Cardiff Theosophical Society in Wales

Theosophy House

206 Newport Road,

Cardiff, Wales, UK. CF24-1DL

 

Writings of H P Blavatsky

 

Cardiff Theosophical Society in Wales

Theosophy House

206 Newport Road, Cardiff, Wales, UK. CF24 -1DL

 

 

 

Helena Petrovna Blavatsky (1831 1891)

The Founder of Modern Theosophy

 

Nightmare Tales

By

H P Blavatsky

 

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Stories

 

CAN THE DOUBLE MURDER?

AN UNSOLVED MYSTERY

KARMIC VISIONS

THE LEGEND OF THE BLUE LOTUS

A BEWITCHED LIFE

THE LUMINOUS SHIELD

THE CAVE OF THE ECHOES

FROM THE POLAR LANDS

THE ENSOULED VIOLIN

 

 

 

 

CAN THE DOUBLE MURDER?

 

To the Editor of The Sun.

 

Sir,--One morning in 1867 Eastern Europe was startled by news of the

most horrifying description. Michael Obrenovitch, reigning Prince of

Serbia, his aunt, the Princess Catherine or Katinka, and her daughter

had been murdered in broad daylight, near Belgrade, in their own

garden, assassin or assassins remaining unknown. The Prince had

received several bullet-shots, and stabs, and his body was actually

butchered; the Princess was killed on the spot, her head smashed, and

her young daughter, though still alive, was not expected to survive.

The circumstances are too recent to have been forgotten, but in that

part of the world, at the time, the case created a delirium of

excitement.

 

In the Austrian dominions and in those under the doubtful protectorate

of Turkey, from Bucharest down to Trieste, no high family felt secure.

In those half Oriental countries every Montecchi has its Capuletti,

and it was rumoured that the bloody deed was perpetrated by the Prince

Kara-Gueorguevitch, or "Tzerno-Gueorgey," as he is usually called in

those parts. Several persons innocent of the act were, as is usual in

such cases imprisoned, and the real murderers escaped justice. A young

relative of the victim, greatly beloved by his people, a mere child,

taken for the purpose from a school in Paris, was brought over in

ceremony to Belgrade and proclaimed Hospodar of Serbia. In the turmoil

of political excitement the tragedy of Belgrade was forgotten by all

but an old Serbian matron who had been attached to the Obrenovitch

family, and who, like Rachel, would not be comforted for the death of

her children. After the proclamation of the young Obrenovitch, nephew

of the murdered man, she had sold out her property and disappeared;

but not before taking a solemn vow on the tombs of the victims to

avenge their deaths.

 

The writer of this truthful narrative had passed a few days at

Belgrade, about three months before the horrid deed was perpetrated,

and knew the Princess Katinka. She was a kind, gentle, and lazy

creature at home; abroad she seemed a Parisienne in manners and

education. As nearly all the personages who will figure in this true

story are still living, it is but decent that I should withhold their

names, and give only initials.

 

The old Serbian lady seldom left her house, going but to see the

Princess occasionally. Crouched on a pile of pillows and carpeting,

clad in the picturesque national dress, she looked like the Cumaean

sibyl in her days of calm repose. Strange stories were whispered about

her Occult knowledge, and thrilling accounts circulated sometimes

among the guests assembled round the fireside of the modest inn. Our

fat landlord's maiden aunt's cousin had been troubled for some time

past by a wandering vampire, and had been bled nearly to death by the

nocturnal visitor, and while the efforts and exorcisms of the parish

pope had been of no avail, the victim was luckily delivered by Gospoja

P---, who had put to flight the disturbing ghost by merely shaking her

fist at him, and shaming him in his own language. It was in Belgrade

that I learned for the first time this highly interesting fact in

philology, namely, that spooks have a language of their own. The old

lady, whom I will call Gospoja P--, was generally attended by another

personage destined to be the principal actress in our tale of horror.

It was a young gipsy girl from some part of Roumania, about fourteen

years of age. Where she was born, and who she was, she seemed to know

as little as anyone else. I was told she had been brought one day by a

party of strolling gipsies, and left in the yard of the old lady, from

which moment she became an inmate of the house. She was nicknamed "the

sleeping girl," as she was said to be gifted with the faculty of

apparently dropping asleep wherever she stood, and speaking her dreams

aloud. The girl's heathen name was Frosya.

 

About eighteen months after the news of the murder had reached Italy,

where I was at the time, I travelled over the Banat in a small waggon

of my own, hiring a horse whenever I needed one. I met on my way an

old Frenchman, a scientist, travelling alone after my own fashion, but

with the difference that while he was a pedestrian, I dominated the

road from the eminence of a throne of dry hay in a jolting waggon. I

discovered him one fine morning slumbering in a wilderness of shrubs

and flowers, and had nearly passed over him, absorbed as I was in the

contemplation of the surrounding glorious scenery. The acquaintance

was soon made, no great ceremony of mutual introduction being needed.

I had heard his name mentioned in circles interested in mesmerism, and

knew him to be a powerful adept of the school of Dupotet.

 

"I have found," he remarked, in the course of the conversation after I

had made him share my seat of hay, "one of the most wonderful subjects

in this lovely Thebaide. I have an appointment to-night with the

family. They are seeking to unravel the mystery of a murder by means

of the clairvoyance of the girl...she is wonderful!"

 

"Who is she?" I asked.

 

"A Roumanian gipsy. She was brought up, it appears, in the family of

the Serbian reigning Prince, who reigns no more, for he was very

mysteriously mur--Halloo, take care! Diable, you will upset us over

the precipice!" he hurriedly exclaimed, unceremoniously snatching from

me the reins, and giving the horse a violent pull.

 

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

 

"Yes, I do; and him precisely. To-night I have to be there, hoping to

close a series of seances by finally developing a most marvellous

manifestation of the hidden power of the human spirit; and you may

come with me. I will introduce you; and besides, you can help me as an

interpreter, for they do not speak French."

 

As I was pretty sure that if the somnambule was Frosya, the rest of

the family must be Gospoja P---, I readily accepted. At sunset we were

at the foot of the mountain, leading to the old castle, as the

Frenchman called the place. It fully deserved the poetical name given

it. There was a rought bench in the depths of one of the shadowy

retreats, and as we stopped at the entrance of this poetical place,

and the Frenchman was gallantly busying himself with my horse on the

suspicious-looking bridge which led across the water to the entrance

gate, I saw a tall figure slowly rise from the bench and come towards

us.

 

It was my old friend Gospoja P---, looking more pale and more

mysterious than ever. She exhibited no surprise at seeing me, but

simply greeting me after the Serbian fashion, with a triple kiss on

both cheeks, she took hold of my hand and led me straight to the nest

of ivy. Half reclining on a small carpet spread on the tall grass,

with her back leaning against the wall, I recognized our Frosya.

 

She was dressed in the national costume of the Wallachian women, a

sort of gauze turban intermingled with various gilt medals and bands

on her head, white shirt with opened sleeves, and petticoats of

variegated colours. Her face looked deadly pale, her eyes were closed,

and her countenance presented that stony, sphinx-like look which

characterizes in such a peculiar way the entranced clairvoyant

somnambule. If it were not for the heaving motion of her chest and

bosom, ornamented by rows of medals and bead necklaces which feebly

tinkled at every breath, one might have thought her dead, so, lifeless

and corpse-like was her face. The Frenchman informed me that he had

sent her to sleep just as we were approaching the house, and that she

now was as he had left her the previous night; he then began busying

himself with the sujet, as he called Frosya. Paying no further

attention to us, he shook her by the hand, and then making a few rapid

passes stretched out her arm and stiffened it. The arm as rigid as

iron, remained in that position. He then closed all her fingers but

one--the middle finger--which he caused to point at the evening star,

which twinkled in the deep blue sky. Then he turned round and went

over from right to left, throwing on some of his fluids here, again

discharging them at another place; busying himself with his invisible

but potent fluids, like a painter with his brush when giving the last

touches to a picture.

 

The old lady, who had silently watched him, with her chin in her hand

the while, put her thin, skeleton-looking hands on his arm and

arrested it, as he was preparing himself to begin the regular mesmeric

passes.

 

"Wait," she whispered, "till the star is set and the ninth hour

completed. The Vourdalaki are hovering round; they may spoil the

influence."

 

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

interference.

 

I explained to him that the old lady feared the pernicious influences

of the Vourdalaki.

 

"Vourdalaki! What's that--the Vourdalaki?" exclaimed the Frenchman.

"Let us be satisfied with Christian spirits, if they honour us to-

night with a visit, and lose no time for the Vourdalaki!"

 

I glanced at the Gospoja. She had become deathly pale and her brow was

sternly knitted over her flashing black eyes.

 

"Tell him not to jest at this hour of the night!" she cried. "He does

not know the country. Even this holy church may fail to protect us

once the Vourdalaki are roused. What's this?" pushing with her foot a

bundle of herbs the botanizing mesmerizer had laid near on the grass.

She bent over the collection and anxiously examined the contents of

the bundle, after which she flung the whole into the water.

 

"It must not be left here," she firmly added; "these are the St.

John's plants, and they might attract the wandering ones."

 

Meanwhile the night had come, and the moon illuminated the landscape

with a pale, ghostly light. The nights in the Banat are nearly as

beautiful as in the East, and the Frenchman had to go on with his

experiments in the open air, as the priest of the church had

prohibited such in the tower, which was used as the parsonage, for

fear of filling the holy precincts with the heretical devils of the

mesmerizer, which, the priest remarked, he would be unable to exorcise

on account of their being foreigners.

 

The old gentleman had thrown off his travelling blouse, rolled up his

shirt sleeves, and now, striking a theatrical attitude, began a

regular process of mesmerization.

 

Under his quivering fingers the odile fluid actually seemed to flash

in the twilight. Frosya was placed with her figure facing the moon,

and every motion of the entranced girl was discernible as in daylight.

In a few minutes large drops of perspiration appeared on her brow, and

slowly rolled down her pale face, glittering in the moonbeams. Then

she moved uneasily about and began chanting a low melody, to the words

of which the Gospoja, anxiously bent over the unconscious girl, was

listening with avidity and trying to catch every syllable. With her

thin finger on her lips, her eyes nearly starting from their sockets,

her frame motionless, the old lady seemed herself transfixed into a

statue of attention. The group was a remarkable one, and I regretted

that I was not a painter. What followed was a scene worthy to figure

in Macbeth. At one side she, the slender girl, pale and corpse-like,

writhing under the invisible fluid of him who for the hour was her

omnipotent master; at the other the old matron, who, burning with her

unquenched fire of revenge, stood waiting for the long-expected name

of the Prince's murderer to be at last pronounced. The Frenchman

himself seemed transfigured, his grey hair standing on end; his bulky

clumsy form seemed to have grown in a few minutes. All theatrical

pretence was now gone; there remained but the mesmerizer, aware of his

responsibility, unconscious himself of the possible results, studying

and anxiously expecting. Suddenly Frosya, as if lifted by some

supernatural force, rose from her reclining posture and stood erect

before us, again motionless and still, waiting for the magnetic fluid

to direct her. The Frenchman, silently taking the old lady's hand,

placed it in that of the somnambulist, and ordered her to put herself

en rapport with the Gospoja.

 

"What seest thou, my daughter?" softly murmured the Serbian Lady. "Can

your spirit seek out the murderers?"

 

"Search and behold!" sternly commanded the mesmerizer, fixing his gaze

upon the face of the subject.

 

"I am on my way--I go," faintly whispered Frosya, her voice seeming

not to come from herself, but from the surrounding atmosphere.

 

At this moment something so strange took place that I doubt my ability

to describe it. A luminous vapour appeared, closely surrounding the

girl's body. At first about an inch in thickness, it gradually

expanded, and, gathering itself, suddenly seemed to break off from the

body altogether and condense itself into a kind of semisolid vapour,

which very soon assumed the likeness of the somnambule herself.

Flickering about the surface of the earth the form vacillated for two

or three seconds, then glided noiselessly toward the river. It

disappeared like a mist, dissolved in the moonbeams, which seemed to

absorb it altogether.

 

I had followed the scene with an intense attention. The mysterious

operation, know in the East as the evocation of the scin-lecca, was

taking place before my own eyes. To doubt was impossible, and Dupotet

was right in saying that mesmerism is the conscious Magic of the

ancients, and Spiritualism the unconscious effect of the same Magic

upon certain organisms.

 

As soon as the vaporous double had smoked itself through the pores of

the girl, Gospoja had, by a rapid motion of the hand which was left

free, drawn from under her pelisse something which looked to us

suspiciously like a small stiletto, and placed it as rapidly in the

girl's bosom. The action was so quick that the mesmerizer, absorbed in

his work, had not remarked it, as he afterwards told me. A few minutes

elapsed in a dead silence. We seemed a group of petrified persons.

Suddenly a thrilling and transpiercing cry burst from the entranced

girl's lips, she bent forward, and snatching the stiletto from her

bosom, plunged it furiously round her, in the air, as if pursuing

imaginary foes. Her mouth foamed, and incoherent, wild exclamations

broke from her lips, among which discordant sounds I discerned,

several times two familiar Christian names of men. The mesmerizer was

so terrified that he lost all control over himself, and instead of

withdrawing the fluid he loaded the girl with it still more.

 

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

you!"

 

But the Frenchman had unwittingly raised subtle potencies of Nature

over which he had no control. Furiously turning round, the girl struck

at him a blow which would have killed him had he not avoided it by

jumping aside, receiving but a severe scratch on the right arm. The

poor man was panic-stricken; climbing with an extraordinary agility,

for a man of his bulky form, on the wall over her, he fixed himself on

it astride, and gathering the remnants of his will power, sent in her

direction a series of passes. At the second, the girl dropped the

weapon and remained motionless.

 

"What are you about?" hoarsely shouted the mesmerizer in French,

seated like some monstrous night-globin on the wall. "Answer me, I

command you!"

 

"I did...but what she...whom you ordered me to obey...commanded me to

do," answered the girl in French, to my amazement.

 

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

 

"To find them...who murdered...kill them...I did so...and they are no

more...Avenged!...Avenged! They are..."

 

An exclamation of triumph, a loud shout of infernal joy, rang loud in

the air, and awakening the dogs of the neighbouring villages a

responsive howl of barking began from that moment, like a ceaseless

echo of the Gospoja's cry:

 

"I am avenged! I feel it; I know it. My warning heart tells me that

the fiends are no more." She fell panting on the ground, dragging

down, in her fall, the girl, who allowed herself to be pulled down as

if she were a bag of wool.

 

"I hope my subject did no further mischief to-night. She is a

dangerous as well as a very wonderful subject," said the Frenchman.

 

We parted. Three days after that I was at T---, and as I was sitting

in the dining-room of a restaurant, waiting for my lunch, I happened

to pick up a newspaper, and the first lines I read ran thus:

 

VIENNA, 186--. Two Mysterious Deaths.

 

Last evening, at 9:45, as P--was about to retire, two of the

gentlemen-in-waiting suddenly exhibited great terror, as though they

had seen a dreadful apparition. They screamed, staggered, and ran

about the room, holding up their hands as if to ward off the blows of

an unseen weapon. They paid no attention to the eager questions of the

prince and suite, but presently fell writhing upon the floor, and

expired in great agony. Their bodies exhibited no appearance of

apoplexy, nor any external marks of wounds, but, wonderful to relate,

there were numerous dark spots and long marks upon the skin, as though

they were stabs and slashes made without puncturing the cuticle. The

autopsy revealed the fact that beneath each of these mysterious

discolourations there was a deposit of coagulated blood. The greatest

excitement prevails, and the faculty are unable to solve the mystery.

 

 

 

AN UNSOLVED MYSTERY

 

The circumstances attending the sudden death of M. Delessert,

inspector of the Police de Surete, seem to have made such an

impression upon the Parisian authorities that they were recorded in

unusual detail. Omitting all particulars except what are necessary to

explain matters, we produce here the undoubtedly strange history.

 

In the fall of 1861 there came to Paris a man who called himself Vic

de Lassa, and was so inscribed upon his passports. He came from

Vienna, and said he was a Hungarian, who owned estates on the borders

of the Banat, not far from Zenta. He was a small man, aged thirty-

five, with pale and mysterious face, long blonde hair, a vague,

wandering blue eye, and a mouth of singular firmness. He dressed

carelessly and unaffectedly, and spoke and talked without much

empressement. His companion, presumably his wife, on the other hand,

ten years younger than himself, was a strikingly beautiful woman, of

that dark, rich, velvety, luscious, pure Hungarian type which is so

nigh akin to the gipsy blood. At the theatres, on the Bois, at the

cafes, on the boulevards, and everywhere that idle Paris disports

itself, Madame Aimee de Lassa attracted great attention and made a

sensation.

 

They lodged in luxurious apartments on the Rue Richelieu, frequented

the best places, received good company, entertained handsomely, and

acted in every way as if possessed of considerable wealth. Lassa had

always a good balance chez Schneider, Ruter et Cie, the Austrian

bankers in Rue Rivoli, and wore diamonds of conspicuous lustre.

 

How did it happen then, that the Prefect of Police saw fit to suspect

Monsieur and Madame de Lassa, and detailed Paul Delessert, one of the

most ruse inspectors of the force, to "pipe" him? The fact is, the

insignificant man with the splendid wife was a very mysterious

personage, and it is the habit of the police to imagine that mystery

always hides either the conspirator, the adventurer, or the charlatan.

The conclusion to which the Prefect had come in regard to M. de Lassa

was that he was an adventurer and charlatan too. Certainly a

successful one, then, for he was singularly unobtrusive and had in no

way trumpeted the wonders which it was his mission to perform, yet in

a few weeks after he had established himself in Paris the salon of M.

de Lassa was the rage, and the number of persons who paid the fee of

100 francs for a single peep into his magic crystal, and a single

message by his spiritual telegraph, was really astonishing. The secret

of this was that M. de Lassa was a conjurer and deceiver, whose

pretensions were omniscient and whose predictions always came true.

 

Delessert did not find it very difficult to get an introduction and

admission to De Lassa's salon. The receptions occurred every other

day--two hours in the forenoon, three hours in the evening. It was

evening when Inspector Delessert called in his assumed character of M.

Flabry, virtuoso in jewels and a convert to Spiritualism. He found the

handsome parlours brilliantly lighted, and a charming assemblage

gathered of well-pleased guests, who did not at all seem to have come

to learn their fortunes or fates, while contributing to the income of

their host, but rather to be there out of complaisance to his virtues

and gifts.

 

Mme. de Lassa performed upon the piano or conversed from group to

group in a way that seemed to be delightful, while M. de Lassa walked

about or sat in his insignificant, unconcerned way, saying a word now

and then, but seeming to shun everything that was conspicuous.

Servants handed about refreshments, ices, cordials, wines, etc., and

Delessert could have fancied himself to have dropped in upon a quite

modest evening entertainment, altogether en regle, but for one or two

noticeable circumstances which his observant eyes quickly took in.

 

Except when their host or hostess was within hearing the guests

conversed together in low tones, rather mysteriously, and with not

quite so much laughter as is usual on such occasions. At intervals a

very tall and dignified footman would come to a guest, and, with a

profound bow, present him a card on a silver salver. The guest would

then go out, preceded by the solemn servant, but when he or she

returned to the salon--some did not return at all--they invariably

wore a dazed or puzzled look, were confused, astonished, frightened,

or amused. All this was so unmistakably genuine, and De Lassa and his

wife seemed so unconcerned amidst it all, not to say distinct from it

all, that Delessert could not avoid being forcibly struck and

considerably puzzled.

 

Two or three little incidents, which came under Delessert's own

immediate observation, will suffice to make plain the character of the

impressions made upon those present. A couple of gentlemen, both

young, both of good social condition, and evidently very intimate

friends, were conversing together and tutoying one another at a great

rate, when the dignified footman summoned Alphonse. He laughed gaily,

"Tarry a moment, cher Auguste," said he, "and thou shalt know all the

particulars of this wonderful fortune!" "Eh bien!" A minute had

scarcely elapsed when Alphonse returned to the salon. His face was

white and bore an appearance of concentrated rage that was frightful

to witness. He came straight to Auguste, his eyes flashing, and

bending his face toward his friend, who changed colour and recoiled,

he hissed out "Monsieur Lefebure, vous etes un lache!" "Very well,

Monsieur Meunier," responded Auguste, in the same low tone, "tomorrow

morning at six o'clock!" "It is settled, false friend, execrable

traitor!" "A la mort!" rejoined Alphonse, walking off. "Cela va sans

dire!" muttered Auguste, going towards the hat-room.

 

A diplomatist of distinction, representative at Paris of a

neighbouring state, an elderly gentleman of superb aplomb and most

commanding appearance, was summoned to the oracle by the bowing

footman. After being absent about five minutes he returned, and

immediately made his way through the press to M. de Lassa, who was

standing not far from the fireplace, with his hands in his pockets and

a look of utmost indifference upon his face.

 

Delessert standing near, watched the interview with eager interest.

 

"I am exceedingly sorry," said General Von---, "to have to absent

myself so soon from your interesting salon, M. de Lassa, but the

result of my seance convinces me that my dispatches have been tampered

with." "I am sorry," responded M. de Lassa, with an air of languid but

courteous interest; "I hope you may be able to discover which of your

servants has been unfaithful." "I am going to do that now," said the

General, adding, in significant tones, "I shall see that both he and

his accomplices do not escape severe punishment." "That is the only

course to pursue, Monsieur le Comte." The ambassador stared, bowed,

and took his leave with a bewilderment in his face that was beyond the

power of his tact to control.

 

In the course of the evening M. de Lassa went carelessly to the piano,

and, after some indifferent vague preluding, played a remarkably

effective piece of music, in which the turbulent life and buoyancy of

bacchanalian strains melted gently, almost imperceptibly away, into a

sobbing wail of regret, and languor, and weariness, and despair. It

was beautifully rendered, and made a great impression upon the guests,

one of whom, a lady, cried, "How lovely, how sad! Did you compose that

yourself, M. de Lassa?" He looked towards her absently for an instant,

then replied: "I? Oh, no! That is merely a reminiscence, madame." "Do

you know who did compose it, M. de Lassa?" enquired a virtuoso

present. "I believe it was originally written by Ptolemy Auletes, the

father of Cleopatra," said M. de Lassa, in his indifferent musing way;

"but not in its present form. It has been twice re-written to my

knowledge; still, the air is substantially the same." "From whom did

you get it, M. de Lassa, if I may ask?" persisted the gentleman.

"Certainly, certainly! The last time I heard it played was by

Sebastian Bach; but that was Palestrina's--the present--version. I

think I prefer that of Guido of Arezzo--it is ruder, but has more

force. I got the air from Guido himself." "You--from--Guido!" cried

the astonished gentleman. "Yes, monsieur," answered De Lassa, rising

from the piano with his usual indifferent air. "Mon Dieu!" cried the

virtuoso, putting his hand to his head after the manner of Mr.

Twemlow, "Mon Dieu! that was in Anno Domini 1022." "A little later

than that--July, 1031, if I remember rightly," courteously corrected

M. de Lassa.

 

At this moment the tall footman bowed before M. Delessert, and

presented the salver containing the card. Delessert took it and read:

"On vous accorde trente-cing secondes, M. Flabry, tout au plus!"

Delessert followed; the footman opened the door of another room and

bowed again, signifying that Delessert was to enter. "Ask no

questions," he said briefly; "Sidi is mute." Delessert entered the

room and the door closed behind him. It was a small room, with a

strong smell of frankincense pervading it; the walls were covered

completely with red hangings that concealed the windows, and the floor

was felted with a thick carpet. Opposite the door, at the upper end of

the room near the ceiling was the face of a large clock, under it,

each lighted by tall wax candles, were two small tables, containing,

the one an apparatus very like the common registering telegraph

instrument, the other a crystal globe about twenty inches in diameter,

set upon an exquisitely wrought tripod of gold and bronze

intermingled. By the side of the door stood a man jet black in colour,

wearing a white turban and burnous, and having a sort of wand of

silver in one hand. With the other he took Delessert by the right arm

above the elbow, and led him quickly up the room. He pointed to the

clock, and it struck an alarum; he pointed to the crystal. Delessert

bent over, looked into it, and saw--a facsimile of his own sleeping-

room, everything photographed exactly. Sidi did not give him time to

exclaim, but still holding him by the arm, took him to the other

table. The telegraph-like instrument began to click-click. Sidi opened

the drawer, drew out a slip of paper, crammed it into Delessert's

hand, and pointed to the clock, which struck again, The thirty-five

seconds were expired. Sidi, still retaining hold of Delessert's arm,

pointed to the door and led him towards it. The door opened, Sidi

pushed him out, the door closed, the tall footman stood there bowing--

the interview with the oracle is over. Delessert glanced at the piece

of paper in his hand. It was a printed scrap, capital letters, and

read simply: "To M. Paul Delessert: The policeman is always welcome,

the spy is always in danger!"

 

Delessert was dumbfounded a moment to find his disguise detected, but

the words of the tall footman, "This way if you please, M. Flabry,"

brought him to his senses. Setting his lips, he returned to the salon,

and without delay sought M. de Lassa. "Do you know the contents of

this?" asked he, showing the message. "I know everything, M.

Delessert," answered De Lassa, in his careless way. "Then perhaps you

are aware that I mean to expose a charlatan, and unmask a hypocrite,

or perish in the attempt?" said Delessert. "Cela m'est egal,

monsieur," replied De Lassa. "You accept my challenge then?" "Oh! it

is a defiance, then?" replied De Lassa, letting his eye rest a moment

upon Delessert, "mais oui, je l'accepte!" And thereupon Delessert

departed.

 

Delessert now set to work aided by all the forces the Prefect of

Police could bring to bear, to detect and expose this consummate

sorcerer, who the ruder processes of our ancestors would easily have

disposed of--by combustion. Persistent enquiry satisfied Delessert

that the man was neither a Hungarian nor was named De Lassa; that no

matter how far back his power of "reminiscence" might extend, in his

present and immediate form he had been born in this unregenerate world

in the toy-making city of Nuremburg; that he was noted in boyhood for

his great turn for ingenious manufactures, but was very wild, and a

mauvais sujet. In his sixteenth year he escaped to Geneva and

apprenticed himself to a maker of watches and instruments. Here he had

been seen by the celebrated Robert Houdin, the prestidigitateur.

Houdin recognizing the lad's talents, and being himself a maker of

ingenious automata, had taken him off to Paris and employed him in his

own workshops, as well as for an assistant in the public performances

of his amusing and curious diablerie. After staying with Houdin some

years, Pflock Haslich (which was De Lassa's right name) had gone East

in the suite of a Turkish Pasha, and after many years' roving, in

lands where he could not be traced under a cloud of pseudonyms, had

finally turned up in Venice, and come thence to Paris.

