THE sunlight and the sea air, the very breath of Spring, were pouring in through the open window, and the heart of the old guitar-player was full of joy.
Seated at his table with a quill pen in his hand, he noted down the melodies which welled up, clear and limpid, in his mind, and from time to time he lifted from the chair beside him his wonderful Guadagnini guitar, and tested by the reality of sound the music he was engaged in composing.
Nothing in this world can equal the joy of the artist in the act of creation. It is a superhuman state of mind, and to Lucien Paulin, as he gazed out over the sea which lay before him, over the red roofs of beautiful Nice with its palms and sunshine, it seamed as if the sea had never been so deep a b lue, that the palms had never waved their crests so gracefully, that never before had the trees been so full of the songs of
He felt as though youth had returned and passed its rejuvenating hand through his hair.
Then abruptly laying down his pen, he seized his guitar, and began to play the fantasia he had been composing.
From the first notes a sweet harmony filled the large bare room.
It was a wonderful instrument in the hands of a wonderful artist.
The guitar, of the exquisite and simple make of which Gaetano Guadagnini of Turin alone possessed the secret, had acquired amazing breadth of tone in the course of forty years of continuous use, and had nothingin common with the multitude of discordant and i 11-s h a p e d counterparts
which usurp the name of one of the most perfect instruments of musical art.
In the same way Lucien Paulin was immensely superior to the mass of those who torment the chords of a guitar.
His fame had spread abroad from his native city of Nice, and Paulin’s method had become the official method of all those who wdshed to study seriously; his solos for theguitar were in great demand, and the artist’s worldly jffairs, with the assistance of the well-paid lessons which
he gave to foreigners, flourished exceedingly. All was well.
Things had gone so well for him that Paulin had recently been able to realize his dream of completely restoring his villa on the Brancolar Hill which dominated Nice and the crescent gulf as far as Antibes. And now,
he dwelt here happily wllh his wife and daughter; cheerful and prosperous in the fulness of years.
As the fingers of his small but marvellously agile hand ran up and down the black keyboard, divided by its wide
brass lines, Paulin could do no les» than congratulate himself.
He felt that he
had composed his masterpiece!
The introduction, consisting of an allegro agitato in which the air was played on the fifth and sixth strings, was imbued with a harmony and an original character which, not without good reason, completely satisfied the author. The piece then went off into an andantino arpeggiato in which Paulin had mastered the greatest difficulties of his art, both as a composer and as a performer.
But the point at which he felt that his composition touched the limits of the sublime was in the largo cantabile which followed immediately after. He had written this straight off, as it came into his head at one sitting, almost without correction; and trying it over now on his guitar he divined fresh beauties in it, which seemed to him the product of some inspiration as it were of a benign spirit that had guided his hand while he wrote.
When he had finished playing he dried his eyes which were moist with emotion. *
He rose to his feet, laid down the dear instrument which he loved with grateful tenderness as if it had been a living being and paced up and down his room.
THOUGHT which had often occurred to him again presented itself: had anyone ever played the guitar as he p 1 a y e d it? He knew the compositions of all the great guitar players. In his library there was a collection of all their celebrated works. Sor Ferd of Barcelona, noted for t h e tremendous difficulties which he, Lucien Faulin, though disapproving of (hem, had mastered and overcome; Aguado and
Averta, the famous Spanish soloists; Zatii dc Ferranti, the guitarist of the King of the Belgians, perhaps the greatest —after himself—of the modern school; Gragnani, Decall, that wizard of agility; Carcassi, the sweetest of them all;
All the facts mentioned relating to the life and death of Paganini are strictly authentic, the soh|ect having been carefully Investigated by the author of the atocy. In Nice and elatIlhira. Gasati, known as the Orpheus of Harmony; Legnanl, Padovetz, Beaumarchais, Berlioz, Mertz, Castagna, the most elegant, the most inspired; and a hundred others. They were all there.
None of these perturbed the serenity of Lucien Paulin: he had measured himself against each one of them, and in the course of fifty years of study he had mastered them all; and his conscience as an artist told him that never had anyone raised the guitar to the standard of nobility to which he had lifted it, that none other had revealed the secrets of such tender effects, none perhaps had ever combined such marvellous technique, such agility, such sweetness, and such strength.
But, far down in the depths of his heart, there was a dark little spot, a secret which at times assumed such mysterious proportions as seriously to preoccupy him.
He knew, as others knew', that Niccolo Paganini—that genius of the diabolical smile, whom he as a boy of ten or twelve years, had heard play here in Nice, where the mysterious artist so mysteriously closed his strange career—, had also played the guitar, and played it with an effect just as disturbing as that which he produced on his audience when he held his Guarnieri violin under his huge weird, skeleton hand, and conjured out of it the mournful turmoil of hell and the sweetness of celestial
For many years Paulin had searched for all that Paganini had written for the guitar; the duets and the little pieces for violin and guitar dedicated to the girl Eleonora; the nine quartettes for violin, viola, violincello, and guitar, etc., etc. Admirable accompaniments these, revealing complete knowledge of the instruments, and of the perfect taste inspiring them, but still accompaniments composed evidently for elementary players.
It was not conceivable that Niccolo Paganini had stopped here.
Everyone knows that the most mysterious aspect of the artist’s life lay in the fact that he was very rarely, or never, heard to practise the violin.
In order to conquer the extraordinary difficulties which he mastered at his concerts with a facility which inspired dismay, almost terror in the souls of connoisseurs, he must necessarily have subjected himself to a severe course of daily and nightly exercise, without rest or respite.
Yet it is a fact that Harris, the Englishman, who, in his enthusiasm for the great musician, succeeded in becoming his secretary, with the set object of discovering the secret of his art, and who followed him during a whole year, step by step, sharing his meals, sleeping in the room next to his own, constantly beside him like his shadow, informed an astonished world that during the entire year he had not once heard Paganini play except at concerts. “On one single occasion,” he related, “I saw through the keyhole Paganini take up his violin. He tried certain positions with his left hand, without using the bow, and then replaced the fiddle in its case. That evening he played at a concert, rousing his audience to a state of frenzy.” Everyone, moreover,—friends, hotel neighbours, servants,—averred that he was never heard to practise.
DUT if Niccolo Paganini rarely played the violin, it is *-* certain that—despite the fact that he avoided being overheard—he frequently played the guitar; and there was indeed a certain period of his life during which his love for a grande dame of Tuscany withdrew him for three years from the world of art, when he quite abandoned the violin to devote himself to this other favorite instrument.
Now could it be possible that Paganini, who once in Florence under the Loggie of the Uffici, snatched the guitar from the hands of a street player and played it to such marvellous effect that a large crowd had surrounded him and accompanied him to his house, in order to solve the mystery of this man who could transform what is commonly believed to be the most vulgar of musical instruments into the most divine— could it be possible that this same Paganini had left nothing written for guitar solo?
Lucien Paulin had long searched with the patience of the Ligurian blood which ran in his veins and the passionate enthusiasm of the artist, and on the occasion of a professional tour he made with the object of being heard in the various cities of Europe, he carried out step by step the itinerary followed by Paganini in 1831. He had ransacked libraries and second-hand book-shops; he had searched, and. . as his ill-luck would have it, he had found.
It happened in Turin, where Niccolo had given in 1835 a marvellous concert for violin and guitar, accompanied by the celebrated guitar-player Legnani.
Paulin had had the opportunity of buying a lot of
second-hand music for a trifling sum, and he had bought it solely with an eye to finding certain manuscript music which appeared to him to be not without, interest. But what was his wonder and his tremulous joy when, on returning home, he laid his hand on a page of manuscript, a single page, but which he immediately recognized as being in Paganini’s handwriting and written for the guitar. For the guitar, and for the guitar alone!
