Seventh Adventure

Although we are wholly deficient in any certain information respecting the result of the battle in Leeuwenhoek’s chamber, yet we cannot suppose otherwise than that the microscopists, with the help of George Pepusch, had obtained a complete victory over the hostile confederates: it had else been impossible that the old Swammer had returned so friendly and contented as he really did. With the same glad face, Swammer, or rather Mr. Jan Swammerdam, came the following morning to Peregrine, who was still in bed and earnestly conversing with his protégé, Master Flea. Upon seeing this visitor, Peregrine did not fail putting the microscopic glass into the pupil of his eye.

After many long and tedious excuses for his early visit, Swammerdam at last took his place on the bed, positively refusing to let Peregrine rise and put on his dressing gown. In the strangest phrases he thanked his landlord for the great civilities he had experienced, which, it seems, consisted in his having been received as a lodger, and also in that Mr. Tyss had allowed his household to be increased by the addition of a young female, who was sometimes too loud and vivacious. But the greatest favour shown by Mr. Peregrine, and not without some self-sacrifice, was in his having effected a reconciliation between him (Swammerdam) and his old friend, Antonie van Leeuwenhoek. In fact, as Swammerdam went on to say, both hearts had inclined to each other at the moment when they were attacked by the Amateur and the barber and had to protect Dörtje Elverdink from those monsters. The serious reconciliation of the microscopists had soon after followed.

Leeuwenhoek had perceived, as well as Swammerdam, the paramount influence which Peregrine had over both of them and the first use which they made of their renewed friendship was to consider in unison the strange horoscope of Mr. Tyss, and as far as possible, to interpret it.

“What my friend, Leeuwenhoek, could not do alone,” continued the microscopist, “was effected by our united powers, and thus this was the second experiment which, in spite of all the obstacles opposed to us, we undertook with the most splendid results.”

“The shortsighted fool!” lisped Master Flea, who sat upon the pillow, close to Peregrine’s ear. “He still fancies that the Princess, Gamaheh, was restored to life by him. A pretty life, indeed, is that to which the awkwardness of the two microscopists has condemned the poor thing!”

“My dear friend,” continued Swammerdam, who had the less heard Master Flea, as he had just then begun to sneeze loudly, “my dear friend, you are particularly chosen by the spirit of the creation, a pet-child of nature, for you possess the most wonderful talisman, or, to speak more correctly and scientifically, the most splendid Tsilmenaja, or Tilsemoht, that was ever fed by the dew of heaven, and has sprung from the lap of earth. It is an honour to my art that I, and not Leeuwenhoek, have discovered that this lucky talisman sleeps for a time till a certain constellation enters, which finds its centre-point in your worthy person. With yourself, my dear friend, something must and will happen, which in the moment the power of the talisman awakes, may make that waking known to you. Let Leeuwenhoek have told you what he will, it must all be false, for in regard to that point, he knew nothing at all until I opened his eyes. Perhaps he tried to frighten you, my dear friend, with some terrible catastrophe, for I know he likes to terrify people without reason. But trust to me, Mr. Tyss, who have the highest respect for you, and swear it to you most solemnly: you have nothing to fear. I should like, however, to learn whether you do not as yet feel the presence of the talisman, and what you think of the matter altogether.”

At these last words Swammerdam eyed his host as keenly as if he would pierce his deepest thoughts, but of course he did not succeed so well in that as Peregrine with his microscopic glass, by means of which the latter learned that it was not so much the united war with the Amateur and the Barber, as the mysterious horoscope, that had brought about the reconciliation of the microscopists. It was the possession of the mighty talisman that both were striving after. In regard to the mysterious lines in the horoscope of Peregrine, Swammerdam remained in as vexatious ignorance as Leeuwenhoek, but he fancied the clue must lie within Peregrine, which would lead to the discovery of the mystery. This clue he now sought to fish out of the novice, and then rob him of the inestimable treasure before he knew its value. He was convinced this talisman was equal to that of the wise Solomon, since, like that, it gave him who possessed it the perfect dominion over the kingdom of spirits.

Peregrine paid like with like, himself mystifying Swammerdam, who thought to mystify him. He contrived to answer so dexterously, in such figurative speeches, that the microscopist feared the initiation had already begun, and that soon the mystery would be revealed which neither he nor Leeuwenhoek had been able to unravel.

Swammerdam cast down his eyes, hemmed, and stammered a few unintelligible words; he was really in a bad plight, and his thoughts were all in confusion.

“The devil! What’s this? Is this Peregrine, who speaks to me? Am I the learned Swammerdam or an ass?”

In despair he at last collected himself, and began,

“But to come to something else, most respected Mr. Tyss, and as it seems to me, something much more agreeable.”

According to what Swammer now went on to say, both he and Leeuwenhoek had perceived, with great pleasure, the strong inclination which Dörtje Elverdink had conceived for him. If they had both formerly been of a different opinion, each believing that Dörtje should stay with himself, and not think of love and marriage, yet they had now both come to a better conviction. They fancied that they read in Peregrine’s horoscope he positively must take Dörtje Elverdink for his wife, as the greatest advantage in all the conjunctures of his life, and as neither doubted for a moment that he was equally enamoured of her, they had looked upon the matter as fully settled. Swammerdam, moreover, was of opinion that Peregrine was the only one who, without any trouble, could beat his rivals out of the field, and that the most dangerous opponents⁠—namely the Amateur and the Barber⁠—could avail nothing against him.

