Part 5 out of 8
"Is your curious conception or ideal of love the reason, why you
have never married?" asked Brayle, abruptly.
"Precisely!" replied Santoris. "It is most unquestionably and
emphatically the reason why I have never married."
There was a pause. I saw Catherine glancing at him with a strange
furtiveness in which there was something of fear.
"You have never met your ideal, I suppose?" she asked, with a faint
"Oh yes, I've met her!" he answered--"Ages ago! On many occasions I
have met her;--sometimes she has estranged herself from me,--
sometimes she has been torn from me by others--and still more often
I have, through my own folly and obstinacy, separated myself from
her--but our mutual mistakes do no more than delay the inevitable
union at last."--Here he spoke slowly and with marked meaning--"For
it IS an inevitable union!--as inevitable as that of two electrons
which, after spinning in space for certain periods of time, rush
together at last and remain so indissolubly united that nothing can
ever separate them."
"And then?" queried Dr. Brayle, with an ironical air.
"Then? Why, everything is possible then! Beauty, perfection, wisdom,
progress, creativeness, and a world--even worlds--of splendid
thought and splendid ideals, bound to lead to still more splendid
realisation! It is not difficult to imagine two brains, two minds
moving so absolutely in unison that like a grand chord of music they
strike harmony through hitherto dumb life-episodes--but think of two
immortal souls full of a love as deathless as themselves, conjoined
in highest effort and superb attainment!--the love of angel for
angel, of god for god! You think this ideal imaginative,--
transcendental--impossible!--yet I swear to you it is the most REAL
possibility in this fleeting mirage of a world!"
His voice thrilled with a warmth of feeling and conviction, and as I
heard him speak I trembled inwardly with a sudden remorse--a quick
sense of inferiority and shame. Why could I not let myself go? Why
did I not give the fluttering spirit within me room to expand its
wings? Something opposing,--something inimical to my peace and
happiness held me back--and presently I began to wonder whether I
should attribute it to the influence of those with whom I was
temporarily associated. I was almost confirmed in this impression
when Mr. Harland's voice, harsh and caustic as it could be when he
was irritated or worsted in an argument, broke the momentary
"You are more impossible now than you ever were at Oxford,
Santoris!" he said--"You out-transcend all transcendentalism! You
know, or you ought to know by this time, that there is no such thing
as an immortal soul--and if you believe otherwise you have brought
yourself voluntarily into that state of blind credulity. All science
teaches us that we are the mere spawn of the planet on which we
live,--we are here to make the best of it for ourselves and for
others who come after us--and there's an end. What is called Love is
the mere physical attraction between the two sexes--no more,--and it
soon palls. All that we gain we quickly cease to care for--it is the
way of humanity."
"What a poor creation humanity is, then!" said Santoris, with a
smile--"How astonishing that it should exist at all for no higher
aims than those of the ant or the mouse! My dear Harland, if your
beliefs were really sound we should be bound in common duty and
charity to stop the population of the world altogether--for the
whole business is useless. Useless and even cruel, for it is nothing
but a crime to allow people to be born for no other end than
extinction! However, keep your creeds! I thank Heaven they are not
Mr. Harland gave a slight movement of impatience. I could see that
he was disturbed in his mind.
"Let's talk of something I can follow," he said--"the personal and
material side of things. Your perennial condition of health, for
example. Your apparent youth--"
"Oh, is it only 'apparent'?" laughed Santoris, gaily--"Well, to
those who never knew me in my boyhood's days and are therefore never
hurling me back to their 'thirty years or more ago' of friendship,
etc., my youth seems very actual! You see their non-ability to count
up the time I have spent on earth obliges them to accept me at my
own valuation! There's really nothing to explain in the matter.
Everyone can keep young if he understands himself and Nature. If I
were to tell you the literal truth of the process, you would not
believe me,--and even if you did you would not have the patience to
carry it out! But what does it matter after all? If we only live for
the express purpose of dying, the sooner we get the business over
and done with the better--youth itself has no charms under such
circumstances. All the purposes of life, however lofty and nobly
planned, are bound to end in nothingness,--and it is hardly worth
while taking the trouble to breathe the murderous air!"
He spoke with a kind of passion--his eyes were luminous--his face
transfigured with an almost superhuman glow, and we all looked at
him in something of amazement.
Mr. Harland fidgeted uneasily in his chair.
"You go too far!" he said--"Life is agreeable as long as it lasts--"
"Have you found it so?" Santoris interrupted him. "Has it not, even
in your pursuit and attainment of wealth, brought you more pain than
pleasure? Number up all the possibilities of life, from the
existence of the labourer in his hut to that of the king on his
throne, they are none of them worth striving for or keeping if death
is the ultimate end. Ambition is merest folly,--wealth a temporary
possession of perishable goods which must pass to others,--fame a
brief noise of one's name in mouths that will soon be dumb,--and
love, sex-attraction only. What a treacherous and criminal act,
then, is this Creation of Universes!--what mad folly!--what sheer,
blind, reasonless wickedness!"
There was a silence. His eyes flashed from one to the other of us.
"Can you deny it?" he demanded. "Can you find any sane, logical
reason for the continuance of life which is to end in utter
extinction, or for the creation of worlds doomed to eternal
No one spoke.
"You have no answer ready," he said--and smiled--"Naturally! For an
answer is impossible! And here you have the key to what you consider
my mystery--the mystery of keeping young instead of growing old--the
secret of living instead of dying! It is simply the conscious
PRACTICAL realisation that there is no Death, but only Change. That
is the first part of the process. Change, or transmutation and
transformation of the atoms and elements of which we are composed,
is going on for ever without a second's cessation,--it began when we
were born and before we were born--and the art of LIVING YOUNG
consists simply in using one's soul and will-power to guide this
process of change towards the ends we desire, instead of leaving it
to blind chance and to the association with inimical influences,
which interfere with our best actions. For example--I--a man in
sound health and condition--realise that with every moment SOME
change is working in me towards SOME end. It rests entirely with
myself as to whether the change shall be towards continuance of
health or towards admission of disease--towards continuance of youth
or towards the encouragement of age,--towards life as it presents
itself to me now, or towards some other phase of life as I perceive
it in the future. I can advance or retard myself as I please--the
proper management of Myself being my business. If I should suffer
pain or illness I am very sure it will be chiefly through my own
fault--if I invite decay and decrepitude, it will be because I allow
these forces to encroach upon my well-being--in fact, briefly--I AM
what I WILL to be!--and all the laws that brought me into existence
support me in this attitude of mind, body and spirit!"
"If we could all become what we WOULD be," said Dr. Brayle, "we
should attain the millennium!"
"Are you sure of that?" queried Santoris. "Would it not rather
depend on the particular choice each one of us might make? You, for
example, might wish to be something that would hardly tend to your
happiness,--and your wish being obtained you might become what (if
you had only realised it) you would give worlds not to be! Some men
desire to be thieves--even murderers--and become so--but the end of
their desires is not perhaps what they imagined!"
"Can you read people's thoughts?" asked Catherine, suddenly.
Santoris looked amused. He replied by a counter question.
"Would you be sorry if I could?"
She flushed a little. I smiled, knowing what was in her mind.
"It would be a most unpleasant accomplishment--that of reading the
thoughts of others," said Mr. Harland; "I would rather not cultivate
it." "But Mr. Santoris almost implies that he possesses it," said
Dr. Brayle, with a touch of irritation in his manner; "And, after
all, 'thought-reading' is a kind of society amusement nowadays.
There is nothing very difficult in it."
"Nothing, indeed!" agreed Santoris, lightly; "And being as easy as
it is, why do you not show us at once that antique piece of
jewellery you have in your pocket! You brought it with you this
evening to show to me and ask my opinion of its value, did you not?"
Brayle's eyes opened in utter amazement. If ever a man was taken
completely by surprise, he was.
"How did you know?" he began, stammeringly, while Mr. Harland,
equally astonished, stared at him through his round spectacles as
though challenging some defiance.
"Thought-reading is only a society amusement, as you have just
observed," he said--"And I have been amusing myself with it for the
last few minutes. Come!--let us see your treasure!"
Dr. Brayle was thoroughly embarrassed,--but he tried to cover his
confusion by an awkward laugh.
"Well, you have made a very clever hit!" he said--"Quite a random
shot, of course--which by mere coincidence went to its mark! It's
quite true I have brought with me a curious piece of jewel-work
which I always carry about wherever I go--and something moved me to-
night to ask your opinion of its value, as well as to place its
period. It is old Italian; but even experts are not agreed as to its
He put his hand in his breast pocket and drew out a small silk bag
from which he took with great care a collar of jewels, designed in a
kind of chain-work which made it perfectly flexible. He laid it out
on the table,--and I bit my lip hard to suppress an involuntary
exclamation. For I had seen the thing before--and for the immediate
moment could not realise where, till a sudden flash of light through
the cells of my brain reminded me of that scene of love and death in
the vision of the artist's studio when the name 'Cosmo de Medicis'
had been whispered like an evil omen. The murderer in that dream-
picture had worn a collar of jewels precisely similar to the one I
now saw; but I could only keep silence and listen with every nerve
strained to utmost attention while Santoris took the ornament in his
hand and looked at it with an intent earnestness in which there was
almost a touch of compassion.
"A beautiful piece of workmanship," he said, at last, slowly, while
Mr. Harland, Catherine, and Swinton the secretary all drew up closer
to him at the table and leaned eagerly forward--"And I should say"--
here he raised his eyes and looked full at the dark, brooding,
sinister face of Brayle--"I should say that it belonged to the
Medici period. It must have been part of the dress of a nobleman of
that time--the design seems to me to be Florentine. Perhaps if these
jewels could speak they might tell a strange story!--they are
"Unhappy!" exclaimed Catherine--"You mean unlucky?"