No mere easy and simple accompaniment; a comerlo -perhaps an entire concerto—for the sheet was large and written closely on both sides. And this piece was evidently worthy of the author, for to Paulin's eye, just glancing over it, it opened abysmal possibilities.
Paulin rose and took his guitar, but he had to stop at the third stroke. He could well follow the music with his eye, and imagine the divine melody those dumb signs represented, but he was as incapable of executing it as we are incapable of following an eagle in its rapid flight into the open sky.
During more than two months he had stubbornly pursued with restless ardour all the problems which that technique of unknown nature had presented: dawn had illumined his pale brow, and twilight had softened the lines round his eyes; but the sheet of music preserved its secret more jealously and closely than any Etruscan inscription.
Paulin hid it away in the bottom of a trunk and tried to forget it.
From that day the name of Paganini had become almost repulsive to him; he avoided mentioning him, seeing his portrait, even listening to his music.
Although a clear-headed and unprejudiced man, Paulin had come almost to believe the silly stories to which Paganini’s contemporaries lent a willing ear, superstitious people who saw in the musician’s face, a face-which reflected the continual physical and moral suffering which goes with genius, evidence of his diabolical origin and of some infernal compact.
•It was therefore long since Paulin had troubled his head about Paganini. And yet one day quite suddenly, the name of Paganini once more engrossed his thoughts, almost against his will, for Paganini had become the one and only topic of conversation in Nice.
A well-known journalist, George Maurevert, had written in one of the principal local papers, Le Petit Niçois, a series of articles which revealed a new aspect of the artist’s life, or rather of his death.
TT IS well known that Niccolo Paganini died in Nice in A 1840, in the Via della Prefettura, where a tablet inscribed by the Italian novelist, Anton Giuiio Barrili, records the event. And now from the newspaper accounts —accounts supported by the testimony of irrefutable evidence and facts—it appeared that the adventures of his corpse had not been less strange and mysterious than those of hi? life.
Like everyone about hir», Lucien Paulin had not failed to read the series of articles which daily increased in interest, and he was now awaiting the last instalment which was to close the gruesome story.
He had just finished re-playing his latest creation, his fantasia, and was pacing the room in a proud and selfsatisfied spirit, when the old servant entered at the accustomed hour bearing on a tray the day’s local paper.
J SEQUEL TO “THE BLUE LAGOON¡ I UEW AUTHORS have such an intimate knowledge of the sea as H. de Vere I I Stdcpoole, whose “Blue Lagoon’’ has sold more than a million copies. f I MACLEAN’S MAGAZINE will begin in the December 15 issue a sequel to § I “The Blue Lagoon,” entitled “The Garden of God.” This is Mr. Stacpoole’s 1 I latest book and it will be of fascinating interest to every reader who enjoys ¡ I a wholesome and extraordinary love and adventure story. Your enjoyment | I of this new novel does not depend upon the reading of “The Blue Lagoon.” It § I is an absolutely complete story in every way, but for those who have read añd I I remember the concludina chapters of “The Blue Lagoon” there will be per1 I haps an additional appeal, because in this sequel the fate of Emmeline, Dick § I and the baby is made clear. i
Lucien Paulin felt such a keen interest in the question of the hour that he immediately began to read it.
Here, in a few words, is the writer’s story:
“Paganini died in Nice on the 7th of May, 1840, in the Via della Prefettura. His irréligion was much talked about, as was also the diabolical origin of his art, and it was rumoured that not only had he refused to perform his duties as a Catholic at the last Easter, but that he had rejected the ministrations of the Church on his deathbed.
“The bishop spoke, and the prelate conducted an enquiry, in consequence of which his body was refused the right of burial in holy ground. It was placed in a coffin and laid in a ward of the hospital of Nice, awaiting the decision of his relatives.
“Paganini’s young son, whom a beautiful Lombard singer had borne to the artist, and who now found himself
heir to the large fortune accumulated by his father, together with a wonderful collection of Stradivarius, Amati, and Guarnieri violins, protested in vain; he wrote, he argued, he implored, for a reversal of the decision, but all to no purpose. The coffin still remained in the hospital. But meanwhile a strange legend was growing up: The patients, the attendants, the doctors in the hospital, told how' every night there seemed to come from it doleful wailings, frightful cries of pain, never before heard by human ear, while others, pale and trembling, affirmed on their oath, that they had seen hideous demons, convulsed with fearful laughter, holding one another by clawed hands, dance round the coffin.
“The rumour was repeated with bated breath throughout the town; all Nice was talking of it. The authorities, not knowing how to tackle this strange fiddler whom not even Death could silence, determined at anyrate to move him further off, and had his coffin carried to the Lazzaretto of Villafranca, while awaiting the Pope’s answer to the son’s petition.
“But it appeared that even within those walls the body could find no rest, for which reason the attendants thought well to remove the coffin outside the door a few steps away, on to the seashore, where in a short time it was covered over by the waters of an adjacent stream which carried away the refuse of a neighbouring oil factory. For more than a month the mortal remains of this man who had been the most applauded in all Europe, from Palermo to Berlin, from Paris to Vienna, lay there like the carcase of a stray dog, but finally that pity, which was denied it by the smug pope, Gregory XVI, found a place in the hearts of admirers of Nice.
“An enthusiastic devotee of his music, himself an artist, the Conte Cessoles, gathered together a few friends: the Conte Urbain Garin de Cocconato, the Conte de Pierias, the artist Felix Ziem, and Alexis de Saint-Marc. These men, all amateurs of art, decided to bury their brother artist, if not with all due ceremonial, at least in a manner more worthy than that which the Church deemed fitting.
"They left Nice at night in a boat, and like good Ligurians, succeeded in spite of a heavy sea, in landing opposite the Lazzaretto.
“Here they lifted the coffin on to a barrow which they had brought with them, and by torchlight, for the night was black, moonless and starless, they proceeded towards the adjacent little peninsula of St. Jean, so smiling a spot by daylight.
“This ground happened to belong to the Conte de Cessoles, and here, on the rocky prominence of this peninsularum ocellus, facing the open sea which had smiled so benignly on the blue eyes of the child Garibaldi, Paganini’s body rested during five years!
“After three years his son desired to lay the body in holy ground; it was removed from its resting-place and placed on a ship bound for Genoa. But cholera was then raging in that city, and the authorities refused permission to land to this dead man who came to the city of death.
“The body was taken back to the ship which now made for Marseilles, and the Captain (Quèsaco? Buou Diou!) unloaded his inconvenient and gruesome cargo in one of the Lerins islands, those wonderful little islands green with pine-trees, singing in the north-west wind, facing Cannes with its palm trees.
“From here at last the body was removed, by the son’s indefatigable piety, on the 15th of August, 1844; it was transported to Genoa and thence to Parma, to the Church of the Steccata, where it now reposes.” “Perhaps!” exclaimed Paulin as he finished reading the article.
There was an elusive note running through the whole article, just a slender thread of doubt.
Paulin was about to take up his guitar again when the servant came in with a letter.
The letter, written on thin blue paper, bore on its envelope the picture and name of the principal hotel in Nice, the sumptuous Hôtel de la Reine, which rose gaudy and luxurious, enormous, hideous and beautiful at once, on the left of the Brancolar Hill, where Paulin dwelt.
Every letter carries some presentiment with it; Paulin thought as he opened it: “Probably some foreigner asking for lessons. Hôtel de la Reine. . . wealthy!”. . . .
