Fitz-James O'Brien: The Pot of Tulips

T

WEN­TY-EIGHT years ago I went to spend the sum­mer at an old Dutch villa which then lift­ed its head from the wild coun­try that, in pre­sent days, has been tamed down into a site for a Crys­tal Palace. Madi­son Square was then a wilder­ness of fields and scrub oak, here and there di­ver­si­fied with tall and state­ly elms. Wor­thy cit­i­zens who could af­ford two es­tab­lish­ments rus­ti­cat­ed in the groves that then flour­ished where ranks of brown-stone por­ti­cos now form the land­scape; and the lo­cal­i­ty of For­ti­eth Street, where my sum­mer palace stood, was just­ly looked upon as at an en­ter­pris­ing dis­tance from the city.

I had an im­pe­ri­ous de­sire to live in this house ever since I can re­mem­ber. I had often seen it when a boy, and its cool ve­ran­das and quaint gar­den seemed, when­ev­er I passed, to at­tract me ir­re­sistibly. In after years, when I grew up to man's es­tate, I was not sorry, there­fore, when one sum­mer, fa­tigued with the labors of my busi­ness, I be­held a no­tice in the pa­pers in­ti­mat­ing that it was to be let fur­nished. I has­tened to my dear friend, Jasper Joye, paint­ed the de­lights of this rural re­treat in the most glow­ing col­ors, eas­i­ly ob­tained his as­sent to share the en­joy­ments and the ex­pense with me, and a month af­ter­ward we were tak­ing our ease in this new par­adise.

In­de­pen­dent of early as­so­ci­a­tions, other in­ter­ests at­tached me to this house. It was some­what his­tor­i­cal, and had given shel­ter to George Wash­ing­ton on the oc­ca­sion of one of his vis­its to the city. Fur­ther­more, I knew the de­scen­dants of the fam­i­ly to whom it had orig­i­nal­ly be­longed. Their his­to­ry was strange and mourn­ful, and it seemed to me as if their in­di­vid­u­al­i­ty was some­how shared by the ed­i­fice. It had been built by a Mr. Van Ko­eren, a gen­tle­man of Hol­land, the younger son of a rich mer­can­tile firm at the Hague, who had em­i­grat­ed to this coun­try in order to es­tab­lish a branch of his fa­ther's busi­ness in New York, which even then gave in­di­ca­tions of the pros­per­i­ty it has since reached with such mar­vel­lous ra­pid­i­ty. He had brought with him a fair young Bel­gian wife; a lov­ing girl, if I may be­lieve her por­trait, with soft brown eyes, chest­nut hair, and a deep, placid con­tent­ment spread­ing over her fresh and in­no­cent fea­tures. Her son, Alain Van Ko­eren, had her pic­ture an old minia­ture in a red gold frame as well as that of his fa­ther, and in truth, when look­ing on the two, one could not con­ceive a greater con­trast than must have ex­ist­ed be­tween hus­band and wife. Mr. Van Ko­eren must have been a man of ter­ri­ble will and gloomy tem­per­a­ment. His face in the pic­ture is dark and aus­tere, his eyes deep-sunken, and burn­ing as if with a slow, in­ward fire. The lips are thin and com­pressed, with much de­ter­mi­na­tion of pur­pose; and his chin, bold­ly salient, is brim­ful of power and res­o­lu­tion. When first I saw those two pic­tures I sighed in­ward­ly and thought, "Poor child! you must often have sighed for the sunny mead­ows of Brus­sels, in the long, gloomy nights spent in the com­pa­ny of that ter­ri­ble man! "

I was not far wrong, as I af­ter­ward dis­cov­ered. Mr. and Mrs. Van Ko­eren were very un­hap­py. Jeal­ousy was his mono­ma­nia, and he had scarce­ly been mar­ried be­fore his girl-wife began to feel the op­pres­sion of a gloomy and cease­less tyran­ny. Every man under fifty, whose hair was not white and whose form was erect, was an ob­ject of sus­pi­cion to this Dutch Blue­beard. Not that he was vul­gar­ly jeal­ous. He did not frown at his wife be­fore strangers, or at­tack her with re­proach­es in the midst of her fes­tiv­i­ties. He was too well-bred a man to bare his pri­vate woes to the world. But at night, when the guests had de­part­ed and the dull light of the quaint old Flem­ish lamps but half il­lu­mi­nat­ed the nup­tial cham­ber, then it was that with monotonous in­vec­tive Mr. Van Ko­eren crushed his wife. And Marie, weep­ing and silent, would sit on the edge of the bed lis­ten­ing to the cold, tren­chant irony of her hus­band, who, pac­ing up and down the room, would now and then stop in his walk to gaze with his burn­ing eyes upon the pal­lid face of his vic­tim. Even the ev­i­dences that Marie gave of be­com­ing a moth­er did not check him. He saw in that com­ing event, which most hus­bands an­tic­i­pate with min­gled joy and fear, only an ap­proach­ing in­car­na­tion of his dis­hon­or. He watched with a hor­ri­ble re­fine­ment of sus­pi­cion for the ar­rival of that being in whose fea­tures he madly be­lieved he should but too sure­ly trace the ev­i­dences of his wife's crime.

