First Adventure

Once upon a time⁠—But what author will venture to begin his tale so nowadays? Obsolete! tedious! Such is the cry of the gentle, or rather ungentle reader, who wishes to be plunged at once, in medias res, according to the wise advice of the old Roman poet. He feels as if some long-winded talker of a guest, who had just entered, was spreading himself out, and clearing his voice to begin an endless discourse, and he angrily closes the book which he had but just opened. The present editor, indeed, of the wonderful tale of Master Flea, thinks this beginning a very good beginning, not to say the best for every history, on which account the most excellent storytellers that are, namely, nurses, old women, etc. have at all times made use of it, but as every author writes chiefly to be read, he⁠—that is, the aforesaid editor⁠—will not at any rate deprive the kind reader of the pleasure of actually being his reader. He tells him therefore at once, without more circumlocution, that this same Peregrine Tyss, of whose strange adventures this history is to treat, had never, on any Christmas evening, felt his heart so throb with anxious joyful expectation, as precisely on that with which begins the narration of his adventures.

Peregrine was in a dark chamber, next to the showroom in which he was wont to receive his Christmas box. There he crept gently up and down, listened a little at the door, and then seated himself quietly in a corner, and with shut eyes inhaled the mystic odours of the marzipan and gingerbread which streamed from the sanctuary. Then again there would shoot through him a sweet mysterious thrill when, on suddenly reopening them, he was dazzled by the vivid beams of light which fell through the crevices of the door, and danced hither and thither upon the wall.

At length sounded the little silver bell⁠—the chamber door was flung open, and in rushed Peregrine, amidst a whole fireflood of variegated Christmas lights. Quite petrified, he remained standing at the table, on which the finest gifts were arranged in the most handsome order, and only a loud “oh!” forced itself from his breast. Never before had the Christmas tree borne such splendid fruits, for every sweetmeat that can be named, and amongst them many a golden nut, many a golden apple from the garden of the Hesperides hung upon the boughs, which bent beneath their burden. The provision of choicest playthings, fine leaden soldiers, hunting trains of the same, picture books, etc. is not to be told. But as yet he did not venture to touch any part of the wealth presented to him; he could only occupy himself in mastering his wonder, and comprehending the idea of his good fortune in all this being really his.

“O my dear parents! O my good Alina!” so he exclaimed, with feelings of the highest transport.

“Well, my little Peregrine,” replied Alina, “have I done it well? Are you in truth rejoiced from your heart, my child? Won’t you look nearer at these handsome things? Won’t you try the new rocking horse and the beautiful fox?”

“A noble steed,” said Peregrine, examining the bridled rocking-horse with tears of joy, “A noble beast, of pure Arabian race,” and he immediately mounted his proud courser, but though Peregrine might else be a capital rider, yet this time he must have made some mistake, for the wild Pontifer (so was the horse called) reared, and threw him off, making him kick up his legs most piteously. Before, however, Alina, who was frightened to death, could run to his assistance, he had got up again and seized the bridle of the horse, who threw out behind, and endeavoured to run away. Again he mounted, and using with strength and skill all the arts of horsemanship, he brought the wild animal so to his reason, that it trembled and panted, and recognized his master in Peregrine. Upon his dismounting, Alina led the conquered horse into his stable.

This somewhat violent riding, which had caused an outrageous noise in the room, and indeed through the whole house, was now over, and Peregrine seated himself at the table, that he might quietly take a nearer view of the other splendid presents. With great delight he devoured some of the marzipan, while he set in motion the limbs of the different puppets, peeped into the various picture books, mustered his army, which he with reason deemed invincible, since not a single soldier had a stomach in his body, and at last proceeded to the business of the chase. To his great vexation, he discovered that there was only a hare and fox hunt, and that the stag and wild boar chase were altogether wanting. These, too, ought to have been there, as none better knew than Peregrine, he himself having purchased the whole with unspeakable care and trouble.

But, hold! It seems highly requisite to guard the kind reader against the awkward mistakes into which he might fall, if the author were to go on gossiping at random, without reflecting that though he may know the meaning of these Christmas-Eve arrangements, it is not so with his reader, who would wish to learn what he does not comprehend.

Much mistaken would he be who should imagine that Peregrine Tyss was a child, to whom a kind mother, or some other well-affectioned female, called in romantic fashion Alina, had been giving Christmas boxes⁠—nothing less than that!

