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The Life Everlasting: A Reality of Romance by Marie Corelli

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or beauty and repose. And most wonderful of all was the light, that
poured in from the high dome--I could have said with truth that it
was like that 'light which never was on sea or land.' It was not the
light of the sun, but something more softened and more intense, and
was totally indescribable.

Fascinated by the restful charm of my surroundings, I seated myself
on a marble bench near the fountain and watched the sparkle of the
water as it rose in rainbow radiance and fell again into the darker
shadows of the pool,--and I had for a moment lost myself in a kind
of waking dream,--so that I started with a shock of something like
terror when I suddenly perceived a figure approaching me,--that of a
man, clothed in white garments fashioned somewhat after the monastic
type, yet hardly to be called a monk's dress, though he wore a sort
of hood or cowl pulled partially over his face. My heart almost
stopped beating and I could scarcely breathe for nervous fear as he
came towards me with an absolutely noiseless tread,--he appeared to
be young, and his eyes, dark and luminous, looked at me kindly and,
as I fancied, with a touch of pity.

"You are seeking the Master?" he enquired, in a gentle voice--"He
has instructed me to receive you, and when you have rested for an
hour, to take you to his presence."

I had risen as he spoke, and his quiet manner helped me to recover
myself a little.

"I am not tired,"--I answered--"I could go to him at once--"

He smiled.

"That is not possible!" he said--"He is not ready. If you will come
to the apartment allotted to you I am sure you will be glad of some
repose. May I ask you to follow me?"

He was perfectly courteous in demeanour, and yet there was a certain
impressive authority about him which silently impelled obedience. I
had nothing further to demand or to suggest, and I followed him at
once. He preceded me out of the domed hall into a long stone
passage, where every sign of luxury, beauty or comfort disappeared
in cold vastness, and where at every few steps large white boards
with the word 'Silence!' printed upon them in prominent black
letters confronted the eyes. The way we had to go seemed long and
dreary and dungeon-like, but presently we turned towards an opening
where the sun shone through, and my guide ascended a steep flight of
stone stairs, at the top of which was a massive door of oak, heavily
clamped with iron. Taking a key from his girdle, he unlocked this
door, and throwing it open, signed to me to pass in. I did so, and
found myself in a plain stone-walled room with a vaulted roof, and
one very large, lofty, uncurtained window which looked out upon the
sea and sheer down the perpendicular face of the rock on which the
Chateau d'Aselzion was built. The furniture consisted of one small
camp bedstead, a table, and two easy chairs, a piece of rough
matting on the floor near the bed, and a hanging cupboard for
clothes. A well-fitted bathroom adjoined this apartment, but beyond
this there was nothing of modern comfort and certainly no touch of
luxury. I moved instinctively to the window to look out at the sea,-
-and then turned to thank my guide for his escort, but he had gone.
Thrilled with a sudden alarm, I ran to the door--it was locked! I
was a prisoner! I stood breathless and amazed;--then a wave of
mingled indignation and terror swept over me. How dared these people
restrain my liberty? I looked everywhere round the room for a bell
or some means of communication by which I could let them know my
mind--but there was nothing to help me. I went to the window again,
and finding it was like a French casement, merely latched in the
centre, I quickly unfastened and threw it open. The scent of the sea
rushed at me with a delicious freshness, reminding me of Loch
Scavaig and the 'Dream'--and I leaned out, looking longingly over
the wide expanse of glittering water just now broken into little
crests of foam by a rising breeze. Then I saw that my room was a
kind of turret chamber, projecting itself sheer over a great wall of
rock which evidently had its base in the bed of the ocean. There was
no escape for me that way, even if I had sought it. I drew back from
the window and paced round and round my room like a trapped animal--
angry with myself for having ventured into such a place, and
forgetting entirely my previous determination to go through all that
might happen to me with patience and unflinching nerve.

Presently I sat down on my narrow camp bed and tried to calm myself.
After all, what was the use of my anger or excitement? I had come to
the House of Aselzion of my own wish and will,--and so far I had
endured nothing difficult. Apparently Aselzion was willing to
receive me in his own good time--and I had only to wait the course
of events. Gradually my blood cooled, and in a few minutes I found
myself smiling at my own absurdly useless indignation. True, I was
locked up in my own room like a naughty child, but did it matter so
very much? I assured myself it did not matter at all,--and as I
accustomed my mind to this conviction I became perfectly composed
and quite at home in my strange surroundings. I took off my hat and
cloak and put them by--then I went into the bathroom and refreshed
my face with delicious splashes of cold water. The bathroom
possessed a full-length mirror fitted into the wall, a fact which
rather amused me, as I felt it must have been there always and could
not have been put up specially for me, so that it would seem these
mystic 'Brothers' were not without some personal vanity. I surveyed
myself in it with surprise as I took down my hair and twisted it up
again more tidily, for I had expected to look fagged and tired,
whereas my face presented a smiling freshness which was unexpected
and astonishing to myself. The plain black dress I wore was dusty
with travel--and I shook it as free as I could from railway
grimness, feeling that it was scarcely the attire I should have
chosen for an audience of Aselzion.

"However,"--I said to myself--"if he has me locked up like this, and
gives me no chance of sending for my luggage at the inn, I can only
submit and make the best of it."

And returning from the bathroom to the bedroom, I again looked out
of my lofty window across the sea. As I did so, leaning a little
over the ledge, something soft and velvety touched my hand;--it was
a red rose clambering up the turret just within my reach. Its
opening petals lifted themselves towards me like sweet lips turned
up for kisses, and I was for a moment startled, for I could have
sworn that no rose of any kind was there when I first looked out.
'One rose from all the roses in Heaven!' Where had I heard those
words? And what did they signify? Then--I remembered! Carefully and
with extreme tenderness, I bent over that beautiful, appealing

"I will not gather you!"--I whispered, following the drift of my own
dreaming fancy--"If you are a message--and I think you are I--stay
there as long as you can and talk to me! I shall understand!"

And so for a while we made silent friends with each other till I
might have said with the poet--'The soul of the rose went into my
blood.' At any rate something keen, fine and subtle stole over my
senses, moving me to an intense delight in merely being alive. I
forgot that I was in a strange place among strange men,--I forgot
that I was to all intents and purposes a prisoner--I forgot
everything except that I lived, and that life was ecstasy!

I had no very exact idea of the time,--my watch had stopped. But the
afternoon light was deepening, and long lines of soft amber and
crimson in the sky were beginning to spread a radiant path for the
descent of the sun. While I still remained at the window I suddenly
heard the rise and swell of deep organ music, solemn and sonorous;
it was as though the waves of the sea had set themselves to song.
Some instinct then told me there was someone in the room,--and I
turned round quickly to find my former guide in the white garments
standing silently behind me, waiting. I had intended to complain at
once of the way in which I had been imprisoned as though I were a
criminal--but at sight of his grave, composed figure I lost all my
hardihood and could say nothing. I merely stood still, attendant on
his pleasure. His dark eyes, gleaming from under his white cowl,
looked at me with a searching enquiry as though he expected me to
speak, but as I continued to keep silence, he smiled.

"You are very patient!" he said, quietly--"And that is well! The
Master awaits you."

A tremor ran through me, and my heart began to beat violently. I was
to have my wilful desires granted, then! I was actually to see and
speak with the man to whom Rafel Santoris owed his prolonged youth
and power, and under whose training he had passed through an ordeal
which had taught him some of the deepest mysteries of life! The
result of my own wishes seemed now so terrifying to me that I could
not have uttered a word had I tried, I followed my escort in
absolute silence;--once in my nervous agitation I slipped on the
stone staircase and nearly fell,--he at once caught me by the hand
and supported me, and the kindness and gentle strength of his touch
renewed my courage. His wonderful eyes looked steadily into mine.

"Do not be afraid!" he said, in a low tone--"There is really nothing
to fear!"

We passed the domed hall and its sparkling fountain, and in two or
three minutes came to a deep archway veiled by a portiere of some
rich stuff woven in russet brown and gold,--this curtain my guide
threw back noiselessly, showing a closed door. Here he came to a
standstill and waited--I waited with him, trying to be calm, though
my mind was in a perfect tumult of expectation mingled with doubt
and dread,--that closed door seemed to me to conceal some marvellous
secret with which my whole future life and destiny were likely to be
involved. Suddenly it opened,--I saw a beautiful octagonal room,
richly furnished, with the walls lined, so it appeared, from floor
to ceiling with books,--one or two great stands and vases of flowers
made flashes of colour among the shadows, and a quick upward glance
showed me that the ceiling was painted in fresco, then my guide
signed to me to enter.

"The Master will be with you in a moment,"--he said--"Please sit
down"--here he gave me an encouraging smile--"You are a little
nervous--try and compose yourself! You need not be at all anxious or

I tried to smile in response, but I felt far more ready to weep. I
was possessed by a sudden hopeless and helpless depression which I
could not overcome. My guide went away at once, and the door closed
after him in the same mysteriously silent fashion in which it had
opened. I was left to myself,--and I sat down on one of the numerous
deep easy chairs which were placed about the room, trying hard to
force myself into at least the semblance of quietude. But, after
all, what was the use of even assuming composure when the man I had
come to meet probably had the power to gauge the whole gamut of a
human being's emotion at a moment's notice? Instinctively I pressed
my hand against my heart and felt the letter my 'lover' had given
me--surely that was no dream?

I drew a long breath like a sigh, and turned my eyes towards the
window, which was set in a sort of double arch of stone, and which
showed me a garden stretching far away from the edges of soft lawns
and flower borders into a picturesque vista of woodland and hill. A
warmth of rosy light illumined the fair scene, indicating that the
glory of the sunset had begun. Impulsively I rose to go and look
out--then stopped--checked and held back by a swift compelling awe--
I was no longer alone. I was confronted by the tall commanding
figure of a man wearing the same white garments as those of my
guide,--a man whose singular beauty and dignity of aspect would have
enforced admiration from even the most callous and unobservant--and
I knew that I was truly at last in the presence of Aselzion.
Overpowered by this certainty, I could not speak--I could only look
and wonder as he drew near me. His cowl was thrown back, fully
displaying his fine intellectual head--his eyes, deep blue and full
of light, studied my face with a keen scrutiny which I could FEEL as
though it were a searching ray burning into every nook and cranny of
my heart and soul. The blood rushed to my cheeks in a warm wave--
then suddenly rallying my forces I returned him glance for glance.
Thus we moved, each on our own lines of spiritual attraction, closer
together; till presently a slight smile brightened the gravity of
his handsome features, and he extended both hands to me.

"You are welcome!" he said, in a voice that expressed the most
perfect music of human speech--"Rash and undisciplined as you are,
you are welcome!"

Timidly I laid my hands in his, grateful for the warm, strong clasp
he gave them,--then, all at once, hardly knowing how it happened, I
sank on my knees as before some saint or king, silently seeking his
blessing. There was a moment's deep stillness,--and he laid his
hands on my bowed head.

"Poor child!" he said, gently--"You have adventured far for love and
life!--it will be hard if you should fail! May all the powers of God
and Nature help you!"

This said, he raised me with an infinitely courteous kindness, and
placed a chair for me near a massive table-desk on which there were
many papers--some neatly tied up and labelled,--others lying about
in apparent confusion--and when we were both seated he began
conversation in the simplest and easiest fashion.

