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Title: Nightmare Tales
Author: H. P. Blavatsky
* A Project Gutenberg of Australia eBook *
eBook No.: 0605251.txt
Language: English
Date first posted: August 2006
Date most recently updated: August 2006

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Nightmare Tales
H. P. Blavatsky



Table of Contents

CAN THE DOUBLE MURDER?
AN UNSOLVED MYSTERY
KARMIC VISIONS
THE LEGEND OF THE BLUE LOTUS
A BEWITCHED LIFE
THE LUMINOUS SHIELD
THE CAVE OF THE ECHOES
FROM THE POLAR LANDS
THE ENSOULED VIOLIN




CAN THE DOUBLE MURDER?

To the Editor of The Sun.

Sir,--One morning in 1867 Eastern Europe was startled by news of the
most horrifying description. Michael Obrenovitch, reigning Prince of
Serbia, his aunt, the Princess Catherine or Katinka, and her daughter
had been murdered in broad daylight, near Belgrade, in their own
garden, assassin or assassins remaining unknown. The Prince had
received several bullet-shots, and stabs, and his body was actually
butchered; the Princess was killed on the spot, her head smashed, and
her young daughter, though still alive, was not expected to survive.
The circumstances are too recent to have been forgotten, but in that
part of the world, at the time, the case created a delirium of
excitement.

In the Austrian dominions and in those under the doubtful protectorate
of Turkey, from Bucharest down to Trieste, no high family felt secure.
In those half Oriental countries every Montecchi has its Capuletti,
and it was rumoured that the bloody deed was perpetrated by the Prince
Kara-Gueorguevitch, or "Tzerno-Gueorgey," as he is usually called in
those parts. Several persons innocent of the act were, as is usual in
such cases imprisoned, and the real murderers escaped justice. A young
relative of the victim, greatly beloved by his people, a mere child,
taken for the purpose from a school in Paris, was brought over in
ceremony to Belgrade and proclaimed Hospodar of Serbia. In the turmoil
of political excitement the tragedy of Belgrade was forgotten by all
but an old Serbian matron who had been attached to the Obrenovitch
family, and who, like Rachel, would not be comforted for the death of
her children. After the proclamation of the young Obrenovitch, nephew
of the murdered man, she had sold out her property and disappeared;
but not before taking a solemn vow on the tombs of the victims to
avenge their deaths.

The writer of this truthful narrative had passed a few days at
Belgrade, about three months before the horrid deed was perpetrated,
and knew the Princess Katinka. She was a kind, gentle, and lazy
creature at home; abroad she seemed a Parisienne in manners and
education. As nearly all the personages who will figure in this true
story are still living, it is but decent that I should withhold their
names, and give only initials.

The old Serbian lady seldom left her house, going but to see the
Princess occasionally. Crouched on a pile of pillows and carpeting,
clad in the picturesque national dress, she looked like the Cumaean
sibyl in her days of calm repose. Strange stories were whispered about
her Occult knowledge, and thrilling accounts circulated sometimes
among the guests assembled round the fireside of the modest inn. Our
fat landlord's maiden aunt's cousin had been troubled for some time
past by a wandering vampire, and had been bled nearly to death by the
nocturnal visitor, and while the efforts and exorcisms of the parish
pope had been of no avail, the victim was luckily delivered by Gospoja
P---, who had put to flight the disturbing ghost by merely shaking her
fist at him, and shaming him in his own language. It was in Belgrade
that I learned for the first time this highly interesting fact in
philology, namely, that spooks have a language of their own. The old
lady, whom I will call Gospoja P--, was generally attended by another
personage destined to be the principal actress in our tale of horror.
It was a young gipsy girl from some part of Roumania, about fourteen
years of age. Where she was born, and who she was, she seemed to know
as little as anyone else. I was told she had been brought one day by a
party of strolling gipsies, and left in the yard of the old lady, from
which moment she became an inmate of the house. She was nicknamed "the
sleeping girl," as she was said to be gifted with the faculty of
apparently dropping asleep wherever she stood, and speaking her dreams
aloud. The girl's heathen name was Frosya.

About eighteen months after the news of the murder had reached Italy,
where I was at the time, I travelled over the Banat in a small waggon
of my own, hiring a horse whenever I needed one. I met on my way an
old Frenchman, a scientist, travelling alone after my own fashion, but
with the difference that while he was a pedestrian, I dominated the
road from the eminence of a throne of dry hay in a jolting waggon. I
discovered him one fine morning slumbering in a wilderness of shrubs
and flowers, and had nearly passed over him, absorbed as I was in the
contemplation of the surrounding glorious scenery. The acquaintance
was soon made, no great ceremony of mutual introduction being needed.
I had heard his name mentioned in circles interested in mesmerism, and
knew him to be a powerful adept of the school of Dupotet.

"I have found," he remarked, in the course of the conversation after I
had made him share my seat of hay, "one of the most wonderful subjects
in this lovely Thebaide. I have an appointment to-night with the
family. They are seeking to unravel the mystery of a murder by means
of the clairvoyance of the girl...she is wonderful!"

"Who is she?" I asked.

"A Roumanian gipsy. She was brought up, it appears, in the family of
the Serbian reigning Prince, who reigns no more, for he was very
mysteriously mur--Halloo, take care! Diable, you will upset us over
the precipice!" he hurriedly exclaimed, unceremoniously snatching from
me the reins, and giving the horse a violent pull.

"You do not mean Prince Obrenovitch?" I asked aghast.

"Yes, I do; and him precisely. To-night I have to be there, hoping to
close a series of seances by finally developing a most marvellous
manifestation of the hidden power of the human spirit; and you may
come with me. I will introduce you; and besides, you can help me as an
interpreter, for they do not speak French."

As I was pretty sure that if the somnambule was Frosya, the rest of
the family must be Gospoja P---, I readily accepted. At sunset we were
at the foot of the mountain, leading to the old castle, as the
Frenchman called the place. It fully deserved the poetical name given
it. There was a rought bench in the depths of one of the shadowy
retreats, and as we stopped at the entrance of this poetical place,
and the Frenchman was gallantly busying himself with my horse on the
suspicious-looking bridge which led across the water to the entrance
gate, I saw a tall figure slowly rise from the bench and come towards
us.

It was my old friend Gospoja P---, looking more pale and more
mysterious than ever. She exhibited no surprise at seeing me, but
simply greeting me after the Serbian fashion, with a triple kiss on
both cheeks, she took hold of my hand and led me straight to the nest
of ivy. Half reclining on a small carpet spread on the tall grass,
with her back leaning against the wall, I recognized our Frosya.

She was dressed in the national costume of the Wallachian women, a
sort of gauze turban intermingled with various gilt medals and bands
on her head, white shirt with opened sleeves, and petticoats of
variegated colours. Her face looked deadly pale, her eyes were closed,
and her countenance presented that stony, sphinx-like look which
characterizes in such a peculiar way the entranced clairvoyant
somnambule. If it were not for the heaving motion of her chest and
bosom, ornamented by rows of medals and bead necklaces which feebly
tinkled at every breath, one might have thought her dead, so, lifeless
and corpse-like was her face. The Frenchman informed me that he had
sent her to sleep just as we were approaching the house, and that she
now was as he had left her the previous night; he then began busying
himself with the sujet, as he called Frosya. Paying no further
attention to us, he shook her by the hand, and then making a few rapid
passes stretched out her arm and stiffened it. The arm as rigid as
iron, remained in that position. He then closed all her fingers but
one--the middle finger--which he caused to point at the evening star,
which twinkled in the deep blue sky. Then he turned round and went
over from right to left, throwing on some of his fluids here, again
discharging them at another place; busying himself with his invisible
but potent fluids, like a painter with his brush when giving the last
touches to a picture.

The old lady, who had silently watched him, with her chin in her hand
the while, put her thin, skeleton-looking hands on his arm and
arrested it, as he was preparing himself to begin the regular mesmeric
passes.

"Wait," she whispered, "till the star is set and the ninth hour
completed. The Vourdalaki are hovering round; they may spoil the
influence."

"What does she say?" enquired the mesmerizer, annoyed at her
interference.

I explained to him that the old lady feared the pernicious influences
of the Vourdalaki.

"Vourdalaki! What's that--the Vourdalaki?" exclaimed the Frenchman.
"Let us be satisfied with Christian spirits, if they honour us to-
night with a visit, and lose no time for the Vourdalaki!"

I glanced at the Gospoja. She had become deathly pale and her brow was
sternly knitted over her flashing black eyes.

"Tell him not to jest at this hour of the night!" she cried. "He does
not know the country. Even this holy church may fail to protect us
once the Vourdalaki are roused. What's this?" pushing with her foot a
bundle of herbs the botanizing mesmerizer had laid near on the grass.
She bent over the collection and anxiously examined the contents of
the bundle, after which she flung the whole into the water.

"It must not be left here," she firmly added; "these are the St.
John's plants, and they might attract the wandering ones."

Meanwhile the night had come, and the moon illuminated the landscape
with a pale, ghostly light. The nights in the Banat are nearly as
beautiful as in the East, and the Frenchman had to go on with his
experiments in the open air, as the priest of the church had
prohibited such in the tower, which was used as the parsonage, for
fear of filling the holy precincts with the heretical devils of the
mesmerizer, which, the priest remarked, he would be unable to exorcise
on account of their being foreigners.

The old gentleman had thrown off his travelling blouse, rolled up his
shirt sleeves, and now, striking a theatrical attitude, began a
regular process of mesmerization.

Under his quivering fingers the odile fluid actually seemed to flash
in the twilight. Frosya was placed with her figure facing the moon,
and every motion of the entranced girl was discernible as in daylight.
In a few minutes large drops of perspiration appeared on her brow, and
slowly rolled down her pale face, glittering in the moonbeams. Then
she moved uneasily about and began chanting a low melody, to the words
of which the Gospoja, anxiously bent over the unconscious girl, was
listening with avidity and trying to catch every syllable. With her
thin finger on her lips, her eyes nearly starting from their sockets,
her frame motionless, the old lady seemed herself transfixed into a
statue of attention. The group was a remarkable one, and I regretted
that I was not a painter. What followed was a scene worthy to figure
in Macbeth. At one side she, the slender girl, pale and corpse-like,
writhing under the invisible fluid of him who for the hour was her
omnipotent master; at the other the old matron, who, burning with her
unquenched fire of revenge, stood waiting for the long-expected name
of the Prince's murderer to be at last pronounced. The Frenchman
himself seemed transfigured, his grey hair standing on end; his bulky
clumsy form seemed to have grown in a few minutes. All theatrical
pretence was now gone; there remained but the mesmerizer, aware of his
responsibility, unconscious himself of the possible results, studying
and anxiously expecting. Suddenly Frosya, as if lifted by some
supernatural force, rose from her reclining posture and stood erect
before us, again motionless and still, waiting for the magnetic fluid
to direct her. The Frenchman, silently taking the old lady's hand,
placed it in that of the somnambulist, and ordered her to put herself
en rapport with the Gospoja.

"What seest thou, my daughter?" softly murmured the Serbian Lady. "Can
your spirit seek out the murderers?"

"Search and behold!" sternly commanded the mesmerizer, fixing his gaze
upon the face of the subject.

"I am on my way--I go," faintly whispered Frosya, her voice seeming
not to come from herself, but from the surrounding atmosphere.

At this moment something so strange took place that I doubt my ability
to describe it. A luminous vapour appeared, closely surrounding the
girl's body. At first about an inch in thickness, it gradually
expanded, and, gathering itself, suddenly seemed to break off from the
body altogether and condense itself into a kind of semisolid vapour,
which very soon assumed the likeness of the somnambule herself.
Flickering about the surface of the earth the form vacillated for two
or three seconds, then glided noiselessly toward the river. It
disappeared like a mist, dissolved in the moonbeams, which seemed to
absorb it altogether.

I had followed the scene with an intense attention. The mysterious
operation, know in the East as the evocation of the scin-lecca, was
taking place before my own eyes. To doubt was impossible, and Dupotet
was right in saying that mesmerism is the conscious Magic of the
ancients, and Spiritualism the unconscious effect of the same Magic
upon certain organisms.

As soon as the vaporous double had smoked itself through the pores of
the girl, Gospoja had, by a rapid motion of the hand which was left
free, drawn from under her pelisse something which looked to us
suspiciously like a small stiletto, and placed it as rapidly in the
girl's bosom. The action was so quick that the mesmerizer, absorbed in
his work, had not remarked it, as he afterwards told me. A few minutes
elapsed in a dead silence. We seemed a group of petrified persons.
Suddenly a thrilling and transpiercing cry burst from the entranced
girl's lips, she bent forward, and snatching the stiletto from her
bosom, plunged it furiously round her, in the air, as if pursuing
imaginary foes. Her mouth foamed, and incoherent, wild exclamations
broke from her lips, among which discordant sounds I discerned,
several times two familiar Christian names of men. The mesmerizer was
so terrified that he lost all control over himself, and instead of
withdrawing the fluid he loaded the girl with it still more.

"Take care," exclaimed I. "Stop! You will kill her, or she will kill
you!"

But the Frenchman had unwittingly raised subtle potencies of Nature
over which he had no control. Furiously turning round, the girl struck
at him a blow which would have killed him had he not avoided it by
jumping aside, receiving but a severe scratch on the right arm. The
poor man was panic-stricken; climbing with an extraordinary agility,
for a man of his bulky form, on the wall over her, he fixed himself on
it astride, and gathering the remnants of his will power, sent in her
direction a series of passes. At the second, the girl dropped the
weapon and remained motionless.

"What are you about?" hoarsely shouted the mesmerizer in French,
seated like some monstrous night-globin on the wall. "Answer me, I
command you!"

"I did...but what she...whom you ordered me to obey...commanded me to
do," answered the girl in French, to my amazement.

"What did the old witch command you?" irreverently asked he.

"To find them...who murdered...kill them...I did so...and they are no
more...Avenged!...Avenged! They are..."

An exclamation of triumph, a loud shout of infernal joy, rang loud in
the air, and awakening the dogs of the neighbouring villages a
responsive howl of barking began from that moment, like a ceaseless
echo of the Gospoja's cry:

"I am avenged! I feel it; I know it. My warning heart tells me that
the fiends are no more." She fell panting on the ground, dragging
down, in her fall, the girl, who allowed herself to be pulled down as
if she were a bag of wool.

"I hope my subject did no further mischief to-night. She is a
dangerous as well as a very wonderful subject," said the Frenchman.

We parted. Three days after that I was at T---, and as I was sitting
in the dining-room of a restaurant, waiting for my lunch, I happened
to pick up a newspaper, and the first lines I read ran thus:

  VIENNA, 186--. Two Mysterious Deaths.

  Last evening, at 9:45, as P--was about to retire, two of the
gentlemen-in-waiting suddenly exhibited great terror, as though they
had seen a dreadful apparition. They screamed, staggered, and ran
about the room, holding up their hands as if to ward off the blows of
an unseen weapon. They paid no attention to the eager questions of the
prince and suite, but presently fell writhing upon the floor, and
expired in great agony. Their bodies exhibited no appearance of
apoplexy, nor any external marks of wounds, but, wonderful to relate,
there were numerous dark spots and long marks upon the skin, as though
they were stabs and slashes made without puncturing the cuticle. The
autopsy revealed the fact that beneath each of these mysterious
discolourations there was a deposit of coagulated blood. The greatest
excitement prevails, and the faculty are unable to solve the mystery.



AN UNSOLVED MYSTERY

The circumstances attending the sudden death of M. Delessert,
inspector of the Police de Surete, seem to have made such an
impression upon the Parisian authorities that they were recorded in
unusual detail. Omitting all particulars except what are necessary to
explain matters, we produce here the undoubtedly strange history.

In the fall of 1861 there came to Paris a man who called himself Vic
de Lassa, and was so inscribed upon his passports. He came from
Vienna, and said he was a Hungarian, who owned estates on the borders
of the Banat, not far from Zenta. He was a small man, aged thirty-
five, with pale and mysterious face, long blonde hair, a vague,
wandering blue eye, and a mouth of singular firmness. He dressed
carelessly and unaffectedly, and spoke and talked without much
empressement. His companion, presumably his wife, on the other hand,
ten years younger than himself, was a strikingly beautiful woman, of
that dark, rich, velvety, luscious, pure Hungarian type which is so
nigh akin to the gipsy blood. At the theatres, on the Bois, at the
cafes, on the boulevards, and everywhere that idle Paris disports
itself, Madame Aimee de Lassa attracted great attention and made a
sensation.

They lodged in luxurious apartments on the Rue Richelieu, frequented
the best places, received good company, entertained handsomely, and
acted in every way as if possessed of considerable wealth. Lassa had
always a good balance chez Schneider, Ruter et Cie, the Austrian
bankers in Rue Rivoli, and wore diamonds of conspicuous lustre.

How did it happen then, that the Prefect of Police saw fit to suspect
Monsieur and Madame de Lassa, and detailed Paul Delessert, one of the
most ruse inspectors of the force, to "pipe" him? The fact is, the
insignificant man with the splendid wife was a very mysterious
personage, and it is the habit of the police to imagine that mystery
always hides either the conspirator, the adventurer, or the charlatan.
The conclusion to which the Prefect had come in regard to M. de Lassa
was that he was an adventurer and charlatan too. Certainly a
successful one, then, for he was singularly unobtrusive and had in no
way trumpeted the wonders which it was his mission to perform, yet in
a few weeks after he had established himself in Paris the salon of M.
de Lassa was the rage, and the number of persons who paid the fee of
100 francs for a single peep into his magic crystal, and a single
message by his spiritual telegraph, was really astonishing. The secret
of this was that M. de Lassa was a conjurer and deceiver, whose
pretensions were omniscient and whose predictions always came true.

Delessert did not find it very difficult to get an introduction and
admission to De Lassa's salon. The receptions occurred every other
day--two hours in the forenoon, three hours in the evening. It was
evening when Inspector Delessert called in his assumed character of M.
Flabry, virtuoso in jewels and a convert to Spiritualism. He found the
handsome parlours brilliantly lighted, and a charming assemblage
gathered of well-pleased guests, who did not at all seem to have come
to learn their fortunes or fates, while contributing to the income of
their host, but rather to be there out of complaisance to his virtues
and gifts.

Mme. de Lassa performed upon the piano or conversed from group to
group in a way that seemed to be delightful, while M. de Lassa walked
about or sat in his insignificant, unconcerned way, saying a word now
and then, but seeming to shun everything that was conspicuous.
Servants handed about refreshments, ices, cordials, wines, etc., and
Delessert could have fancied himself to have dropped in upon a quite
modest evening entertainment, altogether en regle, but for one or two
noticeable circumstances which his observant eyes quickly took in.

Except when their host or hostess was within hearing the guests
conversed together in low tones, rather mysteriously, and with not
quite so much laughter as is usual on such occasions. At intervals a
very tall and dignified footman would come to a guest, and, with a
profound bow, present him a card on a silver salver. The guest would
then go out, preceded by the solemn servant, but when he or she
returned to the salon--some did not return at all--they invariably
wore a dazed or puzzled look, were confused, astonished, frightened,
or amused. All this was so unmistakably genuine, and De Lassa and his
wife seemed so unconcerned amidst it all, not to say distinct from it
all, that Delessert could not avoid being forcibly struck and
considerably puzzled.

Two or three little incidents, which came under Delessert's own
immediate observation, will suffice to make plain the character of the
impressions made upon those present. A couple of gentlemen, both
young, both of good social condition, and evidently very intimate
friends, were conversing together and tutoying one another at a great
rate, when the dignified footman summoned Alphonse. He laughed gaily,
"Tarry a moment, cher Auguste," said he, "and thou shalt know all the
particulars of this wonderful fortune!" "Eh bien!" A minute had
scarcely elapsed when Alphonse returned to the salon. His face was
white and bore an appearance of concentrated rage that was frightful
to witness. He came straight to Auguste, his eyes flashing, and
bending his face toward his friend, who changed colour and recoiled,
he hissed out "Monsieur Lefebure, vous etes un lache!" "Very well,
Monsieur Meunier," responded Auguste, in the same low tone, "tomorrow
morning at six o'clock!" "It is settled, false friend, execrable
traitor!" "A la mort!" rejoined Alphonse, walking off. "Cela va sans
dire!" muttered Auguste, going towards the hat-room.

A diplomatist of distinction, representative at Paris of a
neighbouring state, an elderly gentleman of superb aplomb and most
commanding appearance, was summoned to the oracle by the bowing
footman. After being absent about five minutes he returned, and
immediately made his way through the press to M. de Lassa, who was
standing not far from the fireplace, with his hands in his pockets and
a look of utmost indifference upon his face.

Delessert standing near, watched the interview with eager interest.

"I am exceedingly sorry," said General Von---, "to have to absent
myself so soon from your interesting salon, M. de Lassa, but the
result of my seance convinces me that my dispatches have been tampered
with." "I am sorry," responded M. de Lassa, with an air of languid but
courteous interest; "I hope you may be able to discover which of your
servants has been unfaithful." "I am going to do that now," said the
General, adding, in significant tones, "I shall see that both he and
his accomplices do not escape severe punishment." "That is the only
course to pursue, Monsieur le Comte." The ambassador stared, bowed,
and took his leave with a bewilderment in his face that was beyond the
power of his tact to control.

In the course of the evening M. de Lassa went carelessly to the piano,
and, after some indifferent vague preluding, played a remarkably
effective piece of music, in which the turbulent life and buoyancy of
bacchanalian strains melted gently, almost imperceptibly away, into a
sobbing wail of regret, and languor, and weariness, and despair. It
was beautifully rendered, and made a great impression upon the guests,
one of whom, a lady, cried, "How lovely, how sad! Did you compose that
yourself, M. de Lassa?" He looked towards her absently for an instant,
then replied: "I? Oh, no! That is merely a reminiscence, madame." "Do
you know who did compose it, M. de Lassa?" enquired a virtuoso
present. "I believe it was originally written by Ptolemy Auletes, the
father of Cleopatra," said M. de Lassa, in his indifferent musing way;
"but not in its present form. It has been twice re-written to my
knowledge; still, the air is substantially the same." "From whom did
you get it, M. de Lassa, if I may ask?" persisted the gentleman.
"Certainly, certainly! The last time I heard it played was by
Sebastian Bach; but that was Palestrina's--the present--version. I
think I prefer that of Guido of Arezzo--it is ruder, but has more
force. I got the air from Guido himself." "You--from--Guido!" cried
the astonished gentleman. "Yes, monsieur," answered De Lassa, rising
from the piano with his usual indifferent air. "Mon Dieu!" cried the
virtuoso, putting his hand to his head after the manner of Mr.
Twemlow, "Mon Dieu! that was in Anno Domini 1022." "A little later
than that--July, 1031, if I remember rightly," courteously corrected
M. de Lassa.

At this moment the tall footman bowed before M. Delessert, and
presented the salver containing the card. Delessert took it and read:
"On vous accorde trente-cing secondes, M. Flabry, tout au plus!"
Delessert followed; the footman opened the door of another room and
bowed again, signifying that Delessert was to enter. "Ask no
questions," he said briefly; "Sidi is mute." Delessert entered the
room and the door closed behind him. It was a small room, with a
strong smell of frankincense pervading it; the walls were covered
completely with red hangings that concealed the windows, and the floor
was felted with a thick carpet. Opposite the door, at the upper end of
the room near the ceiling was the face of a large clock, under it,
each lighted by tall wax candles, were two small tables, containing,
the one an apparatus very like the common registering telegraph
instrument, the other a crystal globe about twenty inches in diameter,
set upon an exquisitely wrought tripod of gold and bronze
intermingled. By the side of the door stood a man jet black in colour,
wearing a white turban and burnous, and having a sort of wand of
silver in one hand. With the other he took Delessert by the right arm
above the elbow, and led him quickly up the room. He pointed to the
clock, and it struck an alarum; he pointed to the crystal. Delessert
bent over, looked into it, and saw--a facsimile of his own sleeping-
room, everything photographed exactly. Sidi did not give him time to
exclaim, but still holding him by the arm, took him to the other
table. The telegraph-like instrument began to click-click. Sidi opened
the drawer, drew out a slip of paper, crammed it into Delessert's
hand, and pointed to the clock, which struck again, The thirty-five
seconds were expired. Sidi, still retaining hold of Delessert's arm,
pointed to the door and led him towards it. The door opened, Sidi
pushed him out, the door closed, the tall footman stood there bowing--
the interview with the oracle is over. Delessert glanced at the piece
of paper in his hand. It was a printed scrap, capital letters, and
read simply: "To M. Paul Delessert: The policeman is always welcome,
the spy is always in danger!"

Delessert was dumbfounded a moment to find his disguise detected, but
the words of the tall footman, "This way if you please, M. Flabry,"
brought him to his senses. Setting his lips, he returned to the salon,
and without delay sought M. de Lassa. "Do you know the contents of
this?" asked he, showing the message. "I know everything, M.
Delessert," answered De Lassa, in his careless way. "Then perhaps you
are aware that I mean to expose a charlatan, and unmask a hypocrite,
or perish in the attempt?" said Delessert. "Cela m'est egal,
monsieur," replied De Lassa. "You accept my challenge then?" "Oh! it
is a defiance, then?" replied De Lassa, letting his eye rest a moment
upon Delessert, "mais oui, je l'accepte!" And thereupon Delessert
departed.

Delessert now set to work aided by all the forces the Prefect of
Police could bring to bear, to detect and expose this consummate
sorcerer, who the ruder processes of our ancestors would easily have
disposed of--by combustion. Persistent enquiry satisfied Delessert
that the man was neither a Hungarian nor was named De Lassa; that no
matter how far back his power of "reminiscence" might extend, in his
present and immediate form he had been born in this unregenerate world
in the toy-making city of Nuremburg; that he was noted in boyhood for
his great turn for ingenious manufactures, but was very wild, and a
mauvais sujet. In his sixteenth year he escaped to Geneva and
apprenticed himself to a maker of watches and instruments. Here he had
been seen by the celebrated Robert Houdin, the prestidigitateur.
Houdin recognizing the lad's talents, and being himself a maker of
ingenious automata, had taken him off to Paris and employed him in his
own workshops, as well as for an assistant in the public performances
of his amusing and curious diablerie. After staying with Houdin some
years, Pflock Haslich (which was De Lassa's right name) had gone East
in the suite of a Turkish Pasha, and after many years' roving, in
lands where he could not be traced under a cloud of pseudonyms, had
finally turned up in Venice, and come thence to Paris.

Delessert next turned his attention to Mme. de Lassa. It was more
difficult to get a clue by means of which to know her past life; but
it was necessary in order to understand enough about Haslich. At last,
through an accident, it became probable that Mme. Aimee was identical
with a certain Mme. Schlaff, who had been rather conspicuous among the
demi-monde of Buda. Delessert posted off to that ancient city, and
thence went into the wilds of Transylvania to Mengyco. On his return,
as soon as he reached the telegraph and civilization, he telegraphed
the Prefect from Kardszag: "Don't lose sight of my man, nor let him
leave Paris. I will run him in for you two days after I get back."

It happened that on the day of Delessert's return to Paris the Prefect
was absent, being with the Emperor at Cherbourg. He came back on the
fourth day, just twenty-four hours after the announcement of
Delessert's death. That happened, as near as could be gathered, in
this wise: The night after Delessert's return he was present at De
Lassa's salon with a ticket of admittance to a seance. He was very
completely disguised as a decrepit old man, and fancied that it was
impossible for any one to detect him. Nevertheless, when he was taken
into the room, and looked into the crystal, he was utterly horror-
stricken to see there a picture of himself, lying face down and
senseless upon the side-walk of a street; and the message he received
read thus: "What you have seen will be, Delessert, in three days.
Prepare!" The detective, unspeakably shocked, retired from the house
at once and sought his own lodgings.

In the morning he came to the office in a state of extreme dejection.
He was completely unnerved. In relating to a brother inspector what
had occurred, he said "That man can do what he promises, I am doomed!"

He said that he thought he could make a complete case out against
Haslich alias De Lassa, but could not do so without seeing the Prefect
and getting instructions. He would tell nothing in regard to his
discoveries in Buda and in Transylvania--said he was not at liberty to
do so--and repeatedly exclaimed: "Oh! if M. le Prefect were only
here!" He was told to go to the Prefect at Cherbourg, but refused upon
the ground that his presence was needed in Paris. He time and again
averred his conviction that he was a doomed man, and showed himself
both vacillating and irresolute in his conduct, and extremely nervous.
He was told that he was perfectly safe, since De Lassa and all his
household were under constant surveillance; to which he replied, "You
do not know the man." An inspector was detailed to accompany
Delessert, never to lose sight of him night and day, and guard him
carefully; and proper precautions were taken in regard to his food and
drink, while the guards watching De Lassa were doubled.

On the morning of the third day, Delessert, who had been staying
chiefly indoors, avowed his determination to go at once and telegraph
to M. le Prefect to return immediately. With this intention he and his
brother officer started out. Just as they got to the corner of the Rue
de Lanery and the Boulevard, Delessert stopped suddenly and put his
hand to his forehead.

"My God!" he cried, "the crystal! the picture!" and fell prone upon
his face, insensible. He was taken at once to a hospital, but only
lingered a few hours, never regaining his consciousness. Under express
instruction from the authorities, a most careful, minute, and thorough
autopsy was made of Delessert's body by several distinguished
surgeons, whose unanimous opinion was, that the cause of his death was
apoplexy, due to fatigue and nervous excitement.

As soon as Delessert was sent to the hospital, his brother inspector
hurried to the Central Office, and De Lassa, together with his wife
and everyone connected with the establishment, were at once arrested.
De Lassa smiled contemptuously as they took him away. "I knew you were
coming; I prepared for it; you will be glad to release me again."

It was quite true that De Lassa had prepared for them. When the house
was searched it was found that every paper had been burned, the
crystal globe was destroyed, and in the room of the seances was a
great heap of delicate machinery broken into indistinguishable bits.
"That cost me 200,000 francs," said De Lassa, pointing to the pile,
"but it has been a good investment." The walls and floors were ripped
out in several places, and the damage to the property was
considerable. In prison neither De Lassa nor his associates made any
revelations. The notion that they had something to do with Delessert's
death was quickly dispelled, in a legal point of view, and all the
party but De Lassa were released. He was still detained in prison,
upon one pretext, or another, when one morning he was found hanging by
a silk sash to the cornice of the room where he was confined--dead.
The night before, it was afterwards discovered, Madame de Lassa had
eloped with a tall footman, taking the Nubian Sidi with them. De
Lassa's secrets died with him.

----

"It is an interesting story, that article of yours in to-day's
Scientist. But is it a record of facts, or a tissue of the
imagination? If true, why not state the source of it, in other words,
specify your authority for it."

The above is not signed, but we would take the opportunity to say that
the story, "An Unsolved Mystery," was published because we considered
the main points of the narrative--the prophecies, and the singular
death of the officer--to be psychic phenomena, that have been, and can
be, again produced. Why quote "authorities"? The Scriptures tell us of
the death of Ananias, under the stern rebuke from Peter; here we have
a phenomenon of a similar nature. Ananias is supposed to have suffered
instant death from fear. Few can realize this power governed by
spiritual laws, but those who have trod the boundary line and know
some few of the things that can be done, will see no great mystery in
this, nor in the story published last week. We are not speaking in
mystical tones. Ask the powerful mesmerist if there is danger that the
subject may pass out of his control?--if he could will the spirit out,
never to return? It is capable of demonstration that the mesmerist can
act on a subject at a distance of many miles; and it is no less
certain that, the majority of mesmerists know little or nothing of the
laws that govern their powers.

It may be a pleasant dream to attempt to conceive of the beauties of
the spirit-world; but the time can be spent more profitably in a study
of the spirit itself, and it is not necessary that the subject for
study should be in the spirit-world.



