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Ardath - The Story of a Dead Self
by Marie Corelli
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The Duchess de la Santoisie moved uneasily,—there was a vibration in Alwyn's voice that went to her very heart. Strange thoughts swept cloud-like across her mind,—again she saw in fancy a little fair, dead child that she had loved,—her only one, on whom she had spent all the tenderness of which her nature was capable. It had died at the prettiest age of children,—the age of lisping speech and softly tottering feet, when a journey from the protecting background of a wall to outstretched maternal arms seems fraught with dire peril to the tiny adventurer, and is only undertaken with the help of much coaxing, sweet laughter, and still sweeter kisses. She remembered how, in spite of her "free" opinions, she had found it impossible not to teach her little one a prayer;—and a sudden mist of tears blurred her sight, as she recollected the child's last words,—words uttered plaintively in the death grasp of a cruel fever, "Suffer me.. to come to Thee!"— A quick sigh escaped her lips,—the diamonds on her breast heaved restlessly,—lifting her eyes, grown soft with gentle memory, she encountered those of Alwyn, and again she asked herself, could he read her thoughts? His steadfast gaze seemed to encompass her, and absorb in a grave, compassionate earnestness the entire comprehension of her life. Her husband's polite, mellifluous accents roused her from this half-reverie.

"I confess I am surprised, Mr. Alwyn,"—he was saying—"that you, a man of such genius and ability, should be still in the leading strings of the Church!"

"There is NO Church"—returned Alwyn quietly,—"The world is waiting for one! The Alpha Beta of Christianity has been learned and recited more or less badly by the children of men for nearly two thousand years,—the actual grammar and meaning of the whole Language has yet to be deciphered. There have been, and are, what are CALLED Churches,—one especially, which, if it would bravely discard mere vulgar superstition, and accept, absorb, and use the discoveries of Science instead, might, and possibly WILL, blossom into the true, universal, and pure Christian Fabric. Meanwhile, in the shaking to and fro of things,—the troublous sifting of the wheat from the chaff,—we must be content to follow by the Way of the Cross as best we can. Christianity has fallen into disrepute, probably because of the Self-Renunciation it demands,—for, in this age, the primal object of each individual is manifestly to serve Self only. It is a wrong road,—a side-lane that leads nowhere,—and we shall inevitably have to turn back upon it and recover the right path—if not now, why then hereafter!"

His voice had a tremor of pain within it;—he was thinking of the millions of men and women who were voluntarily wandering astray into a darkness they did not dream of,—and his heart, the great, true heart of the Poet, became filled with an indescribable passion of yearning.

"No wonder," he mused—"no wonder that Christ came hither for the sake of Love! To rescue, to redeem, to save, to bless! ... O Divine sympathy for sorrow! If I—a man—can feel such aching pity for the woes of others, how vast, how limitless, how tender, must be the pity of God!"

And his eyes softened,—he almost forgot his surroundings. He was entirely unaware of the various deep and wistful emotions he had wakened in the hearts of his hearers. There was a great attractiveness in him that he was not conscious of,—and while all present certainly felt that he, though among them, was not of them, they were at the same time curiously moved by an impression that notwithstanding his being, as it were, set apart from their ways of existence, his sympathetic influence surrounded them as resistlessly as a pure atmosphere in which they drew long refreshing breaths of healthier life.

"I should like,"—suddenly said a bearded individual who was seated half-way down the table, and who had listened attentively to everything—"I should like to tell you a few things about Esoteric Buddhism!—I am sure it is a faith that would suit you admirably!"

Alwyn smiled, courteously enough. "I shall be happy to hear your views on the subject, sir," he answered gently—"But I must tell you that before I left England for the East, I had studied that theory, together with many others that were offered as substitutes for Christianity, and I found it totally inadequate to meet the highest demands of the spiritual intelligence. I may also add, that I have read carefully all the principal works against Religion,—from the treatises of the earliest skeptics down to Voltaire and others of our own day. Moreover, I had, not so very long ago, rejected the Christian Faith; that I now accept and adhere to it, is not the result of my merit or attainment,—but simply the outcome of an undeserved blessing and singularly happy fortune."

"Pardon me, Mr. Alwyn"—said Madame de la Santoisie with a sweet smile—"By all the laws of nature I must contradict you there! Your fame and fortune must needs be the reward of merit,—since true happiness never comes to the undeserving."

Alwyn made no reply,—inasmuch as to repudiate the idea of personal merit too warmly is, as such matters are judged nowadays, suggestive of more conceit than modesty. He skilfully changed the conversation, and it glided off by degrees into various other channels,—music, art, science, and the political situation of the hour. The men and women assembled, as though stimulated and inspired by some new interest, now strove to appear at their very best—and the friction of intellect with intellect resulted in more or less brilliancy of talk, which, for once, was totally free from the flippant and mocking spirit which usually pervaded the Santoisie social circle. On all the subjects that came up for discussion Alwyn proved himself thoroughly at home—and M. le Duc, sitting in a silence that was most unwonted with him, became filled with amazement to think that this man, so full of fine qualities and intellectual abilities, should be actually a CHRISTIAN!—The thing was quite incongruous, or seemed so to the ironical wit of the born and bred Parisian,—he tried to consider it absurd,—even laughable,—but his efforts merely resulted in a sense of uneasy personal shame. This poet was, at any rate, a MAN,—he might have posed for a Coriolanus or Marc Antony;—and there was something supreme about him that could not be SNEERED DOWN.

The dinner, meanwhile, reached its dessert climax, and the Duchess rose, giving the customary departing signal to her lady-guests. Alwyn hastened to open the door for her, and she passed out, followed by a train of women in rich and rustling costumes, all of whom, as they swept past the kingly figure that with slightly bent head and courteous mien thus paid silent homage to their sex, were conscious of very unusual emotions of respect and reverence. How would it be, some of them thought, if they were more frequently brought into contact with such royal and gracious manhood? Would not love then become indeed a hallowed glory, and marriage a true sacrament! Was it not possible for men to be the gods of this world, rather than the devils they so often are? Such were a few of the questions that flitted dimly through the minds of the society-fagged fair ones that clustered round the Duchess de la Santoisie, and eagerly discussed Alwyn's personal beauty and extraordinary charm of manner.

The gentlemen did not absent themselves long, and with their appearance from the dining-room the reception of the evening began. Crowds of people arrived and crammed up the stairs, filling every corridor and corner, and Alwyn, growing tired of the various introductions and shaking of hands to which he was submitted, managed presently to slip away into a conservatory adjoining the great drawing-room,—a cool, softly lighted place full of flowering azaleas and rare palms. Here he sat for a while among the red and white blossoms, listening to the incessant hum of voices, and wondering what enjoyment human beings could find in thus herding together en masse, and chattering all at once as though life depended on chatter, when the rustling of a woman's dress disturbed his brief solitude. He rose directly, as he saw his fair hostess approaching him.

"Ah, you have fled away from us, Mr. Alwyn!" she said with a slight smile—"I do not wonder at it. These receptions are the bane of one's social existence."

"Then why do you give them?"—asked Alwyn, half laughingly.

"Why? Oh, because it is the fashion, I suppose!" she answered languidly, leaning against a marble column that supported the towering frondage of a tropical fern, and toying with her fan,— "And I, like others, am a slave to fashion. I have escaped for one moment, but I must go back directly. Mr. Alwyn ..." She hesitated,—then came straight up to him, and laid her hand upon his arm—"I want to thank you!"

"To thank me?" he repeated in surprised accents.

"Yes!"—she said steadily—"To thank you for what you have said to-night. We live in a dreary age, when no one has much faith or hope, and still less charity,—death is set before us as the final end of all,—and life as lived by most, people is not only not worth living, but utterly contemptible! Your clearly expressed opinions have made me think it is possible to do better,"—her lips quivered a little, and her breath came and went quickly,— "and I shall begin to try and find out how this 'better' can be consummated! Pray do not think me foolish—"

"I think you foolish!" and with gravest courtesy Alwyn raised her hand, and touched it gently with his lips, then as gently released it. His action was full of grace,—it implied reverence, trust, honor,—and the Duchess looked at him with soft, wet eyes in which a smile still lingered.

"If there were more men like you,"—she said suddenly—"what a difference it would make to us women! We should be proud to share the burdens of life with those on whose absolute integrity and strength we could rely,—but, in these days, we do not rely, so much as we despise,—we cannot love, so much as we condemn! You are a Poet,—and for you the world takes ideal colors,—for you perchance the very heavens have opened;—but remember that the millions, who, in the present era, are ground down under the heels of the grimmest necessity, have no such glimpses of God as are vouchsafed to YOU! They are truly in the darkness and shadow of death,—they hear no angel music,—they sit in dungeons, howled at by preachers and teachers who make no actual attempt to lead them into light and liberty,—while we, the so-called 'upper' classes, are imprisoned as closely as they, and crushed by intolerable weights of learning, such as many of us are not fitted to bear. Those who aspire heavenwards are hurled to earth,—those who of their own choice cling to death, become so fastened to it, that even if they wished, they could not rise. Believe me, you will be sorely disheartened in your efforts toward the highest good,—you will find most people callous, careless, ignorant, and forever scoffing at what they do not, and will not, understand,—you had better leave us to our dust and ashes,"—and a little mirthless laugh escaped her lips,—"for to pluck us from thence now will almost need a second visitation of Christ, in whom, if He came, we should probably not believe! Moreover, you must not forget that we have read Darwin,—and we are so charmed with our monkey ancestors, that we are doing our best to imitate them in every possible way,—in the hope that, with time and patience, we may resolve ourselves back into the original species!"

With which bitter sarcasm, uttered half mockingly, half in good earnest, she left him and returned to her guests. Not very long afterward, he having sought and found Villiers, and suggested to him that it was time to make a move homeward, approached her in company with his friend, and bade her farewell.

"I don't think we shall see you often in society, Mr. Alwyn"—she said, rather wistfully, as she gave him her hand,—"You are too much of a Titan among pigmies!"

He flushed and waved aside the remark with a few playful words; unlike his Former Self, if there was anything in the world he shrank from, it was flattery, or what seemed like flattery. Once outside the house he drew a long breath of relief, and glanced gratefully up at the sky, bright with the glistening multitude of stars. Thank God, there were worlds in that glorious expanse of ether peopled with loftier types of being than what is called Humanity! Villiers looked at him questioningly:

"Tired of your own celebrity, Alwyn?" he asked, taking him by the arm,—"Are the pleasures of Fame already exhausted?"

