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Title: Olalla
Author: Robert Louis Stevenson
* A Project Gutenberg of Australia eBook *
eBook No.: 0606531.txt
Language: English
Date first posted: August 2006
Date most recently updated: August 2006

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Robert Louis Stevenson

'Now,' said the doctor, 'my part is done, and, I may say, with some
vanity, well done. It remains only to get you out of this cold and
poisonous city, and to give you two months of a pure air and an easy
conscience. The last is your affair. To the first I think I can help
you. It fells indeed rather oddly; it was but the other day the Padre
came in from the country; and as he and I are old friends, although of
contrary professions, he applied to me in a matter of distress among
some of his parishioners. This was a family--but you are ignorant of
Spain, and even the names of our grandees are hardly known to you;
suffice it, then, that they were once great people, and are now fallen
to the brink of destitution. Nothing now belongs to them but the
residencia, and certain leagues of desert mountain, in the greater
part of which not even a goat could support life. But the house is a
fine old place, and stands at a great height among the hills, and most
salubriously; and I had no sooner heard my friend's tale, than I
remembered you. I told him I had a wounded officer, wounded in the
good cause, who was now able to make a change; and I proposed that his
friends should take you for a lodger. Instantly the Padre's face grew
dark, as I had maliciously foreseen it would. It was out of the
question, he said. Then let them starve, said I, for I have no
sympathy with tatterdemalion pride. There-upon we separated, not very
content with one another; but yesterday, to my wonder, the Padre
returned and made a submission: the difficulty, he said, he had found
upon enquiry to be less than he had feared; or, in other words, these
proud people had put their pride in their pocket. I closed with the
offer; and, subject to your approval, I have taken rooms for you in
the residencia. The air of these mountains will renew your blood; and
the quiet in which you will there live is worth all the medicines in
the world.'

'Doctor,' said I, 'you have been throughout my good angel, and your
advice is a command. But tell me, if you please, something of the
family with which I am to reside.'

'I am coming to that,' replied my friend; 'and, indeed, there is a
difficulty in the way. These beggars are, as I have said, of very high
descent and swollen with the most baseless vanity; they have lived for
some generations in a growing isolation, drawing away, on either hand,
from the rich who had now become too high for them, and from the poor,
whom they still regarded as too low; and even to-day, when poverty
forces them to unfasten their door to a guest, they cannot do so
without a most ungracious stipulation. You are to remain, they say, a
stranger; they will give you attendance, but they refuse from the
first the idea of the smallest intimacy.'

I will not deny that I was piqued, and perhaps the feeling
strengthened my desire to go, for I was confident that I could break
down that barrier if I desired. 'There is nothing offensive in such a
stipulation,' said I; 'and I even sympathise with the feeling that
inspired it.'

'It is true they have never seen you,' returned the doctor politely;
'and if they knew you were the handsomest and the most pleasant man
that ever came from England (where I am told that handsome men are
common, but pleasant ones not so much so), they would doubtless make
you welcome with a better grace. But since you take the thing so well,
it matters not. To me, indeed, it seems discourteous. But you will
find yourself the gainer. The family will not much tempt you. A
mother, a son, and a daughter; an old woman said to be halfwitted, a
country lout, and a country girl, who stands very high with her
confessor, and is, therefore,' chuckled the physician, 'most likely
plain; there is not much in that to attract the fancy of a dashing

'And yet you say they are high-born,' I objected.

'Well, as to that, I should distinguish,' returned the doctor. 'The
mother is; not so the children. The mother was the last representative
of a princely stock, degenerate both in parts and fortune. Her father
was not only poor, he was mad: and the girl ran wild about the
residencia till his death. Then, much of the fortune having died with
him, and the family being quite extinct, the girl ran wilder than
ever, until at last she married, Heaven knows whom, a muleteer some
say, others a smuggler; while there are some who uphold there was no
marriage at all, and that Felipe and Olalla are bastards. The union,
such as it was, was tragically dissolved some years ago; but they live
in such seclusion, and the country at that time was in so much
disorder, that the precise manner of the man's end is known only to
the priest--if even to him.'

'I begin to think I shall have strange experiences,' said I.

'I would not romance, if I were you,' replied the doctor; 'you will
find, I fear, a very grovelling and commonplace reality. Felipe, for
instance, I have seen. And what am I to say? He is very rustic, very
cunning, very loutish, and, I should say, an innocent; the others are
probably to match. No, no, senor commandante, you must seek congenial
society among the great sights of our mountains; and in these at
least, if you are at all a lover of the works of nature, I promise you
will not be disappointed.'

The next day Felipe came for me in a rough country cart, drawn by a
mule; and a little before the stroke of noon, after I had said
farewell to the doctor, the innkeeper, and different good souls who
had befriended me during my sickness, we set forth out of the city by
the Eastern gate, and began to ascend into the Sierra. I had been so
long a prisoner, since I was left behind for dying after the loss of
the convoy, that the mere smell of the earth set me smiling. The
country through which we went was wild and rocky, partially covered
with rough woods, now of the cork-tree, and now of the great Spanish
chestnut, and frequently intersected by the beds of mountain torrents.
The sun shone, the wind rustled joyously; and we had advanced some
miles, and the city had already shrunk into an inconsiderable knoll
upon the plain behind us, before my attention began to be diverted to
the companion of my drive. To the eye, he seemed but a diminutive,
loutish, well-made country lad, such as the doctor had described,
mighty quick and active, but devoid of any culture; and this first
impression was with most observers final. What began to strike me was
his familiar, chattering talk; so strangely inconsistent with the
terms on which I was to be received; and partly from his imperfect
enunciation, partly from the sprightly incoherence of the matter, so
very difficult to follow clearly without an effort of the mind. It is
true I had before talked with persons of a similar mental
constitution; persons who seemed to live (as he did) by the senses,
taken and possessed by the visual object of the moment and unable to
discharge their minds of that impression. His seemed to me (as I sat,
distantly giving ear) a kind of conversation proper to drivers, who
pass much of their time in a great vacancy of the intellect and
threading the sights of a familiar country. But this was not the case
of Felipe; by his own account, he was a home--keeper; 'I wish I was
there now,' he said; and then, spying a tree by the wayside, he broke
off to tell me that he had once seen a crow among its branches.

'A crow?' I repeated, struck by the ineptitude of the remark, and
thinking I had heard imperfectly.

But by this time he was already filled with a new idea; hearkening
with a rapt intentness, his head on one side, his face puckered; and
he struck me rudely, to make me hold my peace. Then he smiled and
shook his head.

'What did you hear?' I asked.

'O, it is all right,' he said; and began encouraging his mule with
cries that echoed unhumanly up the mountain walls.

I looked at him more closely. He was superlatively well-built, light,
and lithe and strong; he was well-featured; his yellow eyes were very
large, though, perhaps, not very expressive; take him altogether, he
was a pleasant-looking lad, and I had no fault to find with him,
beyond that he was of a dusky hue, and inclined to hairyness; two
characteristics that I disliked. It was his mind that puzzled, and yet
attracted me. The doctor's phrase--an innocent--came back to me; and I
was wondering if that were, after all, the true description, when the
road began to go down into the narrow and naked chasm of a torrent.
The waters thundered tumultuously in the bottom; and the ravine was
filled full of the sound, the thin spray, and the claps of wind, that
accompanied their descent. The scene was certainly impressive; but the
road was in that part very securely walled in; the mule went steadily
forward; and I was astonished to perceive the paleness of terror in
the face of my companion. The voice of that wild river was inconstant,
now sinking lower as if in weariness, now doubling its hoarse tones;
momentary freshets seemed to swell its volume, sweeping down the
gorge, raving and booming against the barrier walls; and I observed it
was at each of these accessions to the clamour, that my driver more
particularly winced and blanched. Some thoughts of Scottish
superstition and the river Kelpie, passed across my mind; I wondered
if perchance the like were prevalent in that part of Spain; and
turning to Felipe, sought to draw him out.

'What is the matter?' I asked.

'O, I am afraid,' he replied.

'Of what are you afraid?' I returned. 'This seems one of the safest
places on this very dangerous road.'

'It makes a noise,' he said, with a simplicity of awe that set my
doubts at rest.

The lad was but a child in intellect; his mind was like his body,
active and swift, but stunted in development; and I began from that
time forth to regard him with a measure of pity, and to listen at
first with indulgence, and at last even with pleasure, to his
disjointed babble.

By about four in the afternoon we had crossed the summit of the
mountain line, said farewell to the western sunshine, and began to go
down upon the other side, skirting the edge of many ravines and moving
through the shadow of dusky woods. There rose upon all sides the voice
of falling water, not condensed and formidable as in the gorge of the
river, but scattered and sounding gaily and musically from glen to
glen. Here, too, the spirits of my driver mended, and he began to sing
aloud in a falsetto voice, and with a singular bluntness of musical
perception, never true either to melody or key, but wandering at will,
and yet somehow with an effect that was natural and pleasing, like
that of the of birds. As the dusk increased, I fell more and more
under the spell of this artless warbling, listening and waiting for
some articulate air, and still disappointed; and when at last I asked
him what it was he sang--'O,' cried he, 'I am just singing!' Above
all, I was taken with a trick he had of unweariedly repeating the same
note at little intervals; it was not so monotonous as you would think,
or, at least, not disagreeable; and it seemed to breathe a wonderful
contentment with what is, such as we love to fancy in the attitude of
trees, or the quiescence of a pool.

