"Nature, in the process of evolution, has in all these cases gone off on an entirely different course, the most intelligent and highly developed species being in the form of marvellously complex reptiles, winged serpents that sing most beautifully, but whose blood is cold, being prevented from freezing in the upper regions of the atmosphere by the presence of salt and chemicals, and which are so intelligent that they have practically subdued many of these dark stars to themselves. On others, the most highly developed species have hollow, bell-shaped tentacles, into which they inject two or more opposing gases from opposite sides of their bodies, which, in combination, produce a strong explosion. This provides them with an easy and rapid locomotion, since the explosions find a sufficient resistance in the surrounding air to propel the monsters much faster than birds. These can at pleasure make their breath so poisonous that the lungs of any creatures except themselves inhaling it are at once turned to parchment. Others can give their enemies or their prey an electric shock, sending a bolt through the heart, or can paralyze the mind physically by an effort of their wills, causing the brain to decompose while the victim is still alive. Others have the same power that snakes have, though vastly intensified, mesmerizing their victims from afar.
"Still others have such delicate senses that in a way they commune with spirits, though they have no souls themselves; for in no part or corner of the universe except on earth are there animals that have souls. Yet they know the meaning of the word, and often bewail their hard lot in that no part of them can live when the heart has ceased to beat.
"Ah, my friends, if we had no souls—if, like the aesthetic reptilia, we knew that when our dust dissolved our existence would be over—we should realize the preciousness of what we hold so lightly now. Man and the spirits and angels are the only beings with souls, and in no place except on earth are new souls being created. This gives you the greatest and grandest idea of the dignity of life and its inestimable value. But it is as difficult to describe the higher wonders of the stellar worlds to you as to picture the glories of sunset to a blind man, for you have experienced nothing with which to compare them. Instead of seeing all that really is, you see but a small part."
DOCTOR CORTLANDT SEES HIS GRAVE.
"Is it not distasteful to you," Cortlandt asked, "to live so near these loathsome dragons?"
"Not in the least," replied the spirit. "They affect us no more than the smallest micro-organism, for we see both with equal clearness. Since we are not obliged to breathe, they cannot injure us; and, besides, they serve to illustrate the working of God's laws, and there is beauty in everything for those that have the senses required for perceiving it. A feature of the spiritual world is, that it does not interfere with the natural, and the natural, except through faith, is not aware of its presence."
"Then why," asked Cortlandt, "was it necessary for the Almighty to bring your souls to Saturn, since there would have been no overcrowding if you had remained on the earth?"
"That," replied the spirit, "was part of His wisdom; for the spirit, being able at once to look back into the natural world, if in it, would be troubled at the mistakes and tribulations of his friends. Now, as a rule, before a spirit can return to earth, his or her relatives and friends have also died; or, if he can return before that happens, he is so advanced that he sees the ulterior purpose, and therefore the wisdom of God's ways, and is not distressed thereby. Lastly, as their expanding senses grew, it would be painful for the blessed and condemned spirits to be together. Therefore we are brought here, where God reveals Himself to us more and more, and the flight of the other souls—those unhappy ones—does not cease till they reach Cassandra."
"Can the souls on Cassandra also leave it in time and roam at will?" asked Cortlandt.
"I have seen none of them myself in my journeys to other planets; but as the sun shines upon the just and the unjust, and there is no exception to Nature's laws, I can reply that in time they do, and with equal powers their incentive to roam would be greater; for we are drawn together by common sympathy and pure, requited love, while they are mutually repelled. Of course, some obtain a measure of freedom before the rest, and these naturally roam the farthest, and the more they see and the farther they go, the stronger becomes their abhorrence for everything they meet."
"Cannot you spirits help us, and the mortals now on earth, to escape this fate?"
"The greatest hope for your bodies and souls lies in the communion with those that have passed through death; for the least of them can tell you more than the wisest man on earth; and could you all come or send representatives to the multitudes here who cannot as yet return to you, but few on earth would be so quixotically sinful as to refuse our advice. Since, however, the greatest good comes to men from the learning that they make an effort to secure, it is for you to strive to reach us, who can act as go-betweens from God to you."
"It seems to me," said Bearwarden, "that people are better now than formerly. The sin of idolatry, for instance, has disappeared—has it not?"
"Men still set up idols of wealth, passion, or ambition in their hearts. These they worship as in days gone by, only the form has changed."
"Could the souls on Cassandra do us bodily or mental injury, if we could ever reach their planet?" asked Bearwarden.
"They might oppress and distress you, but your faith would protect you wherever you might go."
"Can you give us a taste of your sense of prescience?" asked Bearwarden again; "for, since it is not clear in what degree the condemned receive this, and neither is it by any means sure that I shall be saved, I should like for once in my history to experience this sense of divinity, before my entity ends in stone."
"I will transfer to you my sense of prescience," replied the spirit, "that you may foresee as prophets have. In so doing, I shall but anticipate, since you will yourselves in time obtain this sense in a greater or less degree. Is there any event in the future you would like to see, in order that, when the vision is fulfilled, it may tend to stablish your faith?"
"Since I am the oldest," replied the doctor, "and shall probably die before my friends, reveal to us, I pray you, the manner of my death and the events immediately following. This may prove an object-lesson to them, and will greatly interest me."
"Your death will be caused by blood-poisoning, brought on by an accident," began the spirit. "Some daybreak will find you weak, after a troubled night, with your bodily resources at a low ebb. Sunset will see you weaker, with your power of resistance almost gone. Midnight will find you weaker still, and but little removed from the point of death. A few hours later a kind hand will close the lids of your half-shut eyes, which never again will behold the light. The coffin will inclose your body, and the last earthly journey begin. Now," the spirit continued, "you shall all use my sight instead of your own."
The walls of the cave seemed to expand, till they resembled those of a great cathedral, while the stalactites appeared to be metamorphosed into Gothic columns. They found themselves among a large congregation that had come to attend the last sad rites, while the great organ played Chopin's "Funeral March." The high vault and arches received the organ's tone, and a sombre light pervaded the interior. There was a slight flutter and a craning of necks among those in the pews, as the procession began to ascend the aisle. While the slow step of the pallbearers and those carrying the coffin sounded on the stone floor, the clear voice of the clergyman that headed the procession sounded these words through the cathedral: "I know that my Redeemer liveth, and that He shall stand at the latter day upon the earth." As the bier advanced, Bearwarden and Ayrault recognized themselves among the pallbearers—the former with grey mustache and hair, the latter considerably aged. The hermetically sealed lead coffin was inclosed in a wooden case, and the whole was draped and covered with flowers.
"Oh, my faith!" cried Cortlandt, "I see my face within, yet it is but a decomposing mass that I once described as I."
Then again did the minister's voice proclaim, "I am the resurrection and the life, saith the Lord; he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live; and whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die."
The bearers gently set down their burden; the minister read the ever-impressive chapter of St. Paul to the Corinthians; a bishop solemnly and silently sprinkled earth on the coffin; and the choir sang the 398th hymn, beginning with the words, "Hark, hark my soul! angelic songs are swelling," which had always been Cortlandt's favourite and the service was at an end. The bearers again shouldered all that was left of Henry Cortlandt, and his relatives accompanied this to the cemetery.