"No!--there is no such thing as luck," answered Santoris, quietly,
turning the collar over and over in his hands--"Not for either
jewels or men! But there IS unhappiness,--and unhappiness simply
means life being put to wrong uses. I call these gems 'unhappy'
because they have been wrongfully used. A precious stone is a living
thing--it absorbs influences as the earth absorbs light, and these
jewels have absorbed some sense of evil that renders them less
beautiful than they might be. These diamonds and rubies, these
emeralds and sapphires, have not the full lustre of their own true
nature,--they are in the condition of pining flowers. It will take
centuries before they resume their natural brilliancy. There is some
tragedy hidden among them."
Dr. Brayle looked amused.
"Well, I can give you no history of them," he said--"A friend of
mine bought the collar from an old Jew curiosity dealer in a back
street of Florence and sent it to me to wear with a Florentine dress
at a fancy dress ball. Curiously enough I chose to represent one of
the Medicis, some artist having told me my features resembled their
type of countenance. That's the chronicle, so far as I am concerned.
I rather liked it on account of its antiquity. I could have sold it
many times over, but I have no desire to part with it."
"Naturally!"--and Santoris passed on the collar to everyone to
examine--"You feel a sense of proprietorship in it."
Catherine Harland had the trinket in her hand, and a curious vague
look of terror came over her face as she presently passed it back to
its owner. But she made no remark and it was Mr. Harland who resumed
"That's an odd idea of yours about unhappy jewels," he said--
"Perhaps the misfortune attending the possessors of the famous blue
Hope diamond could be traced to some early tragedy connected with
"Unquestionably!" replied Santoris. "Now look at this!"--and he drew
from his watch pocket a small fine gold chain to which was attached
a moonstone of singular size and beauty, set in a circle of
diamonds--"Here is a sort of talismanic jewel--it has never known
any disastrous influences, nor has it been disturbed by malevolent
surroundings. It is a perfectly happy, unsullied gem! As you see,
the lustre is perfect--as clear as that of a summer moon in heaven.
Yet it is a very old jewel and has seen more than a thousand years
We all examined the beautiful ornament, and as I held it in my hand
a moment it seemed to emit tiny sparks of luminance like a flash of
moonlight on rippling waves.
"Women should take care that their jewels are made happy," he
continued, looking at me with a slight smile, "That is, if they want
them to shine. Nothing that lives is at its best unless it is in a
condition of happiness--a condition which after all is quite easy to
"Easy! I should have thought nothing was so difficult!" said Mr.
"Nothing certainly is so difficult in the ordinary way of life men
choose to live," answered Santoris--"For the most part they run
after the shadow and forsake the light. Even in work and the
creative action of thought each ordinary man imagines that his
especial work being all-important, it is necessary for him to
sacrifice everything to it. And he does,--if he is filled with
worldly ambition and selfish concentration; and he produces
something--anything--which frequently proves to be ephemeral as
gossamer dust. It is only when work is the outcome of a great love
and keen sympathy for others that it lasts and keeps its influence.
Now we have talked enough about all these theories, which are not
interesting to anyone who is not prepared to accept them--shall we
go up on deck?"
We all rose at once, Santoris holding out a box of cigars to the men
to help themselves. Catherine and I preceded them up the saloon
stairs to the deck, which was now like a sheet of silver in the
light shed by one of the loveliest moons of the year. The water
around was sparkling with phosphorescence and the dark mountains
looked higher and more imposing than ever, rising as they seemed to
do sheer up from the white splendour of the sea. I leaned over the
deck rail, gazing down into the deep liquid mirror of stars below,
and my heart was heavy and full of a sense of bitterness and tears.
Catherine had dropped languidly into a chair and was leaning back in
it with a strange, far-away expression on her tired face. Suddenly
she spoke with an almost mournful gentleness.
"Do you like his theories?"
I turned towards her enquiringly.
"I mean, do you like the idea of there being no death and that we
only change from one life to another and so on for ever?" she
continued. "To me it is appalling! Sometimes I think death the
kindest thing that can happen--especially for women."
I was in the mood to agree with her. I went up to her and knelt down
by her side.
"Yes!" I said, and I felt the tremor of tears in my voice--"Yes, for
women death often seems very kind! When there is no love and no hope
of love,--when the world is growing grey and the shadows are
deepening towards night,--when the ones we most dearly love misjudge
and mistrust us and their hearts are closed against our tenderness,
then death seems the greatest god of all!--one before whom we may
well kneel and offer up our prayers! Who could, who WOULD live for
ever quite alone in an eternity without love? Oh, how much kinder,
how much sweeter would be utter extinction--"
My voice broke; and Catherine, moved by some sudden womanly impulse,
put her arm round me.
"Why, you are crying!" she said, softly. "What is it? You, who are
always so bright and happy!"
I quickly controlled the weakness of my tears.
"Yes, it is foolish!" I said--"But I feel to-night as if I had
wasted a good part of my life in useless research,--in looking for
what has been, after all, quite close to my hand,--only that I
failed to see it!--and that I must go back upon the road I thought I
Here I paused. I saw she could not understand me.
"Catherine," I went on, abruptly--"Will you let me leave you in a
day or two? I have been quite a fortnight with you on board the
'Diana,' and I think I have had enough holiday. I should like"--and
I looked up at her from where I knelt--"I should like to part from
you while we remain good friends--and I have an idea that perhaps we
shall not agree so well if we learn to know more of each other."
She bent her eyes upon me with a half-frightened expression.
"How strange you should think that!" she murmured--"I have felt the
same--and yet I really like you very much--I always liked you--I
wish you would believe it!"
"Dear Catherine," I said--"it is no use shutting our eyes to the
fact that while there is something which attracts us to each other,
there is also something which repels. We cannot argue about it or
analyse it. Such mysterious things DO occur,--and they are beyond
our searching out--"
"But," she interrupted, quickly--"we were not so troubled by these
mysterious things till we met this man Santoris--"
She broke off, and I rose to my feet, as just then Santoris
approached, accompanied by Mr. Harland and the others.
"I have suggested giving you a sail by moonlight before you leave,"
he said. "It will be an old experience for you under new conditions.
Sailing by moonlight in an ordinary sense is an ordinary thing,--but
sailing by moonlight with the moonlight as part of our motive power
has perhaps a touch of originality."
As he spoke he made a sign to one of his men who came up to receive
his orders, which were given in too low a tone for us to hear. Easy
deck chairs were placed for all the party, and we were soon seated
in a group together, somewhat silently at first, our attention being
entirely riveted on the wonderful, almost noiseless way in which the
sails of the 'Dream' were unfurled. There was no wind,--the night
was warm and intensely still--the sea absolutely calm. Like broad
white wings, the canvas gradually spread out under the deft, quick
hands of the sailors employed in handling it,--the anchor was drawn
up in the same swift and silent manner--then there came an instant's
pause. Mr. Harland drew his cigar from his mouth and looked up
amazed, as we all did, at the mysterious way in which the sails
filled out, pulling the cordage tightly into bands of iron
strength,--and none of us could restrain an involuntary cry of
wonder and admiration as their whiteness began to glitter with the
radiance of hoar-frost, the strange luminance deepening in intensity
till it seemed as if the whole stretch of canvas from end to end of
the magnificent schooner was a mass of fine jewel-work sparkling
under the moon.
"Well! However much I disagree with your theories of life,
Santoris," said Mr. Harland,--"I will give you full credit for this
extraordinary yacht of yours! It's the most wonderful thing I ever
saw, and you are a wonderful fellow to have carried out such an
unique application of science. You ought to impart your secret to
Santoris laughed lightly.
"And the world would take a hundred years or more to discuss it,
consider it, deny it, and finally accept it," he said--"No! One
grows tired of asking the world to be either wise or happy. It
prefers its own way--just as I prefer mine. It will discover the
method of sailing without wind, and it will learn how to make every
sort of mechanical progress without steam in time--but not in our
day,--and I, personally, cannot afford to wait while it is slowly
learning its ABC like a big child under protest. You see we're going
We were 'going' indeed,--it would have been more correct to say we
were flying. Over the still water our vessel glided like a moving
beautiful shape of white fire, swiftly and steadily, with no sound
save the little hissing murmur of the water cleft under her keel.
And then like a sudden whisper from fairyland came the ripple of
harp-strings, running upward in phrases of exquisite melody, and a
boy's voice, clear, soft and full, began to sing, with a pure
enunciation which enabled us to hear every word:
Sailing, sailing! Whither?
What path of the flashing sea
Seems best for you and me?
No matter the way,
By night or day,
So long as we sail together!
Sailing, sailing! Whither?
Into the rosy grace
Of the sun's deep setting-place?
We need not know
How far we go,
So long as we sail together!
Sailing, sailing! Whither?
To the glittering rainbow strand
Of Love's enchanted land?
We ask not where
In earth or air,
So long as we sail together!
Sailing, sailing! Whither?
On to the life divine,--
Your soul made one with mine!
In Heaven or Hell
All must be well,
So long as we sail together!
The song finished with a passionate chord which, played as it was
with swift intensity, seemed to awaken a response from the sea,--at
any rate a strange shivering echo trembled upward as it were from
the water and floated into the spacious silence of the night. My
heart beat with uncomfortable quickness and my eyes grew hot with
the weight of suppressed tears;--why could I not escape from the
cruel, restraining force that held my real self prisoner as with
manacles of steel? I could not even speak; and while the others were
clapping their hands in delighted applause at the beauty of both
voice and song, I sat silent.
"He sings well!" said Santoris--"He is the Eastern lad you saw when
you came on deck this morning. I brought him from Egypt. He will
give us another song presently. Shall we walk a little?"
We rose and paced the deck slowly, gradually dividing in couples,
Catherine and Dr. Brayle--Mr. Harland and his secretary,--Santoris
and myself. We two paused together at the stern of the vessel
looking towards the bowsprit, which seemed to pierce the distance of
sea and sky like a flying arrow.
"You wish to speak to me alone," said Santoris, then--"Do you not?
Though I know what you want to say!"
I glanced at him with a touch of defiance.
"Then I need not speak," I answered.
"No, you need not speak, unless you give utterance to what is in
your true soul," he said--"I would rather you did not play at
conventions with me."
