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A Wanderer in the Sprit Lands, by Franchezzo (A. Farnese), [1896], at

CHAPTER III.--Hope--Wanderings on the Earth Plane--A Door of Spiritual Sight

I know not how long this lasted; it seemed a long, long time to me. I was sitting wrapped still in my despair when I heard a voice gentle and soft calling to me--the voice of my beloved--and I felt compelled to rise and follow that voice till it should lead me to her; and as I rose to go the thread which had so bound me seemed to stretch and stretch till I scarce felt its pressure, and I was drawn on and on till at last I found myself in a room which, I could dimly see, even in the darkness that always surrounded me, was familiar to my eyes. It was the home of my beloved one, and in that room I had passed, ah! how many peaceful happy hours in that time which seemed now separated from me by so wide and awful a gulf. She sat at a little table with a sheet of paper before her and a pencil in her hand. She kept repeating my name and saying: "Dearest of friends, if the dead ever return, come back to me, and try if you can make me write a few words from you, even 'yes' or 'no' in answer to my questions."

For the first time since I had died I saw her with a faint smile upon her lips and a look of hope and expectation in those dear eyes that were so heavy with weeping for me. The dear face looked so pale and sad with her grief and I felt--ah! how I felt--the sweetness of the love she had given me, and which now less than ever dare I hope to claim.

Then I saw three other forms beside her, but they I knew were spirits, yet how unlike myself. These spirits were bright, radiant, so that I could not bear to look at them; the sight seemed to scorch my eyes as with a fire. One was a man, tall, calm, dignified-looking, who bent over her to protect her as her guardian angel might. Beside him stood two fair young men whom I knew at once to be those brothers whom she had so often spoken of to me. They had died when youth with all its pleasures was before them, and their memories were shrined in her heart as those who were now angels. I shrank back, for I felt they saw me, and I sought to cover my disfigured face and form with the dark mantle which I wore. Then my pride awoke, and I said: "Has not she herself called me? I have come, and shall not she be the arbiter of my destiny? Is it so irrevocable that nothing I can do, no sorrow, no repentance however deep, no deeds however great, no work however hard, can reverse it? Is there indeed no hope beyond the grave?"

And a voice, the voice I had heard before at my own grave, answered me: "Son of grief, is there no hope on earth for those who sin? Does not even man forgive the sinner who has wronged him if the sin be repented of and pardon sought? And shall God be less merciful, less just? Hast thou repentance even now? Search thine own heart and see whether it is for thyself or for those thou hast wronged that thou art sorry?"

And I knew as he spoke that I did not truly repent. I only suffered. I only loved and longed. then again my beloved spoke and asked me, if I were there and could hear her, to try and write one word through her hand that she might know I still lived, still thought of her.

My heart seemed to rise into my throat and choke me, and I drew near to try if I could move her hand, could touch it even. But the tall spirit came between us, and I was forced to draw back. Then he spoke and said: "Give your words to me and I will cause her hand to write them down for you. I will do this for her sake, and because of the love she has for you."

A great wave of joy swept over me at his words, and I would have taken his hand and kissed it but could not. My hand seemed scorched by his brightness ere I could touch him, and I bowed myself before him for I thought he must be one of the angels.

My beloved spoke once more and said: "Are you here, dearest friend?"

I answered, "Yes," and then I saw the spirit put his hand on her, and when he did so her hand wrote the word "yes." Slowly and unsteadily it moved, like a child's learning to write. Ah! how she smiled, and again she asked me a question, and as before her own hand traced out my answer. She asked me if there were anything she could do for me, any wish of mine that she could help me to carry out? I said: "No! not now. I would go away now and torment her no more with my presence. I would let her forget me now."

My heart was so sore as I spoke, so bitter; and ah! how sweet to me was her reply, how it touched my soul to hear her say: "Do not say that to me, for I would ever be your truest, dearest friend, as I was in the past, and since you died my one thought has been to find you and to speak with you again."

And I answered, I called out to her, "It has been my only wish also."