Peregrine found, from Swammerdam’s thoughts, that both the microscopists actually imagined they had read in his horoscope the inevitable necessity of his marriage with Dörtje. It was to this supposed necessity only they yielded, thinking to draw the greatest gain from the apparent loss of the little one, namely, by getting possession of Mr. Tyss and his talisman. But it may be easily supposed how little faith he must have in the science of the two microscopists, when neither of them was able to solve the centre-point of the horoscope. He did not, therefore at all yield to that pretended conjunction, which conditioned the necessity of his marriage with Gamaheh, and found no difficulty whatever in declaring positively that he renounced her hand in favour of his best friend George Pepusch, who had older and better claims to the fair one, and that he would not break his word upon any condition.

Swammerdam raised his green eyes which he had so long cast down, stared vehemently at Peregrine, and grinned with the cunning of a fox, as he said, if the friendship between him and Pepusch were the only scruple which kept him from giving free scope to his feelings, this obstacle existed no longer: Pepusch had perceived, although slightly touched with madness, his marriage with Dörtje was against the stars, and nothing could come from it but misery and destruction. He had therefore resigned all his pretensions, declaring only that, with his life, he would protect Gamaheh⁠—who could belong to no one but his bosom-friend, Tyss⁠—against the awkward dolt of an Amateur and the bloodthirsty Barber.

A cold shudder ran through Peregrine when he perceived, from Swammerdam’s thoughts, that all was true which he had spoken. Overpowered by the strangest and the most opposite feelings, he sank back upon his pillow and closed his eyes. The microscopist pressed him to come down himself, and hear from Dörtje’s mouth, from George’s, the present state of things, and then took his leave with as much ceremony as he had entered.

Master Flea, who sat the whole time quietly on the pillow, suddenly leaped up to the top of Peregrine’s nightcap. There he raised himself up on his long hind-legs, wrung his hands, stretched them imploringly to Heaven, and cried out in a voice half-stifled with tears,

“Woe to poor me! I already thought myself safe, and now comes the most dangerous trial. What avail me the courage, the constancy of my noble patron? I surrender myself! All is over.”

“Why,” said Mr. Tyss, in a faint voice, “Why do you lament so on my nightcap, my dear master? Do you fancy that you alone have to complain? that I myself am not in the unhappiest situation in the world? for my whole mind seems broken up, and I neither know what to do, nor which way to turn my thoughts. But do not fancy, my dear master, I am foolish enough to venture near the rock upon which all my resolutions might be shipwrecked. I shall take care not to follow Swammerdam’s invitation, and to avoid seeing the alluring Dörtje Elverdink.”

“In reality,” said Master Flea, after he had taken his old post upon the pillow, by Peregrine’s ear, “In reality I am not sure that I ought not to advise you to go at once to Swammerdam’s, however destructive it may appear to myself. It seems to me as if all the lines of your horoscope were running quicker and quicker together, and you yourself were upon the point of entering the red centre. Well, let the dark destiny have decreed what it will; I plainly perceive even a Master Flea cannot escape such a conclusion, and it is as simple as useless to expect my safety from you. Go then: take her hand, deliver me to slavery, and that all may happen as the stars will it, without any interference, make no use of the microscopic glass.”

“Formerly,” said Peregrine, “formerly, Master Flea, your heart seemed stout, your mind firm, and now you have grown so fainthearted! You may be as wise as you will, but you have no good idea of human resolution, and at all events, rate it too meanly. Once more⁠—I will not break my word to you, and that you may perceive how fixed my determination is, of not seeing the little one again, I will now rise and betake myself, as I did yesterday, to the bookbinder’s.”

“Oh Peregrine!” cried Master Flea, “the will of man is a frail thing; a passing air will break it. How immense is the abyss lying between what man wills and what really happens! Many a life is only a constant willing, and many a one, from pure volition, at last does not know what he will. You will not see Dörtje Elverdink, and yet who will answer for it that you do not see her in the very moment of your declaring such a resolution?”

Strange enough, the very thing really happened which Master Flea had prophesied.

Peregrine arose, dressed himself, and faithful to his intention, would have gone to the bookbinder. In passing Swammerdam’s chamber, the door was wide open, and⁠—he knew not how it happened⁠—he stood, leaning on Swammerdam’s arm, close before Dörtje Elverdink, who sent him a hundred kisses, and with her silver voice cried out, joyfully, “Good morning, my dear Peregrine!” George Pepusch, too, was there, looking out of the window and whistling. He now flung the window to with violence, and turned round.

“Ha!” he exclaimed as if he had just then seen Peregrine, “Ha! look! You come to see your bride. That’s all in order, and any third person would only be in the way. I too will take myself off, but let me first tell you, my good friend Peregrine, that George Pepusch scorns every gift which a compassionate friend would fling to him as if he were a beggar. Cursed be every sacrifice! I will have nothing to thank you for. Take the beautiful Gamaheh, who so warmly loves you, but take care the Thistle, Zeherit, do not take root, and burst the walls of your house.”

