A YOUNG MAN, named Giovanni Guasconti, came, very long ago, from
the more southern region of Italy, to pursue his studies at the
University of Padua. Giovanni, who had but a scanty supply of gold
ducats in his pocket, took lodgings in a high and gloomy chamber of an
old edifice, which looked not unworthy to have been the palace of a
Paduan noble, and which, in fact, exhibited over its entrance the
armorial bearings of a family long since extinct. The young
stranger, who was not unstudied in the great poem of his country,
recollected that one of the ancestors of this family, and perhaps an
occupant of this very mansion, had been pictured by Dante as a
partaker of the immortal agonies of his Inferno. These reminiscences
and associations, together with the tendency to heart-break natural to
a young man for the first time out of his native sphere, caused
Giovanni to sigh heavily, as he looked around the desolate and
"Holy Virgin, signor," cried old dame Lisabetta, who, won by the
youth's remarkable beauty of person, was kindly endeavoring to give
the chamber a habitable air, "what a sigh was that to come out of a
young man's heart! Do you find this old mansion gloomy? For the love
of heaven, then, put your head out of the window, and you will see
as bright sunshine as you have left in Naples."
Guasconti mechanically did as the old woman advised, but could
not quite agree with her that the Lombard sunshine was as cheerful
as that of southern Italy. Such as it was, however, it fell upon a
garden beneath the window, and expended its fostering influences on
a variety of plants, which seemed to have been cultivated with
"Does this garden belong to the house?" asked Giovanni.
"Heaven forbid, signor! unless it were fruitful of better
potherbs than any that grow there now," answered old Lisabetta. "No:
that garden is cultivated by the own hands of Signor Giacomo
Rappaccini, the famous Doctor, who, I warrant him, has been heard of
as far as Naples. It is said he distils these plants into medicines
that are as potent as a charm. Oftentimes you may see the signor
Doctor at work, and perchance the signora his daughter, too, gathering
the strange flowers that grow in the garden."
The old woman had now done what she could for the aspect of the
chamber, and, commending the young man to the protection of the
saints, took her departure.
Giovanni still found no better occupation than to look down into
the garden beneath his window. From its appearance, he judged it to be
one of those botanic gardens, which were of earlier date in Padua than
elsewhere in Italy, or in the world. Or, not improbably, it might once
have been the pleasure-place of an opulent family; for there was the
ruin of a marble fountain in the centre, sculptured with rare art, but
so wofully shattered that it was impossible to trace the original
design from the chaos of remaining fragments. The water, however,
continued to gush and sparkle into the sunbeams as cheerfully as ever.
A little gurgling sound ascended to the young man's window, and made
him feel as if a fountain were an immortal spirit, that sun its song
unceasingly, and without heeding the vicissitudes around it; while one
century embodied it in marble, and another scattered the perishable
garniture on the soil. All about the pool into which the water
subsided, grew various plants, that seemed to require a plentiful
supply of moisture for the nourishment of gigantic leaves, and, in
some instances, flowers gorgeously magnificent. There was one shrub in
particular, set in a marble vase in the midst of the pool, that bore a
profusion of purple blossoms, each of which had the lustre and
richness of a gem; and the whole together made a show so resplendent
that it seemed enough to illuminate the garden, even had there been no
sunshine. Every portion of the soil was peopled with plants and herbs,
which, if less beautiful, still bore tokens of assiduous care; as if
all had their individual virtues, known to the scientific mind that
fostered them. Some were placed in urns, rich with old carving, and
others in common garden-pots; some crept serpent-like along the
ground, or climbed on high, using whatever means of ascent was offered
them. One plant had wreathed itself round a statue of Vertumnus, which
was thus quite veiled and shrouded in a drapery of hanging foliage, so
happily arranged that it might have served a sculptor for a study.
While Giovanni stood at the window, he heard a rustling behind a
screen of leaves, and became aware that a person was at work in the
garden. His figure soon emerged into view, and showed itself to be
that of no common laborer, but a tall, emaciated, sallow, and sickly
looking man, dressed in a scholar's garb of black. He was beyond the
middle term of life, with gray hair, a thin gray beard, and a face
singularly marked with intellect and cultivation, but which could
never, even in his more youthful days, have expressed much warmth of
Nothing could exceed the intentness with which this scientific
gardener examined every shrub which grew in his path; it seemed as
if he was looking into their inmost nature, making observations in
regard to their creative essence, and discovering why one leaf grew in
this shape, and another in that, and wherefore such and such flowers
differed among themselves in hue and perfume. Nevertheless, in spite
of the deep intelligence on his part, there was no approach to
intimacy between himself and these vegetable existences. On the
contrary, he avoided their actual touch, or the direct inhaling of
their odors, with a caution that impressed Giovanni most disagreeably;
for the man's demeanor was that of one walking among malignant
influences, such as savage beasts, or deadly snakes, or evil
spirits, which, should he allow them one moment of license, would
wreak upon him some terrible fatality. It was strangely frightful to
the young man's imagination, to see this air of insecurity in a person
cultivating a garden, that most simple and innocent of human toils,
and which had been alike the joy and labor of the unfallen parents
of the race. Was this garden, then, the Eden of the present world? and
this man, with such a perception of harm in what his own hands
caused to grow, was he the Adam?
The distrustful gardener, while plucking away the dead leaves or
pruning the too luxuriant growth of the shrubs, defended his hands
with a pair of thick gloves. Nor were these his only armor. When, in
his walk through the garden, he came to the magnificent plant that
hung its purple gems beside the marble fountain, he placed a kind of
mask over his mouth and nostrils, as if all this beauty did but
conceal a deadlier malice. But finding his task still too dangerous,
he drew back, removed the mask, and called loudly, but in the infirm
voice of a person affected with inward disease:
"Here am I, my father! What would you?" cried a rich and youthful
voice from the window of the opposite house; a voice as rich as a
tropical sunset, and which made Giovanni, though he knew not why,
think of deep hues of purple or crimson, and of perfumes heavily
delectable- "Are you in the garden?"
"Yes, Beatrice," answered the gardener, "and I need your help."
Soon there emerged from under a sculptured portal the figure of a
young girl, arrayed with as much richness of taste as the most
splendid of the flowers, beautiful as the day, and with a bloom so
deep and vivid that one shade more would have been too much. She
looked redundant with life, health, and energy; all of which
attributes were bound down and compressed, as it were, and girdled
tensely, in their luxuriance, by her virgin zone. Yet Giovanni's fancy
must have grown morbid, while he looked down into the garden; for
the impression which the fair stranger made upon him was as if here
were another flower, the human sister of those vegetable ones, as
beautiful as they- more beautiful than the richest of them- but
still to be touched only with a glove, nor to be approached without
a mask. As Beatrice came down the garden-path, it was observable
that she handled and inhaled the odor of several of the plants,
which her father had most sedulously avoided.
"Here, Beatrice," said the latter- "see how many needful offices
require to be done to our chief treasure. Yet, shattered as I am, my
life might pay the penalty of approaching it so closely as
circumstances demand. Henceforth, I fear, this plant must be consigned
to your sole charge."
