THE LORD OF TIME
A dramatic episode from the life of one of history's greatest wonder workers, Count Cagliostro
IT WAS his queer arresting gesture before the crucifix in the great square that supplied the decisive spur to the wishes of the Cardinal-Prince Louis de Rohan.
From the moment of his entrance into Strasbourg in his great gilded rococo coach drawn by four cream-colored ponies. Count Cagliostro had been the focus of attention in the town, and this had rapidly increased before the evidence he soon afforded of his miraculous powers.
Without fee or guerdon he cured diseases which ordinary doctors had pronounced beyond human relief. And this was almost the least of the superhuman attributes discovered in him. He was credited with possessing the secret of the fixation of mercury and the transmutation of metals; precious stones composed themselves under his hands from the commonest elements; he could restore youth to the aged, and he was actually master of an elixir of life itself; he possessed gifts of prophecy and clairvoyance, and he could read thoughts as easily as another might detect tfie signs of emotion on a countenance. To such extraordinary lengths did he carry the art with which Mesmer had lately astonished the world that he was said to have the power of controlling the very souls of men, and that he rendered manifest how far was Mesmer from understanding the application of those forces upon the wells of which he had more or less accidentally blundered. In short, this Count Cagliostro, coming no man knew whence, was being pronounced divine.
That great aristocrat, that noble Maecenas, the CardinalPrince de Rohan, who was more royal than the king, for in his veins ran the blood of every house that had ever given kings to France, heard of these marvels and was moved to desire a nearer acquaintance with them. All his life a passionate student of alchemy, botany, astrology and all things abstruse and occult, the Cardinal brought to the study of the supernatural the open-mindedness of a credulous person. It seemed to him that if Cagliostro were indeed sincere, and not merely a charlatan, like so many in France just then, he might bring to real fruition pursuits which his Eminence had hitherto found vexatiously elusive in results. And then came the report of those queer words in the square to quicken this desire.
Count Cagliostro had gone forth one evening to take the air, followed at a respectful distance by his servant, the slight, dark, pallid fellow who bore the curious name of Alxlon. The count’s appearance was that of a man in the prime of life, between thirty and forty. Of middle height, his frame was thick-set and vigorous, and he carried his big, coarsely handsome head with an air of majesty on his powerful neck. He was dressed with an ostentation that in itself took the eye. His blue silk coat was laced in gold along the seams, with the sword worn through the pocket; his red-heeled shoes were fastened with buckles of precious stones; brilliants flashed in the billows of lace at his throat; rubies attached his solitaire and glowed in the buckle that held the white plumes in his hat à la mousquetaire. It has been testified by practically all who knew him and who have left records that few could bear the direct gaze of his full, bold, dark, uncanny eyes.
As he walked men turned to observe and to follow him, until an inquisitive crowd had formed at a respectful distance in his wake. This was customary. But. aloof and disdainful, he appeared to remain unconscious of the attention he was attracting.
And then at last he came to pause before the crucifix in its open shrine. Leaning upon the jewelled head of his ebony cane, he stood for some moments in thoughtful, wistful contemplation of it.
"Strange, Alxlon,” he said at last over his shoulder to his servant, "that one who can never have seen Him should so faithfully reproduce His lineaments.” There was an implication here that sent a thrill through the attendant but respectfully silent crowd. Then, after a long pause. Cagliostro sighed and spoke again. “Do you remember that evening in Jerusalem when they crucified Him?” The spectators caught their breath in amazement, then held it to hear the answer. Abdon, bowing low with something of the Orient in his manner, replied quietly but distinctly:
“You forget, master, that I have been with you only fifteen hundred years.”
"True.” said the count. “I was forgetting. But with so many centuries to remember ...” He left the sentence there, shrugged, and passed on.
The report of this left the Cardinal-Prince wondering whether this man of marvels was divine or merely the most impudent charlatan that had ever walked the earth. So that he might determine the question, he sent a gentleman of his suite, the Baron de Planta, with a command to Cagliostro to wait upon him at the Château de Saverne where he had his seat.
Cagliostro received the command, almost as honoring as that of royalty, with the lofty disdain in which he was reputed to hold the wishes of the mighty of this world.
"If the Cardinal is ill let him come to me, and I will cure him. If he is well he has no need of me. nor I of him.”
In dismay the Baron de Planta took back that answer to his Eminence. It produced upon the matchlessly urbane and gracious Cardinal no such effect as the baron feared.
"Sublime reply, whatever the man may be,” was the opinion he expressed.
Louis de Rohan was approaching fifty at the time, but his tall figure still preserved the grace of youth, as did his countenance which was handsome in a rather infantile way; it was so smoothly rounded and free from lines that his ashen hair seemed prematurely faded.