Mr. Peregrine Tyss had got to his six-and-thirtieth year, and herein had passed almost the best of life. Six years before, he was said to be a handsome man; now he was with reason called a man of gentlemanly appearance, but at all times⁠—then, as well as now⁠—it was the cry of all, that he lived too much to himself, that he did not know life, and was manifestly suffering under a diseased melancholy. Fathers, whose daughters were just marriageable, thought that to get rid of this melancholy, the good Tyss could do nothing better than marry; he had a free choice, and had little reason to fear a negative. The opinion of the fathers was at least correct in regard to the latter point, insomuch as Mr. Tyss, besides being, as before said, a man of gentlemanly appearance, possessed a considerable property, left to him by his father, Mr. Balthasar Tyss, a very respectable merchant. Maidens who have got beyond the heyday of love⁠—that is, who are at least three or four-and-twenty years old⁠—when such highly gifted men put the innocent question of “Will you bless me with your hand, dearest?” seldom do otherwise than answer, with blushing cheeks and downcast eyes, “Speak to my parents, sir; I shall obey them⁠—I have no will,” while the parents fold their hands and say, “If it is the will of Heaven, we have nothing against it, son.”

But Mr. Peregrine Tyss seemed inclined to nothing less than marriage, for besides that he was in general averse to society, he showed more particularly a strange idiosyncrasy towards the female race. The mere proximity of any woman would bring the perspiration on his forehead, and if actually accosted by a tolerably handsome girl, he would fall into an agony that fettered his tongue, and caused a cramp-like trembling through all his limbs. Hence, perhaps, it was that his old servant was so ugly, that, in the neighbourhood where Mr. Peregrine Tyss lived, she passed for a wonder in natural history. The black, rugged, half-grey hair accorded well with the red bleary eyes, and just as well agreed the thick copper nose with the pale blue lips, in forming the image of an aspirant to the Blocksberg;1 so that two centuries earlier, she would hardly have escaped the stake, instead of being, as now, esteemed by Mr. Peregrine, and others too, for a good sort of person. This, in fact, she was, and might therefore well be forgiven, if she comforted her body with many a little dram in the course of the day, or, perhaps, too often took out from her stomacher a huge black japanned snuffbox, and fed her respectable nose very richly with pure Oppenbacher. The kind reader has already observed that this remarkable person is the very same Alina who managed the business of the Christmas boxes. Heaven knows how she came by the celebrated name of the Queen of Golconda!

But if the fathers desired that the rich agreeable Mr. Peregrine should lay aside his horror of women and marry without more ado, the old bachelors, on the other hand, said that he did quite right to remain single, as his turn of mind was not suited to matrimony. It was unlucky, however, that at the phrase “turn of mind,” not a few made a very mysterious face, and upon close inquiry, gave it to be pretty plainly understood, that Mr. Peregrine Tyss was at times a little cracked. The numerous retailers of this opinion belonged chiefly to those who are firmly convinced that on the great highway of life, which is to be kept according to reason and prudence, the nose is the best guide, and who would rather put on blinkers than be led aside by any odorous shrub or blooming meadow that grows by the way. It was, however, true that Peregrine had many things about him which people could not comprehend.

It has been already said that his father was a rich and respectable merchant; when to this is added that he owned a handsome house in the Horse Market, and that in this house, in the very same chamber where the little Peregrine had always received his Christmas boxes, the grownup Peregrine was now receiving them, there is no room to doubt that the place of the strange adventures to be narrated in this history is the celebrated city of Frankfurt am Main. Of his parents little more is to be told than that they were quiet honest folks, of whom no one could speak anything but good. The unbounded esteem which Mr. Tyss enjoyed upon ’Change he owed to two circumstances: he always speculated well and safely, gaining one sum after the other, while at the same time he never presumed, but remained modest as before, and made no boast of his wealth, which he showed merely by his haggling about nothing, and being indulgence itself towards insolvent debtors who had fallen into misfortune, even though it were deservedly.

For a long time the marriage of Mr. Tyss was unfruitful, till at length, after almost twenty years, Mrs. Tyss rejoiced her husband with a fine lusty boy, who was our identical Master Peregrine Tyss. The boundless joy of the elders may be imagined, and the people of Frankfurt yet talk of the splendid christening given by the old Tyss, at which the noblest hock was filled out as if at a coronation festival. But what added still more to the posthumous fame of Mr. Tyss was that he invited to this christening a couple of people who, in their enmity, had often injured him, and not only them, but others too whom he thought he had injured, so that the feast was really one of peace and reconciliation.

Alas! the good man did not suspect that this same child, whose birth so much rejoiced him, would soon be a cause of sorrow. At the very first, the boy Peregrine showed a singular disposition. After he had cried night and day uninterruptedly for some weeks, without their being able to find out any bodily ailment, he became on the sudden quite quiet and as it were stupified into a motionless insensibility: he seemed incapable of the least impression. The little brow, which appeared to belong to a lifeless puppet, was wrinkled neither by tears nor laughter. His mother maintained that it was owing, on her part, to the sight of the old bookkeeper, who had for twenty years sat in the countinghouse before the great cashbook, with the same lifeless countenance, and she wept bitter tears over the little automaton.

