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A Romance of Two Worlds

A NOVEL.


BY

MARIE CORELLI,


Author of "Thelma," "Ardath," "Vendetta," Etc.




CONTENTS

          PROLOGUE
      I. AN ARTIST'S STUDIO.
     II. THE MYSTERIOUS POTION.
    III. THREE VISIONS.
     IV. A DANCE AND A PROMISE.
      V. CELLINI'S STORY.
     VI. THE HOTEL MARS AND ITS OWNER.
    VII. ZARA AND PRINCE IVAN.
   VIII. A SYMPHONY IN THE AIR.
     IX. AN ELECTRIC SHOCK.
      X. MY STRANGE DEPARTURE.
     XI. A MINIATURE CREATION.
    XII. SECRETS OF THE SUN AND MOON.
   XIII. SOCIABLE CONVERSE.
    XIV. THE ELECTRIC CREED.
     XV. DEATH BY LIGHTNING.
    XVI. A STRUGGLE FOR THE MASTERY.
   XVII. CONCLUSION.
          APPENDIX




A ROMANCE OF TWO WORLDS.

PROLOGUE.


We live in an age of universal inquiry, ergo of universal scepticism.
The prophecies of the poet, the dreams of the philosopher and
scientist, are being daily realized--things formerly considered mere
fairy-tales have become facts--yet, in spite of the marvels of learning
and science that are hourly accomplished among us, the attitude of
mankind is one of disbelief. "There is no God!" cries one theorist; "or
if there be one, _I_ can obtain no proof of His existence!" "There is
no Creator!" exclaims another. "The Universe is simply a rushing
together of atoms." "There can be no immortality," asserts a third. "We
are but dust, and to dust we shall return." "What is called by
idealists the SOUL," argues another, "is simply the vital principle
composed of heat and air, which escapes from the body at death, and
mingles again with its native element. A candle when lit emits flame;
blow out the light, the flame vanishes--where? Would it not be madness
to assert the flame immortal? Yet the soul, or vital principle of human
existence, is no more than the flame of a candle."

If you propound to these theorists the eternal question WHY?--why is
the world in existence? why is there a universe? why do we live? why do
we think and plan? why do we perish at the last?--their grandiose reply
is, "Because of the Law of Universal Necessity." They cannot explain
this mysterious Law to themselves, nor can they probe deep enough to
find the answer to a still more tremendous WHY--namely, WHY, is there a
Law of Universal Necessity?--but they are satisfied with the result of
their reasonings, if not wholly, yet in part, and seldom try to search
beyond that great vague vast Necessity, lest their finite brains should
reel into madness worse than death. Recognizing, therefore, that in
this cultivated age a wall of scepticism and cynicism is gradually
being built up by intellectual thinkers of every nation against all
that treats of the Supernatural and Unseen, I am aware that my
narration of the events I have recently experienced will be read with
incredulity. At a time when the great empire of the Christian Religion
is being assailed, or politely ignored by governments and public
speakers and teachers, I realize to the fullest extent how daring is
any attempt to prove, even by a plain history of strange occurrences
happening to one's self, the actual existence of the Supernatural
around us; and the absolute certainty of a future state of being, after
the passage through that brief soul-torpor in which the body perishes,
known to us as Death.

In the present narration, which I have purposely called a "romance," I
do not expect to be believed, as I can only relate what I myself have
experienced. I know that men and women of to-day must have proofs, or
what they are willing to accept as proofs, before they will credit
anything that purports to be of a spiritual tendency;--something
startling--some miracle of a stupendous nature, such as according to
prophecy they are all unfit to receive. Few will admit the subtle
influence and incontestable, though mysterious, authority exercised
upon their lives by higher intelligences than their own--intelligences
unseen, unknown, but felt. Yes! felt by the most careless, the most
cynical; in the uncomfortable prescience of danger, the inner
forebodings of guilt--the moral and mental torture endured by those who
fight a protracted battle to gain the hardly-won victory in themselves
of right over wrong--in the thousand and one sudden appeals made
without warning to that compass of a man's life, Conscience--and in
those brilliant and startling impulses of generosity, bravery, and
self-sacrifice which carry us on, heedless of consequences, to the
performance of great and noble deeds, whose fame makes the whole world
one resounding echo of glory--deeds that we wonder at ourselves even in
the performance of them--acts of heroism in which mere life goes for
nothing, and the Soul for a brief space is pre-eminent, obeying blindly
the guiding influence of a something akin to itself, yet higher in the
realms of Thought.

There are no proofs as to why such things should be; but that they are,
is indubitable. The miracles enacted now are silent ones, and are
worked in the heart and mind of man alone. Unbelief is nearly supreme
in the world to-day. Were an angel to descend from heaven in the middle
of a great square, the crowd would think he had got himself up on
pulleys and wires, and would try to discover his apparatus. Were he, in
wrath, to cast destruction upon them, and with fire blazing from his
wings, slay a thousand of them with the mere shaking of a pinion, those
who were left alive would either say that a tremendous dynamite
explosion had occurred, or that the square was built on an extinct
volcano which had suddenly broken out into frightful activity. Anything
rather than believe in angels--the nineteenth century protests against
the possibility of their existence. It sees no miracle--it pooh-poohs
the very enthusiasm that might work them.

"Give a positive sign," it says; "prove clearly that what you say is
true, and I, in spite of my Progress and Atom Theory, will believe."
The answer to such a request was spoken eighteen hundred years and more
ago. "A faithless and perverse generation asketh for a sign, and no
sign shall be given unto them."

Were I now to assert that a sign had been given to ME--to me, as one
out of the thousands who demand it--such daring assurance on my part
would meet with the most strenuous opposition from all who peruse the
following pages; each person who reads having his own ideas on all
subjects, and naturally considering them to be the best if not the only
ideas worth anything. Therefore I wish it to be plainly understood that
in this book I personally advocate no new theory of either religion or
philosophy; nor do I hold myself answerable for the opinions expressed
by any of my characters. My aim throughout is to let facts speak for
themselves. If they seem strange, unreal, even impossible, I can only
say that the things of the invisible world must always appear so to
those whose thoughts and desires are centred on this life only.






CHAPTER I.

AN ARTIST'S STUDIO.


In the winter of 188-, I was afflicted by a series of nervous ailments,
brought on by overwork and overworry. Chief among these was a
protracted and terrible insomnia, accompanied by the utmost depression
of spirits and anxiety of mind. I became filled with the gloomiest
anticipations of evil; and my system was strung up by slow degrees to
such a high tension of physical and mental excitement, that the
quietest and most soothing of friendly voices had no other effect upon
me than to jar and irritate. Work was impossible; music, my one
passion, intolerable; books became wearisome to my sight; and even a
short walk in the open air brought with it such lassitude and
exhaustion, that I soon grew to dislike the very thought of moving out
of doors. In such a condition of health, medical aid became necessary;
and a skilful and amiable physician, Dr. R----, of great repute in
nervous ailments, attended me for many weeks, with but slight success.
He was not to blame, poor man, for his failure to effect a cure. He had
only one way of treatment, and he applied it to all his patients with
more or less happy results. Some died, some recovered; it was a lottery
on which my medical friend staked his reputation, and won. The patients
who died were never heard of more--those who recovered sang the praises
of their physician everywhere, and sent him gifts of silver plate and
hampers of wine, to testify their gratitude. His popularity was very
great; his skill considered marvellous; and his inability to do ME any
good arose, I must perforce imagine, out of some defect or hidden
obstinacy in my constitution, which was to him a new experience, and
for which he was unprepared. Poor Dr. R----! How many bottles of your
tastily prepared and expensive medicines have I not swallowed, in blind
confidence and blinder ignorance of the offences I thus committed
against all the principles of that Nature within me, which, if left to
itself, always heroically struggles to recover its own proper balance
and effect its own cure; but which, if subjected to the experimental
tests of various poisons or drugs, often loses strength in the
unnatural contest and sinks exhausted, perhaps never to rise with
actual vigour again. Baffled in his attempts to remedy my ailments, Dr.
R---- at last resorted to the usual plan adopted by all physicians when
their medicines have no power. He recommended change of air and scene,
and urged my leaving London, then dark with the fogs of a dreary
winter, for the gaiety and sunshine and roses of the Riviera. The idea
was not unpleasant to me, and I determined to take the advice
proffered. Hearing of my intention, some American friends of mine,
Colonel Everard and his charming young wife, decided to accompany me,
sharing with me the expenses of the journey and hotel accommodation. We
left London all together on a damp foggy evening, when the cold was so
intense that it seemed to bite the flesh like the sharp teeth of an
animal, and after two days' rapid journey, during which I felt my
spirits gradually rising, and my gloomy forebodings vanishing slowly
one by one, we arrived at Cannes, and put up at the Hotel de L----. It
was a lovely place, and most beautifully situated; the garden was a
perfect wilderness of roses in full bloom, and an avenue of
orange-trees beginning to flower cast a delicate fragrance on the warm
delicious air.

Mrs. Everard was delighted.

"If you do not recover your health here," she said half laughingly to
me on the second morning after our arrival, "I am afraid your case is
hopeless. What sunshine! What a balmy wind! It is enough to make a
cripple cast away his crutches and forget he was ever lame. Don't you
think so?"

I smiled in answer, but inwardly I sighed. Beautiful as the scenery,
the air, and the general surroundings were, I could not disguise from
myself that the temporary exhilaration of my feelings, caused by the
novelty and excitement of my journey to Cannes, was slowly but surely
passing away. The terrible apathy, against which I had fought for so
many months, was again creeping over me with its cruel and resistless
force. I did my best to struggle against it; I walked, I rode, I
laughed and chatted with Mrs. Everard and her husband, and forced
myself into sociability with some of the visitors at the hotel, who
were disposed to show us friendly attention. I summoned all my stock of
will-power to beat back the insidious physical and mental misery that
threatened to sap the very spring of my life; and in some of these
efforts I partially succeeded. But it was at night that the terrors of
my condition manifested themselves. Then sleep forsook my eyes; a dull
throbbing weight of pain encircled my head like a crown of thorns;
nervous terrors shook me from head to foot; fragments of my own musical
compositions hummed in my ears with wearying persistence--fragments
that always left me in a state of distressed conjecture; for I never
could remember how they ended, and I puzzled myself vainly over
crotchets and quavers that never would consent to arrange themselves in
any sort of finale. So the days went on; for Colonel Everard and his
wife, those days were full of merriment, sight-seeing, and enjoyment.
For me, though outwardly I appeared to share in the universal gaiety,
they were laden with increasing despair and wretchedness; for I began
to lose hope of ever recovering my once buoyant health and strength,
and, what was even worse, I seemed to have utterly parted with all
working ability. I was young, and up to within a few months life had
stretched brightly before me, with the prospect of a brilliant career.
And now what was I? A wretched invalid--a burden to myself and to
others--a broken spar flung with other fragments of ship wrecked lives
on the great ocean of Time, there to be whirled away and forgotten. But
a rescue was approaching; a rescue sudden and marvellous, of which, in
my wildest fancies, I had never dreamed.

Staying in the same hotel with us was a young Italian artist, Raffaello
Cellini by name. His pictures were beginning to attract a great deal of
notice, both in Paris and Rome: not only for their faultless drawing,
but for their wonderfully exquisite colouring. So deep and warm and
rich were the hues he transferred to his canvases, that others of his
art, less fortunate in the management of the palette, declared he must
have invented some foreign compound whereby he was enabled to deepen
and brighten his colours for the time being; but that the effect was
only temporary, and that his pictures, exposed to the air for some
eight or ten years, would fade away rapidly, leaving only the traces of
an indistinct blur. Others, more generous, congratulated him on having
discovered the secrets of the old masters. In short, he was admired,
condemned, envied, and flattered, all in a breath; while he himself,
being of a singularly serene and unruffled disposition, worked away
incessantly, caring little or nothing for the world's praise or blame.

Cellini had a pretty suite of rooms in the Hotel de L----, and my
friends Colonel and Mrs. Everard fraternized with him very warmly. He
was by no means slow to respond to their overtures of friendship, and
so it happened that his studio became a sort of lounge for us, where we
would meet to have tea, to chat, to look at the pictures, or to discuss
our plans for future enjoyment. These visits to Cellini's studio,
strange to say, had a remarkably soothing and calming effect upon my
suffering nerves. The lofty and elegant room, furnished with that
"admired disorder" and mixed luxuriousness peculiar to artists, with
its heavily drooping velvet curtains, its glimpses of white marble
busts and broken columns, its flash and fragrance of flowers that
bloomed in a tiny conservatory opening out from the studio and leading
to the garden, where a fountain bubbled melodiously--all this pleased
me and gave me a curious, yet most welcome, sense of absolute rest.
Cellini himself had a fascination for me, for exactly the same reason.
As an example of this, I remember escaping from Mrs. Everard on one
occasion, and hurrying to the most secluded part of the garden, in
order to walk up and down alone in an endeavour to calm an attack of
nervous agitation which had suddenly seized me. While thus pacing about
in feverish restlessness, I saw Cellini approaching, his head bent as
if in thought, and his hands clasped behind his back. As he drew near
me, he raised his eyes--they were clear and darkly brilliant--he
regarded me steadfastly with a kindly smile. Then lifting his hat with
the graceful reverence peculiar to an Italian, he passed on, saying no
word. But the effect of his momentary presence upon me was
remarkable--it was ELECTRIC. I was no longer agitated. Calmed, soothed
and almost happy, I returned to Mrs. Everard, and entered into her
plans for the day with so much alacrity that she was surprised and
delighted.

"If you go on like this," she said, "you will be perfectly well in a
month."

I was utterly unable to account for the remedial influence Raffaello
Cellini's presence had upon me; but such as it was I could not but be
grateful for the respite it gave me from nervous suffering, and my now
daily visits to the artist's studio were a pleasure and a privilege not
to be foregone. Moreover, I was never tired of looking at his pictures.
His subjects were all original, and some of them were very weird and
fantastic. One large picture particularly attracted me. It was entitled
"Lords of our Life and Death." Surrounded by rolling masses of cloud,
some silver-crested, some shot through with red flame, was depicted the
World, as a globe half in light, half in shade. Poised above it was a
great Angel, upon whose calm and noble face rested a mingled expression
of deep sorrow, yearning pity, and infinite regret. Tears seemed to
glitter on the drooping lashes of this sweet yet stern Spirit; and in
his strong right hand he held a drawn sword--the sword of
destruction--pointed forever downwards to the fated globe at his feet.
Beneath this Angel and the world he dominated was darkness--utter
illimitable darkness. But above him the clouds were torn asunder, and
through a transparent veil of light golden mist, a face of surpassing
beauty was seen--a face on which youth, health, hope, love, and
ecstatic joy all shone with ineffable radiance. It was the
personification of Life--not life as we know it, brief and full of
care--but Life Immortal and Love Triumphant. Often and often I found
myself standing before this masterpiece of Cellini's genius, gazing at
it, not only with admiration, but with a sense of actual comfort. One
afternoon, while resting in my favourite low chair opposite the
picture, I roused myself from a reverie, and turning to the artist, who
was showing some water-colour sketches to Mrs. Everard, I said abruptly:

"Did you imagine that face of the Angel of Life, Signor Cellini, or had
you a model to copy from?"

He looked at me and smiled.

"It is a moderately good portrait of an existing original," he said.

"A woman's face then, I suppose? How very beautiful she must be!"

"Actual beauty is sexless," he replied, and was silent. The expression
of his face had become abstracted and dreamy, and he turned over the
sketches for Mrs. Everard with an air which showed his thoughts to be
far away from his occupation.

"And the Death Angel?" I went on. "Had you a model for that also?"

This time a look of relief, almost of gladness, passed over his
features.

"No indeed," he answered with ready frankness; "that is entirely my own
creation."

I was about to compliment him on the grandeur and force of his poetical
fancy, when he stopped me by a slight gesture of his hand.

"If you really admire the picture," he said, "pray do not say so. If it
is in truth a work of art, let it speak to you as art only, and spare
the poor workman who has called it into existence the shame of having
to confess that it is not above human praise. The only true criticism
of high art is silence--silence as grand as heaven itself."

He spoke with energy, and his dark eyes flashed. Amy (Mrs. Everard)
looked at him curiously.

"Say now!" she exclaimed, with a ringing laugh, "aren't you a little
bit eccentric, signor? You talk like a long-haired prophet! I never met
an artist before who couldn't stand praise; it is generally a matter of
wonder to me to notice how much of that intoxicating sweet they can
swallow without reeling. But you're an exception, I must admit. I
congratulate you!"

Cellini bowed gaily in response to the half-friendly, half-mocking
curtsey she gave him, and, turning to me again, said:

"I have a favour to ask of you, mademoiselle. Will you sit to me for
your portrait?"

"I!" I exclaimed, with astonishment. "Signor Cellini, I cannot imagine
why you should wish so to waste your valuable time. There is nothing in
my poor physiognomy worthy of your briefest attention."

"You must pardon me, mademoiselle," he replied gravely, "if I presume
to differ from you. I am exceedingly anxious to transfer your features
to my canvas. I am aware that you are not in strong health, and that
your face has not that roundness and colour formerly habitual to it.
But I am not an admirer of the milkmaid type of beauty. Everywhere I
seek for intelligence, for thought, for inward refinement--in short,
mademoiselle, you have the face of one whom the inner soul consumes,
and, as such, may I plead again with you to give me a little of your
spare time? YOU WILL NOT REGRET IT, I ASSURE YOU."

These last words were uttered in a lower tone and with singular
impressiveness. I rose from my seat and looked at him steadily; he
returned me glance for glance, A strange thrill ran through me,
followed by that inexplicable sensation of absolute calm that I had
before experienced. I smiled--I could, not help smiling.

"I will come to-morrow," I said.

"A thousand thanks, mademoiselle! Can you be here at noon?"

I looked inquiringly at Amy, who clapped her hands with delighted
enthusiasm.

"Of course! Any time you like, signor. We will arrange our excursions
so that they shall not interfere with the sittings. It will be most
interesting to watch the picture growing day by day. What will you call
it, signor? By some fancy title?"

"It will depend on its appearance when completed," he replied, as he
threw open the doors of the studio and bowed us out with his usual
ceremonious politeness.

"Au revoir, madame! A demain, mademoiselle!" and the violet velvet
curtains of the portiere fell softly behind us as we made our exit.

"Is there not something strange about that young man?" said Mrs.
Everard, as we walked through the long gallery of the Hotel de L----
back to our own rooms. "Something fiendish or angelic, or a little of
both qualities mixed up?"

"I think he is what people term PECULIAR, when they fail to understand
the poetical vagaries of genius," I replied. "He is certainly very
uncommon."

"Well!" continued my friend meditatively, as she contemplated her
pretty mignonne face and graceful figure in a long mirror placed
attractively in a corner of the hall through which we were passing;
"all I can say is that I wouldn't let him paint MY portrait if he were
to ask ever so! I should be scared to death. I wonder you, being so
nervous, were not afraid of him."

"I thought you liked him," I said.

"So I do. So does my husband. He's awfully handsome and clever, and all
that--but his conversation! There now, my dear, you must own he is
slightly QUEER. Why, who but a lunatic would say that the only
criticism of art is silence? Isn't that utter rubbish?"

"The only TRUE criticism," I corrected her gently.

"Well, it's all the same. How can there be any criticism at all in
silence? According to his idea when we admire anything very much we
ought to go round with long faces and gags on our mouths. That would be
entirely ridiculous! And what was that dreadful thing he said to you?"

"I don't quite understand you," I answered; "I cannot remember his
saying anything dreadful."

"Oh, I have it now," continued Amy with rapidity; "it was awful! He
said you had the FACE OF ONE WHOM THE SOUL CONSUMES. You know that was
most horribly mystical! And when he said it he looked--ghastly! What
did he mean by it, I wonder?"

I made no answer; but I thought I knew. I changed the conversation as
soon as possible, and my volatile American friend was soon absorbed in
a discussion on dress and jewellery. That night was a blessed one for
me; I was free from all suffering, and slept as calmly as a child,
while in my dreams the face of Cellini's "Angel of life" smiled at me,
and seemed to suggest peace.




CHAPTER II.

THE MYSTERIOUS POTION.


The next day, punctually at noon, according to my promise, I entered
the studio. I was alone, for Amy, after some qualms of conscience
respecting chaperonage, propriety, and Mrs. Grundy, had yielded to my
entreaties and gone for a drive with some friends. In spite of the
fears she began to entertain concerning the Mephistophelian character
of Raffaello Cellini, there was one thing of which both she and I felt
morally certain: namely, that no truer or more honourable gentleman
than he ever walked on the earth. Under his protection the loveliest
and loneliest woman that ever lived would have been perfectly safe--as
safe as though she were shut up, like the princess in the fairy-tale,
in a brazen tower, of which only an undiscoverable serpent possessed
the key. When I arrived, the rooms were deserted, save for the presence
of a magnificent Newfoundland dog, who, as I entered, rose, and shaking
his shaggy body, sat down before me and offered me his huge paw,
wagging his tail in the most friendly manner all the while, I at once
responded to his cordial greeting, and as I stroked his noble head, I
wondered where the animal had come from; for though--we had visited
Signor Cellini's studio every day, there had been no sign or mention of
this stately, brown-eyed, four-footed companion. I seated myself, and
the dog immediately lay down at my feet, every now and then looking up
at me with an affectionate glance and a renewed wagging of his tail.
Glancing round the well-known room, I noticed that the picture I
admired so much was veiled by a curtain of Oriental stuff, in which
were embroidered threads of gold mingled with silks of various
brilliant hues. On the working easel was a large square canvas, already
prepared, as I supposed, for my features to be traced thereon. It was
an exceedingly warm morning, and though the windows as well as the
glass doors of the conservatory were wide open, I found the air of the
studio very oppressive. I perceived on the table a finely-wrought
decanter of Venetian glass, in which clear water sparkled temptingly.
Rising from my chair, I took an antique silver goblet from the
mantelpiece, filled it with the cool fluid, and was about to drink,
when the cup was suddenly snatched from my hands, and the voice of
Cellini, changed from its usual softness to a tone both imperious and
commanding, startled me.

"Do not drink that," he said; "you must not! You dare not! I forbid
you!"

I looked up at him in mute astonishment. His face was very pale, and
his large dark eyes shone with suppressed excitement. Slowly my
self-possession returned to me, and I said calmly:

"YOU forbid me, signor? Surely you forget yourself. What harm have I
done in helping myself to a simple glass of water in your studio? You
are not usually so inhospitable."

While I spoke his manner changed, the colour returned to his face, and
his eyes softened--he smiled.

"Forgive me, mademoiselle, for my brusquerie. It is true I forgot
myself for a moment. But you were in danger, and----"

"In danger!" I exclaimed incredulously.

"Yes, mademoiselle. This," and he held up the Venetian decanter to the
light, "is not water simply. If you will observe it now with the
sunshine beating full against it, I think you will perceive
peculiarities in it that will assure you of my veracity."

I looked as he bade me, and saw, to my surprise, that the fluid was
never actually still for a second. A sort of internal bubbling seemed
to work in its centre, and curious specks and lines of crimson and gold
flashed through it from time to time.

"What is it?" I asked; adding with a half-smile, "Are you the possessor
of a specimen of the far-famed Aqua Tofana?"

Cellini placed the decanter carefully on a shelf, and I noticed that he
chose a particular spot for it, where the rays of the sun could fall
perpendicularly upon the vessel containing it. Then turning to me, he
replied:

"Aqua Tofana, mademoiselle, is a deadly poison, known to the ancients
and also to many learned chemists of our day. It is a clear and
colourless liquid, but it is absolutely still--as still as a stagnant
pool. What I have just shown you is not poison, but quite the reverse.
I will prove this to you at once." And taking a tiny liqueur glass from
a side table, he filled it with the strange fluid and drank it off,
carefully replacing the stopper in the decanter.

"But, Signor Cellini," I urged, "if it is so harmless, why did you
forbid my tasting it? Why did you say there was danger for me when I
was about to drink it?"

"Because, mademoiselle, for YOU it would be dangerous. Your health is
weak, your nerves unstrung. That elixir is a powerful vivifying tonic,
acting with great rapidity on the entire system, and rushing through
the veins with the swiftness of ELECTRICITY. I am accustomed to it; it
is my daily medicine. But I was brought to it by slow, and almost
imperceptible degrees. A single teaspoonful of that fluid,
mademoiselle, administered to anyone not prepared to receive it, would
be instant death, though its actual use is to vivify and strengthen
human life. You understand now why I said you were in danger?"

"I understand," I replied, though in sober truth I was mystified and
puzzled.

"And you forgive my seeming rudeness?"

"Oh, certainly! But you have aroused my curiosity. I should like to
know more about this strange medicine of yours."

"You shall know more if you wish," said Cellini, his usual equable
humour and good spirits now quite restored. "You shall know everything;
but not to-day. We have too little time. I have not yet commenced your
picture. And I forgot--you were thirsty, and I was, as you said,
inhospitable. You must permit me to repair my fault."

And with a courteous salute he left the room, to return almost
immediately with a tumbler full of some fragrant, golden-coloured
liquid, in which lumps of ice glittered refreshingly. A few loose
rose-leaves were scattered on the top of this dainty-looking beverage.

"You may enjoy this without fear," said he, smiling; "it will do you
good. It is an Eastern wine, unknown to trade, and therefore untampered
with. I see you are looking at the rose-leaves on the surface. That is
a Persian custom, and I think a pretty one. They float away from your
lips in the action of drinking, and therefore they are no obstacle."

I tasted the wine and found it delicious, soft and mellow as summer
moonlight. While I sipped it the big Newfoundland, who had stretched
himself in a couchant posture on the hearth-rug ever since Cellini had
first entered the room, rose and walked majestically to my side and
rubbed his head caressingly against the folds of my dress.

"Leo has made friends with you, I see," said Cellini. "You should take
that as a great compliment, for he is most particular in his choice of
acquaintance, and most steadfast when he has once made up his mind. He
has more decision of character than many a statesman."

"How is it we have never seen him before?" I inquired. "You never told
us you had such a splendid companion."

"I am not his master," replied the artist. "He only favours me with a
visit occasionally. He arrived from Paris last night, and came straight
here, sure of his welcome. He does not confide his plans to me, but I
suppose he will return to his home when he thinks it advisable. He
knows his own business best."

I laughed.

"What a clever dog! Does he journey on foot, or does he take the train?"

"I believe he generally patronizes the railway. All the officials know
him, and he gets into the guard's van as a matter of course. Sometimes
he will alight at a station en route, and walk the rest of the way. But
if he is lazily inclined, he does not stir till the train reaches its
destination. At the end of every six months or so, the railway
authorities send the bill of Leo's journeyings in to his master, when
it is always settled without difficulty."

"And who IS his master?" I ventured to ask.

Cellini's face grew serious and absorbed, and his eyes were full of
grave contemplation as he answered:

"His master, mademoiselle, is MY master--one who among men, is
supremely intelligent; among teachers, absolutely unselfish; among
thinkers, purely impersonal; among friends, inflexibly faithful. To him
I owe everything--even life itself. For him no sacrifice, no extreme
devotion would be too great, could I hope thereby to show my gratitude.
But he is as far above human thanks or human rewards as the sun is
above the sea. Not here, not now, dare I say to him, MY FRIEND, BEHOLD
HOW MUCH I LOVE THEE! such language would be all too poor and
unmeaning; but hereafter--who knows?----" and he broke off abruptly
with a half-sigh. Then, as if forcing himself to change the tenor of
his thoughts, he continued in a kind tone: "But, mademoiselle, I am
wasting your time, and am taking no advantage of the favour you have
shown me by your presence to-day. Will you seat yourself here?" and he
placed an elaborately carved oaken settee in one corner of the studio,
opposite his own easel. "I should be sorry to fatigue you at all," he
went on; "do you care for reading?"

I answered eagerly in the affirmative, and he handed me a volume bound
in curiously embossed leather, and ornamented with silver clasps. It
was entitled "Letters of a Dead Musician."

"You will find clear gems of thought, passion, and feeling in this
book," said Cellini; "and being a musician yourself, you will know how
to appreciate them. The writer was one of those geniuses whose work the
world repays with ridicule and contempt. There is no fate more
enviable!"

I looked at the artist with some surprise as I took the volume he
recommended, and seated myself in the position he indicated; and while
he busied himself in arranging the velvet curtains behind me as a
background, I said:

"Do you really consider it enviable, Signor Cellini, to receive the
world's ridicule and contempt?"

"I do indeed," he replied, "since it is a certain proof that the world
does not understand you. To achieve something that is above human
comprehension, THAT is greatness. To have the serene sublimity of the
God-man Christ, and consent to be crucified by a gibing world that was
fated to be afterwards civilized and dominated by His teachings, what
can be more glorious? To have the magnificent versatility of a
Shakespeare, who was scarcely recognized in his own day, but whose
gifts were so vast and various that the silly multitudes wrangle over
his very identity and the authenticity of his plays to this hour--what
can be more triumphant? To know that one's own soul can, if
strengthened and encouraged by the force of will, rise to a supreme
altitude of power--is not that sufficient to compensate for the little
whining cries of the common herd of men and women who have forgotten
whether they ever had a spiritual spark in them, and who, straining up
to see the light of genius that burns too fiercely for their
earth-dimmed eyes, exclaim: 'WE see nothing, therefore there CAN be
nothing.' Ah, mademoiselle, the knowledge of one's own inner
Self-Existence is a knowledge surpassing all the marvels of art and
science!"

Cellini spoke with enthusiasm, and his countenance seemed illumined by
the eloquence that warmed his speech. I listened with a sort of dreamy
satisfaction; the visual sensation of utter rest that I always
experienced in this man's presence was upon me, and I watched him with
interest as he drew with quick and facile touch the outline of my
features on his canvas.

Gradually he became more and more absorbed in his work; he glanced at
me from time to time, but did not speak, and his pencil worked rapidly.
I turned over the "Letters of a Dead Musician" with some curiosity.
Several passages struck me as being remarkable for their originality
and depth of thought; but what particularly impressed me as I read on,
was the tone of absolute joy and contentment that seemed to light up
every page. There were no wailings over disappointed ambition, no
regrets for the past, no complaints, no criticism, no word for or
against the brothers of his art; everything was treated from a lofty
standpoint of splendid equality, save when the writer spoke of himself,
and then he became the humblest of the humble, yet never abject, and
always happy.

"O Music!" he wrote, "Music, thou Sweetest Spirit of all that serve
God, what have I done that thou shouldst so often visit me? It is not
well, O thou Lofty and Divine One, that thou shouldst stoop so low as
to console him who is the unworthiest of all thy servants. For I am too
feeble to tell the world how soft is the sound of thy rustling pinions,
how tender is the sighing breath of thy lips, how beyond all things
glorious is the vibration of thy lightest whisper! Remain aloft, thou
Choicest Essence of the Creator's Voice, remain in that pure and
cloudless ether, where alone thou art fitted to dwell. My touch must
desecrate thee, my voice affright thee. Suffice it to thy servant, O
Beloved, to dream of thee and die!"

Meeting Cellini's glance as I finished reading these lines, I asked:

"Did you know the author of this book, signor?"

"I knew him well," he replied; "he was one of the gentlest souls that
ever dwelt in human clay. As ethereal in his music as John Keats in his
poetry, he was one of those creatures born of dreams and rapture that
rarely visit this planet. Happy fellow! What a death was his!"

"How did he die?" I inquired.

"He was playing the organ in one of the great churches of Rome on the
day of the Feast of the Virgin. A choir of finely trained voices sang
to his accompaniment his own glorious setting of the "Regina Coeli."
The music was wonderful, startling, triumphant--ever rising in power
and majesty to a magnificent finale, when suddenly a slight crash was
heard; the organ ceased abruptly, the singers broke off. The musician
was dead. He had fallen forward on the keys of the instrument, and when
they raised him, his face was fairer than the face of any sculptured
angel, so serene was its expression, so rapt was its smile. No one
could tell exactly the cause of his death--he had always been
remarkably strong and healthy. Everyone said it was heart-disease--it
is the usual reason assigned by medical savants for these sudden
departures out of the world. His loss was regretted by all, save myself
and one other who loved him. We rejoiced, and still do rejoice, at his
release."

I speculated vaguely on the meaning of these last words, but I felt
disinclined to ask any more questions, and Cellini, probably seeing
this, worked on at his sketch without further converse. My eyes were
growing heavy, and the printed words in the "Dead Musician's Letters"
danced before my sight like active little black demons with thin waving
arms and legs. A curious yet not unpleasant drowsiness stole over me,
in which I heard the humming of the bees at the open window, the
singing of the birds, and the voices of people in the hotel gardens,
all united in one continuous murmur that seemed a long way off. I saw
the sunshine and the shadow--I saw the majestic Leo stretched full
length near the easel, and the slight supple form of Raffaello Cellini
standing out in bold outline against the light; yet all seemed shifting
and mingling strangely into a sort of wide radiance in which there was
nothing but varying tints of colour. And could it have been my fancy,
or did I actually SEE the curtain fall gradually away from my favourite
picture, just enough for the face of the "Angel of Life" to be seen
smiling down upon me? I rubbed my eyes violently, and started to my
feet at the sound of the artist's voice.

"I have tried your patience enough for to-day," he said, and his words
sounded muffled, as though they were being spoken through, a thick
wall. "You can leave me now if you like."

I stood before him mechanically, still holding the book he had lent me
clasped in my hand. Irresolutely I raised my eyes towards the "Lords of
our Life and Death." It was closely veiled. I had then experienced an
optical illusion. I forced myself to speak--to smile--to put back the
novel sensations that were overwhelming me.

"I think," I said, and I heard myself speak as though I were somebody
else at a great distance off--"I think, Signor Cellini, your Eastern
wine has been too potent for me. My head is quite heavy, and I feel
dazed."

"It is mere fatigue and the heat of the day," he replied quietly. "I am
sure you are not too DAZED, as you call it, to see your favourite
picture, are you?"

I trembled. Was not that picture veiled? I looked--there was no curtain
at all, and the faces of the two Angels shone out of the canvas with
intense brilliancy! Strange to say, I felt no surprise at this
circumstance, which, had it occurred a moment previously, would have
unquestionably astonished and perhaps alarmed me. The mistiness of my
brain suddenly cleared; I saw everything plainly; I heard distinctly;
and when I spoke, the tone of my voice sounded as full and ringing as
it had previously seemed low and muffled. I gazed steadfastly at the
painting, and replied, half smiling:

"I should be indeed 'far gone,' as the saying is, if I could not see
that, signor! It is truly your masterpiece. Why have you never
exhibited it?"

"Can YOU ask that?" he said with impressive emphasis, at the same time
drawing nearer and fixing upon me the penetrating glance of his dark
fathomless eyes. It then seemed to me that some great inner force
compelled me to answer this half-inquiry, in words of which I had taken
no previous thought, and which, as I uttered them, conveyed no special
meaning to my own ears.

"Of course," I said slowly, as if I were repeating a lesson, "you would
not so betray the high trust committed to your charge."

"Well said!" replied Cellini; "you are fatigued, mademoiselle. Au
revoir! Till to-morrow!" And, throwing open the door of his studio, he
stood aside for me to pass out. I looked at him inquiringly.

"Must I come at the same time to-morrow?" I asked.

"If you please."

I passed my hand across my forehead perplexedly, I felt I had something
else to say before I left him. He waited patiently, holding back with
one hand the curtains of the portiere.

"I think I had a parting word to give you," I said at last, meeting his
gaze frankly; "but I seem to have forgotten what it was." Cellini
smiled gravely.

"Do not trouble to think about it, mademoiselle. I am unworthy the
effort on your part."

A flash of vivid light crossed my eyes for a second, and I exclaimed
eagerly:

"I remember now! It was 'Dieu vous garde' signor!"

He bent his head reverentially.

"Merci mille fois, mademoiselle! Dieu vous garde--vous aussi. Au
revoir."

And clasping my hand with a light yet friendly pressure, he closed the
door of his room behind me. Once alone in the passage, the sense of
high elation and contentment that had just possessed me began gradually
to decrease. I had not become actually dispirited, but a languid
feeling of weariness oppressed me, and my limbs ached as though I had
walked incessantly for many miles. I went straight to my own room. I
consulted my watch; it was half-past one, the hour at which the hotel
luncheon was usually served. Mrs. Everard had evidently not returned
from her drive. I did not care to attend the table d'hote alone;
besides, I had no inclination to eat. I drew down the window-blinds to
shut out the brilliancy of the beautiful Southern sunlight, and
throwing myself on my bed I determined to rest quietly till Amy came
back. I had brought the "Letters of a Dead Musician" away with me from
Cellini's studio, and I began to read, intending to keep myself awake
by this means. But I found I could not fix my attention on the page,
nor could I think at all connectedly. Little by little my eyelids
closed; the book dropped from my nerveless hand; and in a few minutes I
was in a deep and tranquil slumber.




CHAPTER III.

THREE VISIONS.


Roses, roses! An interminable chain of these royal blossoms, red and
white, wreathed by the radiant fingers of small rainbow-winged
creatures as airy as moonlight mist, as delicate as thistledown! They
cluster round me with smiling faces and eager eyes; they place the end
of their rose-garland in my hand, and whisper, "FOLLOW!" Gladly I obey,
and hasten onward. Guiding myself by the fragrant chain I hold, I pass
through a labyrinth of trees, whose luxuriant branches quiver with the
flight and song of birds. Then comes a sound of waters; the riotous
rushing of a torrent unchecked, that leaps sheer down from rocks a
thousand feet high, thundering forth the praise of its own beauty as it
tosses in the air triumphant crowns of silver spray. How the living
diamonds within it shift, and change, and sparkle! Fain would I linger
to watch this magnificence; but the coil of roses still unwinds before
me, and the fairy voices still cry, "FOLLOW!" I press on. The trees
grow thicker; the songs of the birds cease; the light around me grows
pale and subdued. In the far distance I see a golden crescent that
seems suspended by some invisible thread in the air. Is it the young
moon? No; for as I gaze it breaks apart into a thousand points of vivid
light like wandering stars. These meet; they blaze into letters of
fire. I strain my dazzled eyes to spell out their meaning. They form
one word--HELIOBAS. I read it. I utter it aloud. The rose-chain breaks
at my feet, and disappears. The fairy voices die away on my ear. There
is utter silence, utter darkness,--save where that one NAME writes
itself in burning gold on the blackness of the heavens.

      * * * * *

The interior of a vast cathedral is opened before my gaze. The lofty
white marble columns support a vaulted roof painted in fresco, from
which are suspended a thousand lamps that emit a mild and steady
effulgence. The great altar is illuminated; the priests, in glittering
raiment, pace slowly to and fro. The large voice of the organ,
murmuring to itself awhile, breaks forth in a shout of melody; and a
boy's clear, sonorous treble tones pierce the incense-laden air.
"Credo!"--and the silver, trumpet-like notes fall from the immense
height of the building like a bell ringing in a pure atmosphere--"Credo
in unum Deum; Patrem omni-potentum, factorem coeli et terrae,
visibilium omnium et invisibilium."

The cathedral echoes with answering voices; and, involuntarily
kneeling, I follow the words of the grand chant. I hear the music
slacken; the notes of rejoicing change to a sobbing and remorseful
wail; the organ shudders like a forest of pines in a tempest,
"Crucifixus etiam pro nobis; passus et sepultus est." A darkness grows
up around me; my senses swim. The music altogether ceases; but a
brilliant radiance streams through a side-door of the church, and
twenty maidens, clad in white and crowned with myrtle, pacing two by
two, approach me. They gaze at me with joyous eyes. "Art thou also one
of us?" they murmur; then they pass onward to the altar, where again
the lights are glimmering. I watch them with eager interest; I hear
them uplift their fresh young voices in prayer and praise. One of them,
whose deep blue eyes are full of lustrous tenderness, leaves her
companions, and softly approaches me. She holds a pencil and tablet in
her hand.

"Write!" she says, in a thrilling whisper; "and write quickly! for
whatsoever thou shalt now inscribe is the clue to thy destiny."

I obey her mechanically, impelled not by my own will, but by some
unknown powerful force acting within and around me. I trace upon the
tablet one word only; it is a name that startles me even while I myself
write it down--HELIOBAS. Scarcely have I written it when a thick white
cloud veils the cathedral from my sight; the fair maiden vanishes, and
all is again still.

      * * * * *

I am listening to the accents of a grave melodious voice, which, from
its slow and measured tones, would seem to be in the action of reading
or reciting aloud. I see a small room sparely furnished, and at a table
covered with books and manuscripts is seated a man of noble features
and commanding presence. He is in the full prime of life; his dark hair
has no thread of silver to mar its luxuriance; his face is unwrinkled;
his forehead unfurrowed by care; his eyes, deeply sunk beneath his
shelving brows, are of a singularly clear and penetrating blue, with an
absorbed and watchful look in them, like the eyes of one accustomed to
gaze far out at sea. His hand rests on the open pages of a massive
volume; he is reading, and his expression is intent and earnest--as if
he were littering his own thoughts aloud, with the conviction and force
of an orator who knows the truth of which he speaks:

"The Universe is upheld solely by the Law of Love. A majestic invisible
Protectorate governs the winds, the tides, the incoming and outgoing of
the seasons, the birth of the flowers, the growth of forests, the
outpourings of the sunlight, the silent glittering of the stars. A wide
illimitable Beneficence embraces all creation. A vast Eternal Pity
exists for all sorrow, all sin. He who first swung the planets in the
air, and bade them revolve till Time shall be no more--He, the
Fountain-Head of Absolute Perfection, is no deaf, blind, capricious, or
remorseless Being. To Him the death of the smallest singing-bird is as
great or as little as the death of a world's emperor. For Him the
timeless withering of an innocent flower is as pitiful as the decay of
a mighty nation. An infant's first prayer to Him is heard with as
tender a patience as the united petitions of thousands of worshippers.
For in everything and around everything, from the sun to a grain of
sand, He hath a portion, small or great, of His own most Perfect
Existence. Should He hate His Creation, He must perforce hate Himself;
and that Love should hate Love is an impossibility. Therefore He loves
all His work; and as Love, to be perfect, must contain Pity,
Forgiveness, and Forbearance, so doth He pity, forgive, and forbear.
Shall a mere man deny himself for the sake of his child or friend? and
shall the Infinite Love refuse to sacrifice itself--yea, even to as
immense a humility as its greatness is immeasurable? Shall we deny
those merciful attributes to God which we acknowledge in His creature,
Man? O my Soul, rejoice that thou hast pierced the veil of the Beyond;
that thou hast seen and known the Truth! that to thee is made clear the
Reason of Life, and the Recompense of Death: yet while rejoicing,
grieve that thou art not fated to draw more than a few souls to the
comfort thou hast thyself attained!"

Fascinated by the speaker's voice and countenance, I listen, straining
my ears to catch every word that falls from his lips. He rises; he
stands erect; he stretches out his hands as though in solemn entreaty.

"Azul!" he exclaims. "Messenger of my fate; thou who art a guiding
spirit of the elements, thou who ridest the storm-cloud and sittest
throned on the edge of the lightning! By that electric spark within me,
of which thou art the Twin Flame, I ask of thee to send me this one
more poor human soul; let me change its unrestfulness into repose, its
hesitation to certainty, its weakness to strength, its weary
imprisonment to the light of liberty! Azul!"

His voice ceases, his extended hands fall slowly, and gradually,
gradually he turns his whole figure towards ME. He faces me--his
intense eyes burn through me--his strange yet tender smile absorbs me.
Yet I am full of unreasoning terror; I tremble--I strive to turn away
from that searching and magnetic gaze. His deep, melodious tones again
ring softly on the silence. He addresses me.

"Fearest thou me, my child? Am I not thy friend? Knowest thou not the
name of HELIOBAS?"

At this word I start and gasp for breath; I would shriek, but cannot,
for a heavy hand seems to close my mouth, and an immense weight presses
me down. I struggle violently with this unseen Power--little by little
I gain the advantage. One effort more! I win the victory--I wake!

      * * * * *

"Sakes alive!" says a familiar voice; "you HAVE had a spell of sleep! I
got home about two, nearly starving, and I found you here curled up 'in
a rosy infant slumber,' as the song says. So I hunted up the Colonel
and had lunch, for it seemed a sin to disturb you. It's just struck
four. Shall we have some tea up here?"

I looked at Mrs. Everard, and smiled assent. So I had been sleeping for
two hours and a half, and I had evidently been dreaming all the time;
but my dreams had been as vivid as realities. I felt still rather
drowsy, but I was thoroughly rested and in a state of delicious
tranquillity. My friend rang the bell for the tea, and then turned
round and surveyed me with a sort of wonder.

"What have you done to yourself, child?" she said at last, approaching
the bed where I lay, and staring fixedly at me.

"What do you mean?"

"Why, you look a different creature. When I left you this morning you
were pale and haggard, a sort of die-away delicate invalid; now your
eyes are bright; and your cheeks have quite a lovely colour in them;
your lips, too, are the right tint. But perhaps," and here she looked
alarmed--"perhaps you've got the fever?"

"I don't think so," I said amusedly, and I stretched out my hand for
her to feel.

"No, you haven't," she continued, evidently reassured; "your palm is
moist and cool, and your pulse is regular. Well, you look spry, anyhow.
I shouldn't wonder if you made up your mind to have a dance to-night."

"Dance?" I queried. "What dance, and where?"

"Well, Madame Didier, that jolly little furbelowed Frenchwoman with
whom I was driving just now, has got up a regular party to-night--"

"Hans Breitmann gib a barty?" I interposed, with a mock solemn air of
inquiry.

Amy laughed.

"Well, yes, it MAY be that kind of thing, for all I know to the
contrary. Anyhow, she's hired the band and ordered a right-down elegant
supper. Half the folks in the hotel are going, and a lot of outsiders
have got invitations. She asked if we couldn't come--myself, the
Colonel, and you. I said I could answer for myself and the Colonel, but
not for you, as you were an invalid. But if you keep on looking as you
do at present, no one will believe that there's anything the matter
with you.--Tea, Alphonse!"

This to a polite waiter, who was our special attendant, and who just
then knocked at the door to know "madame's" orders.

Utterly disbelieving what my friend said in regard to my improved
appearance, I rose from the bed and went to the dressing-table to look
in the mirror and judge for myself. I almost recoiled from my own
reflection, so great was my surprise. The heavy marks under my eyes,
the lines of pain that had been for months deepening in my forehead,
the plaintive droop of the mouth that had given me such an air of
ill-health and anxiety--all were gone as if by magic. I saw a
rose-tinted complexion, a pair of laughing, lustrous eyes, and,
altogether, such a happy, mirthful young face smiled back at me, that I
half doubted whether it was indeed myself I saw.

"There now!" cried Amy in triumph, watching me as I pushed my
clustering hair from my brows, and examined myself more intently. "Did
I not tell you so? The change in you is marvellous! I know what it is.
You have been getting better unconsciously to yourself in this lovely
air and scene, and the long afternoon sleep you've just had has
completed the cure."

I smiled at her enthusiasm, but was forced to admit that she was right
as far as my actual looks went. No one would believe that I was, or
ever had been, ill. In silence I loosened my hair and began to brush it
and put it in order before the mirror, and as I did so my thoughts were
very busy. I remembered distinctly all that had happened in the studio
of Raffaello Cellini, and still more distinctly was I able to recall
every detail of the three dreams that had visited me in my slumber. The
NAME, too, that had been the key-note of them all I also remembered,
but some instinct forbade me to utter it aloud. Once I thought, "Shall
I take a pencil and write it down lest I forget it?" and the same
instinct said "No." Amy's voluble chatter ran on like the sound of a
rippling brook all the time I thus meditated over the occurrences of
the day.

"Say, child!" she exclaimed; "will you go to the dance?"

"Certainly I will, with pleasure," I answered, and indeed I felt as if
I should thoroughly enjoy it.

"Brava! It will be real fun. There are no end of foreign titles coming,
I believe. The Colonel's a bit grumpy about it,--he always is when he
has to wear his dress suit. He just hates it. That man hasn't a
particle of vanity. He looks handsomer in his evening clothes than in
anything else, and yet he doesn't see it. But tell me," and her pretty
face became serious with a true feminine anxiety, "whatever will you
wear? You've brought no ball fixings, have you?"

I finished twisting up the last coil of my hair, and turned and kissed
her affectionately. She was the most sweet-tempered and generous of
women, and she would have placed any one of her elaborate costumes at
my disposal had I expressed the least desire in that direction. I
answered:

"No, dear; I certainly have no regular ball 'fixings,' for I never
expected to dance here, or anywhere for that matter. I did not bring
the big trunks full of Parisian toilettes that you indulge in, you
spoilt bride! Still I have something that may do. In fact it will have
to do."

"What is it? Have I seen it? Do show!" and her curiosity was
unappeasable.

The discreet Alphonse tapped at the door again just at this moment.

"Entrez!" I answered; and our tea, prepared with the tempting nicety
peculiar to the Hotel de L----, appeared. Alphonse set the tray down
with his usual artistic nourish, and produced a small note from his
vest-pocket.

"For mademoiselle," he said with a bow; and as he handed it to me, his
eyes opened wide in surprise. He, too, perceived the change in my
appearance. But he was dignity itself, and instantly suppressed his
astonishment into the polite impassiveness of a truly accomplished
waiter, and gliding from the room on the points of his toes, as was his
usual custom, he disappeared. The note was from Cellini, and ran as
follows:


"If mademoiselle will be so good as to refrain from choosing any
flowers for her toilette this evening, she will confer a favour on her
humble friend and servant,

"RAFFAELLO CELLINI."


I handed it to Amy, who was evidently burning with inquisitiveness to
know its contents.

"Didn't I say he was a queer young man?" she exclaimed, as she perused
the missive attentively. "This is only his way of saying that he means
to send you some flowers himself. But what puzzles me is to think how
he could possibly know you were going to make any special 'toilette'
this evening. It is really very mysterious when I come to think of it,
for Madame Didier said plainly that she would not ask Cellini to the
dance till she saw him at the table d'hote to-night."

"Perhaps Alphonse has told him all about it," I suggested.

My friend's countenance brightened.

"Of course! That is it; and Mr. Cellini takes it for granted that a
girl of your age would not be likely to refuse a dance. Still there is
something odd about it, too. By-the-bye, I forgot to ask you how the
picture got on?"

"Oh, very well, I believe," I replied evasively. "Signor Cellini only
made a slight outline sketch as a beginning."

"And was it like you?--a really good resemblance?"

"I really did not examine it closely enough to be able to judge."

"What a demure young person you are!" laughed Mrs. Everard. "Now, _I_
should have rushed straight up to the easel and examined every line of
what he was doing. You are a model of discretion, really! I shan't be
anxious about leaving you alone any more. But about your dress for
to-night. Let me see it, there's a good girl."

I opened my trunk and took out a robe of ivory-tinted crepe. It was
made with almost severe simplicity, and was unadorned, save by a soft
ruffle of old Mechlin lace round the neck and sleeves. Amy examined it
critically.

"Now, you would have looked perfectly ghastly in this last night, when
you were as pale and hollow-eyed as a sick nun; but to-night," and she
raised her eyes to my face, "I believe you will do. Don't you want the
bodice cut lower?"

"No, thanks!" I said, smiling. "I will leave that to the portly
dowagers--they will expose neck enough for half-a-dozen other women."

My friend laughed.

"Do as you like," she returned; "only I see your gown has short
sleeves, and I thought you might like a square neck instead of that
little simple Greek round. But perhaps it's better as it is. The stuff
is lovely; where did you get it?"

"At one of the London emporiums of Eastern art," I answered. "My dear,
your tea is getting cold."

She laid the dress on the bed, and in doing so, perceived the
antique-looking book with the silver clasps which I had left there.

"What's this?" she asked, turning it round to discover its name.
"'Letters of a Dead Musician!' What a shivery title! Is it morbid
reading?"

"Not at all," I replied, as I leaned comfortably back in an easy-chair
and sipped my tea. "It is a very scholarly, poetical, and picturesque
work. Signor Cellini lent it to me; the author was a friend of his."

Amy looked at me with a knowing and half-serious expression.

"Say now--take care, take care! Aren't you and Cellini getting to be
rather particular friends--something a little beyond the Platonic, eh?"

This notion struck me as so absurd that I laughed heartily. Then,
without pausing for one instant to think what I was saying, I answered
with amazing readiness and frankness, considering that I really knew
nothing about it:

"Why, my dear, Raffaello Cellini is betrothed, and he is a most devoted
lover."

A moment after I had uttered this assertion I was surprised at myself.
What authority had I for saying that Cellini was betrothed? What did I
know about it? Confused, I endeavoured to find some means of retracting
this unfounded and rash remark, but no words of explanation would come
to my lips that had been so ready and primed to deliver what might be,
for all I knew, a falsehood. Amy did not perceive my embarrassment. She
was pleased and interested at the idea of Cellini's being in love.

"Really!" she exclaimed, "it makes him a more romantic character than
ever! Fancy his telling you that he was betrothed! How delightful! I
must ask him all about his chosen fair one. But I'm positively thankful
it isn't you, for I'm sure he's just a little bit off his head. Even
this book he has lent you looks like a wizard's property;" and she
fluttered the leaves of the "Dead Musician's" volume, turning them
rapidly over in search of something attractive. Suddenly she paused and
cried out: "Why, this is right-down awful! He must have been a regular
madman! Just listen!" and she read aloud:

"'How mighty are the Kingdoms of the Air! How vast they are--how
densely populated--how glorious are their destinies--how all-powerful
and wise are their inhabitants! They possess everlasting health and
beauty--their movements are music--their glances are light--they cannot
err in their laws or judgments, for their existence is love. Thrones,
principalities, and powers are among them, yet all are equal. Each one
has a different duty to perform, yet all their labours are lofty. But
what a fate is ours on this low earth! For, from the cradle to the
grave, we are watched by these spiritual spectators--watched with
unflinching interest, unhesitating regard. O Angelic Spirits, what is
there in the poor and shabby spectacle of human life to attract your
mighty Intelligences? Sorrow, sin, pride, shame, ambition, failure,
obstinacy, ignorance, selfishness, forgetfulness--enough to make ye
veil your radiant faces in unpierceable clouds to hide forever the
sight of so much crime and misery. Yet if there be the faintest,
feeblest effort in our souls to answer to the call of your voices, to
rise above the earth by force of the same will that pervades your
destinies, how the sound of great rejoicing permeates those wide
continents ye inhabit, like a wave of thunderous music; and ye are
glad, Blessed Spirits!--glad with a gladness beyond that of your own
lives, to feel and to know that some vestige, however fragile, is
spared from the general wreck of selfish and unbelieving Humanity.
Truly we work under the shadow of a "cloud of Witnesses." Disperse,
disperse, O dense yet brilliant multitudes! turn away from me your
burning, truthful, immutable eyes, filled with that look of divine,
perpetual regret and pity! Lo, how unworthy am I to behold your glory!
and yet I must see and know and love you all, while the mad blind world
rushes on to its own destruction, and none can avert its doom.'"

Here Amy threw down the book with a sort of contempt, and said to me:

"If you are going to muddle your mind with the ravings of a lunatic,
you are not what I took you for. Why, it's regular spiritualism!
Kingdoms of the air indeed! And his cloud of witnesses! Rubbish!"

"He quotes the CLOUD OF WITNESSES from St. Paul," I remarked.

"More shame for him!" replied my friend, with the usual inconsistent
indignation that good Protestants invariably display when their pet
corn, the Bible, is accidentally trodden on. "It has been very well
said that the devil can quote Scripture, and this musician (a good job
he IS dead, I'm sure) is perfectly blasphemous to quote the Testament
in support of his ridiculous ideas! St. Paul did not mean by 'a cloud
of witnesses,' a lot of 'air multitudes' and 'burning, immutable eyes,'
and all that nonsense."

"Well, what DID he mean?" I gently persisted.

"Oh, he meant--why, you know very well what he meant," said Amy, in a
tone of reproachful solemnity. "And I wonder at your asking me such a
question! Surely you know your Bible, and you must be aware that St.
Paul could never have approved of spiritualism."

"'And there are bodies celestial and bodies terrestrial, but one is the
glory of the celestial?" I quoted with, a slight smile.

Mrs. Everard looked shocked and almost angry.

"My dear, I am ashamed of you! You are a believer in spirits, I do
declare! Why, I thought Maskelyne and Cook had cured everybody of such
notions; and now here's this horrid book going to make you more nervous
than ever. I shall have you getting up one night and shrieking about
burning, immutable eyes looking at you."

I laughed merrily as I rose to pick up the discarded volume from the
floor.

"Don't be afraid," I said; "I'll give back the book to Signor Cellini
to-morrow, and I will tell him that you do not like the idea of my
reading it, and that I am going to study the Bible instead. Come now,
dear, don't look cross!" and I embraced her warmly, for I liked her far
too well to wish to offend her. "Let us concentrate our attention on
our finery for to-night, when a 'dense and brilliant multitude,' not of
air, but of the 'earth earthy,' will pass us under critical survey. I
assure you I mean to make the best of my improved looks, as I don't
believe they will last. I dare say I shall be the 'sick nun' that you
termed me again to-morrow."

"I hope not, dearest," said my friend kindly, returning my caress and
forgetting her momentary ill-humour. "A jolly dance will do you good if
you are careful to avoid over-exertion. But you are quite right, we
must really fix our things ready for the evening, else we shall be all
in a flurry at the last moment, and nothing riles the Colonel so much
as to see women in a fuss. I shall wear my lace dress; but it wants
seeing to. Will you help me?"

Readily assenting, we were soon deep in the arrangement of the
numberless little mysteries that make up a woman's toilette; and
nothing but the most frivolous conversation ensued. But as I assisted
in the sorting of laces, jewels, and other dainty appendages of evening
costume, I was deep in earnest meditation. Reviewing in my own mind the
various sensations I had experienced since I had tasted that Eastern
wine in Cellini's studio, I came to the conclusion that he must have
tried an experiment on me with some foreign drug, of which he alone
knew the properties. Why he should do this I could not determine; but
that he had done it I was certain. Besides this, I felt sure that he
personally exerted some influence upon me--a soothing and calming
influence I was forced to admit--still, it could hardly be allowed to
continue. To be under the control, however slight, of one who was
almost a stranger to me, was, at the least, unnatural and unpleasant. I
was bound to ask him a few plain questions. And, supposing Mrs. Everard
were to speak to him about his being betrothed, and he were to deny it,
and afterwards were to turn round upon me and ask what authority I had
for making such a statement, what should I say? Convict myself of
falsehood? However, it was no use to puzzle over the solution of this
difficulty till it positively presented itself. At any rate, I
determined I would ask him frankly, face to face, for some explanation
of the strange emotions I had felt ever since meeting him; and thus
resolved, I waited patiently for the evening.




