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Chapter 38

  • Two weeks later I stood on the deck of Lucio's yacht 'The Flame,'—a vesse_hose complete magnificence filled me as well as all other beholders wit_ewildered wonderment and admiration. She was a miracle of speed, her motiv_ower being electricity; and the electric engines with which she was fitte_ere so complex and remarkable as to baffle all would-be inquirers into th_ecret of their mechanism and potency. A large crowd of spectators gathered t_ee her as she lay off Southampton, attracted by the beauty of her shape an_ppearance,—some bolder spirits even came out in tugs and row-boats, hoping t_e allowed to make a visit of inspection on board, but the sailors, powerfully-built men of a foreign and somewhat unpleasing type, soon intimate_hat the company of such inquisitive persons was undesirable and unwelcome.
  • With white sails spread and a crimson flag flying from her mast, she weighe_nchor at sunset on the afternoon of the day her owner and I joined her, an_oving through the waters with delicious noiselessness and incredibl_apidity, soon left far behind her the English shore, looking like a whit_ine in the mist, or the pale vision of a land that might once have been. _ad done a few quixotic things before departing from my native country,—fo_xample, I had made a free gift of his former home, Willowsmere, to Lor_lton, taking a sort of sullen pleasure in thinking that he, the spendthrif_obleman, owed the restoration of his property to  _me._ —to me who had neve_een either a successful linen draper or furniture man, but simply an author, one of 'those sort of people' whom my lord and my lady imagine they can
  • 'patronize' and neglect again at pleasure without danger to themselves. Th_rrogant fools invariably forget what lasting vengeance can be taken for a_nmerited slight by the owner of a brilliant pen! I was glad too, in a way, t_ealize that the daughter of the American railway-king would be brought to th_rand old house to air her 'countess-ship,' and look at her prettily per_ittle physiognomy in the very mirror where Sibyl had watched herself die. _o not know why this idea pleased me, for I bore no grudge against Dian_hesney,— she was vulgar but harmless, and would probably make a much mor_opular chatelaine at Willowsmere Court than my wife had ever been. Amon_ther things, I dismissed my man Morris, and made him miserable,—with the gif_f a thousand pounds, to marry and start a business on. He was miserabl_ecause he could not make up his mind what business to adopt, his anxiet_eing to choose the calling that would 'pay' best,—and also, because, thoug_e 'had his eye' upon several young women, he could not tell which among the_ould be likely to be least extravagant, and the most serviceable as a coo_nd housekeeper. The love of money and the pains of taking care of it, embittered his days as it embitters the days of most men, and my unexpecte_unificence towards him burdened him with such a weight of trouble as robbe_im of natural sleep and appetite. I cared nothing for his perplexities, however, and gave him no advice, good or bad. My other servants I dismissed, each with a considerable gift of money, not that I particularly wished t_enefit  _them,_  but simply because I desired them to speak well of me. An_n this world it is very evident that the only way to get a good opinion is t_ay for it! I gave orders to a famous Italian sculptor for Sibyl's monument, English sculptors having no conception of sculpture,—it was to be of exquisit_esign, wrought in purest white marble, the chief adornment being the centre- figure of an angel ready for flight, with the face of Sibyl faithfully copie_rom her picture. Because, however devilish a woman may be in her life-time, one is bound by all the laws of social hypocrisy to make an angel of her a_oon as she is dead! Just before I left London I heard that my old college- friend 'Boffles,' John Carnngton, had met with a sudden end. Busy at the
  • 'retorting' of his gold, he had been choked by the mercurial fumes and ha_ied in hideous torment. At one time this news would have deeply affected me, but now, I was scarcely sorry. I had heard nothing of him since I had com_nto my fortune,—he had never even written to congratulate me. Always full o_y own self-importance, I judged this as great neglect on his part, and no_hat he was dead I felt no more than any of us feel now-a-days at the loss o_riends. And that is very little,—we have really no time to be sorry,—so man_eople are always dying !—and we are in such a desperate hurry to rush on t_eath ourselves! Nothing seemed to touch me that did not closely concern m_wn personal interest,—and I had no affections left, unless I may call th_ague tenderness I had for Mavis Clare an affection. Yet, to be honest, thi_ery emotion was after all nothing but a desire to be consoled, pitied an_oved by her, —to be able to turn upon the world and say, "This woman whom yo_ave lifted on your shield of honour and crowned with laurels,—she loves  _me_ —she is not yours, but  _mine!"_  Purely interested and purely selfish was th_onging,—and it deserved no other name than selfishness.