Then came a sweeping change of scene. A host of monuments and gravestones reflected the sunlight, while a broad river ebbed and flowed between high banks. A sexton and a watchman stood by a granite vault, the heavy door of which they had opened with a large key. Hard by were some gardeners and labourers, and also a crowd of curiosity-seekers who had come to witness the last sad rites. Presently a funeral procession appeared. The hearse stopped near the open vault, over the door of which stood out the name of CORTLANDT, and the accompanying minister said a short prayer, while all present uncovered their heads. After this the coffin was borne within and set at rest upon a slab, among many generations of Cortlandts. In the hearts of the relatives and friends was genuine sorrow, but the curiosity-seekers went their way and gave little thought. "To-morrow will be like to-day," they said, "and more great men will die."
Then came another change of scene, though it was comparatively slight. The sun slowly sank beyond the farther bank of the broad river, and the moon and stars shone softly on the gravestones and crosses. Two gardeners smoked their short clay pipes on a bench before the Cortlandt vault, and talked in a slow manner.
"He was a great man," said one, "and if his soul blooms like the flowers on his grave, he must be in paradise, which we know is a finer park than this."
"He was expert for the Government when the earth's axis was set right," said the second gardener, "and he must have been a scholar, for his calculations have all come true. He was one of the first three men to visit the other planets, while the obituaries in the papers say his history will be read hereafter like the books of Caesar. After burying all these great people, I sometimes wish I could do the same for myself, for the people I bury seem to be remembered." After this they relapsed into their meditations, the silence being broken only by an occasional murmur from the river's steady flow.
Hereupon the voyagers found they were once more in the cave. The fire had burned low, and the dawn was already in the east. Cortlandt wiped his forehead, shivered, and looked extremely pale.
"Thank Heaven," he cried, "we cannot ordinarily foresee our end; for but few would attain their predestined ending could they see it in advance. May the veil not again be raised, lest I faint before it! I looked in vain for my soul," he continued, "but could see it nowhere."
"The souls of those dying young," replied the spirit, "sometimes wish to hover near their ashes as if regretting an unfinished life, or the opportunities that have departed; but those dying after middle age are usually glad to be free from their bodies, and seldom think of them again."
"I shall append the lines now in my head to my history," said Cortlandt, "that where it goes they may go also. They can scarcely fail to be instructive as the conclusions of a man who has seen beyond his grave." Whereupon he wrote a stanza in his note-book, and closed it without showing his companions what he had written.
"May they do all the good you hope, and much more!" replied the spirit, "for the reward in the resurrection morning will vastly exceed all your labours now.
"O, my friends," the spirit continued most earnestly, addressing the three, "are you prepared for your death-beds? When your eyes glaze in their last sleep, and you lose that temporal world and what you perhaps considered all, as in a haze, your dim vision will then be displaced by the true creation that will be eternal. Your unattained ambitions, your hopes, and your ideals will be swallowed in the grave. Your works will secure you a place in history, and many will remember your names until, in time, oblivion covers your memory as the grass conceals your tombs. Are you prepared for the time when your eyes become blind, and your trusted senses fail? Your sorrowing friends will mourn, and the flags of your clubs will fly at half-mast, but no earthly thing can help you then. In what condition will the resurrection morning find you, when your sins of neglect and commission plead for vengeance, as Abel's blood from the ground? After that there can be no change. The classification, as I have already told you, is now going on; it will then be finished."
"We are the most utterly wretched sinners!" cried Ayrault. "Show us how we can be saved."
"As an inhabitant of spirit-land, I will give you worldly counsel," replied the bishop. "During my earthly administration, as I told you, people came from far to hear me preach. This was because I had eloquence and earnestness, both gifts of God. But I was a miserably weak sinner myself. That which I would, I did not, and that which I would not that I did; and I often prayed my congregation to follow my sermons rather than my ways. I seemed to do my followers good, and Daniel thus commends my way in his last chapter: 'They that turn many to righteousness shall shine as the stars forever and ever,' and the explanation is clear. There is no surer way of learning than trying to teach. In teaching my several flocks I was also improved myself. I was sown in weakness, but was raised in power, strength being made perfect in weakness. Therefore improve your fellows, though yourself you cannot raise. The knowledge that you have sent many souls to heaven, though you are yourself a castaway, will give you unspeakable joy, and place you in heaven wherever you may be. Yet remember this: none of us can win heaven; salvation is the gift of God. I have said as much now as you can remember. Farewell. Improve time while you can. Fear God and keep His commandments. This is the whole duty of man."
So saying, the spirit vanished in a cloud that for a time emitted light.
"I am not surprised," said Bearwarden, "that people took long journeys to hear him. I would do so myself."
"I have never had much fear of death," said Cortlandt, "but the mere thought of it now makes my knees shake, and fills my heart with dread. I thought I saw the most hateful forms about my coffin, and imagined that they might be the personification of doubt, coldness, and my other shortcomings, which had come perhaps from sympathy, in invisible form. I was almost afraid to ask the spirit for the explanation."
"I saw them also," replied Bearwarden, "but took them to be swarms of microbes waiting to destroy your body, or perhaps trying in vain to penetrate your hermetically sealed coffin."
Cortlandt seemed much upset, and spent the rest of the day in writing out the facts and trying to assign a cause. Towards evening Bearwarden, who had recovered his spirits, prepared supper, after which they sat in the entrance to the cave.
As the night became darker they caught sight of the earth again, shining very faintly, and in his mind's eye Ayrault saw his sweetheart, and the old, old repining that, since reason and love began, has been in men's minds, came upon him and almost crushed him. Without saying anything to his companions, Ayrault left the cave, and, passing through the grove in which the spirit had paid them his second visit, went slowly to the top of the hill about half a mile off, that he might the more easily gaze at the faint star on which he could picture Sylvia.
"Ah!" he said to himself, on reaching the summit, "I will stay here till the earth rises higher, and when it is far above me I will gaze at it as at heaven."
Accordingly, he lay down with his head on a mound of sod, and watched the familiar planet.
"We were born too soon," he soliloquized; "for had Sylvia and I but lived in the spiritual age foretold by the bishop, we might have held communion, while now our spirits, no matter how much in love, are separated absolutely by a mere matter of distance. It is a mockery to see Sylvia's dwelling-place, and feel that she is beyond my vision. O that, in the absence of something better, my poor imperfect eyes could be transformed into those of an eagle, but with a million times the power! for though I know that with these senses I shall see the resurrection, and hear the last trump, that is but prospective, while now is the time I long for sight."
On the plain he had left he saw his friends' camp-fire, while on the other side of his elevation was a valley in which the insects chirped sharply, and through which ran a stream. Feeling a desire for solitude and to be as far removed as possible, he arose and descended towards the water. Though the autumn, where they found themselves, was well advanced, this night was warm, and the rings formed a great arch above his head. Near the stream the frogs croaked happily, as if unmindful of the long very long Saturnian winter; for though they were removed but about ten degrees from the equator, the sun was so remote and the axis of the planet so inclined that it was unlikely these individual frogs would see another summer, though they might live again, in a sense, in their descendants. The insects also would soon be frozen and stiff, and the tall, graceful lilies that still clung to life would be withered and dead. The trees, as if weeping at the evanescence of the life around them, shed their leaves at the faintest breeze. These fluttered to the ground, or, falling into the tranquil stream, were carried away by it, and passed from sight. Ayrault stood musing and regretting the necessity of such general death. "But," he thought, "I would rather die than lose my love; for then I should have had the taste of bliss without its fulfilment, and should be worse off than dead. Love gilds the commonplace, and deifies all it touches. Love survives the winter, and in my present frame of mind I should prefer earth and cold with it to heaven and spring. Oh, why is my soul so clogged by my body?"