KARMIC VISIONS

  Oh, sad no more! Oh, sweet No more!
  Oh, strange No more!
  By a mossed brook bank on a stone
  I smelt a wild weed-flower alone;
  There was a ringing in my ears.
  And both my eyes gushed out with tears.
  Surely all pleasant things had gone before.
  Low buried fathom deep beneath with three, NO MORE.
  
  --Tennyson "The Gem" 1831.


I

A camp filled with war-chariots, neighing horses and legions of long-
haired soldiers...

A regal tent, gaudy in its barbaric splendour. Its linen walls are
weighed down under the burden of arms. In its centre a raised seat
covered with skins, and on it a stalwart, savage-looking warrior. He
passes in review prisoners of war brought in turn before him, who are
disposed of according to the whim of the heartless despot.

A new captive is now before him, and is addressing him with passionate
earnestness...As he listens to her with suppressed passion in his
manly, but fierce, cruel face, the balls of his eyes become bloodshot
and roll with fury. And as he bends forward with fierce stare, his
whole appearance--his matted locks hanging over the frowning brow, his
big-boned body with strong sinews, and the two large hands resting on
the shield placed upon the right knee--justifies the remark made in
hardly audible whisper by a grey-headed soldier to his neighbour:

"Little mercy shall the holy prophetess receive at the hands of
Clovis!"

The captive, who stands between two Burgundian warriors, facing the
ex-prince of the Salians, now king of all the Franks, is an old woman
with silver-white dishevelled hair, hanging over her skeleton-like
shoulders. In spite of her great age, her tall figure is erect; and
the inspired black eyes look proudly and fearlessly into the cruel
face of the treacherous son of Gilderich.

"Aye, King," she says, in a loud, ringing voice. "Aye, thou art great
and mighty now, but thy days are numbered, and thou shalt reign but
three summers longer. Wicked thou wert born...perfidious thou art to
thy friends and allies, robbing more than one of his lawful crown.
Murderer of thy next-of-kin, thou who addest to the knife and spear in
open warfare, dagger, poison and treason, beware how thou dearest with
the servant of Nerthus!"*

* " The Nourishing " (Tacit. Germ. XI)--the Earth, a Mother-Goddess,
the most beneficent deity of the ancient Germans.

"Ha, ha, ha!...old hag of Hell!" chuckles the King, with an evil,
ominous sneer. "Thou hast crawled out of the entrails of thy mother-
goddess truly. Thou fearest not my wrath? It is well. But little need
I fear thine empty imprecations...I, a baptized Christian!"

"So, so," replies the Sybil. "All know that Clovis has abandoned the
gods of his fathers; that he has lost all faith in the warning voice
of the white horse of the Sun, and that out of fear of the Allimani he
went serving on his knees Remigius, the servant of the Nazarene, at
Rheims. But hast thou become any truer in thy new faith? Hast thou not
murdered in cold blood all thy brethren who trusted in thee, after, as
well as before, thy apostasy? Hast not thou plighted troth to Alaric,
the King of the West Goths, and hast thou not killed him by stealth,
running thy spear into his back while he was bravely fighting an
enemy? And is it thy new faith and thy new gods that teach thee to be
devising in thy black soul even now foul means against Theodoric, who
put thee down?...Beware, Clovis, beware! For now the gods of thy
fathers have risen against thee! Beware, I say, for..."

"Woman!" fiercely cries the King--"Woman, cease thy insane talk and
answer my question. Where is the treasure of the grove amassed by thy
priests of Satan, and hidden after they had been driven away by the
Holy Cross?...Thou alone knowest. Answer, or by Heaven and Hell I
shall thrust thy evil tongue down thy throat for ever!"...

She heeds not the threat, but goes on calmly and fearlessly as before,
as if she had not heard.

The gods say, Clovis, thou art accursed Clovis, thou shalt be reborn
among thy present enemies, and suffer the tortures thou hast inflicted
upon thy victims. All the combined power and glory thou hast deprived
them of shall be thine in prospect, yet thou shalt never reach
it!...Thou shalt..."

The prophetess never finishes her sentence.

With a terrible oath the King, crouching like a wild beast on his
skin-covered seat, pounces upon her with the leap of a jaguar, and
with one blow fells her to the ground. And as he lifts his sharp
murderous spear the "Holy One" of the Sun-worshipping tribe makes the
air ring with a last imprecation.

"I curse thee, enemy of Nerthus! May my agony be tenfold thine!...May
the Great Law avenge..."

The heavy spear falls, and, running through the victim's throat, nails
the head to the ground. A stream of hot crimson blood gushes from the
gaping wound and covers king and soldiers with indelible gore...

II

Time--the landmark of gods and men in the boundless field of Eternity,
the murderer of its offspring and of memory in mankind--time moves on
with noiseless, incessant step through aeons and ages...Among millions
of other Souls, a Soul-Ego is reborn: for weal or for woe, who
knoweth! Captive in its new human Form, it grows with it, and together
they become, at last, conscious of their existence.

Happy are the years of their blooming youth, unclouded with want or
sorrow. Neither knows aught of the Past nor of the Future. For them
all is the joyful Present: for the Soul-Ego is unaware that it had
ever lived in other human tabernacles, it knows not that it shall be
again reborn, and it takes no thought of the morrow.

Its Form is calm and content. It has hitherto given its Soul-Ego no
heavy troubles. Its happiness is due to the continuous mild serenity
of its temper, to the affection it spreads wherever it goes. For it is
a noble Form, and its heart is full of benevolence. Never has the Form
startled its Soul-Ego with a too-violent shock, or otherwise disturbed
the calm placidity of its tenant.

Two score of years glide by like one short pilgrimage; a long walk
through the sun-lit paths of life, hedged by ever-blooming roses with
no thorns. The rare sorrows that befall the twin pair, Form and Soul,
appear to them rather like the pale light of the cold northern moon,
whose beams throw into a deeper shadow all around the moon-lit
objects, than as the blackness of the night, the night of hopeless
sorrow and despair.

Son of a Prince, born to rule himself one day his father's kingdom;
surrounded from his cradle by reverence and honours; deserving of the
universal respect and sure of the love of all--what could the Soul-Ego
desire more for the Form it dwelt in.

And so the Soul-Ego goes on enjoying existence in its tower of
strength, gazing quietly at the panorama of life ever changing before
its two windows--the two kind blue eyes of a loving and good man.

III

One day an arrogant and boisterous enemy threatens the father's
kingdom, and the savage instincts of the warrior of old awaken in the
Soul-Ego. It leaves its dreamland amid the blossoms of life and causes
its Ego of clay to draw the soldier's blade, assuring him it is in
defence of his country.

Prompting each other to action, they defeat the enemy and cover
themselves with glory and pride. They make the haughty foe bite the
dust at their feet in supreme humiliation. For this they are crowned
by history with the unfading laurels of valour, which are those of
success. They make a footstool of the fallen enemy and transform their
sire's little kingdom into a great empire. Satisfied they could
achieve no more for the present, they return to seclusion and to the
dreamland of their sweet home.

For three lustra more the Soul-Ego sits at its usual post, beaming out
of its windows on the world around. Over its head the sky is blue and
the vast horizons are covered with those seemingly unfading flowers
that grow in the sunlight of health and strength. All looks fair as a
verdant mead in spring...

IV

But an evil day comes to all in the drama of being. It waits through
the life of king and of beggar. It leaves traces on the history of
every mortal born from woman, and it can neither be seared away,
entreated, nor propitiated. Health is a dewdrop that falls from the
heavens to vivify the blossoms on earth, only during the morn'. of
life, its spring and summer...It has but a short duration and returns
from whence it came--the invisible realms.

  How oft'neath the bud that is brightest and fairest.

  The seeds of the canker in embryo lurk!

  How oft at the root of the flower that is rarest---

  Secure in its ambush the worm is at work... . ."

The running sand which moves downward in the glass, wherein the hours
of human life are numbered, runs swifter. The worm has gnawed the
blossom of health through its heart. The strong body is found
stretched one day on the thorny bed of pain.

The Soul-Ego beams no longer. It sits still and looks sadly out of
what has become its dungeon windows, on the world which is now rapidly
being shrouded for it in the funeral palls of suffering. Is it the eve
of night eternal which is nearing?

V

Beautiful are the resorts on the midland sea. An endless line of surf-
beaten, black, rugged rocks stretches, hemmed in between the golden
sands of the coast and the deep blue waters of the gulf. They offer
their granite breast to the fierce blows of the north-west wind and
thus protect the dwellings of the rich that nestle at their foot on
the inland side. The half-ruined cottages on the open shore are the
insufficient shelter of the poor. Their squalid bodies are often
crushed under the walls torn and washed down by wind and angry wave.
But they only follow the great law of the survival of the fittest. Why
should they be protected?

Lovely is the morning when the sun dawns with golden amber tints and
its first rays kiss the cliffs of the beautiful shore. Glad is the
song of the lark, as, emerging from its warm nest of herbs, it drinks
the morning dew from the deep flower-cups; when the tip of the rosebud
thrills under the caress of the first sunbeam, and earth and heaven
smile in mutual greeting. Sad is the Soul-Ego alone as it gazes on
awakening nature from the high couch opposite the large bay-window.

How calm is the approaching noon as the shadow creeps steadily on the
sundial towards the hour of rest! Now the hot sun begins to melt the
clouds in the limpid air and the last shreds of the morning mist that
lingers on the tops of the distant hills vanish in it. All nature is
prepared to rest at the hot and lazy hour of midday. The feathered
tribes cease their song; their soft, gaudy wings droop and they hang
their drowsy heads, seeking refuge from the burning heat. A morning
lark is busy nestling in the bordering bushes under the clustering
flowers of the pomegranate and the sweet bay of the Mediterranean. The
active songster has become voiceless.

"Its voice will resound as joyfully again tomorrow!" sighs the Soul-
Ego, as it listens to the dying buzzing of the insects on the verdant
turf. "Shall ever mine?"

And now the flower-scented breeze hardly stirs the languid heads of
the luxuriant plants. A solitary palm-tree, growing out of the cleft
of a moss-covered rock, next catches the eye of the Soul-Ego. Its once
upright, cylindrical trunk has been twisted out of shape and half-
broken by the nightly blasts of the north-west winds. And as it
stretches wearily its drooping feathery arms, swayed to and fro in the
blue pellucid air, its body trembles and threatens to break in two at
the first new gust that may arise.

"And then, the severed part will fall into the sea, and the once
stately palm will be no more," soliloquizes the Soul-Ego as it gazes
sadly out of its windows.

Everything returns to life, in the cool, old bower at the hour of
sunset. The shadows on the sun-dial become with every moment thicker,
and animate nature awakens busier than ever in the cooler hours of
approaching night. Birds and insects chirrup and buzz their last
evening hymns around the tall and still powerful Form, as it paces
slowly and wearily along the gravel walk. And now its heavy gaze falls
wistfully on the azure bosom of the tranquil sea. The gulf sparkles
like a gem-studded carpet of blue-velvet in the farewell dancing
sunbeams, and smiles like a thoughtless, drowsy child, weary of
tossing about. Further on, calm and serene in its perfidious beauty,
the open sea stretches far and wide the smooth mirror of its cool
waters--salt and bitter as human tears. It lies in its treacherous
repose like a gorgeous, sleeping monster, watching over the unfathomed
mystery of its dark abysses. Truly the monumentless cemetry of the
millions sunk in its depths...

  "Without a grave.

  Unknell'd, uncoffined and unknown ..."

while the sorry relic of the once noble Form pacing yonder, once that
its hour strikes and the deep-voiced bells toll the knell for the
departed soul, shall be laid out in state and pomp. Its dissolution
will be announced by millions of trumpet voices. Kings, princes and
the mighty ones of the earth will be present at its obsequies, or will
send their representatives with sorrowful faces and condoling messages
to those left behind...

"One point gained, over those 'uncoffined and unknown'," is the bitter
reflection of the Soul-Ego.

Thus glides past one day after the other; and as swift-winged Time
urges his flight, every vanishing hour destroying some thread in the
tissue of life, the Soul-Ego is gradually transformed in its views of
things and men. Flitting between two eternities, far away from its
birthplace, solitary among its crowd of physicians, and attendants,
the Form is drawn with every day nearer to its Spirit-Soul. Another
light unapproached and unapproachable in days of joy, softly descends
upon the weary prisoner. It sees now that which it had never perceived
before...

VI

How grand, how mysterious are the spring nights on the seashore when
the winds are chained and the elements lulled! A solemn silence reigns
in nature. Alone the silvery, scarcely audible ripple of the wave, as
it runs caressingly over the moist sand, kissing shells and pebbles on
its up and down journey, reaches the ear like the regular soft
breathing of a sleeping bosom. How small, how insignificant and
helpless feels man, during these quiet hours, as he stands between the
two gigantic magnitudes, the star-hung dome above, and the slumbering
earth below. Heaven and earth are plunged in sleep, but their souls
are awake, and they confabulate, whispering one to the other mysteries
unspeakable. It is then that the occult side of Nature lifts her dark
veils for us, and reveals secrets we would vainly seek to extort from
her during the day. The firmament, so distant, so far away from earth,
now seems to approach and bend over her. The sidereal meadows exchange
embraces with their more humble sisters of the earth--the daisy-decked
valleys and the green slumbering fields. The heavenly dome falls
prostrate into the arms of the great quiet sea; and the millions of
stars that stud the former peep into and bathe in every lakelet and
pool. To the grief-furrowed soul those twinkling orbs are the eyes of
angels. They look down with ineffable pity on the suffering of
mankind. It is not the night dew that falls on the sleeping flowers,
but sympathetic tears that drop from those orbs, at the sight of the
GREAT HUMAN SORROW...

Yes; sweet and beautiful is a southern night. But---

  "When silently we watch the bed, by the taper is flickering light.

  When all we love is fading fast--how terrible is night..."

VII

Another day is added to the series of buried days. The far green
hills, and the fragrant boughs of the pomegranate blossom have melted
in the mellow shadows of the night, and both sorrow and joy are
plunged in the lethargy of soul-resting sleep. Every noise has died
out in the royal gardens, and no voice or sound is heard in that
overpowering stillness.

Swift-winged dreams descend from the laughing stars in motley crowds,
and landing upon the earth disperse among mortals and immortals, amid
animals and men. They hover over the sleepers, each attracted by its
affinity and kind; dreams of joy and hope, balmy and innocent visions,
terrible and awesome sights seen with sealed eyes, sensed by the soul;
some instilling happiness and consolation, others causing sobs to
heave the sleeping bosoms, tears and mental torture, all and one
preparing unconsciously to the sleepers their waking thoughts of the
morrow.

Even in sleep the Soul-Ego finds no rest.

Hot and feverish its body tosses about in restless agony. For it, the
time of happy dreams is now a vanished shadow, a long bygone
recollection. Through the mental agony of the soul, there lies a
transformed man. Through the physical agony of the frame, there
flutters in it a fully awakened Soul. The veil of illusion has fallen
off from the cold idols of the world, and the vanities and emptiness
of fame and wealth stand bare, often hideous, before its eyes. The
thoughts of the Soul fall like dark shadows on the cogitative
faculties of the fast disorganizing body, haunting the thinker daily,
nightly, hourly...

The sight of his snorting steed pleases him no longer. The
recollections of guns and banners wrested from the enemy; of cities
razed, of trenches, cannons and tents, of an array of conquered spoils
now stirs but little his national pride. Such thoughts move him no
more, and ambition has become powerless to awaken in his aching heart
the haughty recognition of any valorous deed of chivalry. Visions of
another kind now haunt his weary days and long sleepless nights...

What he now sees is a throng of bayonets clashing against each other
in a mist of smoke and blood; thousands of mangled corpses covering
the ground, torn and cut to shreds by the murderous weapons devised by
science and civilization, blessed to success by the servants of his
God. What he now dreams of are bleeding, wounded and dying men, with
missing limbs and matted locks, wet and soaked through with gore...

VIII

A hideous dream detaches itself from a group of passing visions, and
alights heavily on his aching chest. The nightmare shows him men
expiring on the battlefield with a curse on those who led them to
their destruction. Every pang in his own wasting body brings to him in
dream the recollection of pangs still worse, of pangs suffered through
and for him. He sees and feels the torture of the fallen millions, who
die after long hours of terrible mental and physical agony; who expire
in forest and plain, in stagnant ditches by the road-side, in pools of
blood under a sky made black with smoke. His eyes are once more
rivetted to the torrents of blood, every drop of which represents a
tear of despair, a heart-rent cry, a lifelong sorrow. He hears again
the thrilling sighs of desolation, and the shrill cries ringing
through mount, forest and valley. He sees the old mothers who have
lost the light of their souls; families, the hand that fed them. He
beholds widowed young wives thrown on the wide, cold world, and
beggared orphans wailing in the streets by the thousands. He finds the
young daughters of his bravest old soldiers exchanging their mourning
garments for the gaudy frippery of prostitution, and the Soul-Ego
shudders in the sleeping Form...His heart is rent by the groans of the
famished; his eyes blinded by the smoke of burning hamlets, of homes
destroyed, of towns and cities in smouldering ruins...

And in his terrible dream, he remembers that moment of insanity in his
soldier's life, when standing over a heap of the dead and the dying,
waving in his right hand a naked sword red to its hilt with smoking
blood, and in his left, the colours rent from the hand of the warrior
expiring at his feet, he had sent in a stentorian voice praises to the
throne of the Almighty, thanksgiving for the victory just obtained!...

He starts in his sleep and awakes in horror. A great shudder shakes
his frame like an aspen leaf, and sinking back on his pillows, sick at
the recollection, he hears a voice--the voice of the Soul-Ego--saying
in him:

"Fame and victory are vainglorious words...Thanksgiving and prayers
for lives destroyed--wicked lies and blasphemy!"...

"What have they brought thee or to thy fatherland, those bloody
victories!"...whispers the Soul in him. "A population clad in iron
armour," it replies. "Two score millions of men dead now to all
spiritual aspiration and Soul-life. A people, henceforth deaf to the
peaceful voice of the honest citizen's duty, averse to a life of
peace, blind to the arts and literature, indifferent to all but lucre
and ambition. What is thy future Kingdom, now? A legion of war-puppets
as units, a great wild beast in their collectivity. A beast that, like
the sea yonder, slumbers gloomily now, but to fall with the more fury
on the first enemy that is indicated to it. Indicated, by whom? It is
as though a heartless, proud Fiend, assuming sudden authority,
incarnate Ambition and Power, had clutched with iron hand the minds of
a whole country. By what wicked enchantment has he brought the people
back to those primeval days of the nation when their ancestors, the
yellow-haired Suevi, and the treacherous Franks roamed about in their
warlike spirit, thirsting to kill, to decimate and subject each other.
By what infernal powers has this been accomplished? Yet the
transformation has been produced and it is as undeniable as the fact
that alone the Fiend rejoices and boasts of the transformation
effected. The whole world is hushed in breathless expectation. Not a
wife or mother, but is haunted in her dreams by the black and ominous
storm-cloud that overhangs the whole of Europe. The cloud is
approaching It comes nearer and nearer... Oh woe and horror! ... I
foresee once more for earth the suffering I have already witnessed. I
read the fatal destiny upon the brow of the flower of Europe's youth!
But if I live and have the power, never, oh never shall my country
take part in it again! No, no, I will not see---

  'The glutton death gorged with devouring lives...'

"I will not hear---

  'robb'd mother's shrieks

  While from men's piteous wounds and horrid gashes

  The lab'ring life flows faster than the blood!' ..."

IX

Firmer and firmer grows in the Soul-Ego the feeling of intense hatred
for the terrible butchery called war; deeper and deeper does it
impress its thoughts upon the Form that holds it captive. Hope awakens
at times in the aching breast and colours the long hours of solitude
and meditation; like the morning ray that dispels the dusky shades of
shadowy despondency, it lightens the long hours of lonely thought. But
as the rainbow is not always the dispeller of the storm-clouds but
often only a refraction of the setting sun on a passing cloud, so the
moments of dreamy hope are generally followed by hours of still
blacker despair. Why, oh why, thou mocking Nemesis, hast thou thus
purified and enlightened, among all the sovereigns on this earth, him,
whom thou hast made helpless, speechless and powerless? Why hast thou
kindled the flame of holy brotherly love for man in the breast of one
whose heart already feels the approach of the icy hand of death and
decay, whose strength is steadily deserting him and whose very life is
melting away like foam on the crest of a breaking wave?

And now the hand of Fate is upon the couch of pain. The hour for the
fulfilment of nature's law has struck at last. The old Sire is no
more; the younger man is henceforth a monarch. Voiceless and helpless,
he is nevertheless a potentate, the autocratic master of millions of
subjects. Cruel Fate has erected a throne for him over an open grave,
and beckons him to glory and to power. Devoured by suffering, he finds
himself suddenly crowned. The wasted Form is snatched from its warm
nest amid the palm groves and the roses; it is whirled from balmy
south to the frozen north, where waters harden into crystal groves and
"waves on waves in solid mountains rise"; whither he now speeds to
reign and--speeds to die.

X

Onward, onward rushes the black, fire-vomiting monster, devised by man
to partially conquer Space and Time. Onward, and further with every
moment from the health-giving, balmy South flies the train. Like the
Dragon of the Fiery Head, it devours distance and leaves behind it a
long trail of smoke, sparks and stench. And as its long, tortuous,
flexible body, wriggling and hissing like a gigantic dark reptile,
glides swiftly, crossing mountain and moor, forest, tunnel and plain,
its swinging monotonous motion lulls the worn-out occupant, the weary
and heartsore Form, to sleep...

In the moving palace the air is warm and balmy. The luxurious vehicle
is full of exotic plants; and from a large cluster of sweet-smelling
flowers arises together with its scent the fairy Queen of dreams,
followed by her band of joyous elves. The Dryads laugh in their leafy
bowers as the train glides by, and send floating upon the breeze
dreams of green solitudes and fairy visions. The rumbling noise of
wheels is gradually transformed into the roar of a distant waterfall,
to subside into the silvery trills of a crystalline brook. The Soul-
Ego takes its flight into Dreamland...

It travels through aeons of time, and lives, and feels, and breathes
under the most contrasted forms and personages. It is now a giant, a
Yotun, who rushes into Muspelheim, where Surtur rules with his flaming
sword.

It battles fearlessly against a host of monstrous animals, and puts
them to fight with a single wave of its mighty hand. Then it sees
itself in the Northern Mistworld, it penetrates under the guise of a
brave bowman into Helheim, the Kingdom of the Dead, where a Black-Elf
reveals to him a series of its lives and their mysterious
concatenation. "Why does man suffer?" enquiries the Soul-Ego. "Because
he would become one," is the mocking answer. Forthwith, the Soul-Ego
stands in the presence of the holy goddess, Saga. She sings to it of
the valorous deeds of the Germanic heroes, of their virtues and their
vices. She shows the Soul the mighty warriors fallen by the hands of
many of its past Forms, on battlefield, as also in the sacred security
of home. It sees itself under the personages of maidens, and of women,
of young and old men, and of children... It feels itself dying more
than once in those Forms. It expires as a hero--Spirit, and is led by
the pitying Walkyries from the bloody battlefield back to the abode of
Bliss under the shining foliage of Walhalla. It heaves its last sigh
in another form, and is hurled on to the cold, hopeless plane of
remorse. It closes its innocent eyes in its last sleep, as an infant,
and is forthwith carried along by the beauteous Elves of Light into
another body--the doomed generator of Pain and Suffering. In each case
the mists of death are dispersed, and pass from the eyes of the Soul-
Ego, no sooner does it cross the Black Abyss that separates the
Kingdom of the Living from the Realm of the Dead. Thus "Death" becomes
but a meaningless word for it, a vain sound. In every instance the
beliefs of the Mortal take objective life and shape for the Immortal,
as soon as it spans the Bridge. Then they begin to fade, and
disappear...

"What is my Past?" enquires the Soul-Ego of Urd, the eldest of the
Norn sisters. "Why do I suffer?"

A long parchment is unrolled in her hand, and reveals a long series of
mortal beings, in each of whom the Soul-Ego recognizes one of its
dwellings. When it comes to the last but one, it sees a blood-stained
hand doing endless deeds of cruelty and treachery, and it
shudders......Guileless victims arise around it, and cry to Orlog for
vengeance.

"What is my immediate Present?" asks the dismayed Soul of Werdandi,
the second sister.

"The decree of Orlog is on thyself!" is the answer. "But Orlog does
not pronounce them blindly, as foolish mortals have it."

"What is my Future?" asks despairingly of Skuld, the third Norn
sister, the Soul-Ego. "Is it to be for ever dark with tears, and
bereaved of Hope?"...

No answer is received. But the Dreamer feels whirled through space,
and suddenly the scene changes. The Soul-Ego finds itself on a, to it,
long familiar spot, the royal bower, and the seat opposite the broken
palm-tree. Before it stretches, as formerly, the vast blue expanse of
waters, glassing the rocks and cliffs; there, too, is the lonely palm,
doomed to quick disappearance.

The soft mellow voice of the incessant ripple of the light waves now
assumes human speech, and reminds the Soul-Ego of the vows formed more
than once on that spot. And the Dreamer repeats with enthusiasm the
words pronounced before.

"Never, oh, never shall I, henceforth, sacrifice vainglorious fame or
ambition a single son of my motherland! Our world is so full of
unavoidable misery, so poor with joys and bliss, and shall I add to
its cup of bitterness the fathomless ocean of woe and blood, called
WAR? Avaunt, such thought!...Oh, never more..."

XI

Strange sight and change... The broken palm which stands before the
mental sight of the Soul-Ego suddenly lifts up its drooping trunk and
becomes erect and verdant as before. Still greater bliss, the Soul-Ego
finds himself as strong and as healthy as he ever was. In a stentorian
voice he sings to the four winds a loud and a joyous song. He feels a
wave of joy and bliss in him, and seems to know why he is happy.

He is suddenly transported into what looks a fairy-like Hall, lit with
most glowing lights and built of materials, the like of which he had
never seen before. He perceives the heirs and descendants of all the
monarchs of the globe gathered in that Hall in one happy family. They
wear no longer the insignia of royalty, but, as he seems to know,
those who are the reigning Princes, reign by virtue of their personal
merits. It is the greatness of heart, the nobility of character, their
superior qualities of observation, wisdom, love of Truth and Justice,
that have raised them to the dignity of heirs to the Thrones, of Kings
and Queens. The crowns, by authority and the grace of God, have been
thrown off, and they now rule by "the grace of divine humanity,"
chosen unanimously by recognition of their fitness to rule, and the
reverential love of their voluntary subjects.

All around seems strangely changed. Ambition, grasping greediness or
envy--miscalled Patriotism--exist no longer. Cruel selfishness has
made room for just altruism and cold indifference to the wants of the
millions no longer finds favour in the sight of the favoured few.
Useless luxury, sham pretences--social and religious--all has
disappeared. No more wars are possible, for the armies are abolished.
Soldiers have turned into diligent, hard-working tillers of the
ground, and the whole globe echoes his song in rapturous joy. Kingdoms
and countries around him live like brothers. The great, the glorious
hour has come at last! That which he hardly dared to hope and think
about in the stillness of his long, suffering nights, is now realized.
The great curse is taken off, and the world stands absolved and
redeemed in its regeneration!...

Trembling with rapturous feelings, his heart overflowing with love and
philanthropy, he rises to pour out a fiery speech that would become
historic, when suddenly he finds his body gone, or, rather, it is
replaced by another body...Yes, it is no longer the tall, noble Form
with which he is familiar, but the body of somebody else, of whom he
as yet knows nothing... Something dark comes between him and a great
dazzling light, and he sees the shadow of the face of a gigantic
timepiece on the ethereal waves. On its ominous dial he reads:

"NEW ERA: 970,995 YEARS SINCE THE INSTANTANEOUS DESTRUCTION BY PNEUMO-
DYNO-VRIL OF THE LAST 2,000,000 OF SOLDIERS IN THE FIELD, ON THE
WESTERN PORTION OF THE GLOBE. 971,000 SOLAR YEARS SINCE THE SUBMERSION
OF THE EUROPEAN CONTINENTS AND ISLES. SUCH ARE THE DECREE OF ORLOG AND
THE ANSWER OF SKULD..."

He makes a strong effort and--is himself again. Prompted by the Soul-
Ego to REMEMBER and ACT in conformity, he lifts his arms to Heaven and
swears in the face of all nature to preserve peace to the end of his
days--in his own country, at least.

* * * * *

A distant beating of drums and long cries of what he fancies in his
dream are the rapturous thanksgivings, for the pledge just taken. An
abrupt shock, loud clatter, and, as the eyes open, the Soul-Ego looks
out through them in amazement. The heavy gaze meets the respectful and
solemn face of the physician offering the usual draught. The train
stops. He rises from his couch weaker and wearier than ever, to see
around him endless lines of troops armed with a new and yet more
murderous weapon of destruction--ready for the battlefield.



THE LEGEND OF THE BLUE LOTUS

The title of every magazine or book should have some meaning, and
especially should this be the case with a Theosophical publication. A
title is supposed to express the object in view, symbolising, as it
were, the content of the paper. Since allegory is the soul of Eastern
philosophy, it may be objected that nothing can be seen in the name
"Le Lotus Bleu," save that of a water plant--the Nymphea Cerulea or
Nelumbo. Furthermore a reader of this calibre would see but the blue
colour of the list of contents of our journal.

To avoid a like misunderstanding, we shall attempt to initiate our
readers into the general symbolism of the lotus and the particular
symbolism of the Blue Lotus. This mysterious and sacred plant has been
considered through the ages, both in Egypt and in India, as a symbol
of the Universe. Not a monument in the valley of the Nile, not a
papyrus, without this plant in an honoured place. On the capitals of
the Egyptian pillars, on the thrones and even the head-dresses of the
Divine Kings, the lotus is everywhere found as a symbol of the
Universe. It inevitably became an indispensable attribute of every
creative god, as of every creative goddess, the latter being,
philosophically considered, only the feminine aspect of the god, at
first androgynous, afterwards male.

It is from Padma-Yoni, "the bosom of the Lotus," from Absolute Space,
or from the Universe outside time and space, that emanates the Cosmos,
conditioned and limited by time and space. The Hiranya Garbha, "the
egg" (or the womb) of gold, from which Brahma emerges, is often called
the Heavenly Lotus. The God, Vishnu,--the synthesis of the Trimurti or
Hindu Trinity--during the "nights of Brahma" floats asleep on the
primordial waters, stretched on the blossom of a lotus. His Goddess,
the lovely Lakshmi, rising from the bosom of the waters, like Venus-
Aphrodite, has a white lotus beneath her feet. It was at the churning
of the Ocean of Milk--symbol of space and of the Milky Way--by the
Gods assembled together, that Lakshmi, Goddess of Beauty and Mother of
Love (Kama) formed of the froth of the foaming waves, appeared before
the astonished Gods, borne on a lotus, and holding another lotus in
her hand.

Thus have arisen the two chief titles of Lakshmi; Padma the Lotus, and
Kshirabdi-tanaya daughter of the Ocean of Milk. Gautama the Buddha has
never been degraded to the level of a god, notwithstanding the fact
that he was the first mortal within historical times fearless enough
to interrogate that dumb Sphinx, which we call the Universe, and to
wrest completely therefrom the secrets of Life and Death. Though he
has never been deified, we repeat, yet he has nevertheless been
recognised by generations in Asia as Lord of the Universe. This is why
the conqueror and master of the world of thought and philosophy is
represented as seated on a lotus in full bloom, emblem of the Universe
thought out by him. In India and Ceylon the lotus is generally of a
golden hue; amongst the Buddhists of the North, it is blue.

