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Title: A Strange Story — Volume 08
Author: Lytton, Edward Bulwer Lytton, Baron
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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CHAPTER LXXIV.

My Work, my Philosophical Work-the ambitious hope of my intellectual
life--how eagerly I returned to it again!  Far away from my household
grief, far away from my haggard perplexities--neither a Lilian nor a
Margrave there!

As I went over what I had before written, each link in its chain of
reasoning seemed so serried, that to alter one were to derange all; and
the whole reasoning was so opposed to the possibility of the wonders I
myself had experienced, so hostile to the subtle hypotheses of a Faber, or
the childlike belief of an Amy, that I must have destroyed the entire work
if I had admitted such contradictions to its design!

But the work was I myself!--I, in my solid, sober, healthful mind, before
the brain had been perplexed by a phantom.  Were phantoms to be allowed as
testimonies against science?  No; in returning to my Book, I returned to
my former Me!

How strange is that contradiction between our being as man and our being
as Author!  Take any writer enamoured of a system: a thousand things may
happen to him every day which might shake his faith in that system; and
while he moves about as mere man, his faith is shaken.  But when he
settles himself back into the phase of his being as author, the mere act
of taking pen in hand and smoothing the paper before him restores his
speculations to their ancient mechanical train.  The system, the beloved
system, reasserts its tyrannic sway, and he either ignores, or moulds into
fresh proofs of his theory as author, all which, an hour before, had given
his theory the lie in his living perceptions as man.

I adhered to my system,--I continued my work.  Here, in the barbarous
desert, was a link between me and the Cities of Europe.  All else might
break down under me.  The love I had dreamed of was blotted out from the
world, and might never be restored; my heart might be lonely, my life be
an exile's.  My reason might, at last, give way before the spectres which
awed my senses, or the sorrow which stormed my heart.  But here at least
was a monument of my rational thoughtful Me,--of my individualized
identity in multiform creation.  And my mind, in the noon of its force,
would shed its light on the earth when my form was resolved to its
elements.  Alas! in this very yearning for the Hereafter, though but the
Hereafter of a Name, could I see only the craving of Mind, and hear not
the whisper of Soul!

The avocation of a colonist, usually so active, had little interest for
me.  This vast territorial lordship, in which, could I have endeared its
possession by the hopes that animate a Founder, I should have felt all the
zest and the pride of ownership, was but the run of a common to the
passing emigrant, who would leave no son to inherit the tardy products of
his labour.  I was not goaded to industry by the stimulus of need.  I
could only be ruined if I risked all my capital in the attempt to improve.
I lived, therefore, amongst my fertile pastures, as careless of culture as
the English occupant of the Highland moor, which he rents for the range of
its solitudes.

I knew, indeed, that if ever I became avaricious, I might swell my modest
affluence into absolute wealth.  I had revisited the spot in which I had
discovered the nugget of gold, and had found the precious metal in rich
abundance just under the first coverings of the alluvial soil.  I
concealed my discovery from all.  I knew that, did I proclaim it, the
charm of my bush-life would be gone.  My fields would be infested by all
the wild adventurers who gather to gold as the vultures of prey round a
carcass; my servants would desert me, my very flocks would be
shepherdless!

Months again rolled on months.  I had just approached the close of my
beloved Work, when it was again suspended, and by an anguish keener than
all which I had previously known.

Lilian became alarmingly ill.  Her state of health, long gradually
declining, had hitherto admitted checkered intervals of improvement, and
exhibited no symptoms of actual danger.  But now she was seized with a
kind of chronic fever, attended with absolute privation of sleep, an
aversion to even the lightest nourishment, and an acute nervous
susceptibility to all the outward impressions of which she had long seemed
so unconscious; morbidly alive to the faintest sound, shrinking from the
light as from a torture.  Her previous impatience at my entrance into her
room became aggravated into vehement emotions, convulsive paroxysms of
distress; so that Faber banished me from her chamber, and, with a heart
bleeding at every fibre, I submitted to the cruel sentence.

Faber had taken up his abode in my house and brought Amy with him; one or
the other never left Lilian, night or day.  The great physician spoke
doubtfully of the case, but not despairingly.

"Remember," he said, "that in spite of the want of sleep, the abstinence
from food, the form has not wasted as it would do were this fever
inevitably mortal.  It is upon that phenomenon I build a hope that I have
not been mistaken in the opinion I hazarded from the first.  We are now in
the midst of the critical struggle between life and reason; if she
preserve the one, my conviction is that she will regain the other.  That
seeming antipathy to yourself is a good omen.  You are inseparably
associated with her intellectual world; in proportion as she revives to
it, must become vivid and powerful the reminiscences of the shock that
annulled, for a time, that world to her.  So I welcome, rather than fear,
the over-susceptibility of the awakening senses to external sights and
sounds.  A few days will decide if I am right.  In this climate the
progress of acute maladies is swift, but the recovery from them is yet
more startlingly rapid.  Wait, endure, be prepared to submit to the will
of Heaven; but do not despond of its mercy."

I rushed away from the consoler,--away into the thick of the forests, the
heart of the solitude.  All around me, there, was joyous with life; the
locust sang amidst the herbage; the cranes gambolled on the banks of the
creek; the squirrel-like opossums frolicked on the feathery boughs.  "And
what," said I to myself,--"what if that which seems so fabulous in the
distant being whose existence has bewitched my own, be substantially true?
What if to some potent medicament Margrave owes his glorious vitality, his
radiant youth?  Oh, that I had not so disdainfully turned away from his
hinted solicitations--to what?--to nothing guiltier than lawful
experiment.  Had I been less devoted a bigot to this vain schoolcraft,
which we call the Medical Art, and which, alone in this age of science,
has made no perceptible progress since the days of its earliest
teachers--had I said, in the true humility of genuine knowledge, 'these
alchemists were men of genius and thought; we owe to them nearly all the
grand hints of our chemical science,--is it likely that they would have
been wholly drivellers and idiots in the one faith they clung to the
most?'--had I said that, I might now have no fear of losing my Lilian.
Why, after all, should there not be in Nature one primary essence, one
master substance; in which is stored the specific nutriment of life?"

Thus incoherently muttering to the woods what my pride of reason would not
have suffered me gravely to say to my fellow-men, I fatigued my tormented
spirits into a gloomy calm, and mechanically retraced my steps at the
decline of day.  I seated myself at the door of my solitary log-hut, lean
ing my cheek upon my hand, and musing.  Wearily I looked up, roused by a
discord of clattering hoofs and lumbering wheels on the hollow-sounding
grass-track.  A crazy groaning vehicle, drawn by four horses, emerged from
the copse of gum-trees,--fast, fast along the road, which no such pompous
vehicle had traversed since that which had borne me--luxurious satrap for
an early colonist--to my lodge in the wilderness.  What emigrant rich
enough to squander in the hire of such an equipage more than its cost in
England, could thus be entering on my waste domain?  An ominous thrill
shot through me.

The driver--perhaps some broken-down son of luxury in the Old World, fit
for nothing in the New World but to ply, for hire, the task that might
have led to his ruin when plied in sport--stopped at the door of my hut,
and called out, "Friend, is not this the great Fenwick Section, and is not
yonder long pile of building the Master's house?"

Before I could answer I heard a faint voice, within the vehicle, speaking
to the driver; the last nodded, descended from his seat, opened the
carriage-door, and offered his arm to a man, who, waving aside the
proffered aid, descended slowly and feebly; paused a moment as if for
breath, and then, leaning on his staff, walked from the road, across the
sward rank with luxuriant herbage, through the little gate in the new-set
fragrant wattle-fence, wearily, languidly, halting often, till he stood
facing me, leaning both wan and emaciated hands upon his staff, and his
meagre form shrinking deep within the folds of a cloak lined thick with
costly sables.  His face was sharp, his complexion of a livid yellow, his
eyes shone out from their hollow orbits, unnaturally enlarged and fatally
bright.  Thus, in ghastly contrast to his former splendour of youth and
opulence of life, Margrave stood before me.

"I come to you," said Margrave, in accents hoarse and broken, "from the
shores of the East.  Give me shelter and rest.  I have that to say which
will more than repay you."

Whatever, till that moment, my hate and my fear of this unexpected
visitant, hate would have been inhumanity, fear a meanness, conceived for
a creature so awfully stricken down.

Silently, involuntarily, I led him into the house.  There he rested a few
minutes, with closed eyes and painful gasps for breath.  Meanwhile, the
driver brought from the carriage a travelling-bag and a small wooden chest
or coffer, strongly banded with iron clamps.  Margrave, looking up as the
man drew near, exclaimed fiercely, "Who told you to touch that chest?  How
dare you?  Take it from that man, Fenwick!  Place it here,--here by my
side!"

I took the chest from the driver, whose rising anger at being so
imperiously rated in the land of democratic equality was appeased by the
gold which Margrave lavishly flung to him.

"Take care of the poor gentleman, squire," he whispered to me, in the
spontaneous impulse of gratitude, "I fear he will not trouble you long.
He must be monstrous rich.  Arrived in a vessel hired all to himself, and
a train of outlandish attendants, whom he has left behind in the town
yonder.  May I bait my horses in your stables?  They have come a long
way."

I pointed to the neighbouring stables, and the man nodded his thanks,
remounted his box, and drove off.

I returned to Margrave.  A faint smile came to his lips as I placed the
chest beside him.

"Ay, ay," he muttered.  "Safe! safe!  I shall soon be well again,--very
soon!  And now I can sleep in peace!"

I led him into an inner room, in which there was a bed.  He threw himself
on it with a loud sigh of relief.  Soon, half raising himself on his
elbow, he exclaimed, "The chest--bring it hither!  I need it always beside
me!  There, there!  Now for a few hours of sleep; and then, if I can take
food, or some such restoring cordial as your skill may suggest, I shall be
strong enough to talk.  We will talk! we will talk!"

His eyes closed heavily as his voice fell into a drowsy mutter: a moment
more and he was asleep.

I watched beside him, in mingled wonder and compassion.  Looking into that
face, so altered yet still so young, I could not sternly question what had
been the evil of that mystic life, which seemed now oozing away through
the last sands in the hour-glass.  I placed my hand softly on his pulse:
it scarcely beat.  I put my ear to his breast, and involuntarily sighed,
as I distinguished in its fluttering heave that dull, dumb sound, in which
the heart seems knelling itself to the greedy grave!

Was this, indeed, the potent magician whom I had so feared!--this the
guide to the Rosicrucian's secret of life's renewal, in whom, but an hour
or two ago, my fancies gulled my credulous trust!

But suddenly, even while thus chiding my wild superstitions, a fear, that
to most would seem scarcely less superstitious, shot across me.  Could
Lilian be affected by the near neighbourhood of one to whose magnetic
influence she had once been so strangely subjected?  I left Margrave still
sleeping, closed and locked the door of the hut, went back to my dwelling,
and met Amy at the threshold.  Her smile was so cheering that I felt at
once relieved.

"Hush!" said the child, putting her finger to her lips, "she is so quiet!
I was coming in search of you, with a message from her."

"From Lilian to me--what! to me!"

"Hush!  About an hour ago, she beckoned me to draw near to her, and then
said, very softly: 'Tell Allen that light is coming back to me, and it all
settles on him--on him.  Tell him that I pray to be spared to walk by his
side on earth, hand-in-hand to that heaven which is no dream, Amy.  Tell
him that,--no dream!'"

While the child spoke my tears gushed, and the strong hands in which I
veiled my face quivered like the leaf of the aspen.  And when I could
command my voice, I said plaintively,--

"May I not, then, see her?--only for a moment, and answer her message
though but by a look?"

"No, no!"

"No!  Where is Faber?"

"Gone into the forest, in search of some herbs, but he gave me this note
for you."

I wiped the blinding tears from my eyes, and read these lines:--

"I have, though with hesitation, permitted Amy to tell you the cheering
words, by which our beloved patient confirms my belief that reason is
coming back to her,--slowly, labouringly, but if she survive, for
permanent restoration.  On no account attempt to precipitate or disturb
the work of nature.  As dangerous as a sudden glare of light to eyes long
blind and newly regaining vision in the friendly and soothing dark would
be the agitation that your presence at this crisis would cause.  Confide
in me."

I remained brooding over these lines and over Lilian's message long and
silently, while Amy's soothing whispers stole into my ear, soft as the
murmurs of a rill heard in the gloom of forests.  Rousing myself at
length, my thoughts returned to Margrave.  Doubtless he would soon awake.
I bade Amy bring me such slight nutriment as I thought best suited to his
enfeebled state, telling her it was for a sick traveller, resting himself
in my hut.  When Amy returned, I took from her the little basket with
which she was charged, and having, meanwhile, made a careful selection
from the contents of my medicine-chest, went back to the hut.  I had not
long resumed my place beside Margrave's pillow before he awoke.

"What o'clock is it?" he asked, with an anxious voice.

"About seven."

"Not later?  That is well; my time is precious."

"Compose yourself, and eat."

I placed the food before him, and he partook of it, though sparingly, and
as if with effort.  He then dozed for a short time, again woke up, and
impatiently demanded the cordial, which I had prepared in the mean while.
Its effect was greater and more immediate than I could have anticipated,
proving, perhaps, how much of youth there was still left in his system,
however undermined and ravaged by disease.  Colour came back to his cheek,
his voice grew perceptibly stronger.  And as I lighted the lamp on the
table near us--for it was growing dark--he gathered himself up, and spoke
thus,--

"You remember that I once pressed on you certain experiments.  My object
then was to discover the materials from which is extracted the specific
that enables the organs of life to expel disease and regain vigour.  In
that hope I sought your intimacy,--an intimacy you gave, but withdrew."

"Dare you complain?  Who and what was the being from whose intimacy I
shrank appalled?"

"Ask what questions you please," cried Margrave, impatiently, "later--if I
have strength left to answer them; but do not interrupt me, while I
husband my force to say what alone is important to me and to you.
Disappointed in the hopes I had placed in you, I resolved to repair to
Paris,--that great furnace of all bold ideas.  I questioned learned
formalists; I listened to audacious empirics.  The first, with all their
boasted knowledge, were too timid to concede my premises; the second, with
all their speculative daring, too knavish to let me trust to their
conclusions.  I found but one man, a Sicilian, who comprehended the
secrets that are called occult, and had the courage to meet Nature and all
her agencies face to face.  He believed, and sincerely, that he was
approaching the grand result, at the very moment when he perished from
want of the common precautions which a tyro in chemistry would have taken.
At his death the gaudy city became hateful; all its pretended pleasures
only served to exhaust life the faster.  The true joys of youth are those
of the wild bird and wild brute, in the healthful enjoyment of Nature.  In
cities, youth is but old age with a varnish.  I fled to the East; I passed
through the tents of the Arabs; I was guided--no matter by whom or by
what--to the house of a Dervish, who had had for his teacher the most
erudite master of secrets occult, whom I knew years ago at Aleppo---Why
that exclamation?"

"Proceed.  What I have to say will come--later."

"From this Dervish I half forced and half purchased the secret I sought to
obtain.  I now know from what peculiar substance the so-called elixir of
life is extracted; I know also the steps of the process through which that
task is accomplished.  You smile incredulously.  What is your doubt?
State it while I rest for a moment.  My breath labours; give me more of
the cordial."

"Need I tell you my doubt?  You have, you say, at your command the elixir
of life of which Cagliostro did not leave his disciples the recipe; and
you stretch out your hand for a vulgar cordial which any village chemist
could give you!"

"I can explain this apparent contradiction.  The process by which the
elixir is extracted from the material which hoards its essence is one that
requires a hardihood of courage which few possess.  This Dervish, who had
passed through that process once, was deaf to all prayer, and unmoved by
all bribes, to attempt it again.  He was poor; for the secret by which
metals may be transmuted is not, as the old alchemists seem to imply,
identical with that by which the elixir of life is extracted.  He had only
been enabled to discover, in the niggard strata of the lands within range
of his travel, a few scanty morsels of the glorious substance.  From these
he had extracted scarcely enough of the elixir to fill a third of that
little glass which I have just drained.  He guarded every drop for
himself.  Who that holds healthful life as the one boon above all price
to the living, would waste upon others what prolongs and recruits his own
being?  Therefore, though he sold me his secret, he would not sell me his
treasure."

"Any quack may sell you the information how to make not only an elixir,
but a sun and a moon, and then scare you from the experiment by tales of
the danger of trying it!  How do you know that this essence which the
Dervish possessed was the elixir of life, since, it seems, you have not
tried on yourself what effect its precious drops could produce?  Poor
wretch, who once seemed to me so awfully potent! do you come to the
Antipodes in search of a drug that only exists in the fables by which a
child is amused?"

"The elixir of life is no fable," cried Margrave, with a kindling of eye,
a power of voice, a dilatation of form, that startled me in one just
before so feeble.  "That elixir was bright in my veins when we last met.
From that golden draught of the life-spring of joy I took all that can
gladden creation.  What sage would not have exchanged his wearisome
knowledge for my lusty revels with Nature?  What monarch would not have
bartered his crown, with its brain-ache of care, for the radiance that
circled my brows, flashing out from the light that was in me?  Oh again,
oh again! to enjoy the freedom of air with the bird, and the glow of the
sun with the lizard; to sport through the blooms of the earth, Nature's
playmate and darling; to face, in the forest and desert, the pard and the
lion,--Nature's bravest and fiercest,--her firstborn, the heir of her
realm, with the rest of her children for slaves!"

