My mysterious guest, he of the silver, flowing beard, read the last word of the foregoing manuscript, and then laid the sheet of paper on the table, and rested his head upon his hand, gazing thoughtfully at the open fire. Thus he sat for a considerable period in silence. Then he said:
"You have heard part of my story, that portion which I am commanded to make known now, and you have learned how, by natural methods, I passed by successive steps while in the body, to the door that death only, as yet, opens to humanity. You understand also that, although of human form, I am not as other men (for with me matter is subservient to mind), and as you have promised, so you must act, and do my bidding concerning the manuscript."
"But there is surely more to follow. You will tell me of what you saw and experienced beyond the end of earth, within the possessions of Etidorhpa. Tell me of that Unknown Country."
"No," he answered; "this is the end, at least so far as my connection with you is concerned. You still question certain portions of my narrative, I perceive, notwithstanding the provings I have given you, and yet as time passes investigation will show that every word I have read or uttered is true, historically, philosophically, and spiritually (which you now doubt), and men will yet readily understand how the seemingly profound, unfathomable phenomena I have encountered may be verified. I have studied and learned by bitter experience in a school that teaches from the outgoings of a deeper philosophy than human science has reached, especially modern materialistic science which, however, step by step it is destined to reach. And yet I have recorded but a small part of the experiences that I have undergone. What I have related is only a foretaste of the inexhaustible feast which, in the wisdom expanse of the future, will yet be spread before man, and which tempts him onward and upward. This narrative, which rests against the beginning of my real story, the Unknown Country and its possibilities should therefore incite to renewed exertions, both mental and experimental, those permitted to review it. I have carried my history to the point at which I can say to you, very soon afterward I gave up my body temporarily, by a perfectly natural process, a method that man can yet employ, and passed as a spiritual being into the ethereal spaces, through those many mansions which I am not permitted to describe at this time, and from which I have been forced unwillingly to return and take up the semblance of my body, in order to meet you and record these events. I must await the development and expansion of mind that will permit men to accept this faithful record of my history before completing the narrative, for men are yet unprepared. Men must seriously consider those truths which, under inflexible natural laws, govern the destiny of man, but which, if mentioned at this day can only be viewed as the hallucinations of a disordered mind. To many this manuscript will prove a passing romance, to others an enigma, to others still it will be a pleasing study. Men are not now in a condition to receive even this paper. That fact I know full well, and I have accordingly arranged that thirty years shall pass before it is made public. Then they will have begun to study more deeply into force disturbances, exhibitions of energy that are now known and called imponderable bodies (perhaps some of my statements will then even be verified), and to reflect over the connection of matter therewith. A few minds will then be capable of vaguely conceiving possibilities, which this paper will serve to foretell, for a true solution of the great problems of the ethereal unknown is herein suggested, the study of which will lead to a final elevation of humanity, such as I dare not prophesy."
"Much of the paper is obscure to me," I said; "and there are occasional phrases and repetitions that appear to be interjected, possibly, with an object, and which are yet disconnected from the narrative proper."
"That is true; the paper often contains statements that are emblematical, and which you can not understand, but yet such portions carry to others a hidden meaning. I am directed to speak to many persons besides yourself, and I can not meet those whom I address more directly than I do through this communication. These pages will serve to instruct many people—people whom you will never know, to whom I have brought messages that will in secret be read between the lines."
"Why not give it to such persons?"
"Because I am directed to bring it to you," he replied, "and you are required:
"First, To seal the manuscript, and place it in the inner vault of your safe.
"Second, To draw up a will, and provide in case of your death, that after the expiration of thirty years from this date, the seals are to be broken, and a limited edition published in book form, by one you select.
"Third, An artist capable of grasping the conceptions will at the proper time be found, to whom the responsibility of illustrating the volume is to be entrusted, he receiving credit therefor. Only himself and yourself (or your selected agent) are to presume to select the subjects for illustration.
"Fourth, In case you are in this city, upon the expiration of thirty years, you are to open the package and follow the directions given in the envelope therein."
And he then placed on the manuscript a sealed envelope addressed to myself.
"This I have promised already," I said.
"Very well," he remarked, "I will bid you farewell."
"Wait a moment; it is unjust to leave the narrative thus uncompleted. You have been promised a future in comparison with which the experiences you have undergone, and have related to me, were tame; you had just met on the edge of the inner circle that mysterious being concerning whom I am deeply interested, as I am in the continuation of your personal narrative, and you have evidently more to relate, for you must have passed into that Unknown Country. You claim to have done so, but you break the thread in the most attractive part by leaving the future to conjecture."
"It must be so. This is a history of man on Earth, the continuation will be a history of man within the Unknown Country."
