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Title: The Soul of Lilith
Author: Marie Corelli
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Language: English
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The Soul of Lilith (3 Volumes)
Marie Corelli


THE following story does not assume to be what is generally understood
by a "novel." It is simply the account of a strange and daring
experiment once actually attempted, and is offered to those who are
interested in the unseen "possibilities" of the Hereafter, merely for
what it is,--a single episode in the life of a man who voluntarily
sacrificed his whole worldly career in a supreme effort to prove the
apparently Unprovable.



THE theatre was full,--crowded from floor to ceiling; the lights were
turned low to give the stage full prominence,--and a large audience
packed close in pit and gallery as well as in balcony and stalls,
listened with or without interest, whichever way best suited their
different temperaments and manner of breeding, to the well-worn famous
soliloquy in "Hamlet"--"To be or not to be." It was the first night of
a new rendering of Shakespeare's ever puzzling play,--the chief actor
was a great actor, albeit not admitted as such by the petty cliques,--
he had thought out the strange and complex character of the
psychological Dane for himself, with the result that even the
listless, languid, generally impassive occupants of the stalls, many
of whom had no doubt heard a hundred Hamlets, were roused for once out
of their chronic state of boredom into something like attention, as
the familiar lines fell on their ears with a slow and meditative
richness of accent not commonly heard on the modern stage. This new
Hamlet chose his attitudes well,--instead of walking or rather
strutting about as he uttered the soliloquy, he seated himself and for
a moment seemed lost in silent thought;---then, without changing his
position he began, his voice gathering deeper earnestness as the
beauty and solemnity of the immortal lines became more pronounced and

"To die--to sleep;--
To sleep!--perchance to dream; ay, there's the rub.
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil
Must give us pause..."

Here there was a brief and impressive silence. In that short interval,
and before the actor could resume his speech, a man entered the
theatre with noiseless step and seated himself in a vacant stall of
the second row. A few heads were instinctively turned to look at him,
but in the semi-gloom of the auditorium, his features could scarcely
be discerned, and Hamlet's sad rich voice again compelled attention.

"Who would fardels bear.
To grunt and sweat under a weary life.
But that the dread of something after death.
The undiscovered country from whose bourne
No traveller returns, puzzles the will
And makes us rather bear those ills we have
Than fly to others that we know not of?
Thus conscience does make cowards of us all;
And thus the native hue of resolution
Is sicklied o'er with the pale cast of thought;
And enterprises of great pith and moment.
With this regard, their currents turn awry
And lose the name of action."

The scene went on to the despairing interview with Ophelia, which was
throughout performed with such splendid force and feeling as to awaken
a perfect hurricane of applause;--then the curtain went down, the
lights went up, the orchestra recommenced, and again inquisitive eyes
were turned towards the latest new-comer in the stalls who had made
his quiet entrance in the very midst of the great philosophical
Soliloquy. He was immediately discovered to be a person well worth
observing; and observed he was accordingly, though he seemed quite
unaware of the attention he was attracting. Yet he was singular-
looking enough to excite a little curiosity even among modern
fashionable Londoners, who are accustomed to see all sorts of
eccentric beings, both male and female, sthetic and common-place, and
he was so distinctively separated from ordinary folk by his features
and bearing, that the rather loud whisper of an irrepressible young
American woman--"I'd give worlds to know who that man is!" was almost
pardonable under the circumstances. His skin was dark as a
mulatto's,--yet smooth, and healthily coloured by the warm blood
flushing through the olive tint,--his eyes seemed black, but could
scarcely be seen on account of the extreme length and thickness of
their dark lashes,--the fine, rather scornful curve of his short upper
lip was partially hidden by a black moustache; and with all this
blackness and darkness about his face, his hair, of which he seemed to
have an extraordinary profusion, was perfectly white. Not merely a
silvery white, but a white as pronounced as that of a bit of washed
fleece or newly-fallen snow. In looking at him it was impossible to
decide whether he was old or young,--because, though he carried no
wrinkles or other defacing marks of Time's power to destroy, his
features wore an impress of such stern and deeply resolved thought as
is seldom or never the heritage of those to whom youth still belongs.
Nevertheless, he seemed a long way off from being old,--so that,
altogether, he was a puzzle to his neighbours in the stalls, as well
as to certain fair women in the boxes, who levelled their opera-
glasses at him with a pertinacity which might have made him
uncomfortably self-conscious had he looked up. Only he did not look
up; he leaned back in his seat with a slightly listless air, studied
his programme intently, and appeared half asleep, owing to the way in
which his eyelids drooped, and the drowsy sweep of his lashes. The
irrepressible American girl almost forgot "Hamlet," so absorbed was
she in staring at him, in spite of the sotto-voce remonstrances of her
decorous mother, who sat beside her,--and presently, as if aware of,
or annoyed by, her scrutiny, he lifted his eyes, and looked full at
her. With an instinctive movement she recoiled,--and her own eyes
fell. Never in all her giddy, thoughtless little life had she seen
such fiery, brilliant, night-black orbs,--they made her feel
uncomfortable,--gave her the "creeps," as she afterwards declared;--
she shivered, drawing her satin opera-wrap more closely about her, and
stared at the stranger no more. He soon removed his piercing gaze from
her to the stage, for now the great "Play scene" of "Hamlet" was in
progress, and was from first to last a triumph for the actor chiefly
concerned. At the next fall of the curtain, a fair, dissipated-looking
young fellow leaned over from the third row of stalls, and touched the
white-haired individual lightly on the shoulder.

"My dear El-Rmi! You here? At a theatre? Why, I should never have
thought you capable of indulging in such frivolity!"

"Do you consider 'Hamlet' frivolous?" queried the other, rising from
his seat to shake hands, and showing himself to be a man of medium
height, though having such peculiar dignity of carriage as made him
appear taller than he really was.

"Well, no!"--and the young man yawned rather effusively. "To tell you
the truth, I find him insufferably dull."

"You do?" and the person addressed as El-Rmi smiled slightly.
"Well,--naturally you go with the opinions of your age. You would no
doubt prefer a burlesque?"

"Frankly speaking, I should! And now I begin to think of it, I don't
know really why I came here. I had intended to look in at the Empire--
there's a new ballet going on there--but a fellow at the club gave me
this stall, said it was a 'first-night,' and all the rest of it--and

"And so Fate decided for you," finished El-Rmi sedately. "And instead
of admiring the pretty ladies without proper clothing at the Empire,
you find yourself here, wondering why the deuce Hamlet the Dane could
not find anything better to do than bother himself about his father's
ghost! Exactly! But, being here, you are here for a purpose, my
friend;" and he lowered his voice to a confidential whisper. "Look!--
Over there---observe her well!--sits your future wife;"--and he
indicated, by the slightest possible nod, the American girl before
alluded to. "Yes,--the pretty creature in pink, with dark hair. You
don't know her? No, of course you don't--but you will. She will be
introduced to you to-night before you leave this theatre. Don't look
so startled--there's nothing miraculous about her, I assure you! She
is merely Miss Chester, only daughter of Jabez Chester, the latest New
York millionaire. A charmingly shallow, delightfully useless, but
enormously wealthy little person!--you will propose to her within a
month, and you will be accepted. A very good match for you, Vaughan--
all your debts paid, and everything set straight with certain Jews.
Nothing could be better, really--and, remember,--I am the first to
congratulate you!"

He spoke rapidly, with a smiling, easy air of conviction; his friend
meanwhile stared at him in profound amazement and something of fear.

"By Jove, El-Rmi!"--he began nervously--"you know, this is a little
too much of a good thing. It's all very well to play prophet
sometimes, but it can be overdone."

"Pardon!" and El-Rmi turned to resume his seat. "The play begins
again. Insufferably dull as 'Hamlet' may be, we are bound to give him
some slight measure of attention."

Vaughan forced a careless smile in response, and threw himself
indolently back in his own stall, but he looked annoyed and puzzled.
His eyes wandered from the back of El-Rmi's white head to the half-
seen profile of the American heiress who had just been so coolly and
convincingly pointed out to him as his future wife.

"I don't know the girl from Adam,"--he thought irritably, "and I don't
want to know her. In fact, I won't know her. And if I won't, why, I
shan't know her. Will is everything, even according to El-Rmi. The
fellow's always so confoundedly positive of his prophecies. I should
like to confute him for once and prove him wrong."

Thus he mused, scarcely heeding the progress of Shakespeare's great
tragedy, till, at the close of the scene of Ophelia's burial, he saw
El-Rmi rise and prepare to leave the auditorium. He at once rose

"Are you going?" he asked.

"Yes;--I do not care for 'Hamlet's' end, or for anybody's end in this
particular play. I don't like the hasty and wholesale slaughter that
concludes the piece. It is inartistic."

"Shakespeare inartistic?" queried Vaughan, smiling.

"Why yes, sometimes. He was a man, not a god;--and no man's work can
be absolutely perfect. Shakespeare had his faults like everybody
else,--and with his great genius he would have been the first to own
them. It is only your little mediocrities who are never wrong. Are you
going also?"

"Yes; I mean to damage your reputation as a prophet, and avoid the
chance of an introduction to Miss Chester--for this evening, at any

He laughed as he spoke, but El-Rmi said nothing. The two passed out
of the stalls together into the lobby, where they had to wait a few
minutes to get their hats and overcoats, the man in charge of the
cloakroom having gone to cool his chronic thirst at the convenient
"bar." Vaughan made use of the enforced delay to light his cigar.

"Did you think it a good 'Hamlet'?" he asked his companion carelessly
while thus occupied.

"Excellent," replied El-Rmi. "The leading actor has immense talent,
and thoroughly appreciates the subtlety of the part he has to play;--
but his supporters are all sticks,--hence the scenes drag where he
himself is not in them. That is the worst of the 'star' system,--a
system which is perfectly ruinous to histrionic art. Still--no matter
how it is performed, 'Hamlet' is always interesting. Curiously
inconsistent, too, but impressive."

"Inconsistent? how?" asked Vaughan, beginning to puff rings of smoke
into the air, and to wonder impatiently how much longer the keeper of
the cloak-room meant to stay absent from his post.

"Oh, in many ways. Perhaps the most glaring inconsistency of the whole
conception comes out in the great soliloquy, 'To be or not to be.'"

"Really?" and Vaughan became interested.---"I thought that was
considered one of the finest bits in the play."

"So it is. I am not speaking of the lines themselves, which are
magnificent, but of their connection with 'Hamlet's' own character.
Why does he talk of a 'bourne from whence no traveller returns,' when
he has, or thinks he has, proof positive of the return of his own
father in spiritual form;--and it is just concerning that return that
he makes all the pother? Don't you see inconsistency there?"

"Of course,--but I never thought of it," said Vaughan, staring. "I
don't believe anyone but yourself has ever thought of it. It is quite
unaccountable. He certainly does say 'no traveller returns,'--and he
says it after he has seen the ghost too."

"Yes," went on El-Rmi, warming with his subject. "And he talks of the
'dread of something after death,' as if it were only a 'dread,' and
not a Fact;--whereas if he is to believe the spirit of his own father,
which he declares is 'an honest ghost,' there is no possibility of
doubt on the matter. Does not the mournful phantom say--"

"But that I am forbid
To tell the secrets of my prison-house
I could a tale unfold, whose lightest word
Would harrow up thy soul; freeze thy young blood;
Make thy two eyes like stars start from their spheres;
Thy knotted and combind locks to part.
And each particular hair to stand on end. . .?"

"By Jove! I say, El-Rmi; don't look at me like that!" exclaimed
Vaughan uneasily, backing away from a too close proximity to the
brilliant flashing eyes and absorbed face of his companion, who had
recited the lines with extraordinary passion and solemnity.

El-Rmi laughed.

"Did I scare you? Was I too much in earnest? I beg your pardon! True
enough,--'this eternal blazon must not be, to ears of flesh and
blood!' But, the 'something after death' was a peculiarly aggravating
reality to that poor ghost, and Hamlet knew that it was so when he
spoke of it as a mere 'dread.' Thus, as I say, he was inconsistent,
or, rather, Shakespeare did not argue the case logically."

"You would make a capital actor,"--said Vaughan, still gazing at him
in astonishment. "Why, you went on just now as if,--well, as if you
meant it, you know."

"So I did mean it," replied El-Rmi lightly--"for the moment! I always
find 'Hamlet' a rather absorbing study; so will you, perhaps, when you
are my age."

"Your age?" and Vaughan shrugged his shoulders. "I wish I knew it!
Why, nobody knows it. You may be thirty or a hundred--who can tell?"

"Or two hundred--or even three hundred?" queried El-Rmi, with a touch
of satire in his tone;--"why stint the measure of limitless time? But
here comes our recalcitrant knave"--this, as the keeper of the
cloakroom made his appearance from a side-door with a perfectly easy
and unembarrassed air, as though he had done rather a fine thing than
otherwise in keeping two gentlemen waiting his pleasure. "Let us get
our coats, and be well away before the decree of Fate can be
accomplished in making you the winner of the desirable Chester prize.
It is delightful to conquer Fate--if one can!"

His black eyes flashed curiously, and Vaughan paused in the act of
throwing on his overcoat to look at him again in something of doubt
and dread.

At that moment a gay voice exclaimed:

"Why, here's Vaughan!--Freddie Vaughan--how lucky!" and a big handsome
man of about two or three and thirty sauntered into the lobby from the
theatre, followed by two ladies. "Look here, Vaughan, you're just the
fellow I wanted to see. We've left Hamlet in the thick of his fight,
because we're going on to the Somers's ball,--will you come with us?
And I say, Vaughan, allow me to introduce to you my friends--Mrs.
Jabez Chester, Miss Idina Chester--Sir Frederick Vaughan."

For one instant Vaughan stood inert and stupefied; the next he
remembered himself, and bowed mechanically. His presentation to the
Chesters was thus suddenly effected by his cousin, Lord Melthorpe, to
whom he was indebted for many favours, and whom he could not afford to
offend by any show of brusquerie. As soon as the necessary salutations
were exchanged, however, he looked round vaguely, and in a sort of
superstitious terror, for the man who had so surely prophesied this
introduction. But El-Rmi was gone. Silently and without adieu he had
departed, having seen his word fulfilled.


"WHO is the gentleman that just left you?" asked Miss Chester, smiling
prettily up into Vaughan's eyes, as she accepted his proffered arm to
lead her to her carriage,--"Such a distinguished-looking dreadful

Vaughan smiled at this description.

"He is certainly rather singular in personal appearance," he began,
when his cousin, Lord Melthorpe, interrupted him.

"You mean El-Rmi? It was El-Rmi, wasn't it? Ah, I thought so. Why
did he give us the slip, I wonder? I wish he had waited a minute--he
is a most interesting fellow."

"But who is he?" persisted Miss Chester. She was now comfortably
ensconced in her luxurious brougham, her mother beside her, and two
men of "title" opposite to her--a position which exactly suited the
aspirations of her soul. "How very tiresome you both are! You don't
explain him a bit; you only say he is 'interesting,' and of course one
can see that; people with such white hair and such black eyes are
always interesting, don't you think so?"

"Well, I don't see why they should be," said Lord Melthorpe dubiously.
"Now, just think what horrible chaps Albinos are, and they have white
hair and pink eyes--"

"Oh, don't drift off on the subject of Albinos, please!" pleaded Miss
Chester, with a soft laugh. "If you do, I shall never know anything
about this particular person--El-Rmi, did you say? Isn't it a very
odd name? Eastern, of course?"

"Oh yes! he is a pure Oriental thoroughbred," replied Lord Melthorpe,
who took the burden of the conversation upon himself, while he
inwardly wondered why his cousin Vaughan was in such an evidently
taciturn mood. "That is, I mean, he is an Oriental of the very old
stock, not one of the modern Indian mixtures of vice and knavery. But
when he came from the East, and why he came from the East, I don't
suppose anyone could tell you. I have only met him two or three times
in society, and on those occasions he managed to perplex and fascinate
a good many people. My wife, for instance, thinks him quite a
marvellous man; she always asks him to her parties, but he hardly ever
comes. His name in full is El-Rmi-Zarnos, though I believe he is
best known as El-Rmi simply."

"And what is he?" asked Miss Chester. "An artist?--a literary

"Neither, that I am aware of. Indeed, I don't know what he is, or how
he lives. I have always looked upon him as a sort of magician--a kind
of private conjurer, you know."

"Dear me!" said fat Mrs. Chester, waking up from a semi-doze, and
trying to get interested in the subject. "Does he do drawing-room

"Oh no, he doesn't do tricks;" and Lord Melthorpe looked a little
amused. "He isn't that sort of man at all; I'm afraid I explain myself
badly. I mean that he can tell you extraordinary things about your
past and future--"

"Oh, by your hand--I know!" and the pretty Idina nodded her head
sagaciously. "There really is something awfully clever in palmistry. I
can tell fortunes that way!"

"Can you?" Lord Melthorpe smiled indulgently, and went on,--"But it so
happens that El-Rmi does not tell anything by the hand,--he judges by
the face, figure, and movement. He doesn't make a profession of it;
but, really, he does foretell events in rather a curious way now and

"He certainly does!" agreed Vaughan, rousing himself from a reverie
into which he had fallen, and fixing his eyes on the small piquante
features of the girl opposite him. "Some of his prophecies are quite

"Really! How very delightful!" said Miss Chester, who was fully aware
of Sir Frederick's intent, almost searching, gaze, but pretended to be
absorbed in buttoning one of her gloves. "I must ask him to tell me
what sort of fate is in store for me--something awful, I'm positive!
Don't you think he has horrid eyes?--splendid, but horrid? He looked
at me in the theatre--"

"My dear, you looked at him first," murmured Mrs. Chester.

"Yes; but I'm sure I didn't make him shiver. Now, when he looked at
me, I felt as if someone were pouring cold water very slowly down my
back. It was such a creepy sensation! Do fasten this, mother--will
you?" and she extended the hand with the refractory glove upon it to
Mrs. Chester, but Vaughan promptly interposed:

"Allow me!"

"Oh, well! if you know how to fix a button that is almost off!" she
said laughingly, with a blush that well became her transparent skin.

"I can make an attempt"--said Vaughan, with due humility. "If I
succeed, will you give me one or two dances presently?"

"With pleasure!"

"Oh! you are coming in to the Somers's, then!" said Lord Melthorpe, in
a pleased tone. "That's right. You know, Fred, you're so absent-minded
to-night, that you never said 'Yes' or 'No' when I asked you to
accompany us."

"Didn't I? I'm awfully sorry!" and, having fastened the glove with
careful daintiness, he smiled. "Please set down my rudeness and
distraction to the uncanny influence of El-Rmi; I can't imagine any
other reason."

They all laughed carelessly, as people in an idle humour laugh at
trifles, and the carriage bore them on to their destination--a great
house in Queen's Gate, where a magnificent entertainment was being
held in honour of some Serene and Exalted foreign potentate who had
taken it into his head to see how London amused itself during a
"season." The foreign potentate had heard that the splendid English
capital was full of gloom and misery--that its women were
unapproachable, and its men difficult to make friends with; and all
these erroneous notions had to be dispersed in his serene and exalted
brain, no matter what his education cost the "Upper Ten" who undertook
to enlighten his barbarian ignorance.

Meanwhile, the subject of Lord Mel--thorpe's conversation--El-Rmi, or
El-Rmi-Zarnos, as he was called by those of his own race--was
walking quietly homewards with that firm, swift, yet apparently
unhasting pace which so often distinguishes the desert-born savage,
and so seldom gives grace to the deportment of the cultured citizen.
It was a mild night in May; the weather was unusually fine and warm;
the skies were undarkened by any mist or cloud, and the stars shone
forth with as much brilliancy as though the city lying under their
immediate ken had been the smiling fairy, Florence, instead of the
brooding giant, London. Now and again El-Rmi raised his eyes to the
sparkling belt of Orion, which glittered aloft with a lustre that is
seldom seen in the hazy English air;--he was thinking his own
thoughts, and the fact that there were many passers to and fro in the
streets besides himself did not appear to disturb him in the least,
for he strode through their ranks, without any hurry or jostling, as
if he alone existed, and they were but shadows.

"What fools are the majority of men!" he mused. "How easy to gull
them, and how willing they are to be gulled! How that silly young
Vaughan marvelled at my prophecy of his marriage!--as if it were not
as easy to foretell as that two and two inevitably make four! Given
the characters of people in the same way that you give figures, and
you are certain to arrive at a sum-total of them in time. How simple
the process of calculation as to Vaughan's matrimonial prospects! Here
are the set of numerals I employed: Two nights ago I heard Lord
Melthorpe say he meant to marry his cousin Fred to Miss Chester,
daughter of Jabez Chester, of New York,--Miss Chester herself entered
the room a few minutes later on, and I saw the sort of young woman she
was. To-night at the theatre I see her again;--in an opposite box,
well back in shadow, I perceive Lord Melthorpe. Young Vaughan, whose
character I know to be of such weakness that it can be moulded
whichever way a stronger will turns it, sits close behind me; and I
proceed to make the little sum-total. Given Lord Melthorpe, with a
determination that resembles the obstinacy of a pig rather than of a
man; Frederick Vaughan, with no determination at all; and the little
Chester girl, with her heart set on an English title, even though it
only be that of a baronet, and the marriage is certain. What was un
certain was the possibility of their all meeting to-night; but they
were all there, and I counted that possibility as the fraction over,--
there is always a fraction over in character-sums; it stands as
Providence or Fate, and must always be allowed for. I chanced it,--and
won. I always do win in these things,--these ridiculous trifles of
calculation, which are actually accepted as prophetic utterances by
people who never will think out anything for themselves. Good heavens!
what a monster-burden of crass ignorance and wilful stupidity this
poor planet has groaned under ever since it was hurled into space!
Immense!--incalculable! And for what purpose? For what progress? For
what end?"

He stopped a moment; he had walked from the Strand up through
Piccadilly, and was now close to Hyde Park. Taking out his watch, he
glanced at the time--it was close upon midnight. All at once he was
struck fiercely from behind, and the watch he held was snatched from
his hand by a man who had no sooner committed the theft than he
uttered a loud cry, and remained inert and motionless. El-Rmi turned
quietly round, and surveyed him.

"Well, my friend?" he inquired blandly--"What did you do that for?"

The fellow stared about him vaguely, but seemed unable to answer,--his
arm was stiffly outstretched, and the watch was clutched fast within
his palm.

"You had better give that little piece of property back to me," went
on El-Rmi, coldly smiling,--and, stepping close up to his assailant,
he undid the closed fingers one by one, and, removing the watch,
restored it to his own pocket. The thief's arm at the same moment fell
limply at his side; but he remained where he was, trembling violently
as though seized with a sudden ague-fit.

"You would find it an inconvenient thing to have about you, I assure
you. Stolen goods are always more or less of a bore, I believe. You
seem rather discomposed? Ah! you have had a little shock,--that's all.
You've heard of torpedos, I dare say? Well, in this scientific age of
ours, there are human torpedos going about; and I am one of them. It
is necessary to be careful whom you touch nowadays,--it really is, you
know! You will be better presently--take time!"

He spoke banteringly, observing the thief meanwhile with the most
curious air, as though he were some peculiar specimen of beetle or
frog. The wretched man's features worked convulsively, and he made a
gesture of appeal:

"Yer won't 'ave me took up!" he muttered hoarsely. "I'm starvin'!"

"No, no!" said El-Rmi persuasively--"you are nothing of the sort. Do
not tell lies, my friend; that is a great mistake--as great a mistake
as thieving. Both things, as you practise them, will put you to no end
of trouble,--and to avoid trouble is the chief aim of modern life. You
are not starving--you are as plump as a rabbit,"--and, with a
dexterous touch, he threw up the man's loose shirt-sleeve, and
displayed the full, firm flesh of the strong and sinewy arm beneath.
"You have had more meat in you to-day than I can manage in a week; you
will do very well. You are a professional thief,--a sort of--lawyer,
shall we say? Only, instead of protesting the right you have to live,
politely by means of documents and red-tape, you assert it roughly by
stealing a watch. It's very frank conduct,--but it is not civil; and,
in the present state of ethics, it doesn't pay--it really doesn't. I'm
afraid I'm boring you! You feel better? Then--good-evening!"

He was about to resume his walk, when the now-recovered rough took a
hasty step towards him.

"I wanted to knock yer down!" he began.

"I know you did,"--returned El-Rmi composedly. "Well--would you like
to try again?"

The man stared at him, half in amazement, half in fear.

"Yer see," he went on, "yer pulled out yer watch, and it was all jools
and sparkles--"

"And it was a glittering temptation"--finished El-Rmi. "I see. I had
no business to pull it out; I grant it; but, being pulled out, you had
no business to want it. We were both wrong; let us both endeavour to
be wiser in future. Good-night!"

"Well, I'm blowed if ye're not a rum un, and an orful un!" ejaculated
the man, who had certainly received a fright, and was still nervous
from the effects of it. "Blowed if he ain't the rummest card!"

But the "rummest card" heard none of these observations. He crossed
the road, and went on his way serenely, taking up the thread of his
interrupted musings as though nothing had occurred.

"Fools--fools all!" he murmured. "Thieves steal, murderers slay,
labourers toil, and all men and women lust and live and die--to what
purpose? For what progress? For what end? Destruction or new life?
Heaven or hell? Wisdom or caprice? Kindness or cruelty? God or the
Devil? Which? If I knew that I should be wise,--but till I know, I am
but a fool also,--a fool among fools, fooled by a Fate whose secret I
mean to discover and conquer--and defy!"

He paused,--and, drawing a long, deep breath, raised his eyes to the
stars once more. His lips moved as though he repeated inwardly some
vow or prayer, then he proceeded at a quicker pace, and stopped no
more till he reached his destination, which was a small, quiet and
unfashionable square off Sloane Street. Here he made his way to an
unpretentious-looking little house, semi-detached, and one of a row of
similar buildings; the only particularly distinctive mark about it
being a heavy and massively-carved ancient oaken door, which opened
easily at the turn of his latch-key, and closed after him without the
slightest sound as he entered.


A DIM red light burned in the narrow hall, just sufficient to enable
him to see the wooden peg on which he was accustomed to hang his hat
and overcoat,--and as soon as he had divested himself of his outdoor
garb, he extinguished even that faint glimmer of radiance. Opening a
side-door, he entered his own room--a picturesque apartment running
from east to west, the full length of the house. From its appearance
it had evidently once served as drawing-room and dining-room, with
folding-doors between; but the folding-doors had been dispensed with,
and the place they had occupied was now draped with heavy amber silk.
This silk seemed to be of some peculiar and costly make, for it
sparkled with iridescent gleams of silver like diamond-dust when El-
Rmi turned on the electric burner, which, in the form of a large
flower, depended from the ceiling by quaintly-worked silver chains,
and was connected by a fine wire with a shaded reading-lamp on the
table. There was not much of either beauty or value in the room,--yet
without being at all luxurious, it suggested luxury. The few chairs
were of the most ordinary make, all save one, which was of finely
carved ebony, and was piled with silk cushions of amber and red,--the
table was of plain painted deal, covered with a dark woollen cloth
worked in and out with threads of gold,--there were a few geometrical
instruments about,--a large pair of globes,--a rack on the wall
stocked with weapons for the art of fence,--and one large book-case
full of books. An ebony-cased pianette occupied one corner,--and on a
small side-table stood a heavily-made oaken chest, brass-bound and
double-locked. The furniture was completed by a plain camp-bedstead
such as soldiers use, which at the present moment was partly folded up
and almost hidden from view by a rough bearskin thrown carelessly
across it.

El-Rmi sat down in the big ebony chair and looked at a pile of
letters lying on his writing-table. They were from all sorts of
persons,--princes, statesmen, diplomats, financiers, and artists in
all the professions,--he recognised the handwriting on some of the
envelopes, and his brows contracted in a frown as he tossed them aside
still unopened.

"They must wait," he said half aloud. "Curious that it is impossible
for a man to be original without attracting around him a set of
unoriginal minds, as though he were a honey-pot and they the flies!
Who would believe that I, poor in worldly goods, and living in more or
less obscurity, should, without any wish of my own, be in touch with
kings?--should know the last new policy of governments before it is
made ripe for public declaration?--should hold the secrets of 'my
lord' and 'my lady' apart from each other's cognisance, and be able to
amuse myself with their little ridiculous matrimonial differences, as
though they were puppets playing their parts for use at a marionette
show! I do not ask these people to confide in me,--I do not want them
to seek me out,--and yet the cry is, 'still they come!'--and the
attributes of my own nature are such, that like a magnet, I attract,
and so am never left in peace. Yet perhaps it is well it should be
thus,--I need the external distraction,--otherwise my mind would be
too much like a bent bow,--fixed on the one centre,--the Great
Secret,--and its powers might fail me at the last. But no!--failure is
impossible now. Steeled against love,--hate,--and all the merely
earthly passions of mankind as I am,--I must succeed--and I will!"

He leaned his head on one hand, and seemed to suddenly concentrate his
thoughts on one particular subject,--his eyes dilated and grew luridly
brilliant as though sparks of fire burnt behind them. He had not sat
thus for more than a couple of minutes, when the door opened gently,
and a beautiful youth clad in a loose white tunic and vest of Eastern
fashion, made his appearance, and standing silently on the threshold
seemed to wait for some command.

"So, Fraz! you heard my summons?" said El-Rmi gently.

"I heard my brother speak,"--responded Fraz in a low melodious voice
that had a singularly dreamy far-away tone within it--"Through a wall
of cloud and silence his beloved accents fell like music on my ears;--
he called me and I came."

And sighing lightly, he folded his arms cross-wise on his breast and
stood erect and immovable, looking like some fine statue just endowed
by magic with the flush of life. He resembled El-Rmi in features, but
was fairer-skinned,--his eyes were softer and more femininely
lovely,--his hair, black as night, clustered in thick curls over his
brow, and his figure, straight as a young palm-tree, was a perfect
model of strength united with grace. But just now he had a strangely
absorbed air,--his eyes, though they were intently fixed on El-Rmi's
face, looked like the eyes of a sleep-walker, so dreamy were they
while wide-open,--and as he spoke he smiled vaguely as one who hears
delicious singing afar off.

El-Rmi studied him intently for a minute or two,--then, removing his
gaze, pressed a small silver hand-bell at his side. It rang sharply
out on the silence.


Fraz started,--rubbed his eyes,--glanced about him, and then sprang
towards his brother with quite a new expression,--one of grace,
eagerness and animation, that intensified his beauty and made him
still more worthy the admiration of a painter or a sculptor.

"El-Rmi! at last! How late you are! I waited for you long--and then I
slept. I am sorry! But you called me in the usual way, I suppose?--and
I did not fail you? Ah no! I should come to you if I were dead!"

He dropped on one knee, and raised El-Rmi's hand caressingly to his

"Where have you been all the evening?" he went on. "I have missed you
greatly--the house is so silent."

El-Rmi touched his clustering curls tenderly.

"You could have made music in it with your lute and voice, Fraz, had
you chosen," he said. "As for me, I went to see 'Hamlet.'"

"Oh, why did you go?" demanded Fraz impetuously. "I would not see
it--no! not for worlds! Such poetry must needs be spoilt by men's
mouthing of it,--it is better to read it, to think it, to feel it,--
and so one actually sees it,--best."

"You talk like a poet,"--said El-Rmi indulgently. "You are not much
more than a boy, and you think the thoughts of youth. Have you any
supper ready for me?"

Fraz smiled and sprang up, left the room, and returned in a few
minutes with a daintily arranged tray of refreshments, which he set
before his brother with all the respect and humility of a well-trained
domestic in attendance on his master.

"You have supped?" El-Rmi asked, as he poured out wine from the
delicately shaped Italian flask beside him.

Fraz nodded.

"Yes. Zaroba supped with me. But she was cross to-night--she had
nothing to say."

El-Rmi smiled. "That is unusual!"

Fraz went on. "There have been many people here,--they all wanted to
see you. They have left their cards. Some of them asked me my name and
who I was. I said I was your servant--but they would not believe me.
There were great folks among them--they came in big carriages with
prancing horses. Have you seen their names?"

"Not I."

"Ah, you are so indifferent," said Fraz gaily,--he had now quite lost
his dreamy and abstracted look, and talked on in an eager boyish way
that suited his years,--he was barely twenty. "You are so bent on
great thoughts that you cannot see little things. But these dukes and
earls who come to visit you do not consider themselves little,--not

"Yet many of them are the least among little men," said El-Rmi with a
touch of scorn in his mellow accents. "Dowered with great historic
names which they almost despise, they do their best to drag the memory
of their ancient lineage into dishonour by vulgar passions, low
tastes, and a scorn as well as lack of true intelligence. Let us not
talk of them. The English aristocracy was once a magnificent tree, but
its broad boughs are fallen,--lopped off and turned into saleable
timber,--and there is but a decaying stump of it left. And so Zaroba
said nothing to you to-night?"

"Scarce a word. She was very sullen. She bade me tell you all was
well,--that is her usual formula. I do not understand it;--what is it
that should be well or ill? You never explain your mystery!"

He smiled, but there was a vivid curiosity in his fine eyes,--he
looked as if he would have asked more had he dared to do so.

El-Rmi evaded his questioning glance. "Speak of yourself," he said.
"Did you wander at all into your Dreamland today?"

"I was there when you called me," replied Fraz quickly. "I saw my
home,--its trees and flowers,--I listened to the ripple of its
fountains and streams. It is harvest-time there, do you know? I heard
the reapers singing as they carried home the sheaves."

His brother surveyed him with a fixed and wondering scrutiny.

"How absolute you are in your faith!" he said half enviously. "You
think it is your home,--but it is only an idea after all,--an idea,
born of a vision."

"Does a mere visionary idea engender love and longing?" exclaimed
Fraz impetuously. "Oh no, El-Rmi,--it cannot do so! I know the land
I see so often in what you call a 'dream,'--its mountains are familiar
to me,--its people are my people; yes!--I am remembered there, and so
are you,--we dwelt there once,--we shall dwell there again. It is your
home as well as mine,--that bright and far-off star where there is no
death but only sleep,--why were we exiled from our happiness, El-Rmi?
Can your wisdom tell?"

"I know nothing of what you say," returned El-Rmi brusquely. "As I
told you, you talk like a poet,--harsher men than I, would add, like a
madman. You imagine you were born or came into being in a different
planet to this,--that you lived there,--that you were exiled from
thence by some mysterious doom, and were condemned to pass into human
existence here;--well, I repeat, Fraz--this is your own fancy,--the
result of the strange double life you lead, which is not by my will or
teaching. I believe only in what can be proved--and this that you tell
me is beyond all proof."

"And yet," said Fraz meditatively,--"though I cannot reason it out, I
am sure of what I feel. My 'dream' is more life-like than life
itself,--and as for my beloved people yonder, I tell you I have heard
them singing the harvest-home."

And with a quick soft step, he went to the piano, opened it and began
to play. El-Rmi leaned back in his chair mute and absorbed,--did ever
common keyed instrument give forth such enchanting sounds? Was ever
written music known that could, when performed, utter such divine and
dulcet eloquence? There was nothing earthly in the tune,--it seemed to
glide from under the player's fingers like a caress upon the air,--and
an involuntary sigh broke from El-Rmi's lips as he listened. Fraz
heard that sigh, and turned round smiling.

"Is there not something familiar in the strain?" he asked. "Do you not
see them all, so fair and light and lithe of limb, coming over the
fields homewards as the red Ring burns low in the western sky?
Surely--surely you remember?"

A slight shudder shook El-Rmi's frame,--he pressed his hands over his
eyes, and seemed to collect himself by a strong effort,--then walking
over to the piano, he took his young brother's hands from the keys and
held them for a moment against his breast.

"Keep your illusions"--he said in a low voice that trembled slightly.
"Keep them,--and your faith,--together. It is for you to dream, and
for me to prove. Mine is the hardest lot. There may be truth in your
dreams,--there may be deception in my proofs--Heaven only knows! Were
you not of my own blood, and dearer to me than most human things, I
should, like every scientist worthy of the name, strive to break off
your spiritual pinions and make of you a mere earth-grub even as most
of us are made,--but I cannot do it,--I have not the heart to do it,--
and if I had the heart"--he paused a moment,--then went on slowly--"I
have not the power. Good-night!"

He left the room abruptly without another word or look,--and the
beautiful young Fraz gazed after his retreating figure doubtfully and
with something of wondering regret. Was it worth while, he thought, to
be so wise, if wisdom made one at times so sad?--was it well to
sacrifice Faith for Fact, when Faith was so warm and Fact so cold? Was
it better to be a dreamer of things possible, or a worker-out of
things positive? And how much was positive after all? and how much
possible? He balanced the question lightly with himself,--it was like
a discord in the music of his mind, and disturbed his peace. He soon
dismissed the jarring thought, however, and closing the piano, glanced
round the room to make sure that nothing more was required for his
brother's service or comfort that night, and then he went away to
resume his interrupted slumbers,--perchance to take up the chorus of
his "people" singing in what he deemed his native star.


EL-RMI meanwhile slowly ascended the stairs to the first floor, and
there on the narrow landing paused, listening. There was not a sound
in the house,--the delicious music of the strange "harvest-song" had
ceased, though to El-Rmi's ears there still seemed to be a throb of
its melody in the air, like perfume left from the carrying by of
flowers. And with this vague impression upon him he listened,--
listened as it were to the deep silence; and as he stood in this
attentive attitude, his eyes rested on a closed door opposite to
him,--a door which might, if taken off its hinges and exhibited at
some museum, have carried away the palm for perfection in panel-
painting. It was so designed as to resemble a fine trellis-work, hung
with pale clambering roses and purple passion-flowers,--on the upper
half among the blossoms sat a meditative cupid, pressing a bud against
his pouting lips, while below him, stretched in full-length desolation
on a bent bough, his twin brother wept childishly over the piteous
fate of a butterfly that lay dead in his curled pink palm. El-Rmi
stared so long and persistently at the pretty picture that it might
have been imagined he was looking at it for the first time and was
absorbed in admiration, but truth to tell he scarcely saw it. His
thoughts were penetrating beyond all painted semblances of beauty,--
and,--as in the case of his young brother Fraz,--those thoughts were
speedily answered. A key turned in the lock,--the door opened, and a
tall old woman, bronze-skinned, black-eyed, withered, uncomely yet
imposing of aspect, stood in the aperture.

"Enter, El-Rmi!" she said in a low yet harsh voice--"The hour is
late,--but when did ever the lateness of hours change or deter your
sovereign will! Yet truly as God liveth, it is hard that I should
seldom be permitted to pass a night in peace!"

El-Rmi smiled indifferently, but made no reply, as it was useless to
answer Zaroba. She was stone deaf, and therefore not in a condition to
be argued with. She preceded him into a small ante-room, provided with
no other furniture than a table and chair;--one entire side of the
wall however was hung with a magnificent curtain of purple velvet
bordered in gold. On the table were a slate and pencil, and these
implements El-Rmi at once drew towards him.

"Has there been any change to-day?" he wrote.

Zaroba read the words.

"None," she replied.

"She has not moved?"

"Not a finger."

He paused, pencil in hand,--then he wrote--

"You are ill-tempered. You have your dark humour upon you."

Zaroba's eyes flashed, and she threw up her skinny hands with a
wrathful gesture.

"Dark humour!" she cried in accents that were almost shrill--"Ay!--and
if it be so, El-Rmi, what is my humour to you? Am I anything more to
you than a cipher,--a mere slave? What have the thoughts of a foolish
woman, bent with years and close to the dark gateways of the tomb, to
do with one who deems himself all wisdom? What are the feelings of a
wretched perishable piece of flesh and blood to a self-centred god and
opponent of Nature like El-Rmi-Zarnos!" She laughed bitterly. "Pay
no heed to me, great Master of the Fates invisible!--superb controller
of the thoughts of men!--pay no heed to Zaroba's 'dark humours' as you
call them. Zaroba has no wings to soar with--she is old and feeble,
and aches at the heart with a burden of unshed tears,--she would fain
have been content with this low earth whereon to tread in safety,--she
would fain have been happy with common joys,--but these are debarred
her, and her lot is like that of many a better woman,--to sit solitary
among the ashes of dead days and know herself desolate!"

She dropped her arms as suddenly as she had raised them. El-Rmi
surveyed her with a touch of derision, and wrote again on the slate.

"I thought you loved your charge?"

Zaroba read, and drew herself up proudly, looking almost as dignified
as El-Rmi himself.

"Does one love a statue?" she demanded. "Shall I caress a picture?
Shall I rain tears or kisses over the mere semblance of a life that
does not live,--shall I fondle hands that never return my clasp? Love!
Love is in my heart--yes! like a shut-up fire in a tomb,--but you hold
the key, El-Rmi, and the flame dies for want of air."

He shrugged his shoulders, and putting the pencil aside, wrote no
more. Moving towards the velvet curtain that draped the one side of
the room he made an imperious sign. Zaroba, obeying the gesture
mechanically and at once, drew a small pulley, by means of which the
rich soft folds of stuff parted noiselessly asunder, displaying such a
wonderful interior of luxury and loveliness as seemed for the moment
almost unreal. The apartment opened to view was lofty and perfectly
circular in shape, and was hung from top to bottom with silken
hangings of royal purple embroidered all over with curious arabesque
patterns in gold. The same rich material was caught up from the edges
of the ceiling to the centre, like the drapery of a pavilion or tent,
and was there festooned with golden fringes and tassels. From out the
midst of this warm mass of glistening colour, swung a gold lamp which
shed its light through amber-hued crystal,--while the floor below was
carpeted with the thickest velvet pile, the design being pale purple
pansies on a darker ground of the same almost neutral tint. A specimen
of everything beautiful, rare and costly seemed to have found its way
into this one room, from the exquisitely wrought ivory figure of a
Psyche on her pedestal, to the tall vase of Venetian crystal which
held lightly up to view, dozens of magnificent roses that seemed born
of full midsummer, though as yet in the capricious English climate, it
was scarcely spring. And all the beauty, all the grace, all the
evidences of perfect taste, art, care and forethought, were gathered
together round one centre,--one unseeing, unresponsive centre,--the
figure of a sleeping girl. Pillowed on a raised couch such as might
have served a queen for costliness, she lay fast bound in slumber,--a
matchless piece of loveliness,--stirless as marble,--wondrous as the
ideal of a poet's dream. Her delicate form was draped loosely in a
robe of purest white, arranged so as to suggest rather than conceal
its exquisite outline,--a silk coverlet was thrown lightly across her
feet, and her head rested on cushions of the softest, snowiest satin.
Her exceedingly small white hands were crossed upon her breast over a
curious jewel,--a sort of giant ruby cut in the shape of a star, which
scintillated with a thousand sparkles in the light, and coloured the
under-tips of her fingers with a hue like wine, and her hair, which
was of extraordinary length and beauty, almost clothed her body down
to the knee, as with a mantle of shimmering gold. To say merely that
she was lovely would scarcely describe her,--for the loveliness that
is generally understood as such, was here so entirely surpassed and
intensified that it would be difficult if not impossible to express
its charm. Her face had the usual attributes of what might be deemed
perfection,--that is, the lines were purely oval,--the features
delicate, the skin most transparently fair, the lips a dewy red, and
the fringes of the closed eyes were long, dark and delicately
upcurled;--but this was not all. There was something else,--something
quite undefinable, that gave a singular glow and radiance to the whole
countenance, and suggested the burning of a light through alabaster,--
a creeping of some subtle fire through the veins which made the fair
body seem the mere reflection of some greater fairness within. If
those eyes were to open, one thought, how wonderful their lustre must
needs be!--if that perfect figure rose up and moved, what a harmony
would walk the world in maiden shape!--and yet,--watching that hushed
repose, that scarcely perceptible breathing, it seemed more than
certain that she would never rise,--never tread earthly soil in common
with earth's creatures,--never be more than what she seemed,--a human
flower, gathered and set apart--for whom? For God's love? or Man's
pleasure? Either, neither, or both?

El-Rmi entered the rich apartment followed by Zaroba, and stood by
the couch for some minutes in silence. Whatever his thoughts were, his
face gave no clue to them,--his features being as impassive as though
cast in bronze. Zaroba watched him curiously, her wrinkled visage
expressive of some strongly-suppressed passion. The sleeping girl
stirred and smiled in her sleep,--a smile that brightened her
countenance as much as if a sudden glory had circled it with a halo.

"Ay, she lives for you!" said Zaroba. "And she grows fairer every day.
She is the sun, and you the snow. But the snow is bound to melt in due
season,--and even you, El-Rmi-Zarnos, will hardly baffle the laws of

El-Rmi turned upon her with a fierce mute gesture that had something
of the terrible in it,--she shrank from the cold glance of his intense
eyes, and in obedience to an imperative wave of his hand moved away to
a further corner of the room, where, crouching down upon the floor,
she took up a quaint implement of work, a carved triangular frame of
ebony, with which she busied herself, drawing glittering threads in
and out of it with marvellous speed and dexterity. She made a weird
picture there, squatted on the ground in her yellow cotton draperies,
her rough gray hair gleaming like spun silk in the light, and the
shining threadwork in her withered hands. El-Rmi looked at her
sitting thus, and was suddenly moved with compassion--she was old and
sad,--poor Zaroba! He went up to her where she crouched, and stood
above her, his ardent fiery eyes seeming to gather all their wonderful
lustre into one long, earnest and pitiful regard. Her work fell from
her hands, and as she met that burning gaze, a vague smile parted her
lips,--her frowning features smoothed themselves into an expression of
mingled placidity and peace.

"Desolate Zaroba!" said El-Rmi slowly lifting his hands. "Widowed and
solitary soul! Deaf to the outer noises of the world, let the ears of
thy spirit be open to my voice--and hear thou all the music of the
past! Lo, the bygone years return to thee and picture themselves
afresh upon thy tired brain!--again thou dost listen to the voices of
thy children at play,--the wild Arabian desert spreads out before thee
in the sun like a sea of gold,--the tall palms lift themselves against
the burning sky--the tent is pitched by the cool spring of fresh
water,--and thy savage mate, wearied out with long travel, sleeps,
pillowed on thy breast. Thou art young again, Zaroba!--young, fair and
beloved!--be happy so! Dream and rest!"

As he spoke he took the aged woman's unresisting hands and laid her
gently, gently, by gradual degrees down in a recumbent posture, and
placing a cushion under her head watched her for a few seconds.

"By Heaven!" he muttered, as he heard her regular breathing and noted
the perfectly composed expression of her face. "Are dreams after all
the only certain joys of life? A poet's fancies,--a painter's
visions--the cloud-castles of a boy's imaginings--all dreams!--and
only such dreamers can be called happy. Neither Fate nor Fortune can
destroy their pleasure,--they make sport of kings and hold great
nations as the merest toys of thought--oh sublime audacity of Vision!
Would I could dream so!--or rather, would I could prove my dreams not
dreams at all, but the reflections of the absolute Real! 'Hamlet'

"To die--to sleep--
To sleep, perchance to dream--ay! there's the rub!"

Imagine it!--to die and dream of Heaven--or Hell,--and all the while
if there should be no reality in either!"

With one more glance at the now soundly slumbering Zaroba, he went
back to the couch, and gazed long and earnestly at the exquisite
maiden there reclined,--then bending over her, he took her small fair
left hand in his own, pressing his fingers hard round the delicate

"Lilith!--Lilith!" he said in low, yet commanding accents. "Lilith!--
Speak to me! I am here!"


DEEP silence followed his invocation,--a silence he seemed to expect
and be prepared for. Looking at a silver timepiece on a bracket above
the couch, he mentally counted slowly a hundred beats,--then pressing
the fragile wrist he held still more firmly between his fingers, he
touched with his other hand the girl's brow, just above her closed
eyes. A faint quiver ran through the delicate body,--he quickly drew
back and spoke again.

"Lilith! Where are you?"

The sweet lips parted, and a voice soft as whispered music responded--

"I am here!"

"Is all well with you?"

"All is well!"

And a smile irradiated the fair face with such a light as to suggest
that the eyes must have opened,--but no!--they were fast shut.

El-Rmi resumed his strange interrogation.

"Lilith! What do you see?"

There was a moment's pause,--then came the slow response--

"Many things,--things beautiful and wonderful. But you are not among
them. I hear your voice and I obey it, but I cannot see you--I have
never seen you."

El-Rmi sighed, and pressed more closely the soft small hand within
his own.

"Where have you been?"

"Where my pleasure led me"--came the answer in a sleepy yet joyous
tone--"My pleasure and--your will."

El-Rmi started, but immediately controlled himself, for Lilith
stirred and threw her other arm indolently behind her head, leaving
the great ruby on her breast flashingly exposed to view.

"Away, away, far, far away!" she said, and her accents sounded like
subdued singing--"Beyond,--in those regions whither I was sent--
beyond--" her voice stopped and trailed off into drowsy murmurings--
"beyond--Sirius--I saw--"

She ceased, and smiled--some happy thought seemed to have rendered her

El-Rmi waited a moment, then took up her broken speech.

"Far beyond Sirius you saw--what?"

Moving, she pillowed her cheek upon her hand, and turned more fully
round towards him.

"I saw a bright new world"--she said, now speaking quite clearly and
connectedly--"A royal world of worlds; an undiscovered Star. There
were giant oceans in it,--the noise of many waters was heard
throughout the land,--and there were great cities marvellously built
upon the sea. I saw their pinnacles of white and gold-spires of coral,
and gates that were studded with pearl,--flags waved and music
sounded, and two great Suns gave double light from heaven. I saw many
thousands of people--they were beautiful and happy--they sang and
danced and gave thanks in the everlasting sunshine, and knelt in
crowds upon their wide and fruitful fields to thank the Giver of life

"Life immortal!" repeated El-Rmi,--"Do not these people die, even as

A pained look, as of wonder or regret, knitted the girl's fair brows.

"There is no death--neither here nor there"--she said steadily--"I
have told you this so often, yet you will not believe. Always you bid
me seek for death,--I have looked, but cannot find it."

She sighed, and El-Rmi echoed the sigh.

"I wish"--and her accents sounded plaintively--"I wish that I could
see you! There is some cloud between us. I hear your voice and I obey
it, but I cannot see who it is that calls me."

El-Rmi paid no heed to these dove-like murmurings,--moreover, he
seemed to have no eyes for the wondrous beauty of the creature who lay
thus tranced and in his power,--set on his one object, the attainment
of a supernatural knowledge, he looked as pitiless and impervious to
all charm as any Grand Inquisitor of old Spain.

"Speak of yourself and not of me"--he said authoritatively,--"How can
you say there is no death?"

"I speak truth. There is none."

"Not even here?"

"Not anywhere."

"O daughter of vision, where are the eyes of your spirit!" demanded
El-Rmi angrily--"Search again and see! Why should all Nature arm
itself against Death if there be no death?"

"You are harsh,"--said Lilith sorrowfully---"Should I tell you what is
not true? If I would, I cannot. There is no death--there is only
change. Beyond Sirius, they sleep."

El-Rmi waited; but she had paused again.

"Go on"--he said--"They sleep--why and when?"

"When they are weary"--responded Lilith. "When all is done that they
can do, and when they need rest, they sleep, and in their sleep they
change;--the change is--"

She ceased.

"The change is death,"--said El-Rmi positively,--"for death is

"Not so!" replied Lilith quickly, and in a ringing tone of clarion-
like sweetness. "The change is life,--for Life is everywhere!"

There ensued a silence. The girl turned away, and bringing her hand
slowly down from behind her head, laid it again upon her breast over
the burning ruby gem. El-Rmi bent above her closely.

"You are dreaming, Lilith,"--he said as though he would force her to
own something against her will. "You speak unwisely and at random."

Still silence.

"Lilith!--Lilith!" he called.

No answer;--only the lovely tints of her complexion, the smile on her
lips and the tranquil heaving of her rounded bosom indicated that she

"Gone!" and El-Rmi's brow clouded; he laid back the little hand he
held in its former position and looked at the girl long and steadily--
"And so firm in her assertion!--as foolish an assertion as any of the
fancies of Fraz. No death?--Nay--as well say no life. She has not
fathomed the secret of our passing hence; no, not though her flight
has outreached the realm of Sirius."

"But that the dread of something after death.
The undiscovered country from whose bourne
No traveller returns, puzzles the will."

"Ay, puzzles the will and confounds it! But must I be baffled then?--
or is it my own fault that I cannot believe? Is it truly her spirit
that speaks to me?--or is it my own brain acting upon hers in a state
of trance? If it be the latter, why should she declare things that I
never dream of, and which my reason does not accept as possible? And
if it is indeed her Soul, or the ethereal Essence of her that thus
soars at periodic intervals of liberty into the Unseen, how is it that
she never comprehends Death or Pain? Is her vision limited only to
behold harmonious systems moving to a sound of joy?"

And seized by a sudden resolution, he caught both the hands of the
tranced girl and held them in his own, the while he fixed his eyes
upon her quiet face with a glance that seemed to shoot forth flame.

"Lilith! Lilith! By the force of my will and mastery over thy life, I
bid thee return to me! O flitting spirit, ever bent on errands of
pleasure, reveal to me the secrets of pain! Come back, Lilith! I call

A violent shudder shook the beautiful reposeful figure,--the smile
faded from her lips, and she heaved a profound sigh.

"I am here!"

"Listen to my bidding!" said El-Rmi, in measured accents that sounded
almost cruel. "As you have soared to heights ineffable, even so
descend to lowest depths of desolation! Understand and seek out
sorrow,--pierce to the root of suffering,-explain the cause of
unavailing agony! These things exist. Here in this planet of which you
know nothing save my voice,--here, if nowhere else in the wide
Universe, we gain our bread with bitterness and drink our wine with
tears. Solve me the mystery of Pain,--of Injustice,--of an innocent
child's anguish on its death-bed,--ay! though you tell me there is no
death!--of a good man's ruin,--of an evil woman's triumph,--of
despair--of self-slaughter,--of all the horrors upon horrors piled,
which make up this world's present life. Listen, O too ecstatic and
believing Spirit!--we have a legend here that a God lives,--a wise
all-loving God,--and He, this wise and loving one, has out of His
great bounty invented for the torture of his creatures,--HELL! Find
out this Hell, Lilith!--Prove it!--bring the plan of its existence
back to me. Go,--bring me news of devils,--and suffer, if spirits can
suffer, in the unmitigated sufferings of others! Take my command and
go hence,--find out God's Hell!--so shall we afterwards know the worth
of Heaven!"

He spoke rapidly,--impetuously,--passionately;--and now he allowed the
girl's hands to fall suddenly from his clasp. She moaned a little,--
and instead of folding them one over the other as before, raised them
palm to palm in an attitude of prayer. The colour faded entirely from
her face,--but an expression of the calmest, grandest wisdom, serenity
and compassion came over her features as of a saint prepared for
martyrdom. Her breathing grew fainter and fainter till it was scarcely
perceptible,--and her lips parted in a short sobbing sigh,--then they
moved and whispered something. El-Rmi stooped over her more closely.

"What is it?" he asked eagerly--"what did you say?"

"Nothing...only...farewell!" and the faint tone stirred the silence
like the last sad echo of a song--"And yet...once more...farewell!"

He drew back, and observed her intently. She now looked like a
recumbent statue, with those upraised hands of hers so white and small
and delicate,--and El-Rmi remembered that he must keep the machine of
the Body living, if he desired to receive through its medium the
messages of the Spirit. Taking a small phial from his breast, together
with the necessary surgeon's instrument used for such purposes, he
pricked the rounded arm nearest to him, and carefully injected into
the veins a small quantity of a strange sparkling fluid which gave out
a curiously sweet and pungent odour;--as he did this, the lifted hands
fell gently into their original position, crossed over the ruby star.
The breathing grew steadier and lighter,--the lips took fresh
colour,--and El-Rmi watched the effect with absorbed interest and

"One might surely preserve her body so for ever," he mused half aloud.
"The tissues renewed,--the blood re-organized,--the whole system
completely nourished with absolute purity; and not a morsel of what is
considered food, which contains so much organic mischief, allowed to
enter that exquisitely beautiful mechanism, which exhales all waste
upon the air through the pores of the skin as naturally as a flower
exhales perfume through its leaves. A wonderful discovery!--if all men
knew it, would not they deem themselves truly immortal, even here? But
the trial is not over yet,--the experiment is not perfect. Six years
has she lived thus, but who can say whether indeed Death has no power
over her? In those six years she has changed,--she has grown from
childhood to womanhood,--does not change imply age?--and age suggest
death, in spite of all science? O inexorable Death!--I will pluck its
secret out if I die in the effort!"

He turned away from the couch,--then seemed struck by a new idea.

"If I die, did I say? But can I die? Is her Spirit right? Is my
reasoning wrong? Is there no pause anywhere?--no cessation of
thought?--no end to the insatiability of ambition? Must we plan and
work and live--FOR EVER?"

A shudder ran through him,--the notion of his own perpetuity appalled
him. Passing a long mirror framed in antique silver, he caught sight
of himself in it,--his dark handsome face, rendered darker by the
contrasting whiteness of his hair,--his full black eyes,-his fine but
disdainful mouth,--all looked back at him with the scornful reflex of
his own scornful regard.

He laughed a little bitterly.

"There you are, El-Rmi Zarnos!" he murmured half aloud. "Scoffer and
scientist,--master of a few common magnetic secrets such as the
priests of ancient Egypt made sport of, though in these modern days of
'culture,' they are sufficient to make most men your tools! What now?
Is there no rest for the inner calculations of your mind? Plan and
work and live for ever? Well, why not? Could I fathom the secrets of a
thousand universes, would that suffice me? No! I should seek for the
solving of a thousand more!"

He gave a parting glance round the room,--at the fair tranced form on
the couch, at the placid Zaroba slumbering in a corner, at the whole
effect of the sumptuous apartment, with its purple and gold, its
roses, its crystal and ivory adornments,--then he passed out, drawing
to the velvet curtains noiselessly behind him. In the small anteroom,
he took up the slate and wrote upon it--

"I shall not return hither for forty-eight hours. During this
interval admit as much full daylight as possible. Observe the
strictest silence, and do not touch her.


Having thus set down his instructions he descended the stairs to his
own room, where, extinguishing the electric light, he threw himself on
his hard camp-bedstead and was soon sound asleep.


"I DO not believe in a future state. I am very much distressed about

The speaker was a stoutish, able-bodied individual in clerical dress,
with rather a handsome face and an easy agreeable manner. He addressed
himself to El-Rmi, who, seated at his writing-table, observed him
with something of a satirical air.

"You wrote me this letter?" queried El-Rmi, selecting one from a heap
beside him. The clergyman bent forward to look, and recognising his
own handwriting, smiled a bland assent.

"You are the Rev. Francis Anstruther, Vicar of Laneck,--a great
favourite with the Bishop of your diocese, I understand?"

The gentleman bowed blandly again,---then assumed a meek and chastened

"That is, I was a favourite of the Bishop's at one time"--he murmured
regretfully-"and I suppose I am now, only I fear that this matter of

"Oh, it is a matter of conscience?" said El-Rmi slowly--"You are sure
of that?"

"Quite sure of that!" and the Reverend Francis Anstruther sighed

"'Thus conscience does make cowards of us all--'"

"I beg your pardon?" and the clergyman opened his eyes a little.

"Nay, I beg yours!--I was quoting 'Hamlet.'"


There was a silence. El-Rmi bent his dark flashing eyes on his
visitor, who seemed a little confused by the close scrutiny. It was
the morning after the circumstances narrated in the previous
chapter,--the clock marked ten minutes to noon,--the weather was
brilliant and sunshiny, and the temperature warm for the uncertain
English month of May. El-Rmi rose suddenly and threw open the window
nearest him, as if he found the air oppressive.

"Why did you seek me out?" he demanded, turning towards the reverend
gentleman once more.

"Well, it was really the merest accident--"

"It always is!" said El-Rmi with a slight dubious smile.

"I was at Lady Melthorpe's the other day, and I told her my
difficulty. She spoke of you, and said she felt certain you would be
able to clear up my doubts--"

"Not at all. I am too busy clearing up my own," said El-Rmi

The clergyman looked surprised.

"Dear me!--I thought, from what her ladyship said, that you were
scientifically certain of--"

"Of what?" interrupted El-Rmi--"Of myself? Nothing more uncertain in
the world than my own humour, I assure you! Of others? I am not a
student of human caprice. Of life?--of death? Neither. I am simply
trying to prove the existence of a 'something after death'--but I am
certain of nothing, and I believe in nothing, unless proved."

"But," said Mr. Anstruther anxiously--"you will, I hope, allow me to
explain that you leave a very different impression on the minds of
those to whom you speak, than the one you now suggest. Lady Melthorpe,
for instance,--"

"Lady Melthorpe believes what it pleases her to believe,"--said El-
Rmi quietly--"All pretty, sensitive, imaginative women do. That
accounts for the immense success of Roman Catholicism with women. It
is a graceful, pleasing, comforting religion,--moreover it is really
becoming to a woman,--she looks charming with a rosary in her hand, or
a quaint old missal,--and she knows it. Lady Melthorpe is a believer
in ideals,--well, there is no harm in ideals,--long may she be able to
indulge in them."

"But Lady Melthorpe declares that you are able to tell the past and
the future," persisted the clergyman--"And that you can also read the
present;--if that is so, you must surely possess visionary power?"

El-Rmi looked at him stedfastly.

"I can tell you the past;"--he said--"And I can read your present;--
and from the two portions of your life I can calculate the last
addition, the Future,--but my calculation may be wrong. I mean wrong
as regards coming events;--past and present I can never be mistaken
in, because there exists a natural law, by which you are bound to
reveal yourself to me."

The Reverend Francis Anstruther moved uneasily in his chair, but
managed to convey into his countenance the proper expression of
politely incredulous astonishment.

"This natural law," went on El-Rmi, laying one hand on the celestial
globe as he spoke, "has been in existence ever since man's formation,
but we are only just now beginning to discover it, or rather re-
discover it, since it was tolerably well-known to the priests of
ancient Egypt. You see this sphere;"--and he moved the celestial globe
round slowly--"It represents the pattern of the heavens according to
our solar system. Now a Persian poet of old time, declared in at few
wild verses, that solar systems taken in a mass, could be considered
the brain of heaven, the stars being the thinking, moving molecules of
that brain. A sweeping idea,--what your line-and-pattern critics would
call 'far-fetched'--but it will serve me just now for an illustration
of my meaning. Taking this 'brain of heaven' by way of simile then, it
is evident we--we human pigmies,--are, notwithstanding our ridiculous
littleness and inferiority, able to penetrate correctly enough into
some of the mysteries of that star-teeming intelligence,--we can even
take patterns of its shifting molecules"--and again he touched the
globe beside him,--"we can watch its modes of thought--and calculate
when certain planets will rise and set,--and when we cannot see its
action, we can get its vibrations of light, to the marvellous extent
of being able to photograph the moon of Neptune, which remains
invisible to the eye even with the assistance of a telescope. You
wonder what all this tends to?--well,--I speak of vibrations of light
from the brain of heaven,--vibrations which we know are existent; and
which we prove by means of photography; and because we see the results
in black and white, we believe in them. But there are other vibrations
in the Universe, which cannot be photographed,--the vibrations of the
human brain, which like those emanating from the 'brain of heaven' are
full of light and fire, and convey distinct impressions or patterns of
thought. People speak of 'thought-transference' from one subject to
another as if it were a remarkable coincidence,--whereas you cannot
put a stop to the transference of thought,--it is in the very air,
like the germs of disease or health,--and nothing can do away with

"I do not exactly understand"--murmured the clergyman with some

"Ah, you want a practical demonstration of what seems a merely
abstract theory? Nothing easier!"--and moving again to the table he
sat down, fixing his dark eyes keenly on his visitor--"As the stars
pattern heaven in various shapes, like the constellation Lyra, or
Orion, so you have patterned your brain with pictures or photographs
of your past and your present. All your past, every scene of it, is
impressed in the curious little brain-particles that lie in their
various cells,---you have forgotten some incidents, but they would all
come back to you if you were drowning or being hung;--because
suffocation or strangulation would force up every infinitesimal atom
of brain-matter into extraordinary prominence for the moment.
Naturally your present existence is the most vivid picture with you,
therefore perhaps you would like me to begin with that?"

"Begin?--how?" asked Mr. Anstruther, still in amazement.

"Why,--let me take the impression of your brain upon my own. It is
quite simple, and quite scientific. Consider yourself the photographic
negative, and me the sensitive paper to receive the impression! I may
offer you a blurred picture, but I do not think it likely. Only if you
wish to hide anything from me I would advise you not to try the

"Really, sir,--this is very extraordinary!--I am at a loss to

"Oh, I will make it quite plain to you--" said El-Rmi with a slight
smile--"There is no witchcraft in it--no trickery,--nothing but the
commonest A B C science. Will you try?--or would you prefer to leave
the matter alone? My demonstration will not convince you of a 'future
state,' which was the subject you first spoke to me about,--it will
only prove to you the physiological phenomena surrounding your present
constitution and condition."

The Reverend Francis Anstruther hesitated. He was a little startled by
the cold and convincing manner with which El-Rmi spoke,--at the same
time he did not believe in his words, and his own incredulity inclined
him to see the "experiment," whatever it was. It would be all hocus-
pocus, of course,--this Oriental fellow could know nothing about
him,--he had never seen him before, and must therefore be totally
ignorant of his private life and affairs. Considering this for a
moment, he looked up and smiled.

"I shall be most interested and delighted,"--he said--"to make the
trial you suggest. I am really curious. As for the present picture or
photograph on my brain, I think it will only show you my perplexity as
to my position with the Bishop in my wavering state of mind--"

"Or conscience--" suggested El-Rmi--"You said it was a matter of

"Quite so--quite so! And conscience is the most powerful motor of a
man's actions Mr.--Mr. El-Rmi! It is indeed the voice of God!"

"That depends on what it says, and how we hear it--" said El-Rmi
rather dryly--"Now if we are to make this 'demonstration,' will you
put your left hand here, in my left hand? So,--your left palm must
press closely upon my left palm,--yes--that will do. Observe the
position, please;--you see that my left fingers rest on your left
wrist, and are therefore directly touching the nerves and arteries
running through your heart from your brain. By this, you are, to use
my former simile, pressing me, the sensitive paper, to your
photographic negative--and I make no doubt we shall get a fair
impression. But to prevent any interruption to the brainwave rushing
from you to me, we will add this little trifle," and he dexterously
slipped a steel band over his hand and that of his visitor as they
rested thus together on the table, and snapt it to,--"a sort of
handcuff, as you perceive. It has nothing in the world to do with our
experiment. It is simply placed there to prevent your moving your hand
away from mine, which would be your natural impulse if I should happen
to say anything disagreeably true. And to do so, would of course cut
the ethereal thread of contact between us. Now, are you ready?"

The clergyman grew a shade paler. El-Rmi seemed so very sure of the
result of this singular trial, that it was a little bit disagreeable.
But having consented to the experiment, he felt he was compelled to go
through with it, so he bowed a nervous assent. Whereupon El-Rmi
closed his brilliant eyes, and sat for one or two minutes silent and
immovable. A curious fidgetiness began to trouble the Reverend Francis
Anstruther,--he tried to think of something ridiculous, something
altogether apart from himself, but in vain,--his own personality, his
own life, his own secret aims seemed all to weigh upon him like a
sudden incubus. Presently tingling sensations pricked his arm as with
burning needles,--the hand that was fettered to that of El-Rmi felt
as hot as though it were being held to a fire. All at once El-Rmi
spoke in a low tone, without opening his eyes--

"The shadow-impression of a woman. Brown-haired, dark-eyed,--of a
full, luscious beauty, and a violent, unbridled, ill-balanced will.
Mindless, but physically attractive. She dominates your thought."

A quiver ran through the clergyman's frame,--if he could only have
snatched away his hand he would have done it then.

"She is not your wife--" went on El-Rmi--"she is the wife of your
wealthiest neighbour. You have a wife,--an invalid,--you have also
eight children,--but these are not prominent in the picture at
present. The woman with the dark eyes and hair is the chief figure.
Your plans are made for her--"

He paused, and again the wretched Mr. Anstruther shuddered.

"Wait--wait!" exclaimed El-Rmi suddenly in a tone of animation--"Now
it comes clearly. You have decided to leave the Church, not because
you do not believe in a future state,--for this you never have
believed at any time--but because you wish to rid yourself of all
moral and religious responsibility. Your scheme is perfectly distinct.
You will make out a 'case of conscience' to your authorities, and
resign your living,--you will then desert your wife and children,--you
will leave your country in the company of the woman whose secret lover
you are--"

"Stop!" cried the Reverend Mr. Anstruther, savagely endeavouring to
wrench away his hand from the binding fetter which held it
remorselessly to the hand of El-Rmi--"Stop! You are telling me a pack
of lies!"

El-Rmi opened his great flashing orbs and surveyed him first in
surprise, then with a deep unutterable contempt. Unclasping the steel
band that bound their two hands together, he flung it by, and rose to
his feet.

"Lies?" he echoed indignantly. "Your whole life is a lie, and both
Nature and Science are bound to give the reflex of it. What! would you
play a double part with the Eternal Forces and think to succeed in
such desperate fooling? Do you imagine you can deceive supreme
Omniscience, which holds every star and every infinitesimal atom of
life in a network of such instant vibrating consciousness and contact,
that in terrible truth there are and can be 'no secrets hid'? You may
if you like act out the wretched comedy of feigning to deceive your
God--the God of the Churches,--but beware of trifling with the real
God,--the absolute EGO SUM of the Universe."

His voice rang out passionately upon the stillness,--the clergyman had
also risen from his chair, and stood, nervously fumbling with his
gloves, not venturing to raise his eyes.

"I have told you the truth of yourself,"--continued El-Rmi more
quietly--"You know I have. Why then do you accuse me of telling you
lies? Why did you seek me out at all if you wished to conceal yourself
and your intentions from me? Can you deny the testimony of your own
brain reflected on mine? Come, confess! be honest for once,--do you
deny it?"

"I deny everything;"--replied the clergyman,--but his accents were
husky and indistinct.

"So be it!"--and El-Rmi gave a short laugh of scorn. "Your 'case of
conscience' is evidently very pressing! Go to your Bishop--and tell
him you cannot believe in a future state,--I certainly cannot help you
to prove that mystery. Besides, you would rather there were no future
state,--a 'something after death' must needs be an unpleasant point of
meditation for such as you. Oh yes!--you will get your freedom;--you
will get all you are scheming for, and you will be quite a notorious
person for awhile on account of the delicacy of your sense of honour
and the rectitude of your principles. Exactly!--and then your final
coup,--your running away with your neighbour's wife will make you
notorious again--in quite another sort of fashion. Ah!--every man is
bound to weave the threads of his own destiny, and you are weaving
yours;--do not be surprised if you find you have made of them a net
wherein to become hopelessly caught, tied and strangled. It is no
doubt unpleasant for you to hear these things,--what a pity you came
to me!"

The Reverend Francis Anstruther buttoned his glove carefully.

"Oh, I do not regret it," he said. "Any other man might perhaps feel
himself insulted, but--"

"But you are too much of a 'Christian' to take offence--yes, I dare
say!" interposed El-Rmi satirically,--"I thank you for your amiable
forbearance! Allow me to close this interview"--and he was about to
ring the bell, when his visitor said hastily and with an effort at
appearing unconcerned--

"I suppose I may rely on your secrecy respecting what has passed?"

"Secrecy?" and El-Rmi raised his black eyebrows disdainfully--"What
you call secrecy I know not. But if you mean that I shall speak of you
and your affairs,--why, make yourself quite easy on that score. I
shall not even think of you after you have left this room. Do not
attach too much importance to yourself, reverend sir,--true, your name
will soon be mentioned in the newspapers, but this should not excite
you to an undue vanity. As for me, I have other things to occupy me,
and clerical 'cases of conscience' such as yours, fail to attract
either my wonder or admiration!" Here he touched the bell.--"Fraz!"
this, as his young brother instantly appeared--"The door!"

The Reverend Francis Anstruther took up his hat, looked into it,
glanced nervously round at the picturesque form of the silent Fraz,
then with a sudden access of courage, looked at El-Rmi. That handsome
Oriental's fiery eyes were fixed upon him,--the superb head, the
dignified figure, the stately manner, all combined to make him feel
uncomfortable and awkward; but he forced a faint smile--it was evident
he must say something.

"You are a very remarkable man, Mr....El-Rmi"--he stammered.... "It
has been a most interesting...and...instructive morning!"

El-Rmi made no response other than a slight frigid bow.

The clergyman again peered into the depths of his hat.

"I will not go so far as to say you were correct in anything you
said"--he went on--"but there was a little truth in some of your
allusions,--they really applied, or might be made to apply to past
events,--by-gone understand? .."

El-Rmi took one step towards him.

"No more lies in Heaven's name!" he said in a stern whisper. "The air
is poisoned enough for to-day. Go!"

Such a terrible earnestness marked his face and voice that the
Reverend Francis retreated abruptly in alarm, and stumbling out of the
room hastily, soon found himself in the open street with the great
oaken door of El-Rmi's house shut upon him. He paused a moment,
glanced at the sky, then at the pavement, shook his head, drew a long
breath, and seemed on the verge of hesitation; then he looked at his
watch,--smiled a bland smile, and hailing a cab, was driven to lunch
at the Criterion, where a handsome woman with dark hair and eyes, met
him with mingled flattery and upbraiding, and gave herself pouting and
capricious airs of offence, because he had kept her ten minutes


THAT afternoon El-Rmi prepared to go out as was his usual custom,
immediately after the mid-day meal, which was served to him by Fraz,
who stood behind his chair like a slave all the time he ate and drank,
attending to his needs with the utmost devotion and assiduity. Fraz
indeed was his brother's only domestic,--Zaroba's duties being
entirely confined to the mysterious apartments upstairs and their
still more mysterious occupant. El-Rmi was in a taciturn mood,--the
visit of the Reverend Francis Anstruther seemed to have put him out,
and he scarcely spoke, save in monosyllables. Before leaving the
house, however, his humour suddenly softened, and noting the wistful
and timorous gaze with which Fraz regarded him, he laughed outright.

"You are very patient with me, Fraz!" he said--"And I know I am as
sullen as a bear."

"You think too much;"--replied Fraz gently--"And you work too hard."

"Both thought and labour are necessary," said El-Rmi--"You would not
have me live a life of merely bovine repose?"

Fraz gave a deprecating gesture.

"Nay--but surely rest is needful. To be happy, God Himself must
sometimes sleep."

"You think so?" and El-Rmi smiled--"Then it must be during His hours
of repose and oblivion that the business of life goes wrong, and
Darkness and the Spirit of Confusion walk abroad. The Creator should
never sleep."

"Why not, if He has dreams?" asked Fraz--"For if Eternal Thought
becomes Substance, so a God's Dream may become Life."

"Poetic as usual, my Fraz"--replied his brother--"and yet perhaps you
are not so far wrong in your ideas. That Thought becomes substance,
even with man's limited powers, is true enough;--the thought of a
perfect, form grows up embodied in the weight and Substance of marble,
with the sculptor,--the vague fancies of a poet, being set in ink on
paper, become Substance in book-shape, solid enough to pass from one
hand to the other;--even so may a God's mere Thought of a world create
a Planet. It is my own impression that thoughts, like atoms, are
imperishable, and that even dreams, being forms of thought, never die.
But I must not stay here talking,--adieu! Do not sit up for me to-
night--I shall not return,--I am going down to the coast."

"To Ilfracombe?" questioned Fraz--"So long a journey, and all to see
that poor mad soul?"

El-Rmi looked at him stedfastly.

"No more 'mad,' Fraz, than you are with your notions about your
native star! Why should a scientist who amuses himself with the
reflections on a Disc of magnetic crystal be deemed 'mad'? Fifty years
ago the electric inventions of Edison would have been called
'impossible,'--and he, the in--ventor, considered hopelessly insane.
But now we know these seeming 'miracles' are facts, we cease to wonder
at them. And my poor friend with his Disc is a harmless creature;--his
'craze,' if it be a craze, is as innocent as yours."

"But I have no craze"--said Fraz composedly,--"all that I know and
see, lives in my brain like music,--and though I remember it
perfectly, I trouble no one with the story of my past."

"And he troubles no one with what he deems may be the story of the
future"--said El-Rmi--"Call no one 'mad' because he happens to have a
new idea--for time may prove such 'madness' a merely perfected method
of reason. I must hasten, or I shall lose my train."

"If it is the 2.40 from Waterloo, you have time," said Fraz--"It is
not yet two o'clock. Do you leave any message for Zaroba?"

"None. She has my orders."

Fraz looked full at his brother, and a warm flush coloured his
handsome face.

"Shall I never be worthy of your con--fidence?" he asked in a low
voice--"Can you never trust me with your great secret, as well as

El-Rmi frowned darkly.

"Again, this vulgar vice of curiosity? I thought you were exempt from
it by this time."

"Nay, but hear me, El-Rmi"--said Fraz eagerly, distressed at the
anger in his brother's eyes--"It is not curiosity,--it is something
else,--something that I can hardly explain, except.... Oh, you will
only laugh at me if I tell you...but yet--"

"But what?" demanded El-Rmi sternly.

"It is as if a voice called me,"--answered Fraz dreamily--"a voice
from those upper chambers, which you keep closed, and of which only
Zaroba has the care--a voice that asks for freedom and for peace. It
is such a sorrowful voice,--but sweet,--more sweet than any singing.
True, I hear it but seldom,--only when I do, it haunts me for hours
and hours. I know you are at some great work up there,--but can you
make such voices ring from a merely scientific laboratory? Now you are

His large soft brilliant eyes rested appealingly upon his brother,
whose features had grown pale and rigid.

"Angered!" he echoed, speaking as it seemed with some effort,--"Am I
ever angered at your--your fancies? For fancies they are, Fraz,--the
voice you hear is like the imagined home in that distant star you
speak of,--an image and an echo on your brain--no more. My 'great
work,' as you call it, would have no interest for you;--it is nothing
but a test-experiment, which, if it fails, then I fail with it, and am
no more El-Rmi-Zarnos, but the merest fool that ever clamoured for
the moon." He said this more to himself than to his brother, and
seemed for the moment to have forgotten where he was,--till suddenly
rousing himself with a start, he forced a smile.

"Farewell for the present, gentle visionary!" he said kindly,--"You
are happier with your dreams than I with my facts,--do not seek out
sorrow for yourself by rash and idle questioning."

With a parting nod he went out, and Fraz, closing the door after him,
remained in the hall for a few moments in a sort of vague reverie. How
silent the house seemed, he thought with a half-sigh. The very
atmosphere of it was depressing, and even his favourite occupation,
music, had just now no attraction for him. He turned listlessly into
his brother's study,--he determined to read for an hour or so, and
looked about in search of some entertaining volume. On the table he
found a book open,--a manuscript, written on vellum in Arabic, with
curious uncanny figures and allegorical designs on the headings and
margins. El-Rmi had left it there by mistake,--it was a particularly
valuable treasure which he generally kept under lock and key. Fraz
sat down in front of it, and resting his head on his two hands, began
to read at the page where it lay open. Arabic was his native tongue,--
yet he had some difficulty in making out this especial specimen of the
language, because the writing was anything but distinct, and some of
the letters had a very odd way of vanishing before his eyes, just as
he had fixed them on at word. This was puzzling as well as
irritating,--he must have something the matter with his sight or his
brain, he concluded, as these vanishing letters always came into
position again after a little. Worried by the phenomenon, he seized
the book and carried it to the full light of the open window, and
there succeeded in making out the meaning of one passage which was
quite sufficient to set him thinking. It ran as follows:

* "Wherefore, touching illusions and impressions, as also strong
emotions of love, hatred, jealousy or revenge, these nerve and brain
sensations are easily conveyed from one human subject to another by
Suggestion. The first process is to numb the optic nerve. This is done
in two ways--I. By causing the subject to fix his eyes steadily on a
round shining case containing a magnet, while you shall count two
hundred beats of time. II. By wilfully making your own eyes the
magnet, and fixing your subject thereto. Either of these operations
will temporarily paralyze the optic nerves, and arrest the motion of
the blood in the vessels pertaining. Thus the brain becomes insensible
to external impressions, and is only awake to internal suggestions,
which you may make as many and as devious as you please. Your subject
will see exactly what you choose him to see, hear what you wish him to
hear, do what you bid him do, so long as you hold him by your power,
which if you understand the laws of light, sound, and air-vibrations,
you may be able to retain for an indefinite period. The same force
applies to the magnetising of a multitude as of a single individual."


* From "The Natural Law of Miracles," written in Arabic 400 B.C.

Fraz read this over and over again,--then returning to the table,
laid the book upon it with a deeply engrossed air. It had given him
unpleasant matter for reflection.

"A dreamer--a visionary, he calls me--" he mused, his thoughts
reverting to his absent brother--"Full of fancies poetic and
musical,--now can it be that I owe my very dreams to his dominance?
Does he make me subservient to him, as I am, or is my submission to
his will, my own desire? Is my 'madness' or 'craze,' or whatever he
calls it, of his working? and should I be more like other men if I
were separated from him? And yet what has he ever done to me, save
make me happy? Has he placed me under the influence of any magnet such
as this book describes? Certainly not that I am aware of. He has made
my inward spirit clearer of comprehension, so that I hear him call me
even by a thought,--I see and know beautiful things of which grosser
souls have no perception,--and am I not content?--Yes, surely I am!--
surely I should be,--though at times there seems a something
missing,--a something to which I cannot give a name."

He sighed,--and again buried his head between his hands,--he was
conscious of a dreary sensation, unusual to his bright and fervid
nature,--the very sunshine streaming through the window seemed to lack
true brilliancy. Suddenly a hand was laid upon his shoulder,--he
started and rose to his feet with a bewildered air,--then smiled, as
he saw that the intruder was only Zaroba.


ONLY Zaroba,--gaunt, grim, fierce-eyed Zaroba, old and unlovely, yet
possessing withal an air of savage dignity, as she stood erect, her
amber-coloured robe bound about her with a scarlet girdle, and her
gray hair gathered closely under a small coif of the same vivid hue.
Her wrinkled visage had more animation in it than on the previous
night, and her harsh voice grew soft as she looked at the picturesque
glowing beauty of the young man beside her, and addressed him.

"El-Rmi has gone?" she asked.

Fraz nodded. He generally made her understand him either by signs, or
the use of the finger-alphabet, at which he was very dexterous.

"On what quest?" she demanded.

Fraz explained rapidly and mutely that he had gone to visit a friend
residing at a distance from town.

"Then he will not return to-night;"--muttered Zaroba thoughtfully--"He
will not return to-night."

She sat down, and clasping her hands across her knees, rocked herself
to and fro for some minutes in silence. Then she spoke, more to
herself than to her listener.

"He is an angel or a fiend," she said in low meditative accents. "Or
maybe he is both in one. He saved me from death once--I shall never
forget that. And by his power he sent me back to my native land last
night--I bound my black tresses with pearl and gold, and laughed and
sang,--I was young again!"--and with a sudden cry she raised her hands
above her head and clapped them fiercely together, so that the silver
bangles on her arms jangled like bells;--"As God liveth, I was young!
You know what it is to be young"--and she turned her dark orbs half
enviously upon Fraz, who, leaning against his brother's writing-
table, regarded her with interest and something of awe--"or you should
know it! To feel the blood leap in the veins, while the happy heart
keeps time like the beat of a joyous cymbal,--to catch the breath and
tremble with ecstasy as the eyes one loves best in the world flash
lightning-passion into your own,--to make companions of the roses, and
feel the pulses quicken at the songs of birds,--to tread the ground so
lightly as to scarcely know whether it is earth or air--this is to be
young!--young!--and I was young last night. My love was with me,--my
love, my more than lover--'Zaroba, beautiful Zaroba!' he said, and his
kisses were as honey on my lips--'Zaroba, pearl of passion! fountain
of sweetness in a desert land!--thine eyes are fire in which I burn my
soul,--thy round arms the prison in which I lock my heart! Zaroba,
beautiful Zaroba!'--Beautiful! Ay!--through the power of El-Rmi I was
fair to see--last night!...only last night!"

Her voice sank down into a feeble wailing, and Fraz gazed at her
compassionately and in a little wonder,--he was accustomed to see her
in various strange and incomprehensible moods, but she was seldom so
excited as now.

"Why do you not laugh?" she asked suddenly and with a touch of
defiance--"Why do you not laugh at me?--at me, the wretched Zaroba,--
old and unsightly--bent and wrinkled!--that I should dare to say I was
once beautiful!--It is a thing to make sport of--an old forsaken
woman's dream of her dead youth."

With an impulsive movement that was as graceful as it was becoming,
Fraz, for sole reply, dropped on one knee beside her, and taking her
wrinkled hand, touched it lightly but reverently with his lips. She
trembled, and great tears rose in her eyes.

