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Ardath: The Story of a Dead Self (1925)
PART 1.-SAINT AND SCEPTIC.
"What merest whim
Deep in the heart of the Caucasus mountains a wild storm was gathering. Drear shadows drooped and thickened above the Pass of Dariel,-that terrific gorge which like a mere thread seems to hang between the toppling' frost-bound heights ab ve and the black abysmal depths below,-clouds, fringed ominously with lurid green and white, drifted heavily yet swiftly across the jagged peaks where, looming largely out of the mist, the snowcapped crest of Mount Kazbek rose coldly white against the darkness of the threatening sky. Night was approaching, though away to the west a road gash of crimson, a seeming wound in the breast of heaven, showed where the sun bad set an hour since. Now and again the rising wind moaned sobbingly through the tall and spectral pines that, with knotted roots fast clenched in the reluctant earth, clung tenaciously to their stony vantage ground; and mingling with its wailing murmur, there came a distant hoarse roaring as of tumbling torrents, while at far-off intervals could be heard the sweeping thud of an avalanche slipping from point to point on its disastrous downward way. . Through the wreathing vapors the steep, bare sides of the near mountains were pallidly visible, their icy pinnacles, like uplifted daggers, piercing with sharp glitter the density of the low-hanging haze, from which large drops of moisture began presently to ooze rather than fall. Gradually the wind increased, and soon with sudden fierce gusts shook the pin~trees into shuddering anxiety,-the red slit in the sky closed, and a gleam of forked lightning leaped athwart the driving darkness. An appalling crash of thunder follow-with a swirling, hissing rush of rain-the unbound hurricane burst forth alive and~furious. On, on! splitting huge boughs and flinging them aside like straws, swelling the rivers into riotous floods that swept hither and thither, carrying with them masses of rock and stone and tons of loosened snow--on, on! with pitiless force and destructive haste, the tempest. rolled, thundered, and shrieked its way through Dariel. As the night darkened and the clamor of the conflicting elements grew more sustained and violent, a sudden sweet sound floated softly through the turbulent air-the slow, measured tolling of a bell. To and fro, to and fro, the silvery chime swung with mild distinctness-It was the vesper. bell ringing in the Monastery of Lars far up among the crags crowning the ravine. There the wind roared and ~lustered its loudest; it whirled round and round the quaint castellated building, battering the gates and moving their heavy iron hinges to a most dolorous groaning; it flung rattling hailstones at the narrow windows, and raged and howled at every corner and through every crevice; while snaky twists of lightning played threateningly over the tall iron Cross that surmounted the roof, as though bent on striking it down and splitting open the firm old walls it guarded. All was war and tumult without :-but within, a tranquil peace prevailed, enhanced by the grave murmur of organ music; men's voices mingling together in mellow unison chanted the Magnificat - and the uplifted steady harmony of the grand old Anthem rose triumphantly above the storm.
God's Good Man
As the terrors of imagined suffering are always worse than actual pain, so dreams are frequently more vivid than the reality of life,-that is we are sure that life is indeed reality, and not itself a dream within a dream. Cardinal Bonpre's sleep was not often disturbed by affrighting visions,~his methods of daily living were too healthy and simple, and his conscience too clear; --but on this particular night he was visited by an impression rather than a dream,--the impression of a lonely, and terrifying dreariness, as though the whole world were suddenly emptied of life and left like a hollow shell on the shores of time. Gradually this first sense of utter and unspeakable loss changed into a startled consciousness of fear ;some awful transformation of things familiar was about to be consummated ;--and he felt the distinct approach of some unnameable Horror which was about to convulse and overwhelm all mankind. Then in his dream, a great mist rose up before his eyes,--a mingling as of sea-fog and sun-flame,--and as this in turn slowly cleared,--dispersing itself in serpentine coils of golden-grey vapour,--he found himself standing on the edge of a vast sea, glittering in a light that was neither of earth nor of heaven, but that seemed to be the inward reflection of millions of flashing sword blades. And as he stood gazing across the width of the waters, the sky above him grew black, and a huge ring of fire rose out of the east, instead of the beloved and familiar sun,-fire that spread itself in belching torrents of flame upward and downward, and began to absorb in its devouring heat the very sea. Then came a sound of many thunders, mingled with the roar of rising waters and the turbulence of a great whirlwind,--and out of the whirlwind came a Voice saying" Now is the end of all things on the earth,--and the whole world shall be burnt up as a dead leaf in a sudden flame! And we will create from out its ashes new heavens and a new earth, and we will call forth new beings wherewith to people the fairness of our fresh creation,--for the present generation of mankind hath rejected God,--and God henceforth rejecteth His faithless and unworthy creatures! Where-fore let now this one dim light amid the thousand million brighter lights be quenched,--let the planet known to all angels as the Sorrowful Star fall from its sphere forever, let the Sun that bath given it warmth and nourishment be now its chief Destroyer, and let everything that hath life within it, perish utterly and revive no more!