As these words burst from his lips, there was a wild grandeur in the
aspect of this enigmatical being which I had never beheld in the former
time of his affluent, dazzling youth.  And, indeed, in his language, and
in the thoughts it clothed, there was an earnestness, a concentration, a
directness, a purpose, which had seemed wanting to his desultory talk in
the earlier days I expected that reaction of languor and exhaustion would
follow his vehement outbreak of passion, but, after a short pause, he went
on with steady accents.  His will was sustaining his strength.  He was
determined to force his convictions on me, and the vitality, once so rich,
rallied all its lingering forces to the aid of its intense desire.

"I tell you, then," he resumed, with deliberate calmness, "that, years
ago, I tested in my own person that essence which is the sovereign
medicament.  In me, as you saw me at L----, you beheld the proof of its
virtues.  Feeble and ill as I am now, my state was incalculably more
hopeless when formerly restored by the elixir.  He from whom I then took
the sublime restorative died without revealing the secret of its
composition.  What I obtained was only just sufficient to recruit the lamp
of my life, then dying down--and no drop was left for renewing the light
which wastes its own rays in the air that it gilds.  Though the Dervish
would not sell me his treasure, he permitted me to see it.  The appearance
and odour of this essence are strangely peculiar,--unmistakable by one who
has once beheld and partaken of it.  In short, I recognized in the hands
of the Dervish the bright life-renewer, as I had borne it away from the
corpse of the Sage of Aleppo."

"Hold!  Are you then, in truth, the murderer of Haroun, and is your true
name Louis Grayle?"

"I am no murderer, and Louis Grayle did not leave me his name.  I again
adjure you to postpone, for this night at least, the questions you wish to
address to me.

"Seeing that this obstinate pauper possessed that for which the pale
owners of millions, at the first touch of palsy or gout, would consent to
be paupers, of course I coveted the possession of the essence even more
than the knowledge of the substance from which it is extracted.  I had no
coward fear of the experiment, which this timid driveller had not the
nerve to renew.  But still the experiment might fail.  I must traverse
land and sea to find the fit place for it, while, in the rags of the
Dervish, the unfailing result of the experiment was at hand.  The Dervish
suspected my design, he dreaded my power.  He fled on the very night in
which I had meant to seize what he refused to sell me.  After all, I
should have done him no great wrong; for I should have left him wealth
enough to transport himself to any soil in which the material for the
elixir may be most abundant; and the desire of life would have given his
shrinking nerves the courage to replenish its ravished store.  I had Arabs
in my pay, who obeyed me as hounds their master.  I chased the fugitive.
I came on his track, reached a house in a miserable village, in which, I
was told, he had entered but an hour before.  The day was declining, the
light in the room imperfect.  I saw in a corner what seemed to me the form
of the Dervish,--stooped to seize it, and my hand closed on an asp.  The
artful Dervish had so piled his rags that they took the shape of the form
they had clothed, and he had left, as a substitute for the giver of life,
the venomous reptile of death.

"The strength of my system enabled me to survive the effect of the poison;
but during the torpor that numbed me, my Arabs, alarmed, gave no chase to
my quarry.  At last, though enfeebled and languid, I was again on my
horse.  Again the pursuit, again the track!  I learned--but this time by a
knowledge surer than man's--that the Dervish had taken his refuge in a
hamlet that had sprung up over the site of a city once famed through
Assyria.  The same voice that in formed me of his whereabouts warned me
not to pursue.  I rejected the warning.  In my eager impatience I sprang
on to the chase; in my fearless resolve I felt sure of the prey.  I
arrived at the hamlet wearied out, for my forces were no longer the same
since the bite of the asp.  The Dervish eluded me still; he had left the
floor, on which I sank exhausted, but a few minutes before my horse
stopped at the door.  The carpet, on which he had rested, still lay on the
ground.  I dismissed the youngest and keenest of my troop in search of the
fugitive.  Sure that this time he would not escape, my eyes closed in
sleep.

"How long I slept I know not,--a long dream of solitude, fever, and
anguish.  Was it the curse of the Dervish's car pet?  Was it a taint in
the walls of the house, or of the air, which broods sickly and rank over
places where cities lie buried?  I know not; but the Pest of the East had
seized me in slumber.  When my senses recovered I found myself alone,
plundered of my arms, despoiled of such gold as I had carried about me.
All had deserted and left me, as the living leave the dead whom the Plague
has claimed for its own.  As soon as I could stand I crawled from the
threshold.  The moment my voice was heard, my face seen, the whole squalid
populace rose as on a wild beast,--a mad dog.  I was driven from the place
with imprecations and stones, as a miscreant whom the Plague had overtaken
while plotting the death of a holy man.  Bruised and bleeding, but still
defying, I turned in wrath on that dastardly rabble; they slunk away from
my path.  I knew the land for miles around.  I had been in that land
years, long years ago.  I came at last to the road which the caravans take
on their way to Damascus.  There I was found, speechless and seemingly
lifeless, by some European travellers.  Conveyed to Damascus, I languished
for weeks between life and death.  But for the virtue of that essence,
which lingered yet in my veins, I could not have survived--even thus
feeble and shattered.  I need not say that I now abandoned all thought of
discovering the Dervish.  I had at least his secret, if I had failed of
the paltry supply he had drawn from its uses.  Such appliances as he had
told me were needful are procured in the East with more ease than in
Europe.  To sum up, I am here, instructed in all the knowledge, and
supplied with all the aids, which warrant me in saying, 'Do you care for
new life in its richest enjoyments, if not for yourself, for one whom you
love and would reprieve from the grave?  Then, share with me in a task
that a single night will accomplish, and ravish a prize by which the life
that you value the most will be saved from the dust and the worm, to live
on, ever young, ever blooming, when each infant, new-born while I speak,
shall have passed to the grave.  Nay, where is the limit to life, while
the earth hides the substance by which life is renewed?"

I give as faithfully as I can recall them the words in which Margrave
addressed me.  But who can guess by cold words transcribed, even were they
artfully ranged by a master of language, the effect words produce when
warm from the breath of the speaker?  Ask one of an audience which some
orator held enthralled, why his words do not quicken a beat in the
reader's pulse, and the answer of one who had listened will be, "The words
took their charm from the voice and the eye, the aspect, the manner, the
man!"  So it was with the incomprehensible being before me.  Though his
youth was faded, though his beauty was dimmed, though my fancies clothed
him with memories of abhorrent dread, though my reason opposed his
audacious beliefs and assumptions, still he charmed and spell-bound me;
still he was the mystical fascinator; still, if the legends of magic had
truth for their basis, he was the born magician,--as genius, in what
calling soever, is born with the gift to enchant and subdue us.

Constraining myself to answer calmly, I said, "You have told me your
story; you have defined the object of the experiment in which you ask me
to aid.  You do right to bid me postpone my replies or my questions.  Seek
to recruit by sleep the strength you have so sorely tasked.  To-morrow--"

"To-morrow, ere night, you will decide whether the man whom out of all
earth I have selected to aid me shall be the foe to condemn me to perish!
I tell you plainly I need your aid, and your prompt aid.  Three days from
this, and all aid will be too late!"

I had already gained the door of the room, when he called to me to come
back.

"You do not live in this but, but with your family yonder.  Do not tell
them that I am here; let no one but yourself see me as I now am.  Lock the
door of the but when you quit it.  I should not close my eyes if I were
not secure from intruders."

"There is but one in my house, or in these parts, whom I would except from
the interdict you impose.  You are aware of your own imminent danger; the
life, which you believe the discovery of a Dervish will indefinitely
prolong, seems to my eye of physician to hang on a thread.  I have already
formed my own conjecture as to the nature of the disease that enfeebles
you.  But I would fain compare that conjecture with the weightier opinion
of one whose experience and skill are superior to mine.  Permit me, then,
when I return to you to-morrow, to bring with me the great physician to
whom I refer.  His name will not, perhaps, be unknown to you: I speak of
Julius Faber."

"A physician of the schools!  I can guess well enough how learnedly he
would prate, and how little he could do.  But I will not object to his
visit, if it satisfies you that, since I should die under the hands of the
doctors, I may be permitted to indulge my own whim in placing my hopes in
a Dervish.  Yet stay.  You have, doubtless, spoken of me to this Julius
Faber, your fellow-physician and friend?  Promise me, if you bring him
here, that you will not name me,--that you will not repeat to him the tale
I have told you, or the hope which has led me to these shores.  What I
have told you, no matter whether, at this moment, you consider me the dupe
of a chimera, is still under the seal of the confidence which a patient
reposes in the physician he himself selects for his confidant.  I select
you, and not Julius Faber!"

"Be it as you will," said I, after a moment's reflection.  "The moment you
make yourself my patient, I am bound to consider what is best for you.
And you may more respect, and profit by, an opinion based upon your purely
physical condition than by one in which you might suppose the advice was
directed rather to the disease of the mind than to that of the body."

"How amazed and indignant your brother-physician will be if he ever see me
a second time!  How learnedly he will prove that, according to all correct
principles of science and nature, I ought to be dead!"

He uttered this jest with a faint weary echo of his old merry, melodious
laugh, then turned his face to the wall; and so I left him to repose.



CHAPTER LXXV.

I found Mrs. Ashleigh waiting for me in our usual sitting-room.  She was
in tears.  She had begun to despond of Lilian's recovery, and she infected
me with her own alarm.  However, I disguised my participation in her
fears, soothed and sustained her as I best could, and persuaded her to
retire to rest.  I saw Faber for a few minutes before I sought my own
chamber.  He assured me that there was no perceptible change for the worse
in Lilian's physical state since he had last seen me, and that her mind,
even within the last few hours, had become decidedly more clear.  He
thought that, within the next twenty-four hours, the reason would make a
strong and successful effort for complete recovery; but he declined to
hazard more than a hope that the effort would not exhaust the enfeebled
powers of the frame.  He himself was so in need of a few hours of rest
that I ceased to harass him with questions which he could not answer, and
fears which he could not appease.  Before leaving him for the night, I
told him briefly that there was a traveller in my but smitten by a disease
which seemed to me so grave that I would ask his opinion of the case, if
he could accompany me to the but the next morning.

My own thoughts that night were not such as would suffer me to sleep.

Before Margrave's melancholy state much of my former fear and abhorrence
faded away.  This being, so exceptional that fancy might well invest him
with preternatural attributes, was now reduced by human suffering to human
sympathy and comprehension; yet his utter want of conscience was still as
apparent as in his day of joyous animal spirits.  With what hideous
candour he had related his perfidy and ingratitude to the man to whom, in
his belief, he owed an inestimable obligation, and with what insensibility
to the signal retribution which in most natures would have awakened
remorse!

And by what dark hints and confessions did he seem to confirm the
incredible memoir of Sir Philip Derval!  He owned that he had borne from
the corpse of Haroun the medicament to which he ascribed his recovery from
a state yet more hopeless than that under which he now laboured!  He had
alluded, rapidly, obscurely, to some knowledge at his command "surer than
man's."  And now, even now the mere wreck of his former existence--by what
strange charm did he still control and confuse my reason?  And how was it
that I felt myself murmuring, again and again, "But what, after all, if
his hope be no chimera, and if Nature do hide a secret by which I could
save the life of my beloved Lilian?"

And again and again, as that thought would force itself on me, I rose and
crept to Lilian's threshold, listening to catch the faintest sound of her
breathing.  All still, all dark!  In that sufferer recognized science
detects no mortal disease, yet dares not bid me rely on its amplest
resources of skill to turn aside from her slumber the stealthy advance of
death; while in yon log-hut one whose malady recognized science could not
doubt to be mortal has composed himself to sleep, confident of life!
Recognized science?--recognized ignorance!  The science of to-day is the
ignorance of to-morrow!  Every year some bold guess lights up a truth to
which, but the year before, the schoolmen of science were as blinded as
moles.

"What, then," my lips kept repeating,--"what if Nature do hide a secret by
which the life of my life can be saved?  What do we know of the secrets of
Nature?  What said Newton himself of his knowledge?  'I am like a child
picking up pebbles and shells on the sand, while the great ocean of Truth
lies all undiscovered around me!'  And did Newton himself, in the ripest
growth of his matchless intellect, hold the creed of the alchemists in
scorn?  Had he not given to one object of their research, in the
transmutation of metals, his days and his nights?  Is there proof that he
ever convinced himself that the research was the dream, which we, who are
not Newtons, call it?[1]  And that other great sage, inferior only to
Newton--the calculating doubt-weigher, Descartes--had he not believed in
the yet nobler hope of the alchemists,--believed in some occult nostrum or
process by which human life could attain to the age of the Patriarchs?"[2]

In thoughts like these the night wore away, the moonbeams that streamed
through my window lighting up the spacious solitudes beyond,--mead and
creek, forest-land, mountaintop,--and the silence without broken by the
wild cry of the night hawk and the sibilant melancholy dirge of the
shining chrysococyx,[3]--bird that never sings but at night, and
obstinately haunts the roofs of the sick and dying, ominous of woe and
death.

But up sprang the sun, and, chasing these gloomy sounds, out burst the
wonderful chorus of Australian groves, the great kingfisher opening the
jocund melodious babble with the glee of his social laugh.

And now I heard Faber's step in Lilian's room,--heard through the door her
soft voice, though I could not distinguish the words.  It was not long
before I saw the kind physician standing at the threshold of my chamber.
He pressed his finger to his lip, and made me a sign to follow him.  I
obeyed, with noiseless tread and stifled breathing.  He awaited me in the
garden under the flowering acacias, passed his arm in mine, and drew me
into the open pasture-land.

"Compose yourself," he then said; "I bring you tidings both of gladness
and of fear.  Your Lilian's mind is restored: even the memories which had
been swept away by the fever that followed her return to her home in L----
are returning, though as yet indistinct.  She yearns to see you, to bless
you for all your noble devotion, your generous, greathearted love; but I
forbid such interview now.  If, in a few hours, she become either
decidedly stronger or decidedly more enfeebled, you shall be summoned to
her side.  Even if you are condemned to a loss for which the sole
consolation must be placed in the life hereafter, you shall have, at
least, the last mortal commune of soul with soul.  Courage! courage!  You
are man!  Bear as man what you have so often bid other men submit to
endure."

I had flung myself on the ground,--writhing worm that had no home but on
earth!  Man, indeed!  Man!  All, at that moment, I took from manhood was
its acute sensibility to love and to anguish!

But after all such paroxysms of mortal pain, there comes a strange lull.
Thought itself halts, like the still hush of water between two descending
torrents.  I rose in a calm, which Faber might well mistake for fortitude.

"Well," I said quietly, "fulfil your promise.  If Lilian is to pass away
from me, I shall see her, at least, again; no wall, you tell me, between
our minds; mind to mind once more,--once more!"

"Allen," said Faber, mournfully and softly, "why do you shun to repeat my
words--soul to soul?"

"Ay, ay,--I understand.  Those words mean that you have resigned all hope
that Lilian's life will linger here, when her mind comes back in full
consciousness; I know well that last lightning flash and the darkness
which swallows it up!"

"You exaggerate my fears.  I have not resigned the hope that Lilian will
survive the struggle through which she is passing, but it will be cruel to
deceive you--my hope is weaker than it was."

"Ay, ay.  Again, I understand!  Your science is in fault,--it desponds.
Its last trust is in the wonderful resources of Nature, the vitality
stored in the young!"

"You have said,--those resources of Nature are wondrous.  The vitality of
youth is a fountain springing up from the deeps out of sight, when, a
moment before, we had measured the drops oozing out from the sands, and
thought that the well was exhausted."

"Come with me,--come.  I told you of another sufferer yonder.  I want your
opinion of his case.  But can you be spared a few minutes from Lilian's
side?"

"Yes; I left her asleep.  What is the case that perplexes your eye of
physician, which is usually keener than mine, despite all the length of my
practice?"

"The sufferer is young, his organization rare in its vigour.  He has gone
through and survived assaults upon life that are commonly fatal.  His
system has been poisoned by the fangs of a venomous asp, and shattered by
the blast of the plague.  These alone, I believe, would not suffice to
destroy him.  But he is one who has a strong dread of death; and while the
heart was thus languid and feeble, it has been gnawed by emotions of hope
or of fear.  I suspect that he is dying, not from the bite of the reptile,
not from the taint of the pestilence, but from the hope and the fear that
have overtasked the heart's functions.  Judge for yourself."

We were now at the door of the hut.  I unlocked it: we entered.  Margrave
had quitted his bed, and was pacing the room slowly.  His step was less
feeble, his countenance less haggard than on the previous evening.

He submitted himself to Faber's questioning with a quiet indifference, and
evidently cared nothing for any opinion which the great physician might
found on his replies.

When Faber had learned all he could, he said, with a grave smile: "I see
that my advice will have little weight with you; such as it is, at least
reflect on it.  The conclusions to which your host arrived in his view of
your case, and which he confided to me, are, in my humble judgment,
correct.  I have no doubt that the great organ of the heart is involved in
the cause of your sufferings; but the heart is a noble and much-enduring
organ.  I have known men in whom it has been more severely and
unequivocally affected with disease than it is in you, live on for many
years, and ultimately die of some other disorder.  But then life was held,
as yours must be held, upon one condition,--repose.  I enjoin you to
abstain from all violent action, to shun all excitements that cause moral
disturbance.  You are young: would you live on, you must live as the old.
More than this,--it is my duty to warn you that your tenure on earth is
very precarious; you may attain to many years; you may be suddenly called
hence tomorrow.  The best mode to regard this uncertainty with the calm in
which is your only chance of long life, is so to arrange all your worldly
affairs, and so to discipline all your human anxieties, as to feel always
prepared for the summons that may come without warning.  For the rest,
quit this climate as soon as you can,--it is the climate in which the
blood courses too quickly for one who should shun all excitement.  Seek
the most equable atmosphere, choose the most tranquil pursuits; and
Fenwick himself, in his magnificent pride of stature and strength, may be
nearer the grave than you are."

