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Hair Chains, It was really a magnificent ball!

It was really a magnificent ball! The host had determined that his entertainment should minister to all the senses of his guests, and had succeeded so well that there was only room to regret there were but five senses to be gratified. Only five gates in the fortified wall within which the shy soul intrenches itself, where an attack may be made. And even when these are all carried by storm, there are sometimes inner citadels, impregnable to the magic torrent streaming through the Beautiful Gates, where she may survey intruders with calm disdain. In vain floods of delicious intoxication beat against her lofty retreat: she calmly analyzes the sweet poison, (as she thinks it,) separates and retains the solid fact whose solution had enriched the otherwise barren stream, and indifferently suffers the rest to flow by. These are the souls of philosophers and wise men, who never are drowned, never surprised. But the bountiful host had not cared only for these grand super-sensual people, but had striven perfectly to satisfy the eyes, the ears, the noses, the palates of the more numerous throng of weaker folk, whose inner fortifications were not so well defended. Hundreds of wax candles illuminated the far-reaching saloons with soft lustre. The walls were tinted with the most delicate hues, that afforded a pleasant cool background to the blazing rooms, and relieved the rich colors of the pictures. In all the pictures adorning the walls, the eye revelled in the luxurious coloring, careless of the absence of distinctness of form and grand pure outline. Scenes in the dark heart of tropical forests, the dense green foliage here and there startlingly relieved by a bright scarlet flower or the brilliant plumage of a songless bird,—gorgeous sunsets on American prairies, where the rolling purple ground contrasted with the crimson and golden glories of eventide,—vivid sketches along the Mediterranean, the blue sea embracing the twin sky,—vineyards ripening under the mellow Italian sun,—fields of yellow wheat bending to the sickles of English reapers,—and sometimes, half hidden by the folds of a heavy crimson curtain, one was startled to discover the solemn icebergs and everlasting snows of the Arctic regions. The wood-work of all the rooms was of dark oak, so that each appeared with its brilliantly dressed company to be a flashing gem set in a rich casket. A shadow of music wandered through the air, sometimes blended with the sound of the falling fountain in the green-house, sometimes almost absorbed in the fragrance of the flowers.

For two hours the carriages had been steadily streaming under the archway, and pouring their fair occupants, gauzy as summer, into the blazing saloons. The flashing candelabra drew the poor little moths from the outermost corners into the central vortex of light. Dazzled by the hot radiance, they strove to retreat again into the cool conservatories and side-rooms; but at that moment threads of music that had been carelessly winding through the crowd were caught up by an unseen hand and knotted,—and behold! already the moths found themselves imprisoned in a strong net-work of sound, whose intricate meshes entangled the rooms and the company, and the very light itself. The light, however, was too subtile for long confinement; it slipped along the melodious mazes, and melted into the rich odor that exhaled from the roses and jessamines in the conservatory. The light was a welcome visitor to the hyacinths and roses, obliged to hide in torturing silence in the still green-house, pouring out their passionate dumb life in intensity of fragrance. A life just hovering on the borders of the world, and yet forbidden to enter! But, bathed in the glowing effulgence of the light, this invisible fragrance could be born, and enter the visible world as color. For the fragrance is the unborn soul of the flower; color, that soul arrested in its restless wanderings,—embodied fragrance. Then the colors upon the purple hyacinths and white jessamines, and the flashing gems that rested on white bosoms like glittering drops of ice upon a snow-wreath, and the sheen of rustling silks, and the gilded picture-frames, and the florid carpets, and the twinkling feet on the carpets' roses, and the flushing of roses in the dancers' cheeks, and the radiant heads of the white-robed girls, ran into one another, blending into an intensity of color that dimmed itself. And the music still kept spinning and spinning, and finally wove in the color and fragrance and light with its subtile self; and the background of the woof was the hum and murmur of voices, and the continual rustling of feet. No wonder the poor moths were ensnared in such bewilderment!

Do you pity the captives? But it is a delicious imprisonment, and its fullest delights cannot be realized except by prisoners. In the vast halls of Intellect and Reason one may indeed be master, marching (a little chilled perhaps) with firm step and head erect. But on these enchanted grounds there is no medium between a wretched clearness of insight that reduces every curve to a number of straight lines, all clouds to precipitated vapor, all rainbows to an oblique coincidence between a sunbeam and a drop of water, and a total surrender of self to the influences of the flitting moment.

Away with these fellows, who would force their miserable microscopes before the eyes of these happy gauzy moths!—to-night is only the time for spinning cobwebs. Hold your breath, philosopher, lest you sweep them away too rudely! Alas for the airy cobwebs! In that cool anteroom is a philosopher's broom, hard at work, brushing them remorselessly into a perplexing dilemma,—the frightful increase of the human race.

"If," said the philosopher, emphatically, "if there were any prospect of emigrating to the moon, there would be some hope; but in the present state of affairs we shall soon be eating our own heads off, as the proverb says. Europe is almost exhausted, the ultima Thule of arable territory in America has been reached, Asia barely supports her own immense population; nothing is left but Africa, and she presents a merely hopeful prospect for the future. In a hundred years, what will society do for breadstuffs?"

"Live on rice and potatoes," suggested Anthrops.

"Rash boy, and check the advance of civilization! Have you not reflected that the culture of wheat has been an inseparable adjunct to progress and refinement? The difficulties required to be overcome in preparing the ground and sowing the grain promote prudence, foresight, and care."

"It is certainly hard work enough to dig potatoes," quoth Anthrops.

The philosopher passed over the interruption with a dignified wave of the hand, and continued:—

"The watching and waiting, during its progress to maturity, necessarily produce that patience which is so essential to all scientific effort; and the graceful loveliness of the plant in its various stages of growth materially assists in developing that love for the beautiful which is a necessary element in all harmonious individual or social character. Now what aesthetic culture can you evolve from that stubbed, straggling weed you call the potato?"

The discomfited pupil meekly suggested that he had been considering the dietetic, not the aesthetic properties of the despised vegetable.