But there exists in one part of the world a third kind of lotus--the
Zizyphus. He who eats of it forgets of his fatherland and those who
are dear to him, so say the ancients. Let us not follow this example.
Let us not forget our spiritual home, the cradle of the human race,
and the birthplace of the Blue Lotus.

Let us then raise the veil of oblivion which covers one of the most
ancient allegories--a Vedic legend which, however, the Brahman
chroniclers have preserved. Only as the chroniclers have recounted the
legend each after his own manner, aided by variations* of his own, we
have given the story here--not according to the incomplete renderings
and translations of these Eastern gentlemen but according to the
popular version. (* Cf. the history of Sunahsepha in the Bhagavata,
IX, XVI, 35 and of the Ramayana, Bk. I. Cap. 60; Manu, X, 105;
Koulouka Bhatta [the Historian]; Bahwruba and the Aitareya Brahmanas;
Vishnu Purana, etc., etc. Each book gives its own version.) Thus is it
that the old bards of Rajasthan sing it, when they come and seat
themselves in the verandah of the traveller's bungalow in the wet
evenings of the rainy season. Let us leave then the Orientalists to
their fantastic speculations. How does it concern us whether the
father of the selfish and cowardly prince, who was the cause of the
transformation of the white lotus into the blue lotus, be called
Harischandra or Ambarisha? Names have nothing to do with the naive
poetry of the legend, nor with its moral--for there is a moral to be
found if looked for well. We shall soon see that the chief episode in
the story is curiously reminiscent of another legend--that of the
story of Abraham and the sacrifice of Isaac in the Bible. Is not this
one more proof that the Secret Doctrine of the East may have good
reason to maintain that the name of the Patriarch was neither a
Chaldean or a Hebrew name, but rather an epithet and a Sanskrit
surname, signifying abram, i.e., one is non-Brahman,* a debrahmanised
Brahman, one who is degraded or who has lost his caste? After this how
can we avoid suspecting that we may find, among the modern Jews, the
Chaldeans of the time of the Rishi Agastya--these makers of bricks
whose persecution began from eight hundred to a thousand years ago,
but who emigrated to Chaldea four thousand years before the Christian
era--when so many of the popular legends of Southern India resemble
the Bible stories. Louis Jacolliot speaks in several of his twenty-one
volumes on Brahmanical India of this matter, and for once he is right.

  * The particle a in the Sanskrit word shews this clearly. Placed
before a substantive this particle always means the negation or the
opposite of the meaning of the expression that follows. Thus Sura
(god) written a--Sura, becomes non-God, or the devil, Vidya is
knowledge, and a-Vidya, ignorance or the opposite of knowledge, etc.,
etc.

We will speak of it another time. Meanwhile here is the Legend of

THE BLUE LOTUS

Century after century has passed away since Ambarisha, King of
Ayodhya, reigned in the city founded by the holy Manu, Vaivasvata, the
offspring of the Sun. The King was a Suryavansi (a descendant of the
Solar Race), and he avowed himself a most faithful servant of the God,
Varuna, the greatest and most powerful deity in the Rig-Veda.* But the
god had denied male heirs to his worshipper, and this made the king
very unhappy.

  * It is only much later in the orthodox Pantheon and the symbolical
polytheism of the Brahmans that Varuna became Poseidon or Neptune--
which he is now. In the Vedas he is the most ancient of the Gods,
identical with Ouranos of the Greek, that is to say a personification
of the celestial space and the infinite gods, the creator and ruler of
heaven and earth, the King, the Father and the Master of the world, of
gods and of men. Hesiod's Uranus and the Greek Zeus are one.

"Alas!" he wailed, every morning while performing his puja to the
lesser gods, "alas! What avails it to be the greatest king on earth
when God denies me an heir of my blood. When I am dead and placed on
the funeral pyre, who will fulfil the pious duties of a son, and
shatter my lifeless skull to liberate my soul from its earthly
trammels? What strange hand will at the full moon-tide place the rice
of the Shraddha ceremony to do reverence to my shade? Will not the
very birds of death [Rooks and ravens] themselves turn from the
funeral feast? For, surely, my shade earthbound in its great despair
will not permit them to partake of it."

  * The Shradda is a ceremony observed by the nearest relatives of the
deceased for the nine days following the death. Once upon a time it
was a magical ceremony. Now, however, in addition to other practices,
it mainly consists of scattering balls of cooked rice before the door
of the dead man's house. If the crows promptly eat the rice it is a
sign that the soul is liberated and at rest. If these birds which are
so greedy did not touch the food, it was a proof that the pisacha or
bhut (shade) is present and is preventing them. Undoubtedly the
Shradda is a superstition, but certainly not more so than Novenas or
masses for the Dead.

The King was thus bewailing, when his family priest inspired him with
the idea of making a vow. If God should send him two or more sons, he
would promise God to sacrifice to Him at a public ceremony the eldest
born when he should have attained the age of puberty.

Attracted by this promise of a burnt-offering of flesh--a savory odour
very agreeable to the Great Gods--Varuna accepted the promise of the
King, and the happy Ambarisha had a son, followed by several others.
The eldest son, the heir to the throne for the time being, was called
Rohita (the red) and was surnamed Devarata--which, literally
translated, means God-given. Devarata grew up and soon became a
veritable Prince Charming, but if we are to believe the legends he was
as selfish and deceitful as he was beautiful.

When the Prince had attained the appointed age, the God speaking
through the mouth of the same Court Priest, charged the King to keep
his promise; but when each time Ambarisha invented some excuse to
postpone the hour of sacrifice, the God at last grew annoyed. Being a
jealous and angry God, he threatened the King with all His Divine
wrath.

For a long time, neither commands nor threats produced the desired
effect. As long as there were sacred cows to be transferred from the
royal cowsheds to those of the Brahmans, as long as there was money in
the Treasury to fill the Temple crypts, the Brahmans succeeded in
keeping Varuna quiet. But when there were no more cows, when there was
no more money, the God threatened to overthrow the King, his palace
and his heirs, and if they escaped, to burn them alive. The poor King,
finding himself at the end of his resources, summoned his first-born
and informed him of the fate which awaited him. But Devarata lent a
deaf ear to these tidings. He refused to submit to the double weight
of the paternal and divine will.

So, when the sacrificial fires had been lighted and all the good
towns-folk of Ayodhya had gathered together, full of emotion, the
heir-apparent was absent from the festival.

He had concealed himself in the forests of the Yogis.

Now, these forests had been inhabited by holy hermits, and Devarata
knew that there he would be unassailable and impregnable. He might be
seen there, but no one could do him violence--not even the God Varuna
Himself. It was a simple solution. The religious austerities of the
Aranyakas (the holy men of the forests) several of whom were Daityas
(Titans, a race of giants and demons), gave them such dominance that
all the Gods trembled before their sway and their supernatural
powers--even Varuna, himself.

These antediluvian Yogis, it seems, had the power to destroy even the
God Himself, at will--possibly because they had invented Him
themselves.

Devarata spent several years in the forests; at last he grew tired of
the life. Allowing it to be understood that he could satisfy Varuna by
finding a substitute, who would sacrifice himself in his place,
provided that the sacrificial victim was the son of a Rishi, he
started on his journey and finally discovered that he sought.

In the country which lies around the flower-covered shores of the
renowned Pushkara, there was once a famine, and a very holy man, named
Ajigarta,* was at the point of death from starvation, likewise all his
family. He had several sons of whom the second, Sunahsepha, a virtuous
young man, was himself also preparing to become a Rishi. Taking
advantage of his poverty and thinking with good reason that a hungry
stomach would be a more ready listener than a satisfied one, the
crafty Devarata made the father acquainted with his history. After
this he offered him a hundred cows in exchange for Sunahsepha, a
substitute burnt-offering on the altar of the Gods.

  * Others call him Rishika and call King Ambarisha, Harischandra, the
famous sovereign who was a paragon of all the virtues.

The virtuous father refused at first point-blank, but the gentle
Sunahsepha offered himself of his own accord, and thus addressed his
father: "Of what importance is the life of one man, when it can save
that of many others. This God is a great god and His pity is infinite;
but He is also a very jealous god and His wrath is swift and vengeful.
Varuna is the Lord of Terror, and Death is obedient to His command.
His spirit will not for ever strive with one who is disobedient to
Him. He will repent Him that He has created man, and then will burn
alive a hundred thousand lakhs* of innocent people (*A lakh is a
measure of 100,000, whether men or pieces of money be in question.),
because of one man who is guilty. If His victim should escape Him, He
will surely dry up our rivers, set fire to our lands and destroy our
women who are with child--in His infinite kindness. Let me then
sacrifice myself, oh! my father, in place of this stranger who offers
us a hundred cows. That sum would prevent thee and my brothers from
dying of hunger and will save thousands of others from a terrible
death. At this price the giving up of life is a pleasant thing."

The aged Rishi shed some tears, but he ended by giving his consent and
began to prepare the sacrificial pyre.*

  *Manu (Book X, 105) alluding to this story remarks that Ajigarta,
the holy Rishi, committed no sin in selling the life of his son, since
the sacrifice preserved his life and that of all the family. This
reminds us of another legend, more modern, that might serve as a
parallel to the older one. Did not the Count Ugolino, condemned to die
of starvation in his dungeon, eat his own children "to preserve for
them a father"? The popular legend of Sunahsepha is more beautiful
than the commentary of Manu--evidently an interpolation of some
Brahmans in falsified manuscripts.

The Pushkara lake* was one of the spots of this earth favoured by the
Goddess, Lakshmi-Padma (White Lotus); she often plunged into the fresh
waters that she might visit her eldest sister, Varuni, the consort of
the God Varuna.** Lakshmi-Padma heard the proposal of Devarata,
witnessed the despair of the father, and admired the filial devotion
of Sunahsepha. Filled with pity, the Mother of Love and Compassion
sent for the Rishi Visvamitra, one of the seven primordial Manus and a
son of Brahma, and succeeded in interesting him in the lot of her
protege. The great Rishi promised her his aid. Appearing to
Sunahsepha, but unseen by all others, he taught him two sacred verses
(mantras) of the Rig-Veda, making him promise to recite these on the
pyre. Now, he who utters these two mantras (invocations) forces the
whole assembly of the Gods, with Indra at their head, to come to his
rescue, and because of this becomes a Rishi himself in this life or in
his next incarnation.

  * This lake is sometimes called in our day Pokker. It is I place
famous for a yearly pilgrimage, and is charmingly situated five
English miles from Ajmeer in Rajisthan. Pushkara means "the Blue
Lotus", the surface of the lake being covered as with a carpet with
these beautiful plants. But the legend avers that they were at first
white. Pushkara is also the proper name of a man, and the name of one
of the seven sacred islands in the Geography of the Hindus, the septa
dwipa.

  ** Varuni, Goddess of Heat (later Goddess of Wine) was also born of
the Ocean of Milk. Of the "fourteen precious objects" produced by the
churning, she appeared the second and Lakshmi the last, preceded by
the Chalice of Anmita, the nectar which gives immortality.

The altar was set up on the shore of the lake, the pyre was prepared
and the crowd had assembled. After he had laid his son on the perfumed
sandal wood and bound him, Ajigarta equipped himself with the knife of
sacrifice. He was just raising his trembling arm above the heart of
his well-beloved son, when the boy began to chant the sacred verses.
There was again a moment of hesitation and supreme grief, and as the
boy finished his mantram, the aged Rishi plunged his knife into the
breast of Sunahsepha.

But, oh! the miracle of it! At that very moment Indra, the God of the
Blue Vault (the Universe) issued from the heavens and descended right
into the midst of the ceremony. Enveloping the pyre and the victim in
a thick blue mist, he loosed the ropes which held the youth captive.
It seemed as if a corner of the azure heavens had lowered itself over
the spot, illuminating the whole country and colouring with a golden
blue the whole scene. Filled with terror, the crowd, and even the
Rishi himself, fell on their faces, half dead with fear.

When they came to themselves, the mist had disappeared and a complete
change of scene had been wrought.

The fires of the funeral pyre had rekindled of themselves, and
stretched thereon was seen a hind (Rohit)* which was none else than
the Prince Rohita, Devarata, who, pierced to the heart with the knife
he had directed against another, was burning as a sacrifice for his
sin.

  * A play upon words. Rohit in Sanskrit is the Dame of the female of
the deer, the hind, and Rohita means "red". It was because of his
cowardice and fear of death that he was changed, according to the
legend, into a hind by the Gods.

Some little way apart from the altar, also lying stretched out, but on
a bed of Lotuses, peacefully slept Sunahsepha; and in the place on his
breast where the knife had descended was seen to bloom a beautiful
blue lotus. The Pushkara lake, itself, covered a moment before with
white lotuses, whose petals shone in the sun like silver cups full of
Amrita's waters [The Elixir which confers Immortality.], now reflected
the azure of the heavens--the white lotuses had become blue.

Then like to the sound of the Vina [A species of the Lute. An
instrument, the invention of which is attributed to Shiva.] rising to
the air from the depth of the waters, was heard a melodious voice
which uttered these words and this curse:

"A prince who does not know how to die for his subjects is not worthy
to reign over the children of the Sun. He will be reborn in a race of
red haired peoples, a barbarous and selfish race, and the nations
which descend from him will have a heritage ever on the decline. It is
the younger son of a mendicant ascetic who will become the King and
reign in his stead."

A murmur of approbation set in movement the flowery carpet that
overspread the lake. Opening to the golden sunlight their hearts of
blue, the lotuses smiled with joy and wafted a hymn of perfume to
Surya, their Sun and Master. All nature rejoiced, save Devarata, who
was but a handful of ashes.

Then Visvamitra, the great Rishi, although he was already the father
of a hundred sons, adopted Sunahsepha as his eldest son and as a
precautionary measure cursed in advance anyone who should refuse to
recognise, in the last born of the Rishi, the eldest of his children
and the legitimate heir of the throne of Ambarisha.

Because of this decree, Sunahsepha was born in his next incarnation in
the royal family of Ayodha and reigned over the Solar race for 84,000
years.

With regard to Rohita--Devarata or God-given as he was--he fulfilled
the lot which Lakshmi Padma had vowed. He reincarnated in the family
of a foreigner without caste (Mleccha-Yavana) and became the ancestor
of the barbarous and red-haired races which dwell in the West.

* * * * *

It is for the conversion of these races that the Lotus Bleu has been
established.

If any of our readers should allow themselves to doubt the historical
truth of this adventure of our ancestor; Rohita, and of the
transformation of the white lotus into the blue lotus, they are
invited to make a journey to Ajmeer.

Once there, they need only to go to the shores of the lake thrice
blessed, named Pushkara, where every pilgrim who bathes during the
full moon time of the month of Krhktika (October-November) attains to
the highest sanctity, without other effort. There the sceptics would
see with their own eyes the site where was built the pyre of Rohita,
and also the waters visited by Lakshmi in days of yore.

They might even have seen the blue lotuses, if most of these had not
since been changed, thanks to a new transformation decreed by the
Gods, into sacred crocodiles which no one has the right to disturb. It
is this transformation which gives to nine out of every ten pilgrims
who plunge into the waters of the lake, the opportunity of entering
into Nirvana almost immediately, and also causes the holy crocodiles
to be the most bulky of their kind.



A BEWITCHED LIFE

As Narrated by a Quill Pen


INTRODUCTION

It was a dark, chilly night in September, 1884. A heavy gloom had
descended over the streets of A---, a small town on the Rhine, and was
hanging like a black funeral-pall over the dull factory burgh. The
greater number of its inhabitants, wearied by their long day's work,
had hours before retired to stretch their tired limbs, and lay their
aching heads upon their pillows. All was quiet in the large house; all
was quiet in the deserted streets.

I too was lying in my bed; alas, not one of rest, but of pain and
sickness, to which I had been confined for some days. So still was
everything in the house, that, as Longfellow has it, its stillness
seemed almost audible. I could plainly hear the murmur of the blood as
it rushed through my aching body, producing that monotonous singing so
familiar to one who lends a watchful ear to silence. I had listened to
it until, in my nervous imagination, it had grown into the sound of a
distant cataract, the fall of mighty waters...when, suddenly changing
its character, the evergrowing "singing" merged into other and far
more welcome sounds. It was the low, and at first scarce audible,
whisper of a human voice. It approached, and gradually strengthening
seemed to speak in my very ear. Thus sounds a voice speaking across a
blue quiescent lake, in one of those wondrously acoustic gorges of the
snow-capped mountains, where the air is so pure that a word pronounced
half a mile off seems almost at the elbow. Yes; it was the voice of
one whom to know is to reverence; of one, to me, owing to many mystic
associations, most dear and holy; a voice familiar for long years and
ever welcome; doubly so in hours of mental or physical suffering, for
it always brings with it a ray of hope and consolation.

"Courage," it whispered in gentle, mellow tones. "Think of the days
passed by you in sweet associations; of the great lessons received of
Nature's truths; of the many errors of men concerning these truths;
and try to add to them the experience of a night in this city. Let the
narrative of a strange life, that will interest you, help to shorten
the hours of suffering.....Give your attention. Look yonder before
you!"

"Yonder" meant the clear, large windows of an empty house on the other
side of the narrow street of the German town. They faced my own in
almost a straight line across the street, and my bed faced the windows
of my sleeping room. Obedient to the suggestion, I directed my gaze
towards them, and what I saw made me for the time being forget the
agony of the pain that racked my swollen arm and rheumatical body.

Over the windows was creeping a mist; a dense, heavy, serpentine,
whitish mist, that looked like the huge shadow of a gigantic boa
slowly uncoiling its body. Gradually it disappeared, to leave a
lustrous light, soft and silvery, as though the window-panes behind
reflected a thousand moonbeams, a tropical star-lit sky--first from
outside, then from within the empty rooms. Next I saw the mist
elongating itself and throwing, as it were, a fairy bridge across the
street from the bewitched windows to my own balcony, nay, to my very
own bed. As I continued gazing, the wall and windows and the opposite
house itself, suddenly vanished. The space occupied by the empty rooms
had changed into the interior of another smaller room, in what I knew
to be a Swiss chalet--into a study, whose old, dark walls were covered
from floor to ceiling with book shelves on which were many antiquated
folios, as well as works of a more recent date. In the centre stood a
large old-fashioned table, littered over with manuscripts and writing
materials. Before it, quill-pen in hand, sat an old man; a grim-
looking, skeleton-like personage, with a face so thin, so pale, yellow
and emaciated, that the light of the solitary little student's lamp
was reflected in two shining spots on his high cheekbones, as though
they were carved out of ivory.

As I tried to get a better view of him by slowly raising myself upon
my pillows, the whole vision, chalet and study, desk, books and
scribe, seemed to flicker and move. Once set in motion, they
approached nearer and nearer, until, gliding noiselessly along the
fleecy bridge of clouds across the street, they floated through the
closed windows into my room and finally seemed to settle beside my
bed.

"Listen to what he thinks and is going to write"--said in soothing
tones the same familiar, far off, and yet near voice. "Thus you will
hear a narrative, the telling of which may help to shorten the long
sleepless hours, and even make you forget for a while your
pain...Try!"--it added, using the well-known Rosicrucian and
Kabalistic formula.

I tried, doing as I was bid. I centred all my attention on the
solitary laborious figure that I saw before me, but which did not see
me. At first, the noise of the quill-pen with which the old man was
writing, suggested to my mind nothing more than a low whispered murmur
of a nondescript nature. Then, gradually, my ear caught the indistinct
words of a faint and distant voice, and I thought the figure before
me, bending over its manuscript, was reading its tale aloud instead of
writing it. But I soon found out my error. For casting my gaze at the
old scribe's face, I saw at a glance that his lips were compressed and
motionless, and the voice too thin and shrill to be his voice.
Stranger still at every word traced by the feeble, aged hand, I
noticed a light flashing from under his pen, a bright coloured spark
that became instantaneously a sound, or--what is the same thing--it
seemed to do so to my inner perceptions. It was indeed the small voice
of the quill that I heard though scribe and pen were at the time,
perchance, hundreds of miles away from Germany. Such things will
happen occasionally, especially at night, beneath whose starry shade,
as Byron tells us.

  "...we learn the language of another world..."

However it may be, the words uttered by the quill remained in my
memory for days after. Nor had I any great difficulty in retaining
them, for when I sat down to record the story, I found it, as usual,
indelibly impressed on the astral tablets before my inner eye.

Thus, I had but to copy it and so give it as I received it. I failed
to learn the name of the unknown nocturnal writer. Nevertheless,
though the reader may prefer to regard the whole story as one made up
for the occasion, a dream, perhaps, still its incidents will, I hope,
prove none the less interesting.

I--THE STRANGER'S STORY

My birth-place is a small mountain hamlet, a cluster of Swiss
cottages, hidden deep in a sunny nook, between two tumble-down
glaciers and a peak covered with eternal snows. Thither, thirty-seven
years ago, I returned--crippled mentally and physically--to die, if
death would only have me. The pure, invigorating air of my birth-place
decided otherwise. I am still alive; perhaps for the purpose of giving
evidence to facts I have kept profoundly secret from all--a tale of
horror I would rather hide than reveal. The reason for this
unwillingness on my part is due to my early education, and to
subsequent events that gave the lie to my most cherished prejudices.
Some people might be inclined to regard these events as providential:
I, however, believe in no Providence, and yet am unable to attribute
them to mere chance. I connect them as the ceaseless evolution of
effects, engendered by certain direct causes, with one primary and
fundamental cause, from which ensued all that followed. A feeble old
man am I now, yet physical weakness has in no way impared my mental
faculties. I remember the smallest details of that terrible cause,
which engendered such fatal results. It is these which furnish me with
an additional proof of the actual existence of one whom I fain would
regard--oh, that I could do so!--as a creature born of my fancy, the
evanescent production of a feverish, horrid dream! Oh that terrible,
mild and all-forgiving, that saintly and respected Being! It was that
paragon of all the virtues who embittered my whole existence. It is
he, who, pushing me violently out of the monotonous but secure groove
of daily life, was the first to force upon me the certitude of a life
hereafter, thus adding an additional horror to one already great
enough.

With a view to a clearer comprehension of the situation, I must
interrupt these recollections with a few words about myself. Oh how,
if I could, would I obliterate that hated Self!

Born in Switzerland, of French parents, who centred the whole world-
wisdom in the literary trinity of Voltaire, J. J. Rousseau and
D'Holbach, and educated in a German university, I grew up a thorough
materialist, a confirmed atheist. I could never have even pictured to
myself any beings--least of all a Being--above or even outside visible
nature, as distinguished from her. Hence I regarded everything that
could not be brought under the strictest analysis of the physical
senses as a mere chimera. A soul, I argued, even supposing man has
one, must be material. According to Origen's definition, incorporeus--
the epithet he gave to his God--signifies a substance only more subtle
than that of physical bodies, of which, at best, we can form no
definite idea. How then can that, of which our senses cannot enable us
to obtain any clear knowledge, how can that make itself visible or
produce any tangible manifestations?

Accordingly, I received the tales of nascent Spiritualism with a
feeling of utter contempt, and regarded the overtures made by certain
priests with derision, often akin to anger. And indeed the latter
feeling has never entirely abandoned me.

Pascal, in the eighth Act of his "Thoughts," confesses to a most
complete incertitude upon the existence of God. Throughout my life, I
too professed a complete certitude as to the non-existence of any such
extra-cosmic being, and repeated with that great thinker the memorable
words in which he tells us: "I have examined if this God of whom all
the world speaks might not have left some marks of himself. I look
everywhere, and everywhere I see nothing but obscurity. Nature offers
me nothing that may not be a matter of doubt and inquietude." Nor have
I found to this day anything that might unsettle me in precisely
similar and even stronger feelings. I have never believed, nor shall I
ever believe, in a Supreme Being. But at the potentialities of man,
proclaimed far and wide in the East, powers so developed in some
persons as to make them virtually Gods, at them I laugh no more. My
whole broken life is a protest against such negation. I believe in
such phenomena, and--I curse them, whenever they come, and by
whatsoever means generated.

On the death of my parents, owing to an unfortunate lawsuit, I lost
the greater part of my fortune, and resolved--for the sake of those I
loved best, rather than for my own--to make another for myself. My
elder sister, whom I adored, had married a poor man. I accepted the
offer of a rich Hamburg firm and sailed for Japan as its junior
partner.

For several years my business went on successfully. I got into the
confidence of many influential Japanese, through whose protection I
was enabled to travel and transact business in many localities, which,
in those days especially, were not easily accessible to foreigners.
Indifferent to every religion, I became interested in the philosophy
of Buddhism, the only religious system I thought worthy of being
called philosophical. Thus, in my moments of leisure, I visited the
most remarkable temples of Japan, the most important and curious of
the ninety-six Buddhist monasteries of Kioto. I have examined in turn
Day--Bootzoo, with its gigantic bell; Tzeonene, Enarino-Yassero, Kie-
Missoo, Higadzi-Hong-Vonsi, and many other famous temples.

Several years passed away, and during that whole period I was not
cured of my scepticism, nor did I ever contemplate having my opinions
on this subject altered. I derided the pretensions of the Japanese
bonzes and ascetics, as I had those of Christian priests and European
Spiritualists. I could not believe in the acquisition of powers
unknown to, and never studied by, men of science; hence I scoffed at
all such ideas. The superstitious and atrabilious Buddhist, teaching
us to shun the pleasures of life, to put to rout one's passions, to
render oneself insensible alike to happiness and suffering, in order
to acquire such chimerical powers--seemed supremely ridiculous in my
eyes.

On a day ever memorable to me--a fatal day--I made the acquaintance of
a venerable and learned Bonze, a Japanese priest, named Tamoora
Hideyeri. I met him at the foot of the golden Kwon-On, and from that
moment he became my best and most trusted friend. Notwithstanding my
great and genuine regard for him, however, whenever a good opportunity
was offered I never failed to mock his religious convictions, thereby
very often hurting his feelings.

But my old friend was as meek and forgiving as any true Buddhist's
heart might desire. He never resented my impatient sarcasms, even when
they were, to say the least, of equivocal propriety, and generally
limited his replies to the "wait and see" kind of protest. Nor could
he be brought to seriously believe in the sincerity of my denial of
the existence of any God or Gods. The full meaning of the terms
"atheism" and "scepticism" was beyond the comprehension of his
otherwise extremely intellectual and acute mind. Like certain
reverential Christians, he seemed incapable of realizing that any man
of sense should prefer the wise conclusions arrived at by philosophy
and modern science to a ridiculous belief in an invisible world full
of Gods and spirits, dzins and demons. "Man is a spiritual being," he
insisted, "who returns to earth more than once, and is rewarded or
punished in the between times." The proposition that man is nothing
else but a heap of organized dust, was beyond him. Like Jeremy
Collier, he refused to admit that he was no better than "a stalking
machine, a speaking head without a soul in it," whose "thoughts" are
all bound by the laws of motion. "For," he argued, "if my actions
were, as you say, prescribed beforehand, and I had no more liberty or
free will to change the course of my action than the running waters of
the river yonder, then the glorious doctrine of Karma, of merit and
demerit, would be a foolishness indeed."

Thus the whole of my hyper-metaphysical friend's ontology rested on
the shaky superstructure of metempsychosis, of a fancied "just" Law of
Retribution, and other such equally absurd dreams.

"We cannot," said he paradoxically one day, "hope to live hereafter in
the full enjoyment of our consciousness, unless we have built for it
beforehand a firm and solid foundation of spirituality.....Nay, laugh
not, friend of no faith," he meekly pleaded, "but rather think and
reflect on this. One who has never taught himself to live in Spirit
during his conscious and responsible life on earth, can hardly hope to
enjoy a sentient existence after death, when, deprived of his body, he
is limited to that Spirit alone."

"What can you mean by life in Spirit?"--I enquired.

"Life on a spiritual plane; that which the Buddhists call Tushita
Devaloka (Paradise). Man can create such a blissful existence for
himself between two births, by the gradual transference on to that
plane of all the faculties which during his sojourn on earth manifest
through his organic body and, as you call it, animal brain."

"How absurd! And how can man do this?"

"Contemplation and a strong desire to assimilate the blessed Gods,
will enable him to do so."

"And if man refuses this intellectual occupation, by which you mean, I
suppose, the fixing of the eyes on the tip of his nose, what becomes
of him after the death of his body?" was my mocking question.

"He will be dealt with according to the prevailing state of his
consciousness, of which there are many grades. At best--immediate
rebirth; at worst--the state of avitchi, a mental hell. Yet one need
not be an ascetic to assimilate spiritual life which will extend to
the hereafter. All that is required is to try and approach Spirit."

"How so? Even when disbelieving in it?"--I rejoined.

"Even so! One may disbelieve and yet harbour in one's nature room for
doubt, however small that room may be, and thus try one day, were it
but for one moment, to open the door of the inner temple; and this
will prove sufficient for the purpose."

"You are decidedly poetical, and paradoxical to boot, reverend sir.
Will you kindly explain to me a little more of the mystery?"

"There is none; still I am willing. Suppose for a moment that some
unknown temple to which you have never been before, and the existence
of which you think you have reasons to deny, is the 'spiritual plane'
of which I am speaking. Some one takes you by the hand and leads you
towards its entrance, curiosity makes you open its door and look
within. By this simple act, by entering it for one second, you have
established an everlasting connection between your consciousness and
the temple. You cannot deny its existence any longer, nor obliterate
the fact of your having entered it. And according to the character and
the variety of your work, within its holy precincts, so will you live
in it after your consciousness is severed from its dwelling of flesh."

"What do you mean? And what has my after-death consciousness--if such
a thing exists--to do with the temple?"

"It has everything to do with it," solemnly rejoined the old man.
"There can be no self-consciousness after death outside the temple of
spirit. That which you will have done within its plane will alone
survive. All the rest is false and an illusion. It is doomed to perish
in the Ocean of Maya."

Amused at the idea of living outside one's body, I urged on my old
friend to tell me more. Mistaking my meaning the venerable man
willingly consented.

Tamoora Hideyeri belonged to the great temple of Tzionene, a Buddhist
monastery, famous not only in all Japan, but also throughout Tibet and
China. No other is so venerated in Kioto. Its monks belong to the sect
of Dzeno-doo, and are considered as the most learned among the many
erudite fraternities. They are, moreover, closely connected and allied
with the Yamabooshi (the ascetics, or hermits), who follow the
doctrines of Lao-tze. No wonder, that at the slightest provocation on
my part the priest flew into the highest metaphysics, hoping thereby
to cure me of my infidelity.

No use repeating here the long rigmarole of the most hopelessly
involved and incomprehensible of all doctrines. According to his
ideas, we have to train ourselves for spirituality in another world--
as for gymnastics. Carrying on the analogy between the temple and the
"spiritual plane" he tried to illustrate his idea. He had himself
worked in the temple of Spirit two-thirds of his life, and given
several hours daily to "contemplation." Thus he knew that after he had
laid aside his mortal casket, "a mere illusion," he explained--he
would in his spiritual consciousness live over again every feeling of
ennobling joy and divine bliss he had ever had, or ought to have had--
only a hundredfold intensified. His work on the spirit-plane had been
considerable, he said, and he hoped, therefore that the wages of the
labourer would prove proportionate.

"But suppose the labourer, as in the example you have just brought
forward in my case, should have no more, than opened the temple door
out of mere curiosity; had only peeped into the sanctuary never to set
his foot therein again. What then?"

"Then," he answered, "you would have only this short minute to record
in your future self-consciousness and no more. Our life hereafter
records and repeats but the impressions and feelings we have had in
our spiritual experiences and nothing else. Thus, if instead of
reverence at the moment of entering the abode of Spirit, you had been
harbouring in your heart anger, jealousy or grief, then your future
spiritual life would be a sad one, in truth. There would be nothing to
record, save the opening of a door, in a fit of bad temper."