"Your opinion coincides with that I have just heard?" asked Margrave,
turning to me.

"In much--yes."

"It is more favourable than I should have supposed.  I am far from
disdaining the advice so kindly offered.  Permit me, in turn, two or three
questions, Dr. Faber.  Do you prescribe to me no drugs from your
pharmacopoeia?"

"Drugs may palliate many sufferings incidental to organic disease, but
drugs cannot reach organic disease itself."

"Do you believe that, even where disease is plainly organic, Nature
herself has no alternative and reparative powers, by which the organ
assailed may recover itself?"

"A few exceptional instances of such forces in Nature are upon record; but
we must go by general laws, and not by exceptions."

"Have you never known instances--do you not at this moment know one--in
which a patient whose malady baffles the doctor's skill, imagines or
dreams of a remedy?  Call it a whim if you please, learned sir; do you not
listen to the whim, and, in despair of your own prescriptions, comply with
those of the patient?"

Faber changed countenance, and even started.  Margrave watched him and
laughed.

"You grant that there are such cases, in which the patient gives the law
to the physician.  Now, apply your experience to my case.  Suppose some
strange fancy had seized upon my imagination--that is the doctor's cant
word for all phenomena which we call exceptional--some strange fancy that
I had thought of a cure for this disease for which you have no drugs; and
suppose this fancy of mine to be so strong, so vivid, that to deny me its
gratification would produce the very emotion from which you warn me as
fatal,--storm the heart, that you would soothe to repose, by the passions
of rage and despair,--would you, as my trusted physician, concede or deny
me my whim?"

"Can you ask?  I should grant it at once, if I had no reason to know that
the thing that you fancied was harmful."

"Good man and wise doctor!  I have no other question to ask.  I thank
you."

Faber looked hard on the young, wan face, over which played a smile of
triumph and irony; then turned away with an expression of doubt and
trouble on his own noble countenance.  I followed him silently into the
open air.

"Who and what is this visitor of yours?"  he asked abruptly.

"Who and what?  I cannot tell you."

Faber remained some moments musing, and muttering slowly to himself, "Tut!
but a chance coincidence,--a haphazard allusion to a fact which he could
not have known!"

"Faber," said I, abruptly, "can it be that Lilian is the patient in whose
self-suggested remedies you confide more than in the various learning at
command of your practised skill?"

"I cannot deny it," replied Faber, reluctantly.  "In the intervals of that
suspense from waking sense, which in her is not sleep, nor yet altogether
catalepsy, she has, for the last few days, stated accurately the precise
moment in which the trance--if I may so call it--would pass away, and
prescribed for herself the remedies that should be then administered.  In
every instance, the remedies so self-prescribed, though certainly not
those which would have occurred to my mind, have proved efficacious.  Her
rapid progress to reason I ascribe to the treatment she herself ordained
in her trance, without remembrance of her own suggestions when she awoke.
I had meant to defer communicating these phenomena in the idiosyncrasy of
her case until our minds could more calmly inquire into the process by
which ideas--not apparently derived, as your metaphysical school would
derive all ideas, from preconceived experiences--will thus sometimes act
like an instinct on the human sufferer for self-preservation, as the bird
is directed to the herb or the berry which heals or assuages its ailments.
We know how the mesmerists would account for this phenomenon of hygienic
introvision and clairvoyance.  But here, there is no mesmerizer, unless
the patient can be supposed to mesmerize herself.  Long, however, before
mesmerism was heard of, medical history attests examples in which patients
who baffled the skill of the ablest physicians have fixed their fancies on
some remedy that physicians would call inoperative for good or for harm,
and have recovered by the remedies thus singularly self-suggested.  And
Hippocrates himself, if I construe his meaning rightly, recognizes the
powers for self-cure which the condition of trance will sometimes bestow
on the sufferer, 'where' (says the father of our art) 'the sight being
closed to the external, the soul more truthfully perceives the affections
of the body.'  In short--I own it--in this instance, the skill of the
physician has been a compliant obedience to the instinct called forth in
the patient; and the hopes I have hitherto permitted myself to give you
were founded on my experience that her own hopes, conceived in trance, bad
never been fallacious or exaggerated.  The simples that I gathered for her
yesterday she had described; they are not in our herbal.  But as they are
sometimes used by the natives, I had the curiosity to analyze their
chemical properties shortly after I came to the colony, and they seemed to
me as innocent as lime-blossoms.  They are rare in this part of Australia,
but she told me where I should find them,--a remote spot, which she has
certainly never visited.  Last night, when you saw me disturbed, dejected,
it was because, for the first time, the docility with which she had
hitherto, in her waking state, obeyed her own injunctions in the state of
trance, forsook her.  She could not be induced to taste the decoction I
had made from the herbs; and if you found me this morning with weaker
hopes than before, this is the real cause,--namely, that when I visited
her at sunrise, she was not in sleep but in trance, and in that trance
she told me that she had nothing more to suggest or reveal; that on the
complete restoration of her senses, which was at hand, the abnormal
faculties vouchsafed to trance would be withdrawn.  'As for my life,' she
said quietly, as if unconscious of our temporary joy or woe in the term of
its tenure here,--'as for my life, your aid is now idle; my own vision
obscure; on my life a dark and cold shadow is resting.  I cannot foresee
if it will pass away.  When I strive to look around, I see but my
Allen--'"

"And so," said I, mastering my emotions, "in bidding me hope, you did not
rely on your own resources of science, but on the whisper of Nature in the
brain of your patient?"

"It is so."

We both remained silent some moments, and then, as he disappeared within
my house, I murmured,--

"And when she strives to look beyond the shadow, she sees only me!  Is
there some prophet-hint of Nature there also, directing me not to scorn
the secret which a wanderer, so suddenly dropped on my solitude, assures
me that Nature will sometimes reveal to her seeker?  And oh! that dark
wanderer--has Nature a marvel more weird than himself?"

[1] "Besides the three great subjects of Newton's labours--the fluxional
calculus, physical astronomy, and optics--a very large portion of his
time, while resident in his college, was devoted to researches of which
scarcely a trace remains.  Alchemy, which had fascinated so many eager and
ambitious minds, seems to have tempted Newton with an overwhelming force.
What theories he formed, what experiments he tried, in that laboratory
where, it is said, the fire was scarcely extinguished for weeks together,
will never be known.  It is certain that no success attended his labours;
and Newton was not a man--like Kepler--to detail to the world all the
hopes and disappointments, all the crude and mystical fancies, which mixed
themselves up with his career of philosophy...  Many years later we find
Newton in correspondence with Locke, with reference to a mysterious red
earth by which Boyle, who was then recently dead, had asserted that he
could effect the grand desideratum of multiplying gold.  By this time,
however, Newton's faith had become somewhat shaken by the unsatisfactory
communications which he had himself received from Boyle on the subject of
the golden recipe, though he did not abandon the idea of giving the
experiment a further trial as soon as the weather should become suitable
for furnace experiments."--Quarterly Review, No. 220, pp. 125, 126.

[2] Southey, in his "Doctor," vol. vi. p. 2, reports the conversation of
Sir Kenelm Digby with Descartes, in which the great geometrician said,
"That as for rendering man immortal, it was what he could not venture to
promise, but that he was very sure he could prolong his life to the
standard of the patriarchs."  And Southey adds, "that St. Evremond, to
whom Digby repeated this, says that this opinion of Descartes was well
known both to his friends in Holland and in France."  By the stress
Southey lays on this hearsay evidence, it is clear that he was not
acquainted with the works and biography of Descartes, or be would have
gone to the fountain-head for authority on Descartes's opinions, namely,
Descartes himself.  It is to be wished that Southey had done so, for no
one more than he would have appreciated the exquisitely candid and lovable
nature of the illustrious Frenchman, and the sincerity with which he
cherished in his heart whatever doctrine he conceived in his
understanding.  Descartes, whose knowledge of anatomy was considerable,
had that passion for the art of medicine which is almost inseparable from
the pursuit of natural philosophy.  At the age of twenty-four he had
sought (in Germany) to obtain initiation into the brotherhood of the
Rosicrucians, but unluckily could not discover any member of the society
to introduce him.  "He desired," says Cousin, "to assure the health of
man, diminish his ills, extend his existence.  He was terrified by the
rapid and almost momentary passage of man upon earth.  He believed it was
not, perhaps, impossible to prolong its duration."  There is a hidden
recess of grandeur in this idea, and the means proposed by Descartes for
the execution of his project were not less grand.  In his "Discourse on
Method," Descartes says, "If it is possible to find some means to render
generally men more wise and more able than they have been till now, it is,
I believe, in medicine that those means must be sought...  I am sure that
there is no one, even in the medical profession, who will not avow that
all which one knows of the medical art is almost nothing in comparison to
that which remains to learn, and that one could be exempted from an
infinity of maladies, both of body and mind, and even, perhaps, from the
decrepitude of old age, if one had sufficient lore of their causes and of
all the remedies which nature provides for them.  Therefore, having design
to employ all my life in the research of a science so necessary, and
having discovered a path which appears to me such that one ought
infallibly, in following, to find it, if one is not hindered prematurely
by the brevity of life or by the defects of experience, I consider that
there is no better remedy against those two hindrances than to communicate
faithfully to the public the little I have found," etc.  ("Discours de la
Methode," vol. i. OEuvres de Descartes, Cousin's Edition.)  And again, in
his "Correspondence" (vol.  ix.  p. 341), he says: "The conservation of
health has been always the principal object of my studies, and I have no
doubt that there is a means of acquiring much knowledge touching medicine
which, up to this time, is ignored."  He then refers to his meditated
Treatise on Animals as only an entrance upon that knowledge.  But whatever
secrets Descartes may have thought to discover, they are not made known to
the public according to his promise.  And in a letter to M. Chanut,
written in 1646 (four years before he died), he says ingenuously: "I will
tell you in confidence that the notion, such as it is, which I have
endeavoured to acquire in physical philosophy, had greatly assisted me to
establish certain foundations for moral philosophy; and that I am more
easily satisfied upon this point than I am on many others touching
medicine, to which I have, nevertheless, devoted much more time.  So
that"--(adds the grand thinker, with a pathetic nobleness )--"so that,
instead of finding the means to preserve life, I have found another good,
more easy and more sure, which is--not to fear death."

[3] Chrysococyx lucidus,--namely, the bird popularly called the shining or
bronzed cuckoo.  "Its note is an exceedingly melancholy whistle, heard at
night, when it is very annoying to any sick or nervous person who may be
inclined to sleep.  I have known many instances where the bird has been
perched on a tree in the vicinity of the room of an invalid, uttering its
mournful notes, and it was only with the greatest difficulty that it could
be dislodged from its position."--Dr. Bennett: Gatherings of a Naturalist
in Australasia.



CHAPTER LXXVI.

I strayed through the forest till noon, in debate with myself, and strove
to shape my wild doubts into purpose, before I could nerve and compose
myself again to face Margrave alone.

I re-entered the but.  To my surprise, Margrave was not in the room in
which I had left him, nor in that which adjoined it.  I ascended the
stairs to the kind of loft in which I had been accustomed to pursue my
studies, but in which I had not set foot since my alarm for Lilian had
suspended my labours.  There I saw Margrave quietly seated before the
manuscript of my Ambitious Work, which lay open on the rude table, just as
I had left it, in the midst of its concluding summary.

"I have taken the license of former days, you see," said Margrave,
smiling, "and have hit by chance on a passage I can understand without
effort.  But why such a waste of argument to prove a fact so simple?  In
man, as in brute, life once lost is lost forever; and that is why life is
so precious to man."

I took the book from his hand, and flung it aside in wrath.  His approval
revolted me more with my own theories than all the argumentative rebukes
of Faber.

"And now," I said, sternly, "the time has come for the explanation you
promised.  Before I can aid you in any experiment that may serve to
prolong your life, I must know how far that life has been a baleful and
destroying influence?"

"I have some faint recollection of having saved your life from an imminent
danger, and if gratitude were the attribute of man, as it is of the dog, I
should claim your aid to serve mine as a right.  Ask me what you will.
You must have seen enough of me to know that I do not affect either the
virtues or vices of others.  I regard both with so supreme an
indifference, that I believe I am vicious or virtuous unawares.  I know
not if I can explain what seems to have perplexed you, but if I cannot
explain I have no intention to lie.  Speak--I listen!  We have time enough
now before us."

So saying, he reclined back in the chair, stretching out his limbs
wearily.  All round this spoilt darling of Material Nature were the aids
and appliances of Intellectual Science,--books and telescopes and
crucibles, with the light of day coming through a small circular aperture
in the boarded casement, as I had constructed the opening for my
experimental observation of the prismal rays.

While I write, his image is as visible before my remembrance as if before
the actual eye,--beautiful even in its decay, awful even in its weakness,
mysterious as is Nature herself amidst all the mechanism by which our
fancied knowledge attempts to measure her laws and analyze her light.

But at that moment no such subtle reflections delayed my inquisitive eager
mind from its immediate purpose,--who and what was this creature boasting
of a secret through which I might rescue from death the life of her who
was my all upon the earth?

I gathered rapidly and succinctly together all that I knew and all that I
guessed of Margrave's existence and arts.  I commenced from my vision in
that mimic Golgotha of creatures inferior to man, close by the scene of
man's most trivial and meaningless pastime.  I went on,--Derval's murder;
the missing contents of the casket; the apparition seen by the maniac
assassin guiding him to the horrid deed; the luminous haunting shadow; the
positive charge in the murdered man's memoir connecting Margrave with
Louis Grayle, and accusing him of the murder of Haroun; the night in the
moonlit pavilion at Derval Court; the baneful influence on Lilian; the
struggle between me and himself in the house by the seashore,--the strange
All that is told in this Strange Story.

But warming as I spoke, and in a kind of fierce joy to be enabled thus to
free my own heart of the doubts that had burdened it, now that I was
fairly face to face with the being by whom my reason had been so perplexed
and my life so tortured.  I was restrained by none of the fears lest my
own fancy deceived me, with which in his absence I had striven to reduce
to natural causes the portents of terror and wonder.  I stated plainly,
directly, the beliefs, the impressions which I had never dared even to
myself to own without seeking to explain them away.  And coming at last to
a close, I said: "Such are the evidences that seem to me to justify
abhorrence of the life that you ask me to aid in prolonging.  Your own
tale of last night but confirms them.  And why to me--to me--do you come
with wild entreaties to lengthen the life that has blighted my own?  How
did you even learn the home in which I sought unavailing refuge?  How--as
your hint to Faber clearly revealed--were you aware that, in yon house,
where the sorrow is veiled, where the groan is suppressed, where the
foot-tread falls ghostlike, there struggles now between life and death my
heart's twin, my world's sunshine?  Ah! through my terror for her, is it a
demon that tells you how to bribe my abhorrence into submission, and
supple my reason into use to your ends?"

Margrave had listened to me throughout with a fixed attention, at times
with a bewildered stare, at times with exclamations of surprise, but not
of denial.  And when I had done, he remained for some moments silent,
seemingly stupefied, passing his hand repeatedly over his brow, in the
gesture so familiar to him in former days.

At length he said quietly, without evincing any sign either of resentment
or humiliation,--

"In much that you tell me I recognize myself; in much I am as lost in
amazement as you in wild doubt or fierce wrath.  Of the effect that you
say Philip Derval produced on me I have no recollection.  Of himself I
have only this,--that he was my foe, that he came to England intent on
schemes to shorten my life or destroy its enjoyments.  All my faculties
tend to self-preservation; there, they converge as rays in a focus; in
that focus they illume and--they burn.  I willed to destroy my intended
destroyer.  Did my will enforce itself on the agent to which it was
guided?  Likely enough.  Be it so.  Would you blame me for slaying the
tiger or serpent--not by the naked hand, but by weapons that arm it?  But
what could tiger and serpent do more against me than the man who would rob
me of life?  He had his arts for assault, I had mine for self-defence.  He
was to me as the tiger that creeps through the jungle, or the serpent
uncoiling his folds for the spring.  Death to those whose life is
destruction to mine, be they serpent or tiger or man!  Derval perished.
Yes! the spot in which the maniac had buried the casket was revealed to
me--no matter how; the contents of the casket passed into my hands.  I
coveted that possession because I believed that Derval had learned from
Haroun of Aleppo the secret by which the elixir of life is prepared, and I
supposed that some stores of the essence would be found in his casket.  I
was deceived--not a drop!  What I there found I knew not how to use or
apply, nor did I care to learn.  What I sought was not there.  You see a
luminous shadow of myself; it haunts, it accosts, it compels you.  Of
this I know nothing.  Was it the emanation of my intense will really
producing this spectre of myself, or was it the thing of your own
imagination,--an imagination which my will impressed and subjugated?  I
know not.  At the hours when my shadow, real or supposed, was with you, my
senses would have been locked in sleep.  It is true, however, that I
intensely desire to learn from races always near to man, but concealed
from his every-day vision, the secret that I believed Philip Derval had
carried with him to the tomb; and from some cause or another I cannot now
of myself alone, as I could years ago, subject those races to my
command,--I must, in that, act through or with the mind of another.  It is
true that I sought to impress upon your waking thoughts the images of the
circle, the powers of the wand, which, in your trance or sleep-walking,
made you the involuntary agent of my will.  I knew by a dream--for by
dreams, more or less vivid, are the results of my waking will sometimes
divulged to myself--that the spell had been broken, the discovery I sought
not effected.  All my hopes were then transferred from yourself, the dull
votary of science, to the girl whom I charmed to my thraldom through her
love for you and through her dreams of a realm which the science of
schools never enters.  In her, imagination was all pure and all potent;
and tell me, O practical reasoner, if reason has ever advanced one step
into knowledge except through that imaginative faculty which is strongest
in the wisdom of ignorance, and weakest in the ignorance of the wise.
Ponder this, and those marvels that perplex you will cease to be
marvellous.  I pass on to the riddle that puzzles you most.  By Philip
Derval's account I am, in truth, Louis Grayle restored to youth by the
elixir, and while yet infirm, decrepit, murdered Haroun,--a man of a frame
as athletic as yours!  By accepting this notion you seem to yourself alone
to unravel the mysteries you ascribe to my life and my powers.  O wise
philosopher!  O profound logician! you accept that notion, yet hold my
belief in the Dervish's tale a chimera!  I am Grayle made young by the
elixir, and yet the elixir itself is a fable!"