"You know, of course, that I have been prepared for your arrival
here,"--he said--"by one of my students, Rafel Santoris. He has been
seeking you for a long time, but now he has found you he is hardly
better off--for you are a rebellious child and unwilling to
recognise him--is it not so?"

I felt a little more courageous now, and answered him at once.

"I am not unwilling to recognise any true thing," I said--"But I do
not wish to be deceived--or to deceive myself."

He smiled.

"Do you not? How do you know that you have not been deceiving
yourself ever since your gradual evolvement from subconscious into
conscious life? Nature has not deceived you--Nature always takes
herself seriously--but you--have you not tried in various moods or
phases of existence, to do something cleverer than Nature?--to more
or less outwit her as it were? Come, come!--don't look so puzzled
about it!--you have only done what all so-called 'reasonable' human
beings do, and think themselves justified in doing. But now, in your
present state,--which is an advancement, and not a retrogression,--
you have begun to gain a little wider knowledge, with a little
deeper humility--and I am inclined to have great patience with you!"

I raised my eyes and was reassured by his kindly glance.

"Now, to begin with,"--he went on--"you should know at once that we
do not receive women here. It is against our rule and Order. We are
not prepared for them,--we do not want them. They are never more
than HALF souls!"

My heart gave an indignant bound,--but I held my peace. He looked
straight at me, while with one hand he put together a few stray
papers on his desk.

"Well, why do you not give me the obvious answer?" he queried--"Why
do you not say that if women are half souls, men are the same,--and
that the two halves must conjoin to make one? Foolish child!--you
need not burn with suppressed offence at what sounds a slighting
description of your sex--it is not meant as such. You ARE half
souls,--and the chief trouble with you is that you seldom have the
sense to see it, or to make any endeavour to form the perfect and
indivisible union,--a sacred task which is left in your hands.
Nature is for ever working to bring the right halves together,--man
is for ever striving to scatter them apart--and though it all comes
right at the last, as it must, there is no need for delay involving
either months or centuries. You women were meant to be the angels of
salvation, but instead of this you are the ruin of your own

I could offer no contradiction to this, for I felt it to be true.

"As I have just said," he went on--"this is no place for women. The
mere idea that you should imagine yourself, capable of submitting to
the ordeal of a student here is, on the face of it, incredible. Only
for Rafel's sake have I consented to see you and explain to you how
impossible it is that you should remain--"

I interrupted him.

"I MUST remain!" I said, firmly. "Do with me whatever you like--put
me in a cell and keep me a prisoner,--give me any hardship to endure
and I will endure it--but do not turn me away without teaching me
something of your peace and power--the peace and power which Rafel
possesses, and which I too must possess if I would help him and be
all in all to him--"

Here I paused, overcome by my own emotion. Aselzion looked full at

"That is your desire?--to help him and to be all in all to him?" he
said--"Why did you not realise this ages ago? And even now you have
wavered in the allegiance you owe to him--you have doubted him,
though all your inward instincts tell you that he is your soul's
true mate, and that your own heart beats towards him like a bird in
a cage beating against the bars towards liberty!"

I was silent. My fate seemed in a balance,--but I left it to
Aselzion, who, if his power meant anything, could read my thoughts
better than I could express them. He rose from his desk and paced
slowly up and down, absorbed in meditation. Presently he stopped
abruptly in front of me.

"If you stay here," he said--"you must understand what it means. It
means that you must dwell as one apart in your own room, entirely
alone except when summoned to receive instruction--your meals will
be served there--and you will feel like a criminal undergoing
punishment rather than enlightenment--and you may speak to no one
unless spoken to first. Moreover"--he interrupted himself and
beckoned me to follow him into another room adjoining the one we
were in. Here, leading me to a window, he showed me a very different
view from the sunlit landscape and garden I had lately looked upon,-
-a dismal square of rank grass in which stood a number of black

"These do not mark deaths,"--he said--"but failures! Failures--not
in a worldly sense--but failures in making of life the eternal and
creative thing it is--eternal HERE and now,--as long as we shall
choose! Do you seek to be one of them?"

"No,"--I answered, quietly--"I shall not fail!"

He gave a slight, impatient sigh.

"So they all said--they whose records are here"--and he pointed to
the crosses with an impressive gesture--"Some of the men who have
thus left their mark with us, are at this moment among the world's
most brilliant and successful personalities--wealthy, and in great
social request,--and only they themselves know where the canker
lies--only they are aware of their own futility,--and they live,
knowing that their life must lead into other lives, and dreading
that inevitable Change which is bound by law to bring them into
whatever position they have chiefly sought!"

His voice was grave and compassionate, and a faint tremor of fear
ran through me.

"These were--and are--MEN!"--he continued--"And you--a woman--would
boldly attempt the adventures in which they failed! Think for a
moment how weak and ignorant and all unprepared you are! When you
first began your psychic studies with a Teacher whom we both loved
and honoured--one whom you knew by the name of Heliobas--you had
scarcely lived at all in the world;--since then you have worked hard
and done much, but in your close application to the conquest of
difficulties you have missed many things by the way. I give you
credit for patience and faith--these have accomplished much for you-
-and now you are at a crucial point in your career when your Will,
like the rudder of a ship, trembles in your hand, and you are
plunging into unknown further deeps where there may be storm and
darkness. There is danger ahead for any doubting, proud, or
rebellious soul,--it is but fair to warn you!"

"I am not afraid!" I said, in a low tone--"I can but die!"

"Child, that is just what you cannot do! Grasp that fact firmly at
once and for ever! You cannot die,--there is no such thing as death!
If you could die and have done with all duties, cares, perplexities
and struggles altogether, the eternal problem would be greatly
simplified. But the idea of death is only one of a million human
delusions. Death is an impossibility in the scheme of Life--what is
called by that name is merely a shifting and re-investiture of
imperishable atoms. The endless varying forms of this shifting and
re-investiture of atoms is the secret we and our students have set
ourselves to master--and some of us have mastered it sufficiently to
control both the matter and spirit whereof we are made. But the way
of learning is not an easy way--Rafel Santoris himself could have
told you that he was all but overcome in the trial--for I spare no
one!--and if you persist in your rash intention I cannot spare you
simply because of your sex."

"I do not ask to be spared,"--I said, gently--"I have already told
you I will endure anything."

A slight smile crossed his face.

"So you will, I believe!" he answered--"In the old days I can well
understand your enduring martyrdom! I can see you facing lions in
the Roman arena,"--as he thus spoke I started, and the warm blood
rushed to my cheeks--"rather than not carry out your own fixed
resolve, whether such resolve was right or wrong! I can see you
preparing to drown yourself in the waters of the Nile rather than
break through man's stupid superstition and convention! Why do you
look so amazed? Am I touching on some old memory? Come, let us leave
these black embers of coward mortality and return to the more
cheerful room."

We re-entered the library together, and he seated himself again at
his desk, turning towards me with an air of settled and impressive

"What you want to learn,--and what every beginner in the study of
psychic law generally wants to learn first of all, is how to obtain
purely personal satisfaction and advantage,"--he said--"You want to
know three things--the secret of life--the secret of youth--the
secret of love! Thousands of philosophers and students have entered
upon the same research, and one perhaps out of the thousand has
succeeded where all the rest have failed. The story of Faust is
perpetually a thing of interest, because it treats of these secrets,
which according to the legend are only discoverable through the aid
of the devil. WE know that there is no devil, and that everything is
divinely ordained by a Divine Intelligence, so that in the deepest
researches which we are permitted to make there is nothing to fear--
but Ourselves! Failure is always brought about by the students, not
by the study in which they are engaged,--the reason of this being
that when they know a little, they think they know all,--with the
result that they become intellectually arrogant, an attitude that
instantly nullifies all previous attainment. The secret of life is a
comparatively easy matter to understand--the secret of youth a
little more difficult--the secret of love the most difficult of all,
because out of love is generated both the perpetuity of life and of
youth. Now your object in coming here is, down at the root of it,
absolutely personal--I will not say selfish, because that sounds
hard--and I will give you credit for the true womanly feeling you
have, that being conscious in your own soul of Rafel Santoris as
your superior and master as well as your lover, you wish to be
worthy of him, if only in the steadfastness and heroism of your
character. I will grant you all that. I will also grant that it is
perfectly natural, and therefore right, that you should wish to
retain youth and beauty and health for his sake,--and I would even
urge that this desire should be SOLELY for his sake! But just now
you are not quite sure whether it is for his sake,--you wish to
hold, for YOURSELF, the secret of life and the power of life's
continuance--the secret of youth and the power of youth's
continuance,--and you most certainly wish to have for yourself, as
well as for Rafel, the secret of love and the power of love's
continuance. None of these secrets can be disclosed to worldlings--
by which term I mean those who allow themselves to be moved from
their determination, and distracted by a thousand ephemeral matters.
I do not say you are such an one,--but you, like all who live in the
world, have your friends and acquaintances--people who are ready to
laugh at you and make mock of your highest aims--people whose
delight would be to block the way to your progress--and the question
with me is--Are you strong enough to ensure the mental strain which
will be put upon you by ignorant and vulgar opposition and even
positive derision? You may be,--you are self-willed enough, though
not always rightly so--for example, you want to gain knowledge apart
from and independently of Rafel Santoris, yet you are an incomplete
identity without him! The women of your day all follow this vicious
policy--the desire to be independent and apart from men--which is
the suicide of their nobler selves. None of them are complete
creatures without their stronger halves--they are like deformed
birds with only one wing,--and a straight flight is impossible to

He ceased, and I looked up.

"Whether I agree with you or not hardly matters,"--I said--"I admit
all my faults and am ready to amend them. But I want to learn from
you all that I may--all that you think I am capable of learning--and
I promise absolute obedience--"

A slight smile lightened his eyes.

"And humility?"

I bent my head.

"And humility!"

"You are resolved, then?"

"I am resolved!"

He paused a moment, then appeared to make up his mind.

"So be it!" he said--"But on your own head be your own mischance, if
any mischance should happen! I take no responsibility. Of your own
will you have come here--of your own will you elect to stay here,
where there is no one of your own sex with whom you can communicate-
-and of your own will you must accept all the consequences. Is that

His steel-blue eyes flashed with an almost supernatural brilliancy
as he put the question, and I was conscious of a sense of fear. But
I conquered this and answered simply:

"It is agreed!"

He gave me a keen glance that swept me as it were from head to foot-
-then turning from me abruptly, struck a handle on his desk which
set a loud bell clanging in some outer corridor. My former guide
entered almost immediately, and Aselzion addressed him:

"Honorius,"--he said--"show this lady to her room, She will follow
the course of a probationer and student"--as he spoke, Honorius gave
me a look of undisguised amazement and pity--"The moment she desires
to leave, every facility for her departure is to be granted to her.
As long as she remains under instruction the rule for her, as you
know, is solitude and silence."

I looked at him, and thought how swiftly his face had changed. It
was no longer softened by the grave benevolence and kindness that
had sustained my courage,--a stern shadow darkened it, and his eyes
were averted. I saw I was expected to leave the room, but I

"You will let me thank you,"--I murmured, holding out my hands
timidly--almost pleadingly.