And Cardinal Felix heard these words of doom. Powerless to move or speak, he stood watching the terrible circle of fire, extend and expand, till all the visible universe seemed melting in one red furnace of flame ;--and in himself he felt no hope,--no chance of rescue; -- in himself he knew that the appalling work of destruction was being accomplished with a deadly swiftness that left no time for lamentation, that the nations of the world were as flying straws swept into the burning, without space or moment for a parting prayer dr groan. Tortured by an excruciating agony too great for tears, he suddenly found voice, and lifting his face towards the lurid sky he cried aloud--"God of Eternity, stay Thy hand! For one remaining Cause be merciful! Doom not Thy creature Man to utter destruction!--but still remember that Thou wast born even as he! As helpless, as wronged, as tempted, as betrayed, as suffering, as prone to pain and death! Thou hast lived his life and endured his sorrows, though in the perfect glory of Thy Godhead Thou hast not sinned! Have patience yet, oh Thou great Splendour of all worlds! Have patience yet, Thou outraged and blasphemed Creator! Break once again Thy silence as of old and speak to us! pity us once again ere Thou slay us utterly, come to us even as Thou carnest in Judaea, and surely we will receive Thee and obey Thee, and reject Thy love no more!"
As he thus prayed he was seized with a paralysing fear, for suddenly the red and glowing chaos of fire above him changed into soft skies tinged with the exquisite pearl-grey hues of twilight, and he became conscious of the approach of a great invisible Presence, whose awful unseen beauty overwhelmed him with it sublimity and,,,
Murder of Delicia
We live in an age of universal inquiry, ergo of universal scepticism. The prophecies of the poet, the dreams of the philosopher and scientist, are being daily realized-things formerly considered mere fairy-tales have become facts --yet, in spite of the marvels of learning and science that are hourly accomplished among us, the attitude of mankind is one of disbelief. There is no God!" cries one theorist; "or if there be one, I can obtain no proof of His existence I" There is no Creator!" exclaims another. "The Universe is simply a rushing together of atoms." "There can be no Immortality," asserts a third. "We are but dust, and to dust we shall return." "What is called by idealists the SOUL," argues another, "is simply the vital principle composed of heat and air, which escapes from the body at death, and riingles again with its native element. A candle when lit emits flame; blow out the light, the flame vanishes-where? Would it not be madness to assert the flame immortal? Yet the soul, or vital principle of human existence, is no more than the flame of a candle."
If you propound to these theorists the eternal question WHY?-why is the world in existence? why is there a universe? why do we live? why do we think and plan? why do we perish at the last?-their grandiose reply is, "Because of the Law of Universal Necessity." They cannot explain this mysterious Law to themselves, nor can they probe deep enough to find the answer to a still more tremendous WHY-namely, why, is there a Law of Universal Necessity ?-but they are satisfied with the result of their reasonings, if not wholly, yet in part, and seldom try to search beyond that great vague vast Necessity, lest their finite brains should reel into madness worse than death. Recognizing, therefore, that in this cultivated age a wall of scepticism and cynicism is gradually being built up by intellectual thinkers of every nation against all that treats of the Supernatural and Unseen, I am aware that my narration of the events I have recently experienced will be read with incredulity. At a time when the great empire of the Christian Religion is being assailed, or politely ignored by governments and public speakers and teachers, I realize to the fullest extent how daring is any attempt to prove, even by a plain history of strange occurrences happening to one's self, the actual existence of the Supernatural around us; and the absolute certainty of a future state of being, after the passage through that brief soul-torpor in which the body perishes, known to us as Death.
In the present narration, which I have purposely called a "romance," I do not expect to be believed, as I can only relate what I myself have experienced. I know that men and women of to-day must have proofs, or what they are willing to accept as proofs1 before they will credit anything that purports to be of a spiritual tendency ;-something startling-some miracle of a stupendous nature, such as according to prophcy they are all unfit to receive. Few will admit...
