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She and I, Volume 2

John C. Hutcheson

  Produced by Nick Hodson of London, England

  She and I. A Love Story. A Life History. Volume Two.

  by John Conroy Hutcheson________________________________________________________________In Volume Two we have much the same personnel as in Volume One; thevicar and his sister Miss Pimpernell; Lady Dasher and her two daughters;Miss Spight and Mawley the curate; Min and Mrs Clyde; Catch the dog.Having set the scene in Volume One, Hutcheson goes on to weave abeautiful story round the love-affair between the hero, Lorton, and Min,she with the admirable grey eyes. We will not tell you how itfared--you must find that out for yourself.

  While I think the story was well-written, and it makes a very goodaudiobook to listen to, Hutcheson is still up to his tricks. Just toprove how brainy he is, he quotes extensively from French, German,Italian, Latin, and even in one place, Greek. In these days when oureducations have been so dummed down, I find this unhelpful. To read aquotation from a good English poet is a joy and a pleasure, so why goelsewhere for a poetic quotation, except it be to show off.

  As in Volume One, Hutcheson sometimes invents words never seenelsewhere, but for which there is a good word in current use, but speltslightly differently. And his punctuation is weird, too. Iparticularly dislike the dashes in his speech paragraphs, something likethe following:

  "Hello,"--said the vicar;--"what a nice day it is."

  I have left these in, though I've corrected the novel spelling wheneverpossible.________________________________________________________________SHE AND I. A LOVE STORY. A LIFE HISTORY. VOLUME TWO.




  True, I talk of dreams; Which are the children of an idle brain, Begot of nothing but vain fantasy, Which is as thin of substance as the air; And more inconstant than the wind, who woos Even now the frozen bosom of the north, And, being anger'd, puffs away from thence, Turning his face to the dew-dropping south.

  Il est naturel que nos idees les plus vives et les plus familieres se retracent pendant le sommeil.

  I had a most curious dream about Min that very night.

  Probably this was owing to the reactionary mental relief I experiencedafter all my doubts and jealousies--you know, "joie fait peur"sometimes. It might also have resulted from the stronger impressionwhich my last interview with her had made upon my mind, coupled with allthe sweet hopes and darling imaginings that had sprung suddenly intoexistence, when her rose-red lips told me in liquid accents that sheloved me. How deliciously the words had sounded! I seemed to hear themnow once more; and, that kiss of ecstasy--I almost felt it again in allits passionate intensity!

  But, the physiology of dreams, and their origin and connection with ourday life, are subjects that have never been clearly explained,frequently investigated though they have been by intellects that havegroped to the bottom of almost every phenomenal possibility in thefinite world. We have not yet succeeded in piercing through the thickveil that hides from our gaze the unseen, ideal, and spiritual cosmosthat surrounds, with its ghostly atmosphere, the more material universein which we move and breathe and have our being. We are oblivious, inmost cases, of that thought-peopled, encircling essence; although, itinfluences our motives and actions, perhaps, in a greater degree than wemay be willing to allow.

  I shall not attempt to solve the workings of the varied phantasmagoriathat flitted across the horizon of my brain that night, curious as theywere; nor, will I try to track out how, and in what way, they retracedthe events of the past, and prognosticated the possibilities of thefuture. The task in either direction would be as hopeless as it isuninteresting; consequently, I will abandon it to the attention of moreinquiring psychological minds than my own, hurrying on to tell what itwas that I dreamt.

  My vision was a threefold one--a series of dreams within dreams.

  First, I thought that I was on a wide, whitened Alpine plain. It wasnight. In front of me, towered on high the rugged peaks of theMatterhorn, imposing in their grandeur; further on, in the illimitabledistance, I could descry the rounded, snowcapp'd head of Mont Blanc,rearing itself heavenward, where the pale, treacherous moon kept hersilent watch, and from whence the glistening stars twinkled down throughan ocean of space, touching frosted particles of matter withscintillations of light, and making them glitter like diamonds--world-old, transparent jewels, set in the cold, ice-blue crown of the eternalglacier.

  I could thus see myself, gazing through my dream eyes on my _eidolon_,as if it were only a reflection in a mirror. _It_ was walking here onthis wide Alpine plain, all alone; and I recognised also that I had thepower to analyse and appreciate the motives by which it was led hither,the desires by which it was actuated--the strange thing, being, that Ifelt, within myself, all the thoughts and ideas that must have occurredto _my other self_.