Alwyn smiled,—he thought of the fame of Sah-luma, Laureate bard of Al-kyris!

"Nay, if the dream that I told you of had any meaning at all"—he replied—"then I enjoyed and exhausted those pleasures long ago! Perhaps that is the reason why my 'celebrity' seems such a poor and tame circumstance now. But I was not thinking of myself,—I was wondering whether, after all, the slight power I have attained can be of much use to others. I am only one against many."

"Nevertheless, there is an old maxim which says that one hero makes a thousand"—said Villiers quietly—"And it is an undeniable fact that the vastest number ever counted, begins at the very beginning with ONE!"

Alwyn met his smiling, earnest eyes with a quick, responsive light in his own, and the two friends walked the rest of the way home in silence.



CHAPTER XXXVI.

HELIOBAS.

Some few days after the Duchess's dinner-party, Alwyn was strolling one morning through the Park, enjoying to the full the keen, fresh odors of the Spring,—odors that even in London cannot altogether lose their sweetness, so long as hyacinths and violets consent to bloom, and almond-trees to flower, beneath the too often unpropitious murkiness of city skies. It had been raining, but now the clouds had rolled off, and the sun shone as brightly as it ever CAN shine on the English capital, sending sparkles of gold among the still wet foliage, and reviving the little crocuses, that had lately tumbled down in heaps on the grass, like a frightened fairy army put to rout by the onslaught of the recent shower. A blackbird, whose cheery note suggested melodious memories drawn from the heart of the quiet country, was whistling a lively improvisation on the bough of a chestnut-tree, whereof the brown shining buds were just bursting into leaf,—and Alwyn, whose every sense was pleasantly attuned to the small, as well as great, harmonies of nature, paused for a moment to listen to the luscious piping of the feathered minstrel, that in its own wild woodland way had as excellent an idea of musical variation as any Mozart or Chopin. Leaning against one of the park benches, with his back turned to the main thoroughfare, he did not observe the approach of a man's tall, stately figure, that, with something of his own light, easy, swinging step, had followed him rapidly along for some little distance, and that now halted abruptly within a pace or two of where he stood,—a man whose fine face and singular distinction of bearing had caused many a passer-by to stare at him in vague admiration, and to wonder who such a regal-looking personage might possibly be. Alwyn, however, absorbed in thought, saw no one, and was about to resume his onward walk, when suddenly, as though moved by some instinctive impulse, he turned sharply around, and in so doing confronted the stranger, who straightway advanced, lifting his hat and smiling. One amazed glance,—and then with an ejaculation of wonder, recognition, and delight, Alwyn sprang forward and grasped his extended hand.

"HELIOBAS!" he exclaimed. "Is it possible YOU are in London!—YOU, of all men in the world!"

"Even so!"—replied Heliobas gayly—"And why not? Am I incongruous, and out of keeping with the march of modern civilization?"

Alwyn looked at him half-bewildered, half-incredulous,—he could hardly believe his own eyes. It seemed such an altogether amazing thing to meet this devout and grave Chaldean philosopher, this mystic monk of the Caucasus, here in the very centre, as it were, of the world's business, traffic, and pleasure; one might as well have expected to find a haloed saint in the whirl of a carnival masquerade! Incongruous? Out of keeping?—Yes, certainly he was,— for though clad in the plain, conventional garb to which the men of the present day are doomed by the fiat of commerce and custom, the splendid dignity and picturesqueness of his fine personal appearance was by no means abated, and it was just this that marked him out, and made of him as wonderful a figure in London as though some god or evangelist should suddenly pass through a wilderness of chattering apes and screaming vultures.

"But how and when did you come?"—asked Alwyn presently, recovering from his first glad shock of surprise—"You see how genuine is my astonishment,—why, I thought you were a perpetually vowed recluse,—that you never went into the world at all, ..."

"Neither I do"—rejoined Heliobas—"save when strong necessity demands. But our Order is not so 'inclosed' that, if Duty calls, we cannot advance to its beckoning, and there are certain times when both I and those of my fraternity mingle with men in common, undistinguished from the ordinary inhabitants of cities either by dress, customs, or manners,—as you see!"—and he laughingly touched his overcoat, the dark rough cloth of which was relieved by a broad collar and revers of rich sealskin,—"Would you not take me for a highly respectable brewer, par example, conscious that his prowess in the making of beer has entitled him, not only to an immediate seat in Parliament, but also to a Dukedom in prospective?"

Alwyn, smiled at the droll inapplicability of this comparison,— and Heliobas cheerfully continued—"I am on the wing just now,— bound for Mexico. I had business in London, and arrived here two days since,—two days more will see me again en voyage. I am glad to have met you thus by chance, for I did not know your address, and though I might have obtained that through your publishers, I hesitated about it, not being quite certain as to whether a letter or visit from me might be welcome."

"Surely,"—began Alwyn, and then he paused, a flush rising to his brow as he remembered how obstinately he had doubted and suspected this man's good faith and intention toward him, and how he had even received his farewell benediction at Dariel with more resentment than gratitude.

"Everywhere I hear great things of you, Mr. Alwyn,"—went on Heliobas gently, taking no notice of his embarrassment—"Your fame is now indeed unquestionable! With all my heart I congratulate you, and wish you long life and health to enjoy the triumph of your genius!"

Alwyn smiled, and turning, fixed his clear, soft eyes full on the speaker.

"I thank you!" he said simply,—"But, ... you, who have such a quick instinctive comprehension of the minds and characters of men,—judge for yourself whether I attach any value to the poor renown I have won,—renown that I once would have given my very life to possess!"

As he spoke, he stopped,—they were walking down a quiet side-path under the wavering shadow of newly bourgeoning beeches, and a bright shaft of sunshine struck through the delicate foliage straight on his serene and handsome countenance. Heliobas gave him a swift, keen, observant glance,—in a moment he noticed what a marvellous change had been wrought in the man who, but a few months before, had come to him, a wreck of wasted life,—a wreck that was not only ready, but willing, to drift into downward currents and whirlpools of desperate, godless, blank, and hopeless misery. And now, how completely he was transformed!—Health colored his cheeks and sparkled in his eyes; health, both of body and mind, gave that quick brilliancy to his smile, and that easy, yet powerful poise to his whole figure,—while the supreme consciousness of the Immortal Spirit within him surrounded him with the same indescribable fascination and magnetic attractiveness that distinguished Heliobas himself, even as it distinguishes all who have in good earnest discovered and accepted the only true explanation of their individual mystery of being. One steady, flashing look,—and then Heliobas silently held out his hand. As silently Alwyn clasped it,—and the two men understood each other. All constraint was at an end,—and when they resumed their slow sauntering under the glistening green branches, they were mutually aware that they now held an almost equal rank in the hierarchy of spiritual knowledge, strength, and sympathy.

"Evidently your adventure to the Ruins of Babylon was not altogether without results!" said Heliobas softly—"Your appearance indicates happiness,—is your life at last complete?"

"Complete?—No!"—and Alwyn sighed somewhat impatiently—"It cannot be complete, so long as its best and purest half is elsewhere! My fame is, as you can guess, a mere ephemera,—a small vanishing point, in comparison with the higher ambition I have now in view. Listen,—you know nothing of what happened to me on the Field of Ardath,—I should have written to you perhaps, but it is better to speak—I will tell you all as briefly as I can."

And talking in an undertone, with his arm linked through that of his companion, he related the whole strange story of the visitation of Edris, the Dream of Al-Kyris, his awakening on the Prophet's Field at sunrise, and his final renunciation of Self at the Cross of Christ. Heliobas listened to him in perfect silence, his eyes alone expressing with what eager interest and attention he followed every incident of the narrative.

"And now," said Alwyn in conclusion,—"I always try to remember for my own comfort that I LEFT my dead Self in the burning ruin of that dream built city of the past,—or SEEMED to leave it, . . and yet I feel sometimes as if its shadow presence clung to me still! I look in the mirror and see strange, faint reflections of the actual personal attributes of the slain Sah-luma,—occasionally these are so strong and distinctly marked that I turn away in anger from my own image! Why, I loved that Phantasm of a Poet in my dream as I must for ages have loved myself to my own utter undoing!—I admired his work with such extravagant fondness, that, thinking of it, I blush for shame at my own thus manifest conceit!—In truth there is only one thing in that pictured character of his, I can for the present judge myself free from,— namely, the careless rejection of true love for false,—the wanton misprisal of a faithful heart, such as Niphrata's, whose fair child-face even now often flits before my remorseful memory,—and the evil, sensual passion for a woman whose wickedness was as evident as her beauty was paramount! I could never understand or explain this wilful, headstrong weakness in my Shadow-Self—it was the one circumstance in my vision that seemed to have little to do with the positive Me in its application,—but now I thoroughly grasp the meaning of the lesson conveyed, which is that NO MAN EVER REALLY KNOWS HIMSELF, OR FATHOMS THE DEPTHS OF HIS OWN POSSIBLE INCONSISTENCIES. And as matters stand with me at the present time, I am hemmed in on all sides by difficulties,—for since the modern success of that very anciently composed poem, 'Nourhalma'"—and he smiled—"my friends and acquaintances are doing their best to make me think as much of myself as if I were, —well! all that I am NOT. Do what I will, I believe am still an egoist,—nay, I am sure of it,—for even as regards my heavenly saint, Edris, I am selfish!"

"How so?" asked Heliobas, with a grave side-glance of admiration at the thoughtful face and meditative earnest eyes of this poet, this once bitter and blasphemous skeptic, grown up now to a majesty of faith that not all the scorn of men or devils could ever shake again.