A pillar of stone standing near him was suddenly shattered, and the bishop stood where it had been.
"Because," said the spirit, answering his thought, "it has not yet power to be free."
"Can a man's soul not rise till his body is dead?" asked Ayrault.
The spirit hesitated.
"Oh, tell me," pleaded Ayrault. "If I could see the girl to whom I am engaged, for but a moment, could be convinced that she loves me still, my mind would be at rest. Free my soul or spirit, or whatever it is, from this body, that I may traverse intervening space and be with her."
"You will discover the way for yourself in time," said the spirit.
"I know I shall at the last day, in the resurrection, when I am no longer in the flesh. Then I shall have no need of your aid; for we, know that in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like the angels of God in heaven. It is while I am mortal, and love as mortals do, that I wish to see my promised bride. A spirit may have other joys, and perhaps higher; but you who have lived in the world and loved, show me that which is now my heart's desire. You have shown us the tomb in which Cortlandt will lie buried; now help me to go to one who is still alive."
"I pray that God will grant you this," said the spirit, "and make me His instrument, for I see the depth of your distress." Saying which, he vanished, leaving no trace in his departure except that the pillar of stone returned to its place.
With this rather vague hope, Ayrault set off to rejoin his companions, for he felt the need of human sympathy. Saturn's rapid rotation had brought the earth almost to the zenith, the little point shining with the unmistakably steady ray of a planet. Huge bats fluttered about him, and the great cloud-masses swept across the sky, being part of Saturn's ceaseless whirl. He found he was in a hypnotic or spiritualistic state, for it was not necessary for him to have his eyes open to know where he was. In passing one of the pools they had noticed, he observed that the upper and previously invisible liquid had the bright colour of gold, and about it rested a group of figures enveloped in light.
"Why do you look so sad?" they asked. "You are in that abode of departed spirits known as paradise, and should be happy."
"I suppose I should be happy, were I here as you are, as the reward of merit," he replied. "But I am still in the flesh, and as such am subject to its cares."
"You are about to have an experience," said another speaker. "This day your doubts will be at rest, for before another sunset you will know more of the woman you love."
The intensity of the spiritualistic influence here somewhat weakened, for he partially lost sight of the luminous figures, and could no longer hear what they said. His heart was in his mouth as he walked, and he felt like a man about to set out on his honeymoon, or like a bride who knows not whether to laugh or to cry. An indescribable exhilaration was constantly present.
"I wonder," thought he, "if a caterpillar has these sensations before becoming a butterfly? Though I return to the rock from which I sprang, I believe I shall be with Sylvia to-day."
Footprints formed in the soft ground all around him, and the air was filled with spots of phosphorescent light that coincided with the relative positions of the brains, hearts, and eyes of human beings. These surrounded and often preceded him, as though leading him on, while the most heavenly anthems filled the air and the vault of the sky.
"I believe," he thought, with bounding heart, "that I shall be initiated into the mysteries of space this night."
At times he could hear even the words of the choruses ringing in his ears, though at others he thought the effect was altogether in his mind.
"Oh, for a proof," he prayed, "that no sane man can doubt! My faith is implicit in the bishop and the vision, and I feel that in some way I shall return to earth ere the close of another day, for I know I am awake, and that this is no dream."
A fire burned in the mouth of the cave, within which Bearwarden and Cortlandt lay sleeping. The specks of mica in the rocks reflected its light, but in addition to this a diffused phosphorescence filled the place, and the large sod-covered stones they used for pillows emitted purple and dark red flames.
"Is that you, Dick?" asked Bearwarden, awaking and groping about. "We built up the fire so that you should find the camp, but it seems to have gone down." Saying which, he struck a match, whereupon Ayrault ceased to see the phosphorescence or bluish light. At that moment a peal of thunder awakened Cortlandt, who sat up and rubbed his eyes.
"I think," said Ayrault, "I will go to the Callisto and get our mackintoshes before the rain sets in." Whereupon he left his companions, who were soon again fast asleep.
The sky had suddenly become filled with clouds, and Ayrault hastened towards the Callisto, intending to remain there, if necessary, until the storm was over. For about twenty minutes he hurried on through the growing darkness, stopping once on high ground to make sure of his bearings, and he had covered more than half the distance when the rain came on in a flood, accompanied by brilliant lightning. Seeing the huge, hollow trunk of a fallen tree near, and not wishing to be wet through, Ayrault fired several solid shots from his revolver into the cavity, to drive out any wild animals there might be inside, and then hurriedly crawled in, feet first. He next drew in his head, and was congratulating himself on his snug retreat, when the sky became lurid with a flash of lightning, then his head dropped forward, and he was unconscious.
DREAMLAND TO SHADOWLAND.
As Ayrault's consciousness returned, he fancied he heard music. Though distant, it was distinct, and seemed to ring from the ether of space. Occasionally it sounded even more remote, but it was rhythmical and continuous, inspiring and stirring him as nothing that he had ever heard before. Finally, it was overcome by the more vivid impressions upon his other senses, and he found himself walking in the streets of his native city. It was spring, and the trees were white with buds. The long shadows of the late afternoon stretched across the way, but the clear sky gave indication of prolonged twilight, and the air was warm and balmy. Nature was filled with life, and seemed to be proclaiming that the cold was past.
As he moved along the street he met a funeral procession.
"What a pity," he thought, "a man should die, with summer so near at hand!"
He was also surprised at the keenness of his sight; for, inclosed in each man's body, he saw the outline of his soul. But the dead man's body was empty, like a cage without a bird. He also read the thoughts in their minds.
"Now," said a large man in the carriage next the hearse, "I may win her, since she is a widow."
The widow herself kept thinking: "Would it had been I! His life was essential to the children, while I should scarcely have been missed. I wish I had no duties here, and might follow him now."
While pondering on these things, he reached Sylvia's house, and went into the little room in which he had so often seen her. The warm southwesterly breeze blew through the open windows, and far beyond Central Park the approaching sunset promised to be beautiful. The table was covered with flowers, and though he had often seen that variety, he had never before noticed the marvellous combinations of colours, while the room was filled with a thousand delicious perfumes. The thrush hanging in the window sang divinely, and in a silver frame he saw a likeness of himself.
"I have always loved this room," he thought, "but it seems to me now like heaven."
He sat down in an arm-chair from force of habit, to await his fiancee.
"Oh, for a walk with Sylvia by twilight!" his thoughts ran on, "for she need not be at home again till after seven."
Presently he heard the soft rustle of her dress, and rose to meet her. Though she looked in his direction, she did not seem to see him, and walked past him to the window. She was the picture of loveliness silhouetted against the sky. He went towards her, and gazed into her deep-sea eyes, which had a far-away expression. She turned, went gracefully to the mantelpiece, and took a photograph of herself from behind the clock. On its back Ayrault had scrawled a boyish verse composed by himself, which ran:
"My divine, most ideal Sylvia, O vision, with eyes so blue, 'Tis in the highest degree consequential, To my existence in fact essential, That I should be loved by you."