"And gladly will I undertake it," cried again the rich tones of the
young lady, as she bent towards the magnificent plant, and opened
her arms as if to embrace it. "Yes, my sister, my splendor, it shall
be Beatrice's task to nurse and serve thee; and thou shalt reward
her with thy kisses and perfume breath, which to her is as the
breath of life!"
Then, with all the tenderness in her manner that was so
strikingly expressed in her words, she busied herself with such
attentions as the plant seemed to require; and Giovanni, at his
lofty window, rubbed his eyes, and almost doubted whether it were a
girl tending her favorite flower, or one sister performing the
duties of affection to another. The scene soon terminated. Whether
Doctor Rappaccini had finished his labors in the garden, or that his
watchful eye had caught the stranger's face, he now took his
daughter's arm and retired. Night was already closing in; oppressive
exhalations seemed to proceed from the plants, and steal upward past
the open window; and Giovanni, closing the lattice, went to his couch,
and dreamed of a rich flower and beautiful girl. Flower and maiden
were different and yet the same, and fraught with some strange peril
in either shape.
But there is an influence in the light of morning that tends to
rectify whatever errors of fancy, or even of judgment, we may have
incurred during the sun's decline, or among the shadows of the
night, or in the less wholesome glow of moonshine. Giovanni's first
movement on starting from sleep, was to throw open the window, and
gaze down into the garden which his dreams had made so fertile of
mysteries. He was surprised, and a little ashamed, to find how real
and matter-of-fact an affair it proved to be, in the first rays of the
sun, which gilded the dew-drops that hung upon leaf and blossom,
and, while giving a brighter beauty to each rare flower, brought
everything within the limits of ordinary experience. The young man
rejoiced, that, in the heart of the barren city, he had the
privilege of overlooking this spot of lovely and luxuriant vegetation.
It would serve, he said to himself, as a symbolic language, to keep
him in communion with nature. Neither the sickly and thought-worn
Doctor Giacomo Rappaccini, it is true, nor his brilliant daughter,
were now visible; so that Giovanni could not determine how much of the
singularity which he attributed to both, was due to their own
qualities, and how much to his wonder-working fancy. But he was
inclined to take a most rational view of the whole matter.
In the course of the day, he paid his respects to Signor Pietro
Baglioni, Professor of Medicine in the University, a physician of
eminent repute, to whom Giovanni had brought a letter of introduction.
The Professor was an elderly personage, apparently of genial nature,
and habits that might almost be called jovial; he kept the young man
to dinner, and made himself very agreeable by the freedom and
liveliness of his conversation, especially when warmed by a flask or
two of Tuscan wine. Giovanni, conceiving that men of science,
inhabitants of the same city, must needs be on familiar terms with one
another, took an opportunity to mention the name of Doctor Rappaccini.
But the Professor did not respond with so much cordiality as he had
"Ill would it become a teacher of the divine art of medicine," said
Professor Pietro Baglioni, in answer to a question of Giovanni, "to
withhold due and well-considered praise of a physician so eminently
skilled as Rappaccini. But, on the other hand, I should answer it
but scantily to my conscience, were I to permit a worthy youth like
yourself, Signor Giovanni, the son of an ancient friend, to imbibe
erroneous ideas respecting a man who might hereafter chance to hold
your life and death in his hands. The truth is, our worshipful
Doctor Rappaccini has as much science as any member of the faculty-
with perhaps one single exception- in Padua, or all Italy. But there
are certain grave objections to his professional character."
"And what are they?" asked the young man.
"Has my friend Giovanni any disease of body or heart, that he is so
inquisitive about physicians?" said the Professor, with a smile.
"But as for Rappaccini, it is said of him- and I, who know the man
well, can answer for its truth- that he cares infinitely more for
science than for mankind. His patients are interesting to him only
as subjects for some new experiment. He would sacrifice human life,
his own among the rest, or whatever else was dearest to him, for the
sake of adding so much as a grain of mustard-seed to the great heap of
his accumulated knowledge."
"Methinks he is an awful man, indeed," remarked Guasconti, mentally
recalling the cold and purely intellectual aspect of Rappaccini.
"And yet, worshipful Professor, is it not a noble spirit? Are there
many men capable of so spiritual a love of science?"
"God forbid," answered the Professor, somewhat testily- "at
least, unless they take sounder views of the healing art than those
adopted by Rappaccini. It is his theory, that all medicinal virtues
are comprised within those substances which we term vegetable poisons.
These he cultivates with his own hands, and is said even to have
produced new varieties of poison, more horribly deleterious than
Nature, without the assistance of this learned person, would ever have
plagued the world with. That the Signor Doctor does less mischief than
might be expected, with such dangerous substances, is undeniable.
Now and then, it must be owned, he has effected-or seemed to effect- a
marvellous cure. But, to tell you my private mind, Signor Giovanni, he
should receive little credit for such instances of success- they being
probably the work of chance- but should be held strictly accountable
for his failures, which may justly be considered his own work."
The youth might have taken Baglioni's opinions with many grains
of allowance, had he known that there was a professional warfare of
long continuance between him and Doctor Rappaccini, in which the
latter was generally thought to have gained the advantage. If the
reader be inclined to judge for himself, we refer him to certain
black-letter tracts on both sides, preserved in the medical department
of the University of Padua.
"I know not, most learned Professor," returned Giovanni, after
musing on what had been said of Rappaccini's exclusive zeal for
science- "I know not how dearly this physician may love his art; but
surely there is one object more dear to him. He has a daughter."
"Aha!" cried the Professor with a laugh. "So now our friend
Giovanni's secret is out. You have heard of this daughter, whom all
the young men in Padua are wild about, though not half a dozen have
ever had the good hap to see her face. I know little of the Signora
Beatrice, save that Rappaccini is said to have instructed her deeply
in his science, and that, young and beautiful as fame reports her, she
is already qualified to fill a professor's chair. Perchance her father
destines her for mine! Other absurd rumors there be, not worth talking
about, or listening to. So now, Signor Giovanni, drink off your
glass of Lacryma."
Guasconti returned to his lodgings somewhat heated with the wine he
had quaffed, and which caused his brain to swim with strange fantasies
in reference to Doctor Rappaccini and the beautiful Beatrice. On his
way, happening to pass by a florist's, he bought a fresh bouquet of
Ascending to his chamber, he seated himself near the window, but
within the shadow thrown by the depth of the wall, so that he could
look down into the garden with little risk of being discovered. All
beneath his eye was a solitude. The strange plants were basking in the
sunshine, and now and then nodding gently to one another, as if in
acknowledgment of sympathy and kindred. In the midst, by the shattered
fountain, grew the magnificent shrub, with its purple gems
clustering all over it; they glowed in the air, and gleamed back again
out of the depths of the pool, which thus seemed to overflow with
colored radiance from the rich reflection that was steeped in it. At
first, as we have said, the garden was a solitude. Soon, however- as
Giovanni had half hoped, half feared, would be the case- a figure
appeared beneath the antique sculptured portal, and came down
between the rows of plants, inhaling their various perfumes, as if she
were one of those beings of old classic fable, that lived upon sweet
odors. On again beholding Beatrice, the young man was even startled to
perceive how much her beauty exceeded his recollection of it; so
brilliant, so vivid in its character, that she glowed amid the
sunlight, and, as Giovanni whispered to himself, positively
illuminated the more shadowy intervals of the garden path. Her face
being now more revealed than on the former occasion, he was struck
by its expression of simplicity and sweetness; qualities that had
not entered into his idea of her character, and which made him ask
anew, what manner of mortal she might be. Nor did he fail again to
observe, or imagine, an analogy between the beautiful girl and the
gorgeous shrub that hung its gem-like flowers over the fountain; a
resemblance which Beatrice seemed to have indulged a fantastic humor
in heightening, both by the arrangement of her dress and the selection
of its hues.