George’s voice and manner bordered upon brutality, and Peregrine was filled with vexation, when he saw how much his whole conduct was mistaken. Without concealing his disgust, he said,

“It never has entered into my head to cross you in your path, but the madness of jealousy speaks out of you, or you would see how innocent I am of all you have been brooding in your own soul. Do not ask of me to kill the snake which you have been nourishing in your breast for your own torment; learn too, I gave you no alms, I made you no sacrifice, in giving up the fair one, and with her, perhaps, the greatest blessing of my life. Other and higher duties, an irrevocable promise, compelled me to it.”

Pepusch, in the wildest wrath, raised his clenched hand against his friend, when Gamaheh sprang between them, and catching Peregrine’s arm, exclaimed,

“Let the foolish Thistle go; he has nothing but nonsense in his brain, and as is the way with thistles, is surly and obstinate without well knowing what he means. You are mine, and remain mine⁠—mine own dearest Peregrine.”

Thus saying, the little one drew Peregrine upon the sofa, and without further ceremony, seated herself upon his knees. Pepusch, after having sufficiently gnawed his nails, ran wildly out of the door.

Dressed again in the fairy dress of tissue, she appeared as lovely as ever. Peregrine felt himself streamed through by the electric warmth of her body, and yet, amidst it all, a cold mysterious shudder thrilled through him like the breathing of death. For the first time he thought that he saw something singular and lifeless deeply seated in her eyes, while the tone of her voice⁠—nay, even the rustling of her dress⁠—betrayed a strange being, who was never to be trusted. It fell heavily upon his heart that when she had spoken her real thoughts, she had been in this same silver tissue; he knew not why he should fancy anything menacing in it, and yet the idea of this dress was intimately blended with that of the supernatural, as a dream unites the most heterogeneous things, and all passes for absurd, the deeper connection of which we are unable to comprehend.

Far from wounding the fair one with a suspicion which was perhaps false, Peregrine violently suppressed his feelings, and only waited for a favourable opportunity of freeing himself and escaping from the snake of Paradise. At last Dörtje said,

“How is it, my sweet friend, you seem so cold and insensible today? What have you got in your head, my life?”

“I have a headache,” replied Peregrine, as indifferently as he was able.“Headache! Whims! Megrims! Nothing else, my sweet child. I must go into the open air, and all will be over in a few minutes. Besides, I am called away by a particular business.”

“It is all invention!” exclaimed Gamaheh, starting up hastily. “But you are a malicious monkey that must be tamed.”

Peregrine was glad when he found himself in the open street, but as to Master Flea, he was quite extravagant in his joy, tittering and laughing incessantly in Peregrine’s neckcloth, and clapping together his forepaws till they rang again. This merriment of his little protégé was somewhat troublesome to Mr. Tyss, as it disturbed him in his meditations, and he begged of him to be quiet, for many grave people had already glanced at him with looks of reproach, fancying it was he who tittered and laughed, and played such foolish pranks in the open streets.

“Fool that I was!” exclaimed Master Flea, persisting in the ebullitions of his extravagant joy, “Fool that I was to doubt of the victory where no battle was needed. Why, you had conquered in the moment, when even the death of your beloved could not shake your resolution. Let me shout, let me rejoice, for all must deceive me if a bright morning sun do not soon arise, which will clear up every mystery.”

On Peregrine’s knocking at the bookbinder’s, a soft female voice cried, “Come in!” He opened the door, and a young girl, who was alone in the room, came forward, and asked him in a friendly manner what he wanted. She was about eighteen years old, rather tall than short, and slim, with the finest proportions. Her hair was of a bright chestnut colour, her eyes were of a deep blue, and her skin seemed to be a blended web of lilies and roses. But more than all this were the purity and innocence that sat upon her brow, and showed themselves in all her actions.

When Peregrine gazed on the gentle beauty, it seemed to him as if he had been hitherto lying in bonds, which a benevolent power had loosened, and the angel of light stood before him. But his enamoured gaze had confounded the maiden: she blushed deeply, and casting down her eyes, repeated more gently than at first, “What does the gentleman want?” With difficulty Peregrine stammered out, “Pray, does the bookbinder Lemmerhirt live here?” Upon her replying that he did, but that he was now gone out upon business, Peregrine talked confusedly of bindings which he had ordered, of books which Lemmerhirt was to procure for him, till at last he came somewhat more to himself, and spoke of a splendid copy of Ariosto, which was to have been bound in red morocco with golden filleting. At this, it was as if a sudden electric spark had shot through the maiden; she clasped her hands, and with tears in her eyes, exclaimed, “Then you are Mr. Tyss?” At the same time she made a motion as if she would have seized his hand, but suddenly drew back, and a deep sigh seemed to relieve her full breast. A sweet smile beamed on her face, like the lovely glow of morning, and she poured forth thanks and blessings to Peregrine for his having been the benefactor of her father and mother, and not only for this⁠—no⁠—for his generosity, his kindness, the manner of his making presents to the children, and spreading joy and happiness amongst them. She quickly cleared her father’s armchair of the books, bound and unbound, with which it was loaded, wheeled it forward, and pressed him to be seated, and then presented to him the splendid Ariosto with sparkling eyes, well knowing that this masterpiece of bookbinding would meet with Peregrine’s approbation.

