Within a very short time I became a temporary resident in the house of Heliobas, and felt myself to be perfectly at home there. I had explained to Madame Denise the cause of my leaving her comfortable Pension, and she had fully approved of my being under a physician’s personal care in order to ensure rapid recovery; but when she heard the name of that physician, which I gave (in accordance with Zara’s instructions) as Dr. Casimir, she held up her fat hands in dismay.
“Oh, mademoiselle,” she exclaimed, “have you not dread of that terrible man? Is it not he that is reported to be a cruel mesmerist who sacrifices everybody — yes, even his own sister, to his medical experiments? Ah, mon Dieu! it makes me to shudder!”
And she shuddered directly, as a proof of her veracity. I was amused. I saw in her an example of the common multitude, who are more ready to believe in vulgar spirit-rapping and mesmerism than to accept an established scientific fact.
“Do you know Dr. Casimir and his sister?” I asked her.
“I have seen them, mademoiselle; perhaps once — twice — three times! It is true madame is lovely as an angel; but they say”— here she lowered her voice mysteriously —“that she is wedded to a devil! It is true, mademoiselle — all people say so. And Suzanne Michot — a very respectable young person, mademoiselle, from Auteuil — she was employed at one time as under-housemaid at Dr. Casimir’s, and she had things to say — ah, to make the blood like ice!”
“What did she say?” I asked with a half smile.
“Well,” and Madame Denise came close to me and looked confidential, “Suzanne — I assure you a most respectable girl — said that one evening she was crossing the passage near Madame Casimir’s boudoir, and she saw a light like fire coming through the curtains of the portiere. And she stopped to listen, and she heard a strange music like the sound of harps. She ventured to go nearer — Suzanne is a brave girl, mademoiselle, and most virtuous — and to raise the curtain the smallest portion just to permit the glance of an eye. And — imagine what she saw.”
“Well!” I exclaimed impatiently. “WHAT did she see?”
“Ah, mademoiselle, you will not believe me — but Suzanne Michot has respectable parents, and would not tell a lie — well, Suzanne saw her mistress, Madame Casimir, standing up near her couch with both arms extended as to embrace the air. Round her there was — believe it or not, mademoiselle, as you please — a ring of light like a red fire, which seemed to grow larger and redder always. All suddenly, madame grew pale and more pale, and then fell on her couch as one dead, and all the red fire went out. Suzanne had fear, and she tried to call out — but now see what happened to Suzanne! She was PUSHED from the spot, mademoiselle, pushed along as though by some strong personage; yet she saw no one till she reached her own door, and in her room she fainted from alarm. The very next morning Dr. Casimir dismissed her, with her full wages and a handsome present besides; but he LOOKED at her, Suzanne said, in a manner to make her tremble from head to foot. Now, mademoiselle, judge yourself whether it is fit for one who is suffering with nerves to go to so strange a house!”
I laughed. Her story had not the least effect upon me. In fact, I made up my mind that the so respectable and virtuous Suzanne Michot had been drinking some of her master’s wine. I said:
“Your words only make me more desirous to go, Madame Denise. Besides, Dr. Casimir has already done me a great deal of good. You must have heard things of him that are not altogether bad, surely?”
The little woman reflected seriously, and then said, as with some reluctance:
“It is certainly true, mademoiselle, that in the quarter of the poor he is much beloved. Jean Duclos — he is a chiffonnier — had his one child dying of typhoid fever, and he was watching it struggling for breath; it was at the point to die. Monsieur le Comte Casimir, or Dr. Casimir — for he is called both — came in all suddenly, and in half an hour had saved the little one’s life. I do not deny that he may have some good in him, and that he understands medicine; but there is something wrong —” And Madame Denise shook her head forlornly a great number of times.
