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A STRANGE STORY.

BY THE AUTHOR OF " MY NOVEL," " RIENZI," &C.
CHAPTER XXV.

MY intercourse with Margrave grew habitual
and familiar. He came to my house every morning
before sunrise; in the evenings we were
again brought together: sometimes in the houses
to which we were both invited, sometimes at his
hotel, sometimes in my own home.

Nothing more perplexed me than his aspect
of extreme youthfulness, contrasted with the
extent of the travels, which, if he were to be
believed, had left little of the known world
unexplored. One day I asked him, bluntly, how
old he was?

"How old do I look? How old should you
suppose me to be?"

"I should have guessed you to be about
twenty, till you spoke of having come of age
some years ago."

"Is it a sign of longevity when a man looks
much younger than he is?"

"Conjoined with other signs, certainly!"

"Have I the other signs?"

"Yes, a magnificent, perhaps a matchless,
constitutional organisation. But you have evaded
my question as to your age; was it an
impertinence to put it?"

"No. I came of agelet me seethree years
ago."

"So long since? Is it possible? I wish I had
your secret!"

"Secret! What secret?"

"The secret of preserving so much of boyish
freshness in the wear and tear of man-like
passions and man-like thoughts."

"You are still young yourselfunder forty?"

"Oh yes! some years under forty."

"And Nature gave you a much grander frame
and a much finer symmetry of feature than she
gave to me."

"Pooh! pooh! You have the beauty that
must charm the eyes of woman, and that beauty
in its sunny forenoon of youth. Happy man! if
you loveand wish to be sure that you are loved
again."

"What you call lovethe unhealthy sentiment,
the feverish follyI left behind me, I think for
ever, when——"

"Ay, indeedwhen?"

"I came of age!"

"Hoary cynic! and you despise love! So did
I once. Your time may come."

"I think not. Does any animal, except man,
love its fellow she animal as man loves woman?"

"As man loves woman? No, I suppose
not."

"And why should the subject-animals be wiser
than their king? But, to returnyou would
like to have my youth and my careless enjoyment
of youth?"

"Can you askwho would not?" Margrave
looked at me for a moment with unusual
seriousness, and then, in the abrupt changes,
common to his capricious temperament, began to
sing softly one of his barbaric chantsa
chant, different from any I had heard him sing
beforemade either by the modulation of his
voice or the nature of the tuneso sweet that,
little as music generally affected me, this thrilled
to my very heart's core. I drew closer and closer
to him, and murmured when he paused,

"Is not that a love-song?"

"No," said he, " it is the song by which the
serpent-charmer charms the serpent."

CHAPTER XXVI.

INCREASED intimacy with my new acquaintance
did not diminish the charm of his society, though
it brought to light some startling defects, both
in his mental and moral organisation. I have
before said that his knowledge, though it had
swept over a wide circuit and dipped into
curious, unfrequented recesses, was desultory and
erratic. It certainly was not that knowledge,
sustained and aspiring, which the poet assures
us is " the wing on which we mount to heaven."
So, in his faculties themselves there were
singular inequalities, or contradictions. His power
of memory in some things seemed prodigious,
but when examined it was seldom accurate; it
could apprehend, but did not hold together with
a binding grasp, what metaphysicians call
"complex ideas." He thus seemed unable to put it to
any steadfast purpose in the sciences of which it
retained, vaguely and loosely, many recondite
principles. For the sublime and beautiful in
literature he had no taste whatever. A
passionate lover of nature, his imagination had no .
response to the arts by which nature is expressed
or idealised; wholly unaffected by poetry or

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