American library books » Fiction » Tales of Fantasy and Fact by Brander Matthews (read e book TXT) 📕

Read book online «Tales of Fantasy and Fact by Brander Matthews (read e book TXT) 📕».   Author   -   Brander Matthews



1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 ... 19
Go to page:
*** START OF THIS PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK TALES OF FANTASY AND FACT *** Produced by Bethanne M. Simms and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team at http://www.pgdp.net

Transcriber's Note:

Minor typographical errors have been corrected without note. Dialect spellings, contractions and discrepancies have been retained.

 

LOST AGAIN
P. 136

TALES OF FANTASY AND FACT By BRANDER MATTHEWS

NEW YORK
HARPER & BROTHERS PUBLISHERS
1896

 

BOOKS BY BRANDER MATTHEWS.

THE THEATRES OF PARIS.
FRENCH DRAMATISTS OF THE 19TH CENTURY.
THE LAST MEETING, a Story.
A SECRET OF THE SEA, and Other Stories.
PEN AND INK: Essays on Subjects of More or Less Importance.
A FAMILY TREE, and Other Stories.
WITH MY FRIENDS: Tales Told in Partnership.
A TALE OF TWENTY-FIVE HOURS.
TOM PAULDING, a Story for Boys.
IN THE VESTIBULE LIMITED, a Story.
AMERICANISMS AND BRITICISMS, with Other Essays on Other Isms.
THE STORY OF A STORY, and Other Stories.
THE DECISION OF THE COURT, a Comedy.
STUDIES OF THE STAGE.
THIS PICTURE AND THAT, a Comedy.
VIGNETTES OF MANHATTAN.
THE ROYAL MARINE, an Idyl of Narragansett.
BOOK-BINDINGS, Old and New; Notes of a Book-Lover.
HIS FATHER'S SON, a Novel of New York.
AN INTRODUCTION TO THE STUDY OF AMERICAN LITERATURE.
TALES OF FANTASY AND FACT.
ASPECTS OF FICTION, and Other Ventures in Criticism. (In Press.)

Copyright, 1896, by Harper & Brothers.
All rights reserved.

 

TO
THE MEMORY OF MY FRIEND
H. C. BUNNER

CONTENTS

  Page A Primer of Imaginary Geography 3 The Kinetoscope of Time 27 The Dream-Gown of the Japanese Ambassador 57 The Rival Ghosts 93 Sixteen Years Without a Birthday 131 The Twinkling of an Eye 143 A Confidential Postscript 207  

A PRIMER OF IMAGINARY GEOGRAPHY

"Ship ahoy!"

There was an answer from our bark—for such it seemed to me by this time—but I could not make out the words.

"Where do you hail from?" was the next question.

I strained my ears to catch the response, being naturally anxious to know whence I had come.

"From the City of Destruction!" was what I thought I heard; and I confess that it surprised me not a little.

"Where are you bound?" was asked in turn.

Again I listened with intensest interest, and again did the reply astonish me greatly.

"Ultima Thule!" was the answer from our boat, and the voice of the man who answered was deep and melancholy.

Then I knew that I had set out strange countries for to see, and that I was all unequipped for so distant a voyage. Thule I knew, or at least I had heard of the king who reigned there once and who cast his goblet into the sea. But Ultima Thule! was not that beyond the uttermost borders of the earth?

"Any passengers?" was the next query, and I noted that the voice came now from the left and was almost abreast of us.

"One only," responded the captain of our boat.

"Where bound?" was the final inquiry.

"To the Fortunate Islands!" was the answer; and as I heard this my spirits rose again, and I was glad, as what man would not be who was on his way to the paradise where the crimson-flowered meadows are full of the shade of frankincense-trees and of fruits of gold?

Then the boat bounded forward again, and I heard the wash of the waves.

All this time it seemed as though I were in darkness; but now I began dimly to discern the objects about me. I found that I was lying on a settee in a state-room at the stern of the vessel. Through the small round window over my head the first rays of the rising sun darted and soon lighted the little cabin.

As I looked about me with curiosity, wondering how I came to be a passenger on so unexpected a voyage, I saw the figure of a man framed in the doorway at the foot of the stairs leading to the deck above.

How it was I do not know, but I made sure at once that he was the captain of the ship, the man whose voice I had heard answering the hail.

He was tall and dark, with a scant beard and a fiery and piercing gaze, which penetrated me as I faced him. Yet the expression of his countenance was not unfriendly; nor could any man lay eyes upon him without a movement of pity for the sadness written on his visage.

I rose to my feet as he came forward.

"Well," he said, holding out his hand, "and how are you after your nap?"

He spoke our language with ease and yet with a foreign accent. Perhaps it was this which betrayed him to me.

"Are you not Captain Vanderdecken?" I asked as I took his hand heartily.

"So you know me?" he returned, with a mournful little laugh, as he motioned to me to sit down again.

Thus the ice was broken, and he took his seat by my side, and we were soon deep in talk.

When he learned that I was a loyal New-Yorker, his cordiality increased.

"I have relatives in New Amsterdam," he cried; "at least I had once. Diedrich Knickerbocker was my first cousin. And do you know Rip Van Winkle?"

Although I could not claim any close friendship with this gentleman, I boasted myself fully acquainted with his history.

"Yes, yes," said Captain Vanderdecken, "I suppose he was before your time. Most people are so short-lived nowadays; it's only with that Wandering Jew now that I ever have a chat over old times. Well, well, but you have heard of Rip? Were you ever told that I was on a visit to Hendrik Hudson the night Rip went up the mountain and took a drop too much?"

