I'm still proofreading my early past-life works, written as Mathew Franklin Whittier, to the tune of one or two per day. The one I'm going to reproduce, below, is what I started with, this morning, and as I did yesterday, I have the whim to share it. Precisely why I want to share it, is somewhat suspect. It provides more evidence that Mathew could plausibly have co-authored "A Christmas Carol," both in its content, and by the mere fact of Mathew's writing skill, being published two years before Dickens had even hit the scene in 1833. I have not read Dickens' earliest sketches, published in the British newspapers of that period. I would have to guess they are not better that Mathew's productions. But if I convinced anyone at all, I'm afraid I would be convincing someone who would then contrive to steal the discovery from me. Whether or not he could get away with it, I don't know. Unlike Mathew, I would not take it lying down. But whether I would be able to insert myself enough, publicly, to make it stick, is another matter. I could try to find a lawyer who was willing to sue on spec. I could approach reporters, and so-on. But I might simply be ignored.
Another reason I want to present it (to be honest) is the brief description of his soul-mate (and now, mine), Abby, found at the outset of the story. In September of 1831, Abby has probably just started tutoring Mathew in the classics, by arrangement. She is also taking a class from Albert Pike, who will later become a Civil War general for the South, and a somewhat notorious public figure as a high-ranking Mason. Pike will, as I have concluded, steal Abby's poetry from her class workbook, and briefly make a name for himself as a poet, thereby--something he can explain away, if confronted, since they coincidentally have the same initials, "A.P." Abby is 15 years old, while Mathew, four years older, is 19.
This is essentially a ghost story--with what is probably a known plot pattern, of scaring someone who needs to be scared for some reason, with a fake ghost. When Mathew wrote "A Christmas Carol" with Abby, this was essentially the pattern he was following--and it was perhaps the third or fourth piece of this type he had published. Abby, however, brought real metaphysics to the "Carol." In her mind, it should be like the film, "Ghost," in which all the metaphysics are accurate. So you have Mathew, the skeptic, writing a ghost story; and Abby, the mystic, writing "Ghost." Dickens, on the other hand, was even more of a skeptic than Mathew was, and to him, it was entirely a ghost story--he even subtitled it "A Ghost Story of Christmas." It is impossible that he could have written the portions that Abby wrote, namely, the ghosts' speeches. I have found a quote in which William Makepeace Thackeray--whom Mathew appears to have met in 1851--praised, specifically, those speeches as "sermons." But it was Abby he was inadvertently praising, not Dickens. Dickens was incapable of writing these portions of the work--something which is proved by his subsequent efforts during other Christmas seasons. Mathew, himself, would wryly comment in later years on Dickens' attempts, saying that he might do best to leave the metaphysics to people like Bulwer.
All of this is in my book, which you don't seem to think is worth $12.00 of your hard-earned cash. But never-mind--I will give it to you in dribs and drabs.
The back story for this sketch is particularly interesting. This is a thinly-veiled--too thinly-veiled--allegory for his relationship (or rather, future relationship) with Abby. The description of her is quite literal, except that demurring at the end of it, with the two-word comment, "But enough," is a tip-of-the-hat to Abby's modesty, and her protests against false flattery. I know this because she, herself, wrote a semi-autobiographical story representing their relationship, in which this issue comes up.
The description of the Baron is a highly unflattering portrait of Abby's father which, unfortunately, was probably true to life, if you viewed the man in the most unfavorable light possible. It was extremely unwise of Mathew, under the circumstances. Joseph Poyen, himself a marquis, opposed their marriage and apparently refused to assist the couple after they eloped. He also appears to have wished Abby to marry within her own class, partly because he had invested a great deal of money in private tutoring, etc. to prepare her for such a marriage; and partly because he truly believed in old-world aristocracy, his family being connected to the French Crown. Undoubtedly Abby was eagerly reading Mathew's sketches in the New York "Constellation." If Joseph ever happened to read this one, however, one can bet he never forgot, nor forgave.
Mathew's life-long technique for hiding the identity of people portrayed in his sketches, was to take a few selected elements and turn them to their opposite. A short person might now be tall; a brunette might be blond. Otherwise, the portrayal would be accurate. Here, the Baron is said to have only one daughter, while Joseph Poyen had six. Literal-minded readers (including myself, until I caught on) would see the glaring discrepancy, and dismiss the remaining parallels.