Whether it was that these cease­less at­tacks wore out her strength, or that Prov­i­dence wished to add an­oth­er chas­ten­ing mis­ery to her bur­den of woe, I dare not spec­u­late; but it is cer­tain that one luck­less night Mr. Van Ko­eren learned with fury that he had be­come a fa­ther two months be­fore the al­lot­ted time. Dur­ing his first parox­ysm of rage, on the re­ceipt of in­tel­li­gence which seemed to con­firm all his pre­vi­ous sus­pi­cions, it was, I be­lieve, with dif­fi­cul­ty that he was pre­vent­ed from slay­ing both the in­no­cent caus­es of his re­sent­ment. The cau­tion of his race and the pres­ence of the physi­cians in­duced him, how­ev­er, to put a curb upon his fu­ri­ous will until re­flec­tion sug­gest­ed quite as crim­i­nal, if not as dan­ger­ous, a vengeance. As soon as his poor wife had re­cov­ered from her ill­ness, un­nat­u­ral­ly pro­longed by the del­i­ca­cy of con­sti­tu­tion in­duced by pre­vi­ous men­tal suf­fer­ing, she was as­ton­ished to find, in­stead of in­creas­ing his per­se­cu­tions, that her hus­band had changed his tac­tics and treat­ed her with stud­ied ne­glect. He rarely spoke to her ex­cept on oc­ca­sions when the de­cen­cies of so­ci­ety de­mand­ed that he should ad­dress her. He avoid­ed her pres­ence, and no longer in­hab­it­ed the same apart­ments. He seemed, in short, to strive as much as pos­si­ble to for­get her ex­is­tence. But if she did not suf­fer from per­son­al ill-treat­ment it was be­cause a pun­ish­ment more acute was in store for her. If Mr. Van Ko­eren had cho­sen to af­fect to con­sid­er her be­neath his vengeance, it was be­cause his hate had taken an­oth­er di­rec­tion, and seemed to have de­rived in­creased in­ten­si­ty from the al­ter­ation. It was upon the un­hap­py boy, the cause of all this mis­ery, that the fa­ther lav­ished a ter­ri­ble ha­tred. Mr. Van Ko­eren seemed de­ter­mined, that, if this child sprang from other loins than his, the mourn­ful des­tiny which he forced upon him should amply avenge his own ex­is­tence and the in­fi­deli­ty of his moth­er. While the child was an in­fant his plan seemed to have been formed. Ig­no­rance and ne­glect were the two dead­ly in­flu­ences with which he sought to as­sas­si­nate the moral na­ture of this boy; and his ter­ri­ble cam­paign against the virtue of his own son was, as he grew up, car­ried into ex­e­cu­tion with the most con­sum­mate gen­er­al­ship. He gave him money, but de­barred him from ed­u­ca­tion.

He al­lowed him lib­er­ty of ac­tion, but with­held ad­vice. It was in vain that his moth­er, who fore­saw the fright­ful con­se­quences of such a train­ing, sought in se­cret by every means in her power to nul­li­fy her hus­band's at­tempts. She strove in vain to se­duce her son into an am­bi­tion to be ed­u­cat­ed. She be­held with hor­ror all her ag­o­nized ef­forts frus­trat­ed, and saw her son and only child be­com­ing, even in his youth, a drunk­ard and a lib­er­tine. In the end it proved too much for her strength; she sick­ened, and went home to her sunny Bel­gian plains. There she lin­gered for a few months in a calm but rapid decay, whose calm­ness was bro­ken but by the one grief; until one au­tumn day, when the leaves were falling from the limes, she made a lit­tle prayer for her son to the good God, and died. Vain ori­son! Spendthrift, gamester, lib­er­tine, and drunk­ard by turns, Alain Van Ko­eren's earth­ly des­tiny was un­change­able. The fa­ther, who should have been his guide, looked on each fresh de­prav­i­ty of his son's with a species of grim de­light. Even the death of his wronged wife had no ef­fect upon his fatal pur­pose. He still per­mit­ted the young man to run blind­ly to de­struc­tion by the course into which he him­self had led him.

As years rolled by, and Mr. Van Ko­eren him­self ap­proached to that time of life when he might soon ex­pect to fol­low his per­se­cut­ed wife, he re­lieved him­self of the hate­ful pres­ence of his son al­to­geth­er. Even the link of a sys­tem­at­ic vengeance, which had hith­er­to unit­ed them, was sev­ered, and Alain was cast adrift with­out ei­ther money or prin­ci­ple. The oc­ca­sion of this final sep­a­ra­tion be­tween fa­ther and son was the mar­riage of the lat­ter with a girl of hum­ble, though hon­est ex­trac­tion. This was a good ex­cuse for the re­morse­less Van Ko­eren, so he availed him­self of it by turn­ing his son out of doors.

From that time forth they never met. Alain lived a life of mea­gre dis­si­pa­tion, and soon died, leav­ing be­hind him one child, a daugh­ter. By a co­in­ci­dence nat­u­ral enough, Mr. Van Ko­eren's death fol­lowed his son's al­most im­me­di­ate­ly. He died as he had lived, stern­ly. But those who were around his couch in his last mo­ments men­tioned some sin­gu­lar facts con­nect­ed with the man­ner of his death. A few mo­ments be­fore he ex­pired, he raised him­self in the bed, and seemed as if con­vers­ing with some per­son in­vis­i­ble to the spec­ta­tors. His lips moved as if in speech, and im­me­di­ate­ly af­ter­ward he sank back, bathed in a flood of tears. "Wrong! wrong!" he was heard to mut­ter, fee­bly; then he im­plored pas­sion­ate­ly the for­give­ness of some one who, he said, was pre­sent. The death strug­gle en­sued al­most im­me­di­ate­ly, and in the midst of his agony he seemed wrestling for speech. All that could be heard, how­ev­er, were a few bro­ken words. "I was wrong. My un­found­ed For God's sake look in You will find." Hav­ing ut­tered these frag­men­tary sen­tences, he seemed to feel that the power of speech had passed away for­ev­er. He fixed his eyes piteous­ly on those around him, and, with a great sigh of grief, ex­pired. I gath­ered these facts from his grand­daugh­ter and Alain's daugh­ter, Alice Van Ko­eren, who had been sum­moned by some friend to her grand­fa­ther's dying couch when it was too late. It was the first time she had seen him, and then she saw him die.

