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Title: The White Maniac - A Doctor's Tale
Author: Mary Fortune
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Language: English
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The White Maniac; A Doctor's Tale
Mary Fortune

In the year 1858 I had established a flourishing practice in London;
a practice which I owed a considerable portion of, not to my ability,
I am afraid, but to the fact that I occupied the singular position of
a man professional, who was entirely independent of his profession.
Doubtless, had I been a poor man, struggling to earn a bare existence
for wife and family, I might have been the cleverest physician that
ever administered a bolus, yet have remained in my poverty to the end
of time. But it was not so, you see. I was the second son of a
nobleman, and had Honourable attached to my name; and I practiced the
profession solely and entirely because I had become enamoured of it,
and because I was disgusted at the useless existence of a fashionable
and idle young man, and determined that I, at least, would not add
another to their ranks.

And so I had a handsome establishment in a fashionable portion of the
city, and my door was besieged with carriages, from one end of the
week to the other. Many of the occupants were disappointed, however,
for I would not demean myself by taking fees from some vapourish Miss
or dissipated Dowager. Gout in vain came rolling to my door, even
though it excruciated the leg of a Duke; I undertook none but cases
that enlisted my sympathy, and after a time the fact became known and
my levees were not so well attended.

One day I was returning on horseback toward the city. I had been
paying a visit to a patient in whom I was deeply interested, and for
whom I had ordered the quiet and purer air of a suburban residence. I
had reached a spot in the neighbourhood of Kensington, where the
villas were enclosed in large gardens, and the road was marked for a
considerable distance by the brick and stone walls that enclosed
several of the gardens belonging to those mansions. On the opposite
side of the road stood a small country-looking inn, which I had
patronised before, and I pulled up my horse and alighted, for the
purpose of having some rest and refreshment after my ride.

As I sat in a front room sipping my wine and water, my thoughts were
fully occupied with a variety of personal concerns. I had received a
letter from my mother that morning, and the condition of the patient I
had recently left was precarious in the extreme.

It was fortunate that I was thought-occupied and not dependent upon
outward objects to amuse them, for although the window at which I sat
was open, it presented no view whatever, save the bare, blank, high
brick wall belonging to a house at the opposite side of the road. That
is to say, I presume, it enclosed some residence, for from where I say
not even the top of a chimney was visible.

Presently, however, the sound of wheels attracted my eyes from the
pattern of the wall-paper at which I had been unconsciously gazing,
and I looked out to see a handsome, but very plain carriage drawn up
at a small door that pierced the brick wall I have alluded to; and
almost at the same moment the door opened and closed again behind two
figures in a most singular attire. They were both of the male sex, and
one of them was the servant; but it was the dress of these persons
that most strangely interested me. They were attired in white from
head to heel; coats, vests, trousers, hats, shoes, not to speak of
shirts at all, all were white as white could be.

While I stared at this strange spectacle, the gentlemen stepped into
the vehicle; but although he did so the coachman made no movement
toward driving onward, nor did the attendant leave his post at the
carriage door. At the expiration, however, of about a quarter of an
hour, the servant closed the door and re-entered through the little
gate, closing it, likewise, carefully behind him. Then the driver
leisurely made a start, only, however, to stop suddenly again, when
the door of the vehicle was burst open and a gentleman jumped out and
rapped loudly at the gate.

He turned his face hurriedly around as he did so, hiding, it seemed
to me, meanwhile, behind the wall so as not to be seen when it opened.
Judge of my astonishment when I recognised in this gentleman the one
who had but a few minutes before entered the carriage dressed in
white, for he was now in garments of the hue of Erebus. While I
wondered at this strange metamorphosis, the door in the wall opened,
and the gentleman, now attired in black, after giving some hasty
instructions to the servant, sprang once more into the carriage and
was driven rapidly toward London.

My curiosity was strangely excited; and as I stood at the door before
mounting my horse, I asked the landlord who and what were the people
who occupied the opposite dwelling.

"Well, sir," he replied, looking curiously at the dead wall over
against him. "They've been there now a matter of six months, I dare
say, and you've seen as much of them as I have. I believe the whole
crew of them, servants and all, is foreigners, and we, that is the
neighbours around, sir, calls them the 'white mad people.'"

"What! do they always wear that singular dress?"

"Always, sir, saving as soon as ever the old gentleman goes outside
and puts black on in the carriage, and as soon as he comes back takes
it off again, and leaves it in the carriage."

"And why in the name of gracious does he not dress himself inside?"

"Oh, that I can't tell you, sir! only it's just as you see, always.
The driver or coachman never even goes inside the walls, or the horses
of any one thing that isn't white in colour, sir; and if the people
aren't mad after that, what else can it be?"