"Poor boy!" she muttered--"Poor child!--a child to me, and yet a man!
As God liveth, a man!" She looked at him with a curious stedfastness.
"Good Fraz, forgive me--I did you wrong--I know you would not mock
the aged, or make wanton sport of their incurable woes,--you are too
gentle. I would in truth you were less mild of spirit--less womanish
of heart!"

"Womanish!" and Fraz leaped up, stung by the word, he knew not why.
His heart beat strangely--his blood tingled,--it seemed to him that if
he had possessed a weapon, his instinct would have been to draw it
then. Never had he looked so handsome; and Zaroba, watching his
expression, clapped her withered hands in a sort of witch-like

"Ha!"--she cried--"The man's mettle speaks! There is something more
than the dreamer in you then--something that will help you to explain
the mystery of your existence--something that says--'Fraz, you are
the slave of destiny--up! be its master! Fraz, you sleep--awake!'"
and Zaroba stood up tall and imposing, with the air of an inspired
sorceress delivering a prophecy--"Fraz, you have manhood--prove it!
Fraz, you have missed the one joy of life--LOVE!--Win it!"

Fraz stared at her amazed. Her words were such as she had never
addressed to him before, and yet they moved him with a singular
uneasiness. Love? Surely he knew the meaning of love? It was an ideal
passion, like the lifting-up of life in prayer. Had not his brother
told him that perfect love was unattainable on this planet?--and was
it not a word the very suggestions of which could only be expressed in
music? These thoughts ran through his mind while he stood inert and
wondering,--then rousing himself a little from the effects of Zaroba's
outburst, he sat down at the table, and taking up a pencil, wrote as

"You talk wildly, Zaroba--you cannot be well. Let me hear no more--you
disturb my peace. I know what love is--I know what life is. But the
best part of my life and love is not here,--but elsewhere."

Zaroba took the paper from his hand, read it, and tore it to bits in a

"O foolish youth!" she exclaimed--"Your love is the love of a Dream,--
your life is the life of a Dream! You see with another's eyes--you
think through another's brain. You are a mere machine, played upon by
another's will! But not forever shall you be deceived--not forever,--"
here she gave a slight start and looked around her nervously as though
she expected someone to enter the room suddenly--"Listen! Come to me
to--night,--to-night when all is dark and silent,--when every sound in
the outside street is stilled,--come to me--and I will show you a
marvel of the world!--one who, like you, is the victim of a Dream!"
She broke off abruptly and glanced from right to left in evident
alarm,--then with a fresh impetus of courage, she bent towards her
companion again and whispered in his ear--"Come!"

"But where?" asked Fraz in the language of signs.

"Up yonder!" said Zaroba firmly, regardless of the utter amazement
with which Fraz greeted this answer--"Up, where El-Rmi hides his
great secret. Yes--I know he has forbidden you to venture there,--even
so has he forbidden me to speak of what he cherishes so closely,--but
are we slaves, you and I? Do you purpose always to obey him? So be it,
an you will! But if I were you,--a man--I would defy both gods and
fiends if they opposed my liberty of action. Do as it pleases you,--I,
Zaroba, have given, you the choice,--stay and dream of life--or come
and live it! Till to-night--farewell!"

She had reached the door and vanished through it, before Fraz could
demand more of her meaning,--and he was left alone, a prey to the most
torturing emotions. "The vulgar vice of curiosity!" That was the
phrase his brother had used to him scarcely an hour agone,--and yet,
here he was, yielding to a fresh fit of the intolerable desire that
had possessed him for years to know El-Rmi's great secret. He dropped
wearily into a chair and thought all the circumstances over. They were
as follows,--

In the first place he had never known any other protector or friend
than his brother, who, being several years older than himself, had
taken sole charge of him after the almost simultaneous death of their
father and mother, an event which he knew had occurred somewhere in
the East, but how or when, he could not exactly remember, nor had he
ever been told much about it. He had always been very happy in El-
Rmi's companionship, and had travelled with him nearly all over the
world,--and though they had never been rich, they had always had
sufficient wherewith to live comfortably, though how even this small
competence was gained, Fraz never knew. There had been no particular
mystery about his brother's life, however, till on one occasion, when
they were travelling together across the Syrian desert, where they had
come upon a caravan of half-starved Arab wanderers in dire distress
from want and sickness. Among them was an elderly woman at the extreme
point of death, and an orphan child named Lilith, who was also dying.
El-Rmi had suddenly, for no special reason, save kindness of heart
and compassion, offered his services as physician to the stricken
little party, and had restored the elderly woman, a widow, almost
miraculously to health and strength in a day or two. This woman was no
other than Zaroba. The sick child however, a girl of about twelve
years old, died. And here began the puzzle. On the day of this girl's
death, El-Rmi, with sudden and inexplicable haste, had sent his young
brother on to Alexandria, bidding him there take ship immediately for
the Island of Cyprus, and carry to a certain monastery some miles from
Famagousta, a packet of documents, which he stated were of the most
extraordinary value and importance. Fraz had obeyed, and according to
further instructions, had remained as a visitor in that Cyprian
religious retreat, among monks unlike any other monks he had ever seen
or heard of, till he was sent for, whereupon, according to command, he
rejoined El-Rmi in London. He found him, somewhat to his surprise,
installed in the small house where they now were,--with the woman
Zaroba, whose presence was another cause of blank astonishment,
especially as she seemed to have nothing to do but keep certain rooms
upstairs in order. But all the questions Fraz poured out respecting
her, and everything that had happened since their parting in the
Syrian desert, were met by equivocal replies or absolute silence on
his brother's part, and by-and-bye the young man grew accustomed to
his position. Day by day he became more and more subservient to El-
Rmi's will, though he could never quite comprehend why he was so
willingly submissive. Of course he knew that his brother was gifted
with certain powers of physical magnetism,--because he had allowed
himself to be practised upon, and he took a certain interest in the
scientific development of those powers, this being, as he quite
comprehended, one of the branches of study on which El-Rmi was
engaged. He knew that his brother could compel response to thought
from a distance,--but, as there were others of his race who could do
the same thing, and as that sort of mild hypnotism was largely
practised in the East, where he was born, he attached no special
importance to it. Endowed with various gifts of genius such as music
and poetry, and a quick perception of everything beautiful and
artistic, Fraz lived in a tranquil little Eden of his own,--and the
only serpent in it that now and then lifted its head to hiss doubt and
perplexity was the inexplicable mystery of those upstair rooms over
which Zaroba had guardianship. The merest allusion to the subject
excited El-Rmi's displeasure; and during the whole time they had
lived together in that house, now nearly six years, he had not dared
to speak of it more than a very few times, while Zaroba, on her part,
had faithfully preserved the utmost secrecy. Now, she seemed disposed
to break the long-kept rules,--and Fraz knew not what to think of it.

"Is everything destiny, as El-Rmi says?" he mused--"Or shall I follow
my own desires in the face of destiny? Shall I yield to temptation--or
shall I overcome it? Shall I break his command,--lose his affection
and be a free man,--or shall I obey him still, and be his slave? And
what should I do with my liberty if I had it, I wonder? Womanish! What
a word! Am I womanish?" He paced up and down the room in sudden
irritation and haughtiness;--the piano stood open, but its ivory keys
failed to attract him,--his brain was full of other suggestions than
the making of sweet harmony.

"Do not seek out sorrow for yourself by rash and idle questioning."

So his brother had said at parting. And the words rang in his ears as
he walked to and fro restlessly, thinking, wondering, and worrying his
mind with vague wishes and foreboding anxieties, till the shining
afternoon wore away and darkness fell.


A ROUGH night at sea,--but the skies were clear, and the great worlds
of God which we call stars, throbbed in the heavens like lustrous
lamps, all the more brilliantly for there being no moon to eclipse
their glory. A high gale was blowing, and the waves dashed up on the
coast of Ilfracombe with an organ-like thud and roar as they broke in
high jets of spray, and then ran swiftly back again with a soft swish
and ripple suggestive of the downward chromatic scale played rapidly
on well-attuned strings. There was freshness and life in the dancing
wind;--the world seemed well in motion;--and, standing aloft among the
rocks, and looking down at the tossing sea, one could realize
completely the continuous whirl of the globe beneath one's feet, and
the perpetual movement of the planet-studded heavens. High above the
shore, on a bare jutting promontory, a solitary house faced seaward;--
it was squarely built and surmounted with a tower, wherein one light
burned fitfully, its pale sparkle seeming to quiver with fear as the
wild wind fled past joyously, with a swirl and cry like some huge sea-
bird on the wing. It looked a dismal residence at its best, even when
the sun was shining,--but at night its aspect was infinitely more
dreary. It was an old house, and it enjoyed the reputation of being
haunted,--a circumstance which had enabled its present owner to
purchase the lease of it for a very moderate sum. He it was who had
built the tower, and whether because of this piece of extravagance or
for other unexplained reasons, he had won for himself personally,
almost as uncanny a reputation as the house had possessed before he
occupied it. A man who lived the life of a recluse,--who seemed to
have no relations with the outside world at all,--who had only one
servant, (a young German whom the shrewder gossips declared was his
"keeper")--who lived on such simple fare as certainly would never have
contented a modern Hodge earning twelve shillings a week, and who
seemed to purchase nothing but strange astronomical and geometrical
instruments,--surely such a queer personage must either be mad, or in
league with some evil "secret society,"--the more especially that he
had had that tower erected, into which, after it was finished, no one
but himself ever entered so far as the people of the neighbourhood
could tell. Under all these suspicious circumstances, it was natural
he should be avoided; and avoided he was by the good folk of
Ilfracombe, in that pleasantly diverting fashion which causes
provincial respectability to shudder away from the merest suggestion
of superior intelligence.

And yet poor old Dr. Kremlin was a being not altogether to be
despised. His appearance was perhaps against him, inasmuch as his
clothes were shabby, and his eyes rather wild,--but the expression of
his meagre face was kind and gentle, and a perpetual compassion for
everything and everybody, seemed to vibrate in his voice and reflect
itself in his melancholy smile. He was deeply occupied--so he told a
few friends in Russia, where he was born,--in serious scientific
investigations,--but the "friends," deeming him mad, held aloof till
those investigations should become results. If the results proved
disappointing, there would be no need to notice him any more,--if
successful, why then, by a mystic process known only to themselves,
the "friends" would so increase and multiply that he would be quite
inconveniently surrounded by them. In the meantime, nobody wrote to
him, or came to see him, except El-Rmi; and it was El-Rmi now, who,
towards ten o'clock in the evening, knocked at the door of his lonely
habitation and was at once admitted with every sign of deference and
pleasure by the servant Karl.

"I'm glad you've come, sir,"--said this individual cheerfully,--"The
Herr Doctor has not been out all day, and he eats less than ever. It
will do him good to see you."

"He is in the tower as usual, at work?" enquired El-Rmi, throwing off
his coat.

Karl assented, with rather a doleful look,---and opening the door of a
small dining-room, showed the supper-table laid for two.

El-Rmi smiled.

"It's no good, Karl!" he said kindly--"It's very well meant on your
part, but it's no good at all. You will never persuade your master to
eat at this time of night, or me either. Clear all these things
away,--and make your mind easy,--go to bed and sleep. To-morrow
morning prepare as excellent a breakfast as you please--I promise you
we'll do justice to it! Don't look so discontented--don't you know
that over-feeding kills the working capacity?"

"And over-starving kills the man,--working-capacity and all"--
responded Karl lugubriously--"However, I suppose you know best, sir!"

"In this case I do"--replied El-Rmi--"Your master expects me?"

Karl nodded,--and El-Rmi, with a brief "good-night," ascended the
staircase rapidly and soon disappeared. A door banged aloft--then all
was still. Karl sighed profoundly, and slowly cleared away the useless

"Well! How wise men can bear to starve themselves just for the sake of
teaching fools, is more than I shall ever understand!" he said half
aloud--"But then I shall never be wise--I am an ass and always was. A
good dinner and a glass of good wine have always seemed to me better
than all the science going,--there's a shameful confession of
ignorance and brutality together, if you like. 'Where do you think you
will go to when you die, Karl?' says the poor old Herr Doctor. And
what do I say? I say--'I don't know, mein Herr--and I don't care. This
world is good enough for me so long as I live in it.' 'But afterwards
Karl,--afterwards!' he says, with his gray head shaking. And what do I
say? Why, I say--'I can't tell, mein Herr! but whoever sent me Here
will surely have sense enough to look after me There!' And he laughs,
and his head shakes worse than ever. Ah! Nothing can ever make me
clever, and I'm very glad of it!"

He whistled a lively tune softly, as he went to bed in his little
side-room off the passage, and wondered again, as he had wondered
hundreds of times before, what caused that solemn low humming noise
that throbbed so incessantly through the house, and seemed so loud
when everything else was still. It was a grave sound,--suggestive of a
long-sustained organ-note held by the pedal-bass;--the murmuring of
seas and rivers seemed in it, as well as the rush of the wind. Karl
had grown accustomed to it, though he did not know what it meant,--and
he listened to it, till drowsiness made him fancy it was the hum of
his mother's spinning wheel, at home in his native German village
among the pine-forests, and so he fell happily asleep.

Meanwhile El-Rmi, ascending to the tower, knocked sharply at a small
nail-studded door in the wall. The mysterious murmuring noise was now
louder than ever,--and the knock had to be repeated three or four
times before it was attended to. Then the door was cautiously opened,
and the "Herr Doctor" himself looked out, his wizened, aged,
meditative face illumined like a Rembrandt picture by the small hand-
lamp he held in his hand.

"Ah!--El-Rmi!" he said in slow yet pleased tones--"I thought it might
be you. And like 'Bernardo'--you 'come most carefully upon your

He smiled, as one well satisfied to have made an apt quotation, and
opened the door more widely to admit his visitor.

"Come in quickly,"--he said--"The great window is open to the skies,
and the wind is high,--I fear some damage from the draught,--come in--
come in!"

His voice became suddenly testy and querulous,--and El-Rmi stepped in
at once without reply. Dr. Kremlin shut to the door carefully and
bolted it--then he turned the light of the lamp he carried, full on
the dark handsome face and dignified figure of his companion.

"You are looking well--well,"--he muttered--"Not a shade older--always
sound and strong! Just Heavens!--if I had your physique, I think with
Archimedes, that I could lift the world! But I am getting very old,--
the life in me is ebbing fast,--and I have not done my work--
...God!...God! I have not done my work!"

He clenched his hands, and his voice quavered down into a sound that
was almost a groan. EI-Rmi's black beaming eyes rested on him

"You are worn out, my dear Kremlin,"--he said gently--"worn out and
exhausted with long toil. You shall sleep to-night. I have come
according to my promise, and I will do what I can for you. Trust me--
you shall not lose the reward of your life's work by want of time. You
shall have time,-even leisure to complete your labours,--I will give
you 'length of days'!"

The elder man sank into a chair trembling, and rested his head wearily
on one hand.

"You cannot;"--he said faintly-"you cannot stop the advance of death,
my friend! You are a very clever man--you have a far-reaching subtlety
of brain,--but your learning and wisdom must pause there---there at
the boundary-line of the grave. You cannot overstep it or penetrate
beyond it--you cannot slacken the pace of the on-rushing years;--no,
no! I shall be forced to depart with half my discovery uncompleted."

El-Rmi smiled,--a slightly derisive smile.

"You, who have faith in so much that cannot be proved, are singularly
incredulous of a fact that can be proved;"--he said--"Anyway, whatever
you choose to think, here I am in answer to your rather sudden
summons--and here is your saving remedy;--" and he placed a gold-
stoppered flask on the table near which they sat--"It is, or might be
called, a veritable distilled essence of time,--for it will do what
they say God cannot do, make the days spin backward!"

Dr. Kremlin took up the flask curiously.

"You are so positive of its action?"

"Positive. I have kept one human creature alive and in perfect health
for six years on that vital fluid alone."

"Wonderful!--wonderful!"--and the old scientist held it close to the
light, where it seemed to flash like a diamond,--then he smiled
dubiously--"Am I the new Faust, and you Mephisto?"

"Bah!" and El-Rmi shrugged his shoulders carelessly--"An old nurse's
tale!--yet, like all old nurses' tales and legends of every sort under
the sun, it is not without its grain of truth. As I have often told
you, there is really nothing imagined by

the human brain that is not possible of realization, either here or
hereafter. It would be a false note and a useless calculation to allow
thought to dwell on what cannot be,--hence our airiest visions are
bound to become facts in time. All the same, I am not of such
superhuman ability that I can make you change your skin like a
serpent, and blossom into youth and the common vulgar lusts of life,
which to the thinker must be valueless. No. What you hold there, will
simply renew the tissues, and gradually enrich the blood with fresh
globules--nothing more,--but that is all you need. Plainly and
practically speaking, as long as the tissues and the blood continue to
renew themselves, you cannot die except by violence."

"Cannot die!" echoed Kremlin, in stupefied wonder--"Cannot die?"

"Except by violence--" repeated El-Rmi with emphasis--"Well!--and
what now? There is nothing really astonishing in the statement. Death
by violence is the only death possible to anyone familiar with the
secrets of Nature, and there is more than one lesson to be learned
from the old story of Cain and Abel. The first death in the world,
according to that legend, was death by violence. Without violence,
life should be immortal, or at least renewable at pleasure."

"Immortal!" muttered Dr. Kremlin--"Immortal! Renewable at pleasure! My
God!--then I have time before me--plenty of time!"

"You have, if you care for it--" said El-Rmi with a tinge of
melancholy in his accents--"and if you continue to care for it. Few
do, nowadays."

But his companion scarcely heard him. He was balancing the little
flask in his hand in wonderment and awe.

"Death by violence?"--he repeated slowly. "But, my friend, may not God
Himself use violence towards us? May He not snatch the unwilling soul
from its earthly tenement at an unexpected moment,--and so, all the
scheming and labour and patient calculation of years be ended in one
flash of time?"

"God--if there be a God, which some are fain to believe there is,--
uses no violence--" replied El-Rmi--"Deaths by violence are due to
the ignorance, or brutality, or long-inherited fool-hardiness and
interference of man alone."

"What of shipwreck?--storm?--lightning?"--queried Dr. Kremlin, still
playing with the flask he held.

"You are not going to sea, are you?" asked El-Rmi, smiling--"And
surely you, of all men, should know that even shipwrecks are clue to a
lack of mathematical balance in ship-building. One little trifle of
exactitude, which is always missing, unfortunately,--one little
delicate scientific adjustment, and the fiercest storm and wind could
not prevail against the properly poised vessel. As for lightning--of
course people are killed by it if they persist in maintaining an erect
position like a lightning-rod or conductor, while the electrical
currents are in full play. If they were to lie flat down, as savages
do, they could not attract the descending force. But who, among
arrogant stupid men, cares to adopt such simple precautions? Any way,
I do not see that you need fear any of these disasters."

"No no,"--said the old man meditatively, "I need not fear,--no, no! I
have nothing to fear."

His voice sank into silence. He and El-Rmi were sitting in a small
square chamber of the tower,--very narrow, with only space enough for
the one tiny table and two chairs which furnished it,--the walls were
covered with very curious maps, composed of lines and curves and zig-
zag patterns, meaningless to all except Kremlin himself, whose dreamy
gaze wandered to them between-whiles with an ardent yearning and
anxiety. And ever that strange deep, monotonous humming noise surged
through the tower as of a mighty wheel at work, the vibration of the
sound seeming almost to shake the solid masonry, while mingling with
it now and again came the wild sea-bird cry of the wind. El-Rmi

"And still it moves?" he queried softly, using almost the words of
Galileo,--"e pur, si muove."

Dr. Kremlin looked up, his pale eyes full of a sudden fire and

"Ay!--still it moves!" he responded with a touch of eager triumph in
his tone--"Still it moves--and still it sounds! The music of the
Earth, my friend!--the dominant note of all Nature's melody! Hear
it!--round, full, grand and perfect!--one tone in the ascending scale
of the planets,--the song of one Star,--our Star--as it rolls on its
predestined way! Come!--come with me!" and he sprang up excitedly--"It
is a night for work;--the heavens are clear as a mirror,--come and see
my Dial of the Fates,--you have seen it before, I know, but there are
new reflexes upon it now,--new lines of light and colour,--ah, my good
El-Rmi, if you could solve my Problem, you would be soon wiser than
you are! Your gift of long life would be almost valueless compared to
my proof of what is beyond life--"

"Yes--if the proof could be obtained--" interposed El-Rmi.

"It shall be obtained!" cried Kremlin wildly--"It shall! I will not
die till the secret is won. I will wrench it out from the Holy of
Holies--I will pluck it from the very thoughts of God!"

He trembled with the violence of his own emotions,--then passing his
hand across his forehead, he relapsed into sudden calm, and smiling
gently, said again--


El-Rmi rose at once in obedience to this request,--and the old man
preceded him to a high narrow door which looked like a slit in the
wall, and which he unbarred and opened with an almost jealous care. A
brisk puff of wind blew in their faces through the aperture, but this
subsided into mere cool freshness of air, as they entered and stood
together within the great central chamber of the tower,--a lofty
apartment, where the strange work of Kremlin's life was displayed in
all its marvellous complexity,--a work such as no human being had ever
attempted before, or would be likely to attempt again.


THE singular object that at once caught and fixed the eye in
fascinated amazement and something of terror, was a huge Disc,
suspended between ceiling and floor by an apparently inextricable mesh
and tangle of wires. It was made of some smooth glittering substance
like crystal, and seemed from its great height and circumference to
occupy nearly the whole of the lofty tower-room. It appeared to be
lightly poised and balanced on a long steel rod,--a sort of gigantic
needle which hung from the very top of the tower. The entire surface
of the Disc was a subdued blaze of light,--light which fluctuated in
waves and lines, and zig-zag patterns like a kaleidoscope, as the
enormous thing circled round and round, as it did, with a sort of
measured motion, and a sustained solemn buzzing sound. Here was the
explanation of the mysterious noise that vibrated throughout the
house,--it was simply the movement of this round shield-like mass
among its wonderful network of rods and wires. Dr. Kremlin called it
his "crystal" Disc,--but it was utterly unlike ordinary crystal, for
it not only shone with a transparent watery clearness, but possessed
the scintillating lustre of a fine diamond cut into numerous prisms,
so that El-Rmi shaded his eyes from the flash of it as he stood
contemplating it in silence. It swirled round and round steadily;
facing it, a large casement window, about the size of half the wall,
was thrown open to the night, and through this could be seen a myriad
sparkling stars. The wind blew in, but not fiercely now, for part of
the wrath of the gale was past,--and the wash of the sea on the beach
below had exactly the same tone in it as the monotonous hum of the
Disc as it moved. At one side of the open window a fine telescope
mounted on a high stand, pointed out towards the heavens,--there were
numerous other scientific implements in the room, but it was
impossible to take much notice of anything but the Disc itself, with
its majestic motion and the solemn sound to which it swung. Dr.
Kremlin seemed to have almost forgotten El-Rmi's presence,--going up
to the window, he sat down on a low bench in the corner, and folding
his arms across his breast gazed at his strange invention with a
fixed, wondering, and appealing stare.

"How to unravel the meaning--how to decipher the message!" he
muttered--"Sphinx of my brain, tell me, is there No answer? Shall the
actual offspring of my thought refuse to clear up the riddle I
propound? Nay, is it possible the creature should baffle the creator?
See! the lines change again--the vibrations are altered,--the circle
is ever the circle, but the reflexes differ,--how can one separate or
classify them--how?"

Thus far his half-whispered words were audible,--when El-Rmi came and
stood beside him. Then he seemed to suddenly recollect himself, and
looking up, he rose to his feet and spoke in a perfectly calm and
collected manner.

"You see"--he said, pointing to the Disc with the air of a lecturer
illustrating his discourse--"To begin with, there is the fine hair's-
breadth balance of matter which gives perpetual motion. Nothing can
stop that movement save the destruction of the whole piece of
mechanism. By some such subtly delicate balance as that, the Universe
moves,--and nothing can stop it save the destruction of the Universe.
Is not that fairly reasoned?"

"Perfectly," replied El-Rmi, who was listening with profound

"Surely that of itself,--the secret of perpetual motion,--is a great
discovery, is it not?" questioned Kremlin eagerly.

El-Rmi hesitated.

"It is," he said at last. "Forgive me if I paused a moment before
replying,--the reason of my doing so was this. You cannot claim to
yourself any actual discovery of perpetual motion, because that is
Nature's own particular mystery. Perhaps I do not explain myself with
sufficient clearness,--well, what I mean to imply is this--namely,
that your wonderful dial there would not revolve as it does, if the
Earth on which we stand were not also revolving. If we could imagine
our planet stopping suddenly in its course, your Disc would stop
also,--is not that correct?"

"Why, naturally!" assented Kremlin impatiently. "Its movement is
mathematically calculated to follow, in a slower degree, but with
rhythmical exactitude, the Earth's own movement, and is so balanced as
to be absolutely accurate to the very half-quarter of a hair's-

"Yes,--and there is the chief wonder of your invention," said El-Rmi
quietly. "It is that peculiarly precise calculation of yours that is
so marvellous, in that it enables you to follow the course of
perpetual motion. With perpetual motion itself you have nothing to
do,--you cannot find its why or its when or its how,--it is eternal as
Eternity. Things must move,--and we all move with them--your Disc

"But the moving things are balanced--so!" said Kremlin, pointing
triumphantly to his work--"On one point--one pivot!"

"And that point--?" queried El-Rmi dubiously.

"Is a Central Universe"--responded Kremlin--"where God abides."

El-Rmi looked at him with dark, dilating, burning eyes.

"Suppose," he said suddenly--"suppose--for the sake of argument--that
this Central Universe you imagine exists, were but the outer covering
or shell of another Central Universe, and so on through innumerable
Central Universes for ever and ever and ever, and no point or pivot

Kremlin uttered a cry, and clasped his hands with a gesture of terror.

"Stop--stop!" he gasped--"Such an idea is frightful!--horrible! Would
you drive me mad?--mad, I tell you? No human brain could steadily
contemplate the thought of such pitiless infinity!"

He sank back on the seat and rocked himself to and fro like a person
in physical pain, the while he stared at El-Rmi's majestic figure and
dark meditative face as though he saw some demon in a dream. El-Rmi
met his gaze with a compassionate glance in his own eyes.

"You are narrow, my friend,"--he observed---"as narrow of outward and
onward conception as most scientists are. I grant you the human brain
has limits; but the human Soul has none! There is no 'pitiless
infinity' to the Soul's aspirations,--it is never contented,--but
eternally ambitious, eternally enquiring, eternally young, it is ready
to scale heights and depths without end, unconscious of fatigue or
satiety. What of a million million Universes? I--even I--can
contemplate them without dismay,--the brain may totter and reel at the
multiplicity of them,--but the SOUL would absorb them all and yet seek
space for more!"

His rich, deep tranquil voice had the effect of calming Kremlin's
excited nerves. He paused in his uneasy rocking to and fro, and
listened as though he heard music.

"You are a bold man, El-Rmi," he said slowly--"I have always said
it,--bold even to rashness. Yet with all your large ideas I find you
inconsistent; for example, you talk of the Soul now, as if you
believed in it,--but there are times when you declare yourself
doubtful of its existence."

"It is necessary to split hairs of argument with you, I see"--returned
El-Rmi with a slight smile,--"Can you not understand that I may
believe in the Soul without being sure of it? It is the natural
instinct of every man to credit himself with immortality, because this
life is so short and unsatisfactory,--the notion may be a fault of
heritage perhaps, still it is implanted in us all the same. And I do
believe in the Soul,--but I require certainty to make my mere belief
an undeniable Fact. And the whole business of my life is to establish
that fact provably, and beyond any sort of doubt whatever,--what
inconsistency do you find there?"

"None--none--" said Kremlin hastily--"But you will not succeed,--yours
is too daring an attempt,--too arrogant and audacious a demand upon
the Unknown Forces."

"And what of the daring and arrogance displayed here?" asked El-Rmi,
with a wave of his hand towards the glittering Disc in front of them.

Kremlin jumped up excitedly.

"No, no!--you cannot call the mere scien--tific investigation of
natural objects arrogant," he said--"Besides, the whole thing is so
very simple after all. It is well known that every star in the heavens
sends forth perpetual radiations of light; which radiations in a given
number of minutes, days, months or years, reach our Earth. It depends
of course on the distance between the particular star and our planet,
as to how long these light-vibrations take to arrive here. One ray
from some stars will occupy thousands of years in its course,--in
fact, the original planet from which it fell, may be swept out of
existence before it has time to penetrate our atmosphere. All this is
in the lesson-books of children, and is familiar to every beginner in
the rudiments of astronomy. But apart from time and distance, there is
no cessation to these light-beats or vibrations; they keep on arriving
for ever, without an instant's pause. Now, my great idea, was, as you
know, to catch these reflexes on a mirror or dial of magnetic spar,--
and you see for yourself that this thing, which seemed impossible, is
to a certain extent done. Magnetic spar is not a new substance to you,
any more than it was to the Egyptian priests of old--and the quality
it has, of attracting light in its exact lines wherever light falls,
is no surprise to you, though it might seem a marvel to the ignorant.
Every little zigzag or circular flash on that Disc, is a vibration of
light from some star,--but what puzzles and confounds my skill is
this;--That there is a Meaning in those lines--a distinct Meaning
which asks to be interpreted,--a picture which is ever on the point of
declaring itself, and is never declared. Mine is the torture of a
Tantalus watching night after night that mystic Dial!"

He went close up to the Disc, and pointed out one particular spot on
its surface where at that moment there was a glittering tangle of
little prismatic tints.

"Observe this with me--" he said, and El-Rmi approached him--"Here is
a perfect cluster of light-vibrations,--in two minutes by my watch
they will be here no longer,--and a year or more may pass before they
appear again. From what stars they fall, and why they have deeper
colours than most of the reflexes, I cannot tell. There---see!" and he
looked round with an air of melancholy triumph mingled with wonder, as
the little spot of brilliant colour suddenly disappeared like the
moisture of breath from a mirror--"They are gone! I have seen them
four times only since the Disc was balanced twelve years ago,--and I
have tried in every way to trace their origin--in vain--all, all in
vain! If I could only decipher the Meaning!--for as sure as God lives
there is a Meaning there."

El-Rmi was silent, and Dr. Kremlin went on.

"The air is a conveyer of Sound--" he said meditatively--"The light is
a conveyer of Scenes. Mark that well. The light may be said to create
landscape and generate Colour. Reflexes of light make pictures,--
witness the instantaneous flash, which with the aid of chemistry, will
give you a photograph in a second. I firmly believe that all reflexes
of light are so many letters of a marvellous alphabet, which if we
could only read it, would enable us to grasp the highest secrets of
creation. The seven tones of music, for example, are in Nature;--in
any ordinary storm, where there is wind and rain and the rustle of
leaves, you can hear the complete scale on which every atom of musical
composition has ever been written. Yet what ages it took us to reduce
that scale to a visible tangible form,--and even now we have not
mastered the quarter-tones heard in the songs of birds. And just as
the whole realm of music is in seven tones of natural Sound, so the
whole realm of light is in a pictured Language of Design, Colour, and
Method, with an intention and a message, which we--we human beings--
are intended to discover. Yet with all these great mysteries waiting
to be solved, the most of us are content to eat and drink and sleep
and breed and die, like the lowest cattle, in brutish ignorance of
more than half our intellectual privileges. I tell you, El-Rmi, if I
could only find out and place correctly one of those light-vibrations,
the rest might be easy."

He heaved a profound sigh,--and the great Disc, circling steadily with
its grave monotonous hum, might have passed for the wheel of Fate
which he, poor mortal, was powerless to stop though it should grind
him to atoms.

El-Rmi watched him with interest and something of compassion for a
minute or two,--then he touched his arm gently.

"Kremlin, is it not time for you to rest?" he asked kindly--"You have
not slept well for many nights,--you are tired out,--why not sleep
now, and gather strength for future labours?"

The old man started, and a slight shiver ran through him.

"You mean--?" he began.

"I mean to do for you what I promised--" replied El-Rmi--"You asked
me for this--" and he held up the gold-stoppered flask he had brought
in with him from the next room--"It is all ready prepared for you--
drink it, and to-morrow you will find yourself a new man."

Dr. Kremlin looked at him suspiciously--and then began to laugh with a
sort of hysterical nervousness.

"I believe--" he murmured indistinctly and with affected jocularity--
"I believe that you want to poison me! Yes--yes!--to poison me and
take all my discoveries for yourself! You want to solve the great
Star--problem and take all the glory and rob me--yes, rob me of my
hard-earned fame!--yes--it is poison--poison!"

And he chuckled feebly, and hid his face between his hands.

El-Rmi heard him with an expression of pain and pity in his fine

"My poor old friend--" he said gently--"You are wearied to death--so I
pardon you your sudden distrust of me. As for poison--see!" and he
lifted the flask he held to his lips and drank a few drops--"Have no
fear! Your Star-problem is your own,--and I desire that you should
live long enough to read its great mystery. As for me, I have other
labours;--to me stars, solar systems, aye! whole Universes are
nothing,--my business is with the Spirit that dominates Matter--not
with Matter itself. Enough; will you live or will you die? It rests
with yourself to choose--for you are ill, Kremlin--very ill,--your
brain is fagged and weak--you cannot go on much longer like this. Why
did you send for me if you do not believe in me?"

The old Doctor tottered to the window--bench and sat down,--then
looking up, he forced a smile.

"Don't you see for yourself what a coward I have become?" he said--"I
tell you I am afraid of everything;--of you--of myself--and worst of
all, of that--" and he pointed to the Disc--"which lately seems to
have grown stronger than I am." He paused a moment--then went on with
an effort--"I had a strange idea the other night,--I thought, suppose
God, in the beginning, created the Universe simply to divert Himself--
just as I created my Dial there;--and suppose it had happened that
instead of being His servant as He originally intended, it had become
His master?--that He actually had no more power over it? Suppose He
were dead? We see that the works of men live ages after their death,--
why not the works of God? Horrible--horrible! Death is horrible! I do
not want to die, El-Rmi!" and his faint voice rose to a querulous
wail--"Not yet--not yet! I cannot!--I must finish my work--I must
know--I must live--"

"You shall live," interrupted El-Rmi. "Trust me--there is no death in

He held up the mysterious flask again. Kremlin stared at it, shaking
all over with nervousness--then on a sudden impulse clutched it.

"Am I to drink it all?" he asked faintly.

El-Rmi bent his head in assent.

Kremlin hesitated a moment longer--then with the air of one who takes
a sudden desperate resolve, he gave one eager yearning look at the
huge revolving Disc, and putting the flask to his lips, drained its
contents. He had scarcely swallowed the last drop, when he sprang to
his feet, uttered a smothered cry, staggered, and fell on the floor
motionless. El-Rmi caught him up at once, and lifted him easily in
his strong arms on to the window-seat, where he laid him down gently,
placing coverings over him and a pillow under his head. The old man's
face was white and rigid as the face of a corpse, but he breathed
easily and quietly, and El-Rmi, knowing the action of the draught he
had administered, saw there was no cause for anxiety in his condition.
He himself leaned on the sill of the great open window and looked out
at the starlit sky for some minutes, and listened to the sonorous
plashing of the waves on the shore below. Now and then he glanced back
over his shoulder at the great Dial and its shining star-patterns.

"Only Lilith could decipher the meaning of it all," he mused.
"Perhaps,--some day--it might be possible to ask her. But then, do I
in truth believe what she tells me?-would he believe? The
transcendentally uplifted soul of a woman!--ought we to credit the
message obtained through so ethereal a means? I doubt it. We men are
composed of such stuff that we must convince ourselves of a fact by
every known test before we finally accept it,--like St. Thomas, unless
we put our rough hand into the wounded side of Christ, and thrust our
fingers into the nail-prints, we will not believe. And I shall never
resolve myself as to which is the wisest course,--to accept everything
with the faith of a child, or dispute everything with the arguments of
a controversialist. The child is happiest; but then the question
arises--Were we meant to be happy? I think not,--since there is
nothing that can make us so for long."

His brow clouded and he stood absorbed, looking at the stars, yet
scarcely conscious of beholding them. Happiness! It had a sweet
sound,--an exquisite suggestion; and his thoughts clung round it
persistently as bees round honey. Happiness!--What could engender it?
The answer came unbidden to his brain--"Love!" He gave an involuntary
gesture of irritation, as though someone had spoken the word in his

"Love!" he exclaimed half aloud. "There is no such thing--not on
earth. There is Desire,--the animal attraction of one body for
another, which ends in disgust and satiety. Love should have no touch
of coarseness in it,--and can anything be coarser than the marriage-
tie?--the bond which compels a man and woman to live together in daily
partnership of bed and board, and reproduce their kind like pigs, or
other common cattle. To call that love is a sacrilege to the very
name,--for Love is a divine emotion, and demands divinest

He went up to where Kremlin lay reclined,---the old man slept
profoundly and peacefully,--his face had gained colour and seemed less
pinched and meagre in outline. EI-Rmi felt his pulse,--it beat
regularly and calmly. Satisfied with his examination, he wheeled away
the great telescope into a corner, and shut the window against the
night air,--then he lay down himself on the floor, with his coat
rolled under him for a pillow, and composed himself to sleep till


THE next day dawned in brilliant sunshine; the sea was as smooth as a
lake, and the air pleasantly warm and still. Dr. Kremlin's servant
Karl got up in a very excellent humour,--he had slept well, and he
awoke with the comfortable certainty of finding his eccentric master
in better health and spirits, as this was always the case after one of
El-Rmi's rare visits. And Karl, though he did not much appreciate
learning, especially when the pursuit of it induced people, as he
said, to starve themselves for the sake of acquiring wisdom, did feel
in his own heart that there was something about El-Rmi that was not
precisely like other men, and he had accordingly for him not only a
great attraction, but a profound respect.

"If anybody can do the Herr Doctor good, he can--" he thought, as he
laid the breakfast-table in the little dining-room whose French
windows opened out to a tiny green lawn fronting the sea,--"Certainly
one can never cure old age,--that is an ailment for which there is no
remedy; but however old we are bound to get, I don't see why we should
not be merry over it and enjoy our meals to the last. Now let me see--
what have I to get ready--" and he enumerated on his fingers--
"Coffee--toast--rolls,--butter--eggs--fish,--I think that will do;--
and if I just put these few roses in the middle of the table to tempt
the eye a bit,"--and he suited the action to the word--"There now!--if
the Herr Doctor can be pleased at all--"

"Breakfast, Karl! breakfast!" interrupted a clear cheerful voice, the
sound of which made Karl start with nervous astonishment. "Make haste,
my good fellow! My friend here has to catch an early train."

Karl turned round, stared, and stood motionless, open-mouthed, and
struck dumb with sheer surprise. Could it be the old Doctor who spoke?
Was it his master at all,--this hale, upright, fresh-faced individual
who stood before him, smiling pleasantly and giving his orders with
such a brisk air of authority? Bewildered and half afraid, he cast a
desperate glance at El-Rmi, who had also entered the room, and who,
seeing his confusion, made him a quick secret sign.

"Yes--be as quick as you can, Karl," he said. "Your master has had a
good night, and is much better, as you see. We shall be glad of our
breakfast; I told you we should, last night. Don't keep us waiting!"

"Yes, sir--no, sir!" stammered Karl, trying to collect his scattered
senses and staring again at Dr. Kremlin,--then, scarcely knowing
whether he was on his head or his heels, he scrambled out of the room
into the passage, where he stood for a minute stupefied and inert.

"It must be devil's work!" he ejaculated amazedly. "Who but the devil
could make a man look twenty years younger in a single night? Yes--
twenty years younger,--he looks that, if he looks a day. God have
mercy on us!--what will happen next--what sort of a service have I got
into?--Oh, my poor mother!"

This last was Karl's supremest adjuration,--when he could find nothing
else to say, the phrase "Oh, my poor mother!" came as naturally to his
lips as the familiar "D--n it!" from the mouth of an old swaggerer in
the army or navy. He meant nothing by it, except perhaps a vague
allusion to the innocent days of his childhood, when he was ignorant
of the wicked ways of the wicked world, and when "Oh, my poor mother!"
had not the most distant idea as to what was going to become of her
hopeful first-born.

Meantime, while he went down into the kitchen and bustled about there,
getting the coffee, frying the fish, boiling the eggs, and cogitating
with his own surprised and half-terrified self, Dr. Kremlin and his
guest had stepped out into the little garden together, and they now
stood there on the grass-plot surveying the glittering wide expanse of
ocean before them. They spoke not a word for some minutes,--then, all
at once, Kremlin turned round and caught both El-Rmi's hands in his
own and pressed them fervently--there were tears in his eyes.

"What can I say to you?" he murmured in a voice broken by strong
emotion--"How can I thank you? You have been as a god to me;--I live
again,--I breathe again,--this morning the world seems new to my
eyes,--as new as though I had never seen it before. I have left a
whole cycle of years, with all their suffering and bitterness, behind
me, and I am ready now to commence life afresh."

"That is well!" said El-Rmi gently, cordially returning the pressure
of his hands. "That is as it should be. To see your strength and
vitality thus renewed, is more than enough reward for me."

"And do I really look younger?--am I actually changed in appearance?"
asked Kremlin eagerly.

El-Rmi smiled. "Well, you saw poor Karl's amazement"--he replied. "He
was afraid of you, I think--and also of me. Yes, you are changed,
though not miraculously so. Your hair is as gray as ever,--the same
furrows of thought are on your face;--all that has occurred is the
simple renewal of the tissues, and revivifying of the blood,--and this
gives you the look of vigour and heartiness you have this morning."

"But will it last?--will it last?" queried Kremlin anxiously.

"If you follow my instructions, of course it will--" returned El-
Rmi--"I will see to that. I have left with you a certain quantity of
the vital fluid,--all you have to do is to take ten drops every third
night, or inject it into your veins if you prefer that method;--
then,--as I told you,--you cannot die, except by violence."

"And no violence comes here"--said Kremlin with a smile, glancing
round at the barren yet picturesque scene--"I am as lonely as an
unmated eagle on a rock,--and the greater my solitude the happier I
am. The world is very beautiful--that I grant,--but the beings that
inhabit it spoil it for me, albeit I am one of them. And so I cannot
die, except by violence? Almost I touch immortality! Marvellous El-
Rmi! You should be a king of nations!"

"Too low a destiny!" replied El-Rmi--"I had rather be a ruler of

"Ah, there is your stumbling-block!" said Kremlin, with sudden
seriousness,--"You soar too high--you are never contented."

"Content is impossible to the Soul," returned El-Rmi,--"Nothing is
too high or too low for its investigation. And whatever can be done,
should be done, in order that the whole gamut of life may be properly
understood by those who are forced to live it."

"And do not you understand it?"

"In part--yes. But not wholly. It is not sufficient to have traced the
ripple of a brain-wave through the air and followed its action and
result with exactitude,--nor is it entirely satisfactory to have all
the secrets of physical and mental magnetism, and attraction between
bodies and minds, made clear and easy without knowing the reason of
these things. It is like the light-vibrations on your Disc,--they
come--and go; but one needs to know why and whence they come and go. I
know much--but I would fain know more."

"But is not the pursuit of knowledge infinite?"

"It may be--if infinity exists. Infinity is possible--and I believe in
it,--all the same I must prove it."

"You will need a thousand life-times to fulfil such works as you
attempt!" exclaimed Kremlin.

"And I will live them all;"--responded El-Rmi composedly--"I have
sworn to let nothing baffle me, and nothing shall!"

Dr. Kremlin looked at him in vague awe,--the dark haughty handsome
face spoke more resolvedly than words.

"Pardon me, El-Rmi"--he said with a little diffidence--"It seems a
very personal question to put, and possibly you may resent it, still I
have often thought of asking it. You are a very handsome and very
fascinating man--you would be a fool if you were not perfectly aware
of your own attractiveness,--well, now tell me--have you never loved
anybody?--any woman?"

The sleepy brilliancy of El-Rmi's fine eyes lightened with sudden

"Loved a woman?--I?" he exclaimed--"The Fates forbid! What should I do
with the gazelles and kittens and toys of life, such as women are? Of
all animals on earth, they have the least attraction for me. I would
rather stroke a bird's wings than a woman's hair, and the fragrance of
a rose pressed against my lips is sweeter and more sincere than any
woman's kisses. As the females of the race, women are useful in their
way, but not interesting at any time--at least, not to me."

"Do you not believe in love then?" asked Kremlin.

"No. Do you?"

"Yes,"--and Kremlin's voice was very tender and impressive--"I believe
it is the only thing of God in an almost godless world."

El-Rmi shrugged his shoulders.

"You talk like a poet. I, who am not poetical, cannot so idealize the
physical attraction between male and female, which is nothing but a
law of nature, and is shared by us in common with the beasts of the

"I think your wisdom is in error there"--said Kremlin slowly--
"Physical attraction there is, no doubt--but there is something else--
something more subtle and delicate, which escapes the analysis of both
philosopher and scientist. Moreover it is an imperative spiritual
sense, as well as a material craving,--the soul can no more be
satisfied without love than the body."

"That is your opinion--" and El-Rmi smiled again,--"But you see a
contradiction of it in me. I am satisfied to be without love,--and
certainly I never look upon the ordinary woman of the day, without the
disagreeable consciousness that I am beholding the living essence of
sensualism and folly."

"You are very bitter," said Kremlin wonderingly--"Of course no
'ordinary' woman could impress you,--but there are remarkable women,--
women of power and genius and lofty ambition."

"Les femmes incomprises--oh yes, I know!" laughed El-Rmi--
"Troublesome creatures all, both to themselves and others. Why do you
talk on these subjects, my dear Kremlin?--Is it the effect of your
rejuvenated condition? I am sure there are many more interesting
matters worthy of discussion. I shall never love--not in this planet;
in some other state of existence I may experience the 'divine'
emotion. But the meannesses, vanities, contemptible jealousies, and
low spites of women such as inhabit this earth fill me with disgust
and repulsion,--besides, women are treacherous,--and I loathe

At that moment Karl appeared at the dining-room window as a sign that
breakfast was served, and they turned to go indoors.

"All the same, El-Rmi--" persisted Kremlin, laying one hand on his
friend's arm--"Do not count on being able to escape the fate to which
all humanity must succumb--"

"Death?" interposed El-Rmi lightly--"I have almost conquered that!"

"Aye, but you cannot conquer Love!" said Kremlin impressively--"Love
is stronger than Death."

El-Rmi made no answer,--and they went in to breakfast. They did full
justice to the meal, much to Karl's satisfaction, though he could not
help stealing covert glances at his master's changed countenance,
which had become so much fresher and younger since the previous day.
How such a change had been effected he could not imagine, but on the
whole he was disposed to be content with the evident improvement.

"Even if he is the devil himself--" he considered, his thoughts
reverting to El-Rmi--"I am bound to say that the devil is a kind-
hearted fellow. There's no doubt about that. I suppose I am an
abandoned sinner only fit for the burning--but if God insists on
making us old and sick and miserable, and the devil is able to make us
young and strong and jolly, why let us be friends with the devil, say
I! Oh my poor mother!"

With such curious emotions as these in his mind, it was rather
difficult to maintain a composed face, and wait upon the two gentlemen
with that grave deportment which it is the duty of every well-trained
attendant to assume,--however, he managed fairly well, and got
accustomed at last to hand his master a cup of coffee without staring
at him till his eyes almost projected out of his head.

El-Rmi took his departure soon after breakfast, with a few
recommendations to his friend not to work too hard on the problems
suggested by the Disc.

"Ah, but I have now found a new clue;" said Kremlin triumphantly--"I
found it in sleep. I shall work it out in the course of a few weeks, I
dare say--and I will let you know if the result is successful. You
see, thanks to you, my friend, I have time now,--there is no need to
toil with feverish haste and anxiety--death that seemed so near, is
thrust back in the distance--"

"Even so!" said El-Rmi with a strange smile--"In the far, far
distance,--baffled and kept at bay. Oddly enough, there are some who
say there is no death--"

"But there is--there must be!--" exclaimed Kremlin quickly.

El-Rmi raised his hand with a slight commanding gesture.

"It is not a certainty--" he said--"inasmuch as there is NO certainty.
And there is no 'Must-Be,'--there is only the Soul's 'Shall-Be'!"

And with these somewhat enigmatical words, he bade his friend
farewell, and went his way.


IT was yet early in the afternoon when he arrived back in London. He
went straight home to his own house, letting himself in as usual with
his latch-key. In the hall he paused, listening. He half expected to
hear Fraz playing one of his delicious dreamy improvisations,--but
there was not a sound anywhere, and the deep silence touched him with
an odd sense of disappointment and vague foreboding. His study door
stood slightly ajar,--he pushed it wider open very noiselessly and
looked in. His young brother was there, seated in a chair near the
window, reading. El-Rmi gazed at him dubiously, with a slowly dawning
sense that there was some alteration in his appearance which he could
not all at once comprehend. Presently he realized that Fraz had
evidently yielded to some overwhelming suggestion of personal vanity,
which had induced him to put on more brilliant attire. He had changed
his plain white linen garb for one of richer material, composed in the
same Eastern fashion,--he wore a finely-chased gold belt, from which a
gold-sheathed dagger depended,--and a few gold ornaments gleamed here
and there among the drawn silken folds of his upper vest. He looked
handsome enough for a new Agathon as he sat there apparently absorbed
in study,--the big volume he perused resting partly on his knee,--but
El-Rmi's brow contracted with sudden anger as he observed him from
the half-open doorway where he stood, himself unseen,--and his dark
face grew very pale. He threw the door back on its hinges with a
clattering sound and entered the room.


Fraz looked up, lifting his eyelids indifferently and smiling coldly.

"What, El-Rmi! Back so early? I did not expect you till nightfall."

"Did you not?" said his brother, advancing slowly--"Pray how was that?
You know I generally return after a night's absence early in the next
day. Where is your usual word of welcome? What ails you? You seem in a
very odd humour!"

"Do I?"--and Fraz stretched himself a little,--rose, yawning, and
laid down the volume he held on the table--"I am not aware of it
myself, I assure you. How did you find your old madman? And did you
tell him you were nearly as mad as he?"

El-Rmi's eyes flashed indignant amazement and wrath.

"Fraz!--What do you mean?"

With a fierce impulsive movement Fraz turned and fully faced him,--
all his forced and feigned calmness gone to the winds,--a glowing
picture of youth and beauty and rage commingled.

"What do I mean?" he cried--"I mean this! That I am tired of being
your slave-your 'subject' for conjurer's tricks of mesmerism,--that
from henceforth I resist your power,--that I will not serve you--will
not obey you--will not yield--no!--not an inch of my liberty--to your
influence,--that I am a free man, as you are, and that I will have the
full rights of both my freedom and manhood. You shall play no more
with me; I refuse to be your dupe as I have been. This is what I
mean!--and as I will have no deception or subterfuge between us,--for
I scorn a lie,--hear the truth from me at once;--I know your secret--I
have seen Her!"

El-Rmi stood erect,--immovable;--he was very pale; his breath came
and went quickly--once his hand clenched, but he said nothing.

"I have seen Her!" cried Fraz again, flinging up his arms with an
ecstatic wild gesture--"A creature fairer than any vision!--and you--
you have the heart to bind her fast in darkness and in nothingness,--
you it is who have shut her sight to the world,--you have made for
her, through your horrible skill, a living death in which she knows
nothing, feels nothing, sees nothing, loves nothing! I tell you it is
a cursed deed you are doing,--a deed worse than murder--I would not
have believed it of you! I thought your experiments were all for
good,--I never would have deemed you capable of cruelty to a helpless
woman! But I will release her from your spells,--she is too beautiful
to be made her own living monument,--Zaroba is right--she needs life--
joy--love!--she shall have them all;--through me!"

He paused, out of breath with the heat and violence of his own
emotions;--El-Rmi stood, still immovably regarding him.

"You may be as angered as you please"--went on Fraz with sullen
passion--"I care nothing now. It was Zaroba who bade me go up yonder
and see her where she slept; was Zaroba--"

"'The woman tempted me and I did eat--'" quoted El-Rmi coldly,--"Of
course it was Zaroba. No other than a woman could thus break a sworn
word. Naturally it was Zaroba,--the paid and kept slave of my service,
who owes to me her very existence,--who persuaded my brother to

"Dishonour!" and Fraz laid his hand with a quick, almost savage
gesture on the hilt of the dagger at his belt. El-Rmi's dark eyes
blazed upon him scornfully.

"So soon a braggart of the knife?" he said. "What theatrical show is
this? You--you--the poet, the dreamer, the musician--the gentle lad
whose life was one of peaceful and innocent reverie--are you so soon
changed to the mere swaggering puppy of manhood who pranks himself out
in gaudy clothing, and thinks by vulgar threatening to overawe his
betters? If so, 'tis a pity--but I shall not waste time in deploring
it. Hear me, Fraz--I said 'dishonour,'--swallow the word as best you
may, it is the only one that fits the act of prying into secrets not
your own. But I am not angered,--the mischief wrought is not beyond
remedy, and if it were there would be still less use in bewailing it.
What is done cannot be undone. Now tell me,--you say you have seen
Her. Whom have you seen?"

Fraz regarded him amazedly.

"Whom have I seen?" he echoed--"Whom should I see, if not the girl you
keep locked in those upper rooms,--a beautiful maiden, sleeping her
life away, in cruel darkness and ignorance of all things true and

"An enchanted princess, to your fancy--" said El-Rmi derisively.
"Well, if you thought so, and if you believed yourself to be a new
sort of Prince Charming, why, if she were only sleeping, did you not
wake her?"

"Wake her?" exclaimed Fraz excitedly,--"Oh, I would have given my
life to see those fringed lids uplift and show the wonders of the eyes
beneath! I called her by every endearing name--I took her hands and
warmed them in my own--I would have kissed her lips--"

"You dared not!" cried El-Rmi, fired beyond his own control, and
making a fierce bound towards him--"You dared not pollute her by your

Fraz recoiled,--a sudden chill ran through his blood. His brother was
transformed with the passion that surged through him,--his eyes
flashed--his lips quivered--his very form seemed to tower up and
tremble and dilate with rage.

"El-Rmi!" he stammered nervously, feeling all his newly-born defiance
and bravado oozing away under the terrible magnetism of this man,
whose fury was nearly as electric as that of a sudden thunderstorm,--
"El-Rmi, I did no harm,--Zaroba was there beside me--"

"Zaroba!" echoed El-Rmi furiously--"Zaroba would stand by and see an
angel violated, and think it the greatest happiness that could befall
her sanctity! To be of common clay, with household joys and kitchen
griefs, is Zaroba's idea of noble living. Oh rash unhappy Fraz! you
say you know my secret--you do not know it--you cannot guess it!
Foolish, ignorant boy!--did you think yourself a new Christ with power
to raise the Dead?"

"The dead?" muttered Fraz, with white lips--"The dead? She--the girl
I saw--lives and breathes..."

"By my will alone!" said El-Rmi--"By my force--by my knowledge--by my
constant watchful care,--by my control over the subtle threads that
connect Spirit with Matter. Otherwise, according to all the laws of
ordinary nature, that girl is dead--she died in the Syrian desert six
years ago!"


AT these words, pronounced slowly and with emphatic distinctness,
Fraz staggered back dizzily and sank into a chair,--drops of
perspiration bedewed his forehead, and a sick faint feeling overcame
him. He said nothing,--he could find no words in which to express his
mingled horror and amazement. El-Rmi watched him keenly,--and
presently Fraz, looking up, caught the calm, full and fiery regard of
his brother's eyes. With a smothered cry, he raised his hands as
though to shield himself from a blow.

"I will not have it;"--he muttered faintly--"You shall not force my
thoughts,--I will believe nothing against my own will. You shall no
longer delude my eyes and ears--I have read--I know,--I know how such
trickery is done!"

El-Rmi uttered an impatient exclamation, and paced once or twice up
and down the room.

"See here, Fraz;"--he said, suddenly stopping before the chair in
which his brother sat,-"I swear to you that I am not exercising one
iota of my influence upon you. When I do, I will tell you, that you
may be prepared to resist me if you choose. I am using no power of any
kind upon you--be satisfied of that. But, as you have forced your way
into the difficult labyrinth of my life's work, it is as well that you
should have an explanation of what seems to you full of mysterious
evil and black magic. You accuse me of wickedness,--you tell me I am
guilty of a deed worse than murder. Now this is mere rant and
nonsense,--you speak in such utter ignorance of the facts, that I
forgive you, as one is bound to forgive all faults committed through
sheer want of instruction. I do not think I am a wicked man"--he
paused, with an earnest, almost pathetic expression on his face--"at
least I strive not to be. I am ambitious and sceptical--and I am not
altogether convinced of there being any real intention of ultimate
good in the arrangements of this world as they at present exist,--but
I work without any malicious intention; and without undue boasting I
believe I am as honest and conscientious as the best of my kind. But
that is neither here nor there,--as I said before, you have broken
into a secret not intended for your knowledge--and that you may not
misunderstand me yet more thoroughly than you seem to do, I will tell
you what I never wished to bother your brains with. For you have been
very happy till now, Fraz--happy in the beautiful simplicity of the
life you led--the life of a poet and dreamer,--the happiest life in
the world!"

He broke off, with a short sigh of mingled vexation and regret--then
he seated himself immediately opposite his brother and went on--

"You were too young to understand the loss it was to us both when our
parents died,--or to know the immense reputation our father Nadir
Zarnos had won throughout the East for his marvellous skill in
natural science and medicine. He died in the prime of his life,--our
mother followed him within a month,--and you were left to my charge,--
you a child then, and I almost a man. Our father's small but rare
library came into my possession, together with his own manuscripts
treating of the scientific and spiritual organization of Nature in all
its branches,--and these opened such extraordinary vistas of
possibility to me as to what might be done if such and such theories
could be practically carried out and acted upon, that I became fired
with the ardour of discovery. The more I studied, the more convinced
and eager I became in the pursuit of such knowledge as is generally
deemed supernatural, and beyond the reach of all human inquiry. One or
two delicate experiments in chemistry of a rare and subtle nature were
entirely successful,--and by-and-bye I began to look about for a
subject on whom I could practise the power I had attained. There was
no one whom I could personally watch and surround with my hourly
influence except yourself,--therefore I made my first great trial upon

Fraz moved uneasily in his chair,--his face wore a doubtful, half-
sullen expression, but he listened to El-Rmi's every word with vivid
and almost painful interest.

"At that time you were a mere boy--" pursued El-Rmi--"but strong and
vigorous, and full of the mischievous pranks and sports customary to
healthy boyhood. I began by slow degrees to educate you--not with the
aid of schools or tutors--but simply by my Will. You had a singularly
unretentive brain,--you were never fond of music--you would never
read,--you had no taste for study. Your delight was to ride--to swim
like a fish,--to handle a gun--to race, to leap,--to play practical
jokes on other boys of your own age and fight them if they resented
it;--all very amusing performances no doubt, but totally devoid of
intelligence. Judging you dispassionately, I found that you were a
very charming gamesome animal,--physically perfect--with a Mind
somewhere if one could only discover it, and a Soul or Spirit behind
the Mind--if one could only discover that also. I set myself the task
of finding out both these hidden portions of your composition--and of
not only finding them, but moulding and influencing them according to
my desire and plan."

A faint tremor shook the younger man's frame--but he said nothing.

"You are attending to me closely, I hope?" said El-Rmi pointedly--
"because you must distinctly understand that this conversation is the
first and last we shall have on the matter. After to-day, the subject
must drop between us forever, and I shall refuse to answer any more
questions. You hear?"

Fraz bent his head.

"I hear--" he answered with an effort--"And what I hear seems strange
and terrible!"

"Strange and terrible?" echoed El-Rmi. "How so? What is there strange
or terrible in the pursuit of Wisdom? Yet--perhaps you are right, and
the blank ignorance of a young child is best,--for there is something
appalling in the infinitude of knowledge--an infinitude which must
remain infinite, if it be true that there is a God who is forever
thinking, and whose thoughts become realities."

He paused, with a rapt look,--then resumed in the same even tone,--

"When I had made up my mind to experimentalize upon you, I lost no
time in commencing my work. One of my chief desires was to avoid the
least risk of endangering your health--your physical condition was
admirable, and I resolved to keep it so. In this I succeeded. I made
life a joy to you--the mere act of breathing a pleasure--you grew up
before my eyes like the vigorous sapling of an oak that rejoices in
the mere expansion of its leaves to the fresh air. The other and more
subtle task was harder,--it needed all my patience--all my skill,-but
I was at last rewarded. Through my concentrated influence, which
surrounded you as with an atmosphere in which you moved, and slept,
and woke again, and which forced every fibre of your brain to respond
to mine, the animal faculties which were strongest in you, became
subdued and tamed,--and the mental slowly asserted themselves. I
resolved you should be a poet and musician--you became both;--you
developed an ardent love of study, and every few months that passed
gave richer promise of your ripening intelligence. Moreover, you were
happy,---happy in everything--happiest perhaps in your music, which
became your leading passion. Having thus, unconsciously to yourself,
fostered your mind by the silent workings of my own, and trained it to
grow up like a flower to the light, I thought I might make my next
attempt, which was to probe for that subtle essence we call the Soul--
the large wings that are hidden in the moth's chrysalis;--and
influence that too;--but there--there by some inexplicable opposition
of forces, I was baffled."

Fraz raised himself half out of his chair, his lips parted in
breathless eagerness--his eyes dilated and sparkling.

"Baffled?" he repeated hurriedly--"How do you mean?--in what way?"

"Oh, in various ways--" replied El-Rmi, looking at him with a
somewhat melancholy expression--"Ways that I myself am not able to
comprehend. I found I could influence your Inner Self to obey me,--but
only to a very limited extent, and in mere trifles,--for example, as
you yourself know, I could compel you to come to me from a certain
distance in response to my thought,---but in higher things you escaped
me. You became subject to long trances,--this I was prepared for, as
it was partially my work,--and during these times of physical
unconsciousness, it was evident that your Soul enjoyed a life and
liberty superior to anything these earth-regions can offer. But you
could never remember all you saw in these absences,--indeed, the only
suggestions you seem to have brought away from that other state of
existence are the strange melodies you play sometimes, and that idea
you have about your native Star."

A curious expression flitted across Fraz's face as he heard--and his
lips parted in a slight smile, but he said nothing.

"Therefore,"--pursued his brother meditatively--"as I could get no
clear exposition of other worlds from you, as I had hoped to do, I
knew I had failed to command you in a spiritual sense. But my
dominance over your Mind continued; it continues still,--nay, my good
Fraz!"--this, as Fraz seemed about to utter some impetuous word--
"Pray that you may never be able to shake off my force entirely,--for
if you do, you will lose what the people of a grander and poetic day
called Genius--and what the miserable Dry-as-Dusts of our modern era
call Madness--the only gift of the gods that has ever served to
enlighten and purify the world. But your genius, Fraz, belongs to
me;--I gave it to you, and I can take it back again if I so choose;--
and leave you as you originally were--a handsome animal with no more
true conception of art or beauty than my Lord Melthorpe, or his
spendthrift young cousin Vaughan."

Fraz had listened thus far in silence,--but now he sprang out of his
chair with a reckless gesture.

"I cannot bear it!" he said--"I cannot bear it! El-Rmi, I cannot--I
will not!"

"Cannot bear what?" inquired his brother with a touch of satire in his
tone--"Pray be calm!--there is no necessity for such melodramatic
excitement. Cannot bear what?"

"I will not owe everything to you!" went on Fraz, passionately--"How
can I endure to know that my very thoughts are not my own, but emanate
from you?--that my music has been instilled into me by you?--that you
possess me by your power, body and brain,--great Heaven! it is awful--

El-Rmi rose and laid one hand gently on his shoulder--he recoiled
shudderingly--and the elder man sighed heavily.

"You tremble at my touch,--" he said sadly--"the touch of a hand that
has never wilfully wrought you harm, but has always striven to make
life beautiful to you? Well!--be it so!--you have only to say the
word, Fraz, and you shall owe me nothing. I will undo all I have
done,--and you shall reassume the existence for which Nature
originally made you--an idle voluptuous wasting of time in sensualism
and folly. And even that form of life you must owe to Someone,--even
that you must account for--to God!"

The young man's head drooped,--a faint sense of shame stirred in him,
but he was still resentful and sullen.

"What have I done to you," went on El-Rmi, "that you should turn from
me thus, all because you have seen a dead woman's face for an hour? I
have made your thoughts harmonious--I have given you pleasure such as
the world's ways cannot give--your mind has been as a clear mirror in
which only the fairest visions of life were reflected. You would alter
this?--then do so, if you decide thereon,--but weigh the matter well
and long, before you shake off my touch, my tenderness, my care."

His voice faltered a little--but he quickly controlled his emotion,
and continued--

"I must ask you to sit down again and hear me out patiently to the end
of my story. At present I have only told you what concerns yourself--
and how the failure of my experiment upon the spiritual part of your
nature, obliged me to seek for another subject on whom to continue my
investigations. As far as you are personally concerned, no failure is
apparent--for your spirit is allowed frequent intervals of
supernatural freedom, in which you have experiences that give you
peculiar pleasure, though you are unable to impart them to me with
positive lucidity. You visit a Star--so you say--with which you really
seem to have some home connection--but you never get beyond this, so
that it would appear that any higher insight is denied you. Now what I
needed to obtain, was not only a higher insight, but the highest
knowledge that could possibly be procured through a mingled
combination of material and spiritual essences, and it was many a long
and weary day before I found what I sought. At last my hour came--as
it comes to all who have the patience and fortitude to wait for it."

He paused a moment--then went on more quickly--

"You remember of course that occasion of which we chanced upon a party
of Arab wanderers who were journeying across the Syrian desert?--all
poor and ailing, and almost destitute of food or water?"

"I remember it perfectly!" and Fraz, seating himself opposite his
brother again, listened with renewed interest and attention.

"They had two dying persons with them," continued El-Rmi--"An elderly
woman--a widow, known as Zaroba,--the other an orphan girl of about
twelve years of age named Lilith. Both were perishing of fever and
famine. I came to the rescue. I saved Zaroba,--and she, with the
passionate im--pulsiveness of her race, threw herself in gratitude at
my feet, and swore by all her most sacred beliefs that she would be my
slave from henceforth as long as she lived. All her people were dead,
she told me--she was alone in the world--she prayed me to let her be
my faithful servant. And truly, her fidelity has never failed--till
now. But of that hereafter. The child Lilith, more fragile of frame
and weakened to the last extremity of exhaustion--in spite of my
unremitting care--died. Do you thoroughly understand me--she died ."

"She died!" repeated Fraz slowly--"Well--what then?"

"I was supporting her in my arms"--said El-Rmi, the ardour of his
description growing upon him, and his black eyes dilating and burning
like great jewels under the darkness of his brows--"when she drew her
last breath and sank back--a corpse. But before her flesh had time to
stiffen,--before the warmth had gone out of her blood,--an idea, wild
and daring, flashed across my mind. 'If this child has a Soul,' I said
to myself--'I will stay it in its flight from hence! It shall become
the new Ariel of my wish and will--and not till it has performed my
bidding to the utmost extent will I, like another Prospero, give it
its true liberty. And I will preserve the body, its mortal shell, by
artificial means, that through its medium I may receive the messages
of the Spirit in mortal language such as I am able to understand.' No
sooner had I conceived my bold project than I proceeded to carry it
into execution. I injected into the still warm veins of the dead girl
a certain fluid whose properties I alone know the working of--and then
I sought and readily obtained permission from the Arabs to bury her in
the desert, while they went on their way. They were in haste to
continue their journey, and were grateful to me for taking this office
off their hands. That very day--the day the girl died--I sent you from
me, as you know, bidding you make all possible speed, on an errand
which I easily invented, to the Brethren of the Cross in the Island of
Cyprus,--you went obediently enough,--surprised perhaps, but
suspecting nothing. That same evening when the heats abated and the
moon rose, the caravan re--sumed its pilgrimage, leaving Lilith's dead
body with me, and also the woman Zaroba, who volunteered to remain and
serve me in my tent, an offer which I accepted, seeing that it was her
own desire, and that she would be useful to me. She, poor silly soul,
took me then for a sort of god, because she was unable to understand
the miracle of her own recovery from imminent death, and I felt
certain I could rely upon her fidelity. Part of my plan I told her,--
she heard with mingled fear and reverence,--the magic of the East was
in her blood, however, and she had a superstitious belief that a truly
'wise man' could do anything. So, for several days we stayed encamped
in the desert--I passing all my hours beside the dead Lilith,--dead,
but to a certain extent living through artificial means. As soon as I
received proof positive that my experiment was likely to be
successful, I procured means to continue my journey on to Alexandria,
and thence to England. To all enquirers I said the girl was a patient
of mine who was suffering from epileptic trances, and the presence of
Zaroba, who filled her post admirably as nurse and attendant, was
sufficient to stop the mouths of would-be scandal-mongers. I chose my
residence in London, because it is the largest city in the world, and
the one most suited to pursue a course of study in, without one's
motives becoming generally known. One can be more alone in London than
in a desert if one chooses. Now, you know all. You have seen the dead
Lilith,--the human chrysalis of the moth,--but there is a living
Lilith too--the Soul of Lilith, which is partly free and partly
captive, but in both conditions is always the servant of my Will!"

Fraz looked at him in mingled awe and fear.

"El-Rmi,"--he said tremulously--"What you tell me is wonderful--
terrible--almost beyond belief,--but, I know something of your power
and I must believe you. Only--surely you are in error when you say
that Lilith is dead? How can she be dead, if you have given her life?"

"Can you call that life which sleeps perpetually and will not wake?"
demanded El-Rmi.

"Would you have her wake?" asked Fraz, his heart beating quickly.

El-Rmi bent his burning gaze upon him.

"Not so,--for if she wakes, in the usual sense of waking--she dies a
second death from which there can be no recall. There is the terror of
the thing. Zaroba's foolish teaching, and your misguided yielding to
her temptation, might have resulted in the fatal end to my life's best
and grandest work. But--I forgive you;--you did not know,--and she--
she did not wake."

"She did not wake," echoed Fraz softly. "No--but--she smiled!"

El-Rmi still kept his eyes fixed upon him,--there was an odd sense of
irritation in his usually calm and coldly balanced organization--a
feeling he strove in vain to subdue. She smiled!--the exquisite
Lilith--the life-in-death Lilith smiled, because Fraz had called her
by some endearing name! Surely it could not be!--and smothering his
annoyance, he turned towards the writing-table and feigned to arrange
some books and papers there.

"El-Rmi--" murmured Fraz again, but timidly--"If she was a child
when she died as you say--how is it she has grown to womanhood?"

"By artificial vitality,"--said El-Rmi--"As a flower is forced under
a hot-house,--and with no more trouble, and less consciousness of
effort than a rose under a glass dome."

"Then she lives,--" declared Fraz impetuously. "She lives,--
artificial or natural, she has vitality. Through your power she
exists, and if you chose, oh, if you chose, El-Rmi, you could wake
her to the fullest life--to perfect consciousness,--to joy--to love!--
Oh, she is in a blessed trance--you cannot call her dead!"

El-Rmi turned upon him abruptly.

"Be silent!" he said sternly--"I read your thoughts,--control them, if
you are wise! You echo Zaroba's prating--Zaroba's teaching. Lilith is
dead, I tell you,--dead to you,--and, in the sense you mean--dead to


AFTER this, a long silence fell between them. Fraz sat moodily in his
chair, conscious of a certain faint sense of shame. He was sorry that
he had wilfully trespassed upon his brother's great secret,--and yet
there was an angry pride in him,--a vague resentment at having been
kept so long in ignorance of this wonderful story of Lilith,--which
made him reluctant to acknowledge himself in the wrong. Moreover, his
mind was possessed and haunted by Lilith's face,--the radiant face
that looked like that of an angel sleeping,--and perplexedly thinking
over all he had heard, he wondered if he would ever again have the
opportunity of beholding what had seemed to him the incarnation of
ideal loveliness. Surely yes!--Zaroba would be his friend,--Zaroba
would let him gaze his fill on that exquisite form--would let him
touch that little, ethereally delicate hand, as soft as velvet and as
white as snow! Absorbed in these reflections, he scarcely noticed that
El-Rmi had moved away from him to the writing-table, and that he now
sat there in his ebony chair, turning over the leaves of the curious
Arabic volume which Fraz had had such trouble in deciphering on the
previous day. The silence in the room continued; outside there was the
perpetual sullen roar of raging restless London,--now and again the
sharp chirruping of contentious sparrows, arguing over a crumb of food
as parliamentary agitators chatter over a crumb of difference, stirred
the quiet air. Fraz stretched himself and yawned,--he was getting
sleepy, and as he realized this fact, he nervously attributed it to
his brother's influence, and sprang up abruptly, rubbing his eyes and
pushing his thick hair from his brows. At his hasty movement, El-Rmi
turned slowly towards him with a grave yet kindly smile.

"Well, Fraz"--he said--"Do you still think me 'wicked' now you know
all? Speak frankly--do not be afraid."

Fraz paused, irresolute.

"I do not know what to think--" he answered hesitatingly,--"Your
experiment is of course wonderful,--but--as I said before--to me, it
seems terrible."

"Life is terrible--" said El-Rmi--"Death is terrible,--Love is
terrible,--God is terrible. All Nature's pulses beat to the note of
Terror,--terror of the Unknown that May Be,--terror of the Known that

His deep voice rang with impressive solemnity through the room,--his
eyes were full of that strange lurid gleam which gave them the
appearance of having a flame behind them.

"Come here, Fraz," he continued--"Why do you stand at so cautious a
distance from me? With that brave show-dagger at your belt, are you a
coward? Silly lad!--I swear to you my influence shall not touch you
unless I warn you of it beforehand. Come!"

Fraz obeyed, but slowly and with an uncertain step. His brother
looked at him attentively as he came,--then, with a gesture indicating
the volume before him, he said--"You found this book on my table
yesterday and tried to read it,--is it not so?"

"I did."

"Well, and have you learnt anything from it?" pursued El-Rmi with a
strange smile.

"Yes. I learnt how the senses may be deceived by trickery--" retorted
Fraz with some heat and quickness--"and how a clever magnetizer--like
yourself--may fool the eye and delude the ear with sights and sounds
that have no existence."

"Precisely. Listen to this passage;"--and El-Rmi read aloud--"The
King when he had any affair, assembled the Priests without the City
Memphis, and the People met together in the streets of the said City.
Then they (the Priests) made their entrance one after another in
order, the drum beating before them to bring the people together; and
every-one made some miraculous discovery of his Magick and Wisdom. One
had, to their thinking who looked on him, his face surrounded with a
light like that of the Sun, so that none could look earnestly upon
him. Another seemed clad with a Robe beset with precious stones of
divers colours, green, red, or yellow, or wrought with gold. Another
came mounted on a Lion compassed with Serpents like Girdles. Another
came in covered with a canopy or pavilion of Light. Another appeared
surrounded with Fire turning about him, so as that nobody durst come
near him. Another was seen with dreadful birds perching about his head
and shaking their wings like black eagles and vultures. In fine,
everyone did what was taught him;--yet all was but Apparition and
Illusion without any reality, insomuch that when they came up to the
King they spake thus to him:--You imagined that it was so-and-so,--but
the truth is that it was such or such a thing. '* The A B C of
magnetism is contained in the last words--" continued El-Rmi lifting
his eyes from the book,--"The merest tyro in the science knows that;
and also realizes that the Imagination is the centre of both physical
and bodily health or disease. And did you learn nothing more?"


* This remarkable passage on the admitted effects of hypnotism as
practised by the priests of ancient Egypt, will be found in an old
history of the building of the Pyramids entitled--"The Egyptian
Account of the Pyramids"--Written in the Arabic by Murtadi the son of
Gaphiphus--date about 1400.

Fraz made a half-angry gesture in the negative.

"What a pity!"--and his brother surveyed him with good-humoured
compassion--"To know how a 'miracle' is done is one thing--but to do
it is quite another matter. Now let me recall to your mind what I
previously told you--that from this day henceforth, I forbid you to
make any allusion to the subject of my work. I forbid you to mention
the name of Lilith,--and I forbid you to approach or to enter the room
where her body lies. You understand me?--I forbid you!"

Fraz's eyes flashed angry opposition, and he drew himself up with a
haughty self-assertiveness.

"You forbid me!" he echoed proudly--"What right have you to forbid me
anything? And how if I refuse to obey?"

El-Rmi rose and confronted him, one hand resting on the big Arabic

"You will not refuse--" he said--"because I will take no refusal. You
will obey, because I exact your obedience. Moreover, you will swear by
the Most Holy Name of God, that you will never, either to me, or to
any other living soul, speak a syllable concerning my life's greatest
experiment,--you will swear that the name of Lilith shall never pass
your lips--"

But here Fraz interrupted him.

"El-Rmi, I will not swear!" he cried desperately--"The name of Lilith
is sweet to me!--why should I not utter it,--why should I not sing of
it--why should I not even remember it in my prayers?"

A terrible look darkened El-Rmi's countenance; his brows contracted
darkly, and his lips drew together in a close resolute line.

"There are a thousand reasons why--" he said in low fierce accents,--
"One is, that the soul of Lilith and the body of Lilith are mine, and
that you have no share in their possession. She does not need your
songs--still less has she need of your prayers. Rash fool!--you shall
forget the name of Lilith--and you shall swear, as I command you.
Resist my will if you can,--now!--I warn you in time!"

He seemed to grow in height as he spoke,--his eyes blazed ominously,
and Fraz, meeting that lightning-like glance, knew how hopeless it
would be for him to attempt to oppose such an intense force as was
contained in this man's mysterious organization. He tried his best,--
but in vain,--with every second he felt his strength oozing out of
him--his power of resistance growing less and less.

"Swear!" said El-Rmi imperatively--"Swear in God's Name to keep my
secret--swear by Christ's Death!--swear on this!"

And he held out a small golden crucifix.

Mechanically, but still devoutly, Fraz instantly dropped on one knee,
and kissed the holy emblem.

"I swear!" he said--but as he spoke, the rising tears were in his
throat, and he murmured--"Forget the name of Lilith!--never!"

"In God's Name!" said El-Rmi.

"In God's Name!"

"By Christ's Death!"

Fraz trembled. In the particular form of religion professed by
himself and his brother, this was the most solemn and binding vow that
could be taken. And his voice was faint and unsteady as he repeated

"By Christ's Death!"

El-Rmi put aside the crucifix.

"That is well;--" he said, in mild accents which contrasted agreeably
with his previous angry tone--"Such oaths are chronicled in heaven,
remember,--and whoever breaks his sworn word is accursed of the gods.
But you,--you will keep your vow, Fraz,--and ... you will also forget
the name of Lilith,--if I choose!"

Fraz stood mute and motionless,--he would have said something, but
somehow words failed him to express what was in his mind. He was
angry, he said to himself,--he had sworn a foolish oath against his
will, and he had every right to be angry--very angry, but with whom?
Surely not with his brother--his friend,--his protector for so many
years? As he thought of this, shame and penitence and old affection
grew stronger and welled up in his heart, and he moved slowly towards
El-Rmi, with hands outstretched.

"Forgive me;"--he said humbly. "I have offended you--I am sorry. I
will show my repentance in whatever way you please,--but do not, El-
Rmi--do not ask me, do not force me to forget the name of Lilith,--it
is like a note in music, and it cannot do you harm that I should think
of it sometimes. For the rest I will obey you faithfully,--and for
what is past, I ask your pardon."

El-Rmi took his hands and pressed them affectionately in his own.

"No sooner asked than granted--" he said--"You are young, Fraz,--and
I am not so harsh as you perhaps imagine. The impulsiveness of youth
should always be quickly pardoned--seeing how gracious a thing youth
is, and how short a time it lasts. Keep your poetic dreams and
fancies--take the sweetness of thought without its bitterness,--and if
you are content to have it so, let me still help to guide your fate.
If not, why, nothing is easier than to part company, part as good
friends and brethren always,--you on your chosen road and I on mine,--
who knows but that after all you might not be happier so?"

Fraz lifted his dark eyes, heavy with unshed tears.

"Would you send me from you?" he asked falteringly.

"Not I! I would not send you,--but you might wish to go."

"Never!" said Fraz resolutely--"I feel that I must stay with you--
till the end."

He uttered the last words with a sigh, and El-Rmi looked at him

"Till the end?"--he repeated--"What end?"

"Oh, the end of life or death or anything;" replied Fraz with forced
lightness--"There must surely be an end somewhere, as there was a

"That is rather a doubtful problem!" said El-Rmi--"The great question
is, was there ever a Beginning? and will there ever be an End?"

Fraz gave a languid gesture.

"You inquire too far,"--he said wearily---"I always think you inquire
too far. I cannot follow you--I am tired. Do you want anything?--can I
do anything? or may I go to my room? I want to be alone for a little
while, just to consider quietly what my life is, and what I can make
of it."

"A truly wise and philosophical subject of meditation!" observed El-
Rmi, and he smiled kindly and held out his hand. Fraz laid his own
slender fingers somewhat listlessly in that firm warm palm;--then--
with a sudden start, looked eagerly around him. The air seemed to have
grown denser,--there was a delicious scent of roses in the room, and
hush!...What entrancing voices were those that sang in the distance?
He listened absorbed;--the harmonies were very sweet and perfect--
almost he thought he could distinguish words. Loosening his hand from
his brother's clasp, the melody seemed to grow fainter and fainter,--
recognising this, he roused himself with a quick movement, his eyes
flashing with a sudden gleam of defiance.

"More magic music!" he said--"I hear the sound of singing, and you
know that I hear it! I understand!--it is imagined music--your work,
El-Rmi,--your skill. It is wonderful, beautiful,--and you are the
most marvellous man on earth!--you should have been a priest of old
Egypt! Yes--I am tired--I will rest;--I will accept the dreams you
offer me for what they are worth,--but I must remember that there are
realities as well as dreams,--and I shall not forget the name of--

He smiled audaciously, looking as graceful as a pictured Adonis in the
careless yet proud attitude he had unconsciously assumed,--then with a
playful yet affectionate salutation he moved to the doorway.

"Call me if you want me," he said.

"I shall not want you;"--replied his brother, regarding him steadily.

The door opened and closed again,--Fraz was gone.

Shutting up the great volume in front of him, El-Rmi rested his arms
upon it, and stared into vacancy with darkly-knitted brows.

"What premonition of evil is there in the air?" he muttered--"What
restless emotion is at work within me? Are the Fates turning against
me?--and am I after all nothing but the merest composition of vulgar
matter--a weak human wretch capable of being swayed by changeful
passions? What is it? What am I that I should vex my spirit thus--all
because Lilith smiled at the sound of a voice that was not mine!"


JUST then there came a light tap at his door. He opened it,--and
Zaroba stood before him. No repentance for her fault of disobedience
and betrayal of trust, clouded that withered old face of hers,--her
deep-set dark eyes glittered with triumph, and her whole aspect was
one of commanding, and almost imperious dignity. In fact, she made
such an ostentatious show of her own self-importance in her look and
manner that El-Rmi stared at her for a moment in haughty amazement at
what he considered her effrontery in thus boldly facing him after her
direct violation of his commands. He eyed her up and down--she
returned him glance for glance unquailingly.

"Let me come in--" she said in her strong harsh voice--"I make no
doubt but that the poor lad Fraz has told you his story--now, as God
liveth, you must hear mine."

El-Rmi turned upon his heel with a contemptuous movement, and went
back to his own chair by the writing-table. Zaroba, paying no heed to
the wrath conveyed by this mute action, stalked in also, and shutting
the door after her, came and stood close beside him.

"Write down what you think of me--" she said, pointing with her yellow
forefinger at the pens and paper--"Write the worst. I have betrayed my
trust. That is true. I have disobeyed your commands after keeping them
for six long years. True again. What else?"

El-Rmi fixed his eyes upon her, a world of indignation and reproach
in their brilliant depths, and snatching up a pencil he wrote on a
slip of paper rapidly--

"Nothing else--nothing more than treachery! You are unworthy of your
sacred task you are false to your sworn fidelity."

Zaroba read the lines as quickly as he wrote them, but when she came
to the last words she made a swift gesture of denial and drew herself
up haughtily.

"No--not false!" she said passionately--"Not false to you, El-Rmi, I
swear! I would slay myself rather than do you wrong. You saved my
life, though my life was not worth saving, and for that gentle deed I
would pour out every drop of my blood to requite you. No, no! Zaroba
is not false--she is true!"

She tossed up her arms wildly,--then suddenly folding them tight
across her chest, she dropped her voice to a gentler and more
appealing tone.

"Hear me, El-Rmi!--Hear me, wise man and Master of the magic of the
East!--I have done well for you;--well! I have disobeyed you for your
own sake,--I have betrayed my trust that you may discover how and
where you may find your best reward. I have sinned with the resolved
intent to make you happy,--as God liveth, I speak truth from my heart
and soul!"