The re­sults of Mr. Van Ko­eren's death were a nine days' won­der to all the mer­chants in New York. Be­yond a small sum in the bank, and the house in which he lived, which was mort­gaged for its full value, Mr. Van Ko­eren had died a pau­per! To those who knew him and knew his af­fairs, this seemed in­ex­pli­ca­ble. Five or six years be­fore his death he had re­tired from busi­ness with a for­tune of sev­er­al hun­dred thou­sand dol­lars. He had lived qui­et­ly since then, was known not to have spec­u­lat­ed, and could not have gam­bled. The ques­tion then was, where had his wealth van­ished to. Search was made in every sec­re­tary, in every bu­reau, for some doc­u­ment which might throw a light on the mys­te­ri­ous dis­po­si­tion that he had made of his prop­er­ty. None was found. Nei­ther will, nor cer­tifi­cates of stock, nor title deeds, nor bank ac­counts, were any­where dis­cernible. In­quiries were made at the of­fices of com­pa­nies in which Mr. Van Ko­eren was known to be large­ly in­ter­est­ed; he had sold out his stock years ago. Real es­tate that had been be­lieved to be his was found on in­ves­ti­ga­tion to have passed into other hands. There could be no doubt that for some years past Mr. Van Ko­eren had been steadi­ly con­vert­ing all his prop­er­ty into money, and what he had done with that money no one knew. Alice Van Ko­eren and her moth­er, who at the old gen­tle­man's death were at first looked on as mil­lion­naires, dis­cov­ered, when all was over, that they were no bet­ter off than be­fore. It was ev­i­dent that the old man, de­ter­mined that one whom, though bear­ing his name, he be­lieved not to be of his blood, should never in­her­it his wealth or any share of it, had made away with his for­tune be­fore his death, a posthu­mous vengeance which was the only one by which the laws of the State of New York rel­a­tive to in­her­i­tance could be suc­cess­ful­ly evad­ed.

I took a pe­cu­liar in­ter­est in the case, and even helped to make some re­search­es for the lost prop­er­ty, not so much, I con­fess, from a spir­it of gen­er­al phi­lan­thropy, as from cer­tain feel­ings which I ex­pe­ri­enced to­ward Alice Van Ko­eren, the heir to this in­vis­i­ble es­tate. I had long known both her and her moth­er, when they were liv­ing in hon­est pover­ty and earn­ing a scanty sub­sis­tence by their own labor; Mrs. Van Ko­eren work­ing as an em­broi­der­ess, and Alice turn­ing to ac­count, as a prepara­to­ry gov­erness, the ed­u­ca­tion which her good moth­er, spite of her lim­it­ed means, had be­stowed on her.

In a few words, then, I loved Alice Van Ko­eren, and was de­ter­mined to make her my wife as soon as my means would allow me to sup­port a fit­ting es­tab­lish­ment. My pas­sion had never been de­clared. I was con­tent for the time with the se­cret con­scious­ness of my own love, and the no less grate­ful cer­tain­ty that Alice re­turned it, all un­ut­tered as it was. I had, there­fore, a dou­ble in­ter­est in pass­ing the sum­mer at the old Dutch villa, for I felt it to be con­nect­ed some­how with Alice, and I could not for­get the sin­gu­lar de­sire to in­hab­it it which I had so often ex­pe­ri­enced as a boy.

It was a love­ly day in June when Jasper Joye and my­self took up our abode in our new res­i­dence; and as we smoked our cigars on the pi­az­za in the evening we felt for the first time the un­al­loyed plea­sure with which a towns­man breathes the puie air of the coun­try.

The house and grounds had a quaint sort of beau­ty that to me was em­i­nent­ly pleas­ing. Land­scape gar­den­ing, in the mod­ern ac­cep­ta­tion of the term, was then al­most un­known in this coun­try, and the " lay­ing out " of the gar­den that sur­round­ed our new home would doubt­less have shocked Mr. Lon­don, the late Mr. Down­ing, or Sir Thomas Dick Laud­er. It was for­mal and ar­ti­fi­cial to the last de­gree. The beds were cut into long par­al­lel­o­grams, rigid and se­vere of as­pect, and edged with prim rows of stiff dwarf box. The walks, of course, crossed al­ways at right an­gles, and the lau­rel and cy­press trees that grew here and there were clipped into cones, and spheres, and rhom­boids. It is true that, at the time my friend and I hired the house, years of ne­glect had re­stored to this for­mal gar­den some­what of the ragged­ness of na­ture. The box edg­ings were rank and wild. The clipped trees, for­get­ful of ge­o­met­ric pro­pri­ety, flour­ished into unau­tho­rized boughs and rebel off­shoots. The walks were green with moss, and the beds of Dutch tulips, which had been plant­ed in the shape of cer­tain gor­geous birds, whose col­ors were rep­re­sent­ed by mass­es of blos­soms, each of a sin­gle hue, had trans­gressed their lim­its, and the pur­ple of a par­rot's wings might have been seen run­ning reck­less­ly into the crim­son of his head; while, as bulbs, how­ev­er well-bred, will cre­ate other bulbs, the flow­er-birds of this queer old Dutch gar­den be­came in time abom­inably dis­tort­ed in shape; flamin­goes with humps, gold­en pheas­ants with legs preter­nat­u­ral­ly elon­gat­ed, macaws af­flict­ed with hy­dro­cephalus, each species of de­for­mi­ty being pro­por­tioned to the ra­pid­i­ty with which the roots had spread in some par­tic­u­lar di­rec­tion. Still, this strange mix­ture of ragged­ness and for­mal­i­ty, this con­glom­er­ate of na­ture and art, had its charms. It was pleas­ant to watch the strug­gle, as it were, be­tween the op­pos­ing el­e­ments, and to see na­ture tri­umph­ing by de­grees in every di­rec­tion.

