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"Yes," replied Ayrault, sadly, "I am in love. I have no reason to believe there is cause for my unrest, and, considering every thing, I should be happy as man can be; yet, mirabile dictu, I am in--hades, in the very depths!"
"Your beloved is beyond my vision; your heart is all I can see. Yet I am convinced she will not forget you. I am sure she loves you still."
"I have always believed in homoeopathy to the extent of the similia similibus curantur, Violet, and it is certain that where nothing else will cure a man of love for one woman, his love for another will. You can see how I love Sylvia, but you have never seemed so sweet to me as to-day."
"It is a sacrilege, my friend, to speak so to me now. You are done with me forever. I am but a disembodied spirit, and escaped hades by the grace of the Omnipotent, rather than by virtue of any good I did on earth. So far as any elasticity is left in my opportunities, I am dead as yon moon. You have still the gift that but one can give. Within your animal body you hold an immortal soul. It is pliable as wax; you can mould it by your will. As you shape that soul, so will your future be. It is the ark that can traverse the flood. Raise it, and it will raise you. It is all there is in yourself. Preserve that gift, and when you die you will, I hope, start on a plane many thousands of years in advance of me. There should be no more comparison between us than between a person with all his senses and one that is deaf and blind. Though you are a layman, you should, with your faith and frame of mind, soon be but little behind our spiritual bishop."
"I supposed after death a man had rest. Is he, then, a bishop still?"
"The progress, as he told you, is largely on the old lines. As he stirred men's hearts on earth, he will stir their souls in heaven; and this is no irksome or unwelcome work."
"You say he WILL do this in heaven. Is he, then, not there yet?"
"He was not far from heaven on earth, yet technically none of us can be in heaven till after the general resurrection. Then, as we knew on earth, we shall receive bodies, though, as yet, concerning their exact nature we know but little more than then. We are all in sheol--the just in purgatory and paradise, the unjust in hell."
"Since you are still in purgatory, are you unhappy?"
"No, our state is very happy. All physical pain is past, and can never be felt again. We know that our evil desires are overcome, and that their imprints are being gradually erased. I occasionally shed an intangible tear, yet for most of those who strove to obey their consciences, purgatory, when essential, though occasionally giving us a bitter twinge, is a joy-producing state. Not all the glories imaginable or unimaginable could make us happy, were our consciences ill at ease. I have advanced slowly, yet some things are given us at once. After I realized I had irrevocably lost your love, though for a time I had hoped to regain it, I became very restless; earth seemed a prison, and I looked forward to death as my deliverer. I bore you no malice; you had never especially tried to win me; the infatuation--that of a girl of eighteen--had been all on my side. I lived five sad and lonely years, although, as you know, I had much attention. People thought me cold and heartless. How could I have a heart, having failed to win yours, and mine being broken? Having lost the only man I loved, I knew no one else could replace him, and I was not the kind to marry for pique. People thought me handsome, but I felt myself aged when you ceased to call. Perhaps when you and she who holds all your love come to sheol, she may spare you to me a little, for as a spirit my every thought is known; or perhaps after the resurrection, when I, too, can leave this planet, we shall all soar through space together, and we can study the stars as of old."
"Your voice is a symphony, sweetest Violet, and I love to hear your words. Ah, would you could once more return to earth, or that I were an ethereal spirit, that we might commune face to face! I would follow you from one end of Shadowland to the other. Of what use is life to me, with distractions that draw my thoughts to earth as gravitation drew my body? I wish I were a shade."
"You are talking for effect, Dick--which is useless here, for I see how utterly you are in love."
"I AM in love, Violet; and though, as I said, I have no reason to doubt Sylvia's steadfastness and constancy, I am very unhappy. I have always heard that time is a balsam that cures all ills, yet I become more wretched every day."
"Do all you can to preserve that love, and it will bring you joy all your life. Your happiness is my happiness. What distresses you, distresses me."
The tones here grew fainter and seemed about to cease.
"Before you leave me," cried Ayrault, "tell me how and when I may see or hear you again."
"While you remain on this planet, I shall be near; but beyond Saturn I cannot go."
"Yet tell me, Violet, how I may see you? My love unattained, you perceive, makes me wretched, while you always gave me calm and peace. If I may not kiss the hand I almost asked might be mine, let me have but a glance from your sweet eyes, which will comfort me so much now."
"If you break the ice in the pool behind you, you shall see me till the frame melts."
After this the silence was broken only by the sighing of the wind in the trees. The pool had suddenly become covered with ice several inches thick. Taking an axe, Ayrault hewed out a parallelogram about three feet by four and set it on end against the bank. The cold grey of morning was already colouring the east, and in the growing light Ayrault beheld a vision of Violet within the ice. The face was at about three fourths, and had a contemplative air. The hair was arranged as he had formerly seen it, and the thoughtful look was strongest in the beautiful grey eyes, which were more serious than of yore. Ayrault stood riveted to the spot and gazed. "I could have been happy with her," he mused, and to think she is no more!"
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A Journey in Other Worlds -by- J. J. Astor