Thunder and wild tumult,—the glare of lightning,—the shattering roar of great waves leaping mountains high and hissing asunder in mid-air,—to this fierce riot of savage elements let loose in a whirling boisterous dance of death, I woke at last with a convulsive shock. Staggering to my feet I stood in the black obscurity of my cabin, trying to rally my scattered forces,—the electric lamps were extinguished, and the lightning alone illumined the sepulchral darkness. Frantic shoutings echoed above me on deck,—fiend-like yells that sounded now like triumph, now like despair, and again like menace,—the yacht leaped to and fro like a hunted stag amid the furious billows, and every frightful crash of thunder threatened, as it seemed, to split her in twain. The wind howled like a devil in torment,—it screamed and moaned and sobbed as though endowed with a sentient body that suffered acutest agony,—anon it rushed downwards with an angry swoop as of wide-flapping wings, and at each raging gust I thought the vessel must surely founder. Forgetting everything but immediate personal danger, I tried to open my door. It was locked outside !—I was a prisoner! My indignation at this discovery exceeded every other feeling, and beating with both hands on the wooden panels, I called, I shouted, I threatened, I swore, —all in vain! Thrown down twice by the topsy-turvy lurching of the yacht, I still kept up a desperate hammering and calling, striving to raise my voice above the distracting pandemonium of noise that seemed to possess the ship from end to end, but all to no purpose,—and finally, hoarse and exhausted, I stopped and leaned against the unyielding door to recover breath and strength. The storm appeared to be increasing in force and clamour,—the lightning was well-nigh incessant, and the clattering thunder followed each flash so instantaneously as to leave no doubt but that it was immediately above us. I listened,—and presently heard a frenzied cry—
"Breakers ahead!" This was followed by peals of discordant laughter. Terrified, I strained my ears for every sound,—and all at once someone spoke to me quite closely, as though the very darkness around me had found a tongue.
"Breakers ahead! Throughout the world, storm and danger and doom! Doom and Death !—but afterwards— Life!"
A certain intonation in these words filled me with such frantic horror that I fell on my knees in abject misery and almost prayed to the God I had through all my life disbelieved in and denied. But I was too mad with fear to find words;— the dense blackness,—the horrid uproar of the wind and sea, —the infuriated and confused shouting,—all this was to my mind as though hell itself had broken loose, and I could only kneel dumbly and tremble. Suddenly a swirling sound as of an approaching monstrous whirlwind made itself heard above all the rest of the din,—a sound that gradually resolved itself into a howling chorus of thousands of voices sweeping along on the gusty blast, fierce cries were mingled with the jarring thunder, and I leapt erect as I caught the words of the clangorous shout—
"Ave Sathanas! Ave!"
Rigidly upright, with limbs stiffening for sheer terror, I stood listening,—the waves seemed to roar " Ave Sathanas!" —the wind shrieked it to the thunder,—the lightning wrote it in a snaky line of fire on the darkness, "ave Sathanas!" My brain swam round and grew full to bursting,—I was going mad,—raving mad surely!—or why should I thus distinctly hear such unmeaning sounds as these? With a sudden access of superhuman force I threw the whole weight of my body against the door of my cabin in a delirious effort to break it open,—it yielded slightly,—and I prepared myself for another rush and similar attempt,—when all at once it was flung widely back, admitting a stream of pale light, and Lucio, wrapped in heavy shrouding garments, confronted me.
"Follow me, Geoffrey Tempest," he said in low clear tones. "Your time has come!"
As he spoke, all self-possession deserted me,—the terrors of the storm, and now the terror of his presence, overwhelmed my strength, and I stretched out my hands to him appealingly, unknowing what I did or said.
"For God's sake … !" I began wildly.
He silenced me by an imperious gesture.
"Spare me your prayers! For God's sake, for your own sake, and for mine! Follow!"