No; it was not a request for lessons. The letter said that a brother musician desired to make the personal acquaintance of the celebrated guitar-player Paulin, and asked for an appointment, when he might listen and also be heard.
An admirer is always welcomed by an artist. Paulin answered that he would be happy to see his correspondent on the following morning at nine o’clock in his own house.
The next day at the time appointed, Paulin was seated at the same table, his guitar on his knees, his quill pen—without which he felt unable to write müsic^ in his hand, retouching here and there the Fantasia completed yesterday. He wished his new' admirer to hear it to-day, and his heart, which had kept its freshness and ingenuousness despite his sixty years, was alreadyprepared for the joys of success.
The old servant entered, loquacious and confidential, and said in her Niçois dialect—a chaotic mixture of Ligurian, Piedmontese and French:
“Moussu, a qui es lou jouve qu’asperas; lou voules recevre? (Sir, the young man you are expecting is here; shall I show him in?)’’
A tall young man appeared; clean-shaven like an Englishman; simple and well-dressed and very pale.
Had Paulin met him strolling along the Promenade des Anglais or in the Saloons of the Casino, he would have put him down as a young attaché of some Embassy come for a few days in Nice or Monte Carlo; but the young man held in is hand a large black case which revealed the form of the guitar within, and so he shook his hand cordially, saying:
“Soyez le bienvenu, mon cher collègue!”
Another man might not have noticed it, but when Paulin, on shaking the young man’s hand, felt his own completely disappear into that strange, i c y, nervous .grip, which grasped and enveloped his, he could not help looking at it, and its aspect surprised and perturbed him.
Never had he seen such a hand before; it was as though some monstrous skeleton fingers had been attached to an ordinary everyday hand—fingers of incredible and fantastic length.
These fingers were attached to the hand like a spider’s legs to its body. Paulin would have liked to compliment his guest on his hand; but he did not dare. He somehow felt that it would have been out of place. He did not quite know how the compliment might be interpreted. Was that hand a fortune or a deformity?
The conversation between the old musician and the young one began at once, rapid and promising.
Now that the young man sat quietly before him, his arms crossed and his hands hidden, it appeared to Paulin that, but for the somewhat abnormal length of his legs, he was just like any other well-bred young artist; his face was a trifle too pale, perhaps, and when he smiled the contraction of his features expressed suffering rather than pleasure; but beyond this there was nothing peculiar.
But when, on making one of his rare gestures, he threw out his hand, a strange feeling of anxiety, almost of fear, took hold of Paulin.
It was as if his correct visitor had suddenly gesticulated with the hand of a skeleton.
At one moment indeed, Paulin, who was unfortunately by nature inclined towards the fantastic and the imaginative, felt so ill at ease that he rose from his cha/to pull back the curtain from the window which opened on to the azure sea, shining like silver in the spring sunshine.
"Now," he exclaimed continuing the conversation, “let me hear you play something, my young friend.”
“After you, Master!”
Despite the fact that this request was against the rules of musical etiquette, which requires that the supposed inferior should be the first to perform, and although Paulin was devoured by the desire to see his strange guest’s guitar, and also by a wish, not un mixed with fear, to see his hand in action on the key-board, he obeyed
While lightly tuning his guitar, he could not resist informing his companion:
“It is a Guadagnini, you know, a Gaetano.”
“Yes, I see,” answered the young man.
The youth made a vague gesture.
This was agreeable to Paulin; a musician who does not possess an instrument made by some celebrated maker, one worthy of immediate mention, cannot be, after all, an exceptional artist.
Scarcely had he skimmed lightly over the strings with his thumb, holding the chord of E minor with his left hand, when the young man, by a slight inclination of his head, signified his approval.
Mere nothings, insignificant gestures, unnoticed by, or meaningless to, the profane, suffice to express a perfect understanding between two artists, more effectually than would a long conversation.
The slight gesture which the youth made as Paulin’s fingers touched the chords, was enough to prove to the old musician that his young friend had duly appreciated the manner in which he had tuned his guitar, the tuning of which, for fourths, is as difficult a matter to accomplish perfectly as it is difficult to find an artistic player of this instrument.
Paulin gave himself up to the pleasure of playing before a good judge.
“I will play you a thing of my own,” he said, “Le Follie Spagnuole."
And he began to play.
The piece was a tarenlella which opened with an allegro, with a few introductory strokes. Then the piece went off into the full swing of the aria.
The old instrument seemed to be rejuvenated by the joyous notes; and never in any of his crowded concerts had Paulin felt so strongly the excitement communicated by his audience as he now felt it in the presence of this solitary listener, whose approbation he felt to be worth more than that of an entire crowd.
The climax of the piece was the slretta finale which was executed entirely on the keys of the body of the guitar.
Paulin had written it with the special object of bringing out the value of his beloved instrument which ex-
ceMed in the high notes, unlike the ordinary run of guitars which, sonorous enough in accompaniments, become instruments of torture as soon as one ascends beyond the vulgar limits of the 5th and 7th keys.
The little tapering fingers, of the colour of old ivory, flew in a whirlwind of energy, with the precision of some marvellous mechanism; and the only thing which distinguished them from such was that one felt that the artist’s soul inspired them.
artist’s soul inspired them. When Paulin, descending from the highest notes, in a scale of marvellous chords, had traversed the entire range of his instrument to the lowest, he finished with two sonorous central chords, flinging back his fine white hair with a nervous toss of his head. Then he turned round to receive the approbation of his companion. Accustomed as he was not merely to praise, but to enthusiasm, he was prepared for a warm grasp of the hand and compliments. But nothing of the sort occurred. The young man smiled, slowly nodding his head, and sat there, as if expecting something better. “Did you like it?” asked Paulin, considerably disconcerted. The answer was different from what he had expected. “I have rarely heard the guitar played as you play it.” Paulin started backwards in his chair, guitar and “Rarely? Rarely! Then you mean to say that you have heard it played better! By whom? Where?” Like the true artist that hg was, Paulin was interested rather than offended/ The mildest compliment to which he was accustomed was that never had such guitar playing been heard, and that such effects from that instrument were deemed impossible. He made nc answer, but with his hand, that spectral hand which was rapidly becoming odious to his companien, he repeated the same vague gesture he had made before. Suddenly the thought, the suspicion, which had flitted through his mind a few minutes before, when his eye« had first alighted on his guest’» uncanny hand, recurred to “Play’something yourself, sir,” he said. The young man bent down towards the large blaek case which he had placed at his feet, lifted it on t« his knee—for some reason it suddenly appeared to Paulin like a child’s coffin—and began to open with a litti« k«y the two antique locks. No amateur of antiquities, no enthusiastic collect« before whose eyes some long-sought masterpiece is being released from its wrappings, awaits its disclosure with greater impatience than Paulin felt as his guest removed his instrument from its case. He was not disappointed. In all his life he had never beheld such an extraordinary guitar—a'thing so strange as to be positively uncanny. The key-board and the back of the instrument, instead of being flat, were convex, bent, as in a contrabasso. Th« key-board was covered with strange hollows, so worn by use that at one part, near the ponticello, where the play« lays his little finger to facilitate the pizzicato, there yawned a great cavity which seemed as though it must penetrate into the very heart of the instrument. TJ UT notwithstanding its strange and almost repulsive -1-^aspect, the whole guitar, from the wide solid keys, into which the strings passed, not through a hole but by a perpendicular gap which, as Paulin guessed immediately, must immensely facilitate their changing, to the ros« which unfolded itself, open, empty, unadorned by any of those stupid ornaments which only interrupt the waves of sound, right down to the wide keys, worn by use, all divided into six furrows by the pressure of the strings, and to the key-board where at every space th« impression left by the fingers was as deep as if they had been on clay, everything, even to the varnish which only remained here and there in patches where use and friction had not worn away, everything combined to impart to the instrument a look of antiquity, of nobility, something at once primitive and refined.