Mr. Tyss took a few pieces of gold from his pocket, which, the maiden seeing, hastily assured him that she did not know the price of the work, and therefore could not take any payment; perhaps he would be pleased to wait a few minutes for her father’s return. It seemed to Peregrine as if the unworthy metal melted into one lump in his hand, and he pocketed the gold again, much faster than he had brought it out. Upon his seating himself mechanically in the broad armchair, the maiden reached after her own seat, and from instinctive politeness he jumped up to fetch it, when, instead of the chair, he caught hold of her hand, and on gently pressing the treasure, he thought he felt a scarcely perceptible return.

“Puss, puss, what are you doing?” suddenly cried Rose, breaking from him, and picking up a skein of thread, which the cat held between her forepaws, beginning a most mystical web.

Peregrine was in a perfect tumult, and the words “Oh, princess!” escaped him without his knowing how it happened. The maiden looked at him in alarm, and he cried out in the softest and most melancholy tone, “My dearest young lady!” Rose blushed, and said with maiden bashfulness, “My parents call me Rose; pray, do the same my dear Mr. Tyss, for I too am one of the children, to whom you have shown so much kindness, and by whom you are so highly honoured.”

“Rose!” cried Peregrine, in a transport. He could have thrown himself at her feet, and it was only with difficulty that he restrained himself.

Rose now related⁠—as she quietly went on with her work⁠—how the war had reduced her parents to distress, and how since that time she had lived with an aunt in a neighbouring village, till a few weeks ago, when, upon the death of the old lady, she had returned home.

Peregrine heard only the sweet voice of Rose, without understanding the words too well, and was not perfectly convinced of his being awake, till Lemmerhirt entered the room and gave him a hearty welcome. Soon after the wife followed with the children, and as thoughts and feelings are strangely blended in the mind of man, it happened now that Peregrine, even in the midst of all his ecstasy, suddenly recollected how the sullen Pepusch had blamed his presents to this very family. He was particularly delighted to find that none of the children had made themselves ill by his gifts, and the pride with which they pointed to a glass case, where the toys were shining, proved that they looked upon them as something extraordinary, never perhaps to recur. The Thistle, in his ill-humour, was quite mistaken.

“Oh, Pepusch!” said Peregrine to himself, “no pure beam of love penetrates thy distempered mind.” In this Peregrine again meant something more than toys and sugarplums.

Lemmerhirt approached Peregrine and began to talk in an undertone of his Rose, elevating her, in the fullness of his heart, into a perfect miracle. But what gave him the most delight was that Rose had an inclination for the noble art of bookbinding, and in the few weeks that she had been with him had made uncommon advances in the decorative parts, so that she was already much more dexterous than many an oaf of an apprentice who wasted gold and morocco for years, and set the letters all awry, making them look like so many drunken peasants, staggering out of an alehouse. In the exuberance of his delight, he whispered to Peregrine quite confidentially, “It must out, Mr. Tyss, I can’t help it. Do you know, that it was my Rose who gilded the Ariosto?”

Upon hearing this, Peregrine hastily snatched up the book, as if securing it before he was robbed of it by an enemy. Lemmerhirt took this for a sign that Peregrine wished to go, and begged of him to stay a few minutes longer, and this it was that reminded him at last of the necessity of tearing himself away. He hastily paid his bill and set off home, dragging along the heavy quartos as if they had been some treasure.

On entering his house he was met by the old Alina, who pointed to Swammerdam’s chamber with looks of fear and anxiety. The door was open, and he saw Dörtje Elverdink, sitting in an armchair, quite stiff, with a face drawn up, as if it belonged to a corpse, already laid in the grave. Just so stiff, so corpse-like sat before her Pepusch, Swammerdam, and Leeuwenhoek. The old woman exclaimed, “Is not that a strange, ghastly spectacle? In this manner the three unhappy beings have sat the whole day long, and eat nothing, and drink nothing, and speak nothing, and scarcely fetch their breath.”

Peregrine at first felt a slight degree of terror at this strange spectacle, but as he ascended the stairs, the spectral image was completely swallowed up by the sea of pleasure, in which the delighted Peregrine swam, since his seeing Rose. Wishes, dreams, hopes, were agitating his mind, which he longed to unburden to some friend, but what friend had Peregrine besides the honest Master Flea? And to him he wished to open his whole heart, to tell him all about Rose⁠—all in fact that cannot very well be told. But he might call and coax as long as he pleased⁠—no Master Flea would show himself; he was up and away, at last, in the folds of his neckcloth, where Master Flea had been wont to lodge upon his going abroad. Peregrine found, after a more careful search, a tiny box, whereon was written:

“In this is the microscopic glass. If you look steadfastly into the box with your left eye, the glass will immediately be in its pupil; when you want to be freed from the instrument, you have only to gently squeeze the pupil, holding your eye over the box, and the glass will drop into it. I am busy in your service, and risk no little by it, but for so kind a protector I would hazard anything, as

“Your most devoted servant,

“Master Flea.”