CHAPTER IV.

A DANCE AND A PROMISE.


Our little French friend, Madame Didier, was not a woman to do things
by halves. She was one of those rare exceptions among Parisian
ladies--she was a perfectly happy wife; nay, more, she was in love with
her own husband, a fact which, considering the present state of society
both in France and England, rendered her almost contemptible in the
eyes of all advanced thinkers. She was plump and jolly in appearance;
round-eyed and brisk as a lively robin. Her husband, a large,
mild-faced placid man--"mon petit mari," as she called him--permitted
her to have her own way in everything, and considered all she did as
perfectly well done. Therefore, when she had proposed this informal
dance at the Hotel de L----, he made no objection, but entered into her
plans with spirit; and, what was far more important, opened his purse
readily to her demands for the necessary expenses. So nothing was
stinted; the beautiful ballroom attached to the hotel was thrown open,
and lavishly decorated with flowers, fountains, and twinkling lights;
an awning extended from its windows right down the avenue of dark
ilex-trees, which were ornamented with Chinese lanterns; an elegant
supper was laid out in the large dining-room, and the whole
establishment was en fete. The delicious strains of a Viennese band
floated to our ears as Colonel Everard, his wife, and myself descended
the staircase on our way to the scene of revelry; and suggestions of
fairyland were presented to us in the graceful girlish forms, clad in
light, diaphanous attire, that flitted here and there, or occasionally
passed us. Colonel Everard marched proudly along with the military
bearing that always distinguished him, now and then glancing admiringly
at his wife, who, indeed, looked her very best. Her dress was of the
finest Brussels lace, looped over a skirt of the palest shell-pink
satin; deep crimson velvet roses clustered on her breast, and nestled
in her rich hair; a necklace of magnificent rubies clasped her neck,
and the same jewels glittered on her round white arms. Her eyes shone
with pleasurable excitement, and the prettiest colour imaginable tinted
her delicate cheeks.

"When an American woman is lovely, she is very lovely," I said. "You
will be the belle of the room to-night, Amy!"

"Nonsense!" she replied, well pleased, though, at my remark. "You must
remember I have a rival in yourself."

I shrugged my shoulders incredulously.

"It is not like you to be sarcastic," I said. "You know very well I
have the air of a resuscitated corpse."

The Colonel wheeled round suddenly, and brought us all up to a
standstill before a great mirror.

"If YOU are like a resuscitated corpse, I'll throw a hundred dollars
into the next mud-pond," he observed. "Look at yourself."

I looked, at first indifferently, and then with searching scrutiny. I
saw a small, slender girl, clad in white, with a mass of gold hair
twisted loosely up from her neck, and fastened with a single star of
diamonds. A superb garniture of natural lilies of the valley was
fastened on this girl's shoulder; and, falling loosely across her
breast, lost itself in the trailing folds of her gown. She held a
palm-leaf fan entirely covered with lilies of the valley, and a girdle
of the same flowers encircled her waist. Her face was serious, but
contented; her eyes were bright, but with an intense and thoughtful
lustre; and her cheeks were softly coloured, as though a west wind had
blown freshly against them. There was nothing either attractive or
repulsive about her that I could see; and yet--I turned away from the
mirror hastily with a faint smile.

"The lilies form the best part of my toilette," I said.

"That they do," asserted Amy, with emphasis. "They are the finest
specimens I ever saw. It was real elegant of Mr. Cellini to send them
all fixed up ready like that, fan and all. You must be a favourite of
his!"

"Come, let us proceed," I answered, with some abruptness. "We are
losing time."

In a few seconds more we entered the ballroom, and were met at once by
Madame Didier, who, resplendent in black lace and diamonds, gave us
hearty greeting. She stared at me with unaffected amazement.

"Mon dieu!" she exclaimed--her conversation with us was always a
mixture of French and broken English--"I should not 'ave know zis young
lady again! She 'ave si bonne mine. You veel dance, sans doute?"

We readily assented, and the usual assortment of dancing-men of all
ages and sizes was brought forward for our inspection; while the
Colonel, being introduced to a beaming English girl of some seventeen
summers, whirled her at once into the merry maze of dancers, who were
spinning easily round to the lively melody of one of Strauss's most
fascinating waltzes. Presently I also found myself circling the room
with an amiable young German, who ambled round with a certain amount of
cleverness, considering that he was evidently ignorant of the actual
waltz step; and I caught a glimpse now and then of Amy's rubies as they
flashed past me in the dance--she was footing it merrily with a
handsome Austrian Hussar. The room was pleasantly full--not too crowded
for the movements of the dancers; and the whole scene was exceedingly
pretty and animated. I had no lack of partners, and I was surprised to
find myself so keenly alive to enjoyment, and so completely free from
my usual preoccupied condition of nervous misery I looked everywhere
for Raffaello Cellini, but he was not to be seen. The lilies that I
wore, which he had sent me, seemed quite unaffected by the heat and
glare of the gaslight--not a leaf drooped, not a petal withered; and
their remarkable whiteness and fragrance elicited many admiring remarks
from those with whom I conversed. It was growing very late; there were
only two more waltzes before the final cotillon. I was standing near
the large open window of the ballroom, conversing with one of my recent
partners, when a sudden inexplicable thrill shot through me from head
to foot. Instinctively I turned, and saw Cellini approaching. He looked
remarkably handsome, though his face was pale and somewhat wearied in
expression. He was laughing and conversing gaily with two ladies, one
of whom was Mrs. Everard; and as he came towards me he bowed
courteously, saying:

"I am too much honoured by the kindness mademoiselle has shown in not
discarding my poor flowers."

"They are lovely," I replied simply; "and I am very much obliged to
you, signor, for sending them to me."

"And how fresh they keep!" said Amy, burying her little nose in the
fragrance of my fan; "yet they have been in the heat of the room all
the evening."

"They cannot perish while mademoiselle wears them," said Cellini
gallantly. "Her breath is their life."

"Bravo!" cried Amy, clapping her hands. "That is very prettily said,
isn't it?"

I was silent. I never could endure compliments. They are seldom
sincere, and it gives me no pleasure to be told lies, however prettily
they may be worded. Signor Cellini appeared to divine my thoughts, for
he said in a lower tone:

"Pardon me, mademoiselle; I see my observation displeased you; but
there is more truth in it than you perhaps know."

"Oh, say!" interrupted Mrs. Everard at this juncture; "I am SO
interested, signor, to hear you are engaged! I suppose she is a dream
of beauty?"

The hot colour rushed to my cheeks, and I bit my lips in confusion and
inquietude. What WOULD he answer? My anxiety was not of long duration.
Cellini smiled, and seemed in no way surprised. He said quietly:

"Who told you, madame, that I am engaged?"

"Why, she did, of course!" went on my friend, nodding towards me,
regardless of an imploring look I cast at her. "And said you were
perfectly devoted!"

"She is quite right," replied Cellini, with another of those rare sweet
smiles of his; "and you also are right, madame, in your supposition: my
betrothed is a Dream of Beauty."

I was infinitely relieved. I had not, then, been guilty of a falsehood.
But the mystery remained: how had I discovered the truth of the matter
at all? While I puzzled my mind over this question, the other lady who
had accompanied Mrs. Everard spoke. She was an Austrian of brilliant
position and attainments.

"You quite interest me, signor!" she said. "Is your fair fiancee here
to-night?"

"No, madame," replied Cellini; "she is not in this country."

"What a pity!" exclaimed Amy. "I want to see her real bad. Don't you?"
she asked, turning to me.

I raised my eyes and met the dark clear ones of the artist fixed full
upon me.

"Yes," I said hesitatingly; "I should like to meet her. Perhaps the
chance will occur at some future time."

"There is not the slightest doubt about that," said Cellini. "And now,
mademoiselle, will you give me the pleasure of this waltz with you? or
are you promised to another partner?"

I was not engaged, and I at once accepted his proffered arm. Two
gentlemen came hurriedly up to claim Amy and her Austrian friend; and
for one brief moment Signor Cellini and I stood alone in a
comparatively quiet corner of the ballroom, waiting for the music to
begin. I opened my lips to ask him a question, when he stopped me by a
slight gesture of his hand.

"Patience!" he said in a low and earnest tone. "In a few moments you
shall have the opportunity you seek."

The band burst forth just then in the voluptuous strains of a waltz by
Gung'l, and together we floated away to its exquisite gliding measure.
I use the word FLOATED, advisedly, for no other term could express the
delightful sensation I enjoyed. Cellini was a superb dancer. It seemed
to me that our feet scarcely touched the floor, so swiftly, so easily
and lightly we sped along. A few rapid turns, and I noticed we were
nearing the open French windows, and, before I well realized it, we had
stopped dancing and were pacing quietly side by side down the ilex
avenue, where the little lanterns twinkled like red fireflies and green
glow-worms among the dark and leafy branches.

We walked along in silence till we reached the end of the path. There,
before us, lay the open garden, with its broad green lawn, bathed in
the lovely light of the full moon, sailing aloft in a cloudless sky.
The night was very warm, but, regardless of this fact, Cellini wrapped
carefully round me a large fleecy white burnous that he had taken from
a chair where it was lying, on his way through the avenue.

"I am not cold," I said, smiling.

"No; but you will be, perhaps. It is not wise to run any useless risks."

I was again silent. A low breeze rustled in the tree-tops near us; the
music of the ballroom reached us only in faint and far echoes; the
scent of roses and myrtle was wafted delicately on the balmy air; the
radiance of the moon softened the outlines of the landscape into a
dreamy suggestiveness of its reality. Suddenly a sound broke on our
ears--a delicious, long, plaintive trill; then a wonderful shower of
sparkling roulades; and finally, a clear, imploring, passionate note
repeated many times. It was a nightingale, singing as only the
nightingales of the South can sing. I listened entranced.

    "'Thou wast not born for death, immortal Bird!
        No hungry generations tread thee down;
      The voice I hear this passing night was heard
        In ancient days by emperor and clown,'"

quoted Cellini in earnest tones.

"You admire Keats?" I asked eagerly.

"More than any other poet that has lived," he replied. "His was the
most ethereal and delicate muse that ever consented to be tied down to
earth. But, mademoiselle, you do not wish to examine me as to my taste
in poetry. You have some other questions to put to me, have you not?"

For one instant I hesitated. Then I spoke out frankly, and answered:

"Yes, signor. What was there in that wine you gave me this morning?"

He met my searching gaze unflinchingly.

"A medicine," he said. "An excellent and perfectly simple remedy made
of the juice of plants, and absolutely harmless."

"But why," I demanded, "why did you give me this medicine? Was it not
wrong to take so much responsibility upon yourself?"

He smiled.

"I think not. If you are injured or offended, then I was wrong; but if,
on the contrary, your health and spirits are ever so little improved,
as I see they are, I deserve your thanks, mademoiselle."

And he waited with an air of satisfaction and expectancy. I was puzzled
and half-angry, yet I could not help acknowledging to myself that I
felt better and more cheerful than I had done for many months. I looked
up at the artist's dark, intelligent face, and said almost humbly:

"I DO thank you, signor. But surely you will tell me your reasons for
constituting yourself my physician without even asking my leave."

He laughed, and his eyes looked very friendly.

"Mademoiselle, I am one of those strangely constituted beings who
cannot bear to see any innocent thing suffer. It matters not whether it
be a worm in the dust, a butterfly in the air, a bird, a flower, or a
human creature. The first time I saw you I knew that your state of
health precluded you from the enjoyment of life natural to your sex and
age. I also perceived that the physicians had been at work upon you
trying to probe into the causes of your ailment, and that they had
signally failed. Physicians, mademoiselle, are very clever and
estimable men, and there are a few things which come within the limit
of their treatment; but there are also other things which baffle their
utmost profundity of knowledge. One of these is that wondrous piece of
human machinery, the nervous system; that intricate and delicate
network of fine threads--electric wires on which run the messages of
thought, impulse, affection, emotion. If these threads or wires become,
from any subtle cause, entangled, the skill of the mere medical
practitioner is of no avail to undo the injurious knot, or to unravel
the confused skein. The drugs generally used in such cases are, for the
most part, repellent to the human blood and natural instinct, therefore
they are always dangerous, and often deadly. I knew, by studying your
face, mademoiselle, that you were suffering as acutely as I, too,
suffered some five years ago, and I ventured to try upon you a simple
vegetable essence, merely to see if you were capable of benefiting by
it. The experiment has been so far successful; but----"

He paused, and his face became graver and more abstracted.

"But what?" I queried eagerly.

"I was about to say," he continued, "that the effect is only
transitory. Within forty-eight hours you must naturally relapse into
your former prostrate condition, and I, unfortunately, am powerless to
prevent it."

I sighed wearily, and a feeling of disappointment oppressed me. Was it
possible that I must again be the victim of miserable dejection, pain,
and stupor?

"You can give me another dose of your remedy," I said.

"That I cannot, mademoiselle," he answered regretfully; "I dare not,
without further advice and guidance."

"Advice and guidance from whom?" I inquired.

"From the friend who cured me of my long and almost hopeless illness,"
said Cellini. "He alone can tell me whether I am right in my theories
respecting your nature and constitution."

"And what are those theories?" I asked, becoming deeply interested in
the conversation.

Cellini was silent for a minute or so; he seemed absorbed in a sort of
inward communion with himself. Then he spoke with impressiveness and
gravity:

"In this world, mademoiselle, there are no two natures alike, yet all
are born with a small portion of Divinity within them, which we call
the Soul. It is a mere spark smouldering in the centre of the weight of
clay with which we are encumbered, yet it is there. Now this particular
germ or seed can be cultivated if we will--that is, if we desire and
insist on its growth. As a child's taste for art or learning can be
educated into high capabilities for the future, so can the human Soul
be educated into so high, so supreme an attainment, that no merely
mortal standard of measurement can reach its magnificence. With much
more than half the inhabitants of the globe, this germ of immortality
remains always a germ, never sprouting, overlaid and weighted down by
the lymphatic laziness and materialistic propensities of its shell or
husk--the body. But I must put aside the forlorn prospect of the
multitudes in whom the Divine Essence attains to no larger quantity
than that proportioned out to a dog or bird--I have only to speak of
the rare few with whom the soul is everything--those who, perceiving
and admitting its existence within them, devote all their powers to
fanning up their spark of light till it becomes a radiant, burning,
inextinguishable flame. The mistake made by these examples of beatified
Humanity is that they too often sacrifice the body to the demands of
the spirit. It is difficult to find the medium path, but it can be
found; and the claims of both body and soul can be satisfied without
sacrificing the one to the other. I beg your earnest attention,
mademoiselle, for what I say concerning THE RARE FEW WITH WHOM THE SOUL
IS EVERYTHING. YOU are one of those few, unless I am greatly in error.
And you have sacrificed your body so utterly to your spirit that the
flesh rebels and suffers. This will not do. You have work before you in
the world, and you cannot perform it unless you have bodily health as
well as spiritual desire. And why? Because you are a prisoner here on
earth, and you must obey the laws of the prison, however unpleasant
they may be to you. Were you free as you have been in ages past and as
you will be in ages to come, things would be different; but at present
you must comply with the orders of your gaolers--the Lords of Life and
Death."

I heard him, half awed, half fascinated. His words were full of
mysterious suggestions.

"How do you know I am of the temperament you describe?" I asked in a
low voice.

"I do not know, mademoiselle; I can only guess. There is but one person
who can perhaps judge of you correctly,--a man older than myself by
many years--whose life is the very acme of spiritual perfection--whose
learning is vast and unprejudiced. I must see and speak to him before I
try any more of my, or rather his, remedies. But we have lingered long
enough out here, and unless you have something more to say to me, we
will return to the ballroom. You will otherwise miss the cotillon;" and
he turned to retrace the way through the illuminated grove.

But a sudden thought had struck me, and I resolved to utter it aloud.
Laying my hand on his arm and looking him full in the face, I said
slowly and distinctly:

"This friend of yours that you speak of--is not his name HELIOBAS?"

Cellini started violently; the blood rushed up to his brows and as
quickly receded, leaving him paler than before. His dark eyes glowed
with suppressed excitement--his hand trembled. Recovering himself
slowly, he met my gaze fixedly; his glance softened, and he bent his
head with an air of respect and reverence.

"Mademoiselle, I see that you must know all. It is your fate. You are
greatly to be envied. Come to me to-morrow, and I will tell you
everything that is to be told. Afterwards your destiny rests in your
own hands. Ask nothing more of me just now."

He escorted me without further words back to the ballroom, where the
merriment of the cotillon was then at its height. Whispering to Mrs.
Everard as I passed her that I was tired and was going to bed, I
reached the outside passage, and there, turning to Cellini, I said
gently:

"Good-night, signor. To-morrow at noon I will come."

He replied:

"Good-night, mademoiselle! To-morrow at noon you will find me ready."

With that he saluted me courteously and turned away. I hurried up to my
own room, and on arriving there I could not help observing the
remarkable freshness of the lilies I wore. They looked as if they had
just been gathered. I unfastened them all from my dress, and placed
them carefully in water; then quickly disrobing, I was soon in bed. I
meditated for a few minutes on the various odd occurrences of the day;
but my thoughts soon grew misty and confused, and I travelled quickly
off into the Land of Nod, and thence into the region of sleep, where I
remained undisturbed by so much as the shadow of a dream.




CHAPTER V.

CELLINI'S STORY.


The following morning at the appointed hour, I went to Cellini's
studio, and was received by him with a sort of gentle courtesy and
kindliness that became him very well. I was already beginning to
experience an increasing languor and weariness, the sure forerunner of
what the artist had prophesied--namely, a return of all my old
sufferings. Amy, tired out by the dancing of the previous night, was
still in bed, as were many of those who had enjoyed Madame Didier's
fete; and the hotel was unusually quiet, almost seeming as though half
the visitors had departed during the night. It was a lovely morning,
sunny and calm; and Cellini, observing that I looked listless and
fatigued, placed a comfortable easy-chair for me near the window, from
whence I could see one of the prettiest parterres of the garden, gay
with flowers of every colour and perfume. He himself remained standing,
one hand resting lightly on his writing-table, which was strewn with a
confusion of letters and newspapers.

"Where is Leo?" I asked, as I glanced round the room in search of that
noble animal.

"Leo left for Paris last night," replied Cellini; "he carried an
important despatch for me, which I feared to trust to the post-office."

"Is it safer in Leo's charge?" I inquired, smiling, for the sagacity of
the dog amused as well as interested me.

"Much safer! Leo carries on his collar a small tin case, just large
enough to contain several folded sheets of paper. When he knows he has
that box to guard during his journeys, he is simply unapproachable. He
would fight any one who attempted to touch it with the ferocity of a
hungry tiger, and there is no edible dainty yet invented that could
tempt his appetite or coax him into any momentary oblivion of his duty.
There is no more trustworthy or faithful messenger."

"I suppose you have sent him to your friend--his master," I said.

"Yes. He has gone straight home to--Heliobas."

This name now awakened in me no surprise or even curiosity. It simply
sounded homelike and familiar. I gazed abstractedly out of the window
at the brilliant blossoms in the garden, that nodded their heads at me
like so many little elves with coloured caps on, but I said nothing. I
felt that Cellini watched me keenly and closely. Presently he continued:

"Shall I tell you everything now, mademoiselle?"

I turned towards him eagerly.

"If you please," I answered.

"May I ask you one question?"

"Certainly."

"How and where did you hear the name of Heliobas?"

I looked up hesitatingly.

"In a dream, signor, strange to say; or rather in three dreams. I will
relate them to you."

And I described the visions I had seen, being careful to omit no
detail, for, indeed, I remembered everything with curious distinctness.

The artist listened with grave and fixed attention. When I had
concluded he said:

"The elixir I gave you acted more potently than even I imagined it
would. You are more sensitive than I thought. Do not fatigue yourself
any more, mademoiselle, by talking. With your permission I will sit
down here opposite to you and tell you my story. Afterwards you must
decide for yourself whether you will adopt the method of treatment to
which I owe my life, and something more than my life--my reason."

He turned his own library-chair towards me, and seated himself. A few
moments passed in silence; his expression was very earnest and
absorbed, and he regarded my face with a sympathetic interest which
touched me profoundly. Though I felt myself becoming more and more
enervated and apathetic as the time went on, and though I knew I was
gradually sinking down again into my old Slough of Despond, yet I felt
instinctively that I was somehow actively concerned in what was about
to be said, therefore I forced myself to attend closely to every word
uttered. Cellini began to speak in low and quiet tones as follows:

"You must be aware, mademoiselle, that those who adopt any art as a
means of livelihood begin the world heavily handicapped--weighted down,
as it were, in the race for fortune. The following of art is a very
different thing to the following of trade or mercantile business. In
buying or selling, in undertaking the work of import or export, a good
head for figures, and an average quantity of shrewd common sense, are
all that is necessary in order to win a fair share of success. But in
the finer occupations, whose results are found in sculpture, painting,
music and poetry, demands are made upon the imagination, the emotions,
the entire spiritual susceptibility of man. The most delicate fibres of
the brain are taxed; the subtle inner workings of thought are brought
into active play; and the temperament becomes daily and hourly more
finely strung, more sensitive, more keenly alive to every passing
sensation. Of course there are many so-called 'ARTISTS' who are mere
shams of the real thing; persons who, having a little surface-education
in one or the other branch of the arts, play idly with the paint-brush,
or dabble carelessly in the deep waters of literature,--or borrow a few
crotchets and quavers from other composers, and putting them together
in haste, call it ORIGINAL COMPOSITION. Among these are to be found the
self-called 'professors' of painting; the sculptors who allow the work
of their 'ghosts' to be admired as their own; the magazine-scribblers;
the 'smart' young leader-writers and critics; the half-hearted
performers on piano or violin who object to any innovation, and prefer
to grind on in the unemotional, coldly correct manner which they are
pleased to term the 'classical'--such persons exist, and will exist, so
long as good and evil are leading forces of life. They are the aphides
on the rose of art. But the men and women I speak of as ARTISTS are
those who work day and night to attain even a small degree of
perfection, and who are never satisfied with their own best efforts. I
was one of these some years ago, and I humbly assert myself still to be
of the same disposition; only the difference between myself then and
myself now is, that THEN I struggled blindly and despairingly, and NOW
I labour patiently and with calmness, knowing positively that I shall
obtain what I seek at the duly appointed hour. I was educated as a
painter, mademoiselle, by my father, a good, simple-hearted man, whose
little landscapes looked like bits cut out of the actual field and
woodland, so fresh and pure were they. But I was not content to follow
in the plain path he first taught me to tread. Merely correct drawing,
merely correct colouring, were not sufficient for my ambition. I had
dazzled my eyes with the loveliness of Correggio's 'Madonna,' and had
marvelled at the wondrous blue of her robe--a blue so deep and intense
that I used to think one might scrape away the paint till a hole was
bored in the canvas and yet not reach the end of that fathomless azure
tint; I had studied the warm hues of Titian; I had felt ready to float
away in the air with the marvellous 'Angel of the Annunciation'--and
with all these thoughts in me, how could I content myself with the
ordinary aspiration of modern artists? I grew absorbed in one
subject--Colour. I noted how lifeless and pale the colouring of to-day
appeared beside that of the old masters, and I meditated deeply on the
problem thus presented to me. What was the secret of Correggio--of Fra
Angelico--of Raphael? I tried various experiments; I bought the most
expensive and highly guaranteed pigments. In vain, for they were all
adulterated by the dealers! Then I obtained colours in the rough, and
ground and mixed them myself; still, though a little better result was
obtained, I found trade adulteration still at work with the oils, the
varnishes, the mediums--in fact, with everything that painters use to
gain effect in their works. I could nowhere escape from vicious
dealers, who, to gain a miserable percentage on every article sold, are
content to be among the most dishonest men in this dishonest age.

"I assure you, mademoiselle, that not one of the pictures which are now
being painted for the salons of Paris and London can possibly last a
hundred years. I recently visited that Palace of Art, the South
Kensington Museum, in London, and saw there a large fresco by Sir
Frederick Leighton. It had just been completed, I was informed. It was
already fading! Within a few years it will be a blur of indistinct
outlines. I compared its condition with the cartoons of Raphael, and a
superb Giorgione in the same building; these were as warm and bright as
though recently painted. It is not Leighton's fault that his works are
doomed to perish as completely off the canvas as though he had never
traced them; it is his dire misfortune, and that of every other
nineteenth-century painter, thanks to the magnificent institution of
free trade, which has resulted in a vulgar competition of all countries
and all classes to see which can most quickly jostle the other out of
existence. But I am wearying you, mademoiselle--pardon me! To resume my
own story. As I told you, I could think of nothing but the one subject
of Colour; it haunted me incessantly. I saw in my dreams visions, of
exquisite forms and faces that I longed to transfer to my canvas, but I
could never succeed in the attempt. My hand seemed to have lost all
skill. About this time my father died, and I, having no other relation
in the world, and no ties of home to cling to, lived in utter solitude,
and tortured my brain more and more with the one question that baffled
and perplexed me. I became moody and irritable; I avoided intercourse
with everyone, and at last sleep forsook my eyes. Then came a terrible
season of feverish trouble, nervous dejection and despair. At times I
would sit silently brooding; at others I started up and walked rapidly
for hours, in the hope to calm the wild unrest that took possession of
my brain. I was then living in Rome, in the studio that had been my
father's. One evening--how well I remember it!--I was attacked by one
of those fierce impulses that forbade me to rest or think or sleep,
and, as usual, I hurried out for one of those long aimless excursions I
had latterly grown accustomed to. At the open street-door stood the
proprietress of the house, a stout, good-natured contadina, with her
youngest child Pippa holding to her skirt. As she saw me approaching,
she started back with an exclamation of alarm, and catching the little
girl up in her arms, she made the sign of the cross rapidly. Astonished
at this, I paused in my hasty walk, and said with as much calmness as I
could muster:

"'What do you mean by that? Have I the evil-eye, think you?'

"Curly-haired Pippa stretched out her arms to me--I had often caressed
the little one, and given her sweetmeats and toys--but her mother held
her back with a sort of smothered scream, and muttered:

"'Holy Virgin! Pippa must not touch him; he is mad.'

"Mad? I looked at the woman and child in scornful amazement. Then
without further words I turned, and went swiftly away down the street
out of their sight. Mad! Was I indeed losing my reason? Was this the
terrific meaning of my sleepless nights, my troubled thoughts, my
strange inquietude? Fiercely I strode along, heedless whither I was
going, till I found myself suddenly on the borders of the desolate
Campagna. A young moon gleamed aloft, looking like a slender sickle
thrust into the heavens to reap an over-abundant harvest of stars. I
paused irresolutely. There was a deep silence everywhere. I felt faint
and giddy: curious flashes of light danced past my eyes, and my limbs
shook like those of a palsied old man. I sank upon a stone to rest, to
try and arrange my scattered ideas into some sort of connection and
order. Mad! I clasped my aching head between my hands, and brooded on
the fearful prospect looming before me, and in the words of poor King
Lear, I prayed in my heart:

  "'O let me not be mad, not mad, sweet heavens!'

"PRAYER! There was another thought. How could _I_ pray? For I was a
sceptic. My father had educated me with broadly materialistic views; he
himself was a follower of Voltaire, and with his finite rod he took the
measure of Divinity, greatly to his own satisfaction. He was a good
man, too, and he died with exemplary calmness in the absolute certainty
of there being nothing in his composition but dust, to which he was as
bound to return. He had not a shred of belief in anything but what he
called the Universal Law of Necessity; perhaps this was why all his
pictures lacked inspiration. I accepted his theories without thinking
much about them, and I had managed to live respectably without any
religious belief. But NOW--now with the horrible phantom of madness
rising before me--my firm nerves quailed. I tried, I longed to PRAY.
Yet to whom? To what? To the Universal Law of Necessity? In that there
could be no hearing or answering of human petitions. I meditated on
this with a kind of sombre ferocity. Who portioned out this Law of
Necessity? What brutal Code compels us to be born, to live, to suffer,
and to die without recompense or reason? Why should this Universe be an
ever-circling Wheel of Torture? Then a fresh impetus came to me. I rose
from my recumbent posture and stood erect; I trembled no more. A
curious sensation of defiant amusement possessed me so violently that I
laughed aloud. Such a laugh, too! I recoiled from the sound, as from a
blow, with a shudder. It was the laugh of--a madman! I thought no more;
I was resolved. I would fulfil the grim Law of Necessity to its letter.
If Necessity caused my birth, it also demanded my death. Necessity
could not force me to live against my will. Better eternal nothingness
than madness. Slowly and deliberately I took from my vest a Milanese
dagger of thin sharp steel--one that I always carried with me as a
means of self-defence--I drew it from its sheath, and looked at the
fine edge glittering coldly in the pallid moon-rays. I kissed it
joyously; it was my final remedy! I poised it aloft with firm
fingers--another instant and it would have been buried deep in my
heart, when I felt a powerful grasp on my wrist, and a strong arm
struggling with mine forced the dagger from my hand. Savagely angry at
being thus foiled in my desperate intent, I staggered back a few paces
and sullenly stared at my rescuer. He was a tall man, clad in a dark
overcoat bordered with fur; he looked like a wealthy Englishman or
American travelling for pleasure. His features were fine and
commanding; his eyes gleamed with a gentle disdain as he coolly met my
resentful gaze. When he spoke his voice was rich and mellifluous,
though his accents had a touch in them of grave scorn.

"'So you are tired of your life, young man! All the more reason have
you to live. Anyone can die. A murderer has moral force enough to jeer
at his hangman. It is very easy to draw the last breath. It can be
accomplished successfully by a child or a warrior. One pang of far less
anguish than the toothache, and all is over. There is nothing heroic
about it, I assure you! It is as common as going to bed; it is almost
prosy. LIFE is heroism, if you like; but death is a mere cessation of
business. And to make a rapid and rude exit off the stage before the
prompter gives the sign is always, to say the least of it, ungraceful.
Act the part out, no matter how bad the play. What say you?'

"And, balancing the dagger lightly on one finger, as though it were a
paper-knife, he smiled at me with so much frank kindliness that it was
impossible to resist him. I advanced and held out my hand.

"'Whoever you are,' I said, 'you speak like a true man. But you are
ignorant of the causes which compelled me to---' and a hard sob choked
my utterance. My new acquaintance pressed my proffered hand cordially,
but the gravity of his tone did not vary as he replied:

"'There is no cause, my friend, which compels us to take violent leave
of existence, unless it be madness or cowardice.'

"'Aye, and what if it were madness?' I asked him eagerly. He scanned me
attentively, and laying his fingers lightly on my wrist, felt my pulse.

"'Pooh, my dear sir!' he said; 'you are no more mad than I am. You are
a little overwrought and excited--that I admit. You have some mental
worry that consumes you. You shall tell me all about it. I have no
doubt I can cure you in a few days.'

"Cure me? I looked at him in wonderment and doubt.

"'Are you a physician?' I asked.

"He laughed. 'Not I! I should be sorry to belong to the profession. Yet
I administer medicines and give advice in certain cases. I am simply a
remedial agent--not a doctor. But why do we stand here in this bleak
place, which must be peopled by the ghosts of olden heroes? Come with
me, will you? I am going to the Hotel Costanza, and we can talk there.
As for this pretty toy, permit me to return it to you. You will not
force it again to the unpleasant task of despatching its owner.'

"And he handed the dagger back to me with a slight bow. I sheathed it
at once, feeling somewhat like a chidden child, as I met the slightly
satirical gleam of the clear blue eyes that watched me.

"'Will you give me your name, signor?' I asked, as we turned from the
Campagna towards the city.

"'With pleasure. I am called Heliobas. A strange name? Oh, not at all!
It is pure Chaldee. My mother--as lovely an Eastern houri as Murillo's
Madonna, and as devout as Santa Teresa--gave me the Christian saint's
name of Casimir also, but Heliobas pur et simple suits me best, and by
it I am generally known.'

"'You are a Chaldean?' I inquired.

"'Exactly so. I am descended directly from one of those "wise men of
the East" (and, by the way, there were more than three, and they were
not all kings), who, being wide awake, happened to notice the
birth-star of Christ on the horizon before the rest of the world's
inhabitants had so much as rubbed their sleepy eyes. The Chaldeans have
been always quick of observation from time immemorial. But in return
for my name, you will favour me with yours?'

"I gave it readily, and we walked on together. I felt wonderfully
calmed and cheered--as soothed, mademoiselle, as I have noticed you
yourself have felt when in MY company."

Here Cellini paused, and looked at me as though expecting a question;
but I preferred to remain silent till I had heard all he had to say. He
therefore resumed:

"We reached the Hotel Costanza, where Heliobas was evidently well
known. The waiters addressed him as Monsieur le Comte; but he gave me
no information as to this title. He had a superb suite of rooms in the
hotel, furnished with every modern luxury; and as soon as we entered a
light supper was served. He invited me to partake, and within the space
of half an hour I had told him all my history--my ambition--my
strivings after the perfection of colour--my disappointment, dejection,
and despair--and, finally, the fearful dread of coming madness that had
driven me to attempt my own life. He listened patiently and with
unbroken attention. When I had finished, he laid one hand on my
shoulder, and said gently:

"'Young man, pardon me if I say that up to the present your career has
been an inactive, useless, selfish "kicking against the pricks," as St.
Paul says. You set before yourself a task of noble effort, namely, to
discover the secret of colouring as known to the old masters; and
because you meet with the petty difficulty of modern trade adulteration
in your materials, you think that there is no chance--that all is lost.
Fie! Do you think Nature is overcome by a few dishonest traders? She
can still give you in abundance the unspoilt colours she gave to
Raphael and Titian; but not in haste--not if you vulgarly scramble for
her gifts in a mood that is impatient of obstacle and delay. "Ohne
hast, ohne rast," is the motto of the stars. Learn it well. You have
injured your bodily health by useless fretfulness and peevish
discontent, and with that we have first to deal. In a week's time, I
will make a sound, sane man of you; and then I will teach you how to
get the colours you seek--yes!' he added, smiling, 'even to the
compassing of Correggio's blue.'

"I could not speak for joy and gratitude; I grasped my friend and
preserver by the hand. We stood thus together for a brief interval,
when suddenly Heliobas drew himself up to the full stateliness of his
height and bent his calm eyes deliberately upon me. A strange thrill
ran through me; I still held his hand.

"'Rest!' he said in slow and emphatic tones, 'Weary and overwrought
frame, take thy full and needful measure of repose! Struggling and
deeply injured spirit, be free of thy narrow prison! By that Force
which I acknowledge within me and thee and in all created things, I
command thee, REST!'

"Fascinated, awed, overcome by his manner, I gazed at him and would
have spoken, but my tongue refused its office--my senses swam--my eyes
closed--my limbs gave way--I fell senseless."

Cellini again paused and looked at me. Intent on his words, I would not
interrupt him. He went on:

"When I say senseless, mademoiselle, I allude of course to my body. But
I, myself--that is, my soul--was conscious; I lived, I moved, I heard,
I saw. Of that experience I am forbidden to speak. When I returned to
mortal existence I found myself lying on a couch in the same room where
I had supped with Heliobas, and Heliobas himself sat near me reading.
It was broad noonday. A delicious sense of tranquillity and youthful
buoyancy was upon me, and without speaking I sprang up from my
recumbent position and touched him on the arm. He looked up.

"'Well?' he asked, and his eyes smiled.

"I seized his hand, and pressed it reverently to my lips.

"'My best friend!' I exclaimed. 'What wonders have I not seen--what
truths have I not learned--what mysteries!'

"'On all these things be silent,' replied Heliobas. 'They must not be
lightly spoken of. And of the questions you naturally desire to ask me,
you shall have the answers in due time. What has happened to you is not
wonderful; you have simply been acted upon by scientific means. But
your cure is not yet complete. A few days more passed with me will
restore you thoroughly. Will you consent to remain so long in my
company?'

"Gladly and gratefully I consented, and we spent the next ten days
together, during which Heliobas administered to me certain remedies,
external and internal, which had a marvellous effect in renovating and
invigorating my system. By the expiration of that time I was strong and
well--a sound and sane man, as my rescuer had promised I should be--my
brain was fresh and eager for work, and my mind was filled with new and
grand ideas of art. And I had gained through Heliobas two inestimable
things--a full comprehension of the truth of religion, and the secret
of human destiny; and I had won a LOVE so exquisite!"

Here Cellini paused, and his eyes were uplifted in a sort of wondering
rapture. He continued after a pause:

"Yes, mademoiselle, I discovered that I was loved, and watched over and
guided by ONE so divinely beautiful, so gloriously faithful, that
mortal language fails before the description of such perfection!"

He paused again, and again continued:

"When he found me perfectly healthy again in mind and body, Heliobas
showed me his art of mixing colours. From that hour all my works were
successful. You know that my pictures are eagerly purchased as soon as
completed, and that the colour I obtain in them is to the world a
mystery almost magical. Yet there is not one among the humblest of
artists who could not, if he chose, make use of the same means as I
have done to gain the nearly imperishable hues that still glow on the
canvases of Raphael. But of this there is no need to speak just now. I
have told you my story, mademoiselle, and it now rests with me to apply
its meaning to yourself. You are attending?"

"Perfectly," I replied; and, indeed, my interest at this point was so
strong that I could almost hear the expectant beating of my heart.
Cellini resumed:

"Electricity, mademoiselle, is, as you are aware, the wonder of our
age. No end can be foreseen to the marvels it is capable of
accomplishing. But one of the most important branches of this great
science is ignorantly derided just now by the larger portion of
society--I mean the use of human electricity; that force which is in
each one of us--in you and in me--and, to a very large extent, in
Heliobas. He has cultivated the electricity in his own system to such
an extent that his mere touch, his lightest glance, have healing in
them, or the reverse, as he chooses to exert his power--I may say it is
never the reverse, for he is full of kindness, sympathy, and pity for
all humanity. His influence is so great that he can, without speaking,
by his mere presence suggest his own thoughts to other people who are
perfect strangers, and cause them to design and carry out certain
actions in accordance with his plans. You are incredulous?
Mademoiselle, this power is in every one of us; only we do not
cultivate it, because our education is yet so imperfect. To prove the
truth of what I say, _I_, though I have only advanced a little way in
the cultivation of my own electric force, even _I_ have influenced YOU.
You cannot deny it. By my thought, impelled to you, you saw clearly my
picture that was actually veiled. By MY force, you replied correctly to
a question I asked you concerning that same picture. By MY desire, you
gave me, without being aware of it, a message from one I love when you
said, 'Dieu vous garde!' You remember? And the elixir I gave you, which
is one of the simplest remedies discovered by Heliobas, had the effect
of making you learn what he intended you to learn--his name."

"He!" I exclaimed. "Why, he does not know me--he can have no intentions
towards me!"

"Mademoiselle," replied Cellini gravely, "if you will think again of
the last of your three dreams, you will not doubt that he HAS
intentions towards you. As I told you, he is a PHYSICAL ELECTRICIAN. By
that is meant a great deal. He knows by instinct whether he is or will
be needed sooner or later. Let me finish what I have to say. You are
ill, mademoiselle--ill from over-work. You are an improvisatrice--that
is, you have the emotional genius of music, a spiritual thing
unfettered by rules, and utterly misunderstood by the world. You
cultivate this faculty, regardless of cost; you suffer, and you will
suffer more. In proportion as your powers in music grow, so will your
health decline. Go to Heliobas; he will do for you what he did for me.
Surely you will not hesitate? Between years of weak invalidism and
perfect health, in less than a fortnight, there can be no question of
choice."

I rose from my seat slowly.

"Where is this Heliobas?" I asked. "In Paris?"

"Yes, in Paris. If you decide to go there, take my advice, and go
alone. You can easily make some excuse to your friends. I will give you
the address of a ladies' Pension, where you will be made at home and
comfortable. May I do this?"

"If you please," I answered.

He wrote rapidly in pencil on a card of his own:

   "MADAME DENISE,
   "36, Avenue du Midi,
   "Paris,"

and handed it to me. I stood still where I had risen, thinking deeply.
I had been impressed and somewhat startled by Cellini's story; but I
was in no way alarmed at the idea of trusting myself to the hands of a
physical electrician such as Heliobas professed to be. I knew that
there were many cases of serious illnesses being cured by means of
electricity--that electric baths and electric appliances of all
descriptions were in ordinary use; and I saw no reason to be surprised
at the fact of a man being in existence who had cultivated electric
force within himself to such an extent that he was able to use it as a
healing power. There seemed to me to be really nothing extraordinary in
it. The only part of Cellini's narration I did not credit was the
soul-transmigration he professed to have experienced; and I put that
down to the over-excitement of his imagination at the time of his first
interview with Heliobas. But I kept this thought to myself. In any
case, I resolved to go to Paris. The great desire of my life was to be
in perfect health, and I determined to omit no means of obtaining this
inestimable blessing. Cellini watched me as I remained standing before
him in silent abstraction.

"Will you go?" he inquired at last.

"Yes; I will go," I replied. "But will you give me a letter to your
friend?"

"Leo has taken it and all necessary explanations already," said
Cellini, smiling; "I knew you would go. Heliobas expects you the day
after to-morrow. His residence is Hotel Mars, Champs Elysees. You are
not angry with me, mademoiselle? I could not help knowing that you
would go."

I smiled faintly.

"Electricity again, I suppose! No, I am not angry. Why should I be? I
thank you very much, signor, and I shall thank you more if Heliobas
indeed effects my cure."

"Oh, that is certain, positively certain," answered Cellini; "you can
indulge that hope as much as you like, mademoiselle, for it is one that
cannot be disappointed. Before you leave me, you will look at your own
picture, will you not?" and, advancing to his easel, he uncovered it.

I was greatly surprised. I thought he had but traced the outline of my
features, whereas the head was almost completed. I looked at it as I
would look at the portrait of a stranger. It was a wistful, sad-eyed,
plaintive face, and on the pale gold of the hair rested a coronal of
lilies.

"It will soon be finished," said Cellini, covering the easel again; "I
shall not need another sitting, which is fortunate, as it is so
necessary for you to go away. And now will you look at the 'Life and
Death' once more?"

I raised my eyes to the grand picture, unveiled that day in all its
beauty.

"The face of the Life-Angel there," went on Cellini quietly, "is a poor
and feeble resemblance of the One I love. You knew I was betrothed,
mademoiselle?"

I felt confused, and was endeavouring to find an answer to this when he
continued:

"Do not trouble to explain, for _I_ know how YOU knew. But no more of
this. Will you leave Cannes to-morrow?"

"Yes. In the morning."

"Then good-bye, mademoiselle. Should I never see you again---"

"Never see me again!" I interrupted. "Why, what do you mean?"

"I do not allude to your destinies, but to mine," he said, with a
kindly look. "My business may call me away from here before you come
back--our paths may lie apart--many circumstances may occur to prevent
our meeting--so that, I repeat, should I never see you again, you will,
I hope, bear me in your friendly remembrance as one who was sorry to
see you suffer, and who was the humble means of guiding you to renewed
health and happiness."

I held out my hand, and my eyes filled with tears. There was something
so gentle and chivalrous about him, and withal so warm and sympathetic,
that I felt indeed as if I were bidding adieu to one of the truest
friends I should ever have in my life.

"I hope nothing will cause you to leave Cannes till I return to it," I
said with real earnestness. "I should like you to judge of my
restoration to health."

"There will be no need for that," he replied; "I shall know when you
are quite recovered through Heliobas."

He pressed my hand warmly.

"I brought back the book you lent me," I went on; "but I should like a
copy of it for myself. Can I get it anywhere?"

"Heliobas will give you one with pleasure," replied Cellini; "you have
only to make the request. The book is not on sale. It was printed for
private circulation only. And now, mademoiselle, we part. I
congratulate you on the comfort and joy awaiting you in Paris. Do not
forget the address--Hotel Mars, Champs Elysees. Farewell!"

And again shaking my hand cordially, he stood at his door watching me
as I passed out and began to ascend the stairs leading to my room. On
the landing I paused, and, looking round, saw him still there. I smiled
and waved my hand. He did the same in response, once--twice; then
turning abruptly, disappeared.

That afternoon I explained to Colonel and Mrs. Everard that I had
resolved to consult a celebrated physician in Paris (whose name,
however, I did not mention), and should go there alone for a few days.
On hearing that I knew of a well-recommended ladies' Pension, they made
no objection to my arrangements, and they agreed to remain at the Hotel
de L---till I returned. I gave them no details of my plans, and of
course never mentioned Raffaello Cellini in connection with the matter.
A nervous and wretchedly agitated night made me more than ever
determined to try the means of cure proposed to me. At ten o'clock the
following morning I left Cannes by express train for Paris. Just before
starting I noticed that the lilies of the valley Cellini had given me
for the dance had, in spite of my care, entirely withered, and were
already black with decay--so black that they looked as though they had
been scorched by a flash of lightning.




CHAPTER VI.

THE HOTEL MARS AND ITS OWNER.


It was between three and four o'clock in the afternoon of the day
succeeding the night of my arrival in Paris, when I found myself
standing at the door of the Hotel Mars, Champs Elysees. I had proved
the Pension kept by Madame Denise to be everything that could be
desired; and on my presentation of Raffaello Cellini's card of
introduction, I had been welcomed by the maitresse de la maison with a
cordial effusiveness that amounted almost to enthusiasm.

"Ce cher Cellini!" the cheery and pleasant little woman had exclaimed,
as she set before me a deliciously prepared breakfast. "Je l'aime tant!
Il a si bon coeur! et ses beaux yeux! Mon Dieu, comme un ange!"

As soon as I had settled the various little details respecting my room
and attendance, and had changed my travelling-dress for a quiet
visiting toilette, I started for the abode of Heliobas.

The weather was very cold; I had left the summer behind me at Cannes,
to find winter reigning supreme in Paris. A bitter east wind blew, and
a few flakes of snow fell now and then from the frowning sky. The house
to which I betook myself was situated at a commanding corner of a road
facing the Champs Elysees. It was a noble-looking building. The broad
steps leading to the entrance were guarded on either side by a
sculptured Sphinx, each of whom held, in its massive stone paws, a
plain shield, inscribed with the old Roman greeting to strangers,
"Salve!" Over the portico was designed a scroll which bore the name
"Hotel Mars" in clearly cut capitals, and the monogram "C. H."

I ascended the steps with some hesitation, and twice I extended my hand
towards the bell, desiring yet fearing to awaken its summons. I noticed
it was an electric bell, not needing to be pulled but pressed; and at
last, after many doubts and anxious suppositions, I very gently laid my
fingers on the little button which formed its handle. Scarcely had I
done this than the great door slid open rapidly without the least
noise. I looked for the servant in attendance--there was none. I paused
an instant; the door remained invitingly open, and through it I caught
a glimpse of flowers. Resolving to be bold, and to hesitate no longer,
I entered. As I crossed the threshold, the door closed behind me
instantly with its previous swiftness and silence.

I found myself in a spacious hall, light and lofty, surrounded with
fluted pillars of white marble. In the centre a fountain bubbled
melodiously, and tossed up every now and then a high jet of sparkling
spray, while round its basin grew the rarest ferns and exotics, which
emitted a subtle and delicate perfume. No cold air penetrated here; it
was as warm and balmy as a spring day in Southern Italy. Light Indian
bamboo chairs provided with luxurious velvet cushions were placed in
various corners between the marble columns, and on one of these I
seated myself to rest a minute, wondering what I should do next, and
whether anyone would come to ask me the cause of my intrusion. My
meditations were soon put to flight by the appearance of a young lad,
who crossed the hall from the left-hand side and approached me. He was
a handsome boy of twelve or thirteen years of age, and he was attired
in a simple Greek costume of white linen, relieved with a broad crimson
silk sash. A small flat crimson cap rested on his thick black curls;
this he lifted with deferential grace, and, saluting me, said
respectfully:

"My master is ready to receive you, mademoiselle."

I rose without a word and followed him, scarcely permitting myself to
speculate as to how his master knew I was there at all.

The hall was soon traversed, and the lad paused before a magnificent
curtain of deep crimson velvet, heavily bordered with gold. Pulling a
twisted cord that hung beside it, the heavy, regal folds parted in
twain with noiseless regularity, and displayed an octagon room, so
exquisitely designed and ornamented that I gazed upon it as upon some
rare and beautiful picture. It was unoccupied, and my young escort
placed a chair for me near the central window, informing me as he did
so that "Monsieur le Comte" would be with me instantly; whereupon he
departed.

Left alone, I gazed in bewilderment at the loveliness round me. The
walls and ceiling were painted in fresco. I could not make out the
subjects, but I could see faces of surpassing beauty smiling from
clouds, and peering between stars and crescents. The furniture appeared
to be of very ancient Arabian design; each chair was a perfect
masterpiece of wood-carving, picked out and inlaid with gold. The sight
of a semi-grand piano, which stood open, brought me back to the
realization that I was living in modern times, and not in a dream of
the Arabian Nights; while the Paris Figaro and the London Times--both
of that day's issue--lying on a side-table, demonstrated the nineteenth
century to me with every possible clearness. There were flowers
everywhere in this apartment--in graceful vases and in gilded osier
baskets--and a queer lop-sided Oriental jar stood quite near me, filled
almost to overflowing with Neapolitan violets. Yet it was winter in
Paris, and flowers were rare and costly.

Looking about me, I perceived an excellent cabinet photograph of
Raffaello Cellini, framed in antique silver; and I rose to examine it
more closely, as being the face of a friend. While I looked at it, I
heard the sound of an organ in the distance playing softly an old
familiar church chant. I listened. Suddenly I bethought myself of the
three dreams that had visited me, and a kind of nervous dread came upon
me. This Heliobas,--was I right after all in coming to consult him? Was
he not perhaps a mere charlatan? and might not his experiments upon me
prove fruitless, and possibly fatal? An idea seized me that I would
escape while there was yet time. Yes! ... I would not see him to-day,
at any rate; I would write and explain. These and other disjointed
thoughts crossed my mind; and yielding to the unreasoning impulse of
fear that possessed me, I actually turned to leave the room, when I saw
the crimson velvet portiere dividing again in its regular and graceful
folds, and Heliobas himself entered.

I stood mute and motionless. I knew him well; he was the very man I had
seen in my third and last dream; the same noble, calm features; the
same commanding presence; the same keen, clear eyes; the same
compelling smile. There was nothing extraordinary about his appearance
except his stately bearing and handsome countenance; his dress was that
of any well-to-do gentleman of the present day, and there was no
affectation of mystery in his manner. He advanced and bowed
courteously; then, with a friendly look, held out his hand. I gave him
mine at once.

"So you are the young musician?" he said, in those warm mellifluous
accents that I had heard before and that I so well remembered. "My
friend Raffaello Cellini has written to me about you. I hear you have
been suffering from physical depression?"

He spoke as any physician might do who inquired after a patient's
health. I was surprised and relieved. I had prepared myself for
something darkly mystical, almost cabalistic; but there was nothing
unusual in the demeanour of this pleasant and good-looking gentleman
who, bidding me be seated, took a chair himself opposite to me, and
observed me with that sympathetic and kindly interest which any
well-bred doctor would esteem it his duty to exhibit. I became quite at
ease, and answered all his questions fully and frankly. He felt my
pulse in the customary way, and studied my face attentively. I
described all my symptoms, and he listened with the utmost patience.
When I had concluded, he leaned back in his chair and appeared to
ponder deeply for some moments. Then he spoke.

"You know, of course, that I am not a doctor?"

"I know," I said; "Signer Cellini explained to me."

"Ah!" and Heliobas smiled. "Raffaello explained as much as he might;
but not everything. I must tell you I have a simple pharmacopoeia of my
own--it contains twelve remedies, and only twelve. In fact there me no
more that are of any use to the human mechanism. All are made of the
juice of plants, and six of them are electric. Raffaello tried you with
one of them, did he not?"

As he put this question, I was aware of a keenly inquiring look sent
from the eyes of my interrogator into mine.

"Yes," I answered frankly, "and it made me dream, and I dreamt of YOU."

Heliobas laughed lightly.

"So!--that is well. Now I am going in the first place to give you what
I am sure will be satisfactory information. If you agree to trust
yourself to my care, you will be in perfect health in a little less
than a fortnight--but you must follow my rules exactly."

I started up from my seat.

"Of course!" I exclaimed eagerly, forgetting all my previous fear of
him; "I will do all you advise, even if you wish to magnetize me as you
magnetized Signor Cellini!"

"I never MAGNETIZED Raffaello," he said gravely; "he was on the verge
of madness, and he had no faith whereby to save himself. I simply set
him free for a time, knowing that his was a genius which would find out
things for itself or perish in the effort. I let him go on a voyage of
discovery, and he came back perfectly satisfied. That is all. You do
not need his experience."

"How do you know?" I asked.

"You are a woman--your desire is to be well and strong, health being
beauty--to love and to be beloved--to wear pretty toilettes and to be
admired; and you have a creed which satisfies you, and which you
believe in without proofs."

There was the slightest possible tinge of mockery in his voice as he
said these words. A tumultuous rush of feelings overcame me. My high
dreams of ambition, my innate scorn of the trite and commonplace, my
deep love of art, my desires of fame--all these things bore down upon
my heart and overcame it, and a pride too deep for tears arose in me
and found utterance.

"You think I am so slight and weak a thing!" I exclaimed. "YOU, who
profess to understand the secrets of electricity--you have no better
instinctive knowledge of me than that! Do you deem women all alike--all
on one common level, fit for nothing but to be the toys or drudges of
men? Can you not realize that there are some among them who despise the
inanities of everyday life--who care nothing for the routine of
society, and whose hearts are filled with cravings that no mere human
love or life can satisfy? Yes--even weak women are capable of
greatness; and if we do sometimes dream of what we cannot accomplish
through lack of the physical force necessary for large achievements,
that is not our fault but our misfortune. We did not create ourselves.
We did not ask to be born with the over-sensitiveness, the fatal
delicacy, the highly-strung nervousness of the feminine nature.
Monsieur Heliobas, you are a learned and far-seeing man, I have no
doubt; but you do not read me aright if you judge me as a mere woman
who is perfectly contented with the petty commonplaces of ordinary
living. And as for my creed, what is it to you whether I kneel in the
silence of my own room or in the glory of a lighted cathedral to pour
out my very soul to ONE whom I know exists, and whom I am satisfied to
believe in, as you say, without proofs, save such proofs as I obtain
from my own inner consciousness? I tell you, though, in your opinion it
is evident my sex is against me, I would rather die than sink into the
miserable nonentity of such lives as are lived by the majority of
women."

I paused, overcome by my own feelings. Heliobas smiled.

"So! You are stung!" he said quietly; "stung into action. That is as it
should be. Resume your seat, mademoiselle, and do not be angry with me.
I am studying you for your own good. In the meantime permit me to
analyze your words a little. You are young and inexperienced. You speak
of the 'over-sensitiveness, the fatal delicacy, the highly-strung
nervousness of the feminine nature.' My dear lady, if you had lived as
long as I have, you would know that these are mere stock phrases--for
the most part meaningless. As a rule, women are less sensitive than
men. There are many of your sex who are nothing but lumps of lymph and
fatty matter--women with less instinct than the dumb beasts, and with
more brutality. There are others who,--adding the low cunning of the
monkey to the vanity of the peacock,--seek no other object but the
furtherance of their own designs, which are always petty even when not
absolutely mean. There are obese women whose existence is a doze
between dinner and tea. There are women with thin lips and pointed
noses, who only live to squabble over domestic grievances and interfere
in their neighbours' business. There are your murderous women with
large almond eyes, fair white hands, and voluptuous red lips, who,
deprived of the dagger or the poison-bowl, will slay a reputation in a
few lazily enunciated words, delivered with a perfectly high-bred
accent. There are the miserly woman, who look after cheese-parings and
candle-ends, and lock up the soap. There are the spiteful women whose
very breath is acidity and venom. There are the frivolous women whose
chitter-chatter and senseless giggle are as empty as the rattling of
dry peas on a drum. In fact, the delicacy of women is extremely
overrated--their coarseness is never done full justice to. I have heard
them recite in public selections of a kind that no man would dare to
undertake--such as Tennyson's 'Rizpah,' for instance. I know a woman
who utters every line of it, with all its questionable allusions,
boldly before any and everybody, without so much as an attempt at
blushing. I assure you men are far more delicate than women--far more
chivalrous--far larger in their views, and more generous in their
sentiments. But I will not deny the existence of about four women in
every two hundred and fifty, who may be, and possibly are, examples of
what the female sex was originally intended to be--pure-hearted,
self-denying, gentle and truthful--filled with tenderness and
inspiration. Heaven knows my own mother was all this and more! And my
sister is--. But let me speak to you of yourself. You love music, I
understand--you are a professional artist?"

"I was," I answered, "till my state of health stopped me from working."

Heliobas bent his eyes upon me in friendly sympathy.

"You were, and you will be again, an improvisatrice" he went on. "Do
you not find it difficult to make your audiences understand your aims?"

I smiled as the remembrance of some of my experiences in public came to
my mind.

"Yes," I said, half laughing. "In England, at least, people do not know
what is meant by IMPROVISING. They think it is to take a little theme
and compose variations on it--the mere ABC of the art. But to sit down
to the piano and plan a whole sonata or symphony in your head, and play
it while planning it, is a thing they do not and will not understand.
They come to hear, and they wonder and go away, and the critics declare
it to be CLAP-TRAP."

"Exactly!" replied Heliobas. "But you are to be congratulated on having
attained this verdict. Everything that people cannot quite understand
is called CLAP-TRAP in England; as for instance the matchless
violin-playing of Sarasate; the tempestuous splendor of Rubinstein; the
wailing throb of passion in Hollmann's violoncello--this is, according
to the London press, CLAP-TRAP; while the coldly correct performances
of Joachim and the 'icily-null' renderings of Charles Halle are voted
'magnificent' and 'full of colour.' But to return to yourself. Will you
play to me?"