Night had fallen dark before we came out upon a plateau, and drew up a
little after, before a certain lump of superior blackness which I
could only conjecture to be the residencia. Here, my guide, getting
down from the cart, hooted and whistled for a long time in vain; until
at last an old peasant man came towards us from somewhere in the
surrounding dark, carrying a candle in his hand. By the light of this
I was able to perceive a great arched doorway of a Moorish character:
it was closed by iron-studded gates, in one of the leaves of which
Felipe opened a wicket. The peasant carried off the cart to some out-
building; but my guide and I passed through the wicket, which was
closed again behind us; and by the glimmer of the candle, passed
through a court, up a stone stair, along a section of an open gallery,
and up more stairs again, until we came at last to the door of a great
and somewhat bare apartment. This room, which I understood was to be
mine, was pierced by three windows, lined with some lustrous wood
disposed in panels, and carpeted with the skins of many savage
animals. A bright fire burned in the chimney, and shed abroad a
changeful flicker; close up to the blaze there was drawn a table, laid
for supper; and in the far end a bed stood ready. I was pleased by
these preparations, and said so to Felipe; and he, with the same
simplicity of disposition that I held already remarked in him, warmly
re-echoed my praises. 'A fine room,' he said; 'a very fine room. And
fire, too; fire is good; it melts out the pleasure in your bones. And
the bed,' he continued, carrying over the candle in that direction--
'see what fine sheets--how soft, how smooth, smooth;' and he passed
his hand again and again over their texture, and then laid down his
head and rubbed his cheeks among them with a grossness of content that
somehow offended me. I took the candle from his hand (for I feared he
would set the bed on fire) and walked back to the supper-table, where,
perceiving a measure of wine, I poured out a cup and called to him to
come and drink of it. He started to his feet at once and ran to me
with a strong expression of hope; but when he saw the wine, he visibly

'Oh, no,' he said, 'not that; that is for you. I hate it.'

'Very well, Senor,' said I; 'then I will drink to your good health,
and to the prosperity of your house and family. Speaking of which,' I
added, after I had drunk, 'shall I not have the pleasure of laying my
salutations in person at the feet of the Senora, your mother?'

But at these words all the childishness passed out of his face, and
was succeeded by a look of indescribable cunning and secrecy. He
backed away from me at the same time, as though I were an animal about
to leap or some dangerous fellow with a weapon, and when he had got
near the door, glowered at me sullenly with contracted pupils. 'No,'
he said at last, and the next moment was gone noiselessly out of the
room; and I heard his footing die away downstairs as light as
rainfall, and silence closed over the house.

After I had supped I drew up the table nearer to the bed and began to
prepare for rest; but in the new position of the light, I was struck
by a picture on the wall. It represented a woman, still young. To
judge by her costume and the mellow unity which reigned over the
canvas, she had long been dead; to judge by the vivacity of the
attitude, the eyes and the features, I might have been beholding in a
mirror the image of life. Her figure was very slim and strong, and of
a just proportion; red tresses lay like a crown over her brow; her
eyes, of a very golden brown, held mine with a look; and her face,
which was perfectly shaped, was yet marred by a cruel, sullen, and
sensual expression. Something in both face and figure, something
exquisitely intangible, like the echo of an echo, suggested the
features and bearing of my guide; and I stood awhile, unpleasantly
attracted and wondering at the oddity of the resemblance. The common,
carnal stock of that race, which had been originally designed for such
high dames as the one now looking on me from the canvas, had fallen to
baser uses, wearing country clothes, sitting on the shaft and holding
the reins of a mule cart, to bring home a lodger. Perhaps an actual
link subsisted; perhaps some scruple of the delicate flesh that was
once clothed upon with the satin and brocade of the dead lady, now
winced at the rude contact of Felipe's frieze.

The first light of the morning shone full upon the portrait, and, as I
lay awake, my eyes continued to dwell upon it with growing
complacency; its beauty crept about my heart insidiously, silencing my
scruples one after another; and while I knew that to love such a woman
were to sign and seal one's own sentence of degeneration, I still knew
that, if she were alive, I should love her. Day after day the double
knowledge of her wickedness and of my weakness grew clearer. She came
to be the heroine of many day-dreams, in which her eyes led on to, and
sufficiently rewarded, crimes. She cast a dark shadow on my fancy; and
when I was out in the free air of heaven, taking vigorous exercise and
healthily renewing the current of my blood, it was often a glad
thought to me that my enchantress was safe in the grave, her wand of
beauty broken, her lips closed in silence, her philtre spilt. And yet
I had a half-lingering terror that she might not be dead after all,
but re-arisen in the body of some descendant.

Felipe served my meals in my own apartment; and his resemblance to the
portrait haunted me. At times it was not; at times, upon some change
of attitude or flash of expression, it would leap out upon me like a
ghost. It was above all in his ill tempers that the likeness
triumphed. He certainly liked me; he was proud of my notice, which he
sought to engage by many simple and childlike devices; he loved to sit
close before my fire, talking his broken talk or singing his odd,
endless, wordless songs, and sometimes drawing his hand over my
clothes with an affectionate manner of caressing that never failed to
cause in me an embarrassment of which I was ashamed. But for all that,
he was capable of flashes of causeless anger and fits of sturdy
sullenness. At a word of reproof, I have seen him upset the dish of
which I was about to eat, and this not surreptitiously, but with
defiance; and similarly at a hint of inquisition. I was not
unnaturally curious, being in a strange place and surrounded by string
people; but at the shadow of a question, he shrank back, lowering and
dangerous. Then it was that, for a fraction of a second, this rough
lad might have been the brother of the lady in the frame. But these
humours were swift to pass; and the resemblance died along with them.

In these first days I saw nothing of any one but Felipe, unless the
portrait is to be counted; and since the lad was plainly of weak mind,
and had moments of passion, it may be wondered that I bore his
dangerous neighbourhood with equanimity. As a matter of fact, it was
for some time irksome; but it happened before long that I obtained
over him so complete a mastery as set my disquietude at rest.

It fell in this way. He was by nature slothful, and much of a
vagabond, and yet he kept by the house, and not only waited upon my
wants, but laboured every day in the garden or small farm to the south
of the residencia. Here he would be joined by the peasant whom I had
seen on the night of my arrival, and who dwelt at the far end of the
enclosure, about half a mile away, in a rude out--house; but it was
plain to me that, of these two, it was Felipe who did most; and though
I would sometimes see him throw down his spade and go to sleep among
the very plants he had been digging, his constancy and energy were
admirable in themselves, and still more so since I was well assured
they were foreign to his disposition and the fruit of an ungrateful
effort. But while I admired, I wondered what had called forth in a lad
so shuttle-witted this enduring sense of duty. How was it sustained? I
asked myself, and to what length did it prevail over his instincts?
The priest was possibly his inspirer; but the priest came one day to
the residencia. I saw him both come and go after an interval of close
upon an hour, from a knoll where I was sketching, and all that time
Felipe continued to labour undisturbed in the garden.

At last, in a very unworthy spirit, I determined to debauch the lad
from his good resolutions, and, way-laying him at the gate, easily
pursuaded him to join me in a ramble. It was a fine day, and the woods
to which I led him were green and pleasant and sweet-smelling and
alive with the hum of insects. Here he discovered himself in a fresh
character, mounting up to heights of gaiety that abashed me, and
displaying an energy and grace of movement that delighted the eye. He
leaped, he ran round me in mere glee; he would stop, and look and
listen, and seem to drink in the world like a cordial; and then he
would suddenly spring into a tree with one bound, and hang and gambol
there like one at home. Little as he said to me, and that of not much
import, I have rarely enjoyed more stirring company; the sight of his
delight was a continual feast; the speed and accuracy of his movements
pleased me to the heart; and I might have been so thoughtlessly unkind
as to make a habit of these wants, had not chance prepared a very rude
conclusion to my pleasure. By some swiftness or dexterity the lad
captured a squirrel in a tree top. He was then some way ahead of me,
but I saw him drop to the ground and crouch there, crying aloud for
pleasure like a child. The sound stirred my sympathies, it was so
fresh and innocent; but as I bettered my pace to draw near, the cry of
the squirrel knocked upon my heart. I have heard and seen much of the
cruelty of lads, and above all of peasants; but what I now beheld
struck me into a passion of anger. I thrust the fellow aside, plucked
the poor brute out of his hands, and with swift mercy killed it. Then
I turned upon the torturer, spoke to him long out of the heat of my
indignation, calling him names at which he seemed to wither; and at
length, pointing toward the residencia, bade him begone and leave me,
for I chose to walk with men, not with vermin. He fell upon his knees,
and, the words coming to him with more cleanness than usual, poured
out a stream of the most touching supplications, begging me in mercy
to forgive him, to forget what he had done, to look to the future. 'O,
I try so hard,' he said. 'O, commandante, bear with Felipe this once;
he will never be a brute again!' Thereupon, much more affected than I
cared to show, I suffered myself to be persuaded, and at last shook
hands with him and made it up. But the squirrel, by way of penance, I
made him bury; speaking of the poor thing's beauty, telling him what
pains it had suffered, and how base a thing was the abuse of strength.
'See, Felipe,' said I, 'you are strong indeed; but in my hands you are
as helpless as that poor thing of the trees. Give me your hand in
mine. You cannot remove it. Now suppose that I were cruel like you,
and took a pleasure in pain. I only tighten my hold, and see how you
suffer.' He screamed aloud, his face stricken ashy and dotted with
needle points of sweat; and when I set him free, he fell to the earth
and nursed his hand and moaned over it like a baby. But he took the
lesson in good part; and whether from that, or from what I had said to
him, or the higher notion he now had of my bodily strength, his
original affection was changed into a dog-like, adoring fidelity.