Now here would be an excellent opportunity for a genuine romance-writer to expatiate on the difference between lust and love, and having handled it sufficiently in theory, to illustrate it practically in the person of Mr. Tyss. Much might be said of sensual desires, of the curse of the primal sin, and of the heavenly Promethean spark, which in love inflames that true community of spirit of the two sexes, which forms the actual necessary dualism of nature. Should now the aforesaid Promethean spark⁠—but the reader will perhaps be glad to escape the rest of this dissertation, though he may rest assured there is much in it whereby he might have been edified, had he been so inclined.

It must be evident to all that Peregrine only felt desire for Dörtje Elverdink, but that when he saw Rose Lemmerhirt, the real heavenly love blazed in his bosom. Little thanks, however, would be due to the editor of this most wonderful of all wonderful tales, if⁠—adhering to the stiff, formal pace of renowned romancers⁠—he could not forbear in this place exciting the weariness essentially requisite to a legitimate romance. No; let us go to the point at once: sighs, lamentations, joys, pains, kisses, blisses⁠—are all united in the focus of the moment, when the lovely Rose⁠—with the crimson of maiden modesty upon her cheeks⁠—confesses to the enraptured Peregrine that she loves him; that she cannot express how much, how immeasurably she loves him; that she lives in him only; that he is her only thought, her only joy.

But the crafty demon is wont to thrust his dark claws into the sunniest moments of life⁠—nay, to utterly obscure that sunshine by the shadow of his baleful presence. Thus it happened that evil doubts arose in Peregrine, and his breast was filled with suspicions. A voice seemed to whisper to him, “How! Dörtje Elverdink confessed her love, and yet it was mere selfishness, animated by which she sought to tempt you into breaking your faith and becoming a traitor to your best friend, poor Master Flea! You are rich; they say too that a certain frankness and good nature, by many called weakness, may procure you the doubtful love of men and even of women, and she, who now confesses a passion for you.” He hastily snatched at the fate-fraught box, and was on the point of opening it to place the microscopic glass in the pupil of his eye, and thus reading the thoughts of Rose, but he looked up, and the pure blue of her bright eyes seemed to be reflected on his inmost soul. Rose saw and wondered at his emotion.

He felt as if a sudden flash of lightning had quivered through him, and the feeling of his own unworthiness overwhelmed him.

“How!” said he to himself, “Would you with sinful presumption penetrate into the sanctuary of this angel? Would you read thoughts, which have nothing in common with the wretched actions of minds entangled in earthly considerations? Would you mock the spirit of love himself, and try him with the accursed arts of dangerous and supernatural powers?”

He hastily put up the box, with a feeling as if he had committed some sin that could never be atoned, and dissolved in sadness, flung himself at the feet of the terrified Rose, exclaiming that he was a wretched sinner, unworthy of the love of so innocent, so pure a being.

Rose, who could not conceive what dark spirit had come over Peregrine, sank down to him, embraced him, and murmured with tears, “For God’s sake, my dear Peregrine, what is the matter with you? What evil enemy has placed himself between us? Oh, come⁠—come, and sit down quietly by me.”

Incapable of any voluntary motion, Peregrine suffered himself to be raised by Rose in silence. It was well that the frail old sofa was loaded, as usual, with books and the tools for binding, so that Rose had many things to clear away to make room for Mr. Tyss. By this he gained time to recover himself, and his first wild passion subsided into a milder feeling. But if before he had looked like a most disconsolate sinner, upon whom a sentence of condemnation had been irrevocably pronounced, he now wore a somewhat silly appearance. This, however, in such circumstances, is a favourable prognostic.

When now both were seated on the aforesaid frail sofa, Rose began, with downcast eyes, and a half bashful smile, “I can guess what has affected you so, dear Peregrine, and will own that they have told me many strange things of the singular inhabitants of your house. The neighbours⁠—you know what neighbours are, how they talk and talk, without knowing why or wherefore⁠—these evil-minded neighbours have told me of a strange lady in your house, whom many take for a princess, and whom you brought home yourself on Christmas eve. They say that the old Mr. Swammer has indeed received her as his niece, but that she pursues you with strange arts and temptations. This, however, is by no means the worst; only think, my dear Peregrine: my old cousin just opposite with the sharp nose⁠—who sends over such friendly greetings when she sees you here⁠—she has tried to put all manner of bad things into my head about you. Notwithstanding her friendly greetings, she has always warned me against you, and maintained that nothing less than sorcery was carried on in your house, and that the little Dörtje is an imp in disguise, who, to seduce you, goes about in a human form, and, indeed, in a very beautiful one. But, Peregrine, my dear Peregrine, look at me; is there anything like doubt upon my face? I trust you, I trust the hopes of happiness to come upon us, when a firm band has united us forever. Let the dark spirits have determined what they will in regard to you; their power is fruitless against pure love and unchanging constancy. What will⁠—what can⁠—disturb a love like ours? It is the talisman, before which the nightly images all fly.”

At this moment Rose appeared to Peregrine like a higher being, and each of her words like the consolations of Heaven. An indescribable feeling of the purest delight streamed through him, like the sweet mild breath of spring. He was no longer the sinner, the impious presumer, which he had before held himself; he began to think with joy that he was worthy of the love of the innocent Rose.

The bookbinder, Lemmerhirt, now returned with his family from a walk.

The hearts of Rose and Peregrine were overflowing, and it was not till late that he quitted, as an accepted bridegroom, the narrow abode of the bookbinder, whose joy exalted him to heaven, while the old woman, from pure delight, sobbed rather more than was necessary.

