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    Chapter 7

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    Chapter 8
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    The moment of retiring, to which I had been looking forward with
    considerable interest as one likely to bring fresh surprises, arrived at
    last: it brought only extreme discomfort. I was conducted (without a
    flat candlestick) along an obscure passage; then, at right angles with
    the first, a second broader, lighter passage, leading past a great many
    doors placed near together. These, I ascertained later, were the
    dormitories, or sleeping-cells, and were placed side by side in a row
    opening on the terrace at the back of the house. Having reached the door
    of my box, my conductor pushed back the sliding-panel, and when I had
    groped my way to the dark interior, closed it again behind me. There was
    no light for me except the light of the stars; for directly opposite the
    door by which I had entered stood another, open wide to the night, which
    was apparently not intended ever to be closed. The prospect was the one
    I had already seen--the wilderness sloping to the river, and the glassy
    surface of the broad water, reflecting the stars, and the black masses
    of large trees. There was no sound save the hooting of an owl in the
    distance, and the wailing note of some mournful-minded water-fowl. The
    night air blew in cold and moist, which made my bones ache, though they
    were not broken; and feeling very sleepy and miserable, I groped about
    until I Was rewarded by discovering a narrow bed, or cot of
    trellis-work, on which was a hard straw pallet and a small straw pillow;
    also, folded small, a kind of woolen sleeping garment. Too tired to keep
    out of even such an uninviting bed, I flung off my clothes, and with my
    moldy tweeds for only covering I laid me down, but not to sleep. The
    misery of it! for although my body was warm--too warm, in fact--the wind
    blew on my face and bare feet and legs, and made it impossible to sleep.

    About midnight, I was just falling into a doze when a sound as of a
    person coming with a series of jumps into the room disturbed me; and
    starting up I was horrified to see, sitting on the floor, a great beast
    much too big for a dog, with large, erect ears. He was intently watching
    me, his round eyes shining like a pair of green phosphorescent globes.
    Having no weapon, I was at the brute's mercy, and was about to utter a
    loud shout to summon assistance, but as he sat so still I refrained, and
    began even to hope that he would go quietly away. Then he stood up, went
    back to the door and sniffed audibly at it; and thinking that he was
    about to relieve me of his unwelcome presence, I dropped my head on the
    pillow and lay perfectly still. Then he turned and glared at me again,
    and finally, advancing deliberately to my side, sniffed at my face. It
    was all over with me now, I thought, and closing my eyes, and feeling my
    forehead growing remarkably moist in spite of the cold, I murmured a
    little prayer. When I looked again the brute had vanished, to my
    inexpressible relief.

    It seemed very astonishing that an animal like a wolf should come into
    the house; but I soon remembered that I had seen no dogs about, so that
    all kinds of savage, prowling beasts could come in with impunity. It was
    getting beyond a joke: but then all this seemed only a fit ending to the
    perfectly absurd arrangement into which I had been induced to enter.
    "Goodness gracious!" I exclaimed, sitting bolt upright on my straw bed,
    "am I a rational being or an inebriated donkey, or what, to have
    consented to such a proposal? It is clear that I was not quite in my
    right mind when I made the agreement, and I am therefore not morally
    bound to observe it. What! be a field laborer, a hewer of wood and
    drawer of water, and sleep on a miserable straw mat in an open porch,
    with wolves for visitors at all hours of the night, and all for a few
    barbarous rags! I don't know much about plowing and that sort of thing,
    but I suppose any able-bodied man can earn a pound a week, and that
    would be fifty-two pounds for a suit of clothes. Who ever heard of such
    a thing! Wolves and all thrown in for nothing! I daresay I shall have a
    tiger dropping in presently just to have a look round. No, no, my
    venerable friend, that was all excellent acting about my extraordinary
    delusions, and the rest of it, but I am not going to be carried so far
    by them as to adhere to such an outrageously one-sided bargain."