Meanwhile I gained rapidly in health. The residencia stood on the
crown of a stony plateau; on every side the mountains hemmed it about;
only from the roof, where was a bartizan, there might be seen between
two peaks, a small segment of plain, blue with extreme distance. The
air in these altitudes moved freely and largely; great clouds
congregated there, and were broken up by the wind and left in tatters
on the hilltops; a hoarse, and yet faint rumbling of torrents rose
from all round; and one could there study all the ruder and more
ancient characters of nature in something of their pristine force. I
delighted from the first in the vigorous scenery and changeful
weather; nor less in the antique and dilapidated mansion where I
dwelt. This was a large oblong, flanked at two opposite corners by
bastion-like projections, one of which commanded the door, while both
were loopholed for musketry. The lower storey was, besides, naked of
windows, so that the building, if garrisoned, could not be carried
without artillery. It enclosed an open court planted with pomegranate
trees. From this a broad flight of marble stairs ascended to an open
gallery, running all round and resting, towards the court, on slender
pillars. Thence again, several enclosed stairs led to the upper
storeys of the house, which were thus broken up into distinct
divisions. The windows, both within and without, were closely
shuttered; some of the stone-work in the upper parts had fallen; the
roof, in one place, had been wrecked in one of the flurries of wind
which were common in these mountains; and the whole house, in the
strong, beating sunlight, and standing out above a grove of stunted
cork--trees, thickly laden and discoloured with dust, looked like the
sleeping palace of the legend. The court, in particular, seemed the
very home of slumber. A hoarse cooing of doves haunted about the
eaves; the winds were excluded, but when they blew outside, the
mountain dust fell here as thick as rain, and veiled the red bloom of
the pomegranates; shuttered windows and the closed doors of numerous
cellars, and the vacant, arches of the gallery, enclosed it; and all
day long the sun made broken profiles on the four sides, and paraded
the shadow of the pillars on the gallery floor. At the ground level
there was, however, a certain pillared recess, which bore the marks of
human habitation. Though it was open in front upon the court, it was
yet provided with a chimney, where a wood fire would he always
prettily blazing; and the tile floor was littered with the skins of

It was in this place that I first saw my hostess. She had drawn one of
the skins forward and sat in the sun, leaning against a pillar. It was
her dress that struck me first of all, for it was rich and brightly
coloured, and shone out in that dusty courtyard with something of the
same relief as the flowers of the pomegranates. At a second look it
was her beauty of person that took hold of me. As she sat back--
watching me, I thought, though with invisible eyes--and wearing at the
same time an expression of almost imbecile good-humour and
contentment, she showed a perfectness of feature and a quiet nobility
of attitude that were beyond a statue's. I took off my hat to her in
passing, and her face puckered with suspicion as swiftly and lightly
as a pool ruffles in the breeze; but she paid no heed to my courtesy.
I went forth on my customary walk a trifle daunted, her idol-like
impassivity haunting me; and when I returned, although she was still
in much the same posture, I was half surprised to see that she had
moved as far as the next pillar, following the sunshine. This time,
however, she addressed me with some trivial salutation, civilly enough
conceived, and uttered in the same deep-chested, and yet indistinct
and lisping tones, that had already baffled the utmost niceness of my
hearing from her son. I answered rather at a venture; for not only did
I fail to take her meaning with precision, but the sudden disclosure
of her eyes disturbed me. They were unusually large, the iris golden
like Felipe's, but the pupil at that moment so distended that they
seemed almost black; and what affected me was not so much their size
as (what was perhaps its consequence) the singular insignificance of
their regard. A look more blankly stupid I have never met. My eyes
dropped before it even as I spoke, and I went on my way upstairs to my
own room, at once baffled and embarrassed. Yet, when I came there and
saw the face of the portrait, I was again reminded of the miracle of
family descent. My hostess was, indeed, both older and fuller in
person; her eyes were of a different colour; her face, besides, was
not only free from the ill-significance that offended and attracted me
in the painting; it was devoid of either good or bad--a moral blank
expressing literally naught. And yet there was a likeness, not so much
speaking as immanent, not so much in any particular feature as upon
the whole. It should seem, I thought, as if when the master set his
signature to that grave canvas, he had not only caught the image of
one smiling and false-eyed woman, but stamped the essential quality of
a race.

From that day forth, whether I came or went, I was sure to find the
Senora seated in the sun against a pillar, or stretched on a rug
before the fire; only at times she would shift her station to the top
round of the stone staircase, where she lay with the same nonchalance
right across my path. In all these days, I never knew her to display
the least spark of energy beyond what she expended in brushing and re-
brushing her copious copper-coloured hair, or in lisping out, in the
rich and broken hoarseness of her voice, her customary idle
salutations to myself. These, I think, were her two chief pleasures,
beyond that of mere quiescence. She seemed always proud of her
remarks, as though they had been witticisms: and, indeed, though they
were empty enough, like the conversation of many respectable persons,
and turned on a very narrow range of subjects, they were never
meaningless or incoherent; nay, they had a certain beauty of their
own, breathing, as they did, of her entire contentment. Now she would
speak of the warmth, in which (like her son) she greatly delighted;
now of the flowers of the pomegranate trees, and now of the white
doves and long-winged swallows that fanned the air of the court. The
birds excited her. As they raked the eaves in their swift flight, or
skimmed sidelong past her with a rush of wind, she would sometimes
stir, and sit a little up, and seem to awaken from her doze of
satisfaction. But for the rest of her days she lay luxuriously folded
on herself and sunk in sloth and pleasure. Her invincible content at
first annoyed me, but I came gradually to find repose in the
spectacle, until at last it grew to be my habit to sit down beside her
four times in the day, both coming and going, and to talk with her
sleepily, I scarce knew of what. I had come to like her dull, almost
animal neighbourhood; her beauty and her stupidity soothed and amused
me. I began to find a kind of transcendental good sense in her
remarks, and her unfathomable good nature moved me to admiration and
envy. The liking was returned; she enjoyed my presence half-
unconsciously, as a man in deep meditation may enjoy the babbling of a
brook. I can scarce say she brightened when I came, for satisfaction
was written on her face eternally, as on some foolish statue's; but I
was made conscious of her pleasure by some more intimate communication
than the sight. And one day, as I set within reach of her on the
marble step, she suddenly shot forth one of her hands and patted mine.
The thing was done, and she was back in her accustomed attitude,
before my mind had received intelligence of the caress; and when I
turned to look her in the face I could perceive no answerable
sentiment. It was plain she attached no moment to the act, and I
blamed myself for my own more uneasy consciousness.

The sight and (if I may so call it) the acquaintance of the mother
confirmed the view I had already taken of the son. The family blood
had been impoverished, perhaps by long inbreeding, which I knew to be
a common error among the proud and the exclusive. No decline, indeed,
was to be traced in the body, which had been handed down unimpaired in
shapeliness and strength; and the faces of to-day were struck as
sharply from the mint, as the face of two centuries ago that smiled
upon me from the portrait. But the intelligence (that more precious
heirloom) was degenerate; the treasure of ancestral memory ran low;
and it had required the potent, plebeian crossing of a muleteer or
mountain contrabandista to raise, what approached hebetude in the
mother, into the active oddity of the son. Yet of the two, it was the
mother I preferred. Of Felipe, vengeful and placable, full of starts
and shyings, inconstant as a hare, I could even conceive as a creature
possibly noxious. Of the mother I had no thoughts but those of
kindness. And indeed, as spectators are apt ignorantly to take sides,
I grew something of a partisan in the enmity which I perceived to
smoulder between them. True, it seemed mostly on the mother's part.
She would sometimes draw in her breath as he came near, and the pupils
of her vacant eyes would contract as if with horror or fear. Her
emotions, such as they were, were much upon the surface and readily
shared; and this latent repulsion occupied my mind, and kept me
wondering on what grounds it rested, and whether the son was certainly
in fault.

I had been about ten days in the residencia, when there sprang up a
high and harsh wind, carrying clouds of dust. It came out of malarious
lowlands, and over several snowy sierras. The nerves of those on whom
it blew were strung and jangled; their eyes smarted with the dust;
their legs ached under the burthen of their body; and the touch of one
hand upon another grew to be odious. The wind, besides, came down the
gullies of the hills and stormed about the house with a great, hollow
buzzing and whistling that was wearisome to the ear and dismally
depressing to the mind. It did not so much blow in gusts as with the
steady sweep of a waterfall, so that there was no remission of
discomfort while it blew. But higher upon the mountain, it was
probably of a more variable strength, with accesses of fury; for there
came down at times a far-off wailing, infinitely grievous to hear; and
at times, on one of the high shelves or terraces, there would start
up, and then disperse, a tower of dust, like the smoke of in

I no sooner awoke in bed than I was conscious of the nervous tension
and depression of the weather, and the effect grew stronger as the day
proceeded. It was in vain that I resisted; in vain that I set forth
upon my customary morning's walk; the irrational, unchanging fury of
the storm had soon beat down my strength and wrecked my temper; and I
returned to the residencia, glowing with dry heat, and foul and gritty
with dust. The court had a forlorn appearance; now and then a glimmer
of sun fled over it; now and then the wind swooped down upon the
pomegranates, and scattered the blossoms, and set the window shutters
clapping on the wall. In the recess the Senora was pacing to and fro
with a flushed countenance and bright eyes; I thought, too, she was
speaking to herself, like one in anger. But when I addressed her with
my customary salutation, she only replied by a sharp gesture and
continued her walk. The weather had distempered even this impassive
creature; and as I went on upstairs I was the less ashamed of my own

All day the wind continued; and I sat in my room and made a feint of
reading, or walked up and down, and listened to the riot overhead.
Night fell, and I had not so much as a candle. I began to long for
some society, and stole down to the court. It was now plunged in the
blue of the first darkness; but the recess was redly lighted by the
fire. The wood had been piled high, and was crowned by a shock of
flames, which the draught of the chimney brandished to and fro. In
this strong and shaken brightness the Senora continued pacing from
wall to wall with disconnected gestures, clasping her hands,
stretching forth her arms, throwing back her head as in appeal to
heaven. In these disordered movements the beauty and grace of the
woman showed more clearly; but there was a light in her eye that
struck on me unpleasantly; and when I had looked on awhile in silence,
and seemingly unobserved, I turned tail as I had come, and groped my
way back again to my own chamber.