For the moment I felt almost angry.
"I do not play at conventions," I murmured.
"Oh, do you not? Is that quite candid?"
I raised my eyes and met his,--he was smiling. Some of the
oppression in my soul suddenly gave way, and I spoke hurriedly in a
"Surely you know how difficult it is for me?" I said. "Things have
happened so strangely,--and we are surrounded here by influences
that compel conventionality. I cannot speak to you as frankly as I
would under other circumstances. It is easy for YOU to be yourself;-
-you have gained the mastery over all lesser forces than your own.
But with me it is different--perhaps when I am away I shall be able
to think more calmly--"
"You are going away?" he asked, gently.
"Yes. It is better so."
He remained silent. I went on, quickly.
"I am going away because I feel inadequate and unable to cope with
my present surroundings. I have had some experience of the same
influences before--I know I have--"
"I also!" he interrupted.
"Well, you must realise this better than I," and I looked at him now
with greater courage--"and if you have, you know they have led to
trouble. I want you to help me."
"I? To help you?" he said. "How can I help you when you leave me?"
There was something infinitely sad in his voice,--and the old fear
came over me like a chill--'lest I should lose what I had gained!'
"If I leave you," I said, tremblingly--"I do so because I am not
worthy to be with you! Oh, can you not see this in me?" For as I
spoke he took my hand in his and held it with a kindly clasp--"I am
so self-willed, so proud, so unworthy! There are a thousand things I
would say to you, but I dare not--not here, or now!"
"No one will approach us," he said, still holding my hand--"I am
keeping the others, unconsciously to themselves, at a distance till
you have finished speaking. Tell me some of these thousand things!"
I looked up at him and saw the deep lustre of his eyes filled with a
great tenderness. He drew me a little closer to his side.
"Tell me," he persisted, softly--"Is there very much that we do not,
if we are true to each other, know already?"
"YOU know more than I do!" I answered--"And I want to be equal with
you! I do! I cannot be content to feel that I am groping in the dark
weakly and blindly while you are in the light, strong and self-
contained! You can help me--and you WILL help me! You will tell me
where I should go and study as you did with Aselzion!"
He started back, amazed.
"With Aselzion! Dear, forgive me! You are a woman! It is impossible
that you should suffer so great an ordeal,--so severe a strain! And
why should you attempt it? If you would let me, I would be
sufficient for you." "But I will not let you!" I said, quickly,
roused to a kind of defiant energy--"I wish to go to the very source
of your instruction, and then I shall see where I stand with regard
to you! If I stay here now--"
"It will be the same old story over again!" he said--"Love--and
mistrust! Then drifting apart in the same weary way! Is it not
possible to avoid the errors of the past?"
"No!" I said, resolutely--"For me it is not possible! I cannot yield
to my own inward promptings. They offer me too much happiness! I
doubt the joy,--I fear the glory!"
My voice trembled--the very clasp of his hand unnerved me.
"I will tell you," he said, after a brief pause, "what you feel. You
are perfectly conscious that between you and myself there is a tie
which no power, earthly or heavenly, can break,--but you are living
in a matter-of-fact world with matter-of-fact persons, and the
influence they exert is to make you incredulous of the very truths
which are an essential part of your spiritual existence. I
understand all this. I understand also why you wish to go to the
House of Aselzion, and you shall go--"
I uttered an exclamation of relief and pleasure. His eyes grew dark
with earnest gravity as he looked at me.
"You are pleased at what you cannot realise," he said, slowly--"If
you go to the House of Aselzion--and I see you are determined--it
will be a matter of such vital import that it can only mean one of
two things,--your entire happiness or your entire misery. I cannot
contemplate with absolute calmness the risk you run,--and yet it is
better that you should follow the dictates of your own soul than be
as you are now--irresolute,--uncertain of yourself and ready to lose
all you have gained!"
'To lose all I have gained.' The old insidious terror! I met his
searching gaze imploringly.
"I must not lose anything!" I said, and my voice sank lower,--"I
cannot bear--to lose YOU!"
His hand closed on mine with a tighter grasp.
"Yet you doubt!" he said, softly.
"I must KNOW!" I said, resolutely.
He lifted his head with a proud gesture that was curiously familiar
"So the old spirit is not dead in you, my queen," he said, smiling.
"The old indomitable will!--the desire to probe to the very centre
of things! Yet love defies analysis,--and is the only thing that
binds the Universe together. A fact beyond all proving--a truth
which cannot be expounded by any given rule or line but which is the
most emphatic force of life! My queen, it is a force that must
either bend or break you!"
I made no reply. He still held my hand, and we looked out together
on the shining expanse of the sea where there was no vessel visible
and where our schooner alone flew over the watery, moonlit surface
like a winged flame.
"In your working life," he continued, gently, "you have done much.
You have thought clearly, and you have not been frightened away from
any eternal fact by the difficulties of research. But in your living
life you have missed more than you will care to know. You have been
content to remain a passive recipient of influences--you have not
thoroughly learned how to combine and use them. You have overcome
altogether what are generally the chief obstacles in the way of a
woman's higher progress,--her inherent childishness--her delight in
imagining herself wronged or neglected,--her absurd way of attaching
weighty importance to the merest trifles--her want of balance, and
the foolish resentment she feels at being told any of her faults,--
this is all past in you, and you stand free of the shackles of sheer
stupidity which makes so many women impossible to deal with from a
man's standpoint, and which renders it almost necessary for men to
estimate them at a low intellectual standard. For even in the
supreme passion of love, millions of women are only capable of
understanding its merely physical side, while the union of soul with
soul is never consummated:
Where is that love supreme
In which souls meet? Where is it satisfied?
En-isled on heaving sands
Of lone desire, spirit to spirit cries,
While float across the skies
Bright phantoms of fair lands,
Where fancies fade not and where dreams abide."
His voice dropped to the softest musical cadence, and I looked up.
He answered my look.
"Dear one!" he said, "You shall go to the House of Aselzion, and
with you will be the future!"
He let go my hand very gently--I felt a sudden sense of utter
"You do not--you will not misjudge me?" I said.
"I! Dear, I have made so many errors of judgment in the past and I
have lost you so many times, that I shall do nothing now which might
lose you again!"
He smiled, and for one moment I was impelled to throw hesitation to
the winds and say all that I knew in my inmost self ought to be
said,--but my rebellious will held me back, and I remained silent,--
while he turned away and rejoined the rest of the party, with whom
he was soon chatting in such a cheery, easy fashion that they
appeared to forget that there was anything remarkable about him or
about his wonderful vessel, which had now turned on her course and
was carrying us back to Loch Scavaig at a speed which matched the
fleetest wind. When she arrived at her former anchorage just
opposite the 'Diana,' we saw that all the crew of Mr. Harland's
yacht were on deck watching our movements, which must have been well
worth watching considering what an amazing spectacle the 'Dream'
made of herself and her glittering sails against the dark loch and
mountains,--so brilliant indeed as almost to eclipse the very moon.
But the light began to pale as soon as we dropped anchor, and very
soon faded out completely, whereupon the sailors hauled down canvas,
uttering musical cries as they pulled and braced it together. This
work done, they retired, and a couple of servants waited upon our
party, bringing wine and fruit as a parting refreshment before we
said good-night,--and once again the sweet voice of the Egyptian boy
singer smote upon our ears, with a prelude of harp-strings:
Good-night,--farewell! If it should chance that nevermore we meet,
Remember that the hours we spent together here were sweet!
Good-night,--farewell! If henceforth different ways of life we wend,
Remember that I sought to walk beside you to the end!
Good-night,--farewell! When present things are merged into the past,
Remember that I love you and shall love you to the last!
My heart beat with a quick and sudden agony of pain--was it, could
it be true that I was of my own accord going to sever myself from
one whom I knew,--whom I felt--to be all in all to me?
"Good-night!" said a low voice close to my ear.
I started. I had lost myself in a wilderness of thought and memory.
Santoris stood beside me.
"Your friends are going," he said,--"and I too shall be gone to-
A wave of desolation overcame me.
"Ah, no!" I exclaimed--"Surely you will not go--"
"I must," he answered, quietly,--"Are not YOU going? It has been a
joy to meet you, if only for a little while--a pause in the
journey,--an attempt at an understanding!--though you have decided
that we must part again."
I clasped my hands together in a kind of desperation.
"What can I do?" I murmured--"If I yielded now to my own impulses--"
"Ah! If you did"--he said, wistfully--"But you will not; and
perhaps, after all, it is better so. It is no doubt intended that
you should be absolutely certain of yourself this time. And I will
not stand in the way. Good-night,--and farewell!"
I looked at him with a smile, though the tears were in my eyes.
"I will not say farewell!" I answered.
He raised my hands lightly to his lips.
"That is kind of you!" he said--"and to-morrow you shall hear from
me about Aselzion and the best way for you to see him. He is
spending the summer in Europe, which is fortunate for you, as you
will not have to make so far a journey."
We broke off our conversation here as the others joined us,--and in
a very little while we had left the 'Dream' and were returning to
our own yacht. To the last, as the motor launch rushed with us
through the water, I kept my eyes fixed on the reposeful figure of
Santoris, who with folded arms on the deck rail of his vessel,
watched our departure. Should I never see him again, I wondered?
What was the strange impulse that had more or less moved my spirit
to a kind of opposition against his, and made me so determined to
seek out for myself the things that he assumed to have mastered? I
could not tell. I only knew that from the moment he had begun to
relate the personal narrative of his own studies and experiences, I
had resolved to go through the same training whatever it was, and
learn what he had learned, if such a thing were possible. I did not
think I should succeed so well,--but some new knowledge I felt I
should surely gain. The extraordinary attraction he exercised over
me was growing too strong to resist, yet I was determined not to
yield to it because I doubted both its cause and its effect. Love, I
knew, could not, as he had said, be analysed--but the love I had
always dreamed of was not the love with which the majority of
mankind are content--the mere physical delight which ends in
satiety. It was something not only for time, but for eternity. Away
from Santoris I found it quite easy to give myself up to the dream
of joy which shone before me like the mirage of a promised land,--
but in his company I felt as though something held me back and
warned me to beware of too quickly snatching at a purely personal
We reached the 'Diana' in a very few minutes--we had made the little
journey almost in silence, for my companions were, or appeared to
be, as much lost in thought as I was. As we descended to our cabins
Mr. Harland drew me back and detained me alone for a moment.