She then asked if I would come again, and I said "Yes!" For where would I not have gone for her? What would I not have done? Then the bright spirit said she must write no more that night. He made her hand write that also and said she should go to rest.

I felt myself now drawn away once more back to my grave and to my earthly body in that dark churchyard; but not to the same hopeless sense of misery. In spite of everything a spark of hope had risen in my heart, and I knew I should see and speak with her again.

But now I found I was not alone there. Those two spirits who were her brothers had followed me, and now spoke. I shall not state all they said. Suffice it to say they pointed out to me how wide was now the gulf between their sister and myself, and asked me if I desired to shadow all her young life with my dark presence. If I left her now, she would, in time, forget me, except as one who had been a dear friend to her. She could always think tenderly of my memory, and surely if I loved her truly I would not wish to make all her young life lonely and desolate for my sake.

I replied that I loved her, and could never bear to leave her, never bear to think of any other, loving her as I had done.

Then they spoke of myself and my past, and asked if I dared to think of linking myself with her pure life, even in the misty fashion in which I still hoped to do? How could I hope that when she died I should meet her? She belonged to a bright sphere to which I could not hope for a long time to rise, and would it not be better for her, and nobler, more truly loving of me, to leave her to forget me and to find what happiness in life could yet be given to her, rather than seek to keep alive a love that could only bring her sorrow?

I said faintly I thought she loved me. They said: "Yes, she loves you as she herself has idealized your image in her mind, and as she in her innocence has painted your picture. Do you think if she knew all your story she would love you? Would she not shrink back in horror from you? Tell her the truth, give her the choice of freedom from your presence, and you will have acted a nobler part and shown a truer love than in deceiving her and seeking to tie her to a being like yourself. If you truly love her, think of her and her happiness, and what will bring it--not of yourself alone."

Then the hope within me died out, and I bowed my head to the dust in shame and agony, for I knew that I was vile and in no way fit for her, and I saw as in a glass what her life might still be freed from mine. She might know happiness yet with another more worthy than I had been, while with my love I would only drag her down into sadness with me. For the first time in my life I put the happiness of another before my own, and because I so loved her and would have had her happy, I said to them: "Let it be so, then. Tell her the truth, and let her say but one kind word to me in farewell, and I will go from her and darken her life with the shadow of mine no more."

So we went back to her, and I saw her as she slept exhausted with her sorrow for me. I pleaded that they would let me give her one kiss, the first and last that I would ever give. But they said no, that was impossible, for my touch would snap forever the thread that held her still to life.

Then they awoke her and made her write down their words, while I stood by and heard each word fall as a nail in the coffin where they were burying my last hope forever. She, as one in a dream, wrote on, till at last the whole shameful story of my life was told, and I had but to tell her myself that all was forever at an end between us, and she was free from my sinful presence and my selfish love. I said adieu to her. As drops of blood wrung from my heart were those words, and as ice they fell upon her heart and crushed it. Then I turned and left her--how, I know not--but as I went I felt the cord that had tied me to my grave and my earthly body snap, and I was free--free to wander where I would--alone in my desolation!

And then? Ah, me! While I write the words the tears of thankfulness are in my eyes again, and I almost break down in trying to write them; then she whom we had deemed so weak and gentle that we had but to decide for her, she called me back with all the force of a love none dare oppose--called me back to her. She said she could never give me up so long as I had love for her. "Let your past be what it might; let you be sunk now even to the lowest depths of hell itself, I will still love you, still seek to follow you and claim my right--the right of my love--to help and comfort and cherish you till God in his mercy shall have pardoned your past and you shall be raised up again." And then it was that I broke down and wept as only a strong proud man can weep, whose heart has been wrung and bruised and hardened, and then touched by the soft tender touch of a loving hand till the tears must come to his relief.

I went back to my love and knelt down beside her, and though they would not let me touch her, that calm beautiful spirit who was her guardian whispered to her that her prayer was answered, and that she should indeed lead me back to the light. And so I left my darling, and as I passed away I saw a white angel's form hover over her to give her strength and comfort, who was herself my angel of light. I left her thus with those spirits, and went forth to wander till her voice should call me to her side again.