  At the same time, however, I seemed to be, as it were, but an inactivespectator of all that happened; looking on the visionary events of mydream as if I had no share or part in them. I appeared to possess,while they occurred, a sort of dual existence, of which I was perfectlycognisant, then and afterwards.

  I knew that I--my other self--wished to reach the heights of theMatterhorn before and above me: the region of perpetual snow. Isympathised with that wish; and yet, I could look on at all my effortsto accomplish it, as if I were uninterested in their success, whilst Istill felt, within myself, all the agony and suspense that must havefilled the mind of my wraith, I could see myself making repeatedexertions to reach the heights; constantly climbing, never getting anyhigher. I appeared to patrol a narrow circle, whose circumference I wasunable to cross. Round and round I went, continually striving to getupwards and onwards:--still, always finding myself in the same identicalspot, as if I had not advanced an inch. I grew tired, weary, exhausted.I felt sick at heart and in body. A nameless, indefinable horrorseized upon me.

  Then, all of a sudden, Min appeared.

  She stood on the peaks above me; her figure presented in strong reliefagainst the dead, neutral tint of the ice-wall behind her. I could seeher face plainly--the look of entreaty in her eyes and the beckoningmotion of her hands. She was calling to me, and urging me to join her;and--I _could_ not!

  A wide crevasse yawned before me, preventing any forward movement. Ityawned deep down in front of my feet, fathoms below fathoms, piercingdown, seemingly, to the centre of the earth. Looking over its edge Icould mark how the vaulted arc of heaven and the starry firmament werereflected in its bottomless abyss; while, its breadth, seemedimmeasurable. I saw that I could not cross it by the path I hadhitherto pursued; and yet, whenever I turned aside, and tried to reachthe mountain top by some other way, the horrible crevasse curved itscourse likewise, still confronting me. It was always before me, toarrest my progress. I could not evade it, I could not overleap it; andyet, there stood Min calling to me, and beckoning to me--and, I couldnot join her. It was maddening!

  The moonlight faded. The twinkling stars went in one by one. There wasa subdued darkness for a moment; and then, day appeared to break.

  The snowy expanse appeared to blush all over--

  "And on the glimmering limit far withdrawn God made himself an awful rose of dawn."

  Did you ever watch an Alpine sunrise? How the light leaps from peak topeak, warming the monotonous white landscape in an instant with a tingeof crimson lake, and making the ice prisms sparkle like sapphires!

  It was just so in my dream:--not a detail was omitted.

  With the brightening of the dawn my troubles began to disappear. Thecrevasse narrowed, and the distant peaks of the Matterhorn approachednearer. Min was close to me, so close that I could almost touch thehand she held out to guide my steps. I heard her say, "Come, Fran
k,come! courage, and you're safe!" I was stepping across a thin icebridge, which I suddenly perceived in front of me, leading over the gulfthat separated us. I felt her warm, violet breath on my cheek. I wasjust planting my feet on the further side of the glacier, and going toclasp her in my arms, when--the frail platform on which I was crossinggave way:--I fell downward through the chasm with a shriek of terrorthat she re-echoed, and--I awoke!

  Again, I was in the midst of an arid, sandy desert. The sun's raysseemed to pelt down with blistering intensity on my uncovered head.There was not a single tree, nor a scrap of foliage anywhere in sight,to afford a moment's shelter:--all was barrenness; parching heat; death!

  I felt faint--dying of thirst. I fancied I could hear the rippling ofwaters near me, the splashing of grateful fountains; but, none could Isee. Around me, as I lay stretched on the scorching sands, were onlysun-baked rocks, and the scattered bones and skeletons of formertravellers, who had perished by the same dreadful, lingering agonythrough which I was, apparently, doomed to die.

  After a time, I thought I could distinguish the murmuring of waters moreplainly; and, stay--did I not perceive a stately grove of palms in thedistance? The water must be there!

  I totter to my feet: I bend my feeble steps thither, and sink downbeneath the welcome shade. I hear a sweet voice calling to me: I see anangel form stretching out a goblet of crystal water to my parching lips;and, as I reach my hand forth to grasp it, I see that the face is thatof Min! I give vent to a cry of ecstasy; but, at the same moment, thegoblet falls from my shaking hand, shattering into a thousand pieces onthe sands of the desert; and--the vision fades away from my gaze.

  All is darkness again. I am awake!

  Once more the kaleidoscope of my dream changed.

  I am now floating in a battered boat, without either sails or oars, onthe boundless waters of the ocean. I can hear the lap, lapping of thesobbing sea against the sides of my frail craft; and the ripple of thecurrent, hurrying along in its devious course the boat, which is aspowerless to resist its influence as a straw upon the stream.