At last an old gossip hit upon the lucky thought of bringing Peregrine a very motley, and, in fact, a very ugly harlequin. The child’s eyes quickened in a strange fashion, the mouth contracted to a gentle smile, he caught at the puppet, and the moment it was given to him, hugged it tenderly. Then again he gazed upon the mannequin with such intelligent and speaking eyes, that it seemed as if reason and sensation had suddenly awakened in him, and with much greater vigour than is usual with children of his age.

“He is too wise,” said the godmother; “you’ll not keep him. Only look at his eyes; he already thinks more than he ought to do.”

This declaration greatly comforted the old merchant, who had in some measure reconciled himself to the idea of having begot an idiot, after so many years of fruitless expectation. Soon, however, he fell into a fresh trouble, and this was that the time had long since gone by in which children usually begin to speak, and yet Peregrine had not uttered a syllable. The boy would have been thought dumb, but that he often gazed on the person who spoke to him with such attention⁠—nay, even showed such sympathy by sad as well as by joyful looks that there could be no doubt not only of his hearing but of his understanding everything.

In the meantime his mother was mightily astonished at finding what the nurse had told her confirmed. At night, when the boy lay in bed and fancied himself unnoticed, he talked to himself single words, and even whole sentences, and so little broken that a long practice might be inferred from this perfection. Heaven has lent to women a certain tact of reading human nature as its growth variously develops itself, on which account⁠—for the first years, at least of childhood⁠—they are the best educators. According to this tact, Mrs. Tyss was far from letting the boy see he was observed, or from wishing to force him to speak; she rather contrived to bring it about by other dexterous means, that he should of himself no longer keep concealed the beautiful talent of speech, but should slowly, yet plainly, manifest it to the world, and to the wonder of all. Still, however, he evinced a constant aversion to talking, and was most pleased when they left him in quiet by himself.

Thus was Mr. Tyss freed from all anxiety on account of his want of tongue, but it was only to fall into a much greater care afterwards. When Peregrine had grown a boy and ought to have learned stoutly, it seemed as if nothing was to be driven into him without the greatest trouble. It was with his writing and reading as it had been with his talking: at first the matter could not be compassed at all, and then on a sudden he did it admirably, and beyond all expectation. In the meantime one master after another left the house, not from dislike to the boy, but because they could not enter into his disposition. Peregrine was still, mannerly, and industrious, and yet it was no use thinking of any systematic learning with him. He had understanding for that only which happened to chime in exactly with his genius; all the rest passed over him without leaving any impression. And that which suited his genius was the wonderful⁠—all that excited his imagination; in that he lived and moved. So, for example, he once received a present of a sketch of Beijing, with all its streets, houses, etc. which occupied the entire wall of his chamber. At the sight of this city of fables, of the singular people that seemed to crowd through its streets, Peregrine felt as if transported by some magic sleight into another world, in which he was to become at home. With eagerness he now fell upon everything that he could get hold of respecting China, the Chinese, and Beijing, and having somewhere found the Chinese sounds described, he laboured to pronounce them according to the description, with a fine chanting voice; nay, he even endeavoured, by means of the paper-scissors, to give his handsome calimanco bed-gowns the Chinese cut as much as possible, that he might have the pleasure of walking the streets of Beijing in the fashion. Nothing else could excite his attention⁠—to the great annoyance of his tutor, who just then wished to instill into him the history of the Hanseatic League, according to the express wish of Mr. Tyss, but the old gentleman found to his sorrow that Peregrine was not to be brought out of Beijing, wherefore he brought Beijing out of the boy’s chamber.

The elder Mr. Tyss had always considered it a bad omen that Peregrine, as a little child, should prefer counters to ducats, and next should manifest a decided abhorrence of moneybags, ledgers, and waste books. But what seemed most singular was that he never could hear the word “bill of exchange” pronounced without having his teeth set on edge, and he assured them that he felt at the sound as if someone was scratching up and down a pane of glass with the point of a knife. Mr. Tyss, therefore, could not help seeing that his son was spoilt for a merchant, and however he might wish to have him treading in his footsteps, yet he readily gave up this desire, under the idea that Peregrine would apply himself to some decided occupation. It was a maxim of his, that the richest man ought to have an employment, and thereby a settled station in life. People with no occupation were an abomination to him, and it was precisely to this No-occupation that his son was entirely devoted, with all the knowledge which he had picked up in his own way, and which lay chaotically confounded in his brain. This was now the greatest and most pressing anxiety of Mr. Tyss. Peregrine wished to know nothing of the actual world; the old man lived in that only⁠—from which contradiction it could not but be that the older Peregrine grew, the worse became the discord between father and son, to the no little sorrow of the mother. She cordially conceded to Peregrine⁠—who was otherwise the best of sons⁠—his mode of life, in mere dreams and fancies, though to her indeed unintelligible, and she could not conceive why her husband would positively impose upon him a decided occupation.