The house it­self was pleas­ant and com­modi­ous. Rooms that, though not lofty, were spa­cious; wide win­dows, and cool pi­az­zas ex­tend­ing over the four sides of the build­ing; and a col­lec­tion of an­tique carved fur­ni­ture, some of which, from its elab­o­rate­ness, might well have come from the chis­el of Mas­ter Grin­ling Gib­bons. There was a man­tel-piece in the din­ing-room, with which I re­mem­ber being very much struck when first I came to take pos­ses­sion. It was a sin­gu­lar and fan­tas­ti­cal piece of carv­ing. It was a per­fect trop­i­cal gar­den, menagerie, and aviary, in one. Birds, beasts, and flow­ers were sculp­tured on the wood with exquisite cor­rect­ness of de­tail, and paint­ed with the hues of na­ture. The Dutch taste for color was here fully grat­i­fied. Par­rots, love-birds, scar­let lo­ries, blue-faced ba­boons, crocodiles, pas­sion-flow­ers, tigers, Egyp­tian lilies, and Brazil­ian but­ter­flies, were all mixed in gor­geous con­fu­sion. The artist, who­ev­er he was, must have been an ad­mirable nat­u­ral­ist, for the ease and free­dom of his carv­ing were only equalled by the won­der­ful ac­cu­ra­cy with which the dif­fer­ent an­i­mals were rep­re­sent­ed. Al­to­geth­er it was one of those odd­i­ties of Dutch con­cep­tion, whose strangeness was in this in­stance re­deemed by the ex­cel­lence of the ex­e­cu­tion.

Such was the es­tab­lish­ment that Jasper Joye and my­self were to in­hab­it for the sum­mer months.

"What a strange thing it was," said Jasper, as we lounged on the pi­az­za to­geth­er the night of our ar­rival, "that old Van Ko­eren's prop­er­ty should never have turned up!"

"It is a ques­tion with some peo­ple whether he had any at his death," I an­swered.

"Pshaw! every one knows that he did not or could not have lost that with which he re­tired from busi­ness."

"It is strange," said I, thought­ful­ly, "yet every pos­si­ble search has been made for doc­u­ments that might throw light on the mys­tery. I have my­self sought in every quar­ter for traces of this lost wealth, but in vain."

"Per­haps he buried it," sug­gest­ed Jasper, laugh­ing; "if so, we may find it here in a hole one fine morn­ing."

"I think it much more like­ly that he de­stroyed it," I replied. "You know he never could be got to be­lieve that Alain Van Ko­eren was his son, and I be­lieve him quite ca­pa­ble of hav­ing flung all his money into the sea in order to pre­vent those whom he con­sid­ered not of his blood in­her­it­ing it, which they must have done under our laws."

"I am sorry that Alice did not be­come an heiress, both for your sake and hers. She is a charm­ing girl."

Jasper, from whom I con­cealed noth­ing, knew of my love.

"As to that," I an­swered, "it is lit­tle mat­ter. I shall in a year or two be in­de­pen­dent enough to marry, and can af­ford to let Mr. Van Ko­eren's cher­ished gold sleep wher­ev­er he has con­cealed it."

"Well, I 'm off to bed," said Jasper, yawn­ing. "This coun­try air makes one sleepy early. Be on the look­out for trap-doors and all that sort of thing, old fel­low. Who knows but the old chap's dol­lars will turn up. Good night! "

"Good night, Jasper!"

So we part­ed for the night. He to his room, which lay on the west side of the build­ing; I to mine on the east, sit­u­at­ed at the end of a long cor­ri­dor and ex­act­ly op­po­site to Jasper's.

The night was very still and warm. The clear­ness with which I heard the song of the katy­did and the croak of the bull-frog seemed to make the si­lence more dis­tinct. The air was dense and breath­less, and, al­though long­ing to throw wide my win­dows, I dared not; for, out­side, the omi­nous trum­pet­ings of an army of mosquitoes sound­ed threat­en­ing­ly.

I tossed on my bed op­pressed with the heat; kicked the sheets into every spot where they ought not to be; turned my pil­low every two min­utes in the hope of find­ing a cool side; in short, did ev­ery­thing that a man does when he lies awake on a very hot night and can­not open his win­dow.