 

Delessert next turned his attention to Mme. de Lassa. It was more

difficult to get a clue by means of which to know her past life; but

it was necessary in order to understand enough about Haslich. At last,

through an accident, it became probable that Mme. Aimee was identical

with a certain Mme. Schlaff, who had been rather conspicuous among the

demi-monde of Buda. Delessert posted off to that ancient city, and

thence went into the wilds of Transylvania to Mengyco. On his return,

as soon as he reached the telegraph and civilization, he telegraphed

the Prefect from Kardszag: "Don't lose sight of my man, nor let him

leave Paris. I will run him in for you two days after I get back."

 

It happened that on the day of Delessert's return to Paris the Prefect

was absent, being with the Emperor at Cherbourg. He came back on the

fourth day, just twenty-four hours after the announcement of

Delessert's death. That happened, as near as could be gathered, in

this wise: The night after Delessert's return he was present at De

Lassa's salon with a ticket of admittance to a seance. He was very

completely disguised as a decrepit old man, and fancied that it was

impossible for any one to detect him. Nevertheless, when he was taken

into the room, and looked into the crystal, he was utterly horror-

stricken to see there a picture of himself, lying face down and

senseless upon the side-walk of a street; and the message he received

read thus: "What you have seen will be, Delessert, in three days.

Prepare!" The detective, unspeakably shocked, retired from the house

at once and sought his own lodgings.

 

In the morning he came to the office in a state of extreme dejection.

He was completely unnerved. In relating to a brother inspector what

had occurred, he said "That man can do what he promises, I am doomed!"

 

He said that he thought he could make a complete case out against

Haslich alias De Lassa, but could not do so without seeing the Prefect

and getting instructions. He would tell nothing in regard to his

discoveries in Buda and in Transylvania--said he was not at liberty to

do so--and repeatedly exclaimed: "Oh! if M. le Prefect were only

here!" He was told to go to the Prefect at Cherbourg, but refused upon

the ground that his presence was needed in Paris. He time and again

averred his conviction that he was a doomed man, and showed himself

both vacillating and irresolute in his conduct, and extremely nervous.

He was told that he was perfectly safe, since De Lassa and all his

household were under constant surveillance; to which he replied, "You

do not know the man." An inspector was detailed to accompany

Delessert, never to lose sight of him night and day, and guard him

carefully; and proper precautions were taken in regard to his food and

drink, while the guards watching De Lassa were doubled.

 

On the morning of the third day, Delessert, who had been staying

chiefly indoors, avowed his determination to go at once and telegraph

to M. le Prefect to return immediately. With this intention he and his

brother officer started out. Just as they got to the corner of the Rue

de Lanery and the Boulevard, Delessert stopped suddenly and put his

hand to his forehead.

 

"My God!" he cried, "the crystal! the picture!" and fell prone upon

his face, insensible. He was taken at once to a hospital, but only

lingered a few hours, never regaining his consciousness. Under express

instruction from the authorities, a most careful, minute, and thorough

autopsy was made of Delessert's body by several distinguished

surgeons, whose unanimous opinion was, that the cause of his death was

apoplexy, due to fatigue and nervous excitement.

 

As soon as Delessert was sent to the hospital, his brother inspector

hurried to the Central Office, and De Lassa, together with his wife

and everyone connected with the establishment, were at once arrested.

De Lassa smiled contemptuously as they took him away. "I knew you were

coming; I prepared for it; you will be glad to release me again."

 

It was quite true that De Lassa had prepared for them. When the house

was searched it was found that every paper had been burned, the

crystal globe was destroyed, and in the room of the seances was a

great heap of delicate machinery broken into indistinguishable bits.

"That cost me 200,000 francs," said De Lassa, pointing to the pile,

"but it has been a good investment." The walls and floors were ripped

out in several places, and the damage to the property was

considerable. In prison neither De Lassa nor his associates made any

revelations. The notion that they had something to do with Delessert's

death was quickly dispelled, in a legal point of view, and all the

party but De Lassa were released. He was still detained in prison,

upon one pretext, or another, when one morning he was found hanging by

a silk sash to the cornice of the room where he was confined--dead.

The night before, it was afterwards discovered, Madame de Lassa had

eloped with a tall footman, taking the Nubian Sidi with them. De

Lassa's secrets died with him.

 

----

 

"It is an interesting story, that article of yours in to-day's

Scientist. But is it a record of facts, or a tissue of the

imagination? If true, why not state the source of it, in other words,

specify your authority for it."

 

The above is not signed, but we would take the opportunity to say that

the story, "An Unsolved Mystery," was published because we considered

the main points of the narrative--the prophecies, and the singular

death of the officer--to be psychic phenomena, that have been, and can

be, again produced. Why quote "authorities"? The Scriptures tell us of

the death of Ananias, under the stern rebuke from Peter; here we have

a phenomenon of a similar nature. Ananias is supposed to have suffered

instant death from fear. Few can realize this power governed by

spiritual laws, but those who have trod the boundary line and know

some few of the things that can be done, will see no great mystery in

this, nor in the story published last week. We are not speaking in

mystical tones. Ask the powerful mesmerist if there is danger that the

subject may pass out of his control?--if he could will the spirit out,

never to return? It is capable of demonstration that the mesmerist can

act on a subject at a distance of many miles; and it is no less

certain that, the majority of mesmerists know little or nothing of the

laws that govern their powers.

 

It may be a pleasant dream to attempt to conceive of the beauties of

the spirit-world; but the time can be spent more profitably in a study

of the spirit itself, and it is not necessary that the subject for

study should be in the spirit-world.

 

 

 

KARMIC VISIONS

 

Oh, sad no more! Oh, sweet No more!

Oh, strange No more!

By a mossed brook bank on a stone

I smelt a wild weed-flower alone;

There was a ringing in my ears.

And both my eyes gushed out with tears.

Surely all pleasant things had gone before.

Low buried fathom deep beneath with three, NO MORE.

--Tennyson "The Gem" 1831.

 

 

I

 

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

haired soldiers...

 

A regal tent, gaudy in its barbaric splendour. Its linen walls are

weighed down under the burden of arms. In its centre a raised seat

covered with skins, and on it a stalwart, savage-looking warrior. He

passes in review prisoners of war brought in turn before him, who are

disposed of according to the whim of the heartless despot.

 

A new captive is now before him, and is addressing him with passionate

earnestness...As he listens to her with suppressed passion in his

manly, but fierce, cruel face, the balls of his eyes become bloodshot

and roll with fury. And as he bends forward with fierce stare, his

whole appearance--his matted locks hanging over the frowning brow, his

big-boned body with strong sinews, and the two large hands resting on

the shield placed upon the right knee--justifies the remark made in

hardly audible whisper by a grey-headed soldier to his neighbour:

 

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

Clovis!"

 

The captive, who stands between two Burgundian warriors, facing the

ex-prince of the Salians, now king of all the Franks, is an old woman

with silver-white dishevelled hair, hanging over her skeleton-like

shoulders. In spite of her great age, her tall figure is erect; and

the inspired black eyes look proudly and fearlessly into the cruel

face of the treacherous son of Gilderich.

 

"Aye, King," she says, in a loud, ringing voice. "Aye, thou art great

and mighty now, but thy days are numbered, and thou shalt reign but

three summers longer. Wicked thou wert born...perfidious thou art to

thy friends and allies, robbing more than one of his lawful crown.

Murderer of thy next-of-kin, thou who addest to the knife and spear in

open warfare, dagger, poison and treason, beware how thou dearest with

the servant of Nerthus!"*

 

* " The Nourishing " (Tacit. Germ. XI)--the Earth, a Mother-Goddess,

the most beneficent deity of the ancient Germans.

 

"Ha, ha, ha!...old hag of Hell!" chuckles the King, with an evil,

ominous sneer. "Thou hast crawled out of the entrails of thy mother-

goddess truly. Thou fearest not my wrath? It is well. But little need

I fear thine empty imprecations...I, a baptized Christian!"

 

"So, so," replies the Sybil. "All know that Clovis has abandoned the

gods of his fathers; that he has lost all faith in the warning voice

of the white horse of the Sun, and that out of fear of the Allimani he

went serving on his knees Remigius, the servant of the Nazarene, at

Rheims. But hast thou become any truer in thy new faith? Hast thou not

murdered in cold blood all thy brethren who trusted in thee, after, as

well as before, thy apostasy? Hast not thou plighted troth to Alaric,

the King of the West Goths, and hast thou not killed him by stealth,

running thy spear into his back while he was bravely fighting an

enemy? And is it thy new faith and thy new gods that teach thee to be

devising in thy black soul even now foul means against Theodoric, who

put thee down?...Beware, Clovis, beware! For now the gods of thy

fathers have risen against thee! Beware, I say, for..."

 

"Woman!" fiercely cries the King--"Woman, cease thy insane talk and

answer my question. Where is the treasure of the grove amassed by thy

priests of Satan, and hidden after they had been driven away by the

Holy Cross?...Thou alone knowest. Answer, or by Heaven and Hell I

shall thrust thy evil tongue down thy throat for ever!"...

 

She heeds not the threat, but goes on calmly and fearlessly as before,

as if she had not heard.

 

The gods say, Clovis, thou art accursed Clovis, thou shalt be reborn

among thy present enemies, and suffer the tortures thou hast inflicted

upon thy victims. All the combined power and glory thou hast deprived

them of shall be thine in prospect, yet thou shalt never reach

it!...Thou shalt..."

 

The prophetess never finishes her sentence.

 

With a terrible oath the King, crouching like a wild beast on his

skin-covered seat, pounces upon her with the leap of a jaguar, and

with one blow fells her to the ground. And as he lifts his sharp

murderous spear the "Holy One" of the Sun-worshipping tribe makes the

air ring with a last imprecation.

 

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

the Great Law avenge..."

 

The heavy spear falls, and, running through the victim's throat, nails

the head to the ground. A stream of hot crimson blood gushes from the

gaping wound and covers king and soldiers with indelible gore...

 

II

 

Time--the landmark of gods and men in the boundless field of Eternity,

the murderer of its offspring and of memory in mankind--time moves on

with noiseless, incessant step through aeons and ages...Among millions

of other Souls, a Soul-Ego is reborn: for weal or for woe, who

knoweth! Captive in its new human Form, it grows with it, and together

they become, at last, conscious of their existence.

 

Happy are the years of their blooming youth, unclouded with want or

sorrow. Neither knows aught of the Past nor of the Future. For them

all is the joyful Present: for the Soul-Ego is unaware that it had

ever lived in other human tabernacles, it knows not that it shall be

again reborn, and it takes no thought of the morrow.

 

Its Form is calm and content. It has hitherto given its Soul-Ego no

heavy troubles. Its happiness is due to the continuous mild serenity

of its temper, to the affection it spreads wherever it goes. For it is

a noble Form, and its heart is full of benevolence. Never has the Form

startled its Soul-Ego with a too-violent shock, or otherwise disturbed

the calm placidity of its tenant.

 

Two score of years glide by like one short pilgrimage; a long walk

through the sun-lit paths of life, hedged by ever-blooming roses with

no thorns. The rare sorrows that befall the twin pair, Form and Soul,

appear to them rather like the pale light of the cold northern moon,

whose beams throw into a deeper shadow all around the moon-lit

objects, than as the blackness of the night, the night of hopeless

sorrow and despair.

 

Son of a Prince, born to rule himself one day his father's kingdom;

surrounded from his cradle by reverence and honours; deserving of the

universal respect and sure of the love of all--what could the Soul-Ego

desire more for the Form it dwelt in.

 

And so the Soul-Ego goes on enjoying existence in its tower of

strength, gazing quietly at the panorama of life ever changing before

its two windows--the two kind blue eyes of a loving and good man.

 

III

 

One day an arrogant and boisterous enemy threatens the father's

kingdom, and the savage instincts of the warrior of old awaken in the

Soul-Ego. It leaves its dreamland amid the blossoms of life and causes

its Ego of clay to draw the soldier's blade, assuring him it is in

defence of his country.

 

Prompting each other to action, they defeat the enemy and cover

themselves with glory and pride. They make the haughty foe bite the

dust at their feet in supreme humiliation. For this they are crowned

by history with the unfading laurels of valour, which are those of

success. They make a footstool of the fallen enemy and transform their

sire's little kingdom into a great empire. Satisfied they could

achieve no more for the present, they return to seclusion and to the

dreamland of their sweet home.

 

For three lustra more the Soul-Ego sits at its usual post, beaming out

of its windows on the world around. Over its head the sky is blue and

the vast horizons are covered with those seemingly unfading flowers

that grow in the sunlight of health and strength. All looks fair as a

verdant mead in spring...

 

IV

 

But an evil day comes to all in the drama of being. It waits through

the life of king and of beggar. It leaves traces on the history of

every mortal born from woman, and it can neither be seared away,

entreated, nor propitiated. Health is a dewdrop that falls from the

heavens to vivify the blossoms on earth, only during the morn'. of

life, its spring and summer...It has but a short duration and returns

from whence it came--the invisible realms.

 

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

 

The seeds of the canker in embryo lurk!

 

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

 

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

 

The running sand which moves downward in the glass, wherein the hours

of human life are numbered, runs swifter. The worm has gnawed the

blossom of health through its heart. The strong body is found

stretched one day on the thorny bed of pain.

 

The Soul-Ego beams no longer. It sits still and looks sadly out of

what has become its dungeon windows, on the world which is now rapidly

being shrouded for it in the funeral palls of suffering. Is it the eve

of night eternal which is nearing?

 

V

 

Beautiful are the resorts on the midland sea. An endless line of surf-

beaten, black, rugged rocks stretches, hemmed in between the golden

sands of the coast and the deep blue waters of the gulf. They offer

their granite breast to the fierce blows of the north-west wind and

thus protect the dwellings of the rich that nestle at their foot on

the inland side. The half-ruined cottages on the open shore are the

insufficient shelter of the poor. Their squalid bodies are often

crushed under the walls torn and washed down by wind and angry wave.

But they only follow the great law of the survival of the fittest. Why

should they be protected?

 

Lovely is the morning when the sun dawns with golden amber tints and

its first rays kiss the cliffs of the beautiful shore. Glad is the

song of the lark, as, emerging from its warm nest of herbs, it drinks

the morning dew from the deep flower-cups; when the tip of the rosebud

thrills under the caress of the first sunbeam, and earth and heaven

smile in mutual greeting. Sad is the Soul-Ego alone as it gazes on

awakening nature from the high couch opposite the large bay-window.

 

How calm is the approaching noon as the shadow creeps steadily on the

sundial towards the hour of rest! Now the hot sun begins to melt the

clouds in the limpid air and the last shreds of the morning mist that

lingers on the tops of the distant hills vanish in it. All nature is

prepared to rest at the hot and lazy hour of midday. The feathered

tribes cease their song; their soft, gaudy wings droop and they hang

their drowsy heads, seeking refuge from the burning heat. A morning

lark is busy nestling in the bordering bushes under the clustering

flowers of the pomegranate and the sweet bay of the Mediterranean. The

active songster has become voiceless.

 

"Its voice will resound as joyfully again tomorrow!" sighs the Soul-

Ego, as it listens to the dying buzzing of the insects on the verdant

turf. "Shall ever mine?"

 

And now the flower-scented breeze hardly stirs the languid heads of

the luxuriant plants. A solitary palm-tree, growing out of the cleft

of a moss-covered rock, next catches the eye of the Soul-Ego. Its once

upright, cylindrical trunk has been twisted out of shape and half-

broken by the nightly blasts of the north-west winds. And as it

stretches wearily its drooping feathery arms, swayed to and fro in the

blue pellucid air, its body trembles and threatens to break in two at

the first new gust that may arise.

 

"And then, the severed part will fall into the sea, and the once

stately palm will be no more," soliloquizes the Soul-Ego as it gazes

sadly out of its windows.

 

Everything returns to life, in the cool, old bower at the hour of

sunset. The shadows on the sun-dial become with every moment thicker,

and animate nature awakens busier than ever in the cooler hours of

approaching night. Birds and insects chirrup and buzz their last

evening hymns around the tall and still powerful Form, as it paces

slowly and wearily along the gravel walk. And now its heavy gaze falls

wistfully on the azure bosom of the tranquil sea. The gulf sparkles

like a gem-studded carpet of blue-velvet in the farewell dancing

sunbeams, and smiles like a thoughtless, drowsy child, weary of

tossing about. Further on, calm and serene in its perfidious beauty,

the open sea stretches far and wide the smooth mirror of its cool

waters--salt and bitter as human tears. It lies in its treacherous

repose like a gorgeous, sleeping monster, watching over the unfathomed

mystery of its dark abysses. Truly the monumentless cemetry of the

millions sunk in its depths...

 

"Without a grave.

 

Unknell'd, uncoffined and unknown ..."

 

while the sorry relic of the once noble Form pacing yonder, once that

its hour strikes and the deep-voiced bells toll the knell for the

departed soul, shall be laid out in state and pomp. Its dissolution

will be announced by millions of trumpet voices. Kings, princes and

the mighty ones of the earth will be present at its obsequies, or will

send their representatives with sorrowful faces and condoling messages

to those left behind...

 

"One point gained, over those 'uncoffined and unknown'," is the bitter

reflection of the Soul-Ego.

 

Thus glides past one day after the other; and as swift-winged Time

urges his flight, every vanishing hour destroying some thread in the

tissue of life, the Soul-Ego is gradually transformed in its views of

things and men. Flitting between two eternities, far away from its

birthplace, solitary among its crowd of physicians, and attendants,

the Form is drawn with every day nearer to its Spirit-Soul. Another

light unapproached and unapproachable in days of joy, softly descends

upon the weary prisoner. It sees now that which it had never perceived

before...

 

VI

 

How grand, how mysterious are the spring nights on the seashore when

the winds are chained and the elements lulled! A solemn silence reigns

in nature. Alone the silvery, scarcely audible ripple of the wave, as

it runs caressingly over the moist sand, kissing shells and pebbles on

its up and down journey, reaches the ear like the regular soft

breathing of a sleeping bosom. How small, how insignificant and

helpless feels man, during these quiet hours, as he stands between the

two gigantic magnitudes, the star-hung dome above, and the slumbering

earth below. Heaven and earth are plunged in sleep, but their souls

are awake, and they confabulate, whispering one to the other mysteries

unspeakable. It is then that the occult side of Nature lifts her dark

veils for us, and reveals secrets we would vainly seek to extort from

her during the day. The firmament, so distant, so far away from earth,

now seems to approach and bend over her. The sidereal meadows exchange

embraces with their more humble sisters of the earth--the daisy-decked

valleys and the green slumbering fields. The heavenly dome falls

prostrate into the arms of the great quiet sea; and the millions of

stars that stud the former peep into and bathe in every lakelet and

pool. To the grief-furrowed soul those twinkling orbs are the eyes of

angels. They look down with ineffable pity on the suffering of

mankind. It is not the night dew that falls on the sleeping flowers,

but sympathetic tears that drop from those orbs, at the sight of the

GREAT HUMAN SORROW...

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

VII

 

Another day is added to the series of buried days. The far green

hills, and the fragrant boughs of the pomegranate blossom have melted

in the mellow shadows of the night, and both sorrow and joy are

plunged in the lethargy of soul-resting sleep. Every noise has died

out in the royal gardens, and no voice or sound is heard in that

overpowering stillness.

 

Swift-winged dreams descend from the laughing stars in motley crowds,

and landing upon the earth disperse among mortals and immortals, amid

animals and men. They hover over the sleepers, each attracted by its

affinity and kind; dreams of joy and hope, balmy and innocent visions,

terrible and awesome sights seen with sealed eyes, sensed by the soul;

some instilling happiness and consolation, others causing sobs to

heave the sleeping bosoms, tears and mental torture, all and one

preparing unconsciously to the sleepers their waking thoughts of the

morrow.

 

Even in sleep the Soul-Ego finds no rest.

 

Hot and feverish its body tosses about in restless agony. For it, the

time of happy dreams is now a vanished shadow, a long bygone

recollection. Through the mental agony of the soul, there lies a

transformed man. Through the physical agony of the frame, there

flutters in it a fully awakened Soul. The veil of illusion has fallen

off from the cold idols of the world, and the vanities and emptiness

of fame and wealth stand bare, often hideous, before its eyes. The

thoughts of the Soul fall like dark shadows on the cogitative

faculties of the fast disorganizing body, haunting the thinker daily,

nightly, hourly...

 

The sight of his snorting steed pleases him no longer. The

recollections of guns and banners wrested from the enemy; of cities

razed, of trenches, cannons and tents, of an array of conquered spoils

now stirs but little his national pride. Such thoughts move him no

more, and ambition has become powerless to awaken in his aching heart

the haughty recognition of any valorous deed of chivalry. Visions of

another kind now haunt his weary days and long sleepless nights...

 

What he now sees is a throng of bayonets clashing against each other

in a mist of smoke and blood; thousands of mangled corpses covering

the ground, torn and cut to shreds by the murderous weapons devised by

science and civilization, blessed to success by the servants of his

God. What he now dreams of are bleeding, wounded and dying men, with

missing limbs and matted locks, wet and soaked through with gore...

 

VIII

 

A hideous dream detaches itself from a group of passing visions, and

alights heavily on his aching chest. The nightmare shows him men

expiring on the battlefield with a curse on those who led them to

their destruction. Every pang in his own wasting body brings to him in

dream the recollection of pangs still worse, of pangs suffered through

and for him. He sees and feels the torture of the fallen millions, who

die after long hours of terrible mental and physical agony; who expire

in forest and plain, in stagnant ditches by the road-side, in pools of

blood under a sky made black with smoke. His eyes are once more

rivetted to the torrents of blood, every drop of which represents a

tear of despair, a heart-rent cry, a lifelong sorrow. He hears again

the thrilling sighs of desolation, and the shrill cries ringing

through mount, forest and valley. He sees the old mothers who have

lost the light of their souls; families, the hand that fed them. He

beholds widowed young wives thrown on the wide, cold world, and

beggared orphans wailing in the streets by the thousands. He finds the

young daughters of his bravest old soldiers exchanging their mourning

garments for the gaudy frippery of prostitution, and the Soul-Ego

shudders in the sleeping Form...His heart is rent by the groans of the

famished; his eyes blinded by the smoke of burning hamlets, of homes

destroyed, of towns and cities in smouldering ruins...

 

And in his terrible dream, he remembers that moment of insanity in his

soldier's life, when standing over a heap of the dead and the dying,

waving in his right hand a naked sword red to its hilt with smoking

blood, and in his left, the colours rent from the hand of the warrior

expiring at his feet, he had sent in a stentorian voice praises to the

throne of the Almighty, thanksgiving for the victory just obtained!...

 

He starts in his sleep and awakes in horror. A great shudder shakes

his frame like an aspen leaf, and sinking back on his pillows, sick at

the recollection, he hears a voice--the voice of the Soul-Ego--saying

in him:

 

"Fame and victory are vainglorious words...Thanksgiving and prayers

for lives destroyed--wicked lies and blasphemy!"...

 

"What have they brought thee or to thy fatherland, those bloody

victories!"...whispers the Soul in him. "A population clad in iron

armour," it replies. "Two score millions of men dead now to all

spiritual aspiration and Soul-life. A people, henceforth deaf to the

peaceful voice of the honest citizen's duty, averse to a life of

peace, blind to the arts and literature, indifferent to all but lucre

and ambition. What is thy future Kingdom, now? A legion of war-puppets

as units, a great wild beast in their collectivity. A beast that, like

the sea yonder, slumbers gloomily now, but to fall with the more fury

on the first enemy that is indicated to it. Indicated, by whom? It is

as though a heartless, proud Fiend, assuming sudden authority,

incarnate Ambition and Power, had clutched with iron hand the minds of

a whole country. By what wicked enchantment has he brought the people

back to those primeval days of the nation when their ancestors, the

yellow-haired Suevi, and the treacherous Franks roamed about in their

warlike spirit, thirsting to kill, to decimate and subject each other.

By what infernal powers has this been accomplished? Yet the

transformation has been produced and it is as undeniable as the fact

that alone the Fiend rejoices and boasts of the transformation

effected. The whole world is hushed in breathless expectation. Not a

wife or mother, but is haunted in her dreams by the black and ominous

storm-cloud that overhangs the whole of Europe. The cloud is

approaching It comes nearer and nearer... Oh woe and horror! ... I

foresee once more for earth the suffering I have already witnessed. I

read the fatal destiny upon the brow of the flower of Europe's youth!

But if I live and have the power, never, oh never shall my country

take part in it again! No, no, I will not see---

 

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

 

"I will not hear---

 

'robb'd mother's shrieks

 

While from men's piteous wounds and horrid gashes

 

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

 

IX

 

Firmer and firmer grows in the Soul-Ego the feeling of intense hatred

for the terrible butchery called war; deeper and deeper does it

impress its thoughts upon the Form that holds it captive. Hope awakens

at times in the aching breast and colours the long hours of solitude

and meditation; like the morning ray that dispels the dusky shades of

shadowy despondency, it lightens the long hours of lonely thought. But

as the rainbow is not always the dispeller of the storm-clouds but

often only a refraction of the setting sun on a passing cloud, so the

moments of dreamy hope are generally followed by hours of still

blacker despair. Why, oh why, thou mocking Nemesis, hast thou thus

purified and enlightened, among all the sovereigns on this earth, him,

whom thou hast made helpless, speechless and powerless? Why hast thou

kindled the flame of holy brotherly love for man in the breast of one

whose heart already feels the approach of the icy hand of death and

decay, whose strength is steadily deserting him and whose very life is

melting away like foam on the crest of a breaking wave?

 

And now the hand of Fate is upon the couch of pain. The hour for the

fulfilment of nature's law has struck at last. The old Sire is no

more; the younger man is henceforth a monarch. Voiceless and helpless,

he is nevertheless a potentate, the autocratic master of millions of

subjects. Cruel Fate has erected a throne for him over an open grave,

and beckons him to glory and to power. Devoured by suffering, he finds

himself suddenly crowned. The wasted Form is snatched from its warm

nest amid the palm groves and the roses; it is whirled from balmy

south to the frozen north, where waters harden into crystal groves and

"waves on waves in solid mountains rise"; whither he now speeds to

reign and--speeds to die.

 

X

 

Onward, onward rushes the black, fire-vomiting monster, devised by man

to partially conquer Space and Time. Onward, and further with every

moment from the health-giving, balmy South flies the train. Like the

Dragon of the Fiery Head, it devours distance and leaves behind it a

long trail of smoke, sparks and stench. And as its long, tortuous,

flexible body, wriggling and hissing like a gigantic dark reptile,

glides swiftly, crossing mountain and moor, forest, tunnel and plain,

its swinging monotonous motion lulls the worn-out occupant, the weary

and heartsore Form, to sleep...

 

In the moving palace the air is warm and balmy. The luxurious vehicle

is full of exotic plants; and from a large cluster of sweet-smelling

flowers arises together with its scent the fairy Queen of dreams,

followed by her band of joyous elves. The Dryads laugh in their leafy

bowers as the train glides by, and send floating upon the breeze

dreams of green solitudes and fairy visions. The rumbling noise of

wheels is gradually transformed into the roar of a distant waterfall,

to subside into the silvery trills of a crystalline brook. The Soul-

Ego takes its flight into Dreamland...

