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The Romance of Two Worlds, Vol. 2. Corelli, Marie, 1855–1924.
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CHAPTER VIII.

CONCLUSION.

IT was a very simple and quiet procession that moved next day from the Hôtel Mars to Père-la-Chaise. Zara's coffin was carried in an open hearse, and was covered with a pall of rich white velvet, on which lay a royal profusion of flowers—Ivan's wreath, and a magnificent cross of lilies sent by tender-hearted Mrs. Challoner, being most conspicuous among them. The only thing a little unusual about it was that the funeral car was drawn by two stately white horses; and Heliobas told me this had been ordered page: 277 at Zara's special request, as she thought the solemn pacing through the streets of dismal black steeds had a depressing effect on the passer-by.

“And why,” she had said, “should anybody be sad, when I in reality am so thoroughly happy?”

Prince Ivan Petroffsky had left Paris, but his carriage, drawn by two prancing Russian steeds, followed the hearse at a respectful distance, as also the carriages of Dr. Morini, and some other private persons known to Heliobas. A few people attended it on foot, and these were chiefly from among the very poor, some of whom had benefited by Zara's charity or her brother's medical skill, and had heard of the calamity through rumour, or through the columns of the Figaro, where it was reported with graphic brevity. The weather was still misty, and the fiery sun seemed to shine through tears as Father Paul, with his assistants, read in solemn page: 278 yet cheerful tones the service for the dead according to the Catholic ritual. One of the chief mourners at the grave was the faithful Leo; who, without obtruding himself in any one's way, sat at a little distance, and seemed, by the confiding look with which he turned his eyes upon his master, to thoroughly understand that he must henceforth devote his life entirely to him. The coffin was lowered, the “Requiem æternam” spoken—all was over. Those assembled shook hands quietly with Heliobas, saluted each other, and gradually dispersed. I entered a carriage and drove back to the Hôtel Mars, leaving Heliobas in the cemetery to give his final instructions for the ornamentation and decoration of his sister's grave.

The little page served me with some luncheon in my own apartment, and by the time all was ready for my departure Heliobas returned. I went down to him in his study, and found him sitting pen- pensively page: 279 sively in his armchair, absorbed in thought. He looked sad and solitary, and my whole heart went out to him in gratitude and sympathy. I knelt beside him as a daughter might have done, and softly kissed his hand. He started as though awakened suddenly from sleep, and seeing me, his eyes softened, and he smiled gravely.

“Are you come to say ‘Good-bye,’ my child?” he asked, in a kind tone. “Well, your mission here is ended!”

“Had I any mission at all,” I replied, with a grateful look, “save the very selfish one which was comprised in the natural desire to be restored to health?”

Heliobas surveyed me for a few moments in silence.

“Were I to tell you,” he said at last, “by what mystical authority and influence you were compelled to come here, by what a marvellously linked chain of circumstances you became known to me long page: 280 before I saw you; how I was made aware that you were the only woman living to whose companionship I could trust my sister at a time when the society of one of her own sex became absolutely necessary to her; how you were marked out to me as a small point of light by which possibly I might steer my course clear of the darkness which threatened me—I say, were I to tell you all this, you would no longer doubt the urgent need of your presence here. It is, however, enough to tell you that you have fulfilled all that was expected of you, even beyond my best hopes; and in return for your services, the worth of which you cannot realize, whatever guidance I can give you in the future for your physical and spiritual life, is yours. I have done something for you, but not much—I will do more. Only, in communicating with me, I ask you to honour me with your full confidence in all matters pertaining to yourself and your surround- surroundings page: 281 ings—hen I shall not be liable to errors of judgment in the opinions I form, or the advice I give.”

“I promise most readily,” I replied gladly, for it seemed to me that I was rich in possessing as a friend and counsellor such a man as this student of the loftiest sciences.