El-Rmi turned towards her, his face expressing curiosity in spite of
himself. He was very pale, and outwardly he was calm enough--but his
nerves were on the rack of suspense--he wondered what sudden frenzied
idea had possessed this woman that she should comport herself as
though she held some strange secret of which the very utterance might
move heaven and earth to wonderment. Controlling his feelings with an
effort, he wrote again--

"There exists no reason for disloyalty. Your excuses avail nothing--
let me hear no more of them. Tell me of Lilith--what news?"

"News!" repeated Zaroba scornfully--"What news should there be? She
breathes and sleeps as she has breathed and slept always--she has not
stirred. There is no harm done by my bidding Fraz look on her,--no
change is wrought except in you, El-Rmi!--except in you!"

Half springing from his chair he confronted her--then recollecting her
deafness, he bit his lips angrily and sank back again with an assumed
air of indifference.

"You have heard Fraz--" pursued Zaroba, with that indescribable
triumph of hers lighting up her strong old face--"You must now hear
me. I thank the gods that my ears are closed to the sound of human
voices, and that neither reproach nor curse can move me to dismay. And
I am ignorant of your magic, El-Rmi,--the magic that chills the blood
and sends the spirit flitting through the land of dreams,--the only
magic I know is the magic of the heart--of the passions,--a natural
witchcraft that conquers the world!"

She waved her arms to and fro--then crossing them on her bosom, she
made a profound half-mocking salutation.

"Wise El-Rmi Zarnos!" she said. "Proud ruler of the arts and
sciences that govern Nature,--have you ever, with all your learning,
taken the measure of your own passions, and slain them so utterly that
they shall never rise up again? They sleep at times, like the serpents
of the desert, coiled up in many a secret place,--but at the touch of
some unwary heel, some casual falling pebble, they unwind their
lengths-they raise their glittering heads, and sting! I, Zaroba, have
felt them here"--and she pressed her hands more closely on her
breast--"I have felt their poison in my blood--sweet poison, sweeter
than life!--their stings have given me all the joy my days have ever
known. But it is not of myself that I should speak--it is of you--of
you, whose life is lonely, and for whom the coming years hold forth no
prospect of delight. When I lay dying in the desert and you restored
me to strength again, I swore to serve you with fidelity. As God
liveth, El-Rmi, I have kept my vow,--and in return for the life you
gave me I bid you take what is yours to claim--the love of Lilith!"

El-Rmi rose out of his chair, white to the lips, and his hand shook.
If he could have concentrated his inward forces at that moment, he
would have struck Zaroba dumb by one effort of his will, and so put an
end to her undesired eloquence,--but something, he knew not what,
disturbed the centre of his self-control, and his thoughts were in a
whirl. He despised himself for the unusual emotion which seized him--
inwardly he was furious with the garrulous old woman,--but outwardly
he could only make her an angry imperative sign to be silent.

"Nay, I will not cease from speaking--" said Zaroba imperturbably--
"for all has to be said now, or never. The love of Lilith! imagine it,
El-Rmi!--the clinging of her young white arms--the kisses of her
sweet red mouth,--the open glances of her innocent eyes--all this is
yours, if you but say the word. Listen! For six and more long years I
have watched her--and I have watched you. She has slept the sleep of
death-in-life, for you have willed it so,--and in that sleep, she has
imperceptibly passed from childhood to womanhood. You--cold as a man
of bronze or marble,--have made of her nothing but a 'subject' for
your science,--and never a breath of love or longing on your part, or
even admiration for her beauty, has stirred the virgin-trance in which
she lies. And I have marvelled at it--I have thought--and I have
prayed;--the gods have answered me, and now I know!"

She clapped her hands ecstatically, and then went on.

"The child Lilith died,--but you, El-Rmi, you caused her to live
again. And she lives still--yes, though it may suit your fancy to
declare her dead. She is a woman--you are a man;--you dare not keep
her longer in that living death--you dare not doom her to perpetual
darkness!--the gods would curse you for such cruelty, and who may
abide their curse? I, Zaroba, have sworn it--Lilith shall know the
joys of love!--and you, El-Rmi Zarnos, shall be her lover!--and for
this holy end I have employed the talisman which alone sets fire to
the sleeping passions..." and she craned her neck forward and almost
hissed the word in his ear--'Jealousy!'"

El-Rmi smiled--a cold derisive smile, which implied the most utter
contempt for the whole of Zaroba's wild harangue. She, however, went
on undismayed, and with increasing excitement--

"Jealousy!" she cried--"The little asp is in your soul already, proud
El-Rmi Zarnos, and why? Because another's eyes have looked on
Lilith! This was my work! It was I who led Fraz into her chamber,--it
was I who bade him kneel beside her as she slept,--it was I who let
him touch her hand,---and though I could not hear his voice I know he
called upon her to awaken. In vain!--he might as well have called the
dead--I knew she would not stir for him--her very breath belongs to
you. But I--I let him gaze upon her beauty and worship it,--all his
young soul was in his eyes--he looked and looked again and loved what
he beheld! And mark me yet further, El-Rmi,--I saw her smile when
Fraz took her hand,--so, though she did not move, she felt; she felt
a touch that was not yours,--not yours, El-Rmi!--as God liveth, she
is not quite so much your own as once she was!"

As she said this and laughed in that triumphant way, El-Rmi advanced
one step towards her with a fierce movement as though he would have
thrust her from the room,--checking himself, however, he seized the
pencil again and wrote--

"I have listened to you with more patience than you deserve. You are
an ignorant woman and foolish--your fancies have no foundation
whatever in fact. Your disobedience might have ruined my life's
work,--as it is, I dare say some mischief has been done. Return to
your duties, and take heed how you trespass against my command in
future. If you dare to speak to me on this subject again I will have
you shipped back to your own land and left there, as friendless and as
unprovided for as you were when I saved you from death by famine. Go--
and let me hear no more foolishness."

Zaroba read, and her face darkened and grew weary--but the pride and
obstinacy of her own convictions remained written on every line of her
features. She bowed her head resignedly, however, and said in slow
even tones--

"El-Rmi Zarnos is wise,--El-Rmi Zarnos is master. But let him
remember the words of Zaroba. Zaroba is also skilled in the ways and
the arts of the East,--and the voice of Fate speaks sometimes to the
lowest as well as to the highest. There are the laws of Life and the
laws of Death--but there are also the laws of Love. Without the laws
of Love, the Universe would cease to be,--it is for El-Rmi Zarnos to
prove himself stronger than the Universe,--if he can!"

She made the usual obsequious "salaam" common to Eastern races, and
then with a swift, silent movement left the room, closing the door
noiselessly behind her. El-Rmi stood where she had left him, idly
tearing up the scraps of paper on which he had written his part of the
conversation,--he was hardly conscious of thought, so great were his
emotions of surprise and self-contempt.

"'O what a rogue and peasant-slave am I!'" he muttered, quoting his
favourite "Hamlet"--"Why did I not paralyze her tongue before she
spoke? Where had fled my force,--what became of my skill? Surely I
could have struck her down before me with the speed of a lightning-
flash--only-she is a woman--and old. Strange how these feminine
animals always harp on the subject of love, as though it were the Be-
all and End-all of everything. The love of Lilith! Oh fool! The love
of a corpse kept breathing by artificial means! And what of the Soul
of Lilith? Can It love? Can It hate? Can It even feel? Surely not. It
is an ethereal transparency,--a delicate film which takes upon itself
the reflex of all existing things without experiencing personal
emotion. Such is the Soul, as I believe in it--an immortal Essence, in
itself formless, yet capable of taking all forms,--ignorant of the
joys or pains of feeling, yet reflecting all shades of sensation as a
crystal reflects all colours in the prism. This, and no more."

He paced up and down the room--and a deep involuntary sigh escaped

"No--" he murmured, as though answering some inward query--"No, I will
not go to her now--not till the appointed time. I resolved on an
absence of forty-eight hours, and forty-eight hours it shall be. Then
I will go,--and she will tell me all--I shall know the full extent of
the mischief done. And so Fraz 'looked and looked again, and loved
what he beheld!' Love! The very word seems like a desecrating blot on
the virgin soul of Lilith!"


FRAZ meanwhile was fast asleep in his own room. He had sought to be
alone for the purpose of thinking quietly and connectedly over all he
had heard,--but no sooner had he obtained the desired solitude than a
sudden and heavy drowsiness overcame him, such as he was unable to
resist, and throwing himself on his bed, he dropped into a profound
slumber, which deepened as the minutes crept on. The afternoon wore
slowly away,--sunset came and passed,--the coming shadows lengthened,
and just as the first faint star peeped out in the darkening skies he
awoke, startled to find it so late. He sprang from his couch,
bewildered and vexed with himself,--it was time for supper, he
thought, and El-Rmi must be waiting. He hastened to the study, and
there he found his brother conversing with a gentleman,--no other than
Lord Melthorpe, who was talking in a loud cheerful voice, which
contrasted oddly with El-Rmi's slow musical accents, that ever had a
note of sadness in them. When Fraz made his hurried entrance, his
eyes humid with sleep, yet dewily brilliant,--his thick dark hair
tangled in rough curls above his brows, Lord Melthorpe stared at him
in honestly undisguised admiration, and then glanced at El-Rmi

"My brother, Fraz Zarnos--" said El-Rmi, readily performing the
ceremony of introduction--"Fraz, this is Lord Melthorpe,--you have
heard me speak of him."

Fraz bowed with his usual perfect grace, and Lord Melthorpe shook
hands with him.

"Upon my word!", he said good-humouredly, "this young gentleman
reminds one of the 'Arabian Nights,' El-Rmi! He looks like one of
those amazing fellows who always had remarkable adventures; Prince
Ahmed, or the son of a king, or something--don't you know?"

El-Rmi smiled gravely.

"The Eastern dress is responsible for that idea in your mind, no
doubt--" he replied--"Fraz wears it in the house, because he moves
more easily and is more comfortable in it than in the regulation
British attire, which really is the most hideous mode of garb in the
world. Englishmen are among the finest types of the human race, but
their dress does them scant justice."

"You are right--we're all on the same tailor's pattern--and a
frightful pattern it is!" and his lordship put up his eyeglass to
survey Fraz once more, the while he thought--"Devilish handsome
fellow!--would make quite a sensation in the room--new sort of craze
for my lady." Aloud he said--"Pray bring your brother with you on
Tuesday evening--my wife will be charmed."

"Fraz never goes into society--" replied El-Rmi--"But of course, if
you insist--"

"Oh, I never insist--" declared Lord Melthorpe, laughing--"You are the
man for insisting, not I. But I shall take it as a favour if he will
accompany you."

"You hear, Fraz--" and El-Rmi looked at his brother inquiringly--
"Lord Melthorpe invites you to a great reception next Tuesday evening.
Would you like to go?"

Fraz glanced from one to the other half smilingly, half doubtfully.

"Yes, I should like it," he said at last.

"Then we shall expect you,--" and Lord Melthorpe rose to take his
leave,--"It's a sort of diplomatic and official affair--fellows will
look in either before or after the Foreign Office crush, which is on
the same evening, and orders and decorations will be in full force, I
believe. Oh, by the way, Lady Melthorpe begged me to ask you most
particularly to wear Oriental dress."

"I shall obey her ladyship;"--and El-Rmi smiled a little
satirically--the character of the lady in question was one that always
vaguely amused him.

"And your brother will do the same, I hope?"

"Assuredly!" and El-Rmi shook hands with his visitor, bidding Fraz
escort him to the door. When he had gone, Fraz sprang into the study
again with all the eager impetuosity of a boy.

"What is it like--a reception in England?" he asked--"And why does
Lord Melthorpe ask me?"

"I cannot imagine!" returned his brother dryly--"Why do you want to

"I should like to see life;"--said Fraz.

"See life!" echoed El-Rmi somewhat disdainfully--"What do you mean?
Don't you 'see life' as it is?"

"No!" answered Fraz quickly--"I see men and women--but I don't know
how they live, and I don't know what they do."

"They live in a perpetual effort to outreach and injure one another"--
said El-Rmi, "and all their forces are concentrated on bringing
themselves into notice. That is how they live,--that is what they do.
It is not a dignified or noble way of living, but it is all they care
about. You will see illustrations of this at Lord Melthorpe's
reception. You will find the woman with the most diamonds giving
herself peacock-like airs over the woman who has fewest,--you will see
the snob-millionaire treated with greater consideration by everyone
than the born gentleman who happens to have little of this world's
wealth. You will find that no one thinks of putting himself out to
give personal pleasure to another,--you will hear the same commonplace
observations from every mouth,--you will discover a lack of wit, a
dearth of kindness, a scarcity of cheerfulness, and a most desperate
want of tact in every member of the whole fashionable assemblage. And
so you shall 'see life'--if you think you can discern it there.
Sufficient for the day is the evil thereof!--meanwhile let us have
supper,--time flies, and I have work to do to-night that must be

Fraz busied himself nimbly about his usual duties--the frugal meal
was soon prepared and soon dispensed with, and at its close, the
brothers sat in silence, El-Rmi watching Fraz with a curious
intentness, because he felt for the first time in his life that he was
not quite master of the young man's thoughts. Did he still remember
the name of Lilith? El-Rmi had willed that every trace of it should
vanish from his memory during that long afternoon sleep in which the
lad had indulged himself unresistingly,--but the question was now--Had
that force of will gained the victory? He, El-Rmi, could not tell--
not yet--but he turned the problem over and over in his mind with
sombre irritation and restlessness. Presently Fraz broke the silence.
Drawing from his vest-pocket a small manuscript book, and raising his
eyes, he said--

"Do you mind hearing something I wrote last night? I don't quite know
how it came to me--I think I must have been dreaming--"

"Read on;"--said El-Rmi--"If it be poesy, then its origin cannot be
explained. Were you able to explain it, it would become prose."

"I dare say the lines are not very good,"--went on Fraz diffidently--
"yet they are the true expression of a thought that is in me. And
whether I owe it to you, or to my own temperament, I have visions now
and then--visions not only of love, but of fame--strange glories that
I almost realize, yet cannot grasp. And there is a sadness and
futility in it all that grieves me ... everything is so vague and
swift and fleeting. Yet if love, as you say, be a mere chimera,--
surely there is such a thing as Fame?"

"There is--" and El-Rmi's eyes flashed, then darkened again--"There
is the applause of this world, which may mean the derision of the
next. Read on!"

Fraz obeyed. "I call it for the present 'The Star of Destiny'"--he
said; and then his mellifluous voice, rich and well modulated, gave
flowing musical enunciation to the following lines:

The soft low plash of waves upon the shore.
Mariners' voices singing out at sea.
The sighing of the wind that evermore
Chants to my spirit mystic melody,--
These are the mingling sounds I vaguely hear
As o'er the darkening misty main I gaze.
Where one fair planet, warmly bright and clear
Pours from its heart a rain of silver rays.
O patient Star of Love! in yon pale sky
What absolute serenity is thine!
Beneath thy stedfast, half-reproachful eye
Large Ocean chafes,--and white with bitter brine.
Heaves restlessly, and ripples from the light
To darker shadows,--ev'n as noble thought
Recoils from human passion, to a night
Of splendid gloom by its own mystery wrought.

"What made you think of the sea?" interrupted El-Rmi.

Fraz looked up dreamily.

"I don't know,"--he said.

"Well!--go on!"

Fraz continued,--

O searching Star, I bring my grief to thee,--
Regard it, Thou, as pitying angels may
Regard a tortured saint,--and, down to me
Send one bright glance, one heart-assuring ray
From that high throne where thou in sheeny state
Dost hang, thought-pensive, 'twixt the heaven and earth;
Thou, sure, dost know the secret of my Fate.
For thou did'st shine upon my hour of birth.
O Star, from whom the clouds asunder roll.
Tell this poor spirit pent in dying flesh.
This fighting, working, praying, prisoned soul.
Why it is trapped and strangled in the mesh
Of foolish Life and Time? Its wild young voice
Calls for release, unanswered and unstilled.
It sought not out this world,--it had no choice
Of other worlds where glory is fulfilled.
How hard to live at all, if living be
The thing it seems to us!--the few brief years
Made up of toil and sorrow, where we see
No joy without companionship of tears,--
What is the artist's fame?--the golden chords
Of rapt musician? or the poet's themes?
All incomplete!--the nailed down coffin boards
Are mocking sequels to the grandest dreams.

"That is not your creed,"--said El-Rmi with a searching look.

Fraz sighed. "No--it is not my actual creed--but it is my frequent

"A thought unworthy of you,"--said his brother--"There is nothing left
'incomplete' in the whole Universe--and there is no sequel possible to

"Perhaps not,--but again perhaps there may be a sequel beyond all
imagination or comprehension. And surely you must admit that some
things are left distressingly incomplete. Shelley's 'Fragments' for
instance, Keats's 'Hyperion'--Schubert's 'Unfinished' Symphony--"

"Incomplete here--yes--;" agreed El-Rmi--"But--finished elsewhere, as
surely as day is day, and night is night. There is nothing lost,--no,
not so much as the lightest flicker of a thought in a man's brain,--
nothing wasted or forgotten,--not even so much as an idle word. We
forget--but the forces of Nature are non-oblivious. All is chronicled
and registered--all is scientifically set down in plain figures that
no mistake may be made in the final reckoning."

"You really think that?--you really believe that?" asked Fraz, his
eyes dilating eagerly.

"I do, most positively;"--said El-Rmi--"It is a Fact which Nature
most potently sets forth, and insists upon. But is there no more of
your verse?"

"Yes--" and Fraz read on--

O, we are sorrowful, my Soul and I:
We war together fondly--yet we pray
For separate roads,--the Body fain would die
And sleep i' the ground, low-hidden from the day--
The Soul erect, its large wings cramped for room.
Doth pantingly and passionately rebel.
Against this strange, uncomprehended doom
Called Life, where nothing is, or shall be well.

"Good!"--murmured El-Rmi softly--"Good--and true!"

Hear me, my Star!--star of my natal hour.
Thou calm unmoved one amid all clouds!
Give me my birth-right,--the imperial sway
Of Thought supreme above the common crowds,--
O let me feel thy swift compelling beam
Drawing me upwards to a goal divine;
Fulfil thy promise, O thou glittering Dream.
And let one crown of victory be mine;
Let me behold this world recede and pass
Like shifting mist upon a stormy coast
Or vision in a necromancer's glass;--
For I, 'mid perishable earth can boast
Of proven Immortality,--can reach
Glories ungrasped by minds of lower tone;--
Thus, in a silence vaster than all speech.
I follow thee, my Star of Love, alone!

He ceased. El-Rmi, who had listened attentively, resting his head on
one hand, now lifted his eyes and looked at his young brother with an
expression of mingled curiosity and compassion.

"The verses are good;"--he said at last--"good and perfectly
rhythmical, but surely they have a touch of arrogance?--

"I 'mid perishable earth can boast
Of proven Immortality."

What do you mean by 'proven' Immortality? Where are your proofs?"

"I have them in my inner consciousness;" replied Fraz slowly--"But to
put them into the limited language spoken by mortals is impossible.
There are existing emotions--existing facts, which can never be
rendered into common speech. God is a Fact--but He cannot be explained
or described."

El-Rmi was silent,--a slight frown contracted his dark even brows.

"You are beginning to think too much"--he observed, rising from his
chair as he spoke--"Do not analyse yourself, Fraz,...self-analysis is
the temper of the age, but it engenders distrust and sorrow. Your poem
is excellent, but it breathes of sadness,--I prefer your 'star' songs
which are so full of joy. To be wise is to be happy,--to be happy is
to be wise--"

A loud rat-tat at the street-door interrupted him. Fraz sprang up to
answer the imperative summons, and returned with a telegram. El-Rmi
opened and read it with astonished eyes, his face growing suddenly

"He will be here to-morrow night!" he ejaculated in a whisper--"To-
morrow night! He, the saint--the king--here to-morrow night! Why
should he come?--What would he have with me?"

His expression was one of dazed bewilderment, and Fraz looked at him

"Any bad news?" he asked--"Who is it that is coming?"

El-Rmi recollected himself, and folding up the telegram, thrust it in
his breast-pocket.

"A poor monk who is travelling hither on a secret mission solicits my
hospitality for the night"--he replied hurriedly--"That is all. He
will be here to-morrow."

Fraz stood silent, an incredulous smile in his fine eyes.

"Why should you stoop to deceive me, El-Rmi my brother?" he said
gently at last--"Surely it is not one of your ways to perfection? Why
try to disguise the truth from me?--I am not of a treacherous nature.
If I guess rightly, this 'poor monk' is the Supreme Head of the
Brethren of the Cross, from whose mystic band you were dismissed for a
breach of discipline. What harm is there in my knowing of this?"

El-Rmi's hand clenched, and his eyes had that dark and terrible look
in them that Fraz had learned to fear, but his voice was very calm.

"Who told you?" he asked.

"One of the monks at Cyprus long ago, when I went on your errand"--
replied Fraz; "He spoke of your wisdom, your power, your brilliant
faculties, in genuine regret that all for some slight matter in which
you would not bend your pride, you had lost touch with their various
centres of action in all parts of the globe. He said no more than
this,--and no more than this I know."

"You know quite enough,"--said El-Rmi quietly--"If I have lost touch
with their modes of work, I have gained insight beyond their reach.
And,--I am sorry I did not at once say the truth to you--it is their
chief leader who comes here to-morrow. No doubt,"--and he smiled with
a sense of triumph--"no doubt he seeks for fresh knowledge, such as I
alone can give him."

"I thought," said Fraz in a low half-awed tone--"that he was one of
those who are wise with the wisdom of the angels?"

"If there are angels!" said El-Rmi with a touch of scorn--"He is wise
in faith alone--he believes and he imagines,--and there is no question
as to the strange power he has obtained through the simplest means,--
but I--I have no faith!--I seek to prove---I work to know,--and my
power is as great as his, though it is won in a different way."

Fraz said nothing, but sat down to the piano, allowing his hands to
wander over the keys in a dreamy fashion that sounded like the far-off
echo of a rippling mountain stream. El-Rmi waited a moment,
listening,--then glanced at his watch--it was growing late.

"Good-night, Fraz;"--he said in gentle accents--"I shall want nothing
more this evening. I am going to my work."

"Good-night,"--answered Fraz with equal gentleness, as he went on
playing. His brother opened and closed the door softly;--he was gone.

As soon as he found himself alone, Fraz pressed the pedal of his
instrument so that the music pealed through the room in rich salvos of
sound--chord after chord rolled grandly forth, and sweet ringing notes
came throbbing from under his agile finger-tips, the while he said
aloud, with a mingling of triumph and tenderness--

"Forget! I shall never forget! Does one forget the flowers, the birds,
the moonlight, the sound of a sweet song? Is the world so fair, that I
should blot from my mind the fairest thing in it? Not so! My memory
may fail me in a thousand things--but let me be tortured, harassed,
perplexed with dreams, persuaded by fantasies, I shall never forget
the name of--"

He stopped abruptly--a look of pain and terror and effort flashed into
his eyes,--his hands fell on the keys of the piano with a discordant
jangle,--he stared about him, wondering and afraid.

"The name--the name!" he muttered hoarsely--"A flower's name--an
angel's name--the sweetest name I ever heard! How is this?--Am I mad
that my lips refuse to utter it? The name--the name of...My God! my
God! I have forgotten it!"

And springing from his chair he stood for one instant in mute wrath,
incredulity and bewilderment,--then throwing himself down again, he
buried his face in his hands, his whole frame trembling with mingled
terror and awe at the mystic power of El-Rmi's indomitable Will,
which had, he knew, forced him to forget what most he desired to


WITHIN the chamber of Lilith all was very still. Zaroba sat there,
crouched down in what seemed to be her favourite and accustomed
corner, busy with the intricate threadwork which she wove with so much
celerity;--the lamp burned brightly,--there were odours of
frankincense and roses in the air,--and not so much as the sound of a
suppressed sigh or soft breath stirred the deep and almost sacred
quiet of the room. The tranced Lilith herself, pale but beautiful, lay
calm and still as ever among the glistening satin cushions of her
costly couch, and just above her, the purple draperies that covered
the walls and ceiling were drawn aside to admit of the opening of a
previously-concealed window, through which one or two stars could be
seen dimly sparkling in the skies. A white moth, attracted by the
light, had flown in by way of this aperture, and was now fluttering
heedlessly and aimlessly round the lamp,--but by-and-bye it took a
lower and less hazardous course, and finally settled on a shining
corner of the cushion that supported Lilith's head. There the fragile
insect rested,--now expanding its velvety white wings, now folding
them close and extending its delicate feelers to touch and test the
glittering fabric on which it found itself at ease,--but never moving
from the spot it had evidently chosen for its night's repose.
Suddenly, and without sound, El-Rmi entered. He advanced close up to
the couch, and looked upon the sleeping girl with an eager, almost
passionate intentness. His heart beat quickly;--a singular excitement
possessed him, and for once he was unable to analyze his own
sensations. Closer and closer he bent over Lilith's exquisite form,--
doubtfully and with a certain scorn of himself, he took up a shining
tress of her glorious hair and looked at it curiously as though it
were something new, strange or unnatural. The little moth, disturbed,
flew off the pillow and fluttered about his head in wild alarm, and
El-Rmi watched its reckless flight as it made off towards the
fatally-attractive lamp again, with meditative eyes, still
mechanically stroking that soft lock of Lilith's hair which he held
between his fingers.

"Into the light!" he murmured--"Into the very heart of the light!--
into the very core of the Fire! That is the end of all ambition--to
take wings and plunge so--into the glowing, burning molten Creative
Centre--and die for our foolhardiness? Is that all?--or is there more
behind? It is a question,--who may answer it?"

He sighed heavily, and leaned more closely over the couch, till the
soft scarcely perceptible breath from Lilith's lips touched his cheek
warmly like a caress. Observantly, as one might study the parts of a
bird or a flower, he noted those lips, how delicately curved, how
coral-red they were,--and what a soft rose-tint, like the flush of a
pink sunrise on white flowers, was the hue which spread itself
waveringly over her cheeks,--till there,--there where the long
eyelashes curled up--wards, there were fine shadows,--shadows which
suggested light,--such light as must be burning in those sweetly-
closed eyes. Then there was the pure, smooth brow, over which little
vine-like tendrils of hair caught and clung amorously,--and then--that
wondrous wealth of the hair itself which like twin showers of gold,
shed light on either side. It was all beautiful,--a wonderful gem of
Nature's handiwork,--a masterpiece of form and colour which, but for
him, El-Rmi, would long ere this have mouldered away to unsightly ash
and bone, in a lonely grave dug hurriedly among the sands of the
Syrian desert. He was almost, if not quite, the author of that warm if
unnatural vitality that flowed through those azure veins and branching
arteries,--he, like the Christ of Galilee, had raised the dead to
life,--aye, if he chose, he could say as the Master said to the
daughter of Jairus, "Maiden, arise!" and she would obey him--would
rise and walk, and smile and speak, and look upon the world,--if he
chose! The arrogance of Will burned in his brain;--the pride of power,
the majesty of conscious strength made his pulses beat high with
triumph beyond that of any king or emperor,--and he gazed down upon
the tranced fair form, himself entranced, and all unconscious that
Zaroba had come out of her corner, and that she now stood beside him,
watching his face with passionate and inquisitive eagerness. Just as
he reluctantly lifted himself up from his leaning position he saw her
staring at him, and a frown darkened his brows. He made his usual
imperative sign to her to leave the room,--a sign she was accustomed
to understand and to obey--but this time she remained motionless,
fixing her eyes steadily upon him.

"The conqueror shall be conquered, El-Rmi Zarnos--" she said slowly,
pointing to the sleeping Lilith--"The victorious master over the
forces unutterable, shall yet be overthrown! The work has begun,--the
small seed has been sown--the great harvest shall be reaped. For in
the history of Heaven itself, certain proud angels rose up and fought
for the possession of supreme majesty and power--and they fell,--down-
beaten to the darkness,--unforgiven; and are they not in darkness
still? Even so must the haughty spirit fall that contends against God
and the Universal Law."

She spoke impressively, and with a certain dignity of manner that gave
an added force to her words,--but El-Rmi's impassive countenance
showed no sign of having either heard or understood her. He merely
repeated his gesture of dismissal, and this time Zaroba obeyed it.
Wrapping her flowing robe closely about her, she withdrew, but with
evident reluctance, letting the velvet portire fall only by slow
degrees behind her, and to the last keeping her dark deep-set eyes
fixed on El-Rmi's face. As soon as she had disappeared, he sprang to
where the dividing-curtain hid a massive door between the one room and
the antechamber,--this door he shut and locked,--then he returned to
the couch, and proceeded according to his usual method, to will the
wandering spirit of his "subject" into speech.

"Lilith! Lilith!"

As before, he had to wait ere any reply was vouchsafed to him.
Impatiently he glanced at the clock, and counted slowly a hundred


She turned round towards him, smiled, and murmured something--her lips
moved, but whatever they uttered did not reach his ear.

"Lilith! Where are you?"

This time, her voice, though soft, was perfectly distinct.

"Here. Close to you, with your hand on mine."

El-Rmi was puzzled. True, he held her left hand in his own, but she
had never described any actual sensation of human touch before.

"Then,--can you see me?" he asked somewhat anxiously.

The answer came sadly.

"No. Bright air surrounds me, and the colours of the air--nothing

"You are alone, Lilith?"

Oh, what a sigh came heaving from her breast!

"I am always alone!"

Half remorseful, he heard her. She had complained of solitude
before,--and it was a thought he did not wish her to dwell upon. He
made haste to speak again.

"Tell me,"--he said--"Where have you been Lilith, and what have you

There was silence for a minute or two, and she moved restlessly.

"You bade me seek out Hell for you"--she murmured at last--"I have
searched but I cannot find it."

Another pause, and she went on.

"You spoke of a strange thing," she said--"A place of punishment, of
torture, of darkness, of horror and despair,--there is no such dreary
blot on all God's fair Creation. In all the golden spaces of the
furthest stars I find no punishment, no pain, no darkness. I can
discover nothing save beauty, light, and--Love!"

The last word was uttered softly, and sounded like a note of music,
sweet but distant.

El-Rmi listened, bewildered, and in a manner disappointed.

"O Lilith, take heed what you say!" he exclaimed with some passion--
"No pain?--no punishment? no darkness? Then this world is Hell and you
know naught of it!"

As he said this, she moved uneasily among her pillows,--then, to his
amazement, she suddenly sat up of her own accord, and went on
speaking, enunciating her words with singular clearness and emphasis,
always keeping her eyes closed and allowing her left hand to remain in

"I am bound to tell you what I know;"--she said--"But I am unable to
tell you what is not true. In God's design I find no evil--no
punishment, no death. If there are such things, they must be in your
world alone,--they must be Man's work and Man's imaginng."

"Man's work--Man's imagining?" repeated El-Rmi--"And what is Man?"

"God's angel," replied Lilith quickly--"With God's own attribute of
Free-Will. He, like his Maker, doth create,--he also doth destroy,--
what he elects to do, God will not prevent. Therefore if Man makes
Evil, Evil must exist till Man himself destroys it."

This was a deep and strange saying, and El-Rmi pondered over it
without speaking.

"In the spaces where I roam," went on Lilith softly--"there is no
evil. Those who are the Makers of Life in yonder fair regions, seek
only what is pure. Why should pain exist, or sin be known? I do not

"No"--said El-Rmi bitterly--"You do not understand, because you are
yourself too happy,--happiness sees no fault in anything. Oh, you have
wandered too far from earth and you forget! The tie that binds you to
this planet is over-fragile,--you have lost touch with pain. I would
that I could make you feel my thoughts!--for, Lilith, God is cruel,
not kind,...upon God, and God alone, rests the weight of woe that
burdens the universe, and for the eternal sorrow of things there is
neither reason nor remedy."

Lilith sank back again in a recumbent posture, a smile upon her lips.

"O poor blind eyes!" she murmured--"Sad eyes that are so tired--too
tired to bear the light!"

Her voice was so exquisitely pathetic that he was startled by its very
gentleness,--his heart gave one fierce bound against his side, and
then seemed almost to stand still.

"You pity me?" he asked tremulously.

She sighed. "I pity you"--she answered--"I pity myself."

Almost breathlessly he asked "Why?"

"Because I cannot see you--because you cannot see me. If I could see
you--if you could see me as I am, you would know all--you would
understand all."

"I do see you, Lilith" he said--"I hold your hand."

"No--not my real hand"--she said--"Only its shadow."

Instinctively he looked at the delicate fingers that lay in his palm--
so rosy-tipped and warm. Only the "shadow" of a hand! Then where was
its substance?

"It will pass away"--went on Lilith-"like all shadows--but I shall
remain--not here, not here,--but elsewhere. When will you let me go?"

"Where do you wish to go?" he asked.

"To my friends," she answered swiftly and with eagerness--"They call
me often--I hear their voices singing 'Lilith! Lilith!' and sometimes
I see them beckoning me--but I cannot reach them. It is cruel, for
they love me and you do not,--why will you keep me here unloved so

He trembled and hesitated, fixing his dark eyes on the fair face,
which, in spite of its beauty, was to him but as the image of a Sphinx
that forever refused to give up its riddle.

"Is love your craving, Lilith?" he asked slowly--"And what is your
thought--or dream--of love?"

"Love is no dream;"--she responded--"Love is reality--Love is Life. I
am not fully living yet--I hover in the Realms Between, where spirits
wait in silence and alone."

He sighed. "Then you are sad, Lilith?"

"No. I am never sad. There is light within my solitude, and the glory
of God's beauty everywhere."

El-Rmi gazed down upon her, an expression very like despair shadowing
his own features.

"Too far, too far she wends her flight;"--he muttered to himself
wearily. "How can I argue on these vague and sublimated utterances! I
cannot understand her joy--she cannot understand my pain. Evidently
Heaven's language is incomprehensible to mortal ears. And yet;--
Lilith!" he called again almost imperiously. "You talk of God as if
you knew Him. But I--I know Him not--I have not proved Him,--tell me
of His Shape, His Seeming,--if indeed you have the power."

She was silent. He studied her tranquil face intently,--the smile upon
it was in very truth divine.

"No answer!" he said with some derision. "Of course,--what answer
should there be! What Shape or Seeming should there be to a mere huge
blind Force that creates without reason, and destroys without

As he thus soliloquized, Lilith stirred, and flung her white arms
upward as though in ecstasy, letting them fall slowly afterwards in a
folded position behind her head.

"To the Seven declared tones of Music, add seventy million more,"--she
said--"and let them ring their sweetest cadence, they shall make but a
feeble echo of the music of God's voice. To all the shades of radiant
colour, to all the lines of noblest form, add the splendour of eternal
youth, eternal goodness, eternal joy, eternal power, and yet we shall
not render into speech or song the beauty of our God! From His glance
flows Light--from His presence rushes Harmony,--as He moves through
Space great worlds are born; and at His bidding planets grow within
the air like flowers. Oh to see Him passing 'mid the stars!--"

She broke off suddenly and drew a long deep breath, as of sheer
delight,--but the shadow on El-Rmi's features darkened wearily.

"You teach me nothing, Lilith"--he said sadly and somewhat sternly--
"You speak of what you see--or what you think you see--but you cannot
convince me of its truth."

Her face grew paler,--the smile vanished from her lips, and all her
delicate beauty seemed to freeze into a cold and grave rigidity.

"Love begets faith;"--she said--"Where we do not love, we doubt. Doubt
breeds Evil, and Evil knows not God."

"Platitudes, upon my life!--mere plati--tudes!" exclaimed El-Rmi
bitterly--"If this half-released spirit can do no more than prate of
the same old laws and duties our preachers teach us, then indeed my
service is vain. But she shall not baffle me thus;"--and bending over
Lilith's figure, he unwound her arms from the indolent position in
which they were folded, took her hands roughly in his own, and sitting
on the edge of her couch, fixed his burning eyes upon her as though he
sought to pierce her to the heart's core with their ardent, almost
cruel lustre.

"Lilith!" he commanded--"Speak plainly, that I may fully understand
your words. You say there is no hell?"

The answer came steadily.


"Then must evil go unpunished?"

"Evil wreaks punishment upon itself. Evil destroys itself. That is the

"And the Prophets!" muttered El-Rmi scornfully--"Well! Go on, strange
sprite! Why--for such things are known--why does goodness suffer for
being good?"

"That never is. That is impossible."

"Impossible?" queried El-Rmi incredulously.

"Impossible,"--repeated the soft voice firmly. "Goodness seems to
suffer, but it does not. Evil seems to prosper, but it does not."

"And God exists?"

"God exists."

"And what of Heaven?"

"Which heaven?" asked Lilith--"There are a million million heavens."

El-Rmi stopped--thinking,--then finally said--

"God's Heaven."

"You would say God's World;"--returned Lilith tranquilly--"Nay, you
will not let me reach that centre. I see it; I feel it afar off--but
your will binds me--you will not let me go."

"If I were to let you go what would you do?" asked El-Rmi--"Would you
return to me?"

"Never! Those who enter the Perfect Glory, return no more to an
imperfect light."

El-Rmi paused--he was arranging other questions to ask, when her next
words startled him--

"Someone called me by my name,"--she said--"Tenderly and softly, as
though it were a name beloved. I heard the voice--I could not answer--
but I heard it--and I know that someone loves me. The sense of love is
sweet, and makes your dreary world seem fair!"

El-Rmi's heart began to beat violently--the voice of Fraz had
reached her in her trance then after all! And she remembered it!--more
than this--it had carried a vague emotion of love to that vagrant and
ethereal essence which he called her "soul" but which he had his
doubts of all the while. For he was unable to convince himself
positively of any such thing as "Soul;"--all emotions, even of the
most divinely transcendent nature, he was disposed to set down to the
action of brain merely. But he was scientist enough to know that the
brain must gather its ideas from something,--something either external
or internal,--even such a vague thing as an Idea cannot spring out of
blank Chaos. And this was what especially puzzled him in his
experiment with the girl Lilith--for, ever since he had placed her in
the "life-in-death" condition she was, he had been careful to avoid
impressing any of his own thoughts or ideas upon her. And, as a matter
of fact, all she said about God, or about a present or a future state,
was precisely the reverse of what he himself argued;--the question
therefore remained--From Where and How did she get her knowledge? She
had been a mere pretty, ignorant, half-barbaric Arab child, when she
died (according to natural law), and, during the six years she had
lived (by scientific law) in her strange trance, her brain had been
absolutely unconscious of all external impressions, while of internal
she could have none, beyond the memories of her childhood. Yet,--she
had grown beautiful beyond the beauty of mortals, and she spoke of
things beyond all mortal comprehension. The riddle of her physical and
mental development seemed unanswerable,--it was the wonder, the
puzzle, the difficulty, the delight of all El-Rmi's hours. But now
there was mischief done. She spoke of love,--not divine impersonal
love, as was her wont,--but love that touched her own existence with a
vaguely pleasing emotion. A voice had reached her that never should
have been allowed to penetrate her spiritual solitude, and realizing
this, a sullen anger smouldered in El-Rmi's mind. He strove to
consider Zaroba's fault and Fraz's folly with all the leniency,
forbearance and forgiveness possible, and yet the strange restlessness
within him gave him no peace. What should be done? What could be
answered to those wistful words--"The sense of love is sweet, and
makes your dreary world seem fair"?

He pondered on the matter, vaguely uneasy and dissatisfied. He, and he
alone, was the master of Lilith,--he commanded and she obeyed,--but
would it be always thus? The doubt turned his blood cold,--suppose she
escaped him now, after all his studies and calculations! He resolved
he would ask her no more questions that night, and very gently he
released the little slender hands he held.

"Go, Lilith!" he said softly--"This world, as you say, is dreary--I
will not keep you longer in its gloom--go hence and rest."

"Rest?" sighed Lilith inquiringly--"Where?"

He bent above her, and touched her loose gold locks almost

"Where you choose!"

"Nay, that I may not!" murmured Lilith sadly. "I have no choice--I
must obey the Master's will."

El-Rmi's heart beat high with triumph at these words.

"My will!" he said, more to himself than to her--"The force of it!--
the marvel of it!-my will!"

Lilith heard,--a strange glory seemed to shine round her, like a halo
round a pictured saint, and the voice that came from her lips rang out
with singularly sweet clearness.

"Your will!" she echoed--"Your will--and also--God's will!"

He started, amazed and irresolute. The words were not what he
expected, and he would have questioned their meaning, but that he saw
on the girl's lovely features a certain pale composed look which he
recognised as the look that meant silence.

"Lilith!" he whispered.

No answer. He stood looking down upon her, his face seeming sterner
and darker than usual by reason of the intense, passionate anxiety in
his burning eyes.

"God's will!" he echoed with some disdain--"God's will would have
annihilated her very existence long ago out in the desert;--what
should God do with her now that I have not done?"

His arrogance seemed to him perfectly justifiable; and yet he very
well knew that, strictly speaking, there was no such thing as
"annihilation" possible to any atom in the universe. Moreover, he did
not choose to analyze the mystical reasons as to why he had been
permitted by Fate or Chance to obtain such mastery over one human
soul,--he preferred to attribute it all to his own discoveries in
science,--his own patient and untiring skill,--his own studious
comprehension of the forces of Nature,--and he was nearly, if not
quite oblivious of the fact, that there is a Something behind natural
forces, which knows and sees, controls and commands, and against
which, if he places himself in opposition, Man is but the puniest,
most wretched straw that was ever tossed or split by a whirlwind. As a
rule, men of science work not for God so much as against Him,
wherefore their most brilliant researches stop short of the goal.
Great intellects are seldom devout,--for brilliant culture begets
pride--and pride is incompatible with faith or worship. Perfect
science, combined with perfect selflessness, would give us what we
need,--a purified and reasoning Religion. But El-Rmi's chief
characteristic was pride,--and he saw no mischief in it. Strong in his
knowledge,--defiant of evil in the consciousness he possessed of his
own extraordinary physical and mental endowments, he saw no reason why
he should bow down in humiliated abasement before forces, either
natural or spiritual, which he deemed himself able to control. And his
brow cleared, as he once more bent over his tranced "subject" and with
all the methodical precaution of a physician, felt her pulse, took
note of her temperature and judged that for the present she needed no
more of that strange Elixir which kept her veins aglow with such
inexplicably beauteous vitality. Then--his ex--amination done--he left
the room; and as he drew the velvet portire behind him, the little
white moth that had flown in for a night's shelter, fluttered down
from the golden lamp like a falling leaf, and dropped on the couch of
Lilith, shrivelled and dead.


THE next day was very wet and stormy. From morning to night the rain
fell in torrents, and a cold wind blew. El-Rmi stayed indoors,
reading, writing, and answering a few of his more urgent
correspondents, a great number of whom were total strangers to him,
and who nevertheless wrote to him out of the sheer curiosity excited
in them by the perusal of a certain book to which his name was
appended as author. This book was a very original literary
production,--the critics were angry with it, because it was so unlike
anything else that ever was written. According to the theories set
forth in its pages, Man the poor and finite, was proved to be a
creature of superhuman and almost god-like attributes,--a "flattering
unction" indeed, which when laid to the souls of commonplace egoists,
had the effect of making them consider El-Rmi Zarnos a very
wonderful person, and themselves more wonderful still. Only the truly
great mind is humble enough to appreciate greatness, and of great
minds there is a great scarcity. Most of El-Rmi's correspondents were
of that lower order of intelligence which blandly accepts every fresh
truth discovered as specially intended for themselves, and not at all
for the world, as though indeed they were some particular and removed
class of superior beings who alone were capable of understanding true
wisdom. "Your work has appealed to me"--wrote one, "as it will not
appeal to all, because I am able to enter into the divine spirit of
things as the vulgar herd cannot do!" This, as if the "vulgar herd"
were not also part of the "divine spirit of things"!

"I have delighted in your book"--wrote another, "because I am a poet,
and the world, with its low aims and lower desires I abhor and

The absurdity of a man presuming to call himself a poet, and in the
same breath declaring he "despises" the world,--the world which
supports his life and provides him with all his needs,--never seems to
occur to the minds of these poor boasters of a petty vanity. El-Rmi
looked weary enough as he glanced quickly through a heap of such ill-
judged and egotistical epistles, and threw them aside to be forever
left unanswered. To him there was something truly horrible and
discouraging in the contemplation of the hopeless, helpless, absolute
stupidity of the majority of mankind. The teachings of Mother Nature
being always straight and plain, it is remarkable what devious
turnings and dark winding ways we prefer to stumble into rather than
take the fair and open course. For example Nature says to us--"My
children, Truth is simple,--and I am bound by all my forces to assist
its manifestation. A Lie is difficult--I can have none of it--it needs
other lies to keep it going,--its ways are full of complexity and
puzzle,--why then, O foolish ones, will you choose the Lie and avoid
the Truth? For, work as you may, the Truth must out, and not all the
uproar of opposing multitudes can still its thunderous tongue." Thus
Nature;--but we heed her not,--we go on lying stedfastly, in a strange
delusion that thereby may deceive Eternal Justice. But Eternal Justice
never is deceived,--never is obscured even, save for a moment, as a
passing cloud obscures the sun.

"How easy after all to avoid mischief of any kind," mused El-Rmi now,
as he put by his papers and drew two or three old reference volumes
towards him--"How easy to live happily, free from care, free from
sickness, free from every external or internal wretchedness, if we
could but practise the one rule--Self-abnegation. It is all there,--
and the ethereal Lilith may be right in her assurance as to the non-
existence of Evil unless we ourselves create it. At least one half the
trouble in the world might be avoided if we chose. Debt, for
example,--that carking trouble always arises from living beyond one's
means,--therefore why live beyond one's means? What for? Show? Vulgar
ostentation? Luxury? Idleness? All these are things against which
Heaven raises its eternal ban. Then take physical pain and sickness,--
here Self is to blame again,--self-indulgence in the pleasures of the
table,--sensual craving,--the marriage of weakly or ill-conditioned
persons,--all simple causes from which spring incalculable evils.
Avoid the causes and we escape the evils. The arrangements of Nature
are all so clear and explicit, and yet we are forever going out of our
way to find or invent difficulties. The farmer grumbles and writes
letters to the newspapers if his turnip-fields are invaded by what he
deems a 'destructive pest' in the way of moth or caterpillar, and
utterly ignores the fact that these insects always appear for some
wise reason or other, which he, absorbed in his own immediate petty
interests, fails to appreciate. His turnips are eaten,--that is all he
thinks or cares about,--but if he knew that those same turnips contain
a particular microbe poisonous to human life, a germ of typhoid,
cholera or the like, drawn up from the soil and ready to fructify in
the blood of cattle or of men, and that these insects of which he
complains are the scavengers sent by Nature to utterly destroy the
Plague in embryo, he might pause in his grumbling to wonder at so much
precaution taken by the elements for the preservation of his unworthy
and ignorant being. Perplexing and at times maddening is this our
curse of Ignorance,--but that the 'sins of the fathers are visited on
the children' is a true saying is evident--for the faults of
generations are still bred in our blood and bone."

He turned over the first volume before him listlessly,--his mind was
not set upon study, and his attention wandered. He was thinking of
Fraz, with whom he had scarcely exchanged a word all day. He had
lacked nothing in the way of service, for swift and courteous
obedience to his brother's wishes had characterized Fraz in every
simple action, but there was a constraint between the two that had not
previously existed. Fraz bore himself with a stately yet sad
hauteur,--he had the air of a proud prince in chains who, being
captive, performed his prison-work with exactitude and resignation as
a matter of discipline and duty. It was curious that El-Rmi, who had
steeled him--self as he imagined against every tender sentiment,
should now feel the want of the impetuous confidence and grace of
manner with which his young brother had formerly treated him.

"Everything changes--" he mused gloomily, "Everything must change, of
course; and nothing is so fluctuating as the humour of a boy who is
not yet a man, but is on the verge of manhood. And with Fraz my power
has reached its limit,--I know exactly what I can do, and what I can
not do with him,--it is a case of 'Thus far and no further.' Well,--he
must choose his own way of life,--only let him not presume to set
himself in my way, or interfere in my work! Ye gods!--there is nothing
I would not do--"

He paused, ashamed; the blood flushed his face darkly and his hand
clenched itself involuntarily. Conscious of the thought that had
arisen within him, he felt a moment's shuddering horror of himself. He
knew that in the very depths of his nature there was enough untamed
savagery to make him capable of crushing his young brother's life out
of him, should he dare to obstruct his path or oppose him in his
labours. Realizing this, a cold dew broke out on his forehead and he

"O Soul of Lilith that cannot understand Evil!" he exclaimed--"Whence
came this evil thought in me? Does the evil in myself engender it?--
and does the same bitter gall that stirred the blood of Cain lurk in
the depths of my being, till Opportunity strikes the wicked hour?
Retro me, Sathanas! After all, there was something in the old
beliefs--the pious horror of a devil,--for a devil there is that walks
the world, and his name is Man!"

He rose and paced the room impatiently,--what a long day it seemed,
and with what dreary persistence the rain washed against the windows!
He looked out into the street,--there was not a passenger to be
seen,--a wet dingy grayness pervaded the atmosphere and made
everything ugly and cheerless. He went back to his books, and
presently began to turn over the pages of the quaint Arabic volume
into which Fraz had unwisely dipped, gathering therefrom a crumb of
knowledge, which, like all scrappy information, had only led him to

"All these old experiments of the Egyptian priests were simple
enough--" he murmured as he read,--"They had one substratum of
science,--the art of bringing the countless atoms that fill the air
into temporary shape. The trick is so easy and natural, that I fancy
there must have been a certain condition of the atmosphere in earlier
ages which of itself shaped the atoms,--hence the ideas of nymphs,
dryads, fauns and watersprites; these temporary shapes which dazzled
for some fleeting moments the astonished human eye and so gave rise to
all the legends. To shape the atoms as a sculptor shapes clay, is but
a phase of chemistry,--a pretty experiment--yet what a miracle it
would always seem to the uninstructed multitude!"

He unlocked a drawer in his desk, and took from it a box full of red
powder, and two small flasks, one containing minute globules of a
glittering green colour like tiny emeralds,--the other full of a pale
amber liquid. He smiled as he looked at these ingredients,--and then
he gave a glance out through the window at the dark and rainy

"To pass the time, why not?" he queried half aloud. "One needs a
little diversion sometimes even in science."

Whereupon he placed some of the red powder in a small bronze vessel
and set fire to it. A thick smoke arose at once and filled the room
with cloud that emitted a pungent perfume, and in which his own figure
was scarcely discernible. He cast five or six of the little green
globules into this smoke; they dissolved in their course and melted
within it,--and finally he threw aloft a few drops of the amber
liquid. The effect was extraordinary, and would have seemed incredible
to any onlooker, for through the cloud a roseate Shape made itself
slowly visible,--a Shape that was surrounded with streaks of light and
rainbow flame as with a garland. Vague at first, but soon growing more
distinct, it gathered itself into seeming substance, and floated
nearly to the ground,--then rising again, balanced itself lightly like
a blown feather sideways upon the dense mist that filled the air. In
form this "corruscation of atoms" as El-Rmi called it, resembled a
maiden in the bloom of youth,--her flowing hair, her sparkling eyes,
her smiling lips, were all plainly discernible;--but, that she was a
mere phantasm and creature of the cloud was soon made plain, for
scarcely had she declared herself in all her rounded laughing
loveliness, than she melted away and passed into nothingness like a
dream. The cloud of smoke grew thinner and thinner, till it vanished
also so completely that there was no more left of it than a pale blue
ring such as might have been puffed from a stray cigar. El-Rmi,
leaning lazily back in his chair, had watched the whole development
and finish of his "experiment" with indolent interest and amusement.

"How admirably the lines of beauty are always kept in these
effects,"--he said to himself when it was over,--"and what a fortune I
could make with that one example of the concentration of atoms if I
chose to pass as a Miracle-maker. Moses was an adept at this kind of
thing; so also was a certain Egyptian priest named Borsa of Memphis,
who just for that same graceful piece of chemistry was judged by the
people as divine,--made king,--and loaded with wealth and honour;--
excellent and most cunning Borsa! But we--we do not judge anyone
'divine' in these days of ours, not even God,--for He is supposed to
be simply the lump of leaven working through the loaf of matter,--
though it will always remain a question as to why there is any leaven
or any loaf at all existing."

He fell into a train of meditation, which caused him presently to take
up his pen and write busily many pages of close manuscript. Fraz came
in at the usual hour with supper,--and then only he ceased working,
and shared the meal with his young brother, talking cheerfully, though
saying little but commonplaces, and skilfully steering off any
allusion to subjects which might tend to increase Fraz's evident
melancholy. Once he asked him rather abruptly why he had not played
any music that day.

"I do not know"--answered the young man coldly--"I seem to have
forgotten music--with other things."

He spoke meaningly;--El-Rmi laughed; relieved and light at heart.
Those "other things" meant the name of Lilith, which his will had
succeeded in erasing from his brother's memory. His eyes sparkled, and
his voice gathered new richness and warmth of feeling as he said

"I think not, Fraz,--I think you cannot have forgotten music. Surely
it is no extraneous thing, but part of you,--a lovely portion of your
life which you would be loth to miss. Here is your little neglected
friend,"--and, rising, he took out of its case an exquisitely shaped
mandolin inlaid with pearl--"The dear old lute,--for lute it is,
though modernized,--the same shaped instrument on which the rose and
fuchsia-crowned youths of old Pompeii played the accompaniment to
their love-songs; the same, the very same on which the long-haired,
dusky-skinned maids of Thebes and Memphis thrummed their strange
uncouth ditties to their black-browed warrior kings. I like it better
than the violin--its form is far more pleasing--we can see Apollo with
a lute, but it is difficult to fancy the Sun-god fitting his graceful
arm to the contorted positions of a fiddle. Play something, Fraz"--
and he smiled winningly as he gave the mandolin into his brother's
hands--"Here,"--and he detached the plectrum from its place under the
strings--"With this little piece of oval tortoiseshell, you can set
the nerves of music quivering,--those silver wires will answer to your
touch like the fibres of the human heart struck by the tremolo of

He paused,--his eyes were full of an ardent light, and Fraz looked at
him wonderingly. What a voice he had!--how eloquently he spoke!--how
noble and thoughtful were his features!--and what an air of almost
pathetic dignity was given to his face by that curiously snow-white
hair of his, which so incongruously suggested age in youth! Poor
Fraz!--his heart swelled within him; love and secret admiration for
his brother contended with a sense of outraged pride in himself,--and
yet--he felt his sullen amour-propre, his instinct of rebellion, and
his distrustful reserve all oozing away under the spell of El-Rmi's
persuasive tongue and fascinating manner,--and to escape from his own
feelings, he bent over the mandolin and tried its chords with a
trembling hand and downcast eyes.

"You speak of passion," he said in a low voice--"but you have never
known it."

"Oh, have I not!" and El-Rmi laughed lightly as he resumed his seat--
"Nay, if I had not I should be more than man. The lightning has
flashed across my path, Fraz, I assure you, only it has not killed
me; and I have been ready to shed my blood drop by drop, for so slight
and imperfect a production of Nature as--a woman! A thing of white
flesh and soft curves, and long hair and large eyes, and a laugh like
the tinkle of a fountain in our Eastern courts,--a thing with less
mind than a kitten, and less fidelity than a hound. Of course there
are clever women and faithful women,--but then we men seldom choose
these; we are fools, and we pay for our folly. And I also have been a
fool in my time,--why should you imagine I have not? It is flattering
to me, but why?"

Fraz looked at him again, and in spite of himself smiled, though

"You always seem to treat all earthly emotions with scorn--" he
replied evasively, "And once you told me there was no such thing in
the world as love."

"Nor is there--" said El-Rmi quickly--"Not ideal love--not
everlasting love. Love in its highest, purest sense, belongs to other
planets--in this its golden wings are clipped, and it becomes nothing
more than a common and vulgar physical attraction."

Fraz thrummed his mandolin softly.

"I saw two lovers the other day--" he said--"They seemed divinely

"Where did you see them?"

"Not here. In the land I know best--my Star."

El-Rmi looked at him curiously, but forbore to speak.

"They were beautiful--" went on Fraz. "They were resting together on
a bank of flowers, in a little nook of that lovely forest where there
are thousands of song-birds sweeter than nightingales. Music filled
the air,--a rosy glory filled the sky,--their arms were twined around
each other,--their lips met, and then--oh, then their joy smote me
with fear, because,--because I was alone--and they were--together!"

His voice trembled. El-Rmi's smile had in it something of compassion.

"Love in your Star is a dream, Fraz--" he said gently--"But love
here--here in this phase of things we call Reality,--means,--do you
know what it means?"

Fraz shook his head.

"It means Money. It means lands, and houses and a big balance at the
bank. Lovers do not subsist here on flowers and music,--they have
rather more vulgar and substantial appetites. Love here is the
disillusion of Love--there, in the region you speak of, it may
perchance be perfect--"

A sudden rush of rain battering at the windows, accompanied by a gust
of wind, interrupted him.

"What a storm!" exclaimed Fraz, looking up--"And you are expecting--"

A measured rat-tat-tat at the door came at that moment, and El-Rmi
sprang to his feet. Fraz rose also, and set aside his mandolin.
Another gust of wind whistled by, bringing with it a sweeping torrent
of hail.

"Quick!" said El-Rmi, in a somewhat agitated voice--"It is--you know
who it is. Give him reverent greeting, Fraz--and show him at once in

Fraz withdrew,--and when he had disappeared, El-Rmi looked about him
vaguely with the bewildered air of a man who would fain escape from
some difficult position, could he but discover an egress,--a slight
shudder ran through his frame, and he heaved a deep sigh.

"Why has he come to me!" he muttered, "Why--after all these years of
absolute silence and indifference to my work, does he seek me now?"


STANDING in an attitude more of resignation than expectancy, he
waited, listening. He heard the street-door open and shut again,--then
came a brief pause, followed by the sound of a firm step in the outer
hall,--and Fraz reappeared, ushering in with grave respect a man of
stately height and majestic demeanour, cloaked in a heavy travelling
ulster, the hood of which was pulled cowl-like over his head and
almost concealed his features.

"Greeting to El-Rmi Zarnos--" said a rich mellow voice--"And so this
is the weather provided by an English month of May! Well, it might be
worse,--certes, also, it might be better. I should have disburdened
myself of these 'lendings' in the hall, but that I knew not whether
you were quite alone--" and, as he spoke, he threw off his cloak,
which dripped with rain, and handed it to Fraz, disclosing himself in
the dress of a Carthusian monk, all save the disfiguring tonsure. "I
was not certain," he continued cheerfully--"whether you might be ready
or willing to receive me."

"I am always ready for such a visitor--" said El-Rmi, advancing
hesitatingly, and with a curious diffidence in his manner--"And more
than willing. Your presence honours this poor house and brings with it
a certain benediction."

"Gracefully said, El-Rmi!" exclaimed the monk with a keen flash of
his deep-set blue eyes--"Where did you learn to make pretty speeches?
I remember you of old time as brusque of tongue and obstinate of
humour,--and even now humility sits ill upon you,--'tis not your
favourite practised household virtue."

El-Rmi flushed, but made no reply. He seemed all at once to have
become even to himself the merest foolish nobody before this his
remarkable-looking visitor with the brow and eyes of an inspired
evangelist, and the splendid lines of thought, aspiration and
endeavour marking the already noble countenance with an expression
seldom seen on features of mortal mould. Fraz now came forward to
proffer wine and sundry other refreshments, all of which were
courteously refused.

"This lad has grown, El-Rmi--" said the stranger, surveying Fraz
with much interest and kindliness,--"since he stayed with us in Cyprus
and studied our views of poesy and song. A promising youth he seems,--
and still your slave?"

El-Rmi gave a gesture of deprecation.

"You mistake--" he replied curtly--"He is my brother and my friend,--
as such he cannot be my slave. He is as free as air."

"Or as an eagle that ever flies back to its eyrie in the rocks out of
sheer habit--" observed the monk with a smile--"In this case you are
the eyrie, and the eagle is never absent long! Well--what now, pretty
lad?" this, as Fraz, moved by a sudden instinct which he could not
explain to himself, dropped reverently on one knee.

"Your blessing--" he murmured timidly. "I have heard it said that your
touch brings peace,--and I--I am not at peace."

The monk looked at him benignly.

"We live in a world of storm, my boy--" he said gently--"where there
is no peace but the peace of the inner spirit. That, with your youth
and joyous nature, you should surely possess,--and if you have it not,
may God grant it you! 'Tis the best blessing I can devise."

And he signed the Cross on the young man's forehead with a gentle
lingering touch,--a touch under which Fraz trembled and sighed for
pleasure, conscious of the delicious restfulness and ease that seemed
suddenly to pervade his being.

"What a child he is still, this brother of yours!" then said the monk,
turning abruptly towards El-Rmi--"He craves a blessing,--while you
have progressed beyond all such need!"

El-Rmi raised his dark eyes,--eyes full of a burning pain and
pride,--but made no answer. The monk looked at him steadily--and
heaved a quick sigh.

"Vigilate et orate ut non intretis in tentationem!" he murmured,--
"Truly, to forgive is easy--but to forget is difficult. I have much to
say to you, El-Rmi,--for this is the last time I shall meet you
'before I go hence and be no more seen.'"

Fraz uttered an involuntary exclamation.

"You do not mean," he said almost breathlessly--"that you are going to

"Assuredly not!" replied the monk with a smile--"I am going to live.
Some people call it dying--but we know better,--we know we cannot

"We are not sure--" began El-Rmi.

"Speak for yourself, my friend!" said the monk cheerily--"I am sure,--
and so are those who labour with me. I am not made of perishable
composition any more than the dust is perishable. Every grain of dust
contains a germ of life--I am co-equal with the dust, and I contain my
germ also, of life that is capable of infinite reproduction."

El-Rmi looked at him dubiously yet wonderingly. He seemed the very
embodiment of physical strength and vitality, yet he only compared
himself to a grain of dust. And the very dust held the seeds of
life!--true!--then, after all, was there anything in the universe,
however small and slight, that could die utterly? And was Lilith right
when she said there was no death? Wearily and impatiently El-Rmi
pondered the question,--and he almost started with nervous irritation
when the slight noise of the door shutting, told him that Fraz had
retired, leaving him and his mysterious visitant alone together.

Some minutes passed in silence. The monk sat quietly in El-Rmi's own
chair, and El-Rmi himself stood close by, waiting, as it seemed, for
something; with an air of mingled defiance and appeal. Outside, the
rain and wind continued their gusty altercation;--inside, the lamp
burned brightly, shedding warmth and lustre on the student-like
simplicity of the room. It was the monk himself who at last broke the
spell of the absolute stillness.

"You wonder," he said slowly--"at the reason of my coming here,--to
you, who are a recreant from the mystic tie of our brother--hood,--to
you, who have employed the most sacred and venerable secrets of our
Order, to wrest from Life and Nature the material for your own self-
interested labours. You think I come for information--you think I wish
to hear from your own lips the results of your scientific scheme of
supernatural ambition,--alas, El-Rmi Zarnos!--how little you know
me! Prayer has taught me more science than Science will ever grasp,--
there is nothing in all the catalogue of your labours that I do not
understand, and you can give me no new message from lands beyond the
sun. I have come to you out of simple pity,--to warn you and if
possible to save."

El-Rmi's dark eyes opened wide in astonishment.

"To warn me?" he echoed--"To save? From what?--Such a mission to me is

"Incomprehensible to your stubborn spirit,--yes, no doubt it is--"
said the monk, with a touch of stern reproach in his accents,--"For
you will not see that the Veil of the Eternal, though it may lift
itself for you a little from other men's lives, hangs dark across your
own, and is impervious to your gaze. You will not grasp the fact that
though it may be given to you to read other men's passions, you cannot
read your own. You have begun at the wrong end of the mystery, El-
Rmi,--you should have mastered yourself first before seeking to
master others. And now there is danger ahead of you--be wise in
time,--accept the truth before it is too late."

El-Rmi listened, impatient and incredulous.

"Accept what truth?" he asked somewhat bitterly--"Am I not searching
for truth everywhere? and seeking to prove it? Give me any sort of
truth to hold, and I will grasp it as a drowning sailor grasps the
rope of rescue!"

The monk's eyes rested on him in mingled compassion and sorrow.

"After all these years--" he said--"are you still asking Pilate's

"Yes--I am still asking Pilate's question!" retorted El-Rmi with
sudden passion--"See you--I know who you are,--great and wise, a
master of the arts and sciences, and with all your stores of learning,
still a servant of Christ, which to me, is the wildest, maddest
incongruity. I grant you that Christ was the holiest man that ever
lived on earth,--and if I swear a thing in His name, I swear an oath
that shall not be broken. But in His Divinity, I cannot, I may not, I
dare not believe!--except in so far that there is divinity in all of
us. One man, born of woman, destined to regenerate the world!--the
idea is stupendous,--but impossible to reason!"

He paced the room impatiently.

"If I could believe it--I say 'if,'"--he continued, "I should still
think it a clumsy scheme. For every human creature living should be a
reformer and regenerator of his race."

"Like yourself?" queried the monk calmly. "What have you done, for

El-Rmi stopped in his walk to and fro.

"What have I done?" he repeated--"Why--nothing! You deem me proud and
ambitious,--but I am humble enough to know how little I know. And as
to proofs,--well, it is the same story--I have proved nothing."

"So! Then are your labours wasted?"

"Nothing is wasted,--according to your theories even. Your theories--
many of them--are beautiful and soul-satisfying, and this one of there
being no waste in the economy of the universe is, I believe, true. But
I cannot accept all you teach. I broke my connection with you because
I could not bend my spirit to the level of the patience you enjoined.
It was not rebellion,--no! for I loved and honoured you--and I still
revere you more than any man alive, but I cannot bow my neck to the
yoke you consider so necessary. To begin all work by first admitting
one's weakness!--no!--Power is gained by never-resting ambition, not
by a merely laborious humility."

"Opinions differ on that point"--said the monk quietly--"I never
sought to check your ambition--I simply said--Take God with you. Do
not leave Him out. He IS. Therefore His existence must be included in
everything, even in the scientific examination of a drop of dew.
Without Him you grope in the dark--you lack the key to the mystery. As
an example of this, you are yourself battering against a shut door,
and fighting with a Force too strong for you."

"I must have proofs of God!" said El-Rmi very deliberately--"Nature
proves her existence; let God prove His!"

"And does He not prove it?" inquired the monk with mingled passion and
solemnity--"Have you to go further than the commonest flower to find

El-Rmi shrugged his shoulders with an air of light disdain.

"Nature is Nature,"--he said--"God--an there be a God--is God. If God
works through Nature He arranges things very curiously on a system of
mutual destruction. You talk of flowers,--they contain both poisonous
and healing properties,--and the poor human race has to study and toil
for years before finding out which is which. Is that just of Nature--
or God? Children never know at all,--and the poor little wretches die
often through eating poison-berries of whose deadly nature they were
not aware. That is what I complain of--we are not aware of evil, and
we are not made aware. We have to find it out for ourselves. And I
maintain that it is wanton cruelty on the part of the Divine Element
to punish us for ignorance which we cannot help. And so the plan of
mutual destructiveness goes on, with the most admirable persistency;
the eater is in turn eaten, and as far as I can make out, this seems
to be the one Everlasting Law. Surely it is an odd and inconsequential
arrangement? As for the business of creation, that is easy, if once we
grant the existence of certain component parts of space. Look at this,
for example"--and he took from a corner a thin steel rod about the
size of an ordinary walking cane--"If I use this magnet, and these few
crystals"--and he opened a box on the table, containing some sparkling
powder like diamond dust, a pinch of which he threw up into the air--
"and play with them thus, you see what happens!"

And with a dexterous steady motion, he waved the steel rod rapidly
round and round in the apparently empty space where he had tossed
aloft the pinch of powder, and gradually there grew into shape out of
the seeming nothingness, a round large brilliant globe of prismatic
tints, like an enormously magnified soap-bubble, which followed the
movement of the steel magnet rapidly and accurately. The monk lifted
himself a little in his chair and watched the operation with interest
and curiosity--till presently El-Rmi dropped the steel rod from sheer
fatigue of arm. But the globe went on revolving steadily by itself for
a time, and El-Rmi pointed to it with a smile--

"If I had the skill to send that bubble-sphere out into space,
solidify it, and keep it perpetually rolling," he said lightly, "it
would in time exhale its own atmosphere and produce life, and I should
be a very passable imitation of the Creator."

At that moment, the globe broke and vanished like a melting snowflake,
leaving no trace of its existence but a little white dust which fell
in a round circle on the carpet. After this display, El-Rmi waited
for his guest to speak, but the monk said nothing.

"You see," continued El-Rmi--"it requires a great deal to satisfy me
with proofs. I must have tangible Fact, not vague Imagining."

The monk raised his eyes,--what searching calm eyes they were!--and
fixed them full on the speaker.

"Your Sphere was a Fact,"--he said quietly--"Visible to the eye, it
glittered and whirled--but it was not tangible, and it had no life in
it. It is a fair example of other Facts,--so-called. And you could not
have created so much as that perishable bubble, had not God placed the
materials in your hands. It is odd you seem to forget that. No one can
work without the materials for working,--the question remains, from
Whence came those materials?"

El-Rmi smiled with a touch of scorn.

"Rightly are you called Supreme Master!" he said--"for your faith is
marvellous--your ideas of life both here and hereafter, beautiful. I
wish I could accept them. But I cannot. Your way does not seem to me
clear or reasonable,--and I have thought it out in every direction.
Take the doctrine of original sin for example--what is original sin,
and why should it exist?"

"It does not exist--" said the monk quickly--"except in so far that we
have created it. It is we, therefore, who must destroy it."

El-Rmi paused, thinking. This was the same lesson Lilith had taught.

"If we created it--" he said at last, "and there is a God who is
omnipotent, why were we allowed to create it?"

The monk turned round in his chair with ever so slight a gesture of

"How often have I told you, El-Rmi Zarnos," he said,--"of the gift
and responsibility bestowed on every human unit--Free-Will. You, who
seek for proofs of the Divine, should realize that this is the only
proof we have in ourselves, of our close relation to 'the image of
God.' God's Laws exist,--and it is our first business in life to know
and understand these--afterwards, our fate is in our own hands,--if we
transgress law, or if we fulfil law, we know, or ought to know, the
results. If we choose to make evil, it exists till we destroy it--good
we cannot make, because it is the very breath of the Universe, but we
can choose to breathe in it and with it. I have so often gone over
this ground with you, that it seems mere waste of words to go over it
again,--and if you cannot, will not see that you are creating your own
destiny and shaping it to your own will, apart from anything that
human or divine experience can teach you, then you are blind indeed.
But time wears on apace,--and I must speak of other things;--one
message I have for you that will doubtless cause you pain." He waited
a moment-then went on slowly and sadly--"Yes,--the pain will be bitter
and the suffering long,--but the fiat has gone forth, and ere long,
you will be called upon to render up the Soul of Lilith."

El-Rmi started violently,--flushed a deep red, and then grew deadly

"You speak in enigmas--" he said huskily and with an effort--"What do
you know--how have you heard--"

He broke off,--his voice failed him, and the monk looked at him

"Judge not the power of God, El-Rmi Zarnos!" he said solemnly--"for
it seems you cannot even measure the power of man. What!--did you
think your secret experiment safely hid from all knowledge save your
own?--nay! you mistake. I have watched your progress step by step--
your proud march onward through such mysteries as never mortal mind
dared penetrate before,--but even these wonders have their limits--and
those limits are, for you, nearly reached. You must set your captive

"Never!" exclaimed El-Rmi passionately. "Never, while I live! I defy
the heavens to rob me of her!--by every law in nature, she is mine!"

"Peace!" said the monk sternly--"Nothing is yours,--except the fate
you have made for yourself. That is yours; and that must and will be
fulfilled. That, in its own appointed time, will deprive you of

El-Rmi's eyes flashed wrath and pain.

"What have you to do with my fate?" he demanded--"How should you know
what is in store for me? You are judged to have a marvellous insight
into spiritual things, but it is not insight after all so much as
imagination and instinct. These may lead you wrong,--you have gained
them, as you yourself admit, through nothing but inward concentration
and prayer--my discoveries are the result of scientific exploration,--
there is no science in prayer!"

"Is there not?"--and the monk, rising from his chair, confronted El-
Rmi with the reproachful majesty of a king who faces some recreant
vassal--"Then with all your wisdom you are ignorant,--ignorant of the
commonest laws of simple Sound. Do you not yet know--have you not yet
learned that Sound vibrates in a million million tones through every
nook and corner of the Universe? Not a whisper, not a cry from human
lips is lost--not even the trill of a bird or the rustle of a leaf.
All is heard,--all is kept,--all is reproduced at will forever and
ever. What is the use of your modern toys, the phonograph and the
telephone, if they do not teach you the fundamental and external law
by which these adjuncts to civilization are governed? God--the great,
patient loving God--hears the huge sounding-board of space re-echo
again and yet again with rough curses on His Name,--with groans and
wailings; shouts, tears and laughter send shuddering discord through
His Everlasting Vastness, but amid it all there is a steady strain of
music,--full, sweet and pure--the music of perpetual prayer. No
science in prayer! Such science there is, that by its power the very
ether parts asunder as by a lightning-stroke--the highest golden
gateways are unbarred,--and the connecting-link 'twixt God and Man,
stretches itself through Space, between and round all worlds, defying
any force to break the current of its messages."

He spoke with fervour and passion,--El-Rmi listened silent and

"I waste my words, I know--" continued the monk--"For you, Yourself
suffices. What your brain dares devise,--what your hand dares attempt,
that you will do, unadvisedly, sure of your success without the help
of God or man. Nevertheless--you may not keep the Soul of Lilith."

His voice was very solemn yet sweet; El-Rmi, lifting his head, looked
full at him, wonderingly, earnestly, and as one in doubt. Then his
mind seemed to grasp more completely his visitor's splendid
presence,--the noble face, the soft commanding eyes,--and
instinctively he bent his proud head with a sudden reverence.

"Truly you are a god-like man--" he said slowly--"God-like in
strength, and pure-hearted as a child. I would trust you in many
things, if not in all. Therefore,--as by some strange means you have
possessed yourself of my secret,--come with me,--and I will show you
the chiefest marvel of my science--the life I claim--the spirit I
dominate. Your warning I cannot accept, because you warn me of what is
impossible. Impossible--I say, impossible!--for the human Lilith,
God's Lilith, died--according to God's will; my Lilith lives,
according to My will. Come and see,--then perhaps you will understand
how it is that I--I, and not God any longer,--claim and possess the
Soul I saved!"

With these words, uttered in a thrilling tone of pride and passion, he
opened the study door and with a mute inviting gesture, led the way
out. In silence and with a pensive step, the monk slowly followed.




INTO the beautiful room, glowing with its regal hues of gold and
purple, where the spell-bound Lilith lay, El-Rmi led his thoughtful
and seemingly reluctant guest. Zaroba met them on the threshold and
was about to speak,--but at an imperative sign from her master she
refrained, and contented herself merely with a searching and
inquisitive glance at the stately monk, the like of whom she had never
seen before. She had good cause to be surprised,--for in all the time
she had known him, El-Rmi had never permitted any visitor to enter
the shrine of Lilith's rest. Now he had made a new departure,--and in
the eagerness of her desire to know why this stranger was thus freely
admitted into the usually forbidden precincts, she went her way
downstairs to seek Fraz, and learn from him the explanation of what
seemed so mysterious. But it was now past ten o'clock at night, and
Fraz was asleep,--fast locked in such a slumber that though Zaroba
shook him and called him several times, she could not rouse him from
his deep and almost death-like torpor. Baffled in her attempt, she
gave it up at last, and descended to the kitchen to prepare her own
frugal supper,--resolving, however, that as soon as she heard Fraz
stirring she would put him through such a catechism, that she would
find out, in spite of El-Rmi's haughty reticence, the name of the
unknown visitor and the nature of his errand.

Meanwhile, El-Rmi himself and his grave companion stood by the couch
of Lilith, and looked upon her in all her peaceful beauty for some
minutes in silence. Presently El-Rmi grew impatient at the absolute
impassiveness of the monk's attitude and the strange look in his
eyes--a look which expressed nothing but solemn compassion and

"Well!" he exclaimed almost brusquely--"Now you see Lilith, as she

"Not so!" said the monk quietly--"I do not see her as she is. But I
have seen her,--whereas, have not!"

El-Rmi turned upon him somewhat angrily.

"Why will you always speak in riddles?" he said--"In plain language,
what do you mean?"

"In plain language I mean what I say"--returned the monk composedly--
"And I tell you I have seen Lilith. The Soul of Lilith is Lilith;--not
this brittle casket made of earthy materials which we now look upon,
and which is preserved from decomposition by an electric fluid. But--
beautiful as it is--it is a corpse--and nothing more."

El-Rmi regarded him with an expression of haughty amazement.

"Can a corpse breathe?" he inquired--"Can a corpse have colour and
movement? This Body was the body of a child when first I began my
experiment,--now it is a woman's form full-grown and perfect--and you
tell me it is a corpse!"

"I tell you no more than you told Fraz," said the monk coldly--"When
the boy trespassed your command and yielded to the suggestion of your
servant Zaroba, did you not assure him that Lilith was dead?"'

El-Rmi started;--these words certainly gave him a violent shock of

"God!" he exclaimed--"How can you know all this?--Where did you hear
it? Does the very air convey messages to you from a distance?--Does
the light copy scenes for you, or what is it that gives you such a
superhuman faculty for knowing everything you choose to know?"

The monk smiled gravely.

"I have only one method of work, El-Rmi"--he said--"And that method
you are perfectly aware of, though you would not adopt it when I would
have led you into its mystery. 'No man cometh to the Father, but by
Me.' You know that old well-worn text--read so often, heard so often,
that its true meaning is utterly lost sight of and forgotten. 'Coming
to the Father' means the attainment of a superhuman intuition--a
superhuman knowledge,--but as you do not believe in these things, let
them pass. But you were perfectly right when you told Fraz that this
Lilith is dead;--of course she is dead,--dead as a plant that is dried
but has its colour preserved, and is made to move its leaves by
artificial means. This body's breath is artificial,--the liquid in its
veins is not blood, but a careful compound of the electric fluid that
generates all life,--and it might be possible to preserve it thus
forever. Whether its growth would continue is a scientific question;
it might and it might not,--probably it would cease if the Soul held
no more communication with it. For its growth, which you consider so
remarkable, is simply the result of a movement of the brain;--when you
force back the Spirit to converse through its medium, the brain
receives an impetus, which it communicates to the spine and nerves,--
the growth and extension of the muscles is bound to follow.
Nevertheless, it is really a chemically animated corpse; it is not
Lilith. Lilith herself I know."

"Lilith herself you know!" echoed El-Rmi, stupefied--"You know ...!
What is it that you would imply?"

"I know Lilith"--said the monk steadily, "as you have never known her.
I have seen her as you have never seen her. She is a lonely
creature,--a wandering angel, for ever waiting,--for ever hoping.
Unloved, save by the Highest Love, she wends her flight from star to
star, from world to world,--a spirit beautiful, but incomplete as a
flower without its stem,--a bird without its mate. But her destiny is
changing,--she will not be alone for long,--the hours ripen to their
best fulfilment,--and Love, the crown and completion of her being,
will unbind her chains and send her soaring to the Highest Joy in the
glorious liberty of the free!"

While he spoke thus, softly, yet with eloquence and passion, a dark
flush crept over El-Rmi's face,--his eyes glittered and his hand
trembled--he seemed to be making some fierce inward resolve. He
controlled himself, however, and asked with a studied indifference--

"Is this your prophecy?"

"It is not a prophecy; it is a truth;" replied the monk gently--"If
you doubt me, why not ask Her? She is here."

"Here?" El-Rmi looked about vaguely, first at the speaker, then at
the couch where the so-called "corpse" lay breathing tranquilly--
"Here, did you say? Naturally,--of course she is here."

And his glance reverted again to Lilith's slumbering form.

"No--not here--" said the monk with a gesture towards the couch--

And he pointed to the centre of the room where the lamp shed a mellow
golden lustre, on the pansy-embroidered carpet, and where from the
tall crystal vase of Venice ware, a fresh, branching cluster of pale
roses exhaled their delicious perfume. El-Rmi stared, but could see
nothing,--nothing save the lamp-light and the nodding flowers.

"There?" he repeated bewildered--"Where?"

"Alas for you, that you cannot see her!" said the monk
compassionately. "This blindness of your sight proves that for you the
veil has not yet been withdrawn. Lilith is there, I tell you;--she
stands close to those roses,--her white form radiates like lightning--
her hair is like the glory of the sunshine on amber,--her eyes are
bent upon the flowers, which are fully conscious of her shining
presence. For flowers are aware of angels' visits, when men see
nothing! Round her and above her are the trailing films of light
caught from the farthest stars,--she is alone as usual,--her looks are
wistful and appealing,--will you not speak to her?"

El-Rmi's surprise, vexation and fear were beyond all words as he
heard this description,--then he became scornful and incredulous.

"Speak to her!" he repeated--"Nay--if you see her as plainly as you
say--let her speak!"

"You will not understand her speech--" said the monk--"Not unless it
be conveyed to you in earthly words through that earthly medium
there--" and he pointed to the fair form on the couch--"But, otherwise
you will not know what she is saying. Nevertheless--if you wish it,--
she shall speak."

"I wish nothing--" said El-Rmi quickly and haughtily--"If you imagine
you see her,--and if you can command this creature of your imagination
to speak, why do so; but Lilith as I know her, speaks to none save

The monk lifted his hands with a solemn movement as of prayer--

"Soul of Lilith!" he said entreatingly--"Angel-wanderer in the spheres
beloved of God--if, by the Master's grace I have seen the vision

Silence followed. El-Rmi fixed his eyes on Lilith's visible recumbent
form,--no voice could make reply, he thought, save that which must
issue from those lovely lips curved close in placid slumber,--but the
monk's gaze was fastened in quite an opposite direction. All at once a
strain of music, soft as a song played on the water by moonlight,
rippled through the room. With mellow richness the cadence rose and
fell,--it had a marvellous sweet sound, rhythmical and suggestive of
words,--unimaginable words, fairies' language,--anything that was
removed from mortal speech, but that was all the same capable of
utterance. El-Rmi listened perplexed;--he had never heard anything so
convincingly, almost painfully sweet,--till suddenly it ceased as it
had begun, abruptly, and the monk looked round at him.

"You heard her?" he inquired--"Did you understand?"

"Understand what?" asked El-Rmi impatiently--"I heard music--nothing

The monk's eyes rested upon him in grave compassion.

"Your spiritual perception does not go far, El-Rmi Zarnos--" he said
gently--"Lilith spoke;--her voice was the music."

El-Rmi trembled;--for once his strong nerves were somewhat shaken.
The man beside him was one whom he knew to be absolutely truthful,
unselfishly wise,--one who scorned "trickery" and who had no motive
for deceiving him,--one also who was known to possess a strange and
marvellous familiarity with "things unproved and unseen." In spite of
his sceptical nature, all he dared assume against his guest, was that
he was endowed with a perfervid imagination which persuaded him of the
existence of what were really only the "airy nothings" of his brain.
The irreproachable grandeur, purity and simplicity of the monk's life
as known among his brethren, were of an ideal perfection never before
attempted or attained by man,--and as he met the steady, piercing
faithful look of his companion's eyes,--clear fine eyes such as,
reverently speaking, one might have imagined the Christ to have had
when in the guise of humanity He looked love on all the world,--El-
Rmi was fairly at a loss for words. Presently he recovered himself
sufficiently to speak, though his accents were hoarse and tremulous.

"I will not doubt you;--" he said slowly--"But if the Soul of Lilith
is here present as you say,--and if it spoke, surely I may know the
purport of its language!"

"Surely you may!" replied the monk--"Ask her in your own way to repeat
what she said just now. There--" and he smiled gravely as he pointed
to the couch--"there is your human phonograph!"

Perplexed, but willing to solve the mystery, El-Rmi bent above the
slumbering girl, and taking her hands in his own, called her by name
in his usual manner. The reply came soon--though somewhat faintly.

"I am here!"

"How long have you been here?" asked El-Rmi.

"Since my friend came."

"Who is that friend, Lilith?"

"One that is near you now--" was the response.

"Did you speak to this friend a while ago?"


The answer was more like a sigh than an assent.

"Can you repeat what you said?"

Lilith stretched her fair arms out with a gesture of weariness.

"I said I was tired--" she murmured--"Tired of the search through
Infinity for things that are not. A wayward Will bids me look for
Evil--I search, but cannot find it;--for Hell, a place of pain and
torment,--up and down, around and around the everlasting circles I
wend my way, and can discover no such abode of misery. Then I bring
back the messages of truth,--but they are rejected, and I am
sorrowful. All the realms of God are bright with beauty save this one
dark prison of Man's Fantastic Dream. Why am I bound here? I long to
reach the light!--I am tired of the darkness!" She paused--then
added--"This is what I said to one who is my friend."

Vaguely pained, and stricken with a sudden remorse, El-Rmi asked:

"Am not I your friend, Lilith?"

