The Moon-Gazer and One Other, published by the Haunted Library in 1988, consisted of two antiquarian supernatural stories by "D.N.J.", both reprinted for the first time. "The Journal of Edward Hargood" had originally appeared in the Cambridge Review of January 26, 1911; and "The Moon-Gazer" several years later in the same periodical on June 9, 1920. As far as I have been able to ascertain these were the only tales by "D.N.J." to see print, at least under that pseudonym. As I pointed out in my introduction to the booklet, the author was clearly quite well-read in the ghost story field: there is, for instance, a completely deadpan reference to J.S. Le Fanu's Dr Hesselius in "The Moon-Gazer". That "D.N.J." was a Cambridge contemporary of M.R. James is certain (two of MRJ's tales also first appeared - in 1913 and 1914 - in the Cambridge Review). That he knew MRJ and was a member of his circle, perhaps even present on some of the famous occasions when MRJ read his stories to friends, seems more than likely, but must remain conjectural unless and until the identity of "D.N.J." is discovered. So far it has proved elusive.
Mr Jonathan Bunce was a Fellow of one of the more distinguished colleges of Cambridge. The precise period of his brief tenure of a Fellowship is immaterial to my tale, and for reasons which must be obvious in the reading of it I shall not further particularise his college than by christening it All Hallows. If any of my readers should be inquisitive, I briefly recommend them to apply their knowledge of the peculiarities of the various college courts of Cambridge to the passing details of the truthful chronicle that follows, and thence to draw their own conclusions. If they carry their curiosity further, and ask for the textual authorities for my tale, I will be even franker. They are two, and two only. The first is a manuscript diary, which Mr Bunce was keeping at the time of his sudden death; it has, I am told, been published in parts by the Mathematical Society (1879), and the original manuscript is still in the possession of Mr Bunce's great-nephew, a well-known and popular ecclesiastical dignitary in the county of Shropshire. The other is a volume, easily accessible to all members of the University, in the Library (enquire in Room Theta).
First, for the diary. Mr Bunce lived in Cambridge at a time when the main duty of a college don was to amble up and down the Backs on a safe nag in pursuit of an appetite for the evening's port-wine. But it is clear from his diary that Mr Bunce was youthful and enthusiastic and took a serious view of his studies. As his name would imply, these studies were devoted to the purest of pure mathematics, and from long-winded and profound entries in the diary, I gather that he was engaged upon a magnum opus at the time of his death, a mighty work upon astronomy and geometry which was to shake the stars in their complacent courses and to leave the moon dum-founded. I am not an expert in things mathematical, but I am given to understand that more than one of Bunce's assertions or conclusions or discoveries (I know not the right term) has been developed and amplified by a distinguished living mathematician of this University.
To the lay-mind, however, this diary, with its abstruse mathematical disquisitions, has very little interest. It is not until the last month of his life that poor Mr Bunce seems to become a human being. Then, at last, he begins to complain of solitude, and to blame himself for having lost touch with his fellow-men in the first ardours of mathematical discovery. Perhaps, he was disillusioned; perhaps, he had over-worked. The entry "Bad dreams" comes over and over again. At first he does not describe his dreams, but one morning he writes; "all night long I kept seeing that wicked old fellow, Gerschovius, in my sleep; he kept prowling up and down the cloisters, hitting at the flags with his stick and a huge black dog came prowling behind him". Another time, he writes, "I really must fight these dreams. I dreamed last night a tall brown man, like an Egyptian Pharaoh, was standing by my bed, naked except for a loin cloth, with a white hood, like the pictures of Egyptians in books, on his head. He put his hand on my brow, and somehow I felt I must rise and go into my living-room and put out the candle which I was sure I had left alight. The worst of it was that when I woke up, I still felt I must go and see if the candle were really alight, which, of course, it wasn't, when I got to my living-room." A week or so after this, Bunce seems to have become seriously alarmed about the state of his health. "I found myself doing it again," he notes: "climbing into the New Court from my window, and shouting those hideous words from under the picture of Gerschovius in the cloisters. I can't keep them out of my mind, waking or sleeping". The very last entry of all, made on the evening of his death, runs as follows:
"I know I must do it; I can't hold out another night. I know he lives in that tree, and if I can climb it and find him when he calls, well, something for good or evil must happen".
