One, two, three, four, five. There were five of them.
Five couriers, sitting on a bench
outside the convent on the summit
of the Great St. Bernard in Switzerland, looking at the remote
heights, stained by
the setting sun as if a mighty quantity of red
wine had been broached upon the mountain top, and had not yet had
to sink into the snow.
This is not my simile. It was made for the occasion by the
stoutest courier, who was a
German. None of the others took any
more notice of it than they took of me, sitting on another bench on
side of the convent door, smoking my cigar, like them,
and - also like them - looking at the reddened snow, and at the
shed hard by, where the bodies of belated travellers, dug
out of it, slowly wither away, knowing no corruption in that
The wine upon the mountain top soaked in as we looked; the mountain
became white; the sky, a very
dark blue; the wind rose; and the air
turned piercing cold. The five couriers buttoned their rough
There being no safer man to imitate in all such proceedings
than a courier, I buttoned mine.
The mountain in the
sunset had stopped the five couriers in a
conversation. It is a sublime sight, likely to stop conversation.
mountain being now out of the sunset, they resumed. Not that I
had heard any part of their previous discourse; for
indeed, I had
not then broken away from the American gentleman, in the
travellers' parlour of the convent, who, sitting
with his face to
the fire, had undertaken to realise to me the whole progress of
events which had led to the accumulation
by the Honourable Ananias
Dodger of one of the largest acquisitions of dollars ever made in
God!' said the Swiss courier, speaking in French, which I do
not hold (as some authors appear to do) to be such an all-
excuse for a naughty word, that I have only to write it
in that language to make it innocent; 'if you talk of ghosts -
'But I DON'T talk of ghosts,' said the German.
'Of what then?' asked the Swiss.
'If I knew of what
then,' said the German, 'I should probably know
a great deal more.'
It was a good answer, I thought, and it made
me curious. So, I
moved my position to that corner of my bench which was nearest to
them, and leaning my back
against the convent wall, heard
perfectly, without appearing to attend.
'Thunder and lightning!' said the German,
warming, 'when a certain
man is coming to see you, unexpectedly; and, without his own
knowledge, sends some invisible
messenger, to put the idea of him
into your head all day, what do you call that? When you walk along
street - at Frankfort, Milan, London, Paris - and think
that a passing stranger is like your friend Heinrich, and then
another passing stranger is like your friend Heinrich, and so begin
to have a strange foreknowledge that presently
you'll meet your
friend Heinrich - which you do, though you believed him at Trieste
- what do you call THAT?'
not uncommon, either,' murmured the Swiss and the other
'Uncommon!' said the German. 'It's as common
as cherries in the
Black Forest. It's as common as maccaroni at Naples. And Naples
reminds me! When
the old Marchesa Senzanima shrieks at a card-
party on the Chiaja - as I heard and saw her, for it happened in a
family of mine, and I was overlooking the service that
evening - I say, when the old Marchesa starts up at the card-table,
through her rouge, and cries, "My sister in Spain is dead! I
felt her cold touch on my back!" - and when that sister
IS dead at
the moment - what do you call that?'
'Or when the blood of San Gennaro liquefies at the request of the
- as all the world knows that it does regularly once a-year,
in my native city,' said the Neapolitan courier after a pause,
a comical look, 'what do you call that?'
'THAT!' cried the German. 'Well, I think I know a name for that.'
said the Neapolitan, with the same sly face.
The German merely smoked and laughed; and they all smoked and
said the German, presently. 'I speak of things that really
do happen. When I want to see the conjurer, I pay
to see a
professed one, and have my money's worth. Very strange things do
happen without ghosts. Ghosts!
Giovanni Baptista, tell your story
of the English bride. There's no ghost in that, but something full
Will any man tell me what?'
As there was a silence among them, I glanced around. He whom I
took to be Baptista
was lighting a fresh cigar. He presently went
on to speak. He was a Genoese, as I judged.
of the English bride?' said he. 'Basta! one ought not
to call so slight a thing a story. Well, it's all one.
true. Observe me well, gentlemen, it's true. That which glitters
is not always gold; but what I
am going to tell, is true.'
He repeated this more than once.