He paused and laughed, but the laugh was no longer even an echo of its
former merriment or playfulness,--a sinister and terrible laugh, mocking,
threatening, malignant.

Again he swept his hand over his brow, and resumed,--

"Is it not easier to so accomplished a sage as you to believe that the
idlers of Paris have guessed the true solution of that problem, my place
on this earth?  May I not be the love-son of Louis Grayle?  And when
Haroun refused the elixir to him, or he found that his frame was too far
exhausted for even the elixir to repair organic lesions of structure in
the worn frame of old age, may he not have indulged the common illusion of
fathers, and soothed his death-pangs with the thought that he should live
again in his son?  Haroun is found dead on his carpet--rumour said
strangled.  What proof of the truth of that rumour?  Might he not have
passed away in a fit?  Will it lessen your perplexity if I state
recollections?  They are vague,--they often perplex myself; but so far
from a wish to deceive you, my desire is to relate them so truthfully that
you may aid me to reduce them into more definite form."

His face now became very troubled, the tone of his voice very
irresolute,--the face and the voice of a man who is either blundering his
way through an intricate falsehood, or through obscure reminiscences.

"This Louis Grayle! this Louis Grayle!  I remember him well, as one
remembers a nightmare.  Whenever I look back, before the illness of which
I will presently speak, the image of Louis Grayle returns to me.  I see
myself with him in African wilds, commanding the fierce Abyssinians.  I
see myself with him in the fair Persian valley,-lofty, snow-covered
mountains encircling the garden of roses.  I see myself with him in the
hush of the golden noon, reclined by the spray of cool fountains,--now
listening to cymbals and lutes, now arguing with graybeards on secrets
bequeathed by the Chaldees,--with him, with him in moonlit nights,
stealing into the sepulchres of mythical kings.  I see myself with him in
the aisles of dark caverns, surrounded by awful shapes, which have no
likeness amongst the creatures of earth.  Louis Grayle!  Louis Grayle! all
my earlier memories go back to Louis Grayle!  All my arts and powers, all
that I have learned of the languages spoken in Europe, of the sciences
taught in her schools, I owe to Louis Grayle.  But am I one and the same
with him?  No--I am but a pale reflection of his giant intellect.  I have
not even a reflection of his childlike agonies of sorrow.  Louis Grayle!
He stands apart from me, as a rock from the tree that grows out from its
chasms.  Yes, the gossip was right; I must be his son."

He leaned his face on both hands, rocking himself to and fro.  At length,
with a sigh, he resumed,--

"I remember, too, a long and oppressive illness, attended with racking
pains, a dismal journey in a wearisome litter, the light hand of the woman
Ayesha, so sad and so stately, smoothing my pillow or fanning my brows.  I
remember the evening on which my nurse drew the folds of the litter aside,
and said, 'See Aleppo! and the star of thy birth shining over its walls!'

"I remember a face inexpressibly solemn and mournful.  I remember the
chill that the calm of its ominous eye sent through my veins,--the face of
Haroun, the Sage of Aleppo.  I remember the vessel of crystal he bore in
his hand, and the blessed relief from my pains that a drop from the
essence which flashed through the crystal bestowed!  And then--and then--I
remember no more till the night on which Ayesha came to my couch and said,
'Rise.'

"And I rose, leaning on her, supported by her.  We went through dim narrow
streets, faintly lit by wan stars, disturbing the prowl of the dogs, that
slunk from the look of that woman.  We came to a solitary house, small and
low, and my nurse said, 'Wait.'

"She opened the door and went in; I seated myself on the threshold.  And
after a time she came out from the house, and led me, still leaning on
her, into her chamber.

"A man lay, as in sleep, on the carpet, and beside him stood another man,
whom I recognized as Ayesha's special attendant,--an Indian.  'Haroun is
dead,' said Ayesha.  'Search for that which will give thee new life.  Thou
hast seen, and wilt know it, not I.'

"And I put my hand on the breast of Haroun--for the dead man was he--and
drew from it the vessel of crystal.

"Having done so, the frown of his marble brow appalled me.  I staggered
back, and swooned away.

"I came to my senses, recovering and rejoicing, miles afar from the city,
the dawn red on its distant wall.  Ayesha had tended me; the elixir had
already restored me.

"My first thought, when full consciousness came back to me, rested on
Louis Grayle, for he also had been at Aleppo; I was but one of his
numerous train.  He, too, was enfeebled and suffering; he had sought the
known skill of Haroun for himself as for me; and this woman loved and had
tended him as she had loved and tended me.  And my nurse told me that he
was dead, and forbade me henceforth to breathe his name.

"We travelled on,--she and I, and the Indian her servant,--my strength
still renewed by the wondrous elixir.  No longer supported by her, what
gazelle ever roved through its pasture with a bound more elastic than
mine?

"We came to a town, and my nurse placed before me a mirror.  I did not
recognize myself.  In this town we rested, obscure, till the letter there
reached me by which I learned that I was the offspring of love, and
enriched by the care of a father recently dead.  Is it not clear that
Louis Grayle was this father?"

"If so, was the woman Ayesha your mother?"

"The letter said that 'my mother had died in my infancy.'  Nevertheless,
the care with which Ayesha had tended me induced a suspicion that made me
ask her the very question you put.  She wept when I asked her, and said,
'No, only my nurse.  And now I needed a nurse no more.' The day after I
received the letter which announced an inheritance that allowed me to vie
with the nobles of Europe, this woman left me, and went back to her
tribe."

"Have you never seen her since?"

Margrave hesitated a moment, and then answered, though with seeming
reluctance, "Yes, at Damascus.  Not many days after I was borne to that
city by the strangers who found me half-dead on their road, I woke one
morning to find her by my side.  And she said, 'In joy and in health you
did not need me.  I am needed now."'

"Did you then deprive yourself of one so devoted?  You have not made this
long voyage--from Egypt to Australia--alone,--you, to whom wealth gave no
excuse for privation?"

"The woman came with me; and some chosen attendants.  I engaged to
ourselves the vessel we sailed in."

"Where have you left your companions?"

"By this hour," answered Margrave, "they are in reach of my summons; and
when you and I have achieved the discovery--in the results of which we
shall share--I will exact no more from your aid.  I trust all that rests
for my cure to my nurse and her swarthy attendants.  You will aid me now,
as a matter of course; the physician whose counsel you needed to guide
your own skill enjoins you to obey my whim--if whim you still call it; you
will obey it, for on that whim rests your own sole hope of
happiness,--you, who can love--I love nothing but life.  Has my frank
narrative solved all the doubts that stood between you and me, in the
great meeting-grounds of an interest in common?"

"Solved all the doubts!  Your wild story but makes some the darker,
leaving others untouched: the occult powers of which you boast, and some
of which I have witnessed,--your very insight into my own household
sorrows, into the interests I have, with yourself, in the truth of a faith
so repugnant to reason--"

"Pardon me," interrupted Margrave, with that slight curve of the lip which
is half smile and half sneer, "if, in my account of myself, I omitted what
I cannot explain, and you cannot conceive: let me first ask how many of
the commonest actions of the commonest men are purely involuntary and
wholly inexplicable.  When, for instance, you open your lips and utter a
sentence, you have not the faintest idea beforehand what word will follow
another.  When you move a muscle can you tell me the thought that prompts
to the movement?  And, wholly unable thus to account for your own simple
sympathies between impulse and act, do you believe that there exists a man
upon earth who can read all the riddles in the heart and brain of another?
Is it not true that not one drop of water, one atom of matter, ever really
touches another?  Between each and each there is always a space, however
infinitesimally small.  How, then, could the world go on, if every man
asked another to make his whole history and being as lucid as daylight
before he would buy and sell with him?  All interchange and alliance rest
but on this,--an interest in common.  You and I have established that
interest: all else, all you ask more, is superfluous.  Could I answer
each doubt you would raise, still, whether the answer should please or
revolt you, your reason would come back to the same starting-point,
--namely, In one definite proposal have we two an interest in common?"

And again Margrave laughed, not in mirth, but in mockery.  The laugh and
the words that preceded it were not the laugh and the words of the young.
Could it be possible that Louis Grayle had indeed revived to false youth
in the person of Margrave, such might have been his laugh and such his
words.  The whole mind of Margrave seemed to have undergone change since I
last saw him; more rich in idea, more crafty even in candour, more
powerful, more concentred.  As we see in our ordinary experience, that
some infirmity, threatening dissolution, brings forth more vividly the
reminiscences of early years, when impressions were vigorously stamped, so
I might have thought that as Margrave neared the tomb, the memories he had
retained from his former existence, in a being more amply endowed, more
formidably potent, struggled back to the brain; and the mind that had
lived in Louis Grayle moved the lips of the dying Margrave.

"For the powers and the arts that it equally puzzles your reason to assign
or deny to me," resumed my terrible guest, "I will say briefly but this:
they come from faculties stored within myself, and doubtless conduce to my
self-preservation,--faculties more or less, perhaps (so Van Helmont
asserts), given to all men, though dormant in most; vivid and active in me
because in me self-preservation has been and yet is the strong
master-passion, or instinct; and because I have been taught how to use and
direct such faculties by disciplined teachers,--some by Louis Grayle, the
enchanter; some by my nurse, the singer of charmed songs.  But in much
that I will to have done, I know no more than yourself how the agency
acts.  Enough for me to will what I wish, and sink calmly into slumber,
sure that the will would work somehow its way.  But when I have willed to
know what, when known, should shape my own courses, I could see, without
aid from your pitiful telescopes, all objects howsoever far.  What wonder
in that?  Have you no learned puzzle-brained metaphysicians who tell you
that space is but an idea, all this palpable universe an idea in the mind,
and no more?  Why am I an enigma as dark as the Sibyls, and your
metaphysicians as plain as a hornbook?"  Again the sardonic laugh.
"Enough: let what I have said obscure or enlighten your guesses, we come
back to the same link of union, which binds man to man, bids States arise
from the desert, and foeman embrace as brothers.  I need you and you need
me; without your aid my life is doomed; without my secret the breath will
have gone from the lips of your Lilian before the sun of to-morrow is red
on the hill-tops."

"Fiend or juggler," I cried in rage, "you shall not so enslave and
enthrall me by this mystic farrago and jargon.  Make your fantastic
experiment on yourself if you will: trust to your arts and your powers.
My Lilian's life shall not hang on your fiat.  I trust it--to--"

"To what--to man's skill?  Hear what the sage of the college shall tell
you, before I ask you again for your aid.  Do you trust to God's saving
mercy?  Ah, of course you believe in a God?  Who, except a philosopher,
can reason a Maker away?  But that the Maker will alter His courses to
hear you; that, whether or not you trust in Him, or in your doctor, it
will change by a hairbreadth the thing that must be--do you believe this,
Allen Fenwick?"

And there sat this reader of hearts! a boy in his aspect, mocking me and
the graybeards of schools.

I could listen no more; I turned to the door and fled down the stairs, and
heard, as I fled, a low chant: feeble and faint, it was still the old
barbaric chant, by which the serpent is drawn from its hole by the
charmer.



CHAPTER LXXVII.

To those of my readers who may seek with Julius Faber to explore, through
intelligible causes, solutions of the marvels I narrate, Margrave's
confession may serve to explain away much that my own superstitious
beliefs had obscured.  To them Margrave is evidently the son of Louis
Grayle.  The elixir of life is reduced to some simple restorative, owing
much of its effect to the faith of a credulous patient: youth is so soon
restored to its joy in the sun, with or without an elixir.  To them
Margrave's arts of enchantment are reduced to those idiosyncrasies of
temperament on which the disciples of Mesmer build up their
theories,--exaggerated, in much, by my own superstitions; aided, in part,
by such natural, purely physical magic as, explored by the ancient
priest-crafts, is despised by the modern philosophies, and only remains
occult because Science delights no more in the slides of the lantern which
fascinated her childhood with simulated phantoms.  To them Margrave is,
perhaps, an enthusiast, but, because an enthusiast, not less an impostor.
"L'Homme se pique," says Charron.  Man cogs the dice for himself ere he
rattles the box for his dupes.  Was there ever successful impostor who did
not commence by a fraud on his own understanding?  Cradled in Orient
Fableland, what though Margrave believes in its legends; in a wand, an
elixir; in sorcerers or Afrites?  That belief in itself makes him keen to
detect, and skilful to profit by, the latent but kindred credulities of
others.  In all illustrations of Duper and Duped through the records of
superstition--from the guile of a Cromwell, a Mahomet, down to the cheats
of a gypsy--professional visionaries are amongst the astutest observers.
The knowledge that Margrave had gained of my abode, of my affliction, or
of the innermost thoughts in my mind, it surely demanded no preternatural
aids to acquire.  An Old Bailey attorney could have got at the one, and
any quick student of human hearts have readily mastered the other.  In
fine, Margrave, thus rationally criticised, is no other prodigy (save in
degree and concurrence of attributes simple, though not very common) than
may be found in each alley that harbours a fortune-teller who has just
faith enough in the stars or the cards to bubble himself while he swindles
his victims; earnest, indeed, in the self-conviction that he is really a
seer, but reading the looks of his listeners, divining the thoughts that
induce them to listen, and acquiring by practice a startling ability to
judge what the listeners will deem it most seer-like to read in the cards
or divine from the stars.


I leave this interpretation unassailed.  It is that which is the most
probable; it is clearly that which, in a case not my own, I should have
accepted; and yet I revolved and dismissed it.  The moment we deal with
things beyond our comprehension, and in which our own senses are appealed
to and baffled, we revolt from the Probable, as it seems to the senses of
those who have not experienced what we have.  And the same principle of
Wonder that led our philosophy up from inert ignorance into restless
knowledge, now winding back into shadow land, reverses its rule by the
way, and, at last, leaves us lost in the maze, our knowledge inert, and
our ignorance restless.

And putting aside all other reasons for hesitating to believe that
Margrave was the son of Louis Grayle,--reasons which his own narrative
might suggest,--was it not strange that Sir Philip Derval, who had
instituted inquiries so minute, and reported them in his memoir with so
faithful a care, should not have discovered that a youth, attended by the
same woman who had attended Grayle, had disappeared from the town on the
same night as Grayle himself disappeared?  But Derval had related
truthfully, according to Margrave's account, the flight of Ayesha and her
Indian servant, yet not alluded to the flight, not even to the existence
of the boy, who must have been of no mean importance in the suite of Louis
Grayle, if he were, indeed, the son whom Grayle had made his constant
companion, and constituted his principal heir.  Not many minutes did I
give myself up to the cloud of reflections through which no sunbeam of
light forced its way.  One thought overmastered all; Margrave had
threatened death to my Lilian, and warned me of what I should learn from
the lips of Faber, "the sage of the college."  I stood, shuddering, at the
door of my home; I did not dare to enter.

"Allen," said a voice, in which my ear detected the unwonted tremulous
faltering, "be firm,--be calm.  I keep my promise.  The hour is come in
which you may again see the Lilian of old, mind to mind, soul to soul."

Faber's hand took mine, and led me into the house.

"You do, then, fear that this interview will be too much for her
strength?" said I, whisperingly.

"I cannot say; but she demands the interview, and I dare not refuse it."



CHAPTER LXXVIII.

I left Faber on the stairs, and paused at the door of Lilian's room.  The
door opened suddenly, noiselessly, and her mother came out with one hand
before her face, and the other locked in Amy's, who was leading her as a
child leads the blind.  Mrs. Ashleigh looked up, as I touched her, with a
vacant, dreary stare.  She was not weeping, as was her womanly wont in
every pettier grief, but Amy was.  No word was exchanged between us.  I
entered, and closed the door; my eyes turned mechanically to the corner in
which was placed the small virgin bed, with its curtains white as a
shroud.  Lilian was not there.  I looked around, and saw her half reclined
on a couch near the window.  She was dressed, and with care.  Was not that
her bridal robe?

"Allen!  Allen!" she murmured.  "Again, again my Allen--again, again your
Lilian!"  And, striving in vain to rise, she stretched out her arms in the
yearning of reunited love.  And as I knelt beside her, those arms closed
round me for the first time in the frank, chaste, holy tenderness of a
wife's embrace.

"Ah!" she said, in her low voice (her voice, like Cordelia's, was ever
low), "all has come back to me,--all that I owe to your protecting, noble,
trustful, guardian love!"

"Hush! hush! the gratitude rests with me; it is so sweet to love, to
trust, to guard! my own, my beautiful--still my beautiful!  Suffering has
not dimmed the light of those dear eyes to me!  Put your lips to my
ear.  Whisper but these words: 'I love you, and for your sake I wish to
live.'"