So much for the diary for the moment. The book is a far more interesting compilation than the diary, and in its own way, every whit as learned. In fact, I cordially recommend it to all students of Old Teutonic mythology and medieval interpretations of some of the better known legends of classical antiquity. Bunce notes its title, De Signis Mysticis, in his diary, and so I had little difficulty in running it to earth. On the title page the scope of the work is conveyed with greater fullness: De Conjuratione Daemonum, mortuum aut eternum, per Signa quattuor Mystica. It is the work of one Doctor Jacobus Gerschovius, of the University of Wittenberg, and is divided up into four books, the Liber de Signo Salamandrae, the Liber de Signo Undinae, the Liber de Signo Sylphae, and the Liber de Signo Incubi aut Coboldi. The whole volume is dedicated in flowery and atrocious Latin to "Amlodio, Danorum Principi ac praeclarissimo studenti Wittenbergiensi". The printer is a certain Johannes Fustus, likewise of the University of Wittenberg, and the date of publication is 1571.
At first sight, this book looks no more than a dull treatise in Latin upon the elements of Euclid. It is profusely garnished with circles and semi-circles, arcs, crescents, ellipses, rhomboids, oddly lettered triangles and strange pentagrams. But a more careful inspection produces a very different impression on the mind of the reader. To begin with, it has some most striking illustrations. Facing the title-page is a portrait of the learned Dr Gerschovius himself, a fat puffy old gentleman with a bushy white beard and dull, sleepy eyes, not, you would say, a very remarkable personage. But if you turn to the other illustrations scattered up and down the book, you will certainly change your mind. In every one of them the portly figure of Dr Gerschovius reappears, and they seem to picture some very strange incidents in his earthly career. In one we see him sitting peacefully at his studies, like St Jerome in his cell, around him stuffed monkeys and dead lizards. Through a crack in the shuttered window, a thin shaft of moonlight falls on his bald pate, as though a cold, watchful eye from without were staring in upon him. In another picture, Dr Gerschovius is on a mid-night ramble through a desolate valley, following a clumsy black poodle up the mountain-side. In a third, he is apparently in a ruined crypt. Before him, standing shadowless within the limits of a circle chalked upon the ground, is a nun, pale, with parted lips and eyes in a trance. In yet another, he is in an orchard under a vacuous full-moon: in the centre of the picture is a tall tree, and against its trunk leans a rickety ladder. A first glance does not reveal the inevitable Dr Gerschovius, but soon we descry him among the leaves in the tree, climbing, and stretching out his hand to touch - what is it? Just above his head, a dark naked leg hangs down as though someone were sitting astride a bough, and stretching down through the leaves towards the toiling Doctor is a long, thin hand.
But, in some ways (perhaps because of the reference to it in Bunce's diary) the most remarkable picture is one that stands half-way through the book. Dr Gerschovius' travels seem to have brought him to Venice; he is wandering up and down the colonnade of some palace; an unseen moon floods the court with light, and as he paces under the arches we see that Dr Gerschovius is beating upon the flags at his feet with a stout oaken cudgel, and strangely sinister he looks as he does it. Under this wood-cut come the mystic words:
The contents of this volume are as fascinating as its wood-cuts. There is, it is true, a vast deal of incomprehensible jargon about the conjunction of the macrocosmus with the microcosmus, the marriage of the Red Lion and the Lily, and the birth of the Young Queen, which to me remains but jargon. But beyond this medieval mummery, Dr Gerschovius shows himself a man deeply-read in the legendary lore of many climes and many ages, from the humble German Hausmärchen to the great fables of Greece and Rome. Some of the tales he tells are new to me, and for all he has an interpretation of his own, highly original and curious. At the risk of boring the reader I will briefly outline two of his tales, partly because they are typical, but more because, I think, they have some bearing on the life and death of Mr Bunce.