He turned to me slowly and took my hands in his own.

"Poor child, you have nothing to thank me for!"--he said. "Bear in
mind, as one of your first lessons in the difficult way you are
going, that you have nothing to thank anyone for, and nothing to
blame anyone for in the shaping of your destiny but--Yourself! Go!--
and may you conquer your enemy!"

"My enemy?" I repeated, wonderingly.

"Yes--again Yourself! The only power any man or woman has ever had,
or ever will have, to contend with!"

He dropped my hands, and I suppose I must have expressed some mute
appeal in my upward glance at him, for the faintest shadow of a
smile came on his lips.

"God be with you!" he said, softly, and then with a gentle gesture
signed to me to leave him. I at once obeyed, and followed the guide
Honorius, who led me back to my own room, where, without speaking a
word, he closed and locked the door upon me as before. To my
surprise, I found my luggage which I had left at the inn placed
ready for me--and on a small dresser set in a niche of the wall
which I had not noticed before, there was a plate of fruit and dry
bread, with a glass of cold water. On going to look at this little
refection, which was simply yet daintily set out, I saw that the
dresser was really a small lift, evidently connected with the
domestic offices of the house, and I concluded that this would be
the means by which all my meals would be served. I did not waste
much time in thinking about it, however,--I was only too glad to be
allowed to remain in the House of Aselzion on any terras, and the
fact that I was imprisoned under lock and key did not now trouble
me. I unpacked my few things, among which were three or four
favourite books,--then I sat down to my frugal repast, for which
hunger provided a keen appetite. When I had finished, I took a chair
to the open window and sat there, looking out on the sea. I saw my
friendly little rose leaning its crimson head against the wall just
below me with quite a confidential air, and it gave me a sense of
companionship, otherwise the solitude was profound. The sky was
darkening into night, though one or two glowing bars of deep crimson
still lingered as memories of the departed sun--and a pearly
radiance to the eastward showed a suggestion of the coming moon. I
felt the sense of deep environing silence closing me in like a wall-
-and looking back over my shoulder from the window to the interior
of my room it seemed full of drifting shadows, dark and impalpable.
I remembered I had no candle or any other sort of light--and this
gave me a passing uneasiness, but only for a moment. I could go to
bed, I thought, when I was tired of watching the sea. At any rate, I
would wait for the moonrise,--the scene I looked upon was divinely
peaceful and beautiful,--one that a painter or poet would have
revelled in--and I was content. I was not conscious of any fear,--
but I did feel myself being impressed as it were and gradually
overcome by the deepening stillness and great loneliness of my
surroundings. 'The rule for her is solitude and silence.' So had
said Aselzion. And evidently the rule was being enforced.



The moon rose slowly between two bars of dark cloud which gradually
whitened into silver beneath her shining presence, and a
scintillating pathway of diamond-like reflections began to spread
itself across the sea. I remained at the window, feeling an odd
disinclination to turn away into the darkness of my room. And I
began to think that perhaps it was rather hard that I should be left
all by myself locked up in this way;--surely I might have been
allowed a light of some sort! Then I at once reproached myself for
allowing the merest suggestion of a complaint to enter my mind, for,
after all, I was an uninvited guest in the House of Aselzion--I was
not wanted--and I remembered the order that had been issued
concerning me: 'The moment she desires to leave, every facility for
departure is to be granted to her.' I was much more afraid of this
'facility for departure' than I was of my present solitude, and I
determined to look upon the whole adventure in the best and most
cheerful light. If it was best I should be alone, then loneliness
was good--if it was necessary I should be in darkness, then darkness
was also agreeable to me.

Scarcely had I thus made up my mind to these conditions when my room
was suddenly illumined by a soft yet effulgent radiance-and I
started up in amazement, wondering where it came from. I could see
no lamps or electric burners,--it was as if the walls glowed with
some surface luminance. When my first surprise had passed, I was
charmed and delighted with the warm and comforting brightness around
me,--it rather reminded me of the electric brilliancy on the sails
of the 'Dream.' I moved away from the window, leaving it open, as
the night was very close and warm, and sat down at the table to read
a little, but after a few minutes laid the book aside to listen to a
strange whispering music that floated towards me, apparently from
the sea, and thrilled me to the soul. No eloquent description could
give any idea of the enthralling sweetness of the harmonies that
were more BREATHED upon the air than sounded--and I became absorbed
in following the rhythm of the delicious cadences as they rose and
fell. Then by degrees my thoughts wandered away to Rafel Santoris,--
where was he now?--in what peaceful expanse of shining waters had
his fairy vessel cast anchor? I pictured him in my brain till I
could almost see his face,--the broad brow,--the fearless, tender
eyes and smile--and I could fancy that I heard the deep, soft
accents of his voice, always so gentle when he spoke to me--me, who
had half resented his influence! And a quick wave of long pent-up
tenderness rose in my heart--my whole soul ran out, as it were, to
greet him with outstretched arms--I knew in my own consciousness
that he was more than all the world to me, and I said aloud:--"My
beloved, I love you! I love you!" to the silence, almost as if I
thought it could convey the words to him whom most I desired to hear

Then I felt how foolish and futile it was to talk to the empty air
when I might have confessed myself to the real lover of my life face
to face, had I been less sceptical,--less proud! Was not my very
journey to the House of Aselzion a testimony of my own doubting
attitude?--for I had come, as I now admitted to myself, first to
make sure that Aselzion really existed--and secondly, to prove to my
own satisfaction that he was truly able to impart the mystical
secrets which Rafel seemed to know. I wearied myself out at last
with thinking to no purpose, and closing the window I undressed and
went to bed. As I lay down, the light in my room was suddenly
extinguished, and all was darkness again except for the moon, which
sent a clear white ray straight through the lattice, there being no
curtain to shut it out. For some time I remained awake on my hard
little couch, looking at this ray, and steadily refusing to allow
any sense of fear or loneliness to gain the mastery over me--the
music which had so enchanted me ceased--and everything was perfectly
still. And by and by my eyes closed--my tired limbs relaxed,--and I
fell into a sound and dreamless sleep.

When I awoke it was full morning, and the sunshine poured into my
room like a shower of gold. I sprang up, full of delight that the
night had passed so peacefully and that nothing strange or
terrifying had occurred, though I do not know why I should have
expected this. Everything seemed wonderfully fresh and beautiful in
the brightness of the new day, and the very plainness of my room had
a fascination greater than any amount of luxury. The only unusual
thing I noticed was that the soft cold water with which my bath was
supplied sparkled as though it were effervescent,--once or twice it
seemed to ripple with a diamond-like foam, and it was never actually
still. I watched its glittering movement for some minutes before
bathing--then, feeling certain it was charged with some kind of
electricity, I plunged into it without hesitation and enjoyed to the
utmost the delicious sense of invigoration it gave me. When my
toilet was completed and I had attired myself in a simple morning
gown of white linen, as being more suitable to the warmth of the
weather than the black one I had travelled in, I went to throw open
my window and let in all the freshness of the sea-air, and was
surprised to see a small low door open in the side of the turret,
through which I discovered a winding stair leading downward.
Yielding to the impulse of the moment, I descended it, and at the
end found myself in an exquisite little rock garden abutting on the
seashore. I could actually open a gate, and walk to the very edge of
the sea. I was no longer a prisoner, then!--I could run away if I

I looked about me--and smiled as I saw the impossibility of any
escape. The little garden belonged exclusively to the turret, and on
each side of it impassable rocks towered up almost to the height of
the Chateau d'Aselzion itself, while the bit of shore on which I
stood was equally hemmed in by huge boulders against which the waves
had dashed for centuries without making much visible impression. Yet
it was delightful to feel I was allowed some liberty and open air,
and I stayed for some minutes watching the sea and revelling in the
warmth of the southern sun. Then I retraced my steps slowly, looking
everywhere about me as I went, to see if there was anyone near. Not
a soul was in sight.

I returned to my room to find my bed made as neatly as though it had
never been slept upon,--and my breakfast, consisting of a cup of
milk and some wheaten biscuits, set out upon the table. I was quite
ready for the meal, and enjoyed it. When I had finished, I took my
empty cup and plate and put them on the dresser in the niche,
whereupon the dresser was instantly lowered, and very soon
disappeared. Then I began to wonder how I should employ myself. It
was no use writing letters, though I had my own travelling desk
ready for this purpose,--I did not wish my friends or acquaintances
to know where I was--and even if I had written to any of them it was
hardly likely that my correspondence would ever reach them. For I
felt sure the mystic Brotherhood of Aselzion would not allow me to
communicate with the outside world so long as I remained with them.
I sat meditating,--and I began to consider that several days passed
thus aimlessly would be difficult to bear. I could not keep correct
count of time, my watch having stopped, and there was no clock or
chime of any sort in the place that I could hear. The stillness
around me would have been oppressive but for the soft dash of little
waves breaking on the beach below my window. All at once, to my
great joy, the door of my room opened, and the personage called
Honorius entered. He bent his head slightly by way of salutation,
and then said briefly,--

"You are commanded to follow me."

I rose obediently, and stood ready. He looked at me intently and
with curiosity, as though he sought to read my mind. Remembering
that Aselzion had said I was not to speak unless spoken to, I only
returned his look steadfastly, and with a smile.

"You are not unhappy, or afraid, or restless,"--he said, slowly--
"That is well! You are making a good beginning. And now, whatever
you see or hear, keep silence! If you desire to speak, speak now--
but after we leave this room not a word must escape your lips--not a
single exclamation,--your business is to listen, learn and obey!"

He waited--giving me the opportunity to say something in reply--but
I preferred to hold my peace. He then handed me a folded length of
soft white material, opaque, yet fine and silky as gossamer.

"Cover yourself with this veil,"--he said--"and do not raise it till
you return here."

I unfolded it and threw it quickly over me--it was as delicate as a
filmy cloud and draped me from head to foot, effectually concealing
me from the eyes of others though I myself could see through it
perfectly. Honorius then signed to me to follow, and I did so, my
heart beating quickly with excitement and expectation.

We went through many passages with intricate turnings that seemed to
have no outlet,--it was like threading one's way through a maze--
till at last I found myself shut within a small cell-like place with
an opening in front of me through which I gazed upon a strange and
picturesque scene. I saw the interior of a small but perfectly
beautiful Gothic chapel, exquisitely designed, and lit by numerous
windows of stained glass, through which the sunlight filtered in
streams of radiant colour, patterning with gold, crimson and blue,
the white marble flooring below. Between every tapering column that
supported the finely carved roof, were two rows of benches, one
above the other, and here sat an array of motionless white figures,-
-men in the garb of their mysterious Order, their faces almost
concealed by their drooping cowls. There was no altar in this
chapel,--but at its eastern end where the altar might have been, was
a dark purple curtain against which blazed in brilliant luminance a
Cross and Seven-pointed Star. The rays of light shed by this
uplifted Symbol of an unwritten Creed were so vivid as to be almost
blinding, and nearly eclipsed the summer glory of the sun itself.
Awed by the strange and silent solemnity of my surroundings, I was
glad to be hidden under the folds of my enshrouding white veil,
though I realised that I was in a sort of secret recess made
purposely for the use of those who were summoned to see all that
went on in the chapel without being seen. I waited, full of eager
anticipation,--and presently the low vibrating sound of the organ
trembled on the air, gradually increasing in volume and power till a
magnificent rush of music poured from it like a sudden storm
breaking through clouds. I drew a long breath of pure ecstasy,--I
could have knelt and wept tears of gratitude for the mere sense of
hearing! Such music was divine!--the very idea of mortality was
swallowed up in it and destroyed, and the imprisoned soul mounted up
to the highest life on wings of light, rejoicing!

