“With which he arose and walked down into the ravine.
“I felt as if I must be in a dream. Presently I heard the sound of wheels close by. I made my way through the thickets, and found my space in a forest track, where I saw a countryman going along in a cart. I overtook him, and he shortly brought me to the high road lending to B. As we went along I told him my adventure, and asked if he knew who the extraordinary man in the forest was.
‘Oh, sir,’ he said, ‘that was the worthy man who calls himself Priest Serapion, and who has been living in these woods for some years, In n little hut which he built himself. People say he’s not quite right in his head, but he is a nice, good gentleman, never does any harm, and willies us of the village with pious discourses, giving us all the good advice that he can.’
“I had come across the anchorite some six or eight miles from B so I concluded that something must be known of him there, and this proved to be the case. Dr. S told me all the story. This hermit had once been one of the most brilliant intellects, one of the most universally accomplished men in M; and belonging, as he did, to a very distinguished family, he was naturally appointed to an important diplomatic post as soon as he had completed his studies: the duties of this office he discharged with great ability and energy.
Moreover, he had remarkable poetical gifts, and everything he wrote was inspired by a most brilliant fancy, a mind and imagination which sounded the profoundest depths of all subjects. His incomparable humor, and the unusual charm of his character made him the most delightful of companions imaginable. He had risen from step to step of his career, and was on the point of being despatched on an important diplomatic mission, when he disappeared, in the most incomprehensible fashion, from M. All search for him was fruitless, and conjecture and in quiry were baffled by a combination of circumstances.
“After a time there appeared amongst the villages, in the depths of the Tyrolese mountains, a man in a brown robe, who preached in these hamlets, and then went away into the wildest parts of the forests, where he lived the life of a hermit.
It chanced one day that Count P saw this man (who called himself Priest Serapion), and at once recognized him as his unfortunate nephew, who had disappeared from M. He was taken into custody, became violent, and all the skill of the best doctors in M could do nothing to alleviate his terrible condition.