"Impossible to separate them, Sir!" cried the philosopher. "If, indeed, you could fill the stomach without the intervention of any process of brain or hand, they might be considered apart. But consider the position of the stomach. Like a Persian monarch, it occupies the centre of the system; despotic from its remote situation and the absolute power it exercises, all parts of the external organism are its ministers: the feet must run for its daily food, the hands must prepare that food with cunning devices, the brain must direct the operations of feet and hands. Now, unlearned youth, wilt thou contend that the degree of refinement evinced by attention or indifference to the niceties of cooking, and so forth, has no bearing upon the character of the man and the race? Take as a standard the method of immediately conveying the food to the mouth, as it has progressed from barbarism. First, fingers; then, pieces of bark; then, rough wooden spoons, knives, two-pronged steel forks; and lastly, an epitome of civilization in each one that is used, five-pronged silver forks, evincing both the increased complexity of the nature that devises the extra prongs, and the refinement of taste that insists upon the silver. It is impossible to use wheat in any of its preparations," ("With five-pronged forks," murmured his attentive pupil parenthetically,) "without at least a piece of bark, for mixing and cooking, if not for eating. But in devouring potatoes, we are—I shudder to think of it—each moment upon the brink of being reduced to the absolute savageness of fingers. No, Sir! the moon and wheat both failing us, there is but one method of escaping universal famine,—peremptory reduction of the population."

Anthrops started; in that country murder was a capital offence.

"I do not mean," continued the philosopher, serenely, "by any forcible diminution of the existing populace: unfortunately, the vulgar prejudices in favor of life are so strong, owing to the miserable preponderance of the Egoistic over the Altruistic instincts, that such an expedient would be unadvisable. I refer to the"—

"What splendid hair!" suddenly exclaimed his young companion, starting forward with great animation to gain a nearer glimpse of its beauties. The owner had stopped for a moment in passing the secluded couple, and the rich chestnut head was presented in clear relief against the confused mass of color and light that streamed through the doorway of the saloon. The billows of hair rose from purple depths of shadow into gleaming crests of golden light, and fell away again in long undulations into the whirlpool of the knot.

While Anthrops was feasting his rapt eyes on the lovely picture, some treacherous fastening gave way, and the whole wavy mass overflowed upon the white shoulders. Then there was bustling and officious assistance, then there was flitting of maidens and crowding of men. They did not care that the hair of the Naiads in the waterfall outside of the city floated all day long over the glittering green waters, or that the soughing grass in the marsh stream lazily swayed to and fro always in sleepy ripples, or that the waving tresses of the weeping-willows were even then sweeping dreamily through the colored air: they cared for none of these things; but how eager and anxious were they to gain one glimpse of her,—fairer in her blushing confusion than before in her stately loveliness! She wound up the long tresses in her hand, and was retreating to the dressing-room, when the music, which had paused for a moment, renewed itself in an inspiriting waltz. Anthrops, forgetful of wheat, potatoes, and universal famine, rushed forward to claim her hand for the dance. The lady sighed, the waltz was so lovely, the young man so attractive, but—her hair? She really must arrange that before anything could be determined in any other direction. And she started backwards in her embarrassment to reach the stairs, and slipped into a little anteroom by mistake. There was but one door; so, when Anthrops followed her in, she could not get out, without at least hearing an additional reason for dancing.

"The waltz will be finished," urged Anthrops. "Take this little dagger, and wind your hair around that; it will be a fitting ornament for you."

As he spoke, he drew from his pocket a small dagger, a toy, but richly carved at the hilt, and offered it to the maiden. He had bought it that day for a little nephew, and had happened to leave it in his pocket. Doubtless, had the waltz been less enticing, or the youth less handsome, or the little anteroom less secluded, Haguna would have rejected the odd assistance. But, as it was, she accepted the jewelled toy, and in a few minutes had dexterously hidden the tiny blade with the thick coils of hair, just leaving the curiously carved face on the hilt to emerge from its shadowy nestling-place.

With the readjustment of her tresses, Haguna recovered the marvellously defensive self-possession that had been momentarily disturbed. So subtile and indefinable was the curious atmosphere that surrounded her, that, while it could be almost destroyed by the consciousness of a disordered toilet, yet the keenest eye could not penetrate beneath it, the most confident demeanor could not impress it, once reestablished.

Anthrops did not notice the change that had taken place in her aspect. Was it not enjoyment enough to whirl through the maddening mazes of the dance, into still deeper entanglements in the mysterious web that now had immeshed the saloons, borne irresistibly along the rapid torrent of music, through crowds swept in eddying circles by fresh gusts of sound, like leaves blown about by the west wind,—at first in low, wide, slow rounds, then whirling faster and faster, higher and higher, until the spiral coil suddenly terminated, and the music and motion fell exhausted together?

It was quite another thing to return to his friend the philosopher, who was now in a very bad humor.

"Such fooling!" he cried, when Anthrops came back much exhilarated.
"That woman is the plague of my life! See," he continued, sarcastically,
"I picked up one of the ugly little pins that she fastens her hair with;
perhaps you might like it for a keepsake."

Anthrops snatched eagerly at the little black thing his old friend held contemptuously balanced on his fingers, but dropped it immediately. Such a miserable thing to hold those glorious tresses! His dagger was better. The recollection that it was his dagger that now confined them dispelled the chill which the irate philosopher had thrown over his glowing excitement; he submissively proposed a return to potatoes, piling up famine and wheat over the one little thought that diffused such a delicious warmth through his breast; as charcoal-burners heap dead ashes over their fire, to hide it from the rough intrusion of chilling winds.

The nest day Haguna sent back the dagger, with a little note, thanking the owner in graceful terms.

"Your graceful politeness last evening, Herr Anthrops, saved me much perplexity, and procured me a delightful waltz. One should indeed be well protected by fortune, to find so readily such a courteous little sword," ("She does not know the difference between a sword and a dagger," thought Anthrops, and he was pleased at her ignorance,) "to supply one's awkward deficiencies." (Anthrops slightly winced as he thought of the little black pins.) "The old man on the hilt is really charming. I actually was obliged to kiss him at parting, he looked so kindly and pleasantly at me. Besides, he was my true benefactor; and my grandmother has often told me, that in her day maidens were very properly more expressive in their gratitude than now." (Anthrops fervently longed for a retrogression in the calendar.) "And I really think my old friend must have been alive then, and have been changed into wood, on purpose to preserve his looks till I could see him. It would be a right pleasant destiny, when one begins to grow old and ugly, to be transformed into wood, and carved as one would wish to appear perpetually. And happier fate still, like Philemon and Baucis, to change into living trees, and flourish for hundreds of years in youth and vigor. There are willow-trees growing on the banks of the river that may easily have been girls who wept themselves into trees, because their hair would soon be gray, and they have exchanged it for tresses of green. Near those willow-trees the princely stranger who has lately occupied the castle will next week give a boating fête, to which I am invited; I suppose you also, courteous Sir, will be present, a knight-errant for distressed damsels?