In the Book of the Undine comes a chapter headed "De Narcisso et Echone Nympha". This is the Gerschovian variant of the old tale of the beautiful youth, Narcissus. The nymph Echo, pining away for unrequited love of him, ere she dies, calls upon the Great Pan ("vel Mephistophilis", adds the Doctor) to avenge her upon Narcissus. The Great Pan hears her cry and promises her that, after death, she shall lure her heedless lover to his doom. In the meantime, Narcissus is away hunting the Calydonian Boar with his friend, the Duke Meleager. He out-strips all his companions in the ardour of the chase, and from sunrise to sundown, and after, he follows hard upon the tracks of the Boar, faintly seen galloping a-head of him. Then, suddenly, in a wild and desolate valley, skirted on one side by a dark forest, the Boar disappears from view and Narcissus finds himself alone, gaping up at the full-moon in an empty sky. And as he stands gaping, a violent and uncontrollable longing overcomes him, to shout and howl and bay the moon like one of his own dogs, and accordingly he shouts his own name to the moon, "Narcisse! Narcisse!" for several minutes on end. At last the fit dies away and he stops shouting as suddenly as he had begun, but far away, in the depths of the wood, he hears the voice of the dead Echo, crying imploringly, "Narcisse! Narcisse!". His one thought, now, was to escape from the "moon-struck shouting dingle" ("ex valiolio lunatico ululanti"), and so he dashed into the wood in search of the unseen Echo, crying out alternately "Narcisse! Narcisse!" and "Echo! ai, Echo!" as he went. The distant voice took up his cry, and lured him deeper and deeper into the wood, until at last he found himself by a lonely pool under high over-arching trees. Wearied out with his long night-wandering he flung himself down beside the pool and stooped to drink from its waters. As he did so, he heard the reeds whisper mockingly "Narcisse! Narcisse!" and reflected in the pool he saw, not his own image, but the image of a dark, brown face with a goat's beard and sprouting horns upon its forehead, and two lean, skinny arms rose, Excalibur-like, from the mere and drew him down beneath its surface. And so, like Hylas, Narcissus perished in a wood-land lake; but, says Dr Gerschovius, it was not the nymph Echo that drew him down, and he adds some wise and profound remarks upon the folly of dallying with an echo when the moon is at its full. It may not be your own voice which replies to you.
The other tale follows almost immediately after. The chapter is headed "De Fabricio filioque suo Vati". A hasty reader would English this as "Of the Smith and his son, the Poet (or the Seer)", but a closer study of the stories that Dr Gerschovius has to tell us, proves that we have to deal with far more interesting personages than the village blacksmith and a precocious sonneteering son. It is, apparently, the Doctor's contention that the Great Pan takes many forms in many countries according to the name and spell whereby he is conjured up: "in Aegypto dicunt Amenhotaden, sed in Germania nostra Fabricium (vel teutonice Junker Volant), aut per nomen filii sui, Vatem (vel teutonice Vata) eum vocant". Now, Squire Volant is none other than Weyland the Smith, familiar to all readers of Kenilworth and Icelandic Saga, and Vata is his son, Wade, the theme, we know, of many songs in olden days, and, in particular, of a song chanted by a fair Trojan dame in the gardens of Criseyde. Dr Gerschovius has collected together many tales of the doings of this strange pair, but one, the last, I must transcribe at length:
"In the village of Berchtes," writes Dr Gerschovius, "there lived a cow-herd whose duty it was to tend his master's herds all through the summer in a large field high above the village on the side of the mountain. Now one summer this cow-herd noticed that at the time of the full moon, every morning there came down from the mountain, twelve large oxen of more than usual size and beauty, which grazed the whole day long with his master's herds. In the evening it was his wont to stand upon a rock above the field and with loud and long shouts to call the cattle into the pound by his hut, but at this particular season, he noted that every time he ceased from shouting, a voice repeated his cry in the