"For your sake, I pray--with my whole weak human heart--I pray to live!
Listen.  Some day hereafter, if I am spared, under the purple blossoms of
yonder waving trees I shall tell you all, as I see it now; all that
darkened or shone on me in my long dream, and before the dream closed
around me, like a night in which cloud and star chase each other!  Some
day hereafter, some quiet, sunlit, happy, happy day!  But now, all I would
say is this: Before that dreadful morning--"  Here she paused, shuddered,
and passionately burst forth, "Allen, Allen! you did not believe that
slanderous letter!  God bless you!  God bless you!  Great-hearted,
high-souled--God bless you, my darling! my husband!  And He will!  Pray to
Him humbly as I do, and He will bless you."  She stooped and kissed away
my tears; then she resumed, feebly, meekly, sorrowfully,--

"Before that morning I was not worthy of such a heart, such a love as
yours.  No, no; hear me.  Not that a thought of love for another ever
crossed me!  Never, while conscious and reasoning, was I untrue to you,
even in fancy.  But I was a child,--wayward as the child who pines for
what earth cannot give, and covets the moon for a toy.  Heaven had been so
kind to my lot on earth, and yet with my lot on earth I was secretly
discontented.  When I felt that you loved me, and my heart told me that I
loved again, I said to myself, 'Now the void that my soul finds on earth
will be filled.'  I longed for your coming, and yet when you went I
murmured, 'But is this the ideal of which I have dreamed?'  I asked for an
impossible sympathy.  Sympathy with what?  Nay, smile on me,
dearest!--sympathy with what?  I could not have said.  Ah, Allen, then,
then, I was not worthy of you!  Infant that I was, I asked you to
understand me: now I know that I am a woman, and my task is to study you.
Do I make myself clear?  Do you forgive me?  I was not untrue to you; I
was untrue to my own duties in life.  I believed, in my vain conceit, that
a mortal's dim vision of heaven raised me above the earth; I did not
perceive the truth that earth is a part of the same universe as heaven!
Now, perhaps, in the awful affliction that darkened my reason, my soul has
been made more clear.  As if to chastise but to teach me, my soul has been
permitted to indulge its own presumptuous desire; it has wandered forth
from the trammels of mortal duties and destinies; it comes back, alarmed
by the dangers of its own rash and presumptuous escape from the tasks
which it should desire upon earth to perform.  Allen, Allen, I am less
unworthy of you now!  Perhaps in my darkness one rapid glimpse of the true
world of spirit has been vouchsafed to me.  If so, how unlike to the
visions my childhood indulged as divine!  Now, while I know still more
deeply that there is a world for the angels, I know, also, that the mortal
must pass through probation in the world of mortals.  Oh, may I pass
through it with you, grieving in your griefs, rejoicing in your joy!"

Here language failed her.  Again the dear arms embraced me, and the dear
face, eloquent with love, hid itself on my human breast.



CHAPTER LXXIX.

That interview is over!  Again I am banished from Lilian's room; the
agitation, the joy of that meeting has overstrained her enfeebled nerves.
Convulsive tremblings of the whole frame, accompanied with vehement sobs,
succeeded our brief interchange of sweet and bitter thoughts.  Faber, in
tearing me from her side, imperiously and sternly warned me that the sole
chance yet left of preserving her life was in the merciful suspense of the
emotions that my presence excited.  He and Amy resumed their place in her
chamber.  Even her mother shared my sentence of banishment.  So Mrs.
Ashleigh and I sat facing each other in the room below; over me a leaden
stupor had fallen, and I heard, as a voice from afar or in a dream, the
mother's murmured wailings,

"She will die! she will die!  Her eyes have the same heavenly look as my
Gilbert's on the day on which his closed forever.  Her very words are his
last words,--'Forgive me all my faults to you.' She will die! she will
die!"

Hours thus passed away.  At length Faber entered the room; he spoke first
to Mrs. Ashleigh,--meaningless soothings, familiar to the lips of all who
pass from the chamber of the dying to the presence of mourners, and know
that it is a falsehood to say "hope," and a mockery as yet, to say,
"endure."

But he led her away to her own room, docile as a wearied child led to
sleep, stayed with her some time, and then returned to me, pressing me to
his breast father-like.

"No hope! no hope!" said I, recoiling from his embrace.  "You are silent.
Speak! speak!  Let me know the worst."

"I have a hope, yet I scarcely dare to bid you share it; for it grows
rather out of my heart as man than my experience as physician.  I cannot
think that her soul would be now so reconciled to earth, so fondly, so
earnestly, cling to this mortal life, if it were about to be summoned
away.  You know how commonly even the sufferers who have dreaded death the
most become calmly resigned to its coming, when death visibly reveals
itself out from the shadows in which its shape has been guessed and not
seen.  As it is a bad sign for life when the patient has lost all will to
live on, so there is hope while the patient, yet young and with no
perceptible breach in the great centres of life (however violently their
forts may be stormed), has still intense faith in recovery, perhaps drawn
(who can say?) from the whispers conveyed from above to the soul.

"I cannot bring myself to think that all the uses for which a reason,
always so lovely even in its errors, has been restored, are yet fulfilled.
It seems to me as if your union, as yet so imperfect, has still for its
end that holy life on earth by which two mortal beings strengthen each
other for a sphere of existence to which this is the spiritual ladder.
Through yourself I have hope yet for her.  Gifted with powers that rank
you high in the manifold orders of man,--thoughtful, laborious, and brave;
with a heart that makes intellect vibrate to every fine touch of humanity;
in error itself, conscientious; in delusion, still eager for truth; in
anger, forgiving; in wrong, seeking how to repair; and, best of all,
strong in a love which the mean would have shrunk to defend from the fangs
of the slanderer,--a love, raising passion itself out of the realm of the
senses, made sublime by the sorrows that tried its devotion,--with all
these noble proofs in yourself of a being not meant to end here, your life
has stopped short in its uses, your mind itself has been drifted, a bark
without rudder or pilot, over seas without shore, under skies without
stars.  And wherefore?  Because the mind you so haughtily vaunted has
refused its companion and teacher in Soul.

"And therefore, through you, I hope that she will be spared yet to live
on; she, in whom soul has been led dimly astray, by unheeding the checks
and the definite goals which the mind is ordained to prescribe to its
wanderings while here; the mind taking thoughts from the actual and
visible world, and the soul but vague glimpses and hints from the instinct
of its ultimate heritage.  Each of you two seems to me as yet incomplete,
and your destinies yet uncompleted.  Through the bonds of the heart,
through the trials of time, ye have both to consummate your marriage.  I
do not--believe me--I do not say this in the fanciful wisdom of allegory
and type, save that, wherever deeply examined, allegory and type run
through all the most commonplace phases of outward and material life.  I
hope, then, that she may yet be spared to you; hope it, not from my skill
as physician, but my inward belief as a Christian.  To perfect your own
being and end, 'Ye will need one another!'"

I started--the very words that Lilian had heard in her vision!

"But," resumed Faber, "how can I presume to trace the numberless links of
effect up to the First Cause, far off--oh; far off--out of the scope of my
reason.  I leave that to philosophers, who would laugh my meek hope to
scorn.  Possibly, probably, where I, whose calling has been but to save
flesh from the worm, deem that the life of your Lilian is needed yet, to
develop and train your own convictions of soul, Heaven in its wisdom may
see that her death would instruct you far more than her life.  I have
said, Be prepared for either,--wisdom through joy, or wisdom through
grief.  Enough that, looking only through the mechanism by which this
moral world is impelled and improved, you know that cruelty is impossible
to wisdom.  Even a man, or man's law, is never wise but when merciful.
But mercy has general conditions; and that which is mercy to the myriads
may seem hard to the one, and that which seems hard to the one in the pang
of a moment may be mercy when viewed by the eye that looks on through
eternity."

And from all this discourse--of which I now, at calm distance of time,
recall every word--my human, loving heart bore away for the moment but
this sentence, "Ye will need one another;" so that I cried out, "Life,
life, life!  Is there no hope for her life?  Have you no hope as
physician?  I am a physician, too; I will see her.  I will judge.  I will
not be banished from my post."

"Judge, then, as physician, and let the responsibility rest with you.  At
this moment, all convulsion, all struggle, has ceased; the frame is at
rest.  Look on her, and perhaps only the physician's eye could distinguish
her state from death.  It is not sleep, it is not trance, it is not the
dooming coma from which there is no awaking.  Shall I call it by the name
received in our schools?  Is it the catalepsy in which life is suspended,
but consciousness acute?  She is motionless, rigid; it is but with a
strain of my own sense that I know that the breath still breathes, and the
heart still beats.  But I am convinced that though she can neither speak,
nor stir, nor give sign, she is fully, sensitively conscious of all that
passes around her.  She is like those who have seen the very coffin
carried into their chamber, and been unable to cry out, 'Do not bury me
alive!'  Judge then for yourself, with this intense consciousness and this
impotence to evince it, what might be the effect of your presence,--first
an agony of despair, and then the complete extinction of life!"

"I have known but one such case,--a mother whose heart was wrapped up in a
suffering infant.  She had lain for two days and two nights, still, as if
in her shroud.  All save myself said, 'Life is gone.'  I said, 'Life still
is there.' They brought in the infant, to try what effect its presence
would produce; then her lips moved, and the hands crossed upon her bosom
trembled."

"And the result?" exclaimed Faber, eagerly.  "If the result of your
experience sanction your presence, come; the sight of the babe rekindled
life?"

"No; extinguished its last spark!  I will not enter Lilian's room.  I will
go away,--away from the house itself.  That acute consciousness!  I know
it well!  She may even hear me move in the room below, hear me speak at
this moment.  Go back to her, go back!  But if hers be the state which I
have known in another, which may be yet more familiar to persons of far
ampler experience than mine, there is no immediate danger of death.  The
state will last through to-day, through to-night, perhaps for days to
come.  Is it so?"

"I believe that for at least twelve hours there will be no change in her
state.  I believe also that if she recover from it, calm and refreshed, as
from a sleep, the danger of death will have passed away."

"And for twelve hours my presence would be hurtful?"

"Rather say fatal, if my diagnosis be right."

I wrung my friend's hand, and we parted.

Oh, to lose her now!--now that her love and her reason had both returned,
each more vivid than before!  Futile, indeed, might be Margrave's boasted
secret; but at least in that secret was hope.  In recognized science I saw
only despair.

And at that thought all dread of this mysterious visitor vanished,--all
anxiety to question more of his attributes or his history.  His life
itself became to me dear and precious.  What if it should fail me in the
steps of the process, whatever that was, by which the life of my Lilian
might be saved!

The shades of evening were now closing in.  I remembered that I had left
Margrave without even food for many hours.  I stole round to the back of
the house, filled a basket with elements more generous than those of the
former day; extracted fresh drugs from my stores, and, thus laden, hurried
back to the hut.  I found Margrave in the room below, seated on his
mysterious coffer, leaning his face on his hand.  When I entered, he
looked up, and said,--

"You have neglected me.  My strength is waning.  Give me more of the
cordial, for we have work before us to-night, and I need support."

He took for granted my assent to his wild experiment; and he was right.

I administered the cordial.  I placed food before him, and this time he
did not eat with repugnance.  I poured out wine, and he drank it
sparingly, but with ready compliance, saying, "In perfect health, I looked
upon wine as poison; now it is like a foretaste of the glorious elixir."

After he had thus recruited himself, he seemed to acquire an energy that
startlingly contrasted his languor the day before; the effort of breathing
was scarcely perceptible; the colour came back to his cheeks; his bended
frame rose elastic and erect.

"If I understood you rightly," said I, "the experiment you ask me to aid
can be accomplished in a single night?"

"In a single night,--this night."

"Command me.  Why not begin at once?  What apparatus or chemical agencies
do you need?"

"Ah!" said Margrave, "formerly, how I was misled!  Formerly, how my
conjectures blundered!  I thought, when I asked you to give a month to the
experiment I wish to make, that I should need the subtlest skill of the
chemist.  I then believed, with Van Helmont, that the principle of life is
a gas, and that the secret was but in the mode by which the gas might be
rightly administered.  But now all that I need is contained in this
coffer, save one very simple material,--fuel sufficient for a steady fire
for six hours.  I see even that is at hand, piled up in your outhouse.
And now for the substance itself,--to that you must guide me."

"Explain."

"Near this very spot is there not gold--in mines yet undiscovered?--and
gold of the purest metal?"

"There is.  What then?  Do you, with the alchemists, blend in one
discovery gold and life?"

"No.  But it is only where the chemistry of earth or of man produces gold,
that the substance from which the great pabulum of life is extracted by
ferment can be found.  Possibly, in the attempts at that transmutation of
metals, which I think your own great chemist, Sir Humphry Davy, allowed
might be possible, but held not to be worth the cost of the
process,--possibly, in those attempts, some scanty grains of this
substance were found by the alchemists, in the crucible, with grains of
the metal as niggardly yielded by pitiful mimicry of Nature's stupendous
laboratory; and from such grains enough of the essence might, perhaps,
have been drawn forth, to add a few years of existence to some feeble
graybeard,--granting, what rests on no proofs, that some of the alchemists
reached an age rarely given to man.  But it is not in the miserly
crucible, it is in the matrix of Nature herself, that we must seek in
prolific abundance Nature's grand principle,--life.  As the loadstone is
rife with the magnetic virtue, as amber contains the electric, so in this
substance, to which we yet want a name, is found the bright life-giving
fluid.  In the old goldmines of Asia and Europe the substance exists, but
can rarely be met with.  The soil for its nutriment may there be well-nigh
exhausted.  It is here, where Nature herself is all vital with youth, that
the nutriment of youth must be sought.  Near this spot is gold; guide me
to it."

"You cannot come with me.  The place which I know as auriferous is some
miles distant, the way rugged.  You can not walk to it.  It is true I have
horses, but--"

"Do you think I have come this distance and not foreseen and forestalled
all that I want for my object?  Trouble your self not with conjectures how
I can arrive at the place.  I have provided the means to arrive at and
leave it.  My litter and its bearers are in reach of my call.  Give me
your arm to the rising ground, fifty yards from your door."

I obeyed mechanically, stifling all surprise.  I had made my resolve, and
admitted no thought that could shake it.  When we reached the summit of
the grassy hillock, which sloped from the road that led to the seaport,
Margrave, after pausing to recover breath, lifted up his voice, in a key,
not loud, but shrill and slow and prolonged, half cry and half chant, like
the nighthawk's.  Through the air--so limpid and still, bringing near far
objects, far sounds--the voice pierced its way, artfully pausing, till
wave after wave of the atmosphere bore and transmitted it on.

In a few minutes the call seemed re-echoed, so exactly, so cheerily, that
for the moment I thought that the note was the mimicry of the shy mocking
Lyre-Bird, which mimics so merrily all that it hears in its coverts, from
the whir of the locust to the howl of the wild dog.

"What king," said the mystical charmer, and as he spoke he carelessly
rested his hand on my shoulder, so that I trembled to feel that this dread
son of Nature, Godless and soulless, who had been--and, my heart
whispered, who still could be--my bane and mind-darkener, leaned upon me
for support, as the spoilt younger-born on his brother,--"what king," said
this cynical mocker, with his beautiful boyish face,--"what king in your
civilized Europe has the sway of a chief of the East?  What link is so
strong between mortal and mortal, as that between lord and slave?  I
transport yon poor fools from the land of their birth; they preserve here
their old habits,--obedience and awe.  They would wait till they starved
in the solitude,--wait to hearken and answer my call.  And I, who thus
rule them, or charm them--I use and despise them.  They know that, and yet
serve me!  Between you and me, my philosopher, there is but one thing
worth living for,--life for oneself."

Is it age, is it youth, that thus shocks all my sense, in my solemn
completeness of man?  Perhaps, in great capitals, young men of pleasure
will answer, "It is youth; and we think what he says!"  Young friends, I
do not believe you.



CHAPTER LXXX.

Along the grass-track I saw now, under the moon, just risen, a strange
procession, never seen before in Australian pastures.  It moved on,
noiselessly but quickly.  We descended the hillock, and met it on the
way,--a sable litter, borne by four men, in unfamiliar Eastern garments;
two other servitors, more bravely dressed, with yataghans and
silver-hilted pistols in their belts, preceded this sombre equipage.
Perhaps Margrave divined the disdainful thought that passed through my
mind, vaguely and half-unconsciously; for he said, with a hollow, bitter
laugh that had replaced the lively peal of his once melodious mirth,--

"A little leisure and a little gold, and your raw colonist, too, will have
the tastes of a pacha."

I made no answer.  I had ceased to care who and what was my tempter.  To
me his whole being was resolved into one problem: Had he a secret by which
death could be turned from Lilian?

But now, as the litter halted, from the long dark shadow which it cast
upon the turf the figure of a woman emerged and stood before us.  The
outlines of her shape were lost in the loose folds of a black mantle, and
the features of her face were hidden by a black veil, except only the
dark, bright, solemn eyes.  Her stature was lofty, her bearing majestic,
whether in movement or repose.