I had to confess that here was a fact I had not before known.

"I ran up the river," said the Hollander, "to have a game of bowls with the Englishman and his crew, nearly all of them countrymen of mine; and, by-the-way, Hudson always insists that it was I who brought the storm with me that gave poor Rip Van Winkle the rheumatism as he slept off his intoxication on the hillside under the pines. He was a good fellow, Rip, and a very good judge of schnapps, too."

Seeing him smile with the pleasant memories of past companionship, I marvelled when the sorrowful expression swiftly covered his face again as a mask.

"But why talk of those who are dead and gone and are happy?" he asked in his deep voice. "Soon there will be no one left, perhaps, but Ahasuerus and Vanderdecken—the Wandering Jew and the Flying Dutchman."

He sighed bitterly, and then he gave a short, hard laugh.

"There's no use talking about these things, is there?" he cried. "In an hour or two, if the wind holds, I can show you the house in which Ahasuerus has established his museum, the only solace of his lonely life. He has the most extraordinary gathering of curiosities the world has ever seen—truly a virtuoso's collection. An American reporter came on a voyage with me fifty or sixty years ago, and I took him over there. His name was Hawthorne. He interviewed the Jew, and wrote up the collection in the American papers, so I've been told."

"I remember reading the interview," I said, "and it was indeed a most remarkable collection."

"It's all the more curious now for the odds and ends I've been able to pick up here and there for my old friend," Vanderdecken declared; "I got him the horn of Hernani, the harpoon with which Long Tom Coffin pinned the British officer to the mast, the long rifle of Natty Bumppo, the letter A in scarlet cloth embroidered in gold by Hester Prynne, the banner with the strange device 'Excelsior,' the gold bug which was once used as a plummet, Maud Muller's rake, and the jack-knives of Hosea Biglow and Sam Lawson."

"You must have seen extraordinary things yourself," I ventured to suggest.

"No man has seen stranger," he answered, promptly. "No man has ever been witness to more marvellous deeds than I—not even Ahasuerus, I verily believe, for he has only the land, and I have the boundless sea. I survey mankind from China to Peru. I have heard the horns of elfland blowing, and I could tell you the song the sirens sang. I have dropped anchor at the No Man's Land, and off Lyonesse, and in Xanadu, where Alph the sacred river ran. I have sailed from the still-vexed Bermoothes to the New Atlantis, of which there is no mention even until the year 1629."

"In which year there was published an account of it written in the Latin tongue, but by an Englishman," I said, desirous to reveal my acquirements.

"I have seen every strange coast," continued the Flying Dutchman. "The Island of Bells and Robinson Crusoe's Island and the Kingdoms of Brobdingnag and Lilliput. But it is not for me to vaunt myself for my voyages. And of a truth there are men I should like to have met and talked with whom I have yet failed to see. Especially is there one Ulysses, a sailor-man of antiquity who called himself Outis, whence I have sometimes suspected that he came from the town of Weissnichtwo."

Just to discover what Vanderdecken would say, I inquired innocently whether this was the same person as one Captain Nemo of whose submarine exploits I had read.

"Captain Nemo?" the Flying Dutchman repeated scornfully. "I never heard of him. Are you sure there is such a fellow?"

I tried to turn the conversation by asking if he had ever met another ancient mariner named Charon.

"Oh, yes," was his answer. "Charon keeps the ferry across the Styx to the Elysian Fields, past the sunless marsh of Acheron. Yes—I've met him more than once. I met him only last month, and he was very proud of his new electric launch with its storage battery."

When I expressed my surprise at this, he asked me if I did not know that the underworld was now lighted by electricity, and that Pluto had put in all the modern improvements. Before I had time to answer, he rose from his seat and slapped me on the shoulder.

"Come up with me!—if you want to behold things for yourself," he cried. "So far, it seems to me, you have never seen the sights!"

I followed him on deck. The sun was now two hours high, and I could just make out a faint line of land on the horizon.

"That rugged coast is Bohemia, which is really a desert country by the sea, although ignorant and bigoted pedants have dared to deny it," and the scorn of my companion as he said this was wonderful to see. "Its borders touch Alsatia, of which the chief town is a city of refuge. Not far inland, but a little to the south, is the beautiful Forest of Arden, where men and maids dwell together in amity, and where clowns wander, making love to shepherdesses. Some of these same pestilent pedants have pretended to believe that this forest of Arden was situated in France, which is absurd, as there are no serpents and no lions in France, while we have the best of evidence as to the existence of both in Arden—you know that, don't you?"

I admitted that a green and gilded snake and a lioness with udders all drawn dry were known to have been seen there both on the same day. I ventured to suggest further that possibly this Forest of Arden was the Wandering Wood where Una met her lion.

"Of course," was the curt response; "everybody knows that Arden is a most beautiful region; even the toads there have precious jewels in their heads. And if you range the forest freely you may chance to find also the White Doe of Rylstone and the goat with the gilded horns that told fortunes in Paris long ago by tapping with his hoof on a tambourine."

"These, then, are the Happy Hunting-Grounds?" I suggested with a light laugh.

"Who would chase a tame goat?" he retorted with ill-concealed

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 ... 19
Go to page:

Free e-book: «Tales of Fantasy and Fact by Brander Matthews (read e book TXT) 📕»   -   read online now on website american library books (americanlibrarybooks.com)

Comments (0)

There are no comments yet. You can be the first!
Add a comment