"Santoris is going away to-morrow," he said--"He will probably have
set those wonderful sails of his and flown before daybreak. I'm
"So am I," I answered--"But, after all--you would hardly want him to
stay, would you? His theories of life are very curious and
upsetting, and you all think him a sort of charlatan playing with
the mysteries of earth and heaven! If he is able to read thoughts,
he cannot be altogether flattered at the opinion held of him by Dr.
Brayle, for example!"
Mr. Harland's brows knitted perplexedly.
"He says he could cure me of my illness," he went on,--"and Brayle
declares that a cure is impossible."
"You prefer to believe Brayle, of course?" I queried.
"Brayle is a physician of note," he replied,--"A man who has taken
his degree in medicine and knows what he is talking about. Santoris
is merely a mystic."
I smiled a little sadly.
"I see!" And I held out my hand to say good-night. "He is a century
before his time, and maybe it is better to die than forestall a
Mr. Harland laughed as he pressed my hand cordially.
"Enigmatical, as usual!" he said--"You and Santoris ought to be
"Perhaps we are!" I answered, carelessly, as I left him;--"Stranger
things than that have happened!"
To those who are ignorant of, or indifferent to, the psychic forces
working behind all humanity and creating the causes which evolve
into effect, it cannot but seem strange,--even eccentric and
abnormal,--that any one person, or any two persons for that matter,
should take the trouble to try and ascertain the immediate intention
and ultimate object of their lives. The daily routine of ordinary
working, feeding and sleeping existence, varied by little social
conventions and obligations which form a kind of break to the
persistent monotony of the regular treadmill round, should be, they
think, sufficient for any sane, well-balanced, self-respecting
creature,--and if a man or woman elects to stand out of the common
ruck and say: "I refuse to live in a chaos of uncertainties--I will
endeavour to know why my particular atom of self is considered a
necessary, if infinitesimal, part of the Universe,"--such an one is
looked upon with either distrust or derision. In matters of love
especially, where the most ill-assorted halves persist in fitting
themselves together as if they could ever make a perfect whole, a
woman is considered foolish if she gives her affections where it is
'not expedient'--and a man is looked upon as having 'ruined his
career' if he allows a great passion to dominate him, instead of a
calm, well-weighed, respectable sort of sentiment which has its
fitting end in an equally calm, well-weighed, respectable marriage.
These are the laws and observances of social order, excellent in
many respects, but frequently responsible for a great bulk of the
misery attendant upon many forms of human relationship. It is not,
however, possible to the ordinary mind to realise that somewhere and
somehow, every two component parts of a whole MUST come together,
sooner or later, and that herein may be found the key to most of the
great love tragedies of the world. The wrong halves mated,--the
right halves finding each other out and rushing together recklessly
and inopportunely because of the resistless Law which draws them
together,--this is the explanation of many a life's disaster and
despair, as well as of many a life's splendid attainment and
victory. And the trouble or the triumph, whichever it be, will never
be lessened till human beings learn that in love, which is the
greatest and most divine Force on earth or in heaven, the Soul, not
the body, must first be considered, and that no one can fulfil the
higher possibilities of his or her nature, till each individual unit
is conjoined with that only other portion of itself which is as one
with it in thought and in the intuitive comprehension of its higher
I knew all this well enough, and had known it for years, and it was
hardly necessary for me to dwell upon it, as I sat alone in my cabin
that night, too restless to sleep, and, almost too uneasy even to
think. What had happened to me was simply that I had by a curious
chance or series of chances been brought into connection again with
the individual Soul of a man whom I had known and loved ages ago. To
the psychist, such a circumstance does not seem as strange as it is
to the great majority of people who realise no greater force than
Matter, and who have no comprehension of Spirit, and no wish to
comprehend it, though even the dullest of these often find
themselves brought into contact with persons whom they feel they
have met and known before, and are unable to understand why they
receive such an impression. In my case I had not only to consider
the one particular identity which seemed so closely connected with
my own--but also the other individuals with whom I had become more
or less reluctantly associated,--Catherine Harland and Dr. Brayle
especially. Mr. Harland had, unconsciously to himself, been merely
the link to bring the broken bits of a chain together--his
secretary, Mr. Swinton, occupied the place of the always necessary
nonentity in a group of intellectually or psychically connected
beings,--and I was perfectly sure, without having any actual reason
for my conviction, that if I remained much longer in Catherine
Harland's company, her chance liking for me would turn into the old
hatred with which she had hated me in a bygone time,--a hatred
fostered by Dr. Brayle, who, plainly scheming to marry her and
secure her fortune, considered me in the way (as I was) of the
influence he desired to exercise over her and her father. Therefore
it seemed necessary I should remove myself,--moreover, I was
resolved that all the years I had spent in trying to find the way to
some of Nature's secrets should not be wasted--I would learn, I too,
what Rafel Santoris had learned in the House of Aselzion--and then
we might perhaps stand on equal ground, sure of ourselves and of
each other! So ran my thoughts in the solitude and stillness of the
night--a solitude and stillness so profound that the gentle push of
the water against the sides of the yacht, almost noiseless as it
was, sounded rough and intrusive. My port-hole was open, and I could
see the sinking moon showing through it like a white face in sorrow.
Just then I heard a low splash as of oars. I started up and went to
the sofa, where, by kneeling on the cushions. I could look through
the porthole. There, gliding just beneath me, was a small boat, and
my heart gave a sudden leap of joy as I recognised the man who rowed
it as Santoris. He smiled as I looked down,--then, standing up in
the boat, guided himself alongside, till his head was nearly on a
level with the port-hole. He put one hand on its edge.
"Not asleep yet!" he said, softly--"What have you been thinking of?
The moon and the sea?--or any other mystery as deep and
I stretched out my hand and laid it on his with an involuntary
"I could not leave you without another last word,"--he said--"And I
have brought you a letter"--he gave me a sealed envelope as he
spoke--"which will tell you how to find Aselzion. I myself will
write to him also and prepare him for your arrival. When you do see
him you will understand how difficult is the task you wish to
undertake,--and, if you should fail, the failure will be a greater
sadness to yourself than to me--for I could make things easier for
"I do not want things made easy for me,"--I answered quickly--"I
want to do all that you have done--I want to prove myself worthy at
I broke off,--and looked down into his eyes. He smiled.
"Well!" he said--"Are you beginning to remember the happiness we
have so often thrown away for a trifle?"
I was silent, though I folded my hand closer over his. The soft
white sleepy radiance of the moon on the scarcely moving water
around us made everything look dream-like and unreal, and I was
hardly conscious of my own existence for the moment, so completely
did it seem absorbed by some other influence stronger than any power
I had ever known.
"Here are we two,"--he continued, softly--"alone with the night and
each other, close to the verge of a perfect understanding--and yet--
determined NOT to understand! How often that happens! Every moment,
every hour, all over the world, there are souls like ours, barred
severally within their own shut gardens, refusing to open the doors!
They talk over the walls, through the chinks and crannies, and peep
through the keyholes--but they will not open the doors. How
fortunate am I to-night to find even a port-hole open!"
He turned up his face, full of light and laughter, to mine, and I
thought then, how easy it would be to fling away all my doubts and
scruples, give up the idea of making any more search for what
perhaps I should never find, and take the joy which seemed proffered
and the love which my heart knew was its own to claim! Yet something
still pulled me back, and not only pulled me back, but on and away--
something which inwardly told me I had much to learn before I dared
accept a happiness I had not deserved. Nevertheless some of my
thoughts found sudden speech.
"Rafel--" I began, and then paused, amazed at my own boldness in
thus addressing him. He drew closer to me, the boat he stood in
swaying under him.
"Go on!" he said, with a little tremor in his voice--"My name never
sounded so sweetly in my own ears! What is it you would have me do?"
"Nothing!" I answered, half afraid of myself as I spoke--"Nothing--
but this. Just to think that I am not merely wilful or rebellious in
parting from you for a little while--for if it is true--"
"If what is true?" he interposed, gently.
"If it is true that we are friends not for a time but for eternity"-
-I said, in steadier tones--"then it can only be for a little while
that we shall be separated. And then afterwards I shall be quite
"Yes--quite sure of what you are sure of now!" he said--"As sure as
any immortal creature can be of an immortal truth! Do you know how
long we have been separated already?"
I shook my head, smiling a little.
"Well, I will not tell you!" he answered--"It might frighten you!
But by all the powers of earth and heaven, we shall not traverse
such distances apart again--not if I can prevent it!"
"And can you?" I asked, half wistfully.
"I can! And I will! For I am stronger than you--and the strongest
wins! Your eyes look startled--there are glimpses of the moon in
them, and they are soft eyes--not angry ones. I have seen them full
of anger,--an anger that stabbed me to the heart!--but that was in
the days gone by, when I was weaker than you. This time the position
has changed--and _I_ am master!"
"Not yet!" I said, resolutely, withdrawing my hand from his--"I
yield to nothing--not even to happiness--till I KNOW!"
A slight shadow darkened the attractiveness of his features.
"That is what the world says of God--'I will not yield till I know!'
But it is as plastic clay in His hands, all the time, and it never
I was silent--and there was a pause in which no sound was heard but
the movement of the water under the little boat in which he stood.
"Good-night!" he said.
"Good-night!" I answered, and moved by a swift impulse, I stooped
and kissed the firm hand that rested so near me, gripping the edge
of the port-hole. He looked up with a sudden light in his eyes.
"Is that a sign of grace and consolation?" he asked, smiling--"Well!