Approaching the shrub, she threw open her arms, as with a
passionate ardor, and drew its branches into an intimate embrace; so
intimate, that her features were hidden in its leafy bosom, and her
glistening ringlets all intermingled with the flowers.
"Give me thy breath, my sister," exclaimed Beatrice; "for I am
faint with common air! And give me this flower of thine, which I
separate with gentlest fingers from the stem, and place it close
beside my heart."
With these words, the beautiful daughter of Rappaccini plucked
one of the richest blossoms of the shrub, and was about to fasten it
in her bosom. But now, unless Giovanni's draughts of wine had
bewildered his senses, a singular incident occurred. A small orange
colored reptile, of the lizard or chameleon species, chanced to be
creeping along the path, just at the feet of Beatrice. It appeared
to Giovanni- but, at the distance from which he gazed, he could
scarcely have seen anything so minute- it appeared to him, however,
that a drop or two of moisture from the broken stem of the flower
descended upon the lizard's head. For an instant, the reptile
contorted itself violently, and then lay motionless in the sunshine.
Beatrice observed this remarkable phenomenon, and crossed herself,
sadly, but without surprise; nor did she therefore hesitate to arrange
the fatal flower in her bosom. There it blushed, and almost
glimmered with the dazzling effect of a precious stone, adding to
her dress and aspect the one appropriate charm, which nothing else
in the world could have supplied. But Giovanni, out of the shadow of
his window, bent forward and shrank back, and murmured and trembled.
"Am I awake? Have I my senses?" said he to himself. "What is this
being? beautiful, shall I call her? or inexpressibly terrible?"
Beatrice now strayed carelessly through the garden, approaching
closer beneath Giovanni's window, so that he was compelled to thrust
his head quite out of its concealment, in order to gratify the intense
and painful curiosity which she excited. At this moment, there came
a beautiful insect over the garden wall; it had perhaps wandered
through the city and found no flowers nor verdure among those
antique haunts of men, until the heavy perfumes of Doctor Rappaccini's
shrubs had lured it from afar. Without alighting on the flowers,
this winged brightness seemed to be attracted by Beatrice, and
lingered in the air and fluttered about her head. Now here it could
not be but that Giovanni Guasconti's eyes deceived him. Be that as
it might, he fancied that while Beatrice was gazing at the insect with
childish delight, it grew faint and fell at her feet! its bright wings
shivered! it was dead! from no cause that he could discern, unless
it were the atmosphere of her breath. Again Beatrice crossed herself
and sighed heavily, as she bent over the dead insect.
An impulsive movement of Giovanni drew her eyes to the window.
There she beheld the beautiful head of the young man- rather a Grecian
than an Italian head, with fair, regular features, and a glistening of
gold among his ringlets- gazing down upon her like a being that
hovered in mid-air. Scarcely knowing what he did, Giovanni threw
down the bouquet which he had hitherto held in his hand.
"Signora," said he, "there are pure and healthful flowers. Wear
them for the sake of Giovanni Guasconti!"
"Thanks, Signor," replied Beatrice, with her rich voice that came
forth as it were like a gush of music; and with a mirthful
expression half childish and half woman-like. "I accept your gift, and
would fain recompense it with this precious purple flower; but if I
toss it into the air, it will not reach you. So Signor Guasconti
must even content himself with my thanks."
She lifted the bouquet from the ground, and then as if inwardly
ashamed at having stepped aside from her maidenly reserve to respond
to a stranger's greeting, passed swiftly homeward through the
garden. But, few as the moments were, it seemed to Giovanni when she
was on the point of vanishing beneath the sculptured portal, that
his beautiful bouquet was already beginning to wither in her grasp. It
was an idle thought; there could be no possibility of distinguishing a
faded flower from a fresh one, at so great a distance.
For many days after this incident, the young man avoided the window
that looked into Doctor Rappaccini's garden, as if something ugly
and monstrous would have blasted his eye-sight, had he been betrayed
into a glance. He felt conscious of having put himself, to a certain
extent, within the influence of an unintelligible power, by the
communication which he had opened with Beatrice. The wisest course
would have been, if his heart were in any real danger, to quit his
lodgings and Padua itself, at once; the next wiser, to have accustomed
himself, as far as possible, to the familiar and day-light view of
Beatrice; thus bringing her rigidly and systematically within the
limits of ordinary experience. Least of all, while avoiding her sight,
should Giovanni have remained so near this extraordinary being, that
the proximity and possibility even of intercourse, should give a
kind of substance and reality to the wild vagaries which his
imagination ran riot continually in producing. Guasconti had not a
deep heart- or at all events, its depths were not sounded now- but
he had a quick fancy, and an ardent southern temperament, which rose
every instant to a higher fever-pitch. Whether or no Beatrice
possessed those terrible attributes- that fatal breath- the affinity
with those so beautiful and deadly flowers- which were indicated by
what Giovanni had witnessed, she had at least instilled a fierce and
subtle poison into his system. It was not love, although her rich
beauty was a madness to him; nor horror, even while he fancied her
spirit to be imbued with the same baneful essence that seemed to
pervade her physical frame; but a wild offspring of both love and
horror that had each parent in it, and burned like one and shivered
like the other. Giovanni knew not what to dread; still less did he
know what to hope; yet hope and dread kept a continual warfare in
his breast, alternately vanquishing one another and starting up afresh
to renew the contest. Blessed are all simple emotions, be they dark or
bright! It is the lurid intermixture of the two that produces the
illuminating blaze of the infernal regions.
Sometimes he endeavored to assuage the fever of his spirit by a
rapid walk through the streets of Padua, or beyond its gates; his
footsteps kept time with the throbbings of his brain, so that the walk
was apt to accelerate itself to a race. One day, he found himself
arrested; his arm was seized by a portly personage who had turned back
on recognizing the young man, and expended much breath in overtaking
"Signor Giovanni! stay, my young friend!" cried he. "Have you
forgotten me? That might well be the case, if I were as much altered
It was Baglioni, whom Giovanni had avoided, ever since their
first meeting, from a doubt that the Professor's sagacity would look
too deeply into his secrets. Endeavoring to recover himself, he stared
forth wildly from his inner world into the outer one, and spoke like a
man in a dream.