Silence of the Maharajah
Song of Miriam
Do you know what it is to be poor? Not poor with the arrogant poverty complained of by certain people who have five or six thousand a year to live upon, and who yet swear they can hardly manage to make both ends meet, but really poor, downright, cruelly, hideously poor, with a poverty that is graceless, sordid and miserable? Poverty that compels you to dress in your one suit of clothes till it is worn threadbare,-that denies you clean linen on account of the ruinous charges of washerwomen,-that robs you of your own self-respect and causes you to slink along the streets vaguely abashed, instead of walking erect among your fellow-men in independent ease,-this is the sort of poverty I mean. This is the grinding curse that keeps down noble aspiration under a load of ignoble care; this is the moral cancer that eats into the heart of an otherwise well-intentioned human creature and makes him envious and malignant, and inclined to the use of dynamite. When he sees the fat idle woman of society passing by in her luxurious carriage, lolling back lazily, her face mottled with the purple and red signs of superfluous eating,-when he observes the brainless and sensual man of fashion smoking and dawdling away the hours in the Park as if all the world and its millions of honest hard workers were created solely for the casual diversion of the so-called 'upper' classes, -then the good blood in him turns to gall and his suffering spirit rises in fierce rebellion crying out-"Why in God's name, should this injustice be? Why should a worthless lounger have his pockets full of gold by mere chance and heritage, while I, toiling wearily from mom till midnight, can scarce afford myself a satisfying meal?"
Why indeed! Why should the wicked flourish like a green bay-tree? I have often thought about it. Now however I believe I could help to solve the problem out of my own person~ experience. But . . . such an experience! Who will credit it? Who will believe that anything so strange and terrific ever chanced to the lot of a mortal man? No one Yet it is true -truer than much so-called truth. Moreover I know that many men are living through many such incidents as have occurred to me, under precisely the same influence, conscious perhaps at times that they are in the tangles of sin, but too weak of will to break the net in which they have become voluntarily imprisoned. Will they be taught, I wonder, the lesson I have learned? In the same bitter school, under the same formidable taskmaster? Will they realize as I have been forced to do,-aye, to the very fibres of my intellectual perception,-the vast, individual, active Mind, which behind all matter, works unceasingly, though silently, a very eternal and positive God? If so, then dark problems will become clear to them, and what seems injustice in the world will prove pure equity! But I do not write with any hope of either persuading or enlightening my fellow-men. I know their obstinacy too well ; -I can gauge it by my own. My proud belief in myself was, at one time, not to be outdone by any human unit on the face of the globe. And I am aware that others are in similar case. I merely intend to relate the various incidents of my career in due order exactly as they happened,-leaving to more confident heads the business of propounding and answering the riddles of human existence as best they may.
During a certain bitter winter, long remembered for its arctic severity, when a great wave of intense cold spread freezing influences not alone over the happy isles of Britain, but throughout all Europe, I, Geoffrey Tempest, was alone in London and well-nigh starving. Now a starving man seldom gets the sympathy he merits, ....
Soul of Lith
Majesty Considers and Resolves 17
There is no woman of Royal birth, -- so it has been pointed out to me -- who is so suitable , from a political point of view, to be your wife as I. It is for the sake of your Throne and country that you must marry and I ask God to forgive me if I have done wrong in His sight by wedding you simply for duty's sake. My father, your father, and all who are connected with our two families desire our union, and have assured me that it is right and good for me to give up my life to yours. All women's lives must be martyred to the laws made by men, - or so it seems to me, - I cannot expect to escape from the general doom apportioned to my sex. I therefore accept the destiny which transfers me to you as a piece of human property for possession and command, - I accept it freely, but I will not say gladly, because that would not be true. For I do not love you, - I cannot love you! I want you to know that, and to feel it, that you may not ask from me what I cannot give."
There were no tears in her eyes; she looked at him straightly and steadfastly. He, in his turn, met her gaze fully, - his face had paled a little, and a shadow of pained regret and commiseration darkened his handsome features.
"You love someone else?" he asked, softly.
She rose from her chair and confronted him, a glow of passionate pride flushing her cheeks and brow.
"No!" she said -" I would not be a traitor to you in so much as a thought I Had I loved anyone else I would never have married you, - no! - though you had been ten times a prince and king! No! You do not understand. I come to you heartwhole and passionless, without a single love-word chronicled in my girlhood's history, or a single incident you may not know. I have never loved an~ man, because from my very childhood I have hated and feared all men! I loathe their presence - their looks
- their voices - their manners, - if one should touch my hand in ordinary courtesy. my instincts are offended and revolted, and the sense of outrage remains with me for days. My mother knows of this, and says I am 'Unnatural,' - it may be so. But unnatural or not, it is the truth; judge therefore the extent of the sacrifice I make to God and our two countries in giving myself to you!"