I am content! And I have waited so long that I can wait yet a little
So speaking, he let go his hold from alongside the yacht, and in
another minute had seated himself in the boat and was rowing away
across the moonlit water. I watched him as every stroke of the oars
widened the distance between us, half hoping that he might look
back, wave his hand, or even return again--but no!--his boat soon
vanished like a small black speck on the sea, and I knew myself to
be left alone. Restraining with difficulty the tears that rose to my
eyes, I shut the port-hole and drew its little curtain across it--
then I sat down to read the letter he had left with me. It ran as
I call you by this name as I have always called you through many
cycles of time,--it should sound upon your ears as familiarly as a
note of music struck in response to another similar note in far
distance. You are not satisfied with the proofs given you by your
own inner consciousness, which testify to the unalterable fact that
you and I are, and must be, as one,--that we have played with fate
against each other, and sometimes striven to escape from each other,
all in vain;--it is not enough for you to know (as you do know) that
the moment our eyes met our spirits rushed together in a sudden
ecstasy which, had we dared to yield to it, would have outleaped
convention and made of us no more than two flames in one fire! If
you are honest with yourself as I am honest with myself, you will
admit that this is so,--that the emotion which overwhelmed us was
reasonless, formless and wholly beyond all analysis, yet more
insistent than any other force having claim on our lives. But it is
not sufficient for you to realise this,--or to trace through every
step of the journey you have made, the gradual leading of your soul
to mine,--from that last night you passed in your own home, when
every fibre of your being grew warm with the prescience of coming
joy, to this present moment, even through dreams of infinite
benediction in which I shared--no!--it is not sufficient for you!--
you must 'know'--you must learn--you must probe into deeper
mysteries, and study and suffer to the last! Well, if it must be so,
it must,--and I shall rely on the eternal fitness of things to save
you from your own possible rashness and bring you back to me,--for
without you now I can do nothing more. I have done much--and much
remains to be done--but if I am to attain, you must crown the
attainment--if my ambition is to find completion, you alone can be
its completeness. If you have the strength and the courage to face
the ordeal through which Aselzion sends those who seek to follow his
teaching, you will indeed have justified your claim to be considered
higher than merest woman,--though you have risen above that level
already. The lives of women generally, and of men too, are so small
and sordid and self-centred, thanks to their obstinate refusal to
see anything better or wider than their own immediate outlook, that
it is hardly worth while considering them in the light of that
deeper knowledge which teaches of the REAL life behind the seeming
one. In the ordinary way of existence men and women meet and mate
with very little more intelligence or thought about it than the
lower animals; and the results of such meeting and mating are seen
in the degenerate and dying nations of to-day. Moreover, they are
content to be born for no other visible reason than to die--and no
matter how often they may be told there is no such thing as death,
they receive the assertion with as much indignant incredulity as the
priesthood of Rome received Galileo's assurance that the earth moves
round the sun. But we--you and I--who know that life, being ALL
Life, CANNOT die,--ought to be wiser in our present space of time
than to doubt each other's infinite capability for love and the
perfect world of beauty which love creates. _I_ do not doubt--my
doubting days are past, and the whips of sorrow have lashed me into
shape as well as into strength, but YOU hesitate,--because you have
been rendered weak by much misunderstanding. However, it has
partially comforted me to place the position fully before you, and
having done this I feel that you must be free to go your own way. I
do not say 'I love you!'--such a phrase from me would be merest
folly, knowing that you must be mine, whether now or at the end of
many more centuries. Your soul is deathless as mine is--it is
eternally young, as mine is,--and the force that gives us life and
love is divine and indestructible, so that for us there can be no
end to the happiness which is ours to claim when we will. For the
rest I leave you to decide--you will go to the House of Aselzion and
perhaps you will remain there some time,--at any rate when you
depart from thence you will have learned much, and you will know
what is best for yourself and for me.
My beloved, I commend you to God with all my adoring soul and am
Your lover, Rafel Santoris
A folded paper fell out of this letter,--it contained full
instructions as to the way I should go on the journey I intended to
make to the mysterious House of Aselzion--and I was glad to find
that I should not have to travel as far as I had at first imagined.
I began at once to make my plans for leaving the Harlands as soon as
possible, and before going to bed I wrote to my friend Francesca,
who I knew would certainly expect me to visit her in Inverness-shire
as soon as my cruise in the Harlands' yacht was over, and briefly
stated that business of an important nature called me abroad for two
or three weeks, but that I fully anticipated being at home in
England again before the end of October. As it was now just verging
on the end of August, I thought I was allowing myself a fairly wide
margin for absence. When I had folded and sealed my letter ready for
posting, an irresistible sense of sleep came over me, and I yielded
to it gratefully. I found myself too overcome by it even to think,--
and I laid my head down upon the pillows with a peaceful
consciousness that all was well,--that all would be well--and that
in trying to make sure of the intentions of Fate towards me both in
life and love, I could not be considered as altogether foolish. Of
course, judged by the majority of people, I know I am already
counted as worse than foolish for the impressions and experiences I
here undertake to narrate, but that kind of judgment does not affect
me, seeing that their own daily and hourly folly is so visibly
pronounced and has such unsatisfactory and frequently disastrous
results, that mine--if it indeed be folly to choose lasting and
eternal things rather than ephemeral and temporal ones,--cannot but
seem light in comparison. Love, as the world generally conceives of
it, is hardly worth having--for if we become devoted to persons who
must in time be severed from us by death or other causes, we have
merely wasted the wealth of our affections. Only as a perfect,
eternal, binding force is love of any value,--and unless one can be
sure in one's own self that there is the strength and truth and
courage to make it thus perfect, eternal and binding, it is better
to have nothing to do with what after all is the divinest of divine
passions,--the passion of creativeness, from which springs all
thought, all endeavour, all accomplishment.
When I woke the next morning I did not need to be told that the
'Dream' had set her wonderful sails and flown. A sense of utter
desolation was in the air, and my own loneliness was impressed upon
me with overwhelming bitterness and force. It was a calm, brilliant
morning, and when I went up on deck the magnificent scenery of Loch
Scavaig was, to my thinking, lessened in effect by the excessive
glare of the sun. The water was smooth as oil, and where the 'Dream'
had been anchored, showing her beautiful lines and tapering spars
against the background of the mountains, there was now a dreary
vacancy. The whole scene looked intolerably dull and lifeless, and I
was impatient to be away from it. I said as much at breakfast, a
meal at which Catherine Harland never appeared, and where I was
accustomed to take the head of the table, at Mr. Harland's request,
to dispense the tea and coffee. Dr. Brayle seemed malignly amused at
"The interest of the place has evidently vanished with Mr. Santoris,
so far as you are concerned!" he said--"He is certainly a remarkable
man, and owns a remarkable yacht--but beyond that I am not sure that
his room is not better than his company."
"I daresay you feel it so,"--said Mr. Harland, who had for some
moments been unusually taciturn and preoccupied--"Your theories are
diametrically opposed to his, and, for that matter, so are mine. But
I confess I should like to have tested his medical skill--he assured
me positively that he could cure me of my illness in three months."
"Why do you not let him try?" suggested Brayle, with an air of
forced lightness--"He will be a man of miracles if he can cure what
the whole medical profession knows to be incurable. But I'm quite
willing to retire in his favour, if you wish it."
Mr. Harland's bristling eyebrows met over his nose in a saturnine
"Well, are you willing?" he said--"I rather doubt it! And if you
are, I'm not. I've no faith in mysticism or psychism of any kind. It
bores me to think about it. And nothing has puzzled me at all
concerning Santoris except his extraordinarily youthful appearance.
That is a problem to me,--and I should like to solve it."
"He looks about thirty-eight or forty,"--said Brayle, "And I should
say that is his age." "That his age!" Mr. Harland gave a short,
derisive laugh--"Why, he's over sixty if he's a day! That's the
mystery of it. There is not a touch of 'years' about him. Instead of
growing old, he grows young."
Brayle looked up quizzically at his patron.
"I've already hinted," he said, "that he may not be the Santoris you
knew at Oxford. He may be a relative, cleverly masquerading as the
"That won't stand a moment's argument," interposed Mr. Harland--"And
I'll tell you how I know it won't. We had a quarrel once, and I
slashed his arm with a clasp-knife pretty heavily." Here a sudden
quiver of something,--shame or remorse perhaps--came over his hard
face and changed its expression for a moment. "It was all my fault--
I had a devilish temper, and he was calm--his calmness irritated
me;--moreover, I was drunk. Santoris knew I was drunk,--and he
wanted to get me home to my rooms and to bed before I made too great
a disgrace of myself--then--THAT happened. I remember the blood
pouring from his arm--it frightened me and sobered me. Well, when he
came on board here the other night he showed me the scar of the very
wound I had inflicted. So I know he's the same man."
We all sat silent.
"He was always studying the 'occult'"--went on Mr. Harland--"And I
was scarcely surprised that he should 'think out' that antique piece
of jewellery from your pocket last night. He actually told me it
belonged to you ages ago, when you were quite another and more
Dr. Brayle laughed loudly, almost boisterously.
"What a fictionist the man must be!" he exclaimed. "Why doesn't he
write a novel? Mr. Swinton, I wish you would take a few notes for me
of what Mr. Santoris said about that collar of jewels,--I should
like to keep the record."
Mr. Swinton smiled an obliging assent.
"I certainly will,"--he said. "I was fortunately present when Mr.
Santoris expressed his curious ideas about the jewels to Mr.
"Oh, well, if you are going to record it,"--said Mr. Harland, half
laughingly--"you had better be careful to put it all down. The
collar--according to Santoris--belonged to Dr. Brayle when his
personality was that of an Italian nobleman residing in Florence
about the year 1537--he wore it on one unfortunate occasion when he
murdered a man, and the jewels have not had much of a career since
that period. Now they have come back into his possession--"
"Father, who told you all this?"
The voice was sharp and thin, and we turned round amazed to see
Catherine standing in the doorway of the saloon, white and
trembling, with wild eyes looking as though they saw ghosts. Dr.