"How then could it be repeated?"--I insisted, highly amused. "What do
you suppose I would be doing before incarnating again?"

"In that case," he said speaking slowly and weighing every word--"in
that case, you would have I fear, only to open and shut the temple
door, over and over again, during a period which, however short, would
seem to you an eternity."

This kind of after-death occupation appeared to me, at that time, so
grotesque in its sublime absurdity, that I was seized with an almost
inextinguishable fit of laughter.

My venerable friend looked considerably dismayed at such a result of
his metaphysical instruction. He had evidently not expected such
hilarity. However, he said nothing, but only sighed and gazed at me
with increased benevolence and pity shining in his small black eyes.

"Pray excuse my laughter," I apologized. "But really, now, you cannot
seriously mean to tell me that the 'spiritual state' you advocate and
so firmly believe in, consists only in aping certain things we do in
life?"

"Nay, nay; not aping, but only intensifying their repetition; filling
the gaps that were unjustly left unfilled during life in the fruition
of our acts and deeds, and of everything performed on the spiritual
plane of the one real state. What I said was an illustration, and no
doubt for you, who seem entirely ignorant of the mysteries of Soul-
Vision, not a very intelligible one. It is myself who am to be
blamed.....What I sought to impress upon you was that, as the
spiritual state of our consciousness liberated from its body is but
the fruition of every spiritual act performed during life, where an
act had been barren, there could be no results expected--save the
repetition of that act itself. This is all. I pray you may be spared
such fruitless deeds and finally made to see certain truths." And
passing through the usual Japanese courtesies of taking leave the
excellent man departed.

Alas, alas! had I but known at the time what I have learnt since, how
little would I have laughed, and how much more would I have learned!

But as the matter stood, the more personal affection and respect I
felt for him, the less could I become reconciled to his wild ideas
about an after-life, and especially as to the acquisition by some men
of supernatural powers. I felt particularly disgusted with his
reverence for the Yamabooshi, the allies of every Buddhist sect in the
land. Their claims to the "miraculous" were simply odious to my
notions. To hear every Jap I knew at Kioto, even to my own partner,
the shrewdest of all the business men I had come across in the East--
mentioning these followers of Lao-tze with downcast eyes,
reverentially folded hands, and affirmations of their possessing
"great" and "wonderful" gifts, was more than I was prepared to
patiently tolerate in those days. And who were they, after all, these
great magicians with their ridiculous pretensions to super-mundane
knowledge; these "holy beggars" who, as I then thought, purposely
dwell in the recesses of unfrequented mountains and an unapproachable
craggy steeps, so as the better to afford no chance to curious
intruders of finding them out and watching them in their own dens?
Simply, impudent fortune-tellers, Japanese gypsies who sell charms and
talismans, and no better. In answer to those who sought to assure me
that though the Yamabooshi lead a mysterious life, admitting none of
the profane to their secrets, they still do accept pupils, however
difficult it is for one to become their disciple, and that thus they
have living witnesses to the great purity and sanctity of their lives,
in answer to such affirmations I opposed the strongest negation and
stood firmly by it. I insulted both masters and pupils, classing them
under the same category of fools, when not knaves, and I went so far
as to include in this number the Sintos. Now Sintoism or Sin-Syu,
"faith in the Gods, and in the way to the Gods," that is, belief in
the communication between these creatures and men, is a kind of
worship of nature-spirits, than which nothing can be more miserably
absurd. And by placing the Sintos among the fools and knaves of other
sects, I gained many enemies. For the Sinto Kanusi (spiritual
teachers) are looked upon as the highest in the upper classes of
Society, the Mikado himself being at the head of their hierarchy and
the members of the sect belonging to the most cultured and educated
men in Japan. These Kanusi of the Sinto form no caste or class apart,
nor do they pass any ordination--at any rate none known to outsiders.
And as they claim publicly no special privilege or powers, even their
dress being in no wise different from that of the laity, but are
simply in the world's opinion professors and students of occult and
spiritual sciences, I very often came in contact with them without in
the least suspecting that I was in the presence of such personages.

II--THE MYSTERIOUS VISITOR

Years passed; and as time went by, my ineradicable scepticism grew
stronger and waxed fiercer every day. I have already mentioned an
elder and much-beloved sister, my only surviving relative. She had
married and had lately gone to live at Nuremberg. I regarded her with
feelings more filial than fraternal, and her children were as dear to
me as might have been my own. At the time of the great catastrophe
that in the course of a few days had made my father lose his large
fortune, and my mother break her heart, she it was, that sweet big
sister of mine, who had made herself of her own accord the guardian
angel of our ruined family. Out of her great love for me, her younger
brother, for whom she attempted to replace the professors that could
no longer be afforded, she had renounced her own happiness. She
sacrificed herself and the man she loved, by indefinitely postponing
their marriage, in order to help our father and chiefly myself by her
undivided devotion. And, oh, how I loved and reverenced her, time but
strengthening this earliest family affection! They who maintain that
no atheist, as such, can be a true friend, an affectionate relative,
or a loyal subject, utter--whether consciously or unconsciously--the
greatest calumny and lie. To say that a materialist grows hard-hearted
as he grows older, that he cannot love as a believer does, is simply
the greatest fallacy.

There may be such exceptional cases, it is true, but these are found
only occasionally in men who are even more selfish than they are
sceptical, or vulgarly worldly. But when a man who is kindly disposed
in his nature, for no selfish motives but because of reason and love
of truth, becomes what is called atheistical, he is only strengthened
in his family affections, and in his sympathies with his fellow men.
All his emotions, all the ardent aspirations towards the unseen and
unreachable, all the love which he would otherwise have uselessly
bestowed on a supposititional heaven and its God, become now centred
with tenfold force upon his loved ones and mankind. Indeed, the
atheist's heart alone---

 ...can know.

  What secret tides of still enjoyment flow When brothers love...

It was such holy fraternal love that led me also to sacrifice my
comfort and personal welfare to secure her happiness, the felicity of
her who had been more than a mother to me. I was a mere youth when I
left home for Hamburg. There, working with all the desperate
earnestness of a man who has but one noble object in view--to relieve
suffering, and help those whom he loves--I very soon secured the
confidence of my employers, who raised me in consequence to the high
post of trust I always enjoyed. My first real pleasure and reward in
life was to see my sister married to the man she had sacrificed for my
sake, and to help them in their struggle for existence.

So purifying and unselfish was this affection of mine for her that,
when it came to be shared among her children, instead of losing in
intensity by such division, it seemed to only grow the stronger. Born
with the potentiality of the warmest family affection in me, the
devotion for my sister was so great, that the thought of burning that
sacred fire of love before any idol, save that of herself and family,
never entered my head. This was the only, church I recognized, the
only church wherein I worshipped at the altar of holy family
affection. In fact this large family of eleven persons, including her
husband, was the only tie that attached me to Europe. Twice, during a
period of nine years, had I crossed the ocean with the sole object of
seeing and pressing these dear ones to my heart. I had no other
business in the West; and having performed this pleasant duty, I
returned each time to Japan to work and toil for them. For their sake
I remained a bachelor, that the wealth I might acquire should go
undivided to them alone.

We had always corresponded as regularly as the long transit of the
then very irregular service of the mail-boats would permit. But
suddenly there came a break in my letters from home. For nearly a year
I received no intelligence; and day by day, I became more restless,
more apprehensive of some great misfortune. Vainly I looked for a
letter, a simple message; and my efforts to account for so unusual a
silence were fruitless.

"Friend," said to me one day Tamoora Hideyeri, my only confidant,
"Friend, consult a holy Yamabooshi--and you will feel at rest."

Of course the offer was rejected with as much moderation as I could
command under the provocation. But, as steamer after steamer came in
without a word of news, I felt a despair which daily increased in
depth and fixity. This finally degenerated into an irrepressible
craving, a morbid desire to learn--the worst, as I then thought. I
struggled hard with the feeling, but it had the best of me. Only a few
months before a complete master of myself--I now became an abject
slave to fear. A fatalist of the school of D'Holbach, I, who had
always regarded belief in the system of necessity as being the only
promoter of philosophical happiness, and as having the most
advantageous influence over human weaknesses, I felt a craving for
something akin to fortune-telling! I had gone so far as to forget the
first principle of my doctrine--the only one calculated to calm our
sorrows, to inspire us with a useful submission, namely a rational
resignation to the decrees of blind destiny, with which foolish
sensibility causes us so often to be overwhelmed--the doctrine that
all is necessary. Yes; forgetting this, I was drawn into a shameful,
superstitious longing, a stupid, disgraceful desire to learn--if not
futurity, at any rate that which was taking place at the other side of
the globe. My conduct seemed utterly modified, my temperament and
aspirations wholly changed; and like a weak, nervous girl, I caught
myself straining my mind to the very verge of lunacy in an attempt to
look--as I had been told one could sometimes do--beyond the oceans,
and learn, at last, the real cause of this long, inexplicable silence!

One evening, at sunset, my old friend, the venerable Bonze, Tamoora,
appeared on the verandah of my low wooden house. I had not visited him
for many days, and he had come to know how I was. I took the
opportunity to once more sneer at one, whom, in reality, I regarded
with most affectionate respect. With equivocal taste for which I
repented almost before the words had been pronounced--I enquired of
him why he had taken the trouble to walk all that distance when he
might have learned anything he liked about me by simply interrogating
a Yamabooshi? He seemed a little hurt, at first; but after keenly
scrutinizing my dejected face, he mildly remarked that he could only
insist upon what he had advised before. Only one of that holy order
could give me consolation in my present state.

From that instant, an insane desire possessed me to challenge him to
prove his assertions. I defied--I said to him--any and every one of
his alleged magicians to tell me the name of the person I was thinking
of, and what he was doing at that moment. He quietly answered that my
desire could be easily satisfied. There was a Yamabooshi two doors
from me, visiting a sick Sinto. He would fetch him--if I only said the
word.

I said it and from the moment of its utterance my doom was sealed.

How shall I find words to describe the scene that followed! Twenty
minutes after the desire had been so incautiously expressed, an old
Japanese, uncommonly tall and majestic for one of that race, pale,
thin and emaciated, was standing before me. There, where I had
expected to find servile obsequiousness, I only discerned an air of
calm and dignified composure, the attitude of one who knows his moral
superiority, and therefore scorns to notice the mistakes of those who
fail to recognize it. To the somewhat irreverent and mocking
questions, which I put to him one after another, with feverish
eagerness, he made no reply; but gazed on me in silence as a physician
would look at a delirious patient. From the moment he fixed--his eyes
on mine, I felt--or shall I say, saw--as though it were a sharp ray of
light, a thin silvery thread, shoot out from the intensely black and
narrow eyes so deeply sunk in the yellow old face. It seemed to
penetrate into my brain and heart like an arrow, and set to work to
dig out, there from every thought and feeling. Yes; I both saw and
felt it, and very soon the double sensation became intolerable.

To break the spell I defied him to tell me what he had found in my
thoughts. Calmly came the correct answer--Extreme anxiety for a female
relative, her husband and children, who were inhabiting a house the
correct description of which he gave as though he knew it as well as
myself. I turned a suspicious eye upon my friend, the Bonze, to whose
indiscretions, I thought, I was indebted for the quick reply.
Remembering however that Tamoora could know nothing of the appearance
of my sister's house, that the Japanese are proverbially truthful and,
as friends, faithful to death--I felt ashamed of my suspicion. To
atone for it before my own conscience I asked the hermit whether he
could tell me anything of the present state of that beloved sister of
mine. The foreigner--was the reply--would never believe in the words,
or trust to the knowledge of any person but himself. Were the
Yamabooshi to tell him, the impression would wear out hardly a few
hours later, and the inquirer find himself as miserable as before.
There was but one means; and that was to make the foreigner (myself)
see with his own eyes, and thus learn the truth for himself. Was the
enquirer ready to be placed by a Yamabooshi, a stranger to him, in the
required state?

I had heard in Europe of mesmerized somnambules and pretenders to
clairvoyance, and having no faith in them, I had, therefore, nothing
against the process itself. Even in the midst of my never-ceasing
mental agony, I could not help smiling at the ridiculous nature of the
operation I was willingly submitting to. Nevertheless I silently bowed
consent.

III--PSYCHIC MAGIC

The old Yamabooshi lost no time. He looked at the setting sun, and
finding, probably, the Lord Ten-Dzio-Dai-Dzio (the Spirit who darts
his Rays) propitious for the coming ceremony, he speedily drew out a
little bundle. It contained a small lacquered box, a piece of
vegetable paper, made from the bark of the mulberry tree, and a pen,
with which he traced upon the paper a few sentences in the Naiden
character--a peculiar style of written language used only for
religious and mystical purposes. Having finished, he exhibited from
under his clothes a small round mirror of steel of extraordinary
brilliancy, and placing it before my eyes asked me to look into it.

I had not only heard before of these mirrors, which are frequently
used in the temples, but I had often seen them. It is claimed that
under the direction and will of instructed priests, there appear in
them the Daij-Dzin, the great spirits who notify the enquiring
devotees of their fate. I first imagined that his intention was to
evoke such a spirit, who would answer my queries. What happened,
however, was something of quite a different character.

No sooner had I, not without a last pang of mental squeamishness,
produced by a deep sense of my own absurd position, touched the
mirror, than I suddenly felt a strange sensation in the arm of the
hand that held it. For a brief moment I forgot to "sit in the seat of
the scorner" and failed to look at the matter from a ludicrous point
of view. Was it fear that suddenly clutched my brain, for an instant
paralyzing its activity---

 ...that fear when the heart longs to know.

  what it is death to hear?

No; for I still had consciousness enough left to go on persuading
myself that nothing would come out of an experiment, in the nature of
which no sane man could ever believe. What was it then, that crept
across my brain like a living thing of ice, producing therein a
sensation of horror, and then clutched at my heart as if a deadly
serpent had fastened its fangs into it? With a convulsive jerk of the
hand I dropped the--I blush to write the adjective--"magic" mirror,
and could not force myself to pick it up from the settee on which I
was reclining. For one short moment there was a terrible struggle
between some undefined, and to me utterly inexplicable, longing to
look into the depths of the polished surface of the mirror and my
pride, the ferocity of which nothing seemed capable of taming. It was
finally so tamed, however, its revolt being conquered by its own
defiant intensity. There was an opened novel lying on a lacquer table
near the settee, and as my eyes happened to fall upon its pages, I
read the words, "The veil which covers futurity is woven by the hand
of mercy." This was enough. That same pride which had hitherto held me
back from what I regarded as a degrading, superstitious experiment,
caused me to challenge my fate. I picked up the ominously shining disk
and prepared to look into it.

While I was examining the mirror, the Yamabooshi hastily spoke a few
words to the Bonze, Tamoora, at which I threw a furtive and suspicious
glance at both. I was wrong once more.

"The holy man desires me to put you a question and give you at the
same time a warning," remarked the Bonze. "If you are willing to see
for yourself now, you will have--under the penalty of seeing for ever,
in the hereafter, all that is taking place, at whatever distance, and
that against your will or inclination--to submit to a regular course
of purification, after you have learnt what you want through the
mirror."

"What is this course, and what have I to promise?" I asked defiantly.

"It is for your own good. You must promise him to submit to the
process, lest, for the rest of his life, he should have to hold
himself responsible, before his own conscience, for having made an
irresponsible seer of you. Will you do so, friend?"

"There will be time enough to think of it, if I see anything"--I
sneeringly replied, adding under my breath--"something I doubt a good
deal, so far."

"Well you are warned, friend. The consequences will now remain with
yourself," was the solemn answer.

I glanced at the clock, and made a gesture of impatience, which was
remarked and understood by the Yamabooshi. It was just seven minutes
after five.

"Define well in your mind what you would see and learn," said the
"conjuror," placing the mirror and paper in my hands, and instructing
me how to use them.

His instructions were received by me with more impatience than
gratitude; and for one short instant, I hesitated again. Nevertheless,
I replied, while fixing the mirror.

"I desire but one thing--to learn the reason or reasons why my sister
has so suddenly ceased writing to me.". . .

Had I pronounced these words in reality, and in the hearing of the two
witnesses, or had I only thought them? To this day I cannot decide the
point. I now remember but one thing distinctly: while I sat gazing in
the mirror, the Yamabooshi kept gazing at me. But whether this process
lasted half a second or three hours, I have never since been able to
settle in my mind with any degree of satisfaction. I can recall every
detail of the scene up to that moment when I took up the mirror with
the left hand, holding the paper inscribed with the mystic characters
between the thumb and finger of the right, when all of a sudden I
seemed to quite lose consciousness of the surrounding objects. The
passage from the active waking state to one that I could compare with
nothing I had ever experienced before, was so rapid, that while my
eyes had ceased to perceive external objects and had completely lost
sight of the Bonze, the Yamabooshi, and even of my room, I could
nevertheless distinctly see the whole of my head and my back, as I sat
leaning forward with the mirror in my hand. Then came a strong
sensation or an involuntary rush forward, of snapping off, so to say,
from my place--I had almost said from my body. And, then, while every
one of my other senses had become totally paralyzed, my eyes, as I
thought, unexpectedly caught a clearer and far more vivid glimpse than
they had ever had in reality, of my sister's new house at Nuremberg,
which I had never visited and knew only from a sketch, and other
scenery with which I had never been very familiar. Together with this,
and while feeling in my brain what seemed like flashes of a departing
consciousness--dying persons must feel so, no doubt--the very last,
vague thought, so weak as to have been hardly perceptible, was that I
must look very, very ridiculous...This feeling--for such it was rather
than a thought--was interrupted, suddenly extinguished, so to say, by
a clear mental vision (I cannot characterize it otherwise) of myself,
of that which I regarded as, and knew to be my body, lying with ashy
cheeks on a settee, dead to all intents and purposes, but still
staring with the cold and glassy eyes of a corpse into the mirror.
Bending over it, with his two emaciated hands cutting the air in every
direction over its white face, stood the tall figure of the
Yamabooshi, for whom I felt at that instant an inextinguishable,
murderous hatred. As I was going, in thought, to pounce upon the vile
charlatan, my corpse, the two old men, the room itself, and every
object in it, trembled and danced in a reddish glowing light, and
seemed to float rapidly away from "me." A few more grotesque,
distorted shadows before "my" sight; and, with a last feeling of
terror and a supreme effort to realize who then was I now, since I was
not that corpse--a great veil of darkness fell over me, like a funeral
pall, and every thought in me was dead.

IV--A VISION OF HORROR

How strange! ... Where was I now? It was evident to me that I had once
more returned to my senses. For there I was, vividly realizing that I
was rapidly moving forward, while experiencing a queer, strange
sensation as though I were swimming, without impulse or effort on my
part, and in total darkness. The idea that first presented itself to
me was that of a long subterranean passage of water, of earth, and
stifling air, though bodily I had no perception, no sensation, of the
presence or contact of any of these. I tried to utter a few words, to
repeat my last sentence, "I desire but one thing: to learn the reason
or reasons why my sister has so suddenly ceased writing to me"--but
the only words I heard out of the twenty-one, were the two, "to
learn," and these, instead of their coming out of my own larynx, came
back to me in my own voice, but entirely outside myself, near, but not
in me. In short, they were pronounced by my voice, not by my lips...

One more rapid, involuntary motion, one more plunge into the Cymmerian
darkness of a (to me) unknown element, and I saw myself standing--
actually standing underground, as it seemed. I was compactly and
thickly surrounded on all sides, above and below, right and left, with
earth, and in the mould, and yet it weighed not, and seemed quite
immaterial and transparent to my senses. I did not realize for one
second the utter absurdity, nay, impossibility of that seeming fact!
One second more, one short instant, and I perceived--oh, inexpressible
horror, when I think of it now; for then, although I perceived,
realized, and recorded facts and events far more clearly than ever I
had done before, I did not seem to be touched in any other way by what
I saw. Yes--I perceived a coffin at my feet. It was a plain,
unpretentious shell, made of deal, the last couch of the pauper, in
which, notwithstanding its closed lid, I plainly saw a hideous,
grinning skull, a man's skeleton, mutilated and broken in many of its
parts, as though it had been taken out of some hidden chamber of the
defunct Inquisition, where it had been subjected to torture. "Who can
it be?"--I thought.

At this moment I heard again proceeding from afar the same voice--my
voice... "the reason or reasons why" ... it said; as though these
words were the unbroken continuation of the same sentence of which it
had just repeated the two words "to learn." It sounded near, and yet
as from some incalculable distance; giving me then the idea that the
long subterranean journey, the subsequent mental reflexions and
discoveries, had occupied no time; had been performed during the
short, almost instantaneous interval between the first and the middle
words of the sentence, begun, at any rate, if not actually pronounced
by myself in my room at Kioto, and which it was now finishing, in
interrupted, broken phrases, like a faithful echo of my own words and
voice...

Forthwith, the hideous, mangled remains began assuming a form, and, to
me, but too familiar appearance. The broken parts joined together one
to the other, the bones became covered once more with flesh, and I
recognized in these disfigured remains--with some surprise, but not a
trace of feeling at the sight--my sister's dead husband, my own
brother-in-law, whom I had for her sake loved so truly. "How was it,
and how did he come to die such a terrible death?"--I asked myself. To
put oneself a query seemed, in the state in which I was, to instantly
solve it. Hardly had I asked myself the question, when as if in a
panorama, I saw the retrospective picture of poor Karl's death, in all
its horrid vividness, and with every thrilling detail, every one of
which, however, left me then entirely and brutally indifferent. Here
he is, the dear old fellow, full of life and joy at the prospect of
more lucrative employment from his principal, examining and trying in
a wood-sawing factory a monster steam engine just arrived from
America. He bends over, to examine more closely an inner arrangement,
to tighten a screw. His clothes are caught by the teeth of the
revolving wheel in full motion, and suddenly he is dragged down,
doubled up, and his limbs half severed, torn off, before the workmen,
unacquainted with the mechanism, can stop it. He is taken out, or what
remains of him, dead, mangled, a thing of horror, an unrecognisable
mass of palpitating flesh and blood! I follow the remains, wheeled as
an unrecognizable heap to the hospital, hear the brutally given order
that the messengers of death should stop on their way at the house of
the widow and orphans. I follow them, and find the unconscious family
quietly assembled together. I see my sister, the dear and beloved, and
remain indifferent at the sight, only feeling highly interested in the
coming scene. My heart, my feelings, even my personality, seem to have
disappeared, to have been left behind, to belong to somebody else.

There "I" stand, and witness her unprepared reception of the ghastly
news. I realize clearly, without one moment's hesitation or mistake,
the effect of the shock upon her, I perceive clearly, following and
recording, to the minutest detail, her sensations and the inner
process that takes place in her. I watch and remember, missing not one
single point.

As the corpse is brought into the house for identification I hear the
long agonizing cry, my own name pronounced, and the dull thud of the
living body falling upon the remains of the dead one. I followed with
curiosity the sudden thrill and the instantaneous perturbation in her
brain that follow it, and watch with attention the worm-like,
precipitate, and immensely intensified motion of the tubular fibres,
the instantaneous change of colour in the cephalic extremity of the
nervous system, the fibrous nervous matter passing from white to
bright red and then to a dark red, bluish hue. I notice the sudden
flash of a phosphorous-like, brilliant Radiance, its tremor and its
sudden extinction followed by darkness--complete darkness in the
region of memory--as the Radiance, comparable in its form only to a
human shape, oozes out suddenly from the top of the head, expands,
loses its form and scatters. And I say to myself: "This is insanity;
life-long, incurable insanity, for the principle of intelligence is
not paralyzed or extinguished temporarily, but has just deserted the
tabernacle for ever, ejected from it by the terrible force of the
sudden blow ... The link between the animal and the divine essence is
broken" ... And as the unfamiliar term "divine" is mentally uttered my
"THOUGHT"--laughs.

Suddenly I hear again my far-off yet near voice pronouncing
emphatically and close by me the words... "why my sister has so
suddenly ceased writing"... And before the two final words "to me"
have completed the sentence, I see a long series of sad events,
immediately following the catastrophe.

I behold the mother, now a helpless, grovelling idiot, in the lunatic
asylum attached to the city hospital, the seven younger children
admitted into a refuge for paupers. Finally I see the two elder, a boy
of fifteen and a girl a year younger, my favourites, both taken by
strangers into their service. A captain of a sailing vessel carries
away my nephew, an old Jewess adopts the tender girl. I see the events
with all their horrors and thrilling details, and record each, to the
smallest detail, with the utmost coolness.

For, mark well: when I use such expressions as horrors etc., they are
to be understood as an afterthought. During the whole time of the
events described I experienced no sensation of either pain or pity. My
feelings seemed to be paralyzed as well as my external senses; it was
only after "coming back" that I realized my irretrievable losses to
their full extent.

Much of that which I had so vehemently denied in those days, owing to
sad personal experience I have to admit now. Had I been told by any
one at that time, that man could act and think and feel, irrespective
of his brain and senses; nay, that by some mysterious, and to this
day, for me, incomprehensible power, he could be transported mentally,
thousands of miles away from his body, there to witness not only
present but also past events, and remember these by storing them in
his memory--I would have proclaimed that man as a madman. Alas, I can
do so no longer, for I have become myself that "madman." Ten, twenty,
forty, a hundred times during the course of this wretched life of
mine, have I experienced and lived over such moments of existence,
outside of my body. Accursed be that hour when this terrible power was
first awakened in me! I have not even the consolation left of
attributing such glimpses of events at a distance to insanity. Madmen
rave and see that which exists not in the realm they belong to. My
visions have proved invariably correct. But to my narrative of woe.

I had hardly had time to see my unfortunate young niece in her new
Israelitish home, when I felt a shock of the same nature as the one
that had sent me "swimming" through the bowels of the earth, as I had
thought. I opened my eyes in my own room, and the first thing I fixed
upon, by accident, was the clock. The hands of the dial showed seven
minutes and a half past five!... I had thus passed through these most
terrible experiences which it takes me hours to narrate, in precisely
half a minute of time!

But this, too, was an afterthought. For one brief instant I
recollected nothing of what I had seen. The interval between the time
I had glanced at the clock when taking the mirror from the
Yamabooshi's hand and this second glance, seemed to me merged in one.
I was just opening my lips to hurry on the Yamabooshi with his
experiment, when the full remembrance of what I had just seen flashed
lightning--like into my brain. Uttering a cry of horror and despair, I
felt as though the whole creation were crushing me under its weight.
For one moment I remained speechless, the picture of human ruin amid a
world of death and desolation. My heart sank down in anguish: my doom
was closed; and a hopeless gloom seemed to settle over the rest of my
life for ever.

V--RETURN OF DOUBTS

Then came a reaction as sudden as my grief itself. A doubt arose in my
mind, which forthwith grew into a fierce desire of denying the truth
of what I had seen. A stubborn resolution of treating the whole thing
as an empty, meaningless dream, the effect of my overstrained mind,
took possession of me. Yes; it was but a lying vision, an idiotic
cheating of my own senses, suggesting pictures of death and misery
which had been evoked by weeks of incertitude and mental depression.

"How could I see all that I have seen in less than half a minute?"--I
exclaimed. "The theory of dreams, the rapidity with which the material
changes on which our ideas in vision depend, are excited in the
hemispherical ganglia, is sufficient to account for the long series of
events I have seemed to experience. In dream alone can the relations
of space and time be so completely annihilated. The Yamabooshi is for
nothing in this disagreeable nightmare. He is only reaping that which
has been sown by myself, and, by using some infernal drug, of which
his tribe have the secret, he has contrived to make me lose
consciousness for a few seconds and see that vision--as lying as it is
horrid. Avaunt all such thoughts, I believe them not. In a few days
there will be a steamer sailing for Europe ... I shall leave to-
morrow!"

This disjointed monologue was pronounced by me aloud, regardless of
the presence of my respected friend the Bonze, Tamoora, and the
Yamabooshi. The latter was standing before me in the same position as
when he placed the mirror in my hands, and kept looking at me calmly,
I should perhaps say looking through me, and in dignified silence. The
Bonze, whose kind countenance was beaming with sympathy, approached me
as he would a sick child, and gently laying his hand on mine, and with
tears in his eyes, said: "Friend, you must not leave this city before
you have been completely purified of your contact with the lower Daij-
Dzins (spirits), who had to be used to guide your inexperienced soul
to the places it craved to see. The entrance to your Inner Self must
be closed against their dangerous intrusion. Lose no time, therefore,
my Son, and allow the holy Master, yonder, to purify you at once."

But nothing can be more deaf than anger once aroused. "The sap of
reason" could no longer "quench the fire of passion," and at that
moment I was not fit to listen to his friendly voice. His is a face I
can never recall to my memory without genuine feeling; his, a name I
will ever pronounce with a sigh of emotion; but at that ever memorable
hour when my passions were inflamed to white heat, I felt almost a
hatred for the kind, good old man, I could not forgive him his
interference in the present event. Hence, for all answer, therefore,
he received from me a stern rebuke, a violent protest on my part
against the idea that I could ever regard the vision I had had, in any
other light save that of an empty dream, and his Yamabooshi as
anything better than an imposter. "I will leave to-morrow, had I to
forfeit my whole fortune as a penalty"--I exclaimed, pale with rage
and despair.

"You will repent it the whole of your life, if you do so before the
holy man has shut every entrance in you against intruders ever on the
watch and ready to enter the open door," was the answer. "The Daij-
Dzins will have the best of you."

I interrupted him with a brutal laugh, and a still more brutally
phrased enquiry about the fees I was expected to give the Yamabooshi,
for his experiment with me.

"He needs no reward," was the reply. "The order he belongs to is the
richest in the world, since its adherents need nothing, for they are
above all terrestrial and venal desires. Insult him not, the good man
who came to help you out of pure sympathy for your suffering, and to
relieve you of mental agony."

But I would listen to no words of reason and wisdom. The spirit of
rebellion and pride had taken possession of me, and made me disregard
every feeling of personal friendship, or even of simple propriety.
Luckily for me, on turning round to order the medican monk out of my
presence, I found he had gone.

I had not seen him move, and attributed his stealthy departure to fear
at having been detected and understood.

Fool! blind, conceited idiot that I was! Why did I fail to recognize
the Yamabooshi's power, and that the peace of my whole life was
departing with him, from that moment for ever? But I did so fail. Even
the fell demon of my long fears--uncertainty--was now entirely
overpowered by that fiend scepticism--the silliest of all. A dull,
morbid unbelief, a stubborn denial of the evidence of my own senses,
and a determined will to regard the whole vision as a fancy of my
overwrought mind, had taken firm hold of me.

"My mind," I argued, "what is it? Shall I believe with the
superstitious and the weak that this production of phosphorus and grey
matter is indeed the superior part of me; that it can act and see
independently of my physical senses? Never! As well believe in the
planetary 'intelligences' of the astrologer, as in the 'Daij-Dzins' of
my credulous though well-meaning friend, the priest. As well confess
one's belief in Jupiter and Sol, Saturn and Mercury, and that these
worthies guide their spheres and concern themselves with mortals, as
to give one serious thought to the airy nonentities supposed to have
guided my 'soul' in its unpleasant dream! I loathe and laugh at the
absurd idea. I regard it as a personal insult to the intellect and
rational reasoning powers of a man, to speak of invisible creatures,
'subjective intelligences,' and all that kind of insane superstition."
In short, I begged my friend the Bonze to spare me his protests, and
thus the unpleasantness of breaking with him for ever.

Thus I raved and argued before the venerable Japanese gentleman, doing
all in my power to leave on his mind the indelible conviction of my
having gone suddenly mad. But his admirable forbearance proved more
than equal to my idiotic passion; and he implored me once more, for
the sake of my whole future, to submit to certain "necessary
purificatory rites."