  • My feelings for Rimanez too began at this time to undergo a curious change.
  • The fascination I had for him, the power he exercised over me remained a_reat as ever, but I found myself often absorbed in a close study of him, strangely against my own will. Sometimes his every look seemed fraught wit_eaning,—his every gesture suggestive of an almost terrific authority. He wa_lways to me the most attractive of beings, —nevertheless there was an uneas_ensation of doubt and fear growing up in my mind regarding him,—a painfu_nxiety to know more about him than he had ever told me,—and on rare occasion_ experienced a sudden shock of inexplicable repulsion against him which lik_ tremendous wave threw me back with violence upon myself and left me hal_tunned with a dread of I knew not what. Alone with him, as it were, on th_ide sea, cut off for a time from all other intercourse than that which w_hared together, these sensations were very strong upon me. I began to not_any things which I had been too blind or too absorbed in my own pursuits t_bserve before; the offensive presence of Amiel, who acted as chief steward o_oard the yacht, filled me now not only with dislike, but nervou_pprehension,—the dark and more or less repulsive visages of the crew haunte_e in my dreams ;—and one day, leaning over the vessel's edge and gazin_lankly down into the fathomless water below, I fell to thinking of strang_orceries of the East, and stories of magicians who by the exercise o_nlawful science did so make victims of men and delude them that their will_ere entirely perverted and no longer their own. I do not know why thi_assing thought should have suddenly overwhelmed me with deep depression, —bu_hen I looked up, to me the sky had grown dark, and the face of one of th_ailors who was near me polishing the brass hand-rail, seemed singularl_hreatening and sinister. I moved to go to the other side of the deck, when _and was gently laid on my shoulder from behind, and turning, I met the sa_nd splendid eyes of Lucio.
  • "Are you growing weary of the voyage, Geoffrey?" he asked—"weary of those tw_uggestions of eternity—the interminable sky, the interminable sea? I a_fraid you are !— man easily gets fatigued with his own littleness an_owerlessness when he is set afloat on a plank between air and ocean. Yet w_re travelling as swiftly as electricity will bear us,— and, as worked in thi_essel, it is carrying us at a far greater speed than you perhaps realize o_magine.''
  • I made no immediate answer, but taking his arm strolled slowly up and down. _elt he was looking at me, but I avoided meeting his gaze.
  • "You have been thinking of your wife?" he queried softly and, as I thought, sympathetically. "I have shunned,—for reasons you know of,—all allusion to th_ragic end of so beautiful a creature. Beauty is, alas!—so often subject t_ysteria! Yet—if you had any faith, you would believe she is an angel now."
  • I stopped short at this, and looked straight at him. There was a fine smile o_is delicate mouth.
  • "An angel!" I repeated slowly—"or a devil? Which would you say she is ?—you, who sometimes declare that you believe in Heaven,—and Hell?"
  • He was silent, but the dreamy smile remained still on his lips.
  • "Come, speak !" I said roughly. "You can be frank with me, you know,—angel o_evil—which?"
  • "My dear Geoffrey!" he remonstrated gently and with gravity—"a woman is alway_n angel,—both here and hereafter!''
  • I laughed bitterly. "If that is part of your faith I am sorry for you !''
  • "I have not spoken of my faith," he rejoined in colder accents, lifting hi_rilliant eyes to the darkening heaven. "I am not a Salvationist, that _hould bray forth a creed to the sound of trump and drum."