Margrave accosted her in some language unknown to me.  She replied in what
seemed to me the same tongue.  The tones of her voice were sweet, but
inexpressibly mournful.  The words that they uttered appeared intended to
warn, or deprecate, or dissuade; but they called to Margrave's brow a
lowering frown, and drew from his lips a burst of unmistakable anger.  The
woman rejoined, in the same melancholy music of voice.  And Margrave then,
leaning his arm upon her shoulder, as he had leaned it on mine, drew her
away from the group into a neighbouring copse of the flowering
eucalypti,--mystic trees, never changing the hues of their pale-green
leaves, ever shifting the tints of their ash-gray, shedding bark.  For
some moments I gazed on the two human forms, dimly seen by the glinting
moonlight through the gaps in the foliage.  Then turning away my eyes, I
saw, standing close at my side, a man whom I had not noticed before.  His
footstep, as it stole to me, had fallen on the sward without sound.  His
dress, though Oriental, differed from that of his companions, both in
shape and colour; fitting close to the breast, leaving the arms bare to
the elbow, and of a uniform ghastly white, as are the cerements of the
grave.  His visage was even darker than those of the Syrians or Arabs
behind him, and his features were those of a bird of prey,--the beak of
the eagle, but the eye of the vulture.  His cheeks were hollow; the arms,
crossed on his breast, were long and fleshless.  Yet in that skeleton form
there was a something which conveyed the idea of a serpent's suppleness
and strength; and as the hungry, watchful eyes met my own startled gaze, I
recoiled impulsively with that inward warning of danger which is conveyed
to man, as to inferior animals, in the very aspect of the creatures that
sting or devour.  At my movement the man inclined his head in the
submissive Eastern salutation, and spoke in his foreign tongue, softly,
humbly, fawningly, to judge by his tone and his gesture.

I moved yet farther away from him with loathing, and now the human thought
flashed upon me: was I, in truth, exposed to no danger in trusting myself
to the mercy of the weird and remorseless master of those hirelings from
the East,--seven men in number, two at least of them formidably armed, and
docile as bloodhounds to the hunter, who has only to show them their
prey?  But fear of man like myself is not my weakness; where fear found
its way to my heart, it was through the doubts or the fancies in which man
like myself disappeared in the attributes, dark and unknown, which we give
to a fiend or a spectre.  And, perhaps, if I could have paused to analyze
my own sensations, the very presence of this escort-creatures of flesh and
blood-lessened the dread of my incomprehensible tempter.  Rather, a
hundred times, front and defy those seven Eastern slaves--I, haughty son
of the Anglo-Saxon who conquers all races because he fears no odds--than
have seen again on the walls of my threshold the luminous, bodiless
Shadow!  Besides: Lilian!  Lilian! for one chance of saving her life,
however wild and chimerical that chance might be, I would have shrunk not
a foot from the march of an army.

Thus reassured and thus resolved, I advanced, with a smile of disdain, to
meet Margrave and his veiled companion, as they now came from the moonlit
copse.

"Well," I said to him, with an irony that unconsciously mimicked his own,
"have you taken advice with your nurse?  I assume that the dark form by
your side is that of Ayesha."

The woman looked at me from her sable veil, with her steadfast solemn
eyes, and said, in English, though with a foreign accent: "The nurse born
in Asia is but wise through her love; the pale son of Europe is wise
through his art.  The nurse says, 'Forbear!'  Do you say, 'Adventure'?"

"Peace!" exclaimed Margrave, stamping his foot on the ground.  "I take no
counsel from either; it is for me to resolve, for you to obey, and for him
to aid.  Night is come, and we waste it; move on."

The woman made no reply, nor did I.  He took my arm and walked back to the
hut.  The barbaric escort followed.  When we reached the door of the
building, Margrave said a few words to the woman and to the
litter-bearers.  They entered the but with us.  Margrave pointed out to
the woman his coffer, to the men the fuel stowed in the outhouse.  Both
were borne away and placed within the litter.  Meanwhile, I took from the
table, on which it was carelessly thrown, the light hatchet that I
habitually carried with me in my rambles.

"Do you think that you need that idle weapon?" said Margrave.  "Do you
fear the good faith of my swarthy attendants?"

"Nay, take the hatchet yourself; its use is to sever the gold from the
quartz in which we may find it embedded, or to clear, as this shovel,
which will also be needed, from the slight soil above it, the ore that the
mine in the mountain flings forth, as the sea casts its waifs on the
sands."

"Give me your hand, fellow-labourer!" said Margrave, joyfully.  "Ah, there
is no faltering terror in this pulse!  I was not mistaken in the Man.
What rests, but the Place and the Hour?  I shall live!  I shall live!"



CHAPTER LXXXI.

Margrave now entered the litter, and the Veiled Woman drew the black
curtains round him.  I walked on, as the guide, some yards in advance.
The air was still, heavy, and parched with the breath of the Australasian
sirocco.

We passed through the meadow-lands, studded with slumbering flocks; we
followed the branch of the creek, which was linked to its source in the
mountains by many a trickling waterfall; we threaded the gloom of stunted,
misshapen trees, gnarled with the stringy bark which makes one of the
signs of the strata that nourish gold; and at length the moon, now in all
her pomp of light, mid-heaven amongst her subject stars, gleamed through
the fissures of the cave, on whose floor lay the relics of antediluvian
races, and rested in one flood of silvery splendour upon the hollows of
the extinct volcano, with tufts of dank herbage, and wide spaces of paler
sward, covering the gold below,--Gold, the dumb symbol of organized
Matter's great mystery, storing in itself, according as Mind, the informer
of Matter, can distinguish its uses, evil and good, bane and blessing.

Hitherto the Veiled Woman had remained in the rear, with the white-robed,
skeleton-like image that had crept to my side unawares with its noiseless
step.  Thus in each winding turn of the difficult path at which the convoy
following behind me came into sight, I had seen, first, the two
gayly-dressed, armed men, next the black bier-like litter, and last the
Black-veiled Woman and the White-robed Skeleton.

But now, as I halted on the tableland, backed by the mountain and fronting
the valley, the woman left her companion, passed by the litter and the
armed men, and paused by my side, at the mouth of the moonlit cavern.

There for a moment she stood, silent, the procession below mounting upward
laboriously and slow; then she turned to me, and her veil was withdrawn.

The face on which I gazed was wondrously beautiful, and severely awful.
There was neither youth nor age, but beauty, mature and majestic as that
of a marble Demeter.

"Do you believe in that which you seek?" she asked, in her foreign,
melodious, melancholy accents.

"I have no belief," was my answer.  "True science has none.  True science
questions all things, takes nothing upon credit.  It knows but three
states of the mind,--Denial, Conviction, and that vast interval between
the two, which is not belief, but suspense of judgment."

The woman let fall her veil, moved from me, and seated herself on a crag
above that cleft between mountain and creek, to which, when I had first
discovered the gold that the land nourished, the rain from the clouds had
given the rushing life of the cataract; but which now, in the drought and
the hush of the skies, was but a dead pile of stones.

The litter now ascended the height: its bearers halted; a lean hand tore
the curtains aside, and Margrave descended, leaning, this time, not on the
Black-veiled Woman, but on the White-robed Skeleton.

There, as he stood, the moon shone full on his wasted form; on his face,
resolute, cheerful, and proud, despite its hollowed outlines and sicklied
hues.  He raised his head, spoke in the language unknown to me, and the
armed men and the litter-bearers grouped round him, bending low, their
eyes fixed on the ground.  The Veiled Woman rose slowly and came to his
side, motioning away, with a mute sign, the ghastly form on which he
leaned, and passing round him silently, instead, her own sustaining arm.
Margrave spoke again a few sentences, of which I could not even guess the
meaning.  When he had concluded, the armed men and the litter-bearers came
nearer to his feet, knelt down, and kissed his hand.  They then rose, and
took from the bier-like vehicle the coffer and the fuel.  This done, they
lifted again the litter, and again, preceded by the armed men, the
procession descended down the sloping hillside, down into the valley
below.

Margrave now whispered, for some moments, into the ear of the hideous
creature who had made way for the Veiled Woman.  The grim skeleton bowed
his head submissively, and strode noiselessly away through the long
grasses,--the slender stems, trampled under his stealthy feet, relifting
themselves, as after a passing wind.  And thus he, too, sank out of sight
down into the valley below.  On the tableland of the hill remained only we
three,--Margrave, myself, and the Veiled Woman.

She had reseated herself apart, on the gray crag above the dried torrent.
He stood at the entrance of the cavern, round the sides of which clustered
parasital plants, with flowers of all colours, some amongst them opening
their petals and exhaling their fragrance only in the hours of night; so
that, as his form filled up the jaws of the dull arch, obscuring the
moonbeam that strove to pierce the shadows that slept within, it stood
now--wan and blighted--as I had seen it first, radiant and joyous,
literally "framed in blooms."



CHAPTER LXXXII.

"So," said Margrave, turning to me, "under the soil that spreads around us
lies the gold which to you and to me is at this moment of no value, except
as a guide to its twin-born,--the regenerator of life!"

"You have not yet described to me the nature of the substance which we are
to explore, nor of the process by which the virtues you impute to it are
to be extracted."

"Let us first find the gold, and instead of describing the life-amber, so
let me call it, I will point it out to your own eyes.  As to the process,
your share in it is so simple, that you will ask me why I seek aid from a
chemist.  The life-amber, when found, has but to be subjected to heat and
fermentation for six hours; it will be placed, in a small caldron which
that coffer contains, over the fire which that fuel will feed.  To give
effect to the process, certain alkalies and other ingredients are
required; but these are prepared, and mine is the task to commingle them.
From your science as chemist I need and ask nought.  In you I have sought
only the aid of a man."

"If that be so, why, indeed, seek me at all?  Why not confide in those
swarthy attendants, who doubtless are slaves to your orders?"

"Confide in slaves! when the first task enjoined to them would be to
discover, and refrain from purloining gold!  Seven such unscrupulous
knaves, or even one such, and I, thus defenceless and feeble!  Such is not
the work that wise masters confide to fierce slaves.  But that is the
least of the reasons which exclude them from my choice, and fix my choice
of assistant on you.  Do you forget what I told you of the danger which
the Dervish declared no bribe I could offer could tempt him a second time
to brave?"

"I remember now; those words had passed away from my mind."

"And because they had passed away from your mind, I chose you for my
comrade.  I need a man by whom danger is scorned."

"But in the process of which you tell me I see no possible danger unless
the ingredients you mix in your caldron have poisonous fumes."

"It is not that.  The ingredients I use are not poisons."

"What other danger, except you dread your own Eastern slaves?  But, if so,
why lead them to these solitudes; and, if so, why not bid me be armed?"

"The Eastern slaves, fulfilling my commands, wait for my summons where
their eyes cannot see what we do.  The danger is of a kind in which the
boldest son of the East would be more craven, perhaps, than the daintiest
Sybarite of Europe, who would shrink from a panther and laugh at a ghost.
In the creed of the Dervish, and of all who adventure into that realm of
nature which is closed to philosophy and open to magic, there are races in
the magnitude of space unseen as animalcules in the world of a drop.  For
the tribes of the drop, science has its microscope.  Of the host of yon
azure Infinite magic gains sight, and through them gains command over
fluid conductors that link all the parts of creation.  Of these races,
some are wholly indifferent to man, some benign to him, and some dreadly
hostile.  In all the regular and prescribed conditions of mortal being,
this magic realm seems as blank and tenantless as yon vacant air.  But
when a seeker of powers beyond the rude functions by which man plies the
clockwork that measures his hours, and stops when its chain reaches the
end of its coil, strives to pass over those boundaries at which philosophy
says, 'Knowledge ends,'--then he is like all other travellers in regions
unknown; he must propitiate or brave the tribes that are hostile,--must
depend for his life on the tribes that are friendly.  Though your science
discredits the alchemist's dogmas, your learning informs you that all
alchemists were not ignorant impostors; yet those whose discoveries prove
them to have been the nearest allies to your practical knowledge, ever
hint in their mystical works at the reality of that realm which is open to
magic,--ever hint that some means less familiar than furnace and bellows
are essential to him who explores the elixir of life.  He who once quaffs
that elixir, obtains in his very veins the bright fluid by which he
transmits the force of his will to agencies dormant in nature, to giants
unseen in the space.  And here, as he passes the boundary which divides
his allotted and normal mortality from the regions and races that magic
alone can explore, so, here, he breaks down the safeguard between himself
and the tribes that are hostile.  Is it not ever thus between man and man?
Let a race the most gentle and timid and civilized dwell on one side a
river or mountain, and another have home in the region beyond, each, if it
pass not the intervening barrier, may with each live in peace.  But if
ambitious adventurers scale the mountain, or cross the river, with design
to subdue and enslave the population they boldly invade, then all the
invaded arise in wrath and defiance,--the neighbours are changed into
foes.  And therefore this process--by which a simple though rare material
of nature is made to yield to a mortal the boon of a life which brings,
with its glorious resistance to Time, desires and faculties to subject to
its service beings that dwell in the earth and the air and the deep--has
ever been one of the same peril which an invader must brave when he
crosses the bounds of his nation.  By this key alone you unlock all the
cells of the alchemist's lore; by this alone understand how a labour,
which a chemist's crudest apprentice could perform, has baffled the giant
fathers of all your dwarfed children of science.  Nature, that stores this
priceless boon, seems to shrink from conceding it to man; the invisible
tribes that abhor him, oppose themselves to the gain that might give them
a master.  The duller of those who were the life-seekers of old would have
told you how some chance, trivial, unlooked-for, foiled their grand hope
at the very point of fruition,--some doltish mistake, some improvident
oversight, a defect in the sulphur, a wild overflow in the quicksilver, or
a flaw in the bellows, or a pupil who failed to replenish the fuel, by
falling asleep by the furnace.  The invisible foes seldom vouchsafe to
make themselves visible where they can frustrate the bungler, as they mock
at his toils from their ambush.  But the mightier adventurers, equally
foiled in despite of their patience and skill, would have said, 'Not with
us rests the fault; we neglected no caution, we failed from no oversight.
But out from the caldron dread faces arose, and the spectres or demons
dismayed and baffled us.' Such, then, is the danger which seems so
appalling to a son of the East, as it seemed to a sees in the dark age of
Europe.  But we can deride all its threats, you and I.  For myself, I own
frankly I take all the safety that the charms and resources of magic
bestow.  You, for your safety, have the cultured and disciplined reason
which reduces all fantasies to nervous impressions; and I rely on the
courage of one who has questioned, unquailing, the Luminous Shadow, and
wrested from the hand of the magician himself the wand which concentred
the wonders of will!"

To this strange and long discourse I listened without interruption, and
now quietly answered,--

"I do not merit the trust you affect in my courage; but I am now on my
guard against the cheats of the fancy, and the fumes of a vapour can
scarcely bewilder the brain in the open air of this mountain-land.  I
believe in no races like those which you tell me lie viewless in space, as
do gases.  I believe not in magic; I ask not its aids, and I dread not its
terrors.  For the rest, I am confident of one mournful courage,--the
courage that comes from despair.  I submit to your guidance, whatever it
be, as a sufferer whom colleges doom to the grave submits to the quack who
says, 'Take my specific and live!'  My life is nought in itself; my life
lives in another.  You and I are both brave from despair; you would turn
death from yourself, I would turn death from one I love more than myself.
Both know how little aid we can win from the colleges, and both,
therefore, turn to the promises most audaciously cheering.  Dervish or
magician, alchemist or phantom, what care you and I?  And if they fail us,
what then?  They cannot fail us more than the colleges do!"



CHAPTER LXXXIII.

The gold has been gained with an easy labour.  I knew where to seek for
it, whether under the turf or in the bed of the creek.  But Margrave's
eyes, hungrily gazing round every spot from which the ore was disburied,
could not detect the substance of which he alone knew the outward
appearance.  I had begun to believe that, even in the description given to
him of this material, he had been credulously duped, and that no such
material existed, when, coming back from the bed of the watercourse, I saw
a faint yellow gleam amidst the roots of a giant parasite plant, the
leaves and blossoms of which climbed up the sides of the cave with its
antediluvian relics.  The gleam was the gleam of gold, and on removing the
loose earth round the roots of the plant, we came on--No, I will not, I
dare not, describe it.  The gold-digger would cast it aside, the
naturalist would pause not to heed it; and did I describe it, and
chemistry deign to subject it to analysis, could chemistry alone detach or
discover its boasted virtues?

Its particles, indeed, are very minute, not seeming readily to crystallize
with each other; each in itself of uniform shape and size, spherical as
the egg which contains the germ of life, and small as the egg from which
the life of an insect may quicken.

But Margrave's keen eye caught sight of the atoms upcast by the light of
the moon.  He exclaimed to me, "Found!  I shall live!"  And then, as he
gathered up the grains with tremulous hands, he called out to the Veiled
Woman, hitherto still seated motionless on the crag.  At his word she rose
and went to the place bard by, where the fuel was piled, busying herself
there.  I had no leisure to heed her.  I continued my search in the soft
and yielding soil that time and the decay of vegetable life had
accumulated over the Pre-Adamite strata on which the arch of the cave
rested its mighty keystone.


When we had collected of these particles about thrice as much as a man
might hold in his hand, we seemed to have exhausted their bed.  We
continued still to find gold, but no more of the delicate substance, to
which, in our sight, gold was as dross.

"Enough," then said Margrave, reluctantly desisting.  "What we have gained
already will suffice for a life thrice as long as legend attributes to
Haroun.  I shall live,--I shall live through the centuries."

"Forget not that I claim my share."

"Your share--yours!  True--your half of my life!  It is true."  He paused
with a low, ironical, malignant laugh; and then added, as he rose and
turned away, "But the work is yet to be done."



CHAPTER LXXXIV.

While we had thus laboured and found, Ayesha had placed the fuel where the
moonlight fell fullest on the sward of the tableland,--a part of it
already piled as for a fire, the rest of it heaped confusedly close at
hand; and by the pile she had placed the coffer.  And there she stood, her
arms folded under her mantle, her dark image seeming darker still as the
moonlight whitened all the ground from which the image rose motionless.
Margrave opened his coffer, the Veiled Woman did not aid him, and I
watched in silence, while he as silently made his weird and wizard-like
preparations.



