’So much the better; it is a foolish custom. Will you please conduct me to the room? I must pray where he lies—no longer he! And be good enough to show me my bedroom, and so no one need wait up, and I shall find my way.’
Accompanied by the man who carried his valise, Mrs. Rusk showed him to his apartment; but he only looked in, and then glanced rapidly about to take ‘the bearings’ of the door.
’Thank you—yes. Now we’ll proceed, here, along here? Let me see. A turn to the right and another to the left—yes. He has been dead some days. Is he yet in his coffin?’
‘Yes, sir; since yesterday afternoon.’
Mrs. Rusk was growing more and more afraid of this lean figure sheathed in shining black cloth, whose eyes glittered with a horrible sort of cunning, and whose long brown fingers groped before him, as if indicating the way by guess.
‘But, of course, the lid’s not on; you’ve not screwed him down, hey?’
’That’s well. I must look on the face as I pray. He is in his place; I here on earth. He in the spirit; I in the flesh. The neutral ground lies there. So are carried the vibrations, and so the light of earth and heaven reflected back and forward—apaugasma, a wonderful though helpless engine, the ladder of Jacob, and behold the angels of God ascending and descending on it. Thanks, I’ll take the key. Mysteries to those who will live altogether in houses of clay, no mystery to such as will use their eyes and read what is revealed. This candle, it is the longer, please; no—no need of a pair, thanks; just this, to hold in my hand. And remember, all depends upon the willing mind. Why do you look frightened? Where is your faith? Don’t you know that spirits are about us at all times? Why should you fear to be near the body? The spirit is everything; the flesh profiteth nothing.’
‘Yes, sir,’ said Mrs. Rusk, making him a great courtesy in the threshold.
She was frightened by his eerie talk, which grew, she fancied, more voluble and energetic as they approached the corpse.
’Remember, then, that when you fancy yourself alone and wrapt in darkness, you stand, in fact, in the centre of a theatre, as wide as the starry floor of heaven, with an audience, whom no man can number, beholding you under a flood of light. Therefore, though your body be in solitude and your mortal sense in darkness, remember to walk as being in the light, surrounded with a cloud of witnesses. Thus walk; and when the hour comes, and you pass forth unprisoned from the tabernacle of the flesh, although it still has its relations and its rights’—and saying this, as he held the solitary candle aloft in the doorway, he nodded towards the coffin, whose large black form was faintly traceable against the shadows beyond—’you will rejoice; and being clothed upon with your house from on high, you will not be found naked. On the other hand, he that loveth corruption shall have enough thereof. Think upon these things. Good-night.’