By the advice of tried friends, Tyss sent his son to the university of Jena, but when, after three years, he returned, the old man exclaimed, full of wrath and vexation, “Did I not think so? Hans the dreamer he went away, Hans the dreamer he comes back again.” And so far he was quite right, for the student was substantially unaltered. Still, he did not give up all hope of bringing the degenerate Peregrine to reason, thinking that if he were once forced into some employment, he might, perhaps, change his mind in the end, and take a pleasure in it. With this view he sent him to Hamburg, with commissions that did not require any particular knowledge of business, and moreover commended him to a friend there, who was to assist him faithfully in all things.

Peregrine arrived at Hamburg, where he gave into the hands of his father’s friend not only his letter of recommendation, but all the papers too that related to his commissions, and immediately disappeared, no one knew whither. Hereupon the friend wrote to Mr. Tyss:

“I have punctually received your honoured letter of the ⸻ by the hands of your son. The same, however, has not shown himself since, but set off from Hamburg immediately, without leaving any commission. In peppers we are doing little; cotton goes off heavily; in coffee, the middle sort only is inquired after, but on the other hand molasses maintain their price pleasantly, and in indigo there is not much fluctuation. I have the honour,” etc.

This letter would have plunged Mr. Tyss and his spouse into no little alarm, if by the very same post another had not arrived from the lost son, wherein he excused himself, with the most melancholy expressions, saying that it had been utterly impossible for him to execute the received commissions, according to his father’s wishes, and that he found himself irresistibly attracted to foreign countries, from which he hoped to return home in a year’s time with a happier and more cheerful disposition.

“It is well,” said the old man, “that the youngster should look about him in the world; he may get shaken out of his daydreams.” And when Peregrine’s mother expressed an anxiety lest he should want money for his long journey, and that, therefore, his carelessness was much to be blamed in not having written to tell them where he was going, the old gentleman replied laughing, “If the lad be in want of money, he will the sooner get acquainted with the real world, and if he have not said which way he is going, still he knows where his letters will find us.”

It has always remained unknown which way his journey really was directed: some maintain that he had been to the distant Indies; others declare that he had only fancied it. This much, however, is certain: he must have travelled a great way, for it was not in a year’s time, as he had promised his parents, but after the lapse of full three years, that Peregrine returned to Frankfurt on foot, and in a tolerably poor condition.

He found his father’s mansion fast shut up and no one stirred within, let him ring and knock as much as he would. At last there came by a neighbour from ’Change, of whom he immediately inquired whether Mr. Tyss had gone abroad? At this question the neighbour started back, terrified, and cried, “Mr. Peregrine Tyss! Is it you? Are you come at last? Don’t you then know it?”

Enough⁠—Peregrine learned that, during his absence, both parents had died, one after the other; that the authorities had taken possession of the inheritance, and had publicly summoned him, whose abode was altogether unknown, to return to Frankfurt and receive the property of his father.

Peregrine continued to stand before his neighbour without the power of utterance. For the first time the pain of life crossed his heart, and he saw in ruins the beautiful bright world wherein, till now, he had dwelt with so much delight. The neighbour soon perceived that he was utterly incapable of setting about the least thing that the occasion called for; he therefore took him to his own house, and himself arranged everything with all possible expedition, so that on the very same evening, Peregrine found himself in his paternal mansion.

Exhausted, overwhelmed by a feeling of disconsolation such as he had not yet known, he sank into his father’s great armchair, which was still standing in its usual place, when a voice said, “It is well that you have returned, dear Mr. Peregrine; ah, if you had but come sooner!”

Peregrine looked up and saw close before him the old woman whom his father had taken into his service chiefly because she could get no other place, on account of her outrageous ugliness: she had been Peregrine’s nurse in his early childhood, and had not left the house since. For a long time he stared at the woman, and at last began with a strange smile, “Is it you, Alina? The old people live still, do they not?” And with this he got up, went through every room, considered every chair, every table, and every picture, and then calmly added, “Yes, it is all just as I left it, and just so shall it remain.”

From this moment Peregrine adopted the strange life which was mentioned at the very beginning of our story. Retired from all society, he lived with his aged attendant in the large roomy house in the deepest solitude: subsequently he let out a couple of rooms to an old man, who had been his father’s friend, and seemed as misanthropical as himself⁠—reason enough why the two should agree remarkably well, for they never saw each other.