 

It travels through aeons of time, and lives, and feels, and breathes

under the most contrasted forms and personages. It is now a giant, a

Yotun, who rushes into Muspelheim, where Surtur rules with his flaming

sword.

 

It battles fearlessly against a host of monstrous animals, and puts

them to fight with a single wave of its mighty hand. Then it sees

itself in the Northern Mistworld, it penetrates under the guise of a

brave bowman into Helheim, the Kingdom of the Dead, where a Black-Elf

reveals to him a series of its lives and their mysterious

concatenation. "Why does man suffer?" enquiries the Soul-Ego. "Because

he would become one," is the mocking answer. Forthwith, the Soul-Ego

stands in the presence of the holy goddess, Saga. She sings to it of

the valorous deeds of the Germanic heroes, of their virtues and their

vices. She shows the Soul the mighty warriors fallen by the hands of

many of its past Forms, on battlefield, as also in the sacred security

of home. It sees itself under the personages of maidens, and of women,

of young and old men, and of children... It feels itself dying more

than once in those Forms. It expires as a hero--Spirit, and is led by

the pitying Walkyries from the bloody battlefield back to the abode of

Bliss under the shining foliage of Walhalla. It heaves its last sigh

in another form, and is hurled on to the cold, hopeless plane of

remorse. It closes its innocent eyes in its last sleep, as an infant,

and is forthwith carried along by the beauteous Elves of Light into

another body--the doomed generator of Pain and Suffering. In each case

the mists of death are dispersed, and pass from the eyes of the Soul-

Ego, no sooner does it cross the Black Abyss that separates the

Kingdom of the Living from the Realm of the Dead. Thus "Death" becomes

but a meaningless word for it, a vain sound. In every instance the

beliefs of the Mortal take objective life and shape for the Immortal,

as soon as it spans the Bridge. Then they begin to fade, and

disappear...

 

"What is my Past?" enquires the Soul-Ego of Urd, the eldest of the

Norn sisters. "Why do I suffer?"

 

A long parchment is unrolled in her hand, and reveals a long series of

mortal beings, in each of whom the Soul-Ego recognizes one of its

dwellings. When it comes to the last but one, it sees a blood-stained

hand doing endless deeds of cruelty and treachery, and it

shudders......Guileless victims arise around it, and cry to Orlog for

vengeance.

 

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

the second sister.

 

"The decree of Orlog is on thyself!" is the answer. "But Orlog does

not pronounce them blindly, as foolish mortals have it."

 

"What is my Future?" asks despairingly of Skuld, the third Norn

sister, the Soul-Ego. "Is it to be for ever dark with tears, and

bereaved of Hope?"...

 

No answer is received. But the Dreamer feels whirled through space,

and suddenly the scene changes. The Soul-Ego finds itself on a, to it,

long familiar spot, the royal bower, and the seat opposite the broken

palm-tree. Before it stretches, as formerly, the vast blue expanse of

waters, glassing the rocks and cliffs; there, too, is the lonely palm,

doomed to quick disappearance.

 

The soft mellow voice of the incessant ripple of the light waves now

assumes human speech, and reminds the Soul-Ego of the vows formed more

than once on that spot. And the Dreamer repeats with enthusiasm the

words pronounced before.

 

"Never, oh, never shall I, henceforth, sacrifice vainglorious fame or

ambition a single son of my motherland! Our world is so full of

unavoidable misery, so poor with joys and bliss, and shall I add to

its cup of bitterness the fathomless ocean of woe and blood, called

WAR? Avaunt, such thought!...Oh, never more..."

 

XI

 

Strange sight and change... The broken palm which stands before the

mental sight of the Soul-Ego suddenly lifts up its drooping trunk and

becomes erect and verdant as before. Still greater bliss, the Soul-Ego

finds himself as strong and as healthy as he ever was. In a stentorian

voice he sings to the four winds a loud and a joyous song. He feels a

wave of joy and bliss in him, and seems to know why he is happy.

 

He is suddenly transported into what looks a fairy-like Hall, lit with

most glowing lights and built of materials, the like of which he had

never seen before. He perceives the heirs and descendants of all the

monarchs of the globe gathered in that Hall in one happy family. They

wear no longer the insignia of royalty, but, as he seems to know,

those who are the reigning Princes, reign by virtue of their personal

merits. It is the greatness of heart, the nobility of character, their

superior qualities of observation, wisdom, love of Truth and Justice,

that have raised them to the dignity of heirs to the Thrones, of Kings

and Queens. The crowns, by authority and the grace of God, have been

thrown off, and they now rule by "the grace of divine humanity,"

chosen unanimously by recognition of their fitness to rule, and the

reverential love of their voluntary subjects.

 

All around seems strangely changed. Ambition, grasping greediness or

envy--miscalled Patriotism--exist no longer. Cruel selfishness has

made room for just altruism and cold indifference to the wants of the

millions no longer finds favour in the sight of the favoured few.

Useless luxury, sham pretences--social and religious--all has

disappeared. No more wars are possible, for the armies are abolished.

Soldiers have turned into diligent, hard-working tillers of the

ground, and the whole globe echoes his song in rapturous joy. Kingdoms

and countries around him live like brothers. The great, the glorious

hour has come at last! That which he hardly dared to hope and think

about in the stillness of his long, suffering nights, is now realized.

The great curse is taken off, and the world stands absolved and

redeemed in its regeneration!...

 

Trembling with rapturous feelings, his heart overflowing with love and

philanthropy, he rises to pour out a fiery speech that would become

historic, when suddenly he finds his body gone, or, rather, it is

replaced by another body...Yes, it is no longer the tall, noble Form

with which he is familiar, but the body of somebody else, of whom he

as yet knows nothing... Something dark comes between him and a great

dazzling light, and he sees the shadow of the face of a gigantic

timepiece on the ethereal waves. On its ominous dial he reads:

 

"NEW ERA: 970,995 YEARS SINCE THE INSTANTANEOUS DESTRUCTION BY PNEUMO-

DYNO-VRIL OF THE LAST 2,000,000 OF SOLDIERS IN THE FIELD, ON THE

WESTERN PORTION OF THE GLOBE. 971,000 SOLAR YEARS SINCE THE SUBMERSION

OF THE EUROPEAN CONTINENTS AND ISLES. SUCH ARE THE DECREE OF ORLOG AND

THE ANSWER OF SKULD..."

 

He makes a strong effort and--is himself again. Prompted by the Soul-

Ego to REMEMBER and ACT in conformity, he lifts his arms to Heaven and

swears in the face of all nature to preserve peace to the end of his

days--in his own country, at least.

 

* * * * *

 

A distant beating of drums and long cries of what he fancies in his

dream are the rapturous thanksgivings, for the pledge just taken. An

abrupt shock, loud clatter, and, as the eyes open, the Soul-Ego looks

out through them in amazement. The heavy gaze meets the respectful and

solemn face of the physician offering the usual draught. The train

stops. He rises from his couch weaker and wearier than ever, to see

around him endless lines of troops armed with a new and yet more

murderous weapon of destruction--ready for the battlefield.

 

 

 

THE LEGEND OF THE BLUE LOTUS

 

The title of every magazine or book should have some meaning, and

especially should this be the case with a Theosophical publication. A

title is supposed to express the object in view, symbolising, as it

were, the content of the paper. Since allegory is the soul of Eastern

philosophy, it may be objected that nothing can be seen in the name

"Le Lotus Bleu," save that of a water plant--the Nymphea Cerulea or

Nelumbo. Furthermore a reader of this calibre would see but the blue

colour of the list of contents of our journal.

 

To avoid a like misunderstanding, we shall attempt to initiate our

readers into the general symbolism of the lotus and the particular

symbolism of the Blue Lotus. This mysterious and sacred plant has been

considered through the ages, both in Egypt and in India, as a symbol

of the Universe. Not a monument in the valley of the Nile, not a

papyrus, without this plant in an honoured place. On the capitals of

the Egyptian pillars, on the thrones and even the head-dresses of the

Divine Kings, the lotus is everywhere found as a symbol of the

Universe. It inevitably became an indispensable attribute of every

creative god, as of every creative goddess, the latter being,

philosophically considered, only the feminine aspect of the god, at

first androgynous, afterwards male.

 

It is from Padma-Yoni, "the bosom of the Lotus," from Absolute Space,

or from the Universe outside time and space, that emanates the Cosmos,

conditioned and limited by time and space. The Hiranya Garbha, "the

egg" (or the womb) of gold, from which Brahma emerges, is often called

the Heavenly Lotus. The God, Vishnu,--the synthesis of the Trimurti or

Hindu Trinity--during the "nights of Brahma" floats asleep on the

primordial waters, stretched on the blossom of a lotus. His Goddess,

the lovely Lakshmi, rising from the bosom of the waters, like Venus-

Aphrodite, has a white lotus beneath her feet. It was at the churning

of the Ocean of Milk--symbol of space and of the Milky Way--by the

Gods assembled together, that Lakshmi, Goddess of Beauty and Mother of

Love (Kama) formed of the froth of the foaming waves, appeared before

the astonished Gods, borne on a lotus, and holding another lotus in

her hand.

 

Thus have arisen the two chief titles of Lakshmi; Padma the Lotus, and

Kshirabdi-tanaya daughter of the Ocean of Milk. Gautama the Buddha has

never been degraded to the level of a god, notwithstanding the fact

that he was the first mortal within historical times fearless enough

to interrogate that dumb Sphinx, which we call the Universe, and to

wrest completely therefrom the secrets of Life and Death. Though he

has never been deified, we repeat, yet he has nevertheless been

recognised by generations in Asia as Lord of the Universe. This is why

the conqueror and master of the world of thought and philosophy is

represented as seated on a lotus in full bloom, emblem of the Universe

thought out by him. In India and Ceylon the lotus is generally of a

golden hue; amongst the Buddhists of the North, it is blue.

 

But there exists in one part of the world a third kind of lotus--the

Zizyphus. He who eats of it forgets of his fatherland and those who

are dear to him, so say the ancients. Let us not follow this example.

Let us not forget our spiritual home, the cradle of the human race,

and the birthplace of the Blue Lotus.

 

Let us then raise the veil of oblivion which covers one of the most

ancient allegories--a Vedic legend which, however, the Brahman

chroniclers have preserved. Only as the chroniclers have recounted the

legend each after his own manner, aided by variations* of his own, we

have given the story here--not according to the incomplete renderings

and translations of these Eastern gentlemen but according to the

popular version. (* Cf. the history of Sunahsepha in the Bhagavata,

IX, XVI, 35 and of the Ramayana, Bk. I. Cap. 60; Manu, X, 105;

Koulouka Bhatta [the Historian]; Bahwruba and the Aitareya Brahmanas;

Vishnu Purana, etc., etc. Each book gives its own version.) Thus is it

that the old bards of Rajasthan sing it, when they come and seat

themselves in the verandah of the traveller's bungalow in the wet

evenings of the rainy season. Let us leave then the Orientalists to

their fantastic speculations. How does it concern us whether the

father of the selfish and cowardly prince, who was the cause of the

transformation of the white lotus into the blue lotus, be called

Harischandra or Ambarisha? Names have nothing to do with the naive

poetry of the legend, nor with its moral--for there is a moral to be

found if looked for well. We shall soon see that the chief episode in

the story is curiously reminiscent of another legend--that of the

story of Abraham and the sacrifice of Isaac in the Bible. Is not this

one more proof that the Secret Doctrine of the East may have good

reason to maintain that the name of the Patriarch was neither a

Chaldean or a Hebrew name, but rather an epithet and a Sanskrit

surname, signifying abram, i.e., one is non-Brahman,* a debrahmanised

Brahman, one who is degraded or who has lost his caste? After this how

can we avoid suspecting that we may find, among the modern Jews, the

Chaldeans of the time of the Rishi Agastya--these makers of bricks

whose persecution began from eight hundred to a thousand years ago,

but who emigrated to Chaldea four thousand years before the Christian

era--when so many of the popular legends of Southern India resemble

the Bible stories. Louis Jacolliot speaks in several of his twenty-one

volumes on Brahmanical India of this matter, and for once he is right.

 

* The particle a in the Sanskrit word shews this clearly. Placed

before a substantive this particle always means the negation or the

opposite of the meaning of the expression that follows. Thus Sura

(god) written a--Sura, becomes non-God, or the devil, Vidya is

knowledge, and a-Vidya, ignorance or the opposite of knowledge, etc.,

etc.

 

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

 

THE BLUE LOTUS

 

Century after century has passed away since Ambarisha, King of

Ayodhya, reigned in the city founded by the holy Manu, Vaivasvata, the

offspring of the Sun. The King was a Suryavansi (a descendant of the

Solar Race), and he avowed himself a most faithful servant of the God,

Varuna, the greatest and most powerful deity in the Rig-Veda.* But the

god had denied male heirs to his worshipper, and this made the king

very unhappy.

 

* It is only much later in the orthodox Pantheon and the symbolical

polytheism of the Brahmans that Varuna became Poseidon or Neptune--

which he is now. In the Vedas he is the most ancient of the Gods,

identical with Ouranos of the Greek, that is to say a personification

of the celestial space and the infinite gods, the creator and ruler of

heaven and earth, the King, the Father and the Master of the world, of

gods and of men. Hesiod's Uranus and the Greek Zeus are one.

 

"Alas!" he wailed, every morning while performing his puja to the

lesser gods, "alas! What avails it to be the greatest king on earth

when God denies me an heir of my blood. When I am dead and placed on

the funeral pyre, who will fulfil the pious duties of a son, and

shatter my lifeless skull to liberate my soul from its earthly

trammels? What strange hand will at the full moon-tide place the rice

of the Shraddha ceremony to do reverence to my shade? Will not the

very birds of death [Rooks and ravens] themselves turn from the

funeral feast? For, surely, my shade earthbound in its great despair

will not permit them to partake of it."

 

* The Shradda is a ceremony observed by the nearest relatives of the

deceased for the nine days following the death. Once upon a time it

was a magical ceremony. Now, however, in addition to other practices,

it mainly consists of scattering balls of cooked rice before the door

of the dead man's house. If the crows promptly eat the rice it is a

sign that the soul is liberated and at rest. If these birds which are

so greedy did not touch the food, it was a proof that the pisacha or

bhut (shade) is present and is preventing them. Undoubtedly the

Shradda is a superstition, but certainly not more so than Novenas or

masses for the Dead.

 

The King was thus bewailing, when his family priest inspired him with

the idea of making a vow. If God should send him two or more sons, he

would promise God to sacrifice to Him at a public ceremony the eldest

born when he should have attained the age of puberty.

 

Attracted by this promise of a burnt-offering of flesh--a savory odour

very agreeable to the Great Gods--Varuna accepted the promise of the

King, and the happy Ambarisha had a son, followed by several others.

The eldest son, the heir to the throne for the time being, was called

Rohita (the red) and was surnamed Devarata--which, literally

translated, means God-given. Devarata grew up and soon became a

veritable Prince Charming, but if we are to believe the legends he was

as selfish and deceitful as he was beautiful.

 

When the Prince had attained the appointed age, the God speaking

through the mouth of the same Court Priest, charged the King to keep

his promise; but when each time Ambarisha invented some excuse to

postpone the hour of sacrifice, the God at last grew annoyed. Being a

jealous and angry God, he threatened the King with all His Divine

wrath.

 

For a long time, neither commands nor threats produced the desired

effect. As long as there were sacred cows to be transferred from the

royal cowsheds to those of the Brahmans, as long as there was money in

the Treasury to fill the Temple crypts, the Brahmans succeeded in

keeping Varuna quiet. But when there were no more cows, when there was

no more money, the God threatened to overthrow the King, his palace

and his heirs, and if they escaped, to burn them alive. The poor King,

finding himself at the end of his resources, summoned his first-born

and informed him of the fate which awaited him. But Devarata lent a

deaf ear to these tidings. He refused to submit to the double weight

of the paternal and divine will.

 

So, when the sacrificial fires had been lighted and all the good

towns-folk of Ayodhya had gathered together, full of emotion, the

heir-apparent was absent from the festival.

 

He had concealed himself in the forests of the Yogis.

 

Now, these forests had been inhabited by holy hermits, and Devarata

knew that there he would be unassailable and impregnable. He might be

seen there, but no one could do him violence--not even the God Varuna

Himself. It was a simple solution. The religious austerities of the

Aranyakas (the holy men of the forests) several of whom were Daityas

(Titans, a race of giants and demons), gave them such dominance that

all the Gods trembled before their sway and their supernatural

powers--even Varuna, himself.

 

These antediluvian Yogis, it seems, had the power to destroy even the

God Himself, at will--possibly because they had invented Him

themselves.

 

Devarata spent several years in the forests; at last he grew tired of

the life. Allowing it to be understood that he could satisfy Varuna by

finding a substitute, who would sacrifice himself in his place,

provided that the sacrificial victim was the son of a Rishi, he

started on his journey and finally discovered that he sought.

 

In the country which lies around the flower-covered shores of the

renowned Pushkara, there was once a famine, and a very holy man, named

Ajigarta,* was at the point of death from starvation, likewise all his

family. He had several sons of whom the second, Sunahsepha, a virtuous

young man, was himself also preparing to become a Rishi. Taking

advantage of his poverty and thinking with good reason that a hungry

stomach would be a more ready listener than a satisfied one, the

crafty Devarata made the father acquainted with his history. After

this he offered him a hundred cows in exchange for Sunahsepha, a

substitute burnt-offering on the altar of the Gods.

 

* Others call him Rishika and call King Ambarisha, Harischandra, the

famous sovereign who was a paragon of all the virtues.

 

The virtuous father refused at first point-blank, but the gentle

Sunahsepha offered himself of his own accord, and thus addressed his

father: "Of what importance is the life of one man, when it can save

that of many others. This God is a great god and His pity is infinite;

but He is also a very jealous god and His wrath is swift and vengeful.

Varuna is the Lord of Terror, and Death is obedient to His command.

His spirit will not for ever strive with one who is disobedient to

Him. He will repent Him that He has created man, and then will burn

alive a hundred thousand lakhs* of innocent people (*A lakh is a

measure of 100,000, whether men or pieces of money be in question.),

because of one man who is guilty. If His victim should escape Him, He

will surely dry up our rivers, set fire to our lands and destroy our

women who are with child--in His infinite kindness. Let me then

sacrifice myself, oh! my father, in place of this stranger who offers

us a hundred cows. That sum would prevent thee and my brothers from

dying of hunger and will save thousands of others from a terrible

death. At this price the giving up of life is a pleasant thing."

 

The aged Rishi shed some tears, but he ended by giving his consent and

began to prepare the sacrificial pyre.*

 

*Manu (Book X, 105) alluding to this story remarks that Ajigarta,

the holy Rishi, committed no sin in selling the life of his son, since

the sacrifice preserved his life and that of all the family. This

reminds us of another legend, more modern, that might serve as a

parallel to the older one. Did not the Count Ugolino, condemned to die

of starvation in his dungeon, eat his own children "to preserve for

them a father"? The popular legend of Sunahsepha is more beautiful

than the commentary of Manu--evidently an interpolation of some

Brahmans in falsified manuscripts.

 

The Pushkara lake* was one of the spots of this earth favoured by the

Goddess, Lakshmi-Padma (White Lotus); she often plunged into the fresh

waters that she might visit her eldest sister, Varuni, the consort of

the God Varuna.** Lakshmi-Padma heard the proposal of Devarata,

witnessed the despair of the father, and admired the filial devotion

of Sunahsepha. Filled with pity, the Mother of Love and Compassion

sent for the Rishi Visvamitra, one of the seven primordial Manus and a

son of Brahma, and succeeded in interesting him in the lot of her

protege. The great Rishi promised her his aid. Appearing to

Sunahsepha, but unseen by all others, he taught him two sacred verses

(mantras) of the Rig-Veda, making him promise to recite these on the

pyre. Now, he who utters these two mantras (invocations) forces the

whole assembly of the Gods, with Indra at their head, to come to his

rescue, and because of this becomes a Rishi himself in this life or in

his next incarnation.

 

* This lake is sometimes called in our day Pokker. It is I place

famous for a yearly pilgrimage, and is charmingly situated five

English miles from Ajmeer in Rajisthan. Pushkara means "the Blue

Lotus", the surface of the lake being covered as with a carpet with

these beautiful plants. But the legend avers that they were at first

white. Pushkara is also the proper name of a man, and the name of one

of the seven sacred islands in the Geography of the Hindus, the septa

dwipa.

 

** Varuni, Goddess of Heat (later Goddess of Wine) was also born of

the Ocean of Milk. Of the "fourteen precious objects" produced by the

churning, she appeared the second and Lakshmi the last, preceded by

the Chalice of Anmita, the nectar which gives immortality.

 

The altar was set up on the shore of the lake, the pyre was prepared

and the crowd had assembled. After he had laid his son on the perfumed

sandal wood and bound him, Ajigarta equipped himself with the knife of

sacrifice. He was just raising his trembling arm above the heart of

his well-beloved son, when the boy began to chant the sacred verses.

There was again a moment of hesitation and supreme grief, and as the

boy finished his mantram, the aged Rishi plunged his knife into the

breast of Sunahsepha.

 

But, oh! the miracle of it! At that very moment Indra, the God of the

Blue Vault (the Universe) issued from the heavens and descended right

into the midst of the ceremony. Enveloping the pyre and the victim in

a thick blue mist, he loosed the ropes which held the youth captive.

It seemed as if a corner of the azure heavens had lowered itself over

the spot, illuminating the whole country and colouring with a golden

blue the whole scene. Filled with terror, the crowd, and even the

Rishi himself, fell on their faces, half dead with fear.

 

When they came to themselves, the mist had disappeared and a complete

change of scene had been wrought.

 

The fires of the funeral pyre had rekindled of themselves, and

stretched thereon was seen a hind (Rohit)* which was none else than

the Prince Rohita, Devarata, who, pierced to the heart with the knife

he had directed against another, was burning as a sacrifice for his

sin.

 

* A play upon words. Rohit in Sanskrit is the Dame of the female of

the deer, the hind, and Rohita means "red". It was because of his

cowardice and fear of death that he was changed, according to the

legend, into a hind by the Gods.

 

Some little way apart from the altar, also lying stretched out, but on

a bed of Lotuses, peacefully slept Sunahsepha; and in the place on his

breast where the knife had descended was seen to bloom a beautiful

blue lotus. The Pushkara lake, itself, covered a moment before with

white lotuses, whose petals shone in the sun like silver cups full of

Amrita's waters [The Elixir which confers Immortality.], now reflected

the azure of the heavens--the white lotuses had become blue.

 

Then like to the sound of the Vina [A species of the Lute. An

instrument, the invention of which is attributed to Shiva.] rising to

the air from the depth of the waters, was heard a melodious voice

which uttered these words and this curse:

 

"A prince who does not know how to die for his subjects is not worthy

to reign over the children of the Sun. He will be reborn in a race of

red haired peoples, a barbarous and selfish race, and the nations

which descend from him will have a heritage ever on the decline. It is

the younger son of a mendicant ascetic who will become the King and

reign in his stead."

 

A murmur of approbation set in movement the flowery carpet that

overspread the lake. Opening to the golden sunlight their hearts of

blue, the lotuses smiled with joy and wafted a hymn of perfume to

Surya, their Sun and Master. All nature rejoiced, save Devarata, who

was but a handful of ashes.

 

Then Visvamitra, the great Rishi, although he was already the father

of a hundred sons, adopted Sunahsepha as his eldest son and as a

precautionary measure cursed in advance anyone who should refuse to

recognise, in the last born of the Rishi, the eldest of his children

and the legitimate heir of the throne of Ambarisha.

 

Because of this decree, Sunahsepha was born in his next incarnation in

the royal family of Ayodha and reigned over the Solar race for 84,000

years.

 

With regard to Rohita--Devarata or God-given as he was--he fulfilled

the lot which Lakshmi Padma had vowed. He reincarnated in the family

of a foreigner without caste (Mleccha-Yavana) and became the ancestor

of the barbarous and red-haired races which dwell in the West.

 

* * * * *

 

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

established.

 

If any of our readers should allow themselves to doubt the historical

truth of this adventure of our ancestor; Rohita, and of the

transformation of the white lotus into the blue lotus, they are

invited to make a journey to Ajmeer.

 

Once there, they need only to go to the shores of the lake thrice

blessed, named Pushkara, where every pilgrim who bathes during the

full moon time of the month of Krhktika (October-November) attains to

the highest sanctity, without other effort. There the sceptics would

see with their own eyes the site where was built the pyre of Rohita,

and also the waters visited by Lakshmi in days of yore.

 

They might even have seen the blue lotuses, if most of these had not

since been changed, thanks to a new transformation decreed by the

Gods, into sacred crocodiles which no one has the right to disturb. It

is this transformation which gives to nine out of every ten pilgrims

who plunge into the waters of the lake, the opportunity of entering

into Nirvana almost immediately, and also causes the holy crocodiles

to be the most bulky of their kind.

 

 

 

A BEWITCHED LIFE

 

As Narrated by a Quill Pen

 

 

INTRODUCTION

 

It was a dark, chilly night in September, 1884. A heavy gloom had

descended over the streets of A---, a small town on the Rhine, and was

hanging like a black funeral-pall over the dull factory burgh. The

greater number of its inhabitants, wearied by their long day's work,

had hours before retired to stretch their tired limbs, and lay their

aching heads upon their pillows. All was quiet in the large house; all

was quiet in the deserted streets.

 

I too was lying in my bed; alas, not one of rest, but of pain and

sickness, to which I had been confined for some days. So still was

everything in the house, that, as Longfellow has it, its stillness

seemed almost audible. I could plainly hear the murmur of the blood as

it rushed through my aching body, producing that monotonous singing so

familiar to one who lends a watchful ear to silence. I had listened to

it until, in my nervous imagination, it had grown into the sound of a

distant cataract, the fall of mighty waters...when, suddenly changing

its character, the evergrowing "singing" merged into other and far

more welcome sounds. It was the low, and at first scarce audible,

whisper of a human voice. It approached, and gradually strengthening

seemed to speak in my very ear. Thus sounds a voice speaking across a

blue quiescent lake, in one of those wondrously acoustic gorges of the

snow-capped mountains, where the air is so pure that a word pronounced

half a mile off seems almost at the elbow. Yes; it was the voice of

one whom to know is to reverence; of one, to me, owing to many mystic

associations, most dear and holy; a voice familiar for long years and

ever welcome; doubly so in hours of mental or physical suffering, for

it always brings with it a ray of hope and consolation.

 

"Courage," it whispered in gentle, mellow tones. "Think of the days

passed by you in sweet associations; of the great lessons received of

Nature's truths; of the many errors of men concerning these truths;

and try to add to them the experience of a night in this city. Let the

narrative of a strange life, that will interest you, help to shorten

the hours of suffering.....Give your attention. Look yonder before

you!"