As she read and reread those lines, with his whole soul he yearned to have her look at him. He watched the colour come and go in her clear, bright complexion, and was rejoiced to see in her the personification of activity and health. Beneath his own effusion on the photograph he saw something written in pencil, in the hand he knew so well:
"Did you but know how I love you, No more silly things would you ask. With my whole heart and soul I adore you— Idiot! goose! bombast!"
And as she glanced at it, these thoughts crossed her mind: "I shall never call you such names again. How much I shall have to tell you! It is provoking that you stay away so long."
He came still nearer—so near, in fact, that he could hear the beating of her heart—but she still seemed entirely unconscious of his presence. Losing his reserve and self-control, he impulsively grasped at her hands, then fell on his knees, and then, dumfounded, struggled to his feet. Her hands seemed to slip through his; he was not able to touch her, and she was still unaware of his presence.
Suddenly a whole flood of light and the truth burst upon him. He had passed painlessly and unconsciously from the dreamland of Saturn to the shadowland of eternity. The mystery was solved. Like the dead bishop, he had become a free spirit. His prayer was answered, and his body, struck by lightning, lay far away on that great ringed planet. How he longed to take in his arms the girl who had promised herself to him, and who, he now saw, loved him with her whole heart; but he was only an immaterial spirit, lighter even than the ether of space, and the unchangeable laws of the universe seemed to him but the irony of fate. As a spirit, he was intangible and invisible to those in the flesh, and likewise they were beyond his control. The tragedy of life then dawned upon him, and the awful results of death made themselves felt. He glanced at Sylvia. On coming in she had looked radiantly happy; now she seemed depressed, and even the bird stopped singing.
"Oh," he thought, "could I but return to life for one hour, to tell her how incessantly she has been in my thoughts, and how I love her! Death, to the aged, is no loss—in fact, a blessing—but now!" and he sobbed mentally in the anguish of his soul. If he could but communicate with her, he thought; but he remembered what the departed bishop had said, that it would take most men centuries to do this, and that others could never learn. By that time she, too, would be dead, perhaps having been the wife of some one else, and he felt a sense of jealousy even beyond the grave. Throwing himself upon a rug on the floor, in a paroxysm of distress, he gazed at Sylvia.
"Oh, horrible mockery!" he thought, thinking of the spirit. "He gave me worse than a stone when I asked for bread; for, in place of freedom, he sent me death. Could I but be alive again for a few moments!" But, with a bitter smile, he again remembered the words of the bishop, "What would a soul in hell not give for but one hour on earth?"
Sylvia had seated herself on a small sofa, on which, and next to her, he had so often sat. Her gentle eyes had a thoughtful look, while her face was the personification of intelligence and beauty. She occasionally glanced at his photograph, which she held in her hand.
"Sylvia, Sylvia!" he suddenly cried, rising to his knees at her feet. "I love, I adore you! It was my longing to be with you that brought me here. I know you can neither see nor hear me, but cannot your soul commune with mine?"
"Is Dick here?" cried Sylvia, becoming deadly pale and getting up, "or am I losing my reason?"
Seeing that she was distressed by the power of his mind, Ayrault once more sank to the floor, burying his face in his hands.
Unable to endure this longer, and feeling as if his heart must break, he rushed out into the street, wishing he might soothe his anguish with a hypodermic injection of morphine, and that he had a body with which to divert and suppress his soul.
Night had fallen, and the electric lamps cast their white rays on the ground, while the stars overhead shone in their eternal serenity and calm. Then was it once more brought home to him that he was a spirit, for darkness and light were alike, and he felt the beginning of that sense of prescience of which the bishop had spoken. Passing through the houses of some of the clubs to which he belonged, he saw his name still upon the list of members, and then he went to the places of amusement he knew so well. On all sides were familiar faces, but what interested him most was the great division incessantly going on. Here were jolly people enjoying life and playing cards, who, his foresight showed him, would in less than a year be under ground—like Mercutio, in "Romeo and Juliet," to-day known as merry fellows, who to-morrow would be grave men.
While his eyes beheld the sun, he had imagined the air felt warm and balmy. He now saw that this had been a hallucination, for he was chilled through and through. He also perceived that he cast no shadow, and that no one observed his presence. He, on the other hand, saw not only the air as it entered and left his friends' lungs, but also the substance of their brains, and the seeds of disease and death, whose presence they themselves did not even suspect, and the seventy-five per cent of water in their bodies, making them appear like sacks of liquid. In some he saw the germs of consumption; in others, affections of the heart. In all, he saw the incessant struggle between the healthy blood-cells and the malignant, omnipresent bacilli that the cells were trying to overcome. Many men and women he saw were in love, and he could tell what all were about to do. Oh, the secrets that were revealed, while the motives for acts were now laid bare that till then he had misunderstood! He had often heard the old saying, that if every person in a ball-room could read the thoughts of the rest, the ball would seem a travesty on enjoyment, rather than real pleasure, and now he perceived its force. He also noticed that many were better than he had supposed, and were trying, in a blundering but persevering way, to obey their consciences. He saw some unselfish thoughts and acts. Many things that he had attributed to irresolution or inconsistency, he perceived were in reality self-sacrifice. He went on in frantic disquiet, distance no longer being of consequence, and in his roaming chanced to pass through the graveyard in which many generations of his ancestors lay buried. Within the leaden coffins he saw the cold remains; some well preserved, others but handfuls of dust.
"Tell me, O my progenitors," he cried, "you whose blood till this morning flowed in my veins, is there not some way by which I, as a spirit, can commune with the material world? I have always admired your judgment and wisdom, and you have all been in Shadowland longer than I. Give me, I pray you, some ancestral advice."
The only sound in answer was the hum of the insects that filled the evening air. The moonlight shone softly, but in a ghastly way, on the marble crosses of his vault and those around, and he felt an unspeakable sadness within this abode of the dead. "How many unfinished lives," he thought, "have ended beneath these sods! Unimproved talents here are buried in the ground. Unattained ambitions, and those who died before their time; those who tried, in a half-hearted way, to improve their opportunities, and accomplished something, and those who neglected them, and did still less—all are together here, the just with the unjust, though it be for the last time. The grave absorbs their bodies and ends their probationary record, from which there is no appeal."
Near by were some open graves, ready to receive their occupants, while a little farther on he recognized the Cortlandt mausoleum, looking exactly as when shown him, through his second sight, by the spirit on the previous day.
From the graves filled recently, and from many others, rose threads of coloured matter, in the form of gases, the forerunners of miasma. He now perceived shadowy figures flitting about on the ground and in the air, from whose eyes poured streams of immaterial tears. Their brains, hearts, and vertebral columns were the parts most easily seen, and they were filled with an inextinguishable anguish and sorrow that from its very intensity made itself seen as a blue flame. The ruffles and knickerbockers in which some of these were attired, evidently by the effects of the thoughts in their minds, doubtless from force of habit from what they had worn on earth while alive, showed that they had been dead at least two hundred years. Ayrault also now found himself in street clothes, although when in his clubs he had worn a dress suit.
"Tell me, fellow-spirits," he said, addressing them, "how can I communicate with one that is still alive?"
They looked at him with moist eyes, but answered not a word.
"I attributed the misery in my heart," thought Ayrault, "entirely to the distress at losing Sylvia, which God knows is enough; but though I suspected it before, I now see, by my companions, that I am in the depths of hell."