There were four family festivals which Peregrine celebrated with infinite solemnity, and these were the birthdays of his father and mother, Easter, and his own day of christening. At these times Alina had to set out a table for as many persons as his father had been wont to invite, with the same wine and dishes which had been usually served up on those occasions. Of course the same silver, the same plates, the same glasses, such as had then been used, and such as they still remained, were now brought forward, in the fashion which had prevailed for so many years. Peregrine kept to this strictly. Was the table ready? He sat down to it alone, ate and drank but little, listened to the conversation of his parents, and the imaginary guests, and replied modestly to this or that question as it was directed to him by anyone of the company. Did his mother put back her seat? He too rose with the rest, and took his leave of each with great courtesy. Then he retired to a distant chamber, and consigned to Alina the division of the wine and the many untasted dishes amongst the poor; which command of her master, the faithful soul was wont to execute most conscientiously.

The celebration of the two birthdays he began early in the morning, that, according to the custom of his boyhood, he might carry a handsome nosegay into the room where his parents used to breakfast, and repeat verses which he had got by heart for the occasion. On his own day of christening, he naturally could not sit at table, as he had not then been long born; Alina, therefore, had to attend to everything, that is, to invite people to drink, and, in the general phrase, to do the honours of the table, with this exception: everything was the same as at the other festivals. But in addition to these, Peregrine had yet another holiday in the year, or rather holy evening, and that was Christmas Eve, with its gifts, which had excited his youthful fancy more than any other pleasure.

He himself carefully purchased the motley Christmas lights, the playthings, the sweetmeats, just as his parents had presented them to him in his childish years, and then the presentation took place, as the kind reader has already seen.

“It is very vexatious,” said Peregrine, after having played with them some time, “It is very vexatious that the stag and wild boar hunt should be missing. Where can they be? Ah, look there!” At this moment he perceived a little box which still remained unopened, and hastily snatched at it, expecting to recover the missing treasure. But on opening it he found it empty, and started back as if a sudden fright had seized him. “Strange!” he murmured to himself, “Strange! What is the matter with this box? It seems as if some fearful thing sprang out upon me, that my eye was too dull to grapple with.”

Alina, on being questioned, assured him that she had found the box among the playthings, and had in vain used every exertion to open it; hence she had imagined that it contained something particular, and that the lid would yield only to the experienced hand of her master.

“Strange!” repeated Peregrine, “Very strange! And it was with this chase that I had particularly pleased myself; I hope it may not bode any evil! But who, on a Christmas Eve, would dwell upon such fancies, which have properly no foundation? Alina, fetch me the basket.”

Alina accordingly brought a large white basket, in which, with much care, he packed up the playthings, the sweetmeats, and the tapers, took the basket under his arm, the great Christmas tree on his shoulder, and set out on his way.

It was the kind and laudable practice of Mr. Tyss to surprise some needy family, where he knew there were children, with his whole cargo of Christmas boxes, just as he had purchased it, and dream himself for a few hours into the happy times of boyhood. Then, when the children were in the height of their joy, he would softly steal away and wander about the streets half the night, hardly knowing what to do with himself, from the deep emotions which straitened his breast, and feeling his own house like a vault, in which he was buried with all his pleasures. This time his Christmas boxes were intended for the children of a poor bookbinder, of the name of Lemmerhirt, who was a skilful, industrious man, had long worked for him, and whose three children he was well acquainted with.

The bookbinder, Lemmerhirt, lived in the top floor of a narrow house in the Kalbecher Street, and as the winter storm howled and raged, and the rain and snow fell with mingled violence, it may be easily imagined that Peregrine did not get to his object without great difficulty. From the window twinkled down a couple of miserable tapers; with no little toil he clambered up the steep stairs, knocked at the door, and called out, “Open! Open! Christmas sends his presents to all good children.”

The bookbinder opened the door in alarm, and it was not till after some consideration that he recognised Peregrine, who was quite covered with snow.

“Worshipful Mr. Tyss!” he exclaimed, full of wonder. “How in the name of Heaven do I come to such an honour on Christmas Eve?”

Worshipful Mr. Tyss, however, would not let him finish, but calling out, “Children! Children! Alert! Christmas sends his presents!” he took possession of the flap-table in the middle of the room, and immediately began to pull out his presents from the basket. (The great Christmas tree, indeed, which was dripping wet, he had been forced to leave outside the door.) Still the bookbinder could not comprehend what it all meant. The wife, however, knew better, for she smiled at Peregrine, with silent tears, while the children stood at a distance, devouring with their eyes each gift as it came out of the cover, and often unable to refrain from a loud cry of joy and wonder. At last he had dexterously divided, and ordered the presents according to each child’s age, lighted all the tapers, and cried, “Come, come, children! this is what Christmas sends you.” They, who could yet hardly believe that all belonged to them, now shouted aloud, and leaped, and rejoiced, while their parents prepared to thank their benefactor. But it was precisely this thanksgiving that Peregrine always sought to avoid, and he therefore wished, as usual, to take himself off quietly. With this view he had got to the door, when it suddenly opened, and in the bright shine of the Christmas lights stood before him a young female, splendidly attired.