 

"Yonder" meant the clear, large windows of an empty house on the other

side of the narrow street of the German town. They faced my own in

almost a straight line across the street, and my bed faced the windows

of my sleeping room. Obedient to the suggestion, I directed my gaze

towards them, and what I saw made me for the time being forget the

agony of the pain that racked my swollen arm and rheumatical body.

 

Over the windows was creeping a mist; a dense, heavy, serpentine,

whitish mist, that looked like the huge shadow of a gigantic boa

slowly uncoiling its body. Gradually it disappeared, to leave a

lustrous light, soft and silvery, as though the window-panes behind

reflected a thousand moonbeams, a tropical star-lit sky--first from

outside, then from within the empty rooms. Next I saw the mist

elongating itself and throwing, as it were, a fairy bridge across the

street from the bewitched windows to my own balcony, nay, to my very

own bed. As I continued gazing, the wall and windows and the opposite

house itself, suddenly vanished. The space occupied by the empty rooms

had changed into the interior of another smaller room, in what I knew

to be a Swiss chalet--into a study, whose old, dark walls were covered

from floor to ceiling with book shelves on which were many antiquated

folios, as well as works of a more recent date. In the centre stood a

large old-fashioned table, littered over with manuscripts and writing

materials. Before it, quill-pen in hand, sat an old man; a grim-

looking, skeleton-like personage, with a face so thin, so pale, yellow

and emaciated, that the light of the solitary little student's lamp

was reflected in two shining spots on his high cheekbones, as though

they were carved out of ivory.

 

As I tried to get a better view of him by slowly raising myself upon

my pillows, the whole vision, chalet and study, desk, books and

scribe, seemed to flicker and move. Once set in motion, they

approached nearer and nearer, until, gliding noiselessly along the

fleecy bridge of clouds across the street, they floated through the

closed windows into my room and finally seemed to settle beside my

bed.

 

"Listen to what he thinks and is going to write"--said in soothing

tones the same familiar, far off, and yet near voice. "Thus you will

hear a narrative, the telling of which may help to shorten the long

sleepless hours, and even make you forget for a while your

pain...Try!"--it added, using the well-known Rosicrucian and

Kabalistic formula.

 

I tried, doing as I was bid. I centred all my attention on the

solitary laborious figure that I saw before me, but which did not see

me. At first, the noise of the quill-pen with which the old man was

writing, suggested to my mind nothing more than a low whispered murmur

of a nondescript nature. Then, gradually, my ear caught the indistinct

words of a faint and distant voice, and I thought the figure before

me, bending over its manuscript, was reading its tale aloud instead of

writing it. But I soon found out my error. For casting my gaze at the

old scribe's face, I saw at a glance that his lips were compressed and

motionless, and the voice too thin and shrill to be his voice.

Stranger still at every word traced by the feeble, aged hand, I

noticed a light flashing from under his pen, a bright coloured spark

that became instantaneously a sound, or--what is the same thing--it

seemed to do so to my inner perceptions. It was indeed the small voice

of the quill that I heard though scribe and pen were at the time,

perchance, hundreds of miles away from Germany. Such things will

happen occasionally, especially at night, beneath whose starry shade,

as Byron tells us.

 

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

 

However it may be, the words uttered by the quill remained in my

memory for days after. Nor had I any great difficulty in retaining

them, for when I sat down to record the story, I found it, as usual,

indelibly impressed on the astral tablets before my inner eye.

 

Thus, I had but to copy it and so give it as I received it. I failed

to learn the name of the unknown nocturnal writer. Nevertheless,

though the reader may prefer to regard the whole story as one made up

for the occasion, a dream, perhaps, still its incidents will, I hope,

prove none the less interesting.

 

I--THE STRANGER'S STORY

 

My birth-place is a small mountain hamlet, a cluster of Swiss

cottages, hidden deep in a sunny nook, between two tumble-down

glaciers and a peak covered with eternal snows. Thither, thirty-seven

years ago, I returned--crippled mentally and physically--to die, if

death would only have me. The pure, invigorating air of my birth-place

decided otherwise. I am still alive; perhaps for the purpose of giving

evidence to facts I have kept profoundly secret from all--a tale of

horror I would rather hide than reveal. The reason for this

unwillingness on my part is due to my early education, and to

subsequent events that gave the lie to my most cherished prejudices.

Some people might be inclined to regard these events as providential:

I, however, believe in no Providence, and yet am unable to attribute

them to mere chance. I connect them as the ceaseless evolution of

effects, engendered by certain direct causes, with one primary and

fundamental cause, from which ensued all that followed. A feeble old

man am I now, yet physical weakness has in no way impared my mental

faculties. I remember the smallest details of that terrible cause,

which engendered such fatal results. It is these which furnish me with

an additional proof of the actual existence of one whom I fain would

regard--oh, that I could do so!--as a creature born of my fancy, the

evanescent production of a feverish, horrid dream! Oh that terrible,

mild and all-forgiving, that saintly and respected Being! It was that

paragon of all the virtues who embittered my whole existence. It is

he, who, pushing me violently out of the monotonous but secure groove

of daily life, was the first to force upon me the certitude of a life

hereafter, thus adding an additional horror to one already great

enough.

 

With a view to a clearer comprehension of the situation, I must

interrupt these recollections with a few words about myself. Oh how,

if I could, would I obliterate that hated Self!

 

Born in Switzerland, of French parents, who centred the whole world-

wisdom in the literary trinity of Voltaire, J. J. Rousseau and

D'Holbach, and educated in a German university, I grew up a thorough

materialist, a confirmed atheist. I could never have even pictured to

myself any beings--least of all a Being--above or even outside visible

nature, as distinguished from her. Hence I regarded everything that

could not be brought under the strictest analysis of the physical

senses as a mere chimera. A soul, I argued, even supposing man has

one, must be material. According to Origen's definition, incorporeus--

the epithet he gave to his God--signifies a substance only more subtle

than that of physical bodies, of which, at best, we can form no

definite idea. How then can that, of which our senses cannot enable us

to obtain any clear knowledge, how can that make itself visible or

produce any tangible manifestations?

 

Accordingly, I received the tales of nascent Spiritualism with a

feeling of utter contempt, and regarded the overtures made by certain

priests with derision, often akin to anger. And indeed the latter

feeling has never entirely abandoned me.

 

Pascal, in the eighth Act of his "Thoughts," confesses to a most

complete incertitude upon the existence of God. Throughout my life, I

too professed a complete certitude as to the non-existence of any such

extra-cosmic being, and repeated with that great thinker the memorable

words in which he tells us: "I have examined if this God of whom all

the world speaks might not have left some marks of himself. I look

everywhere, and everywhere I see nothing but obscurity. Nature offers

me nothing that may not be a matter of doubt and inquietude." Nor have

I found to this day anything that might unsettle me in precisely

similar and even stronger feelings. I have never believed, nor shall I

ever believe, in a Supreme Being. But at the potentialities of man,

proclaimed far and wide in the East, powers so developed in some

persons as to make them virtually Gods, at them I laugh no more. My

whole broken life is a protest against such negation. I believe in

such phenomena, and--I curse them, whenever they come, and by

whatsoever means generated.

 

On the death of my parents, owing to an unfortunate lawsuit, I lost

the greater part of my fortune, and resolved--for the sake of those I

loved best, rather than for my own--to make another for myself. My

elder sister, whom I adored, had married a poor man. I accepted the

offer of a rich Hamburg firm and sailed for Japan as its junior

partner.

 

For several years my business went on successfully. I got into the

confidence of many influential Japanese, through whose protection I

was enabled to travel and transact business in many localities, which,

in those days especially, were not easily accessible to foreigners.

Indifferent to every religion, I became interested in the philosophy

of Buddhism, the only religious system I thought worthy of being

called philosophical. Thus, in my moments of leisure, I visited the

most remarkable temples of Japan, the most important and curious of

the ninety-six Buddhist monasteries of Kioto. I have examined in turn

Day--Bootzoo, with its gigantic bell; Tzeonene, Enarino-Yassero, Kie-

Missoo, Higadzi-Hong-Vonsi, and many other famous temples.

 

Several years passed away, and during that whole period I was not

cured of my scepticism, nor did I ever contemplate having my opinions

on this subject altered. I derided the pretensions of the Japanese

bonzes and ascetics, as I had those of Christian priests and European

Spiritualists. I could not believe in the acquisition of powers

unknown to, and never studied by, men of science; hence I scoffed at

all such ideas. The superstitious and atrabilious Buddhist, teaching

us to shun the pleasures of life, to put to rout one's passions, to

render oneself insensible alike to happiness and suffering, in order

to acquire such chimerical powers--seemed supremely ridiculous in my

eyes.

 

On a day ever memorable to me--a fatal day--I made the acquaintance of

a venerable and learned Bonze, a Japanese priest, named Tamoora

Hideyeri. I met him at the foot of the golden Kwon-On, and from that

moment he became my best and most trusted friend. Notwithstanding my

great and genuine regard for him, however, whenever a good opportunity

was offered I never failed to mock his religious convictions, thereby

very often hurting his feelings.

 

But my old friend was as meek and forgiving as any true Buddhist's

heart might desire. He never resented my impatient sarcasms, even when

they were, to say the least, of equivocal propriety, and generally

limited his replies to the "wait and see" kind of protest. Nor could

he be brought to seriously believe in the sincerity of my denial of

the existence of any God or Gods. The full meaning of the terms

"atheism" and "scepticism" was beyond the comprehension of his

otherwise extremely intellectual and acute mind. Like certain

reverential Christians, he seemed incapable of realizing that any man

of sense should prefer the wise conclusions arrived at by philosophy

and modern science to a ridiculous belief in an invisible world full

of Gods and spirits, dzins and demons. "Man is a spiritual being," he

insisted, "who returns to earth more than once, and is rewarded or

punished in the between times." The proposition that man is nothing

else but a heap of organized dust, was beyond him. Like Jeremy

Collier, he refused to admit that he was no better than "a stalking

machine, a speaking head without a soul in it," whose "thoughts" are

all bound by the laws of motion. "For," he argued, "if my actions

were, as you say, prescribed beforehand, and I had no more liberty or

free will to change the course of my action than the running waters of

the river yonder, then the glorious doctrine of Karma, of merit and

demerit, would be a foolishness indeed."

 

Thus the whole of my hyper-metaphysical friend's ontology rested on

the shaky superstructure of metempsychosis, of a fancied "just" Law of

Retribution, and other such equally absurd dreams.

 

"We cannot," said he paradoxically one day, "hope to live hereafter in

the full enjoyment of our consciousness, unless we have built for it

beforehand a firm and solid foundation of spirituality.....Nay, laugh

not, friend of no faith," he meekly pleaded, "but rather think and

reflect on this. One who has never taught himself to live in Spirit

during his conscious and responsible life on earth, can hardly hope to

enjoy a sentient existence after death, when, deprived of his body, he

is limited to that Spirit alone."

 

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

 

"Life on a spiritual plane; that which the Buddhists call Tushita

Devaloka (Paradise). Man can create such a blissful existence for

himself between two births, by the gradual transference on to that

plane of all the faculties which during his sojourn on earth manifest

through his organic body and, as you call it, animal brain."

 

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

 

"Contemplation and a strong desire to assimilate the blessed Gods,

will enable him to do so."

 

"And if man refuses this intellectual occupation, by which you mean, I

suppose, the fixing of the eyes on the tip of his nose, what becomes

of him after the death of his body?" was my mocking question.

 

"He will be dealt with according to the prevailing state of his

consciousness, of which there are many grades. At best--immediate

rebirth; at worst--the state of avitchi, a mental hell. Yet one need

not be an ascetic to assimilate spiritual life which will extend to

the hereafter. All that is required is to try and approach Spirit."

 

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

 

"Even so! One may disbelieve and yet harbour in one's nature room for

doubt, however small that room may be, and thus try one day, were it

but for one moment, to open the door of the inner temple; and this

will prove sufficient for the purpose."

 

"You are decidedly poetical, and paradoxical to boot, reverend sir.

Will you kindly explain to me a little more of the mystery?"

 

"There is none; still I am willing. Suppose for a moment that some

unknown temple to which you have never been before, and the existence

of which you think you have reasons to deny, is the 'spiritual plane'

of which I am speaking. Some one takes you by the hand and leads you

towards its entrance, curiosity makes you open its door and look

within. By this simple act, by entering it for one second, you have

established an everlasting connection between your consciousness and

the temple. You cannot deny its existence any longer, nor obliterate

the fact of your having entered it. And according to the character and

the variety of your work, within its holy precincts, so will you live

in it after your consciousness is severed from its dwelling of flesh."

 

"What do you mean? And what has my after-death consciousness--if such

a thing exists--to do with the temple?"

 

"It has everything to do with it," solemnly rejoined the old man.

"There can be no self-consciousness after death outside the temple of

spirit. That which you will have done within its plane will alone

survive. All the rest is false and an illusion. It is doomed to perish

in the Ocean of Maya."

 

Amused at the idea of living outside one's body, I urged on my old

friend to tell me more. Mistaking my meaning the venerable man

willingly consented.

 

Tamoora Hideyeri belonged to the great temple of Tzionene, a Buddhist

monastery, famous not only in all Japan, but also throughout Tibet and

China. No other is so venerated in Kioto. Its monks belong to the sect

of Dzeno-doo, and are considered as the most learned among the many

erudite fraternities. They are, moreover, closely connected and allied

with the Yamabooshi (the ascetics, or hermits), who follow the

doctrines of Lao-tze. No wonder, that at the slightest provocation on

my part the priest flew into the highest metaphysics, hoping thereby

to cure me of my infidelity.

 

No use repeating here the long rigmarole of the most hopelessly

involved and incomprehensible of all doctrines. According to his

ideas, we have to train ourselves for spirituality in another world--

as for gymnastics. Carrying on the analogy between the temple and the

"spiritual plane" he tried to illustrate his idea. He had himself

worked in the temple of Spirit two-thirds of his life, and given

several hours daily to "contemplation." Thus he knew that after he had

laid aside his mortal casket, "a mere illusion," he explained--he

would in his spiritual consciousness live over again every feeling of

ennobling joy and divine bliss he had ever had, or ought to have had--

only a hundredfold intensified. His work on the spirit-plane had been

considerable, he said, and he hoped, therefore that the wages of the

labourer would prove proportionate.

 

"But suppose the labourer, as in the example you have just brought

forward in my case, should have no more, than opened the temple door

out of mere curiosity; had only peeped into the sanctuary never to set

his foot therein again. What then?"

 

"Then," he answered, "you would have only this short minute to record

in your future self-consciousness and no more. Our life hereafter

records and repeats but the impressions and feelings we have had in

our spiritual experiences and nothing else. Thus, if instead of

reverence at the moment of entering the abode of Spirit, you had been

harbouring in your heart anger, jealousy or grief, then your future

spiritual life would be a sad one, in truth. There would be nothing to

record, save the opening of a door, in a fit of bad temper."

 

"How then could it be repeated?"--I insisted, highly amused. "What do

you suppose I would be doing before incarnating again?"

 

"In that case," he said speaking slowly and weighing every word--"in

that case, you would have I fear, only to open and shut the temple

door, over and over again, during a period which, however short, would

seem to you an eternity."

 

This kind of after-death occupation appeared to me, at that time, so

grotesque in its sublime absurdity, that I was seized with an almost

inextinguishable fit of laughter.

 

My venerable friend looked considerably dismayed at such a result of

his metaphysical instruction. He had evidently not expected such

hilarity. However, he said nothing, but only sighed and gazed at me

with increased benevolence and pity shining in his small black eyes.

 

"Pray excuse my laughter," I apologized. "But really, now, you cannot

seriously mean to tell me that the 'spiritual state' you advocate and

so firmly believe in, consists only in aping certain things we do in

life?"

 

"Nay, nay; not aping, but only intensifying their repetition; filling

the gaps that were unjustly left unfilled during life in the fruition

of our acts and deeds, and of everything performed on the spiritual

plane of the one real state. What I said was an illustration, and no

doubt for you, who seem entirely ignorant of the mysteries of Soul-

Vision, not a very intelligible one. It is myself who am to be

blamed.....What I sought to impress upon you was that, as the

spiritual state of our consciousness liberated from its body is but

the fruition of every spiritual act performed during life, where an

act had been barren, there could be no results expected--save the

repetition of that act itself. This is all. I pray you may be spared

such fruitless deeds and finally made to see certain truths." And

passing through the usual Japanese courtesies of taking leave the

excellent man departed.

 

Alas, alas! had I but known at the time what I have learnt since, how

little would I have laughed, and how much more would I have learned!

 

But as the matter stood, the more personal affection and respect I

felt for him, the less could I become reconciled to his wild ideas

about an after-life, and especially as to the acquisition by some men

of supernatural powers. I felt particularly disgusted with his

reverence for the Yamabooshi, the allies of every Buddhist sect in the

land. Their claims to the "miraculous" were simply odious to my

notions. To hear every Jap I knew at Kioto, even to my own partner,

the shrewdest of all the business men I had come across in the East--

mentioning these followers of Lao-tze with downcast eyes,

reverentially folded hands, and affirmations of their possessing

"great" and "wonderful" gifts, was more than I was prepared to

patiently tolerate in those days. And who were they, after all, these

great magicians with their ridiculous pretensions to super-mundane

knowledge; these "holy beggars" who, as I then thought, purposely

dwell in the recesses of unfrequented mountains and an unapproachable

craggy steeps, so as the better to afford no chance to curious

intruders of finding them out and watching them in their own dens?

Simply, impudent fortune-tellers, Japanese gypsies who sell charms and

talismans, and no better. In answer to those who sought to assure me

that though the Yamabooshi lead a mysterious life, admitting none of

the profane to their secrets, they still do accept pupils, however

difficult it is for one to become their disciple, and that thus they

have living witnesses to the great purity and sanctity of their lives,

in answer to such affirmations I opposed the strongest negation and

stood firmly by it. I insulted both masters and pupils, classing them

under the same category of fools, when not knaves, and I went so far

as to include in this number the Sintos. Now Sintoism or Sin-Syu,

"faith in the Gods, and in the way to the Gods," that is, belief in

the communication between these creatures and men, is a kind of

worship of nature-spirits, than which nothing can be more miserably

absurd. And by placing the Sintos among the fools and knaves of other

sects, I gained many enemies. For the Sinto Kanusi (spiritual

teachers) are looked upon as the highest in the upper classes of

Society, the Mikado himself being at the head of their hierarchy and

the members of the sect belonging to the most cultured and educated

men in Japan. These Kanusi of the Sinto form no caste or class apart,

nor do they pass any ordination--at any rate none known to outsiders.

And as they claim publicly no special privilege or powers, even their

dress being in no wise different from that of the laity, but are

simply in the world's opinion professors and students of occult and

spiritual sciences, I very often came in contact with them without in

the least suspecting that I was in the presence of such personages.

 

II--THE MYSTERIOUS VISITOR

 

Years passed; and as time went by, my ineradicable scepticism grew

stronger and waxed fiercer every day. I have already mentioned an

elder and much-beloved sister, my only surviving relative. She had

married and had lately gone to live at Nuremberg. I regarded her with

feelings more filial than fraternal, and her children were as dear to

me as might have been my own. At the time of the great catastrophe

that in the course of a few days had made my father lose his large

fortune, and my mother break her heart, she it was, that sweet big

sister of mine, who had made herself of her own accord the guardian

angel of our ruined family. Out of her great love for me, her younger

brother, for whom she attempted to replace the professors that could

no longer be afforded, she had renounced her own happiness. She

sacrificed herself and the man she loved, by indefinitely postponing

their marriage, in order to help our father and chiefly myself by her

undivided devotion. And, oh, how I loved and reverenced her, time but

strengthening this earliest family affection! They who maintain that

no atheist, as such, can be a true friend, an affectionate relative,

or a loyal subject, utter--whether consciously or unconsciously--the

greatest calumny and lie. To say that a materialist grows hard-hearted

as he grows older, that he cannot love as a believer does, is simply

the greatest fallacy.

 

There may be such exceptional cases, it is true, but these are found

only occasionally in men who are even more selfish than they are

sceptical, or vulgarly worldly. But when a man who is kindly disposed

in his nature, for no selfish motives but because of reason and love

of truth, becomes what is called atheistical, he is only strengthened

in his family affections, and in his sympathies with his fellow men.

All his emotions, all the ardent aspirations towards the unseen and

unreachable, all the love which he would otherwise have uselessly

bestowed on a supposititional heaven and its God, become now centred

with tenfold force upon his loved ones and mankind. Indeed, the

atheist's heart alone---

 

...can know.

 

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

 

It was such holy fraternal love that led me also to sacrifice my

comfort and personal welfare to secure her happiness, the felicity of

her who had been more than a mother to me. I was a mere youth when I

left home for Hamburg. There, working with all the desperate

earnestness of a man who has but one noble object in view--to relieve

suffering, and help those whom he loves--I very soon secured the

confidence of my employers, who raised me in consequence to the high

post of trust I always enjoyed. My first real pleasure and reward in

life was to see my sister married to the man she had sacrificed for my

sake, and to help them in their struggle for existence.

 

So purifying and unselfish was this affection of mine for her that,

when it came to be shared among her children, instead of losing in

intensity by such division, it seemed to only grow the stronger. Born

with the potentiality of the warmest family affection in me, the

devotion for my sister was so great, that the thought of burning that

sacred fire of love before any idol, save that of herself and family,

never entered my head. This was the only, church I recognized, the

only church wherein I worshipped at the altar of holy family

affection. In fact this large family of eleven persons, including her

husband, was the only tie that attached me to Europe. Twice, during a

period of nine years, had I crossed the ocean with the sole object of

seeing and pressing these dear ones to my heart. I had no other

business in the West; and having performed this pleasant duty, I

returned each time to Japan to work and toil for them. For their sake

I remained a bachelor, that the wealth I might acquire should go

undivided to them alone.

 

We had always corresponded as regularly as the long transit of the

then very irregular service of the mail-boats would permit. But

suddenly there came a break in my letters from home. For nearly a year

I received no intelligence; and day by day, I became more restless,

more apprehensive of some great misfortune. Vainly I looked for a

letter, a simple message; and my efforts to account for so unusual a

silence were fruitless.

 

"Friend," said to me one day Tamoora Hideyeri, my only confidant,

"Friend, consult a holy Yamabooshi--and you will feel at rest."

 

Of course the offer was rejected with as much moderation as I could

command under the provocation. But, as steamer after steamer came in

without a word of news, I felt a despair which daily increased in

depth and fixity. This finally degenerated into an irrepressible

craving, a morbid desire to learn--the worst, as I then thought. I

struggled hard with the feeling, but it had the best of me. Only a few

months before a complete master of myself--I now became an abject

slave to fear. A fatalist of the school of D'Holbach, I, who had

always regarded belief in the system of necessity as being the only

promoter of philosophical happiness, and as having the most

advantageous influence over human weaknesses, I felt a craving for

something akin to fortune-telling! I had gone so far as to forget the

first principle of my doctrine--the only one calculated to calm our

sorrows, to inspire us with a useful submission, namely a rational

resignation to the decrees of blind destiny, with which foolish

sensibility causes us so often to be overwhelmed--the doctrine that

all is necessary. Yes; forgetting this, I was drawn into a shameful,

superstitious longing, a stupid, disgraceful desire to learn--if not

futurity, at any rate that which was taking place at the other side of

the globe. My conduct seemed utterly modified, my temperament and

aspirations wholly changed; and like a weak, nervous girl, I caught

myself straining my mind to the very verge of lunacy in an attempt to

look--as I had been told one could sometimes do--beyond the oceans,

and learn, at last, the real cause of this long, inexplicable silence!

 

One evening, at sunset, my old friend, the venerable Bonze, Tamoora,

appeared on the verandah of my low wooden house. I had not visited him

for many days, and he had come to know how I was. I took the

opportunity to once more sneer at one, whom, in reality, I regarded

with most affectionate respect. With equivocal taste for which I

repented almost before the words had been pronounced--I enquired of

him why he had taken the trouble to walk all that distance when he

might have learned anything he liked about me by simply interrogating

a Yamabooshi? He seemed a little hurt, at first; but after keenly

scrutinizing my dejected face, he mildly remarked that he could only

insist upon what he had advised before. Only one of that holy order

could give me consolation in my present state.

 

From that instant, an insane desire possessed me to challenge him to

prove his assertions. I defied--I said to him--any and every one of

his alleged magicians to tell me the name of the person I was thinking

of, and what he was doing at that moment. He quietly answered that my

desire could be easily satisfied. There was a Yamabooshi two doors

from me, visiting a sick Sinto. He would fetch him--if I only said the

word.

 

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

 

How shall I find words to describe the scene that followed! Twenty

minutes after the desire had been so incautiously expressed, an old

Japanese, uncommonly tall and majestic for one of that race, pale,

thin and emaciated, was standing before me. There, where I had

expected to find servile obsequiousness, I only discerned an air of

calm and dignified composure, the attitude of one who knows his moral

superiority, and therefore scorns to notice the mistakes of those who

fail to recognize it. To the somewhat irreverent and mocking

questions, which I put to him one after another, with feverish

eagerness, he made no reply; but gazed on me in silence as a physician

would look at a delirious patient. From the moment he fixed--his eyes

on mine, I felt--or shall I say, saw--as though it were a sharp ray of

light, a thin silvery thread, shoot out from the intensely black and

narrow eyes so deeply sunk in the yellow old face. It seemed to

penetrate into my brain and heart like an arrow, and set to work to

dig out, there from every thought and feeling. Yes; I both saw and

felt it, and very soon the double sensation became intolerable.

 

To break the spell I defied him to tell me what he had found in my

thoughts. Calmly came the correct answer--Extreme anxiety for a female

relative, her husband and children, who were inhabiting a house the

correct description of which he gave as though he knew it as well as

myself. I turned a suspicious eye upon my friend, the Bonze, to whose

indiscretions, I thought, I was indebted for the quick reply.

Remembering however that Tamoora could know nothing of the appearance

of my sister's house, that the Japanese are proverbially truthful and,

as friends, faithful to death--I felt ashamed of my suspicion. To

atone for it before my own conscience I asked the hermit whether he

could tell me anything of the present state of that beloved sister of

mine. The foreigner--was the reply--would never believe in the words,

or trust to the knowledge of any person but himself. Were the

Yamabooshi to tell him, the impression would wear out hardly a few

hours later, and the inquirer find himself as miserable as before.

There was but one means; and that was to make the foreigner (myself)

see with his own eyes, and thus learn the truth for himself. Was the

enquirer ready to be placed by a Yamabooshi, a stranger to him, in the

required state?

 

I had heard in Europe of mesmerized somnambules and pretenders to

clairvoyance, and having no faith in them, I had, therefore, nothing

against the process itself. Even in the midst of my never-ceasing

mental agony, I could not help smiling at the ridiculous nature of the

operation I was willingly submitting to. Nevertheless I silently bowed

consent.