By the time Felipe brought my supper and lights, my nerve was utterly
gone; and, had the lad been such as I was used to seeing him, I should
have kept him (even by force had that been necessary) to take off the
edge from my distasteful solitude. But on Felipe, also, the wind had
exercised its influence. He had been feverish all day; now that the
night had come he was fallen into a low and tremulous humour that
reacted on my own. The sight of his scared face, his starts and
pallors and sudden harkenings, unstrung me; and when he dropped and
broke a dish, I fairly leaped out of my seat.

'I think we are all mad to-day,' said I, affecting to laugh.

'It is the black wind,' he replied dolefully. 'You feel as if you must
do something, and you don't know what it is.'

I noted the aptness of the description; but, indeed, Felipe had
sometimes a strange felicity in rendering into words the sensations of
the body. 'And your mother, too,' said I; 'she seems to feel this
weather much. Do you not fear she may be unwell?'

He stared at me a little, and then said, 'No,' almost defiantly; and
the next moment, carrying his hand to his brow, cried out lamentably
on the wind and the noise that made his head go round like a
millwheel. 'Who can be well?' he cried; and, indeed, I could only echo
his question, for I was disturbed enough myself.

I went to bed early, wearied with day-long restlessness, but the
poisonous nature of the wind, and its ungodly and unintermittent
uproar, would not suffer me to sleep. I lay there and tossed, my
nerves and senses on the stretch. At times I would doze, dream
horribly, and wake again; and these snatches of oblivion confused me
as to time. But it must have been late on in the night, when I was
suddenly startled by an outbreak of pitiable and hateful cries. I
leaped from my bed, supposing I had dreamed; but the cries still
continued to fill the house, cries of pain, I thought, but certainly
of rage also, and so savage and discordant that they shocked the
heart. It was no illusion; some living thing, some lunatic or some
wild animal, was being foully tortured. The thought of Felipe and the
squirrel flashed into my mind, and I ran to the door, but it had been
locked from the outside; and I might shake it as I pleased, I was a
fast prisoner. Still the cries continued. Now they would dwindle down
into a moaning that seemed to be articulate, and at these times I made
sure they must be human; and again they would break forth and fill the
house with ravings worthy of hell. I stood at the door and gave ear to
them, till at, last they died away. Long after that, I still lingered
and still continued to hear them mingle in fancy with the storming of
the wind; and when at last I crept to my bed, it was with a deadly
sickness and a blackness of horror on my heart.

It was little wonder if I slept no more. Why had I been locked in?
What had passed? Who was the author of these indescribable and
shocking cries? A human being? It was inconceivable. A beast? The
cries were scarce quite bestial; and what animal, short of a lion or a
tiger, could thus shake the solid walls of the residencia? And while I
was thus turning over the elements of the mystery, it came into my
mind that I had not yet set eyes upon the daughter of the house. What
was more probable than that the daughter of the Senora, and the sister
of Felipe, should be herself insane? Or, what more likely than that
these ignorant and half--witted people should seek to manage an
afflicted kinswoman by violence? Here was a solution; and yet when I
called to mind the cries (which I never did without a shuddering
chill) it seemed altogether insufficient: not even cruelty could wring
such cries from madness. But of one thing I was sure: I could not live
in a house where such a thing was half conceivable, and not probe the
matter home and, if necessary, interfere.

The next day came, the wind had blown itself out, and there was
nothing to remind me of the business of the night. Felipe came to my
bedside with obvious cheerfulness; as I passed through the court, the
Senora was sunning herself with her accustomed immobility; and when I
issued from the gateway, I found the whole face of nature austerely
smiling, the heavens of a cold blue, and sown with great cloud
islands, and the mountain-sides mapped forth into provinces of light
and shadow. A short walk restored me to myself, and renewed within me
the resolve to plumb this mystery; and when, from the vantage of my
knoll, I had seen Felipe pass forth to his labours in the garden, I
returned at once to the residencia to put my design in practice. The
Senora appeared plunged in slumber; I stood awhile and marked her, but
she did not stir; even if my design were indiscreet, I had little to
fear from such a guardian; and turning away, I mounted to the gallery
and began my exploration of the house.

All morning I went from one door to another, and entered spacious and
faded chambers, some rudely shuttered, some receiving their full
charge of daylight, all empty and unhomely. It was a rich house, on
which Time had breathed his tarnish and dust had scattered
disillusion. The spider swung there; the bloated tarantula scampered
on the cornices; ants had their crowded highways on the floor of halls
of audience; the big and foul fly, that lives on carrion and is often
the messenger of death, had set up his nest in the rotten woodwork,
and buzzed heavily about the rooms. Here and there a stool or two, a
couch, a bed, or a great carved chair remained behind, like islets on
the bare floors, to testify of man's bygone habitation; and everywhere
the walls were set with the portraits of the dead. I could judge, by
these decaying effigies, in the house of what a great and what a
handsome race I was then wandering. Many of the men wore orders on
their breasts and had the port of noble offices; the women were all
richly attired; the canvases most of them by famous hands. But it was
not so much these evidences of greatness that took hold upon my mind,
even contrasted, as they were, with the present depopulation and decay
of that great house. It was rather the parable of family life that I
read in this succession of fair faces and shapely bodies. Never before
had I so realised the miracle of the continued race, the creation and
recreation, the weaving and changing and handing down of fleshly
elements. That a child should be born of its mother, that it should
grow and clothe itself (we know not how) with humanity, and put on
inherited looks, and turn its head with the manner of one ascendant,
and offer its hand with the gesture of another, are wonders dulled for
us by repetition. But in the singular unity of look, in the common
features and common bearing, of all these painted generations on the
walls of the residencia, the miracle started out and looked me in the
face. And an ancient mirror falling opportunely in my way, I stood and
read my own features a long while, tracing out on either hand the
filaments of descent and the bonds that knit me with my family.

At last, in the course of these investigations, I opened the door of a
chamber that bore the marks of habitation. It was of large proportions
and faced to the north, where the mountains were most wildly figured.
The embers of a fire smouldered and smoked upon the hearth, to which a
chair had been drawn close. And yet the aspect of the chamber was
ascetic to the degree of sternness; the chair was uncushioned; the
floor and walls were naked; and beyond the books which lay here and
there in some confusion, there was no instrument of either work or
pleasure. The sight of books in the house of such a family exceedingly
amazed me; and I began with a great hurry, and in momentary fear of
interruption, to go from one to another and hastily inspect their
character. They were of all sorts, devotional, historical, and
scientific, but mostly of a great age and in the Latin tongue. Some I
could see to bear the marks of constant study; others had been torn
across and tossed aside as if in petulance or disapproval. Lastly, as
I cruised about that empty chamber, I espied some papers written upon
with pencil on a table near the window. An unthinking curiosity led me
to take one up. It bore a copy of verses, very roughly metred in the
original Spanish, and which I may render somewhat thus--

Pleasure approached with pain and shame, Grief with a wreath of lilies
came. Pleasure showed the lovely sun; Jesu dear, how sweet it shone!
Grief with her worn hand pointed on, Jesu dear, to thee!

Shame and confusion at once fell on me; and, laying down the paper, I
beat an immediate retreat from the apartment. Neither Felipe nor his
mother could have read the books nor written these rough but feeling
verses. It was plain I had stumbled with sacrilegious feet into the
room of the daughter of the house. God knows, my own heart most
sharply punished me for my indiscretion. The thought that I had thus
secretly pushed my way into the confidence of a girl so strangely
situated, and the fear that she might somehow come to hear of it,
oppressed me like guilt. I blamed myself besides for my suspicions of
the night before; wondered that I should ever have attributed those
shocking cries to one of whom I now conceived as of a saint, spectral
of mien, wasted with maceration, bound up in the practices of a
mechanical devotion, and dwelling in a great isolation of soul with
her incongruous relatives; and as I leaned on the balustrade of the
gallery and looked down into the bright close of pomegranates and at
the gaily dressed and somnolent woman, who just then stretched herself
and delicately licked her lips as in the very sensuality of sloth, my
mind swiftly compared the scene with the cold chamber looking
northward on the mountains, where the daughter dwelt.

That same afternoon, as I sat upon my knoll, I saw the Padre enter the
gates of the residencia. The revelation of the daughter's character
had struck home to my fancy, and almost blotted out the horrors of the
night before; but at sight of this worthy man the memory revived. I
descended, then, from the knoll, and making a circuit among the woods,
posted myself by the wayside to await his passage. As soon as he
appeared I stepped forth and introduced myself as the lodger of the
residencia. He had a very strong, honest countenance, on which it was
easy to read the mingled emotions with which he regarded me, as a
foreigner, a heretic, and yet one who had been wounded for the good
cause. Of the family at the residencia he spoke with reserve, and yet
with respect. I mentioned that I had not yet seen the daughter,
whereupon he remarked that that was as it should be, and looked at me
a little askance. Lastly, I plucked up courage to refer to the cries
that had disturbed me in the night. He heard me out in silence, and
then stopped and partly turned about, as though to mark beyond doubt
that he was dismissing me.

'Do you take tobacco powder?' said he, offering his snuff-box; and
then, when I had refused, 'I am an old man,' he added, 'and I may be
allowed to remind you that you are a guest.'

'I have, then, your authority,' I returned, firmly enough, although I
flushed at the implied reproof, 'to let things take their course, and
not to interfere?'