self-same tones from the mountain above him, whereat the twelve fair oxen would leave the other herd and climb up the mountain-side out of his view. For some time the cow-herd thought little of this matter but one day he was taken with a desire to steal these oxen for his master. He therefore drove them into the pound before the setting of the sun and tethered them down so that they could not stir. He then stood upon the rock and called in the other cattle as before. When he had done crying, he heard the other voice shouting from the mountain, whereat the twelve oxen bellowed aloud, as in distress, and sought to break their bonds, but could not. The cow-herd in derision cried up the hill to the other in his own tongue 'Stulte, stultissime pastor!' but was much surprised to hear his own voice reply with great volume and in wrath: 'Stultissime pastor!'. That night he was unable to sleep in his hut for fear that the other cow-herd should descend and rob his master's herd. He therefore arose and went and sat on the side of the valley over against the cattle-pound, and as he sat there he was aware of a form of more than human stature advancing on him, as in wrath, down the opposite side of the valley. But when he looked in that direction he saw nothing but the bare rocks and the short trees. Nevertheless, while he looked he was aware that the twelve oxen in the pound were lowing with pleasure, and at the sound of their lowing the other cattle who had been sleeping, awoke with a loud scream of terror and rushed madly from the pound in two separate flocks to opposite ends of the valley, as though one of the old gods had passed through their midst. The cow-herd was so frightened that he turned tail and ran down the pass to the village of Berchtes. Nor were his master's herds ever seen again, though men say that they may yet be heard, lowing in the mountains above the field, where they are tended by the wicked demon, Wade."
How, you may ask, did this strange volume find its way into Mr Bunce's hands? The diary explains that. He had gone to the University Library in quest of Ramsden's Tractate on Rhomboids, and had found to his disgust that the volume was out. In the faint hope that it might have slipped to the back of the bookcase, he had thrust his hand through the gap in the row of books and had pulled forth the work of Dr Gerschovius, very dusty and rather mouldy. On opening its pages, like myself, he had been fascinated by its wood-cuts and had taken it home to his rooms to study more at leisure.
Mr Bunce's rooms were on the south side of the cloister court of his college, overlooking, as he tells us, the New Court, in the centre of which grew one solitary tree. Often, of a night, between two bouts of brain-work, Mr Bunce would stand at his window, gazing meditatively at this tree. Or he would pace the cloisters for an odd half-hour, deep in some mathematical calculation. Now the cloisters of All Hallows' College have one very remarkable peculiarity. As you walk down the north side, you are aware of the deep dull echo of your foot-steps following you behind, growing ever louder as you draw nearer to the western end of the vault. College porters still point out to cynical Yankees one particular flag-stone in which all the echo seems concentrated to its loudest volume. If you strike upon it with your stick, or stand upon it and shout, the sound will be taken up with startling clearness at the far end of the cloister.
Well, late one night, Mr Bunce was pacing up and down the north-side of this cloister, lost in thought and wholly deaf to the echo of his own foot-steps. The moon was at its zenith, and he stopped a moment to gaze at it abstractedly. As he did so, a vague memory of Dr Gerschovius in the picture, striking at the floor with his stick, floated across his mind. He was standing on the fateful, mysterious flag-stone, and without knowing why, he muttered to himself the curious formula in the book:
and stamped thrice.
Scarcely had he done so, when he stood transfixed with terror. The echo gave back not the sound of his own foot stamping, but of naked feet running swiftly and pattering on the stones of the cloister-walk, until it seemed they came to rest just behind him. He veered round with a start and saw nothing but the empty moonlit cloister.