Failing to find words to convey his thoughts, he threw himself into an open grave, praying that the earth might hide his soul, as he had supposed it some day would hide his body. But the ground was like crystal, and he saw the white bones in the graves all around him. Unable to endure these surroundings longer, he rushed back to his old haunts, where he knew he should find the friends of his youth. He did not pause to go by the usual way, but passed, without stopping, through walls and buildings. Soon he beheld the familiar scene, and heard his own name mentioned. But there was no comfort here, and what he had seen of old was but an incident to what he gazed on now. Praying with his whole heart that he might make himself heard, he stepped upon a foot-stool, and cried:
"Your bodies are decaying before me. You are burying your talents in the ground. We must all stand for final sentence at the last day, mortals and spirits alike—there is not a shadow of a shade of doubt. Your every thought will be known, and for every evil deed and every idle word God will bring us into judgment. The angel of death is among you and at work in your very midst. Are you prepared to receive him? He has already killed my body, and now that I can never die I wish there was a grave for my soul. I was reassured by a vision that told me I was safe, but either it was a hallucination, or I have been betrayed by some spirit. Last night I still lived, and my body obeyed my will. Since then I have experienced death, and with the resulting increased knowledge comes the loss of all hope, with keener pangs than I supposed could exist. Oh, that I had now their opportunities, that I might write a thesis that should live forever, and save millions of souls from the anguish of mine! Inoculate your mortal bodies with the germs of faith and mutual love, in a stronger degree than they dwelt in me, lest you lose the life above."
But no one heard him, and he preached in vain.
He again rushed forth, and, after a half-involuntary effort, found himself in the street before his loved one's home. Scarcely knowing why, except that it had become nature to wish to be near her, he stood for a long time opposite her dwelling.
"O house!" he cried, "inanimate object that can yet enthral me so, I stand before your cold front as a suppliant from a very distant realm; yet in my sadness I am colder than your stones, more alone than in a desolate place. She that dwells within you holds my love. I long for her shadow or the sound of her step. I am more wretchedly in love than ever—I, an impotent, invisible spirit. Must I bear this sorrow in addition to my others, in my fruitless search for rest? My life will be a waking nightmare, most bitter irony of fate."
The trees swayed above his head, and the moon, in its last quarter, looked dreamily at him.
"Ah," thought Ayrault, "could I but sleep and be happy! Drowsiness and weariness, fatigue's grasp is on me; or may Sylvia's nearness soothe, as her voice has brought me calm! Quiet I may some day enjoy, but slumber again, never! I see that souls in hades must ever have their misdeeds before them. Happy man in this world, the repentant's sins are forgiven! You lose your care in sleep. Somnolence and drowsiness—balm of aching hearts, angels of mercy! Mortals, how blessed! until you die, God sends you this rest. When I recall summer evenings with Sylvia, while gentle zephyrs fanned our brows, I would change Pope's famous line to 'Man never is, but always HAS BEEN blessed.'"
A clock in a church-steeple now struck three, the sound ringing through the still night air.
"It will soon be time for ghosts to go," thought Ayrault. "I must not haunt her dwelling."
There was a light in Sylvia's study, and Ayrault remained meditatively gazing at it.
"Happy lamp," he thought, "to shed your light on one so fair! She can see you, and you shine, for her. You are better off than I. Would that her soul might shine for me, as your light shines for her! The light of my life has departed. O that the darkness were complete! I am dead," his thoughts ran on, and when the privilege—bitter word!—that permits me to remain here has expired, I must doubtless return to Saturn, and there in purgatory work out my probation. But what comfort is it that a few centuries hence I may be able to revisit my native earth?—
The flowers will bloom in the morning light, And the lark salute the sun, The earth will continue to roll through space, And I may be nearer my final grace, But Sylvia's life-thread will be spun.
"Even Sylvia's house will be a heap of ruins, or its place will be taken by something else. If I had Sylvia, I should care for nothing; as I have lost her, even this sight, though sweet, must always bring regret. I wish, at all events, I might see Sylvia, if only with these spirit-eyes, since, as a mortal, she may never gladden my sight again."
To his surprise, he now perceived that he could see, notwithstanding the drawn shades. Sylvia was at her writing-desk, in a light-coloured wrapper. She sat there resting her head on her hand, looking thoughtful but worried. Though it was so late, she had not retired. The thrush that Ayrault had often in life admired, and that she had for some reason brought up-stairs, was silent and asleep.
"Happy bird!" he said, "you obtain rest and forgetfulness on covering your head; but what wing can cover my soul? I used to wish I might flutter towards heaven on natural wings like you, little thrush. Now I can, indeed, outfly you. But whatever I do I'm unhappy, and wherever I go I'm in hell. What is man in his helpless, first spiritual state? He is but a flower, and withers soon. Had I, like the bishop, been less blind, and obeyed my conscience clear, I might have returned to my native earth while Sylvia still sojourns here; and coming thus by virtue of development, I should be able to commune with her.
"What is life?" he continued. "In the retrospect, nothing. It seems to me already as but an infinitesimal point. Things that engrossed me, and seemed of such moment, that overshadowed the duty of obeying my conscience—what were they, and where? Ah, where? They endured but a moment. Reality and evanescence—evanescence and reality."
The light in Sylvia's room was out now, and in the east he beheld the dawn. The ubiquitous grey which he saw at night was invaded by streams of glorious crimson and blue that reached far up into the sky. He gazed at the spectacle, and then once more at that house in which his love was centred.
"Would I might be her guardian angel, to guide her in the right and keep her from all harm! Sleep on, Sylvia. Sweet one, sleep. Yon stars fade beside your eyes. Your thoughts and your soul are fairer far than the east in this day's sunrise. I know what I have lost. Ah, desolating knowledge! for I have read Sylvia's heart, and know I was loved as truly as I loved. When Bearwarden and Cortlandt break her the news—ah, God! will she live, and do they yet know I am dead?"
Again came that spasm to shed spirit tears, and had he not known it impossible he would have thought his heart must break.
The birds twittered, and the light grew, but Ayrault lay with his face upon the ground. Finally the spirit of unrest drove him on. He passed the barred door of his own house, through which he had entered so often. It was unchanged, but seemed deserted. Next, he went to the water-front, where he had left his yacht. Invisibly and sadly he stood upon her upper deck, and gazed at the levers, in response to his touch on which the craft had cleft the waves, reversed, or turned like a thing of life.
"'Twas a pretty toy," he mused, "and many hours of joy have I had as I floated through life on board of her."
As he moped along he beheld two unkempt Italians having a piano-organ and a violin. The music was not fine, but it touched a chord in Ayrault's breast, for he had waltzed with Sylvia to that air, and it made his heart ache.
"Oh, the acuteness of my distress," he cried, "the utter depth of my sorrow! Can I have no peace in death, no oblivion in the grave? I am reminded of my blighted, hopeless love in all kinds of unexpected ways, by unforeseen trifles. Oh, would I might, indeed, die! May obliteration be my deliverer!"
"Poor fellows," he continued, glancing at the Italians, for he perceived that neither of the players was happy; the pianist was avaricious, while the violinist's natural and habitual jealousy destroyed his peace of mind.
"Unhappiness seems the common lot," thought Ayrault. "Earth cannot give that joy for which we sigh. Poor fellows! though you rack my ears and distress my heart, I cannot help you now."
THE PRIEST'S SERMON.
It being the first day of the week, the morning air was filled with chimes from many steeples.