When it ceased, as it did all too soon, there followed a profound
silence,--so profound that I could hear the quick beating of my own
heart as if I were the only living thing in the place. I turned my
eyes towards the dazzling Cross and Star with its ever darting rays
of fiery brilliancy, and the effect of its perpetual sparkle of
lambent fire was as if an electric current were giving off messages
which no mortal skill would ever be able to decipher or put into
words, but which found their way to one's deepest inward
consciousness. All at once there was a slight movement among the
rows of white-garmented, white-cowled figures hitherto sitting so
motionless,--and with one accord they rose to their feet as a
figure, tall, stately and imposing, came walking slowly across the
chapel and stood directly in front of the flaming Symbol, holding
both hands outstretched as though invoking a blessing. It was the
Master, Aselzion,--Aselzion invested with such dignity and splendour
as I had never thought possible to man. He might have posed for some
god or hero,--his aspect was one of absolute power and calm self-
poise,--other men might entertain doubts of themselves at the
intention of their lives, but this one in his mere bearing expressed
sureness, strength and authority. He wore his cowl thrown back, and
from where I sat in my secluded corner I could see his features
distinctly, and could watch the flash of his fine steadfast eyes as
he turned them upon his followers. Keeping his hands extended, he
said, in a firm, clear voice:

"To the Creator of all things visible and invisible let us offer up
our gratitude and praise, and so begin this day!"

And a responsive murmur of voices answered him:

"We praise Thee, O Divine Power of Love and Life eternal!
We praise Thee for all we are!
We praise Thee for all we have been!
We praise Thee for all we hope to be!--Amen."

There followed a moment's tense silence. Then the assembled brethren
sat down in their places, and Aselzion spoke in measured, distinct
accents, with the easy and assured manner of a practised orator.

"Friends and Brethren!

"We are gathered here together to consider in this moment of time
the things we have done in the past, and the things we are preparing
to do in the future. We know that from the Past, stretching back
into infinity, we have ourselves made the Present,--and according to
Divine law we also know that from this Present, stretching forward
into infinity, we shall ourselves evolve all that is yet To Come.
There is no power, no deity, no chance, no 'fortuitous concurrence
of atoms' in what is simply a figure of the Universal Mathematics.
Nothing can be 'forgiven' under the eternal law of Compensation,--
nothing need be 'prayed for,' since everything is designed to
accomplish each individual spirit's ultimate good. You are here to
learn not only the secret of life, but something of how to live that
life; and I, in my capacity, am only striving to teach what Nature
has been showing you for thousands of centuries, though you have not
cared to master her lessons. The science of to-day is but Nature's
first primer--a spelling-book as it were, with the alphabet set out
in pictures. You are told by sagacious professors,--who after all
are no more than children in their newly studied wisdom,--that human
life was evolved in the first instance from protoplasm--as they
THINK,--but they lack the ability to tell you how the protoplasm was
itself evolved--and WHY; where the material came from that went to
the making of millions of solar systems and trillions of living
organisms concerning whose existence we have no knowledge or
perception. Some of them deny a God,--but most of them are driven to
confess that there must be an Intelligence, supreme and omnipotent,
behind the visible Universe. Order cannot come out of Chaos without
a directing Mind; and Order would be quickly submerged into Chaos
again were not the directing Mind of a nature to sustain its method
and condition.

"We start, therefore, with this Governing Intelligence or directing
Mind, which must, like the brain of man, be dual, combining the male
and female attributes, since we see that it expresses itself
throughout all creation in dual form and type. Intelligence, Mind,
or Spirit, whichever we may elect to call it, is inherently active
and must find an outlet for its powers,--and the very fact of this
necessity produces Desire to perpetuate Itself in varied ways: this
again is the first attribute of Love. Hence Love is the foundation
of worlds, and the source of all living organisms,--the dual atoms,
or ions of spirit and matter yielding to Attraction, Union and
Reproduction. If we master this fact reasonably and thoroughly, we
shall be nearer the comprehension of life."

He paused a moment,--then advanced a step or two and went on, the
flaming Symbol behind him seeming literally to envelop him in its

"What we have to learn first of all is, how these laws affect us as
individual human beings and as separate personalities. It is
necessary to avoid all obscurity of language in setting forth the
simple principles which should guide and preserve each human
existence, and my explanation shall be as brief and plain as I can
make it. Granted that there is a Divine Mind or Governing
Intelligence behind the infinitude of vital and productive atoms
which in their union and reproduction build up the wonders of the
Universe, we see and admit that one of the chief results of the
working of this Divine Mind is Man. He is, so we have been told--
'the image of God.' This expression may be taken as a poetic line in
the Scriptures, meaning no more than poetic imagery,--but it is
nevertheless a truth. Man is a kind of Universe in himself--he too
is a conglomeration of atoms--atoms that are active, reproductive,
and desirous of perpetual creativeness. Behind them, as in the
nature of the Divine, there is the Governing Intelligence, the Mind,
the Spirit,--dual in type, double-sexed in action. Without the Mind
to control it, the constitution of Man is chaos,--just as the
Universe itself would be without the Creator's governance. What we
have chiefly to remember is, that just as the Spirit behind visible
Nature is Divine and eternal, so is the Spirit behind each one of
our individual selves also Divine and eternal. It HAS BEEN always,--
it WILL BE always, and we move as distinct personalities through
successive phases of life, each one under the influence of his or
her own controlling Soul, to higher and ever higher perception and
attainment. The great majority of the world's inhabitants live with
less consciousness of this Spirit than flies or worms--they build up
religions in which they prate of God and immortality as children
prattle, without the smallest effort to understand either,--and at
the Change which they call death, they pass out of this life without
having taken the trouble to discover, acknowledge or use the
greatest gift God has bestowed upon them. But we,--we who are here
to realise the existence of the all-powerful Force which gives us
complete mastery over the things of space and time and matter--we,
who know that over that individual moving universe of atoms called
Man, It can hold absolute control,--we can prove for ourselves that
the whole earth is subject to the dominance of the immortal Soul,--
ay!--and the very elements of air, fire and water!--for these are
but the ministers and servants to Its sovereign authority!"

He paused again--and after a minute or two of silence, went on--

"This beautiful earth, this over-arching sky, the exquisite things
of Nature's form and loveliness, are all given to Man, not only for
his material needs, but for his spiritual growth and evolvement.
From the light of the sun he may draw fresh warmth and colour for
his blood--from the air new supplies of life--from the very trees
and herbs and flowers he may renew his strength,--and there is
nothing created that is not intended to add in some measure to his
pleasure and well-being. For if the foundation of the Universe be
Love, as it is, then Love desires to see its creatures happy. Misery
has no place in the Divine scheme of things--it is the result of
Man's own opposition to Natural Law. In Natural Law, all things work
calmly, slowly and steadfastly together for good--Nature silently
obeys God's ordinance. Man, on the contrary, questions, argues,
denies, rebels,--with the result that he scatters his force and
fails in his highest effort. It is in his own power to renew his own
youth--his own vitality,--yet we see him sink of his own accord into
feebleness and decrepitude, giving himself up, as it were, to be
devoured by the disintegrating influences which he could easily
repel. For, as the directing Spirit of God governs the infinitude of
atoms and star-dust which go to make up universes, so the mind of a
Man should govern the atoms and star-dust of which he himself is
composed--guiding their actions and renewing them at pleasure,--
forming them into suns and systems of thought and creative power,
and wasting no particle of his eternal life forces. He can be what
he elects to be,--a god,--or merely one of a mass of units in
embryo, drifting away from one phase of existence to another in
unintelligent indifference, and so compelling himself to pass
centuries of aimless movement before entering upon any marked or
decisive path of individual and separate action. The greater number
prefer to be nothings in this way, though they cannot escape the
universal grinding mill,--they must be used for some purpose in the
end, be they never so reluctant. Therefore, we, who study the latent
powers of man, judge it wiser to meet and accept our destiny rather
than fall back in the race and allow destiny to overtake US and whip
us into place with rods of sharp experience. If there is anyone here
present who now desires to speak,--to ask a question,--or deny a
statement, let him come forward boldly and say what he has to say
without fear."

As he thus spoke, I, looking from my little hidden recess, saw a
movement among the seated brethren; one of them rose and descending
from his place, walked slowly towards Aselzion till he was within a
few paces of him--then he paused, and threw back his cowl, showing a
worn handsome face on which some great sorrow seemed to be marked
too strongly to be ever erased.

"I do not wish to live!"--he said--"I came here to study life, but
not to learn how to keep it. I would lose it gladly for the merest
trifle! For life is to me a bitter thing--a hideous and inexplicable
torment! Why should you, O Aselzion, teach us how to live long? Why
not rather teach us how to die soon?"

Aselzion's eyes were bent upon him with a grave and tender

"What accusation do you bring against life?" he asked--"How has life
wronged you?"

"How has life wronged me?" and the unhappy man threw up his hands
with a gesture of desperation--"You, who profess to read thought and
gauge the soul, can you ask? How has life wronged me? By sheer
injustice! From my first breath--for I never asked to be born!--from
my early days when all my youthful dreams and aspirations were
checked, smothered and killed by loving parents!--loving parents,
forsooth!--whose idea of 'love' was money! Every great ambition
frustrated--every higher hope slain!--and in my own love--that love
of woman which is man's chief curse--even she was false and
worthless as a spurious coin--caring nothing whether my life was
saved or ruined--it was ruined, of course!--but what matter?--who
need care! Only the weariness of it all!--the day after day burden
of time!--the longing to lie down and hide beneath the comfortable
grass in peace,--where no false friend, no treacherous love, no
'kind' acquaintances, glad to see me suffer, can ever point their
mocking hands or round their cruel eyes at me again! Aselzion, if
the God you serve is half as wicked as the men He made, then Heaven
itself is Hell!"

He spoke deliberately, yet with passion. Aselzion silently regarded
him. The fiery Cross and Star blazed with strange colours like
millions of jewels, and the deep stillness in the chapel was for
many minutes unbroken. All at once, as though impelled by some
irresistible force, he sank on his knees.

"Aselzion! As you are strong, have patience with the weak! As you
see the Divine, pity those who are blind! As you stand firm, stretch
a hand to those whose feet are on the shifting quicksands, and if
death and oblivion are among the gifts of your bestowal, withhold
them not from me, for I would rather die than live!"

There was a pause. Then Aselzion's voice, calm, clear and very
gentle, vibrated on the silence.

"There is no death!" he said--"You cannot die! There is no
oblivion,--you may not forget! There is but one way of life--to live

Another moment's stillness--then again the steady, resolute voice
went on.