Sud­den­ly, in the midst of my mis­eries, and when I had made up my mind to fling open the case­ment in spite of the le­gion of mosquitoes that I knew were hun­gri­ly wait­ing out­side, I felt a con­tin­u­ous stream of cold air blow­ing upon my face. Lux­u­ri­ous as the sen­sa­tion was, I could not help start­ing as I felt it. Where could this draught come from ] The door was closed; so were the win­dows. It did not come from the di­rec­tion of the fire­place, and, even if it did, the air with­out was too still to pro­duce so strong a cur­rent. I rose in my bed and gazed round the room, the whole of which, though only lit by a dim twi­light, was still suf­fi­cient­ly vis­i­ble. I thought at first it was a trick of Jasper's, who might have pro­vid­ed him­self with a bel­lows or a long tube; but a care­ful in­ves­ti­ga­tion of the apart­ment con­vinced me that no one was pre­sent. Be­sides, I had locked the door, and it was not like­ly that any one had been con­cealed in the room be­fore I en­tered it. It was ex­ceed­ing­ly strange; but still the draught of cool wind blew on my face and chest, every now and then chang­ing its di­rec­tion, some­times on one side, some­times on the other. I am not con­sti­tu­tion­al­ly ner­vous, and had been too long ac­cus­tomed to re­flect on philo­soph­i­cal sub­jects to be­come the prey of fear in the pres­ence of mys­te­ri­ous phe­nom­e­na. I had de­vot­ed much time to the in­ves­ti­ga­tion of what are pop­u­lar­ly called su­per­nat­u­ral mat­ters, by those who have not re­flect­ed or ex­am­ined suf­fi­cient­ly to dis­cov­er that none of these ap­par­ent mir­a­cles are su­per-nat­u­ral, but all, how­ev­er sin­gu­lar, di­rect­ly de­pen­dent on cer­tain nat­u­ral laws. I be­came speed­i­ly con­vinced, there­fore, as I sat up in my bed peer­ing into the dim re­cess­es of my cham­ber, that this mys­te­ri­ous wind was the ef­fect or fore­run­ner of a su­per­nat­u­ral vis­i­ta­tion, and I men­tal­ly de­ter­mined to in­ves­ti­gate it, as it de­vel­oped it­self, with a philo­soph­i­cal calm­ness.

"Is any one in this room?" I asked, as dis­tinct­ly as I could. No reply; while the cool wind still swept over my cheek. I knew, in the case of Eliz­a­beth Es­linger, who was vis­it­ed by an ap­pari­tion while in the Weins­berg jail, and whose sin­gu­lar and ap­par­ent­ly au­then­tic ex­pe­ri­ences were made the sub­ject of a book by Dr. Kern­er, that the man­i­fes­ta­tion of the spir­it was in­vari­ably ac­com­pa­nied by such a breezy sen­sa­tion as I now ex­pe­ri­enced. I there­fore gath­ered my will, as it were, into a focus, and en­deav­ored, as much as lay in my power, to put my­self in ac­cord with the dis­em­bod­ied spir­it, if such there were, know­ing that on such con­di­tions alone would it be en­abled to man­i­fest it­self to me.

Present­ly it seemed as if a lu­mi­nous cloud was gath­er­ing in one cor­ner of the room, a sort of dim phos­pho­ric vapor, shad­owy and ill-de­fined. It changed its po­si­tion fre­quent­ly, some­times com­ing near­er and at oth­ers re­treat­ing to the fur­thest end of the room. As it grew in­tenser and more ra­di­ant, I ob­served a sick­en­ing and corpse-like odor dif­fuse it­self through the cham­ber, and, de­spite my anx­i­ety to wit­ness this phe­nomenon undis­turbed, I could with dif­fi­cul­ty con­quer a feel­ing of faint­ness which op­pressed me.

The lu­mi­nous cloud now began to grow brighter and brighter as I gazed. The hor­ri­ble odor of which I have spo­ken did not cease to op­press me, and grad­u­al­ly I could dis­cov­er cer­tain lines mak­ing them­selves vis­i­ble in the midst of this lam­bent ra­di­ance. These lines took the form of a human fig­ure, a tall man, clothed in a long dress­ing-robe, with a pale coun­te­nance, burn­ing eyes, and a very bold and promi­nent chin. At a glance I rec­og­nized the orig­i­nal of the pic­ture of old Van Ko­eren that I had seen with Alice. My in­ter­est was now aroused to the high­est point; I felt that I stood face to face with a spir­it, and doubt­ed not that I should learn the fate of the old man's mys­te­ri­ous­ly con­cealed wealth.

The spir­it pre­sent­ed a very strange ap­pear­ance. He him­self was not lu­mi­nous, ex­cept some tongues of fire that seemed to pro­ceed from the tips of his fin­gers, but was com­pleiely sur­round­ed by a thin gauze of light, so to speak, through which his out­lines were vis­i­ble. His head was bare, and his white hair fell in huge mass­es around his stern, sat­ur­nine face. As he moved on the floor, I dis­tinct­ly heard a strange crack­ling sound, such as one hears when a sub­stance has been over­charged with elec­tric­i­ty. But the cir­cum­stance that seemed to me most in­com­pre­hen­si­ble con­nect­ed with the ap­pari­tion was that Yan Ko­eren held in both hands a cu­ri­ous­ly paint­ed flow­er-pot, out of which sprang a num­ber of the most beau­ti­ful tulips in full blos­som. He seemed very un­easy and ag­i­tat­ed, and moved about the room as if in pain, fre­quent­ly bend­ing over the pot of tulips as if to in­hale their odor, then hold­ing it out to me, seem­ing­ly in the hope of at­tract­ing my at­ten­tion to it. I was, I con­fess, very much puz­zled. I knew that Mr. Van Ko­eren had in his life­time de­vot­ed much of his leisure to the cul­ti­va­tion of flow­ers, im­port­ing from Hol­land the most ex­pen­sive and rarest bulbs; but how this in­no­cent fancy could trou­ble him after death I could not imag­ine. I felt as­sured, how­ev­er, that some im­por­tant rea­son lay at the bot­tom of this spec­tral ec­cen­tric­i­ty, and de­ter­mined to fath­om it if I could.