He said 'yes,' and with a somewhat uneasy salute turned and left me
where I was. But he had done two things: he had set my conscience at
rest, and he had awakened my delicacy. I made a great effort, once
more dismissed the recollections of the night, and fell once more to
brooding on my saintly poetess. At the same time, I could not quite
forget that I had been locked in, and that night when Felipe brought
me my supper I attacked him warily on both points of interest.

'I never see your sister,' said I casually.

'Oh, no,' said he; 'she is a good, good girl,' and his mind instantly
veered to something else.

'Your sister is pious, I suppose?' I asked in the next pause.

'Oh!' he cried, joining his hands with extreme fervour, 'a saint; it
is she that keeps me up.'

'You are very fortunate,' said I, 'for the most of us, I am afraid,
and myself among the number, are better at going down.'

'Senor,' said Felipe earnestly, 'I would not say that. You should not
tempt your angel. If one goes down, where is he to stop?'

'Why, Felipe,' said I, 'I had no guess you were a preacher, and I may
say a good one; but I suppose that is your sister's doing?'

He nodded at me with round eyes.

'Well, then,' I continued, 'she has doubtless reproved you for your
sin of cruelty?'

'Twelve times!' he cried; for this was the phrase by which the odd
creature expressed the sense of frequency. 'And I told her you had
done so--I remembered that,' he added proudly--'and she was pleased.'

'Then, Felipe,' said I, 'what were those cries that I heard last
night? for surely they were cries of some creature in suffering.'

'The wind,' returned Felipe, looking in the fire.

I took his hand in mine, at which, thinking it to be a caress, he
smiled with a brightness of pleasure that came near disarming my
resolve. But I trod the weakness down. 'The wind,' I repeated; 'and
yet I think it was this hand,' holding it up, 'that had first locked
me in.' The lad shook visibly, but answered never a word. 'Well,' said
I, 'I am a stranger and a guest. It is not my part either to meddle or
to judge in your affairs; in these you shall take your sister's
counsel, which I cannot doubt to be excellent. But in so far as
concerns my own I will be no man's prisoner, and I demand that key.'
Half an hour later my door was suddenly thrown open, and the key
tossed ringing on the floor.

A day or two after I came in from a walk a little before the point of
noon. The Senora was lying lapped in slumber on the threshold of the
recess; the pigeons dozed below the eaves like snowdrifts; the house
was under a deep spell of noontide quiet; and only a wandering and
gentle wind from the mountain stole round the galleries, rustled among
the pomegranates, and pleasantly stirred the shadows. Something in the
stillness moved me to imitation, and I went very lightly across the
court and up the marble staircase. My foot was on the topmost round,
when a door opened, and I found myself face to face with Olalla.
Surprise transfixed me; her loveliness struck to my heart; she glowed
in the deep shadow of the gallery, a gem of colour; her eyes took hold
upon mine and clung there, and bound us together like the joining of
hands; and the moments we thus stood face to face, drinking each other
in, were sacramental and the wedding of souls. I know not how long it
was before I awoke out of a deep trance, and, hastily bowing, passed
on into the upper stair. She did not move, but followed me with her
great, thirsting eyes; and as I passed out of sight it seemed to me as
if she paled and faded.

In my own room, I opened the window and looked out, and could not
think what change had come upon that austere field of mountains that
it should thus sing and shine under the lofty heaven. I had seen her--
Olalla! And the stone crags answered, Olalla! and the dumb,
unfathomable azure answered, Olalla! The pale saint of my dreams had
vanished for ever; and in her place I beheld this maiden on whom God
had lavished the richest colours and the most exuberant energies of
life, whom he had made active as a deer, slender as a reed, and in
whose great eyes he had lighted the torches of the soul. The thrill of
her young life, strung like a wild animal's, had entered into me; the
force of soul that had looked out from her eyes and conquered mine,
mantled about my heart and sprang to my lips in singing. She passed
through my veins: she was one with me.

I will not say that this enthusiasm declined; rather my soul held out
in its ecstasy as in a strong castle, and was there besieged by cold
and sorrowful considerations. I could not doubt but that I loved her
at first sight, and already with a quivering ardour that was strange
to my experience. What then was to follow? She was the child of an
afflicted house, the Senora's daughter, the sister of Felipe; she bore
it even in her beauty. She had the lightness and swiftness of the one,
swift as an arrow, light as dew; like the other, she shone on the pale
background of the world with the brilliancy of flowers. I could not
call by the name of brother that half-witted lad, nor by the name of
mother that immovable and lovely thing of flesh, whose silly eyes and
perpetual simper now recurred to my mind like something hateful. And
if I could not marry, what then? She was helplessly unprotected; her
eyes, in that single and long glance which had been all our
intercourse, had confessed a weakness equal to my own; but in my heart
I knew her for the student of the cold northern chamber, and the
writer of the sorrowful lines; and this was a knowledge to disarm a
brute. To flee was more than I could find courage for; but I
registered a vow of unsleeping circumspection.

As I turned from the window, my eyes alighted on the portrait. It had
fallen dead, like a candle after sunrise; it followed me with eyes of
paint. I knew it to be like, and marvelled at the tenacity of type in
that declining race; but the likeness was swallowed up in difference.
I remembered how it had seemed to me a thing unapproachable in the
life, a creature rather of the painter's craft than of the modesty of
nature, and I marvelled at the thought, and exulted in the image of
Olalla. Beauty I had seen before, and not been charmed, and I had been
often drawn to women, who were not beautiful except to me; but in
Olalla all that I desired and had not dared to imagine was united.

I did not see her the next day, and my heart ached and my eyes longed
for her, as men long for morning. But the day after, when I returned,
about my usual hour, she was once more on the gallery, and our looks
once more met and embraced. I would have spoken, I would have drawn
near to her; but strongly as she plucked at my heart, drawing me like
a magnet, something yet more imperious withheld me; and I could only
bow and pass by; and she, leaving my salutation unanswered, only
followed me with her noble eyes.

I had now her image by rote, and as I conned the traits in memory it
seemed as if I read her very heart. She was dressed with something of
her mother's coquetry, and love of positive colour. Her robe, which I
know she must have made with her own hands, clung about her with a
cunning grace. After the fashion of that country, besides, her bodice
stood open in the middle, in a long slit, and here, in spite of the
poverty of the house, a gold coin, hanging by a ribbon, lay on her
brown bosom. These were proofs, had any been needed, of her inborn
delight in life and her own loveliness. On the other hand, in her eyes
that hung upon mine, I could read depth beyond depth of passion and
sadness, lights of poetry and hope, blacknesses of despair, and
thoughts that were above the earth. It was a lovely body, but the
inmate, the soul, was more than worthy of that lodging. Should I leave
this incomparable flower to wither unseen on these rough mountains?
Should I despise the great gift offered me in the eloquent silence of
her eyes? Here was a soul immured; should I not burst its prison? All
side considerations fell off from me; were she the child of Herod I
swore I should make her mine; and that very evening I set myself, with
a mingled sense of treachery and disgrace, to captivate the brother.
Perhaps I read him with more favourable eyes, perhaps the thought of
his sister always summoned up the better qualities of that imperfect
soul; but he had never seemed to me so amiable, and his very likeness
to Olalla, while it annoyed, yet softened me.

A third day passed in vain--an empty desert of hours. I would not lose
a chance, and loitered all afternoon in the court where (to give
myself a countenance) I spoke more than usual with the Senora. God
knows it was with a most tender and sincere interest that I now
studied her; and even as for Felipe, so now for the mother, I was
conscious of a growing warmth of toleration. And yet I wondered. Even
while I spoke with her, she would doze off into a little sleep, and
presently awake again without embarrassment; and this composure
staggered me. And again, as I marked her make infinitesimal changes in
her posture, savouring and lingering on the bodily pleasure of the
movement, I was driven to wonder at this depth of passive sensuality.
She lived in her body; and her consciousness was all sunk into and
disseminated through her members, where it luxuriously dwelt. Lastly,
I could not grow accustomed to her eyes. Each time she turned on me
these great beautiful and meaningless orbs, wide open to the day, but
closed against human inquiry--each time I had occasion to observe the
lively changes of her pupils which expanded and contracted in a
breath--I know not what it was came over me, I can find no name for
the mingled feeling of disappointment, annoyance, and distaste that
jarred along my nerves. I tried her on a variety of subjects, equally
in vain; and at last led the talk to her daughter. But even there she
proved indifferent; said she was pretty, which (as with children) was
her highest word of commendation, but was plainly incapable of any
higher thought; and when I remarked that Olalla seemed silent, merely
yawned in my face and replied that speech was of no great use when you
had nothing to say. 'People speak much, very much,' she added, looking
at me with expanded pupils; and then again yawned and again showed me
a mouth that was as dainty as a toy. This time I took the hint, and,
leaving her to her repose, went up into my own chamber to sit by the
open window, looking on the hills and not beholding them, sunk in
lustrous and deep dreams, and hearkening in fancy to the note of a
voice that I had never heard.