"It seems very like it, indeed; but do you mean to say that
everything inside the garden wall is white? Surely you must be
exaggerating a little?"

"Not a bit on it, sir! The coachman, who can't speak much English,
sir, comes here for a drink now and then. He don't live in the house,
you see, and is idle most of his time. Well, he told me himself, one
day, that every article in the house was white, from the garret to the
drawing-room, and that everything outside it is white I can swear, for
I saw it myself, and a stranger sight surely no eye ever saw."

"How did you manage to get into the enchanted castle, then?"

"I didn't get in sir, I only saw it outside, and from a place where
you can see for yourself too, if you have a mind. When first the
people came to the place over there, you see, sir, old Mat the sexton
and bell-ringer of the church there, began to talk of the strange
goings on he had seen from the belfry; and so may curiosity took me
there one day to look for myself. Blest if I ever heard of such a
strange sight! no wonder they call them the white mad folk."

"Well, you've roused my curiosity," I said, as I got on my horse,
"and I'll certainly pay old Mat's belfry a visit the very next time I
pass this way, if I'm not hurried."

It appeared unaccountable to even myself that these mysterious people
should make such a singular impression on me; I thought of little else
during the next two days. I attended to my duties in an absent manner,
and my mind was ever recurring to the one subject--viz. an attempt to
account for the strange employment of one hue only in the household of
this foreign gentleman. Of whom did the household consist? Had he any
family? and could one account for the eccentricity in any other way
save by ascribing it to lunacy, as mine host of the inn had already
done. As it happened, the study of brain diseases had been my hobby
during my noviciate, and I was peculiarly interested in observing a
new symptom of madness, if this was really one.

At length I escaped to pay my country patient his usual visit, and on
my return alighted at the inn, and desired the landlord to have my
horse put in the stable for a bit.

"I'm going to have a peep at your madhouse," I said, "do you think I
shall find old Mat about?"

"Yes, doctor; I saw him at work in the churchyard not half an hour
ago, but at any rate he won't be farther off than his cottage, and it
lies just against the yard wall."

The church was an old, ivy-wreathed structure, with a square Norman
belfry, and a large surrounding of grey and grass-grown old
headstones. It was essentially a country church, and a country
churchyard; and one wondered to find it so close to the borders of a
mighty city, until they remembered that the mighty city had crept into
the country, year by year, until it had covered with stone and mortar
the lowly site of many a cottage home, and swallowed up many an acre
of green meadow and golden corn. Old Mat was sitting in the middle of
the graves; one tombstone forming his seat, and he was engaged in
scraping the moss from a headstone that seemed inclined to tumble
over, the inscription on which was all but obliterated by a growth of
green slimy-looking moss.

"Good-day, friend, you are busy," I said. "One would fancy that stone
so old now, that the living had entirely forgotten their loss. But I
suppose they have not, or you would not be cleaning it."

"It's only a notion of my own, sir; I'm idle, and when I was a lad I
had a sort o' likin' for this stone, Lord only knows why. But you see
I've clean forgotten what name was on it, and I thought I'd like to
see."

"Well, I want to have a look at these 'white mad folk' of yours, Mat,
will you let me into the belfry? Mr. Tanning tells me you can see
something queer up there."

"By jove you can, sir!" he replied, rising with alacrity. "I often
spend an hour watching the mad folk; faith if they had my old church
and yard they'd whitewash 'em, belfry and all!" and the old man led
the way into the tower.

Of course my first look on reaching the summit was in the direction
of the strange house, and I must confess to an ejaculation of
astonishment as I peeped through one of the crevices. The belfry was
elevated considerably above the premises in which I was interested,
and not at a very great distance, so that grounds and house lay spread
beneath me like a map.

I scarcely know how to commence describing it to you, it was
something I had never seen or imagined. The mansion itself was a
square and handsome building of two stories, built in the Corinthian
style, with pillared portico, and pointed windows. But the style
attracted my attention but little, it was the universal white, white
everywhere, that drew from me the ejaculation to which I have alluded.

From the extreme top of the chimneys to the basement, roof, windows,
everything was pure white; not a shade lurked even inside a window;
the windows themselves were painted white, and the curtains were of a
white muslin that fell over every one of them. Every yard of the broad
space that one might reasonably have expected to see decorated with
flowers and grass and shrubberies, was covered with a glaring and
sparkling white gravel, the effect of which, even in the hot brilliant
sun of a London afternoon, was to dazzle, and blind, and aggravate.
And as if this was not enough, the inside of the very brick walls was
whitewashed like snow, and at intervals, here and there, were placed a
host of white marble statues and urns that only increased the, to me,
horrible aspect of the place.