"I have not touched the instrument for two months," I said; "I am
afraid I am out of practice."

"Then you shall not exert yourself to-day," returned Heliobas kindly.
"But I believe I can help you with your improvisations. You compose the
music as you play, you tell me. Well, have you any idea how the
melodies or the harmonies form themselves in your brain?"

"Not the least in the world," I replied.

"Is the act of thinking them out an effort to you?" he asked.

"Not at all. They come as though someone else were planning them for
me."

"Well, well! I think I can certainly be of use to you in this matter as
in others. I understand your temperament thoroughly. And now let me
give you my first prescription."

He went to a corner of the room and lifted from the floor an ebony
casket, curiously carved and ornamented with silver. This he unlocked.
It contained twelve flasks of cut glass, stoppered with gold and
numbered in order. He next pulled out a side drawer in this casket, and
in it I saw several little thin empty glass tubes, about the size of a
cigarette-holder. Taking two of these he filled them from two of the
larger flasks, corked them tightly, and then turning to me, said:

"To-night, on going to bed, have a warm bath, empty the contents of the
tube marked No. 1 into it, and then immerse yourself thoroughly for
about five minutes. After the bath, put the fluid in this other tube
marked 2, into a tumbler of fresh spring water, and drink it off. Then
go straight to bed."

"Shall I have any dreams?" I inquired with a little anxiety.

"Certainly not," replied Heliobas, smiling. "I wish you to sleep as
soundly as a year-old child. Dreams are not for you to-night. Can you
come to me tomorrow afternoon at five o'clock? If you can arrange to
stay to dinner, my sister will be pleased to meet you; but perhaps you
are otherwise engaged?"

I told him I was not, and explained where I had taken rooms, adding
that I had come to Paris expressly to put myself under his treatment.

"You shall have no cause to regret this journey," he said earnestly. "I
can cure you thoroughly, and I will. I forget your nationality--you are
not English?"

"No, not entirely. I am half Italian."

"Ah, yes! I remember now. But you have been educated in England?"

"Partly."

"I am glad it is only partly," remarked Heliobas. "If it had been
entirely, your improvisations would have had no chance. In fact you
never would have improvised. You would have played the piano like poor
mechanical Arabella Goddard. As it is, there is some hope of
originality in you--you need not be one of the rank and file unless you
choose."

"I do not choose," I said.

"Well, but you must take the consequences, and they are bitter. A woman
who does not go with her time is voted eccentric; a woman who prefers
music to tea and scandal is an undesirable acquaintance; and a woman
who prefers Byron to Austin Dobson is--in fact, no measure can gauge
her general impossibility!" I laughed gaily. "I will take all the
consequences as willingly as I will take your medicines," I said,
stretching out my hand for the little vases which he gave me wrapped in
paper. "And I thank you very much, monsieur. And"--here I hesitated.
Ought I not to ask him his fee? Surely the medicines ought to be paid
for?

Heliobas appeared to read my thoughts, for he said, as though answering
my unuttered question:

"I do not accept fees, mademoiselle. To relieve your mind from any
responsibility of gratitude to me, I will tell you at once that I never
promise to effect a cure unless I see that the person who comes to be
cured has a certain connection with myself. If the connection exists I
am bound by fixed laws to serve him or her. Of course I am able also to
cure those who are NOT by nature connected with me; but then I have to
ESTABLISH a connection, and this takes time, and is sometimes very
difficult to accomplish, almost as tremendous a task as the laying down
of the Atlantic cable. But in your case I am actually COMPELLED to do
my best for you, so you need be under no sense of obligation."

Here was a strange speech--the first really inexplicable one I had
heard from his lips.

"I am connected with you?" I asked, surprised. "How? In what way?"

"It would take too long to explain to you just now," said Heliobas
gently; "but I can prove to you in a moment that a connection DOES
exist between YOUR inner self, and MY inner self, if you wish it."

"I do wish it very much," I answered.

"Then take my hand," continued Heliobas, stretching it out, "and look
steadily at me."

I obeyed, half trembling. As I gazed, a veil appeared to fall from my
eyes. A sense of security, of comfort, and of absolute confidence came
upon me, and I saw what might be termed THE IMAGE OF ANOTHER FACE
looking at me THROUGH or BEHIND the actual form and face of Heliobas.
And that other face was his, and yet not his; but whatever it appeared
to be, it was the face of a friend to ME, one that I was certain I had
known long, long ago, and moreover one that I must have loved in some
distant time, for my whole soul seemed to yearn towards that indistinct
haze where smiled the fully recognised yet unfamiliar countenance. This
strange sensation lasted but a few seconds, for Heliobas suddenly
dropped my hand. The room swam round me; the walls seemed to rock; then
everything steadied and came right again, and all was as usual, only I
was amazed and bewildered.

"What does it mean?" I murmured.

"It means the simplest thing in nature," replied Heliobas quietly,
"namely, that your soul and mine are for some reason or other placed on
the same circle of electricity. Nothing more nor less. Therefore we
must serve each other. Whatever I do for you, you have it in your power
to repay me amply for hereafter."

I met the steady glance of his keen eyes, and a sense of some
indestructible force within me gave me a sudden courage.

"Decide for me as you please," I answered fearlessly. "I trust you
completely, though I do not know why I do so."

"You will know before long. You are satisfied of the fact that my touch
can influence you?"

"Yes; most thoroughly."

"Very well. All other explanations, if you desire them, shall be given
you in due time. In the power I possess over you and some others, there
is neither mesmerism nor magnetism--nothing but a purely scientific
fact which can be clearly and reasonably proved and demonstrated. But
till you are thoroughly restored to health, we will defer all
discussion. And now, mademoiselle, permit me to escort you to the door.
I shall expect you to-morrow."

Together we left the beautiful room in which this interview had taken
place, and crossed the hall. As we approached the entrance, Heliobas
turned towards me and said with a smile:

"Did not the manoeuvres of my street-door astonish you?"

"A little," I confessed.

"It is very simple. The button you touch outside is electric; it opens
the door and at the same time rings the bell in my study, thus
informing me of a visitor. When the visitor steps across the threshold
he treads, whether he will or no, on another apparatus, which closes
the door behind him and rings another bell in my page's room, who
immediately comes to me for orders. You see how easy? And from within
it is managed in almost the same manner."

And he touched a handle similar to the one outside, and the door opened
instantly. Heliobas held out his hand--that hand which a few minutes
previously had exercised such strange authority over me.

"Good-bye, mademoiselle. You are not afraid of me now?"

I laughed. "I do not think I was ever really afraid of you," I said.
"If I was, I am not so any longer. You have promised me health, and
that promise is sufficient to give me entire courage."

"That is well," said Heliobas. "Courage and hope in themselves are the
precursors of physical and mental energy. Remember to-morrow at five,
and do not keep late hours to-night. I should advise you to be in bed
by ten at the latest."

I agreed to this, and we shook hands and parted. I walked blithely
along, back to the Avenue du Midi, where, on my arrival indoors, I
found a letter from Mrs. Everard. She wrote "in haste" to give me the
names of some friends of hers whom she had discovered, through the
"American Register," to be staying at the Grand Hotel. She begged me to
call upon them, and enclosed two letters of introduction for the
purpose. She concluded her epistle by saying:


"Raffaello Cellini has been invisible ever since your departure, but
our inimitable waiter, Alphonse, says he is very busy finishing a
picture for the Salon--something that we have never seen. I shall
intrude myself into his studio soon on some pretence or other, and will
then let you know all about it. In the meantime, believe me,

"Your ever devoted friend, AMY."


I answered this letter, and then spent a pleasant evening at the
Pension, chatting sociably with Madame Denise and another cheery little
Frenchwoman, a day governess, who boarded there, and who had no end of
droll experiences to relate, her enviable temperament being to always
see the humorous side of life. I thoroughly enjoyed her sparkling
chatter and her expressive gesticulations, and we all three made
ourselves merry till bedtime. Acting on the advice of Heliobas, I
retired early to my room, where a warm bath had been prepared in
compliance with my orders. I uncorked the glass tube No. 1, and poured
the colourless fluid it contained into the water, which immediately
bubbled gently, as though beginning to boil. After watching it for a
minute or two, and observing that this seething movement steadily
continued, I undressed quickly and stepped in. Never shall I forget the
exquisite sensation I experienced! I can only describe it as the poor
little Doll's Dressmaker in "Our Mutual Friend" described her angel
visitants, her "blessed children," who used to come and "take her up
and make her light." If my body had been composed of no grosser matter
than fire and air, I could not have felt more weightless, more buoyant,
more thoroughly exhilarated than when, at the end of the prescribed
five minutes, I got out of that marvellous bath of healing! As I
prepared for bed, I noticed that the bubbling of the water had entirely
ceased; but this was easy of comprehension, for if it had contained
electricity, as I supposed, my body had absorbed it by contact, which
would account for the movement being stilled. I now took the second
little phial, and prepared it as I had been told. This time the fluid
was motionless. I noticed it was very faintly tinged with amber. I
drank it off--it was perfectly tasteless. Once in bed, I seemed to have
no power to think any more--my eyes closed readily--the slumber of a
year-old child, as Heliobas had said, came upon me with resistless and
sudden force, and I remembered no more.




CHAPTER VII.

ZARA AND PRINCE IVAN.


The sun poured brilliantly into my room when I awoke the next morning.
I was free from all my customary aches and pains, and a delightful
sense of vigour and elasticity pervaded my frame. I rose at once, and,
looking at my watch, found to my amazement that it was twelve o'clock
in the day! Hastily throwing on my dressing-gown, I rang the bell, and
the servant appeared.

"Is it actually mid-day?" I asked her. "Why did you not call me?"

The girl smiled apologetically.

"I did knock at mademoiselle's door, but she gave me no answer. Madame
Denise came up also, and entered the room; but seeing mademoiselle in
so sound a sleep, she said it was a pity to disturb mademoiselle."

Which statement good Madame Denise, toiling upstairs just then with
difficulty, she being stout and short of breath, confirmed with many
smiling nods of her head.

"Breakfast shall be served at the instant," she said, rubbing her fat
hands together; "but to disturb you when you slept--ah, Heaven! the
sleep of an infant--I could not do it! I should have been wicked!"

I thanked her for her care of me; I could have kissed her, she looked
so motherly, and kind, and altogether lovable. And I felt so merry and
well! She and the servant retired to prepare my coffee, and I proceeded
to make my toilette. As I brushed out my hair I heard the sound of a
violin. Someone was playing next door. I listened, and recognised a
famous Beethoven Concerto. The unseen musician played brilliantly and
withal tenderly, both touch and tone reminding me of some beautiful
verses in a book of poems I had recently read, called "Love-Letters of
a Violinist," in which the poet [FOOTNOTE: Author of the equally
beautiful idyl, "Gladys the Singer," included in the new American
copyright edition just issued.] talks of his "loved Amati," and says:
"I prayed my prayer. I wove into my song

     Fervour, and joy, and mystery, and the bleak,
     The wan despair that words could never speak.
   I prayed as if my spirit did belong
   To some old master who was wise and strong,
     Because he lov'd and suffered, and was weak.

  "I trill'd the notes, and curb'd them to a sigh,
     And when they falter'd most, I made them leap
     Fierce from my bow, as from a summer sleep
   A young she-devil. I was fired thereby
     To bolder efforts--and a muffled cry
     Came from the strings as if a saint did weep.

  "I changed the theme. I dallied with the bow
     Just time enough to fit it to a mesh
     Of merry tones, and drew it back afresh,
   To talk of truth, and constancy, and woe,
     And life, and love, and madness, and the glow
     Of mine own soul which burns into my flesh."

All my love for music welled freshly up in my heart; I, who had felt
disinclined to touch the piano for months, now longed to try my
strength again upon the familiar and responsive key-board. For a piano
has never been a mere piano to me; it is a friend who answers to my
thought, and whose notes meet my fingers with caressing readiness and
obedience.

Breakfast came, and I took it with great relish. Then, to pass the day,
I went out and called on Mrs. Everard's friends, Mr. and Mrs. Challoner
and their daughters. I found them very agreeable, with that easy
bonhomie and lack of stiffness that distinguishes the best Americans.
Finding out through Mrs. Everard's letter that I was an "artiste" they
at once concluded I must need support and patronage, and with impulsive
large-heartedness were beginning to plan as to the best means of
organizing a concert for me. I was taken by surprise at this, for I had
generally found the exact reverse of this sympathy among English
patrons of art, who were never tired of murmuring the usual platitudes
about there being "so many musicians," "music was overdone,"
"improvising was not understood or cared for," etc., etc.

But these agreeable Americans, as soon as they discovered that I had
not come for any professional reason to Paris, but only to consult a
physician about my health, were actually disappointed.

"Oh, we shall persuade you to give a recital some time!" persisted the
handsome smiling mother of the family. "I know lots of people in Paris.
We'll get it up for you!"

I protested, half laughing, that I had no idea of the kind, but they
were incorrigibly generous.

"Nonsense!" said Mrs. Challoner, arranging her diamond rings on her
pretty white hand with pardonable pride. "Brains don't go for nothing
in OUR country. As soon as you are fixed up in health, we'll give you a
grand soiree in Paris, and we'll work up all our folks in the place.
Don't tell me you are not as glad of dollars as any one of us."

"Dollars are very good," I admitted, "but real appreciation is far
better."

"Well, you shall have both from us," said Mrs. Challoner. "And now,
will you stop to luncheon?"

I accepted this invitation, given as it was with the most friendly
affability, and enjoyed myself very much.

"You don't look ill," said the eldest Miss Challoner to me, later on.
"I don't see that you want a physician."

"Oh, I am getting much better now," I replied; "and I hope soon to be
quite well."

"Who's your doctor?"

I hesitated. Somehow the name of Heliobas would not come to my lips.
Fortunately Mrs. Challoner diverted her daughter's attention at this
moment by the announcement that a dressmaker was waiting to see her;
and in the face of such an important visit, no one remembered to ask me
again the name of my medical adviser.

I left the Grand Hotel in good time to prepare for my second visit to
Heliobas. As I was going there to dinner I made a slightly dressy
toilette, if a black silk robe relieved with a cluster of pale pink
roses can be called dressy. This time I drove to the Hotel Mars,
dismissing the coachman, however, before ascending the steps. The door
opened and closed as usual, and the first person I saw in the hall was
Heliobas himself, seated in one of the easy-chairs, reading a volume of
Plato. He rose and greeted me cordially. Before I could speak a word,
he said:

"You need not tell me that you slept well. I see it in your eyes and
face. You feel better?"

My gratitude to him was so great that I found it difficult to express
my thanks. Tears rushed to my eyes, yet I tried to smile, though I
could not speak. He saw my emotion, and continued kindly:

"I am as thankful as you can be for the cure which I see has begun, and
will soon be effected. My sister is waiting to see you. Will you come
to her room?"

We ascended a flight of stairs thickly carpeted, and bordered on each
side by tropical ferns and flowers, placed in exquisitely painted china
pots and vases. I heard the distant singing of many birds mingled with
the ripple and plash of waters. We reached a landing where the
afterglow of the set sun streamed through a high oriel window of richly
stained glass. Turning towards the left, Heliobas drew aside the folds
of some azure satin hangings, and calling in a low voice "Zara!"
motioned me to enter. I stepped into a spacious and lofty apartment
where the light seemed to soften and merge into many shades of opaline
radiance and delicacy--a room the beauty of which would at any other
time have astonished and delighted me, but which now appeared as
nothing beside the surpassing loveliness of the woman who occupied it.
Never shall I behold again any face or form so divinely beautiful! She
was about the medium height of women, but her small finely-shaped head
was set upon so slender and proud a throat that she appeared taller
than she actually was. Her figure was most exquisitely rounded and
proportioned, and she came across the room to give me greeting with a
sort of gliding graceful movement, like that of a stately swan floating
on calm sunlit water. Her complexion was transparently clear--most
purely white, most delicately rosy, Her eyes--large, luminous and dark
as night, fringed with long silky black lashes--looked like

    "Fairy lakes, where tender thoughts
     Swam softly to and fro."

Her rich black hair was arranged a la Marguerite, and hung down in one
long loose thick braid that nearly reached the end of her dress, and
she was attired in a robe of deep old gold Indian silk as soft as
cashmere, which was gathered in round her waist by an antique belt of
curious jewel-work, in which rubies and turquoises seemed to be thickly
studded. On her bosom shone a strange gem, the colour and form of which
I could not determine. It was never the same for two minutes together.
It glowed with many various hues--now bright crimson, now
lightning-blue, sometimes deepening into a rich purple or tawny orange.
Its lustre was intense, almost dazzling to the eye. Its beautiful
wearer gave me welcome with a radiant smile and a few cordial words,
and drawing me by the hand to the low couch she had just vacated, made
me sit down beside her. Heliobas had disappeared.

"And so," said Zara--how soft and full of music was her voice!--"so you
are one of Casimir's patients? I cannot help considering that you are
fortunate in this, for I know my brother's power. If he says he will
cure you, you may be sure he means it. And you are already better, are
you not?"

"Much better," I said, looking earnestly into the lovely star-like eyes
that regarded me with such interest and friendliness. "Indeed, to-day I
have felt so well, that I cannot realize ever having been ill."

"I am very glad," said Zara, "I know you are a musician, and I think
there can be no bitterer fate than for one belonging to your art to be
incapacitated from performance of work by some physical obstacle. Poor
grand old Beethoven! Can anything be more pitiful to think of than his
deafness? Yet how splendidly he bore up against it! And Chopin, too--so
delicate in health that he was too often morbid even in his music.
Strength is needed to accomplish great things--the double strength of
body and soul."

"Are you, too, a musician?" I inquired.

"No. I love music passionately, and I play a little on the organ in our
private chapel; but I follow a different art altogether. I am a mere
imitator of noble form--I am a sculptress."

"You?" I said in some wonder, looking at the very small, beautifully
formed white hand that lay passively on the edge of the couch beside
me. "You make statues in marble like Michael Angelo?"

"Like Angelo?" murmured Zara; and she lowered her brilliant eyes with a
reverential gravity. "No one in these modern days can approach the
immortal splendour of that great master. He must have known heroes and
talked with gods to be able to hew out of the rocks such perfection of
shape and attitude as his 'David.' Alas! my strength of brain and hand
is mere child's play compared to what HAS been done in sculpture, and
what WILL yet be done; still, I love the work for its own sake, and I
am always trying to render a resemblance of--"

Here she broke off abruptly, and a deep blush suffused her cheeks.
Then, looking up suddenly, she took my hand impulsively, and pressed it.

"Be my friend," she said, with a caressing inflection in her rich
voice, "I have no friends of my own sex, and I wish to love you. My
brother has always had so much distrust of the companionship of women
for me. You know his theories; and he has always asserted that the
sphere of thought in which I have lived all my life is so widely apart
from those in which other women exist--that nothing but unhappiness for
me could come out of associating us together. When he told me yesterday
that you were coming to see me to-day, I knew he must have discovered
something in your nature that was not antipathetic to mine; otherwise
he would not have brought you to me. Do you think you can like
me?--perhaps LOVE me after a little while?"

It would have been a cold heart indeed that would not have responded to
such a speech as this, uttered with the pleading prettiness of a loving
child. Besides, I had warmed to her from the first moment I had touched
her hand; and I was overjoyed to think that she was willing to elect me
as a friend. I therefore replied to her words by putting my arm
affectionately round her waist and kissing her. My beautiful, tender
Zara! How innocently happy she seemed to be thus embraced! and how
gently her fragrant lips met mine in that sisterly caress! She leaned
her dark head for a moment on my shoulder, and the mysterious jewel on
her breast flashed into a weird red hue like the light of a stormy
sunset.

"And now we have drawn up, signed, and sealed our compact of
friendship," she said gaily, "will you come and see my studio? There is
nothing in it that deserves to last, I think; still, one has patience
with a child when he builds his brick houses, and you must have equal
patience with me. Come!"

And she led the way through her lovely room, which I now noticed was
full of delicate statuary, fine paintings, and exquisite embroidery,
while flowers were everywhere in abundance. Lifting the hangings at the
farther end of the apartment, she passed, I following, into a lofty
studio, filled with all the appurtenances of the sculptor's art. Here
and there were the usual spectral effects which are always suggested to
the mind by unfinished plaster models--an arm in one place, a head in
another; a torso, or a single hand, protruding ghost-like from a fold
of dark drapery. At the very end of the room stood a large erect
figure, the outlines of which could but dimly be seen through its linen
coverings; and to this work, whatever it was, Zara did not appear
desirous of attracting my attention. She led me to one particular
corner; and, throwing aside a small crimson velvet curtain, said:

"This is the last thing I have finished in marble. I call it
'Approaching Evening.'"

I stood silently before the statue, lost in admiration. I could not
conceive it possible that the fragile little hand of the woman who
stood beside me could have executed such a perfect work. She had
depicted "Evening" as a beautiful nude female figure in the act of
stepping forward on tip-toe; the eyes were half closed, and the sweet
mouth slightly parted in a dreamily serious smile. The right forefinger
was laid lightly on the lips, as though suggesting silence; and in the
left hand was loosely clasped a bunch of poppies. That was all. But the
poetry and force of the whole conception as carried out in the statue
was marvellous.

"Do you like it?" asked Zara, half timidly.

"Like it!" I exclaimed. "It is lovely--wonderful! It is worthy to rank
with the finest Italian masterpieces."

"Oh, no!" remonstrated Zara; "no, indeed! When the great Italian
sculptors lived and worked--ah! one may say with the Scriptures, 'There
were giants in those days.' Giants--veritable ones; and we modernists
are the pigmies. We can only see Art now through the eyes of others who
came before us. We cannot create anything new. We look at painting
through Raphael; sculpture through Angelo; poetry through Shakespeare;
philosophy through Plato. It is all done for us; we are copyists. The
world is getting old--how glorious to have lived when it was young! But
nowadays the very children are blase."

"And you--are not you blase to talk like that, with your genius and all
the world before you?" I asked laughingly, slipping my arm through
hers. "Come, confess!"

Zara looked at me gravely.

"I sincerely hope the world is NOT all before me," she said; "I should
be very sorry if I thought so. To have the world all before you in the
general acceptation of that term means to live long, to barter whatever
genius you have for gold, to hear the fulsome and unmeaning flatteries
of the ignorant, who are as ready with condemnation as praise--to be
envied and maligned by those less lucky than you are. Heaven defend me
from such a fate!"

She spoke with earnestness and solemnity; then, dropping the curtain
before her statue, turned away. I was admiring the vine-wreathed head
of a young Bacchante that stood on a pedestal near me, and was about to
ask Zara what subject she had chosen for the large veiled figure at the
farthest end of her studio, when we were interrupted by the entrance of
the little Greek page whom I had seen on my first visit to the house.
He saluted us both, and addressing himself to Zara, said:

"Monsieur le Comte desires me to tell you, madame, that Prince Ivan
will be present at dinner."

Zara looked somewhat vexed; but the shade of annoyance flitted away
from her fair face like a passing shadow, as she replied quietly:

"Tell Monsieur le Comte, my brother, that I shall be happy to receive
Prince Ivan."

The page bowed deferentially and departed. Zara turned round, and I saw
the jewel on her breast flashing with a steely glitter like the blade
of a sharp sword.

"I do not like Prince Ivan myself," she said; "but he is a singularly
brave and resolute man, and Casimir has some reason for admitting him
to our companionship. Though I greatly doubt if--" Here a flood of
music broke upon our ears like the sound of a distant orchestra. Zara
looked at me and smiled. "Dinner is ready!" she announced; "but you
must not imagine that we keep a band to play us to our table in
triumph. It is simply a musical instrument worked by electricity that
imitates the orchestra; both Casimir and I prefer it to a gong!"

And slipping her arm affectionately through mine, she drew me from the
studio into the passage, and together we went down the staircase into a
large dining-room, rich with oil-paintings and carved oak, where
Heliobas awaited us. Close by him stood another gentleman, who was
introduced to me as Prince Ivan Petroffsky. He was a fine-looking,
handsome-featured young man, of about thirty, tall and
broad-shouldered, though beside the commanding stature of Heliobas, his
figure did not show to so much advantage as it might have done beside a
less imposing contrast. He bowed to me with easy and courteous grace;
but his deeply reverential salute to Zara had something in it of that
humility which a slave might render to a queen. She bent her head
slightly in answer, and still holding me by the hand, moved to her seat
at the bottom of the table, while her brother took the head. My seat
was at the right hand of Heliobas, Prince Ivan's at the left, so that
we directly faced each other.

There were two men-servants in attendance, dressed in dark livery, who
waited upon us with noiseless alacrity. The dinner was exceedingly
choice; there was nothing coarse or vulgar in the dishes--no great
heavy joints swimming in thin gravy a la Anglaise; no tureens of
unpalatable sauce; no clumsy decanters filled with burning sherry or
drowsy port. The table itself was laid out in the most perfect taste,
with the finest Venetian glass and old Dresden ware, in which tempting
fruits gleamed amid clusters of glossy dark leaves. Flowers in tall
vases bloomed wherever they could be placed effectively; and in the
centre of the board a small fountain played, tinkling as it rose and
fell like a very faintly echoing fairy chime. The wines that were
served to us were most delicious, though their flavour was quite
unknown to me--one in especial, of a pale pink colour, that sparkled
slightly as it was poured into my glass, seemed to me a kind of nectar
of the gods, so soft it was to the palate. The conversation, at first
somewhat desultory, grew more concentrated as the time went on, though
Zara spoke little and seemed absorbed in her own thoughts more than
once. The Prince, warmed with the wine and the general good cheer,
became witty and amusing in his conversation; he was a man who had
evidently seen a good deal of the world, and who was accustomed to take
everything in life a la bagatelle. He told us gay stories of his life
in St. Petersburg; of the pranks he had played in the Florentine
Carnival; of his journey to the American States, and his narrow escape
from the matrimonial clutches of a Boston heiress.

Heliobas listened to him with a sort of indulgent kindness, only
smiling now and then at the preposterous puns the young man would
insist on making at every opportunity that presented itself.

"You are a lucky fellow, Ivan," he said at last. "You like the good
things of life, and you have got them all without any trouble on your
own part. You are one of those men who have absolutely nothing to wish
for."

Prince Ivan frowned and pulled his dark moustache with no very
satisfied air.

"I am not so sure about that," he returned. "No one is contented in
this world, I believe. There is always something left to desire, and
the last thing longed for always seems the most necessary to happiness."

"The truest philosophy," said Heliobas, "is not to long for anything in
particular, but to accept everything as it comes, and find out the
reason of its coming."

"What do you mean by 'the reason of its coming'?" questioned Prince
Ivan. "Do you know, Casimir, I find you sometimes as puzzling as
Socrates."

"Socrates?--Socrates was as clear as a drop of morning dew, my dear
fellow," replied Heliobas. "There was nothing puzzling about him. His
remarks were all true and trenchant--hitting smartly home to the heart
like daggers plunged down to the hilt. That was the worst of him--he
was too clear--too honest--too disdainful of opinions. Society does not
love such men. What do I mean, you ask, by accepting everything as it
comes, and trying to find out the reason of its coming? Why, I mean
what I say. Each circumstance that happens to each one of us brings its
own special lesson and meaning--forms a link or part of a link in the
chain of our existence. It seems nothing to you that you walk down a
particular street at a particular hour, and yet that slight action of
yours may lead to a result you wot not of. 'Accept the hint of each new
experience,' says the American imitator of Plato--Emerson. If this
advice is faithfully followed, we all have enough to occupy us busily
from the cradle to the grave."

Prince Ivan looked at Zara, who sat quietly thoughtful, only lifting
her bright eyes now and then to glance at her brother as he spoke.

"I tell you," he said, with sudden moroseness, "there are some hints
that we cannot accept--some circumstances that we must not yield to.
Why should a man, for instance, be subjected to an undeserved and
bitter disappointment?"

"Because," said Zara, joining in the conversation for the first time,
"he has most likely desired what he is not fated to obtain."

The Prince bit his lips, and gave a forced laugh.

"I know, madame, you are against me in all our arguments," he observed,
with some bitterness in his tone. "As Casimir suggests, I am a bad
philosopher. I do not pretend to more than the ordinary attributes of
an ordinary man; it is fortunate, if I may be permitted to say so, that
the rest of the word's inhabitants are very like me, for if everyone
reached to the sublime heights of science and knowledge that you and
your brother have attained---"

"The course of human destiny would run out, and Paradise would be an
established fact," laughed Heliobas. "Come, Ivan! You are a true
Epicurean. Have some more wine, and a truce to discussions for the
present." And, beckoning to one of the servants, he ordered the
Prince's glass to be refilled.

Dessert was now served, and luscious fruits in profusion, including
peaches, bananas, plantains, green figs, melons, pine-apples, and
magnificent grapes, were offered for our choice. As I made a selection
for my own plate, I became aware of something soft rubbing itself
gently against my dress; and looking down, I saw the noble head and
dark intelligent eyes of my old acquaintance Leo, whom I had last met
at Cannes. I gave an exclamation of pleasure, and the dog, encouraged,
stood up and laid a caressing paw on my arm.

"You know Leo, of course," said Heliobas, turning to me. "He went to
see Raffaello while you were at Cannes. He is a wonderful animal--more
valuable to me than his weight in gold."

Prince Ivan, whose transient moodiness had passed away like a bad devil
exorcised by the power of good wine, joined heartily in the praise
bestowed on this four-footed friend of the family.

"It was really through Leo," he said, "that you were induced to follow
out your experiments in human electricity, Casimir, was it not?"

"Yes," replied Heliobas, calling the dog, who went to him immediately
to be fondled. "I should never have been much encouraged in my
researches, had he not been at hand. I feared to experimentalize much
on my sister, she being young at the time--and women are always frail
of construction--but Leo was willing and ready to be a victim to
science, if necessary. Instead of a martyr he is a living triumph--are
you not, old boy?" he continued, stroking the silky coat of the animal,
who responded with a short low bark of satisfaction.

My curiosity was much excited by these remarks, and I said eagerly:

"Will you tell me in what way Leo has been useful to you? I have a
great affection for dogs, and I never tire of hearing stories of their
wonderful intelligence."

"I will certainly tell you," replied Heliobas. "To some people the
story might appear improbable, but it is perfectly true and at the same
time simple of comprehension. When I was a very young man, younger than
Prince Ivan, I absorbed myself in the study of electricity--its
wonderful powers, and its various capabilities. From the consideration
of electricity in the different forms by which it is known to civilized
Europe, I began to look back through history, to what are ignorantly
called 'the dark ages,' but which might more justly be termed the
enlightened youth of the world. I found that the force of electricity
was well understood by the ancients--better understood by them, in
fact, than it is by the scientists of our day. The 'MENE, MENE, TEKEL,
UPHARSIN' that glittered in unearthly characters on the wall at
Belshazzar's feast, was written by electricity; and the Chaldean kings
and priests understood a great many secrets of another form of electric
force which the world to-day scoffs at and almost ignores--I mean human
electricity, which we all possess, but which we do not all cultivate
within us. When once I realized the existence of the fact of human
electric force, I applied the discovery to myself, and spared no pains
to foster and educate whatever germ of this power lay within me. I
succeeded with more ease and celerity than I had imagined possible. At
the time I pursued these studies, Leo here was quite a young dog, full
of the clumsy playfulness and untrained ignorance of a Newfoundland
puppy. One day I was very busy reading an interesting Sanskrit scroll
which treated of ancient medicines and remedies, and Leo was gambolling
in his awkward way about the room, playing with an old slipper and
worrying it with his teeth. The noise he made irritated and disturbed
me, and I rose in my chair and called him by name, somewhat angrily. He
paused in his game and looked up--his eyes met mine exactly. His head
drooped; he shivered uneasily, whined, and lay down motionless. He
never stirred once from the position he had taken, till I gave him
permission--and remember, he was untrained. This strange behaviour led
me to try other experiments with him, and all succeeded. I gradually
led him up to the point I desired--that is, _I_ FORCED HIM TO RECEIVE
MY THOUGHT AND ACT UPON IT, as far as his canine capabilities could do,
and he has never once failed. It is sufficient for me to strongly WILL
him to do a certain thing, and I can convey that command of mine to his
brain without uttering a single word, and he will obey me."

I suppose I showed surprise and incredulity in my face, for Heliobas
smiled at me and continued:

"I will put him to the proof at any time you like. If you wish him to
fetch anything that he is physically able to carry, and will write the
name of whatever it is on a slip of paper, just for me to know what you
require, I guarantee Leo's obedience."

I looked at Zara, and she laughed.

"It seems like magic to you, does it not?" she said; "but I assure you
it is quite true."

"I am bound to admit," said Prince Ivan, "that I once doubted both Leo
and his master, but I am quite converted. Here, mademoiselle," he
continued, handing me a leaf from his pocket-book and a pencil--"write
down something that you want; only don't send the dog to Italy on an
errand just now, as we want him back before we adjourn to the
drawing-room."

I remembered that I had left an embroidered handkerchief on the couch
in Zara's room, and I wrote this down on the paper, which I passed to
Heliobas. He glanced at it and tore it up. Leo was indulging himself
with a bone under the table, but came instantly to his master's call.
Heliobas took the dog's head between his two hands, and gazed steadily
into the grave brown eyes that regarded him with equal steadiness. This
interchange of looks lasted but a few seconds. Leo left the room,
walking with an unruffled and dignified pace, while we awaited his
return--Heliobas and Zara with indifference, Prince Ivan with
amusement, and I with interest and expectancy. Two or three minutes
elapsed, and the dog returned with the same majestic demeanour,
carrying between his teeth my handkerchief. He came straight to me and
placed it in my hand; shook himself, wagged his tail, and conveying a
perfectly human expression of satisfaction into his face, went under
the table again to his bone. I was utterly amazed, but at the same time
convinced. I had not seen the dog since my arrival in Paris, and it was
impossible for him to have known where to find my handkerchief, or to
recognize it as being mine, unless through the means Heliobas had
explained.

"Can you command human beings so?" I asked, with a slight tremor of
nervousness.

"Not all," returned Heliobas quietly. "In fact, I may say, very few.
Those who are on my own circle of power I can, naturally, draw to or
repel from me; but those who are not, have to be treated by different
means. Sometimes cases occur in which persons, at first NOT on my
circle, are irresistibly attracted to it by a force not mine.
Sometimes, in order to perform a cure, I establish a communication
between myself and a totally alien sphere of thought; and to do this is
a long and laborious effort. But it can be done."

"Then, if it can be done," said Prince Ivan, "why do you not accomplish
it for me?"

"Because you are being forcibly drawn towards me without any effort on
my part," replied Heliobas, with one of his steady, keen looks. "For
what motive I cannot at present determine; but I shall know as soon as
you touch the extreme edge of my circle. You are a long way off it yet,
but you are coming in spite of yourself, Ivan."

The Prince fidgeted restlessly in his chair, and toyed with the fruit
on his plate in a nervous manner.

"If I did not know you to be an absolutely truthful and honourable man,
Casimir," he said, "I should think you were trying to deceive me. But I
have seen what you can do, therefore I must believe you. Still I
confess I do not follow you in your circle theory."

"To begin with," returned Heliobas, "the Universe is a circle.
Everything is circular, from the motion of planets down to the human
eye, or the cup of a flower, or a drop of dew. MY 'circle theory,' as
you call it, applied to human electric force, is very simple; but I
have proved it to be mathematically correct. Every human being is
provided INTERNALLY and EXTERNALLY with a certain amount of
electricity, which is as necessary to existence as the life-blood to
the heart or fresh air to the lungs. Internally it is the germ of a
soul or spirit, and is placed there to be either cultivated or
neglected as suits the WILL of man. It is indestructible; yet, if
neglected, it remains always a germ; and, at the death of the body it
inhabits, goes elsewhere to seek another chance of development. If, on
the contrary, its growth is fostered by a persevering, resolute WILL,
it becomes a spiritual creature, glorious and supremely powerful, for
which a new, brilliant, and endless existence commences when its clay
chrysalis perishes. So much for the INTERNAL electrical force. The
EXTERNAL binds us all by fixed laws, with which our wills have nothing
whatever to do. (Each one of us walks the earth encompassed by an
invisible electric ring--wide or narrow according to our capabilities.
Sometimes our rings meet and form one, as in the case of two absolutely
sympathetic souls, who labour and love together with perfect faith in
each other. Sometimes they clash, and storm ensues, as when a strong
antipathy between persons causes them almost to loathe each other's
presence.) All these human electric rings are capable of attraction and
repulsion. If a man, during his courtship of a woman, experiences once
or twice a sudden instinctive feeling that there is something in her
nature not altogether what he expected or desired, let him take warning
and break off the attachment; for the electric circles do not combine,
and nothing but unhappiness would come from forcing a union. I would
say the same thing to a woman. If my advice were followed, how many
unhappy marriages would be avoided! But you have tempted me to talk too
much, Ivan. I see the ladies wish to adjourn. Shall we go to the
smoking-room for a little, and join them in the drawing-room
afterwards?"

We all rose.

"Well," said the Prince gaily, as he prepared to follow his host, "I
realize one thing which gives me pleasure, Casimir. If in truth I am
being attracted towards your electric circle, I hope I shall reach it
soon, as I shall then, I suppose, be more en rapport with madame, your
sister."

Zara's luminous eyes surveyed him with a sort of queenly pity and
forbearance.

"By the time YOU arrive at that goal, Prince," she said calmly, "it is
most probable that _I_ shall have departed."

And with one arm thrown round my waist, she saluted him gravely, and
left the room with me beside her.

"Would you like to see the chapel on your way to the drawing-room?" she
asked, as we crossed the hall.

I gladly accepted this proposition, and Zara took me down a flight of
marble steps, which terminated in a handsomely-carved oaken door.
Pushing this softly open, she made the sign of the cross and sank on
her knees. I did the same, and then looked with reverential wonder at
the loveliness and serenity of the place. It was small, but lofty, and
the painted dome-shaped roof was supported by eight light marble
columns, wreathed with minutely-carved garlands of vine-leaves. The
chapel was fitted up in accordance with the rites of the Catholic
religion, and before the High Altar and Tabernacle burned seven roseate
lamps, which were suspended from the roof by slender gilt chains. A
large crucifix, bearing a most sorrowful and pathetic figure of Christ,
was hung on one of the side walls; and from a corner altar, shining
with soft blue and silver, an exquisite statue of the Madonna and Child
was dimly seen from where we knelt. A few minutes passed, and Zara
rose. Looking towards the Tabernacle, her lips moved as though
murmuring a prayer, and then, taking me by the hand, she led me gently
out. The heavy oaken door swung softly behind us as we ascended the
chapel steps and re-entered the great hall.

"You are a Catholic, are you not?" then said Zara to me.

"Yes," I answered; "but--"

"But you have doubts sometimes, you would say! Of course. One always
doubts when one sees the dissensions, the hypocrisies, the false
pretences and wickedness of many professing Christians. But Christ and
His religion are living facts, in spite of the suicide of souls He
would gladly save. You must ask Casimir some day about these things; he
will clear up all the knotty points for you. Here we are at the
drawing-room door."

It was the same room into which I had first been shown. Zara seated
herself, and made me occupy a low chair beside her.

"Tell me," she said, "can you not come here and stay with me while you
are under Casimir's treatment?"

I thought of Madame Denise and her Pension.

"I wish I could," I said; "but I fear my friends would want to know
where I am staying, and explanations would have to be given, which I do
not feel disposed to enter upon."

"Why," went on Zara quietly, "you have only to say that you are being
attended by a Dr. Casimir who wishes to have you under his own
supervision, and that you are therefore staying in his house under the
chaperonage of his sister."

I laughed at the idea of Zara playing the chaperon, and told her she
was far too young and beautiful to enact that character.

"Do you know how old I am?" she asked, with a slight smile.

I guessed seventeen, or at any rate not more than twenty.

"I am thirty-eight," said Zara.

Thirty-eight! Impossible! I would not believe it. I could not. I
laughed scornfully at such an absurdity, looking at her as she sat
there a perfect model of youthful grace and loveliness, with her
lustrous eyes and rose-tinted complexion.

"You may doubt me if you choose," she said, still smiling; "but I have
told you the truth. I am thirty-eight years of age according to the
world's counting. What I am, measured by another standard of time,
matters not just now. You see I look young, and, what is more, I am
young. I enjoy my youth. I hear that women of society at thirty-eight
are often faded and blase--what a pity it is that they do not
understand the first laws of self-preservation! But to resume what I
was saying, you know now that I am quite old enough in the eyes of the
world to chaperon you or anybody. You had better arrange to stay here.
Casimir asked me to settle the matter with, you."

As she spoke, Heliobas and Prince Ivan entered. The latter looked
flushed and excited--Heliobas was calm and stately as usual. He
addressed himself to me at once.

"I have ordered my carriage, mademoiselle, to take you back this
evening to the Avenue du Midi. If you will do as Zara tells you, and
explain to your friends the necessity there is for your being under the
personal supervision of your doctor, you will find everything will
arrange itself very naturally. And the sooner you come here the
better--in fact, Zara will expect you here to-morrow early in the
afternoon. I may rely upon you?"

He spoke with a certain air of command, evidently expecting no
resistance on my part. Indeed, why should I resist? Already I loved
Zara, and wished to be more in her company; and then, most probably, my
complete restoration to health would be more successfully and quickly
accomplished if I were actually in the house of the man who had
promised to cure me. Therefore I replied:

"I will do as you wish, monsieur. Having placed myself in your hands, I
must obey. In this particular case," I added, looking at Zara,
"obedience is very agreeable to me."

Heliobas smiled and seemed satisfied. He then took a small goblet from
a side-table and left the room. Returning, however, almost immediately
with the cup filled to the brim, he said, handing it to me:

"Drink this--it is your dose for to-night; and then you will go home,
and straight to bed."

I drank it off at once. It was delicious in flavour--like very fine
Chianti.

"Have you no soothing draught for me?" said Prince Ivan, who had been
turning over a volume of photographs in a sullenly abstracted sort of
way.

"No," replied Heliobas, with a keen glance at him; "the draught fitted
for your present condition might soothe you too thoroughly."

The Prince looked at Zara, but she was mute. She had taken a piece of
silk embroidery from a workbasket near her, and was busily employed
with it. Heliobas advanced and laid his hand on the young man's arm.

"Sing to us, Ivan," he said, in a kind tone. "Sing us one of your wild
Russian airs--Zara loves them, and this young lady would like to hear
your voice before she goes."

The Prince hesitated, and then, with another glance at Zara's bent
head, went to the piano. He had a brilliant touch, and accompanied
himself with great taste and delicacy; but his voice was truly
magnificent--a baritone of deep and mellow quality, sonorous, and at
the same time tender. He sang a French rendering of a Slavonic
love-song, which, as nearly as I can translate it into English, ran as
follows:

  "As the billows fling shells on the shore,
   As the sun poureth light on the sea,
   As a lark on the wing scatters song to the spring,
   So rushes my love to thee.

  "As the ivy clings close to the tower,
   As the dew lieth deep in a flower,
   As the shadow to light, as the day unto night,
   So clings my wild soul to thee!

  "As the moon glitters coldly alone,
   Above earth on her cloud-woven throne,
   As the rocky-bound cave repulses a wave,
   So thy anger repulseth me.

  "As the bitter black frost of a night
   Slays the roses with pitiless might,
   As a sharp dagger-thrust hurls a king to the dust,
   So thy cruelty murdereth me.

  "Yet in spite of thy queenly disdain,
   Thou art seared by my passion and pain;
   Thou shalt hear me repeat, till I die for it, sweet!
   'I love thee! I dare to love THEE!'"

He ended abruptly and with passion, and rose from the piano directly.

I was enthusiastic in my admiration of the song and of the splendid
voice which had given it utterance, and the Prince seemed almost
grateful for the praise accorded him both by Heliobas and myself.

The page entered to announce that "the carriage was waiting for
mademoiselle," and I prepared to leave. Zara kissed me affectionately,
and whispering, "Come early to-morrow," made a graceful salute to
Prince Ivan, and left the room immediately.

Heliobas then offered me his arm to take me to the carriage. Prince
Ivan accompanied us. As the hall door opened in its usual noiseless
manner, I perceived an elegant light brougham drawn by a pair of black
horses, who were giving the coachman a great deal of trouble by the
fretting and spirited manner in which they pawed the stones and
pranced. Before descending the steps I shook hands with Heliobas, and
thanked him for the pleasant evening I had passed.

"We will try to make all your time with us pass as pleasantly," he
returned. "Good-night! What, Ivan," as he perceived the Prince attiring
himself in his great-coat and hat, "are you also going?"

"Yes, I am off," he replied, with a kind of forced gaiety; "I am bad
company for anyone to-night, and I won't inflict myself upon you,
Casimir. Au revoir! I will put mademoiselle into the carriage if she
will permit me."

We went down the steps together, Heliobas watching us from the open
door. As the Prince assisted me into the brougham, he whispered:

"Are you one of them!"

I looked at him in bewilderment.

"One of them!" I repeated. "What do you mean?"

"Never mind," he muttered impatiently, as he made a pretence of
covering me with the fur rugs inside the carriage: "if you are not now,
you will be, or Zara would not have kissed you. If you ever have the
chance ask her to think of me at my best. Good-night."

I was touched and a little sorry for him. I held out my hand in
silence. He pressed it hard, and calling to the coachman, "36, Avenue
du Midi," stood on the pavement bareheaded, looking singularly pale and
grave in the starlight, as the carriage rolled swiftly away, and the
door of the Hotel Mars closed.




CHAPTER VIII.

A SYMPHONY IN THE AIR.


Within a very short time I became a temporary resident in the house of
Heliobas, and felt myself to be perfectly at home there. I had
explained to Madame Denise the cause of my leaving her comfortable
Pension, and she had fully approved of my being under a physician's
personal care in order to ensure rapid recovery; but when she heard the
name of that physician, which I gave (in accordance with Zara's
instructions) as Dr. Casimir, she held up her fat hands in dismay.

"Oh, mademoiselle," she exclaimed, "have you not dread of that terrible
man? Is it not he that is reported to be a cruel mesmerist who
sacrifices everybody--yes, even his own sister, to his medical
experiments? Ah, mon Dieu! it makes me to shudder!"

And she shuddered directly, as a proof of her veracity. I was amused. I
saw in her an example of the common multitude, who are more ready to
believe in vulgar spirit-rapping and mesmerism than to accept an
established scientific fact.

"Do you know Dr. Casimir and his sister?" I asked her.

"I have seen them, mademoiselle; perhaps once--twice--three times! It
is true madame is lovely as an angel; but they say"--here she lowered
her voice mysteriously--"that she is wedded to a devil! It is true,
mademoiselle--all people say so. And Suzanne Michot--a very respectable
young person, mademoiselle, from Auteuil--she was employed at one time
as under-housemaid at Dr. Casimir's, and she had things to say--ah, to
make the blood like ice!"

"What did she say?" I asked with a half smile.

"Well," and Madame Denise came close to me and looked confidential,
"Suzanne--I assure you a most respectable girl--said that one evening
she was crossing the passage near Madame Casimir's boudoir, and she saw
a light like fire coming through the curtains of the portiere. And she
stopped to listen, and she heard a strange music like the sound of
harps. She ventured to go nearer--Suzanne is a brave girl,
mademoiselle, and most virtuous--and to raise the curtain the smallest
portion just to permit the glance of an eye. And--imagine what she saw."

"Well!" I exclaimed impatiently. "WHAT did she see?"

"Ah, mademoiselle, you will not believe me--but Suzanne Michot has
respectable parents, and would not tell a lie--well, Suzanne saw her
mistress, Madame Casimir, standing up near her couch with both arms
extended as to embrace the air. Round her there was--believe it or not,
mademoiselle, as you please--a ring of light like a red fire, which
seemed to grow larger and redder always. All suddenly, madame grew pale
and more pale, and then fell on her couch as one dead, and all the red
fire went out. Suzanne had fear, and she tried to call out--but now see
what happened to Suzanne! She was PUSHED from the spot, mademoiselle,
pushed along as though by some strong personage; yet she saw no one
till she reached her own door, and in her room she fainted from alarm.
The very next morning Dr. Casimir dismissed her, with her full wages
and a handsome present besides; but he LOOKED at her, Suzanne said, in
a manner to make her tremble from head to foot. Now, mademoiselle,
judge yourself whether it is fit for one who is suffering with nerves
to go to so strange a house!"

I laughed. Her story had not the least effect upon me. In fact, I made
up my mind that the so respectable and virtuous Suzanne Michot had been
drinking some of her master's wine. I said:

"Your words only make me more desirous to go, Madame Denise. Besides,
Dr. Casimir has already done me a great deal of good. You must have
heard things of him that are not altogether bad, surely?"

The little woman reflected seriously, and then said, as with some
reluctance:

"It is certainly true, mademoiselle, that in the quarter of the poor he
is much beloved. Jean Duclos--he is a chiffonnier--had his one child
dying of typhoid fever, and he was watching it struggling for breath;
it was at the point to die. Monsieur le Comte Casimir, or Dr.
Casimir--for he is called both--came in all suddenly, and in half an
hour had saved the little one's life. I do not deny that he may have
some good in him, and that he understands medicine; but there is
something wrong--" And Madame Denise shook her head forlornly a great
number of times.

None of her statements deterred me from my intention, and I was
delighted when I found myself fairly installed at the Hotel Mars. Zara
gave me a beautiful room next to her own; she had taken pains to fit it
up herself with everything that was in accordance with my particular
tastes, such as a choice selection of books; music, including many of
the fascinating scores of Schubert and Wagner; writing materials; and a
pretty, full-toned pianette. My window looked out on a small courtyard,
which had been covered over with glass and transformed into a
conservatory. I could enter it by going down a few steps, and could
have the satisfaction of gathering roses and lilies of the valley,
while outside the east wind blew and the cold snowflakes fell over
Paris. I wrote to Mrs. Everard from my retreat, and I also informed the
Challoners where they could find me if they wanted me. These duties
done, I gave myself up to enjoyment. Zara and I became inseparables; we
worked together, read together, and together every morning gave those
finishing-touches to the ordering and arrangement of the household
which are essentially feminine, and which not the wisest philosopher in
all the world has been, or ever will be, able to accomplish
successfully. We grew to love each other dearly, with that ungrudging,
sympathizing, confiding friendship that is very rarely found between
two women. In the meantime my cure went on rapidly. Every night on
retiring to rest Heliobas prepared a medicinal dose for me, of the
qualities of which I was absolutely ignorant, but which I took
trustingly from his hand. Every morning a different little phial of
liquid was placed in the bathroom for me to empty into the water of my
daily bath, and every hour I grew better, brighter, and stronger. The
natural vivacity of my temperament returned to me; I suffered no pain,
no anxiety, no depression, and I slept as soundly as a child, unvisited
by a single dream. The mere fact of my being alive became a joy to me;
I felt grateful for everything--for my eyesight, my speech, my hearing,
my touch--because all my senses seemed to be sharpened and invigorated
and braced up to the keenest delight. This happy condition of my system
did not come suddenly--sudden cures mean sudden relapses; it was a
gradual, steady, ever-increasing, reliable recovery.

I found the society of Heliobas and his sister very fascinating. Their
conversation was both thoughtful and brilliant, their manners were
evenly gracious and kindly, and the life they led was a model of
perfect household peace and harmony. There was never a fuss about
anything: the domestic arrangements seemed to work on smoothly oiled
wheels; the different repasts were served with quiet elegance and
regularity; the servants were few, but admirably trained; and we all
lived in an absolutely calm atmosphere, unruffled by so much as a
breath of worry. Nothing of a mysterious nature went on, as far as I
could see.

Heliobas passed the greater part of the day in his study--a small,
plainly furnished room, the facsimile of the one I had beheld him in
when I had dreamed those three dreams at Cannes. Whether he received
many or few patients there I could not tell; but that some applied to
him for advice I knew, as I often met strangers crossing the hall on
their way in and out. He always joined us at dinner, and was invariably
cheerful, generally entertaining us with lively converse and sparkling
narrative, though now and then the thoughtful tendency of his mind
predominated, and gave a serious tone to his remarks.

Zara was uniformly bright and even in her temperament. She was my very
ideal of the Greek Psyche, radiant yet calm, pensive yet mirthful. She
was full of beautiful ideas and poetical fancies, and so thoroughly
untouched by the world and its aims, that she seemed to me just to
poise on the earth like a delicate butterfly on a flower; and I should
have been scarcely surprised had I seen her unfold a pair of shining
wings and fly away to some other region. Yet in spite of this
spirituelle nature, she was physically stronger and more robust than
any other woman I ever saw. She was gay and active; she was never
tired, never ailing, and she enjoyed life with a keen zest such as is
unknown to the tired multitudes who toil on hopelessly and wearily,
wondering, as they work, why they were born. Zara evidently had no
doubts or speculations of this kind; she drank in every minute of her
existence as if it were a drop of honey-dew prepared specially for her
palate. I never could believe that her age was what she had declared it
to be. She seemed to look younger every day; sometimes her eyes had
that limpid, lustrous innocence that is seen in the eyes of a very
little child; and, again, they would change and glow with the earnest
and lofty thought of one who had lived through years of study,
research, and discovery. For the first few days of my visit she did not
work in her studio at all, but appeared to prefer reading or talking
with me. One afternoon, however, when we had returned from a short
drive in the Bois de Boulogne, she said half hesitatingly:

"I think I will go to work again to-morrow morning, if you will not
think me unsociable."

"Why, Zara dearest!" I replied. "Of course I shall not think you
unsociable. I would not interfere with any of your pursuits for the
world."

She looked at me with a sort of wistful affection, and continued:

"But you must know I like to work quite alone, and though it may look
churlish, still not even you must come into the studio. I never can do
anything before a witness; Casimir himself knows that, and keeps away
from me."

"Well!" I said, "I should be an ungrateful wretch if I could not oblige
you in so small a request. I promise not to disturb you, Zara; and do
not think for one moment that I shall be dull. I have books, a piano,
flowers--what more do I want? And if I like I can go out; then I have
letters to write, and all sorts of things to occupy me. I shall be
quite happy, and I shall not come near you till you call me."

Zara kissed me.

"You are a dear girl," she said; "I hate to appear inhospitable, but I
know you are a real friend--that you will love me as much away from you
as near you, and that you have none of that vulgar curiosity which some
women give way to, when what they desire to see is hidden from them.
You are not inquisitive, are you?"

I laughed.

"The affairs of other people have never appeared so interesting to me
that I have cared to bother myself about them," I replied.
"Blue-Beard's Chamber would never have been unlocked had I been that
worthy man's wife."

"What a fine moral lesson the old fairy-tale teaches!" said Zara. "I
always think those wives of Blue-Beard deserved their fate for not
being able to obey him in his one request. But in regard to your
pursuits, dear, while I am at work in my studio, you can use the grand
piano in the drawing-room when you please, as well as the little one in
your own room; and you can improvise on the chapel organ as much as you
like."

I was delighted at this idea, and thanked her heartily. She smiled
thoughtfully.

"What happiness it must be for you to love music so thoroughly!" she
said. "It fills you with enthusiasm. I used to dislike to read the
biographies of musical people; they all seemed to find so much fault
with one another, and grudged each other every little bit of praise
wrung from the world's cold, death-doomed lips. It is to me
pathetically absurd to see gifted persons all struggling along, and
rudely elbowing each other out of the way to win--what? A few stilted
commonplace words of approbation or fault-finding in the newspapers of
the day, and a little clapping and shouting from a gathering of
ordinary minded persons, who only clap and shout because it is possibly
the fashion to do so. It is really ludicrous. If the music the musician
offers to the public be really great, it will live by itself and defy
praise or blame. Because Schubert died of want and sorrow, that does
not interfere with the life of his creations. Because Wagner is voted
impossible and absurd by many who think themselves good judges of
musical art, that does not offer any obstacle to the steady spread of
his fame, which is destined to become as universal as that of
Shakespeare. Poor Joachim, the violinist, has got a picture in his
private house, in which Wagner is painted as suffering the tortures of
hell; can anything be more absurd, when we consider how soon the
learned fiddler, who has occupied his life in playing other people's
compositions, will be a handful of forgotten dust, while multitudes yet
to come will shout their admiration of 'Tristran' and 'Parsifal.' Yes,
as I said, I never cared for musical people much, till I met a friend
of my brother's--a man whose inner life was an exquisite harmony."

"I know!" I interrupted her. "He wrote the 'Letters of a Dead
Musician.'"

"Yes," said Zara. "I suppose you saw the book at Raffaello's studio.
Good Raffaello Cellini! his is another absolutely ungrudging and
unselfish spirit. But this musician that I speak of was like a child in
humility and reverence. Casimir told me he had never sounded so perfect
a nature. At one time he, too, was a little anxious for recognition and
praise, and Casimir saw that he was likely to wreck himself on that
fatal rock of poor ambition. So he took him in hand, and taught him the
meaning of his work, and why it was especially given him to do; and
that man's life became 'one grand sweet song.' But there are tears in
your eyes, dear! What have I said to grieve you?"

And she caressed me tenderly. The tears were indeed thick in my eyes,
and a minute or two elapsed before I could master them. At last I
raised my head and endeavoured to smile.

"They are not sad tears, Zara," I said; "I think they come from a
strong desire I have to be what you are, what your brother is, what
that dead musician must have been. Why, I have longed, and do long for
fame, for wealth, for the world's applause, for all the things which
you seem to think so petty and mean. How can I help it? Is not fame
power? Is not money a double power, strong to assist one's self and
those one loves? Is not the world's favour a necessary means to gain
these things?"

Zara's eyes gleamed with a soft and pitying gentleness.

"Do you understand what you mean by power?" she asked. "World's fame?
World's wealth? Will these things make you enjoy life? You will perhaps
say yes. I tell you no. Laurels of earth's growing fade; gold of
earth's getting is good for a time, but it palls quickly. Suppose a man
rich enough to purchase all the treasures of the world--what then? He
must die and leave them. Suppose a poet or musician so famous that all
nations know and love him: he too must die, and go where nations exist
no longer. And you actually would grasp ashes and drink wormwood,
little friend? Music, the heaven-born spirit of pure sound, does not
teach you so!"