It seldom turns out well, when an author undertakes to describe narrowly to the reader the appearance of this or that beautiful personage of his tale⁠—showing the shape, the growth, the carriage, the hair, the colour of the eyes; it seems much better to give the whole person at once, without these details. Here, too, it would be quite enough to state that the lady, who ran against the startled Peregrine, was uncommonly handsome and graceful, if it were not absolutely requisite to speak of certain peculiarities which the little creature had about her.

She was small, and, indeed, somewhat too small, but, at the same time, neatly and elegantly proportioned. Her forehead, in other respects handsomely formed and full of expression, acquired something strange and singular from the unusual size of the eyeballs, and from the dark pencilly brows being higher placed than ordinary. The little thing was dressed, or rather decorated, as if she had just come from a ball. A splendid diadem glittered amongst her raven locks, rich point lace only half veiled her bosom, a black- and yellow-striped dress of heavy silk sat close upon her slender body, and fell down in folds just so low as to let the neatest little feet be seen, in white shoes, while the sleeves were just long enough, and the gloves just short enough, to show the fairest part of a dazzling arm. A rich necklace, and brilliant earrings, completed her attire.

It could not but be that the bookbinder was as much surprised as Peregrine, that the children abandoned their playthings, and stared with open mouths at the stranger. As, however, women in general are wont to be the least astonished at anything unusual, and are the quickest to collect themselves, so, on this occasion also, the bookbinder’s wife was the first that recovered speech, and asked, “In what she could serve the lady?”

Upon this the stranger came fairly into the room, and the frightened Peregrine would have seized the opportunity to take himself quickly off, but she caught him by both hands, lisping out, in a little soft voice, “Fortune, then, has favoured me! I have found you, then! O Peregrine, my dear Peregrine, what a delightful meeting!” Herewith she raised her right hand, so that it touched Peregrine’s lips, and he was compelled to kiss it, though, in so doing, the cold drops of perspiration stood on his forehead. She now, indeed, let go his hands, and he might have fled, but he felt himself spellbound; he could not move from the place, like some poor little animal that has been fascinated by the eye of the rattlesnake.

“Allow me,” she said, “dear Peregrine, to share in this charming treat that you have so nobly, and with such real goodness, prepared for the children. Permit me, also, to contribute something to it!”

From a little basket which hung upon her arm, and which had not been remarked till now, she took out all sorts of playthings, arranged them on the table with graceful bustle, brought forward the children, pointed out to each the present intended for him, and sported so prettily withal, that nothing could be more delightful. The bookbinder thought he was in a dream, but the wife laughed roguishly, fancying that there must be some particular acquaintance between Peregrine and the stranger.

While now the parents were wondering, and the children were rejoicing, the lady took her seat upon an old frail sofa, and drew down Mr. Peregrine, who, in fact, scarcely knew any longer whether he actually was this same person. She then gently lisped into his ear, “My dear, dear Peregrine, how happy, how delighted I feel by your side!”

“But, lady,” stammered Peregrine, “honoured lady⁠—” On a sudden, Heaven knows how, the lips of the stranger came so close to his, that, before he could think about kissing them, he had really done it. That by this he lost all power of speech is easily to be imagined.

“My sweet friend,” continued the lady, creeping up to Peregrine so closely, that she almost sat in his lap, “My sweet friend, I know what troubles you; I know what has so much afflicted your simple heart this evening. But, take comfort. That which you lost, that which you hardly hoped to find again⁠—see, I bring it to you.”

With this she took out a little wooden box from her basket, and gave it into the hands of Peregrine. In it was the hunting set that he had missed on the Christmas-Eve table. It would be hard to describe the strange feelings which were now thronging and jostling in his bosom.

The whole appearance of the stranger, in spite of all her grace and loveliness, had yet something supernatural about it, which those who had not Peregrine’s awe of woman would yet have received with a cold shudder through every vein. Of course, therefore, a deep horror seized the poor Peregrine, already in sufficient alarm, when he found the lady most narrowly informed of all that he had been doing in the profoundest solitude. Still, when he looked up, and met the glance of two bright black eyes flashing from under the silken lids⁠—when he felt the sweet breath of the lovely being, and the electric warmth of her limbs⁠—still, with all his terror, there awoke in him the sadness of unutterable desires, such as he had not yet known. For the first time his whole mode of life, his trifling with the Christmas presents, appeared to him absurd and childish, and he felt ashamed that the stranger should know of it. But then again it seemed as if her gift was the living proof that she understood him, as none else on earth had understood him, and, in seeking to gratify him after this manner, had been prompted by the most perfect delicacy of feeling. He resolved to treasure up the dear gift forever, never to let it go out of his own hands, and, carried away by a feeling which totally overpowered him, he pressed the casket to his breast with vehemence.