"I don't wonder they are mad!" I exclaimed, "I should soon become mad
in such a place myself."

"Like enough, sir," replied old Mat, stolidly, "but you see it didn't
make they mad, for they did it themselves, so they must 'a been mad
afore."

An incontrovertible fact, according to the old man's way of putting
it; and as I had no answer for it, I went down the old stone stairs,
and having given my guide his donation, left the churchyard as
bewildered as I had entered it. Nay, more so, for then I had not seen
the extraordinary house that had made so painful an impression upon
me.

I was in no humour for a gossip with mine host, but just as I was
about to mount my horse, which had been brought round, the same
carriage drove round to the mysterious gate, and the same scene was
enacted to which I had before been a witness. I drew back until the
old gentleman had stepped inside and performed his toilet, and when
the carriage drove rapidly toward the city, I rode thoughtfully onward
toward home.

I was young, you see, and although steady, and, unlike most young
gentlemen of my age and position in society, had a strong vein of
romance in my character. That hard study and a sense of its inutility
had kept it under, had not rendered it one whit less ready to be at a
moment's call; and, in addition to all this, I had never yet, in the
seclusion of my student life, met with an opportunity of falling in
love, so that you will see I was in the very best mood for making the
most of the adventure which was about to befall me, and which had so
tragic a termination.

My thoughts were full of the "White mad folk," as I reached my own
door; and there, to my utter astonishment, I saw drawn up the very
carriage of the white house, which had preceded me. Hastily giving my
horse to the groom I passed through the hall and was informed by a
servant that a gentleman waited in my private consulting-room.

Very rarely indeed had my well-strung nerves been so troublesome as
upon that occasion; I was so anxious to see this gentleman, and yet so
fearful of exposing the interest I had already conceived in his
affairs, that my hand absolutely trembled as I turned the handle of
the door of the room in which he was seated. The first glance,
however, at the aristocratic old gentleman who rose on my entrance,
restored all my self-possession, and I was myself once more. In the
calm, sweet face of the perfectly dressed gentleman before me there
was no trace of the lunacy that had created that strange abode near
Kensington; the principal expression in his face was that of ingrained
melancholy, and his deep mourning attire might have suggested to a
stranger the reason of that melancholy. He addressed me in perfect
English, the entire absence of idiom alone declaring him to be a
foreigner.

"I have the pleasure of addressing Doctor Elveston?" he said.

I bowed, and placed a chair in which he re-seated himself, while I
myself took possession of another.

"And Doctor Elveston is a clever physician and a man of honour?"

"I hope to be worthy of the former title, sir, while my position
ought at least to guarantee the latter."

"Your public character does, sir," said the old gentleman,
emphatically, "and it is because I believe that you will preserve the
secret of an unfortunate family that I have chosen you to assist me
with your advice."

My heart was beating rapidly by this time. There was a secret then,
and I was about to become the possessor of it. Had it anything to do
with the mania for white?

"Anything in my power," I hastened to reply, "you may depend on; my
advice, I fear, may be of little worth, but such as it is--"

"I beg your pardon, Doctor," interrupted he, "it is your medical
advice that I allude to, and I require it for a young lady--a
relative."

"My dear sir, that is, of course, an everyday affair, my
professional advice and services belong to the public, and as the
public's they are of course yours."

"Oh, my dear young friend, but mine is not an everyday affair, and
because it is not is the reason that I have applied to you in
particular. It is a grievous case, sir, and one which fills many
hearts with a bitterness they are obliged to smother from a world
whose sneers are poison."

The old gentleman spoke in tones of deep feeling, and I could not
help feeling sorry for him at the bottom of my very heart.

"If you will confide in me, my dear sir," I said, "believe that I
will prove a fiend as faithful and discreet as you could wish."

He pressed my hand, turned away for a moment to collect his agitated
feelings and then he spoke again.

"I shall not attempt to hide my name from you sir, though I have
hitherto carefully concealed it. I am the Duke de Rohan, and
circumstances, which it is impossible for me to relate to you, have
driven me to England to keep watch and ward over my sister's daughter,
the Princess d'Alberville. It is for this young lady I wish your
attendance, her health is rapidly failing within the last week."

"Nothing can be more simple," I observed, eagerly, "I can go with you
at once--this very moment."

"Dear Doctor, it is unfortunately far from being as simple a matter
as you think," he replied, solemnly, "for my wretched niece is mad."

"Mad!"

"Alas! yes, frightfully--horribly mad!" and he shuddered as if a cold
wind had penetrated his bones.

"Has this unhappy state of mind been of long duration?" I questioned.