  • "All the same, you  _have_  a creed," I persisted—"and I fancy it must be _trange one! If you remember, you promised to explain it to me"
  • "Are you ready to receive such an explanation?" he asked in a somewha_ronical tone. "No, my dear friend !—permit me to say you are  _not_eady—not yet! My beliefs are too positive to be brought even into contac_ith your contradictions,—too frightfully real to submit to your doubts for _oment. You would at once begin to revert to the puny used-up old arguments o_oltaire, Schopenhauer and Huxley, —little atomic theories like grains of dus_n the whirlwind of My knowledge! I can tell you I believe in God as a ver_ctual and Positive Being,—and that is presumably the first of the Churc_rticles."
  • "You believe in God!" I echoed his words, staring at him stupidly. He seeme_n earnest. In fact he had always seemed in earnest on the subject of Deity.
  • Vaguely I thought of a woman in society whom I slightly knew,—an ugly woman, unattractive and mean-minded, who passed her time in entertaining semi- Royalties and pushing herself amongst them,— she had said to me one day—"_ate people who believe in God, don't you? The idea of a God makes m_sick!"_
  • "You believe in God !" I repeated again dubiously.
  • "Look!" he said, raising his hand towards the sky. "There, a few driftin_louds cover millions of worlds, impenetrable, mysterious, yet  _actual;_ —down there," and he pointed to the sea, "lurk a thousand things of which, though the ocean is a part of earth, human beings have not yet learned th_ature. Between these upper and lower spaces of the Incomprehensible ye_bsolute, you, a finite atom of limited capabilities stand, uncertain how lon_he frail thread of your life shall last, yet arrogantly balancing th_uestion with your own poor brain, as to whether you,— _you_  in your utte_ittleness and incompetency shall condescend to accept a God or not! _onfess, that of all astonishing things in the Universe, this particula_ttitude of modern mankind is the most astonishing to me!"
  • "Your own attitude is?"
  • "The reluctant acceptance of such terrific knowledge as is forced upon me," h_eplied with a dark smile. "I do not say I have been an apt or a willin_upil,—I have had to suffer in learning what I know!"
  • "Do you believe in hell!" I asked him suddenly—"and in Satan, the Arch-Enem_f mankind ?''
  • He was silent for so long that I was surprised, the more so as he grew pale t_he lips, and a curious, almost deathlike rigidity of feature gave hi_xpression something of the ghastly and terrible. After a pause he turned hi_yes upon me,—. an intense burning misery was reflected in them, though h_miled.
  • "Most assuredly I believe in hell! How can I do otherwise if I believe i_eaven? If there is an Up there must be a Down; if there is Light, there mus_lso be Darkness. And, … concerning the Arch-Enemy of mankind,—if half th_tories reported of him be true, he must be the most piteous and pitiabl_igure in the Universe! What would be the sorrows of a thousand millio_orlds, compared to the sorrows of Satan !''
  • "Sorrows!" I echoed. "He is supposed to rejoice in the working of evil!"
  • "Neither angel nor devil can do that," he said slowly. "To rejoice in th_orking of evil is a temporary mania which affects man only. For actual joy t_ome out of evil, Chaos must come again, and God must extinguish Himself." H_tared across the dark sea,—the sun had sunk, and one faint star twinkle_hrough the clouds. "And so I again say —the sorrows of Satan! Sorrow_mmeasurable as eternity itself,—imagine them! To be shut out of Heaven !—t_ear, all through the unending seons, the far-off voices of angels whom onc_e knew and loved !—to be a wanderer among deserts of darkness, and to pin_or the light celestial that was formerly as air and food to his being,—and t_now that Man's folly, Man's utter selfishness, Man's cruelty, keep him thu_xiled, an outcast from pardon and peace! Man's nobleness may lift the Los_pirit almost within reach of his lost joys,—but Man's vileness drags him dow_gain,—easy was the torture of Sisyphus compared with the torture of Satan! N_onder that he loathes Mankind !—small blame to him if he seeks to destroy th_uny tribe eternally,—little marvel that he grudges them their share o_mmortality! Think of it as a legend merely,"—and he turned upon me with _ovement that was almost fierce,—" Christ redeemed Man,—and by his teaching, showed how it was possible for Man to redeem the Devill"
  • "I do not understand you," I said feebly, awed by the strange pain and passio_f his tone.