A shudder ran through her delicate limbs. Then the answer came
distinctly, yet reluctantly:


El-Rmi dropped her hands as though he had been stung;--his face was
very pale. The monk touched him on the shoulder.

"Why are you so moved?" he asked--"A spirit cannot lie;--an angel
cannot flatter. How should she call you friend?--you, who detain her
here solely for your own interested purposes?--To you she is a
'subject' merely,--no more than the butterfly dissected by the
naturalist. The butterfly has hopes, ambitions, loves, delights,
innocent wishes, nay even a religion,--what are all these to the grim
spectacled scientist who breaks its delicate wings? The Soul of
Lilith, like a climbing flower, strains instinctively upward,--but
you--(for a certain time only) according to the natural magnetic laws
which compel the stronger to subdue the weaker, have been able to keep
this, her ethereal Essence, a partial captive under your tyrannical
dominance. Yes--I say 'tyrannical,'--great wisdom should inspire
love,--but in you it only inspires despotism. Yet with all your skill
and calculation you have strangely overlooked one inevitable result of
your great Experiment."

El-Rmi looked up inquiringly but said nothing.

"How it is that you have not foreseen this thing I cannot imagine"--
continued the monk--"The body of Lilith has grown under your very eyes
from the child to the woman by the merest material means,--the
chemicals which Nature gives us, and the forces which Nature allows us
to employ. How then should you deem it possible for the Soul to remain
stationary? With every fresh experience its form expands--its desires
increase,--its knowledge widens,--and the everlasting Necessity of
Love compels its life to Love's primeval Source. The Soul of Lilith is
awakening to its fullest immortal consciousness,--she realizes her
connection with the great angelic worlds--her kindredship with those
worlds' inhabitants, and as she gains this glorious knowledge more
certainly, so she gains strength. And this is the result I warn you
of--her force will soon baffle yours, and you will have no more
influence over her than you have over the highest Archangel in the
realms of the Supreme Creator."

"A woman's Soul!--only a woman's soul, remember that!" said El-Rmi
dreamily--"How should it baffle mine? Of slighter character--of more
sensitive balance--and always prone to yield,--how should it prove so
strong? Though, of course, you will tell me that Souls, like Angels,
are sexless."

"I will tell you nothing of the sort"--said the monk quietly. "Because
it would not be true. All created things have Sex, even the Angels.
'Male and Female created He them'--recollect that,--when it is said
God made Man in 'His Own Image.'"

El-Rmi's eyes opened wide in astonishment.

"What! Is it possible you would endow God Himself with the Feminine
attributes as well as the Masculine?"

"There are Two Governing Forces of the Universe," replied the monk
deliberately--"One, the masculine, is Love,--the other, feminine, is
Beauty. These Two, reigning together, are GOD;--just as man and wife
are One. From Love and Beauty proceed Law and Order. You cannot away
with it--it is so. Love and Beauty produce and reproduce a million
forms with more than a million variations--and when God made Man in
His Own Image, it was as Male and Female. From the very first growths
of life in all worlds,--from the small, almost imperceptible beginning
of that marvellous Evolution which resulted in Humanity,--evolution
which to us is calculated to have taken thousands of years, whereas in
the Eternal countings it has occupied but a few moments, Sex was
proclaimed in the lowliest sea-plants, of which the only remains we
have are in the Silurian formations,--and was equally maintained in
the humblest lingula inhabiting its simple bivalve shell. Sex is
proclaimed throughout the Universe with an absolute and unswerving
regularity through all grades of nature. Nay, there are even Male and
Female Atmospheres which when combined produce forms of life."

"You go far,--I should say much too far in your supposed Law!" said
El-Rmi wonderingly and a little derisively.

"And you, my good friend, stop short,--and oppose yourself against all
Law, when it threatens to interfere with your work"--retorted the
monk--"The proof is, that you are convinced you can keep the Soul of
Lilith to wait upon your will at pleasure like another Ariel. Whereas
the Law is, that at the destined moment she shall be free. Wise
Shakespeare can teach you this,--Prospero had to give his 'fine
spirit' liberty in the end. If you could shut Lilith up in her mortal
frame again, to live a mortal life, the case might be different; but
that you cannot do, since the mortal frame is too dead to be capable
of retaining such a Fire-Essence as hers is now."

"You think that?" queried El-Rmi,---he spoke mechanically,--his
thoughts were travelling elsewhere in a sudden new direction of their

The monk regarded him with friendly but always compassionate eyes.

"I not only think it--I know it!" he replied.

El-Rmi met his gaze fixedly.

"You would seem to know most things,"--he observed--"Now in this
matter I consider that I am more humble-minded than yourself. For I
cannot say I 'know' anything,--the whole solar system appears to me to
be in a gradually changing condition,--and each day one set of facts
is followed by another entirely new set which replace the first and
render them useless--"

"There is nothing useless," interposed the monk--"not even a so-called
'fact' disproved. Error leads to the discovery of Truth. And Truth
always discloses the one great unalterable Fact,--GOD."

"As I told you, I must have proofs of God"--said El-Rmi with a chill
smile--"Proofs that satisfy me, personally speaking. At present I
believe in Force only."

"And how is Force generated?" inquired the monk.

"That we shall discover in time. And not only the How, but also the
Why. In the meantime we must prove and test all possibilities, both
material and spiritual. And as far as such proving goes, I think you
can scarcely deny that this experiment of mine on the girl Lilith is a
wonderful one?"

"I cannot grant you that;"--returned the monk gravely--"Most Eastern
magnetists can do what you have done, provided they have the necessary
Will. To detach the Soul from the body, and yet keep the body alive,
is an operation that has been performed by others and will be
performed again,--but to keep Body and Soul struggling against each
other in unnatural conflict, requires cruelty as well as Will. It is
as I before observed, the vivisection of a butterfly. The scientist
does not think himself barbarous--but his barbarity outweighs his
science all the same."

"You mean to say there is nothing surprising in my work?"

"Why should there be?" said the monk curtly--"Barbarism is not
wonderful! What is truly a matter for marvel is Yourself. You are the
most astonishing example of self-inflicted blindness I have ever

El-Rmi breathed quickly,--he was deeply angered, but he had self-
possession enough not to betray it. As he stood, sullenly silent, his
guest's hand fell gently on his shoulder--his guest's eyes looked
earnest love and pity into his own.

"El-Rmi Zarnos," he said softly--"You know me. You know I would not
lie to you. Hear then my words;--As I see a bird on the point of
flight, or a flower just ready to break into bloom, even so I see the
Soul of Lilith. She is on the verge of the Eternal Light--its rippling
wave,--the great sweet wave that lifts us upward,--has already touched
her delicate consciousness,--her aerial organism. You--with your
brilliant brain, your astonishing grasp and power over material
forces--you are on the verge of darkness,--such a gulf of it as cannot
be measured--such a depth as cannot be sounded. Why will you fall? Why
do you choose Darkness rather than Light?"

"Because my 'deeds are evil,' I suppose," retorted El-Rmi bitterly--
"You should finish the text while you are about it. I think you
misjudge me,--however, you have not heard all. You consider my labour
as vain, and my experiment futile,--but I have some strange results
yet to show you in writing. And what I have written I desire to place
in your hands that you may take all to the monastery, and keep my
discoveries,--if they are discoveries, among the archives. What may
seem the wildest notions to the scientists of to-day may prove of
practical utility hereafter."

He paused, and bending over Lilith, took her hand and called her by
name. The reply came rather more quickly than usual.

"I am here!"

"Be here no longer, Lilith"--said El-Rmi, speaking with unusual
gentleness,--"Go home to that fair garden you love, on the high hills
of the bright world called Alcyone. There rest, and be happy till I
summon you to earth again."

He released her hand,--it fell limply in its usual position on her
breast,--and her face became white and rigid as sculptured marble. He
watched her lying so for a minute or two, then turning to the monk,

"She has left us at once, as you see. Surely you will own that I do
not grudge her her liberty?"

"Her liberty is not complete"--said the monk quietly--"Her happiness
therefore is only temporary."

El-Rmi shrugged his shoulders indifferently.

"What does that matter if, as you declare, her time of captivity is
soon to end? According to your prognostications she will ere long set
herself free."

The monk's fine eyes flashed forth a calm and holy triumph.

"Most assuredly she will!"

El-Rmi looked at him and seemed about to make some angry retort, but
checking himself, he bowed with a kind of mingled submissiveness and
irony, saying--

"I will not be so discourteous as to doubt your word! But--I would
only remind you that nothing in this world is certain--"

"Except the Law of God!" interrupted the monk with passionate
emphasis--"That is immutable,--and against that, El-Rmi Zarnos, you
contend in vain! Opposed to that, your strength and power must come to
naught,--and all they who wonder at your skill and wisdom shall by-
and-by ask one another the old question--'What went ye out for to
see?' And the answer shall describe your fate--'A reed shaken by the

He turned away as he spoke and without another look at the beautiful
Lilith, he left the room. El-Rmi stood irresolute for a moment,
thinking deeply,--then, touching the bell which would summon Zaroba
back to her usual duty of watching the tranced girl, he swiftly
followed his mysterious guest.


HE found him quietly seated in the study, close beside the window,
which he had thrown open for air. The rain had ceased,--a few stars
shone out in the misty sky, and there was a fresh smell of earth and
grass and flowers, as though all were suddenly growing together by
some new impetus.

"'The winter is past,--the rain is over and gone!--Arise, my love, my
fair one, and come away!'" quoted the monk softly, half to himself and
half to El-Rmi as he saw the latter enter the room--"Even in this
great and densely peopled city of London, Nature sends her messengers
of spring--see here!"

And he held out on his hand a delicate insect with shining iridescent
wings that glistened like jewels.

"This creature flew in as I opened the window," he continued,
surveying it tenderly. "What quaint and charming stories of Flower-
land it could tell us if we could but understand its language! Of the
poppy-palaces, and rose-leaf saloons coloured through by the kindly
sun,--of the loves of the ladybirds and the political controversies of
the bees! How dare we make a boast of wisdom!--this tiny denizen of
air baffles us--it knows more than we do."

"With regard to the things of its own sphere it knows more,
doubtless," said El-Rmi--"but concerning our part of creation, it
knows less. These things are equally balanced. You seem to me to be
more of a poet than either a devotee or a scientist."

"Perhaps I am!" and the monk smiled, as he carefully wafted the pretty
insect out into the darkness of the night again--"Yet poets are often
the best scientists, because they never know they are scientists. They
arrive by a sudden intuition at the facts which it takes several
Professors Dry-as--Dust years to discover. When once you feel you are
a scientist, it is all over with you. You are a clever biped who has
got hold of a crumb out of the Universal Loaf, and for all your days
afterwards you are turning that crumb over and over under your
analytical lens. But a poet takes up the whole Loaf unconsciously, and
hands portions of it about at haphazard and with the abstracted
behaviour of one in a dream,--a wild and extravagant process,--but
then, what would you?--his nature could not do with a crumb. No--I
dare not call myself 'poet'; if I gave myself any title at all, I
would say, with all humbleness, that I am a sympathizer."

"You do not sympathize with me," observed El-Rmi gloomily.

"My friend, at the immediate moment, you do not need my sympathy. You
are sufficient for yourself. But, should you ever make a claim upon
me, be sure I shall not fail."

He spoke earnestly and cheerily, and smiled,--but El-Rmi did not
return the smile. He was bending over a deep drawer in his writing-
table, and after a little search he took out two bulky rolls of
manuscript tied and sealed.

"Look there!" he said, indicating the titles with an air of triumph.

The monk obeyed and read aloud:

"'The Inhabitants of Sirius. Their Laws, Customs, and Progress.'

"Well!" echoed El-Rmi.--"Is such information, gained from Lilith in
her wanderings, of no value?"

The monk made no direct reply, but read the title of the second MS.

"'The World of Neptune. How it is composed of One Thousand Distinct
Nations, united under one reigning Emperor, known at the present era
as Ustalvian the Tenth.' And again I say--well? What of all this,
except to hazard the remark that Ustalvian is a great creature, and
supports his responsibilities admirably?"

El-Rmi gave a gesture of irritation and impatience.

"Surely it must interest you?" he said. "Surely you cannot have known
these things positively--"

"Stop, stop, my friend!" interposed the monk.--"Do you know them
positively? Do you accept any of Lilith's news as positive? Come,--you
are honest--confess you do not! You cannot believe her, though you are
puzzled to make out as to where she obtains information which has
certainly nothing to do with this world, or any external impression.
And that is why she is really a Sphinx to you still, in spite of your
power over her. As for being interested, of course I am interested. It
is impossible not to be interested in everything, even in the
development of a grub. But you have not made any discovery that is
specially new--to me. I have my own Messenger!" He raised his eyes one
moment with a brief devout glance--then resumed quietly--"There are
other 'detached' spirits, besides that of your Lilith, who have found
their way to some of the planets, and have returned to tell the tale.
In one of our monasteries we have a very exact description of Mars
obtained in this same way--its landscapes, its cities, its people, its
various nations--all very concisely given. These are but the
beginnings of discoveries--the feeling for the Clue,--the Clue itself
will be found one day."

"The Clue to what?" demanded El-Rmi. "To the stellar mysteries, or to
Life's mystery?"

"To everything!" replied the monk firmly. "To everything that seems
unclear and perplexing now. It will all be unravelled for us in such a
simple way that we shall wonder why we did not discover it before. As
I told you, my friend, I am, above all things, a sympathizer. I
sympathize--God knows how deeply and passionately,--with what I may
call the unexplained woe of the world. The other day I visited a poor
fellow who had lost his only child. He told me he could believe in
nothing,--he said that what people call the goodness of God was only
cruelty. 'Why take this boy!' he cried, rocking the pretty little
corpse to and fro on his breast--'Why rob me of the chief thing I had
to live for? Oh, if I only knew--as positively as I know day is day,
and night is night--that I should see my living child again, and
possess his love in another world than this, should I repine as I do?
No,--I should believe in God's wisdom,--and I should try to be a good
man instead of a bad. But it is because I do not know, that I am
broken-hearted. If there is a God, surely He might have given us some
little certain clue by way of help and comfort!' Thus he wailed,--and
my heart ached for him. Nevertheless the clue is to be had,--and I
believe it will be found suddenly in some little, deeply-hidden
unguessed Law,--we are on the track of it, and I fancy we shall soon
find it."

"Ah!--and what of the millions of creatures who, in the bygone eras,
having no clue, have passed away without any sort of comfort?" asked

"Nature takes time to manifest her laws," replied the monk.--"And it
must be remembered that what we call 'time' is not Nature's counting
at all. The method Nature has of counting time may be faintly guessed
by proven scientific fact,--as, for instance, take the Comet which
appeared in 1744. Strict mathematicians calculated that this brilliant
world (for it is a world) needs 122,683 years to perform one single
circuit! And yet the circuit of a Comet is surely not so much time to
allow for God and Nature to declare a Meaning!"

El-Rmi shuddered slightly.

"All the same, it is horrible to think of," he said.--"All those
enormous periods,--those eternal vastnesses! For, during the 122,683
years we die, and pass into the Silence."

"Into the Silence or the Explanation?" queried the monk softly.--"For
there is an Explanation,--and we are all bound to know it at some time
or other, else Creation would be but a poor and bungling business."

"If we are bound to know," said El-Rmi, "then every living creature
is bound to know, since every living creature suffers cruelly, in
wretched ignorance of the cause of its suffering. To every atom, no
matter how infinitely minute, must be given this 'explanation,'--to
dogs and birds as well as men--nay, even to flowers must be declared
the meaning of the mystery."

"Unless the flowers know already!" suggested the monk with a smile.--
"Which is quite possible!"

"Oh, everything is 'possible' according to your way of thinking," said
El-Rmi somewhat impatiently. "If one is a visionary, one would
scarcely be surprised to see the legended 'Jacob's ladder' leaning
against that dark midnight sky and the angels descending and ascending
upon it. And so--" here he touched the two rolls of manuscript lying
on the table--"you find no use in these?"

"I personally have no use for them," responded his guest,--"but as you
desire it, I will take charge of them and place them in safe keeping
at the monastery. Every little link helps to forge the chain of
discovery, of course. By the way, while on this subject, I must not
forget to speak to you about poor old Kremlin. I had a letter from him
about two months ago. I very much fear that famous Disc of his will be
his ruin."

"Such an intimation will console him vastly!" observed El-Rmi

"Consolation has nothing to do with the matter. If a man rushes
wilfully into danger, danger will not move itself out of the way for
him. I always told Kremlin that his proposed design was an unsafe one,
even before he went out to Africa fifteen years ago in search of the
magnetic spar--a crystalline formation whose extraordinary reflection-
power he learned from me. However, it must be admitted that he has
come marvellously close to the unravelling of the enigma at which he
works. And when you see him next you may tell him from me, that if he
can--mind, it is a very big 'if'--if he can follow the movements of
the Third Ray on his Disc he will be following the signals from Mars.
To make out the meaning of those signals is quite another matter--but
he can safely classify them as the light-vibrations from that
particular planet."

"How is he to tell which is the Third Ray that falls, among a fleeting
thousand?" asked El-Rmi dubiously.

"It will be difficult of course, but he can try," returned the monk.--
"Let him first cover the Disc with thick, dark drapery, and then when
it is face to face with the stars in the zenith, uncover it quickly,
keeping his eyes fixed on its surface. In one minute there will be
three distinct flashes--the third is from Mars. Let him endeavour to
follow that third ray in its course on the Disc, and probably he will
arrive at something worth remark. This suggestion I offer by way of
assisting him, for his patient labour is both wonderful and
pathetic,--but,--it would be far better and wiser were he to resign
his task altogether. Yet--who knows!--the ordained end may be the

"And do you know this 'ordained end'?" questioned El-Rmi.

The monk met his incredulous gaze calmly.

"I know it as I know yours," he replied. "As I know my own, and the
end (or beginning) of all those who are, or who have been, in any way
connected with my life and labours."

"How can you know!" exclaimed El-Rmi brusquely.--"Who is there to
tell you these things that are surely hidden in the future?"

"Even as a picture already hangs in an artist's brain before it is
painted," said the monk,--"so does every scene of each human unit's
life hang, embryo-like, in air and space, in light and colour.
Explanations of these things are well-nigh impossible--it is not given
to mortal speech to tell them. One must see,--and to see clearly, one
must not become wilfully blind." he paused,--then added--"For
instance, El-Rmi, I would that you could see this room as I see it."

El-Rmi looked about half carelessly, half wonderingly.

"And do I not?" he asked.

The monk stretched out his hand.

"Tell me first,--is there anything visible between this my extended
arm and you?"

El-Rmi shook his head.


Whereupon the monk raised his eyes, and in a low thrilling voice said

"O God with whom Thought is Creation and Creation Thought, for one
brief moment, be pleased to lift material darkness from the sight of
this man Thy subject-creature, and by Thy sovereign-power permit him
to behold with mortal eyes, in mortal life, Thy deathless Messenger!"

Scarcely had these words been pronounced than El-Rmi was conscious of
a blinding flash of fire as though sudden lightning had struck the
room from end to end. Confused and dazzled, he instinctively covered
his eyes with his hand, then removing it, looked up, stupefied,
speechless, and utterly overwhelmed at what he saw. Clear before him
stood a wondrous Shape, seemingly human, yet unlike humanity,--a
creature apparently composed of radiant colour, from whose
transcendent form, great shafts of gold and rose and purple spread
upward and around in glowing lines of glory. This marvellous Being
stood, or rather was poised in a stedfast attitude, between him, El-
Rmi, and the monk,--its luminous hands were stretched out on either
side as though to keep those twain asunder--its starry eyes expressed
an earnest watchfulness--its majestic patience never seemed to tire. A
thing of royal stateliness and power, it stayed there immovable,
parting with its radiant intangible Presence the two men who gazed
upon it, one with fearless, reverent, yet accustomed eyes--the other
with a dazzled and bewildered stare. Another moment and El-Rmi at all
risks would have spoken,--but that the Shining Figure lifted its
light-crowned head and gazed at him. The wondrous look appalled him,--
unnerved him,--the straight, pure brilliancy and limpid lustre of
those unearthly orbs sent shudders through him,--he gasped for
breath--thrust out his hands, and fell on his knees in a blind,
unconscious, swooning act of adoration, mingled with a sense of awe
and something like despair,--when a dense chill darkness as of death
closed over him, and he remembered nothing more.


WHEN he came to himself, it was full daylight. His head was resting on
someone's knee,--someone was sprinkling cold water on his face and
talking to him in an incoherent mingling of Arabic and English,--who
was that someone? Fraz? Yes!--surely it was Fraz! Opening his eyes
languidly, he stared about him and attempted to rise.

"What is the matter?" he asked faintly. "What are you doing to me? I
am quite well, am I not?"

"Yes, yes!" cried Fraz eagerly, delighted to hear him speak.--"You
are well,--it was a swoon that seized you--nothing more! But I was
anxious,--I found you here, insensible--"

With an effort El-Rmi rose to his feet, steadying himself on his
brother's arm.

"Insensible!" he repeated vaguely.--"Insensible!--that is strange!--I
must have been very weak and tired--and overpowered. But,--where is

"If you mean the Master," said Fraz, lowering his voice to an almost
awe-stricken whisper--"He has gone, and left no trace,--save that
sealed paper there upon your table."

El-Rmi shook himself free of his brother's hold and hurried forward
to possess himself of the indicated missive,--seizing it, he tore it
quickly open,--it contained but one line--"Beware the end! With
Lilith's love comes Lilith's freedom."

That was all. He read it again and again--then deliberately striking a
match, he set fire to it and burnt it to ashes. A rapid glance round
showed him that the manuscripts concerning Neptune and Sirius were
gone,--the mysterious monk had evidently taken them with him as
desired. Then he turned again to his brother.

"When could he have gone?" he de--manded.--"Did you not hear the
street-door open and shut?--no sound at all of his departure?"

Fraz shook his head.

"I slept heavily," he said apologetically. "But in my dreams it seemed
as though a hand touched me, and I awoke. The sun was shining
brilliantly--someone called 'Fraz! Fraz!'--I thought it was your
voice, and I hurried into the room to find you, as I thought, dead,--
oh! the horror of that moment of suspense!"

El-Rmi looked at him kindly, and smiled.

"Why feel horror, my dear boy?" he inquired.--"Death--or what we call
death,--is the best possible fortune for everybody. Even if there were
no Afterwards, it would still be an End--an end of trouble and tedium
and infinite uncertainty. Could anything be happier?--I doubt it!"

And sighing, he threw himself into his chair with an air of
exhaustion. Fraz stood a little apart, gazing at him somewhat
wistfully--then he spoke--

"I too have thought that, El-Rmi," he said softly.--"As to whether
this End, which the world and all men dread, might not be the best
thing? And yet my own personal sensations tell me that life means
something good for me if I only learn how best to live it."

"Youth, my dear fellow!" said El-Rmi lightly. "Delicious youth,--
which you share in common with the scampering colt who imagines all
the meadows of the world were made for him to race upon. This is the
potent charm which persuades you that life is agreeable. But
unfortunately it will pass,--this rosy morning-glory. And the older
you grow the wiser and the sadder you will be,--I, your brother, am an
excellent example of the truth of this platitude."

"You are not old," replied Fraz quickly. "But certainly you are often
sad. You overwork your brain. For example, last night of course you
did not sleep--will you sleep now?"

"No--I will breakfast," said El-Rmi, rousing himself to seem
cheerful.--"A good cup of coffee is one of the boons of existence--and
no one can make it as you do. It will put the finishing touch to my
complete recovery."

Fraz took this hint, and hastened off to prepare the desired
beverage,--while El-Rmi, left alone, sat for a few moments wrapped in
a deep reverie. His thoughts reverted to and dwelt upon the strange
and glorious Figure he had seen standing in that very room between him
and the monk,--he wondered doubtfully if such a celestial visitant
were anywhere near him now? Shaking off the fantastic impression, he
got up and walked to and fro.

"What a fool I am!" he exclaimed half-aloud--"As if my eyes could not
be as much deluded for once in a way, as the eyes of anyone else! It
was a strange shape,--a marvellously divine-looking apparition;--but
he evolved it--he is as great a master in the art of creating
phantasma as Moses himself, and could, if he chose, make thunder echo
at his will on another Mount Sinai. Upon my word, the things that men
can do are as wonderful as the things that they would fain attempt;
and the only miraculous part of this particular man's force is that he
should have overpowered ME, seeing I am so strong. And then one other
marvel,--(if it be true)--he could see the Soul of Lilith."

Here he came to a full stop in his walk, and with his eyes fixed on
vacancy he repeated musingly--

"He could see the Soul of Lilith. If that is so--if that is possible,
then I will see it too, if I die in the attempt. To see the Soul--to
look upon it and know its form--to discern the manner of its
organization, would surely be to prove it. Sight can be deceived, we
know--we look upon a star (or think we look upon it), that may have
disappeared some thirty thousand years ago, as it takes thirty
thousand years for its reflex to reach us--all that is true--but there
are ways of guarding against deception."

He had now struck upon a new line of thought,--ideas more daring than
he had ever yet conceived began to flit through his brain,--and when
Fraz came in with the breakfast he partook of that meal with avidity
and relish, his excellent appetite entirely reassuring his brother
with regard to his health.

"You are right, Fraz," he said, as he sipped his coffee.--"Life can
be made enjoyable after a fashion, no doubt. But the best way to get
enjoyment out of it is to be always at work--always putting a brick in
to help the universal architecture."

Fraz was silent. El-Rmi looked at him inquisitively.

"Don't you agree with me?" he asked.

"No--not entirely"--and Fraz pushed the clustering hair off his brow
with a slightly troubled gesture.--"Work may become as monotonous and
wearisome as anything else if we have too much of it. If we are always
working--that is, if we are always obtruding ourselves into affairs
and thinking they cannot get on without us, we make an obstruction in
the way, I think--we are not a help. Besides, we leave ourselves no
time to absorb suggestions, and I fancy a great deal is learned by
simply keeping the brain quiet and absorbing light."

"'Absorbing light?'" queried his brother perplexedly--"What do you

"Well, it is difficult to explain my meaning," said Fraz with
hesitation---"but yet I feel there is truth in what I try to express.
You see, everything absorbs something, and you will assuredly admit
that the brain absorbs certain impressions?"

"Of course,--but impressions are not 'light'?"

"Are they not? Not even the effects of light? Then what is the art of
photography? However, I do not speak of the impressions received from
our merely external surroundings. If you can relieve the brain from
conscious thought,--if you have the power to shake off outward
suggestions and be willing to think of nothing personal, your brain
will receive impressions which are to some extent new, and with which
you actually have very little connection. It is strange,--but it is
so;--you become obediently receptive, and perhaps wonder where your
ideas come from. I say they are the result of light. Light can use up
immense periods of time in travelling from a far distant star into our
area of vision, and yet at last we see it,--shall not God's
inspiration travel at a far swifter pace than star-beams, and reach
the human brain as surely? This thought has often startled me,--it has
filled me with an almost apprehensive awe,--the capabilities it opens
up are so immense and wonderful. Even a man can suggest ideas to his
fellow-man and cause them to germinate in the mind and blossom into
action,--how can we deny to God the power to do the same? And so,--
imagine it!--the first strain of the glorious 'Tannhauser' may have
been played on the harps of Heaven, and rolling sweetly through
infinite space may have touched in fine far echoes the brain of the
musician who afterwards gave it form and utterance--ah yes!--I would
love to think it were so!--I would love to think that nothing,--
nothing is truly ours; but that all the marvels of poetry, of song, of
art, of colour, of beauty, were only the echoes and distant
impressions of that Eternal Grandeur which comes hereafter!"

His eyes flashed with all a poet's enthusiasm,--he rose from the table
and paced the room excitedly, while his brother, sitting silent,
watched him meditatively.

"El-Rmi, you have no idea," he continued--"of the wonders and
delights of the land I call my Star! You think it is a dream--an
unexplained portion of a splendid trance,--and I am now fully aware of
what I owe to your magnetic influence,--your forceful spell that rests
upon my life;--but see you!--when I am alone--quite, quite alone, when
you are absent from me, when you are not influencing me, it is then I
see the landscapes best,--it is then I hear my people sing! I let my
brain rest;--as far as it is possible, I think of nothing,--then
suddenly upon me falls the ravishment and ecstasy,--this world rolls
up as it were in a whirling cloud and vanishes, and lo! I find myself
at home. There is a stretch of forest-land in this Star of mine,--a
place all dusky green with shadows, and musical with the fall of
silvery waters,--that is my favourite haunt when I am there, for it
leads me on and on through grasses and tangles of wild flowers to what
I know and feel must be my own abode, where I should rest and sleep if
sleep were needful; but this abode I never reach; I am debarred from
entering in, and I do not know the reason why. The other day, when
wandering there, I met two maidens bearing flowers,--they stopped,
regarding me with pleased yet doubting eyes, and one said--'Look you,
our lord is now returned!' And the other sighed and answered--'Nay! he
is still an exile and may not stay with us.' Whereupon they bent their
heads, and shrinking past me, disappeared. When I would have called
them back I woke!--to find that this dull earth was once again my
house of bondage."

El-Rmi heard him with patient interest.

"I do not deny, Fraz," he said slowly, "that your impressions are
very strange--"

"Very strange? Yes!" cried Fraz. "But very true!"

He paused--then on a sudden impulse came close up to his brother, and
laid a hand on his shoulder.

"And do you mean to tell me," he asked, "that you who have studied so
much, and have mastered so much, yet receive no such impressions as
those I speak of?"

A faint flush coloured El-Rmi's olive skin.

"Certain impressions come to me at times, of course," he answered
slowly.--"And there have been certain seasons in my life when I have
had visions of the impossible. But I have a coldly-tempered
organization, Fraz,--I am able to reason these things away."

"Oh, you can reason the whole world away if you choose," said Fraz.--
"For it is nothing after all but a pinch of star-dust."

"If you can reason a thing away it does not exist," observed El-Rmi
dryly.--"Reduce the world, as you say, to a pinch of star-dust, still
the pinch of star-dust is there--it Exists."

"Some people doubt even that!" said Fraz, smiling.

"Well, everything can be over-done," replied his brother,--"even the
process of reasoning. We can, if we choose, 'reason' ourselves into
madness. There is a boundary-line to every science which the human
intellect dare not overstep."

"I wonder what and where is your boundary-line?" questioned Fraz
lightly.--"Have you laid one down for yourself at all? Surely not!--
for you are too ambitious."

El-Rmi made no answer to this observation, but betook himself to his
books and papers. Fraz meanwhile set the room in order and cleared
away the breakfast,--and these duties done, he quietly withdrew. Left
to himself, El-Rmi took from the centre drawer of his writing-table a
medium-sized manuscript book which was locked, and which he opened by
means of a small key that was attached to his watch-chain, and bending
over the title-page he critically examined it. Its heading ran thus--

"The title does not cover all the ground," he murmured as he read.--
"And yet how am I to designate it? It is a vast subject, and presents
different branches of treatment, and after all said and done, I may
have wasted my time in planning it. Most likely I have,--but there is
no scientist living who would refuse to accept it. The question is,
shall I ever finish it?--shall I ever know positively that there IS
without doubt, a Conscious, Personal Something or Someone after death
who enters at once upon another existence? My new experiment will
decide all--if I see the Soul of Lilith, all hesitation will be at an
end--I shall be sure of everything which now seems uncertain. And then
the triumph!--then the victory!"

His eyes sparkled, and dipping his pen in the ink he prepared to
write, but ere he did so the message which the monk had left for him
to read, recurred with a chill warning to his memory,--

"Beware the end! With Lilith's love comes Lilith's freedom."

He considered the words for a moment apprehensively,--and then a proud
smile played round his mouth.

"For a Master who has attained to some degree of wisdom, his intuition
is strangely erroneous this time," he muttered.--"For if there be any
dream of love in Lilith, that dream, that love is Mine! And being
mine, who shall dispute possession,--who shall take her from me? No
one,--not even God,--for He does not break through the laws of Nature.
And by those laws I have kept Lilith--and even so I will keep her

Satisfied with his own conclusions, he began to write, taking up the
thread of his theory of religion where he had left it on the previous
day. He had a brilliant and convincing style, and was soon deep in an
elaborate and eloquent disquisition on the superior scientific
reasoning contained in the ancient Eastern faiths, as compared with
the modern scheme of Christianity, which limits God's power to this
world only, and takes no consideration of the fate of other visible
and far more splendid spheres.


THE few days immediately following the visit of the mysterious monk
from Cyprus were quiet and uneventful enough. El-Rmi led the life of
a student and recluse; Fraz, too, occupied himself with books and
music, thinking much, but saying little. He had solemnly sworn never
again to make allusion to the forbidden subject of his brother's great
experiment, and he meant to keep his vow. For though he had in very
truth absolutely forgotten the name "Lilith," he had not forgotten the
face of her whose beauty had surprised his senses and dazzled his
brain. She had become to him a nameless Wonder,--and from the sweet
remembrance of her loveliness he gained a certain consolation and
pleasure which he jealously and religiously kept to himself. He
thought of her as a poet may think of an ideal goddess seen in a
mystic dream,--but he never ventured to ask a question concerning her.
And even if he had wished to do so,--even if he had indulged the idea
of encouraging Zaroba to follow up the work she had begun by telling
him all she could concerning the beautiful tranced girl, that course
was now impossible. For Zaroba seemed stricken dumb as well as deaf,--
what had chanced to her he could not tell,--but a mysterious silence
possessed her; and though her large black eyes were sorrowfully
eloquent, she never uttered a word. She came and went on various
household errands, always silently and with bent head,--she looked
older, feebler, wearier and sadder, but not so much as a gesture
escaped her that could be construed into a complaint. Once Fraz made
signs to her of inquiry after her health and well-being--she smiled
mournfully, but gave no other response, and turning away, left him
hurriedly. He mused long and deeply upon all this,--and though he felt
sure that Zaroba's strange but resolute speechlessness was his
brother's work, he dared not speculate too far or inquire too deeply.
For he fully recognised El-Rmi's power,--a power so scientifically
balanced, and used with such terrible and unerring precision, that
there could be no opposition possible unless one were of equal
strength and knowledge. Fraz knew he could no more compete with such
a force than a mouse can wield a thunderbolt,--he therefore deemed it
best to resign himself to his destiny and wait the course of events.

"For," he said within himself, "it is not likely one man should be
permitted to use such strange authority over natural forces long,--it
may be that God is trying him,--putting him to the proof, as it were,
to find out how far he will dare to go,--and then--ah then!--what
then? If his heart were dedicated to the service of God I should not
fear--but--as it is,--I dread the end!"

His instinct was correct in this,--for in spite of his poetic and
fanciful temperament, he had plenty of quick perception, and he saw
plainly what El-Rmi himself was not very willing to recognise,--
namely, that in all the labour of his life, so far as it had gone, he,
El-Rmi, had rather opposed himself to the Unseen Divine, than striven
to incorporate himself with it. He preferred to believe in Natural
Force only; his inclination was to deny the possibility of anything
behind That. He accepted the idea of Immortality to a certain extent,
because Natural Force was forever giving him proofs of the perpetual
regeneration of life--but that there was a Primal Source of this
generating influence,--One, great and eternal, who would demand an
account of all lives, and an accurate summing-up of all words and
actions,--in this, though he might assume the virtue of faith, Fraz
very well knew he had it not. Like the greater majority of scientists
and natural philosophers generally, what Self could comprehend, he
accepted,--but all that extended beyond Self,--all that made of Self
but a grain of dust in a vast infinitude,--all that forced the
Creature to prostrate himself humbly before the Creator and cry out
"Lord, be merciful to me a sinner!" this he tacitly and proudly
rejected. For which reasons the gentle, dreamy Fraz had good cause to
fear,--and a foreboding voice forever whispered in his mind that man
without God was as a world without light,--a black chaos of blank

With the ensuing week the grand "reception" to which El-Rmi and his
brother had been invited by Lord Melthorpe came off with great clat.
Lady Melthorpe's "crushes" were among the most brilliant of the
season, and this one was particularly so, as it was a special function
held for the entertainment of the distinguished Crown Prince of a
great nation. True, the distinguished Crown Prince was only "timed" to
look in a little after midnight for about ten minutes, but the
exceeding brevity of his stay was immaterial to the fashionable
throng. All that was needed was just the piquant flavour,--the
"passing" of a Royal Presence,--to make the gathering socially
complete. The rooms were crowded--so much so indeed that it was
difficult to take note of any one person in particular, yet in spite
of this fact, there was a very general movement of interest and
admiration when El-Rmi entered with his young and handsome brother
beside him. Both had a look and manner too distinctly striking to
escape observation:--their olive complexions, black melancholy eyes,
and slim yet stately figures, were set off to perfection by the
richness of the Oriental dresses they wore; and the grave composure
and perfect dignity of their bearing offered a pleasing contrast to
the excited pushing, waddling, and scrambling indulged in by the
greater part of the aristocratic assemblage. Lady Melthorpe herself, a
rather pretty woman attired in a very sthetic gown, and wearing her
brown hair all towzled and arranged " la Grecque" in diamond
bandeaux, caught sight of them at once, and was delighted. Such
picturesque-looking creatures were really ornaments to a room, she
thought with much interior satisfaction; and wreathing her face with
smiles, she glided up to them.

"I am so charmed, my dear El-Rmi!" she said, holding out her jewelled
hand.--"So charmed to see you--you so very seldom will come to me! And
your brother! So glad! Why did you never tell me you had a brother?
Naughty man! What is your brother's name? Fraz? Delightful!--it makes
me think of Hafiz and Sadi and all those very charming Eastern people.
I must find someone interesting to introduce to you. Will you wait
here a minute--the crowd is so thick in the centre of the room that
really I'm afraid you will not be able to get through it--do wait
here, and I'll bring the Baroness to you--don't you know the Baroness?
Oh, she's such a delightful creature--so clever at palmistry! Yes--
just stay where you are,--I'll come back directly!"

And with sundry good-humoured nods her ladyship swept away, while
Fraz glanced at his brother with an expression of amused inquiry.

"That is Lady Melthorpe?" he asked.

"That is Lady Melthorpe," returned El-Rmi--"our hostess, and Lord
Melthorpe's wife; his, 'to have and to hold, for better for worse, for
richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love, honour and
cherish till death do them part,'" and he smiled somewhat
satirically.--"It seems odd, doesn't it?--I mean, such solemn words
sound out of place sometimes. Do you like her?"

Fraz made a slight sign in the negative.

"She does not speak sincerely," he said in a low tone.

El-Rmi laughed.

"My dear boy, you mustn't expect anyone to be 'sincere' in society.
You said you wanted to 'see life'--very well, but it will never do to
begin by viewing it in that way. An outburst of actual sincerity in
this human mle"--and he glanced comprehensively over the brilliant
throng--"would be like a match to a gunpowder magazine--the whole
thing would blow up into fragments and be dispersed to the four winds
of heaven, leaving nothing behind but an evil odour."

"Better so," said Fraz dreamily, "than that false hearts should be
mistaken for true."

El-Rmi looked at him wistfully;--what a beautiful youth he really
was, with all that glow of thought and feeling in his dark eyes! How
different was his aspect to that of the jaded, cynical, vice-worn
young men of fashion, some of whom were pushing their way past at that
moment,--men in the twenties who had the air of being well on in the
forties, and badly preserved at that--wretched, pallid, languid,
exhausted creatures who had thrown away the splendid jewel of their
youth in a couple of years' stupid dissipation and folly. At that
moment Lord Melthorpe, smiling and cordial, came up to them and shook
hands warmly, and then introduced with a few pleasant words a
gentleman who had accompanied him as,--"Roy Ainsworth, the famous
artist, you know!"

"Oh, not at all!" drawled the individual thus described, with a
searching glance at the two brothers from under his drowsy eyelids.--
"Not famous by any means--not yet. Only trying to be. You've got to
paint something startling and shocking nowadays before you are
considered 'famous';--and even then, when you've outraged all the
proprieties, you must give a banquet, or take a big house and hold
receptions, or have an electrically lit-up skeleton in your studio, or
something of that sort, to keep the public attention fixed upon you.
It's such a restless age."

El-Rmi smiled gravely.

"The feverish outburst of an unnatural vitality immediately preceding
dissolution," he observed.

"Ah!--you think that? Well--it may be,--I'm sure I hope it is. I
personally should be charmed to believe in the rapidly-approaching end
of the world. We really need a change of planet as much as certain
invalids require a change of air. Your brother, however"--and here he
flashed a keen glance at Fraz--"seems already to belong to quite a
different sphere."

Fraz looked up with a pleased yet startled expression.

"Yes,--but how did you know it?" he asked.

It was now the artist's turn to be embarrassed. He had used the words
"different sphere" merely as a figure of speech, whereas this
intelligent-looking young fellow evidently took the phrase in a
literal sense. It was very odd!--and he hesitated what to answer, so
El-Rmi came to the rescue.

"Mr. Ainsworth only means that you do not look quite like other
people, Fraz, that's all. Poets and musicians often carry their own
distinctive mark."

"Is he a poet?" inquired Lord Melthorpe with interest.--"And has he
published anything?"

El-Rmi laughed good-humouredly.

"Not he! Why dear Lord Melthorpe, we are not all called upon to give
the world our blood and brain and nerve and spirit. Some few reserve
their strength for higher latitudes. To give greedy Humanity
everything of one's self is rather too prodigal an expenditure."

"I agree with you," said a chill yet sweet voice close to them.--"It
was Christ's way of work,--and quite too unwise an example for any of
us to follow."

Lord Melthorpe and Mr. Ainsworth turned quickly to make way for the
speaker,--a slight fair woman, with a delicate thoughtful face full of
light, languor, and scorn, who, clad in snowy draperies adorned here
and there with the cold sparkle of diamonds, drew near them at the
moment. El-Rmi and his brother both noted her with interest,--she was
so different from the other women present.

"I am delighted to see you!" said Lord Melthorpe as he held out his
hand in greeting.--"It is so seldom we have the honour! Mr. Ainsworth
you already know,--let me introduce my Oriental friends here,--El-Rmi
Zarnos and his brother Fraz Zarnos,--Madame Irene Vassilius--you
must have heard of her very often."

El-Rmi had indeed heard of her,--she was an authoress of high repute,
noted for her brilliant satirical pen, her contempt of press-
criticism, and her influence over, and utter indifference to, all men.
Therefore he regarded her now with a certain pardonable curiosity as
he made her his profoundest salutation, while she returned his look
with equal interest.

"It is you who said that we must not give ourselves wholly away to the
needs of Humanity, is it not?" she said, letting her calm eyes dwell
upon him with a dreamy yet searching scrutiny.

"I certainly did say so, Madame," replied El-Rmi.--"It is a waste of
life,--and Humanity is always ungrateful."

"You have proved it? But perhaps you have not tried to deserve its

This was rather a home thrust, and El-Rmi was surprised and vaguely
annoyed at its truth. Irene Vassilius still stood quietly observing
him,--then she turned to Roy Ainsworth.

"There is the type you want for your picture," she said, indicating
Fraz by a slight gesture.--"That boy, depicted in the clutches of
your Phryne, would make angels weep."

"If I could make you weep I should have achieved something like
success," replied the painter, his dreamy eyes dilating with a passion
he could not wholly conceal.--"But icebergs neither smile nor shed
tears,--and intellectual women are impervious to emotion."

"That is a mistaken idea,--one of the narrow notions common to men,"
she answered, waving her fan idly to and fro.--"You remind me of the
querulous Edward Fitzgerald, who wrote that he was glad Mrs. Barrett-
Browning was dead, because there would be no more 'Aurora Leighs.' He
condescended to say she was a 'woman of Genius,' but what was the use
of it? She and her Sex, he said, would be better minding the Kitchen
and their Children. He and his Sex always consider the terrible
possibilities to themselves of a badly cooked dinner and a baby's
screams. His notion about the limitation of Woman's sphere, is Man's
notion generally."

"It is not mine," said Lord Melthorpe.--"I think women are cleverer
than men."

"Ah, you are not a reviewer!" laughed Madame Vassilius--"so you can
afford to be generous. But as a rule men detest clever women, simply
because they are jealous of them."

"They have cause to be jealous of you," said Roy Ainsworth.--"You
succeed in everything you touch."

"Success is easy," she replied indifferently.--"Resolve upon it, and
carry out that resolve--and the thing is done."

El-Rmi looked at her with new interest.

"Madame, you have a strong will!" he observed.--"But permit me to say
that all your sex are not like yourself, beautiful, gifted, and
resolute at one and the same time. The majority of women are
deplorably unintelligent and uninteresting."

"That is precisely how I find the majority of men!" declared Irene
Vassilius, with that little soft laugh of hers which was so sweet, yet
so full of irony.--"You see, we view things from different
standpoints. Moreover, the deplorably unintelligent and uninteresting
women are the very ones you men elect to marry, and make the mothers
of the nation. It is the way of masculine wisdom,--so full of careful
forethought and admirable calculation!" She laughed again, and
continued--"Lord Melthorpe tells me you are a Seer,--an Eastern
prophet arisen in these dull modern days--now will you solve me a
riddle that I am unable to guess,--Myself?--and tell me if you can,
who am I and what am I?"

"Madame," replied El-Rmi bowing profoundly, "I cannot in one moment
unravel so complex an Enigma."

She smiled, not ill-pleased, and met his dark, fiery, penetrating
glance unreservedly,--then, drawing off her long loose glove, she held
out her small beautifully-shaped white hand.

"Try me," she said lightly, "for if there is any truth in 'brain-
waves' or reflexes of the mind, the touch of my fingers ought to send
electric meanings through you. I am generally judged as of a frivolous
disposition because I am small in stature, slight in build, and have
curly hair--all proofs positive, according to the majority, of latent
foolishness. Colossal women, however, are always astonishingly stupid,
and fat women lethargic--but a mountain of good flesh is always more
attractive to man than any amount of intellectual perception. Oh, I am
not posing as one of the 'misunderstood'; not at all--I simply wish
you to look well at me first and take in my 'frivolous' appearance
thoroughly, before being misled by the messages of my hand."

El-Rmi obeyed her in so far that he fixed his eyes upon her more
searchingly than before,--a little knot of fashionable loungers had
stopped to listen, and now watched her face with equal curiosity. No
rush of embarrassed colour tinged the cool fairness of her cheeks--her
expression was one of quiet, half-smiling indifference--her attitude
full of perfect self-possession.

"No one who looks at your eyes can call you frivolous, Madame," said
El-Rmi at last.--"And no one who observes the lines of your mouth and
chin could suspect you of latent foolishness. Your physiognomy must
have been judged by the merest surface-observers. As for stature, we
are aware that goes for naught,--most of the heroes and heroines of
history have been small and slight in build. I will now, if you permit
me, take your hand."

She laid it at once in his extended palm,--and he slowly closed his
own fingers tightly over it. In a couple of minutes, his face
expressed nothing but astonishment.

"Is it possible!" he muttered--"can I believe--" he broke off
hurriedly, interrupted by a chorus of voices exclaiming--"Oh, what is
it?--do tell us!" and so forth.

"May I speak, Madame?" he inquired, bending towards Irene, with
something of reverence.

She smiled assent.

"If I am surprised," he then said slowly, "it is scarcely to be
wondered at, for it is the first time I have ever chanced across the
path of a woman whose life was so perfectly ideal. Madame, to you I
must address the words of Hamlet--'pure as ice, chaste as snow, thou
shalt not escape calumny.' Such an existence as yours, stainless,
lofty, active, hopeful, patient, and independent, is a reproach to
men, and few will love you for being so superior. Those who do love
you, will probably love in vain,--for the completion of your existence
is not here--but Elsewhere."

Her soft eyes dilated wonderingly,--the people immediately around her
stared vaguely at El-Rmi's dark impenetrable face.

"Then shall I be alone all my life as I am now?" she asked, as he
released her hand.

"Are you sure you are alone?" he said with a grave smile.--"Are there
not more companions in the poet's so-called solitude, than in the
crowded haunts of men?"

She met his earnest glance, and her own face grew radiant with a
certain sweet animation that made it very lovely.

"You are right," she replied simply--"I see you understand."

Then with a graceful salutation, she prepared to move away--Roy
Ainsworth pressed up close to her.

"Are you satisfied with your fortune, Madame Vassilius?" he asked
rather querulously.

"Indeed I am," she answered. "Why should I not be?"

"If loneliness is a part of it," he said audaciously, "I suppose you
will never marry?"

"I suppose not," she said with a ripple of laughter in her voice.--"I
fear I should never be able to acknowledge a man my superior!"

She left him then, and he stood for a moment looking after her with a
vexed air,--then he turned anew towards El-Rmi, who was just
exchanging greetings with Sir Frederick Vaughan. This latter young man
appeared highly embarrassed and nervous, and seemed anxious to
unburden himself of something which apparently was difficult to utter.
He stared at Fraz, pulled the ends of his long moustache, and made
scrappy remarks on nothing in particular, while El-Rmi observed him
with amused intentness.

"I say, do you remember the night we saw the new Hamlet?" he blurted
out at last.--"You know--I haven't seen you since--"

"I remember most perfectly," said El-Rmi composedly--"'To be or not
to be' was the question then with you, as well as with Hamlet--but I
suppose it is all happily decided now as 'to be.'"

"What is decided?" stammered Sir Frederick--"I mean, how do you know
everything is decided, eh?"

"When is your marriage to take place?" asked El-Rmi.

Vaughan almost jumped.

"By Jove!--you are an uncanny fellow!" he exclaimed.--"However, as it
happens, you are right. I'm engaged to Miss Chester."

"It is no surprise to me, but pray allow me to congratulate you!" and
El-Rmi smiled.--"You have lost no time about it, I must say! It is
only a fortnight since you first saw the lady at the theatre. Well!--
confess me a true prophet!"

Sir Frederick looked uncomfortable, and was about to enter into an
argument concerning the pros and cons of prophetic insight, when Lady
Melthorpe suddenly emerged from the circling whirlpool of her
fashionable guests and sailed towards them with a swan-like grace and

"I cannot find the dear Baroness," she said plaintively. "She is so
much in demand! Do you know, my dear El-Rmi, she is really almost as
wonderful as you are! Not quite--oh, not quite, but nearly! She can
tell you all your past and future by the lines of your hand, in the
most astonishing manner! Can you do that also?"

El-Rmi laughed.

"It is a gipsy's trick," he said,--"and the bon-fide gipsies who
practise it in country lanes for the satisfaction of servantgirls, get
arrested by the police for 'fortune--telling.' The gipsies of the
London drawing-rooms escape scot-free."

"Oh, you are severe!" said Lady Melthorpe, shaking her finger at him
with an attempt at archness--"You are really very severe! You must not
be hard on our little amusements,--you know in this age, we are all so
very much interested in the supernatural!"

El-Rmi grew paler, and a slight shudder shook his frame. The
Supernatural! How lightly people talked of that awful Something, that
like a formless Shadow waits behind the portals of the grave!--that
Something that evinced itself, suggested itself, nay, almost declared
itself, in spite of his own doubts, in the momentary contact of a hand
with his own, as in the case of Irene Vassilius. For in that contact
he had received a faint, yet decided thrill through his nerves--a
peculiar sensation which he recognised as a warning of something
spiritually above himself,--and this had compelled him to speak of an
"Elsewhere" for her, though for himself he persisted in nourishing the
doubt that an "Elsewhere" existed. Roy Ainsworth, the artist,
observing him closely, noted how stern and almost melancholy was the
expression of his handsome dark face,--then glancing from him to his
brother, was surprised at the marked difference between the two. The
frank, open, beautiful features of Fraz seemed to invite confidence,
and acting on the suggestion made to him by Madame Vassilius, he spoke

"I wish you would sit to me," he said.

"Sit to you? For a picture, do you mean?" And Fraz looked delighted
yet amazed.

"Yes. You have just the face I want. Are you in town?--can you spare
the time?"

"I am always with my brother"--began Fraz hesitatingly.

El-Rmi heard him, and smiled rather sadly.

"Fraz is his own master," he said gently, "and his time is quite at
his own disposal."

"Then come and let us talk it over," said Ainsworth, taking Fraz by
the arm. "I'll pilot you through this crowd, and we'll make for some
quiet corner where we can sit down. Come along!"

Out of old habit Fraz glanced at his brother for permission, but El-
Rmi's head was turned away; he was talking to Lord Melthorpe. So,
through the brilliant throng of fashionable men and women, many of
whom turned to stare at him as he passed, Fraz went, half-eager,
half-reluctant, his large fawn-like eyes flashing an innocent
wonderment on the scene around him,--a scene different from everything
to which he had been accustomed. He was uncomfortably conscious that
there was something false and even deadly beneath all this glitter and
show,--but his senses were dazzled for the moment, though the poet-
soul of him instinctively recoiled from the noise and glare and
restless movement of the crowd. It was his first entry into so-called
"society";--and, though attracted and interested, he was also somewhat
startled and abashed--for he felt instinctively that he was thrown
upon his own resources,--that, for the present at any rate, his
brother's will no longer influenced him, and with the sudden sense of
liberty came the sudden sense of fear.


TOWARDS midnight the expected Royal Personage came and went; fatigued
but always amiable, he shed the sunshine of his stereotyped smile on
Lady Melthorpe's "crush"--shook hands with his host and hostess,
nodded blandly to a few stray acquaintances, and went through all the
dreary, duties of social boredom heroically, though he was pining for
his bed more wearily than any work-worn digger of the soil. He made
his way out more quickly than he came in, and with his departure a
great many of the more "snobbish" among the fashionable set
disappeared also, leaving the rooms freer and cooler for their
absence. People talked less loudly and assertively,--little groups
began to gather in corners and exchange friendly chit-chat,--men who
had been standing all the evening found space to sit down beside their
favoured fair ones, and indulge themselves in talking a little
pleasant nonsense,--even the hostess herself was at last permitted to
occupy an arm-chair and take a few moments' rest. Some of the guests
had wandered into the music-saloon, a quaintly decorated oak-panelled
apartment which opened out from the largest drawing-room. A string
band had played there till Royalty had come and gone, but now "sweet
harmony" no longer "wagged her silver tongue," for the musicians were
at supper. The grand piano was open, and Madame Vassilius stood near
it, idly touching the ivory keys now and then with her small white,
sensitive-looking fingers. Close beside her, comfortably ensconced in
a round deep chair, sat a very stout old lady with a curiously large
hairy face and a beaming expression of eye, who appeared to have got
into her pink silk gown by some cruelly unnatural means, so tightly
was she laced, and so much did she seem in danger of bursting. She
perspired profusely and smiled perpetually, and frequently stroked the
end of her very pronounced moustache with quite a mannish air. This
was the individual for whom Lady Melthorpe had been searching,--the
Baroness von Denkwald, noted for her skill in palmistry.

"Ach! it is warm!" she said in her strong German accent, giving an
observant and approving glance at Irene's white-draped form.--"You are
ze one womans zat is goot to look at. A peach mit ice-cream,--dot is

Irene smiled pensively, but made no answer.

The Baroness looked at her again, and fanned herself rapidly.

"It is sometings bad mit you?" she asked at last.--"You look
sorrowful? Zat Eastern mans--he say tings disagreeable? You should
pelieve me,--I have told you of your hand--ach! what a fortune!--
splendid!--fame,--money, title,--a grand marriage--"

Irene lifted her little hand from the keyboard of the piano, and
looked curiously at the lines in her pretty palm.

"Dear Baroness, there must be some mis--take," she said slowly.--"I
was a lonely child,--and some people say that as you begin, so will
you end. I shall never marry--I am a lonely woman, and it will always
be so."

"Always, always--not at all!" and the Baroness shook her large head
obstinately. "You will marry; and Gott in Himmel save you from a
husband such as mine! He is dead--oh yes--a goot ting;--he is petter
off--and so am I. Moch petter!"

And she laughed, the rise and fall of her ample neck causing quite a
cracking sound in the silk of her bodice.

Madame Vassilius smiled again,--and then again grew serious. She was
thinking of the "Elsewhere" that El-Rmi had spoken of,--she had
noticed that all he said had seemed to be uttered involuntarily,--and
that he had hesitated strangely before using the word "Elsewhere." She
longed to ask him one or two more questions,--and scarcely had the
wish formed itself in her mind, than she saw him advancing from the
drawing-room, in company with Lord Melthorpe, Sir Frederick Vaughan,
and the pretty frivolous Idina Chester, who, regardless of all that
poets write concerning the unadorned simplicity of youth, had decked
herself, American fashion, with diamonds enough for a dowager.

"It's too lovely!" the young lady was saying as she entered.--"I
think, Mr. El-Rmi, you have made me out a most charming creature!
Unemotional, harmless and innocently worldly'--that was it, wasn't it?
'Well now, I think that's splendid! I had an idea you were going to
find out something horrid about me;--I'm so glad I'm harmless! You're
sure I'm harmless?"

"Quite sure!" said El-Rmi with a slight smile. "And there you possess
a great superiority over most women."

And he stepped forward in obedience to Lady Melthorpe's signal, to be
introduced to the 'dear' Baroness, whose shrewd little eyes dwelt upon
him curiously.

"Do you believe in palmistry?" she asked him, after the ordinary
greetings were exchanged.

"I'm afraid not," he answered politely--"though I am acquainted with
the rules of the art as practised in the East, and I know that many
odd coincidences do occur. But,--as an example--take my hand--I am
sure you can make nothing of it."

He held out his open palm for her inspection--she bent over it, and
uttered an exclamation of surprise. There were none of the usual
innumerable little criss-cross lines upon it--nothing, in fact, but
two deep dents from left to right, and one well-marked line running
from the wrist to the centre.

"It is unnatural!" cried the Baroness in amazement.--"It is a
malformation! There is no hand like it!"

"I believe not," answered El-Rmi composedly.--"As I told you, you can
learn nothing from it--and yet my life has not been without its
adventures. This hand of mine is my excuse for not accepting palmistry
as an absolutely proved science."

"Must everything be 'proved' for you?" asked Irene Vassilius suddenly.

"Assuredly, Madame!"

"Then have you 'proved' the Elsewhere of which you spoke to me?"

El-Rmi flushed a little,--then paled again.

"Madame, the message of your inner spirit, as conveyed first through
the electric medium of the brain, and then through the magnetism of
your touch, told me of an 'Elsewhere.' I may not personally or
positively know of any 'elsewhere,' than this present state of
being,--but your interior Self expects an 'Elsewhere,'--apparently
knows of it better than I do, and conveys that impression and
knowledge to me, apart from any consideration as to whether I may be
fitted to understand or receive it."

These words were heard with evident astonishment by the little group
of people who stood by, listening.

"Dear me! How ve--ry curious!" murmured Lady Melthorpe.--"And we have
always looked upon dear Madame Vassilius as quite a free-thinker,"--
here she smiled apologetically, as Irene lifted her serious eyes and
looked at her steadily--"I mean, as regards the next world and all
those interesting subjects. In some of her books, for instance, she is
terribly severe on the clergy."

"Not more so than many of them deserve, I am sure," said El-Rmi with
sudden heat and asperity.--"It was not Christ's intention, I believe,
that the preachers of His Gospel should drink and hunt, and make love
to their neighbours' wives ad libitum, which is what a great many of
them do. The lives of the clergy nowadays offer very few worthy
examples to the laity."

Lady Melthorpe coughed delicately and warningly. She did not like
plain speaking,--she had a "pet clergyman" of her own,--moreover, she
had been bred up in the provinces among "county" folk, some of whom
still believe that at one period of the world's history "God" was
always wanting the blood of bulls and goats to smell "as a sweet
savour in His nostrils." She herself preferred to believe in the
possibility of the Deity's having "nostrils," rather than take the
trouble to consider the effect of His majestic Thought as evinced in
the supremely perfect order of the Planets and Solar Systems.

El-Rmi, however, went on regardlessly.

"Free-thinkers," he said, "are for the most part truth-seekers. If
everybody gave way to the foolish credulity attained to by the
believers in the 'Mahatmas' for instance, what an idiotic condition
the world would be in! We want free-thinkers,--as many as we can
get,--to help us to distinguish between the False and the True. We
want to separate the Actual from the Seeming in our lives,--and there
is so much Seeming and so little Actual that the process is

"Why, dat is nonsense!" said the Baroness von Denkenwald.--"Mit a
Fact, zere is no mistake--you prove him. See!" and she took up a
silver penholder from the table near her.--"Here is a pen,--mit ink it
is used to write--zere is what you call ze Actual."

El-Rmi smiled.

"Believe me, my dear Madame, it is only a pen so long as you elect to
view it in that light. Allow me!"--and he took it from her hand,
fixing his eyes upon her the while. "Will you place the tips of your
fingers--the fingers of the left hand--yes--so! on my wrist? Thank
you!"--this, as she obeyed with a rather vague smile on her big fat
face.--"Now you will let me have the satisfaction of offering you this
spray of lilies--the first of the season," and he gravely extended the
silver penholder.--"Is not the odour delicious!"

"Ach! it is heavenly!" and the Baroness smelt at the penholder with an
inimitable expression of delight. Everybody began to laugh--El-Rmi
silenced them by a look.

"Madame, you are under some delusion," he said quietly.--"You have no
lilies in your hand, only a penholder."

She laughed.

"You are very funny!" she said--"but I shall not be deceived. I shall
wear my lilies."

And she endeavoured to fasten the penholder in the front of her
bodice,--when suddenly El-Rmi drew his hand away from hers. A
startled expression passed over her face, but in a minute or two she
recovered her equanimity and twirled the penholder placidly between
her fingers.

"Zere is what you call ze Actual," she said, taking up the
conversation where it had previously been interrupted.--"A pen--holder
is always a penholder--you can make nothing more of it."

But here she was surrounded by the excited onlookers--a flood of
explanations poured upon her, as to how she had taken that same
penholder for a spray of lilies, and so forth, till the old lady grew
quite hot and angry.

"I shall not pelieve you!" she said indignantly.--"It is impossible.
You haf a joke--but I do not see it. Irene"--and she looked
appealingly to Madame Vassilius, who had witnessed the whole scene--
"it is not true, is it?"

"Yes, dear Baroness, it is true," said Irene soothingly.--"But it is a
nothing after all. Your eyes were deceived for the moment--and Mr. El-
Rmi has shown us very cleverly, by scientific exposition, how the
human sight can be deluded--he conveyed an impression of lilies to
your brain, and you saw lilies accordingly. I quite understand,--it is
only through the brain that we receive any sense of sight. The thing
is easy of comprehension, though it seems wonderful."

"It is devilry!" said the Baroness solemnly, getting up and shaking
out her voluminous pink train with a wrathful gesture.

"No, Madame," said El-Rmi earnestly, with a glance at her which
somehow had the effect of quieting her ruffled feelings. "It is merely
science. Science was looked upon as 'devilry' in ancient times,--but
we in our generation are more liberal-minded."

"But what shall it lead to, all zis science?" demanded the Baroness,
still with some irritation.--"I see not any use in it. If one deceive
ze eye so quickly, it is only to make peoples angry to find demselves
such fools!"

"Ah, my dear lady, if we could all know to what extent exactly we
could be fooled,--not only as regards our sight, but our other senses
and passions, we should be wiser and more capable of self-government
than we are. Every step that helps us to the attainment of such
knowledge is worth the taking."

"And you have taken so many of those steps," said Irene Vassilius,
"that I suppose it would be difficult to deceive you?"

"I am only human, Madame," returned El-Rmi, with a faint touch of
bitterness in his tone, "and therefore I am capable of being led
astray by my own emotions as others are."

"Are we not getting too analytical?" asked Lord Melthorpe cheerily.
"Here is Miss Chester wanting to know where your brother Fraz is. She
only caught a glimpse of him in the distance,--and she would like to
make his closer acquaintance."

"He went with Mr. Ainsworth," began El-Rmi.

"Yes--I saw them together in the conservatory," said Lady Melthorpe.
"They were deep in conversation--but it is time they gave us a little
of their company--I'll go and fetch them here."

She went, but almost immediately returned, followed by the two
individuals in question. Fraz looked a little flushed and excited,--
Roy Ainsworth calm and nonchalant as usual.

"I've asked your brother to come and sit to me to-morrow," the latter
said, addressing himself at once to El-Rmi. "He is quite willing to
oblige me,--and I presume you have no objection?"

"Not the least in the world!" responded El-Rmi with apparent
readiness, though the keen observer might have detected a slight ring
of satirical coldness in his tone.

"He is a curious fellow," continued Roy, looking at Fraz where he
stood, going through the formality of an introduction to Miss Chester,
whose bold bright eyes rested upon him in frank and undisguised
admiration. "He seems to know nothing of life."

"What do you call 'life'?" demanded El-Rmi, with harsh abruptness.

"Why, life as we men live it, of course," answered Roy, complacently.

"'Life, as we men live it!'" echoed El-Rmi. "By Heaven, there is
nothing viler under the sun than life lived so! The very beasts have a
more decent and self-respecting mode of behaviour,--and the everyday
existence of an ordinary 'man about town' is low and contemptible as
compared to that of an honest-hearted Dog!"

Ainsworth lifted his languid eyes with a stare of amazement;--Irene
Vassilius smiled.

"I agree with you!" she said softly.

"Oh, of course!" murmured Roy sar--castically--"Madame Vassilius
agrees with everything that points to, or suggests the utter
worthlessness of Man!"

Her eyes flashed.

"Believe me," she said, with some passion, "I would give worlds to be
able to honour and revere men,--and there are some whom I sincerely
respect and admire,--but I frankly admit that the majority of them
awaken nothing in me but the sentiment of contempt. I regret it, but I
cannot help it."

"You want men to be gods," said Ainsworth, regarding her with an
indulgent smile; "and when they can't succeed, poor wretches, you are
hard on them. You are a born goddess, and to you it comes quite
naturally to occupy a throne on Mount Olympus, and gaze with placid
indifference on all below,--but to others, the process is difficult.
For example, I am a groveller. I grovel round the base of the mountain
and rather like it. A valley is warmer than a summit, always."

A faint sea-shell pink flush crept over Irene's cheeks, but she made
no reply. She was watching Fraz, round whom a bevy of pretty women
were congregated, like nineteenth-century nymphs round a new Eastern
Apollo. He looked a little embarrassed, yet his very diffidence had an
indefinable grace and attraction about it which was quite novel and
charming to the jaded fashionable fair ones who for the moment made
him their chief object of attention. They were pressing him to give
them some music, and he hesitated, not out of any shyness to perform,
but simply from a sense of wonder as to how such a spiritual,
impersonal and divine thing as Music could be made to assert itself in
the midst of so much evident frivolity. He looked appealingly at his
brother,--but El-Rmi regarded him not. He understood this mute
avoidance of his eyes,--he was thrown upon himself to do exactly as he
chose,--and his sense of pride stimulated him to action. Breaking from
the ring of his fair admirers, he advanced towards the piano.

"I will play a simple prelude," he said, "and if you like it, you
shall hear more."

There was an immediate silence. Irene Vassilius moved a little apart
and sat on a low divan, her hands clasped idly in her lap;--near her
stood Lord Melthorpe, Roy Ainsworth, and El-Rmi;--Sir Frederick
Vaughan and his fiance, Idina Chester, occupied what is known as a
"flirtation chair" together; several guests flocked in from the
drawing-rooms, so that the salon was comparatively well-filled. Fraz
poised his delicate and supple hands on the keyboard,--and then--why,
what then? Nothing!--only music!--music divinely pure and sweet as a
lark's song,--music that spoke of things as yet undeclared in mortal
language,--of the mystery of an angel's tears--of the joy of a rose in
bloom,--of the midsummer dreams of a lily enfolded within its green
leaf-pavilion,--of the love-messages carried by silver beams from
bridegroom-stars to bride-satellites,--of a hundred delicate and
wordless marvels the music talked eloquently in rounded and mystic
tone. And gradually, but invincibly, upon all those who listened,
there fell the dreamy nameless spell of perfect harmony,--they did not
understand, they could not grasp the far-off heavenly meanings which
the sounds con--veyed, but they knew and felt such music was not
earthly. The quest of gold, or thirst of fame, had nothing to do with
such composition--it was above and beyond all that. When the delicious
melody ceased, it seemed to leave an emptiness in the air,--an aching
regret in the minds of the audience; it had fallen like dew on arid
soil, and there were tears in many eyes, and passionate emotions
stirring many hearts, as Fraz pressed his finger-tips with a velvet-
like softness on the closing chord. Then came a burst of excited
applause which rather startled him from his dreams. He looked round
with a faint smile of wonderment, and this time chanced to meet his
brother's gaze earnestly fixed upon him. Then an idea seemed to occur
to him, and playing a few soft notes by way of introduction, he said
aloud, almost as though he were talking to himself--

"There are in the world's history a few old legends and stories,
which, whether they are related in prose or rhyme, seem to set
themselves involuntarily to music. I will tell you one now, if you
care to hear it,--the Story of the Priest Philemon."

There was a murmur of delight and expectation, followed by profound
silence as before.

Fraz lifted his eyes,--bright stag-like eyes, now flashing with
warmth and inspiration,--and pressing the piano pedals, he played a
few slow solemn chords like the opening bars of a church chant; then,
in a soft, rich, perfectly modulated voice, he began.


"LONG, long ago, in a far-away province of the Eastern world, there
was once a priest named Philemon. Early and late he toiled to acquire
wisdom--early and late he prayed and meditated on things divine and
unattainable. To the Great Unknown his aspirations turned; with all
the ardour of his soul he sought to penetrate behind the mystic veil
of the Supreme Centre of creation; and the joys and sorrows, hopes and
labours of mortal existence seemed to him but worthless and
contemptible trifles when compared with the eternal marvels of the
incomprehensible Hereafter, on which, in solitude, he loved to dream
and ponder."

Here Fraz paused,--and touching the keys of the piano with a
caressing lightness, played a soft minor melody, which like a silver
thread of sound, accompanied his next words.

"And so, by gradual and almost imperceptible degrees, the wise priest
Philemon forgot the world;--forgot men, and women, and little
children,--forgot the blueness of the skies, the verdure of the
fields,--forgot the grace of daisies growing in the grass,--forgot the
music of sweet birds singing in the boughs,--forgot indeed everything,
except--himself!--and his prayers, and his wisdom, and his burning
desire to approach more closely every hour to that wondrous goal of
the Divine from whence all life doth come, and to which all life must,
in due time, return."

Here the musical accompaniment changed to a plaintive tenderness.

"But by-and-by, news of the wise priest Philemon began to spread in
the town near where he had his habitation,--and people spoke of his
fastings and his watchings with awe and wonder, with hope and fear,--
until at last there came a day when a great crowd of the sick and
sorrowful and oppressed, surrounded his abode, and called upon him to
pray for them, and give them comfort.

"'Bestow upon us some of the Divine Consolation!' they cried, kneeling
in the dust and weeping as they spoke--'for we are weary and worn with
labour,--we suffer with harsh wounds of the heart and spirit,--many of
us have lost all that makes life dear. Pity us, O thou wise servant of
the Supreme--and tell us out of thy stores of heavenly wisdom whether
we shall ever regain the loves that we have lost!'

"Then the priest Philemon rose up in haste and wrath, and going out
before them said--

"'Depart from me, ye accursed crew of wicked worldlings! Why have ye
sought me out, and what have I to do with your petty miseries? Lo, ye
have brought the evils of which ye complain upon yourselves, and
justice demands that ye should suffer. Ask not from me one word of
pity--seek not from me any sympathy for sin. I have severed myself
from ye all, to escape pollution,--my life belongs to God, not to

"And the people hearing him were wroth, and went their way homewards,
sore at heart, and all uncomforted. And Philemon the priest, fearing
lest they might seek him out again, departed from that place for ever,
and made for himself a hut in the deep thickness of the forest where
never a human foot was found to wander save his own. Here in the
silence and deep solitude he resolved to work and pray, keeping his
heart and spirit sanctified from every soiling touch of nature that
could separate his thoughts from the Divine."

Again the music changed, this time to a dulcet rippling passage of
notes like the slowing of a mountain stream,--and Fraz continued,--

"One morning, as, lost in a rapture of holy meditation, he prayed his
daily prayer, a small bird perched upon his window-sill, and began to
sing. Not a loud song, but a sweet song--full of the utmost tenderness
and playful warbling,--a song born out of the leaves and grasses and
gentle winds of heaven,--as delicate a tune as ever small bird sang.
The priest Philemon listened, and his mind wandered. The bird's
singing was sweet; oh, so sweet, that it recalled to him many things
he had imagined long ago forgotten,--almost he heard his mother's
voice again,--and the blithe and gracious days of his early youth
suggested themselves to his memory like the lovely fragments of a poem
once familiar, but now scarce remembered. Presently the bird flew
away, and the priest Philemon awoke as from a dream,--his prayer had
been interrupted; his thoughts had been drawn down to earth from
heaven, all through the twittering of a foolish feathered thing not
worth a farthing! Angry with himself he spent the day in penitence,--
and on the following morning betook himself to his devotions with more
than his usual ardour. Stretched on his prayer-mat he lay entranced;
when suddenly a low sweet trill of sound broke gently through the
silence,--the innocent twittering voice of the little bird once more
aroused him,--first to a sense of wonder, then of wrath. Starting up
impatiently he looked about him, and saw the bird quite close, within
his reach,--it had flown inside his hut, and now hopped lightly over
the floor towards him, its bright eyes full of fearless confidence,
its pretty wings still quivering with the fervour of its song. Then
the priest Philemon seized a heavy oaken staff, and slew it where it
stood with one remorseless blow, and flung the little heap of ruffled
feathers out into the woodland, saying fiercely--

"'Thou, at least, shalt never more disturb my prayers!'

"And even as he thus spoke, a great light shone forth suddenly, more
dazzling than the brightness of the day, and lo! an Angel stood within
the hut, just where the dead bird's blood had stained the floor. And
the priest Philemon fell upon his face and trembled greatly, for the
Vision was more glorious than the grandest of his dreams. And a Voice
called aloud, saying--

"Philemon, why hast thou slain My messenger?"

"And Philemon looked up in fear and wonderment, answering--"

"Dread Lord, what messenger? I have slain nothing but a bird."

"And the voice spake again, saying--"

"O thou remorseless priest!--knowest thou not that every bird in the
forests is Mine,--every leaf on the trees is Mine,--every blade of
grass and every flower is Mine, and is a part of Me! The song of that
slain bird was sweeter than thy many prayers;--and when thou didst
listen to its voice thou wert nearer Heaven than thou hast ever been!
Thou hast rebelled against My law;--in rejecting Love, thou hast
rejected Me,--and when thou didst turn the poor and needy from thy
doors, refusing them all comfort, even so did I turn My Face from thee
and refuse thy petitions. Wherefore hear now thy punishment. For the
space of a thousand years thou shalt live within this forest;--no
human eye shall ever find thee,--no human foot shall ever track thee--
no human voice shall ever sound upon thy ears. No companions shalt
thou have but birds and beasts and flowers,--from these shalt thou
learn wisdom, and through thy love of these alone shalt thou make thy
peace with Heaven! Pray no more,--fast no more,--for such things count
but little in the eternal reckonings,--but love!--and learn to make
thyself beloved, even by the least and lowest, and by this shalt thou
penetrate at last the mystery of the Divine!"

"The voice ceased--the glory vanished and when the priest Philemon
raised his eyes, he was alone."

Here, altering by a few delicate modulations the dreamy character of
the music he had been improvising, Fraz reverted again to the quaint,
simple and solemn chords with which he had opened the recitation.

"Humbled in spirit, stricken at heart, conscious of the justice of his
doom, yet working as one not without hope, Philemon began his heaven-
appointed task. And to this day travellers' legends tell of a vast
impenetrable solitude, a forest of giant trees, where never a human
step has trod, but where it is said, strange colonies of birds and
beasts do congregate,--where rare and marvellous plants and flowers
flourish in their fairest hues,--where golden bees and dazzling
butterflies gather by thousands,--where all the songsters of the air
make the woods musical,--where birds of passage, outward or homeward
bound, rest on their way, sure of a pleasant haven,--and where all the
beautiful, wild, and timid inhabitants of field, forest and mountain,
are at peace together, mutually content in an Eden of their own. There
is a guardian of the place,--so say the country people,--a Spirit,
thin and white, and silver-haired, who understands the language of the
birds, and knows the secrets of the flowers, and in whom all the
creatures of the woods confide--a mystic being whose strange life has
lasted nearly a thousand years. Generations have passed--cities and
empires have crumbled to decay,--and none remember him who was once
called Philemon,--the 'wise' priest, grown wise indeed at last, with
the only Wisdom God ever sanctifies--the Wisdom of Love."

With a soft impressive chord the music ceased,--the story was ended,--
and Fraz rose from the piano to be surrounded at once by a crowd of
admirers, all vying with each other in flattering expressions of
applause and delight; but though he received these compliments with
unaffected and courteous grace enough, his eyes perpetually wandered
to his brother's face,--that dark, absorbed beloved face,--yes,
beloved!--for, rebel as he might against El-Rmi's inflexible will and
despotic power, Fraz knew he could never wrench from out his heart
the deep affection and reverence for him which were the natural result
of years of tender and sympathetic intercourse. If his brother had
commanded him, he had also loved him,--there could be no doubt of
that. Was he displeased or unhappy now, that he looked so sad and
absorbed in gloomy and perplexed thought? A strange pained emotion
stirred Fraz's sensitive soul,--some intangible vague sense of
separation seemed to have arisen between himself and El-Rmi, and he
grew impatient with this brilliant assembly of well-dressed chattering
folk, whose presence prevented him from giving vent to the full
expression of his feelings. Lady Melthorpe talked to him in dulcet
languid tones, fanning herself the while, and telling him sweetly what
a "wonderful touch" he had,--what an "exquisite speaking voice"--and
so forth, all which elegantly turned phrases he heard as in a dream.
As soon as he could escape from her and those of her friends who were
immediately round him, he made his way to El-Rmi and touched his arm.

"Let me stay beside you!" he said in a low tone in which there was a
slight accent of entreaty.

El-Rmi turned, and looked at him kindly.

"Dear boy, you had better make new friends while you can, lest the old
be taken from you."

"Friends!" echoed Fraz--"Friends--here?" he gave a gesture more
eloquent than speech, of doubt and disdain,--then continued, "Might we
not go now? Is it not time to return home and sleep?"

El-Rmi smiled.

"Nay, are we not seeing life? Here we are among pretty women, well-
bred men--the rooms are elegant,--and the conversation is as
delightfully vague and nearly as noisy as the chattering of monkeys--
yet with all these advantages, you talk of sleep!"

Fraz laughed a little.

"Yes, I am tired," he said. "It does not seem to me real, all this--
there is something shadowy and unsubstantial about it. I think sleep
is better."

At that moment Irene Vassilius came up to them.

"I am just going," she said, letting her soft serious eyes dwell on
Fraz with interest, "but I feel I must thank you for your story of
the 'Priest Philemon.' Is it your own idea?--or does such a legend

"Nothing is really new," replied Fraz--"but such as it is, it is my
own invention."

"Then you are a poet and musician at one and the same time," said
Irene. "It seems a natural combination of gifts, yet the two do not
always go together. I hope"--she now addressed herself to El-Rmi--"I
hope very much you will come and see me, though I'm afraid I'm not a
very popular person. My friends are few, so I cannot promise you much
entertainment. Indeed, as a rule, people do not like me."

"I like you!" said Fraz, quickly and impulsively.

She smiled.

"Yes? That is good of you. And I believe you, for you are too
unworldly to deal in flatteries. But, I assure you, that, generally
speaking, literary women are never social favourites."

"Not even when they are lovely like you?" questioned Fraz, with
simple frankness.

She coloured at the evident sincerity of his admiration and the boyish
openness with which it was thus expressed. Then she laughed a little.

"Loveliness is not acknowledged as at all existent in literary
females," she replied lightly, yet with a touch of scorn,--"even if
they do possess any personal charm, it only serves as a peg for the
malicious to hang a slander on. And of the two sexes, men are most
cruel to a woman who dares to think for herself."

"Are you sure of that, Madame?" asked El-Rmi gently. "May not this be
an error of your judgment?"

"I would that it were!" she said with intense expression--"Heaven
knows how sincerely I should rejoice to be proved wrong! But I am not
wrong. Men always judge women as their inferiors, not only physically
(which they are) but mentally (which they are not), and always deny
them an independent soul and independent emotions,--the majority of
men, indeed, treat them pretty much as a sort of superior cattle;--
but, nevertheless, there is a something in what the French call
'L'Eternel Feminin.' Women are distinctly the greatest sufferers in
all suffering creation,--and I have often thought that for so much
pain and so much misjudgment, endured often with such heroic silence
and uncomplaining fortitude, the compensation will be sweeter and more
glorious than we, half drowned in our own tears, can as yet hope for,
or imagine!"

She paused--her eyes were dark with thought and full of a dreamy
sorrow,--then, smiling gently, she held out her hand.

"I talk too much, you will say--women always do! Come and see me if
you feel disposed--not otherwise; I will send you my card through Lady
Melthorpe--meantime, good-night!"

El-Rmi took her hand, and as he pressed it in his own, felt again
that curious thrill which had before communicated itself to his nerves
through the same contact.

"Surely you must be a visionary, Madame!" he said abruptly and with a
vague sense of surprise--"and you see things not at all of this

Her faint roseate colour deepened, giving singular beauty to her face.

"What a tell-tale hand mine is!" she replied, withdrawing it slowly
from his clasp. "Yes--you are right,--if I could not see things higher
than this world, I could not endure my existence for an hour. It is
because I feel the Future so close about me that I have courage for,
and indifference to, the Present."

With that, she left them, and both El-Rmi and Fraz followed her
graceful movements with interested eyes, as she glided through the
rooms in her snowy trailing robes, with the frosty flash of diamonds
in her hair, till she had altogether disappeared; then the languid
voice of Lady Melthorpe addressed them.

"Isn't she an odd creature, that Irene Vassilius? So quaint and
peculiar in her ideas! People detest her, you know--she is so
dreadfully clever!"

"There could not be a better reason for hatred!" said El-Rmi.

"You see, she says such unpleasant things," went on Lady Melthorpe,
complacently fanning herself,--"she has such decided opinions, and
will not accommodate herself to people's ways. I must confess I always
find her de trop, myself."

"She was your guest to-night," said Fraz suddenly, and with such a
sternness in his accent as caused her ladyship to look at him in blank

"Certainly! One must always ask a celebrity."

"If one must always ask, then one is bound always to respect," said
Fraz coldly. "In our code d'honneur, we never speak ill of those who
have partaken of our hospitality."

So saying, he turned on his heel and walked away with so much
haughtiness of demeanour that Lady Melthorpe stood as though rooted to
the spot, staring speechlessly after him. Then rousing herself, she
looked at El-Rmi and shrugged her shoulders.

"Really," she began,--"really, Mr. El-Rmi, your brother's manner is
very strange--"

"It is," returned El-Rmi quickly--"I admit it. His behaviour is
altogether unpolished--and he is quite unaccustomed to society. I told
Lord Melthorpe so,--and I was against his being invited here. He says
exactly what he thinks, without fear or favour, and in this regard is
really a mere barbarian! Allow me to apologize for him!"

Lady Melthorpe bowed stiffly,--she saw, or fancied she saw, a faint
ironical smile playing on El-Rmi's lips beneath his dark moustache.
She was much annoyed,--the idea of a "boy" like Fraz, presuming to
talk to her, a leader of London fashion, about a code d'honneur! The
thing was monstrous,--absurd! And as for Irene Vassilius, why should
not she be talked about?--she was a public person; a writer of books
which Mrs. Grundy in her church-going moods had voted as "dangerous."
Truly Lady Melthorpe considered she had just cause to be ruffled, and
she began to regret having invited these "Eastern men," as she termed
them, to her house at all. El-Rmi perceived her irritation, but he
made no further remark; and as soon as he could conveniently do so, he
took his formal leave of her. Quickly threading his way through the
now rapidly thinning throng, he sought out Fraz, whom he found in the
hall talking to Roy Ainsworth and making final arrangements for the
sitting he was to give the artist next day.

"I should like to make a study of your head too," said Roy, with a
keen glance at El-Rmi as he approached--"but I suppose you have no

"No time--and still less inclination!" responded El-Rmi laughingly;
"for I have sworn that no 'counterfeit presentment' of my bodily form
shall ever exist. It would always be a false picture,--it would never
be Me, because it would only represent the Perishable, whilst I am the

"Singular man!" said Roy Ainsworth. "What do you mean?"

"What should I mean," replied El-Rmi quickly, "save what all your
religions and churches mean, if in truth they have any meaning. Is
there not something else besides this fleshly covering? If you can
paint the imagined Soul of a man looking out of his eyes, you are a
great artist,--but if you could paint the Soul itself, stripped of its
mortal disguise, radiant, ethereal, brilliant as lightning, beautiful
as dawn, you would be greater still. And the soul is the Me,---these
features of mine, this Appearance, is mere covering,--we want a
Portrait, not a Costume."