I was silent. The gleam of the strange jewel Zara always wore flashed
in my eyes like lightning, and anon changed to the similitude of a
crimson star. I watched it, dreamily fascinated by its unearthly
glitter.

"Still," I said, "you yourself admit that such fame as that of
Shakespeare or Wagner becomes a universal monument to their memories.
That is something, surely?"

"Not to them," replied Zara; "they have partly forgotten that they ever
were imprisoned in such a narrow gaol as this world. Perhaps they do
not care to remember it, though memory is part of immortality."

"Ah!" I sighed restlessly; "your thoughts go beyond me, Zara. I cannot
follow your theories."

Zara smiled.

"We will not talk about them any more," she said; "you must tell
Casimir--he will teach you far better than I can."

"What shall I tell him?" I asked; "and what will he teach me?"

"You will tell him what a high opinion you have of the world and its
judgments," said Zara, "and he will teach you that the world is no more
than a grain of dust, measured by the standard of your own soul. This
is no mere platitude--no repetition of the poetical statement 'THE
MIND'S THE STANDARD OF THE MAN;' it is a fact, and can be proved as
completely as that two and two make four. Ask Casimir to set you free."

"To set me free?" I asked, surprised.

"Yes!" and Zara looked at me brightly. "He will know if you are strong
enough to travel!" And, nodding her head gaily to me, she left the room
to prepare for the dinner-hour which was fast approaching.

I pondered over her words a good deal without arriving at any
satisfactory conclusion as to the meaning of them. I did not resume the
conversation with her, nor did I speak to Heliobas as yet, and the days
went on smoothly and pleasantly till I had been nearly a week in
residence at the Hotel Mars. I now felt perfectly well and strong,
though Heliobas continued to give me his remedies regularly night and
morning. I began an energetic routine of musical practice: the
beautiful piano in the drawing-room answered readily to my touch, and
many a delightful hour slipped by as I tried various new difficulties
on the key-board, or worked out different combinations of harmony. I
spent a great deal of my time at the organ in the little chapel, the
bellows of which were worked by electricity, in a manner that gave not
the least trouble, and was perfectly simple of management.

The organ itself was peculiarly sweet in tone, the "vox humana" stop
especially producing an entrancingly rich and tender sound. The
silence, warmth, and beauty of the chapel, with the winter sunlight
streaming through its stained windows, and the unbroken solitude I
enjoyed there, all gave fresh impetus to the fancies of my brain, and a
succession of solemn and tender melodies wove themselves under my
fingers as a broidered carpet is woven on the loom.

One particular afternoon, I was sitting at the instrument as usual, and
my thoughts began to busy themselves with the sublime tragedy of
Calvary. I mused, playing softly all the while, on the wonderful,
blameless, glorious life that had ended in the shame and cruelty of the
Cross, when suddenly, like a cloud swooping darkly across the heaven of
my thoughts, came the suggestive question: "Is it all true? Was Christ
indeed Divine--or is it all a myth, a fable--an imposture?"
Unconsciously I struck a discordant chord on the organ--a faint tremor
shook me, and I ceased playing. An uncomfortable sensation came over
me, as of some invisible presence being near me and approaching softly,
slowly, yet always more closely; and I hurriedly rose from my seat,
shut the organ, and prepared to leave the chapel, overcome by a strange
incomprehensible terror. I was glad when I found myself safely outside
the door, and I rushed into the hall as though I were being pursued;
yet the oddest part of my feeling was, that whoever thus pursued me,
did so out of love, not enmity, and that I was almost wrong in running
away. I leaned for a moment against one of the columns in the hall,
trying to calm the excited beating of my heart, when a deep voice
startled me:

"So! you are agitated and alarmed! Unbelief is easily scared!"

I looked up and met the calm eyes of Heliobas. He appeared to be
taller, statelier, more like a Chaldean prophet or king than I had ever
seen him before. There was something in his steady scrutiny of my face
that put me to a sort of shame, and when he spoke again it was in a
tone of mild reproof.

"You have been led astray, my child, by the conflicting and vain
opinions of mankind. You, like many others in the world, delight to
question, to speculate, to weigh this, to measure that, with little or
no profit to yourself or your fellow-creatures. And you have come
freshly from a land where, in the great Senate-house, a poor perishable
lump of clay calling itself a man, dares to stand up boldly and deny
the existence of God, while his compeers, less bold than he, pretend a
holy displeasure, yet secretly support him--all blind worms denying the
existence of the sun; a land where so-called Religion is split into
hundreds of cold and narrow sects, gatherings assembled for the
practice of hypocrisy, lip-service and lies--where Self, not the
Creator, is the prime object of worship; a land, mighty once among the
mightiest, but which now, like an over-ripe pear, hangs loosely on its
tree, awaiting but a touch to make it fall! A land--let me not name
it;--where the wealthy, high-fed ministers of the nation slowly argue
away the lives of better men than themselves, with vain words of colder
and more cruel force than the whirling spears of untaught savages! What
have you, an ardent disciple of music, to do in such a land where
favouritism and backstair influence win the day over even the merits of
a Schubert? Supposing you were a second Beethoven, what could you do in
that land without faith or hope? that land which is like a
disappointed, churlish, and aged man with tottering feet and purblind
eyes, who has long ago exhausted all enjoyment and sees nothing new
under the sun. The world is wide--faith is yet extant--and the
teachings of Christ are true. 'Believe and live; doubt and die!' That
saying is true also."

I had listened to these words in silence; but now I spoke eagerly and
impatiently, remembering what Zara had told me.

"Then," I said, "if I have been misguided by modern opinions--if I have
unconsciously absorbed the doctrines of modern fashionable
atheism--lead me right. Teach me what you know. I am willing to learn.
Let me find out the reason of my life. SET ME FREE!"

Heliobas regarded me with earnest solemnity.

"Set you free!" he murmured, in a low tone. "Do you know what you ask?"

"No," I answered, with reckless fervour. "I do not know what I ask; but
I feel that you have the power to show me the unseen things of another
world. Did you not yourself tell me in our first interview that you had
let Raffaello Cellini 'go on a voyage of discovery, and that he came
back perfectly satisfied?' Besides, he told me his history. From you he
has gained all that gives him peace and comfort. You possess electric
secrets undreamt of by the world. Prove your powers upon me; I am not
afraid."

Heliobas smiled. "Not afraid! And you ran out of the chapel just now as
if you were pursued by a fiend! You must know that the only WOMAN I
ever tried my greatest experiment upon is my sister Zara. She was
trained and prepared for it in the most careful manner; and it
succeeded. Now"--and Heliobas looked half-sad, half-triumphant--"she
has passed beyond my power; she is dominated by one greater than I. But
she cannot use her force for others; she can only employ it to defend
herself. Therefore, I am willing to try you if you indeed desire it--to
see if the same thing will occur to you as to Zara; and I firmly
believe it will."

A slight tremor came over me; but I said with an attempt at
indifference:

"You mean that I shall be dominated also by some great force or
influence?"

"I think so," replied Heliobas musingly. "Your nature is more prone to
love than to command. Try and follow me in the explanation I am going
to give you. Do you know some lines by Shelley that run--

  "'Nothing in the world is single,
    All things by a law divine
    In one another's being mingle--
    Why not I with thine?'"

"Yes," I said. "I know the lines well. I used to think them very
sentimental and pretty."

"They contain," said Heliobas, "the germ of a great truth, as many of
the most fanciful verses of the poets do. As the 'image of a voice'
mentioned in the Book of Job hinted at the telephone, and as
Shakespeare's 'girdle round the earth' foretold the electric telegraph,
so the utterances of the inspired starvelings of the world, known as
poets, suggest many more wonders of the universe than may be at first
apparent. Poets must always be prophets, or their calling is in vain.
Put this standard of judgment to the verse-writers of the day, and
where would they be? The English Laureate is no seer: he is a mere
relater of pretty stories. Algernon Charles Swinburne has more fire in
him, and more wealth of expression, but he does not prophesy; he has a
clever way of combining Biblical similes with Provengal passion--et
voila tout! The prophets are always poor--the sackcloth and ashes of
the world are their portion; and their bodies moulder a hundred years
or more in the grave before the world finds out what they meant by
their ravings. But apropos of these lines of Shelley. He speaks of the
duality of existence. 'Nothing in the world is single.' He might have
gone further, and said nothing in the universe is single. Cold and
heat, storm and sunshine, good and evil, joy and sorrow--all go in
pairs. This double life extends to all the spheres and above the
spheres. Do you understand?"

"I understand what you say," I said slowly; "but I cannot see your
meaning as applied to myself or yourself."

"I will teach you in a few words," went on Heliobas. "You believe in
the soul?"

"Yes."

"Very well. Now realize that there is no soul on this earth that is
complete, ALONE. Like everything else, it is dual. It is like half a
flame that seeks the other half, and is dissatisfied and restless till
it attains its object. Lovers, misled by the blinding light of Love,
think they have reached completeness when they are united to the person
beloved. Now, in very, very rare cases, perhaps one among a thousand,
this desirable result is effected; but the majority of people are
content with the union of bodies only, and care little or nothing about
the sympathy or attachment between souls. There are people, however,
who do care, and who never find their Twin-Flame or companion Spirit at
all on earth, and never will find it. And why? Because it is not
imprisoned in clay; it is elsewhere."

"Well?" I asked eagerly.

"Well, you seem to ask me by your eyes what this all means. I will
apply it at once to myself. By my researches into human electrical
science, I discovered that MY companion, MY other half of existence,
though not on earth, was near me, and could be commanded by me; and, on
being commanded, obeyed. With Zara it was different. She could not
COMMAND--she OBEYED; she was the weaker of the two. With you, I think
it will be the same thing. Men sacrifice everything to ambition; women
to love. It is natural. I see there is much of what I have said that
appears to have mystified you; it is no good puzzling your brain any
more about it. No doubt you think I am talking very wildly about
Twin-Flames and Spiritual Affinities that live for us in another
sphere. You do not believe, perhaps, in the existence of beings in the
very air that surrounds us, invisible to ordinary human eyes, yet
actually akin to us, with a closer relationship than any tie of blood
known on earth?"

I hesitated. Heliobas saw my hesitation, and his eyes darkened with a
sombre wrath.

"Are you one of those also who must see in order to believe?" he said,
half angrily. "Where do you suppose your music comes from? Where do you
suppose any music comes from that is not mere imitation? The greatest
composers of the world have been mere receptacles of sound; and the
emptier they were of self-love and vanity, the greater quantity of
heaven-born melody they held. The German Wagner--did he not himself say
that he walked up and down in the avenues, 'trying to catch the
harmonies as they floated in the air'? Come with me--come back to the
place you left, and I will see if you, like Wagner, are able to catch a
melody flying."

He grasped my unresisting arm, and led me, half-frightened,
half-curious, into the little chapel, where he bade me seat myself at
the organ.

"Do not play a single note," he said, "till you are compelled."

And standing beside me, Heliobas laid his hands on my head, then
pressed them on my ears, and finally touched my hands, that rested
passively on the keyboard.

He then raised his eyes, and uttered the name I had often thought of
but never mentioned--the name he had called upon in my dream.

"Azul!" he said, in a low, penetrating voice, "open the gateways of the
Air that we may hear the sound of Song!"

A soft rushing noise of wind answered his adjuration. This was followed
by a burst of music, transcendently lovely, but unlike any music I had
ever heard. There were sounds of delicate and entrancing tenderness
such as no instrument made by human hands could produce; there was
singing of clear and tender tone, and of infinite purity such as no
human voices could be capable of. I listened, perplexed, alarmed, yet
entranced. Suddenly I distinguished a melody running through the
wonderful air-symphonies--a melody like a flower, fresh and perfect.
Instinctively I touched the organ and began to play it; I found I could
produce it note for note. I forgot all fear in my delight, and I played
on and on in a sort of deepening rapture. Gradually I became aware that
the strange sounds about me were dying slowly away; fainter and fainter
they grew--softer--farther--and finally ceased. But the melody--that
one distinct passage of notes I had followed out--remained with me, and
I played it again and again with feverish eagerness lest it should
escape me. I had forgotten the presence of Heliobas. But a touch on my
shoulder roused me. I looked up and met his eyes fixed upon, me with a
steady and earnest regard. A shiver ran through, me, and I felt
bewildered.

"Have I lost it?" I asked.

"Lost what?" he demanded.

"The tune I heard--the harmonies."

"No," he replied; "at least I think not. But if you have, no matter.
You will hear others. Why do you look so distressed?"

"It is lovely," I said wistfully, "all that music; but it is not MINE;"
and tears of regret filled my eyes. "Oh, if it were only mine--my very
own composition!"

Heliobas smiled kindly.

"It is as much yours as any thing belongs to anyone. Yours? why, what
can you really call your own? Every talent you have, every breath you
draw, every drop of blood flowing in your veins, is lent to you only;
you must pay it all back. And as far as the arts go, it is a bad sign
of poet, painter, or musician, who is arrogant enough to call his work
his own. It never was his, and never will be. It is planned by a higher
intelligence than his, only he happens to be the hired labourer chosen
to carry out the conception; a sort of mechanic in whom boastfulness
looks absurd; as absurd as if one of the stonemasons working at the
cornice of a cathedral were to vaunt himself as the designer of the
whole edifice. And when a work, any work, is completed, it passes out
of the labourer's hands; it belongs to the age and the people for whom
it was accomplished, and, if deserving, goes on belonging to future
ages and future peoples. So far, and only so far, music is your own.
But are you convinced? or do you think you have been dreaming all that
you heard just now?"

I rose from the organ, closed it gently, and, moved by a sudden
impulse, held out both my hands to Heliobas. He took them and held them
in a friendly clasp, watching me intently as I spoke.

"I believe in YOU," I said firmly; "and I know thoroughly well that I
was not dreaming; I certainly heard strange music, and entrancing
voices. But in acknowledging your powers over something unseen, I must
explain to you the incredulity I at first felt, which I believe annoyed
you. I was made sceptical on one occasion, by attending a so-called
spiritual seance, where they tried to convince me of the truth of
table-turning--"

Heliobas laughed softly, still holding my hands.

"Your reason will at once tell you that disembodied spirits never
become so undignified as to upset furniture or rap on tables. Neither
do they write letters in pen and ink and put them under doors.
Spiritual beings are purely spiritual; they cannot touch anything
human, much less deal in such vulgar display as the throwing about of
chairs, and the opening of locked sideboards. You were very rightly
sceptical in these matters. But in what I have endeavoured to prove to
you, you have no doubts, have you?"

"None in the world," I said. "I only ask you to go on teaching me the
wonders that seem so familiar to you. Let me know all I may; and soon!"
I spoke with trembling eagerness.

"You have been only eight days in the house, my child," said Heliobas,
loosening my hands, and signing me to come out of the chapel with him;
"and I do not consider you sufficiently strong as yet for the
experiment you wish me to try upon you. Even now you are agitated. Wait
one week more, and then you shall be--"

"What?" I asked impatiently.

"Lifted up," he replied. "Lifted up above this little speck called
earth. But now, no more of this. Go to Zara; keep your mind well
employed; study, read, and pray--pray much and often in few and simple
words, and with as utterly unselfish a heart as you can prepare. Think
that you are going to some high festival, and attire your soul in
readiness. I do not say to you 'Have faith;' I would not compel your
belief in anything against your own will. You wish to be convinced of a
future existence; you seek proofs; you shall have them. In the meantime
avoid all conversation with me on the subject. You can confide your
desires to Zara if you like; her experience may be of use to you. You
had best join her now. Au revoir!" and with a kind parting gesture, he
left me.

I watched his stately figure disappear in the shadow of the passage
leading to his own study, and then I hastened to Zara's room. The
musical episode in the chapel had certainly startled me, and the words
of Heliobas were full of mysterious meaning; but, strange to say, I was
in no way rendered anxious or alarmed by the prospect I had before me
of being "lifted up," as my physician had expressed it. I thought of
Raffaello Cellini and his history, and I determined within myself that
no cowardly hesitation or fear should prevent me from making the
attempt to see what he professed to have seen. I found Zara reading.
She looked up as I entered, and greeted me with her usual bright smile.

"You have had a long practice," she began; "I thought you were never
coming."

I sat down beside her, and related at once all that had happened to me
that afternoon. Zara listened with deep and almost breathless interest.

"You are quite resolved," she said, when I had concluded, "to let
Casimir exert his force upon you?"

"I am quite resolved," I answered.

"And you have no fear?"

"None that I am just now conscious of."

Zara's eyes became darker and deeper in the gravity of her intense
meditation. At last she said:

"I can help you to keep your courage firmly to the point, by letting
you know at once what Casimir will do to you. Beyond that I cannot go.
You understand the nature of an electric shock?"

"Yes," I replied.

"Well, there are different kinds of electric shocks--some that are
remedial, some that are fatal. There are cures performed by a careful
use of the electric battery--again, people are struck dead by
lightning, which is the fatal result of electric force. But all this is
EXTERNAL electricity; now what Casimir will use on you will be INTERNAL
electricity."

I begged her to explain more clearly. She went on:

"You have internally a certain amount of electricity, which has been
increased recently by the remedies prescribed for you by Casimir. But,
however much you have, Casimir has more, and he will exert his force
over your force, the greater over the lesser. You will experience an
INTERNAL electric shock, which, like a sword, will separate in twain
body and spirit. The spiritual part of you will be lifted up above
material forces; the bodily part will remain inert and useless, till
the life, which is actually YOU, returns to put its machinery in motion
once more."

"But shall I return at all?" I asked half doubtfully.

"You must return, because God has fixed the limits of your life on
earth, and no human power can alter His decree. Casimir's will can set
you free for a time, but only for a time. You are bound to return, be
it never so reluctantly. Eternal liberty is given by Death alone, and
Death cannot be forced to come."

"How about suicide?" I asked.

"The suicide," replied Zara, "has no soul. He kills his body, and by
the very act proves that whatever germ of an immortal existence he may
have had once, has escaped from its unworthy habitation, and gone, like
a flying spark, to find a chance of growth elsewhere. Surely your own
reason proves this to you? The very animals have more soul than a man
who commits suicide. The beasts of prey slay each other for hunger or
in self-defence, but they do not slay themselves. That is a brutality
left to man alone, with its companion degradation, drunkenness."

I mused awhile in silence.

"In all the wickedness and cruelty of mankind," I said, "it is almost a
wonder that there is any spiritual existence left on earth at all. Why
should God trouble Himself to care for such few souls as thoroughly
believe in and love Him?--they can be but a mere handful."

"Such a mere handful are worth more than the world to him," said Zara
gravely. "Oh, my dear, do not say such things as why should God trouble
Himself? Why do you trouble yourself for the safety and happiness of
anyone you love?"

Her eyes grew soft and tender, and the jewel she wore glimmered like
moonlight on the sea. I felt a little abashed, and, to change the
subject, I said:

"Tell me, Zara, what is that stone you always wear? Is it a talisman?"

"It belonged to a king," said Zara,--"at least, it was found in a
king's coffin. It has been in our family for generations. Casimir says
it is an electric stone--there are such still to be found in remote
parts of the sea. Do you like it?"

"It is very brilliant and lovely," I said.

"When I die," went on Zara slowly, "I will leave it to you."

"I hope I shall have to wait a long time before I get it, then," I
exclaimed, embracing her affectionately. "Indeed, I will pray never to
receive it."

"You will pray wrongly," said Zara, smiling. "But tell me, do you quite
understand from my explanation what Casimir will do to you?"

"I think I do."

"And you are not afraid?"

"Not at all. Shall I suffer any pain?"

"No actual pang. You will feel giddy for a moment, and your body will
become unconscious. That is all."

I meditated for a few moments, and then looking up, saw Zara's eyes
watching me with a wistful inquiring tenderness. I answered her look
with a smile, and said, half gaily:

"L'audace, l'audace, et toujours l'audace! That must be my motto, Zara.
I have a chance now of proving how far a woman's bravery can go, and I
assure you I am proud of the opportunity. Your brother uttered some
very cutting remarks on the general inaptitude of the female sex when I
first made his acquaintance; so, for the honour of the thing, I must
follow the path I have begun to tread. A plunge into the unseen world
is surely a bold step for a woman, and I am determined to take it
courageously."

"That is well," said Zara. "I do not think it possible for you ever to
regret it. It is growing late--shall we prepare for dinner?"

I assented, and we separated to our different rooms. Before commencing
to dress I opened the pianette that stood near my window, and tried
very softly to play the melody I had heard in the chapel. To my joy it
came at once to my fingers, and I was able to remember every note. I
did not attempt to write it down--somehow I felt sure it would not
escape me now. A sense of profound gratitude filled my heart, and,
remembering the counsel given by Heliobas, I knelt reverently down and
thanked God for the joy and grace of music. As I did so, a faint breath
of sound, like a distant whisper of harps played in unison, floated
past my ears,--then appeared to sweep round in ever-widening circles,
till it gradually died away. But it was sweet and entrancing enough for
me to understand how glorious and full of rapture must have been the
star-symphony played on that winter's night long ago, when the angels
chanted together, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace and
good-will to Man!"




CHAPTER IX.

AN ELECTRIC SHOCK.


Prince Ivan Petroffsky was a constant visitor at the Hotel Mars, and I
began to take a certain interest in him, not unmingled with pity, for
it was evident that he was hopelessly in love with my beautiful friend
Zara. She received him always with courtesy and kindness; but her
behaviour to him was marked by a somewhat cold dignity, which, like a
barrier of ice, repelled the warmth of his admiration and attention.
Once or twice, remembering what he had said to me, I endeavoured to
speak to her concerning him and his devotion; but she so instantly and
decisively turned the conversation that I saw I should displease her if
I persisted in it. Heliobas appeared to be really attached to the
Prince, at which I secretly wondered; the worldly and frivolous young
nobleman was of so entirely different a temperament to that of the
thoughtful and studious Chaldean philosopher. Yet there was evidently
some mysterious attraction between them--the Prince appeared to be
profoundly interested in electric theories and experiments, and
Heliobas never wearied of expounding them to so attentive a listener.
The wonderful capabilities of the dog Leo also were brought into
constant requisition for Prince Ivan's benefit, and without doubt they
were most remarkable. This animal, commanded--or, I should say,
brain-electrified--by Heliobas, would fetch anything that was named to
him through his master's force, providing it was light enough for him
to carry; and he would go into the conservatory and pluck off with his
teeth any rare or common flower within his reach that was described to
him by the same means. Spoken to or commanded by others, he was simply
a good-natured intelligent Newfoundland; but under the authority of
Heliobas, he became more than human in ready wit and quick obedience,
and would have brought in a golden harvest to any great circus or
menagerie.

He was a never-failing source of wonder and interest to me, and even
more so to the Prince, who made him the subject of many an abstruse and
difficult discussion with his friend Casimir. I noticed that Zara
seemed to regret the frequent companionship of Ivan Petroffsky and her
brother, and a shade of sorrow or vexation often crossed her fair face
when she saw them together absorbed in conversation or argument.

One evening a strange circumstance occurred which startled and deeply
impressed me. Prince Ivan had dined with us; he was in extraordinarily
high spirits--his gaiety was almost boisterous, and his face was deeply
flushed. Zara glanced at him half indignantly more than once when his
laughter became unusually uproarious, and I saw that Heliobas watched
him closely and half-inquiringly, as if he thought there was something
amiss.

The Prince, however, heedless of his host's observant eye, tossed off
glass after glass of wine, and talked incessantly. After dinner, when
we all assembled in the drawing-room, he seated himself at the piano
without being asked, and sang several songs. Whether he were influenced
by drink or strong excitement, his voice at any rate showed no sign of
weakness or deterioration. Never had I heard him sing so magnificently.
He seemed possessed not by an angel but by a demon of song. It was
impossible not to listen to him, and while listening, equally
impossible not to admire him. Even Zara, who was generally indifferent
to his music, became, on this particular night, fascinated into a sort
of dreamy attention. He perceived this, and suddenly addressed himself
to her in softened tones which bore no trace of their previous loudness.

"Madame, you honour me to-night by listening to my poor efforts. It is
seldom I am thus rewarded!"

Zara flushed deeply, and then grew very pale.

"Indeed, Prince," she answered quietly, "you mistake me. I always
listen with pleasure to your singing--to-night, perhaps, my mood is
more fitted to music than is usual with me, and thus I may appear to
you to be more attentive. But your voice always delights me as it must
delight everybody who hears it."

"While you are in a musical mood then," returned Prince Ivan, "let me
sing you an English song--one of the loveliest ever penned. I have set
it to music myself, as such words are not of the kind to suit ordinary
composers or publishers; they are too much in earnest, too passionate,
too full of real human love and sorrow. The songs that suit modern
drawing-rooms and concert-halls, as a rule, are those that are full of
sham sentiment--a real, strong, throbbing HEART pulsing through a song
is too terribly exciting for lackadaisical society. Listen!" And,
playing a dreamy, murmuring prelude like the sound of a brook flowing
through a hollow cavern, he sang Swinburne's "Leave-Taking," surely one
of the saddest and most beautiful poems in the English language.

He subdued his voice to suit the melancholy hopelessness of the lines,
and rendered it with so much intensity of pathetic expression that it
was difficult to keep tears from filling the eyes. When he came to the
last verse, the anguish of a wasted life seemed to declare itself in
the complete despair of his low vibrating tones:

   "Let us go hence and rest; she will not love.
    She shall not hear us if we sing hereof,
    Nor see love's ways, how sore they are and steep.
    Come hence, let be, lie still; it is enough.
    Love is a barren sea, bitter and deep;
    And though she saw all heaven in flower above,
          She would not love!"

The deep melancholy of the music and the quivering pathos of the deep
baritone voice were so affecting that it was almost a relief when the
song ceased. I had been looking out of the window at the fantastic
patterns of the moonlight on the garden walk, but now I turned to see
in Zara's face her appreciation of what we had just heard. To my
surprise she had left the room. Heliobas reclined in his easy-chair,
glancing up and down the columns of the Figaro; and the Prince still
sat at the piano, moving his fingers idly up and down the keys without
playing. The little page entered with a letter on a silver salver. It
was for his master. Heliobas read it quickly, and rose, saying:

"I must leave you to entertain yourselves for ten minutes while I
answer this letter. Will you excuse me?" and with the ever-courteous
salute to us which was part of his manner, he left the room.

I still remained at the window. Prince Ivan still dumbly played the
piano. There were a few minutes of absolute silence. Then the Prince
hastily got up, shut the piano, and approached me.

"Do you know where Zara is?" he demanded in a low, fierce tone.

I looked at him in surprise and a little alarm--he spoke with so much
suppressed anger, and his eyes glittered so strangely.

"No," I answered frankly. "I never saw her leave the room."

"I did," he said. "She slipped out like a ghost, or a witch, or an
angel, while I was singing the last verse of Swinburne's song. Do you
know Swinburne, mademoiselle?"

"No," I replied, wondering at his manner more and more. "I only know
him, as you do, to be a poet."

"Poet, madman, or lover--all three should be one and the same thing,"
muttered the Prince, clenching and unclenching that strong right hand
of his on which sparkled a diamond like a star. "I have often wondered
if poets feel what they write--whether Swinburne, for instance, ever
felt the weight of a dead cold thing within him HERE," slightly
touching the region of his heart, "and realized that he had to drag
that corpse of unburied love with him everywhere--even to the grave,
and beyond--O God!--beyond the grave!" I touched him gently on the arm.
I was full of pity for him--his despair was so bitter and keen.

"Prince Ivan," I said, "you are excited and overwrought. Zara meant no
slight to you in leaving the room before your song was finished. I am
quite sure of that. She is kindness itself--her nature is all sweetness
and gentleness. She would not willingly offend you--"

"Offend me!" he exclaimed; "she could not offend me if she tried. She
could tread upon me, stab me, slay me, but never offend me. I see you
are sorry for me--and I thank you. I kiss your hand for your gentle
pity, mademoiselle."

And he did so, with a knightly grace that became him well. I thought
his momentary anger was passing, but I was mistaken. Suddenly he raised
his arm with a fierce gesture, and exclaimed:

"By heaven! I will wait no longer. I am a fool to hesitate. I may wait
a century before I draw out of Casimir the secret that would enable me
to measure swords with my rival. Listen!" and he grasped my shoulder
roughly. "Stay here, you! If Casimir returns, tell him I have gone for
a walk of half an hour. Play to him--keep him occupied--be my friend in
this one thing--I trust you. Let him not seek for Zara, or for me. I
shall not be long absent."

"Stay!" I whispered hurriedly, "What are you going to do? Surely you
know the power of Heliobas. He is supreme here. He could find out
anything he chose. He could---"

Prince Ivan looked at me fixedly.

"Will you swear to me that you actually do not know?"

"Know what?" I asked, perplexed.

He laughed bitterly, sarcastically.

"Did you ever hear that line of poetry which speaks of 'A woman wailing
for her demon-lover'? That is what Zara does. Of one thing I am
certain--she does not wail or wait long; he comes quickly."

"What do you mean?" I exclaimed, utterly mystified. "Who comes quickly?
I am sure you do not know what you are talking about."

"I DO know," he replied firmly; "and I am going to prove my knowledge.
Remember what I have asked you." And without another word or look, he
threw open the velvet curtains of the portiere, and disappeared behind
them.

Left to myself, I felt very nervous and excited. All sorts of odd
fancies came into my head, and would not go away, but danced about like
Will-o'-the-wisps on a morass. What did Prince Ivan mean? Was he mad?
or had he drunk too much wine? What strange illusion had he in his mind
about Zara and a demon? Suddenly a thought flashed upon me that made me
tremble from head to foot. I remembered what Heliobas had said about
twin flames and dual affinities; and I also reflected that he had
declared Zara to be dominated by a more powerful force than his own.
But then, I had accepted it as a matter of course that, whatever the
force was, it must be for good, not evil, over a being so pure, so
lovely and so intelligent as Zara.

I knew and felt that there were good and evil forces. Now, suppose Zara
were commanded by some strange evil thing, unguessed at, undreamt of in
the wildest night-mare? I shuddered as with icy cold. It could not be.
I resolutely refused to admit such a fearful conjecture. Why, I thought
to myself, with a faint smile, I was no better in my imaginings than
the so virtuous and ever-respectable Suzanne Michot of whom Madame
Denise had spoken. Still the hateful thought came back again and again,
and refused to go away.

I went to my old place at the window and looked out. The moonlight fell
in cold slanting rays; but an army of dark clouds were hurrying up from
the horizon, looking in their weird shapes like the mounted Walkyres in
Wagner's "Niebelungen Ring," galloping to Walhalla with the bodies of
dead warriors slung before them. A low moaning wind had arisen, and was
beginning to sob round the house like the Banshee. Hark! what was that?
I started violently. Surely that was a faint shriek? I listened
intently. Nothing but the wind rustling among some creaking branches.

    "A woman wailing for her demon-lover."

How that line haunted me! And with, it there slowly grew up in my mind
a black looming horror; an idea, vague and ghastly, that froze my blood
and turned me faint and giddy. Suppose, when I had consented to be
experimented upon by Heliobas--when my soul in the electric trance was
lifted up to the unseen world--suppose an evil force, terrible and
all-compelling, were to dominate ME and hold me forever and ever! I
gasped for breath! Oh, so much the more need of prayer!

"Pray much and often, with as unselfish a heart as you can prepare."

Thus Heliobas had said; and I thought to myself, if all those who were
on the brink of great sin or crime could only be brought to feel
beforehand what I felt when facing the spectral dread of unknown evil,
then surely sins would be fewer and crimes never committed. And I
murmured softly, "Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from
evil."

The mere utterance of these words seemed to calm and encourage me; and
as I gazed up at the sky again, with its gathering clouds, one star,
like a bright consoling eye, looked at me, glittering cheerfully amid
the surrounding darkness.

More than ten minutes had elapsed since Prince Ivan had left the room,
and there was no sound of returning footsteps. And where was Zara? I
determined to seek her. I was free to go anywhere in the house, only
avoiding her studio during her hours of work; and she never worked at
night. I would go to her and confide all my strange thoughts and
terrors to her friendly sympathy. I hurried through the hall and up the
staircase quickly, and should have gone straight into Zara's boudoir
had I not heard a sound of voices which caused me to stop precipitately
outside the door. Zara was speaking. Her low, musical accents fell like
a silver chime on the air.

"I have told you," she said, "again and again that it is impossible.
You waste your life in the pursuit of a phantom; for a phantom I must
be to you always--a mere dream, not a woman such as your love would
satisfy. You are a strong man, in sound health and spirits; you care
for the world and the things that are in it. I do not. You would make
me happy, you say. No doubt you would do your best--your wealth and
influence, your good looks, your hospitable and friendly nature would
make most women happy. But what should _I_ care for your family
diamonds? for your surroundings? for your ambitions? The society of the
world fills me with disgust and prejudice. Marriage, as the world
considers it, shocks and outrages my self-respect; the idea of a bodily
union without that of souls is to me repulsive and loathsome. Why,
therefore, waste your time in seeking a love which does not exist,
which never will exist for you?"

I heard the deep, passionate tones of Prince Ivan in answer:

"One light kindles another, Zara! The sunlight melts the snow! I cannot
believe but that a long and faithful love may--nay, MUST--have its
reward at last. Even according to your brother's theories, the emotion
of love is capable of powerful attraction. Cannot I hope that my
passion--so strong, so great, so true, Zara!--will, with patience, draw
you, star of my life, closer and closer, till I at last call you mine?"

I heard the faint rustle of Zara's silk robe, as though she were moving
farther from him.

"You speak ignorantly, Prince. Your studies with Casimir appear to have
brought you little knowledge. Attraction! How can you attract what is
not in your sphere? As well ask for the Moons of Jupiter or the Ring of
Saturn! The laws of attraction and repulsion, Prince Ivan, are fixed by
a higher authority than yours, and you are as powerless to alter or
abate them by one iota, as a child is powerless to repel the advancing
waves of the sea."

Prince Ivan spoke again, and his voice quivered, with suppressed anger.

"You may talk as you will, beautiful Zara; but you shall never persuade
me against my reason. I am no dreamer; no speculator in aerial
nothings; no clever charlatan like Casimir, who, because he is able to
magnetize a dog, pretends to the same authority over human beings, and
dares to risk the health, perhaps the very sanity, of his own sister,
and that of the unfortunate young musician whom he has inveigled in
here, all for the sake of proving his dangerous, almost diabolical,
experiments. Oh, yes; I see you are indignant, but I speak truth. I am
a plain man;--and if I am deficient in electric germs, as Casimir would
say, I have plenty of common sense. I wish to rescue you, Zara. You are
becoming a prey to morbid fancies; your naturally healthy mind is full
of extravagant notions concerning angels and demons and what not; and
your entire belief in, and enthusiasm for, your brother is a splendid
advertisement for him. Let me tear the veil of credulity from your
eyes. Let me teach you how good a thing it is to live and love and
laugh like other people, and leave electricity to the telegraph-wires
and the lamp-posts."

Again I heard the silken rustle of Zara's dress, and, impelled by a
strong curiosity and excitement, I raised a corner of the curtain
hanging over the door, and was able to see the room distinctly. The
Prince stood, or rather lounged, near the window, and opposite to him
was Zara; she had evidently retreated from him as far as possible, and
held herself proudly erect, her eyes flashing with unusual brilliancy
contrasted with the pallor of her face.

"Your insults to my brother, Prince," she said calmly, "I suffer to
pass by me, knowing well to what a depth of wilful blind ignorance you
are fallen. I pity you--and--I despise you! You are indeed a plain man,
as you say--nothing more and nothing less. You can take advantage of
the hospitality of this house, and pretend friendship to the host,
while you slander him behind his back, and insult his sister in the
privacy of her own apartment. Very manlike, truly; and perfectly in
accordance with a reasonable being who likes to live and love and laugh
according to the rule of society--a puppet whose wires society pulls,
and he dances or dies as society pleases. I told you a gulf existed
between us--you have widened it, for which I thank you! As I do not
impose any of my wishes upon you, and therefore cannot request you to
leave the room, you must excuse me if _I_ retire elsewhere."

And she approached the entrance of her studio, which was opposite to
where I stood; but the Prince reached it before her, and placed his
back against it. His face was deathly pale, and his dark eyes blazed
with wrath and love intermingled.

"No, Zara!" he exclaimed in a sort of loud whisper. "If you think to
escape me so, you are in error. I came to you reckless and resolved!
You shall be mine if I die for it!" And he strove to seize her in his
arms. But she escaped him and stood at bay, her lips quivering, her
bosom heaving, and her hands clenched.

"I warn you!" she exclaimed. "By the intense loathing I have for you;
by the force which makes my spirit rise in arms against you, I warn
you! Do not dare to touch me! If you care for your own life, leave me
while there is time!"

Never had she looked so supremely, terribly beautiful. I gazed at her
from my corner of the doorway, awed, yet fascinated. The jewel on her
breast glowed with an angry red lustre, and shot forth dazzling opaline
rays, as though it were a sort of living, breathing star. Prince Ivan
paused--entranced no doubt, as I was, by her unearthly loveliness. His
face flushed--he gave a low laugh of admiration. Then he made two swift
strides forward and caught her fiercely in his embrace. His triumph was
brief. Scarcely had his strong arm clasped her waist, when it fell numb
and powerless--scarcely had his eager lips stooped towards hers, when
he reeled and sank heavily on the ground, senseless! The spell that had
held me a silent spectator of the scene was broken. Terrified, I rushed
into the room, crying out:

"Zara, Zara! What have you done?"

Zara turned her eyes gently upon me--they were soft and humid as though
recently filled with tears. All the burning scorn and indignation had
gone out of her face--she looked pityingly at the prostrate form of her
admirer.

"He is not dead," she said quietly. "I will call Casimir."

I knelt beside the Prince and raised his hand. It was cold and heavy.
His lips were blue, and his closed eyelids looked as though, in the
words of Homer, "Death's purple finger" had shut them fast forever. No
breath--no pulsation of the heart. I looked fearfully at Zara. She
smiled half sadly.

"He is not dead," she repeated.

"Are you sure?" I murmured. "What was it, Zara, that made him fall? I
was at the door--I saw and heard everything."

"I know you did," said Zara gently; "and I am glad of it. I wished you
to see and hear all."

"Is it a fit, do you think?" I asked again, looking sorrowfully at the
sad face of the unfortunate Ivan, which seemed to me to have already
graven upon it the stern sweet smile of those who have passed all
passion and pain forever. "Oh, Zara! do you believe he will recover?"
And tears choked my voice--tears of compassion and regret.

Zara came and kissed me.

"Yes, he will recover--do not fret, little one. I have rung my private
bell for Casimir; he will be here directly. The Prince has had a
shock--not a fatal one, as you will see. You look doubtful--are you
afraid of me, dear?"

I gazed at her earnestly. Those clear childlike eyes--that frank
smile--that gentle and dignified mien--could they accompany evil
thoughts? No! I was sure Zara was good as she was lovely.

"I am not afraid of you, Zara," I said gravely; "I love you too well
for that. But I am sorry for the poor Prince; and I cannot
understand---"

"You cannot understand why those who trespass against fixed laws should
suffer?" observed Zara calmly. "Well, you will understand some day. You
will know that in one way or another it is the reason of all suffering,
both physical and mental, in the world."

I said no more, but waited in silence till the sound of a firm
approaching footstep announced Heliobas. He entered the room
quickly--glanced at the motionless form of the Prince, then at me, and
lastly at his sister.

"Has he been long thus?" he asked in a low tone.

"Not five minutes," replied Zara.

A pitying and affectionate gentleness of expression filled his keen
eyes.

"Reckless boy!" he murmured softly, as he stooped and laid one hand
lightly on Ivan's breast. "He is the very type of misguided human
bravery. You were too hard upon him, Zara!"

Zara sighed.

"He spoke against you," she said. "Of course he did," returned her
brother with a smile. "And it was perfectly natural he should do so.
Have I not read his thoughts? Do not I know that he considers me a
false pretender and CHARLATAN? And have I not humoured him? In this he
is no worse than any one of his race. Every great scientific discovery
is voted impossible at the first start. Ivan is not to blame because he
is like the rest of the world. He will be wiser in time."

"He attempted to force his desires," began Zara again, and her cheeks
flushed indignantly.

"I know," answered her brother. "I foresaw how it would be, but was
powerless to prevent it. He was wrong--but bold! Such boldness compels
a certain admiration. This fellow would scale the stars, if he knew how
to do it, by physical force alone."

I grew impatient, and interrupted these remarks.

"Perhaps he is scaling the stars now," I said; "or at any rate he will
do so if death can show him the way."

Heliobas gave me a friendly glance.

"You also are growing courageous when you can speak to your physician
thus abruptly," he observed quietly. "Death has nothing to do with our
friend as yet, I assure you. Zara, you had better leave us. Your face
must not be the first for Ivan's eyes to rest upon. You," nodding to
me, "can stay."

Zara pressed my hand gently as she passed me, and entered her studio,
the door of which closed behind her, and I heard the key turn in the
lock. I became absorbed in the proceedings of Heliobas. Stooping
towards the recumbent form of Prince Ivan, he took the heavy lifeless
hands firmly in his own, and then fixed his eyes fully and steadily on
the pale, set features with an expression of the most forcible calm and
absolutely undeniable authority. Not one word did he utter, but
remained motionless as a statue in the attitude thus assumed--he seemed
scarcely to breathe--not a muscle of his countenance moved. Perhaps
twenty or thirty seconds might have elapsed, when a warm tinge of
colour came back to the apparently dead face--the brows twitched--the
lips quivered and parted in a heavy sigh. The braised appearance of the
eyelids gave place to the natural tint--they opened, disclosing the
eyes, which stared directly into those of the compelling Master who
thus forced their obedience. A strong shudder shook the young man's
frame; his before nerveless hands grasped those of Heliobas with force
and fervour, and still meeting that steady look which seemed to pierce
the very centre of his system, Prince Ivan, like Lazarus of old, arose
and stood erect. As he did so, Heliobas withdrew his eyes, dropped his
hands and smiled.

"You are better, Ivan?" he inquired kindly.

The Prince looked about him, bewildered. He passed one hand across his
forehead without replying. Then he turned slightly and perceived me in
the window-embrasure, whither I had retreated in fear and wonderment at
the marvellous power of Heliobas, thus openly and plainly displayed.

"Tell me," he said, addressing me, "have I been dreaming?"

I could not answer him. I was glad to see him recover, yet I was a
little afraid. Heliobas pushed a chair gently towards him.

"Sit down, Ivan," he said quietly.

The Prince obeyed, and covered his face with his hand as though in deep
and earnest meditation. I looked on in silence and wonderment. Heliobas
spoke not another word, and together we watched the pensive figure in
the chair, so absorbed in serious thought. Some minutes passed. The
gentle tick of the clock in the outer hall grew almost obtrusive, so
loud did it seem in the utter stillness that surrounded us. I longed to
speak--to ask questions--to proffer sympathy--but dared not move or
utter a syllable. Suddenly the Prince rose; his manner was calm and
dignified, yet touched with a strange humility. He advanced to
Heliobas, holding out his hand.

"Forgive me, Casimir!" he said simply.

Heliobas at once grasped the proffered palm within his own, and looked
at the young man with an almost fatherly tenderness.

"Say no more, Ivan," he returned, his rich voice sounding more than
usually mellow in its warmth and heartiness. "We must all learn before
we can know, and some of our lessons are sharp and difficult. Whatever
you have thought of me, remember I have not, and do not, blame you. To
be offended with unbelievers is to show that you are not yourself quite
sure of the faith to which you would compel them."

"I would ask you one thing," went on the Prince, speaking in a low
tone. "Do not let me stay to fall into fresh errors. Teach me--guide
me, Casimir; I will be the most docile of your pupils. As for Zara--"

He paused, as if overcome.

"Come with me," said Heliobas, taking his arm; "a glass of good wine
will invigorate you. It is better to see Zara no more for a time. Let
me take charge of you. You, mademoiselle," turning to me, "will be kind
enough to tell Zara that the Prince has recovered, and sends her a
friendly good-night. Will that message suffice?" he inquired of Ivan,
with a smile.

The Prince looked at me with a sort of wistful gravity as I came
forward to bid him farewell.

"You will embrace her," he said slowly, "without fear. Her eyes will
rain sunshine upon you; they will not dart lightning. Her lips will
meet yours, and their touch will be warm--not cold, as sharp steel.
Yes; bid her good-night for me; tell her that an erring man kisses the
hem of her robe, and prays her for pardon. Tell her that I understand;
tell her I have seen her lover!"

"With these words, uttered distinctly and emphatically, he turned away
with. Heliobas, who still held him by the arm in a friendly,
half-protecting manner. The tears stood in my eyes. I called softly:

"Good-night, Prince Ivan!"

He looked back with a faint smile.

"Good-night, mademoiselle!"

Heliobas also looked back and gave me an encouraging nod, which meant
several things at once, such as "Do not be anxious," "He will be all
right soon," and "Always believe the best." I watched their two figures
disappear through the doorway, and then, feeling almost cheerful again,
I knocked at the door of Zara's studio. She opened it at once, and came
out. I delivered the Prince's message, word for word, as he had given
it. She listened, and sighed deeply.

"Are you sorry for him, Zara?" I asked.

"Yes," she replied; "I am sorry for him as far as I can be sorry for
anything. I am never actually VERY sorry for any circumstances, however
grievous they may appear."

I was surprised at this avowal.

"Why, Zara," I said, "I thought you were so keenly sympathetic?"

"So I am sympathetic, but only with suffering ignorance--a dying bird
that knows not why it should die--a withering rose that sees not the
reason for its withering; but for human beings who wilfully blind
themselves to the teachings of their own instincts, and are always
doing what they know they ought not to do in spite of warning, I cannot
say I am sorry. And for those who DO study the causes and ultimate
results of their existence, there is no occasion to be sorry, as they
are perfectly happy, knowing everything that happens to them to be for
their advancement and justification."

"Tell me," I asked with a little hesitation, "what did Prince Ivan mean
by saying he had seen your lover, Zara?"

"He meant what he said, I suppose," replied Zara, with sudden coldness.
"Excuse me, I thought you said you were not inquisitive."

I could not bear this change of tone in her, and I clasped my arms
tight about her and smiled in her face.

"You shall not get angry with ME, Zara. I am not going to be treated
like poor Ivan. I have found out what you are, and how dangerous it is
to admire you; but I do admire and love you. And I defy you to knock me
down as unceremoniously as you did the Prince--you beautiful living bit
of Lightning!"

Zara moved restlessly in my embrace, but I held her fast. At the last
epithet I bestowed on her, she grew very pale; but her eyes resembled
the jewels on her breast in their sheeny glitter.

"What have you found out?" she murmured. "What do you know?"

"I cannot say I KNOW," I went on boldly, still keeping my arms round
her; "but I have made a guess which I think comes near the truth. Your
brother has had the care of you ever since you were a little child, and
I believe he has, by some method known only to himself, charged you
with electricity. Yes, Zara," for she had started and tried to loosen
my hold of her; "and it is that which keeps you young and fresh as a
girl of sixteen, at an age when other women lose their bloom and grow
wrinkles. It is that which gives you the power to impart a repelling
shock to people you dislike, as in the case of Prince Ivan. It is that
which gives you such an attractive force for those with whom you have a
little sympathy--such as myself, for instance; and you cannot, Zara,
with all your electric strength, unclasp my arms from your waist,
because you have not the sentiment of repulsion towards me which would
enable you to do it. Shall I go on guessing?"

Zara made a sign of assent--the expression of her face had softened,
and a dimpling smile played round the corners of her mouth.

"Your lover," I went on steadily and slowly, "is a native of some other
sphere--perhaps a creation of your own fancy--perhaps (for I will not
be sceptical any more) a beautiful and all-powerful angelic spirit. I
will not discuss this with you. I believe that when Prince Ivan fell
senseless, he saw, or fancied he saw, that nameless being. And now," I
added, loosening my clasp of her, "have I guessed well?"

Zara looked meditative.

"I do not know," she said, "why you should imagine--"

"Stop!" I exclaimed; "there is no imagination in the case. I have
reasoned it out. Here is a book I found in the library on electric
organs as they are discovered to exist in certain fish. Listen: 'They
are nervous apparatuses which in the arrangement of their parts may be
compared to a Voltaic pile. They develop electricity and give
electrical discharges.'"

"Well!" said Zara.

"You say 'Well!' as if you did not know!" I exclaimed half-angrily,
half-laughingly. "These fish have helped me to understand a great deal,
I assure you. Your brother must have discovered the seed or
commencement of electrical organs like those described, in the human
body; and he has cultivated them in you and in himself, and has brought
them to a high state of perfection. He has cultivated them in Raffaello
Cellini, and he is beginning to cultivate them in me, and I hope most
sincerely he will succeed. I think his theory is a magnificent one!"

Zara gazed seriously at me, and her large eyes seemed to grow darker
with the intensity of her thought.

"Supposing you had reasoned out the matter correctly," she said--"and I
will not deny that you have done a great deal towards the comprehension
of it--have you no fear? do you not include some drawbacks in even
Casimir's learning such a secret, and being able to cultivate and
educate such a deadly force as that of electricity in the human being?"

"If it is deadly, it is also life-giving," I answered. "Remedies are
also poisons. You laid the Prince senseless at your feet, but your
brother raised him up again. Both these things were done by
electricity. I can understand it all now; I see no obscurity, no
mystery. And oh, what a superb discovery it is!"

Zara smiled.

"You enthusiast!" she said, "it is nothing new. It was well known to
the ancient Chaldeans. It was known to Moses and his followers; it was
practised in perfection by Christ and His disciples. To modern
civilization it may seem a discovery, because the tendency Of all
so-called progress is to forget the past. The scent of the human savage
is extraordinarily keen--keener than that of any animal--he can follow
a track unerringly by some odour he is able to detect in the air.
Again, he can lay back his ears to the wind and catch a faint, far-off
sound with, certainty and precision, and tell you what it is. Civilized
beings have forgotten all this; they can neither smell nor hear with
actual keenness. Just in the same way, they have forgotten the use of
the electrical organs they all indubitably possess in large or minute
degree. As the muscles of the arm are developed by practice, so can the
wonderful internal electrical apparatus of man be strengthened and
enlarged by use. The world in its youth knew this; the world in its age
forgets, as an old man forgets or smiles disdainfully at the past
sports of his childhood. But do not let us talk any more to-night. If
you think your ideas of me are correct---"

"I am sure they are!" I cried triumphantly.

Zara held out her arms to me.

"And you are sure you love me?" she asked.

I nestled into her embrace and kissed her.

"Sure!" I answered. "Zara, I love and honour you more than any woman I
ever met or ever shall meet. And you love me--I know you do!"

"How can I help it?" she said. "Are you not one of us? Good-night,
dearest! Sleep well!"

"Good-night!" I answered. "And remember Prince Ivan asked for your
pardon."

"I remember!" she replied softly. "I have already pardoned him, and I
will pray for him." And a sort of radiant pity and forbearance
illumined her lovely features, as we parted for the night. So might an
angel look on some repentant sinner pleading for Heaven's forgiveness.

I lay awake for some time that night, endeavouring to follow out the
track of thought I had entered upon in my conversation with Zara. With
such electricity as Heliobas practised, once admitting that human
electric force existed, a fact which no reasoning person could deny,
all things were possible. Even a knowledge of superhuman events might
be attained, if there were anything in the universe that WAS
superhuman; and surely it would be arrogant and ignorant to refuse to
contemplate such a probability. At one time people mocked at the wild
idea that a message could flash in a moment of time from one side of
the Atlantic to the other by means of a cable laid under the sea; now
that it is an established fact, the world has grown accustomed to it,
and has ceased to regard it as a wonder. Granting human electricity to
exist, why should not a communication be established, like a sort of
spiritual Atlantic cable, between man and the beings of other spheres
and other solar systems? The more I reflected on the subject the more
lost I became in daring speculations concerning that other world, to
which I was soon to be lifted. Then in a sort of half-doze, I fancied I
saw an interminable glittering chain of vivid light composed of circles
that were all looped one in another, which seemed to sweep round the
realms of space and to tie up the sun, moon, and stars like flowers in
a ribbon of fire. After much anxious and humble research, I found
myself to be one of the smallest links in this great chain. I do not
know whether I was grateful or afraid at this discovery, for sleep put
an end to my drowsy fancies, and dropped a dark curtain over my waking
dreams.




CHAPTER X.

MY STRANGE DEPARTURE.


The next morning brought me two letters; one from Mrs. Everard, telling
me that she and the Colonel had resolved on coming to Paris.

"All the nice people are going away from here," she wrote. "Madame
Didier and her husband have started for Naples; and, to crown our
lonesomeness, Raffaello Cellini packed up all his traps, and left us
yesterday morning en route for Rome. The weather continues to be
delicious; but as you seem to be getting on so well in Paris, in spite
of the cold there, we have made up our minds to join you, the more
especially as I want to renovate my wardrobe. We shall go straight to
the Grand Hotel; and I am writing to Mrs. Challoner by this post,
asking her to get us rooms. We are so glad you are feeling nearly
recovered--of course, you must not leave your physician till you are
quite ready. At any rate, we shall not arrive till the end of next
week."

I began to calculate. During that strange interview in the chapel,
Heliobas had said that in eight days more I should be strong enough to
undergo the transmigration he had promised to effect upon me. Those
eight days were now completed on this very morning. I was glad of this;
for I did not care to see Mrs. Everard or anyone till the experiment
was over. The other letter I received was from Mrs. Challoner, who
asked me to give an "Improvisation" at the Grand Hotel that day
fortnight.

When I went down to breakfast, I mentioned both these letters, and
said, addressing myself to Heliobas:

"Is it not rather a sudden freak of Raffaello Cellini's to leave
Cannes? We all thought he was settled for the winter there. Did you
know he was going to Rome?"

"Yes," replied Heliobas, as he stirred his coffee abstractedly. "I knew
he was going there some day this month; his presence is required there
on business."

"And are you going to give the Improvisation this Mrs. Challoner asks
you for?" inquired Zara.

I glanced at Heliobas. He answered for me.

"I should certainly give it if I were you," he said quietly: "there
will be nothing to prevent your doing so at the date named."

I was relieved. I had not been altogether able to divest myself of the
idea that I might possibly never come out alive from the electric
trance to which I had certainly consented; and this assurance on the
part of Heliobas was undoubtedly comforting. We were all very silent
that morning; we all wore grave and preoccupied expressions. Zara was
very pale, and appeared lost in thought. Heliobas, too, looked slightly
careworn, as though he had been up all night, engaged in some
brain-exhausting labour. No mention was made of Prince Ivan; we avoided
his name by a sort of secret mutual understanding. When the breakfast
was over, I looked with a fearless smile at the calm face of Heliobas,
which appeared nobler and more dignified than ever with that slight
touch of sadness upon it, and said softly:

"The eight days are accomplished!"

He met my gaze fully, with a steady and serious observation of my
features, and replied:

"My child, I am aware of it. I expect you in my private room at noon.
In the meantime speak to no one--not even to Zara; read no books; touch
no note of music. The chapel has been prepared for you; go there and
pray. When you see a small point of light touch the extreme edge of the
cross upon the altar, it will be twelve o'clock, and you will then come
to me."

With these words, uttered in a grave and earnest tone, he left me. A
sensation of sudden awe stole upon me. I looked at Zara. She laid her
finger on her lips and smiled, enjoining silence; then drawing my hand
close within her own, she led me to the door of the chapel. There she
took a soft veil of some white transparent fabric, and flung it over
me, embracing and kissing me tenderly as she did so, but uttering no
word. Taking my hand again, she entered the chapel with me, and
accompanied me through what seemed a blaze of light and colour to the
high altar, before which was placed a prie-dieu of crimson velvet.
Motioning me to kneel, she kissed me once more through the filmy veil
that covered me from head to foot; then turning noiselessly away she
disappeared, and I heard the heavy oaken door close behind her. Left
alone, I was able to quietly take note of everything around me. The
altar before which I knelt was ablaze with lighted candles, and a
wealth of the purest white flowers decorated it, mingling their
delicious fragrance with the faintly perceptible odour of incense. On
all sides of the chapel, in every little niche, and at every shrine,
tapers were burning like fireflies in a summer twilight. At the foot of
the large crucifix, which occupied a somewhat shadowy corner, lay a
wreath of magnificent crimson roses. It would seem as though some high
festival were about to be celebrated, and I gazed around me with a
beating heart, half expecting some invisible touch to awaken the notes
of the organ and a chorus of spirit-voices to respond with the "Gloria
in excelsis Deo!" But there was silence--absolute, beautiful, restful
silence. I strove to collect my thoughts, and turning my eyes towards
the jewelled cross that surmounted the high altar, I clasped my hands,
and began to wonder how and for what I should pray. Suddenly the idea
struck me that surely it was selfish to ask Heaven for anything; would
it not be better to reflect on all that had already been given to me,
and to offer up thanks? Scarcely had this thought entered my mind when
a sort of overwhelming sense of unworthiness came over me. Had I ever
been unhappy? I wondered. If so, why? I began to count up my blessings
and compare them with my misfortunes. Exhausted pleasure-seekers may be
surprised to hear that I proved the joys of my life to have far
exceeded my sorrows. I found that I had sight, hearing, youth, sound
limbs, an appreciation of the beautiful in art and nature, and an
intense power of enjoyment. For all these things, impossible of
purchase by mere wealth, should I not give thanks? For every golden ray
of sunshine, for every flower that blooms, for the harmonies of the
wind and sea, for the singing of birds and the shadows of trees, should
I not--should we not all give thanks? For is there any human sorrow so
great that the blessing of mere daylight on the earth does not far
exceed? We mortals are spoilt and petted children--the more gifts we
have the more we crave; and when we burn or wound ourselves by our own
obstinacy or carelessness, we are ungratefully prone to blame the
Supreme Benefactor for our own faults. We don black mourning robes as a
sort of sombre protest against Him for having removed some special
object of our choice and love, whereas, if we believed in Him and were
grateful to Him, we should wear dazzling white in sign of rejoicing
that our treasure is safe in the land of perfect joy where we ourselves
desire to be. Do we suffer from illness, loss of money, position, or
friends, we rail against Fate--another name for God--and complain like
babes who have broken their toys; yet the sun shines on, the seasons
come and go, the lovely panorama of Nature unrolls itself all for our
benefit, while we murmur and fret and turn our eyes away in anger.