None of her statements deterred me from my intention, and I was delighted when I found myself fairly installed at the Hotel Mars. Zara gave me a beautiful room next to her own; she had taken pains to fit it up herself with everything that was in accordance with my particular tastes, such as a choice selection of books; music, including many of the fascinating scores of Schubert and Wagner; writing materials; and a pretty, full-toned pianette. My window looked out on a small courtyard, which had been covered over with glass and transformed into a conservatory. I could enter it by going down a few steps, and could have the satisfaction of gathering roses and lilies of the valley, while outside the east wind blew and the cold snowflakes fell over Paris. I wrote to Mrs. Everard from my retreat, and I also informed the Challoners where they could find me if they wanted me. These duties done, I gave myself up to enjoyment. Zara and I became inseparables; we worked together, read together, and together every morning gave those finishing-touches to the ordering and arrangement of the household which are essentially feminine, and which not the wisest philosopher in all the world has been, or ever will be, able to accomplish successfully. We grew to love each other dearly, with that ungrudging, sympathizing, confiding friendship that is very rarely found between two women. In the meantime my cure went on rapidly. Every night on retiring to rest Heliobas prepared a medicinal dose for me, of the qualities of which I was absolutely ignorant, but which I took trustingly from his hand. Every morning a different little phial of liquid was placed in the bathroom for me to empty into the water of my daily bath, and every hour I grew better, brighter, and stronger. The natural vivacity of my temperament returned to me; I suffered no pain, no anxiety, no depression, and I slept as soundly as a child, unvisited by a single dream. The mere fact of my being alive became a joy to me; I felt grateful for everything — for my eyesight, my speech, my hearing, my touch — because all my senses seemed to be sharpened and invigorated and braced up to the keenest delight. This happy condition of my system did not come suddenly — sudden cures mean sudden relapses; it was a gradual, steady, ever-increasing, reliable recovery.
I found the society of Heliobas and his sister very fascinating. Their conversation was both thoughtful and brilliant, their manners were evenly gracious and kindly, and the life they led was a model of perfect household peace and harmony. There was never a fuss about anything: the domestic arrangements seemed to work on smoothly oiled wheels; the different repasts were served with quiet elegance and regularity; the servants were few, but admirably trained; and we all lived in an absolutely calm atmosphere, unruffled by so much as a breath of worry. Nothing of a mysterious nature went on, as far as I could see.
Heliobas passed the greater part of the day in his study — a small, plainly furnished room, the facsimile of the one I had beheld him in when I had dreamed those three dreams at Cannes. Whether he received many or few patients there I could not tell; but that some applied to him for advice I knew, as I often met strangers crossing the hall on their way in and out. He always joined us at dinner, and was invariably cheerful, generally entertaining us with lively converse and sparkling narrative, though now and then the thoughtful tendency of his mind predominated, and gave a serious tone to his remarks.
Zara was uniformly bright and even in her temperament. She was my very ideal of the Greek Psyche, radiant yet calm, pensive yet mirthful. She was full of beautiful ideas and poetical fancies, and so thoroughly untouched by the world and its aims, that she seemed to me just to poise on the earth like a delicate butterfly on a flower; and I should have been scarcely surprised had I seen her unfold a pair of shining wings and fly away to some other region. Yet in spite of this spirituelle nature, she was physically stronger and more robust than any other woman I ever saw. She was gay and active; she was never tired, never ailing, and she enjoyed life with a keen zest such as is unknown to the tired multitudes who toil on hopelessly and wearily, wondering, as they work, why they were born. Zara evidently had no doubts or speculations of this kind; she drank in every minute of her existence as if it were a drop of honey-dew prepared specially for her palate. I never could believe that her age was what she had declared it to be. She seemed to look younger every day; sometimes her eyes had that limpid, lustrous innocence that is seen in the eyes of a very little child; and, again, they would change and glow with the earnest and lofty thought of one who had lived through years of study, research, and discovery. For the first few days of my visit she did not work in her studio at all, but appeared to prefer reading or talking with me. One afternoon, however, when we had returned from a short drive in the Bois de Boulogne, she said half hesitatingly:
“I think I will go to work again to-morrow morning, if you will not think me unsociable.”
“Why, Zara dearest!” I replied. “Of course I shall not think you unsociable. I would not interfere with any of your pursuits for the world.”
She looked at me with a sort of wistful affection, and continued:
“But you must know I like to work quite alone, and though it may look churlish, still not even you must come into the studio. I never can do anything before a witness; Casimir himself knows that, and keeps away from me.”
“Well!” I said, “I should be an ungrateful wretch if I could not oblige you in so small a request. I promise not to disturb you, Zara; and do not think for one moment that I shall be dull. I have books, a piano, flowers — what more do I want? And if I like I can go out; then I have letters to write, and all sorts of things to occupy me. I shall be quite happy, and I shall not come near you till you call me.”