"I want her!"—he replied, and there was a thrill of pathetic yearning in his voice—"I long for her every moment of the day and night! It seems, too, as if everything combined to encourage this craving in me,—this fond, mad desire to draw her down from her own bright sphere of joy,—down to my arms, my heart, my life! See!"—and he stopped by a bed of white hyacinths, nodding softly in the faint breeze—"Even those flowers remind me of her! When I look up at the blue sky I think of the radiance of her eyes,—they were the heaven's own color,—when I see light clouds floating together half gray, half tinted by the sun, they seem to me to resemble the soft and noiseless garb she wore,—the birds sing, only to recall to me the lute-like sweetness of her voice,—and at night, when I behold the millions upon millions of stars that are worlds, peopled as they must be with thousands of wonderful living creatures, perhaps as spiritually composed as she, I sometimes find it hard, that out of all the exhaustless types of being that love, serve, and praise God in Heaven, this one fair Spirit,—only this one angel-maiden should not be spared to help and comfort me! Yes!—I am selfish to the heart's core, my friend!"—and his eyes darkened with a vague wistfulness and trouble,—"Moreover, I have weakly striven to excuse my selfishness to my own conscience thus:—I have thought that if SHE were vouchsafed to me for the remainder of my days, I might then indeed do lasting good, and leave lasting consolation to the world,—such work might be performed as would stir the most callous souls to life and energy and aspiration,—with HER sweet Presence near me, visibly close and constant, there is no task so difficult that I would not essay and conquer in, for her sake, her service, her greater glory! But ALONE!"—and he gave a slight, hopeless gesture—"Nay,—Christ knows I will do the utmost best I can, but the solitary ways of life are hard!"

Heliobas regarded him fixedly.

"You SEEM to be alone"—he said presently, after a pause,—"but truly you are not so. You think you are set apart to do your work in solitude,—nevertheless, she whom you love may be near you even while you speak! Still I understand what you mean,—you long to SEE her again,—to realize her tangible form and presence,—well! —this cannot be until you pass from this earth and adopt HER nature, . . unless,—unless SHE descends hither, and adopts YOURS!"

The last words were uttered slowly and impressively, and Alwyn's countenance brightened with a sudden irresistible rapture.

"That would be impossible!" he said, but his voice trembled, and there was more interrogativeness than assertion in his tone.

"Impossible in most cases,—yes"—agreed Heliobas—"but in your specially chosen and privileged estate, I cannot positively say that such a thing might not be."

For one moment a strange, eager brilliancy shone in Alwyn's eyes, —the next, he set his lips hard, and made a firm gesture of denial.

"Do not tempt me, good Heliobas," he said, with a faint smile— "Or, rather, do not let me tempt myself! I bear in constant mind what she, my Edris, told me when she left me,—that we should not meet again till after death, unless the longing of my love COMPELLED. Now, if it be true, as I have often thought, that I COULD compel,—by what right dare I use such power, if power I have upon her? She loves me,—I love her,—and by the force of love, such love as ours, . . who knows!—I might perchance persuade her to adopt a while this mean, uneasy vesture of mere mortal life,—and the very innate perception that I MIGHT do so, is the sharpest trial I have to endure. Because if I would thoroughly conquer myself, I must resist this feeling;—nay, I WILL resist it,—for let it cost me what it may, I have sworn that the selfishness of my own personal desire shall never cross or cloud the radiance of her perfect happiness!"

"But suppose"—suggested Heliobas quietly, "suppose she were to find an even more complete happiness in making YOU happy?"

Alwyn shook his head. "My friend do not let us talk of it!"—he answered—"No joy can be more complete than the joy of Heaven,— and that in its full blessedness is hers."

"That in its full blessedness is NOT hers,"—declared Heliobas with emphasis—"And, moreover, it can never be hers, while YOU are still an exile and a wanderer! Friend Poet, do you think that even Heaven is wholly happy to one who loves, and whose Beloved is absent?"

A tremor shook Alwyn's nerves,—his eyes glowed as though the inward fire of his soul had lightened them, but his face grew very pale.

"No more of this, for God's sake!" he said passionately. "I must not dream of it,—I dare not! I become the slave of my own imagined rapture,—the coward who falls conquered and trembling before his own desire of delight! Rather let me strive to be glad that she, my angel-love, is so far removed from my unworthiness,— let her, if she be near me now, read my thoughts, and see in them how dear, how sacred is her fair and glorious memory,—how I would rather endure an eternity of anguish, than make her sad for one brief hour of mortal-counted time!"

He was greatly moved,—his voice trembled with the fervor of its own music, and Heliobas looked at him with a grave and very tender smile.

"Enough!"—he said gently—"I will speak no further on this subject, which I see affects you deeply. Nevertheless, I would have you remember how, when the Master whom we serve passed through His Agony at Gethsemane, and with all the knowledge of His own power and glory strong upon Him, still in His vast self- abnegation said, 'Not My will, but Thine be done!' that then 'there appeared an Angel unto Him from heaven strengthening Him!' Think of this,—for every incident in that Divine-Human Life is a hint for ours,—and often it chances that when we reject happiness for the sake of goodness, happiness is suddenly bestowed upon us. God's miracles are endless,—God's blessings exhaustless, . . and the marvels of this wondrous Universe are as nothing, compared to the working of His Sovereign Will for good on the lives of those who serve Him faithfully."

Alwyn flashed upon him a quick, half-questioning glance, but was silent,—and they walked on together for some minutes without exchanging a word. A few people passed and repassed them,—some little children were playing hide-and-seek behind the trunks of the largest trees,—the air was fresh and invigorating, and the incessant roar of busy traffic outside the Park palings offered a perpetual noisy reminder of the great world that surged around them,—the world of petty aims and transitory pleasures, with which they, filled full of the knowledge of higher and eternal things, had so little in common save sympathy,—sympathy for the wilful wrong-doing of man, and pity for his self-imposed blindness. Presently Heliobas spoke again in his customary light and cheerful tone:

"Are you writing anything new just now?" he asked. "Or are you resting from literary labor?"

"Well, rest and work are with me very nearly one and the same"— replied Alwyn,—"I think the most absolutely tiring and exhausting thing in the world would be to have nothing to do. Then I can imagine life becoming indeed a weighty burden! Yes, I am engaged on a new poem, . . it gives me intense pleasure to write it—but whether it will give any one equal pleasure to read it is quite another question."

"Does 'Zabastes' still loom on your horizon?" inquired his companion mirthfully—"Or are you still inclined—as in the Past— to treat him, whether he comes singly or in numbers, as the Poet's court-jester, and paid fool?"

Alwyn laughed lightly. "Perhaps!" he answered, with a sparkle of amusement in his eyes,—"But, really, so far as the wind of criticism goes, I don't think any author nowadays particularly cares whether it blows fair weather or foul. You see, we all know how it is done,—we can name the clubs and cliques from whence it emanates, and we are fully aware that if one leading man of a 'set' gives the starting signal of praise or blame, the rest follow like sheep, without either thought or personal discrimination. Moreover, some of us have met and talked with certain of these magazine and newspaper oracles, and have tested for ourselves the limited extent of their knowledge and the shallowness of their wit. I assure you it often happens that a great author is tried, judged, and condemned by a little casual press-man who, in his very criticism, proves himself ignorant of grammar. Of course, if the public choose to accept such a verdict, why, then, all the worse for the public,—but luckily the majority of men are beginning to learn the ins and outs of the modern critic's business,—they see his or HER methods (it is a notable fact that women do a great deal of criticism now, they being willing to scribble oracular commonplaces at a cheaper rate of pay than men), so that if a book is condemned, people are dubious, and straight way read it for themselves to see what is in it that excites aversion,—if it is praised, they are still dubious, and generally decide that the critical eulogist must have some personal interest in its sale. It is difficult for an author to WIN his public,—but WHEN won, the critics may applaud or deride as suits their humor, it makes no appreciable difference to his popularity. Now I consider my own present fame was won by chance, —a misconception that, as I know, had its ancient foundation in truth, but that, as far as everybody else is concerned, remains a misconception,—so that I estimate my success at its right value, or rather, let me say, at its proper worthlessness."

And in a few words he related how the leaders of English journalism had judged him dead, and had praised his work chiefly because it was posthumous. "I believe"—he added good-humoredly— "that if this mistake had not arisen, I should scarcely have been heard of, since I advocate no particular 'cult' and belong to no Mutual Admiration Alliance, offensive or defensive. But my supposed untimely decease served me better than the Browning Society serves Browning!"

Again he laughed,—Heliobas had listened with a keen and sarcastic enjoyment of the whole story.

"Undoubtedly your 'Zabastes' was no phantom!"—he observed emphatically—"His was evidently a very real existence, and he must have divided himself from one into several, to sit in judgment again upon you in this present day! History repeats itself,—and unhappily all the injustice, hypocrisy, and inconsistency of man is repeated too,—and out of the multitudes that inhabit the earth, how few will succeed in fulfilling their highest destinies! This is the one bitter drop in the cup of our knowledge,—we can, if we choose, save ourselves,—but we can seldom, if ever, save others!"

Alwyn stopped short, his eyes darkening with a swift intensity of feeling.

"Why not?"—he asked earnestly—"Must we look on, and see men rushing toward certain misery, without making an effort to turn them hack?—to warn them of the darkness whither they are bound?— to rescue them before it is too late?"

"My friend, we can make the effort, certainly,—and we are bound to make it, because it is our duty,—but in ninety-nine cases out of a hundred we shall fail of our persuasion. What can I, or you, or any one, do against the iron force of Free-Will? God Himself will not constrain it,—how then shall we? In the Books of Esdras, which have already been of such use to you, you will find the following significant words: 'The Most High hath made this world for many, but the world to come for few. As when thou askest the earth, it shall say unto thee that it giveth much mold wherein earthen vessels are made, and but little dust that gold cometh of, even so is the course of this present world. There be many created but FEW shall be saved.'—God elects to be served by CHOICE—and NOT by compulsion; it is His Law that Man shall work out his own immortal destiny,—and nothing can alter this overwhelming Fact. The sublime Example of Christ was given us as a means to assist us in forming our own conclusions,—but there is no coercion in it,— only a Divine Love. You, for instance, were, and are, still perfectly free to reject the whole of your experience on the Field of Ardath as a delusion,—nothing would be easier, and, from the world's point of view, nothing more natural. Faith and Doubt are equally voluntary acts,—the one is the instinct of the immortal Soul, the other the tendency of the perishable Body,—and the Will decides which of the two shall conquer in the end. I know that you are firm in your high and true conviction,—I know also what thoughts are at work in your brain,—you are bending all your energies on the task of trying to instil into the minds of your fellow-men some comprehension of the enlightenment and hope you yourself possess. Ah, you must prepare for disappointment!—for though the times are tending toward strange upheavals and terrors, when the trumpet-voice of an inspired Poet may do enormous good,— still the name of the wilfully ignorant is Legion,—the age is one of the grossest Mammon worship, and coarsest Atheism,—and the noblest teachings of the noblest teacher, were he even another Shakespeare, must of necessity be but a casting of pearls before swine. Still"—and his rare sweet smile brightened the serene dignity of his features—"fling out the pearls freely all the same,—the swine may grunt at, but cannot rend you,—and a poet's genius should be like the sunlight, that falls on rich and poor, good and bad, with glorious impartiality! If you can comfort one sorrow, check one sin, or rescue one soul from the widening quicksand of the Atheist world, you have sufficient reason to be devoutly thankful."