I awoke on the fifth morning with a brightness of anticipation that
seemed to challenge fate. I was sure of myself, light of heart and
foot, and resolved to put my love incontinently to the touch of
knowledge. It should lie no longer under the bonds of silence, a dumb
thing, living by the eye only, like the love of beasts; but should now
put on the spirit, and enter upon the joys of the complete human
intimacy. I thought of it with wild hopes, like a voyager to El
Dorado; into that unknown and lovely country of her soul, I no longer
trembled to adventure. Yet when I did indeed encounter her, the same
force of passion descended on me and at once submerged my mind; speech
seemed to drop away from me like a childish habit; and I but drew near
to her as the giddy man draws near to the margin of a gulf. She drew
back from me a little as I came; but her eyes did not waver from mine,
and these lured me forward. At last, when I was already within reach
of her, I stopped. Words were denied me; if I advanced I could but
clasp her to my heart in silence; and all that was sane in me, all
that was still unconquered, revolted against the thought of such an
accost. So we stood for a second, all our life in our eyes, exchanging
salvos of attraction and yet each resisting; and then, with a great
effort of the will, and conscious at the same time of a sudden
bitterness of disappointment, I turned and went away in the same

What power lay upon me that I could not speak? And she, why was she
also silent? Why did she draw away before me dumbly, with fascinated
eyes? Was this love? or was it a mere brute attraction, mindless and
inevitable, like that of the magnet for the steel? We had never
spoken, we were wholly strangers: and yet an influence, strong as the
grasp of a giant, swept us silently together. On my side, it filled me
with impatience; and yet I was sure that she was worthy; I had seen
her books, read her verses, and thus, in a sense, divined the soul of
my mistress. But on her side, it struck me almost cold. Of me, she
knew nothing but my bodily favour; she was drawn to me as stones fall
to the earth; the laws that rule the earth conducted her,
unconsenting, to my arms; and I drew back at the thought of such a
bridal, and began to be jealous for myself. It was not thus that I
desired to be loved. And then I began to fall into a great pity for
the girl herself. I thought how sharp must be her mortification, that
she, the student, the recluse, Felipe's saintly monitress, should have
thus confessed an overweening weakness for a man with whom she had
never exchanged a word. And at the coming of pity, all other thoughts
were swallowed up; and I longed only to find and console and reassure
her; to tell her how wholly her love was returned on my side, and how
her choice, even if blindly made, was not unworthy.

The next day it was glorious weather; depth upon depth of blue over-
canopied the mountains; the sun shone wide; and the wind in the trees
and the many falling torrents in the mountains filled the air with
delicate and haunting music. Yet I was prostrated with sadness. My
heart wept for the sight of Olalla, as a child weeps for its mother. I
sat down on a boulder on the verge of the low cliffs that bound the
plateau to the north. Thence I looked down into the wooded valley of a
stream, where no foot came. In the mood I was in, it was even touching
to behold the place untenanted; it lacked Olalla; and I thought of the
delight and glory of a life passed wholly with her in that strong air,
and among these rugged and lovely surroundings, at first with a
whimpering sentiment, and then again with such a fiery joy that I
seemed to grow in strength and stature, like a Samson.

And then suddenly I was aware of Olalla drawing near. She appeared out
of a grove of cork-trees, and came straight towards me; and I stood up
and waited. She seemed in her walking a creature of such life and fire
and lightness as amazed me; yet she came quietly and slowly. Her
energy was in the slowness; but for inimitable strength, I felt she
would have run, she would have flown to me. Still, as she approached,
she kept her eyes lowered to the ground; and when she had drawn quite
near, it was without one glance that she addressed me. At the first
note of her voice I started. It was for this I had been waiting; this
was the last test of my love. And lo, her enunciation was precise and
clear, not lisping and incomplete like that of her family; and the
voice, though deeper than usual with women, was still both youthful
and womanly. She spoke in a rich chord; golden contralto strains
mingled with hoarseness, as the red threads were mingled with the
brown among her tresses. It was not only a voice that spoke to my
heart directly; but it spoke to me of her. And yet her words
immediately plunged me back upon despair.

'You will go away,' she said, 'to-day.'

Her example broke the bonds of my speech; I felt as lightened of a
weight, or as if a spell had been dissolved. I know not in what words
I answered; but, standing before her on the cliffs, I poured out the
whole ardour of my love, telling her that I lived upon the thought of
her, slept only to dream of her loveliness, and would gladly forswear
my country, my language, and my friends, to live for ever by her side.
And then, strongly commanding myself, I changed the note; I reassured,
I comforted her; I told her I had divined in her a pious and heroic
spirit, with which I was worthy to sympathise, and which I longed to
share and lighten. 'Nature,' I told her, 'was the voice of God, which
men disobey at peril; and if we were thus humbly drawn together, ay,
even as by a miracle of love, it must imply a divine fitness in our
souls; we must be made,' I said--'made for one another. We should be
mad rebels,' I cried out--'mad rebels against God, not to obey this

She shook her head. 'You will go to-day,' she repeated, and then with
a gesture, and in a sudden, sharp note--'no, not to-day,' she cried,

But at this sign of relenting, power came in upon me in a tide. I
stretched out my arms and called upon her name; and she leaped to me
and clung to me. The hills rocked about us, the earth quailed; a shock
as of a blow went through me and left me blind and dizzy. And the next
moment she had thrust me back, broken rudely from my arms, and fled
with the speed of a deer among the cork-trees.

I stood and shouted to the mountains; I turned and went back towards
the residencia, waltzing upon air. She sent me away, and yet I had but
to call upon her name and she came to me. These were but the
weaknesses of girls, from which even she, the strangest of her sex,
was not exempted. Go? Not I, Olalla--O, not I, Olalla, my Olalla! A
bird sang near by; and in that season, birds were rare. It bade me be
of good cheer. And once more the whole countenance of nature, from the
ponderous and stable mountains down to the lightest leaf and the
smallest darting fly in the shadow of the groves, began to stir before
me and to put on the lineaments of life and wear a face of awful joy.
The sunshine struck upon the hills, strong as a hammer on the anvil,
and the hills shook; the earth, under that vigorous insulation,
yielded up heady scents; the woods smouldered in the blaze. I felt the
thrill of travail and delight run through the earth. Something
elemental, something rude, violent, and savage, in the love that sang
in my heart, was like a key to nature's secrets; and the very stones
that rattled under my feet appeared alive and friendly. Olalla! Her
touch had quickened, and renewed, and strung me up to the old pitch of
concert with the rugged earth, to a swelling of the soul that men
learn to forget in their polite assemblies. Love burned in me like
rage; tenderness waxed fierce; I hated, I adored, I pitied, I revered
her with ecstasy. She seemed the link that bound me in with dead
things on the one hand, and with our pure and pitying God upon the
other: a thing brutal and divine, and akin at once to the innocence
and to the unbridled forces of the earth.

My head thus reeling, I came into the courtyard of the residencia, and
the sight of the mother struck me like a revelation. She sat there,
all sloth and contentment, blinking under the strong sunshine, branded
with a passive enjoyment, a creature set quite apart, before whom my
ardour fell away like a thing ashamed. I stopped a moment, and,
commanding such shaken tones as I was able, said a word or two. She
looked at me with her unfathomable kindness; her voice in reply
sounded vaguely out of the realm of peace in which she slumbered, and
there fell on my mind, for the first time, a sense of respect for one
so uniformly innocent and happy, and I passed on in a kind of wonder
at myself, that I should be so much disquieted.

On my table there lay a piece of the same yellow paper I had seen in
the north room; it was written on with pencil in the same hand,
Olalla's hand, and I picked it up with a sudden sinking of alarm, and
read, 'If you have any kindness for Olalla, if you have any chivalry
for a creature sorely wrought, go from here to-day; in pity, in
honour, for the sake of Him who died, I supplicate that you shall go.'
I looked at this awhile in mere stupidity, then I began to awaken to a
weariness and horror of life; the sunshine darkened outside on the
bare hills, and I began to shake like a man in terror. The vacancy
thus suddenly opened in my life unmanned me like a physical void. It
was not my heart, it was not my happiness, it was life itself that was
involved. I could not lose her. I said so, and stood repeating it. And
then, like one in a dream, I moved to the window, put forth my hand to
open the casement, and thrust it through the pane. The blood spurted
from my wrist; and with an instantaneous quietude and command of
myself, I pressed my thumb on the little leaping fountain, and
reflected what to do. In that empty room there was nothing to my
purpose; I felt, besides, that I required assistance. There shot into
my mind a hope that Olalla herself might be my helper, and I turned
and went down stairs, still keeping my thumb upon the wound.

There was no sign of either Olalla or Felipe, and I addressed myself
to the recess, whither the Senora had now drawn quite back and sat
dozing close before the fire, for no degree of heat appeared too much
for her.

'Pardon me,' said I, 'if I disturb you, but I must apply to you for

She looked up sleepily and asked me what it was, and with the very
words I thought she drew in her breath with a widening of the nostrils
and seemed to come suddenly and fully alive.

'I have cut myself,' I said, 'and rather badly. See!' And I held out
my two hands from which the blood was oozing and dripping.

Her great eyes opened wide, the pupils shrank into points; a veil
seemed to fall from her face, and leave it sharply expressive and yet
inscrutable. And as I still stood, marvelling a little at her
disturbance, she came swiftly up to me, and stooped and caught me by
the hand; and the next moment my hand was at her mouth, and she had
bitten me to the bone. The pang of the bite, the sudden spurting of
blood, and the monstrous horror of the act, flashed through me all in
one, and I beat her back; and she sprang at me again and again, with
bestial cries, cries that I recognised, such cries as had awakened me
on the night of the high wind. Her strength was like that of madness;
mine was rapidly ebbing with the loss of blood; my mind besides was
whirling with the abhorrent strangeness of the onslaught, and I was
already forced against the wall, when Olalla ran betwixt us, and
Felipe, following at a bound, pinned down his mother on the floor.

A trance-like weakness fell upon me; I saw, heard, and felt, but I was
incapable of movement. I heard the struggle roll to and fro upon the
floor, the yells of that catamount ringing up to Heaven as she strove
to reach me. I felt Olalla clasp me in her arms, her hair falling on
my face, and, with the strength of a man, raise and half drag, half
carry me upstairs into my own room, where she cast me down upon the
bed. Then I saw her hasten to the door and lock it, and stand an
instant listening to the savage cries that shook the residencia. And
then, swift and light as a thought, she was again beside me, binding
up my hand, laying it in her bosom, moaning and mourning over it with
dove-like sounds. They were not words that came to her, they were
sounds more beautiful than speech, infinitely touching, infinitely
tender; and yet as I lay there, a thought stung to my heart, a thought
wounded me like a sword, a thought, like a worm in a flower, profaned
the holiness of my love. Yes, they were beautiful sounds, and they
were inspired by human tenderness; but was their beauty human?