He moved before me like a black phantom in the pale strange light surrounding him,—and I, dazzled, dazed and terror-stricken, trod in his steps closely, moved, as it seemed, by some volition not my own, till I found myself alone with him in the saloon of the yacht, with the waves hissing up against the windows like live snakes ready to sting. Trembling and scarcely able to stand, I sank on a chair,—he turned round and looked at me for a moment meditatively. Then he threw open one of the windows,—a huge wave dashed in and scattered its bitter salt spray upon me where I sat,—but I heeded nothing,—my agonized looks were fixed on Him,—the Being I had so long made the companion of my days. Raising his hand with a gesture of authority he said—
"Back, ye devils of the sea and wind !—ye which are not God's elements, but My servants, the unrepenting souls of men! Lost in the waves, or whirled in the hurricane, whichever ye have made your destiny, get hence and cease your clamour! This hour is Mine!"
Panic-stricken I heard,—aghast I saw the great billows that had shouldered up in myriads against the vessel, sink suddenly,—the yelling wind dropped, silenced,—the yacht glided along with a smooth even motion as though on a tranquil inland lake,—and almost before I could realize it, the light of the full moon beamed forth brilliantly and fell in a broad stream across the floor of the saloon. But in the very cessation of the storm the words "ave Sathanas !" trembled as it were upwards to my ears from the underworld of the sea, and died away in distance like a parting echo of thunder. Then Lucio faced me,—with what a countenance of sublime and awful beauty!
"Do you know Me now, man whom my millions of dross have made wretched?—or do you need me to tell you WHO lam?"
My lips moved,—but I could not speak; the dim and dreadful thought that was dawning on my mind seemed as yet too frenzied, too outside the boundaries of material sense for mortal utterance.
"Be dumb,—be motionless !—but hear and feel!" he continued. "By the supreme power of God,—for there is no other Power in any world or any heaven,—I control and command you at this moment, your own will being set aside for once as naught. I choose you as one out of millions to learn in this life the lesson that all must learn hereafter;—let every faculty of your intelligence be ready to receive that which I shall impart,—and teach it to your fellow-men if you have a conscience as you have a Soul !''
Again I strove to speak,—he seemed so human,—so much my friend still, though he had declared himself my Enemy, and yet … what was that lambent radiance encircling his brows ?—that burning glory steadily deepening and flashing from his eyes?
"You are one of the world's 'fortunate' men," he went on, surveying me straightly and pitilessly. "So at least this world judges you, because you can buy its good-will. But the Powers that govern all worlds do not judge you by such a standard,—you cannot buy their good-will, not though all the Churches should offer to sell it you. They regard you as you are, stripped soul-naked,—not as you seem. They behold in you a shameless egoist, persistently engaged in defacing their divine Image of Immortality,—and for that sin there is no excuse and no escape but Punishment. Whosoever prefers Self to God, and in the arrogance of that Self, presumes to doubt and deny God, invites another power to compass his destinies,—the power of Evil, made evil and kept evil by the disobedience and wickedness of Man alone,—that power whom mortals call Satan, Prince of Darkness,—but whom once the angels knew as Lucifer, Prince of Light!" … He broke off,—paused,—and his flaming regard fell full upon me. "Do you know Me, … now?"
I sat a rigid figure of fear, dumbly staring, … was this man, for he seemed man, mad, that he should thus hint at a thing too wild and terrible for speech?
"If you do not know Me,—if you do not feel in your convicted soul that you are aware of Me,—it is because you will not know! Thus do I come upon men, when they rejoice in their wilful self-blindness and vanity !—thus do I become their constant companion, humouring them in such vices as they best love!—thus do I take on the shape that pleases them, and fit myself to their humours! They make me what I am; —they mould my very form to the fashion of their flitting time. Through all their changing and repeating eras, they have found strange names and titles for me,—and their creeds and churches have made a monster of me,—as though imagination could compass any worse monster than the Devil in Man!"
Frozen and mute I heard, … the dead silence, and his resonant voice vibrating through it, seemed more terrific than the wildest storm.