Now, for the villain and the hero, Mathew has done something very odd--he has split himself into both characters. Mathew had a large nose, which he often poked self-deprecating fun at. He also was given to telling tall-tales, the like of which he had no-doubt heard from his father, his uncle, and the old men of his small village, Haverhill, Mass. Further, he secretly must have felt himself a coward, being raised Quaker. On all counts, then, he has drawn upon his own "shadow" in fashioning the character, Count Schleppel. On the other hand, the young man that the daughter is in love with, Ludwig, is Mathew's ideal self, and the one that young Abby has, in fact, fallen in love with. It is he who plays the trick on Schleppel. You will note that Mathew doesn't spend nearly as much effort on developing Ludwig's character, as he does Schleppel's. Thus do we always concentrate on, and agonize over, our faults.
Abby, in spirit, told me via thought-impression quite early in our current-day relationship, that when she was a teenager, she didn't know who she was. She didn't seem to fit in her family, and she speculated that she might have been adopted from gypsies. Further, she had been named after a doctor's wife, Abigail Weld (perhaps the doctor delivered her, or saved her life somehow). But Abby must not have liked Abigail Weld, because by the time she marries, she has changed her middle name to "Rochemont." Furthermore, in several of Mathew's sketches, throughout the years, when he is clearly writing an allegory representing some aspect of his relationship with Abby, he represents her by the name "Juliana," or less frequently, "Adeline," with variations. This sketch is one of the few times he has used "Adeline." When Abby read these pieces in the paper, and saw one of her fantasy names, she could know that it was a secret reference to her.
There is no question, in my opinion (and by default I am the world expert on this historical literary figure, albeit I am self-proclaimed), that this is Mathew Franklin Whittier's production. However, if one wants clues, I can point to the double-P name of the author it is facetiously credited to--Petrus (i.e., Peter) Ppieff; as well as the style and autobiographical subject-matter. The expression "the human face divine" is, for example, often found in Mathew's works. Mathew, raised Quaker, slips briefly into Quaker speech when he says, "I leave thee to balance the evidence..." The signature "C.F.B." must be an abbreviation for some colloquialism--I made an attempt at it in the book, but I don't remember what I tentatively suggested, now. There are other examples of Mathew using these kinds of initials in the "Constellation," including one other story signed "C.F.B." Apparently, he did so when he wanted to hide his authorship most carefully. I'm curious--let me take a minute, and look up my best guess as to the meaning of "C.F.B." in my book... Okay, I concluded it was probably something self-deprecating, something that Abby's father might have called him, like "Country-Fried Boy."* That was, perhaps, partly from very dimly-felt past-life memory, or perhaps it was simply guesswork. One could only confirm it if it came up in a diary. I know that Mathew kept a diary, but likely it was burned in a fire in 1854.
There is even more I could pull out of this story, but, that's enough to give you an idea of just how much of his secret life he embedded in his works; and also, to give you an idea of his skill and style. Could Mathew have been the co-author of "A Christmas Carol?" Obviously he had the necessary talent and creativity. (I take the comparative style analysis much, much deeper in my book.) Remember that this is a 19-year-old author. Yes, the plot itself is well-worn--but not what he has done with it. More original plots will be forthcoming as he matures.
And he will be much more careful to disguise the people he portrays in his sketches!
The New York "Constellation"
September 10, 1831
For the Constellation.
A Schlavonian Tale.
Translated from the Schlavonian of Petrus Ppeiff.
In a remote part of Hungary lived Baron Zurich, about the middle of the last century. Being the undisputed possesor of large domains, and the acknowledged lord of a good band of retainers, his power was feared, his name respected, and his acquaintnce cultivated by all the neighboring nobility. The Baron, however, though the lineal descendant of a long train of illustrious ancestry, had inherited very few of their virtues, and almost all of their foibles. Aristocratic in his principles, and haughty in his conduct, he piqued himself on the glory of his progenitors, without thinking of perpetuating the character they had acquired, or of imitating those noble characteristics, which had, originally, contributed to their elevation. Destitute of education, deficient in sense, and degenerate in spirit, he was petulent, unreasonable and selfish. His mien, also, was far from prepossessing, and his stature so diminutive, that one might have doubted, whether he was more a pigmy in body than in mind.