“And now, one thing more,” he resumed, opening a drawer in the table near which he sat. “Here is a pencil for you to write your letters to me with. It will last about ten years, and at the expiration of that time you can have another. Write with it on any paper, and the marks will be like those of an ordinary drawing-pencil; but as fast as they are written they disappear. Trouble not about this circumstance—write all you have to say, and when you have finished your letter your closely covered pages shall seem blank. Therefore, were the eye of a stranger to look at them, nothing could be learned therefrom. page: 282 But when they reach me, I can make the writing appear and stand out on these apparently unsullied pages as distinctly as though your words had been printed. My letters to you will also, when you receive them, appear blank; but you will only have to press them for about ten minutes in this”—and he handed me what looked like an ordinary blotting-book—“and they will be perfectly legible. Cellini has these little writing implements; he uses them whenever the distances are too great for us to amuse ourselves with the sagacity of Leo—in fact, the journeys of that faithful animal have principally been to keep him in training.”

“But,” I said, as I took the pencil and book from his hand, “why do you not make these convenient writing materials public property? They would be so useful.”

“Why should I build up a fortune for some needy stationer?” he asked, with a page: 283 half-smile. “Besides, they are not new things. They were known to the ancients, and many secret letters, laws, histories and poems were written with instruments such as these. In an old library, destroyed more than two centuries ago, there was a goodly pile of apparently blank parchment. Had I lived then and known what I know now, I could have made the white pages declare their mystery.”

“Has this also to do with electricity?” I asked.

“Certainly—with what is called vegetable electricity. There is not a plant or herb in existence, but has almost a miracle hidden away in its tiny cup or spreading leaves—do you doubt it?”

“Not I!” I answered quickly. “I doubt nothing!”

Heliobas smiled gravely.

“You are right!” he said. “Doubt is the destroyer of beauty—the poison in the sweet cup of existence—the curse which page: 284 mankind have brought on themselves. Avoid it as you would the plague. Believe in anything or everything miraculous and glorious—the utmost reach of your faith can with difficulty grasp the majestic reality and perfection of everything you can see, desire, or imagine. Mistrust that volatile thing called Human Reason, which is merely a name for whatever opinion we happen to adopt for the time—it is a thing which totters on its throne in a fit of rage or despair—there is nothing infinite about it. Guide yourself by the delicate Spiritual Instinct within you, which tells you that with God all things are possible, save that He cannot destroy Himself or lessen by one spark the fiery brilliancy of His ever-widening circle of productive Intelligence. But make no attempt to convert the world to your way of thinking—it would be mere waste of time.”

“May I never try to instruct anyone in these things?” I asked.

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“You can try, if you choose; but you will find most human beings like the herd of swine in the Gospel, possessed by devils that drive them headlong into the sea. You know, for instance, that angels and aërial spirits actually exist; but were you to assert your belief in them, philosophers (so-called) would scout your theories as absurd,—though their idea of a lonely God, who yet is Love, is the very acme of absurdity. For Love must have somewhat to love, and must create the beauty and happiness round itself and the things beloved. But why point out these simple things to those who have no desire to see? Be content, child, that you have been deemed worthy of instruction—it is a higher faith for you than if you had been made a Queen.”

The little page now entered, and told me that the carriage was at the door in waiting. As he disappeared again after delivering the message, Heliobas rose page: 286 from his chair, and taking my two hands in his, pressed them kindly.

“One word more, little friend, on the subject of your career. I think the time will come when you will feel that music is almost too sacred a thing to be given away for money to a careless and promiscuous public. However this may be, remember that scarce one of the self-styled ‘artists’ who cater for the crowd deserves to be called musician in the highest sense of the word. Most of them seek not music, but money and applause; and therefore the art they profess is degraded by them into a mere trade. But you, when you play in public, must forget that persons with little vanities and lesser opinions exist. Think of what you saw in your journey with Azùl; and by a strong effort of your will, you can, if you choose, compel certain harmonies to sound in your ears—fragments of what is common breathing air to the Children of the Ring, some of whom you saw—and page: 287 you will be able to reproduce them in part, if not in entirety. But if you once admit a thought of self to enter your brain, those aërial sounds will be silenced instantly. By this means, too, you can judge who are the true disciples of Music in this world—those who, like Schubert and Chopin, suffered the heaven-born melodies to descend through them as though they were mere conductors of sound; or those who, feebly imitating other composers, measure out crotchets and quavers by rule and line, and flood the world with inane and perishable, and therefore useless, productions. And now,—farewell!”