  • "Do you not? Yet my meaning is scarcely obscure! If men were true to thei_mmortal instincts and to the God that made them,—if they were generous, honest, fearless, faithful, reverent, unselfish, … if women were pure, brave, tender and loving,—can you not imagine that, in the strong force and fairnes_f such a world, 'Lucifer, son of the Morning' would be moved to love instea_f hate?—that the closed doors of Paradise would be unbarred,—and that he, lifted towards his Creator on the prayers of pure lives, would wear again hi_ngel's crown? Can you not realize this, even by way of a legendary story?" *
  • "Why yes, as a legendary story the idea is beautiful,"—I admitted,—" and t_e, as I told you once before, quite new. Still, as men are never likely to b_onest, or women pure, I'm afraid the poor Devil stands a bad chance of eve_etting redeemed!''
  • "I fear so too!" and he eyed me with a curious derision— "I very much fear so!
  • And his chances being so slight, I rather respect him for being the Arch-Enem_f such a worthless race!" He paused a moment, then added—"I wonder how w_ave managed to get on such an absurd subject of conversation? It is dull an_ninteresting, as all 'spiritual' themes invariably are. My object in bringin_ou out on this voyage is not to indulge in psychological argument, but t_ake you forget your troubles as much as possible, and enjoy the present whil_t lasts."
  • There was a vibration of compassionate kindness in his voice which at onc_oved me to an acute sense of self-pity, the worst enervator of moral forc_hat exists. I sighed heavily.
  • "Truly I have suffered," I said—" more than most men!"
  • "More even than most millionaires deserve to suffer!" declared Lucio, wit_hat inevitable touch of sarcasm which distinguished some of his friendlies_emarks. "Money is supposed to make amends to a man for everything,—and eve_he wealthy wife of a certain Irish 'patriot' has not found it incompatibl_ith affection to hold her moneybags close to herself while her husband ha_een declared a bankrupt. How she has 'idolized' him, let others say! Now, considering  _your_  cash-abundance, it must be owned the fates have treate_ou somewhat unkindly!"
  • The smile that was half-cruel and half-sweet radiated in his eyes as h_poke,—and again a singular revulsion of feeling against him moved me t_islike and fear. And yet,—how fascinating was his company! I could not bu_dmit that the voyage with him to Alexandria on board 'The Flame' was one o_ositive enchantment and luxury all the way. There was nothing in a materia_ense left to wish for,—all that could appeal to the intelligence or th_magination had been thought of on board this wonderful yacht which sped lik_ fairy ship over the sea. Some of the sailors were skilled musicians, and o_ranquil nights, or at sunset, would bring stringed instruments and discours_o our ears the most dulcet and ravishing melodies. Lucio himself too woul_ften sing,—his luscious voice resounding, as it seemed, over all the visibl_ea and sky, with such passion as might have drawn an angel down to listen.
  • Gradually my mind became impregnated with these snatches of mournful, fierce, or weird minor tunes,— and I began to suffer in silence from an inexplicabl_epression and foreboding sense of misery, as well as from another terribl_eeling to which I could scarcely give a name,—a dreadful  _uncertainty o_yself,_  as of one lost in a wilderness and about to die. I endured thes_its of mental agony alone, —and in such dreary burning moments, believed _as going mad. I grew more and more sullen and taciturn, and when we at las_rrived at Alexandria I was not moved to any particular pleasure. The plac_as new to me, but I was not conscious of novelty,—everything seemed flat, dull, and totally uninteresting. A heavy almost lethargic stupor chained m_its, and when we left the yacht in harbour and went on to Cairo, I was no_ensible of any personal enjoyment in the journey, or interest in what I saw.
  • I was only partially roused when we took possession of a luxurious dahabeah, which, with a retinue of attendants, had been specially chartered for us, an_ommenced our lotus-like voyage up the Nile. The reed-edged, sluggish yello_iver fascinated me,—I used to spend long hours reclining at full length in _eck-chair, gazing at the flat shores, the blown sand-heaps, the broke_olumns and mutilated temples of the dead kingdoms of the past. One evening, thus musing, while the great golden moon climbed languidly up into the sky t_tare at the wrecks of earthly ages I said—
  • "If one could only see these ancient cities as they once existed, what strang_evelations might be made! Our modern marvels of civilization and progres_ight seem small trifles after all,—for I believe in our days we are only re- discovering what the peoples of old time knew."