Zara kissed me.
“You are a dear girl,” she said; “I hate to appear inhospitable, but I know you are a real friend — that you will love me as much away from you as near you, and that you have none of that vulgar curiosity which some women give way to, when what they desire to see is hidden from them. You are not inquisitive, are you?”
“The affairs of other people have never appeared so interesting to me that I have cared to bother myself about them,” I replied. “Blue-Beard’s Chamber would never have been unlocked had I been that worthy man’s wife.”
“What a fine moral lesson the old fairy-tale teaches!” said Zara. “I always think those wives of Blue-Beard deserved their fate for not being able to obey him in his one request. But in regard to your pursuits, dear, while I am at work in my studio, you can use the grand piano in the drawing-room when you please, as well as the little one in your own room; and you can improvise on the chapel organ as much as you like.”
I was delighted at this idea, and thanked her heartily. She smiled thoughtfully.
“What happiness it must be for you to love music so thoroughly!” she said. “It fills you with enthusiasm. I used to dislike to read the biographies of musical people; they all seemed to find so much fault with one another, and grudged each other every little bit of praise wrung from the world’s cold, death-doomed lips. It is to me pathetically absurd to see gifted persons all struggling along, and rudely elbowing each other out of the way to win — what? A few stilted commonplace words of approbation or fault-finding in the newspapers of the day, and a little clapping and shouting from a gathering of ordinary minded persons, who only clap and shout because it is possibly the fashion to do so. It is really ludicrous. If the music the musician offers to the public be really great, it will live by itself and defy praise or blame. Because Schubert died of want and sorrow, that does not interfere with the life of his creations. Because Wagner is voted impossible and absurd by many who think themselves good judges of musical art, that does not offer any obstacle to the steady spread of his fame, which is destined to become as universal as that of Shakespeare. Poor Joachim, the violinist, has got a picture in his private house, in which Wagner is painted as suffering the tortures of hell; can anything be more absurd, when we consider how soon the learned fiddler, who has occupied his life in playing other people’s compositions, will be a handful of forgotten dust, while multitudes yet to come will shout their admiration of ‘Tristran’ and ‘Parsifal.’ Yes, as I said, I never cared for musical people much, till I met a friend of my brother’s — a man whose inner life was an exquisite harmony.”
“I know!” I interrupted her. “He wrote the ‘Letters of a Dead Musician.’”
“Yes,” said Zara. “I suppose you saw the book at Raffaello’s studio. Good Raffaello Cellini! his is another absolutely ungrudging and unselfish spirit. But this musician that I speak of was like a child in humility and reverence. Casimir told me he had never sounded so perfect a nature. At one time he, too, was a little anxious for recognition and praise, and Casimir saw that he was likely to wreck himself on that fatal rock of poor ambition. So he took him in hand, and taught him the meaning of his work, and why it was especially given him to do; and that man’s life became ‘one grand sweet song.’ But there are tears in your eyes, dear! What have I said to grieve you?”
And she caressed me tenderly. The tears were indeed thick in my eyes, and a minute or two elapsed before I could master them. At last I raised my head and endeavoured to smile.
“They are not sad tears, Zara,” I said; “I think they come from a strong desire I have to be what you are, what your brother is, what that dead musician must have been. Why, I have longed, and do long for fame, for wealth, for the world’s applause, for all the things which you seem to think so petty and mean. How can I help it? Is not fame power? Is not money a double power, strong to assist one’s self and those one loves? Is not the world’s favour a necessary means to gain these things?”
Zara’s eyes gleamed with a soft and pitying gentleness.
“Do you understand what you mean by power?” she asked. “World’s fame? World’s wealth? Will these things make you enjoy life? You will perhaps say yes. I tell you no. Laurels of earth’s growing fade; gold of earth’s getting is good for a time, but it palls quickly. Suppose a man rich enough to purchase all the treasures of the world — what then? He must die and leave them. Suppose a poet or musician so famous that all nations know and love him: he too must die, and go where nations exist no longer. And you actually would grasp ashes and drink wormwood, little friend? Music, the heaven-born spirit of pure sound, does not teach you so!”