"Never! Far rather dwell in air, rarified to nothing by the air-pump
or wholesome unbelief, than in the dim fog of silly superstition," I
argued, paraphrazing Richter's remark. "I will not believe," I
repeated; "but as I can no longer bear such uncertainty about my
sister and her family, I will return by the first steamer to Europe."

This final determination upset my old acquaintance altogether. His
earnest prayer not to depart before I had seen the Yamabooshi once
more, received no attention from me.

"Friend of a foreign land!"--he cried, "I pray that you may not repent
of your unbelief and rashness. May the 'Holy One' [Kwan-On, the
Goddess of Mercy] protect you from the Dzins! For, since you refuse to
submit to the process of purification at the hands of the holy
Yamabooshi, he is powerless to defend you from the evil influences
evoked by your unbelief and defiance of truth. But let me, at this
parting hour, I beseach you, let me, an older man who wishes you well,
warn you once more and persuade you of things you are still ignorant
of. May I speak?"

"Go on and have your say," was the ungracious assent. "But let me warn
you, in my turn, that nothing you can say can make of me a believer in
your disgraceful superstitions." This was added with a cruel feeling
of pleasure in bestowing one more needless insult.

But the excellent man disregarded this new sneer as he had all others.
Never shall I forget the solemn earnestness of his parting words, the
pitying, remorseful look on his face when he found that it was,
indeed, all to no purpose, that by his kindly meant interference he
had only led me to my destruction.

"Lend me your ear, good sir, for the last time," he began, "learn that
unless the holy and venerable man; who, to relieve your distress,
opened your 'soul vision,' is permitted to complete his work, your
future life will, indeed, be little worth living. He has to safeguard
you against involuntary repetitions of visions of the same character.
Unless you consent to it of your own free will, however, you will have
to be left in the power of Forces which will harass and persecute you
to the verge of insanity. Know that the development of 'Long Vision'
[clairvoyance]--which is accomplished at will only by those for whom
the Mother of Mercy, the great Kwan-On, has no secrets--must, in the
case of the beginner, be pursued with help of the air Dzins (elemental
spirits) whose nature is soulless, and hence wicked. Know also that,
while the Arihat, 'the destroyer of the enemy,' who has subjected and
made of these creatures his servants, has nothing to fear; he who has
no power over them becomes their slave. Nay, laugh not in your great
pride and ignorance, but listen further. During the time of the vision
and while the inner perceptions are directed toward the events they
seek, the Daij-Dzin has the seer--when, like yourself, he is an
inexperienced tyro--entirely in its power; and for the time being that
seer is no longer himself. He partakes of the nature of his 'guide.'
The Dali-Dzin, which directs his inner sight, keeps his soul in
durance vile, making of him, while the state lasts, a creature like
itself. Bereft of his divine light, man is but a soulless being; hence
during the time of such connection, he will feel no human emotions,
neither pity nor fear, love nor mercy."

"Hold!" I involuntarily exclaimed, as the words vividly brought back
to my recollections the indifference with which I had witnessed my
sister's despair and sudden loss of reason in my "hallucination,"
"Hold!...But no; it is still worse madness in me to heed or find any
sense in your ridiculous tale! But if you knew it to be so dangerous
why have advised the experiment at all?"--I added mockingly.

"It had to last but a few seconds, and no evil could have resulted
from it, had you kept your promise to submit to purification," was the
sad and humble reply. "I wished you well, my friend, and my heart was
nigh breaking to see you suffering day by day. The experiment is
harmless enough when directed by one who knows, and becomes dangerous
only when the final precaution is neglected. It is the 'Master of
Visions,' he who has opened an entrance into your soul, who has to
close it by using the Seal of Purification against any further and
deliberate ingress of..."

"The 'Master of Visions' forsooth!" I cried, brutally interrupting
him, "say rather the Master of Imposture!"

The look of sorrow on his kind old face was so intense and painful to
behold that I perceived I had gone too far; but it was too late.

"Farewell, then!" said the old Bonze, rising; and after performing the
usual ceremonials of politeness, Tamoora left the house in dignified
silence.

VI--I DEPART--BUT NOT ALONE

Several days later I sailed, but during my stay I saw my venerable
friend, the Bonze, no more. Evidently on that last, and to me for ever
memorable evening, he had been seriously offended with my more than
irreverent, my downright insulting remark about one whom he so justly
respected. I felt sorry for him, but the wheel of passion and pride
was too incessantly at work to permit me to feel a single moment of
remorse. What was it that made me so relish the pleasure of wrath,
that when, for one instant, I happened to lose sight of my supposed
grievance toward the Yamabooshi, I forthwith lashed myself back into a
kind of artificial fury against him. He had only accomplished what he
had been expected to do, and what he had tacitly promised; not only
so, but it was I myself who had deprived him of the possibility of
doing more, even for my own protection if I might believe the Bonze--a
man whom I knew to be thoroughly honourable and reliable. Was it
regret at having been forced by my pride to refuse the proffered
precaution, or was it the fear of remorse that made me rake together,
in my heart, during those evil hours, the smallest details of the
supposed insult to that same suicidal pride? Remorse, as an old poet
has aptly remarked, "is like the heart in which it grows: ...

  "...if proud and gloomy.

  It is a poison-tree, that pierced to the utmost.

  Weeps only tears of blood"...

Perchance, it was the indefinite fear of something of that sort which
caused me to remain so obdurate, and led me to excuse, under the plea
of terrible provocation, even the unprovoked insults that I had heaped
upon the head of my kind and all-forgiving friend, the priest.
However, it was now too late in the day to recall the words of offence
I had uttered; and all I could do was to promise myself the
satisfaction of writing him a friendly letter, as soon as I reached
home. Fool, blind fool, elated with insolent self-conceit, that I was!
So sure did I feel, that my vision was due merely to some trick of the
Yamabooshi, that I actually gloated over my coming triumph in writing
to the Bonze that I had been right in answering his sad words of
parting with an incredulous smile, as my sister and family were all in
good health--happy!

I had not been at sea for a week, before I had cause to remember his
words of warning!

From the day of my experience with the magic mirror, I perceived a
great change in my whole state, and I attributed it, at first, to the
mental depression I had struggled against for so many months. During
the day I very often found myself absent from the surroundings scenes,
losing sight for several minutes of things and persons. My nights were
disturbed, my dreams oppressive, and at times horrible. Good sailor I
certainly was; and besides, the weather was unusually fine, the ocean
as smooth as a pond. Notwithstanding this, I often felt a strange
giddiness, and the familiar faces of my fellow-passengers assumed at
such times the most grotesque appearances. Thus, a young German I used
to know well was once suddenly transformed before my eyes into his old
father, whom we had laid in the little burial place of the European
colony some three years before. We were talking on deck of the defunct
and of a certain business arrangement of his, when Max Grunner's head
appeared to me as though it were covered with a strange film. A thick
greyish mist surrounded him, and gradually condensing around and upon
his healthy countenance, settled suddenly into the grim old head I had
myself seen covered with six feet of soil. On another occasion, as the
captain was talking of a Malay thief whom he had helped to secure and
lodge in goal, I saw near him the yellow, villainous face of a man
answering to his description. I kept silence about such
hallucinations; but as they became more and more frequent, I felt very
much disturbed, though still attributing them to natural causes, such
as I had read about in medical books.

One night I was abruptly awakened by a long and loud cry of distress.
It was a woman's voice, plaintive like that of a child, full of terror
and of helpless despair. I awoke with a start to find myself on land,
in a strange room. A young girl, almost a child, was desperately
struggling against a powerful middle-aged man, who had surprised her
in her own room, and during her sleep. Behind the closed and locked
door, I saw listening an old woman, whose face, notwithstanding the
fiendish expression upon it, seemed familiar to me, and I immediately
recognized it: it was the face of the Jewess who had adopted my niece
in the dream I had at Kioto. She had received gold to pay for her
share in the foul crime, and was now keeping her part of the covenant
... But who was the victim? O horror unutterable! Unspeakable horror!
When I realized the situation after coming back to my normal state, I
found it was my own child-niece.

But, as in my first vision, I felt in me nothing of the nature of that
despair born of affection that fills one's heart, at the sight of a
wrong done to, or a misfortune befalling, those one loves; nothing but
a manly indignation in the presence of suffering inflicted upon the
weak and the helpless. I rushed, of course, to her rescue, and seized
the wanton, brutal beast by the neck. I fastened upon him with
powerful grasp, but, the man heeded it not, he seemed not even to feel
my hand. The coward, seeing himself resisted by the girl, lifted his
powerful arm and the thick fist, coming down like a heavy hammer upon
the sunny locks, felled the child to the ground. It was with a loud
cry of the indignation of a stranger, not with that of a tigress
defending her cub, that I sprang upon the lewd beast and sought to
throttle him. I then remarked, for the first time, that, a shadow
myself, I was grasping but another shadow! ...

My loud shrieks and imprecations had awakened the whole steamer. They
were attributed to a nightmare. I did not seek to take anyone into my
confidence; but, from that day forward, my life became a long series
of mental tortures, I could hardly shut my eyes without becoming
witness of some horrible deed, some scene of misery, death or crime,
whether past, present or even future--as I ascertained later on. It
was as though some mocking fiend had taken upon himself the task of
making me go through the vision of everything that was bestial,
malignant and hopeless, in this world of misery. No radiant vision of
beauty or virtue ever lit with the faintest ray these pictures of awe
and wretchedness that I seemed doomed to witness. Scenes of
wickedness, of murder, of treachery and of lust fell dismally upon my
sight, and I was brought face to face with the vilest results of man's
passions, the most terrible outcome of his material earthly cravings.

Had the Bonze foreseen, indeed, the dreary results, when he spoke of
Daij-Dzins to whom I left "an ingress" "a door open" in me? Nonsense!
There must be some physiological, abnormal change in me. Once at
Nuremberg, when I have ascertained how false was the direction taken
by my fears--I dared not hope for no misfortune at all--these
meaningless visions will disappear as they came. The very fact that my
fancy follows but one direction, that of pictures of misery, of human
passions in their worst, material shape, is a proof, to me, of their
unreality.

"If, as you say, man consists of one substance, matter, the object of
the physical senses; and if perception with its modes is only the
result of the organization of the brain, then should we be naturally
attracted but to the material, the earthly"...I thought I heard the
familiar voice of the Bonze interrupting my reflections, and repeating
an often used argument of his in his discussions with me.

"There are two planes of visions before men," I again heard him say,
"the plane of undying love and spiritual aspirations, the efflux from
the eternal light; and the plane of restless, ever changing matter,
the light in which the misguided Daij-Dzins bathe."

VII--ETERNITY IN A SHORT DREAM

In those days I could hardly bring myself to realize, even for a
moment, the absurdity of a belief in any kind of spirits, whether good
or bad. I now understood, if I did not believe, what was meant by the
term, though I still persisted in hoping that it would finally prove
some physical derangement or nervous hallucination. To fortify my
unbelief the more, I tried to bring back to my memory all the
arguments used against faith in such superstitions, that I had ever
read or heard. I recalled the biting sarcasms of Voltaire, the calm
reasoning of Hume, and I repeated to myself ad nauseam the words of
Rousseau, who said that superstition, "the disturber of Society,"
could never be too strongly attacked. "Why should the sight, the
phantasmagoria, rather"--I argued--"of that which we know in a waking
sense to be false, come to affect us at all? Why should---"

  "Names, whose sense we see not

  Fray us with things that be not?"

One day the old captain was narrating to us the various superstitions
to which sailors were addicted; a pompous English missionary remarked
that Fielding had declared long ago that "superstition renders a man a
fool,"--after which he hesitated for an instant, and abruptly stopped.
I had not taken any part in the general conversation; but no sooner
had the reverend speaker relieved himself of the quotation than I saw
in that halo of vibrating light, which I now noticed almost constantly
over every human head on the steamer, the words of Fielding's next
proposition--"and scepticism makes him mad."

I had heard and read of the claims of those who pretend to seership,
that they often see the thoughts of people traced in the aura of those
present. Whatever "aura" may mean with others, I had now a personal
experience of the truth of the claim, and felt sufficiently disgusted
with the discovery! I--a clairvoyant! a new horror added to my life,
an absurd and ridiculous gift developed, which I shall have to conceal
from all, feeling ashamed of it as if it were a case of leprosy. At
this moment my hatred to the Yamabooshi, and even to my venerable old
friend, the Bonze, knew no bounds. The former had evidently by his
manipulations over me while I was lying unconscious, touched some
unknown physiological spring in my brain, and by loosing it had called
forth a faculty generally hidden in the human constitution; and it was
the Japanese priest who had introduced the wretch into my house!

But my anger and my curses were alike useless, and could be of no
avail. Moreover, we were already in European waters, and in a few more
days we should be at Hamburg. Then would my doubts and fears be set at
rest, and I should find, to my intense relief, that although
clairvoyance, as regards the reading of human thoughts on the spot,
may have some truth in it, the discernment of such events at a
distance, as I had dreamed of, was an impossibility for human
faculties. Notwithstanding all my reasoning, however, my heart was
sick with fear, and full of the blackest presentiments; I felt that my
doom was closing. I suffered terribly, my nervous and mental
prostration becoming intensified day by day.

The night before we entered port I had a dream.

I fancied I was dead. My body lay cold and stiff in its last sleep,
whilst its dying consciousness, which still regarded itself as "I,"
realizing the event, was preparing to meet in a few seconds its own
extinction. It had been always my belief that as the brain preserved
heat longer than any of the other organs, and was the last to cease
its activity, the thought in it survived bodily death by several
minutes. Therefore, I was not in the least surprised to find in my
dream that while the frame had already crossed that awful gulf "no
mortal e'er re-passed," its consciousness was still in the gray
twilight, the first shadows of the great Mystery. Thus my THOUGHT
wrapped, as I believed, in the remnants, of its now fast retiring
vitality, was watching with intense and eager curiosity the approaches
of its own dissolution, i.e., of its annihilation. "I" was hastening
to record my last impressions, lest the dark mantle of eternal
oblivion should envelope me, before I had time to feel and enjoy, the
great, the supreme triumph of learning that my life-long convictions
were true, that death is a complete and absolute cessation of
conscious being. Everything around me was getting darker with every
moment. Huge grey shadows were moving before my vision, slowly at
first, then with accelerated motion, until they commenced whirling
around with an almost vertiginous rapidity. Then, as though that
motion had taken place for the purposes of brewing darkness, the
object once reached, it slackened its speed, and the darkness became
gradually transformed into intense blackness, it ceased altogether.
There was nothing now within my immediate perceptions, but that
fathomless black Space, as dark as pitch; to me it appeared as
limitless and as silent as the shoreless Ocean of Eternity upon which
Time, the progeny of man's brain, is for ever gliding, but which it
can never cross.

Dream is defined by Cato as "but the image of our hopes and fears."
Having never feared death when awake, I felt, in this dream of mine,
calm and serene at the idea of my speedy end. In truth, I felt rather
relieved at the thought--probably owing to my recent mental
suffering--that the end of all, of doubt, of fear for those I loved,
of suffering, and of every anxiety, was close at hand. The constant
anguish that had been gnawing ceaselessly at my heavy, aching heart
for many a long and weary month, had now become unbearable; and if as
Seneca thinks, death is but "the ceasing to be what we were before,"
it was better that I should die. The body is dead; "I," its
consciousness--that which is all that remains of me now, for a few
moments longer--am preparing to follow. Mental perceptions will get
weaker, more dim and hazy with every second of time, until the longed
for oblivion envelopes me completely in its cold shroud. Sweet is the
magic hand of Death, the great World-Comforter; profound and dreamless
is sleep in its unyielding arms. Yea, verily, it is a welcome guest...
A calm and peaceful haven amidst the roaring billows of the Ocean of
life, whose breakers lash in vain the rock-bound shores of Death.
Happy the lonely bark that drifts into the still waters of its black
gulf, after having been so long, so cruelly tossed about by the angry
waves of sentient life. Moored in it for evermore, needing no longer
either sail or rudder, my bark will now find rest. Welcome then, O
Death, at this tempting price; and fare thee well, poor body, which,
having neither sought it nor derived pleasure from it, I now readily
give up!

While uttering this death-chant to the prostrate form before me, I
bent over, and examined it with curiosity. I felt the surrounding
darkness oppressing me, weighing on me almost tangibly, and I fancied
I found in it the approach of the Liberator I was welcoming. And yet
how very strange! If real, final Death takes place in our
consciousness; if after the bodily death, "I" and my conscious
perceptions are one--how is it that these perceptions do not become
weaker, why does my brain--action seem as vigorous as ever now ...
that I am de facto dead? ... Nor does the usual feeling of anxiety,
the "heavy heart" so-called, decrease in intensity; nay, it even seems
to become worse ... unspeakably so! ... How long it takes for full
oblivion to arrive!...Ah, here's my body again!...Vanished out of
sight for a second or two, it reappears before me once more ... How
white and ghastly it looks! Yet ... its brain cannot be quite dead,
since "I," its consciousness, am still acting, since we two fancy that
we still are, that we live and think, disconnected from our creator
and its ideating cells.

Suddenly I felt a strong desire to see how much longer the progress of
dissolution was likely to last, before it placed its last seal on the
brain and rendered it inactive. I examined my brain in its cranial
cavity, through the (to me) entirely transparent walls and roof of the
skull, and even touched the brain-matter ... How or with whose hands,
I am now unable to say; but the impression of the slimy, intensely
cold matter produced a very strong impression on me, in that dream. To
my great dismay, I found that the blood having entirely congealed and
the brain-tissues having themselves undergone a change that would no
longer permit any molecular action, it became impossible for me to
account for the phenomena now taking place with myself. Here was I,--
or my consciousness which is all one--standing apparently entirely
disconnected from my brain which could no longer function ... But I
had no time left for reflection. A new and most extraordinary change
in my perceptions had taken place and now engrossed my whole attention
... What does this signify? ...

The same darkness was around me as before, a black, impenetrable
space, extending in every direction. Only now, right before me, in
whatever direction I was looking, moving with me which way soever I
moved, there was a gigantic round clock; a disc, whose large white
face shone ominously on the ebony-black background. As I looked at its
huge dial, and at the pendulum moving to and fro regularly and slowly
in Space, as if its swinging meant to divide eternity, I saw its
needles pointing to seven minutes past five. "The hour at which my
torture had commenced at Kioto!" I had barely found time to think of
the coincidence, when to my unutterable horror, I felt myself going
through the same, the identical, process that I had been made to
experience on that memorable and fatal day. I swam underground,
dashing swiftly through the earth; I found myself once more in the
pauper's grave and recognized my brother-in-law in the mangled
remains; I witnessed his terrible death; entered my sister's house;
followed her agony, and saw her go mad. I went over the same scenes
without missing a single detail of them. But, alas! I was no longer
iron-bound in the calm indifference that had then been mine, and which
in that first vision had left me as unfeeling to my great misfortune
as if I had been a heartless thing of rock. My mental tortures were
now becoming beyond description and well-nigh unbearable. Even the
settled despair, the never-ceasing anxiety I was constantly
experiencing when awake, had become now, in my dream and in the face
of this repetition of vision and events, as an hour of darkened
sunlight compared to a deadly cyclone. Oh! how I suffered in this
wealth and pomp of infernal horrors, to which the conviction of the
survival of man's consciousness after death--for in that dream I
firmly believed that my body was dead--added the most terrifying of
all!

The relative relief I felt, when, after going over the last scene, I
saw once more the great white face of the dial before me was not of
long duration. The long, arrow-shaped needle was pointing on the
colossal disk at--seven minutes and a half-past five o'clock. But,
before I had time to well realize the change, the needle moved slowly
backwards, stopped at precisely the seventh minute, and--O cursed
fate! ... I found myself driven into a repetition of the same series
over again! Once more I swam underground, and saw, and heard, and
suffered every torture that hell can provide; I passed through every
mental anguish known to man or fiend. I returned to see the fatal dial
and its needle--after what appeared to me an eternity--moved, as
before, only half a minute forward. I beheld it, with renewed terror,
moving back again, and felt myself propelled forward anew. And so it
went on, and on, and on, time after time, in what seemed to me an
endless succession, a series which never had any beginning, nor would
it ever have an end ...

Worst of all; my consciousness, my "I," had apparently acquired the
phenomenal capacity of trebling, quadruping, and even of decuplating
itself. I lived, felt and suffered, in the same space of time, in
half-a-dozen different places at once, passing over various events of
my life, at different epochs and under the most dissimilar
circumstances; though predominant over all was my spiritual experience
at Kioto. Thus as in the famous fugue in Don Giovanni, the heart-
rending notes of Elvira's aria of despair ring high above, but
interfere in no way with the melody of the minuet, the song of
seduction, and the chorus, so I went over and over my travailed woes,
the feelings of agony unspeakable at the awful sights of my vision,
the repetition of which blunted in no wise even a single pang of my
despair and horror; nor did these feelings weaken in the least scenes
and events entirely disconnected with the first one, that I was living
through again, or interfere in any way the one with the other. It was
a maddening experience! A series of contrapuntal, mental
phantasmagoria from real life. Here was I, during the same half-a-
minute of time, examining with cold curiosity the mangled remains of
my sister's husband; following with the same indifference the effects
of the news on her brain, as in my first Kioto vision, and feeling at
the same time hell-torture for these very events, as when I returned
to consciousness. I was listening to the philosophical discourses of
the Bonze, every word of which I heard and understood, and was trying
to laugh him to scorn. I was again a child, then a youth, hearing my
mother's and my sweet sister's voices, admonishing me and teaching
duty to all men. I was saving a friend from drowning, and was sneering
at his aged father who thanks me for saving a "soul" yet unprepared to
meet his Maker.

"Speak of dual consciousness, you psycho-physiologists!"--I cried, in
one of the moments when agony, mental and as it seemed to me physical
also, had arrived at a degree of intensity which would have killed a
dozen living men; "speak of your psychological and physiological
experiments, you schoolmen, puffed up with pride and book-learning!
Here am I to give you the lie..." And now I was reading the works and
holding converse with learned professors and lecturers, who had led me
to my fatal scepticism. And, while arguing the impossibility of
consciousness divorced from its brain, I was shedding tears of blood
over the supposed fate of my nieces and nephews. More terrible than
all: I knew, as only a liberated consciousness can know, that all I
had seen in my vision at Japan, and all that I was seeing and hearing
over and over again now, was true in every point and detail, that it
was a long string of ghastly and terrible, still of real, actual,
facts.

For, perhaps, the hundredth time, I had rivetted my attention on the
needle of the clock, I had lost the number of my gyrations and was
fast coming to the conclusion that they would never stop, that
consciousness is, after all, indestructible, and that this was to be
my punishment in Eternity. I was beginning to realize from personal
experience how the condemned sinners would feel--"were not eternal
damnation a logical and mathematical impossibility in an ever-
progressing Universe"--I still found the force to argue. Yea indeed;
at this hour of my ever-increasing agony, my consciousness--now my
synonym for "I"--had still the power of revolting at certain
theological claims, of denying all their propositions, all--save
ITSELF ... No; I denied the independent nature of my consciousness no
longer, for I knew it now to be such. But is it eternal withal? O thou
incomprehensible and terrible Reality! But if thou art eternal, who
then art thou?--since there is no diety, no God. Whence dost thou
come, and when didst thou first appear, if thou art not a part of the
cold body lying yonder? And whither dost thou lead me, who am thyself,
and shall our thought and fancy have an end? What is thy real name,
thou unfathomable REALITY, and impenetrable MYSTERY! Oh, I would fain
annihilate thee ... "Soul--Vision"!--who speaks of Soul, and whose
voice is this? ... It says that I see now for myself, that there is a
Soul in man, after all... I deny this. My Soul, my vital Soul, or the
Spirit of life, has expired with my body, with the gray matter of my
brain, This "I" of mine, this consciousness, is not yet proven to me
as eternal. Reincarnation, in which the Bonze felt so anxious I should
believe, may be true ... Why not? Is not the flower born year after
year from the same root? Hence this "I" once separated from, its
brain, losing its balance and calling forth such a host of visions ...
before reincarnating.

I was again face to face with the inexorable, fatal clock. And as I
was watching its needle, I heard the voice of the Bonze, coming out of
the depths of its white face, saying: "In this case, I fear you would
have only to open and to shut the temple door, over and over again,
during a period which, however short, would seem to you an
eternity..."

The clock had vanished, darkness made room for light, the voice of my
old friend was drowned by a multitude of voices overhead on deck; and
I awoke in my berth, covered with a cold perspiration, and faint with
terror.

VIII--A TALE OF WOE

We were at Hamburg, and no sooner had I seen my partners, who could
hardly recognise me, than with their consent and good wishes I started
for Nuremberg.

Half-an-hour after my arrival, the last doubt with regard to the
correctness of my vision had disappeared. The reality was worse than
any expectations could have made it, and I was henceforward doomed to
the most desolate life. I ascertained that I had seen the terrible
tragedy, with all its heartrending details. My brother-in-law, killed
under the wheels of a machine; my sister, insane, and now rapidly
sinking toward her end; my niece--the sweet flower of nature's fairest
work--dishonoured, in a den of infamy; the little children dead of a
contagious disease in an orphanage; my last surviving nephew at sea,
no one knew where. A whole house, a home of love and peace, scattered;
and I, left alone, a witness of this world of death, of desolation and
dishonour. The news filled me with infinite despair, and I sank
helpless before the wholesale, dire disaster, which rose before me all
at once. The shock proved too much, and I fainted. The last thing I
heard before entirely losing my consciousness was a remark of the
Burgmeister: "Had you, before leaving Kioto, telegraphed to the city
authorities of your whereabouts, and of your intention of coming home
to take charge of your young relatives, we might have placed them
elsewhere, and thus have saved them from their fate. No one knew that
the children had a well-to-do relative. They were left paupers and had
to be dealt with as such. They were comparatively strangers in
Nuremberg, and under the unfortunate circumstances you could have
hardly expected anything else ... I can only express my sincere
sorrow."

It was this terrible knowledge that I might, at any rate, have saved
my young niece from her unmerited fate, but that through my neglect I
had not done so, that was killing me. Had I but followed the friendly
advice of the Bonze, Tamoora, and telegraphed to the authorities some
weeks previous to my return much might have been avoided. It was all
this, coupled with the fact that I could no longer doubt clairvoyance
and clairaudience--the possibility of which I had so long denied--that
brought me so heavily down upon my knees. I could avoid the censure of
my fellow-creatures but I could never escape the stings of my
conscience, the reproaches of my own aching heart--no, not as long as
I lived! I cursed my stubborn scepticism, my denial of facts, my early
education, I cursed myself and the whole world... .

For several days I contrived not to sink beneath my load, for I had a
duty to perform to, the dead and to the living. But my sister once
rescued from the pauper's asylum, placed under the care of the best
physicians, with her daughter to attend to her last moments, and the
Jewess, whom I had brought to confess her crime, safely lodged in
goal--my fortitude and strength suddenly abandoned me. Hardly a week
after my arrival I was myself no better than a raving maniac, helpless
in the strong grip of a brain fever. For several weeks I lay between
life and death, the terrible disease defying the skill of the best
physicians. At last my strong constitution prevailed, and--to my
lifelong sorrow--they proclaimed me saved.

I heard the news with a bleeding heart. Doomed to drag the loathsome
burden of life henceforth alone, and in constant remorse; hoping for
no help or remedy on earth, and still refusing to believe in the
possibility of anything better than a short survival of consciousness
beyond the grave, this unexpected return to life added only one more
drop of gall to my bitter feelings. They were hardly soothed by the
immediate return, during the first days of my convalescence, of those
unwelcome and unsought for visions, whose correctness and reality I
could deny no more. Alas the day! they were no longer in my sceptical,
blind mind.

  "The children of an idle brain,

  Begot of nothing but vain Fantasy";

but always the faithful photographs of the real woes and sufferings of
my fellow creatures, of my best friends... Thus I found myself doomed,
whenever I was left for a moment alone, to the helpless torture of a
chained Prometheus. During the still hours of night, as though held by
some pitiless iron hand, I found myself led to my sister's bedside,
forced to watch there hour after hour, and see the silent
disintegration of her wasted organism; to witness and feel the
sufferings that her own tenantless brain could no longer reflect or
convey to her perceptions. But there was something still more horrible
to barb the dart that could never be extricated. I had to look, by
day, at the childish innocent face of my young niece, so sublimely
simple and guileless in her pollution; and to witness, by night, how
the full knowledge and recollection of her dishonour, of her young
life now for ever blasted, came to her in her dreams, as soon as she
was asleep. The dreams took an objective form to me, as they had done
on the steamer; I had to live them over again, night after night, and
feel the same terrible despair. For now, since I believed in the
reality of seership, and had come to the conclusion that in our bodies
lies hidden, as in the caterpillar, the chrysalis which may contain in
its turn the butterfly--the symbol of the soul--I no longer remained
indifferent, as of yore, to what I witnessed in my Soul-life.
Something had suddenly developed in me, had broken loose from its icy
cocoon. Evidently I no longer saw only in consequence of the
identification of my inner nature with a Daij-Dzin; my visions arose
in, consequence of a direct personal psychic development, the fiendish
creatures only taking care that I should see nothing of an agreeable
or elevating nature. Thus, now, not an unconscious pang in my dying
sister's emaciated body, not a thrill of horror in my niece's restless
sleep at the recollection of the crime perpetrated upon her, an
innocent child, but found a responsive echo in my bleeding heart. The
deep fountain of sympathetic love and sorrow had gushed out from the
physical heart, and was now loudly echoed by the awakened soul
separated from the body. Thus had I to drain the cup of misery to the
very dregs! Woe is me, it was a daily and nightly torture! Oh, how I
mourned over my proud folly; how I was punished for having neglected
to avail myself at Moto of the proffered purification, for now I had
come to believe even in the efficacy of the latter. The Daij-Dzin had
indeed obtained control over me; and the fiend had let loose all the
dogs of hell upon his victim... .

At last the awful gulf was reached and crossed. The poor insane martyr
dropped into her dark, and now welcome grave, leaving behind her, but
for a few short months, her young, her first-born, daughter.
Consumption made short work of that tender girlish frame. Hardly a
year after my arrival, I was left alone in the whole wide world, my
only surviving nephew having expressed a desire to follow his sea-
faring career.

And now, the sequel of my sad story is soon told. A wreck, a
prematurely old man, looking at thirty as though sixty winters had
passed over my doomed head, and owing to the never-ceasing visions,
myself daily on the verge of insanity, I suddenly formed a desperate
resolution. I would return to Kioto and seek out the Yamabooshi. I
would prostrate myself at the feet of the holy man, and would not
leave him until he had recalled the Frankenstein he had raised, the
Frankenstein with whom at the time, it was I, myself, who would, not
part, through my insolent pride and unbelief.

Three months later I was in my Japanese home again, and I at-once
sought out my old, venerable Bonze, Tamoora Hideyeri, I now implored
him to take me without an hour's delay to the Yamabooshi, the innocent
cause of my daily tortures. His answer but placed the last, the
supreme seal on my doom and tenfold intensified my despair. The
Yamabooshi had left the country for lands unknown! He had departed one
fine morning into the interior, on a pilgrimage, and according to
custom, would be absent, unless natural death shortened the period,
for no less than seven years! ...

In this mischance, I applied for help and protection to other learned
Yamabooshis; and though well aware how useless it was in my case to
seek efficient cure from any other "adept," my excellent old friend
did everything he could to help me in my misfortune. But it was to no
purpose, and the canker-worm of my life's despair could not be
thoroughly extricated. I found from them that not one of these learned
men could promise to relieve me entirely from the demon of clairvoyant
obsession. It was he who raised certain Daij-Dzins, calling on them to
show futurity, or things that had already come to pass, who alone had
full control over them. With kind sympathy, which I had now learned to
appreciate, the holy men invited me to join the group of their
disciples, and learn from them what I could do for myself. "Will
alone, faith in your own soul-powers, can help you now," they said.
"But it may take several years to undo even a part of the great
mischief," they added. "A Daij-Dzin is easily dislodged in the
beginning; if left alone, he takes possession of a man's nature and it
becomes almost impossible to uproot the fiend without killing his
victim."