"You accuse life of injustice,--it is you who are unjust to life!
Life gave you those dreams and aspirations you speak of,--it was in
your power to realise them! I say it was in your power, had you
chosen! No parents, no friends, not God Himself, can stop you from
doing what you WILL to do! Who frustrated any great ambition of
yours but yourself? Who can slay a hope but him in whose soul it was
born? And that love of woman?--was she your true mate?--or only a
thing of eyes and hair and vanity? Did your passion touch her body
only, or did it reach her Soul? Did you seek to know whether that
Soul had ever wakened within her, or were you too well satisfied
with her surface beauty to care? In all these things blame Yourself,
not life!--for life gives you earth and heaven, time and eternity
for the attainment of joy--joy, in which, but for Yourself, there
would never be a trace of sorrow!"

The kneeling penitent--for such he now appeared to be--covered his
face with his hands.

"I cannot give you death,"--continued Aselzion-"You can take what is
called by that name for yourself if you choose--you can by your own
action, sudden or premeditated, destroy this present form and
composition of yourself for just so long as it takes the forces of
Nature to build you up again--an incredibly brief moment of time!
But you gain nothing--you neither lose your consciousness nor your
memory! Ponder this well before you pull down your present dwelling-
house!--for ingratitude breeds narrowness, and your next habitation
might be smaller and less fitted for peace and quiet breathing!"

With these words, gently spoken, he raised the penitent from his
knees, and signed to him to return to his place. He did so
obediently, without another word, pulling his cowl closely about him
so that none of his fellow-brethren might see his features. Another
man then stepped forward and addressed Aselzion.

"Master"--he said, "would it not be better to die than to grow old?
If, as you teach us, there is no real death, should there be any
real decay? What pleasure is there in life when the strength fails
and the pulses slacken--when the warm blood grows chill and
stagnant, and when even those we have loved consider we have lived
too long? I who speak now am old, though I am not conscious of age--
but others are conscious for me,--their looks, their words, imply
that I am in their way--that I am slowly dying like a lopped tree
and that the process is too tedious for their impatience. And yet--I
could be young!--my powers of work have increased rather than
lessened--I enjoy life more than those that have youth on their
side--but I know I carry the burden of seventy years upon me, and I
say that surely it is better to die than live even so long!"

Aselzion, standing in the full light of the glittering Cross and
Star, looked upon him with a smile.

"I also carry the burden--if burden you must call it--of seventy
years!" he said--"But years are nothing to me--they should be
nothing to you. Who asked you to count them or to consider them? In
the world of wild Nature, time is measured by seasons only--the bird
does not know how old it is--the rose-tree does not count its
birthdays! You, whom I know to be a brave man and patient student,
have lived the usual life of men in the world--you are wedded to a
Woman who has never cared to understand the deeper side of your
nature, and who is now far older than you, though in actual years
younger,--you have children who look upon you as their banker merely
and who, while feigning affection, really wait for your death with
eagerness in order to possess your fortune. You might as well have
never had those children!--I know all this as you yourself know it--
I also know that through the word-impressions and influence of so-
called 'friends' who wish to persuade you of your age, the
disintegrating process has begun,--but this can be arrested. You
yourself can arrest it!--the dream of Faust is no fallacy!--only
that the renewal of youth is not the work of magic evil, but of
natural good. If you would be young, leave the world as you have
known it and begin it anew,--leave wife, children, friends, all that
hang like fungi upon an oak, rotting its trunk and sapping its
strength without imparting any new form of vitality. Live again--
love again!"

"I!"--and he who was thus spoken to threw back his cowl, showing a
face wan and deeply wrinkled, yet striking in its fine
intellectuality of feature--"I!--with these white hairs! You jest
with me, Aselzion!"

"I never jest!"--replied Aselzion--"I leave jesting to the fools who
prate of life without comprehending its first beginnings. I do not
jest with you--put me to the proof! Obey my rules here but for six
months and you shall pass out of these walls with every force in
your body and spirit renewed in youth and vitality! But Yourself
must work the miracle,--which, after all, is no miracle! Yourself
must build Yourself!--as everyone is bound to do who would make the
fullest living out of life. If you hesitate,--if you draw back,--if
you turn with one foolish regret or morbid thought to your past
mistakes in life which ARE past--to her, your wife, a wife in name
but never in soul,--to your children, born of animal instinct but
not of spiritual deep love,--to those your 'friends' who count up
your years as though they were crimes,--you check the work of re-
invigoration, and you stultify the forces of renewal. You must
choose--and the choice must be voluntary and deliberate,--for no man
becomes aged and effete without his own intention and inclination to
that end,--and equally, no man retains or renews his youth without a
similar intention and inclination. Take two days to consider--and
then tell me your mind."

The man he thus addressed hesitated as though he had something more
to say--then with a deep obeisance went back to his place. Aselzion
waited till he was seated--and after the brief interval spoke again-

"If all of you here present are content with your rule of life in
this place, and with the studies you are undertaking, and none of
you wish to leave, I ask for the usual sign."

All the brethren rose, and raised their arms above their heads--
dropping them slowly again after a second's pause.

"Enough!" and Aselzion now moved towards the Cross and Star,
fronting it fully. As he did so, I saw to my astonishment and
something of terror that the rays proceeding from the centre of the
Symbol flamed out to an extraordinary length, surrounding his whole
figure and filling the chapel with a lurid brilliancy as though it
were suddenly on fire. Straight into the centre of the glowing
flames he steadily advanced--then, at a certain point, turned again
and faced his followers. But what an aspect now was his! The light
about him seemed to be part of his very body and garments--he was
transfigured into the semblance of something god-like and angelic--
and I was overcome with fear and awe as I looked upon him. Lifting
one hand, he made the sign of the cross,--whereat the white-robed
brethren descended from their places, and walking one by one in
line, came up to him where he stood. He spoke--and his voice rang
out like a silver clarion--

"O Divine Light!" he exclaimed--"We are a part of Thee, and into
Thee we desire to become absorbed! From Thee we know we may obtain
an immortality of life upon this gracious earth! O Nature, beloved
Mother, whose bosom burns with hidden fires of strength, we are thy
children, born of thee in spirit as in matter,--in us thou hast
distilled thy rains and dews, thy snows and frosts, thy sunlight and
thy storm!--in us thou hast embodied thy prolific beauty, thy
productiveness, thy power and thy advancement towards good--and more
than all thou hast endowed us with the divine passion of Love which
kindles the fire whereof thou art created and whereby we are
sustained! Take us, O Light! Keep us, O Nature!--and Thou, O God,
Supreme Spirit of Love, whose thought is Flame, and whose desire is
Creation, be Thou our guide, supporter and instructor through all
worlds without end! Amen!"

Once more the glorious music of the organ surged through the chapel
like a storm,--and I, trembling in every limb, knelt, covering my
veiled face closely with my hands, overcome by the splendour of the
sound and the strangeness of the scene. Gradually, very gradually,
the music died away--a deep silence followed--and when I lifted my
head, the chapel was empty! Aselzion and his disciples had vanished,
noiselessly, as though they had never been present. Only the Cross
and Star still remained glittering against its dark purple
background--darting out long tremulous rays, some of which were pale
violet, others crimson, others of the delicate hues of the pink

I looked round,--then behind me,--and to my surprise saw that the
door of my little recess had been unlocked and left open. Acting on
an impulse too strong to resist, I stole softly out, and stepping on
tiptoe, scarcely daring to breathe, I found my way through a low
archway into the body of the chapel, and stood there all alone, my
heart beating loudly with positive terror. Yet there was nothing to
fear. No one was near me that I could see, but I felt as if there
were thousands of eyes watching me from the roof, from behind the
columns, and from the stained-glass windows that shed their light on
the marble pavement. And the glowing radiance of the Cross and Star
in all that stillness was almost terrible!--the long bright rays
were like tongues of fire mutely expressing unutterable things!
Fascinated, I drew nearer and nearer--then paused abruptly, checked
by a kind of vibration under me, as though the ground rocked--
presently, however, I gained fresh courage to go on, and by degrees
was drawn into a perfect vortex of light which rushed upon me like
great waves on all sides so forcibly that I had hardly any knowledge
of my own movements. Like a creature in a dream I moved,--my very
hands looked transparent and spirit-like as I stretched them out
towards that marvellous Symbol!--and when my eyes glanced for a
moment at the folds of my covering veil I saw that its white
silkiness shone with a pale amethystine hue. On--on I went,--a
desperate idea possessing me to go as far as I could into that
strange starry centre of living luminance--the very boldness of the
thought appalled me even while I encouraged it--but step by step I
went on resolutely till I suddenly felt myself caught as it were in
a wheel of fire! Round and round me it whirled,--darting points of
radiance as sharp as spears which seemed to enter my body and stab
it through and through--I struggled for breath and tried to draw
back,--impossible! I was tangled up in a net of endless light-
vibrations which, though they gave forth no heat, yet quivered
through my whole being with searching intensity as though bent on
probing to the very centre of my soul! I could not utter a sound,--I
stood there dumb, immovable, and shrouded in million-coloured flame,
too stunned with the shock to realise my own identity. Then all at
once something dark and cool floated over me like the shadow of a
passing cloud--I looked up and strove to utter a cry,--a word of
appeal!--and then fell to the ground, lost in complete



I do not know how long I lay there lost to sight and sense, but when
I came to myself, I was in a quiet, shadowy place, like a kind of
little hermitage, with a window opening out upon the sea. I was
lying on a couch, with the veil I had worn still covering me, and as
I opened my eyes and looked about me I saw that it was night, and
that the moon was tracing a silver network of beams across the
waves. There was a delicious fragrance on the air--it came from a
group of roses set in a tall crystal vase close to where I lay.
Then, as I gradually regained full knowledge of my own existence, I
perceived a table in the room with a lamp burning upon it, and at
the table sat no less a personage than Aselzion himself, reading. I
was so amazed at the sight of him that for the moment I lay inert,
afraid to move--for I was almost sure I had incurred his
displeasure--till suddenly, with the feeling of a child seeking
pardon for an offence, I sprang up and ran to him, throwing myself
on my knees at his feet.

"Aselzion, forgive me!" I murmured--"I have done wrong--I had no
right to go so far--"

He turned his eyes upon me, smiling, and took me gently by the

"Who denies your right to go far if you have the strength and
courage?"--he said--"Dear child, I have nothing to forgive! You are
the maker of your own destiny! But you have been bold!--though you
are a mere woman you have dared to do what few men attempt. This is
the power of love within you--that perfect love which casteth out
fear! You risked a danger which has not harmed you--you have come
out of it unscathed,--so may it be with every ordeal through which
you may yet be tried as by fire!"

He raised me from where I knelt,--but I still held his hands.

"I could not help it!" I said--"Your command for me was 'silence and
solitude'--and in that silence and solitude I remained while I
watched you all,--and I heard everything that was said--this was
your wish and order. And when you all went away, the silence and
solitude would have been the same but for that Cross and Star! THEY
seemed to speak!--to call me--to draw me to them--and I went--hardly
knowing why, yet feeling that I MUST go!--and then--"

Aselzion pressed my hands gently.