"God knows; the first intimation her friends had of it was about two
years ago, when it culminated in such a fearful event that horrified
them. I cannot explain it to you, however, for the honour of a noble
house is deeply concerned; and even the very existence of the
unfortunate being I beg of you to keep a secret for ever."

"You must at any rate tell me what you wish me to do," I observed,
"and give me as much information as you can guide me, or I shall be
powerless."

"The sight of one colour has such an effect on the miserable girl
that we have found out, by bitter experience, the only way to avoid a
repetition of the most fearful tragedies, is to keep every hue or
shade away from her vision; for, although it is only one colour that
affects her, any of the others seems to suggest that one to her mind
and produce uncontrollable agitation. In consequence of this she is
virtually imprisoned within the grounds of the house I have provided
for her, and every object that meets her eye is white, even the
ground, and the very roof of the mansion."

"How very strange!"

"It will be necessary for you, my dear sir," the Duke continued, "to
attire yourself in a suit of white. I have brought one in the
carriage for your use, and if you will now accompany me I shall be
grateful."

Of course I was only too glad to avail myself of the unexpected
opportunity of getting into the singular household, and becoming
acquainted with the lunatic princess; and in a few moments we were
being whirled on our way toward Kensington.

On stopping at the gate of the Duke's residence, I myself became an
actor in the scene which had so puzzled me on two previous occasions.
My companion produced two suits of white, and proceeded to turn the
vehicle into a dressing-room, though not without many apologies for
the necessity. I followed his example, and in a few moments we stood
inside the gate, and I had an opportunity of more closely surveying
the disagreeable enclosure I had seen from the church belfry. And a
most disagreeable survey it was; the sun shining brilliantly, rendered
the unavoidable contact with the white glare, absolutely painful to
the eye; nor was it any escape to stand in the lofty vestibule, save
that there the absence of sunshine made the uniformity more bearable.

My companion led the way up a broad staircase covered with white
cloth, and balustraded with carved rails, the effect of which was
totally destroyed by their covering of white paint. The very stair-
rods were of white enamel, and the corners and landing places served
as room for more marble statues, that held enamelled white lamps in
their hands, lamps that were shaded by globes of ground glass. At the
door of an apartment pertaining, as he informed me, to the Princess
d'Alberville, the Duke stopped, and shook my hand, "I leave you to
make your own way," he said, pointing to the door. "She has never
showed any symptoms of violence while under the calm influence of
white; but, nevertheless, we shall be at hand, the least sound will
bring you assistance," and he turned away.

I opened the door without a word, and entered the room, full of
curiosity as to what I should see and hear of this mysterious
princess. It was a room of vast and magnificent proportions, and,
without having beheld such a scene, one can hardly conceive the
strange cold look the utter absence of colour gave it. A Turkey carpet
that looked like a woven fall of snow; white satin damask on chair,
couch, and ottoman; draped satin and snowy lace around the windows,
with rod, rings, and snowy marble, and paper on the walls of purest
white; altogether it was a weird-looking room, and I shook with cold
as I entered it.

The principal object of my curiosity was seated in a deep chair with
her side toward me, and I had an opportunity of examining her
leisurely, as she neither moved or took the slightest notice of my
entrance; most probably she was quite unaware of it. She was the most
lovely being I had ever beheld, a fair and perfect peace of statuary
one might have thought, so immobile and abstracted, nay, so entirely
expressionless were her beautiful features. Her dress was pure white,
her hair of a pale golden hue, and her eyes dark as midnight. Her
hands rested idly on her lap, her gaze seemed intent on the high white
wall that shot up outside the window near her; and in the whole room
there was neither the heavy, white-covered furniture, and the draping
curtains. I advanced directly before her and bowed deeply, and then I
calmly drew forward a chair and seated myself. As I did so she moved
her eyes from the window and rested them on me, but, for all the
interest they evinced, I might as well have been the white-washed wall
outside. She was once more returning her eyes to the blank window,
when I took her hand and laid my fingers on her blue-veined wrist. The
action seemed to arouse her, for she looked keenly into my face, and
then she laughed sadly.

"One may guess you are a physician," she said, in a musical, low,
voice, and with a slightly foreign accent, that was in my opinion a
great improvement to our harsh language.

"I am," I replied, with a smile, "your uncle has sent me to see about
your health, which alarms him."

"Poor man!" she said, with a shade of commiseration clouding her
beautiful face, "poor uncle! But I assure you there is nothing the
matter with me; nothing but what must be the natural consequence of
the life I am leading."

"Why do you lead one which you know to be injurious then?" I asked,
still keeping my fingers on the pulse, that beat as calmly as a
sleeping infant's, and was not increased by a single throb though a
stranger sat beside her.