"What brings you here?" I asked au­di­bly; di­rect­ing men­tal­ly, how­ev­er, at the same time, the ques­tion to the spir­it with all the power of my will. He did not seem to hear me, but still kept mov­ing un­easi­ly about, with the crack­ling noise I have men­tioned, and hold­ing the pot of tulips to­ward me.

"It is ev­i­dent," I said to my­self, "that I am not suf­fi­cient­ly in ac­cord with this spir­it for him to make him­self un­der­stood by speech. He has, there­fore, re­course to sym­bols. The pot of tulips is a sym­bol. But of what?"

Thus re­flect­ing on these things I con­tin­ued to gaze upon the spir­it. While ob­serv­ing him at­ten­tive­ly, he ap­proached my bed­side by a rapid move­ment, and laid one hand on my arm. The touch was icy cold, and pained me at the mo­ment. Next morn­ing my arm was swollen, and marked with a round blue spot. Then, pass­ing to my bed­room-door, the spir­it opened it and went out, shut­ting it be­hind him. Catch­ing for a mo­ment at the idea that I was the dupe of a trick, I jumped out of bed and ran to the door. It was locked with the key on the in­side, and a brass safe­ty-bolt, which lay above the lock, shot safe­ly home. All was as I had left it on going to bed. Yet I de­clare most solemn­ly, that, as the ghost made his exit, I not only saw the door open, but / saw the cor­ri­dor out­side, and dis­tinct­ly ob­served a large pic­ture of William of Or­ange that hung just op­po­site to my room. This to me was the most cu­ri­ous por­tion of the phe­nom­e­na I had wit­nessed. Ei­ther the door had been opened by the ghost, and the re­sis­tance of phys­i­cal ob­sta­cles over­come in some amaz­ing man­ner, be­cause in this case the bolts must have been re­placed when the ghost was out­side the door, or he must have had a suf­fi­cient mag­net­ic ac­cord with my mind to im­press upon it the be­lief that the door was opened, and also to con­jure up in my brain the vi­sion of the cor­ri­dor and the pic­ture, fea­tures that I should have seen if the door had been opened by any or­di­nary phys­i­cal agen­cy.

The next morn­ing at break­fast I sup­pose my man­ner must have be­trayed me, for Jasper said to me, after star­ing at me for some time, " Why, Harry Es­cott, what 's the mat­ter with you? You look as if you had seen a ghost!"

"So I have, Jasper."

Jasper, of course, burst into laugh­ter, and said he 'd shave my head and give me a show­er-bath.

"Well, you may laugh," I an­swered, "but you shall see it to-night, Jasper."

He be­came se­ri­ous in a mo­ment, I sup­pose there was some­thing earnest in my man­ner that con­vinced him that my words were not idle, and asked me to ex­plain. I de­scribed ray in­ter­view as ac­cu­rate­ly as I could.

"How did you know that it was old Van Ko­eren?" he asked.

"Be­cause I have seen his pic­ture a hun­dred times with Alice," I an­swered, "and this ap­pari­tion was as like it as it was pos­si­ble for a ghost to be like a minia­ture."

"You must not think I 'm laugh­ing at you, Harry," he con­tin­ued, "but I wish you would an­swer this. We have all heard of ghosts, ghosts of men, women, chil­dren, dogs, hors­es, in fact every liv­ing an­i­mal; but hang me if ever I heard of the ghost of a flow­er-pot be­fore."

"My dear Jasper, you would have heard of such things if you had stud­ied such branch­es of learn­ing. All the phe­nom­e­na I wit­nessed last night are sup­port­able by well-au­then­ti­cat­ed facts. The cool wind has at­tend­ed the ap­pear­ance of more than one ghost, and Baron Re­ichen­bach as­serts that his pa­tients, who you know are for the most part sen­si­tive to ap­pari­tions, in­vari­ably feel this wind when a mag­net is brought close to their bod­ies. With re­gard to the flow­er-pot about which you make so merry, it is to me the least won­der­ful por­tion of the ap­pari­tion. When a ghost is un­able to find a per­son of suf­fi­cient re­cep­tiv­i­ty, in order to com­mu­ni­cate with him by speech it is obliged to have re­course to sym­bols to ex­press its wish­es. These it ei­ther cre­ates by some mys­te­ri­ous power out of the sur­round­ing at­mo­sphere, or it im­press­es, by mag­net­ic force on the mind of the per­son it vis­its, the form of the sym­bol it is anx­ious to have rep­re­sent­ed. There is an in­stance men­tioned by Jung Still­ing of a stu­dent at Brunswick, who ap­peared to a pro­fes­sor of his col­lege, with a pic­ture in his hands, which pic­ture had a hole in it that the ghost thrust his head through. For a long time this sym­bol was a mys­tery; but the stu­dent was per­se­ver­ing, and ap­peared every night with his head through the pic­ture, until at last it was dis­cov­ered that, be­fore he died, he had got some paint­ed slides for a magic lantern from a shop­keep­er in the town, which had not been paid for at his death; and when the debt had been dis­charged, he and his pic­ture van­ished forever­more. Now here was a sym­bol dis­tinct­ly bear­ing on the ques­tion at issue. This poor stu­dent could find no bet­ter way of ex­press­ing his un­easi­ness at the debt for the paint­ed slides than by thrust­ing his head through a pic­ture. How he con­jured up the pic­ture I can­not pre­tend to ex­plain, but that it was used as a sym­bol is ev­i­dent."