This cross-grained Lilliputian had an only daughter--the pride of his heart, and the prop of his age--a maiden, who, uniting the charms of beauty and the artlessness of innocence to the purity of Heaven, rivetted the gaze of the beholder with the loveliness of her form, entranced his ear with the melody of her tongue, and rivetted his very soul with the witchery of her smile. The deity of love sat enthroned on her brow, the fire of sensibility beamed from her eye--and the warm gush of benevolence mantled on her cheek. But enough.
The Baron had betrothed his daughter to a nobleman in the vicinity, and the day for the marriage was already fixed. The happy man was no other than Count Schleppel, alias Grosnas--which latter appelatoin he had got in Germany, on account of his enormous nasal organ. A further description of this interesting individual may not be unacceptable to the reader.
The Count was a little more of the Patagonian than his friend, the Baron, being somewhat over six feet high. In his person, he was gaunt, thin and dry--the exact counterpart of the knight of La Mancha. A pair of monstrous bushy whiskers--"the sign of manhood and the mark of valor"--overran a visage, wherein it would have baffled the physiognomical skill of a Lavater to discover the faintest glimmering of intelligence. In regard to the most protuberant feature of the "human face divine" he was perfectly unrivalled. Its tremendous dimensions would have frightened Achilles himself--and I should have thought it unaccountably strange, if it had not procured him the honor of at least one additional cognomen. I have indeed heard of the famous Nicolaus Brummeischadel, who, when he stooped, could not raise himself without assistance by reason of the bulk of his proboscis, but I do sincerely aver, that it could not compare, either in latitude or longitude with that of our hero.
Numbers of medical gentlemen, from motives of curiosity, daily flocked to see the Count, who, highly flattered with this mark of distinction, good-humoredly offered his gigantic nose for their inspection, and bore, with truly christian fortitude, the many twangs and twitches which it was doomed to undergo in the course of professional investigation. But, as far as I have been able to understand, their learned labors were never blessed with any thing like a definite result. They all differed widely in opinion as to the proximate causes of this natural, or rather unnatural phenomenon, that figured so conspicuously on the countenance of their host. The annals of physiology were ransacked--the whole "ars medica" canvassed--and the shades of all the faculty from Galen and Hippocrates down to Buchan and Bell invoked and re-invoked--but still there was no unanimity of conclusion among the sons of the pestle and mortar. In vain were authorities poured in from every quarter, and arguments and proofs adduced [from] every doctrine. In vain did each erudite [dis?] make the floor ring with his hickory cane in token of polemical wrath, and shake the "ambrosial curls" of his well powdered wig, in all the self-sufficiency of conscious superiority. Harmony might as well have been expected from the elements of chaos, or from the angry spirits of the storm!
Subsequent visiters, discouraged by the unsuccessful termination of former researches, contented themselves, therefore, with merely handling and feeling Schleppel's much-debated nose, without indulging in any theories as to its original formation, which has consequently remained a mystery ever since. But to return--
The Count--incredible as it may appear--was exceedingly vain of the charms of his person--and, what is still more surprising,--he considered his unwieldy nasal member, and his prodigious whiskers--which would have answered admirably for a lion's mane--as first on the catalogue of his beauties. He verily imagined, that every damsel, from fifteen to fifty; was either violently in love with him, or actually dying of the chagrin, occasioned by an unreciprocated passion. He affected, however, to treat them all with indifference, and to regard their overtures with chilling coldness. He had, also, at hand numbers of amatory tales--wherein he himself was always sure to play the hero--which went to inform his auditors of the countless conquests he had involuntarily made in the kingdom of Cupid. From what he said, it appeared that he had committed extensive ravages on the hearts of empresses, sultanas &c. &c. &c. who were so desperately taken with his attrations, that they imfringed connubial fidelity, and overstepped every rule of decorum, by making him proposals of elopement--all of which he had magnanimously rejected. These relations gained implicit credence of many, though a few, cynical bystanders pretended to consider them as mere fabrications. These latter individuals always affected to smile at his details--either because they had a dislike to hearing matters of gallantry--or perhaps, because the count's prominent organ of smell was enough of itself to convince them of the fallacy of his statements.