Thinking of these things and kneeling before the altar, my heart became
filled with gratitude; and no petition suggested itself to me save one,
and that was, "Let me believe and love!" I thought of the fair, strong,
stately figure of Christ, standing out in the world's history, like a
statue of pure white marble against a dark background; I mused on the
endurance, patience, forgiveness, and perfect innocence of that most
spotless life which was finished on the cross, and again I murmured,
"Let me believe and love!" And I became so absorbed in meditation that
the time fled fast, till a sudden sparkle of flame flashing across the
altar-steps caused me to look up. The jewelled cross had become a cross
of fire. The point of light I had been, told to watch for had not only
touched the extreme edge, but had crept down among all the precious
stones and lit them up like stars. I afterwards learned that this
effect was produced by means of a thin, electric wire, which,
communicating with a timepiece constructed on the same system,
illuminated the cross at sunrise, noon, and sunset. It was time for me
to join Heliobas. I rose gently, and left the chapel with a quiet and
reverent step, for I have always thought that to manifest hurry and
impatience in any place set apart for the worship of the Creator is to
prove yourself one of the unworthiest things created. Once outside the
door I laid aside my veil, and then, with a perfectly composed and
fearless mind, went straight to the Electrician's study. I shall never
forget the intense quiet of the house that morning. The very fountain
in the hall seemed to tinkle in a sort of subdued whisper. I found
Heliobas seated at his table, reading. How my dream came vividly back
to me, as I saw him in that attitude! I felt that I knew what he was
reading. He looked up as I entered, and greeted me with a kindly yet
grave smile. I broke silence abruptly.

"Your book is open," I said, "at a passage commencing thus: 'The
universe is upheld solely by the Law of Love. A majestic invisible
Protectorate governs the winds, the tides.' Is it not so?"

"It is so," returned Heliobas. "Are you acquainted with the book?"

"Only through the dream I had of you at Cannes," I answered. "I do
think Signor Cellini had some power over me."

"Of course he had in your then weak state. But now that you are as
strong as he is, he could not influence you at all. Let us be brief in
our converse, my child. I have a few serious things to say to you
before you leave me, on your celestial journey."

I trembled slightly, but took the chair he pointed out to me--a large
easy-chair in which one could recline and sleep.

"Listen," continued Heliobas; "I told you, when you first came here,
that whatever I might do to restore you to health, you would have it in
your power to repay me amply. You ARE restored to health; will you give
me my reward?"

"I would and will do anything to prove my gratitude to you," I said
earnestly. "Only tell me how."

"You are aware," he went on, "of my theories respecting the Electric
Spirit or Soul in Man. It is progressive, as I have told you--it begins
as a germ--it goes on increasing in power and beauty for ever, till it
is great and pure enough to enter the last of all worlds--God's World.
But there are sometimes hindrances to its progression--obstacles in its
path, which cause it to recoil and retire a long way back--so far back
occasionally that it has to commence its journey over again. Now, by my
earnest researches, I am able to study and watch the progress of my own
inner force or soul. So far, all has been well--prayerfully and humbly
I may say I believe all has been well. But I foresee an approaching
shadow--a difficulty--a danger--which, if it cannot be repelled or
passed in some way, threatens to violently push back my advancing
spiritual nature, so that, with much grief and pain, I shall have to
re-commence the work that I had hoped was done. I cannot, with all my
best effort, discover WHAT this darkening obstacle is--but YOU, yes,
YOU"--for I had started up in surprise--"you, when you are lifted up
high enough to behold these things, may, being perfectly unselfish in
this research, attain to the knowledge of it and explain it to me, when
you return. In trying to probe the secret for myself, it is of course
purely for my own interest; and nothing clear, nothing satisfactory can
be spiritually obtained, in which selfishness has ever so slight a
share. You, if indeed I deserve your gratitude for the aid I have given
you--you will be able to search out the matter more certainly, being in
the position of one soul working for another. Still, I cannot compel
you to do this for me--I only ask, WILL you?"

His entreating and anxious tone touched me keenly; but I was amazed and
perplexed, and could not yet realize what strange thing was going to
happen to me. But whatever occurred I was resolved to give a ready
consent to his request, therefore I said firmly:

"I will do my best, I promise you. Remember that I do not know, I
cannot even guess where I am going, or what strange sensations will
overcome me; but if I am permitted to have any recollection of earth at
all, I will try to find out what you ask."

Heliobas seemed satisfied, and rising from his chair, unlocked a
heavily-bound iron safe. From this he took a glass flask of a strange,
ever-moving, glittering fluid, the same in appearance as that which
Raffaello Cellini had forbidden me to drink. He then paused and looked
searchingly at me.

"Tell me," he said in an authoritative tone, "tell me WHY you wish to
see what to mortals is unseen? What motive have you? What ulterior
plan?"

I hesitated. Then I gathered my strength together and answered
decisively:

"I desire to know why this world, this universe exists; and also wish
to prove, if possible, the truth and necessity of religion. And I think
I would give my life, if it were worth anything, to be certain of the
truth of Christianity."

Heliobas gazed in my face with a sort of half-pity, half-censure.

"You have a daring aim," he said slowly, "and you are a bold seeker.
But shame, repentance and sorrow await you where you are going, as well
as rapture and amazement. '_I_ WOULD GIVE MY LIFE IF IT WERE WORTH
ANYTHING.' That utterance has saved you--otherwise to soar into an
unexplored wilderness of spheres, weighted by your own doubts and
guided solely by your own wild desires, would be a fruitless journey."

I felt abashed as I met his steady, scrutinizing eyes.

"Surely it is well to wish to know the reason of things?" I asked, with
some timidity.

"The desire of knowledge is a great virtue, certainly," he replied; "it
is not truly felt by one in a thousand. Most persons are content to
live and die, absorbed in their own petty commonplace affairs, without
troubling themselves as to the reasons of their existence. Yet it is
almost better, like these, to wallow in blind ignorance than wantonly
to doubt the Creator because He is unseen, or to put a self-opinionated
construction on His mysteries because He chooses to veil them from our
eyes."

"I do not doubt!" I exclaimed earnestly. "I only want to make sure, and
then perhaps I may persuade others."

"You can never compel faith," said Heliobas calmly. "You are going to
see wonderful things that no tongue or pen can adequately describe.
Well, when you return to earth again, do you suppose you can make
people believe the story of your experiences? Never! Be thankful if you
are the possessor of a secret joy yourself, and do not attempt to
impart it to others, who will only repel and mock you."

"Not even to one other?" I asked hesitatingly.

A warm, kindly smile seemed to illuminate his face as I put this
question.

"Yes, to one other, the other half of yourself--you may tell all
things," he said. "But now, no more converse. If you are quite ready,
drink this."

He held out to me a small tumbler filled with the sparkling volatile
liquid he had poured from the flask. For one moment my courage almost
forsook me, and an icy shiver ran through my veins. Then I bethought
myself of all my boasted bravery; was it possible that I should fail
now at this critical moment? I allowed myself no more time for
reflection, but took the glass from his hand and drained its contents
to the last drop. It was tasteless, but sparkling and warm on the
tongue. Scarcely had I swallowed it, when a curiously light, dizzy
sensation overcame me, and the figure of Heliobas standing before me
seemed to assume gigantic proportions. I saw his hands extend--his
eyes, like lamps of electric flame, burned through and through me--and
like a distant echo, I heard the deep vibrating tones of his voice
uttering the following words:

"Azul! Azul! Lift up this light and daring spirit unto thyself; be its
pioneer upon the path it must pursue; suffer it to float untrammelled
through the wide and glorious Continents of Air; give it form and force
to alight on any of the vast and beautiful spheres it may desire to
behold; and if worthy, permit it to gaze, if only for a brief interval,
upon the supreme vision of the First and Last of worlds. By the force
thou givest unto me, I free this soul; do thou, Azul, quickly receive
it!"

A dense darkness now grew thickly around me---I lost all power over my
limbs--I felt myself being lifted up forcibly and rapidly, up, up, into
some illimitable, terrible space of blackness and nothingness. I could
not think, move, or cry out--I could only feel that I was rising,
rising, steadily, swiftly, breathlessly ... when suddenly a long
quivering flash of radiance, like the fragment of a rainbow, struck
dazzlingly across my sight. Darkness? What had I to do with darkness? I
knew not the word--I was only conscious of light--light exquisitely
pure and brilliant--light through which I stepped as easily as a bird
flies in air. Perfectly awake to my sensations, I felt somehow that
there was nothing remarkable in them--I seemed to be at home in some
familiar element. Delicate hands held mine--a face far lovelier than
the loveliest face of woman ever dreamed by poet or painter, smiled
radiantly at me, and I smiled back again. A voice whispered in strange
musical murmurs, such as I well seemed to know and comprehend:

"Gaze behind thee ere the picture fades."

I obeyed, half reluctantly, and saw as a passing shadow in a glass, or
a sort of blurred miniature painting, the room where Heliobas stood,
watching some strange imperfect shape, which I seemed faintly to
recognise. It looked like a small cast in clay, very badly executed, of
the shape I at present wore; but it was incomplete, as though the
sculptor had given it up as a failure and gone away, leaving it
unfinished.

"Did I dwell in that body?" I mused to myself, as I felt the perfection
of my then state of being. "How came I shut in such a prison? How poor
a form--how destitute of faculties--how full of infirmities--how
limited in capabilities--how narrow in all intelligence--how
ignorant--how mean!"

And I turned for relief to the shining companion who held me, and
obeying an impulse suddenly imparted, I felt myself floating higher and
higher till the last limits of the atmosphere surrounding the Earth
were passed, and fields of pure and cloudless ether extended before us.
Here we met myriads of creatures like ourselves, all hastening in
various directions--all lovely and radiant as a dream of the fairies.
Some of these beings were quite tiny and delicate--some of lofty
stature and glorious appearance: their forms were human, yet so
refined, improved, and perfected, that they were unlike, while so like
humanity.

"Askest thou nothing?" whispered the voice beside me.

"Tell me," I answered, "what I must know."

"These spirits that we behold," went on the voice, "are the guardians
of all the inhabitants of all the planets. Their labours are those of
love and penitence. Their work is to draw other souls to God--to
attract them by warnings, by pleading, by praying. They have all worn
the garb of mortality themselves, and they teach mortals by their own
experience. For these radiant creatures are expiating sins of their own
in thus striving to save others--the oftener they succeed the nearer
they approach to Heaven. This is what is vaguely understood on your
earth as purgatory; the sufferings of spirits who love and long for the
presence of their Creator, and who yet are not pure enough to approach
Him. Only by serving and saving others can they obtain at last their
own joy. Every act of ingratitude and forgetfulness and wickedness
committed by a mortal, detains one or another of these patient workers
longer away from Heaven--imagine then what a weary while many of them
have to wait."

I made no answer, and we floated on. Higher and higher--higher and
higher--till at last my guide, whom I knew to be that being whom
Heliobas had called Azul, bade me pause. We were floating close
together in what seemed a sea of translucent light. From this point I
could learn something of the mighty workings of the Universe. I gazed
upon countless solar systems, that like wheels within wheels revolved
with such rapidity that they seemed all one wheel. I saw planets whirl
around and around with breathless swiftness, like glittering balls
flung through the air--burning comets flared fiercely past like torches
of alarm for God's wars against Evil--a marvellous procession of
indescribable wonders sweeping on for ever in circles, grand, huge, and
immeasurable. And as I watched the superb pageant, I was not startled
or confused--I looked upon it as anyone might look on any quiet
landscape scene in what we know of Nature. I scarcely could perceive
the Earth from whence I had come--so tiny a speck was it--nothing but a
mere pin's point in the burning whirl of immensities. I felt, however,
perfectly conscious of a superior force in myself to all these enormous
forces around me--I knew without needing any explanation that I was
formed of an indestructible essence, and that were all these stars and
systems suddenly to end in one fell burst of brilliant horror, I should
still exist--I should know and remember and feel--should be able to
watch the birth of a new Universe, and take my part in its growth and
design.

"Remind me why these wonders exist," I said, turning to my guide, and
speaking in those dulcet sounds which were like music and yet like
speech; "and why amid them all the Earth is believed by its inhabitants
to have merited destruction, and yet to have been found worthy of
redemption?"

"Thy last question shall be answered first," replied Azul. "Seest thou
yonder planet circled with a ring? It is known to the dwellers on
Earth, of whom when in clay thou art one, as Saturn. Descend with me!"

And in a breath of time we floated downwards and alighted on a broad
and beautiful plain, where flowers of strange shape and colour grew in
profusion. Here we were met by creatures of lofty stature and dazzling
beauty, human in shape, yet angelic in countenance. They knelt to us
with reverence and joy, and then passed on to their toil or pleasure,
whichever invited them, and I looked to Azul for explanation.

"To these children of the Creator," said that radiant guide, "is
granted the ability to see and to converse with the spirits of the air.
They know them and love them, and implore their protection. In this
planet sickness and old age are unknown, and death comes as a quiet
sleep. The period of existence is about two hundred years, according to
the Earth's standard of time; and the process of decay is no more
unlovely than the gentle withering of roses. The influence of the
electric belt around their world is a bar to pestilence and disease,
and scatters health with light. All sciences, arts, and inventions
known on Earth are known here, only to greater perfection. The three
important differences between the inhabitants of this planet and those
who dwell on Earth are these: first they have no rulers in authority,
as each one perfectly governs himself; second, they do not marry, as
the law of attraction which draws together any two of opposite sexes,
holds them fast in inviolable fidelity; thirdly, there is no creature
in all the immensity of this magnificent sphere who has ever doubted,
or who ever will doubt, the existence of the Creator."

A thrill of fiery shame seemed to dart through my spiritual being as I
heard this, and I made no answer. Some fairy-like little creatures, the
children of the Saturnites, as I supposed, here came running towards us
and knelt down, reverently clasping their hands in prayer. They then
gathered flowers and flung them on that portion of ground where we
stood, and gazed at us fearlessly and lovingly, as they might have
gazed at some rare bird or butterfly.

Azul signed to me, and we rose while yet in their sight, and soaring
through the radiance of the ring, which was like a sun woven into a
circle, we soon left Saturn far behind us, and alighted on Venus. Here
seas, mountains, forests, lakes, and meadows were one vast garden, in
which the bloom and verdure of all worlds seemed to find a home. Here
were realized the dreams of sculptors and painters, in the graceful
forms and exquisite faces of the women, and the splendid strength and
godlike beauty of the men. A brief glance was sufficient to show me
that the moving spring of all the civilization of this radiant planet
was the love of Nature and Art united. There were no wars--for there
were no different nations. All the inhabitants were like one vast
family; they worked for one another, and vied with each other in paying
homage to those of the loftiest genius among them. They had one supreme
Monarch to whom they all rendered glad obedience; and he was a Poet,
ready to sacrifice his throne with joy as soon as his people should
discover a greater than he. For they all loved not the artist but the
Art; and selfishness was a vice unknown. Here, none loved or were
wedded save those who had spiritual sympathies, and here, too, no
creature existed who did not believe in and worship the Creator. The
same state of things existed in Jupiter, the planet we next visited,
where everything was performed by electricity. Here persons living
hundreds of miles apart could yet converse together with perfect ease
through an electric medium; ships ploughed the seas by electricity;
printing, an art of which the dwellers on Earth are so proud, was
accomplished by electricity--in fact, everything in the way of science,
art, and invention known to us was also known in Jupiter, only to
greater perfection, because tempered and strengthened by an electric
force which never failed. From Jupiter, Azul guided me to many other
fair and splendid worlds--yet none of them were Paradise; all had some
slight drawback--some physical or spiritual ailment, as it were, which
had to be combated with and conquered. All the inhabitants of each star
longed for something they had not--something better, greater, and
higher--and therefore all had discontent. They could not realize their
best desires in the state of existence they then were, therefore they
all suffered disappointment. They were all compelled to work in some
way or another; they were all doomed to die. Yet, unlike the dwellers
on Earth, they did not, because their lives were more or less
constrained and painful, complain of or deny the goodness of God--on
the contrary, they believed in a future state which should be as
perfect as their present one was imperfect; and the chief aim and
object of all their labours was to become worthy of attaining that
final grand result--Eternal Happiness and Peace.

"Readest thou the lesson in these glowing spheres, teeming with life
and learning?" murmured Azul to me, as we soared swiftly on together.
"Know that not one smallest world in all the myriad systems circling
before thee, holds a single human creature who doubts his Maker. Not
one! except thine own doomed star! Behold it yonder--sparkling feebly,
like a faint flame amid sunshine--how poor a speck it is--how like a
scarcely visible point in all the brilliancy of the ever-revolving
wheel of Life! Yet there dwell the dwarfs of clay--the men and women
who pretend to love while they secretly hate and despise one another.
There, wealth is a god, and the greed of gain a virtue. There, genius
starves, and heroism dies unrewarded. There, faith is martyred, and
unbelief elected sovereign monarch of the people. There, the sublime,
unreachable mysteries of the Universe are haggled over by poor finite
minds who cannot call their lives their own. There, nation wars against
nation, creed against creed, soul against soul. Alas, fated planet! how
soon shalt thou be extinct, and thy place shall know thee no more!"

I gazed earnestly at my radiant guide. "If that is true," I said, "why
then should we have a legend that God, in the person of one called
Christ, came to die for so miserable and mean a race of beings?"

Azul answered not, but turned her luminous eyes upon me with a sort of
wide dazzling wonder. Some strange impelling force bore me onward, and
before I could realize it I was alone. Alone, in a vast area of light
through which I floated, serene and conscious of power. A sound falling
from a great height reached me; it was first like a grand organ-chord,
and then like a voice, trumpet-clear and far-echoing.

"Spirit that searchest for the Unseen," it said, "because I will not
that no atom of true worth should perish, unto thee shall be given a
vision--unto thee shall be taught a lesson thou dreamest not of. THOU
shalt create; THOU shalt design and plan; THOU shalt be worshipped, and
THOU shalt destroy! Rest therefore in the light and behold the things
that are in the light, for the tune cometh when all that seemeth clear
and visible now shall be but darkness. And they that love me not shall
have no place of abode in that hour!"

The voice ceased. Awed, yet consoled, I listened for it again. There
was no more sound. Around me was illimitable light--illimitable
silence. But a strange scene unfolded itself swiftly before me--a sort
of shifting dream that was a reality, yet so wonderfully unreal--a
vision that impressed itself on every portion of my intelligence; a
kind of spirit-drama in which I was forced to enact the chief part, and
where a mystery that I had deemed impenetrable was made perfectly clear
and simple of comprehension.




CHAPTER XI.

A MINIATURE CREATION.


In my heaven-uplifted dream, I thought I saw a circular spacious garden
in which all the lovely landscapes of a superior world appeared to form
themselves by swift degrees. The longer I looked at it, the more
beautiful it became, and a little star shone above it like a sun. Trees
and flowers sprang up under my gaze, and all stretched themselves
towards me, as though for protection. Birds flew about and sang; some
of them tried to get as near as possible to the little sun they saw;
and other living creatures began to move about in the shadows of the
groves, and on the fresh green grass. All the wonderful workings of
Nature, as known to us in the world, took place over again in this
garden, which seemed somehow to belong to me; and I watched everything
with a certain satisfaction and delight. Then the idea came to me that
the place would be fairer if there were either men or angels to inhabit
it; and quick as light a whisper came to me:

  "CREATE!"

And I thought in my dream that by the mere desire of my being,
expressed in waves of electric warmth that floated downwards from me to
the earth I possessed, my garden was suddenly filled with men, women
and children, each of whom had a small portion of myself in them,
inasmuch as it was I who made them move and talk and occupy themselves
in all manner of amusements. Many of them knelt down to me and prayed,
and offered thanksgivings for having been created; but some of them
went instead to the little star, which they called a sun, and thanked
that, and prayed to that instead. Then others went and cut down the
trees in the garden, and dug up stones, and built themselves little
cities, where they all dwelt together like flocks of sheep, and ate and
drank and made merry with the things I had given them. Then I thought
that I increased their intelligence and quickness of perception, and
by-and-by they grew so proud that they forgot everything but
themselves. They ceased to remember how they were created, and they
cared no more to offer praises to their little sun that through me gave
them light and heat. But because something of my essence still was in
them, they always instinctively sought to worship a superior creature
to themselves; and puzzling themselves in their folly, they made
hideous images of wood and clay, unlike anything in heaven or earth,
and offered sacrifices and prayer to these lifeless puppets instead of
to me. Then I turned away my eyes in sorrow and pity, but never in
anger; for I could not be wrathful with these children of my own
creation. And when I thus turned away my eyes, all manner of evil came
upon the once fair scene--pestilence and storm, disease and vice. A
dark shadow stole between my little world and me--the shadow of the
people's own wickedness. And as every delicate fibre of my spiritual
being repelled evil by the necessity of the pure light in which I dwelt
serene. I waited patiently for the mists to clear, so that I might
again behold the beauty of my garden. Suddenly a soft clamour smote
upon my sense of hearing, and a slender stream of light, like a
connecting ray, seemed to be flung upwards through the darkness that
hid me from the people I had created and loved. I knew the sound--it
was the mingled music of the prayers of children. An infinite pity and
pleasure touched me, my being thrilled with love and tenderness; and
yielding to these little ones who asked me for protection, I turned my
eyes again towards the garden I had designed for fairness and pleasure.
But alas! how changed it had become! No longer fresh and sweet, the
people had turned it into a wilderness; they had divided it into small
portions, and in so doing had divided themselves into separate
companies called nations, all of whom fought with each other fiercely
for their different little parterres or flower-beds. Some haggled and
talked incessantly over the mere possession of a stone which they
called a rock; others busied themselves in digging a little yellow
metal out of the earth, which, when once obtained, seemed to make the
owners of it mad, for they straightway forgot everything else. As I
looked, the darkness between me and my creation grew denser, and was
only pierced at last by those long wide shafts of radiance caused by
the innocent prayers of those who still remembered me. And I was full
of regret, for I saw my people wandering hither and thither, restless
and dissatisfied, perplexed by their own errors, and caring nothing for
the love I bore them. Then some of them advanced and began to question
why they had been created, forgetting completely how their lives had
been originally designed by me for happiness, love and wisdom. Then
they accused me of the existence of evil, refusing to see that where
there is light there is also darkness, and that darkness is the rival
force of the Universe, whence cometh silently the Unnamable Oblivion of
Souls. They could not see, my self-willed children, that they had of
their own desire sought the darkness and found it; and now, because it
gloomed above them like a pall, they refused to believe in the light
where still I was loving and striving to attract them still. Yet it was
not all darkness, and I knew that even what there was might be repelled
and cleared away if only my people would turn towards me once more. So
I sent down upon them all possible blessings--some they rejected
angrily, some they snatched at and threw away again, as though they
were poor and trivial--none of them were they thankful for, and none
did they desire to keep. And the darkness above them deepened, while my
anxious pity and love for them increased. For how could I turn
altogether away from them, as long as but a few remembered me? There
were some of these weak children of mine who loved and honoured me so
well that they absorbed some of my light into themselves, and became
heroes, poets, musicians, teachers of high and noble thought, and
unselfish, devoted martyrs for the sake of the reverence they bore me.
There were women pure and sweet, who wore their existence as innocently
as lilies, and who turned to me to seek protection, not for themselves,
but for those they loved. There were little children, whose asking
voices were like waves of delicious music to my being, and for whom I
had a surpassing tenderness. And yet all these were a mere handful
compared to the numbers who denied my existence, and who had wilfully
crushed out and repelled every spark of my essence in themselves. And
as I contemplated this, the voice I had heard at the commencement of my
dream rushed towards me like a mighty wind broken through by thunder:

  "DESTROY!"

A great pity and love possessed me. In deep awe, yet solemn
earnestness, I pleaded with that vast commanding voice.

"Bid me not destroy!" I implored. "Command me not to disperse into
nothingness these children of my fancy, some of whom yet love and trust
to me for safety. Let me strive once more to bring them out of their
darkness into the light--to bring them to the happiness I designed them
to enjoy. They have not all forgotten me--let me give them more time
for thought and recollection!"

Again the great voice shook the air:

"They love darkness rather than light; they love the perishable earth
of which they are in part composed, better than the germ of immortality
with which they were in the beginning endowed. This garden of thine is
but a caprice of thy intelligence; the creatures that inhabit it are
soulless and unworthy, and are an offence to that indestructible
radiance of which thou art one ray. Therefore I say unto thee
again--DESTROY!"

My yearning love grew stronger, and I pleaded with renewed force.

"Oh, thou Unseen Glory!" I cried; "thou who hast filled me with this
emotion of love and pity which permeates and supports my existence, how
canst thou bid me take this sudden revenge upon my frail creation! No
caprice was it that caused me to design it; nothing but a thought of
love and a desire of beauty. Even yet I will fulfil my plan--even yet
shall these erring children of mine return to me in time, with
patience. While one of them still lifts a hand in prayer to me, or
gratitude, I cannot destroy! Bid me rather sink into the darkness of
the uttermost deep of shadow; only let me save these feeble little ones
from destruction!"

The voice replied not. A flashing opal brilliancy shot across the light
in which I rested, and I beheld an Angel, grand, lofty, majestic, with
a countenance in which shone the lustre of a myriad summer mornings.

"Spirit that art escaped from the Sorrowful Star," it said in accents
clear and sonorous, "wouldst thou indeed be content to suffer the loss
of heavenly joy and peace, in order to rescue thy perishing creation?"

"I would!" I answered; "if I understood death, I would die to save one
of those frail creatures, who seek to know me and yet cannot find me
through the darkness they have brought upon themselves."

"To die," said the Angel, "to understand death, thou wouldst need to
become one of them, to take upon thyself their form--to imprison all
that brilliancy of which thou art now composed, into a mean and common
case of clay; and even if thou couldst accomplish this, would thy
children know thee or receive thee?"

"Nay, but if I could suffer shame by them," I cried impetuously, "I
could not suffer sin. My being would be incapable of error, and I would
show these creatures of mine the bliss of purity, the joy of wisdom,
the ecstasy of light, the certainty of immortality, if they followed
me. And then I would die to show them death is easy, and that in dying
they would come to me and find their happiness for ever!"

The stature of the Angel grew more lofty and magnificent, and its
star-like eyes flashed fire.

"Then, oh thou wanderer from the Earth!" it said, "understandest thou
not the Christ?"

A deep awe trembled through me. Meanwhile the garden I had thought a
world appeared to roll up like a cloudy scroll, and vanished, and I
knew that it had been a vision, and no more.

"Oh doubting and foolish Spirit!" went on the Angel--"thou who art but
one point of living light in the Supreme Radiance, even THOU wouldst
consent to immure thyself in the darkness of mortality for sake of thy
fancied creation! Even THOU wouldst submit to suffer and to die, in
order to show the frail children of thy dream a purely sinless and
spiritual example! Even THOU hast had the courage to plead with the One
All-Sufficing Voice against the destruction of what to thee was but a
mirage floating in this ether! Even THOU hast had love, forgiveness,
pity! Even THOU wouldst be willing to dwell among the creatures of thy
fancy as one of them, knowing in thy inner self that by so doing, thy
spiritual presence would have marked thy little world for ever as
sanctified and impossible to destroy. Even THOU wouldst sacrifice a
glory to answer a child's prayer--even thou wouldst have patience! And
yet thou hast dared to deny to God those attributes which thou thyself
dost possess--He is so great and vast--thou so small and slight! For
the love thou feelest throbbing through thy being, He is the very
commencement and perfection of all love; if thou hast pity, He has ten
thousand times more pity; if THOU canst forgive, remember that from Him
flows all thy power of forgiveness! There is nothing thou canst do,
even at the highest height of spiritual perfection, that He cannot
surpass by a thousand million fold! Neither shalt thou refuse to
believe that He can also suffer. Know that nothing is more godlike than
unselfish sorrow--and the grief of the Creator over one erring human
soul is as vast as He Himself is vast. Why wouldst thou make of Him a
being destitute of the best emotions that He Himself bestows upon thee?
THOU wouldst have entered into thy dream-world and lived in it and died
in it, if by so doing thou couldst have drawn one of thy creatures back
to the love of thee; and wilt thou not receive the Christ?"

I bowed my head, and a flood of joy rushed through me.

"I believe--I believe and I love!" I murmured. "Desert me not, O
radiant Angel! I feel and know that all these wonders must soon pass
away from my sight; but wilt thou also go?"

The Angel smiled and touched me.

"I am thy guardian," it said. "I have been with thee always. I can
never leave thee so long as thy soul seeks spiritual things. Asleep or
awake on the Earth, wherever thou art, I also am. There have been times
when I have warned thee and thou wouldst not listen, when I have tried
to draw thee onward and thou wouldst not come; but now I fear no more
thy disobedience, for thy restlessness is past. Come with me; it is
permitted thee to see far off the vision of the Last Circle."

The glorious figure raised me gently by the hand, and we floated on and
on, higher and higher, past little circles which my guide told me were
all solar systems, though they looked nothing but slender garlands of
fire, so rapidly did they revolve and so swiftly did we pass them.
Higher and higher we went, till even to my untiring spirit the way
seemed long. Beautiful creatures in human shape, but as delicate as
gossamer, passed us every now and then, some in bands of twos and
threes, some alone; and the higher we soared the more dazzlingly lovely
these inhabitants of the air seemed to be.

"They are all born of the Great Circle," my guardian Angel explained to
me: "and to them is given the power of communicating high thought or
inspiration. Among them are the Spirits of Music, of Poesy, of
Prophecy, and of all Art ever known in all worlds. The success of their
teaching depends on how much purity and unselfishness there is in the
soul to which they whisper their divine messages--messages as brief as
telegrams which must be listened to with entire attention and acted
upon at once, or the lesson is lost and may never come again."

Just then I saw a Shape coming towards me as of a lovely fair-haired
child, who seemed to be playing softly on a strange glittering
instrument like a broken cloud strung through with sunbeams. Heedless
of consequences, I caught at its misty robe in a wild effort to detain
it. It obeyed my touch, and turned its deeply luminous eyes first upon
me, and then upon the Angel who accompanied my flight.

"What seekest thou?" it asked in a voice like the murmuring of the wind
among flowers.

"Music!" I answered. "Sing me thy melodies--fill me with harmonies
divine and unreachable--and I will strive to be worthy of thy
teachings!"

The young Shape smiled and drew closer towards me.

"Thy wish is granted, Sister Spirit!" it replied. "The pity I shall
feel for thy fate when thou art again pent in clay, shall be taught
thee in minor music--thou shalt possess the secret of unwritten sound,
and I will sing to thee and bring thee comfort. On Earth, call but my
name--Aeon! and thou shalt behold me. For thy longing voice is known to
the Children of Music, and hath oft shaken the vibrating light wherein
they dwell. Fear not! As long as thou dost love me, I am thine." And
parting slowly, still smiling, the lovely vision, with its small
radiant hands ever wandering among the starry strings of its cloud-like
lyre, floated onward.

Suddenly a clear voice said "Welcome!" and looking up I saw my first
friend, Azul. I smiled in glad recognition--I would have spoken--but
lo! a wide immensity of blazing glory broke like many-coloured
lightning around me--so dazzling, so overpowering, that I instinctively
drew back and paused--I felt I could go no further.

"Here," said my guardian gently--"here ends thy journey. Would that it
were possible, poor Spirit, for thee to pass this boundary! But that
may not be--as yet. In the meanwhile thou mayest gaze for a brief space
upon the majestic sphere which mortals dream of as Heaven. Behold and
see how fair is the incorruptible perfection of God's World!"

I looked and trembled--I should have sunk yet further backward, had not
Azul and my Angel-guide held me with their light yet forcible clasp. My
heart fails me now as I try to write of that tremendous, that sublime
scene--the Centre of the Universe--the Cause of all Creation. How
unlike Heaven such as we in our ignorance have tried to depict! though
it is far better we should have a mistaken idea than none at all. What
I beheld was a circle, so huge that no mortal measurements could
compass it--a wide Ring composed of seven colours, rainbow-like, but
flashing with perpetual motion and brilliancy, as though a thousand
million suns were for ever being woven into it to feed its transcendent
lustre. From every part of this Ring darted long broad shafts of light,
some of which stretched out so far that I could not see where they
ended; sometimes a bubbling shower of lightning sparks would be flung
out on the pure ether, and this would instantly form into circles,
small or great, and whirl round and round the enormous girdle of flame
from which they had been cast, with the most inconceivable rapidity.
But wonderful as the Ring was, it encompassed a Sphere yet more
marvellous and dazzling; a great Globe of opal-tinted light, revolving
as it were upon its own axis, and ever surrounded by that
scintillating, jewel-like wreath of electricity, whose only motion was
to shine and burn within itself for ever. I could not bear to look upon
the brightness of that magnificent central World--so large that
multiplying the size of the sun by a hundred thousand millions, no
adequate idea could be formed of its vast proportions. And ever it
revolved--and ever the Rainbow Ring around it glittered and cast forth
those other rings which I knew now were living solar systems cast forth
from that electric band as a volcano casts forth fire and lava. My
Angel-guide motioned me to look towards that side of the Ring which was
nearest to the position of the Earth. I looked, and perceived that
there the shafts of descending light formed themselves as they fell
into the shape of a Cross. At this, such sorrow, love, and shame
overcame me, that I knew not where to turn. I murmured:

"Send me back again, dear Angel--send me back to that Star of Sorrow
and Error! Let me hasten to make amends there for all my folly--let me
try to teach others what now I know. I am unworthy to be here beside
thee--I am unfit to look on yonder splendid World--let me return to do
penance for my sins and shortcomings; for what am I that God should
bless me? and though I should consume myself in labour and suffering,
how can I ever hope to deserve the smallest place in that heavenly
glory I now partly behold?" And could spirits shed tears, I should have
wept with remorse and grief.

Azul spoke, softly and tenderly:

"Now thou dost believe--henceforth thou must love! Love alone can pass
yon flaming barrier--love alone can gain for thee eternal bliss. In
love and for love were all things made--God loveth His creatures, even
so let His creatures love Him, and so shall the twain be drawn
together."

"Listen!" added my Angel-guide. "Thou hast not travelled so far as yet
to remain in ignorance. That burning Ring thou seest is the result of
the Creator's ever-working Intelligence; from it all the Universe hath
sprung. It is exhaustless and perpetually creative; it is pure and
perfect Light. The smallest spark of that fiery essence in a mortal
frame is sufficient to form a soul or spirit, such as mine, or that of
Azul, or thine, when thou art perfected. The huge world rolling within
the Ring is where God dwells. Dare not thou to question His shape, His
look, His mien! Know that He is the Supreme Spirit in which all Beauty,
all Perfection, all Love, find consummation. His breath is the fire of
the Ring; His look, His pleasure, cause the motion of His World and all
worlds. There where He dwells, dwell also all pure souls; there all
desires have fulfilment without satiety, and there all loveliness,
wisdom or pleasure known in any or all of the other spheres are also
known. Speak, Azul, and tell this wanderer from Earth what she will
gain in winning her place in Heaven."

Azul looked tenderly upon me and said:

"When thou hast slept the brief sleep of death, when thou art permitted
to throw off for ever thy garb of clay, and when by thine own ceaseless
love and longing thou hast won the right to pass the Great Circle, thou
shalt find thyself in a land where the glories of the natural scenery
alone shall overpower thee with joy--scenery that for ever changes into
new wonders and greater beauty. Thou shalt hear music such as thou
canst not dream of. Thou shalt find friends, beyond all imagination
fair and faithful. Thou shalt read and see the history of all the
planets, produced for thee in an ever-moving panorama. Thou shalt love
and be beloved for ever by thine own Twin Soul; wherever that spirit
may be now, it must join thee hereafter. The joys of learning, memory,
consciousness, sleep, waking, and exercise shall all be thine. Sin,
sorrow, pain, disease and death thou shalt know no more. Thou shalt be
able to remember happiness, to possess it, and to look forward to it.
Thou shalt have full and pleasant occupation without fatigue--thy food
and substance shall be light and air. Flowers, rare and imperishable,
shall bloom for thee; birds of exquisite form and tender voice shall
sing to thee; angels shall be thy companions. Thou shalt have fresh and
glad desires to offer to God with every portion of thy existence, and
each one shall be granted as soon as asked, for then thou wilt not be
able to ask anything that is displeasing to Him. But because it is a
joy to wish, thou shalt wish! and because it is a joy to grant, so also
will He grant. No delight, small or great, is wanting in that vast
sphere; only sorrow is lacking, and satiety and disappointment have no
place. Wilt thou seek for admittance there or wilt thou faint by the
way and grow weary?"

I raised my eyes full of ecstasy and reverence.

"My mere efforts must count as nothing," I said; "but if Love can help
me, I will love and long for God's World until I die!"

My guardian Angel pointed to those rays of light I had before noticed,
that slanted downwards towards Earth in the form of a Cross.

"That is the path by which THOU must travel. Mark it well! All pilgrims
from the Sorrowful Star must journey by that road. Woe to them that
turn aside to roam mid spheres they know not of, to lose themselves in
seas of light wherein they cannot steer! Remember my warning! And now,
Spirit who art commended to my watchful care, thy brief liberty is
ended. Thou hast been lifted up to the outer edge of the Electric
Circle, further we dare not take thee. Hast thou aught else to ask
before the veil of mortality again enshrouds thee?"

I answered not, but within myself I formed a wild desire. The Electric
Ring flashed fiercely on my uplifted eyes, but I kept them fixed
hopefully and lovingly on its intensely deep brilliancy.

"If Love and Faith can avail me," I murmured, "I shall see what I have
sought."

I was not disappointed. The fiery waves of light parted on either side
of the spot where I with my companions rested; and a Figure,--majestic,
unutterably grand and beautiful,--approached me. At the same moment a
number of other faces and forms shone hoveringly out of the Ring; one I
noticed like an exquisitely lovely woman, with floating hair and clear,
earnest, unfathomable eyes. Azul and the Angel sank reverently down and
drooped their radiant heads like flowers in hot sunshine. I alone,
daringly, yet with inexpressible affection welling up within me,
watched with unshrinking gaze the swift advance of that supreme Figure,
upon whose broad brows rested the faint semblance of a Crown of Thorns.
A voice penetratingly sweet addressed me:

"Mortal from the Star I saved from ruin, because thou hast desired Me,
I come! Even as thy former unbelief, shall be now thy faith. Because
thou lovest Me, I am with thee. For do I not know thee better than the
Angels can? Have I not dwelt in thy clay, suffered thy sorrows, wept
thy tears, died thy deaths? One with My Father, and yet one with thee,
I demand thy love, and so through Me shalt thou attain immortal life!"

I felt a touch upon me like a scorching flame--a thrill rushed through
my being--and then I knew that I was sinking down, down, further and
further away. I saw that wondrous Figure standing serene and smiling
between the retiring waves of electric radiance. I saw the great inner
sphere revolve, and glitter as it rolled, like an enormous diamond
encircled with gold and sapphire, and then all suddenly the air grew
dim and cloudy, and the sensation of falling became more and more
rapid. Azul was beside me still, and I also perceived the outline of my
guardian Angel's form, though that was growing indistinct. I now
recalled the request of Heliobas, and spoke:

"Azul, tell me what shadow rests upon the life of him to whom I am now
returning?"

Azul looked at me earnestly, and replied:

"Thou daring one! Seekest thou to pierce the future fate of others? Is
it not enough for thee to have heard the voice that maketh the Angel's
singing silent, and wouldst thou yet know more?"

I was full of a strange unhesitating courage, therefore I said
fearlessly:

"He is thy Beloved one, Azul--thy Twin Soul; and wilt thou let him fall
away from thee when a word or sign might save him?"

"Even as he is my Beloved, so let him not fail to hear my voice,"
replied Azul, with a tinge of melancholy. "For though he has
accomplished much, he is as yet but mortal. Thou canst guide him thus
far; tell him, when death lies like a gift in his hand, let him
withhold it, and remember me. And now, my friend--farewell!"

I would have spoken again, but could not. An oppressed sensation came
over me, and I seemed to plunge coldly into a depth of inextricable
blackness. I felt cramped for room, and struggled for existence, for
motion, for breath. What had happened to me? I wondered indignantly.
Was I a fettered prisoner? had I lost the use of my light aerial limbs
that had borne me so swiftly through the realms of space? What crushing
weight overpowered me? why such want of air and loss of delightful
ease? I sighed restlessly and impatiently at the narrow darkness in
which I found myself--a sorrowful, deep, shuddering sigh .... and WOKE!
That is to say, I languidly opened mortal eyes to find myself once more
pent up in mortal frame, though I retained a perfect remembrance and
consciousness of everything I had experienced during my
spirit-wanderings. Heliobas stood in front of me with outstretched
hands, and his eyes were fixed on mine with a mingled expression of
anxiety and authority, which changed into a look of relief and gladness
as I smiled at him and uttered his name aloud.




CHAPTER XII.

SECRETS OF THE SUN AND MOON.


"Have I been long away?" I asked, as I raised myself upright in the
chair where I had been resting.

"I sent you from hence on Thursday morning at noon," replied Heliobas.
"It is now Friday evening, and within a few minutes of midnight. I was
growing alarmed. I have never known anyone stay absent for so long; and
you resisted my authority so powerfully, that I began to fear you would
never come back at all."

"I wish I had not been compelled to do so!" I said regretfully.

He smiled.

"No doubt you do. It is the general complaint. Will you stand up now
and see how you feel?"

I obeyed. There was still a slight sensation about me as of being
cramped for space; but this was passing, and otherwise I felt
singularly strong, bright and vigorous. I stretched out my hands in
unspeakable gratitude to him through whose scientific power I had
gained my recent experience.

"I can never thank you enough!" I said earnestly. "I dare say you know
something of what I have seen on my journey?"

"Something, but not all," he replied. "Of course I know what worlds and
systems you saw, but what was said to you, or what special lessons were
given you for your comfort, I cannot tell." "Then I will describe
everything while it is fresh upon me," I returned. "I feel that I must
do so in order that you may understand how glad I am,--how grateful I
am to you."

I then related the different scenes through which I had passed,
omitting no detail. Heliobas listened with profound interest and
attention. When I had finished, he said:

"Yours has been a most wonderful, I may say almost exceptional,
experience. It proves to me more than ever the omnipotence of WILL.
Most of those who have been placed by my means in the Uplifted or
Electric state of being, have consented to it simply to gratify a sense
of curiosity--few therefore have gone beyond the pure ether, where, as
in a sea, the planets swim. Cellini, for instance, never went farther
than Venus, because in the atmosphere of that planet he met the Spirit
that rules and divides his destiny. Zara--she was daring, and reached
the outer rim of the Great Circle; but even she never caught a glimpse
of the great Central Sphere. YOU, differing from these, started with a
daring aim which you never lost sight of till you had fulfilled it. How
true are those words: 'Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye
shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you'! It is not
possible," and here he sighed, "that amid such wonders you could have
remembered me--it were foolish on my part to expect it."

"I confess I thought nothing of you," I said frankly, "till I was
approaching Earth again; but then my memory prompted me in time, and I
did not forget your request."

"And what did you learn?" he asked anxiously.

"Simply this. Azul said that I might deliver you this message: When
death lies like a gift in your hand, withhold it, and remember her."

"As if I did not always guide myself by her promptings!" exclaimed
Heliobas, with a tender smile.

"You might forget to do so for once," I said.

"Never!" he replied fervently. "It could not be. But I thank you, my
child, for having thought of me--the message you bring shall be
impressed strongly on my mind. Now, before you leave me to-night, I
must say a few necessary words."

He paused, and appeared to consider profoundly for some minutes. At
last he spoke.

"I have selected certain writings for your perusal," he said. "In them
you will find full and clear instructions how to cultivate and educate
the electric force within you, and thus continue the work I have begun.
With these you will also perceive that I have written out the receipt
for the volatile fluid which, if taken in a small quantity every day,
will keep you in health, strength, and intellectual vigour, while it
will preserve your youth and enjoyment of life to a very much longer
extent than that usually experienced by the majority. Understand me
well--this liquid of itself cannot put you into an uplifted state of
existence; you need HUMAN electric force applied strongly to your
system to compass this; and as it is dangerous to try the experiment
too often--dangerous to the body, I mean--it will be as well, as you
have work to do yet in this life, not to attempt it again. But if you
drink the fluid every morning of your life, and at the same time obey
my written manual as to the cultivation of your own inner force, which
is already existent in a large degree, you will attain to certain
advantages over the rest of the people you meet, which will give you
not only physical, but mental power."

He paused a minute or two, and again went on:

"When you have educated your Will to a certain height of electric
command, you can at your pleasure see at any time, and see plainly, the
spirits who inhabit the air; and also those who, descending to long
distances below the Great Circle, come within the range of human
electricity, or the attractive matter contained in the Earth's
atmosphere. You can converse with them, and they with you. You will
also be able, at your desire, to see the parted spirits of dead
persons, so long as they linger within Earth's radius, which they
seldom do, being always anxious to escape from it as soon as possible.
Love may sometimes detain them, or remorse; but even these have to
yield to the superior longings which possess them the instant they are
set free. You will, in your intercourse with your fellow-mortals, be
able to discern their motives quickly and unerringly--you will at once
discover where you are loved and where you are disliked; and not all
the learning and logic of so-called philosophers shall be able to cloud
your instinct. You will have a keener appreciation of good and
beautiful things--a delightful sense of humour, and invariable
cheerfulness; and whatever you do, unless you make some mistake by your
own folly, will carry with it its success. And, what is perhaps a
greater privilege, you will find that all who are brought into very
close contact with you will be beneficially influenced, or the reverse,
exactly as you choose to exert your power. I do not think, after what
you have seen, you will ever desire to exert a malign influence,
knowing that the Creator of your being is all love and forgiveness. At
any rate, the greatest force in the universe, electricity, is
yours--that is, it has begun to form itself in you--and you have
nothing to do but to encourage its growth, just as you would encourage
a taste for music or the fine arts. Now let me give you the writings."

He unlocked a desk, and took from it two small rolls of parchment, one
tied with a gold ribbon, the other secured in a kind of case with a
clasp. This last he held up before my eyes, and said:

"This contains my private instructions to you. Never make a single one
of them public. The world is not ready for wisdom, and the secrets of
science can only be explained to the few. Therefore keep this parchment
safely under lock and key, and never let any eye but your own look upon
its contents."

I promised, and he handed it to me. Then taking the other roll, which
was tied with ribbon, he said,

"Here is written out what I call the Electric Principle of
Christianity. This is for your own study and consideration; still, if
you ever desire to explain my theory to others, I do not forbid you.
But as I told you before, you can never compel belief--the goldfish in
a glass bowl will never understand the existence of the ocean. Be
satisfied if you can guide yourself by the compass you have found, but
do not grieve if you are unable to guide others. You may try, but it
will not be surprising if you fail. Nor will it be your fault. The only
sorrow that might happen to you in these efforts would be in case you
should love someone very dearly, and yet be unable to instil the truth
of what yon know into that particular soul. You would then have to make
a discovery, which is always more or less painful--namely, that your
love was misplaced, inasmuch as the nature you had selected as worthy
of love had no part with yours; and that separation utter and eternal
must therefore occur, if not in this life, then in the future. So I
would say beware of loving, lest you should not love rightly--though I
believe you will soon be able to discern clearly the spirit that is by
fate destined to complete and perfect your own. And now, though I know
you are scarcely fatigued enough to sleep, I will say good-night."

I took the second roll of parchment from his hand, and opening it a
little way, I saw that it was covered with very fine small writing.
Then I said:

"Does Zara know how long I have been absent?"

"Yes," replied Heliobas; "and she, like myself, was surprised and
anxious. I think she went to bed long ago; but you may look into her
room and see if she is awake, before you yourself retire to rest."

As he spoke of Zara his eyes grew melancholy and his brow clouded. An
instinctive sense of fear came upon me.

"Is she not well?" I asked.

"She is perfectly well," he answered. "Why should you imagine her to be
otherwise?"

"Pardon me," I said; "I fancied that you looked unhappy when I
mentioned her."

Heliobas made no answer. He stepped to the window, and throwing back
the curtain, called me to his side.

"Look out yonder." he said in low and earnest tones; "look at the dark
blue veil strewn with stars, through which so lately your daring soul
pierced its flight! See how the small Moon hangs like a lamp in Heaven,
apparently outshining the myriad worlds around her, that are so much
vaster and fairer! How deceptive is the human eye!--nearly as deceptive
as the human reason. Tell me--why did you not visit the Moon, or the
Sun, in your recent wanderings?"

This question caused me some surprise. It was certainly very strange
that I had not thought of doing so. Yet, on pondering the matter in my
mind, I remembered that during my aerial journey suns and moons had
been no more to me than flowers strewn on a meadow. I now regretted
that I had not sought to know something of those two fair luminaries
which light and warm our earth.

Heliobas, after watching my face intently, resumed:

"You cannot guess the reason of your omission? I will tell you. There
is nothing to see in either Sun or Moon. They were both inhabited
worlds once; but the dwellers in the Sun have ages ago lived their
lives and passed to the Central Sphere. The Sun is nothing now but a
burning world, burning rapidly, and surely, away: or rather, IT IS
BEING ABSORBED BACK INTO THE ELECTRIC CIRCLE FROM WHICH IT ORIGINALLY
SPRANG, TO BE THROWN OUT AGAIN IN SOME NEW AND GRANDER FORM. And so
with all worlds, suns and systems, for ever and ever. Hundreds of
thousands of those brief time-breathings called years may pass before
this consummation of the Sun; but its destruction is going on now, or
rather its absorption--and we on our cold small star warm ourselves,
and are glad, in the light of an empty world on fire!"

I listened with awe and interest.

"And the Moon?" I asked eagerly.

"The Moon does not exist. What we see is the reflection or the
electrograph of what she once was. Atmospherical electricity has
imprinted this picture of a long-ago living world upon the heavens,
just as Raphael drew his cartoons for the men of to-day to see."

"But," I exclaimed in surprise, "how about the Moon's influence on the
tides? and what of eclipses?"

"Not the Moon, but the electric photograph of a once living but now
absorbed world, has certainly an influence on the tides. The sea is
impregnated with electricity. Just as the Sun will absorb colours, so
the electricity in the sea is repelled or attracted by the electric
picture of the Moon in Heaven. Because, as a painting is full of
colour, so is that faithful sketch of a vanished sphere, drawn with a
pencil of pure light, full of immense electricity; and to carry the
simile further, just as a painting may be said to be formed of various
dark and light tints, so the electric portrait of the Moon contains
various degrees of electric force--which, coming in contact with the
electricity of the Earth's atmosphere, produces different effects on us
and on the natural scenes amid which we dwell. As for eclipses--if you
slowly pass a round screen between yourself and a blazing fire, you
will only see the edges of the fire. In the same way the electrograph
of the Moon passes at stated intervals between the Earth and the
burning world of the Sun."

"Yet surely," I said, "the telescope has enabled us to see the Moon as
a solid globe--we have discerned mountains and valleys on its surface;
and then it revolves round us regularly--how do you account for these
facts?"

"The telescope," returned Heliobas, "is merely an aid to the human eye;
and, as I told you before, nothing is so easily deceived as our sense
of vision, even when assisted by mechanical appliances. The telescope,
like the stereoscope, simply enables us to see the portrait of the Moon
more clearly; but all the same, the Moon, as a world, does not exist.
Her likeness, taken by electricity, may last some thousands of years,
and as long as it lasts it must revolve around us, because everything
in the universe moves, and moves in a circle. Besides which, this
portrait of the moon being composed of pure electricity, is attracted
and forced to follow the Earth by the compelling influence of the
Earth's own electric power. Therefore, till the picture fades, it must
attend the Earth like the haunting spectre of a dead joy. You can
understand now why we never see what we imagine to be the OTHER SIDE of
the Moon. It simply has NO other side, except space. Space is the
canvas--the Moon is a sketch. How interested we are when a discovery is
made of some rare old painting, of which the subject is a perfectly
beautiful woman! It bears no name--perhaps no date--but the face that
smiles at us is exquisite--the lips yet pout for kisses--the eyes brim
over, with love! And we admire it tenderly and reverently--we mark it
'Portrait of a lady,' and give it an honoured place among our art
collections. With how much more reverence and tenderness ought we to
look up at the 'Portrait of a Fair Lost Sphere,' circling yonder in
that dense ever-moving gallery of wonders where the hurrying throng of
spectators are living and dying worlds!"

I had followed the speaker's words with fascinated attention, but now I
said:

"Dying, Heliobas? There is no death."

"True!" he answered, with hesitating slowness. "But there is what we
call death--transition--and it is always a parting."

"But not for long!" I exclaimed, with all the gladness and eagerness of
my lately instructed soul. "As worlds are absorbed into the Electric
Circle and again thrown out in new and more glorious forms, so are we
absorbed and changed into shapes of perfect beauty, having eyes that
are strong and pure enough to look God in the face. The body
perishes--but what have WE to do with the body--our prison and place of
experience, except to rejoice when we shake off its weight for ever!"

Heliobas smiled gravely.

"You have learned your high lesson well," he said. "You speak with the
assurance and delight of a spirit satisfied. But when I talk of DEATH,
I mean by that word the parting asunder of two souls who love each
other; and though such separation may be brief, still it is always a
separation. For instance, suppose--" he hesitated: "suppose Zara were
to die?"

"Well, you would soon meet her again," I answered. "For though you
might live many years after her, still you would know in yourself that
those years were but minutes in the realms of space--"

"Minutes that decide our destinies," he interrupted with solemnity.
"And there is always this possibility to contemplate--suppose Zara were
to leave me now, how can I be sure that I shall be strong enough to
live out my remainder of life purely enough to deserve to meet her
again? And if not then Zara's death would mean utter and almost
hopeless separation for ever--though perhaps I might begin over again
in some other form, and so reach the goal."

He spoke so musingly and seriously that I was surprised, for I had
thought him impervious to such a folly as the fear of death.

"You are melancholy, Heliobas," I said. "In the first place, Zara is
not going to leave you yet; and secondly, if she did, you know your
strongest efforts would be brought to bear on your career, in order
that no shadow of obstinacy or error might obstruct your path. Why, the
very essence of our belief is in the strength of Will-power. What we
WILL to do, especially if it be any act of spiritual progress, we can
always accomplish."

Heliobas took my hand and pressed it warmly.

"You are so lately come from the high regions," he said, "that it warms
and invigorates me to hear your encouraging words. Pray do not think me
capable of yielding long to the weakness of foreboding. I am, in spite
of my advancement in electric science, nothing but a man, and am apt to
be hampered oftentimes by my mortal trappings. We have prolonged our
conversation further than I intended. I assure you it is better for you
to try to sleep, even though, as I know, you feel so wide awake. Let me
give you a soothing draught; it will have the effect of composing your
physical nerves into steady working order."

He poured something from a small phial into a glass, and handed it to
me. I drank it at once, obediently, and with a smile.

"Good-night, my Master!" I then said. "You need have no fear of your
own successful upward progress. For if there were the slightest chance
of your falling into fatal error, all those human souls you have
benefited would labour and pray for your rescue; and I know now that
prayers reach Heaven, so long as they are unselfish. I, though I am one
of the least of your disciples, out of the deep gratitude of my heart
towards you, will therefore pray unceasingly for you, both here and
hereafter."

He bent his head.

"I thank you!" he said simply. "More deeds are wrought by prayer than
this world dreams of! That is a true saying. God bless you, my child.
Good-night!"

And he opened the door of his study for me to pass out. As I did so, he
laid his hand lightly on my head in a sort of unspoken
benediction--then he closed his door, and I found myself alone in the
great hall. A suspended lamp was burning brightly, and the fountain was
gurgling melodiously to itself in a subdued manner, as if it were
learning a new song for the morning. I sped across the mosaic pavement
with a light eager step, and hurried up the stairs, intent on finding
Zara to tell her how happy I felt, and how satisfied I was with my
wonderful experience. I reached the door of her bedroom--it was ajar. I
softly pushed it farther open, and looked in. A small but exquisitely
modelled statue of an "Eros" ornamented one corner. His uplifted torch
served as a light which glimmered faintly through a rose-coloured
glass, and shed a tender lustre over the room; but especially upon the
bed, ornamented with rich Oriental needlework, where Zara lay fast
asleep. How beautiful she looked! Almost as lovely as any one of the
radiant spirits I had met in my aerial journey! Her rich dark hair was
scattered loosely on the white pillows; her long silky lashes curled
softly on the delicately tinted cheeks; her lips, tenderly red, like
the colour on budding apple-blossoms in early spring, were slightly
parted, showing the glimmer of the small white teeth within; her
night-dress was slightly undone, and half displayed and half disguised
her neck and daintily rounded bosom, on which the electric jewel she
always wore glittered brilliantly as it rose and sank with her regular
and quiet breathing. One fair hand lay outside the coverlet, and the
reflection from the lamp of the "Eros" flickered on a ring which
adorned it, making its central diamond flash like a wandering star.

I looked long and tenderly on this perfect ideal of a "Sleeping
Beauty," and then thought I would draw closer and see if I could kiss
her without awaking her. I advanced a few steps into the room--when
suddenly I was stopped. Within about a yard's distance from the bed a
SOMETHING opposed my approach! I could not move a foot forward--I tried
vigorously, but in vain! I could step backward, and that was all.
Between me and Zara there seemed to be an invisible barrier, strong,
and absolutely impregnable. There was nothing to be seen--nothing but
the softly-shaded room--the ever-smiling "Eros," and the exquisite
reposeful figure of my sleeping friend. Two steps, and I could have
touched her; but those two steps I was forcibly prevented from
making--as forcibly as though a deep ocean had rolled between her and
me. I did not stop long to consider this strange occurrence--I felt
sure it had something to do with her spiritual life and sympathy,
therefore it neither alarmed nor perplexed me. Kissing my hand tenderly
towards my darling, who lay so close to me, and who was yet so
jealously and invisibly guarded during her slumbers, I softly and
reverently withdrew. On reaching my own apartment, I was more than half
inclined to sit up reading and studying the parchments Heliobas had
given me; but on second thoughts I resolved to lock up these precious
manuscripts and go to bed. I did so, and before preparing to sleep I
remembered to kneel down and offer up praise and honour, with a loving
and believing heart, to that Supreme Glory, of which I had been
marvellously permitted to enjoy a brief but transcendent glimpse. And
as I knelt, absorbed and happy, I heard, like a soft echo falling
through the silence of my room, a sound like distant music, through
which these words floated towards me: "A new commandment give I unto
you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you!"