"Yes; I am Giovanni Guasconti. You are Professor Pietro Baglioni.
Now let me pass!"
"Not yet- not yet, Signor Giovanni Guasconti," said the
Professor, smiling, but at the same time scrutinizing the youth with
an earnest glance. "What, did I grow up side by side with your father,
and shall his son pass me like a stranger, in these old streets of
Padua? Stand still, Signor Giovanni; for we must have a word or two
before we part."
"Speedily, then, most worshipful Professor, speedily!" said
Giovanni, with feverish impatience. "Does not your worship see that
I am in haste?"
Now, while he was speaking, there came a man in black along the
street, stooping and moving feebly, like a person in inferior
health. His face was all overspread with a most sickly and sallow hue,
but yet so pervaded with an expression of piercing and active
intellect, that an observer might easily have overlooked the merely
physical attributes, and have seen only this wonderful energy. As he
passed, this person exchanged a cold and distant salutation with
Baglioni, but fixed his eyes upon Giovanni with an intentness that
seemed to bring out whatever was within him worthy of notice.
Nevertheless, there was a peculiar quietness in the look, as if taking
merely a speculative, not a human interest, in the young man.
"It is Doctor Rappaccini!" whispered the Professor, when the
stranger had passed. "Has he ever seen your face before?"
"Not that I know," answered Giovanni, starting at the name.
"He has seen you! he must have seen you!" said Baglioni, hastily.
"For some purpose or other, this man of science is making a study of
you. I know that look of his! It is the same that coldly illuminates
his face, as he bends over a bird, a mouse, or a butterfly, which,
in pursuance of some experiment, he has killed by the perfume of a
flower- a look as deep as nature itself, but without nature's warmth
of love. Signor Giovanni, I will stake my life upon it, you are the
subject of one of Rappaccini's experiments!"
"Will you make a fool of me?" cried Giovanni, passionately.
"That, Signor Professor, were an untoward experiment."
"Patience, patience!" replied the imperturbable Professor. "I
tell thee, my poor Giovanni, that Rappaccini has a scientific interest
in thee. Thou hast fallen into fearful hands! And the Signora
Beatrice? What part does she act in this mystery?"
But Guasconti, finding Baglioni's pertinacity intolerable, here
broke away, and was gone before the Professor could again seize his
arm. He looked after the young man intently, and shook his head.
"This must not be," said Baglioni to himself. "The youth is the son
of my old friend, and shall not come to any harm from which the arcana
of medical science can preserve him. Besides, it is too insufferable
an impertinence in Rappaccini thus to snatch the lad out of my own
hands, as I may say, and make use of him for his infernal experiments.
This daughter of his! It shall be looked to. Perchance, most learned
Rappaccini, I may foil you where you little dream of it!"
Meanwhile, Giovanni had pursued a circuitous route, and at length
found himself at the door of his lodgings. As he crossed the
threshold, he was met by old Lisabetta, who smirked and smiled, and
was evidently desirous to attract his attention; vainly, however, as
the ebullition of his feelings had momentarily subsided into a cold
and dull vacuity. He turned his eyes full upon the withered face
that was puckering itself into a smile, but seemed to behold it not.
The old dame, therefore, laid her grasp upon his cloak.
"Signor! Signor!" whispered she, still with a smile over the
whole breadth of her visage, so that it looked not unlike a
grotesque carving in wood, darkened by centuries- "Listen, Signor!
There is a private entrance into the garden!"
"What do you say?" exclaimed Giovanni, turning quickly about, as if
an inanimate thing should start into feverish life. "A private
entrance into Doctor Rappaccini's garden!"
"Hush! hush! not so loud!" whispered Lisabetta, putting her hand
over his mouth. "Yes; into the worshipful Doctor's garden, where you
may see all his fine shrubbery. Many a young man in Padua would give
gold to be admitted among those flowers."
Giovanni put a piece of gold into her hand.
"Show me the way," said he.
A surmise, probably excited by his conversation with Baglioni,
crossed his mind, that this interposition of old Lisabetta might
perchance be connected with the intrigue, whatever were its nature, in
which the Professor seemed to suppose that Doctor Rappaccini was
involving him. But such a suspicion, though it disturbed Giovanni, was
inadequate to restrain him. The instant he was aware of the
possibility of approaching Beatrice, it seemed an absolute necessity
of his existence to do so. It mattered not whether she were angel or
demon; he was irrevocably within her sphere, and must obey the law
that whirled him onward, in ever lessening circles, towards a result
which he did not attempt to foreshadow. And yet, strange to say, there
came across him a sudden doubt, whether this intense interest on his
part were not delusory- whether it were really of so deep and positive
a nature as to justify him in now thrusting himself into an
incalculable position- whether it were not merely the fantasy of a
young man's brain, only slightly, or not at all, connected with his
He paused- hesitated- turned half about- but again went on. His
withered guide led him along several obscure passages, and finally
undid a door, through which, as it was opened, there came the sight
and sound of rustling leaves, with the broken sunshine glimmering
among them. Giovanni stepped forth, and forcing himself through the
entanglement of a shrub that wreathed its tendrils over the hidden
entrance, he stood beneath his own window, in the open area of
Doctor Rappaccini's garden.
How often is it the case, that, when impossibilities have come to
pass, and dreams have condensed their misty substance into tangible
realities, we find ourselves calm, and even coldly self-possessed,
amid circumstances which it would have been a delirium of joy or agony
to anticipate! Fate delights to thwart us thus. Passion will choose
his own time to rush upon the scene, and lingers sluggishly behind,
when an appropriate adjustment of events would seem to summon his
appearance. So was it now with Giovanni. Day after day, his pulses had
throbbed with feverish blood, at the improbable idea of an interview
with Beatrice, and of standing with her, face to face, in this very
garden, basking in the oriental sunshine of her beauty, and
snatching from her full gaze the mystery which he deemed the riddle of
his own existence. But now there was a singular and untimely
equanimity within his breast. He threw a glance around the garden to
discover if Beatrice or her father were present, and perceiving that
he was alone, began a critical observation of the plants.
The aspect of one and all of them dissatisfied him; their
gorgeousness seemed fierce, passionate, and even unnatural. There
was hardly an individual shrub which a wanderer, straying by himself
through a forest, would not have been startled to find growing wild,
as if an unearthly face had glared at him out of the thicket. Several,
also, would have shocked a delicate instinct by an appearance of
artificialness, indicating that there had been such commixture, and,
as it were, adultery of various vegetable species, that the production
was no longer of God's making, but the monstrous offspring of man's
depraved fancy, glowing with only an evil mockery of beauty. They were
probably the result of experiment, which, in one or two cases, had
succeeded in mingling plants individually lovely into a compound
possessing the questionable and ominous character that distinguished
the whole growth of the garden. In fine, Giovanni recognized but two
or three plants in the collection, and those of a kind that he well
knew to be poisonous. While busy with these contemplations, he heard
the rustling of a silken garment, and turning, beheld Beatrice
emerging from beneath the sculptured portal.