“Do you remain in Paris?” I asked.

“For a few days only. I shall go to Egypt, and in travelling accustom myself to the solitude in which I must dwell, now Zara has left me.”

“You have Azùl,” I ventured to remark.

“Ah! but how often do I see her? Only when my soul for an instant is clear page: 288 from all earthly and gross obstruction; and how seldom I can attain to this result while weighted with my body! But she is near me—that I know—faithful as the star to the mariner's compass!”

He raised his head as he spoke, and his eyes flashed. Never had I seen him look more noble or kingly. The inspired radiance of his face softened down into his usual expression of gentleness and courtesy, and he said, offering me his arm:

“Let me see you to the carriage. You know it is not an actual parting with us—I intend that we shall meet frequently. For instance, the next time we exchange pleasant greetings will be it Italy.”

I suppose I looked surprised; I certainly felt so, for nothing was further from my thoughts than a visit to Italy.

Heliobas smiled, and said in a tone that was almost gay:

“Shall I draw the picture for you? I see a fair city, deep embowered in hills page: 289 and sheltered by olive-groves. Over it beams a broad sky, deeply blue; many soft bells caress the summer air. Away in the Cascine Woods a gay party of people are seated on the velvety moss; they have mandolines, and they sing for pure gaiety of heat. One of them, a woman with fair hair, arrayed in white, with a red rose at her bosom, is gathering the wild flowers that bloom around her, and weaving them into posies for her companions. A stranger, pacing slowly book in hand, through the shady avenue, sees her—her eyes met his. She springs up to greet him; he takes her hand. The woman is yourself; the stranger no other than your poor friend, who now, for a brief space, takes leave of you!”

So rapidly had he drawn up this picture, that the impression made on me was as though a sudden vision had been shown to me in a magic glass. I looked at him earnestly.

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“Then our next meeting will be happy?” I said inquiringly.

“Of course. Why not? And the next—and the next after that also!” he answered.

At this reply, so frankly given, I was relieved, and accompanied him readily through the hall towards the street door. Leo met us here, and intimated, as plainly as a human being could have done, his wish to bid me good-bye. I stooped and kissed his broad head and patted him affectionately, and was rewarded for these attentions by seeing his plume-like tail wave slowly to and fro—a sign of pleasure the poor animal had not betrayed since Zara's departure from the scene of her earthly imprisonment.

At the door, the pretty Greek boy handed me a huge basket of the loveliest flowers.

“The last from the conservatory,” said Heliobas. “I shall need no more of these luxuries.”

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As I entered the carriage he placed the flowers beside me, and again took my hand.

“Good-bye, my child!” he said, in earnest and kindly tones. “I have your address, and will write you all my movements. In any trouble small or great, of your own, send to me for advice without hesitation. I can tell you already that I foresee the time when you will resign altogether the precarious and unsatisfactory life of a mere professional musician. You think no other career would be possible to you. Well, you will see. A few months will decide all. Good-bye again; God bless you!”

The carriage moved off, and Heliobas stood on the steps of his mansion watching it out of sight. To the last I saw his stately figure erect in the light of the winter sunshine—a figure destined from henceforth to occupy a prominent position in my life and memory. The regret I felt page: 292 at parting from him was greatly mitigated by the assurance he gave me of our future meeting, a promise which has since been fulfilled, and is likely soon to be fulfilled again. That I have such a friend is an advantageous circumstance for me, for through his guidance I am able to judge accurately of many things occurring in the course of the daily life around me—things which, seemingly trivial, are the hints of serious results to come, which I am thus permitted in part to foresee. There is a drawback, of course, and the one bitter cup of knowledge is, that the more I progress under the tuition of Heliobas, the less I am deceived by graceful appearances. I perceive with almost cruel suddenness the true characters of all those whom I meet. No smile of lip or eye can delude me into accepting mere surface-matter for real depth, and it is intensely painful for me to be forced to behold hypocrisy in the expression of page: 293 the apparently devout—sensuality in the face of some radiantly beautiful and popular woman—vice under the mask of virtue—self-interest in the guise of friendship, and spite and malice springing up like a poisonous undergrowth beneath the words of elegant flattery or dainty compliment. I often wish I could throw a rose-coloured mist of illusion over all these things, and still more earnestly do I wish I could in a single instance find myself mistaken. But alas! the fatal finger of the electric instinct within me points out unerringly the flaw in every human diamond, and writes “Sham” across many a cunningly contrived imitation of intelligence and goodness. Still, the grief I feel at this is counterbalanced in part by the joy with which I quickly recognise real virtue; real nobility, real love; and when these attributes flash out upon me from the faces of human beings, my own soul warms, and I know I have seen a page: 294 vision as of angels. The capability of Heliobas to foretell future events proved itself in his knowledge of the fate of the famous English hero, Gordon, long before that brave soldier met his doom. At the time the English Government sent him out on his last fatal mission, a letter from Heliobas to me contained the following passage:

“I see Gordon has chosen his destiny and the manner of his death. Two ways of dying have been offered him—one that is slow, painful, and inglorious; the other sudden, and therefore sweeter to a man of his temperament. He himself is perfectly aware of the approaching end of his career; he will receive his release at Khartoum. England will lament over him for a little while and then he will be declared an inspired madman who rushed recklessly on his own doom; while those who allowed him to be slain will be voted page: 295 the wisest, the most just, and virtuous in the realm.”

This prophecy was carried out to the letter, as I fully believe certain things of which I am now informed will also be carried out. But though there are persons who pin their faith on “Zadkiel,” I doubt if there are any who will believe in such a thing as electric divination. The one is mere vulgar imposture, the other is performed on a purely scientific basis in accordance with certain existing rules and principles; yet I think there can be no question as to which of the two the public en masse is likely to prefer. On the whole, people do not mind being humbugged; they hate being instructed, and the trouble of thinking for themselves is almost too much for them. Therefore “Zadkiel” is certain to flourish for many and many a long day, while the lightning instinct of prophecy dormant in every page: 296 human being remains unused and utterly forgotten except by the rare few.

* * * * *

I have little more to say. I feel that those among my readers who idly turn over these pages, expecting to find a “novel” in the true acceptation of the term, may be disappointed. My narrative is simply an “experience;” but I have no wish to persuade others of the central truth contained in it—namely, the existence of powerful electric organs in every human being, which with proper cultivation are capable of marvellous spiritual force. The time is not yet ripe for this fact to be accepted.

The persons connected with this story may be dismissed in a few words. When I joined my friend Mrs. Everard, she was suffering from nervous hysteria. My presence had the soothing effect Heliobas had assured me of, and in a very few page: 297 days we started from Paris in company for England. She, with her amiable and accomplished husband, went back to the States a few months since to claim an immense fortune, which they are now enjoying as most Americans enjoy wealth. Amy has diamonds to her heart's content, and toilettes galore from Worth's; but she has no children, and from the tone of her letters to me, I fancy she would part with one at least of her valuable necklaces to have a small pair of chubby arms round her neck, and a soft little head nestling against her bosom.

Raffaello Cellini still lives and works; his paintings are among the marvels of modern Italy for their richness and warmth of colour—colour which, in spite of his envious detractors, is destined to last through ages. He is not very rich, for he is one of those who give away their substance to the poor and the distressed; but where he is known he is universally page: 298 beloved. None of his pictures have yet been exhibited in England, and he is no hurry to call upon the London critics for their judgment. He has been asked several times to sell his large picture, “Lords of our Life and Death,” but he will not. I have never met him since our intercourse at Cannes, but I hear of him frequently through Heliobas, who has recently forwarded me a proof engraving of the picture “L'Improvisatrice,” for which I sat as model. It is a beautiful work of art, but that it is like me I am not vain enough to admit. I keep it, not as a portrait of myself, but as a souvenir of the man through whose introduction I gained the best friend I have.