"HAGUNA."

Anthrops kissed the little old man on the dagger's hilt again and again, and made two equally firm, but entirely disconnected resolutions, simultaneously: namely, never to give his nephew the intended present, and by all means to be at the boat-fête the following week.

The day of the fête arrived,—a clear, lovely day in early June. The host had provided for the accommodation of his guests a number of boats of different sizes, holding two, three, or a dozen people, according to the fancy of the voyagers. Anthrops, descending the flight of steps that led to the river, came unexpectedly upon his old friend the philosopher, apparently emerging from the side of the hill.

"I expected you here," said he; "are you going on the river?"

Anthrops replied in the affirmative.

"Haguna is here, and I have come to exact a promise that you will not sail with her. You will repent it, if you do."

"Better than starvation is a feast and repentance," cried the young man, gayly. "What harm is there in the girl? Though, to be sure, I had no particular intention of sailing with her."

"It would be of no use to warn you explicitly," said his friend; "you would not believe me. But you must not go."

"Nay, good father," returned the youth, a little vexed,—"it is altogether too unreasonable to expect me to obey like a child; give me one good reason why I should avoid her as if she had the plague, and I promise to be guided by you."

"All women have some plague-spot," said the philosopher, sententiously.

"Well, then, I may as well be infected by her as by any one," cried Anthrops, lightly, and was rushing down the steps again, when the philosopher caught him by the arm.

"Follow me," he said; "you will not believe, but still you may see."

He led the way down to the river, and, the youth still following, entered one of the gayly trimmed row-boats and pushed from shore. The boat seemed possessed by the will of its master, and, needing no other guide or impetus, floated swiftly into the centre of the channel. Obeying the same invisible helmsman, it there paused and rocked gently backwards and forwards as over an unseen anchor. The philosopher drew from his pocket a small cup and dipped up a little water. He then handed it to the youth, and bade him look at it through a strong magnifying-glass, which he also gave him. Anthrops was surprised to find a white dust in the bottom of the cup.

"Ah!" said his companion, answering his look of inquiry, "it is bone-dust; and now you may see where it comes from."

Anthrops looked through the magnifying-glass, as he was directed, at the river itself, and found he could clearly see the sand at the bottom. He was horrified at seeing the yellow surface strewn with human bones, bleached by long exposure to the running water.

"Alas!" he exclaimed, sorrowfully, "have so many noble youths perished in these treacherous waters? That golden sand might be ruddy with the blood of its numerous victims!"

"Don't be blaming the innocent waters, simple boy!" half sneered the philosopher. "Lay the blame where it is due, upon the artful river-nixes. Since the creation of the world, the stream has flowed tranquilly between these banks; and during that time do you not suppose that these fair alluring sprites have had opportunity to entice such silly boys as you into the cool green water there below?"

Anthrops gazed long into the still, cruel depths of the river, held spell-bound by a horrible fascination; at last he raised his head, and, drawing a long sigh of relief, exclaimed,—

"Thank fortune, Haguna is no water-nix!"

"What!" cried the angry philosopher, "your mind still running upon that silly witch? Can you learn no wisdom from the fate of other generations of fools, but must yourself add another to the catalogue? She is more dangerous than the nixes: the snares which they laid for their victims were cobwebs, compared to the one she is weaving for you. You admire her hair, forsooth! The silk of the Indian corn is a fairer color, spiders' webs are finer, and the back of the earth-mole is softer; yet in your eyes nothing will compare with it."

"The silk of the Indian corn is golden, but coarse and rough; the threads of the spider's web are fine, but dull and gray; the satin hair of the blind mole is lifeless and stiff. Let me go, old man! I care nothing for your fancied dangers. I shall row her to-day; that is pleasure enough." And he attempted to seize the unused oar.

"Once more, pause! Reflect upon what you are leaving: the pleasures of tranquil meditation, the keen excitements of science, the entrancing delights of philosophy. All these you must abandon, if you leave me now."

Anthrops hesitated a moment.

"How so?" he asked.

"He who is devoted to philosophy must share his soul with no other mistress. No restlessness, no longing after an unseen face, no feverish anxiety for the love or approval of an earthly maiden must disturb the balanced calm of his absorbed mind"—

"Herr Anthrops, Herr Anthrops, how you have forgotten your engagement!"

She was in a boat that had pushed up close to them unawares. Some girls and young men occupied the bows. Haguna was leaning over the stern and waving her hand to Anthrops. So suddenly had she appeared, that it was as if she had risen out of the rippling river, and the ripples still seemed to undulate on her sunny hair and laughing dimpled face: so fresh and bright and fair she seemed in that glad June morning. What did it matter whether he reasoned rightly on any subject?

"Let me go!" he exclaimed to his companion. "Farewell, philosophy! farewell, science! I have chosen."

To his surprise, he discovered that he was suddenly quite alone in the boat. The philosopher had disappeared,—whether by waxen wings, or an invisible cap, or any of the other numerous contrivances of many-wiled philosophers, he did not stop to consider, but hastened to join Haguna and her companions.

"You are a welcome addition to our company," said Haguna, graciously reaching out her white hand; "but you choose strange companions. An old gray owl flew out of your boat a moment ago, scared to find himself abroad in such a pleasant sunlight. I confess I don't altogether admire your taste, not being an orni"—

She appealed in pretty perplexity to the student to help her out of the difficulty into which she had fallen by her rash attempt at large words.

—"Thologist," added Anthrops, much wondering at these new tricks of the philosopher,—and then again he so much the more applauded his own wisdom in exchanging for her society the company of an old owl.

So all the day long he stayed by her, all the day long he followed her, rowing or walking or dancing, or sitting by her under the willows on the banks of the river. The soft breeze routed her shining hair from its compact masses; it touched his cheek as he knelt beside her to pull up the tough-rooted columbine that resisted her fingers; her fragrant breath mingled with the odor of the sweet-scented violets that he plucked for her; the trailing tresses of the mournful willow, swaying in the breeze, brushed them both; the murmuring water at their feet heard a new tale as it flowed past her, and babbled it to him, adding delicious nonsense of its own, endless variations upon the same sweet theme. How happy he was that day! It came to an end, of course; but its death scattered the seeds of other days, that sprang up in gracious profusion, yielding dear delights of flower and fruit. All over his garden these bright plants grew, gradually triumphing over and expelling the coarser and ruder vegetables.