"Then you think the flow­er-pot of old Van Ko­eren is a sym­bol?"

"Most as­sured­ly, the pot of tulips he held was in­tend­ed to ex­press that which he could not speak. I think it must have had some ref­er­ence to his miss­ing prop­er­ty, and it is our busi­ness to dis­cov­er in what man­ner."

"Let us go and dig up all the tulip beds," said Jasper, "who knows but he may have buried his money in one of them?"

I grieve to say that I as­sent­ed to Jasper's propo­si­tion, and on that event­ful day every tulip in that quaint old gar­den was ruth­less­ly up­root­ed. The gor­geous macaws, and ragged par­rots, and long-legged pheas­ants, so cun­ning­ly formed by those bril­liant flow­ers, were that day ex­ter­mi­nat­ed. Jasper and I had a reg­u­lar battue amidst this flo­ral pre­serve, and many a splen­did bird fell be­fore our unerring spades. We, how­ev­er, dug in vain. No se­cret cof­fer turned up out of the deep mould of the flow­er-beds. We ev­i­dent­ly were not on the right scent. Our re­search­es for that day ter­mi­nat­ed, and Jasper and my­self wait­ed im­pa­tient­ly for the night.

It was ar­ranged that Jasper should sleep in my room. I had a bed rigged up for him near my own, and I was to have the ad­di­tion­al as­sis­tance of his sens­es in the in­ves­ti­ga­tion of the phe­nom­e­na that we so con­fi­dent­ly ex­pect­ed to ap­pear.

The night came. We re­tired to our re­spec­tive couch­es, after care­ful­ly bolt­ing the doors, and sub­ject­ing the en­tire apart­ment to the strictest scruti­ny, ren­der­ing it to­tal­ly im­pos­si­ble that a se­cret en­trance should exist un­known to us. We then put out the lights, and await­ed the ap­pari­tion.

We did not re­main in sus­pense long. About twen­ty min­utes after we re­tired to bed, Jasper called out, "Harry, I feel the cool wind!"

"So do I," I an­swered, for at that mo­ment a light breeze seemed to play across my tem­ples.

"Look, look, Harry!" con­tin­ued Jasper in a tone of painful ea­ger­ness, "I see a light there in the cor­ner!"

It was the phan­tom. As be­fore, the lu­mi­nous cloud ap­peared to gath­er in the room, grow­ing more and more in­tense each minute. Present­ly the dark lines mapped them­selves out, as it were, in the midst of this pale, ra­di­ant vapor, and there stood Mr. Van Ko­eren, ghast­ly and mourn­ful as ever, with the pot of tulips in his hands.

"Do you see it?' I asked Jasper.

"My God! yes," said Jasper, in a low voice. "How ter­ri­ble he looks! "

"Can you speak to me, to-night?" I said, ad­dress­ing the ap­pari­tion, and again con­cen­trat­ing my will upon my ques­tion. "If so, un­bur­den your­self. We will as­sist you, if we can."

There was no reply. The ghost pre­served the same sad, im­pas­sive coun­te­nance; he had heard me not. He seemed in great dis­tress on this oc­ca­sion, mov­ing up and down, and hold­ing out the pot of tulips im­plor­ing­ly to­ward me, each mo­tion of his being ac­com­pa­nied by the crack­ling noise and the corpse-like odor. I felt sore­ly trou­bled my­self to see this poor spir­it torn by an end­less grief, so anx­ious to com­mu­ni­cate to me what lay on his soul, and yet de­barred by some oc­cult power from the priv­i­lege.

"Why, Harry," cried Jasper after a si­lence, dur­ing which we both watched the mo­tions of the ghost in­tent­ly, "why, Harry, my boy, there are two of them!"

As­ton­ished by his words, I looked around, and be­came im­me­di­ate­ly aware of the pres­ence of a sec­ond lu­mi­nous cloud, in the midst of which I could dis­tinct­ly trace the fig­ure of a pale but love­ly woman. I need­ed no sec­ond glance to as­sure me that it was the un­for­tu­nate wife of Van Ko­eren.

"It is his wife, Jasper," I replied; "I rec­og­nize her, as I have rec­og­nized her hus­band, by the por­trait."

"How sad she looks!" ex­claimed Jasper in a low voice.

She did in­deed look sad. Her face, pale and mourn­ful, did not, how­ev­er, seem con­vulsed with sor­row, as was her hus­band's. She seemed to be op­pressed with a calm grief, and gazed with a look of in­ter­est that was painful in its in­ten­si­ty, on Van Ko­eren. It struck me, from his air, that, though she saw him, he did not see her. His whole at­ten­tion was con­cen­trat­ed on the pot of tulips, while Mrs. Van Ko­eren, who float­ed at an el­e­va­tion of about three feet from the floor, and thus over­topped her hus­band, seemed equal­ly ab­sorbed in the con­tem­pla­tion of his slight­est move­ment. Oc­ca­sion­al­ly she would turn her eyes on me, as if to call my at­ten­tion to her com­pan­ion, and then, re­turn­ing, gaze on him with a sad, wom­an­ly, half-ea­ger smile, that to me was in­ex­press­ibly mourn­ful.

