“Why, that beginning of the soul in protoplasm is part of a creed which the Princess Ziska was trying to teach me to-day,” he said lightly. “It’s all no use. I don’t believe in the soul; if I did, I should be a miserable man.”
“Why?” asked Murray.
“Why? Because, my dear fellow, I should be rather afraid of my future. I should not like to live again; I might have to remember certain incidents which I would rather forget. There is your charming sister, Mademoiselle Helen! I must go and talk to her,— her conversation always does me good; and after that picture which I have been unfortunate enough to produce, her presence will be as soothing as the freshness of morning after an unpleasant nightmare.”
He moved away; Denzil Murray with Courtney followed him. Dr. Dean remained behind, and presently sitting down in a retired corner of the garden alone, he took out a small pocket-book and stylographic pen and occupied himself for more than half an hour in busily writing till he had covered two or three pages with his small, neat caligraphy.
“It is the most interesting problem I ever had the chance of studying!” he murmured half aloud when he had finished, “Of course, if my researches into the psychic spheres of action are worth anything, it can only be one case out of thousands. Thousands? Aye, perhaps millions! Great heavens! Among what terrific unseen forces we live! And in exact proportion to every man’s arrogant denial of the ’Divinity that shapes our ends, so will be measured out to him the revelation of the invisible. Strange that the human race has never entirely realized as yet the depth of meaning in the words describing hell: ’Where the worm dieth not, and where the flame is never quenched. The ‘worm’ is Retribution, the ‘flame’ is the immortal Spirit,—and the two are forever striving to escape from the other. Horrible! And yet there are men who believe in neither one thing nor the other, and reject the Redemption that does away with both! God forgive us all our sins,—and especially the sins of pride and presumption!”
And with a shade of profound melancholy on his features, the little Doctor put by his note-book, and, avoiding all the hotel loungers on the terrace and elsewhere, retired to his own room and went to bed.
The next day when Armand Gervase went to call on the Princess Ziska he was refused admittance. The Nubian attendant who kept watch and ward at her gates, hearing the door-bell ring, contented himself with thrusting his ugly head through an open upper window and shouting—
“Madame est sortie!”
“Ou donc?” called Gervase in answer.
“A la campagne—le desert—les pyramides!” returned the Nubian, at the same time banging the lattice to in order to prevent the possibility of any further conversation. And Gervase, standing in the street irresolutely for a moment, fancied he heard a peal of malicious laughter in the distance.