Giovanni had not considered with himself what should be his
deportment; whether he should apologize for his intrusion into the
garden, or assume that he was there with the privity, at least, if not
by the desire, of Doctor Rappaccini or his daughter. But Beatrice's
manner placed him at his ease, though leaving him still in doubt by
what agency he had gained admittance. She came lightly along the path,
and met him near the broken fountain. There was surprise in her
face, but brightened by a simple and kind expression of pleasure.
"You are a connoisseur in flowers, Signor," said Beatrice with a
smile, alluding to the bouquet which he had flung her from the window.
"It is no marvel, therefore, if the sight of my father's rare
collection has tempted you to take a nearer view. If he were here,
he could tell you many strange and interesting facts as to the
nature and habits of these shrubs, for he has spent a life-time in
such studies, and this garden is his world."
"And yourself, lady"- observed Giovanni- "if fame says true- you,
likewise, are deeply skilled in the virtues indicated by these rich
blossoms, and these spicy perfumes. Would you deign to be my
instructress, I should prove an apter scholar than under Signor
"Are there such idle rumors?" asked Beatrice, with the music of a
pleasant laugh. "Do people say that I am skilled in my father's
science of plants? What a jest is there! No; though I have grown up
among these flowers, I know no more of them than their hues and
perfume; and sometimes, methinks I would fain rid myself of even
that small knowledge. There are many flowers here, and those not the
least brilliant, that shock and offend me, when they meet my eye. But,
pray, Signor, do not believe these stories about my science. Believe
nothing of me save what you see with your own eyes."
"And must I believe all that I have seen with my own eyes?" asked
Giovanni pointedly, while the recollection of former scenes made him
shrink. "No, Signora, you demand too little of me. Bid me believe
nothing, save what comes from your own lips."
It would appear that Beatrice understood him. There came a deep
flush to her cheek; but she looked full into Giovanni's eyes, and
responded to his gaze of uneasy suspicion with a queen-like
I do so bid you, Signor!" she replied. "Forget whatever you may
have fancied in regard to me. If true to the outward senses, still
it may be false in its essence. But the words of Beatrice Rappaccini's
lips are true from the heart outward. Those you may believe!"
A fervor glowed in her whole aspect, and beamed upon Giovanni's
consciousness like the light of truth itself. But while she spoke,
there was a fragrance in the atmosphere around her rich and
delightful, though evanescent, yet which the young man, from an
indefinable reluctance, scarcely dared to draw into his lungs. It
might be the odor of the flowers. Could it be Beatrice's breath, which
thus embalmed her words with a strange richness, as if by steeping
them in her heart? A faintness passed like a shadow over Giovanni, and
flitted away; he seemed to gaze through the beautiful girl's eyes into
her transparent soul, and felt no more doubt or fear.
The tinge of passion that had colored Beatrice's manner vanished;
she became gay, and appeared to derive a pure delight from her
communion with the youth, not unlike what the maiden of a lonely
island might have felt, conversing with a voyager from the civilized
world. Evidently her experience of life had been confined within the
limits of that garden. She talked now about matters as simple as the
day-light or summer-clouds, and now asked questions in reference to
the city, or Giovanni's distant home, his friends, his mother, and his
sisters; questions indicating such seclusion, and such lack of
familiarity with modes and forms, that Giovanni responded as if to
an infant. Her spirit gushed out before him like a fresh rill, that
was just catching its first glimpse of the sunlight, and wondering, at
the reflections of earth and sky which were flung into its bosom.
There came thoughts, too, from a deep source, and fantasies of a
gem-like brilliancy, as if diamonds and rubies sparkled upward among
the bubbles of the fountain. Ever and anon, there gleamed across the
young man's mind a sense of wonder, that he should be walking side
by side with the being who had so wrought upon his imagination- whom
he had idealized in such hues of terror- in whom he had positively
witnessed such manifestations of dreadful attributes- that he should
be conversing with Beatrice like a brother, and should find her so
human and so maiden-like. But such reflections were only momentary;
the effect of her character was too real, not to make itself
familiar at once.
In this free intercourse, they had strayed through the garden,
and now, after many turns among its avenues, were come to the
shattered fountain, beside which grew the magnificent shrub with its
treasury of glowing blossoms. A fragrance was diffused from it,
which Giovanni recognized as identical with that which he had
attributed to Beatrice's breath, but incomparably more powerful. As
her eyes fell upon it, Giovanni beheld her press her hand to her
bosom, as if her heart were throbbing suddenly and painfully.
"For the first time in my life," murmured she, addressing the
shrub, "I had forgotten thee!"
"I remember, Signora," said Giovanni, "that you once promised to
reward me with one of these living gems for the bouquet, which I had
the happy boldness to fling to your feet. Permit me now to pluck it as
a memorial of this interview."
He made a step towards the shrub, with extended hand. But
Beatrice darted forward, uttering a shriek that went through his heart
like a dagger. She caught his hand, and drew it back with the whole
force of her slender figure. Giovanni felt her touch thrilling through
"Touch it not!" exclaimed she, in a voice of agony. "Not for thy
life! It is fatal!"
Then, hiding her face, she fled from him, and vanished beneath
the sculptured portal. As Giovanni followed her with his eyes, he
beheld the emaciated figure and pale intelligence of Doctor
Rappaccini, who had been watching the scene, he knew not how long,
within the shadow of the entrance.
No sooner was Guasconti alone in his chamber, than the image of
Beatrice came back to his passionate musings, invested with all the
witchery that had been gathering around it ever since his first
glimpse of her, and now likewise imbued with a tender warmth of
girlish womanhood. She was human: her nature was endowed with all
gentle and feminine qualities; she was worthiest to be worshipped; she
was capable, surely, on her part, of the height and heroism of love.
Those tokens, which he had hitherto considered as proofs of a
frightful peculiarity in her physical and moral system, were now
either forgotten, or, by the subtle sophistry of passion, transmuted
into a golden crown of enchantment, rendering Beatrice the more
admirable, by so much as she was the more unique. Whatever had
looked ugly, was now beautiful; or, if incapable of such a change,
it stole away and hid itself among those shapeless half-ideas, which
throng the dim region beyond the daylight of our perfect
consciousness. Thus did Giovanni spend the night, nor fell asleep,
until the dawn had begun to awake the slumbering flowers in Doctor
Rappaccini's garden, whither his dreams doubtless led him. Up rose the
sun in his due season, and flinging his beams upon the young man's
eyelids, awoke him to a sense of pain. When thoroughly aroused, he
became sensible of a burning and tingling agony in his hand- in his
right hand- the very hand which Beatrice had grasped in her own,
when he was on the point of plucking one of the gem-like flowers. On
the back of that hand there was now a purple print, like that of
four small fingers, and the likeness of a slender thumb upon his
Oh, how stubbornly does love- or even that cunning semblance of
love which flourishes in the imagination, but strikes no depth of root
into the heart- how stubbornly does it hold its faith, until the
moment come, when it is doomed to vanish into thin mist! Giovanni
wrapt a handkerchief about his hand, and wondered what evil thing
had stung him, and soon forgot his pain in a reverie of Beatrice.