"Your argument applies to your brother as well as yourself," said
Ainsworth, wondering at the eloquent wildness of this strange El-
Rmi's language, and fascinated by it in spite of himself.

"Just so! Only the Earth-garment of Fraz is charming and becoming--
mine is not. It is a case of 'my hair is white but not with years'--
the "Prisoner of Chillon" sort of thing. Good-night!'

"Good-night!" and the artist shook hands warmly with both brothers,
saying to Fraz as he parted from him--"I may expect you then to-
morrow? You will not fail?"

"You may rely upon me!" and Fraz nodded lightly in adieu, and
followed El-Rmi out of the house into the street, where they began to
walk homeward together at a rapid rate. As they went, by some mutual
involuntary instinct they lifted their eyes to the dense blue heavens,
where multitudes of stars were brilliantly visible. Fraz drew a long
deep breath.

"There," he said, "is the Infinite and Real,--what we have seen of
life to-night is finite and unreal."

El-Rmi made no reply.

"Do you not think so?" persisted Fraz earnestly.

"I cannot say definitely what is Real and what is Unreal," said El-
Rmi slowly--"both are so near akin. Fraz, are you aware you offended
Lady Melthorpe tonight?"

"Why should she be offended? I only said just what I thought."

"Good heavens, my dear boy, if you always go about saying just what
you think, you will find the world too hot to hold you. To say the
least of it, you will never be fit for society."

"I don't want to be fit for it," said Fraz disdainfully, "if Lady
Melthorpe's 'at home' is a picture of it. I want to forget it,--the
most of it, I mean. I shall remember Madame Vassilius because she is
sympathetic and interesting. But for the rest!--my dearest brother, I
am far happier with you."

El-Rmi took his arm gently.

"Yet you leave me to-morrow to gratify an artist's whim!" he said.
"Have you thought of that?"

"Oh, but that is nothing--only an hour or two's sitting. He was so
very anxious that I could not refuse. Does it displease you?"

"My dear Fraz, I am displeased at nothing. You complained of my
authority over you once--and I have determined you shall not complain
again. Consider yourself free."

"I do not want my liberty," said Fraz, almost petulantly.

"Try it!" responded El-Rmi with a smile and half a sigh. "Liberty is
sweet,--but, like other things, it brings its own responsibilities."

They walked on till they had almost reached their own door.

"Your story of the priest Philemon was very quaint and pretty," said
El-Rmi then abruptly. "You meant it as a sort of allegory for me, did
you not?"

Fraz looked wistfully at him, but hesitated to reply.

"It does not quite fit me," went on El-Rmi gently. "I am not
impervious to love--for I love you. Perhaps the angels will take that
fact into consideration, when they are settling my thousand or million
years' punishment."

There was a touch of quiet pathos in his voice which moved Fraz
greatly, and he could not trust himself to speak. When they entered
their own abode, El-Rmi said the usual "Good-night" in his usual
kindly manner,--but Feraz reverently stooped and kissed the hand
extended to him,--the potent hand that had enriched his life with
poesy and dowered it with dreams.


ALL the next day El-Rmi was alone. Fraz went out early to fulfil the
appointment made with Roy Ainsworth; no visitors called,--and not even
old Zaroba came near the study, where, shut up with his books and
papers, her master worked assiduously hour after hour, writing as
rapidly as hand and pen would allow, and satisfying his appetite
solely with a few biscuits dipped in wine. Just as the shadows of
evening were beginning to fall, his long solitude was disturbed by the
sharp knock of a telegraph-messenger, who handed him a missive which
ran briefly thus--

"Your brother stays to dine with me.--AINSWORTH."

El-Rmi crushed the paper in his hand, then flinging it aside, stood
for a moment, lost in meditation, with a sorrowful expression in his
dark eyes.

"Ay me! the emptiness of the world!" he murmured at last--"I shall be
left alone, I suppose, as my betters are left, according to the rule
of this curiously designed and singularly unsatisfactory system of
human life. What do the young care for the solitude of their elders
who have tended and loved them? New thoughts, new scenes, new
aspirations beckon them, and off they go like birds on the wing,--
never to return to the old nest or the old ways. I despise the
majority of women myself,--and yet I pity from my soul all those who
are mothers,--the miserable dignity and pathos of maternity are, in my
opinion, grotesquely painful. To think of the anguish the poor
delicate wretches endure in bringing children at all into the world,--
then, the tenderness and watchful devotion expended on their early
years,--and then--why then, these same children grow up for the most
part into indifferent (when not entirely callous) men and women, who
make their own lives as it seems best to themselves, and almost forget
to whom they owe their very existence. It is hard--bitterly hard.
There ought to be some reason for such a wild waste of love and
affliction. At present, however, I can see none."

He sighed deeply, and stared moodily into the deepening shadows.

"Loneliness is horrible!" he said aloud, as though addressing some
invisible auditor. "It is the chief terror of death,--for one must
always die alone. No matter how many friends and relatives stand
weeping round the bed, one is absolutely alone at the hour of death,
for the stunned soul wanders blindly--"

"out of sight.
Far off in a place where it is not heard."

That solitary pause and shudder on the brink of the Unseen is
fearful,--it unnerves us all to think of it. If Love could help us,--
but even Love grows faint and feeble then."

As he mused thus, a strange vague longing came over him,--an impulse
arising out of be knew not what suggestion; and acting on his thought,
he went suddenly and swiftly upstairs, and straight into the chamber
of Lilith. Zaroba was there, and rose from her accustomed corner
silently, and moved with a somewhat feeble step into the ante-room
while El-Rmi bent over the sleeping girl. Lovelier than ever she
seemed that evening,--and as he stooped above her, she stretched out
her fair white arms and smiled. His heart beat quickly,--he had, for
the moment, ceased to analyze his own feelings,--and he permitted
himself to gaze upon her beauty and absorb it, without, as usual,
taking any thought of the scientific aspect of her condition.

"Tresses twisted by fairy fingers.
In which the light of the morning lingers!"

he murmured, as he touched a rippling strand of the lovely hair that
lay spread like a fleece of gold floss silk on the pillow near him,--
"Poor Lilith!--Sweet Lilith!"

As if responsive to his words, she turned slightly towards him, and
felt the air blindly with one wandering white hand. Gently he caught
it and imprisoned it within his own,---then on a strange impulse,
kissed it. To his utter amazement she answered that touch as though it
had been a call.

"I am here, Belovd!"

He started, and an icy thrill ran through his veins;--that word
"Belovd" was a sort of electric shock to his system, and sent a
dizzying rush of blood to his brain. What did she mean,--what could
she mean? The last time she had addressed him she had declared that he
was not even her friend--now she called him her "beloved"--as much to
his amazement as his fear. Presently, however, he considered that here
perhaps was some new development of his experiment;--the soul of
Lilith might possibly be in closer communion with him than he had yet
imagined. But in spite of his attempt to reason away his emotions, he
was nervous, and stood by the couch silently, afraid to speak, and
equally afraid to move. Lilith was silent too. A long pause ensued, in
which the usually subdued tickings of the clock seemed to become
painfully audible. El-Rmi's breath came and went quickly,--he was
singularly excited,--some subtle warmth from the little hand he held,
permeated his veins, and a sense of such utter powerlessness possessed
him as he had never experienced before. What ailed him? He could not
tell. Where was the iron force of his despotic will? He seemed unable
to exert it,--unable even to think coherently while Lilith's hand thus
rested in his. Had she grown stronger than himself? A tingling tremor
ran through him, as the strange words of the monk's written warning
suddenly recurred to his memory.

"Beware the end! With Lilith's love comes Lilith's freedom."

But Lilith smiled with placid sweetness, and still left her hand
confidingly in his; he held that hand, so warm and soft and white, and
was loth to let it go,--he studied the rapt expression of the
beautiful face, the lovely curve of the sweet shut lips, the
delicately veined lids of the closed eyes,--and was dimly conscious of
a sense of vague happiness curiously intermingled with terror. By-and-
by he began to collect his ideas which had been so suddenly scattered
by that one word "Belovd,"--and he resolved to break the mystic
silence that oppressed and daunted him.

"Dreaming or waking, is she?" he queried aloud, a little tremulously,
and as though he were talking to himself. "She must be dreaming!"

"Dreaming of joy!" said Lilith softly, and with quick responsiveness--
"only that Joy is no dream! I hear your voice,--I am conscious of your
touch,--almost I see you! The cloud hangs there between us still--but
God is good,--He will remove that cloud."

El-Rmi listened, perplexed and wondering.

"Lilith," he said in a voice that strove in vain to assume its wonted
firmness and authority--"What say you of clouds,--you who are in the
full radiance of a light that is quenchless? Have you not told me of a
glory that out-dazzles the sun, in which you move and have your
being,--then what do you know of Shadow?"

"Yours is the Shadow," replied Lilith--"not mine! I would that I could
lift it from your eyes, that you might see the Wonder and the Beauty.
Oh, cruel Shadow, that lies between my love and me!"

"Lilith! Lilith!" exclaimed El-Rmi in strange agitation--"Why will
you talk of love?"

"Do you not think of love?" said Lilith--"and must I not respond to
your innermost thought?"

"Not always do you so respond, Lilith!" said El-Rmi quickly,
recovering himself a little, and glad of an opportunity to bring back
his mind to a more scientific level. "Often you speak of things I know
not,--things that perhaps I shall never know--"

"Nay, you must know," said Lilith, with soft persistence. "Every unit
of life in every planet is bound to know its Cause and Final
Intention. All is clear to me, and will be so to you, hereafter. You
ask me of these things--I tell you,--but you do not believe me;--you
will never believe me till--the end."

"Beware the end!" The words echoed themselves so distinctly in El-
Rmi's mind that he could almost have fancied they were spoken aloud
in the room. "What end?" he asked eagerly.

But to this Lilith answered nothing.

He looked at the small sensitive hand he held, and stroking it gently,
was about to lay it back on her bosom, when all at once she pressed
her fingers closely over his palm, and sat upright, her delicate face
expressive of the most intense emotion, notwithstanding her closed

"Write!" she said in a clear penetrating voice that sent silvery
echoes through the room--"write these truths to the world you live in.
Tell the people they all work for Evil, and therefore Evil shall be
upon them. What they sow, even that shall they reap, with the measure
they have used, it shall be measured to them again. O wild world!--sad
world!--world wherein the pride of wealth, the joy of sin, the cruelty
of avarice, the curse of selfishness, outweigh all pity, all sympathy,
all love! For this God's law of Compensation makes but one return--
Destruction. Wars shall prevail; plague and famine shall ravage the
nations;--young children shall murder the parents who bore them; theft
and rapine shall devastate the land. For your world is striving to
live without God,--and a world without God is a disease that must die.
Like a burnt-out star this Earth shall fall from its sphere and vanish
utterly--and its sister-planets shall know it no more. For when it is
born again, it will be new."

The words came from her lips with a sort of fervid eloquence which
seemed to exhaust her, for she grew paler and paler, and her head
began to sink backward on the pillow. El-Rmi gently put his arm round
her to support her, and as he did so, a kind of supernatural light
irradiated her features.

"Believe me, O my Belovd, believe the words of Lilith!" she murmured.
"There is but one Law leading to all Wisdom. Evil generates Evil, and
contains within itself its own retribution. Good generates good, and
holds within itself the germ of eternal reproduction. Love begets
Love, and from Love is born Immortality!"

Her voice grew fainter,--she sank entirely back on her pillow; yet
once again her lips moved and the word "Immortality!" floated
whisperingly forth like a sigh. El-Rmi drew his arm away from her,
and at the same instant disengaged his hand from her clasp. She seemed
bewildered at this, and for a minute or two, felt in the air as though
searching for some missing treasure,--then her arms fell passively on
each side of her, seemingly inert and lifeless. El-Rmi bent over her
half curiously, half anxiously,--his eyes dwelt on the ruby-like jewel
that heaved gently up and down on her softly rounded bosom,--he
watched the red play of light around it, and on the white satiny skin
beneath,--and then,--all at once his sight grew dazzled and his brain
began to swim. How lovely she was!--how much more than lovely! And how
utterly she was his!--his, body and soul, and in his power! He was
startled at the tenour of his own unbidden thoughts,--whence, in God's
name, came these new impulses, these wild desires that fired his
blood?...Furious with himself for what he deemed the weakness of his
own emotions, he strove to regain the mastery over his nerves,--to
settle his mind once more in its usual attitude of cold inflexibility
and indifferent composure,--but all in vain. Some subtle chord in his
mental composition had been touched mysteriously, he knew not how, and
had set all the other chords a-quivering,--and he felt himself all
suddenly to be as subdued and powerless as when his mysterious
visitor, the monk from Cyprus, had summoned up (to daunt him, as he
thought) the strange vision of an Angel in his room.

Again he looked at Lilith;--again he resisted the temptation that
assailed him to clasp her in his arms, to shower a lover's kisses on
her lips, and thus waken her to the full bitter-sweet consciousness of
earthly life,--till in the sharp extremity of his struggle, and
loathing himself for his own folly, he suddenly dropped on his knees
by the side of the couch and gazed with a vague wild entreaty at the
tranquil loveliness that lay there so royally enshrined.

"Have mercy, Lilith!" he prayed half aloud, and scarcely conscious of
his words. "If you are stronger in your weakness than I in my
strength, have mercy! Repel me,--distrust me, disobey me--but do not
love me! Make me not as one of the foolish for whom a woman's smile, a
woman's touch, are more than life, and more than wisdom. O let me not
waste the labour of my days on a freak of passion!--let me not lose
everything I have gained by long study and research, for the mere wild
joy of an hour! Lilith, Lilith! Child, woman, angel!--whatever you
are, have pity upon me! I dare not love you!...I dare not!"

So murmuring incoherently, he rose, and walking dizzily like a man
abruptly startled from deep sleep, he went straight out of the room,
never looking back once, else he might have seen how divinely, how
victoriously Lilith smiled!


REACHING his study, he shut himself in and locked the door,--and then
sitting down, buried his head in his hands and fell to thinking. Such
odd thoughts too!--they came unbidden, and chased one another in and
out of his brain like will-o'-the-wisps in a wilderness. It was
growing late, and Fraz had not yet returned,--but he heeded not the
hour, or his brother's continued absence,--he was occupied in such a
mental battle with his own inward forces as made him utterly
indifferent to external things. The question he chiefly asked himself
was this:--Of what use was all the science he had discovered and
mastered, if he was not exempt,--utterly exempt from the emotions
common to the most ignorant of men? His pride had been that he was
"above" human nature,--that he was able to look down upon its trivial
joys and sorrows with a supreme and satiric scorn,--that he knew its
ways so well as to be able to calculate its various hesitating moves
in all directions, social and political, with very nearly exact
accuracy. Why then was he shaken to the very centre of his being to-
night, by the haunting vision of an angelic face and the echo of a
sweet faint voice softly breathing the words--"My belovd!" He could
dominate others; why could he not dominate himself?

"This will never do!" he said aloud at last, starting up from his
brooding attitude--"I must read--I must work,--I must, at all costs,
get out of this absurd frame of mind into which I have unwittingly
fallen. Besides, how often have I not assured myself that for all
practical earthly considerations Lilith is dead--positively dead!"

And to reinstate himself in this idea, he unlocked his desk and took
from it a small parchment volume in which he had carefully chronicled
the whole account of his experiment on Lilith from the beginning. One
page was written in the form of a journal-the opposite leaf being
reserved for "queries," and the book bore the curious superscription
"In Search of the Soul of Lilith" on its cover. The statement began at
once without preamble, thus:--

"August 8, 18--. 9 p.m.--Lilith, an Arab girl, aged twelve, dies
in my arms. Cause of death, fever and inanition. Heart ceased to beat
at ten minutes past eight this evening. While the blood is still warm
in the corpse, I inject the 'Electro-flamma' under the veins, close
beneath the heart. No immediate effect visible.

"11 p.m.--Arab women lay out Lilith's corpse for burial.
Questioned the people as to her origin. An orphan child, of poor
parentage, no education, and unquiet disposition. Not instructed in
religious matters, but following the religious customs of others by
instinct and imitation. Distinctive features of the girl when in
health--restlessness, temper, animalism, and dislike of restraint.
Troublesome to manage, and not a thinking child by any means.

"August 9. 5 a.m.--The caravan has just started on its way, leaving
the corpse of Lilith with me. The woman Zaroba remains behind. Fraz I
sent away last night in haste. I tell Zaroba part of my intention; she
is superstitious and afraid of me, but willing to serve me. Lilith
remains inanimate. I again use the 'Electro-flamma,' this time close
to all the chief arteries. No sign of life.

"August 10. Noon.--I begin rather to despair. As a last resource
I have injected carefully a few drops of the 'Flamma' close to the
brain; it is the mainspring of the whole machine, and if it can be set
in motion--

"Midnight. Victory! The brain has commenced to pulsate feebly,
and the heart with it. Breathing has begun, but slowly and with
difficulty. A faint colour has come into the hitherto waxen face.
Success is possible now.

"August 15.--During these last five days Lilith has breathed,
and, to a certain extent, lived. She does not open her eyes, nor move
a muscle of her body, and at times still appears dead. She is kept
alive (if it is life) by the vital fluid, and by that only. I must
give her more time.

"August 20.--I have called her by name, and she has answered--
but how strangely! Where does she learn the things she speaks of? She
sees the Earth, she tells me, like a round ball circling redly in a
cloud of vapours, and she hears music everywhere, and perceives a
'light beyond.' Where and how does she perceive anything?"

Here on the opposite side of the page was written the following
"query," which in this case was headed


"Given, a child's brain, not wholly developed in its
intellectual capacity, with no impressions save those which are purely
material, and place that brain in a state of perpetual trance, how
does it come to imagine or comprehend things which science cannot
prove? Is it the Soul which conveys these impressions, and if so, what
is the Soul, and where is it?"

El-Rmi read the passage over and over again, then, sighing
impatiently, closed the book and put it by.

"Since I wrote that, what has she not said--what has she not told me!"
he muttered; "and the 'child's brain' is a child's brain no longer,
but a woman's, while she has obtained absolutely no knowledge of any
sort by external means. Yet she--she who was described by those who
knew her in her former life as 'not a thinking child, troublesome and
difficult to manage,' she it is who describes to me the scenery and
civilization of Mars, the inhabitants of Sirius, the wonders of a
myriad of worlds; she it is who talks of the ravishing beauty of
things Divine and immortal, of the glory of the heavens, of the
destined fate of the world. God knows it is very strange!--and the
problem I wrote out six years ago is hardly nearer solving than it was
then. If I could believe--but then I cannot--I must always doubt, and
shall not doubt lead to discovery?"

Thus arguing with himself, and scoffing interiorly at the suggestion
which just then came unbidden to his mind--"Blessed are they which
have not seen and yet believed"--he turned over some more papers and
sorted them, with the intention and hope of detaching his thoughts
entirely from what had suddenly become the too-enthralling subject of
Lilith's beauteous personality. Presently he came upon a memorandum,
over which he nodded and smiled with a sort of grim satirical content,
entitled, "The Passions of the Human Animal as Nature made Him;" it
was only a scrap--a hint of some idea which he had intended to make
use of in literary work, but he read it over now with a good deal of
curious satisfaction. It ran thus:

"Man, as a purely natural creature, fairly educated, but wholly
unspiritualized, is a mental composition of: Hunger, Curiosity, Self-
Esteem, Avarice, Cowardice, Lust, Cruelty, Personal Ambition; and on
these vile qualities alone our 'society' hangs together; the virtues
have no place anywhere, and do not count at all, save as conveniently
pious metaphors."

"It is true!" he said aloud--"as true as the very light of the skies!
Now am I, or have I ever been, guilty of these common vices of
ordinary nature? No, no; I have examined my own conscience too often
and too carefully. I have been accused of personal ambition, but even
that is a false accusation, for I do not seek vulgar rewards, or the
noise of notoriety ringing about my name. All that I am seeking to
discover is meant for the benefit of the world; that Humanity--poor,
wretched, vicious Humanity--may know positively and finally that there
is a Future. For till they do know it, beyond all manner of doubt, why
should they strive to be better? Why should they seek to quell their
animalism? Why should they need to be any better than they are? And
why, above all things, should they be exhorted by their preachers and
teachers to fasten their faith to a Myth, and anchor their hopes on a

At that moment a loud and prolonged rat-tat-tatting at the street-door
startled him,--he hastily thrust all his loose manuscripts into a
drawer, and went to answer the summons, glancing at the clock as he
passed it with an air of complete bewilderment,--for it was close upon
two a.m., and he could not imagine how the time had flown. He had
scarcely set foot across the hall before another furious knocking
began, and he stopped abruptly to listen to the imperative clatter
with a curious wondering expression on his dark handsome face. When
the noise ceased again, he began slowly to undo the door.

"Patience, my dear boy," he said, as he flung it open--"is a virtue,
as you must have seen it set forth in copy-books. I provided you with
a latch-key--where is it?--there could not be a more timely hour for
its usage."

But while he spoke, Fraz, for it was he, had sprung in swiftly like
some wild animal pursued by hunters, and he now stood in the hall,
nearly breathless, staring confusedly at his brother with big,
feverishly-bright bewildered eyes.

"Then I have escaped!" he said in a half-whisper--"I am at home,--
really at home again!"

El-Rmi looked at him steadily,--then, turning away quietly, carefully
shut and bolted the door.

"Have you spent a happy day, Fraz?" he gently inquired.

"Happy!" echoed Fraz--"Happy? Yes. No! Good God!--what do you mean by

El-Rmi looked at him again, and making no reply to this adjuration,
simply turned about and went into his study. Fraz followed.

"I know what you think," he said in pained accents--"You think I've
been drinking--so I have. But I'm not drunk, for all that. They gave
me wine--bad Burgundy--detestable champagne--the sun never shone on
the grapes that made it,--and I took very little of it. It is not that
which has filled me with a terror too real to deserve your scorn,--it
is not that which has driven me home here to you for help and

"It is somewhat late to be 'driven' home," remarked El-Rmi with a
slightly sarcastic smile--"Two in the morning,--and--bad champagne or
good,--you are talking, my dear Fraz, to say the least of it, rather

"For God's sake do not sneer at me!" cried Fraz passionately--"I
shall go mad if you do! Is it as late as you say?--I never knew it. I
fled from them at midnight;--I have wandered about alone under the
stars since then."

At these words, El-Rmi's expression changed from satire to
compassion. His fine eyes softened, and their lustrous light grew
deeper and more tender.

"Alone--and under the stars?" he repeated softly--"Are not the two
things incompatible--to you? Have you not made the stars your
companions--almost your friends?"

"No, no!" said Fraz, with a swift gesture of utter hopelessness. "Not
now--not now! for all is changed. I see life as it is--hideous, foul,
corruptible, cruel! and the once bright planets look pitiless; the
heavens I thought so gloriously designed, are but an impenetrable
vault arched over an ever-filling Grave. There is no light, no hope
anywhere; how can there be in the face of so much sin? El-Rmi, why
did you not tell me? why did you not warn me of the accursd Evil of
this pulsating movement men call Life? For it seems I have not lived,
I have only dreamed!"

And with a heavy sigh that seemed wrung from his very heart, he threw
himself wearily into a chair, and buried his head between his hands in
an attitude of utter dejection.

El-Rmi looked at him as he sat thus, with a certain shadow of
melancholy on his own fine features, then he spoke gently:

"Who told you, Fraz, that you have not lived?" he asked.

"Zaroba did, first of all," returned Fraz reluctantly; "and now he,
the artist Ainsworth, says the same thing. It seems that to men of the
world I look a fool. I know nothing; I am as ignorant as a barbarian--

"Of what?" queried his brother. "Of wine, loose women, the race-course
and the gaming-table? Yes, I grant you, you are ignorant of these, and
you may thank God for your ignorance. And these wise 'men of the
world' who are so superior to you--in what does their wisdom consist?"

Fraz sat silent, wrapt in meditation. Presently he looked up; his
lashes were wet, and his lips trembled.

"I wish," he murmured, "I wish I had never gone there,--I wish I had
been content to stay with you."

El-Rmi laughed a little, but it was to hide a very different emotion.

"My dear fellow," he said lightly, "I am not an old woman that I
should wish you to be tied to my apron-strings. Come, make a clean
breast of it; if not the champagne, what is it that has so seriously
disagreed with you?"

"Everything!" replied Fraz emphatically. "The whole day has been one
of discord--what wonder then that I myself am out of tune! When I
first started off from the house this morning, I was full of curious
anticipation--I looked upon this invitation to an artist's studio as a
sort of break in what I chose to call the even monotony of my
existence,--I fancied I should imbibe new ideas, and be able to
understand something of the artistic world of London if I spent the
day with a man truly distinguished in his profession. When I arrived
at the studio, Mr. Ainsworth was already at work--he was painting--a

"Well?" said El-Rmi, seeing that Feraz paused, and stammered

"She was nude,--this woman," he went on in a low shamed voice, a hot
flush creeping over his delicate boyish face,--"A creature without any
modesty or self-respect. A model, Mr. Ainsworth called her,--and it
seems that she took his money for showing herself thus. Her body was
beautiful; like a statue flushed with life,--but she was a devil, El-
Rmi!--the foulness of her spirit was reflected in her bold eyes--the
coarseness of her mind found echo in her voice,--and I--I sickened at
the sight of her; I had never believed in the existence of fiends,--
but she was one!"

El-Rmi was silent, and Fraz resumed--

"As I tell you, Ainsworth was painting her, and he asked me to sit
beside him and watch his work. His request surprised me,--I said to
him in a whisper, 'Surely she will resent the presence of a stranger?'
He stared at me. 'She? Whom do you mean?' he inquired. 'The woman
there,' I answered. He burst out laughing, called me 'an innocent,'
and said she was perfectly accustomed to 'pose' before twenty men at a
time, so that I need have no scruples on that score. So I sat down as
he bade me, and watched in silence, and thought--"

"Ah, what did you think?" asked El-Rmi.

"I thought evil things," answered Fraz deliberately. "And, while
thinking them, I knew they were evil. And I put my own nature under a
sort of analysis, and came to the conclusion that, when a man does
wrong, he is perfectly aware that it is wrong, and that, therefore,
doing wrong deliberately and consciously, he has no right to seek
forgiveness, either through Christ or any other intermediary. He
should be willing to bear the brunt of it, and his prayers should be
for punishment, not for pardon."

"A severe doctrine," observed El-Rmi. "Strangely so, for a young man
who has not 'lived,' but only 'dreamed.'"

"In my dreams I see nothing evil," said Fraz, "and I think nothing
evil. All is harmonious; all works in sweet accordance with a Divine
and Infinite plan, of whose ultimate perfection I am sure. I would
rather dream so, than live as I have lived today."

El-Rmi forbore to press him with any questions, and, after a little
pause, he went on:

"When that woman--the model--went away from the studio, I was as
thankful as one might be for the removal of a plague. She dropped a
curtain over her bare limbs and disappeared like some vanishing evil
spirit. Then Ainsworth asked me to sit to him. I obeyed willingly. He
placed me in a half-sitting, half-recumbent attitude, and began to
sketch. Suddenly, after about half an hour, it occurred to me that he
perhaps wanted to put me in the same picture with that fiend who had
gone, and I asked him the question point-blank. 'Why, certainly!' he
said. 'You will appear as the infatuated lover of that lady, in my
great Academy work.' Then, El-Rmi, some suppressed rage in me broke
loose. I sprang up and confronted him angrily. 'Never!' I cried. 'You
shall never picture me thus! If you dared to do it, I would rip your
canvas to shreds on the very walls of the Academy itself! I am no
"model," to sell my personality to you for gold!' He laughed in that
lazy, unmirthful way of his. 'No,' he said, 'you are certainly not a
model, you are a tiger--a young tiger--quite furious and untamed. I
wish you would go and rip up my picture on the Academy walls, as you
say; it would make my fortune; I should have so many orders for
duplicates. My dear fellow, if you won't let me put you into my
canvas, you are no use to me. I want your meditative face for the face
of a poet destroyed by a passion for Phryne. I really think you might
oblige me.' 'Never!' I said; 'the thing would be a libel and a lie. My
face is not the face you want. You want a weak face, a round foolish
brow, and a receding chin. Why, as God made me, and as I am, every one
of my features would falsify your picture's story! The man who
voluntarily sacrifices his genius and his hopes of heaven to vulgar
vice and passion, must have weakness in him somewhere, and as a true
artist you are bound to show that weakness in the features you
pourtray.' 'And have you no weakness, you young savage?' he asked.
'Not that weakness!' I said. 'The wretched incapacity of will that
brings the whole soul down to a grovelling depth of materialism--that
is not in me!' I spoke angrily, El-Rmi, perhaps violently; but I
could not help myself. He stared at me curiously, and began drawing
lines on his palette with his brush dipped in colour. 'You are a very
singular young fellow,' he said at last. 'But I must tell you that it
was the fair Irene Vassilius who suggested to me that your face would
be suitable for that of the poet in my picture. I wanted to please
her--' 'You will please her more by telling her what I say,' I
interrupted him abruptly. 'Tell her--' 'That you are a new Parsifal,'
he said mockingly. 'Ah, she will never believe it! All men in her
opinion are either brutes or cowards.' Then he took up a fresh square
of canvas, and added: 'Well, I promise you I will not put you in my
picture, as you have such a rooted objection to figuring in public as
a slave of Phryne, though, I assure you, most young fellows would be
proud of such a distinction; for one is hardly considered a "man"
nowadays unless one professes to be "in love"--God save the mark!--
with some female beast of the stage or the music-hall. Such is life,
my boy! There! now sit still with that look of supreme scorn on your
countenance, and that will do excellently.' 'On your word of honour,
you will not place me in your picture?' I said. 'On my word of
honour,' he replied. So, of course, I could not doubt him. And he drew
my features on his canvas quickly, and with much more than ordinary
skill; and, when he had finished his sketch, he took me out to lunch
with him at a noisy, crowded place, called the 'Criterion.' There were
numbers of men and women there, eating and drinking, all of a low
type, I thought, and some of them of a most vulgar and insolent
bearing, more like dressed-up monkeys than human beings, I told
Ainsworth; but he laughed, and said they were very fair specimens of
civilized society. Then, after lunch, we went to a Club, where several
men were smoking and throwing cards about. They asked me to play, and
I told them I knew nothing of the game. Whereupon they explained it;
and I said it seemed to me to be quite an imbecile method of losing
money. Then they laughed uproariously. One said I was 'very fresh,'
whatever that might mean. Another asked Ainsworth what he had brought
me there for, and Ainsworth answered: 'To show you one of the greatest
wonders of the century--a really young man in his youth,' and then
they laughed again. Later on he took me into the Park. There I saw
Madame Vassilius in her carriage. She looked fair and cold, and proud
and weary all at once. Her horses came to a standstill under the
trees, and Ainsworth went up and spoke to her. She looked at me very
earnestly as she gave me her hand, and only said one thing: 'What a
pity you are not with your brother!' I longed to ask her why, but she
seemed unwilling to converse, and soon gave the signal to her coachman
to drive on--in fact, she went at once out of the Park. Then Ainsworth
got angry and sullen, and said: 'I hate intellectual women! That
pretty scribbler has made so much money that she is perfectly
independent of man's help--and, being independent, she is insolent.' I
was surprised at his tone. I said I could not see where he perceived
the insolence. 'Can you not?' he asked. 'She studies men instead of
loving them; that is where she is insolent and--insufferable!' He was
so irritated that I did not pursue the subject, and he then pressed me
to stay and dine with him. I accepted--and I am sorry I did."

"Why?" asked El-Rmi in purposely indifferent tones. "At present, so
far as you have told me, your day seems to have passed in a very
harmless manner. A peep at a model, a lunch at the Criterion, a glance
at a gaming-club, a stroll in the Park--what could be more ordinary?
There is no tragedy in it, such as you seem inclined to imagine; it is
all the merest bathos."

Fraz looked up indignantly, his eyes sparkling.

"Is there nothing tragic in the horrible, stifling, strangling
consciousness of evil surrounding one like a plague?" he demanded
passionately. "To know and to feel that God is far off, instead of
near; that one is shut up in a prison of one's own making, where sweet
air and pure light cannot penetrate; to be perfectly conscious that
one is moving and speaking with difficulty and agitation in a thick,
choking atmosphere of lies--lies--all lies! Is that not tragic? Is
that all bathos?"

"My dear fellow, it is life!" said El-Rmi sedately. "It is what you
wanted to see, to know, and to understand."

"It is not life!" declared Fraz hotly. "The people who accept it as
such, are fools, and delude themselves. Life, as God gave it to us, is
beautiful and noble--grandly suggestive of the Future beyond; but you
will not tell me there is anything beautiful or noble or suggestive in
the life led by such men and women as I saw to-day. With the exception
of Madame Vassilius--and she, I am told, is considered eccentric and a
'visionary'--I have seen no one who would be worth talking to for an
hour. At Ainsworth's dinner, for instance, there were some men who
called themselves artists, and they talked, not of art, but of money;
how much they could get, and how much they would get from certain
patrons of theirs whom they called 'full-pursed fools.' Well, and that
woman--that model I told you of--actually came to dine at Ainsworth's
table, and other coarse women like her. Surely, El-Rmi, you can
imagine what their conversation was like? And as the time went on
things became worse. There was no restraint, and at last I could stand
it no longer. I rose up from the table, and left the room without a
word. Ainsworth followed me; he was flushed with wine, and he looked
foolish. 'Where are you going?' he asked. 'Mamie Dillon,' that was the
name of his model, 'wants to talk to you.' I made him no answer.
'Where are you going?' he repeated angrily. 'Home, of course,' I
replied, 'I have stayed here too long as it is. Let me pass.' He was
excited; he had taken too much wine, I know, and he scarcely knew what
he was saying. 'Oh, I understand you!' he exclaimed. 'You and Irene
Vassilius are of a piece--all purity, eh! all disgust at the manners
and customs of the "lower animals." Well, I tell you we are no worse
than anyone else in modern days. My lord the duke's conversation
differs very little from that of his groom; and the latest imported
American heiress in search of a title, rattles on to the full as
volubly and ruthlessly as Mamie Dillon. Go home, if go you must; and
take my advice, if you don't like what you've seen in the world to-
day, stay home for good. Stay in your shell, and dream your dreams; I
dare say they will profit you quite as much as our realities!' He
laughed, and as I left him I said, 'You mistake! it is you who are
"dreaming," as you call it; dreaming a bad dream, too; it is I who
live.' Then I went out of the house, as I tell you, and wandered
alone, under the stars, and thought bitter things."

"Why 'bitter'?" asked El-Rmi.

"I do not know," returned Fraz moodily, "except that all the world
seemed wrong. I wondered how God could endure so much degradation on
the face of one of his planets, without some grand, Divine protest."

"The protest is always there," said El-Rmi quickly. "Silent, but
eternal, in the existence of Good in the midst of Evil."

Fraz lifted his eyes and rested their gaze on his brother with an
expression of unutterable affection.

"El-Rmi, keep me with you!" he entreated; "never let me leave you
again! I think I must be crazed if the world is what it seems, and my
life is so entirely opposed to it; but if so, I would rather be crazed
than sane. In my wanderings to-night, on my way home hither, I met
young girls and women who must have been devils in disguise, so
utterly were they lost to every sense of womanhood and decency. I saw
men, evil-looking and wretched, who seemed waiting but the chance to
murder, or commit any other barbarous crime for gold. I saw little
children, starving and in rags; old and feeble creatures, too, in the
last stage of destitution, without a passer-by to wish them well; all
things seemed foul and dark and hopeless, and when I entered here, I
felt--ah, God knows what I felt!--that you were my Providence, that
this was my home, and that surely some Angel dwelt within and hallowed
it with safety and pure blessing!"

A sudden remorse softened his voice, his beautiful eyes were dim with

"He remembers and thinks of Lilith!" thought El-Rmi quickly, with a
singular jealous tightening emotion at his heart; but aloud he said

"If one day in the 'world' has taught you to love this simple abode of
ours, my dear Fraz, more than you did before, you have had a most
valuable lesson. But do not be too sure of yourself. Remember, you
resented my authority, and you wished to escape from my influence.
Well, now--"

"Now I voluntarily place myself under both," said Fraz, rising and
standing before him with bent head. "El-Rmi, my brother and my
friend, do with me as you will! If from you come my dreams, in God's
name let me dream! If from your potent will, exerted on my spirit,
springs the fountain of the music which haunts my life, let me ever be
a servant of that will! With you I have had happiness, health, peace,
and mysterious joy, such as the world could never comprehend; away
from you, though only for a day, I have been miserable. Take my
complete obedience, El-Rmi, for what it is worth; you give me more
than my life's submission can ever repay."

El-Rmi stepped up more closely to him, and laying both hands on his
shoulders, looked him seriously in the eyes.

"My dear boy, consider for a moment how you involve yourself," he said
earnestly, yet with great kindliness. "Remember the old Arabic volume
you chanced upon, and what it said concerning the mystic powers of
'influence.' Did you quite realize it, and all that it implies?"

Fraz met his searching gaze steadily.

"Quite," he replied. "So much and so plainly do I realize it, that I
can attribute everything done in the world to 'influence.' Each one of
us is 'influenced' by something or someone. Even you, my dearest
brother share the common lot, though I dare say you do not quite
perceive where your ruling force is generated, your own powers being
so extraordinary. Ainsworth, for example, is 'influenced' in very
opposite directions by very opposite forces--Irene Vassilius, and--his
Mamie Dillon! Now I would rather have your spell laid upon my life
than that of the speculator, the gambler, the drinker, or the vile
woman, for none of these can possibly give satisfaction, at least not
to me; while your wizard wand invokes nothing but beauty, harmony, and
peace of conscience. So I repeat it, El-Rmi, I submit to you utterly
and finally--must I entreat you to accept my submission?"

He smiled, and the old happy look that he was wont to wear began to
radiate over his face, which had till then seemed worn and wearied.
El-Rmi's dark features appeared to reflect the smile, as he gently
touched his brother's clustering curls, and said playfully:

"In spite of Zaroba?"

"In spite of Zaroba," echoed Fraz mirthfully. "Poor Zaroba! she does
not seem well, or happy. I fear she has offended you?"

"No, no," said El-Rmi meditatively, "she has not offended me; she is
too old to offend me. I cannot be angry with sorrowful and helpless
age. And if she is not well, we will make her well, and if she is not
happy, we will make her happy,...and be happy ourselves--shall it not
be so?" His voice was very soft, and he seemed to talk at random, and
to be conscious of it, for he roused himself with a slight start, and
said in firmer tones: "Good-night, Fraz; good-night, dear lad. Rest,
and dream!"

He smiled as Fraz impulsively caught his hand and kissed it, and
after the young man had left the room he still stood, lost in a
reverie, murmuring under his breath: "And be happy ourselves! Is that
possible--could that be possible--in this world?"


NEXT day towards noon, while Fraz, tired with his brief "worldly"
experiences, was still sleeping, El-Rmi sought out Zaroba. She
received him in the ante-room of the chamber of Lilith with more than
her customary humility; her face was dark and weary, and her whole
aspect one of resigned and settled melancholy. El-Rmi looked at her
kindly, and with compassion.

"The sustaining of wrath is an injury to the spirit," he wrote on the
slate which served for that purpose in his usual way of communication
with her; "I no longer mistrust you. Once more I say, be faithful and
obedient. I ask no more. The spell of silence shall be lifted from
your lips to-day."

She read swiftly, and with apparent incre--dulity, and a tremor passed
over her tall, gaunt frame. She looked at him wonderingly and
wistfully, while he, standing before her, returned the look
steadfastly, and seemed to be concentrating all his thoughts upon her
with some fixed intention. After a minute or two he turned aside, and
again wrote on the slate; this time the words ran thus:

"Speak; you are at liberty."

With a deep shuddering sigh, she extended her hands appealingly.

"Master!" she exclaimed; and before he could prevent her, she had
dropped on her knees. "Forgive--forgive!" she muttered. "Terrible is
thy power, O El-Rmi, ruler of spirits! terrible, mystic and
wonderful! God must have given thee thy force, and I am but the
meanest of slaves to rebel against thy command. Yet out of wisdom
comes not happiness, but great grief and pain; and as I live, El-Rmi,
in my rebellion I but dreamed of a love that should bring thee joy!
Pardon the excess of my zeal, for lo, again and yet again I swear
fidelity! and may all the curses of heaven fall on me if this time I
break my vow!"

She bent her head--she would have kissed the floor at his feet, but
that he quickly raised her up and prevented her.

"There is nothing more to pardon," he wrote. "Your wisdom is possibly
greater than mine. I know there is nothing stronger than Love, nothing
better perhaps; but Love is my foe whom I must vanquish,--lest he
should vanquish me!"

And while Zaroba yet pored over these words, her black eyes dilating
with amazement at the half confession of weakness implied in them he
turned away and left the room.

That afternoon a pleasant sense of peace and restfulness seemed to
settle upon the little household; delicious strains of melody filled
the air; Fraz, refreshed in mind and body by a sound sleep, was
seated at the piano, improvising strange melodies in his own
exquisitely wild and tender fashion; while El-Rmi, seated at his
writing-table, indited a long letter to Dr. Kremlin at Ilfracombe,
giving in full the message left for him by the mysterious monk from
Cyprus respecting the "Third Ray" or signal from Mars.

"Do not weary yourself too much with watching this phenomenon," he
wrote to his friend. "From all accounts, it will be a difficult matter
to track so rapid a flash on the Disc as the one indicated, and I have
fears for your safety. I cannot give any satisfactory cause for my
premonition of danger to you in the attempt, because if we do not
admit an end to anything, then there can be no danger even in death
itself, which we are accustomed to look upon as an 'end,' when it may
be proved to be only a beginning. But, putting aside the idea of
'danger' or 'death,' the premonition remains in my mind as one of
'change' for you; and perhaps you are not ready or willing even to
accept a different sphere of action to your present one, therefore I
would say, take heed to yourself when you follow the track of the
'Third Ray.'"

Here his pen stopped abruptly; Fraz was singing in a soft mezza-voce,
and he listened:

O Sweet, if love obtained must slay desire.
And quench the light and heat of passion's fire;
If you are weary of the ways of love.
And fain would end the many cares thereof.
I prithee tell me so that I may seek
Some place to die in ere I grow too weak
To look my last on your belovd face.
Yea, tell me all! The gods may yet have grace
And pity enough to let me quickly die
Some brief while after we have said 'Good-bye!'
Nay, I have known it well for many days
You have grown tired of all tender ways;
Love's kisses weary you, love's eager words.
Old as the hills and sweet as singing-birds.
Are fetters hard to bear! O love, be free!
You will lose little joy in losing me;
Let me depart, remembering only this.
That once you loved me, and that once your kiss
Crown'd me with joy supreme enough to last
Through all my life till that brief life be past.
Forget me, Sweetest-heart, and nevermore
Turn to look back on what has gone before.
Or say, 'Such love was brief, but wondrous fair;'
The past is past forever; have no care
Or thought for me at all, no tear or sigh.
Or faint regret; for, Dearest, I shall die
And dream of you i' the dark, beneath the grass;
And o'er my head perchance your feet may pass.
Lulling me faster into sleep profound
Among the fairies of the fruitful ground.
Love wearied out by love, hath need of rest.
And when all love is ended, Death is best.

The song ceased; but though the singer's voice no longer charmed the
silence, his fingers still wandered over the keys of the piano,
devising intricate passages of melody as delicate and devious as the
warbling of nightingales. El-Rmi, unconsciously to himself, heaved a
deep sigh, and Fraz, hearing it, looked round.

"Am I disturbing you?" he asked.

"No. I love to hear you; but, like many youthful poets, you sing of
what you scarcely understand--love, for instance; you know nothing of

"I imagine I do," replied Fraz meditatively. "I can picture my ideal
woman; she is--"

"Fair, of course!" said El-Rmi, with an indulgent smile.

"Yes, fair; her hair must be golden, but not uniformly so--full of
lights and shadows, suggestive of some halo woven round her brows by
the sunlight, or the caressing touch of an angel. She must have deep,
sweet eyes in which no actual colour is predominant; for a pronounced
blue or black does away with warmth of expression. She must not be
tall, for one cannot caress tall women without a sense of the
ludicrous spoiling sentiment--"

"Have you tried it?" asked El-Rmi, laughing.

Fraz laughed too.

"You know I have not; I only imagine the situation. To explain more
fully what I mean, I would say one could more readily draw into one's
arms the Venus of Medicis than that of Milo--one could venture to
caress a Psyche, but scarcely a Juno. I have never liked the idea of
tall women, they are like big handsome birds--useful, no doubt, but
not half so sweet as the little fluttering singing ones."

"Well, and what other attributes must this imagined lady of yours
possess?" asked El-Rmi, vaguely amused at his brother's earnestness.

"Oh, many more charms than I could enumerate," replied Fraz. "And of
one thing I am certain, she is not to be found on this earth. But I am
quite satisfied to wait; I shall find her, even as she will find me
some day. Meanwhile I 'imagine' love, and in imagination I almost feel

He went on playing, and El-Rmi resumed the writing of his letter to
Kremlin, which he soon finished and addressed ready for post. A gentle
knock at the street-door made itself heard just then through the ebb
and flow of Fraz's music, and Feraz left off his improvisation
abruptly and went to answer the summons. He returned, and announced
with some little excitement:

"Madame Irene Vassilius."

El-Rmi rose and advanced to meet his fair visitor, bowing

"This is an unexpected pleasure, Madame," he said, the sincerity of
his welcome showing itself in the expression of his face, "and an
unmerited honour for which I am grateful."

She smiled, allowing her hand to rest in his for a moment; then,
accepting the low chair which Fraz placed for her near his brother's
writing-table, she seated herself, and lifted her eyes to El-Rmi's
countenance--eyes which, like those of Fraz's ideal ladye-love, were
"deep and sweet, and of no pronounced colour."

"I felt you would not resent my coming here as an intrusion," she
began; "but my visit is not one of curiosity. I do not want to probe
you as to your knowledge of my past, or to ask you anything as to my
future. I am a lonely creature, disliked by many people, and in the
literary career I have adopted I fight a desperately hard battle, and
often crave for a little--just a little sympathetic comprehension. One
or two questions puzzle me which you might answer if you would. They
are on almost general subjects; but I should like to have your

"Madame, if you, with your exceptional gifts of insight and instinct,
are baffled in these 'general' questions," said El-Rmi, "shall not I
be baffled also?"

"That does not follow," replied Irene, returning his glance steadily,
"for you men always claim to be wiser than women. I do not agree with
this fiat, so absolutely set forth by the lords of creation; yet I am
not what is termed 'strong-minded,' I simply seek justice. Pray stay
with us," she added, turning to Fraz, who was about to retire, as he
usually did whenever El-Rmi held an interview with any visitor;
"there is no occasion for you to go away."

Fraz hesitated, glancing at his brother.

"Yes, by all means remain here, Fraz," said El-Rmi gently, "since
Madame Vassilius desires it."

Delighted with the permission, Fraz ensconced himself in a corner
with a book, pretending to read, but in reality listening to every
word of the conversation. He liked to hear Irene's voice--it was
singularly sweet and ringing, and at times had a peculiar thrill of
pathos in it that went straight to the heart.

"You know," she went on, "that I am, or am supposed to be, what the
world calls 'famous.' That is, I write books which the public clamour
for and read, and for which I receive large sums of money. I am able
to live well, dress well, and look well, and I am known as one of
society's 'celebrities.' Well, now, can you tell me why, for such poor
honours as these, men, supposed to be our wiser and stronger
superiors, are so spitefully jealous of a woman's fame?"

"Jealous?" echoed El-Rmi dubiously, and with something of hesitation.
"You mean--"

"I mean what I say," continued Madame Vassilius calmly; "neither more
nor less. Spitefully jealous is the term I used. Explain to me this
riddle: Why do men en--courage women to every sort of base folly and
vanity that may lead them at length to become the slaves of man's lust
and cruelty, and yet take every possible means to oppose and hinder
them in their attempts to escape from sensuality and animalism into
intellectual progress and pre-eminence? In looking back on the history
of all famous women, from Sappho downwards to the present time, it is
amazing to consider what men have said of them. Always a sneer at
'women's work.' And if praise is at any time given, how grudging and
half-hearted it is! Men will enter no protest against women who
uncover their bare limbs to the public gaze and dance lewdly in music-
halls and theatres for the masculine delectation; they will defend the
street-prostitute; they will pledge themselves and their family
estates in order to provide jewels for the newest 'ballerina'; but for
the woman of intellect they have nothing but a shrug of contempt. If
she produces a great work of art in literature, it is never thoroughly
acknowledged; and the hard blows delivered on Charlotte Bront, George
Eliot, Georges Sand, and others of their calibre, far out--weighed
their laurels. George Eliot and Georges Sand took men's names in order
to shelter themselves a little from the pitiless storm that assails
literary work known to emanate from a woman's brain; but let a man
write the veriest trash that ever was printed, he will still be
accredited by his own sex with something better than ever the
cleverest woman could compass. How is it that the 'superior' sex are
cowardly enough to throw stones at those among the 'inferior,' who
surpass their so-called lords and masters both in chastity and

She spoke earnestly, her eyes shining with emotion; she looked lovely,
thus inspired by the strength of her inward feelings. El-Rmi was
taken aback. Like most Orientals, he had to a certain extent despised
women and their work. But, then, what of Lilith? Without her aid would
his discoveries in spiritual science have progressed so far? Had he or
any man a right to call woman the "inferior" sex?

"Madame," he said slowly and with a vague embarrassment, "you bring an
accusation against our sex which it is impossible to refute, because
it is simply and undeniably true. Men do not love either chastity or
intellect in women."

He paused, looking at her, then went on:

"A chaste woman is an embodied defiance and reproach to man; an
intellectual woman is always a source of irritation, because she is
invariably his superior. By this I mean that when a woman is
thoroughly gifted, she is gifted all round; an intellectual man is
generally only gifted in one direction. For example, a great poet,
painter, or musician, may be admirable in his own line, but he
generally lacks in something; he is stupid, perhaps, in conversation,
or he blunders in some way by want of tact; but a truly brilliant
woman has all the charms of mental superiority, generally combined
with delicate touches of satire, humour, and wit,--points which she
uses to perfection against the lumbering animal Man, with the result
that she succeeds in pricking him in all his most vulnerable parts. He
detests her accordingly, and flies for consolation to the empty-headed
dolls of the music-hall, who flatter him to the top of his bent, in
order to get as much champagne and as many diamonds as they can out of
him. Man must be adored; he insists upon it, even if he pays for it."

"It is a pity he does not make himself a little more worthy of
adoration," said Irene, with a slight scornful smile.

"It is," agreed El-Rmi; "but most men, even the ugliest and
stupidest, consider themselves perfect."

"Do you?" she asked suddenly.

"Do I consider myself perfect?" El-Rmi smiled, and reflected on this
point. "Madame, if I am frank with you, and with myself, I must answer
'Yes!' I am made of the same clay as all my sex, and consider myself
worthy to be the conqueror of any woman under the sun! Ask any
loathsome, crook-backed dwarf that sweeps a crossing for his
livelihood, and his idea of his own personal charm will be the same."

Fraz laughed outright; Madame Vassilius looked amused and interested.

"You can never eradicate from the masculine nature," proceeded El-
Rmi, "the idea that our attentions, no matter how uncouth, are, and
always must be, agreeable to the feminine temperament. Here you have
the whole secret of the battle carried on by men, against women who
have won the prize of a world-wide fame. An intellectual woman sets a
barrier between herself and the beasts; the beasts howl, but cannot
leap it; hence their rage. You, Madame, are not only intellectual, but
lovely to look at; you stand apart, a crowned queen, seeking no
assistance from men; by your very manner you imply your scorn of their
low and base desires. They must detest you in self-defence; most of
your adverse critics are the poorly paid hacks of the daily journals,
who envy you your house, your horses, your good fortune, and your
popularity with the public; if you want them to admire you, go in for
a big scandal. Run away with some blackguard; have several husbands;
do something to tarnish your woman's reputation; be a vulture or a
worm, not a star; men do not care for stars, they are too distant, too
cold, too pure!"

"Are you speaking satirically," asked Madame Vassilius, "or in grim

"In grim earnest, fair lady," and El-Rmi rose from his chair and
confronted her with a half-smile. "In grim earnest, men are brutes!
The statement is one which is frequently made by what is called the
'Shrieking Sisterhood'; but I, a man, agree to it in cold blood,
without conditions. We are stupid brutes; we work well in gangs, but
not so well singly. As soldiers, sailors, builders, engineers,
labourers, all on the gang method, we are admirable. The finest
paintings of the world were produced by bodies of men working under
one head, called 'schools,' but differing from our modern 'schools' in
this grand exception, that whereas now each pupil tries his hand at
something of his own, then all the pupils worked at the one design of
the Master. Thus were painted the frescoes of Michael Angelo, and the
chief works of Raphael. Now the rule is 'every man for himself and the
devil take the hindmost,' And very poorly does 'each man for himself'
succeed. Men must always be helped along, either by each other-- woman! Many of them owe all their success in life to the
delicate management and patient tact of woman, and yet never have the
grace to own it. Herein we are thankless brutes as well as stupid.
But, as far as I personally am concerned, I am willing to admit that
all my best discoveries, such as they are, are due to the far-reaching
intelligence and pure insight of a woman."

This remark utterly amazed Fraz; Madame Vassilius looked surprised
and interested.

"Then," she said, smiling slightly, "of course you love someone?"

A shadow swept over El-Rmi's features.

"No, Madame; I am not capable of love, as this world understands
loving. Love has existence no doubt, but surely not as Humanity
accepts it. For example, a man loves a woman; she dies; he gradually
forgets her, and loves another, and so on. That is not love, but it is
what society is satisfied with, as such. You are quite right to
despise such a fleeting emotion for yourself; it is not sufficient for
the demands of your nature; you seek something more lasting."

"Which I shall never find," said Irene quietly.

"Which you will find, and which you must find," declared El-Rmi. "All
longings, however vague, whether evil or good, are bound to be
fulfilled, there being no waste in the economy of the universe. This
is why it is so necessary to weigh well the results of desire before
encouraging it. I quite understand your present humour, Madame--it is
one of restlessness and discontent. You find your crown of fame has
thorns; never mind! wear it royally, though the blood flows from the
torn brows. You are solitary at times, and find the solitude irksome;
Art serves her children thus--she will accept no half-love, but takes
all. Were I asked to name one of the most fortunate of women, I think
I should name you, for notwithstanding the progress of your
intellectual capacity, you have kept your faith."

"I have kept my religion, if you mean that," said Irene, impressed by
his earnestness; "but it is not the religion of the churches."

He gave an impatient gesture.

"The religion of the churches is a mere Show-Sunday," he returned. "We
all know that. When I say you have kept your faith, I mean that you
can believe in God without positive proofs of Him. That is a grand
capability in this age. I wish I had it!"

Irene Vassilius looked at him wonderingly.

"Surely you believe in God?"

"Not till I can prove Him!" and El-Rmi's eyes flashed defiantly.
"Vice triumphant, and Virtue vanquished, do not explain Him to me.
Torture and death do not manifest to my spirit His much-talked-of
'love and goodness.' I must unriddle His secret; I must pierce into
the heart of His plan, before I join the enforced laudations of the
multitude; I must know and feel that it is the Truth I am proclaiming,
before I stand up in the sight of my fellows and say, 'O God, Thou art
the Fountain of Goodness, and all Thy works are wise and wonderful!'"

He spoke with remarkable power and emphasis; his attitude was full of
dignity. Madame Vassilius gazed at him in involuntary admiration.

"It is a bold spirit that undertakes to catechize the Creator and
examine into the value of His creation," she said.

"If there is a Creator," said El-Rmi, "and if from Him all things do
come, then from Him also comes my spirit of inquiry. I have no belief
in a devil, but if there were one, the Creator is answerable for him,
too. And to revert again to your questions, Madame, shall we not in a
way make God somewhat responsible for the universal prostitution of
woman? It is a world-wide crime, and only very slight attempts as yet
have been made to remedy it, because the making of the laws is in the
hands of men--the criminals. The Englishman, the European generally,
is as great a destroyer of woman's life and happiness as any Turk or
other barbarian. The life of the average woman is purely animal; in
her girlhood she is made to look attractive, and her days pass in the
consideration of dress, appearance, manner, and conversation; when she
has secured her mate, her next business is to bear him children. The
children reared, and sent out into the world, she settles down into
old age, wrinkled, fat, toothless, and frequently quarrelsome; the
whole of her existence is not a grade higher than that of a leopardess
or other forest creature, and sometimes not so exciting. When a woman
rises above all this, she is voted by the men 'unwomanly'; she is no
longer the slave or the toy of their passions; and that is why, my
dear Madame, they give the music-hall dancer their diamonds, and heap
upon you their sneers."

Irene sat silent for some minutes, and a sigh escaped her.

"Then it is no use trying to be a little different to the rest," she
said wearily; "a little higher, a little less prone to vulgarity? If
one must be hated for striving to be worthy of one's vocation--"

"My dear lady, you do not see that man will never admit that
literature is your vocation! No, not even if you wrote as grand a
tragedy as 'Macbeth.' Your vocation, according to them, is to adore
their sex, to look fascinating, to wear pretty clothes, and purr
softly like a pleased cat when they make you a compliment; not to
write books that set everybody talking. They would rather see you
dragged and worn to death under the burden of half a dozen children,
than they would see you stepping disdainfully past them, in all the
glory of fame. Yet be con--tent,--you have, like Mary in the Gospel,
'chosen the better part'; of that I feel sure, though I am unable to
tell you why or how I feel it."

"If you feel sure of certain things without being able to explain how
or why you feel them," put in Fraz suddenly, "is it not equally easy
to feel sure of God without being able to explain how or why He

"Admirably suggested, my dear Fraz," observed El-Rmi, with a slight
smile. "But please recollect that though it may be easy to you and a
fair romancist like Madame Vassilius to feel sure of God, it is not at
all easy to me. I am not sure of Him; I have not seen Him, and I am
not conscious of Him. Moreover, if an average majority of people taken
at random could be persuaded to speak the truth for once in their
lives, they would all say the same thing--that they are not conscious
of Him. Because if they were--if the world were--the emotion of Fear
would be altogether annihilated; there would never be any 'panic'
about anything; people would not shriek and wail at the terrors of an
earthquake, or be seized with pallor and trembling at the crash and
horror of an unexpected storm. Being sure of God would mean being sure
of Good; and I'm afraid none of us are convinced in that direction.
But I think and believe that if we indeed felt sure of God, Evil would
be annihilated as well as fear. And the mystery is, why does He not
make us sure of Him? It must be in His power to do so, and would save
both Him and us an infinite deal of trouble."

Fraz grew restless and left his place, laying down the volume he had
been pretending to read.

"I wish you would not be so horribly, cruelly definite in your
suggestions," he said rather vexedly. "What is the good of it? It
unsettles one's mind."

"Surely your mind is not unsettled by a merely reasonable idea
reasonably suggested?" returned El-Rmi calmly. "Madame Vassilius here
is not 'unsettled,' as you call it."

"No," said Irene slowly; "but I had thought you more of a spiritual

"Madame," said El-Rmi impressively, "I am a spiritual believer, but
in this way: I believe that this world and all worlds are composed of
Spirit and Matter, and not only do I believe it, but I know it! The
atmosphere around us and all planets is composed of Spirit and Matter;
and every living creature that breathes is made of the same dual
mixture. Of the Spirit that forms part of Matter and dominates it, I,
even I have some control; and others who come after me, treading in
the same lines of thought, will have more than I. I can influence the
spirit of man; I can influence the spirit of the air; I can draw an
essence from the earth upwards that shall seem to you like the wraith
of someone dead; but if you ask me whether these provable, practicable
scientific tests or experiments on the spirit that is part of Nature's
very existence, are manifestations of God or the Divine, I say--No.
God would not permit Man to play at will with His eternal Fires;
whereas, with the spirit essence that can be chemically drawn from
earth and fire and water, I, a mere studious and considering biped,
can do whatsoever I choose. I know how the legends of phantoms and
fairies arose in the world's history, because at one time, one
particular period of the pre-historic ages, the peculiar, yet natural
combination of the elements and the atmosphere, formed 'fantasma'
which men saw and believed in. The last trace of these now existing is
the familiar 'mirage' of cities with their domes and steeples seen
during certain states of the atmosphere in mid-ocean. Only give me the
conditions, and I will summon up a ghostly city too. I can form
numberless phantasmal figures now, and more than this, I can evoke for
your ears from the very bosom of the air, music such as long ago
sounded for the pleasure of men and women dead. For the air is a
better phonograph than Edison's, and has the advantage of being

"But such powers are marvellous!" exclaimed Irene. "I cannot
understand how you have attained to them."

"Neither can others less gifted understand how you, Madame, have
attained your literary skill," said El-Rmi. "All art, all science,
all discovery, is the result of a concentrated Will, an indomitable
Perseverance. My 'powers,' as you term them, are really very slight,
and, as I said before, those who follow my track will obtain far
greater supremacy. The secret of phantasmal splendour or 'vision,' as
also the clue to what is called 'unearthly music'--anything and
everything that is or appears to be of a supernatural character in
this world--can be traced to natural causes, and the one key to it all
is the great Fact that Nothing in the Universe is lost. Bear that
statement well in mind. Light preserves all scenes; Air preserves all
sounds. Therefore, it follows that if the scenes are there, and the
sounds are there, they can be evoked again, and yet again, by him who
has the skill to understand the fluctuations of the atmospheric waves,
and the incessantly recurring vibrations of light. Do not imagine that
even a Thought, which you very naturally consider your own, actually
remains a fixture in your brain from whence it was germinated. It
escapes while you are in the very act of thinking it; its subtle
essence evaporates into the air you breathe and the light you absorb.
If it presents itself to you again, it will probably be in quite a
different form, and perhaps you will hardly recognise it. All Thought
escapes thus; you cannot keep it to yourself any more than you can
have breath without breathing."

"You mean that a Thought belongs to all, and not to one individual?"
said Irene.

"Yes, I mean that," replied El-Rmi; "and Thought, I may say, is the
only reflex I can admit of possible Deity, because Thought is free,
absolute, all-embracing, creative, perpetual, and unwearied. Limitless
too--great Heaven, how limitless! To what heights does it not soar? In
what depths does it not burrow? How daring, how calm, how indifferent
to the ocean-swell of approaching and receding ages! Your modern
Theosophist, calmly counting his gains from the blind incredulity and
stupidity of the unthinking masses, is only copying, in a very
Lilliputian manner, the grand sagacity and cunning of the ancient
Egyptian 'magi,' who, by scientific trickery, ruled the ignorant
multitude; it is the same Thought, only dressed in modern aspect.
Thought, and the proper condensation, controlling and usage of
Thought, is Power,--Divinity, if you will. And it is the only existing
Force that can make gods of men."

Irene Vassilius sat silent, fascinated by his words, and still more
fascinated by his manner. After a few minutes she spoke--

"I am glad you admit," she said gently, "that this all-potent Thought
may be a reflex of the Divine,--for we can have no reflections of
light without the Light itself. I came to you in a somewhat
discontented humour,--I am happier now. I suppose I ought to be
satisfied with my lot,--I am certainly more fortunately situated than
most women."

"You are, Madame"--said El-Rmi, smiling pensively and fixing his dark
eyes upon her with a kind expression,--"And your native good sense and
wit will prevent you, I hope, from marring the good which the gods
have provided for you. Do not marry yet,--it would be too great a
disillusion for you. The smallest touch of prose is sufficient to
destroy the delicacy of love's finer sentiments; and marriage, as the
married will tell you, is all prose,--very prosy prose too. Avoid
it!--prosy prose is tiresome reading."

She laughed, and rose to take her leave.

"I saw your brother with Mr. Ainsworth yesterday," she observed--"And
I could not understand how two such opposite natures could possibly

"Oh, we did not agree,--we have not agreed," said Fraz hastily,
speaking for himself--"It is not likely we shall see much of each

"I am glad to hear it"--and she extended her hand to him--"You are
very young, and Roy Ainsworth is very old, not in years, but in heart.
It would be a pity for you to catch the contagion of our modern

"But--" Fraz hesitated and stammered, "it was you, was it not,
Madame, who suggested to Mr. Ainsworth that he should take me as the
model for one of the figures in his picture?"

"Yes, it was I," replied Irene with a slight smile--"But I never
thought you would consent,--and I felt sure, that even if you did, he
would never succeed in render--ing your expression, for he is a mere
surface-painter of flesh, not Soul--still, all the same, it amused me
to make the suggestion."

"Yes,--woman-like," said El-Rmi--"You took pleasure in offering him a
task he could not fulfil. There you have another reason why
intellectual women are frequently detested--they ask so much and give
so little."

"You wrong us," answered Irene swiftly. "When we love, we give all!"

"And so you give too much!" said El-Rmi gravely--"It is the common
fault of women. You should never give 'all'--you should always hold
back something. To be fascinating, you should be enigmatical. When
once man is allowed to understand your riddle thoroughly, the spell is
broken. The placid, changeless, monotonously amiable woman has no
power whatever over the masculine temperament. It is Cleopatra that
makes a slave of Antony, not blameless and simple Octavia."

Irene Vassilius smiled.

"According to such a theory, the Angels must be very tame and
uninteresting individuals," she said.

El-Rmi's eyes grew lustrous with the intensity of his thought.

"Ah, Madame, our conception of Angels is a very poor and false one,
founded on the flabby imaginations of ignorant priests. An Angel,
according to my idea, should be wild and bright and restless as
lightning, speeding from star to star in search of new lives and new
loves, with lips full of music and eyes full of fire, with every fibre
of its immortal being palpitating with pure yet passionate desires for
everything that can perfect and equalize its existence. The pallid,
goose-winged object represented to us as inhabiting a country of No-
Where without landscape or colour, playing on an unsatisfactory harp
and singing 'Holy, holy' forever and ever, is no Angel, but rather a
libel on the whole systematic creative plan of the Universe. Beauty,
brilliancy, activity, glory and infinite variety of thought and
disposition--if these be not in the composition of an Angel, then the
Creator is but poorly served!"

"You speak as if you had seen one of these immortals?" said Irene,

A shadow darkened his features.

"Not I, Madame--except once--in a dream! You are going?--then
farewell! Be happy,--and encourage the angelic qualities in yourself--
for if there be a Paradise anywhere, you are on the path that leads to

"You think so?" and she sighed--"I hope you may be right,--but
sometimes I fear, and sometimes I doubt. Thank you for all you have
said,--it is the first time I have met with so much gentleness,
courtesy and patience from one of your sex. Good-bye!"

She passed out, Fraz escorting her to her carriage, which waited at
the door; then he returned to his brother with a slow step and
meditative air.

"Do men really wrong women so much as she seems to think?" he asked.

El-Rmi paused a moment,--then answered slowly:

"Yes, Fraz, they do; and as long as this world wags, they will! Let
God look to it!--for the law of feminine oppression is His--not ours!"


THAT same week was chronicled one of the worst gales that had ever
been known to rage on the English coast. From all parts of the country
came accounts of the havoc wrought on the budding fruit-trees by the
pitiless wind and rain,--harrowing stories of floods and shipwrecks
came with every fresh despatch of news,--great Atlantic steamers were
reported "missing," and many a fishing-smack went down in sight of
land, with all the shrieking, struggling souls on board. For four days
and four nights the terrific hurricane revelled in destruction, its
wrath only giving way to occasional pauses of heavy silence more awful
than its uproar; and by the rocky shores of Ilfracombe, the scene of
nature's riot, confusion and terror attained to a height of
indescribable grandeur. The sea rose in precipitous mountain-masses,
and anon wallowed in black abysmal chasms,--the clouds flew in a
fierce rack overhead like the forms of huge witches astride on eagle-
shaped monsters,--and with it all there was a close heat in the air,
notwithstanding the tearing wind,--a heat and a sulphureous smell,
suggestive of some pent-up hellish fire that but waited its
opportunity to break forth and consume the land. On the third day of
the gale particularly, this curious sense of suffocation was almost
unbearable, and Dr. Kremlin, looking out of his high tower window in
the morning at the unquiet sky and savage sea, wondered, as the wind
scudded past, why it brought no freshness with it, but only an
increased heat, like the "simoom" of the desert.

"It is one of those days on which it would seem that God is really
angry," mused Kremlin--"angry with Himself, and still more angry with
His creature."

The wind whistled and shrieked in his ears as though it strove to
utter some wild response to his thought,--the sullen roaring and
battling of the waves on the beach below sounded like the clashing
armour of contesting foes,--and the great Disc in the tower revolved,
or appeared to revolve, more rapidly than its wont, its incessant
whirr-whirring being always distinctly heard above the fury of the
storm. To this, his great work, the chief labour of his life, Dr.
Kremlin's eyes turned wistfully, as, after a brief observation of the
turbulent weather, he shut his window fast against the sheeting rain.
Its shining surface, polished as steel, reflected the lights and
shadows of the flying storm-clouds, in strange and beautiful groups
like moving landscapes--now and then it flashed with a curious
lightning glare of brilliancy as it swung round to its appointed
measure, even as a planet swings in its orbit. A new feature had been
added to the generally weird effect of Kremlin's strange studio or
workshop,--this was a heavy black curtain made of three thicknesses of
cloth sewn closely together, and weighted at the end with bullet-
shaped balls of lead. It was hung on a thick iron pole, and ran easily
on indiarubber rings,--when drawn forward it covered the Disc
completely from the light without interfering with any portion of its
mechanism. Three days since, Kremlin had received El-Rmi's letter
telling him what the monk from Cyprus had said concerning the "Third
Ray" or the messages from Mars, and eagerly grasping at the smallest
chance of any clue to the labyrinth of the Light-vibrations, he had
lost no time in making all the preparations necessary for this grand
effort, this attempt to follow the track of the flashing signal whose
meaning, though apparently unintelligible, might yet with patience be
discovered. So, following the suggestions received, he had arranged
the sable drapery, in such a manner that it could be drawn close
across the Disc, or, in a second, be flung back to expose the whole
surface of the crystal to the light,--all was ready for the trial,
when the great storm came and interfered. Dense clouds covered the
firmament,--and not for one single moment since he received the monk's
message had Kremlin seen the stars. However, he was neither
discouraged nor impatient,--he had not worked amid perplexities so
long to be disheartened now by a mere tempest, which in the ordinary
course of nature, would wear itself out, and leave the heavens all the
clearer both for reflection and observation. Yet he, as a
meteorologist, was bound to confess that the fury of the gale was of
an exceptional character, and that the height to which the sea lifted
itself before stooping savagely towards the land and breaking itself
in hissing spouts of spray, was stupendous, and in a manner appalling.
Karl, his servant, was entirely horrified at the scene,--he hated the
noise of the wind and waves, and more than all he hated the incessant
melancholy scream of the seabirds that wheeled in flocks round and
round the tower.

"It is for all the world like the shrieks of drowning men"--he said,
and shivered, thinking of the pleasantly devious ways of the Rhine and
its placid flowing,--placid even in flood, as compared to the howling
ocean, all madness and movement and terror. Twice during that
turbulent day Karl had asked his master whether the tower "shook."

"Of course!" answered Dr. Kremlin with a smile in his mild eyes--"Of
course it shakes,--it can hardly do otherwise in such a gale. Even a
cottage shakes in a fierce wind."

"Oh yes, a cottage shakes," said Karl meditatively--"but then if a
cottage blows away altogether, it doesn't so much matter. Cottages are
frequently blown away in America, so they say, with all the family
sitting inside. That's not a bad way of travelling. But when a tower
flies through the air, it seldom carries the family with it except in

Kremlin laughed, but did not pursue the conversation, and Karl went
about his duties in a gloomy humour, not common to his cheerful
temperament. He really had enough to put him out, all things
considered. Soot fell down the kitchen chimney--a huge brick also
landed itself with a crash in the fender,--there were crevices in the
doors and windows through which the wind played wailing sounds like a
"coronach" on the bagpipes;--and then, when he went out into the
courtyard to empty the pail of soot he had taken from the grate, he
came suddenly face to face with an ugly bird, whose repulsive aspect
quite transfixed him for the moment and held him motionless, staring
at it. It was a hooded vulture, and it stood huddled on the pavement,
blinking its disagreeable eyes at Karl,--its floppy wings were
drenched with the rain, and all over the yard was the wet trail of its
feathers and feet.

"Shoo!" cried Karl, waving his arms and the pail of soot all
together--"Shoo! Beast!"

But the vulture appeared not to mind--it merely set about preening its
dirty wing.

Karl grew savage, and running back to the kitchen, brought shovel,
tongs and a broom, all of which implements he flung in turn at the
horrid-looking creature, which, finally startled, rose in air uttering
dismal cries as it circled higher and higher, the while Karl watched
its flight,--higher and higher it soared, till at last he ran out of
the courtyard to see where it went. Round and round the house it flew,
seeming to be literally tossed to and fro by the wind, its unpleasant
shriek still echoing distinctly above the deep boom of the sea, till
suddenly it made a short sweep downwards, and sat on the top of the
tower like a squat black phantom of the storm.

"Nasty brute!" said Karl, shaking his clenched fist at it--"If the
Herr Doctor were like any other man, which he is not, he would have a
gun in the house, and I'd shoot that vile screamer. Now it will sit
cackling and yelling there all day and all night perhaps. Pleasant,

And he went indoors, grumbling more than ever. Everything seemed to go
wrong that day,--the fire wouldn't burn,--the kettle wouldn't boil,--
and he felt inwardly vexed that his master was not as morose and
irritable as himself. But, as it happened, Dr. Kremlin was in a
singularly sweet and placid frame of mind,--the noise of the gale
seemed to soothe rather than agitate his nerves. For one thing, he was
much better in health, and looked years younger than when El-Rmi
visited him, bringing the golden flask whose contents were guaranteed
to give him a new lease of life. So far indeed the Elixir had done its
work,--and to all appearances, he might have been a well-preserved man
of about fifty, rather than what he actually was, close upon his
seventy-fourth year. As he could take no particularly interesting or
useful observations from his Disc during the progress of the tempest,
he amused himself with the task of perfecting one or two of his
"Light-Maps" as he called them, and he kept at this work with the
greatest assiduity and devotion all the morning. These maps were
wonderfully interesting, if only for the extreme beauty, intricacy and
regularity of the patterns,--one set of "vibrations" as copied from
the reflections on the Disc, formed the exact shape of a branch of
coral,--another gave the delicate outline of a frond of fern. All the
lines ran in waves,--none of them were straight. Most of them were in
small ripples,--others were larger--some again curved broadly, and
turned round in a double twist, forming the figure 8 at long intervals
of distance, but all resolved themselves into a definite pattern of
some sort.

"Pictures in the sky!" he mused, as he patiently measured and re-
touched the lines. "And all different!--not two of them alike! What do
they all mean?--for they must mean something. Nothing--not the lowest
atom that exists, is without a meaning and a purpose. Shall I ever
discover the solution to the Light-mystery, or is it so much God's
secret that it will never become Man's?"

So he wondered, puzzling himself, with a good deal of pleasure in the
puzzle. He was happy in his work, despite its strange and difficult
character,--El-Rmi's elixir had so calmed and equalized his physical
temperament, that he was no longer conscious of worry or perplexity.
Satisfied that he had years of life before him in which to work, he
was content to let things take their course, and he laboured on in the
spirit that all labour claims, "without haste, without rest." Feverish
hurry in work,--eagerness to get the rewards of it before
conscientiously deserving them,--this disposition is a curse of the
age we live in and the ruin of true art,--and it was this delirium of
haste that had seized Kremlin when he had summoned El-Rmi to his aid.
Now, haste seemed unnecessary;--there was plenty of time, and--
possessed of the slight clue to the "Third Ray,"--plenty of hope as
well, or so he thought.

In the afternoon the gale gradually abated, and sank to a curiously
sudden dead calm. The sea still lifted toppling foam-crowned peaks to
the sky, and still uttered shattering roars of indignation,--but there
was a break in the clouds and a pale suggestion of sunshine. As the
evening closed in, the strange dull quietness of the air deepened,--
the black mists on the horizon flashed into stormy red for an instant
when the sun set,--and then darkened again into an ominous greenish-
gray. Karl, who was busy cooking his master's dinner, stopped stirring
some sauce he was making, to listen, as it were, to the silence,--the
only sound to be heard was the long roll and swish of the sea on the
beach,--and even the scream of the gulls was stilled. Spoon in hand he
went out in the yard to observe the weather; all movement in the
heavens seemed to have been suddenly checked, and masses of black
cloud rested where they were, apparently motionless. And while he
looked up at the sky, he could hardly avoid taking the top of the
tower also into his view;--there, to his intense disgust, still sate
his enemy of the morning, the hooded vulture. Something that was not
quite choice in the way of language escaped his lips as he saw the
hateful thing;--its presence was detestable to him and filled his mind
with morbid imaginations which no amount of reasoning could chase

"And yet what is it but a bird!" he argued with himself angrily, as he
went indoors and resumed his cooking operations--"A bird of prey, fond
of carrion--nothing more. Why should I bother myself about it? If I
told the Herr Doctor that it was there, squatting at ease on his
tower, he would very likely open the window, invite the brute in, and
offer it food and shelter for the night. For he is one of those kind-
hearted people who think that all the animal creation are worthy of
consideration and tenderness. Well,--it may be very good and broad
philosophy,--all the same, if I caught a rat sitting in my bed, I
shouldn't like it,--nor would I care to share my meals with a lively
party of cockroaches. There are limits to Christian feelings. And as
for that beast of a bird outside, why it's better outside than in, so
I'll say nothing about it."

And he devoted himself more intently than ever to the preparation of
the dinner, for his master had now an excellent appetite, and ate good
things with appreciation and relish, a circumstance which greatly
consoled Karl for many other drawbacks in the service he had
undertaken. For he was a perfect cook, and proud of his art, and that
night he was particularly conscious of the excellence of the little
tasty dishes he had, to use an artterm, "created," and he watched his
master enjoy their flavour, with a proud, keen sense of his own
consummate skill.

"When a man relishes his food it is all right with him," he thought.--
"Starving for the sake of science may be all very well, but if it
kills the scientist, what becomes of the science?"

And he grew quite cheerful in the contemplation of the "Herr Doctor's"
improved appetite, and by degrees almost forgot the uncanny bird that
was still sitting on the topmost ledge of the tower.

Among other studious habits engendered by long solitude into which
Kremlin had fallen, was the somewhat unhygienic one of reading at
meals. Most frequently it was a volume of poems with which he beguiled
the loneliness of his dinner, for he was one of those rare few who
accept and believe in what may be called the "Prophecies" of Poesy.
These are in very truth often miraculous, and it can be safely
asserted that if the writers of the Bible had not been poets they
would never have been prophets. A poet,--if he indeed be a poet, and
not a mere manufacturer of elegant verse,--always raves,--raves madly,
blindly, incoherently of things he does not really understand.
Moreover, it is not himself that raves--but a Something within him,--
some demoniac or angelic spirit that clamours its wants in wild music,
which by throbbing measure and degree resolves itself, after some
throes of pain on the poet's part, into a peculiar and occasionally
vague language. The poet as man, is no more than man; but that
palpitating voice in his mind gives him no rest, tears his thoughts
piecemeal, rends his soul, and consumes him with feverish trouble and
anxiety not his own, till he has given it some sort of speech, however
mystic and strange. If it resolves itself into a statement which
appals or amazes, he, the poet, cannot help it; if it enunciates a
prophecy he is equally incapable of altering or refuting it. When
Shakespeare wrote the three words, "Sermons in stones," he had no idea
that he was briefly expounding with perfect completeness the then to
him unknown science of Geology. The poet is not born of Flesh alone,
but of Spirit--a Spirit which dominates him whether he will or no,
from the very first hour in which his childish eyes look inquiringly
on leaves and flowers and stars--a Spirit which catches him by the
hands, kisses him on the lips, whispers mad nothings in his startled
ears, flies restlessly round and about him, brushing his every sense
with downy, warm, hurrying wings,--snatches him up altogether at times
and bids him sing, write, cry out strange oracles, weep forth wild
lamentations, and all this without ever condescending to explain to
him the reason why. It is left to the world to discover this "Why,"
and the discovery is often not made till ages after the poet's mortal
dust has been transformed to flowers in the grass which little
children gather and wear unknowingly. The poet whose collected
utterances Dr. Kremlin was now reading as he sipped the one glass of
light Burgundy which concluded his meal, was Byron; the fiery singer
whose exquisite music is pooh-poohed by the insipid critics of the
immediate day, who, jealous of his easily-won and worldwide fame,
grudge him the laurel, even though it spring from the grave of a Hero
as well as Bard. The book was open at "Manfred," and the lines on
which old Kremlin's eyes rested were these:--

"How beautiful is all this visible world!
How glorious in its action and itself!
But we who name ourselves its sovereigns, we.
Half dust, half deity, alike unfit
To sink or soar, with our mix'd essence make
A conflict of its elements, and breathe
The breath of degradation and of pride.
Contending with low wants and lofty will.
Till our mortality predominates.
And men are,--what they name not to themselves.
And trust not to each other."

"Now that passage is every whit as fine as anything in Shakespeare,"
thought Kremlin--"and the whole secret of human trouble is in it;--it
is not the world that is wrong, but we--we 'who make a conflict of its
elements.' The question is, if we are really 'unfit to sink or soar'
is it our fault?--and may we not ask without irreverence why we were
made so incomplete? Ah, my clever friend El-Rmi Zarnos has set
himself a superhuman task on the subject of this 'Why,' and I fancy I
shall find out the riddle of Mars and many another planet besides,
before he 'proves,' as he is trying to do, the conscious and
individual existence of the soul."

He turned over the pages of "Manfred" thoughtfully, and then stopped,
his gaze riveted on the splendid lines in which the unhappy hero of
the tragedy flings his last defiance to the accusing demons--

"The mind which is immortal makes itself
Requital for its good or evil thoughts--
Is its own origin of ill and end--
And its own place and time--its innate sense.
When stripped of this mortality, derives
No colour from the fleeting things without.
But is absorbed in sufferance or in joy.
Born from the knowledge of its own desert.
Thou did'st not tempt me, and thou could'st not tempt;
I have not been thy dupe, nor am thy prey--
But was my own destroyer, and will be
My own hereafter.--Back, ye baffled fiends!
The hand of death is on me,--but not yours!"

"And yet people will say that Byron was an immoral writer!" murmured
Kremlin--"In spite of the tremendous lesson conveyed in those lines!
There is something positively terrifying in that expression--

"'But was my own destroyer, and will be
My own hereafter.'

What a black vista of possibilities--"

Here he broke off, suddenly startled by a snaky blue glare that
flashed into the room like the swift sweep of a sword-blade. Springing
up from the table, he rubbed his dazzled eyes.

"Why--what was that?" he exclaimed.

"Lightning!" replied Karl, just entering at the moment--"and a very
nasty specimen of it.... I'd better put all the knives and steel
things by."

And he proceeded to do this, while Kremlin still stood in the centre
of the room, his sight yet a little confused by the rapidity and
brilliancy of that unexpected storm-flash. A long low ominous
muttering of thunder, beginning far off and rolling up nearer and
nearer till it boomed like a volley of cannon in unison with the roar
of the sea, followed, then came silence. No rain fell, and the wind
only blew moderately enough to sway the shrubs in front of the house
lightly to and fro.

"It will be a stormy night," said Dr. Kremlin then, recovering himself
and taking up his Byron--"I am sorry for the sailors! You had better
see well to all the fastenings of the doors and windows."

"Trust me!" replied Karl sententiously--"You shall not be carried out
to sea against your will if I can help it--nor have I any desire to
make such a voyage myself. I hope, Herr Doctor"--he added with a touch
of anxiety--"you are not going to spend this evening in the tower?"

"I certainly am!" answered Kremlin, smiling--"I have work up there,
and I cannot afford to be idle on account of a thunderstorm. Why do
you look so scared? There is no danger."

"I didn't say there was"--and Karl fidgeted uneasily--"but--though
I've never been inside it, I should think the tower was lonesome, and
I should fancy there might be too close a view of the lightning to be
quite pleasant."

Kremlin looked amused, and walking to the window, pushed back one of
the curtains.

"I believe it was a false alarm," he said, gazing at the sea--"That
flash and thunder-peal were the parting notes of a storm that has
taken place somewhere else. See!--the clouds are clearing."