    Presently I remembered two things--divine Yoletta was the first; and the
    second was that thought of the rare pleasure it would be to array myself
    in those same "barbarous rags," as I had blasphemously called them.
    These things had entered into my soul, and had become a part of
    me--especially--well, both. Those strange garments had looked so
    refreshingly picturesque, and I had conceived such an intense longing to
    wear them! Was it a very contemptible ambition on my part? Is it sinful
    to wish for any adornments other than wisdom and sobriety, a meek and
    loving spirit, good works, and other things of the kind? Straight into
    my brain flashed the words of a sentence I had recently read--that is to
    say, just before my accident--in a biological work, and it comforted me
    as much as if an angel with shining face and rainbow-colored wings had
    paid me a visit in my dusky cell: "Unto Adam also, and his wife, did the
    Lord God make coats of skin and clothed them. This has become, as every
    one knows, a custom among the race of men, and shows at present no sign
    of becoming obsolete. Moreover, that first correlation, namely,
    milk-glands and a hairy covering, appears to have entered the very soul
    of creatures of this class, and to have become psychical as well as
    physical, for in that type, which is only _for a while_ inferior to
    the angels, the fondness for this kind of outer covering is a strong,
    ineradicable passion!" Most true and noble words, O biologist of the
    fiery soul! It was a delight to remember them. A "strong and
    ineradicable passion," not merely to clothe the body, but to clothe it
    appropriately, that is to say, beautifully, and by so doing please God
    and ourselves. This being so, must we go on for ever scraping our faces
    with a sharp iron, until they are blue and spotty with manifold
    scrapings; and cropping our hair short to give ourselves an artificial
    resemblance to old dogs and monkeys--creatures lower than us in the
    scale of being--and array our bodies, like mutes at a funeral, in
    repulsive black--we, "Eutheria of the Eutheria, the noble of the noble?"
    And all for what, since it pleases not heaven nor accords with our own
    desires? For the sake of respectability, perhaps, whatever that may
    mean. Oh, then, a million curses take it--respectability, I mean; may it
    sink into the bottomless pit, and the smoke of its torment ascend for
    ever and ever! And having thus, by taking thought, brought my mind into
    this temper, I once more finally determined to have the clothes, and
    religiously to observe the compact.

    It made me quite happy to end it in this way. The hard bed, the cold
    night wind blowing on me, my wolfish visitor, were all forgotten. Once
    more I gave loose to my imagination, and saw myself (clothed and in my
    right mind) sitting at Yoletta's feet, learning the mystery of that
    sweet, tranquil life from her precious lips. A whole year was mine in
    which to love her and win her gentle heart. But her hand--ah, that was
    another matter. What had I to give in return for such a boon as that?
    Only that strength concerning which my venerable host had spoken
    somewhat encouragingly. He had also been so good as to mention my skill;
    but I could scarcely trade on that. And if a whole year's labor was only
    sufficient to pay for a suit of clothing, how many years of toil would
    be required to win Yoletta's hand?

    Naturally, at this juncture, I began to draw a parallel between my case
    and that of an ancient historical personage, whose name is familiar to
    most. History repeats itself--with variations. Jacob--namely,
    Smith--cometh to the well of Haran. He taketh acquaintance of Rachel,
    here called Yoletta. And Jacob kissed Rachel, and lifted up his voice
    and wept. That is a touch of nature I can thoroughly appreciate--the
    kissing, I mean; but why he wept I cannot tell, unless it be because he
    was not an Englishman. And Jacob told Rachel that he was her father's
    brother. I am glad to have no such startling piece of information to
    give to the object of my affections: we are not even distant relations,
    and her age being, say, fifteen, and mine twenty-one, we are so far well
    suited to each other, according to my notions. Smith covenanted! for
    Yoletta, and said: "I will serve thee seven years for Yoletta, thy
    younger daughter"; and the old gentleman answered: "Abide with me, for I
    would rather you should have her than some other person." Now I wonder
    whether the matter will be complicated with Leah--that is, Edra? Leah
    was considerably older than Rachel, and, like Edra, tender-eyed. I do
    not aspire or desire to marry both, especially if I should, like Jacob,
    have to begin with the wrong one, however tender-eyed: but for divine
    Yoletta I could serve seven years; yea, and fourteen, if it comes to it.

    Thus I mused, and thus I questioned, tossing and turning on my
    inhospitable hard bed, until merciful sleep laid her quieting hands on
    the strings of my brain, and hushed their weary jangling.
    Next Chapter
    Chapter 8
    Previous Chapter
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