Accustomed from earliest youth to sycophancy, the proud independence of Count Cagliostro drew this great prince, temporal and spiritual, to wait like the humblest suitor upon the man of marvels at his lodging in Strasbourg. There, attended only by the Baron de Planta, he waited without resentment in the thronged antechamber to take his turn, as was imposed by one who made a parade of recognizing no precedence due to rank.
What reservations the Cardinal’s mind still harbored on the subject of Count Cagliostro's claims, were dispelled almost as soon as he came to stand in the count’s presence. Under the steady gaze of those singular eyes, dark and lustrous and of a penetration that seemed unearthly, his Eminence was pervaded by a sense of awe, and his own glance fell abashed. But when he had accepted the proffered chair a mild resentment stirred in him that he. who had borne as an equal the gaze of kings, should have suffered himself so easily to be stared down. Determinedly he raised his eyes again and compiled himself to meet and hold the other’s glance. Soon, however, while Cagliostro, who remained standing before him, talked in a deep vibrant voice and in a language that was only just perceptibly French, the Cardinal became aware that it was not himself but the count who was exercising this compulsion; that it was his own glance that was being held, and he was powerless to withdraw it from those glittering orbs that seemed presently to wax and wane as he watched them in helpless fascination. Rohan began to be pervaded by a sense of his own unreality; it was as if all power of will and of self-assertion had gone out of him. His senses were being further lulled into subjection by the rise and fall in rhythmical hypnotic cadences of the voice addressing him in that curious Italianate French.
' “Now that I behold you I perceive the source of your persistence, monseigneur. We have met before.”
To this the bewildered Cardinal, after a faltering search in his memory, made answer:
"I don’t remember.”
“How should you? Between this and that stand for you the walls of a dozen deaths, a dozen rebirths. The soul memory deep within you is choked and smothered by the ponderous strata of all the flesh it has since worn, with the lusts, the passions, sins and aspirations that belong to each. It was sixteen centuries ago in Antioch. You were a Roman proconsul, and I was, mutatis mutandis, much as I am now, a wanderer upon the face of the earth, a traveller down the ages.
"I interested you then as I interest you now, which is to say that you were curious about me; curious and mistrustful. Then your Roman arrogance, your Roman scepticism, obscured your understanding. You supposed me an impostor, a vain seducer, even as remains of arrogance and scepticism, heritage of those Roman days—a heritage which has cursed and warped your every incarnation— afflict you now.
“Then I was your friend. I realized the greatness latent in your soul, a soul so closely in tune with mine; and I sought to deliver it from its dull chrysalis of carnal pride, to set it free to soar in the empyrean, and from those calm altitudes to survey eternity. I would have made you lord of Life and Time, who then, as now, were but the ephemeral lord of a fleshly envelope. I would have spread before you the Fruits of the Tree of Life and rendered you immortal as myself. But stubborn and obstinate in your puny pride you mocked; so I left you to your poor fleshly limitations and went my ways.”
And here at last the Cardinal, deathly pallid, and with eyes that still stared but were now dull and vacant had interrupted him. struggling with a difficulty to articulate such as will beset a man in dreams.
“I know you now. You are Cartaphilus, the accursed cobbler of Jerusalem who spat upon Our Lord.”
A smile swept like a shadow across the Olympian calm of Cagliostro’s countenance.
“How history repeats itself! So you said then, sixteen hundred years ago. When your wits were baffled by proof of my unaccountable longevity, they took refuge from the intolerable truth in the only explanation legend offered you. But you are wrong now as you were wrong then. I am not the Wandering Jew. I am older than Cartaphilus, older than Jerusalem, where I was with Solomon at the building of the Temple. And I shall survive them both. For I have eaten of the Tree of Life. My elixir vitae is distilled from its fruits. To me Life is not as a string of beads; a succession of brief moments of consciousness in eternity; fleeting, uncomprehended glimpses of existence. To me Life is a continuous stream, visible from its source to the limitless ocean of eternity into which it flows. For me this illusion men call Time does not exist. For I am He Who Is.”
On those last five words his vibrant, metallic voice had swelled to a trumpet note. From this it fell again at once to its quieter level.
“Yet that you tell me again as you told me sixteen centuries ago in Antioch that I am Cartaphilus, proves that I have touched in you at least a chord of that soul memory which survives deep down in each of us. What you have remembered is what you called me once before. Let me now help your poor human weakness. Look into this mirror of the past, and endeavor to see what once you were when last I was beside you.”
Leaning his elbow on the table beside the Cardinal, Cagliostro extended his left hand, which was gloved in black velvet. Cupped in the palm of it he displayed a crystal of the size of a hen’s egg that has been rounded.