"How can I help it?" she asked, calmly meeting my inquisitorial gaze,
"do you think a sane person would choose to be imprisoned thus, and to
be surrounded by the colour of death ever? Had mine not been a strong
mind I should have been mad long ago."

"Mad!" I could not help ejaculating, in a puzzled tone.

"Yes, mad," she replied, "could you live here, month after month, in
a hueless atmosphere and with nothing but that to look at," and she
pointed her slender finger toward the white wall, "could you, I ask,
and retain your reason?"

"I do not believe I could!" I answered, with sudden vehemence, "then,
again I repeat why do it?"

"And again I reply, how can I help it?"

I was silent. I was looking in the eyes of the beautiful being before
me for a single trace of the madness I had been told of, but I could
not find it. It was a lovely girl, pale and delicate from confinement,
and was about twenty years old, perhaps, and the most perfect
creature, I have already said, that I had ever beheld; and so we sat
looking into each other's eyes; and mine expressed I cannot say, but
hers were purity, and sweetness itself.

"Who are you?" she asked, suddenly. "Tell me something of yourself.
It will be at least a change from this white solitude."

"I am a doctor, as you have guessed; and a rich and fashionable
doctor," I added, smilingly.

"To be either is to be also the other," she remarked, "you need not
have used the repetition."

"Come," I thought to myself, "there is little appearance of lunacy in
that observation."

"But you doubtless have a name, what is it?"

"My name is Elveston--Doctor Elveston."

"Your christian name?"

"No, my christian name is Charles."

"Charles," she repeated dreamily.

"I think it is your turn now," I remarked, "it is but fair that you
should make me acquainted with your name, since I have told you mine."

"Oh! my name is d'Alberville--Blanche d'Alberville. Perhaps it was in
consequence of my christian name that my poor uncle decided upon
burying me in white," she added, with a look round the cold room,
"poor old man!"

"Why do you pity him so?" I asked. "He seems to me little to require
it. He is strong and rich, and the uncle of Blanche," I added, with a
bow; but the compliment seemed to glide off her as if it had been a
liquid, and she were made of glassy marble like one of the statues
that stood behind her.

"And you are a physician," she said, looking wonderingly at me, "and
have been in the Duke's company, without discovering it?"

"Discovering what, my dear young lady?"

"That he is mad."

"Mad!" How often had I already ejaculated that word since I had
become interested in this singular household; but this time it must
assuredly have expressed the utmost astonishment, for I was never more
confounded in my life; and yet a light seemed to be breaking in upon my
bewilderment, as I stared in wondering silence at the calm face of the
lovely maiden before me.

"Alas, yes!" she replied, sadly, to my look, "my poor uncle is a
maniac, but a harmless one to all but me; it is I who suffer all."

"And why you?" I gasped.

"Because it is his mania to believe me mad," she replied, "and so he
treats me."

"But in the name of justice why should you endure this?" I cried,
angrily starting to my feet, "you are in a free land at least, and
doors will open!"

"Calm yourself, my friend," she said, laying her white hand on my
arm, and the contact, I confess, thrilled through every nerve of my
system, "compose yourself, and see things as they are; what could a
young, frail girl like me do out in the world alone? and I have not a
living relative but my uncle. Besides, would it be charitable to
desert him and leave him to his own madness thus! Poor old man!"

"You are an angel!" I ejaculated, "and I would die for you!"

The reader need not be told that my enthusiastic youth was at last
beginning to make its way through the crust of worldly wisdom that had
hitherto subdued it.

"It is not necessary that anyone should die for me; I can do that for
myself, and no doubt shall ere long, die of the want of colour and
air," she said, with a sad smile.

There is little use following our conversation to the end. I
satisfied myself that there was really nothing wrong with her
constitution, save the effects of the life she was obliged to lead;
and I determined, instead of interfering with her at present, to
devote myself to the poor Duke, with a hope that I might be of service
to him, and succeed in gaining the liberation of poor Blanche. We
parted, I might almost say as lovers, although no words of affection
were spoken; but I carried away her image entwined with every fibre of
my heart, and in the deep sweetness of her lingering eyes I fancied I
read hope and love.

The Duke was waiting impatiently in the corridor as I left the lovely
girl, and he led me into another apartment to question me eagerly.
What did I think of the princess's state of health? Had she shown any
symptoms of uneasiness during my visit? As the old gentleman asked
these questions he watched my countenance keenly; while on my part I
observed him with deep interest to discover traces of his unfortunate
mental derangement.

"My dear sir, I perceive nothing alarming whatever in the state of
your niece; she is simply suffering from confinement and monotony of
existence, and wants nothing whatever but fresh air and amusement, and
exercise; in short, life."