"You,—God's work,—endowed as every conscious atom of His creation is endowed,—with the infinite germ of immortality ;—you, absorbed in the gathering together of such perishable trash as you conceive good for yourself on this planet,— you dare, in the puny reach of your mortal intelligence to dispute and question the everlasting things invisible! You, by the Creator's will, are permitted to see the Natural Universe,—but in mercy to you, the veil is drawn across the Super-natural! For such things as exist there would break your puny earth-brain as a frail shell is broken by a passing wheel,—and because you cannot see, you doubt! You doubt not only the surpassing Love and Wisdom that keeps you in ignorance till you shall be strong enough to bear full knowledge, but you doubt the very fact of such another universe itself! Arrogant fool!—your hours are counted by Supernatural time,—your days are compassed by Super-natural law, —your every thought, word, deed and look must go to make up the essence and shape of your being in Super-natural life hereafter,—and what you have been in your Soul here, must and shall be the aspect of your Soul there! That law knows no changing!"
The light about his face deepened,—he went on in clear accents that vibrated with the strangest music.
"Men make their own choice and form their own futures," he said. "And never let them dare to say they are not free to choose! From the uttermost reaches of high Heaven the Spirit of God descended to them as Man,—from the uttermost depths of lowest Hell, I, the Spirit of Rebellion, come, —equally as Man! But the God-in-Man was rejected and slain,—I, the Devil-in-Man live on, forever accepted and adored! Man's choice this is—not God's or mine! Were this self-seeking human race once to reject me utterly, I should exist no more as I am,—nor would they exist who are with me. Listen, while I trace your career !—it is a copy of the lives of many men;—and judge how little the powers of Heaven can have to do with you !—how much the powers of Hell!"
I shuddered involuntarily;—dimly I began to realize the awful nature of this unearthly interview.
"You, Geoffrey Tempest, are a man in whom a Thought of God was once implanted,—that subtle fire or note of music out of heaven, called Genius. So great a gift is rarely bestowed on any mortal,—and woe betide him, who having received it, holds it as of mere personal value, to be used for Self and not for God! Divine laws moved you gently in the right path of study,—the path of suffering, of disappointment, of self-denial and poverty,—for only by these things is humanity made noble, and trained in the ways of perfection. Through pain and enduring labour the soul is armed for battle, and strengthened for conquest. For it is more difficult to\ vbear a victory well, than to endure many buffetings of warjy But you,—you resented Heaven's good-will towards you,—the Valley of Humiliation suited you not at all. Poverty maddened you,—starvation sickened you. Yet poverty is better than arrogant wealth,—and starvation is healthier than selfindulgence! You could not wait,—your own troubles seemed to you enormous,—your own efforts laudable and marvellous, —the troubles and efforts of others were nothing to you;— you were ready to curse God and die. Compassionating yourself, admiring yourself and none other, with a heart full of bitterness, and a mouth full of cursing, you were eager to make quick havoc of both your genius and your soul. For this cause, your millions of money came and,—so did I J"
Standing now full height he confronted me,—his eyes were less brilliant, but, they reflected in their dark splendour a passionate scorn and sorrow.
"O fool!—in my very coming I warned you !—on the very day we met I told you I was not what I seemed! God's elements crashed a menace when we made our compact of friendship! And I,—when I saw the faint last struggle of the not quite torpid soul in you to resist and distrust me, did I not urge you to let that better instinct have its way? You,—jester with the Supernatural!—you,—base scoffer at Christ! A thousand hints have been given you,—a thousand chances of doing such good as must have forced me to leave you,—as would have brought me a welcome respite from sorrow,—a moment's cessation of torture!"
His brows contracted in a sombre frown,—he was silent a moment,—then he resumed—
"Now learn from me the weaving of the web you so willingly became entangled in! Your millions of money were Mine!—the man that left you heir to them, was a wretched miser, evil to the soul's core! By virtue of his own deeds he and his dross were Mine! and maddened by the sheer accumulation of world's wealth, he slew himself in a fit of frenzy. He lives again in a new and much more realistic phase of existence, and knows the actual value of mankind's cashpayments! This you have yet to learn !" ,
He advanced a step or two, fixing his eyes more steadily upon me.
