A Son of Perdition: An Occult Romance
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On arriving at the tree under which she usually met her lover, she was surprised not to find him waiting for her. His absence piqued her, especially as she was late, for he certainly should have been watching for her arrival with his heart in his eyes. With a pout she sat down on one of the two green chairs and stared unseeingly at the many children playing about the grass and sailing toy ships on the Round Pond. What would her father say if he knew that she was meeting Montrose, and now loved him to the extent of thwarting Enistor's darling project of uniting her to Narvaez. Poor ignorant girl! She little knew that Don Pablo by his black arts was keeping Enistor advised of all that was taking place, and that the two men were calmly watching her innocent luring of the fly into the web. Eberstein could have warned her of this infernal espionage, but he was absent, and neither Alice nor her lover had any knowledge how to guard themselves. They were even ignorant that protection was necessary, and it was only when the worst was at an end that they learned how the guardianship of the master had been withdrawn for the time being. The children had to learn to walk alone in their own strength and by their own will. Therefore, in the Garden of Eden represented by Kensington Gardens, did they lie open to the assault of the Serpent in the person of Don Pablo. But their ignorance and innocence and natural leanings towards the good baffled the black magic of the evil creature for the moment.
"A penny for your thoughts," said Montrose suddenly, and Alice raised her eyes to find that he had slipped silently into the chair placed a trifle behind that on which she was seated.
"They are only worth a halfpenny," she retorted rebukingly. "I was thinking how little you must care for my company when you are so late!"
"I have been hiding behind yonder tree ever since you arrived," explained Montrose, laughing, "and for quite an hour I have been waiting."
Alice laughed also. The boyishness of his action appealed to her. "But we are too old to play at Peep Boo like babies," she said, shaking her head with a would-be attempt at primness which was quite a failure.
"We are not old," denied Montrose, placing his chair in line with hers. "We are young: we shall always be young, for the gods love us. As to babies, look into my eyes and you will see yourself as a baby."
But Alice would not look, and the colour came to her cheeks. "There was a girl at school who talked of babies in the eyes. It was amusing to hear her talk, but rather silly."
"The silly things are the serious things of life at this moment."
"How do you explain that epigram, Mr. Montrose?"
"Do epigrams require explanations?"
"This one does, I fancy."
"Oh, no, it doesn't. You must guess that the explanation lies in the words I used. 'At this moment,' I said."
"Why this moment rather than others, Mr. Montrose?"
The young man drew back rather disappointed."No. I see you don't understand, Miss Enistor, or you would not call me Mr. Montrose."
"You call me Miss Enistor!" replied Alice, wilfully dense.
For the sake of beating her with her own weapons, he answered in kind. "Naturally I do. I am a very polite person. But I daresay, in other lives, in other climes, and when we were clothed in other bodies, I called you Chloe, or Octavia, or Isabeau, or Edith."
"Greek, Roman, French, and Anglo-Saxon," commented Alice, amused; "you seem to have settled the countries we lived in. I suppose I called you Damon, or Marcus, or Jehan, or Harold – that is, supposing we were together in those days in those places."
"We have always been together," said Douglas decisively. "I am quite sure."
"Have you any proof?"
"Only the proof of my own feelings. I am not clairvoyant to the extent of remembering my former incarnations, nor can I – as some can – consciously leave my physical body at will and return to it with a recollection of what I have seen. Now you are more advanced."
"Indeed, I am not. I have learned much from my father, who knows a great deal about such psychic matters. But I have never been properly instructed and my knowledge is very limited."
"But you believe in the doctrine of reincarnation?" urged Montrose eagerly.
"Of course. It is a most sensible doctrine to believe, and explains nearly everything in a common-sense way. But I cannot prove my belief."
"There is no need to prove it to me," said Montrose, thinking of his vision, "for I know beyond all question that we have lived and loved before."
"Yes," assented the girl dreamily, "I knew you the moment you entered Mrs. Barrast's drawing-room."
The young man glanced round, and, seeing that they were more or less sheltered from observation, gently took her hand. She did not remove it, although her whole body thrilled to the touch. "You knew me as what?" asked Montrose.
"I can't say more than that I knew you as a familiar friend."
"So cold a word," pleaded the other softly.
"What other word can I use to you when we have only known each other for a single week?"
"That is in this life. In other existences we knew each other for years."
Alice looked down timidly. "It – is – probable," she breathed.
"Then why not take up the new life at the point where the old one left off?"
"We don't know how it left off, Mr. Montrose."
"No. But assuredly it did at a point where you called me by my then Christian name – Alice."
Her heart fluttered as he spoke thus intimately. "Perhaps we were not Christians," she said, rather embarrassed.
"Ah!" he dropped her hand, "you are fencing. I merely spoke in the style of to-day to illustrate my point."
"Now you are angry!"
"I never could be angry with you; only you will not understand."
"Perhaps I do," said Alice, with a whimsical smile.