For a minute or two, Mr Bunce stood blinking uneasily. Was he dreaming or awake? He looked up again at the placid moon, and, why he knew not, he felt that he was enmeshed in some horrible dream-world. If only he could shout and wake himself from his nightmare! Three times his voice refused to pass through his parched throat, and then, suddenly, he found himself howling and bellowing his own name to the moon, "Bunce! Bunce! Bunce!" like a frightened dog. The echo took up his cry and seemed to roll it back upon him in sardonic mockery from the shadowy walls of the cloister, and still he could not wake himself. At length he stopped, half in shame, and listened to the echo slowly dying away. Fainter and fainter it grew, and then, to his straining ear, there came a thin, clear cry down the cloister, "Venio, domine, venio!".
Mr Bunce owns that he fled, like the foolish cow-herd, and did not recover his peace of mind, until he was seated in the comfortable lamp-light of his college rooms, with his papers on the table in front of him.
He would have liked to have forgotten his mad behaviour in the cloisters, but an unkind fate was against him. All the next day he felt vaguely aware of some unseen presence in the room, which seemed to mock and sneer at his abstruse astronomical calculations, and in the evening this feeling became insupportable. He rose from his table angrily and went to the large black-board that stood by his window, and, in a half-hearted way, began chalking some old proposition from Euclid upon it. His mind was still running on Dr Gerschovius and his book, so that he scarcely noticed what his hand was drawing on the board. To-night he could not banish from his thoughts the picture of the pale-faced nun standing in the ruined crypt. On the page facing that picture was the diagram of a circle with a large pentagram in its midst. Underneath this diagram was a short admonition in Latin, to the effect that the necromancer must be careful not to break his circle, else, in the words of Dr Gerschovius, "the spook will escape into the common air, and there will be a fine scrimmage". From this picture with its diagram, Bunce's mind ran on to his sudden terror in the cloister the night before, and ere he could stop to think, he found himself again muttering, "Veni, veni, precor, Tophet Amenhotas".
The moment the words were past his lips, he woke from his reverie with a start, and gazed upon the black-board. All unconsciously he had been tracing the circle and the pentagram of the pale-faced nun. With an angry oath for his foolish obsession he picked up the duster to rub it out. He made one clean sweep, and broke the chalk line of the circle's circumference. Even as he did so, the glass of his lamp broke with a startling crack and the room was plunged into darkness. Somehow, his foot seemed to catch in the stand of the black-board, and it fell suddenly forward upon him, as though pushed over from behind, and both together they fell to the floor. And in the crash and general darkness, he could have sworn he heard two naked feet drop gently from the black-board to the floor.
Mr Bunce was unutterably frightened. He scrambled to his feet and groped his way towards the fire to light a taper that he knew to be lying on his mantel-piece. But as he stooped to thrust it into the flames, he glanced uneasily over his shoulder at the window by which the black-board had been standing. Before it hung two thin muslin curtains, through which the moon-light poured into a ghostly patch on the floor, and behind them in the embrasure, between him and the world outside, Mr Bunce thought he saw a vague shadowy form, the form of a tall naked man with some strange covering to his head, leaning forward into the room with his hands at his sides, as though awaiting orders. This vision somehow angered and exasperated Mr Bunce. He strode towards the window and pulled the curtains apart impatiently, and lo! he was staring, as of old, down at the solitary tree in the court below. Again the old feeling of nightmare flooded through his being; again he was seized with the unconquerable longing to wake himself with shouting. In another moment he had pushed open the window and was leaning on the sill, shouting his own name to the moon. And as the last reverberation of his cries rolled away from him he heard a thin, sneering voice reply from over the battlements on the opposite side of the court: "Veni, domine, veni!".