Schleppel professed to be a man of heroic courage, on which he seemed to pride himself even more than his personal graces. Many and long were the narratives of his valor. He had been engaged in bloody battles, dreadful rencontres and perilous adventures--the very mention of which made the hair of each credulous listener stick up like bulrishes, and froze the very marrow in his bones. But the stiff necked sceptics, above referred to, sneered and smirked as much at his exploits under the guidance of Mars, as they did at his numerous conquests under the auspices of Venus. The principal reason, which they gave for their unbelief, was, that the narrator's "battles, rencontres and adventures" were always fixed at such a place, and dated at such a time, that the devil himself could not advance any conclusive evidence against their authenticity. Being unable therefore, to impeach his veracity by proof direct, they attempted to undermine his reputation for heroism in another manner. In pursuance of this plan, they very uncharitably redeemed from oblivion multitudes of stubborn, indisputable facts, which proved the gallant Schleppel the greatest coward, that ever stood on two legs, and established his pusillanimity beyond the shadow of a doubt. Numerous were the instances, harrowed up from the capacious reservoir of their memories--but, for fear of being prolix, I shall give only one of them as a specimen to the reader:--The Count one day made a little excursion, attended by a stout, athletic servant, who, like his master, was armed at all points. On passing through a thin forest, a son of Robin Hood, in the shape of a dwarfish, sickly-looking footpad, with a rusty pistolet in his hand, demanded his purse. Our heroic gentleman was almost frightened to death at the unexpected apperance of so formidable a person. He earnestly begged the robber to spare his life, promising to surrender every thing of value about him. He accordingly, without offring the least resistance, suffered himself to be robbed of a fine watch and well filled purse, and after the transfer of the property was fully effected humbly asked permission to depart, which was no sooner granted, than putting spurs to his horse he rode a dozen miles in a mortal trepidation, not venturing to look back--much less to protect his trusty attendant!
Gentle reader! I leave thee to balance the evidence on both sides, and to form whatever opinion thou pleasest relative to the Count's valor.
Our hero had also been a great traveller--that is to say--according to his own reports. He had visited every country, and seen every curiosity on the fact of the globe--whether in reality, or in imagination only, I will let some future commentator to decide. Yet I must confess, that I have always inclined to the latter belief for three weighty reasons, viz First--Because the Count was considered to be one of the greatest liars under the sun. Secondly--Because no one, not even his nearest relatives, knew any thing of his peregrinations, except a short tour, which he had made into Germany into his youth, under the guardianship of his grand mother. And thirdly--Because he always manifested the grossest ignorance as to the geographical situation and political condition of [the?] countries, which he pretended to have visited--averring, inter alia, that North America was a little island in the straits of Magellan, inhabited by woodpeckers and wild geese, and that the Atlantic Ocean was a pretty large lake emptying itself into the Black Sea, abounding in aligators [sic] and hippopotamuses.
The ignorant Baron, notwithstanding all these glaring inconsistencies, looked upon his intended son-in-law as the oracle of truth. He neither doubted the verity of his amours, nor seemed in the least degree incredulous as to his travels and discoveries. On the contrary, he implicitly believed every thing. For hours would he sit listening, with the deepest interest, to the relations of this second Telemachus--astonished at his learning and courtesy, and transfixed with wonder at his exploits both in the parlor and in the field.
But the veracious Schleppel did not confine his recitals to the visible world alone. Being exceedingly superstitious, he had collected an infinity of traditionary legends about ghosts, hobgoblins, and even his Satantic Majesty himself. These would he narrate to the groups collected round the evening fire, and with such an air of solemnity, as often made the boldest of them cast a look athwart his shoulder "to see if some evil spirit was not hovering at his elbow." But again--to my story.
The day appointed for the nuptials was rapidly approaching. Adeline's anguish may be conceived, but it cannot be described. The idea of being united to so hideous a person, as her intended husband, would have been sufficient, independent of every thing else, to overwhelm her with grief. But add to this--she was in love with another--one who combined the beauty of person with the nobility of mind--and the sprightliness of youth with the intelligence of manhood--one, whose affection, pure as the dew of heaven--and firm as a rock of adamant,--was only equalled by her own. Ludwig was his name!