So dominated that in obeying he experienced no sense of derogating, Rohan shifted his gaze to the gleaming sphere. For some moments he stared into the empty depths of the crystal. Suddenly he moved and caught his breath.
“I see, I see.” he murmured thickly. “I see men; a multitude; an arena; a pillared marble tribune.”
“Centre your gaze upon that tribune,” Cagliostro commanded. “What do you see there?”
“A man of medium height and powerful frame, boldly featured, with eyes that burn their way into one’s brain. He is in white; a snowy chlamys edged with gold. I know his face. It is yourself.”
“And the man in the chair? The man who sits, elbow on knee and chin on fist, with a proud, sad face that is wreathed in weariness and disdain? Can you name him?”
The Cardinal bent closer; he hesitated; he was breathing heavily.
“Can it be myself?”
The gloved hand closed upon the crystal and was swiftly withdrawn. Cagliostro drew himself erect and his vôice rang loud and hard:
“Yourself. Marcus Vinicius, as you then were named.” The abruptness of movement and tone seemed to shatter a spell. Rohan sat up, restored to his normal alertness. The color crept slowly back into his cheeks. He passed a hand, slim and delicate as a woman’s, across his eyes and brow.
"You are master of strange secrets, sir,” he said slowly and gravely. Then he added a complaint. “My senses are a little dazed, 1 think.”
“That will pass.” Cagliostro spoke harshly and waved a hand contemptuously. “No man may look down the ages and hope to escape vertigo. It will pass. What I have discovered to you, however, remains. So that you have faith, you may now prevail where you failed before. To help you I am here; for your soul is of a strength to bear the secrets I could impart to you, to employ the power which must never be bestowed unworthily. I am at your service, Prince Louis. And my coming is timely, if only so that I may restore your fortune so sadly sapped by the Prince de Guémenée.”
“You know that?” The Cardinal seemed surprised.
Cagliostro waved a hand again. He was prone to gesture.
“Does not all the world know it?”
It was indeed common knowledge how much of his fortune Louis de Rohan had sacrificed to buttress the honor of his family, so sadly imperilled by the bankruptcy of his nephew, the Prince de Guémenée. Vast though his wealth might be, it could scarcely bear the strain of some thirty millions which that bankruptcy was imposing upon it. With deeply rooted habits of prodigal expenditure in the maintenance of his more than princely establishment, without knowledge of economy, a knowledge which his munificent spirit scorned to acquire, Louis de Rohan was sweeping toward the verge of financial difficulties.
His Eminence, however, was not at present concerned with this. His thoughts were engaged in an endeavor to extricate what had just passed from the fog as of a dream that seemed to envelope it.
“It is all strange,” he murmured. “So very strange! Incredible! And yet something within mè seems to compel belief.”
“Now God be thanked that the obstinacy of material scepticism is at last being conquered in you. You yield at last to the instinctive knowledge of reincarnation deep in each of us—the oldest and strongest of human beliefs, persistent in spite of temporary occlusions; a belief that is at war with no creed that ever was.”
“Yes, yes, that is true.” the Cardinal agreed, with the eagerness of one who persuades himself. “There is no heresy in that belief. It can be reconciled. No heresy that I can perceive.”
“There is none,” said Cagliostro with firm authority. “We will return to that. Meanwhile, there are your Eminence’s pressing needs.” His tone blended condescension with command.
“Ah, yes.” 'Hie Cardinal’s will continued in suspension, a thing that veered as Cagliostro blew upon it. He smiled wanly. “My nephew’s affairs are absorbing millions.” Cagliostro, erect, dominant, his great head thrown back, made a wide gesture of effacement.
“Dismiss your anxieties. I have been stigmatized a magician and persecuted as a warlock by the ignorance of men. But I practise no magic that is not the natural magic of knowledge, the application of the hidden forces of Nature, the fruits of study and of long centuries of experience. Among the secrets I have mastered, building upon what I learned in ancient Egypt from tta priests of Isis who already had glimmerings of these sciences, three are preeminent: the elixir of life, the philosopher’s stone with its power of transmuting metals, and the gift of healing all ills to which the flesh is subject. The last I hold at the disposal of suffering mankind; the second I place at the service of those whom I can trust not to abuse the power that gold bestows; the first I guard most jealously from all save the few the very few—who under the most rigorous tests give proof that the indefinite prolongation of their lives will be for the benefit of humanity.
“When I shall have relieved your most urgent need, as I so easily can, and when thereby I shall have increased your faith in me, we may, if you so incline, turn our attention to weightier matters.”