Nothing but flowers would he cultivate now,—and cared not even that they should be perennials, if only the present blooming were gay and gladsome.

One June day, Anthrops joined a pleasure-seeking equestrian party, who rode from the town to spend the day in the woods. What a lovely day it was! The pure, fresh air seemed to contain the very essence of the life it inspired, life drained of all impurity and sadness and foulness by the early summer rains, the springing joyous life of the delicate wood-flowers. The strong trees in the leafy woods trembled with happiness in their boughs and tender sprays; the carolling birds poured forth their brimming songs from full hearts. And upon the interlacing greenery of the shrubbery, and the lichens upon the trees, and the soft moss covering with jealous tenderness the bare places in the ground, the slant sunbeams glittered in the early morning dew. As Anthrops rode along silently by the side of Haguna, an inexpressible joyfulness filled his heart; the light, round, white clouds nestling in the deep bosom of the sky, the faint, delicious odor of the woods, the rustling, murmuring presence that forever dwelt there, all made him unspeakably glad and light-hearted. As he rode, he began to sing a little song that he had learned awhile before.

  We rushed from the mountain,
    The streamlet and I,
  Restless, unquiet,
    We scarcely knew why,—
  Till we met a dear maiden,
    Whose beauty divine
  Stilled with great quiet
    This wild heart of mine;
  And awed and astonished
    To peacefulness sweet,
  The fierce mountain-torrent
    Lay still at her feet."

"A right rare power for beauty to possess!" laughed Haguna. "Are you so restless that you need this soothing, fair Sir?"

A deep, sweet smile gushed out from his eyes and illumined his face. He stretched out his arms lovingly into the warm air, as if he thus infolded some rich joy, and answered, musingly,—

"In ordinary action, thought, and feeling,—we are too conscious of ourselves, we are perplexed with the miserable little 'I,' that, by claiming deed and thought for its own work, makes it little and mean. But the wondrous Beautiful comes to us entirely from outside; our very contemplation of it does not belong to us; we are overpowered and conquered by the vast idea that broods over us. And so that contemplation is pure happiness."

Haguna laughed a little, and a little wondered what he meant; then observed, lightly,—

"You must value yourself very modestly, to consider your greatest happiness to consist in losing your self-consciousness,—unless, indeed, like Polycrates, you hope to insure future prosperity by sacrificing your most valuable possession."

"If so, I, like Polycrates, am the gainer by my own precaution; for, in your presence, dear lady, do I first truly find my right consciousness."

She clapped her hands gleefully, wilfully misunderstanding his meaning.

"Most complimentary of monarchs! So I am the haggard old fisherman who replaced the lost bawble in the royal treasury! Pray, Sire, remember the pension with which I should be rewarded!" And she bowed low, in mock courtesy to her companion.

"Nay," rejoined Anthrops, vexed that his earnest compliment should be so mishandled,—"blame your own perversity for such an interpretation. At your side I forget that I live for any other purpose than to look at you, and lavish my whole soul in an intensity of gazing; and then the presumptuous thought, that you like to have me near you, nay, are sometimes even pleased to talk to me, gives my poor self a value in my own eyes, for the kindness you show me."

"I know all that well enough," said Haguna, quietly. "But in the mean while, dear Anthrops, you must remember that it is really impolite to stare so much."

By this time they had ridden deep into the still woods. Following the light current of their talking, they wound in and out among the green trees, under their broad arching boughs,—now following the path, now beating a new track over the short grass mixed with the crisp gray moss. The sunlight glanced shyly through the fluttering leaves, weaving with their delicate shadows a rare tracery on the grass. The pattern was so intricate and yet so suggestive, they were sure that some strange legend was written there in mysterious characters,—something holding a fateful reason for their ride together in the green woods. But just as they had almost deciphered the secret, the broidered shadow disappeared under a bush, leaving them in new perplexity. They looked for the story in the windings of the checkerberry-vine and blue-eyed periwinkle, on the lichens curiously growing on the boles of aged trees; but for all these they had no dictionary. So they strayed on and on, in the endless mazes of the forest, till they became entirely separated from their companions, and lost all clue for recovering the path.

Anthrops looked in some perplexity at Haguna, to see if she were alarmed at this position of affairs. He was rather surprised to find, that, far from being discouraged, she seemed highly to enjoy the dilemma. She leaned forward a little on her horse, her one gloved hand, dropping the reins on his neck, nestled carelessly in his mane, while the forefinger of the other hand rested on her lip, with a comical expression of mock anxiety, as she looked inquiringly at Anthrops.

"I think," finally exclaimed Anthrops, "that we had better push straight through the woods. We cannot go far without discovering some road that will lead us back to the city."

"Nobly resolved, courageous Sir! But first tell me how we shall pass this first barrier that besets our onward march."

And she pointed the end of the riding-whip that hung at her wrist to a mass of brambles which formed an impenetrable wall immediately in their path. Anthrops rubbed his eyes, for he could scarce believe that this thicket had been there before; it seemed to have grown up suddenly while he turned his head. He then tried to retrace his steps, but was thrown into fresh perplexity by discovering that the trees seemed to have closed in around them, so that he could find no opening for a horse.

"It seems evident to me," said Haguna, "that we must dismount, and find our way on foot. If now we could have deciphered the hieroglyphs of the shadows, we might have avoided this misfortune."

As cool water upon the brow of a fevered man, fell the clear tones of her voice upon Anthrops, bewildered and confused by the sudden enchantment. She, indeed, called it a misfortune, but so cheerily and gayly that her voice belied the term; and Anthrops insensibly plucked up heart, and shook off somewhat of that paralyzing astonishment.

He assisted her to dismount, and, leaving the horses to their fate, they together hunted for some opening in the dense thicket. After much search, Anthrops succeeded in discovering a small gap in the brambles, through which he and Haguna crept, but only into fresh perplexity. They gained a path, but with it no prospect of rejoining their companions; for it wound an intricate course between ramparts of vine-covered shrubbery, that shut it in on either side and intercepted all extended view. The way was too narrow to admit of more than one person passing at a time; and as Haguna happened to have emerged first from the thicket, she boldly took the lead, following the path until they emerged into a more open part of the forest, where the undulating ground was entirely free from underbrush, and the eye roamed at pleasure through the wide glades. Haguna followed some unseen waymarks with sure step, still tacitly compelling Anthrops to follow her without inquiry. As she sped lightly over the turf, she began to hum a little song:—

  "Nodding flowers, and tender grass,
  Bend and let the lady pass!
  Lighter than the south-wind straying,
  In the spring, o'er leaves decaying,
  Seeking for his ardent kisses
  One small flower that he misses,
  Will I press your snowy bosoms,
  Dainty, darling little blossoms!"