By this time their walk had led them imperceptibly to one of the gates of egress from the Park, and Heliobas, pointing to a huge square building opposite, said:

"There is the hotel at which I am staying—one of the Americanized monster fabrics in which tired travellers find much splendid show, and little rest! Will you lunch with me?—I am quite alone."

Alwyn gladly assented,—he was most unwilling to part at once from this man, to whom in a measure he felt he owed his present happy and tranquil condition of body and mind; besides, he was curious to find out more about him—to obtain from him, if possible, an entire explanation of the actual tenets and chief characteristics of the system of religious worship he himself practiced and followed. Heliobas seemed to guess his thoughts, for suddenly turning upon him with a quick glance, he observed:

"You want to 'pluck out the heart of my mystery,' as Hamlet says, do you not, my friend?"—and he smiled—"Well, so you shall, if you can discover aught in me that is not already in yourself! I assure you there is nothing preternatural about me,—my peculiar 'eccentricity' consists in steadily adapting myself to the scientific spiritual, as well as scientific material, laws of the Universe. The two sets of laws united make harmony,—hence I find my life harmonious and satisfactory,—this is my 'abnormal' condition of mind,—and you are now fully as 'abnormal' as I am. Come, we will discuss our mutual strange non-conformity to the wild world's custom or caprice over a glass of good wine,— observe, please, that I am neither a 'total abstainer' nor a 'vegetarian,' and that I have a curious fashion of being TEMPERATE, and of using all the gifts of beneficent Nature equally, and without prejudice!' While he spoke, they had crossed the road, and they now entered the vestibule of the hotel, where, declining the hall-porter's offer of the "lift," Heliobas ascended the stairs leisurely to the second floor, and ushered his companion into a comfortable private sitting-room.

"Fancy men consenting to be drawn up to their apartments like babes in a basket!" he said laughingly, alluding to the "lift" process—"Upon my word, when I think of the strong people of a past age and compare them with the enervated race of to-day, I feel not only pity, but shame, for the visible degeneration of mankind. Frail nerves, weak hearts, uncertain limbs,—these are common characteristics of the young, nowadays, instead of being as formerly the natural failings of the old. Wear and tear and worry of modern existence?—Oh yes, I know!—but why the wear tear and worry at all? What is it for? Simply for the OVER-GETTING of money. One must live? ... certainly,—but one is not bound to live in foolish luxury for the sake of out-flaunting one's neighbors. Better to live simply and preserve health, than gain a fortune and be a moping dyspeptic for life. But unless one toils and moils like a beast of burden, one cannot even live simply, some will say! I don't believe that assertion. The peasants of France live simply, and save,—the peasants of England live wretchedly, and waste! Voila la difference! As with nations, so with individuals, —it is all a question of Will. 'Where there's a will there's a way,' is a dreadfully trite copybook maxim, but it's amazingly true all the same. Now let us to the acceptation of these good things,"—this, as a pallid, boyish-looking waiter just then entered the room with the luncheon, and in his bustling to and fro manifested unusual eagerness to make himself agreeable—"I have made excellent friends with this young Ganymede,—he has sworn never to palm off raisin-wine upon me for Chambertin!"

The waiter blushed and chuckled as though he were conscious of having gained special new dignity and importance,—and having laid the table, and set the chairs, he departed with a flourishing bow worthy of a prince's maitre-d'hotel.

"Your name must seem a curious one to these fellows"—observed Alwyn, when he had gone,—"Unusual and even mysterious?"

"Why, yes!"—returned Heliobas with a laugh—"It would be judged so, I suppose, if I ever gave it,—but I don't. It was only in England, and by an Englishman, that I was once, to my utter amazement, addressed as 'He-ly-oh-bas'—and I was quite alarmed at the sound of it! One would think that most people in these educational days knew the Greek word helios,—and one would also imagine it as easy to say Heliobas as heliograph. But now to avoid mistakes, whenever I touch British territory and come into contact with British tongues, I give my Christian name only, Cassimir—the result of which arrangement is, that I am known in this hotel as Mr. Kasmer! Oh, I don't mind in the least—why should I?—neither the English nor the Americans ever pronounce foreign names properly. Why I met a newly established young publisher yesterday, who assured me that most of his authors, the female ones especially, are so ignorant of foreign literature that he doubts whether any of them know whether Cervantes was a writer or an ointment!"

Alwyn laughed. "I dare say the young publisher may be perfectly right,"—he said—"But all the same he has no business to publish the literary emanations of such ignorance."

"Perhaps not!—but what is he to do, if nothing else is offered to him? He has to keep his occupation going somehow,—from bad he must select the best. He cannot create a great genius—he has to wait till Nature, in the course of events, evolves one from the elements. And in the present general dearth of high ability the publishers are really more sinned against than sinning. They spend large sums, and incur large risks, in launching new ventures on the fickle sea of popular favor, and often their trouble is taken all in vain. It is really the stupid egotism of authors that is the stumbling-block in the way of true literature,—each little scribbler that produces a shilling sensational thinks his or her own work a marvel of genius, and nothing can shake them from their obstinate conviction. If every man or woman, before putting pen to paper, would be sure they had something new, suggestive, symbolical, or beautiful to say, how greatly Art might gain by their labors! Authors who take up arms against publishers en masse, and in every transaction expect to be cheated, are doing themselves irreparable injury—they betray the cloven hoof,— namely a greed for money—and when once that passion dominates them, down goes their reputation and they with it. It is the old story over again—'ye cannot serve God and Mammon,'—and all Art is a portion of God,—a descending of the Divine into Humanity."

Alwyn sat for a minute silent and thoughtful. "A descending of the Divine into Humanity!" he repeated slowly—"It seems to me that 'miracle' is forever being enacted—and yet ... we doubt!"

"WE do not doubt—" said Heliobas—"WE know,—we have touched Reality! But see yonder!"—and he pointed through the window to the crowded thoroughfare below—"There are the flying phantoms of life,—the men and women who are God-oblivious, and who are therefore no more actually LIVING than the shadows of Al-Kyris! They shall pass as a breath and be no more,—and this roaring, trafficking metropolis, this immediate centre of civilization, shall ere long disappear off the surface of the earth, and leave not a stone to mark the spot where once it stood! So have thousands of such cities fallen since this planet was flung into space,—and even so shall thousands still fall. Learning, civilization, science, progress,—these things exist merely for the training and education of a chosen few—and out of many earth centuries and generations of men, shall be won only a very small company of angels! Be glad that you have fathomed the mystery of your own life's purpose,—for you are now as much a Positive Identity among vanishing spectres, as you were when, on the Field of Ardath, you witnessed and took part in the Mirage of your Past."



CHAPTER XXXVII.

A MISSING RECORD.

He spoke the last words with deep feeling and earnestness, and Alwyn, meeting his clear, grave, brilliant eyes, was more than ever impressed by the singular dignity and overpowering magnetism of his presence. Remembering how insufficiently he had realized this man's true worth, when he had first sought him out in his monastic retreat, he was struck by a sudden sense of remorse, and leaning across the table, gently touched his hand.

"How greatly I wronged you once, Heliobas!" he said penitently, with a tremor of appeal in his voice—"Forgive me, will you?— though I shall never forgive myself!"

Heliobas smiled, and cordially pressed the extended hand in his own.

"Nay, there is nothing to forgive, my friend," he answered cheerfully—"and nothing to regret. Your doubts of me were very natural,—indeed, viewed by the world's standard of opinion, much more natural than your present faith, for faith is always a SUPER- natural instinct. Would you be practically sensible according to modern social theories?—then learn to suspect everybody and everything, even your best friend's good intentions!"

He laughed, and the luncheon being concluded, he rose from the table, and taking an easy-chair nearer the window, motioned Alwyn to do the same.

"I want to talk to you"—he continued, "We may not meet again for years,—you are entering on a difficult career, and a few hints from one who knows and thoroughly understands your position may possibly be of use to you. In the first place, then, let me ask you, have you told any one, save me, the story of your Ardath adventure?"

"One friend only,—my old school comrade, Frank Villiers"—replied Alwyn.

"And what does he say about it?"

"Oh, he thinks it was a dream from beginning to end,"—and Alwyn smiled a little,—"He believes that I set out on my journey with my brain already heated to an imaginative excess, and that the whole thing, even my Angel's presence, was a pure delusion of my own overwrought fancy,—a curious and wonderful delusion, but always a delusion."

"He is a very excellent fellow to judge you so leniently"— observed Heliobas composedly, "Most people would call you mad."

"Mad!" exclaimed Alwyn hotly—"Why, I am as sane as any man in London!"

"Saner, I should say,"—replied Heliobas, smiling,—"Compared with some of the eminently 'practical' speculating maniacs that howl and struggle among the fluctuating currents of the Stock Exchange, for instance, you are indeed a marvel of sound and wholesome mental capability! But let us view the matter coolly. You must not expect such an exceptional experience as yours to be believed in by ordinary persons. Because the majority of people, being utterly UNspiritual and worldly, have NO such experiences, and they therefore deem them impossible;—they are the gold-fish born in a bowl, who have no consciousness of the existence of an ocean. Moreover, you have no proofs of the truth of your narrative, beyond the change in your own life and disposition,—and that can be easily referred to various other causes. You spoke of having gathered one of the miracle-flowers on the Prophet's field,—may I see it?"

Silently Alwyn drew from his breast-pocket the velvet case in which he always kept the cherished blossom, and taking it tenderly out, placed it in his companion's hand.

