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The Love-Charm
by [?]

‘Doubtless!’ replied his angry friend, ‘and you give me ample opportunity for finding that it is so. I thought after our agreement you would have given me this evening; but—-‘

‘But it is the carnival, you know,’ pursued the other, ‘and all my acquaintances and certain fair ladies are expecting me at the grand ball to-night. Assure yourself, my good friend, it is mere disease in you that makes you so unreasonable against all such matters.’

‘Which of us has the fairest claim to disease,’ said Emilius, ‘I will not examine. At least your inconceivable frivolousness, your hunger and thirst after stop-gaps for every hour you are awake, your wild-goose chase after pleasures that leave the heart empty, seem not to me altogether the healthiest state of the soul. In certain things, at all events, you might make a little allowance for my weakness, if it must once for all pass for such: and there is nothing in the world that so jars through and through me as a ball with its frightful music. Somebody once said, that to a deaf person who cannot hear the music, a set of dancers must look like so many patients for a mad-house; but, in my opinion, this dreadful music itself, this twirling and whirling and pirouetting of half a dozen notes, each treading on its own heels, in those accursed tunes which ram themselves into our memories, yea, I might say, mix themselves up with our very blood, so that one cannot get rid of their taint for many a miserable day after–this to me is the very trance of madness; and if I could ever bring myself to think dancing endurable, it must be dancing to the tune of silence.’

‘Well done, signor Paradox-monger!’ exclaimed the mask. ‘Why, you are so far gone, that you think the most natural, most innocent, and merriest thing in the world unnatural, ay, and shocking.’

‘I cannot change my feelings,’ said his grave friend. ‘From my very childhood these tunes have made me wretched, and have often well-nigh driven me out of my senses. They are to me the ghosts and spectres and furies in the world of sound, and come thus and buzz round my head, and grin at me with horrid laughter.’

‘All nervous irritability!’ returned the other; ‘just like your extravagant abhorrence of spiders and many other harmless insects.’

‘Harmless you call them,’ cried Emilius, now quite untuned, ‘because you have no repugnance toward them. To one, however, who feels the same disgust and loathing, the same nameless horror, that I feel, rise up in his soul and shoot through his whole being at the sight of them, these miscreate deformities, such as toads, spiders, or that most loathsome of nature’s excrements, the bat, are not indifferent or insignificant: their very existence is directly at enmity and wages war with his. In truth, one might smile at the unbelievers whose imagination is too barren for ghosts and fearful spectres, and those births of night which we see in sickness, to take root therein, or who stare and marvel at Dante’s descriptions, when the commonest every-day life brings before our eyes such frightful distorted master-pieces among the works of horror. Yet, can we really and faithfully love the beautiful, without being stricken with pain at the sight of such monstrosities?’

‘Wherefore stricken with pain?’ asked Roderick. ‘Why should the great realm of the waters and the seas present us with nothing but those terrors which you have accustomed yourself to find there? Why not rather look on such creatures as strange, entertaining, and ludicrous mummers, and on the whole region in the light of a great masked ball-room? But your whims go still further; for as you love roses with a kind of idolatry, there are many flowers for which you have a no less vehement hatred: yet what harm has the dear good tulip ever done you, or all the other dutiful children of summer that you persecute? So again you have an aversion to many colours, to many scents, and to many thoughts; and you take no pains to harden yourself against these weaknesses, but yield to them and sink down into them as into a luxurious feather-bed; and I often fear I shall lose you altogether some day, and find nothing but a patchwork of whims and prejudices sitting at that table instead of my Emilius.’