Ten years ago, I took my credentials to an
English gentleman at
Long's Hotel, in Bond Street, London, who was about to travel - it
might be for one year, it might
be for two. He approved of them;
likewise of me. He was pleased to make inquiry. The testimony
he received was favourable. He engaged me by the six months,
and my entertainment was generous.
He was young,
handsome, very happy. He was enamoured of a fair
young English lady, with a sufficient fortune, and they were going
be married. It was the wedding-trip, in short, that we were
going to take. For three months' rest in the hot
weather (it was
early summer then) he had hired an old place on the Riviera, at an
easy distance from my city, Genoa,
on the road to Nice. Did I know
that place? Yes; I told him I knew it well. It was an old palace
great gardens. It was a little bare, and it was a little dark
and gloomy, being close surrounded by trees; but it
ancient, grand, and on the seashore. He said it had been so
described to him exactly, and he was
well pleased that I knew it.
For its being a little bare of furniture, all such places were.
For its being a little
gloomy, he had hired it principally for the
gardens, and he and my mistress would pass the summer weather in
all goes well, Baptista?' said he.
'Indubitably, signore; very well.'
We had a travelling chariot for our journey,
newly built for us,
and in all respects complete. All we had was complete; we wanted
for nothing. The marriage
took place. They were happy. I was
happy, seeing all so bright, being so well situated, going to my
city, teaching my language in the rumble to the maid, la bella
Carolina, whose heart was gay with laughter: who was
The time flew. But I observed - listen to this, I pray! (and here
the courier dropped his
voice) - I observed my mistress sometimes
brooding in a manner very strange; in a frightened manner; in an
with a cloudy, uncertain alarm upon her. I think
that I began to notice this when I was walking up hills by the
side, and master had gone on in front. At any rate, I
remember that it impressed itself upon my mind one evening
South of France, when she called to me to call master back; and
when he came back, and walked for a long way,
and affectionately to her, with his hand upon the open window, and
hers in it. Now and then,
he laughed in a merry way, as if he were
bantering her out of something. By-and-by, she laughed, and then
went well again.
It was curious. I asked la bella Carolina, the pretty little one,
Was mistress unwell? -
No. - Out of spirits? - No. - Fearful of bad
roads, or brigands? - No. And what made it more mysterious was,
pretty little one would not look at me in giving answer, but
WOULD look at the view.
But, one day she told me the
'If you must know,' said Carolina, 'I find, from what I have
overheard, that mistress is haunted.'
'By a dream.'
'By a dream of a face. For three nights before her marriage,
saw a face in a dream - always the same face, and only One.'
'A terrible face?'
'No. The face of
a dark, remarkable-looking man, in black, with
black hair and a grey moustache - a handsome man except for a
and secret air. Not a face she ever saw, or at all like a
face she ever saw. Doing nothing in the dream but
looking at her
fixedly, out of darkness.'
'Does the dream come back?'
'Never. The recollection of it
is all her trouble.'
'And why does it trouble her?'
Carolina shook her head.
'That's master's question,'
said la bella. 'She don't know. She
wonders why, herself. But I heard her tell him, only last night,
if she was to find a picture of that face in our Italian house
(which she is afraid she will) she did not know how she
Upon my word I was fearful after this (said the Genoese courier) of
our coming to the old
palazzo, lest some such ill-starred picture
should happen to be there. I knew there were many there; and, as
got nearer and nearer to the place, I wished the whole gallery
in the crater of Vesuvius. To mend the matter, it
was a stormy
dismal evening when we, at last, approached that part of the
Riviera. It thundered; and the thunder
of my city and its
environs, rolling among the high hills, is very loud. The lizards
ran in and out of the chinks
in the broken stone wall of the
garden, as if they were frightened; the frogs bubbled and croaked
their loudest; the
sea-wind moaned, and the wet trees dripped; and
the lightning - body of San Lorenzo, how it lightened!
We all know
what an old palace in or near Genoa is - how time and
the sea air have blotted it - how the drapery painted on the outer
has peeled off in great flakes of plaster - how the lower
windows are darkened with rusty bars of iron - how the courtyard
overgrown with grass - how the outer buildings are dilapidated -
how the whole pile seems devoted to ruin.