"Alas! you know that is impossible; have I not told you that her
state precludes everything of the sort?"

"You must excuse me, my friend," I said, firmly, "I have conversed
for a considerable time with the Princess d'Alberville, and I am a
medical man accustomed to dealing with, and the observation of,
lunacy, and I give you my word of honour there is no weakness whatever
in the brain of this fair girl; you are simply killing her, it is my
duty to tell you so, killing her under the influence of some, to me,
most unaccountable whim."

The Duke wrung his hands in silence, but his excited eye fell under
my steady gaze. It was apparently with a strong effort that he
composed in himself sufficiently to speak, and when he did his words
had a solemnity in their tone that ought to have made a deep
impression upon me; but it did not, for the sweetness of the
imprisoned Blanche's voice was still lingering in my ears.

"You are a young man, Doctor Elveston; it is one of the happy
provisions of youth, no doubt, to be convinced of its own
infallibility. But you must believe that one of my race does not lie,
and I swear to you that my niece is the victim of a most fearful
insanity, which but to name makes humanity shudder with horror."

"I do not doubt that you believe such to be the case, my dear sir," I
said, soothingly, for I fancied I saw the fearful light of insanity in
his glaring eye at that moment, "but to my vision everything seems
different."

"Well, my young friend, do not decide yet too hastily. Visit us
again, but Got in mercy grant that you may never see the reality as I
have seen it!"

And so I did repeat my visits, and repeat them so often and that
without changing my opinion, that the Duke, in spite of his mania
began to see that they were no longer necessary. One day on my leaving
Blanche he requested a few moments of my time, and drawing me into his
study, locked the door. I began to be a little alarmed, and more
particularly as he seemed to be in a state of great agitation; but, as
it appeared, my alarm of personal violence was entirely without
foundation.

He placed a chair for me, and I seated myself with all the calmness I
could muster, while I kept my eyes firmly fixed upon his as he
addressed me.

"My dear young friend, I hope it is unnecessary for me to say that
these are no idle words, for I have truly conceived an ardent
appreciation of your character; yet it is absolutely necessary that I
should put a stop to your visits to my niece. Good Heavens, what could
I say--how could I ever forgive myself if any--any---"

"I beg of you to go no farther, Duke," I said, interrupting him. "You
have only by a short time anticipated what I was about to communicate
myself. If your words allude to an attachment between Blanche and
myself, your care is now too late. We love each other, and intend,
subject to your approval, to be united immediately."

Had a sudden clap of thunder reverberated in the quiet room the poor
man could not have been more affected. He started to his feet, and
glared into my eyes with terror.

"Married!" he gasped. "Married! Blanche d'Alberville wedded! Oh God!"
and then he fell back into his chair as powerless as a child.

"And why should this alarm you?" I asked. "She is youthful and
lovely, and as sane, I believe in my soul, as I am myself. I am
rich, and of a family which may aspire to mate with the best. You are
her only relative and guardian, and you say that you esteem me; whence
then this great distaste to hear even a mention of your fair ward's
marriage?"

"She is not my ward!" he cried, hoarsely, and it seemed to me
angrily, "her father and mother are both in existence, and destroyed
for all time by the horror she had brought around them! But, my God,
what is the use of speaking--I talk to a madman!" and he turned to his
desk and began to write rapidly.

There I sat in bewilderment. I had not now the slightest doubt but
that my poor friend was the victim of monomania; his one idea was
uppermost, and that idea was that his unfortunate niece was mad. I was
fully determined now to carry her away and make her my wife at once,
so as to relieve the poor girl from an imprisonment, to which there
seemed no other prospect of an end. And my hopes went still farther;
who could tell but that the sight of Blanche living and enjoying life
as did others of her sex, might have a beneficial effect upon the poor
duke's brain, and help to eradicate his fixed idea.

As I was thus cogitating, the old gentleman rose from his desk and
handed me a letter addressed, but unsealed. His manner was now almost
unearthly calm, as if he had come to some great determination, to
which he had only been driven by the most dreadful necessity.

"My words are wasted, Charles," he said, "and I cannot tell the
truth; but if you ever prized home and name, friends or family, mother
or wife, send that letter to its address after you have perused it,
and await its reply."

I took the letter and put it into my pocket, and then I took his hand
and pressed it warmly. I was truly sorry for the poor old gentleman,
who suffered, no doubt, as much from his fancied trouble as if it were
the most terrible of realities.

"I hope you will forgive me for grieving you, my dear sir; believe me
it pains me much to see you thus. I will do as you wish about the
letter. But oh, how I wish you could see Blanche with my eyes! To me
she is the most perfect of women!"