After the first interview, a second was in the inevitable course of
what we call fate. A third; a fourth; and a meeting with Beatrice in
the garden was no longer an incident in Giovanni's daily life, but the
whole space in which he might be said to live; for the anticipation
and memory of that ecstatic hour made up the remainder. Nor was it
otherwise with the daughter of Rappaccini. She watched for the youth's
appearance, and flew to his side with confidence as unreserved as if
they had been playmates from early infancy- as if they were such
playmates still. If, by any unwonted chance, he failed to come at
the appointed moment, she stood beneath the window, and sent up the
rich sweetness of her tones to float around him in his chamber, and
echo and reverberate throughout his heart- "Giovanni! Giovanni! Why
tarriest thou? Come down!" And down he hastened into that Eden of
But, with all this intimate familiarity, there was still a
reserve in Beatrice's demeanor, so rigidly and invariably sustained,
that the idea of infringing it scarcely occurred to his imagination.
By all appreciable signs, they loved; they had looked love, with
eyes that conveyed the holy secret from the depths of one soul into
the depths of the other, as if it were too sacred to be whispered by
the way; they had even spoken love, in those gushes of passion when
their spirits darted forth in articulated breath, like tongues of
long-hidden flame; and yet there had been no seal of lips, no clasp of
hands, nor any slightest caress, such as love claims and hallows. He
had never touched one of the gleaming ringlets of her hair; her
garment- so marked was the physical barrier between them- had never
been waved against him by a breeze. On the few occasions when Giovanni
had seemed tempted to overstep the limit, Beatrice grew so sad, so
stern, and withal wore such a look of desolate separation,
shuddering at itself, that not a spoken word was requisite to repel
him. At such times, he was startled at the horrible suspicions that
rose, monster-like, out of the caverns of his heart, and stared him in
the face; his love grew thin and faint as the morning-mist; his doubts
alone had substance. But when Beatrice's face brightened again,
after the momentary shadow, she was transformed at once from the
mysterious, questionable being, whom he had watched with so much awe
and horror; she was now the beautiful and unsophisticated girl, whom
he felt that his spirit knew with a certainty beyond all other
A considerable time had now passed since Giovanni's last meeting
with Baglioni. One morning, however, he was disagreeably surprised
by a visit from the Professor, whom he had scarcely thought of for
whole weeks, and would willingly have forgotten still longer. Given
up, as he had long been, to a pervading excitement, he could
tolerate no companions, except upon condition of their perfect
sympathy with his present state of feeling. Such sympathy was not to
be expected from Professor Baglioni.
The visitor chatted carelessly, for a few moments, about the gossip
of the city and the University, and then took up another topic.
"I have been reading an old classic author lately," said he, "and
met with a story that strangely interested me. Possibly you may
remember it. It is of an Indian prince, who sent a beautiful woman
as a present to Alexander the Great. She was as lovely as the dawn,
and gorgeous as the sunset; but what especially distinguished her
was a certain rich perfume in her breath- richer than a garden of
Persian roses. Alexander, as was natural to a youthful conqueror, fell
in love at first sight with this magnificent stranger. But a certain
sage physician, happening to be present, discovered a terrible
secret in regard to her."
"And what was that?" asked Giovanni, turning his eyes downward to
avoid those of the Professor.
"That this lovely woman," continued Baglioni, with emphasis, "had
been nourished with poisons from her birth upward, until her whole
nature was so imbued with them, that she herself had become the
deadliest poison in existence. Poison was her element of life. With
that rich perfume of her breath, she blasted the very air. Her love
would have been poison! her embrace death! Is not this a marvellous
"A childish fable," answered Giovanni, nervously starting from
his chair. "I marvel how your worship finds time to read such
nonsense, among your graver studies."
"By the bye," said the Professor, looking uneasily about him, "what
singular fragrance is this in your apartment? Is it the perfume of
your gloves? It is faint, but delicious, and yet, after all, by no
means agreeable. Were I to breathe it long, methinks it would make
me ill. It is like the breath of a flower- but I see no flowers in the
"Nor are there any," replied Giovanni, who had turned pale as the
Professor spoke; "nor, I think, is there any fragrance, except in your
worship's imagination. Odors, being a sort of element combined of
the sensual and the spiritual, are apt to deceive us in this manner.
The recollection of a perfume- the bare idea of it- may easily be
mistaken for a present reality."
"Aye; but my sober imagination does not often play such tricks,"
said Baglioni; "and were I to fancy any kind of odor, it would be that
of some vile apothecary drug, wherewith my fingers are likely enough
to be imbued. Our worshipful friend Rappaccini, as I have heard,
tinctures his medicaments with odors richer than those of Araby.
Doubtless, likewise, the fair and learned Signora Beatrice would
minister to her patients with draughts as sweet as a maiden's
breath. But wo to him that sips them!"
Giovanni's face evinced many contending emotions. The tone in which
the Professor alluded to the pure and lovely daughter of Rappaccini
was a torture to his soul; and yet, the intimation of a view of her
character, opposite to his own, gave instantaneous distinctness to a
thousand dim suspicions, which now grinned at him like so many demons.
But he strove hard to quell them, and to respond to Baglioni with a
true lover's perfect faith.
"Signor Professor," said he, "you were my father's friend-
perchance, too, it is your purpose to act a friendly part towards
his son. I would fain feel nothing towards you save respect and
deference. But I pray you to observe, Signor, that there is one
subject on which we must not speak. You know not the Signora Beatrice.
You cannot, therefore, estimate the wrong- the blasphemy, I may even
say- that is offered to her character by a light or injurious word."
"Giovanni! my poor Giovanni!" answered the Professor, with a calm
expression of pity, "I know this wretched girl far better than
yourself. You shall hear the truth in respect to the poisoner
Rappaccini, and his poisonous daughter. Yes; poisonous as she is
beautiful! Listen; for even should you do violence to my gray hairs,
it shall not silence me. That old fable of the Indian woman has become
a truth, by the deep and deadly science of Rappaccini, and in the
person of the lovely Beatrice!"
Giovanni groaned and hid his face.
"Her father," continued Baglioni, "was not restrained by natural
affection from offering up his child, in this horrible manner, as
the victim of his insane zeal for science. For- let us do him justice-
he is as true a man of science as ever distilled his own heart in an
alembic. What, then, will be your fate? Beyond a doubt, you are
selected as the material of some new experiment. Perhaps the result is
to be death- perhaps a fate more awful still! Rappaccini, with what he
calls the interest of science before his eyes, will hesitate at
"It is a dream!" muttered Giovanni to himself, "surely it is a
"But, resumed the Professor, "be of good cheer, son of my friend!