After this came the period of "bad dreams" to which Bunce refers, now and again in detail, but most times shortly, in his diary. His sleep was tortured at first with visions of Dr Gerschovius and the pale nun, of Dr Gerschovius and the black poodle, of Dr Gerschovius prowling round the cloisters below his rooms and striking at the echoing flag-stones with his stick. But gradually the phantom changed; it was no longer the stolid German doctor that he beheld; it was the vague dark figure of an Egyptian, that lurked unseen in the far corners of his bedroom, and, so soon as he closed his eyes, tip-toed on its naked feet across the room, and stood beside his bed, staring malignantly down at him. And as it stood there, it stretched out one hand and touched his forehead, and with the touch of its cold fore-finger, all strength and will faded out of him. He awoke, struggling wildly, to find his room silent and empty, with a frantic, unreasonable desire goading him on to leave his bed and do something that the spectre of his dreams had put into his brain. For several nights he felt he must go down into the cloister and stamp upon the echoing flag-stone. He struggled and fought against this longing, cramming the bed-clothes into his mouth to stifle his screams, for if once he yielded he vaguely knew that he was a lost soul. And then, at the close of a week, he felt that he had triumphed over fate. The Egyptian still came to his bed-side in the night but the old insidious suggestion had altered. He awoke each night possessed with the desire to do some trivial action, and with each night the action became more and more trivial. One night he rose, and felt himself compelled to wander down to the Porter's Lodge and touch a long blue mantle that he had seen hanging there a day or two before. Yet when he arrived there, the mantle was gone, and he crawled back to bed with a sense of shame and exasperation at his folly. Another night, we have seen, he rose to put out a candle in his living-room, a candle which was not alight. A third night he found himself compelled to stumble round his room in search of a scrap of scribbled paper, which, he finally remembered, he had thrown in the fire before going to bed.
And then for three nights he had a blessed respite from all dreams and all temptations. His study of astronomy showed him that they were the three nights of the new moon, and he vaguely ascribed his relief to that event. For a brief while he thought he had conquered; his dreams had been growing quieter and fainter every night, the phantom at his bed-side more and more dim and shadowy, the temptations more trivial and less compelling. But this hope faded almost at its birth: on the fourth night the shadowy Egyptian was back at his bed-side, forcing him to rise and turn the key in his bed-room door, only to find the key was not there. And he noted with a despairing terror that as the moon drew nearer to its zenith, his dreams grew sharper and more definite, and his tormentor stood out with a greater, colder intensity from the surrounding gloom. Gradually the temptations grew less and less trivial and he felt his will to resist them had grown weaker with his long obedience to them. At last one only suggestion filtered through his brain, no longer to strike the flag-stone in the cloister, but to lower himself from the window into the court below and climb the solitary tree and touch its top-most branch with his hand. Twice he awoke to find himself crawling through his window, and gripping at the stubborn ivy to lower himself down into the court.
With the approach of the three days' zenith of the moon, he grew desperate, and for several nights he scarcely slept. On the night before the moon would stand at its fullest, he knew that the crisis of his torment was drawing near, and that once more the horrid shouting-sickness would overtake him. He must escape from the college, far from the shadow of the ill-omened tree, and somewhere, in the open country, hide from his fellow-men the ignoble lunacy that had come upon him. At sun-down he hurried out through the college gate-way and struck out with rapid strides into the country. He scarcely noticed whither he went, but only wandered on and on through the long dreary hours like a man in a trance, with only one thought in his mind - to be far away from the tree and the echoing cloister.
From this unhappy state he slowly came to his senses, to find that he was leaning on a gate and gazing across a moonlit field in which a flock of sheep was peacefully sleeping. Behind him was a small wood, and far away he heard the chimes of Great St Mary's booming out an hour that told the day was near. The tranquil scene before him, the distant chimes with their news of day-break behind him, filled him with a sense of hope and comfort. The night was far-spent, and nothing had happened; the shameful sickness had not come upon him. And even as these thoughts flashed across his mind, he lifted his eyes and stared abstractedly at the sinking moon.