“Delightful!” murmured the maiden, “my gift pleases you! Oh, my dearest Peregrine, then my dreams, my presentiments, have not deceived me!”

Mr. Tyss came somewhat to himself, so that he was able to say, with great plainness and distinctness, “But, most respected lady, if I only knew to whom in all the world I had the honour⁠—”

“Cunning man,” said the stranger, gently tapping his cheeks, “to pretend as if you did not know your faithful Alina! But it is time that we should leave the good folks here to their own pleasures. Accompany me, Mr. Tyss.”

On hearing the name Alina, Peregrine naturally reverted to his old attendant, and he felt exactly as if a windmill were going round in his head.

The strange Alina now took the kindest and most gracious leave of the family, while the bookbinder, from pure wonder and respect, could only stammer out something unintelligible. But the children made as if they had been long acquainted with her, and the wife said, “Such a kind, handsome man as you are, Mr. Tyss, well deserves to have so kind and handsome a bride, who, even at this hour, assists him in doing acts of benevolence. I congratulate you with all my heart.” The strange lady thanked her with emotion, protesting that the day of her wedding should also be a day of festival to them, and then strictly refusing all attendance, took a taper from the Christmas table to light herself down the stairs.

It is easy to imagine the feelings of Peregrine at all this, on whose arm she leant. “Accompany me, Mr. Tyss,” that is⁠—he thought within himself⁠—down the stairs to the carriage which stands at the door, and where the servant, or perhaps a whole set of servants, is in waiting, for in the end it must be some mad princess, who⁠—Heaven deliver me with speed from this strange torture, and keep me in my right senses, such as they are!

Mr. Tyss did not suspect that all which had yet happened was only the prologue to a most wonderful adventure, and had therefore, without knowing it, done exceedingly well in praying to Heaven for the preservation of his senses.

No sooner had the couple reached the bottom of the stairs, than the door was opened by invisible hands, and, when they had got out, was shut again in the same manner. Peregrine, however, paid no attention to this, in his astonishment at finding not the slightest appearance of any carriage before the house, or of any servant in waiting. “In the name of Heaven,” he cried, “where is your coach, lady?”

“Coach!” replied the stranger, “Coach! what coach? Did you think, dear Peregrine, that my impatience, my anxiety, to find you, would allow me to come riding here quite quietly? No; hurried on by hope and desire, I ran about through the storm till I found you. Thank Heaven that I have succeeded! And now lead me home; my house is not far off.”

Peregrine resolutely avoided all reflection on the impossibility of the stranger going a few steps only, tricked out as she was, and in white silk shoes, without spoiling her whole dress in the storm, instead of being, as now, in a state that showed not the slightest trace of discomposure. He reconciled himself to the idea of accompanying her still farther, and was only glad that the weather was changed. The storm, indeed, had past, not a cloud was in the heaven, the full moon shone down pleasantly, and only the keen air made the midnight to be felt.

Scarcely had they gone a few steps, when the maiden began to complain softly, and soon burst out into loud lamentations, that she was freezing with the cold. Peregrine, whose blood glowed through his veins, who had therefore been insensible to the weather, and never thought of her being so lightly clad, without even a shawl or a tucker, now on a sudden saw his folly, and would have wrapped her in his cloak. This, however, she rejected, exclaiming piteously, “No, my dear Peregrine, that avails me nothing: my feet! Ah, my feet! I shall die with the dreadful agony.”

And she was about to drop, half senseless, as she cried out with a faint voice, “Carry me, carry me, my sweet friend!”

Without more ado, Peregrine took up the light little creature in his arms like a child, and wrapt her in his cloak. But he had not gone far with his burden, before the wild intoxication of desire took more and more possession of him, and, as he hurried halfway through the streets, he covered the neck and bosom of the lovely creature, who had nestled closely to him with burning kisses. At last he felt as if waking with a sudden jerk out of a dream: he found himself at a house door, and, looking up, recognised his own house, in the Horse Market, when, for the first time, it occurred to him that he had not asked the maiden where she lived. He collected himself therefore with effort, and said, “Lady⁠—sweet, angelic creature, where is your abode?”

“Here, my dear Peregrine,” she replied, lifting up her head, “here, in this house: I am your Alina; I live with you. But get the door open quickly.”

“No⁠—never!” cried Peregrine, in horror, and let her sink down.