It was evident that those irregularities, that wear and tear, were the product of long years of waves of sound which had ended by moulding the instrument which generated themintotheshape best suited to their nature, and that more than one generation had labored and rejoiced with that poor piece of wood.
The young man handed the guitar over for Paulin to examine, and he took it as he would have handled a reliquary.
He merely passed one finger very lightly over the six strings, and this sufficed to give him a shock of surprise.
Accustomed as he was to the volume of sound which should have responded to such a touch, the tone which issued from the instrument made him start as a pianist might do if bn absent-minde d 1 y strumming a few notes on an open pianoforte, he should suddenly hear in response the full and solemn notes of an organ.
Paulin was positively alarmed.
“Good God!” he exclaimed looking in bewilderment at the young man,
“whatever instrument have you got there, sir?”
So many ardent artists and industrious craftsmen have vainly endeavoured to solve the problem as to which is the most perfect form for the development of sound; and Paulin now felt that
this strange instrument was the answer.
The young man smiled his peculiar,
“But there is no maker’s name!” added Paulin after looking into the rose, “Is it possible? To whom on earth did this instrument belong? How did you come by it?”
The young man did not cease smiling, and stretching out his hand—it seemed to lengthen while his arm remained immobile—towards the guitar, he merely asked:
“Do you wish me to play something?”
“Yes, Yes! Ah! mon Dien!"
Notwithstanding all his curiosity as an artist, Paulin would in truth have preferred not to hear that music.
Although he could not have explained the reason, he began to feel positively ill.
• From the moment the very first notes struck his ear, wonder, admiration, amazement, terror, a feeling never before experienced of humiliation, of joy, of tears, took possession of his soul.
What he now heard was not merely the highest perfection of his art, it was the highest expression of an art totally different from the art he understood. He felt that he shared in common with such an artist only the guitar and the strings; all the rest was as far removed from him as the language he spoke from that of another planet.
The guitar now being played recalled the wailing of the violin-cello, the delicate touch of the harp, the tone of the
flute; all these and yet different from them all; it was an instrument superior to all others.
Paulin clasped his hands and gazed up into the player’s
It was no longer the face of the impassive English gentleman; the smooth hair, accurately divided at the narrow parting, had become ruffled, a lock had fallen obliquely and shaded his forehead which appeared to have become higher and wider; the mouth with its sardonic smile had assumed an expression of unspeakable joy; the cold .indifferent eye was dilated, in ecstasy.
Without being able to explain it, it now seemed to Paulin that this head brought back some very distant memory, something vague and full of fear and wonder, seen maybe long ago in his imaginative childhood; something lost in the forgotten past, fraught with fear and
It was also so with the music.
A T CERTAIN moments the young man, while continuing his playing on the upper strings, executed simultaneously a slrisciala with his thumb—no other human fingers could have contrived to do this!—on the bass strings and this produced a treble wrathful howl; at other moments the artist, finding the harmonics artifici-
ally at each touch, imitated thewhistling of the thin flute-like sounds of women calling to each other with weird voices; and then more than ever it appeared to Paulin that that diabolical and divine music reminded him of something he had once heard and which had aroused admiration and aversion in his soul. And there was one moment when his excited fantasy carried him to a moon-lit night, darkened at intervals by the passing of great clouds, black as coal, which plunged afteroneanother like great sea-horses; he stood in a dense wood, and there in a small clear space in the centre jound a great crackling blaze of brush-wood which flashed skyward swift tongues of blood-like fire, he beheld ' a ring of thin, bare-footed, ragged and haggard old women of horrible aspect, holding one another by their bony bejewelled hands, howling in concert.
And Paulin, suddenly raising his arms with a gesture of horror, and waving them in front of him as though to keep off the hideous vision, cried out:
“The witches! the witches!”
With a final violent chord, which seemed as if it would tear the very entrails of the instrument, the young man finished his piece, and wiping his forehead with a fine linen handkerchief he resumed his impassive expression and his smile.
“Bravo!” he rejoined, “The Witches of Paganini. You recognised it. Yet the piece has been greatly modified.”
Had Satan, only the day before, suddenly appeared to Paulin while he, alone in his large isolated room, passed the night in wakeful devotion to his Muse, and offered to teach him something which he, Paulin, did not yetknow, a new effect to be obtained, some new secret of his art, Lucien Paulin would have acepted.
Yet now when this young musician—so much older than himself, alas! in knowledge—invited him to spend a few days with him in his villa near the neighbouring village of La Tourette, at a distance of one hour’s drive and half-an-hour’s mule-ride from Nice, modestly suggesting that they should play together, Paulin—while fully realizing the great advantages that must accrue to him from intimacy with such an artist—nevertheless hesitated; feeling unable to make up his mind.
Yet the temptation was great .
The young man spoke also of a large collection of music for the guitar, all the celebrated methods known, all the works of the great masters; and a quantity also of manuscript music, some of it very remarkable.
Paulin questioned him. trying to reverse their roles. Was not the young stranger staying at the neighbouring Hôtel de la Reine?
No; he had merely spent a few days there to meet a young English friend; and it was there that he had learnt Paulin's address.
Then why would he not come to Nice?
He could go every now and then to his villa at La Tourette to fetch fresh music, and they would spend the time together here under Paulin’s roof.
No, this arrangement was not possible. The young man’s father was up there, alone, and. . his presence there was necessary.
“La Tourette, you said, La Tourette....” murmured
Somehow nothing this wonderful young artist suggested was quite to Paulin’s liking.
It was the same when he gesticulated, when he smiled, when he gave invitations.
Just now Paulin was racking his brains to recall what it was he did not like about this name, this village of La Tourette.
Something there certainly was—-not precisely about La Tourette itself—but near it: something that kept eluding him.
It was as though beside this name there had once been inscribed another, sombre and full of terror, which he could not now recall.
La Tourette? Surely he, who like every good Niçois was well acquainted with the surrounding country, had some knowledge of the place: indeed he felt sure that as a young man he had once been in the village. What was it like? Was it a little group of poor grey houses clustered together on a mountain peak like most of the villages of the Maritime Alps? No; he could now remember a straggling row of little houses, some bluish, some pink, which appeared to be climbing up the slightly bent back of the mountain, not grey with barren cindery rocks, but green with pine-trees, olives, and vines. Yes, certainly he had been there as a child, and the memory was not unpleasing. Quite the contrary.
Only it was as if, behind this peaceful vision, there lurked something dark, gloomy and fearful, which Paulin’s memory was unable to show him.
He was like a man who gazes on an undeveloped photographic plate. Something is there.... but what is it?
His curiosity as an artist however got the upper hand; he would consider it as an outrage to his conscience as an artist if he neglected this opportunity which brought him in contact with such a supreme master.
An interchange of civilities ensued, and then the two musicians arranged to start together for La Tourette the day after the morrow at six o’clock in the morning.
Paulin was aware that at the last moment the young man was about to add something, which he left unsaid, and after his departure he remained a long time wrapped in thought.
But everything, he mused, everything ' about him is strange and surprising. Good Heavens! What an artist!
Paulin went off to inform his household of his approach-, ing trip with a feeling that a new light had entered his being, something which at once exalted and humiliated him. He felt like one of the humble of the earth who is received in a sumptuous palace as guest by a great noble, exalted by the wealth and splendour of his host, and more than ever conscious of his own poverty and insignificance.