I was silent. The gleam of the strange jewel Zara always wore flashed in my eyes like lightning, and anon changed to the similitude of a crimson star. I watched it, dreamily fascinated by its unearthly glitter.
“Still,” I said, “you yourself admit that such fame as that of Shakespeare or Wagner becomes a universal monument to their memories. That is something, surely?”
“Not to them,” replied Zara; “they have partly forgotten that they ever were imprisoned in such a narrow gaol as this world. Perhaps they do not care to remember it, though memory is part of immortality.”
“Ah!” I sighed restlessly; “your thoughts go beyond me, Zara. I cannot follow your theories.”
“We will not talk about them any more,” she said; “you must tell Casimir — he will teach you far better than I can.”
“What shall I tell him?” I asked; “and what will he teach me?”
“You will tell him what a high opinion you have of the world and its judgments,” said Zara, “and he will teach you that the world is no more than a grain of dust, measured by the standard of your own soul. This is no mere platitude — no repetition of the poetical statement ‘THE MIND’S THE STANDARD OF THE MAN;’ it is a fact, and can be proved as completely as that two and two make four. Ask Casimir to set you free.”
“To set me free?” I asked, surprised.
“Yes!” and Zara looked at me brightly. “He will know if you are strong enough to travel!” And, nodding her head gaily to me, she left the room to prepare for the dinner-hour which was fast approaching.
I pondered over her words a good deal without arriving at any satisfactory conclusion as to the meaning of them. I did not resume the conversation with her, nor did I speak to Heliobas as yet, and the days went on smoothly and pleasantly till I had been nearly a week in residence at the Hotel Mars. I now felt perfectly well and strong, though Heliobas continued to give me his remedies regularly night and morning. I began an energetic routine of musical practice: the beautiful piano in the drawing-room answered readily to my touch, and many a delightful hour slipped by as I tried various new difficulties on the key-board, or worked out different combinations of harmony. I spent a great deal of my time at the organ in the little chapel, the bellows of which were worked by electricity, in a manner that gave not the least trouble, and was perfectly simple of management.
The organ itself was peculiarly sweet in tone, the “vox humana” stop especially producing an entrancingly rich and tender sound. The silence, warmth, and beauty of the chapel, with the winter sunlight streaming through its stained windows, and the unbroken solitude I enjoyed there, all gave fresh impetus to the fancies of my brain, and a succession of solemn and tender melodies wove themselves under my fingers as a broidered carpet is woven on the loom.
One particular afternoon, I was sitting at the instrument as usual, and my thoughts began to busy themselves with the sublime tragedy of Calvary. I mused, playing softly all the while, on the wonderful, blameless, glorious life that had ended in the shame and cruelty of the Cross, when suddenly, like a cloud swooping darkly across the heaven of my thoughts, came the suggestive question: “Is it all true? Was Christ indeed Divine — or is it all a myth, a fable — an imposture?” Unconsciously I struck a discordant chord on the organ — a faint tremor shook me, and I ceased playing. An uncomfortable sensation came over me, as of some invisible presence being near me and approaching softly, slowly, yet always more closely; and I hurriedly rose from my seat, shut the organ, and prepared to leave the chapel, overcome by a strange incomprehensible terror. I was glad when I found myself safely outside the door, and I rushed into the hall as though I were being pursued; yet the oddest part of my feeling was, that whoever thus pursued me, did so out of love, not enmity, and that I was almost wrong in running away. I leaned for a moment against one of the columns in the hall, trying to calm the excited beating of my heart, when a deep voice startled me:
“So! you are agitated and alarmed! Unbelief is easily scared!”
I looked up and met the calm eyes of Heliobas. He appeared to be taller, statelier, more like a Chaldean prophet or king than I had ever seen him before. There was something in his steady scrutiny of my face that put me to a sort of shame, and when he spoke again it was in a tone of mild reproof.