Singing thus, she descended a little hill, and, gliding round its base, disappeared under a thick grape-vine that swung across it from two lofty elms on either side. A spider in conscious security had woven his web across the archway formed by the drooping festoons of the vine; the untrodden path was overgrown with moss. Haguna lifted up the vine and passed under, beckoning Anthrops to follow. He heard her still singing,—

  "Quick unclasp your tendrils clinging,
  Stealthily the trees enringing!
  I have learnt your wily secret:
  I will use it, I shall keep it!
  Cunning spider, cease your spinning!
  My web boasts the best beginning.
  Yours is wan and pale and ashen:
  After no such lifeless fashion
  Mine is woven. Golden sunbeams
  Prisoned in its meshes, light gleams
  From its shadowest recesses.
  Tell me, spider, made you ever
  Web so strong no knife could sever
  Woven of a maiden's tresses?"

On the other side of the viny curtain, Anthrops discovered the entrance to a large cavern hollowed out in a rock. The cavern was carpeted with the softest moss of the most variegated shades, ranging from faintest green to a rich golden brown. The rocky walls were of considerable height, and curved gracefully around the ample space,—a woodland apartment. But the most remarkable feature in the grotto was a rose-colored cloud, that seemed to have been imprisoned in the farther end, and, in its futile efforts to escape, shifted perpetually into strange, fantastic figures. Now, the massive form of the Israelitish giant appeared lying at the feet of the Philistine damsel; anon, the kingly shoulders of the swift-footed Achilles towered helplessly above the heads of the island girls. The noble head of Marcus Antoninus bowed in disgraceful homage before his wife; the gaunt figure of the stern Florentine trembled at the footsteps of the light Beatrice; the sister of Honorius, from the throne of half the world, saluted the sister of Theodosius, grasping the sceptre of the other half in her slender fingers. Every instance of weak compliance with the whims, of devoted subjection to the power, of destructive attention to the caprices of women by men, since Eve ruined her lord with the fatal apple, was whimsically represented by the rapid configurations of this strange vapor.

Anthrops presently discovered Haguna half reclining on a raised moss-seat, and dreamily running her white fingers through her hair, which now fell unchecked to her feet. He had lost sight of her but a few minutes, yet in that short time a strange change had come over her. Perhaps it was because her rippling hair, which, slightly stirred by the faint air of the cavern, rose and fell around her in long undulations, made her appear as if floating in a golden brown haze. Perhaps it was the familiarity with which she had taken possession of the grotto, as if it had been a palace that she had expected, prepared for her reception. But for some reason she appeared a great way off,—no longer a simple maiden, involved with him in a woodland adventure, but a subtle enchantress, who, through all the seeming accidents of the day, had been pursuing a deep-laid plot, and now was awaiting its triumphant consummation. She did not at first notice Anthrops as he stood in curious astonishment in the doorway; but presently, looking up, she motioned him to another place beside herself.

"This is a pleasant place to rest in for a while before we rejoin our companions," she said; "we are fortunate in finding so pretty a spot."

The natural tone of her frank, girlish voice somewhat dissipated Anthrops's vague bewilderment, and he accepted the proffered seat at her side. He for the first time looked attentively at Haguna, as he had until now been gazing at the shifting diorama behind her. He noticed, to his surprise, a number of bright shining points, somewhat like stars, glistening in her hair, and with some hesitation inquired their nature. Haguna laughed, a low musical laugh, yet with an indescribable impersonality in it,—as if a spring brook had just then leaped over a little hill, and were laughing mockingly to itself at its exploit.

"They are souls," she said.

"Dear me!" exclaimed Anthrops; "are souls no bigger than that?"

"How do you know how large they are?" laughed Haguna, beginning to weave her hair into a curiously intricate braid. "These are but the vital germs of souls; but I hold them bound as surely by imprisoning these."

"But surely every soul is not so weak; all cannot be so cruelly imprisoned."

Again she laughed, that strange laugh.

"Strong and weak are merely relative terms. There is nothing you know of so strong that it may not yield to a stronger, and anything can be captured that is once well laid hold of. I will sing you a song by which you may learn some of the ways in which other things beside souls are caught."

Still continuing her busy weaving, Haguna began to sing. Except the song she had hummed in the woods that afternoon, he had never heard her voice but in speaking, and was astonished at its richness and power; yet it was a simple chant she sang, that seemed to follow the gliding motion of her fingers.

  "Running waters swiftly flowing,
  On the banks fair lilies growing
  Watch the dancing sunbeams quiver,
  Watch their faces in the river.
  Round their long roots, in and out,
  The supple river winds about,—
  Wily, oily, deep designing,
  Their foundations undermining.
  Fall the lilies in the river,
  Smoothly glides the stream forever."

The subtle song crept into Anthrops's brain, and seemed to spin a web over it, which, though of lightest gossamer, confined him helplessly in its meshes. Again she sang:—

  "From the swamp the mist is creeping;
  Fly the startled sunbeams weeping,
  Up the mountain feebly flying,
  Paling, waning, fainting, dying.
  All their cheerful work undoing,
  Crawls the cruel mist pursuing.
  Shrouded in a purple dimness,
  Quenched the sunlight is in shadow;
  Over hill and wood and meadow
  Broads the mist in sullen grimness."

She had already woven a great deal of her shining hair into a curious braid, so broad and intricate as to be almost a golden web. A strange fascination held Anthrops spell-bound; it was as if her song were weaving her web, and her fingers chanting her song, and as if both song and web were made of the wavering cloud that still shifted into endless dioramas. Once more she sang:—

  "Drop by drop the charmed ear tingling,
  Rills of music intermingling,
  Murmuring in their mazy winding,
  All the steeped senses blinding,
  Their intricate courses wending,
  Closer still the streams are blending.
  Down the rapid channel rushing,
  Floods of melody are gushing;
  Flush the tender rills with gladness,
  Drown the listener in sweet madness.
  Onward sweeps the eddying singing,
  Ever new enchantment bringing.
  Break the bubbles on the river,
  Faints the wearied sound in darkness;
  But, as one that always hearkens,
  Floats the charmed soul forever."

