Fergus Hume.

A Son of Perdition: An Occult Romance



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"Well?" asked the girl, curiously.

"Nothing," answered Douglas, as Alice had answered on a previous occasion, but there was a puzzled and rather pained look in his eyes as he spoke the word.

The car was already standing at the door of Julian's lodgings and Julian himself was already in the vehicle. While Montrose bundled in beside him, Alice stared at the artist and laughed at his healthy looks, for he seemed to have entirely recovered from his experience on the moors.

"What a fraud you are, Julian, talking about your heart being weak," she said in a jesting manner. "You look big and strong and healthy. Your eyes are bright, your colour is ruddy and you are the picture of a Samson."

Julian nodded gaily. "I feel like a Samson to-day," he said, tucking the rug about his companion's legs and his own. "Sometimes, as at present, I could jump over the moon. At other times you could knock me down with a feather."

"How strange," said the girl thoughtfully.

"Man's a queer animal," cried Douglas lightly, and waved his hand as the big car got under way. "I'll be back to-morrow, dear. Think of me!" and he smiled at Miss Enistor's bright face, little guessing what it would look like when he next set eyes on its beauty.

Shortly they were clear of the village and spinning along the winding levels towards the watering-place. Julian, as Alice had noted, was full of life, and chatted a great deal about this thing and that. Also he asked Montrose questions about the teaching of Eberstein, since his curiosity had been aroused long since by some of the apparently odd things which the young man said so simply and serenely. It was not the first time that they had conversed on the subject of reincarnation and its kindred associations. Julian was not prepared to accept what he termed the theory of successive lives as gospel, and wanted physical proof for super-physical knowledge. This, as Montrose assured him, was absurd.

"When you are able to leave your body consciously and enter into the Unseen World, you will be given positive proof regarding the truth of Reincarnation and the Law of Cause and Effect, which is termed Karma by Eastern teachers. But until that time comes you must accept both laws on logical grounds, since they alone explain without a flaw the riddles of life."

"Can you leave your body consciously?" asked the artist with scepticism.

"No! I shall some day, as Eberstein is training me. But you can't hurry the hour and you can't delay the hour. You have just to wait."

"It requires immense patience."

"Immense," assented Douglas, "but if you want a big thing you have to do big things to get it. Only by living the life of Christ can you attain to the Christ-like powers. Love, purity, unselfishness, serenity, kindness of thought and word and action: these things arouse the latent faculties which, inherent in every man, enable him to come into contact with other worlds.

These are the laws of the Kingdom of Heaven by which one acquires the powers."

Julian thought for a few moments. "I had a talk with Narvaez the other day," he said after a pause, "and he offered to cast my horoscope. He seems, so far as I can judge in my limited way, to have powers beyond the reach of the ordinary man. Does he practise love and unselfishness and all the rest of the necessary requirements?"

"No!" said Montrose decidedly. "I don't think Narvaez is a good man, although I have no positive reason to say that he is a bad one. But an evil man – I am not speaking of Don Pablo, understand – can gain some of the power of the Kingdom by sheer force of will. Christ says: 'He that entereth not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber!' So those who get in otherwise than through Christ the Door of the sheep – the door of love, that is – are the evil people who acquire super-physical powers by strength of will, and make use of them selfishly. It is black magic to do that. But those who follow the Master and enter through Him, as the Door, by living the prescribed life to which I have referred, get the powers. But these use them for the benefit of others and not to aggrandise themselves. That is white magic."

"It seems strange to use the word 'magic' in connection with Christ."

"The word has become polarised," said Montrose indifferently, "you can call anything that happens by working an unknown law of Nature 'a miracle,' or 'a wonder,' or 'a magical performance.' The one who performs such exceptional things, of course, can exercise the unknown law I speak of."

"Christ, being superhuman, could," argued Hardwick seriously, "because He had wisdom without measure. But the ordinary man – "

"If the ordinary man loves Christ and keeps His commandments and walks in His footsteps, he can gain knowledge of the power to work what are termed miracles. The Master said so Himself, when His disciples marvelled at His doings, and told them that if they followed Him they would do greater things. As you know, some of the apostles did work miracles in His name. They learned by living the life how to use the laws rightly, by means of the power of Love which came through the Blessed One."

"You appear to know a lot about these things, Montrose?"

