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A STRANGE STORY.

BY THE AUTHOR OF "MY NOVEL," "RIENZI," &c.

MARGRAVE threw himself on a seat just under
the great anaconda; I closed and locked the door.
When I had done so, my eye fell on the young
man's face, and I was surprised to see that it had
lost its colour; that it showed great anxiety, great
distress; that his hands were visibly trembling.

"What is this?" he said in feeble tones, and
raising himself half from his seat as if with great
effort. "Help me upcome away!  Something
in this room is hostile to mehostile, overpowering!
What can it be?"

"Truth and my presence," answered a stern,
low voice; and Sir Philip Derval, whose slight
form the huge bulk of the dead elephant had
before obscured from my view came suddenly
out from the shadow into the full rays of the
lamps which lit up, as if for Man's revel, that
mocking tomb for the playmates of Nature which
he enslaves for his service or slays for his sport.
As Sir Philip spoke and advanced, Margrave sank
back into his seat, shrinking, collapsing, nerveless;
terror the most abject expressed in his
staring eyes and parted lips. On the other
hand, the simple dignity of Sir Philip Derval's
bearing, and the mild power of his countenance,
were alike inconceivably heightened. A change
had come over the whole man, the more impressive
because wholly undefinable.

Halting opposite Margrave, he uttered some
words in a language unknown to me, and
stretched one hand over the young man's head.
Margrave at once became stiff and rigid as if
turned to stone. Sir Philip said to me,

"Place one of those lamps on the floorthere,
by his feet."

I took down one of the coloured lamps from
the mimic tree round which the huge anaconda
coiled its spires, and placed it as I was told.

"Take the seat opposite to him, and watch."

I obeyed.

Meanwhile, Sir Philip had drawn from his
breast-pocket a small steel casket, and I
observed, as he opened it, that the interior was
subdivided into several compartments, each with
its separate lid; from one of these he took and
sprinkled over the flame of the lamp a few grains
of a powder, colourless and sparkling as diamond
dust; in a second or so, a delicate perfume,
wholly unfamiliar to my sense, rose from the
lamp.

"You would test the condition of trance, test
it, and in the spirit."

And, as he spoke, his hand rested lightly on
my head.  Hitherto, amidst a surprise not
unmixed with awe, I had preserved a certain
defiance, a certain distrust. I had been, as it were,
on my guard.

But as those words were spoken, as that hand
rested on my head, as that perfume arose from
the lamp, all power of will deserted me. My
first sensation was that of passive subjugation,
but soon I was aware of a strange intoxicating
effect from the odour of the lamp, round which
there now played a dazzling vapour. The room
swam before me. Like a man oppressed by
a nightmare, I tried to move, to cry out; feeling
that to do so would suffice to burst the thrall
that bound me; in vain.

A time that seemed to me inexorably long, but
which, as I found afterwards could only have
occupied a few seconds, elapsed in this preliminary
state, which, however powerless, was not
without a vague luxurious sense of delight. And
then suddenly came painpain, that in rapid
gradations passed into a rending agony. Every
bone, sinew, nerve, fibre of the body, seemed as
if wrenched open, and as if some hitherto
unconjectured Presence in the vital organisation were
forcing itself to light with all the pangs of travail.
The veins seemed swollen to bursting, the heart
labouring to maintain its action by fierce spasms.
I feel in this description how language fails me.
Enough, that the anguish I then endured
surpassed all that I have ever experienced of
physical pain. This dreadful interval subsided as
suddenly as it had commenced. I felt as if a
something undefinable by any name had rushed
from me, and in that rush that a struggle was
over. I was sensible of the passive bliss which
attends the release from torture, and then there
grew on me a wonderful calm, and, in that calm,
a consciousness of some lofty intelligence
immeasurably beyond that which human memory
gathers from earthly knowledge. I saw before
me the still rigid form of Margrave, and my sight
seemed, with ease, to penetrate through its covering

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