TN THE pure air of the
fresh spring morning, the neighboring church bells were just striking six when the loud bell rang out from the gate of the villa.
"Punctual as an Englishman,” exclaimed Paulin on perceiving from the window his young friend, who was
waiting for him in a large, comfortable, two-horsed carriage, such as every well-to-do inhabitant of Nice uses for drives among his beloved sea-girt Alps.
Paulin cheerfully saluted his host, stretched himself at ease in the roomy carriage, accepted with pleasure the cigar offered him, and started off; waving farewell to his wife and daughter who were watching him from the win-
“Indeed,” exclaimed Paulin, smoking away with a little pleasurable thrill, “you have had an excellent idea! A little villa in the Maritime Alps, well situated, not too high up, commanding a vast horizon and with a sea-view! The sea, mon cher, mon jeune, mon illustre ami! But why not have built the villa at Nice itself?”
Paulin rattled on whilst the carriage, descending from Brancolar, rolled along the Avenue de la Gare, talking enthusiastically of his beloved Nice and making comments on its various beauties.
Paulin waxed more and more enthusiastic. His fervour reached a climax when the carriage, leaving behind all the modern splendours and turning resolutely to the left, skirted the Paillon, and entered the old town.
Admiring with equal fervour the New Town and the Old he talked with great appreciation of the pretty girls of the region and of the good living and cheapness of the days gone by, alas! never to return !
His enthusiasm dropped all at once as the carriage was passing in front of a huge and gloomy edifice—the lunatic asylum. It occurred with a shock to Paulin, after all, that he did not know where he was being taken to nor in whose company he was?
Who was this strange, wonderful, awe-inspiring artist with his spectral hand, and his sorrowful smile, cold and impassive as an Englishman; ardent and passionate as a Sicilian when he played?
“A villa near La Tourette.... but that means half an hour’s ascent on foot even with mules.”
“And the guitar?” mused Paulin. “Does he mean to fasten it on the mule’s back? And supposing the brute stumbles? I really was a fool to come! Who knows where we are going, or who this man is!”
And Paulin reflected with some bitterness that not all the lunatics in this world were shut up in asylums.
The carriage, leaving behind it the last of the strag-
gling houses of the town, was now winding in among the mountain passes.
The first impression that greeted them here was a glimpse of the entrance to the Grotto of Sant’ Andrea.
A dim, tortuous, dripping cavern, which you pay to enter, where the English tourists flock and whence they take away with them queer figures carved out from the deposits of the water, rich in yellow ochre.
Paulin had no liking for that grotto. As a child he had always been afraid of it and as a man he had once slipped and just missed breaking his neck there.
As they proceeded further the road did not grow more cheerful. Rocks, rocks, nothing but rocks!
On their right was a treacherous, tortuous torrent which, by the age-long rush of its waters, had here and there cut the rock on the bank facing the travellers into fantastic curves and chasms.
To the left of them, behind the grim overhanging rocks, lurked deep bláck caverns which seemed to openly invite brigands to hide in them.
From time to time, and invariably at turns in the road, they met great clumsy diligences, drawn by three horses, full of people with luggage heaped up on the roof, which came rumbling down rapidly, led by mere boys in shirt sleeves.
“Mind, mind!” Paulin would cry out to the driver, “take care!”
But scarcely had the diligence passed them—and passed them within a hair’s breadth!—when some yet more huge cart would loom ahead, with giant wheels, laden high with masses of grey stone.
“If we collide with this, we shall be hurled into the torrent!” exclaimed Paulin, perceiving the latter to be extremely deep and the road ridiculously narrow.
Paulin saw the first houses of La Tourette appear in sight on the peaceful mountain side, and as the valley spread out into fine cultivated fields, he exclaimed with pleasure:
“Here we are at last! And where is your villa?” he added turning to his friend.
The latter waved his hand towards the right and somehow Paulin immediately felt that he would have preferred him to point to the left.
They lighted at a little inn, with a rustic arbour in front of it, and there while drinking a glass of cool, light, white wine, they awaited the arrival of the two mules previously ordered from the innkeeper.
His valise was duly fastened to the saddle, Paulin preferring the muletier to carry his guitar, and mounted beside his friend who was already in his saddle.
“Do you say it will take us half an hour?” asked Paulin of the muletier.
“Yes, half an hour,” the man answered.
As often happens to us when we are fairly faced by a situation from which we cannot escape, Paulin’s qualms about this strange journey and this strange host, vanished. How many times as a youth had he not gone long excursions on muleback in his beloved Alps!
And after all the road was not so bad, as Alpine roads go. Indeed, at some points it was more like a carriage road than a mule path. But up and up it wound, by wide steps, which his mule mounted sturdily.
By degrees the little caravan left the green vegetation behind, the sunlight shone brightly in the clear air, and they now passed through a barren region of chaotic,hard grey stones.
“And where do you get your provisions from at the villa?” asked Paulin.
“We send here to La Tourette, or over the other side to La Madonna,” answered his friend.
“La Madonna, La Tourette.. ” mused Paulin. “But between these two villages was there not:, . . .yes, surely there was another one!’ And that vague feeling of anxiety, that strnnge, mysterious, fearful something, which had taken hold of him from the first moment his host had suggested this trip, from his earliest mention of his Villa, near La Tourette, came back to weigh down and oppress his spirits.
Continued on page 45
Continued from page 13
“But then,” he resolutely enquired, “you live in a village?”
"Oh, if you can call it such.”
“And what is this village?”
If his host had told Paulin that two steps further on was a cavern which led straight to hell and that he dwelt there with his father, Paulin would scarcely have started so violently as he now started on his mule at the mention of Chateau-
The mule took his rider’s movement as a hint to go faster, and trotted resolutely
And while Paulin, very pale, abandoned the reins and opened his hands on the saddle in front of him, as tho' to ward off the horrid vision, the mule with a final vigorous spurt ascended the last steps to the summit of the mountain, and before Paulin’s fear-dilated eyes, near at hand on the opposite hill-top, appeared Chateauneuf.
Spectral and in ruins, high and solitary on its isolated peak, its remaining walls overgrown with ivy, its ruined towers cleft in two, worn by time, shattered by lightning, abandoned by men, haunted by evil spirits, smitten by the sun, accursed of God, it stood there, a few paces from him.
“Chateauneuf! Chateauneuf!" cried Paulin; and as tho’ this dread word broke the' spell which kept him glued to his saddle, he raised his leg and rapidly dismounted. “I refuse to go there, sir!”
PAULIN’S emotion was exaggerated, but not without cause. Chateauneuf is the ruin of a mediaeval town, abandoned by men for more than a century, and its origin and history are lost in the obscurity of the intervening years.
The feudal castle, solid and crowned by round battlemented towers, still rises on one side of the walls, tall, gaunt and mutilated, built apparently rather to crush than to protect the houses clustered at its feet. It is one mass of ruins. Not a single roof remains, not a single wall stands intact. The windows are all gone, or are like great holes; rounded by the results of decay, they loom like great sightless sockets. The ivy grows with twisted snake-like tendrils, rotting the walls which support it.
When and how was Chateauneuf abandoned?
Most likely it was burnt and destroyed by the torrent of blood and fire which spread from Paris and inundated all France in 1789, the peasants, armed with their scythes, their hatchets and pitchforks, giving themselves up to the joys of vengeance after long centuries of oppression, and Chateauneuf no doubt shared the fate of other castle-towns.
