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A Wanderer in the Sprit Lands, by Franchezzo (A. Farnese), [1896], at

CHAPTER VII.--The Story of Raoul.

When they had gone I turned to my companion who sat huddled in a heap, and almost stunned, in one corner of the hut, and, helping him to rise, I suggested that if he could make shift to walk a little, it would be well for us both to leave the place in case those men should think fit to return. With much pain and trouble I got him up and helped him slowly to a place of safety on the dark plain where, if we were without shelter, we were at least free from the danger of being surrounded. Then I did my best to relieve his sufferings by methods I had learned during my stay in the House of Hope, and after a time the poor fellow was able to speak and tell about himself and how he came to be in that dark country. He was, it seemed, but recently from earth life, having been shot by a man who was jealous of his attentions to his wife, and not without reason. The one redeemeing feature about this poor spirit's story was that he, poor soul, did not feel any anger or desire for revenge upon the man who had hurried him out of life, but only sorrow and shame for it all. What had hurt him most and had opened his eyes to his degradation, was the discovery that the woman for whose love it had all been done, was so callous, so selfish, so devoid of all true sense of love for either of them, that she was only occupied in thinking how it would affect herself and her social position in the world of fashion, and not one thought, save of anger and annoyance, had she given to either her unhappy husband or the victim of his jealous anger.

"When," said the young man, whom I shall call Raoul, "when I knew that I was truly dead and yet possessed the power to return to earth again, my first thought was to fly to her and console her if possible, or at least make her feel that the dead yet lived, and that even in death I thought of her. And how do you think I found her? Weeping for me? Sorrowing for him? No! not one atom. Only thinking of herself and wishing she had never seen us, or that she could blot us both out from her life by one coup-de-main, and begin life again with someone else higher in the social scale than either of us had been. The scales fell from my eyes, and I knew she had never loved me one particle. But I was rich, I was of the noblesse, and through my help she had hoped to climb another rung of the social ladder, and had willingly sunk herself into an adulturess, not for love of me, but to gain the petty triumph of queening it over some rival woman. I was nothing but a poor blind fool, and my life had paid the penalty of my folly. To her I was but an unpleasant memory of the bitter shame and scandal that had fallen upon her. Then I fled from earth in my bitterness, anywhere, I cared not where it was. I said I would believe no more in goodness or truth of any kind, and my wild thoughts and desires drew me down to this dark spot and these degraded revellers, amongst whom I found kindred spirits to those who had been my parasites and flatterers on earth, and amongst whom I had wasted my substance and lost my soul."

"And now, oh! unhappy friend," I said, "would you not even now seek the path of repentance that would lead you back to brighter lands and help you to regain the lost inheritance of your manhood and your higher self?"

"Now, alas! it is too late," said Raoul. "In hell, and surely this is hell, there is no longer hope for any."

"No hope for any?" I answered. "Say not so, my friend; those words are heard all too often from the lips of unhappy souls, for I can testify that even in the darkest despair there is ever given hope. I, too, have known a sorrow and bitterness as deep as yours; yet I had ever hope, for she whom I loved was as the pure angels, and her hands were ever stretched out to give me love and hope, and for her sake I work to give to others the hope given to myself. Come, let me lead you and I will guide you to that better land."

"And who art thou, oh! friend, with the kind words and still kinder deeds to whom in truth I might say I owed my life; but had I not learned that in this place, alas! one cannot die--one can suffer to the point of death and even all its pains, yet death comes not to any, for we have passed beyond it, and it would seem must live through an eternity of suffering? Tell me who you are and how you come to be here, speaking words of hope with such confidence. I might fancy you an angel sent down to help me, but that you resemble myself too much for that."

Then I told him my history, and how I was working myself upwards even as he might do, and also spoke of the great hope I had always before me, that in time I should be fit to join my sweet love in a land where we should be no more parted.

"And she?" he said, "is content, you think, to wait for you? She will spend all her life lonely on earth that she may join you in heaven when you shall get there? Bah! mon ami, you deceive yourself. It is a mirage that you pursue. Unless she is either old or very plain, no woman will dream of living forever alone for your sake. She will for a time, I grant you, if she is romantic, or if no one come to woo her, but unless she is an angel she will console herself by and by, believe me. If your hopes are no more well founded than that I shall feel only sorry for you."

I confess his words angered me somewhat; they echoed the doubts that always haunted me, and were like a cold shower bath upon all the warmth of romance with which I had buoyed myself up. It was partly to satisfy my own doubts as well as his that I said, with some heat:

"If I take you to earth and we find her mourning only for me, thinking only of me, will you believe then that I know what I speak about and am under no delusion? Will you admit that your experience of life and of women may not apply to all, and that there is something that even you can learn on this as on other matters?"

"My good friend, believe me that I ask your pardon with all my soul if my unbelief has pained you. I admire your faith and would I could have but a little of it myself. By all means let us go and see her."

I took his hand and then "willing" intently that we should go to my beloved, we began to rise and rush through space with the speed of thought almost, till we found ourselves upon earth and standing in a room. I saw her guardian spirit watching over my beloved, and the dim outline of the room and its furniture, but my friend Raoul saw nothing but the form of my darling seated in her chair, and looking like some of the saints from the brightness of her spirit and the pale soft aureole of light that surrounded her, a spiritual light invisible to you of earth but seen by those on the spiritual side of life around those whose lives are good and pure, just as a dark mist surrounds those who are not good.

"Mon Dieu!" cried Raoul, sinking upon his knees at her feet. "It is an angel, a saint you have brought me to see, not a woman. She is not of earth at all."

Then I spoke to her by name, and she heard my voice and her face brightened and the sadness vanished from it, and she said softly: "My dearest, are you indeed there? I was longing for you to come again. I can think and dream of nothing but you. Can you touch me yet?" She put out her hand and for one brief moment mine rested in it, but even that moment made her shiver as though an icy wind had struck her.

"See, my darling one, I have brought an unhappy friend to ask your prayers. And I would have him to know that there are some faithful women on earth--some true love to bless us with were we but fit to enjoy it."

She had not heard clearly all that I said, but her mind caught its sense, and she smiled, so radiant a smile, and said: "Oh! yes, I am ever faithful to you, my beloved, as you are to me, and some day we shall be so very, very happy."

Then Raoul who was still kneeling before her, held out his hands and tried to touch hers, but the invisible wall kept him away as it had done me, and he drew back, crying out to her: "If your heart is so full of love and pity, spare some to me who am indeed unhappy and need your prayers. Pray that I, too, may be helped, and I shall know your prayers are heard where mine were not worthy to be, and I shall hope that even for me pardon may yet be possible."

My darling heard the words of this unhappy man, and kneeling down beside her chair offered up a little simple prayer for help and comfort to us all. And Raoul was so touched, so softened, that he broke down completely, and I had to take him by the hand and lead him back to the spirit land, though not now to a region devoid of hope.

From that time Raoul and I worked together for a little in the dark land he had now ceased to dwell in, and from day to day he grew more hopeful. By nature he was most vivacious and buoyant, a true Frenchman, full of airy graceful lightness of heart which even the awful surroundings of that gloomy spot could not wholly extinguish. We became great friends, and our work was pleasanter from being shared. Our companionship was, however, not destined to last long then, but we have since met and worked together many times, like comrades in different regiments whom the chances of war may bring together or separate at any time.

Next: Chapter VIII.--Temptation