"Indeed, I know very little. Eberstein can give much, but I cannot take all he is willing to give, because my understanding is yet limited. But everything will come in time. I must wait patiently."

This interesting conversation was necessarily ended when the car reached Perchton, and the young men parted for the time being. Douglas sought out the hotel where Eberstein was staying, while Hardwick went in search of his doctor. The artist arranged to meet Eberstein later, as Montrose was anxious he should do so, if only to gain an answer to certain questions. The young man being a neophyte could not explain much that Julian desired to know. But he was positive that Eberstein could and would answer all questions, as he never withheld any knowledge from a sincere inquirer.

In a quiet hotel, high up on the cliffs, the doctor occupied a light and airy sitting-room, delightfully peaceful and cheerful and bright. Through the expansive windows could be seen the calm waters of the bay, with little wavelets breaking on the crescent of yellow sand, and the tall white column of the lighthouse shooting up from the reddish-hued rocks of the promontory. Montrose, after early greetings had taken place, noted none of these things, but flung himself into the nearest chair, feeling unaccountably weary. Eberstein, who had welcomed his young friend in his usual sincere and kindly manner, looked at him keenly, as he observed the boy's wilted appearance.

"You seem to be tired," he remarked gently.

"Well, I am," admitted Montrose, with a perplexed expression. "I don't know why I should be, as I slept all right last night and came here in a comfortable motor-car."

"Whom did you come with?"

"A fellow called Hardwick, who is an artist. A really capital chap, who is a first-rate friend. He got the car from some one he knows and gave me a lift."

"Is he ill?" asked Eberstein, after a pause.

"Strange you should ask that. He isn't ill, and he isn't well; that is, he suffers from a weak heart – not enough vitality. He is seeing a doctor."

"I understand."

"You understand what?" Montrose stared.

"Why you look tired. In quite an unconscious way, this Hardwick has been drawing the vitality out of you."

"Can that be done?"

"Oh, yes! The weaker body frequently replenishes its life forces from any stronger body that is at hand. You have heard it said how old age eats up youth. That is a great truth."

"David and Abishag," murmured Montrose wearily. Then he opened his eyes with an astonished look. "I am growing stronger."

Eberstein smiled in an understanding manner. "I am giving you strength, and strength you will need very shortly, I assure you."

"You said in London that trouble was coming. But so far everything is all right. Enistor is an extremely pleasant man, who quite approves of my marriage with Alice. We get on capitally together."

"Was your first impression of him pleasant?"

"No! I disliked him no end when we first met. But as there was no reason for me to do so I grew to like him."

"Ah!" said the doctor with a world of meaning, "second thoughts are not always best. Have you met the man who wanted to marry Alice?"

"Narvaez? Yes! He's a beast. I shall never get over my dislike for him."

"You must not dislike him or any one," corrected Eberstein softly. "Pity Narvaez and pity Enistor, but be on your guard against both."

"What can they do?" asked Montrose, with the disdainful confidence of youth.

"Enistor can do nothing alone. Directed by Narvaez he can do much. And he will," concluded the doctor with emphasis.

"Does the trouble you predicted come from that quarter?"

"Yes!"

"Well, it is two against two. Alice and I can fight her father and Narvaez."

"Don't be over-confident, or you will invite disaster," said the doctor dryly. "There is much doing of which you know nothing. That is why I am here to aid you, my friend. I cannot do everything, as a great deal has to be done by you and Alice with what intuition and strength you possess. With Alice the ordeal has already commenced."

Montrose started to his feet. "Is she in danger?" he asked excitedly. "If so, I must go back to Tremore at once."

"There is no need. What she has to do must be done alone, and you would do her more harm than good by going to her assistance. Hitherto I have protected her with my strength, which has increased her own. Now for a certain time that strength has been withdrawn. Narvaez will know the moment I cease to guard her."

"What will he do?" demanded the young man, clenching his fists.

"Nothing that physical strength can deal with, so don't get ready to fight, my friend. Narvaez will not hurt the girl, but he will endeavour to learn from her something he has long wished to know. It is necessary that he should know and that his pupil should know also. Therefore, for a time he is permitted to work his will. There! There! He will only make use of her clairvoyant powers, so she will suffer little."

"I don't want her to suffer at all."

"Unless she does in some degree, she will not progress."

"Narvaez is such a beast."