Our palazzo was one of
the true kind. It had been shut up close for months. Months? -
years! - it had an
earthy smell, like a tomb. The scent of the
orange trees on the broad back terrace, and of the lemons ripening
the wall, and of some shrubs that grew around a broken fountain,
had got into the house somehow, and had never been able
to get out
again. There was, in every room, an aged smell, grown faint with
confinement. It pined in all
the cupboards and drawers. In the
little rooms of communication between great rooms, it was stifling.
If you turned
a picture - to come back to the pictures - there it
still was, clinging to the wall behind the frame, like a sort of
lattice-blinds were close shut, all over the house. There were
two ugly, grey old women in the house, to take care
of it; one of
them with a spindle, who stood winding and mumbling in the doorway,
and who would as soon have let in
the devil as the air. Master,
mistress, la bella Carolina, and I, went all through the palazzo.
I went first,
though I have named myself last, opening the windows
and the lattice-blinds, and shaking down on myself splashes of
and scraps of mortar, and now and then a dozing mosquito, or
a monstrous, fat, blotchy, Genoese spider.
When I had
let the evening light into a room, master, mistress, and
la bella Carolina, entered. Then, we looked round at all
pictures, and I went forward again into another room. Mistress
secretly had great fear of meeting with the
likeness of that face -
we all had; but there was no such thing. The Madonna and Bambino,
San Francisco, San Sebastiano,
Venus, Santa Caterina, Angels,
Brigands, Friars, Temples at Sunset, Battles, White Horses,
Forests, Apostles, Doges,
all my old acquaintances many times
repeated? - yes. Dark, handsome man in black, reserved and secret,
hair and grey moustache, looking fixedly at mistress out
of darkness? - no.
At last we got through all the rooms
and all the pictures, and came
out into the gardens. They were pretty well kept, being rented by
a gardener, and
were large and shady. In one place there was a
rustic theatre, open to the sky; the stage a green slope; the
three entrances upon a side, sweet-smelling leafy
screens. Mistress moved her bright eyes, even there, as if she
to see the face come in upon the scene; but all was well.
'Now, Clara,' master said, in a low voice, 'you see that
nothing? You are happy.'
Mistress was much encouraged. She soon accustomed herself to that
palazzo, and would sing, and play the harp, and copy the old
pictures, and stroll with master under the green trees and
all day. She was beautiful. He was happy. He would laugh and say
to me, mounting his horse for
his morning ride before the heat:
'All goes well, Baptista!'
'Yes, signore, thank God, very well.'
kept no company. I took la bella to the Duomo and Annunciata,
to the Cafe, to the Opera, to the village Festa, to
Garden, to the Day Theatre, to the Marionetti. The pretty little
one was charmed with all she saw.
She learnt Italian - heavens!
miraculously! Was mistress quite forgetful of that dream? I asked
Nearly, said la bella - almost. It was
One day master received a letter, and called me.
gentleman who is presented to me will dine here to-day. He is
called the Signor Dellombra. Let me dine like
It was an odd name. I did not know that name. But, there had been
many noblemen and gentlemen
pursued by Austria on political
suspicions, lately, and some names had changed. Perhaps this was
Dellombra was as good a name to me as another.
When the Signor Dellombra came to dinner (said the Genoese courier
the low voice, into which he had subsided once before), I showed
him into the reception-room, the great sala of the old
Master received him with cordiality, and presented him to mistress.
As she rose, her face changed, she gave
a cry, and fell upon the
Then, I turned my head to the Signor Dellombra, and saw that he was
in black, and had a reserved and secret air, and was a
dark, remarkable-looking man, with black hair and a grey moustache.
raised mistress in his arms, and carried her to her own
room, where I sent la bella Carolina straight. La bella told
afterwards that mistress was nearly terrified to death, and that
she wandered in her mind about her dream, all night.
was vexed and anxious - almost angry, and yet full of
solicitude. The Signor Dellombra was a courtly gentleman, and
with great respect and sympathy of mistress's being so ill.