"An immortelle"—said Heliobas softly, while the flower, uncurling its silvery petals in the warmth of his palm, opened star-like and white as snow. "An immortelle, rare and possibly unique!—that is all the world would say of it! It cannot be matched,—it will not fade,—true! but you will get no one to believe that! Frown not, good Poet!—I want you to consider me for the moment a practical worldling, bent on driving you from the spiritual position yon have taken up,—and you will see how necessary it is for you to keep the secret of your own enlightenment to yourself, or at least only hint at it through the parables of poesy."

He gave back the Ardath blossom to its owner with reverent care,— and when Alwyn had as reverently put it by, he resumed:

"Your friend Villiers has offered you a perfectly logical and common-sense solution of the mystery of Ardath,—one which, if you chose to accept it, would drive you back into skepticism as easily as a strong wind blows a straw. Only see how simple the intricate problem is unravelled by this means! You, a man of ardent and imaginative temperament, made more or less unhappy by the doctrines of materialism, come to me, Heliobas, a Chaldean student of the Higher Philosophies, an individual whose supposed mysterious power and inexplicably studious way of life entitle him to be considered by the world at large an IMPOSTER!—Now don't look so indignant!"—and he laughed,—"I am merely discussing the question from the point of view that would be sure to be adopted by 'wise' modern society! Thus—I, Heliobas, the impostor, take advantage of your state of mind to throw you into a trance, in which, by occult means, you see the vision of an Angel, who bids you meet her at a place called Ardath,—and you, also, in your hypnotized condition, write a poem which you entitle 'Nourhalma.' Then I,—always playing my own little underhand game!—read you portions of 'Esdras,' and prove to you that 'Ardath' exists, while I delicately SUGGEST, if I do not absolutely COMMAND, your going thither. You go,—but I, still by magnetic power, retain my influence over you. You visit Elzear, a hermit, whom we will, for the sake of the present argument, call my accomplice,—he reads between the lines of the letter you deliver to him from me, and he understands its secret import. He continues, no matter how, your delusion. You broke your fast with him,—and surely it was easy for him to place some potent drug in the wine he gave you, which made you DREAM the rest;—nay, viewed from this standpoint, it is open to question whether you ever went to the Field of Ardath at all, but merely DREAMED you did! You see how admirably I can, with little trouble, disprove the whole story, and make myself out to be the veriest charlatan and trickster that ever duped his credulous fellow-man! How do you like my practical dissection of your new-found joys?"

Alwyn was gazing at him with puzzled and anxious eyes.

"I do not like it at all"—he murmured, in a pained tone—"It is an insidious SEMBLANCE of truth;—but I know it is not the Truth itself!"

"Why, how obstinate you are!" said Heliobas, good-humoredly, with a quick, flashing glance at him. "You insist on seeing things in a directly reverse way to that in which the world sees them! How can you be so foolish! To the world your Ardath adventure is the SEMBLANCE of truth,—and only man's opinion thereon is worth trusting as the Truth itself!"

Over the wistful, brooding thoughtfulness of Alwyn's countenance swept a sudden light of magnificent resolution.

"Heliobas, do not jest with me!" he cried passionately—"I know, better perhaps than most men, how divine things can be argued away by the jargon of tongues, till heart and brain grow weary,—I know, God help me!—how the noblest ideals of the soul can be swept down and dispersed into blank ruin, by the specious arguments of cold-blooded casuists,—but I also know, by a supreme INNER knowledge beyond all human proving, that GOD EXISTS, and with His Being exist likewise all splendors, great and small, spiritual and material,—splendors vaster than our intelligence can reach,—ideals loftier than imagination can depict! I want no proof of this save those that burn in my own individual consciousness,—I do not need a miserable taper of human reason to help me to discern the Sun! I, OF MY OWN CHOICE, PRAYER, AND HOPE, voluntarily believe in God, in Christ, in angels, in all things beautiful and pure and grand!—let the world and its ephemeral opinions wither, I will NOT be shaken down from the first step of the ladder whereon one climbs to Heaven!"

His features were radiant with fervor and feeling,—his eyes brilliant with the kindling inward light of noblest aspiration,— and Heliobas, who had watched him intently, now bent toward him with a grave gesture of the gentlest homage.

"How strong is he whom an Angel's love makes glorious!" he said— "We are partners in the same destiny, my friend,—and I have but spoken to you as the world might speak, to prepare you for opposition. The specious arguments of men confront us at every turn, in every book, in every society,—and it is not always that we are ready to meet them. As a rule, silence on all matters of personal faith is best,—let your life bear witness for you;—it shall thunder loud oracles when your mortal limbs are dumb."

He paused a moment—then went on: "You have desired to know the secret of the active and often miraculous power of the special form of religion I and my brethren follow; well, it is all contained in Christ, and Christ only. His is the only true Spiritualism in the world—there was never any before He came. We obey Christ in the simple rules he preached,—Christ according to His own enunciated wish and will. Moreover, we,—that is, our Fraternity,—received our commission from Christ Himself in person."

Alwyn started,—his eyes dilated with amazement and awe.

"From Christ Himself in person?"—he echoed incredulously.

"Even so"—returned Heliobas calmly. "What do you suppose our Divine Master was about during the years between His appearance among the Rabbis of the Temple and the commencement of His public preaching? Do you, can you, imagine with the rest of the purblind world, that he would have left His marvellous Gospel in the charge of a few fishermen and common folk ONLY"

"I never thought,—I never inquired—" began Alwyn hurriedly.

"No!"—and Heliobas smiled rather sadly, "Few men do think or inquire very far on sacred subjects! Listen,—for what I have to say to you will but strengthen you in your faith,—and you will need more than all the strength of the Four Evangelists to bear you stiffly up against the suicidal Negation of this present disastrous epoch. Ages ago,—ay, more than six or seven thousand years ago, there were certain communities of men in the East,— scholars, sages, poets, astronomers, and scientists, who, desiring to give themselves up entirely to study and research, withdrew from the world, and formed themselves into Fraternities, dividing whatever goods they had in common, and living together under one roof as the brotherhoods of the Catholic Church do to this day. The primal object of these men's investigations was a search after the Divine Cause of Creation; and as it was undertaken with prayer, penance, humility, and reverence, much enlightenment was vouchsafed to them, and secrets of science, both spiritual and material, were discovered by them,—secrets which the wisest of modern sages know nothing of as yet. Out of these Fraternities came many of the prophets and preachers of the Old Testament,— Esdras for one,—Isaiah for another. They were the chroniclers of many now forgotten events,—they kept the history of the times, as far is it was possible,—and in their ancient records your city of Al-Kyris is mentioned as a great and populous place, which was suddenly destroyed by the bursting out of a volcano beneath its foundations—Yes!"—this as Alwyn uttered an eager exclamation,— "Your vision was a perfectly faithful reflection of the manner in which it perished. I must tell you, however, that nothing concerning its kings or great men has been preserved,—only a few allusions to one Hyspiros, a writer of tragedies, whose genius seems to have corresponded to that of our Shakespeare of to-day. The name of Sah-luma is nowhere extant."

A burning wave of color flushed Alwyn's face, but he was silent. Heliobas went on gently:

"At a very early period of their formation, these Fraternities I tell you of were in possession of most of the MATERIAL scientific facts of the present day,—such things as the electric wire and battery, the phonograph, the telephone, and other 'new' discoveries, being perfectly familiar to them. The SPIRITUAL manifestations of Nature were more intricate and difficult to penetrate,—and though they knew that material effects could only be produced by spiritual causes, they worked in the dark, as it were, only groping toward the light. However, the wisdom and purity of the lives they led was not without its effect,—emperors and kings sought their advice, and gave them great stores of wealth, which they divided, according to rule, into equal portions, and used for the benefit of those in need, willing the remainder to their successors; so that, at the present time, the few brotherhoods that are left hold immense treasures accumulated through many centuries,—treasures which are theirs to share with one another in prosecution of discoveries and the carrying on of good works in secret. Ages before the coming of Christ, one Aselzion, a man of austere and strict life, belonging to a Fraternity stationed in Syria, was engaged in working out a calculation of the average quantity of heat and light provided per minute by the sun's rays, when, glancing upward at the sky, the hour being clear noonday, he beheld a Cross of crimson hue suspended in the sky, whereon hung the cloudy semblance of a human figure. Believing himself to be the victim of some optical delusion, he hastened to fetch some of his brethren, who at a glance perceived the self-same marvel,—which presently was viewed with reverent wonder by the whole assembled community. For one entire hour the Symbol stayed—then vanished suddenly, a noise like thunder accompanying its departure. Within a few months of its appearance, messages came from all the other Fraternities stationed in Egypt, in Spain, in Greece, in Etruria, stating that they also had seen this singular sight, and suggesting that from henceforth the Cross should be adopted by the united Brotherhoods as a holy sign of some Deity unrevealed,—a proposition that was at once agreed to. This happened some five thousand years before Christ,—and hence the Sign of the Cross became known in all, or nearly all, the ancient rites of worship, the multitude considering that because it was the emblem of the Philosophical Fraternities, it must have some sacred meaning. So it was used in the service of Serapis and the adoration of the Nile-god,—it has been found carved on Egyptian disks and obelisks, and it was included among the numerous symbols of Saturn."

He paused. Alwyn was listening with eager, almost breathless, attention.

"After this"—went on Heliobas—"came a long period of prefigurements; types and suggestions, that, running through all the various religions that sprang up swiftly and as swiftly decayed, hinted vaguely at the birth of a child,—offspring of a pure Virgin—a miraculously generated God-in-Man—an absolutely Sinless One, who should be sent to remind Humanity of its intended final high destiny, and who should, by precept and example, draw the Earth nearer to Heaven. I would here ask you to note what most people seem to forget,—namely, that since Christ came, all these shadowy types and prefigurements have CEASED; a notable fact, even to skeptical minds. The world waited dimly for something, it knew not what,—the various Fraternities of the Cross waited also, feeling conscious that some great era of hope and happiness was about to dawn for all men. When the Star in the East arose announcing the Redeemer's birth, there were some forty or fifty of these Fraternities existing, three in the ancient province of Chaldea, from whence a company of the wisest seers and sages were sent to acknowledge by their immediate homage the Divinity born in Bethlehem. These were the 'wise men out of the East' mentioned in the Gospel. We knew—I say WE, because I am descended directly from one of these men, and have always belonged to their Brotherhood—we knew it was DIVINITY that had come amongst us,— and in our parchment chronicles there is a long account of how the deserts of Arabia rang with music that holy night—what wealth of flowers sprang up in places that had hither to lain waste and dry —how the sky blazed with rings of roseate radiance,—how fair and wondrous shapes were seen flitting across the heavens,—the road of communication between men and Angels being opened at a touch by the Saviour's advent."