All the authentic records, from which this wonderful history has been taken, agree in one point⁠—and the chronicle of centuries confirms it⁠—that in the night when Mr. Peregrine Tyss returned home as a happy lover, the full moon shone very brightly; it seems therefore natural enough, that, instead of going to rest, he seated himself at the open window, to stare at the moon, and think of his beloved, according to the usual custom of gentlemen, more particularly if they happen to be somewhat romantic⁠—when under the influence of the tender passion.

But, however it may lower Mr. Peregrine Tyss with the ladies, it must not be concealed that, in spite of all his enthusiasm, he gaped twice, and so loudly, that a drunkard in the streets below called out to him, “Holla! you there with the white nightcap, don’t swallow me.” This of course was a sufficient cause for his dashing down the window so violently, that the frame rattled again. It is even affirmed that, in so doing, he cried out loud enough, “Impudent scoundrel!” But this cannot be relied upon, as it by no means accords with his general suavity of disposition. Enough; he shut the window, and went to bed. The necessity for sleep, however, seemed to be superseded by that immoderate gaping. Thoughts upon thoughts crossed his brain, and with peculiar vividness came before his eyes the surmounted danger, when a darker power would have tempted him to the use of the microscopic glass, and now it became plain to him that Master Flea’s mysterious present, however well intended, was yet in all respects a gift from hell.

“How!” said Peregrine to himself, “For a man to read the most hidden thoughts of his brothers! Does not this fateful gift bring upon him the dreadful destiny of the Wandering Jew, who wandered through the motliest crowds of life, as through a desert, without joy, without hope, without pain, in dull indifference, which is the caput mortuum of despair? Always trusting anew and always most bitterly deceived, how can it be otherwise than that distrust, hatred, jealousy, vindictiveness would nestle firmly in the soul, destroying every trace of that human principle, which shows itself in benevolence and gentle confidence. No, your friendly face, your smooth words, shall not deceive me⁠—you, who in your inmost heart are concealing perhaps unmerited hate against me: I will hold you for my friend, I will do you as much good as I can, I will open my soul to you, because it gratifies me, and the bitter feeling of the moment, if you should deceive me, is little in comparison with the joys of a past dream. Even too the real friends, who truly mean you well⁠—how changeable is the mind of man! May not an evil coincidence of circumstances, a misinclination growing out of the whims of chance, create transitory hatred in the bosom of the dearest friends? The unlucky glass shows the thoughts, distrust immediately occupies the mind, and in unjust wrath I push from me the real friend, and this poison goes on, eating deeper and deeper into the roots of life, till I am at variance with everything, even with myself. No; it is rank impiety to wish for an equality with the Eternal Power, who sees through the heart of man, because he is its master. Away, away with the unlucky gift!”

He caught up the little box, which held the magic glass, and was on the point of dashing it against the floor with all his might, when suddenly Master Flea stood before him on the counterpane: he was in his microscopic form, and looked extremely graceful and handsome, in a glittering scale-breastplate, and highly-polished golden boots.

“Hold!” he cried; “hold, most respected friend; do not commit an absurdity. You would sooner annihilate a sun-moat than fling this little indestructible glass but a foot from you, while I am near. For the rest, though you were not aware of it, I was sitting, as usual, in the folds of your neckcloth, when you were at the honest bookbinder’s, and therefore heard and saw all that passed. Just so I have been a party to your present edifying soliloquy, and have learned several things from it. In the first place, you have shown the purity of your mind in all its glory, whence I infer that the decisive moment is fast approaching. Then too I have found that in regard to the microscopic glass, I was in a great error. Believe me, my honoured friend, although I have not the pleasure to be a man, as you are, but only a flea⁠—no simple one, indeed, but a graduate⁠—still I thoroughly understand human beings, amongst whom I so constantly live. Most frequently their actions appear to me very ridiculous, and even childish. Do not take it ill, my friend; I speak it only as Master Flea. You are right. It would be a bad thing, and could not possibly lead to any good, if a man were able to spy thus, without ceremony, into the brains of his neighbours; still to the careless, lively flea this quality of the microscopic glass is not in the least dangerous.

“Most honoured friend, and as fortune soon will have it, most happy friend⁠—you know that my people are of a reckless, merry disposition, and one might say that they consisted of mere youthful springalds. With this I can, for my part, boast of a peculiar sort of wisdom, which in general is wanting to you children of men⁠—that is, I never do anything out of season. To bite is the principal business of my life, but I always bite in the right time and right place; lay that to your heart, my worthy friend.

“I will now back from your hands, and faithfully preserve the gift, intended for you, and which neither that preparation of a man, called Swammerdam, nor Leeuwenhoek, who wears himself out with petty envy, could possess. And now, my honoured Mr. Tyss, resign yourself to slumber. You will soon fall into a dreamy delirium, in which the great moment will reveal itself. At the right time I shall be with you again.”

Master Flea disappeared, and the brilliance, which he had spread, faded away in the darkness of the chamber, the curtains of which were closely drawn.

It fell out as Master Flea had said.