Persuaded that there was nothing but this left for me to do, I
gratefully assented, doing my best to believe in all that these holy
men believed in, and yet ever failing to do so in my heart. The demon
of unbelief and all-denial seemed rooted in me more firmly ever than
the Daij-Dzin. Still I did all I could do, decided as I was not to
lose my last chance of salvation. Therefore, I proceeded without delay
to, free myself from the world and my commercial obligations, in order
to live for several years an independent life. I settled my accounts
with my Hamburg partners and severed my connection with the firm.
Notwithstanding considerable financial losses resulting from such a
precipitate liquidation, I found myself, after closing the accounts, a
far richer man than I had thought I was. But wealth had no longer any
attraction for me, now that I had no one to share it with, no one to
work for. Life had become a burden; and such was my indifference to my
future, that while giving away all my fortune to my nephew--in case he
should return alive from his sea voyager--should have neglected
entirely even a small provision for myself, had not my native partner
interfered and insisted upon my making it. I now recognized, with Lao-
tze, that Knowledge was the only firm hold for a man to trust to, as
it is the only one that cannot be shaken by any tempest. Wealth is a
weak anchor in the days of sorrow, and self-conceit the most fatal
counsellor. Hence I followed the advice of my friends, and laid aside
for myself a modest sum, which would be sufficient to assure me a
small income for life, or if I ever left my new friends and
instructors. Having settled my earthly accounts and disposed of my
belongings at Kioto, I joined the "Masters of the Long Vision," who
took me to their mysterious abode. There I remained for several years,
studying very earnestly and in the most complete solitude, seeing no
one but a few of the members of our religious community.

Many are the mysteries of nature that I have fathomed since then, and
many secret folio from the library of Tzionene have I devoured,
obtaining thereby mastery over several kinds of invisible beings of a
lower order. But the great secret of power over the terrible Daij-Dzin
I could not get. It remains in the possession of a very limited number
of the highest Initiates of Lao-tze, the great majority of the
Yamabooshis themselves being ignorant how to obtain such mastery over
the dangerous Elemental. One who would reach such power of control
would have to become entirely identified with the Yamabooshis, to
accept their views and beliefs, and to attain the highest degree of
Initiation. Very naturally, I was found unfit to join the Fraternity,
owing to many insurmountable reasons besides my congenital and
ineradicable scepticism, though I tried hard to believe. Thus,
partially relieved of my affliction and taught how to conjure the
unwelcome visions away, I still remained, and do remain to this day,
helpless to prevent their forced appearance before me now and then.

It was after assuring myself of my unfitness for the exalted position
of an independent Seer and Adept that I reluctantly gave up any
further trial. Nothing had been heard of the holy man, the first
innocent cause of my misfortune; and the old Bonze himself, who
occasionally visited me in my retreat, either could not, or would not,
inform me of the whereabouts of the Yamabooshi. When, therefore, I had
to give up all hope of his ever relieving me entirely from my fatal
gift, I resolved to return to Europe, to settle in solitude for the
rest of my life. With this object in view, I purchased through my late
partners the Swiss chalet in which my hapless sister and I were born,
where I had grown up under her care, and selected it for my future
hermitage.

When bidding me farewell for ever on the steamer which took me back to
my fatherland, the good old Bonze tried to console me for my
disappointments. "My son," he said, "regard all that happened to you
as your Karma--a just retribution. No one who had subjected himself
willingly to the power of a Daij-Dzin can ever hope to become a Rahat
(an Adept), a high-souled Yamabooshi--unless immediately purified. At
best, as in your case, he may become fitted to oppose and to
successfully fight off the fiend. Like a scar left after a poisonous
wound the race of a Daij-Dzin can never be effaced from the Soul until
purified by a new rebirth Withal, feel not dejected, but be of good
cheer in your affliction, since it has led you to acquire true
knowledge, and to accept many a truth you would have otherwise
rejected with contempt. And of this priceless knowledge, acquired
through suffering and personal efforts--no Daij-Dzin can ever deprive
you. Fare thee well, then, and may the Mother of Mercy, the great
Queen of Heaven, afford you comfort and protection."

We parted, and since then I have led the life of an anchorite, in
constant solitude and study. Though still occasionally afflicted, I do
not regret the years I have passed under the instruction of the
Yamabooshis, but feel gratified for the knowledge received. Of the
priest Tamoora Hideyeri I think always with sincere affection and
respect. I corresponded regularly with him to the day of his death; an
event which, with all its to me painful details, I had the unthanked-
for privilege of witnessing across the seas, at the very hour in which
it occurred.



THE LUMINOUS SHIELD

We were a small and select party of lighthearted travellers. We had
arrived at Constantinople a week before from Greece, and had devoted
fourteen hours a day ever since to toiling up and down the steep
heights of Pera, visiting bazaars, climbing to the tops of minarets
and fighting our way through armies of hungry dogs, the traditional
masters of the streets of Stamboul. Nomadic life is infectious, they
say, and no civilization is strong enough to destroy the charm of
unrestrained freedom when it has once been tasted. The gipsy cannot be
tempted from his tent, and even the common tramp finds a fascination
in his comfortless and precarious existence, that prevents him taking
to any fixed abode and occupation. To guard my spaniel Ralph from
falling a victim to this infection, and joining the canine Bedouins
that, infested the streets, was my chief care during our stay in
Constantinople. He was a fine fellow, my constant companion and
cherished friend. Afraid of losing him, I kept a strict watch over his
movements; for the first three days, however, he behaved like a
tolerably well-educated quadruped, and remained faithfully at my
heels. At every impudent attack from his Mahomedan cousins, whether
intended as a hostile demonstration or an overture of friendship, his
only reply would be to draw in his tail between his legs, and with an
air of dignified modesty seek protection under the wing of one or
other of our party.

As he had thus from the first shown so decided an aversion to bad
company, I began to feel assured of his discretion and by the end of
the third day I had considerably relaxed my vigilance. This
carelessness on my part, however, was soon punished, and I was made to
regret my misplaced confidence. In an unguarded moment he listened to
the voice of some four-footed syren, and the last I saw of him was the
end of his bushy tail, vanishing round the corner of a dirty, winding
little back street.

Greatly annoyed, I passed the remainder of the day in a vain search
after my dumb companion, I offered twenty, thirty, forty francs reward
for him. About as many vagabond Maltese began a regular chase, and
towards evening we were invaded in our hotel by the whole troop, every
man of them with a more or less mangy cur in his arms, which he tried
to persuade me was my lost dog. The more I denied, the more solemnly
they insisted, one of them actually going down on his knees, snatching
from his bosom an old corroded metal image of the Virgin, and swearing
a solemn oath that the Queen of Heaven herself had kindly appeared to
him to point out the right animal. The tumult had increased to such an
extent that it looked as if Ralph's disappearance was going to be the
cause of a small riot, and finally our landlord had to send for a
couple of Kavasses from the nearest police station, and have this
regiment of bipeds and quadrupeds expelled by main force. I began to
be convinced that I should never see my dog again, and I was the more
despondent since the porter of the hotel, a semi-respectable old
brigand, who, to judge by appearances, had not passed more than half-
a-dozen years at the galleys, gravely assured me that all my pains
were useless, as my spaniel was undoubtedly dead and devoured too by
this time, the Turkish dogs being very fond of their more toothsome
English brothers.

All this discussion had taken place in the street at the door of the
hotel, and I was about to give up the search for that night at least,
and enter the hotel, when an old Greek lady, a Phanariote who had been
hearing the fracas from the steps of a door close by, approached our
disconsolate group and suggested to Miss H---, one of our party, that
we should enquire of the dervishes concerning the fate of Ralph.

And what can the dervishes know about my dog? said I, in no mood to
joke, ridiculous as the proposition appeared.

"The holy men know all, Kyrea (Madam)," said she, somewhat
mysteriously. "Last week I was robbed of my new satin pelisse, that my
son had just brought me from Broussa, and, as you all see, I have
recovered it and have it on my back now."

"Indeed? Then the holy men have also managed to metamorphose your new
pelisse into an old one by all appearances," said one of the gentlemen
who accompanied us, pointing as he spoke to a large rent in the back,
which had been clumsily repaired with pins.

"And that is just the most wonderful part of the whole story," quietly
answered the Phanariote, not in the least disconcerted. "They showed
me in the shining circle the quarter of the town, the house, and even
the room in which the Jew who had stolen my pelisse was just about to
rip it up and cut it into pieces. My son and I had barely time to run
over to the Kalindjikoulosek quarter, and to save my property. We
caught the thief in the very act, and we both recognized him as the
man shown to us by the dervishes in the magic moon. He confessed the
theft and is now in prison."

Although none of us had the least comprehension of what she meant by
the magic moon and the shining circle, and were all thoroughly
mystified by her account of the divining powers of the "holy men," we
still felt somehow satisfied from her manner that the story was not
altogether a fabrication, and since she had at all events apparently
succeeded in recovering her property through being somehow assisted by
the dervishes, we determined to go the following morning and see for
ourselves, for what had helped her might help us likewise.

The monotonous cry of the Muezzins from the tops of the minarets had
just proclaimed the hour of noon as we, descending from the heights of
Pera to the port of Galata, with difficulty managed to elbow our way
through the unsavoury crowds of the commercial quarter of the town.
Before we reached the docks, we had been half deafened by the shouts
and incessant ear-piercing cries and the Babel-like confusion of
tongues. In this part of the city it is useless to expect to be guided
by either house numbers, or names of streets. The location of any
desired place is indicated by its proximity to some other more
conspicuous building such as a mosque, bath, or European shop; for the
rest, one has to trust to Allah and his prophet.

It was with the greatest difficulty, therefore, that we finally
discovered the British ship-chandler's store, at the rear of which we
were to find the place of our destination. Our hotel guide was as
ignorant of the dervishes' abode as we were ourselves; but at last a
small Greek, in all the simplicity of primitive undress, consented for
a modest copper backsheesh to lead us to the dancers.

When we arrived we were shown into a vast and gloomy hall that looked
like a deserted stable. It was long and narrow, the floor was thickly
strewn with sand as in a riding school, and it was lighted only by
small windows placed at some height from the ground. The dervishes had
finished their morning performances, and were evidently resting from
their exhausting labours. They looked completely prostrated, some
lying about in corners, others sitting on their heels staring vacantly
into space, engaged, as we were informed, in meditation on their
invisible deity. They appeared to have lost all power of sight and
hearing, for none of them responded to our questions until a great
gaunt figure, wearing a tall cap that made him look at least seven
feet high, emerged from an obscure corner. Informing us that he was
their chief, the giant gave us to understand that the saintly
brethren, being in the habit of receiving orders for additional
ceremonies from Allah himself, must on no account be disturbed. But
when our interpreter had explained to him the object of our visit,
which concerned himself alone, as he was the sole custodian of the
"divining rod," his objections vanished and he extended his hand for
alms. Upon being gratified, he intimated that only two of our party
could be admitted at one time into the confidence of the future, and
led the way, followed by Miss H--and myself.

Plunging after him into what seemed to be a half subterranean passage,
we were led to the foot of a tall ladder leading to a chamber under
the roof. We scrambled up after our guide, and at the top we found
ourselves in a wretched garret of moderate size, with bare walls and
destitute of furniture. The floor was carpeted with a thick layer of
dust, and cobwebs festooned the walls in neglected confusion. In the
corner we saw something that I at first mistook for a bundle of old
rags; but the heap presently moved and got on its legs, advanced to
the middle of the room and stood before us, the most extraordinary
looking creature that I ever beheld. Its sex was female, but whether
she was a woman or child it was impossible to decide. She was a
hideous-looking dwarf, with an enormous head, the shoulders of a
grenadier, with a waist in proportion; the whole supported by two
short, lean, spider-like legs that seemed unequal to the task of
bearing the weight of the monstrous body. She had a grinning
countenance like the face of a satyr, and it was ornamented with
letters and signs from the Koran painted in bright yellow. On her
forehead was a blood-red crescent; her head was crowned with a dusty
tarbouche, or fez; her legs were arrayed in large Turkish trousers,
and some dirty white muslin wrapped round her body barely sufficed to
conceal its hideous deformities. This creature rather let herself drop
than sat down in the middle of the floor, and as her weight descended
on the rickety boards it sent up a cloud of dust that set us coughing
and sneezing. This was the famous Tatmos known as the Damascus oracle!

Without losing time in idle talk, the dervish produced a piece of
chalk, and traced around the girl a circle about six feet in diameter.
Fetching from behind the door twelve small copper lamps which he
filled with some dark liquid from a small bottle which he drew from
his bosom, he placed them symmetrically around the magic circle. He
then broke a chip of wood from a panel of the half ruined door, which
bore the marks of many a similar depredation, and, holding the chip
between his thumb and finger he began blowing on it at regular
intervals, alternating the blowing with mutterings of some kind of
weird incantation, till suddenly, and without any apparent cause for
its ignition, there appeared a spark on the chip and it blazed up like
a dry match. The dervish then lit the twelve lamps at this self-
generated flame.

During this process, Tatmos, who had sat till then altogether
unconcerned and motionless, removed her yellow slippers from her naked
feet, and throwing them into a corner, disclosed as an additional
beauty, a sixth toe on each deformed foot. The dervish now reached
over into the circle and seizing the dwarf's ankles gave her a jerk,
as if he had been lifting a bag of corn, and raised her clear off the
ground, then, stepping back a pace, held her head downward. He shook
her as one might a sack to pack its contents, the motion being regular
and easy. He then swung her to and fro like a pendulum until the
necessary momentum was acquired, when letting go one foot and seizing
the other with both hands, he made a powerful muscular effort and
whirled her round in the air as if she had been an Indian club.

My companion had shrunk back in alarm to the farthest corner. Round
and round the dervish swung his living burden, she remained perfectly
passive. The motion increased in rapidity until the eye could hardly
follow the body in its circuit. This continued for perhaps two or
three minutes, until, gradually slackening the motion he at length
stopped it altogether, and in an instant had landed the girl on her
knees in the middle of the lamp-lit circle. Such was the Eastern mode
of mesmerization as practised among the dervishes.

And now the dwarf seemed entirely oblivious of external objects and in
a deep trance. Her head and jaw dropped on her chest, her eyes were
glazed and staring, and altogether her appearance was even more
hideous than before. The dervish then carefully closed the shutters of
the only window, and we should have been in total obscurity but that
there was a hole bored in it, through which entered a bright ray of
sunlight that shot through the darkened room and shone upon the girl.
He arranged her drooping head so that the ray should fall upon the
crown, after which, motioning us to remain silent, he folded his arms
upon his bosom, and, fixing his gaze upon the bright spot, became as
motionless as a stone image. I, too, riveted my eyes on the same spot,
wondering what was to happen next, and how all this strange ceremony
was to help me to find Ralph.

By degrees, the bright patch, as if it had drawn through the sunbeam a
greater splendour from without and condensed it within its own area,
shaped itself into a brilliant star, sending out rays in every
direction as from a focus.

A curious optical effect then occurred: the room, which had been
previously partially lighted by the sunbeam, grew darker and darker as
the star increased in radiance, until we found ourselves in an
Egyptian gloom. The star twinkled, trembled and turned, at first with
a slow gyratory motion, then faster and faster, increasing its
circumference at every rotation until it formed a brilliant disk, and
we no longer saw the dwarf, who seemed absorbed into its light. Having
gradually attained an extremely rapid velocity, as the girl had done
when whirled by the dervish, the motion began to decrease and finally
merged into a feeble vibration, like the shimmer of moonbeams on
rippling water. Then it flickered for a moment longer, emitted a few
last flashes, and assuming the density and irridescence of an immense
opal, it remained motionless. The disk now radiated a moon-like
lustre, soft and silvery, but instead of illuminating the garret, it
seemed only to intensify the darkness. The edge of the circle was not
penumbrous, but on the contrary sharply defined like that of a silver
shield.

All being now ready, the dervish without uttering a word, or removing
his gaze from the disk, stretched out a hand, and taking hold of mine,
he drew me to his side and pointed to the luminous shield. Looking at
the place indicated, we saw large patches appear like those on the
moon. These gradually formed themselves into figures that began moving
about in high relief in their natural colours. They neither appeared
like a photograph nor an engraving; still less like the reflection of
images on a mirror, but as if the disk were a cameo, and they were
raised above its surface and then endowed with life and motion. To my
astonishment and my friend's consternation, we recognized the bridge
leading from Galata to Stamboul spanning the Golden Horn from the new
to the old city. There were the people hurrying to and fro, steamers
and gay caiques gliding on the blue Bosphorus, the many coloured
buildings, villas and palaces reflected in the water; and the whole
picture illuminated by the noonday sun. It passed like a panorama, but
so vivid was the impression that we could not tell whether it or
ourselves were in motion. All was bustle and life, but not a sound
broke the oppressive stillness. It was noiseless as a dream. It was a
phantom picture. Street after street and quarter after quarter
succeeded one another; there was the bazaar, with its narrow, roofed
passages, the small shops on either side, the coffee houses with
gravely smoking Turks; and as either they glided past us or we past
them, one of the smokers upset the narghile and coffee of another, and
a volley of soundless invectives caused us great amusement. So we
travelled with the picture until we came to a large building that I
recognized as the palace of the Minister of Finance. In a ditch behind
the house, and close to a mosque, lying in a pool of mud with his
silken coat all bedraggled, lay my poor Ralph! Panting and crouching
down as if exhausted, he seemed to be in a dying condition; and near
him were gathered some sorry-looking curs who lay blinking in the sun
and snapping at the flies!

I had seen all that I desired, although I had not breathed a word
about the dog to the dervish, and had come more out of curiosity than
with the idea of any success. I was impatient to leave at once and
recover Ralph, but as my companion besought me to remain a little
while longer, I reluctantly consented. The scene faded away and Miss
H--placed herself in turn by the side of the dervish.

"I will think of him," she whispered in my ear with the eager tone
that young ladies generally assume when talking of the worshipped him.

There is a long stretch of sand and a blue sea with white waves
dancing in the sun, and a great steamer is ploughing her way along
past a desolate shore, leaving a milky track behind her. The deck is
full of life, the men are busy forward, the cook with white cap and
apron is coming out of the galley, uniformed officers are moving
about, passengers fill the quarter-deck, lounging, flirting or
reading, and a young man we both recognize comes forward and leans
over the taffrail. It is--him.

Miss H--gives a little gasp, blushes and smiles, and concentrates her
thoughts again. The picture of the steamer vanishes; the magic moon
remains for a few moments blank. But new spots appear on its luminous
face, we see a library slowly emerging from its depths--a library with
green carpet and hangings, and book-shelves round the sides of the
room. Seated in an arm-chair at a table under a hanging lamp, is an
old gentleman writing. His gray hair is brushed back from his
forehead, his face is smooth-shaven and his countenance has an
expression of benignity.

The dervish made a hasty motion to enjoin silence; the light on the
disk quivers, but resumes its steady brilliancy, and again its surface
is imageless for a second.

We are back in Constantinople now and out of the pearly, depths of the
shield forms our own apartment in the hotel. There are our papers and
books on the bureau, my friend's travelling hat in a corner, her
ribbons hanging on the glass, and lying on the bed the very dress she
had changed when starting out on our expedition. No detail was lacking
to make the identification complete; and as if to prove that we were
not seeing something conjured up in our imagination, there lay upon
the dressing-table two unopened letters, the handwriting on which was
clearly recognized by my friend. They were from a very dear relative
of hers, from whom she had expected to hear when in Athens, but had
been disappointed. The scene faded away and we now saw her brother's
room with himself lying upon the lounge, and a servant bathing his
head, whence to our horror, blood was trickling. We had left the boy
in perfect health but an hour before; and upon seeing this picture my
companion uttered a cry of alarm, and seizing me by the hand dragged
me to the door. We rejoined our guide and friends in the long hall and
hurried back to the hotel.

Young H--had fallen downstairs and cut his forehead rather badly; in
our room, on the dressing-table were the two letters which had arrived
in our absence. They had been forwarded from Athens. Ordering a
carriage I at once drove to the Ministry of Finance, and alighting
with the guide, hurriedly made for the ditch I had seen for the first
time in the shining disk! In the middle of the pool, badly mangled,
half-famished, but still alive, lay my beautiful spaniel Ralph, and
near him were the blinking curs, unconcernedly snapping at the flies.



THE CAVE OF THE ECHOES

A Strange but True Story*

  * This story is given from the narrative of an eye-witness, a
Russian gentleman, very pious, and fully trustworthy. Moreover, the
facts are copied from the police records of P---. The eye-witness in
question attributes it, of course, partly to divine interference and
partly to the Evil One.--H. P. B.

In one of the distant governments of the Russian empire, in a small
town on the borders of Siberia, a mysterious tragedy occurred more
than thirty years ago. About six versts from the little town of P---,
famous for the wild beauty of its scenery, and for the wealth of its
inhabitants--generally proprietors of mines and of iron foundries--
stood an aristocratic mansion. Its household consisted of the master,
a rich old bachelor and his brother, who was a widower and the father
of two sons and three daughters.

It was known that the proprietor, Mr. Izvertzoff, had adopted his
brother's children, and, having formed an especial attachment for his
eldest nephew, Nicolas, he made him the sole heir of his numerous
estates.

Time rolled on. The uncle was getting old, the nephew was coming of
age. Days and years had passed in monotonous serenity, when, on the
hitherto clear horizon of the quiet family, appeared a cloud. On an
unlucky day one of the nieces took it into her head to study the
zither. The instrument being of purely Teutonic origin, and no teacher
of it residing in the neighbourhood, the indulgent uncle sent to St.
Petersburg for both. After diligent search only one Professor could be
found willing to trust himself in such close proximity to Siberia. It
was an old German artist, who, sharing his affections equally between
his instrument and a pretty blonde daughter, would part with neither.
And thus it came to pass that, one fine morning, the old Professor
arrived at the mansion, with his music box under one arm and his fair
Munchen leaning on the other.

From that day the little cloud began growing rapidly; for every
vibration of the melodious instrument found a responsive echo in the
old bachelor's heart. Music awakens love, they say, and the work begun
by the zither was completed by Munchen's blue eyes. At the expiration
of six months the niece had become an expert zither player, and the
uncle was desperately in love.

One morning, gathering his adopted family around him, he embraced them
all very tenderly, promised to remember them in his will, and wound up
by declaring his unalterable resolution to marry the blue-eyed
Munchen. After this he fell upon their necks, and wept in silent
rapture. The family, understanding that they were cheated out of the
inheritance, also wept; but it was for another cause. Having thus
wept, they consoled themselves and tried to rejoice, for the old
gentleman was sincerely beloved by all. Not all of them rejoiced,
though. Nicolas, who had himself been smitten to the heart by the
pretty German, and who found himself defrauded at once of his belle
and of his uncle's money, neither rejoiced nor consoled himself, but
disappeared for a whole day.

Meanwhile, Mr. Izvertzoff had given orders to prepare his traveling
carriage on the following day, and it was whispered that he was going
to the chief town of the district, at some distance from his home,
with the intention of altering his will. Though very wealthy, he had
no superintendent on his estate, but kept his books himself. The same
evening after supper, he was heard in his room, angrily scolding his
servant, who had been in his service for over thirty years. This man,
Ivan, was a native of northern Asia, from Kamschatka; he had been
brought up by the family in the Christian religion, and was thought to
be very much attached to his master. A few days later, when the first
tragic circumstance I am about to relate had brought all the police
force to the spot, it was remembered that on that night Ivan was
drunk; that his master, who had a horror of this vice, had paternally
thrashed him, and turned him out of his room, and that Ivan had been
seen reeling out of the door, and had been heard to mutter threats.

On the vast domain of Mr. Izvertzoff there was a curious cavern, which
excited the curiosity of all who visited it. It exists to this day,
and is well known to every inhabitant of P---. A pine forest,
commencing a few feet from the garden gate, climbs in steep terraces
up a long range of rocky hills, which it covers with a broad belt of
impenetrable vegetation. The grotto leading into the cavern, which is
known as the "Cave of the Echoes," is situated about half a mile from
the site of the mansion, from which it appears as a small excavation
in the hillside, almost hidden by luxuriant plants, but not so
completely as to prevent any person entering it from being readily
seen from the terrace in front of the house. Entering the grotto, the
explorer finds at the rear a narrow cleft; having passed through which
he emerges into a lofty cavern, feebly lighted through fissures in the
vaulted roof, fifty feet from the ground. The cavern itself is
immense, and would easily hold between two and three thousand people.
A part of it, in the days of Mr. Izvertzoff, was paved with
flagstones, and was often used in the summer as a ball-room by picnic
parties. Of an irregular oval, it gradually narrows into a broad
corridor, which runs for several miles underground, opening here and
there into other chambers, as large and lofty as the ball-room, but,
unlike this, impassable otherwise than in a boat, as they are always
full of water. These natural basins have the reputation of being
unfathomable.

On the margin of the first of these is a small platform, with several
mossy rustic seats arranged on it, and it is from this spot that the
phenomenal echoes, which give the cavern its name, are heard in all
their weirdness. A word pronounced in a whisper, or even a sigh, is
caught up by endless mocking voices, and instead of diminishing in
volume, as honest echoes do, the sound grows louder and louder at
every successive repetition, until at last it bursts forth like the
repercussion of a pistol shot, and recedes in a plaintive wail down
the corridor.

On the day in question, Mr. Izvertzoff had mentioned his intention of
having a dancing party in this cave on his wedding day, which he had
fixed for an early date. On the following morning, while preparing for
his drive, he was seen by his family entering the grotto, accompanied
only by his Siberian servant. Half-an-hour later, Ivan returned to the
mansion for a snuff-box which his master had forgotten in his room,
and went back with it to the cave. An hour later the whole house was
startled by his loud cries. Pale and dripping with water, Ivan rushed
in like a madman, and declared that Mr. Izvertzoff was nowhere to be
found in the cave. Thinking he had fallen into the lake, he had dived
into the first basin in search of him and was nearly drowned himself.

The day passed in vain attempts to find the body. The police filled
the house, and louder than the rest in his despair was Nicolas, the
nephew, who had returned home only to meet the sad tidings.

A dark suspicion fell upon Ivan, the Siberian. He had been struck by
his master the night before, and had been heard to swear revenge. He
had accompanied him alone to the cave, and when his room was searched
a box full of rich family jewellery, known to have been carefully kept
in Mr. Izvertzoff's apartment, was found under Ivan's bedding. Vainly
did the serf call God to witness that the box had been given to him in
charge by his master himself, just before they proceeded to the cave;
that it was the latter's purpose to have the jewellery reset, as he
intended it for a wedding present to his bride; and that he, Ivan,
would willingly give his own life to recall that of his master, if he
knew him to be dead. No heed was paid to him, however, and he was
arrested and thrown into prison, upon a charge of murder. There he was
left, for under the Russian law a criminal cannot--at any rate, he
could not in those days--be sentenced for a crime, however conclusive
the circumstantial evidence, unless he confessed his guilt.

After a week had passed in useless search, the family arrayed
themselves in deep mourning; and as the will as originally drawn
remained without a codicil, the whole of the property passed into the
hands of the nephew. The old teacher and his daughter bore this sudden
reverse of fortune with true Germanic phlegm, and prepared to depart.
Taking again his zither under one arm, the old man was about to lead
away his Munchen by the other, when the nephew stopped him by offering
himself as the fair damsel's husband in the place of his departed
uncle. The change was found to be an agreeable one, and, without much
ado, the young people were married.

Ten years rolled away, and we meet the happy family once more at the
beginning of 1859. The fair Munchen had grown fat and vulgar. From the
day of the old man's disappearance, Nicolas had become morose and
retired in his habits, and many wondered at the change in him, for now
he was never seen to smile. It seemed as if his only aim in life were
to find out his uncle's murderer, or rather to bring Ivan to confess
his guilt. But the man still persisted that he was innocent.

An only son had been born to the young couple, and a strange child it
was. Small, delicate, and ever ailing, his frail life seemed to hang
by a thread. When his features were in repose, his resemblance to his
uncle was so striking that the members of the family often shrank from
him in terror. It was the pale shrivelled face of a man of sixty upon
the shoulders of a child nine years old. He was never seen either to
laugh or to play, but, perched in his high chair, would gravely sit
there, folding his arms in a way peculiar to the late Mr. Izvertzoff;
and thus he would remain for hours, drowsy and motionless. His nurses
were often seen furtively crossing themselves at night, upon
approaching him, and not one of them would consent to sleep alone with
him in the nursery. His father's behaviour towards him was still more
strange. He seemed to love him passionately, and at the same time to
hate him bitterly. He seldom embraced or caressed the child, but with
livid cheek and staring eye, he would pass long hours watching him, as
the child sat quietly in his corner, in his goblin-like, old-fashioned
way.

The child had never left the estate, and few outside the family knew
of his existence.

About the middle of July, a tall Hungarian traveller, preceded by a
great reputation for eccentricity, wealth and mysterious powers,
arrived at the town of P--from the North, where, it was said, he had
resided for many years. He settled in the little town, in company with
a Shaman or South Siberian magician, on whom he was said to make
mesmeric experiments. He gave dinners and parties, and invariably
exhibited his Shaman, of whom he felt very proud, for the amusement of
his guests. One day the notables of P--made an unexpected invasion of
the domains of Nicolas Izvertzoff, and requested the loan of his cave
for an evening entertainment. Nicolas consented with great reluctance,
and only after still greater hesitancy was he prevailed upon to join
the party.

The first cavern and the platform beside the bottomless lake glittered
with lights. Hundreds of flickering candles and torches, stuck in the
clefts of the rocks, illuminated the place and drove the shadows from
the mossy nooks and corners, where they had crouched undisturbed for
many years. The stalactites on the walls sparkled brightly, and the
sleeping echoes were suddenly awakened by a joyous confusion of
laughter and conversation. The Shaman, who was never lost sight of by
his friend and patron, sat in a corner, entranced as usual. Crouched
on a projecting rock, about midway between the entrance and the water,
with his lemon-yellow, wrinkled face, flat nose, and thin beard, he
looked more like an ugly stone idol than a human being. Many of the
company pressed around him and received correct answers to their
questions, the Hungarian cheerfully submitting his mesmerized
"subject" to cross-examination.

Suddenly one of the party, a lady, remarked that it was in that very
cave that old Mr. Izvertzoff had so unaccountably disappeared ten
years before. The foreigner appeared interested, and desired to learn
more of the circumstances, so Nicolas was sought amid the crowd and
led before the eager group. He was the host and he found it impossible
to refuse the demanded narrative. He repeated the sad tale in a
trembling voice, with a pallid cheek, and tears were seen glittering
in his feverish eyes. The company were greatly affected, and encomiums
upon the behaviour of the loving nephew in honouring the memory of his
uncle and benefactor were freely circulating in whispers, when
suddenly the voice of Nicolas became choked, his eyes started from
their sockets, and, with a suppressed groan, he staggered back. Every
eye in the crowd followed with curiosity his haggard look, as it fell
and remained riveted upon a weakened little face, that peeped from
behind the back of the Hungarian.

"Where do you come from? Who brought you here, child?" gasped out
Nicolas, as pale as death.

"I was in bed, papa; this man came to me, and brought me here in his
arms," answered the boy simply, pointing to the Shaman, beside whom he
stood upon the rock, and who, with his eyes closed, kept swaying
himself to and fro like a living pendulum.

"That is very strange," remarked one of the guests, "for the man has
never moved from his place."