“You have been led astray, my child, by the conflicting and vain opinions of mankind. You, like many others in the world, delight to question, to speculate, to weigh this, to measure that, with little or no profit to yourself or your fellow-creatures. And you have come freshly from a land where, in the great Senate-house, a poor perishable lump of clay calling itself a man, dares to stand up boldly and deny the existence of God, while his compeers, less bold than he, pretend a holy displeasure, yet secretly support him — all blind worms denying the existence of the sun; a land where so-called Religion is split into hundreds of cold and narrow sects, gatherings assembled for the practice of hypocrisy, lip-service and lies — where Self, not the Creator, is the prime object of worship; a land, mighty once among the mightiest, but which now, like an over-ripe pear, hangs loosely on its tree, awaiting but a touch to make it fall! A land — let me not name it; — where the wealthy, high-fed ministers of the nation slowly argue away the lives of better men than themselves, with vain words of colder and more cruel force than the whirling spears of untaught savages! What have you, an ardent disciple of music, to do in such a land where favouritism and backstair influence win the day over even the merits of a Schubert? Supposing you were a second Beethoven, what could you do in that land without faith or hope? that land which is like a disappointed, churlish, and aged man with tottering feet and purblind eyes, who has long ago exhausted all enjoyment and sees nothing new under the sun. The world is wide — faith is yet extant — and the teachings of Christ are true. ‘Believe and live; doubt and die!’ That saying is true also.”
I had listened to these words in silence; but now I spoke eagerly and impatiently, remembering what Zara had told me.
“Then,” I said, “if I have been misguided by modern opinions — if I have unconsciously absorbed the doctrines of modern fashionable atheism — lead me right. Teach me what you know. I am willing to learn. Let me find out the reason of my life. SET ME FREE!”
Heliobas regarded me with earnest solemnity.
“Set you free!” he murmured, in a low tone. “Do you know what you ask?”
“No,” I answered, with reckless fervour. “I do not know what I ask; but I feel that you have the power to show me the unseen things of another world. Did you not yourself tell me in our first interview that you had let Raffaello Cellini ‘go on a voyage of discovery, and that he came back perfectly satisfied?’ Besides, he told me his history. From you he has gained all that gives him peace and comfort. You possess electric secrets undreamt of by the world. Prove your powers upon me; I am not afraid.”
Heliobas smiled. “Not afraid! And you ran out of the chapel just now as if you were pursued by a fiend! You must know that the only WOMAN I ever tried my greatest experiment upon is my sister Zara. She was trained and prepared for it in the most careful manner; and it succeeded. Now”— and Heliobas looked half-sad, half-triumphant —“she has passed beyond my power; she is dominated by one greater than I. But she cannot use her force for others; she can only employ it to defend herself. Therefore, I am willing to try you if you indeed desire it — to see if the same thing will occur to you as to Zara; and I firmly believe it will.”
A slight tremor came over me; but I said with an attempt at indifference:
“You mean that I shall be dominated also by some great force or influence?”
“I think so,” replied Heliobas musingly. “Your nature is more prone to love than to command. Try and follow me in the explanation I am going to give you. Do you know some lines by Shelley that run —
“‘Nothing in the world is single,
All things by a law divine
In one another’s being mingle —
Why not I with thine?’”
“Yes,” I said. “I know the lines well. I used to think them very sentimental and pretty.”
“They contain,” said Heliobas, “the germ of a great truth, as many of the most fanciful verses of the poets do. As the ‘image of a voice’ mentioned in the Book of Job hinted at the telephone, and as Shakespeare’s ‘girdle round the earth’ foretold the electric telegraph, so the utterances of the inspired starvelings of the world, known as poets, suggest many more wonders of the universe than may be at first apparent. Poets must always be prophets, or their calling is in vain. Put this standard of judgment to the verse-writers of the day, and where would they be? The English Laureate is no seer: he is a mere relater of pretty stories. Algernon Charles Swinburne has more fire in him, and more wealth of expression, but he does not prophesy; he has a clever way of combining Biblical similes with Provengal passion — et voila tout! The prophets are always poor — the sackcloth and ashes of the world are their portion; and their bodies moulder a hundred years or more in the grave before the world finds out what they meant by their ravings. But apropos of these lines of Shelley. He speaks of the duality of existence. ‘Nothing in the world is single.’ He might have gone further, and said nothing in the universe is single. Cold and heat, storm and sunshine, good and evil, joy and sorrow — all go in pairs. This double life extends to all the spheres and above the spheres. Do you understand?”
“I understand what you say,” I said slowly; “but I cannot see your meaning as applied to myself or yourself.”