After the short troubled sleep into which those bright spirits had put her, my darling awoke the next day, and went to visit a kind good man whom she had discovered in her efforts to find some way by which she might reach me even beyond the grave.

If it might be that what she had been told about those people who were called Spiritualists was really true, she hoped through their aid to speak again with me, and prompted by those who were watching over her, she had searched out this man who was known as a healing medium, and by him she had been told that if she herself tried, she could write messages from the so-called dead.

This I did not learn till later. At the time I only felt myself summoned by the voice of her whose power over me was so great, and in obedience to it I found myself standing in what I could dimly distinguish to be a small room. I say dimly, because all was still dark to me save only where the light around my darling shone as a star and showed faintly what was near.

It was to this good man of whom I speak that she had gone, and it was her voice speaking to him that had drawn me. She was telling him what had passed the night before, and how much she loved me, and how she would gladly give all her life if by so doing she could comfort and help me. And that man spoke such kind words to her--from my heart I thanked and still thank him for them. He gave me so much hope. He pointed out to my dear love that the ties of the earth body are broken at its death, and I was free to love her and she was free to return that love--that she herself better than any other could in truth help to raise me, for her love would give me comfort and hope as nothing else would do, and would cheer my path of repentant effort. And she had now the best of rights to give it, my love for her had been so pure and true a passion, while hers for me was stronger than death itself, since it had overcome the barrier of death. He was so kind, this man--he helped me to speak to her, and to explain many things as I could not have done the night before when my heart was so sore and full of pride. He helped me to tell what of excuse there had been for me in the past, though I owned that nothing can truly excuse our sins. He let me tell her that in spite of all the wrong of my past she had been to me as one sacred--loved with a love I had given to none but herself. He soothed and strengthened her with a kindness for which I blessed him even more than for his help to myself, and when she left him at last I, too, went with her to her home, the light of hope in both our hearts.

And when we got there I found that a fresh barrier was raised up by those two spirit brothers and others to whom she was dear; an invisible wall surrounded her through which I could not pass, and though I might follow her about I could not get very near. Then I said to myself that I would go back to the kind man and see if he would help me.

My wish seemed to carry me back, for I soon found myself there again. He was at once conscious of my presence, and strange as it may seem, I found that he could understand much, although not all, that I said to him. He gathered the sense of what I wanted to say, and told me many things I shall not set down here since they concerned only myself. He assured me that if I were only patient all would be well in time, and though the relations might build their spiritual wall around my love, her will would at all times draw me through it to her, and nothing could shut out her love from me; no walls could keep that back. If I would seek now to learn the things of the spirit, and work to advance myself, the gulf between us would disappear. Comforted I left him and wandered away again, I knew not where.

I was now beginning to be dimly conscious that there were other beings like myself flitting about near me in the darkness, though I could scarce see them. I was so lost and lonely that I thought of going back to my grave again, as it was the spot most familiar to me, and my thought seemed to take me back, for soon I was there once more.

The flowers that my love had brought me were faded now. She had not been there for two days; since speaking to me she seemed to forget the body that was laid away in the earth, and this to me was well, and I would have had it so. It was well for her to forget the dead body and think only of the living spirit.

Even these withered flowers spoke of her love, and I tried to pick up one, a white rose, to carry away with me. I found I could not lift it, could not move it in the least. My hand passed through it as though it was but the reflection of a rose.

I moved round to where there was a white marble cross at the head of the grave, and I saw there the names of my beloved one's two brothers. Then I knew what she had done in her love for me; she had laid my body to rest beside those she had loved best of all. My heart was so touched that again I wept, and my tears fell like dew upon my heart and melted away its bitterness.

I was so lonely that at last I rose and wandered away again amongst other dark wandering shapes, few of whom even turned to look at me; perhaps like myself they scarcely saw. Presently, however, three dark forms which seemed like two women and a man passed near me, and then turned and followed. The man touched my arm and said: "Where are you bound for? Surely you are newly come over to this side, or you would not hurry on so; none hurry here because we all know we have eternity to wander in." Then he laughed a laugh so cold and harsh in tone it made me shudder. One of the women took my arm on one side and one on the other, saying: "Come away with us and we will show you how you may enjoy life even though you are dead! If we have not got bodies to enjoy ourselves through we will borrow them from some mortals for a little. Come with us and we will show you that all pleasure is not ended yet."