"Divine service always comforted in life," thought Ayrault, "perchance it may do so now, when I have reached the state for which it tried to prepare me."
Accordingly, he moved on with the throng, and soon was ascending the heights of Morningside Park, after which, he entered the cathedral. The priest whose voice had so often thrilled him stood at his post in his surplice, and the choir had finished the processional hymn. During the responses in the litany, and between the commandments, while the congregation and the choir sang, he heard their natural voices as of old ascending to the vaulted roof and arrested there. He now also heard their spiritual voices resulting from the earnestness of their prayers. These were rung through the vaster vault of space, arousing a spiritual echo beyond the constellations and the nebulae. The service, which was that of the Protestant Episcopal Church, touched him as deeply as usual, after which the rector ascended the steps to the pulpit.
"The text, this morning," he began, "is from the eighth chapter of St. Paul's Epistle to the Romans, at the eighteenth verse: 'For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared to the glory that shall be revealed in us.' Let us suppose that you or I, brethren, should become a free and disembodied spirit. A minute vein in the brain bursts, or a clot forms in the heart. It may be a mere trifle, some unexpected thing, yet the career in the flesh is ended, the eternal life of the liberated spirit begun. The soul slips from earth's grasp, as air from our fingers, and finds itself in the frigid, boundless void of space. Yet, through some longing this soul might rejoin us, and, though invisible, might hear the church-bells ring, and long to recall some one of the many bright Sunday mornings spent here on earth. Has a direful misfortune befallen this brother, or has a slave been set free? Let us suppose for a moment that the first has occurred. 'Vanity of vanities,' said the old preacher. 'Calamity of calamities,' says the new. That soul's probationary period is ended; his record, on which he must go, is forever made. He has been in the flesh, let us say, one, two, three or four score years; before him are the countless aeons of eternity. He may have had a reasonably satisfactory life, from his point of view, and been fairly successful in stilling conscience. That still, small voice doubtless spoke pretty sharply at first, but after a while it rarely troubled him, and in the end it spoke not at all. He may, in a way, have enjoyed life and the beauties of nature. He has seen the fresh leaves come and go, but he forgot the moral, that he himself was but a leaf, and that, as they all dropped to earth to make more soil, his ashes must also return to the ground. But his soul, friends and brethren, what becomes of that? Ah! it is the study of this question that moistens our eyes with tears. No evil man is really happy here, and what must be his suffering in the cold, cold land of spirits? No slumber or forgetfulness can ease his lot in hades, and after his condemnation at the last judgment he must forever face the unsoftened realities of eternity. No evil thing or thought can find lodgment in heaven. If it could, heaven would not be a happy place; neither can any man improve in the abyss of hell. As the horizon gradually darkens, and this soul recedes from God, the time spent in the flesh must come to seem the most infinitesimal moment, more evanescent than the tick of a clock. It seems dreadful that for such short misdoings a soul should suffer so long, but no man can be saved in spite of himself. He had the opportunities—and the knowledge of this must give a soul the most acute pang.
"In Revelation, xx, 6, we find these words, 'Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power.' I have often asked myself, May not this mean that those with a bad record in the general resurrection after a time cease to exist, since all suffer one death at the close of their period here?
"This is somewhat suggested by Proverbs, xii, 28. 'In the way of righteousness is life, and in the pathway thereof there is no death.' This might limit the everlasting damnation, so often repeated elsewhere, to the lives of the condemned, since to them, in a sense, it would be everlasting.
"Let us now turn to the bright picture—the soul that has weathered the storms of life and has reached the haven of rest. The struggles, temptations, and trials overcome, have done their work of refining with a rapidity that could not have been equalled in any other way, and though, perhaps, very imperfect still, the journey is ever on. The reward is tenfold, yet in proportion to what this soul has done, for we know that the servant who best used his ten talents was made ruler over ten cities, while he that increased his five talents by five received five; and the Saviour in whom he trusted, by whose aid he made his fight, stands ready to receive him, saying, 'Enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.'
"As the dark, earthly background recedes, the clouds break and the glorious light appears, the contrast heightening the ever-unfolding and increasing delights, which are as great as the recipients have power to enjoy, since these righteous souls receive their rewards in proportion to the weight of the crosses that they have borne in the right spirit. These souls are a joy to their Creator, and are the heirs of Him in heaven. The ceaseless, sleepless activity that must obtain in both paradise and hades, and that must make the hearts of the godless grow faint at the contemplation, is also a boundless promise to those who have Him who is all in all.
"Where is now thy Saviour? where is now thy God? the unjust man has asked in his heart when he saw his just neighbour struggling and unsuccessful. Both the righteous and the unrighteous man are dead. The one has found his Saviour, the other is yearly losing God. What is the suffering of the present momentary time, eased as it is by God's mercy and presence, compared with the glories that await us? What would it be if our lives here were filled with nothing else, as ye know that your labour is not vain in the Lord? Time and eternity—the finite and the infinite. Death was, indeed, a deliverer, and the sunset of the body is the sunrise of the soul."
The priest held himself erect as a soldier while delivering this sermon, making the great cathedral ring with his earnest and solemn voice, while Ayrault, as a spirit, saw how absolutely he meant and believed every word that he said.
Nearly all the members of the congregation were moved—some more, some less than they appeared. After the benediction they rapidly dispersed, carrying in their hearts the germs he had sown; but whether these would bear fruit or wither, time alone could show.
Ayrault had noticed Sylvia's father and mother in church, but Sylvia herself was not there, and he was distressed to think she might be ill.
"Why," pondered Ayrault, "am I so unhappy? I was baptized, confirmed, and have taken the sacrament. I have always had an unshaken faith, and, though often unsuccessful, have striven to obey my conscience. The spirits also on Saturn kept saying I should be happy. Now, did this mean it was incumbent upon me to rejoice, because of some blessing I already had, and did not appreciate, or did their prescience show them some prospective happiness I was to enjoy? The visions also of Violet, the angel, and the lily, which I believed, and still believe, were no mere empty fancies, should have given me the most unspeakable joy. It may be a mistake to apply earthly logic to heavenly things, but the fundamental laws of science cannot change.
"Why am I so unhappy?" he continued, returning to his original question. "The visions gave promise of special grace, perhaps some special favour. True, my prayer to see Sylvia was heard, but, considering the sacrifice, this has been no blessing. The request cannot have been wrong in itself, and as for the manner, there was no arrogance in my heart. I asked as a mortal, as a man of but finite understanding, for what concerned me most. Why, oh why, so wretched?"
HIC ILLE JACET.
At daybreak the thunder-shower passed off, but was followed by a cold, drenching rain. Supposing Ayrault had remained in the Callisto, Bearwarden and Cortlandt did not feel anxious, and, not wishing to be wet through, remained in the cave, keeping up a good fire with the wood they had collected. Towards evening a cold wind came up, and, thinking this might clear the air, they ventured out, but, finding the ground saturated, and that the rain was again beginning to fall, they returned to shelter, prepared a dinner of canned meat, and made themselves as comfortable as possible for the night.
"I am surprised," said Cortlandt, "that Dick did not try to return to us, since he had the mackintoshes."
"I dare say he did try," replied Bearwarden, "but finding the course inundated, and knowing we should not need the mackintoshes if we remained under cover, decided to put back. The Callisto is, of course, as safe as a church."
"I hope," said Cortlandt, "no harm has come to him on the way. It will be a weight off my mind to see him safely with us."