Again he paused,—and after a little silence resumed:

"Then we added the Star to our existing Symbol, the Cross, and became the Brotherhood of the Cross and Star. As such, after the Redeemer's birth, we put all other matters from us, and set ourselves to chronicle His life and actions, to pray and wait, unknowing what might be the course of His work or will. One Day He came to us,—ah! happy those whom He found watching, and whose privilege it was to receive their Divine Guest!"

His voice had a passionate thrill within it, as of tears,—and Alwyn's heart beat fast,—what a wonderful new chapter was here revealed of the old, old story of the Only Perfect Life on earth!

"One of the Fraternities," went on Heliobas, "had its habitation in the wilderness where, some years later, the Master wandered fasting forty days and forty nights. To that solitary abode of prayerful men He came, when He was about twenty-three earthly years of age; the record of His visit has been reverently penned and preserved, and from it we know how fair and strong He was,— how stately and like a King—how gracious and noble in bearing— how far exceeding in beauty all the sons of men! His speech was music that thrilled to the heart,—the wondrous glory of His eyes gave life to those who knelt and worshipped Him—His touch was pardon—His smile was peace! From His own lips a store of wisdom was set down,—and prophecies concerning the fate of His own teaching, which then He uttered, are only now, at this very day, being fulfilled. Therefore we know the time has come—" he broke off, and sighed deeply.

"The time has come for what?" demanded Alwyn eagerly.

"For certain secrets to be made known to the world which till now have been kept sacred," returned Heliobas,—"You must understand that the chief vow of the Fraternity of the Cross and Star is SECRECY,—a promise never to divulge the mysteries of God and Nature to those who are unfitted to receive such high instruction. It is Christ's own saying—'A faithless and perverse generation asketh for a sign, and no sign shall be given.' You surely are aware how, even in the simplest discoveries of material science, the world's attitude is at first one of jeering incredulity,—how much more so, then, in things which pertain solely to the spiritual side of existence! But God will not be mocked,—and it behooves us to think long, and pray much, before we unveil even one of the lesser mysteries to the eyes of the vulgar. Christ knew the immutable condition of Free-Will,—He knew that faith, humility, and obedience are the hardest of all hard virtues to the self-sufficient arrogance of man; and we learned from Him that His Gospel, simple though it is, would be denied, disputed, quarrelled over, shamefully distorted, and almost lost sight of in a multitude of 'free' opinions,—that His life-giving Truth would be obscured and rendered incomprehensible by the WILFUL obstinacy of human arguments concerning it. Christ has no part whatever in the distinctly human atrocities that have been perpetrated under cover of His Name,—such as the Inquisition, the Wars of the Crusades, the slaughter of martyrs, and the degrading bitterness of SECTS; in all these things Christ's teaching is entirely set aside and lost. He knew how the proud of this world would misread His words —that is why He came to men who for thousands of years in succession had steadily practised the qualities He most desired,— namely, faith, humility, and obedience,—and finding them ready to carry out His will, He left with them the mystic secrets of His doctrine, which He forbade them to give to the multitude till men's quarrels and disputations had called His very existence into doubt. Then,—through pure channels and by slow degrees—we were to proclaim to the world His last message."

Alwyn's eyes rested on the speaker in reverent yet anxious inquiry.

"Surely"—he said—"you will begin to proclaim it now?"

"Yes, we shall begin," answered Heliobas, his brow darkening as with a cloud of troubled thought—"But we are in a certain difficulty,—for we may not speak in public ourselves, nor write for publication,—our ancient vow binds us to this, and may not be broken. Moreover, the Master gave us a strange command,—namely, that when the hour came for the gradual declaration of the Secret of His Doctrine, we should intrust it, in the first place, to the hands of one who should be young,—IN the world, yet not OF it,— simple as a child, yet wise with the wisdom of faith,—of little or no estimation among men,—and who should have the distinctive quality of loving NOTHING in earth or Heaven more dearly than His Name and Honor. For this unique being we have searched, and are searching still,—we can find many who are young and both wise and innocent, but, alas! one who loves the unseen Christ actually more than all things,—this is indeed a perplexity! I have fancied of late that I have discovered in my own circle,—that is, among those who have been DRAWN to study God and Nature according to my views,—one who makes swift and steady progress in the higher sciences, and who, so far as I have been able to trace, really loves our Master with singular adoration above all joys on earth and hopes of Heaven; but I cannot be sure—and there are many tests and trials to be gone through before we dare bid this little human lamp of love shine forth upon the raging storm."

He was silent a moment,—then went on in a low tone, as though speaking to himself:

"WHEN THE MECHANISM OF THIS UNIVERSE IS EXPLAINED IN SUCH WISE THAT NO DISCOVERY OF SCIENCE CAN EVER DISPROVE, BUT MUST RATHER SUPPORT IT, . . WHEN THE ESSENCE OF THE IMMORTAL SOUL IN MAN IS DESCRIBED IN CLEAR AND CONCISE LANGUAGE,—AND WHEN THE MARVELLOUS ACTION OF SPIRIT ON MATTER IS SHOWN TO BE ACTUALLY EXISTENT AND NEVER IDLE,—then, if the world still doubts and denies God, it will only have itself to blame!—But to you"—and he resumed his ordinary tone—"all things, through your Angel's love, are made more or less plain,—and I have told you the history of our Fraternity merely that you may understand how it is we know so much that the outer world is ignorant of. There are very few of us left nowadays,—only a dozen Brotherhoods scattered far apart on different portions of the earth,—but, such as we are, we are all UNITED, and have never, through these eighteen hundred years, had a shade of difference in opinion concerning the Divinity of Christ. Through Him we have learned TRUE Spiritualism, and all the miraculous power which is the result of it; and as there is a great deal of FALSE spiritualism rampant just now, I may as well give you a few hints whereby you may distinguish it at once,— Imprimis: if a so-called Spiritualist tells you that he can summon spirits who will remove tables and chairs, write letters, play the piano, and rap on the walls, he is a CHARLATAN. FOR SPIRITS CAN TOUCH NOTHING CORPOREAL UNLESS THEY TAKE CORPOREAL SHAPE FOR THE MOMENT, as in the case of your angelic Edris. But in this condition, they are only seen by the one person whom they visit,— never by several persons at once—remember that! Nor can they keep their corporeal state long,—except, by their express wish and will, they should seek to enter absolutely into the life of humanity, which, I must tell you, HAS BEEN DONE, but so seldom, that in all the history of Christian Spirituality there are only about four examples. Here are six tests for all the 'spiritualists' you may chance to meet:

"First. Do they serve themselves more than others? If so, they are entirely lacking in spiritual attributes.

"Secondly. Will they take money for their professed knowledge? If so, they condemn themselves as paid tricksters.

"Thirdly. Are they men and women of commonplace and thoroughly material life? Then, it is plain they cannot influence others to strive for a higher existence.

"Fourthly. Do they love notoriety? If they do, the gates of the unseen world are shut upon them.

"Fifthly. Do they disagree among themselves, and speak against one another? If so, they contradict by their own behavior all the laws of spiritual force and harmony.

"Sixthly and lastly.—Do they reject Christ! If they do, they know nothing whatever about Spiritualism, there being NONE without Him. Again, when you observe professing psychists living in any eccentric way, so as to cause their trifling every-day actions to be remarked and commented upon, you may be sure the real power is not in them,—as, for instance, people who become vegetarians because they imagine that by so doing they will see spirits— people who adopt a singular mode of dress in order to appear different from their fellow-creatures—people who are lachrymose, dissatisfied, or in any way morbid. Never forget that TRUE Spiritualism engenders HEALTH OF BODY AND MIND, serenity and brightness of aspect, cheerfulness and perfect contentment,—and that its influence on those who are brought within its radius is distinctly MARKED and BENEFICIAL. The chief characteristic of a true, that is, CHRISTIAN, spiritualist is, that he or she CANNOT be shaken from faith, or thrown into despair by any earthly misfortune whatsoever. And while on this subject, I will show you where the existing forms of Christianity depart from the teachings of Christ: first, in LACK OF SELF ABNEGATION,—secondly, in LACK OF UNITY,—thirdly, in failing to prove to the multitude that Death is is not DESTRUCTION, but simply CHANGE. Nothing really DIES; and the priests should make use of Science to illustrate this fact to the people. Each of these virtues has its Miracle Effect: Unity is strength; Self abnegation attracts the Divine Influences, and Death, viewed as a glorious transformation, which it IS, inspires the soul with a sense of larger life. Sects are UNChristian,—there should he only ONE vast, UNITED Church for all the Christian world—a Church, whose pure doctrines should include all the hints received from Nature and the scientific working of the Universe,—the marvels of the stars and the planetary systems,—the wonders of plants and minerals,—the magic of light and color and music; and the TRUE MIRACLES of Spirit and Matter should be inquired into reverently, prayerfully, and always with the deepest HUMILITY;—while the first act of worship performed every holy Morn and Eve should be Gratitude! Gratitude—gratitude! Ay, even for a sorrow we should be thankful,—it may conceal a blessing we wot not of! For sight, for sense, for touch, for the natural beauty of this present world,—for the smile on a face we love—for the dignity and responsibility of our lives, and the immortality with which we are endowed,—Oh my friend! would that every breath we drew could in some way express to the All Loving Creator our adoring recognition of His countless benefits!"

Carried away by his inward fervor, his eyes flashed with extraordinary brilliancy,—his countenance was grand, inspired, and beautiful, and Alwyn gazed at him in wondering, fascinated silence. Here was a man who had indeed made the best of his manhood!—what a life was his! how satisfying and serene! Master of himself, he was, as it were, master of the world,—all Nature ministered to him, and the pageant of passing history was as a mere brilliant picture painted for his instruction,—a picture on which he, looking, learned all that it was needful for him to know. And concerning this mystic Brotherhood of the Cross and Star, what treasures of wisdom they must have secreted in their chronicles through so many thousands of years! What a privilege it would be to explore such world-forgotten tracks of time! Yielding to a sudden impulse, Alwyn spoke his thought aloud:

"Heliobas," he said, "tell me, could not I, too, become a member of your Fraternity?"