The African wind had been blowing for some days (they had told
at his hotel of the Maltese Cross), and he knew that it was often
hurtful. He hoped the beautiful lady would
recover soon. He
begged permission to retire, and to renew his visit when he should
have the happiness of hearing
that she was better. Master would
not allow of this, and they dined alone.
He withdrew early. Next day
he called at the gate, on horse-back,
to inquire for mistress. He did so two or three times in that
I observed myself, and what la bella Carolina told me, united
to explain to me that master had now set his mind on curing
of her fanciful terror. He was all kindness, but he was
sensible and firm. He reasoned with her, that to encourage
fancies was to invite melancholy, if not madness. That it rested
with herself to be herself. That if
she once resisted her strange
weakness, so successfully as to receive the Signor Dellombra as an
English lady would
receive any other guest, it was for ever
conquered. To make an end, the signore came again, and mistress
him without marked distress (though with constraint and
apprehension still), and the evening passed serenely. Master
so delighted with this change, and so anxious to confirm it, that
the Signor Dellombra became a constant guest.
He was accomplished
in pictures, books, and music; and his society, in any grim
palazzo, would have been welcome.
used to notice, many times, that mistress was not quite
recovered. She would cast down her eyes and droop her head,
the Signor Dellombra, or would look at him with a terrified and
fascinated glance, as if his presence had some
evil influence or
power upon her. Turning from her to him, I used to see him in the
shaded gardens, or the large
half-lighted sala, looking, as I might
say, 'fixedly upon her out of darkness.' But, truly, I had not
la bella Carolina's words describing the face in the
After his second visit I heard master say:
see, my dear Clara, it's over! Dellombra has come and gone,
and your apprehension is broken like glass.'
he - will he ever come again?' asked mistress.
'Again? Why, surely, over and over again! Are you cold?'
'No, dear - but - he terrifies me: are you sure that he need come
for the question, Clara!' replied master, cheerfully.
But, he was very hopeful of her complete recovery now, and grew
and more so every day. She was beautiful. He was happy.
'All goes well, Baptista?' he would say to me again.
signore, thank God; very well.'
We were all (said the Genoese courier, constraining himself to
speak a little louder),
we were all at Rome for the Carnival. I
had been out, all day, with a Sicilian, a friend of mine, and a
who was there with an English family. As I returned at
night to our hotel, I met the little Carolina, who never stirred
home alone, running distractedly along the Corso.
'Carolina! What's the matter?'
'O Baptista! O,
for the Lord's sake! where is my mistress?'
'Gone since morning - told me, when master
went out on his day's
journey, not to call her, for she was tired with not resting in the
night (having been in pain),
and would lie in bed until the
evening; then get up refreshed. She is gone! - she is gone!
Master has come back,
broken down the door, and she is gone! My
beautiful, my good, my innocent mistress!'
The pretty little one
so cried, and raved, and tore herself that I
could not have held her, but for her swooning on my arm as if she
shot. Master came up - in manner, face, or voice, no more
the master that I knew, than I was he. He took me
(I laid the
little one upon her bed in the hotel, and left her with the
chamber-women), in a carriage, furiously through
across the desolate Campagna. When it was day, and we stopped at a
miserable post-house, all the
horses had been hired twelve hours
ago, and sent away in different directions. Mark me! by the Signor
who had passed there in a carriage, with a frightened
English lady crouching in one corner.
I never heard (said
the Genoese courier, drawing a long breath)
that she was ever traced beyond that spot. All I know is, that she
into infamous oblivion, with the dreaded face beside her
that she had seen in her dream.
'What do you call THAT?'
said the German courier, triumphantly.
'Ghosts! There are no ghosts THERE! What do you call this, that I
going to tell you? Ghosts! There are no ghosts HERE!'
I took an engagement once (pursued the German
courier) with an
English gentleman, elderly and a bachelor, to travel through my
country, my Fatherland. He was
a merchant who traded with my
country and knew the language, but who had never been there since
he was a boy - as I
judge, some sixty years before.
His name was James, and he had a twin-brother John, also a
these brothers there was a great affection.
They were in business together, at Goodman's Fields, but they did
together. Mr. James dwelt in Poland Street, turning out
of Oxford Street, London; Mr. John resided by Epping Forest.