In my loneliness I was glad to have some being to speak to, that although they were all three most repulsive looking--the women to my mind even more so than the man--I felt inclined to let them lead me away and see what would happen, and I had even turned to accompany them when afar off in the dim distance, like a picture traced in light on a black sky, I saw the spirit form of my pure sweet love. Her eyes were closed as I had seen her in my first vision, but as before her hands were stretched out to me and her voice fell like a voice from heaven on my ears, saying: "Oh! take care! take care! go not with them; they are not good, and their road leads only to destruction." Then the vision was gone, and as one waking from a dream I shook those three persons from me and hurried away again in the darkness. How long and how far I wandered I know not. I kept hurrying on to get away from the memories that haunted me and I seemed to have all space to wander in.

At last I sat down on the ground to rest--for there seemed to be ground solid enough to rest upon--and while I sat there I saw glimmering through the darkness a light. As I drew near it I saw a great haze of light radiating from a room which I could see, but it was so bright it hurt my eyes to look upon it as would looking at the noon-day sun on earth have done. I could not bear it and would have turned away, when a voice said: "Stay, weary wanderer! Here are only kind hearts and helping hands for you. And if you would see your love, come in, for she is here and you may speak with her." Then I felt a hand--for I could see no one--draw my mantle over my head to shut out the brightness of the light, and then lead me into the room and seat me in a large chair. I was so weary, so weary, and so glad to rest. And in this room there was such peace, it seemed to me that I had found my way to heaven.

After a little I looked up and saw two gentle, kindly women who were like angels to my eyes, and I said to myself, "I have come near to heaven surely?" Again I looked, and by this time my eyes seemed strengthened, for beyond those two fair good women--and at first I could scarce believe it, so great was my joy--I saw my beloved herself smiling sadly but tenderly at where I sat. She smiled, but I knew she did not really see me; one of the ladies did though, and she was describing me to my darling in a low quiet voice. My darling seemed so pleased, for it confirmed to her what the man had told her. She had been telling these ladies what a remarkable experience she had had, and how it seemed to her like a strange dream. I could have cried out to her then that I was truly there, that I still lived, still loved her, and was trusting in her love for me, but I could not move, some spell was over me, some power I could dimly feel was holding me back.

And then those two kind ladies spoke and I knew they were not angels yet, for they were still in their earthly bodies and she could see and speak to them. They said much of what the kind good man had done, as to the hope there was for sinners like me.

The same voice which had bidden me to enter, now asked would I like one of the ladies to write a message for me. I said, "Yes! a thousand times yes!"

Then I spoke my words and the spirit caused the lady to write them down. I said to my beloved that I still lived, still loved her. I bid her never to forget me, never to cease to think of me, for I required all her love and help to sustain me--I was ever the same to her though now I was weak and helpless and could not make her see me. And she, ah! she gave me such sweet words in return I cannot write them down; they are too sacred to me, and still rest in my heart for evermore.

The period that followed this interview was one of deep sleep for me. I was so exhausted that when I left that room I wandered on a little way and then sank down upon the ground in deep dreamless unconsciousness. What did it matter where I rested when all was as night around me?

How long my sleep lasted I know not. At that period I had no means of counting time save by the amount of suffering and misery through which I passed. From my slumbers I awoke refreshed in a measure, and with all my senses stronger in me than before. I could move more rapidly; my limbs felt stronger and freer, and I was now conscious of a desire to eat I had not felt before. My longing grew so great that I went in search of food, and for a long time could find none anywhere. At last I found what looked like hard dry bread--a few crusts only, but I was glad to eat them, whereupon I felt more satisfied. Here I may say that spirits do eat the spiritual counterpart of your food, do feel both hunger and thirst, as keen to them as your apetites are to you on earth, although neither our food nor our drink would be any more visible to your material sight than our spiritual bodies are, and yet for us they possess objective reality. Had I been a drunkard or a lover of the pleasures of the table in my earthly body I should much sooner have felt the cravings of appetite. As it was, nature with me had ever been easily satisfied, and though at first I turned from those dry crusts in disgust a little reflection told me that I had now no way of procuring anything, I was like a beggar and had better content myself with a beggar's fare.