Heliobas smiled kindly. "You could, assuredly"—he replied—"if you chose to submit to fifteen years' severe trial and study. But I think a different sphere of duty is designed for you. Wait and see! The rules of our Order forbid the disclosure of knowledge attained, save through the medium of others not connected with us; and we may not write out our discoveries for open publication. Such a vow would be the death-blow to your poetical labors,—and the command your Angel gave you points distinctly to a life lived IN the world of men,—not out of it."

"But you yourself are in the world of men at this moment"—argued Alwyn—"And you are free; did you not tell me you were bound for Mexico?"

"Does going to Mexico constitute liberty?" laughed Heliobas. "I assure you I am closely constrained by my vows wherever I am,—as closely as though I were shut in our turret among the heights of Caucasus! I am going to Mexico solely to receive some manuscripts from one of our brethren, who is dying there. He has lived as a recluse, like Elzear of Melyana, and to him have been confided certain important chronicles, which must be taken into trustworthy hands for preservation. Such is the object of my journey. But now, tell me, have you thoroughly understood all I have said to you?"

"Perfectly!" rejoined Alwyn. "My way seems very clear before me,— a happy way enough, too, if it were not quite so lonely!" And he sighed a little.

Heliobas rose and laid one hand kindly on his shoulder. "Courage!"...he said softly. "Bear with the loneliness a while, IT MAY NOT LAST LONG!"

A slight thrill ran through Alwyn's nerves,—he felt as though he were on the giddy verge of some great and unexpected joy,—his heart beat quickly and his eyes grew dim. Mastering the strange emotion with an effort, he was reluctantly beginning to think it was time to take his leave, when Heliobas, who had been watching him intently, spoke in a cheerful, friendly tone:

"Now that we have had our serious talk out, Mr. Alwyn, suppose you come with me and hear the Ange-Demon of music at St. James's Hall? Will you? He can bestow upon you a perfect benediction of sweet sound,—a benediction not to be despised in this workaday world of clamor,—and out of all the exquisite symbols of Heaven offered to us on earth, Music, I think, is the grandest and best."

"I will go with you wherever you please," replied Alwyn, glad of any excuse that gave him more of the attractive Chaldean's company,—"But what Ange-Demon are you speaking of?"

"Sarasate,—or 'Sarah Sayty,' as some of the clear Britishers call him—" laughed Heliobas, putting on his overcoat as he spoke; "the 'Spanish fiddler,' as the crabbed musical critics define him when they want to be contemptuous, which they do pretty often. These, together with the literary 'oracles,' have their special cliques, —their little chalked out circles, in which they, like tranced geese, stand cackling, unable to move beyond the marked narrow limit. As there are fools to be found who have the ignorance, as well as the effrontery, to declare that the obfuscated, ill- expressed, and ephemeral productions of Browning are equal, if not superior, to the clear, majestic, matchless, and immortal utterances of Shakespeare,—ye gods! the force of asinine braying can no further go than this! ... even so there are similar fools who say that the cold, correct, student-like playing of Joachim is superior to that of Sarasate. But come and judge for yourself,—if you have never heard him, it will be a sort of musical revelation to you,—he is not so much a violinist, as a human violin played by some invisible sprite of song. London listens to him, but doesn't know quite what to make of him,—he is a riddle that only poets can read. If we start now, we shall be just in time,—I have two stalls. Shall we go?"

Alwyn needed no second invitation,—he was passionately fond of music,—his interest was aroused, his curiosity excited,— moreover, whatever the fine taste of Heliobas pronounced as good must, he felt sure, be super-excellent. In a few minutes they had left the hotel together, and were walking briskly toward Piccadilly, their singularly handsome faces and stately figures causing many a passer-by to glance after them admiringly, and murmur sotto voce, "Splendid-looking fellows! ... not English!" For though Englishmen are second to none in mere muscular strength and symmetry of form, it is a fact worth noting, that if any one possessing poetic distinction of look, or picturesque and animated grace of bearing, be seen suddenly among the more or less monotonously uniform crowd in the streets of London, he or she is pretty sure to be set down, rightly or wrongly, as "NOT English." Is not this rather a pity?—for England!



CHAPTER XXXVIII.

THE WIZARD OF THE BOW.

When they entered the concert-hall, the orchestra had already begun the programme of the day with Mendelssohn's "Italian" Symphony. The house was crowded to excess; numbers of people were standing, apparently willing to endure a whole afternoon's fatigue, rather than miss hearing the Orpheus of Andalusia,—the "Endymion out of Spain," as one of our latest and best poets has aptly called him. Only a languidly tolerant interest was shown in the orchestral performance,—the "Italian" Symphony is not a really great or suggestive work, and this is probably the reason why it so often fails to arouse popular enthusiasm. For, be it understood by the critical elect, that the heart-whole appreciation of the million is by no means so "vulgar" as it is frequently considered,—it is the impulsive response of those who, not being bound hand and foot by any special fetters of thought or prejudice, express what they instinctively FEEL to be true. You cannot force these "vulgar," by any amount of "societies," to adopt Browning as a household god,—but they will appropriate Shakespeare, and glory in him, too, without any one's compulsion. If authors, painters, and musicians would probe more earnestly than they do to the core of this INSTINCTIVE HIGHER ASPIRATION OF PEOPLES, it would be all the better for their future fame. For each human unit in a nation has its great, as well as base passions,—and it is the clear duty of all the votaries of art to appeal to and support the noblest side of nature only—moreover, to do so with a simple, unforced, yet graphic eloquence of meaning that can be grasped equally and at once by both the humble and exalted.

"It is not in the least Italian"—said Heliobas, alluding to the Symphony, when it was concluded, and the buzz of conversation surged through the hall like the noise that might be made by thousands of swarming bees,—"There is not a breath of Italian air or a glimpse of Italian light about it. The dreamy warmth of the South,—the radiant color that lies all day and all night on the lakes and mountains of Dante's land,—the fragrance of flowers— the snatches of peasants' and fishermen's songs—the tunefulness of nightingales in the moonlight,—the tinkle of passing mandolins,—all these things should be hinted at in an 'Italian' Symphony—and all these are lacking. Mendelssohn tried to do what was not in him,—I do not believe the half-phlegmatic, half- philosophical nature of a German could ever understand the impetuously passionate soul of Italy."

As he spoke, a fair girl, with gray eyes that were almost black, glanced round at him inquiringly,—a faint blush flitted over her cheeks, and she seemed about to speak, but, as though restrained by timidity, she looked away again and said nothing. Heliobas smiled.

"That pretty child is Italian," he whispered to Alwyn. "Patriotism sparkled in those bright eyes of hers—love for the land of lilies, from which she is at present one transplanted!"

Alwyn smiled also, assentingly, and thought how gracious, kindly, and gentle were the look and voice of the speaker. He found it difficult to realize that this man, who now sat beside him in the stalls of a fashionable London concert-room, was precisely the same one who, clad in the long flowing white robes of his Order, had stood before the Altar in the chapel at Dariel, a stately embodiment of evangelical authority, intoning the Seven Glorias! It seemed strange, and yet not strange, for Heliobas was a personage who might be imagined anywhere,—by the bedside of a dying child, among the parliaments of the learned, in the most brilliant social assemblies, at the head of a church,—anything he chose to do would equally become him, inasmuch as it was utterly impossible to depict him engaged in otherwise than good and noble deeds. At that moment a tumultuous clamor of applause broke out on all sides,—applause that was joined in by the members of the orchestra as well as the audience,—a figure emerged from a side door on the left and ascended the platform—a slight, agile creature, with rough, dark hair and eager, passionate eyes—no other than the hero of the occasion, Sarasate himself. Sarasate e il suo Violino!—there they were, the two companions; master and servant—king and subject. The one, a lithe, active looking man of handsome, somewhat serious countenance and absorbed expression,— the other, a mere frame of wood with four strings deftly knotted across it, in which cunningly contrived little bit of mechanism was imprisoned the intangible, yet living Spirit of Sound. A miracle in its way!—that out of such common and even vile materials as wood, catgut, and horsehair, the divinest music can be drawn forth by the hand of the master who knows how to use these rough implements! Suggestive, too, is it not, my friends?— for if man can by his own poor skill and limited intelligence so invoke spiritual melody by material means,—shall not God contrive some wondrous tunefulness for Himself even out of our common earthly discord? . ... Hush!—A sound sweet and far as the chime of angelic bells in some vast sky-tower, rang clearly through the hall over the heads of the now hushed and attentive audience—and Alwyn, hearing the penetrating silveriness of those first notes that fell from Sarasate's bow, gave a quick sigh of amazement and ecstasy,—such marvellous purity of tone was intoxicating to his senses, and set his nerves quivering for sheer delight in sympathetic tune. He glanced at the programme,—"Concerto— Beethoven"—and swift as a flash there came to his mind some lines he had lately read and learned to love:

"It was the Kaiser of the Land of Song, The giant singer who did storm the gates Of Heaven and Hell—a man to whom the Fates Were fierce as furies,—and who suffered wrong, And ached and bore it, and was brave and strong And grand as ocean when its rage abates."