"Wealth is like Genius,—bestowed not for personal gratification, but for the benefit of those who lack it. What have you done for your fellow-men? The very book you wrote and launched upon the tide of bribery and corruption, was published with the intention to secure applause for Yourself, not to give help or comfort to others. Your marriage was prompted by Lust and Ambition, and in the fair Sensuality you wedded, you got your deserts! No love was in the union,—it was sanctified by the blessing of Fashion, but not the blessing of God. You have done without God, so you think! Every act of your existence has been for the pleasure and advancement of Yourself,—and this is why I have chosen you out to hear and see what few mortals ever hear or see till they have passed the dividing-line between this life and the next. I have chosen you because you are a type of the apparently respected and unblamable man;—you are not what the world calls a criminal,—you have murdered no one,—you have stolen no neighbour's goods,—your unchastities and adulteries are those of every 'fashionable' vice-monger,—and your blasphemies against the Divine are no worse than those of the most approved modern magazine-contributors. You are guilty nevertheless of the chief crime of the age,—Sensual Egotism,—the blackest sin known to either angels or devils, because hopeless. The murderer may repent, and save a hundred lives to make up for the one he snatched,—the thief may atone with honest labour,—the adulterer may scourge his flesh and do grim penance for late pardon,—the blasphemer may retrieve his blasphemies,—but for the Egoist there is no chance of wholesome penitence, since to himself he is perfect, and counts his Creator as somewhat inferior! This present time of the world breathes Egotism,—the taint of Self, the hideous worship of money corrodes all life, all thought, all feeling. For vulgar cash, the fairest and noblest scenes of Nature are wantonly destroyed without protest,*—the earth, created in beauty, is made hideous,—parents and children, wives and husbands are ready to slay each other for a little gold,— Heaven is barred out,—God is denied,—and Destruction darkens over this planet, known to all angels as the Sorrowful Star! Be no longer blind, millionaire whose millions have ministered to Self without relieving sorrow!—for when the world is totally corrupt,—when Self is dominant,—when cunning supersedes honesty,—when gold is man's chief ambition,—when purity is condemned,—when poets teach lewdness, and scientists blasphemy,—when love is mocked, and God forgotten,—the End is near! I take My part in that end !—for the souls of mankind are not done with when they leave their fleshly tenements! When this planet is destroyed as a bubble broken in the air, the souls of men and women
• Witness the destruction of Foyers, to the historical shame and disgrace of Scotland.—AUTHOR.
live on,—as the soul of the woman you loved lives on,—as the soul of the mother who bore her lives on,—aye!—as all My worshippers live on through a myriad worlds, a myriad phases, till they learn to shape their destinies for Heaven! And I, with them live on, in many shapes, in many ways!— when they return to God cleansed and perfect, so shall I return !—but not till then!"
He paused again,—and I heard a faint sighing sound everywhere as of wailing voices, and the name "Ahrimanes !" was breathed suddenly upon the silence. I started up listening,
every nerve strained Ahrimanes?—orRimanez? I gazed
fearfully at him, … always beautiful, his countenance was now sublime, … and his eyes shone with a lustrous flame.
"You thought me friend!" he said. "You should have known me foe! For everyone who flatters a man for his virtues, or humours him in his vices, is that man's worst enemy, whether demon or angel! But you judged me a fitting comrade,—hence I was bound to serve you,—I and my followers with me. You had no perception to realize this,—you, supreme scorner of the Supernatural! Little did you think of the terrifying agencies that worked the wonders of your betrothal feast at Willowsmere! Little did you dream that fiends prepared the costly banquet and poured out the luscious wine!"
At this, a smothered groan of horror escaped me,—I looked wildly round me, longing to find some deep grave of oblivious rest wherein to fall.