CHAPTER LXXXV.

On the ground a wide circle was traced by a small rod, tipped apparently
with sponge saturated with some combustible naphtha-like fluid, so that a
pale lambent flame followed the course of the rod as Margrave guided it,
burning up the herbage over which it played, and leaving a distinct ring,
like that which, in our lovely native fable-talk, we call the "Fairy's
Ring," but yet more visible because marked in phosphorescent light.  On
the ring thus formed were placed twelve small lamps, fed with the fluid
from the same vessel, and lighted by the same rod.  The light emitted by
the lamps was more vivid and brilliant than that which circled round the
ring.

Within the circumference, and immediately round the woodpile, Margrave
traced certain geometrical figures, in which--not without a shudder, that
I overcame at once by a strong effort of will in murmuring to myself the
name of "Lilian"--I recognized the interlaced triangles which my own hand,
in the spell enforced on a sleep-walker, had described on the floor of the
wizard's pavilion.  The figures were traced, like the circle, in flame,
and at the point of each triangle (four in number) was placed a lamp,
brilliant as those on the ring.  This task performed, the caldron, based
on an iron tripod, was placed on the wood-pile.  And then the woman,
before inactive and unheeding, slowly advanced, knelt by the pile, and
lighted it.  The dry wood crackled and the flame burst forth, licking the
rims of the caldron with tongues of fire.

Margrave flung into the caldron the particles we had collected, poured
over them first a liquid, colourless as water, from the largest of the
vessels drawn from his coffer, and then, more sparingly, drops from small
crystal phials, like the phials I had seen in the hand of Philip Derval.

Having surmounted my first impulse of awe, I watched these proceedings,
curious yet disdainful, as one who watches the mummeries of an enchanter
on the stage.

"If," thought I, "these are but artful devices to inebriate and fool my
own imagination, my imagination is on its guard, and reason shall not,
this time, sleep at her post!"

"And now," said Margrave, "I consign to you the easy task by which you are
to merit your share of the elixir.  It is my task to feed and replenish
the caldron; it is Ayesha's to heed the fire, which must not for a moment
relax in its measured and steady heat.  Your task is the lightest of all
it is but to renew from this vessel the fluid that burns in the lamps, and
on the ring.  Observe, the contents of the vessel must be thriftily
husbanded; there is enough, but not more than enough, to sustain the light
in the lamps, on the lines traced round the caldron, and on the farther
ring, for six hours.  The compounds dissolved in this fluid are
scarce,--only obtainable in the East, and even in the East months might
have passed before I could have increased my supply.

"I had no months to waste.  Replenish, then, the light only when it begins
to flicker or fade.  Take heed, above all, that no part of the outer
ring--no, not an inch--and no lamp of the twelve, that are to its zodiac
like stars, fade for one moment in darkness."

I took the crystal vessel from his hand.

"The vessel is small," said I, "and what is yet left of its contents is
but scanty; whether its drops suffice to replenish the lights I cannot
guess,--I can but obey your instructions.  But, more important by far than
the light to the lamps and the circle, which in Asia or Africa might scare
away the wild beasts unknown to this land--more important than light to a
lamp, is the strength to your frame, weak magician!  What will support you
through six weary hours of night-watch?"

"Hope," answered Margrave, with a ray of his old dazzling style.  "Hope!
I shall live,--I shall live through the centuries!"



CHAPTER LXXXVI.

One hour passed away; the fagots under the caldron burned clear in the
sullen sultry air.  The materials within began to seethe, and their
colour, at first dull and turbid, changed into a pale-rose hue; from time
to time the Veiled Woman replenished the fire, after she had done so
reseating herself close by the pyre, with her head bowed over her knees,
and her face hid under her veil.

The lights in the lamps and along the ring and the triangles now began to
pale.  I resupplied their nutriment from the crystal vessel.  As yet
nothing strange startled my eye or my ear beyond the rim of the
circle,--nothing audible, save, at a distance, the musical wheel-like
click of the locusts, and, farther still, in the forest, the howl of the
wild dogs, that never bark; nothing visible, but the trees and the
mountain-range girding the plains silvered by the moon, and the arch of
the cavern, the flush of wild blooms on its sides, and the gleam of dry
bones on its floor, where the moonlight shot into the gloom.

The second hour passed like the first.  I had taken my stand by the side
of Margrave, watching with him the process at work in the caldron, when I
felt the ground slightly vibrate beneath my feet, and, looking up, it
seemed as if all the plains beyond the circle were heaving like the swell
of the sea, and as if in the air itself there was a perceptible tremor.

I placed my hand on Margrave's shoulder and whispered, "To me earth and
air seem to vibrate.  Do they seem to vibrate to you?"

"I know not, I care not," he answered impetuously.  "The essence is
bursting the shell that confined it.  Here are my air and my earth!
Trouble me not.  Look to the circle! feed the lamps if they fail."

I passed by the Veiled Woman as I walked towards a place in the ring in
which the flame was waning dim; and I whispered to her the same question
which I had whispered to Margrave.  She looked slowly around, and
answered, "So is it before the Invisible make themselves visible!  Did I
not bid him forbear?"  Her head again drooped on her breast, and her watch
was again fixed on the fire.

I advanced to the circle and stooped to replenish the light where it
waned.  As I did so, on my arm, which stretched somewhat beyond the line
of the ring, I felt a shock like that of electricity.  The arm fell to my
side numbed and nerveless, and from my hand dropped, but within the ring,
the vessel that contained the fluid.  Recovering my surprise or my stun,
hastily with the other hand I caught up the vessel, but some of the scanty
liquid was already spilled on the sward; and I saw with a thrill of
dismay, that contrasted indeed the tranquil indifference with which I had
first undertaken my charge, how small a supply was now left.

I went back to Margrave, and told him of the shock, and of its consequence
in the waste of the liquid.

"Beware," said he, "that not a motion of the arm, not an inch of the foot,
pass the verge of the ring; and if the fluid be thus unhappily stinted,
reserve all that is left for the protecting circle and the twelve outer
lamps!  See how the Grand Work advances! how the hues in the caldron are
glowing blood-red through the film on the surface!"

And now four hours of the six were gone; my arm had gradually recovered
its strength.  Neither the ring nor the lamps had again required
replenishing; perhaps their light was exhausted less quickly, as it was no
longer to be exposed to the rays of the intense Australian moon.  Clouds
had gathered over the sky, and though the moon gleamed at times in the
gaps that they left in blue air, her beam was more hazy and dulled.  The
locusts no longer were heard in the grass, nor the howl of the dogs in the
forest.  Out of the circle, the stillness was profound.

And about this time I saw distinctly in the distance a vast Eye!  It drew
nearer and nearer, seeming to move from the ground at the height of some
lofty giant.  Its gaze riveted mine; my blood curdled in the blaze from
its angry ball; and now as it advanced larger and larger, other Eyes, as
if of giants in its train, grew out from the space in its rear; numbers on
numbers, like the spearheads of some Eastern army, seen afar by pale
warders of battlements doomed to the dust.  My voice long refused an
utterance to my awe; at length it burst forth shrill and loud,--

"Look! look!  Those terrible Eyes!  Legions on legions!  And hark! that
tramp of numberless feet; they are not seen, but the hollows of earth echo
the sound of their march!"

Margrave, more than ever intent on the caldron, in which, from time to
time, he kept dropping powders or essences drawn forth from his coffer,
looked up, defyingly, fiercely.

"Ye come," he said, in a low mutter, his once mighty voice sounding hollow
and labouring, but fearless and firm,--"ye come,--not to conquer, vain
rebels!--ye whose dark chief I struck down at my feet in the tomb where my
spell had raised up the ghost of your first human master, the Chaldee!
Earth and air have their armies still faithful to me, and still I remember
the war-song that summons them up to confront you!  Ayesha!  Ayesha!
recall the wild troth that we pledged amongst roses; recall the dread bond
by which we united our sway over hosts that yet own thee as queen, though
my sceptre is broken, my diadem reft from my brows!"

The Veiled Woman rose at this adjuration.  Her veil now was withdrawn, and
the blaze of the fire between Margrave and herself flushed, as with the
rosy bloom of youth, the grand beauty of her softened face.  It was seen,
detached as it were, from her dark-mantled form; seen through the mist of
the vapours which rose from the caldron, framing it round like the clouds.
that are yieldingly pierced by the light of the evening star.

Through the haze of the vapour came her voice, more musical, more
plaintive than I had heard it before, but far softer, more tender; still
in her foreign tongue; the words unknown to me, and yet their sense,
perhaps, made intelligible by the love, which has one common language and
one common look to all who have loved,--the love unmistakably heard in the
loving tone, unmistakably seen in the loving face.

A moment or so more, and she had come round from the opposite side of the
fire-pile, and bending over Margrave's upturned brow, kissed it quietly,
solemnly; and then her countenance grew fierce, her crest rose erect; it
was the lioness protecting her young.  She stretched forth her arm from
the black mantle, athwart the pale front that now again bent over the
caldron,--stretched it towards the haunted and hollow-sounding space
beyond, in the gesture of one whose right hand has the sway of the
sceptre.  And then her voice stole on the air in the music of a chant, not
loud, yet far-reaching; so thrilling, so sweet, and yet so solemn, that I
could at once comprehend how legend united of old the spell of enchantment
with the power of song.  All that I recalled of the effects which, in the
former time, Margrave's strange chants had produced on the ear that they
ravished and the thoughts they confused, was but as the wild bird's
imitative carol, compared to the depth and the art and the soul of the
singer, whose voice seemed endowed with a charm to enthrall all the tribes
of creation, though the language it used for that charm might to them, as
to me, be unknown.  As the song ceased, I heard, from behind, sounds like
those I had heard in the spaces before me,--the tramp of invisible feet,
the whir of invisible wings, as if armies were marching to aid against
armies in march to destroy.

"Look not in front nor around," said Ayesha.  "Look, like him, on the
caldron below.  The circle and the lamps are yet bright; I will tell you
when the light again fails."

I dropped my eyes on the caldron.

"See," whispered Margrave, "the sparkles at last begin to arise, and the
rose-hues to deepen,--signs that we near the last process."



CHAPTER LXXXVII.

The fifth hour had passed away, when Ayesha said to me, "Lo! the circle is
fading; the lamps grow dim.  Look now without fear on the space beyond;
the eyes that appalled thee are again lost in air, as lightnings that
fleet back into cloud."

I looked up, and the spectres had vanished.  The sky was tinged with
sulphurous hues, the red and the black intermixed.  I replenished the
lamps and the ring in front, thriftily, heedfully; but when I came to the
sixth lamp, not a drop in the vessel that fed them was left.  In a vague
dismay, I now looked round the half of the wide circle in rear of the two
bended figures intent on the caldron.  All along that disk the light was
already broken, here and there flickering up, here and there dying down;
the six lamps in that half of the circle still twinkled, but faintly, as
stars shrinking fast from the dawn of day.  But it was not the fading
shine in that half of the magical ring which daunted my eye and quickened
with terror the pulse of my heart; the Bushland beyond was on fire.  From
the background of the forest rose the flame and the smoke,--the smoke,
there, still half smothering the flame.  But along the width of the
grasses and herbage, between the verge of the forest and the bed of the
water-creek just below the raised platform from which I beheld the dread
conflagration, the fire was advancing,--wave upon wave, clear and red
against the columns of rock behind,--as the rush of a flood through the
mists of some Alp crowned with lightnings.

Roused from my stun at the first sight of a danger not foreseen by the
mind I had steeled against far rarer portents of Nature, I cared no more
for the lamps and the circle.  Hurrying back to Ayesha, I exclaimed:  "The
phantoms have gone from the spaces in front; but what incantation or spell
can arrest the red march of the foe, speeding on in the rear!  While we
gazed on the caldron of life, behind us, unheeded, behold the Destroyer!"

Ayesha looked, and made no reply; but, as by involuntary instinct, bowed
her majestic head, then rearing it erect, placed herself yet more
immediately before the wasted form of the young magician (he still bending
over the caldron, and hearing me not in the absorption and hope of his
watch),--placed herself before him, as the bird whose first care is her
fledgling.

As we two there stood, fronting the deluge of fire, we heard Margrave
behind us, murmuring low, "See the bubbles of light, how they sparkle and
dance!  I shall live, I shall live!"  And his words scarcely died in our
ears before, crash upon crash, came the fall of the age-long trees in the
forest; and nearer, all near us, through the blazing grasses, the hiss of
the serpents, the scream of-the birds, and the bellow and tramp of the
herds plunging wild through the billowy red of their pastures.

Ayesha now wound her arms around Margrave, and wrenched him, reluctant and
struggling, from his watch over the seething caldron.  In rebuke; of his
angry exclamations, she pointed to the march of the fire, spoke in
sorrowful tones a few words in her own language, and then, appealing to me
in English, said,--

"I tell him that here the Spirits who oppose us have summoned a foe that
is deaf to my voice, and--"

"And," exclaimed Margrave, no longer with gasp and effort, but with the
swell of a voice which drowned all the discords of terror and of agony
sent forth from the Phlegethon burning below,--"and this witch, whom I
trusted, is a vile slave and impostor, more desiring my death than my
life.  She thinks that in life I should scorn and forsake her, that in
death I should die in her arms!  Sorceress, avaunt!  Art thou useless and
powerless now when I need thee most?  Go!  Let the world be one funeral
pyre!  What to me is the world?  My world is my life!  Thou knowest that
my last hope is here,--that all the strength left me this night will die
down, like the lamps in the circle, unless the elixir restore it.  Bold
friend, spurn that sorceress away.  Hours yet ere those flames can assail
us!  A few minutes more, and life to your Lilian and me!"

Thus having said, Margrave turned from us, and cast into the caldron the
last essence yet left in his empty coffer.  Ayesha silently drew her black
veil over her face; and turned, with the being she loved, from the terror
he scorned, to share in the hope that he cherished.

Thus left alone, with my reason disenthralled, disenchanted, I surveyed
more calmly the extent of the actual peril with which we were threatened,
and the peril seemed less, so surveyed.

It is true all the Bush-land behind, almost up to the bed of the creek,
was on fire; but the grasses, through which the flame spread so rapidly,
ceased at the opposite marge of the creek.  Watery pools were still, at
intervals, left in the bed of the creek, shining tremulous, like waves of
fire, in the glare reflected from the burning land; and even where the
water failed, the stony course of the exhausted rivulet was a barrier
against the march of the conflagration.  Thus, unless the wind, now still,
should rise, and waft some sparks to the parched combustible herbage
immediately around us, we were saved from the fire, and our work might yet
be achieved.

I whispered to Ayesha the conclusion to which I came.  "Thinkest thou,"
she answered, without raising her mournful head, "that the Agencies of
Nature are the movements of chance?  The Spirits I invoked to his aid are
leagued with the hosts that assail.  A mightier than I am has doomed him!"

Scarcely had she uttered these words before Margrave exclaimed, "Behold
how the Rose of the alchemist's dream enlarges its blooms from the folds
of its petals!  I shall live, I shall live!"

I looked, and the liquid which glowed in the caldron had now taken a
splendour that mocked all comparisons borrowed from the lustre of gems.
In its prevalent colour it had, indeed, the dazzle and flash of the ruby;
but out from the mass of the molten red, broke coruscations of all prismal
hues, shooting, shifting, in a play that made the wavelets them selves
seem living things, sensible of their joy.  No longer was there scum or
film upon the surface; only ever and anon a light rosy vapour floating
up, and quick lost in the haggard, heavy, sulphurous air, hot with the
conflagration rushing towards us from behind.  And these coruscations
formed, on the surface of the molten ruby, literally the shape of a Rose,
its leaves made distinct in their outlines by sparks of emerald and
diamond and sapphire.

Even while gazing on this animated liquid lustre, a buoyant delight seemed
infused into my senses; all terrors conceived before were annulled; the
phantoms, whose armies had filled the wide spaces in front, were
forgotten; the crash of the forest behind was unheard.  In the reflection
of that glory, Margrave's wan cheek seemed already restored to the
radiance it wore when I saw it first in the framework of blooms.

As I gazed, thus enchanted, a cold hand touched my own.

"Hush!"  whispered Ayesha, from the black veil, against which the rays of
the caldron fell blunt, and absorbed into Dark.  "Behind us, the light of
the circle is extinct, but there we are guarded from all save the brutal
and soulless destroyers.  But before!--but before !--see, two of the lamps
have died out!--see the blank of the gap in the ring Guard that
breach,--there the demons will enter."

"Not a drop is there left in his vessel by which to replenish the lamps on
the ring."

"Advance, then; thou hast still the light of the soul, and the demons may
recoil before a soul that is dauntless and guiltless.  If not, Three are
lost!--as it is, One is doomed."

Thus adjured, silently, involuntarily, I passed from the Veiled Woman's
side, over the sere lines on the turf which had been traced by the
triangles of light long since extinguished, and towards the verge of the
circle.  As I advanced, overhead rushed a dark cloud of wings,--birds
dislodged from the forest on fire, and screaming, in dissonant terror, as
they flew towards the farthermost mountains; close by my feet hissed and
glided the snakes, driven forth from their blazing coverts, and glancing
through the ring, unscared by its waning lamps; all undulating by me,
bright-eyed and hissing, all made innocuous by fear,--even the terrible
Death-adder, which I trampled on as I halted at the verge of the circle,
did not turn to bite, but crept harmless away.  I halted at the gap
between the two dead lamps, and bowed my head to look again into the
crystal vessel.  Were there, indeed, no lingering drops yet left, if but
to recruit the lamps for some priceless minutes more?  As I thus stood,
right into the gap between the two dead lamps strode a gigantic Foot.  All
the rest of the form was unseen; only, as volume after volume of smoke
poured on from the burning land behind, it seemed as if one great column
of vapour, eddying round, settled itself aloft from the circle, and that
out from that column strode the giant Foot.  And, as strode the Foot, so
with it came, like the sound of its tread, a roll of muttered thunder.