There was some­thing ex­ceed­ing­ly touch­ing in this strange sight; these two spir­its so near, yet so dis­tant. The sin­ful hus­band torn with grief and weighed down with some ter­ri­ble se­cret, and so blind­ed by the gross­ness of his being as to be un­able to see the wife-an­gel who was watch­ing over him; while she, for­get­ting all her wrongs, and at­tract­ed to earth by per­haps the same human sym­pa­thies, watched from a greater spir­i­tu­al height, and with a ten­der in­ter­est, the strug­gles of her suf­fer­ing spouse.

"By Jove!" ex­claimed Jasper, jump­ing from his bed, "I know what it means now."

"What does it mean?" I asked, as eager to know as he was to com­mu­ni­cate.

"Well, that flow­er-pot that the old chap is hold­ing" Jasper, I grieve to say, was rather pro­fane.

"Well, what of that flow­er-pot?"

"Ob­serve the pat­tern. It has two han­dles made of red snakes, whose tails twist round the top and form a rim. It con­tains tulips of three col­ors, yel­low, red, and pur­ple."

"I see all that as well as you do. Let us have the so­lu­tion."

"Well, Harry, my boy! don't you re­mem­ber that there is just such a flow­er-pot, tulips, snakes and all, carved on the queer old paint­ed man­tel-piece in the din­ing-room"

"So there is!" and a gleam of hope shot across my brain, and my heart beat quick­er.

"Now as sure as you are alive, Harry, the old fel­low has con­cealed some­thing im­por­tant be­hind that man­tel-piece."

"Jasper, if ever I am Em­per­or of France, I will make you chief of po­lice; your in­duc­tive rea­son­ing is mag­nif­i­cent."

Ac­tu­at­ed by the same im­pulse, and with­out an­oth­er word, we both sprang out of bed and lit a can­dle. The ap­pari­tions, if they re­mained, were no longer vis­i­ble in the light. Hasti­ly throw­ing on some clothes, we rushed down stairs to the din­ing-room, de­ter­mined to have the old man­tel-piece down with­out loss of time. We had scarce en­tered the room when we felt the cool wind blow­ing on our faces.

"Jasper," said I, "they are here!"

"Well," an­swered Jasper, "that only con­firms my sus­pi­cions that we are on the right track this time. Let us go to work. See! here 's the pot of tulips."

This pot of tulips oc­cu­pied the cen­tre of the man­tel­piece, and served as a nu­cle­us round which all the fan­tas­tic an­i­mals sculp­tured else­where might be said to gath­er. It was carved on a species of raised shield, or boss, of wood, that pro­ject­ed some inch­es be­yond the plane of the re­main­der of the man­tel-piece. The pot it­self was paint­ed a brick color. The snakes were of bronze color, gilt, and the tulips yel­low, red, and pur­ple were paint­ed after na­ture with the most exquisite ac­cu­ra­cy.

For some time Jasper and my­self tugged away at this pro­jec­tion with­out any avail. We were con­vinced that it was a mov­able panel of some kind, but yet were to­tal­ly un­able to move it. Sud­den­ly it struck me that we had not yet twist­ed it. I im­me­di­ate­ly pro­ceed­ed to apply all my strength, and after a few sec­onds of vig­or­ous ex­er­tion I had the sat­is­fac­tion of find­ing it move slow­ly round. After giv­ing it half a dozen turns, to my as­ton­ish­ment the long upper panel of the man­tel-piece fell out to­ward us, ap­par­ent­ly on con­cealed hinges, after the man­ner of the por­tion of es­critoires that is used as a writ­ing-table. With­in were sev­er­al square cav­i­ties sunk in the wall, and lined with wood. In one of these was a bun­dle of pa­pers.

We seized these pa­pers with avid­i­ty, and hasti­ly glanced over them. They proved to be doc­u­ments vouch­ing for prop­er­ty to the amount of sev­er­al hun­dred thou­sand dol­lars, in­vest­ed in the name of Mr. Van Ko­eren in a cer­tain firm at Bre­men, who, no doubt, thought by this time that the money would re­main un­claimed for­ev­er. The de­sires of these poor trou­bled spir­its were ac­com­plished. Jus­tice to the child had been given through the in­stru­men­tal­i­ty of the erring fa­ther.

The for­mu­las nec­es­sary to prove Alice and her moth­er sole heirs to Mr. Van Ko­eren's es­tate were briefly gone through, and the poor gov­erness passed sud­den­ly from the task of teach­ing stupid chil­dren to the en­vied po­si­tion of a great heiress. I had ample rea­son af­ter­ward for think­ing that her heart did not change with her for­tunes.

That Mr. Van Ko­eren be­came aware of his wife's in­no­cence, just be­fore he died, I have no doubt. How this was man­i­fest­ed I can­not of course say, but I think it high­ly prob­a­bly that his poor wife her­self was en­abled at the crit­i­cal mo­ment of dis­so­lu­tion, when the link that binds body and soul to­geth­er is at­ten­u­at­ed to the last thread, to put her­self in ac­cord with her un­hap­py hus­band. Hence his sud­den start­ing up in his bed, his ap­par­ent con­ver­sa­tion with some in­vis­i­ble being, and his frag­men­tary dis­clo­sures, too bro­ken, how­ev­er, to be com­pre­hend­ed.

The ques­tion of ap­pari­tions has been so often dis­cussed that I feel no in­cli­na­tion to enter here upon the truth or fal­la­cy of the ghost­ly the­o­ry. I my­self be­lieve in ghosts. Alice my wife be­lieves in them firm­ly; and if it suit­ed me to do so I could over­whelm you with a sci­en­tif­ic the­o­ry of my own on the sub­ject, rec­on­cil­ing ghosts and nat­u­ral phe­nom­e­na.

1855