“I will teach you in a few words,” went on Heliobas. “You believe in the soul?”
“Very well. Now realize that there is no soul on this earth that is complete, ALONE. Like everything else, it is dual. It is like half a flame that seeks the other half, and is dissatisfied and restless till it attains its object. Lovers, misled by the blinding light of Love, think they have reached completeness when they are united to the person beloved. Now, in very, very rare cases, perhaps one among a thousand, this desirable result is effected; but the majority of people are content with the union of bodies only, and care little or nothing about the sympathy or attachment between souls. There are people, however, who do care, and who never find their Twin-Flame or companion Spirit at all on earth, and never will find it. And why? Because it is not imprisoned in clay; it is elsewhere.”
“Well?” I asked eagerly.
“Well, you seem to ask me by your eyes what this all means. I will apply it at once to myself. By my researches into human electrical science, I discovered that MY companion, MY other half of existence, though not on earth, was near me, and could be commanded by me; and, on being commanded, obeyed. With Zara it was different. She could not COMMAND— she OBEYED; she was the weaker of the two. With you, I think it will be the same thing. Men sacrifice everything to ambition; women to love. It is natural. I see there is much of what I have said that appears to have mystified you; it is no good puzzling your brain any more about it. No doubt you think I am talking very wildly about Twin-Flames and Spiritual Affinities that live for us in another sphere. You do not believe, perhaps, in the existence of beings in the very air that surrounds us, invisible to ordinary human eyes, yet actually akin to us, with a closer relationship than any tie of blood known on earth?”
I hesitated. Heliobas saw my hesitation, and his eyes darkened with a sombre wrath.
“Are you one of those also who must see in order to believe?” he said, half angrily. “Where do you suppose your music comes from? Where do you suppose any music comes from that is not mere imitation? The greatest composers of the world have been mere receptacles of sound; and the emptier they were of self-love and vanity, the greater quantity of heaven-born melody they held. The German Wagner — did he not himself say that he walked up and down in the avenues, ‘trying to catch the harmonies as they floated in the air’? Come with me — come back to the place you left, and I will see if you, like Wagner, are able to catch a melody flying.”
He grasped my unresisting arm, and led me, half-frightened, half-curious, into the little chapel, where he bade me seat myself at the organ.
“Do not play a single note,” he said, “till you are compelled.”
And standing beside me, Heliobas laid his hands on my head, then pressed them on my ears, and finally touched my hands, that rested passively on the keyboard.
He then raised his eyes, and uttered the name I had often thought of but never mentioned — the name he had called upon in my dream.
“Azul!” he said, in a low, penetrating voice, “open the gateways of the Air that we may hear the sound of Song!”
A soft rushing noise of wind answered his adjuration. This was followed by a burst of music, transcendently lovely, but unlike any music I had ever heard. There were sounds of delicate and entrancing tenderness such as no instrument made by human hands could produce; there was singing of clear and tender tone, and of infinite purity such as no human voices could be capable of. I listened, perplexed, alarmed, yet entranced. Suddenly I distinguished a melody running through the wonderful air-symphonies — a melody like a flower, fresh and perfect. Instinctively I touched the organ and began to play it; I found I could produce it note for note. I forgot all fear in my delight, and I played on and on in a sort of deepening rapture. Gradually I became aware that the strange sounds about me were dying slowly away; fainter and fainter they grew — softer — farther — and finally ceased. But the melody — that one distinct passage of notes I had followed out — remained with me, and I played it again and again with feverish eagerness lest it should escape me. I had forgotten the presence of Heliobas. But a touch on my shoulder roused me. I looked up and met his eyes fixed upon, me with a steady and earnest regard. A shiver ran through, me, and I felt bewildered.
“Have I lost it?” I asked.
“Lost what?” he demanded.
“The tune I heard — the harmonies.”
“No,” he replied; “at least I think not. But if you have, no matter. You will hear others. Why do you look so distressed?”
“It is lovely,” I said wistfully, “all that music; but it is not MINE;” and tears of regret filled my eyes. “Oh, if it were only mine — my very own composition!”
Heliobas smiled kindly.