"No. He is only a man blinded by pride in his intellectual knowledge. You must pity him for his blindness and do your best to help him. Hate only ceases when Love is used to vanquish it. Calm yourself, Montrose. What must be must be if the Will of God is to be done."

"I wish you hadn't told me," cried the young man, greatly agitated.

"That is a weak thing to say. I told you purposely, so that you may develop faith and patience. Can you not trust me?"

"Yes! Yes! Yes!"

"Then show it by waiting quietly here until I tell you to return to Tremore, my friend. This is the time of preparation to meet and baffle the trouble I warned you against. Stand in the strength of Christ and not in your own strength. He never fails those who trust in Him. To-morrow morning you must come with me to early celebration. By partaking of the Body and Blood of The Blessed One" – Eberstein made the sign of the cross – "you will gain the necessary strength to stand up bravely against the Powers of Darkness."

"Narvaez?"

Eberstein bowed his stately head. "God pity him and save him," he murmured, with infinite compassion.

CHAPTER XV
THE TRANCE

A man on a suburban road at noonday, with the sun shining brilliantly, walks along thinking of his private affairs and heedless of surroundings. But when the toils of day are ended, and he proceeds along that same road in a darkness scarcely illuminated by a few lamps, his feelings are less comfortable. Of course much depends upon the man being sensitive or stolid, but in any case this matters little in the present instance, as the illustration is merely used to symbolise the mental state of Alice during the evening of her lover's absence. One moment she was clothed in the radiance of perfect security and peace; the next, and a dreadful gloom descended upon her bringing anguish and distress. Naturally there was no physical change, but in some inexplicable way she felt that an inward light was quenched. Alice had never read St. Teresa's "Castles of the Soul," or the explanations of that terrible saint would have given her the key to her condition.

As it was she felt as though the sun had fallen from the sky, and quailed in the dense darkness pricked with feeble lights which now surrounded her. Little as she knew it, those same lights represented the sum of what experience she had gained with painful learning through many successive lives. The knowledge and attainments of Eberstein, who had reached an infinitely higher level than herself, beamed in that splendour which had been withdrawn. But what little light she possessed and what greater light he had gained were only what each could receive of The True Light "which lighteth every man that cometh into the world!" Hitherto, Eberstein had given for her use what glory he had earned; now – since the child must learn to walk alone if it ever hopes to come to maturity – he had stood aside for the moment, so that she could make the attempt with what strength she possessed. But Alice did not know all this, and could only feel supremely wretched and forsaken.

So listless did she feel that there was no energy in her to dress for dinner. For two hours she sat in the drawing-room, already darkened by the early gloom of the short autumnal day, longing to be in the haven of her lover's arms. Her lonely soul cried aloud for human sympathy, for human protection, since the higher love seemed to have withdrawn itself, and she put forth all the longing of her being to call back Douglas to her side. But no answer came. The gloom waxed denser, the silence became more oppressive, and all the girl could do was to concentrate her mind on Christ and His saving grace. There was some comfort to be got in murmuring that holy name over and over again. She felt as though she were drowning in a bitterly salt sea under a leaden sky, and that despairing trust in the Blessed One was the spar to which she clung in the hope of rescue. And unprotected as she was for the moment, save by her intuitive faith, she felt the evil forces of the house bear down upon her shuddering soul with terrific weight. She little knew how these destroying influences were being directed by a Brother of the Shadow, and as little did she guess that he would be permitted to go so far and no farther. Knowledge of this state being a necessary ordeal would have helped her to bear it; but the ignorance which made her sufferings more acute was part of the ordeal itself. And silent, unseen, motionless, the Powers of Good watched her endurance of the test.

In the library Narvaez, in an extraordinary state of excitement for one so trained to serenity, was conversing hurriedly with his pupil. He had come over a quarter of an hour previously and was informing Enistor of the girl's defenceless state. The Adversary had withdrawn his protection, as Don Pablo knew in some mysterious way which he declined to explain to the Squire, so now was the time to put forth the dark influence of evil and make use of the girl's clairvoyant powers.

"They are untrained, it is true," said Narvaez, striving to be calm, since he knew how much depended upon perfect self-control. "But she is so pure and so powerful in her purity that when I loosen her soul from the bonds of the flesh, she will be able to reach that exalted plane where she can read the past truthfully. Information will come through little coloured by her personality. I assure you, Enistor, as in so young and innocent a girl, it is not yet particularly strong. Where is she?"