"Then the Light claimed its own,"--he said--"and courage had its
reward! The door of your recess in the chapel was opened by my
instructions,--I wished to see what you would do. You have no
conception as yet of what you HAVE done!--but that does not matter.
You have passed one test successfully--for had you remained passive
in your place till someone came to remove you, I should have known
you for a creature of weak will and transitory impulses. But you are
stronger than I thought--so to-night I have come to give you your
first lesson."

"My first lesson!" I repeated the words after him wonderingly as he
let go my hands and put me gently into a chair which I had not
perceived but which stood in the shadow cast by the lamp almost
immediately opposite to him.

"Yes!--your first lesson!" he answered, smiling gravely--"The first
lesson in what you have come here to learn,--the perpetuation of
your life on earth for just so long as you desire it--the secret
which gives to Rafel Santoris his youth and strength and power, as
well as his governance over certain elemental forces. But first take
this"--and he poured out from a quaintly shaped flask a full glass
of deep red-coloured wine--"This is no magic potion--it is simply a
form of nourishment which will be safer for you than solid food,--
and I know you have eaten nothing all day since your light
breakfast. Drink it all--every drop!"

I obeyed--it seemed tasteless and strengthless, like pure water.

"Now"--he continued--"I will put before you a very simple
illustration of the truth which underlies all Nature. If you were
taken into a vast plain, and there saw two opposing armies, the one
actuated by a passion for destruction, the other moved only by a
desire for good, you would naturally wish the latter force to win,
would you not?"

I answered "Yes" at once, without hesitation.

"But suppose"--he went on--"that BOTH armies were actuated by good,
and that the object of the destroying force was only to break down
what was effete and mischievous, in order to build it up again in
stronger and nobler forms, while the aim of the other was to
strictly preserve and maintain the advantages it possessed, which
side would then have your sympathy?"

I tried to think, but could not instantly determine.

"Here is your point of hesitation,"--he said--"and here the usual
limit of human comprehension. Both forces are good,--but as a rule
we can only side with one. We name that one Life,--the other Death.
We think Life alone stands for what is living, and that Death is a
kind of cessation of Life instead of being one of Life's most active
forms. The Universe is entirely composed of these two fighting
forces--we call them good and evil--but there is no evil-there is
only a destruction of what MIGHT be harmful if allowed to exist. To
put it clearly, the million millions of atoms and electrons which
compose the everlasting elements of Spirit and Matter are dual--that
is to say, of two kinds--those which preserve their state of
equilibrium, and those whose work is to disintegrate, in order to
build up again. As with the Universe, so with the composition of a
human being. In you, as in myself, there exist these two forces--and
our souls are, so to speak, placed on guard between them. The one
set of atoms is prepared to maintain the equilibrium of health and
life, but if through the neglect and unwatchfulness of the sentinel
Soul any of them are allowed to become disused and effete, the other
set, whose business it is to disintegrate whatever is faulty and
useless for the purpose of renewing it in better form, begins to
work--and this disintegrating process is our conception of decay and
death. Yet, as a matter of fact, such process cannot even BEGIN
without our consent and collusion. Life can be retained in our
possession for an indefinite period on this earth,--but it can only
be done through our own actions--our own wish and will."

I looked at him questioningly.

"One may wish and will many things,"--I said--"But the result is not
always successful."

"Is that your experience?" he asked, bending his keen eyes full upon
me--"You know, if you are true to yourself, that no power can resist
the insistence of a strong Will brought steadily to bear on any
intention. If the effort fails, it is only because the Will has
hesitated. What have you made of some of your past lives--you and
your lover both--through hesitation at a supreme moment!"

I looked at him appealingly.

"If we made mistakes, could we altogether help it?" I asked--"Does
it not seem that we tried for the best?"

He smiled slightly.

"No, it does not seem so to me,"--he replied--"The mainspring of
your various previous existences,--the law of attraction drawing you
together was, and is, Love. This you fought against as though it
were a crime, and in many cases you obeyed the temporary
conventionalities of man rather than the unchanging ordinance of
God. And now--divided as you have been--lost as you have been in
endless whirlpools of infinitude, you are brought together again--
and though your lover has ceased to question, you have not ceased to

"I do not doubt!" I exclaimed, suddenly, and with passion--"I love
him with all my soul!--I will never lose him again!"

Aselzion looked at me questioningly.

"How do you know you have not lost him already?" he said.

At this a sudden wave of despair swept over me--a chill sense of
emptiness and desolation. Could it be possible that my own rashness
and selfishness had again separated me from my beloved?--for so I
now called him in my heart--had I by some foolish, distrustful
thought estranged him once more from my soul? The rising tears
choked me--I rose from my seat, hardly knowing what I did, and went
to the window for air--Aselzion followed me and laid his hand gently
on my shoulder.

"It is not so difficult to win love as to keep it!"--he said--
"Misunderstanding, and want of quick sympathy, end in heart-break
and separation. And this is far worse than what mortals call death."

The burning tears fell slowly from my eyes--every word seemed to
pierce my heart--I looked yearningly out on the sea, rippling under
the moon. I thought of the day, barely a week ago, when Rafel stood
beside me, his hand clasping mine,--such a little division of time
seemed to have elapsed since we were together, and yet how long! At
last I spoke--

"I would rather die, if death were possible, than lose his love"--I
said--"And where there is no love, surely there must be death?"

Aselzion sighed.

"Poor child! Now you understand why the lonely Soul hurls itself
wildly from one phase of existence to another till it finds its true
mate!"--he answered--"You say truly that where there is no love
there is no real life. It is merely a semi-conscious existence. But
you have no cause to grieve--not now,--not if you are firm and
faithful. Rafel Santoris is safe and well--and his soul is so much
with you--you are so constantly in his thoughts, that it is as if he
were himself here--see!"

And he placed his two hands for a moment over my eyes and then
removed them. I uttered a cry of ecstasy--for there before me on the
moonlit water I saw the 'Dream'!--her sails glittering with light,
and her aerial shape clearly defined against the sky! Oh, how I
longed to fly across the strip of water which alone seemed to divide
us!--and once more to stand on the deck beside him whom I now loved
more than my very hopes of heaven! But I knew it was only a vision
conjured up before me by the magic of Aselzion,--a magic used gently
for my sake, to help and comfort me in a moment of sadness and
heart's longing. And I watched, knowing that the picture must fade,-
-as it slowly did,--vanishing like a rainbow in a swirl of cloud.

"It is indeed a 'Dream'!" I said, smiling faintly, as I turned again
to Aselzion--"I pray that love itself may never be so fleeting!"

"If love is fleeting, it is not love!"--he answered--"As ephemeral
passion called by that name is the ordinary sort of attraction
existing between ordinary men and women,--men, who see no farther
than the gratification of a desire, and women, who see no higher
than the yielding to that desire. Men who love in the highest and
most faithful meaning of the term, are much rarer than women,--women
are very near the divine in love when it is first awakened in them--
if afterwards they sink to a lower level, it is generally the men
who have dragged them down. Unless a man is bent on the highest, he
is apt to settle on the lowest--whereas a woman generally soars to
the highest ideals at first in the blind instinct of a Soul seeking
its mate--how often she is hurled back from the empyrean only the
angels know! Not to all is given power to master and control the
life-forces--and it is this I would have you understand before I
leave you to-night. I can teach you the way to hold your life safely
above all disintegrating elements--but the learning of the lesson
rests with yourself."

He sat down, and I resumed my place in the chair opposite to him,
prepared to hear him with the closest attention. There were a few
things on the table which I had not previously noticed, and one of
these was a circular object covered with a cloth. He removed this
covering, and showed me a crystal globe which appeared to be full of
some strange volatile fluid, clear in itself, but intersected with
endless floating brilliant dots and lines.

"Look well at this"--he said--"for here you have a very simple
manifestation of a great truth. These dots and lines which you
observe perpetually in motion are an epitome of what is going on in
the composition of every human being. Some of them, as you see, go
in different directions, yet meet and mingle with each other at
various points of convergence--then again become separated. They are
the building-up and the disintegrating forces of the whole cosmos--
and--mark this well!--they are all, when unimprisoned, directed by a
governing will-power. You, in your present state of existence, are
simply an organised Form, composed of these atoms, and your will-
power, which is part of the Divine creative influence, is set within
you to govern them. If you govern them properly, the building-up and
revivifying atoms within you obey your command, and with increasing
strength gradually control and subdue their disintegrating
opponents,--opponents which after all are only their servants, ready
to disencumber them from all that is worthless and useless at the
first sign of disablement. There is nothing more simple than this
law, which has only to be followed in order to preserve both life
and youth. It 5s all contained in an effort of the WILL, to which
everything in Nature responds, just as a well-steered ship obeys the
compass. Remember this well!--I say, EVERYTHING IN NATURE! This
crystal globe holds momentarily imprisoned atoms which cannot just
now be directed because they are shut in, away from all Will to
govern them--but if I left them as they are for a few more hours
their force would shatter the crystal, and they would escape to
resume their appointed way. They are only shown to you as an object
lesson, to prove that such things ARE--they are facts, not dreams.
You, like this crystal globe, are full of imprisoned atoms--atoms of
Spirit and Matter which work together to make you what you are--but
you have also the governing Will which is meant to control them and
move them either to support, sustain and revivify you, or else to
weaken, break down and finally disperse and disintegrate you,
preparatory to your assumption of another form and phase of
existence. Now, do you begin to understand?"

"I think I do,"--I answered--"But is it possible always to make this
effort of the Will?"

"There is no moment in which you do not, consciously or
subconsciously, 'will' something"--he answered--"And the amount of
power you use up in 'willing' perfectly trifling and ephemeral
things, could almost lift a planet! But let us take simple actions--
such as raising a hand. You think this movement instinctive or
mechanical--but it is only because you WILL to raise it that you can
do it. If you willed NOT to raise it, it could not raise itself OF
itself. This tremendous force,--this divine gift of will-power, is
hardly exercised at all by the majority of men and women--hence
their manner of drifting here and there--their pliable yielding to
this or that opinion--the easy sway obtained over the million by a
few leaders and reformers--the infectious follies which possess
whole communities at a time--the caprices of fashion--the moods of
society--all these are due to scattered will-power, which if
concentrated would indeed 'replenish the earth and subdue it.' But
we cannot teach the world, and therefore we must be content to teach
and train a few individuals only. And when you ask if it is possible
always to make the necessary effort of will, I answer yes,--of
course it is possible. The secret of it all is to resolve upon a
firm attitude and maintain it. If you encourage thoughts of fear,
hesitation, disease, trouble, decay, incompetency, failure and
feebleness, you at once give an impetus to the disintegrating forces
within you to begin their work--and you gradually become ill,
timorous, and diseased in mind and body. If, on the contrary, your
thoughts are centred on health, vitality, youth, joy, love and
creativeness, you encourage all the revivifying elements of your
system to build up new nerve tissue and fresh brain cells, as well
as to make new blood. No scientist has ever really discovered any
logical cause why human beings should die--they are apparently
intended to live for an indefinite period. It is they themselves who
kill themselves,--even so-called 'accidents' are usually the result
of their own carelessness, recklessness or inattention to warning
circumstance. I am trying to put all this as simply as I can to
you,--there are hundreds of books which you might study, in which
the very manner of expression is so abstruse and involved that even
the most cultured intelligence can scarcely grasp it,--but what I
have told you is perfectly easy of comprehension,--the only
difficulty lies in its practical application. To-night, therefore,
and for the remainder of the time you are here, you will enter upon
certain tests and trials of your will-force--and the result of these
will prove whether you are strong enough to be successful in your
quest of life and youth and love. If you are capable of maintaining
the true attitude,--if you can find and keep the real centre-poise
of the Divine Image within you, all will be well. And remember, that
if you once learn how to govern and control the atomic forces within
yourself, you will equally govern and control all atomic forces
which come within your atmosphere. This gives you what would be
called by the ignorant 'miraculous' power, though it is no miracle.
It is nothing more than the attitude of Spirit controlling Matter.
You will find yourself not only able to govern your own forces but
also to draw upon Nature for fresh supplies--the air, the sunshine,
the trees, the flowers, will give you all they have to give on
demand--and nothing shall be refused to you. 'Ask, and ye shall
receive--seek, and ye shall find--knock, and it shall be opened unto
you.' Naturally the law is, that what you receive you must give out
again in an ungrudging outflow of love and generosity and
beneficence and sympathy, not only towards mankind but to everything
that lives--for as you are told--'Give, and it shall be given unto
you; good measure, pressed down and shaken together and running
over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that
ye mete withal, it shall be measured to you again.' These sayings of
our greatest Master are heard so often that they are considered by
many people almost trite and commonplace,--but they hold a truth
from which we cannot escape. Even such a little matter as a kind
word is paid back to the one who uttered it with a double interest
of kindness, while a cruel or coarse one carries its own punishment.
Those who take without giving are generally unsuccessful in their
lives and aims--while those who give without taking appear to be
miraculously served by both fame and fortune,--this being merely the
enactment of the spiritual law."