"Should he not turn up in the morning," replied Bearwarden, "we must begin a search for him bright and early."
Making up the fire as near the entrance of the cave as they could find a dry place, so that Ayrault should see it if he attempted to return during the night, they piled on wood, and talked of their recent experiences.
"However unwilling I was," said Cortlandt, "to believe my senses, which I felt were misleading me, I can no longer doubt the reality of that spirit bishop, or the truth of what he says. When you look at the question dispassionately, it is what you might logically expect. In my desire to disprove what is to us supernatural, I tried to create mentally a system that would be a substitute for the one he described, but could evolve nothing that so perfectly filled the requirements, or that was so simple. Nothing seems more natural than that man, having been evolved from stone, should continue his ascent till he discards material altogether. The metamorphism is more striking in the first change than in the second. Granted that the soul is immaterial, and that it leaves the body after death, what is there to keep it on earth? Gravitation cannot affect it. What is more likely than that it is left behind by the earth in its orbit, or that it continues its forward motion, but in a straight line, till, reaching the paths of the greater planets, it is drawn to them by some affinity or attraction that the earth does not possess, and that the souls held in that manner remain here on probation, developing like young animals or children, till, by gradually acquired power, resulting from their wills, they are able to rise again into space, to revisit the earth, and in time to explore the universe? It might easily come about that, by some explainable sympathy, the infant good souls are drawn to this planet, while the condemned pass on to Cassandra, which holds them by some property peculiar to itself, until perhaps they, too, by virtue of their wills, acquire new power, unless involution sets in and they lose what they have. The simplicity of the thing is what surprises me now, and that for ages philosophers have been racking their brains with every conceivable fancy, when, by simply extending and following natural laws, they could discern the whole."
"It is the old story," said Bearwarden, "of Columbus and the egg. Schopenhouer and his predecessors appear to have tried every idea but the right one, and even Darwin and Huxley fell short in their reasoning, because they tried to obtain more or less than four by putting two with two."
Thus they sat and talked while the night wore on. Neither thought of sleeping, hoping all the while that Ayrault might walk in as he had the night before.
At last the dawn began to tint the east, and the growing light showed them that the storm had passed. The upper strata of Saturn's atmosphere being filled with infinitesimal particles of dust, as a result of its numerous volcanoes, the conditions were highly favourable to beautiful sunrises and sunsets. Soon coloured streaks extended far into the sky, and though they knew that when the sun's disc appeared it would seem small, it filled the almost boundless eastern horizon with the most variegated and gorgeous hues.
Turning away from the welcome sight—for their minds were ill at ease—they found the light strong enough for their search to begin. Writing on a sheet of paper, in a large hand, "Have gone to the Callisto to look for you; shall afterwards return here," they pinned this in a conspicuous place and set out due west, keeping about a hundred yards apart. The ground was wet and slippery, but overhead all was clear, and the sun soon shone brightly. Looking to right and left, and occasionally shouting and discharging their revolvers, they went on for half an hour.
"I have his tracks," called Bearwarden, and Cortlandt hastened to join him.
In the soft ground, sure enough, they saw Ayrault's footprints, and, from the distance between them, concluded that he must have been running or walking very fast; but the rain had washed down the edges of the incision. The trail ascended a gentle slope, where they lost it; but on reaching the summit they saw it again with the feet together, as though Ayrault had paused, and about it were many other impressions with the feet turned in, as if the walkers or standers had surrounded Ayrault, who was in the centre.
"I hope," said Cortlandt, "these are nothing more than the footprints we have seen formed about ourselves."
"See," said Bearwarden, "Dick's trail goes on, and the others vanish. They cannot have been made by savages or Indians, for they seem to have had weight only while standing."
They then resumed their march, firing a revolver shot at intervals of a minute. Suddenly they came upon a tall, straight tree, uprooted by the wind and lying diagonally across their path. Following with their eyes the direction in which it lay, they saw a large, hollow trunk, with the bark stripped off, and charred as if struck by lightning. Obliged to pass near this by the uprooted tree-whose thick trunk, upheld by the branches at the head, lay raised about two feet from the ground—both searchers gave a start, and stood still as if petrified. Inside the great trunk they saw a head, and, on looking more closely, descried Ayrault's body. Grasping it by the arms, they drew it out. The face was pale and the limbs were stiff. Instantly Cortlandt unfastened the collar, while Bearwarden applied a flask to the lips. But they soon found that their efforts were vain.
"The spirit!" ejaculated Cortlandt. "Dick may be in a trance, in which case he can help us. Let us will hard and long."
Accordingly, they threw themselves on their faces, closing their eyes, that nothing might distract their concentration. Minutes, which seemed like ages, passed, and there was no response.
"Now," said Bearwarden, "will together, hard."
Suddenly the stillness was broken by the spirit's voice, which said:
"I felt more than one mind calling, but the effect was so slight I thought first I was mistaken. I will help you in what you want, for the young man is not dead, neither is he injured."
Saying which, he stretched himself upon Ayrault, worked his lungs artificially, and willed with an intensity the observers could feel where they stood. Quickly the colour returned to Ayrault's cheeks, and with the spirit's assistance he sat up and leaned against the tree that had protected him from the storm.
"Your promise was realized," he said, addressing the spirit. "I have seen what I shall never forget, and lest the anguish—the vision of which I saw—come true, let us return to the earth, and not leave it till I have tasted in reality the joys that in the spirit I seemed to have missed. I have often longed in this life to be in the spirit, but never knew what longing was, till I experienced it as a spirit, to be once more in the flesh."
"You see the mercy of God," said the spirit, "in not ordinarily allowing the spirits of the departed to revisit earth until they are prepared—that is, until they are sufficiently advanced to go there unaided—by which time they have come to understand the wisdom of God's laws. In your case the limiting laws were partially suspended, so that you were able to return at once, with many of the faculties and senses of spirits, but without their accumulated experience. It speaks well for your state of preparation that, without having had those disguised blessings, illness or misfortune, you were not utterly crushed by what you saw when temporarily released. While in the trance you were not in hell, but experienced the feelings that all mortals would if allowed to return immediately. Thus no lover can return to earth till his fiancee has joined him here, or till, perceiving the benevolence of God's ways, he is not distressed at what he sees, and has the companionship of a host of kindred spirits.
"The spirits you saw in the cemetery were indeed in hell, but had become sufficiently developed to revisit the earth, though doing so did not relieve their distress; for neither the development of their senses, which intensifies their capacity for remorse and regret, nor their investigations into God's boundless mercies, which they have deliberately thrown away, can comfort them.
"Some of your ancestors are on Cassandra, and others are in purgatory here. Though a few faintly felt your prayer, none were able to return and answer beside their graves. It was at your request and prayer that He freed your spirit, but you see how unhappy it made you."
"I see," replied Ayrault, "that no man should wish to anticipate the workings of the Almighty, although I have been unspeakably blessed in that He made an exception—if I may so call it—in my favour, since, in addition to revealing the responsibilities of life, it has shown me the inestimable value and loyalty of woman's love. I fear, however, that my return to earth greatly distressed the waterer of the flowers you showed me."
"She already sleeps," replied the spirit, "and I have comforted her by a dream in which she sees that you are well."
"When shall we start?" asked Bearwarden.