As she finished the song, she arose, and threw over the youth the web of her fatal hair. The charmed song had so incorporated itself with the odorous air of the cavern, that every breath he drew seemed to be laden with the subtle music. It oppressed, stifled him; he strove in vain to escape its influence; and as he felt the soft hair brush his cheek, he swooned upon the ground.

The philosopher's study was a very different place from the green wood,—perched up, as it was, on the summit of a bare, bleak mountain. The room was fitted up with the frugality demanded by philosophic indifference to luxury, and the abundance necessitated by a wide range of study. The walls were hung with a number of pictures, in whose subjects an observer might detect a remarkable similarity. A satirical pencil had been engaged in depicting some of the most striking instances of successful manly resistance to female tyranny, of manly contempt for feminine weakness, of manly endurance of woman-inflicted injury. The unfortunate Longinus turned with contemptuous pity from the trembling Zenobia; the valiant Thomas Aquinas hurled his protesting firebrand against the too charming interruption of his scholastic pursuits; the redoubtable Conqueror beat his rebellious sweetheart into matrimony. The flickering light of a wood fire served not merely to illuminate the actual portraits, but almost to discover the sarcastic face of the anonymous artist, smiling in triumph from the background. On the hearth in front of the fire stood the philosopher in earnest conversation with a venerable friend.

"I am provoked beyond measure," exclaimed our friend, in an exceedingly vexed tone. "So much as I had hoped from the boy,—that he, too, could not keep from the silly snare! It is shameful, abominable;—she is always in my way, upsetting all my plans, interfering with everything I undertake. Would you believe it? at the death of one of her sisters, the fools were not content with giving her a funeral good enough for a man, but they must place her hair in the sky for a constellation!"

"That was indeed an insult to Orion," said his sympathizing friend, soothingly.

"My hands are absolutely tied," continued the irate philosopher. "I bestow upon the boys the most careful education, enlarge their minds by the study of the history and destiny of man, of the world, of the stellar system, till I may hope that in the contemplation of the vast universe they have lost their little prejudices and personal preferences. I strengthen their judgment, assiduously exercise their powers of ratiocination, fortify their minds with philosophy, train them to habits of accuracy, patience, and perseverance by long scientific research; and at the moment when I ought to find them useful as philosophers, as seekers after eternal Truth, as lovers of imperishable Wisdom, they degenerate into seekers after eyes and hair and cheeks, and I know not what nonsense, lovers of frail, perishable women, who appear to preserve an astonishing longevity on purpose to plague and thwart rational people."

His friend pondered deeply upon the vexatious problem.

"You say," he remarked, "that this unfortunate attraction exists in spite of philosophical training,—that it is exerted towards the antipodes of their previous associations; that, as they have been trained to yield only to well-grounded syllogisms, it is the illogical mode of assault that vanquishes them unguarded; that their reasonable minds have nothing to say to such, perfectly unreasonable fascinations; that, in short, the enemy succeeds by supplying a vacuum, as the walls of Visibis gave way under the pressure of the dammed-up river?"

"Alas, friend, your observations are too true!"

"Then my way becomes clearer. It surely cannot be unknown to you, sagest of students, that in physical science we oppose a plenum to a vacuum, in medicine we supply a deficiency of saline secretions by the common expedient of salt. Wherefore not apply our knowledge painfully gleaned from lower science to the study of these more complicated phenomena? The coward who would flee the fire of the enemy may be kept at his post by the equal dread of death from his commander. Open a double fire upon these wayward youths. Make the Barbarians enlist in the Roman legions. In short, teach Haguna and the others philosophy. There will then no longer be an opposing force of entirely different nature, but merely an influence of the same kind as he has been accustomed to, though vastly inferior in power."

The philosopher started,—the idea was so new to him.

"But, my friend," he urged, doubtfully, "do you not remember, that, after the Romans had painfully learnt ship-building from the Carthaginians, they vanquished them with their own weapons? Might not some such danger be apprehended in this case?"

His companion reddened with indignation, then spoke in a tone of mildly severe rebuke.

"Are the girls Romans? Do you suppose that in ship-building the silly little things would ever advance beyond scows? We shall have the double advantage of the plenum, by their minds being turned in the same direction as those of our students,—and of the defeat and shipwreck, through fighting in unseaworthy vessels."

"I have another idea also," observed the philosopher. "Even supposing, as I must confess there seems to me a possibility, that in a philosophical tournament, or trial of wits, they should occasionally come off victorious," (his friend shook his head angrily,) "the effect of separation that we desire would still be obtained. Haguna would no longer be able to entangle silly boys in her treacherous hair. Your suggestion is good; I will act upon it."

After some deliberation, they agreed upon the method of procedure, which the philosopher immediately began to put into practice.

Shortly after this conversation, invitations were sent to a select number of the inhabitants of the city to a new kind of entertainment to be given by the recluse philosopher of the mountain. The entertainment was to consist of astronomical and chemical exhibitions; the infinitely great and infinitesimally little were to be conjoined to form an evening's amusement. Such was the programme; and the eager curiosity of the select few who were invited brought them punctually to the philosopher's eyry. Haguna of course was there,—as unconsciously lovely as if the disappearance of the unfortunate Anthrops were as much a mystery to her as to the rest of the wondering citizens. The philosopher, laying aside the brusqueness acquired in his solitude, devoted himself with the utmost courtesy to the amusement of his guests, —opened for them dusty cases of butterflies, shells, and rare stones, which he had collected in his pursuit of the various sciences that made them a specialty,—placed ponderous tomes open at some curious or amusing story of otherwise forgotten ages, to arrest the fancy of elegant literati,—exhibited rare and grotesque curiosities, the glittering mica that he had picked up in his long researches, as toys for these idlers of taste.