  Presently the current spins onward faster and more furiously. I see thefaint outlines of purple hills breaking the vacant curve of the horizon.A delicious fragrance from tropic flowers fills the air--the perfumesof the jessamine, the magnolia, the cereus. A sweet, delicious languorcreeps over me. I feel a vague sense of rest and happiness, which, tomy onlooking self, seems almost unaccountable; for, there am I, stillall alone on the ocean, swept onward towards the purple hills in thedistance, over the smooth-flowing surface of azure liquid, while, not asound is to be heard, save the restless murmuring of the many-voicedsea.

  The boat glides on.

  Now I find myself encircled by radiant groups of picturesque coralislands, all covered with palm-trees, whose waving branches are entwinedwith varied-hued passion-flowers. Lilies and ferns, narcissi andirises, are intermingled in one chaos of beauty, skirting the velvetsward that runs down to the water's edge.

  On each tiny islet, the lavish wealth of nature, freely outpoured,seemed to make it a perfect paradise. Brilliantly-plumaged birdsflitted here and there, their colours contrasting with the greenfoliage. Gauzy-winged insects buzzed to and fro. The notes of thenightingale, or some kindred songster, could be heard, singing anecstatic soprano to the cooing bass of the dove and the ripplingobbligato of babbling brooks--that filtered through golden-yellow sandsinto the lap of the mother of waters--amid the sympathetic harmony ofgushing cascades, whose noisy cadence was toned down by distance to amelodious hum.

  And now I find that I am alone no longer.

  I see Min stepping forward to greet me, advancing down the sloping turf-bank of the first island I reach; but, I cannot land. I cannot touchher hand.

  No. The current sweeps my boat onward, past each tiny paradise in turn;and, on each, I still see Min always coming towards me, yet neverreaching me! Swiftly the boat glides, swiftly and more swift; until, atlast, Min, the palm-tree-shaded coral islets and all, are lost tosight--gradually yet in a moment.

  I now seem to be borne along on the tide of a tempestuous torrent,through rocky defiles and beneath frowning precipices.

  I am in the centre of a cyclone. The sickly lightning plays around me.The thunder mutters--growls--rolls--peals forth--in grand ear-breakingcrashes, that appear to shake the dense sky overhead; but still,whenever the electric coruscations light up the sable darkness, I cansee Min's face, apparently ever before me, ever inviting me on, everinapproachable!

  Anon, the boat glides back into the ocean again. Soon after, I findmyself floating amongst an army of icebergs, all glittering withdistinct gradations of tint, from that of pale sea-green up to intenseblue. In front of me stretches a frozen field of hummocky ice, likethat I had seen in my first vision.

  There, too, stands Min. The current is bearing me to her; but, again,ere I can touch the spot where she stands, my boat careens heavilyagainst a drifting berg, and is dashed to pieces.

  Instead of sinking in the water, however, I feel myself floating in air.The atmosphere that encircles me is all rosy illumination, as it hadbeen during the Alpine sunrise. I hear the most beautiful, heavenlymusic, and the sound as of many voices singing together in the sweetestof harmonies.

  I see the gilded domes and minarets of a wondrous city that seems to bebuilt in the centre of the zenith. I am wafted nearer and nearer to it,borne up on the pinions of the air. And, now, I can discern its goldengates!

  There, stands Min, again, before them. She is clothed all in a whitegarment, that gives out a radiance as of light; while, on her head is ajewelled crown, fashioned in the shape of olive leaves and fastened infront with a single diamond star, whose beams almost blind me. Both heroutstretched hands are extended to greet me. A loving smile is on herlips, in her eyes. I can hear the beautiful music chiming louder andlouder; the harmony of the voice-chorus echoing more and moredistinctly; I am on the threshold of the golden gates; I am justclasping Min's outstretched welcoming hands with oh, such a fond,enduring clasp; when--I awake.

  This time my reveil is in real earnest:--the vision had passed!

  It is broad daylight; and, a bright summer morning.

  The London sparrows are chirping away at a fine rate in the garden. Ifancy, too, that I can hear my favourite thrush in the distance.

  Dog Catch, also, is whining and scratching at my door to tell me that itis time for me to get up, and take him out for his walk.

  And, then, I recollect all.

  I realise that I've only been dreaming; although, I almost believe thatI can see Min's dear face and outstretched arms still before me.

  Of course, it was only a dream.

  But, curious, wasn't it?