CHAPTER XIII.

SOCIABLE CONVERSE.


The next morning Zara came herself to awaken me, looking as fresh and
lovely as a summer morning. She embraced me very tenderly, and said:

"I have been talking for more than an hour with Casimir. He has told me
everything. What wonders you have seen! And are you not happy, dearest?
Are you not strong and satisfied?"

"Perfectly!" I replied. "But, O Zara! what a pity that all the world
should not know what we know!"

"All have not a desire for knowledge," replied Zara. "Even in your
vision of the garden you possessed, there were only a few who still
sought you; for those few you would have done anything, but for the
others your best efforts were in vain."

"They might not have been always in vain," I said musingly.

"No, they might not," agreed Zara. "That is just the case of the world
to-day. While there is life in it, there is also hope. And talking of
the world, let me remind you that you are back in it now, and must
therefore be hampered with tiresome trivialities. Two of these are as
follows; First, here is a letter for you, which has just come;
secondly, breakfast will be ready in twenty minutes!"

I looked at her smiling face attentively. She was the very embodiment
of vigorous physical health and beauty; it seemed like a dream to
remember her in the past night, guarded by that invincible barrier, the
work of no mortal hand. I uttered nothing, however, of these thoughts,
and responding to her evident gaiety of heart, I smiled also.

"I will be down punctually at the expiration of the twenty minutes," I
said. "I assure you, Zara, I am quite sensible of the claims of earthly
existence upon me. For instance, I am very hungry, and I shall enjoy
breakfast immensely if you will make the coffee."

Zara, who among her other accomplishments had the secret of making
coffee to perfection, promised laughingly to make it extra well, and
flitted from the room, singing softly as she went a fragment of the
Neapolitan Stornello:

  "Fior di mortelle
   Queste manine tue son tanto belle!
   Fior di limone
   Ti voglio far morire di passione
   Salta! lari--lira."

The letter Zara had brought me was from Mrs. Everard, announcing that
she would arrive in Paris that very day, Sunday.


"By the time you get this note," so ran her words, "we shall have
landed at the Grand Hotel. Come and see us at once, if you can. The
Colonel is anxious to judge for himself how you are looking. If you are
really recovered sufficiently to leave your medical pension, we shall
be delighted to have you with us again. I, in particular, shall be
glad, for it is real lonesome when the Colonel is out, and I do hate to
go shopping by myself, So take pity upon your affectionate

"AMY."


Seated at breakfast, I discussed this letter with Heliobas and Zara,
and decided that I would call at the Grand Hotel that morning.

"I wish you would come with me, Zara," I said wistfully.

To my surprise, she answered:

"Certainly I will, if you like. But we will attend High Mass at Notre
Dame first. There will be plenty of time for the call afterwards."

I gladly agreed to this, and Heliobas added with cheerful cordiality:

"Why not ask your friends to dine here to-morrow? Zara's call will be a
sufficient opening formality; and you yourself have been long enough
with us now to know that any of your friends will be welcome here. We
might have a pleasant little party, especially if you add Mr. and Mrs.
Challoner and their daughters to the list. And I will ask Ivan."

I glanced at Zara when the Prince's name was uttered, but she made no
sign of either offence or indifference.

"You are very hospitable," I said, addressing Heliobas; "but I really
see no reason why you should throw open your doors to my friends,
unless, indeed, you specially desire to please me."

"Why, of course I do!" he replied heartily; and Zara looked up and
smiled.

"Then," I returned, "I will ask them to come. What am I to say about my
recovery, which I know is little short of miraculous?"

"Say," replied Heliobas, "that you have been cured by electricity.
There is nothing surprising in such a statement nowadays. But say
nothing of the HUMAN electric force employed upon you--no one would
believe you, and the effort to persuade unpersuadable people is always
a waste of time."

An hour after this conversation Zara and I were in the cathedral of
Notre Dame. I attended the service with very different feelings to
those I had hitherto experienced during the same ceremony. Formerly my
mind had been distracted by harassing doubts and perplexing
contradictions; now everything had a meaning for me--high, and solemn,
and sweet. As the incense rose, I thought of those rays of connecting
light I had seen, on which prayers travel exactly as sound travels
through the telephone. As the grand organ pealed sonorously through the
fragrant air, I remembered the ever youthful and gracious Spirits of
Music, one of whom, Aeon, had promised to be my friend. Just to try the
strength of my own electric force, I whispered the name and looked up.
There, on a wide slanting ray of sunlight that fell directly across the
altar was the angelic face I well remembered!--the delicate hands
holding the semblance of a harp in air! It was but for an instant I saw
it--one brief breathing-space in which its smile mingled with the
sunbeams and then it vanished. But I knew I was not forgotten, and the
deep satisfaction of my soul poured itself in unspoken praise on the
flood of the "Sanctus! Sanctus!" that just then rolled triumphantly
through the aisles of Notre Dame. Zara was absorbed in silent prayer
throughout the Mass; but at its conclusion, when we came out of the
cathedral, she was unusually gay and elate. She conversed vivaciously
with me concerning the social merits and accomplishments of the people
we were going to visit; while the brisk walk through the frosty air
brightened her eyes and cheeks into warmer lustre, so that on our
arrival at the Grand Hotel she looked to my fancy even lovelier than
usual.

Mrs. Everard did not keep us waiting long in the private salon to which
we were shown. She fluttered down, arrayed in a wonderful "art" gown of
terra-cotta and pale blue hues cunningly intermixed, and proceeded to
hug me with demonstrative fervour. Then she held me a little distance
off, and examined me attentively.

"Do you know," she said, "you are simply in lovely condition! I never
would have believed it. You are actually as plump and pink as a peach.
And you are the same creature that wailed and trembled, and had
palpitations and headaches and stupors! Your doctor must be a perfect
magician. I think I must consult him, for I am sure I don't look half
as well as you do."

And indeed she did not. I thought she had a tired, dragged appearance,
but I would not say so. I knew her well, and I was perfectly aware that
though she was fascinating and elegant in every way, her life was too
much engrossed in trifles ever to yield her healthy satisfaction.

After responding warmly to her affectionate greeting, I said:

"Amy, you must allow me to introduce the sister of my doctor to you.
Madame Zara Casimir--Mrs. Everard."

Zara, who had moved aside a little way out of delicacy, to avoid
intruding on our meeting, now turned, and with her own radiant smile
and exquisite grace, stretched out her little well-gloved hand.

"I am delighted to know you!" she said, in those sweet penetrating
accents of hers which were like music. "YOUR friend," here indicating
me by a slight yet tender gesture, "has also become mine; but I do not
think we shall be jealous, shall we?"

Mrs. Everard made some attempt at a suitable reply, but she was so
utterly lost in admiration of Zara's beauty, that her habitual
self-possession almost deserted her. Zara, however, had the most
perfect tact, and with it the ability of making herself at home
anywhere, and we were soon all three talking cheerfully and without
constraint. When the Colonel made his appearance, which he did very
shortly, he too was "taken off his feet," as the saying is, by Zara's
loveliness, and the same effect was produced on the Challoners, who
soon afterwards joined us in a body. Mrs. Challoner, in particular,
seemed incapable of moving her eyes from the contemplation of my
darling's sweet face, and I glowed with pride and pleasure as I noted
how greatly she was admired. Miss Effie Challoner alone, who was, by a
certain class of young men, considered "doocid pretty, with go in her,"
opposed her stock of physical charms to those of Zara, with a certain
air of feminine opposition; but she was only able to keep this barrier
up for a little time. Zara's winning power of attraction was too much
for her, and she, like all present, fell a willing captive to the
enticing gentleness, the intellectual superiority, and the sympathetic
influence exercised by the evenly balanced temperament and character of
the beautiful woman I loved so well.

After some desultory and pleasant chat, Zara, in the name of her
brother and herself, invited Colonel and Mrs. Everard and the Challoner
family to dine at the Hotel Mars next day--an invitation which was
accepted by all with eagerness. I perceived at once that every one of
them was anxious to know more of Zara and her surroundings--a curiosity
which I could not very well condemn. Mrs. Everard then wanted me to
remain with her for the rest of the afternoon; but an instinctive
feeling came upon me, that soon perhaps I should have to part from
Heliobas and Zara, and all the wonders and delights of their household,
in order to resume my own working life--therefore I determined I would
drain my present cup of pleasure to the last drop. So I refused Amy's
request, pleading as an excuse that I was still under my doctor's
authority, and could not indulge in such an excitement as an afternoon
in her society without his permission. Zara bore me out in this
assertion, and added for me to Mrs. Everard:

"Indeed, I think it will be better for her to remain perfectly quiet
with us for a day or two longer; then she will be thoroughly cured, and
free to do as she likes."

"Well!" said Mrs. Challoner; "I must say she doesn't look as if
anything were the matter with her. In fact, I never saw two more happy,
healthy-looking girls than you both. What secret do you possess to make
yourselves look so bright?"

"No secret at all," replied Zara, laughing; "we simply follow the exact
laws of health, and they suffice."

Colonel Everard, who had been examining me critically and asking me a
few questions, here turned to Zara and said:

"Do you really mean to say, Madame Casimir, that your brother cured
this girl by electricity?"

"Purely so!" she answered earnestly.

"Then it's the most wonderful recovery _I_ ever saw. Why, at Cannes,
she was hollow-eyed, pale, and thin as a willow-wand; now she
looks--well, she knows how she is herself--but if she feels as spry as
she looks, she's in first-rate training!"

I laughed.

"I DO feel spry, Colonel," I said. "Life seems to me like summer
sunshine."

"Brava!" exclaimed Mr. Challoner. He was a staid, rather slow
Kentuckian who seldom spoke; and when he did, seemed to find it rather
an exertion. "If there's one class of folk I detest more than another,
it is those all-possessed people who find life unsuited to their
fancies. Nobody asked them to come into it--nobody would miss them if
they went out of it. Being in it, it's barely civil to grumble at the
Deity who sent them along here. I never do it myself if I can help it."

We laughed, and Mrs. Challoner's eyes twinkled.

"In England, dear, for instance," she said, with a mischievous glance
at her spouse--"in England you never grumbled, did you?"

Mr. Challoner looked volumes--his visage reddened, and he clenched his
broad fist with ominous vigour.

"Why, by the Lord!" he said, with even more than his usual deliberate
utterance, "in England the liveliest flea that ever gave a triumphal
jump in air would find his spirits inclined to droop! I tell you,
ma'am," he continued, addressing himself to Zara, whose merry laugh
rang out like a peal of little golden bells at this last remark--"I
tell you that when I walked in the streets of London I used to feel as
if I were one of a band of criminals. Every person I met looked at me
as if the universe were about to be destroyed next minute, and they had
to build another up right away without God to help 'em!"

"Well, I believe I agree with you," said Colonel Everard. "The English
take life too seriously. In their craze for business they manage to do
away with pleasure altogether. They seem afraid to laugh, and they even
approach the semblance of a smile with due caution."

"I'm free to confess," added his wife, "that I'm not easily chilled
through. But an English 'at home' acts upon me like a patent
refrigerator--I get regularly frozen to the bone!"

"Dear me!" laughed Zara; "you give very bad accounts of Shakespeare's
land! It must be very sad!"

"I believe it wasn't always so," pursued Colonel Everard; "there are
legends which speak of it as Merrie England. I dare say it might have
been merry once, before it was governed by shopkeepers; but now, you
must get away from it if you want to enjoy life. At least such is my
opinion. But have you never been in England, Madame Casimir? You speak
English perfectly."

"Oh, I am a fairly good linguist," replied Zara, "thanks to my brother.
But I have never crossed the Channel."

The Misses Challoner looked politely surprised; their father's shrewd
face wore an expression of grim contentment.

"Don't cross it, ma'am," he said emphatically, "unless you have a
special desire to be miserable. If you want to know how Christians love
one another and how to be made limply and uselessly wretched, spend a
Sunday in London."

"I think I will not try the experiment, Mr. Challoner," returned Zara
gaily. "Life is short, and I prefer to enjoy it."

"Say," interrupted Mrs. Challoner, turning to me at this juncture, "now
you are feeling so well, would it be asking you too much to play us a
piece of your own improvising?"

I glanced at the grand piano, which occupied a corner of the salon
where we sat, and hesitated. But at a slight nod from Zara, I rose,
drew off my gloves, and seated myself at the instrument. Passing my
hands lightly over the keys, I wandered through a few running passages;
and as I did so, murmured a brief petition to my aerial friend Aeon.
Scarcely had I done this, when a flood of music seemed to rush to my
brain and thence to my fingers, and I played, hardly knowing what I
played, but merely absorbed in trying to give utterance to the sounds
which were falling softly upon my inner sense of hearing like drops of
summer rain on a thirsty soil. I was just aware that I was threading
the labyrinth of a minor key, and that the result was a network of
delicate and tender melody reminding me of Heinrich Heine's words:

"Lady, did you not hear the nightingale sing? A beautiful silken
voice--a web of happy notes--and my soul was taken in its meshes, and
strangled and tortured thereby."

A few minutes, and the inner voice that conversed with me so sweetly,
died away into silence, and at the same time my fingers found their way
to the closing chord. As one awaking from a dream, I looked up. The
little group of friendly listeners were rapt in the deepest attention;
and when I ceased, a murmur of admiration broke from them all, while
Zara's eyes glistened with sympathetic tears.

"How can you do it?" asked Mrs. Challoner in good-natured amazement.
"It seems to me impossible to compose like that while seated at the
piano, and without taking previous thought!"

"It is not MY doing," I began; "it seems to come to me from--"

But I was checked by a look from Zara, that gently warned me not to
hastily betray the secret of my spiritual communion with the unseen
sources of harmony. So I smiled and said no more. Inwardly I was full
of a great rejoicing, for I knew that however well I had played in past
days, it was nothing compared to the vigour and ease which were now
given to me--a sort of unlocking of the storehouse of music, with
freedom to take my choice of all its vast treasures.

"Well, it's what WE call inspiration," said Mr. Challoner, giving my
hand a friendly grasp; "and wherever it comes from, it must be a great
happiness to yourself as well as to others."

"It is," I answered earnestly. "I believe few are so perfectly happy in
music as I am."

Mrs. Everard looked thoughtful.

"No amount of practice could make ME play like that," she said; "yet I
have had two or three masters who were supposed to be first-rate. One
of them was a German, who used to clutch his hair like a walking
tragedian whenever I played a wrong note. I believe he got up his
reputation entirely by that clutch, for he often played wrong notes
himself without minding it. But just because he worked himself into a
sort of frenzy when others went wrong, everybody praised him, and said
he had such an ear and was so sensitive that he must be a great
musician. He worried me nearly to death over Bach's 'Well-tempered
Klavier'--all to no purpose, for I can't play a note of it now, and
shouldn't care to if I could. I consider Bach a dreadful old bore,
though I know it is heresy to say so. Even Beethoven is occasionally
prosy, only no one will be courageous enough to admit it. People would
rather go to sleep over classical music than confess they don't like
it."

"Schubert would have been a grander master than Beethoven, if he had
only lived long enough," said Zara; "but I dare say very few will agree
with me in such an assertion. Unfortunately most of my opinions differ
from those of everyone else."

"You should say FORTUNATELY, madame," said Colonel Everard, bowing
gallantly; "as the circumstance has the happy result of making you
perfectly original as well as perfectly charming."

Zara received this compliment with her usual sweet equanimity, and we
rose to take our leave. As we were passing out, Amy Everard drew me
back and crammed into the pocket of my cloak a newspaper.

"Read it when you are alone," she whispered; "and you will see what
Raffaello Cellini has done with the sketch he made of you."

We parted from these pleasant Americans with cordial expressions of
goodwill, Zara reminding them of their engagement to visit her at her
own home next day, and fixing the dinner-hour for half-past seven.

On our return to the Hotel Mars, we found Heliobas in the drawing-room,
deep in converse with a Catholic priest--a fine-looking man of
venerable and noble features. Zara addressed him as "Father Paul," and
bent humbly before him to receive his blessing, which he gave her with
almost parental tenderness. He seemed, from his familiar manner with
them, to be a very old friend of the family.

On my being introduced to him, he greeted me with gentle courtesy, and
gave me also his simple unaffected benediction. We all partook of a
light luncheon to-gether, after which repast Heliobas and Father Paul
withdrew together. Zara looked after their retreating figures with a
sort of meditative pathos in her large eyes; and then she told me she
had something to finish in her studio--would I excuse her for about an
hour? I readily consented, for I myself was desirous of passing a
little time in solitude, in order to read the manuscripts Heliobas had
given me. "For," thought I, "if there is anything in them not quite
clear to me, he will explain it, and I had better take advantage of his
instruction while I can."

As Zara and I went upstairs together, we were followed by Leo--a most
unusual circumstance, as that faithful animal was generally in
attendance on his master. Now, however, he seemed to have something
oppressive on his mind, for he kept close to Zara, and his big brown
eyes, whenever he raised them to her face, were full of intense
melancholy. His tail drooped in a forlorn way, and all the vivacity of
his nature seemed to have gone out of him.

"Leo does not seem well," I said, patting the dog's beautiful silky
coat, an attention to which he responded by a heavy sigh and a wistful
gaze approaching to tears. Zara looked at him.

"Poor Leo!" she murmured caressingly. "Perhaps he feels lonely. Do you
want to come with your mistress to-day, old boy? So you shall. Come
along--cheer up, Leo!"

And, nodding to me, she passed into her studio, the dog following her.
I turned into my own apartment, and then bethought myself of the
newspaper Mrs. Everard had thrust into my pocket. It was a Roman
journal, and the passage marked for my perusal ran as follows:

"The picture of the Improvisatrice, painted by our countryman Signor
Raffaello Cellini, has been purchased by Prince N----for the sum of
forty thousand francs. The Prince generously permits it to remain on
view for a few days longer, so that those who have not yet enjoyed its
attraction, have still time to behold one of the most wonderful
pictures of the age. The colouring yet remains a marvel to both
students and connoisseurs, and the life-like appearance of the girl's
figure, robed in its clinging white draperies ornamented with lilies of
the valley, is so strong, that one imagines she will step out of the
canvas and confront the bystanders. Signor Cellini must now be
undoubtedly acknowledged as one of the greatest geniuses of modern
times."

I could see no reason, as I perused this, to be sure that _I_ had
served as the model for this successful work of art, unless the white
dress and the lilies of the valley, which I had certainly worn at
Cannes, were sufficient authority for forming such a conclusion. Still
I felt quite a curiosity about the picture--the more so as I could
foresee no possible chance of my ever beholding it. I certainly should
not go to Rome on purpose, and in a few days it would be in the
possession of Prince N----, a personage whom in all probability I
should never know. I put the newspaper carefully by, and then turned my
mind to the consideration of quite another subject--namely, the
contents of my parchment documents. The first one I opened was that
containing the private instructions of Heliobas to myself for the
preservation of my own health, and the cultivation of the electric
force within me. These were so exceedingly simple, and yet so wonderful
in their simplicity, that I was surprised. They were based upon the
plainest and most reasonable common-sense arguments--easy enough for a
child to understand. Having promised never to make them public, it is
impossible for me to give the slightest hint of their purport; but I
may say at once, without trespassing the bounds of my pledged word,
that if these few concise instructions were known and practised by
everyone, doctors would be entirely thrown out of employment, and
chemists' shops would no longer cumber the streets. Illness would be
very difficult of attainment--though in the event of its occurring each
individual would know how to treat him or herself--and life could be
prolonged easily and comfortably to more than a hundred years, barring,
of course, accidents by sea, rail and road, or by deeds of violence.
But it will take many generations before the world is UNIVERSALLY
self-restrained enough to follow such plain maxims as those laid down
for me in the writing of my benefactor, Heliobas--even if it be ever
self-restrained at all, which, judging from the present state of
society, is much to be doubted. Therefore, no more of the subject, on
which, indeed, I am forbidden to speak.

The other document, called "The Electric Principle of Christianity," I
found so curious and original, suggesting so many new theories
concerning that religion which has civilized a great portion of
humanity, that, as I am not restrained by any promise on this point, I
have resolved to give it here in full. My readers must not be rash
enough to jump to the conclusion that I set it forward as an
explanation or confession of my own faith; my creed has nothing to do
with anyone save myself. I simply copy the manuscript I possess, as the
theory of a deeply read and widely intelligent man, such as Heliobas
undoubtedly WAS and IS; a man, too, in whose veins runs the blood of
the Chaldean kings--earnest and thoughtful Orientals, who were far
wiser in their generation perhaps than we, with all our boasted
progress, are in ours. The coincidences which have to do with
electrical science will, I believe, be generally admitted to be curious
if not convincing. To me, of course, they are only fresh proofs of WHAT
_I_ KNOW, because _I_ HAVE SEEN THE GREAT ELECTRIC CIRCLE, and know its
power (guided as it is by the Central Intelligence within) to be
capable of anything, from the sending down of a minute spark of
instinct into the heart of a flower, to the perpetual manufacture and
re-absorption of solar systems by the million million. And it is a
circle that ever widens without end. What more glorious manifestation
can there be of the Creator's splendour and wisdom! But as to how this
world of ours span round in its own light littleness farther and
farther from the Radiant Ring, till its very Sun began to be
re-absorbed, and till its Moon disappeared and became a mere
picture--till it became of itself like a small blot on the fair scroll
of the Universe, while its inhabitants grew to resent all heavenly
attraction; and how it was yet thought worth God's patience and tender
consideration, just for the sake of a few human souls upon it who still
remembered and loved Him, to give it one more chance before it should
be drawn back into the Central Circle like a spark within a fire--all
this is sufficiently set forth in the words of Heliobas, quoted in the
next chapter.




CHAPTER XIV.

THE ELECTRIC CREED.


The "Electric Principle of Christianity" opened as follows:

"From all Eternity God, or the SUPREME SPIRIT OF LIGHT, existed, and to
all Eternity He will continue to exist. This is plainly stated in the
New Testament thus: 'God is a SPIRIT, and they that worship Him must
worship Him IN SPIRIT and in truth.'

"He is a Shape of pure Electric Radiance. Those who may be inclined to
doubt this may search the Scriptures on which they pin their faith, and
they will find that all the visions and appearances of the Deity there
chronicled were electric in character.

"As a poet forms poems, or a musician melodies, so God formed by a
Thought the Vast Central Sphere in which He dwells, and peopled it with
the pure creations of His glorious fancy. And why? Because, being pure
Light, He is also pure Love; the power or capacity of Love implies the
necessity of Loving; the necessity of loving points to the existence of
things to be loved--hence the secret of creation. From the ever-working
Intelligence of this Divine Love proceeded the Electric Circle of the
Universe, from whence are born all worlds.

"This truth vaguely dawned upon the ancient poets of Scripture when
they wrote: 'Darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of
God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said, Let there be
light. And there was light.'

"These words apply SOLELY to the creation or production of OUR OWN
EARTH, and in them we read nothing but a simple manifestation of
electricity, consisting in a HEATING PASSAGE OF RAYS from the Central
Circle to the planet newly propelled forth from it, which caused that
planet to produce and multiply the wonders of the animal, vegetable,
and mineral kingdoms which we call Nature.

"Let us now turn again to the poet-prophets of Scripture: 'And God
said, Let us make man in our image.' The word 'OUR' here implies an
instinctive idea that God was never alone. This idea is correct. Love
cannot exist in a chaos; and God by the sheer necessity of His Being
has for ever been surrounded by radiant and immortal Spirits emanating
from His own creative glory--beings in whom all beauty and all purity
are found. In the IMAGES, therefore (only the IMAGES), of these
Children of Light and of Himself, He made Man--that is, He caused the
Earth to be inhabited and DOMINATED by beings composed of Earth's
component parts, animal, vegetable, and mineral, giving them their
superiority by placing within them His 'LIKENESS' in the form of an
ELECTRIC FLAME or GERM of spiritual existence combined with its
companion working-force of WILL-POWER.

"Like all flames, this electric spark can either be fanned into a fire
or it can be allowed to escape in air--IT CAN NEVER BE DESTROYED. It
can be fostered and educated till it becomes a living Spiritual Form of
absolute beauty--an immortal creature of thought, memory, emotion, and
working intelligence. If, on the contrary, he is neglected or
forgotten, and its companion Will is drawn by the weight of Earth to
work for earthly aims alone, then it escapes and seeks other chances of
development in OTHER FORMS on OTHER PLANETS, while the body it leaves,
SUPPORTED ONLY BY PHYSICAL SUSTENANCE DRAWN FROM THE EARTH ON WHICH IT
DWELLS, becomes a mere lump of clay ANIMATED BY MERE ANIMAL LIFE
SOLELY, full of inward ignorance and corruption and outward incapacity.
Of such material are the majority of men composed BY THEIR OWN
FREE-WILL AND CHOICE, because they habitually deaden the voice of
conscience and refuse to believe in the existence of a spiritual
element within and around them.

"To resume: the Earth is one of the smallest of planets; and not only
this, but, from its position in the Universe, receives a less amount of
direct influence from the Electric Circle than other worlds more
happily situated. Were men wise enough to accept this fact, they would
foster to the utmost the germs of electric sympathy within themselves,
in order to form a direct communication, or system of attraction,
between this planet and the ever-widening Ring, so that some spiritual
benefit might accrue to them thereby. But as the ages roll on, their
chances of doing this diminish. The time is swiftly approaching when
the invincible Law of Absorption shall extinguish Earth as easily as we
blow out the flame of a candle. True, it may be again reproduced, and
again thrown out on space; but then it will be in a new and grander
form, and will doubtless have more godlike inhabitants.

"In the meantime--during those brief cycles of centuries which are as a
breath in the workings of the Infinite, and which must yet elapse
before this world, as we know it, comes to an end--God has taken pity
on the few, very few souls dwelling here, pent up in mortal clay, who
have blindly tried to reach Him, like plants straining up to the light,
and has established a broad stream of sympathetic electric
communication with Himself, which all who care to do so may avail
themselves of.

"Here it may be asked: Why should God take pity? Because that Supreme
Shape of Light finds a portion of Himself in all pure souls that love
Him, and HE CANNOT DESPISE HIMSELF. Also because He is capable of all
the highest emotions known to man, in a far larger and grander degree,
besides possessing other sentiments and desires unimaginable to the
human mind. It is enough to say that all the attributes that accompany
perfect goodness He enjoys; therefore He can feel compassion,
tenderness, forgiveness, patience--all or any of the emotions that
produce pure, unselfish pleasure.

"Granting Him, therefore, these attributes (and it is both blasphemous
and unreasonable to DENY HIM THOSE VIRTUES WHICH DISTINGUISH THE BEST
OF MEN), it is easily understood how He, the All-Fair Beneficent Ruler
of the Central Sphere, perceiving the long distance to which the Earth
was propelled, like a ball flung too far out, from the glory of His
Electric Ring, saw also that the creatures He had made in His image
were in danger of crushing that image completely out, and with it all
remembrance of Him, in the fatal attention they gave to their merely
earthly surroundings, lacking, as they did, and not possessing
sufficient energy to seek, electric attraction. In brief, this Earth
and God's World were like America and Europe before the Atlantic Cable
was laid. Now the messages of goodwill flash under the waves, heedless
of the storms. So also God's Cable is laid between us and His Heaven in
the person of Christ.

"For ages (always remembering that our ages are with God a moment) the
idea of WORSHIP was in the mind of man. With this idea came also the
sentiment of PROPITIATION. The untamed savage has from time immemorial
instinctively felt the necessity of looking up to a Being greater than
Himself, and also of seeking a reconciliation with that Being for some
fault or loss in himself which he is aware of, yet cannot explain. This
double instinct--worship and propitiation--is the key-note of all the
creeds of the world, and may be called God's first thought of the cable
to be hereafter laid--a lightning-thought which He instilled into the
human race to prepare it, as one might test a telegraph-wire from house
to house, before stretching it across a continent.

"All religions, as known to us, are mere types of Christianity. It is a
notable fact that some of the oldest and most learned races in the
world, such as the Armenians and Chaldeans, were the first to be
convinced of the truth of Christ's visitation. Buddhism, of which there
are so many million followers, is itself a type of Christ's teaching;
only it lacks the supernatural element. Buddha died a hermit at the age
of eighty, as any wise and ascetic man might do to-day. The death and
resurrection of Christ were widely different. Anyone can be a Buddha
again; anyone can NOT be a Christ. That there are stated to be more
followers of Buddhism than of Christianity is no proof of any efficacy
in the former or lack of power in the latter. Buddhists help to swell
that very large class of persons who prefer a flattering picture to a
plain original; or who, sheep-like by nature, finding themselves all
together in one meadow, are too lazy, as well as too indifferent, to
seek pastures fresher and fairer.

"Through the divine influence of an Electric Thought, then, the world
unconsciously grew to expect SOMETHING--they knew not what. The old
creeds of the world, like sunflowers, turned towards that unknown Sun;
the poets, prophets, seers, all spoke of some approaching consolation
and glory; and to this day the fated Jews expect it, unwilling to
receive as their Messiah the Divine Martyr they slew, though their own
Scriptures testify to His identity.

"Christ came, born of a Virgin; that is, a radiant angel from God's
Sphere was in the first place sent down to Earth to wear the form of
Mary of Bethlehem, in Judea. Within that vessel of absolute purity God
placed an Emanation of His own radiance--no germ or small flame such as
is given to us in our bodies to cultivate and foster, but a complete
immortal Spirit, a portion of God Himself, wise, sinless, and strong.
This Spirit, pent up in clay, was born as a helpless babe, grew up as
man--as man taught, comforted, was slain and buried; but as pure Spirit
rose again and returned in peace to Heaven, His mission done.

"It was necessary, in order to establish what has been called an
electric communication between God's Sphere and this Earth, that an
actual immortal, untainted Spirit in the person of Christ should walk
this world, sharing with men sufferings, difficulties, danger, and
death. Why? In order that we might first completely confide in and
trust Him, afterwards realizing His spiritual strength and glory by His
resurrection. And here may be noted the main difference between the
Electric Theory of Christianity and other theories. CHRIST DID NOT DIE
BECAUSE GOD NEEDED A SACRIFICE. The idea of sacrifice is a relic of
heathen barbarism; God is too infinitely loving to desire the sacrifice
of the smallest flower. He is too patient to be ever wrathful; and
barbaric ignorance confronts us again in the notion that He should need
to be appeased. And the fancy that He should desire Himself or part of
Himself to become a sacrifice to Himself has arisen out of the absurd
and conflicting opinions of erring humanity, wherein right and wrong
are so jumbled together that it is difficult to distinguish one from
the other. Christ's death was not a sacrifice; it was simply a means of
confidence and communion with the Creator. A sinless Spirit suffered to
show us how to suffer; lived on earth to show us how to live; prayed to
show us how to pray; died to show us how to die; rose again to impress
strongly upon us that there was in truth a life beyond this one, for
which He strove to prepare our souls. Finally, by His re-ascension into
Heaven He established that much-needed electric communication between
us and the Central Sphere.

"It can be proved from the statements of the New Testament that in
Christ was an Embodied Electric Spirit. From first to last His career
was attended by ELECTRIC PHENOMENA, of which eight examples are here
quoted; and earnest students of the matter can find many others if they
choose to examine for themselves.

"1. The appearance of the Star and the Vision of Angels on the night of
His birth. The Chaldeans saw His 'star in the east,' and they came to
worship Him. The Chaldeans were always a learned people, and
electricity was an advanced science with them. They at once recognized
the star to be no new planet, but simply a star-shaped flame flitting
through space. They knew what this meant. Observe, too, that they had
no doubts upon the point; they came 'to worship him,' and provided
themselves with gifts to offer to this radiant Guest, the offspring of
pure Light. The vision of the angels appearing to the shepherds was
simply a joyous band of the Singing Children of the Electric Ring, who
out of pure interest and pleasure floated in sight of Earth, drawn
thither partly by the already strong attractive influence of the
Radiance that was imprisoned there in the form of the Babe of Bethlehem.

"2. When Christ was baptized by John the Baptist, 'THE HEAVENS OPENED.'

"3. The sympathetic influence of Christ was so powerful that when He
selected His disciples, He had but to speak to them, and at the sound
of His voice, though they were engaged in other business, 'THEY LEFT
ALL AND FOLLOWED HIM."

"4. Christ's body was charged with electricity. Thus He was easily able
to heal sick and diseased persons by a touch or a look. The woman who
caught at His garment in the crowd was cured of her long-standing
ailment; and we see that Christ was aware of His own electric force by
the words He used on that occasion: 'WHO TOUCHED ME? FOR I FEEL THAT
SOME VIRTUE IS GONE OUT OF ME'--which is the exact feeling that a
physical electrician experiences at this day after employing his powers
on a subject. The raising of Jairus's daughter, of the widow's son at
Nain, and of Lazarus, were all accomplished by the same means.

"5. The walking on the sea was a purely electric effort, AND CAN BE
ACCOMPLISHED NOW BY ANYONE who has cultivated sufficient inner force.
The sea being full of electric particles will support anybody
sufficiently and similarly charged--the two currents combining to
procure the necessary equilibrium. Peter, who was able to walk a little
way, lost his power directly his will became vanquished by
fear--because the sentiment of fear disperses electricity, and being
purely HUMAN emotion, does away with spiritual strength for the time.

"6. The Death of Christ was attended by electric manifestations--by the
darkness over the land during the Crucifixion; the tearing of the
temple veil in twain; and the earthquake which finally ensued.

"7. The Resurrection was a most powerful display of electric force. It
will be remembered that the angel who was found sitting at the entrance
of the empty sepulchre 'had a countenance like LIGHTNING,' i.e., like
electric flame. It must also be called to mind how the risen Christ
addressed Mary Magdalene: 'TOUCH ME NOT, for I am but newly risen!' Why
should she not have touched Him? Simply because His strength then was
the strength of concentrated in-rushing currents of electricity; and to
touch him at that moment would have been for Magdalene instant death by
lightning. This effect of embodied electric force has been shadowed
forth in the Greek legends of Apollo, whose glory consumed at a breath
the mortal who dared to look upon him.

"8. The descent of the Holy Ghost, by which term is meant an
ever-flowing current of the inspired working Intelligence of the
Creator, was purely electric in character: 'Suddenly there came a sound
from Heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house
where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them CLOVEN TONGUES
LIKE AS OF FIRE, and sat upon each of them.' It may here be noted that
the natural electric flame is DUAL or 'cloven' in shape.

"Let us now take the Creed as accepted to-day by the Christian Church,
and see how thoroughly it harmonizes with the discoveries of spiritual
electricity. 'I believe in one God the Father Almighty, Maker of Heaven
and Earth, and of all things VISIBLE AND INVISIBLE.' This is a brief
and simple description of the Creator as He exists--a Supreme Centre of
Light, out of whom MUST spring all life, all love, all wisdom.

"'And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God, born of
the Father before all ages.' This means that the only absolute
Emanation of His own PERSONAL Radiance that ever wore such mean garb as
our clay was found in Christ--who, as part of God, certainly existed
'BEFORE ALL AGES.' For as the Creed itself says, He was 'God of God,
LIGHT OF LIGHT. Then we go on through the circumstances of Christ's
birth, life, death, and resurrection, and our profession of faith
brings us to 'I believe in the Holy Ghost, the Lord and Giver of Life,
who proceedeth from the Father and the Son,' etc. This, as already
stated, means that we believe that since Christ ascended into Heaven,
our electric communication with the Creator has been established, and
an ever-flowing current of divine inspiration is turned beneficially in
the direction of our Earth, 'proceeding from the Father and the Son.'
We admit in the Creed that this inspiration manifested itself before
Christ came and 'SPAKE BY THE PROPHETS;' but, as before stated, this
only happened at rare and difficult intervals, while now Christ Himself
speaks through those who most strongly adhere to His teachings.

"It may here be mentioned that few seem to grasp the fact of the
SPECIAL MESSAGE TO WOMEN intended to be conveyed in the person of the
Virgin Mary. She was actually one of the radiant Spirits of the Central
Sphere, imprisoned by God's will in woman's form. After the birth of
Christ, she was still kept on earth, to follow His career to the end.
There was a secret understanding between Himself and her. As for
instance, when she found Him among the doctors of the law, she for one
moment suffered her humanity to get the better of her in anxious
inquiries; and His reply, 'Why sought ye Me? Wist ye not that I must be
about My Father's business?' was a sort of reminder to her, which she
at once accepted. Again, at the marriage feast in Cana of Galilee, when
Christ turned the water into wine, He said to His mother, 'WOMAN, what
have I to do with thee?' which meant simply: What have I to do with
thee as WOMAN merely?--which was another reminder to her of her
spiritual origin, causing her at once to address the servants who stood
by as follows: 'Whatsoever He saith unto you, do it.' And why, it may
be asked, if Mary was really an imprisoned immortal Spirit, sinless and
joyous, should she be forced to suffer all the weaknesses, sorrows, and
anxieties of any ordinary woman and mother? SIMPLY AS AN EXAMPLE TO
WOMEN who are the mothers of the human race; and who, being thus laid
under a heavy responsibility, need sympathetic guidance. Mary's life
teaches women that the virtues they need are--obedience, purity,
meekness, patience, long-suffering, modesty, self-denial, and
endurance. She loved to hold a secondary position; she placed herself
in willing subjection to Joseph--a man of austere and simple life,
advanced in years, and weighted with the cares of a family by a
previous marriage--who wedded her by AN INFLUENCE WHICH COMPELLED HIM
to become her protector in the eyes of the world. Out of these facts,
simple as they are, can be drawn the secret of happiness for women--a
secret and a lesson that, if learned by heart, would bring them and
those they love out of storm and bewilderment into peace and safety.

"FOR THOSE WHO HAVE ONCE BECOME AWARE OF THE EXISTENCE OF THE CENTRAL
SPHERE AND OF THE ELECTRIC RING SURROUNDING IT, AND WHO ARE ABLE TO
REALISE TO THE FULL THE GIGANTIC AS WELL AS MINUTE WORK PERFORMED BY
THE ELECTRIC WAVES AROUND US AND WITHIN US, there can no longer be any
doubt as to all the facts of Christianity, as none of them, VIEWED BY
THE ELECTRIC THEORY, are otherwise than in accordance with the
Creator's love and sympathy with even the smallest portion of His
creation.

"Why then, if Christianity be a Divine Truth, are not all people
Christians? As well ask, if music and poetry are good things, why all
men are not poets and musicians. Art seeks art; in like manner God
seeks God--that is, He seeks portions of His own essence among His
creatures. Christ Himself said, 'Many are called, but few are chosen;'
and it stands to reason that very few souls will succeed in becoming
pure enough to enter the Central Sphere without hindrance. Many, on
leaving Earth, will be detained in the Purgatory of Air, where
thousands of spirits work for ages, watching over others, helping and
warning others, and in this unselfish labour succeed in raising
themselves, little by little, higher and ever higher, till they at last
reach the longed-for goal. It must also be remembered that not only
from Earth, but from ALL WORLDS, released souls seek to attain final
happiness in the Central Sphere where God is; so that, however great
the number of those that are permitted to proceed thither from this
little planet, they can only form, as it were, one drop in a mighty
ocean.

"It has been asked whether the Electric Theory of Christianity includes
the doctrine of Hell, or a place of perpetual punishment. Eternal
Punishment is merely a form of speech for what is really Eternal
Retrogression. For as there is a Forward, so there must be a Backward.
The electric germ of the Soul--delicate, fiery, and imperishable as it
is--can be forced by its companion Will to take refuge in a lower form
of material existence, dependent on the body it first inhabits. For
instance, a man who is obstinate in pursuing ACTIVE EVIL can so
retrograde the progress of any spiritual life within him, that it shall
lack the power to escape, as it might do, from merely lymphatic and
listless temperaments, to seek some other chance of development, but
shall sink into the form of quadrupeds, birds, and other creatures
dominated by purely physical needs. But there is one thing it can never
escape from--MEMORY. And in that faculty is constituted Hell. So that
if a man, by choice, forces his soul DOWNWARD to inhabit hereafter the
bodies of dogs, horses, and other like animals, he should know that he
does so at the cost of everything except Remembrance. Eternal
Retrogression means that the hopelessly tainted electric germ recoils
further and further from the Pure Centre whence it sprang, ALWAYS
BEARING WITHIN ITSELF the knowledge of WHAT IT WAS ONCE and WHAT IT
MIGHT HAVE BEEN. There is a pathetic meaning in the eyes of a dog or a
seal; in the melancholy, patient gaze of the oxen toiling at the
plough; there is an unuttered warning in the silent faces of flowers;
there is more tenderness of regret in the voice of the nightingale than
love; and in the wild upward soaring of the lark, with its throat full
of passionate, shouting prayer, there is shadowed forth the yearning
hope that dies away in despair as the bird sinks to earth again, his
instincts not half satisfied. There is no greater torture than to be
compelled to remember, in suffering, joys and glorious opportunities
gone for ever.

"Regarding the Electric Theory of Religion, it is curious to observe
how the truth of it has again and again been dimly shadowed forth in
the prophecies of Art, Science, and Poesy. The old painters who
depicted a halo of light round the head of their Virgins and Saints did
so out of a correct impulse which they did not hesitate to obey.
[Footnote: An impulse which led them vaguely to foresee, though, not to
explain, the electric principle of spiritual life.] The astronomers
who, after years of profound study, have been enabled to measure the
flames of the burning sun, and to find out that these are from two to
four thousand miles high, are nearly arrived at the conclusion that it
is a world in a state of conflagration, in which they will be perfectly
right. Those who hold that this Earth of ours was once self-luminous
are also right; for it was indeed so when first projected from the
Electric Ring. The compilers or inventors of the 'Arabian Nights' also
hit upon a truth when they described human beings as forced through
evil influences to take the forms of lower animals--a truth just
explained in the Law of Retrogression. All art, all prophecy, all
poesy, should therefore be accepted eagerly and studied earnestly, for
in them we find ELECTRIC INSPIRATION out of which we are able to draw
lessons for our guidance hereafter. The great point that scientists and
artists have hitherto failed to discover, is the existence of the
Central Sphere and its Surrounding Electric Circle. Once realize these
two great facts, and all the wonders and mysteries of the Universe are
perfectly easy of comprehension.

"In conclusion, I offer no opinion as to which is Christ's Church, or
the Fountain-head of spirituality in the world. In all Churches errors
have intruded through unworthy and hypocritical members. In a crowded
congregation of worshippers there may perhaps be only one or two who
are free from self-interest and personal vanity. In Sectarianism, for
instance, there is no shred of Christianity. Lovers of God and
followers of Christ must, in the first place, have perfect Unity; and
the bond uniting them must be an electric one of love and faith. No
true Christian should be able to hate, despise, or envy the other. Were
I called upon to select among the churches, I should choose that which
has most electricity working within it, and which is able to believe in
a positive electrical communication between Christ and herself taking
place daily on her altars--a Church which holds, as it were, the other
end of the telegraphic ray between Earth and the Central Sphere, and
which is, therefore, able to exist among the storms of modern opinions,
affording refuge and consolation to the few determined travellers who
are bound onward and upward. I shall not name the Church I mean,
because it is the duty of everyone to examine and find it out for
himself or herself. And even though this Church instinctively works in
the right direction, it is full of errors introduced by ignorant and
unworthy members--errors which must be carefully examined and cast
aside by degrees. But, as I said before, it is the only Church which
has Principles of Electricity within it, and is therefore destined to
live, because electricity is life.

"Now I beseech the reader of this manuscript to which I, Heliobas,
append my hand and seal, to remember and realize earnestly the
following invincible facts: first that God and His Christ EXIST;
secondly, that while the little paltry affairs of our temporal state
are being built up as crazily as a child's house of cards, the huge
Central Sphere revolves, and the Electric Ring, strong and
indestructible, is ever at its work of production and re-absorption;
thirdly, that every thought and word of EVERY HABITANT ON EVERY PLANET
is reflected in lightning language before the Creator's eyes as easily
as we receive telegrams; fourthly, that this world is THE ONLY SPOT IN
THE UNIVERSE where His existence is actually questioned and doubted.
And the general spread of modern positivism, materialism and atheism is
one of the most terrific and meaning signs of the times. The work of
separating the wheat from the chaff is beginning. Those who love and
believe in God and Spiritual Beauty are about to be placed on one side;
the millions who worship Self are drawing together in vast opposing
ranks on the other; and the moment approaches which is prophesied to be
'as the lightning that lighteneth out of the one part under heaven, and
shineth even to the other part.' In other words, the fiery whirlpool of
the Ring is nearly ready to absorb our planet in its vortex; and out of
all who dwell upon its surface, how many shall reach the glorious
Central World of God? Of two men working in the same field, shall it
not be as Christ foretold--'the one shall be taken, and the other left'?

"Friend, or Pupil, Reader! Whoever thou art, take heed and foster thine
own soul! For know that nothing can hinder the Immortal Germ within us
from taking the form imposed upon it by our WILLS. Through Love and
Faith, it can become an Angel, and perform wonders even while in its
habitation of clay; through indifference and apathy, it can desert us
altogether and for ever; through mockery and blasphemous disbelief, it
can sink into even a lower form than that of snake or toad. In our own
unfettered hand lies our eternal destiny. Wonderful and terrible
responsibility! Who shall dare to say we have no need of prayer?"

This document was signed "Casimir Heliobas," and bore a seal on which
the impression seemed to consist of two Arabic or Sanskrit words, which
I could not understand. I put it carefully away with its companion MS.
under lock and key, and while I was yet pausing earnestly on its
contents, Zara came into my room. She had finished her task in the
studio, she said, and she now proposed a drive in the Bois as an
agreeable way of passing the rest of the afternoon.

"I want to be as long as possible in your company," she added, with a
caressing sweetness in her manner; "for now your friends have come to
Paris, I expect you will soon be leaving us, so I must have as much of
you as I can."

My heart sank at the thought of parting from her, and I looked
wistfully at her lovely face. Leo had followed her in from the studio,
and seemed still very melancholy.

"We shall always be good friends, Zara dearest," I said, "shall we not?
Close, fond friends, like sisters?"

"Sisters are not always fond of each other," remarked Zara, half gaily.
"And you know 'there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother'!"

"And what friend is that in YOUR case?" I asked, half jestingly, half
curiously.

"Death!" she replied with a strange smile, in which there was both
pathos and triumph.

I started at her unexpected reply, and a kind of foreboding chilled my
blood. I endeavoured, however, to speak cheerfully as I said:

"Why, of course, death sticks more closely to us than any friend or
relative. But you look fitter to receive the embraces of life than of
death, Zara."

"They are both one and the same thing," she answered; "or rather, the
one leads to the other. But do not let us begin to philosophize. Put on
your things and come. The carriage is waiting."

I readily obeyed her, and we enjoyed an exhilarating drive together.
The rest of the day passed with us all very pleasantly and our
conversation had principally to do with the progress of art and
literature in many lands, and maintained itself equably on the level of
mundane affairs. Among other things, we spoke of the Spanish violinist
Sarasate, and I amused Heliobas by quoting to him some of the
criticisms of the London daily papers on this great artist, such as,
"He plays pieces which, though adapted to show his wonderful skill, are
the veriest clap-trap;" "He lacks breadth and colour;" "A true type of
the artist virtuoso," etc., etc.

"Half these people do not know in the least what they mean by 'breadth
and colour' or 'virtuosity,'" said Heliobas, with a smile. "They think
emotion, passion, all true sentiment combined with extraordinary
TECHNIQUE, must be 'clap-trap.' Now the Continent of Europe
acknowledges Pablo de Sarasate as the first violinist living, and
London would not be London unless it could thrust an obtuse opposing
opinion in the face of the Continent. England is the last country in
the world to accept anything new. Its people are tired and blase; like
highly trained circus-horses, they want to trot or gallop always in the
old grooves. It will always be so. Sarasate is like a brilliant meteor
streaming across their narrow bit of the heaven of music; they stare,
gape, and think it is an unnatural phenomenon--a 'virtuosity' in the
way of meteors, which they are afraid to accept lest it set them on
fire. What would you? The meteor shines and burns; it is always a
meteor!"

So, talking lightly, and gliding from subject to subject, the hours
wore away, and we at last separated for the night.

I shall always be glad to remember how tenderly Zara kissed me and
wished me good repose; and I recall now, with mingled pain, wonder, and
gratitude, how perfectly calm and contented I felt as, after my
prayers, I sank to sleep, unwarned, and therefore happily unconscious,
of what awaited me on the morrow.




CHAPTER XV.

DEATH BY LIGHTNING.


The morning of the next day dawned rather gloomily. A yellowish fog
obscured the air, and there was a closeness and sultriness in the
atmosphere that was strange for that wintry season. I had slept well,
and rose with the general sense of ease and refreshment that I always
experienced since I had been under the treatment of Heliobas. Those
whose unhappy physical condition causes them to awake from uneasy
slumber feeling almost more fatigued than when they retired to rest,
can scarcely have any idea of the happiness it engenders to open
untired, glad eyes with the morning light; to feel the very air a
nourishment; to stand with lithe, rested limbs in the bath of cool,
pure water, finding that limpid element obediently adding its quota to
the vigour of perfect health; to tingle from head to foot with the warm
current of life running briskly through the veins, making the heart
merry, the brain clear, and all the powers of body and mind in active
working condition. This is indeed most absolute enjoyment. Add to it
the knowledge of the existence of one's own inner Immortal Spirit--the
beautiful germ of Light in the fostering of which no labour is ever
taken in vain--the living, wondrous thing that is destined to watch an
eternity of worlds bloom and fade to bloom again, like flowers, while
itself, superior to them all, shall become ever more strong and
radiant--with these surroundings and prospects, who shall say life is
not worth living?

Dear Life! sweet Moment! gracious Opportunity! brief Journey so well
worth the taking! gentle Exile so well worth enduring!--thy bitterest
sorrows are but blessings in disguise; thy sharpest pains are brought
upon us by ourselves, and even then are turned to warnings for our
guidance; while above us, through us, and around us radiates the
Supreme Love, unalterably tender!

These thoughts, and others like them, all more or less conducive to
cheerfulness, occupied me till I had finished dressing. Melancholy was
now no part of my nature, otherwise I might have been depressed by the
appearance of the weather and the murkiness of the air. But since I
learned the simple secrets of physical electricity, atmospheric
influences have had no effect upon the equable poise of my
temperament--a fact for which I cannot be too grateful, seeing how many
of my fellow-creatures permit themselves to be affected by changes in
the wind, intense heat, intense cold, or other things of the like
character.

I went down to breakfast, singing softly on my way, and I found Zara
already seated at the head of her table, while Heliobas was occupied in
reading and sorting a pile of letters that lay beside his plate. Both
greeted me with their usual warmth and heartiness.

During the repast, however, the brother and sister were strangely
silent, and once or twice I fancied that Zara's eyes filled with tears,
though she smiled again so quickly and radiantly that I felt I was
mistaken.

A piece of behaviour on the part of Leo, too, filled me with dismay. He
had been lying quietly at his master's feet for some time, when he
suddenly arose, sat upright, and lifting his nose in air, uttered a
most prolonged and desolate howl. Anything more thoroughly heartbroken
and despairing than that cry I have never heard. After he had concluded
it, the poor animal seemed ashamed of what he had done, and creeping
meekly along, with drooping head and tail, he kissed his master's hand,
then mine, and lastly Zara's. Finally, he went into a distant corner
and lay down again, as if his feelings were altogether too much for him.

"Is he ill?" I asked pityingly.

"I think not," replied Heliobas. "The weather is peculiar
to-day--close, and almost thunderous; dogs are very susceptible to such
changes."

At that moment the page entered bearing a silver salver, on which lay a
letter, which he handed to his master and immediately retired.

Heliobas opened and read it.

"Ivan regrets he cannot dine with us to-day," he said, glancing at his
sister; "he is otherwise engaged. He says, however, that he hopes to
have the pleasure of looking in during the latter part of the evening."

Zara inclined her head gently, and made no other reply.

A few seconds afterwards we rose from table, and Zara, linking her arm
through mine, said:

"I want to have a talk with you while we can be alone. Come to my room."

We went upstairs together, followed by the wise yet doleful Leo, who
seemed determined not to let his mistress out of his sight. When we
arrived at our destination, Zara pushed me gently into an easy-chair,
and seated herself in another one opposite.

"I am going to ask a favour of you," she began; "because I know you
will do anything to please me or Casimir. Is it not so?"

I assured her she might rely upon my observing; with the truest
fidelity any request of hers, small or great.

She thanked me and resumed:

"You know I have been working secretly in my studio for some time past.
I have been occupied in the execution of two designs--one is finished,
and is intended as a gift to Casimir. The other"--she hesitated--"is
incomplete. It is the colossal figure which was veiled when you first
came in to see my little statue of 'Evening'. I made an attempt beyond
my powers--in short, I cannot carry out the idea to my satisfaction.
Now, dear, pay great attention to what I say. I have reason to believe
that I shall be compelled to take a sudden journey--promise me that
when I am gone you will see that unfinished statue completely
destroyed--utterly demolished."

I could not answer her for a minute or two, I was so surprised by her
words.

"Going on a journey, Zara?" I said. "Well, if you are, I suppose you
will soon return home again; and why should your statue be destroyed in
the meantime? You may yet be able to bring it to final perfection."

Zara shook her head and smiled half sadly.

"I told you it was a favour I had to ask of you," she said; "and now
you are unwilling to grant it."

"I am not unwilling--believe me, dearest, I would do anything to please
you," I assured her; "but it seems so strange to me that you should
wish the result of your labour destroyed, simply because you are going
on a journey."

"Strange as it seems, I desire it most earnestly," said Zara;
"otherwise--but if you will not see it done for me, I must preside at
the work of demolition myself, though I frankly confess it would be
most painful to me."

I interrupted her.

"Say no more, Zara!" I exclaimed; "I will do as you wish. When you are
gone, you say--"

"When I am gone," repeated Zara firmly, "and before you yourself leave
this house, you will see that particular statue destroyed. You will
thus do me a very great service."

"Well," I said, "and when are you coming back again? Before I leave
Paris?"

"I hope so--I think so," she replied evasively; "at any rate, we shall
meet again soon."

"Where are you going?" I asked.

She smiled. Such a lovely, glad, and triumphant smile!

"You will know my destination before to-night has passed away," she
answered. "In the meanwhile I have your promise?"

"Most certainly."

She kissed me, and as she did so, a lurid flash caught my eyes and
almost dazzled them. It was a gleam of fiery lustre from the electric
jewel she wore.

The day went on its usual course, and the weather seemed to grow
murkier every hour. The air was almost sultry, and when during the
afternoon I went into the conservatory to gather some of the glorious
Marechal Niel roses that grew there in such perfection, the intense
heat of the place was nearly insupportable. I saw nothing of Heliobas
all day, and, after the morning, very little of Zara. She disappeared
soon after luncheon, and I could not find her in her rooms nor in her
studio, though I knocked at the door several times. Leo, too, was
missing. After being alone for an hour or more, I thought I would pay a
visit to the chapel. But on attempting to carry out this intention I
found its doors locked--an unusual circumstance which rather surprised
me. Fancying that I heard the sound of voices within, I paused to
listen. But all was profoundly silent. Strolling into the hall, I took
up at random from a side-table a little volume of poems, unknown to me,
called "Pygmalion in Cyprus;" and seating myself in one of the
luxurious Oriental easy-chairs near the silvery sparkling fountain, I
began to read. I opened the book I held at "A Ballad of Kisses," which
ran as follows:

   "There are three kisses that I call to mind,
   And I will sing their secrets as I go,--
   The first, a kiss too courteous to be kind,
   Was such a kiss as monks and maidens know,
   As sharp as frost, as blameless as the snow.

  "The second kiss, ah God! I feel it yet,--
   And evermore my soul will loathe the same,--
   The toys and joys of fate I may forget,
   But not the touch of that divided shame;
   It clove my lips--it burnt me like a flame.

  "The third, the final kiss, is one I use
   Morning and noon and night, and not amiss.
   Sorrow be mine if such I do refuse!
   And when I die, be Love enrapt in bliss
   Re-sanctified in heaven by such a kiss!"

This little gem, which I read and re-read with pleasure, was only one
of many in the same collection, The author was assuredly a man of
genius. I studied his word-melodies with intense interest, and noted
with some surprise how original and beautiful were many of his fancies
and similes. I say I noted them with surprise, because he was evidently
a modern Englishman, and yet unlike any other of his writing species.
His name was not Alfred Tennyson, nor Edwin Arnold, nor Matthew Arnold,
nor Austin Dobson, nor Martin Tupper. He was neither plagiarist nor
translator--he was actually an original man. I do not give his name
here, as I consider it the duty of his own country to find him out and
acknowledge him, which, as it is so proud of its literary standing, of
course it will do in due season. On this, my first introduction to his
poems, I became speedily absorbed in them, and was repeating to myself
softly a verse which I remember now:

  "Hers was sweetest of sweet faces,
   Hers the tenderest eyes of all;
   In her hair she had the traces
   Of a heavenly coronal,
   Bringing sunshine to sad places
   Where the sunlight could not fall."

Then I was startled by the sound of a clock striking six. I bethought
myself of the people who were coming to dinner, and decided to go to my
room and dress. Replacing the "Pygmalion" book on the table whence I
had taken it, I made my way upstairs, thinking as I went of Zara and
her strange request, and wondering what journey she was going upon.

I could not come to any satisfactory conclusion on this point, besides,
I had a curious disinclination to think about it very earnestly, though
the subject kept recurring to my mind. Yet always some inward monitor
seemed to assure me, as plainly as though the words were spoken in my
ear:

"It is useless for you to consider the reason of this, or the meaning
of that. Take things as they come in due order: one circumstance
explains the other, and everything is always for the best."