  • Lucio drew his cigar from his mouth and looked at it meditatively. Then h_lanced up at me with a half-smile—
  • "Would you like to see a city resuscitated?" he inquired. "Here, in this ver_pot, some six thousand years ago, a king reigned, with a woman not his queen, but his favourite (quite a lawful arrangement in those days), who was a_amous for her beauty and virtue as this river is for its fructifying tide.
  • Here civilization had progressed enormously,—with the one exception that i_ad not outgrown faith. Modern France and England have beaten the ancients i_heir scorn of God and creed, their contempt for divine things, thei_nnamable lasciviousness and blasphemy. This city"—and he waved his han_owards a dreary stretch of shore where a cluster of tall reeds waved abov_he monster fragment of a fallen column—" was governed by the strong pur_aith of its people more than anything,—and the ruler of social things in i_as a woman. The king's favourite was something like Mavis Clare in that sh_ossessed genius,—she had also the qualities of justice, intelligence, love, truth and a most noble unselfishness,—she made this place happy. It was _aradise on earth while she lived,—when she died, its glory ended. So much ca_ woman do if she chooses,—so much does she  _not_  do, in her usual cow-lik_ay of living!"
  • "How do you know all this you tell me of?" I asked him.
  • "By study of past records," he replied. I read what modern men declare the_ave no time to read. You are right in the idea that all 'new' things are onl_ld things re-invented or re-discovered,—if you had gone a step further an_aid that some of men's present lives are only the continuation of their past, you would not have been wrong. Now, if you like, I can, by my science, sho_ou the city that stood here long ago,—the 'City Beautiful' as its name is, translated from the ancient tongue."
  • I roused myself from my lounging attitude and looked at him amazedly. He me_y gaze unmoved.
  • "You can show it to me!" I exclaimed. "How can you do such an impossible thing ?''
  • "Permit me to hypnotize you," he answered smiling. "My system of hypnotism is, very fortunately, not yet discovered by meddlesome inquirers into occul_atters,—but it never fails of its effect,—and I promise you, you shall, unde_y influence, see not only the place, but the people."
  • My curiosity was strongly excited, and I became more eager to try th_uggested experiment than I cared to openly show. I laughed, however, wit_ffected indifference.
  • "I am perfectly willing !" I said. "All the same, I don't think you ca_ypnotize me,—I have much too strong a will
  • of my own "at which remark I saw a smile, dark and
  • saturnine, hover on his lips—" But you can make the attempt."
  • He rose at once, and signed to one of our Egyptian servants.
  • "Stop the dahabeah, Azimah," he said. "We will rest here for the night."
  • Azimah, a superb-looking Eastern in picturesque white garments, put his hand_o his head in submission and retired to give the order. In another fe_oments the dahabeah had stopped. A great silence was around us,—the moonligh_ell like yellow wine on the deck,—in the far distance, across the stretche_f dark sand, a solitary column towered so clear-cut against the sky that i_as almost possible to discern upon it the outline of a monstrous face. Luci_tood still, confronting me,—saying nothing, but looking me steadily throug_nd through, with those wonderfully mystic, melancholy eyes that seemed t_enetrate and burn my very flesh. I was attracted as a bird might be by th_asilisk eyes of a snake,—yet I tried to smile and say something indifferent.
  • My efforts were useless,—personal consciousness was slipping from me fast,—th_ky, the water and the moon whirled round each other in a giddy chase fo_recedence;—I could not move, for my limbs seemed fastened to my chair wit_eights of iron, and I was for a few minutes absolutely powerless. The_uddenly my vision cleared (as I thought)—my senses grew vigorous and alert, … I heard the sound of solemn marching music, and there,—there in the ful_adiance of the moon, with a thousand lights gleaming from towers and cupolas, shone the 'City Beautiful'!