So in truth they were; the evening, though very dark, seemed to give
promise of a calm. One or two stars twinkled faintly in a blackish-
blue breadth of sky, and perceiving these shining monitors and
problems of his life's labour, Kremlin wasted no more time in words,
but abruptly left the room and ascended to his solitary studio. Karl,
listening, heard the closing of the heavy door aloft and the grating
of the key as it turned in the lock,--and he also heard that strange
perpetual whirring noise above, which, though he had in a manner grown
accustomed to it, always remained for him a perplexing mystery.
Shaking his head dolefully, and with a somewhat troubled countenance,
he cleared the dining-table, set the room in order, went down to his
kitchen, cleaned, rubbed, and polished everything till his
surroundings were as bright as it was possible for them to be, and
then, pleasantly fatigued, sat down to indite a letter to his mother
in the most elaborate German phraseology he could devise. He was
rather proud of his "learning," and he knew his letters home were read
by nearly all the people in his native village as well as by his
maternal parent, so that he was particularly careful in his efforts to
impress everybody by the exceeding choiceness of his epistolary
"style." Absorbed in his task, he at first scarcely noticed the
gradual rising of the wind, which, having rested for a few hours, now
seemed to have awakened in redoubled strength and fury. Whistling
under the kitchen-door it came, with a cold and creepy chill,--it
shook the windows angrily, and then, finding the door of the outside
pantry open, shut it to with a tremendous bang, like an irate person
worsted in an argument. Karl paused, pen in hand; and as he did so, a
dismal cry echoed round the house, the sound seeming to fall from a
height and then sweep over the earth with the wind, towards the sea.

"It's that brute of a bird!" said Karl half-aloud--"Nice cheerful
voice he has, to be sure!"

At that moment, the kitchen was illuminated from end to end by a wide
blue glare of lightning, followed, after a heavy pause, by a short
loud clap of thunder. The hovering storm had at last gathered together
its scattered forces, and concentrating itself blackly above the
clamorous sea, now broke forth in deadly earnest.


KREMLIN meanwhile had reached his tower in time to secure a glimpse of
the clearer portion of the sky before it clouded over again. Opening
the great window, he leaned out and anxiously surveyed the heavens.
There was a little glitter of star-groups above his head, and
immediately opposite an almost stirless heavy fleece of blackness,
which he knew by its position hid from his sight the planet Mars, the
brilliant world he now sought to make the chief centre of his
observations. He saw that heavy clouds were slowly rolling up from the
south, and he was quite prepared for a fresh outbreak of storm and
rain, but he was determined to take advantage, if possible, of even a
few moments of temporary calm. And with this intention he fixed his
gaze watchfully on the woolly-looking dark mass of vapour that
concealed the desired Star from his view, having first carefully
covered the steadily revolving Disc with its thick sable curtain.
Never surely was there a more weird and solemn-looking place than the
tower-room as it now appeared; no light in it at all save a fitful
side-gleam from the whirling edge of the Disc,--all darkness and
monotonous deep sound, with that patient solitary figure leaning at
the sill of the wide-open window, gazing far upward at the pallid
gleam of those few distant stars that truly did no more than make
"darkness visible." The aged scientist's heart beat quickly; the
weight of long years of labour and anxiety seemed to be lifted from
his spirit, and it was with almost all the ardour of his young
student-days that he noted the gradual slow untwisting and dividing of
those threads of storm-mist, that like a dark web, woven by the Fates,
veiled the "red Planet" whose flashing Signal might prove to be the
key to a thousand hitherto unexplored mysteries. It was strange that
just at this particular moment of vague suspense his thoughts should
go wandering in a desultory wilful fashion back to this past,--and
that the history of his bygone life seemed to arrange itself, as it
were, in a pattern as definite as the wavy lines on his "Light-Maps"
and with just as indefinite a meaning. He, who had lived that life,
was as perplexed concerning its ultimate intention, as he was
concerning the ultimate meanings conveyed by the light-vibrations
through air. He tried to keep his ideas centred on the scientific
puzzle he was attempting to unravel,--he strove to think of every
small fact that bore more or less on that one central object,--he
repeated to himself the A B C of his art, concerning the vibrations of
light on that first natural reflector, the human eye,--how, in
receiving the impression of the colour red, for instance, the nerves
of the eye are set quivering four hundred and eighty-two millions of
millions of times; or, of the colour violet, seven hundred and seven
millions of millions of times per second. How could he hope to catch
the rapid flash of the "Third Ray" under these tremendous con--
ditions? Would it not vanish from the very face of the Disc before he
had time to track its circuit? But though he strove to busy his brain
with conjectures and calculations, he was forced, in spite of himself,
to go on groping into the Past; that wonderful Past when he had been
really young--young with a youth not born of El-Rmi's secret
concoctions,--but youth as it is received fresh and perfect from the
hand of Divinity--the talisman which makes all the world an Eden of
roses without thorns. He saw himself as he used to be, a slim student,
fair-haired and blue-eyed, absorbed in science, trying strange
experiments, testing new chemical combinations, ferreting out the
curious mysteries of atmospheric phenomena, and then being gradually
led to consider the vast amount of apparently unnecessary Light per
second, that pours upon us from every radiating object in the
firmament, bearing in mind the fact that our Earth itself radiates
through Space, even though its glimmer be no more than that of a spark
amid many huge fires. He remembered how he had pored over the strange
but incontestable fact that two rays of light starting from the same
point and travelling in the same direction frequently combine to
produce darkness, by that principle which is known in the science of
Optics as the interference of the rays of light,--and how, in the
midst of all this, his work had been suddenly interrupted and put a
stop to by a power the stars in their courses cannot gainsay--Love.
Yes--he had loved and been beloved,--this poor, gentle, dreamy man;--
one winter in Russia--one winter when the snows lay deep on the wild
steppes and the wolves were howling for hunger in the gloom of the
forests,--he had dreamed his dream, and wakened from it--broken-
hearted. She whom he loved, a beautiful girl connected with the
Russian nobility, was associated, though he knew it not, with a secret
society of Nihilists, and was all at once arrested with several others
and accused of being party to a plot for the assassination of the
Tsar. Found guilty, she was sentenced to exile in Siberia, but before
the mandate could be carried out, she died by her own hand, poisoned
in her prison cell. Kremlin, though not "suspect," went almost mad
with grief, and fled from Russia never to set his foot on its accursd
soil again. People said that the excess of his sorrow, rage and
despair had affected his brain, which was possible, as his manner and
mode of living, and the peculiar grooves of study into which he fell,
were undoubtedly strange and eccentric--and yet--tenderness for his
dead love, self-murdered in her youth and beauty, kept him sensitively
alive to human needs and human suffering,--there was no scorn or
bitterness in his nature, and his faith in the unseen God was as great
as El-Rmi's doubt. But left as he was all alone in the world, he
plunged into the obscure depths of science with greater zest than
ever, striving to forget the dire agony of that brief love-drama, the
fatal end of which had nearly closed his own career in madness and
death. And so the years drifted on and on in work that every day grew
more abstruse and perplexing, till he had suddenly, as it were, found
himself old,--too old, as he told himself with nervous trembling, ever
to complete what he had begun. Then he had sent for El-Rmi; El-Rmi
whom he had met and wondered at, during his travels in the East years
ago...and El-Rmi, at his desire, by strange yet potent skill, had
actually turned back time in its too rapid flight--and a new lease of
life was vouchsafed to him;--he had leisure,--long, peaceful leisure
in which to carry out his problems to perfection, if to carry them out
were at all possible. For had not El-Rmi said--"You cannot die,
except by violence"?

And thus, like the "star-patterns," all the fragments of his personal
history came into his mind to-night as he waited at his tower window,
watching the black pavilion under which the world of Mars swung round
in its fiery orbit.

"Why do I think of all these bygone things just now?" he asked himself
wonderingly--"I who so seldom waste my time in looking back, my work
being all for the Future?"

As he murmured the words half aloud, a rift showed itself in the cloud
he was observing,--a rift which widened gradually and broke up the
dark mass by swift and ever swifter degrees. Fold after fold of mist
dissolved and dispersed itself along the sky, swept by the wings of
the newly-arisen wind, and Mars, angrily crimson and stormily
brilliant, flashed forth a lurid fire.... In less time than
imagination can depict, Kremlin had noiselessly flung the black
curtain back from his Disc,...and with his eyes riveted upon its
gleaming pearly surface he waited...scarcely breathing,...every nerve
in his body seeming to contract and grow rigid with expectation and
something like dread. A pale light glistened on the huge was
gone!...another flash,...and this remained trembling in wavy lines and
small revolving Third!--and Kremlin craned his
head forward came!--like a drop of human blood it fell,
and raced more rapidly than quicksilver round and round the polished
surface of the Disc, paling in tint among the other innumerable
silvery lines ... flashed again redly ..and...disappeared! A cry of
irrepressible disappointment broke from Kremlin's lips.

"Impossible! God!...Impossible!"

Aye!--impossible surely to track such velocity of motion--impossible
to fix the spot where first its dazzling blood-like hue fell, and
where it at last vanished. And yet Kremlin waited on in feverish
expectancy, his lips apart, his breath coming and going in quick
uneasy gasps, his straining eyes fixed on that terrible, inscrutable
creation of his own skill, that fearful Mirror of the heavens which
reflected so much and betrayed so little!...Heedless of the muttering
roar of the wind which now suddenly assailed the tower, he stood,
fascinated by the dazzling play of light that illumined the Disc more
brilliantly than usual. A dismal scream,--the cry of the vulture
perched on the roof above him, echoed faintly in his ears, but he
scarcely heard it, so absorbed was he in his monstrous Enigma; till--
all at once, a blue shaft of lightning glared in at the window, its
brief reflection transforming the Disc for a second to an almost
overwhelming splendour of glittering colour. The strong blaze dazzled
Kremlin's eyes,--and as the answer--ing thunder rattled through the
sky, he reluctantly moved from his position and went towards the
window to shut it against the threatening storm. But when he reached
it, he saw that the planet Mars was yet distinctly visible; the
lightning and thunder came from that huge bank of clouds in the south
he had before noticed,--clouds which were flying rapidly up, but had
not yet entirely obscured the heavens. In eager and trembling haste he
hurried back to the Disc,--it seemed alive with light, and glistened
from point to point like a huge jewel as it whirled and hummed its
strange monotonous music,--and, shading his eyes, he remained close
beside it, determined to watch it still, hoping against hope that
another red flash like the one he had lately seen, might crimson the
quivering mass of silvery intersecting lines which he knew were not so
much the light-vibrations of stars now, as reflexes of the electricity
pent up in the tempestuous atmosphere.

"Patience...patience!" he murmured aloud--"A moment more, and perhaps
I shall see,...I shall know...I shall find what I have sought...."

The last words were yet trembling on his lips when a fearful forkd
tongue of red flame leaped from the clouds, descending obliquely like
a colossal sword, smote the tower, splitting its arched roof and
rending its walls asunder,--and with the frightful boom and bellow of
thunder that followed, echoing over land and sea for miles and miles
there came another sound,...a clanging jangle of chains and wires and
ponderous metals,..the mighty mass of the glittering Star-Dial swirled
round unsteadily once...twice...quivered...stopped...and
then...slipping from its wondrous pendulum, hurled itself forward like
a monster shield and fell!...fell with an appalling crash and thud,
bringing the roof down upon itself in a blinding shower of stones and
dust and mortar.... And then...why, then nothing! Nothing but dense
blackness, muttering thunder, and the roaring of the wind.

Outside, frantic with fear, Karl shook and battered at the firmly-
locked and bolted door of the tower. When that forked flash of
lightning had struck the house, it had stretched him senseless in his
kitchen,--he had however recovered after a few minutes'
unconsciousness, dazed and stunned but otherwise unhurt, and becoming
gradually alive to the immediate dangers of the situation, he had,
notwithstanding the fury of the gale and the deafening peals of
thunder, rushed out of doors instinctively to look at the tower. One
glance showed him what had happened,--it was split asunder, and showed
dimly against the stormy night like a yawning ruin round which in time
the ivy might twist and cling. Breathless and mad with terror, he had
rushed back to the house and up the stairs, and now stood impatiently
clamouring outside the impenetrable portal whose firm interior
fastenings resisted all his efforts. He called, he knocked, he
kicked,--and then, exhausted with the vain attempt, stopped to
listen.... Nothing!...not a sound! He made a hollow of his hands and
put his mouth to the keyhole.

"Herr Doctor!...Herr Doctor!"

No answer,--except the stormy whistle of the blast.

"No help for it!" he thought desperately, tears of excitement and
alarm gathering in his eyes--"I must call for assistance,--rouse the
neighbours and break open the door by force."

He ran downstairs and out of the house bareheaded, to be met by a
sudden sweep of rain which fell in a straight unpremeditated way from
the clouds in stinging torrents. Heedless of wind and wet he sped
along, making direct for some fishermen's cottages whose inhabitants
he knew and whom in a manner he was friendly with, and having roused
them up by shouts and cries, explained to them as briefly as possible
what had happened. As soon as they understood the situation four stout
fellows got ready to accompany him, and taking pickaxes, crowbars,
boathooks, and any other such implements as were handy, they ran
almost as quickly as Karl himself to the scene of the catastrophe.
Their excitement was to the full as great as his, till they reached
the top of the staircase and stood outside the mysterious door--there
they hung back a moment hesitatingly.

"Call him again"--one whispered to Karl. "Mebbe he's in there safe and
sound and did not hear ye at fust."

To satisfy the man's scruples Karl obeyed, and called and called, and
knocked and knocked again and yet again,--with the same result,--no
answer, save the derisive yell of the gale.

"He be dead an' gone for sure"--said a second man, with a slight
pallor coming over his sea-tanned face--"Well...well!...if so be as we
must break down th' door--"

"Here, give me one of those things"--cried Karl impatiently, and
snatching a crowbar he began dealing heavy blows at the massive nail-
studded oaken barrier. Seeing him so much in earnest, his companions
lost the touch of superstitious dread that had made them hesitate, and
also set themselves to work with a will, and in a few minutes--minutes
which to the anxious Karl seemed ages,--the door was battered
in,...and they all rushed forward,...but the fierce wind tearing
wildly around them, caught the flame of the lamp they carried and
extinguished it, so that they were left in total darkness. But over
their heads the split roof yawned, showing the black sky, and about
their feet there was a mass of fallen stones and dust and
indistinguishable ruin. As quickly as possible they re-lit the lamp
and holding it aloft, looked tremblingly and without speaking a word,
at the havoc and confusion around them. At first little could be seen
but heaped-up stones and bricks and mortar, but Karl's quick eyes
roving eagerly about caught sight suddenly of something black under a
heap of dbris,--and quickly bending down over it he began with his
hands to clear away the rubbish,--the other men, seeing what he was
trying to do, aided him in his task, and in about twenty minutes' time
they succeeded in uncovering a black mass, huge and inanimate.

"What is it?" whispered one of the men--"It''s not him?"

Karl said nothing--he felt himself turning sick with dread,...he
touched that doubtful blackness--it was a thick cloth like a great
pall--it concealed...what? Recklessly he pulled and tugged at it,
getting his hands lacerated by a tangled mesh of wires and metals,--
till, yielding at last to a strong jerk, it came away in weighty
clinging folds, disclosing what to him seemed an enormous round stone,
which, as the lamp-light flashed upon it, glistened mysteriously with
a thousand curious hues. Karl grasped its edge in an effort to lift
it--his fingers came in contact with something moist and warm, and
snatching them away in a sort of vague horror, he saw that they were
stained with blood.

"Oh my God! my God!" he cried--"He is down there,--underneath this
thing! me to lift it, men!--lift it for Heaven's sake!--lift
it, quick--quick!"

But though they all dragged at it with a will, the work was not so
easy--the great Disc had fallen flat, and lay solemnly inert--and that
oozing blood,--the blood of the too daring student of the stars who
had designed its mystic proportions,--trickled from under it with
sickening rapidity. At last, breathless and weary, they were about to
give up the task in despair, when Karl snatched from out the ruins the
iron needle or pendulum on which the Disc had originally swung, and
all unknowing what it was, thrust it cautiously under the body of the
great stone to aid in getting a firmer hold of it, ... to his
amazement and terror the huge round mass caught and clung to it, like
warm sealing wax to a piece of paper, and in an instant seemed to have
magically dispensed with all its weight, for as, with his unassisted
strength he lifted the pendulum, the Disc lifted itself lightly and
easily with it! A cry of fear and wonder broke from all the men,--Karl
himself trembled in every limb, and big drops of cold sweat broke out
on his forehead at what he deemed the devilish horror of this miracle.
But as he, with no more difficulty than he would have experienced in
heaving up a moderate-sized log of wood, raised the Disc and flung it
back and away from him shudderingly, pendulum and all, his eyes fell
on what had lain beneath it,...a crushed pulp of human flesh and
streaming blood--and reverend silver hairs...and with a groan that
seemed to rend his very heart, Karl gave one upward sick stare at the
reeling sky, and fainted, unconscious for the time being as that
indistinguishable mangled mass of perished mortality that once had
been his master.

Gently and with compassionate kindness, the rough fishers who stood by
lifted him up and bore him out of the tower and down the stairs,--and
after a whispered consultation, carried him away from the house
altogether to one of their own cottages, where they put him under the
care of one of their own women. None of them could sleep any more that
night; they stood in a group close by their humble habitations,
watching the progress of the storm, and ever and anon casting awe-
stricken glances at the shattered tower.

"The devil was in it"--said one of the men at last, as he lit his pipe
and endeavoured to soothe his nerves by several puffs at that smoky
consoler--"or else how would it rise up like that as light as a
feather at the touch of an iron pole?"

"It must a' weighed twenty stun at least"--murmured another man

"What was it?" demanded a third--"I should a' took it for a big
grindstone if it hadn't sparkled up so when the light fell on it."

"Well, it may stay where it is for all I care," said the first
speaker--"I wouldn't touch it again for a hundred pound!"

"Nor I." "Nor I."

They were all agreed on that point.

"Wotever he were a' doin' on,"--said the fourth man gravely--"whether
it were God's work or the devil's, it's all over now. He's done for,
poor old chap--mashed into a reg'lar jelly--wiped out as it were. It's
an awful end--God rest his soul!"

The others lifted their caps and murmured "Amen" with simple
reverence. Then they looked out at the dark wallowing trough of the

"How the wind roars!" said the last speaker.

"Ay, it do roar," replied the man who was his mate in the boat when
they went fishing; "and did ye hear a vulture scream awhile ago?"

"Ay, ay! I heard it!" They were silent then, and turned in, after
making inquiries concerning Karl at the cottage where they had left
him. He was still unconscious.


A COUPLE of days later, El-Rmi was engaged in what was not a very
favourite occupation with him,--he was reading the morning's
newspaper. He glanced over the cut-and-dry chronicle of "Storms and
Floods"--he noted that a great deal of damage had been wrought by the
gale at Ilfracombe and other places along the Devonshire coast,--but
there was nothing of any specially dreadful import to attract his
attention, and nothing either in politics or science of any pressing
or vital interest. There were two or three reviews of books, one of
these being pressed into a corner next to the advertisement of a
patent pill; there were announcements of the movements of certain
human units favoured with a little extra money and position than
ordinary, as being "in" or "out" of town, and there was a loftily-
patronizing paragraph on the "Theosophical Movement," or as it is more
frequently termed, the "Theosophical Boom." From this, El-Rmi learned
that a gentleman connected with the Press, who wrote excessively
common-place verse, and thereby had got himself and his name (through
the afore-said press-connection) fairly well known, had been good
enough to enunciate the following amazing platitude;--"That, as a
great portion of the globe is composed of elements which cannot be
seen, and as the study of the invisible may be deemed as legitimate as
the study of the visible, he" (the press-connected versifier) "is
inclined to admit that there are great possibilities on the lines of
that study."

"Inclined to admit it, is he!" and El-Rmi threw aside the paper and
broke into a laugh of the sincerest enjoyment--"Heavens! what fools
there are in this world, who call themselves wise men! This little
poetaster, full of the conceit common to his imitative craft, is
'inclined to admit' that there are great possibilities in the study of
the invisible! Excellent condescension! How the methods of life have
turned topsy-turvy since the ancient days! Then the study of the
Invisible was the first key to the study of the Visible,--the things
which are seen being considered only as the reflexes of the things
which are unseen--the Unseen being accepted as Cause, the Seen as
Effect. Now we all drift the other way,--taking the Visible as Fact,--
the Invisible as Fancy!"

Fraz, who was writing at a side-table, looked up at him.

"Surely you are inconsistent?" he said--"You yourself believe in
nothing unless it is proved."

"But then, my dear fellow, I can prove the Invisible and follow the
grades of it, and the modes by which it makes itself the Visible,--to
a certain extent--but only to a certain extent. Beyond the provable
limit I do not go. You, on the contrary, aided by the wings of
imagination, outsoar that limit, and profess to find angels, star-
kingdoms, and God Himself. I cannot go so far as this. But, unlike our
blown-out frog of a versifier here, who would fain persuade mankind he
is a bull, I am not only 'inclined' to admit--I do admit that there
are 'great possibilities'--only I must test them all before I can
accept them as facts made clear to my comprehension."

"Still, you believe in the Invisible?"

"Naturally. I believe in the millions of suns in the Milky Way, though
they can scarcely be called 'visible.' I should be a fool if I did not
believe in the Invisible, under the present conditions of the
Universe. But I cannot be tricked by 'shams' of the Invisible. The
Theosophical business is a piece of vulgar imposture, in which the
professors themselves are willing to delude their own imaginations, as
well as the imaginations of others--they are the most wretched
imitators that ever were of the old Eastern sorcerers,--the fellows
who taught Moses and Aaron how to frighten their ignorant cattle-like
herds of followers. None of the modern 'mediums' as they are called,
have the skill over atmospheric phenomena, metals and light-reflexes,
that Apollonius of Tyana had, or Alexander the Paphlagonian. Both
these scientific sorcerers were born about the same time as Christ,
and Apollonius like Christ, raised a maiden from the dead. Miracles
were the fashion in that period of time,--and according to the
monotonous manner in which history repeats itself, they are coming
into favour again in this century. All that we know now has been
already known. The ancient Greeks had their 'penny-in-the-slot'
machine for the purpose of scattering perfume on their clothes as they
passed along the streets--they had their 'syphon' bottles and vases as
we have, and they had their automatically opening and closing doors.
Compare the miserable 'spiritualistic phenomena' of the Theosophists
with the marvels wrought by Hakem, known as Mokanna! Mokanna could
cause an orb like the moon to rise from a well at a certain hour and
illumine the country for miles and miles around. How did he do it? By
a knowledge of electric force applied to air and water. The 'bogies'
of a modern 'sance' who talk bad grammar and pinch people's toes and
fingers, are very coarse examples of necromancy, compared to the
scientific skill of Mokanna and others of this tribe. However,
superstition is the same in all ages, and there will always be fools
ready to believe in 'Mahatmas' or anything else,--and the old
'incantation of the Mantra,' will, if well done, influence the minds
of the dupes of the nineteenth century quite as effectively as it did
those of the bygone ages before Christ."

"What is the incantation of the Mantra?" asked Fraz.

"A ridiculous trick"--replied El-Rmi--"known to every Eastern
conjurer and old woman who professes to see the future. You take your
dupe, and fling a little water over him, fixing upon him your eyes and
all the force of your will,--then, you take a certain mixture of
chemical substances and perfumes, and set them on fire--the flames and
fumes produce a dazzling and drowsy effect on the senses of your
'subject,' who will see whatever you choose him to see, and hear
whatever you intend him to hear. But Will is the chief ingredient of
the spell,--and if I, for example, choose to influence anyone, I can
dispense with both water and fire--I can do it alone and without any
show of preparation."

"I know you can!" said Fraz meaningly, with a slight smile, and then
was silent.

"I wonder what the art of criticism is coming to now-a-days!"
exclaimed El-Rmi presently, taking up the paper again--"Here is a
remark worthy of Dogberry's profundity--'This is a book that must be
read to be understood.'* Why, naturally! Who can understand a book
without reading it?"

Fraz laughed--then his eyes darkened.

"I saw an infamous so-called critique of one of Madame Vassilius's
books the other day"--he said--"I should like to have thrashed the man
who wrote it. It was not criticism at all--it was a mere piece of
scurrilous vulgarity."

"Ah, but that sort of thing pays!" retorted El-Rmi satirically. "The
modern journalist attains his extremest height of brilliancy when he
throws the refuse of his inkpot at the name and fame of a woman more
gifted than himself. It's nineteenth-century chivalry you know,--above's manly!"


* Copied verbatim from the current Press.

Fraz shrugged his shoulders with a faint gesture of contempt.

"Then--if there is any truth in old chronicles--men are not what they
were;"--he said.

"No--they are not what they were, my dear boy--because all things have
changed. Women were once the real slaves and drudges of men,--now,
they are very nearly their equals, or can be so if they choose. And
men have to get accustomed to this--at present they are in the
transition state and don't like it. Besides, there will always be male
tyrants and female drudges as long as the world lasts. Men are not
what they were,--and, certes, they are not what they might be."

"They might be gods;"--said Fraz--"but I suppose they prefer to be

"Precisely!" agreed El-Rmi--"it is easier, and more amusing."

Fraz resumed his writing in silence. He was thinking of Irene
Vassilius, whom he admired;--and also of that wondrous Sleeping Beauty
enshrined upstairs whose loveliness he did not dare to speak of. He
had latterly noticed a great change in his brother,--an indefinable
softness seemed to have imperceptibly toned down the habitual cynicism
of his speech and manner,--his very expression of countenance was more
gracious and benign,--he looked handsomer,--his black eyes shot forth
a less fierce fire,--and yet, with all his gentleness and entire lack
of impatience, he was absorbed from morning to night in such close and
secret study as made Fraz sometimes fear for its ultimate result on
his health.

"Do you really believe in prayer, Fraz?" was the very unexpected
question he now asked, with sudden and startling abruptness; "I mean,
do you think anyone in the Invisible Realms hears us when we pray?"

Fraz laid down his pen, and gazed at his brother for a moment without
answering. Then he said slowly--

"Well, according to your own theories the Air is a vast Phonograph,--
so it follows naturally that everything is heard and kept. But as to
prayer, that depends I think, altogether on how you pray. I do not
believe in it at all times. And I'm afraid my ideas on the subject are
quite out of keeping with those generally accepted--"

"Never mind--let me have them, whatever they are"--interrupted El-Rmi
with visible eagerness--"I want to know when and how you pray?"

"Well, the fact is I very seldom pray"--returned Fraz--"I offer up
the best praise I can in mortal language devise, both night and
morning--but I never ask for anything. It would seem so vile to ask
for more, having already so much. And I am sure God knows best--in
which case I have nothing to ask, except one thing."

"And that is--?" queried his brother.

"Punishment!" replied Fraz emphatically; "I pray for that--I crave
for that--I implore that I may be punished at once when I have done
wrong, that I may immediately recognise my error. I would rather be
punished here, than hereafter."

El-Rmi paled a little, and his lips trembled.

"Strange boy!" he murmured--"All the churches are praying God to take
away the punishments incurred for sin,--you on the contrary, ask for
it as if it were a blessing."

"So it is a blessing"--declared Fraz--"It must be a blessing--and it
is absurd of the churches to pray against a Law. For it is a Law.
Nature punishes us, when we physically rebel against the rules of
health, by physical suffering and discomfort,--God punishes us in our
mental rebellions by mental wretchedness. This is as it should be. I
believe we get everything in this world that we deserve--no more and
no less."

"And do you never pray"--continued El-Rmi slowly, "for the
accomplished perfection of some cherished aim,--the winning of some
special joy--"

"Not I"--said Fraz--"because I know that if it be good for me I shall
have it,--if bad, it will be withheld; all my prayers could not alter
the matter."

El-Rmi sat silent for a few minutes,--then, rising, he took two or
three turns up and down the room, and gradually a smile, half
scornful, half sweet, illumined his dark features.

"Then, O young and serene philosopher, I will not pray!" he said, his
eyes flashing a lustrous defiance--"I have a special aim in view--I
mean to grasp a joy!--and whether it be good or bad for me, I will
attempt it unassisted."

"If it be good you will succeed;"--said Fraz with a glance expressive
of some fear as well as wonderment. "If it be bad, you will not. God
arranges these things for us."

"God--God--always God!" cried El-Rmi with some impatience--"No God
shall interfere with me!" At that moment there came a hesitating knock
at the street-door. Fraz went to open it, and admitted a pale grief-
stricken man whose eyes were red and heavy with tears and whose voice
utterly failed him to reply when El-Rmi exclaimed in astonishment:

"Karl!...Karl! You here? Why, what has happened?"

Poor Karl made a heroic struggle to speak,--but his emotion was too
strong for him--he remained silent, and two great drops rolled down
his cheeks in spite of all his efforts to restrain them.

"You are ill;"--said Fraz kindly, pushing him by gentle force into a
chair and fetching him a glass of wine--"Here, drink this--it will
restore you."

Karl put the glass aside tremblingly, and tried to smile his
gratitude,--and presently gaining a little control over himself he
turned his piteous glances towards El-Rmi whose fine features had
become suddenly grave and fixed in thought.

" not heard, sir--" he stammered.

El-Rmi raised his hand gently, with a solemn and compassionate

"Peace, my good fellow!--no, I have not heard,--but I can guess;--
Kremlin, your dead."

And he was silent for many minutes. Fresh tears trickled from Karl's
eyes, and he made a pretence of tasting the wine that Fraz pressed
upon him--Fraz, who looked as statuesque and serene as a young

"You must console yourself;"--he said cheerfully to Karl,--"Poor Dr.
Kremlin had many troubles and few joys--now he has gone where he has
no trouble and all joy."

"Ah!" sighed Karl dolefully--"I wish I could believe that, sir,--I
wish I could believe it! But it was the judgment of God upon him--it
was indeed!--that is what my poor mother would say,--the judgment of

El-Rmi moved from his meditative attitude with a faint sense of
irritation. The words he had so lately uttered--"No God shall
interfere with me"--re-echoed in his mind. And now here was this
man,--this servant, weeping and trembling and talking of the "judgment
of God" as if it were really something divinely directed and

"What do you mean?" he asked, endeavouring to suppress the impatience
in his voice--"Of course, I know he must have had some violent end, or
else he could not"--and he repeated the words impressively--"could not
have died,--but was there anything more than usually strange in the
manner of his death?"

Karl threw up his hands.

"More than usually strange! Ach, Gott!" and, with many interpolations
of despair and expressions of horror, he related in broken accents the
whole of the appalling circumstances attending his master's end. In
spite of himself a faint shudder ran through El-Rmi's warm blood as
he heard--he could almost see before him the horrible spectacle of the
old man's mangled form lying crushed under the ponderous Disc his
daring skill had designed; and under his breath he murmured--"Oh
Lilith, oh my too-happy Lilith! and yet you tell me there is no
death!" Fraz however, the young and sensitive Fraz, listened to the
sad recital with quiet interest, unhorrified, apparently unmoved,--his
eyes were bright, his expression placid.

"He could not have suffered;"--he observed at last, when Karl had
finished speaking--"The flash of lightning must have severed body and
spirit instantly and without pain. I think it was a good end."

Karl looked at the beautiful smiling youth in vague horror. What!--to
be flattened out like a board beneath a ponderous weight of fallen
stone--to be so disfigured as to be unrecognisable--to have one's
mortal remains actually swept up and wiped out (as had been the case
with poor Kremlin), and to be only a mangled mass of flesh difficult
of decent burial,--and call that "a good end"! Karl shuddered and
groaned;--he was not versed in the strange philosophies of young
Fraz--he had never been out of his body on an ethereal journey to the

"It was the judgment of God,"--he repeated dully--"Neither more nor
less. My poor master studied too hard, and tried to find out too much,
and I think he made God angry--"

"My good fellow," interrupted El-Rmi rather irritably--"do not talk
of what you do not understand. You have been faithful, hard-working
and all the rest of it,--but as for your master trying to find out too
much, or God getting angry with him, that is all nonsense. We were
placed on this earth to find out as much as we can, about it and about
ourselves, and do the best that is possible with our learning,--and
the bare idea of a great God condescending to be 'angry' with one out
of millions upon millions of units is absurd--"

"But even if an unit rebels against the Law the Law crushes him"--
interrupted Fraz softly--"A gnat flies into flame--the flame consumes
it--the Law is fulfilled,--and the Law is God's Will."

El-Rmi bit his lip vexedly.

"Well, be that as it may one must needs find out what the Law is
first, before it can either be accepted, or opposed," he said.

Fraz made no answer. He was thinking of the simplicity of certain
Laws of Spirit and Matter which were accepted and agreed to by the
community of men of whom the monk from Cyprus was the chief master.

Karl meanwhile stared bewilderedly from Fraz to El-Rmi and from El-
Rmi back to Fraz again. Their remarks were totally beyond his
comprehension; he never could understand, and never wanted to
understand these subtle philosophies.

"I came to ask you, sir"--he said after a pause--"whether you would
not, now you know all, manage to take away that devilish thing that
killed my master? I'm afraid to touch it myself, and no one else
will--and there it lies up in the ruined tower shining away like a big
lamp, and sticking like a burr to the iron rod I lifted it with. If
it's any good to you, I'm sure you'd better have it--and by-the-bye, I
found this, sir, in my master's room addressed to you."

He held out a sealed envelope, which El-Rmi opened. It contained a
folded paper, on which were scratched these lines--

"To EL-RMI ZARNOS. Good friend, in the event of my death, I beg
you to accept all my possessions such as they are, and do me the one
favour I ask, which is this--Destroy the Disc, and let my problem die
with me."

This paper duly signed, bore the date of two years previously. El-
Rmi read it, and handed it to Karl who read it also. They were silent
for a few minutes; then El-Rmi crossed the room, and unlocking a
small cupboard in the wall, took out a sealed flask full of what
looked like red wine.

"See here, Karl"--he said;--"There is no devil in the great stone you
are so afraid of. It is as perishable as anything else in this best of
all possible worlds. It is nothing but a peculiar and rare growth of
crystal, which though found in the lowest depths of the earth, has the
quality of absorbing light and emitting it. It clings to the iron rod
in the way you speak of because it is a magnet,--and iron not only
attracts but fastens it. It is impossible for me just now to go to
Ilfracombe--besides there is really no necessity for my presence
there. I can fully trust you to bring me the papers and few
possessions of my poor old friend,--and for the rest, you can destroy
the stone yourself--the Disc, as your master called it. All you have
to do is simply to pour this liquid on it,--it will pulverize--that
is, it will crumble into dust while you watch it, and in ten minutes
will be indistinguishable from the fallen mortar of the shattered
tower. Do you understand?"

Karl's mouth opened a little in wonderment, and he nodded feebly,--he
found it quite easy and natural to be afraid of the flask containing a
mixture of such potent quality, and he took it from El-Rmi's hand
very gingerly and reluctantly. A slight smile crossed El-Rmi's
features as he said--

"No, Karl! there is no danger--no fear of pulverization for you. You
can put the phial safely in your pocket,--and though its contents
could pulverize a mountain if used in sufficient quantities,--the
liquid has no effect on flesh and blood."

"Pulverize a mountain!" repeated Karl nervously--"Do you mean that it
could turn a mountain into a dust-heap?"

"Or a city--or a fortress--or a rock-bound coast--or anything in the
shape of stone that you please"--replied El-Rmi carelessly--"but it
will not harm human beings."

"Will it not explode, sir?" and Karl still looked at the flask in

"Oh no--it will do its work with extraordinary silence and no less
extraordinary rapidity. Do not be afraid!"

Slowly and with evident uneasiness Karl put the terrifying composition
into his pocket, deeply impressed by the idea that he had about him
stuff, which, if used in sufficient quantity, could "pulverize a
mountain." It was awful!--worse than dynamite, he considered, his
thoughts flying off wantonly to the woes of Irishmen and Russians.
El--Rmi seemed not to notice his embarrassment and went on talking
quietly, asking various questions concerning Kremlin's funeral, and
giving advice as to the final arrangements which were necessary, till
presently he inquired of Karl what he proposed doing with himself in
the future.

"Oh I shall look out for another situation,"--he said--"I shall not go
back to Germany. I like to think of the 'Fatherland,' and I can sing
the 'Wacht am Rhein' with as much lung as anybody, but I wouldn't care
to live there. I think I shall try for a place where there's a lady to
serve; you know, sir, gentlemen's ways are apt to be monotonous.
Whether they are clever or foolish they always stick to it, whatever
it is. A gentleman that races is always racing, and always talking and
thinking about racing,--a gentleman that drinks is always on the
drink,--a gentleman that coaches is always coaching, and so on; now a
lady does vary! One day she's all for flowers, another for pictures,
another for china,--sometimes she's mad about music, sometimes about
dresses,--or else she takes a fit for study, and gets heaps of books
from the libraries. Now for a man-servant, all that is very agreeable
and lively."

Fraz laughed at this novel view of domestic service, and Karl,
growing a little more cheerful, went on with his explanation--

"You see, supposing I get into a lady's service, I shall have so much
more to distract me. One afternoon I shall be waiting outside a
picture-gallery with her shawls and wraps; another day I shall be
running backwards and forwards to Mudie's,--and then there's always
the pleasure of never quite knowing what she will do next. And it's
excitement I want just now--it really is!"

The corners of his good-humoured mouth drooped again despondently, and
his thoughts reverted with unpleasant suddenness to the 'pulverizing'
liquid in his pocket. What a terrible thing it was to get acquainted
with scientists!

El-Rmi listened to his observations patiently.

"Well, Karl," he said at last--"I think I can promise you a situation
such as you would like. There is a very famous and lovely lady in
London, known to the reading-world as Irene Vassilius--she writes
original books; is sweetly capricious, yet nobly kind-hearted. I will
write to her about you, and I have no doubt she will give you a

Karl brightened up immensely at this prospect.

"Thank you, sir!" he said fervently--"You've no idea what a deal of
good it will do me to take in the tea to a sweet-looking lady--a
properly-served tea, you know, all silver and good china. It will be a
sort of tonic to me,--it will indeed, after that terrible place at
Ilfracombe. You can tell her I'm a very handy man,--I can do almost
anything, from cooking a chop, up to stretching my legs all day in a
porter's chair in the hall and reading the latest 'Special.' Anything
she wishes whether for show or economy, she couldn't have a better
hand at it than me;--will you tell her so, sir?"

"Certainly!" replied El-Rmi with a smile. "I'll tell her you are a
domestic Von Moltke, and that under your management her household will
be as well ordered as the German army under the great Field-Marshal."

After a little more desultory conversation, Karl took his departure,
and returned by the afternoon train to Ilfracombe. He was living with
one of his fisher-friends, and as it was late when he arrived, he made
no attempt to go to the deserted house of his deceased master that
night. But early the next morning he hurried there before breakfast,
and ascended to the shattered tower,--that awful scene of desolation
from whence poor Kremlin's mangled remains had been taken, and where
only a dark stain of blood on the floor silently testified of the
horror that had there been enacted. The Disc, lying prone, glittered
as he approached it, with, as he thought, a fiendish and supernatural
light--the early sunlight fell upon its surface, and a thousand
prismatic tints and sparkles dazzled his eyes as he drew near and
gazed dubiously at it where it still clung to the iron pendulum. What
could his master have used such a strange object for?--what did it
mean? And that solemn humming noise which he had used to hear when the
nights were still,--had that glistening thing been the cause?--had it
any sound?...Struck by this idea, and filled with a sudden courage, he
seized a piece of thick wire, part of the many tangled coils that lay
among the ruins of roof and wall, and with it, gave the Disc a smart
blow on its edge...hush!...hush!...The wire dropped from his hand, and
he stood, almost paralyzed with fear. A deep, solemn, booming sound
like a great cathedral bell, rang through the air,--grand, and pure
and musical, and...unearthly!--as might be the clarion stroke of a
clock beating out, not the short pulsations of Time, but the vast
throbs of Eternity. Round and round, in eddying echoes swept that
sweet, sonorous note,--till--growing gradually fainter and fainter, it
died entirely away from human hearing, and seemed to pass out and
upwards into the gathering sunrays that poured brightly from the East,
there to take its place perchance, in that immense diapason of
vibrating tone-music that fills the star-strewn space for ever and
ever. It was the last sound struck from the great Star-Dial:--for
Karl, terrified at the solemn din, wasted no more time in speculative
hesitation, but taking the flask El-Rmi had given him, he opened it
tremblingly and poured all its contents on the surface of the crystal.
The red liquid ran over the stone like blood, crumbling it as it ran
and extinguishing its brilliancy,--eating its substance away as
rapidly as vitriol eats away the human skin,--blistering it and
withering it visibly before Karl's astonished eyes,--till, as El-Rmi
had said, it was hardly distinguishable from the dust and mortar
around it. One piece lasted just a little longer than the rest--it
curled and writhed like a living thing under the absolutely noiseless
and terribly destructive influence of that blood-like liquid that
seemed to sink into it as water sinks into a sponge,--Karl watched it,
fascinated--till all at once it broke into a sparkle like flame,
gleamed, smouldered, leaped high...and--disappeared. The wondrous Dial
with its "perpetual motion" and its measured rhythm, was as if it had
never been,--it had vanished as utterly as a destroyed Planet,--and
the mighty Problem reflected on its surface remained...and will most
likely still remain...a mystery unsolved.


FOR two or three weeks after he had received the news of Kremlin's
death, El-Rmi's mind was somewhat troubled and uneasy. He continued
his abstruse studies ardently, yet with less interest than usual,--and
he spent hour after hour in Lilith's room, sitting beside the couch on
which she reposed, saying nothing, but simply watching her, himself
absorbed in thought. Days went by and he never roused her,--never
asked her to reply to any question concerning the deep things of time
and of eternity with which her arial spirit seemed conversant. He was
more impressed by the suddenness and terror of Kremlin's end than he
cared to admit to himself,--and the "Light-Maps" and other papers
belonging to his deceased old friend, all of which had now come into
his possession, were concise enough in many marvellous particulars, to
have the effect of leading him almost imperceptibly to believe that
after all there was a God,--an actual Being whose magnificent
attributes baffled the highest efforts of the imagination, and who
indeed, as the Bible grandly hath it--"holds the Universe in the
hollow of His hand." And he began to go back to the Bible for
information;--for he, like most students versed in Eastern
philosophies, knew that all that was ever said or will be said on the
mysteries of life and death, is to be found in that Book, which though
full of much matter that does not pertain to its actual teaching,
remains the one chief epitome of all the wisdom of the world. When it
is once remembered that the Deity of Moses and Aaron was their own
invented Hobgoblin, used for the purpose of terrifying and keeping the
Jews in order, much becomes clear that is otherwise impossible to
accept or comprehend. Historians, priests, lawgivers, prophets and
poets have all contributed to the Bible,--and when we detach class
from class and put each in its proper place, with--out confounding
them all together in an inextricable jumble as "Divine inspiration,"
we obtain a better view of the final intention of the whole. El-Rmi
considered Moses and Aaron in the light of particularly clever Eastern
conjurers,--and not only conjurers, but tacticians and diplomatists,
who had just the qualities necessary to rule a barbarous, ignorant,
and rebellious people. The thunders of Mount Sinai,--the graving of
the commandments on tablets of stone,--the serpent in the
wilderness,--the bringing of water out of a rock,--the parting of the
sea to let an army march through;--he, El-Rmi, knew how all these
things were done, and was perfectly cognisant of the means and
appliances used to compass all these seemingly miraculous events.

"What a career I could make if I chose!" he thought--"What wealth I
could amass,--what position! I who know how to quell the wildest waves
of the sea,--I who, by means of a few drops of liquid can corrode a
name or a device so deeply on stone that centuries shall not efface
it--I who can do so many things that would astonish the vulgar and
make them my slaves,--why am I content to live as I do, when I could
be greater than a crowned king? Why, because I scorn to trick the
ignorant by scientific skill which I have neither the time nor the
patience to explain to them--and again--because I want to fathom the
Impossible;--I want to prove if indeed there is any Impossible. What
can be done and proved, when once it is done and proved, I regard as
nothing,--and because I know how to smooth the sea, call down the
rain, and evoke phantoms out of the atmosphere, I think such
manifestations of power trifling and inadequate. These things are all
provable; and the performance of them is attained through a familiar
knowledge of our own earth-elements and atmosphere; but to find out
the subtle Something that is not of earth, and has not yet been made
provable,--that is the aim of my ambition. The Soul! What is it? Of
what ethereal composition? of what likeness? of what feeling? of what
capacity? This, and this alone is the Supreme Mystery,--when once we
understand it, we shall understand God. The preachers waste their time
in urging men and women to save their souls, so long as we remain in
total ignorance as to what the Soul IS. We cannot be expected to take
any trouble to 'save' or even regard anything so vague and dubious as
the Soul under its present conditions. What is visible and provable to
our eyes, is that our friends die, and to all intents and purposes,
disappear. We never know them as they were any more,...and,...what is
still more horrible to think of, but is nevertheless true,--our
natural tendency is to forget them,--indeed, after three or four
years, perhaps less, we should find it difficult, without the aid of a
photograph or painted picture, to recall their faces to our memories.
And it is curious to think of it, but we really remember their ways,
their conversation, and their notions of life better than their actual
physiognomies. All this is very strange and very perplexing too,--and
it is difficult to imagine the reason for such perpetual tearing down
of affections, and such bitter loss and harassment, unless there is
some great Intention behind it all,--an Intention of which it is
arranged we shall be made duly cognisant. If we are not to be made
cognisant,--if we are not to have a full and perfect Explanation,--
then the very fact of Life being lived at all is a mere cruelty,--a
senseless jest which lacks all point,--and the very grandeur and
immensity of the Universe becomes nothing but the meanest display of
gigantic Force remorselessly put forth to overwhelm creatures who have
no power to offer resistance to its huge Tyranny. If I could but
fathom that Ultimate Purpose of things!--if I could but seize the
subtle clue--for I believe it is something very slight and delicate
which by its very fineness we have missed,--something which has to do
with the Eternal Infinitesimal--that marvellous power which creates
animated and regularly organized beings, many thousands of whose
bodies laid together would not extend one inch. It is not to the
Infinitely Great one must look for the secret of creation, but to the
Infinitely Little."

So he mused, as he sat by the couch of Lilith and watched her sleeping
that enchanted sleep of death-in-life. Old Zaroba, though now
perfectly passive and obedient, and fulfilling all his commands with
scru--pulous exactitude, was not without her own ideas and hopes as
she went about her various duties connected with the care of the
beautiful tranced girl. She seldom spoke to Fraz now except on
ordinary household matters, and he understood and silently respected
her reserve. She would sit in her accustomed corner of Lilith's regal
apartment, weaving her thread-work mechanically, but ever and anon
lifting her burning eyes to look at El-Rmi's absorbed face and note
the varied expressions she saw, or fancied she saw there.

"The feverish trouble has begun"--she muttered to herself on one
occasion, as she heard her master sigh deeply--"The stir in the
blood,--the restlessness--the wonder--the desire. And out of heart's
pain comes heart's peace;--and out of desire, accomplishment; and
shall not the old gods of the world rejoice to see love born again of
flames and tears and bitter-sweet as in the ancient days? For there is
no love now such as there used to be--the pale Christ has killed it,--
and the red rose aglow with colour and scent is now but a dull weed on
a tame shore, washed by the salt sea, but never warmed by the sun. In
the days of old, in the nights when Ashtaroth was queen of the silver
hours, the youths and maidens knew what it was to love in the very
breath of Love!--and the magic of all Nature, the music of the woods
and waters, the fire of the stars, the odours of the flowers--all
these were in the dance and beat of the young blood, and in the touch
of the soft red lips as they met and clung together in kisses sweeter
than honey in wine. But now--now the world has grown old and cold, and
dreary and joyless,--it is winter among men and the summer is past."

So she would murmur to herself in her wild half-poetical jargon of
language--her voice never rising above an inarticulate whisper. El-
Rmi never heard her or seemed to regard her--he had no eyes except
for the drowsing Lilith.

If he had been asked, at this particular time, why he went to that
room day after day, to stare silently at his beautiful "subject" and
ponder on everything connected with her, he could not have answered
the question. He did not himself know why. Something there was in him,
as in every portion of created matter, which remained inexplicable,--
something of his own nature which he neither understood nor cared to
analyse. He who sought to fathom the last depth of research concerning
God and the things divine, would have been compelled to own, had he
been cross-examined on the matter, that he found it impossible to
fathom himself. The clue to his own Ego was as desperately hard to
seize, as curiously subtle and elusive as the clue to the riddle of
Creation. He was wont to pride himself on his consistency--yet in his
heart of hearts he knew that in many things he was inconsistent,--he
justly triumphed in his herculean Will-force,--yet now he was obliged
to admit to himself that there was something in the silent placid
aspect of Lilith as she lay before him, subservient to his command,
that quite unnerved him and scattered his thoughts. It had not used to
be so--but now,--it was so. And he dated the change, whether rightly
or wrongly, from the day on which the monk from Cyprus had visited
him, and this thought made him restless and irritable, and full of
unjust and unreasonable suspicions. For had not the "Master," as he
was known in the community to which he belonged, said that he had seen
the Soul of Lilith, while he, El-Rmi, had never attained to so
beatific an altitude of vision? Then was it not possible that
notwithstanding his rectitude and steadfastness of purpose, the
"Master," great and Christ-like in self-denial though he was, might
influence Lilith in some unforeseen way? Then there was Fraz--Fraz,
whose supplications and protestations had won a smile from the tranced
girl, and who therefore must assuredly have roused in her some faint
pleasure and interest. Such thoughts as these rankled in his mind and
gave him no peace--for they conveyed to him the unpleasing idea that
Lilith was not all his own as he desired her to be,--others had a
share in her thoughts. Could he have nothing entirely to himself? he
would demand angrily of his own inner conscious--ness--not even this
life which he had, as it were, robbed from death? And an idea, which
had at first been the merest dim suggestion, now deepened into a
passionate resolve--he would make her his own so thoroughly and
indissolubly that neither gods nor devils should snatch her from him.

"Her life is mine!" he said--"And she shall live as long as I please.
Her body shall sleep,...if I still choose, shall wake. But
whether awake, or sleeping in the flesh, her spirit shall obey me
always--like the satellite of a planet, that disembodied Soul shall be
mine forever!"

When he spoke thus to himself, he was sitting in his usual
contemplative attitude by the couch where Lilith lay;--he rose up
suddenly and paced the room, drawing back the velvet portire and
setting open the door of the ante-chamber as though he craved for
fresh air. Music sounded through the house, was Fraz singing.
His full pure tenor voice came floating up, bearing with it the words
he sang:

"And neither the angels in heaven above.
Nor the demons down under the sea.
Can ever dissever my soul from the soul
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee!
"For the stars never rise, but I feel the bright eyes
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee,--
And the moon never beams without bringing me dreams
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee--
And so all the night-tide, I lie down by the side
Of my darling, my darling, my life and my bride.
In her tomb by the sounding sea!"

With a shaking hand El-Rmi shut the door more swiftly than he had
opened it, and dragged the heavy portire across it to deaden the
sound of that song!--to keep it out from his ears...from his
heart, stop its passionate vibration from throbbing along his
nerves like creeping fire....

"And so all the night-tide I lie down by the side
Of my darling, my darling, my life and my bride."

"God!--my God!" he muttered incoherently--"What ails me?...Am I going
mad that I should dream thus?"

He gazed round the room wildly, his hand still clutching the velvet
portire,--and met the keenly watchful glance of Zaroba. Her hands
were mechanically busy with her thread-work,--but her eyes, black,
piercing and brilliant, were fixed on him steadfastly. Something in
her look compelled his attention,--something in his compelled hers.
They stared across the room at each other, as though a Thought had
sprung between them like an armed soldier with drawn sword, demanding
from each the pass-word to a mystery. In and out, across and across
went the filmy glistening threads in Zaroba's wrinkled hands, but her
eyes never moved from El-Rmi's face, and she looked like some weird
sorceress weaving a web of destiny.

"For you were the days of Ashtaroth!" she said in a low, monotonous,
yet curiously thrilling tone--"You are born too late, El-Rmi,--the
youth of the world has departed and the summer seasons of the heart
are known on earth no more. You are born too late--too late!--the
Christ claims all,--the body, the blood, the nerve and the spirit,--
every muscle of His white limbs on the cross must be atoned for by the
dire penance and torture of centuries of men. So that now even love is
a thorn in the flesh and its prick must be paid with a price,--these
are the hours of woe preceding the end. The blood that runs in your
veins, El-Rmi, has sprung from kings and strong rulers of men,--and
the pale faint spirits of this dull day have naught to do with its
colour and glow. And it rebels, O El-Rmi!--as God liveth, it
rebels!--it burns in your heart--the proud, strong heart,--like ruddy
wine in a ruby cup; it rebels, El-Rmi!--it rises to passion as rise
the waves of the sea to the moon, by a force and an impulse in Nature
stronger than yours! Aye, aye!--for you were the days of Ashtaroth"--
and her voice sank into a wailing murmur--"but now--now--the Christ
claims all."

He heard her as one may hear incoherencies in a nightmare vision;--
only a few weeks ago he would have been angry with her for what he
would then have termed her foolish jargon,--but he was not angry now.
Why should he be angry? he wondered dully---had he time to even think
of anger while thus unnerved by that keen tremor that quivered through
his frame--a tremor he strove in vain to calm? His hand fell from the
curtain,--the sweet distracting song of Poe's "Annabel Lee" had
ceased,--and he advanced into the room again, his heart beating
painfully still, his head a little drooped as though with a sense of
conscious shame. He moved slowly to where the roses in the Venetian
vase exhaled their odours on the air, and breaking one off its branch
toyed with it aimlessly, letting its pale pink leaves flutter down one
by one on the violet carpet at his feet. Suddenly, as though he had
resolved a doubt and made up his mind to something, he turned towards
Zaroba who watched him fixedly,--and with a mute signal bade her leave
the apartment. She rose instantly, and crossing her hands upon her
breast made her customary obeisance and waited,--for he looked at her
with a meditative expression which implied that he had not yet
completed his instruction. Presently, and with some hesitation, he
made her another sign--a sign which had the effect of awakening a
blaze of astonishment in her dark sunken eyes.

"No more to-night!" she repeated aloud--"It is your will that I return
here no more to-night?"

He gave a slow but decided gesture of assent,--there was no mistaking

Zaroba paused an instant, and then with a swift noiseless step went to
the couch of Lilith and bent yearningly above that exquisite sleeping

"Star of my heart!" she muttered--"Child whose outward fairness I have
ever loved, unheedful of the soul within,--may there still be strength
enough left in the old gods to bid thee wake!"

El-Rmi caught her words, and a faint smile, proud yet bitter, curved
his delicate lips.

"The old gods or the new--does it matter which?" he mused vaguely--
"And what is their strength compared to the Will of Man by which the
very elements are conquered and made the slaves of his service? 'My
Will is God's Will' should be every strong man's motto. But I--am I
strong--or the weakest of the weak?...and...shall the Christ claim

The soft fall of the velvet portire startled him as it dropped behind
the retreating figure of Zaroba--she had left the room, and he was
alone,--alone with Lilith.




HE remained quite still, standing near the tall vase that held the
clustered roses,--in his hand he grasped unconsciously the stalk of
the one he had pulled to pieces. He was aware of his own strange
passiveness,--it was a sort of inexplicable inertia which like
temporary paralysis seemed to incapacitate him from any action. It
would have appeared well and natural to him that he should stay there
so, dreamily, with the scented rose-stalk in his hand, for any length
of time. A noise in the outer street roused him a little,--the
whistling, hooting and laughing of drunken men reeling homewards,--and
lifting his eyes from their studious observation of the floor, he
sighed deeply.

"That is the way the great majority of men amuse themselves,"--he
mused. "Drink, stupidity, brutality, sensuality--all blatant proofs of
miserable unresisted weakness,--can it be possible that God can care
for such? Could even the pity of Christ pardon such wilful workers of
their own ruin? The pity of Christ, said I?--nay, at times even He was
pitiless. Did He not curse a fig-tree because it was barren?--though
truly we are not told the cause of its barrenness. Of course the
lesson is that Life--the fig-tree,--has no right to be barren of
results,--but why curse it, if it is? What is the use of a curse at
any time? And what, may equally be asked, is the use of a blessing?
Neither are heard; the curse is seldom if ever wreaked,--and the
blessing, so the sorrowful say, is never granted."

The noise and the laughter outside died away,--and a deep silence
ensued. He caught sight of himself in the mirror, and noted his own
reflective attitude,--his brooding visage; and studied himself
critically as he would have studied a picture.

"You are no Antinous, my friend"--he said aloud, addressing his own
reflection with some bitterness--"A mere sun-tanned Oriental with a
pair of eyes in which the light is more of hell than heaven. What
should you do with yourself, frowning at Fate? You are a superb
Egoist,--no more."

As he spoke, the roses in the vase beside him swayed lightly to and
fro, as though a faint wind had fanned them, and their perfume stole
upon the air like the delicate breath of summer wafted from some
distant garden.

There was no window open--and El-Rmi had not stirred, so that no
movement on his part could have shaken the vase,--and yet the roses
quivered on their stalks as if brushed by a bird's wing. He watched
them with a faint sense of curiosity--but with no desire to discover
why they thus nodded their fair heads to an apparently causeless
vibration. He was struggling with an emotion that threatened to
overwhelm him,--he knew that he was not master of himself,--and
instinctively he kept his face turned away from the tranced Lilith.

"I must not look upon her--I dare not;" he whispered to the silence--
"Not yet--not yet."

There was a low chair close by, and he dropped into it wearily,
covering his eyes with one hand. He tried to control his thoughts--but
they were rebellious, and ran riot in spite of him. The words of
Zaroba rang in his ears--"For you were the days of Ashtaroth." The
days of Ashtaroth!--for what had they been renowned? For love and the
feasts of love,--for mirth and song and dance--for crowns of flowers,
for shouting of choruses and tinkling of cymbals, for exquisite luxury
and voluptuous pleasures,--for men and women who were not ashamed of
love and took delight in loving;--were there not better, warmer ways
of life in those old times than now--now when cautious and timid souls
make schemes for marriage as they scheme for wealth,--when they
snigger at "love" as though it were some ludicrous defect in mortal
composition, and when real passion of any kind is deemed downright
improper, and not to be spoken of before cold and punctilious society?

"Aye, but the passion is there all the same;"--thought El-Rmi--"Under
the ice burns the fire,--all the fiercer and the more dangerous for
its repression."

And he still kept his hand over his eyes, thinking.

"The Christ claims all"--had said Zaroba. Nay, what has Christ done
that He should claim all? "He died for us!" cry the preachers. Well,--
others can die also. "He was Divine!" proclaim the churches. We are
all Divine, if we will but let the Divinity in us have way. And moved
by these ideas, El-Rmi rose up and crossed to a niche in the purple-
pavilioned walls of the room, before which hung a loose breadth of
velvet fringed with gold,--this he drew aside, and disclosed a picture
very finely painted, of Christ standing near the sea, surrounded by
his disciples--underneath it were in--scribed the words--"Whom say ye
that I am?"

The dignity and beauty of the Face and Figure were truly marvellous,--
the expression of the eyes had something of pride as well as
sweetness, and El-Rmi confronted it as he had confronted it many
times before, with a restless inquisitiveness.

"Whom say ye that I am?"

The painted Christ seemed to audibly ask the question.

"O noble Mystery of a Man, I cannot tell!" exclaimed El-Rmi suddenly
and aloud--"I cannot say who you are, or who you were. A riddle for
all the world to wonder at,--a white Sphinx with a smile
inscrutable,--all the secrets of Egypt are as nothing to your secret,
O simple, pure-souled Nazarene! You, born in miserable plight in
miserable Bethlehem, changed the aspect of the world, altered and
purified the modes of civilization, and thrilled all life with higher
motives for work than it had ever been dowered with before. All this
in three years' work, ending in a criminal's death! Truly if there was
not something Divine in you, then God Himself is an Error!"

The grand Face seemed to smile upon him with a deep and solemn pity,
and "Whom say ye that I am?" sounded in his ears as though it were
spoken by someone in the room.

"I must be getting nervous;"--he muttered, drawing the curtain softly
over the picture again, and looking uneasily round about him, "I think
I cannot be much more than the weakest of men,--after all."

A faint tremor seized him as he turned slowly but resolutely round
towards the couch of Lilith, and let his eyes rest on her enchanting
loveliness. Step by step he drew nearer and nearer till he bent
closely over her, but he did not call her by name. A loose mass of her
hair lay close to his arm,--with an impetuous suddenness he gathered
it in his hands and kissed it.

"A sheaf of sunbeams!"--he whispered, his lips burning as they
caressed the shining wealth of silken curls--"A golden web in which
kisses might be caught and killed! Ah Heaven have pity on me!" and he
sank by the couch, stifling his words beneath his breath--"If I love
this girl--if all this mad tumult in my soul is Love--let her never
know it, O merciful Fates!--or she is lost, and so am I. Let me be
bound,--let her be free,--let me fight down my weakness, but let her
never know that I am weak, or I shall lose her long obedience. No, no!
I will not summon her to me now--it is best she should be absent,--
this body of hers, this fair fine casket of her spirit is but a dead
thing when that spirit is elsewhere. She cannot hear me,--she does not
see me--no, not even when I lay this hand--this 'shadow of a hand,' as
she once called it, here, to quell my foolish murmurings."

And, lifting Lilith's hand as he spoke, he pressed its roseate palm
against his lips,--then on his forehead. A strange sense of relief and
peace came upon him with the touch of those delicate fingers--it was
as though a cool wind blew, bringing freshness from some quiet
mountain lake or river. Silently he knelt,--and presently, somewhat
calmed, lifted his eyes again to look at Lilith,--she smiled in her
deep trance--she was the very picture of some happy angel sleeping.
His arm sank in the soft satin coverlid as he laid back the little
hand he held upon her breast,--and with eager scrutiny he noted every
tint and every line in her exquisite face;--the lovely long lashes
that swept the blush-rose of her cheeks,--the rounded chin, dimpled in
its curve,--the full white throat, the perfect outline of the whole
fair figure as it rested like a branched lily in a bed of snow,--and
as he looked, he realized that all this beauty was his--his, if he
chose to take Love, and let Wisdom go. If he chose to resign the
chance of increasing his knowledge of the supernatural,--if he were
content to accept earth for what it is, and heaven for what it may be,
Lilith, the bodily incarnation of loveliness, purity and perfect
womanhood, was his--his only. He grew dizzy at the thought,--then by
an effort conquered the longing of his heart. He remembered what he
had sworn to do,--to discover the one great secret before he seized
the joy that tempted him,--to prove the actual, individual, conscious
existence of the Being that is said to occupy a temporary habitation
in flesh. He knew and he saw the Body of Lilith,--he must know, and he
must see her Soul. And while he leaned above her couch entranced, a
sudden strain of music echoed through the stillness,--music solemn and
sweet, that stirred the air into rhythmic vibrations as of slow and
sacred psalmody. He listened, perplexed but not afraid,--he was not
afraid of anything in earth or heaven save--himself. He knew that man
has his worst enemy in his own Ego,--beyond that, there is very little
in life that need give cause for alarm. He had, till now, been able to
practise the stoical philosophy of an Epictetus while engaged in
researches that would have puzzled the brain of a Plato,--but his
philosophy was just now at fault and his self-possession gone to the
four winds of heaven--and why? He knew not--but he was certain the
fault lay in himself, and not in others. Of an arrogant temper and a
self-reliant haughty disposition he had none of that low cowardice
which people are guilty of, who finding themselves in a dilemma, cast
the blame at once on others, or on "circumstances" which after all,
were most probably of their own creating. And the strange music that
ebbed and flowed in sonorous pulsations through the air around him,
troubled him not at all,--he attributed it at once to something or
other that was out of order in his own mental perceptions. He knew how
in certain conditions of the brain, some infinitesimal trifle gone
wrong in the aural nerves, will persuade one that trumpets are
blowing, violins playing, birds singing or bells ringing in the
distance,--just as a little disorder of the visual organs will help to
convince one of apparitions. He knew how to cast a "glamour" better
than any so-called "Theosophist" in full practice of his trickery,--
and being thus perfectly aware how the human sense can be deceived,
listened to the harmonious sounds he heard with speculative interest,
wondering how long this "fancy" of his would last. Much more startled
was he, when amid the rising and falling of the mysterious melody he
heard the voice of Lilith saying softly in her usual manner--

"I am here!"

His heart beat rapidly, and he rose slowly from his kneeling position
by her side. "I did not call you, Lilith!" he said tremblingly.

"No!" and her sweet lips smiled--"you did not call,...I came!"

"Why did you come?" he asked, still faintly.

"For my own joy and yours!" she answered in thrilling tones--"Sweeter
than all the heavens is Love,--and Love is here!"

An icy cold crept through him as he heard the rapture in her
accents,--such rapture!--like that of a lark singing in the sunlight
on a fresh morning of May. And like the dim sound of a funeral bell
came the words of the monk, tolling solemnly across his memory, in
spite of his efforts to forget them, "With Lilith's love comes
Lilith's freedom."

"No, no!" he muttered within himself--"It cannot be,--it shall not
be!--she is mine, mine only. Her fate is in my hands; if there be
justice in Heaven, who else has so much right to her body or her soul
as I?"

And he stood, gazing irresolutely at the girl, who stirred restlessly
and flung her white arms upward on her pillows, while the music he had
heard suddenly ceased. He dared not speak,--he was afraid to express
any desire or impose any command upon this "fine sprite" which had for
six years obeyed him, but which might now, for all he could tell, be
fluttering vagrantly on the glittering confines of realms far beyond
his ken.

Her lips moved,--and presently she spoke again.

"Wonderful are the ways of Divine Law!" she murmured softly--"and
infinite are the changes it works among its creatures! An old man,
despised and poor, by friends rejected, perplexed in mind, but pure in
soul; such Was the Spirit that now Is. Passing me flame-like on its
swift way heavenward,--saved and uplifted, not by Wisdom, but by

El-Rmi listened, awed and puzzled. Her words surely seemed to bear
some reference to Kremlin?

"Of the knowledge of the stars and the measuring of light there is
more than enough in the Universe;"--went on Lilith dreamily--"but of
faithful love, such as keeps an Angel forever by one's side, there is
little; therefore the Angels on earth are few."

He could no longer restrain his curiosity.

"Do you speak of one who is dead, Lilith?" he asked--"One whom I

"I speak of one who is living,"--she replied--"and one whom you know.
For none are dead; and Knowledge has no Past, but is all Present."

Her voice sank into silence. El-Rmi bent above her, studying her
countenance earnestly--her lashes trembled as though the eyelids were
about to open,--but the tremor passed and they remained shut. How
lovely she looked!--how more than lovely!

"Lilith!" he whispered, suddenly oblivious of all his former
forebodings, and unconscious of the eager passion vibrating in his
tone--"Sweet Lilith!"

She turned slightly towards him, and lifting her arms from their
indolently graceful position on the pillows, she clasped her hands
high above her head in apparent supplication.

"Love me!" she cried, with such a thrill in her accent that it rang
through the room like a note of music--"Oh my Belovd, love me!"

El-Rmi grew faint and dizzy,--his thoughts were all in a whirl,...was
he made of marble or ice that he should not respond? Scarcely aware of
what he did, he took her clasped hands in his own.

"And do I not, Lilith?" he murmured, half-anguished, half-entranced--
"Do I not love you?"

"No, no!" said Lilith with passionate emphasis--"Not me,--not me,
Myself! Oh my Belovd! love Me, not my Shadow!"

He loosened her hands, and recoiled, awed and perplexed. Her appeal
struck at the core of all his doubts,--and for one moment he was
disposed to believe in the actual truth of the Immortal Soul without
those "proofs" for which he constantly searched,--the next, he rallied
himself on his folly and weakness. He dared not trust himself to
answer her, so he was silent,--but she soon spoke again with such
convincing earnestness of tone that almost...almost he believed--but
not quite.

"To love the Seeming and not the Real," she said--"is the curse of all
sad Humanity. It is the glamour of the air,--the barrier between Earth
and Heaven. The Body is the Shadow--the Soul is the Substance. The
Reflection I cast on Earth's surface for a little space, is but a
Reflection only,--it is not Me:--I am beyond it!"

For a moment El-Rmi stood irresolute,--then gathering up his
scattered thoughts, he began to try and resolve them into order and
connection. Surely the time was ripe for his great Experiment?--and as
he considered this, his nerves grew more steady,--his self-reliance
returned--all his devotion to scientific research pressed back its
claim upon his mind,--if he were to fail now, he thought, after all
his patience and study,--fail to obtain any true insight into the
spiritual side of humanity, would he not be ashamed, aye, and degraded
in his own eyes? He resolved to end all his torture of pain and doubt
and disquietude,--and sitting on the edge of Lilith's couch, he drew
her delicate hands down from their uplifted position, and laid them
one above the other cross-wise on his own breast.

"Then you must teach me, Lilith"--he said softly and with tender
persuasiveness--"you must teach me to know you. If I see but your
Reflection here,--let me behold your Reality. Let me love you as you
are, if now I only love you as you seem. Show yourself to me in all
your spiritual loveliness, Lilith!--it may be I shall die of the
glory,--or--if there is no death as you say,--I shall not die, but
simply pass away into the light which gives you life. Lift the veil
that is between us, Lilith, and let me see you face to face. If this
that seems you"--and he pressed the little hands he held--"is naught,
let me realize the nothingness of so much beauty beside the greater
beauty that en--genders it. Come to me as you are, Lilith!--come!"

As he spoke, his heart beat fast with a nervous thrill of expectancy;
what would she answer?...what would she do? He could not take his eyes
from her face--he half fancied he should see some change there; for
the moment he even thought it possible that she might transform
herself into some surpassing Being, which, like the gods of the Greek
mythology, should consume by its flame-like splendour whatever of
mortality dared to look upon it. But she remained unaltered, and
sculpturally calm,--only her breathing seemed a little quicker, and
the hands that he held trembled against his breast.

Her next words however startled him--

"I will come!" she said, and a faint sigh escaped her lips--"Be ready
for me. Pray!--pray for the blessing of Christ,--for if Christ be with
us, all is well."

At this, his brow clouded,--his eyes drooped gloomily.

"Christ!" he muttered more to himself than to her--"What is He to me?
Who is He that He should be with us?"

"This world's Rescue and all worlds' Glory!"

The answer rang out like a silver clarion, with something full and
triumphant in the sound, as though not only Lilith's voice had uttered
it, but other voices had joined in a chorus. At the same moment, her
hands moved, as if in an effort to escape from his hold. But he held
them closely in a jealous and masterful grasp.

"When will you come to me, Lilith?" he demanded in low but eager
accents--"When shall I see you and know you as Lilith? Lilith, my
own forever?"

"God's Lilith--God's own forever!" murmured Lilith dreamily, and then
was silent.

An angry sense of rebellion began to burn in El-Rmi's mind. Summoning
up all the force of his iron will, he unclasped her hands and laid
them back on each side of her, and placed his own hand on her breast,
just where the ruby talisman shone and glowed.

"Answer me, Lilith!" he said, with some--thing of the old sternness
which he had used to employ with her on former occasions--"When will
you come to me?"

Her limbs trembled violently as though some inward cold convulsed her,
and her answer came slowly, though clearly--

"When you are ready."

"I am ready now!" he cried recklessly.

"No--no!" she murmured, her voice growing fainter and fainter--"Not
yet...not yet! Love is not strong enough, high enough, pure enough.
Wait, watch and pray. When the hour has come, a sign will be given--
but O my Belovd, if you would know me, love Me--love Me! not my

A pale hue fell on her face, robbing it of its delicate tint,--El-Rmi
knew what that pallor indicated.

"Lilith! Lilith!" he exclaimed, "Why leave me thus if you love me?
Stay with me yet a little!"

But Lilith--or rather the strange Spirit that made the body of Lilith
speak,--was gone. And all that night not another sound, either of
music or speech, stirred the silence of the room. Dawn came, misty and
gray, and found the proud El-Rmi kneeling before the unveiled picture
of the Christ,--not praying, for he could not bring himself down to
the necessary humiliation for prayer,--but simply wondering vaguely as
to what could be and what might be the one positive reply to that
Question propounded of old--

"Whom Say Ye That I Am?"


OF what avail is it to propound questions that no one can answer? Of
what use is it to attempt to solve the mystery of life which must for
ever remain mysterious? Thus may the intelligent critic ask, and in
asking, may declare that the experiments, researches, and anxieties of
El-Rmi, together with El-Rmi himself, are mistaken conceptions all
round. But it is necessary to remind the intelligent critic, that the
eager desire of El-Rmi to prove what appears unprovable, is by no
means an uncommon phase of human nature,--it is in fact, the very key-
note and pulse of the present time. Every living creature who is not
too stunned by misery for thought, craves to know positively whether
the Soul,--the Immortal, Individual Ego, be Fable or Fact. Never more
than in this, our own period, did people search with such unabated
feverish yearning into the things that seem supernatural;--never were
there bitterer pangs of recoil and disappointment when trickery and
imposture are found to have even temporarily passed for truth. If the
deepest feeling in every human heart today were suddenly given voice,
the shout "Excelsior!" would rend the air in mighty chorus. For we
know all the old earth-stories;--of love, of war, of adventure, of
wealth, we know pretty well the beginning and the end,--we read in our
histories of nations that were, but now are not, and we feel that we
shall in due time go the same way with them,--that the wheel of
Destiny spins on in the same round always, and that nothing--nothing
can alter its relentless and monotonous course. We tread in the dust
and among the fallen columns of great cities, and we vaguely wonder if
the spirits of the men that built them are indeed no more,--we gaze on
the glorious pile of the Duomo at Milan and think of the brain that
first devised and planned its majestic proportions, and ask
ourselves--Is it possible that this, the creation, should be Here, and
its creator Nowhere? Would such an arrangement be reasonable or just?
And so it happens that when the wielders of the pen essay to tell us
of wars, of shipwrecks, of hair-breadth escapes from danger, of love
and politics and society, we read their pages with merely transitory
pleasure and frequent indifference, but when they touch upon subjects
beyond earthly experience,--when they attempt, however feebly, to lift
our inspirations to the possibilities of the Unseen, then we give them
our eager attention and almost passionate interest. Critics look upon
this tendency as morbid, unwholesome and pernicious; but nevertheless
the tendency is there,--the demand for "Light! more light!" is in the
very blood and brain of the people. It would seem as though this world
has grown too narrow for the aspirations of its inhabitants;--and some
of us instinctively feel that we are on the brink of strange
discoveries respecting the powers unearthly, whether for good or evil
we dare not presume to guess. The nonsensical tenets of "Theosophy"
would not gain ground with a single individual man or woman were not
this feeling very strong among many,--the tricky "mediums" and
"spiritualists" would not have a chance of earning a subsistence out
of the gullibility of their dupes, and the preachers of new creeds and
new forms would obtain no vestige of attention if it were not for the
fact that there is a very general impression all over the world that
the time is ripe for a clearer revelation of God and the things of God
than we have ever had before. "Give us something that will endure!" is
the exclamation of weary humanity--"The things we have, pass; and by
reason of their ephemeral nature, are worthless. Give us what we can
keep and call our own for ever!" This is why we try and test all
things that appear to give proof of the super-sensual element in
man,--and when we find ourselves deceived by impostors and conjurers,
our disgust and disappointment are too bitter to ever find vent in
words. The happiest are those who, in the shifting up and down of
faiths and formulas, ever cling stedfastly to the one pure Example of
embodied Divinity in Manhood as seen in Christ. When we reject Christ,
we reject the Gospel of Love and Universal Brotherhood, without which
the ultimate perfection and progress of the world must ever remain

A few random thoughts such as these occurred to El-Rmi now and then
as he lived his life from day to day in perpetual expectation of the
"sign" promised by Lilith, which as yet was not forthcoming. He
believed she would keep her word, and that the "sign" whatever it was
would be unmistakable; and,--as before stated--this was the nearest
approach to actual faith he had ever known. His was a nature which was
originally disposed to faith, but which had persistently fought with
its own inclination till that inclination had been conquered. He had
been able to prove as purely natural, much that had seemed
supernatural, and he now viewed everything from two points--Possi--
bility and Impossibility. His various confusions and perplexities
however, generally arose from the frequent discovery he made, that
what he had once thought the Impossible, suddenly became through some
small chance clue, the Possible. So many times had this occurred that
he often caught himself wondering whether anything in very truth could
be strictly declared as "impossible." And yet,...with the body of
Lilith under his observation for six years, and an absolute ignorance
as to how her intelligence had developed, or where she obtained the
power to discourse with him as she did, he always had the lurking
dread that her utterances might be the result of his own brain
unconsciously working upon hers, and that there was no "soul" or
"spirit" in the matter. This too, in spite of the fact that she had
actually given him a concise description of certain planets, their
laws, their government, and their inhabitants, concerning which he
could know nothing,--and that she spoke with a sure conviction of the
existence of a personal God, an idea that was entirely unacceptable to
his nature. He was at a loss to explain her "separated consciousness"
in any scientific way, and afraid of himself lest he should believe
too easily, he encouraged the presence of every doubt in his mind,
rather than give entrance to more than the palest glimmer of faith.

And so time went on, and May passed into June, and June deepened into
its meridian-glow of bloom and sunlight, and he remained shut up
within the four walls of his house, seeing no one, and displaying a
total indifference to the fact that the "season" with all its bitter
froth and frivolity was seething on in London in its usual monotonous
manner. Unlike pretenders to "spiritualistic" powers, he had no
inclination for the society of the rich and great,--"titled" people
had no attraction for him save in so far as they were cultured, witty,
or amiable,--"position" in the world, was a very miserable trifle in
his opinion, and though many a gorgeous flunkied carriage at this time
found its way into the unfashionable square where he had his domicile,
no visitors were admitted to see him,--and "too busy to receive
anyone" was the formula with which young Fraz dismissed any would-be
intruder. Yet Fraz himself wondered all the while how it was that as
a matter of fact, El-Rmi seemed to be just now less absorbed in
actual study than he had ever been in his whole life. He read no books
save the old Arabic vellum-bound volume which held the explanatory key
to so much curious phenomena palmed off as "spiritual miracles" by the
Theosophists, and he wrote a good deal,--but he answered no letters,
accepted no invitations, manifested no wish to leave the house even
for an hour's stroll, and seemed mentally engrossed by some great
secret subject of meditation. He was uniformly kind to Fraz, exacting
no duties from him save those prompted by interest and affection,--he
was marvellously gentle too with Zaroba, who, agitated, restless and
perplexed as to his ultimate intentions with respect to the beautiful
Lilith, was vaguely uneasy and melancholy, though she deemed it wisest
to perform all his commands with exactitude, and, for the present to
hold her peace. She had expected something--though she knew not what--
from his last interview with her beautiful charge--but all was
unchanged,--Lilith slept on, and the cherished wish of Zaroba's heart,
that she should wake, seemed as far off realization as ever. Day after
day passed, and El-Rmi lived like a hermit amidst the roar and
traffic of mighty London,--watching Lilith for long and anxious hours,
but never venturing to call her down to him from wherever she might
be,--waiting, waiting for her summons, and content for once to sink
himself in the thought of her identity. All his ambitions were now
centred on the one great object, see the Soul, as it is, if it is
indeed existent, conscious and individual. For, as he argued, what is
the use of a "Soul" whose capacities we are not permitted to
understand?--and if it be no more to us than the Intelligent Faculty
of Brain? The chief proof of a possible Something behind Man's inner
consciousness, was, he considered, the quality of Discontent, and,
primarily, because Discontent is so universal. No one is contented in
all the world from end to end. From the powerful Emperor on his throne
to the whining beggar in the street, all chafe under the goading prick
of the great Necessity,--a Something Better,--a Something Lasting. Why
should this resonant key-note of Discontent be perpetually resounding
through space, if this life is all? No amount of philosophy or
argument can argue away Discontent--it is a god-like Disquietude ever
fermenting changes among us, ever propounding new suggestions for
happiness, ever restless, never satisfied. And El-Rmi would ask
himself--Is Discontent the voice of the Soul?--not only the Universal
Soul of things, but the Soul of each individual? Then, if Individual,
why should not the Individual be made manifest, if manifestation be
possible? And if not possible, why should we be called upon to believe
in what cannot be manifested?

Thus he argued, not altogether unwisely; he had studied profoundly all
the divers conflicting theories of religion, and would at one time
have become an obstinately confirmed Positivist, had it not been for
the fact that the further his researches led him the more he became
aware that there was nothing positive,--that is to say, nothing so
apparently fixed and unalterable that it might not, under different
conditions, prove capable of change. Perhaps there is no better test-
example of this truth than the ordinary substance known as iron. We
use in common parlance unthinkingly the phrase "as hard as iron"--
while to the smith and engineer who mould and twist it in every form,
it proves itself soft and malleable as wax. Again, to the surface-
observer, it might and does seem an incombustible metal,--the chemist
knows it will burn with the utmost fury. How then form a universal
decision as to its various capabilities when it has so many variations
of use all in such contrary directions? The same example, modified or
enlarged, will be found to apply to all things, wherefore the word
"Positivism" seems out of place in merely mortal language. God may be
"positive," but we and our surroundings have no such absolute quality.

During this period of El-Rmi's self-elected seclusion and meditation,
his young brother Fraz was very happy. He was in the midst of writing
a poem which he fondly fancied might perhaps--only perhaps--find a
publisher to take it and launch it on its own merits,--it is the
privilege of youth to be over-sanguine. Then too, his brain was filled
with new musical ideas,--and many an evening's hour he beguiled away
by delicious improvisations on the piano, or exquisite songs to the
mandoline. El-Rmi, when he was not upstairs keeping anxious vigil by
the tranced Lilith's side, would sit in his chair, leaning back with
half-closed eyes, listening to the entrancing melodies like another
Saul to a new David, soothed by the sweetness of the sounds he heard,
yet conscious that he took too deep and ardent a pleasure in hearing,
when the songs Fraz chose were of love. One night Fraz elected to
sing the wild and beautiful "Canticle of Love" written by the late
Lord Lytton, when as "Owen Meredith" he promised to be one of the
greatest poets of our century, and who would have fulfilled more than
that promise if diplomacy had not claimed his brilliant intellectual
gifts for the service of his country,--a country which yet deplores
his untimely loss. But no fatality had as yet threatened that gallant
and noble life in the days when Fraz smote the chords of his
mandoline and sang:--

"I once heard an angel by night in the sky
Singing softly a song to a deep golden lute;
The pole-star, the seven little planets and I
To the song that he sang, listened mute.
For the song that he sang was so strange and so sweet.
And so tender the tones of his lute's golden strings
That the seraphs of heaven sat hush'd at his feet
And folded their heads in their wings.
And the song that he sang to the seraphs up there
Is called 'Love'! But the words...I had heard them elsewhere.
"For when I was last in the nethermost Hell.
On a rock 'mid the sulphurous surges I heard
A pale spirit sing to a wild hollow shell;
And his song was the same, every word.
And so sad was his singing, all Hell to the sound
Moaned, and wailing, complained like a monster in pain
While the fiends hovered near o'er the dismal profound
With their black wings weighed down by the strain;
And the song that was sung to the Lost Ones down there
Is called 'Love'! But the spirit that sang was Despair!"

The strings of the mandoline quivered mournfully in tune with the
passionate beauty of the verse, and from El-Rmi's lips there came
involuntarily a deep and bitter sigh.

Fraz ceased playing and looked at him.

"What is it?" he asked anxiously.

"Nothing!" replied his brother in a tranquil voice--"What should there
be? Only the poem is very beautiful, and out of the common,--though to
me, terribly suggestive of--a mistake somewhere in creation. Love to
the Saved--Love to the Lost!--naturally it would have different
aspects,--but it is an anomaly--Love, to be true to its name, should
have no 'lost' ones in its chronicle."

Fraz was silent.

"Do you believe"--continued El-Rmi--"that there is a 'nethermost
Hell'?--a place or a state of mind resembling that 'rock 'mid the
sulphurous surges'?"

"I should imagine," replied Fraz with some diffidence, "that there
must be a condition in which we are bound to look back and see where
we were wrong,--a condition, too, in which we have time to be sorry--"

"Unfair and unreasonable!" exclaimed his brother hotly. "For, suppose
we did not know we were wrong? We are left absolutely without guidance
in this world to do as we like."

"I do not think you can quite say that"--remonstrated Fraz gently--
"We do know when we are wrong--generally; some instinct tells us so--
and while we have the book of Nature, we are not left without
guidance. As for looking back and seeing our former mistakes, I think
that is unquestionable,--for as I grow older, I begin to see where I
failed in my former life, and how I deserved to lose my star-kingdom."

El-Rmi looked impatient.

"You are a dreamer"--he said decisively--"and your star-kingdom is a
dream also. You cannot tell me truthfully that you remember anything
of a former existence?"

"I am beginning to remember," said Fraz steadily.

"My dear boy, anybody but myself hearing you, would say you were mad--
hopelessly mad!"

"They would be at perfect liberty to say so"--and Fraz smiled a
little--"Everyone is free to have his own opinion--I have mine. My
star exists; and I once existed in it--so did you."

"Well, I know nothing about it then," declared El-Rmi--"I have
forgotten it utterly."

"Oh no! You think you have forgotten"--said Fraz mildly--"But the
truth is, your very knowledge of science and other things is only---

El-Rmi moved in his chair impatiently.