Peregrine fancied that he was lying on the banks of a murmuring wood stream, and heard the sighing of the wind, the whispering of the leaves, and the humming of a thousand insects that buzzed about him. Then it seemed as if strange voices were audible, plainer and still plainer, so that at last Peregrine thought he could make out words. But it was only a confused and stunning hubbub that reached his ear.

At length these words were pronounced by a solemn, hollow voice, that sounded clearer and clearer⁠—

“Unhappy king, Sekakis, thou who didst despise the intelligence of nature, who, blinded by the evil spells of a crafty demon, didst look upon the false Teraphim, instead of the real spirit!

“In that fate-fraught spot at Famagusta, buried in the deep mine of the earth, lay the talisman, but, when you destroyed yourself, there was no principle to rekindle its frozen powers. In vain you sacrificed your daughter, the beautiful Gamaheh; in vain was the amorous despair of the Thistle, Zeherit, but at the same time impotent and inoperative was the blood-thirst of the Leech-Prince. Even the awkward Genius, Thetel, was obliged to let go his sweet prey, for so mighty still, O king, Sekakis, was thy half-extinct idea, that thou couldst return the lost one to the primal element, from which she sprang.

“And ye, insane anatomists of nature, that ever the unhappy one should have fallen into your hands, when you discovered her in the petal of a tulip! That you should have tormented her with your detestable experiments, presuming, in your childish arrogance, that you could effect that by your wretched arts, which could only happen by the power of that sleeping talisman.

“And you, Master Flea, even to you it was not granted to pierce the mystery, for thy clear sight had not yet the power to penetrate the depths of earth, and see the frozen carbuncle.

“The stars now crossed each other in strange motions, and fearful constellations produced the wonderful, the inscrutable to the purblind sight of man. But still no starry conflict awoke the carbuncle, for the human mind was not born that could cherish it⁠—but at last⁠—

The wonder is fulfilled, the moment is come.

A bright shine flickered by Peregrine; he awoke out of his stupefaction, and⁠—to his no little surprise⁠—perceived Master Flea, who, in his microscopic form, but clad in a splendid drapery, and holding a blazing torch in his forepaws, busily skipped, up and down the chamber, and trilled forth the finest tones imaginable.

Peregrine strove to rouse himself from sleep, when suddenly a thousand fiery flashes quivered through the room, that in a short time seemed to be filled by one single glowing ball of fire. Then a mild aromatic breeze waved through the wild blaze, which soon died away into the softest moonlight.

Peregrine now found himself on a splendid throne in the rich garments of an Indian king, the sparkling diadem upon his head, the emblematic lotus-flower in his hand instead of a sceptre. The throne stood in the midst of a hall so large the eye could not take in its extent, and its thousand columns were slim cedars, aspiring to the heavens. Between them, roses and the most odorous flowers of every kind lifted up their heads from amidst a dark foliage, as if longing for the pure bright azure that glittered through the twined branches of the cedars, and seemed to look down upon them with the eyes of love.

Peregrine recognized himself; he felt that the carbuncle, rekindled into life, was glowing in his own breast.

In the farthest background the Genius, Thetel, was labouring to rise into the air, but never was able to reach half the height of the cedars, and fell back again to earth. Here the odious Leech-Prince was crawling with abominable contortions, now blowing himself out, and then again extending himself, and groaning out, all the time, “Gamaheh! Still mine!”

In the middle of the hall, upon colossal microscopes, sat Leeuwenhoek and Swammerdam, making most piteous faces, and reproachfully calling out to each other, “See now! that was the point in the horoscope, the meaning of which you could not interpret. The talisman is lost to us forever!”

Close upon the steps of the throne Dörtje Elverdink and George Pepusch seemed not so much to sleep as to be in a deep swoon.

Peregrine⁠—or, as we may now call him, King Sekakis⁠—flung back the regal mantle that covered his breast, and from within, the carbuncle shot forth dazzling beams, like Heaven’s fire, through the immense hall.

The Genius Thetel again tried to rise, but he fell away with a hollow groan into innumerable colourless flocks, which, driven by the wind, were lost in the bushes.

With the most horrible cries of agony, the Leech-Prince shrunk up, and vanished into the earth, while an indignant roar was heard, as if she reluctantly received into her bosom the odious fugitive. Leeuwenhoek and Swammerdam had sunk down from the microscopes into themselves, and it was plain, from their sighs and groans, that they were undergoing a severe punishment.

But Dörtje Elverdink and George Pepusch⁠—or, as we should now call them, Princess Gamaheh and the Thistle, Zeherit⁠—had awakened from their swoon, and knelt before the king. Their eyes were cast to earth, as if unable to bear the burning splendour of the carbuncle.

Peregrine addressed them all with solemnity:

“Thou, who shouldst deceive men as the Genius, Thetel, thou wert compounded by the evil demon of clay and feathers, and therefore the beaming of love destroyed thee, empty phantom, and thou wert reduced to thy original nothing.

“And thou too, bloodthirsty monster of the night, thou wast forced to fly from the fire of the carbuncle into the bosom of the earth.

