« ПредишнаНапред »
and he became gradually a little did not make a mock at me as he more composed. “Who are they !" darted by. The laughing-stock of he said hoarsely; "they're cursed all those miserable objects, the wretches like you and me: and sport of fate, afraid to go forward, there are as many bands of them unable to go back, with a fire in as there are mines on the road: my veins urging me on! But and you'd better turn back and presently I grew a little calmer stay where you are. You are out of mere exhaustion, which safe here."
was all the relief that was possible "I will not turn back," I said to me. And by-and-by, collect
“I know well enough: you can't. ing all my faculties, and impelled You've got to go the round like the by this impulse, which I seemed rest," he said, with a laugh which unable to resist, I got up and went was like a sound uttered by a wild cautiously on. animal rather than a human voice. Fear can act in two ways: it The man was in my power, and I paralyses and it renders cunning. struck him, miserable as he was. At this moment I found it inspire It seemed a relief thus to get rid me. I made my plans before I of some of the fury in my mind. started, how to steal along under “ It's a lie,” I said; “I go because the cover of the blighted brushwood I please. Why shouldn't I gather which broke the line of the valley a band of my own if I please, and here and there. I set out only fight those brutes, . not fly from after long thought, seizing the mothem like you?"
meut when the vaguely perceived He chuckled and laughed below band were scouring in the other dihis breath, struggling and cursing rection intercepting the travellers. and crying out, as I struck him Thus, with many pauses, I got near again, “ You gather a band! What to the pit's mouth in safety. But could you offer them ? — where my curiosity was as great as, almost would you find them? Are you greater than, my terror. I had better than the rest of us? Are kept far from the road, dragging you not a man like the rest ? Strike myself sometimes on hands and me you can, for I'm down. But feet over broken ground, tearing make yourself a master and a chief my clothes and my flesh upon the -you!”
thorns; and on that further side io Why not I?" I shouted again, all seemed so silent and so dark in wild with rage and the sense that the shadow cast by some disused I had no power over him, save to machinery, behind which the glare hurt him. That passion made my of the fire from below blazed upon hands tremble: he slipped from the other side of the opening, that me in a moment, bounded from the I could not crawl along in the darkground like a ball, and with a yellness, and pass, which would have of derision escaped, and plunged in- been the safe way; but with a to the streets and the clamour of the breathless hot desire to see and city from which I had just flown. I know, dragged myself to the very felt myself rage after him, shaking edge to look down. Though I my fists with a consciousness of was in the shadow, my eyes were the ridiculous passion of impotence nearly put out by the glare on that was in me, but no power of which I gazed. It was not fire ; restraining it; and there was not it was the lurid glow of the gold, one of the fugitives who passed, glowing like flame, at which counthowever desperate he might be, who less miners were working. They were all about like Alies, some on prone into the glowing interior their knees, some bent double as with a cry and crash which brought they stooped over their work, some back my first wild panic. He fell lying cramped upon shelves and in a heap, from which his arms shot ledges. The sight was wonderful, forth wildly as he reached the botand terrible beyond description. tom, and his cry was half anguish The workmen seemed to consume yet half desire. I saw him seized away with the heat and the glow, by half-a-dozen eager watchers, even in the few minutes I gazed. and pitched upon a ledge just under Their eyes shrank into their heads, the roof, and tools thrust into his their faces blackened. I could see hands. I held on by an old shaft, some trying to secrete morsels of trembling, unable to move. Perthe glowing metal, which burned haps I cried too in my horror-for whatever it touched, and some one of the overseers who stood in who were being searched by the the centre of the glare looked up. superiors of the mines, and some He had the air of ordering all that who were punishing the offenders, was going on, and stood unaffected fixing them up against the blazing by the blaze, commanding the other wall of gold. The fear went out wretched officials, who obeyed him of my mind, so much absorbed was like dogs. He seemed to me, in I in this sight. I gazed, seeing my terror, like a figure of gold, the further and further every moment, image, perhaps, of wealth or Pluto, into crevices and seams of the or I know not what: for I suppose glowing metal, always with more my brain began to grow confused, and more slaves at work, and the and my hold on the shaft to relax. entire pantomime of labour and I had strength enough, however, theft, and search and punishment, for I cared not for the gold, to fling going on and on—the baked faces myself back the other way upon the dark against the golden glare, the ground, where I rolled backward, hot eyes taking a yellow reflection, downward, I knew not how, turnthe monotonous clamour of picking over and over, upon sharp and shovel, and cries and curses, ashes and metallic edges, which and all the indistinguishable sound tore my hair and beard,—and of a multitude of human creatures. for a moment I knew no more. And the floor below, and the low This fall saved me. I roof which overhung whole myriads myself after a time, and heard the within a few inches of their faces, pressgang searching about. I had and the irregular walls all breached sense to lie still among the ashes and shelved, were every one the thrown up out of the pit, while I same, a pandemonium of gold,- heard their voices.
