Wlliam Gilmore Simms
Stories and Tales >> Carl Werner: An Imaginative Story >> Page 117

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Short Stories | U of South Carolina P | 1974
Transcription CARL WERNERI17

where—with his wife in his own home. What could he gain to see
once more the dreadful spectre which had affrighted him? An
unholy curiosity stimulated the answer to this question. Knowledge
—Knowledge. To know that which is forbidden to win the secrets
of two worlds was the hope of Carl, as it has been the unwise hope
of thousands. He did not remember, while he indulged this vain
desire, that the `tree of knowledge, is not that of life;' still less can
it be said to be that of happiness. Thought is not often happiness;
and where thought takes the wings of the imagination, and strives
ever after the ideal, it is too apt to be torture and strife, as it must
finally be death. Death, indeed death and time are the grand
illuminators. To wait is to be wise. Alas ! for Carl he had not only
to wait but to endure.
" `I must pluck up courage!' he mentally exclaimed. `I demanded
to see him; I must not shrink from the encounter. Let him speak to
me—let him say he is happy and I will ask no more.'
"What right had he to ask so much? Were it his right, would it
not be revealed? Would the just God withhold from him a right?
He did not ask himself these questions, for Carl, like all of his
species, was but too apt to contemplate, through the medium of a
shallow vanity, the deity in his own heart, as if the dwelling-place of
fears and feebleness, of vain caprices and false-founded passions, could
ever be the home of divinity.
"He entered the abbey walls he trod among the crumbling ruins,
but his heart shook within him. Again he sat upon the tomb-stone
again did the sudden and sinuous light crawl before him upon the
walls. He felt the chill enter and curdle the blood within his bosom,
and he knew that the spectre was sitting at his side. He dared not
look round upon him. He almost sank upon the ground; but the
resolve of his mind sustained him, and he tried to compose himself.
" `Why should I fear?' he said in his thoughts. `If it be Herman,
he will not harm me—if it be not Herman, what other has claim
upon me! '
"As if the spectre had seen his heart, and in this manner com-
mented upon its fears and weakness, the dreadful laugh which had
so shocked him before, was again repeated. The blood ran cold
in the bosom of the mortal, but his firmness had not departed. The
resolve was still in his mind, and after a brief pause, in which he