The prince stood amazed and confounded. Did she rave? Was she mad? He studied her with a curious, half-doubting scrutiny, and noted the composure of her attitude, the cold serenity of her expression, - there was evidently no hysteria, no sur-excitation of nerves about this calm statuesque beauty which in every line and curve of loveliness silently mutinied against him, and despised him. Puzzled, yet fascinated; he sought in his mind for some clue to her meaning.
"There are women" she went on -" to whom love, or what is called love, is necessary, - for whom marriage is the utmost good of existence. I am not one of these. Had I my own choice I would live my life away from all men, - I would let nothing of myself be theirs to claim,
- I would give all I am and all I have to God, who made me what I am. For truly and honestly, without any affectation at all, I look upon marriage, not as an honour, but a degradation!"
Had she been less in earnest, he might have smiled at this, but her beauty, intensified as it was by the fervour of her feeling, seemed transfigured into something quite supernatural which for the moment dazzled him.
"Am I to understand -" he began.
She interrupted him by a swift gesture, while the rich colour swept over her face in a warm wave.
"Understand nothing"-she said,-" but this-that I do not love you, because I can love no man! For the rest I am your wife; and as your wife I give myself to you and your nation wholly and in all things - save love!"
He advanced and took her hands in his.
"This is a strange bargain !" he said, and gently kissed her.
She answered nothing, - only a faint shiver trembled through her as she endured the caress. For a moment or two he surveyed her in silence, - it was a singular and novel experience for him, as a future king, to be the lawful possessor of a woman's beauty, and yet with all his sovereignty to be unable to waken one thrill of tenderness in the frozen soul imprisoned in such exquisite flesh and blood. He was inclined to disbelieve her assertions, -surely he thought, there must be emotion, feeling, passion in this fair creature, who, though she seemed a goddess newly descended from inaccessible heights of heaven was still only a woman? And upon the whole he was not ill-pleased with the curious revelation she had made of herself...
This is a story of David Helmsley, a disillusioned millionaire, who left everything behind and started out "on the tramp" to find truth and love. This excerpt is about Charlie, a companion he met along the way.
He sat down for a few minutes on the warm grass, giving himself up to the idle pleasure of watching the birds skimming through the clear blue sky,-the bees bouncing in and out of the buttercups,-the vari-coloured butterflies floating like blown flower-petals on the breeze,-and he heard a distant bell striking the half-hour after eleven. He had noted the time when leaving the "Trusty Man," otherwise he would not have known it so exactly, having left his watch locked up at home in his private desk with other personal trinkets which would have been superfluous and troublesome to him on his self-imposed journey.
When the echo of the bell's one stroke had died away it left a great stillness in the air. The heat was increasing as the day veered towards noon, and he decided that it would be as well to get on further down the road and under the shadow of the trees, which were not so very far off, and which looked invitingly cool in their spreading dark soft greenness. So, rising from his brief rest, he started again "on the tramp," and soon felt the full glare of the sun, and the hot sensation of the dust about his feet; but he went on steadily, determining to make light of all the inconveniences and difficulties, to which he was entirely unaccustomed, but to which he had voluntarily ex-posed himself.
For a considerable time he met no living creature; the highroad seemed to be as much his own as though it were part of a private park or landed estate be-longing to him only; and it was not till he had nearly accomplished the distance which lay between him and the shelter of the trees, that he met a horse and cart slowly jogging along towards the direction from where he had come. The man who drove the vehicle was half-asleep, stupefied, no doubt, by the effect of the hot sun following on a possible "glass" at a public-house, but Helmsley called to him just for company's sake.
"Hi! Am I going right for Watchett?"
The man opened his drowsing eyes and yawned expansively."Watchett? Ay! Williton comes fust.
"Is it far?"
"Nowt's far to your kind !" said the man, flicking his whip. "An' ye'll meet a bobby or so on the road!"
On he went, and Helmsley without further parley resumed his tramp. Presenty, reaching the clump of trees he had seen in the distance, he moved into their refreshing shade. They were broad-branched elms, luxuriantly full of foliage, and the avenue they formed extended for about a quarter of a mile. Cool dells and dingles of mossy green sloped down on one side of the road, breaking into what are sometimes called "coombs" running precipitously towards the sea-coast, and slackening his pace a little he paused, looking through a tangle of shrubs and bracken at the pale suggestion of a glimmer of blue which he realized was the shining of the sunlit ocean.