 

III--PSYCHIC MAGIC

 

The old Yamabooshi lost no time. He looked at the setting sun, and

finding, probably, the Lord Ten-Dzio-Dai-Dzio (the Spirit who darts

his Rays) propitious for the coming ceremony, he speedily drew out a

little bundle. It contained a small lacquered box, a piece of

vegetable paper, made from the bark of the mulberry tree, and a pen,

with which he traced upon the paper a few sentences in the Naiden

character--a peculiar style of written language used only for

religious and mystical purposes. Having finished, he exhibited from

under his clothes a small round mirror of steel of extraordinary

brilliancy, and placing it before my eyes asked me to look into it.

 

I had not only heard before of these mirrors, which are frequently

used in the temples, but I had often seen them. It is claimed that

under the direction and will of instructed priests, there appear in

them the Daij-Dzin, the great spirits who notify the enquiring

devotees of their fate. I first imagined that his intention was to

evoke such a spirit, who would answer my queries. What happened,

however, was something of quite a different character.

 

No sooner had I, not without a last pang of mental squeamishness,

produced by a deep sense of my own absurd position, touched the

mirror, than I suddenly felt a strange sensation in the arm of the

hand that held it. For a brief moment I forgot to "sit in the seat of

the scorner" and failed to look at the matter from a ludicrous point

of view. Was it fear that suddenly clutched my brain, for an instant

paralyzing its activity---

 

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

 

what it is death to hear?

 

No; for I still had consciousness enough left to go on persuading

myself that nothing would come out of an experiment, in the nature of

which no sane man could ever believe. What was it then, that crept

across my brain like a living thing of ice, producing therein a

sensation of horror, and then clutched at my heart as if a deadly

serpent had fastened its fangs into it? With a convulsive jerk of the

hand I dropped the--I blush to write the adjective--"magic" mirror,

and could not force myself to pick it up from the settee on which I

was reclining. For one short moment there was a terrible struggle

between some undefined, and to me utterly inexplicable, longing to

look into the depths of the polished surface of the mirror and my

pride, the ferocity of which nothing seemed capable of taming. It was

finally so tamed, however, its revolt being conquered by its own

defiant intensity. There was an opened novel lying on a lacquer table

near the settee, and as my eyes happened to fall upon its pages, I

read the words, "The veil which covers futurity is woven by the hand

of mercy." This was enough. That same pride which had hitherto held me

back from what I regarded as a degrading, superstitious experiment,

caused me to challenge my fate. I picked up the ominously shining disk

and prepared to look into it.

 

While I was examining the mirror, the Yamabooshi hastily spoke a few

words to the Bonze, Tamoora, at which I threw a furtive and suspicious

glance at both. I was wrong once more.

 

"The holy man desires me to put you a question and give you at the

same time a warning," remarked the Bonze. "If you are willing to see

for yourself now, you will have--under the penalty of seeing for ever,

in the hereafter, all that is taking place, at whatever distance, and

that against your will or inclination--to submit to a regular course

of purification, after you have learnt what you want through the

mirror."

 

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

 

"It is for your own good. You must promise him to submit to the

process, lest, for the rest of his life, he should have to hold

himself responsible, before his own conscience, for having made an

irresponsible seer of you. Will you do so, friend?"

 

"There will be time enough to think of it, if I see anything"--I

sneeringly replied, adding under my breath--"something I doubt a good

deal, so far."

 

"Well you are warned, friend. The consequences will now remain with

yourself," was the solemn answer.

 

I glanced at the clock, and made a gesture of impatience, which was

remarked and understood by the Yamabooshi. It was just seven minutes

after five.

 

"Define well in your mind what you would see and learn," said the

"conjuror," placing the mirror and paper in my hands, and instructing

me how to use them.

 

His instructions were received by me with more impatience than

gratitude; and for one short instant, I hesitated again. Nevertheless,

I replied, while fixing the mirror.

 

"I desire but one thing--to learn the reason or reasons why my sister

has so suddenly ceased writing to me.". . .

 

Had I pronounced these words in reality, and in the hearing of the two

witnesses, or had I only thought them? To this day I cannot decide the

point. I now remember but one thing distinctly: while I sat gazing in

the mirror, the Yamabooshi kept gazing at me. But whether this process

lasted half a second or three hours, I have never since been able to

settle in my mind with any degree of satisfaction. I can recall every

detail of the scene up to that moment when I took up the mirror with

the left hand, holding the paper inscribed with the mystic characters

between the thumb and finger of the right, when all of a sudden I

seemed to quite lose consciousness of the surrounding objects. The

passage from the active waking state to one that I could compare with

nothing I had ever experienced before, was so rapid, that while my

eyes had ceased to perceive external objects and had completely lost

sight of the Bonze, the Yamabooshi, and even of my room, I could

nevertheless distinctly see the whole of my head and my back, as I sat

leaning forward with the mirror in my hand. Then came a strong

sensation or an involuntary rush forward, of snapping off, so to say,

from my place--I had almost said from my body. And, then, while every

one of my other senses had become totally paralyzed, my eyes, as I

thought, unexpectedly caught a clearer and far more vivid glimpse than

they had ever had in reality, of my sister's new house at Nuremberg,

which I had never visited and knew only from a sketch, and other

scenery with which I had never been very familiar. Together with this,

and while feeling in my brain what seemed like flashes of a departing

consciousness--dying persons must feel so, no doubt--the very last,

vague thought, so weak as to have been hardly perceptible, was that I

must look very, very ridiculous...This feeling--for such it was rather

than a thought--was interrupted, suddenly extinguished, so to say, by

a clear mental vision (I cannot characterize it otherwise) of myself,

of that which I regarded as, and knew to be my body, lying with ashy

cheeks on a settee, dead to all intents and purposes, but still

staring with the cold and glassy eyes of a corpse into the mirror.

Bending over it, with his two emaciated hands cutting the air in every

direction over its white face, stood the tall figure of the

Yamabooshi, for whom I felt at that instant an inextinguishable,

murderous hatred. As I was going, in thought, to pounce upon the vile

charlatan, my corpse, the two old men, the room itself, and every

object in it, trembled and danced in a reddish glowing light, and

seemed to float rapidly away from "me." A few more grotesque,

distorted shadows before "my" sight; and, with a last feeling of

terror and a supreme effort to realize who then was I now, since I was

not that corpse--a great veil of darkness fell over me, like a funeral

pall, and every thought in me was dead.

 

IV--A VISION OF HORROR

 

How strange! ... Where was I now? It was evident to me that I had once

more returned to my senses. For there I was, vividly realizing that I

was rapidly moving forward, while experiencing a queer, strange

sensation as though I were swimming, without impulse or effort on my

part, and in total darkness. The idea that first presented itself to

me was that of a long subterranean passage of water, of earth, and

stifling air, though bodily I had no perception, no sensation, of the

presence or contact of any of these. I tried to utter a few words, to

repeat my last sentence, "I desire but one thing: to learn the reason

or reasons why my sister has so suddenly ceased writing to me"--but

the only words I heard out of the twenty-one, were the two, "to

learn," and these, instead of their coming out of my own larynx, came

back to me in my own voice, but entirely outside myself, near, but not

in me. In short, they were pronounced by my voice, not by my lips...

 

One more rapid, involuntary motion, one more plunge into the Cymmerian

darkness of a (to me) unknown element, and I saw myself standing--

actually standing underground, as it seemed. I was compactly and

thickly surrounded on all sides, above and below, right and left, with

earth, and in the mould, and yet it weighed not, and seemed quite

immaterial and transparent to my senses. I did not realize for one

second the utter absurdity, nay, impossibility of that seeming fact!

One second more, one short instant, and I perceived--oh, inexpressible

horror, when I think of it now; for then, although I perceived,

realized, and recorded facts and events far more clearly than ever I

had done before, I did not seem to be touched in any other way by what

I saw. Yes--I perceived a coffin at my feet. It was a plain,

unpretentious shell, made of deal, the last couch of the pauper, in

which, notwithstanding its closed lid, I plainly saw a hideous,

grinning skull, a man's skeleton, mutilated and broken in many of its

parts, as though it had been taken out of some hidden chamber of the

defunct Inquisition, where it had been subjected to torture. "Who can

it be?"--I thought.

 

At this moment I heard again proceeding from afar the same voice--my

voice... "the reason or reasons why" ... it said; as though these

words were the unbroken continuation of the same sentence of which it

had just repeated the two words "to learn." It sounded near, and yet

as from some incalculable distance; giving me then the idea that the

long subterranean journey, the subsequent mental reflexions and

discoveries, had occupied no time; had been performed during the

short, almost instantaneous interval between the first and the middle

words of the sentence, begun, at any rate, if not actually pronounced

by myself in my room at Kioto, and which it was now finishing, in

interrupted, broken phrases, like a faithful echo of my own words and

voice...

 

Forthwith, the hideous, mangled remains began assuming a form, and, to

me, but too familiar appearance. The broken parts joined together one

to the other, the bones became covered once more with flesh, and I

recognized in these disfigured remains--with some surprise, but not a

trace of feeling at the sight--my sister's dead husband, my own

brother-in-law, whom I had for her sake loved so truly. "How was it,

and how did he come to die such a terrible death?"--I asked myself. To

put oneself a query seemed, in the state in which I was, to instantly

solve it. Hardly had I asked myself the question, when as if in a

panorama, I saw the retrospective picture of poor Karl's death, in all

its horrid vividness, and with every thrilling detail, every one of

which, however, left me then entirely and brutally indifferent. Here

he is, the dear old fellow, full of life and joy at the prospect of

more lucrative employment from his principal, examining and trying in

a wood-sawing factory a monster steam engine just arrived from

America. He bends over, to examine more closely an inner arrangement,

to tighten a screw. His clothes are caught by the teeth of the

revolving wheel in full motion, and suddenly he is dragged down,

doubled up, and his limbs half severed, torn off, before the workmen,

unacquainted with the mechanism, can stop it. He is taken out, or what

remains of him, dead, mangled, a thing of horror, an unrecognisable

mass of palpitating flesh and blood! I follow the remains, wheeled as

an unrecognizable heap to the hospital, hear the brutally given order

that the messengers of death should stop on their way at the house of

the widow and orphans. I follow them, and find the unconscious family

quietly assembled together. I see my sister, the dear and beloved, and

remain indifferent at the sight, only feeling highly interested in the

coming scene. My heart, my feelings, even my personality, seem to have

disappeared, to have been left behind, to belong to somebody else.

 

There "I" stand, and witness her unprepared reception of the ghastly

news. I realize clearly, without one moment's hesitation or mistake,

the effect of the shock upon her, I perceive clearly, following and

recording, to the minutest detail, her sensations and the inner

process that takes place in her. I watch and remember, missing not one

single point.

 

As the corpse is brought into the house for identification I hear the

long agonizing cry, my own name pronounced, and the dull thud of the

living body falling upon the remains of the dead one. I followed with

curiosity the sudden thrill and the instantaneous perturbation in her

brain that follow it, and watch with attention the worm-like,

precipitate, and immensely intensified motion of the tubular fibres,

the instantaneous change of colour in the cephalic extremity of the

nervous system, the fibrous nervous matter passing from white to

bright red and then to a dark red, bluish hue. I notice the sudden

flash of a phosphorous-like, brilliant Radiance, its tremor and its

sudden extinction followed by darkness--complete darkness in the

region of memory--as the Radiance, comparable in its form only to a

human shape, oozes out suddenly from the top of the head, expands,

loses its form and scatters. And I say to myself: "This is insanity;

life-long, incurable insanity, for the principle of intelligence is

not paralyzed or extinguished temporarily, but has just deserted the

tabernacle for ever, ejected from it by the terrible force of the

sudden blow ... The link between the animal and the divine essence is

broken" ... And as the unfamiliar term "divine" is mentally uttered my

"THOUGHT"--laughs.

 

Suddenly I hear again my far-off yet near voice pronouncing

emphatically and close by me the words... "why my sister has so

suddenly ceased writing"... And before the two final words "to me"

have completed the sentence, I see a long series of sad events,

immediately following the catastrophe.

 

I behold the mother, now a helpless, grovelling idiot, in the lunatic

asylum attached to the city hospital, the seven younger children

admitted into a refuge for paupers. Finally I see the two elder, a boy

of fifteen and a girl a year younger, my favourites, both taken by

strangers into their service. A captain of a sailing vessel carries

away my nephew, an old Jewess adopts the tender girl. I see the events

with all their horrors and thrilling details, and record each, to the

smallest detail, with the utmost coolness.

 

For, mark well: when I use such expressions as horrors etc., they are

to be understood as an afterthought. During the whole time of the

events described I experienced no sensation of either pain or pity. My

feelings seemed to be paralyzed as well as my external senses; it was

only after "coming back" that I realized my irretrievable losses to

their full extent.

 

Much of that which I had so vehemently denied in those days, owing to

sad personal experience I have to admit now. Had I been told by any

one at that time, that man could act and think and feel, irrespective

of his brain and senses; nay, that by some mysterious, and to this

day, for me, incomprehensible power, he could be transported mentally,

thousands of miles away from his body, there to witness not only

present but also past events, and remember these by storing them in

his memory--I would have proclaimed that man as a madman. Alas, I can

do so no longer, for I have become myself that "madman." Ten, twenty,

forty, a hundred times during the course of this wretched life of

mine, have I experienced and lived over such moments of existence,

outside of my body. Accursed be that hour when this terrible power was

first awakened in me! I have not even the consolation left of

attributing such glimpses of events at a distance to insanity. Madmen

rave and see that which exists not in the realm they belong to. My

visions have proved invariably correct. But to my narrative of woe.

 

I had hardly had time to see my unfortunate young niece in her new

Israelitish home, when I felt a shock of the same nature as the one

that had sent me "swimming" through the bowels of the earth, as I had

thought. I opened my eyes in my own room, and the first thing I fixed

upon, by accident, was the clock. The hands of the dial showed seven

minutes and a half past five!... I had thus passed through these most

terrible experiences which it takes me hours to narrate, in precisely

half a minute of time!

 

But this, too, was an afterthought. For one brief instant I

recollected nothing of what I had seen. The interval between the time

I had glanced at the clock when taking the mirror from the

Yamabooshi's hand and this second glance, seemed to me merged in one.

I was just opening my lips to hurry on the Yamabooshi with his

experiment, when the full remembrance of what I had just seen flashed

lightning--like into my brain. Uttering a cry of horror and despair, I

felt as though the whole creation were crushing me under its weight.

For one moment I remained speechless, the picture of human ruin amid a

world of death and desolation. My heart sank down in anguish: my doom

was closed; and a hopeless gloom seemed to settle over the rest of my

life for ever.

 

V--RETURN OF DOUBTS

 

Then came a reaction as sudden as my grief itself. A doubt arose in my

mind, which forthwith grew into a fierce desire of denying the truth

of what I had seen. A stubborn resolution of treating the whole thing

as an empty, meaningless dream, the effect of my overstrained mind,

took possession of me. Yes; it was but a lying vision, an idiotic

cheating of my own senses, suggesting pictures of death and misery

which had been evoked by weeks of incertitude and mental depression.

 

"How could I see all that I have seen in less than half a minute?"--I

exclaimed. "The theory of dreams, the rapidity with which the material

changes on which our ideas in vision depend, are excited in the

hemispherical ganglia, is sufficient to account for the long series of

events I have seemed to experience. In dream alone can the relations

of space and time be so completely annihilated. The Yamabooshi is for

nothing in this disagreeable nightmare. He is only reaping that which

has been sown by myself, and, by using some infernal drug, of which

his tribe have the secret, he has contrived to make me lose

consciousness for a few seconds and see that vision--as lying as it is

horrid. Avaunt all such thoughts, I believe them not. In a few days

there will be a steamer sailing for Europe ... I shall leave to-

morrow!"

 

This disjointed monologue was pronounced by me aloud, regardless of

the presence of my respected friend the Bonze, Tamoora, and the

Yamabooshi. The latter was standing before me in the same position as

when he placed the mirror in my hands, and kept looking at me calmly,

I should perhaps say looking through me, and in dignified silence. The

Bonze, whose kind countenance was beaming with sympathy, approached me

as he would a sick child, and gently laying his hand on mine, and with

tears in his eyes, said: "Friend, you must not leave this city before

you have been completely purified of your contact with the lower Daij-

Dzins (spirits), who had to be used to guide your inexperienced soul

to the places it craved to see. The entrance to your Inner Self must

be closed against their dangerous intrusion. Lose no time, therefore,

my Son, and allow the holy Master, yonder, to purify you at once."

 

But nothing can be more deaf than anger once aroused. "The sap of

reason" could no longer "quench the fire of passion," and at that

moment I was not fit to listen to his friendly voice. His is a face I

can never recall to my memory without genuine feeling; his, a name I

will ever pronounce with a sigh of emotion; but at that ever memorable

hour when my passions were inflamed to white heat, I felt almost a

hatred for the kind, good old man, I could not forgive him his

interference in the present event. Hence, for all answer, therefore,

he received from me a stern rebuke, a violent protest on my part

against the idea that I could ever regard the vision I had had, in any

other light save that of an empty dream, and his Yamabooshi as

anything better than an imposter. "I will leave to-morrow, had I to

forfeit my whole fortune as a penalty"--I exclaimed, pale with rage

and despair.

 

"You will repent it the whole of your life, if you do so before the

holy man has shut every entrance in you against intruders ever on the

watch and ready to enter the open door," was the answer. "The Daij-

Dzins will have the best of you."

 

I interrupted him with a brutal laugh, and a still more brutally

phrased enquiry about the fees I was expected to give the Yamabooshi,

for his experiment with me.

 

"He needs no reward," was the reply. "The order he belongs to is the

richest in the world, since its adherents need nothing, for they are

above all terrestrial and venal desires. Insult him not, the good man

who came to help you out of pure sympathy for your suffering, and to

relieve you of mental agony."

 

But I would listen to no words of reason and wisdom. The spirit of

rebellion and pride had taken possession of me, and made me disregard

every feeling of personal friendship, or even of simple propriety.

Luckily for me, on turning round to order the medican monk out of my

presence, I found he had gone.

 

I had not seen him move, and attributed his stealthy departure to fear

at having been detected and understood.

 

Fool! blind, conceited idiot that I was! Why did I fail to recognize

the Yamabooshi's power, and that the peace of my whole life was

departing with him, from that moment for ever? But I did so fail. Even

the fell demon of my long fears--uncertainty--was now entirely

overpowered by that fiend scepticism--the silliest of all. A dull,

morbid unbelief, a stubborn denial of the evidence of my own senses,

and a determined will to regard the whole vision as a fancy of my

overwrought mind, had taken firm hold of me.

 

"My mind," I argued, "what is it? Shall I believe with the

superstitious and the weak that this production of phosphorus and grey

matter is indeed the superior part of me; that it can act and see

independently of my physical senses? Never! As well believe in the

planetary 'intelligences' of the astrologer, as in the 'Daij-Dzins' of

my credulous though well-meaning friend, the priest. As well confess

one's belief in Jupiter and Sol, Saturn and Mercury, and that these

worthies guide their spheres and concern themselves with mortals, as

to give one serious thought to the airy nonentities supposed to have

guided my 'soul' in its unpleasant dream! I loathe and laugh at the

absurd idea. I regard it as a personal insult to the intellect and

rational reasoning powers of a man, to speak of invisible creatures,

'subjective intelligences,' and all that kind of insane superstition."

In short, I begged my friend the Bonze to spare me his protests, and

thus the unpleasantness of breaking with him for ever.

 

Thus I raved and argued before the venerable Japanese gentleman, doing

all in my power to leave on his mind the indelible conviction of my

having gone suddenly mad. But his admirable forbearance proved more

than equal to my idiotic passion; and he implored me once more, for

the sake of my whole future, to submit to certain "necessary

purificatory rites."

 

"Never! Far rather dwell in air, rarified to nothing by the air-pump

or wholesome unbelief, than in the dim fog of silly superstition," I

argued, paraphrazing Richter's remark. "I will not believe," I

repeated; "but as I can no longer bear such uncertainty about my

sister and her family, I will return by the first steamer to Europe."

 

This final determination upset my old acquaintance altogether. His

earnest prayer not to depart before I had seen the Yamabooshi once

more, received no attention from me.

 

"Friend of a foreign land!"--he cried, "I pray that you may not repent

of your unbelief and rashness. May the 'Holy One' [Kwan-On, the

Goddess of Mercy] protect you from the Dzins! For, since you refuse to

submit to the process of purification at the hands of the holy

Yamabooshi, he is powerless to defend you from the evil influences

evoked by your unbelief and defiance of truth. But let me, at this

parting hour, I beseach you, let me, an older man who wishes you well,

warn you once more and persuade you of things you are still ignorant

of. May I speak?"

 

"Go on and have your say," was the ungracious assent. "But let me warn

you, in my turn, that nothing you can say can make of me a believer in

your disgraceful superstitions." This was added with a cruel feeling

of pleasure in bestowing one more needless insult.

 

But the excellent man disregarded this new sneer as he had all others.

Never shall I forget the solemn earnestness of his parting words, the

pitying, remorseful look on his face when he found that it was,

indeed, all to no purpose, that by his kindly meant interference he

had only led me to my destruction.

 

"Lend me your ear, good sir, for the last time," he began, "learn that

unless the holy and venerable man; who, to relieve your distress,

opened your 'soul vision,' is permitted to complete his work, your

future life will, indeed, be little worth living. He has to safeguard

you against involuntary repetitions of visions of the same character.

Unless you consent to it of your own free will, however, you will have

to be left in the power of Forces which will harass and persecute you

to the verge of insanity. Know that the development of 'Long Vision'

[clairvoyance]--which is accomplished at will only by those for whom

the Mother of Mercy, the great Kwan-On, has no secrets--must, in the

case of the beginner, be pursued with help of the air Dzins (elemental

spirits) whose nature is soulless, and hence wicked. Know also that,

while the Arihat, 'the destroyer of the enemy,' who has subjected and

made of these creatures his servants, has nothing to fear; he who has

no power over them becomes their slave. Nay, laugh not in your great

pride and ignorance, but listen further. During the time of the vision

and while the inner perceptions are directed toward the events they

seek, the Daij-Dzin has the seer--when, like yourself, he is an

inexperienced tyro--entirely in its power; and for the time being that

seer is no longer himself. He partakes of the nature of his 'guide.'

The Dali-Dzin, which directs his inner sight, keeps his soul in

durance vile, making of him, while the state lasts, a creature like

itself. Bereft of his divine light, man is but a soulless being; hence

during the time of such connection, he will feel no human emotions,

neither pity nor fear, love nor mercy."

 

"Hold!" I involuntarily exclaimed, as the words vividly brought back

to my recollections the indifference with which I had witnessed my

sister's despair and sudden loss of reason in my "hallucination,"

"Hold!...But no; it is still worse madness in me to heed or find any

sense in your ridiculous tale! But if you knew it to be so dangerous

why have advised the experiment at all?"--I added mockingly.

 

"It had to last but a few seconds, and no evil could have resulted

from it, had you kept your promise to submit to purification," was the

sad and humble reply. "I wished you well, my friend, and my heart was

nigh breaking to see you suffering day by day. The experiment is

harmless enough when directed by one who knows, and becomes dangerous

only when the final precaution is neglected. It is the 'Master of

Visions,' he who has opened an entrance into your soul, who has to

close it by using the Seal of Purification against any further and

deliberate ingress of..."

 

"The 'Master of Visions' forsooth!" I cried, brutally interrupting

him, "say rather the Master of Imposture!"

 

The look of sorrow on his kind old face was so intense and painful to

behold that I perceived I had gone too far; but it was too late.

 

"Farewell, then!" said the old Bonze, rising; and after performing the

usual ceremonials of politeness, Tamoora left the house in dignified

silence.

 

VI--I DEPART--BUT NOT ALONE

 

Several days later I sailed, but during my stay I saw my venerable

friend, the Bonze, no more. Evidently on that last, and to me for ever

memorable evening, he had been seriously offended with my more than

irreverent, my downright insulting remark about one whom he so justly

respected. I felt sorry for him, but the wheel of passion and pride

was too incessantly at work to permit me to feel a single moment of

remorse. What was it that made me so relish the pleasure of wrath,

that when, for one instant, I happened to lose sight of my supposed

grievance toward the Yamabooshi, I forthwith lashed myself back into a

kind of artificial fury against him. He had only accomplished what he

had been expected to do, and what he had tacitly promised; not only

so, but it was I myself who had deprived him of the possibility of

doing more, even for my own protection if I might believe the Bonze--a

man whom I knew to be thoroughly honourable and reliable. Was it

regret at having been forced by my pride to refuse the proffered

precaution, or was it the fear of remorse that made me rake together,

in my heart, during those evil hours, the smallest details of the

supposed insult to that same suicidal pride? Remorse, as an old poet

has aptly remarked, "is like the heart in which it grows: ...

 

"...if proud and gloomy.

 

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

 

Weeps only tears of blood"...

 

Perchance, it was the indefinite fear of something of that sort which

caused me to remain so obdurate, and led me to excuse, under the plea

of terrible provocation, even the unprovoked insults that I had heaped

upon the head of my kind and all-forgiving friend, the priest.

However, it was now too late in the day to recall the words of offence

I had uttered; and all I could do was to promise myself the

satisfaction of writing him a friendly letter, as soon as I reached

home. Fool, blind fool, elated with insolent self-conceit, that I was!

So sure did I feel, that my vision was due merely to some trick of the

Yamabooshi, that I actually gloated over my coming triumph in writing

to the Bonze that I had been right in answering his sad words of

parting with an incredulous smile, as my sister and family were all in

good health--happy!

 

I had not been at sea for a week, before I had cause to remember his

words of warning!

 

From the day of my experience with the magic mirror, I perceived a

great change in my whole state, and I attributed it, at first, to the

mental depression I had struggled against for so many months. During

the day I very often found myself absent from the surroundings scenes,

losing sight for several minutes of things and persons. My nights were

disturbed, my dreams oppressive, and at times horrible. Good sailor I

certainly was; and besides, the weather was unusually fine, the ocean

as smooth as a pond. Notwithstanding this, I often felt a strange

giddiness, and the familiar faces of my fellow-passengers assumed at

such times the most grotesque appearances. Thus, a young German I used

to know well was once suddenly transformed before my eyes into his old

father, whom we had laid in the little burial place of the European

colony some three years before. We were talking on deck of the defunct

and of a certain business arrangement of his, when Max Grunner's head

appeared to me as though it were covered with a strange film. A thick

greyish mist surrounded him, and gradually condensing around and upon

his healthy countenance, settled suddenly into the grim old head I had

myself seen covered with six feet of soil. On another occasion, as the

captain was talking of a Malay thief whom he had helped to secure and

lodge in goal, I saw near him the yellow, villainous face of a man

answering to his description. I kept silence about such

hallucinations; but as they became more and more frequent, I felt very

much disturbed, though still attributing them to natural causes, such

as I had read about in medical books.

 

One night I was abruptly awakened by a long and loud cry of distress.