And so it came to pass, as a result of this odd interview, that Count Cagliostro presently transferred himself from his Strasbourg lodging to be an honored guest at the imposing Château de Saveme, where, under the Cardinal-Prince’s instructions, a laboratory was prepared for him. And there one dajt a month later, he set a crown to the empire he was obtaining over Louis de Rohan by demonstrating to him that his claim to transmute base metal into gold was no idle boast. From the crucible set up in that laboratory he withdrew under the Cardinal’s eyes an ingot of pure gold of the value of 5,000 livres. He presented it to his noble host, as a mere earnest of all that was to come, with as light and casual a manner as if he were handing him a leaf plucked from a tree in passing.
For the manufacture of more, however, there were certain ingredients that Cagliostro lacked, and so as to come within reach of these, he proposed to his noble patron that they should transfer themselves to Paris to the Hôtel de Rohan.
Meanwhile, pending this removal, his apartments at the Château de Saveme were daily becoming more and more thronged by all that was noble, wealthy and fashionable in Alsace, attracted by his fame as a healer and a man of
marvels, a fame which spread thence in ever-widening circles over the face of France and set Paris itself agog in expectation of his advent.
Arrogant, domineering, impatient even, he would move through the press of distinguished suitors, his great head thrown back, his terrible, uncanny eyes at once dazzling and awing those upon whom he fixed them. Waving his short, powerful, jewelled hands in fantastic gestures, he chattered constantly in that queer jargon of his that was compounded of Italian, Italianate French and scraps of Spanish, a sort of lingua franca that would have been more or less understood in any country where a Romance language was spoken. He was abrupt and harsh of speech and manner, observing few of the amenities that obtained in the polite world which now paid court to him. But as a healer his success was manifest; and not only with malingerers and hypochondriacs but also with the genuinely afflicted. Sometimes he would display his powers by reading the secrets of a man’s soul, and sometimes he would even foretell a future event.
Very soon the respect commanded for him by the aegis of the Cardinal-Prince was converted by the clear magnitude of his own arts into reverence and even worship. No enemy troubled the serenity of his days until suddenly the Prince de Guémenée. the man whose dishonest extravagances had rendered Cagliostro’s services so timely to the Cardinal, came like a snake to disturb this Eden.
Monsieur de Guémenée was a hardbitten man of the world, regarding the hereafter with a good deal of mistrust, and of the present accepting no more than the material part of whose reality his senses enabled him to test the evidences. The charlatanism and quackery which in that disjointed period of transition were rampant in France, moved him to contempt. That his uncle, the uncle upon whom he was depending for his existence, should be falling a prey to one of these empirics—for that was Monsieur de Guémenée’s view of Count Cagliostro —aroused in him the remorseless anger that is bom of selfish fear.
He descended suddenly upon the Château de Saveme with intent to disillusion the Cardinal and send the warlock packing. Armed with something besides indignation and commonsense, he never doubted that he would accomplish his object.
He arrived in the dusk of a September day, and being bidden to supper so soon as he had changed from his travelling clothes, he must curb, until afterward, his agonistic impatience.
It was not necessary that Cagliostro should be pointed out to him the considerable company at the open table kept by the munificent Cardinal. The man’s dominant air and magnetic personality made him sufficiently conspicuous. Although overdressed—his black satin coat was excessively goldlaced, and he wore with it a red waistcoat—and overjewelled, and although his table manners left much to be desired, yet he escaped being ridiculous or even vulgar by the assured majesty of his demeanor. Observing the spell which the man appeared to cast upon those about him, meeting once or twice and finding himself unable to support the glance of those singularly dazzling, penetrating eyes, Monsieur de Guémenée began to apprehend that the battle ahead might sternly test his strength.
Nevertheless he engaged it intrepidly with his uncle in the magnificent pillared library whither the Cardinal conducted him after supper.
His Eminence took a seat at his ormolu-encrusted writing table, while his nephew occupied a tall armchair opposite to him, a chair upholstered in red velvet on which was embroidered an R surmounted by a coronet.
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Monsieur de Guémenée was approaching thirty. Like his uncle he was tall and slender, and he bore also in his countenance a strong resemblance to the Cardinal, but lacking the Cardinal’s gentle, candid air. He sat back, crossed his legs, and plunged straight into the matter.
“I have come, monseigneur, to talk to you about this man who calls himself Count Cagliostro.”
His Eminence, of imperturbable urbanity, looked mildly at his nephew.
“How should you prefer to call him, Charles?”
“I should call him an impudent impostor.” was the downright answer. “A common swindler; a quacksalver whose proper place is on the Pont Neuf; a charlatan who makes a victim of your Eminence. What his real name may be I have not yet ascertained.” The handsome Cardinal betrayed no annoyance. But there was some sorrow in his glance.
