A Reckless Character eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 299 pages of information about A Reckless Character.

And thy eyes—­those colourless but profound eyes—­speak also....  And their speeches are equally dumb and enigmatic.

Only where is thine [Oe]dipus?

Alas!  ’Tis not sufficient to don a cap to become thine [Oe]dipus, O
Sphinx of All the Russias!

December, 1878.


I was standing in front of a chain of beautiful mountains spread out in a semi-circle; the young, verdant forest clothed them from summit to base.  The southern sky hung transparently blue above us; on high the sun beamed radiantly; below, half hidden in the grass, nimble brooks were babbling.

And there recurred to my mind an ancient legend about how, in the first century after the birth of Christ, a Grecian ship was sailing over the Aegean Sea.

It was midday....  The weather was calm.  And suddenly, high up, over the head of the helmsman, some one uttered distinctly:  “When thou shalt sail past the islands, cry in a loud voice, ‘Great Pan is dead!’”

The helmsman was amazed ... and frightened.  But when the ship ran past the islands he called out:  “Great Pan is dead!”

And thereupon, immediately, in answer to his shout, along the whole length of the shore (for the island was uninhabited), there resounded loud sobbing groans, prolonged wailing cries:  “He is dead!  Great Pan is dead!”

This legend recurred to my mind ... and a strange thought flashed across my brain.—­“What if I were to shout that call?”

But in view of the exultation which surrounded me I could not think of death, and with all the force at my command I shouted:  “He is risen!  Great Pan is risen!”

And instantly,—­oh, marvel!—­in reply to my exclamation, along the whole wide semi-circle of verdant mountains there rolled a vigorous laughter, there arose a joyous chattering and splashing.  “He is risen!  Pan is risen!” rustled youthful voices.—­Everything there in front of me suddenly broke into laughter more brilliant than the sun on high, more sportive than the brooks which were babbling beneath the grass.  The hurried tramp of light footsteps became audible; athwart the green grove flitted the marble whiteness of waving tunics, the vivid scarlet of naked bodies....  It was nymphs, nymphs, dryads, bacchantes, running down from the heights into the plain....

They made their appearance simultaneously along all the borders of the forest.  Curls fluttered on divine heads, graceful arms uplifted garlands and cymbals, and laughter, sparkling, Olympian laughter, rippled and rolled among them....

In front floats a goddess.  She is taller and handsomer than all the rest;—­on her shoulders is a quiver; in her hands is a bow; upon her curls, caught high, is the silvery sickle of the moon....

Diana, is it thou?

But suddenly the goddess halted ... and immediately, following her example, all the nymphs came to a halt also.  The ringing laughter died away.  I saw how the face of the goddess, suddenly rendered dumb, became covered with a deathly pallor; I saw how her feet grew petrified, how inexpressible terror parted her lips, strained wide her eyes, which were fixed on the remote distance....  What had she descried?  Where was she gazing?

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A Reckless Character from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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