It was a woman's voice, plaintive like that of a child, full of terror

and of helpless despair. I awoke with a start to find myself on land,

in a strange room. A young girl, almost a child, was desperately

struggling against a powerful middle-aged man, who had surprised her

in her own room, and during her sleep. Behind the closed and locked

door, I saw listening an old woman, whose face, notwithstanding the

fiendish expression upon it, seemed familiar to me, and I immediately

recognized it: it was the face of the Jewess who had adopted my niece

in the dream I had at Kioto. She had received gold to pay for her

share in the foul crime, and was now keeping her part of the covenant

... But who was the victim? O horror unutterable! Unspeakable horror!

When I realized the situation after coming back to my normal state, I

found it was my own child-niece.

 

But, as in my first vision, I felt in me nothing of the nature of that

despair born of affection that fills one's heart, at the sight of a

wrong done to, or a misfortune befalling, those one loves; nothing but

a manly indignation in the presence of suffering inflicted upon the

weak and the helpless. I rushed, of course, to her rescue, and seized

the wanton, brutal beast by the neck. I fastened upon him with

powerful grasp, but, the man heeded it not, he seemed not even to feel

my hand. The coward, seeing himself resisted by the girl, lifted his

powerful arm and the thick fist, coming down like a heavy hammer upon

the sunny locks, felled the child to the ground. It was with a loud

cry of the indignation of a stranger, not with that of a tigress

defending her cub, that I sprang upon the lewd beast and sought to

throttle him. I then remarked, for the first time, that, a shadow

myself, I was grasping but another shadow! ...

 

My loud shrieks and imprecations had awakened the whole steamer. They

were attributed to a nightmare. I did not seek to take anyone into my

confidence; but, from that day forward, my life became a long series

of mental tortures, I could hardly shut my eyes without becoming

witness of some horrible deed, some scene of misery, death or crime,

whether past, present or even future--as I ascertained later on. It

was as though some mocking fiend had taken upon himself the task of

making me go through the vision of everything that was bestial,

malignant and hopeless, in this world of misery. No radiant vision of

beauty or virtue ever lit with the faintest ray these pictures of awe

and wretchedness that I seemed doomed to witness. Scenes of

wickedness, of murder, of treachery and of lust fell dismally upon my

sight, and I was brought face to face with the vilest results of man's

passions, the most terrible outcome of his material earthly cravings.

 

Had the Bonze foreseen, indeed, the dreary results, when he spoke of

Daij-Dzins to whom I left "an ingress" "a door open" in me? Nonsense!

There must be some physiological, abnormal change in me. Once at

Nuremberg, when I have ascertained how false was the direction taken

by my fears--I dared not hope for no misfortune at all--these

meaningless visions will disappear as they came. The very fact that my

fancy follows but one direction, that of pictures of misery, of human

passions in their worst, material shape, is a proof, to me, of their

unreality.

 

"If, as you say, man consists of one substance, matter, the object of

the physical senses; and if perception with its modes is only the

result of the organization of the brain, then should we be naturally

attracted but to the material, the earthly"...I thought I heard the

familiar voice of the Bonze interrupting my reflections, and repeating

an often used argument of his in his discussions with me.

 

"There are two planes of visions before men," I again heard him say,

"the plane of undying love and spiritual aspirations, the efflux from

the eternal light; and the plane of restless, ever changing matter,

the light in which the misguided Daij-Dzins bathe."

 

VII--ETERNITY IN A SHORT DREAM

 

In those days I could hardly bring myself to realize, even for a

moment, the absurdity of a belief in any kind of spirits, whether good

or bad. I now understood, if I did not believe, what was meant by the

term, though I still persisted in hoping that it would finally prove

some physical derangement or nervous hallucination. To fortify my

unbelief the more, I tried to bring back to my memory all the

arguments used against faith in such superstitions, that I had ever

read or heard. I recalled the biting sarcasms of Voltaire, the calm

reasoning of Hume, and I repeated to myself ad nauseam the words of

Rousseau, who said that superstition, "the disturber of Society,"

could never be too strongly attacked. "Why should the sight, the

phantasmagoria, rather"--I argued--"of that which we know in a waking

sense to be false, come to affect us at all? Why should---"

 

"Names, whose sense we see not

 

Fray us with things that be not?"

 

One day the old captain was narrating to us the various superstitions

to which sailors were addicted; a pompous English missionary remarked

that Fielding had declared long ago that "superstition renders a man a

fool,"--after which he hesitated for an instant, and abruptly stopped.

I had not taken any part in the general conversation; but no sooner

had the reverend speaker relieved himself of the quotation than I saw

in that halo of vibrating light, which I now noticed almost constantly

over every human head on the steamer, the words of Fielding's next

proposition--"and scepticism makes him mad."

 

I had heard and read of the claims of those who pretend to seership,

that they often see the thoughts of people traced in the aura of those

present. Whatever "aura" may mean with others, I had now a personal

experience of the truth of the claim, and felt sufficiently disgusted

with the discovery! I--a clairvoyant! a new horror added to my life,

an absurd and ridiculous gift developed, which I shall have to conceal

from all, feeling ashamed of it as if it were a case of leprosy. At

this moment my hatred to the Yamabooshi, and even to my venerable old

friend, the Bonze, knew no bounds. The former had evidently by his

manipulations over me while I was lying unconscious, touched some

unknown physiological spring in my brain, and by loosing it had called

forth a faculty generally hidden in the human constitution; and it was

the Japanese priest who had introduced the wretch into my house!

 

But my anger and my curses were alike useless, and could be of no

avail. Moreover, we were already in European waters, and in a few more

days we should be at Hamburg. Then would my doubts and fears be set at

rest, and I should find, to my intense relief, that although

clairvoyance, as regards the reading of human thoughts on the spot,

may have some truth in it, the discernment of such events at a

distance, as I had dreamed of, was an impossibility for human

faculties. Notwithstanding all my reasoning, however, my heart was

sick with fear, and full of the blackest presentiments; I felt that my

doom was closing. I suffered terribly, my nervous and mental

prostration becoming intensified day by day.

 

The night before we entered port I had a dream.

 

I fancied I was dead. My body lay cold and stiff in its last sleep,

whilst its dying consciousness, which still regarded itself as "I,"

realizing the event, was preparing to meet in a few seconds its own

extinction. It had been always my belief that as the brain preserved

heat longer than any of the other organs, and was the last to cease

its activity, the thought in it survived bodily death by several

minutes. Therefore, I was not in the least surprised to find in my

dream that while the frame had already crossed that awful gulf "no

mortal e'er re-passed," its consciousness was still in the gray

twilight, the first shadows of the great Mystery. Thus my THOUGHT

wrapped, as I believed, in the remnants, of its now fast retiring

vitality, was watching with intense and eager curiosity the approaches

of its own dissolution, i.e., of its annihilation. "I" was hastening

to record my last impressions, lest the dark mantle of eternal

oblivion should envelope me, before I had time to feel and enjoy, the

great, the supreme triumph of learning that my life-long convictions

were true, that death is a complete and absolute cessation of

conscious being. Everything around me was getting darker with every

moment. Huge grey shadows were moving before my vision, slowly at

first, then with accelerated motion, until they commenced whirling

around with an almost vertiginous rapidity. Then, as though that

motion had taken place for the purposes of brewing darkness, the

object once reached, it slackened its speed, and the darkness became

gradually transformed into intense blackness, it ceased altogether.

There was nothing now within my immediate perceptions, but that

fathomless black Space, as dark as pitch; to me it appeared as

limitless and as silent as the shoreless Ocean of Eternity upon which

Time, the progeny of man's brain, is for ever gliding, but which it

can never cross.

 

Dream is defined by Cato as "but the image of our hopes and fears."

Having never feared death when awake, I felt, in this dream of mine,

calm and serene at the idea of my speedy end. In truth, I felt rather

relieved at the thought--probably owing to my recent mental

suffering--that the end of all, of doubt, of fear for those I loved,

of suffering, and of every anxiety, was close at hand. The constant

anguish that had been gnawing ceaselessly at my heavy, aching heart

for many a long and weary month, had now become unbearable; and if as

Seneca thinks, death is but "the ceasing to be what we were before,"

it was better that I should die. The body is dead; "I," its

consciousness--that which is all that remains of me now, for a few

moments longer--am preparing to follow. Mental perceptions will get

weaker, more dim and hazy with every second of time, until the longed

for oblivion envelopes me completely in its cold shroud. Sweet is the

magic hand of Death, the great World-Comforter; profound and dreamless

is sleep in its unyielding arms. Yea, verily, it is a welcome guest...

A calm and peaceful haven amidst the roaring billows of the Ocean of

life, whose breakers lash in vain the rock-bound shores of Death.

Happy the lonely bark that drifts into the still waters of its black

gulf, after having been so long, so cruelly tossed about by the angry

waves of sentient life. Moored in it for evermore, needing no longer

either sail or rudder, my bark will now find rest. Welcome then, O

Death, at this tempting price; and fare thee well, poor body, which,

having neither sought it nor derived pleasure from it, I now readily

give up!

 

While uttering this death-chant to the prostrate form before me, I

bent over, and examined it with curiosity. I felt the surrounding

darkness oppressing me, weighing on me almost tangibly, and I fancied

I found in it the approach of the Liberator I was welcoming. And yet

how very strange! If real, final Death takes place in our

consciousness; if after the bodily death, "I" and my conscious

perceptions are one--how is it that these perceptions do not become

weaker, why does my brain--action seem as vigorous as ever now ...

that I am de facto dead? ... Nor does the usual feeling of anxiety,

the "heavy heart" so-called, decrease in intensity; nay, it even seems

to become worse ... unspeakably so! ... How long it takes for full

oblivion to arrive!...Ah, here's my body again!...Vanished out of

sight for a second or two, it reappears before me once more ... How

white and ghastly it looks! Yet ... its brain cannot be quite dead,

since "I," its consciousness, am still acting, since we two fancy that

we still are, that we live and think, disconnected from our creator

and its ideating cells.

 

Suddenly I felt a strong desire to see how much longer the progress of

dissolution was likely to last, before it placed its last seal on the

brain and rendered it inactive. I examined my brain in its cranial

cavity, through the (to me) entirely transparent walls and roof of the

skull, and even touched the brain-matter ... How or with whose hands,

I am now unable to say; but the impression of the slimy, intensely

cold matter produced a very strong impression on me, in that dream. To

my great dismay, I found that the blood having entirely congealed and

the brain-tissues having themselves undergone a change that would no

longer permit any molecular action, it became impossible for me to

account for the phenomena now taking place with myself. Here was I,--

or my consciousness which is all one--standing apparently entirely

disconnected from my brain which could no longer function ... But I

had no time left for reflection. A new and most extraordinary change

in my perceptions had taken place and now engrossed my whole attention

... What does this signify? ...

 

The same darkness was around me as before, a black, impenetrable

space, extending in every direction. Only now, right before me, in

whatever direction I was looking, moving with me which way soever I

moved, there was a gigantic round clock; a disc, whose large white

face shone ominously on the ebony-black background. As I looked at its

huge dial, and at the pendulum moving to and fro regularly and slowly

in Space, as if its swinging meant to divide eternity, I saw its

needles pointing to seven minutes past five. "The hour at which my

torture had commenced at Kioto!" I had barely found time to think of

the coincidence, when to my unutterable horror, I felt myself going

through the same, the identical, process that I had been made to

experience on that memorable and fatal day. I swam underground,

dashing swiftly through the earth; I found myself once more in the

pauper's grave and recognized my brother-in-law in the mangled

remains; I witnessed his terrible death; entered my sister's house;

followed her agony, and saw her go mad. I went over the same scenes

without missing a single detail of them. But, alas! I was no longer

iron-bound in the calm indifference that had then been mine, and which

in that first vision had left me as unfeeling to my great misfortune

as if I had been a heartless thing of rock. My mental tortures were

now becoming beyond description and well-nigh unbearable. Even the

settled despair, the never-ceasing anxiety I was constantly

experiencing when awake, had become now, in my dream and in the face

of this repetition of vision and events, as an hour of darkened

sunlight compared to a deadly cyclone. Oh! how I suffered in this

wealth and pomp of infernal horrors, to which the conviction of the

survival of man's consciousness after death--for in that dream I

firmly believed that my body was dead--added the most terrifying of

all!

 

The relative relief I felt, when, after going over the last scene, I

saw once more the great white face of the dial before me was not of

long duration. The long, arrow-shaped needle was pointing on the

colossal disk at--seven minutes and a half-past five o'clock. But,

before I had time to well realize the change, the needle moved slowly

backwards, stopped at precisely the seventh minute, and--O cursed

fate! ... I found myself driven into a repetition of the same series

over again! Once more I swam underground, and saw, and heard, and

suffered every torture that hell can provide; I passed through every

mental anguish known to man or fiend. I returned to see the fatal dial

and its needle--after what appeared to me an eternity--moved, as

before, only half a minute forward. I beheld it, with renewed terror,

moving back again, and felt myself propelled forward anew. And so it

went on, and on, and on, time after time, in what seemed to me an

endless succession, a series which never had any beginning, nor would

it ever have an end ...

 

Worst of all; my consciousness, my "I," had apparently acquired the

phenomenal capacity of trebling, quadruping, and even of decuplating

itself. I lived, felt and suffered, in the same space of time, in

half-a-dozen different places at once, passing over various events of

my life, at different epochs and under the most dissimilar

circumstances; though predominant over all was my spiritual experience

at Kioto. Thus as in the famous fugue in Don Giovanni, the heart-

rending notes of Elvira's aria of despair ring high above, but

interfere in no way with the melody of the minuet, the song of

seduction, and the chorus, so I went over and over my travailed woes,

the feelings of agony unspeakable at the awful sights of my vision,

the repetition of which blunted in no wise even a single pang of my

despair and horror; nor did these feelings weaken in the least scenes

and events entirely disconnected with the first one, that I was living

through again, or interfere in any way the one with the other. It was

a maddening experience! A series of contrapuntal, mental

phantasmagoria from real life. Here was I, during the same half-a-

minute of time, examining with cold curiosity the mangled remains of

my sister's husband; following with the same indifference the effects

of the news on her brain, as in my first Kioto vision, and feeling at

the same time hell-torture for these very events, as when I returned

to consciousness. I was listening to the philosophical discourses of

the Bonze, every word of which I heard and understood, and was trying

to laugh him to scorn. I was again a child, then a youth, hearing my

mother's and my sweet sister's voices, admonishing me and teaching

duty to all men. I was saving a friend from drowning, and was sneering

at his aged father who thanks me for saving a "soul" yet unprepared to

meet his Maker.

 

"Speak of dual consciousness, you psycho-physiologists!"--I cried, in

one of the moments when agony, mental and as it seemed to me physical

also, had arrived at a degree of intensity which would have killed a

dozen living men; "speak of your psychological and physiological

experiments, you schoolmen, puffed up with pride and book-learning!

Here am I to give you the lie..." And now I was reading the works and

holding converse with learned professors and lecturers, who had led me

to my fatal scepticism. And, while arguing the impossibility of

consciousness divorced from its brain, I was shedding tears of blood

over the supposed fate of my nieces and nephews. More terrible than

all: I knew, as only a liberated consciousness can know, that all I

had seen in my vision at Japan, and all that I was seeing and hearing

over and over again now, was true in every point and detail, that it

was a long string of ghastly and terrible, still of real, actual,

facts.

 

For, perhaps, the hundredth time, I had rivetted my attention on the

needle of the clock, I had lost the number of my gyrations and was

fast coming to the conclusion that they would never stop, that

consciousness is, after all, indestructible, and that this was to be

my punishment in Eternity. I was beginning to realize from personal

experience how the condemned sinners would feel--"were not eternal

damnation a logical and mathematical impossibility in an ever-

progressing Universe"--I still found the force to argue. Yea indeed;

at this hour of my ever-increasing agony, my consciousness--now my

synonym for "I"--had still the power of revolting at certain

theological claims, of denying all their propositions, all--save

ITSELF ... No; I denied the independent nature of my consciousness no

longer, for I knew it now to be such. But is it eternal withal? O thou

incomprehensible and terrible Reality! But if thou art eternal, who

then art thou?--since there is no diety, no God. Whence dost thou

come, and when didst thou first appear, if thou art not a part of the

cold body lying yonder? And whither dost thou lead me, who am thyself,

and shall our thought and fancy have an end? What is thy real name,

thou unfathomable REALITY, and impenetrable MYSTERY! Oh, I would fain

annihilate thee ... "Soul--Vision"!--who speaks of Soul, and whose

voice is this? ... It says that I see now for myself, that there is a

Soul in man, after all... I deny this. My Soul, my vital Soul, or the

Spirit of life, has expired with my body, with the gray matter of my

brain, This "I" of mine, this consciousness, is not yet proven to me

as eternal. Reincarnation, in which the Bonze felt so anxious I should

believe, may be true ... Why not? Is not the flower born year after

year from the same root? Hence this "I" once separated from, its

brain, losing its balance and calling forth such a host of visions ...

before reincarnating.

 

I was again face to face with the inexorable, fatal clock. And as I

was watching its needle, I heard the voice of the Bonze, coming out of

the depths of its white face, saying: "In this case, I fear you would

have only to open and to shut the temple door, over and over again,

during a period which, however short, would seem to you an

eternity..."

 

The clock had vanished, darkness made room for light, the voice of my

old friend was drowned by a multitude of voices overhead on deck; and

I awoke in my berth, covered with a cold perspiration, and faint with

terror.

 

VIII--A TALE OF WOE

 

We were at Hamburg, and no sooner had I seen my partners, who could

hardly recognise me, than with their consent and good wishes I started

for Nuremberg.

 

Half-an-hour after my arrival, the last doubt with regard to the

correctness of my vision had disappeared. The reality was worse than

any expectations could have made it, and I was henceforward doomed to

the most desolate life. I ascertained that I had seen the terrible

tragedy, with all its heartrending details. My brother-in-law, killed

under the wheels of a machine; my sister, insane, and now rapidly

sinking toward her end; my niece--the sweet flower of nature's fairest

work--dishonoured, in a den of infamy; the little children dead of a

contagious disease in an orphanage; my last surviving nephew at sea,

no one knew where. A whole house, a home of love and peace, scattered;

and I, left alone, a witness of this world of death, of desolation and

dishonour. The news filled me with infinite despair, and I sank

helpless before the wholesale, dire disaster, which rose before me all

at once. The shock proved too much, and I fainted. The last thing I

heard before entirely losing my consciousness was a remark of the

Burgmeister: "Had you, before leaving Kioto, telegraphed to the city

authorities of your whereabouts, and of your intention of coming home

to take charge of your young relatives, we might have placed them

elsewhere, and thus have saved them from their fate. No one knew that

the children had a well-to-do relative. They were left paupers and had

to be dealt with as such. They were comparatively strangers in

Nuremberg, and under the unfortunate circumstances you could have

hardly expected anything else ... I can only express my sincere

sorrow."

 

It was this terrible knowledge that I might, at any rate, have saved

my young niece from her unmerited fate, but that through my neglect I

had not done so, that was killing me. Had I but followed the friendly

advice of the Bonze, Tamoora, and telegraphed to the authorities some

weeks previous to my return much might have been avoided. It was all

this, coupled with the fact that I could no longer doubt clairvoyance

and clairaudience--the possibility of which I had so long denied--that

brought me so heavily down upon my knees. I could avoid the censure of

my fellow-creatures but I could never escape the stings of my

conscience, the reproaches of my own aching heart--no, not as long as

I lived! I cursed my stubborn scepticism, my denial of facts, my early

education, I cursed myself and the whole world... .

 

For several days I contrived not to sink beneath my load, for I had a

duty to perform to, the dead and to the living. But my sister once

rescued from the pauper's asylum, placed under the care of the best

physicians, with her daughter to attend to her last moments, and the

Jewess, whom I had brought to confess her crime, safely lodged in

goal--my fortitude and strength suddenly abandoned me. Hardly a week

after my arrival I was myself no better than a raving maniac, helpless

in the strong grip of a brain fever. For several weeks I lay between

life and death, the terrible disease defying the skill of the best

physicians. At last my strong constitution prevailed, and--to my

lifelong sorrow--they proclaimed me saved.

 

I heard the news with a bleeding heart. Doomed to drag the loathsome

burden of life henceforth alone, and in constant remorse; hoping for

no help or remedy on earth, and still refusing to believe in the

possibility of anything better than a short survival of consciousness

beyond the grave, this unexpected return to life added only one more

drop of gall to my bitter feelings. They were hardly soothed by the

immediate return, during the first days of my convalescence, of those

unwelcome and unsought for visions, whose correctness and reality I

could deny no more. Alas the day! they were no longer in my sceptical,

blind mind.

 

"The children of an idle brain,

 

Begot of nothing but vain Fantasy";

 

but always the faithful photographs of the real woes and sufferings of

my fellow creatures, of my best friends... Thus I found myself doomed,

whenever I was left for a moment alone, to the helpless torture of a

chained Prometheus. During the still hours of night, as though held by

some pitiless iron hand, I found myself led to my sister's bedside,

forced to watch there hour after hour, and see the silent

disintegration of her wasted organism; to witness and feel the

sufferings that her own tenantless brain could no longer reflect or

convey to her perceptions. But there was something still more horrible

to barb the dart that could never be extricated. I had to look, by

day, at the childish innocent face of my young niece, so sublimely

simple and guileless in her pollution; and to witness, by night, how

the full knowledge and recollection of her dishonour, of her young

life now for ever blasted, came to her in her dreams, as soon as she

was asleep. The dreams took an objective form to me, as they had done

on the steamer; I had to live them over again, night after night, and

feel the same terrible despair. For now, since I believed in the

reality of seership, and had come to the conclusion that in our bodies

lies hidden, as in the caterpillar, the chrysalis which may contain in

its turn the butterfly--the symbol of the soul--I no longer remained

indifferent, as of yore, to what I witnessed in my Soul-life.

Something had suddenly developed in me, had broken loose from its icy

cocoon. Evidently I no longer saw only in consequence of the

identification of my inner nature with a Daij-Dzin; my visions arose

in, consequence of a direct personal psychic development, the fiendish

creatures only taking care that I should see nothing of an agreeable

or elevating nature. Thus, now, not an unconscious pang in my dying

sister's emaciated body, not a thrill of horror in my niece's restless

sleep at the recollection of the crime perpetrated upon her, an

innocent child, but found a responsive echo in my bleeding heart. The

deep fountain of sympathetic love and sorrow had gushed out from the

physical heart, and was now loudly echoed by the awakened soul

separated from the body. Thus had I to drain the cup of misery to the

very dregs! Woe is me, it was a daily and nightly torture! Oh, how I

mourned over my proud folly; how I was punished for having neglected

to avail myself at Moto of the proffered purification, for now I had

come to believe even in the efficacy of the latter. The Daij-Dzin had

indeed obtained control over me; and the fiend had let loose all the

dogs of hell upon his victim... .

 

At last the awful gulf was reached and crossed. The poor insane martyr

dropped into her dark, and now welcome grave, leaving behind her, but

for a few short months, her young, her first-born, daughter.

Consumption made short work of that tender girlish frame. Hardly a

year after my arrival, I was left alone in the whole wide world, my

only surviving nephew having expressed a desire to follow his sea-

faring career.

 

And now, the sequel of my sad story is soon told. A wreck, a

prematurely old man, looking at thirty as though sixty winters had

passed over my doomed head, and owing to the never-ceasing visions,

myself daily on the verge of insanity, I suddenly formed a desperate

resolution. I would return to Kioto and seek out the Yamabooshi. I

would prostrate myself at the feet of the holy man, and would not

leave him until he had recalled the Frankenstein he had raised, the

Frankenstein with whom at the time, it was I, myself, who would, not

part, through my insolent pride and unbelief.

 

Three months later I was in my Japanese home again, and I at-once

sought out my old, venerable Bonze, Tamoora Hideyeri, I now implored

him to take me without an hour's delay to the Yamabooshi, the innocent

cause of my daily tortures. His answer but placed the last, the

supreme seal on my doom and tenfold intensified my despair. The

Yamabooshi had left the country for lands unknown! He had departed one

fine morning into the interior, on a pilgrimage, and according to

custom, would be absent, unless natural death shortened the period,

for no less than seven years! ...

 

In this mischance, I applied for help and protection to other learned

Yamabooshis; and though well aware how useless it was in my case to

seek efficient cure from any other "adept," my excellent old friend

did everything he could to help me in my misfortune. But it was to no

purpose, and the canker-worm of my life's despair could not be

thoroughly extricated. I found from them that not one of these learned

men could promise to relieve me entirely from the demon of clairvoyant

obsession. It was he who raised certain Daij-Dzins, calling on them to

show futurity, or things that had already come to pass, who alone had

full control over them. With kind sympathy, which I had now learned to

appreciate, the holy men invited me to join the group of their

disciples, and learn from them what I could do for myself. "Will

alone, faith in your own soul-powers, can help you now," they said.

"But it may take several years to undo even a part of the great

mischief," they added. "A Daij-Dzin is easily dislodged in the

beginning; if left alone, he takes possession of a man's nature and it

becomes almost impossible to uproot the fiend without killing his

victim."

 

Persuaded that there was nothing but this left for me to do, I

gratefully assented, doing my best to believe in all that these holy

men believed in, and yet ever failing to do so in my heart. The demon

of unbelief and all-denial seemed rooted in me more firmly ever than

the Daij-Dzin. Still I did all I could do, decided as I was not to

lose my last chance of salvation. Therefore, I proceeded without delay

to, free myself from the world and my commercial obligations, in order

to live for several years an independent life. I settled my accounts

with my Hamburg partners and severed my connection with the firm.

Notwithstanding considerable financial losses resulting from such a

precipitate liquidation, I found myself, after closing the accounts, a

far richer man than I had thought I was. But wealth had no longer any

attraction for me, now that I had no one to share it with, no one to

work for. Life had become a burden; and such was my indifference to my

future, that while giving away all my fortune to my nephew--in case he

should return alive from his sea voyager--should have neglected

entirely even a small provision for myself, had not my native partner

interfered and insisted upon my making it. I now recognized, with Lao-

tze, that Knowledge was the only firm hold for a man to trust to, as

it is the only one that cannot be shaken by any tempest. Wealth is a

weak anchor in the days of sorrow, and self-conceit the most fatal

counsellor. Hence I followed the advice of my friends, and laid aside

for myself a modest sum, which would be sufficient to assure me a

small income for life, or if I ever left my new friends and

instructors. Having settled my earthly accounts and disposed of my

belongings at Kioto, I joined the "Masters of the Long Vision," who

took me to their mysterious abode. There I remained for several years,

studying very earnestly and in the most complete solitude, seeing no

one but a few of the members of our religious community.

