“No, I am well now; it was a passing shudder. I cannot account for it myself.”
A man, apparently of about thirty years of age, and of a mien and countenance strikingly superior to those around him, turned abruptly, and looked steadfastly at Glyndon.
“I think I understand what you mean,” said he; “and perhaps,” he added, with a grave smile, “I could explain it better than yourself.” Here, turning to the others, he added, “You must often have felt, gentlemen, each and all of you, especially when sitting alone at night, a strange and unaccountable sensation of coldness and awe creep over you; your blood curdles, and the heart stands still; the limbs shiver; the hair bristles; you are afraid to look up, to turn your eyes to the darker corners of the room; you have a horrible fancy that something unearthly is at hand; presently the whole spell, if I may so call it, passes away, and you are ready to laugh at your own weakness. Have you not often felt what I have thus imperfectly described?—if so, you can understand what our young friend has just experienced, even amidst the delights of this magical scene, and amidst the balmy whispers of a July night.”
“Sir,” replied Glyndon, evidently much surprised, “you have defined exactly the nature of that shudder which came over me. But how could my manner be so faithful an index to my impressions?”
“I know the signs of the visitation,” returned the stranger, gravely; “they are not to be mistaken by one of my experience.”
All the gentleman present then declared that they could comprehend, and had felt, what the stranger had described.
“According to one of our national superstitions,” said Mervale, the Englishman who had first addressed Glyndon, “the moment you so feel your blood creep, and your hair stand on end, some one is walking over the spot which shall be your grave.”
“There are in all lands different superstitions to account for so common an occurrence,” replied the stranger: “one sect among the Arabians holds that at that instant God is deciding the hour either of your death, or of some one dear to you. The African savage, whose imagination is darkened by the hideous rites of his gloomy idolatry, believes that the Evil Spirit is pulling you towards him by the hair: so do the Grotesque and the Terrible mingle with each other.”
“It is evidently a mere physical accident,—a derangement of the stomach, a chill of the blood,” said a young Neapolitan, with whom Glyndon had formed a slight acquaintance.
“Then why is it always coupled in all nations with some superstitious presentiment or terror,—some connection between the material frame and the supposed world without us? For my part, I think—”
“Ay, what do you think, sir?” asked Glyndon, curiously.
“I think,” continued the stranger, “that it is the repugnance and horror with which our more human elements recoil from something, indeed, invisible, but antipathetic to our own nature; and from a knowledge of which we are happily secured by the imperfection of our senses.”