Once I gave gold everywhere. I had loved myself up for lost. The glitter many foolish things in my life, of a lantern flashed in my eyes, but never this : which was perhaps a foot passed, crashing among why I gazed and kept my sight, the ashes so close to my cheek though there rose out of it a blast that the shoe grazed it. I found of heat which sco hed the brain. the mark after, burned upon my
While I stooped over, intent flesh: but I escaped notice by a on the sight, some one who had miracle. And presently I was able come up by my side to gaze too to drag myself up and crawl away.
caught by the fumes (as But how I reached the end of the I suppose); for suddenly I was valley I cannot tell. I pushed my aware of a dark object falling way along mechanically on the
dark side. I had no further de- so that I might have seen it in a sire to see what was going on in the dream ; and still more like an alleopenings of the mines. I went on, gory were the gold-mines in the valstumbling and stupid, scarcely cap- ley, and the myriads who laboured able even of fear, conscious only of there. Was it all true ? or only a wretchedness and weariness, till at reflection from the old life, mingling last I felt rayself drop across the with the strange novelties which road within the gateway of the would most likely elude underother town_and lay there, with no standing, on the entrance into this thought of anything but the relief new? I sat within the shelter of of being at rest.
the gateway, on my awakening, When I came to myself, it and thought over all this. My seemed to me that there was a heart was quite calm_almost, in change in the atmosphere and the the revulsion from the terrors I light. It was less lurid, paler, had been through, happy. I pergrey, more like twilight than the suaded myself that I was but now stormy afternoon of the other city. beginning ; that there had been no A certain dead serenity was in the reality in these latter experiences, sky—a black paleness, whiteness, only a curious succession of nighteverything faint in it. This town mares, such as might so well be was walled, but the gates stood supposed to follow a wonderful open, and I saw no defences of transformation like that which troops or other guardians. I found must take place between our mormyself lying across the threshold, tal life and—the world to come. but pushed to one side, so that the The world to come! I paused and carriages which went and came thought of it all, until the heart should not be stopped or I injured began to beat loud in my breast. by their passage.
It seemed to What was this, where I lay? Anme that there was some thought- other world ; a world which was fulness and kindness in this ac- not happiness, not bliss ? Oh notion, and my heart sprang up in perhaps there was no world of bliss a reaction of hope. I looked back save in dreams. This, on the as if upon a nightmare on the other hand, I said to myself, was dreadful city which I had left, on not misery : for was not I seated its tumults and noise, the wild here, with a certain tremulousness racket of the streets, the wounded about me it was true, after all wretches who sought refuge in the experiences which, supposing the corners, the strife and misery them
to have been but that were abroad, and, climax of dreams, I had come through,-a all, the horrible entertainment tremulousness very comprehensiwhich had been going on in ble, and not at all without hope ? the square, the unhappy being I will not say that I believed strapped upon the table. How, even what I tried to think.
SomeI said to myself, could such things thing in me lay like a dark shabe ? Was it a dream ? was it dow in the midst of all my thea nightmare ? was it something ories; but yet I succeeded to a presented to me in a vision—a great degree in convincing myself strong delusion to make me think that the hope in me was real, and that the old fables which had been that I was but now beginningtold concerning the end of mortal beginning with at least a possilife were true ! When I looked bility that all might be well.
In back it appeared like an allegory, this half conviction, and after all
the troubles that were over (even by a sweep of magnetic influence though they might only have been I thought that prevented me imaginary troubles), I felt a cer- from staying behind. He made tain sweetness in resting there, an attempt with his crutches within the gateway, with my back to get out of the way, hurrying against it. I was unwilling to on—and I will allow that this get up again, and bring myself in attempt of his seemed to me contact with reality. I felt that very grotesque, so that I could there was pleasure in being left scarcely help laughing: the other alone. Carriages rolled past me lookers-on in the street laughed occasionally, and now and then too, though some put on an aspect some people on foot ; but they did of disgust. “Look, the tortoise !" not kick me out of the way or in- some one said; "does he think terfere with my repose.