And yet the situation is magnificent. A splendid climate, a glorious view, such as few spots in all the Maritime Alps could
“I refuse to go there, sir,” Paulin repeated, taking his guitar from the muletier’s hands.
The muletier, a burly Gallic young giant, with red curly hair, took hold of the reins of the abandoned mule, leant his arms on the saddle, and showing his fine teeth in a broad mischievous smile, stood there enjoying the scene. Perhaps he had been expecting it and was pleased it had come off. And who, indeed, but God-forsaken foreigners would have gone to live up there!
But amazement was depicted on the young musician’s face. Me stared at his guest, as if he had suddenly developed symptoms of mental aberration.
“Why, Pray? Why?” he inquired in tones full of solicitude, kindly and cour-
Paulin felt sure the .young man was afraid he had received a slight sun-stroke. “No, no!” he said.
And as though better to dissipate all doubt he raised his hands and eyes towards the sky which, placid and serene, stretched abov e them.
This simple gesture sufficed to recall him to a sense of reality.
How1 could he in the face of that daz-
zling sun, amid all this splendour of daylight, with goats feeding a few steps away from him, while not far off a girl’s merryvoice was singing the popular song of the day (T’as la, taille bien faite.. Ninette! Ninette!) how could he answer this young man, correct as an English gentleman, in the hearing of the guide who waited there with his mischievous smile: “I am afraid of ghosts, devils and witches.”
Paulin’s answer was therefore quite different from what he really wished to say.
“The place looks solitary,” he ventured to remark.
“But that does not render it in any way dangerous, sir,”protested hishost,“I have lived there with my father and two servants for a year, and, not only have we never been molested by anyone, but we have never heard of any other villa being molested and there are others more isolated than ours: the Bermondi, the De Orestis......”
Paulin felt confused and mortified and was ashamed.
“Are there no brigands?” he timidly
“Oh! no, never!” exclaimed with one accord both host and muletier.
“Brigands! No, never!” repeated the muletier.
Paulin saw no loop-hole of escape.
And now on looking more carefully, it seemed to him that the castle was less ruinous than it had appeared at the first glance and he was greatly reassured by the sight of a white curtain waving out from a window In one of the blackened walls, and a thin column of grey smoke placidly ascending; it seemed to him like the smoke from a chimney, and by association of ideas Paulin saw in his mind’s eye a large restored hall cheerfully arranged inside the ancient ruin, with a table laid out with fine damask, glass, and silver. It was eleven o’clock and the lunch hour must be at hand.
“I will leave to-night,” he said to himself. “This evening I will find some pretext. I will not spend the night here.”
Then he said aloud, “I beg your pardon. I had been told. . . . ”
“When? You said nothing to me in Nice?”
“Yes, nothing, nothing! foolish tales.”
And after a few more inconclusive words and phrases the little caravan resumed its march. Another ten minutes would bring them to the Castle, and Paulin preferred to walk.
The path was like a ribbon winding up the mountain. It mounted gradually and touched the first houses of the village which it did not enter, but turned and twisted, passed round the other side, along the back of the mountain, then suddenly it led right into the heart of the town, of the ruins. Strange, dreary ruins!
Defenceless, solitary and useless walls; mutilated towers of which only the base remained, or towers split in two,with only one half left standing. And all this was bathed in the sunlight! A feast of sun and air, the scent of lavender and broom, the song and chirrupings of birds.
ENTERING by what must once have been the town’s gate, Paulin happened to turn towards a little house which appeared to be the only one standing which might serve for shelter and which had a door left to protect it.
Oh, irony of fate! On this wooden door, painted in faded black, someone, no doubt in fun. had carved with his penknife: “DEATH.”
“Confound it!” exclaimed Paulin.
Inside the town made less impression, it appeared smaller and less ruinous. It was no longer the tragic scene which had suddenly appeared before him a few minutes earlier; it was just an ordinary ruin, stony walls fallen and falling, and the only spot where a man could place his foot without ruining his boots was the pathway they were following.
Almost without perceiving it Paulin had arrived in front of a wall with a handsome black wrought-iron gate. His young host jumped lightly from his saddle, stood on a big square stone, and pulled the bell. A loud distant tinkling responded and a plump rubicund peasant woman came out smiling and enquired in good Genoese:
“Signoria! E come scia stanno?” (Good morning, gentlemen!)
Since leaving the streets of Nice, Paulin for the first time heaved a sigh of real satisfaction. A house which boasts a servant of that stamp must be a house above suspicion: one must surely have good food there, live quietly, and be comfortably off! Lie shook the plump servant by the hand, and trying to revive the dialect he too had spoken in his youth, he answered that the journey had been rather long, but after all... .
IT IS a strange house,” Paulin thought to himself as hestrolled fromoneroom to another. “It is strange but beautiful.” The odour of pine-woods like the fresh breath of a forest filled the house.
The house was of the simplest and most commodious build imaginable.
The old walls of the castle, external and internal, had been preserved in statu quo, without any stupid renovations: the new owners had only had to rebuild the ruined floors and stairs in order to possessa large and comfortable house. Everything had been built in plain light pinewood and the simple furniture, chairs, tables, were likewise made of white wood. And no words could describe the poetic effect produced by this contrast of fragrant white wood and the old black, rugged walls.
Paulin,having ascended a wide shallowstepped corkscrew staircase, found himself in the dining room, the large open window of which, with its filmy curtains, commanded a vast panorama ofthemountains. When he beheld in the middle of the room a large table daintily laid for lunch, just as he had recently depicted it to himself and when a faint odour of roast meat greeted his nostrils, Paulin could not help apostrophising himself as a fool, andall his recent suspicions and fears vanished as he took his seat at table with the firm intention of doing justice to the viands.
And what a lunch! Exquisite horsd’oeuvres, minestrone alia Genovese, prime boiled beef served with artichokes and carrots, and a monumental dish_of roast partridges. In the close season too! Paulin reflected with his mouth full, deeply scandalised.
“My dear, my young, my illustrious friend!” he repeated in the heat of a discussion on art, and under the influence of the ruby wine with which his host persistently replenished his sparkling widemouthed glass.
After lunch, what with the ^ine, the heat, the sun, the ride and the various emotions he had experienced, Paulin was not loth to accept his host’s invitation to retire and lie down in his bed. He mounted a few more wide stairs and found himself in a large room with black rugged walls, but brightened by a low, wide, snow-white bed, a bright clean toilet table, and fragrant pine-wood floor.
Paulin slept a long while, a deep dreamless sleep; and when he woke up he felt refreshed and stretched his limbs with satisfied feeling. By now all doubts, all absurd notions of spectres and fears had vanished, drowned in his host’s generous
The sun was nearly setting, as Paulin descended with the intention of visiting, and forming a better view of this famous Chateauneuf of which his strange adventure had now made him a visitor.
“The master must be over there,” said the servant pointing towards a green field which from the highest point in the village dominated the whole scene.
Paulin scrambled as best he could up a little pathway littered with fallen stones; he stumbled, grazed his hand, twisted his foot, dealt himself a severe slap on the face in trying to drive away a blue-bottle, swore copipusly, and at last reached the
At that very moment he caught sight of the tall figure of an old man, moving away from the side of his young friend, and disappearing among the ruins opposite.
His first idea was to enquire whether this was his host’s father and—somehow the wine and his emotions had made him quite forget to enquire at the time—why the latter was not present at dinner, but suddenly, just as he set his foot on the plateau he had reached, an immense and wondrous vision was revealed to him, and all other thoughts were blotted out.