"I do not want fame or fortune,"--I said--"Love is enough for me!"

Aselzion smiled.

"Enough for you indeed! My child, it is enough for all! If you have
love, you have entered into the secret mind of God! Love inspires
all nobleness, all endurance, all courage,--and I think you have
some of its attributes, for you have been bold in your first
independent essay--and it is this very boldness that has brought me
here to speak to you to-night. You have, of your own accord, and
without preparation, passed what we students and mystics call 'the
first circle of fire,' and you are therefore ready for the rest of
your trial. So I will now take you back to your own room and leave
you there, for you must face your ordeal alone."

My heart sank a little, but I said nothing, and watched him as he
took up the crystal globe, full of the darting lines and points of
light gleaming like imprisoned fire, and held it for a moment
between his two hands. Then he set it down again, and covered it as
it had been covered before. The next moment he had extinguished the
lamp, and we stood together in the pale brilliancy of the moonlight
which now spread itself in a broad path of silver across the sea.
The tide was coming in, and I heard the solemn sound of rising waves
breaking rhythmically upon the shore. In silence Aselzion took me by
the hand and led me through a low doorway out of the little
hermitage into the open air, where we stood within a few feet of the
sea. The moonbeams bathed us in a shower of pearly radiance, and I
turned instinctively to look at my companion. His face appeared
transfigured into something of supernatural beauty, and for one
second the remembrance of how he had said in the chapel that he
carried the burden of seventy years upon him flashed across me with
a shock of surprise. Seventy years! He appeared to be in the very
prime and splendour of life, and the mere idea of age as connected
with him was absurd and incongruous. And while I gazed upon him,
wondering and fascinated, he lifted one hand as though in solemn
invocation to the stars that gleamed in their countless millions
overhead, and his voice, deep and musical, rang out softly yet
clearly on the silence:--

"O Supreme Guide of all the worlds created, accept this Soul which
seeks to be consecrated unto Thee! Help her to attain to all that
shall be for her wisdom and betterment, and make her one with that
Nature whereof she is born. Thou, silent and peaceful Night, invest
her with thy deep tranquillity!--thou, bright Moon, penetrate her
spirit with the shining in of holy dreams!--give her of thy strength
and depth, O Sea!--and may she draw from the treasures of the air
all health, all beauty, all life, all sweetness, so that her
existence may be a joy to the world, and her love a benediction!

My whole being thrilled with a sense of keen rapture as he thus
prayed for me,--I could have knelt to him in reverence but that I
instinctively knew he would not wish this act of homage. I felt that
it was best to keep silence, and I obeyed his guiding touch as,
still holding my hand, he led me into a vaulted stone passage and up
a long winding stair at the head of which he paused, and taking a
key from his girdle, unlocked a small door.

"There is your room, my child,"--he said, with a grave kindliness
which moved me strangely--"Farewell! The future is with yourself

I clung to his hand for an instant.

"Shall I not see you again?" I asked, with a little tremor in my

"Yes--you will see me again if you pass your ordeal successfully"--
he answered--"Not if you fail."

"What will happen if I fail?"

"Nothing but the most ordinary circumstance,"--he answered--"You
will leave this place in perfect safety and return to your home and
your usual avocations,--you will live as most women live, perhaps on
a slightly higher grade of thought and action--and in time you will
come to look upon your visit to the House of Aselzion as the merest
wilful escapade of folly! The world and its conventions will hold

"Never!" I exclaimed, passionately--"Aselzion, I will not fail!"

He looked earnestly in my face--then laid his hands on my head in a
mute blessing, and signed to me to pass into my turret room. I
obeyed. He closed the door upon me instantly--I heard the key turn
in the lock--and then--just the faint echo of his retreating
footsteps down the winding stair. My room was illumined by a very
faint light, the source of which I knew not. Everything was as I had
left it before I had been summoned to the mysterious Chapel of the
Cross and Star,--and I looked about me, tranquillised by the peace
and simplicity of my surroundings. I did not feel disposed to sleep,
and I resolved to write down from memory all that Aselzion had told
me while it was fresh in my mind. The white veil I had been given
still clung about me,--I now took it off and carefully folded it
ready for further use if needed. Sitting down at the little table, I
took out pen, ink and paper,--but somehow I could not fix my
attention on what I intended to do. The silence around me was more
intense than ever, and though my window was open I could not even
hear the murmur of the sea. I listened--hardly drawing breath--there
was not a sound. The extraordinary silence deepened--and with it
came a sense of cold; I seemed to be removed into a place apart,
where no human touch, no human voice could reach me,--and I felt as
I had never felt in all my life before, that I was indeed utterly



The stillness deepened. It seemed to myself that I could hear the
quickened beating of every pulse in my body. A curious vague terror
began to possess me,--I fought against its insidious influence, and
bending my head down over the paper I had set out before me, I
prepared to write. After a few minutes I managed to gain some
control over my nerves, and started to put down clearly and in
sequence the things Aselzion had told me, though I knew there was
little danger of my ever forgetting them. And then--a sudden
sensation came over me which forced me to realise that something or
someone was in the room, looking steadfastly at me.

With an effort, I raised my head, and saw nothing at first--then, by
degrees, I became aware that a Shadow, dark and impenetrable, stood
between me and the open window. At first it seemed simply a formless
mass of black vapour,--but very gradually it assumed the outline of
a Shape which did not seem human. I laid down my pen,--and, with my
heart thumping hammer-strokes of fear, looked at this strange
Darkness gathered as it were in one place and blocking out the
silver gleam of the moon. As I looked, all the light in my room was
suddenly extinguished. A cry rose involuntarily to my lips--and
physical fright began to gain the mastery over me. For with the
increasing gloom the mysterious Shadow grew more and more defined--a
blackness standing out as it were against another blackness,--the
pale glint of the moonbeams only illumining it faintly as a cloud
may be edged with a suggestion of light. It was not motionless,--it
stirred now and then as though about to lift itself to some
supernatural stature and bend above me or swoop down upon me like an
embodied storm,--and as I still gazed upon it fearingly, every nerve
strained to an almost unsupportable tension, I could have sworn that
two eyes, large and luminous, were fixed with a searching, pitiless
intensity on mine. It is impossible to describe what I felt,--a
sense of sick, swooning horror overcame me,--my head swam giddily,
and I could not now utter a sound.

Trembling violently, I rose to my feet in a kind of mechanical
impulse, determined to turn away from the dreadful contemplation of
this formless Phantom, when suddenly, as if by a lightning flash of
conviction, the thought came to me that it was not by coward
avoidance that I could expect to overcome either my own fears or the
nameless danger which apparently threatened me. I closed my eyes and
retreated, as it were, within myself to find that centre-poise of
my own spirit which I knew must remain an invincible force despite
all attack, being in itself immortal,--and I mentally barricaded my
soul with thoughts of armed resistance. Then, opening my eyes again,
I saw that the Shadow loomed blacker and vaster--while the luminance
around it was more defined, and was not the radiance of the moon,
but some other light that was ghostly and terrifying. But I had now
regained a little courage,--and slight as it was I held to it as my
last hope, and gradually steadied myself upon it like a drowning
creature clinging to a plank for rescue. Presently I found myself
able to ask questions of my inner consciousness. What, after all,
could this Phantom--if Phantom it were--do to work me harm? Could it
kill me with sheer terror? Surely in that case the terror would be
my own fault, for why should I be afraid? The thing called Death
being no more than a Living Change did it matter so much when or how
the change was effected?

"Who is responsible,"--I said to myself--"for the sense of fear? Who
is it that so mistrusts the Divine order of the Universe as to doubt
the ultimate intention of goodness in things which appear evil? Is
it not I alone who am the instigator of my own dread?--and can this
dark, dumb Spectre do more to me than is ordained for my blessing in
the end?"

With these thoughts I grew bold--my nervous trembling ceased. I now
chose deliberately to consider, and WILLED to determine, that this
mysterious Shadow, darker still as it grew, was something of a
friend in disguise. I lifted my head half defiantly, half hopefully
in the gloom, and the strange fact that the only light I saw came
from the weirdly gleaming edge of radiance round the Phantom itself
did not frighten me from the attitude I had resolved upon. The more
I settled myself into that attitude the firmer it became--and the
stronger grew my courage. I gently moved aside the table on which I
had been writing, and stood up. Once on my feet I felt still bolder
and surer of myself, and though the Shadow opposite to me looked
darker and more threatening than before, I began to move steadily
towards it. I made an effort to speak to it, and at last found my

"Whatever you are," I said aloud, "you cannot exist at all without
God's will! God ordains nothing that is not for good, therefore you
cannot be here with any evil purpose! If I am afraid of you, my fear
is my own weakness. I will not look at you as a thing that can or
would do me harm, and therefore I am coming to you to find out your
meaning! You shall prove to me what you are made of, to the very
depth and heart of your darkness!--you shall unveil to me all that
you hide behind your terrifying aspect,--because I KNOW that
whatever your intention towards me may be, you cannot hurt my Soul!"