"You have never seen her yet!"--he responded, bitterly, "could you--
dare you only once witness but a part of her actions under one
influence, you would shudder to your very marrow!"

"To what influence do you allude, dear sir!"

"To that of colour--one colour."

"And that colour? have you any objection to name it?"

"It is red!" and as the duke answered he turned away abruptly, and
left me standing bewildered, but still unbelieving.

I hastened home that day, anxious to peruse the letter given me by
the duke, and as soon as I had reached my own study drew it from my
pocket and spread it before me. It was addressed to the Prince
d'Alberville, Chateau Gris, Melun, France; and the following were its
singular contents:---

"DEAR BROTHER.--A terrible necessity for letting another into our
fearful secret has arisen. A young gentleman of birth and fortune has,
in spite of my assurances that she is insane, determined to wed
Blanche. Such a sacrifice cannot be permitted, even were such a thing
not morally impossible. You are her parent, it is then your place to
inform this unhappy young man of the unspoken curse that rests on our
wretched name. I enclose his address. Write to him at once.

"Your afflicted brother.

"DE ROHAN."

I folded up this strange epistle and despatched it; and then I
devoted nearly an hour to pondering over the strange contradictions of
human nature, and more particularly diseased human nature. Of course I
carried the key to this poor man's strangeness in my firm conviction
of his insanity, and my entire belief in the martyrdom of Blanche; yet
I could not divest myself of an anxiety to receive a reply to this
letter, a reply which I was certain would explain the duke's lunacy,
and beg of me to pardon it. That is to say if such a party as the
Prince d'Alberville existed at all, and I did not quite lose sight of
the fact that Blanche had assured me that, with the exception of her
uncle, she had not a living relative.

It seemed a long week to me ere the French reply, that made my hand
tremble as I received it, was put into it. I had abstained from
visiting my beloved Blanche, under a determination that I would not do
so until armed with such a letter as I anticipated receiving; or until
I should be able to say, "ample time for a reply to your communication
has elapsed; none to come, give me then my betrothed." Here then at
last was the letter, and I shut myself into my own room and opened it;
the words are engraven on my memory and will never become less vivid.

"SIR,--You wish to wed my daughter, the Princess Blanche
d'Alberville. Words would vainly try to express the pain with which I
expose our disgrace--our horrible secret--to a stranger, but it is to
save from a fate worse than death. Blanche d'Alberville is an
anthropophagus, already has one of her own family fallen victim to her
thirst for  human blood. Spare us if you can, and pray for us.

"D'ALBERVILLE."

I sat like one turned to stone and stared at the fearful paper! An
anthropophagus! a cannibal! Good heavens, the subject was just now
engaging the attention of the medical world in a remarkable degree, in
consequence of two frightful and well-authenticated cases that had
lately occurred in France! All the particulars of these cases, in
which I had taken a deep interest, flashed before me, but not for one
moment did I credit the frightful story of my beloved. Some detestable
plot had been formed against her, for what vile purpose, or what end
in view I was ignorant; and I cast the whole subject from my mind with
an effort, and went to attend my daily round of duties. During the two
or three hours that followed, and under the influence of the human
suffering I had witnessed, a revolution took place in my feelings, God
only knows by what means induced; but when I returned home, to prepare
for my eventful visit to the "white house," a dreadful doubt had
stolen into my heart, and filled it with a fearful determination.

Having ordered my carriage and prepared the white suit, which I was
now possessor of, I went directly to the conservatory, and looked
around among the brilliant array of blossoms most suitable to my
purpose. I chose the flaring scarlet verbena to form my bouquet; a
tasteless one it is true, but one decidedly distinctive in colour. I
collected quite a large nosegay of this flower, without a single spray
of green to relieve its bright hue. Then I went to my carriage, and
gave directions to be driven to Kensington.

At the gate of the Duke's residence I dressed myself in the white
suit mechanically, and followed the usual servant into the house,
carefully holding my flowers, which I had enveloped in a newspaper. I
was received as usual also by the Duke, and in a few seconds we stood,
face to face in his study. In answer to his look of fearful inquiry I
handed him my French epistle, and stood silently by as he read it
tremblingly.

"Well, are you satisfied now?" he asked, looking at me pitifully in
the face, "has this dreadful exposure convinced you?"

"No!" I answered, recklessly. "I am neither satisfied nor convinced
of anything save that you are either a lunatic yourself, or in
collusion with the writer of that abominable letter!" and as I spoke I
uncovered my scarlet bouquet and shook out its blossoms. The sight of
it made a terrible impression upon my companion; his knees trembled as
if he were about to fall, and his face grew whiter than his garments.

"In the name of heaven what are you going to do?" he gasped.