Beethoven! ... Musical fullness of divine light! how the glorious nightingale notes of his unworded poesy came dropping through the air like pearls, rolling off the magic wand of the Violin Wizard, whose delicate dark face, now slightly flushed with the glow of inspiration, seemed to reflect by its very expression the various phases of the mighty composer's thought! Alwyn half closed his eyes and listened entranced, allowing his soul to drift like an oarless boat on the sweeping waves of the music's will. He was under the supreme sway of two Emperors of Art,—Beethoven and Sarasate,—and he was content to follow such leaders through whatever sweet tangles and tall growths of melody they might devise for his wandering. At one mad passage of dancing semitones he started,—it was as though a sudden wind, dreaming an enraged dream, had leaped up to shake tall trees to and fro,—and the Pass of Dariel, with its frozen mountain-peaks, its tottering pines, and howling hurricanes, loomed back upon his imagination as he had seen it first on the night he had arrived at the Monastery—but soon these wild notes sank and slept again in the dulcet harmony of an Adagio softer than a lover's song at midnight. Many strange suggestions began to glimmer ghost-like through this same Adagio, —the fair, dead face of Niphrata flitted past him, as a wandering moonbeam flits athwart a cloud,—then came flashing reflections of light and color,—the bewildering dazzlement of Lysia's beauty shone before the eyes of his memory with a blinding lustre as of flame, . . the phantasmagoria of the city of Al-Kyris seemed to float in the air like a faintly discovered mirage ascending from the sea,—again he saw its picturesque streets, its domes and bell-towers, its courts and gardens.. again he heard the dreamy melody of the dance that had followed the death of Nir-jalis, and saw the cruel Lysia's wondrous garden lying white in the radiance of the moon; anon he beheld the great Square, with its fallen Obelisk and the prostrate, lifeless form of the Prophet Khosrul.. and.. Oh, most sad and dear remembrance of all! ... the cherished Shadow of Himself, the brilliant, the joyous Sah-luma appeared to beckon him from the other side of some vast gulf of mist and darkness, with a smile that was sorrowful, yet persuasive; a smile that seemed to say—"O friend, why hast thou left me as though I were a dead thing and unworthy of regard?—Lo, I have never died, —I am here, an abandoned part of THEE, ready to become thine inseparable comrade once more if thou make but the slightest sign!"—Then it seemed as though voices whispered in his ear—"Sah-luma! beloved Sah-luma!"—and "Theos! Theos, my beloved!"—till, moved by a vague tremor of anxiety, he lifted his drooping eyelids and gazed full in a sort of half-incredulous, half-reproachful amaze at the musical necromancer who had conjured up all these apparitions,—what did this wonderful Sarasate know of his Past?

Nothing, indeed,—he had ceased, and was gravely bowing to the audience in response to the thunder of applause, that, like a sudden whirlwind, seemed to shake the building. But he had not quite finished his incantations,—the last part of the Concerto was yet to come,—and as soon as the hubbub of excitement had calmed down, he dashed into it with the delicious speed and joy of a lark soaring into the springtide air. And now on all sides what clear showers and sparkling coruscations of melody!—what a broad, blue sky above!—what a fair, green earth below!—how warm and odorous this radiating space, made resonant with the ring of sweet bird-harmonies!—wild thrills of ecstasy and lover-like tenderness—snatches of song caught up from the flower-filled meadows and set to float in echoing liberty through the azure dome of heaven!—and in all and above all, the light and heat and lustre of the unclouded sun!—Here there was no dreaming possible, . . nothing but glad life, glad youth, glad love! With an ambrosial rush of tune, like the lark descending, the dancing bow cast forth the final chord from the violin as though it were a diamond flung from the hand of a king, a flawless jewel of pure sound,—and the Minstrel monarch of Andalusia, serenely saluting the now wildly enthusiastic audience, left the platform. But he was not allowed to escape so soon,—again and again, and yet again, the enormous crowd summoned him before them, for the mere satisfaction of looking at his slight figure, his dark, poetic face, and soft, half-passionate, half-melancholy eyes, as though anxious to convince themselves that he was indeed human, and not a supernatural being, as his marvellous genius seemed to indicate. When at last he had retired for a breathing-while, Heliobas turned to Alwyn with the question:

"What do you think of him?"

"Think of him!" echoed Alwyn—"Why, what CAN one think,—what CAN one say of such an artist!—He is like a grand sunrise,—baffling all description and all criticism!"

Heliobas smiled,—there was a little touch of satire in his smile.

"Do you see that gentleman?" he said, in a low tone, pointing out by a gesture a pale, flabby-looking young man who was lounging languidly in a stall not very far from where they themselves sat, —"He is the musical critic for one of the leading London daily papers. He has not stirred an inch, or moved an eyelash, during Sarasate's performance,—and the violent applause of the audience was manifestly distasteful to him! He has merely written one line down in his note-book,—it is most probably to the effect that the 'Spanish fiddler met with his usual success at the hands of the undiscriminating public!'"

Alwyn laughed. "Not possible!"—and he eyed the impassive individual in question with a certain compassionate amusement,— "Why, if he cannot admire such a magnificent artist as Sarasate, what is there in the world that WILL rouse his admiration!"

"Nothing!" rejoined Heliobas, his eyes twinkling humorously as he spoke—"Nothing,—unless it is his own perspicuity! Nil admirari is the critic's motto. The modern 'Zabastes' must always be careful to impress his readers in the first place with his personal superiority to all men and all things,—and the musical Oracle yonder will no doubt be clever enough to make his report of Sarasate in such a manner as to suggest the idea that he could play the violin much better himself, if he only cared to try!"

"Ass!" said Alwyn under his breath—"One would like to shake him out of his absurd self-complacency!"

Heliobas shrugged his shoulders expressively:

"My dear fellow, he would only bray!—and the braying of an ass is not euphonious! No!—you might as well shake a dry clothes-prop and expect it to blossom into fruit and flower, as argue with a musical critic, and expect him to be enthusiastic! The worst of it is, these men are not REALLY musical,—they perhaps know a little of the grammar and technique of the thing, but they cannot understand its full eloquence. In the presence of a genius like Pablo de Sarasate they are more or less perplexed,—it is as though you ask them to describe in set, cold terms the counterpoint and thoroughbass of the wind's symphony to the trees,—the great ocean's sonata to the shore, or the delicate madrigals sung almost inaudibly by little bell-blossoms to the tinkling fall of April rain. The man is too great for them—he is a blazing star that dazzles and confounds their sight—and, after the manner of their craft, they abuse what they can't understand. Music is distinctly the language of the emotions,—and they have no emotion. They therefore generally prefer Joachim,—the good, stolid Joachim, who so delights all the dreary old spinsters and dowagers who nod over their knitting-needles at the 'Monday Popular' concerts, and fancy themselves lovers of the 'classical' in music. Sarasate appeals to those who have loved, and thought, and suffered—those who have climbed the heights of passion and wrung out the depths of pain,—and therefore the PEOPLE, taken en masse, as, for instance, in this crowded hall, instinctively respond to his magic touch. And why?—Because the greater majority of human beings are full of the deepest and most passionate feelings, not as yet having been 'educated' OUT of them!"

Here the orchestra commenced Liszt's "Preludes"—and all conversation ceased. Afterwards Sarasate came again to bestow upon his eager admirers another saving grace of sound, in the shape of the famous Mendelssohn Concerto, which he performed with such fiery ardor, tenderness, purity of tone, and marvellous execution that many listeners held their breath for sheer amazement and delighted awe. Anything approaching the beauty of his rendering of the final "Allegro" Alwyn had never heard,—and indeed it is probable none WILL ever hear a more poetical, more exquisite SINGING OF THOUGHT than this matchless example of Sarasate's genius and power. Who would not warm to the brightness and delicacy of those delicious rippling tones, that seemed to leap from the strings alive like sparks of fire—the dainty, tripping ease of the arpeggi, that float from the bow with the grace of rainbow bubbles blown forth upon the air,—the brilliant runs, that glide and glitter up and down like chattering brooks sparkling among violets and meadow-sweet,—the lovely softer notes, that here and there sigh between the varied harmonies with the dreamy passion of lovers who part, only to meet again in a rush of eager joy!—Alwyn sat absorbed and spellbound; he forgot the passing of time,—he forgot even the presence of Heliobas,—he could only listen, and gratefully drink in every drop of sweetness that was so lavishly poured upon him from such a glorious sky of sunlit sound.

Presently, toward the end of the performance, a curious thing happened. Sarasate had appeared to play the last piece set down for him,—a composition of his own, entitled "Zigeunerweisen." A gypsy song, or medley of gypsy songs, it would be, thought Alwyn, glancing at his programme,—then, looking towards the artist, who stood with lifted bow like another Prospero, prepared to summon forth the Ariel of music at a touch, he saw that the dark Spanish eyes of the maestro were fixed full upon him, with, as he then fancied, a strange, penetrating smile in their fiery depths. One instant.. and a weird lament came sobbing from the smitten violin,—a wildly beautiful despair was wordlessly proclaimed, . . a melody that went straight to the heart and made it ache, and burn, and throb with a rising tumult of unlanguaged passion and desire! The solemn, yet unfettered, grace of its rhythmic respiration suggested to Alwyn, first darkness,—then twilight—then the gradual far-glimmering of a silvery dawn,—till out of the shuddering notes there seemed to grow up a vague, vast, and cool whiteness, splendid and mystical,—a whiteness that from shapeless, fleecy mist took gradual form and substance, ... the great concert-hall, with its closely packed throng of people, appeared to fade away like vanishing smoke,—and lo!—before the poet's entranced gaze there rose up a wondrous vision of stately architectural grandeur,—a vision of snowy columns and lofty arches, upon which fell a shimmering play of radiant color flung by the beams of the sun through stained glass windows glistening jewel-wise,—a tremulous sound of voices floated aloft, singing, "Kyrie Eleison!—Kyrie Eleison!"—and the murmuring undertone of the organ shook the still air with deep vibrations of holy tune. Everywhere peace,—everywhere purity! everywhere that spacious whiteness, flecked with side-gleams of royal purple, gold, and ardent crimson,—and in the midst of all,—O dearest tenderness!— O fairest glory!—a face, shining forth like a star in a cloud!—a face dazzlingly beautiful and sweet,—a golden head, above which the pale halo of a light ethereal hovered lovingly in a radiant ring!

"EDRIS!"—The chaste name breathed itself silently in Alwyn's thoughts,—silently and yet with all the passion of a lover's prayer! How was it, he wondered dimly, that he saw her thus distinctly NOW,—now, when the violin-music wept its wildest tears—now when love, love, love, seemed to clamor in a tempestuous agony of appeal from the low, pulsating melody of the marvellous "Zigeunerweisen," a melody which, despite its name, had revealed to one listener, at any rate, nothing concerning the wanderings of gypsies over forest and moorland,—but on the contrary had built up all these sublime cathedral arches, this lustrous light, this exquisite face, whose loveliness was his life! How had he found his way into such a dream sanctuary of frozen snow?—what was his mission there?—and why, when the picture slowly faded, did it still haunt his memory invitingly,— persuasively,—nay, almost commandingly?

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