It is not yet too late for the rescue. Possibly, we may even succeed
in bringing back this miserable child within the limits of ordinary
nature, from which her father's madness has estranged her. Behold this
little silver vase! It was wrought by the hands of the renowned
Benvenuto Cellini, and is well worthy to be a love-gift to the fairest
dame in Italy. But its contents are invaluable. One little sip of this
antidote would have rendered the most virulent poisons of the
Borgias innocuous. Doubt not that it will be as efficacious against
those of Rappaccini. Bestow the vase, and the precious liquid within
it, on your Beatrice, and hopefully await the result."
Baglioni laid a small, exquisitely wrought silver phial on the
table, and withdrew, leaving what he had said to produce its effect
upon the young man's mind.
"We will thwart Rappaccini yet!" thought he, chuckling to
himself, as he descended the stairs. "But, let us confess the truth of
him, he is a wonderful man! a wonderful man indeed! A vile empiric,
however, in his practice, and therefore not to be tolerated by those
who respect the good old rules of the medical profession!"
Throughout Giovanni's whole acquaintance with Beatrice, he had
occasionally, as we have said, been haunted by dark surmises as to her
character. Yet, so thoroughly had she made herself felt by him as a
simple, natural, most affectionate and guileless creature, that the
image now held up by Professor Baglioni, looked as strange and
incredible, as if it were not in accordance with his own original
conception. True, there were ugly recollections connected with his
first glimpses of the beautiful girl; he could not quite forget the
bouquet that withered in her grasp, and the insect that perished
amid the sunny air, by no ostensible agency save the fragrance of
her breath. These incidents, however, dissolving in the pure light
of her character, had no longer the efficacy of facts, but were
acknowledged as mistaken fantasies, by whatever testimony of the
senses they might appear to be substantiated. There is something truer
and more real, than what we can see with the eyes, and touch with
the finger. On such better evidence, had Giovanni founded his
confidence in Beatrice, though rather by the necessary force of her
high attributes, than by any deep and generous faith on his part. But,
now, his spirit was incapable of sustaining itself at the height to
which the early enthusiasm of passion had exalted it; he fell down,
grovelling among earthly doubts, and defiled therewith the pure
whiteness of Beatrice's image. Not that he gave her up; he did but
distrust. He resolved to institute some decisive test that should
satisfy him, once for all, whether there were those dreadful
peculiarities in her physical nature, which could not be supposed to
exist without some corresponding monstrosity of soul. His eyes, gazing
down afar, might have deceived him as to the lizard, the insect, and
the flowers. But if he could witness, at the distance of a few
paces, the sudden blight of one fresh and healthful flower in
Beatrice's hand, there would be room for no further question. With
this idea, he hastened to the florist's, and purchased a bouquet
that was still gemmed with the morning dew-drops.
It was now the customary hour of his daily interview with Beatrice.
Before descending into the garden, Giovanni failed not to look at
his figure in the mirror; a vanity to be expected in a beautiful young
man, yet, as displaying itself at that troubled and feverish moment,
the token of a certain shallowness of feeling and insincerity of
character. He did gaze, however, and said to himself, that his
features had never before possessed so rich a grace, nor his eyes such
vivacity, nor his cheeks so warm a hue of superabundant life.
"At least," thought he, "her poison has not yet insinuated itself
into my system. I am no flower to perish in her grasp!"
With that thought, he turned his eyes on the bouquet, which he
had never once laid aside from his hand. A thrill of indefinable
horror shot through his frame, on perceiving that those dewy flowers
were already beginning to droop; they wore the aspect of things that
had been fresh and lovely, yesterday. Giovanni grew white as marble,
and stood motionless before the mirror, staring at his own
reflection there, as at the likeness of something frightful. He
remembered Baglioni's remark about the fragrance that seemed to
pervade the chamber. It must have been the poison in his breath!
Then he shuddered- shuddered at himself! Recovering from his stupor,
he began to watch, with curious eye, a spider that was busily at work,
hanging its web from the antique cornice of the apartment, crossing
and re-crossing the artful system of interwoven lines, as vigorous and
active a spider as ever dangled from an old ceiling. Giovanni bent
towards the insect, and emitted a deep, long breath. The spider
suddenly ceased its toil; the web vibrated with a tremor originating
in the body of the small artizan. Again Giovanni sent forth a
breath, deeper, longer, and imbued with a venomous feeling out of
his heart; he knew not whether he were wicked or only desperate. The
spider made a convulsive gripe with his limbs, and hung dead across
"Accursed! Accursed!" muttered Giovanni, addressing himself.
"Hast thou grown so poisonous, that this deadly insect perishes by thy
At that moment, a rich, sweet voice came floating up from the
garden: "Giovanni! Giovanni! It is past the hour! Why tarriest thou!
"Yes," muttered Giovanni again. "She is the only being whom my
breath may not slay! Would that it might!"
He rushed down, and in an instant, was standing before the bright
and loving eyes of Beatrice. A moment ago, his wrath and despair had
been so fierce that he could have desired nothing so much as to wither
her by a glance. But, with her actual presence, there came
influences which had too real an existence to be at once shaken off;
recollections of the delicate and benign power of her feminine nature,
which had so often enveloped him in a religious calm; recollections of
many a holy and passionate outgush of her heart, when the pure
fountain had been unsealed from its depths, and made visible in its
transparency to his mental eye; recollections which, had Giovanni
known how to estimate them, would have assured him that all this
ugly mystery was but an earthly illusion, and that, whatever mist of
evil might seem to have gathered over her, the real Beatrice was a
heavenly angel. Incapable as he was of such high faith, still her
presence had not utterly lost its magic. Giovanni's rage was quelled
into an aspect of sullen insensibility. Beatrice, with a quick
spiritual sense, immediately felt that there was a gulf of blackness
between them, which neither he nor she could pass. They walked on
together, sad and silent, and came thus to the marble fountain, and to
its pool of water on the ground, in the midst of which grew the
shrub that bore gem-like blossoms. Giovanni was affrighted at the
eager enjoyment- the appetite, as it were- with which he found himself
inhaling the fragrance of the flowers.
"Beatrice," asked he abruptly, "whence came this shrub!"
"My father created it," answered she, with simplicity.
"Created it! created it!" repeated Giovanni. "What mean you,
"He is a man fearfully acquainted with the secrets of nature,"
replied Beatrice; "and, at the hour when I first drew breath, this
plant sprang from the soil, the offspring of his science, of his
intellect, while I was but his earthly child. Approach it not!"
continued she, observing with terror that Giovanni was drawing
nearer to the shrub. "It has qualities that you little dream of. But
I, dearest Giovanni- I grew up and blossomed with the plant, and was
nourished with its breath. It was my sister, and I loved it with a
human affection: for- alas! hast thou not suspected it? there was an
awful doom." Here Giovanni frowned so darkly upon her that Beatrice
paused and trembled. But her faith in his tenderness reassured her,
and made her blush that she had doubted for an instant.
"There was an awful doom," she continued- "the effect of my
father's fatal love of science- which estranged me from all society of
my kind. Until Heaven sent thee, dearest Giovanni, Oh! how lonely
was thy poor Beatrice!"
"Was it a hard doom?" asked Giovanni, fixing his eyes upon her.
"Only of late have I known how hard it was," answered she tenderly.