Brayle hastened to her.
"Miss Harland, pray go back to your cabin--you are not strong
"What's the matter, Catherine?" asked her father--"I'm only
repeating some of the nonsense Santoris told me about that collar of
"It's not nonsense!" cried Catherine. "It's all true! I remember it
all--we planned the murder together--he and I!"--and she pointed to
Dr. Brayle--" I told him how the lovers used to meet in secret,--the
poor hunted things!--how he--that great artist he patronised--came
to her room from the garden entrance at night, and how they talked
for hours behind the rose-trees in the avenue--and she--she!--I
hated her because I thought you loved her--YOU!" and again she
turned to Dr. Brayle, clutching at his arm--"Yes--I thought you
loved her!--but she--she loved HIM!--and--" here she paused,
shuddering violently, and seemed to lose herself in chaotic ideas--
"And so the yacht has gone, and there is peace!--and perhaps we
shall forget again!--we were allowed to forget for a little while,
but it has all come back to haunt and terrify us--"
And with these words, which broke off in a kind of inarticulate cry,
she sank downward in a swoon, Dr. Brayle managing to save her from
falling quite to the ground.
Everything was at once in confusion, and while the servants were
busy hurrying to and fro for cold water, smelling salts and other
reviving cordials, and Catherine was being laid on the sofa and
attended to by Dr. Brayle, I slipped away and went up on deck,
feeling myself quite overpowered and bewildered by the suddenness
and strangeness of the episodes in which I had become involved. In a
minute or two Mr. Harland followed me, looking troubled and
"What does all this mean?" he said--"I am quite at a loss to
understand Catherine's condition. She is hysterical, of course,--but
what has caused it? What mad idea has she got into her head about a
I looked away from him across the sunlit expanse of sea.
"I really cannot tell you," I said, at last--"I am quite as much in
the dark as you are. I think she is overwrought, and that she has
perhaps taken some of the things Mr. Santoris said too much to
heart. Then"--here I hesitated--"she said the other day that she was
tired of this yachting trip--in fact, I think it is simply a case of
"She must have very odd nerves if they persuade her to believe that
she and Brayle committed a murder together ages ago"--said Mr.
Harland, irritably;--"I never heard of such nonsense in all my
I was silent.
"I have told Captain Derrick to weigh anchor and get out of this,"--
he continued, brusquely. "We shall make for Portree at once. There
is something witch-like and uncanny about the place"--and he looked
round as he spoke at the splendour of the mountains, shining with
almost crystalline clearness in the glory of the morning sun--"I
feel as if it were haunted!"
"By what?" I asked.
"By memories," he answered--"And not altogether pleasant ones!"
I looked at him, and a moment's thought decided me that the
opportunity had come for me to broach the subject of my intended
departure, and I did so. I said that I felt I had allowed myself
sufficient holiday, and that it would be necessary for me to take
the ordinary steamer from Portree the morning after our arrival
there in order to reach Glasgow as soon as possible. Mr. Harland
surveyed me inquisitively.
"Why do you want to go by the steamer?" he asked--"Why not go with
us back to Rothesay, for example?"
"I would rather lose no time,"--I said--then I added impulsively:--
"Dear Mr. Harland, Catherine will be much better when I am gone--I
know she will! You will be able to prolong the yachting trip which
will benefit your health,--and I should be really most unhappy if
you curtailed it on my account--"
He interrupted me.
"Why do you say that Catherine will be better when you are gone?" he
demanded--"It was her own most particular wish that you should
"She did not know what moved her to such a desire," I said,--then,
seeing his look of astonishment, I smiled; "I am not a congenial
spirit to her, nor to any of you, really! but she has been most
kind, and so have you--and I thank you ever so much for all you have
done for me--you have done much more than you know!--only I feel it
is better to go now--now, before--"
"Before what?" he asked.
"Well, before we all hate each other!" I said, playfully--"It is
quite on the cards that we shall come to that! Dr. Brayle thinks my
presence quite as harmful to Catherine as that of Mr. Santoris;--I
am full of 'theories' which he considers prejudicial,--and so,
perhaps, they ARE--to HIM!"
Mr. Harland drew closer to me where I stood leaning against the deck
rail and spoke in a lower tone.
"Tell me," he said,--"and be perfectly frank about it--what is it
you see in Brayle that rouses such a spirit of antagonism in you?"
"If I give you a straight answer, such as I feel to be the truth in
myself, will you be offended?" I asked.
He shook his head.
"No"--he answered--"I shall not be offended. I simply want to know
what you think, and I shall remember what you say and see if it
"Well, in the first place," I said--"I see nothing in Dr. Brayle but
what can be seen in hundreds of worldly-minded men such as he. But
he is not a true physician, for he makes no real effort to cure you
of your illness, while Catherine has no illness at all that demands
a cure. He merely humours the weakness of her nerves, a weakness she
has created by dwelling morbidly on her own self and her own
particular miseries,--and all his future plans with regard to her
and to you are settled. They are quite clear and reasonable. You
will die,--in fact, it is, in his opinion, necessary for you to
die,--it would be very troublesome and inconvenient to him if, by
some chance, you were cured, and continued to live. When you are
gone he will marry Catherine, your only child and heiress, and he
will have no further personal anxieties. I dislike this self-seeking
attitude on his part, and my only wonder is that you do not perceive
it. For the rest, my antagonism to Dr. Brayle is instinctive and has
its origin far back--perhaps in a bygone existence!"
He listened to my words with attentive patience.
"Well, I shall study the man more carefully,"--he said, after a
pause;--"You may be right. At present I think you are wrong. As for
any cure for me, I know there is none. I have consulted medical
works on the subject and am perfectly convinced that Brayle is doing
his best. He can do no more. And now one word to yourself;"--here he
laid a hand kindly on mine--"I have noticed--I could not help
noticing that you were greatly taken by Santoris--and I should
almost have fancied him rather fascinated by you had I not known him
to be absolutely indifferent to womenkind. But let me tell you he is
not a safe friend or guide for anyone. His theories are extravagant
and impossible--his idea that there is no death, for example, when
death stares us in the face every day, is perfectly absurd--and he
is likely to lead you into much perplexity, the more so as you are
too much of a believer in occult things already. I wish I could
persuade you to listen to me seriously on one or two points--"
I smiled. "I am listening!" I said.
"Well, child, you listen perhaps, but you are not convinced.
Realise, if you can, that these fantastic chimeras of a past and
future life exist only in the heated imagination of the abnormal
idealist. There is nothing beyond our actual sight and immediate
living consciousness;--we know we are born and that we die--but why,
we cannot tell and never shall be able to tell. We must try and
manage the 'In-Between,'--the gap dividing birth and death,--as best
we can, and that's all. I wish you would settle down to these facts
reasonably--you would be far better balanced in mind and action--"
"If I thought as you do,"--I interrupted him--"I would jump from
this vessel into the sea and let the waters close over me! There
would be neither use nor sense in living for an 'In-Between' leading
merely to nothingness."
He passed his hand across his brows perplexedly.
"It certainly seems useless,"--he admitted--"but there it is. It is
better to accept it than run amok among inexplicable infinities."
We were interrupted here by the sailors busying themselves in
preparations for getting the yacht under way, and our conversation
being thus broken off abruptly was not again resumed. By eleven
o'clock we were steaming out of Loch Scavaig, and as I looked back
on the sombre mountain-peaks that stood sentinel-wise round the
deeply hidden magnificence of Loch Coruisk, I wondered if my
visionary experience there had been only the work of my own excited
imagination, or whether it really had foundation in fact? The letter
from Santoris lay against my heart as actual testimony that he at
least was real--that I had met and known him, and that so far as
anything could be believed he had declared himself my 'lover'! But
was ever love so expressed?--and had it ever before such a far-off
I soon ceased to perplex myself with futile speculations on the
subject, however, and as the last peaks of the Scavaig hills
vanished in pale blue distance I felt as if I had been brought
suddenly back from a fairyland to a curiously dull and commonplace
world. Everyone on board the 'Diana' seemed occupied with the
veriest trifles,--Catherine remained too ill to appear all day, and
Dr. Brayle was in almost constant attendance upon her. A vague sense
of discomfort pervaded the whole atmosphere of the yacht,--she was a
floating palace filled with every imaginable luxury, yet now she
seemed a mere tawdry upholsterer's triumph compared with the
exquisite grace and taste of the 'Dream'--and I was eager to be away
from her. I busied myself during the day in packing my things ready
for departure with the eagerness of a child leaving school for the
holidays, and I was delighted when we arrived at Portree and
anchored there that evening. It was after dinner, at about nine
o'clock, that Catherine sent for me, hearing I had determined to go
next morning. I found her in her bed, looking very white and feeble,
with a scared look in her eyes which became intensified the moment
she saw me.
"You are really going away?" she said, faintly--"I hope we have not
I went up to her, took her poor thin hand and kissed it.
"No indeed!"--I answered--"Why should I be offended?"
"Father is vexed you are going,"--she went on--"He says it is all my
silly nonsense and hysterical fancies--do you think it is?"
"I prefer not to say what I think,"--I replied, gently. "Dear
Catherine, there are some things in life which cannot be explained,
and it is better not to try and explain them. But believe me, I can
never thank you enough for this yachting trip--you have done more
for me than you will ever know!--and so far from being 'offended' I
am grateful!--grateful beyond all words!"
She held my hands, looking at me wistfully.
"You will go away,"--she said, in a low tone--"and we shall perhaps
never meet again. I don't think it likely we shall. People often try
to meet again and never do--haven't you noticed that? It seems fated
that they shall only know each other for a little while just to
serve some purpose, and then part altogether. Besides, you live in a
different world from ours. You believe in things that I can't even
understand--You think there is a God--and you think each human being
has a soul--"
"Are you not taught the same in your churches?" I interrupted.
She looked startled.