“But you, poor dupes, unhappy Swammerdam, wretched Leeuwenhoek, your whole life was one incessant error. You sought to inquire into Nature, without suspecting the import of her inward being. You were presumptuous enough to wish to penetrate into her workshop and watch her secret labours, imagining that you could, without punishment, look into the fearful mysteries of those depths, which are inscrutable to the human eye. Your hearts remained cold and insensible; the real love has never warmed your bosom. You imagined that you read the holy wonders of nature with pious admiration, but in endeavouring to find out the condition of those wonders, even in their inmost core, yourself destroyed that pious feeling, and the knowledge after which you strove was a phantom merely, that has deceived you, like prying, inquisitive children.

“Fools! For you the beams of the carbuncle no longer have hope or consolation.”

“Ha! ha! There is hope, there is consolation; the old one betakes herself to the old ones; there’s love! there’s truth! there’s tenderness! And the old one is now really a queen, and takes her little Swammerdam and her little Leeuwenhoek into her kingdom, and there they are princes, and wind gold thread and silver thread, and do many other useful things.”

So spoke the old Alina, who suddenly stood between the two microscopists, clad in a strange dress, which nearly resembled the costume of the Queen of Golconda in the opera. But Leeuwenhoek and Swammerdam had so shrunk up, that they seemed to be scarcely a span high, and the Queen of Golconda, putting her puppets into two ivory cradles, rocked and nursed them, and sang to them⁠—Lullaby, lullaby, baby mine, etc.

During this the Princess Gamaheh and the Thistle, Zeherit, were still kneeling on the steps of the throne. Peregrine spoke:

“Yes, beloved pair, the error is past, which disturbed your lives. Come, dear ones, to my breast. The beam of the carbuncle will penetrate your hearts, and you will enjoy the blessedness of Heaven.”

With a cry of joy and hope, the lovers started up, and Peregrine pressed them strongly to his glowing heart. When he released them, they fell, transported, into each others arms; the corpse-like paleness had vanished from their brows, and the freshness of youth bloomed on their cheeks and sparkled in their eyes.

Master Flea, who had hitherto stood by the throne with all the gravity of a guard of honour, suddenly resumed his natural shape, and with a vigorous spring he leaped upon Dörtje’s neck, crying out, in a shrill voice, “Old love never changes.”

But, oh wonder! in the same moment, Rose lay upon Peregrine’s breast, in all her youthful beauty, beaming with the purest love, like a cherub from Heaven.

And now the branches of the cedars rustled, the flowers lifted their heads more loftily, soft melodies poured from the bushes, and the thousand voices of delight rose from earth, and air, and water.

Mr. Peregrine Tyss had purchased a handsome villa in the vicinity of the city, and here on the same day was to be celebrated the double marriage of himself with Rose, and his friend George Pepusch with the little Dörtje Elverdink.

The kind reader will excuse my entering into the details of the nuptial feast and ceremonies. For my part I am willing to leave it to my fair readers to settle the dress of the two brides according to their own fancy. It is only to be observed that Peregrine and his beautiful Rose were all simple delight, while George and Dörtje, on the contrary, were meditative, and with mutual gaze seemed to have thoughts, eyes, and ears for each other only.

It was midnight, when suddenly the balsamic odours of the large-blossomed thistle spread through the whole garden.

Peregrine awoke from sleep. He fancied that he heard the plaintive melody of hopeless desire, and a strange foreboding got possession of him. It seemed to him as if a friend were violently torn from him.

The next morning the second bridal pair was missing, namely, George Pepusch and Dörtje Elverdink; what added not a little to the general astonishment was that they had not at all entered the bridal chamber.

In this moment of doubt, the gardener came and exclaimed, “He did not know what to think of it, but a strange wonder had happened in the garden. Throughout the whole night he had dreamt of the blooming Cactus grandiflorus, and not till now discovered the cause of it. They should only come and see!”

Peregrine and Rose went into the garden. In the middle of a clump of flowers a lofty thistle had shot up, which drooped its withering blossom beneath the morning sun; about this a variegated tulip wound itself, and that also had died a vegetable death.

“Oh, my foreboding!” cried Peregrine, while his voice trembled with sadness. “Oh, my foreboding! it has not deceived me. The beams of the carbuncle, which have kindled me to the highest life, have given death to thee, thou sweet pair, united by the strange discords of opposing powers. The mystery is revealed: the highest moment of gratified desire was also the moment of thy death.”

Rose too seemed to have a foreboding of the wonder; she bent over the poor perished tulip, and shed a stream of tears.

“You are quite right,” said Master Flea, who suddenly appeared in his microscopic form on the top of the thistle, “You are quite right, my dear Mr. Peregrine. It is all as you have said, and I have lost my beloved forever.”

Rose was at first somewhat frightened at the little creature, but seeing that he gazed on her with such friendly, intelligent eyes, and Peregrine spoke so familiarly with him, she took heart, looked boldly on his graceful tiny form, and gained so much the more confidence in him as Peregrine whispered to her, “this is my kind Master Flea.”

“My good Peregrine,” said Master Flea very tenderly, “My dear lady, I must now leave you, and return to my people; yet I shall always be your devoted friend, and you shall constantly experience my presence in a way that will be agreeable to you. Farewell! heartily farewell to both of you. And all good fortune be with you.”

During this he had resumed his natural form, and vanished without leaving a single trace behind.

Here the records suddenly break off, and the wonderful history of Master Flea comes to a joyous and⁠—wished-for⁠—end.