My thoughts had now turned to my beloved again, and the thoughts carried my spirit with them, so that I found myself entering once more the room where I had last seen her and the two ladies. This time I seemed to pass in at once, and was received by two spirit men whom I could but very faintly see. A veil seemed to hang between us, through which I saw those two spirit men, the ladies and my beloved. I was told that I might again give a message to her through the lady who had written my words before. I was so anxious to try if I could not make my darling write down my words herself as I had seen her guardian spirit do, that I was allowed to try. To my disappointment I found I could not do it; she was deaf to all I said, and I had to give up that idea and let the lady write for me as before. After I had given my message I rested for a short time and watched my beloved one's sweet face, as I had been wont to do in other happier days. My musings were interrupted by one of those spirit men--a grave, handsome young man he seemed to be so far as I could see him. He spoke to me in a quiet kindly voice, and said that if I truly desired to write my own words through my darling herself, it would be well for me to join a brotherhood of penitents who like myself desired to follow out the better way, and with them I should learn many things of which I was yet ignorant, and which would help me to fit myself to control her mind as well as give me the privilege I sought of being with her at times while she dwelt on earth. This way of repentance was hard, he said--very hard--the steps many, the toil and suffering great, but it led to a fair and happy land at last where I should rest in happiness such as I could not dream of now. He assured me (even as the kind earthly man had done) that my deformed body, which I was still so anxious to hide from my beloved one's eyes, would change as my spirit changed, till I should be once more fair to look upon, such as she would no longer grieve to see. Were I to remain upon the earth plane as I now was, I should most likely be drawn back into my former haunts of so-called pleasure, and in that atmosphere of spiritual degradation I should soon lose the power to be near my darling at all. For her own sake those who guarded her would be obliged to exclude me. On the other hand, were I to join this brotherhood (which was one of hope and endeavor), I should be so helped, so strengthened, and so taught, that when in due course my time came to return to the earth plane, I should have acquired a strength and an armor that could resist its temptations.

I listened to the words of this grave, courteous spirit with wonder and a growing desire to know more of this brotherhood of whom he spoke, and begged he would take me to them. This he assured me he would do, and he also explained that I should be there of my own free will and choice only. Did I desire at any time to leave I could at once do so. "All are free in the Spirit world," he said. "All must follow only where their own wishes and desires lead them. If you study to cultivate the higher desires, means will be given you to attain them, and you will be strengthened with such help and strength as you may need. You are one who has never learned the power of prayer. You will learn it now, for all things come by earnest prayer, whether you are conscious that you pray or not. For good or for evil your desires are as prayers and call around you good or evil powers to answer them for you."

As I was again growing weary and exhausted, he suggested that I should bid adieu to my darling for a time. He explained that I should gain more strength as well as permit her to do so if I left her for the time I was to remain in this place of which he spoke. It would also be well that she should not try to write for three months, as her mediumistic powers had been greatly tried, and if she did not rest them she would be much impaired, while I would require all that time to learn even the simple lessons needful before I could control her.

Ah! me, how hard it seemed to us both to make this promise, but she set me the example, and I could but follow it. If she would try to be strong and patient so should I, and I registered a vow that if the God I had so long forgotten would remember and pardon me now, I would give all my life and all my powers to undo the wrongs that I had done; and so it was that I left for a time the troubled earth plane of the spirit world of which I had as yet seen so little, but in which I was yet to see and suffer so much. As I left the room to go with my new guide I turned to my love and waved my hand in farewell, and asked that the good angels and the God I dare not pray to for myself might bless her and keep her safe for evermore, and the last thing I saw was her tender eyes following me with that look of love and hope which was to sustain me through many a weary, painful hour.

Next: Chapter IV.--The Brotherhood of Hope