“How!” exclaimed the stranger, “How! Peregrine, you would reject me? and yet know my dreadful fate⁠—and yet know that, child of misfortune as I am, I have no refuge, and must perish here miserably if you will not take me in as usual! But perhaps you wish that I should perish? Be it so then! Only carry me to the fountain, that my corpse may not be found before your door. Ha! The stone dolphins may, perchance, have more pity than you have. Woe is me! Woe is me! The bitter cold!”

She sank down in a swoon; Peregrine was seized with despair, and exclaiming wildly, “Let it be as it will; I cannot do otherwise,” he lifted up the lifeless little thing, took her in his arms, and rang violently at the bell. No sooner was the door opened than he rushed by the servant, and instead of waiting, according to his usual custom, till he got to the top of the stairs, and then tapping gently, he shouted out, “Alina! Alina! light!” and, indeed, so loudly, that the whole floor reechoed it.

“How! What! What’s this? What does this mean?” exclaimed the old woman, opening her eyes widely as Peregrine unfolded the maiden from his cloak, and laid her with great care upon the sofa.

“Quick, Alina, quick! Fire in the grate! Salts! Punch! Beds here!”

Alina, however, did not stir from the place, but remained, staring at the stranger, with her “How! What! What’s this? What does this mean?”

Hereupon Peregrine began to tell of a countess, perhaps a princess, whom he had met at the bookbinder’s, who had fainted in the streets, whom he had been forced to carry home, and, as Alina still remained immoveable, he cried out, stamping with his feet, “Fire, I tell you, in the devil’s name! Tea! Salts!”

At this, the old woman’s eyes glared like a cat’s, and her nose was lit up with a brighter phosphorus. She pulled out her huge black snuffbox, opened it with a tap that sounded again, and took a mighty pinch. Then, planting an arm in either side, she said with a scoffing tone, “Oh yes, to be sure, a countess! A princess! who is found at a poor bookseller’s, who faints in the street! Ho! ho! I know well where such tricked-out madams are fetched from in the nighttime. Here are fine tricks! Here’s pretty behaviour! To bring a loose girl into an honest house, and, that the measure of sin may be quite full, to invoke the devil on a Christmas night! And I, too, in my old days am to be abetting! No, Mr. Tyss⁠—you are mistaken in your person; I am not of that sort: tomorrow I leave your service.”

With this she left the room, and banged the door after her with a violence that made all clatter again. Peregrine wrung his hands in despair. No sign of life showed itself in the stranger, but at the moment when in his dreadful distress he had found a bottle of cologne-water, and was about to rub her temples with it, she jumped up from the sofa quite fresh and sound, exclaiming, “At last we are alone! At last I may explain why I followed you to the bookbinder’s, why I could not leave you tonight! Peregrine! give up to me the prisoner whom you have confined in this room. I know that you are not at all bound to do so; I know that it only depends upon your goodness. But I know, too, your kind affectionate heart; therefore, my good, dear Peregrine, give him up⁠—give up the prisoner!”

“What prisoner?” asked Peregrine, in the greatest surprise. “Who do you suppose is a prisoner with me?”

“Yes,” continued the stranger, seizing Peregrine’s hand, and pressing it tenderly to her breast, “Yes, I must confess that only a noble mind can abandon the advantages which a lucky chance puts into his hands, and it is true that you resign many things which it would be easy for you to obtain if you did not give up the prisoner. But think: that Alina’s destiny, her life, depends upon the possession of this prisoner, that⁠—”

“Angelic creature!” interrupted Peregrine, “if you don’t wish that I should take it all for a delirious dream, or perhaps become delirious on the spot myself, tell me at once of whom you are speaking⁠—who is this prisoner?”

“How!” replied the maiden, “I do not understand you; would you deny that he is in your custody? Was I not present when you bought the hunting-set?”

“Who,” cried Peregrine, quite beside himself, “who is this he? For the first time in my life I see you, lady, and who are you? who is this he?”

Dissolving in grief, the stranger threw herself at Peregrine’s feet, while the tears poured down in abundant streams from her eyes: “Be humane, be merciful⁠—give him back to me!” and at the same time her exclamations were mingled with those of Peregrine, “I shall lose my senses! I shall go mad! I shall be frantic!”

On a sudden the maiden started up. She seemed much larger than before; her eyes flashed fire, her lips quivered, and she exclaimed, with furious gestures, “Ha, barbarian! no human heart dwells in you! You are inexorable! You wish my death, my destruction! You won’t give him up! No⁠—never, never! Wretched me! Lost! lost!”

And with this she rushed out of the room. Peregrine heard her clattering down the stairs, while her lamentations filled the whole house, till at last a door below was flung to with violence.