"Good God! what an extraordinary resemblance!" muttered an old
resident of the town, a friend of the lost man.

"You lie, child!" fiercely exclaimed the father. "Go to bed; this is
no place for you."

"Come, come," interposed the Hungarian, with a strange expression on
his face, and encircling with his arm the slender childish figure;
"the little fellow has seen the double of my Shaman, which roams
sometimes far away from his body, and has mistaken the phantom for the
man himself. Let him remain with us for a while."

At these strange words the guests stared at each other in mute
surprise, while some piously made the sign of the cross, spitting
aside, presumably at the devil and all his works.

"By-the-bye," continued the Hungarian with a peculiar firmness of
accent, and addressing the company rather than any one in particular;
"why should we not try, with the help of my Shaman, to unravel the
mystery hanging over the tragedy? Is the suspected party still lying
in prison? What? he has not confessed up to now? This is surely very
strange. But now we will learn the truth in a few minutes! Let all
keep silent!"

He then approached the Tehuktchene, and immediately began his
performance without so much as asking the consent of the master of the
place. The latter stood rooted to the spot, as if petrified with
horror, and unable to articulate a word. The suggestion met with
general approbation, save from him; and the police inspector, Col.
S---, especially approved of the idea.

"Ladies and gentlemen," said the mesmerizer in soft tones, "allow me
for this once to proceed otherwise than in my general fashion. I will
employ the method of native magic. It is more appropriate to this wild
place, and far more effective as you will find, than our European
method of mesmerization."

Without waiting for an answer, he drew from a bag that never left his
person, first a small drum, and then two little phials--one full of
fluid, the other empty. With the contents of the former he sprinkled
the Shaman, who fell to trembling and nodding more violently than
ever. The air was filled with the perfume of spicy odours, and the
atmosphere itself seemed to become clearer. Then, to the horror of
those present, he approached the Tibetan, and taking a miniature
stiletto from his pocket, he plunged the sharp steel into the man's
forearm, and drew blood from it, which he caught in the empty phial.
When it was half filled, he pressed the orifice of the wound with his
thumb, and stopped the flow of blood as easily as if he had corked a
bottle, after which he sprinkled the blood over the little boy's head.
He then suspended the drum from his neck, and, with two ivory drum-
sticks, which were covered with magic signs and letters, he began
beating a sort of reveille, to drum up the spirits, as he said.

The bystanders, half-shocked and half-terrified by these extraordinary
proceedings, eagerly crowded round him, and for a few moments a dead
silence reigned throughout the lofty cavern. Nicolas, with his face
livid and corpse-like, stood speechless as before. The mesmerizer had
placed himself between the Shaman and the platform, when he began
slowly drumming. The first notes were muffled, and vibrated so softly
in the air that they awakened no echo, but the Shaman quickened his
pendulum-like motion and the child became restless. The drummer then
began a slow chant, low, impressive and solemn.

As the unknown words issued from his lips, the flames of the candles
and torches wavered and flickered, until they began dancing in rhythm
with the chant. A cold wind came wheezing from the dark corridors
beyond the water, leaving a plaintive echo in its trail. Then a sort
of nebulous vapour, seeming to ooze from the rocky ground and walls,
gathered about the Shaman and the boy. Around the latter the aura was
silvery and transparent, but the cloud which enveloped the former was
red and sinister. Approaching nearer to the platform the magician beat
a louder roll upon the drum, and this time the echo caught it up with
terrific effect! It reverberated near and far in incessant peals; one
wail followed another louder and louder, until the thundering roar
seemed the chorus of a thousand demon voices rising from the
fathomless depths of the lake. The water itself, whose surface,
illuminated by many lights, had previously been smooth as a sheet of
glass, became suddenly agitated, as if a powerful gust of wind had
swept over its unruffled face. Another chant, and a roll of the drum,
and the mountain trembled to its foundation with the cannon-like peals
which rolled through the dark and distant corridors. The Shaman's body
rose two yards in the air, and nodding and swaying, sat, self-
suspended like an apparition. But the transformation which now
occurred in the boy chilled everyone, as they speechlessly watched the
scene. The silvery cloud about the boy now seemed to lift him, too,
into the air; but, unlike the Shaman, his feet never left the ground.
The child began to grow, as though the work of years was miraculously
accomplished in a few seconds. He became tall and large, and his
senile features grew older with the ageing of his body. A few more
seconds, and the youthful form had entirely disappeared. It was
totally absorbed in another individuality, and, to the horror of those
present who had been familiar with his appearance, this individuality
was that of old Mr. Izvertzoff, and on his temple was a large gaping
wound, from which trickled great drops of blood.

This phantom moved towards Nicolas, till it stood directly in front of
him, while he, with his hair standing erect, with the look of a madman
gazed at his own son, transformed into his uncle. The sepulchral
silence was broken by the Hungarian, who, addressing the child
phantom, asked him, in solemn voice:

"In the name of the great Master, of Him who has all power, answer the
truth, and nothing but the truth. Restless spirit, hast thou been lost
by accident, or foully murdered?"

The spectre's lips moved, but it was the echo which answered for them
in lugubrious shouts: "Murdered! mur-der-ed!! murdered!!!"

"Where? How? By whom?" asked the conjuror.

The apparition pointed a finger at Nicolas and, without removing its
gaze or lowering its arms, retreated backwards slowly towards the
lake. At every step it took, the younger Izvertzoff, as if compelled
by some irresistable fascination, advanced a step towards it, until
the phantom reached the lake, and the next moment was seen gliding on
its surface. It was a fearful, ghostly scene!

When he had come within two steps of the brink of the watery abyss, a
violent convulsion ran through the frame of the guilty man. Flinging
himself upon his knees, he clung to one of the rustic seats with a
desperate clutch, and staring wildly, uttered a long piercing cry of
agony. The phantom now remained motionless on the water, and bending
his extended finger, slowly beckoned him to come. Crouched in abject
terror, the wretched man shrieked until the cavern rang again and
again: "I did not...No, I did not murder you!"

Then came a splash, and now it was the boy who was in the dark water,
struggling for his life, in the middle of the lake, with the same
motionless stern apparition brooding over him.

"Papa! papa! Save me...I am drowning!"...cried a piteous little voice
amid the uproar of the mocking echoes.

"My boy!" shrieked Nicolas, in the accents of a maniac, springing to
his feet. "My boy! Save him! Oh, save him!...Yes I confess...I am the
murderer...It is I who killed him!"

Another splash, and the phantom disappeared. With a cry of horror the
company rushed towards the platform; but their feet were suddenly
rooted to the ground, as they saw amid the swirling eddies a whitish
shapeless mass holding the murderer and the boy in tight embrace, and
slowly sinking into the bottomless lake...

On the morning after these occurrences, when, after a sleepless night,
some of the party visited the residence of the Hungarian gentleman,
they found it closed and deserted. He and the Shaman had disappeared.
Many are among the old inhabitants of P--who remember him; the Police
Inspector, Col. S---, dying a few years ago in the full assurance that
the noble traveller was the devil. To add to the general consternation
the Izvertzoff mansion took fire on that same night and was completely
destroyed. The Archbishop performed the ceremony of exorcism, but the
locality is considered accursed to this day. The Government
investigated the facts, and ordered silence.



FROM THE POLAR LANDS

A Christmas Story

Just a year ago, during the Christmas holidays, a numerous society had
gathered in the country house, or rather the old hereditary castle, of
a wealthy landowner in Finland. Many were the remains in it of our
forefathers' hospitable way of living; and many the mediaeval customs
preserved, founded on traditions and superstitions, semi-kinnish and
semi-Russian, the latter imported into it by its female proprietors
from the shores of the Neva. Christmas trees were being prepared and
implements for divination were being made ready. For, in that old
castle there were grim worm-eaten portraits of famous ancestors and
knights and ladies, old deserted turrets, with bastions and Gothic
windows; mysterious sombre alleys, and dark and endless cellers,
easily transformed into subterranean passages and caves, ghostly
prison cells, haunted by the restless phantoms of the heroes of local
legends. In short, the old Manor offered every commodity for romantic
horrors. But alas! this once they serve for nought; in the present
narrative these dear old horrors play no such part as they otherwise
might.

Its chief hero is a very commonplace, prosaical man--let us call him
Erkler. Yes; Dr. Erkler, professor of medicine, half-German through
his father, a full-blown Russian on his mother's side and by
education; and one who looked a rather heavily built, and ordinary
mortal. Nevertheless, very extraordinary things happened with him.

Erkler, as it turned out, was a great traveller, who by his own choice
had accompanied one of the most famous explorers on his journeys round
the world. More than once they had both seen death face to face from
sunstrokes under the Tropics, from cold in the Polar Regions. All this
notwithstanding, the doctor spoke with a never-abating enthusiasm
about their "winterings" in Greenland and Novaya Zemla, and about the
desert plains in Australia, where he lunched off a kangaroo and dined
off an emu, and almost perished of thirst during the passage through a
waterless track, which it took them forty hours to cross.

"Yes," he used to remark, "I have experienced almost everything, save
what you would describe as supernatural... . This, of course, if we
throw out of account a certain extraordinary event in my life--a man I
met, of whom I will tell you just now--and its...indeed, rather
strange, I may add quite inexplicable, results."

There was a loud demand that he should explain himself; and the
doctor, forced to yield, began his narrative.

"In 1878 we were compelled to winter on the northwestern coast of
Spitzbergen. We had been attempting to find our way during the short
summer to the pole; but, as usual, the attempt had proved a failure,
owing to the icebergs, and, after several such fruitless endeavours,
we had to give it up. No sooner had we settled than the polar night
descended upon us, our steamers got wedged in and frozen between the
blocks of ice in the Gulf of Mussel, and we found ourselves cut off
for eight long months from the rest of the living world. I confess I,
for one, felt it terribly at first. We became especially discouraged
when one stormy night the snow hurricane scattered a mass of materials
prepared for our winter buildings, and deprived us of over forty deer
from our herd. Starvation in prospect is no incentive to good humour;
and with the deer we had lost the best plat de resistance against
polar frosts, human organisms demanding in that climate an increase of
heating and solid food. However, we were finally reconciled to our
loss, and even got accustomed to the local and in reality more
nutritious food--seals, and seal-grease. Our men from the remnants of
our lumber built a house neatly divided into two compartments, one for
our three professors and myself, and the other for themselves; and, a
few wooden sheds being constructed for meteorological, astronomical
and magnetic purposes, we even added a protecting stable for the few
remaining deer. And then began the monotonous series of dawnless
nights and days, hardly distinguishable one from the other, except
through dark-grey shadows. At times, the 'blues' we got into, were
fearful! We had contemplated sending two of our three steamers home,
in September, but the premature, and unforeseen formation of ice walls
round them had thwarted our plans; and now, with the entire crews on
our hands, we had to economise still more with our meagre provisions,
fuel and light. Lamps were used only for scientific purposes: the rest
of the time we had to content ourselves with God's light--the moon and
the Aurora Borealis ... But how describe these glorious, incomparable
northern lights! Rings, arrows, gigantic conflagrations of accurately
divided rays of the most vivid and varied colours. The November
moonlight nights were as gorgeous. The play of moonbeams on the snow
and the frozen rocks was most striking. These were fairy nights."

"Well, one such night--it may have been one such day, for all I know,
as from the end of November to about the middle of March we had no
twilights at all, to distinguish the one from the other--we suddenly
espied in the play of coloured beams, which were then throwing a
golden rosy hue on the snow plains, a dark moving spot... . It grew,
and seemed to scatter as it approached nearer to us. What did this
mean? ... It looked like a herd of cattle, or a group of living men,
trotting over the snowy wilderness ... But animals there were white
like everything else. What then was this? ... human beings? ..."

"We could not believe our eyes. Yes, a group of men was approaching
our dwelling. It turned out to be about fifty seal-hunters, guided by
Matiliss, a well-known veteran mariner from Norway. They had been
caught by the icebergs, just as we had been."

"'How did you know that we were here?' we asked."

"'Old Johan, this very same old party, showed us the way'--they
answered, pointing to a venerable-looking old man with snow-white
locks."

"In sober truth, it would have beseemed their guide far better to have
sat at home over his fire than to have been seal-hunting in polar
lands with younger men. And we told them so, still wondering how he
came to learn of our presence in this kingdom of white bears. At this
Matiliss and his companions smiled, assuring us that 'old Johan' knew
all. They remarked that we must be novices in polar borderlands, since
we were ignorant of Johan's personality and could still wonder at
anything said of him."

"'It is nigh forty-five years,' said the chief hunter, 'that I have
been catching seals in the Polar Seas, and as far as my personal
remembrance goes, I have always known him, and just as he is now, an
old, white-bearded man. And, so far back as in the days when I used to
go to sea, as a small boy with my father, my dad used to tell me the
same of old Johan, and he added that his own father and grandfather
too, had known Johan in their days of boyhood, none of them having
ever seen him otherwise than white as our snows. And, as our fore-
fathers nicknamed him "the white-haired all-knower," thus do we, the
seal-hunters, call him, to this day.'"

"'Would you make us believe he is two hundred years old?'--we
laughed."

"Some of our sailors crowding round the white-haired phenomenon, plied
him with questions."

"'Grandfather! answer us, how old are you?'"

"'I really do not know it myself, sonnies. I live as long as God has
decreed me to. As to my years, I never counted them.'"

"'And how did you know, grandfather, that we were wintering in this
place?'"

"'God guided me. How I learned it I do not know; save that I knew--I
knew it.'"



THE ENSOULED VIOLIN


I

In the year 1828, an old German, a music teacher, came to Paris with
his pupil and settled unostentatiously in one of the quiet faubourgs
of the metropolis. The first rejoiced in the name of Samuel Klaus; the
second answered to the more poetical appellation of Franz Stenio. The
younger man was a violinist, gifted, as rumour went, with
extraordinary, almost miraculous talent. Yet as he was poor and had
not hitherto made a name for himself in Europe, he remained for
several years in the capital of France--the heart and pulse of
capricious continental fashion--unknown and unappreciated. Franz was a
Styrian by birth, and, at the time of the event to be presently
described, he was a young man considerably under thirty. A philosopher
and a dreamer by nature, imbued with all the mystic oddities of true
genius, he reminded one of some of the heroes in Hoffmann's Contes
Fantastiques. His earlier existence had been a very unusual, in fact,
quite an eccentric one, and its history must be briefly told--for the
better understanding of the present story.

Born of very pious country people, in a quiet burg among the Styrian
Alps; nursed "by the native gnomes who watched over his cradle";
growing up in the weird atmosphere of the ghouls and vampires who play
such a prominent part in the household of every Styrian and Slavonian
in Southern Austria; educated later, as a student in the shadow of the
old Rhenish castles of Germany; Franz from his childhood had passed
through every emotional stage on the plane of the so-called
"supernatural." He had also studied at one time the "occult arts" with
an enthusiastic disciple of Paracelsus and Kunrath; alchemy had few
theoretical secrets for him; and he had dabbled in "ceremonial magic"
and "sorcery" with some Hungarian Tziganes. Yet he loved above all
else music, and above music--his violin.

At the age of twenty-two he suddenly gave up his practical studies in
the occult, and from that day, though as devoted as ever in thought to
the beautiful Grecian Gods, he surrendered himself entirely to his
art. Of his classic studies he had retained only that which related to
the muses--Euterpe especially, at whose altar he worshipped--and
Orpheus whose magic lyre he tried to emulate with his violin. Except
his dreamy belief in the nymphs and the sirens, on account probably of
the double relationship of the latter to the muses, through Calliope
and Orpheus, he was interested but little in the matters of this
sublunary world. All his aspirations mounted, like incense, with the
wave of the heavenly harmony that he drew from his instrument, to a
higher and a nobler sphere. He dreamed awake, and lived a real though
an enchanted life only during those hours when his magic bow carried
him along the wave of sound to the Pagan Olympus, to the feet of
Euterpe. A strange child he had ever been in his own home, where tales
of magic and witchcraft grow out of every inch of the soil; a still
stranger boy he had become, until finally he had blossomed into
manhood, without one single characteristic of youth. Never had a fair
face attracted his attention; not for one moment had his thoughts
turned from his solitary studies to a life beyond that of a mystic
Bohemian. Content with his own company, he had thus passed the best
years of his youth and manhood with his violin for his chief idol, and
with the Gods and Goddesses of old Greece for his audience, in perfect
ignorance of practical life. His whole existence had been one long day
of dreams, of melody and sunlight, and he had never felt any other
aspirations.

How useless, but oh, how glorious those dreams! how vivid! and why
should he desire any better fate? Was he not all that he wanted to be,
transformed in a second of thought into one or another hero; from
Orpheus, who held all nature breathless, to the urchin who piped away
under the plane tree to the naiads of Calirrhoe's crystal fountain?
Did not the swift-footed nymphs frolic at his beck and call to the
sound of the magic flute of the Arcadian shepherd--who was himself?
Behold, the Goddess of Love and Beauty herself descending from on
high, attracted by the sweet-voiced notes of his violin!...Yet there
came a time when he preferred Syrinx to Aphrodite--not as the fair
nymph pursued by Pan, but after her transformation by the merciful
Gods into the reed out of which the frustrated God of the Shepherds
had made his magic pipe. For also, with time, ambition grows and is
rarely satisfied. When he tried to emulate on his violin the
enchanting sounds that resounded in his mind, the whole of Parnassus
kept silent under the spell, or joined in heavenly chorus; but the
audience he finally craved was composed of more than the Gods sung by
Hesiod, verily of the most appreciative melomanes of European
capitals. He felt jealous of the magic pipe, and would fain have had
it at his command.

"Oh! that I could allure a nymph into my beloved violin!"--he often
cried, after awakening from one of his day-dreams. "Oh, that I could
only span in spirit flight the abyss of Time! Oh, that I could find
myself for one short day a partaker of the secret arts of the Gods, a
God myself, in the sight and hearing of enraptured humanity; and,
having learned the mystery of the lyre of Orpheus, or secured within
my violin a siren, thereby benefit mortals to my own glory!"

Thus, having for long years dreamed in the company of the Gods of his
fancy, he now took to dreaming of the transitory glories of fame upon
this earth. But at this time he was suddenly called home by his
widowed mother from one of the German universities where he had lived
for the last year or two. This was an event which brought his plans to
an end, at least so far as the immediate future was concerned, for he
had hitherto drawn upon her alone for his meagre pittance, and his
means were not sufficient for an independent life outside his native
place.

His return had a very unexpected result. His mother, whose only love
he was on earth, died soon after she had welcomed her Benjamin back;
and the good wives of the burg exercised their swift tongues for many
a month after as to the real causes of that death.

Frau Stenio, before Franz's return, was a healthy, buxom, middle-aged
body, strong and hearty. She was a pious and a God-fearing soul too,
who had never failed in saying her prayers, nor had missed an early
mass for years during his absence. On the first Sunday after her son
had settled at home--a day that she had been longing for and had
anticipated for months in joyous visions, in which she saw him
kneeling by her side in the little church on the hill--she called him
from the foot of the stairs. The hour had come when her pious dream
was to be realized, and she was waiting for him, carefully wiping the
dust from the prayer-book he had used in his boyhood. But instead of
Franz, it was his violin that responded to her call, mixing its
sonorous voice with the rather cracked tones of the peal of the merry
Sunday bells. The fond mother was somewhat shocked at hearing the
prayer-inspiring sounds drowned by the weird, fantastic notes of the
"Dance of the Witches"; they seemed to her so unearthly and mocking.
But she almost fainted upon hearing the definite refusal of her well-
beloved son to go to church. He never went to church, he coolly
remarked. It was loss of time; besides which, the loud peals of the
old church organ jarred on his nerves. Nothing should induce him to
submit to the torture of listening to that cracked organ. He was firm,
and nothing could move him. To her supplications and remonstrances he
put an end by offering to play for her a "Hymn to the Sun" he had just
composed.

From that--memorable Sunday morning, Frau Stenio lost her usual
serenity of mind. She hastened to, lay her sorrows and seek for
consolation at the foot of the confessional; but that which she heard
in response from the stem priest filled her gentle and unsophisticated
soul with dismay and almost with despair. A feeling of fear, a sense
of profound terror, which soon became a chronic state with her,
pursued her from that moment; her nights became disturbed and
sleepless, her days passed in prayer and lamentations. In her maternal
anxiety for the salvation of her beloved son's soul, and for his post
mortem welfare, she made a series of rash vows. Finding that neither
the Latin petition to the Mother of God written for her by her
spiritual adviser, nor yet the humble supplications in German,
addressed by herself to every saint she had reason to believe was
residing in Paradise, worked the desired effect, she took to
pilgrimages to distant shrines. During one of these journeys to a holy
chapel situated high up in the mountains, she caught cold, amidst the
glaciers of the Tyrol, and redescended only to take to a sick bed,
from which she arose no more. Frau Stenio's vow had led her, in one
sense, to the desired result. The poor woman was now given an
opportunity of seeking out in propria persona the saints she had
believed in so well, and of pleading face to face for the recreant
son, who refused adherence to them and to the Church, scoffed at monk
and confessional, and held the organ in such horror.

Franz sincerely lamented his mother's death. Unaware of being the
indirect cause of it, he felt no remorse; but selling the modest
household goods and chattels, light in purse and heart, he resolved to
travel on foot for a year or two, before settling down to any definite
profession.

A hazy desire to see the great cities of Europe, and to try his luck
in France, lurked at the bottom of this travelling project, but his
Bohemian habits of life were too strong to be abruptly abandoned. He
placed his small capital with a banker for a rainy day, and started on
his pedestrian journey via Germany and Austria. His violin paid for
his board and lodging in the inns and farms on his way, and he passed
his days in the green fields and in the solemn silent woods, face to
face with Nature, dreaming all the time as usual with his eyes open.
During the three months of his pleasant travels to and fro, he never
descended for one moment from Parnassus; but, as an alchemist
transmutes lead into gold, so he transformed everything on his way
into a song of Hesiod or Anacreon. Every evening, while fiddling for
his supper and bed, whether on a green lawn or in the hall of a rustic
inn, his fancy changed the whole scene for him. Village swains and
maidens became transfigured into Arcadian shepherds and nymphs. The
sand-covered floor was now a green sward; the uncouth couples spinning
round in a measured waltz with the wild grace of tamed bears became
priests and priestesses of Terpsichore; the bulky, cherry-cheeked and
blue-eyed daughters of rural Germany were the Hesperides circling
round the trees laden with the golden apples. Nor did the melodious
strains of the Arcadian demigods piping on their syrinxes, and audible
but to his own enchanted ear, vanish with the dawn. For no sooner was
the curtain of sleep raised from his eyes than he would sally forth
into a new magic realm of day-dreams. On his way to some dark and
solemn pine-forest, he played incessantly, to himself and to
everything else. He fiddled to the green hill, and forthwith the
mountain and the moss-covered rocks moved forward to hear him the
better, as they had done at the sound of the Orphean lyre. He fiddled
to the merry-voiced brook, to the hurrying river, and both slakened
their speed and stopped their waves, and, becoming silent seemed to
listen to him in an entranced rapture. Even the long-legged stork who
stood meditatively on one leg on the thatched top of the rustic mill,
gravely resolving unto himself the problem of his too-long existence,
sent out after him a long and strident cry, screeching, "Art thou
Orpheus himself, O Stenio?"

It was a period of full bliss, of a daily and almost hourly
exaltation. The last words of his dying mother, whispering to him of
the horrors of eternal condemnation, had left him unaffected, and the
only vision her warning evoked in him was that of Pluto. By a ready
association of ideas, he saw the lord of the dark nether kingdom
greeting him as he had greeted the husband of Eurydice before him.
Charmed with the magic sounds of his violin, the wheel of Ixion was at
a standstill once more, thus affording relief to the wretched seducer
of Juno, and giving the lie to those who claim eternity for the
duration of the punishment of condemned sinners. He perceived Tantalus
forgetting his never-ceasing thirst, and smacking his lips as he drank
in the heaven-born melody; the stone of Sisyphus becoming motionless,
the Furies themselves smiling on him, and the sovereign of the gloomy
regions delighted, and awarding preference to his violin over the lyre
of Orpheus. Taken au serieux, mythology thus seems a decided antidote
to fear, in the face of theological threats, especially when
strengthened with an insane and passionate love of music, with Franz,
Euterpe proved always victorious in every contest, aye, even with Hell
itself!

But there is an end to everything, and very soon Franz had to give up
uninterrupted dreaming. He had reached the university town where dwelt
his old violin teacher, Samuel Klaus. When this antiquated musician
found that his beloved and favourite pupil, Franz, had been left poor
in purse and still poorer in earthly affections, he felt his strong
attachment to the boy awaken with tenfold force. He took Franz to his
heart, and forthwith adopted him as his son.

The old teacher reminded people of one of those grotesque figures
which look as if they had just stepped out of some mediaeval panel.
And yet Klaus, with his fantastic allures of a night-goblin, had the
most loving heart, as tender as that of a woman, and the self-
sacrificing nature of an old Christian martyr. When Franz had briefly
narrated to him the history of his last few years, the professor took
him by the hand, and leading him into his study simply said:

"Stop with me, and put an end to your Bohemian life. Make yourself
famous. I am old and childless and will be your father. Let us live
together and forget all save fame."

And forthwith he offered to proceed with Franz to Paris, via several
large German cities, where they would stop to give concerts.

In a few days Klaus succeeded in making Franz forget his vagrant life
and its artistic independence, and reawakened in his pupil his now
dormant ambition and desire for worldly fame. Hitherto, since his
mother's death, he had been content to receive applause only from the
Gods and Goddesses who inhabited his vivid fancy; now he began to
crave once more for the admiration of mortals. Under the clever and
careful training of old Klaus his remarkable talent gained in strength
and powerful charm with every day, and his reputation grew and
expanded with every city and town wherein he made himself heard. His
ambition was being rapidly realized; the presiding genii of various
musical centres to whose patronage his talent was submitted soon
proclaimed him the one violinist of the day, and the public declared
loudly that he stood unrivalled by any one whom they had ever heard.
These laudations very soon made both master and pupil completely lose
their heads.

But Paris was less ready with such appreciation. Paris makes
reputations for itself, and will take none on faith. They had been
living in it for almost three years, and were still climbing with
difficulty the artist's Calvary, when an event occured which put an
end even to their most modest expectations. The first arrival of
Niccolo Paganini was suddenly heralded, and threw Lutetia into a
convulsion of expectation. The unparallel artist arrived, and--all
Paris fell at once at his feet.

II

Now it is a well-known fact that a superstition born in the dark days
of mediaeval superstition, and surviving almost to the middle of the
present century, attributed all such abnormal, out-of-the-way talent
as that of Paganini to "supernatural" agency. Every great and
marvellous artist had been accused in his day of dealings with the
devil. A few instances will suffice to refresh the reader's memory.

Tartini, the great composer and violinist of the XVIIth century, was
denounced as one who got his best inspirations from the Evil One, with
whom he was, it was said, in regular league. This accusation was of
course due to the almost magical impression he produced upon his
audiences. His inspired performance on the violin secured for him in
his native country the title of "Master of Nations." The Sonate du
Diable, also called "Tartini's Dream"--as every one who has heard it
will be ready to testify--is the most weird melody ever heard or
invented: hence, the marvellous composition has become the source of
endless legends. Nor were they entirely baseless, since it was he,
himself, who was shown to have originated them. Tartini confessed to
having written it on awakening from a dream, in which he had heard his
sonata performed by Satan, for his benefit, and in consequence of a
bargain made with his infernal majesty.

Several famous singers, even, whose exceptional voices struck the
hearers with superstitious admiration, have not escaped a like
accusation. Pasta's splendid voice was attributed in her day to the
fact that, three months before her birth, the diva's mother was
carried during a trance to heaven, and there treated to a vocal
concert of seraphs. Malibran was indebted for her voice to St. Cecilia
while others said she owed it to a demon who watched over her cradle
and sung the baby to sleep. Finally Paganini--the unrivalled
performer, the mean Italian, who like Dryden's Jubal striking on the
"chorded shell" forced the throngs that followed him to worship the
divine sounds produced, and made people say that "less than a God
could not dwell within the hollow of his violin"--Paganini left a
legend too.

The almost supernatural art of the greatest violin-player that the
world has ever known was often speculated upon, never understood. The
effect produced by him on his audience was literally marvellous,
overpowering. The great Rossini is said to have wept like a
sentimental German maiden on hearing him play for the first time. The
Princess Elisa of Lucca, a sister of the great Napoleon, in whose
service Paganini was, as director of her private orchestra, for a long
time was unable to hear him play without fainting. In women he
produced nervous fits and hysterics at his will; stouthearted men he
drove to frenzy. He changed cowards into heroes and made the bravest
soldiers feel like so many nervous school-girls. Is it to be wondered
at, then, that hundreds of weird tales circulated for long years about
and around the mysterious Genoese, that modern Orpheus of Europe. One
of these was especially ghastly. It was rumoured, and was believed by
more people than would probably like to confess it, that the strings
of his violin were made of human intestines, according to all the
rules and requirements of the Black Art.

Exaggerated as this idea may seem to some, it has nothing impossible
in it; and it is more than probable that it was this legend that led
to the extraordinary events which we are about to narrate. Human
organs are often used by the Eastern Black Magicians, so-called, and
it is an averred fact that some Bengali Tantrikas (reciters of
tantras, or "invocations to the demon," as a reverend writer has
described them) use human corpses, and certain internal and external
organs pertaining to them, as powerful magical agents for bad
purposes.

However this may be, now that the magnetic and mesmeric potencies of
hypnotism are recognized as facts by most physicians, it may be
suggested with less danger than heretofore that the extraordinary
effects of Paganini's violin-playing were not, perhaps, entirely due
to his talent and genius. The wonder and awe he so easily excited were
as much caused by his external appearance, "which had something weird
and demoniacal in it," according to certain of his biographers, as by
the inexpressible charm of his execution and his remarkable mechanical
skill. The latter is demonstrated by his perfect imitation of the
flageolet, and his performance of long and magnificent melodies on the
G string alone. In this performance, which many an artist has tried to
copy without success, he remains unrivalled to this day.

It is owing to this remarkable appearance of his--termed by his
friends eccentric, and by his too nervous victims, diabolical--that he
experienced great difficulties in refuting certain ugly rumours. These
were credited far more easily in his day than they would be now. It
was whispered throughout Italy, and even in his own native town, that
Paganini had murdered his wife, and, later on, a mistress, both of
whom he had loved passionately, and both of whom he had not hesitated
to sacrifice to his fiendish ambition. He had made himself proficient
in magic arts, it was asserted, and had succeeded thereby in
imprisoning the souls of his two victims in his violin--his famous
Cremona.

It is maintained by the immediate friends of Ernst T. W. Hoffmann, the
celebrated author of Die Elixire des Teufels, Meister Martin, and
other charming and mysterious tales, that Councillor Crespel, in the
Violin of Cremona, was taken from the legend about Paganini. It is as
all who have read it know, the history of a celebrated violin, into
which the voice and the soul of a famous diva, a woman whom Crespel
had loved and killed, had passed, and to which was added the voice of
his beloved daughter, Antonia.

Nor was this superstition utterly ungrounded, nor was Hoffmann to be
blamed for adopting it, after he had heard Paganini's playing. The
extraordinary facility with which the artist drew out of his
instrument, not only the most unearthly sounds, but positively human
voices, justified the suspicion. Such effects might well have startled
an audience and thrown terror into many a nervous heart. Add to this
the impenetrable mystery connected with a certain period of Paganini's
youth, and the most wild tales about him must be found in a measure
justifiable, and even excusable; especially among a nation whose
ancestors knew the Borgias and the Medicis of Black Art fame.

III

In those pre-telegraphic days, newspapers were limited, and the wings
of fame had a heavier flight than they have now.