"I am simply going to present my bride with a bouquet," I said, and as
I said so I laughed an empty, hollow laugh. I cannot describe my
strange state of mind at that moment; I felt as if myself under the
influence of some fearful mania.

"By all you hold sacred, Charles Elveston, I charge you to desist!
who or what are you that you should set your youth, and ignorance of
this woman against my age and bitter experience?"

"Ha, ha!" was my only response, as I made toward the door.

"By heavens, he is mad!" cried the excited nobleman. "Young man, I
tell you that you carry in your hand a colour which had better be
shaken in the eyes of a mad bull than be placed in sight of my
miserable niece! Fool! I tell you it will arouse in her an
unquenchable thirst for blood, and the blood may be yours!"'

"Let it!" I cried, and passed on my way to Blanche.

I was conscious of the Duke's cries to the servants as I hurried up
the broad staircase, and guessed that they were about to follow me;
but to describe my feelings is utterly impossible.

I was beginning now to believe that my betrothed was something
terrible, and I faced her desperately, as one who had lost everything
worth living for, or placed his last stake upon the cast of a die.

I opened the well-known door of the white room, that seemed to me
colder, and more death-like than ever; and I saw the figure of Blanche
seated in her old way, and in her old seat, looking out of the window.
I did not wait to scan her appearance just then, however, for I caught
a glimpse of myself in a large mirror opposite, and was fascinated, as
it were by the strange sight.

The mirror reflected, in unbroken stillness, the cold whiteness of
the large apartment, but it also reflected my face and form, wearing
an expression that half awoke me to a consciousness of physical
indisposition. There was a wild look in my pallid countenance, and a
reckless air in my figure which the very garments seemed to have
imbibed, and which was awry; the collar of my shirt was unbuttoned,
and I had even neglected to put on my neck-tie; but it was upon the
blood-red bouquet that my momentary gaze became riveted.

It was such a contrast; the cold, pure white of all the surroundings,
and that circled patch of blood-colour that I held in my hand was so
suggestive! "Of what?" I asked myself. "Am I really mad?" and then I
laughed loudly and turned toward Blanche.

Possibly the noise of the opening door had attracted her, for when I
turned she was standing on her feet, directly confronting me. Her eyes
were distended with astonishment at my peculiar examination of myself
in the mirror, no doubt, but they flashed into madness at the sight of
the flowers as I turned. Her face grew scarlet, her hands clenched,
and her regards devoured the scarlet bouquet, as I madly held it
towards her. At this moment my eye caught a side glimpse of half-a-
dozen terrified faces peeping in the doorway, and conspicuous and
foremost that of the poor terrified Duke; but my fate must be
accomplished, and I still held the bouquet tauntingly toward the
transfixed girl. She gave one wild look into my face, and recognised
the sarcasm which I felt in my eyes, and then she snatched the flowers
from my hand, and scattered them in a thousand pieces at her feet.

How well I remember that picture to-day. The white room--the torn and
brilliant flowers--and the mad fury of that lovely being. A laugh
echoed again upon my lips, an involuntary laugh it was, for I knew not
that I laughed; and then there was a rush, and white teeth were at my
throat, tearing flesh, and sinews, and veins; and a horrible sound was
in my ears, as if some wild animal was tearing at my body! I dreamt
that I was in a jungle of Africa, and that a tiger, with a tawney
coat, was devouring my still living flesh, and then I became
insensible!

When I opened my eyes faintly, I lay in my own bed, and the form of
the Duke was bending over me. One of my medical confreres held my
wrist between his fingers, and the room was still and dark.

"How is this, Bernard?" I asked, with difficulty, for my voice seemed
lost, and the weakness of death hanging around my tongue. "What has
happened?"

"Hush! my dear fellow, you must not speak. You have been nearly
worried to death by a maniac, and you have lost a fearful quantity of
blood."

"Oh!" I recollected it all, and turned to the Duke, "and Blanche?"

"She is dead, thank God!" he whispered, calmly.

I shuddered through every nerve and was silent.

It was many long weeks ere I was able to listen to the Duke as he
told the fearful tale of the dead girl's disease. The first intimation
her wretched relatives had of the horrible thing was upon the morning
of her eighteenth year. They went to her room to congratulate her, and
found her lying upon the dead body of her younger sister, who occupied
the same chamber; she had literally torn her throat with her teeth,
and was sucking the hot blood as she was discovered. No words could
describe the horror of the wretched parents. The end we have seen.

I never asked how Blanche had died, I did not wish to know; but I
guessed that force had been obliged to be used in dragging her teeth
from my throat, and that the necessary force was sufficient to destroy
her. I have never since met with a case of anthropophagy, but I fancy
I still feel Blanche's teeth at my throat.



THE END




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