I prepared my Indian crepe dress for the evening, the same I had worn
for Madame Didier's party at Cannes; only, instead of having lilies of
the valley to ornament it with, I arranged some clusters of the
Marechal Niel roses I had gathered from the conservatory--lovely
blossoms, with their dewy pale-gold centres forming perfect cups of
delicious fragrance. These, relieved by a few delicate sprays of the
maiden-hair fern, formed a becoming finish to my simple costume. As I
arrayed myself, and looked at my own reflection in the long mirror, I
smiled out of sheer gratitude. For health, joyous and vigorous,
sparkled in my eyes, glowed on my cheeks, tinted my lips, and rounded
my figure. The face that looked back at me from the glass was a
perfectly happy one, ready to dimple into glad mirth or bright
laughter. No shadow of pain or care remained upon it to remind me of
past suffering, and I murmured half aloud: "Thank God!"

"Amen!" said a soft voice, and, turning round, I saw Zara.

But how shall I describe her? No words can adequately paint the
glorious beauty in which, that night, she seemed to move as in an
atmosphere of her own creating. She wore a clinging robe of the
richest, softest white satin, caught in at the waist by a zone of
pearls--pearls which, from their size and purity, must have been
priceless. Her beautiful neck and arms were bare, and twelve rows of
pearls were clasped round her slender throat, supporting in their
centre the electric stone, which shone with a soft, subdued radiance,
like the light of the young moon. Her rich, dark hair was arranged in
its usual fashion--that is, hanging down in one thick plait, which on
this occasion was braided in and out with small pearls. On her bosom
she wore a magnificent cluster of natural orange-blossoms; and of
these, while I gazed admiringly at her, I first spoke:

"You look like a bride, Zara! You have all the outward signs of
one--white satin, pearls, and orange-blossoms!"

She smiled.

"They are the first cluster that has come out in our conservatory," she
said; "and I could not resist them. As to the pearls, they belonged to
my mother, and are my favourite ornaments; and white satin is now no
longer exclusively for brides. How soft and pretty that Indian crepe
is! Your toilette is charming, and suits you to perfection. Are you
quite ready?"

"Quite," I answered.

She hesitated and sighed. Then she raised her lovely eyes with a sort
of wistful tenderness.

"Before we go down I should like you to kiss me once," she said.

I embraced her fondly, and our lips met with a lingering sisterly
caress.

"You will never forget me, will you?" she asked almost anxiously;
"never cease to think of me kindly?"

"How fanciful you are to-night, Zara dear!" I said. "As if I COULD
forget you! I shall always think of you as the loveliest and sweetest
woman in the world."

"And when I am out of the world--what then?" she pursued.

Remembering her spiritual sympathies, I answered at once:

"Even then I shall know you to be one of the fairest of the angels. So
you see, Zara darling, I shall always love you."

"I think you will," she said meditatively; "you are one of us. But
come! I hear voices downstairs. I think our expected guests have
arrived, and we must be in the drawing-room to receive them. Good-bye,
little friend!" And she again kissed me.

"Good-bye!" I repeated in astonishment; "why 'good-bye'?"

"Because it is my fancy to say the word," she replied with quiet
firmness. "Again, dear little friend, good-bye!"

I felt bewildered, but she would not give me time to utter another
syllable. She took my hand and hurried me with her downstairs, and in
another moment we were both in the drawing-room, receiving and saying
polite nothings to the Everards and Challoners, who had all arrived
together, resplendent in evening costume. Amy Everard, I thought,
looked a little tired and fagged, though she rejoiced in a superb
"arrangement" by Worth of ruby velvet and salmon-pink. But, though a
perfect dress is consoling to most women, there are times when even
that fails of its effect; and then Worth ceases to loom before the
feminine eye as a sort of demi-god, but dwindles insignificantly to the
level of a mere tailor, whose prices are ruinous. And this, I think,
was the state of mind in which Mrs. Everard found herself that evening;
or else she was a trifle jealous of Zara's harmonious grace and
loveliness. Be this as it may, she was irritable, and whisperingly
found fault with, me for being in such good health.

"You will have too much colour if you don't take care," she said almost
pettishly, "and nothing is so unfashionable."

"I know!" I replied with due meekness. "It is very bad style to be
quite well--it is almost improper."

She looked at me, and a glimmering smile lighted her features. But she
would not permit herself to become good-humoured, and she furled and
unfurled her fan of pink ostrich feathers with some impatience.

"Where did that child get all those pearls from?" she next inquired,
with a gesture of her head towards Zara.

"They belonged to her mother," I answered, smiling as I heard Zara
called a CHILD, knowing, as I did, her real age.

"She is actually wearing a small fortune on her person," went on Amy;
"I wonder her brother allows her. Girls never understand the value of
things of that sort. They should be kept for her till she is old enough
to appreciate them."

I made no reply; I was absorbed in watching Heliobas, who at that
moment entered the room accompanied by Father Paul. He greeted his
guests with warmth and unaffected heartiness, and all present were, I
could see, at once fascinated by the dignity of his presence and the
charm of his manner. To an uninstructed eye there was nothing unusual
about him; but to me there was a change in his expression which, as it
were, warned and startled me. A deep shadow of anxiety in his eyes made
them look more sombre and less keen; his smile was not so sweet as it
was stern, and there was an undefinable SOMETHING in his very bearing
that suggested--what? Defiance? Yes, defiance; and it was this which,
when I had realized it, curiously alarmed me. For what had he,
Heliobas, to do with even the thought of defiance? Did not all his
power come from the knowledge of the necessity of obedience to the
spiritual powers within and without? Quick as light the words spoken to
me by Aztul regarding him came back to my remembrance: "Even as he is
my Beloved, so let him not fail to hear my voice." What if he SHOULD
fail? A kind of instinct came upon me that some immediate danger of
this threatened him, and I braced myself up to a firm determination,
that, if this was so, I, out of my deep gratitude to him, would do my
utmost best to warn him in time. While these thoughts possessed me, the
hum of gay conversation went on, and Zara's bright laughter ever and
again broke like music on the air. Father Paul, too, proved himself to
be of quite a festive and jovial disposition, for he made himself
agreeable to Mrs. Challoner and her daughters, and entertained them
with the ease and bonhomie of an accomplished courtier and man of the
world.

Dinner was announced in the usual way--that is, with the sound of music
played by the electric instrument devoted to that purpose, a
performance which elicited much admiration from all the guests.
Heliobas led the way into the dining-room with Mrs. Everard; Colonel
Everard followed, with Zara on one arm and the eldest Miss Challoner on
the other; Mr. Challoner and myself came next; and Father Paul, with
Mrs. Challoner and her other daughter Effie, brought up the rear. There
was a universal murmur of surprise and delight as the dinner-table came
in view; and its arrangement was indeed a triumph of art. In the centre
was placed a large round of crystal in imitation of a lake, and on this
apparently floated a beautiful gondola steered by the figure of a
gondolier, both exquisitely wrought in fine Venetian glass. The
gondolier was piled high with a cargo of roses; but the wonder of it
all was, that the whole design was lit up by electricity. Electric
sparkles, like drops of dew, shone on the leaves of the flowers; the
gondola was lit from end to end with electric stars, which were
reflected with prismatic brilliancy in the crystal below; the
gondolier's long pole glittered with what appeared to be drops of water
tinged by the moonlight, but which was really an electric wire, and in
his cap flashed an electric diamond. The whole ornament scintillated
and glowed like a marvellous piece of curiously contrived jewel-work.
And this was not all. Beside every guest at table a slender vase,
shaped like a long-stemmed Nile lily, held roses and ferns, in which
were hidden tiny electric stars, causing the blossoms to shine with a
transparent and almost fairy-like lustre.

Four graceful youths, clad in the Armenian costume, stood waiting
silently round the table till all present were seated, and then they
commenced the business of serving the viands, with swift and noiseless
dexterity. As soon as the soup was handed round, tongues were loosened,
and the Challoners, who had been gazing at everything in almost
open-mouthed astonishment, began to relieve their feelings by warm
expressions of unqualified admiration, in which Colonel and Mrs.
Everard were not slow to join.

"I do say, and I will say, this beats all I've ever seen," said good
Mrs. Challoner, as she bent to examine the glittering vase of flowers
near her plate.

"And this is real electric light? And is it perfectly harmless?"

Heliobas smilingly assured her of the safety of his table decorations.
"Electricity," he said, "though the most powerful of masters, is the
most docile of slaves. It is capable of the smallest as well as of the
greatest uses. It can give with equal certainty life or death; in fact,
it is the key-note of creation."

"Is that your theory, sir?" asked Colonel Everard.

"It is not only my theory," answered Heliobas, "it is a truth,
indisputable and unalterable, to those who have studied the mysteries
of electric science."

"And do you base all your medical treatment on this principle?" pursued
the Colonel.

"Certainly. Your young friend here, who came to me from Cannes, looking
as if she had but a few months to live, can bear witness to the
efficacy of my method."

Every eye was now turned upon me, and I looked up and laughed.

"Do you remember, Amy," I said, addressing Mrs. Everard, "how you told
me I looked like a sick nun at Cannes? What do I look like now?"

"You look as if you had never been ill in your life," she replied.

"I was going to say," remarked Mr. Challoner in his deliberate manner,
"that you remind me very much of a small painting of Diana that I saw
in the Louvre the other day. You have the same sort of elasticity in
your movements, and the same bright healthy eyes."

I bowed, still smiling. "I did not know you were such a flatterer, Mr.
Challoner! Diana thanks you!"

The conversation now became general, and turned, among other subjects,
upon the growing reputation of Raffaello Cellini.

"What surprises me in that young man," said Colonel Everard, "is his
colouring. It is simply marvellous. He was amiable enough to present me
with a little landscape scene; and the effect of light upon it is so
powerfully done that you would swear the sun was actually shining
through it."

The fine sensitive mouth of Heliobas curved in a somewhat sarcastic
smile.

"Mere trickery, my dear sir--a piece of clap-trap," he said lightly.
"That is what would be said of such pictures--in England at least. And
it WILL be said by many oracular, long-established newspapers, while
Cellini lives. As soon as he is dead--ah! c'est autre chose!--he will
then most probably be acknowledged the greatest master of the age.
There may even be a Cellini 'School of Colouring,' where a select
company of daubers will profess to know the secret that has died with
him. It is the way of the world!"

Mr. Challoner's rugged face showed signs of satisfaction, and his
shrewd eyes twinkled.

"Right you are, sir!" he said, holding up his glass of wine. "I drink
to you! Sir, I agree with you! I calculate there's a good many worlds
flying round in space, but a more ridiculous, feeble-minded, contrary
sort of world than this one, I defy any archangel to find!"

Heliobas laughed, nodded, and after a slight pause resumed:

"It is astonishing to me that people do not see to what an infinite
number of uses they could put the little re-discovery they have made of
LUMINOUS PAINT. In that simple thing there is a secret, which as yet
they do not guess--a wonderful, beautiful, scientific secret, which may
perhaps take them a few hundred years to find out. In the meantime they
have got hold of one end of the thread; they can make luminous paint,
and with it they can paint light-houses, and, what is far more
important--ships. Vessels in mid-ocean will have no more need of
fog-signals and different-coloured lamps; their own coat of paint will
be sufficient to light them safely on their way. Even rooms can be so
painted as to be perfectly luminous at night. A friend of mine,
residing in Italy, has a luminous ballroom, where the ceiling is
decorated with a moon and stars in electric light. The effect is
exceedingly lovely; and though people think a great deal of money must
have been laid out upon it, it is perhaps the only great ballroom in
Italy that has been really cheaply fitted up. But, as I said before,
there is another secret behind the invention or discovery of luminous
paint--a secret which, when once unveiled, will revolutionize all the
schools of art in the world."

"Do you know this secret?" asked Mrs. Challoner.

"Yes, madame--perfectly."

"Then why don't you disclose it for the benefit of everybody?" demanded
Erne Challoner.

"Because, my dear young lady, no one would believe me if I did. The
time is not yet ripe for it. The world must wait till its people are
better educated."

"Better educated!" exclaimed Mrs. Everard. "Why, there is nothing
talked of nowadays but education and progress! The very children are
wiser than their parents!"

"The children!" returned Heliobas, half inquiringly, half indignantly.
"At the rate things are going, there will soon be no children left;
they will all be tired little old men and women before they are in
their teens. The very babes will be born old. Many of them are being
brought up without any faith in God or religion; the result will be an
increase of vice and crime. The purblind philosophers, miscalled wise
men, who teach the children by the light of poor human reason only, and
do away with faith in spiritual things, are bringing down upon the
generations to come an unlooked-for and most terrific curse. Childhood,
the happy, innocent, sweet, unthinking, almost angelic age, at which
Nature would have us believe in fairies and all the delicate aerial
fancies of poets, who are, after all, the only true sages--childhood, I
say, is being gradually stamped out under the cruel iron heel of the
Period--a period not of wisdom, health, or beauty, but one of drunken
delirium, in which the world rushes feverishly along, its eyes fixed on
one hard, glittering, stony-featured idol--Gold. Education! Is it
education to teach the young that their chances of happiness depend on
being richer than their neighbours? Yet that is what it all tends to.
Get on!--be successful! Trample on others, but push forward yourself!
Money, money!--let its chink be your music; let its yellow shine be
fairer than the eyes of love or friendship! Let its piles accumulate
and ever accumulate! There are beggars in the streets, but they are
impostors! There is poverty in many places, but why seek to relieve it?
Why lessen the sparkling heaps of gold by so much as a coin? Accumulate
and ever accumulate! Live so, and then--die! And then--who knows what
then?"

His voice had been full of ringing eloquence as he spoke, but at these
last words it sank into a low, thrilling tone of solemnity and
earnestness. We all looked at him, fascinated by his manner, and were
silent.

Mr. Challoner was the first to break the impressive pause.

"I'm not a speaker, sir," he observed slowly, "but I've got a good deal
of feeling somewheres; and you'll allow me to say that I feel your
words--I think they're right true. I've often wanted to say what you've
said, but haven't seen my way clear to it. Anyhow, I've had a very
general impression about me that what we call Society has of late years
been going, per express service, direct to the devil--if the ladies
will excuse me for plain speaking. And as the journey is being taken by
choice and free-will, I suppose there's no hindrance or stoppage
possible. Besides, it's a downward line, and curiously free from
obstructions."

"Bravo, John!" exclaimed Mrs. Challoner. "You are actually corning out!
I never heard you indulge in similes before."

"Well, my dear," returned her husband, somewhat gratified, "better late
than never. A simile is a good thing if it isn't overcrowded. For
instance, Mr. Swinburne's similes are laid on too thick sometimes.
There is a verse of his, which, with all my admiration for him, I never
could quite fathom. It is where he earnestly desires to be as 'Any leaf
of any tree;' or, failing that, he wouldn't mind becoming 'As bones
under the deep, sharp sea.' I tried hard to see the point of that, but
couldn't fix it."

We all laughed. Zara, I thought, was especially merry, and looked her
loveliest. She made an excellent hostess, and exerted herself to the
utmost to charm--an effort in which she easily succeeded.

The shadow on the face of her brother had not disappeared, and once or
twice I noticed that Father Paul looked at him with a certain kindly
anxiety.

The dinner approached its end. The dessert, with its luxurious dishes
of rare fruit, such as peaches, plantains, hothouse grapes, and even
strawberries, was served, and with it a delicious, sparkling,
topaz-tinted wine of Eastern origin called Krula, which was poured out
to us in Venetian glass goblets, wherein lay diamond-like lumps of ice.
The air was so exceedingly oppressive that evening that we found this
beverage most refreshing. When Zara's goblet was filled, she held it up
smiling, and said:

"I have a toast to propose."

"Hear, hear!" murmured the gentlemen, Heliobas excepted.

"To our next merry meeting!" and as she said this she kissed the rim of
the cup, and made a sign as though wafting it towards her brother.

He started as if from a reverie, seized his glass, and drained off its
contents to the last drop.

Everyone responded with heartiness to Zara's toast and then Colonel
Everard proposed the health of the fair hostess, which was drunk with
enthusiasm.

After this Zara gave the signal, and all the ladies rose to adjourn to
the drawing-room. As I passed Heliobas on my way out, he looked so
sombre and almost threatening of aspect, that I ventured to whisper:

"Remember Azul!"

"She has forgotten ME!" he muttered.

"Never--never!" I said earnestly. "Oh, Heliobas! what is wrong with
you?"

He made no answer, and there was no opportunity to say more, as I had
to follow Zara. But I felt very anxious, though I scarcely knew why,
and I lingered at the door and glanced back at him. As I did so, a low,
rumbling sound, like chariot-wheels rolling afar off, broke suddenly on
our ears.

"Thunder," remarked Mr. Challoner quietly. "I thought we should have
it. It has been unnaturally warm all day. A good storm will clear the
air."

In my brief backward look at Heliobas, I noted that when that
far-distant thunder sounded, he grew very pale. Why? He was certainly
not one to have any dread of a storm--he was absolutely destitute of
fear. I went into the drawing-room with a hesitating step--my instincts
were all awake and beginning to warn me, and I murmured softly a prayer
to that strong, invisible majestic spirit which I knew must be near
me--my guardian Angel. I was answered instantly--my foreboding grew
into a positive certainty that some danger menaced Heliobas, and that
if I desired to be his friend, I must be prepared for an emergency.
Receiving this, as all such impressions should be received, as a direct
message sent me for my guidance, I grew calmer, and braced up my
energies to oppose SOMETHING, though I knew not what.

Zara was showing her lady-visitors a large album of Italian
photographs, and explaining them as she turned the leaves. As I entered
the room, she said eagerly to me:

"Play to us, dear! Something soft and plaintive. We all delight in your
music, you know."

"Did you hear the thunder just now?" I asked irrelevantly.

"It WAS thunder? I thought so!" said Mrs. Everard. "Oh, I do hope there
is not going to be a storm! I am so afraid of a storm!"

"You are nervous?" questioned Zara kindly, as she engaged her attention
with some very fine specimens among the photographs, consisting of
views from Venice.

"Well, I suppose I am," returned Amy, half laughing. "Yet I am plucky
about most things, too. Still I don't like to hear the elements
quarrelling together--they are too much in earnest about it--and no
person can pacify them."

Zara smiled, and gently repeated her request to me for some music--a
request in which Mrs. Challoner and her daughters eagerly joined. As I
went to the piano I thought of Edgar Allan Poe's exquisite poem:

  "In Heaven a spirit doth dwell,
   Whose heart-strings are a lute;
   None sing so wildly well
   As the angel Israfel,
   And the giddy stars, so legends tell,
   Ceasing their hymns, attend the spell
   Of his voice--all mute."

As I poised my fingers above the keys of the instrument, another long,
low, ominous roll of thunder swept up from the distance and made the
room tremble.

"Play--play, for goodness' sake!" exclaimed Mrs. Everard; "and then we
shall not be obliged to fix our attention on the approaching storm!"

I played a few soft opening arpeggio passages, while Zara seated
herself in an easy-chair near the window, and the other ladies arranged
themselves on sofas and ottomans to their satisfaction. The room was
exceedingly close: and the scent of the flowers that were placed about
in profusion was almost too sweet and overpowering.

  "And they say (the starry choir
   And the other listening things)
   That Israfeli's fire
   Is owing to that lyre,
   By which lie sits and sings,--
   The trembling living wire
   Of those unusual strings."

How these verses haunted me! With them floating in my mind, I
played--losing myself in mazes of melody, and travelling harmoniously
in and out of the different keys with that sense of perfect joy known
only to those who can improvise with ease, and catch the unwritten
music of nature, which always appeals most strongly to emotions that
are unspoilt by contact with the world, and which are quick to respond
to what is purely instinctive art. I soon became thoroughly absorbed,
and forgot that there were any persons present. In fancy I imagined
myself again in view of the glory of the Electric Ring--again I seemed
to behold the opaline radiance of the Central Sphere:

  "Where Love's a grown-up God,
   Where the Houri glances are
   Imbued with all the beauty
   Which we worship in a star."

By-and-by I found my fingers at the work of tenderly unravelling a
little skein of major melody, as soft and childlike as the innocent
babble of a small brooklet flowing under ferns. I followed this airy
suggestion obediently, till it led me of itself to its fitting end,
when I ceased playing. I was greeted by a little burst of applause, and
looking up, saw that all the gentlemen had come in from the
dining-room, and were standing near me. The stately figure of Heliobas
was the most prominent in the group; he stood erect, one hand resting
lightly on the framework of the piano, and his eyes met mine fixedly.

"You were inspired," he said with a grave smile, addressing me; "you
did not observe our entrance."

I was about to reply, when a loud, appalling crash of thunder rattled
above us, as if some huge building had suddenly fallen into ruins. It
startled us all into silence for a moment, and we looked into each
other's faces with a certain degree of awe.

"That was a good one," remarked Mr. Challoner. "There was nothing
undecided about that clap. Its mind was made up."

Zara suddenly rose from her seat, and drew aside the window-curtains.

"I wonder if it is raining," she said.

Amy Everard uttered a little shriek of dismay.

"Oh, don't open the blinds!" she exclaimed. "It is really dangerous!"

Heliobas glanced at her with a little sarcastic smile.

"Take a seat on the other side of the room, if you are alarmed,
madame," he said quietly, placing a chair in the position he suggested,
which Amy accepted eagerly.

She would, I believe, have gladly taken refuge in the coal-cellar had
he offered it. Zara, in the meantime, who had not heard Mrs. Everard's
exclamation of fear, had drawn up one of the blinds, and stood silently
looking out upon the night. Instinctively we all joined her, with the
exception of Amy, and looked out also. The skies were very dark; a
faint moaning wind stirred the tops of the leafless trees; but there
was no rain. A dry volcanic heat pervaded the atmosphere--in fact we
all felt the air so stifling, that Heliobas threw open the window
altogether, saying, as he did so:

"In a thunderstorm, it is safer to have the windows open than shut;
besides, one cannot suffocate."

A brilliant glare of light flashed suddenly upon our vision. The
heavens seemed torn open from end to end, and a broad lake of pale blue
fire lay quivering in the heart of the mountainous black clouds--for a
second only. An on-rushing, ever-increasing, rattling roar of thunder
ensued, that seemed to shake the very earth, and all was again darkness.

"This is magnificent!" cries Mrs. Challoner, who, with her family, had
travelled a great deal, and was quite accustomed to hurricanes and
other inconveniences caused by the unaccommodating behaviour of the
elements. "I don't think I ever saw anything like it, John dear, even
that storm we saw at Chamounix was not any better than this."

"Well," returned her husband meditatively, "you see we had the snow
mountains there, and the effect was pretty lively. Then there were the
echoes--those cavernous echoes were grand! What was that passage in
Job, Effie, that I used to say they reminded me of?"

"'The pillars of heaven tremble, and are astonished at His reproof ...
The thunder of His power, who can understand?'" replied Effie Challoner
reverently.

"That's it!" he replied. "I opine that Job was pretty correct in his
ideas--don't you, reverend sir?" turning to Father Paul.

The priest nodded, and held up his finger warningly.

"That lady--Mrs. Everard--is going to sing or play, I think," he
observed. "Shall we not keep silence?"

I looked towards Amy in some surprise. I knew she sang very prettily,
but I had thought she was rendered too nervous by the storm to do aught
but sit quiet in her chair. However, there she was at the piano, and in
another moment her fresh, sweet mezzo-soprano rang softly through the
room in Tosti's plaintive song, "Good-bye!" We listened, but none of us
moved from the open window where we still inhaled what air there was,
and watched the lowering sky.

   "Hush! a voice from the far-away,
   'Listen and learn,' it seems to say;
   'All the to-morrows shall be as to-day,'"

sang Amy with pathetic sweetness. Zara suddenly moved, as if oppressed,
from her position among us as we stood clustered together, and stepped
out through the French window into the outside balcony, her head
uncovered to the night.

"You will catch cold!" Mrs. Challoner and I both called to her
simultaneously. She shook her head, smiling back at us; and folding her
arms lightly on the stone balustrade, leaned there and looked up at the
clouds.

  "The link must break, and the lamp must die;
   Good-bye to Hope! Good-bye--good-bye!"

Amy's voice was a peculiarly thrilling one, and on this occasion
sounded with more than its usual tenderness. What with her singing and
the invisible presence of the storm, an utter silence possessed us--not
one of us cared to move.

Heliobas once stepped to his sister's side in the open balcony, and
said something, as I thought, to warn her against taking cold; but it
was a very brief whisper, and he almost immediately returned to his
place amongst us. Zara looked very lovely out there; the light coming
from the interior of the room glistened softly on the sheen of her
satin dress and its ornaments of pearls; and the electric stone on her
bosom shone faintly, like a star on a rainy evening. Her beautiful
face, turned upwards to the angry sky, was half in light and half in
shade; a smile parted her lips, and her eyes were bright with a look of
interest and expectancy. Another sudden glare, and the clouds were
again broken asunder; but this time in a jagged and hasty manner, as
though a naked sword had been thrust through them and immediately
withdrawn.

"That was a nasty flash," said Colonel Everard, with an observant
glance at the lovely Juliet-like figure on the balcony. "Mademoiselle,
had you not better come in?"

"When it begins to rain I will come in," she said, without changing her
posture. "I hear the singing so well out here. Besides, I love the
storm."

A tumultuous crash of thunder, tremendous for its uproar and the length
of time it was prolonged, made us look at each other again with anxious
faces.

  "What are we waiting for? Oh, my heart!
   Kiss me straight on the brows and part!
   Again! again, my heart, my heart!
   What are we waiting for, you and I?
   A pleading look--a stifled cry!
   Good-bye for ever---"

Horror! what was that? A lithe swift serpent of fire twisting
venomously through the dark heavens! Zara raised her arms, looked up,
smiled, and fell--senseless! With such appalling suddenness that we had
scarcely recovered from the blinding terror of that forked
lightning-flash, when we saw her lying prone before us on the balcony
where one instant before she had stood erect and smiling! With
exclamations of alarm and distress we lifted and bore her within the
room and laid her tenderly down upon the nearest sofa. At that moment a
deafening, terrific thunder-clap--one only--as if a huge bombshell had
burst in the air, shook the ground under our feet; and then with a
swish and swirl of long pent-up and suddenly-released wrath, down came
the rain.

Amy's voice died away in a last "Good-bye!" and she rushed from the
piano, with pale face and trembling lips, gasping out:

"What has happened? What is the matter?"

"She has been stunned by a lightning-flash," I said, trying to speak
calmly, while I loosened Zara's dress and sprinkled her forehead with
eau-de-Cologne from a scent-bottle Mrs. Challoner had handed to me.
"She will recover in a few minutes."

But my limbs trembled under me, and tears, in spite of myself, forced
their way into my eyes.

Heliobas meanwhile--his countenance white and set as a marble
mask--shut the window fiercely, pulled down the blind, and drew the
heavy silken curtains close. He then approached his sister's senseless
form, and, taking her wrist tenderly, felt for her pulse. We looked on
in the deepest anxiety. The Challoner girls shivered with terror, and
began to cry. Mrs. Everard, with more self-possession, dipped a
handkerchief in cold water and laid it on Zara's temples; but no faint
sigh parted the set yet smiling lips--no sign of life was visible. All
this while the rain swept down in gusty torrents and rattled furiously
against the window-panes; while the wind, no longer a moan, had risen
into a shriek, as of baffled yet vindictive anger. At last Heliobas
spoke.

"I should be glad of other medical skill than my own," he said, in low
and stifled accents. "This may be a long fainting-fit."

Mr. Challoner at once proffered his services.

"I'll go for you anywhere you like," he said cheerily; "and I think my
wife and daughters had better come with me. Our carriage is sure to be
in waiting. It will be necessary for the lady to have perfect quiet
when she recovers, and visitors are best away. You need not be alarmed,
I am sure. By her colour it is evident she is only in a swoon. What
doctor shall I send?"

Heliobas named one Dr. Morini, 10, Avenue de l'Alma.

"Right! He shall be here straight. Come, wife--come, girls! Mrs.
Everard, we'll send back our carriage for you and the Colonel.
Good-night! We'll call to-morrow and inquire after mademoiselle."

Heliobas gratefully pressed his hand as he withdrew, and his wife and
daughters, with whispered farewells, followed him. We who were left
behind all remained near Zara, doing everything we could think of to
restore animation to that senseless form.

Some of the servants, too, hearing what had happened, gathered in a
little cluster at the drawing-room door, looking with pale and alarmed
faces at the death-like figure of their beautiful mistress. Half an
hour or more must have passed in this manner; within the room there was
a dreadful silence--but outside the rain poured down in torrents, and
the savage wind howled and tore at the windows like a besieging army.
Suddenly Amy Everard, who had been quietly and skilfully assisting me
in rubbing Zara's hands and bathing her forehead, grew faint,
staggered, and would have fallen had not her husband caught her on his
arm.

"I am frightened," she gasped. "I cannot bear it--she looks so still,
and she is growing--rigid, like a corpse! Oh, if she should be dead!"
And she hid her face on her husband's breast.

At that moment we heard the grating of wheels on the gravel outside; it
was the Challoners' carriage returned. The coachman, after depositing
his master and family at the Grand Hotel, had driven rapidly back in
the teeth of the stinging sleet and rain to bring the message that Dr.
Morini would be with us as soon as possible.

"Then," whispered Colonel Everard gently to me, "I'll take Amy home.
She is thoroughly upset, and it's no use having her going off into
hysterics. I'll call with Challoner to-morrow;" and with a kindly
parting nod of encouragement to us all, he slipped softly out of the
room, half leading, half carrying his trembling wife; and in a couple
of minutes we heard the carriage again drive away.

Left alone at last with Heliobas and Father Paul, I, kneeling at the
side of my darling Zara, looked into their faces for comfort, but found
none. The dry-eyed despair on the countenance of Heliobas pierced me to
the heart; the pitying, solemn expression of the venerable priest
touched me as with icy cold. The lovely, marble-like whiteness and
stillness of the figure before me filled me with a vague terror. Making
a strong effort to control my voice, I called, in a low, clear tone:

"Zara! Zara!"

No sign--not the faintest flicker of an eyelash! Only the sound of the
falling rain and the moaning wind--the thunder had long ago ceased.
Suddenly a something attracted my gaze, which first surprised and then
horrified me. The jewel--the electric stone on Zara's bosom no longer
shone! It was like a piece of dull unpolished pebble. Grasping at the
meaning of this, with overwhelming instinctive rapidity, I sprang up
and caught the arm of Heliobas.

"You--you!" I whispered hurriedly. "YOU can restore her! Do as you did
with Prince Ivan; you can--you must! That stone she wears--the light
has gone out of it. If that means--and I am sure it does--that life has
for a little while gone out of HER, YOU can bring it back.
Quick--Quick! You have the power!"

He looked at me with burning grief-haunted eyes; and a sigh that was
almost a groan escaped his lips.

"I have NO power," he said. "Not over her. I told you she was dominated
by a higher force than mine. What can _I_ do? Nothing--worse than
nothing--I am utterly helpless."

I stared at him in a kind of desperate horror.

"Do you mean to tell me," I said slowly, "that she is dead--really
dead?"

He was about to answer, when one of the watching servants announced in
a low tone: "Dr. Morini."

The new-comer was a wiry, keen-eyed little Italian; his movements were
quick, decisive, and all to the point of action. The first thing he did
was to scatter the little group of servants right and left, and send
them about their business. The next, to close the doors of the room
against all intrusion. He then came straight up to Heliobas, and
pressing his hand in a friendly manner, said briefly:

"How and when did this happen?"

Heliobas told him in as few words as possible. Dr. Morini then bent
over Zara's lifeless form, and examined her features attentively. He
laid his car against her heart and listened. Finally, he caught sight
of the round, lustreless pebble hanging at her neck suspended by its
strings of pearls. Very gently he moved this aside; looked, and
beckoned us to come and look also. Exactly on the spot where the
electric stone had rested, a small circular mark, like a black bruise,
tainted the fair soft skin--a mark no larger than a small finger-ring.

"Death by electricity," said Dr. Morini quietly. "Must have been
instantaneous. The lightning-flash, or downward electric current,
lodged itself here, where this mark is, and passed directly through the
heart. Perfectly painless, but of course fatal. She has been dead some
time."

And, replacing the stone ornament in its former position, he stepped
back with a suggestive glance at Father Paul. I listened and saw--but I
was in a state of stupefaction. Dead? My beautiful, gay, strong Zara
DEAD? Impossible! I knelt beside her; I called her again and again by
every endearing and tender name I could think of; I kissed her sweet
lips. Oh, they were cold as ice, and chilled my blood! As one in a
dream, I saw Heliobas advance; he kissed her forehead and mouth; he
reverently unclasped the pearls from about her throat, and with them
took off the electric stone. Then Father Paul stepped slowly forward,
and in place of that once brilliant gem, now so dim and destitute of
fire, he laid a crucifix upon the fair and gentle breast, motionless
for ever.

At sight of this sacred symbol, some tense cord seemed to snap in my
brain, and I cried out wildly:

"Oh, no, no! Not that! That is for the dead; Zara is not dead! It is
all a mistake--a mistake! She will be quite well presently; and she
will smile and tell you how foolish you were to think her dead! Dead?
She cannot be dead; it is impossible--quite impossible!" And I broke
into a passion of sobs and tears.

Very gently and kindly Dr. Morini drew me away, and by dint of friendly
persuasion, in which there was also a good deal of firm determination,
led me into the hall, where he made me swallow a glass of wine. As I
could not control my sobs, he spoke with some sternness:

"Mademoiselle, you can do no good by giving way in this manner. Death
is a very beautiful and solemn thing, and it is irreverent to show
unseemly passion in such a great Presence. You loved your friend--let
it be a comfort to you that she died painlessly. Control yourself, in
order to assist in rendering her the last few gentle services
necessary; and try to console the desolate brother, who looks in real
need of encouragement."

These last words roused me. I forced back my tears, and dried my eyes.

"I will, Dr. Morini," I said, in a trembling voice. "I am ashamed to be
so weak. I know what I ought to do, and I will do it. You may trust me."

He looked at me approvingly.

"That is well," he said briefly. "And now, as I am of no use here, I
will say good-night. Remember, excessive grief is mere selfishness;
resignation is heroism."

He was gone. I nerved myself to the task I had before me, and within an
hour the fair casket of what had been Zara lay on an open bier in the
little chapel, lights burning round it, and flowers strewn above it in
mournful profusion.

We left her body arrayed in its white satin garb; the cluster of
orange-blossoms she had gathered still bloomed upon the cold breast,
where the crucifix lay; but in the tresses of the long dark hair I wove
a wreath of lilies instead of the pearls we had undone.

And now I knelt beside the bier absorbed in thought. Some of the
weeping servants had assembled, and knelt about in little groups. The
tall candles on the altar were lit, and Father Paul, clad in mourning
priestly vestments, prayed there in silence. The storm of rain and wind
still raged without, and the windows of the chapel shook and rattled
with the violence of the tempest.

A distant clock struck ONE! with a deep clang that echoed throughout
the house. I shuddered. So short a time had elapsed since Zara had been
alive and well; now, I could not bear to think that she was gone from
me for ever. For ever, did I say? No, not for ever--not so long as love
exists--love that shall bring us together again in that far-off Sphere
where---

Hush! what was that? The sound of the organ? I looked around me in
startled wonderment. There was no one seated at the instrument; it was
shut close. The lights on the altar and round the bier burnt steadily;
the motionless figure of the priest before the tabernacle; the praying
servants of the household--all was unchanged. But certainly a flood of
music rolled grandly on the ear--music that drowned for a moment the
howling noise of the battering wind. I rose softly, and touched one of
the kneeling domestics on the shoulder.

"Did you hear the organ?" I said.

The woman looked up at me with tearful, alarmed eyes.

"No, mademoiselle."

I paused, listening. The music grew louder and louder, and surged round
me in waves of melody. Evidently no one in the chapel heard it but
myself. I looked about for Heliobas, but he had not entered. He was
most probably in his study, whither he had retired to grieve in secret
when we had borne Zara's body to its present couch of dreamless sleep.

These sounds were meant for me alone, then? I waited, and the music
gradually died away; and as I resumed my kneeling position by the bier
all was again silence, save for the unabated raging of the storm.

A strange calmness now fell on my spirits. Some invisible hand seemed
to hold me still and tearless. Zara was dead. I realized it now. I
began to consider that she must have known her fate beforehand. This
was what she had meant when she said she was going on a journey. The
more I thought of this the quieter I became, and I hid my face in my
hands and prayed earnestly.

A touch roused me--an imperative, burning touch. An airy brightness,
like a light cloud with sunshine falling through it, hovered above
Zara's bier! I gazed breathlessly; I could not move my lips to utter a
sound. A face looked at me--a face angelically beautiful! It smiled. I
stretched out my hands; I struggled for speech, and managed to whisper:

"Zara, Zara! you have come back!"

Her voice, so sweetly familiar, answered me: "To life? Ah, never, never
again! I am too happy to return. But save him--save my brother! Go to
him; he is in danger; to you is given the rescue. Save him; and for me
rejoice, and grieve no more!"

The face vanished, the brightness faded, and I sprang up from my knees
in haste. For one instant I looked at the beautiful dead body of the
friend I loved, with its set mouth and placid features, and then I
smiled. This was not Zara--SHE was alive and happy; this fair clay was
but clay doomed to perish, but SHE was imperishable.

"Save him--save my brother!" These words rang in my ears. I hesitated
no longer--I determined to seek Heliobas at once. Swiftly and
noiselessly I slipped out of the chapel. As the door swung behind me I
heard a sound that first made me stop in sudden alarm, and then hurry
on with increased eagerness. There was no mistaking it--it was the
clash of steel!




CHAPTER XVI.

A STRUGGLE FOR THE MASTERY.


I rushed to the study-door, tore aside the velvet hangings, and faced
Heliobas and Prince Ivan Petroffsky. They held drawn weapons, which
they lowered at my sudden entrance, and paused irresolutely.

"What are you doing?" I cried, addressing myself to Heliobas. "With the
dead body of your sister in the house you can fight! You, too!" and I
looked reproachfully at Prince Ivan; "you also can desecrate the
sanctity of death, and yet--you LOVED her!"

The Prince spoke not, but clenched his sword-hilt with a fiercer grasp,
and glared wildly on his opponent. His eyes had a look of madness in
them--his dress was much disordered--his hair wet with drops of
rain--his face ghastly white, and his whole demeanour was that of a man
distraught with grief and passion. But he uttered no word. Heliobas
spoke; he was coldly calm, and balanced his sword lightly on his open
hand as if it were a toy.

"This GENTLEMAN," he said, with deliberate emphasis, "happened, on his
way thither, to meet Dr. Morini, who informed him of the fatal
catastrophe which has caused my sister's death. Instead of respecting
the sacredness of my solitude under the circumstances, he thrust
himself rudely into my presence, and, before I could address him,
struck me violently in the face, and accused me of being my sister's
murderer. Such conduct can only meet with one reply. I gave him his
choice of weapons: he chose swords. Our combat has just begun--we are
anxious to resume it; therefore if you, mademoiselle, will have the
goodness to retire---"

I interrupted him.

"I shall certainly not retire," I said firmly. "This behaviour on both
your parts is positive madness. Prince Ivan, please to listen to me.
The circumstances of Zara's death were plainly witnessed by me and
others--her brother is as innocent of having caused it as I am."

And I recounted to him quietly all that had happened during that fatal
and eventful evening. He listened moodily, tracing out the pattern of
the carpet with the point of his sword. When I had finished he looked
up, and a bitter smile crossed his features.

"I wonder, mademoiselle," he said, "that your residence in this
accursed house has not taught you better. I quite believe all you say,
that Zara, unfortunate girl that she was, received her death by a
lightning-flash. But answer me this: Who made her capable of attracting
atmospheric electricity? Who charged her beautiful delicate body with a
vile compound of electrical fluid, so that she was as a living magnet,
bound to draw towards herself electricity in all its forms? Who
tampered with her fine brain and made her imagine herself allied to a
spirit of air? Who but HE--HE!--yonder unscrupulous wretch!--he who in
pursuit of his miserable science, practised his most dangerous
experiments on his sister, regardless of her health, her happiness, her
life! I say he is her murderer--her remorseless murderer, and a
thrice-damned villain!"

And he sprang forward to renew the combat. I stepped quietly,
unflinchingly between him and Heliobas.

"Stop!" I exclaimed; "this cannot go on. Zara herself forbids it!"

The Prince paused, and looked at me in a sort of stupefaction.

"Zara forbids it!" he muttered. "What do you mean?"

"I mean," I went on, "that I have seen Zara since her death; I have
spoken to her. She herself sent me here."

Prince Ivan stared, and then burst into a fit of wild laughter.

"Little fool!" he cried to me; "he has maddened you too, then! You are
also a victim! Miserable girl! out of my path! Revenge--revenge! while
I am yet sane!"

Then pushing me roughly aside, he cast away his sword, and shouted to
Heliobas:

"Hand to hand, villain! No more of these toy-weapons! Hand to hand!"

Heliobas instantly threw down his sword also, and rushing forward
simultaneously, they closed together in savage conflict. Heliobas was
the taller and more powerful of the two, but Prince Ivan seemed imbued
with the spirit of a hundred devils, and sprang at his opponent's
throat with the silent breathless ferocity of a tiger. At first
Heliobas appeared to be simply on the defensive, and his agile, skilful
movements were all used to parry and ward off the other's grappling
eagerness. But as I watched the struggle, myself speechless and
powerless, I saw his face change. Instead of its calm and almost
indifferent expression, there came a look which was completely foreign
to it--a look of savage determination bordering on positive cruelty. In
a moment I saw what was taking place in his mind. The animal passions
of the mere MAN were aroused--the spiritual force was utterly
forgotten. The excitement of the contest was beginning to tell, and the
desire of victory was dominant in the breast of him whose ideas were
generally--and should have been now--those of patient endurance and
large generosity. The fight grew closer, hotter, and more terrible.
Suddenly the Prince swerved aside and fell, and within a second
Heliobas held him down, pressing one knee firmly against his chest.
From my point of observation I noted with alarm that little by little
Ivan ceased his violent efforts to rise, and that he kept his eyes
fixed on the overshadowing face of his foe with an unnatural and
curious pertinacity. I stepped forward. Heliobas pressed his whole
weight heavily down on the young man's prostrate body, while with both
hands he held him by the shoulders, and gazed with terrific meaning
into his fast-paling countenance. Ivan's lips turned blue; his eyes
appeared to start from their sockets; his throat rattled. The spell
that held me silent was broken; a flash of light, a flood of memory
swept over my intelligence. I knew that Heliobas was exciting the whole
battery of his inner electric force, and that thus employed for the
purposes of vengeance, it must infallibly cause death. I found my
speech at last.

"Heliobas!" I cried "Remember, remember Azul! When Death lies like a
gift in your hand, withhold it. Withhold it, Heliobas; and give Life
instead!"

He started at the sound of my voice, and looked up. A strong shudder
shook his frame. Very slowly, very reluctantly, he relaxed his
position; he rose from his kneeling posture on the Prince's breast--he
left him and stood upright. Ivan at the same moment heaved a deep sigh,
and closed his eyes, apparently insensible.

Gradually one by one the hard lines faded out of the face of Heliobas,
and his old expression of soft and grave beneficence came back to it as
graciously as sunlight after rain. He turned to me, and bent his head
in a sort of reverential salutation.

"I thank and bless you," he said; "you reminded me in time! Another
moment and it would have been too late. You have saved me."

"Give him his life," I said, pointing to Ivan.

"He has it," returned Heliobas; "I have not taken it from him, thank
God! He provoked me; I regret it. I should have been more patient with
him. He will revive immediately. I leave him to your care. In dealing
with him, I ought to have remembered that human passion like his,
unguided by spiritual knowledge, was to be met with pity and
forbearance. As it is, however, he is safe. For me, I will go and pray
for Zara's pardon, and that of my wronged Azul."

As he uttered the last words, he started, looked up, and smiled.

"My beautiful one! Thou HAST pardoned me? Thou wilt love me still? Thou
art with me, Azul, my beloved? I have not lost thee, oh my best and
dearest! Wilt thou lead me? Whither? Nay--no matter whither--I come!"

And as one walking in sleep, he went out of the room, and I heard his
footsteps echoing in the distance on the way to the chapel.

Left alone with the Prince, I snatched a glass of cold water from the
table, and sprinkled some of it on his forehead and hands. This was
quite sufficient to revive him; and he drew a long breath, opened his
eyes, and stared wildly about him. Seeing no one but me he grew
bewildered, and asked:

"What has happened?"

Then catching sight of the drawn swords lying still on the ground where
they had been thrown, he sprang to his feet, and cried:

"Where is the coward and murderer?"

I made him sit down and hear with patience what I had to say. I
reminded him that Zara's health and happiness had always been perfect,
and that her brother would rather have slain himself than her. I told
him plainly that Zara had expected her death, and had prepared for
it--had even bade me good-bye, although then I had not understood the
meaning of her words. I recalled to his mind the day when Zara had used
her power to repulse him.

"Disbelieve as you will in electric spiritual force," I said. "Your
message to her then through me was--TELL HER I HAVE SEEN HER LOVER."

At these words a sombre shadow flitted over the Prince's face.

"I tell you," he said slowly, "that I believe I was on that occasion
the victim of an hallucination. But I will explain to you what I saw. A
superb figure, like, and yet unlike, a man, but of a much larger and
grander form, appeared to me, as I thought, and spoke. 'Zara is mine,'
it said--'mine by choice; mine by freewill; mine till death; mine after
death; mine through eternity. With her thou hast naught in common; thy
way lies elsewhere. Follow the path allotted to thee, and presume no
more upon an angel's patience.' Then this Strange majestic-looking
creature, whose face, as I remember it, was extraordinarily beautiful,
and whose eyes were like self-luminous stars, vanished. But, after all,
what of it? The whole thing was a dream."

"I am not so sure of that," I said quietly, "But, Prince Ivan, now that
you are calmer and more capable of resignation, will you tell me why
you loved Zara?"

"Why!" he broke out impetuously. "Why, because it was impossible to
help loving her."

"That is no answer," I replied. "Think! You can reason well if you
like--I have heard you hold your own in an argument. What made you love
Zara?"

He looked at me in a sort of impatient surprise, but seeing I was very
much in earnest, he pondered a minute or so before replying.

"She was the loveliest woman I have ever seen!" he said at last, and in
his voice there was a sound of yearning and regret.

"Is THAT all?" I queried, with a gesture of contempt. "Because her body
was beautiful--because she had sweet kissing lips and a soft skin;
because her hand was like a white flower, and her dark hair clustering
over her brow reminded one of a misty evening cloud hiding moonlight;
because the glance of her glorious eyes made the blood leap through
your veins and sting you with passionate desire--are these the reasons
of your so-called love? Oh, give it some other and lower name! For the
worms shall feed on the fair flesh that won your admiration--their wet
and slimy bodies shall trail across the round white arms and tender
bosom--unsightly things shall crawl among the tresses of the glossy
hair; and nothing, nothing shall remain of what you loved, but dust.
Prince Ivan, you shudder; but I too loved Zara--I loved HER, not the
perishable casket in which, like a jewel, she was for a time enshrined.
I love her still--and for the being I love there is no such thing as
death."

The Prince was silent, and seemed touched. I had spoken with real
feeling, and tears of emotion stood in my eyes.

"I loved her as a man generally loves," he said, after a little pause.
"Nay--more than most men love most women!"

"Most men are too often selfish in both their loves and hatreds," I
returned. "Tell me if there was anything in Zara's mind and
intelligence to attract you? Did you sympathize in her pursuits; did
you admire her tastes; had you any ideas in common with her?"

"No, I confess I had not," he answered readily. "I considered her to be
entirely a victim to her brother's scientific experiments. I thought,
by making her my wife, to release her from such tyranny and give her
rescue and refuge. To this end I found out all I could from--HIM"--he
approached the name of Heliobas with reluctance--"and I made up my mind
that her delicate imagination had been morbidly excited; but that
marriage and a life like that led by other women would bring her to a
more healthy state of mind."

I smiled with a little scorn.

"Your presumption was almost greater than your folly, Prince," I said,
"that with such ideas as these in your mind you could dream of winning
Zara for a wife. Do you think she could have led a life like that of
other women? A frivolous round of gaiety, a few fine dresses and
jewels, small-talk, society scandal, stale compliments--you think such
things would have suited HER? And would she have contented herself with
a love like yours? Come! Come and see how well she has escaped you!"

And I beckoned him towards the door. He hesitated.

"Where would you take me?" he asked.

"To the chapel. Zara's body lies there."

He shuddered.

"No, no--not there! I cannot bear to look upon her perished
loveliness--to see that face, once so animated, white and rigid--death
in such a form is too horrible!"

And he covered his eyes with his hand--I saw tears slowly drop through
his fingers. I gazed at him, half in wonder, half in pity.

"And yet you are a brave man!" I said.

These words roused him. He met my gaze with such a haggard look of woe
that my heart ached for him. What comfort had he now? What joy could he
ever expect? All his happiness was centred in the fact of BEING
ALIVE--alive to the pleasures of living, and to the joys the world
could offer to a man who was strong, handsome, rich, and
accomplished--how could he look upon death as otherwise than a
loathsome thing--a thing not to be thought of in the heyday of youthful
blood and jollity--a doleful spectre, in whose bony hands the roses of
love must fall and wither! With a sense of deep commiseration in me, I
spoke again with great gentleness.

"You need not look upon Zara's corpse unless you wish it, Prince," I
said. "To you, the mysteries of the Hereafter have not been unlocked,
because there is something in your nature that cannot and will not
believe in God. Therefore to you, death must be repellent. I know you
are one of those for whom the present alone exists--you easily forget
the past, and take no trouble for the future. Paris is your heaven, or
St. Petersburg, or Vienna, as the fancy takes you; and the modern
atheistical doctrines of French demoralization are in your blood.
Nothing but a heaven-sent miracle could make you other than you are,
and miracles do not exist for the materialist. But let me say two words
more before you go from this house. Seek no more to avenge yourself for
your love-disappointment on Heliobas--for you have really nothing to
avenge. By your own confession you only cared for Zara's body--that
body was always perishable, and it has perished by a sudden but natural
catastrophe. With her soul, you declare you had nothing in common--that
was herself--and she is alive to us who love her as she sought to be
loved. Heliobas is innocent of having slain her body; he but helped to
cultivate and foster that beautiful Spirit which he knew to be HER--for
that he is to be honored and commended. Promise me, therefore, Prince
Ivan, that you will never approach him again except in
friendship--indeed, you owe him an apology for your unjust accusation,
as also your gratitude for his sparing your life in the recent
struggle."

The Prince kept his eyes steadily fixed upon me all the time I was
speaking, and as I finished, he sighed and moved restlessly.

"Your words are compelling, mademoiselle," he said; "and you have a
strange attraction for me. I know I am not wrong in thinking that you
are a disciple of Heliobas, whose science I admit, though I doubt his
theories. I promise you willingly what you ask--nay, I will even offer
him my hand if he will accept it."

Overjoyed at my success, I answered: "He is in the chapel, but I will
fetch him here."

Over the Prince's face a shadow of doubt, mingled with dread, passed
swiftly, and he seemed to be forming a resolve in his own mind which
was more or less distasteful to him. Whatever the feeling was he
conquered it by a strong effort, and said with firmness:

"No; I will go to him myself. And I will look again upon--upon the face
I loved. It is but one pang the more, and why should I not endure it?"

Seeing him thus inclined, I made no effort to dissuade him, and without
another word I led the way to the chapel. I entered it reverently, he
following me closely, with slow hushed footsteps. All was the same as I
had left it, save that the servants of the household had gone to take
some needful rest before the morning light called them to their daily
routine of labour. Father Paul, too, had retired, and Heliobas alone
knelt beside all that remained of Zara, his figure as motionless as
though carved in bronze, his face hidden in his hands. As we
approached, he neither stirred nor looked up, therefore I softly led
the Prince to the opposite side of the bier, that he might look quietly
on the perished loveliness that lay there at rest for ever. Ivan
trembled, yet steadfastly gazed at the beautiful reposeful form, at the
calm features on which the smile with which death had been received,
still lingered--at the folded hands, the fading orange-blossoms--at the
crucifix that lay on the cold breast like the final seal on the letter
of life. Impulsively he stooped forward, and with a tender awe pressed
his lips on the pale forehead, but instantly started back with the
smothered, exclamation:

"O God! how cold!"

At the sound of his voice Heliobas rose up erect, and the two men faced
each other, Zara's dead body lying like a barrier betwixt them.

A pause followed--a pause in which I heard my own heart beating loudly,
so great was my anxiety. Heliobas suffered a few moments to elapse,
then stretched his hand across his sister's bier.

"In HER name, let there be peace between us, Ivan," he said in accents
that were both gentle and solemn.

The Prince, touched to the quick, responded to these kindly words with
eager promptness, and they clasped hands over the quiet and lovely form
that lay there--a silent, binding witness of their reconciliation.

"I have to ask your pardon, Casimir," then whispered Ivan. "I have also
to thank you for my life."

"Thank the friend who stands beside you," returned Heliobas, in the
same low tone, with a slight gesture towards me. "She reminded me of a
duty in time. As for pardon, I know of no cause of offence on your part
save what was perfectly excusable. Say no more; wisdom comes with
years, and you are yet young."

A long silence followed. We all remained looking wistfully down upon
the body of our lost darling, in thought too deep for words or weeping.
I then noticed that another humble mourner shared our watch--a mourner
whose very existence I had nearly forgotten. It was the faithful Leo.
He lay couchant on the stone floor at the foot of the bier, almost as
silent as a dog of marble; the only sign of animation he gave being a
deep sigh which broke from his honest heart now and then. I went to him
and softly patted his shaggy coat. He looked up at me with big brown
eyes full of tears, licked my hand meekly, and again laid his head down
upon his two fore-paws with a resignation that was most pathetic.

The dawn began to peer faintly through the chapel windows--the dawn of
a misty, chilly morning. The storm of the past night had left a sting
in the air, and the rain still fell, though gently. The wind had almost
entirely sunk into silence. I re-arranged the flowers that were strewn
on Zara's corpse, taking away all those that had slightly faded. The
orange-blossom was almost dead, but I left that where it was--where the
living Zara had herself placed it. As I performed this slight service,
I thought, half mournfully, half gladly--

  "Yes, Heaven is thine, but this
   Is a world of sweets and sours--
   Our flowers are merely FLOWERS;
   And the shadow of thy perfect bliss
   Is the sunshine of ours."

Prince Ivan at last roused himself as from a deep and melancholy
reverie, and, addressing himself to Heliobas, said softly:

"I will intrude no longer on your privacy, Casimir. Farewell! I shall
leave Paris to-night."

For all answer Heliobas beckoned him and me also out of the chapel. As
soon as its doors closed behind us, and we stood in the centre hall, he
spoke with affectionate and grave earnestness:

"Ivan, something tells me that you and I shall not meet again for many
years, if ever. Therefore, when you say 'farewell,' the word falls upon
my ears with double meaning. We are friends--our friendship is
sanctified by the dead presence of one whom we both loved, in different
ways; therefore you will take in good part what I now say to you. You
know, you cannot disguise from yourself that the science I study is
fraught with terrible truth and marvellous discoveries; the theories I
deduce from it you disbelieve, because you are nearly a materialist. I
say NEARLY--not quite. That 'not quite' makes me love you, Ivan: I
would save the small bright spark that flickers within you from both
escape and extinction. But I cannot--at least, not as yet. Still, in
order that you may know that there is a power in me higher than
ordinary human reason, before you go from me to-night hear my prophecy
of your career. The world waits for you, Ivan--the world, all agape and
glittering with a thousand sparkling toys; it waits greedy for your
presence, ready to fawn upon you for a smile, willing to cringe to you
for a nod of approval. And why? Because wealth is yours--vast,
illimitable wealth. Aye--you need not start or look incredulous--you
will find it as I say. You, whose fortune up to now has barely reached
a poor four thousand per annum--you are at this moment the possessor of
millions. Only last night a relative of yours, whose name you scarcely
know, expired, leaving all his hoarded treasures to you. Before the
close of this present day, on whose threshold we now stand, you will
have the news. When you receive it remember me, and acknowledge that at
least for once I knew and spoke the truth. Follow the broad road, Ivan,
laid out before you--a road wide enough not only for you to walk in,
but for the crowd of toadies and flatterers also, who will push on
swiftly after you and jostle you on all sides; be strong of heart and
merry of countenance! Gather the roses; press the luscious grapes into
warm, red wine that, as you quaff it, shall make your blood dance a mad
waltz in your veins, and fair women's faces shall seem fairer to you
than ever, their embraces more tender, their kisses more tempting! Spin
the ball of Society like a toy in the palm of your hand! I see your
life stretching before me like a brilliant, thread-like ephemeral ray
of light! But in the far distance across it looms a shadow--a shadow
that your power alone can never lift. Mark me, Ivan! When the first
dread chill of that shadow makes itself felt, come to me--I shall yet
be living. Come; for then no wealth can aid you--at that dark hour no
boon companions can comfort. Come; and by our friendship so lately
sworn--by Zara's pure soul--by God's existence, I will not die till I
have changed that darkness over you into light eternal!--Fare you well!"

He caught the Prince's hand, and wrung it hard; then, without further
word, look, or gesture, turned and disappeared again within the chapel.

His words had evidently made a deep impression on the young nobleman,
who gazed after his retreating figure with a certain awe not unmingled
with fear.

I held out my hand in silent farewell. Ivan took it gently, and kissed
it with graceful courtesy.

"Casimir told me that your intercession saved my life, mademoiselle,"
he said. "Accept my poor thanks. If his present prophet-like utterances
be true---"

"Why should you doubt him?" I asked, with some impatience. "Can you
believe in NOTHING?"

The Prince, still holding my hand, looked at me in a sort of grave
perplexity.

"I think you have hit it," he observed quietly. "I doubt everything
except the fact of my own existence, and there are times when I am not
even sure of that. But if, as I said before, the prophecy of my
Chaldean friend, whom I cannot help admiring with all my heart, turns
out to be correct, then my life is more valuable to me than ever with
such wealth to balance it, and I thank you doubly for having saved it
by a word in time."

I withdrew my hand gently from his.

"You think the worth of your life increased by wealth?" Tasked.

"Naturally! Money is power."

"And what of the shadow also foretold as inseparable from your fate?"

A faint smile crossed his features.

"Ah, pardon me! That is the only portion of Casimir's fortune-telling
that I am inclined to disbelieve thoroughly."

"But," I said, "if you are willing to accept the pleasant part of his
prophecy, why not admit the possibility of the unpleasant occurring
also?"