“It is as much yours as any thing belongs to anyone. Yours? why, what can you really call your own? Every talent you have, every breath you draw, every drop of blood flowing in your veins, is lent to you only; you must pay it all back. And as far as the arts go, it is a bad sign of poet, painter, or musician, who is arrogant enough to call his work his own. It never was his, and never will be. It is planned by a higher intelligence than his, only he happens to be the hired labourer chosen to carry out the conception; a sort of mechanic in whom boastfulness looks absurd; as absurd as if one of the stonemasons working at the cornice of a cathedral were to vaunt himself as the designer of the whole edifice. And when a work, any work, is completed, it passes out of the labourer’s hands; it belongs to the age and the people for whom it was accomplished, and, if deserving, goes on belonging to future ages and future peoples. So far, and only so far, music is your own. But are you convinced? or do you think you have been dreaming all that you heard just now?”
I rose from the organ, closed it gently, and, moved by a sudden impulse, held out both my hands to Heliobas. He took them and held them in a friendly clasp, watching me intently as I spoke.
“I believe in YOU,” I said firmly; “and I know thoroughly well that I was not dreaming; I certainly heard strange music, and entrancing voices. But in acknowledging your powers over something unseen, I must explain to you the incredulity I at first felt, which I believe annoyed you. I was made sceptical on one occasion, by attending a so-called spiritual seance, where they tried to convince me of the truth of table-turning —”
Heliobas laughed softly, still holding my hands.
“Your reason will at once tell you that disembodied spirits never become so undignified as to upset furniture or rap on tables. Neither do they write letters in pen and ink and put them under doors. Spiritual beings are purely spiritual; they cannot touch anything human, much less deal in such vulgar display as the throwing about of chairs, and the opening of locked sideboards. You were very rightly sceptical in these matters. But in what I have endeavoured to prove to you, you have no doubts, have you?”
“None in the world,” I said. “I only ask you to go on teaching me the wonders that seem so familiar to you. Let me know all I may; and soon!” I spoke with trembling eagerness.
“You have been only eight days in the house, my child,” said Heliobas, loosening my hands, and signing me to come out of the chapel with him; “and I do not consider you sufficiently strong as yet for the experiment you wish me to try upon you. Even now you are agitated. Wait one week more, and then you shall be —”
“What?” I asked impatiently.
“Lifted up,” he replied. “Lifted up above this little speck called earth. But now, no more of this. Go to Zara; keep your mind well employed; study, read, and pray — pray much and often in few and simple words, and with as utterly unselfish a heart as you can prepare. Think that you are going to some high festival, and attire your soul in readiness. I do not say to you ‘Have faith;’ I would not compel your belief in anything against your own will. You wish to be convinced of a future existence; you seek proofs; you shall have them. In the meantime avoid all conversation with me on the subject. You can confide your desires to Zara if you like; her experience may be of use to you. You had best join her now. Au revoir!” and with a kind parting gesture, he left me.
I watched his stately figure disappear in the shadow of the passage leading to his own study, and then I hastened to Zara’s room. The musical episode in the chapel had certainly startled me, and the words of Heliobas were full of mysterious meaning; but, strange to say, I was in no way rendered anxious or alarmed by the prospect I had before me of being “lifted up,” as my physician had expressed it. I thought of Raffaello Cellini and his history, and I determined within myself that no cowardly hesitation or fear should prevent me from making the attempt to see what he professed to have seen. I found Zara reading. She looked up as I entered, and greeted me with her usual bright smile.
“You have had a long practice,” she began; “I thought you were never coming.”
I sat down beside her, and related at once all that had happened to me that afternoon. Zara listened with deep and almost breathless interest.
“You are quite resolved,” she said, when I had concluded, “to let Casimir exert his force upon you?”
“I am quite resolved,” I answered.
“And you have no fear?”
“None that I am just now conscious of.”
Zara’s eyes became darker and deeper in the gravity of her intense meditation. At last she said:
“I can help you to keep your courage firmly to the point, by letting you know at once what Casimir will do to you. Beyond that I cannot go. You understand the nature of an electric shock?”
“Yes,” I replied.
“Well, there are different kinds of electric shocks — some that are remedial, some that are fatal. There are cures performed by a careful use of the electric battery — again, people are struck dead by lightning, which is the fatal result of electric force. But all this is EXTERNAL electricity; now what Casimir will use on you will be INTERNAL electricity.”