I recoiled, with a cry that rang loud through the lurid air.

"Courage!" said the voice of Ayesha.  "Trembling soul, yield not an inch
to the demon!"

At the charm, the wonderful charm, in the tone of the Veiled Woman's
voice, my will seemed to take a force more sublime than its own.  I folded
my arms on my breast, and stood as if rooted to the spot, confronting the
column of smoke and the stride of the giant Foot.  And the Foot halted,
mute.

Again, in the momentary hush of that suspense, I heard a voice,--it was
Margrave's.

"The last hour expires, the work is accomplished!  Come! come!  Aid me to
take the caldron from the fire; and quick!--or a drop may be wasted in
vapour--the Elixir of Life from the caldron!"

At that cry I receded, and the Foot advanced.

And at that moment, suddenly, unawares, from behind, I was stricken down.
Over me, as I lay, swept a whirlwind of trampling hoofs and glancing
horns.  The herds, in their flight from the burning pastures, had rushed
over the bed of the watercourse, scaled the slopes of the banks.  Snorting
and bellowing, they plunged their blind way to the mountains.  One cry
alone, more wild than their own savage blare, pierced the reek through
which the Brute Hurricane swept.  At that cry of wrath and despair I
struggled to rise, again dashed to earth by the hoofs and the horns.  But
was it the dream-like deceit of my reeling senses, or did I see that giant
Foot stride past through the close-serried ranks of the maddening herds?
Did I hear, distinct through all the huge uproar of animal terror, the
roll of low thunder which followed the stride of that Foot?



CHAPTER LXXXVIII.

When my sense had recovered its shock, and my eyes looked dizzily round,
the charge of the beasts had swept by; and of all the wild tribes which
had invaded the magical circle, the only lingerer was the brown
Death-adder, coiled close by the spot where my head had rested.  Beside
the extinguished lamps which the hoofs had confusedly scattered, the
fire, arrested by the watercourse, had consumed the grasses that fed it,
and there the plains stretched, black and desert as the Phlegroean Field
of the Poet's Hell.  But the fire still raged in the forest beyond,--white
flames, soaring up from the trunks of the tallest trees, and forming,
through the sullen dark of the smoke-reek, innumerable pillars of fire,
like the halls in the City of fiends.

Gathering myself up, I turned my eyes from the terrible pomp of the lurid
forest, and looked fearfully down on the hoof-trampled sward for my two
companions.

I saw the dark image of Ayesha still seated, still bending, as I had seen
it last.  I saw a pale hand feebly grasping the rim of the magical
caldron, which lay, hurled down from its tripod by the rush of the beasts,
yards away from the dim fading embers of the scattered wood-pyre.  I saw
the faint writhings of a frail wasted frame, over which the Veiled Woman
was bending.  I saw, as I moved with bruised limbs to the place, close by
the lips of the dying magician, the flash of the ruby-like essence spilled
on the sward, and, meteor-like, sparkling up from the torn tufts of
herbage.

I now reached Margrave's side.  Bending over him as the Veiled Woman bent,
and as I sought gently to raise him, he turned his face, fiercely
faltering out, "Touch me not, rob me not!  You share with me!  Never!
never!  These glorious drops are all mine!  Die all else!  I will live!  I
will live!"  Writhing himself from my pitying arms, he plunged his face
amidst the beautiful, playful flame of the essence, as if to lap the
elixir with lips scorched away from its intolerable burning.  Suddenly,
with a low shriek, he fell back, his face upturned to mine, and on that
face unmistakably reigned Death!

Then Ayesha tenderly, silently, drew the young head to her lap, and it
vanished from my sight behind her black veil.

I knelt beside her, murmuring some trite words of comfort; but she heeded
me not, rocking herself to and fro as the mother who cradles a child to
sleep.  Soon the fast-flickering sparkles of the lost elixir died out on
the grass; and with their last sportive diamond-like tremble of light, up,
in all the suddenness of Australian day, rose the sun, lifting himself
royally above the mountain-tops, and fronting the meaner blaze of the
forest as a young king fronts his rebels.  And as there, where the
bush-fires had ravaged, all was a desert, so there, where their fury had
not spread, all was a garden.  Afar, at the foot of the mountains, the
fugitive herds were grazing; the cranes, flocking back to the pools,
renewed the strange grace of their gambols; and the great kingfisher,
whose laugh, half in mirth, half in mockery, leads the choir that welcome
the morn,--which in Europe is night,--alighted bold on the roof of the
cavern, whose floors were still white with the bones of races, extinct
before--so helpless through instincts, so royal through Soul--rose Man!

But there, on the ground where the dazzling elixir had wasted its
virtues,--there the herbage already had a freshness of verdure which, amid
the duller sward round it, was like an oasis of green in a desert.  And
there wild-flowers, whose chill hues the eye would have scarcely
distinguished the day before, now glittered forth in blooms of unfamiliar
beauty.  Towards that spot were attracted myriads of happy insects, whose
hum of intense joy was musically loud.  But the form of the life-seeking
sorcerer lay rigid and stark; blind to the bloom of the wild-flowers, deaf
to the glee of the insects,--one hand still resting heavily on the rim of
the emptied caldron, and the face still hid behind the Black Veil.  What!
the wondrous elixir, sought with such hope and well-nigh achieved through
such dread, fleeting back to the earth from which its material was drawn,
to give bloom, indeed,--but to herbs: joy indeed,--but to insects!

And now, in the flash of the sun, slowly wound up the slopes that led to
the circle the same barbaric procession which had sunk into the valley
under the ray of the moon.  The armed men came first, stalwart and tall,
their vests brave with crimson and golden lace, their weapons gayly
gleaming with holiday silver.  After them, the Black Litter.  As they came
to the place, Ayesha, not raising her head, spoke to them in her own
Eastern tongue.  A wail was her answer.  The armed men bounded forward,
and the bearers left the litter.

All gathered round the dead form with the face concealed under the black
veil; all knelt, and all wept.  Far in the distance, at the foot of the
blue mountains, a crowd of the savage natives had risen up as if from the
earth; they stood motionless, leaning on their clubs and spears, and
looking towards the spot on which we were,--strangely thus brought into
the landscape, as if they too, the wild dwellers on the verge which
Humanity guards from the Brute, were among the mourners for the mysterious
Child of mysterious Nature!  And still, in the herbage, hummed the small
insects, and still, from the cavern, laughed the great kingfisher.  I said
to Ayesha, "Farewell! your love mourns the dead, mine calls me to the
living.  You are now with your own people, they may console you; say if I
can assist."

"There is no consolation for me!  What mourner can be consoled if the dead
die forever?  Nothing for him is left but a grave; that grave shall be in
the land where the song of Ayesha first lulled him to sleep.  Thou assist
Me,--thou, the wise man of Europe!  From me ask assistance.  What road
wilt thou take to thy home?"

"There is but one road known to me through the maze of the solitude,--that
which we took to this upland."

"On that road Death lurks, and awaits thee!  Blind dupe, couldst thou
think that if the grand secret of life had been won, he whose head rests
on my lap would have yielded thee one petty drop of the essence which had
filched from his store of life but a moment?  Me, who so loved and so
cherished him,--me he would have doomed to the pitiless cord of my
servant, the Strangler, if my death could have lengthened a hair-breadth
the span of his being.  But what matters to me his crime or his madness?
I loved him!  I loved him!"

She bowed her veiled head lower and lower; perhaps, under the veil, her
lips kissed the lips of the dead.  Then she said whisperingly,--

"Juma the Strangler, whose word never failed to his master, whose prey
never slipped from his snare, waits thy step on the road to thy home!  But
thy death cannot now profit the dead, the beloved.  And thou hast had pity
for him who took but thine aid to design thy destruction.  His life is
lost, thine is saved."

She spoke no more in the tongue that I could interpret.  She spoke, in the
language unknown, a few murmured words to her swarthy attendants; then the
armed men, still weeping, rose, and made a dumb sign to me to go with
them.  I understood by the sign that Ayesha had told them to guard me on
my way; but she gave no reply to my parting thanks.



CHAPTER LXXXIX.

I descended into the valley; the armed men followed.  The path, on that
side of the watercourse not reached by the flames, wound through meadows
still green, or amidst groves still unscathed.  As a turning in the way
brought in front of my sight the place I had left behind, I beheld the
black litter creeping down the descent, with its curtains closed, and the
Veiled Woman walking by its side.  But soon the funeral procession was
lost to my eyes, and the thoughts that it roused were erased.  The waves
in man's brain are like those of the sea, rushing on, rushing over the
wrecks of the vessels that rode on their surface, to sink, after storm, in
their deeps.  One thought cast forth into the future now mastered all in
the past: "Was Lilian living still?"  Absorbed in the gloom of that
thought, hurried on by the goad that my heart, in its tortured impatience,
gave to my footstep, I outstripped the slow stride of the armed men, and,
midway between the place I had left and the home which I sped to, came,
far in advance of my guards, into the thicket in which the bushmen had
started up in my path on the night that Lilian had watched for my coming.
The earth at my feet was rife with creeping plants and many-coloured
flowers, the sky overhead was half-hid by motionless pines.  Suddenly,
whether crawling out from the herbage, or dropping down from the trees, by
my side stood the white-robed and skeleton form,--Ayesha's attendant, the
Strangler.

I sprang from him shuddering, then halted and faced him.  The hideous
creature crept towards me, cringing and fawning, making signs of humble
good-will and servile obeisance.  Again I recoiled,--wrathfully,
loathingly; turned my face homeward, and fled on.  I thought I had baffled
his chase, when, just at the mouth of the thicket, he dropped from a bough
in my path close behind me.  Before I could turn, some dark muffling
substance fell between my sight and the sun, and I felt a fierce strain at
my throat.  But the words of Ayesha had warned me; with one rapid hand I
seized the noose before it could tighten too closely, with the other I
tore the bandage away from my eyes, and, wheeling round on the dastardly
foe, struck him down with one spurn of my foot.  His hand, as he fell,
relaxed its hold on the noose; I freed my throat from the knot, and sprang
from the copse into the broad sunlit plain.  I saw no more of the armed
men or the Strangler.  Panting and breathless, I paused at last before the
fence, fragrant with blossoms, that divided my home from the solitude.

The windows of Lilian's room were darkened; all within the house seemed
still.

Darkened and silenced Home! with the light and sounds of the jocund day
all around it.  Was there yet hope in the Universe for me?  All to which I
had trusted Hope had broken down!  The anchors I had forged for her hold
in the beds of the ocean, her stay from the drifts of the storm, had
snapped like the reeds which pierce the side that leans on the barb of
their points, and confides in the strength of their stems.  No hope in the
baffled resources of recognized knowledge!  No hope in the daring
adventures of Mind into regions unknown; vain alike the calm lore of the
practised physician, and the magical arts of the fated Enchanter!  I had
fled from the commonplace teachings of Nature, to explore in her
Shadow-land marvels at variance with reason.  Made brave by the grandeur
of love, I had opposed without quailing the stride of the Demon, and by
hope, when fruition seemed nearest, had been trodden into dust by the
hoofs of the beast!  And yet, all the while, I had scorned, as a dream
more wild than the word of a sorcerer, the hope that the old man and the
child, the wise and the ignorant, took from their souls as inborn.  Man
and fiend had alike failed a mind, not ignoble, not skilless, not abjectly
craven; alike failed a heart not feeble and selfish, not dead to the
hero's devotion, willing to shed every drop of its blood for a something
more dear than an animal's life for itself!  What remained--what remained
for man's hope?--man's mind and man's heart thus exhausting their all with
no other result but despair!  What remained but the mystery of mysteries,
so clear to the sunrise of childhood, the sunset of age, only dimmed by
the clouds which collect round the noon of our manhood?  Where yet was
Hope found?  In the soul; in its every-day impulse to supplicate comfort
and light, from the Giver of soul, wherever the heart is afflicted, the
mind is obscured.

Then the words of Ayesha rushed over me: "What mourner can be consoled, if
the Dead die forever?"  Through every pulse of my frame throbbed that
dread question.  All Nature around seemed to murmur it.  And suddenly, as
by a flash from heaven, the grand truth in Faber's grand reasoning shone
on me, and lighted up all, within and without.  Alan alone, of all earthly
creatures, asks, "Can the Dead die forever?" and the instinct that urges
the question is God's answer to man!  No instinct is given in vain.

And born with the instinct of soul is the instinct that leads the soul
from the seen to the unseen, from time to eternity, from the torrent that
foams towards the Ocean of Death, to the source of its stream, far aloft
from the Ocean.

"Know thyself," said the Pythian of old.  "That precept descended from
Heaven."  Know thyself!  Is that maxim wise?  If so, know thy soul.  But
never yet did man come to the thorough conviction of soul but what he
acknowledged the sovereign necessity of prayer.  In my awe, in my rapture,
all my thoughts seemed enlarged and illumined and exalted.  I prayed,--all
my soul seemed one prayer.  All my past, with its pride and presumption
and folly, grew distinct as the form of a penitent, kneeling for pardon
before setting forth on the pilgrimage vowed to a shrine.  And, sure now,
in the deeps of a soul first revealed to myself, that the Dead do not die
forever, my human love soared beyond its brief trial of terror and sorrow.
Daring not to ask from Heaven's wisdom that Lilian, for my sake, might not
yet pass away from the earth, I prayed that my soul might be fitted to
bear with submission whatever my Maker might ordain.  And if surviving
her--without whom no beam from yon material sun could ever warm into joy a
morrow in human life--so to guide my steps that they might rejoin her at
last, and, in rejoining, regain forever!

How trivial now became the weird riddle that, a little while before, had
been clothed in so solemn an awe!  What mattered it to the vast interests
involved in the clear recognition of Soul and Hereafter, whether or not my
bodily sense, for a moment, obscured the face of the Nature I should one
day behold as a spirit?  Doubtless the sights and the sounds which had
haunted the last gloomy night, the calm reason of Faber would strip of
their magical seemings; the Eyes in the space and the Foot in the circle
might be those of no terrible Demons, but of the wild's savage children
whom I had seen, halting, curious and mute, in the light of the morning.
The tremor of the ground (if not, as heretofore, explicable by the
illusory impression of my own treacherous senses) might be but the natural
effect of elements struggling yet under a soil unmistakably charred by
volcanoes.  The luminous atoms dissolved in the caldron might as little be
fraught with a vital elixir as are the splendours of naphtha or phosphor.
As it was, the weird rite had no magic result.  The magician was not rent
limb from limb by the fiends.  By causes as natural as ever extinguished
life's spark in the frail lamp of clay, he had died out of sight--under
the black veil.

What mattered henceforth to Faith, in its far grander questions and
answers, whether Reason, in Faber, or Fancy, in me, supplied the more
probable guess at a hieroglyph which, if construed aright, was but a word
of small mark in the mystical language of Nature?  If all the arts of
enchantment recorded by Fable were attested by facts which Sages were
forced to acknowledge, Sages would sooner or later find some cause for
such portents--not supernatural.  But what Sage, without cause
supernatural, both without and within him, can guess at the wonders he
views in the growth of a blade of grass, or the tints on an insect's wing?
Whatever art Man can achieve in his progress through time, Man's reason,
in time, can suffice to explain.  But the wonders of God?  These belong to
the Infinite; and these, O Immortal! will but develop new wonder on
wonder, though thy sight be a spirit's, and thy leisure to track and to
solve an eternity.

As I raised my face from my clasped hands, my eyes fell full upon a form
standing in the open doorway.  There, where on the night in which Lilian's
long struggle for reason and life had begun, the Luminous Shadow had been
beheld in the doubtful light of a dying moon and a yet hazy dawn; there,
on the threshold, gathering round her bright locks the aureole of the
glorious sun, stood Amy, the blessed child!  And as I gazed, drawing
nearer and nearer to the silenced house, and that Image of Peace on its
threshold, I felt that Hope met me at the door,--Hope in the child's
steadfast eyes, Hope in the child's welcoming smile!

"I was at watch for you," whispered Amy.  "All is well."

"She lives still--she lives!  Thank God! thank God!"

"She lives,--she will recover!" said another voice, as my head sunk on
Faber's shoulder.  "For some hours in the night her sleep was disturbed,
convulsed.  I feared, then, the worst.  Suddenly, just before the dawn,
she called out aloud, still in sleep,--

"'The cold and dark shadow has passed away from me and from Allen,--passed
away from us both forever!'

"And from that moment the fever left her; the breathing became soft, the
pulse steady, and the colour stole gradually back to her cheek.  The
crisis is past.  Nature's benign Disposer has permitted Nature to restore
your life's gentle partner, heart to heart, mind to mind--"

"And soul to soul," I cried, in my solemn joy.  "Above as below, soul to
soul!"  Then, at a sign from Faber, the child took me by the hand and led
me up the stairs into Lilian's room.

Again those clear arms closed around me in wife-like and holy love, and
those true lips kissed away my tears,--even as now, at the distance of
years from that happy morn, while I write the last words of this Strange
Story, the same faithful arms close around me, the same tender lips kiss
away my tears.

THE END.





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