“I could bear with a good grace to be such a victim as Count Cagliostro makes me. I can bear it thankfully even; and so, my dear Charles, should you, considering how much we are likely to owe to him.”
“Ah ! And how much is he likely to owe to you by the time he has invaded Paris, as I hear is the intention, under your exalted sponsorship; by the time you have presented him at Court and set him on the way to swindle all the people of our world?” “You are vulgar and commonplace in your views, Charles. I discover it with pain in a man of my own blood.”
Monsieur de Guémenée leaned forward. “Monseigneur, I have been looking into this man’s history.”
“In that case, my dear Charles, let me add one or two items to the information you already possess. Look at this ring.” He held out a fine white hand, on the middle finger of which gleamed a magnificent brilliant carved with the Rohan arms. “That is a gift from Count Cagliostro. And not only a gift, an evidence of his powers.
It is a creation of his own. In the laboratory above-stairs I myself saw it taken from the crucible in which it was fused by him.” “Jugglery!’’ scoffed Monsieur de Guémenée. “Common jugglery'. If he can do that, what need to live upon you?”
“He does not live upon me. Here it is he, not I, who is the benefactor. And what of the cures he daily makes upon all comers, sometimes of maladies accounted mortal? Is that jugglery? And all is done freely, without recompense, for the love of humanity. Is that the way of an impostor, a quacksalver? And then the alms he distributes, the gold he makes. Jugglery? A stupidity of the malicious. For if he is indeed a juggler, he must be the richest juggler that ever lived. Whence does he derive his wealth, Charles?”
His Eminence set the question with the air of a man delivering checkmate. But Monsieur de Guémenée had an answer ready.
"I can enlighten you upon that, for I have been at pains to inform myself. He derives it from the lodges of so-called Egyptian freemasonry which he has been founding in France and elsewhere; he derives it from the sensation-seeking gulls whom he initiates into these claptrap mysteries and from whom the Grand Copt, as he calls himself, demands rich fees for his impostures.”
The Cardinal stiffened and sat bolt upright, unable, despite his deep-seated amiability to restrain resentment.
“If you come to me merely as a retailer of vulgar scandal, of almost blasphemous calumny, I will not listen to you further.” “A moment, monseigneur. I have something else to tell >'ou, something you may easily investigate for yourself, and not so easily dismiss. If you will condescend to hear me, I will ...”
And then the double doors were thrown open by a lackey, who entered, ranged himself aside and announced:
“His Excellency Count Cagliostro.”
Monsieur de Guémenée sank back into his chair with a movement of petulance as the man of marvels came into view. He made a deliberate entrance, grave and masterful from the carriage of his head to the manner in which he set his feet, and his eyes the while were steadily upon the Prince de Guémenée. He had seen the hasty movement, and observed now the sullenness which the young man was not concerned to conceal.
As the door closed, he halted, and maintaining that steady regard, under which Monsieur de Guémenée to his profound annoyance began to feel uncomfortable, he spoke, subduing his resonant voice.
“If I seem to be inopportune, Monsieur de Guémenée, if I interrupt the criticisms you were about to offer, you have in this more matter for thankfulness than you may suspect.”
The Cardinal smiled, well-pleased at this immediate evidence of Cagliostro’s uncanny gifts. But Monsieur de Guémenée did not choose to be impressed.
“An easy guess, sir. I trust, for the sake of the wits of those you befool, that you have more convincing tricks of clairvoyance.”
His Eminence flushed in pain of this coarse insult to the man he so profoundly reverenced. He would have spoken, but the count raised a hand in a gesture that imperiously commanded his silence. He remained standing on wide-planted feet within a yard or so of Monsieur de Guémenée, and his brilliant eyes never left the young man’s face. He spoke quietly.
“There is no ground for resentment. Monsieur de Guémenée but makes himself the mouthpiece of base calumny. Men will ever sneer at what they do not understand. That is why they remain fast in the mud of their brutish ignorance. Kindliness dictates that I deliver your Eminence’s nephew from the crass fog that envelops him to his own disadvantage. If you will give me leave alone with him for a few moments I shall hope to accomplish it.”
Rohan smiled. “That would be yet another miracle.” He rose at once. “By all means, since you are so generously disposed, enlighten this maladroit young man. I shall be at hand in my closet.”
He moved, tall and stately, with a soft swish of his scarlet robes to a little door that led to a small adjoining chamber which he frequently used for his studies.. Monsieur de Guémenée sprang to his feet at first purely out of deference to his uncle. But as the little door closed upon his Eminence he announced yet another reason for quitting his chair.
“Monsieur Cagliostro, I have no wish to hear you. I will not remain.”
