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Hic Ille Jacet






Part of: SATURN
From: A Journey In Other Worlds

At daybreak the thunder-shower passed off, but was followed by a
cold, drenching rain. Supposing Ayrault had remained in the
Callisto, Bearwarden and Cortlandt did not feel anxious, and, not
wishing to be wet through, remained in the cave, keeping up a
good fire with the wood they had collected. Towards evening a
cold wind came up, and, thinking this might clear the air, they
ventured out, but, finding the ground saturated, and that the
rain was again beginning to fall, they returned to shelter,
prepared a dinner of canned meat, and made themselves as
comfortable as possible for the night.

"I am surprised," said Cortlandt, "that Dick did not try to
return to us, since he had the mackintoshes."

"I dare say he did try," replied Bearwarden, "but finding the
course inundated, and knowing we should not need the mackintoshes
if we remained under cover, decided to put back. The Callisto
is, of course, as safe as a church."

"I hope," said Cortlandt, "no harm has come to him on the way.
It will be a weight off my mind to see him safely with us."

"Should he not turn up in the morning," replied Bearwarden, "we
must begin a search for him bright and early."

Making up the fire as near the entrance of the cave as they could
find a dry place, so that Ayrault should see it if he attempted
to return during the night, they piled on wood, and talked of
their recent experiences.

"However unwilling I was," said Cortlandt, "to believe my senses,
which I felt were misleading me, I can no longer doubt the
reality of that spirit bishop, or the truth of what be says.
When you look at the question dispassionately, it is what you
might logically expect. In my desire to disprove what is to us
supernatural, I tried to create mentally a system that would be a
substitute for the one he described, but could evolve nothing
that so perfectly filled the requirements, or that was so simple.
Nothing seems more natural than that man, having been evolved
from stone, should continue his ascent till he discards material
altogether. The metamorphism is more striking in the first
change than in the second. Granted that the soul is immaterial,
and that it leaves the body after death, what is there to keep it
on earth? Gravitation cannot affect it. What is more likely
than that it is left behind by the earth in its orbit, or that it
continues its forward motion, but in a straight line, till,
reaching the paths of the greater planets, it is drawn to them by
some affinity or attraction that the earth does not possess, and
that the souls held in that manner remain here on probation,
developing like young animals or children, till, by gradually
acquired power, resulting from their wills, they are able to rise
again into space, to revisit the earth, and in time to explore
the universe? It might easily come about that, by some
explainable sympathy, the infant good souls are drawn to this
planet, while the condemned pass on to Cassandra, which holds
them by some property peculiar to itself, until perhaps they,
too, by virtue of their wills, acquire new power, unless
involution sets in and they lose what they have. The simplicity
of the thing is what surprises me now, and that for ages
philosophers have been racking their brains with every
conceivable fancy, when, by simply extending and following
natural laws, they could discern the whole."

"It is the old story," said Bearwarden, "of Columbus and the egg.
Schopenhouer and his predecessors appear to have tried every idea
but the right one, and even Darwin and Huxley fell short in their
reasoning, because they tried to obtain more or less than four by
putting two with two."

Thus they sat and talked while the night wore on. Neither
thought of sleeping, hoping all the while that Ayrault might walk
in as he had the night before.

At last the dawn began to tint the east, and the growing light
showed them that the storm had passed. The upper strata of
Saturn's atmosphere being filled with infinitesimal particles of
dust, as a result of its numerous volcanoes, the conditions were
highly favourable to beautiful sunrises and sunsets. Soon
coloured streaks extended far into the sky, and though they knew
that when the sun's disc appeared it would seem small, it filled
the almost boundless eastern horizon with the most variegated and
gorgeous hues.

Turning away from the welcome sight--for their minds were ill at
ease--they found the light strong enough for their search to
begin. Writing on a sheet of paper, in a large hand, "Have gone
to the Callisto to look for you; shall afterwards return here,"
they pinned this in a conspicuous place and set out due west,
keeping about a hundred yards apart. The ground was wet and
slippery, but overhead all was clear, and the sun soon shone
brightly. Looking to right and left, and occasionally shouting
and discharging their revolvers, they went on for half an hour.

"I have his tracks," called Bearwarden, and Cortlandt hastened to
join him.

In the soft ground, sure enough, they saw Ayrault's footprints,
and, from the distance between them, concluded that he must have
been running or walking very fast; but the rain had washed down
the edges of the incision. The trail ascended a gentle slope,
where they lost it; but on reaching the summit they saw it again
with the feet together, as though Ayrault had paused, and about
it were many other impressions with the feet turned in, as if the
walkers or standers had surrounded Ayrault, who was in the
centre.

"I hope," said Cortlandt, "these are nothing more than the
footprints we have seen formed about ourselves."

"See," said Bearwarden, "Dick's trail goes on, and the others
vanish. They cannot have been made by savages or Indians, for
they seem to have had weight only while standing."

They then resumed their march, firing a revolver shot at
intervals of a minute. Suddenly they came upon a tall, straight
tree, uprooted by the wind and lying diagonally across their
path. Following with their eyes the direction in which it lay,
they saw a large, hollow trunk, with the bark stripped off, and
charred as if struck by lightning. Obliged to pass near this by
the uprooted tree-whose thick trunk, upheld by the branches at
the head, lay raised about two feet from the ground-- both
searchers gave a start, and stood still as if petrified. Inside
the great trunk they saw a head, and, on looking more closely,
descried Ayrault's body. Grasping it by the arms, they drew it
out. The face was pale and the limbs were stiff. Instantly
Cortlandt unfastened the collar, while Bearwarden applied a flask
to the lips. But they soon found that their efforts were vain.

"The spirit!" ejaculated Cortlandt. "Dick may be in a trance, in
which case he can help us. Let us will hard and long."