Aware of the rude temper and the inflexible sternness of her father, the unhappy maiden well knew, that prayers and entreaties would exasperate, instead of moving him, and that the least intimation of an unwillingness to comply with his wishes would, by throwing him into a brutal passion, only hasten her destined doom. She was therefore constrained to assume, in her father's presence, an air of gaiety, which little corresponded with her real state of mind. And whenever his absence relieved her from this hypocritical mumery, so exquistely painful to the honest heart, she would retire to her closet, and pass a night in weeping tears of the bitterest agony.
Ludwig was not more at ease than his mistress. He raved like a madman, swearing at the Baron, and vowing he would tweak off Schleppel's "ungodly nose," as he termed it. More than once was he on his way to put this threat into execution, but his good sense finally induced him to relinquish it. The gust of passion soon blew over, and he began seriously to reflect on the most efficient measures to counteract the intended marriage. He first thought of sending the Count a challenge, but as the courage of the latter was at best very dubious, he was almost sure of receiving a refusal. This would make matters far worse than they were, as it would lead to the certain detection of his passion for Adeline, and make the Baron accelerate the detested match.
After revolving a variety of expedients, he hit on a scheme which the reader shall know in due season.
Learning that Schleppel was to sleep one night at the Baron's castle, Ludwig repaired thither with a brace of his friends. On arriving, he was, as he expected, very hospitably received; and as the night was rather far advanced, he was also invited, together with his comrades, to stay till morning. This invitation, for reasons best known to himself, he readily embraced. On entering the hall-room, he found the knight of the "Big Nose" amusing the Baron and a dozen others with his oral communications. The new comers quietly seated themselves, reasonably believing that the orator's demonological disquisitions would come to an end like every thing else. But the hour of midnight sounded, and their expectations were as far as ever from being realized. Ludwig at last began to fear that he would talk away the whole night--and much as he abominated his rival's long nose, still more did he inwardly execrate his immeasurably long tongue. There sat his provoking adversary, unconscious of offence, retailing his mystic lore with the most praiseworthy perseverance, and thinking as little of sleep as the oaken chair which he occupied. Hour followed hour--tale succeeded tale, as one wave of the boundless ocean succeeds another, and with about the same prospect of exhaustion. Often did our lover flatter himself, as each story drew to its close, that it was to be the last; but Oh! human shortsightedness! it always proved to be but the prelude to another still more interminable, and ten times more tedious. Again and again did he resolve, whenever the huge tankard, replenished with foaming ale, was passed to him in the course of its circuitous route, to throw it with its genial contents [into?] the occiput of the never-ceasing babbler--but as often did he stay his hand and repress his ire.
But perhaps, gentle reader! thou art not able to divine the cause of his anger. Know then, that Ludwig intended to put into effect the scheme to which I have already alluded, but which could not be executed as long as the Count was awake.
At length, unable to hold out any longer, our Romeo rose from his chair, hoping thereby to give the long-winded Schleppel a hint about the hour; but the external sensibilities of that sagacious personage were completely wrapped up in the mazes of his narratives--he might much more easily have given a hint to the man in the moon. Finding himself unsuccessful in the movement, he had recourse to another of a less equivocal character, to wit: he called for lights, and, with his comrades, left the room. As soon as they had made their exits, it appeared that the rest of the auditory showed a very strong disposition to follow their example, for certain it is, that the indefatigable Count soon found nothing but oaken chairs and deal tables in the apartment to listen to his details. Reflecting therefore on the hours of the night, and gathering himself in all his dignity, he strutted to his chamber, proud as the veriest turkey cock. He was not unobserved. In a dark passage adjoining, stood Adeline's gallant with his two cronies--all three apparelled like so many devils--painted in the most hideous manner--each one provided with a pair of horns, and decorated with a tail of the most respectable dimensions. Our friend Ludwig assumed the honor of representing Old Nick in person--and surely a better representation of the pitchfork-bearing gentleman could not have been wished. As soon as the musical intonations of the Count's nose, vulgarly called snoring, gave notice that he was asleep, the pseudo-devils, according to a preconceived plan, rushed into his apartment with brimstone flambeaus in their hands. After dancing about some time, Old Nick, alias Ludwig, his representative, went to the snorer's bedside, and suddenly interrupted the melodious notes of his nasal organ, by giving it a tremendous twist, the violence of which was not in a small degree owing to some delinquencies of the tongue during the prior part of the night. The sleeper awoke in a paroxysm of pain.