"Aye!" he continued—"The festival was fitted to the time of the world to-day !—Society, gorging itself blind and senseless, and attended by a retinue from Hell! My servants looked like men!—for truly there is little difference 'twixt man and devil. 'Twas a brave gathering !—England has never seen so strange a one in all her annals!"
The sighing, wailing cries increased in loudness,—my limbs shook under me, and all power of thought was paralyzed in my brain. He bent his piercing looks upon me with a new expression of infinite wonder, pity and disdain.
"What a grotesque creation you men have made of Me!" he said—"as grotesque as your conception of God! With what trifling human attributes you have endowed me! Know you not that the changeless, yet ever-changing Essence of Immortal Life can take a million million shapes and yet remain unalterably the same? Were I as hideous as your Churches figure me,—could the eternal beauty with which all angels are endowed, ever change to such loathsomeness as haunts mankind's distorted imaginations, perchance it would be well,—for none would make of me their comrade, and none would cherish me as friend. As fits each separate human nature, so seems my image,—for thus is my fate and punishment commanded. Yet even in this mask of man I wear, men own me their superior,—think you not that when the Supreme Spirit of God wore that same mask on earth, men did not know Him for their Master? Yea, they did know,—and knowing, murdered Him,—as they ever strive to murder all divine things as soon as their divinity is recognised. Face to face I stood with Him upon the mountain-top, and there fulfilled my vow of temptation. Worlds and kingdoms, supremacies
and powers! what were they to the Ruler of them all!
'Get thee hence, Satan !' said the golden-sounding Voice,— ah !—glorious behest!—happy respite !—for I reached the very gate of Heaven that night, and heard the angels sing!"
His accents sank to an infinitely mournful cadence.
"What have your teachers done with Me and my eternal sorrows?" he went on. "Have not they, and the unthinking churches, proclaimed a lie against me, saying that I rejoice in evil? Oh, man to whom, by God's will and because the world's end draws nigh, I unveil a portion of the mystery of my doom, learn now once and for all, that there is no possible joy in evil! It is the despair and the discord of the Universe,—it is Man's creation,—My torment,—God's sorrow! Every sin of every human being adds weight to my torture, and length to my doom,—yet my oath against the world must be kept. I have sworn to tempt,—to do my uttermost to destroy mankind,—but man has not sworn to yield to my tempting. He is free !—let him resist, and I depart;—let him accept me, I remain! Eternal Justice has spoken,—Humanity, through the teaching of God made human, must work out its own redemption,—and Mine !''
Here, suddenly advancing, he stretched out his hand,—his figure grew taller, vaster and more majestic.
"Come with me now !" he said in a low penetrating voice that sounded sweet, yet menacing. "Come !—for the veil is down for you to-night! You shall understand with WHOM you have dwelt so long in your shifting cloud-castle of life!— and in What company you have sailed perilous seas!—one who, proud and rebellious, like you, errs less in that he owns GOD as his Master!"
At these words a thundering crash assailed my ears,—all the windows on either side of the saloon flew open, and showed a strange glitter as of steely spears pointed aloft to the moon, … then, … half-fainting, I felt myself grasped and lifted suddenly and forcibly upwards, … and in another moment found myself on the deck of 'The Flame,' held fast as a prisoner in the fierce grip of hands invisible. Raising my eyes in deadly despair,—prepared for hellish tortures, and with a horrible sense of conviction in my soul that it was too late to cry out to God for mercy,—I saw around me a frozen world!—a world that seemed as if the sun had never shone upon it. Thick glassy-green walls of ice pressed round the vessel on all sides and shut her in between their inflexible barriers,—fantastic palaces, pinnacles, towers, bridges and arches of ice, formed in their architectural outlines and groupings the semblance of a great city,—over all the coldly glistening peaks the round moon, emerald-pale, looked down,—and standing opposite to me against the mast, I beheld, … not Lucio, … but an Angel!