Franz had hardly heard of Paganini; and when he did, he swore he would
rival, if not eclipse, the Geonese magician. Yes, he would either
become the most famous of all living violinists, or he would break his
instrument and put an end to his life at the same time.

Old Klaus rejoiced at such a determination. He rubbed his hands in
glee, and jumping about on his lame leg like a crippled satyr, he
flattered and incensed his pupil, believing himself all the while to
be performing a sacred duty to the holy and majestic cause of art.

Upon first setting foot in Paris, three years before, Franz had all
but failed. Musical critics pronounced him a rising star, but had all
agreed that he required a few more, years' practice, before he could
hope to carry his audiences by storm. Therefore, after a desperate
study of over two years and uninterrupted preparations, the Styrian
artist had finally made himself ready for his first serious appearance
in the great Opera House where a public concert before the most
exacting critics of the old world was to be held; at this critical
moment Paganini's arrival in the European metropolis placed an
obstacle in the way of the realization of his hopes, and the old
German professor wisely postponed his pupil's debut. At first he had
simply smiled at the wild enthusiasm, the laudatory hymns sung about
the Genoese violinist, and the almost superstitious awe with which his
name was pronounced, But very soon Paganini's name became a burning
iron in the hearts of both the artists, and a threatening phantom in
the mind of Klaus. A few days more, and they shuddered at the very
mention of their great rival, whose success became with every night
more unprecedented.

The first series of concerts was over, but neither Klaus nor Franz had
as yet had an opportunity of hearing him and of judging for
themselves. So great and so beyond their means was the charge for
admission, and so small the hope of getting a free pass from a brother
artist justly regarded as the meanest of men in monetary transactions,
that they had to wait for a chance, as did so many others. But the day
came when neither master nor pupil could control their impatience any
longer; so they pawned their watches, and with the proceeds bought two
modest seats.

Who can describe the enthusiasm, the triumphs, of this famous, and at
the same time fatal night! The audience was frantic; men wept and
women screamed and fainted; while both Klaus and Stenio, sat looking
paler than two ghosts. At the first touch of Paganini's magic bow,
both Franz and Samuel felt as if the icy hand of death had touched
them. Carried away by an irresistible enthusiasm, which turned into a
violent, unearthly mental torture, they dared neither look into each
other's faces, nor exchange one word during the whole performance.

At midnight, while the chosen delegates of the Musical Societies and
the Conservatory of Paris unhitched the horses, and dragged the
carriage of the grand artist home in triumph, the two Germans returned
to their modest lodging, and it was a pitiful sight to see them.
Mournful and desperate, they placed themselves in their usual seats at
the fire-corner, and neither for a while opened his mouth.

"Samuel!" at last exclaimed Franz, pale as death itself. "Samuel--it
remains for us now but to die! ... Do you hear me? ... We are
worthless! We were two madmen to have ever hoped that any one in this
world would ever rival ... him!"

The name of Paganini stuck in his throat, as in utter despair he fell
into his arm chair.

The old professor's wrinkles suddenly became purple. His little
greenish eyes gleamed phosphorescently as, bending towards his pupil,
he whispered to him in hoarse and broken tones:

"Nein, nein! Thou art wrong, my Franz! I have taught thee, and thou
hast learned all of the great art that a simple mortal, and a
Christian by baptism, can learn from another simple mortal. Am I to
blame because these accursed Italians, in order to reign unequalled in
the domain of art, have recourse to Satan and the diabolical effects
of Black Magic?"

Franz turned his eyes upon his old master. There was a sinister light
burning in those glittering orbs; a light telling plainly, that, to
secure such a power, he, too, would not scruple to sell himself, body
and soul, to the Evil One.

But he said not a word, and, turning his eyes from his old master's
face, gazed dreamily at the dying embers.

The same long-forgotten incoherent dreams, which, after seeming such
realities to him in his younger days, had been given up entirely, and
had gradually faded from his mind, now crowded back into it with the
same force and vividness as of old. The grimacing shades of Ixion,
Sisyphus and Tantalus resurrected and stood before him, saying:

"What matters hell--in which thou believest not. And even if hell
there be, it is the hell described by the old Greeks, not that of the
modern bigots--a locality full of conscious shadows, to whom thou
canst be a second Orpheus."

Franz felt that he was going mad, and, turning instinctively, he
looked his old master once more right in the face. Then his bloodshot
eye evaded the gaze of Klaus.

Whether Samuel understood the terrible state of mind of his pupil, or
whether he wanted to draw him out, to make him speak, and thus to
divert his thoughts, must remain as hypothetical to the reader as it
is to the writer. Whatever may have been in his mind, the German
enthusiast went on, speaking with a feigned calmness:

"Franz, my dear boy, I tell you that the art of the accursed Italian
is not natural; that it is due neither to study nor to genius. It
never was acquired in the usual, natural way. You need not stare at me
in that wild manner, for what I say is in the mouth of millions of
people. Listen to what I now tell you, and try to understand. You have
heard the strange tale whispered about the famous Tartini? He died one
fine Sabbath night, strangled by his familiar demon, who had taught
him how to endow his violin with a human voice, by shutting up in it,
by means of incantations, the soul of a young virgin. Paganini--did
more. In order to endow his instrument with the faculty of emitting
human sounds, such as sobs, desparing cries, supplications, moans of
love and fury--in short, the most heart-rending notes of the human
voice--Paganini became, the murderer not only of his wife and his
mistress, but also of a friend, who was more tenderly attached to him
than any other being on this earth. He then made the four chords of
his magic violin out of the intestines of his last victim. This is the
secret of his enchanting talent, of that overpowering melody, that
combination of sounds, which you will never be able to master
unless..."

The old man could not finish the sentence. He staggered back before
the fiendish look of his pupil, and covered his face with his hands.

Franz was breathing heavily, and his eyes had an expression which
reminded Klaus of those of a hyena. His pallor was cadaverous. For
some time he could not speak, but only gasped for breath. At last he
slowly muttered:

"Are you in earnest?"

"I am, as I hope to help you."

"And...and do you really believe that had I only the means of
obtaining human intestines for strings, I could rival Paganini?" asked
Franz, after a moment's pause, and casting down his eyes.

The old German unveiled his face, and, with a strange look of
determination upon it, softly answered:

"Human intestines alone are not sufficient for our purpose; they must
have belonged to some one who had loved us well, with an unselfish,
holy love. Tartini endowed his violin with the life of a virgin; but
that virgin had died of unrequited love for him. The fiendish artist,
had prepared beforehand a tube, in which he managed to catch her last
breath as she expired, pronouncing his beloved name, and he then
transferred this breath to his violin. As to Paganini, I have just
told you his tale. It was with the consent of his victim, though, that
he murdered him to get possession of his intestines.

"Oh, for the power of the human voice!" Samuel went on, after a brief
pause. "What can equal the eloquence, the magic spell of the human
voice? Do you think, my poor boy, I would not have taught you this
great, this final secret, were it not that it throws one right into
the clutches of him...who must remain unnamed at night?" he added,
with a sudden return to the superstitions of his youth.

Franz did not answer; but with a calmness awful to behold, he left his
place, took down his violin from the wall where it was hanging, and,
with one powerful grasp of the chords, he tore them out and flung them
into the fire.

Samuel suppressed a cry of horror. The chords were hissing upon the
coals, where, among the blazing logs, they wriggled and curled like so
many living snakes.

"By the witches of Thessaly and the dark arts of Circe!" he exclaimed,
with foaming mouth and his eyes burning like coals; "by the Furies of
Hell and Pluto himself, I now swear, in thy presence, O Samuel, my
master, never to touch a violin again until I can string it with four
human chords. May I be accursed for ever and ever if I do!" He fell
senseless on the floor, with a deep sob, that ended like a funeral
wail; old Samuel lifted him up as he would have lifted a child, and
carried him to his bed. Then he sallied forth in search of a
physician.

IV

For several days after this painful scene Franz was very ill, ill
almost beyond recovery. The physician declared him to be suffering
from brain fever and said that the worst was to be feared. For nine
long days the patient remained delirious; and Klaus, who was nursing
him night and day with the solicitude of the tenderest mother, was
horrified at the work of his own hands. For the first time since their
acquaintance began, the old teacher, owing to the wild ravings of his
pupil, was able to penetrate into the darkest corners of that weird,
superstitious, cold, and, at the same time, passionate nature; and--he
trembled at what he discovered. For he saw that which he had failed to
perceive before--Franz as he was in reality, and not as he seemed to
superficial observers. Music was the life of the young man, and
adulation was the air he breathed, without which that life became a
burden; from the chords of his violin alone, Stenio, drew his life and
being, but the applause of men and even of Gods was necessary to its
support. He saw unveiled before his eyes a genuine, artistic, earthly
soul, with its divine counterpart totally absent, a son of the Muses,
all fancy and brain poetry, but without a heart. While listening to
the ravings of that delirious and unhinged fancy Klaus felt as if he
were for the first time in his long life exploring a marvellous and
untravelled region, a human nature not of this world but of some
incomplete planet. He saw all this, and shuddered. More than once he
asked himself whether it would not be doing a kindness to his "boy" to
let him die before he returned to consciousness.

But he loved his pupil too well to dwell for long on such an idea.
Franz had bewitched his truly artistic nature, and now old Klaus felt
as though their two lives were inseparably linked together. That he
could thus feel was a revelation to the old man; so he decided to save
Franz, even at the expense of his own old and, as he thought, useless
life.

The seventh day of the illness brought on a most terrible crisis. For
twenty-four hours the patient never closed his eyes, nor remained for
a moment silent; he raved continuously during the whole time. His
visions were peculiar, and he minutely described each. Fantastic,
ghastly figures kept slowly swimming out of the penumbra of his small,
dark room, in regular and uninterrupted procession, and he greeted
each by name as he might greet old acquaintances. He referred to
himself as Prometheus, bound to the rock by four bands made of human
intestines. At the foot of the Caucasian Mount the black waters of the
river Styx were running... They had deserted Arcadia, and were now
endeavouring to encircle within a seven-fold embrace the rock upon
which he was suffering ...

"Wouldst thou know the name of the Promethean rock, old man?" he
roared into his adopted father's ear... "Listen then, ... . its name
is ... called Samuel Klaus...

"Yes, yes! ..." the German murmured disconsolately. "It is I who
killed him, while seeking to console. The news of Paganini's magic
arts struck his fancy too vividly... . Oh, my poor, poor boy!"

"Ha, ha, ha, ha!" The patient broke into a loud and discordant laugh.
"Aye, poor old man, sayest thou? ... So, so, thou art of poor stuff,
anyhow, and wouldst look well only when stretched upon a fine Cremona
violin!. . ."

Klaus shuddered, but said nothing. He only bent over the poor maniac,
and with a kiss upon his brow, a caress as tender and as gentle as
that of a doting mother, he left the sick-room for a few instants to
seek relief in his own garret. When he returned, the ravings were
following another channel. Franz was singing, trying to imitate the
sounds of a violin.

Toward the evening of that day, the delirium of the sick man became
perfectly ghastly. He saw spirits of fire clutching at his violin.
Their skeleton hands, from each finger of which grew a flaming claw,
beckoned to old Samuel ... They approached and surrounded the old
master, and were preparing to rip him open ... him, "the only man on
this earth who loves me with an unselfish, holy love, and...whose
intestines can be of any good at all!" he went on whispering, with
glaring eyes and demon laugh ...

By the next morning, however, the fever had disappeared, and by the
end of the ninth day Stenio had left his bed, having no recollection
of his illness, and no suspicion that he had allowed Klaus to read his
inner thought. Nay; had he himself any knowledge that such a horrible
idea as the sacrifice of his old master to his ambition had ever
entered his mind? Hardly. The only immediate result of his fatal
illness was, that as, by reason of his vow, his artistic passion could
find no issue, another passion awoke, which might avail to feed his
ambition and his insatiable fancy. He plunged headlong into the study
of the Occult Arts, of Alchemy and of Magic. In the practice of Magic
the young dreamer sought to stifle the voice of his passionate longing
for his, as he thought, for ever lost violin...

Weeks and months passed away, and the conversation about Paganini was
never resumed between the master and the pupil. But a profound
melancholy had taken possession of Franz, the two hardly exchanged a
word, the violin hung mute, chordless, full of dust, in its habitual
place. It was as the presence of a soulless corpse between them.

The young man had become gloomy and sarcastic, even avoiding the
mention of music. Once, as his old professor, after long hesitation,
took out his own violin from its dust-covered case and prepared to
play, Franz gave a convulsive shudder, but said nothing. At the first
notes of the bow, however, he glared like a madman, and rushing out of
the house, remained for hours, wandering in the streets. Then old
Samuel in his turn threw his instrument down, and locked himself up in
his room till the following morning.

One night as Franz sat, looking particularly pale and gloomy, old
Samuel suddenly jumped from his seat, and after hopping about the room
in a magpie fashion, approached his pupil, imprinted a fond kiss upon
the young man's brow, and squeaked at the top of his shrill voice:

"Is it not time to put an end to all this?"...

Whereupon, starting from his usual lethargy, Franz echoed, as in a
dream:

"Yes, it is time to put an end to this."

Upon which the two separated, and went to bed.

On the following morning, when Franz awoke, he was astonished not to
see his old teacher in his usual place to greet him. But he had
greatly altered during the last few months, and he at first paid no
attention to his absence, unusual as it was. He dressed and went into
the adjoining-room, a little parlour where they had their meals, and
which separated their two bedrooms. The fire had not been lighted
since the embers had died out on the previous night, and no sign was
anywhere visible of the professor's busy hand in his usual
housekeeping duties. Greatly puzzled, but in no way dismayed, Franz
took his usual place at the corner of the now cold fire-place, and
fell into an aimless reverie. As he stretched himself in his old
armchair, raising both his hands to clasp them behind his head in a
favourite posture of his, his hand came into contact with something on
a shelf at his back; he knocked against a case, and brought it
violently on the ground.

It was old Klaus' violin-case that came down to the floor with such a
sudden crash that the case opened and the violin fell out of it,
rolling to the feet of Franz. And then the chords striking against the
brass fender emitted a sound, prolonged, sad and mournful as the sigh
of an unrestful soul; it seemed to fill the whole room, and
reverberated in the head and the very heart of the young man. The
effect of that broken violin-string was magical.

"Samuel!" cried Stenio, with his eyes starting from their sockets, and
an unknown terror suddenly taking possession of his whole being.
"Samuel! what has happened?...My good, my dear old master!" he called
out, hastening to the professor's little room, and throwing the door
violently open. No one answered, all was silent within.

He staggered back, frightened at the sound of his own voice, so
changed and hoarse it seemed to him at this moment. No reply came in
response to his call. Naught followed but a dead silence...that
stillness which in the domain of sounds, usually denotes death. In the
presence of a corpse, as in the lugubrious stillness of a tomb, such
silence acquires a mysterious power, which strikes the sensitive soul
with a nameless terror ... The little room was dark, and Franz
hastened to open the shutters.

* * * * *

Samuel was lying on his bed, cold, stiff, and lifeless... At the sight
of the corpse of him who had loved him so well, and had been to him
more than a father, Franz experienced a dreadful revulsion of feeling
a terrible shock. But the ambition of the fanatical artist got the
better of the despair of the man, and smothered the feelings of the
latter in a few seconds.

A note bearing his own name was conspicuously placed upon a table near
the corpse. With trembling hand, the violinist tore open the envelope,
and read the following:

  MY BELOVED SON, FRANZ,

  When you read this, I shall have made the greatest sacrifice, that
your best and only friend and teacher could have accomplished for your
fame. He, who loved you most, is now but an inanimate lump of clay. Of
your old teacher there now remains but a clod of cold organic matter.
I need not prompt you as to what you have to do with it. Fear not
stupid prejudices. It is for your future fame that I have made an
offering of my body, and you would be guilty of the blackest
ingratitude were you now to render useless this sacrifice. When you
shall have replaced the chords upon your violin, and these chords a
portion of my own self, under your touch it will acquire the power of
that accursed sorcerer, all the magic voices of Paganini's instrument.
You will find therein my voice, my sighs and groans, my song of
welcome, the prayerful sobs of my infinite and sorrowful sympathy, my
love for you. And now, my Franz, fear nobody! Take your instrument
with you, and dog the steps of him who filled our lives with
bitterness and despair! ... Appear in every arena, where, hitherto, he
has reigned without a rival, and bravely throw the gauntlet of
defiance in his face. O Franz! then only wilt thou hear with what a
magic power the full notes of unselfish love will issue forth from thy
violin. Perchance, with a last caressing touch of its chords, thou
wilt remember that they once formed a portion of thine old teacher,
who now embraces and blesses thee for the last time.

  SAMUEL.

Two burning tears sparkled in the eyes of Franz, but they dried up
instantly. Under the fiery rush of passionate hope and pride, the two
orbs of the future magician-artist, riveted to the ghastly face of the
dead man, shone like the eyes of a demon.

Our pen refuses to describe that which took place on that day, after
the legal inquiry was over. As another note, written with a view of
satisfying the authorities, had been prudently provided by the loving
care of the old teacher, the verdict was, "Suicide from causes
unknown"; after this the coroner and the police retired, leaving the
bereaved heir alone in the death-room, with the remains of that which
had once been a living man.

* * * * *

Scarcely a fortnight had elapsed from that day, ere the violin had
been dusted, and four new, stout strings had been stretched upon it.
Franz dared not look at them. He tried to play, but the bow trembled
in his hand like a dagger in the grasp of a novice-brigand. He then
determined not to try again, until the portentous night should arrive,
when he should have a chance of rivalling, nay, of surpassing,
Paganini.

The famous violinist had meanwhile left Paris, and was giving a series
of triumphant concerts at an old Flemish town in Belgium.

V

One night, as Paganini, surrounded by a crowd of admirers, was sitting
in the dining-room of the hotel at which he was staying, a visiting
card, with a few words written on it in pencil, was handed to him by a
young man with wild and staring eyes.

Fixing upon the intruder a look, which few persons could bear, but
receiving back a glance as calm and determined as his own, Paganini
slightly bowed, and then dryly said:

"Sir, it shall be as you desire. Name the night. I am at your
service."

On the following morning the whole town was startled by the appearance
of bills posted at the corner of every street, and bearing the strange
notice:

  On the night of ... ., at the Grand Theatre of ... . and for the
first time, will appear before the public, Franz Stenio, a German
violinist, arrived purposely to throw down the gauntlet to, the world-
famous Paganini and to challenge him to a duel--upon their violins. He
purposes to compete with the great "virtuoso" in the execution of the
most difficult of his compositions. The famous Paganini has accepted
the challenge. Franz Stenio will play, in competition with the
unrivalled violinist, the celebrated "Frantaisie Caprice" of the
latter, known as "The Witches."

The effect of the notice was magical. Paganini, who, amid his greatest
triumphs, never lost sight of a profitable speculation, doubled the
usual price of admission, but still the theatre could not hold the
crowds that flocked to secure tickets for that memorable performance.

* * * * *

At last the morning of the concert day dawned, and the "duel" was in
every one's mouth. Franz Stenio, who, instead of sleeping, had passed
the whole long hours of the preceding midnight in walking up and down
his room like an encaged panther, had, toward morning, fallen on his
bed from mere physical exhaustion. Gradually he passed into a death-
like and dreamless slumber. At the gloomy winter dawn he awoke, but
finding it too early to rise he fell asleep again. And then he had a
vivid dream--so vivid indeed, so life-like, that from its terrible
realism he felt sure that it was a vision rather than a dream.

He had left his violin on a table by his bedside, locked in its case,
the key of which never left him. Since he had strung it with those
terrible chords he never let it out of his sight for a moment. In
accordance with his resolution he had not touched it since his first
trial, and his bow had never but once touched the human strings, for
he had since always practised on another instrument. But now in his
sleep he saw himself looking at the locked case. Something in it was
attracting his attention, and he found himself incapable of detaching
his eyes from it. Suddenly he saw the upper part of the case slowly
rising, and, within the chink thus produced, he perceived two small,
phosphorescent green eyes--eyes but too familiar to him--fixing
themselves on his, lovingly, almost beseechingly. Then a thin, shrill
voice, as if issuing from these ghastly orbs--the voice and orbs of
Samuel Klaus himself--resounded in Stenio's horrified ear, and he
heard it say:

"Franz, my beloved boy ... Franz, I cannot, no I cannot separate
myself from...them!"

And "they" twanged piteously inside the case.

Franz stood speechless, horror-bound. He felt his blood actually
freezing, and his hair moving and standing erect on his head.

"It's but a dream, an empty dream!" he attempted to formulate in his
mind.

"I have tried my best, Franzchen ... I have tried my best to sever
myself from these accursed strings, without pulling them to pieces..."
pleaded the same shrill, familiar voice. "Wilt thou help me to do so?"

Another twang, still more prolonged and dismal, resounded within the
case, now dragged about the table in every direction, by some interior
power, like some living, wriggling thing, the twangs becoming sharper
and more jerky with every new pull.

It was not for the first time that Stenio heard those sounds. He had
often remarked them before--indeed, ever since he had used his
master's viscera as a foot-stool for his own ambition. But on every
occasion a feeling of creeping horror had prevented him from
investigating their cause, and he had tried to assure himself that the
sounds were only a hallucination.

But now he stood face to face with the terrible fact, whether in dream
or in reality he knew not, nor did he care, since the hallucination--
if hallucination it were--was far more real and vivid than any
reality. He tried to speak, to take a step forward; but as often
happens in nightmares, he could neither utter a word nor move a finger
... . He felt hopelessly paralyzed.

The pulls and jerks were becoming more desperate with each moment, and
at last something inside the case snapped violently. The vision of his
Stradivarius, devoid of its magical strings, flashed before his eyes,
throwing him into a cold sweat of mute and unspeakable terror.

He made a superhuman effort to rid himself of the incubus that held
him spell-bound. But as the last supplicating whisper of the invisible
Presence repeated:

"Do, oh, do...help me to cut myself off--"

Franz sprang to the case with one bound, like an enraged tiger
defending its prey, and with one frantic effort breaking the spell.

"Leave the violin alone, you old fiend from hell!" he cried, in hoarse
and trembling tones.

He violently shut down the self-raising lid, and while firmly pressing
his left hand on it, he seized with the right a piece of rosin from
the table and drew on the leather-covered top the sign of the six
pointed star--the seal used by King Solomon to bottle up the
rebellious djins inside their prisons.

A wail, like the howl of a she-wolf moaning over her dead little ones,
came out of the violin-case:

"Thou art ungrateful ... very ungrateful, my Franz!" sobbed the
blubbering "spirit-voice." "But I forgive...for I still love thee
well. Yet thou canst not shut me in...boy. Behold!"

And instantly a greyish mist spread over and covered case and table,
and rising upward formed itself into an indistinct shape. Then it
began growing, and as it grew, Franz felt himself gradually enfolded
in cold and damp coils, slimy as those of a huge snake. He gave a
terrible cry and awoke; but, strangely enough, not on his bed, but
near the table, just as he had dreamed, pressing the violin case
desperately with both his hands.

"It was but a dream,...after all," he muttered, still terrified, but
relieved of the load on his heaving breast.

With a tremendous effort he composed himself, and unlocked the case to
inspect the violin. He found it covered with dust, but otherwise sound
and in order, and he suddenly felt himself as cool and determined as
ever. Having dusted the instrument he carefully rosined the bow,
tightened the strings and tuned them. He even went so far as to try
upon it the first notes of the "Witches"; first cautiously and
timidly, then using his bow boldly and with full force.

The sound of that loud, solitary note--defiant as the war trumpet of a
conquerer, sweet and majestic as the touch of a seraph on his golden
harp in the fancy of the faithful--thrilled through the very soul of
Franz it revealed to him a hitherto unsuspected potency in his bow,
which ran on in strains that filled the room with the richest swell of
melody, unheard by the artist until that night. Commencing in
uninterrupted legato tones, his bow sang to him of sun-bright hope and
beauty, of moonlit nights, when the soft and balmy stillness endowed
every blade of grass and all things animate and inanimate with a voice
and a song of love. For a few brief moments it was a torrent of
melody, the harmony of which, "tuned to soft woe," was calculated to
make mountains weep, had there been any in the room, and to soothe.

  .....even th'inexorable powers of hell,

the presence of which was undeniably felt in this modest hotel room.
Suddenly, the solemn legato chant, contrary to all laws of harmony,
quivered, became arpeggios, and ended in shrill staccatos, like the
notes of a hyena laugh. The same creeping sensation of terror, as he
had before felt, came over him, and Franz threw the bow away. He had
recognized the familiar laugh, and would have no more of it. Dressing,
he locked the be-devilled violin securely in its case, and taking it
with him to the dining-room, determined to await quietly the hour of
trial.

VI

The terrible hour of the struggle had come, and Stenio was at his
post--calm, resolute, almost smiling.

The theatre was crowded to suffocation, and there was not even
standing room to be got for any amount of hard cash or favouritism.
The singular challenge had reached every quarter to which the post
could carry it, and gold flowed freely into Paganini's unfathomable
pockets, to an extent almost satisfying even to his insatiate and
venal soul.

It was arranged that Paganini should begin. When he appeared upon the
stage, the thick walls of the theatre shook to their foundations with
the applause that greeted him. He began and ended his famous
composition "The Witches" amid a storm of cheers. The shouts of public
enthusiasm lasted so long that Franz began to think his turn would
never come. When, at last, Paganini, amid the roaring applause of a
frantic public, was allowed to retire behind the scenes, his eye fell
upon Stenio, who was tuning his violin, and he felt amazed at the
serene calmness, the air of assurance, of the unknown German artist.

When Franz approached the footlights, he was received with icy
coldness. But for all that, he did not feel in the least disconcerted.
He looked very pale, but his thin white lips wore a scornful smile as
response to this dumb unwelcome. He was sure of his triumph.

At the first notes of the prelude of "The Witches" a thrill of
astonishment passed over the audience. It was Paganini's touch, and it
was something more. Some--and they were the majority--thought that
never in his best moments of inspiration, had the Italian artist
himself, in executing that diabolical composition of his, exhibited
such an extraordinary diabolical power. Under the pressure of the long
muscular fingers of Franz, the chords shivered like the palpitating
intestines of a disembowelled victim under the vivisector's knife.
They moaned melodiously, like a dying child. The large blue eye of the
artist, fixed with a satanic expression upon the sounding-board,
seemed to summon forth Orpheus himself from the infernal regions,
rather than the musical notes supposed to be generated in the depths
of the violin. Sounds seemed to transform themselves into objective
shapes, thickly and precipitately gathering as at the evocation of a
mighty magician, and to be whirling around him, like a host of
fantastic, infernal figures, dancing the witches' "goat dance." In the
empty depths of the shadowy background of the stage, behind the
artist, a nameless phantasmagoria, produced by the concussion of
unearthly vibrations, seemed to form pictures of shameless orgies, of
the voluptuous hymens of a real witches' Sabbat...A collective
hallucination took hold of the public. Panting for breath, ghastly,
and trickling with the icy perspiration of an inexpressible horror,
they sat spell-bound, and unable to break the spell of the music by
the slightest motion. They experienced all the illicit enervating
delights of the paradise of Mahommed, that come into the disordered
fancy of an opium-eating Mussulman, and felt at the same time the
abject terror, the agony of one who struggles against an attack of
delirium tremens ... Many ladies shrieked aloud, others fainted, and
strong men gnashed their teeth, in a state of utter helplessness...

Then came the finale. Thundering uninterrupted applause delayed its
beginning, expanding the momentary pause to a duration of almost a
quarter of an hour. The bravos were furious, almost hysterical. At
last, when after a profound and last bow, Stenio, whose smile was as
sardonic as it was triumphant, lifted his bow to attack the famous
finale, his eye fell upon Paganini, who, calmly seated in the
manager's box, had been behind none in zealous applause. The small and
piercing black eyes of the Genoese artist were riveted to the
Stradivarius in the hands of Franz, but otherwise he seemed quite cool
and unconcerned. His rival's face troubled him for one short instant,
but he regained his self-possession and, lifting once more his bow,
drew the first note.

Then the public enthusiasm reached its acme, and soon knew no bounds.
The listeners heard and saw indeed. The witches' voices resounded in
the air, and beyond all the other voices one voice was heard---

  Discordant, and unlike to human sounds

  It seem'd of dogs the bark, of wolves the howl;

  The doleful screechings of the midnight owl;

  The hiss of snakes, the hungry lion's roar;

  The sounds of billows beating on the shore;

  The groan of winds among the leafy wood.

  And burst of thunder from the rending cloud;---

  'Twas these, all these in one .....

The magic bow was drawing forth its last quivering sounds--famous
among prodigious musical feats--imitating the precipitate flight of
the witches before bright dawn; of the unholy women saturated with the
fumes of their nocturnal Saturnalia, when--a strange thing came to
pass on the stage. Without the slightest transition, the notes
suddenly changed. In their aerial flight of ascension and descent,
their melody was unexpectedly altered in character. The sounds became
confused, scattered, disconnected...and then--it seemed from the
sounding-board of the violin--came out swearing, jarring tones, like
those of a street Punch, screaming at the top of a senile voice:

"Art thou satisfied, Franz, my boy? ... Have not I gloriously kept my
promise, eh?"

The spell was broken. Though still unable to realize the whole
situation, those who heard the voice and the Punchinello-like tones,
were freed, as by enchantment, from the terrible charm under which
they had been held. Loud roars of laughter, mocking exclamations of
half-anger and half-irritation were now heard from every corner of the
vast theatre. The musicians in the orchestra, with faces still
blanched from weird emotion, were now seen shaking with laughter, and
the whole audience rose, like one man, from their seats, unable yet to
solve the enigma; they felt, nevertheless, too disgusted, too disposed
to laugh to remain one moment longer in the building.

But suddenly the sea of moving heads in the stalls and the pit became
once more motionless, and stood petrified, as though struck by
lightning. What all saw was terrible enough--the handsome though wild
face of the young artist suddenly aged, and his graceful, erect figure
bent down, as though under the weight of years; but this was nothing
to that which some of the most sensitive clearly perceived. Franz
Stenio's person was now entirely enveloped in a semi-transparent mist,
cloud-like, creeping with serpentine motion, and gradually tightening
round the living form, as though ready to engulf him. And there were
those also who discerned in this tall and ominous pillar of smoke a
clearly-defined figure, a form showing the unmistakable outlines of a
grotesque and grinning, but terribly awful-looking old man, whose
viscera were protruding and the ends of the intestines stretched on
the violin.

Within this hazy, quivering veil, the violinist was then seen, driving
his bow furiously across the human chords, with the contortions of a
demoniac, as we see them represented on mediaeval cathedral paintings!

An indescribable panic swept over the audience, and breaking now, for
the last time, through the spell which had again bound them
motionless, every living creature in the theatre made one mad rush
towards the door. It was like the sudden outburst of a dam, a human
torrent, roaring amid a shower of discordant notes, idiotic
squeakings, prolonged and whining moans, cacophonous cries of frenzy,
above which, like the detonations of pistol shots, was heard the
consecutive bursting of the four strings stretched upon the sound-
board of that bewitched violin.

* * * * *

When the theatre was emptied of the last man of the audience, the
terrified manager rushed on the stage in search of the unfortunate
performer. He was found dead and already stiff, behind the footlights,
twisted up into the most unnatural of postures, with the "catguts"
wound curiously round his neck and his violin shattered into a
thousand fragments...

When it became publicly known that the unfortunate would-be rival of
Niccolo Paganini had not left a cent to pay for his funeral or his
hotel-bill, the Genoese, his proverbial meanness notwithstanding,
settled the hotel-bill and had poor Stenio buried at his own expense.

He claimed, however, in exchange, the fragments of the Stradivarius--
as a memento of the strange event.



THE END



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