The first thing he sees, is the trio of devils, hopping, skipping and juming about like mountain cats--all in complete uniform, with pitchforks and flambeaus--horns, tails and all. The varied horrors of reality itself flash upon his mind. He trembles from head to foot like an aspen, and his face assumes an ashy paleness. The cold sweat of agony gathers on his brow--a thick film, obscures his eyes--terror in its wildest form curdles his very life-blood, and palsies every limb and every muscle of his frame!
Full ten minutes elapsed before honest Schleppel could make use of his dearest privilege--the faculty of speech. "In the name of the Virgin Mary," he exclaimed in a voice almost choked with affright, "what are ye?"
This unlucky interrogatory was only answered by another potent tweak, which almost dislocated the ill-starred organ of smell of the querist. But this was not all. The hapless nasal member had yet to endure "strong pulls and long [pulls?]" from each of the intruders to the tune of three times three!! Such indeed was the cruelty of the treatment it met with, that it finally ejected a gallon of crimson fluid yeleped blood.
This sanguinary effusion almost stupified the Count. He verily thought his last hour was come, and so, by mumbling over credoes and paternosters, began to prepare for journeying to a place which he could not travel and stay at home at the same time, as he had probably done in all his former expeditions, and from which he would have but little chance of returning to report his "battles, recontres, and adventures." But he had not proceeded very far in his devotions, before he was interrupted by a hollow sepulchral voice, which emanated from the pipes of our friend, the personator of Old Nick. Thus it spoke:--
"Presumptuous mortal! relinquish instantly the hand of Adeline to another, and depart to thy own habitation; or thou diest on the spot. Speak!"
As soon as the deep and ghostly reverberation had ceased to ring in the ear of the startled sleeper, he summoned together his scattered senses, and with a convulsive effort, ejaculated: "I obey!"
"Remember!" rejoined Ludwig, in the same grave-like, blood-chilling tone as he and his fellow devils glided out of the room with the rapidity of thunderbolts.
The funeral echo of the simple monosyllable "Remember!" vibrated like the knell of death on the spirit of its auditor. There was not a particle of doubt in his mind, that he had been dealing with the inhabitants of the invisible world. Naturally prone to superstition, his prejudices or his fears always obtained a mastery over his judgment. The slightest and most ambiguous circumstances, therefore, were often to him a source of the firmest conviction.
He was consequently not slow in performing the promise which he had sol solemnly made to his supposed supernatural visitants. After hastily dressing himself, he called his servant, who slept in an apartment contiguous to his own. To him he briefly recited, with trembling accents, the disagreeable visit which a pack of hobgoblins, fiends and devils had paid him, and recapitulated the ill-treatment he had received at their hands, adducing his nose in confirmation of some of the facts. And surely it afforded proof abundant--and perhaps too much, for the equanimity of its possessor, who certainly wished, for its sake at lest, that it had afforded less--it being dreadfully excoriated, and so cruelly distorted, that it looked like every thing in the world but a nose. After getting through the history of his sufferings--and it really was the shortest he ever told before--he cast a most woful squint at the bed, which he had dyed at the shortest notice with the crimson "out-pourings" of his nostrils, as if to say to his attendant, "Ecce Signum alterum!"
He then ordered his servant to make preparations for instant departure, while he himself sat writing the Baron a letter. In it he recounted to his host, with all proper and laudable exaggeration, the awful occurrences of the night; informing him against the "horrible demons"--whose numbers he thought fit to amplify to three hundred--that he come into his apartment over night, without asking leave, and after playing him a parcel of ugly tricks on his proboscis, had exacted a promise of him to relinquish Adeline, &c.
Having signed this epistle with his proper name, not forgetting the honorary title of "Grosnas," which in English means "Bignosed"--he left it for the Baron. And, without taking the trouble to bid any one adieu, he set out for home, which he soon after reached. We shall leave him there for the present, safely housed, and see what is going on at the castle.