The count, who had deferentially been facing the door through which his Eminence had passed, turned now to confront him.
“Are you afraid. Monsieur de Guémenée?”
“Afraid of being convicted against your preconceptions? Look at me. Look in my face, in my eyes, Monsieur de Guémenée.”
The prince looked up to meet that burning, intent glance, then let his eyes fall again, his manner sullen.
“Why should I do that?” he asked illhumoredly.
“To conquer the difficulty that you experience in doing so,” was the contemptuous answer.
“Difficulty? You are amusing, sir.” And in defiance, so as to prove how easily he could support those awful eyes, he stared boldly into them.
“Sit down, Monsieur de Guémenée,” the count commanded, and with a shrug Monsieur de Guémenée flung himself into the tall red chair.
Count Cagliostro began to talk, in a low crooning voice:
"I remember once, nearly two thousand years ago, as I was walking one evening on the shore of Lake Tiberias, I met a man whose mind was as obstinately delimited as is your own to the things that may ^ be apprehended through the bodily senses.”
After that, partly because what he said seemed gibberish, partly because of the jargon in which he delivered himself, the prince could understand but little of what he was saying. But he was vaguely and uncomfortably conscious that something was happening to him, something which inspired him with an increasing dread but which he could no longer escape. The glare of the eyes into which he was staring had become intolerable, yet he found himself powerless to seek relief by averting his gaze. His own eyes were held as irresistibly, as inexplicably, as his very will to avert them was caught in some impalpable tentacles against which it seemed useless to struggle. The eyes into which he gazed grew in size to the dimensions of the eyes of an ox; they continued to dilate until they were great twin pools gradually merging into a single glowing pool in which he felt that presently he must plunge and drown himself. And all the while that droning voice, growing more and more distant, was proceeding with its unintelligible narrative, adding something to the utter subjugation of his senses. Gradually at first, then with increasing swiftness, his consciousness diminished until it was totally blotted out.
For what ensued we must follow Monsieur de Guémenée’s own account as set down by him in a letter many years thereafter. He was awakened from that singular slumber into which he had lapsed by the booming of a great bell, like that of Nôtre Dame, which resolved itself as consciousness returned into the tinkling note of the Sèvres clock on the tall overmantel striking the hour. It was striking the hour of ten.
From this he knew that his lapse could have been only momentary, and as he recovered from it he found that the queer spell to which he had been succumbing was shattered and he was once more entirely himself. He was still seated in the tall red chair, but Cagliostro no longer stood before him. He had moved over to the fireplace, and was planted there now beside the clock, his shoulders to the overmantel.
Monsieur de Guémenée’s first and dominant emotion was one of indignation, the more bitter because he could not understand what was the trick that had been played upon him. In his anxiety to show that this trick, whatever it might be, had failed, he sprang to his feet and expressed his wrath in terms that took no account of Cagliostro’s feelings.
“Miserable buffoon, do you dream that I will remain to listen to your lying explanations? If so, you are as mistaken as when you suppose that I could be deceived by them. I have nothing to say to you. nothing to hear from you. My affair is with your silly dupe, his Eminence my uncle.” And upon that, tempestuously he strode across the room, and passed into the closet to which the Cardinal had withdrawn. He was conscious of being swept along by a tide of ungovernable anger, and to this the mildness with which the ever urbane CardinalPrince received him was merely fuel.
His Eminence stood reading by a bookcase on the far side of the little room. Between him and his nephew stood a writing table, on which some documents were pinned down by a paperweight in the shape of a miniature but fairly solid silver battleaxe. At his nephew’s gusty entrance he closed the book upon his forefinger and looked up.
“Well, Charles, has his Excellency satisfied you?”
Recklessly out of his towering passion the young man answered:
“Do you suppose me as besotted as yourself that I could condescend to listen to that charlatan’s impostures?”
“Charles!” His Eminence raised his brows, his eyes grew round in astonishment. “I think you are wanting in respect.”
What respect do you inspire, you, a prince of the House of Rohan, lending yourself to the swindling plans of this scoundrel, this gaolbird?”
His Eminence stiffened where he stood. His voice was cold and stem.
• '-Heur, you will leave my house at
once, a»__‘ ’ll never enter it again until
you have sued for and obtained pardon both from me and from Monsieur Cagliostro for your almost unpardonable words.”
“Sue pardon from this mountebank! I?” “On your knees, monsieur.”