He shrugged his shoulders.

"In these enlightened times, mademoiselle, we only believe what is
agreeable to us, and what suits our own wishes, tastes, and opinions.
Ca va sans dire. We cannot be forced to accept a Deity against our
reason. That is a grand result of modern education."

"Is it?" and I looked at him with pity. "Poor human reason! It will
reel into madness sometimes for a mere trifle--an overdose of alcohol
will sometimes upset it altogether--what a noble omnipotent thing is
human reason! But let me not detain you. Good-bye, and--as the greeting
of olden times used to run--God save you!"

He bent his head with a light reverence.

"I believe you to be a good, sweet woman," he said, "therefore I am
grateful for your blessing. My mother," and here his eyes grew dreamy
and wistful--"poor soul! she died long ago--my mother would never let
me retire to rest without signing the cross on my brow. Ah well, that
is past! I should like, mademoiselle," and his voice sank very low, "to
send some flowers for--her--you understand?"

I did understand, and readily promised to lay whatever blossoms he
selected tenderly above the sacred remains of that earthly beauty he
had loved, as he himself said, "more than most men love most women."

He thanked me earnestly, and seemed relieved and satisfied. Casting a
look of farewell around the familiar hall, he wafted a parting kiss
towards the chapel--an action which, though light, was full of
tenderness and regret. Then, with a low salute, he left me. The
street-door opened and closed after him in its usual noiseless manner.
He was gone.

The morning had now fairly dawned, and within the Hotel Mars the work
of the great mansion went on in its usual routine; but a sombre
melancholy was in the atmosphere--a melancholy that not all my best
efforts could dissipate. The domestics looked sullen and heavy-eyed;
the only ones in their number who preserved their usual equanimity were
the Armenian men-servants and the little Greek page. Preparations for
Zara's funeral went on apace; they were exceedingly simple, and the
ceremony was to be quite private in character. Heliobas issued his
orders, and saw to the carrying out of his most minute instructions in
his usual calm manner; but his eyes looked heavy, and his fine
countenance was rendered even more majestic by the sacred, resigned
sorrow that lay upon it like a deep shadow. His page served him with
breakfast in his private room: but he left the light meal untasted. One
of the women brought me coffee; but the very thought of eating and
drinking seemed repulsive, and I could not touch anything. My mind was
busy with the consideration of the duty I had to perform--namely, to
see the destruction of Zara's colossal statue, as she had requested.
After thinking about it for some time, I went to Heliobas and told him
what I had it in charge to do. He listened attentively.

"Do it at once," he said decisively. "Take my Armenians; they are
discreet, obedient, and they ask no questions--with strong hammers they
will soon crush the clay. Stay! I will come with you." Then looking at
me scrutinizingly, he added kindly: "You have eaten nothing, my child?
You cannot? But your strength will give way--here, take this." And lie
held out a small glass of a fluid whose revivifying properties I well
knew to be greater than any sustenance provided by an ordinary meal. I
swallowed it obediently, and as I returned the empty glass to him he
said: "I also have a commission in charge from Zara. You know, I
suppose, that she was prepared for her death?"

"I did not know; but I think she must have been," I answered.

"She was. We both were. We remained together in the chapel all day,
saying what parting words we had to say to one another. We knew her
death, or rather her release, was to occur at some hour that night; but
in what way the end was destined to come, we knew not. Till I heard the
first peals of thunder, I was in suspense; but after that I was no
longer uncertain. You were a witness of the whole ensuing scene. No
death could have been more painless than hers. But let me not forget
the message she gave me for you." Here he took from a secret drawer the
electric stone Zara had always worn. "This jewel is yours," he said.
"You need not fear to accept it--it contains no harm! it will bring you
no ill-fortune. You see how all the sparkling brilliancy has gone out
of it? Wear it, and within a few minutes it will be as lustrous as
ever. The life throbbing in your veins warms the electricity contained
in it; and with the flowing of your blood, its hues change and glow. It
has no power to attract; it can simply absorb and shine. Take it as a
remembrance of her who loved you and who loves you still."

I was still in my evening dress, and my neck was bare. I slipped the
chain, on which hung the stone, round my throat, and watched the
strange gem with some curiosity. In a few seconds a pale streak of
fiery topaz flashed through it, which deepened and glowed into a warm
crimson, like the heart of a red rose; and by the time it had become
thoroughly warmed against my flesh, it glittered as brilliantly as ever.

"I will always wear it," I said earnestly. "I believe it will bring me
good fortune."

"I believe it will," returned Heliobas simply. "And now let us fulfil
Zara's other commands."

On our way across the hall we were stopped by the page, who brought us
a message of inquiry after Zara's health from Colonel Everard and his
wife, and also from the Challoners. Heliobas hastily wrote a few brief
words in pencil, explaining the fatal result of the accident, and
returned it to the messenger, giving orders at the same time that all
the blinds should be pulled down at the windows of the house, that
visitors might understand there was no admittance. We then proceeded to
the studio, accompanied by the Armenians carrying heavy hammers.
Reverently, and with my mind full of recollections of Zara's living
presence, I opened the familiar door. The first thing that greeted us
was a most exquisitely wrought statue in white marble of Zara herself,
full length, and arrayed in her customary graceful Eastern costume. The
head was slightly raised: a look of gladness lighted up the beautiful
features; and within the loosely clasped hands was a cluster of roses.
Bound the pedestal were carved the words, "Omnia vincit Amor," with
Zara's name and the dates of her birth and death. A little slip of
paper lay at the foot of the statue, which Heliobas perceived, and
taking it he read and passed it to me. The lines were in Zara's
handwriting, and ran as follows:

"To my beloved Casimir--my brother, my friend, my guide and teacher, to
whom I owe the supreme happiness of my life in this world and the
next--let this poor figure of his grateful Zara be a memento of happy
days that are gone, only to be renewed with redoubled happiness
hereafter."

I handed back the paper silently, with tears in my eyes, and we turned
our attention to the colossal figure we had come to destroy. It stood
at the extreme end of the studio, and was entirely hidden by white
linen drapery. Heliobas advanced, and by a sudden dexterous movement
succeeded in drawing off the coverings with a single effort, and then
we both fell back and gazed at the clay form disclosed in amazement.
What did it represent? A man? a god? an angel? or all three united in
one vast figure?

It was an unfinished work. The features of the face were undeclared,
save the brow and eyes; and these were large, grand, and full of
absolute wisdom and tranquil consciousness of power. I could have gazed
on this wonderful piece of Zara's handiwork for hours, but Heliobas
called to the Armenian servants, who stood near the door awaiting
orders, and commanded them to break it down. For once these
well-trained domestics showed signs of surprise, and hesitated. Their
master frowned. Snatching a hammer from one of them, he himself
attacked the great statue as if it were a personal foe. The Armenians,
seeing he was in earnest, returned to their usual habits of passive
obedience, and aided him in his labour. Within a few minutes the great
and beautiful figure lay in fragments on the floor, and these fragments
were soon crushed into indistinguishable atoms. I had promised to
witness this work of destruction, and witness it I did, but it was with
pain and regret. When all was finished, Heliobas commanded his men to
carry the statue of Zara's self down to his own private room, and then
to summon all the domestics of the household in a body to the great
hall, as he wished to address them. I heard him give this order with
some surprise, and he saw it. As the Armenians slowly disappeared,
carrying with great care the marble figure of their late mistress, he
turned to me, as he locked up the door of the studio, and said quietly:

"These ignorant folk, who serve me for money and food--money that they
have eagerly taken, and food that they have greedily devoured--they
think that I am the devil or one of the devil's agents, and I am going
to prove their theories entirely to their satisfaction. Come and see!"

I followed him, somewhat mystified. On the way downstairs he said:

"Do you know why Zara wished that statue destroyed?"

"No," I said frankly; "unless for the reason that it was incomplete."

"It always would have been incomplete," returned Heliobas; "even had
she lived to work at it for years. It was a daring attempt, and a
fruitless one. She was trying to make a clay figure of one who never
wore earthly form--the Being who is her Twin-Soul, who dominates her
entirely, and who is with her now. As well might she have tried to
represent in white marble the prismatic hues of the rainbow!"

We had now reached the hall, and the servants were assembling by twos
and threes. They glanced at their master with looks of awe, as he took
up a commanding position near the fountain, and faced them with a
glance of calm scrutiny and attention. I drew a chair behind one of the
marble columns and seated myself, watching everything with interest.
Leo appeared from some corner or other, and laid his rough body down
close at his master's feet.

In a few minutes all the domestics, some twenty in number, were
present, and Heliobas, raising his voice, spoke with a clear deliberate
enunciation:

"I have sent for you all this morning, because I am perfectly aware
that you have all determined to give me notice."

A stir of astonishment and dismay ensued on the part of the small
audience, and I heard one voice near me whisper:

"He IS the devil, or how could he have known it?"

The lips of Heliobas curled in a fine sarcastic smile. He went on:

"I spare you this trouble. Knowing your intentions, I take upon myself
to dismiss you at once. Naturally, you cannot risk your characters by
remaining in the service of the devil. For my own part, I wonder the
devil's money has not burnt your hands, or his food turned to poison in
your mouths. My sister, your kind and ever-indulgent mistress, is dead.
You know this, and it is your opinion that I summoned up the
thunderstorm which caused her death. Be it so. Report it so, if you
will, through Paris; your words do not affect me. You have been
excellent machines, and for your services many thanks! As soon as my
sister's funeral is over, your wages, with an additional present, will
be sent to you. You can then leave my house when you please; and,
contrary to the usual custom of accepted devils, I am able to say,
without perishing in the effort--God speed you all!"

The faces of those he addressed exhibited various emotions while he
spoke--fear contending with a good deal of shame. The little Greek page
stepped forward timidly.

"The master knows that I will never leave him," he murmured, and his
large eyes were moist with tears.

Heliobas laid a gentle hand on the boy's dark curls, but said nothing.
One of the four Armenians advanced, and with a graceful rapid gesture
of his right hand, touched his head and breast.

"My lord will not surely dismiss US who desire to devote ourselves to
his service? We are willing to follow my lord to the death if need be,
for the sake of the love and honour we bear him."

Heliobas looked at him very kindly.

"I am richer in friends than I thought myself to be," he said quietly.
"Stay then, by all means, Afra, you and your companions, since you have
desired it. And you, my boy," he went on, addressing the tearful page,
"think you that I would turn adrift an orphan, whom a dying mother
trusted to my care? Nay, child, I am as much your servant as you are
mine, so long as your love turns towards me."

For all answer the page kissed his hand in a sort of rapture, and
flinging back his clustering hair from his classic brows, surveyed the
domestics, who had taken their dismissal in silent acquiescence, with a
pretty scorn.

"Go, all of you, scum of Paris!" he cried in his clear treble
tones--"you who know neither God nor devil! You will have your
money--more than your share--what else seek you? You have served one of
the noblest of men; and because he is so great and wise and true, you
judge him a fiend! Oh, so like the people of Paris--they who pervert
all things till they think good evil and evil good! Look you! you have
worked for your wages; but I have worked for HIM--I would starve with
him, I would die for him! For to me he is not fiend, but Angel!"

Overcome by his own feelings the boy again kissed his master's hand,
and Heliobas gently bade him be silent. He himself looked round on the
still motionless group of servants with an air of calm surprise.

"What are you waiting for?" he asked. "Consider yourselves dismissed,
and at liberty to go where you please. Any one of you that chooses to
apply to me for a character shall not lack the suitable recommendation.
There is no more to say."

A lively-looking woman with quick restless black eyes stepped forward.

"I am sure," she said, with a mincing curtsey, "that we are very sorry
if we have unintentionally wronged monsieur; but monsieur, who is aware
of so many things, must know that many reports are circulated about
monsieur that make one to shudder; that madame his sister's death so
lamentable has given to all, what one would say, the horrors; and
monsieur must consider that poor servants of virtuous reputation--"

"So, Jeanne Claudet!" interrupted Heliobas, in a thrilling low tone.
"And what of the child--the little waxen-faced helpless babe left to
die on the banks of the Loire? But it did not die, Jeanne--it was
rescued; and it shall yet live to loathe its mother!"

The woman uttered a shriek, and fainted.

In the feminine confusion and fuss that ensued, Heliobas, accompanied
by his little page and the dog Leo, left the hall and entered his own
private room, where for some time I left him undisturbed.

In the early part of the afternoon a note was brought to me. It was
from Colonel Everard, entreating me to come as soon as possible to his
wife, who was very ill.

"Since she heard of the death of that beautiful young lady, a death so
fearfully sudden and unexpected," wrote the Colonel, "she has been
quite unlike herself--nervous, hysterical, and thoroughly unstrung. It
will be a real kindness to her if you will come as soon as you can--she
has such, a strong desire for your company."

I showed this note at once to Heliobas. He read it, and said:

"Of course you must go. Wait till our simple funeral ceremony is over,
and then--we part. Not for ever; I shall see you often again. For now I
have lost Zara, you are my only female disciple, and I shall not
willingly lose sight of you. You will correspond with me?"

"Gladly and gratefully," I replied.

"You shall not lose by it. I can initiate you into many secrets that
will be useful to you in your career. As for your friend Mrs. Everard,
you will find that your presence will cure her. You have progressed
greatly in electric force: the mere touch of your hand will soothe her,
as you will find. But never be tempted to try any of the fluids of
which you have the recipes on her, or on anybody but yourself, unless
you write to me first about it, as Cellini did when he tried an
experiment on you. As for your own bodily and spiritual health, you
know thoroughly what to do--KEEP THE SECRET; and make a step in advance
every day. By-and-by you will have double work."

"How so?" I asked.

"In Zara's case, her soul became dominated by a Spirit whose destiny
was fulfilled and perfect, and who never could descend to imprisonment
in earthly clay. Now, you will not be dominated--you will be simply
EQUALIZED; that is, you will find the exact counterpart of your own
soul dwelling also in human form, and you will have to impart your own
force to that other soul, which will, in its turn, impart to yours a
corresponding electric impetus. There is no union so lovely as such an
one--no harmony so exquisite; it is like a perfect chord, complete and
indissoluble. There are sevenths and ninths in music, beautiful and
effective in their degrees; but perhaps none of them are so absolutely
satisfying to the ear as the perfect chord. And this is your lot in
life and in love, my child--be grateful for it night and morning on
your bended knees before the Giver of all good. And walk warily--your
own soul with that other shall need much thought and humble prayer. Aim
onward and upward--you know the road--you also know, and you have
partly seen, what awaits you at the end."

After this conversation we spoke no more in private together. The rest
of the afternoon was entirely occupied with the final preparations for
Zara's funeral, which was to take place at Pere-la-Chaise early the
next morning. A large and beautiful wreath of white roses, lilies, and
maiden-hair arrived from Prince Ivan; and, remembering my promise to
him, I went myself to lay it in a conspicuous place on Zara's corpse.
That fair body was now laid in its coffin of polished oak, and a
delicate veil of filmy lace draped it from head to foot. The placid
expression of the features remained unchanged, save for a little extra
rigidity of the flesh; the hands, folded over the crucifix, were stiff,
and looked as though they were moulded in wax. I placed the wreath in
position and paused, looking wistfully at that still and solemn figure.
Father Paul, slowly entering from a side-door, came and stood beside me.

"She is happy!" he said; and a cheerful expression irradiated his
venerable features.

"Did you also know she would die that night?" I asked softly.

"Her brother sent for me, and told me of her expected dissolution. She
herself told me, and made her last confession and communion. Therefore
I was prepared."

"But did you not doubt--were you not inclined to think they might be
wrong?" I inquired, with some astonishment.

"I knew Heliobas as a child," the priest returned. "I knew his father
and mother before him; and I have been always perfectly aware of the
immense extent of his knowledge, and the value of his discoveries. If I
were inclined to be sceptical on spiritual matters, I should not be of
the race I am; for I am also a Chaldean."

I said no more, and Father Paul trimmed the tapers burning round the
coffin in devout silence. Again I looked at the fair dead form before
me; but somehow I could not feel sad again. All my impulses bade me
rejoice. Why should I be unhappy on Zara's account?--more especially
when the glories of the Central Sphere were yet fresh in my memory, and
when I knew as a positive fact that her happiness was now perfect. I
left the chapel with a light step and lighter heart, and went to my own
room to pack up my things that all might be in readiness for my
departure on the morrow. On my table I found a volume whose quaint
binding I at once recognised--"The Letters of a Dead Musician." A card
lay beside it, on which was written in pencil:

"Knowing of your wish to possess this book, I herewith offer it for
your acceptance. It teaches you a cheerful devotion to Art, and an
indifference to the world's opinions--both of which are necessary to
you in your career.--HELIOBAS."

Delighted with this gift, I opened the book, and found my name written
on the fly-leaf, with the date of the month and year, and the words:

"La musica e il lamento dell' amore o la preghiera a gli Dei." (Music
is the lament of love, or a prayer to the Gods.)

I placed this treasure carefully in a corner of my portmanteau,
together with the parchment scrolls containing "The Electric Principle
of Christianity," and the valuables recipes of Heliobas; and as I did
so, I caught sight of myself in the long mirror that directly faced me.
I was fascinated, not by my own reflection, but by the glitter of the
electric gem I wore. It flashed and glowed like a star, and was really
lovely--far more brilliant than the most brilliant cluster of fine
diamonds. I may here remark that I have been asked many questions
concerning this curious ornament whenever I have worn it in public, and
the general impression has been that it is some new arrangement of
ornamental electricity. It is, however, nothing of the kind; it is
simply a clear pebble, common enough on the shores of tropical
countries, which has the property of absorbing a small portion of the
electricity in a human body, sufficient to make it shine with prismatic
and powerful lustre--a property which has only as yet been discovered
by Heliobas, who asserts that the same capability exists in many other
apparently lustreless stones which have been untried, and are therefore
unknown. The "healing stones," or amulets, still in use in the East,
and also in the remote parts of the Highlands (see notes to Archibald
Clerk's translation of 'Ossian'), are also electric, but in a different
way--they have the property of absorbing DISEASE and destroying it in
certain cases; and these, after being worn a suitable length of time,
naturally exhaust what virtue they originally possessed, and are no
longer of any use. Stone amulets are considered nowadays as a mere
superstition of the vulgar and uneducated; but it must be remembered
that superstition itself has always had for it a foundation some grain,
however small and remote, of fact. I could give a very curious
explanation of the formation of ORCHIDS, those strange plants called
sometimes "Freaks of Nature," as if Nature ever indulged in a "freak"
of any kind! But I have neither time nor space to enter upon the
subject now; indeed, if I were once to begin to describe the wonderful,
amazing and beautiful vistas of knowledge that the wise Chaldean, who
is still my friend and guide, has opened up and continues to extend
before my admiring vision, a work of twenty volumes would scarce
contain all I should have to say. But I have written this book merely
to tell those who peruse it, about Heliobas, and what I myself
experienced in his house; beyond this I may not go. For, as, I observed
in my introduction, I am perfectly aware that few, if any, of my
readers will accept my narrative as more than a mere visionary
romance--or that they will admit the mysteries of life, death,
eternity, and all the wonders of the Universe to be simply the NATURAL
AND SCIENTIFIC OUTCOME OF A RING OF EVERLASTING ELECTRIC HEAT AND
LIGHT; but whether they agree to it or no, I can say with Galileo, "E
pur si muove!"




CHAPTER XVII.

CONCLUSION.


It was a very simple and quiet procession that moved next day from the
Hotel Mars to Pere-la-Chaise. Zara's coffin was carried in an open
hearse, and was covered with a pall of rich white velvet, on which lay
a royal profusion of flowers--Ivan's wreath, and a magnificent cross of
lilies sent by tender-hearted Mrs. Challoner, being most conspicuous
among them. The only thing a little unusual about it was that the
funeral car was drawn by two stately WHITE horses; and Heliobas told me
this had been ordered at Zara's special request, as she thought the
solemn pacing through the streets of dismal black steeds had a
depressing effect on the passers-by.

"And why," she had said, "should anybody be sad, when _I_ in reality am
so thoroughly happy?"

Prince Ivan Petroffsky had left Paris, but his carriage, drawn by two
prancing Russian steeds, followed the hearse at a respectful distance,
as also the carriage of Dr. Morini, and some other private persons
known to Heliobas. A few people attended it on foot, and these were
chiefly from among the very poor, some of whom had benefited by Zara's
charity or her brother's medical skill, and had heard of the calamity
through rumour, or through the columns of the Figaro, where it was
reported with graphic brevity. The weather was still misty, and the
fiery sun seemed to shine through tears as Father Paul, with his
assistants, read in solemn yet cheerful tones the service for the dead
according to the Catholic ritual. One of the chief mourners at the
grave was the faithful Leo; who, without obtruding himself in anyone's
way, sat at a little distance, and seemed, by the confiding look with
which he turned his eyes upon his master, to thoroughly understand that
he must henceforth devote his life entirely to him alone. The coffin
was lowered, the "Requiem aeternam" spoken--all was over. Those
assembled shook hands quietly with Heliobas, saluted each other, and
gradually dispersed. I entered a carriage and drove back to the Hotel
Mars, leaving Heliobas in the cemetery to give his final instructions
for the ornamentation and decoration of his sister's grave.

The little page served me with some luncheon in my own apartment, and
by the time all was ready for my departure, Heliobas returned. I went
down to him in his study, and found him sitting pensively in his
arm-chair, absorbed in thought. He looked sad and solitary, and my
whole heart went out to him in gratitude and sympathy. I knelt beside
him as a daughter might have done, and softly kissed his hand.

He started as though awakened suddenly from sleep, and seeing me, his
eyes softened, and he smiled gravely.

"Are you come to say 'Good-bye,' my child?" he asked, in a kind tone.
"Well, your mission here is ended!"

"Had I any mission at all," I replied, with a grateful look, "save the
very selfish one which was comprised in the natural desire to be
restored to health?"

Heliobas surveyed me for a few moments in silence.

"Were I to tell you," he said at last, "by what mystical authority and
influence you were compelled to come here, by what a marvellously
linked chain of circumstances you became known to me long before I saw
you; how I was made aware that you were the only woman living to whose
companionship I could trust my sister at a time when the society of one
of her own sex became absolutely necessary to her; how you were marked
out to me as a small point of light by which possibly I might steer my
course clear of the darkness which threatened me--I say, were I to tell
you all this, you would no longer doubt the urgent need of your
presence here. It is, however, enough to tell you that you have
fulfilled all that was expected of you, even beyond my best hopes; and
in return for your services, the worth of which you cannot realize,
whatever guidance I can give you in the future for your physical and
spiritual life, is yours. I have done something for you, but not
much--I will do more. Only, in communicating with me, I ask you to
honour me with your full confidence in all matters pertaining to
yourself and your surroundings--then I shall not be liable to errors of
judgment in the opinions I form or the advice I give."

"I promise most readily," I replied gladly, for it seemed to me that I
was rich in possessing as a friend and counsellor such a man as this
student of the loftiest sciences.

"And now one thing more," he resumed, opening a drawer in the table
near which he sat. "Here is a pencil for you to write your letters to
me with. It will last about ten years, and at the expiration of that
time you can have another. Write with it on any paper, and the marks
will be like those of an ordinary drawing-pencil; but as fast as they
are written they disappear. Trouble not about this circumstance--write
all you have to say, and when you have finished your letter your
closely covered pages shall seem blank. Therefore, were the eye of a
stranger to look at them, nothing could be learned therefrom. But when
they reach me, I can make the writing appear and stand out on these
apparently unsullied pages as distinctly as though your words had been
printed. My letters to you will also, when you receive them, appear
blank; but you will only have to press them for about ten minutes in
this"--and he handed me what looked like an ordinary
blotting-book--"and they will be perfectly legible. Cellini has these
little writing implements; he uses them whenever the distances are too
great for us to amuse ourselves with the sagacity of Leo--in fact the
journeys of that faithful animal have principally been to keep him in
training."

"But," I said, as I took the pencil and book from his hand, "why do you
not make these convenient writing materials public property? They would
be so useful."

"Why should I build up a fortune for some needy stationer?" he asked,
with a half-smile. "Besides, they are not new things. They were known
to the ancients, and many secret letters, laws, histories, and poems
were written with instruments such as these. In an old library,
destroyed more than two centuries ago, there was a goodly pile of
apparently blank parchment. Had I lived then and known what I know now,
I could have made the white pages declare their mystery."

"Has this also to do with electricity?" I asked.

"Certainly--with what is called vegetable electricity. There is not a
plant or herb in existence, but has almost a miracle hidden away in its
tiny cup or spreading leaves--do you doubt it?"

"Not I!" I answered quickly. "I doubt nothing!"

Heliobas smiled gravely.

"You are right!" he said. "Doubt is the destroyer of beauty--the poison
in the sweet cup of existence--the curse which mankind have brought on
themselves. Avoid it as you would the plague. Believe in anything or
everything miraculous and glorious--the utmost reach of your faith can
with difficulty grasp the majestic reality and perfection of everything
you can see, desire, or imagine. Mistrust that volatile thing called
Human Reason, which is merely a name for whatever opinion we happen to
adopt for the time--it is a thing which totters on its throne in a fit
of rage or despair--there is nothing infinite about it. Guide yourself
by the delicate Spiritual Instinct within you, which tells you that
with God all things are possible, save that He cannot destroy Himself
or lessen by one spark the fiery brilliancy of his ever-widening circle
of productive Intelligence. But make no attempt to convert the world to
your way of thinking--it would be mere waste of time."

"May I never try to instruct anyone in these things?" I asked.

"You can try, if you choose; but you will find most human beings like
the herd of swine in the Gospel, possessed by devils that drive them
headlong into the sea. You know, for instance, that angels and aerial
spirits actually exist; but were you to assert your belief in them,
philosophers (so-called) would scout your theories as absurd,--though
their idea of a LONELY God, who yet is Love, is the very acme of
absurdity. For Love MUST have somewhat to love, and MUST create the
beauty and happiness round itself and the things beloved. But why point
out these simple things to those who have no desire to see? Be content,
child, that YOU have been deemed worthy of instruction--it is a higher
fate for you than if you had been made a Queen."

The little page now entered, and told me that the carriage was at the
door in waiting. As he disappeared again after delivering this message,
Heliobas rose from his chair, and taking my two hands in his, pressed
them kindly.

"One word more, little friend, on the subject of your career. I think
the time will come when you will feel that music is almost too sacred a
thing to be given away for money to a careless and promiscuous public.
However this may be, remember that scarce one of the self-styled
artists who cater for the crowd deserves to be called MUSICIAN in the
highest sense of the word. Most of them seek not music, but money and
applause; and therefore the art they profess is degraded by them into a
mere trade. But you, when you play in public, must forget that PERSONS
with little vanities and lesser opinions exist. Think of what you saw
in your journey with Azul; and by a strong effort of your will, you
can, if you choose, COMPEL certain harmonies to sound in your
ears--fragments of what is common breathing air to the Children of the
Ring, some of whom you saw--and you will be able to reproduce them in
part, if not in entirety. But if you once admit a thought of Self to
enter your brain, those aerial sounds will be silenced instantly. By
this means, too, you can judge who are the true disciples of music in
this world--those who, like Schubert and Chopin, suffered the
heaven-born melodies to descend THROUGH them as though they were mere
conductors of sound; or those who, feebly imitating other composers,
measure out crotchets and quavers by rule and line, and flood the world
with inane and perishable, and therefore useless, productions. And
now,--farewell."

"Do you remain in Paris?" I asked.

"For a few days only. I shall go to Egypt, and in travelling accustom
myself to the solitude in which I must dwell, now Zara has left me."

"You have Azul," I ventured to remark.

"Ah! but how often do I see her? Only when my soul for an instant is
clear from all earthly and gross obstruction; and how seldom I can
attain to this result while weighted with my body! But she is near
me--that I know--faithful as the star to the mariner's compass!"

He raised his head as he spoke, and his eyes flashed. Never had I seen
him look more noble or kingly. The inspired radiance of his face
softened down into his usual expression of gentleness and courtesy, and
he said, offering me his arm:

"Let me see you to the carriage. You know, it is not an actual parting
with us--I intend that we shall meet frequently. For instance, the next
time we exchange pleasant greetings will be in Italy."

I suppose I looked surprised; I certainly felt so, for nothing was
further from my thoughts than a visit to Italy.

Heliobas smiled, and said in a tone that was almost gay:

"Shall I draw the picture for you? I see a fair city, deep embowered in
hills and sheltered by olive-groves. Over it beams a broad sky, deeply
blue; many soft bells caress the summer air. Away in the Cascine Woods
a gay party of people are seated on the velvety moss; they have
mandolins, and they sing for pure gaiety of heart. One of them, a woman
with fair hair, arrayed in white, with a red rose at her bosom, is
gathering the wild flowers that bloom around her, and weaving them into
posies for her companions. A stranger, pacing slowly, book in hand,
through the shady avenue, sees her--her eyes meet his. She springs up
to greet him; he takes her hand. The woman is yourself; the stranger no
other than your poor friend, who now, for a brief space, takes leave of
you!"

So rapidly had he drawn up this picture, that the impression made on me
was as though a sudden vision had been shown to me in a magic glass. I
looked at him earnestly.

"Then our next meeting will be happy?" I said inquiringly.

"Of course. Why not? And the next--and the next after that also!" he
answered.

At this reply, so frankly given, I was relieved, and accompanied him
readily through the hall towards the street-door. Leo met us here, and
intimated, as plainly as a human being could have done, his wish to bid
me good-bye. I stooped and kissed his broad head and patted him
affectionately, and was rewarded for these attentions by seeing his
plume-like tail wave slowly to and fro--a sign of pleasure the poor
animal had not betrayed since Zara's departure from the scene of her
earthly imprisonment.

At the door the pretty Greek boy handed me a huge basket of the
loveliest flowers.

"The last from the conservatory," said Heliobas. "I shall need no more
of these luxuries."

As I entered the carriage he placed the flowers beside me, and again
took my hand.

"Good-bye, my child!" he said, in earnest and kindly tones. "I have
your address, and will write you all my movements. In any trouble,
small or great, of your own, send to me for advice without hesitation.
I can tell you already that I foresee the time when you will resign
altogether the precarious and unsatisfactory life of a mere
professional musician. You think no other career would be possible to
you? Well, you will see! A few months will decide all. Good-bye again;
God bless you!"

The carriage moved off, and Heliobas stood on the steps of his mansion
watching it out of sight. To the last I saw his stately figure erect in
the light of the winter sunshine--a figure destined from henceforth to
occupy a prominent position in my life and memory. The regret I felt at
parting from him was greatly mitigated by the assurance he gave me of
our future meeting, a promise which has since been fulfilled, and is
likely soon to be fulfilled again. That I have such a friend is an
advantageous circumstance for me, for through his guidance I am able to
judge accurately of many things occurring in the course of the daily
life around me--things which, seemingly trivial, are the hints of
serious results to come, which, I am thus permitted in part to foresee.
There is a drawback, of course, and the one bitter drop in the cup of
knowledge is, that the more I progress under the tuition of Heliobas,
the less am I deceived by graceful appearances. I perceive with almost
cruel suddenness the true characters of all those whom I meet. No smile
of lip or eye can delude me into accepting mere surface-matter for real
depth, and it is intensely painful for me to be forced to behold
hypocrisy in the expression of the apparently devout--sensuality in the
face of some radiantly beautiful and popular woman--vice under the mask
of virtue--self-interest in the guise of friendship, and spite and
malice springing up like a poisonous undergrowth beneath the words of
elegant flattery or dainty compliment. I often wish I could throw a
rose-coloured mist of illusion over all these things and still more
earnestly do I wish I could in a single instance find myself mistaken.
But alas! the fatal finger of the electric instinct within me points
out unerringly the flaw in every human diamond, and writes "SHAM"
across many a cunningly contrived imitation of intelligence and
goodness. Still, the grief I feel at this is counterbalanced in part by
the joy with which I quickly recognize real virtue, real nobility, real
love; and when these attributes flash out upon me from the faces of
human beings, my own soul warms, and I know I have seen a vision as of
angels. The capability of Heliobas to foretell future events proved
itself in his knowledge of the fate of the famous English hero, Gordon,
long before that brave soldier met his doom. At the time the English
Government sent him out on his last fatal mission, a letter from
Heliobas to me contained the following passage:

"I see Gordon has chosen his destiny and the manner of his death. Two
ways of dying have been offered him--one that is slow, painful, and
inglorious; the other sudden, and therefore sweeter to a man of his
temperament. He himself is perfectly aware of the approaching end of
his career; he will receive his release at Khartoum. England will
lament over him for a little while, and then he will be declared an
inspired madman, who rushed recklessly on his own doom; while those who
allowed him to be slain will be voted the wisest, the most just and
virtuous in the realm."

This prophecy was carried out to the letter, as I fully believe certain
things of which I am now informed will also be fulfilled. But though
there are persons who pin their faith on "Zadkiel," I doubt if there
are any who will believe in such a thing as ELECTRIC DIVINATION. The
one is mere vulgar imposture, the other is performed on a purely
scientific basis in accordance with certain existing rules and
principles; yet I think there can be no question as to which of the two
the public en masse is likely to prefer. On the whole, people do not
mind being deceived; they hate being instructed, and the trouble of
thinking for themselves is almost too much for them. Therefore
"Zadkiel" is certain to flourish for many and many a long day, while
the lightning instinct of prophecy dormant in every human being remains
unused and utterly forgotten except by the rare few.

      * * * * *

I have little more to say. I feel that those among my readers who idly
turn over these pages, expecting to find a "NOVEL" in the true
acceptation of the term, may be disappointed. My narrative is simply an
"experience:" but I have no wish to persuade others of the central
truth contained in it--namely, THE EXISTENCE OF POWERFUL ELECTRIC
ORGANS IN EVERY HUMAN BEING, WHICH WITH PROPER CULTIVATION ARE CAPABLE
OF MARVELLOUS SPIRITUAL FORCE. The time is not yet ripe for this fact
to be accepted.

The persons connected with this story may be dismissed in a few words.
When I joined my friend Mrs. Everard, she was suffering from nervous
hysteria. My presence had the soothing effect Heliobas had assured me
of, and in a very few days we started from Paris in company for
England. She, with her amiable and accomplished husband, went back to
the States a few months since to claim an immense fortune, which they
are now enjoying as most Americans enjoy wealth. Amy has diamonds to
her heart's content, and toilettes galore from Worth's; but she has no
children, and from the tone of her letters to me, I fancy she would
part with one at least of her valuable necklaces to have a small pair
of chubby arms round her neck, and a soft little head nestling against
her bosom.

Raffaello Cellini still lives and works; his paintings are among the
marvels of modern Italy for their richness and warmth of colour--colour
which, in spite of his envious detractors, is destined to last through
ages. He is not very rich, for he is one of those who give away their
substance to the poor and the distressed; but where he is known he is
universally beloved. None of his pictures have yet been exhibited in
England, and he is in no hurry to call upon the London critics for
their judgment. He has been asked several times to sell his large
picture, "Lords of our Life and Death," but he will not. I have never
met him since our intercourse at Cannes, but I hear of him frequently
through Heliobas, who has recently forwarded me a proof engraving of
the picture "L'Improvisatrice," for which I sat as model. It is a
beautiful work of art, but that it is like ME I am not vain enough to
admit. I keep it, not as a portrait of myself, but as a souvenir of the
man through whose introduction I gained the best friend I have.

News of Prince Ivan Petroffsky reaches me frequently. He is possessor
of the immense wealth foretold by Heliobas; the eyes of Society
greedily follows his movements; his name figures conspicuously in the
"Fashionable Intelligence;" and the magnificence of his recent marriage
festivities was for some time the talk of the Continent. He has married
the only daughter of a French Duke--a lovely creature, as soulless and
heartless as a dressmaker's stuffed model; but she carries his jewels
well on her white bosom, and receives his guests with as much dignity
as a well-trained major-domo. These qualities suffice to satisfy her
husband at present; how long his satisfaction will last is another
matter. He has not quite forgotten Zara; for on every recurring Jour
des Morts, or Feast of the Dead, he sends a garland or cross of flowers
to the simple grave in Pere-la-Chaise. Heliobas watches his career with
untiring vigilance; nor can I myself avoid taking a certain interest in
the progress of his fate. At the moment I write he is one of the most
envied and popular noblemen in all the Royal Courts of Europe; and no
one thinks of asking him whether he is happy. He MUST be happy, says
the world; he has everything that is needed to make him so. Everything?
yes--all except one thing, for which he will long when the shadow of
the end draws near.

And now what else remains? A brief farewell to those who have perused
this narrative, or a lingering parting word?

In these days of haste and scramble, when there is no time for faith,
is there time for sentiment? I think not. And therefore there shall be
none between my readers and me, save this--a friendly warning.
Belief--belief in God--belief in all things noble, unworldly, lofty,
and beautiful, is rapidly being crushed underfoot by--what? By mere
lust of gain! Be sure, good people, be very sure that you are RIGHT in
denying God for the sake of man--in abjuring the spiritual for the
material--before you rush recklessly onward. The end for all of you can
be but death; and are you quite positive after all that there is NO
Hereafter? Is it sense to imagine that the immense machinery of the
Universe has been set in motion for nothing? Is it even common reason
to consider that the Soul of man, with all its high musings, its dreams
of unseen glory, its longings after the Infinite, is a mere useless
vapour, or a set of shifting molecules in a perishable brain? The mere
fact of the EXISTENCE OF A DESIRE clearly indicates an EQUALLY EXISTING
CAPACITY for the GRATIFICATION of that desire; therefore, I ask, would
the WISH for a future state of being, which is secretly felt by every
one of us, have been permitted to find a place in our natures, IF THERE
WERE NO POSSIBLE MEANS OF GRANTING IT? Why all this discontent with the
present--why all this universal complaint and despair and
world-weariness, if there be NO HEREAFTER? For my own part, I have told
you frankly WHAT I HAVE SEEN and WHAT I KNOW; but I do not ask you to
believe me. I only say, IF--IF you admit to yourselves the possibility
of a future and eternal state of existence, would it not be well for
you to inquire seriously how you are preparing for it in these wild
days? Look at society around you, and ask yourselves: Whither is our
"PROGRESS" tending--Forward or Backward--Upward or Downward? Which way?
Fight the problem out. Do not glance at it casually, or put it away as
an unpleasant thought, or a consideration involving too much
trouble--struggle with it bravely till you resolve it, and whatever the
answer may be, ABIDE BY IT. If it leads you to deny God and the
immortal destinies of your own souls, and you find hereafter, when it
is too late, that both God and immortality exist, you have only
yourselves to blame. We are the arbiters of our own fate, and that fact
is the most important one of our lives. Our WILL is positively
unfettered; it is a rudder put freely into our hands, and with it we
can steer WHEREVER WE CHOOSE. God will not COMPEL our love or
obedience. We must ourselves DESIRE to love and obey--DESIRE IT ABOVE
ALL THINGS IN THE WORLD.

As for the Electric Origin of the Universe, a time is coming when
scientific men will acknowledge it to be the only theory of Creation
worthy of acceptance. All the wonders of Nature are the result of LIGHT
AND HEAT ALONE--i.e., are the work of the Electric Ring I have
endeavoured to describe, which MUST go on producing, absorbing and
reproducing worlds, suns and systems for ever and ever. The Ring, in
its turn, is merely the outcome of God's own personality--the
atmosphere surrounding the World in which He has His existence--a World
created by Love and for Love alone. I cannot force this theory on
public attention, which is at present claimed by various learned
professors, who give ingenious explanations of "atoms" and "molecules;"
yet, even regarding these same "atoms," the mild question may be put:
Where did the FIRST "atom" come from? Some may answer: "We call the
first atom GOD." Surely it is as well to call Him a Spirit of pure
Light as an atom? However, the fact of one person's being convinced of
a truth will not, I am aware, go very far to convince others. I have
related my "experience" exactly as it happened at the time, and my
readers can accept or deny the theories of Heliobas as they please.
Neither denial, acceptance, criticism, nor incredulity can affect ME
personally, inasmuch as I am not Heliobas, but simply the narrator of
an episode connected with him; and as such, my task is finished.




APPENDIX.

[In publishing these selections from letters received concerning the
"Romance," I am in honour bound not to disclose the names of my
correspondents, and this necessary reticence will no doubt induce the
incredulous to declare that they are not genuine epistles, but mere
inventions of my own. I am quite prepared for such a possible
aspersion, and in reply, I can but say that I hold the originals in my
possession, and that some of them have been read by my friend Mr.
George Bentley, under whose auspices this book has been successfully
launched on the sea of public favour. I may add that my correspondents
are all strangers to me personally--not one of them have I ever met. A
few have indeed asked me to accord them interviews, but this request I
invariably deny, not wishing to set myself forward in any way as an
exponent of high doctrine in which I am as yet but a beginner and
student.--AUTHOR.]



LETTER I.

"DEAR MADAM,

"You must receive so many letters that I feel it is almost a shame to
add to the number, but I cannot resist writing to tell you how very
much your book, 'The Romance of Two Worlds,' has helped me. My dear
friend Miss F----, who has written to you lately I believe, first read
it to me, and I cannot tell you what a want in my life it seemed to
fill up. I have been always interested in the so-called Supernatural,
feeling very conscious of depths in my own self and in others that are
usually ignored. ... I have been reading as many books as I could
obtain upon Theosophy, but though thankful for the high thoughts I
found in them, I still felt a great want--that of combining this occult
knowledge with my own firm belief in the Christian religion. Your book
seemed to give me just what I wanted--IT HAS DEEPENED AND STRENGTHENED
MY BELIEF IN AND LOVE TO GOD AND HAS MADE THE NEW TESTAMENT A NEW BOOK
TO ME. Things which I could not understand before seem clear in the
light which your 'Vision' has thrown upon them, and I cannot remain
satisfied without expressing to you my sincere gratitude. May your book
be read by all who are ready to receive the high truths that it
contains! With thanks, I remain, dear Madam,

"Yours sincerely,
  M. S."



LETTER II.

"MADAM,

"I am afraid you will think it very presumptuous of a stranger to
address you, but I have lately read your book, 'A Romance of Two
Worlds,' and have been much struck with it. It has opened my mind to
such new impressions, and seems to be so much what I have been groping
for so long, that I thought if you would be kind enough to answer this,
I might get a firmer hold on those higher things and be at anchor at
last. If you have patience to read so far, you will imagine I must be
very much in earnest to intrude myself on you like this, but from the
tone of your book I do not believe you would withdraw your hand where
you could do good. ... I never thought of or read of the electric force
(or spirit) in every human being before, but I do believe in it after
reading your book, and YOU HAVE MADE THE NEXT WORLD A LIVING THING TO
ME, and raised my feelings above the disappointments and trials of this
life. ... Your book was put into my hands at a time when I was deeply
distressed and in trouble about my future; but you have shown me how
small a thing this future of OUR life is. ... Would it be asking too
much of you to name any books you think might help me in this new vein
of thought you have given me? Apologizing for having written, believe
me yours sincerely,

"B. W. L."

[I answered to the best of my ability the writer of the above, and
later on received another letter as follows:]

"Forgive my writing to you again on the subject of your 'Romance,' but
I read it so often and think of it so much. I cannot say the wonderful
change your book has wrought in my life, and though very likely you are
constantly hearing of the good it has done, yet it cannot but be the
sweetest thing you can hear--that the seed you have planted is bringing
forth so much fruit. ... The Bible is a new book to me since your work
came into my hands."



LETTER III.

[The following terribly pathetic avowal is from a clergyman of the
Church of England: ]

"MADAM,

"Your book, the 'Romance of Two Worlds,' has stopped me on the brink of
what is doubtless a crime, and yet I had come to think it the only way
out of impending madness. I speak of self-destruction--suicide. And
while writing the word, I beg of you to accept my gratitude for the
timely rescue of my soul. Once I believed in the goodness of God--but
of late years the cry of modern scientific atheism, 'There is NO God,'
has rung in my ears till my brain has reeled at the desolation and
nothingness of the Universe. No good, no hope, no satisfaction in
anything--this world only with all its mockery and failure--and
afterwards annihilation! Could a God design and create so poor and
cruel a jest? So I thought--and the misery of the thought was more than
I could bear. I had resolved to make an end. No one knew, no one
guessed my intent, till one Sunday afternoon a friend lent me your
book. I began to read, and never left it till I had finished the last
page--then I knew I was saved. Life smiled again upon me in consoling
colours, and I write to tell you that whatever other good your work may
do and is no doubt doing, you have saved both the life and reason of
one grateful human being. If you will write to me a few lines I shall
be still more grateful, for I feel you can help me. I seem to have read
Christ's mission wrong--but with patience and prayer it is possible to
redeem my error. Once more thanking you, I am,

"Yours with more thankfulness than I can write,

"L. E. F."

[I lost no time in replying to this letter, and since then have
frequently corresponded with the writer, from whose troubled mind the
dark cloud has now entirely departed. And I may here venture to remark
that the evils of "modern scientific atheism" are far more widely
spread and deeply rooted than the majority of persons are aware of, and
that many of the apparently inexplicable cases of self-slaughter on
which the formal verdict, "Suicide during a state of temporary
insanity," is passed, have been caused by long and hopeless brooding on
the "nothingness of the Universe"--which, if it were a true theory,
would indeed make of Creation a bitter, nay, even a senseless jest. The
cruel preachers of such a creed have much to answer for. The murderer
who destroys human life for wicked passion and wantonness is less
criminal than the proudly learned, yet egotistical, and therefore
densely ignorant scientist, who, seeking to crush the soul by his
feeble, narrow-minded arguments, and deny its imperishable nature,
dares to spread his poisonous and corroding doctrines of despair
through the world, draining existence of all its brightness, and
striving to erect barriers of distrust between the creature and the
Creator. No sin can be greater than this; for it is impossible to
estimate the measure of evil that may thus be brought into otherwise
innocent and happy lives. The attitude of devotion and faith is natural
to Humanity, while nothing can be more UNnatural and disastrous to
civilization, morality and law, than deliberate and determined
Atheism.--AUTHOR.]



LETTER IV.

"DEAR MADAM,

"I dare say you have had many letters, but I must add mine to the
number to thank you for your book, the 'Romance of Two Worlds.' I am
deeply interested in the wonderful force we possess, all in a greater
or lesser degree--call it influence, electricity, or what you will. I
have thought much on Theosophy and Psychical Research--but what struck
me in your book was the glorious selflessness inculcated and the
perfect Majesty of the Divinity clear throughout--no sweeping away of
the Crucified One. I felt a better woman for the reading of it twice:
and I know others, too, who are higher and better women for such noble
thoughts and teaching. ... People for the most part dream away their
lives; one meets so few who really believe in electrical affinity, and
I have felt it so often and for so long. Forgive my troubling you with
this letter, but I am grateful for your labour of love towards raising
men and women.

"Sincerely yours,

"R. H."



LETTER V.

"I should like to know if Marie Corelli honestly believes the theory
which she enunciates in her book, 'The Romance of Two Worlds:' and also
if she has any proof on which to found that same theory?--if so, the
authoress will greatly oblige an earnest seeker after Truth if she will
give the information sought to

"A. S."

[I sent a brief affirmative answer to the above note; the "proof" of
the theories set forth in the "Romance" is, as I have already stated,
easily to be found in the New Testament. But there are those who do not
and will not believe the New Testament, and for them there are no
"proofs" of any existing spirituality in earth or heaven. "Having eyes
they see not, and hearing they do not understand."--AUTHOR.]



LETTER VI.

"DEAR MADAM,

"I have lately been reading with intense pleasure your 'Romance of Two
Worlds,' and I must crave your forbearance towards me when I tell you
that it has filled me with envy and wonder. I feel sure that many
people must have plied you with questions on the subject already, but I
am certain that you are too earnest and too sympathetic to feel bored
by what is in no sense idle curiosity, but rather a deep and genuine
longing to know the truth. ... To some minds it would prove such a
comfort and such, a relief to have their vague longings and beliefs
confirmed and made tangible, and, as you know, at the present day
so-called Religion, which is often a mere mixture of dogma and
superstition, is scarcely sufficient to do this. ... I might say a
great deal more and weary your patience, which has already been tried,
I fear. But may I venture to hope that you have some words of comfort
and assurance out of your own experience to give me? With your
expressed belief in the good influence which each may exert over the
other, not to speak of a higher and holier incentive in the example of
One (in whom you also believe) who bids us for His sake to 'Bear one
another's burdens,' you cannot, I think, turn away in impatience from
the seeking of a very earnest soul.

"Yours sincerely,

"B. D."

[I have received about fifty letters written in precisely the same tone
as the above--all more or less complaining of the insufficiency of
"so-called Religion, which is often a mere mixture of dogma and
superstition"--and I ask--What are the preachers of Christ's clear
message about that there should be such plaintively eager anxious souls
as these, who are evidently ready and willing to live noble lives if
helped and encouraged ever so little? Shame on those men who presume to
take up the high vocation of the priesthood for the sake of self-love,
self-interest, worldly advancement, money or position! These things are
not among Christ's teachings. If there are members of the clergy who
can neither plant faith, nor consolation, nor proper comprehension of
God's infinite Beauty and Goodness in the hearts of their hearers, I
say that their continuance in such sacred office is an offence to the
Master whom they profess to serve. "It must needs be that offences
come, but woe to that man by whom the offence cometh!" To such may be
addressed the words, "Hypocrites! for ye shut up the kingdom of heaven
against men; ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that
are entering to go in."--AUTHOR.]



LETTER VII.

"MADAM,

"I hope you will not think it great presumption my writing to you. My
excuse must be that I so much want to believe in he great Spirit that
'makes for righteousness,' and I cannot! Your book puts it all so
clearly that if I can only know it to be a true experience of your own,
it will go a long way in dispersing the fog that modern writings
surround one with. ...

"Apologizing for troubling you, I am faithfully yours,

"C.M.E."



LETTER VIII.

"MADAM,

"I trust you will pardon the liberty I take in writing to you. My
excuse must be the very deep interest your book, 'A Romance of Two
Worlds,' has excited in me. I, of course, understand that the STORY
itself is a romance, but in reading it carefully it seems to me that it
is a book written with a purpose. ... The Electric Creed respecting
Religion seems to explain so much in Scripture which has always seemed
to me impossible to accept blindly without explanation of any kind; and
the theory that Christ came to die and to suffer for us as an Example
and a means of communication with God, and not as a SACRIFICE, clears
up a point which has always been to me personally a stumbling-block. I
cannot say how grateful I shall be if you can tell me any means of
studying this subject further; and trusting you will excuse me for
troubling you, I am, Madam,

"Yours truly,

"H. B."

[Once more I may repeat that the idea of a sacrifice to appease God's
anger is purely JEWISH, and has nothing whatever to do with
Christianity according to Christ. He Himself says, "I am the WAY, the
Truth, and the Life; no man cometh to the Father but BY ME." Surely
these words are plain enough, and point unmistakably to a MEANS OF
COMMUNICATION through Christ between the Creator and this world.
Nowhere does the Divine Master say that God is so furiously angry that
he must have the bleeding body of his own messenger, Christ, hung up
before Him as a human sacrifice, as though He could only be pacified by
the scent of blood! Horrible and profane idea! and one utterly at
variance with the tenderness and goodness of "Our Father" as pictured
by Christ in these gentle words--"Fear not, little flock; it is your
Father's good pleasure to give you the Kingdom." Whereas that Christ
should come to draw us closer to God by the strong force of His own
Divinity, and by His Resurrection prove to us the reality of the next
life, is not at all a strange or ungodlike mission, and ought to make
us understand more surely than ever how infinitely pitying and
forbearing is the All-Loving One, that He should, as it were, with such
extreme affection show us a way by which to travel through darkness
unto light. To those who cannot see this perfection of goodness
depicted in Christ's own words, I would say in the terse Oriental maxim:

  "Diving, and finding no pearls in the sea,
   Blame not the ocean, the fault is in THEE."
           AUTHOR.]



LETTER IX.

"DEAR MADAM,

"I have lately been reading your remarkable book, 'A Romance of Two
Worlds,' and I feel that I must write to you about it. I have never
viewed Christianity in the broadly transfigured light you throw upon
it, and I have since been studying carefully the four Gospels and
comparing them with the theories in your book. The result has been a
complete and happy change in my ideas of religion, and I feel now as if
I had, like a leper of old, touched the robe of Christ and been healed
of a long-standing infirmity. Will you permit me to ask if you have
evolved this new and beneficent lustre from the Gospel yourself? or
whether some experienced student in mystic matters has been your
instructor? I hear from persons who have seen you that you are quite
young, and I cannot understand how one of your sex and age seems able
so easily to throw light on what to many has been, and is still,
impenetrable darkness. I have been a preacher for some years, and I
thought the Testament was old and familiar to me; but you have made it
a new and marvellous book full of most precious meanings, and I hope I
may be able to impart to those whom it is my duty to instruct,
something of the great consolation and hope your writing has filled me
with.

"Believe me,

"Gratefully yours,

"T.M."



LETTER X.

"MADAM,

"Will you tell me what ground you have for the foundation of the
religious theory contained in your book, 'A Romance of Two Worlds'? Is
it a part of your own belief? I am MOST anxious to know this, and I am
sure you will be kind enough to answer me. Till I read your book I
thought myself an Agnostic, but now I am not quite sure of this. I do
not believe in the Deity as depicted by the Churches. I CANNOT. Over
and over again I have asked myself--If there is a God, why should He be
angry? It would surely be easy for Him to destroy this world entirely
as one would blow away an offending speck of dust, and it would be much
better and BRAVER for Him to do this than to torture His creation. For
I call life a torture and certainly a useless and cruel torture if it
is to end in annihilation. I know I seem to be blasphemous in these
remarks, yet if you only knew what I suffer sometimes! I desire, I LONG
to believe. YOU seem so certain of your Creed--a Creed so noble,
reasonable and humane--the God you depict so worthy of the adoration of
a Universe. I BEG of you to tell me--DO you feel sure of this
beneficent all-pervading Love concerning which you write so eloquently?
I do not wish to seem an intruder on your most secret thought. I want
to believe that YOU believe--and if I felt this, the tenor of my whole
life might change. Help me if you can--I stand in real need of help.
You may judge I am very deeply in earnest, or I should not have written
to you.

"Yours faithfully,

"A. W. L."

      * * * * *

Of such letters as these I have received enough to make a volume of
themselves; but I think the ten I have selected are sufficient to show
how ardent and inextinguishable is the desire or STRAINING UPWARD, like
a flower to the light, of the human Soul for those divine things which
nourish it. Scarcely a day passes without my receiving more of these
earnest and often pathetic appeals for a little help, a little comfort,
a little guidance, enough to make one's heart ache at the thought of so
much doubt and desolation looming cloud-like over the troubled minds of
many who would otherwise lead not only happy but noble and useful
lives. When will the preachers learn to preach Christ simply--Christ
without human dogmas or differences? When shall we be able to enter a
building set apart for sacred worship--a building of finest
architectural beauty, "glorious without and within," like the "King's
Daughter" of David's psalm--glorious with, light, music, flowers, and
art of the noblest kind (for Art is God's own inspiration to men, and
through it He should be served), there to hear the pure, unselfish
doctrine of Christ as He Himself preached it? For such a temple, the
time has surely come--a nook sacred to God, and untainted by the breath
of Mammon, where we could adore our Creator "in spirit and in truth."
The evils of nineteenth-century cynicism and general flippancy of
thought--great evils as they are and sure prognostications of worse
evils to come--cannot altogether crush out the Divine flame burning in
the "few" that are "chosen," though these few are counted as fools and
dreamers. Yet they shall be proved wise and watchful ere long. The
signs of the times are those that indicate an approaching great
upheaval and change in human destinies. This planet we call ours is in
some respects like ourselves: it was born; it has had its infancy, its
youth, its full prime; and now its age has set in, and with age the
first beginnings of decay. Absorbed once more into the Creative Circle
IT MUST BE; and when again thrown forth among its companion-stars, our
race will no more inhabit it. We shall have had our day--our little
chance--we shall have lost or won. Christ said, "This generation shall
not pass away till all My words be fulfilled," the word "generation"
thus used meaning simply the human race. We put a very narrow limit to
the significance of the Saviour's utterance when we imagine that the
generation He alluded to implied merely the people living in His own
day. In the depths of His Divine wisdom He was acquainted with all the
secrets of the Past and Future; He had no doubt seen this very world
peopled by widely different beings to ourselves, and knew that what we
call the human race is only a passing tribe permitted for a time to
sojourn here. What a strangely presumptuous idea is that which pervades
the minds of the majority of persons--namely, that Mankind, as we know
it, must be the highest form of creation, simply because it is the
highest form WE can see! How absurd it is to be so controlled by our
limited vision, when we cannot even perceive the minute wonders that a
butterfly beholds, or pierce the sunlit air with anything like the
facility possessed by the undazzled eyes of an upward-soaring bird!
Nay, we cannot examine the wing of a common house-fly without the aid
of a microscope--to observe the facial expression of our own actors on
the stage we look through opera-glasses--to form any idea of the
wonders of the stars we construct telescopes to assist our feeble and
easily deluded sight; and yet--yet we continue to parcel out the
infinite gradations of creative Force and Beauty entirely to suit our
own private opinions, and conclude that WE are the final triumph of the
Divine Artist's Supreme Intelligence! Alas! in very truth we are a
sorry spectacle both to our soberly thinking selves and the Higher
Powers, invited, as it were, to spend our life's brief day in one of
God's gardens as His friends and guests, who certainly are not expected
to abuse their Host's hospitality, and, ignoring Him, call themselves
the owners and masters of the ground! For we are but wanderers beneath
the sun; a "generation" which must most surely and rapidly "pass away"
to make room for another; and as the work of the Universe is always
progressive, that other will be of nobler capacity and larger
accomplishment. So while we are here, let us think earnestly of the few
brief chances remaining to us--they grow fewer every hour. On one side
is the endless, glorious heritage of the purely aspiring, Immortal
Spirit; on the other the fleeting Mirage of this our present Existence;
and, midway between the two, the swinging pendulum of HUMAN WILL, which
decides our fate. God does not choose for us, or compel our love--we
are free to fashion out our own futures; but in making our final choice
we cannot afford to waste one moment of our precious, unreturning time.

MARIE CORELLI.


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