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Ayrault






Part of: SATURN
From: A Journey In Other Worlds

As the, night became darker they caught sight of the earth again,
shining very faintly, and in his mind's eye Ayrault saw his
sweetheart, and the old, old repining that, since reason and love
began, has been in men's minds, came upon him and almost crushed
him. Without saying anything to his companions, Ayrault left the
cave, and, passing through the grove in which the spirit had paid
them his second visit, went slowly to the top of the hill about
half a mile off, that he might the more easily gaze at the faint
star on which he could picture Sylvia.

"Ah!" he said to himself, on reaching the summit, "I will stay
here till the earth rises higher, and when it is far above me I
will gaze at it as at heaven."

Accordingly, he lay down with his head on a mound of sod, and
watched the familiar planet.

"We were born too soon," he soliloquized; "for had Sylvia and I
but lived in the spiritual age foretold by the bishop, we might
have held communion, while now our spirits, no matter how much in
love, are separated absolutely by a mere matter of distance. It
is a mockery to see Sylvia's dwelling-place, and feel that she is
beyond my vision. O that, in the absence of something better, my
poor imperfect eyes could be transformed into those of an eagle,
but with a million times the power! for though I know that with
these senses I shall see the resurrection, and hear the last
trump, that is but prospective, while now is the time I long for
sight."

On the plain he had left he saw his friends' camp-fire, while on
the other side of his elevation was a valley in which the insects
chirped sharply, and through which ran a stream. Feeling a
desire for solitude and to be as far removed as possible, he
arose and descended towards the water. Though the autumn, where
they found themselves, was well advanced, this night was warm,
and the rings formed a great arch above his head. Near the
stream the frogs croaked happily, as if unmindful of the long
very long Saturnian winter; for though they were removed but
about ten degrees from the equator, the sun was so remote and the
axis of the planet so inclined that it was unlikely these
individual frogs would see another summer, though they might live
again, in a sense, in their descendants. The insects also would
soon be frozen and stiff, and the tall, graceful lilies that
still clung to life would be withered and dead. The trees, as if
weeping at the evanescence of the life around them, shed their
leaves at the faintest breeze. These fluttered to the ground,
or, falling into the tranquil stream, were carried away by it,
and passed from sight. Ayrault stood musing and regretting the
necessity of such general death. "But," he thought, "I would
rather die than lose my love; for then I should have had the
taste of bliss without its fulfilment, and should be worse off
than dead. Love gilds the commonplace, and deifies all it
touches. Love survives the winter, and in my present frame of
mind I should prefer earth and cold with it to heaven and spring.
Oh, why is my soul so clogged by my body?"

A pillar of stone standing near him was suddenly shattered, and
the bishop stood where it had been.

"Because," said the spirit, answering his thought, "it has not
yet power to be free."

"Can a man's soul not rise till his body is dead? asked Ayrault.

The spirit hesitated.

"Oh, tell me," pleaded Ayrault. "If I could see the girl to whom
I am engaged, for but a moment, could be convinced that she loves
me still, my mind would be at rest. Free my soul or spirit, or
whatever it is, from this body, that I may traverse intervening
space and be with her."

"You will discover the way for yourself in time," said the spirit.

"I know I shall at the last day, in the resurrection, when I am
no longer in the flesh. Then I shall have no need of your aid;
for we, know that in the resurrection they neither marry nor are
given in marriage, but are like the angels of God in heaven. It
is while I am mortal, and love as mortals do, that I wish to see
my promised bride. A spirit may have other joys, and perhaps
higher; but you who have lived in the world and loved, show me
that which is now my heart's desire. You have shown us the tomb
in which Cortlandt will lie buried; now help me to go to one who
is still alive."

"I pray that God will grant you this," said the spirit, "and make
me His instrument, for I see the depth of your distress." Saying
which, he vanished, leaving no trace in his departure except that
the pillar of stone returned to its place.

With this rather vague hope, Ayrault set off to rejoin his
companions, for he felt the need of human sympathy. Saturn's
rapid rotation had brought the earth almost to the zenith, the
little point shining with the unmistakably steady ray of a
planet. Huge bats fluttered about him, and the great
cloud-masses swept across the sky, being part of Saturn's
ceaseless whirl. He found he was in a hypnotic or spiritualistic
state, for it was not necessary for him to have his eyes open to
know where he was. In passing one of the pools they had noticed,
he observed that the upper and previously invisible liquid had
the bright colour of gold, and about it rested a group of figures
enveloped in light.

"Why do you look so sad?" they asked. "You are in that abode of
departed spirits known as paradise, and should be happy."

"I suppose I should be happy, were I here as you are, as the
reward of merit," he replied. "But I am still in the flesh, and
as such am subject to its cares."

"You are about to have an experience," said another speaker.
"This day your doubts will be at rest, for before another sunset
you will know more of the woman you love."

The intensity of the spiritualistic influence here somewhat
weakened, for he partially lost sight of the luminous figures,
and could no longer hear what they said. His heart was in his
mouth as he walked, and he felt like a man about to set out on
his honeymoon, or like a bride who knows not whether to laugh or
to cry. An indescribable exhilaration was constantly present.

"I wonder," thought he, "if a caterpillar has these sensations
before becoming a butterfly? Though I return to the rock from
which I sprang, I believe I shall be with Sylvia to-day."

Footprints formed in the soft ground all around him, and the air
was filled with spots of phosphorescent light that coincided with
the relative positions of the brains, hearts, and eyes of human
beings. These surrounded and often preceded him, as though
leading him on, while the most heavenly anthems filled the air
and the vault of the sky.

"I believe," he thought, with bounding heart, "that I shall be
initiated into the mysteries of space this night."

At times he could hear even the words of the choruses ringing in
his ears, though at others he thought the effect was altogether
in his mind.

"Oh, for a proof," he prayed, "that no sane man can doubt! My
faith is implicit in the bishop and the vision, and I feel that
in some way I shall return to earth ere the close of another day,
for I know I am awake, and that this is no dream."

A fire burned in the mouth of the cave, within which Bearwarden
and Cortlandt lay sleeping. The specks of mica in the rocks
reflected its light, but in addition to this a diffused
phosphorescence filled the place, and the large sod-covered
stones they used for pillows emitted purple and dark red flames.

"Is that you, Dick?" asked Bearwarden, awaking and groping about.
"We built up the fire so that you should find the camp, but it
seems to have gone down." Saying which, he struck a match,
whereupon Ayrault ceased to see the phosphorescence or bluish
light. At that moment a peal of thunder awakened Cortlandt, who
sat up and rubbed his eyes.

"I think," said Ayrault, "I will go to the Callisto and get our
mackintoshes before the rain sets in." Whereupon he left his
companions, who were soon again fast asleep.

The sky had suddenly become filled with clouds, and Ayrault
hastened towards the Callisto, intending to remain there, if
necessary, until the storm was over. For about twenty minutes he
hurried on through the growing darkness, stopping once on high
ground to make sure of his bearings, and he had covered more than
half the distance when the rain came on in a flood, accompanied
by brilliant lightning. Seeing the huge, hollow trunk of a
fallen tree near, and not wishing to be wet through, Ayrault
fired several solid shots from his revolver into the cavity, to
drive out any wild animals there might be inside, and then
hurriedly crawled in, feet first. He next drew in his head, and
was congratulating himself on his snug retreat, when the sky
became lurid with a flash of lightning, then his head dropped
forward, and he was unconscious.





Next: Dreamland To Shadowland

Previous: Doctor Cortlandt Sees His Grave



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