James and I were to start for Germany in about a week. The
exact day depended on business. Mr. John came to
(where I was staying in the house), to pass that week with Mr.
James. But, he said to his brother
on the second day, 'I don't
feel very well, James. There's not much the matter with me; but I
think I am a little
gouty. I'll go home and put myself under the
care of my old housekeeper, who understands my ways. If I get
better, I'll come back and see you before you go. If I don't
feel well enough to resume my visit where I leave it
off, why YOU
will come and see me before you go.' Mr. James, of course, said he
would, and they shook hands -
both hands, as they always did - and
Mr. John ordered out his old-fashioned chariot and rumbled home.
It was on
the second night after that - that is to say, the fourth
in the week - when I was awoke out of my sound sleep by Mr. James
into my bedroom in his flannel-gown, with a lighted candle.
He sat upon the side of my bed, and looking at me, said:
I have reason to think I have got some strange illness
I then perceived that there was a very unusual
expression in his
'Wilhelm,' said he, 'I am not afraid or ashamed to tell you what I
might be afraid or
ashamed to tell another man. You come from a
sensible country, where mysterious things are inquired into and are
settled to have been weighed and measured - or to have been
unweighable and unmeasurable - or in either case to have been
disposed of, for all time - ever so many years ago. I
have just now seen the phantom of my brother.'
(said the German courier) that it gave me a little
tingling of the blood to hear it.
'I have just now seen,' Mr.
James repeated, looking full at me,
that I might see how collected he was, 'the phantom of my brother
was sitting up in bed, unable to sleep, when it came into
my room, in a white dress, and regarding me earnestly, passed
the end of the room, glanced at some papers on my writing-desk,
turned, and, still looking earnestly at me as
it passed the bed,
went out at the door. Now, I am not in the least mad, and am not
in the least disposed to invest
that phantom with any external
existence out of myself. I think it is a warning to me that I am
ill; and I think
I had better be bled.'
I got out of bed directly (said the German courier) and began to
get on my clothes, begging
him not to be alarmed, and telling him
that I would go myself to the doctor. I was just ready, when we
loud knocking and ringing at the street door. My room
being an attic at the back, and Mr. James's being the second-floor
in the front, we went down to his room, and put up the window,
to see what was the matter.
'Is that Mr. James?'
said a man below, falling back to the opposite
side of the way to look up.
'It is,' said Mr. James, 'and you are
my brother's man, Robert.'
'Yes, Sir. I am sorry to say, Sir, that Mr. John is ill. He is
Sir. It is even feared that he may be lying at the point
of death. He wants to see you, Sir. I have a
chaise here. Pray
come to him. Pray lose no time.'
Mr. James and I looked at one another. 'Wilhelm,'
said he, 'this
is strange. I wish you to come with me!' I helped him to dress,
partly there and partly in
the chaise; and no grass grew under the
horses' iron shoes between Poland Street and the Forest.
Now, mind! (said
the German courier) I went with Mr. James into his
brother's room, and I saw and heard myself what follows.
brother lay upon his bed, at the upper end of a long bed-
chamber. His old housekeeper was there, and others were
think three others were there, if not four, and they had been with
him since early in the afternoon.
He was in white, like the figure
- necessarily so, because he had his night-dress on. He looked
like the figure
- necessarily so, because he looked earnestly at
his brother when he saw him come into the room.
But, when his brother
reached the bed-side, he slowly raised
himself in bed, and looking full upon him, said these words:
HAVE SEEN ME BEFORE, TO-NIGHT - AND YOU KNOW IT!'
And so died!
I waited, when the German courier ceased,
to hear something said of
this strange story. The silence was unbroken. I looked round, and
the five couriers
were gone: so noiselessly that the ghostly
mountain might have absorbed them into its eternal snows. By this
I was by no means in a mood to sit alone in that awful scene,
with the chill air coming solemnly upon me - or, if I may
truth, to sit alone anywhere. So I went back into the convent-
parlour, and, finding the American gentleman
still disposed to
relate the biography of the Honourable Ananias Dodger, heard it all