"Oh yes!--but then one never thinks seriously about it! You know
that if we DID think seriously about it we could never live as we
do. One goes to church for convention's sake--because it's
respectable; but suppose you were to say to a clergyman that if your
soul is 'immortal' it follows in reason that it must always have
existed and always will exist, he would declare you to be
'unorthodox.' That's where all the puzzle and contradiction comes
in--so that I don't believe in the soul at all."
"Are you sure you do not?" I enquired, meaningly.
She was silent. Then she suddenly broke out.
"Well, I don't want to believe in it! I don't want to think about
it! I'd rather not! It's terrible! If a soul has never died and
never will die, its burden of memories must be awful!--horrible!--no
hell could be worse!"
"But suppose they are beautiful and happy memories?" I suggested.
"They couldn't be! We all fail somewhere."
This was true enough, and I offered no comment.
"I feel,"--she went on, hesitatingly--"that you are leaving us for
some undiscovered country--and that you will reach some plane of
thought and action to which we shall never rise. I don't think I am
sorry for this. I am not one of those who want to rise. I should be
perfectly content to live a few years in a moderate state of
happiness and then drop into oblivion--and I think most people are
"Very unambitious!" I said, smiling.
"Yes--I daresay it is--but one gets tired of it all. Tired of things
and people--at least I do. Now that man Santoris--"
Despite myself, I felt the warm blood flushing my cheeks.
"Yes? What of him?" I queried, lightly.
"Well, I can understand that HE has always been alive!" and she
turned her eyes upon me with an expression of positive dread--
"Immensely, actively, perpetually alive! He seems to hold some
mastery over the very air! I am afraid of him--terribly afraid! It
is a relief to me to know that he and his strange yacht have gone!"
"But, Catherine,"--I ventured to say--"the yacht was not really
'strange,'--it was only moved by a different application of
electricity from that which the world at present knows. You would
not call it 'strange' if the discovery made by Mr. Santoris were
"Perhaps not! But just now it seems a sort of devil's magic to me.
Anyhow, I'm glad he's gone. You're sorry, I suppose?"
"In a way I am,"--I answered, quietly--"I thought him very kind and
charming and courteous--no one could be a better host or a
pleasanter companion. And I certainly saw nothing 'devilish' about
him. As for that collar of jewels, there are plenty of so-called
'thought-readers' who could have found out its existence and said as
much of it as he did--"
She uttered a low cry.
"Don't speak of it!" she said--"For Heaven's sake, don't speak of
She buried her face in her pillow, and I waited silently for her to
recover. When she turned again towards me, she said--
"I am not well yet,--I cannot bear too much. I only want you to know
before you go away that I have no unkind feeling towards you,--
things seem pushing me that way, but I have not really!--and you
surely will believe me--"
"Surely!" I said, earnestly--"Dear Catherine, do not worry yourself!
These impressions of yours will pass."
"I hope so!" she said--"I shall try to forget! And you--you will
meet Mr. Santoris again, do you think?"
"I do not know."
"You seem to have some attraction for each other," she went on--"And
I suppose your beliefs are alike. To me they are dreadful beliefs!--
worse than barbarism!"
I looked at her with all the compassion I truly felt.
"Why? Because we believe that God is all love and tenderness and
justice?--because we cannot think He would have created life only to
end in death?--because we are sure that He allows nothing to be
wasted, not even a thought?--and nothing to go unrecompensed, either
in good or in evil? Surely these are not barbarous beliefs?"
A curious look came over her face.
"If I believed in anything,"--she said--"I would rather be orthodox,
and believe in the doctrine of original sin and the Atonement."
"Then you would start with the idea that the supreme and all-wise
Creator could not make a perfect work!" I said--"And that He was
obliged to invent a scheme to redeem His own failure! Catherine, if
you speak of barbarism, this is the most barbarous belief of all!"
She stared at me, amazed.
"You would be put out of any church in Christendom for such a speech
as that!" she said.
"Possibly!" I answered, quietly--"But I should not and could not be
put out of God's Universe--nor, I am certain, would He reject my
soul's eternal love and adoration!"
A silence fell between us. Then I heard her sobbing. I put my arm
round her, and she laid her head on my shoulder.
"I wish I could feel as you do,"--she whispered--"You must be very
happy! The world is all beautiful in your eyes--and of course with
your ideas it will continue to be beautiful--and even death will
only come to you as another transition into life. But you must not
think anybody will ever understand you or believe you or follow you-
-people will only look upon you as mad, or the dupe of your own
I smiled as I smoothed her pillow for her and laid her gently back
"I can stand that!" I said--"If somebody who is lost in the dark
jeers at me for finding the light, I shall not mind!"
We did not speak much after that--and when I said good-night to her
I also said good-bye, as I knew I should have to leave the yacht
early in the morning.
I spent the rest of the time at my disposal in talking to Mr.
Harland, keeping our conversation always on the level of ordinary
topics. He seemed genuinely sorry that I had determined to go, and
if he could have persuaded me to stay on board a few days longer I
am sure he would have been pleased.
"I shall see you off in the morning,"--he said--"And believe me I
shall miss you very much. We don't agree on certain subjects--but I
like you all the same."
"That's something!" I said, cheerfully--"It would never do if we
were all of the same opinion!"
"Will you meet Santoris again, do you think?"
This was the same question Catherine had put to me, and I answered
it in the same manner.
"I really don't know!"
"Would you LIKE to meet him again?" he urged.
I hesitated, smiling a little.
"Yes, I think so!"
"It is curious," he pursued--"that I should have been the means of
bringing you together. Your theories of life and death are so alike
that you must have thoughts in common. Many years have passed since
I knew Santoris--in fact, I had completely lost sight of him, though
I had never forgotten his powerful personality--and it seemt rather
odd to me that he should suddenly turn up again while you were with
"Mere coincidence,"--I said, lightly--"and common enough, after all.
Like attracts like, you know."
"That may be. There is certainly something in the law of attraction
between human beings which we do not understand,"--he answered,
musingly--"Perhaps if we did--"
He broke off and relapsed into silence.
That night, just before going to bed, I was met by Dr. Brayle in the
corridor leading to my cabin. I was about to pass him with a brief
good-night, but he stopped me.
"So you are really going to-morrow!" he said, with a furtive
narrowing of his eyelids as he looked at me--"Well! Perhaps it is
best! You are a very disturbing magnet."
"Am I? In what way?"
"I cannot tell you without seeming to give the lie to reason,"--he
answered, brusquely. "I believe to a certain extent in magnetism--in
fact, I have myself tested its power in purely nervous patients,--
but I have never accepted the idea that persons can silently and
almost without conscious effort, influence others for either malign
or beneficial purposes. In your presence, however, the thing is
forced upon me as though it were a truth, while I know it to be a
"Isn't it too late to talk about such things to-night?" I asked,
wishing to cut short the conversation.
"Perhaps it is--but I shall probably never have the chance to say
what I wish to say,"--he replied,--and he leaned against the
stairway just where the light in the saloon sent forth a bright ray
upon his face, showing it to be dark with a certain frowning
perplexity--"You have studied many things in your own impulsive
feminine fashion, and you are beyond all the stupidity of the would-
be agreeable female who thinks a prettily feigned ignorance
becoming, so that I can speak frankly. I can now tell you that from
the first day I saw you I felt I had known you before--and you
filled me with a curious emotion of mingled liking and repulsion.
One night when you were sitting with us on deck--it was before we
met that fellow Santoris--I watched you with singular interest--
every turn of your head, every look of your eyes seemed familiar--
and for a moment I--I almost loved you! Oh, you need not mind my
saying this!"--and he laughed a little at my involuntary
exclamation--"it was nothing--it was only a passing mood,--for in
another few seconds I hated you as keenly! There you have it. I do
not know why I should have been visited by these singular
experiences--but I own they exist--that is why I am rather glad you
"I am glad, too,"--I said--and I held out my hand in parting--"I
should not like to stay where my presence caused a moment's
uneasiness or discomfort."
"That's not putting it quite fairly,"--he answered, taking my
offered hand and holding it loosely in his own--"But you are an
avowed psychist, and in this way you are a little 'uncanny.' I
should not like to offend you--"
"You could not if you tried," I said, quickly.
"That means I am too insignificant in your mind to cause offence,"--
he observed--"I daresay I am. I live on the material plane and am
content to remain there. You are essaying very high flights and
ascending among difficulties of thought and action which are
entirely beyond the useful and necessary routine of life,--and in
the end these things may prove too much for you." Here he dropped my
hand. "You bring with you a certain atmosphere which is too rarefied
for ordinary mortals--it has the same effect as the air of a very
high mountain on a weak heart--it is too strong--one loses breath,
and the power to think coherently. You produce this result on Miss
Harland, and also to some extent on me--even slightly on Mr.
Harland,--and poor Swinton alone does not fall under the spell,
having no actual brain to impress. You need someone who is
accustomed to live in the same atmosphere as yourself to match you
in your impressions and opinions. We are on a different range of
thought and feeling and experience--and you must find us almost
"As you find me!" I interposed, smiling.
"I will not say that--no! For there seems to have been a time when
we were all on the same plane--"
He paused, and there was a moment's tense silence. The little
silvery chime of a clock in the saloon struck twelve.
"Good-night, Dr. Brayle!" I said.
He lifted his brooding eyes and looked at me.
"Good-night! If I have annoyed you by my scepticism in certain
matters, you must make allowances for temperament and pardon me. I
should be sorry if you bore me any ill-will--"
What a curious note of appeal there was in his voice! All at once it
seemed to me that he was asking me to forgive him for that long-ago
murder which I had seen reflected in a vision!--and my blood grew
suddenly heated with an involuntary wave of deep resentment.
"Dr. Brayle," I said,--"pray do not trouble yourself to think any
more about me. Our ways will always be apart, and we shall probably
never see each other again. It really does not matter to you in the
least what my feeling may be with regard to you,--it can have no
influence on either your present or your future. Friendships cannot
"You will not say," he interrupted me--"that you have no dislike of
I hesitated--then spoke frankly.
"I will not,"--I answered--"because I cannot!"
