As we waited, I felt, more and more, the sense of the mysterious, the secret, the unknown which have always exercised a powerful attraction on the human mind. Even the aeroplane and the submarine, the X-ray and wireless have not banished the occult.
In it, I felt, there was fascination for the frivolous and deep appeal to the intellectual and spiritual. The Temple of the Occult had evidently been designed to appeal to both types. I wondered how, like Lucifer, it had fallen. The prime requisite, I could guess already, however, was—money. Was it in its worship of the root of all evil that it had fallen?
We passed soon into another room, hung entirely in red, with weird, cabalistic signs all about, on the walls. It was uncanny, creepy.
A huge reproduction in plaster of one of the most sardonic of Notre Dame’s gargoyles seemed to preside over everything—a terrible figure in such an atmosphere.
As we entered, we were struck by the blinding glare of the light, in contrast with the darkened room in which we had passed our brief novitiate, if it might be called such.
Suddenly the lights were extinguished.
The great gargoyle shone with an infernal light of its own!
“Phosphorescent paint,” whispered Kennedy to me.
Still, it did not detract from the weird effect to know what caused it.
There was a startling noise in the general hush.
“Sata!” cried one of the devotees.
A door opened and there appeared the veritable priest of the Devil—pale of face, nose sharp, mouth bitter, eyes glassy.
“That is Rapport,” Vaughn whispered to me.
The worshipers crowded forward.
Without a word, he raised his long, lean forefinger and began to single them out impressively. As he did so, each spoke, as if imploring aid.
He came to Mrs. Langhorne.
“I have tried the charm,” she cried earnestly, “and the one whom I love still hates me, while the one I hate loves me!”
“Concentrate!” replied the priest, “concentrate! Think always ’I love him. He must love me. I want him to love me. I love him. He must love me.’ Over and over again you must think it. Then the other side, ’I hate him. He must leave me. I want him to leave me. I hate him—hate him.’”
Around the circle he went.
At last his lean finger was outstretched at Veda. It seemed as if some imp of the perverse were compelling her unwilling tongue to unlock its secrets.
“Sometimes,” she cried in a low, tremulous voice, “something seems to seize me, as if by the hand and urge me onward. I cannot flee from it.”
“Defend yourself!” answered the priest subtly. “When you know that some one is trying to kill you mentally, defend yourself! Work against it by every means in your power. Discourage! Intimidate! Destroy!”
I marveled at these cryptic utterances. They shadowed a modern Black Art, of which I had had no conception—a recrudescence in other language of the age-old dualism of good and evil. It was a sort of mental malpractice.