I begged her to explain more clearly. She went on:
“You have internally a certain amount of electricity, which has been increased recently by the remedies prescribed for you by Casimir. But, however much you have, Casimir has more, and he will exert his force over your force, the greater over the lesser. You will experience an INTERNAL electric shock, which, like a sword, will separate in twain body and spirit. The spiritual part of you will be lifted up above material forces; the bodily part will remain inert and useless, till the life, which is actually YOU, returns to put its machinery in motion once more.”
“But shall I return at all?” I asked half doubtfully.
“You must return, because God has fixed the limits of your life on earth, and no human power can alter His decree. Casimir’s will can set you free for a time, but only for a time. You are bound to return, be it never so reluctantly. Eternal liberty is given by Death alone, and Death cannot be forced to come.”
“How about suicide?” I asked.
“The suicide,” replied Zara, “has no soul. He kills his body, and by the very act proves that whatever germ of an immortal existence he may have had once, has escaped from its unworthy habitation, and gone, like a flying spark, to find a chance of growth elsewhere. Surely your own reason proves this to you? The very animals have more soul than a man who commits suicide. The beasts of prey slay each other for hunger or in self-defence, but they do not slay themselves. That is a brutality left to man alone, with its companion degradation, drunkenness.”
I mused awhile in silence.
“In all the wickedness and cruelty of mankind,” I said, “it is almost a wonder that there is any spiritual existence left on earth at all. Why should God trouble Himself to care for such few souls as thoroughly believe in and love Him? — they can be but a mere handful.”
“Such a mere handful are worth more than the world to him,” said Zara gravely. “Oh, my dear, do not say such things as why should God trouble Himself? Why do you trouble yourself for the safety and happiness of anyone you love?”
Her eyes grew soft and tender, and the jewel she wore glimmered like moonlight on the sea. I felt a little abashed, and, to change the subject, I said:
“Tell me, Zara, what is that stone you always wear? Is it a talisman?”
“It belonged to a king,” said Zara — “at least, it was found in a king’s coffin. It has been in our family for generations. Casimir says it is an electric stone — there are such still to be found in remote parts of the sea. Do you like it?”
“It is very brilliant and lovely,” I said.
“When I die,” went on Zara slowly, “I will leave it to you.”
“I hope I shall have to wait a long time before I get it, then,” I exclaimed, embracing her affectionately. “Indeed, I will pray never to receive it.”
“You will pray wrongly,” said Zara, smiling. “But tell me, do you quite understand from my explanation what Casimir will do to you?”
“I think I do.”
“And you are not afraid?”
“Not at all. Shall I suffer any pain?”
“No actual pang. You will feel giddy for a moment, and your body will become unconscious. That is all.”
I meditated for a few moments, and then looking up, saw Zara’s eyes watching me with a wistful inquiring tenderness. I answered her look with a smile, and said, half gaily:
“L’audace, l’audace, et toujours l’audace! That must be my motto, Zara. I have a chance now of proving how far a woman’s bravery can go, and I assure you I am proud of the opportunity. Your brother uttered some very cutting remarks on the general inaptitude of the female sex when I first made his acquaintance; so, for the honour of the thing, I must follow the path I have begun to tread. A plunge into the unseen world is surely a bold step for a woman, and I am determined to take it courageously.”
“That is well,” said Zara. “I do not think it possible for you ever to regret it. It is growing late — shall we prepare for dinner?”
I assented, and we separated to our different rooms. Before commencing to dress I opened the pianette that stood near my window, and tried very softly to play the melody I had heard in the chapel. To my joy it came at once to my fingers, and I was able to remember every note. I did not attempt to write it down — somehow I felt sure it would not escape me now. A sense of profound gratitude filled my heart, and, remembering the counsel given by Heliobas, I knelt reverently down and thanked God for the joy and grace of music. As I did so, a faint breath of sound, like a distant whisper of harps played in unison, floated past my ears — then appeared to sweep round in ever-widening circles, till it gradually died away. But it was sweet and entrancing enough for me to understand how glorious and full of rapture must have been the star-symphony played on that winter’s night long ago, when the angels chanted together, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace and good-will to Man!”
Last updated Tuesday, August 25, 2015 at 14:07