As I spoke I drew nearer and nearer--and the luminous edge round the
Phantom grew lighter and lighter, till--suddenly a flash of
brilliant colour like a rainbow glittered full on my eyes so sharply
that I fell back, half blinded by its splendour. Then--as I looked--
I dropped to my knees in speechless awe--for the Shadow had changed
to a dazzling Shape of winged radiance,--a figure and face so
glorious that I could only gaze and gaze, with all my soul entranced
in wonder! I heard delicious music around me, but I could not
listen--all my soul was in my eyes. The Vision grew in stature and
in splendour, and I stretched out my hands to it in prayerful
appeal, conscious that I was in the shining Presence of some
inhabitant of higher and more heavenly spheres than ours. The
beautiful head, crowned with a diadem of flowers like white stars,
bent towards me--the luminous eyes smiled into mine, and a voice
sweeter than all sweet singing spoke to me in accents of thrilling

"Thou hast done well!" it said--"Even so always approach Darkness
without fear! Then shalt thou find the Light! Meet Sorrow with a
trusting heart--so shalt thou discover an angel in disguise! God
thinks no evil of thee--desires no wrong towards thee--has no
punishment in store for thee--give Thyself into His Hand, and be at

Slowly,--like the colours of the sunset melting away into the grey
of twilight, the Vision faded,--and when I recovered from the
dazzled bewilderment into which I had been thrown, I found myself
again in complete solitude and darkness--darkness unrelieved save by
the dim light of the setting moon. I was for a long time unable to
think of anything but the strange experience through which I had
just passed--and I wondered what would have happened if instead of
boldly advancing and confronting the dark Phantom which had so
terrified me I had striven to escape from it? I believed, and I
think I was right in my belief, that I should have found every door
open, and every facility offered for a cowardly retreat had I chosen
to make it. And then--everything would have been at an end!--I
should have probably had to leave the House of Aselzion--and perhaps
I too should have been marked with a black cross as a failure!
Inwardly I rejoiced that so far I had not given way, and presently
yielding to a drowsiness that began to steal over me, I undressed
and went to bed, perfectly tranquil in mind and happy.

I must have slept several hours when I was awakened suddenly by the
sound of voices conversing quite close to me--in fact, they seemed
to be on the other side of the wall against which my bed was placed.
They were men's voices, and one or two were curiously harsh and
irritable in tone. There was plenty of light in my room--for the
night had passed, and as far as I could tell it seemed to be early
morning. The voices went on, and I found myself compelled to listen.

"Aselzion is the cleverest humbug of his time,"--said one--"He is
never so happy as when he can play the little god and dupe his

A laugh followed this sentence.

"He's a marvel in his way,"--said another--"He must be a kind of
descendant of some ancient Egyptian conjurer who had the trick of
playing with fire. There is nothing in the line of so-called miracle
he cannot do,--and of course those who are ignorant of his methods,
and who are credulous themselves--"

"Like the woman here,"--interposed the first voice.

"Yes--like the woman here--little fool!"--and there was more
laughter--"Fancying herself in love with Rafel Santoris!"

I sat up in bed, straining my ears now for every word. My cheeks
were burning--my heart beating--I hardly knew what to think. There
was a silence for two or three minutes--minutes that seemed like
ages in my longing to hear more.

"Santoris always managed to amuse himself!"--said a thin, sharp
voice with a mocking ring in its tone--"There was always some woman
or other in love with him. Some woman he could take in easily, of

"Not difficult to find!"--rejoined the first voice that had spoken,
"Most women are blind where their affections are concerned."

"Or their vanity!"

Another silence. I rose from my bed, shivering with a sense of
sudden cold, and threw on my dressing-gown. Going to the window, I
looked out on the fair expanse of the calm sea, silver-grey in the
early dawn. How still and peaceful it looked!--what a contrast to
the storm of doubt and terror that was beginning to rage within my
own heart! Hush! The voices began again.

"Well, it's all over now, and his theory of perpetuating life at
pleasure has come to an untimely end. Where did the yacht go down?"

"Off Armadale, in Skye."

For a moment I could not realise what had been said and tried to
repeat both question and answer--'Where did the yacht go down?' 'Off
Armadale, in Skye.'

What did it mean?--The yacht? Gone down? What yacht? They were
talking of Santoris--of Rafel, my beloved!--MY lover, lost through
ages of time and space, and found again only to be once more
separated from me through my own fault--my own fault!--that was the
horror of it--a horror I could not contemplate without an almost
maddening anguish. I ran to the wall through which I had heard the
voices talking and pressed my ear against it, murmuring to myself--
"Oh no!--it is not possible!--not possible! God would not be so
cruel!" For many minutes I heard nothing--and I was rapidly losing
patience and self-control, when at last I heard the conversation
resumed,--"He should never have risked his life in such a vessel"--
said one of the voices in a somewhat gentler tone--"It was a
wonderfully clever contrivance, but the danger of all that
electricity was obvious. In a storm it would have no chance."

"That has been thoroughly proved,"--answered another voice--"Just
half a gale of wind with a dash of thunder and lightning, and down
it went, with every soul on board."

"Santoris might have saved himself. He was a fine swimmer."

"Was he?"

Another silence. I thought my head would have burst with its aching
agony of suspense,--my eyes were burning like hot coals with a
weight of unshed tears. I felt that I could have battered down the
wall between me and those torturing voices in my feverish desire to
know the worst--the worst at all costs! If Rafel were dead--but no!-
-he could not die! He could not actually perish--but he could be
parted from me as he had been parted before--and I--I should be
alone again--alone as I had been all my life! And in my foolish
pride I had voluntarily severed myself from him!--was this my
punishment? More talking began, and I listened, like a criminal
listening to a cruel sentence.

"Aselzion will tell her, of course. Rather a difficult business!--as
he will have to admit that his teachings are not infallible. And on
the whole there was something very taking about Santoris--I'm sorry
he's gone. But he would only have fooled the woman had he lived."

"Oh! That, naturally! But that hardly matters. She would only have
had herself to blame for falling into the trap."

I drew myself away from the wall, trembling and sick with dread.
Mechanically I dressed myself, and stared out at the gold of the sun
which was now pouring its radiance full on the sea. The beauty of
the scene moved me not at all--nothing mattered. All that my
consciousness could take in was that, according to what I had heard,
Rafel was dead,--drowned in the sea over which his fairy vessel the
'Dream' had sailed so lightly--and that all he had said of our
knowledge of each other in former lives, and of the love which had
drawn us together, was mere 'fooling'! I leaned out of the window,
and my eyes rested on the little crimson rose that still blossomed
against the wall in fragrant confidence. And then I spoke aloud,
hardly conscious of my own words--

"It is wicked"--I said--"wicked of God to allow us to imagine
beautiful things that have no existence! It is cruel to ordain us to
love, if love must end in disappointment and treachery! It would be
better to teach us at once that life is intended to be hard and
plain and without tenderness or truth, than to lead our souls into a
fool's paradise!"

Then--all at once--I remembered the dark Phantom of the night and
its transformation into the Vision of an Angel. I had struggled
against the terror of its first spectral appearance, and had
conquered my fears,--why was I now shaken from my self-control? What
was the cause? Voices, merely! Voices behind a wall that spoke of
death and falsehood,--voices belonging to persons I did not know and
could not see--like the voices of the world which delight in
uttering scandals and cruelties and which never praise so much as
they condemn. Voices merely! Ah!--but they spoke of the death of him
whom I loved!--must I not listen? They spoke of his treachery and
'fooling.' Should I not hear?

And yet--who were those persons, if persons they were, who talked of
him with such easy callousness? I had met no one in the House of
Aselzion save Aselzion himself and his servant or secretary
Honorius,--who then could there be except those two to know the
reasons that had brought me hither? I began to question myself and
to doubt the accuracy of the terrible news I had inadvertently
overheard. If any evil had chanced to Rafel Santoris, would Aselzion
have told me he was 'safe and well' when he had conjured up for my
comfort the picture of the 'Dream' yacht on the moonlit sea only a
few hours ago? Yet with my bravest effort I could not recover myself
sufficiently to be quite at peace,--and in my restless condition of
mind I looked towards the turret door opening to the stairway which
led to the little garden below and the seashore--but it was fast
shut, and I remembered Aselzion had locked it. But, to my complete
surprise, another door stood open,--a door that had seemed part of
the wall--and a small room was disclosed beyond it,--a kind of
little shrine, hung with pale purple silk, and looking as though it
were intended to hold something infinitely precious. I entered it
hesitatingly, not sure whether I was doing right or wrong, and yet
impelled by something more than curiosity. As I stepped across the
threshold I heard the voices behind the wall again--they sounded
louder and more threatening, and I paused,--half afraid, yet longing
to know all that might yet be said, though such knowledge might mean
nothing but misery and despair to me.

"All women are fools!"--and this trite observation was made by
someone speaking in harsh and bitter accents--"It is not love that
really moves them so much as the self-satisfaction of BEING LOVED.
No woman could be faithful for long to a dead man--she would lack
the expected response to her superabundant sentimentality, and she
would tire of waiting to meet him in Paradise--if she believed in
such a possibility, which in nine cases out of ten she would not."

"With Aselzion there are no dead men"--said another of the unseen
speakers--"They have merely passed into another living state. And
according to his theories, lovers cannot be separated, even by what
is called death, for long."

"Poor comfort!" and with the words I heard a laugh of scornful
mockery--"The women who have loved Rafel Santoris would hardly thank
you for it!"

I shuddered a little, as with cold. 'The women who have loved Rafel
Santoris!' This phrase seemed to darken the very recollection of the
handsome face and form of the man I had, almost unconsciously to
myself, begun to idealise--something coarse and common suggested
itself in association with him, and my heart sank within me,
deprived of hope. Voices, merely!--yet how they tortured me! If I
could only know the truth, I thought!--if Aselzion would only come
and tell me the worst at once! In a kind of stupor of unnameable
grief I stood in the little purple-hung shrine so suddenly opened to
me, and began to dreamily consider the unkindness and harshness of
those voices!--Ah! so like the voices of the world! Voices that
sneer and mock and condemn!--voices that would rather utter a
falsehood than any word that should help and comfort--voices that
take a cruel pleasure in saying just the one thing that will wound
and crush an aspiring spirit!--voices that cannot tune themselves to
speak of love without grudging bitterness and scorn--voices--ah
God!--if only all the harsh and calumniating voices of humanity were
stilled, what a heaven this earth would be!

And yet--why should we listen to them? What have they really to do
with us? Is the Soul to be moved from its centre by casual opinion?
What is it to me that this person or that person approves or
disapproves my actions? Why should I be disturbed by rumours, or
frightened by ill report?

Absorbed in these thoughts, I hardly realised the almost religious
peace of my surroundings,--and it was only when the voices ceased
for a few minutes that I saw what was contained in this small room I
had half unwittingly entered,--an exquisite little table, apparently
made of crystal which shone like a diamond--and on the table, an
open book. A chair was placed in position for the evident purpose of
reading--and as I approached, at first indifferently and then with
awakening interest, I saw that the open book showed an inscription
on its fly-leaf--"To a faithful student.--From Aselzion." Was _I_ 'a
faithful student'? I asked myself the question doubtingly. There was
no 'faithfulness' in fears and depressions! Here was I, shaken in
part from self-control from the mere hearing of voices behind a
wall! I, who had said that "God ordains nothing that is not for
good"--was suddenly ready to believe that He had ordained the death
of the lover to whom His laws had guided me! I, to whom had been
vouchsafed the beatific vision of an Angel--an Angel who had said--
"God thinks no evil of thee--desires no wrong towards thee--has no
punishment in store for thee--give thyself into His Hand, and be at
peace!" was already flinching and turning away from the Faith that

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