Accordingly, they threw themselves on their faces, closing their
eyes, that nothing might distract their concentration. Minutes,
which seemed like ages, passed, and there was no response.

"Now," said Bearwarden, "will together, hard."

Suddenly the stillness was broken by the spirit's voice, which
said:

"I felt more than one mind calling, but the effect was so slight
I thought first I was mistaken. I will help you in what you
want, for the young man is not dead, neither is he injured."

Saying which, he stretched himself upon Ayrault, worked his lungs
artificially, and willed with an intensity the observers could
feel where they stood. Quickly the colour returned to Ayrault's
cheeks, and with the spirit's assistance he sat up and leaned
against the tree that had protected him from the storm.

"Your promise was realized," he said, addressing the spirit. "I
have seen what I shall never forget, and lest the anguish--the
vision of which I saw--come true, let us return to the earth, and
not leave it till I have tasted in reality the joys that in the
spirit I seemed to have missed. I have often longed in this life
to be in the spirit, but never knew what longing was, till I
experienced it as a spirit, to be once more in the flesh."

"You see the mercy of God," said the spirit, "in not ordinarily
allowing the spirits of the departed to revisit earth until they
are prepared--that is, until they are sufficiently advanced to go
there unaided--by which time they have come to understand the
wisdom of God's laws. In your case the limiting laws were
partially suspended, so that you were able to return at once,
with many of the faculties and senses of spirits, but without
their accumulated experience. It speaks well for your state of
preparation that, without having had those disguised blessings,
illness or misfortune, you were not utterly crushed by what you
saw when temporarily released. While in the trance you were not
in hell, but experienced the feelings that all mortals would if
allowed to return immediately. Thus no lover can return to earth
till his fiancee has joined him here, or till, perceiving the
benevolence of God's ways, he is not distressed at what he sees,
and has the companionship of a host of kindred spirits.

"The spirits you saw in the cemetery were indeed in hell, but had
become sufficiently developed to revisit the earth, though doing
so did not relieve their distress; for neither the development of
their senses, which intensifies their capacity for remorse and
regret, nor their investigations into God's boundless mercies,
which they have deliberately thrown away, can comfort them.

"Some of your ancestors are on Cassandra, and others are in
purgatory here. Though a few faintly felt your prayer, none were
able to return and answer beside their graves. It was at your
request and prayer that He freed your spirit, but you see how
unhappy it made you."

"I see," replied Ayrault, "that no man should wish to anticipate
the workings of the Almighty, although I have been unspeakably
blessed in that He made an exception--if I may so call it--in my
favour, since, in addition to revealing the responsibilities of
life, it has shown me the inestimable value and loyalty of
woman's love. I fear, however, that my return to earth greatly
distressed the waterer of the flowers you showed me."

"She already sleeps," replied the spirit, "and I have comforted
her by a dream in which she sees that you are well."

"When shall we start?" asked Bearwarden.

"As soon as you can get ready," replied Ayrault. "I would not
risk running short of enough current to generate the apergy
needed to get us back. I dare say when I have been on earth a
few years, and have done something for the good of my
soul--which, as I take it, can be accomplished as well by
advancing science as in any other way--I shall pine for another
journey in space as I now do to return."

"How I wish I were engaged," said Bearwarden, glancing at
Cortlandt, and overjoyed at Ayrault's recovery.

Accordingly, they resumed their march in the direction in which
they had been going when they found Ayrault, and were soon beside
the Callisto. Cortlandt worked the combination lock of the lower
entrance, through which they crawled. Going to the second story,
they opened a large window and let down a ladder, on which the
spirit ascended at their invitation.

Bearwarden and Ayrault immediately set about combining the
chemicals that were to produce the force necessary to repel them
from Saturn. Bubbles of hydrogen were given off from the lead
and zinc plates, and the viscous primary batteries quickly had
the wires passing through a vacuum at a white heat.

"I see you are nearly ready to start," said the spirit, "so I
must say farewell."

"Will you not come with us?" asked Ayrault.

"No," replied the spirit. "I do not wish to be away as long as
it will take you to reach the earth. The Callisto's atmosphere
could not absorb my body, so that, should I leave you before your
arrival, you would be burdened with a corpse. I may visit you in
the spirit, though the desire and effort for communion with
spirits, to be of most good, must needs come from the earth. Ere
long, my intuition tells me, we shall meet again.

"The vision of your own grave," he continued, addressing
Cortlandt, "may not come true for many years, but however long
your lives may be, according to earthly reckoning, remember that
when they are past they will seem to have been hardly more than a
moment, for they are the personification of frailty and
evanescence."

He held up his hands and blessed them; and then repeating,
"Farewell and a happy return!" descended as he had come up.

The air was filled with misty shadows, and the pulsating hearts,
luminous brains, and centres of spiritual activity quivered with
motion. They surrounded the incarnate spirit of the bishop and
set up the soft, musical hum the travellers had heard so often
since their arrival on Saturn.

"I now understand," thought Ayrault, "why the spirits I met kept
repeating that I should be happy. They perceived I was to be
translated, and though they doubtless knew what suffering it
would cause, they also knew I should be awakened to a sense of
great realities, of which I understood but little."

They drew up the ladder and turned on the current, and the
Callisto slowly began to rise, while the three friends crowded
the window.

"Good-bye!" called the spirit's pleasant voice, to which the men
replied in chorus.

The sun had set on the surface of the planet while they made
their preparations; but as the Callisto rose higher, it seemed to
rise again, making the sides of their car shine like silver, and,
carefully closing the two open windows, they watched the
fast-receding world, so many times larger and more magnificent
than their own.





Next: Control Group

Previous: The Priest's Sermon



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