he can go quicker than the orderPresently as I sat trying to per- lies ?" My companions came up to suade myself to rise and pursue the man while this commentary my way, two men came up to me was going on, and seized him by in a sort of uniform. I recognised each arm. “Where were you going? with another distinct sensation of Where have you come from? How pleasure that here were people dare you make an exhibition of who had authority, representatives yourself?" they cried. They took
some kind of government. the crutches from him as they They came up to me and bade me spoke and threw them away, and come with them in tones which dragged him on until we reached a were peremptory enough.: but what great grated door which one of them of that ?-better the most peremp- opened with a key, while the other tory supervision than the lawless- held the offender, for he seemed an ness from which I had come. offender, roughly up by one shoulThey raised me from the ground der, causing him great pain. When with a touch, for I could not re- the door was opened, I saw, a sist them, and led me quickly number of people within, who along the street, into which that seemed to crowd to the door as if gateway gave access, which was seeking to get out. But this was a handsome strect with tall houses not at all what was intended. My on either side. Groups of people second companion dragged the were moving about along the lame man forward, and pushed pavement, talking now and then him in with so much violence that with considerable animation ; but I could see him fall forward on his when my companions were seen, face on the floor. Then the other there was an immediate modera- locked the door and we proceeded tion of tone, a sort of respect on our way. It was not till some which looked like fear. There time later that I understood why. was no brawling nor tumult of In the meantime I was hurried any kind in the street. The only on, meeting a great many people incident which occurred was this: who took no notice of me, to a when we had gone some way, I saw central building in the middle a lame man dragging himself along of the town, where I was brought with difficulty on the other side of before an official attended by the street. My conductors had no clerks, with great books spread sooner perceived him than they out before him. Here I was gave each other a look and darted questioned as to my name and my across, conveying me with them, antecedents, and the time of my arrival, then dismissed with a nod here to make acquaintance once to one of my conductors. He more with myself, to learn over led me back again down the again what manner of man I was. street, took me into one of the Needless knowledge, acquaintance, tall great houses, opened the unnecessary, unhappy! for what door of a room which was num- was there in me to make me to bered, and left nie there without myself a good companion ? Never, a word. I cannot convey to any I knew, could I separate myself one the bewildered consternation from that eternal consciousness ; with which I felt myself deposited but it was cruelty to force the conhere, and as the steps of my con- templation upon me. All blank, durtor died away in the long cor- blank, around me, a prison ! And ridor, I sat down, and looking my- was this to last for ever? self in the face as it were, tried I do not know how long I sat, to make out what it was that had rapt in this gloomy vision ; but at happened to me. The room was last it occurred to me to rise and small and bare. There was but try the door, which to my astonone thing hung upon the undecor- ishment was open. I went out ated walls, and that was a long with a throb of new hope. After list of printed regulations which I all, it might not be necessary to had not the courage for the mo- come back; there might be other ment to look at. The light was expedients : I might fall among indifferent, though the room was friends. I turned down the long high up, and the street from the echoing stairs, on which I met window looked far away below. I various people, who took no notice cannot tell how long I sat there of me, and in whom I felt no inthinking, and yet it could scarcely terest save a desire to avoid them, be called thought. I asked my- and at last reached the street. To self over and over again. Where am be out of doors in the air was I? is it a prison ? am I shut in, to something, though there was no leave this enclosure no more? what wind, but a motionless still atmoam I to do? how is the time to sphere which nothing disturbed. pass? I shut my eyes for a mo- The streets, indeed, were full of ment and tried to realise all that movement, but not of life—though had happened to me; but nothing this seems a paradox. save a whirl through my head of engers passed on their way in long disconnected thoughts seemed pos- regulated lines—those who went sible, and some force was upon me towards the gates keeping rigorto open my eyes again, to see the ously to one side of the pavement, blank room, the dull light the those who came, to the other. vacancy round me in which there They talked to each other here was nothing to interest the mind, and there; but whenever two men nothing to please the eye, a blank in uniform, such as those who had wherever I turned. Presently been my conductors, appeared, there came upon me a burning silence ensued, and the wayfarers regret for everything I had left, for shrank even from the looks of the noisy town with all its tu- these persons in authority. I mults and cruelties, for the dark walked all about the spacious town. valley with all its dangers. Every- Everywhere there were tall houses, thing seemed bearable, almost everywhere streams of people comagreeable, in comparison with this. ing and going, but no one spoke I seemed to have been brought to me, or remarked me at all. I