From the spot where Paulin stood on the little grass-grown plateau, a marvelously beautiful panorama surrounded him on all sides. The sun was setting in a fantastic blaze of colour—a lake of purple
and gold and blue to the west, clearly cul against the sky, was the Estere!; on his right, were the Italian Alps, naked, gigantic and crowned with snow; to the east the mountains gradually dwindled, but when Paulin turned towards the south, here surely Paradise smiled at him.
The sea, the calm sea of Nice, of the deepest blue, shone like a mirror. The whole coast appeared clear and strangely near, like a huge ship, the promontory of Antibes crouched on the sea; further on, green and peaceful, lay the lovely island of Ste. Marguerite; and right beneath his feet his beloved Nice spread out between the mountains and the azure sea, with its bright red roofs, white walls and green trees.
And Paulin, lowering his eyes for a moment on the ruined village,now full of fantastic shadows, reflected that man’s works are transitory while those of nature are immortal; that he would pass, fall like one of those walls, but that this glorious view would remain, and delight for long centuries the eyes of future genera-
Meditating this, Paulin returned to the castle with his host, his mind full of melancholy thoughts.
HE WOULD willingly have got out of it—“hewas not in the mood—the table was already laid—later on!” But his young host was so insistent that Paulin was obliged to take out his guitar. He did so without enthusiasm, without inspiration. In the presence of this listener he now felt like a mortified schoolboy who, while he speaks, realises only too well that he is making mistakes which will not escape the examiner’s notice.
He would have felt yet more uncomfortable if he could have seen behind a half open door the tall figure of an old man who, during the whole time he was playing, listened in silence with a strange smile expressive at once of pride and compassion. The same sorrowful, enigmatic smile of Paulin’s young host.
But supper raised Paulin’s spirits.
Never in his life had he eaten such excellent hare, never had he drunk of any wine so comforting and invigorating to the inner man.
“And your father, what about you father?” he enquired.
His host briefly explained. His father was old, very old,anda great misanthrope. After having wandered over the face of the earth he had chosen for his last refuge this abandoned village, and his son followed, happy to be able to humour his whim. He would certainly pay his respects to his guest, but this evening he was not in the mood; they must leave him alone, and excuse him.
“Certainly, certainly,” rejoined Paulin. Supper proceeded, and they talked of other things.
PAULIN found himself alone in Chateauneuf. The moon meanwhile was rising like an imperfect circle,drawn by an unpractised hand, and over the village long, weirdly-shaped shadowswere falling, while sudden rustlings and the continuous chirrupings of crickets greeted the
Why had hewandered forthaloneamong these ghostly skeletons of houses?
“The devil know’s why!” thought Paulin to himself, as he picked his way among the stones of the little pathway.
But his host’s wine had certainly had some share in the matter. The young musician, excusing himself on the ground that he must spend a little time with his father, had bidden Paulin good-night, and left him alone with another flask of his delicious, light ruby-coloured wine. “I want you to feel at home here, not on a visit,” he said on leaving him. “The house is yours, do just as you like in it.” Paulin had frequently filled his glass, and enjoyed the hospitality.
Then, feeling somewhat heated, he had gone out into the open, feeling a sudden need for the fresh air; he had walked on and on, smiling at himself every time he stumbled over a stone, till he had found himself alone by moonlight amid the strange and fearsome ruins of Chateauneuf. He now stopped abruptly seeming to be aware, amidst the voices of thenight, of a vague uncertain sound of music.
A warm breath of sirocco wind passed by him, shook the leaves of the wild figtrees which grew among the ruins, and was silent.
Six notes fell upon his ear, clear, free, and forming a melody.
Paulin slowly clasped his hands, opened wide his eyes, and very deliberately leaned up against a ruined wall. His whole being was concentrated in a sense of hearing.
Someone was playing, not in his host’s house, but down in the village, among the ruins. Paulin shuddered and a cold shiver ran dow'n his spine.
Then, as if the music had been a mysterious and powerful magnet, he turned towards the dark ruins whence it rose, and as he walked he could not have told whether what he heard was true or whether what he was doing was real.
Suddenly, from a tuft of grass at his feet a black object rose up, with a rustle of leaves, a fluttering of wings, and a shrill cry.
“A blackbird!” exclaimed Paulin, recovering his breath.
Now he could hear more clearly. The music came from over there, from that truncated tower from which, through a crack, shone out a long ray of reddish light.
That tower had assuredly not been there before; when Paulin had come here in the light of the sun at all events he had not seen it. It had risen out of the darkness, was born of the night, a habitation of hell!
The music rang out; it was as yet an indistinct song, but a song of triumph. The triumph of Hell.
Paulin drew near. He felt that he now lived, and belonged to a world outside the world, to a state of things where the horrible was beautiful, the marvellous natural. He must proceed.
He had reached the foot of the tower. Angels and devils had met together up there and were making a concert such as no human ear had ever heard. To the despairing wailing of hell was joined the song of heavenly joy, to discord harmony, to infernal laughter, smiles.
Paulin sat on the lowest of the rough wooden steps which led totheroomwhence the music issued, and sat listening.
The strength of the artist’s soul had overcome the weakness of his human senses, and his spirit listened in ecstasy to this supernatural feast of art.
Without perceiving it, half unconciously Paulin drew himself upwards, leaning on his arms, from step to step. He felt that to miss one single note would mean an inestimable treasure irremediably and forever lost.
Now only the door which stood ajar, through the crack of which there shone a broad shaft of feeble light, interposed between him and the players. The music continued, but the infernal concert seemed to have ceased. A peaceful harmony reigned between the instruments.
The melody was tender and harplike.
It spoke of vague memories, recalled lullabies heard long ago in forgotten infancy, sung by tender nurses who themselves had learnt them at their mothers’ knees. Then the music changed and swelled.
This was childhood, the song of pure voices in chorus; the trilling of young girls, prayers chanted by children in village churches, interminable fits of laughter, songs not yet fully mastered, words of love repeated in innocence. Again the music changed; it became deeper and stronger. This was youth.
Timid phrases, which sounded like words of love whispered in haste, with beating heart in the ear of the loved one; tears and laughter, cries and kisses; a serenade by moonlight! Then abruptly as though the new horizon had widened, as though emotion had found new paths and new expression, everything againchanged. No more gentle love-songs; no more silvery voices; no more w'ords of love, whispered timidly by smiling lips. Suddenly emotion broke the dykes of reserve and uncertainty; love smiled and stammered no longer; it rung out in fierce desperate accents, with words capable of moving the most hidden fibres of the deepest heart. No more gentle tears, but sobs and cries; no more kisses and smiles, but the impetus of virile passion which bursts forth and satiates itself in the delirium of joy and possession.
Never before had music even hinted at what this music now expressed; never had feeling and passion found such an interpreter.
Paulin had risen to his feet, behind the half closed door, pale as death!
Feeling as though he risked the wrath of heaven, he yet found the strength to take a step sideways and look through the crack of the door, in order to see the divine or diabolical artists playing behind it.
fie looked. What he saw was a quite natural sight, but it made his fine white hair stand up on end.
In the middle of the room were two men.
One, his young host, was seated on a chair with bent head, his hands folded on bis knees, lost in deep meditation; the other, a tali, spectral old man, rested one foot on a chair and on his bent knee was
pAULiN’S eyes seemed about to start * from his head, as he gazed at that old man and his solitary instrument whence emanated the whole concert to which he was listening.