All day I lay there. For a long time the cries of that nameless female
thing, as she struggled with her half-witted whelp, resounded through
the house, and pierced me with despairing sorrow and disgust. They
were the death-cry of my love; my love was murdered; was not only
dead, but an offence to me; and yet, think as I pleased, feel as I
must, it still swelled within me like a storm of sweetness, and my
heart melted at her looks and touch. This horror that had sprung out,
this doubt upon Olalla, this savage and bestial strain that ran not
only through the whole behaviour of her family, but found a place in
the very foundations and story of our love--though it appalled, though
it shocked and sickened me, was yet not of power to break the knot of
my infatuation.

When the cries had ceased, there came a scraping at the door, by which
I knew Felipe was without; and Olalla went and spoke to him---I know
not what. With that exception, she stayed close beside me, now
kneeling by my bed and fervently praying, now sitting with her eyes
upon mine. So then, for these six hours I drank in her beauty, and
silently perused the story in her face. I saw the golden coin hover on
her breaths; I saw her eyes darken and brighter, and still speak no
language but that of an unfathomable kindness; I saw the faultless
face, and, through the robe, the lines of the faultless body. Night
came at last, and in the growing darkness of the chamber, the sight of
her slowly melted; but even then the touch of her smooth hand lingered
in mine and talked with me. To lie thus in deadly weakness and drink
in the traits of the beloved, is to reawake to love from whatever
shock of disillusion. I reasoned with myself; and I shut my eyes on
horrors, and again I was very bold to accept the worst. What mattered
it, if that imperious sentiment survived; if her eyes still beckoned
and attached me; if now, even as before, every fibre of my dull body
yearned and turned to her? Late on in the night some strength revived
in me, and I spoke:-

'Olalla,' I said, 'nothing matters; I ask nothing; I am content; I
love you.'

She knelt down awhile and prayed, and I devoutly respected her
devotions. The moon had begun to shine in upon one side of each of the
three windows, and make a misty clearness in the room, by which I saw
her indistinctly. When she rearose she made the sign of the cross.

'It is for me to speak,' she said, 'and for you to listen. I know; you
can but guess. I prayed, how I prayed for you to leave this place. I
begged it of you, and I know you would have granted me even this; or
if not, O let me think so!'

'I love you,' I said.

'And yet you have lived in the world,' she said; after a pause, 'you
are a man and wise; and I am but a child. Forgive me, if I seem to
teach, who am as ignorant as the trees of the mountain; but those who
learn much do but skim the face of knowledge; they seize the laws,
they conceive the dignity of the design--the horror of the living fact
fades from their memory. It is we who sit at home with evil who
remember, I think, and are warned and pity. Go, rather, go now, and
keep me in mind. So I shall have a life in the cherished places of
your memory: a life as much my own, as that which I lead in this

'I love you,' I said once more; and reaching out my weak hand, took
hers, and carried it to my lips, and kissed it. Nor did she resist,
but winced a little; and I could see her look upon me with a frown
that was not unkindly, only sad and baffled. And then it seemed she
made a call upon her resolution; plucked my hand towards her, herself
at the same time leaning somewhat forward, and laid it on the beating
of her heart. 'There,' she cried, 'you feel the very footfall of my
life. It only moves for you; it is yours. But is it even mine? It is
mine indeed to offer you, as I might take the coin from my neck, as I
might break a live branch from a tree, and give it you. And yet not
mine! I dwell, or I think I dwell (if I exist at all), somewhere
apart, an impotent prisoner, and carried about and deafened by a mob
that I disown. This capsule, such as throbs against the sides of
animals, knows you at a touch for its master; ay, it loves you! But my
soul, does my soul? I think not; I know not, fearing to ask. Yet when
you spoke to me your words were of the soul; it is of the soul that
you ask--it is only from the soul that you would take me.'

'Olalla,' I said, 'the soul and the body are one, and mostly so in
love. What the body chooses, the soul loves; where the body clings,
the soul cleaves; body for body, soul to soul, they come together at
God's signal; and the lower part (if we can call aught low) is only
the footstool and foundation of the highest.'

'Have you,' she said, 'seen the portraits in the house of my fathers?
Have you looked at my mother or at Felipe? Have your eyes never rested
on that picture that hangs by your bed? She who sat for it died ages
ago; and she did evil in her life. But, look--again: there is my hand
to the least line, there are my eyes and my hair. What is mine, then,
and what am I? If not a curve in this poor body of mine (which you
love, and for the sake of which you dotingly dream that you love me)
not a gesture that I can frame, not a tone of my voice, not any look
from my eyes, no, not even now when I speak to him I love, but has
belonged to others? Others, ages dead, have wooed other men with my
eyes; other men have heard the pleading of the same voice that now
sounds in your ears. The hands of the dead are in my bosom; they move
me, they pluck me, they guide me; I am a puppet at their command; and
I but reinform features and attributes that have long been laid aside
from evil in the quiet of the grave. Is it me you love, friend? or the
race that made me? The girl who does not know and cannot answer for
the least portion of herself? or the stream of which she is a
transitory eddy, the tree of which she is the passing fruit? The race
exists; it is old, it is ever young, it carries its eternal destiny in
its bosom; upon it, like waves upon the sea, individual succeeds to
individual, mocked with a semblance of self-control, but they are
nothing. We speak of the soul, but the soul is in the race.'

'You fret against the common law,' I said. 'You rebel against the
voice of God, which he has made so winning to convince, so imperious
to command. Hear it, and how it speaks between us! Your hand clings to
mine, your heart leaps at my touch, the unknown elements of which we
are compounded awake and run together at a look; the clay of the earth
remembers its independent life and yearns to join us; we are drawn
together as the stars are turned about in space, or as the tides ebb
and flow, by things older and greater than we ourselves.'

'Alas!' she said, 'what can I say to you? My fathers, eight hundred
years ago, ruled all this province: they were wise, great, cunning,
and cruel; they were a picked race of the Spanish; their flags led in
war; the king called them his cousin; the people, when the rope was
slung for them or when they returned and found their hovels smoking,
blasphemed their name. Presently a change began. Man has risen; if he
has sprung from the brutes, he can descend again to the same level.
The breath of weariness blew on their humanity and the cords relaxed;
they began to go down; their minds fell on sleep, their passions awoke
in gusts, heady and senseless like the wind in the gutters of the
mountains; beauty was still handed down, but no longer the guiding wit
nor the human heart; the seed passed on, it was wrapped in flesh, the
flesh covered the bones, but they were the bones and the flesh of
brutes, and their mind was as the mind of flies. I speak to you as I
dare; but you have seen for yourself how the wheel has gone backward
with my doomed race. I stand, as it were, upon a little rising ground
in this desperate descent, and see both before and behind, both what
we have lost and to what we are condemned to go farther downward. And
shall I--I that dwell apart in the house of the dead, my body,
loathing its ways--shall I repeat the spell? Shall I bind another
spirit, reluctant as my own, into this bewitched and tempest-broken
tenement that I now suffer in? Shall I hand down this cursed vessel of
humanity, charge it with fresh life as with fresh poison, and dash it,
like a fire, in the faces of posterity? But my vow has been given; the
race shall cease from off the earth. At this hour my brother is making
ready; his foot will soon be on the stair; and you will go with him
and pass out of my sight for ever. Think of me sometimes as one to
whom the lesson of life was very harshly told, but who heard it with
courage; as one who loved you indeed, but who hated herself so deeply
that her love was hateful to her; as one who sent you away and yet
would have longed to keep you for ever; who had no dearer hope than to
forget you, and no greater fear than to be forgotten.'

She had drawn towards the door as she spoke, her rich voice sounding
softer and farther away; and with the last word she was gone, and I
lay alone in the moonlit chamber. What I might have done had not I
lain bound by my extreme weakness, I know not; but as it was there
fell upon me a great and blank despair. It was not long before there
shone in at the door the ruddy glimmer of a lantern, and Felipe
coming, charged me without a word upon his shoulders, and carried me
down to the great gate, where the cart was waiting. In the moonlight
the hills stood out sharply, as if they were of cardboard; on the
glimmering surface of the plateau, and from among the low trees which
swung together and sparkled in the wind, the great black cube of the
residencia stood out bulkily, its mass only broken by three dimly
lighted windows in the northern front above the gate. They were
Olalla's windows, and as the cart jolted onwards I kept my eyes fixed
upon them till, where the road dipped into a valley, they were lost to
my view forever. Felipe walked in silence beside the shafts, but from
time to time he would cheek the mule and seem to look back upon me;
and at length drew quite near and laid his hand upon my head. There
was such kindness in the touch, and such a simplicity, as of the
brutes, that tears broke from me like the bursting of an artery.

'Felipe,' I said, 'take me where they will ask no questions.'

He said never a word, but he turned his mule about, end for end,
retraced some part of the way we had gone, and, striking into another
path, led me to the mountain village, which was, as we say in
Scotland, the kirkton of that thinly peopled district. Some broken
memories dwell in my mind of the day breaking over the plain, of the
cart stopping, of arms that helped me down, of a bare room into which
I was carried, and of a swoon that fell upon me like sleep.

The next day and the days following the old priest was often at my
side with his snuff-box and prayer book, and after a while, when I
began to pick up strength, he told me that I was now on a fair way to
recovery, and must as soon as possible hurry my departure; whereupon,
without naming any reason, he took snuff and looked at me sideways. I
did not affect ignorance; I knew he must have seen Olalla. 'Sir,' said
I, 'you know that I do not ask in wantonness. What of that family?'