"If so, why aren't you plain with me?" said Montrose, ruffled.
The mothering instinct, which makes every woman see in every man a child to be soothed and petted, rose within her. "Let us slap the bad, naughty table that has hurt baby," she said demurely, and Montrose looked up to see the laughter in her eyes.
"You little witch!" He caught her hand again and this time so roughly that she winced at the delicious pain. "You know quite well what I mean."
"I do – Douglas!"
"Oh!" He leaned towards her so violently that she swung aside in alarm.
"The eyes of Europe are on us," she said hastily, indicating the throng of children and nursemaids and grown-up people round the pond and on the paths and lying on the grass.
"Bother the eyes of Europe." But he saw that she was right and he did not dare proclaim his love by taking her in his arms. It was rather a poor thing to content himself with squeezing her hand. But he did, and so hard that she uttered an exclamation.
"Mr. Montrose, you are hurting me."
"Am I? Poor hand! I wish I could kiss it!" with a swift look round, he managed to do so. "There – Alice. Don't you dare to call me anything but Douglas."
"I believe you wish to take me by storm," she pouted, not ill-pleased.
"What! capture my own city?"
"Your own city? What do you mean?"
"I mean that I dwell in your heart. That city is mine."
"How conceited you are."
"Indeed, I am not. You know quite well that I am only speaking the truth. I loved you in the past and I love you now. All preliminaries of love were gone through ages ago. Why fence, as if we now meet for the first time? When I saw you in Mrs. Barrast's drawing-room I said, 'She is mine!' When you saw me you said, 'I am his' – "
"I'm sure I didn't," interrupted Alice hastily.
"You thought it, though."
"I shan't tell you."
"There is no need for you to do so. Oh, my dear," he went on entreatingly, "is there so much love in the world that you and I can afford to throw what we possess away? All my life I have been lonely: all my life I have wanted to meet you, to adore you, to – "
"How could you when you didn't know that I existed?"
"Fencing again. As if you didn't know that spirit is everything and form is nothing. We have been apart on earth until last week; but we have always been together in higher worlds, although neither you nor I can remember our companionship."
Alice laughed in a rather anxious manner. "Any one listening to us would be certain both of us were insane."
"I daresay. But as no one is listening, it doesn't matter. For the convenience of a world that doesn't understand such things, let us behave in a conventional manner. I shall visit at Mrs. Barrast's and court you in the approved style. In due time I shall write and ask your father if I may make you my wife. Meanwhile I want your assurance that you love me and have always loved me in the past."
"But a single week – "
"Time doesn't matter. You know it doesn't. You love me, Alice?"
"Yes!" She saw that the time for fencing was ended. "I love you, Douglas!"
He kissed her hand again, then, aware that the place was too public for him to take her in his arms, suppressed his feelings. Side by side they sat in a stiff kind of way, while each longed for demonstrations which the situation forbade. It was decidedly uncomfortable to be thus conventional. But it was just as well that they thus came to an understanding in the eye of the sun, as the self-control was quite an education.
"One would think we were a couple of old married people, sitting side by side in this stiff manner," said Montrose with a vexed laugh. "I should like to be a Sabine and carry you away by force."
"Perhaps you will have to do so," said Alice, thinking of Don Pablo. "My father will never consent to my becoming your wife."
Montrose looked amazed and anxious. "Why not? There is nothing against my character and position," he said rapidly, "and as I have inherited Lady Staunton's money, your father will be glad that I should bring it into the Enistor family again by making you my wife."
"I don't think my father cares anything about the money," said Alice, ignorant of her parent's true feelings. "He wants me to marry Don Pablo."
"A Spaniard. Who is he?"
"A Spaniard, as you have said. He is my father's greatest friend."
"Young and handsome and wealthy?"
"Wealthy, certainly. But very ugly, just like a mummy, and as old as the hills – older, I believe. He must be eighty."
"Then why does your father wish you to marry him?"
"Because Don Pablo is rich."
"Well, I am rich also. Five thousand a year is riches."
"Don Pablo has more, I fancy."
"I don't care what he has. He hasn't got you for a wife and he never will have. You will marry me and no one else."
"Yes, I promise you that, Douglas. But there will be trouble."
"Pooh!" Montrose laughed joyously. "I'd face a universe of trouble if you were the prize to be obtained by enduring it. Besides, Eberstein says that we belong to one another."
"How does he know?"
"He knows many things that are strange and true. When he comes back he will explain. He promised to do so. Meantime, all we have to do is to be true to one another. We are engaged. Say we are engaged, Alice."
"Yes. We are engaged. I shall marry no one but you."
"Hurrah! Then we shall be happy for ever and ever – "
"Amen," said the girl thankfully. "All the same, I fear Don Pablo."
Montrose tucked her arm within his own. "We are together," he said. "Unity is strength. You understand, dear!" And Alice did understand, smiling happily.
"It is the birthday of the soul," she said; "of your soul and mine, which are one."