Then an indescribable feeling seized him. It seemed to him that in an instant fifty years of his life had melted away. He was ten years old once more; when all things of this tired world were new, and he was himself in a vast, brightly-lighted hall filled wit h a silent crowd/ black coats covered with orders, lovely women, laden with jewels, flowers and lace, anti there before him on the platform a tail, thin, pallid, hollow-chested man, ill-clad in an old dress suit, with long arms, came forward before the audience, raised his violin and bow which he wielded wifi) skeleton hands, and a long thrill passed through the audience, the gaunt phantom began to play.
From time to time a sob, a little suffocated cry, broke the silence which reigned in that theatre. Because that bow and that violin player were telling what no one had ever told; not the suffering and tears of one man, but all the tears and sufferings of mankind. And Paulin recalled a poor blind man, he also was a violinist, seated beside him, who asked his companion with trembling accents in his Nice dialect, “How many are there playing?”
“One! Then come, come away! It’s the devil!”
Now Paulin looked. He looked at the old guitar player. His fleshless hand, huge and white, ran up and down the keyboard, like a handkerchief waving at the end of a stick.
He was playing, bent double over the neck of his guit-ar, in a strange pose. He was frightfully emaciated and his old suit hung from him, like clothes hanging on a
But his face inspired horror and wonder.
It was a face with a diabolical, sad smile—the smile of his young host—fearfully pale, fearfully thin. Two holes for cheeks, two sharp angles for cheek-bones, a hooked and bony nose like that of a large bird of prey, two hollow eyes, embedded in two wide black-lined circles, a broad waxlike forehead, long scanty locks of hair still dark, fell on his neck like those of a woman.
This was a spectre’s head, the head of a genius tormented, possessed by the devil. Paulin gazed with bated breath, from time to time a little gasp escaped him, he had found again, he once more gazed upon that face, that smile, which had ever perturbed his soul.
The days of torment, the days of struggle and love were over. The music now spoke of placid old age, resigned and peaceful, a serene life drawing to its close in a village; and from the neighbouring church there rang out clearly in the still air, neither sadly nor joyfully, the voice of a bell.
Then as if these notes of the churchbell had finally revealed the enigma which so long had tormented Paulin’s mind, he suddenly raised his arms and gave a long-drawn shriek of terror, pain and frenzy, crying, “It’s Paganini! It’s Paganini!”
And Lucien Paulin fell with a heavy thud on the floor of the room; he lost consciousness.
TPHR daylight had been streaming in A some time through the guest’s bedroom window, but he was still sleeping, a restless, agitated sleep.
The young host, the old servant and the doctor of La Tourette were seated at the further end of the room talking together at intervals in a low voice.
"I should not inform anyone,” the lattei was saying. “The old gentleman has received a nervous shock from yesterday’s adventure. Flo is evidently of a fanciful temperament. Who knows what weird
story lie lias spun out in his brain! The l.esi course will be to get him to explain, when lie wake* up, how on earth he came i.o lie up there last night, listening to your father’s playing, and then let someone accompany him back to Nice.”
Bul I lie doctor was leaving Paulin out of his calculations, for when the latter opened bis eyes, realised where he was, and tInpresence of his young host, he sat up in his bed, moved his arms and legs to make sure that he still had the use of t hem. and t hen asked :
The young man clasped his hands together in a gesture of pained surprise, while Paulin held his before his eyes.
“Well, then,” he continued, “unless you wish me to fling myself out of the window, give mo my clothes, and lot. someone immediately accompany meto La Tourette.”
The young man tried to speak.
“Not a word! Not a single word! Give me my clothes!”
And Lucien Paulin, on finding himself alone, dressed rapidly, descended the stairs without accepting the doctor’s proposed assistance, refusing to listen to his advice; he mounted the waiting mule, and departed in the company of the ruddy young giant, who with one hand held his reins and in the other clasped his guitar.
When Chateauneuf had disappeared behind the curve of the mountain at the very point where on the previous day it had suddenly appeared before him, he stopped his mule and questioned the
“Tell me, who are those gentlemen?”
The young man looked at Paulin with a mixture of fear and curiosity.
“Who knows! Foreigners, Italians, father and son. They say the father is as ugly as the devil and for this reason they have gone to live up there where nobody can see him. They are both for ever playing the guitar; the servant says they have tried hard to find a third to pla-y with them. I thought they had found one at last, and that you ...”
Paulin stared at the young man and suddenly exclaimed; “I?”
But that one word sent a cold shiver down the young man’s spine.
On arriving at La Tourette, Paulin would not await the diligence for Nice, he ordered a little carriage from the innkeeper, gave, on dismissing him, five francs to the guide, and promised a similar tip to the driver if he got him back quickly to Brancolar.
The little old carriage started off at a gallop, with much rattling of wood and iron, scattering pebbles in all directions, to the confusion of small boys who were playing tip-cat in the roadway.
The perils of the road had no longer any terrors for Pa-ulin.
ONCE again safely installed in his room in Brancolar, Paulin drew out from a cupboard a bottle of old cognac, poured o-ut a little glass, gulped it down and sank into his old arm-chair, lookingout towards the azure sea. He felt a keen sense of pleasure, such as a convalescent might feel at finding himself once more between these walls, amid familiar things.
But chaos was still raging in his mind. Had it all been a dream? Had he been delirious? The castle, his host, the terrible spectre of an old man; the abandoned village, the whole vision, had it existed only in his brain, or were they real things which he had seen and heard?
And if this dream or nightmare had indeed been reality, who then was that uncanny old man, who seemed to have defied the laws of nature and of art and to have lived beyond the limits of human possibility; who created sounds which sped beyond the scale of the solfa of seven notes; such agonising sounds that they stirred up madness in the soul of any listener, such sweet sounds that they seemed to open up the celestial spheres and carry one into a region which was one universal smile?
W as that old man Paganini?
“My God, my God!” groaned Paulin, clasping his head between his hands for fear it. should burst. This was why Paganini’s cries had been heard in the coffin, first in the hospital of Nice and then in the Lazzaretto of Villafranca! Now he understood. He was not dead! He was not dead! This was why they had carried him to so many places, from Nice to Wllafranca. from Villafranca to St. Jean, thence to Marseilles and to the island of Ste. Marguerite, and then to Genoa and Parma! It was in order to lose the traces of it. And who knows whom they had laid in that coffin in his place! It was not he; most certainly not he! The old wretch who had learnt his art in the town which for so many years had been his prison and who had in all probability there made his infernal compact with the devil, was still living! Only in order that the vengeance of God and men might not overtake him, he had hidden himself up there, in that ghost-haunted castle, that resort of demons and witches where he, Lucien Paulin, had been inveigled for his soul’s damnation.
But by degrees, Paulin, in the presence of his lovely calm surroundings and with his daily cares and habits grew calmer and began gradually to explain to himself what had befallen him. But of his hosts at Chateauneuf he neither heard again nor sought for further information.
Very likely his behaviour and his leavetaking had not struck them as particularly polite.
From time to time, however, reality and
unreality still clashed together in his mind especially when, at the hour of sunset, he sat down in his old arm-chair facing the placid sea. And everything, the castle, the old man, the devil, his childhood, the tower, death, prison, ghosts, music, Paganini, the guitar, all were now merged together in a distance full of poetry, hovering between reality and mystery.
Thus in the quiet serene hours of life, a man, who has reached the declining years and begins to rest from his long, hurried journey, returns in thought to his long-distant childhood, and once again beholds things and facts, unable to remember whether they had happened to himself or to others, whether he was actor or spectator.
Amid all these impressions one fact alone, certain, solid, and very clear, remained in Paulin’s mind; it was this: that no one should ever allow himself to think he has touched the furthest limits of his art, whose boundaries, like those of the blue horizon which embrace the earth, recede the further we advance.