While he thus stood, he fancied he heard a little plaintive whine as of an animal in pain. He listened attentively. The sound was repeated, and, descending the shelving bank a few steps he sought to discover the whereabouts of this piteous cry for help. All at once he spied two bright sparkling eyes and a small silvery grey head perking up at him through the leaves,-the head of a tiny Yorkshire "toy" terrier. It looked at him with eloquent anxiety, and as he approached it, it made an effort to move, but fell back again with a faint moan. Gently he picked it up,-it was a rare and beautiful little creature, but one of its silky forepaws had evidently been caught in some trap, for it was badly mangled and bleeding. Round its neck was a small golden collar, something like a lady's bracelet, bearing the inscription: "I am Charlie. Take care of me!" There was no owner's name or address, and the entreaty "Take care of me!" had certainly not been complied with, or so valuable a pet would not have been left wounded on the highroad.
While Helmsley was examining it, it ceased whining, and gently licked his hand. Seeing a trickling stream of water making its way through the moss and ferns close by, he bathed the little dog's wounded paw carefully and tied it up with a strip of material torn from his own coat sleeve.
"So you want to be taken care of, do you, Charlie!" he said, patting the tiny head. "That's what a good many of us want, when we feel hurt and broken by the hard ways of the world!"
Charlie blinked a dark eye, cocked a small soft ear, and ventured on another caress of the kind human hand with his warm little tongue.
"Well, I won't leave you to starve in the woods, or trust you to the tender mercies of the police,-you shall come along with me! And if I see any advertisement of your loss I'll perhaps take you back to your owner. But in the meantime we'll stay together."
Charlie evidently agreed to this proposition, for when Helmsley tucked him cosily under his arm, he settled down comfortably as though well accustomed to the position. He was certainly nothing of a weight to carry, and his new owner was conscious of a certain pleasure in feeling the warm, silky little body nestling against his breast. He was not quite alone any more,-this little creature was a companion,-a something to talk to, to caress and to protect. He ascended the bank, and regaining the highroad resumed his vagrant way.
Noon was now at the full, and the sun's heat seemed to create a silence that was both oppressive and stifling. He walked slowly, and began to feel that perhaps after all he had miscalculated his staying powers, and that the burden of old age would, in the end, take vengeance upon him for running risks of fatigue and exhaustion which, in his case, were wholly unnecessary
"Yet if I were really poor," he argued with himself, "if I were in very truth a tramp, I should have to do exactly what I am doing now. If one man can stand 'life on the road,' so can another."
And he would not allow his mind to dwell on the fact that a temperament which has become accustomed to every kind of comfort and luxury is seldom fitted to endure privation. On he jogged steadily, and by and by began to be entertained by his own thoughts as pleasantly as a poet or romancist is entertained by the fancies which come and go in the brain with all the vividness of dramatic reality. Yet always he found himself harking back to what he sometimes called the "incurability" of life. Over and over again he asked himself the old eternal question: Why so much Product to end in Waste? Why are thousands of millions of worlds, swarming with life-organisms, created to revolve in space, if there is no other fate for them but final destruction?
"There must be an Afterwards!" he said. "Otherwise Creation would not only be a senseless joke, but a wicked one! Nay, it would almost be a crime. To cause creatures to be born into existence without their own consent, merely to destroy them utterly in a few years and make the fact of their having lived purposeless, would be worse than the dreams of madmen. For what is the use of bringing creatures into the world to suffer pain, sickness, and sorrow, if mere life-torture is all we can give them, and death is the only end?"
Here his meditations were broken in upon by the sound of a horse's hoofs trotting briskly behind him, and pausing, be saw a neat little cart and pony coming along, driven by a buxom-looking woman with a brown sun-hat tied on in the old-fashioned manner under her chin.
"Would ye like a lift?" she asked. "It's mighty warm walkin'."
Helmsley raised his eyes to the sun-bonnet, and smiled at the cheerful freckled face beneath its brim.
"You're very kind-" he began.
"Jump in !" said the woman. "I'm taking cream and cheeses into Watchett, but it's a light load, an' Jim an' me can do with ye that far. This is Jim."
She flicked the pony's ears with her whip by way of introducing the animal, and Helmsley clambered up into the cart beside her.
"That's a nice little dog you've got." she remarked.