"Let us not argue;"--he said--"We shall never agree. Sing to me

Fraz thought a moment, and then laid aside his mandoline and went to
the piano, where he played a rushing rapid accompaniment like the
sound of the wind among trees, and sang the following--

"Winds of the mountain, mingle with my crying.
Clouds of the tempest, flee as I am flying.
Gods of the cloudland, Christus and Apollo, Follow, O follow!"
"Through the dark valleys, up the misty mountains.
Over the black wastes, past the gleaming fountains.
Praying not, hoping not, resting nor abiding, Lo, I am riding!"
"Clangour and anger of elements are round me.
Torture has clasped me, cruelty has crown'd me.
Sorrow awaits me, Death is waiting with her,Fast speed I thither."
"Gods of the storm-cloud, drifting darkly yonder.
Point fiery hands and mock me as I wander;
Gods of the forest glimmer out upon me,Shrink back and shun me."
"Gods, let them follow!--gods, for I defy them!
They call me, mock me, but I gallop by them;
If they would find me, touch me, whisper to me,Let them pursue me!"

He was interrupted in the song by a smothered cry from El-Rmi, and
looking round, startled, he saw his brother standing up and staring at
him with something of mingled fear and horror. He came to an abrupt
stop, his hands resting on the piano keys.

"Go on, go on!" cried El-Rmi irritably. "What wild chant of the gods
and men have you there? Is it your own?"

"Mine!" echoed Fraz--"No indeed!--I wish it were. It is by a living
poet of the day, Robert Buchanan."

"Robert Buchanan!"--and El-Rmi tried to recover his self-possession--
"Ah!--Well, I wonder what devil possessed him to write it!"

"Don't you like it?" exclaimed Fraz wonderingly--"To my thinking it
is one of the finest poems in the English language."

"Of course, of course I like it;"--said El-Rmi, sitting down again,
angry with himself for his own emotion--"Is there more of it?"

"Yes, but I need not finish it,"--and Fraz made as though he would
rise from the piano.

El-Rmi suddenly began to laugh.

"Go on, I tell you, Fraz"--he said carelessly--"There is a tempest of
agitation in the words and in your music that leaves one hurried and
breathless, but the sensation is not unpleasant,--especially when one
is prepared,...go on!--I want to hear the end of this...this-

Fraz looked at him to see if he were in earnest, and perceiving he
had settled down to give his whole attention to the rest of the
ballad, he resumed his playing, and again the rush of the music filled
the room--

"Faster, O faster! Darker and more dreary
Groweth the pathway, yet I am not weary--
Gods, I defy them! gods, I can unmake them,Bruise them and break them!"
"White steed of wonder with thy feet of thunder.
Find out their temples, tread their high-priests under--
Leave them behind thee--if their gods speed after,Mock them with laughter."
"Shall a god grieve me? shall a phantom win me?
Nay!--by the wild wind around and o'er and in me--
Be his name Vishnu, Christus or Apollo--Let the god follow!"
"Clangour and anger of elements are round me.
Torture has clasped me, cruelty has crown'd me.
Sorrow awaits me, Death is waiting with her,Fast speed I thither!"

The music ceased abruptly with a quick clash as of jangling bells,--
and Fraz rose from the piano.

El-Rmi was sitting quite still.

"A fine outburst!" he remarked presently, seeing that his young
brother waited for him to speak--"And you rendered it finely. In it
the voice of the strong man speaks;--Do you believe it?"

"Believe what?" asked Fraz, a little surprised.

"This--" and El-Rmi quoted slowly--

"Shall a god grieve me? shall a phantom win me?
Nay!--by the wild wind around and o'er and in me--
Be his name Vishnu, Christus or Apollo--Let the god follow!"

"Do you think"--he continued, "that in the matter of life's
leadership, the 'god' should follow, or we the god?"

Fraz lifted his delicately marked eyebrows in amazement.

"What an odd question!" he said--"The song is only a song,--part of a
poem entitled, 'The City of Dream,' which none of the press-critics
have ever done justice to. If Lord Tennyson had written the 'City of
Dream' what columns and columns of praise would have been poured out
upon it! What I sang to you is the chant, or lyrical soliloquy of the
'Outcast Esau,' who in the poem is evidently 'outcast' from all
creeds; and it is altogether a character which, if I read it rightly,
represents the strong doubter, almost unbeliever, who defies Fate. But
we do not receive a mere poem, no matter how beautiful, as a gospel.
And if you speak of life's leadership, it is devoutly to be hoped that
God not only leads, but rules us all."

"Why should you hope it?" asked El-Rmi gloomily--"Myself, I fear it!"

Fraz came to his side and rested one hand affectionately on his arm.

"You are worried and out of sorts, my brother,"--he said gently--"Why
do you not seek some change from so much indoor life? You do not even
get the advantages I have of going to and fro on the household
business. I breathe the fresh air every day,--surely it is necessary
for you also?"

"My dear boy, I am perfectly well"--and El-Rmi regarded him
steadily--"Why should you doubt it? I am only--a little tired. Poor
human nature cannot always escape fatigue."

Fraz said no more,--but there was a certain strangeness in his
brother's manner that filled him with an indefinable uneasiness. In
his own quiet fashion he strove to distract El-Rmi's mind from the
persistent fixity of whatever unknown purpose seemed to so
mysteriously engross him,--and whenever they were together at meals or
at other hours of the day, he talked in as light and desultory a way
as possible on all sorts of different topics in the hope of awakening
his brother's interest more keenly in external affairs. He read much
and thought more, and was a really brilliant conversationalist when he
chose, in spite of his dreamy fancies--but he was obliged to admit to
himself that his affectionate endeavours met with very slight success.
True, El-Rmi appeared to give his attention to all that was said, but
it was only an appearance,--and Fraz saw plainly enough that he was
not really moved to any sort of feeling respecting the ways and doings
of the outer world. And when, one morning, Fraz read aloud the
account of the marriage of Sir Frederick Vaughan, Bart., with Idina,
only daughter of Jabez Chester of New York, he only smiled
indifferently and said nothing.

"We were invited to that wedding;"--commented Fraz.

"Were we?" El-Rmi shrugged his shoulders and seemed totally oblivious
of the fact.

"Why of course we were"--went on Fraz cheerfully--"And, at your
bidding I opened and read the letter Sir Frederick wrote you, which
said that as you had prophesied the marriage, he would take it very
kindly if you would attend in person the formal fulfilment of your
prophecy. And all you did in reply was to send a curt refusal on plea
of other engagements. Do you think that was quite amiable on your

"Fortunately for me I am not called upon to be amiable;"--said El-
Rmi, beginning to pace slowly up and down the room--"I want no
favours from society, so I need not smile to order. That is one of the
chief privileges of complete independence. Fancy having to grin and
lie and skulk and propitiate people all one's days!--I could not
endure it,--but most men can--and do!"

"Besides"--he added after a pause--"I cannot look on with patience at
the marriage of fools. Vaughan is a fool, and his baronetage will
scarcely pass for wisdom,---the little Chester girl is also a fool,--
and I can see exactly what they will become in the course of a few

"Describe them, in futuro!" laughed Fraz.

"Well--the man will be 'turfy'; the woman, a blind slave to her
dressmaker. That is all. There can be nothing more. They will never do
any good or any harm--they are simply--nonentities. These are the sort
of folk that make me doubt the immortal soul,--for Vaughan is less
'spiritual' than a well-bred dog, and little Chester less mentally
gifted than a well-instructed mouse."

"Severe!"--commented Fraz smiling--"But, man or woman,--mouse or dog,
I suppose they are quite happy just now?"

"Happy!" echoed El-Rmi satirically--"Well--I daresay they are,--with
the only sort of happiness their intelligences can grasp. She is happy
because she is now 'my lady' and because she was able to wear a
wedding-gown of marvellous make and cost, to trail and rustle and
sweep after her little person up to God's altar with, as though she
sought to astonish the Almighty before whom she took her vows, with
the exuberance of her millinery. He is happy because his debts are
paid out of old Jabez Chester's millions. There the 'happiness' ends.
A couple of months is sufficient to rub the bloom off such wedlock."

"And you really prophesied the marriage?" queried Fraz.

"It was easy enough"--replied his brother carelessly--"Given two
uninstructed, unthinking bipeds of opposite sexes--the male with
debts, the female with dollars, and an urbanely obstinate schemer to
pull them together like Lord Melthorpe, and the thing is done. Half
the marriages in London are made up like that,--and of the after-lives
of those so wedded, 'there needs no ghost from the grave' to tell
us,--the divorce-courts give every information."

"Ah!" exclaimed Fraz quickly--"That reminds me,--do you know I saw
something in the evening-paper last night that might have interested

"Really! You surprise me!" and El--Rmi laughed--"That is strange
indeed, for papers of all sorts, whether morning or evening, are to me
the dullest and worst-written literature in the world."

"Oh, for literature one does not go to them"--answered Fraz.--"But
this was a paragraph about a man who came here not very long ago to
see you--a clergyman. He is up as a co-respondent in some very
scandalous divorce case. I did not read it all--I only saw that his
Bishop had caused him to be 'unfrocked,' whatever that means--I
suppose he is expelled from the ministry?"

"Yes. 'Unfrocked' means literally a stripping-off of clerical
dignity," said El-Rmi. "But if it is the man who came here, he was
always naked in that respect. Francis Anstruther was his name?"

"Exactly--that is the man. He is disgraced for life, and seems to be
one of the most consummate scoundrels that ever lived. He has deserted
his wife and eight children...."

"Spare me and yourself the details!" and El-Rmi gave an expressively
contemptuous gesture--"I know all about him, and told him what I knew
when he came here. But he'll do very well yet--he'll get on capitally
in spite of his disgrace."

"How is that possible?" exclaimed Fraz.

"Easily! He can 'boom' himself as a new 'General' Booth, or he can
become a 'Colonel' under Booth's orders--as long as there are fools to
support Booth with money. Or he can go to America or Australia and
start a new creed--he's sure to fall on his feet and make his
fortune--pious hypocrites always do. One would almost fancy there must
be a special Deity to protect the professors of Humbug. It is only the
sincerely honest folk who get wronged in this admirably-ordered

He spoke with bitterness; and Fraz glanced at him anxiously.

"I do not quite agree with you"--he said; "Surely honest folk always
have their reward?--though perhaps superficial observers may not be
able to perceive where it comes in. I believe in 'walking uprightly'
as the Bible says--it seems to me easier to keep along a straight open
road, than to take dark bye-ways and dubious short cuts."

"What do you mean by your straight open road?" demanded El-Rmi,
looking at him.

"Nature,"--replied Fraz promptly--"Nature leads us up to God."

El-Rmi broke into a harsh laugh.

"O credulous beautiful lad!" he exclaimed; "You know not what you say!
Nature! Consider her methods of work--her dark and cunning and cruel
methods! Every living thing preys on some other living thing;--
creatures wonderful, innocent, simple or complex, live apparently but
to devour and be devoured;--every inch of ground we step upon is the
dust of something dead. In the horrible depths of the earth, Nature,--
this generous kindly Nature!--hides her dread volcanic fires,--her
streams of lava, her boiling founts of sulphur and molten lead, which
at any unexpected moment may destroy whole continents crowded with
unsuspecting humanity. This is NATURE,--nothing but Nature! She hides
her trea--sures of gold, of silver, of diamonds and rubies, in the
deepest and most dangerous recesses, where human beings are lost in
toiling for them,--buried in darkness and slain by thousands in the
difficult search; diving for pearls, the unwary explorer is met by the
remorseless monsters of the deep,--in fact, in all his efforts towards
discovery and progress, Man, the most naturally defenceless creature
upon earth, is met by death or blank discouragement. Suppose he were
to trust to Nature alone, what would Nature do for him? He is sent
into the world naked and helpless;--and all the resources of his body
and brain have to be educated and brought into active requisition to
enable him to live at all,--lions' whelps, bears' cubs have a better
'natural' chance than he;--and then, when he has learned how to make
the best of his surroundings, he is turned out of the world again,
naked and helpless as he came in, with all his knowledge of no more
use to him than if he had never attained it. This is NATURE,--if
Nature be thus reckless and unreasonable as the 'reflex of God'---how
reckless and unreasonable must be God Himself!"

The beautiful stag-like eyes of Fraz darkened slowly, and his slim
hand involuntarily clenched.

"Ay, if God were so," he said--"the veriest pigmy among men might
boast of nobler qualities than He! But God is not so, El-Rmi! Of
course you can argue any and every way, and I cannot confute your
reasoning. Because you reason with the merely mortal intelligence; to
answer you rightly I should have to reply as a Spirit,--I should need
to be out of the body before I could tell you where you are wrong."

"Well!" said his brother curiously--"Then why do you not do so? Why do
you not come to me out of the body, and enlighten me as to what you

Fraz looked troubled.

"I cannot!" he said sadly--"When I go--away yonder--I seem to have so
little remembrance of earthly things--I am separated from the world by
thousands of air-spaces. I am always conscious that you exist on
earth,--but it is always as of someone who will join me presently--not
of one whom I am compelled to join. There is the strangeness of it.
That is why I have very little belief in the notion of ghosts and
spirits appearing to men--because I know positively that no detached
soul willingly returns to or remains on earth. There is always the
upward yearning. If it returns, it does so simply because it is for
some reason, commanded, not because of its own desire."

"And who do you suppose commands it?" asked El-Ra mi.

"The Highest of all Powers,"--replied Fraz reverently--"whom we all,
whether spirit or mortal, obey."

"I do not obey,"--said El-Rmi composedly--"I enforce obedience."

"From whom?" cried Fraz with agitation--"O my brother, from whom?
From mortals perhaps--yes,--so long as it is permitted to you--but
from Heaven--no! No, not from Heaven can you win obedience. For God's
sake do not boast of such power!"

He spoke passionately, and in anxious earnest.

El-Rmi smiled.

"My good fellow, why excite yourself? I do not 'boast'--I am simply--
strong! If I am immortal, God Himself cannot slay me,--if I am mortal
only, I can but die. I am indifferent either way. Only I will not
shrink before an imaginary Divine Terror till I prove what right it
has to my submission. Enough!--we have talked too much on this
subject, and I have work to do."

He turned to his writing-table as he spoke and was soon busy there.
Fraz took up a book and tried to read, but his heart beat quickly,
and he was overwhelmed by a deep sense of fear. The daring of his
brother's words smote him with a chill horror,--from time immemorial,
had not the Forces Divine punished pride as the deadliest of sins? His
thoughts travelled over the great plain of History, on which so many
spectres of dead nations stand in our sight as pale warnings of our
own possible fate, and remembered how surely it came to pass that when
men became too proud and defiant and absolute,--rejecting God and
serving themselves only, then they were swept away into desolation and
oblivion. As with nations, so with individuals--the Law of
Compensation is just, and as evenly balanced as the symmetrical motion
of the Universe. And the words "Except ye become as little children ye
shall not enter the Kingdom of Heaven," rang through his ears, as he
sat heavily silent, and wondering, wondering where the researches of
his brother would end, and how?

El-Rmi himself meanwhile was scanning the last pages of his dead
friend Kremlin's private Journal. This was a strange book,--kept with
exceeding care, and written in the form of letters which were all
addressed "To the Beloved Maroussia in Heaven"--and amply proved that
in spite of the separated seclusion and eccentricity of his life,
Kremlin had not only been faithful to the love of his early days, the
girl who had died self-slain in her Russian prison,--but he had been
firm in his acceptance of and belief in the immortality of the soul
and the reunion of parted spirits. His last "letter" ran thus--it was
unfinished and had been written the night before the fatal storm which
had made an end of his life and learning together,--

"I seem to be now on the verge of the discovery for which I have
yearned. Thou knowest, O heart of my heart, how I dream that these
brilliant and ceaseless vibrations of light may perchance carry to the
world some message which it were well and wise we should know. Oh, if
this 'Light,' which is my problem and mystery, could but transmit to
my earthly vision one flashing gleam of thy presence, my beloved
child! But thou wilt guide me, so that I presume not too far;--I feel
thou art near me, and that thou wilt not fail me at the last. If in
the space of an earthly ten minutes this marvellous 'Light' can travel
111,600,000 miles, thou as a 'spirit of light' canst not be very far
away. Only till my work for poor humanity is done, do I choose to be
parted from thee---be the time long or short--we shall meet...."

Here the journal ended.

"And have they met?" thought El-Rmi, as closing the book he locked it
away in his desk--"And do they remember they were ever mortal? And
what are they--and where are they?"


IN the midst of the strange "summer" weather which frequently falls to
the lot of England,--weather alternating between hot and cold, wet and
dry, sun and cloud with the most distracting rapidity and
irregularity,--there came at last one perfect night towards the end of
June,--a night which could have met with no rival even in the sunniest
climes of the sunniest south. A soft tranquility hovered dove-like in
the air,--a sense of perfect peace seemed to permeate all visible and
created things. The sky was densely blue and thickly strewn with
stars, though these glimmered but faintly, their light being put to
shame by the splendid brilliancy of the full moon which swam aloft
airily like a great golden bubble. El-Rmi's windows were all set
open; a big bunch of heliotrope adorned the table, and the subtle
fragrance of it stole out delicately to mingle with the faintly
stirring evening breeze. Fraz was sitting alone,--his brother had
just left the room,--and he was indulging himself in the dolce far
niente as only the Southern or Eastern temperament can do. His hands
were clasped lightly behind his head, and his eyes were fixed on the
shabby little trees in the square which had done their best to look
green among the whirling smuts of the metropolis and had failed
ignominiously in the attempt, but which now, in the ethereal light of
the moon, presented a soft outline of gray and silver like olive-
boughs seen in the distance. He was thinking, with a certain serious
satisfaction, of an odd circumstance that had occurred to himself that
day. It had happened in this wise: Since the time Zaroba had taken him
to look upon the beautiful creature who was the "subject" of his
brother's experiments, he had always kept the memory of her in his
mind without speaking of her, save that whenever he said a prayer or
offered up a thanksgiving, he had invariably used the phrase--"God
defend her!" He could only explain "Her" to himself by the simple
pronoun, because, as El-Rmi had willed, he had utterly and hopelessly
forgotten her name. But now, strange to say he remembered it!--it had
flashed across his mind like a beam of light or a heaven-sent
signal,--he was at work, writing at his poem, when some sudden
inexplicable instinct had prompted him to lift his eyes and murmur
devoutly--"God defend Lilith!" Lilith!--how soft the sound of it!--how
infinitely bewitching! After having lost it for so long, it had come
back to him in a moment--how or why, he could not imagine. He could
only account for it in one way--namely, that El-Rmi's will-forces
were so concentrated on some particularly absorbing object that his
daily influence on his brother's young life was thereby materially
lessened. And Fraz was by no means sorry that this should be so.

"Why should it matter that I remember her name?" he mused--"I shall
never speak of her--for I have sworn I will not. But I can think of
her to my heart's content,--the beautiful Lilith!"

Then he fell to considering the old legend of that Lilith who it is
said was Adam's first wife,--and he smiled as he thought what a name
of evil omen it was to the Jews, who had charms and talismans
wherewith to exorcise the supposed evil influence connected with it,--
while to him, Fraz, it was a name sweeter than honey-sweet singing.
Then there came to his mind stray snatches of poesy,--delicate rhymes
from the rich and varied stores of one of his favourite poets Dante
Gabriel Rossetti,--rhymes that sounded in his ears just now like the
strophes of a sibylline chant or spell:--

"It was Lilith the wife of Adam:
(Sing Eden Bower!)
Not a drop of her blood was human.
But she was made like a soft sweet woman."

"And that is surely true!" said Fraz to himself, a little startled,--
"For--if she is dead, as El-Rmi asserts, and her seeming life is but
the result of his art, then indeed in the case of this Lilith 'not a
drop of her blood is human.'"

And the poem ran on in his mind--

"Lilith stood on the skirts of Eden
(Alas, the hour!)
She was the first that thence was driven:
With her was hell, and with Eve was heaven."

"Nay, I should transpose that,"--murmured the young man drowsily,
staring out on the moonlit street--"I should say 'With Eve was hell,
and with Lilith heaven.' How strange it is I should never have thought
of this poem before!--and I have often turned over the pages of
Rossetti's book,--since--since I saw her;--I must have actually seen
the name of Lilith printed there, and yet it never suggested itself to
me as being familiar or offering any sort of clue."

He sighed perplexedly,--the heliotrope odours floated around him, and
the gleam of the lamp in the room seemed to pale in the wide splendour
of the moon-rays pouring through the window,--and still the delicate
sprite of Poesy continued to remind him of familiar lines and verses
he loved, though all the while he thought of Lilith, and kept on
wondering vaguely and vainly what would be, what could be, the end of
his brother's experiment (whatever that was, for he, Fraz, did not
know) on the lovely, apparently living girl who yet was dead. It was
very strange--and surely, it was also very terrible!

"The day is dark and the night
To him that would search their heart;
No lips of cloud that will part.
Nor morning song in the light:
Only, gazing alone
To him wild shadows are shown.
Deep under deep unknown
And height above unknown height.
Still we say as we go,--
'Strange to think by the way.
Whatever there is to know.
That shall we know one day.'"

This passage of rhyme sang itself out with a monotonous musical
gentleness in his brain,--he closed his eyes restfully,--and then--
lying back thus in his chair by the open window, with the moonlight
casting a wide halo round him and giving a pale spiritual beauty to
his delicate classic features,--he passed away out of his body, as he
would have said, and was no more on earth; or rather as we should say,
he fell asleep and dreamed. And the "dream" or the "experience" was

He found himself walking leisurely upon the slopes of a majestic
mountain, which seemed not so much mountain as garden, for all the
winding paths leading to its summit were fringed with flowers. He
heard the silvery plashing of brooks and fountains, and the rustling
of thickly-foliaged trees,--he knew the place well, and realized that
he was in his "star" again,--the mystic Sphere he called his "home."
But he was evidently an exile or an alien in it,--he had grown to
realize this fact and was sorry it should be so, yet his sorrow was
mingled with hope, for he felt it would not always be so. He wandered
along aimlessly and alone, full of a curiously vague happiness and
regret, and as he walked he was passed by crowds of beautiful youths
and maidens, who were all pressing forward eagerly as to some high
festival or great assembly. They sang blithe songs,--they scattered
flowers,--they talked with each other in happy-toned voices,--and he
stood aside gazing at them wistfully while they went on rejoicing.

"O land where life never grows old and where love is eternal!" he
mused--"Why am I exiled from thy glory? Why have I lost thy joy?"

He sighed;--he longed to know what had brought together so bright a
multitude of these lovely and joyous beings,--his own "dear people" as
he felt they were; and yet--yet he hesitated to ask one of them the
least question, feeling himself unworthy. At last he saw a girl
approaching,--she was singing to herself and tying flowers in a
garland as she came,--her loose gold hair streamed behind her, every
glistening tress seeming to flash light as she moved. As she drew near
him she glanced at him kindly and paused as though waiting to be
addressed,--seeing this, he mustered up his courage and spoke.

"Whither are you all going?" he asked, with a sad gentleness--"I may
not follow you, I know,--but will you tell me why, in this kingdom of
joy, so much fresh joy seems added?"

She pointed upwards, and as his eyes obeyed her gesture, he saw in the
opal-coloured sky that bent above them, a dazzling blaze of gold and
crimson glory towards the south.

"An Angel passes!" she replied--"Below that line of light the Earth
swings round in its little orbit, and from the Earth She comes! We go
to watch her flight heavenward, and win the benediction that her
passing presence gives. For look you!--all that splendour in the sky
is not light, but wings!"

"Wings!" echoed Fraz dreamily, yet nothing doubting what she said.

"Wings or rays of glory,--which you will"--said the maiden, turning
her own beautiful eyes towards the flashing brilliancy; "They are
waiting there,--those who come from the furthest Divine world,--they
are the friends of Lilith."

She bent her head serenely, and passed onward and upward, and Fraz
stood still, his gaze fixed in the direction of that southern light
which he now perceived was never still, but quivered as with a million
shafts of vari-coloured fire.

"The friends of Lilith!" he repeated to himself--"Angels then,--for
she is an Angel."

Angels!--angels waiting for Lilith in the glory of the South! How
long--how long would they wait?--when would Lilith herself appear?--
and would the very heavens open to receive her, soaring upward? He
trembled,--he tried to realize the unimaginable scene,--and
then,..then he seemed to be seized and hurried away somewhere against
his will...and all that was light grew dark. He shuddered as with icy
cold, and felt that earth again encompassed him,--and presently he
woke--to find his brother looking at him.

"Why in the world do you go to sleep with the window wide open?" asked
El-Rmi--"Here I find you, literally bathed in the moonlight--and
moonlight drives men mad they say,--so fast too in the land of Nod
that I could hardly waken you. Shut the window, my dear boy, if you
must sleep."

Fraz sprang up quickly,--his eyes felt dazzled still with the
remembrance of that "glory of the angels in the South."

"I was not asleep,"--he said--"But certainly I was not here."

"Ah!--In your Star again of course!" murmured El-Rmi with the
faintest trace of mockery in his tone. But Fraz took no offence--his
one anxiety was to prevent the name of "Lilith" springing to his lips
in spite of himself.

"Yes--I was there"--he answered slowly, "And do you know all the
people in the land are gathering together by thousands to see an Angel
pass heavenward? And there is a glory of her sister-angels, away in
the Southern horizon like the splendid circle described by Dante in
his 'Paradiso.' Thus--"

"There is a light in heaven whose goodly shine
Makes the Creator visible to all
Created, that in seeing Him alone
Have peace. And in a circle spreads so far
That the circumference were too loose a zone
To girdle in the sun!"

He quoted the lines with strange eagerness and fervour,--and El-Rmi
looked at him curiously.

"What odd dreams you have!" he said, not unkindly--"Always fantastic
and impossible, but beautiful in their way. You should set them down
in black and white, and see how earth's critics will bespatter your
heaven with the ink of their office pens! Poor boy!--how limply you
would fall from 'Paradise'!--with what damp dejected wings!"

Fraz smiled.

"I do not agree with you"--he said--"If you speak of imagination,--
only in this case I am not imagining,--no one can shut out that
Paradise from me at any time--neither pope nor king, nor critic.
Thought is free, thank God!"

"Yes--perhaps it is the only thing we have to be really thankful
for,"--returned El-Rmi--"Well--I will leave you to resume your
'dreams'--only don't sleep with the windows open. Summer evenings are
treacherous,--I should advise you to get to bed."

"And you?" asked Fraz, moved by a sudden anxiety which he could not

"I shall not sleep to-night,"--said his brother moodily--"Something
has occurred to me--a suggestion--an idea, which I am impatient to
work out without loss of time. And, Fraz,--if I succeed in it--you
shall know the result to-morrow."

This promise, which implied such a new departure from El-Rmi's
customary reticence concerning his work, really alarmed Fraz more
than gratified him.

"For Heaven's sake be careful!" he exclaimed--"You attempt so much,--
you want so much,--perhaps more than can in law and justice be given.
El-Rmi, my brother, leave something to God--you cannot, you dare not
take all!"

"My dear visionary," replied El-Rmi gently--"You alarm yourself
needlessly, I assure you. I do not want to take anything except what
is my own,--and as for leaving something to God, why He is welcome to
what He makes of me in the end--a pinch of dust!"

"There is more than dust in your composition--" cried Fraz
impetuously--"There is divinity! And the divinity belongs to God, and
to God you must render it up, pure and perfect. He claims it from you,
and you are bound to give it."

A tremor passed through El-Rmi's frame, and he grew paler.

"If that be true, Fraz," he said slowly and with emphasis--"if it
indeed be true that there is Divinity in me,--which I doubt!--why then
let God claim and take His own particle of fire when He will, and as
He will! Good-night!"

Fraz caught his hands and pressed them tenderly in his own.

"Good-night!" he murmured--"God does all things well, and to His care
I commend you, my dearest brother."

And as El-Rmi turned away and left the room, he gazed after him with
a chill sense of fear and desolation,--almost as if he were doomed
never to see him again. He could not reason his alarm away, and yet he
knew not why he should feel any alarm,--but truth to tell, his
interior sense of vision seemed still to smart and ache with the
radiance of the light he had seen in his "star" and that roseate
sunset-flush of "glory in the south" created by the clustering angels
who were "the friends of Lilith." Why were they there?--what did they
wait for?--how should Lilith know them or have any intention of
joining them, when she was here,--here on the earth, as he, Fraz,
knew,--here under the supreme dominance of his own brother? He dared
not speculate too far; and, trying to dismiss all thought from his
mind, he was proceeding towards his own room there to retire for the
night, when he met Zaroba coming down the stairs. Her dark withered
face had a serene and almost happy expression upon it,--she smiled as
she saw him.

"It is a night for dreams--" she said, sinking her harsh voice to a
soft aImost musical cadence--"And as the multitude of the stars in
heaven, so are the countless heart-throbs that pulsate in the world at
this hour to the silver sway of the moon. All over the world!--all
over the world!--" and she swung her arms to and fro with a slow
rhythmical movement, so that the silver bangles on them clashed softly
like the subdued tinkling of bells;--then, fixing her black eyes upon
Fraz with a mournful yet kindly gaze she added--"Not for you--not for
you, gentlest of dreamers! not for you! It is destined that you should
dream,--and for you, dreaming is best,--but for me--I would rather
live one hour than dream for a century!"

Her words were vague and wild as usual,--yet somehow Fraz chafed
under the hidden sense of them, and he gave a slight petulant gesture
of irritation. Zaroba, seeing it, broke into a low laugh.

"As God liveth,--" she muttered--"The poor lad fights bravely! He
hates the world without ever having known it,--and recoils from love
without ever having tasted it! He chooses a thought, a rhyme, a song,
an art, rather than a passion! Poor lad--poor lad! Dream on, child!--
but pray that you may never wake. For to dream of love may be sweet,
but to wake without it is bitter!"

Like a gliding wraith she passed him and disappeared. Fraz had a mind
to follow her downstairs to the basement where she had the sort of
rough sleeping accommodation her half-savage nature preferred,
whenever she slept at all out of Lilith's room, which was but
seldom,--yet on second thoughts he decided he would let her alone.

"She only worries me--" he said to himself half vexedly as he went to
his own little apartment--"It was she who first disobeyed El-Rmi, and
made me disobey him also, and though she did take me to see the
wonderful Lilith, what was the use of it? Her matchless beauty
compelled my adoration, my enthusiasm, my reverence, almost my love--
but who could dare to love such a removed angelic creature? Not even
El-Rmi himself,--for he must know, even as I feel, that she is beyond
all love, save the Love Divine."

He cast off his loose Eastern dress, and prepared to lie down, when he
was startled by a faint far sound of singing. He listened
attentively;--it seemed to come from outside, and he quickly flung
open his window, which only opened upon a little narrow backyard such
as is common to London houses. But the moonlight transfigured its
ugliness, making it look like a square white court set in walls of
silver. The soft rays fell caressingly too on the bare bronze-tinted
shoulders of Fraz, as half undressed, he leaned out, his eyes
upturned to the halcyon heavens. Surely, surely there was singing
somewhere,--why, he could distinguish words amid the sounds!

Away, away!
Where the glittering planets whirl and swim
And the glory of the sun grows dim
Away, away!
To the regions of light and fire and air
Where the spirits of life are everywhere
Come, oh come away!

Trembling in every limb, Fraz caught the song distinctly, and held
his breath in fear and wonder.

Away, away!
Come, oh come! we have waited long
And we sing thee now a summoning-song
Away, away!
Thou art freed from the world of the dreaming dead.
And the splendours of Heaven are round thee spread--
Come away!--away!

The chorus grew fainter and fainter--yet still sounded like a distant
musical hum on the air.

"It is my fancy"--murmured Fraz at last, as he drew in his head and
noiselessly shut the window--"It is the work of my own imagination, or
what is perhaps more probable, the work of El-Rmi's will. I have
heard such music before,--at his bidding--no, not such music, but
something very like it."

He waited a few minutes, then quietly knelt down to pray,--but no
words suggested themselves, save the phrase that once before had risen
to his lips that day,--"God defend Lilith!"

He uttered it aloud,--then sprang up confused and half afraid, for the
name had rung out so clearly that it seemed like a call or a command.

"Well!" he said, trying to steady his nerves--"What if I did say it?
There is no harm in the words 'God defend her.' If she is dead, as El-
Rmi says, she needs no defence, for her soul belongs to God already."

He paused again,--the silence everywhere was now absolutely unbroken
and intense, and repelling the vague presentiments that threatened to
oppress his mind, he threw himself on his bed and was soon sound


AND what of the "sign" promised by Lilith? Had it been given? No,--but
El-Rmi's impatience would brook no longer delay, and he had
determined to put an end to his perplexities by violent means if
necessary, and take the risk of whatever consequences might ensue. He
had been passing through the strangest phases of thought and self-
analysis during these latter weeks,--trying, reluctantly enough, to
bend his haughty spirit down to an attitude of humility and patience
which ill suited him. He was essentially masculine in his complete
belief in himself,--and more than all things he resented any
interference with his projects, whether such interference were human
or Divine. When therefore the tranced Lilith had bidden him "wait,
watch and pray," she had laid upon him the very injunctions he found
most difficult to follow. He could wait and watch if he were certain
of results,--but where there was the slightest glimmer of un
certainty, he grew very soon tired of both waiting and watching. As
for "praying"--he told himself arrogantly that to ask for what he
could surely obtain by the exerted strength of his own will was not
only superfluous, but implied great weakness of character. It was
then, in the full-armed spirit of pride and assertive dominance that
he went up that night to Lilith's chamber, and dismissing Zaroba with
more than usual gentleness of demeanour towards her, sat down beside
the couch on which his lovely and mysterious "subject" lay, to all
appearances inanimate save for her quiet breathing. His eyes were
sombre, yet glittered with a somewhat dangerous lustre under their
drooping lids;--he was to be duped no longer, he said to himself,--he
had kept faithful vigil night after night, hoping against hope,
believing against belief, and not the smallest movement or hint that
could be construed into the promised "sign" had been vouchsafed to
him. And all his old doubts returned to chafe and fret his brain,--
doubts as to whether he had not been deceiving himself all this while
in spite of his boasted scepticism,--and whether Lilith, when she
spoke, was not merely repeating like a mechanical automaton, the stray
thoughts of his own mind reflected upon hers? He had "proved" the
possibility of that kind of thing occurring between human beings who
were scarcely connected with each other even by a tie of ordinary
friendship--how much more likely then that it should happen in such a
case as that of Lilith,--Lilith who had been under the sole dominance
of his will for six years! Yet while he thus teased himself with
misgivings, he knew it was impossible to account for the mystic
tendency of her language, or the strange and super-sensual character
of the information she gave or feigned to give. It was not from
himself or his own information that he had obtained a description of
the landscapes in Mars,--its wondrous red fields,--its rosy foliage
and flowers,--its great jagged rocks ablaze with amethystine spar,--
its huge conical shells, tall and light, that rose up like fairy
towers, fringed with flags and garlands of marine blossom, out of
oceans the colour of jasper and pearl. Certainly too, it was not from
the testimony of his inner consciousness that he had evoked the faith
that seemed so natural to her; her belief in a Divine Personality, and
his utter rejection of any such idea, were two things wider asunder
than the poles, and had no possible sort of connection. Nevertheless
what he could not account for, wearied him out and irritated him by
its elusiveness and unprovable character,--and finally, his long,
frequent, and profitless reflections on the matter had brought him
this night up to a point of determination which but a few months back
would have seemed to him impossible. He had resolved to waken Lilith.
What sort of a being she would seem when once awakened, he could not
quite imagine. He knew she had died in his arms as a child,--and that
her seeming life now, and her growth into the loveliness of womanhood
was the result of artificial means evolved from the wonders of
chemistry,--but he persuaded himself that though her existence was the
work of science and not nature, it was better than natural, and would
last as long. He determined he would break that mysterious trance of
body in which the departing Intelligence had been, by his skill,
detained and held in connection with its earthly habitation,--he would
transform the sleeping visionary into a living woman, for--he loved
her. He could no longer disguise from himself that her fair face with
its heavenly smile, framed in the golden hair that circled it like a
halo, haunted him in every minute of time,--he could not and would not
deny that his whole being ached to clasp with a lover's embrace that
exquisite beauty which had so long been passively surrendered to his
experimentings,--and with the daring of a proud and unrestrained
nature, he frankly avowed his feeling to himself and made no pretence
of hiding it any longer. But it was a far deeper mystery than his
"search for the Soul of Lilith," to find out when and how this passion
had first arisen in him. He could not analyse himself so thoroughly as
to discover its vague beginnings. Perhaps it was germinated by
Zaroba's wild promptings,--perhaps by the fact that a certain
unreasonable jealousy had chafed his spirit when he knew that his
brother Fraz had won a smile of attention and response from the
tranced girl,--perhaps it was owing to the irritation he had felt at
the idea that his visitor, the monk from Cyprus, seemed to know more
of her than he himself did,--at any rate, whatever the cause, he who
had been sternly impassive once to the subtle attraction of Lilith's
outward beauty, madly adored that outward beauty now. And as is usual
with very self-reliant and proud dispositions, he almost began to
glory in a sentiment which but a short time ago he would have repelled
and scorned. What was for himself and of himself was good in his
sight--his knowledge, his "proved" things, his tested discoveries, all
these were excellent in his opinion, and the "Ego" of his own ability
was the pivot on which all his actions turned. He had laid his plans
carefully for the awakening of Lilith,--but in one little trifle they
had been put out by the absence from town of Madame Irene Vassilius.
She, of all women he had ever met, was the one he would have trusted
with his secret, because he knew that her life, though lived in the
world, was as stainless as though it were lived in heaven. He had
meant to place Lilith in her care,--in order that with her fine
perceptions, lofty ideals, and delicate sense of all things beautiful
and artistic, she might accustom the girl to look upon the fairest and
noblest side of life, so that she might not regret the "visions"--yes,
he would call them "visions"--she had lost. But Irene was among the
mountains of the Austrian Tyrol, enjoying a holiday in the intimate
society of the fairest Queen in the world, Margherita of Italy, one of
the few living Sovereigns who really strive to bestow on intellectual
worth its true appreciation and reward. And her house in London was
shut up, and under the sole charge of the happy Karl, former servant
to Dr. Kremlin, who had now found with the fair and famous authoress a
situation that suited him exactly. "Wild horses would not tear him
from his lady's service" he was wont to say, and he guarded her
household interests jealously, and said "Not at home" to undesired
visitors like Roy Ainsworth for example, with a gruffness that would
have done credit to a Russian bear. To Irene Vassilius, therefore, El-
Rmi could not turn for the help he had meant to ask; and he was sorry
and disappointed, for he had particularly wished to remove his
"sleeper awakened" out of the companionship of both Zaroba and
Fraz,--and there was no other woman like Irene,--at once so pure and
proud, so brilliantly gifted, and so far removed from the touch and
taint of modern social vulgarity. However, her aid was now
unattainable, and he had to make up his mind to do without it. And so
he resolutely put away the thought of the after-results of Lilith's
awakening,--he, who was generally so careful to calculate
consequences, instinct--ively avoided the consideration of them in the
present instance.

The little silver timepiece ticked with an aggressive loudness as he
sat now at his usual post, his black eyes fixed half-tenderly, half-
fiercely on Lilith's white beauty,--beauty which was, as he told
himself, all his own. Her arms were folded across her breast,--her
features were pallid as marble, and her breathing was very light and
low. The golden lamp burned dimly as it swung from the purple-
pavilioned ceiling--the scent of the roses that were always set fresh
in their vase every day, filled the room, and though the windows were
closed against the night, a dainty moonbeam strayed in through a chink
where the draperies were not quite drawn, and mingled its emerald
glitter with the yellow lustre shed by the lamp on the darkly-carpeted

"I will risk it,"--said El-Rmi in a whisper,--a whisper that sounded
loud in the deep stillness--"I will risk it--why not? I have proved
myself capable of arresting life, or the soul--for life is the soul--
in its flight from hence into the Nowhere,--I must needs also have the
power to keep it indefinitely here for myself in whatever form I
please. These are the rewards of science,--rewards which I am free to
claim,--and what I have done, that I have a right to do again. Now let
me ask myself the question plainly;--Do I believe in the

He paused, thinking earnestly,--his eyes still fixed on Lilith.

"No, I do not,"--he answered himself at last--"Frankly and honestly, I
do not. I have no proofs. I am, it is true, puzzled by Lilith's
language,--but when I know her as she is, a woman, sentient and
conscious of my presence, I may find out the seeming mystery. The
dreams of Fraz are only dreams,--the vision I saw on that one
occasion"--and a faint tremor came over him as he remembered the sweet
yet solemn look of the shining One he had seen standing between him
and his visitor the monk--"the vision was of course his work--the work
of that mystic master of a no less mystic brotherhood. No--I have no
proofs of the supernatural, and I must not deceive myself. Even the
promise of Lilith fails. Poor child!--she sleeps like the daughter of
Jairus, but when I, in my turn, pronounce the words 'Maiden I say unto
thee, arise'--she will obey;--she will awake and live indeed."

"She will awake and live indeed!"

The words were repeated after him distinctly--but by whom? He started
up,--looked round--there was no one in the room,--and Lilith was
immovable as the dead. He began to find something chill and sad in the
intense silence that followed,--everything about him was a harmony of
glowing light and purple colour,--yet all seemed suddenly very dull
and dim and cold. He shivered where he stood, and pressed his hands to
his eyes,--his temples throbbed and ached, and he felt curiously
bewildered. Presently, looking round the room again, he saw that the
picture of "Christ and His Disciples" was unveiled;--he had not
noticed the circumstance before. Had Zaroba inadvertently drawn aside
the curtain which ordinarily hid it from view? Slowly his eyes
travelled to it and dwelt upon it--slowly they followed the letters of
the inscription beneath.


The question seemed to him for the moment all-paramount; he could not
shake off the sense of pertinacious demand with which it impressed

"A good Man,"--he said aloud, staring fixedly at the divine Face and
Figure, with its eloquent expression of exalted patience, grandeur and
sweetness. "A good Man, misled by noble enthusiasm and unselfish
desire to benefit the poor. A man with a wise knowledge of human
magnetism and the methods of healing in which it can be employed,--a
man too, somewhat skilled in the art of optical illusion. Yet when all
is said and done, a good Man--too good and wise and pure for the peace
of the rulers of the world,--too honest and clear-sighted to deserve
any other reward but death. Divine?--No!--save in so far as in our
highest moments we are all divine. Existing now?--a Prince of Heaven,
a Pleader against Punishment? Nay, nay!--no more existing than the
Soul of Lilith,--that soul for which I search, but which I feel I
shall never find!"

And he drew nearer to the ivory-satin couch on which lay the lovely
sleeping wonder and puzzle of his ambitious dreams. Leaning towards
her he touched her hands,--they were cold, but as he laid his own upon
them they grew warm and trembled. Closer still he leaned, his eyes
drinking in every detail of her beauty with eager, proud and masterful

"Lilith!--my Lilith!" he murmured--"After all, why should we put off
happiness for the sake of everlastingness, when happiness can be had,
at any rate for a few years. One can but live and die and there an
end. And Love comes but once,...Love!--how I have scoffed at it and
made a jest of it as if it were a plaything. And even now while my
whole heart craves for it, I question whether it is worth having! Poor
Lilith!--only a woman after all,--a woman whose beauty will soon
pass--whose days will soon be done,--only a woman--not an immortal
Soul,--there is, there can be, no such thing as an immortal Soul."

Bending down over her, he resolutely unclasped the fair crossed arms,
and seized the delicate small hands in a close grip.

"Lilith! Lilith!" he called imperiously.

A long and heavy pause ensued,--then the girl's limbs quivered
violently as though moved by a sudden convulsion, and her lips parted
in the utterance of the usual formula--

"I am here."

"Here at last, but you have been absent long"--said El-Rmi with some
reproach, "Too long. And you have forgotten your promise."

"Forgotten!" she echoed--"O doubting spirit! Do such as I am, ever

Her thrilling accents awed him a little, but he pursued his own way
with her, undauntedly.

"Then why have you not fulfilled it?" he demanded--"The strongest
patience may tire. I have waited and watched, as you bade me--but
now--now I am weary of waiting."

Oh, what a sigh broke from her lips!

"I am weary too"--she said--"The angels are weary. God is weary. All
Creation is weary--of Doubt."

For a moment he was abashed,--but only for a moment; in himself he
considered Doubt to be the strongest part of his nature,--a positive
shield and buckler against possible error.

"You cannot wait,"--went on Lilith, speaking slowly and with evident
sadness--"Neither can we. We have hoped,--in vain! We have watched--in
vain! The strong man's pride will not bend, nor the stubborn spirit
turn in prayer to its Creator. Therefore what is not bent must be
broken,--and what voluntarily refuses Light must accept Darkness. I am
bidden to come to you, my beloved,--to come to you as I am, and as I
ever shall be,--I will come--but how will you receive me?"

"With ecstasy, with love, with welcome beyond all words or thoughts!"
cried El--Rmi in passionate excitement. "O Lilith, Lilith! you who
read the stars, cannot you read my heart? Do you not see that I--I who
have recoiled from the very thought of loving,--I, who have striven to
make of myself a man of stone and iron rather than flesh and blood, am
conquered by your spells, victorious Lilith!--conquered in every fibre
of my being by some subtle witchcraft known to yourself alone. Am I
weak?--am I false to my own beliefs? I know not,--I am only conscious
of the sovereignty of beauty which has mastered many a stronger man
than I. What is the fiercest fire compared to this fever in my veins?
I worship you, Lilith! I love you!--more than the world, life, time
and hope of heaven, I love you!"

Flushed with eagerness and trembling with his own emotion, he rained
kisses on the hands he held, but Lilith strove to withdraw them from
his clasp. Pale as alabaster she lay as usual with fast-closed eyes,
and again a deep sigh heaved her breast.

"You love my Shadow,"--she said mournfully--"not Myself."

But El-Rmi's rapture was not to be chilled by these words. He
gathered up a glittering mass of the rich hair that lay scattered on
the pillow and pressed it to his lips.

"O Lilith mine, is this 'Shadow'?" he asked--"All this gold in which I
net my heart like a willingly caught bird, and make an end of my
boasted wisdom? Are these sweet lips, these fair features, this
exquisite body, all 'shadow'? Then blessed must be the light that
casts so gracious a reflection! Judge me not harshly, my Sweet,--for
if indeed you are Divine, and this Beauty I behold is the mere reflex
of Divinity, let me see the Divine Form of you for once, and have a
guarantee for faith through love! If there is another and a fairer
Lilith than the one whom I now behold, deny me not the grace of so
marvellous a vision! I am ready!--I fear nothing--to-night I could
face God Himself undismayed!"

He paused abruptly--he knew not why. Something in the chill and solemn
look of Lilith's face checked his speech.

"Lilith--Lilith!" he began again whisper--ingly--"Do I ask too much?
Surely not--not if you love me! And you do love me--I feel, I know you

There was a long pause,--Lilith might have been made of marble for all
the movement she gave. Her breathing was so light as to be scarcely
perceptible, and when she answered him at last, her voice sounded
strangely faint and far-removed. "Yes, I love you"--she said--"I love
you as I have loved you for a thousand ages, and as you have never
loved me. To win your love has been my task--to repel my love has been

He listened, smitten by a vague sense of compunction and regret.

"But you have conquered, Lilith"--he answered--"yours is the victory.
And have I not surrendered, willingly, joyfully? O my beautiful
Dreamer, what would you have me do?"

"Pray!" said Lilith, with a sudden passionate thrill in her voice--
"Pray! Repent!"

El-Rmi drew himself backward from her couch, impatient and angered.

"Repent!" he cried aloud--"And why should I repent? What have I done
that calls for repentance? For what sin am I to blame? For doubting a
God who, deaf to centuries upon centuries of human prayer and worship,
will not declare Himself? and for striving to perceive Him through the
cruel darkness by which we are surrounded? What crime can be
discovered there? The world is most infinitely sad,--and life is most
infinitely dreary,--and may I not strive to comfort those amid the
struggle who fain would 'prove' and hold fast to the things beyond?
Nay!--let the heavens open and cast forth upon me their fiery
thunderbolts I will not repent! For, vast as my Doubt is, so vast
would be my Faith, if God would speak and say to His creatures but
once--'Lo! I am here!' Tortures of hell-pain would not terrify me, if
in the end His Being were made clearly manifest--a cross of endless
woe would I endure, to feel and see Him near me at the last, and more
than all, to make the world feel and see Him,--to prove to wondering,
trembling, terror-stricken, famished, heart-broken human beings that
He exists,--that He is aware of their misery,--that He cares for them,
that it is all well for them,--that there is Eternal Joy hiding itself
somewhere amid the great star-thickets of this monstrous universe--
that we are not desolate atoms whirled by a blind fierce Force into
life against our will, and out of it again without a shadow of reason
or a glimmer of hope. Repent for such thoughts as these? I will not!
Pray to a God of such inexorable silence? I will not! No, Lilith--my
Lilith whom I snatched from greedy death--even you may fail me at the
last,--you may break your promise,--the promise that I should see with
mortal eyes your own Immortal Self--who can blame you for the promise
of a dream, poor child! You may prove yourself nothing but woman;
woman, poor, frail, weak, helpless woman, to be loved and cherished
and pitied and caressed in all the delicate limbs, and kissed in all
the dainty golden threads of hair, and then--then--to be laid down
like a broken flower in the tomb that has grudged me your beauty all
this while,---all this may be, Lilith, and yet I will not pray to an
unproved God, nor repent of an unproved sin!"

He uttered his words with extraordinary force and eloquence--one would
have thought he was addressing a multitude of hearers instead of that
one tranced girl, who, though beautiful as a sculptured saint on a
sarcophagus, appeared almost as inanimate, save for the slow parting
of her lips when she spoke.

"O superb Angel of the Kingdom!" she murmured--"It is no marvel that
you fell!"

He heard her, dimly perplexed; but strengthened in his own convictions
by what he had said, he was conscious of power,--power to defy, power
to endure, power to command. Such a sense of exhilaration and high
confidence had not possessed him for many a long day, and he was about
to speak again, when Lilith's voice once more stole musically on the

"You would reproach God for the world's misery. Your complaint is
unjust. There is a Law,--a Law for the earth as for all worlds; and
God cannot alter one iota of that Law without destroying Himself and
His Universe. Shall all Beauty, all Order, all Creation come to an end
because wilful Man is wilfully miserable? Your world trespasses
against the Law in almost everything it does--hence its suffering.
Other worlds accept the Law and fulfil it,--and with them, all is

"Who is to know this Law?" demanded El-Rmi impatiently. "And how can
the world trespass against what is not explained?"

"It is explained;"--said Lilith--"The explanation is in every soul's
inmost consciousness. You all know the Law and feel it--but knowing,
you ignore it. Men were intended by Law--God's Law--to live in
brotherhood; but your world is divided into nations all opposed to
each other,--the result is Evil. There is a Law of Health, which men
can scarcely be forced to follow--the majority disobey it; again, the
result is Evil. There is a Law of 'Enough'--men grasp more than
enough, and leave their brother with less than enough,--the result is
Evil. There is a Law of Love--men make it a Law of Lust,--the result
is Evil. All Sin, all Pain, all Misery, are results of the Law's
transgression,--and God cannot alter the Law, He Himself being part of
it and its fulfilment."

"And is Death also the Law?" asked El-Rmi--"Wise Lilith!--Death,
which concludes all things, both in Law and Order?"

"There is no death."--responded Lilith--"I have told you so. What you
call by that name is Life."

"Prove it!" exclaimed El-Rmi excitedly, "Prove it, Lilith! Show me
Yourself! If there is another You than this beloved beauty of your
visible form, let me behold it, and then--then will I repent of
doubt,--then will I pray for pardon!"

"You will repent indeed,"--said Lilith sorrowfully--"And you will pray
as children pray when first they learn 'Our Father.' Yes, I will come
to you;--watch for me, O my erring Belovd!--watch!--for neither my
love nor my promise can fail. But O remember that you are not ready--
that your will, your passion, your love, forces me hither ere the
time,--that if I come, it is but to depart again--forever!"

"No, no!" cried El-Rmi desperately--"Not to depart, but to remain!--
to stay with me, my Lilith, my own--body and soul,--forever!"

The last words sounded like a defiance flung at some invisible
opponent. He stopped, trembling--for a sudden and mysterious wave of
sound filled the room, like a great wind among the trees, or the last
grand chord of an organ-symphony. A chill fear assailed him,--he kept
his eyes fixed on the beautiful form of Lilith with a strained
eagerness of attention that made his temples ache. She grew paler and
paler,--and yet,...absorbed in his intent scrutiny he could not move
or speak. His tongue seemed tied to the roof of his mouth,--he felt as
though he could scarcely breathe All life appeared to hang on one
supreme moment of time, which like a point of light wavered between
earth and heaven, mortality and infinity. He,--one poor atom in the
vast Universe,--stood, audaciously waiting for the declaration of
God's chiefest Secret! Would it be revealed at last?--or still


ALL at once, while he thus closely watched her, Lilith with a violent
effort, sat up stiffly erect and turned her head slowly towards him.
Her features were rigidly statuesque, and white as snow,--the strange
gaunt look of her face terrified him, but he could not cry out or
utter a word--he was stricken dumb by an excess of fear. Only his
black eyes blazed with an anguish of expectation,--and the tension of
his nerves seemed almost greater than he could endure.

"In the great Name of God and by the Passion of Christ,"--said Lilith
solemnly, in tones that sounded far-off and faint and hollow--"do not
look at this Shadow of Me! Turn, turn away from this dust of Earth
which belongs to the Earth alone,--and watch for the light of Heaven
which comes from Heaven alone! O my love, my belovd!--if you are
wise, if you are brave, if you are strong, turn away from beholding
this Image of Me, which is not Myself,--and look for me where the
roses are--there will I stand and wait!"

As the last word left her lips she sank back on her pillows, inert,
and deathly pale; but El-Rmi, dazed and bewildered though he was,
retained sufficient consciousness to understand vaguely what she
meant,--he was not to look at her as she lay there,--he was to forget
that such a Lilith as he knew existed,--he was to look for another
Lilith there--"where the roses are." Mechanically, and almost as if
some invisible power commanded and controlled his volition, he turned
sideways round from the couch, and fixed his gaze on the branching
flowers, which from the crystal vase that held them, lifted their
pale-pink heads daintily aloft as though they took the lamp that swung
from the ceiling for some little new sun, specially invented for their
pleasure. Why,--there was nothing there;..."Nothing there!" he half-
muttered with a beating heart, rubbing his eyes and staring hard
before him,...nothing--nothing at all, but the roses themselves,
and...and...yes!--a Light behind them!--a light that wavered round
them and began to stretch upward in wide circling rings!

El-Rmi gazed and gazed,...saying over and over again to himself that
it was the reflection of the lamp,..the glitter of that stray moonbeam
there,...or something wrong with his own faculty of vision,...and yet
he gazed on, as though for the moment, all his being were made of
eyes. The roses trembled and swayed to and fro delicately as the
strange Light widened and brightened behind their blossoming
clusters,--a light that seemed to palpitate with all the wondrous
living tints of the rising sun when it shoots forth its first golden
rays from the foaming green hollows of the sea. Upward, upward and
ever upward the deepening glory extended, till the lamp paled and grew
dimmer than the spark of a feeble match struck as a rival to a flash
of lightning,--and El-Rmi's breath came and went in hard panting
gasps as he stood watching it in speechless immobility.

Suddenly, two broad shafts of rainbow luminance sprang, as it seemed
from the ground, and blazed against the purple hangings of the room
with such a burning dazzle of prismatic colouring in every glittering
line, that it was well-nigh impossible for human sight to bear it, and
yet El-Rmi would rather have been stricken stone-blind than move. Had
he been capable of thought, he might have remembered the beautiful old
Greek myths which so truthfully and frequently taught the lesson that
to look upon the purely divine, meant death to the purely human; but
he could not think,--all his own mental faculties were for the time
rendered numb and useless. His eyes ached and smarted as though red-
hot needles were being plunged into them, but though he was conscious
of, he was indifferent to the pain. His whole mind was concentrated on
watching the mysterious radiance of those wing-shaped rays in the
room,--and while he gazed, he began to perceive an Outline
between the rays,...a Shape, becoming every second more and more
distinct, as though some invisible heavenly artist were drawing the
semblance of Beauty in air with a pencil dipped in morning-glory.... O
wonderful, ineffable Vision!--O marvellous breaking forth of the buds
of life that are hid in the quiet ether!--where, where in the vast
wealth and reproduction of deathless and delicate atoms, is the
Beginning of things?--where the End? ...

Presently appeared soft curves, and glimmers of vapoury white flushed
with rose, suggestive of fire seen through mountain-mist,--then came a
glittering flash of gold that went rippling and ever rippling
backward, like the flowing fall of lovely hair; and the dim Shape grew
still more clearly visible, seeming to gather substance and solidity
from the very light that encircled it. Had it any human likeness?
Yes,--yet the resemblance it bore to humanity was so far away, so
exalted and ideal, as to be no more like our material form than the
actual splendour of the sun is like its painted image. The stature and
majesty and brilliancy of it increased,--and now the unspeakable
loveliness of a Face too fair for any mortal fairness began to suggest
itself dimly;...El-Rmi growing faint and dizzy, thought he
distinguished white outstretched arms, and hands uplifted in an
ecstasy of prayer;--nay,--though he felt himself half-swooning in the
struggle he made to overcome his awe and fear, he would have sworn
that two star-like eyes, full-orbed and splendid with a radiant blue
as of Heaven's own forget-me-nots, were turned upon him with a
questioning appeal, a hope, a supplication, a love beyond all
eloquence!...But his strength was rapidly failing him;--unsupported by
faith, his mere unassisted flesh and blood could endure no more of
this supernatural sight, and...all suddenly,..the tension o his nerves
gave way, and morbid terrors shook his frame. A blind frenzied feeling
that he was sinking,--sinking out of sight and sense into a drear
profound, possessed him, and hardly knowing what he did, he turned
desperately to the couch where Lilith, the Lilith he knew best lay,
and looking,--

"Ah God!" he cried, pierced to the heart by the bitterest anguish he
had ever known,--Lilith--his Lilith was withering before his very
eyes! The exquisite Body he had watched and tended was shrunken and
yellow as a fading leaf,--the face, no longer beautiful, was gaunt and
pinched and skeleton-like--the lips were drawn in and blue,--and
strange convulsions shook the wrinkling and sunken breast!

In one mad moment he forgot everything,--forgot the imperishable Soul
for the perishing Body,--forgot his long studies and high ambitions,--
and could think of nothing, except that this human creature he had
saved from death seemed now to be passing into death's long-denied
possession,--and throwing himself on the couch he clutched at his
fading treasure with the desperation of frenzy.

"Lilith!--Lilith!" he cried hoarsely, the extremity of his terror
choking his voice to a smothered wild moan--"Lilith! My love, my idol,
my spirit, my saint! Come back!--come back!"

And clasping her in his arms he covered with burning kisses the thin
peaked face--the shrinking flesh,--the tarnishing lustre of the once
bright hair.

"Lilith! Lilith!" he wailed, dry-eyed and fevered with agony--"Lilith,
I love you! Has love no force to keep you? Lilith, love Lilith! You
shall not leave me,--you are mine--mine! I stole you from death--I
kept you from God!--from all the furies of heaven and earth!--you
shall come back to me--I love you!"

And lo! he spoke the body he held to his heart grew warm,--the
flesh filled up and regained its former softness and roundness--the
features took back their loveliness--the fading hair brightened to its
wonted rich tint and rippled upon the pillows in threads of gold--the
lips reddened,--the eyelids quivered,--the little hands, trembling
gently like birds' wings, nestled round his throat with a caress that
thrilled his whole being and calmed the tempest of his grief as
suddenly as when of old the Master walked upon the raging sea of
Galilee and said to it "Peace, be still!"

Yet this very calmness oppressed him heavily,--like a cold hand laid
on a fevered brow it chilled his blood even while it soothed his pain.
He was conscious of a sense of irreparable loss,--and moreover he felt
he had been a coward,--a coward physically and morally. For, instead
of confronting the Supernatural, or what seemed the Supernatural
calmly, and with the inquisitorial research of a scientist, he had
allowed himself to be overcome by It, and had fled back to the
consideration of the merely human, with all the delirious speed of a
lover and fool. Nevertheless he had his Lilith--his own Lilith,--and
holding her jealously to his heart, he presently turned his head
tremblingly and in doubt to where the roses nodded drowsily in their
crystal vase;--only the roses now were there! The marvellous Wingd
Brightness had fled, and the place it had illumined seemed by contrast
very dark. The Soul,--the Immortal Self--had vanished;--the subtle
Being he had longed to see, and whose existence and capabilities he
had meant to "prove"; and he, who had consecrated his life and labour
to the attainment of this one object had failed to grasp the full
solution of the mystery at the very moment when it might have been
his. By his own weakness he had lost the Soul,--by his own strength he
had gained the Body,--or so he thought, and his mind was torn between
triumph and regret. He was not yet entirely conscious of what had
chanced to him--he could formulate no idea,--all he distinctly knew
was that he held Lilith, warm and living, in his arms, and that he
felt her light breath upon his cheek.

"Love is enough!" he murmured, kissing the hair that lay in golden
clusters against his breast--"Waken, my Lilith!--waken!--and in our
perfect joy we will defy all gods and angels!"

She stirred in his clasp,--he bent above her, eager, ardent,
expectant,--her long eyelashes trembled,--and then,--slowly, slowly,
like white leaves opening to the sun, the lids upcurled, disclosing
the glorious eyes beneath,--eyes that had been closed to earthly
things for six long years,--deep, starry violet-blue eyes that shone
with the calm and holy lustre of unspeakable purity and peace,--eyes
that in their liquid softness held all the appeal, hope, supplication
and eloquent love, he had seen (or fancied he had seen) in the strange
eyes of the only half-visible Soul! The Soul indeed was looking
through its earthly windows for the last time, had he known it,--but
he did not know it. Raised to as giddy a pinnacle of delight as
suddenly as he had been lately plunged into an abyss of grief and
terror, he gazed into those newly-opened wondrous worlds of mute
expression with all a lover's pride, passion, tenderness and longing.

"Fear nothing, Lilith!" he said--"It is I! I whose voice you have
answered and obeyed,--I, your lover and lord! It is I who claim you,
my belovd!--I who bid you waken from death to life!"

Oh, what a smile of dazzling rapture illumined her face!--it was as if
the sun in all his glory had suddenly broken out of a cloud to
brighten her beauty with his purest beams. Her child-like, innocent,
wondering eyes remained fixed upon El-Rmi,--lifting her white arms
languidly she closed them round about him with a gentle fervour that
seemed touched by compassion,--and he, thrilled to the quick by that
silent expression of tenderness, straightway ascended to a heaven of
blind, delirious ecstasy. He wanted no word from her...what use of
words!--her silence was the perfect eloquence of love! All her beauty
was his own--his very own!...he had willed it so,--and his will had
won its way,--the iron Will of a strong wise man without a God to help
him!--and all he feared was that he might die of his own excess of
triumph and joy!...Hush!...hush! ... Music again!--that same deep
sound as of the wind among trees, or the solemn organ-chord that
closes the song of departing choristers. It was strange,--very
strange!--but though he heard, he scarcely heeded it; unearthly
terrors could not shake him now,--not now, while he held Lilith to his
heart, and devoured her loveliness with his eyes, curve by curve, line
by line, till with throbbing pulses, and every nerve tingling in his
body, he bent his face down to hers, and pressed upon her lips a long,
burning passionate kiss! ...

But, even as he did so, she was wrenched fiercely out of his hold by a
sudden and awful convulsion,--her slight frame writhed and twisted
itself away from his clasp with a shuddering recoil of muscular
agony--once her little hands clutched the air,...and then,..then, the
brief struggle over, her arms dropped rigidly at her sides, and her
whole body swerved and fell backward heavily upon the pillows of the
couch, stark, pallid and pulseless!...And he,--he, gazing upon her
thus with a vague and stupid stare, wondered dimly whether he were mad
or dreaming? ...

What...what was this sudden ailment?...this...this strange swoon? What
bitter frost had stolen into her veins?...what insatiable hell-fire
was consuming his? Those eyes,...those just unclosed, innocent lovely
eyes of Lilith,...was it possible, could it be true that all the light
had gone out of them?--gone, utterly gone? And what was that clammy
film beginning to cover them over with a glazing veil of
blankness?...God!...God!...he must be in a wild nightmare, he
thought!...he should wake up presently and find all this seeming
disaster unreal,--the fantastic fear of a sick brain..the "clangour
and anger of elements" imaginative, not actual,...and here his reeling
terror found voice in a hoarse, smothered cry--


But stop, stop!...was it Lilith indeed whom he thus
called?...That?...that gaunt, sunken, rigid form, growing swiftly
hideous!...yes--hideous, with those dull marks of blue discoloration
coming here and there on the no longer velvety fair skin!


The name was lost and drowned in the wave of solemn music that rolled
and throbbed upon the air, and El-Rmi's distorted mind, catching at
the dread suggestiveness of that unearthly harmony, accepted it as a
sort of invisible challenge.

"What, good Death! brother Death, are you there?" he muttered
fiercely, shaking his clenched fist at vacancy--"Are you here, and are
you everywhere? Nay, we have crossed swords before now in desperate
combat...and I have won!...and I will win again! Hands off, rival
Death! Lilith is mine!"

And, snatching from his breast a phial of the liquid with which he had
so long kept Lilith living in a trance, he swiftly injected it into
her veins, and forced some drops between her vain!
No breath came back to stir that silent breast--no sign whatever of
returning animation evinced itself, only, the expiration of the
few moments which generally sufficed the vital fluid for its working,
there chanced a strange and terrible thing. Wherever the liquid had
made its way, there the skin blistered, and the flesh blackened, as
though the whole body were being consumed by some fierce inward fire;
and El-Rmi, looking with strained wild eyes at this destructive
result of his effort to save, at last realized to the full all the
awfulness, all the dire agony of his fate! The Soul of Lilith had
departed for ever;...even as the Cyprian monk had said, it had
outgrown its earthly tenement,...its cord of communication with the
body had been mysteriously and finally severed,--and the Body itself
was crumbling into ashes before his very sight, helped into swifter
dissolution by the electric potency of his own vaunted "life-elixir"!
It was horrible...horrible!...was there no remedy?

Staring himself almost blind with despair, he dashed the phial on the
ground, and stamped it under his heel in an excess of impotent
fury,..the veins in his forehead swelled with a fulness of aching
blood almost to bursting,...he could do nothing,...nothing! His
science was of no avail;--his Will,--his proud inflexible Will was "as
a reed shaken in the wind!" . . Ha!..the old stock phrase! had
been said before, in old times and in new, by canting creatures who
believed in Prayer. Prayer!--would it bring back beauty and vitality
to that blackening corpse before him?...that disfigured, withering
clay he had once called Lilith!...How ghastly It looked!...Shuddering
violently he turned away,--turned,--to meet the grave sweet eyes of
the pictured Christ on the wall, read again the words, "WHOM SAY
YE THAT I AM?" The letters danced before him in characters of
flame,..there seemed a great noise everywhere as of clashing steam-
hammers and great church-bells,--the world was reeling round him as
giddily as a spun wheel.

"Robber of the Soul of Lilith!" he muttered between his set teeth--
"Whoever you be, whether God or Devil, I will find you out! I will
pursue you to the uttermost ends of vast infinitude! I will contest
her with you yet, for surely she is mine! What right have you, O Force
Unknown, to steal my love from me? Answer me!--prove yourself God, as
I prove myself Man! Declare something, O mute Inflexible!--Do some--
thing other than mechanically grind out a reasonless, unexplained Life
and Death for ever! O Lilith!--faithless Angel!--did you not say that
love was sweet?--and could not love keep you here,--here, with me,
your lover, Lilith?"

Involuntarily and with cowering reluctance, his eyes turned again
towards the couch,--but now--now..the horror of that decaying beauty,
interiorly burning itself away to nothingness was more than he could
bear;...a mortal sickness seized him,--and he flung up his arms with a
desperate gesture as though he sought to drag down some covering
wherewith to hide himself and his utter misery.

"Defeated, baffled, befooled!" he exclaimed frantically--"Conquered by
the Invisible and Invincible after all! Conquered! I! ... Who would
have thought it! Hear me, earth and heaven!--hear me, O rolling world
of Human Wretchedness, hear me!--for I have proved a Truth! There IS a
God!--a jealous God--jealous of the Soul of Lilith!--a God tyrannical,
absolute, and powerful--a God of infinite and inexorable Justice! O
God, I know you!--I own you--I meet you! I am part of you as the worm
is!--and you can change me, but you cannot destroy me! You have done
your worst,--you have fought against your own Essence in me, till
light has turned to darkness and love to bitterness;--you have left me
no help, no hope, no comfort; what more remains to do, O terrible God
of a million Universes!...what more? Gone--gone is the Soul of
Lilith--but Where?...Where in the vast Unknowable shall I find my love
again?...Teach me that O God!...give me that one small clue through
the million million intricate webs of star-systems, and I too will
fall blindly down and adore an Imaginary Good invisible and all-
paramount Evil!...I too will sacrifice reason, pride, wisdom and power
and become as a fool for Love's sake!...I too will grovel before an
unproved Symbol of Divinity as a savage grovels before his stone
fetish,...I will be weak, not strong, I will babble prayers with the
children,...only take me where Lilith is,...bring me to Lilith...angel
Lilith! Lilith! ... my Lilith!...ah God! God! Have
mercy...mercy! ..."

His voice broke suddenly in a sharp jarring shriek of delirious
laughter,--blood sprang to his mouth,--and with a blind movement of
his arms, as of one in thick darkness seeking light, he fell heavily
face forward, insensible on the couch where the Body he had loved,
deprived of its Soul, lay crumbling swiftly away into hideous
disfigurement and ashes.


"AWAKE, Fraz! To-day dreams end, and Life begins."

The words sounded so distinctly in his ears that the half-roused Fraz
turned drowsily on his pillows and opened his eyes, fully expecting to
see the speaker of them in his room. But there was no one. It was
early morning,--the birds were twittering in the outer yard, and
bright sunshine poured through the window. He had had a long and
refreshing sleep,--and sitting up in his bed he stretched himself with
a sense of refreshment and comfort, the while he tried to think what
had so mysteriously and unpleasantly oppressed him with forebodings on
the previous night. By-and-by he re--membered the singing voices in
the air and smiled.

"All my fancy of course!" he said lightly, springing up and beginning
to dash the fresh cold water of his morning bath over his polished
bronze-like skin, till all his nerves tingled with the pleasurable
sensation--"I am always hearing music of some sort or other. I believe
music is pent up in the air, and loosens itself at intervals like the
rain. Why not? There must be such a wealth of melody aloft,--all the
songs of all the birds,--all the whisperings of all the leaves;--all
the dash and rush of the rivers, waterfalls and oceans,--it is all in
the air, and I believe it falls in a shower sometimes and penetrates
the brains of musicians like Beethoven, Schumann and Wagner."

Amused with his own fantastic imaginings he hummed a tune sotto-voce
as he donned his easy and picturesque attire,--then he left his room
and went to his brother's study to set it in order for the day, as was
his usual custom.

He opened the door softly and with caution, because El-Rmi often
slept there on the hard soldier's couch that occupied one corner,--but
this morning, all was exactly as it had been left at night,--the books
and papers were undisturbed,--and, curiously enough, the little
sanctum presented a vacant and deserted appearance, as though it would
dumbly express a fear that its master was gone from it for ever. How
such a notion suggested itself to Fraz, he could not tell,--but he
was certainly conscious of a strange sinking at the heart, as he
paused in the act of throwing open one of the windows, and looked
round the quiet room. Had anything been moved or displaced during the
night that he should receive such a general impression of utter
emptiness? Nothing--so far as he could judge;--there was his brother's
ebony chair wheeled slightly aside from the desk,--there were the
great globes, terrestrial and celestial,--there were the various
volumes lately used for reference,--and, apart from these, on the
table, was the old vellum book in Arabic that Fraz had once before
attempted to read. It was open,--a circum--stance that struck Fraz
with some surprise, for he could not recall having seen it in that
position last evening. Perhaps El-Rmi had come down in the night to
refer to it and had left it there by accident? Fraz felt he must
examine it more nearly, and approaching, he rested his elbows on the
table and fixed his eyes on the Arabic page before him which was
headed in scrolled lettering "The Mystery of Death." As he read the
words, a beautiful butterfly flew in through the open window and
circled joyously round his head, till presently espying the bunch of
heliotrope in the glass where Fraz had set it the previous day, it
fluttered off to that, and settled on the scented purple bloom, its
pretty wings quivering with happiness. Mechanically Fraz watched its
flight,--then his eyes returned and dwelt once more on the time-
stained lettering before him; "The Mystery of Death,"--and following
the close lines with his fore-finger, he soon made out the ensuing
passages. "The Mystery of Death. Whereas, of this there is no mystery
at all, as the ignorant suppose, but only a clearing up of many
intricate matters. When the body dies,--or to express it with more
pertinacious exactitude, when the body resolves itself into the living
organisms of which earth is composed, it is because the Soul has
outgrown its mortal habitation and can no longer endure the cramping
narrowness of the same. We speak unjustly of the aged, because by
their taciturnity and inaptitude for worldly business, they seem to us
foolish, and of a peevish weakness; it should however be remembered
that it is a folly to complain of the breaking of the husk when the
corn is ripe. In old age the Soul is weary of and indifferent to
earthly things, and makes of its tiresome tenement a querulous
reproach,--it has exhausted earth's pleasures and surpassed earth's
needs, and palpitates for larger movement. When this is gained, the
husk falls, the grain sprouts forth--the Soul is freed,--and all
Nature teaches this lesson. To call the process 'death' and a
'mystery' is to repeat the error of barbarian ages,--for once the Soul
has no more use for the Body, you cannot detain it,--you cannot com--
press its wings,--you cannot stifle its nature,--and, being Eternal,
it demands Eternity."

"All that is true enough;"--murmured Fraz--"As true as any truth
possible, and yet people will not accept or understand it. All the
religions, all the preachers, all the teachers seem to avail them
nothing,--and they go on believing in death far more than in life.
What a sad and silly world it is!--always planning for itself and
never for God, and only turning to God in imminent danger like a
coward schoolboy who says he is sorry because he fears a whipping."

Here he lifted his eyes from the book, feeling that someone was
looking at him, and true enough, there in the doorway stood Zaroba.
Her withered face had an anxious expression and she held up a warning

"Hush! ..." she said whisperingly.... "No noise!...where is El-Rmi?"

Fraz replied by a gesture, indicating that he was still upstairs at
work on his mysterious "experiment."

Zaroba advanced slowly into the room, and seated herself on the
nearest chair.

"My mind misgives me;"--she said in low awe-stricken tones,--"My mind
misgives me; I have had dreams--such dreams! All night I have tossed
and turned,--my head throbs here,"--and she pressed both hands upon
her brow,--"and my heart--my heart aches! I have seen strange
creatures clad in white,--ghostly faces of the past have stared at
me,--my dead children have caressed me,--my dead husband has kissed me
on the lips--a kiss of ice, freezing me to the marrow. What does it
bode? No good--no good!--but ill! Like the sound of the flying feet of
the whirlwind that brings death to the sons of the desert, there is a
sound in my brain which says--'Sorrow! Sorrow!' again and yet again

Sighing, she clasped her hands about her knees and rocked herself to
and fro, as though she were in pain. Fraz stood gazing at her
wistfully and with a somewhat troubled air,--her words impressed him
uncomfortably,--her very attitude suggested misery. The sunlight
beaming across her bent figure, flashed on the silver bangles that
circled her brown arms, and touched her rough gray hair to flecks of
brightness,--her black eyes almost hid themselves under their tired
drooping lids,--and when she ceased speaking her lips still moved as
though she inwardly muttered some weird incantation. Growing impatient
with her, he knew not why, the young man paced slowly up and down the
room;--her deafness precluded him from speaking to her, and he just
now had no inclination to communicate with her in the usual way by
writing. And while he thus walked about, she continued her rocking
movement, and peered at him dubiously from under her bushy gray brows.

"It is ill work meddling with the gods;"--she began again presently--
"In old time they were vengeful,--and have they changed because the
times are new? Nay, nay! The nature of a man may alter with the course
of his passions,--but the nature of a god!--who shall make it
otherwise than what it has been from the beginning? Cruel, cruel are
the ways of the gods when they are thwarted;--there is no mercy in the
blind eyes of Fate! To tempt Destiny is to ask the thunderbolt to fall
and smite you,--to oppose the gods is as though a babe's hand should
essay to lift the Universe. Have I not prayed the Master, the wise and
the proud El-Rmi Zarnos, to submit and not contend? As God liveth, I
say, let us submit while we can like the slaves that we are, for in
submission alone is safety!"

Fraz heard her with increasing irritation,--why need she come to him
with all this melancholy jabbering, he thought angrily. He leaned far
out of the open window and looked at the ugly houses of the little
square,--at the sooty trees, the sparrows hopping and quarrelling in
the road, the tradesmen's carts that every now and again dashed to and
from their various customers' doors in the aggravatingly mad fashion
they affect, and tried to realize that he was actually in busy
practical London, and not, as seemed at the moment more likely, in
some cavern of an Eastern desert, listening to an ancient sybil
croaking misfortune. Just then a neighbouring clock struck nine, and
he hastily drew in his head from the outer air, and making language
with his eloquent fingers, he mutely asked Zaroba if she were going
upstairs now, or whether she meant to wait till El-Rmi himself came

She left off rocking to and fro, and half rose from her chair,--then
she hesitated.

"I have never waited"--she said--"before,--and why? Because the voice
of the Master has roused me from my deepest slumbers,--and like a
finger of fire laid on my brain, his very thought has summoned my
attendance. But this morning no such voice has called,--no such
burning touch has stirred my senses,--how should I know what I must
do? If I go unbidden, will he not be angered?--and his anger works
like a poison in my blood! is late,...and his silence is

She paused, passing her hand wearily across her eyes,--then stood up,
apparently resolved.

"I will obey the voices that whisper to me,"--she said, with a certain
majestic resignation and gravity--"The voices that cry to my heart
'Sorrow! Sorrow!' and yet again 'Sorrow!' If grief must come, then
welcome, grief!--one cannot gainsay the Fates. I will go hence and
prove the message of the air,--for the air holds invisible tongues
that do not lie."

With a slow step she moved across the room,--and on a sudden impulse
Fraz sprang towards her exclaiming, "Zaroba!--stay!"--then
recollecting she could not hear a word, he checked himself and drew
aside to let her pass, with an air of indifference which he was far
from feeling. He was in truth wretched and ill at ease,--the
exhilaration with which he had arisen from sleep had given way to
intense depression, and he could not tell what ailed him.

"Awake, Fraz! To-day dreams end, and life begins." Those were the
strange words he had heard the first thing on awaking that morning,--
what could they mean, he wondered rather sadly? If dreams were indeed
to end, he would be sorry,--and if life, as mortals generally lived
it, were to begin for him, why then, he would be sorrier still.
Troubled and perplexed, he began to set the breakfast in order, hoping
by occupation to divert his thoughts and combat the miserable feeling
of vague dread which oppressed him, and which, though he told himself
how foolish and unreasonable it was, remained increasingly persistent.
All at once such a cry rang through the house as almost turned his
blood to ice,--a cry wild, despairing and full of agony. It was
repeated with piercing vehemence,--and Fraz, his heart beating
furiously, cleared the space of the room with one breathless bound and
rushed upstairs, there to confront Zaroba tossing her arms
distractedly and beating her breast like a creature demented.

"Lilith!" she gasped,--"Lilith has gone...gone!...and El-Rmi is


PUSHING the panic-stricken woman aside, Fraz dashed back the velvet
curtains, and for the second time in his life penetrated the
mysterious chamber. Once in the beautiful room, rich with its purple
colour and warmth, he stopped as though he were smitten with sudden
paralysis,--every artery in his body pulsated with terror,--it was
true!...true that Lilith was no longer there! This was the first
astounding fact that bore itself in with awful conviction on his dazed
and bewildered mind;--the next thing he saw was the figure of his
brother, kneeling motionless by the vacant couch. Hushing his steps
and striving to calm his excitement, Fraz approached more nearly, and
throwing his arms round El-Rmi's shoulders endeavoured to raise
him,--but all his efforts made no impression on that bent and rigid
form. Turning his eyes once more to the ivory blankness of the satin
couch on which the maiden Lilith had so long reclined, he saw with awe
and wonder the distinct impression of where her figure had been,
marked and hollowed out into deep curves and lines, which in their
turn were outlined by a tracing of fine grayishwhite dust, like sifted
ashes. Following the track of this powdery substance, he still more
clearly discerned the impress of her vanished shape; and, shuddering
in every limb, he asked himself--Could that--that dust--be all--all
that was left of...of Lilith?...What dire tragedy had been enacted
during the night?--what awful catastrophe had chanced to her ,--to
him, his beloved brother, whom he strove once more to lift from his
kneeling position, but in vain. Zaroba stood beside him, shivering,
wailing, staring, and wringing her hands, till Fraz, dry-eyed and
desperate, finding his own strength not sufficient, bade her, by a
passionate gesture, assist him. Trembling violently, she obeyed, and
between them both they at last managed to drag El-Rmi up from the
ground and get him to a chair, where Fraz chafed his hands, bathed
his forehead, and used every possible means to restore animation. Did
his heart still beat? Yes, feebly and irregularly;--and presently one
or two faint gasping sighs came from the labouring breast.

"Thank God!" muttered Fraz--"Whatever has happened, he lives!--Thank
God he lives! When he recovers, he will tell me all;--there can be no
secrets now between him and me."

And he resumed his quick and careful ministrations, while Zaroba still
wailed and wrung her hands, and stared miserably at the empty couch,
whereon her beautiful charge had lain, slumbering away the hours and
days for six long years. She too saw the little heaps and trackings of
gray dust on the pillows and coverlid, and her feeble limbs shook with
such terror that she could scarcely stand.

"The gods have taken her!" she whispered faintly through her pallid
lips--"The gods are avenged! When did they ever have mercy! They have
claimed their own with the breath and the fire of lightning, and the
dust of a maiden's beauty is no more than the dust of a flower! The
dreadful, terrible gods are avenged--at last!"

And sinking down upon the floor, she huddled herself together, and
drew her yellow draperies over her head, after the Eastern manner of
expressing inconsolable grief, and covered her aged features from the
very light of day.

Fraz heeded her not at all, his sole attention being occupied in the
care of his brother, whose large black eyes now opened suddenly and
regarded him with a vacant expression like the eyes of a blind man. A
great shudder ran through his frame,--he looked curiously at his own
hands as Fraz gently pressed and rubbed them,--and he stared all
round the room in vaguely in--quiring wonderment. Presently his
wandering glance came back to Fraz, and the vacancy of his expression
softened into a certain pleased mildness,--his lips parted in a little
smile, but he said nothing.

"You are better, El-Rmi, my brother?" murmured Fraz caressingly,
trembling and almost weeping in the excess of his affectionate
anxiety, the while he placed his own figure so that it might obstruct
a too immediate view of Lilith's vacant couch, and the covered
crouching form of old Zaroba beside it--"You have no pain? do
not suffer?"

El-Rmi made no answer for the moment;--he was looking at Fraz with a
gentle but puzzled inquisitiveness. Presently his dark brows
contracted slightly, as though he were trying to connect some
perplexing chain of ideas,--then he gave a slight gesture of fatigue
and indifference.

"You will excuse me, I hope,--" he then said with plaintive courtesy--
"I have forgotten your name. I believe I met you once, but I cannot
remember where."

The heart of poor Fraz stood still,...a great sob rose in his throat.
But he checked it bravely,--he would not, he could not, he dared not
give way to the awful fear that began to creep like a frost through
his warm young blood.

"You cannot remember Fraz?" he said gently--"Your own Fraz?...your
little brother, to whom you have been life, hope, joy, work--
everything of value in the world!" Here his voice failed him, and he
nearly broke down.

El-Rmi looked at him in grave surprise.

"You are very good!" he murmured, with a feebly polite wave of his
hand;--"You over-rate my poor powers. I am glad to have been useful to
you--very glad!"

Here he paused;--his head sank forward on his breast, and his eyes

"El-Rmi!" cried Fraz, the hot tears forcing their way between his
eyelids--"Oh, my belovd brother!--have you no thought for me?"

El-Rmi opened his eyes and stared;--then smiled.

"No thought?" he repeated--"Oh, you mistake!--I have thought very
much,--very much indeed, about many things. Not about you perhaps,--
but then I do not know you. You say your name is Fraz,--that is very
strange; it is not at all a common name. I only knew one Fraz,--he
was my brother, or seemed so for a time,--but I found out
afterwards,...hush!...come closer! ..." and he lowered his voice to a
whisper,--"that he was not a mortal, but an angel,--the angel of a
Star. The Star knew him better than I did."