The flashing gems and gay dresses of the brilliant assemblage illuminated the dusky old study; the rustling of silks, and the merry laughter, only a trifle subdued by the novelty of the circumstances, the eager chattering, the tripping sound of girlish feet darting in and out of every quaint nook and corner, the varied flow of sprightly conversation, scared the solemn quiet of the library. Looming down grimly from the shelves that lined the walls, stood ponderous volumes, monuments over the graves in which their authors were buried. Oh, the life's blood that had been wrung into those forgotten pages! Oh, the eager hope and sickening disappointment, the vehement aspirations, the intense longings, the bitter hatred, the scorn, the greater than angelic, the human love and benevolence, the fortitude, the courage, the whole strange life of hundreds of dead men, that burned between those thick covers! Often books do not reveal their authors until many years after their death. They are read at first for the mite of fuel that they bring to some blazing controversy; the man is entirely forgotten in his work. But when years, centuries, have passed away, and the fire that threatened to consume the world has died out as quietly as any common bonfire, then the "spirits of the mighty dead" come back calmly to their world-work,—now doubtless seeing its little worth as clearly as their modern critics, but also hallowing their mighty labors with regal authority, as the living garment of a human soul. The marble tombs in graveyards hold empty dust; the real men lie buried alive in quiet libraries.

The philosopher entertained his guests well. But underneath all the polite suavity of his manner could be detected a curious satisfaction at the contrast between the deep sea of still thought usually embosoming his library, and this sparkling, shallow little stream now flowing into it. The prominent popular tricks of science he played off for their amusement, exhibited the standard stars, enlarged upon the most wonder-striking and easily understood facts in the sublime science, and bewildered them with a pleasant enthusiasm of acquisition, by a series of brilliant chemical experiments. The labors of a lifetime were concentrated on a few dazzling results: the long tedium of the means, the painful training, the hard mathematical preparation, the brain-sickness and heart-sickness of these years of solitude were quietly ignored.

But it was round Haguna that he plied the most subtle enchantments,—to her he exhibited the most glittering decoys of Knowledge. She was completely fascinated. Her cheeks grew pale, her large dark eyes deeper and darker, with intense interest. She hung upon every word that fell from the philosopher's lips, pored over the elegant trifles the scholar had collected for the wondering ignorant, and stood abashed before the studied unconsciousness of power,—the power of vast learning, that she felt for the first time. When the guests were departing, she was still reluctant to go,—she timidly followed the watchful philosopher to the mighty telescope that had brought down stars for their playthings that evening.

"My ignorance and weakness overwhelm me," she exclaimed; "would that I could spend my life in this awful library!"

The philosopher repressed his exultation at this confession, and replied,—

"Nothing is easier, Madam, than the gratification of your laudable desire. I am in the habit of receiving pupils, and should be most happy to admit you to my class."

An eager light leaped into her lovely face as she earnestly thanked him for his condescension, and engaged to begin the lessons on the very next day. So, when the guests had all gone, and the scared quiet ventured to brood again over its ancient nestling-place, the wily philosopher threw himself back into his great chair, and laughed a long while with solitary enjoyment.

The next day Haguna wended her lonely way to the bleak hill. It was so stony and bare and treeless,—jutting out against the gray cold sky like a giant sentinel stripped naked, yet still with dogged obstinacy clinging to his post. The hard path pushed up over jagged stones that cut her tender feet, and they left bleeding waymarks on the difficult ascent. Woe, woe to poor trembling Haguna! Uncouth birds whizzed in circles round her head, clanging and clamoring with their shrill voices, striving to beat her back with their flapping wings. The faint sweet fragrance of brier-roses clustering at the foot of the mountain wafted reproachfully upon the chill air an entreaty to return. Once, turning at a sudden bend in the road, she spied a merry party of girls and children crowning each other with quickly fading wreaths of clover-blossoms. A rosy-cheeked child in the centre of the group, enjoying the glory of his first coronation, accidentally pointed his fat fore-finger at her, as if in derision of her undertaking. It was strange, that, although she presently pressed forward eagerly again, she felt glad that none of those laughing girls would leave the sunny valley to follow her example. She had flung her whole soul into the scheme, as is the fashion with girls, and could not recover it again now. It seemed absolutely necessary that somewhere some woman like herself should be compelled to scale this ascent, and she—one of those girls in the valley, for instance, might not be nearly so well able as herself to face this bleakness. Thus she might preserve those sportive triflers in their everlasting childhood by the warning of her sad devotion. Faint shadows of gigantic tasks to be conquered when the hill was surmounted swam through her mind. And somewhat whimsically associated with these, a portrait of the learned Hooker occurred vividly to her imagination,—his face disfigured through his devotion to sedentary pursuits. Involuntarily she smoothed her soft cheek with her little hand. It was still round and velvet as an August peach. Nevertheless she threw this possibility into the burden she was going to assume for humanity, and felt happier as the burden waxed heavier. The innate hunger for sacrifice was gratified, with only the definite prospect of suffering from loss of complexion; a concrete living shape was given to the vague longing that possessed her; and she cheerfully marched on, strong in the hope of the love and reverence she was sure her devotion would gain. Ah, sweet Haguna, Haguna! Sweating enough and toil enough already! Go back, dear child, from a work thou canst not understand, and imprison sunbeams for the panting world in flowery valleys!

By this time she had reached the philosophic hermitage. Her future master met her at the door, and, saluting her with grave courtesy, led the way to a small unfurnished apartment, from whose windows nothing could be seen but the distant sea and sky,—always a solemn monotone of sea and sky.

"And so," he said, with mild irony, "even the maidens must dim their bright eyes with philosophy! Can they leave their dolls so long?"

The hot blood rushed into Haguna's face, as she exclaimed, with intense eagerness,—

"Is it my fault that I am a girl? I come to you to learn, to satisfy the insatiable thirst for knowledge which you have awakened,—and you reproach me with my ignorance! I have just discovered that the one thing I have secretly needed always was to learn to exercise my mind cramped with inaction, to share with you labor and toil."

"Poor child," sighed the philosopher, excited to sudden pity by her ardor, "you know little of the sweat of brain-toil! Do you know that it takes years of painful study to arrive at a single valuable result? that for a distant, doubtful advantage, all your bright, unfettered life must be sacrificed? Each enjoyment must be stinted and weighed,—each day valued only as another step to be climbed in the endless ladder,—all simple, sweet enjoyment of earth and air and sky, the careless, golden halo of each free day, must be given up. Everything must be squared according to an inexorable plan; self must be despised, passions restrained and clarified, till the life becomes thin and attenuated through careful discipline,—all hopes and fears laid aside till the soul becomes accustomed to its chilly atmosphere. Then body and mind must be trained to endure a fearful weariness, to pass the days under such a stern pressure of toil that all loving, graceful interests shall be rooted out of the stony soil. You must be prepared to lose precious truths in a gulf of delusion,—to leave all your old beacon-lights and wander forth in an eternal dark. The troubles that beset weak souls may be dissipated, but new strength brings dreadful trials. Tremendous conflicts, undreamt-of in your innocence, will agitate your adventurous Intellect, penetrating into vast regions of Doubt, where the mind made for belief often reels into madness, goaded by harassing anxiety. Often the lonely night-hours must be spent in sore battle with fearful spectres revived by the roaming soul from their frequent graves. All this and more must he dare who aspires to the lofty service of philosophy."