 

Many are the mysteries of nature that I have fathomed since then, and

many secret folio from the library of Tzionene have I devoured,

obtaining thereby mastery over several kinds of invisible beings of a

lower order. But the great secret of power over the terrible Daij-Dzin

I could not get. It remains in the possession of a very limited number

of the highest Initiates of Lao-tze, the great majority of the

Yamabooshis themselves being ignorant how to obtain such mastery over

the dangerous Elemental. One who would reach such power of control

would have to become entirely identified with the Yamabooshis, to

accept their views and beliefs, and to attain the highest degree of

Initiation. Very naturally, I was found unfit to join the Fraternity,

owing to many insurmountable reasons besides my congenital and

ineradicable scepticism, though I tried hard to believe. Thus,

partially relieved of my affliction and taught how to conjure the

unwelcome visions away, I still remained, and do remain to this day,

helpless to prevent their forced appearance before me now and then.

 

It was after assuring myself of my unfitness for the exalted position

of an independent Seer and Adept that I reluctantly gave up any

further trial. Nothing had been heard of the holy man, the first

innocent cause of my misfortune; and the old Bonze himself, who

occasionally visited me in my retreat, either could not, or would not,

inform me of the whereabouts of the Yamabooshi. When, therefore, I had

to give up all hope of his ever relieving me entirely from my fatal

gift, I resolved to return to Europe, to settle in solitude for the

rest of my life. With this object in view, I purchased through my late

partners the Swiss chalet in which my hapless sister and I were born,

where I had grown up under her care, and selected it for my future

hermitage.

 

When bidding me farewell for ever on the steamer which took me back to

my fatherland, the good old Bonze tried to console me for my

disappointments. "My son," he said, "regard all that happened to you

as your Karma--a just retribution. No one who had subjected himself

willingly to the power of a Daij-Dzin can ever hope to become a Rahat

(an Adept), a high-souled Yamabooshi--unless immediately purified. At

best, as in your case, he may become fitted to oppose and to

successfully fight off the fiend. Like a scar left after a poisonous

wound the race of a Daij-Dzin can never be effaced from the Soul until

purified by a new rebirth Withal, feel not dejected, but be of good

cheer in your affliction, since it has led you to acquire true

knowledge, and to accept many a truth you would have otherwise

rejected with contempt. And of this priceless knowledge, acquired

through suffering and personal efforts--no Daij-Dzin can ever deprive

you. Fare thee well, then, and may the Mother of Mercy, the great

Queen of Heaven, afford you comfort and protection."

 

We parted, and since then I have led the life of an anchorite, in

constant solitude and study. Though still occasionally afflicted, I do

not regret the years I have passed under the instruction of the

Yamabooshis, but feel gratified for the knowledge received. Of the

priest Tamoora Hideyeri I think always with sincere affection and

respect. I corresponded regularly with him to the day of his death; an

event which, with all its to me painful details, I had the unthanked-

for privilege of witnessing across the seas, at the very hour in which

it occurred.

 

 

 

THE LUMINOUS SHIELD

 

We were a small and select party of lighthearted travellers. We had

arrived at Constantinople a week before from Greece, and had devoted

fourteen hours a day ever since to toiling up and down the steep

heights of Pera, visiting bazaars, climbing to the tops of minarets

and fighting our way through armies of hungry dogs, the traditional

masters of the streets of Stamboul. Nomadic life is infectious, they

say, and no civilization is strong enough to destroy the charm of

unrestrained freedom when it has once been tasted. The gipsy cannot be

tempted from his tent, and even the common tramp finds a fascination

in his comfortless and precarious existence, that prevents him taking

to any fixed abode and occupation. To guard my spaniel Ralph from

falling a victim to this infection, and joining the canine Bedouins

that, infested the streets, was my chief care during our stay in

Constantinople. He was a fine fellow, my constant companion and

cherished friend. Afraid of losing him, I kept a strict watch over his

movements; for the first three days, however, he behaved like a

tolerably well-educated quadruped, and remained faithfully at my

heels. At every impudent attack from his Mahomedan cousins, whether

intended as a hostile demonstration or an overture of friendship, his

only reply would be to draw in his tail between his legs, and with an

air of dignified modesty seek protection under the wing of one or

other of our party.

 

As he had thus from the first shown so decided an aversion to bad

company, I began to feel assured of his discretion and by the end of

the third day I had considerably relaxed my vigilance. This

carelessness on my part, however, was soon punished, and I was made to

regret my misplaced confidence. In an unguarded moment he listened to

the voice of some four-footed syren, and the last I saw of him was the

end of his bushy tail, vanishing round the corner of a dirty, winding

little back street.

 

Greatly annoyed, I passed the remainder of the day in a vain search

after my dumb companion, I offered twenty, thirty, forty francs reward

for him. About as many vagabond Maltese began a regular chase, and

towards evening we were invaded in our hotel by the whole troop, every

man of them with a more or less mangy cur in his arms, which he tried

to persuade me was my lost dog. The more I denied, the more solemnly

they insisted, one of them actually going down on his knees, snatching

from his bosom an old corroded metal image of the Virgin, and swearing

a solemn oath that the Queen of Heaven herself had kindly appeared to

him to point out the right animal. The tumult had increased to such an

extent that it looked as if Ralph's disappearance was going to be the

cause of a small riot, and finally our landlord had to send for a

couple of Kavasses from the nearest police station, and have this

regiment of bipeds and quadrupeds expelled by main force. I began to

be convinced that I should never see my dog again, and I was the more

despondent since the porter of the hotel, a semi-respectable old

brigand, who, to judge by appearances, had not passed more than half-

a-dozen years at the galleys, gravely assured me that all my pains

were useless, as my spaniel was undoubtedly dead and devoured too by

this time, the Turkish dogs being very fond of their more toothsome

English brothers.

 

All this discussion had taken place in the street at the door of the

hotel, and I was about to give up the search for that night at least,

and enter the hotel, when an old Greek lady, a Phanariote who had been

hearing the fracas from the steps of a door close by, approached our

disconsolate group and suggested to Miss H---, one of our party, that

we should enquire of the dervishes concerning the fate of Ralph.

 

And what can the dervishes know about my dog? said I, in no mood to

joke, ridiculous as the proposition appeared.

 

"The holy men know all, Kyrea (Madam)," said she, somewhat

mysteriously. "Last week I was robbed of my new satin pelisse, that my

son had just brought me from Broussa, and, as you all see, I have

recovered it and have it on my back now."

 

"Indeed? Then the holy men have also managed to metamorphose your new

pelisse into an old one by all appearances," said one of the gentlemen

who accompanied us, pointing as he spoke to a large rent in the back,

which had been clumsily repaired with pins.

 

"And that is just the most wonderful part of the whole story," quietly

answered the Phanariote, not in the least disconcerted. "They showed

me in the shining circle the quarter of the town, the house, and even

the room in which the Jew who had stolen my pelisse was just about to

rip it up and cut it into pieces. My son and I had barely time to run

over to the Kalindjikoulosek quarter, and to save my property. We

caught the thief in the very act, and we both recognized him as the

man shown to us by the dervishes in the magic moon. He confessed the

theft and is now in prison."

 

Although none of us had the least comprehension of what she meant by

the magic moon and the shining circle, and were all thoroughly

mystified by her account of the divining powers of the "holy men," we

still felt somehow satisfied from her manner that the story was not

altogether a fabrication, and since she had at all events apparently

succeeded in recovering her property through being somehow assisted by

the dervishes, we determined to go the following morning and see for

ourselves, for what had helped her might help us likewise.

 

The monotonous cry of the Muezzins from the tops of the minarets had

just proclaimed the hour of noon as we, descending from the heights of

Pera to the port of Galata, with difficulty managed to elbow our way

through the unsavoury crowds of the commercial quarter of the town.

Before we reached the docks, we had been half deafened by the shouts

and incessant ear-piercing cries and the Babel-like confusion of

tongues. In this part of the city it is useless to expect to be guided

by either house numbers, or names of streets. The location of any

desired place is indicated by its proximity to some other more

conspicuous building such as a mosque, bath, or European shop; for the

rest, one has to trust to Allah and his prophet.

 

It was with the greatest difficulty, therefore, that we finally

discovered the British ship-chandler's store, at the rear of which we

were to find the place of our destination. Our hotel guide was as

ignorant of the dervishes' abode as we were ourselves; but at last a

small Greek, in all the simplicity of primitive undress, consented for

a modest copper backsheesh to lead us to the dancers.

 

When we arrived we were shown into a vast and gloomy hall that looked

like a deserted stable. It was long and narrow, the floor was thickly

strewn with sand as in a riding school, and it was lighted only by

small windows placed at some height from the ground. The dervishes had

finished their morning performances, and were evidently resting from

their exhausting labours. They looked completely prostrated, some

lying about in corners, others sitting on their heels staring vacantly

into space, engaged, as we were informed, in meditation on their

invisible deity. They appeared to have lost all power of sight and

hearing, for none of them responded to our questions until a great

gaunt figure, wearing a tall cap that made him look at least seven

feet high, emerged from an obscure corner. Informing us that he was

their chief, the giant gave us to understand that the saintly

brethren, being in the habit of receiving orders for additional

ceremonies from Allah himself, must on no account be disturbed. But

when our interpreter had explained to him the object of our visit,

which concerned himself alone, as he was the sole custodian of the

"divining rod," his objections vanished and he extended his hand for

alms. Upon being gratified, he intimated that only two of our party

could be admitted at one time into the confidence of the future, and

led the way, followed by Miss H--and myself.

 

Plunging after him into what seemed to be a half subterranean passage,

we were led to the foot of a tall ladder leading to a chamber under

the roof. We scrambled up after our guide, and at the top we found

ourselves in a wretched garret of moderate size, with bare walls and

destitute of furniture. The floor was carpeted with a thick layer of

dust, and cobwebs festooned the walls in neglected confusion. In the

corner we saw something that I at first mistook for a bundle of old

rags; but the heap presently moved and got on its legs, advanced to

the middle of the room and stood before us, the most extraordinary

looking creature that I ever beheld. Its sex was female, but whether

she was a woman or child it was impossible to decide. She was a

hideous-looking dwarf, with an enormous head, the shoulders of a

grenadier, with a waist in proportion; the whole supported by two

short, lean, spider-like legs that seemed unequal to the task of

bearing the weight of the monstrous body. She had a grinning

countenance like the face of a satyr, and it was ornamented with

letters and signs from the Koran painted in bright yellow. On her

forehead was a blood-red crescent; her head was crowned with a dusty

tarbouche, or fez; her legs were arrayed in large Turkish trousers,

and some dirty white muslin wrapped round her body barely sufficed to

conceal its hideous deformities. This creature rather let herself drop

than sat down in the middle of the floor, and as her weight descended

on the rickety boards it sent up a cloud of dust that set us coughing

and sneezing. This was the famous Tatmos known as the Damascus oracle!

 

Without losing time in idle talk, the dervish produced a piece of

chalk, and traced around the girl a circle about six feet in diameter.

Fetching from behind the door twelve small copper lamps which he

filled with some dark liquid from a small bottle which he drew from

his bosom, he placed them symmetrically around the magic circle. He

then broke a chip of wood from a panel of the half ruined door, which

bore the marks of many a similar depredation, and, holding the chip

between his thumb and finger he began blowing on it at regular

intervals, alternating the blowing with mutterings of some kind of

weird incantation, till suddenly, and without any apparent cause for

its ignition, there appeared a spark on the chip and it blazed up like

a dry match. The dervish then lit the twelve lamps at this self-

generated flame.

 

During this process, Tatmos, who had sat till then altogether

unconcerned and motionless, removed her yellow slippers from her naked

feet, and throwing them into a corner, disclosed as an additional

beauty, a sixth toe on each deformed foot. The dervish now reached

over into the circle and seizing the dwarf's ankles gave her a jerk,

as if he had been lifting a bag of corn, and raised her clear off the

ground, then, stepping back a pace, held her head downward. He shook

her as one might a sack to pack its contents, the motion being regular

and easy. He then swung her to and fro like a pendulum until the

necessary momentum was acquired, when letting go one foot and seizing

the other with both hands, he made a powerful muscular effort and

whirled her round in the air as if she had been an Indian club.

 

My companion had shrunk back in alarm to the farthest corner. Round

and round the dervish swung his living burden, she remained perfectly

passive. The motion increased in rapidity until the eye could hardly

follow the body in its circuit. This continued for perhaps two or

three minutes, until, gradually slackening the motion he at length

stopped it altogether, and in an instant had landed the girl on her

knees in the middle of the lamp-lit circle. Such was the Eastern mode

of mesmerization as practised among the dervishes.

 

And now the dwarf seemed entirely oblivious of external objects and in

a deep trance. Her head and jaw dropped on her chest, her eyes were

glazed and staring, and altogether her appearance was even more

hideous than before. The dervish then carefully closed the shutters of

the only window, and we should have been in total obscurity but that

there was a hole bored in it, through which entered a bright ray of

sunlight that shot through the darkened room and shone upon the girl.

He arranged her drooping head so that the ray should fall upon the

crown, after which, motioning us to remain silent, he folded his arms

upon his bosom, and, fixing his gaze upon the bright spot, became as

motionless as a stone image. I, too, riveted my eyes on the same spot,

wondering what was to happen next, and how all this strange ceremony

was to help me to find Ralph.

 

By degrees, the bright patch, as if it had drawn through the sunbeam a

greater splendour from without and condensed it within its own area,

shaped itself into a brilliant star, sending out rays in every

direction as from a focus.

 

A curious optical effect then occurred: the room, which had been

previously partially lighted by the sunbeam, grew darker and darker as

the star increased in radiance, until we found ourselves in an

Egyptian gloom. The star twinkled, trembled and turned, at first with

a slow gyratory motion, then faster and faster, increasing its

circumference at every rotation until it formed a brilliant disk, and

we no longer saw the dwarf, who seemed absorbed into its light. Having

gradually attained an extremely rapid velocity, as the girl had done

when whirled by the dervish, the motion began to decrease and finally

merged into a feeble vibration, like the shimmer of moonbeams on

rippling water. Then it flickered for a moment longer, emitted a few

last flashes, and assuming the density and irridescence of an immense

opal, it remained motionless. The disk now radiated a moon-like

lustre, soft and silvery, but instead of illuminating the garret, it

seemed only to intensify the darkness. The edge of the circle was not

penumbrous, but on the contrary sharply defined like that of a silver

shield.

 

All being now ready, the dervish without uttering a word, or removing

his gaze from the disk, stretched out a hand, and taking hold of mine,

he drew me to his side and pointed to the luminous shield. Looking at

the place indicated, we saw large patches appear like those on the

moon. These gradually formed themselves into figures that began moving

about in high relief in their natural colours. They neither appeared

like a photograph nor an engraving; still less like the reflection of

images on a mirror, but as if the disk were a cameo, and they were

raised above its surface and then endowed with life and motion. To my

astonishment and my friend's consternation, we recognized the bridge

leading from Galata to Stamboul spanning the Golden Horn from the new

to the old city. There were the people hurrying to and fro, steamers

and gay caiques gliding on the blue Bosphorus, the many coloured

buildings, villas and palaces reflected in the water; and the whole

picture illuminated by the noonday sun. It passed like a panorama, but

so vivid was the impression that we could not tell whether it or

ourselves were in motion. All was bustle and life, but not a sound

broke the oppressive stillness. It was noiseless as a dream. It was a

phantom picture. Street after street and quarter after quarter

succeeded one another; there was the bazaar, with its narrow, roofed

passages, the small shops on either side, the coffee houses with

gravely smoking Turks; and as either they glided past us or we past

them, one of the smokers upset the narghile and coffee of another, and

a volley of soundless invectives caused us great amusement. So we

travelled with the picture until we came to a large building that I

recognized as the palace of the Minister of Finance. In a ditch behind

the house, and close to a mosque, lying in a pool of mud with his

silken coat all bedraggled, lay my poor Ralph! Panting and crouching

down as if exhausted, he seemed to be in a dying condition; and near

him were gathered some sorry-looking curs who lay blinking in the sun

and snapping at the flies!

 

I had seen all that I desired, although I had not breathed a word

about the dog to the dervish, and had come more out of curiosity than

with the idea of any success. I was impatient to leave at once and

recover Ralph, but as my companion besought me to remain a little

while longer, I reluctantly consented. The scene faded away and Miss

H--placed herself in turn by the side of the dervish.

 

"I will think of him," she whispered in my ear with the eager tone

that young ladies generally assume when talking of the worshipped him.

 

There is a long stretch of sand and a blue sea with white waves

dancing in the sun, and a great steamer is ploughing her way along

past a desolate shore, leaving a milky track behind her. The deck is

full of life, the men are busy forward, the cook with white cap and

apron is coming out of the galley, uniformed officers are moving

about, passengers fill the quarter-deck, lounging, flirting or

reading, and a young man we both recognize comes forward and leans

over the taffrail. It is--him.

 

Miss H--gives a little gasp, blushes and smiles, and concentrates her

thoughts again. The picture of the steamer vanishes; the magic moon

remains for a few moments blank. But new spots appear on its luminous

face, we see a library slowly emerging from its depths--a library with

green carpet and hangings, and book-shelves round the sides of the

room. Seated in an arm-chair at a table under a hanging lamp, is an

old gentleman writing. His gray hair is brushed back from his

forehead, his face is smooth-shaven and his countenance has an

expression of benignity.

 

The dervish made a hasty motion to enjoin silence; the light on the

disk quivers, but resumes its steady brilliancy, and again its surface

is imageless for a second.

 

We are back in Constantinople now and out of the pearly, depths of the

shield forms our own apartment in the hotel. There are our papers and

books on the bureau, my friend's travelling hat in a corner, her

ribbons hanging on the glass, and lying on the bed the very dress she

had changed when starting out on our expedition. No detail was lacking

to make the identification complete; and as if to prove that we were

not seeing something conjured up in our imagination, there lay upon

the dressing-table two unopened letters, the handwriting on which was

clearly recognized by my friend. They were from a very dear relative

of hers, from whom she had expected to hear when in Athens, but had

been disappointed. The scene faded away and we now saw her brother's

room with himself lying upon the lounge, and a servant bathing his

head, whence to our horror, blood was trickling. We had left the boy

in perfect health but an hour before; and upon seeing this picture my

companion uttered a cry of alarm, and seizing me by the hand dragged

me to the door. We rejoined our guide and friends in the long hall and

hurried back to the hotel.

 

Young H--had fallen downstairs and cut his forehead rather badly; in

our room, on the dressing-table were the two letters which had arrived

in our absence. They had been forwarded from Athens. Ordering a

carriage I at once drove to the Ministry of Finance, and alighting

with the guide, hurriedly made for the ditch I had seen for the first

time in the shining disk! In the middle of the pool, badly mangled,

half-famished, but still alive, lay my beautiful spaniel Ralph, and

near him were the blinking curs, unconcernedly snapping at the flies.

 

 

 

THE CAVE OF THE ECHOES

 

A Strange but True Story*

 

* This story is given from the narrative of an eye-witness, a

Russian gentleman, very pious, and fully trustworthy. Moreover, the

facts are copied from the police records of P---. The eye-witness in

question attributes it, of course, partly to divine interference and

partly to the Evil One.--H. P. B.

 

In one of the distant governments of the Russian empire, in a small

town on the borders of Siberia, a mysterious tragedy occurred more

than thirty years ago. About six versts from the little town of P---,

famous for the wild beauty of its scenery, and for the wealth of its

inhabitants--generally proprietors of mines and of iron foundries--

stood an aristocratic mansion. Its household consisted of the master,

a rich old bachelor and his brother, who was a widower and the father

of two sons and three daughters.

 

It was known that the proprietor, Mr. Izvertzoff, had adopted his

brother's children, and, having formed an especial attachment for his

eldest nephew, Nicolas, he made him the sole heir of his numerous

estates.

 

Time rolled on. The uncle was getting old, the nephew was coming of

age. Days and years had passed in monotonous serenity, when, on the

hitherto clear horizon of the quiet family, appeared a cloud. On an

unlucky day one of the nieces took it into her head to study the

zither. The instrument being of purely Teutonic origin, and no teacher

of it residing in the neighbourhood, the indulgent uncle sent to St.

Petersburg for both. After diligent search only one Professor could be

found willing to trust himself in such close proximity to Siberia. It

was an old German artist, who, sharing his affections equally between

his instrument and a pretty blonde daughter, would part with neither.

And thus it came to pass that, one fine morning, the old Professor

arrived at the mansion, with his music box under one arm and his fair

Munchen leaning on the other.

 

From that day the little cloud began growing rapidly; for every

vibration of the melodious instrument found a responsive echo in the

old bachelor's heart. Music awakens love, they say, and the work begun

by the zither was completed by Munchen's blue eyes. At the expiration

of six months the niece had become an expert zither player, and the

uncle was desperately in love.

 

One morning, gathering his adopted family around him, he embraced them

all very tenderly, promised to remember them in his will, and wound up

by declaring his unalterable resolution to marry the blue-eyed

Munchen. After this he fell upon their necks, and wept in silent

rapture. The family, understanding that they were cheated out of the

inheritance, also wept; but it was for another cause. Having thus

wept, they consoled themselves and tried to rejoice, for the old

gentleman was sincerely beloved by all. Not all of them rejoiced,

though. Nicolas, who had himself been smitten to the heart by the

pretty German, and who found himself defrauded at once of his belle

and of his uncle's money, neither rejoiced nor consoled himself, but

disappeared for a whole day.

 

Meanwhile, Mr. Izvertzoff had given orders to prepare his traveling

carriage on the following day, and it was whispered that he was going

to the chief town of the district, at some distance from his home,

with the intention of altering his will. Though very wealthy, he had

no superintendent on his estate, but kept his books himself. The same

evening after supper, he was heard in his room, angrily scolding his

servant, who had been in his service for over thirty years. This man,

Ivan, was a native of northern Asia, from Kamschatka; he had been

brought up by the family in the Christian religion, and was thought to

be very much attached to his master. A few days later, when the first

tragic circumstance I am about to relate had brought all the police

force to the spot, it was remembered that on that night Ivan was

drunk; that his master, who had a horror of this vice, had paternally

thrashed him, and turned him out of his room, and that Ivan had been

seen reeling out of the door, and had been heard to mutter threats.

 

On the vast domain of Mr. Izvertzoff there was a curious cavern, which

excited the curiosity of all who visited it. It exists to this day,

and is well known to every inhabitant of P---. A pine forest,

commencing a few feet from the garden gate, climbs in steep terraces

up a long range of rocky hills, which it covers with a broad belt of

impenetrable vegetation. The grotto leading into the cavern, which is

known as the "Cave of the Echoes," is situated about half a mile from

the site of the mansion, from which it appears as a small excavation

in the hillside, almost hidden by luxuriant plants, but not so

completely as to prevent any person entering it from being readily

seen from the terrace in front of the house. Entering the grotto, the

explorer finds at the rear a narrow cleft; having passed through which

he emerges into a lofty cavern, feebly lighted through fissures in the

vaulted roof, fifty feet from the ground. The cavern itself is

immense, and would easily hold between two and three thousand people.

A part of it, in the days of Mr. Izvertzoff, was paved with

flagstones, and was often used in the summer as a ball-room by picnic

parties. Of an irregular oval, it gradually narrows into a broad

corridor, which runs for several miles underground, opening here and

there into other chambers, as large and lofty as the ball-room, but,

unlike this, impassable otherwise than in a boat, as they are always

full of water. These natural basins have the reputation of being

unfathomable.

 

On the margin of the first of these is a small platform, with several

mossy rustic seats arranged on it, and it is from this spot that the

phenomenal echoes, which give the cavern its name, are heard in all

their weirdness. A word pronounced in a whisper, or even a sigh, is

caught up by endless mocking voices, and instead of diminishing in

volume, as honest echoes do, the sound grows louder and louder at

every successive repetition, until at last it bursts forth like the

repercussion of a pistol shot, and recedes in a plaintive wail down

the corridor.

 

On the day in question, Mr. Izvertzoff had mentioned his intention of

having a dancing party in this cave on his wedding day, which he had

fixed for an early date. On the following morning, while preparing for

his drive, he was seen by his family entering the grotto, accompanied

only by his Siberian servant. Half-an-hour later, Ivan returned to the

mansion for a snuff-box which his master had forgotten in his room,

and went back with it to the cave. An hour later the whole house was

startled by his loud cries. Pale and dripping with water, Ivan rushed

in like a madman, and declared that Mr. Izvertzoff was nowhere to be

found in the cave. Thinking he had fallen into the lake, he had dived

into the first basin in search of him and was nearly drowned himself.

 

The day passed in vain attempts to find the body. The police filled

the house, and louder than the rest in his despair was Nicolas, the

nephew, who had returned home only to meet the sad tidings.

 

A dark suspicion fell upon Ivan, the Siberian. He had been struck by

his master the night before, and had been heard to swear revenge. He

had accompanied him alone to the cave, and when his room was searched

a box full of rich family jewellery, known to have been carefully kept

in Mr. Izvertzoff's apartment, was found under Ivan's bedding. Vainly

did the serf call God to witness that the box had been given to him in

charge by his master himself, just before they proceeded to the cave;

that it was the latter's purpose to have the jewellery reset, as he

intended it for a wedding present to his bride; and that he, Ivan,

would willingly give his own life to recall that of his master, if he

knew him to be dead. No heed was paid to him, however, and he was

arrested and thrown into prison, upon a charge of murder. There he was

left, for under the Russian law a criminal cannot--at any rate, he

could not in those days--be sentenced for a crime, however conclusive

the circumstantial evidence, unless he confessed his guilt.

 

After a week had passed in useless search, the family arrayed

themselves in deep mourning; and as the will as originally drawn

remained without a codicil, the whole of the property passed into the

hands of the nephew. The old teacher and his daughter bore this sudden

reverse of fortune with true Germanic phlegm, and prepared to depart.

Taking again his zither under one arm, the old man was about to lead

away his Munchen by the other, when the nephew stopped him by offering

himself as the fair damsel's husband in the place of his departed

uncle. The change was found to be an agreeable one, and, without much

ado, the young people were married.

 

Ten years rolled away, and we meet the happy family once more at the

beginning of 1859. The fair Munchen had grown fat and vulgar. From the

day of the old man's disappearance, Nicolas had become morose and

retired in his habits, and many wondered at the change in him, for now

he was never seen to smile. It seemed as if his only aim in life were

to find out his uncle's murderer, or rather to bring Ivan to confess

his guilt. But the man still persisted that he was innocent.

 

An only son had been born to the young couple, and a strange child it

was. Small, delicate, and ever ailing, his frail life seemed to hang

by a thread. When his features were in repose, his resemblance to his

uncle was so striking that the members of the family often shrank from

him in terror. It was the pale shrivelled face of a man of sixty upon

the shoulders of a child nine years old. He was never seen either to

laugh or to play, but, perched in his high chair, would gravely sit

there, folding his arms in a way peculiar to the late Mr. Izvertzoff;

and thus he would remain for hours, drowsy and motionless. His nurses

were often seen furtively crossing themselves at night, upon

approaching him, and not one of them would consent to sleep alone with

him in the nursery. His father's behaviour towards him was still more

strange. He seemed to love him passionately, and at the same time to

hate him bitterly. He seldom embraced or caressed the child, but with

livid cheek and staring eye, he would pass long hours watching him, as

the child sat quietly in his corner, in his goblin-like, old-fashioned

way.