“Wrhv, you fool.” stormed Monsieur de Guémenée, “do you know what he is? Do you know for example that in England he was gaqled for swindling and for debt? I have the proofs of it and . . . ”
“I care not what you have, monsieur. You will leave my house at once. I do not permit myself to be addressed in such terms as those which you have employed. You have gone too far. You have forgotten the respect due not only to my person, but to my office. In all my life this has never happened to me before. You say that this man has been gaoled for debt. Whether it is true or not, that fate is one that is very likely to overtake you in the near future; for from this moment you cease to interest me. You may wrestle with your own difficulties, and yourself satisfy the creditors you have abused, as you have abused my patience and my good nature. Not another penny of mine shall stand between you and the fate you have invited.”
“My God!” groaned Monsieur de Guémenée. But even now there was more anger than dismay in his soul.
“With that knowledge take your departure, sir, and do not venture to return. You are an ingrate whom I never wish to see again.”
Trembling with fury, Monsieur de Guémenée steadied himself with a hand upon the writing table. He controlled himself to ask in a voice that was steady, dangerously steady considering his condition:
“Is that your last word, monseigneur?” With a great dignity the Cardinal replied: “My last word, monsieur.”
“Then your last word be it,” said his frenzied nephew, and, snatching up the silver battleaxe, he hurled it straight and taie at his uncle’s august head. He saw it strike him full upon the brow before his unde could so much as put up a hand to avert the unexpected missile, he saw the blood gush forth, saw the tall scarlet figure sway an instant where it stood, the fine hands clawing the air as if seeking a support, then with a sound as of a rush of wings the Cardinal-Prince sank, crumpled, and fell, to lie inert.
Terror-stricken by his deed, his blind rage driven forth by panic. Monsieur de Guémenée leaned forward over the table, clawing its sides with nervous hands. “Monseigneur! Monseigneur!” he cried in a choking wail, then sprang past the table and went to kneel beside the fallen man. Horror came up like a great tide about him at sight of the gaping vertical wound in the brow, where the axe, hard-driven at close quarters, had split the skull. His Eminence was quite dead.
Then, as he knelt there paralyzed in body and in spirit, he heard the door open softly behind him. He looked up and round, to behold Cagliostro, stem and grim upon the threshold.
“Wretched man, what have you done?” asked a vibrant voice.
The prince leapt to his feet in sudden fury. There was blood on his hands and on the ruffles at his wrists.
“It is your fault,” he raved. “Your fault. Behold the havoc you have wrought. It is you who are responsible for this.” Cagliostro preserved a terrible calm.
“Tell that to your judges if you think it will save you from being broken on the wheel, from being disembowelled alive for this hideous parricide. Ah, you quail ! But that is the least of the punishment in store for you. You will have earned the execration of all upright men for this horrible murder of your uncle and benefactor. Your name will hereafter become a byword.”
“Cease! In God’s name, cease!” cried Monsieur de Guémenée. “Do you think I do not realize?” .And then his tone changed to a piteous whine. “Sir. sir, you are reported to possess more than human powers. Of your pity, help me in this my dreadful need.”
“Ah! You believe in me now. But it is not within my powers to raise the dead.” “It is not? It is not?” Monsieur de Guémenée reverted abruptly to his earlier frenzy. He leered with wicked cunning. “So much the worse for you. Since yours is the blame, you shall bear the punishment. I will rouse the house, and declare that it was you who did this thing. What then, my friend? What then?”
Cagliostro smiled. “Ingenious. Unfortunately there is a witness. Look behind you, monsieur.”
Startled Monsieur de Guémenée looked round. Dimly in the shadows of a farther doorway, a doorway of whose existence he had been in ignorance, he discerned the figure of a man. Looking more closely his straining eyes recognized the Baron de Planta.
“How long have you been there, monsieur?” he asked.
Cold and stem, the baron answered him: “From the moment that you threw the axe.”
The courage went out of Monsieur de Guémenée, taking all fury with it. He raised his blood-stained hands in a gesture of imDotence.
“What shall I do? Mon Dieu!”
“What are you prepared to do if I can save you?” asked Cagliostro.
Monsieur de Guémenée faced him; advanced toward him.
“How is that possible? Do you mock my distress? What help can you, what help can any give? Can you undo what is done?” To that question asked in scornful conviction of its unanswerableness he heard the astounding answer:
“Even that is possible to such as I, for I am He Who Is.”
He stared chapfallen.
“What do you say? You have confessed that your juggling arts do not suffice to raise the dead.”
“True. But there is another way. This deed of yours is something done in time. Time, sir, is not a reality, not one of the fundamental verities. It is an illusion, a human convention for the measuring of actions concerned with our little moment of existence, this heart-beat in eternity which we call life. To such as I who stand untrammelled by the bonds of time, the past and the future are as they are in eternity; that is to say they are not at all; for in eternity there is always and only the present. If I were to turn time back for you, Monsieur de Guémenée; if I were to turn it back to the moment at which you rose to go in quest of your uncle, so that all that now lies in the past would lie once more in the future and would be evitable—if I were to do this, what would you do for me?”