"Oh, yes; but my heart was torpid, and therefore quiet."
Giovanni's rage broke forth from his sullen gloom like a
lightning-flash out of a dark cloud.
"Accursed one!" cried he, with venomous scorn and anger. "And
finding thy solitude wearisome, thou hast severed me, likewise, from
all the warmth of life, and enticed me into thy region of
"Giovanni!" exclaimed Beatrice, turning her large bright eyes
upon his face. The force of his words had not found its way into her
mind; she was merely thunder-struck.
"Yes, poisonous thing!" repeated Giovanni, beside himself with
passion. "Thou hast done it! Thou hast blasted me! Thou hast filled my
veins with poison! Thou hast made me as hateful, as ugly, as loathsome
and deadly a creature as thyself- a world's wonder of hideous
monstrosity! Now- if our breath be happily as fatal to ourselves as to
all others- let us join our lips in one kiss of unutterable hatred,
and so die!"
"What has befallen me?" murmured Beatrice, with a low moan out of
her heart. "Holy Virgin pity me, a poor heartbroken child!"
"Thou! Dost thou pray?" cried Giovanni, still with the same
fiendish scorn. "Thy very prayers, as they come from thy lips, taint
the atmosphere with death. Yes, yes; let us pray! Let us to church,
and dip our fingers in the holy water at the portal! They that come
after us will perish as by a pestilence. Let us sign crosses in the
air! It will be scattering curses abroad in the likeness of holy
"Giovanni," said Beatrice calmly, for her grief was beyond passion,
"Why dost thou join thyself with me thus in those terrible words? I,
it is true, am the horrible thing thou namest me. But thou! what
hast thou to do, save with one other shudder at my hideous misery,
to go forth out of the garden and mingle with thy race, and forget
that there ever crawled on earth such a monster as poor Beatrice?"
"Dost thou pretend ignorance?" asked Giovanni, scowling upon her.
"Behold! This power have I gained from the pure daughter of
There was a swarm of summer-insects flitting through the air, in
search of the food promised by the flower-odors of the fatal garden.
They circled round Giovanni's head, and were evidently attracted
towards him by the same influence which had drawn them, for an
instant, within the sphere of several of the shrubs. He sent forth a
breath among them, and smiled bitterly at Beatrice, as at least a
score of the insects fell dead upon the ground.
"I see it! I see it!" shrieked Beatrice. "It is my father's fatal
science? No, no, Giovanni; it was not I! Never, never! I dreamed
only to love thee, and be with thee a little time, and so to let
thee pass away, leaving but thine image in mine heart. For,
Giovanni- believe it- though my body be nourished with poison, my
spirit is God's creature, and craves love as its daily food. But my
father! he has united us in this fearful sympathy. Yes; spurn me!
tread upon me! kill me! Oh, what is death, after such words as
thine? But it was not I! Not for a world of bliss would I have done
Giovanni's passion had exhausted itself in its outburst from his
lips. There now came across him a sense, mournful, and not without
tenderness, of the intimate and peculiar relationship between Beatrice
and himself. They stood, as it were, in an utter solitude, which would
be made none the less solitary by the densest throng of human life.
Ought not, then, the desert of humanity around them to press this
insulated pair closer together? If they should be cruel to one
another, who was there to be kind to them? Besides, thought
Giovanni, might there not still be a hope of his returning within
the limits of ordinary nature, and leading Beatrice- the redeemed
Beatrice- by the hand? Oh, weak, and selfish, and unworthy spirit,
that could dream of an earthly union and earthly happiness as
possible, after such deep love had been so bitterly wronged as was
Beatrice's love by Giovanni's blighting words! No, no; there could
be no such hope. She must pass heavily, with that broken heart, across
the borders- she must bathe her hurts in some fount of Paradise, and
forget her grief in the light of immortality- and there be well!
But Giovanni did not know it.
"Dear Beatrice, said he, approaching her, while she shrank away, as
always at his approach, but now with a different impulse- "dearest
Beatrice, our fate is not yet so desperate. Behold! There is a
medicine, potent, as a wise physician has assured me, and almost
divine in its efficacy. It is composed of ingredients the most
opposite to those by which thy awful father has brought this
calamity upon thee and me. It is distilled of blessed herbs. Shall
we not quaff it together, and thus be purified from evil?"
"Give it me!" said Beatrice, extending her hand to receive the
little silver phial which Giovanni took from his bosom. She added,
with a peculiar emphasis: "I will drink- but do thou await the
She put Baglioni's antidote to her lips; and, at the same moment,
the figure of Rappaccini emerged from the portal, and came slowly
towards the marble fountain. As he drew near, the pale man of
science seemed to gaze with a triumphant expression at the beautiful
youth and maiden, as might an artist who should spend his life in
achieving a picture or a group of statuary, and finally be satisfied
with his success. He paused- his bent form grew erect with conscious
power, he spread out his hand over them, in the attitude of a father
imploring a blessing upon his children. But those were the same
hands that had thrown poison into the stream of their lives!
Giovanni trembled. Beatrice shuddered very nervously, and pressed
her hand upon her heart.
"My daughter," said Rappaccini, "thou art no longer lonely in the
world! Pluck one of those precious gems from thy sister shrub, and bid
thy bridegroom wear it in his bosom. It will not harm him now! My
science, and the sympathy between thee and him, have so wrought within
his system, that he now stands apart from common men, as thou dost,
daughter of my pride and triumph, from ordinary women. Pass on,
then, through the world, most dear to one another, and dreadful to all
"My father," said Beatrice, feebly- and still, as she spoke, she
kept her hand upon her heart- "wherefore didst thou inflict this
miserable doom upon thy child?"
"Miserable!" exclaimed Rappaccini. "What mean you, foolish girl?
Dost thou deem it misery to be endowed with marvellous gifts,
against which no power nor strength could avail an enemy? Misery, to
be able to quell the mightiest with a breath? Misery, to be as
terrible as thou art beautiful? Wouldst thou, then, have preferred the
condition of a weak woman, exposed to all evil, and capable of none?"
"I would fain have been loved, not feared, murmured Beatrice,
sinking down upon the ground. "But now it matters not; I am going,
father, where the evil, which thou hast striven to mingle with my
being, will pass away like a dream- like the fragrance of these
poisonous flowers, which will no longer taint my breath among the
flowers of Eden. Farewell, Giovanni! Thy words of hatred are like lead
within my heart- but they, too, will fall away as I ascend. Oh, was
there not, from the first, more poison in thy nature than in mine?"
To Beatrice- so radically had her earthly part been wrought upon by
Rappaccini's skill- as poison had been life, so the powerful
antidote was death. And thus the poor victim of man's ingenuity and of
thwarted nature, and of the fatality that attends all such efforts
of perverted wisdom, perished there, at the feet of her father and
Giovanni. Just at that moment, Professor Pietro Baglioni looked
forth from the window, and called loudly, in a tone of triumph mixed
with horror, to the thunder-stricken man of science: "Rappaccini!
Rappaccini! And is this the upshot of your experiment?"