 

The child had never left the estate, and few outside the family knew

of his existence.

 

About the middle of July, a tall Hungarian traveller, preceded by a

great reputation for eccentricity, wealth and mysterious powers,

arrived at the town of P--from the North, where, it was said, he had

resided for many years. He settled in the little town, in company with

a Shaman or South Siberian magician, on whom he was said to make

mesmeric experiments. He gave dinners and parties, and invariably

exhibited his Shaman, of whom he felt very proud, for the amusement of

his guests. One day the notables of P--made an unexpected invasion of

the domains of Nicolas Izvertzoff, and requested the loan of his cave

for an evening entertainment. Nicolas consented with great reluctance,

and only after still greater hesitancy was he prevailed upon to join

the party.

 

The first cavern and the platform beside the bottomless lake glittered

with lights. Hundreds of flickering candles and torches, stuck in the

clefts of the rocks, illuminated the place and drove the shadows from

the mossy nooks and corners, where they had crouched undisturbed for

many years. The stalactites on the walls sparkled brightly, and the

sleeping echoes were suddenly awakened by a joyous confusion of

laughter and conversation. The Shaman, who was never lost sight of by

his friend and patron, sat in a corner, entranced as usual. Crouched

on a projecting rock, about midway between the entrance and the water,

with his lemon-yellow, wrinkled face, flat nose, and thin beard, he

looked more like an ugly stone idol than a human being. Many of the

company pressed around him and received correct answers to their

questions, the Hungarian cheerfully submitting his mesmerized

"subject" to cross-examination.

 

Suddenly one of the party, a lady, remarked that it was in that very

cave that old Mr. Izvertzoff had so unaccountably disappeared ten

years before. The foreigner appeared interested, and desired to learn

more of the circumstances, so Nicolas was sought amid the crowd and

led before the eager group. He was the host and he found it impossible

to refuse the demanded narrative. He repeated the sad tale in a

trembling voice, with a pallid cheek, and tears were seen glittering

in his feverish eyes. The company were greatly affected, and encomiums

upon the behaviour of the loving nephew in honouring the memory of his

uncle and benefactor were freely circulating in whispers, when

suddenly the voice of Nicolas became choked, his eyes started from

their sockets, and, with a suppressed groan, he staggered back. Every

eye in the crowd followed with curiosity his haggard look, as it fell

and remained riveted upon a weakened little face, that peeped from

behind the back of the Hungarian.

 

"Where do you come from? Who brought you here, child?" gasped out

Nicolas, as pale as death.

 

"I was in bed, papa; this man came to me, and brought me here in his

arms," answered the boy simply, pointing to the Shaman, beside whom he

stood upon the rock, and who, with his eyes closed, kept swaying

himself to and fro like a living pendulum.

 

"That is very strange," remarked one of the guests, "for the man has

never moved from his place."

 

"Good God! what an extraordinary resemblance!" muttered an old

resident of the town, a friend of the lost man.

 

"You lie, child!" fiercely exclaimed the father. "Go to bed; this is

no place for you."

 

"Come, come," interposed the Hungarian, with a strange expression on

his face, and encircling with his arm the slender childish figure;

"the little fellow has seen the double of my Shaman, which roams

sometimes far away from his body, and has mistaken the phantom for the

man himself. Let him remain with us for a while."

 

At these strange words the guests stared at each other in mute

surprise, while some piously made the sign of the cross, spitting

aside, presumably at the devil and all his works.

 

"By-the-bye," continued the Hungarian with a peculiar firmness of

accent, and addressing the company rather than any one in particular;

"why should we not try, with the help of my Shaman, to unravel the

mystery hanging over the tragedy? Is the suspected party still lying

in prison? What? he has not confessed up to now? This is surely very

strange. But now we will learn the truth in a few minutes! Let all

keep silent!"

 

He then approached the Tehuktchene, and immediately began his

performance without so much as asking the consent of the master of the

place. The latter stood rooted to the spot, as if petrified with

horror, and unable to articulate a word. The suggestion met with

general approbation, save from him; and the police inspector, Col.

S---, especially approved of the idea.

 

"Ladies and gentlemen," said the mesmerizer in soft tones, "allow me

for this once to proceed otherwise than in my general fashion. I will

employ the method of native magic. It is more appropriate to this wild

place, and far more effective as you will find, than our European

method of mesmerization."

 

Without waiting for an answer, he drew from a bag that never left his

person, first a small drum, and then two little phials--one full of

fluid, the other empty. With the contents of the former he sprinkled

the Shaman, who fell to trembling and nodding more violently than

ever. The air was filled with the perfume of spicy odours, and the

atmosphere itself seemed to become clearer. Then, to the horror of

those present, he approached the Tibetan, and taking a miniature

stiletto from his pocket, he plunged the sharp steel into the man's

forearm, and drew blood from it, which he caught in the empty phial.

When it was half filled, he pressed the orifice of the wound with his

thumb, and stopped the flow of blood as easily as if he had corked a

bottle, after which he sprinkled the blood over the little boy's head.

He then suspended the drum from his neck, and, with two ivory drum-

sticks, which were covered with magic signs and letters, he began

beating a sort of reveille, to drum up the spirits, as he said.

 

The bystanders, half-shocked and half-terrified by these extraordinary

proceedings, eagerly crowded round him, and for a few moments a dead

silence reigned throughout the lofty cavern. Nicolas, with his face

livid and corpse-like, stood speechless as before. The mesmerizer had

placed himself between the Shaman and the platform, when he began

slowly drumming. The first notes were muffled, and vibrated so softly

in the air that they awakened no echo, but the Shaman quickened his

pendulum-like motion and the child became restless. The drummer then

began a slow chant, low, impressive and solemn.

 

As the unknown words issued from his lips, the flames of the candles

and torches wavered and flickered, until they began dancing in rhythm

with the chant. A cold wind came wheezing from the dark corridors

beyond the water, leaving a plaintive echo in its trail. Then a sort

of nebulous vapour, seeming to ooze from the rocky ground and walls,

gathered about the Shaman and the boy. Around the latter the aura was

silvery and transparent, but the cloud which enveloped the former was

red and sinister. Approaching nearer to the platform the magician beat

a louder roll upon the drum, and this time the echo caught it up with

terrific effect! It reverberated near and far in incessant peals; one

wail followed another louder and louder, until the thundering roar

seemed the chorus of a thousand demon voices rising from the

fathomless depths of the lake. The water itself, whose surface,

illuminated by many lights, had previously been smooth as a sheet of

glass, became suddenly agitated, as if a powerful gust of wind had

swept over its unruffled face. Another chant, and a roll of the drum,

and the mountain trembled to its foundation with the cannon-like peals

which rolled through the dark and distant corridors. The Shaman's body

rose two yards in the air, and nodding and swaying, sat, self-

suspended like an apparition. But the transformation which now

occurred in the boy chilled everyone, as they speechlessly watched the

scene. The silvery cloud about the boy now seemed to lift him, too,

into the air; but, unlike the Shaman, his feet never left the ground.

The child began to grow, as though the work of years was miraculously

accomplished in a few seconds. He became tall and large, and his

senile features grew older with the ageing of his body. A few more

seconds, and the youthful form had entirely disappeared. It was

totally absorbed in another individuality, and, to the horror of those

present who had been familiar with his appearance, this individuality

was that of old Mr. Izvertzoff, and on his temple was a large gaping

wound, from which trickled great drops of blood.

 

This phantom moved towards Nicolas, till it stood directly in front of

him, while he, with his hair standing erect, with the look of a madman

gazed at his own son, transformed into his uncle. The sepulchral

silence was broken by the Hungarian, who, addressing the child

phantom, asked him, in solemn voice:

 

"In the name of the great Master, of Him who has all power, answer the

truth, and nothing but the truth. Restless spirit, hast thou been lost

by accident, or foully murdered?"

 

The spectre's lips moved, but it was the echo which answered for them

in lugubrious shouts: "Murdered! mur-der-ed!! murdered!!!"

 

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

 

The apparition pointed a finger at Nicolas and, without removing its

gaze or lowering its arms, retreated backwards slowly towards the

lake. At every step it took, the younger Izvertzoff, as if compelled

by some irresistable fascination, advanced a step towards it, until

the phantom reached the lake, and the next moment was seen gliding on

its surface. It was a fearful, ghostly scene!

 

When he had come within two steps of the brink of the watery abyss, a

violent convulsion ran through the frame of the guilty man. Flinging

himself upon his knees, he clung to one of the rustic seats with a

desperate clutch, and staring wildly, uttered a long piercing cry of

agony. The phantom now remained motionless on the water, and bending

his extended finger, slowly beckoned him to come. Crouched in abject

terror, the wretched man shrieked until the cavern rang again and

again: "I did not...No, I did not murder you!"

 

Then came a splash, and now it was the boy who was in the dark water,

struggling for his life, in the middle of the lake, with the same

motionless stern apparition brooding over him.

 

"Papa! papa! Save me...I am drowning!"...cried a piteous little voice

amid the uproar of the mocking echoes.

 

"My boy!" shrieked Nicolas, in the accents of a maniac, springing to

his feet. "My boy! Save him! Oh, save him!...Yes I confess...I am the

murderer...It is I who killed him!"

 

Another splash, and the phantom disappeared. With a cry of horror the

company rushed towards the platform; but their feet were suddenly

rooted to the ground, as they saw amid the swirling eddies a whitish

shapeless mass holding the murderer and the boy in tight embrace, and

slowly sinking into the bottomless lake...

 

On the morning after these occurrences, when, after a sleepless night,

some of the party visited the residence of the Hungarian gentleman,

they found it closed and deserted. He and the Shaman had disappeared.

Many are among the old inhabitants of P--who remember him; the Police

Inspector, Col. S---, dying a few years ago in the full assurance that

the noble traveller was the devil. To add to the general consternation

the Izvertzoff mansion took fire on that same night and was completely

destroyed. The Archbishop performed the ceremony of exorcism, but the

locality is considered accursed to this day. The Government

investigated the facts, and ordered silence.

 

 

 

FROM THE POLAR LANDS

 

A Christmas Story

 

Just a year ago, during the Christmas holidays, a numerous society had

gathered in the country house, or rather the old hereditary castle, of

a wealthy landowner in Finland. Many were the remains in it of our

forefathers' hospitable way of living; and many the mediaeval customs

preserved, founded on traditions and superstitions, semi-kinnish and

semi-Russian, the latter imported into it by its female proprietors

from the shores of the Neva. Christmas trees were being prepared and

implements for divination were being made ready. For, in that old

castle there were grim worm-eaten portraits of famous ancestors and

knights and ladies, old deserted turrets, with bastions and Gothic

windows; mysterious sombre alleys, and dark and endless cellers,

easily transformed into subterranean passages and caves, ghostly

prison cells, haunted by the restless phantoms of the heroes of local

legends. In short, the old Manor offered every commodity for romantic

horrors. But alas! this once they serve for nought; in the present

narrative these dear old horrors play no such part as they otherwise

might.

 

Its chief hero is a very commonplace, prosaical man--let us call him

Erkler. Yes; Dr. Erkler, professor of medicine, half-German through

his father, a full-blown Russian on his mother's side and by

education; and one who looked a rather heavily built, and ordinary

mortal. Nevertheless, very extraordinary things happened with him.

 

Erkler, as it turned out, was a great traveller, who by his own choice

had accompanied one of the most famous explorers on his journeys round

the world. More than once they had both seen death face to face from

sunstrokes under the Tropics, from cold in the Polar Regions. All this

notwithstanding, the doctor spoke with a never-abating enthusiasm

about their "winterings" in Greenland and Novaya Zemla, and about the

desert plains in Australia, where he lunched off a kangaroo and dined

off an emu, and almost perished of thirst during the passage through a

waterless track, which it took them forty hours to cross.

 

"Yes," he used to remark, "I have experienced almost everything, save

what you would describe as supernatural... . This, of course, if we

throw out of account a certain extraordinary event in my life--a man I

met, of whom I will tell you just now--and its...indeed, rather

strange, I may add quite inexplicable, results."

 

There was a loud demand that he should explain himself; and the

doctor, forced to yield, began his narrative.

 

"In 1878 we were compelled to winter on the northwestern coast of

Spitzbergen. We had been attempting to find our way during the short

summer to the pole; but, as usual, the attempt had proved a failure,

owing to the icebergs, and, after several such fruitless endeavours,

we had to give it up. No sooner had we settled than the polar night

descended upon us, our steamers got wedged in and frozen between the

blocks of ice in the Gulf of Mussel, and we found ourselves cut off

for eight long months from the rest of the living world. I confess I,

for one, felt it terribly at first. We became especially discouraged

when one stormy night the snow hurricane scattered a mass of materials

prepared for our winter buildings, and deprived us of over forty deer

from our herd. Starvation in prospect is no incentive to good humour;

and with the deer we had lost the best plat de resistance against

polar frosts, human organisms demanding in that climate an increase of

heating and solid food. However, we were finally reconciled to our

loss, and even got accustomed to the local and in reality more

nutritious food--seals, and seal-grease. Our men from the remnants of

our lumber built a house neatly divided into two compartments, one for

our three professors and myself, and the other for themselves; and, a

few wooden sheds being constructed for meteorological, astronomical

and magnetic purposes, we even added a protecting stable for the few

remaining deer. And then began the monotonous series of dawnless

nights and days, hardly distinguishable one from the other, except

through dark-grey shadows. At times, the 'blues' we got into, were

fearful! We had contemplated sending two of our three steamers home,

in September, but the premature, and unforeseen formation of ice walls

round them had thwarted our plans; and now, with the entire crews on

our hands, we had to economise still more with our meagre provisions,

fuel and light. Lamps were used only for scientific purposes: the rest

of the time we had to content ourselves with God's light--the moon and

the Aurora Borealis ... But how describe these glorious, incomparable

northern lights! Rings, arrows, gigantic conflagrations of accurately

divided rays of the most vivid and varied colours. The November

moonlight nights were as gorgeous. The play of moonbeams on the snow

and the frozen rocks was most striking. These were fairy nights."

 

"Well, one such night--it may have been one such day, for all I know,

as from the end of November to about the middle of March we had no

twilights at all, to distinguish the one from the other--we suddenly

espied in the play of coloured beams, which were then throwing a

golden rosy hue on the snow plains, a dark moving spot... . It grew,

and seemed to scatter as it approached nearer to us. What did this

mean? ... It looked like a herd of cattle, or a group of living men,

trotting over the snowy wilderness ... But animals there were white

like everything else. What then was this? ... human beings? ..."

 

"We could not believe our eyes. Yes, a group of men was approaching

our dwelling. It turned out to be about fifty seal-hunters, guided by

Matiliss, a well-known veteran mariner from Norway. They had been

caught by the icebergs, just as we had been."

 

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

 

"'Old Johan, this very same old party, showed us the way'--they

answered, pointing to a venerable-looking old man with snow-white

locks."

 

"In sober truth, it would have beseemed their guide far better to have

sat at home over his fire than to have been seal-hunting in polar

lands with younger men. And we told them so, still wondering how he

came to learn of our presence in this kingdom of white bears. At this

Matiliss and his companions smiled, assuring us that 'old Johan' knew

all. They remarked that we must be novices in polar borderlands, since

we were ignorant of Johan's personality and could still wonder at

anything said of him."

 

"'It is nigh forty-five years,' said the chief hunter, 'that I have

been catching seals in the Polar Seas, and as far as my personal

remembrance goes, I have always known him, and just as he is now, an

old, white-bearded man. And, so far back as in the days when I used to

go to sea, as a small boy with my father, my dad used to tell me the

same of old Johan, and he added that his own father and grandfather

too, had known Johan in their days of boyhood, none of them having

ever seen him otherwise than white as our snows. And, as our fore-

fathers nicknamed him "the white-haired all-knower," thus do we, the

seal-hunters, call him, to this day.'"

 

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

laughed."

 

"Some of our sailors crowding round the white-haired phenomenon, plied

him with questions."

 

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

 

"'I really do not know it myself, sonnies. I live as long as God has

decreed me to. As to my years, I never counted them.'"

 

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

place?'"

 

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

knew it.'"

 

 

 

THE ENSOULED VIOLIN

 

 

I

 

In the year 1828, an old German, a music teacher, came to Paris with

his pupil and settled unostentatiously in one of the quiet faubourgs

of the metropolis. The first rejoiced in the name of Samuel Klaus; the

second answered to the more poetical appellation of Franz Stenio. The

younger man was a violinist, gifted, as rumour went, with

extraordinary, almost miraculous talent. Yet as he was poor and had

not hitherto made a name for himself in Europe, he remained for

several years in the capital of France--the heart and pulse of

capricious continental fashion--unknown and unappreciated. Franz was a

Styrian by birth, and, at the time of the event to be presently

described, he was a young man considerably under thirty. A philosopher

and a dreamer by nature, imbued with all the mystic oddities of true

genius, he reminded one of some of the heroes in Hoffmann's Contes

Fantastiques. His earlier existence had been a very unusual, in fact,

quite an eccentric one, and its history must be briefly told--for the

better understanding of the present story.

 

Born of very pious country people, in a quiet burg among the Styrian

Alps; nursed "by the native gnomes who watched over his cradle";

growing up in the weird atmosphere of the ghouls and vampires who play

such a prominent part in the household of every Styrian and Slavonian

in Southern Austria; educated later, as a student in the shadow of the

old Rhenish castles of Germany; Franz from his childhood had passed

through every emotional stage on the plane of the so-called

"supernatural." He had also studied at one time the "occult arts" with

an enthusiastic disciple of Paracelsus and Kunrath; alchemy had few

theoretical secrets for him; and he had dabbled in "ceremonial magic"

and "sorcery" with some Hungarian Tziganes. Yet he loved above all

else music, and above music--his violin.

 

At the age of twenty-two he suddenly gave up his practical studies in

the occult, and from that day, though as devoted as ever in thought to

the beautiful Grecian Gods, he surrendered himself entirely to his

art. Of his classic studies he had retained only that which related to

the muses--Euterpe especially, at whose altar he worshipped--and

Orpheus whose magic lyre he tried to emulate with his violin. Except

his dreamy belief in the nymphs and the sirens, on account probably of

the double relationship of the latter to the muses, through Calliope

and Orpheus, he was interested but little in the matters of this

sublunary world. All his aspirations mounted, like incense, with the

wave of the heavenly harmony that he drew from his instrument, to a

higher and a nobler sphere. He dreamed awake, and lived a real though

an enchanted life only during those hours when his magic bow carried

him along the wave of sound to the Pagan Olympus, to the feet of

Euterpe. A strange child he had ever been in his own home, where tales

of magic and witchcraft grow out of every inch of the soil; a still

stranger boy he had become, until finally he had blossomed into

manhood, without one single characteristic of youth. Never had a fair

face attracted his attention; not for one moment had his thoughts

turned from his solitary studies to a life beyond that of a mystic

Bohemian. Content with his own company, he had thus passed the best

years of his youth and manhood with his violin for his chief idol, and

with the Gods and Goddesses of old Greece for his audience, in perfect

ignorance of practical life. His whole existence had been one long day

of dreams, of melody and sunlight, and he had never felt any other

aspirations.

 

How useless, but oh, how glorious those dreams! how vivid! and why

should he desire any better fate? Was he not all that he wanted to be,

transformed in a second of thought into one or another hero; from

Orpheus, who held all nature breathless, to the urchin who piped away

under the plane tree to the naiads of Calirrhoe's crystal fountain?

Did not the swift-footed nymphs frolic at his beck and call to the

sound of the magic flute of the Arcadian shepherd--who was himself?

Behold, the Goddess of Love and Beauty herself descending from on

high, attracted by the sweet-voiced notes of his violin!...Yet there

came a time when he preferred Syrinx to Aphrodite--not as the fair

nymph pursued by Pan, but after her transformation by the merciful

Gods into the reed out of which the frustrated God of the Shepherds

had made his magic pipe. For also, with time, ambition grows and is

rarely satisfied. When he tried to emulate on his violin the

enchanting sounds that resounded in his mind, the whole of Parnassus

kept silent under the spell, or joined in heavenly chorus; but the

audience he finally craved was composed of more than the Gods sung by

Hesiod, verily of the most appreciative melomanes of European

capitals. He felt jealous of the magic pipe, and would fain have had

it at his command.

 

"Oh! that I could allure a nymph into my beloved violin!"--he often

cried, after awakening from one of his day-dreams. "Oh, that I could

only span in spirit flight the abyss of Time! Oh, that I could find

myself for one short day a partaker of the secret arts of the Gods, a

God myself, in the sight and hearing of enraptured humanity; and,

having learned the mystery of the lyre of Orpheus, or secured within

my violin a siren, thereby benefit mortals to my own glory!"

 

Thus, having for long years dreamed in the company of the Gods of his

fancy, he now took to dreaming of the transitory glories of fame upon

this earth. But at this time he was suddenly called home by his

widowed mother from one of the German universities where he had lived

for the last year or two. This was an event which brought his plans to

an end, at least so far as the immediate future was concerned, for he

had hitherto drawn upon her alone for his meagre pittance, and his

means were not sufficient for an independent life outside his native

place.

 

His return had a very unexpected result. His mother, whose only love

he was on earth, died soon after she had welcomed her Benjamin back;

and the good wives of the burg exercised their swift tongues for many

a month after as to the real causes of that death.

 

Frau Stenio, before Franz's return, was a healthy, buxom, middle-aged

body, strong and hearty. She was a pious and a God-fearing soul too,

who had never failed in saying her prayers, nor had missed an early

mass for years during his absence. On the first Sunday after her son

had settled at home--a day that she had been longing for and had

anticipated for months in joyous visions, in which she saw him

kneeling by her side in the little church on the hill--she called him

from the foot of the stairs. The hour had come when her pious dream

was to be realized, and she was waiting for him, carefully wiping the

dust from the prayer-book he had used in his boyhood. But instead of

Franz, it was his violin that responded to her call, mixing its

sonorous voice with the rather cracked tones of the peal of the merry

Sunday bells. The fond mother was somewhat shocked at hearing the

prayer-inspiring sounds drowned by the weird, fantastic notes of the

"Dance of the Witches"; they seemed to her so unearthly and mocking.

But she almost fainted upon hearing the definite refusal of her well-

beloved son to go to church. He never went to church, he coolly

remarked. It was loss of time; besides which, the loud peals of the

old church organ jarred on his nerves. Nothing should induce him to

submit to the torture of listening to that cracked organ. He was firm,

and nothing could move him. To her supplications and remonstrances he

put an end by offering to play for her a "Hymn to the Sun" he had just

composed.

 

From that--memorable Sunday morning, Frau Stenio lost her usual

serenity of mind. She hastened to, lay her sorrows and seek for

consolation at the foot of the confessional; but that which she heard

in response from the stem priest filled her gentle and unsophisticated

soul with dismay and almost with despair. A feeling of fear, a sense

of profound terror, which soon became a chronic state with her,

pursued her from that moment; her nights became disturbed and

sleepless, her days passed in prayer and lamentations. In her maternal

anxiety for the salvation of her beloved son's soul, and for his post

mortem welfare, she made a series of rash vows. Finding that neither

the Latin petition to the Mother of God written for her by her

spiritual adviser, nor yet the humble supplications in German,

addressed by herself to every saint she had reason to believe was

residing in Paradise, worked the desired effect, she took to

pilgrimages to distant shrines. During one of these journeys to a holy

chapel situated high up in the mountains, she caught cold, amidst the

glaciers of the Tyrol, and redescended only to take to a sick bed,

from which she arose no more. Frau Stenio's vow had led her, in one

sense, to the desired result. The poor woman was now given an

opportunity of seeking out in propria persona the saints she had

believed in so well, and of pleading face to face for the recreant

son, who refused adherence to them and to the Church, scoffed at monk

and confessional, and held the organ in such horror.

 

Franz sincerely lamented his mother's death. Unaware of being the

indirect cause of it, he felt no remorse; but selling the modest

household goods and chattels, light in purse and heart, he resolved to

travel on foot for a year or two, before settling down to any definite

profession.

 

A hazy desire to see the great cities of Europe, and to try his luck

in France, lurked at the bottom of this travelling project, but his

Bohemian habits of life were too strong to be abruptly abandoned. He

placed his small capital with a banker for a rainy day, and started on

his pedestrian journey via Germany and Austria. His violin paid for

his board and lodging in the inns and farms on his way, and he passed

his days in the green fields and in the solemn silent woods, face to

face with Nature, dreaming all the time as usual with his eyes open.

During the three months of his pleasant travels to and fro, he never

descended for one moment from Parnassus; but, as an alchemist

transmutes lead into gold, so he transformed everything on his way

into a song of Hesiod or Anacreon. Every evening, while fiddling for

his supper and bed, whether on a green lawn or in the hall of a rustic

inn, his fancy changed the whole scene for him. Village swains and

maidens became transfigured into Arcadian shepherds and nymphs. The

sand-covered floor was now a green sward; the uncouth couples spinning

round in a measured waltz with the wild grace of tamed bears became

priests and priestesses of Terpsichore; the bulky, cherry-cheeked and

blue-eyed daughters of rural Germany were the Hesperides circling

round the trees laden with the golden apples. Nor did the melodious

strains of the Arcadian demigods piping on their syrinxes, and audible

but to his own enchanted ear, vanish with the dawn. For no sooner was

the curtain of sleep raised from his eyes than he would sally forth

into a new magic realm of day-dreams. On his way to some dark and

solemn pine-forest, he played incessantly, to himself and to

everything else. He fiddled to the green hill, and forthwith the

mountain and the moss-covered rocks moved forward to hear him the

better, as they had done at the sound of the Orphean lyre. He fiddled

to the merry-voiced brook, to the hurrying river, and both slakened

their speed and stopped their waves, and, becoming silent seemed to

listen to him in an entranced rapture. Even the long-legged stork who

stood meditatively on one leg on the thatched top of the rustic mill,

gravely resolving unto himself the problem of his too-long existence,

sent out after him a long and strident cry, screeching, "Art thou

Orpheus himself, O Stenio?"

 

It was a period of full bliss, of a daily and almost hourly

exaltation. The last words of his dying mother, whispering to him of

the horrors of eternal condemnation, had left him unaffected, and the

only vision her warning evoked in him was that of Pluto. By a ready

association of ideas, he saw the lord of the dark nether kingdom

greeting him as he had greeted the husband of Eurydice before him.

Charmed with the magic sounds of his violin, the wheel of Ixion was at

a standstill once more, thus affording relief to the wretched seducer

of Juno, and giving the lie to those who claim eternity for the

duration of the punishment of condemned sinners. He perceived Tantalus

forgetting his never-ceasing thirst, and smacking his lips as he drank

in the heaven-born melody; the stone of Sisyphus becoming motionless,

the Furies themselves smiling on him, and the sovereign of the gloomy

regions delighted, and awarding preference to his violin over the lyre

of Orpheus. Taken au serieux, mythology thus seems a decided antidote

to fear, in the face of theological threats, especially when

strengthened with an insane and passionate l