News of Prince Ivan Petroffsky reaches me frequently. He is the possessor of the immense wealth foretold by Heliobas; the eyes of Society greedily follow his movements; his name figures conspicuous!y in the “Fashionable Intelligence;” page: 299 and the magnificence of his recent marriage festivities was for some time the talk of the Continent. He has married the only daughter of a French Duke—a lovely creature, as soulless and heartless as a dressmaker's stuffed model; but she carries his jewels well on her white bosom, and receives his guests with as much dignity as a well-trained major-domo. These qualities suffice to satisfy her husband at present; how long his satisfaction will last is another matter. He has not quite forgotten Zara; for on every recurring Jour des Morts, or Feast of the Dead, he sends a garland or cross of flowers to the simple grave in Père-la-Chaise. Heliobas watches his career with untiring vigilance; nor can I myself avoid taking a certain interest in the progress of his fate. At the moment I write he is one of the most envied and popular noblemen in all the Royal Courts of Europe; and no one thinks of asking him whether he is happy. page: 300 He must be happy, says the world; he has everything that is needed to make him so. Everything? yes—all except one thing, for which he will long when the shadow of the end draws near.

And now what else remains? A brief farewell to those who have perused this narrative, or a lingering parting word?

In these days of haste and scramble, when there is no time for faith, is there time for sentiment? I think not. And therefore there shall be none between my readers and me, save this—a friendly warning. Belief—belief in God—belief in all things noble, unworldly, lofty, and beautiful, is rapidly being crushed underfoot by—what? By mere lust of gain! Be sure, good people, be very sure that you are right in denying God for the sake of man—in abjuring the spiritual for the material—before you rush recklessly onward. The end for all of you can be but death; and are you quite positive after all that there is no page: 301 Hereafter? Is it sense to imagine that the immense machinery of the Universe has been set in motion for nothing? Is it even common reason to consider that the Soul of Man, with all its high musings, its dreams of unseen glory, its longings after the Infinite, is a mere useless vapour, or a set of shifting molecules in a perishable brain? The mere fact of the existence of a desire clearly indicates an equally existing capacity for the gratification of that desire; therefore, I ask, would the wish for a future state of being, which is secretly felt by every one of us, have been permitted to find a place in our natures, if there were no possible means of granting it? Why all this discontent with the present—why all this universal complaint and world-weariness, if there be no hereafter? For my own part, I have told you frankly what I have seen and what I know; but I do not ask you to believe me. I only say, IF—if you admit to yourselves the possibility of a page: 302 future and eternal state of existence, would it not be well for you to inquire seriously how you are preparing for it in these wild days? Look at society around you, and ask yourselves: Whither is our “Progress” tending—Forward or Backward—Upward or Downward? Which way? Fight the problem out. Do not glance at it casually, or put it away as an unpleasant thought, or a consideration involving too much trouble—struggle with it bravely till you resolve it, and whatever the answer may be, abide by it. If it leads you to deny God and the immortal destinies of your own souls, and you find hereafter, when it is too late, that both God and immortality exist, you have only yourselves to blame. We are the arbiters of our own fate, and that fact is the most important one of our lives. Our will is positively unfettered; it is a rudder put freely into our hands, and with it we can steer wherever we choose. God will not compel our love or obedience. We must page: 303 ourselves desire to love and obey—desire it above all things in the world.

As for the Electric Origin of the Universe, a time is coming when scientific men will acknowledge it to be the only theory of Creation worthy of acceptance. All the wonders of Nature are the result of light and heat alone—i.e., are the work of the Electric Ring I have endeavoured to describe, which must go on producing, absorbing, and reproducing worlds, suns, and systems for ever and ever. The Ring, in its turn, is merely the outcome of God's own personality—the atmosphere surrounding the World in which He has His existence—a World created by Love and for Love alone. I cannot force this theory on public attention, which is at present claimed by various learned professors, who give ingenious explanations of “atoms” and “molecules;” yet, even regarding these same “atoms,” the mild question may be put: Where did the first “atom” come page: 304 from? Some may answer: “We call the first atom God.” Surely it is as well to call Him a Spirit of pure Light as an Atom? However, the fact of one person's being convinced of a truth will not, I am aware, go very far to convince others. I have related my “experience” exactly as it happened at the time, and my readers can accept or deny the theories of Heliobas as they please. Neither denial, acceptance, criticism, nor incredulity can affect me personally, inasmuch as I am not Heliobas, but simply the narrator of an episode connected with him; and as such my task is finished.

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