"And I am not to receive the remainder of your story?" I reiterated, still loth to give it up.
"No; I shall not appear directly to you again. Your part in this work will have ended when, after thirty years, you carry out the directions given in the sealed letter which, with this manuscript, I entrust to your care. I must return now to the shore that separated me from my former guide, and having again laid down this semblance of a body, go once more into"—
He buried his face in his hands and sobbed. Yes; this strange, cynical being whom I had at first considered an impertinent fanatic, and then, more than once afterward, had been induced to view as a cunning impostor, or to fear as a cold, semi-mortal, sobbed like a child.
"It is too much," he said, seemingly speaking to himself; "too much to require of one not yet immortal, for the good of his race. I am again with men, nearly a human, and I long to go back once more to my old home, my wife, my children. Why am I forbidden? The sweets of Paradise can not comfort the mortal who must give up his home and family, and yet carry his earth-thought beyond. Man can not possess unalloyed joys, and blessings spiritual, and retain one backward longing for mundane subjects, and I now yearn again for my earth love, my material family. Having tasted of semi-celestial pleasures in one of the mansions of that complacent, pure, and restful sphere, I now exist in the border land, but my earth home is not relinquished, I cling as a mortal to former scenes, and crave to meet my lost loved ones. All of earth must be left behind if Paradise is ever wholly gained, yet I have still my sublunary thoughts.
"Etidorhpa! Etidorhpa!" he pleaded, turning his eyes as if towards one I could not see, "Etidorhpa, my old home calls. Thou knowest that the beginning of man on earth is a cry born of love, and the end of man on earth is a cry for love; love is a gift of Etidorhpa, and thou, Etidorhpa, the soul of love, shouldst have compassion on a pleading mortal."
He raised his hands in supplication.
"Have mercy on me, Etidorhpa, as I would on you if you were I and I were Etidorhpa."
Then with upturned face he stood long and silent, listening.
"Ah," he murmured at last, as if in reply to a voice I could not catch, a voice that carried to his ear an answer of deep disappointment; "thou spokest truly in the vision, Etidorhpa; it is love that enslaves mankind; love that commands; love that ensnares and rules mankind, and thou, Etidorhpa, art the soul of Love. True it is that were there no Etidorhpa, there would still be tears on earth, but the cold, meaningless tears of pain only. No mourning people, no sorrowful partings, no sobbing mothers kneeling with upturned faces, no planting of the myrtle and the rose on sacred graves. There would be no child-love, no home, no tomb, no sorrow, no Beyond"—
He hesitated, sank upon hip knees, pleadingly raised. his clasped hands and seemed to listen to that far-off voice, then bowed his head, and answered:
"Yes; thou art right, Etidorhpa—although thou bringest sorrow to mortals, without thee and this sorrow-gift there could be no bright hereafter. Thou art just, Etidorhpa, and always wise. Love is the seed, and sorrow is the harvest, but this harvest of sadness is to man the richest gift of love, the golden link that joins the spirit form that has fled to the spirit that is still enthralled on earth. Were there no earth-love, there could be no heart-sorrow; were there no craving for loved ones gone, the soul of man would rest forever a brother of the clod. He who has sorrowed and not profited by his sorrow-lesson, is unfitted for life. He who heeds best his sorrow-teacher is in closest touch with humanity, and nearest to Etidorhpa. She who has drunk most deeply of sorrow's cup has best fitted herself for woman's sphere in life, and a final home of immortal bliss. I will return to thy realms, Etidorhpa, and this silken strand of sorrow wrapped around my heart, reaching from earth to Paradise and back to earth, will guide at last my loved ones to the realms beyond—the home of Etidorhpa."
Rising, turning to me, and subduing his emotion, ignoring this outburst, he said:
"If time should convince you that I have related a faithful history, if in after years you come to learn my name (I have been forbidden to speak it), and are convinced of my identity, promise me that you will do your unbidden guest a favor."
"This I will surely do; what shall it be?"
"I left a wife, a little babe, and a two-year-old child when I was taken away, abducted in the manner that I have faithfully recorded. In my subsequent experience I have not been able to cast them from my memory. I know that through my error they have been lost to me, and will be until they change to the spirit, after which we will meet again in one of the waiting Mansions of the Great Beyond. I beg you to ascertain, if possible, if either my children, or my children's children live, and should they be in want, present them with a substantial testimonial. Now, farewell."
He held out his hand, I grasped it, and as I did so, his form became indistinct, and gradually disappeared from my gaze, the, fingers of my hand met the palm in vacancy, and with extended arms I stood alone in my room, holding the mysterious manuscript, on the back of which I find plainly engrossed:
"There are more things in Heaven and Earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy."