“There is something, after all, in the unguessed riddle of the Sphinx. It is not a fable; it is a truth. There is a problem to be solved, and that monstrous creature knows it! The woman’s face, the brute’s body—Spiritualism and Materialism in one! It is life, and more than life; it is love. Forever and forever it teaches the same wonderful, terrible mystery. We aspire, yet we fall; love would fain give us wings wherewith to fly; but the wretched body lies prone—supine; it cannot soar to the Light Eternal.”
“What is the Light Eternal?” queried Gervase, moodily. “How do we know it exists? We cannot prove it. This world is what we see; we have to do with it and ourselves. Soul without body could not exist. ...”
“Could it not?” said the Doctor. “How, then, does body exist without soul?”
This was an unexpected but fair question, and Gervase found himself curiously perplexed by it. He offered no reply, neither did Denzil, and they all three slowly entered the Mena House Hotel, there to be met with deferential salutations by the urbane and affable landlord, and to be assured that they would find their rooms comfortable, and also that “Madame la Princesse Ziska” expected them to dine with her that evening. At this message, Denzil Murray made a sign to Gervase that he wished to speak to him alone. Gervase move aside with him.
“Give me my chance!” said Denzil, fiercely.
“Take it!” replied Gervase listlessly. “Let to-night witness the interchange of hearts between you and the Princess; I shall not interfere.”
Denzil stared at him in sullen astonishment.
“You will not interfere? Your fancy for her is at an end?”
Gervase raised his dark, glowing eyes and fixed them on his would-be rival with a strange and sombre expression.
“My ‘fancy’ for her? My good boy, take care what you say! Don’t rouse me too far, for I am dangerous! My ‘fancy’ for her! What do you know of it? You are hot-blooded and young; but the chill of the North controls you in a fashion, while I—a man in the prime of manhood—am of the South, and the Southern fire brooks no control. Have you seen a quiet ocean, smooth as glass, with only a dimple in the deep blue to show that perhaps, should occasion serve, there might arise a little wave?