Morn came. Thunderstruck as the Baron was, at hearing of the sudden departure of Schleppel, he was still more so, when, on reading his letter he learned what had happened to him the preceding night. Considering the Count to be a man of veracity as well as of courage, he believed every iota of his statement. Yet, as he felt himself warranted by the assertions of the latter, in believing that Heaven had intervened to prevent the proposed match, he in fact felt but little chagrin at its dissolution.
Meanwhile, Ludwig hastened to impart the joyful tidings of his success to his beloved Adeline, who was transported with the intelligence. While congratulating each other on their good fortune, the Baron unexpectedly made his appearance, with surprise and dismay depicted on his countenance. In a faltering tone, he related to the lovers the last night's doings. Ludwig heard him through with a command of feature, that was truly admirable--then, falling on his knees and counterfeiting the utmost astonishment, he exclaimed:--
"Thank heaven! my Adeline has been torn from the arms of a monster!"
"What do I hear?" cried the Baron, "your Adeline? How is this?"
The maiden blushed, and the hues of the vermillion mounted to her cheek. She was silent--but it was a silence that would have put to shame the eloquence of a Demosthenes or a Tully. Her father guessed all.
His unillluminated mind, deeply tinged with the superstitious spirit of the times, was much perturbed with the events of the night--and his conscience, too, grown perhaps less callous to the stings of remorse, and more sensitive to the calls of duty, secretly reproached him for attempting to bind a lovely child, with the fetters of matrimony, to a being whom she detested--thereby blasting her prospects here, and endangering her happiness hereafter. He was touched with shame at the reflection--and for the first time in his life, he thought, and spoke, and acted, with a noble manliness of principle.
"Well," exclaimed he, "be it so. Heaven's will be done. Ludwig, Adeline is yours."
The lovers closed in a long embrace. The tear of ineffable transport that glistened in their eyes--and the fervent, burning kiss, which they impressed upon each other's lips, showed that their affection was not only unquenched, but unquenchable.
The next day witnessed their marriage. Thus were kindred souls united with bonds, which no mortal hand could tear asunder.
A word or two yet of our unlucky Count. He never afterwards came within gunshot of the castle, believing a nearer approach to be fraught with danger. The Baron and his retainers were consequently deprived both of his company and his anecdotes--a loss, however, which seemed little to affect their peace of mind. His nasal organ looked as promising as ever,--contusions and scarifications excepted. It cost him a considerable sum to get it replaced in "statu quo," after the rough handling it met with from the devils, as he called them by way of distinction. 'Tis said, that he intended to bring an action for damages against Old Nick to recover the amount of the doctor's bill of him, as he and his servants had done all the mischief--but that he finally relinquished the idea, because he had no one but himself to prove the facts--being justly apprehensive that his own depositions would not obtain due credit. Some assert, too,--but we cannot vouch for the truth of their statements--that he subsequently resolved not to expose his proboscis to further ill usage, and had therefore got a mahogany case, four feet by two, made expressly for its protection and security!
Never did the Count forget the visit he received from the "three hundred devils." He vowed day after day that he would ever remember their barbarity. So he did--for the subject became a prolific source, from which he coined some of his finest tales, and drew many of his most striking illustrations!
N.B. A report was once very current, that he had resolved to lead a life of "single blessedness" to the mortification of the fair sex. Very probable. Sed quiescat in pace. C.F.B.
Stephen Sakellarios, M.S.
*My emotional reaction--and it is through emotions that past-life memory comes through most readily, in normal waking consciousness--was that using this signature was an ironic act of defiance, as in, "Just see how this 'country-fried boy' can write." I do know, from long exposure to Mathew's writing, that nothing in his sketches was arbitrary or random--if anything seemed so, it was a coded reference. For example, the "N.B" (nota bene) at the closing, referring to the character representing Mathew's shadow, means that Mathew had, in fact, resolved to be a bachelor, as a result of having been earlier spurned by the village coquette (probably, for any Whittier historians, Evelina Bray). But then, he was beginning to return Abby's feelings, as he began to trust her and awaken to her beauty (both inner and outer)--so he was split along these lines.
Music opening this page: "All About You"
by Eric Johnson, from the album, "Venus Isle"