Wieland or the Transformation
I was aroused from this stupor by sounds that evidently arose in the next chamber. Was it
possible that I had been mistaken in the figure which I had seen on the bank? or had
Carwin, by some inscrutable means, penetrated once more into this chamber? The
opposite door opened; footsteps came forth, and the person, advancing to mine, knocked.
So unexpected an incident robbed me of all presence of mind, and, starting up, I
involuntarily exclaimed, "Who is there?" An answer was immediately given. The voice,
to my inexpressible astonishment, was Pleyel's.
"It is I. Have you risen? If you have not, make haste; I want three minutes conversation
with you in the parlour--I will wait for you there." Saying this he retired from the door.
Should I confide in the testimony of my ears? If that were true, it was Pleyel that had
been hitherto immured in the opposite chamber: he whom my rueful fancy had depicted
in so many ruinous and ghastly shapes: he whose footsteps had been listened to with such
inquietude! What is man, that knowledge is so sparingly conferred upon him! that his
heart should be wrung with distress, and his frame be exanimated with fear, though his
safety be encompassed with impregnable walls! What are the bounds of human
imbecility! He that warned me of the presence of my foe refused the intimation by which
so many racking fears would have been precluded.
Yet who would have imagined the arrival of Pleyel at such an hour? His tone was
desponding and anxious. Why this unseasonable summons? and why this hasty
departure? Some tidings he, perhaps, bears of mysterious and unwelcome import.
My impatience would not allow me to consume much time in deliberation: I hastened
down. Pleyel I found standing at a window, with eyes cast down as in meditation, and
arms folded on his breast. Every line in his countenance was pregnant with sorrow. To
this was added a certain wanness and air of fatigue. The last time I had seen him
appearances had been the reverse of these. I was startled at the change. The first impulse
was to question him as to the cause. This impulse was supplanted by some degree of
confusion, flowing from a consciousness that love had too large, and, as it might prove, a
perceptible share in creating this impulse. I was silent.
Presently he raised his eyes and fixed them upon me. I read in them an anguish altogether
ineffable. Never had I witnessed a like demeanour in Pleyel. Never, indeed, had I
observed an human countenance in which grief was more legibly inscribed. He seemed
struggling for utterance; but his struggles being fruitless, he shook his head and turned
away from me.