For one instant our eyes met--then came SOMETHING between us that
suggested an absolute and irretrievable loss--"Not yet!" he
murmured--"Not yet!" and with a forced smile, he bowed and allowed
me to pass to my cabin. I was glad to be there--glad to be alone--
and overwhelmed as I was by the consciousness that the memories of
my soul had been too strong for me to resist, I was thankful that I
had had the courage to express my invincible opposition to one who
had, as I seemed instinctively to realise, been guilty of an
That night I slept dreamlessly, and the next morning before seven
o'clock I had left the luxurious 'Diana' for the ordinary passenger
steamer plying from Portree to Glasgow. Mr. Harland kept his promise
of seeing me off, and expressed his opinion that I was very foolish
to travel with a crowd of tourists and other folk, when I might have
had the comfort and quiet of his yacht all the way; but he could not
move me from my resolve, though in a certain sense I was sorry to
say good-bye to him.
"You must write to us as soon as you get home,"--he said, at
parting--"A letter will find us this week at Gairloch--I shall
cruise about a bit longer."
I made no reply for the moment. He had no idea that I was not going
home at all, nor did I intend to tell him.
"You shall hear from me as soon as possible,"--I said at last,
evasively--" I shall be very busy for a time--"
"Oh, I know! You are always busy! Will you ever get tired, I
I smiled. "I hope not!"
With that we shook hands and parted, and within the next twenty
minutes the steamer had started, bearing me far away from the Isle
of Skye, that beautiful, weird and mystic region full of strange
legends and memories, which to me had proved a veritable wonderland.
I watched the 'Diana' at anchor in the bay of Portree till I could
see her no more,--and it was getting on towards noon when I suddenly
noticed the people on board the steamer making a rush to one side of
the deck to look at something that was evidently both startling and
attractive. I followed the crowd,--and my heart gave a quick throb
of delight when I saw poised on the sparkling waters the fairylike
'Dream'!--her sails white as the wings of a swan, and her cordage
gleaming like woven gold in the brilliant sunshine. She was a thing
of perfect beauty as she seemed to glide on the very edge of the
horizon like a vision between sky and sea. And as I pressed forward
among the thronging passengers to look at her, she dipped her flag
in salutation--a salutation I knew was meant for me alone. When the
flag ran up again to its former position, murmurs of admiration came
from several people around me--
"The finest schooner afloat!"--I heard one man remark--"They say she
goes by electricity as well as sailing power."
"She's often seen about here," said another--"She belongs to a
foreigner--some prince or other named Santoris."
And I watched and waited,--with unconscious tears in my eyes, till
the exquisite fairy vessel disappeared suddenly as though it had
become absorbed and melted into the sun; then all at once I thought
of the words spoken by the wild Highland 'Jamie' who had given me
the token of the bell-heather--"One way in and another way out! One
road to the West, and the other to the East, and round about to the
The meeting-place! Where would it be? I could only think and wonder,
hope and pray, as the waves spread their silver foaming distance
between me and the vanished 'Dream.'
THE HOUSE OF ASELZION
It is not necessary to enter into particular details of the journey
I now entered upon and completed during the ensuing week. My
destination was a remote and mountainous corner of the Biscayan
coast, situated a little more than three days' distance from Paris.
I went alone, knowing that this was imperative, and arrived without
any untoward adventure, scarcely fatigued though I had travelled by
night as well as by day. It was only at the end of my journey that I
found myself confronted by any difficulty, and then I had to realise
that though the 'Chateau d'Aselzion,' as it was called, was
perfectly well known to the inhabitants of the surrounding district,
no one seemed inclined to show me the nearest way there or even to
let me have the accommodation of a vehicle to take me up the steep
ascent which led to it. The Chateau itself could be seen from all
parts of the village, especially from the seashore, over which it
hung like a toppling crown of the fortress-like rock on which it was
"It is a monastery,"--said a man of whom I asked the way, speaking
in a curious kind of guttural patois, half French and half Spanish--
"No woman goes there."
I explained that I was entrusted with an important message.
He shook his head.
"Not for any money would I take you," he declared. "I should be
afraid for myself."
Nothing could move him from his resolve, so I made up my mind to
leave my small luggage at the inn and walk up the steep road which I
could see winding like a width of white ribbon towards the goal of
my desires. A group of idle peasants watched me curiously as I spoke
to the landlady and asked her to take care of my few belongings till
I either sent for them or returned to fetch them, to which
arrangement she readily consented. She was a buxom, pleasant little
Frenchwoman, and inclined to be friendly.
"I assure you, Mademoiselle, you will return immediately!" she said,
with a bright smile--"The Chateau d'Aselzion is a place where no
woman is ever seen--and a lady alone!--ah, mon Dieu!--impossible!
There are terrible things done there, so they say--it is a house of
mystery! In the daytime it looks as it does now--dark, as though it
were a prison!--but sometimes at night one sees it lit up as though
it were on fire--every window full of something that shines like the
sun! It is a Brotherhood that lives there,--not of the Church--ah
no! Heaven forbid!--but they are rich and powerful men--and it is
said they study some strange science--our traders serve them only at
the outer gates and never go beyond. And in the midnight one hears
the organ playing in their chapel, and there is a sound of singing
on the very waves of the sea! I beg of you, Mademoiselle, think well
of what you do before you go to such a place!--for they will send
you away--I am sure they will send you away!"
I smiled and thanked her for her well-meant warning.
"I have a message to give to the Master of the Brotherhood," I said-
-"If I am not allowed to deliver it and the gate is shut in my face,
I can only come back again. But I must do my best to gain an
entrance if possible."
And with these words I turned away and commenced my solitary walk. I
had arrived in the early afternoon and the sun was still high in the
heavens,--the heat was intense and the air was absolutely still. As
I climbed higher and higher, the murmuring noises of human life in
the little village I had left behind me grew less and less and
presently sank altogether out of hearing, and I became gradually
aware of the great and solemn solitude that everywhere encompassed
me. No stray sheep browsed on the burnt brown grass of the rocky
height I was slowly ascending--no bird soared through the dazzling
deep blue of the vacant sky. The only sound I could hear was the
soft, rhythmic plash of small waves on the beach below, and an
indefinite deeper murmur of the sea breaking through a cave in the
far distance. There was something very grand in the silence and
loneliness of the scene,--and something very pitiful too, so I
thought, about my own self, toiling up the rocky path in mingled
hope and fear towards that grim pile of dark stone towers and high
forbidding walls, where it was just possible I might meet with but a
discouraging reception. Yet with the letter from him who signed
himself 'Your lover' lying against my heart, I felt I had a talisman
to open doors even more closely barred. Nevertheless, my courage
gave way a little when I at last stood before the heavy iron gates
set in a lofty archway of stone through which I could see nothing
but cavernous blackness. The road I had followed ended in a broad
circular sweep opposite this archway, and a few tall pines twisted
and gnarled in bough and stem, as though the full force of many
storm winds had battered and bent them out of their natural shapes,
were the only relief to the barrenness of the ground. An iron chain
with a massive ring at the end suggested itself as the possible
means of pulling a bell or otherwise attracting attention; but for
some minutes I had not the boldness to handle it.
I stood gazing at the frowning portal with a sense of utter
loneliness and desolation,--the quick, resistless impulse that had
fired me to make the journey and which, as it were, had driven me
along by its own impetus, suddenly died away into a dreary
consciousness of inadequateness and folly on my own part,--and I
began to reproach myself for yielding so utterly to the casual
influence of one who, after all, must in a reasonable way be
considered a stranger. For what was Rafel Santoris to me? Merely an
old college friend of the man who for a fortnight had been my host,
and with whom he chanced to renew acquaintanceship during a yachting
tour. Anything more simple and utterly commonplace never occurred,--
yet, here was I full of strange impressions and visions, which were
possibly only the result of clever hypnotism, practised on me
because the hypnotist had possibly discovered in my temperament some
suitable 'subject' matter for an essay of his skill. And I had so
readily succumbed to his influence as to make a journey of hundreds
of miles to a place I had never heard of before on the chance of
seeing a man of whom I knew nothing!--except--that, according to
what Rafel Santoris had said of him, he was the follower of a great
psychic Teacher whom once I had known.
Such doubtful and darkening thoughts as these, chasing one another
rapidly through my brain, made me severely accuse myself of rash and
unpardonable folly in all I had done or was doing,--and I was almost
on the point of turning away and retracing my steps, when a sudden
ray of light, not of the sun, struck itself sharply as it were
before my eyes and hurt them with its blinding glitter. It was like
a whip of fire lashing my hesitating mind, and it startled me into
instant action. Without pausing further to think what I was about, I
went straight up to the entrance of the Chateau and pulled at the
iron chain. The gates swung open at once and swiftly, without sound-
-and I stepped into the dark passage within--whereupon they as
noiselessly closed again behind me. There was no going back now,--
and nerving myself to resolution, I walked quickly on through what
was evidently a long corridor with a lofty arched roof of massive
stone; it was dark and cool and refreshing after the great heat
outside, and I saw a faint light at the end towards which I made my
way. The light widened as I drew near, and an exclamation of relief
and pleasure escaped me as I suddenly found myself in a picturesque
quadrangle, divided into fair green lawns and parterres of flowers.
Straight opposite me as I approached, a richly carved double oaken
door stood wide open, enabling me to look into a vast circular domed
hall, in the centre of which a fountain sent up tall silver columns
of spray which fell again with a tinkling musical splash into a
sunken pool bordered with white marble, where delicate pale blue
water-lilies floated on the surface of the water. Enchanted by this
glimpse of loveliness, I went straight on and entered without
seeking the right of admission,--and then stood looking about me in
wonder and admiration. If this was the House of Aselzion, where such
difficult lessons had to be learned and such trying ordeals had to
be faced, it certainly did not seem like a house of penance and
mortification but rather of luxury. Exquisite white marble statues
were set around the hall in various niches between banked-up masses
of roses and other blossoms--many of them perfect copies of the
classic models, and all expressing either strength and resolution,