"All this and more would I gladly suffer," cried Haguna. "There is a fire now in my brain; you have kindled it, and it must be fed. And, moreover, I wish to endure this trial for its own sake; for it is not fitting that men should suffer more than women. Perhaps, too,—am I presumptuous in thinking so?—two workers may so lessen the toil of one that this lonely trial maybe greatly helped by even my assistance."

And her bosom heaved, and glorious tears welled up into her deep blue eyes. The repentant philosopher placed his hand on her lovely head, and lifted a tress of her soft hair.

"Ah, child, child, you know little about it! What! will you sacrifice these glorious tresses to a hard and joyless course of study? For none can study Euclid with me with hair like this."

"Willingly! willingly!" cried Haguna, impetuously, and pulled a pair of scissors from her pocket to immediately make the beautiful offering.

The reluctant philosopher arrested her hand.

"Rash girl! consider yet a moment. You are exchanging a treasure whose value you know for—you know not what. You will bitterly repent."

But Haguna, would not consider. She impatiently tore away her hand, and in a few minutes had closely shorn her head, and the neglected hair lay in rich profusion on the floor. As it lay there, the warm golden brown color faded and faded, and some glittering things entangled in its abundant masses beamed forth for a moment like tiny stars, and then disappeared. And had Haguna stepped into a cloud, that so great a change had come over her? The fine contour of head and forehead, the soft outline of face, the delicate moulding of the chin were the same still,—the dark eyes glowed with even new lustre; but the graceful throat and white arm were hidden in a dark muffling cloak, the delicious blush had faded from the cheek, whose color was now firm and tranquil, the well-cut lips had settled into almost too harsh lines, an air of indescribably voluptuous grace had forever fled. Ah, hapless Haguna!

The philosopher made no further remonstrance, but led her immediately to the library, and, seating her at the table, opened a worn copy of Euclid, and began at "Two straight lines," and so forth.

A few moments after, Anthrops, released from his imprisonment, opened the door of the upper room, walked quietly down-stairs, and returned to the city, much to the joy of his friends and relations, who had long mourned him as lost.

About a year after this, Anthrops strolled into the philosopher's study, to inquire the solution of a certain problem.

"I will refer you," said his old instructor, "to my accomplished pupil"; then raising his voice,—"Haguna!"

Anthrops, startled at hearing her name in such a connection, awaited her entrance with anxious curiosity. She speedily came in obedience to the summons, bowed with an air of grave abstraction to Anthrops, and, seating herself, composedly awaited the commands of her master. Her former captive asked himself, wondering, if this could be the airy, laughing, winsome maiden with whom in days past he had ridden into the green forest. The billows of hair had ebbed away; the short, ungraceful, and somewhat thin remnant was meant for use in covering the head, not for luxurious beauty. All falling laces, all fluttering ribbons, all sparkling jewels were discarded from the severe simplicity of the scholastic gown; and with them had disappeared the glancing ripple that before had sunnily flowed around her, like wavy undulations through a field of corn. Very clear and still were the violet eyes, but their dewy lustre had long ago dried up. Like a flowering tree whose blossoms have been prematurely swept off by a cold wind was the maiden, as she sat there, abstractedly drawing geometrical diagrams with her pencil.

"Now, Sir," said the philosopher, "if you will state your difficulty, I have no doubt my pupil can afford you assistance."

So saying, he withdrew into a corner, that the discussion might have free scope.

Haguna now looking inquiringly at Anthrops. He cleared his throat with a somewhat dictatorial "hem!" and began.

"These circumstances, Madam, are really so unusual, that you must excuse me, if I"—

"Proceed, Sir, to the point."

"When, avoiding the barbarous edict of Justinian, which condemned to a perpetual silence the philosophic loquacity of the Athenian schools, the second heptacle of wise men undertook a perilous journey to implore the protection of Persia, they undoubtedly must at some stages of their travels have passed the night on the road. In this case, the method of so passing the time becomes an interesting object of research. Did the last of the Greeks provide themselves with tents,—effeminately impede their progress with luggage? Did they, skirting the north of the Arabian desert, repose under the scattered palm-trees,—or rather, wandering among the mountains of Assyria, find surer and colder shade? The importance of this inquiry becomes evident upon reflecting that the characters of the great are revealed by their behavior in the incidental events of their lives."

"It is evident to my mind," returned Haguna, thoughtfully, "that the seven sages, joyfully escaping from the frivolous necessities of society, would return to the privileges of the children of eternal Nature, and sleep confidingly under the blue welkin."

"Rheumatism," suggested Anthrops.

"Rheumatism!" echoed Haguna, disdainfully. "What is rheumatism? What are any mere pains of the flesh, to the glorious content of the unshackled spirit revelling in the freedom of its own nature? Thus the cultivated Reason returns, with a touching appreciation of the Beautiful and the Fit, to the simple couch of childish spontaneity. Mankind, after long confinement in marble palaces, sepulchres of their inner being, retrograde to the golden age. The wisdom of the world lies down to sleep under the open sky. Such a beautiful comparison! It must be true."

"Really, Madam, your conclusions, although attained with great rapidity of reasoning, are hardly deducible from the premises. Let me remark"—

"Reduce Camenes to Celarent, and the argument is plainly irrefragable. It requires a mind deeply toned to sympathy with the inner significance of all things to"—

"Contemporary testimony is absolutely necessary, if not suspiciously sullied by credulity or deceit,—in which case, the nearest trustworthy historian, if not more than a hundred years from the specified time, is incomparably preferable. But"—

Haguna again interrupted, her voice a little raised with excitement. The dispute waxed warm, on either side authorities were quoted and rejected, and how it terminated has never been recorded. But the philosopher in the corner rubbed his hands with satisfaction, exclaiming,—

"Thank fortune, we may now have a little peace!"