Fraz turned away his head,--the tears were falling down his cheeks--
he could not speak. He realized the bitter truth,--the delicate
overstrained mechanism of his brother's mind had given way under
excessive pain and pressure,--that brilliant, proud, astute, cold and
defiant intellect was all unstrung and out of gear, and rendered
useless, perchance for ever.

El-Rmi however seemed to have some glimmering perception of Fraz's
grief, for he put out a trembling hand and turned his brother's face
towards him with gentle concern.

"Tears?" he said in a surprised tone--"Why should you weep? There is
nothing to weep for;--God is very good."

And with an effort, he rose from the chair in which he had sat, and
standing upright, looked about him. His eye at once lighted on the
vase of roses at the foot of the couch and he began to tremble
violently. Fraz caught him by the arm,--and then he seemed startled
and afraid.

"She promised,...she promised!" he began in an incoherent rambling
way--"and you must not interfere,--you must let me do her bidding.
'Look for me where the roses are; there will I stand and wait!' She
said that,--and she will wait, and I will look, for she is sure to
keep her word--no angel ever forgets. You must not hinder me;--I have
to watch and pray,--you must help me, not hinder me. I shall die if
you will not let me do what she asks;--you cannot tell how sweet her
voice is;--she talks to me and tells me of such wonderful things,--
things too beautiful to be believed, yet they are true. I know so well
my work;--work that must be done,--you will not hinder me?"

"No, no!"--said Fraz, in anguish himself, yet willing to say anything
to soothe his brother's trembling excitement--"No, no! You shall not
be hindered,--I will help you,--I will watch with you,--I will pray
..." and here again the poor fellow nearly broke down into womanish

"Yes!" said El-Rmi, eagerly catching at the word--"Pray! You will
pray--and so will I;--that is good,--that is what I need,--prayer,
they say, draws all Heaven down to earth. It is strange,--but so it
is. You know"--he added, with a faint gleam of intelligence lighting
up for a moment his wandering eyes--"Lilith is not here! Not here, nor
there,...she is Everywhere!"

A terrible pallor stole over his face, giving it almost the livid hue
of death,--and Fraz, alarmed, threw one arm strongly and resolutely
about him. But El-Rmi crouched and shuddered, and hid his eyes as
though he strove to shelter himself from the fury of a whirlwind.

"Everywhere!" he moaned--"In the flowers, in the trees, in the winds,
in the sound of the sea, in the silence of the night, in the slow
breaking of the dawn,--in all these things is the Soul of Lilith!
Beautiful, indestructible, terrible Lilith! She permeates the world,
she pervades the atmosphere, she shapes and unshapes herself at
pleasure,--she floats, or flies, or sleeps at will;--in substance, a
cloud;--in radiance, a rainbow! She is the essence of God in the
transient shape of an angel--never the same, but for ever immortal.
She soars aloft--she melts like mist in the vast Unseen!--and I--I--I
shall never find her, never know her, never see her--never, never

The harrowing tone of voice in which he uttered these words pierced
Fraz to the heart, but he would not give way to his own emotion.

"Come, El-Rmi!" he said very gently--"Do not stay here,--come with
me. You are weak,--rest on my arm; you must try and recover your
strength,--remember, you have work to do."

"True, true!" said El-Rmi, rousing himself--"Yes, you are right,--
there is much to be done. Nothing is so difficult as patience. To be
left all alone, and to be patient, is very hard,--but I will come,--I
will come."

He suffered himself to be led towards the door,--then, all at once he
came to an abrupt stand-still, and looking round, gazed full on the
empty couch where Lilith had so long been royally enshrined. A sudden
passion seemed to seize him--his eyes sparkled luridly,--a sort of
inward paroxysm convulsed his features, and he clutched Fraz by the
shoulder with a grip as hard as steel.

"Roses and lilies and gold!" he muttered thickly--"They were all
there,--those delicate treasures, those airy nothings of which God
makes woman! Roses for the features, lilies for the bosom, gold for
the hair!--roses, lilies and gold! They were mine,--but I have burned
them all!--I have burned the roses and lilies, and melted the gold.
Dust!---dust and ashes! But the dust is not Lilith. No!--it is only
the dust of the roses, the dust of lilies, the dust of gold. Roses,
lilies and gold! So sweet they are and fair to the sight, one would
almost take them for real substance; but they are Shadows!--shadows
that pass as we touch them,--shadows that always go, when most we
would have them stay!"

He finished with a deep shuddering sigh, and then, loosening his grasp
of Fraz, began to stumble his way hurriedly out of the apartment,
with the manner of one who is lost in a dense fog and cannot see
whither he is going. Fraz hastened to assist and support him,
whereupon he looked up with a pathetic and smiling gratefulness.

"You are very good to me,"--he said, with a gentle courtesy, which in
his condition was peculiarly touching--"I thought I should never need
any support;--but I was wrong--quite wrong,--and it is kind of you to
help me. My eyes are rather dim,--there was too much light among the
roses,...and I find this place extremely dark, makes me feel a
little confused here;"--and he passed his hand across his forehead
with a troubled gesture, and looked anxiously at Fraz, as though he
would ask him for some explanation of his symptoms.

"Yes, yes!" murmured Fraz soothingly--"You must be tired--you will
rest, and presently you will feel strong and well again. Do not
hurry,--lean on me,"--and he guided his brother's trembling limbs
carefully down the stairs, a step at a time, thinking within himself
in deep sorrow--Could this be the proud El-Rmi, clinging to him thus
like a weak old man afraid to move? Oh, what a wreck was here!--what a
change had been wrought in the few hours of the past night!--and ever
the fateful question returned again and again to trouble him--What had
become of Lilith? That she was gone was self-evident,--and he gathered
some inkling of the awful truth from his brother's rambling words. He
remembered that El-Rmi had previously declared Lilith to be dead, so
far as her body was concerned, and only kept apparently alive by
artificial means;--he could easily imagine it possible for those
artificial means to lose their efficacy in the end,...and then,...for
the girl's beautiful body to crumble into that dissolution which would
have been its fate long ago, had Nature had her way. All this he could
dimly surmise,--but he had been kept so much in the dark as to the
real aim and intention of his brother's "experiment" that it was not
likely he would ever understand everything that had occurred;--so that
Lilith's mysterious evanishment seemed to him like a horrible
delusion;--it could not be! he kept on repeating over and over again
to himself, and yet it was!

Moving with slow and cautious tread, he got El-Rmi at last into his
own study, wondering whether the sight of the familiar objects he was
daily accustomed to, would bring him back to a reasonable perception
of his surroundings. He waited anxiously, while his brother stood
still, shivering slightly and looking about the room with listless,
unrecognising eyes. Presently, in a voice that was both weary and
petulant, El-Rmi spoke.

"You will not leave me alone I hope?" he said--"I am very old and
feeble, and I have done you no wrong,--I do not see why you should
leave me to myself. I should be glad if you would stay with me a
little while, because everything is at present so strange to me;--I
shall no doubt get more accustomed to it in time. You are perhaps not
aware that I wished to live through a great many centuries--and my
wish was granted;--I have lived longer than any man, especially since
She left me,--and now I am growing old, and I am easily tired. I do
not know this place at all--is it a World or a Dream?"

At this question, it seemed to Fraz that he heard again, like a
silver clarion ringing through silence, the mysterious voice that had
roused him that morning saying, "Awake, Fraz! To-day dreams end, and
life begins!"...He understood, and he bent his head resignedly,--he
knew now what the "life" thus indicated meant;--it meant a sacrificing
of all his poetic aspirations, his music, and his fantastic happy
visions,--a complete immolation of himself and his own desires, for
the sake of his brother. His brother, who had once ruled him
absolutely, was now to be ruled by him;--helpless as a child, the once
self-sufficient and haughty El-Rmi was to be dependent for everything
upon the very creature who had lately been his slave,--and Fraz,
humbly reading in these reversed circumstances, the Divine Law of
Compensation, answered his brother's plaintive query--"Is it a World
or a Dream?" with manful tenderness.

"It is a World,"--he said--"not a Dream, beloved El-Rmi--but a
Reality. It is a fair garden, belonging to God and the things of
God"--he paused, seeing that El-Rmi smiled placidly and nodded his
head as though he heard pleasant music,--then he went on steadily--"a
garden in which immortal spirits wander for a time self-exiled, till
they fully realize the worth and loveliness of the Higher Lands they
have forsaken. Do you understand me, O dear and honoured one?---do you
understand? None love their home so dearly as those who have left it
for a time--and it is only for a time--a short, short time,"--and
Fraz, deeply moved by his mingled sorrow and affection, kissed and
clasped his brother's hands--"and all the beauty we see here in this
beautiful small world, is made to remind us of the greater beauty
yonder. We look, as it were, into a little mirror, which reflects in
exquisite miniature, the face of Heaven! See!" and he pointed to the
brilliant blaze of sunshine that streamed through the window and
illumined the whole room--"There is the tiny copy of the larger Light
above,--and in that little light the flowers grow, the harvests ripen,
the trees bud, the birds sing and every living creature rejoices,--but
in the other Greater Light, God lives, and angels love and have their
being;"--here Fraz broke off abruptly, wondering if he might risk the
utterance of the words that next rose involuntarily to his lips, while
El-Rmi gazed at him with great wide-open eager eyes like those of a
child listening to a fairy story.

"Yes, yes!--what next?" he demanded impatiently--"This is good news
you give me;--the angels love, you say, and God lives,--yes!--tell me

"All angels love and have their being in that Greater Light,"--
continued Fraz softly and steadily--"And there too is Lilith--

"True!" cried El-Rmi, with a sort of sobbing cry--"True!...She is
there,--she promised--and I shall know,...I shall know where to find
her after all, for she told me plainly--'Look for me where the roses
are,--there will I stand and wait.'"

He tottered, and seemed about to fall;--but when Fraz would have
supported him, he shook his head, and pointed tremblingly to the amber
ray of sunshine pouring itself upon the ground:

"Into the light!"--he murmured--"I am all in the dark;--lead me out of
the darkness into the light."

And Fraz led him where he desired, and seated him in his own chair in
the full glory of the morning radiance that rippled about him like
molten gold, and shone caressingly on his white hair,--his dark face
that in its great pallor looked as though it were carved in bronze,--
and his black, piteous, wandering eyes. A butterfly danced towards him
in the sparkling shower of sunbeams, the same that had flown in an
hour before and alighted on the heliotrope that adorned the centre of
the table. El-Rmi's attention was attracted by it--and he watched its
airy flutterings with a pleased, yet vacant smile. Then he stretched
out his hands in the golden light, and lifting them upward, clasped
them together and closed his eyes.

"Our Father"...he murmured; "which art in Heaven!...Hallowed be Thy

Fraz, bending heedfully over him, caught the words as they were
faintly whispered,--caught the hands as they dropped inert from their
supplicating posture and laid them gently back;--then listened again
with strained attention, the pitying tears gathering thick upon his

"Our Father!"...once more that familiar appeal of kinship to the
Divine, stole upon the air like a far-off sigh,--then came the sound
of regular and quiet breathing;--Nature had shed upon the over-taxed
brain her balm of blessed unconsciousness,--and like a tired child,
the proud El-Rmi slept.


UPSTAIRS meanwhile, in the room that had been Lilith's, there reigned
the silence of a deep desolation. The woman Zaroba still crouched
there, huddled on the floor, a mere heap of amber draperies,--her head
covered, her features hidden. Now and then a violent shuddering seized
her,--but otherwise she gave no sign of life. Hours passed;--she knew
nothing, she thought of nothing; she was stupefied with misery and a
great inextinguishable fear. To her bewildered, darkly superstitious,
more than pagan mind, it seemed as if some terrible avenging angel had
descended in the night and torn away her beautiful charge out of sheer
spite and jealousy lest she should awake to the joys of earth's life
and love. It had always been her fixed idea that the chief and most
powerful ingredient of the Divine character (and of the human also)
was jealousy; and she considered therefore that all women, as soon as
they were born, should be solemnly dedicated to the ancient goddess
Ananitis. Ananitis was a useful and accommodating deity, who in the
old days, had unlimited power to make all things pure. A woman might
have fifty lovers, and yet none could dare accuse her of vileness if
she were a "daughter" or "priestess" of Ananitis. She might have been
guilty of any amount of moral enormity, but she was held to be the
chastest of virgins if Ananitis were her protectress and mistress. And
so, in the eyes of Zaroba, Ananitis was the true patroness of love,--
she sanctified the joys of lovers and took away from them all
imputation of sin;--and many and many a time had the poor, ignorant,
heathenish old woman secretly invoked the protection of this almost
forgotten pagan goddess for the holy maiden Lilith. And now--now she
wondered tremblingly, if in this she had done wrong?...More than for
anything in the world had she longed that El-Rmi, the "wise man" who
scoffed at passion with a light contempt, should love with a lover's
wild idolatry the beautiful creature who was so completely in his
power;--in her dull, half-savage, stupid way, she had thought that
such a result of the long six years "experiment" could but bring
happiness to both man and maid; and she spared no pains to try and
foster the spark of mere interest which El-Rmi had for his "subject"
into the flame of a lover's ardour. For this cause she had brought
Fraz to look upon the tranced girl, in order that El-Rmi knowing of
it, might feel the subtle prick of that perpetual motor, jealousy,--
for this she had said all she dared say, concerning love and its
unconquerable nature;--and now, just when her long-cherished wish
seemed on the point of being granted, some dreadful Invisible Power
had rushed in between the two, and destroyed Lilith with the fire of
wrath and revenge;--at any rate that was how she regarded it. The
sleeping girl had grown dear to her,--it was impossible not to love
such a picture of innocent, entrancing, ideal beauty,--and she felt as
though her heart had been torn open and its very core wrenched out by
a cruel and hasty hand. She knew nothing as yet of the fate that had
overtaken El-Rmi himself,--for as she could not hear a sound of the
human voice, she had only dimly seen that he was led from the room by
his young brother, and that he looked ill, feeble and distraught. What
she realized most positively and with the greatest bitterness, was the
fact of Lilith's loss,--Lilith's evident destruction. This was
undeniable,--this was irremediable,--and she thought of it till her
aged brain burned as with some inward consuming fire, and her thin
blood seemed turning to ice.

"Who has done it?" she muttered--"Who has claimed her? It must be the
Christ,--the cold, quiet, pallid Christ, with His bleeding Hands and
beckoning Eyes! He is a new god,--He has called, and she, Lilith has
obeyed! Without love, without life, without aught in the world save
the lily-garb of un--touched holiness,--it is what the pale Christ
seeks, and He has found it here,--here, with the child who slept the
sleep of innocent ignorance,--here where no thought of passion ever
entered unless I breathed it,--or perchance he--El-Rmi--thought it,
unknowingly. O what a white flower for the Christ in Heaven, is
Lilith!--What a branch of bud and blossom!...Ah, cruel, cold new gods
of the Earth!--how long shall their sorrowful reign endure! Who will
bring back the wise old gods,--the gods of the ancient days,--the gods
who loved and were not ashamed,--the gods of mirth and life and
health,--they would have left me Lilith,--they would have said--'Lo,
now this woman is old and poor,--she hath lost all that she ever
had,--let us leave her the child she loves, albeit it is not her own
but ours;--we are great gods, but we are merciful!' Oh, Lilith,
Lilith! child of the sun and air, and daughter of sleep! would I had
perished instead of thee!--Would I had passed away into darkness, and
thou been spared to the light!"

Thus she wailed and moaned, her face hidden, her limbs quivering, and
she knew not how long she had stayed thus, though all the morning had
passed and the afternoon had begun. At last she was roused by the
gentle yet firm pressure of a hand on her shoulder, and, slowly
uncovering her drawn and anguished features she met the sorrowful eyes
of Fraz looking into hers. With a mute earnest gesture he bade her
rise. She obeyed, but so feebly and tremblingly, that he assisted her,
and led her to a chair, where she sat down, still quaking all over
with fear and utter wretchedness. Then he took a pencil and wrote on
the slate which his brother had been wont to use,--

"A great trouble has come upon us. God has been pleased to so darken
the mind of the beloved El-Rmi, that he knows us no longer, and is
ignorant of where he is. The wise man has been rendered simple,--and
the world seems to him as it seems to a child who has everything in
its life to learn. We must accept this ordinance as the Will of the
Supreme, and bring our own will in accordance with it, believing the
ultimate intention to be for the Highest Good. But for his former
life, El-Rmi exists no more,--the mind that guided his actions then,
is gone."

Slowly, and with pained, aching eyes Zaroba read these words,--she
grasped their purport and meaning thoroughly, and yet, she said not a
word. She was not surprised,--she was scarcely affected;--her feelings
seemed blunted or paralysed. El-Rmi was mad? To her, he had always
seemed mad,--with a madness born of terrible knowledge and power. To
be mad now was nothing; the loss of Lilith was amply sufficient cause
for his loss of wit. Nothing could be worse in her mind than to have
loved Lilith and lost her,--what was the use of uttering fresh cries
and ejaculations of woe! It was all over,--everything was ended,--so
far as she, Zaroba, was concerned. So she sate speechless,--her grand
old face rigid as bronze, with an expression upon it of stern
submission, as of one who waits immovably for more onslaughts from the
thunderbolts of destiny.

Fraz looked at her very compassionately, and wrote again--

"Good Zaroba, I know your grief. Rest--try to sleep. Do not see El-
Rmi to-day. It is better I should be alone with him. He is quite
peaceful and happy,--happier indeed than he has ever been. He has so
much to learn, he says, and he is quite satisfied. For to-day we must
be alone with our sorrows,--to-morrow we shall be able to see more
clearly what we must do."

Still Zaroba said nothing. Presently however, she arose, and walked
totteringly to the side of Lilith's couch,..there, with an eloquently
tragic gesture of supremest despair, she pointed to the gray-white
ashes that were spread in that dreadfully suggestive outline on the
satin coverlet and pillows. Fraz, shuddering, shut his eyes for a
moment;--then, as he opened them again, he saw, confronting him, the
uncurtained picture of the "Christ and His Disciples." He remembered
it well,--El-Rmi had bought it long ago from among the despoiled
treasures of an old dismantled monastery,---and besides being a
picture it was also a reliquary. He stepped hastily up to it and felt
for the secret spring which used, he knew, to be there. He found and
pressed it,--the whole of the picture flew back like a door on a
hinge, and showed the interior to be a Gothic-shaped casket, lined
with gold, at the back of which was inserted a small piece of wood,
supposed to have been a fragment of the "True Cross." There was
nothing else in the casket,--and Fraz, leaving it open, turned to
Zaroba who had watched him with dull, scarcely comprehending eyes.

"Gather together these sacred ashes,"--he wrote again on the slate,--
"and place them in this golden recess,--it is a holy place fit for
such holy relics. El-Rmi would wish it, I know, if he could
understand or wish for anything,--and wherever we go, the picture will
go with us, for one day perhaps he will remember,...and ask, ..."

He could trust himself to write no more,--and stood sadly enrapt, and
struggling with his own emotion.

"The Christ claims all!" muttered Zaroba wearily, resorting to her old
theme--"The crucified Christ,...He must have all;--the soul, the body,
the life, the love, the very ashes of the dead,--He must have

Fraz heard her,--and taking up his pencil once more, wrote swiftly--

"You are right,--Christ has claimed Lilith. She was His to claim,--for
on this earth we are all His,--He gave His very life to make us so.
Let us thank God that we are thus claimed,--for with Christ all things
are well."

He turned away then immediately, and left her alone to her task,--a
task she performed with groans and trembling, till every vestige of
the delicate ashes, as fine as the dust of flowers, was safely and
reverently placed in its pure golden receptacle. Strange to say, one
very visible relic of the vanished Lilith's bodily beauty had somehow
escaped destruction,--this was a long, bright waving tress of hair
which lay trembling on the glistening satin of the pillows like a lost
sunbeam. Over this lovely amber curl, old Zaroba stooped yearningly,
staring at it till her tears, the slow, bitter scalding tears of age
fell upon it where it lay. She longed to take it for herself,--to wear
it against her own heart,--to kiss and cherish it as though it were a
living, sentient thing,--but thinking of El-Rmi, her loyalty
prevailed, and she tenderly lifted the clinging, shining, soft silken
curl, and laid it by with the ashes in the antique shrine. All was now
done,--and she shut to the picture, which when once closed, showed no
sign of any opening.

Lilith was gone indeed;--there was now no perceptible evidence to show
that she had ever existed. And, to the grief-stricken Zaroba, the Face
and Figure of the Christ, as painted on the reliquary at which she
gazed, seemed to assume a sudden triumph and majesty which appalled
while it impressed her. She read the words "Whom Say Ye That I Am?"
and shuddered; this "new god" with His tranquil smile and sorrowful
dignity had more terrors for her than any of the old pagan deities.

"I cannot! I cannot!" she whispered feebly; "I cannot take you to my
heart, cold white Christ,--I cannot think it is good to wear the
thorns of perpetual sorrow! You offer no joy to the sad and weary
world,--one must sacrifice one's dearest hopes,--one must bear the
cross and weep for the sins of all men, to be at all acceptable to
You! I am old--but I keep the memories of joy; I would not have all
happiness reft out of the poor lives of men. I would have them full of
mirth,--I would have them love where they list, drink pure wine, and
rejoice in the breath of Nature,--I would have them feast in the
sunlight and dance in the moonbeams, and crown themselves with the
flowers of the woodland and meadow, and grow ruddy and strong and
manful and generous, and free--free as the air! I would have their
hearts bound high for the pleasure of life;--not break in a search for
things they can never win. Ah no, cold Christ! I cannot love you!--at
the touch of your bleeding Hand the world freezes like a starving bird
in a storm of snow;--the hearts of men grow weak and weary, and of
what avail is it, O Prince of Grief, to live in sadness all one's days
for the hope of a Heaven that comes not? O Lilith!--child of the sun,
where art thou?--Where? Never to have known the joys of love,--never
to have felt the real pulse of living,--never to have thrilled in a
lover's embrace,--ah, Lilith, Lilith! Will Heaven compensate thee for
such loss?...Never, never, never! No God, were He all the worlds' gods
in One, can give aught but a desolate Eden to the loveless and lonely

In such wise as this, she muttered and moaned all day long, never
stirring from the room that was called Lilith's. Now and then she
moved up and down with slow restlessness,--sometimes fixing eager eyes
upon the vacant couch, with the vague idea that perhaps Lilith might
come back to it as suddenly as she had fled; and sometimes pausing by
the vase of roses, and touching their still fragrant, but fast-fading
blossoms. Time went on, and she never thought of breaking her fast, or
going to see how her master, El-Rmi, fared. His mind was gone,---she
understood that well enough,--and in a strange wild way of her own,
she connected this sudden darkening of his intellect with the equally
sudden disappearance of Lilith; and she dreaded to look upon his face.

How the hours wore away she never knew; but by-and-by her limbs began
to ache heavily, and she crouched down upon the floor to rest. She
fell into a heavy stupor of unconsciousness,--and when she awoke at
last, the room was quite dark. She got up, stiff and cold and
terrified,--she groped about with her hands,--it seemed to her dazed
mind that she was in some sepulchral cave in the desert, all alone.
Her lips were dry,--her head swam,--and she tottered along, feeling
her way blindly, till she touched the velvet portire that divided the
room from its little antechamber, and dragging this aside in nervous
haste, she stumbled through, and out on to the landing, where it was
light. The staircase was before her,--the gas was lit in the hall--and
the house looked quite as usual,--yet she could not in the least
realize where she was. Indistinct images floated in her brain,--there
were strange noises in her ears,--and she only dimly remembered El-
Rmi, as though he were someone she had heard of long ago, in a dream.
Pausing on the stair-head, she tried to collect her scattered
senses,--but she felt sick and giddy, and her first instinct was to
seek the air. Clinging to the banisters, she tottered down the stairs
slowly, and reached the front-door, and fumbling cautiously with the
handle a little while, succeeded in turning it, and letting herself
out into the street. The door had a self-acting spring, and shut to
instantly, and almost noiselessly, behind her,--but Fraz, sitting in
the study with his brother, fancied he heard a slight sound, and came
into the hall to see what it was. Finding everything quiet he
concluded he was mistaken, and went back to his post beside El-Rmi,
who had been dozing nearly all day, only waking up now and again to
mildly accept the nourishment of soup and wine which Fraz prepared
and gave him to keep up his strength. He was perfectly tranquil, and
talked at times quite coherently of simple things, such as the flowers
on the table, the lamp, the books, and other ordinary trifles. He only
seemed a little troubled by his own physical weakness,--but when Fraz
assured him he would soon be strong, he smiled, and with every
appearance of content, dozed off again peacefully. In the evening,
however, he grew a little restless,--and then Fraz tried what effect
music would have upon him. Going to the piano he played soft and
dreamy melodies,...but as he did so, a strange sense of loss stole
over him,--he had the mechanism of the art, but the marvellously
delicate attunement of his imagination had fled! Tears rose in his
eyes,--he knew what was missing,--the guiding-prop of his brother's
wondrous influence had fallen,--and with a faint terror he realized
that much of his poetic faculty would perish also. He had to remember
that he was not naturally born a poet or musician,--poesy and music
had been El-Rmi's fairy gifts to him--the exquisitely happy poise of
his mind had been due to his brother's daily influence and control. He
would still retain the habit and the memory of art,--but what had been
Genius, would now be simple Talent,--no more,--yet what a difference
between the two! Nevertheless his touch on the familiar ivory keys was
very tender and delicate, and when, distrusting his own powers of
composition, he played one of the softest and quaintest of Grieg's
Norwegian folk-songs, he was more than comforted by the expression of
pleasure that illumined El-Rmi's features, and by the look of
enraptured peace that softened the piteous dark eyes.

"It is quite beautiful,--that music!" he murmured--"It is the pretty
sound the daisies make in growing."

And he leaned back in his chair and composed himself to rest,--while
Fraz played on softly, thinking anxiously the while. True, most true,
that for him dreams had ended, and life had begun! What was he to
do? was he to meet the daily needs of living,--how was he to
keep himself and his brother? His idea was to go at once to the
monastery in Cyprus, where he had formerly been a visitor,--it was
quiet and peaceful,--he would ask the brethren to take them in,--for
he himself detested the thought of a life in the world,--it was
repellant to him in every way,--and El-Rmi's affliction would
necessitate solitude. And while he was thus puzzling himself as to the
future, there came a sharp knock at the door,--he hastened to see who
it was,--and a messenger handed him a telegram addressed to himself.
It came from the very place he was thinking about, sent by the Head of
the Order, and ran thus--

"We know all. It is the Will of God. Bring El-Rmi here,--our
house is open to you both."

He uttered a low exclamation of thankfulness, the while he wondered
amazedly how it was that they, that far-removed Brotherhood, "knew
all"! It was very strange! He thought of the wondrous man whom he
called the "Master," and who was understood to be "wise with the
wisdom of the angels," and remembered that he was accredited with
being able to acquire information when he chose, by swift and
supernatural means. That he had done so in the present case seemed
evident, and Fraz stood still with the telegram in his hand, stricken
by a vague sense of awe as well as gratitude, thinking also of the
glittering Vision he had had of that "glory of the Angels in the
South";--angels who were waiting for Lilith the night she disappeared.

El-Rmi suddenly opened his weary eyes and looked at him.

"What is it?" he asked faintly--"Why has the music ceased?"

Fraz went up to his chair and knelt down beside it.

"You shall hear it again"--he said gently, "But you must sleep now,
and get strong,--because we are soon going away on a journey--a far,
beautiful journey--"

"To Heaven?" inquired El-Rmi--"Yes, I know--it is very far."

Fraz sighed.

"No--not to Heaven,"--he answered--"Not yet. We shall find out the way
there, afterwards. But in the meantime, we are going to a place where
there are fruits and flowers,--and where the sun is very bright and
warm. You will come with me, will you not, El-Rmi,--there are friends
there who will be glad to see you."

"I have no friends,"--said El-Rmi plaintively, "unless you are one. I
do not know if you are,--I hope so, but I am not sure. You have an
angel's face,--and the angels have not always been kind to me. But I
will go with you wherever you wish,--is it a place in this world, or
in some other star?"

"In this world,--replied Fraz--"A quiet little corner of this world."

"Ah!" and El-Rmi sighed profoundly--"I wish it had been in another.
There are so many millions and millions of worlds;--it seems foolish
waste of time to stay too long in this."

He closed his eyes again, and Fraz let him rest,--till, when the hour
grew late, he persuaded him to lie down on his own bed, which he did
with the amiable docility of a child. Fraz himself, half sitting,
half reclining in a chair beside him, watched him all night long, like
a faithful dog guarding its master,--and so full was he of anxious
thought and tender care for his brother, that he scarcely remembered
Zaroba, and when he did, he felt sure that she too was resting, and
striving to forget in sleep the sorrows of the day.


ZAROBA had indeed forgotten her sorrows; but not in slumber, as Fraz
hoped and imagined. Little did he think that she was no longer under
the roof that had sheltered her for so many years; little could he
guess that she was out wandering all alone in the labyrinth of the
London streets,--a labyrinth of which she was almost totally ignorant,
having hardly ever been out of doors since El-Rmi had brought her
from the East. True, she had occasionally walked in the little square
opposite the house, and in a few of the streets adjoining,--once or
twice in Sloane Street itself, but no further, for the sight of the
hurrying, pushing, busy throngs of men and women confused her. She had
not realized what she was doing when she let herself out that night,--
only when the street-door shut noiselessly upon her she was vaguely
startled,--and a sudden sense of great loneliness oppressed her. Yet
the fresh air blowing against her face was sweet and balmy,--it helped
to relieve the sickness at her heart, the dizziness in her brain,--and
she began to stroll along, neither knowing nor caring whither she was
going,--chiefly impelled by the strong necessity she felt for
movement,--space,--liberty. It had seemed to her that she was being
suffocated and buried alive in the darkness and desolation that had
fallen on the chamber of Lilith;--here, out in the open, she was
free,--she could breathe more easily. And so she went on, almost
unseeingly,--the people she met looked to her like the merest shadows.
Her quaint garb attracted occasional attention from some of the
passers-by,--but her dark fierce face and glittering eyes repelled all
those who might have been inquisitive enough to stop and question her.
She drifted errantly, yet safely, through the jostling crowds like a
withered leaf on the edge of a storm,--her mind was dazed with grief
and fear and long fasting, but now and then as she went, she smiled
and seemed happy. Affliction had sunk so deep within her, that it had
reached the very core and centre of imagination and touched it to
vague issues of discordant joy;--wherefore, persuaded by the magic
music of delusion, she believed herself to be at home again in her
native Egypt. She fancied she was walking in the desert;--the pavement
seemed hot to her feet and she took it for the burning sand,--and when
after long and apparently interminable wanderings, she found herself
opposite Nelson's column in Trafalgar Square, she stared at the four
great lions with stupefied dismay.

"It is the gate of a city,"--she muttered--"and at this hour the
watchmen are asleep. I will go on--on still further,--there must be
water close by, else there would be no city built."

She had recovered a certain amount of physical strength in the
restorative influence of the fresh air, and walked with a less feeble
tread,--she became dimly conscious too of there being a number of
people about, and she drew her amber-coloured draperies more closely
over her head. It was a beautiful night;--the moon was full and
brilliant, and hundreds of pleasure-seekers were moving hither and
thither,--there was the usual rattle and roar of the vehicular traffic
of the town which, it must be remembered, Zaroba did not hear. Neither
did she clearly see anything that was taking place around her,--for
her sight was blurred, and the dull confusion in her brain continued.
She walked as in a dream,--she felt herself to be in a dream;--the
images of El-Rmi, of the lost Lilith, of the beautiful young Fraz,
had faded away from her recollection,--and she was living in the early
memories of days long past,--days of youth and hope and love and
promise. No one molested her; people in London are so accustomed to
the sight of foreigners and foreign costumes, that so long as they are
seen walking on their apparent way peaceably, they may do so in any
garb that pleases them, provided it be decent, without attracting much
attention save from a few small and irreverent street-arabs. And even
the personal and pointed observations of these misguided youngsters
fail to disturb the dignity of a Parsee in his fez, or to ruffle the
celestial composure of a Chinaman in his slippers. Zaroba, moreover,
did not present such a markedly distinctive appearance,--in her yellow
wrapper and silver bangles, she only looked like one of the ayahs
brought over from the East with the children of Anglo-Indian
mothers,--and she passed on uninterruptedly, happily deaf to the
noises around her, and almost blind to the evershifting human
pageantry of the busy thoroughfares.

"The gates of the city,"--she went on murmuring--"they are shut, and
the watchmen are asleep. There must be water near,--a river or a place
of fountains, where the caravans pause to rest."

Now and then the glare of the lights in the streets troubled her,--and
then she would come to a halt and pass her hands across her eyes,--but
this hesitation only lasted a minute,---and again she continued on her
aimless way. The road widened out before her,--the buildings grew
taller, statelier and more imposing,--and suddenly she caught sight of
what she had longed for,--the glimmering of water silvering itself in
the light of the moon.

She had reached the Embankment;--and a sigh of satisfaction escaped
her, as she felt the damp chillness of the wind from the river blowing
against her burning forehead. The fresh coolness and silence soothed
her,--there were few people about,--and she slackened her pace
unconsciously, and smiled as she lifted her dark face to the clear and
quiet sky. She was faint and weary,--light-headed from want of food,--
but she was not conscious of this any more than a fever-patient is
conscious of his own delirium. She walked quite steadily now,--in no
haste, but with the grave, majestic step that belongs peculiarly to
women of her type and race,--her features were perfectly composed, and
her eyes very bright. And now she looked always at the river, and saw
nothing else for a time but its rippling surface lit up by the moon.

"They have cut down the reeds"--she said, softly under her breath,--
"and the tall palms are gone,--but the river is always the same,--they
cannot change that. Nothing can dethrone the Nile-god, or disturb his
sleep among the lilies, down towards the path of the sunset. Here I
shall meet my beloved again,--here by the banks of the Nile;--yet, it
is strange and cruel that they should have cut down the reeds. I
remember how softly they rustled with the movements of the little
snakes that lived in the golden sand,--yes!--and the palm-trees were
high--so high that their feathery crowns seemed to touch the stars. It
was Egypt then,--and is it not Egypt now? Yes--surely--surely it is
Egypt!--but it is changed--changed,--all is changed except love! Love
is the same for ever, and the heart beats true to the one sweet tune.
Yes, we shall meet,--my belovd and I,--and we shall tell one another
how long the time has seemed since we parted yesterday. Only
yesterday!--and it seems a century,--a long long century of pain and
fear,--but the hours have passed, and the waiting is over,--"

She broke off abruptly, and stood suddenly still;--the Obelisk faced
her. Cut sharp and dark against the brilliant sky the huge
"Cleopatra's Needle" towered solemnly aloft, its apex seeming to point
directly at the planet Mars which glittered with a faint redness
immediately above it. Something there was in its weird and frowning
aspect, that appealed strangely to Zaroba's wandering intelligence,--
she gazed at it with eager, dilated eyes.

"To the memory of heroes!" she said whisperingly, with a slight proud
gesture of her hand,--"To the glory of the Dead! Salutation to the
great gods and crowned Kings! Salutation and witness to the world of
what Hath Been! The river shall find a tongue--the shifting sands
shall uphold the record, so that none shall forget the things that
Were! For the things that Are, being weak, shall perish,--but the
things that Were, being strong, shall endure for ever! Here, as God
liveth, is the meeting-place; the palms are gone, but the Nile flows
on, and the moon is the sunlight of lovers. Here will I wait for my
belovd,--he knows the appointed hour,...he will not be long!"

She sat down, as close to the Obelisk as she could get, her face
turned towards the river and the moonlight; and the clocks of the
great city around her slowly tolled eleven. Her head dropped forward
on her chest,--though after a few minutes she lifted her face with an
anxious look--and,--"Did the child call me?" she said, and listened.
Then she relapsed into her former sunken posture,...once a strong
shuddering shook her limbs as of intense cold in the warm June
night,...and then she was quite still....

The hours passed on,--midnight came and went,--but she never stirred.
She seemed to belong to the Obelisk and its attendant Sphinxes,--so
rigid was her figure, so weird in its outline, so solemn in its
absolute immobility. And in that same attitude she was found later on
towards morning, stone dead. There was no clue to her identity,--
nothing about her that gave any hint as to her possible home or
friends; her statuesque old face, grander than ever in the serene
pallor of death, somewhat awed the two burly policemen who lifted her
stark body and turned her features to the uncertain light of early
dawn, but it told them no history save that of age and sorrow. So, in
the sad chronicles entitled "Found Dead," she was described as "a
woman unknown, of foreign appearance and costume, seemingly of Eastern
origin,"--and, after a day or two, being unrecognised and unclaimed,
she was buried in the usual way common to all who perish without name
and kindred in the dreary wilderness of a great city. Fraz, missing
her on the morning after her disappearance, searched for her
everywhere as well as he knew how,--but, as he seldom read the
newspapers, and probably would not have recognised the brief account
of her there if he had,--and as, moreover, he knew nothing about
certain dreary buildings in London called mortuaries, where the bodies
of the drowned, and murdered, and unidentified, lie for a little while
awaiting recog--nition, he remained in complete and bewildered
ignorance of her fate. He could not imagine what had become of her,
and he almost began to believe that she must have taken ship back to
her native land--and that perhaps he might hear of her again some day.
And truly, she had gone back to her native land,--in fancy;--and
truly, it was also possible she might be met with again some day,--in
another world than this. But in the meantime she had died,--as best
befitted a servant of the old gods,--alone, and in uncomplaining


THE hair's-breadth balance of a Thought,--the wrong or right control
of Will;--on these things hang the world, life, time, and all
Eternity. Such slight threads!--imperceptible, ungraspable,--and yet
withal strong,--strong enough to weave the everlasting web of good or
evil, joy or woe. On some such poise, as fine, as subtly delicate, the
whole majestic Universe swings round in its appointed course,--never a
pin's point awry, never halting in its work, never hesitating in the
fulfilment of its laws, carrying out the Divine Command with faithful
exactitude and punctuality. It is strange--mournfully strange,--that
we never seem able to learn the grand lessons that are taught us by
this unvarying routine of Natural Forces,--Sub--mission, Obedience,
Patience, Resignation, Hope. Preachers preach the doctrine,--teachers
teach it,--Nature silently and gloriously manifests it hourly; but
we,--we continue to shut our ears and eyes,--we prefer to retreat
within ourselves,--our little incomplete ignorant selves,--thinking we
shall be able to discover some way out of what has no egress, by the
cunning arguments of our own finite intellectual faculties. We fail
always;--we must fail. We are bound to find out sooner or later that
we must bend our stubborn knees in the presence of the Positive
Eternal. But till the poor brain gives way under the prolonged
pressure and strain of close inquiry and analysis, so long will it
persist in attempting to probe the Impenetrable,--so long will it
audaciously attempt to lift the veil that hides the Beyond instead of
resting content with what Nature teaches. "Wait"--she says--"Wait till
you are mentally able to understand the Explanation. Wait till the
Voice which is as a silver clarion, proclaims all truth, saying
'Awake, Soul, for thy dream is past! Look now and see,--for thou art
strong enough to bear the Light.'"

Alas! we will not wait,--hence our life in these latter days of
analysis, is a mere querulous Complaint, instead of what it should be,
a perpetual Thanksgiving.

Four seasons have passed away since the "Soul of Lilith" was caught up
into its native glory,--four seasons,--summer, autumn, winter and
spring--and now it is summer again,--summer in the Isle of Cyprus,
that once most sacred spot, dear to historic and poetic lore. Up among
the low olive-crowned hills of Baffo or Paphos, there is more shade
and coolness than in other parts of the island, and the retreat
believed to have been the favourite haunt of Venus, is still full of
something like the mystical glamour that hallowed it of old. As the
singer of "Love-Letters of a Violinist" writes:

"There is a glamour all about the bay
As if the nymphs of Greece had tarried here.
The sands are golden and the rocks appear
Crested with silver; and the breezes play
Snatches of song they humm'd when far away.
And then are hush'd as if from sudden fear."

Flowers bloom luxuriantly, as though the white, blue-veined feet of
the goddess had but lately passed by,--there is a suggestive harmony
in the subdued low whispering of the trees, accompanied by the gentle
murmur of the waves and "Hieros Kipos" or the Sacred Grove, still
bends its thick old boughs caressingly towards the greensward as
though to remind the dreaming earth of the bygone glories here buried
deep in its silent bosom. The poor fragment of the ruined "Temple of
Venus" once gorgeous with the gold and precious stones, silks and
embroideries, and other offerings brought from luxury-loving Tyre,
stands in its desolation among the quiet woods, and no sound of
rejoicing comes forth from its broken wall to stir the heated air. Yet
there is music not far off,--the sweet and solemn music of an organ
chant, accompanying a chorus of mild and mellow voices singing the
"Agnus Dei." Here in this part of the country, the native inhabitants
are divided in their notions of religious worship,--they talk Greek,
albeit modern Greek, with impurities which were unknown to the
sonorous ancient tongue, and they are heroes no more, as the heroic
Byron has told us in his superb poesy, but simply slaves. They but
dimly comprehend Christianity,--the joyous paganism of the past is not
yet extinct, and the Virgin Mother of Christ is here adored as
"Aphroditissa." Perhaps in dirty Famagousta they may be more
orthodox,--but among these sea-fronting hills where the sound of the
"Agnus Dei" solemnly rises and falls in soft surges of harmony, it is
still the old home of the Queen of Beauty, and still the birthplace of
Adonis, son of a Cyprian King. Commercial England is now the possessor
of this bower of sweet fancies,--this little corner of the world
haunted by a thousand poetic memories,--and in these prosy days but
few pilgrimages are made to a shrine that was once the glory of a
glorious age. To the native Cypriotes themselves the gods have simply
changed their names and become a little sadder and less playful, that
is all,--and to make up for the lost "Temple of Venus" there is,
hidden deep among the foliage, a small monastic retreat with a Cross
on its long low roof,--a place where a few poor monks work and pray,--
good men whose virtues are chiefly known to the sick, destitute and
needy. They call themselves simply "The Brotherhood," and there are
only ten of them in all, including the youngest, who joined their
confraternity quite recently. They are very poor,--they wear rough
white garments and go barefooted, and their food is of the simplest;
but they do a vast amount of good in their unassuming way, and when
any of their neighbours are in trouble, such afflicted ones at once
climb the little eminence where Venus was worshipped with such pomp in
ancient days, and make direct for the plain unadorned habitation
devoted to the service of One who was "a Man of Sorrows and acquainted
with grief." There they never fail to find consolation and practical
aid,--even their persistent prayers to "Aphroditissa" are condoned
with a broad and tender patience by these men who honestly strive to
broaden and not confine the road that leads to heaven. Thus Paphos is
sacred still,---with the glamour of old creeds and the wider glory of
the new,--yet though it is an interesting enough nook of the earth, it
is seldom that travellers elect to go thither either to admire or
explore. Therefore the sight of a travelling-carriage, a tumble-down
sort of vehicle, yet one of the best to be obtained thereabouts,
making its way slowly up the ascent, with people in modern fashionable
dress sitting therein, was a rare and wonderful spectacle to the
ragged Cypriote youth of both sexes, who either stood by the roadway,
pushing their tangled locks from their dark eyes and staring at it, or
else ran swiftly alongside its wheels to beg for coppers from its
occupants. There were four of these,--two ladies and two gentlemen,--
Sir Frederick Vaughan and Lady Vaughan (ne Idina Chester); the fair
and famous authoress, Irene Vassilius, and a distinguished-looking
handsome man of about forty or thereabouts, the Duke of Strathlea, a
friend of the Vaughans, who had entertained them royally during the
previous autumn at his grand old historic house in Scotland. By a mere
chance during the season, he had made the acquaintance of Madame
Vassilius, with whom he had fallen suddenly, deeply and ardently in
love. She, however, was the same unresponsive far-gazing dreamy sibyl
as ever, and though not entirely indifferent to the gentle reverential
homage paid to her by this chivalrous and honourable gentleman, she
could not make up her mind to give him any decided encouragement. He
appeared to make no progress with her whatever,--and of course his
discouragement increased his ardour. He devised every sort of plan he
could think of for obtaining as much of her society as possible,--and
finally, he had entreated the Vaughans to persuade her to join them in
a trip to the Mediterranean in his yacht. At first she had refused,--
then, with a sudden change of humour, she had consented to go,
provided the Island of Cyprus were one of the places to be visited.
Strathlea eagerly caught at and agreed to this suggestion,--the
journey had been undertaken, and had so far proved most enjoyable. Now
they had reached the spot Irene most wished to see,---it was to please
her that they were making the present excursion to the "Temple of
Venus," or rather, to the small and obscure monastery among the hills
which she had expressed a strong desire to visit,--and Strathlea,
looking wistfully at her fair thoughtful face, wondered whether after
all these pleasant days passed together between sparkling sea and
radiant sky, she had any kinder thoughts of him,--whether she would
always be so quiet, so impassive, so indifferent to the love of a true
man's heart?

The carriage went slowly,--the view widened with every upward yard of
the way,--and they were all silent, gazing at the glittering expanse
of blue ocean below them.

"How very warm it is!" said Lady Vaughan at last breaking the dumb
spell, and twirling her sunshade round and round to disperse a cloud
of gnats and small flies--"Fred, you look absolutely broiled! You are
so dreadfully sunburnt!"

"Am I?" and Sir Frederick smiled blandly,--he was as much in love with
his pretty frivolous wife as it is becoming for a man to be, and all
her remarks were received by him with the utmost docility--"Well, I
dare say I am. Yachting doesn't improve the transparent delicacy of a
man's complexion. Strathlea is too dark to show it much,--but I was
always a florid sort of fellow. You've no lack of colour yourself,

"Oh, I'm sure I look a fright!" responded her ladyship vivaciously and
with a slight touch of petulance--"Irene is the only one who appears
to keep cool. I believe her aspect would be positively frosty with the
thermometer marking 100 in the shade!"

Irene, who was gazing abstractedly out to sea, turned slowly and
lifted her drooping lace parasol slightly higher from her face. She
was pale,--and her deep-set gray eyes were liquid as though unshed
tears filled them.

"Did you speak to me, dear?" she inquired gently. "Have I done
something to vex you?"

Lady Vaughan laughed.

"No, of course you haven't. The idea of your vexing anybody! You look
irritably cool in this tremendous heat,--that's all."

"I love the sun,"--said Irene dreamily--"To me it is always the
visible sign of God in the world. In London we have so little
sunshine,--and, one might add, so little of God also! I was just then
watching that golden blaze of light upon the sea."

Strathlea looked at her interrogatively.

"And what does it suggest to you, Madame?" he asked--"The glory of a
great fame, or the splendour of a great love?"

"Neither"--she replied tranquilly--"Simply the reflex of Heaven on

"Love might be designated thus," said Strathlea in a low tone.

She coloured a little, but offered no response.

"It was odd that you alone should have been told the news of poor El-
Rmi's misfortune,"--said Sir Frederick, abruptly addressing her,--
"None of us, not even my cousin Melthorpe, who knew him before you
did, had the least idea of it."

"His brother wrote to me"--replied Irene; "Fraz, that beautiful youth
who accompanied him to Lady Melthorpe's reception last year. But he
gave me no details,--he simply explained that El-Rmi, through
prolonged over-study had lost the balance of his mind. The letter was
very short, and in it he stated he was about to enter a religious
fraternity who had their abode near Baffo in Cyprus, and that the
brethren had consented to receive his brother also and take charge of
him in his great helplessness."

"And their place is what we are going to see now"--finished Lady
Vaughan--"I dare say it will be immensely interesting. Poor El-Rmi!
Who would ever have thought it possible for him to lose his wits! I
shall never forget the first time I saw him at the theatre. 'Hamlet'
was being played, and he entered in the very middle of the speech 'To
be or not to be.' I remember how he looked, perfectly. What eyes he
had!--they positively scared me!"

Her husband glanced at her admiringly.

"Do you know, Idina"--he said, "that El-Rmi told me on that very
night--the night of 'Hamlet'--that I was destined to marry you?"

She lifted her eyelids in surprise.

"No! Really! And did you feel yourself compelled to carry out the
prophecy?"--and she laughed.

"No, I did not feel myself compelled,--but somehow, it happened--
didn't it?" he inquired with nave persistency.

"Of course it did! How absurd you are!" and she laughed again--"Are
you sorry?"

He gave her an expressive look,--he was really very much in love, and
she was still a new enough bride to blush at his amorous regard.
Strathlea moved impatiently in his seat;--the assured happiness of
others made him envious.

"I suppose this prophet,--El-Rmi, as you call him, prophesies no
longer, if his wits are lacking"--he said--"otherwise I should have
asked him to prophesy something good for me."

No one answered. Lady Vaughan stole a meaning glance and smile at
Irene, but there was no touch of embarrassment or flush of colour on
that fair, serene, rather plaintive face.

"He always went into things with such terrible closeness, did El-
Rmi,--" said Sir Frederick after a pause--"No wonder his brain gave
way at last. You know you can't keep on asking the why, why, why of
everything without getting shut up in the long run."

"I think we were not meant to ask 'why' at all," said Irene slowly--
"We are made to accept and believe that everything is for the best."

"There is a story extant in France of a certain philosopher who was
always asking why--" said Strathlea--"He was a taciturn man as a rule,
and seldom opened his lips except to say 'Pourquoi?' When his wife
died suddenly, he manifested no useless regrets--he merely said
'Pourquoi?' One day they told him his house in the country was burnt
to the ground,--he shrugged his shoulders and said 'Pourquoi?' After a
bit he lost all his fortune,--his furniture was sold up,--he stared at
the bailiffs and said 'Pourquoi?' Later on he was suspected of being
in a plot to assassinate the King,--men came and seized his papers and
took him away to prison,--he made no resistance,--he only said
'Pourquoi?' He was tried, found guilty and condemned to death; the
judge asked him if he had anything to say? He replied at once
'Pourquoi?' No answer was vouchsafed to him, and in due time he was
taken to the scaffold. There the executioner bandaged his eyes,--he
said 'Pourquoi?'--he was told to kneel down; he did so, but again
demanded 'Pourquoi?'--the knife fell, and his head was severed from
his body--yet before it rolled into the basket, it trembled on the
block, its eyes opened, its lips moved and for the last time uttered
that final, never-to-be-answered query 'Pourquoi?'!"

They all laughed at this story, and just then the carriage stopped.
The driver got down and explained in very bad French that he could go
no further,--that the road had terminated and that there was now only
a footpath which led through the trees to the little monastic retreat
whither they were bound. They alighted, therefore, and found
themselves close to the ruin supposed to have once been the "Temple of
Venus." They paused for a moment, looking at the scene in silence.

"There must have been a great joyousness in the old creeds," said
Strathlea softly, with an admiring glance at Irene's slight slim,
almost fairy-like figure clad in its closefitting garb of silky
white--"At the shrine of Venus for example, one could declare one's
love without fear or shame."

"That can be done still,"--observed Sir Frederick laughingly--"And is
done, pretty often. People haven't left off making love because the
faith in Venus is exploded. I expect they'll go on in the same old
abandoned way to the end of the chapter."

And, throwing his arm round his wife's waist, he sauntered on with her
towards the thicket of trees at the end of which their driver had told
them the "refuge" was situated, leaving Strathlea and Madame Vassilius
to follow. Strathlea perceived and was grateful for the opportunity
thus given, and ventured to approach Irene a little more closely. She
was still gazing out to the sea,--her soft eyes were dreamy and
abstracted,--her small ungloved right hand hung down at her side,--
after a moment's hesitation, he boldly lifted it and touched its
delicate whiteness with a kiss. She started nervously--she had been
away in the land of dreams,--and now she met his gaze with a certain
vague reproach in the sweet expression of her face.

"I cannot help it--" said Strathlea quickly, and in a low eager tone--
"I cannot, Irene! You know I love you,--you have seen it, and you have
discouraged and repelled me in every possible way,--but I am not made
of stone or marble--I am mere flesh and blood, and I must speak. I
love you, Irene! I love you--I will not unsay it. I want you to be my
wife. Will you, Irene? Do not be in a hurry to answer me--think long
enough to allow some pity for me to mingle with your thoughts. Just
imagine a little hand like this"--and he kissed it again--"holding the
pen with such a masterful grip and inditing to the world the thoughts
and words that live in the minds of thousands,--is it such a cold hand
that it is impervious to love's caress? I cannot--I will not believe
it. You cannot be obdurate for ever. What is there in love that it
should repel you?"

She smiled gravely, and gently, very gently, withdrew her hand.

"It is not love that repels me--" she said, "It is what is called
love, in this world,--a selfish sentiment that is not love at all. I
assure you I am not insensible to your affection for me, my dear
Duke,...I wish for your sake I were differently constituted."

She paused a moment, then added hastily, "See, the others are out of
sight--do let us overtake them."

She moved away quickly with that soft gliding tread of hers which
reminded one of a poet's sylph walking on a moonbeam, and he paced
beside her, half mortified, yet not altogether without hope.

"Why are you so anxious to see this man who has lost his wits,--this
El-Rmi Zarnos?" he asked, with a touch of jealousy in his accents--
"Was he more to you than most people?"

She raised her eyes with an expression of grave remonstrance.

"Your thoughts wrong me--" she said simply--"I never saw El-Rmi but
twice in my life,--I only pitied him greatly. I used to have a strong
instinct upon me that all would not be well with him in the end."


"First, because he had no faith,--secondly because he had an excess of
pride. He dismissed God out of his calculations altogether, and was
perfectly content to rely on the onward march of his own intellect.
Intellectual Egoism is always doomed to destruction,--this seems to be
a Law of the Universe. Indeed, Egoism, whether sensual or
intellectual, is always a defiance of God."

Strathlea walked along in silence for a minute, then he said abruptly.

"It is odd to hear you speak like this, as if you were a religious
woman. You are not religious,--everyone says so,--you are a free-
thinker,--and also, pardon me for repeating it, society supposes you
to be full of this sin you condemn--Intellectual Egoism."

"Society may suppose what it pleases of me"--said Irene--"I was never
its favourite, and never shall be, nor do I court its good opinion.
Yes, I am a free-thinker, and freely think without narrow law or
boundary, of the majesty, beauty and surpassing goodness of God. As
for intellectual egoism,--I hope I am not in any respect guilty of it.
To be proud of what one does, or what one knows, has always seemed to
me the poorest sort of vanity,--and it is the stumbling-block over
which a great many workers in the literary profession fall, never to
rise again. But you are quite right in saying I am not a 'religious'
woman; I never go to church, and I never patronize bazaars."

The sparkle of mirth in her eyes was infectious, and he laughed. But
suddenly she stopped, and laid her hand on his arm.

"Listen," she said, with a slight tremor in her voice--"You love me,
you say...and I--I am not altogether indifferent to you--I confess
that much. Wait!" for in an excess of delight he had caught both her
hands in his own, and she loosened them gently--"Wait--you do not know
me, my dear friend. You do not understand my nature at all,--I
sometimes think myself it is not what is understood as 'feminine.' I
am an abnormal creature--and perhaps if you knew me better you would
not like me..."

"I adore you!" said Strathlea impetuously, "and I shall always adore

She smiled rather sadly.

"You think so now,"--she said--"but you cannot be sure,--no man can
always be sure of himself. You spoke of society and its opinion of
me;--now, as a rule, average people do not like me,--they are vaguely
afraid of me,--and they think it is strange and almost dangerous for a
'writing woman' to be still young, and not entirely hideous. Literary
women generally are so safely and harmlessly repellant in look and
bearing. Then again, as you said, I am not a religious woman,--no, not
at all so in the accepted sense of the term. But with all my heart and
soul I believe in God, and the ultimate good of everything. I abhor
those who would narrow our vision of heavenly things by dogma or
rule--I resent all ideas of the Creator that seem to lessen His glory
by one iota. I may truly say I live in an ecstasy of faith, accepting
life as a wondrous miracle, and death as a crowning joy. I pray but
seldom, as I have nothing to ask for, being given far more than I
deserve,--and I complain of nothing save the blind, cruel injustice
and misjudgment shown by one human unit to another. This is not God's
doing, but Man's--and it will, it must, bring down full punishment in
due season."

She paused a moment,--Strathlea was looking at her admiringly, and she
coloured suddenly at his gaze.

"Besides"--she added with an abrupt change of tone, from enthusiasm to
coldness, "you must not, my dear Duke, think that I feel myself in any
way distinguished or honoured by your proposal to make me your wife. I
do not. This sounds very brusque, I know, but I think as a general
rule in marriage, a woman gives a great deal more than she ever
receives. I am aware how very much your position and fortune might
appeal to many of my sex,--but I need scarcely tell you they have no
influence upon me. For, notwithstanding an entire lack of log-rollers
and press 'booms'"--and she smiled--"my books bring me in large sums,
sufficient and more than sufficient, for all my worldly needs. And I
am not ambitious to be a duchess."

"You are cruel, Irene"--said Strathlea--"Should I ever attaint you
with worldly motives? I never wanted to be a duke--I was born so,--and
a horrid bore it is! If I were a poor man, could you fancy me?"

He looked at her,--and her eyes fell under his ardent gaze. He saw his
advantage and profited by it.

"You do not positively hate me?" he asked.

She gave him one fleeting glance through her long lashes, and a faint
smile rested on her mouth.

"How could I?" she murmured--"you are my friend."

"Well, will you try to like me a little more than a friend?"--he
continued eagerly--"Will you say to yourself now and then--'He is a
big, bluff, clumsy Englishman, with more faults than virtues, more
money than brains, and a stupid title sticking upon him like a bow of
ribbon on a boar's head, but he is very fond of me, and would give up
everything in the world for me'--will you say that to yourself, and
think as well as you can of me?--will you, Irene?"

She raised her head. All coldness and hauteur had left her face, and
her eyes were very soft and tender.

"My dear friend, I cannot hear you do yourself wrong"--she said--"and
I am not as unjust as you perhaps imagine. I know your worth. You have
more virtues than faults, more brains than money,--you are generous
and kindly,--and in this instance, your title sets off the grace of a
true and gallant gentleman. Give me time to consider a little,--let us
join the Vaughans,--I promise you I will give you your answer today."

A light flashed over his features, and stooping, he once more kissed
her hand. Then, as she moved on, a gracefully gliding figure under the
dark arching boughs, he followed with a firm joyous step such as might
have befitted a knight of the court of King Arthur who had, after hard
fighting, at last won some distinct pledge of his 'ladye's' future


DEEPLY embowered among arching boughs and covered with the luxuriant
foliage of many a climbing and flowering vine, the little monastic
refuge appeared at first sight more like the retreat of a poet or
painter than a religious house where holy ascetics fasted and prayed
and followed the difficult discipline of daily self-denial. When the
little party of visitors reached its quaint low door they all paused
before ringing the bell that hung visibly aloft among clustering
clematis, and looked about them in admiration.

"What a delicious place!" said Lady Vaughan, bending to scent the
odours of a rich musk rose that had pushed its lovely head through the
leaves as though inviting attention--"How peaceful!...and listen! What
grand music they are singing!"

She held up her finger,--the others obeyed the gesture, and hushed
their steps to hear every note of the stately harmony that pealed out
upon the air. The brethren were chanting part of the grand Greek "Hymn
of Cleanthes," a translation of which may be roughly rendered in the
following strophes:

"Many-named and most glorious of the Immortals, Almighty forever.
Ruler of Nature whose government is order and law.
Hail, all hail! for good it is that mortals should praise thee!"
"We are Thy offspring; we are the Image of Thy Voice.
And only the Image, as all mortal things are that live and move by Thy power.
Therefore do we exalt Thy Name and sing of Thy glory forever!"
"Thee doth the splendid Universe obeyMoving whithersoever Thou
leadest,And all are gladly swayed by Thee."

"Naught is done in the earth without Thee, O God--
Nor in the divine sphere of the heavens,
nor in the deepest depths of the sea.
Save the works that evil men commit in their hours of folly."
"Yet thou knowest where to find place for superfluous things.
Thou dost order that which seems disorderly.
And things not dear to men are dear to Thee!"
"Thou dost harmonise into One both Good and Evil.
For there is One Everlasting Reason for them all."
"O thou All-Giver, Dweller in the clouds, Lord of the thunder.
Save thou men from their own self-sought unhappiness.
Do thou, Father, scatter darkness from their souls,
and give them light to discover true wisdom."
"In being honoured let them pay Thee Honour.
Hymning Thy glorious works continually as beseems mortal men.
Since there can be no greater glory for men or gods than this.
To praise for ever and ever the grand and Universal Law!  Amen!--

"Strange they should elect to sing that"--said Strathlea musingly--"I
remember learning it off by heart in my student days. They have left
out a verse of it here and there,--but it is quite a Pagan hymn."

"It seems to me very good Christianity"--said Irene Vassilius, her
eyes kindling with emotion--"It is a grand and convincing act of
thanksgiving, and I think we have more cause for thankfulness than

"I am not yet quite sure about that myself"--murmured Strathlea in her
ear--"I shall know better when the day is ended which I need most,
prayer or thanksgiving."

She coloured a little and her eyes fell,--meanwhile the solemn music

"Shall I ring?" inquired Sir Frederick as the last note died away on
the air.

They all silently acquiesced,--and by means of a coarse rope hanging
down among the flowers the bell was gently set in motion. Its soft
clang was almost immediately answered by a venerable monk in white
garments, with a long rosary twisted into his girdle and a Cross and
Star blazoned in gold upon his breast.

"Benedicite!" said this personage mildly, making the sign of the cross
before otherwise addressing the visitors,--then, as they instinctively
bent their heads to the pious greeting, he opened the door a little
wider and asked them in French what they sought.

For answer Madame Vassilius stepped forward and gave him an open
letter, one which she knew would serve as a pass to obtain ready
admission to the monastery, and as the monk glanced it over his pale
features brightened visibly.

"Ah! Friends of our youngest brother Sebastian"--he said in fluent
English--"Enter! You are most heartily welcome."

He stood aside, and they all passed under the low porch into a square
hall, painted from ceiling to floor in delicate fresco. The designs
were so beautiful and so admirably executed, that Strathlea could not
resist stopping to look at one or two of them.

"These are very fine"--he said addressing the gray-haired recluse who
escorted them--"Are they the work of some ancient or modern artist?"

The old man smiled and gave a deprecating, almost apologetic gesture.

"They are the result of a few years' pleasant labour"--he replied--"I
was very happy while employed thus."

"You did them!" exclaimed Lady Vaughan, turning her eyes upon him in
frank wonder and admiration--"Why then you are a genius!"

The monk shook his head.

"Oh no, Madame, not so. We none of us lay claim to 'genius'; that is
for those in the outer world,--here we simply work and do our best for
the mere love of doing it."

Here, preceding them a little, he threw open a door, and ushered them
into a quaint low room, panelled in oak, and begged them to be seated
for a few moments while he went to inform "Brother Sebastian" of their

Left alone they gazed about in silence, till Sir Frederick, after
staring hard at the panelled walls said--

"You may be pretty sure these fellows have carved every bit of that
oak themselves. Monks are always wonderful workmen,--'Laborare est
orare' you know. By the way, I noticed that monk artist who was with
us just now wore no tonsure,--I wonder why? Anyhow it's a very ugly
disfigurement and quite senseless; they do well to abjure it."

"Is this man you come to see,--El-Rmi---a member of the Fraternity?"
asked Strathlea of Irene in a low tone.

She shook her head compassionately.

"Oh no--poor creature,--he would not understand their rules or their
discipline. He is simply in their charge, as one who must for all his
life be weak and helpless."

At that moment the door opened, and a tall slim figure appeared, clad
in the trailing white garments of the brotherhood; and in the dark
poetic face, brilliant eyes and fine sensitive mouth there was little
difficulty in recognising Fraz as the "Brother Sebastian" for whom
they waited. He advanced towards them with singular grace and quiet
dignity,--the former timidity and impetuosity of youth had entirely
left him, and from his outward aspect and bearing he looked like a
young saint whose thoughts were always set on the highest things, yet
who nevertheless had known what it was to suffer in the search for

"You are most welcome, Madame"--he said, inclining himself with a
courteous gentleness towards Irene,--"I expected you,--I felt sure
that you would one day come to see us. I know you were always
interested in my brother..."

"I was, and am still"--replied Irene gently, "and in yourself also."

Fraz, or "Brother Sebastian" as he was now called, made another
gentle salutation expressive of gratitude, and then turned his eyes
questioningly on the other members of the party.

"You will not need to be reminded of Sir Frederick Vaughan and Lady
Vaughan,"--went on Irene,--then as these exchanged greetings, she
added--"This gentleman whom you do not know is the Duke of
Strathlea,--we have made the journey from England in his yacht, and--"
she hesitated a moment, the colour deepening a little in her fair
cheeks--"he is a great friend of mine."

Fraz glanced at her once,--then once at Strathlea, and a grave smile
softened his pensive face. He extended his hand with a frank
cordiality that was charming, and Strathlea pressed it warmly,
fascinated by the extreme beauty and dignity of this youthful ascetic,
sworn to the solitariness of the religious life ere he had touched his
manhood's prime.

"And how is El-Rmi?" asked Sir Frederick with good-natured
bluffness--"My cousin Melthorpe was much distressed to hear what had
happened,--and so were we all,--really--a terrible calamity--but you
know over-study will upset a man,--it's no use doing too much--"

He broke off his incoherent remarks abruptly, embarrassed a little by
the calmly mournful gaze of "Brother Sebastian's" deep dark eyes.

"You are very good, Sir Frederick,"--he said gently--"I am sure you
sympathize truly, and I thank you all for your sympathy. But--I am not
sure that I should be sorrowful for my brother's seeming affliction.
God's will has been made manifest in this, as in other things,--and we
must needs accept that will without complaint. For the rest, El-Rmi
is well,--and not only well, but happy. Let me take you to him."

They hesitated,--all except Irene. Lady Vaughan was a nervous
creature,--she had a very vivid remembrance of El-Rmi's "terrible
eyes"--they looked fiery enough when he was sane,--but how would they
look now when he was...mad? She moved uneasily,--her husband pulled
his long moustache doubtfully as he studied her somewhat alarmed
countenance,--and Fraz, glancing at the group, silently understood
the situation.

"Will you come with me, Madame?" he said, addressing himself solely to
Irene--"It is better perhaps that you should see him first alone. But
he will not distress you...he is quite harmless...poor El-Rmi!"

In spite of himself his voice trembled,--and Irene's warm heart
swelled for sympathy.

"I will come at once"--she said, and as she prepared to leave the room
Strathlea whispered: "Let me go with you!"

She gave a mute sign of assent,--and Fraz leading the way, they
quietly followed, while Sir Frederick and his wife remained behind.
They passed first through a long stone corridor,--then into a
beautiful quadrangular court with a fountain in its centre, and wooden
benches set at equal distances under its moss-grown vine-covered
colonnades. Flowers grew everywhere in the wildest, loveliest
profusion,--tame doves strutted about on the pavement with peaceful
and proud complacency, and palms and magnolias grew up in tall and
tangled profusion wherever they could obtain root-hold, casting their
long, leafy trembling shadows across the quadrangle and softening the
too dazzling light reflected from the brilliant sky above. Up in a far
corner of this little garden paradise, under the shade of a spreading
cedar, sat the placid figure of a man,--one of the brethren at first
he seemed, for he was clothed in the garb of the monastic order, and a
loose cowl was flung back from his uncovered head on which the hair
shone white and glistening as fine spun silver. His hands were loosely
clasped together,--his large dark eyes were fixed on the rays of light
that quivered prismatically in the foam of the tossing fountain, and
near his feet a couple of amorous snowy doves sat brooding in the sun.
He did not seem to hear the footsteps of his approaching visitors, and
even when they came close up to him, it was only by slow degrees that
he appeared to become conscious of their presence.

"El-Rmi!" said his brother with tender gentleness--"El-Rmi, these
are friends who have journeyed hither to see you."

Then, like a man reluctantly awaking from a long and pleasant noonday
dream, he rose and stood up with singularly majestic dignity, and for
a moment looked so like the proud, indomitable El-Rmi of former days,
that Irene Vassilius in her intense interest and compassion for him,
half fancied that the surprise of seeing old acquaintances had for a
brief interval brought back both reason and remembrance. But no,--his
eyes rested upon her unrecognisingly, though he greeted her and
Strathlea also, with the stateliest of salutations.

"Friends are always welcome"--he said, "But friends are rare in the
world,--it is not in the world one must look for them. There was a
time I assure you,...when I...even I,...could have had the most
powerful of all friends for the mere asking,--but it is too late now--
too late."

He sighed profoundly, and seated himself again on the bench as before.

"What does he mean?" asked Strathlea of Fraz in a low tone.

"It is not always easy to understand him" responded Fraz gently--"But
in this case, when he speaks of the friend he might have had for the
mere asking, he means,--God."

The warm tears rushed into Irene's eyes.

"Nay, God is his friend I am sure"--she said with fervour--"The great
Creator is no man's enemy."

Fraz gave her an eloquent look.

"True, dear Madame"--he answered,--"But there are times and seasons of
affliction when we feel and know ourselves to be unworthy of the
Divine friendship, and when our own conscience considers God as one
very far off."

Yielding to the deep impulse of pity that swayed her, she advanced
softly, and sitting down beside El-Rmi, took his hand in her own. He
turned and looked at her,--at the fair delicate face and soft ardent
eyes,--at the slight dainty figure in its close-fitting white garb,--
and a faint wondering smile brightened his features.

"What is this?" he murmured, then glancing downward at her small white
ringless hand as it held his--"Is this an angel? Yes, it must be,--
well then, there is hope at last. You bring me news of Lilith?"

Irene started, and her heart beat nervously,--she could not understand
this, to her, new phase of his wandering mind. What was she to say in
answer to so strange a question?--for who was Lilith? She gazed
helplessly at Fraz,--he returned her look with one so earnest and
imploring, that she answered at once as she thought most advisable--


A sudden trembling shook El-Rmi's frame, and he seemed absorbed.
After a long pause, he lifted his dark eyes and fixed them solemnly
upon her.

"Then, she knows all now?" he de--mended--"She understands that I am
patient?--that I repent?--that I believe?--and that I love her as she
would have me love her,--faithfully and far beyond all life and time?"

Without hesitation, and only anxious to soothe and comfort him, Irene
answered at once--

"Yes--yes--she understands. Be consoled--be patient still--you will
meet her soon again."

"Soon again?" he echoed, with a pathetic glance upward at the dazzling
blue sky--"Soon? In a thousand years?--or a thousand thousand?--for so
do happy angels count the time. To me an hour is long--but to Lilith,
cycles are moments."

His head sank on his breast,--he seemed to fall suddenly into a dreamy
state of meditation,--and just then a slow bell began to toll to and
fro from a wooden turret on the monastery roof.

"That is for vespers"--said Fraz--"Will you come, Madame, and hear
our singing? You shall see El-Rmi again afterwards."

Silently she rose, but her movement to depart roused El-Rmi from his
abstraction, and he looked at her wistfully.

"They say there is happiness in the world"--he said slowly--"but I
have not found it. Little messenger of peace, are you happy?"

The pathos of his rich musical voice as he said the words "little
messenger of peace," was indescribably touching. Strathlea found his
eyes suddenly growing dim with tears, and Irene's voice trembled
greatly as she answered--

"No, not quite happy, dear friend;--we none of us are quite happy."

"Not without love,"--said El-Rmi, speaking with sudden firmness and
decision--"Without love we are powerless. With it, we can compass all
things. Do not miss love; it is the clue to the great Secret,--the
only key to God's mystery. But you know this already,--better than I
can tell you,--for I have missed it,--not lost it, you understand, but
only missed it. I shall find it again,--I hope,...I pray I shall find
it again! God be with you, little messenger! Be happy while you can!"

He extended his hand with a gesture which might have been one of
dismissal or benediction or both, and then sank into his former
attitude of resigned contemplation, while Irene Vassilius, too much
moved to speak, walked across the court between Strathlea and the
beautiful young "Brother Sebastian," scarcely seeing the sunlight for
tears. Strathlea too was deeply touched;--so splendid a figure of a
man as El-Rmi he had seldom seen, and the ruin of brilliant faculties
in such a superb physique appeared to him the most disastrous of

"Is he always like that?" he inquired of Fraz, with a backward
compassionate glance at the quiet figure sitting under the cedar-

"Nearly always," replied Fraz--"Sometimes he talks of birds and
flowers,--sometimes he takes a childish delight in the sunlight--he is
most happy, I think, when I take him alone into the chapel and play to
him on the organ. He is very peaceful, and never at any time violent."

"And," pursued Strathlea hesitatingly, "who is, or who was the Lilith
he speaks of?"

"A woman he loved"--answered Fraz quietly--"and whom he loves still.
She lives--for him--in Heaven."

No more questions were asked, and in another minute they arrived at
the open door of the little chapel, where Sir Frederick and Lady
Vaughan, attracted by the sound of music, were already awaiting them.
Irene briefly whispered a hurried explanation of El-Rmi's condition,
and Lady Vaughan declared she would go and see him after the vesper-
service was over.

"You must not expect the usual sort of vespers"--said Fraz then--"Our
form is not the Roman Catholic."

"Is it not?" queried Strathlea, surprised--"Then, may one ask what is

"Our own,"--was the brief response. Three or four white-cowled, white-
garmented figures now began to glide into the chapel by a side-
entrance, and Sir Frederick Vaughan asked with some curiosity:

"Which is the Superior?"

"We have no Superior"--replied Fraz--"There is one Master of all the
Brotherhoods, but he has no fixed habitation, and he is not at present
in Europe. He visits the different branches of our Fraternity at
different intervals,--but he has not been here since my brother and I
came. In this house we are a sort of small Republic,--each man governs
himself, and we are all in perfect unity, as we all implicitly follow
the same fixed rules. Will you go into the chapel now? I must leave
you, as I have to sing the chorale."

They obeyed his gesture, and went softly into the little sacred place,
now glowing with light, and redolent of sweet perfume, the natural
incense wafted on the air from the many flowers which were clustered
in every nook and corner. Seating themselves quietly on a wooden bench
at the end of the building, they watched the proceedings in mingled
wonder and reverence,--for such a religious service as this they had
assuredly never witnessed. There was no altar,--only an arched recess,
wherein stood a large, roughly carved wooden cross, the base of which
was entirely surrounded with the rarest flowers. Through the stained
glass window behind, the warm afternoon light streamed gloriously,--it
fell upon the wooden beams of the Sign of Salvation, with a rose and
purple radiance like that of newly-kindled fire,--and as the few monks
gathered together and knelt before it in silent prayer, the scene was
strangely impressive, though the surroundings were so simple. And
when, through the deep stillness an organ-chord broke grandly like a
wave from the sea, and the voice of Fraz, deep, rich, and pathetic
exclaimed as it were, in song--

"Quare tristis es anima mea?
Quare conturbas me?"

Giving the reply in still sweeter accents--

"Spera in Deo!"

Then Irene Vassilius sank on her knees and hid her face in her clasped
hands, her whole soul shaken by emotion and uplifted to heaven by the
magic of divinest harmony. Strathlea looked at her slight kneeling
figure and his heart beat passionately,--he bent his head too, close
beside hers, partly out of a devotional sense, partly perhaps to have
a nearer glimpse of the lovely fair hair that clustered in such
tempting little ripples and curls on the back of her slim white neck.
The monks, prostrating themselves before the Cross, murmured together
some indistinct orisons for a few minutes,--then came a pause,--and
once more the voice of Fraz rang out in soft warm vibrating notes of
melody;--the words he sang were his own, and fell distinctly on the
ears as roundly and perfectly as the chime of a true-toned bell--

O hear ye not the voice of the Belovd?
Through golden seas of starry light it falls.
And like a summons in the night it calls.
Saying,--'Lost children of the Father's House
Why do ye wander wilfully away?
Lo, I have sought ye sorrowing every day,--
And yet ye will not answer,--will not turn
To meet My love for which the angels yearn!
In all the causeless griefs wherewith your hearts are movd
Have ye no time to hear the Voice of the Belovd?
O hearken to the Voice of the Belovd!
Sweeter it is than music,--sweeter far
Than angel-anthems in a happy star!
O wandering children of the Father's House.
Turn homeward ere the coming of the night.
Follow the pathway leading to the light!
So shall the sorrows of long exile cease
And tears be turned to smiles and pain to peace.
Lift up your hearts and let your faith be provd;--
Answer, oh answer the Voice of the Belovd!

Very simple stanzas these, and yet, sung by Fraz as only he could
sing, they carried in their very utterance a singularly passionate and
beautiful appeal. The fact of his singing the verses in English
implied a gracefully intended compliment to his visitors,--and after
the last line "Answer, oh answer the voice of the Belovd!" a deep
silence reigned in the little chapel. After some minutes, this silence
was gently disturbed by what one might express as the gradual flowing-
in of music,--a soft, persuasive ripple of sound that seemed to wind
in and out as though it had crept forth from the air as a stream
creeps through the grasses. And while that delicious harmony rose and
fell on the otherwise absolute stillness, Strathlea was thrilled
through every nerve of his being by the touch of a small soft warm
hand that stole tremblingly near his own as the music stole into his
heart;--a hand, that after a little hesitation placed itself on his in
a wistfully submissive way that filled him with rapture and wonder. He
pressed the clinging dainty fingers in his own broad palm--

"Irene!" he whispered, as he bent his head lower in apparent
devotion--"Irene,--is this my answer?"

She looked up and gave him one fleeting glance through eyes that were
dim with tears; a faint smile quivered on her lips,--and then, she hid
her face again,--but--left her hand in his. And as the music, solemn
and sweet, surged around them both like a rolling wave, Strathlea knew
his cause was won, and for this favour of high Heaven, mentally
uttered a brief but passionately fervent "Laus Deo." He had obtained
the best blessing that God can give--Love,--and he felt devoutly
certain that he had nothing more to ask for in this world or the next.
Love for him was enough,--as indeed it should be enough for us all if
only we will understand it in its highest sense. Shall we ever
understand?--or never?


THE vespers over, the little party of English visitors passed out of
the chapel into the corridor. There they waited in silence, the
emotions of two of them at least, being sufficiently exalted to make
any attempt at conversation difficult. It was not however very long
before Fraz or "Brother Sebastian" joined them, and led them as
though by some involuntary instinct into the flower-grown quadrangle,
where two or three of the monks were now to be seen pacing up and down
in the strong red sunset-light with books open in their hands, pausing
ever and anon in their slow walk to speak to El-Rmi, who sat, as
before, alone under the boughs of the cedar-tree. One of the tame
doves that had previously been seen nestling at his feet, had now
taken up its position on his knee, and was complacently huddled down
there, allowing itself to be stroked, and uttering crooning sounds of
satisfaction as his hand passed caressingly over its folded white
wings. Fraz said very little as he escorted all his guests up to
within a yard or so of El-Rmi's secluded seat,--but Lady Vaughan
paused irresolutely, gazing timidly and with something of awe at the
quiet reposeful figure, the drooped head, the delicate dark hand that
stroked the dove's wings,--and as she looked and strove to realize
that this gentle, submissive, meditative, hermit-like man was indeed
the once proud and indomitable El-Rmi, a sudden trembling came over
her, and a rush of tears blinded her eyes.

"I cannot speak to him"--she whispered sobbingly to her husband--"He
looks so far away,--I am sure he is not here with us at all!"

Sir Frederick, distressed at his wife's tears, murmured something
soothing,--but he too was rendered nervous by the situation and he
could find no words in which to make his feelings intelligible. So, as
before, Irene Vassilius took the initiative. Going close up to El-
Rmi, she with a quick yet graceful impulsiveness threw herself in a
half-kneeling attitude before him.

"El-Rmi!" she said.

He started, and stared down upon her amazedly,--yet was careful in all
his movements not to disturb the drowsing white dove upon his knee.

"Who calls me?" he demanded--"Who speaks?"

"I call you"--replied Irene, regardless how her quite unconventional
behaviour might affect the Vaughans as onlookers--"I ask you, dear
friend, to listen to me. I want to tell you that I am happy--very
happy,--and that before I go, you must give me your blessing."

A pathetic pain and wonderment crossed El-Rmi's features. He looked
helplessly at Fraz,--for though he did not recognise him as his
brother, he was accustomed to rely upon him for everything.

"This is very strange!" he faltered--"No one has ever asked me for a
blessing. Make her understand that I have no Power at all to do any
good by so much as a word or a thought. I am a very poor and ignorant
man--quite at God's mercy."

Fraz bent above him with a soothing gesture.

"Dear El-Rmi," he said--"this lady honours you. You will wish her
well ere she departs from us,--that is all she seeks."

El-Rmi turned again towards Irene, who remained perfectly quiet in
the attitude she had assumed.

"I thought,"--he murmured slowly--"I thought you were an angel,--it
seems you are a woman. Sometimes they are one and the same thing. Not
often, but sometimes. Women are wronged,--much wronged,--when God
endows them, they see further than we do. But you must not honour
me,--I am not worthy to be honoured. A little child is much wiser than
I am. Of course I must wish you well--I could not do otherwise. You
see this poor bird,"--and he again stroked the dove which now dozed
peacefully--"I wish it well also. It has its mate and its hole in the
dove-cote, and numberless other little joys,--I would have it always
happy, would have you always happy too. And,--most
assuredly, if you desire it, I will say--'God bless you!'"

Here he seemed to collect his thoughts with some effort,--his dark
brows contracted perplexedly,--then, after a minute, his expression
brightened, and, as if he had just remembered something, he carefully
and with almost trembling reverence, made the sign of the cross above
Irene's drooping head. She gently caught the hovering hand and kissed
it. He smiled placidly, like a child who is caressed.

"You are very good to me"--he said--"I am quite sure you are an angel.
And being so, you need no blessing--God knows His own, and always
claims the end."

He closed his eyes languidly then and seemed fatigued,--his hand still
mechanically stroked the dove's wings. They left him so, moving away
from him with hushed and cautious steps. He had not noticed Sir
Frederick or Lady Vaughan,--and they were almost glad of this, as they
were themselves entirely disinclined to speak. To see so great a wreck
of a once brilliant intellect was a painful spectacle to good-natured
Sir Frederick,--while on Lady Vaughan it had the effect of a severe
nervous shock. She thought she would have been better able to bear the
sight of a distracted and howling maniac, than the solemn pitifulness
of that silent submission, that grave patience of a physically strong
man transformed, as it were, into a child. They walked round the
court, Fraz gathering as he went bouquets of roses and jessamine and
passiflora for the two ladies.

"He seems comfortable and happy"--Sir Frederick ventured to remark at

"He is, perfectly so"--rejoined Fraz. "It is very rarely that he is
depressed or uneasy. He may live on thus till he is quite old, they
tell me,--his physical health is exceptionally good."

"And you will always stay with him?" said Irene.

"Can you ask, Madame!" and Fraz smiled--"It is my one joy to serve
him. I grieve sometimes that he does not know me really, who I am,--
but I have a secret feeling that one day that part of the cloud will
lift, and he will know. For the rest he is pleased and soothed to have
me near him,--that is all I desire. He did everything for me once,--it
is fitting I should do everything for him now. God is good,--and in
His measure of affliction there is always a great sweetness."

"Surely you do not think it well for your brother to have lost the
control of his brilliant intellectual faculties?" asked Sir Frederick,

"I think everything well that God designs"--answered Fraz gently, now
giving the flowers he had gathered, to Irene and Lady Vaughan, and
looking, as he stood in his white robes against a background of rosy
sunset-light, like a glorified young saint in a picture,--"El-Rmi's
intellectual faculties were far too brilliant, too keen, too
dominant,--his great force and supremacy of will too absolute. With
such powers as he had he would have ruled this world, and lost the
next. That is, he would have gained the Shadow and missed the
Substance. No, no--it is best as it is. 'Except ye become as little
children, ye shall not enter the Kingdom of Heaven!' That is a true
saying. In the Valley of Humiliation the birds of paradise sing, and
in El-Rmi's earth-darkness there are gleams of the Light Divine. I am
content,--and so, I firmly and devoutly believe, is he."

With this, and a few more parting words, the visitors now prepared to
take their leave. Suddenly Irene Vassilius perceived an exquisite rose
hanging down among the vines that clambered about the walls of the
little monastery;--a rose pure white in its outer petals but tenderly
tinted with a pale blush pink towards its centre. Acting on her own
impulsive idea, she gathered it, and hastened back alone across the
quadrangle to where El-Rmi sat absorbed and lost in his own drowsy

"Good-bye, dear friend,--good-bye!" she said softly, and held the
fragrant beautiful bud towards him.

He opened his sad dark eyes and smiled,--then extended his hand and
took the flower.

"I thank you, little messenger of peace!" he said--"It is a rose from
Heaven,--it is The Soul of Lilith!"



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