"In the drawing-room! Moping in the dark."

"Ah, she feels the absence of her guardian, and is greatly bewildered. All the better for our purpose."

"How are you going to manage?" said the Squire anxiously. "Alice hates you, and will never submit to do anything for you."

Narvaez sneered. "But for The Adversary, I should have dominated her long ago without difficulty. Now that the protection has been withdrawn she is quite at the mercy of my superior knowledge and power. She can never oppose her will to mine, as she is ignorant and I am wise."

"You won't hurt her," said Enistor uneasily, and silently astonished with himself for giving way to such a kindly human feeling.

"No. Of course I won't," retorted the other impatiently. "I shall send her to find out what we want, and then recall her. Why she is unsupported now I cannot learn; but certainly for the moment she has been left to walk alone. This is our hour, Enistor, so let us make the best of it."

"How do you intend to act?" questioned the father tensely.

"Place that arm-chair in the middle of the room: put the lamp behind yonder screen. I shall sit here by the window where she cannot see me: you take up your position near the fire. Give me a saucer, a plate, a vase – anything."

The Squire obeyed these directions and sat down as instructed to watch the doings of Don Pablo. That gentleman, taking a red-hot coal from the fire, dropped it on a bronze saucer of Indian workmanship which Enistor had selected from amongst the ornaments on the mantelpiece. Placing this on a small table which stood near the central chair, Narvaez shook over the burning coal some special incense which he carried in a tiny golden box. At once a thick white smoke fumed upward, and the room was filled gradually with a stupefying fragrance. With the lamp behind the Chinese screen, the apartment was only faintly illuminated by the red glow of the fire, which smouldered without flames in the grate. The Spaniard moved about with an activity surprising in a man of his years, and when he had completed his preparations retreated into the darkness near the heavily curtained window. Thence his voice came low, clear and piercing to the Squire.

"I am putting out my power to draw her here. Tell her when she comes to sit in the arm-chair yonder. My influence and the scent of the incense will bring about the separation of the bodies, and she will go to the appointed place. You ask the questions, as my voice may move her to rebellion. Keep your brain passive and I will impress upon you what I wish to ask. You have been already trained to be receptive in this way, so you know what to do."

"Yes!" breathed Enistor, sitting well back in his chair and fixing his eyes on the library door, dimly seen in the reddish glow of the fire.

Narvaez did not waste time in replying, but the Squire felt that he was now radiating a tremendous influence, which seemed to extend beyond the walls of the library and throughout the entire house. Shortly, swift unhesitating footsteps were heard, and Alice simply raced into the room, so speedily did she respond to the call. She had all her waking senses about her, and was puzzled to understand the impulse which had sent her headlong in search of her father.

"Do you want me?" she asked, with quick laboured breathing, for the oppression of the room was terrible. "Why are you in the dark? What is the matter?"

"I want to talk to you about Montrose," said Enistor softly. "Sit down in that arm-chair over there."

"About Douglas!" Alice, with a weary sigh, dropped into the central chair, near the table where the incense curled upward in faint grey spirals, not discernible in the half-light. A whiff of the scent made the girl drowsy, and closing her eyes, she rested her head on the back of the chair. The action brought her face nearer to the bronze dish, and with the next breath she inhaled a lung-ful of the burning perfume. With a choking sensation she strove to open her eyes and lean forward, but her body would not obey her will, and she rested, inert and powerless, where she was. There was a momentary struggle between spirit and matter, a sick sensation of loosened bonds, and then she found herself standing upright gazing at her motionless body lying in the chair. It was alive and breathing, for she saw the rise and fall of the breast, but she, in a similar body, stood apart from her physical vehicle, distinct, and – so far as she knew – unattached. Before she had time to grasp the situation, the library vanished, and she was environed by a restless atmosphere of colour. It was as if she was clothed with the splendour of sunset, for there was no hard-and-fast outline; no visible form: all was cloud and colour, materials waiting to be shaped by the will into something which the soul desired. The silence was like a benediction of peace. "Higher! Higher!" said the far-away voice of her father. "Seek out the past where it is to be found. See yourself and those you know, in other times, in other climes, in other flesh." There was a pause, and then came the telephonic voice again, repeating the orders of Narvaez. "Use for the past the names by which you and those you know are called to-day. Higher! Higher!"



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