theymightgomaking
inquiriesabouther—”
“Oh,thereisa‘her’inthecase,isthere?”saidLorimer,openinghiseyesrather
widely.“Well,Phil!Ithoughtyouhadhadenough,andsomethingtoomuch,of
women.”
“Thisisnotawoman!”declaredPhilipwithheatandeagerness,“atleastnotthe
sortofwomanIhaveeverknown!Thisisaforest-empress,sea-goddess,orsunangel!Idon’tknowWHATsheis,uponmylife!”
Lorimerregardedhimwithanairofreproachfuloffense.
“Don’tgoon—pleasedon’t!”heimplored.“Ican’tstandit—Ireallycan’t!
Incipientverse-maniaistoomuchforme.Forest-empress,sea-goddess,sunangel—byJove!whatnext?Youareevidentlyinaverybadway.IfIremember
rightly,youhadaflaskofthatoldgreenChartreusewithyou.Ah!thataccounts
forit!Nicestuff,butalittletoostrong.”
Erringtonlaughed,and,unabashedbyhisfriend’sraillery,proceededtorelate
withmuchvivacityandgraphicfervortheoccurrencesofthemorning.Lorimer
listenedpatientlywithaforbearingsmileonhisopen,ruddycountenance.When
hehadheardeverythinghelookedupandinquiredcalmly—
“Thisisnotayarn,isit?”


“Ayarn!”exclaimedPhilip.“DoyouthinkIwouldinventsuchathing?”
“Can’tsay,”returnedLorimerimperturbably.“Youarequitecapableofit.It’sa
verycreditablecrammer,duetoChartreuse.MighthavebeendesignedbyVictor
Hugo;it’sinhisstyle.Scene,Norway—midnight.Mysteriousmaidenstealsout
ofacaveandglidesawayinaboatoverthewater;man,thehero,goesintocave,
findsastonecoffin,says—‘Qu’est-cequec’est?Dieu!C’estlamort!’Spectacle
affreux!Staggersbackperspiring;meetsmaddwarfwithtorch;maddwarftalks
agooddeal—madpeoplealwaysdo,—thenyellsandrunsaway.Mancomesout
ofcaveand—and—goeshometoastonishhisfriends;oneofthemwon’tbe
astonished,—that’sme!”
“Idon’tcare,”saidErrington.“It’satruestoryforallthat.Only,Isay,don’ttalk
ofitbeforetheothers;let’skeepourowncounsel—”
“NopoachersallowedontheSun-AngelManor!”interruptedLorimergravely.
Philipwentonwithoutheedinghim.
“I’llquestionValdemarSvensenafterbreakfast.Heknowseverybodyabout
here.ComeandhaveasmokeondeckwhenIgiveyouthesign,andwe’llcrossexaminehim.”
Lorimerstilllookedincredulous.“What’sthegoodofit?”heinquiredlanguidly.
“Evenifit’salltrueyouhadmuchbetterleavethisgoddess,orwhateveryou
callher,alone,especiallyifshehasanymadconnections.WhatdoYOUwant
withher?”
“Nothing!”declaredErrington,thoughhisscolorheightened.“Nothing,Iassure
you!It’sjustamatterofcuriositywithme.Ishouldliketoknowwhosheis—
that’sall!Theaffairwon’tgoanyfurther.”
“Howdoyouknow?”andLorimerbegantobrushhisstiffcurlyhairwithasort
ofviciousvigor.“Howcanyoutell?I’mnotaspiritualist,noranysortofa
humbugatall,Ihope,butIsometimesindulgeinpresentiments.Beforewe
startedonthiscruise,IwashauntedbythatdismaloldballadofSirPatrick
Spens—”
‘TheKing’sdaughterofNorrowayTisthoumaunbringherhame!’
“Andhereyouhavefoundher,orsoitappears.What’stocomeofit,Iwonder?”


“Nothing’stocomeofit;nothingWILLcomeofit!”laughedPhilip.“AsItold
you,shesaidshewasapeasant.There’sthebreakfast-bell!Makehaste,oldboy,
I’mashungryasahunter!”
Andhelefthisfriendtofinishdressing,andenteredthesaloon,wherehegreeted
histwoothercompanions,Alec,or,ashewasoftenercalled,SandyMacfarlane,
andPierreDuprez;theformeranOxfordstudent,—thelatterayoungfellow
whoseacquaintancehehadmadeinParis,andwithwhomhehadkeptupa
constantandfriendlyintercourse.Agreatercontrastthanthesetwopresented
couldscarcelybeimagined.Macfarlanewastallandungainly,withlargeloose
jointsthatseemedtoprotrudeangularlyoutofhimineverydirection,—Duprez
wasshort,slightandwiry,withadapperandbynomeansungracefulfigure.The
onehadformalgauchemanners,anever-to-be-eradicatedGlasgowaccent,anda
slow,infinitelytediousmethodofexpressinghimself,—theotherwasfullof
restlessmovementandpantomimicgesture,andbeingproudofhisEnglish,
plungedintothatlanguagerecklessly,makingitcuriouslylightandflippant,
thoughpicturesque,ashewent.Macfarlanewasdestinedtobecomeashining
lightoftheestablishedChurchofScotland,andthereforetooklifevery
seriously,—DuprezwasthespoiltonlychildofaneminentFrenchbanker,and
hadverylittletodobutenjoyhimself,andthathedidmostthoroughly,without
anycalculationorcareforthefuture.Onallpointsoftasteandopinionthey
differedwidely;buttherewasnodoubtabouttheirbothbeinggood-hearted
fellows,withoutanyaffectationofabnormalviceorvirtue.
“SoyoudidnotclimbJedkeafterall!”remarkedErringtonlaughingly,asthey
seatedthemselvesatthebreakfasttable.
“Myfriend,whatwouldyou!”criedDuprez.“IhavenotsaidthatIwillclimbit;
no!IneversaythatIwilldoanything,becauseI’mnotsureofmyself.Howcan
Ibe?Itisthatcherenfant,Lorimer,thatsaidsuchbravewords!See!...we
arrive;webeholdtheshore—allblack,great,vast!...rockslikeneedles,and,
higherthanall,thismostfierceJedke—bah!whataname!—straightasthespire
ofacathedral.Onemustbeaflytocrawlupit,andwe,wearenotflies—ma
foi!no!Lorimer,helaugh,heyawn—so!Hesay,‘notformeto-day;Ivery
muchthankyou!’Andthen,wewatchthesun.Ah!thatwasgrand,glorious,
beautiful!”AndDuprezkissedthetipsofhisfingersinecstacy.
“WhatdidYOUthinkaboutit,Sandy?”askedSirPhilip.


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