He said they were very unfortunate; that it seemed a declining race,
and that they were very poor and had been much neglected.

'But she has not,' I said. 'Thanks, doubtless, to yourself, she is
instructed and wise beyond the use of women.'

'Yes,' he said; 'the Senorita is well-informed. But the family has
been neglected.'

'The mother?' I queried.

'Yes, the mother too,' said the Padre, taking snuff. 'But Felipe is a
well-intentioned lad.'

'The mother is odd?' I asked.

'Very odd,' replied the priest.

'I think, sir, we beat about the bush,' said I. 'You must know more of
my affairs than you allow. You must know my curiosity to be justified
on many grounds. Will you not be frank with me?'

'My son,' said the old gentleman, 'I will be very frank with you on
matters within my competence; on those of which I know nothing it does
not require much discretion to be silent. I will not fence with you, I
take your meaning perfectly; and what can I say, but that we are all
in God's hands, and that His ways are not as our ways? I have even
advised with my superiors in the church, but they, too, were dumb. It
is a great mystery.'

'Is she mad?' I asked.

'I will answer you according to my belief. She is not,' returned the
Padre, 'or she was not. When she was young--God help me, I fear I
neglected that wild lamb--she was surely sane; and yet, although it
did not run to such heights, the same strain was already notable; it
had been so before her in her father, ay, and before him, and this
inclined me, perhaps, to think too lightly of it. But these things go
on growing, not only in the individual but in the race.'

'When she was young,' I began, and my voice failed me for a moment,
and it was only with a great effort that I was able to add, 'was she
like Olalla?'

'Now God forbid!' exclaimed the Padre. 'God forbid that any man should
think so slightingly of my favourite penitent. No, no; the Senorita
(but for her beauty, which I wish most honestly she had less of) has
not a hair's resemblance to what her mother was at the same age. I
could not bear to have you think so; though, Heaven knows, it were,
perhaps, better that you should.'

At this, I raised myself in bed, and opened my heart to the old man;
telling him of our love and of her decision, owning my own horrors, my
own passing fancies, but telling him that these were at an end; and
with something more than a purely formal submission, appealing to his

He heard me very patiently and without surprise; and when I had done,
he sat for some time silent. Then he began: 'The church,' and
instantly broke off again to apologise. 'I had forgotten, my child,
that you were not a Christian,' said he. 'And indeed, upon a point so
highly unusual, even the church can scarce be said to have decided.
But would you have my opinion? The Senorita is, in a matter of this
kind, the best judge; I would accept her judgment.'

On the back of that he went away, nor was he thenceforward so
assiduous in his visits; indeed, even when I began to get about again,
he plainly feared and deprecated my society, not as in distaste but
much as a man might be disposed to flee from the riddling sphynx. The
villagers, too, avoided me; they were unwilling to be my guides upon
the mountain. I thought they looked at me askance, and I made sure
that the more superstitious crossed themselves on my approach. At
first I set this down to my heretical opinions; but it began at length
to dawn upon me that if I was thus redoubted it was because I had
stayed at the residencia. All men despise the savage notions of such
peasantry; and yet I was conscious of a chill shadow that seemed to
fall and dwell upon my love. It did not conquer, but I may not deify
that it restrained my ardour.

Some miles westward of the village there was a gap in the sierra, from
which the eye plunged direct upon the residencia; and thither it
became my daily habit to repair. A wood crowned the summit; and just
where the pathway issued from its fringes, it was overhung by a
considerable shelf of rock, and that, in its turn, was surmounted by a
crucifix of the size of life and more than usually painful in design.
This was my perch; thence, day after day, I looked down upon the
plateau, and the great old house, and could see Felipe, no bigger than
a fly, going to and fro about the garden. Sometimes mists would draw
across the view, and be broken up again by mountain winds; sometimes
the plain slumbered below me in unbroken sunshine; it would sometimes
be all blotted out by rain. This distant post, these interrupted
sights of the place where my life had been so strangely changed,
suited the indecision of my humour. I passed whole days there,
debating with myself the various elements of our position; now leaning
to the suggestions of love, now giving an ear to prudence, and in the
end halting irresolute between the two.

One day, as I was sitting on my rock, there came by that way a
somewhat gaunt peasant wrapped in a mantle. He was a stranger, and
plainly did not know me even by repute; for, instead of keeping the
other side, he drew near and sat down beside me, and we had soon
fallen in talk. Among other things he told me he had been a muleteer,
and in former years had much frequented these mountains; later on, he
had followed the army with his mules, had realised a competence, and
was now living retired with his family.

'Do you know that house?' I inquired, at last, pointing to the
residencia, for I readily wearied of any talk that kept me from the
thought of Olalla.

He looked at me darkly and crossed himself.

'Too well,' he said, 'it was there that one of my comrades sold
himself to Satan; the Virgin shield us from temptations! He has paid
the price; he is now burning in the reddest place in Hell!'

A fear came upon me; I could answer nothing; and presently the man
resumed, as if to himself: 'Yes,' he said, 'O yes, I know it. I have
passed its doors. There was snow upon the pass, the wind was driving
it; sure enough there was death that night upon the mountains, but
there was worse beside the hearth. I took him by the arm, Senor, and
dragged him to the gate; I conjured him, by all he loved and
respected, to go forth with me; I went on my knees before him in the
snow; and I could see he was moved by my entreaty. And just then she
came out on the gallery, and called him by his name; and he turned,
and there was she standing with a lamp in her hand and smiling on him
to come back. I cried out aloud to God, and threw my arms about him,
but he put me by, and left me alone. He had made his choice; God help
us. I would pray for him, but to what end? there are sins that not
even the Pope can loose.'

'And your friend,' I asked, 'what became of him?'

'Nay, God knows,' said the muleteer. 'If all be true that we hear, his
end was like his sin, a thing to raise the hair.'

'Do you mean that he was killed?' I asked.

'Sure enough, he was killed,' returned the man. 'But how? Ay, how? But
these are things that it is sin to speak of.'

'The people of that house...' I began.

But he interrupted me with a savage outburst. 'The people?' he cried.
'What people? There are neither men nor women in that house of
Satan's! What? have you lived here so long, and never heard?' And here
he put his mouth to my ear and whispered, as if even the fowls of the
mountain might have over-heard and been stricken with horror.

What he told me was not true, nor was it even original; being, indeed,
but a new edition, vamped up again by village ignorance and
superstition, of stories nearly as ancient as the race of man. It was
rather the application that appalled me. In the old days, he said, the
church would have burned out that nest of basilisks; but the arm of
the church was now shortened; his friend Miguel had been unpunished by
the hands of men, and left to the more awful judgment of an offended
God. This was wrong; but it should be so no more. The Padre was sunk
in age; he was even bewitched himself; but the eyes of his flock were
now awake to their own danger; and some day--ay, and before long--the
smoke of that house should go up to heaven.

He left me filled with horror and fear. Which way to turn I knew not;
whether first to warn the Padre, or to carry my ill-news direct to the
threatened inhabitants of the residencia. Fate was to decide for me;
for, while I was still hesitating, I beheld the veiled figure of a
woman drawing near to me up the pathway. No veil could deceive my
penetration; by every line and every movement I recognised Olalla; and
keeping hidden behind a corner of the rock, I suffered her to gain the
summit. Then I came forward. She knew me and paused, but did not
speak; I, too, remained silent; and we continued for some time to gaze
upon each other with a passionate sadness.

'I thought you had gone,' she said at length. 'It is all that you can
do for me--to go. It is all I ever asked of you. And you still stay.
But do you know, that every day heaps up the peril of death, not only
on your head, but on ours? A report has gone about the mountain; it is
thought you love me, and the people will not suffer it.'

I saw she was already informed of her danger, and I rejoiced at it.
'Olalla,' I said, 'I am ready to go this day, this very hour, but not

She stepped aside and knelt down before the crucifix to pray, and I
stood by and looked now at her and now at the object of her adoration,
now at the living figure of the penitent, and now at the ghastly,
daubed countenance, the painted wounds, and the projected ribs of the
image. The silence was only broken by the wailing of some large birds
that circled sidelong, as if in surprise or alarm, about the summit of
the hills. Presently Olalla rose again, turned towards me, raised her
veil, and, still leaning with one hand on the shaft of the crucifix,
looked upon me with a pale and sorrowful countenance.

'I have laid my hand upon the cross,' she said. 'The Padre says you
are no Christian; but look up for a moment with my eyes, and behold
the face of the Man of Sorrows. We are all such as He was---the
inheritors of sin; we must all bear and expiate a past which was not
ours; there is in all of us--ay, even in me--a sparkle of the divine.
Like Him, we must endure for a little while, until morning returns
bringing peace. Suffer me to pass on upon my way alone; it is thus
that I shall be least lonely, counting for my friend Him who is the
friend of all the distressed; it is thus that I shall be the most
happy, having taken my farewell of earthly happiness, and willingly
accepted sorrow for my portion.'

I looked at the face of the crucifix, and, though I was no friend to
images, and despised that imitative and grimacing art of which it was
a rude example, some sense of what the thing implied was carried home
to my intelligence. The face looked down upon me with a painful and
deadly contraction; but the rays of a glory encircled it, and reminded
me that the sacrifice was voluntary. It stood there, crowning the
rock, as it still stands on so many highway sides, vainly preaching to
passers-by, an emblem of sad and noble truths; that pleasure is not an
end, but an accident; that pain is the choice of the magnanimous; that
it is best to suffer all things and do well. I turned and went down
the mountain in silence; and when I looked back for the last time
before the wood closed about my path, I saw Olalla still leaning on
the crucifix.


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