"As soon as you can get ready," replied Ayrault. "I would not risk running short of enough current to generate the apergy needed to get us back. I dare say when I have been on earth a few years, and have done something for the good of my soul—which, as I take it, can be accomplished as well by advancing science as in any other way—I shall pine for another journey in space as I now do to return."
"How I wish I were engaged," said Bearwarden, glancing at Cortlandt, and overjoyed at Ayrault's recovery.
Accordingly, they resumed their march in the direction in which they had been going when they found Ayrault, and were soon beside the Callisto. Cortlandt worked the combination lock of the lower entrance, through which they crawled. Going to the second story, they opened a large window and let down a ladder, on which the spirit ascended at their invitation.
Bearwarden and Ayrault immediately set about combining the chemicals that were to produce the force necessary to repel them from Saturn. Bubbles of hydrogen were given off from the lead and zinc plates, and the viscous primary batteries quickly had the wires passing through a vacuum at a white heat.
"I see you are nearly ready to start," said the spirit, "so I must say farewell."
"Will you not come with us?" asked Ayrault.
"No," replied the spirit. "I do not wish to be away as long as it will take you to reach the earth. The Callisto's atmosphere could not absorb my body, so that, should I leave you before your arrival, you would be burdened with a corpse. I may visit you in the spirit, though the desire and effort for communion with spirits, to be of most good, must needs come from the earth. Ere long, my intuition tells me, we shall meet again.
"The vision of your own grave," he continued, addressing Cortlandt, "may not come true for many years, but however long your lives may be, according to earthly reckoning, remember that when they are past they will seem to have been hardly more than a moment, for they are the personification of frailty and evanescence."
He held up his hands and blessed them; and then repeating, "Farewell and a happy return!" descended as he had come up.
The air was filled with misty shadows, and the pulsating hearts, luminous brains, and centres of spiritual activity quivered with motion. They surrounded the incarnate spirit of the bishop and set up the soft, musical hum the travellers had heard so often since their arrival on Saturn.
"I now understand," thought Ayrault, "why the spirits I met kept repeating that I should be happy. They perceived I was to be translated, and though they doubtless knew what suffering it would cause, they also knew I should be awakened to a sense of great realities, of which I understood but little."
They drew up the ladder and turned on the current, and the Callisto slowly began to rise, while the three friends crowded the window.
"Good-bye!" called the spirit's pleasant voice, to which the men replied in chorus.
The sun had set on the surface of the planet while they made their preparations; but as the Callisto rose higher, it seemed to rise again, making the sides of their car shine like silver, and, carefully closing the two open windows, they watched the fast-receding world, so many times larger and more magnificent than their own.
"There is something sad," said Cortlandt, "about the end of everything, but I am more sorry to leave Saturn than I have ever been in taking leave of any other place."
When beyond the limits of the atmosphere they applied the full current, and were soon once more cleaving the ether at cometary speed, their motion towards the sun being aided by that great body itself.
They quickly passed beyond the outer edge of the vast silvery rings, and then crossed one after another the orbits of the moons, from the last of which, Iapetus, they obtained their final course in the direction of the earth. They had an acute feeling of homesickness for the mysterious planet on which, while yet mortal, they had found paradise, and had communed with spirits as no modern men ever did.
Without deviating from their almost straight line, they passed within a million miles of Jupiter, which had gained in its smaller orbit on Saturn, and a few days later crossed the track of Mars.
As the earth had completed nearly half a revolution in its orbit since their departure, they here turned somewhat to the right by attracting the ruddy planet, in order to avoid passing too near the sun.
"On some future expedition," said Ayrault, "and when we have a supply of blue glasses, we can take a trip to Venus, if we can find a possible season in her year. Compared with this journey, it would be only like going round the block."
Two days later they had rounded the sun, and laid their course in pursuit of the earth.
That the astronomers in the dark hemisphere were at their posts and saw them, was evident; for a brilliant beam of light again flashed forth, this time from a point a little south of the arctic circle, and after shining one minute, telegraphed this message: "Rejoiced to see you again. Hope all are well."
Since they were not sufficiently near the moon's shadow, they directed their light-beam into their own, which trailed off on one side, and answered: "All well, thank you. Have wonderful things to relate."
The men at the telescopes then, as before, read the message, and telephoned the light this next question: "When are you coming down, that we may notify the newspapers?"
"We wish one more sight of the earth from this height, by daylight. We are now swinging to get between it and the sun."
"We have erected a monument in Van Cortlandt Park, and engraved upon it, 'At this place James Bearwarden, Henry Chelmsford Cortlandt, and Richard Rokeby Ayrault left earth, December 21, A. D. 2000, to visit Jupiter.'"
"Add to it, 'They returned on the 10th of the following June.'"
Soon the Callisto came nearly between the earth and the sun, when the astronomers could see it only through darkened glasses, and it appeared almost as a crescent. The sight the travellers then beheld was superb. It was about 11 A. M. in London, and Europe was spread before them like a map. All its peninsulas and islands, enclosed blue seas, and bays came out in clear relief. Gradually Russia, Germany, France, the British Isles, and Spain moved towards the horizon, as in grand procession, and at the same time the Western hemisphere appeared. The hour of day at the longitude above which they hung was about the same as when they set out, but the sun shone far more directly upon the Northern hemisphere than then, and instead of bleak December, this was the leafy month of June.
They were loath to end the lovely scene, and would fain have remained where they were while the earth revolved again; but, remembering that their friends must by this time be waiting, they shut off the repulsion from the earth.
"We need not apply the apergy to the earth until quite near," said Ayrault, "since a great part of the top speed will be taken off by the resistance of the atmosphere, especially as we go in base first. We have only to keep a sufficiently strong repulsion on the dome to prevent our turning over, and to see that our speed is not great enough to heat the car."
When about fifty miles from the surface they felt the expected check, and concluded they had reached the upper limits of the atmosphere. And this increased, notwithstanding the decrease in their speed, showing how quickly the air became dense.
When about a mile from the earth they had the Callisto well in hand, and allowed it to descend slowly. The ground was already black with people, who, having learned where the Callisto was to touch, had hastened to Van Cortlandt Park.
"I am overjoyed to see you," said Sylvia, when she and Ayrault met. "I had the most dreadful presentiment that something had gone wrong with you. One afternoon and evening I was so perplexed, and during the night had a series of nightmares that I shall never forget. I really believed you were near me, but your nature seemed to have changed, for, instead of its making me happy, I was frightfully distressed. The next day I was very ill, and unable to get up; but during the morning I fell asleep and had another dream, which was intensely realistic and made me believe—yes, convinced me—that you were well. After that dream I soon recovered; but oh, the anguish of the first!"
Ayrault did not tell her then that he had been near her, and of his unspeakable suffering, of which hers had been but the echo.
Three weeks later a clergyman tied the knot that was to unite them forever.
While Sylvia and Ayrault were standing up to receive the congratulations of their friends, Bearwarden, in shaking his hand, said:
"Remember, we have been to neither Uranus, nor Neptune, nor Cassandra, which may be as interesting as anything we have seen. Should you want to take another trip, count me as your humble servant." And Cortlandt, following behind him, said the same thing.
Shortly after this, Sylvia went up-stairs to change her dress, and when she came down she and Ayrault set out on their journey together through life, amid a chorus of cheers and a shower of rice.
Cortlandt then returned to his department at Washington, and Bearwarden resumed his duties with the Terrestrial Axis Straightening Company, in the presidential chair.