“For you?” Monsieur de Guémenée could only stare and stare. Nevertheless, he answered the fantastic question. “God knows there is nothing that I would not do,” he passionately sobbed.
Cagliostro approached him, smiling gently.
“I ask a little thing of you in return for so much. You have procured from England evidence that I was in prison there. You have been at great pains to do this simply so that you might detroy my credit with your uncle, and raise a barrier to my accompanying him to Paris. I am not the first great prophet who has suffered imprisonment. Some have even been put to death by the vicious ignorance of men. For myself I fear nothing from that revelation. But others whom I am concerned to help and serve must suffer if, yielding to prejudice, they should turn from me.
“What I offer you now is this: If you will swear to me on your honor as a gentleman to destroy this evidence which you have wasted such pains in obtaining and never to mention this matter to a living soul, I on my side will so put back the clock for you, that what has been will be still to come and may therefore be avoided. Do you swear, monsieur?”
There was such firm authority in the voice that even the Sadducaic mind of Monsieur de Guémenée was more than halfconquered by it. Feebly the other half still battled with reason.
“What you are proposing is impossible.”
“Will you make the experiment? Will you swear as I require?” the other insisted. “It is your only hope.”
Desperately there came the answer, “I swear! I swear!” and in pursuit of it the oath was circumstantially given in the terms Cagliostro dictated.
As Monsieur de Guémenée uttered the last formidable word of it, his senses swam. He had a moment of faintness, which even as it overtook him, he attributed to the strain of whathe had endured. Then his senses cleared and as sight, momentarily occluded, was restored to him, he found himself back in the library, alone there with Cagliostro and seated once more in the tall red chair, his legs composedly crossed.
For a moment he could not understand how he came there, or. indeed anything. His wits were in confusion. Then from this chaos emerged a sharp pellucid perception of the thing he had done and of the horrible situation in which he found himself. Wildeyed he looked round, and saw Cagliostro standing again by the overmantel in such a position that his shoulders eclipsed the face of the Sèvres clock. He stood with wideplanted feet, his countenance as enigmatically calm as that of Amhitaba upon his nenuphar.
“Well, sir? Well?” The sight of him thus stirred Monsieur de Guémenée to distraction. “You know what is to do.”
The booming voice answered him. “It is done.”
“Done? It is done?”
Cagliostro shrugged in weariness.
“The stupidity of human nature can be unfathomable. Did you expect to witness some visible, material operation? What is done is an effort of the spirit, of the will, sir. Look at your hands?”
The prince obeyed. Fie turned his hands about as he stared at them. They were white and clean; there was no faintest trace of blood upon them or upon his ruffles. Vacantly, foolishly he looked again at Cagliostro, and Cagliostro answered the agonized question in those wide eyes.
“I have accomplished what I promised, Monsieur de Guémenée. We have stepped back in time.” He moved aside disclosing the face of the blue and gold Sèvres clock. He indicated it by a gesture.
The prince looked, and saw that the hands stood at two minutes past ten. He remembered that they had so stood at the moment when he had risen to go to his uncle.
A sense of fear arose in him. His heart was beating in his throat, and he had a sensation of stifling. He was in the presence of forces he could not understand. Then with reviving scepticism another dread arose. He was the dupe of some imposture. Flands could be wiped, clocks could be turned back; but the dead could not be restored to life. In that room beyond the little door his uncle lay with a split skull.
As if answering his thought, Count Cagliostro crossed the room to the closet door, opened it, and spoke.
‘T think your Eminence will now find Monsieur de Guémenée persuaded of the error with which he did me injustice.”
From within the closet he was answered by a movement made manifest by the rustle of silken robes, and as Monsieur de Guémenée sat forward, wild-eyed, in terror, clutching the arms of his chair, the tall handsome figure of the Cardinal came into view and paused under the lintel. His Eminence, smooth of brow and calm of eye, composed and urbane as ever, was quietly smiling his satisfaction.
“I knew he would find it easy to convince you, Charles, and I rejoice in it. Men of the same blood must hold together in all important things.” His elegant hand was placed affectionately upon Cagliostro’s shoulder. “You will find his Excellency, Charles, the archenemy of all fraud and error. Trust him as I do. and you cannot fail to profit by it.”
“I think he holds the proof of that,” said Cagliostro quietly.
Monsieur de Guémenée, breathing with difficulty, answered nothing. He asked himself had he merely dreamed, was he still dreaming, or had some unfathomable miracle been wrought? Then, as his uncle advanced into the room, he remembered the deference due to that august personage and staggered like a drunkard to his feet.