At the first sound of his wild, inhuman barking, there was a noise like thunder behind him, the thunder of thousands on thousands of starlings' wings beating amid the trees as they soared out of the wood and flew screaming over his head with terrified cries, far away across the sleeping fields. With a ghastly sob, Bunce ceased his outcry and watched the birds flying swiftly and noisily east-wards. As he watched, he heard them break out into a wild confused babel once more, and suddenly the flock split, like magic, into two companies, which each scattered to opposite poles of the sky and faded out of sight with a faint, discordant clamour. And then, in the field before him he heard the sheep wake from their slumber with a long-drawn bleat of terror, and they, too, broke up into two separate flocks which scampered each to a different end of the meadow, as though some terrible and menacing presence were passing through their midst. Very faintly, there came a cry, as of a shepherd saluting the dawn, "Venio, domine, venio", and far off, along the eastern horizon, poor Mr Bunce saw the first silent workings of the day, and knew that, for this once, he was saved.
But drearily and despairingly, he understood that it was only a respite. The fatal night of the moon's zenith still lay a-head of him, and now he felt himself so weakened in mind and in will by shame and horror of his sickness, by the toils and terrors of that night, that he gave up hope and lost all desire to struggle against his tormentor any further. All that last day he cowered gloomily over his fire, brooding bitterly over the fate that lay in ambush for him in the coming night. A modern physician would have diagnosed his case as one of neurosis, following upon overwork; a physician with some knowledge of Hesselius and the obscure maladies that afflict the inhabitants of the Carpathian Mountains, would have seen that his neurosis had taken the unfortunate form of lykanthropy. But Mr Bunce lived in times in which neurosis, as a disease, was not recognised, at any rate, by name. And as for lykanthropy, the stolid Cambridge of his day would have laughed it out of court as an exploded medieval superstition; in its kinder moments it might have ascribed poor Bunce's moon-struck ululations to youth or high spirits, or, perhaps, to a scholar's eccentricity, but, for the most part, it would have wagged a sorrowful head over one more lapse from learning and propriety through an all too common weakness. And he, poor man, hugging his secret to his heart and vainly pondering over it, could trace it to one source, and one source only, to the malign fate that had put the volume of Dr Gerschovius in his hands. Somehow, with the help of that accursed book, he had given himself over to the power of some evil spirit, whom he, carelessly, unconsciously, inadvertently, had conjured up from the deep and dead past, a spirit that, in all ages and all worlds, never had been living and never would be dead, a spirit, whose sole aim in persecuting poor human nature was a grim and purposeless malevolence, older than earth itself. And why, O why, he asked, had this hateful punishment been visited upon him - for what crime of his? Dully his eyes fell upon the papers on his table, with their wasted astronomical speculations, and he thought of Dr Gerschovius sitting in the thin shaft of moonlight, of Narcissus howling at the moon, of the moon itself, riding calmly through the sky outside, cold and serene, yet always vigilant. Was this hidden phantom that had pounced upon him the echo of his own voice, was it some revengeful "minion of the moon", sent to chastise him for his denial of her influence, his blasphemous attempt to wrest her, with his puny calculations, from her time honoured orbit? His tired brain could neither answer nor gainsay the suggestion, and so, in utter despair, he opened his journal and made that last short entry which I have already quoted. The struggle was over; his fate lay in other and stronger hands than his own, and who knows? perhaps by bowing his head and yielding to the sleepless promptings of his persecutor, he might, like Jacob of old, look on him face to face, and wrestle with him, and so either mend or end his troubles.
No man can say what passed on that last night. An undergraduate, sleeping in rooms on the further side of the New Court, was woken somewhere towards daybreak by the sound of a dog baying pitifully at the moon. Dreamily, he remembered that more than once he had seen a black poodle prowling round the tree below in the evenings, and, without further thought, he turned over on his side and fell asleep again.
The next morning, Mr Bunce was found lying at the foot of the tree, dead, with his neck broken.
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